The Little Theatre – Revisitedby Julie Heginbotham
I would like to thank Nigel Rowe for his kind help and advice whilst I researched one particular scene in this story. —Julie
"Hurry up, Fatty," said Bets, a little impatiently, as she stood waiting for him in the hallway. "We don't want to miss the opening."
"We'll get there in good time," called Fatty, from the kitchen. "I'm sure if Daisy's there first she'll save you some champagne."
"I wasn't thinking of the champagne, as you well know," returned Bets, with a wry smile. "There'll be speeches to open the Little Theatre, and I don't want to miss anything. I wonder who'll come along."
"I would image the actors we met all those years ago will be long gone now," said Fatty, walking into the hallway, after making sure Buster was nicely settled in the kitchen.
"Not necessarily," said Bets. "I don't think Zoe Markham was all that old. Even though most of them probably did seem much older when we met them. But when you're a child you always think that adults are much older than they really are."
Fatty raised a questioning brow at Bets, and with a grin said. "I'm sure that must make sense to you, my dear."
Bets sent him a good-humoured frown. "You know exactly what I mean, Frederick Trotteville."
Fatty grinned and placed a kiss on her forehead. "Indeed I do, my dear. Well, let's go and see what this grand opening of The Little Theatre has to offer." He opened the front door for Bets to pass through, and then closed it securely after him.
* * *
Quite a crowd had gathered around The Little Theatre, and the car park had never seen as many cars in its 'hay day'.
Fatty and Bets took a while to admire the newly renovated two story building, happy to see it looked exactly as it had done years ago, with a fine new wooden veranda and roof.
"Remember when the police constable told us of the time he climbed up through a hole in the roof of the veranda and sat waiting for a bunch of criminals that would never have come," said Bets, with a smile at Fatty.
Fatty grinned and nodded. "Yes, clues left by us. It makes me feel a little ashamed when I think of it now."
"Well, we were only children, Fatty," said Bets. "And we did put the policeman on the spot of a real crime, if I remember."
"True," returned Fatty. "P.C. Pippin. I wonder where he is now, if he's still with us?"
"I expect he'll be in his late eighties," said Bets, thoughtfully. "Look, there's Daisy and Larry."
Suddenly spotting Fatty and Bets, they both came across from the car park. "Hello, you two," said Daisy. "Has Pip arrived yet?"
"Looks like he's just arrived," said Larry, nodding towards Pip parking his car. As soon as Pip alighted from the vehicle, Larry shouted, "Come on, slow coach. We've been here ages."
Pip came across to them quite out of breath. "I thought I'd miss the opening. I had to deal with a puncture."
"You didn't change the wheel yourself?" questioned Bets, with horror.
"No, my neighbour John did it for me," said Pip, with a smile. "So, what are we all doing standing at the rear. I thought the opening ceremony would be around the front?"
"It is," said Daisy, with a nod of her head. "Now we're all here let's get going."
They made their way to the front of the building, where a little crowd had gathered. Across the front entrance was a red ribbon, and a small platform had been erected, where already a few people were standing, looking out at the people.
"They are supposed to be some of the original actors who have performed here over the years," began Daisy. "I wonder who they are? Some of them do look much older than we are," Daisy pointed out, looking at one of the elderly gentlemen and a woman.
Suddenly a silence descended on the little crowd, as one of the people standing on the platform, raised his hand and stood before a microphone stand.
"Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen," he began. "My name is John Evans, and I'm the manager of this lovely renovated theatre which has been lovingly restored to its former glory with lottery funding."
Everyone began to clap, leaving John Evans no choice but to wait until the applause had died down. When peace reigned he began again. "We've done our best to try and get some of the original cast members from previous plays that have been performed over the years since this theatre was built, and I'm very proud to announce that here today, we are lucky enough to have with us, Mr. William Orr, actor and now playwright and the actress Zoe Markham, who are going to cut the red tape and open our Little Theatre today."
Another huge round of applause ensued, whilst Mr. William Orr and Zoe Markham came forwards, to stand before the microphone. Once the applause had once more died down, Zoe Markham was the first to speak, an elegant looking woman who held onto a stick by her side.
"Good afternoon, everyone. I am really pleased and honoured to be asked, with William, to re-open this theatre today. It has been many years since I've treaded the boards here, and those memories are most precious ones for me." She looked at William Orr and he took up his speech.
"Like Zoe, I too feel honoured to be asked back here after so many years have passed, and like most of you here, are eager to look inside this lovely renovated building. So, it gives me great pleasure, to ask Zoe to cut the tape and declare this 'The Little Theatre' open."
As Zoe cut the tape another round of applause went through the crowds, the audience watched as the double doors of the theatre were opened, and the small crowd was allowed to venture inside the lobby area.
As the Find-Outers entered their eyes rested on the long table along one wall, which was covered in a white linen tablecloth on which was displayed a selection of sandwiches, small cakes and glasses of wine, which three catering staff were already starting to hand out to the visitors.
"It all looks lovely," said Bets, in admiration, looking all around her. "What do you think, Fatty?"
Lovely," he said, with a smile. "So nice to see lottery money put to good use in this way." He accepted a glass of wine, from a waitress, who also offered the other Find-Outers a glass with a warm pleasant smile.
"I'd like to have a chat with Zoe," said Daisy, looking around for her. "I wonder where she is?"
