Authors: Geraldine Evans
‘Ask him yourself,’ she snapped and went out, loudly banging the door to behind her.
‘Daff. Go and get him, please.’
Llewellyn followed Alice Pickford into the hall, closing the door gently to behind him.
Pensive, Rafferty sat back He'd let both women get the better of him. He'd hoped to shock Penelope Chapman into some further ill-advised admission with the revelation that he knew about her strapped-for-cash boyfriend, but she'd said nothing that he didn't already know. Oh well. Women always seemed to get the better of him. He put it down to his ma's childhood conditioning. At least, with Adam Chapman, he had something solid in his gambling debts, his secret homosexuality and his over-nighting boyfriend, to get his teeth into.
he glanced at his watch, he realized that Adam and his siblings would have to wait. For once, Sam Dally had managed to find an early slot in his schedule and had pencilled Dahlia Sullivan in for her post mortem before lunch. They'd better get a move on or they'd be late again.
Rafferty found Llewellyn just coming out of the drawing room with Adam Chapman in tow. ‘Sorry, sir,’ he said to Adam. ‘We'll have to leave our little chat till later.’ He turned to Llewellyn. ‘We're due at the PM. How could you have let me forget?’
Llewellyn consulted his watch. He looked crestfallen. ‘I'm sorry, sir. I didn't notice the time.’
‘Never mind. If I put my foot down we should get there more or less on schedule. Come on. Don't want Sam having another pop.’
‘I can't understand how I can have been so careless.’ As they walked to the door and out to the car, it was clear that Llewellyn was upset about his lapse. Admittedly, it wasn't like him. Punctual to the second he was, always. Or else early. Usually early.
‘I told you not to worry about it, man. You know Sam'll blame me, anyway.’
‘Even so. I feel it's my fault. I know you're–‘ He stopped short and Rafferty laughed.
‘Lackadaisical? Johnny-come-lately? Tardy tits? I am. I freely confess it. But it's my only vice.’
‘There's the speeding.’
‘All right. I confess to speeding and being late.’ He opened the car door and got behind the wheel.
‘And you're a bit too fond of alcohol.’
‘Right. I'm a dipso, speeding, late boy.’
‘And then, you have a tendency to deliberately annoy the superintendent.’
‘Can't count that as a vice. In my book it's a virtue.’ He put his foot down and roared out of the drive. ‘Bless me, Father, for I have sinned,’ he muttered for Llewellyn's benefit.
‘I doubt He'll forgive you unless you at least mend your speeding ways.’
‘No chance. Oh well. ‘S’pose I'll just have to stay a sinner.’ He screeched to a stop at the traffic lights and they both lurched forward.
He heard Llewellyn give a long-suffering sigh and laughed. ‘Mea culpa, copper. All right. Have it your way. We're late, anyway. Might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb.’
Llewellyn sighed again. ‘I'll tell Dr Dally it's my fault we're late.’
‘No need. He enjoys having a go at me. Why spoil his fun? It's the only pleasure he gets these days, now he can't get a rise out of his pecker.’
Llewellyn tutted quietly at this insensitive observation. Rafferty was just about to pick him up on it when the lights changed. To detract from Llewellyn's nit-picking, he pulled away with all the decorum of a nun at matins. He even managed to keep it up right to the door of Elmhurst General Hospital, the usual venue for post mortems.
For once they were lucky, and from the look of it, Sam Dally had barely begun. Dally didn't stop to chastise them, but went placidly on with his work. Silently, they helped themselves to protective gear and crept to the end by the victim's toes .
Sam looked up as if surprised to see them. ‘Ah, Rafferty. There you are. You'll have checked for yourself this time when you found the body no doubt. It's suffocation again. The head wounds are superficial and wouldn't have killed her. And this time, nobody's stuck a knife in.’
‘Do you reckon it could be two separate attacks, like last time? Two would-be murderers?’
‘Anything's possible. You'd better ask your God to enlighten you.’ He handed the heart to his assistant for weighing. ‘Oh, I forgot. You're a heathen.’
