FOOTSTEPS TO MURDER

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CHAPTER SEVEN: THE CASE UNWINDS

The two detectives had a meeting in Moose’s office the next day.

’Well, this is the oddest case I’ve ever investigated, Eddie; in all my years as a cop. I’ve questioned them all. Some of them several times. And it’s clear that all eight of them were at different points of the house, or the island, when the murder took place.’

’But someone was in that room, chief; and gunned him down. It can’t have been the invisible man.’

’Yeah, but who? The butler was polishing silverware in the parlour. The housekeeper was making the beds, upstairs. The cook was preparing the evening meal in the kitchen. The gardener was in the potting shed. The other four were outside, exploring the scenic delights of the island. Lady Anne was walking by the bluffs on the Southside of the island, where there’s a noted bird sanctuary. Sir Stanley was examining the prehistoric burial mound on Crow Hill. Hence, by the way, the peculiar name of the island. Lancaster went on a walk around Raven Mire. While Brackenberry took in the delights of Step Cliff. A striking, natural rock formation that, by all acounts, bears an uncanny resemblance to the Giant’s Causeway.’

’That’s all very convenient, chief; as far as they’ve concerned.’

’Since all eight were separated from each other at the time of the murder, no one can establish an alibi, or incriminate any other of the party. And all eight were well away from Crescent Cove, and the approach track from the cove to the manor. And we both noticed that there was plenty of tree cover on the terrain to the west of the manor, leading to the cove. So that it would be possible to sneak up to the terrace of the house without being noticed. It’s therefore highly unlikely that anyone saw this mysterious stranger alighting on the island; then making his way to the house, and into Third’s study; and then making his way back from the house to the cove, and clear off the island again. And of course there was no problem for him getting into the study, when he was on the terrace, seeing that Third left the French windows unlocked during the daylight hours. After all, you’d hardly expect burglars on an isolated little island like this.’

‘All they heard were the shots being fired.’

’And he had plenty of time to do a runner, in all the confusion before the body was found.’

’If that’s the case, then this person could well have pulled off the perfect crime, chief.’

’Aye; you might well be onto something with that hit-man theory, Eddie. This guy could well have known, perhaps through inside information, that Third would be at work, in his study, and that he had the ideal opportunity not only to murder Third, but to throw suspicion onto the other eight who were staying on the island. It would be quite easy to get here on a high speed boat, then shoot off again, after the job’s done; with no one being the wiser. He could have said he was going off on a fishing trip. Who was to know?’

’You don’t think that one of the eight has been telling us porkies, chief? And actually did him in on the sly?’

’How? You’ve seen for yourself that the footprints don’t match up. No, it seems that someone else made those tracks. All the way to his study, then back down to the cove again. Someone who owed Sir Richard a king size grudge.’

’That’d be a long list to go at, Inspector. From what I’ve heard of Third no one seems to have a good word for him.’

’Yeah; that’s true enough.’

’Of course I’ll make some reassuring noises about ongoing enquiries. But I think we’ll have to put this one on the shelf. No good tying up valuable police time on a wild goose chase like this; looking for some unknown suspect who could be anywhere by now. Aye; perhaps on the other side of the world.’

‘It could be some place we don’t even have an extradition treaty with.’

’It wouldn’t surprise me at all. Well, let’s get back to the mainland. I’m getting sick of this place.’

‘D’you think that they’ll be upset when we tell them that we don’t have a suspect for the crime, and that the case is still ongoing?’

‘I suppose so.’ Moose shook his head. ‘Though I get the impression that they’d be even more upset if he was still alive.’

’And not just them. Not quite the open and shut case you imagined to be, chief.’

’No. I’m afraid Third’s death will remain a baffling mystery for some time to come.’

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