Mrs O’Connell, Rosemary Eleanor Bernadette O’Connell nee Rigby, would have been celebrating her seventieth birthday save for her funeral taking place on the same day.
No one cared. She was one of the millions of lonely people. “Eleanor Rigby,” she told school friends, “like the Beatles song.”
Detective Constable Lorraine Cassidy recognised that story well. She often wished she had a pound for every time Mrs O’Connell recounted it. Not that DC Cassidy had seen Mrs O, as she called her, for some years. Not alive, that is. She had seen Mrs O dead, murdered, in her own home four weeks ago. Strangled, in her own bed.
Cassidy had first met Mrs O as the neighbourhood copper before her promotion to the C.I.D. Contemplating the open casket, Cassidy felt guilt. Mrs O’ Connell’s eyes stayed closed, no doubt about it, but the detective swore they opened for a second. Enough time for Mrs O to flash a message imploring the detective to find her killer and bring him to justice. Cassidy, looking at the sweet innocent face of the old lady, swore under her breath to do just that.
“I will, I promise you, Eleanor Rigby,” said Cassidy dabbing her moist eyes with a tissue, her mind filled with the haunting Beatles tune.
“Now, now, dear,” said a voice as a hand fell on her shoulder. The detective turned to realise the funeral director, a portly man dressed for the occasion as befitted his occupation, had spoken. “Are you a relative?” he inquired softly.
“I’m a detective. But I did know her.”
“Pity. It appears the dear lady has no one from her family here to pay their last respects. Always sad that; been in this line for over thirty years and it still gets to me.”
A caring undertaker, supposed Cassidy.
The cortege of the priest, Cassidy, the undertaker, and the solicitor dealing with Mrs O’s will, followed the coffin bearers to the plot. Prayers offered, casket lowered, dirt was thrown and the gravediggers completed their task as the dark grey English sky drizzled, adding more depression to such a sombre scene.
“Care for a cup of tea back at my office, DC Cassidy?” said William Brewster, the solicitor. “Perhaps something stronger?”
“Yes. I need to ask you some questions anyway. Now is as good a time as any.”
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