But He Was Already Dead When I Got There (22 page)

BOOK: But He Was Already Dead When I Got There
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Toomey picked a floppy disc at random and slipped it into the computer. He was staring at the Murdochs' budget when Simon walked in. The apartment manager had wasted no time.

“Well, Lieutenant, I see you've made yourself at home,” Simon said archly. “Do you need anything? Shall I send out for pizza?”

Toomey held out the search warrant without taking his eyes off the computer screen.

Simon glanced at the warrant and drawled, “How very official-looking. Whatever do you expect to find? A signed confession tucked away amidst old telephone bills? Ah, I have it! You're looking for the Ellandy promissory note! Look as much as you like, Lieutenant. You won't find it here.”

“You have a safe deposit box.”

“Doesn't everybody? Ours contains stock certificates and some of Dorrie's jewelry. And deeds to some property. But I don't think your search warrant covers safe deposit boxes.”

“I can get another one.”

“I'm sure you can,” Simon half-smiled. “Very well, I'll open the box for you if you insist.” He peered over Toomey's shoulder at the computer screen. “Tell me, Lieutenant—how is knowing how much we anticipate spending on dry-cleaning this year going to help you catch Uncle Vincent's killer?”

Just then one of the men searching the rest of the apartment came in. “Lieutenant, I got something that looks like one of the items on the list. I found it in Mrs. Murdoch's bureau—wrapped in a nightgown.” Using his handkerchief, he placed a small jade horse on the desk nearest Toomey.

Toomey thought he heard Simon groan. The Lieutenant examined the little horse without picking it up; it was a lovely piece of workmanship. He turned toward Simon and cocked an eyebrow at him.

Simon cocked his own eyebrow back.

“It's only a matter of getting Mrs. Polk to identify it,” Toomey said mildly.

“Yes, I suppose it is,” Simon sighed. “Oh Dorrie, Dorrie! Well, Lieutenant? What happens now?”

“Now we go downtown for a nice, long chat. We're going to talk and talk and talk until I can no longer think of anything to ask you, and then we'll talk some more. Rizzuto, pick up Mrs. Murdoch at Ellandy Jewels and bring her in. Come on, Murdoch—let's go.”

11

Gretchen Knox sat in her breakfast room with Paul Bernstein's report spread out on the table in front of her and wondered what it all meant.

The private investigator had phoned earlier in the day to say the report would be delivered shortly by his secretary. Then he'd told her the police had also requested a copy. However, Bernstein had pointed out smoothly, the report he'd provided Lieutenant Toomey was missing several pages that were included in her own copy. He told her which pages.

They were the ones that detailed her earlier short-lived affair with Malcolm Conner. Uncle Vincent had had Malcolm investigated, not her; but the investigation had been carried out at the time Gretchen was making secret visits to Malcolm's pre-Nicole apartment and once or twice to a hotel, just for variety. Everything was there—dates, places, even the few lunches they'd had together.

But the police didn't know anything about the affair—how fortunate she'd gone to Bernstein when she did! But of course that was what she was supposed to think; Bernstein was no fool. The police didn't know about the affair—but
Uncle Vincent had known
. He'd known, and he'd not said a word. By now Gretchen knew better than to think Uncle Vincent had been trying to protect her; it was just that acknowledging her own marital infidelity would have weakened his attack on Lionel.

It was the report on Lionel's visit to London that was causing her trouble. He'd lied to her about having to check on an elderly relative. Gretchen hated being lied to, but what puzzled her was that he'd apparently lied to Dorrie Murdoch as well. Gretchen remembered the trip; Lionel had been gone only a week and Dorrie too had thought it was a personal matter that took Lionel to England. Or at least she'd said she did.

The English investigator who'd followed Lionel around London reported the “subject” had made two visits to the De Beers Corporation offices. Gretchen frowned. She was vaguely aware that De Beers had something to do with diamonds. A business trip? The real purpose of which Lionel was concealing from his partner?

The phone rang; it was her uncle's manservant. “Miss Gretchen, I don't like bothering you,” said Bjarne Pedersen, “but may I have permission to use Mr. Vincent's Rolls tomorrow? To drive Mrs. Polk and me to the funeral?”

“Of course, Barney. You know the time and place?”

