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  1. #1
    just don't call me The Boss MaryAnne's Avatar
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    The Silence of the Setter - A Scrapbooking Mystery

    This story was written by member Louweasel back in 2005! There are a number of names used in the story that link to a scrap-related people. Some are UKS members, some are scrapbooking "celebrities" (or were in 2005!) and ONE is a red herring so far as we can tell.


    The Silence of the Setter



    A scrapbooking murder mystery by Louweasel


    “Looks like a shooting, sir”.
    DC Inskip looked down at the body, sprawled on the brown leather sofa. Just above his temple, where the hairs had silvered with age, was a small round hole. A pool of blood, already dark and viscous, had dripped onto the pale wooden flooring. DC Inskip, a practical woman with three unruly children, found herself thinking what a pain it would be to get that stain out. This was a true man’s place – even sporting a steel and smoked glass coffee table, which she privately bet he didn’t polish. Probably some poor cleaning woman responded to an imperious post-it note every week. She shook herself back to the matter in hand.

    “Close range, small calibre maybe? But of course the ballistics expert will know”.

    “Well, it’s not a bad theory, Mandy”, said DS Higgins, “but look, there’s no blood coming from the underside of his head – that’s where the exit wound would be. Plus there’d be burns around the wound”. He hitched up the knees of his crumpled suit as he crouched down to look more closely. “We’ll just have to wait for the pathologist – it’s all guesswork before then.”

    And quite a bit of it afterwards as well, thought DC Inskip, not envying whoever’s job it would be to help the sergeant solve this. She herself was taking up a promotion to custody sergeant, where her capable, solid unflappability stood her in good stead. This was her last shift on CID, and she had hoped to let it pass in a slightly less dramatic way than being called out to break into a smart suburban detached house after a nosey neighbour had peered through the window and, unusually, been rewarded with a true scandal in the shape of a corpse.

    DS Higgins straightened up and, echoing her thoughts, told DC Inskip that DC Khan would be arriving soon as he would be working on this case. “If you can brief him on what little there is when he gets here, you can get off. It’s nearly the end of your shift.”

    “Thank you sir. Oh, that’s probably the pathologist.” Inskip went off to answer a determined banging at the front door, and returned with a slightly harassed looking woman in her early thirties, who marched in, plonked down a large leather case, re-tied her escaping ponytail, and shook hands with both officers, seemingly all at the same time.


    “Ah, Dr. Morrow, we meet again!” smiled Higgins.

    “New job as a Bond villain, Alan? Good to see you again. And you know you can call me Karen. Now, what have we got?”

    Inskip left them to it and went to the door again to see if Khan was in sight. He wasn’t. She told the officer on the door to send him straight through, and stifling a yawn, headed back to the living room. When she got there, Karen Morrow was bossing the photographer about, having him take photos of the body from even more angles than he had done before she’d arrived.
    “It’s certainly not a gunshot. Something seems to have pierced his head – rather odd actually. But I’ll know more after the autopsy, I hope. He’s been dead between 3 and 6 hours, I’d say, so what it is now, 10 o’clock; this happened no earlier than 4pm but probably before 7. Who is he?”

    “Barry Canavan, judging by the post on the coffee table. But we’ll have to check with the neighbour and of course have him formally identified”. Higgins bit his thumbnail thoughtfully.

    “All right, Mandy? Sarge?” A tall dark man, with his black hair flopping in his eyes, appeared suddenly, causing Higgins to jump about a foot in the air.

    “Khan, will you please not do that! I’m already halfway to a heart attack! And next time finish your Mars bar before you enter the crime scene!” The older man turned back to the pathologist while Inskip took Khan off to one side.

    “This’ll be a bit of fun for you Ravi. A neighbour, a Mrs. Bearnson, was collecting Cancer Research envelopes this afternoon and peered through a gap in the blinds when she got no answer. Nosey cow if you ask me. Anyway she saw the deceased gentleman [Inskip may have been impatient with gossipmongers but she was always respectful of victims] and called us out. The SOCO and the photographers have done their thing so I suppose it’s down to the pathologist now. She says it’s not a gunshot by the way; some sort of stabbing. All yours anyway.”

