Murder On Tyneside
Agnes Lockwood pulled up her collar. She realised she should have worn her scarf. But with the sun beaming through the window of her hotel room, she had thought it wouldn't be necessary.
It felt good to be back on Tyneside at last. A number of years had passed since she'd last been here. Coming back to visit the place of her birth was something she had wanted to do for a long time. Yet, somehow, there had never been time. Even from the age of twelve, when her family left the area, her life had run in the fast lane. Until now, some forty years later, there had never been time to slow down and reflect on the past.
It all began when her father had been offered an important diplomatic post in France, which resulted in her family making the move away from Tyneside. On their return, her father was offered a job based in London. Therefore it was impractical for them to live too far from his place of work. Looking back, it seemed strange they had never found time to visit Tyneside.
But now, having finally made the decision to visit the north east, Agnes had chosen to stay in a hotel on the quayside – once the very heart of Tyneside.
Agnes moved across the pavement to the edge of the quay and looked down at the River Tyne. It was certainly much cleaner than she remembered. When she was last here, it had seemed more like a mud bath than an imposing river flowing through the city to the North Sea. Back then, it was said you only had to jump into the Tyne and you would die through the sheer pollution in the water.
Still gazing down at the river, it occurred to her there must have been accidents back then; where men died because they slipped and fell into the murky water. Some may have even taken their own lives by throwing themselves into the river, because they had found life too hard to bear. But worse still, how many might have been brutally murdered; their bodies thrown into the water never to be seen again?
She shuddered at the thought. Thankfully those days were over. Glancing back along the quayside, she realised it wasn't just the river that was clean; the whole place had changed. The heavy industry of Tyneside had long disappeared making way for cafés, restaurants and other more genteel activities.
Even though Agnes hadn't been in the city when the changes were taking place, she had read about what was happening. Yet she still hadn't been prepared for it to be quite so fashionable. She sighed as she turned away from the river and leaned back against the railings. The past was gone; there was no point her dwelling on it. Like the people who still lived here, she needed to change with the times. To move on. But move on where? What did the future hold for a widow of a certain age?
She scolded herself for having such negative thoughts. First of all, she needed to pull herself together and stop dreaming about the past. Life had been good to her.
Jim Lockwood had been a wonderful husband and a devoted father. A smile broke across her lips as she thought about her boys. They were men now. Married and living on the other side of the world. Yet to her, they would always be 'her boys'.
Though there had been a number of years before Jim was due to retire, they had made plans to visit their sons more often when that day came. What would there be to stop them? They would have both the time and the money. Jim had held down a good job with the foreign office and had saved a great deal of money over the years to make sure they had a comfortable retirement. But then, all too soon, an aggressive form of cancer had taken Jim from her and her world had fallen apart. She sniffed and blinked back the tears forming in her eyes. It just wasn't fair.
Her boys had wanted her to sell up and move out there with them when their father had died and, for a short while, she had been sorely tempted. Yet she had decided against the idea, firmly telling them they had their own lives to lead.
Pulling herself together, she glanced at her watch. Very soon she would need to return to her hotel and change for dinner. She looked back towards where her hotel was situated and was surprised to find that she hadn't actually walked very far. Perhaps she had time to continue on to the foot of the Tyne Bridge before turning back. Tomorrow it could be raining and she didn't relish the idea of stomping along here in the rain. If that were the case she would prefer to take a trip into the town centre and do some shopping.
* * *
Back at the hotel, Agnes took a shower before deciding what to wear for the evening; she had brought far too many clothes. In the end, she chose a deep blue dress with matching shoes and bag. Being tall and slim, finding clothes had never been a problem for her. Jim always used to tell her she looked good in whatever she chose and he was proud at having her by his side.
She pulled on her dress and checked in the mirror as she smoothed it down. But then she frowned; were a few grey hairs beginning to show? Moving nearer to the mirror, she took a closer look hoping she was mistaken. However it was no mistake. Her auburn hair was starting to change colour – and it wasn't a colour she favoured. She sighed as she turned away from the mirror. Had they appeared overnight? They weren't there yesterday. She was going to have to visit the hairdresser when she got back home.
She was just about to go down to dinner, when she heard raised voices outside her door. She sat down on the bed, deciding to wait a few minutes until the people had moved on before venturing out into the corridor. They might be embarrassed if she suddenly appeared in the middle of what sounded like a row. However, the voices grew louder and though she didn't mean to pry, she couldn't help hearing most of what was being said.
It seemed that the lady had lost a necklace or more to the point, she believed it had been stolen from her room while she was out shopping that afternoon. The gentleman with her didn't agree. He was trying to calm her down, saying that it couldn't possibly have been stolen. She must have put it down somewhere and forgotten where.
“You are always doing that, my dear,” the man told her. He spoke slowly, obviously trying to soothe the woman. “Give it some thought while we have dinner, you'll soon remember where you put it.”
However the lady wasn't in the mood to be pacified. “I distinctly remember putting it in the top drawer of the dressing table before we left.” She insisted. “Yet when I went to put it on this evening it was missing. Don't you realise that the necklace was the one you gave me for our Wedding Anniversary. It must have cost you the earth.”
There was a pause and for one brief moment, Agnes thought they had gone. She was about to open her door when she was suddenly startled by a loud screech from the woman outside.