In the hallway, she paused by the shoe closet. She heard Mr Morgan talking on the telephone. She opened the closet. The rows and rows of beautiful shoes glinted back at her. They were of every colour and shape and material possible. She drew her breath sharply. Imagine owning all that. She had just two pairs of shoes in Cardiff. Bedroom slippers, and the thickest pair of trainers to keep the chilblains at bay. Her eyes scanned the rows, trying to understand why Sian couldn’t have worn the right pair of shoes. There was a cream coloured pair, but with diamond studs on them. No, not those. Another pair of off-white pumps. No. She would wear heels for a dinner party, for sure. Violet satin heels. Not too bad. But they had to be the exact shade of her dress then. She checked the soles of the shoes. Not a mark on them. The price sticker was still on. Brand new. Untouched. She shut the closet and left the house.
The burial took place in the church cemetry next to Rani’s school. Mrs Jhaveri got there just as the pastor concluded his prayers and sprinkled earth on the coffin. She watched with interest as Mr Morgan threw a few clumps of earth and wiped a tear. She saw Mrs Jones sniffing loudly into her lace handkerchief and she inched slowly towards her. The cleaning woman was there as well. Looking rather white and tired. The Morgans did not have any children, and the only other family member present was Sian’s ailing sister. She was wheeled towards the coffin and her shoulders shook violently as she threw earth on the coffin.
“Poor dear,” whispered Mrs Jones. “She doesn’t have much time left either.” She looked at Mrs Jhaveri and nodded. “Sian’s sister there, Sue, she never got married. Looked after their father, you know. He died only last year, at the ripe old age of ninety. And would you believe it? Sue fell down the stairs a week later and ended up being an invalid herself.”
“Very sad,” Mrs Jhaveri whispered back.
“Indeed, especially after inheriting the house and not being able to enjoy it. Right shame it is.” Mrs Jones sniffed her disapproval. “Sian herself inherited a tidy sum herself. They went to Thailand couple of months ago.”
“I know. Sian showed me the elephant statues she bought from there…”
The cleaning woman, or rather, Mr Morgan's distant cousin, turned around and glared at them. Mrs Jones went red and sniffed loudly into her handkerchief. Mrs Jhaveri glared back at her. How dare she eavesdrop on their conversation and then have the cheek to show her disapproval. She had no right to butt in.
“Mrs Jones,” she whispered back deliberately. “I think Sian didn’t die of a heart attack. She was murdered.” There, that should knock the socks off curdle-face.
Mrs Jones gasped and dropped her handbag. The cousin squared her shoulders but did not turn around.
What are you saying, Mrs… Mrs…? Mrs Jones coughed.
“Oh yes, Mrs Javier?”
“I’m so sorry, Mrs Jhavieri. But why do you think that?” Mrs Jones clutched her handbag to her chest. “I didn’t see anyone there in the toilet that night.”
“Simple. The shoes. Remember you mentioned her black suede shoes, lying by her head?”
Mrs Jones nodded vigorously.
“Well, the killer killed her, then ran away with her shoes. Think about it. Why would Sian wear black shoes with her purple dress?”
Mrs Jones’ eyes bulged. Her mouth opened, but shut again.
“Anyway, you may not believe it. I think so.” Mrs Jhaveri stated firmly. An westerly wind was beginning to blow and the tips of her fingers were beginning to go numb. She’d have to go back indoors soon.
Mrs Jones laughed politely. “Oh, Mrs Ja-va-rey. You’ve been watching too many detective dramas on telly. She definitely wasn’t murdered. She died in front of me… of a heart attack.” She patted Mrs Jhaveri gently on her shoulders. Mrs Jhaveri nodded politely but her lips were set in a thin line. She would prove it. She excused herself and walked out of the churchyard. It was a quarter to eleven and the children were on their break. She slowed down by the school to see if she could spot Rani. Yes, there she was, running around in the playground, laughing with her friends. She hadn’t got her mittens on. Mrs Jhaveri grimaced and flexed her own frozen fingers. This cold would be the death of her.
As she walked past the surgery, an idea flashed through her mind.
“Hang on a minute,” she muttered, imitating Rani. “I have an idea.”
She entered the surgery and asked to see her doctor. A long wait was imminent, so she sat in a corner and decided to think things out carefully.
Dr Davies saw her forty minutes later. She was the last appointment for the morning. She liked this quiet, young doctor with his large hands and ginger hair. She saw him regularly thanks to Rani’s sniffles and tickles. That’s what he called it. Sniffles and tickles and Rani would collapse into giggles.
“Good afternoon, Dr Davies.” Mrs Jhaveri smiled sweetly at him.
“Afternoon, Mrs Jhaveri,” he replied, rubbing his hands together. “Where’s the little princess? Or is it you this time?”
Mrs Jhaveri laughed nervously. “Actually, doctor, I don’t have a problem… medical problem, I mean. But if you could help me, I’d be very grateful.”