“Yes, ma'am, Mr. Lionel told us. Is there anything we can do to help?”

She thought a moment. “Ask Mrs. Polk to have some light refreshments prepared—some of us will be going to the house afterwards. She'll know the sort of thing.”

“Yessum. Anything else?”

She told him no and hung up. Uncle Vincent's lawyer wanted to have a reading of the will after the funeral. It seemed to her Uncle Vincent's house was the proper setting for such a scene.

Gretchen sat and thought about that will for a few minutes. She'd known for years she was Uncle Vincent's heir, but it was only now sinking in on her that she was a very rich woman. She could do whatever she wanted, without having to talk it over with a husband or an uncle.
Whatever she wanted!
An unfamiliar feeling began to creep over her—was it
power
?

Money
was
power—she'd never really understood that before. Now she had the control of a great deal of money, and she didn't have to spend it the way other people told her to. She must be strong about that; it was her money now. The money was her strength. She would make her own decisions.

Strong
—Gretchen liked that word.
Sensitive
was all right as far as it went, but people sort of took that quality for granted. She'd been sensitive all her life, and where had it gotten her? Nobody paid any attention to her when she talked, and Lionel made fun of her and called her Lou Ann Poovey. Well, there'd be no more of that; from now on she was going to be
strong
. And she could, too.
Because I believe in me!
she thought with a sudden, self-congratulatory surge of exuberance. She tried pumping her fist the way she'd seen the Wimbledon players do, but it just made her feel silly.

Gretchen looked through the pages of Bernstein's report until she found those relating to Lionel's London trip. She read them again. De Beers, diamonds. There was one person she knew who could tell her about diamonds.

Decision number one. Go see Simon Murdoch.

At that very moment Simon Murdoch was sitting in a police interrogation room trying hard to look amused.

He was not amused. He was furious, and it was his lovely and ever-loving wife who was the cause of his fury. It was Dorrie who had dragged him back to Uncle Vincent's on the murder night, it was Dorrie's idea to muss up the library to confuse matters, it was Dorrie who'd been caught hiding in the closet, it was Dorrie who had gasped when she saw the can of Redi-Whip and aroused Lieutenant Toomey's suspicions even more, and it was self-coddling Dorrie who hadn't been able to bring herself to give up the little jade horse. It was a good thing they were so much in love, Simon thought; otherwise he might
kill
her.

“The lights were still on when you left,” Lieutenant Toomey said. “You're sure about that?”

“Positive,” said Simon. “We talked about whether a burglar would bother turning them off or not, and we decided not.”

Simon had called Malcolm Conner before leaving the apartment, and the lawyer had been waiting for them at the police station when they got there. Malcolm's advice was to make a clean breast of everything, hold back nothing.
They've got the goods on you now
, he'd said. The police were looking for a killer, he'd said, not a couple of misguided meddlers. If they cooperated fully, the police might not be too hard on them. Simon had been surprised and irritated to learn that Malcolm knew all about their illicit nocturnal visit to Uncle Vincent's library; Dorrie had confided in him and asked his advice. Simon wondered what else dear little Dorrie had done that he didn't know about.

“You touched the body, didn't you?” Toomey wanted to know. “Had it started stiffening yet?”

“Oh dear.” Simon pulled at the lobe of his ear. “I'd say it was tending slightly toward rigidity.”

“How did you leave the house? Back over the wall?”

“No, we simply opened the terrace gate and walked out. We were loaded down with things like
little jade horses
, if you'll recall.”

Toomey smiled and wondered how long it would take the lovebirds to make up. “All right, let's go over it again. You got to Uncle Vincent's at what time?”

“Lieutenant, we've already been over the whole thing twice. You've got my wife shut away in another charming room like this one where she is undoubtedly saying exactly the same things I've been saying. Why do I have to keep repeating myself?”

“To make sure you didn't forget anything. Once more now What time did you get there?”

Simon sighed wearily. “Around two-thirty,” he said, and started all over again.

Forty minutes later Toomey took a break. He summoned Rizzuto out of the interrogation room where Dorrie had been put, and the two compared notes. The Murdochs were telling the same story.

“Do you believe 'em, Lieutenant?” Rizzuto asked. “I gotta feelin' she's tellin' the truth.”

