CHAPTER SIX: COMPLICATIONS
Moose made use of the wall table in the drawing room, as his office desk. It had a phone, a Laptop, and a pad and pen, for taking notes. And by the table was a pile of box files.
Moose was scoffing a sandwich, with a steaming cup of tea near his elbow, while studying a map of the island. There was the the sound of approaching footsteps and then a rap on the door.
Moose dropped the map onto his desk and wiped some crumbs from his hands.
The door creaked open and a rather morose Clayton entered the room. The deflated look on Clayton’s face - which generally had a rather cheery, extravert air about it - had the effect of deflating Moose too; who was keenly expecting good news from his immediate subordinate. Indeed, he was expecting a tangible lead and a breakthrough that would nail the case and apprehend the villain. But clearly something was wrong.
‘Take a seat.’
Clayton took a seat by the side of the wall table.
’Well, how did it go?’
’Well the good news is that our forensic people have managed to establish that those tracks were made at around the time that Moose was killed. They also confirm that traces of mud were found in Third’s study; which suggests that the person who made those tracks entered Third’s study before leaving for the cove.’
‘So this could be the person we’re looking for?’
‘It seems that way, chief.’
‘And that’s the good news?’
’You sound as if there’s a catch, Eddie?’
’I’m afraid there is, chief. We’ve tested those print-casts against the footwear of all our suspects.’
’And there’s no match up.’
“Fraid not. We drew a blank, chief.’
’All their footwear? Not just the ones they happen to be wearing today?’
’All of them. I’m afraid we haven’t got our Cinderella, chief.’
’Well that does complicate matters.’
Moose drew a weary hand across his brow.
’But if it wasn’t one of the eight, who we know were on the island when Third was killed; then who the hell was it? Where did he come from? How did he get here and how did he get off the island, with no one being the wiser? That is if it was a he?’
‘The size of the footprints would suggest a male suspect, Inspector.’
‘You don’t think he could be still on the island, chief?’
‘It’s highly unlikely, Eddie. Someone would have seen him by now. No, he must have done a bunk. After all, why hang around and wait for the police to turn up?’
’Well there’s only one guy that saw him. And that was Third?’
’And he’s keeping schtum.’ He looked sourly about the room. ’I thought we had the key to unlock this whole case, Eddie.’
’That goes for the rest of us, chief. It’s been a big disappointment.’
’It’s led us up a blind alley.’
Moose swigged off the last drop of his tea.
‘Did you buy all that malarkey about Third having some morbid fear of Crescent Cove?’ Clayton asked. ‘To the extent that he wouldn’t even set foot there?’
’I have questioned a few of the others on that one. And they do tend to corroborate what Sir Stanley told us. And besides, as Sir Stanley also pointed out, the disparity in size between Third’s feet and those prints automatically excludes him from having made them.’ He waved a hand, in a rather tetchy manner. ’It’s all irrelevant anyway, Eddie. Even if he did make those tracks, it wouldn’t advance the case by one jot; seeing that he certainly didn’t kill himself.’
’And it’s odd that they all tested positive for gun reside, chief. All eight of our suspects. Even the servants.’
‘Well I enquired further about that. Third, while he was still alive, happened to be a firearms fanatic. Mind you, I guessed that he had a liking for weaponry when I saw all those shooting trophies and pictures in his study. He even had an extensive, state of the art firing range built into the cellars of the house. It so happened that Third - as he frequently did - arranged a shooting competition; the day before his death.’
’It involved both guests and staff. Everyone was co-opted in, whether they liked it or not. We all know how dictatorial his character was.’
‘Oh aye. He didn’t take no for no answer.’
’It involved a clay pigeon shooting competition, with shotguns, and a rifle and gun competition on the firing range, in the cellars. And as always, seeing that he was a crack marksman, he won the competition. And so all eight had gun residue as a result.’
’A perfect arrangement; if one of those eight happened to be the murderer?’
He nodded his head. ‘Yes, it is rather suspiciously convenient.’
’Are we entirely sure that it was Third who first thought of the idea of a shooting competition? Maybe one of the people who were on the island that day suggested the idea of a shooting contest to Third, so as to give himself the ideal cover for murder? After all, it would have been just the thing to appeal to Third.’
’Yes. It’s intriguing idea. But you can put that one to bed, Eddie. I questioned Sir Stanley about that shooting contest. And he assured me that it was Third’s idea from the outset.’
‘Do we just have his word for that, chief?’
’No. I asked some of the others as well as well. And they backed up what Sir Stanley said.’
’Y’know the more I hear about this Third guy the more weird he becomes.’
’Yeah. But he was hardly a barrel of laughs. It’s my guess that there were more than a few people who were popping champagne corks when they heard that he’d been gunned down.’
’It wouldn’t surprise me at all. If I’d have known him, I’d probably be doing the same thing.’
Moose pulled back his chair and got to his feet.
’Well, I’m going to question them all again; to see if we haven’t overlooked something.’
‘Some of them might be playing fast and loose with us, Eddie.’
’But I’m going for a walk first. It might clear my head a bit. D’you want to come along?’
‘Why not. I could do with a breath of fresh air, after being cooped up in this place all day.’
’Yeah. Let’s see the lay of the land.’
The two men stood on top of a wild, wind lashed bluff that overlooked the jagged coast at the west of the island. The tidal waves crashed against the outcrops and the headlands and washed over the shore. Just below them was Crescent Cove itself.
‘Have you ever thought, chief, that it could be a hitman behind all this? A hired assassin, to do the dirty work, and throw suspicion on the rest?’
‘Now that is a thought.’
’One of those big shot businessmen that Third associated with could have hired the services of some underworld killer. They certainly could afford it. It would be peanuts to these guys. It could have been one of those three businessmen who were on the island when Third was killed.’ He paused. ’Yeah. They may not have pulled the trigger; but they could have hired the services of the guy that did.’
Moose carefully considered the question as he looked out over the restless sea. ’Yeah; you could have something there, Eddie. It is a possibility I suppose. People like that have been known to step over the mark before.’
’These people knew this island, and Rose Manor, quite well. They were often here for business discussions with Third. They could have told the assassin where to land. At what date; at what time. How to make his way to the manor, and back again, without being seen. Indeed they could have informed the killer that at certain hours Third would be alone in his study, with the French windows conveniently unlocked.’ He shrugged his shoulders. ‘A sitting duck.’
’It has a certain professional look about it, I must say. Though it could complicate things even further.’ He briefly smiled to himself. ’If that was the case, Eddie, all those keep out signs we saw, on landing on the island, didn’t do him a lot of good.’
’Not his finest investment, inspector.’