Martin Kingsley was sure to be convicted. After all, it was his maids who had been murdered.
Initially the fire at the Kingsley mansion was assumed to be an accident. The blaze started in the kitchen (a natural enough place for one to begin) and spread throughout the servants’ quarters quickly. The firefighters managed to put it out before it reached the main living quarters, but it still caused considerable damage.
Everyone got out except for eight housemaids who were found huddled together in a back room, burned to a crisp.
Yet, upon further investigation it became clear that the fire was no accident, and the maids had not died as a result of the fire. In fact, their skulls had been bashed in with a hammer–violently, maliciously, intentionally.
The murder weapon was found in Mr. Kingsley’s bedstand, bloodstained with bits of flesh and hair still on it. He was also the last one seen in the kitchen cooking himself some bacon for a midnight snack. The grease fire that started the blaze made even the charred wood and brick walls of the house smell like pork.
“Old Mr. Kingsley was a harsh lord,” the butler had said in his interview with the police. “Mean spirited, that’s for sure. Especially towards the lady folk. Mostly with words, if you must know, but on occasion he’d use… other means of discipline. We all learned to avoid him as much as we could.”
“He was much nicer when his daughter lived with us,” the cook said. “She was lovely and kind. The opposite of her father in every way.”
But Maryanne Noel Kingsley had left the house about a year before, quickly, silently and in shame. Rumor had it she was currently living in Delaware with a small child, by herself.
“You know the old saying, ‘the walls have ears?'” the police officer at the jailhouse said to Nicky Saint, P.I. “Well, the Kingsley walls had maids’ ears. Them biddies were milking the old man out of all his money. Blackmail.”
Nicky looked at the old man in question. Martin Kingsley had to be at least eighty years old. He sat hunched in his jail cell, staring at the floor. They said that the only words he’d spoken since his arrest was, “Served them servant girls right to die like that.”
“Close enough for a confession,” the D.A. had replied.
The cop went on talking, though Nicky was hardly paying attention. “My guess is ol’ Mr. Kingsley didn’t like the name of the playboy who sired his heir. That’s why he kicked his daughter out. That’s why he was giving all his servants his money. From what the chief detective said, two more years paying out like that and he’d a been working for them.”
But the facts didn’t add up, Nicky thought. What kind of murderer keeps the murder weapon in such an obvious place? Only sociopaths and psychos who want to be caught, Nicky knew from experience, and Mr. Kingsley was neither. In fact, his mind was so nimble he still ran the daily operations of the bank he’d founded.
Did Martin Kingsley even have the strength to swing a hammer forty times to smash in their skulls? He looked like he had trouble getting from one side of his house to the other. When the police had taken away his cane they had to help him walk to the cot in the jail cell.
“He’s an innocent man,” Nicky declared. “And I can prove it.”
“Big words,” a reporter from the Dispatch said walking into the jailhouse. His pencil was ready to write down every word from Mr. Kingsley’s mouth. It was good publicity for the D.A. office to have a case open and shut so quick, so they’d granted a few exclusive interviews. “You think this murder is related to your Christmas song, Mr. Saint?”
“It is the eighth day of Christmas, and there were eight of them killed.”
“And the old man’s eighty. So what?” the reporter retorted. “Open the door so I can talk to the old guy, would ya, officer?”
Nicky grabbed the reporter’s arm before he entered the rows of cells. “Your paper’s gossip column has tidbits on the young Miss Kingsley now and then, doesn’t it? If I remember right, the last I’d read about it was that the child was rumored to have turned one year-old this last September.”
“Yeah, so?” the reporter said.
Nicky did a quick calculation on his fingers and said, “That puts the conception of the child right around Christmas.”
“What are you implying?” the policeman asked.
“I might know who the father is,” Nicky said opening the door to the outside and stepping into the night air.