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Brian E Cross

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Carruthers' Demise, Chapters twenty four & twenty five
By Brian E Cross
Friday, July 20, 2012

Rated "R" by the Author.

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Martin Carruthers' novelist wife Chelsey has disappeared, moreover, she is suspected of murder.

Chapter Twenty Four
 
 

Carruthers returned to Chiswick with his mind swimming in a whirlpool, not relishing the prospect of paying Jacqueline Goldhawk a call but determined nonetheless to do it. Casey’s bizarre and heated conversation needed following up.

He drew up outside his mews house not bothering to garage his car and set to work on the list of Chelsey’s known contacts requested by Manners. It took his fuzzy head perhaps thirty minutes to complete the task, and then, on a muggy evening with dusk setting in he decided on a walk to the towpath. That, and a bit of air, he thought, might help him sleep.

Surprised to find the red and white tape removed and the towpath void of police activity he strolled in the direction of Kew, a course frequently taken with Chelsey at his side, her hand in his, although as he reflected sadly, of late she’d chosen to walk alone. Why, he hadn’t determined, but then Chelsey had a writer’s mind and who knew what plots were bubbling inside her head.

Except of late her writing had suffered –

He sighed, looked up as a rowing crew passed swiftly along the Thames, their cox letting blast through a megaphone. After they’d gone he heard the sound of steel-tipped heels behind him, footwear not normally associated with the towpath at this time of night. Carruthers turned quickly out of curiosity and stopped, his stomach beginning to churn.

‘Nice evening, if not a trifle close don’t you think?’ Jack Manners breathed in air, slapped his chest. ‘Out for an evening walk I see.’

Carruthers shot a glance at the grey-suited Inspector. ‘Aren’t you somewhat overdressed for these parts?’ he said, aware of the sarcasm in his voice. ‘I take it I’m being followed.’

‘Not necessarily.’ Manners stopped, placed his hands on some railings, the implication being that Carruthers did likewise. He fixed him with his cool, grey stare. ‘But the murderer has a habit of returning to the scene of his crime, some kind of warped conscience you know.’

‘I see.’ Carruthers chewed his lip, laid his gaze on Manners. ‘And I take it from your heavy emphasis on ”his” you’re implying it’s me.’

‘My position remains unchanged,’ Manners said smoothly, ‘but if you think the cap fits…’ he broke off, looking away.

‘Why aren’t you telling me what you’re holding on my wife?’ Carruthers snapped, irritated by the Inspector’s sudden appearance and his vague insinuations.

‘Because it’s not appropriate to do so.’ Manners turned slowly back to him. ‘At least not at the current time. I take it you’ve compiled a list of all known…’

‘Yes – and if I’d have known you’d be following me I’d have brought it along. I’ll drop it in tomorrow.’

‘Nine o’clock would be acceptable, any later would not.’

Carruthers let out a sharp breath. ‘Inspector, if you’ve nothing specific to ask me, I take it I’m allowed to walk home unhindered.’

‘Naturally.’ Manners eyes undertook a slow sweep of Carruthers’ face. ‘Unless you know of any reason why I should detain you?

‘No? Then please continue Mr. Carruthers – and sleep well.’ Manners sneezed and walked away. ‘And I should get something for that cold,’ Carruthers called petulantly after him.

Sleep well! He fumbled in his pocket for his cigarettes. Manners certainly knew how to get under a person’s skin. If only he’d be equally adept at apprehending Goldhawk’s real killer.

Bile rose thickly in his throat as he returned to the mews in the bitter-sweet knowledge that it couldn’t have been Chelsey. He’d establish as much for a fact if he managed to track down Foulkes and Noades.

***

Carruthers handed in Manners’ list shortly before nine the following morning and then set off for Jacqueline Goldhawk’s house at Hazlemere, arriving there some forty minutes later. Unlike the evening of his previous visit, the place was bereft of vehicles and depressingly silent. It took a while for his buzz to be answered and he began to suspect he’d been observed and declined. But eventually Jacqueline appeared, looking jaded and weary.

‘I’m surprised to find you here, Martin…’ she said, her tone giving him every indication that he shouldn’t be there. Carruthers hung his head then met her cold stare. ‘I was sorry to hear about Alexander’s death.’ He bit his bottom lip. ‘I know we had that confrontation, but please believe me I had nothing to do with it; though some might think differently.’