    Ravi Khan stood and looked at the body. A man in his late fifties, in quite good shape and smartly dressed in a suit, he looked as though he been sitting on the sofa when the blow had been struck, causing him to slump over onto his side.

    “Probably never knew what hit him, poor sod,” reflected Higgins.

    “I feel sorrier for his wife, sarge” said Khan.

    “Wife? I’d swear this is a bachelor pad!” Inskip paused in the act of putting on her gloves and looked at him, surprised.

    “Nope, look, wedding band.” Khan pointed at the victim’s left hand. “We’d better track her down. Where’s that neighbour?”

    “She’s next door at number thirty” said Higgins, “but she seemed very nervous and upset, which doesn’t exactly shock me, so best behaviour and be gentle”.

    “I’ll go with you if you like” said Karen. “Not to say anything, but it might make her feel better if there’s a woman in the room, and I know DC Inskip has to get going”.

    “Thanks Karen, that’d be great, if you’re sure?” Higgins looked at Ravi, who was ignoring him and staring at the coffee table.

    “It’s fine. Shall we go, Detective Constable?”

    Ravi took a deep breath, turned round, and fixed Karen with a penetrating gaze. “Come on, Miss Moneypenny!” He swept out towards the door, and as Higgins resignedly protested, “sorry, he’s always like this…” she followed him out.

    “We weren’t introduced, by the way. Karen Morrow.” Karen turned to face the tall young detective as they left the house, and stuck her hand out.

    “Ravi Khan”. His handshake was firm and dry, and as he looked down at her with a friendly crease at the corners of his obsidian eyes, Karen felt a lot better about being dragged from her warm flat on a rainy February evening.

    ***

    Mrs Bearnson, a plump middle-aged woman with a neat grey perm and pearl earrings, invited them into an extravagantly chintzy sitting room and perched nervously on the edge of the befrilled sofa. Karen smirked at the incongruous sight of Khan folding up his long legs to sit in a floral armchair complete with antimacassar. But when she looked at Mrs Bearnson’s worn and wrinkled hands, the knuckles white as she still clutched a spare cancer research donation envelope, she smiled kindly and asked Mrs Bearnson if she would like her to make a nice cup of tea.

    “Oh thank you dear, that would be very kind, will you be able to find everything? Well I suppose you’re a detective, ha ha, oh dear…”

    “Actually I’m a pathologist, but don’t worry, I’ll manage.”

    She went in search of the kitchen, and as she located a teapot under a crocheted cover, she heard Khan gently prompt the old lady to relate the evening’s events.

    Mrs Bearnson didn’t have much to add to what she had already told them about finding the body; she had called round at about 8pm (“rather late I know but I had a lot of houses to visit and I finished with my own street”) and was surprised that the door wasn’t answered. “I knew Mrs Canavan wasn’t in; but he never went out in the evenings, that’s why I looked in the window.”

    “Ah yes, Mrs Canavan; we clearly need to inform her of what’s happened as a matter of some urgency. Do you know where she is? How did you know she wasn’t in?”

    “Well, she doesn’t work, at least not outside the home. Between you and me I think he was a bit old-fashioned. But she did some sort of handicraft hobby and she went to the community centre the first Thursday of every month, then I think she had dinner with a friend afterwards. I don’t know who it is though. Marian or something.”

    After he finished talking to Mrs Bearnson, Ravi saw Karen off to her car and promised to call in to her office the following day for the autopsy results.

    “It’ll be a long night for you – take your time and I’ll see you tomorrow afternoon” she said. She was rather looking forward to it.

    ***

    Next day, Ravi arrived at Karen’s office in central London looking a bit rough around the edges. It had indeed been a long night. He grasped the mug of coffee Karen handed him like a rope thrown to a drowning man, but still noticed how the cold winter light coming through her blinds caught the golden highlights in her long, thick brown hair. He shook his head; this was not the time.

    Sitting on the edge of her desk, legs crossed, Karen handed him the autopsy results.
    “No surprises really; cause of death is a blow to the head which caused haemorrhaging and major loss of blood. I’m still at a bit of a loss about the actual weapon though. Something small and reasonably pointed, but not as sharp or as flat as a knife.”

