I headed back to my place the following morning, leaving Jake at Uncle Marks, with Zak. Uncle Mark was heading into work as well, but Jake would be fine with Zak to keep an eye on him. Digger’s SUV was parked in my driveway, alongside my own Jeep. I was happy to see it. The Escape had been alright, as a short term loan, but it didn’t really suit me. The Jeep was way more my style.
The new front door looked pretty similar to my old one, from a distance, Up close and personal, it was a lot stronger, and had more dead bolts too. I headed into the kitchen, with a yell to Digger, to let him know it was me, although I was pretty sure he knew before I’d even reached the door. Sparky was sprawled in my lounge, surrounded by wires and circuits boards.
Sparky shrugged with a sheepish grin. “Extra CCTV. Covers the garage, the back door and the side gate now. I’ve also put an alarm on your fence.”
I closed my eyes and shook my head. “Tell me you’re joking.”
Digger chuckled. “He’s not joking.”
“It still opens like before,” protested Sparky. “It’s just, now, if it gets opened when you don’t want it to, you’ll know about it.”
I rolled my eyes and made a mental note to disable that particular alarm as soon as Sparky had left, before swapping vehicle keys with Digger. I glanced at my new key fob. “Tell me you didn’t fit one of those deafening alarms on the jeep.”
Sparky managed a slightly hurt expression. “It’s alarmed, and it’ll get noticed if it goes off, but it’s not as loud as the SUV. Which reminds me, I need to tone down the alarm on the Escape.”
“Thanks, Sparky. Tell Gus I owe him.” I figured Gus was already well aware of that and plotting how to call in the favor, but it seemed the right thing to say.
“We’ve cleared Jake’s place. All his stuff is in boxes in your spare room. We’re going to fix what got broken there today, and then get his bond back from his landlord.” Digger’s tone of voice was nonchalant. Normally I wouldn’t have rated anyone’s chances of getting their bond back for a place that had been trashed, but somehow, I didn’t think Digger would have too many problems. “Gus is out sorting out alternative accommodation for him.”
I frowned. “Better check with Jake what his budget is. He has the rent on the fishing shack to take care of too.”
Digger grinned. “Don’t worry, it’s in hand.”
I shrugged and decided not to ask any more questions. If Gus had it under control, then it was under control. I decided to head off to Police HQ and leave them to it. I arrived in the bull pen just in time to hear Pete deliver his report to Flint and the Captain.
“Alright, so your suspected suicide, Jonathan Duval. His hands came back negative for GSR. On it’s own, that’s not proof positive that he didn’t fire the gun, but there were no powder burns around the wound either. That means he’d have had to shoot himself from an impossible distance. In my opinion, he didn’t fire the shot.”
“So we’re looking at a second murder? Great.” Benny rubbed his forehead. “Any good news?”
“Well, the gun you found in his hand was definitely the one that killed him. It was also the one that killed Sarah Read. It’s registered to David Read.”
“One killer who leaves the murder weapon in the hand of his second victim?” mused Benny.
“Or someone trying to cover their tracks,” suggested Flint. “Kill Sarah, and then kill Duval to put us off the scent. Make it look like he killed Sarah and then killed himself. Except, they didn’t make too good a job of it. Besides, when we met him, he didn’t exactly seem suicidal.”
“Maybe they thought our interview would rattle him enough to make him a likely suspect?” I frowned and stared out the window. “Maybe we did rattle him. Maybe he called someone and forced their hand.”
“What did we ask that could have rattled him?” asked Flint. “We only asked what his job entailed and if he was close to Sarah.”
“From the look of his apartment, either the charity were paying him too much, or he was skimming money somehow. Maybe he thought we were onto him.” I sighed. “I don’t know.”
“Maybe he wasn’t working alone,” suggested Benny. “Skimming money from a charity like that, isn’t as easy as you might think. Someone usually notices. Is there a deputy Financial Director? Someone who checks his figures?”
Flint consulted his notes and shrugged. “I have no idea. We might get a better idea when we get hold of Duval’s bank records. At least then we’ll know if he really was ripping off the charity. At the moment, we’re just guessing. In the meantime, I think we should go and see David Read again. See if he had any suspicions about Duval. Have we released news of his death yet?”
“No,” said Benny. “Still trying to contact his parents in Philadelphia. No reason why you can’t let Read know though.”
Back at Read’s place, there was a new man on the front desk. He scrutinised Flint’s ID and called up to Read to let him know we were on our way up.
“What happened to Wallace?” I asked, casually.
“It’s his day off. You know the apartment right? 51.”
We thanked him and rode the elevator up to the top floor. Read opened the door as soon as Flint knocked.
