Chapter Twenty Two
Carruthers felt belittled and betrayed. As Casey’s agent, he’d no idea of any direct association between her and Goldhawk. When she’d first approached him as a wannabe writer, with what he thought was a promising manuscript, he’d taken her into his ‘stable’ and negotiated a contract with Goddard and Co. Two of her subsequent novels had proved best sellers and he’d assumed that editor-in-chief, Goldhawk, had accepted her work on literary and commercial merit. To have that belief challenged by Jacqueline’s denouncement of her and the implication that she’d gone behind his back left a foul taste.
He’d taken Chelsey’s derogatory comments about her writing as sour grapes at her rising success, but was there more to it than that? Jacqueline obviously thought there was. Yes, Casey was a hit with the public in her genre and Carruthers had thought it was a reflection on his own ability to spot talent, but she’d also been afforded an unusual amount of advance publicity, it wasn’t common practice at all.
And what was he to make of Jacqueline’s referral to a ‘lesbian scorned?’ It had immediately followed her accusations against Casey but when he’d questioned her on her utterance she’d remained tight lipped.
It might have been more of a blow to his self-esteem had Chelsey’s disappearance not held sway. Because as determined as he was to confront Casey over her behaviour, he needed to return to the New Forest, to find Foulkes and to track down Noades.
Both could hold the key to locating Chelsey, and much as he shuddered at the prospect, only when the mystery was solved could he begin to tackle normality.
He was acutely aware of the need to advise Manners of his actions, and no matter what the Inspector might make of them, he wasn’t a prisoner; at least as yet. Carruthers sat in his car outside Jacqueline’s gates and called Manners on his direct line.
‘I know you’re not going to like this,’ he began, fingers tapping the wheel, ‘but I’ve got my own life to live while this is going on, and as I’m not prime suspect I’m returning to the New Forest for a day or two – I thought you should be told.’
‘On the contrary,’ came Manners’ smooth reply. ‘I find that quite acceptable.’ There was a pause and then a sneeze. ‘Are you on your way now?’
‘As a matter of fact, yes,’ Carruthers said firing the engine. ‘Why do you ask?’
‘So that I know when to expect you. Shall we say Lyndhurst police headquarters then, around two pm?’
Carruthers clutched his forehead. ‘What’s going on?’
‘There’s been a development.’
‘Which of course you’re not going to tell me about,’ Carruthers said caustically.
‘Correction; which I will tell you about upon your arrival. I wouldn’t want to encourage you to use your mobile phone when driving.’
‘Thanks a bunch.’ Carruthers terminated the call, his head beginning to throb. Surely any new development must include Chelsey. Had the man no compassion that he couldn’t understand how his obsession with secrecy played on people’s emotions?
He arrived back in Lyndhurst two hours later, the journey having done nothing for his spirits – outbreaks of rain had prevailed throughout his drive, and now, stepping out of his air-conditioned vehicle he was aware of an increasing humidity.
He’d over an hour to wait until his appointment with Manners, and after showering in his hotel room Carruthers took a brisk walk to the newsagent along the high street where the bold headline on the placard delivered him a high voltage shock.
Body Found In Forest – Carruthers stared in horror as he took in the heart-wrenching possibility that it might be his wife, before hurrying into the shop and snatching a paper from
A man’s body, believed to be that of a local vagrant was found yesterday evening in undergrowth close to Ornamental Drive in the New Forest.
Carruthers first experienced a flood of relief that it wasn’t Chelsey, but as realisation dawned that the body might be Foulkes,’ the implications began to gnaw at his mind.
First and foremost, if the body were to be that of Foulkes then his first point of contact was eliminated, but before his mind had a chance to lead on from there Carruthers forced it away, vowing to keep his senses sharp. It did no good to dwell on what might or might not be.
Manners was leaving his car as Carruthers reached the police station forecourt. The Inspector halted on seeing him and adjusting his black raincoat, flicked his eyes to the heavens. ‘Hardly the best of days in more ways than one; thank you for joining me,’ and before Carruthers could deliver a terse reply – ‘I’ll be with you as soon as I’ve consulted my counterparts. Meanwhile if you’ll wait in the foyer…’ Manners stepped through the entrance ahead of Carruthers, indicated a row of bench seats and after a word with the desk clerk was ushered inside the secure area.
Typical of Manners, Carruthers thought, no mention of why he’d been summoned here, though thanks to the newsagents he had a pretty good idea.
As it happened he’d over thirty minutes to wait before Sergeant Higginbotham raised the security catch and beckoned him through. He was led into the same office where the Sergeant had interviewed him, and where Manners now sat in a chair alongside the desk.
Manners, his forearms on the side of Higginbotham’s desk, his fingers interlocked, nodded for Carruthers to take a seat. ‘There has been an unfortunate development Mr Carruthers, which could conceivably be linked to Mr Goldhawk’s murder.’
