Murder in the Vale: The Beginning, is the prequel to the tale, and take you back to October of 1968 in Penarth, The Vale of Glamorgan, Wales when mod music and miniskirts threatened the conservative ways embraced by the upper crust. It was a time of change, the beginning of a sexual revolution, and a moment when two lovers were found murdered inside an ancient cathedral.
In the beginning…
Cardiff is littered with ghosts, so say the superstitious and those born and raised in “the Vale”. From Glamorgan to Llandaff, unsolved murders give rise to tall tales of restless spirits. For Father Cai Sayer, these stories become questions of faith and mysteries to be solved. For Detective Sheila Leeds, they are cold cases with suspects who must be brought to justice. In between folklore and evidence, a forbidden attraction develops as the handsome priest and the jaded detective find themselves sucked into a forty-five year old murder mystery. Who killed Jameson Putnam and Philippa George in Llandaff Cathedral, and why?
As gorgeous as sin and ordained to cast out demons! Meet Father Cai Sayer.
Barry, Cardiff, Wales
The newspaper landed on the porch just as Father Cai Sayer opened it. Right on time, as usual. Bending down to pick it up, he heard a gasp and looked up. Two nuns passing his quarters stood stock still and beet red. They stared at his shirtless form wearing only pajama bottoms. At thirty-three, Father Sayer had the face of an angel and the body of a wicked devil. His muscles showed his love of both running and rowing. His sable brown hair and bright blue eyes sat in a face that made women sigh, and then curse the fates when their eyes traveled lower and came across his white collar.
“Sisters.” He acknowledged the nuns who, with a certain amount of both censure and grudging appreciation, nodded to him.
“Good morning, Father. Cool out. A good day to stay covered up, don’t ya think?” The older of the two offered a light reprimand in her words, while the younger novice blushed and hid a smile.
Feeling a bit cheeky, he flexed his pectorals, and smiled. “Aye, sister. I could use a bit of warming.” She gasped and made the sign of the cross before hurrying herself and her charge along.
He instantly felt regret over taunting the good sister. Lately, Cai had been experiencing some doubts, a small crisis of faith. It didn’t have a thing to do with how women responded to him, which had been a life-long occurrence, one he was aware of, but didn’t pay much attention to, but rather, he felt increasingly restless that he was not fulfilling whatever his purpose was in this life. The church was happy to stick him out in the middle of Barry at a parish already headed up by Father O’Flaherty. Sure, he was old, and it seemed that the church planned on having Cai take over eventually, but in the meantime he felt he was wasting all his education and training.
Prior to becoming ordained, Cai Sayer studied demonology extensively and attended the Vatican training for exorcists in the recent new sanctioning of this field of study. He was also subjected to two years of forensic investigation, often accompanying a team of police detectives to crime scenes. Up until that past year, he’d been part of the diocese’s lead investigative team sent around the world to debunk miracles, ghosts, and possessions.
But then they assigned him here, and he felt he was languishing away.
Cai walked back inside, closing the door so as not to shock any more nuns this fine morning. He opened the newspaper and sat down with his coffee. On the front page, he read: 46TH ANNIVERSARY OF LLANDAFF CATHEDRAL MURDERS.
He sipped the hot brew and read the story. Being from northern Wales, he wasn’t familiar with the local tales. It was quite a story. Two teens were found inside the burial chamber of the cathedral November 2, 1968 after a massive search instigated by Oliver Putnam II. It seems his son never returned home after an All Hallow’s Eve night out with friends. All the kids were questioned, but no one had a clue who might have wished them harm. Jameson Putnam was found dead from blunt force trauma to the head. Blood on the tomb he was next to indicated his head had hit the stone, causing his death. The girl, said to be his girlfriend, was strangled and lying next to him. They were in a state of undress, considered in flagrante delicto. The last person to see them alive was the boy’s friend, Randall Hanson, who was cleared of any suspicion upon testimony by the limousine driver who’d taken them around that evening. The article stated the driver, Wesley Riverton, said Hanson sent him back to pick the two up, who’d stayed behind for some private time. When he arrived, he found no trace of the teens. He reported he waited an hour, and when no one showed up, returned to the Pier at Penarth to await the Hanson party. The article went on to say that upon hearing the Putnam boy and George girl were not at the cathedral cemetery any longer, the Hanson brothers and party were all driven home. The George girl was autopsied and found to have been thirteen weeks pregnant. The scandal nearly ruined the Putnam family, but thanks to Oliver Jr., and his rise in fortune through banking, they survived and thrived. No word on what happened to the George family.
