Saturday, 2 September 2017

14 - The Effigy

Saturday, October 6th

It would be too easy just to have a crime or two to solve. A phone-call from Greg woke the Hurleys very early on Saturday morning to say as much.
“Didn’t you mention a corpse in the freezer at the villa at some point, Gary?” he started.
“We suspected something. I remember sending forensics in to have another look, but the freezer was empty and there were no traces of anyone human having been in it, but there were a few fibres from clothing. In the corner of that cellar there was a life-sized doll dressed in clothes that turned out to be Dr Fargo’s and matched the fibres. That doll must have been in the freezer for some time judging by the fibre threads found sticking to the sides. The freezer was still switched on. I assume that the doll was hidden there, but that doesn’t not explain why we found it in a corner.”
“That doll theory sounds like one of Dorothy Price’s hunch,” said Greg.
“It would also be a good place to hide a corpse, though, wouldn’t it?” said Gary.
“Why isn’t the business of the freezer in the initial report?”
”Because following up such a theory is something a serious cop would not admit to,” said Gary, wondering if that description of a cop really fitted him these days. “But we went there anyway, Greg. Sometimes Dorothy has a nose for criminal innovation.”
“It’s just as well she’s on our side then,” said Greg.
“She semi-retired now, so we don’t get as much inspiration.”
“I was going to tell you that a look-alike doll had been seen sitting in a chair at a window upstairs,” said Greg, “but someone obviously thought it needed a breath of fresh air.”
“So where was the doll found this time?”
“In the villa garden shrubbery.”
“Goodness. Who found it?”
“Schoolboys. They were terrified. They said it looked like Dr Fargo so they didn’t go near it. Apparently Dr Fargo used to sit in an armchair at an upstairs window and observe the street and he looked just like the effigy.”
“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” said Gary.
“Exactly,” said Greg. “If that doll was put there to give the impression that Dr Fargo was alive and sitting in an armchair, he might be dead after all.”
“So now what? Who could have organized the doll bluff if it wasn’t the relatives?” Greg asked.
“How long have they been back?”
“I don’t know. Stan Butterworth might have some ideas or even seen that doll.”
“The schoolboys obviously did,” said Gary. I think I’ll have to consult the Ladies again. I’m curious to see how many of their hunches are accurate.”
“It’s all getting a bit out of hand, Gary.”
“I have never been so baffled, Greg. There are so many seemingly unconnected elements.
“I’ll talk to those schoolboys at HQ this morning. They’ll enjoy a ride in a patrol car.”
I’ll haul them in,” said Greg.
“Thanks, Greg. I’ll come into HQ later. I’m supposed to have a free weekend, but that’s out, presumably.”
“Sorry to wake you.”
“You were right to call, Greg. This whole business is getting nastier by the minute. If only Dr Fargo would turn up!”
“I agree that it would solve a number of problems.”
“I’d like to know who the doctor’s lady friend is,” said Gary.
“Could it be the dismissed cleaner?
“On the contrary, Greg. Mrs Beatty resents the new friend.”
“That may be why she phoned and told reception to tell you or me that there was a body in the villa fridge,” said Greg. “She even said she had been the cleaner there and gave her name.
“A bit of revenge, I dare say,” said Gary. “She wanted to make trouble.”
“Or the doll really was in the freezer when she saw it. We know it was kept there at some time,” said Greg. “Those girls at reception were in a panic so they called me because I was in my office.”
“Of course, that cleaner might be responsible for more than she admitted to. I don’t suppose many people had a key to the villa,” said Gary. “I have a feeling that Mrs Beatty thought she was first lady in that house and had been usurped.”
“She wouldn’t be the first household employee with delusions of grandeur, would she?” said Greg.
“What was that about?” said Cleo, entering the living-room, where Gary had been phoning and had hoped not to wake the family.
“You won’t believe me.”
“Try me.”
Gary’s account surprised Cleo. Gary would have to go to HQ, but first they would have to get through Dorothy’s breakfast account of her visit to the Crightons.
