The Body in St Helens Library ACT III

Shane and Kirstie are in the Reading Room, the scene of the crime. Thursday mornings from 10:30am have turned into a ritual meeting time for them. They stand back and admire a small section of the wall they have turned into a craft pin board of crime. Tacked on the board are photographs, post-its, print outs, Kirstie’s drawings, string joining up pieces – and in the middle, an image of Paul with a significant question mark next to him.
Shane wave his hands around the board, curling his fingers 5cm in front, trying to draw out answers. “So what do we know? Let’s tackle the hard evidence first.”

A clue!

“Well, let’s take the clue of the dancing saint.” Kirstie said tapping at the image tacked on the blue board.“St Bona is the patron saint of couriers. Paul sort of adopted her as a lucky symbol when he first started his haulage company years and years ago. Jason’s explained it to me. They’re not really a religious family but Paul went to church every Sunday and gave lots to the church.” Kirstie untacked the crumpled image of the martyr. The palm-sized image of a young girl clutching what looked like a sea shell to her breast looked far out into the distance. She had a wreath of laurels on her head, and flowing red robes over her shoulders. It was hard to make out any more details, as the faded image was tattered around the edges, all the corners blunt and a crease across the bottom.

“Didn’t make him much of a better man…” Kirstie trailed. “He wasn’t really explicit about it, I don’t think anyone outside the family knew about it. He might have been mocked for being superstitious. This looks so old, maybe 20 years? Maybe Paul had it in his pocket, or it feel out of his wallet? ”

Shane rubs the top of his short hard and pulls at the short strands. “Maybe the killer dropped it. Paul already had one on this key ring. Would be need two talismans?”

Kirstie brushes the hair out of her face and continues. “I’ve also talked to Michelle, I thought it was a bit odd that she would be so effected. She didn’t really know Paul, and I don’t think she would be the emotional type…”

MichelleKirstie thinks back to the conversation she had with Michelle a few days ago. She had been spending more time in the library, taking a break from trawling through newspaper articles on the microfiche when she came bumped into the younger girl crying in the landing between the first and second floor. She sat down next to her on the cold steps and put her arms over Michelle’s thin shoulders.
Michelle turns her face further into her chest and sobs again.
“Oh I’m fine, I’m so sorry, please excuse me. The tension, you see.”
Kirstie said softly “It’s been hard on all of us, don’t worry just let it out.” and squeezed her arms tighter round the distraught girl.
“It’s just so shocking! I still can’t believe it. Someone’s there, and then suddenly they’re not!” Michelle’s breathing had slowed down, and her blotchy face looked up into Kirstie’s understanding eyes. “I knew him you see, from a long time ago. I saw your board earlier, and it just struck me. I’m alright, but he gave me one a a photo of St. Bona the last time I saw him before here. And seeing that just brought up lots of memories.”
Kirstie tried to swallow her surprise and tightened her grip on Michelle’s arm.
“St Bona? When did he give you that?”
“Oh ages ago, maybe three years ago. I..I had a little I suppose you could call it an affair with him. That was such an age ago though, I’m different now, but you don’t forget people, you know? Don’t worry, I’m not still in love with him or anything…in fact I’m already seeing someone now. You might know him, the PCSO – Dave, who runs the police surgery. ”
Kirstie kept her arm on Michelle’s back. She looked better now, and was blowing the last of her nerves into a tissue.
“It’s not my business, don’t worry about it. I didn’t know Paul well, but Jason’s told me things. He could be the the most charming person when we wanted to be.”
Michelle looked up at her gratefully.
“I’m so glad I can talk to you! I knew you’d understand. It’s hard when you have to keep a secret. That’s what makes things with Dave so easy. I told him, and he’s been so nice about it.”

Shane makes some notes on his notepad while Kirstie tells him about this new revelation.
“Well, so another link to St Bona. The animation we saw was in the Children’s Room. That means the scene of the crime extends beyond these bookshelves. I’ve spoken to the film maker, and he said he found it under one of the tables there, and used it in his movie. Found it on Friday, the day after the body was found. Didn’t know it was a clue.”


Paul Astley’s autopsy report

Shane tacks another sheet to the board. “Now this is interesting. I managed to get a glance of the autopsy report. Tells us that death was caused by a single stab to the back, and that he probably bled to death.”
Kirstie looks astonished. “How did you find that out?”
Shane gives her a wink, “Let’s just say I know someone who knows someone. The knife went through his lower back, and hit his right kidney. The blade was left in the body, so there wasn’t as much blood as you’d expect. It was probably a strike from waist height, delivered by a right handed person, with some considerable force. Based on the height of the wound, the police looking at someone who’s around 6’2.”

Kirstie looks back to the board. “So we’re looking for a tall, strong right-handed killer. That should limit the scope of suspects right. And it’s a man we’re looking for?”