"Do you think she'd recognise us?" said Pip.
"I hardly think so," said Larry, with a shrug. "Let's face it – if I hadn't known that was Zoe, I wouldn't have recognised her either."
The others all agreed with Larry. "Nor would we have known that was William Orr," said Fatty, matter-of-factly.
"Well I'm going to see what food they've got to offer," said Bets, looking over at the table. "Are you all coming?"
They all made their way over to the long table, and after collecting a paper plate, started to choose a small selection of sandwiches and cakes, then made their way over to a few vacant chairs over the other side of the lobby.
Whilst eating they kept their eyes peeled for Zoe and William Orr as they all said that it would be a shame to leave without speaking to them, especially as they'd met them all when children and had solved the mystery of the Little Theatre.
They didn't have to wait long, as they saw Zoe and William Orr walking in the direction of the Find-Outers. Fatty rose to his feet and approached Zoe with a smile.
"You probably don't recognise me, but maybe the name is familiar, Frederick Trotteville."
Two faces looked blankly at Fatty, but within seconds, Zoe and William smiled in recognition. "Frederick Trotteville," said Zoe, hardly believing the young plump teenage boy of Frederick Trotteville was standing before her. "I wouldn't have recognised you at all." She turned to look at William. "You remember Frederick? We met him when he was a young teenager and he cleared up the mystery of who stole the money from the manager."
William outstretched his hand to shake Fatty's. "Indeed I do remember. A lot of water has gone under the bridge since those days. Lovely to meet you again, Frederick."
The other Find-Outers came up and stood by Fatty, who proudly introduced them all.
"How wonderful to see you all again," began Zoe, a smile lighting up the whole of her aging face. "And how wonderful, Frederick, that you married your childhood friend, Bets. Do you all still live here in Peterswood?"
"All except Pip," said Bets, glancing at her brother. "He lives not far away at Burnham Beeches."
"We're staying for a few days at the Tally-Ho Hotel," said William, rather loudly. "One of the plays I wrote is going to be staged for one afternoon, the day after tomorrow, so why don't you all pop over to the hotel tomorrow afternoon, it'll be lovely to have a chat to you all, and we'll have a bit more time."
"That would be nice," said Larry, with a nod of his head and the others said the same.
"Shall we say about two o'clock," said Zoe, with a glance over at a group of others who were calling her name.
"Fine," said Fatty, speaking for them all.
"Please excuse us," said William, taking hold of Zoe's arm. "The new manager seems to be calling us." The others looked over at John Evans, a middle-aged man, dressed smartly in a black suit and a dark bow tie standing out from his bright white shirt. "Till tomorrow," he finished off, with a nod and a smile, before leading Zoe off in the direction of the manager and a few others.
"I'll look forward to seeing them both tomorrow and catching up on what has happened to them both during the years," said Daisy.
"We must remember to ask about Boysie," said Bets. "And the other actors that were here all those years ago."
"I would have thought most of the others would be no longer with us," said Pip. "Peter Watting must have been in his forties when we met him."
"True," said Daisy, with a small nod. "But Lucy White must have been in her early twenties the same as Zoe."
"And there was John James," put in Larry. "And who was the man who stole the money from the manager?"
"That was Alec Grant," said Fatty, "and he had a twin sister if I remember rightly."
"Yes, he did," said Bets, with a nod. "She was doing one of his shows for him whilst he was doing the crime."
"Seems like we've got a lot to ask Zoe," said Pip, with a raised brow. "It'll be interesting to hear what happened to everyone."
The others all agreed. If there's one thing the elderly Find-Outers loved and that was to catch up on friends and events of the past.
* * *
The following afternoon, after a long walk, Buster was left to sleep in his basket, whilst Fatty and Bets walked over to the Tally-Ho Hotel, where they were to meet up with the others at two o'clock.
In the hotel lobby they spotted Daisy, Pip and Larry, who were already waiting for Fatty and Bets to arrive.
"Zoe has left word that she'll be in the conservatory," said Daisy, on their approach. "We'll go through now you're here." They all headed off through the now familiar hotel and entered the conservatory which had a lovely view of the gardens and down to the water.
Zoe and William saw them approaching and beckoned them over, greeting them all warmly. "We've ordered some tea and cakes," said Zoe, with a smile, watching them sit down on the leather chairs. "Now, let's catch up on everything. So, Frederick, how long have you been married to your childhood sweetheart, Bets?"
Between everyone devouring cakes and drinking tea, Fatty and Bets told Zoe and William about themselves and their two sons who had followed their father's footsteps into the police force and about their grandchildren. Then, Larry, Daisy and Pip spoke of their families and grandchildren. Although friendly, William Orr was rather loud and rather ostentatious, Fatty thought, and his manner was no less than flirty with Daisy and Bets and the female waitress, who had brought them their afternoon tea, and assumed it was all part and parcel of being a playwright and actor in the public eye. Secretly he was glad that Bets was sitting next to him and wasn't taken in by this flamboyant elderly man.
"Anyway, it's what you two have been up too and the others we met all those years ago that we want to know about," said Daisy, speaking for them all.
Zoe smiled, her mind going back to the days when she'd met this group of children and how they had helped to clear her name and Boysie's when they'd been accused of stealing from the manager of the Little Theatre.
"Well," she began, "Boysie is still living and being looked after in a very nice nursing home in Brighton, over-looking the sea. He's ninety now."