Gary’s reaction was appreciative. He was also sure that an identity parade should be held as soon as possible, but Barbarella Knowles would also have to answer some searching questions about her car. Had she used it had been on the night of the chorus rehearsal? He would invite her to an informal chat the following Monday.
Over the weekend the Crightons would be given a time to be at HQ on Monday afternoon for an identity parade. A very large cook from the HQ canteen and one or two other large ladies would be invited to join the line-up. To make sure that the Crightons came, a squad car would collect them and take them home again. Nigel would take care of the logistics.
“So how about the Fargos?” said Cleo. “I can’t wait to hear how that questioning went.”
“Fair to middling, but in the end quite revealing except that I’m sure they have plenty more stories to tell. I recorded the event,” said Gary. “Nigel and Greg were on hand as witnesses, but I didn’t want to leave anything to chance, so it’s archived on the tape recorder and here as a video on my smart phone,” he said, pressing the start key. I had propped it upon my desk. “Like me to play it?”
“Brilliant!” said Cleo.
“Marvellous!” said Dorothy.
“It rather confirms your ideas, Ladies.”
“Names,” said Gary.
“Sally Fargo.”
“Ed Fargo.”
“Not Edward?”
“No. Just Ed.”
“The villa.”
“Where were you before you returned to the villa after several days’ absence?”
“I was in Weston,” said Sally Fargo. “We used to live there.”
“Where were you, Mr Fargo?”
“Out and about.”
“That’s too vague.”
“OK. Gaming and then at the races in  Cheltenham and after that more gaming. I slept at the gaming club. Satisfied?”
The gaming club was actually a swinger club on the Bristol Road. It was notorious. The services offered could be bought – at a price. Gary did not comment apart to say that the account of Mr Fargo’s activities would be checked. He did not think that Sally Fargo knew about the club’s activities.
“Do you otherwise share a bed with anyone, Mr Fargo?” said Gary.
“That’s none of your business, is it?” said Ed Fargo.
Sally Fargo looked rather shocked.
“OK. I’ll put it another way. Are you siblings or lovers … or both?”
“Ed is my husband,” said Sally. “Was that supposed to be a trick question?”
“It’s your second marriage, isn’t it, Mr Fargo?” said Gary.
“You seem to know a lot, Inspector.”
“Archives, Mr Fargo. I’ve seen a photo of your first wife. What happened to her? Nudge my memory!”
“She died,” said Fargo.
“I didn’t know you’d already been married, Ed,” said Sally and all the cops present were immediately sure that she was play-acting, Gary commented to Cleo and Dorothy.
“You didn’t need to know. She’s dead and that’s the end of that.”
“How did she die?” Sally asked.
“That’s terrible,” said Sally. “Is that why you know about Ed, Inspector?”
“Yes, but it’s more terrible than that. Tell her the whole story, Mr Fargo, though I’m sure she knows already, despite the theatricals I’m being treated to here.”
“I don’t want to hear any more,” said Sally Fargo.
“Let me remind your husband then. The first Mrs Fargo did not drown. Your husband ran her down driving out of his garage down a long drive where she was waiting to get into the car.”
“I did not want to run her down,” said Fargo.
“The court believed him,” Gary said. “But in the light of what has happened now, I’m inclined to think they made a mistake, and it’s clear that you were lying, Mrs Fargo. You thought you could fool me when you said you didn’t know your husband had been married before. You were the chief witness of that incident, weren’t you?”
“We were strangers then,” insisted Mrs Fargo.
“I’ll bet you weren’t. Your maiden name was Fletcher and that’s the name in the police reports. But there’s a photo of you in there, too, Mrs Fargo. I’m amazed that you think you can fool me by telling lies.” said Gary. “You married Mr Fargo soon after the so-called accident. That’s a strange thing to do. After all, you knew that Mr Fargo had killed his first wife. I would have been more cautious.”
“I …. We fell in love,” she said, “at the trial. Ed did not kill his first wife.”
“That’s very loyal of you, Mrs Fargo, but a dangerous kind of loyalty, if I may say so.”
