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Sunday, 13 September 2015

The Problem of Rong Bridge part III

              But this is...impossible. She didn’t mention that there was a murder where she lived, at that time she probably wasn’t even aware herself. The neighbours found out late as well, and they even cared about it. Be it as it may, she is in trouble now and I am responsible for it. I have to undo it somehow; need to get her out of this mess. I won’t tell them though that I know her, because an impartial advocate is more believable than someone who is acting out of interest. So I took a few deep breaths to conceal my agitation and when the officer came back I tried to sound as bored as I could.
‘So you want to arrest her? Just like that, without a hint of evidence? Some sort of a motive?’
‘What do you mean no evidence? What about the blood stained murder weapon with her fingerprints on it?’
‘What?’ I waved him of, ‘that partial one?’
‘Are you crazy? You yourself said that’s acceptable,’ and he looked at me with piercing eyes.
‘Yeah, but you know, the economy is recovering, the graphs are rising as well, why settle? Right?’ I asked him, almost begged him actually.
‘I can’t understand you Azeu, you are making no sense. I knew from the beginning that things don’t add up, I just wanted to wrap it up quickly, you know, for your article.’
I didn’t care anymore that he was blaming me again; all I wanted is a way out of this. But I was running out of time as he finished fiddling on his computer and set off towards the door. He didn’t wait for me, but I couldn’t let him leave me there.
‘Are you going already?’
‘No point in waiting, I don’t want her to slip through my fingers.’
That made two of us, but I think that he had different plans.
‘Don’t you need some warrant? Some official paper?’ I tried desperately stalling for time.
‘All I need is reasonable doubt.’
And he took his jacket as he was walking away from me. I could have tried limping but that hardly ever works, even in a football game, so I followed him reluctantly.
In the car he was quiet and me hopeless. I couldn’t see any way out of this and all I could think about was what I was losing. For such a long time I thought I would never see her again, now that I bumped into her I was hoping to see her all the time and instead I’ll lose her again? Even worse, I’ll get her in jail? Maybe I could visit her there, though I doubt that she’ll be willing to see me. This was clearly desperate dumb thinking. It never even occurred to me that she did it, nor that I should hide my internal turmoil now, inspector Nofaught wasn’t good at reading people’s faces anyway. He might have concluded that I don’t have to play the piano. He did in fact say something and I guess I would have preferred another dumb conclusion.
‘I think that these two were in it together, the husband and the tenant, and she killed her so that nothing would stand in the way of their love.’ he mumbled it, seemingly to himself. Me on the other hand didn’t mumble at all, I shouted:
‘She doesn’t love him!’
‘How do you know that?’ said the policeman, seemingly just realising that I was sitting next to him.
‘Weeeeeel,’ I stalled again, realising that I could have given myself away, ‘this girl looks so young...and the husband is....middle aged at least ...older than her.’
 He was just laughing, ‘Older? That’s a cliché, don’t you know that love knows no boundaries?
I didn’t reply, just kept on thinking frantically, what if it’s not her print after all? Maybe they’ve made a mistake? I don’t know, but if she gets arrested today in my presence, with my assistance, she won’t be willing to see me anymore and there’ll be no more smile, no more perfume, only the trembling will haunt me inside. Maybe it’s not the same gun. Maybe it’s just a toy.
Maybe this, maybe that, that’s all I could think of, but nothing useful and we were already there. As we were going around the house, I told him that I may have left some things on the porch and we should get it but he just kept on walking. I was hoping maybe she wasn’t at home but I spotted her silhouette behind the curtains.
Then I had the most desperate idea: I’ll knock the officer out and will run away with Esther, hand in hand, to the end of the world. He was reaching towards the door knob; I was raising my arm when we heard a voice from behind: ‘Inspector Nofaught!’ We turned around, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see and old bearded fellow standing there surrounded in a golden light with naked fat babies flying all around. But it was just the husband.
‘I’ve found the note,’ he said and he held up a sheet of wrinkled paper.
‘What note?’ asked the inspector as he took a few steps towards him. Away from Esther’s door.
‘The suicide note, my late wife’s note.’
‘What? Where did you get that?’ He looked at him quite severely and didn’t take the note, though the husband tried to hand it to him.
