Some Live, Some Die

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The Third Party: The Extinguished Flames

“How can you be so sure that Mr. Maurice Higham was murdered?” asked the police officer.

“Look at the victim’s breast pocket on the right side of his suit,” said Adrian.

The police officer did as he was told. He saw the handkerchief in the right side of the victim’s breast pocket. Glancing back at Adrian, he gave a quizzical expression as though he still did not understand what Adrian was trying to tell him.

“When you wear formal attire, which side of your suit do you usually put your handkerchief in?” Adrian hinted at the police officer.

“In the left side of my coat in the breast pocket,” replied the police officer. “It’s easier to reach with my right hand that way.”

“Exactly!” said Adrian.

“But how does it prove that this was a staged murder and not a suicide?” questioned the police officer.

“It’s because the victim is left-handed,” answered the detective. “If he was going to commit suicide, he would have shot himself on the left side of his head.”

“So the note must’ve been written by the killer,” said the police officer. “Speaking of notes, I also found some really important documents in Mr. Victor Higham’s bag while I was searching the cloakroom.”

He presented Adrian some legal documents to disown Maurice Higham as Victor Higham’s son. The detective gave a lengthy skim through the documents, mentally taking note of every detail written inside.

“Visit every showroom and ask if the victim has purchased anything during the Fortnum & Mason’s promotion,” Adrian then instructed. “If you can get your hands on a cheque, we can compare his handwriting to the one in the note.”

The police officer nodded and hurried off while Adrian returned to the makeshift powder room to question the suspects. Constable Havers had also returned with Ivan Walsted who was one of the suspects who had passed through the reception and onto the terrace.

“What’s going on?” muttered Ivan Walsted impatiently.

“I’m glad you asked Mr. Walsted,” said Adrian. “You were called here because you are suspected of murdering Mr. Maurice Higham.”

“Maurice is dead?!” exclaimed Ivan, “So that’s why I wasn’t able to find him in the past hour. I wanted to discuss something with him.”

“Why did you go towards the terrace?” questioned Adrian. “Was that where you were planning to meet Maurice?”

“I initially planned to stay away from Maurice,” replied Ivan. “I did not expect him to show up at Mr. Hange Hurston’s third party. I only went through reception in order to access the washrooms. The receptionist should be able to vouch for me.”

Adrian briefly froze when he heard this. This simply could not be a coincidence anymore. He remembered seeing on the layout at the Strand entrance, the name of the person who organised the event on Mr. Hange Hurston’s behalf. Perhaps he could catch the event organiser and request for the party plan and the guest lists.

“Recent development with this case shows that Maurice did not commit suicide, but was murdered,” said Adrian. “The murderer wanted everyone to believe that he had committed suicide. However, they made one mistake.”

“What was the mistake?” asked Victor.

“The murderer didn’t know that the victim was left-handed,” Adrian explained. “When I was examining the body, I noticed his handkerchief was in the breast pocket on the right side of his suit, and he was wearing his wristwatch on his right hand.”

“That is correct,” replied Victor. “My son was left-handed. He was forced to use his right-hand during most of his school years.”

“I suppose you knew the victim too,” said Adrian as he turned to Ivan. “What was your relationship with him?”

“Maurice and I were business partners,” replied Ivan. “He hired me a few months ago to help him establish a business of his own. I was really baffled since Maurice is the direct heir of the Higham household.”

“I suppose it has something to do with this?” asked Adrian as he presented Victor with the legal documents to disown Maurice.

“How dare you go through my possessions!” exclaimed Victor. “This is confidential! If this gets out, the Higham name will be further sullied!”

“Your son was murdered!” shouted Adrian, “Unless you were the one who ended up killing Maurice because you feared of the consequences after you disowned him?”

“Maurice was my son, but he did not become the person I hoped he would become,” said Victor. “Perhaps I am to blame for how I raised him after my wife died from childbirth.”

“But why disown him?” asked Adrian.

“It was Maurice’s fault that my business had suffered badly!” snapped Victor, “Last year, I was receiving stacks of letters and phone calls from the bank, informing me that my bank account was about to experience an overdraft. That I was owing some money to certain people. It was then when one of those people showed up at my house to tell me that it was my son who owed them some money from a bet he had lost! That man was a disgrace to the Higham family!”

“That is one strong motive for wanting to kill your own son,” said Adrian. “I hope you really didn’t take extreme measures to end Maurice’s self-indulgence, all for the sake of saving your family name.”

“I was not the only one who was affected by my son’s gallivanting habits,” Victor then shouted. “Your attention should be focused on Miss Leslie Beckford. She was the one who was most affected!”

Leslie pursed her lips together as she gripped the skirt of her dress. Adrian could tell by her reaction that things did not end well between the victim and Leslie after their engagement had been nullified.

“Mr. Higham is right,” Leslie finally spoke. “Maurice was not the type of man a woman would devote her entire life to. When Mr. Higham and my father arranged for us to be engaged, the Higham family was already suffering financially.”

“And how was your relationship with Maurice until the nullification?” asked Adrian out of curiosity.

“Nothing romantic ever happened between us,” said Leslie. “All he was interested in was money. Due to his financial situation, Maurice was always borrowing money from me. It later got to the point where I just couldn’t do it anymore. So he asked for my late mother’s ring. He said he wanted to have it examined by a jeweller to see it’s value so I foolishly allowed him. The next time I met him, he told me that he had pawned it for money.”

“Surely that wasn’t your only motive that could have driven you to kill him?” Adrian wondered out aloud.

“No!” exclaimed Leslie, “I actually took it upon myself to investigate. I visited the pawn shop where he said he had pawned the ring, but the shop owner told me that he did not receive such a ring. Then on my way home later that day, I found him with my late mother’s ring, and he was giving it to another woman he had been secretly seeing!”

“And you called the engagement off?” asked Adrian.

“Yes,” said Leslie. “I was the one who ended the engagement. I hoped that I would never have to see that man again, until this evening. Father could not accompany me this time round, so I came with Hattie who is my lady companion. At the drinks bar, I bumped into Ernest Gravetye and started talking to him until Maurice showed up.”

“And I suppose that it was awkward for you to meet him again,” said Adrian.

“He kept harassing me about our nullified engagement!” shouted Leslie, “Saying how glad he was when I ended things with him because he said I was boring to be around!”

Leslie then buried her face into her hands as she quietly sobbed with embarrassment. Victor placed his hand on her shoulder to calm her down.

“But you did the right thing Miss Leslie,” he told her. “I simply cannot imagine you spending the rest of your life by the side of that hypocrite son of mine.”

“However Miss Beckford,” said Adrian sternly. “There are certain people who are the types to cling onto their grudges. Especially in a failed courtship.”

At that moment, Constable Havers hurried inside the powder room to inform Adrian that there had been further developments with the case. Excusing himself from the suspects, Adrian left the powder room to see what had been discovered.

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