“I don’t understand.”
“If you were already lovers, as I think was the case, Mr Fargo had a reason for doing away with the first Mrs Fargo, didn’t he? You can’t deny that your husband ran over her, can you, now your memory has been sufficiently jogged.”
“Not on purpose. It was a terrible accident.”
“I don’t think it was, Mrs Fargo.”
“Don’t talk any more junk, Inspector, or I’ll sue you,” said Fargo.
“On what grounds?”
“You are accusing me of a murder I was acquitted of.”
“That’s right. You were acquitted, Mr Fargo. I would retaliate to any stupid legal action on your part by getting your case reopened on the grounds of new evidence and a confession from your new wife and old lover that she lied to me and the court about knowing you and was therefore covering up the facts of the case.”
Gary had demonstratively turned the pages of an official file containing the information he had made use of at the questioning. It hadn’t taken Nigel long to trace the documents. A photo of the only witness was included. Gary held it up.
“I could deny everything,” said Mrs Fargo.
“In my experience, you wouldn’t, quite apart from my assistant at the table being a reliable witness who takes notes and there being recordings of this interview. Inspector Greg Winter can also be relied on to give a truthful account of our little talk. For now, just tell me what motivated you to move into the villa.”
“We wanted to help Ed’s uncle,” said Sally Fargo.
“Or help yourselves,” said Gary, who had been expecting her to say what she did. “After all, you were short of cash without your first wife’s earnings, weren’t you, Mr Fargo?”
“I don’t know what you mean,” said Fargo.
“What does he mean, Ed?”
“I’ll explain, shall I?” said Gary. “The first Mrs Fargo was a call-girl with a lucrative home business. Her devoted husband was banking on the same arrangement with his second wife.”
Sally Fargo gasped.
“Did he ask you entertain men, Mrs Fargo?” Gary asked.
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“I mean that your husband suggested that you contribute to the family finances by entertaining his friends. Your husband’s first wife had to die because she wanted to stop the prostitution. She was 3 months pregnant when she was run over. The show of grief at the trial was pure theatre.”
Sally Fargo moved away from her husband. She was genuinely appalled.
“In the end, your second wife refused to prostitute herself, didn’t she, Mr Fargo, so you were obliged to look for other ways of making money. I’m surprised you did not kill her and get someone else in.”
“I didn’t know that’s what you wanted when you bought those beautiful underclothes for me, Ed,” said Sally Fargo.
Sally turned to Gary.
“Then he told me what they were for, Inspector, and I was shocked to the core. Now I know about it all, is he going to kill me?”
“I sincerely hope not,” said Gary.
“You could have left him, Mrs Fargo.” said Greg, thinking it was time to call it a day. Fargo was a nasty piece of work. He was capable of violence and had certainly used it on his first wife.
“But she didn’t, Cop,” said Fargo. “She’s like all women. Hookers at heart.”
“I beg to differ on that,” said Gary.
“So do I,” said Sally Fargo.
“So you decided to move into Dr Fargo’s house, Mr Fargo. You would start a new trade there after the old doctor had been persuaded to leave, since he was in the way of progress.”
“My uncle was alive and well when we moved in, if that’s what you are getting at,” said Mr Fargo.
“I can vouch for that,” said Mrs Fargo, clinging on to the vestige of loyalty she felt.
“But he wasn’t going to stay in good health for long, was he?” said Gary. “That dead tramp in the park inspired you, didn’t it?”
“I don’t know what you are talking about,” said Ed Fargo.
“I’ll explain,” said Gary. “A dead vagabond with no family would serve well as a substitute corpse. The dead tramp even looked a bit like your uncle, although he was dirty and unkempt. Is that when you decided to do away with your relative? Is that when you started to display the doll dressed in his clothes at the villa window to prove that he was still alive?”
“I didn’t know about any of that,” said Mrs Fargo.
“Shut up,” said Fargo.
“Did you kill your uncle?” shrieked Sally Fargo at her husband.
Fargo did not answer.
