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HILL WAS ANXIOUS to get the autopsy report, though it was reasonably obvious that the cause of David Mosher’s death was a stab wound to the heart. At ten to eight the following morning he walked out of his front door and got into his car. He drove past the theatre and saw that the Crime Scene Investigation team had arrived. He then drove along the waterfront where the crowds were thin and a crew of workers were picking up trash. In two days’ time the entire midway and tents would be dismantled and he wondered if the murder would impact the success of the event. He parked his car along the waterfront street and saw Geoff Steward coming his way. He and Geoff had been great friends for years.
“Morning,” they greeted each other, neither adding the word ‘good’ in front of the word morning, for both of them expected it to be somewhat less than ideal.
“I never thought I’d see the day!” Geoff shook his head. “I guess golf is out too, isn’t it?” he added, knowingly.
“Yes, I’ll be busy for a spell,” Hill stated, resigning to the fact that duty came first.
“I’ll cancel our tee time. You have enough to think about.”
By eight twenty, Hill was at his desk. Had it not been for his detour past the theatre and down along the waterfront he would have been in his office in five minutes: door to door. That was another reason why he had never left Liverpool; he detested the thought of wasting his life commuting. He had hardly arrived when Golden was sitting opposite him, “Pierce has been relieved by Tripp. He said it was as quiet as the grave, aside from the noise at the park. I guess it got a bit rowdy down there last night at about two o’clock.”
“I thought it was winding down when I went home. The damned murder has probably got the whole town stirred up. Did he make any mention of what Briggs was doing up there last night at about one o’clock?”
“I can ask him. He didn’t say anything.”
“I’m going to have a little chat with Briggs so don’t bother.”
“I’ll call and see if they’ve done the autopsy or when they’re going to do it. The crime scene people are on the location,” Golden said.
“I saw that.”
Hill’s phone rang and he answered it.
After a moment he said, “Give me five.”
He hung up the receiver, got up from his chair and put on his hat, all in one motion. “Carter’s got something interesting over at the theatre,” he informed Golden as he walked out the door.
Hill walked into the lobby of the theatre and recognized the five officers in white coveralls. He nodded and said, “Good morning,” to no one in particular.
Carter, the Chief Detective on the case, was expecting him and he was immediately at his side. “Inside, on stage,” he said with a nod.
Tripp was on their heels as they stepped into the theatre. It was brightly lit by the work lights on stage. Bits of tissue papers were still lying on the floor of the theatre, left over from the weeping audience. The yellow tape remained wrapped around the stage area. Someone managed to get inside the theatre in the night and had rearranged the furniture on stage, even though the crime scene tape was in place and two officers had been on guard. One of the wooden side-chairs had been moved from where it had stood earlier, against the wall, and was now in the centre of the stage. The coffin was still where they had left it, pushed back, near the counting room doorway. Hill looked quizzically at Carter but said nothing. Carter simply nodded, indicating for him to move forward. They climbed the stairs and ducked under the yellow ribbon. On the seat of the chair was an American soldiers’ uniform button.
“What do you suppose this means?” Carter asked.
Hill shrugged and said, “Pierce swears that no one came in or out of the theatre last night. In order to get in from the museum one would have to have keys for both sides of the doors and the back door only opens from the inside.”
“Is it possible that someone was still in the theatre and left through the back door in the night?”
“Of course anything is possible with these old buildings. However, it was thoroughly checked before we left. We had an officer posted inside the theatre the whole night, even though he didn’t like that much, along with the one officer out front.”
“These old buildings spook me too,” Carter said. “I sure wouldn’t have liked spending the night in here either.”
“Well, if there’s nothing else…I’m off to see a man about a mannequin,” Hill said.
