So What Happened? Solution to Quick Mystery #2

The wait is over! Here's the solution to my latest Quick 30-Minute Mystery Read. Did you work it out?

Last blog I shared another quick mystery and gave you the chance to work out what happened. Those of you who had already subscribed to my monthly newsletter also got a chance to win a prize.

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Before we get to that, here’s a recap of the mystery. Otherwise, just scroll to the bottom…

THE MYSTERY: The Nosey Neighbour

My elderly neighbour was missing and I had a hunch I knew why—and where to find him. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me start at the beginning…

My name is Olivia. My husband, Jonas, and I had moved into the shady suburb of Greensly about five years ago, and while our shoebox of a house was just a stepping stone to a bigger, better place one day (we had dreams of starting a large family), I took an instant liking to our next door neighbour, a widower called Harvey.

He was an old man even then, but he was fit as a fiddle and it probably had a lot to do with his fondness for gardening, which kept his heart ticking better than any medicine I knew of. He could spend hours digging about in his sprawling vegie patch at the back of his lot. It was here that he spent most of his time, toiling away from dawn to dusk and even reappearing at night with torch in hand to fend off any critters that dared to devour his precious produce.

“He’s at it again,” I would inform Jonas as the torch sent splashes of light across our bedroom wall.

“He’s wasting his energy, fussing about with all that,” Jonas would reply. “If he spent half his time painting that dingy old house and clearing up some of the clutter out the front, we’d all be better off.”

Jonas did have a point. Harvey was a massive hoarder and had let his house run down. Badly. And, to be frank, it was bringing the whole neighbourhood into disrepute. But I didn’t like to tell the old guy that. After all, I was usually the beneficiary of all that toiling — Harvey would regularly leave handfuls of spinach or punnets of cherry tomatoes at my doorstep, and, in Spring, lush bouquets of flowers. In return, I took his bins out on garbage night and brought his washing in when it rained, along with his mail, which usually just consisted of letters from a distant niece and real estate brochures.

Jonas snatched the mail from me one day and said I was wasting my time—“you’d be better off helping him paint!”—but I liked the old geezer. I really did…

Missing In Action

One week, as I prepared a pot roast in my kitchen, I realised I had not seen Harvey in a while and was just wondering what he was up to when I noticed a young man in a shiny suit standing to the side of Harvey’s house, issuing orders to a group of guys in white overalls.

“Hello!” I called out through the open window. “Harvey finally sprucing the old place up, hey?”

The man looked across to me with surprise, then smiled. “And about time, too, hey?” He winked. “This place is a goldmine, just waiting to be tapped.” Then he snatched a business card from his pocket and held it out. “I’m Ace Finnegan. Local realtor.”

I gasped. “Harvey’s selling?”

“Surprised me, too. The last time I dropped in, just a week back, Harvey sent me packing with a few choice words.” He chuckled. “Took a swing at me, too. He’s just lucky I’m a lover not a fighter.” Then he chuckled again.

“You got into a fight with the old man?” I said and he blinked rapidly.

“No! I mean, not really. He was fine when I left him. And you should know. Didn’t I see you watching us through that very window? Anyway, I must’ve got through to him because he’s changed his tune, and wants to sell, which is fantastic news for me. That’s why I’m helping Melissa get the place ready. With a bit of a clean up and a fresh lick of paint, it’ll be good as new.”


“Harvey’s niece,” Ace explained. “She’s approved the sale.”

“Does she have the right to do that? Does Harvey know?”

He nodded, uncertainly now. “Yes… I believe so…” His eyes narrowed. “It’s all above board I can assure you. If you don’t believe me, speak with Melissa yourself. She’s just arrived from out of town. You’ll find her inside.”

That, too, left me gaping. I’d seen Melissa’s very occasional letters—knew from the back of her envelopes that she lived miles away—but had never seen her actually visit, and I was confused why she was suddenly here and taking over Harvey’s life.

I needed to hear it for myself, so I waved him goodbye then grabbed a wicker basket and made my way out of my house and up to Harvey’s front door, which was wide open.

The Prodigal Niece

After stepping inside, I found Melissa seated on Harvey’s bed, wading through what looked like a box of personal papers.

“Sorry to disturb,” I called out, catching the middle-aged brunette by surprise and she almost dropped the box. “I was wondering if I could grab some—”

“Who are you? What are you doing in here?” she demanded, wedging the papers back into their hidey-hole.

“I’m Olivia, from next door.” I glanced around. “Is everything okay? I was just checking in on Harvey. He’s your uncle, yes? Is he around?”

“What? Yes, I mean, no… um, Uncle Harvey’s been on holidays for the past week. Can I help you with something?”

I gaped again. Harvey never went on holidays. “How lovely for him,” I managed. “Where did he go?”

She shrugged. Frowned. “Bali I believe. He told me he was heading away and I should go ahead and get the house ready for sale.” Then she glanced around. “Finally! The local realtor says we’ll fetch a small fortune for this place, once we’ve made some improvements. In the meantime, I’ll find Harvey a lovely little nursing home…”

“Nursing home?!” I was gaping so widely my chin was almost scraping the floor.
There was no way the Harvey I knew would ever agree to a nursing home. The last time we spoke he told me he wanted to die in Greensly and be buried in his beloved garden. As for holidaying in Bali… It was absurd.

Melissa suddenly looked as defensive as the realtor and pushed her shoulders back. “Sorry, but I’m not sure this is any of your business. Now if you don’t mind, I have a lot to sort through.”