Shane screws his lips and says “I tried to pin my source down, but he says he can confirm the height, but not the gender. They would need to be strong though…”

Kirstie frowns. “I don’t think we should rule out any women yet. If I was angry enough, I’m sure I stick a knife in. Especially if I wanted him dead. Seems unlikely it was a stranger…”

“Well, considering he was in here, without signs of forced entry, it seems highly unlikely he was with a stranger. Also according to the autopsy, the contents of his stomach had icing sugar, frosting and sponge bread.”

Kirstie laughs and says “A cake? Before he came to the library?”

Shane says “No, that’s the funny thing. It wasn’t digested enough, he must have had a midnight snack. Maybe about an hour before he died.”
Kirstie looks thoughtful, “He had some pudding and then he gets killed? Suppose he never left the library. No one saw him leave and Jason doesn’t think he came home, although with the state of the house, it’s difficult to say…. we’re still trying to get in touch with Carol. Seems we just missed her – she’s off to another island, but I’m on the case.”

Shane beams at her. “On the case…”

Kirstie ignores him and continues with her speculation. “So maybe he had his last meal in the Children’s Room? There’s not that much room to eat in the reading room. But how did he even get into the library? Who would have keys? That’s the main thing right? Only staff?”

Shane chimes in, “Speaking of staff, I’ve interviewed them all, and the only one who’s story doesn’t add up is Beth Birchall, and let me tell you she’s a hard nut to crack. Tracked down a fellow who saw her leave the library quite late on Wednesday. Much later than usual.”


Newspaper clipping from the St Helens Chronicle, 1979

Kirstie jumps up and reaches into her bag, “Ah, forgot to add this to our board! Look at this!” She pulls out a photocopied article from a newspaper. “It took me forever and a day to find this.”

Shane chuckles “Good find! The St Helens Chronicle folded 10 years ago, so people forgot about it I guess. Perhaps that’s what Paul was looking for, and George didn’t want him to see the article next to it.”

Kirstie pins up the photocopy. “So Beth had something to hide…maybe Paul found out anyway, and she was upset? She has access to the library.”

Shane interjects, “But then so would Michelle, or most of the staff. I’ve asked around, the security is pretty lax around here. You just need the keys and the alarm code. They ground floor isn’t that difficult to get into.”

Kirstie starts pacing the room. “Paul doesn’t haven’t keys to get in, so he’s in the library maybe from closing time, around 7pm and never leaves. Maybe he never left because he wanted to be here when no one else was. To get into the archives when no one was here. Then he’d have all night to research.”

Shane shakes his head, “but he didn’t have keys to the Archives, he’d have needed someone else’s help. Someone with keys and the alarm code…”

Kirstie started counting off on her fingers “Someone from the library who would be willing to help Paul get into the archives? Someone who’s a friend of Paul. Who he trusted, enough for him to sneak in, or stay overnight here and share a meal with.”

Shane adds “Someone who knew about St. Bona, and what it meant to Paul.”

Kirstie finishes softly with “Someone he could take into his confidence…”

Shane picks up the conversation again. “Don’t forget Jason’s knife was used too. And Jason was only in the library on Wednesday, the day before Paul was killed. He’s only just been given that knife set that morning, so it’s most likely it was stolen then. Remember they had a big fight that afternoon.”
Kirstie bites her lip. “I know, Jason is still cut up about that. The last thing he said to him was what a horrible father he was…”

Hilton runs into the Reading room breaking up Kirstie and Shane’s musings.

“Look mummy! I made for you.” He proudly holds an sheet of paper with crayon marks.

Shane stands back, closes one eye, strokes his chin in the mock stance of an art critic and murmurs “Interesting use of colour.”
Kirstie blushes, “He’s going to be a great artist one day. He sees things differently to other kids”


Hilton’s colouring

Shane studies the child’s scratchings with narrow eyes again.
“You know, I have an idea. I’m reminded of a priest and his peas.”

Kirstie’s flush starts to recede at the change in topic. “You mean priestess or is it nun? I don’t think St Bona was even that.”

Shane looks up at the ceiling, “A different priest, and his experiment with peas.”

Kirstie looks puzzled “Ps? Like a word game?”

Shane grins with his eyes closed, his neck still tilted upwards. “Not the letter, the legume! You’re thicker than a green bank butty! No, here’s my idea…”

He leans over and explains his thought process. His wildly gesticulating arms forced Kirstie to duck and shift her weight every now and then.
“Anyway, that’s what I think.” he concludes, rocking back and forth on his heels.
Kirstie’s chewed her lower lip and mulls over the theory in her head.“But how would you prove it?
Shane models his hands into the shape of two claws and slowly draws them closer to form a enclosed circle. “Well, I think we need to step a trap.”
Kirstie takes a deep breath. “Like a …a Stroop trap! Catch the killer out. What we need is to get everyone together again.”
Shane claps his hands and rubs them together.
“A good old fashioned reenactment of the crime…”

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