CHAPTER TWO: THE INSPECTORS CALL
A local boat, THE FAIRWEATHER, which the police had hired, chugged its way from the port of Dundercliff and headed for Bone Island, that stood five miles from the mainland. It was a calm, clear, windless day. Wavelets of water lapped rhythmically against the hull of the boat as it ploughed out of the stony embrace of the harbour towards the island. Above some gulls wheeled and glided in the sky, their intermittent cries and shrieks reverberating and echoing through the still air.
Stood at the handrail, meditatively looking out over the peaceful scene were Detective Inspector Bill Moose, and his assistant, Detective Sergeant Eddie Clayton. Moose was a large, burly, overbearing man, in his fifties, with a solid, bony face, complete with a moustache. He wore a trademark crumpled coat and a rather battered hat; both of which had seen better days. Eddie Clayton, ten years junior than his boss, was a smaller, thinner man; much neater and tidier in his attire, and with a more genial and approachable personality.
‘I know this area quite well, Inspector,’ said Clayton.
’We used to holiday around here when I was a kid. At Dundercliff and Greysands; and some of the other resorts up the coast. It brings back some fond memories.’
There was an almost dreamy tone to his words as he thought back to those simple, innocent, uncomplicated days, that were gone forever: ’I was as happy as Larry; sucking ice lollies, going for rides at the funfair. Building sandcastles, and then knocking them down again.’ He turned to look at his boss. ’It must be the tang of the salt air, chief. It always seems to bring those old recollections back.’
’I wish I could say the same, Eddie. But all I seem to remember are rainy days in Blackpool and wasting money on slot machines.’
’Maybe it’s selective memory syndrome; but it always seemed be sunny when I was a lad.’
Moose shook his head and smiled to himself. ’I’m afraid we haven’t got time to bask in the warm glow of nostalgia, Eddie. We’ve got work to do.’
They had already seen the body of the deceased, in a police morgue, on the mainland, that very morning – and had studied photos taken of the deceased as he lay, dead, in his study - before they set off for the island.
‘He was shot, at close range, five times, in the torso,’ the pathologist told them. ’Death would have been almost instantaneous. It is my considered opinion, inspector, that the murder took place at about three o’clock yesterday afternoon. Indeed one of the bullets hit his waistcoat watch and stopped the mechanism, at precisely three o’clock; which tends to corroborate this view.’
A ballistics expert told them that Third had been shot with a revolver, of a specific make.
At length the dim silhouette of the island began to emerge out of the haze. Clayton pointed a hand towards it.
’There we are. Bone Island.’
Moose smiled, in a sly, self-satisfied way. ’Maybe I’m being a little foolhardy in saying this; but it should be a piece of cake cracking this case, Eddie.’
’Aye. I’ll be surprised if we haven’t sown it up in a few days.’
’I wish I were as confident, chief.’
’Just study it for a second. The murder takes place on an isolated little island. Apart from the deceased, there were only eight people on the island. It follows therefore that it had to be one of those eight that did the deed.’
’It seems that way, Inspector.’
’Seems! There’s no argument about it at all. If one of those eight can’t establish a credible alibi, as to where he or she was when Third was shot, we have our killer.’
’Well, let’s hope it’s an open and shut case.’
’Oh, we’ll get to the bottom of it all right. We’ll question each suspect in turn. As soon as we’ve seen the rest of the team.’
The island approached ever closer, grew larger and took on clearer definition. It had a wild, rugged grandeur about it that stirred some hidden emotions in the two men.
The boat maneuvered itself through a little inlet and berthed itself at a wooden jetty. The two men disembarked and were met there by Sergeant Hope, an old acquaintance of Moose.
’It’s good to see you again, Inspector Moose.’
’Aye; it’s been a fair few years, sergeant.’
’And this I take it is Detective Sergeant Clayton?’
’The one and only, sergeant,’ exclaimed Clayton.
The sergeant turned and pointed to a rickety wooden stairway that climbed up a wind worn bluff to terra firma.
’If you’ll care to come this way, gentlemen; a car is waiting to take you to Rose Manor.’
When, after taking a few breathers along the way, they reached the top, they noted a number of large signs spread about, which stated, in emphatic black lettering: THIS IS PRIVATE PROPERTY. TRESPASSERS WILL BE PROSECUTED.
’Blimey, he wasn’t taking any chances, was he, Inspector?’ reflected Clayton.
’No. But it’s of no consequence to him now.’
’Yeah. Death does put a rather different complexion on things.’
The doors were opened and they entered a police car which set of along a winding, snaking road to Rose Manor. Then Clayton was amazed to see, amidst the wild, rugged terrain of the island, the bunkers, greens and fairways of a pristine golf course that had been carefully landscaped from such unpromising material.
’Crikey, chief, he’s even built himself a golf course out here.’
’He could have afforded that with his pocket money.’
Then ahead of them, as the car sped down the island road, and dramatically crowning a rise of land, stood Rose Manor; the seasonal holiday residence of the late Sir Richard Third. It was a vast, neo-gothic apparition, with great, arched windows, a steep, slate roof, and a huge, crenulated tower.
Clayton whistled to himself. ’Just look at that state of that, chief. Rose Manor.’
’Aye. It looks like something out of the Brothers Grimm.’
’It’d give Windsor Castle a run for its money.’
’It certainly would.’
’Quite a pile to put on an island like this.’
’Well; y’know what these plutocrats are like? With the sort of money they have they can do whatever they want.’ The inspector looked from the imposing mansion to the wild, rugged landscape that surrounded it. ’And it wasn’t just that heap of stone that he owned. He possessed the whole island. Every cove and every blade of grass. It was his own little playground.’ He turned to Clayton. ‘And this was just one of his hang-outs. He had other places, in London, the Riviera, Tuscany and the Bahamas.’
’Oh, he wasn’t short of a bob or two,’ said Clayton. ’Only last week he was on the telly, bragging about some new acquisition he’d made.’
’Yes, and he had the politicians around his little finger, Eddie. He was regularly invited to does at Number Ten and Chequers. And there was speculation that he was about to wear the ermine in the House of Lords.’
’It’s amazing the doors a cheque book can open.’
’But he’s going nowhere now. Except the cemetery.’
’All that power and influence in one man’s hands.’ Clayton shook his head. ’It makes you wonder if aren’t due for a revolution in this country, chief?’
’Steady on, lad. I’m a member of my local Conservative club.’
’Aye,’ thought Clayton to himself, ’and the Masons as well.’
’Yes, he was rolling in dosh, Eddie. But it’s doing him no good now. Not where he is.’
A number of uniformed policeman and women were stood in the forecourt of the mansion. The car crawled to a halt under the portico. The driver got out and opened the doors for the two inspectors to alight. Then the door of the mansion creaked open and Mr. Bosworth walked over to the two detectives. He was a short, balding, middle aged man; yet with an air of brisk military precision in his bearing and his immaculate attire. He had been in the employ of the Third family for the last fifteen years.
’If you’ll come this way, gentlemen; we’ve been expecting you.’
They walked through the door into a vast, arcaded reception hall; with a sumptuous stairway, flanked by two sculptured gargoyles, that led to an upper gallery. It had the strange atmosphere of some sinister institution. Their steps echoed over the cold stone floor, which contained large, square, colorful mosaics, on obscure mythological themes.
Moose turned to Clayton. ’Right then, Eddie, let’s see the rest of the crew.’
The two men met the rest of the police team in a grand banqueting hall, which had been converted, for the time being, into the main incident room.