by Karen Gilleland © 2014
“Agatha Brayzon” is, of course, a tip of the hat to M.C. Beaton’s wonderful character, Agatha Raisin, perhaps the closest fictional female to the “Doc.”
“Agatha plucked the magazine from the receptionist’s hands. She leaned over the desk. ‘Move your scrawny butt and tell that shyster he’s seeing me.’”
– M.C. Beaton, The Quiche of Death
The short, balding man with thick, horn-rimmed glasses slid off the examining couch and sat down in the chair across the desk from Martin.
“Mr. Seymour, you have carpal tunnel syndrome in both wrists. You say you’re on the computer 10 hours a day. You have to stop before the pain becomes chronic.”
“Can’t, Doctor, I’m on deadline for my next novel. I came down from London to get away from distractions and focus on work.”
“Patient confidentiality, right?” said Mr. Seymour, glancing around the room, eyebrows raised.
“I was an attorney. When I wrote my first book, I didn’t want people to know I had written such trash, so I used a pseudonym, ‘Agatha Brayzon.’ Killers Never Get Caught was a smash hit, and now I’m on my tenth novel. The publisher has spent a lot of money creating the image of Agatha Brayzon as a sexpot, and I’m under contract to keep my identity secret.” He shrugged his shoulders. “I can’t have anybody else type my manuscripts.”
“What about your wife?”
Martin opened a desk drawer and took out an advertisement. “This voice-recognition software is aimed at doctors; nevertheless, it may solve your problem.”
Donald Seymour took the flyer, tucked it into his pocket with the prescription and left the office. As he walked by Morwenna, he noticed a paperback book on her desk.
“Agatha Brayzon,” said the man, “what do people see in that tripe?”
“Are you kidding? Her thrillers are the rage. In this one,” Morwenna said, tapping the book, “Desmond and Diana are trapped in a volcano. I can’t wait to see how they escape.”
“Maybe they sprout wings and fly out,” Donald sneered and walked out the door.
Several days later, Donald was walking home when he met his neighbor, Mrs. Fry, a plump woman with expressive brown eyes and dark, wavy hair. She was carrying a trash bag to the street and sweating profusely. “Lovely day,” she said, “although a bit hot for my comfort.”
Donald nodded, hurriedly unlocked his door and stepped inside. Before closing the door, however, the man turned, his eyes following Mrs. Fry out to the street. “How can Agatha Brayzon write such steamy scenes when I can’t even speak to the lovely lady next door,” he murmured.
The room was hot, so Donald opened all the windows in hopes of catching the sea breeze. He pulled his manuscript out of the desk drawer and flipped through pages as he walked over to the sofa. He smiled at the microphone on the end table. “Come on, Myrtle,” he said. “Time to go to work.” He settled down and began dictating.
“Get rid of the dame next door,” he said in a gruff voice.
“Permanently?” he said, in his own voice.
“Yes, take care of it. Tonight. Strangle her, quiet like. Then take the boat and drop her body in the ocean.”
Next door, Mrs. Fry sat down to read the paper with a lemonade and bowl of crisps. As Mr. Seymour’s voice floated through her open window, she sat bolt upright. “Strangle me!” she gasped, hand clutching her neck. She jumped up, spilling the crisps onto the carpet. She rocketed out the door and up to the police station.
P.C. Penhale raised his hands as she rushed in. “Whoa, slow down, Mrs. Fry. You’ll have a heart attack.”
“Better a heart attack than murdered by that villain,” she shouted.
“I heard him – Mr. Seymour next door – he’s a hit man! I don’t know why they want to murder me. Maybe they want this diamond pendant that Gerald, God rest his soul, gave me,” she grasped the tiny pendant in a tight fist. “Well, they shan’t have it!”
“Please, sit down and tell me exactly what you heard.”
Mrs. Fry repeated the conversation, embellishing as she went along — from strangling to stabbing. “He plans to dump my body in the sea!” A hushed silence followed her torrent of words, and the two looked at each other.
Suddenly, the telephone shrilled, piercing the tense silence, and both Penhale and Mrs. Fry jumped. Penhale stared at the phone. “It’s him!” Penhale said, picking up the receiver. “You want to know police procedure when a body is found at sea?” repeated Penhale. “I can’t divulge that information. Sorry,” and he slammed down the phone.
Penhale swallowed and stood up. “It looks like I’ll be going eyeball to eyeball with a hit man again.”
