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DETECTIVE CARTER, Sergeant Hill and Officer Golden sat staring at the evidence board. A file containing the dozens of witness statements lay open on one corner of Hill’s desk. On the opposite corner was a folder that held all the statements from the theatre volunteers, along with Scarlett’s, and those from the cast of her play. It too lay in disarray. The board, with the large area that had been set aside for details about the dummy-mannequin, had since almost been filled in. The only one large omission in the sequence of events was what had followed its arrival at the theatre, namely, when had it been strung up in the narrow corridor. Later, when it had been discovered by Bruce, the lighting technician, and the theatre manager, Paul, was well known.
“Even with all that evidence it still looks like we’re just out of the starting gate,” Hill said.
Carter began, “Okay, let’s start with Blair Matthews. Wasn’t he the actor who played Juba in the play?”
“He’s the one. Yes…and the missing costume room key was found in the pocket of his outfit. I had a heck of a time trying to track him down. Those actors seem to be all over hell’s half acre. When I asked him if he had checked his costume before handing it in, he seemed taken-back at my question, worried that he had damaged it and had to pay for it. So I rephrased it and asked if he had accidentally left anything in his pockets. That surprised him too. But when I came right out with it and asked him why he had the key for the costume room in his pocket he was shocked. Even over the phone I felt that he was telling the truth. There is no question in my mind that he didn’t know. And his fingerprints weren’t found on it.”
“Are you scratching him off the list of suspects then?” Carter asked.
“Not entirely but he sounded credible enough. I suppose I am…for now, unless we have something else to tie him to the murder. And there’s that mannequin of Perkins. It had to have been strung up when the doors were left opened on the Saturday. Anyone could have come and gone and no one would have been the wiser.”
“What about that coil of rope that was in the dungeon?” Carter asked.
“The cut end matches up perfectly with the rope that was on the mannequin. I suspect that that is why the murderer needed the key for the costume room,” Hill surmised, pointing to the evidence board where it hung.
“That takes us back to Blair Matthews. I sure do wonder how that key ended up in his trousers?” Carter queried, scratching his head.
“That’s still the million-dollar question. If he didn’t put it there then that would put him in the clear. The only other option is that it had been planted there by the real culprit.”
“And obviously it must have been planted sometime between Friday night, when the key most likely went missing, and Tuesday when the costumes were turned in.”
“It looks to me that we’re widening the mystery rather than narrowing it,” Hill said.
“Let’s just take it slowly and easily. Okay, what about Peter Bryce, the actor who played Clopper, what’s his story with the tear on his jacket?” Carter asked.
“I have that one,” Golden jumped in. “He tore it on Saturday night, just as they were getting ready to go on stage, according to his testimony. I’ve verified that with Katy and Heather. They were both fussing over it, and him, just as the lights went down. Plus there were also four witnesses who saw him do it. There is no question there,” he assured them.
“He’s right, Katy told me that when I picked up the costumes.”
“Did you ever manage to speak with Tom Hanson? It was his costume-jacket button that was found in the bottom of the coffin, wasn’t it? That was one of the best leads that we had.”
“Yes, I thought so too. I finally did speak with him and he verified that he had lost it the night before the play, during dress rehearsal. When he told Katy, the costume lady, she told him not to worry about it, that she would find another. In the end she never did manage to find a suitable substitute, so he went on stage with a button missing from his jacket.”
“And you verified this with Katy?”
“I did. Another red herring. I guess the only mystery is how it got into the coffin…,” Hill said, in deep thought. “And before we knew about David’s cancer I was wondering if that new guy at the hardware store had any connection with all this. But I can’t seem to link him up with anything. He got the job that everyone thought David should have had, so there was no motive for him to have had anything to do with this…however he was acting really strangely when I was in to talk to his boss the other day.”
“Everyone appears to act oddly when there’s an investigation going on,” Carter said, knowingly. “What about Theresa Roy’s dress…the one that she wore on stage…the one with David Mosher’s blood on it?”
“That’s a good one. When I questioned her about it she was so upset about the murder that she could hardly talk. I don’t have any doubt that she’s not the murderer. I’m not sure if she could even kill a spider. She’s so kind and soft spoken that she reminds me of my grand-mother and I know that she never could have killed anything. However, in the end we don’t have an explanation for how the blood got there.”
“Evidence speaks louder than words,” Carter said, ominously. “There has to be some logical reason as to how David’s blood got onto her dress.” Carter paused before he added, “Hum…what else have we got?”
“A very interesting jacket button that Ernie Growers found at Perkins’ grave,” Golden said.
“Interesting?” Carter said, sitting up a little straighter in his chair.
“Yes,” Golden said, very slowly, “I took it over to Glenda at the museum and she said, without a doubt, that it dates from around 1812. And I know you’re not going to like this one, Sergeant, because of your total reluctance to believe in ghosts. But she would swear on a stack of bibles that the button was one like Perkins would have worn on his jacket at his funeral. She has the notion that he lost it when he crawled back into his grave. I wonder if we should dig him up?”
“Utter foolishness,” Hill waved Golden’s idea away and added, “And we have an old, rusty knife that caused the stab wound to the heart.”
“Whoever stabbed David wanted to make sure that he had no chance of recovery.” Carter decided. “It was a very deep wound that went right through the heart.”
“I can’t argue with that,” Hill said and Golden nodded. Hill was pleased to see that he and Golden were back on the same page.
“Uh huh…anything else?” Carter asked.
“The tattoo,” Golden said and Hill groaned. He still had no idea if it was even worth considering. “I’ve noticed that you still don’t have it entered on the board Sergeant and I was wondering if maybe now was the time to give it some thought?”
“The time?” Hill asked.
“To discuss it,” Golden said.
“What’s your idea on it then, Golden,” Carter queried.
“Officer Pierce and I have talked about this a lot. Early on we had a notion that it had been made by David himself. You know how kids will make those stupid marks on their bodies and then want them removed when they’re older?” Golden stated, and at their nods he went on, “But the more that I think about it I wondered if maybe I had drawn a hasty conclusion.”
“Hasty conclusion?” Hill leaned forward in his chair.
“Yes, I’m drawn back to its shape,” he said, pointing at the autopsy file and the photo. “It’s like a letter X, scripted with those fancy curly ends. The letter X reminds me a how young girls in school used to say ‘I’m going to put a hex on you’ then they’d cross their fingers. Could it be that someone had put a hex on young Mosher?”
“Don’t even go down that road,” said Hill. “We’re not going to allow even the slightest consideration to be given to curses or jinxes or any abracadabra. We’ve had more than our share of all that crap and this is neither the time nor the place for it.”
END OF CHAPTER THIRTY