The Find-Outers all looked at each other with smiles, at the knowledge that Boysie Summers, had reached such a grand old age.
"He was such a lovely person, when we met him," said Bets, with a contented smile. "I remember he gave me a lovely little carving of a lamb."
"That is just like Boysie," said Zoe, with a small smile and a slight nod of her head. "He was always generous and kind. I still try and get over to see him as often as I can and he's always pleased to see me."
"What about Alec Grant, who stole the money?" asked Pip. "Have either of you heard from him?"
"I saw him once or twice whilst he was spending a few months in prison," began William, "and he was talking of emigrating once out. Whether he was successful or not I never knew. You see in our day when something soiled your reputation it was very hard to get rid of that stigma. Not like today."
The others all agreed, and went on to discuss the celebrities of today and what they got away with.
"What about Lucy White?" asked Daisy, when a pause came in the conversation.
A sad look came over Zoe's face and she cast a glance at William Orr. "She passed away a couple of years ago. One of Lucy's daughter's Sally, is here with us. She's one of the make-up artists. William was married to Lucy's sister, Laura, for three years, but she died of an accident. Fell down the stairs at their home."
All the Find-Outers looked at William sympathetically. "How awful for you," began Bets, in sympathetic tones. "What happened?"
"She must have just lost her footing," said William, looking vaguely at them all, with a small shake of his head. "I'd just popped out and when I came in there she was at the bottom of the stairs. Apparently her death was instant according to the medical profession. She'd broken her neck."
"Laura was Lucy's younger sister by eight years," Zoe exclaimed. "Poor William hasn't been lucky with any of his marriages."
Marriages, as in plural, was the thought that instantly sprung to mind with the Find-Outers. "How do you mean?" asked Daisy, in puzzled tones.
"My first wife died of an overdose," began William. "She was a bit of a depressive anyway, and it just got to her the fact that I was an actor and travelling around the country doing various productions."
"How sad," said Fatty, watching William closely. "Had she given any inclination of her intentions?"
William shook his head. "Nothing I was aware of," he said, in slightly arrogant tones that told Fatty that he had no right to ask anyway.
"So then you married Laura?" asked Larry, thinking this man must be a glutton for punishment wanting to remarry for a second time.
"Laura was my third wife," William told them. "My second wife died of cancer."
"How very sad for you," said Daisy. "You've not had it easy."
William gave her a grateful smile. "One just has to accept the hand you're dealt and get on with life."
"True," a few of the others murmured. All except Fatty, that is. He hadn't missed the look that Zoe had given William Orr when he said his second wife had died of cancer. For some reason his life-long instincts were not taking too kindly to this man before him, pleasantly smiling with them all. He was wondering whether any of the others had picked up on his over inflated personality that William possessed, or was he Fatty, just being too suspicious of the man sitting before him.
"Anyway, enough of this morbid talk," said William, brightly, smiling at Daisy and Bets. "You must all come and see the play I wrote that's on tomorrow afternoon." He put his hand into his pocket and brought out some tickets, which he gave to Daisy, holding on to her hand for a second or two longer than he needed to. Daisy looked at him and smiled, pulling away and proudly showing the others the tickets.
"Front row seats for all of you," William carried on, not in the least deterred by Daisy's rejection.
"Thanks," said Pip, rising from his seat after a swift glance at his wrist watch. "Well I don't know about you others but Mary's expecting me back about now."
Fatty was thankful for the excuse to stand and leave too. "Yes, we must be getting back too." He looked at William and with a smile said. "Thanks for the tickets. I'm sure we'll all look forward to seeing your play tomorrow afternoon."
All the Find-Outers were standing and preparing to leave, thanking Zoe and William for inviting them to tea and for an interesting afternoon.
Zoe was helped from her seat by William and she kissed everyone and thanked them for coming. William shook hands with Fatty, Larry and Pip, and Daisy and Bets found themselves moving away from William Orr with a pleasant smile before he too had time to give them a farewell kiss.
Once outside the Find-Outers gathered around to discuss the afternoon, and all came to the same conclusion as Fatty with their opinion of William Orr.
* * *
The following morning, Fatty and Bets took Buster on his usual walk by the river and passing by the gated garden of the Tally-Ho Hotel, glanced towards the hotel as they walked by. A few guests were enjoying the morning sunshine sitting around on the lawn, Zoe being one, and waved to them both and beckoned them into the garden.
Putting Buster back on his lead, they entered the garden and walked over to the lounging chairs where Zoe was sitting next to a middle-aged woman.
"I want you to meet someone," said Zoe, with a smile, on their approach. "This is Sally, Lucy White's daughter."
Sally, a petite woman with slightly greying hair, rose from her chair and, saying 'Hello," shook hands with Bets and Fatty, and stroked Buster's head as he too came up to say hello, eagerly wagging a very excited tail. "Zoe was telling me about your visit yesterday afternoon," she said, sitting back down and indicating for them both to take a seat. "I believe you met my Mother when she was here in Peterswood, playing the part of Margot, Dick Whittington's sweetheart, played by Zoe here." She sent the elderly woman a smile and patted her aging hand, obviously very fond of the lady at her side.
"Indeed we did," said Fatty, brightly.
"Mum did tell me about you all as youngsters, and how you helped Zoe and Boysie when they were accused of stealing some money."
