The next stage of Emment’s investigations was to go and see Marie Shepherd’s family. In contrast to the huge house that was the Hammond mansion, Marie Shepherd’s family home was a small but comfortable house in a council estate. Emment parked the police car outside the house and got out. A group of teenagers were loitering sitting on the wall of the neighbour’s house.
“Sergeant, are you here because the Shepherd one snuffed it?”, one teenage boy shouted.
Emment didn’t respond and went to knock on the door. A young woman in her early thirties appeared with a cross with Jesus around her neck. She had a striking resemble and Emment realised she was Marie’s identical twin Samantha. Her eyes were red and tired. She greeted him and led him inside where the Shepherd family were seated in the living-room. Marie’s mother Sally, a warm woman in her late fifties, offered Emment tea as Emment surveyed the final members of the family, Marie’s father Michael, early sixties, in a wheelchair and looking angry and her brother Patrick, mid-twenties, a mechanic with an uninterested face and Patrick’s girlfriend Kate, early twenties, prim looking.
“I’m very sorry for your loss.”, Emment began.
“That’s all very well son but what are you doing about it?”, asked Michael.
“Well, um … we’re gathering a list of sus … of who was there in the house that night and questioning them on what they seen.”
“And how long will that take?”
“I just have the people who worked there left to speak to …”
“It’s that son-in-law. The gay one.”, Patrick said.
“This is what happens when someone hasn’t God in their lives.”
A religious fanatic, thought Emment. Great, that’s all I need!
“Was Marie seeing anyone?”
“Not that we knew of. She was seeing a nice chap Matthew who did missionaries with the Church. But it ended recently. He was very hurt as he was very fond of our Marie.”, Sally said.
Interesting, thought Emment.
“Where could I find Matthew?”
“Oh but Matthew would never hurt our Marie. He’s a sweet boy.”
“No, I’m sure he wouldn’t Mrs. Shepherd. But I’d still like to speak to him if I could just to see if he knows anything about who could have done this to Marie.”
“Of course.”, Sally replied uneasily and supplied him with Matthew’s address.
“Was Marie enjoying her employment at the Hammond house? Was she having any problems that any of you knew of?”
“Oh she was very happy with the position. It paid well. And with just the two parents there there really wasn’t much problems that she had to deal with.”, Sally said.
“It was just of a Sunday when the rest of the family came over for dinner that she did. That gay fella would go on about atheism and obviously it’s not the kind of thing any decent young woman would want to hear.”, said Patrick.
Patrick was actually beginning to irritate Emment. He hadn’t been reared to describe people by their sexuality and he silently wished he’d say Josh but knew it was clearly too much to ask.
“And what about the other members of the family? Did she like them?”
“She did, yes. She didn’t know them too well. But they were all otherwise quite charming.”, Sally said.
After Emment left the Shepherd house, he went to speak to Matthew. He lived in a small flat overlooking the local Catholic Church. He seemed surprised to see a policeman at the door but he greeted Emment pleasantly with a strong handshake and offered him some tea. They sat down in Matthew’s kitchen.
“I understand that you and Marie Shepherd had been dating. But that recently the relationship fell through.”
“She left me. Told me she wanted more from life than I could give her.”
“And how did that make you feel?”
“I didn’t kill her.”
“We just need to eliminate everyone …”
“I was angry and hurt. But I wouldn’t hurt a hair on Marie’s head.”
“Ok … was it a sudden change? Did she previously feel like she could have the life she wanted with you?”
“I believed so. She was a sensible, steady girl. Not like these crazy modern girls you see. She wanted a home life and a family. She knew I was going to be able to provide for her. Once that seemed enough for her. Obviously working in that big house gave her big ideas.”
“It was a pity. Because I loved her. She was the girl I was going to marry. You need to look into that Josh fella officer. More than once she had arguments with him.”
Afterwards Emment went over to Hammond mansion. There he interviewed a butler called Jeff who said she was ‘a bit of an airhead’ but he ‘had no reason to want to kill her’, a cleaner called Eimer who said ‘she kept to herself and read the Bible a lot’ and a chauffeur Mark who said ‘she was a pretty girl but too in love with the Almighty for my taste’. Finally Emment got to speak to someone who actually knew and liked Marie, housekeeper and cleaner Annette.
“She was a bright girl. The impression I got was that she wasn’t used to using her mind. Everything had been almost decided for her. Get a decent job, marry a nice Catholic boy and have a family and she didn’t question it which was a pity because she was bright enough to do so. Maybe she was beginning to live her life more her way having left that Matthew chap. Sadly she never got to Officer. She was a nice, quiet girl.”
“And she got on for the most part with everyone?”
“Everyone bar Josh Kelly-Hammond. Look, it was a clash of personalities. Josh is an intellectual and to be honest Marie was so sheltered that it was a bit of a culture shock. A real pity really as I often thought they were quite alike despite their differences.”
“In what way?”
“They both had brains Officer. Not that the other members of the Hammond family don’t. But they don’t really go into anything. Marie and Josh did. But Marie was afraid to go too far. A real shame.”
When Emment left the Hammond mansion, he went over to Josh’s and Alexander’s house. It was a Georgian-style townhouse in Dublin City. Emment knocked at the door and Josh answered.
“I have a few questions to ask you Josh.”
“I thought you might.”
Josh let Emment in.
“Leo, keep watching the cartoons there. You need anything buddy, just holler.”
“Noted Dad.”, Leo replied, sipping down some coke.
Josh led Emment into the kitchen.
“Alexander’s at work so …”
“That’s fine. It was you I wanted to see.”
“Ok.”, Josh replied and for the first time Emment noted nerves in his voice.
“Tea? Coffee? Beer?”, Josh offered.
“Coffee’s fine. I’m on duty.”, Emment replied, sick of having tea all day.
“Oh yeah, sorry.”, Josh grinned, making Emment tea and grabbing a beer himself.
He’s nervous about something to be drinking, thought Emment.
They sat down at the table.
“I’ve spoken to three people today and your name came up. Josh, what aren’t you telling me?”
“In what way?”
“You knew her better than you let on, didn’t you?”
“I haven’t time for this, of course Marie.”
“Ok, ok … maybe. More at the end maybe. She, um, she wasn’t that bad at the end.”
“Wasn’t that bad at the end?”
“I mean she was still Catholic and she believed strongly in that and that was grand. But she … she wasn’t as vicious about it. She seemed to understand at the end that people felt differently and she understood the angle to why they might. The night before she was killed was a Sunday. We always went over for dinner of a Sunday. And as I left she came over to me and I remember that her words were ‘I finally get it, this whole atheism thing. I watched an interesting documentary about it.’ I got to explain to her that I didn’t believe in God but it didn’t mean I didn’t like Catholics, heck I’m married to a Catholic and my son is Catholic and I left the house that night thinking we could maybe be friends. But alas, it wasn’t meant to be.”
“That’s convenient Josh …”
“It didn’t happen overnight. Gradually week on week she was becoming easier to get on with. I think she was probably a nice girl beneath it, just … just a bit brainwashed to not like people.”