I Was Suspected of Murder | Yankee Classic Article
He paused, and I asked if the killer might have been a resident of Marblehead. He thought so, yes. Could he or she still be living? The inspector would not say, though his heavy eyebrows came together in a frown. I then remarked that he no doubt recalled that I had once been interrogated in the case.
The eyebrows shot up. Was I serious? Who was it that had talked with me? Not his men, or he’d remember. I explained about the state detectives and all that had passed between us. Wasn’t I now perhaps one of those townspeople who could not, “in decency,” be questioned further? Again he shook his head, smiling this time. The state police, he said, since I had no record, would have lost interest when they’d seen the car and the doctor and got a lab report on my coat. He hoped I had not dwelt morbidly on this thing. I said that, other than at first and at some moments later, I had not. His handshake, when after a few more questions I thanked him and left, was warm and reassuring.
From the wet porch I saw that my wife had driven up and was waiting, windshield wipers clicking. She moved over as I slid in behind the wheel. “Find out anything helpful?’ she asked. I said I’d tell her all about it later. Would she mind right now our driving down for one more look at the old Atherton place? Not really, she said. “Tonight, I somehow thought you’d want to.”
The bell high in Abbot Hall’s rain-shrouded tower had pealed a muffled six as we rounded the rise on Sewell Street and stopped, motor idling, at 57. There it was, crowded close to the narrow sidewalk by the steep slope at the back. I looked at my watch in the dashboard light; right about now, the murderer would have struck. For a long moment I listened, imagining a deathly shriek, a white dog cringing, a long knife falling from-a lifeless hand. All I heard, though, was wind and rain; all I saw was a snug little cottage, apparently untroubled now by the nightmare in its past. With new owners, old clapboards had given way to trim shingles, overgrowth in the yard to tidy shrubs. Lamps glowed at curtained windows.
Few people can be left in Marblehead who think much about Beryl Atherton anymore. Time has claimed many of the suspects, Inspector Rodgers told me – though with no deathbed confessions, despite watchers who sometimes strained to catch a final whisper of the ghastly truth. Only a small remnant of us would still be here whose lives once fell under the darkness of suspicion. In April of last year, time also claimed the good Clem Rodgers, who surely knew more about the killing than any other person alive, except perhaps that one whose guilt has cast so long a shadow. Yet when November brings the first cold breath of winter, and newspapers once again recount the deepening mystery, old-time ‘Headers, brows knit like the conscience of the town, allow as how someone among them could tell a heap about the murder had he or she a mind to. They say, too, police keep watch against a killer’s revisit to the scene.
I was startled by my wife’s hand upon my arm. “Could we go home now?’ she asked.
“Yes,” I said. But I looked back through the slanting downpour as we inched on up the hill. After so many years, I still did not feel certain that a car of mine could stop there unobserved.