"We were happy to help," said Bets, with a gentle smile. "I believe your mum passed away two years ago."
A sadness passed across Sally's face, then disappeared, as she looked at Fatty and Bets. "Yes," she nodded, slightly. "A year almost to the day, after her younger sister, Laura died."
"Zoe was telling us Lucy's sister was married to William Orr," said Fatty, watching Sally closely, hoping to learn something more about William Orr, but not really knowing why.
"Yes, they were married for almost three years," began Sally. "Mum actually introduced her to William at a party both sisters arranged, just having inherited quite a bit of money from an old aunt who'd not long passed away. After that party it was as though they were inseparably."
"It doesn't sound as if he's your favourite person," said Fatty, in puzzled tones, and a raised brow.
Sally gave a nonchalant shrug of her shoulders. "I never liked him if truth be known, and I've always said he married my aunt for her money."
Why am I not surprised to hear this, thought Fatty to himself.
"Nonsense, Sally dear," said Zoe, in pacifying tones. "William didn't need Laura's money, or anyone's."
Sally turned to look at Zoe with a knowing smile. "Don't believe everything he says," she scoffed. "He's had quite a few plays that haven't been successful."
Zoe tried to cover over Sally's words lightly, and said. "You're mistaken, dear. Anyway, I'm sure Frederick and Bets here don't want to hear such gossip."
Bets felt a flush of embarrassment for them both racing through her and quickly said, "We're all looking forward to seeing the play this afternoon."
"I think it's one of William's best," Zoe smiled pleasantly. "All of you come backstage after the play before you leave."
"Yes, we will," said Fatty, with a nod of thanks. "We'd best finish our walk with Buster here, or we won't make the play on time."
The both said 'Goodbye', and how lovely it was to meet Sally, before continuing their walk along the banks of the river.
"Well, that's a bit of any eye opener about William Orr," said Bets.
"It's obvious that Sally doesn't like him," replied Fatty, with a mysterious look at Bets, "and what's more, I'd say she thinks he's responsible for the death of her aunt."
* * *
That afternoon, the Find-Outers seated themselves on the front row seats at the Little Theatre, looking forward to seeing the play that was going to be performed as a special one off to celebrate its opening.
Daisy looked around her as the theatre started to fill, and noted that almost every seat was taken. "A full house," she said to Bets, who was sitting next to her. "Let's hope this play is worth it."
"It's suppose to be very good one," returned Bets, "according to what Zoe was saying this morning."
Fatty and Bets had informed the others of the conversation that had passed between them only that morning and none of them were surprised at Sally's words. "We'll see how Mr. Popular is after the performance," said Larry, who was sitting the other side of Daisy and had overheard their conversation. "If the play is as good as Zoe says, then I'm sure that's all we'll hear from him. Boasting!"
The others grinned, then the lights went down, and the curtains opened to a scene in a country house. Surprisingly they all sat through the performance enthralled. It was a murder/mystery with a very surprising twist at the end. As the curtain fell, a loud applause took to the air, and the curtain rose once more, whilst the cast lined up and took a few bows. Someone shouted author, and William who had been playing the part of a country gent, stepped forward and took his bow to a much louder round of applause and a few cheers.
When the curtain closed for the last time, the lights went up and the audience made their way from the theatre, chatting excitedly at what they'd just seen. The Find-Outers made their way into the large lobby area and spoke to a young woman behind the desk, saying that they had an invitation to speak with Zoe. Smiling, she showed them to a door marked private, where they entered into another smaller lobby area with a set of stairs rising up on the left hand side, and told them that they would find Zoe and a few of the other actors enjoying a cup of tea in their rest room past the stairs and the door on the right.
As they entered into the rest room, a few of the actors looked over with a smile, and Zoe raised her arm and beckoned them all over to where she was sitting in a corner of the room.
They all kissed Zoe in greeting and sat down on the group of vacant settees. "How did you all enjoy the play?" she said, looking at them all with a smile.
"It was marvellous," said Daisy, with excited eyes, "and the twist at the end was most unexpected."
All the others agreed with Daisy and Zoe looked on really pleased.
"Where is William?" asked Bets, looking around the room. "I thought he'd be here?"
"He's just upstairs making a phone call in the manager's office," began Zoe. "John said he'll have more privacy up there than using the phone over in the corner, seeing as John's down here with us celebrating the success of the first performance the theatre has staged."
They all looked over to John Evans, the theatre manager, chatting and laughing with a few of the actors.
"I could do with spending a penny," said Daisy, quietly to Zoe. "Where's the ladies?"
"Just turn to the left as you go out of the door," began Zoe, "and the ladies is just on the left before the corridor turns to the right."
Daisy nodded with a smile, and left the rest room, leaving the others to chat with Zoe. About five minutes after she'd left everyone heard rather a loud noise from outside the room in the small lobby area. Everyone looked about them in puzzlement, with a few murmurs of 'What was that?" Then a sudden scream came to their ears, and instantly Larry said in urgent tones to Fatty, "That sounded like Daisy."
Everyone rushed out of the room, to see Daisy looking shocked and standing at the bottom of the stairs, looking at the figure of William Orr unconscious at the bottom.
The Find-Outers were first on the scene, and Fatty and Bets knelt down by William to see what they could do. Bets was speaking gently to him in comforting tones. "Do you know what happened?" Fatty asked the shocked Daisy, her hands cupped over her mouth in disbelief.
