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BY THE TIME Monday came around Hill was more than ready to see the tents torn down, to have the food stands shut up, to see Privateer Days’ trash swept up and to put the whole thing to bed for another year. But there were still the Canada Day celebrations and fireworks to take place that evening. Privateer Days and Mosher’s death felt like a thorn in his side and he would have liked nothing better than to see the workers sweep up the whole of it. Yet in another way he felt that during the dismantling of the park some valuable information was going to be stowed into the trash bins. This tug-of-war of emotions had him on edge.
Hill drove over to the museum and walked around Perkins House. At the front door he showed his badge to the attendant, though it was hardly necessary for everyone knew him. And if they didn’t know him then his uniform spoke for itself. The inside of the old house, with its creaking floors and the women in period costume, moved him back in time. He had to credit Darren and Scarlett for the exactness of the set in her play, for it perfectly matched Perkins’ foyer, sitting room and counting room. Hill stood soaking up the ambiance before he stepped over the barrier and into the room. He moved a winged-back chair, placing it nearer the fireplace in precisely the same way that it had been on the set and then he sat on it. He did not notice the attendant’s scowl because he was concentrating and trying to imagine how Perkins felt in the last days before his death. He recalled a few lines of Scarlett’s play and knew that the play was not entirely fact based. However, in all likelihood Perkins did sit in exactly that spot, during the coldest of winter days, to soak up the warmth from the fireplace. He gave him a sense of pride knowing that, in the little town of Liverpool, someone had gone through the extra effort and expense to display the rooms exact to the period. Hill sat in the chair and tried to feel Perkins’ pain but he could not imagine the agony that Perkins might have felt. In the world of modern medicine Hill never would have to suffer such misery.
Hill stepped into the counting room and Perkins’ desk stood exactly where it was meant to be during the warmer seasons of the year. Hill peered into the old kitchen. As homey and inviting as it was he turned back to the counting room. He ran his hand over the back of the chair and desk and paused before Perkins’ picture. When he felt that there was nothing more to be learned he returned to the sitting room, repositioned the winged-backed chair where it belonged and walked back into the foyer. He nodded to the woman who minded the door and stepped out into the sunshine.
Since Hill was at that end of town he drove on down to the lighthouse, parked his car and walked across the park. Workers were raking the grass and collecting trash. The Privateer Days re-enactment event was over and it would be another year before the crowds again swarmed to the point. Hill stood at the railing and watched the otters as they scurried along the rocks. The mournful sound of gulls filled the air and an intoxicating aroma wafted from the long row of roses that were in full bloom. He stood looking out over the placid sea and it put him a world apart from his investigation. Then some enthusiastic tourist blasted the fog horn in the lighthouse causing Hill to jump. His edginess reminded him again of Mosher’s death. He pushed away from the railing and returned to his cruiser.
As he was driving past Perkins House he saw who he thought was Briggs walking into the main entrance to the house. Hill wheeled his car into the parking lot and walked directly to the house. The same attendant was on guard, checking the tickets. Without pause Hill asked her, “I just saw Christian Briggs come in. Which room did he go into?”
“Briggs? No one has been in since you left. Business is right slow today.”
Hill rubbed his eyes. Perhaps he was overtired. “Sorry to bother you. I was sure I saw him come this way.”
Hill shook his head and muttered to himself that the stress of the investigation and his need to interrogate Briggs was getting to him. He got back into his car and pointed it back towards the town center. Just down the street was the home of Alexis Saunders, the actor who played Elizabeth. Hill glanced at her house and when he saw her sitting on the front porch he turned his car into the drive. The moment that he cut the engine he could hear her sobbing. He got out of his car and took two steps towards the verandah before pausing. Not wanting to disturb her he turned back. He slammed the car door and paused before starting the engine. Alexis stood and walked to the edge of the verandah so that Hill could see her. He sighed heavily and got out of the car again. She waited for him to climb the stairs. By the time he reached the top step she had wiped away all evidence of her weeping.
She said, “Please sit…would you like tea or anything?”
“I’m fine…I could come back, when it’s more convenient.”
“No, please stay. I’d like the company. I don’t want to be alone.”
Hill smiled, reassuringly, knowing that this was just another chore, another task on the long list of unmentionables that went with his job and one that he had to bear – difficult as it was.
Alexis sat fidgeting. Her sobbing had stopped but she still twisted the soggy tissues between her fingers and rubbed her hands with them, as if trying to remove the blood stains that had been on her hands when she was last on the stage.
“I’m sorry. I have my moments,” she said.
“Have you called Dr. Jones? I’m sure she’d make some time available for you,” Hill said.
“I suppose I should…I just don’t know why anyone would kill David? And why would anyone ruin the play? Scarlett just wanted to put Liverpool on the map. I guess she did, sort of. It’s on the television news…CBC and CTV.”