~ ~ ~
Hill knew every person who lived within a forty kilometer radius of Liverpool. He knew them primarily because most of them had lived there their whole lives, as had he. Within ten minutes he was standing outside Freddie Hollis’ house and knocked at his door. Freddie was probably getting on to seventy years old and still lived like a hippie. He was one of many in Nova Scotia, left over from the peace, love and sex generation who liked the laid back lifestyle that the province still offered. Freddie had that haggardness that came from living by the sea. He called it ‘weather beaten’, a look that only an abundance of sea, sand and sunshine could deliver. He was a bit rough around the edges and most people tried not to stand too closely downwind from him. His tiny one room shack was at Hunts Point, one of the loveliest places on the South Shore.
On that morning, a soft summer breeze was coming in off the Atlantic and from where Hill stood he could see the fishing boats that dotted the placid sea. There was hardly a ripple on the water and a gentle swell washed the tiny waves ashore, licking at the white sand. He stood there for another minute or two before he heard Freddie walk out of the woods. Soothed by the ocean and as tempted as he was to stay and watch the quiet sea he knew that he was there for another purpose. He turned away from the view and they met alongside Hill’s car.
“I suppose you know why I’m here,” Hill said.
“Yea, I heard about David and I figured you’d find a need to come around.”
Hill wondered if there was a double meaning to Freddie’s talk but went straight on to the business at hand. “Were you at the play last night?”
“I had a ticket for this afternoon. Scarlett gave me a free one for my work and two hundred bucks. I guess the show’s cancelled now?”
“I expect that it is for the time being. I understand that it was you who made up Perkins’ mannequin to go in the coffin for the funeral scene.”
“I sure did. Built the coffin too,” Freddie said, proudly.
“Do you have any idea where the mannequin got off to? I sure would like to take a look at it.”
“I had no idea it was missing,” he said, shuffling his feet back and forth nervously.
“Did you build them in your workshop?” Hill pointed to the shed that stood alongside the woods, closing off further discussion of the lost prop.
“Yip, right there.”
“Do you mind if I take a look?”
“Course not, come on down,” Hollis said, as he turned towards the shed.
The door stood open and the sun shone brightly through the south-facing window and door. Cuttings from the crudely made pine box lay on the dirt floor. The wide workbench was covered in a chalky dust and a small photo of Briggs was attached to a post on the table. Hill swiped his finger through the leavings that covered the counter.
“Papier mâché dust,” Hollis said. “I always build the dummy from papier mâché. They last forever and can be reused.”
“And you made the face too?”
“Sure did.” He nodded at the photo.
“How much did it the mannequin weigh when it was done?”
“Must a’ been near onto a hundred pounds or so. I say that the dummy is always best if it can be as real as possible.”
“That would be about fifty kilograms?”
“Oh, don’t talk to me about kilograms. I never did bother to learn that stuff.”
“When was the last time you saw the dummy?” Hill asked, then frowned at his own use of the word ‘dummy’.
“It was on Thursday night. Darren, the stage manager, came by with his truck and together we loaded the coffin and dummy.”
“Was the dummy inside then?” Hill now smiled. He was surprised at how he too was now calling it a dummy.
“Had to be. When I took the contract, Darren brought out a set of clothes and that photo,” pointing to the photo of Briggs on the workbench. “I dressed him up, put him in there and shut the lid. That way all they had to do on stage was to open it up and it was ready to go.”
“Did Darren take a look at it before he took it away?”
“He sure did. He had to be certain it looked okay. He paid me cash. I helped him load it into his truck-box. We tied it down and away he went. He was still going on about what a great job I had done as he drove off.”
Hill looked around the shop, “Nice set up you got here.” After a few second he said, “Sure would like to see that dummy.”
“Wish I could help you out but, as I said….”
Hill cut him off, “Yes I know, last you saw it was on Thursday. I might be needing you for more questions. Not planning a holiday anytime soon are you?”
“I haven’t had a holiday in forty years. Livin’ here is holiday enough,” he grinned.
“I see what you mean. Right pretty spot you got yourself. I’ll get on now,” Hill said as he climbed into the car.
“See you around.” Freddie said through the open car window as Hill drove away.
Hill gave Hollis a curt nod, as a reminder that he may be called in for more questioning.
END OF CHAPTER EIGHT
“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.”