    “Screwdriver?” suggested Ravi, slurping his coffee and looking around hopefully for biscuits.

    “Could be. I’ll have a think and another look, and if I come up with anything I’ll let you know and amend the report. So did you find the wife?”

    “Yes; there was a number on the kitchen notice board for some sort of club called “Fancy a Scrap?” organized by a Mary-Anne Stewart, so we chanced it that this was the Marian Mrs Bearnson was talking about. Seems we were right – Helen Canavan was round there having dinner. She didn’t take it well though; had to be sedated. We’ll talk to her tomorrow, along with Mrs Stewart.”

    Karen raised her eyebrows sceptically. “Sedated, eh? I thought that only happened to frail widows in Miss Marple books?!”

    “Last time I heard of it; the wife turned out to have done him in. Great actress, that one; a loss to the stage.” Ravi put his mug down and stood up. “Mind you, Mrs Canavan wasn’t dramatic like that; she looked genuinely shocked to me. Just started screaming. Well, call me if you come up with anything about the murder weapon. No surprise they didn’t turn up anything obvious at the house”.

    “OK, I’ll speak to you soon. Take, erm, take care.” Karen hesitated, realising she had been about to say her goodbyes by kissing him on the cheek as she would a friend. After he’d gone, slamming the door and asking the security guard if there was “a caff round here, I’m starving!” she wondered if the impulse was just one of those embarrassing things, like when you’re six and you accidentally call your teacher “mum”, or whether it was something else.

    ***

    Later that evening, feeling the need to put work from her mind, Karen went to her spare room and decided to make a start on a mini-album of family photos as a birthday present for her sister. Deciding to bind it with ribbons, she picked up her tools to punch holes in the cover, when the phone rang. It was her mother. After a short conversation on the usual topics of no, she wasn’t working too hard, yes, she was eating properly, and no, she hadn’t met any nice men recently, she returned to her desk annoyed, and picking up her hammer, gave the hole punch an almighty whack. On lifting it up she realised she’d punched a hole right the way through her setting mat, and reflected she needed to resolve some of her issues with her mum. Then she stopped, dropped her tools and stared at the hole. Of course. How could she have missed it? Call herself a scrapper. A small, round but sharp implement driven into the skull, possibly with a hollow tip. Barry Canavan had been murdered with an eyelet setter.

    ***

    Karen stirred her latte impatiently, even though it didn’t have sugar in it. Not having been able to raise Ravi on the phone the night before, she had phoned him in the morning, and as soon as he answered with “Good morning, DC Khan speaking” had belted out, “It’s an eyelet setter, the hole punch part, but not a making memories one, he’s not going to lie still while they line it up and hit it with a hammer, must be a one-handed one, but I don’t think a clikit would work…”
    “Hang on, hang on, who is this?”

    “It’s Karen Morrow, and I know what the murder weapon is, that’s what I’m trying to tell you if you’d just listen….”

    “Calm down, woman, I can’t understand a word you’re saying. You work on French Street, right? I’ll meet you in Starbucks at midday.”

    It was ten past when Ravi burst in, marching up to the counter whilst yelling “can I get you anything?” at Karen across the café. She shook her head and pointed at her latte. He returned a few minutes later with a sandwich, a bag of crisps and a cup of black coffee you could bath a baby in. “What?” he said in response to Karen’s amused expression, “I’m starving! Anyway, why don’t you tell me what the heck you were on about this morning?”

    “Well, I am pretty sure the weapon in question is a type of tool used in a craft called scrapbooking….” Karen went on to explain as briefly as she could what that was, and to his credit Ravi didn’t look at her as though she had two heads.