‘You mean you’ve found another body,’ Carruthers said, his tone curt. ‘Why beat about the bush?’ and then sighing, ‘I know, I’ve read the newspaper.’
‘Precisely.’ Manners fixed him with a cold stare. ‘The dead man was a vagrant called Foulkes. I gather you’ve had dealings with him.’
Carruthers nodded, sat hunched; this confirmed his worst suspicions. ‘He was the one we first saw on the forest – Chelsey thought he’d followed us – that he’d been watching her.’
‘Indeed,’ Manners cut in, throwing a glance at Higginbotham. ‘Foulkes’ death could be mere coincidence, but we could suppose that whoever murdered him had knowledge of him seeing your wife getting into the car, and thus eliminated a lead.’
‘So Foulkes was murdered?’
‘I said, we could suppose, Mr. Carruthers,’ Manners said flatly. ‘The cause of death has yet to be established.’
Higginbotham leaned onto his desk. ‘It has to be said,’ he interjected, ‘that Foulkes was known to us and surrounded by petty crooks – any of whom might have held a grudge against him.’
Carruthers looked to Manners, narrowed his eyes. ‘Nonetheless you obviously suspect a connection or you wouldn’t be here.’
Manners nodded. ‘And I wouldn’t have requested your presence – since you appear to have connections with both of the deceased…’
‘I had no reason to want Foulkes dead – he was my only lead, so if you’re inferring…’
‘Please calm yourself, Mr. Carruthers.’ Manners raised a hand, paused. ‘Can you tell us about your wife’s state of mind the afternoon you encountered Foulkes – allowing for her temperament, did she appear unusually distressed?’
Carruthers sighed, rubbed a hand across his face. ‘She objected to Foulkes, she found him
obnoxious – she did get heated with him but apart from that Chelsey was her normal self.’
‘Or as normal as she could be,’ Manners said quietly, his eyes fixed on a folder lying on Higginbotham’s desk.
‘Just what do you mean by that?’
Manners reached for the folder. ‘I have to tell you, Mr. Carruthers, that we found fragments of what appear to be pages from Mrs Carruthers’ diary in Mr Goldhawk’s pockets.’ He delved into the file, took out a couple of sheets. ‘These are of course copies, but would you kindly verify that this is your wife’s handwriting? As you’ll note they appear to make references to sexual advances made against her. She seemed somewhat angry.’
‘Wouldn’t you be?’ Carruthers felt the heat building, he felt sweat trickle down his neck. Flinging the copies back at Manners, he said, ‘I can see where you’re leading – why the hell would Chelsey want to thrust parts of her diary, no matter how angry she might be, into his pocket. I can’t hold with that. I’m not sitting here …’
‘Please sit down, Mr Carruthers.’
Carruthers had got up to leave but Manners response carried the weight of command rather than request. ‘You don’t understand. You have to appreciate the psychological motives of the suspect. Your wife was so enraged with Goldhawk that she simply ripped the relevant parts from her diary and stuffed them into his pocket. In her mind Goldhawk was going to his death with her feelings and reasons for doing what she did embe dded in his clothing. She
wouldn’t have known that the river’s swell would dump him on the towpath before the Thames had had a chance to consume both him and the diary parts.’
‘But Chelsey had the diary with her, at the hotel!’ Carruthers yelled.
Manners looked long and hard. ‘So you say, Mr Carruthers, so do you know more about this than you’re admitting to? It would seem, that given the probability that your wife left the area in a car driven by another, that she had an accomplice.
‘You see now, why I cannot exclude you from my suspicions?’
Chapter Twenty Three
Carruthers sank his head into his hands and shook it. ‘I don’t care what you’ve found on Goldhawk’s body, Chelsey had nothing to do with his death and neither did I.’
Manners sniffed. ‘Right now, Mr. Carruthers, I’m having difficulty agreeing with you. Such evidence as we have …’ Manners broke off as the phone rang. Higginbotham took the call, frowned. ‘Confirmed you say? Right, thanks, Jess.’
He turned to Manners, no words being exchanged but the Inspector’s nod of the head told Carruthers they weren’t needed.
‘I suggest we visit the latest murder scene,’ Manners said, rising quickly to his feet. He regarded Carruthers through narrowing eyes. ‘Yes, we have another one. I’d be obliged if you’d accompany us.’
‘Do I have any choice?’ Carruthers asked curtly.
Manners shrugged. ‘You’re a free man for the time being.’
Carruthers pulled on his raincoat, let the Inspector’s comment ride. ‘Might I ask why you request my company?’