"I've no idea," she said in faint tones. "I was just walking from the ladies," she turned and indicated down the hallway, "when I heard what must have been William falling down the stairs and landing with an enormous thud on the marble flooring at the bottom, and I screamed in horror."
"What's happened," said the voice of Sally, pushing everyone away as she stepped forward. "I was just in the ladies."
"William's fallen down the stairs," said Zoe, taking her hand in panic. "He's unconscious. Has anyone phoned for an ambulance?"
"Yes, I did, it's on the way," said John Evans, the manager. "Let's all keep back and not crowd William. Will someone go outside and keep an eye open for the ambulance."
"I will," said Pip, and left the scene.
"He is still unconscious," said Zoe, looking down at William with concern. "Should we make him more comfortable?"
"No, we mustn't move him," said Bets, remembering her nurse training. "We may injure him more by doing so."
Bets continued to speak comforting words to the unconscious William, sprawled at an odd angle on his side, whilst Fatty was looking at the injury on the back of William's head not far from the top. Fatty glanced at the top of the stairs, then back at William. He whispered closely against Bets' ear. "This head injury isn't consistent with his fall."
Bets looked at Fatty with concern and whispered. "What are you saying?"
Fatty was grateful that in his kneeling position his back was to everyone and knew nothing of his concern. He leaned closer to Bets' ear. "I'm certain he didn't get this injury by falling down the stairs. Someone administered this blow which sent him falling down the stairs."
* * *
The ambulance's siren could be heard before its arrival and everyone who was gathered in the small lobby by the stairs breathed a sigh of relief when two paramedics entered the scene, carrying various equipment with them. Everyone stood back to give them room and Fatty informed them of his and Bets' name at the request of the female paramedic, both now happy to leave everything to the professionals.
After taking some information on board, the male paramedic, a tall distinguished man with slightly greying hair, took in the scene before him and was instantly kneeling at Fatty's side by his patient, and was soon joined by his female colleague.
"Do we know exactly what happened here?" he said to Fatty.
Fatty looked at the paramedic's badge and noted his name was Nigel Rowe. He shook his head. "We only know he must have taken a tumble down these stairs."
"What's his name?" asked Nigel's colleague, looking at Fatty and Bets, and starting to take down a few written notes. Bets noted the name of Lynn on her badge.
"William," said Bets. "He's been unconscious since the fall and hasn't regained consciousness at all, even though I have tried to talk to him." She rose to her feet, glad now to stretch her aching legs and went to stand by Daisy, who whispered into her ear. "I wouldn't mind being unconscious if it meant Nigel bending that close to me."
Bets couldn't help the small quiet chuckle and gave Daisy a small nudge. "Behave yourself." Daisy grinned, with a slightly raised brow of admiration as she looked back at the scene before her.
Unaware of Daisy's words, Nigel looked at the visible injury on the back of William's head, the blood now starting to congeal. He leant closer to his patient's ear. "William, can you hear me?"
Getting no response, Nigel looked at his colleague. "Let's get him fully immobilized."
Everyone watched as Nigel and Lynn placed a cervical collar around William's neck taking great care not to disturb his position. Fatty leaned a little closer to Nigel and said quietly. "I don't think that head injury is consistent to the fall. In view of that do you think he should be moved?"
Nigel looked at the man beside him, fully realizing the implication of what this elderly gent had said. Before he had time to reply, Fatty said, "In case you're wondering, Nigel, I'm a retired Commander of Police."
For some reason this fact didn't surprise Nigel at all as he had sensed the authoritative air and strong determination that surrounded this man when first meeting him. "I understand what you're saying, Mr. Trotteville," Nigel began, "but my first priority is this patient and we have a duty of care to get him to the hospital as quickly and safely as possible."
Fatty nodded silently. "I understand. Please do what you have to." He rose from the scene and stood by Bets and Daisy.
Everyone watched as Nigel and Lynn finally rolled William carefully onto a long board and fixed head blocks to his head making him fully immobile. Then carefully they lifted him and, followed by one or two bystanders and the Find Outers, took him to their ambulance. Once inside, Nigel gave him oxygen.
"What's Nigel doing now?" asked Daisy to Bets, knowing that if anyone knew it would be Bets with her nurses training.
"He's checking his levels of consciousness, by means of the Glasgow Coma Score," said Bets. "If a patient is fully conscious they could score 15, whereas a deceased person would be 3."
With a nod from Nigel, Lynn closed the ambulance door securely, and made her way into the driving seat. The ambulance was then driven away slowly and carefully, with no lights or sirens.
Everyone watched until it was out of sight, then went back into the theatre, discussing the events they'd just witnessed. Sally had her arm around Zoe as she escorted her back inside.
"The ambulance certainly wasn't in any hurry," said Pip, matter-of-factly.
"Great care has to be taken with a suspected spinal fracture," said Bets, to her brother. "Any undue movement could cause paralysis if the spinal cord is broken."
The Find-Outers looked at each other with concern at the seriousness of William's injury. "And what's more," said Fatty, stopping at the door before they all went back inside, "I have an idea that William's fall was no accident."
Larry, Daisy and Pip looked at Fatty with a look of horror. "What makes you think that?" said Larry.
"William's head injury wasn't consistent with his fall. I showed this to Bets, and pointed it out to Nigel."
"This is serious, Fatty," said Pip. "If what you say is correct."
