This is the seventeenth part of a fiction serial, in 1278 words.
His secretary buzzed the intercom. “I have a police officer on the phone, a detective Henderson. He is asking to speak to you”. Alex grinned. Just a small grin, he would save the big grin until later. “Put him through, Lily”.
“Mr Conroy, this is Tom Henderson. I am on the investigating team for the murder of your neighbour, Allan Sinclair”. Alex didn’t reply, so he continued. “I was wondering if it would be convenient to call at your house this Saturday. Say about nine? I would very much like to be able to look at your garden in daylight, and would prefer it if you were there”. “Alex hesitated, as if checking a diary. “Saturday? At nine? That will be fine. See you then”. As Tom hung up, it didn’t escape his notice that Conroy hadn’t asked why he wanted to look at his garden.
The press conference was going ahead as scheduled, that Friday morning. The liaison officer had told Don and Jean that they could go home after that, as the police were finished in their house. But there could be no funeral for some time, in case of a trial, so the body of their much loved son would languish in the county mortuary for the foreseeable future. Don had agreed to speak, and Jean would also appear, though would say nothing. The room was capable of accommodating a lot of people, but only seven journalists had turned up. There were also two TV camera crews with reporters, one local, and one national. Four press photographers had secured spots right at the front, but despite delaying the start for almost fifteen minutes, no more media people had arrived.
Inspector Mullins noticed the low attendance as they filed out onto the top table. The story was already going off the boil, after a week of not much happening. He knew it was important to keep up the momentum, but a terrible train crash in Scotland was dominating the news that morning. Mullins introduced himself, then pointed to Sally and told them her name and rank. He mentioned that Superintendent Singh was still in charge of the case, then introduced the Sinclairs by name. Behind them was a large photo of Allan, taken at home on his sixteenth birthday. Mullins ran through the details of the case so far. But he didn’t reveal the new information that Allan was attacked in his bedroom. He wanted to hold onto that for now, so as not to give away too much to the killer. After answering some questions from reporters, he held up his hand and said, “Now Mr Sinclair will make a short statement. He and his wife will not be taking questions, so please do not cause them any further upset”.
The cameras all turned in Don’s direction, motor-drive clicks breaking the silence, flash strobes illuminating the table. He stared straight into the nearest lens, speaking in a normal voice, apparently calm. “This is a message for whoever murdered our defenceless son. The light of our life. A boy who never so much as harmed a fly. I don’t want the police to catch you, because I am going to find you, and then I am going to kill you”. The room erupted with shouted questions, and calls of ‘Mr Sinclair’, and ‘Don’, as they tried to get him to answer. But Inspector Mullins was already ushering them out of the conference room, calling out to the reporters as he left. “Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. Nothing further today”. He was so annoyed, he didn’t speak to the Sinclairs. Instead, he turned to their liaison officer. “Sort them out. Get them home, and shut him up”. But he was pleased about one thing. Don’s unexpected statement had certainly shaken up the story. It would be front page tomorrow, he was sure of that.
It had been a strange week for Lucy. Alex had said nothing more about her confession, and acted as if nothing had happened. Other than sleeping in the guest room, her life had returned to normal. She told herself she should be happy about that, as it could have been much worse. But she wasn’t happy at all. When she got home from work that evening, Alex was already there. He had come home early, and was in the garden, using the hose to water everything. She called out to him. “Dinner at seven, is that alright?” He smiled and nodded, so she went into the kitchen to get started. As they were eating, he spoke as if he had suddenly remembered something. “Oh, a detective is coming tomorrow at nine. He wants to look at our garden, something to do with the murder. It might be an idea if you are out shopping, don’t you think?” Lucy nodded. “Actually, I was thinking I might drive up to the city. I could do with getting some new clothes. I really should smarten myself up a bit”. He didn’t look up, just nodded as he spoke. “Good”.
Sally Wilcox was finishing her second glass of Pinot Grigio, glad to be home from work at last. Mullins had been ranting and raving before she left, blaming everyone for Don’s unscheduled threat at the press conference. Emily was driving her mad too, analysing all the details of the case, and making endless suggestions. Sally knew that those suggestions were just criticisms in disguise, and after the first glass of wine, she had exploded. Emily wasn’t used to being talked back to, and had stomped off into the study, claiming she had to work. The atmosphere was going to be thick enough to cut with a knife later, and Sally couldn’t be doing with it. As she poured the third glass, she thought she should really eat something first. But the fuzzy head felt good. It had been a hectic week, and she deserved to unwind.
Lucy loaded the dishwasher and decided to go straight upstairs to read. Alex was watching a documentary about concentration camps, and she hated seeing the films of people being killed by Nazis. After ten minutes of reading the same page, she gave up. Taking the card from inside her bag, she dialled the number, using her mobile. “Wilcox”. She sounded sleepy, a little slurred. Lucy spoke quietly. You never knew what Alex could hear. “Hello, this is Lucy Conroy, you spoke to me at work the other day, do you remember?” Sally was surprised to hear from her, but strangely pleased. “Of course I do, Lucy. What can I do for you?” Lucy felt stupid asking, but she did anyway. “Well it’s silly really, but I wanted to ask where you got that suit you were wearing. I thought it looked so smart, and I am going shopping in the city tomorrow, so thought I would see if they had something similar in my size”. Sally smiled, imagining Lucy in a smart business suit. “It was in New Image, the concession shop inside Taylor and Lloyd. You know, the big department store. But it was last year, so I doubt they will still have it”.
Lucy was pleased, she knew that shop. “Oh thanks, I know where that is of course, so I will check out what they have in stock now.”
Sally drained the third glass, and stifled a small burp. “Tell you what, Lucy. Why don’t I meet you there, in the cafe upstairs? Say about ten? Then we could have some lunch later, after you find something”. Lucy beamed, and raised her voice slightly. “That would be great. That’s so kind of you”.
To be continued…