‘I'm not a bloody heathen. Cheeky sod. I was a lapsed Catholic, but now, if anything, I'm a nature-worshipper. Especially when nature comes in the form of my lovely bride.’
‘Then I must be one, too. Not,’ Sam hastened to add, ‘ that I ever look at your lovely bride.’
‘You'd be the only man who doesn't, then. Even Llewellyn watches her and they're cousins.’
Llewellyn reddened and stared at him. ‘I do not.’
‘Yes you do. I've seen you. It's all right, man. It's not as if lusting after your cousin is even against the law nowadays.’ Secretly amused to see he'd rendered his sergeant speechless for once, he turned back to Sam. ‘Any idea of the time of death?’
‘Not too late. Sometime after midnight and before two in the morning.’
‘And no one stabbed this one without us noticing?’
‘No. I told you. Pin your ears back.’ Sam looked at him over his spectacles. ‘I don't make that mistake twice, laddie, though I don't know about you.’
‘Mmm. It's a quandary, isn't it? We've got two murders: one victim smothered to death and then knifed through the heart afterwards. And this one beaten about the head and then smothered for good measure. I suppose it's possible whoever beat her about the head wasn't sure they'd hit her hard enough to kill her. Still, to then put a pillow over her head as well…’ Seems a bit like overkill.
‘Perhaps it was your two murderers again,’ Sam teased. ‘Up to their old tricks.’
‘Ha, bloody ha. For all we know, we've got four murd–‘ He broke off and corrected himself. ‘Two murderers and two would-be ones, is what I mean.’
‘You sure, laddie?’
‘Seems to me, then, that you're running out of options. Sounds to me as if a bit of common sense is called for. For the first murder, you had seven suspects. For this one, you've got six. In your book, with two murderers and two would-be murderers, that makes two-thirds of them killers or would-be killers. Sounds a bit unlikely to me.’
Rafferty nodded. It did to him, too. But unlikely as it seemed, he had to consider all the options. And when you thought about the antagonisms, jealousies and resentments in the Egerton family, the theory didn't sound quite so unlikely.
He didn't stay till the end of the post mortem. He wanted to get back and interview the three Egerton grandchildren. He said goodbye to Sam and his lady assistant and made for the car. When he saw Llewellyn's face still looking like a slapped backside after his little dig about fancying Abra, he sighed and handed the car keys over without a word. It was the only way to appease him.
Egerton was in the hall with his coat on when they got back to the house.
‘Oh. There you are,’ he said. ‘I thought you'd forgotten about me. I was just going back to work. I've got a lot to do there.’
‘I hadn't forgotten about you, sir, of that you can be sure.’
Adam met his eyes for a few moments, then his gaze dropped and he turned away. He removed his coat and hung it in the hall cupboard. Then he turned round and said with a false brightness, ‘I'm all yours.’
‘If you'll come through to the study, sir?’ Rafferty led the way, with Llewellyn taking up the rear. Rafferty assumed it would make Adam feel he was under guard. Perhaps it would unnerve him?
‘Now, sir,’ he said, once they were settled in the study with the door shut. ‘Your mother will have told you the news about Dahlia Sullivan.’
‘Yes. Poor old Dahl. Such a shame.’
‘As you'll also know, I'm asking for everyone to account for their movements last night.’
‘Me? I was in bed.’
‘Yes, as it happens.’ Adam looked intently at him, then away again.
‘And what time did you go to bed?’
‘About eleven. I spent an hour going over my plans for the business and turned the light out around midnight.’
‘You've got plans already?’
Adam gave a taut smile. ‘I know what you're thinking, Inspector. That I'm quick off the mark and my grannie not even buried. But I've had these plans for some time. I showed them to grannie for her approval and didn't get it. Anyway, I just regurgitated them for my own use. They're pretty good as they stand. I'm going to entirely revamp and–’
‘I understand you plan to extend the young male fashion side of the business?’