Fatty nodded. "I know. I think when we go back inside, Bets, you and Daisy go to the rest room where everyone will probably be chatting about the fall, and try and get into conversation with everyone and get as much information as to where everyone was."
Bets and Daisy nodded.
"Pip, Larry and I will go and investigate around the stairs and the landing from where William fell, and see what we can find," continued Fatty.
"Let's hope we can find something out," said Pip, in serious tones. "Why would anyone want to purposely knock him on the head and push him down the stairs?"
"When we find the reason why," said Fatty, with a knowing look at them all, "we'll then know who."
* * *
As the Find-Outers walked back into the Little Theatre and through the door marked 'private', John Evans, the manager was just wiping up a few blood stains from William's fall. He looked up at their approach.
"I hope he'll be okay. A fall like that at his age can be critical." He looked around him, before continuing. "I'm just wondering whether or not it was a good idea to have this marble floor put down, if it's a health hazard."
"Accidents can happen regardless," said Fatty, with a reassuring smile. "Do you mind if we just have a look around at how William could have fallen down the stairs?"
"Please do," said John Evans, with a grateful smile. "Zoe has mentioned your previous line of work, Mr. Trotteville." He shook his head again. "This is a terrible business."
"Come back to the rest room," said Bets, taking the man's arm. "I'm sure we could all do with a strong cup of tea."
Fatty, Larry and Pip, watched as Bets and Daisy led John Evans back to the rest room.
"We'll start up here," said Fatty, beginning to walk up the stairs, followed by the others. "He'd apparently been in the manager's office making a phone call before his fall."
At the top of the stairs, Fatty made a note of the short corridor before him, with a turning off to the right. A few paces forward took them to the door on the right, labelled 'Manager – John Evans.'
The three of them walked into the room, and started to walk around looking for anything unusual at Fatty's request. The room was a normal sized office, with a large desk, filling cabinets against one wall, and over in one corner was a vanity sink with a small cupboard beneath, and in another corner was a door, which on opening and glancing in, Pip discovered it went into a small stock room.
"It looks just like a normal office," began Pip, looking at the others. "It would help if we knew what we are looking for."
"Something along the lines of this," said Fatty, picking up a large glass ash tray from the desk using his handkerchief, and putting on his glasses. The others came over to Fatty as he turned the ash tray around examining it closely. A smile came to his face and he looked at the others. "See what I see?"
He thrust the ash tray towards them and both Larry and Pip examined it closely. Then vaguely shook their heads. Fatty grinned in self satisfaction.
"The corner's chipped," he pointed out, "and there's a tiny spot of blood that's not been removed. Obviously the culprit must have rinsed the ash tray over in the sink," he nodded towards the vanity unit, "but missed this speck."
Pip put his glasses on as did Larry and both looked closely at the chipped corner of the ash tray. "Well I never," said Larry, with a smile. "A result."
"So we know what was used," began Fatty, replacing the ashtray for the moment. "The culprit must have followed William from this office and hit him on the head as he was about to descend the stairs." The others nodded, waiting for Fatty to carry on. "Obviously they couldn't risk going down the stairs themselves, and also the ash tray had to be washed clean."
"They could have gone and hid in that stockroom," said Pip, indicating the door in the far right corner.
"But at some point they'd have had to come down the stairs," said Larry, knowingly.
Fatty walked over to the stockroom door, followed by the others. Going inside and switching on the light they instantly saw at the far end another door. Fatty walked forward and opened this door onto a corridor. Before them was a set of stairs marked 'Fire Exit'. "We'll go down there in a moment," said Fatty, and proceeded to walk left along the corridor from the stock room door, passing on his right two other doors marked 'Dressing Room', before the corridor turned to the left and he was then facing the stairs which they'd ascended.
Retracing his steps, Fatty went back to Pip and Larry. "If I'm right," he said, "these stairs should lead us back down to the lobby area, which is probably the route the culprit took once they'd replaced that ash tray."
They all descended the stairs, a solid wall on their right and before them a pair of double doors, marked. 'This fire door is alarmed.'
"Well at least we know the culprit couldn't have gone through there," said Larry, following the others down the corridor, and passing a further door on the right marked 'Dressing Room'. A few steps further, the corridor turned left and two other doors on the right were marked, 'Ladies' and Gentlemen', and a few further paces brought them to the rest room.
"Well at least that proves my suspicions," said Fatty, proudly. "All the culprit had to do, was to quietly mingle with the rest of us here in the lobby as we were all focused on William."
"Let's hope that Daisy and Bets have been able to chat to some of the others, to find out who was in the lobby area as soon as we all dashed out and who wasn't," said Pip, raising an enquiring brow.
"We'd best join the women," said Fatty, "but firstly I want to just pop back upstairs and retrieve that ash tray as that's one huge clue."
Larry and Pip nodded, before opening the door of the rest room.
* * *
Later that evening, Fatty and Bets were discussing between themselves the events of that afternoon.
"Sally was such a comfort to Zoe," Bets began. "Zoe has known her since she was born. They both still miss Lucy terribly."
"Pity no one could be of help when you and Daisy spoke with everyone though," said Fatty, with a sigh. "But one of them is lying. But who, that's the question?"
"Zoe kept saying she just couldn't believe what had happened." Bets shook her head in dismay. "She was ever so upset. Sally said he must have just lost his footing, somehow."
