Louie and Rick were exhausted and rather famished by the time one of the officers got around to their interrogation. Louie had done most of the talking, with Rick chipping in once in a while to mention some obscure detail she had forgotten about. The officer had a kindly demeanour, gesturing every so often for Louie to continue when she stumbled over her own words or trailed off on a tangent. To sum up a rather long and tiring conversation: Louie and Rick explained to the officer about their friend Alice Barlow and how they had offered to investigate her murder. They skimmed over the interviews until reaching the part where they went to find the tall man in the dark suit at Crowthorn School, after hearing about his friendly relationship with Sir Thomas Barlow. Then how Rick had spotted him leaving through the back entrance and they had followed him up into the hills. The officer asked for details on the layout of the German cave and what they had seen the Germans doing there. To be honest, they couldn’t really provide much information on that. Describing how they had found the buttons, bullets and polish on the banister was particularly hard, as they had to get the overview of these objects just right. After that, the officer was hurriedly told of the bloody outline of Alice’s corpse they had found on the downstairs floor of the Barlow, as well as more buttons- with the letter ‘L’ on them- the large footprints leading to the cellar door, where a deflated beach ball had been found beneath a loose floorboard. Last but not least came the explanation of the note with the equation on it that they had found. The long speech was rounded off with another in-depth description of the second time they had been to the German cave- this time at night- and found the blueprints; subsequently figuring out what the equation meant. The officer nodded and told them, “We’ll have those Germans sorted out good and proper, don’t you worry. And I do hope you find out what happened to your friend. Terrible thing, murder. Thank you for this information. You’re a bright pair, you two are. No wonder you found this cave before we did.” He offered a quick smile before rushing Rick and Louie out of the pillbox and back up towards the village.
It was Tuesday morning, and they had met up at the park again in another attempt to figure out a conclusion to their investigation. “It’s no use,” growled Louie, tormenting the path a bit too much with the front of her shoe, “We’ll never figure it out. We just keep going round in circles but never actually getting somewhere. Nothing adds up.” She heaved a sigh, telling Rick that they should call it a day and meet up again tomorrow. Rick dragged his feet on the walk back home. Edith and Mabel were insufferable, always getting at him for this and that. As soon as he opened the door he was moaned at by Edith for the state of his scuffed shoes. “Where on Earth have you been? I wasn’t aware they ran a shoe-dirtying service in the village? Get them off right now or I’ll spank you myself!” After a rather long session with nothing to comfort him except shoe polish, Rick collapsed onto an armchair in front of the lit fireplace. Mabel was embroidering a scarf a few paced away on the rocking chair. She threw him a wicked smile. Rick hastily drew himself out of his chair and stomped upstairs. He shared the boys’ room, but they were out with some of the other local boys at the quarry. He stalked into Mabel’s room instead. Everything in there was neat and tidy, from the freshly made bed to the neatly-folded clothed in a wooden chest of drawers. It was no wonder Edith let her help with the housekeeping job at the Barlow if she was this good at cleaning…
Rick tiptoed towards Mabel’s desk. It was a simple writing desk, with a lift-up lid like the ones in the schoolroom in Manchester. He flicked up the lid and scanned the contents of the desk. There were a few sheets of paper inside, clearly Mabel’s handwriting practice. Mabel Libitina Renolds, the paper read, over and over again in curly penmanship. It was odd Mabel had adopted her foster name rather than the one she had been given before she was evacuated. Her middle name was even stranger. Rick shut the desk and walked over to the chest of drawers. The clothes inside were neatly pressed and folded with utmost precision, not a stocking out of place. The bottom drawer held a pair of boots, alongside a pair of Edith’s work shoes. She must have run out of space in her own drawers.
Rick didn’t manage to find anything interesting. That night he dreamt of Alice’s reassuring tone, and her many stories of better days.