    “So judging by the injury, I think he was killed with a hole punch used to put eyelets in paper and card. There are a few types; a pencil-sized metal stick used with a hammer; one that you press and a spring loaded system forces the punch tip down, and one that you just press and twist with your hand. I think the idea of someone using a hammer punch is fairly unrealistic unless he was already unconscious, and there’s nothing in the autopsy to suggest that. He’s unlikely to have been asleep at that time of day. The click-style punch I don’t think would be up to the job, but the press and twist type, known as a silent setter, well, you could put as much force as you like behind that – you could effectively stab someone with it, and I believe that’s what happened. You’re looking for a small metal tool with a shaft about 6 inches long and smooth oval handle that fits into the palm of you hand.”

    “OK, cool. The plot thickens then.” Ravi scribbled down her description, chewing furiously.

    “It certainly does. I’ll bet that “fancy a scrap?” club you mentioned was a crop, a get-together of scrapbookers. That could put the wife in the frame.”

    “It does and it doesn’t. You’re right about the crop; I talked to Mrs Canavan yesterday afternoon. But it gives her an alibi – she was in the community centre from 2pm in the midst of a dozen other women, and apparently she only left once for a few minutes to go to the loo. Scrimbourne Community Centre’s a twenty minute drive from the house. She couldn’t possibly have done it.”

    “But who the hell else is going to use such an obscure murder weapon?”

    “That’s our challenge!” Ravi grinned inanely and pushed his chair back.

    “Have you got to go and get on with it already? Can’t you finish your coffee?” Karen didn’t want him to go.

    “Oh, I’m just going to the counter for a muffin. I’m a growing boy!”

    ***



    “So, Mrs Stewart, thanks for coming to see me. Did you know Barry Canavan well?” Ravi faced the tall angular, rather severe looking woman across the interview room table.

    “Not that well, no. Helen was scared to death of him though. Not that she’d ever admit it. I’m so glad she can’t have done it; you hear about women like that suddenly snapping and hitting their husbands over the head with the nearest thing to hand.”

    “Women like what? Are you saying he knocked her about, I mean, sorry, he abused her?”

    “No, not physically, I’m pretty sure, but she seemed so downtrodden. He controlled everything in her life. As far as I know, scrapbooking is the only thing she had for herself.”

    Ravi walked down the small residential street munching his afternoon doughnut. He had already seen several of Helen Canavan’s fellow croppers to substantiate her alibi, and now he was on his way to the home of Joy Laine, who, according to Mary-Anne Stewart, was Helen’s closest friend. “They met at my crop you know,” she had said, “and they got on like a house on fire. If anyone knows Helen and Barry, it’s Joy”.

    It was worth a try. Barry Canavan had no family; an only child of elderly parents who were long dead; his wife seemed the only one close to him. Ravi had spent a very tedious morning talking to his work colleagues and squash partner, but nobody seemed to know him that well. Or care. They tiptoed round the subject but it was clear to Ravi that Barry Canavan was not a very nice man at all.

    Ravi was welcomed at the door to a modest conversion flat by a slim woman with shaggy dark hair. Joy Laine clearly did not mourn Barry Canavan whatsoever.

    “I know, de mortuis and all that, but really, he made that poor woman’s life hell and she’s well shot of him. I wouldn’t blame her if she had topped him. She had to ask his permission for everything; she was terrified. He had her believing she was completely worthless and she was just too scared to leave him; he told her she’d never survive without him. I tried to convince her to get out but she always made excuses; said he was just a bit over-protective because he loved her, and she was a bit annoying at times so she couldn’t blame him, blah blah blah. I think he only let her scrapbook because of the layouts she did glorifying him, which all the other women at the crop would see. Ego the size of a house. Just look in her scrapbooks; they’re all of him and his achievements. Mind you, it’s not as though she could scrap pictures of her kids like most of us [she nodded at a wall-mounted canvas with a decorative presentation of a dark-haired young man in graduation garb]; she never had any - not that she didn’t want them. I bet he thought they’d take attention from him. She did a lovely layout at last month’s crop – beautiful intricate work with loads of stitching on gorgeous handmade papers in rich dark colours. It wasn’t a picture of Barry; it was a picture of herself as a young girl that she’d always been proud of, and she slaved over that layout to do the photo justice. For once, she spent some time and effort on herself.”