“When did you go to Weston, Mrs Fargo?”
“After identifying the old man,” she replied. “He had wandered off, you see.”
“Is that what your husband told you?”
“Yes. He was dead. I identified him,” said Mrs Fargo, who was now very confused about events, “but I didn’t know it was murder.”
“Did you give him something to drink, Mrs Fargo?”
“Ed did. We always used to give those vagabonds in the park something. Ed said it was better than the Red Cross because you knew your donations were appreciated.”
“And you didn’t put two and two together later, Mrs Fargo. If you saw the tramp alive he could not suddenly be Dr Fargo when he was dead,” said Gary.
“Ed said his uncle was eccentric and sometimes went out dressed as tramp to join others in the park.”
“And you believed that?” said Gary. “I suppose your husband singled out that tramp as being the most worthy of a little charity, did he?”
Mrs Fargo nodded.
“And then there was the grief of the doctor dying, I suppose,” said Gary. “What did you do after the identification?”
“Ed sent me to Weston to recover and get things from the house.”
“When did you find out that the tramp was not Dr Fargo?”
“From the newspaper,” said Sally. “What’s this all about, Inspector?”
“The tramp was later identified correctly, but you had in fact claimed that Dr Fargo was dead by identifying his corpse, so he could not be seen alive at the villa again, could he?”
“I suppose not.”
“The whole identification of that tramp was a construct, Mrs Fargo. Your husband wanted to be rid of the old man and he got the idea of killing him from identifying a substitute. He would dispose of the uncle later.”
“I can’t believe that, Inspector.”
”You knew that tramp, didn’t you, Mr Fargo? You also knew that it was not Dr Fargo.”
“Your wife has already stated that you knew where the tramps hung out with fellow-tipplers. You heard her saying she had given the tramp wine.”
There was a long silence before Mrs Fargo said “That with the doll wasn’t my idea. Ed’s uncle was not at the villa when we got there.”
“That explains why you identified that tramp, Mrs Fargo. I don’t suppose you knew the doctor very well, did you?”
“When we arrived at the villa, people kept asking for my uncle. We sat the doll in a chair upstairs and that took care of the neighbours’ curiosity. We did not know where he was, and that’s the truth.”
“Where is Dr Fargo now, Mr Fargo?” said Gary.
“We don’t know,” said Sally Fargo.
“I don’t know whether to believe you. You’ll have to lodge in the arrest cells while we search for him. If he’s alive, you’re in luck. If he’s dead, we’ll let you know,” said Gary.
The security guards took the Fargo couple to separate arrest cells
Gary switched off the video-recording and they all sat around the table wordless.
“You are sure that the death of the first Mrs Fargo was deliberate, aren’t you,” said Dorothy.
“Fargo was acquitted,” said Gary. “And there was no proof that the current Mrs Fargo knew anything.”
“But we know now that she must have known,” said Cleo. “That’s enough to reopen the case, surely.”
“Not really. The prosecution could not make him admit anything at the time. There was no conclusive proof that Ed Fargo had hurried his wife’s death along. Accidents do happen.”
“But surely you could apply to reopen the case on the basis of that new evidence, Gary,” said Dorothy.
“That’s true, but we’d need to have that evidence, not just talk about it.”
“I would have thought that was obvious,” said Dorothy. “What about the motive?”
“Motive is not enough either. Many relations would like to see the back of one or more family members,” said Gary. ”and obvious is not enough, either, Dorothy. You can’t convict on the obvious, however obvious it seems. There has to be concrete proof.”
“But sometimes there are convictions without a body.”
“And often enough there is a body and no conviction, Dorothy,” said Gary.
“Sally Fargo claimed to be a passer-by who witnessed the scene of that first murder. Did no one make inquiries into the woman who was then Miss Fletcher?”  Cleo asked.
“Apparently not.”
“So again we have the case of a murderer killing a second time,” said Cleo.
“Assuming that Fargo did do away with his uncle, and we have no proof of that. There will have been a third murder if they killed the tramp. We haven’t found his murderer yet,” said Gary, “and Mrs Fargo admitted to giving him a drink.”.