“Is there any news? Have you caught my daughter’s killer?”
Flint put on his best inscrutable face. “Is your wife here, Sir?”
“She went down to the offices. She’s been trying to distract herself with work. She was there most of yesterday.”
“And have you been there yourself, Sir?”
“No, no I haven’t. Jonathan has been holding the fort. I don’t know what we’d do without him. He’s been so supportive.”
“Did you speak to him at all yesterday?”
Read frowned, obviously unsure where these questions were leading. “No, I didn’t. Sarah spoke to him, at the office. What is this about?”
“And you didn’t go visit him, at his apartment?” persisted Flint.
“I didn’t leave the apartment at all yesterday. Look, what is this about?”
“I’m sorry to have to tell you, Sir, but Jonathan Duval was murdered yesterday. At his apartment.”
“Oh my god.” Read sank back onto the chair behind him, the color draining from his face. “That’s terrible.” He looked at me. “How did he die?”
“He was shot, Sir. And I’m sorry to have to tell you, that your gun was the murder weapon.” I watched him carefully, but he seemed genuinely stunned.
“That’s impossible! No, this can’t be happening. First Sarah, and now Jonathan. What am I going to tell Martha? She’ll be heartbroken.”
Flint and I exchanged glances. We were both thinking that she might have more of a reason to be heartbroken than David Read was aware of. Unless he really was aware of just how closely his wife worked with Duval, in which case he had one hell of a good motive to want the guy dead. This case was getting more confusing by the minute.
“One more thing, Sir.” Flint made a show of consulting his notebook. “Mr Duval was the charity’s Financial Director, right?”
“Yes, yes, that’s right.” Read looked confused.
“Is there any chance he could have been skimming money from the charity?”
“Absolutely not! I’ve known Jonathan for years. He simply wouldn’t do something like that. Preposterous.”
When we got back to Police HQ, the bank records had arrived, and Benny was peering at them over a detective’s shoulder. I was beginning to think this was how he spent his days. Standing around, peering over people’s shoulders. Rather him than me. I much preferred working on my own. Granted, it was good to have someone to bounce ideas off, but right now we had so many ideas bouncing around, we seemed to be confusing ourselves.
“Anything interesting?” asked Flint, dropping himself into his chair and taking a huge bite of his sandwich. Yes, we’d stopped to grab something to eat on our way back.
Benny stared at the sandwich longingly. I grinned and handed over the sandwich we’d brought for him. He brightened immediately.
“I should team you up with Flint more often. He never brings me food. And yes, we have found something. It looks like Duval has been stealing from the charity for years.”
“How much are we talking about?” I asked. Well, I had to ask. Flint had a mouthful of pastrami.
“So far, it looks like he had five accounts, with a total of seven and a half million.”
“Had?” mumbled Flint.
“Yes, had. Past tense. Last night it was transferred to an off-shore account in the Cayman Islands.”
“Clever trick, seeing as how he was dead at the time.” I tossed my sandwich wrapper in the bin.
“Duval had to have someone working with him on the fraud. They must have transferred the money.” Flint stared up at the ceiling. “And since we didn’t release news of his death to the media, they probably killed him. What about the cell phone we found? Did the tech guys get anything from it?”
Benny frowned. “It wasn’t Duval’s cell phone. We haven’t found that. Turns out, it was Sarah Read’s.”
“Did Duval have it all along? Or did the killer take it with them when they went to Duval’s place?” I scratched my head, thinking it through. “Could Duval have killed Sarah, because she knew he was skimming money from the charity, and then David Read killed Duval because he found out Duval was way too close to his daughter?”
Flint shrugged. “I guess it’s possible, but he seemed genuinely surprised when we told him Duval was dead. I’ll lay you odds that whoever killed Sarah, killed Duval as well. And why would Read kill his own daughter? I know Grace had that theory at one point, but then, she also thought the best friend did it. Hell, I’m surprised she didn’t suggest Martians did it.”
Benny glared at him, but made no comment.
“So where does that leave us?” I asked.
Flint sighed. “So far off track, we’re going to need a new sat nav.”
We were all considering our next move, when my cell phone rang.
“Don’t tell me, Gus wants to know where to install the man traps.” Flint chuckled to himself.
I rolled my eyes as I answered the phone. “Hi, Uncle Mark.”
“Ah, Tommy. Can you come to the Golf and Country Club? Bring Flint with you. I have a couple of people you may want to talk to.”
I grinned. “We’ll be right there.”