    ***

    “Karen, I need your help again,” said Ravi, without preamble. Karen pinched the bridge of her nose, thankful he couldn’t see her over the phone. She had tossed and turned wondering about the Canavan case all night, and she had bags under her eyes in a grey Tim Holtz would envy.

    “Not another body?”
    “No, some scrapbooks. Can you drop by tomorrow?”
    “Of course. I’m intrigued!”

    Ravi marched into the CID office at the police station with a cardboard box under one arm and a banana in the other hand, and smiled at Karen who was waiting for him at his desk. “Sorry, just finishing my breakfast.” He dumped the bag on Karen’s desk and, still eating his banana, removed four thick 12x12 scrapbooks.
    “I don’t know much about this craft, but you clearly do. These are Helen Canavan’s scrapbooks. I had to get another search warrant. Anyway, her friend Joy Laine told me about a page she did of a photo of herself when she was little, with sewing on it, dark colours and hand paper or something.”
    “Handmade paper, do you mean?”

    “Yeah, probably. Anyway I can’t find anything like it in any of these albums, and these are the only ones. I was wondering if I’m missing something, or if I’m looking for the right thing.”

    “Why are you so bothered anyway? I though Helen had an alibi, and even if she were a suspect, what would this achieve?”

    “I don’t know, it’s just bugging me. And all the evidence points to her; I just need to find a hole in that alibi,” said Ravi, frowning.

    “Let’s have a look.” Karen pulled the albums over to her side of the desk and sat down to flip through them. After a while, she closed the last one.

    “I agree – none of these pages fit the description. The only handmade paper she has used in these albums are here, here and here – this one uses some cream and brown handmade, this one is of her husband not herself, and this one just has a little bit of pink mulberry paper down the edge. None of them is the one you are looking for. Hang on, there’s a gap.”

    “A gap?”

    “Yes – this page protector in the middle has one layout in only but turn it over and there’s nothing on the other side. That’s unusual as the album doesn’t seem to be in any particular order.”

    “Is handmade paper always sort of hairy and rough looking?” asked Ravi.

    “Well, yes,” answered Karen, “look at those pages I showed you – like that.”

    “The reason I ask is, on the coffee table in the living room we found a bit of rough, dark purple paper with black edges. Could be burned but I’m not sure.”

    “I wouldn’t get over-excited. The edge is probably inked. It’s a popular technique; dragging an inkpad round the edges of a piece of paper to age and define it.”

    “Oh,” said Ravi, somewhat deflated. “I better check though.” He pulled a plastic bag out of his desk drawer and, opening it, extracted a small pice of dark paper with apair of tweezer. “It looks burned to me but I’ll get forensics to check.

    “And I really want to find that murder weapon. We turned the house upside down – we even have her manicure set! I don’t know why they uplifted that; some of those lads just don’t think.”

    “A manicure set?” Karen shook her head.

    “Yeah, no word of a lie! I haven’t looked at it myself yet but here it is on the schedule made by the property officer – ‘one provocraft brand manicure set in a black zipped case’. Words fail me.”

    “Provocraft?! You are joking!” Karen leapt up from her chair and narrowly restrained herself from grabbing Ravi by the lapels.

    “What now? You’ve gone all mad again!” Ravi held up his hands in mock alarm.

    “Provocraft, you crafting illiterate, do not make manicure sets! They make scrapbooking tools, including, notably, the silent setter like the one you have been trying to find! It comes in a black zipped case! You have been searching high and low for the murder weapon and it’s been sitting in your cupboard all along!”

    Ravi leapt up and went to his locked property cupboard, rummaged around and pulled out a plastic bag. Sure enough, it contained a black provocraft case. He pulled on some latex gloves, too slowly for Karen whose heart was going like a pneumatic drill. Unsealing the bag, he took out the case, and using his fingertips all the time, opened it and gently removed the silent setter. The standard hole punch was attached, and although it looked clean, there were tiny traces of a brownish substance just visible.

    “I bet that’s not distress ink,” said Karen.

    ***

    Several days later, after a seemingly interminable wait for forensics to do their thing, Ravi picked up Karen at her office and they set off to Scrimbourne.

    “Why am I coming?” asked Karen. “In fact why are we going to see Helen Canavan? The other evidence may be great but we can’t get past that alibi”.

