Picturesque. That was the word that the locals used to describe Hammond Mansion. And it was quite a splendid establishment. Regally standing on the hill alone. It was a feast to everyone’s eyes including Inspector Emment Corrigan as he arrived following the murder of a woman Marie Hughes who worked as a housekeeper at the house. The family was assembled in the living-room awaiting his arrival. He scanned the room, accepted a cup of tea from a female worker at the house and made pleasantries while inwardly sizing up the suspects. There was father of the house Marcus Hammond, late 50s, walked with a cane and had rosy red cheeks that Emment guessed must be high blood pressure, drink or a combination of the two, mother of the house Mary-Anne Hammond, mid-fifties, extroverted to the point of irritating with an apron with printed granny smith apples, eldest son Gregory Hammond, late thirties, a very serious-looking man whose profession was a doctor, Gregory’s wife Emilia, late thirties, very prim and proper and whose profession was a professor at a prestigious University in Dublin, the only daughter of the family Charlotte James, early thirties, homely and bubbly and owned her own restaurant, her husband Mitchell James, mid-thirties, jolly-looking and owned the restaurant with Charlotte and youngest son Alexander Hammond-Kelly, late twenties, very proper and assertive and whose profession was a lawyer, his husband Josh Kelly-Hammond, late twenties, introverted with a sincere smile and whose profession was in question but Emment was sure he’d seen the name before somewhere.
“Who lives in the house?”, Emment asked.
“It is only Mary-Anne and myself since everyone flew the nest. It has been a massive shock to us all. The woman had been here just a few short months. She had great references and all. We think it may have been a burglary that went wrong or something of the sort …”, Marcus answered.
“Nothing was taken Mr. Hammond.”
Marcus Hammond went pale.
“Well I can’t think what this man could have been after. Maybe she was seeing this chap and he was a violent sort.”
“Was there anyone with a grudge against …”
“I have no idea. We didn’t know the girl that well. She just worked here.”
“No, Mr. Hammond, I was going to ask if there was anyone with a grudge against any of you?”
At this question each member of the family paled.
“But why would this man kill the girl if they had a grudge against any of us?”
“I don’t know. It’s just a theory. Maybe this man came with the idea to kill … someone else and Marie Shepherd interrupted him.”
“So you’re sure it’s a man?”, asked Josh.
Emment hadn’t really considered this. Statistics-wise most killers were men. He had just assumed they were looking for a man.
“Well … come to think of it, no.”
“So it could be a woman or a non-binary person?”
Non-binary? This was all new to Emment. Alexander rolled his eyes.
“Josh, non-binary only exists on Tumbler.”
Josh rolled his eyes.
“No Alex, it doesn’t.”
“Well in any case, has anyone a grudge against any of you?”
“Inspector, we are a very respectable family …”, Mary-Anne began and looked sideways at Josh.
“For the most part in any case, we have excellent breeding. No one could possibly have a grudge against any of us. This incident is simply unfortunate but we know nothing to help you in your investigations in that line.”
Josh looked like he was about to say something but stopped himself.
“Well Marie then, could I have a list of her references?”
“Of course.”, Mary-Anne replied walking over to a cabinet and taking out Marie’s CV and cover letter.
She handed them to Emment and he briefly scanned his eyes over the contents. Very well-qualified but appeared just like any CV or cover letter. He thanked Mrs. Hammond and made his exit ensuring them he would find out who did this.
As Emment stood on the steps he looked at the CV and cover letter. Josh came out and lit up a cigarette. He offered Emment one but he declined as he didn’t smoke.
“No, neither do any of them.”, Josh smiled.
“Apparently it’s a very working-class trait.”
Emment just smiled. He had already worked out that Josh was working-class in a way of each class knowing one from their own class almost instinctively.
“What do you do? If you don’t mind me asking …”
“No, of course not. Inspired by Frankie Merlo I’ll say I sleep with Mr. Hammond-Kelly.”
Emment looked confused.
