It's not just the haggis that's been killed
|The guests were seated at their rectangular dining tables. Thistle and Heather centre pieces stood on tartan runners. The haggis had been piped in by Stuart, and Gordon stood on the top table, waiting for the chef to arrive and kill the already-dead haggis.
I checked my watch. Charlie was sure taking his time.
It seemed the guests agreed, and I could hear them become restless, and start to murmur. I got to my feet, my chair scraping on the stone floor.
"I'll see what's keeping him," I said.
I paused at the brushed steel door of the kitchen. Charlie was infamous for shooing everyone out of his domain and was not likely to appreciate this intrusion.
"Charlie. ..?" I called as I entered the kitchen. "We're--"
The chef was slumped over the large, antique sink, a carving knife buried to the hilt in his back, blood pooling around it on his pristine white chef's coat. I backed away, feeling for the door and then out into the hall. My husband Brad appeared at my side, his hand lightly placed on my shoulder.
"Pippa? What is it? What's the hold-up?"
I could feel his concerned, pale blue eyes on my face. "Call a doctor," I said. "Charlie's dead."
Brad's hand left my shoulder cold as he peered round the kitchen door.
"Someone call the police," he said.
While we waited for the emergency services to arrive, I comforted Charlie's widow, Jean, who sat with a mug of cocoa.
"I'm sorry," she said, catching my eye. "We've ruined your Burns Night supper."
"Don't be daft," I replied. "You haven't ruined anything. You couldn't have known this would happen."
"Who woul kill Charlie, though," wondered Jock. "He was the salt of the Earth, he was."
Jean took a sip of her cocoa. "Oh, I can think of a few."
Brad tapped me on the shoulder. "The police have arrived."
"Okay. Thank you." I expected him to the do the honours. When he didn't move, I twisted around to peer at him. "Well let them in, then."
"Who found the body?" the inspector called.
I stood up. "I did."
"Can we have a word?"
I nodded, and led the way to a quiet area of the hall.
"Tell us what happened," said the inspector, as I sat down.
I hugged myself for a second and relaxed before replying. "We were waiting for him to kill the haggis," I said. "He seemed to be taking forever. I went to see what the hang-up was."
"Is this your party?"
I nodded. "Mine and my husband's Brad." I pointed him out to them.
"Has anyone been in the kitchen since you discovered the body?"
"Um . . .Brad did - to fetch Charlie's widow Jean a cup of cocoa. The shock, you see?"
The Inspector gave a distracted bob of his head as he scribbled the name Jean and Widow in his notebook. "Anyone else?"
I shook my head. "No. We put chairs in front of the door to drop them."
"Do you have any idea who might have done this?"
I was about to reply when the front door burst open. "It was me!" cried Stuart. "I did it! The man was a piece of shit! You should've seen the way he battered our Jeanie!" He swayed on his feet, a pint of Scotch spilling over the glass and down his hand. I could tell by looking at her that Jean didn't know where to put herself.
"And you are?"
"Jeanie's big brother Stuart Campbell," Stuart slurred.
"You couldn't have killed him," I said. "You . . ." I trailed off. He'd been the last one in the kitchen before piping the haggis in.
"Mrs Carter? Why do you think he couldn't have killed him?"
I looked away, unable to meet the inspector's eyes. "I . . . I don't," I muttered. "He was playing the bagpipes as the haggis was brought in."
"In that case, Mr Campbell, I'd appreciate it if you could accompany us down to the station," replied the Inspector.
(word count, 668)