Perkins’ Ghost – Chapter Twenty Eight

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CHAPTER TWENTY EIGHT

AS MUCH AS Hill knew that Scarlett would be distressed in talking about the play, the murder and the KOR, he decided to phone her anyway.

“Scarlett, Sergeant Hill here. I’d like to have a chat if you have the time.”

“You know I have the time. What else am I going to do, re-write the play and hope that this time no one gets murdered?”

“If you’d rather it was tomorrow that’s okay,” Hill said, feeling sorry for her.

“No, it’s okay. Come on over. I’ll make us some tea,” she said, downheartedly.

 

Hill drove up just as she finished placing the tea-tray on the patio table. She went to the front door and let him in.

“Do you mind if we sit outside, I can’t bear being cooped up these days?”

They walked through her house, out the back, sat and looked out over her garden.

“I don’t know many who have a green thumb like yours.” Hill said.

“It just seems to happen for me. But I’m sure you’re not here to talk about my thumbs.”

“No, I’d like to talk to you about the play, but I don’t want to upset you.”

“Go ahead and ask away,” she said, with a sweep of her arm and as if she may or may not give him a reply in return.

“From what you had said earlier I take it that you don’t know of any real, solid connection between your play and the past, other than the fact that the play is loosely based on the history of the time. It puzzles me why you made one of Perkins’ sons out to be a traitor, conspiring with the enemy.”

“Why not? Can you think of someone else who it should have been? They were Americans after all.”

“I’m not saying what’s right one way or the other. It just struck me as curious…. And please don’t chase me out the door for asking but…do you believe in ghosts?”

“No…and how ridiculous to even suggest such a thing. Why?”

“I found it interesting how you had Perkins’ ghost appear in the play.”

“Well, he died before he could reveal the traitors, and the KOR was disbanded so what choice did he have?” Scarlett said defensively. “Why shouldn’t I have had a ghost? Most people in Liverpool believe in ghosts and I had hoped that simply by the title that it would increase the ticket sales.”

“Scarlett, I know that it is difficult for you to talk about the play and David’s death, but if you would just hear me out I’d be grateful.”

“All right, what?” she said, crossing her arms.

“Let’s say that back in 1812 there were traitors about, as Perkins suspected, and as you wrote in your play.” At her nod he went on. “And let’s say that the traitors were also in your play and on your stage.”

Scarlett tightened her arms, defensively and said, “I’ve got no idea what you’re talking about we didn’t have any problems with the cast.”

“What if one of your characters knew something that none of the others knew? Just like Perkins knew that there were traitors…maybe your actors had a fight that no one knew about, like Vadoma said?”

“There wasn’t any mention of any squabbles between the cast.”

“Okay, maybe that’s nothing. But there were arguments in the script.” At her nod he went on, “Let me lay out what I think….” When she didn’t say anything he continued. “I think that there were a number of American Loyalists that were still true to the United States living in Liverpool at the onset of the War of 1812, even though none were uncovered, prosecuted or tried. There was an American soldiers’ button discovered in the morning after David Mosher’s murder, in the theatre. I suspect that it was planted. But why? Well…this is my theory: the American button is the first link. The second link was the distribution of KOR buttons. And who got them? I think it was those who were best suited and able to solve the mystery.”

“I don’t get it,” Scarlett said, unfolding her arms and leaning forward.

“I think that the incidents are running parallel. Let’s take these situations: the War of 1812, the American soldiers, the KOR not being in Liverpool when Perkins thought that they ought to have been, and the traitors,” Hill said, ticking the items off on his fingers. “Now match that up with this: the American soldiers’ button, the New Order of the KOR, and, please bear with me here, your play. They do appear to be interlocked. What you created was a confession from the traitor in Perkins’ Ghost. We haven’t yet had a confession in this investigation, but I feel that we are that close to getting one,” Hill said, placing his fingers a half-inch apart. “In your play it never could have happened without you introducing Perkins’ ghost. The traitors were terrified of Perkins’ ghost.”