“Oh.” Dr Davies looked confused. “How can I help?”
“Doctor, please don’t think I am crazy. I really need to ask you this.” She was sure he’d send her packing.
“Oh no, you go on. What’s the problem?”
“Well, you know, doctor… I am a bit confused over some facts. Can a person die of heart attack, but which is actually not heart attack?” Mrs Jhaveri bit her lip. This was not going the right way.
“I’m sorry, but I don’t understand.” Dr Davies looked at her and frowned.
“Okay, I’ll try again.” Mrs Jhaveri cleared her throat and closed her eyes. “My friend died recently of a heart attack. But, I think it was not heart attack. She was killed. Something strange about the situation makes me believe she was killed. Am I making sense?” She waved her hands about helplessly.
“Wait a minute,” Dr Davies said. “Are you trying to tell me that someone was murdered but it was made to look like this person died of a heart attack?”
“Yes,” Mrs Jhaveri clapped her hands. “You understood? Good.”
“Well, if that’s what you are implying.”
“Doctor, how can one achieve this? How?”
“But why does that interest you?” Asked Dr Davies, narrowing his eyes.
“I’m – I’m writing a novel,” Mrs Jhaveri said, looking into his eyes. “In Hindi. You can’t read it. Sorry.”
“I didn’t know you write,” Dr Davies smiled. “Crime fiction, huh? Have you been published?”
“I will be, if you help me out with the verdict, doctor,” Mrs Jhaveri muttered, and then smiled sweetly at him. “I’ll give you a signed copy. In Hindi. I don’t write in English.”
Dr Davies laughed and looked excited. Poor man, he needed to go out a bit more. Maybe Monica and he – Mrs Jhavery forced herself to concentrate on the task at hand.
“Well, certain chemicals, substances, if ingested… eaten can trigger a heart attack,” he said.
“Oh, like what chemicals?”
“Certain painkillers, if taken irresponsibly. Wait a minute… who are you talking about?”
Dr Davies looked at her and frowned. He tapped his fingers on his desk and waited.
“Sian Morgan,” she said quietly.
“Hmmm. Why do you suspect murder, Mrs Jhaveri.”
“If you can give me an answer, doctor, I would be able to give you mine.” She was playing mind games with the doctor now and quite enjoying it.
“Well, so I’ve said some chemicals. But they’re hard to get by easily.”
“What about natural stuff?” she prodded. “I saw on telly the other night, someone was poisoned by mushrooms.”
Dr Davies smiled at her. “You watch too many detective dramas. Ma’am. But you are right. Coprinopsis atramentaria. The Inky Cap mushroom.”
“A-ha. That’s a start. How does one use it?”
“Well, in itself, it can’t do anything. But if any alcohol is consumed later, it could be fatal. The Tippler’s Bane, another name for it.” Dr Davies typed it up on Google. “Let’s see what else we can find.”
“But who would want to kill her?” asked Mrs Jhaveri. “She didn’t have any enemies. I don’t know.”
“Her husband – suspect number one, of course.” Dr Davies smiled at her, teasing her.
Mrs Jhaveri shook her head absently. “They were married for forty years. Far too long for a man to wait. It was a woman, for sure.”
“Why do you say that?” Dr Davie frowned. Mrs Jhaveri seemed very serious.
“Because, the killer ran away with Sian Morgan’s shoes.”
“Oh, here it is,” Dr Davies looked at the computer screen and read aloud to her.
“Consumed with alcohol, Coprinopsis atramentaria is toxic. Symptoms include facial reddening, nausea, vomiting, malaise agitation and palpitations and arise 20 minutes to 2 hours after consumption. The fungus contains coprine, which blocks the action of acetaldehyde dehydrogenase, allowing the buildup of acetaldehyde in the body…”
Okay, so in English it means…?” Asked Mrs Jhaveri impatiently.
“Just that. It’s dangerous to drink alcohol after eating the Inky cap. But, I would suggest, you shouldn’t worry about it. The coroner must have done a thorough job. She’d have died of a heart attack, no doubt.”
“Yes, yes. Of course,” Mrs Jhaveri said quickly. She didn’t want to upset the doctor. Besides she had to know what Sian had for lunch on the afternoon of that fateful day. “I must go now. Sorry to have taken up your time. I have to be present for the wake at the Morgans’ place.”
She rushed out of the surgery. Sian had inherited some money, didn’t Mrs Jones say that? What if Mr Morgan killed her for that? She clicked her tongue in irritation. Of course, he wouldn’t. He didn’t seem to hate her. Though she had just found out, that he always did the cooking at home. What if he had killed her by mistake? But that wouldn’t explain the shoes. That had to be a woman’s work. Or was it Mr Morgan, trying to take the attention off himself, just in case?
To be continued ...
To be continued ...