The phone again: “Forgot to mention, we do have something else to go on in the fingerprint line. A smudge: Palm of a man’s hand on the glass top of her coffee table.”
“Could have been made weeks ago,” I suggested.
“The expert guess is that it’s fairly recent. Even as recent as yesterday, Manning. Just yesterday. How’s that for laughs?”
Hyland’s off-hand, on-hand manner was beginning to irritate me. It was doubtless another police ploy, but I decided to let him know I was co-operating of my own free will and that I was just as keen to hunt the killer down as he was. In fact, far, far more anxious. It’s true Susan Ford had knocked me back a hundred times, but she’d done that before and then come good! And there was every prospect she’d do it again. She was a first-class bitch, but I was madly in love with her; and I’d no doubt at all that if I persisted long enough, I’d get back into her bed. Every hour, I got down on my knees and prayed that something would go horribly wrong with her life somewhere. That she’d get the sack at work (wherever it was), that she’d fall down the stairs, that she’d lose the bloody election, that some bastard would rob her blind… I knew that if I stayed around long enough, some disaster would happen to the conceited little bitch and then she’d have only one person to turn to for help – namely me!
“I’m glad I got that off my mind,” I answered. “Now you know exactly where I stand.”
“Not quite, Manning. Not quite.”
“Let me make it quite plain then. I’m just as eager as you are to apprehend her killer. He didn’t do me any favors. He robbed me of my most precious possession. My whole reason for existence was to win back Susan’s favor.”
“To get back into her bed?”
“That’s not what I said.”
“Those were your very words. Do you want me to read them back to you?”
“Perhaps I was a little excited?”
“I guess you’ve made yourself very clear, Manning. And just as well. As I said, we’re running out of time. I want to corner this clown quick smart or we’ll have a Chinese New Year on TV and in the papers. Photogenic girl killed in luxury beachfront apartment. I can see it all now. We’ll work all-around-the-clock shifts until this is all cleaned up. Crims don’t work regular hours and we won’t either. Sergeant Jarrett is on his way. Expect him in twenty minutes.”
“I thought you said ninety?”
“I’ll wait for the good sergeant in the lobby.”
“Don’t do that. He’s already left. He might use the other entrance. Wait for him in your apartment.”
I decided to disobey the inspector. The sergeant’s already left, has he? Another typical police ploy! First off, you tell the suspect to expect you in ninety minutes. He makes a dash to gather up any incriminating evidence, and then when he’s got it all in his hands, there’s a cop on his doorstep!
True, there were two entrances to Beachfront Towers, but unless you walked along the beach itself, there was just one roadway, one path. And twenty minutes implied Jarrett was walking, not driving. Of course that could be part of the ruse, but whichever, I would spot him.
Seven forty-five. An autumn Sunday in Beachfront. Cool; a bite in the air, though it will get hot later. For the gaudy chorus line of takeaway “food” shops crowding each other across the corso stage, it’s curtain up!
Enter: – a few leather-skinned swimmers, clutching towels; a dozen or so male teenagers who wander about aimlessly in groups of two and three; four elderly couples, reading newspapers. And now they are joined by the first boat-load and bus-load of See-Beachfront-in-a-day tourists.
The elderly beachcombers read their Sunday papers in the shade, while the rest of us squint our eyes against the early-morning glare.
Jarrett was taking no precautions. In overcoat and hat, he was easy to spot, as he ambled along the pathway towards me. I join him. Neither of us greet each other. Together, we trudge along the promenade in silence. I never feel chatty before ten o’clock and my outburst on the phone with the inspector has drained all the conversation out of me. I have my own thoughts. Besides… I don’t know the rules at Sydney Central, but someone should tell Jarrett that plainclothes operatives at a beach resort don’t wear overcoats and hats any more. The idea is to apear inconspicuous, one with the fun-seeking crowds. Jarrett stood out like an elephant on an iceberg of penguins. I was embarrassed to be seen with the clown.