She was at first glance not much more than a wisp of a girl with almost elfin features. I looked down on her on the edge of the lake, dressed I remember in a faded lilac blouse, I remembered it was lilac as I watched the water on the shoreline eddy as it swirled around her, washing back and forwards across the fabric giving it a ripple effect in my mind.
Her name was Elise Purton. It was her sister Eloise Purton who had come to see me about her sister whom she feared had met with some foul play as she’d been missing for over a week now. She’d been sent by her mother Elsie Purton; it was true the mother had a thing for names beginning with E, I found out her brothers Eric and Ethelred had also been so named.
But this was not helping me with this baffling case. A dead girl, a coastal resort, a weird family, plenty of reason to do in the dead girl as she stood to inherit a fortune following the death of her uncle Edward Purton who had made his name in the brass knocker industry.
Now it looked like there’d be no big knockers for Elise and as for conversation to say her responses to questioning would be nothing short of laconic was an understatement. There’d be no information forth coming from his girl and we all knew it.
It was the mother who first came forth with information that might shed some light on the mystery. It appeared Elise had drowned, as there was no visible sign on her frail body of any foul play.
The mother relayed a story of grief and woe about her daughter. She had been keeping an eye on her through a peephole in her daughter’s bedroom wall and had begun to become suspicious when a rather large crate of ceramic pots had arrived for her daughter.
The arrival of the crate had seemed to depress her daughter and in the days that followed she had observed her daughter taking the pots, two at a time to the cliffs behind their home and dropping some and throwing some over the vertiginous cliffs that stood high above the rolling ocean waves.
The mother feared that her daughter may have taken advantage of the self same vertiginousness to throw herself off and end all her suffering.
It all seemed a reasonable conclusion. But there was an oddity about the whole case. Everybody in the family stood to gain from Elise’s death. Everyone thought she was at best insane anyhow. None in the family thought it odd at all that she had thrown herself off the vertiginous cliffs. I thought it odd they kept calling them the vertiginous cliffs, till they pointed out the sign: Beware of the Vertiginous Cliffs.
I approached the cliffs to get a good look myself. Yes they were certainly vertiginous; I knew that as I’d stopped by the library the day before to look the word up. There was no way the wordle master was going to out do me this week.
If I fell off there was no way I’d be swimming home. The rocks on the bottom looked up at me with the teeth of some great predator waiting to devour me should I fall.
A noise behind me alerted me to danger. It was the mother, Elsie. She carried a big stick. She prodded it at me trying to unbalance me. My life flashed before my eyes and it was not a pretty sight.
I grabbed at the stick, with my feet now moored strongly upon the top of the vertiginous cliffs and wrenched it from her.
‘Why?’ I asked.
Her laconic reply has stayed with me all these years.
‘Money,’ she said.
Nothing more was needed to be said. Her family became known for their laconicness, it was a short trial; she managed to plead guilty with a hint of satisfaction in her voice.
The wispy girl in lilac had been avenged.