“Why would anyone kill anyone? Crimes are always hardest to solve when everyone knows everyone. There is just no explaining it. But the toughest ones are the premeditated crimes. They’re usually the result of long-term festering of emotions, festering until they explode.”
“That’s exactly the word that came to mind when I saw the blood: premeditated,” Alexis said in astonishment. “Well maybe not at that moment but after I had time to think about it. I do know that I’m no criminologist but it’s almost as though someone was rubbing our faces in this whole thing. That ‘catch me if you can’ attitude. I’m sick about this whole thing. And David, if anyone, did not deserve this.”
‘No one deserves this,’ Hill thought. He nodded but did not say anything, completely agreeing with everything that Alexis was saying and wondered if he was letting her opinion influence his judgment.
~ ~ ~
Hill drove back down to the Mersey’s waterfront. He got out of his car and walked alongside the river. The music tent was finally quiet. He knew that it was a temporary peace for the list of events for Canada Day indicated that there was to be a belly dancing competition and homemade drum making. He did not bother trying to analyze how either event fitted in with Privateer Days or the Canada Day celebrations. Who was he to say what would draw the crowds? It did seem busy enough.
He gazed at the little island that stood in the center of the river. Byron, the director of the Canada Day celebrations, and head of almost every other committee that surrounded Liverpool’s events, was paddling a little boat out to the island where the mock-up privateer ship stood. It had been mounted there last year as just one of his many ideas on how to promote the town. Hill surmised that he was making preparations for the evening’s fireworks. By dark the whole of the waterfront would be bustling with folks from near and far. He looked at his watch. It was lunchtime and Byron had almost twelve hours before the first of the fireworks would be set off.
Hill thought again about Alexis’ theory: catch me if you can. There was a good chance that she was on the right track for Hill also felt as though someone was rubbing their noses in the whole awful mess of it. Whoever it was had some nerve leaving that button on that chair in the middle of the stage and it taunted him. It was most certainly an old American Soldiers’ uniform button. Most people would not want to give up such a souvenir. He wondered what connection it could possibly have with the case. But again there was no way of knowing. Murder cases seemed to draw more questions than answers.
Hill took out his phone and called Geoff. “Care to join me for lunch? I can pick-up some take-away from Tim’s if you’d like to meet me at the house.”
Geoff knew that the investigation was weighing heavily on Hill and that he needed an ear to bend.
“Give me forty five. I’m just out at White Point.”
“So what did you shoot today?” Hill asked knowing that he had missed another round of golf.
“You don’t want to know,” Geoff said, “I won’t be long.”
Hill and Geoff had been golfing together since the day they had met and Hill did not much like it that he was missing the opportunity of keeping his score in line with Geoff’s. He knew that Geoff’s score would be good.
Hill was pacing when Geoff arrived. Their lunch was sitting on the living room coffee table, still in take-away packages, unopened.
“As bad as all that is it?” Geoff asked.
“Worse. Alexis Saunders said something interesting to me today: ‘catch me if you can’.”
Geoff nodded and did not say anything as he began eating lunch. He had known Hill long enough to know that he just needed an ear, not an opinion. He would ask for that if and when it was time. Hill sat next to him and began eating.
“I feel the same way as Alexis does,” Hill added.
After a moment of silence Geoff asked, “Are you going down to the fireworks tonight?”
“I’d like to stay in and read Scarlett’s play but I feel as though I don’t have a choice. There’s something down there that draws me like a magnet these days.” Hill no sooner got those words out when an image of Vadoma came to mind.
Geoff knew how he felt but again he did not say anything. He had observed Hill on more than one occasion these past days, lost in thought, gazing across the river and the park.
Hill added, “I just want to see the park and the whole of Privateer Days cleared up. Yet I feel as though an important clue would be taken away with the tents and trash and stuff.”
“I’ll join you if you like…for the fireworks, that is,” Geoff said.
Long before dark Geoff was at the park, waiting for Hill. He scanned the crowds hoping to pick out the clue that Hill felt so sure was there. Hill spotted Geoff right away, parked his cruiser and walked over to him. The music and entertainment tents were closed but the food stands were still open. The midway was quiet and the lights turned off. They stood at the perimeter of the throng of spectators.
“Great turn-out this year,” Geoff said.
“It’s good for the town, I guess,” Hill said despondently, as he surveyed the crowd. In the dim light there was little to be seen. They moved to the edge of the river and stood watching the river glide past just as Byron and his team was setting off for the island. The fireworks would be starting soon.
Even though it was expected, when the first firecracker was set off, Hill jumped. The way in which the colourful sparks showered over the island gave life to the mock ship. They moved away from the crowd. Hill saw Briggs wandering across the parking lot and wondered what he was up to. It was bizarre that Briggs was still wearing that old Simeon Perkins’ costume. But who was Hill to tell Briggs what to wear when half the town insisted on dressing up in all sorts of antique costumes. Thank goodness that by the following day they would all be back in their normal gear.
END OF CHAPTER TEN
“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.”