Flint whistled as we drove up the private road to the clubhouse. The tarmac on the road was so pristine, I couldn’t help but wonder if they cleaned the road on a daily basis. Single spruce trees lined the drive, each one exceptionally neat and straight. Beyond the road we caught glimpses of the golf course, with its manicured greens and neatly trimmed fairways. Even the paths that ran alongside the fairways were neatly paved.
“How the other half live. We sent Grace to interview the manager here. He said the night Sarah was killed, the Read’s were here all night, hosting their charity event.”
“Did she ask about Duval?”
Flint pulled a face. “Probably not. Alright, so if the Doc thinks we need to speak to someone here, we’ll speak to someone. But I’m not going to roll over and play dead just because these people have money.”
“No one’s asking you to. Hell, come on, Flint. How long have you known me? Would I ask you to do that? Would Uncle Mark ask you to do that?”
Flint’s expression softened slightly. “No, you wouldn’t. Alright, I’ll play nicely.”
We parked in the visitors section of the elegantly landscaped parking area, and headed to the clubhouse. It was an impressive two storey stone building, with a large outside seating area, and some equally impressive views of the golf course and the valley. The course itself appeared to wind gently through ravines and lakes. I’m no golfer, but it looked good to me. The kind of place you could happily while away an afternoon, always supposing hitting a little ball into a small hole using various metal sticks is your idea of a good time anyway.
We stepped into the reception area, and Flint flashed his badge. The young lady behind the desk directed us towards the ballroom. The ballroom was every bit as impressive as the rest of the place. It was very spacious, and currently laid out with a number of tables, each elegantly dressed and laden with more cutlery than I have in my kitchen. One wall was floor to ceiling windows, which opened onto a large patio, again with magnificent views of the golf course and the natural landscape surrounding it. Uncle Mark was sat at one of the tables, talking with a man I vaguely recognised as our Mayor. I could practically hear Flint’s eye roll, but we both smiled and headed over.
“Ah, Mayor Bradfield. This is my nephew, Tom Calder, and Detective Ryan Flint. Gentlemen, the Mayor was at the Read’s charity event the other night.”
We shook hands and sat down at the table. I made a supreme effort to avoid putting my elbows on the table.
“So I understand you have concerns over David’s alibi the night his daughter was murdered. Most unfortunate. A sweet young thing. Anyway, I can assure you, David Read was here the entire evening.”
“Please don’t think I’m doubting your word, Mayor, but how exactly can you be sure he was here the entire evening?” Although it was a question, Flint managed to make it sound more like a statement of fact. “After all, it was a charity event. Surely he mingled with his guests.”
The Mayor didn’t seem to take any offence at the question, or the blunt way it was asked. “Oh, he did, Detective, in the beginning anyway. He was here to greet people, to press the flesh, so to speak. Following that, there was a banquet. David was sat at the head of the table. We’d all have noticed if he’d left. After the meal, the three of us retired to a private room to share a bottle of brandy, and discuss some business. Future events and the like.”
I had to wonder if the Mayor was as concerned as some of the charities other benefactors about where the money was going. Or maybe, David Read was trying to impress the mayor with his plans for more orphanages. Either way, I didn’t think asking the question would get an answer. Well, not one that would help us right now anyway.
“So you’re saying that David and Martha Read were with you the entire evening.” Flint’s voice had an air of boredom already.
The Mayor smiled. “Oh, Sarah didn’t join us. She stayed with the main party. We … well, we don’t really get along all that well I’m afraid.” He glanced around and lowered his voice. “She flirted with me once, a little too openly for my liking. I’m a happily married man, you know. I made some comment about it being a little inappropriate, and she took it quite the wrong way. No, when David and I discuss business, the ladies don’t join us.”
I scratched my head. “So who was the third guy?”
“Oh, that was Jonathan Duval, David’s Financial Director. Terrible news about him, simply terrible. But I can assure you, neither he nor David was out of my sight for more than say five minutes the entire evening.”
Flint and I exchanged puzzled glances. It seemed like both David Read and Jonathan Duval were in the clear for Sarah’s murder. The Mayor stood up.
“Well, if that’s everything, gentlemen, I have a round of golf to play.” He shook hands with us both. “Mark, I hope to see you here again soon.”
We sat back down, trying to digest what we’d just learned.
“That was pretty convenient,” said Flint.
“Now, now, Ryan,” scolded Uncle Mark. “The Mayor may be a politician, but I’m sure he was telling the truth about that evening. What possible reason could he have to provide an alibi for a dead man?”
Flint stared at him. “Yes, about that. You told him Duval was dead.”
Uncle Mark shrugged with a sheepish grin. “I told him in confidence. James loves to hear the latest gossip before anyone else. And it worked, didn’t it? He told you what you wanted to know without having to wade through miles of red tape.”