"If only we could remember who wasn't in that rest room at the time of the fall," said Fatty, thoughtfully.
"In all fairness, Fatty, we don't really know any of the staff and actors who were there this afternoon only William, Zoe and Sally. Oh, and the manager."
"Somehow we've got to flush out the culprit by means of a little deception," said Fatty, with a slight nod of his head, as an idea had suddenly presented itself.
Bets knew that look of old. "So what have you in mind?" she said, with a knowing smile.
"No one knows I have the ash tray I'm convinced was used as a weapon to hit William over the head. And there is no way anyone can get back into the theatre tonight as it's all locked up and alarmed."
"So?" Questioned Bets, wonder what all this was leading to.
"I've got to show my hand, and make everyone aware of my suspicions, therefore, throwing the culprit into panic mode and needing to remove that ash tray from the manager's office as soon as they can, before it gets discovered."
Bets nodded. "And how will you do that?"
"All the cast and production crew are staying at the Tally-Ho Hotel until tomorrow lunch time, and we know that John Evans is going over later this evening to buy them all a drink. So, I'll give him a call, informing him of my suspicions and saying that I will inform the police and get them over to the theatre tomorrow afternoon to search for any kind of evidence. That unexpected news will alert the culprit. He or she will have to go over to the theatre in the morning to remove the ash tray. But they won't be aware that we, The Find-Outers will be waiting for their arrival."
"But what if the culprit is John Evans, the manager," said Bets, matter-of-factly. "By telling him this he could go over there this evening."
"I don't think it is him," said Fatty, with a definite shake of his head. "Besides he was in the rest room when we all heard William fall down the stairs."
Bets nodded, remembering how John Evans was sitting over in the corner of the room with a few of the actors, whilst she and the others had been chatting to Zoe. Then suddenly a cold chill ran through Bets and she looked at Fatty in horror, putting a hand over her mouth as she said. "Oh no! I've just remembered who wasn't in the room with us besides Daisy!"
* * *
All the Find-Outers were at The Little Theatre, the following morning as soon as the theatre was opened. John Evans was fully aware of Fatty's plans and said he would stay around the inner lobby area until he heard otherwise. There were no performances that day, and only the box office was open to sell tickets for future performances that were being advertised.
Everyone followed Fatty up the stairs to the manager's office, which John Evans had unlocked for them. Inside Bets and Daisy looked around in admiration at the new office and all its furnishings.
"Just look at that lovely leather settee by the window," said Daisy, going over to have a closer look.
"We're not here to admire the furniture," said Larry, in fierce tones, watching Daisy bounce up and down with a grin on her face.
"Just trying to lighten the mood a little that's all," Daisy returned, in icy tones to her brother.
"Listen up, you two," said Fatty, taking charge. "We'll hide ourselves away in the stock room and I'll leave the door slightly ajar so I can see anyone entering. Just in case our culprit decides to come in through the stockroom door, I'll lock it this side, making sure the door near the stairs is the only entry."
The others nodded silently and followed Fatty into the stockroom. "Once the culprit is inside the office," Fatty whispered to them all, "Pip, you unlock this other door and with Larry go around the corridor and stand just outside the door by the stairs, and enter when you hear me in the room."
"Okay," whispered Pip, and Larry nodded.
Bets looked at Daisy in anticipation. Her heart was racing anxiously and she felt sure the others would be able to hear it. Daisy gave her a nod of reassurance and whispered by her ear. "Don't worry, it'll all be fine."
Suddenly a noise of someone quietly opening the office door had them standing rigidly still, hardly daring to breathe, and a couple of voices came to their ears. "I don't think you should be doing this," came a fierce whisper.
"I won't be a moment," came the reply. "Where is the damn thing?"
Fatty watched Pip and Larry, quietly go out of the stockroom, then with a slight nod at Bets and Daisy he stepped out of the stockroom and into the office, looking at Zoe and Sally with a serious expression.
"Is this what you're looking for, Sally?" he asked, in firm tones, holding up the ash tray.
Sally looked around at Fatty in shocked horror, her eyes going to the ash tray in his hands. She shook her head and sat down on the nearby settee with a loud sigh. "I guess I've just fallen for the oldest trick in the book."
Zoe went and sat next to her, looking up at Fatty with pleading eyes. "Sally told me what she had done last night. She didn't mean to hit William, Frederick. It was an angry impulse action."
Pip and Larry entered the room, and stood by the desk, looking first at Fatty and then at Zoe, who had a protective arm around Sally.
"What gave me away?" asked Sally, in enquiring tones, and looking at Fatty.
"You weren't in the rest room with the rest of us when we heard William fall," began Fatty, "and when you did appear you said you'd just come from the ladies." Fatty cast a glimpse over at Daisy before carrying on. "Daisy had come from the ladies and she confirmed that no one else was in there."
Sally gave a sad guilty smile.
"What happened, Sally?" Said Bets, in gentle tones, feeling she must have had a good reason for doing such a thing. She just didn't look the type to commit such an aggressive act.
Sally looked up at them all, a look of sorrow now on her face. She shook her head gently as if she couldn't believe the situation herself. "William was in here on the phone," she began, softly. "He must have been talking to a woman, he's a great womanizer that's for sure," her tone turned to one of anger. Then she calmed a little and carried on. "He must have been talking to her about money, and kept saying how he couldn't accept such an amount, but didn't want to offend her by refusing, so if she was sure..." She stopped, and took in a deep breath. "He uses women, for his own gains. All his wives have had money and all have died. I'm convinced he killed them all, and that includes my Aunt Laura."