After reading the rest of the paper, Cai dressed, and adjusting his collar one last time, headed out the door with his briefcase in hand. It was a crisp day, a tribute to fall, and his shoes crunched colorful leaves that had fallen from the trees. He loved this time of year, and stopped to take a deep breath, taking it all in. Smiling, he climbed into his car and drove on to work. He arrived at St. Helen’s and parked.
He spied Father O’Flaherty ambling along the sidewalk of the rectory. As he climbed out and grabbed his briefcase from the seat, a taxi pulled up to the front of the church. Cai proceeded to catch up to the priest.
“Good morning, Father.”
“And top of the mornin’ to ya, Cai.” O’Flaherty was a kind old man, and Cai looked upon him as a father figure, which was actually kind of ironic to his thinking.
They arrived together at the front doors just as the cab driver began hassling his passenger about the fare.
“Come on, lady. I don’t have all day. That’ll be ten pounds, seventeen.” The driver stood with his hand out waiting, agitation written on his ruddy face.
“What seems to be the problem, my son?” O’Flaherty addressed the man.
“This crazy old woman won’t pay her fare!” He turned and saw the priest for the first time. “Oh, sorry, Father.” He was immediately contrite. “What I mean to say is, she asked to be brought here, and now she won’t pay for the ride.”
The woman in question stood still, staring up at the cross above the double doors. She was quite old, appearing somewhere in her late seventies to early eighties, and she had a small bouquet of dead flowers in hand.
“Where did you pick her up from?” Cai asked.
“Up near the Vale. Someone called in the pickup. It was an old building of flats close to city center.” He handed over the address.
“Why here?” Cai waited, noting the old woman had not said a word.
“You’ll have to ask her. She just said take her to the church, and this was the closest one.”
O’Flaherty took the old woman’s hand, and Cai pulled out his wallet. “Ten pounds, seventeen, you said?”
“Yes, that’s it.”
Cai handed over fifteen pounds. “For your trouble.”
The cab driver, feeling bad, made change quickly and handed it back. “No need, Father. Please, take it for the church.” With that, he got into his cab and drove off.
“So, dear. How can we help you this day?” O’Flaherty addressed the old woman as he led her inside.
“I need to see her, Father. I need to see my darling girl.” Her voice was frail and small. Her eyes held a faraway look.
“And who might that be, dear?” Cai helped O’Flaherty get her to a pew.
“My girl. My darling girl.” She kept saying this over and over until her voice trailed off.
“Father Sayer, would ye be kind enough to put in a call to the police? It seems we have a wanderer here.”
“A wanderer?” Cai didn’t quite understand.
“Yes. One of the elderly that wanders off, usually from their home or from an assisted living. The poor thing isn’t all there. I’d wager one of the Alzheimer’s homes is missing a patient right about now.”
“Ah, I see. Well, how about I get her something to drink first. She looks a little weary. Then I’ll put in the call.” He noticed she looked pale and malnourished. If she was a resident in a home, he was prepared to put in a complaint. Her clothes were rumpled and her hair uncombed. No one should be treated that way.
“That’s kind of ye, Cai. A little juice from the office, and maybe one of Mrs. Jones’ scones?”
“I’m on it. Be right back.”
Father Sayer made his way to the office in the back of the church where Mrs. Jones, the church secretary, sat typing up next Sunday’s sermon.
“Good mornin’ to ya, Father,” she said without lifting her hands from the keyboard.
“That it is, Mrs. J. You don’t happen to have some of your delicious scones today, do you?” He walked over to the fridge in the side cubby off of Father Flaherty’s office door, and pulled out an apple juice.
“You know I do. Blueberry today, and still warm.” She smiled and got up to grab one for him.
“That’s perfect. We have a little situation on our hands this fine day. I’ll be needing you to call in the police for us.”
“The police? Whatever for?” She placed the scone onto a napkin and handed it over.
“We have an elderly lady out in the sanctuary in need. Seems she had a cab drop her off, but she isn’t quite all there, if you know what I mean.”
“The poor dear. I’m right on it. Think she wandered away, do ya?” She walked over and picked up the phone.
“That’s what Father O’Flaherty said. Must be a local term. But as soon as we can get her some help, the better. The poor woman seems quite neglected.”
