Chapter 1: Minutes before the Murder

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1956, November

Winifred set down her sketchbook and put on her apron. The radio was playing something by Beethoven and the house smelled of pork roast. She glanced at the clock: 7:32. Out with the blackberry pie but a few more minutes on the pork. Outside, she heard her husband's car pulling into the carport behind the house. She turned on the side porch light and opened the kitchen door.

Phillip Forester came in and kissed his wife.

"It smells like roast in here," he said as he took off his hat. "It's fantastic. How was your day?"

"Roast pork," Winifred explained. "It's just ready. My day was lovely. How about yours? Did you cure any incurable diseases?" She pulled the plates down from the cupboard. Philip was in the front hallway, hanging up his coat and hat.

"I'm afraid not," Philip sighed with mock disappointment. "Thankfully, the children were all healthy, but some of the parents are hypochondriacs on their children's' behalf," he joked. "Insatiable worriers, I forget the Latin." He came in the kitchen and grabbed the silverware and took it through to the dining room.

"How about insanabilis anxieta," Winifred suggested. She pulled the roast out of the oven and rested it on the counter. From the window above the sink she could see stars in the clear sky. She turned off the porch light. "Oh Philip, it's clear out. What do you think about going out on the boat out tomorrow?"

Philip's brow furrowed. "I invited Dr. Manning to go golfing tomorrow. He doesn't know anyone in Seattle yet, and I thought it might help if I took him to the club."

Winifred sat down and Philip opened a bottle of wine.

"I'm sorry I forgot to mention it," he apologized. "But how about this, I'll cancel golfing and we'll all go out to dinner instead? That way you can meet his wife." He poured them each a glass of wine and sat down.

"No, it's all right," Winifred said. "You play golf and we'll invite them out next weekend. But promise me that if the weather is good, we'll take them sailing, and if it's not, we will take them to that clam place on the waterfront."

"Deal," Philip agreed as he began serving the beans.

Winifred uncovered the roast and frowned. She glanced at the clock.

It was 7:43.

And that's when it happened.

A loud short scream.

Very close.

It filled the air and then stopped as suddenly as it had started.

"Dear God." Winifred gasped as her fork fell. "That sounded like a woman."

Philip was already on his feet. He hurried through the kitchen toward the back door and Winifred was right behind him. As she passed the kitchen window she saw a shadowy figure outside.

Philip yanked the door open and flicked on the porch light.

"You there," he shouted at the figure. "Stop!"

He bolted through the white arbor that separated their yard from the driveway. "Stop! Come back here! Stop!"

Winifred reached the doorway and looked out. Just beyond their yard, a crumpled form was lying motionless in the driveway. Philip was already through the arbor and running down the gravel driveway toward the street. Somewhere in the distance, a dog was barking.

"Stop, stop!" he shouted as his footsteps crashed against the wet pebbles. For a moment she was aware of him at the street. Above the rhododendron bushes, she could see his shadowed form as he looked up and down the street. But Winifred wasn't thinking of the assailant. Her gaze was on a crumpled shadow in front of her. It was a person. A woman was lying in the darkness. She was motionless. Winifred hurried through the arbor and stooped down in the driveway beside the woman. She could still hear her own radio from the house and she could see own steamy breath puffing into the cold night air. The woman's face was turned away and there was no breath coming into the light.

There were red marks on her neck.

Winifred had been a nurse in London during the war. She had encountered more bomb victims than she cared to remember. Some of them had been on the streets and in what was left of their houses, but Winifred had always felt she was a better nurse at the hospital than at the scene of a tragedy. At a hospital, there was an order and a system, and even if you were short of supplies or beds, or even electricity, at least everyone knew the protocol. The porch light illuminated the scene and the light gleamed off the woman's delicate pearl earring. From her left hand which was in the light, Winifred could see that she was a young woman and her fingernails were lacquered pink.

Instinctively Winifred reached out to touch the woman's wrist, bracing herself for the worst.

"Winifred," Philip panted softly as he came quickly back up the driveway. "You don't have to look. Please get my medical bag and telephone the police. I'll let you know if there's anything..."

Winifred stood up, and looked toward the street. "He got away?"

Philip nodded as he yanked off his jacket. "The bastard. I chased him to the street, but I couldn't see which way he went." He tossed the jacket on a shrub, and quickly pulled up his sleeves. "Please dear, I'll need my bag." He stooped down in the mud and Winifred hurried into the house.

Seconds later she came back with the bag but it didn't look good. Philip was on both knees, trying to revive the woman. But she wasn't moving. Winifred wanted to help but she had the sickening feeling that it was already too late. She set the black medical bag beside her husband, opened it, and hurried back to the house. Winifred had never noticed how heavy the telephone receiver was. It had been years since the nightmare of the blitz. She was in a different country now and she was married. Everything should be different, and yet here she was asking the switch operator to connect her with the police. 



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