‘That's right. I see someone's been talking about me. By the way, how's Freddie? I must pop up to see him.’
‘He's not too good, sir. In fact, I'd go as far as to say he's a broken man.’
‘Poor old Freddie. Dahlia was his life. God knows what he'll do without her. And what about his retirement plans? I can't see him retiring to Spain on his own.’
‘I suppose he can always stay here. I'm sure my mother wouldn't mind.’
Rafferty recalled the visit to the house of his estate agent cousin with his measuring tape gadget, and said, ‘I think your mother's got plans for the house. And they don't include taking Freddie Sullivan in as a lodger. Even if they did, it wouldn't be much of a life for a man of his years, stuck in a poky bedroom on the top floor. Bit too Upstairs, Downstairs for my taste.’
‘Mmm. I see what you mean. Perhaps, after all, he'd be happier in Spain. At least he'd have a proper home, rather than the ‘poky bedroom’, as you called it.’
‘Anyway, perhaps we can move on. You didn't hear any noises in the night?’
‘What, you mean like someone sneaking down the creaking staircase? No. Just lately I've slept like a man keen to get to his dreams.’
‘And what about your brother and sister? Did either of them hear any unexplained noises in the night?’
‘Not as far as I know. They never mentioned it if they did.’
‘Have you any idea why someone would kill Dahlia?’
Adam shook his head. ‘None. I always liked Dahlia, though my great aunt thought she was too familiar and took advantage.’ Adam laughed. ‘Huh. She's a fine one to talk and at least Dahlia could cook. I'm going to miss her cooking.’
‘And the woman herself?’
‘Of course. I've known her since I was old enough to toddle into the kitchen on my own. In many ways, Dahlia was like a second grannie, always giving me things that mum wouldn't like. Cakes and sweets and so on. I've very fond memories of Dahlia.’
‘Okay, Mr Chambers. We'll call it a day, there. Could you send your brother in, please?’
‘Sure.’ Adam got to the door, then turned back. ‘You know, I get the feeling I'm being fitted up for these murders.’
‘Why would you say that?’
‘I heard on the grapevine that you know I'm the thing that dare not speak its name – at least not in front of grannie. And someone's spilled the beans about my gambling debts and my frustrated plans for the business. That's three strikes against me.’
‘And the little matter of a forged cheque.’
‘Oh. You know about that, too?’
‘Four counts against me. I suppose you think that's pretty telling?’
‘We tend to judge a person by what he does or has done, sir. I've always found that a good indication of what a person
Adam stared at him hard for a few seconds, clearly not finding his words of much comfort. Then he nodded and went out, shutting the door with a subtle whisper.
‘Do we?’ Llewellyn asked.
‘Do we what?’
‘Judge a man by what he's done?’
‘I do. I've always found it a telling indication of character. Why? Is there some politically-correct ban on that as well?’
Llewellyn gave a faint smile. ‘None of which I'm aware. I was thinking more that Mr Adam Chambers has shown very little predilection to actually break any major laws, certainly not to commit murder. He forged a cheque – once only to our knowledge. And he takes recreational drugs.’
‘So? What's your point?’
‘Just that he is no more likely than the rest of his family to have killed Mrs Egerton or Mrs Sullivan.’
‘Doesn't seem to be how the other members of his family see it. And they're in a position to know.’
‘Yet none of them has accused him outright.’
Their conversation broke off as there came a knock on the door. Rafferty told their visitor to come in. Eric Chambers entered the room and shut the door carefully behind him.
‘Mr Chambers. Please sit down. As you'll know, I'm questioning all of the family about this latest death. I wondered if you could tell me anything about it.’
‘No. I'm afraid not. I slept soundly. What time was Dahlia killed?’
‘Between midnight and two o'clock’
Eric frowned. ‘You seem to have rather fastened on the family for this death. Why? Surely, it's more likely to be an outsider? No one in the family would want to murder Dahlia. We were all very fond of her. In fact, she invited me to visit her at her Spanish villa when she retired.’