“Like Frankie Merlo said about Tennessee Williams to John Warner I sleep with Mr. Williams …”
Realisation dawned on Emment.
“You’re a writer?”
“Well I say writer, technically to everyone else I’m unemployed.”
“A Youth Took Over By The Church?”
Josh looked chuffed.
“You read it?”
“It was very good.”
Emment would have said so even if he thought it wasn’t but in reality he had found it a very good read and mentally he instantly put Josh down as incredibly opinionated and incredibly modern.
“How did you get in with Alexander?”
“Someone like me?”, Josh smiled, taking a drag on his cigarette.
“No, I didn’t mean …”
“I know you didn’t … well do you remember the Murphy/Barry case?”
“Well Adam Murphy was accused of murdering Lucy Barry …”
“In her Dublin flat?”
“Yes, my blog followed the case with major interest and Alex was representing the prosecution.”
“So yous’ sided together and love blossomed?”
“No, not in the slightest. The man was sentenced ten years ago but he didn’t do it. There was no evidence bar the Barry family, rich as fuck, insisting he was the last one to see her alive.”
“So who do you think done it?”
“I don’t know but it wasn’t Adam Murphy.”
Emment almost asked how he could be so sure but refeigned. Asking a writer that was like asking if the sky was blue. Instead he tried a different tact.
“Do you like the Hammond family?”
“I adore Alex obviously and our son Leo. Otherwise they don’t like me, I don’t like them but we co-exist and tolerate each other.”, Josh replied, matter-of-factly.
“Yeah, he’s 8. We adopted him three years ago. Everything’s great expect he’s in a Catholic school but hey, you can’t have everything.”
“The Hammond family is Catholic?”
“Yeah. I get it, I was raised Catholic but I became atheist must be coming on eight years ago.”
“And the woman who was killed …”
That hadn’t been what Emment was going to ask but it was interesting to him that Josh knew this. He must have knew her better than the rest of the family to know her religion. He had been simply going to ask if he’d seen anything suspicious.
“How … how do you know that?”
“She was a writer too. Wrote all these rousing Catholic yolks on the internet. Not that I killed her, I believe in freedom of speech. But on the other hand she might have done me in long ago.”
“Well she told me, while holding a knife mind, that I ‘better stop with my ramblings’. I continued on with my ramblings.”
Although Josh was firmly establishing himself as the prime suspect, been a police officer for almost ten years taught Emment that a killer tended not to incriminate themselves. On that basis he was taking Josh off the suspect list. If anything he could help him in his enquiries. He didn’t stick to the ‘everything is wonderful with the Hammond family line’ and he seemed a nice guy who you could have a drink with. He was down-to-earth and Emment hadn’t felt a lot of that at Chez Hammond.
Josh stamped out his cigarette.
“Josh, what were you going to say earlier?”
“I was just going to say that a murder is not an unfortunate incident. Marie and me, though we didn’t like each other, had one thing in common. We were both working-class. Her death is more than an unfortunate incident.”
He bid Emment farewell and went inside.
Emment entered his flat where he lived with his girlfriend Janet. She made them both a cup of tea as they settled down to talk on the sofa.
“So are they snotty buggers?”, Janet asked.
“Well yeah. Except Josh. He’s our background.”
“The youngest lad’s hubby? Wow, he done well.”
“He waffled on about non-binary at some stage. That was the only highfalutin reference he made …”
“Highfalutin? Sure that’s only both gender or neither.”
Emment raised his eyebrows.
“You think I’m thick, don’t you?”, Janet smiled, sipping her tea.
“I didn’t know what it meant.”
Janet said nothing.
“Well I know what it means. Anyways, who looks likely to have done it? And don’t say Josh. I like him already. Didn’t he write that thing?”
“A Youth Took Over By The Church?”
“That’s the one. Fabulous.”
“Well no, I don’t think he did it. But otherwise I’m none the wiser. They are very tight together. The mother, she’s telling they are a respectable family and have no enemies.”
“Oh well in that case they have loads!”, Janet laughed and Emment secretly agreed.