Toomey agreed. “I think we're hearing the true story. Thank god Dorrie coveted that jade horse—we'd never know any of this otherwise.” The divers had not found the airline bag in the muck at the bottom of the river, but that no longer mattered. Now they had the jade horse.

“You can't charge 'em,” Rizzuto said, “not without arresting the Knoxes too. They did the same thing, messin' with the evidence.”

“I don't want to arrest them—any of them. I want them all running loose. For a while, at least. Have you noticed, Rizzuto? This crowd just can't sit still. They always have to be doing something. Let's see what they do next.”

“Turn 'em loose?”

“In a bit. What say we swap? I'll take Dorrie for a while and you give Simon a try.”

Malcolm Conner was in the interrogation room with his sister, his face pinched and disapproving. Dorrie herself was beginning to wilt. Malcolm said, “How much longer is this going on, Lieutenant? We've been here—”

“Just a little longer, Mr. Conner. I want to hear Mrs. Murdoch's story myself.”

“I already told that sergeant umpty-three times,” Dorrie complained tiredly.

“Once more,” Toomey said, not unkindly. “What time did you and your husband get back to Uncle Vincent's?”

“After two,” she said lethargically. “Maybe two-thirty, around there.” She went on to repeat the story.

Toomey interrupted her frequently, to keep her from just repeating a tale that was beginning to sound memorized. But the basic facts never varied; she and Simon told the same story. In reply to a question from Toomey, Dorrie had described the condition of Uncle Vincent's body as “a mite inflexible”. When he asked her who she thought killed Uncle Vincent, she replied that at first she'd suspected Lionel but now she was pretty sure he was innocent. When Toomey asked her if she thought Nicole could have done it, she became flustered and refused to answer.

“Mrs. Murdoch, what made you decide Lionel Knox was not the killer?”

“Oh, things,” she said vaguely.

“What things?”

“I don't know, just things!” she snapped. “It was silly of me to suspect him in the first place. I changed my mind, that's all.”

That wasn't all, Toomey knew, but it was all he was going to get out of her today. She really looked done in. “Okay, I want you to sign a statement and then you can go,” he said abruptly, and watched both their heads jerk up in surprise. “Don't leave town. You may still be charged with interfering at the scene of a crime. Keep yourself available, Mrs. Murdoch.”

After they'd all gone, Toomey called Rizzuto into his office. “Notice a little problem their story left us with? About the lights?” Rizzuto hadn't caught it. “They both swear they left the library lights on. Yet Lionel Knox says they were out when he got there. He said he looked for a line of light under the library door before he went in, to make sure nobody was in there.”

Rizzuto's eyes bugged. “You mean somebody
else
went into the library—between the Murdochs and Lionel?”

“Looks like it. Let's see, the Murdochs stayed the better part of an hour, so that means they left around three-thirty. Lionel went in at five. Sometime during that hour-and-a-half gap Uncle Vincent had at least one more visitor. Well, there are only two left—it had to be Malcolm or Nicole.”

“Assumin' nobody went in more'n once.”

Toomey's eyebrows rose. “Good point, Rizzuto. Just for kicks—who's your candidate for Uncle Vincent's killer?”

“Gretchen,” the Sergeant said without hesitation. “All that stuff about the loan and Ellandy Jewels and Simon's diamond business and Lionel's affair with Nicole—that's all just a buncha red herrings. Gretchen stood to inherit and she dint like her uncle anyways, so—
pow!
She lets him have it.”

“That simple, huh?”

“Could be,” the Sergeant replied with a knowing air.

Toomey suddenly felt as tired as Dorrie Murdoch had looked. Rizzuto might be right; it could be just as simple as that. An heir who didn't want to wait any longer to inherit. A passive, soft-voiced woman who said
Ugh
whenever anyone mentioned blood.

Sure.

The day of Vincent Farwell's funeral dawned as bright and cheerful as any spring morn that e'er gladdened the soul of a poet. Bjarne Pedersen disapproved; violent death and bright spring days didn't go together. He wanted a gloomy day, with wisps of graveyard mist rising from the ground. It should at least be raining; but there wasn't even one cloud in the sky. Bjarne tried to put himself in the proper mood by imagining Boris Karloff to be among the mourners.

BOOK: But He Was Already Dead When I Got There
8.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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