Louie was waiting at Alice’s bench on Wednesday morning; pacing again. Rick grinned at her. “What?” she snapped. Rick shook his head and explained. Her look of surprise was all he needed. “We have to be sure before we call the police of course… and a motive will be hard to find… unless…” Rick nodded again, this time rather grimly. Louie marched on towards Sir Thomas’ residence, a fire beginning to spark again in her eyes.
“And you are absoulutely sure?” Sir Thomas, Alan and Nora were gathered at the scene of the crime. “All the evidence points to it, Sir, and in light of recent events it has been proven that anything in possible, even in Edgworth.” Sir Thomas ran and hand through his mussed hair, “Indeed,” he agreed in a deep voice. Constable Edwards arrived a few minutes later. He was a pot-bellied man with a rather twiggy moustache, and flickering eyes which suggested his unease to be dealing with a murder case. Especially one that had been sired by two twelve-year-old kids. Sir Thomas greeted him kindly, saying, “Good morning, constable. As I informed you on the phone, my mother Alice Louise Barlow was murdered four weeks ago in this very room. It appeared to me that she had been hit by a stray bullet and then fell off the balcony, but Louella and Patrick here convinced me otherwise. They have been carrying out an investigation into Alice’s death and managed to warn people of the zeppelin attack a few days ago due to their findings. They came to me this morning with a verdict I find entirely reasonable and now we just need your approval. It is a bit shocking, however.” The constable swallowed loudly but managed to steel himself; facing Louie and Rick. “Well,” Louie began, “here goes…”
“Alice was our friend before she died, and told the most wonderful stories. However, she did die, and we refused to accept that it was an accident. There was six people at the crime scene when we arrived- most of them were ruled out at the interview stage. Alan, Nora, and Sir Thomas here. As you know, the tall man who Sir Thomas believed to be his friend was in fact a German spy, so he would be the obvious suspect…. but no. The Germans were here to plan that zeppelin attack, and the tall man served as a spy to lead the leaders in the village away from possible suspicion of the cave. That was all- we saw no other plans in the cave. No, it was not the Germans. It was… MABEL! All the evidence points towards it! She was cleaning the balcony when Alice died, and we found polish on the part of the balcony Alice had been pushed over: there should have been blood but it was cleaned off by Mabel. The buttons with an ‘L’ on that we thought were Alice’s were actually Mabel’s, or should I say Libitina! That is her real name. The bouncy ball we found under the floorboard was hers, and the bullets hidden in the balcony post were also hers. There were large shoes leading away from the body, Edith’s shoes, but Rick found a pair of Edith’s shoes in Libitina’s room the other night. It had to be her. Why? We don’t know yet. We do know that she isn’t an evacuee at all, and her real name isn’t Mabel or even Libitina. Although Libitina is fitting… Rick worked out that Libitina was in fact the roman goddess of death. So Ha!” Louie looked triumphant at the constable’s bamboozled expression.
Mabel’s real name was in fact Emilia Liberty Jones. She was the daughter of Marcus Jones, who fought at the front for the Germans after hiding his wife and only daughter in plain sight in England. He died at the hand of Patrick Barlow’s regiment, and left his family in dire need of money and revenge. Emilia’s mother evacuated her to Edgworth to work as a cleaner with Edith, after requesting she be put with a working family. Emilia had been sending money back to her mother from her share of the job. She was also sent to Edgworth for revenge on the Barlow family; her mother and her were not satisfied with Marcus’s death. So she killed a member of the Barlow family,
only realising that Patrick Barlow was dead afterwards. A sad story, really. A wrong one all the same. Emilia was sent back to her mother, with a warning as she was just a child after all.
Louie went with Rick to church that weekend. He felt empty now there was no case to solve. He wished he could hear one of Alice’s stories. She had made his world brighter in a time of darkness. Louie smiled sadly at him and leant on his shoulder. Silently, he prayed for life to return to the world, bringing peace and joy. He set out to be just like Alice was, and give the gift of a smile wherever he went. And as for stories, boy did he have a good one to tell.
We don’t always have to grin like Rick, but we do have to bear it, and everyone has been doing a very good job to do so.
Author: Freya (age 12)