Jacqueline’s lashes met fleetingly. She looked away but held the door open. ‘Come in, Martin.’ Leading him into the lounge, she asked, ‘Can I get you anything?’

‘No thanks, I won’t impose on you…’

Jacqueline fingered the collar of her dark frock, steadily appraising him. ‘Sit down Martin, you look exhausted – stay for a cup of tea at least.’

Carruthers nodded readily, he hadn’t expected the courtesy, locking his fingers tensely until she returned, placing a tray before him.

Sitting on the sofa opposite, she sighed. ‘Look Martin, for what it’s worth I’m not blaming you for what happened to my husband. I’ve discovered some things recently which have been deliberately concealed from me – things that tell me Alexander wasn’t the man I thought he was. If I’d have known then my lips would have stayed sealed, I wouldn’t have been in such a hurry to report your argument with Alexander to the police.’

Carruthers shook his head, took a sip of his tea. ‘I don’t hold that against you either. I would have taken much the same course.’ He placed his cup on the saucer. ‘I need to ask you a question, Jacqueline.’

Jacqueline brushed her frock. ‘I thought there might be more than condolences…’

‘I walked in on a phone conversation last night,’ Carruthers said, jumping in with both feet.

‘I can guess, Casey Jennings.’ Jacqueline took a deep breath. ‘Alexander hasn’t even been laid to rest before she’s bombarding me with questions about whose succeeding him at…’ she paused, ‘I mean how should I know? Look I don’t want to be talking about her – that woman is as pushy as they come.’

‘Pushy?’

Jacqueline stiffened. ‘Oh, very well. I can see by your expression, Martin, that I’ve surprised you. It might surprise you even more if I say I think there was more going on…’ she added, emotion overcoming her reluctance.

‘Casey?’ Carruthers frowned, narrowed his eyes. ‘Casey wouldn’t…’

‘Oh don’t get me wrong,’ Jacqueline raised her hand, wearily expelled air, looking back at him with eyes wide. ‘It’s only since this - business - that I’ve realised what a deceitfully licentious man he was. The things I’ve found hidden away – photos, notes, you name it. God knows what’s on his computer, I shudder to think.’ She nodded towards the window. ‘The police have just removed them.’

Carruthers leaned forward, took a drink from his cup and almost let it overflow. ‘Are you saying that Casey and Alexander were having an affair?’

‘Perhaps, perhaps not but nothing would surprise me there. I do know there was far more contact between them than need be and I don’t think it was all my husband’s fault. I was never struck on her writing to be blatantly honest – it wouldn’t surprise me if she allowed my husband to take advantage of her for – well let’s just say career enhancement.’

She held up a hand. ‘Oh Martin, I’m sorry. I know you’re her agent and what I’m saying is shocking but there were times when she stuck to him like a leech, and Alexander being the sort of man I’ve discovered him to be – need I say more?’

Jacqueline slouched forward, some of the anguish having vented itself. ‘I could of course be wrong, but…’

Carruthers was rendered speechless. The idea of a strong association between the pair hadn’t entered his mind. Casey had given the impression of being the last person to engage in anything immoral. And he being her agent, representing her affairs and dealing with Goldhawk, hadn’t had a clue –

‘I take it no news on Chelsey?’ Jacqueline had been asking; she had to repeat her question before Carruthers’ mind honed in on it. ‘No.’ He breathed deeply. ‘Nothing I’m afraid.’ He gulped down the remainder of his tea, sighed. ‘I’d better be going, Jacqueline.’ He turned on the doorstep. ‘I hope they find Alexander’s murderer, and that he serves the full term.’

‘He?’ Jacqueline’s eyes widened. ‘He’s been stepping on plenty of toes,’ she remarked, ‘but there’s nobody more vicious than a lesbian scorned.’

‘You really think that’s a possibility?’

But Jacqueline Goldhawk merely raised her brows, shrugged, and closed the door behind him.

 
 

 The clock is ticking, my dear – it might have reached its hour, but no – perhaps a moment too soon. Who knows what opportunities might spring forth if I exercise a little patience – allow a little more time for the perfect resolution. After all, my penultimate chapter is not yet complete. The ending remains to be written, and who knows what the final outcome will be?

 

 
Chapter Twenty Five
 
 

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 peoples’ 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

the stand.

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 the 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.’

‘Do you see now, why I cannot exclude you from my suspicions?’

 

       Web Site: Brian Cross, writer & editor

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