"But William told us his second wife died of cancer," said Pip, looking puzzled.
Sally looked at Pip and gave a snigger. "Did he? Well I know for sure his second wife committed suicide. She had a cancer but was in remission. It was under control. A woman who has just learned that, and has been given a new lease of life ahead of her, doesn't commit suicide."
Everyone was watching Sally, and Zoe had now taken her hand and was squeezing it reassuringly.
"Did you go to the police with your suspicions?" asked Fatty.
Sally shook her head. "There was no proof. And you of all people should know, Frederick, that you can't go to the police on a hunch. William is a very clever man, you can be reassured that he would have covered his tracks perfectly, everything would have been sown up neatly and water tight. He even had all his wives cremated."
"What do you think, Zoe?" Said Daisy. "After all, you know William and have done for a very long time."
Zoe looked at Daisy looking devastated at all that had happened. She shook her head slowly and said softly. "I don't know. He's one for the women, that's for sure, but murder? It doesn't bear thinking off, but Sally and her mother were both convinced he was responsible for Laura's death, and his other wives."
"Mum was convinced all right," said Sally, strongly. "It broke her heart when her younger sister died. She was never well after that, and I promised her just before she died I'd get even with William Orr and he'd pay for what he'd done." She paused a second, before carrying on. "Listening to him on the phone just riled me. When I confronted him and said he was getting more money off innocent women again, he just laughed, and said that if they were stupid enough to give him the money then he wasn't about to refuse."
Sally's face was red with anger as she remembered William's words. "The arrogance of the man," she almost spluttered. "He turned his back on me, and walked from this room. I picked up the ash tray and followed him to the top of the stairs and just hit out with all my might. He fell instantly, and I suddenly realized what I'd done. So I raced back in here, quickly washed that ash tray and left by the stock room door, ran down the back stairs and then re-appeared in the lobby area where you were all gathered around William."
Fatty nodded as he'd already figured this out. He understood how someone could act on impulse in this way, especially if they were full of anger at how circumstances had affected them in some way. He'd dealt with cases like this many times, and each time a case like this had presented itself, it just didn't get any easier. But at the end of the day, what Sally had done was wrong.
"What will happen now, Frederick?" asked Zoe, looking at Fatty with sad eyes. "Sally isn't a violent person. She knows she's done wrong. What will the police do?"
"I never called the police," said Fatty, gently. "I rang John Evans and planted that seed as I knew it would bring out the guilty person."
"I shouldn't have fell for that one," said Sally, shaking her head. "No one would have been the wiser."
"The ash tray is still evidence, Sally," said Larry, matter-of-factly. "There's still traces of blood that wasn't quite washed off."
Sally looked at Larry in alarm. "Really?" She shrugged. "Well even if there is, my prints are no longer there, so no one would have been able to trace that back to me."
Everyone looked at Fatty for confirmation, and Pip asked. "Is that true, Fatty?"
Fatty nodded. "Sally's right. There's no way any of this could have been traced back to her."
"Frederick," began Zoe, pleadingly, "you don't have to report this do you? Couldn't we just forget the whole thing? I mean who's to know?"
"What about William Orr?" said Bets. "He knows who hit him. He could call the police himself as it's an assault."
"I can easily persuade him not to press charges," said Zoe, suddenly feeling a lift of determination to protect her close friend. "And if he says yes, then the police are powerless."
"But what about his family?" said Pip. "Won't they want to know what happened?"
"He's hasn't any family left," said Zoe. "But Sally has a grandchild. William never had children."
"He was too busy murdering his wives," said Sally, in bitter tones. "I know for a fact Laura wanted children."
The Find-Outers looked at each other almost helplessly. What a situation to be in. Deep down Fatty knew he had a duty towards William lying critically ill in the hospital.
"Has anyone rung the hospital to see how William is this morning?" Fatty asked, the thought just occurring to him.
Zoe shook her head. "I haven't and I don't think anyone at the hotel has."
Before anyone else could say anything, John Evans came through the door and looked at everyone gravely. A sudden cold feeling swept through Fatty as he looked at John's serious expression.
"The hospital has just rung," he said. "William Orr died fifteen minutes ago."
A stunned silence of sadness filled the room, and Zoe started to cry. Bets and Daisy immediately went over to her and Bets put a protective arm around her shoulders. Sally looked up at Fatty, tears gently falling from her face at the full realization of her actions.
No one could say anything but looked at Fatty who looked just as devastated as everyone else. It was at times such as this that his strong beliefs between right and wrong governed his actions. He still felt guilty at times by allowing Lisa to break into Carlo's home, whilst he waited in the car.
He looked at Sally, with sympathy and regret and with a heavy heart walked over to the desk and picking up the phoned dialled 999. Pip and Larry walked over to the weeping Sally and put a comforting arm around her shoulders.
Bets left Daisy to comfort Zoe, and walked over to Fatty giving him a reassuring smile of support and squeezed his arm. He looked at Bets, a small tear of sadness escaping onto his cheek and with the words almost choking him he said into the phone.
"I want to report a murder."
© Copyright 2010 Julie Heginbotham. All Rights Reserved.
In accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act of 1988.