‘We have a drawer, the sweet drawer as we used to call it,’ and a faint smile crossed the husband’s face, ‘this is our weakness. Was our weakness,’ he corrected himself mournfully, ‘and she put it there, wrapped it around a Snickers bar, maybe she wanted to ease my pain this way, I think she was hoping that I will learn about this...incident from this note, because it starts like this: "By the time you read this I’ll be no more”’
‘And you’ve just noticed it now?’ interrupted the officer.
‘Well,’ said the husband and he looked offended, ‘I wasn’t exactly in the mood for sweets, even now I just looked in there by chance.’
‘What else does it say?’ eased up Nofaught, though it seemed to me that he found all this extremely dubious.
‘It says that she is sorry that sometimes she was rude to me and that she realized that it was a mistake,’ read the man, but it seemed that he was only sampling a few lines, ‘and that she feels sick and she isn’t strong enough to fight this sickness and she’d rather take this way out then a slow and painful death. It also says that she doesn’t want to cause any inconvenience, with the blood and all that so she’ll go outside, she always hated that ugly bridge so it will do just fine.’
‘Is this your wife’s handwriting?’
‘It is.’
‘I hope you know that we can and we will check that.’
‘I do.’
In the mean time the door opened behind us.
‘Azeu! You? Here?’ Esther shouted in excitement. ‘Oh, and the officer is here as well,’ she added as she noticed the inspector who was just jumping on me.
‘Azeu! You know her?’
‘Yes, we go way back,’ I said as I tried to look as cool as possible.
‘You failed to mention that.’
‘I just found out that she is the tenant. She wasn’t home when we were here, remember?’
‘That’s true,’ he admitted, but still was looking at me doubtfully as he slowly turned towards Esther.
‘Young lady, have you seen this before?’ and he took a plastic bag out of his pocket and handed it to her. It was the gun. She took it, looked at it then gave it back.
‘Yes, I did see this before. A couple of weeks ago Mrs Murray knocked on my door, she had a box with her, filled with old knick-knacks, toys – she said – and she wanted to show it to me if I’m interested.’
‘Was this commonplace? I mean did Mrs Murray come to you often?’
‘No, actually this was the first time. And last,’ she added, with an awkward smile. ‘Usually we barely even met and most of the time she just looked through me, but now she seemed so sad so I tried to cheer her up by looking at her toys, at this pistol as well among others.’ said she as she pointed to the gun.
‘Toy???’ exclaimed the flabbergasted detective.
‘Yes, that’s what she said. It belonged to her little brother. I remember saying that these toys, like all the old toys are much more crafted than nowadays. She didn’t take this nicely, got upset packed her things and left, I think she felt offended by me calling those toys old, ‘cause, by extension that would make her younger brother old and her even more so,’ she giggled on her faux pas.
‘It seems that everything fits,’ acknowledged the officer.
‘Why were you so bedazzled when I said that this gun is a toy? Is it not?’ Esther asked curiously.
‘No it’s not,’ said Nofaught with exaggerated severity. ‘This is the gun which was used by Mrs Murray.’ Then he turned towards me, ‘you see Azeu, I told you that the first impression is never wrong.’ Then he turned to Mr Murray, ‘I have in my car an evidence bag, we’ll put this note there, you know, fingerprints and stuff, but it’s just pure formality.’
‘Yes, yes, I understand,’ said the husband and they walked away leaving the two of us alone. We looked at each other; I clumsily shrugged, ‘could we...go inside...or not?’
‘Oh, I’m sorry, you’re quite right, how silly of me,’ she said as she led the way. I followed her, wasn’t sure what to say, should I tell her what happened or try to make something up. I concluded to fill her in and let her decide if she ever wants to see me again. She didn’t get upset; even found the whole thing hilarious.
‘You’ve got to believe me Esther, I didn’t want to lock you away...in a jail.’
‘Where did you want to lock me then?’ she laughed.
‘No, no, I didn’t mean it to sound that way,’ and to get out of this awkward situation, I said: ‘I hope you are not blaming yourself.’
‘For what?’
‘You know...for finding that gun amongst her old toys. I mean, I think she wanted you to find it.’
‘Yeah, I know, she wanted me to touch it, to leave fingerprints on it!’
‘Exactly, that’s what I was thinking as well!’ And then I remembered Mr Harris’s second interpretation of the dying man’s words and although I knew now that those were not his last words I also knew that it could have been. Mr Harris stumbled upon the truth by mistake. But I didn’t bring this up to Esther.