“So are you thinking that it’s just a matter of time before you have a confession on your desk?”

Hill grunted and smiled, “I wish…maybe it’s not as close as I had hoped.” After a moment he said, “Glenda gave me this and I’d like to share it with you. Perkins wrote this in 1782, just before the American War ended, thirty years before he died.”  He handed her a sheet of paper on which was written: ‘We hope for a peace…that our nations may no longer lie under the awful judgment of devouring one another.’

She read it and placed it on the table.

Hill said, “He really was a man for his home and country.”

“Are you trying to say that I really have tied the past to the present?”

“Precisely. Now you’ve got it. Though whose past we have yet to figure out is the puzzle. Remember what Vadoma said about you digging up Perkins?” he said, feeling that he had finally convinced her.

“No…actually I don’t. And if I didn’t know you so well I’d think that you were losing it. Only a fool believes that there was a War to End All Wars, and only superstitious people believe in ghosts.”

~ ~ ~

Hill’s telephone rang and Mark DeSilva, who ran the fresh vegetable market on the riverfront, spoke very loudly, trying to overcome a loud ruckus that was coming from the park. He said, “Sergeant I think you should know that Billy Harris had a big fight with David Mosher just a couple of weeks before he died.” He had phoned Hill, obviously concerned that the murder had not been solved and was wondering if the police knew about the fight.

“Any idea what it might have been about?” Hill asked, surprised, for that was the first mention of anybody having fought with David.

“I don’t rightly know, but there were at least five witnesses. It turned into a all-out fisticuffs, right here at the waterfront. I’m surprised that you hadn’t heard.”

“Any idea which of them came out on top?”

“I heard it was David. Billy had a shiner for a few days. He’s healed up nicely by now though.”

“Thanks, it sounds like I should pay young Billy a visit,” Hill said, ending the call.

 

“I’ll be damned. Who would have thought that either David or Billy would be in a fight? I wonder what could have stirred them up,” Hill said to himself, shaking his head as Detective Carter walked into his office.

“You know that’s the first sign,” Carter said.

“First sign?”

“Talking to yourself is the first sign of senility,” Carter said, chuckling.

“It’s this damned case, just when I think we’re on the right track I get thrown a curve ball.”

“Maybe it’s your subconscious telling you that you should’ve gone into baseball. It takes a whole lot less thinking there. You just need a good arm.”

“That’s what Geoff told me the other day, but we all know that I was never good enough for that. I just got a phone call telling me that Billy Harris was in a fist fight with David just before he died. Neither one of them was the kind to be punching it out with anyone. I wonder what brought that on.”

“How about we take a drive and find out. You know where to find this Billy Harris?”

“Over at the bottle depot, unless it’s his day off.”

 

Billy was the only one working when they drove up to the bottle depot. He rushed over to the car as he always did, eager to be of assistance.

“Billy, this is Detective Carter, we’d like to ask you a few questions,” Hill said.

“Ask away Sergeant, always glad to help out.”

“I heard that you were in a fist-fight with David Mosher just weeks before he died. Is that true?”

“It sure enough is, Sergeant. Though I’m not real proud of it or sure what happened there. At first I was talking to him about his work, and all, and then we were talking about the new guy taking the promotion. Next thing I know Mike Ballard and his big mouth started taunting David, telling him, ‘You’re just yellow not wanting to stick up for your rights and letting someone come  from away and take the bread from your own table’. David got really angry then and told Mike Ballard that it wasn’t any of his business. I stepped between them and tried to calm David down because he got real mad. I put both my hands on his arms and he went wild. Next thing I know we’re rollin and punchin’ each other like we was enemy’s. I never did see David so angry before. It wasn’t like him. I just wanted to keep it peaceful but it all went to hell in a hand-basket. I took a kick in the nuts and had a hard time walking for a week, plus I wore a shiner for ten days or more.”