“Well, the other hit man turned out to be a photographer using a telephoto lens,” he shrugged. “I had to pay for his camera.”
Mrs. Fry’s hands began shaking. “Shouldn’t you call Scotland Yard?”
“No, Mr. Seymour’s in my patch now. I’m trained to handle killers,” said Penhale, lunging into a karate stance. “Where will you be tonight?”
“Playing pinochle at the pub, Mind you, I’ll be putting my winnings down my bra.” Penhale turned his head as she demonstrated what she planned to do.
“Don’t worry, Mrs. Fry, “I’ll ask Bert and Al to keep an eye on you inside the pub. When you come out, I’ll be waiting.”
At ten o’clock, the pinochle game broke up. Mrs. Fry, teeth clenched, stood up and walked toward the door.
“Mrs. Fry,” called Donald Seymour, setting his beer mug on the bar, “I’ll walk you to the house.”
“No need,” she said, her eyes big and round.
“I just need to pay my tab. Wait for me,” Seymour said, but Mrs. Fry marched out the door.
Mr. Seymour tossed coins on the bar and turned to walk out. Bert stood up, momentarily blocking his way. Seymour brushed past Bert and caught up to Mrs. Fry as she was hurrying up the path. He raised his hand and started to say her name, but P.C. Penhale sprang out from a doorway and grabbed his arm. “Got you!” Penhale shouted and pinned Seymour’s arms behind his back. “You are under arrest for the attempted murder of Mrs. Fry.”
Donald Seymour’s heart pounded. His glasses flew off. His eyes goggled in his head. He felt himself slipping down to the pavement.
Penhale gasped, pulled out his phone and punched in a number. “Doc, come quick! Mr. Seymour is having a heart attack.”
“Good job, Joe. Me and Al saw everything,” said Bert, stooping over Mr. Seymour. “He looks like a gonner, don’t he, Al?”
Martin came running. “Out of the way!” he yelled, pushing Bert aside. He examined Mr. Seymour and said. “He isn’t having a heart attack. He’s having a panic attack.” Martin turned to Penhale. “What happened?”
“He’s a hit man, ‘Doc.’ I’ve got him on Murder One.”
“Are you insane, Penhale?”
“It’s true, ‘Doc.’ He’s a murderer, well, attempted-murderer.”
Mrs. Fry was breathing heavily, and Mr. Seymour was feeling around on the ground. “Al, find Mr. Seymour’s glasses. Then all of you come into the pub.”
Martin put his stethoscope back into the case and followed them inside. “Sit down and tell me what’s going on.”
Mrs. Fry described overhearing Mr. Seymour’s plot to kill her.
“Mr. Seymour was going to stab you, is that right?” said Martin. “Where’s the knife, Penhale?”
Penhale walked over to Seymour, who still felt woozy, and patted him down. “No knife,” Penhale said, shrugging his shoulders.
“I meant, ah, he intended to strangle me,” Mrs. Fry insisted.
“Impossible,” said Martin. “Mr. Seymour has carpal tunnel syndrome in his wrists, which means he does not have enough strength in his hands to strangle anyone.”
Mr. Seymour rubbed his forehead and blinked to clear his vision. “Dear me,” he said, looking at Mrs. Fry, “I know what’s caused all this fuss. I was reading one of those Agatha Brayzon books out loud. You must have heard the part where the thug planned to murder the stripper.”
“Stripper? Why I never–” said Mrs. Fry, breast heaving.
“No—er — I’m sorry, Mrs. Fry, I never meant to frighten you. I like reading aloud. I’ll keep my windows shut in future.”
Mrs. Fry’s eyes met Mr. Seymour’s, and her voice softened. “No need. Come to that, I quite like the sound of your voice.”
Donald Seymour’s face flushed. “Allow me to walk you home,” Donald said, using the back of the chair to push himself up. He looked at Mrs. Fry, took a deep breath and plunged ahead, “You’re a very attractive woman, Mrs. Fry, I can see how you could drive a man to desperate lengths.”
Mrs. Fry’s mouth dropped. “Please, call me Jeanine,” she said, pushing back a lock of hair. She took Mr. Seymour’s arm, and the two sashayed out of the pub.
The “Doc” shook his head. “Penhale, the next time you arrest a murderer, make sure you have a dead body.”
– THE END –
“Doc Martin” is owned by Buffalo Pictures.