Seed of Doubt

Here’s Part 1 of Molly H Hill’s new murder mystery, Seed of Doubt. Further instalments will be appearing regularly on this site during 2013.

SEED OF DOUBT (Part 1)

By Molly H Hill

In reconstructing the events leading up to the murder of Sarah Moore, it might be best to begin with the rugby match. It was a fine Saturday afternoon in October 1975, and the St Helens Swifts were entertaining a team from Pendle.

The priest had arrived late, and went and stood next to a tall older man on the touchline. He watched as a player caught the ball cleanly, confidently avoided two attempted tackles then set off at impressive speed for the far end of the pitch.

‘He’s very good,’ the priest said. ‘Look at him – like a black torpedo. We don’t usually have players so…exotic. Who is he?’

‘Sarah’s husband. I’ll introduce you later.’ The other man turned away from the game and stared down at the priest, whose slight build contrasted with his own muscular frame. He hoped his disgust would be obvious, but the priest smiled back blankly.

‘Your new son-in-law – the American? I wouldn’t have thought rugby was his game.’

‘He played a bit in Ireland.’

‘Yes,’ the priest said. ‘You must introduce us.’

*

After the match the club bar was crowded with the usual mix of players, wives, girlfriends and supporters. Most were standing, but the priest’s earlier companion was sitting with his daughter. The priest was working the room in an experienced manner – a wink here, a pat on the shoulder or tap on the arm there – generating knowing, occasionally ribald laughter as he went. When the handsome, powerfully built American entered and walked over to Sarah and her father several heads turned towards him with polite interest, but the priest moved swiftly through the throng and was the first to join them.

He stretched out his hand. ‘Welcome to England, Dr Moore. I’m Father Iain.’

The American responded with a warm, open smile and stood up to shake hands.

‘Brian tells me you picked up your rugby skills in Ireland. We were all very impressed.’

‘It’s a bit like American football, though the rough and tumble’s more physical,’ Dr Moore said, then laughed. ‘I’m used to wearing more protection – I guess Americans must be more fragile.’

‘And Sarah,’ the priest said. ‘I haven’t seen you since you got back.’ Sarah smiled quickly back and nodded. She had a pale, delicate face but her strong blue eyes reminded people of her father. The priest added, ‘Michael’s here, you know. It’s hard to see anyone in this crush, but he’s over in the corner with Rob. Did he make it to Ireland for the wedding?’

Sarah shook her head. ‘No. None of us wanted a big wedding – it’s only nine months since mum died.’

‘I’d be lying if I didn’t say I always hoped to conduct the ceremony, but I can understand why you didn’t get married here. Congratulations to both of you.’

 *

Fifteen minutes later the priest was deep in conversation with the barman when Dr Moore appeared beside them. They looked up and he said, ‘My round, as they say.’

Father Iain rested a hand on his shoulder. ‘If you’re picking up customs like that you won’t be an outsider for long.’ As Dr Moore bought his drinks he continued, ‘It’s good to see Sarah looking so happy.’

‘I’m very lucky.’

‘Yes, but so’s she. I’m glad you managed to win her father round in the end.’

Dr Moore was about to say something when a loud rumbling noise came from another part of the bar, followed by the sounds of breaking glass and raised voices. The barman exchanged resigned looks with Father Iain before walking quickly over to the source of the disturbance.

‘Michael up to his old tricks,’ the priest said to Dr Moore. They watched as a blond-haired man in his twenties was escorted to the door. ‘He’s as good as gold when he’s sober. But I imagine Sarah’s told you all about Michael.’

‘She’s mentioned him, yes.’

‘They were thick as thieves when they were teenagers. He was really cut up when she took herself off to America.’

‘I met him before the match – he seems a nice guy.’

Father Iain laughed. ‘Oh he is, he is. And he’s promised me the drunken phone calls to Sarah are all in the past.’

The priest smiled and looked questioningly at Dr Moore, but he didn’t respond. Instead he moved away, saying quickly, ‘They’ll be wondering where I’ve got to.’

 *

The rest of the evening at the clubhouse was uneventful, but an encounter Father Iain had on his way home that night is also crucial to our story.

Coming soon: Part 2!