‘It certainly isn’t companionship, Mr. Carruthers.’ Manners slipped on his own coat, perhaps there was a glimmer of amusement in his eyes as he added, ‘I don’t think we’d quite hit it off, do you? No, the reason I’ve asked you along,’ Manners continued as Higginbotham slipped into the driver’s seat, on what was a wet and squally afternoon, ‘is that you might conceivably see or remember something that might jog your memory. It happens.’
The Inspector turned away, looking out onto a wild afternoon and then glanced sharply back at him. ‘Run through again, if you wouldn’t mind, the events of the afternoon your wife vanished. I want to get things clear in my mind.’
Carruthers sighed, and like Manners ran his eyes over the bleak exterior. By the time he’d
given his pained account of a cycle ride he wished had never taken place, Higginbotham had driven into Ornamental Drive, parking in the same area he’d used when accompanied by Casey, and next to a couple of police vehicles.
He was further surprised when Higginbotham led them along the same trail he’d taken with Chelsey that afternoon, passing through the smaller enclosed area and then out to the clearing where he’d arranged to meet Foulkes.
Higginbotham stopped, nodded to the undergrowth from whence came rustling sounds, and white clad figures similar to those he’d found in Chiswick emerged from a narrow track. After a brief exchange with them, Manners and Higginbotham came back towards him.
‘The body was found there,’ Carruthers said flatly.
Manners raised his brows, lofted his head. ‘You don’t seem surprised.’
‘No – I thought it was strange.’
‘I didn’t for one moment think Chelsey had anything to do with Goldhawk’s death. I only wanted to find Chelsey, so I tracked Foulkes down. He said he’d seen her with somebody at the spot where she disappeared and I believed him – after all, Chelsey had been adamant Foulkes had been watching her. But he asked for cash and I had to leave the area to get it. I arranged to meet him back here, but when I got back after half an hour or so there was no sign of him.’
Crevices appeared on Manners’ brow. ‘Why on earth didn’t you tell me this?’
Carruthers shrugged. ‘I’d been meaning to but I was so dumbfounded about the diary it took my mind clean away.’
Manners minced his lips, nodded. ‘Exactly where did you arrange to meet him?’
‘As I say, right here in the clearing. May I ask what was the cause of his death?’
Manners afforded Carruthers a stony stare, as if he thought he already knew the answer to the question. ‘Indentations were found around the neck of the victim, inflicted it seems by a physically powerful person, or indeed, someone with a great deal of anger to discharge.
‘Can you think of anybody who might have been involved in Mr Foulkes’ death?’
‘I …’ Carruthers started then stopped abruptly, shaking his head. Casey’s silhouette had flashed before him; the sophisticated Casey Jennings who’d so recently called him her best pal, who’d apparently had a much closer connection with Goldhawk than she’d disclosed – who’d accompanied him to the Forest in his search for Foulkes, and when he’d returned to the car park been nowhere to be seen. And then the long, unexplained scratch marks he’d seen on her neck that day – and she had strong hands, he knew that for a fact …
‘Mr. Carruthers, if you’re holding anything back I’m advising you to reveal it …’ While Carruthers had been lost in his inner musings Manners had been watching him intently. ‘I hardly need to remind you that your own position is somewhat precarious.’
‘No, there’s nothing.’ Carruthers forced his hands into his raincoat pockets, hunched it around him. He couldn’t seriously put Casey forward as a suspect, and yet …
‘Very well, if you’re certain.’ But Manners was eyeing him sideways on, with that cold look. ‘I take it nothing further has triggered your mind?’
‘No, nothing,’ Carruthers answered grimly.
‘Because it strikes me, that if what you say is true and the time of death is found to be approximate to your discussion with him, then somebody quite likely had Foulkes under
observation and conceivably murdered him to eliminate a lead. And I suggest, Mr Carruthers, that that person was either your wife or an accomplice.’
‘Rubbish!’ Carruthers yelled, rain driven into his mouth by the gusting wind making him cough. ‘I’ve told you, whoever’s behind this it can’t be Chelsey.’
‘Can’t, Mr Carruthers?’ Manners raised his head in his annoying way, leaning sideways in his chair, his fingers tapping its arms. ‘And how do you deduce that?’
Carruthers lowered his gaze, there was no logical way that he could – he simply believed it to be the case. ‘I’ll find her. I’ll prove it.’
Manners met Carruthers’ eyes when he finally looked up. ‘You would be best advised to leave matters in our hands. We have issued a warrant for Mrs Carruthers’ arrest. All possible leads will be followed up.’
‘You’re making a mistake,’ Carruthers said bitterly, still coughing rainwater from his lungs.
‘There is precious little evidence of that,’ Manners said dismissively, ‘but I’ll grant you one thing. You’re apparent conviction of her innocence is in itself, convincing.’
‘Because I know she couldn’t carry this out.’ Carruthers strode away. ‘I’ll find my own way back.’