“Any idea where we can find Mike these days.”

“He’s living on the dole I hear. You’ll probably find him down at the pool-hall.”

“Thanks,” Hill said as they turned to leave.

 

Hill and Carter strode into the pool-hall and stopped short as their eyes adjusted to the gloom in the dimly lit tavern. Mike was sitting in the corner, next to the pool table, holding a pool cue. Obviously he was up for a game. When they walked up to him he immediately stood, it was almost as if someone had phoned ahead and warned him of their visit.

“How can I help you Sergeant,” he asked.

“I was wondering if you could tell me why you were taunting David Mosher about not taking the job promotion.”

“I wasn’t meaning any harm, I was just curious. Doing what he did just allows those folks to keep coming from away and stealing our jobs. I was trying to keep things on the up and up. We got to look after our own, don’t we?”

“How do you know if David even wanted that promotion? Maybe he was right happy doing what he was doing?’

“It’s not the way I heard it.”

“Maybe you heard wrong,” Hill countered.

“Maybe, but those are our jobs.”

“You do know that the new guy is a nephew to Betty Morton?”

“First I heard of that one,” Mike said.

“Besides, if you’re thinking that it isn’t fair that the job was given to someone from away, I think you should know that we’re all from away, this was Mi’kmaq land and always will be. We’re all foreigners. It wouldn’t hurt to keep that in mind for the future.”

“Guess you’re right there Sergeant,” he said humbly, as Hill and Carter walked away.

 

“I’ve never heard it put quite that like before,” Carter said, as they walked back out into the blazing sunshine.

“What’s that?” Hill asked.

“Your Mi’kmaq theory.”

“It came to my mind when Geoff and I became friends. He’s another one of those from away, as Mike calls them.”

“It’s just ill-educated, narrow-minded thinking. So why do you suppose David didn’t take the promotion?”

“I spoke with Gloria, his boss, and he told her that he had too much on the go. Then I discovered he’d been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. According to Doc he was dying and David swore him to secrecy. Even Tiffany, his wife, didn’t know,” Hill said turning up the air conditioning in the car. They were still parked outside the pool hall, though neither could have said why.

“I went through the witness statements again yesterday and there’s something that just didn’t sit right with me,” Carter said. “So I went through David’s cell phone messages. Did you know that David and Alexis Saunders had been sending text messages back and forth, quite regularly, for the past months?”

“Really, whatever for?”

“That’s exactly what I wondered. So I made a phone call to Alexis Saunders.”

“And?” Hill said.

“Well strangely enough he told her all about it.”

“What? The fact that he was dying? Why did he tell her?”

“I asked myself that one too. Of course with her being a widow I immediately wondered if maybe there was a bit of hanky-panky going on. Makes one wonder when an attractive woman who recently starts spending a whole lot of time with a handsome young man then is suddenly sending text messages. That gives cause for anyone to wonder what’s up.”

“So what’s up?”

“I’m not quite sure.”

“So what do the messages say?”

“Not much really, nothing suspicious, just supportive things, making it very obvious that she knew of his cancer.”

“And what’s her story?”

“They were friends. Simple as that,” said Carter.

“I might stop by and see her anyway and see what I can learn. It seems we just go round and round and end up back at the beginning. I thought I was onto something after I found that button from Samson’s jacket in the coffin. Then, when Hanson was nowhere to be found, we had half the police force from here to Toronto hunting him down. On top of that we frightened the heck out of his parents when we started questioning them about where Tom was. We found that he had gone to Kamloops, in British Columbia, for a stage contract. It seems that it was common knowledge to all his friends. I wonder why Scarlett didn’t know that.”

“That’s the way it goes. What’s your take on the murder weapon? We still haven’t found that either,” Carter asked. “Is it possible to stab oneself in the heart and then to hide the knife?”

“Maybe if one is Houdini. Why don’t we slide on over to the theatre. I would almost bet you it’s there. But the only place I never looked was under the stage.”