    “I’m hoping to do a sort of Sherlock Holmes Poirot thing and get her to confess, and you are here to witness my moment of triumph!” Ravi grinned a little wildly. He looked very determined.

    Helen Canavan answered the door with a calm smile. As they entered, Karen noticed the flowers on the windowsill, and the pretty cushions on the new sofa, and the fluffy carpet. No longer a man’s world, this house.

    “OK, right I’ll get to the point. I know you killed your husband and I want you to admit it. I’ll tell you what happened.

    “You hated your husband. Hated him. And I don’t blame you. He was cruel, controlling, and he humiliated you. He made you feel worthless, powerless. Then one day, when you showed him a layout you had made, something you had worked on for hours, using a photo you adored. Not straight away when it was made; then you were too busy appeasing him because you weren’t there when he got home, as you always had to do when you had dinner with your friend Mary-Anne. But just before your next crop you brought it downstairs for him to see. You hoped he’d be impressed; you still craved his approval.

    “And didn’t get it. He was already resentful of your one afternoon and evening away from him, and now you were showing him that when you did leave him to go to the crop, you didn’t think about him. He shouted and raved, maybe accused you of being selfish, I don’t know. And then, to show you you couldn’t do anything he didn’t like. He burnt it. Right there in front of you. All your hard work up in smoke. And you snapped. Finally, it was the last straw.

    “You ran upstairs to shut yourself away and cry, but you passed the open door to the spare room where your crafting materials were, and saw your eyelet setter. Probably without thinking you grabbed it, rushed downstairs and hit him as hard as you could before he even saw you.

    “And then you packed your tote and went to the crop. Late, but you went. Isn’t that right?”

    Helen Canavan looked at Ravi with a pale, set face.
    “I couldn’t have killed him,” she said, tonelessly. “You know that. I was at the crop from 2 o’clock. Everybody has backed me up. They were there and so was I; they told you.”

    It hadn’t worked. Ravi’s mind flickered back to all those scrapbooking ladies, telling him calmly how Helen had been there at the crop on time and only got up from the table once to go to the loo for a minute or two. Those nice ladies with their pieces of ribbon and funny-shaped paper clips, their tins of buttons and their piles of photos. He thought of them and saw that he was beaten. They were defending their own.

    “You can’t win all the time, Ravi,” said Karen, as they drove away. “You’ll just have to chalk this one up to experience”.

    “Higgins was right – he said we’d never get a result on this when he saw my report. I’ve certainly learned a lot about scrapbookers, that’s for sure,” he said ruefully. “But there’s one other mystery I’ve not solved yet.”

    “What’s that?”

    “Why I didn’t ask you out the minute I met you. Come on; let me take you to dinner to commiserate. I’m starving!”

    “No change there then,” grinned Karen. “But one stop first – can you take me to that craft shop off the Chisbury Road? I’ve gone right off my silent setter; I think I’m going to buy a clikit.”


    THE END

    © L. Parry 2005

    You may link to this page but please do not re-post this copyrighted work elsewhere.

  2. #2
    just don't call me The Boss MaryAnne's Avatar
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    We may never know if this list is correct but as part of the And Now We Are 10! Cybercrop challenges, this is the best list the hive mind of UKS could come up with!

    Mary-Anne Stewart

    * ME
    * Martha Stewart

    DC Mandy Inskip

    * Mandy Canavan (member from 2005, owned Scrap Merchant)
    * Dawn Inskip

    Karen Morrow

    * Karen is UNKNOWN (could be a few)
    * Morrow is (we think) Faye Morrow Bell

    Barry Canavan

    * Barry (an old C&C presenter)
    * Canavan is the same

    Helen Canavan:

    * Helen is UNKNOWN (could be a few)
    * Canavan is the same

    DC Alan Higgins

    * Alan (an old C&C presenter)
    * Becky Higgins from CK

    Mrs. Bearnson

    * Lisa Bearnson from CK

    Joy Laine

    * Joy Aitman
    * Shimelle Laine

    Ravi Kahn is the RED HERRING

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