“That’s just terrible. I’ll let ya know when to expect them, and I’ll be right out to help.” She dialed and Cai walked back out rejoining the good father and the poor wanderer.
“Here, ma’am. Have some juice.” He handed the juice over, taking the dead flowers from her hands. They were camellias, and had seen better days.
“Take a sip, my dear.” O’Flaherty helped her lift the juice to her lips where she sipped. Cai offered her the scone, but she looked at it with vacant eyes. He broke off a piece and brought it to her mouth. She opened like a child and accepted the bite. They went on like this until most of the scone was eaten and all of juice was drunk. Mrs. Jones joined them and led the woman to the back office where she could be made more comfortable on the couch.
Nearly an hour later, the police showed up. Officers Mahoney and Rigby arrived to gather the information, then determined they should contact the Human Services division. HS sent a social worker, who arrived at the same time as Detective Leeds.
Sheila Leeds walked in and took command. The short woman barked orders like a military sergeant. At barely above five feet two, she came off as a vicious toy poodle in Cai’s eyes. She wore her black hair twisted up on top of her head adding an inch or two to her short stature, and her brown eyes flashed as she gave orders to Mahoney and Rigby to follow up on the address the cab driver gave to Father O’Flaherty.
“And you are?” She made her way methodically over to Cai.
“Father Cai Sayer.” She wrote his name down, then looked up about to ask another question when her eyes traveled to his face and stopped. She paused.
She blinked and recovered. “Sayer. That’s Welsh for carpenter, isn’t it?”
“It is. Very good, detective. You’re Welsh?”
“No. Irish.” She looked at him again. “And what’s your position here?”
“Vicar to our Canon.” He looked over toward O’Flaherty.
“And were you present when she arrived?”
“I was.” He waited, not offering any more than she asked after seeing that she seemed disengaged in the situation beyond the details. How can a person help another without genuine compassion?
She looked at him, pen poised over her notebook. “Well?”
A wicked gleam found its way to his blue eyes. “Well, what, detective?”
She blew out a breath. “What happened?”
“Oh, you’re interested, are you? Well, now…” He clasped his hands behind his back and rocked on his heels, looking skyward as if in deep thought. “Well, a taxi drove up, deposited the poor woman on our doorstep, proceeded to complain about her not paying her fare, and then, after I paid it, you see, drove off leaving the dear here at St. Helen’s.”
Leeds rolled her eyes and jotted down some notes. “Did she say anything?”
“Yes.” Again, he waited.
Sheila looked at Cai with barely concealed aggravation. “What did she say?”
Sayer smiled. “She said, and I quote, ‘I need to see her, Father. I need to see my darling girl’.”
“Any idea what she meant? Have you seen her at the church before?”
“No, and no.”
“Did she have any identification on her?” Leeds continued her questions.
“We didn’t check. Isn’t that your job?”
Leeds flipped her notebook closed and stuck it into her back pocket. “It’s not unusual for people to check.” She turned and was about to walk away when he stopped her.
“So what will you do with her?” His concern was evident in his voice.
She turned back around. “HS will take her to the hospital to get checked out. From there, we’ll fingerprint her and check the bulletins for any missing persons reported recently.”
“Yes, but who’ll care for her? She seems quite neglected.”
Sheila Leeds noted the genuine concern in his questions. She relaxed a little of her usual tough exterior. “No need to worry. We have a wonderful facility that works with dementia and Alzheimer’s patients. Until we can find her family, she’ll stay there.” She handed him her card. “If you have any questions or want the address to visit her, give me a call.”
Cai looked at her card, then at her, fully appreciating her belated compassion. “Thank you, Sheila.”
She looked at him sharply and said, “Detective Leeds.”
“Indeed.” He smiled, and his dimples peeked out from the sides of his lips.The sight of him standing there smiling like temptation itself made her stop momentarily before turning away and walking off. HS escorted the wanderer out to the vehicle where she was helped into the backseat. O’Flaherty made his way back to his office, and Cai ambled up the center aisle where something caught his eye. He looked down on the pew seat and saw the bunch of dead camellias. He reached down to pick them up, and was intent on finding the nearest garbage can when he noticed the folded paper that was wrapped around the dead stems. He hadn’t seen that earlier when she was holding them, or even when he extracted them from her hands to help feed her. Now, he was curious. He unwrapped, then unfolded the paper. It was an old newspaper clipping. The date was November 3, 1968, and the headline read: TEEN LOVERS FOUND MURDERED IN LLANDAFF CATHEDRAL.