Flint sighed. “Yes, it worked. Thank you. I’d still like confirmation of what the Mayor said from someone else though.” He pulled a face at the look Uncle Mark shot at him. “Yes, I know. Call me a cynic. It’s just this case has more twists in it than a corkscrew, and I want to make completely sure of my facts.”
“Well, you could always speak with Ray. He’s the events manager here. I’ll go see if he’s available. A good man, Ray,” remarked Uncle Mark. “Very organised, and a good memory for details.”
We watched as Uncle Mark headed off towards the reception area. “I didn’t know he was a member here,” commented Flint, casually.
I shrugged. “Uncle Mark is a member at a lot of clubs. And I don’t just mean golf. You know what he’s like. He takes up a new hobby, throws himself into it, buys all the gear, joins the right clubs … and then he loses interest and moves onto something else. Golf was last years passion. I bet he hasn’t played since fall.”
Uncle Mark came back, with a man in a smart suit in tow. “Ray Child, meet Detective Ryan Flint, and my nephew, Tom.”
We shook hands and he sat down, looking around the ballroom with a critical eye. I had a feeling he was mentally noting every piece of cutlery that was a fraction out of alignment.
“How can I help you, gentlemen.”
“You hosted a charity event here a few days ago,” said Flint.
“Ah, yes, the charity banquet. Indeed, I liaised with the Mayors team for a few weeks, to make sure everything was to his satisfaction. The Mayor doesn’t endorse every worthy cause that comes his way, and he likes to make sure the events go well.”
I translated that as ‘the Mayor likes to look good’.
“So did the event run smoothly?”
“Absolutely. Smooth as silk. Absolutely no problems. It was a very successful event.”
I decided that meant ‘the Mayor came out of the event smelling of roses’.
“Did the Mayor stay long?”
“He was here while after midnight.”
“I see. Do you know David Read?”
“Absolutely. He’s a member here, although I don’t think he’s played golf for a while. It was his charity that hosted the event. We’ve held functions for his charity here before. He’s always a real pleasure to work with.”
Or in English, ‘he pays his bills on time’.
“Do you know if he left the club at all that evening?”
“No, Detective. He stayed in the club all evening. We keep tabs on all the main guests.”
Alternatively, ‘we keep an eye on where the paying customers are so that we can make sure they’re happy’. I decided it was my turn to try with a question.
“How about Jonathan Duval? Do you know him?”
“Yes, Sir. He was here that evening as well, and he made a lot of the preparations for the event. As a matter of fact, he’s a member here as well.”
“And he was here all evening?”
“Yes, Sir. Both Mr Read and Mr Duval were here all evening. After the banquet, they retired to a private room with the Mayor. They didn’t leave until after midnight.”
“What about Martha Read?” I was clutching at straws, but something bothered me about that lady, and it wasn’t just her voice. “Did you see her that evening?”
“Oh, yes, Sir. She mingled with the guests until her husband was ready to leave. I believe she was driving as her husband had been drinking.”
I translated that as ‘we keep an eye on our guests to ensure no one drink drives as we’d get a reputation we don’t need’. I was beginning to think I was becoming as cynical as Flint.
“So she never left at all.” Flint sounded dejected.
“Well, she did step outside at one point. She said she had a headache.”
Flint suddenly perked up. “How long was she gone?”
Ray frowned as he thought back to that night. “Oh, not long. Maybe twenty minutes. Thirty at most.”
Flint and I exchanged glances, and thanked the man for his time. He rose and smiled at us both.
“Please, gentlemen, feel free to return should you need any more information. One of your colleagues was here just after the tragedy. She seemed a little more interested in a complete guest list than the movements of specific individuals. I don’t think we ever got around to sending her a list. Would it help if I found a list for you?”
Flint smiled broadly at him. “Thank you, Mr Child, but I don’t think that will be necessary. However, I do appreciate the offer to return if we have any more questions. Thank you for your time today. Much appreciated.”
Ray smiled warmly at Flint and headed back towards the reception area.
“I told you Ray had a good memory for details,” remarked Uncle Mark.
Flint chuckled. “Yes, ok, so the Mayor was telling the truth. There is no way David Read killed his daughter that night. Martha Read on the other hand …”
I was busy calculating the time it would take to get to the Read’s apartment from the golf club. “I think she could have made it back to the apartment, by car, in maybe five minutes. If she was gone for twenty, she’d have had the time.”
“She had enough time,” agreed Flint. “But what the hell was her motive?”
Uncle Mark smiled. “Maybe you should go and ask her.”