 ‘I think that she wanted to kill her husband and wanted to frame you for it.’
‘Precisely, but somehow he beat her to it and shot her first. I didn’t really know her but whenever I heard them fight it was always her doing the shouting. Sometimes I even thought she was arguing with herself.’
‘I have the same feeling, that he realised what she was planning and shot her, maybe even made it look like the one from the Sherlock Holmes story, but this clever detective didn’t realise it. I also think that this morning when I told him that we suspect you he didn’t want you to get in trouble, so he took my stick and blamed it on a bird that happened to fly there and while I was chasing this black and white bird...’
‘Black and white bird? It is called a magpie,’ she laughed.
‘Is it? Well then, as I was chasing this magpie he recovered the gun from the water, that’s why it was still wet and the fingerprints were partly washed as well. Then he climbed up to the nest, he was probably aware of the existence of the nest anyway, chucked the weapon and my pen drive in there and he called me there to find it.’
‘You are in the wrong job Azeu. You should be a detective.’
‘No, no this is all supposition; I can’t prove any of it.’
‘I think I can add another detail to it as well,’ she said, with a hint of her beautiful smile lingering on her cheek.
‘Can you?’
‘Yes. Just a few hours ago he came in here; I was quite surprised as he has never been here before. We talked a little bit, I felt like I should console him but I’m quite clumsy in these situations and I couldn’t think of anything to say, so I reminisced about the time she was here as "those good old days". Probably he knew what was in the box and knowing her wife he also realised what she was playing at, so he quickly made that farewell note.’
‘Did it seem forged to you as well?’
‘You must be joking! That was as fake as a lunch break chit-chat.’ It was nice to see that we reason in the same fashion.
‘So we solved the case, right? We can’t prove it though, but I don’t think we need to, everyone looks at it as good riddance and as far as we are concerned the main thing is that you are not involved.’
‘Not thanks to you,’ she frowned, but it was clear that she was joking. 
‘So are you okay with it?’
‘With what? That you labelled me a mentally instable dangerous broad hunting for unsuspecting husbands?’ she said, continuing the charade.
‘Yeah, now that you mention it I meant to ask you about that fallen tower on the table. What’s with that?’
‘When Mrs Murray was here with her box of goodies she left a bag on the chair full with those pieces and I felt like building, so I made a tower.’
‘What about the text?’
‘My masterpiece fell while I was away and when I got in I was listening to some music and as I walked in, these were the words that I heard. I thought that it couldn’t be more appropriate so I wrote it down, I liked the way it clanged anyway.’
‘It does sound pretty cool.’
Then an awkward silence set in, we just sat there and it made me really nervous and I felt that Esther was uncomfortable as well.
‘So what now?’ I asked, breaking this awful silence.
Esther laughed: ‘I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a date and I don’t want to be late.’
‘You are right. May I accompany you?’
‘I think that would be nice,’ said she and her smile just got bigger.
It was a bit chilly outside, but I had no pockets, so I tried to discreetly rub my hands together, didn’t want her to see it and have the impression that I am making some kind of obscene celebrating gesture. But she did notice and reacted in her kind way:
‘Are your hands cold?’
‘Yes, a little bit.’
‘I’ve got a big pocket; I think I can accommodate one hand.’
‘Really? That would be lovely.’
So I stuck my hand in her pocket, it was a nice warm feeling to have it so close to hers. I wouldn’t have minded a smaller pocket though.
As we were walking side by side in silence – I guess we were a bit nervous about the date – I spotted Mr Harris wobbling towards us. What are the odds of bumping into him, out of all the zillions of people in Rotham:? One to zillions? And it happened just then, which was good for two reasons. First of all I wanted to talk to him anyway, and secondly because, from now on I can walk around a zillion times minus one and never meet him again. So I walked straight to him, and much to the astonishment of Esther I just said, without a greeting or any other social facade: ‘I know what were Mr Gers’s last words, I’ve told her wife already and now I’m telling it to you as well: "I haven’t paid the electricity bill, nor the gas, and I am a few months back with the car insurance as well. Tell her, tell her." Have a nice evening Mr Harris.’
And off we went, with our hands in her pocket, disappearing in the sunset, or the next street, whichever came first. 




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