My lips snapped shut. “Of course,” I said. Then, remembering my purpose, I added, “I’m cooking a roast tonight. Do you mind if I help myself to some of Harvey’s vegies, from his back garden? I—”

“No!” Melissa’s shoulders were up to her ears now. “I mean… it’s a bit of a shambles. The realtor says some animals must have got into it recently and made a mess of everything. Doesn’t matter now. We’ll probably pave over it and put in a patio.”

Then she turned back to her files but my mind was reeling. None of this made sense and I didn’t believe her for one minute. I sincerely doubted Harvey would want his niece rifling through his things and dragging in a realtor, let alone dragging him to an aged care home. And I absolutely knew he’d be furious to hear his precious garden was to become a patio!

Still, Melissa was right. It wasn’t really my business. I wasn’t family, right? What could I possibly do?

So I left her to it, sighing sadly to myself as I returned home, convinced something was not quite right.

Stewing Over Dinner

Jonas returned from work just as I was putting dinner on the table (sans the fresh vegies, of course), and as we ate in silence my mind returned to Harvey and my sighing resumed.

“What is it, Olivia?” my husband asked. “You’ve been quietly broody since I got home.”

“I’m worried about Harvey,” I replied. “Did he mention anything to you about going on holiday? Or selling his house?”

Jonas shook his head then frowned. “No, I haven’t seen him for weeks, why? How do you know all this?”

“I met his niece today — Melissa — and she says—”

“Hang on, Harvey has a niece? Wow, what’s she like?”

“Bossy and controlling! She just told me Harvey is on a beach holiday and she’s getting his house ready to sell, will then put him in aged care. Doesn’t that all sound odd to you?”

Jonas gave it some thought and shrugged. “Honey…” He took my hand and kissed it. “I love that you care for the old guy, I really do, but it really isn’t any of our business whether he chills on a Bali beach or goes into aged care or whatever. I know you care for him, but we have to think about ourselves now. We should also think about selling, hm? It’s time to get on with our lives.”

But it wasn’t our lives I was thinking about now. It was Harvey’s…

Digging Deeper

The next day I got up at the crack of dawn and made my way across to Harvey’s vegie patch, which was indeed a disaster zone. If a critter had got into this garden, it was a mighty big one.

“What are you doing here?” came a voice behind me and I swung around to find Melissa standing there, shovel in hand.

I took a step backwards. “I’m sorry to intrude again,” I said, “but I have a really important question to ask you.” Everything depended on it. “Did your uncle tell you in person that he was going away?”

She stared at me oddly. “No, he… er… he sent me a letter, about a week ago. Why?”

“Do you have this letter with you?” I asked.

Her shoulders were high again. “No I do not.” Then a scowl. “But I really don’t see how this is any of your business.”

“You’re right,” I said, my eyes filling with tears. “But I know exactly whose business it is.” Then I pulled out my mobile phone and rang the police.

THE SOLUTION: So, What Happened to Harvey?

Sadly Olivia knows that Harvey has been murdered and his body buried in his beloved vegie patch out the back of his house. But that’s not the saddest news.

Olivia also knows that the killer is her husband, JONAS. (No wonder she was teary!)

How did she work it out?

At first Olivia suspected the neglectful niece, Melissa, of foul play. She might have killed him to inherit the house—which she was quickly renovating and eager to sell to the realtor, Ace. Or perhaps she was working with Ace and they were in it together? Perhaps the realtor was working alone? After all, Ace was supposedly the last person to see Harvey, the week earlier, and admitted that they’d had a fight. Perhaps the fight had turned fatal and Ace was forced to bury the old man in the back yard? Remember, it was Ace who’d told both Melissa and Olivia to avoid the vegie patch (where we now know Harvey’s body lies).

But then Olivia had that fateful conversation with her husband over dinner, and realised that Jonas must have been the killer because he lied to her about two things. Firstly, he told her he hadn’t seen Harvey “for weeks” yet the realtor had spotted one of them watching through the kitchen window when he was there the week earlier, fighting with Harvey. She knew it wasn’t her, so it had to be Jonas.

Worse, Jonas knew something about Harvey that he should not have known—that Harvey was chilling out “on a Bali beach”. How did Jonas know that? Jonas had only just arrived home and Olivia certainly hadn’t told him (she’d been “quietly broody” remember?). And we know Jonas hadn’t spoken to Melissa because she’d only just arrived at the house, and he seemed genuinely surprised to hear she was there. So how did Jonas know Harvey was in Bali?

Jonas knew because he’s the one who made up the whole holiday story.

Here’s how it happened…

A week earlier, Jonas saw Harvey come to blows with the realtor (yes, it was Jonas watching through the window, not Olivia). This incident shows that Harvey could get feisty over the subject of his house, and so when Jonas approached him soon after Ace left, the fight continued. This time, however, it turned fatal, leaving old Harvey dead, and Jonas in a panic. He quickly buried the old guy under his vegie patch and then faked a letter to the niece telling her that “Uncle Harvey” was heading to “Bali”.
(Jonas got her address from one of the letters he’d “snatched” from Olivia previously.)
He was buying himself more time and building an alibi.

Jonas would go on to claim the death was accidental, but Olivia wass not so sure. She knew her husband was desperate to sell their “shoebox” of a house for a good price, and that Harvey’s rundown old house was not helping. He was clearly irritated by the old man.

What Olivia knows for certain, however, is that it’s a sad irony that Harvey had to be dug up for forensics. He would have loved his final resting place…

Did you work it out?

Give yourself a big pat on the back if you worked it out, too.

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Happy sleuthing fellow readers!

xo Christina