“Then maybe that’s a good place to start.”

 

Corina was sitting behind the ticket counter and Hill wondered if she ever went home. There was not another soul around and one could have heard a pin drop, it was so quiet. He was relieved to see that she was not crying as she had been the last time he was there. Hill nodded to her and they proceeded into the theatre and to the front of the house. The set had been taken down and it felt like a different place. Hill turned back to ensure that Carter was at his heels. He opened the doors that accessed the space under the stage and shone his light inside. It was empty. He spun on his heels and walked back into the lobby.

“Any idea where the coffin has been moved to?” he asked Corina.

“I think Paul had it moved into the costume room.”

“Do you mind if I take a look?”

“Sorry, I don’t have a key and Paul is in Halifax today. I’m not even sure when he’s due back,” she said, and looked up when the door opened, hoping for some real customers, or maybe her friend Gayle to chat with through the slow hours. “Ah there he is now. Paul’s back,” she said.

“Paul, would you mind letting us into the costume room again. I’d like to take another look at the coffin,” Hill said.

“No problem Sergeant and Detective Carter,” Paul said, giving Carter a nod.

 

The costume room had that same eerie feel as it had had before. The overhead lights were on but Hill switched on his flashlight to augment the lighting in the room. He did not like those dark, confined spaces and it was quite unlikely that he would ever be found poking around in that room alone. He shivered as he shone the light over the sinister looking clothes and the shelves of hats and shoes. His eyes landed on a coil of rope that hung from an enormous hook. “I’ll be damned,” he said, aloud, wondering why he had not noticed it earlier.

“What’ve you got there Sergeant?” Carter asked.

“Looks to me like this is the same rope that the dummy was strung up with. Look at that cut on the end. It appears to be fairly new.”

“I think you’re right.”

“Paul, you don’t mind if we take this along with us do you?” he asked. Paul nodded consent. “It does appear that the pieces are falling into place,” Hill muttered to himself as he took the coil down.

Not forgetting why he was there he moved towards the coffin, putting on a pair of latex gloves as he walked. He passed the coil of rope to Carter. He felt under the bottom of the pine box. His fingers touched something cold and metallic. He bent down and shone the light under the coffin. The knife had been wedged between the slats under the box. He wondered why he had not checked that earlier. And how was it that the CSI people had missed it? Could it be that it had been planted there later?

“Bingo,” he shouted. “Two birds with one stone.”

“What the hell?” Carter asked.

“I think we just found the murder weapon,” he said, holding it like a switchblade. It was blackened by dry blood covering almost the entire blade. “And look at the rust. I knew it. See how old it is? I just knew it.”

“Either it was put there recently or we walked around that thing for days.” Carter said, patting him on the back. “Congrats.”

Hill slipped the knife into an evidence bag and took off the plastic gloves. He was anxious to get back to the office to add another discovery to the evidence board, to record another entry in his own handwriting. He felt as giddy as a child and had a hard time keeping the smile off his face.

 

“I’d say it’s starting to add up,” Carter said, satisfied.

“I was never very good at math, dropped it as soon as I could, but somehow there still seems to be too many things missing to make a full equation.”

“An equation is simply a way of attempting to establish the value of various unknowns on either side, and then trying to make both sides equal,” Carter said. “The secret lies in finding the values of the unknowns. Is it really any different from an investigation?”

“I guess not when you put it that way.”

“What you need to do is to think logically,” said Carter, more than a little pompously. “Too many investigators put too much effort into solving petty problems, just like you’re doing with this case. Let it flow, let the answers come to you.”

“Yea right,” Hill said, doubtfully.

END OF CHAPTER TWENTY EIGHT 

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“Linda has published fifteen books. She blogs about the publishing world, posts useful tips on the challenges a writer faces, including marketing and promoting your work, how to build your online platform, how to get reviews and how to self-publish.”