“It would be nice if Mr Fargo had killed his first wife, married his mistress, and then killed again to gain possession of the villa,” said Dorothy.
“I wouldn’t call that nice,” said Cleo.
“You know what I mean. It would make it all so much easier.”
“We can only speculate about the order of events, and to be honest, motive is not enough to explain the technicalities. It would also help if we had Dr Fargo’s earthly remains.”
“I think the whole business was planned,” said Cleo.
“Supposing Dr Fargo had really been in that freezer,” said Dorothy. “Corpses preserved in pack ice on the Alps could be millions of years old, so why take it out?”
“Almost the perfect murder,” said Dorothy. “You kill off your designated victim, freeze him or her, and discover him months later or not at all.”
“In this case not at all since the freezer was empty,” said Gary.
“They could have disposed of Dr Fargo and insisted that the tramp was the uncle despite the other identification,” said Dorothy. “But I tend not to believe that. In fact, I think Dr Fargo is alive and well somewhere and those young people are trying to get their hands on the villa and his money without actually knowing where he really is. As a corpse, the tramp did a fine job of proving Dr Fargo was dead and therefore could be inherited.”
“Dorothy could be onto something,” said Cleo. “Murderers aren’t entitled to the estate of their victims and the tramp was either not killed by the Fargos or they were cunning enough to get away with it.”
“I think the Fargos should be charged with the murder of Dr Fargo and left to chew over things until it is absolutely clear who killed the tramp and where Dr Fargo is,” said Dorothy.
“That may be our only alternative, Dorothy,” said Gary. “We’re banking on there being evidence that the young Fargos killed that tramp.”
“Part of the inquiries has to be about when Dr Fargo was last seen alive,” said Cleo.
“Greg’s seeing to that,” said Gary, “but witnesses might only have seen the doll and not realize it.”
“I could ask around tomorrow if you think it’s a good idea, Gary,” said Dorothy.
“Go ahead!”
“But before we close this meeting, I’d like to talk about the deceased Toby Bates,” said Dorothy.
“I’ve got to get going, Dorothy,” said Gary.
“It won’t take a minute and there is probably a link to the Fargo case.”
“Go ahead, Dorothy. I want to hear,” said Cleo.
“If I remember rightly, that tramp was poisoned and then struck,” said Dorothy.
“That’s what Chris says.”
“According to what transpired from the Fargo questioning, the Fargos could have been out looking for suitable victim, given him alcohol laced with poison and watched him drink it, as tramps tend to do, straight from the bottle. If it contained Knock-out drops they might not have had to wait long before the tramp became drowsy. Then he could have been hit with some kind of blunt instrument and fallen to the ground.”
“That’s possible, but the problem is that we will never prove it,” said Gary. “The witnesses would be other tramps and they would not want to get involved, so they would keep silent if they had seen anything.”
“Chris will have made a note of what was in the tramp’s drink. Did you find the bottle?”
“I don’t think anyone looked for one that day, and it would have been cleared away next morning by the refuse men,” said Gary. “They always clear up daily in parks and open spaces, especially where layabouts have congregated.”
“The Fargos will have to confess,” said Dorothy.
“Care to interview them yourself, Dorothy?”
“I suppose that’s too unconventional, isn’t it?”
“Hang convention. We need to get at the truth,” said Gary. “If we can’t make progress any other way, you might be able to get something out of them that isn’t theatricals or a pack of lies.”
“Then you have a deal, Chief Inspector, but listen to what I found out about the tramp.”
“I’ll make coffee,” said Gary. “Please phone Greg and tell him I’ll be with him soon, Cleo.”
Dorothy was persistent. Gary knew she would be like a dog with a bone until she had told him what she wanted to. A few minutes later he served espressos in large mugs with a jug of steaming hot milk to decant into the coffee, sat down and prepared himself for the talk. To reassure Greg that he was coming to HQ and confirm Cleo’s short phone-call, he sent him a quick text. Dorothy’s tales were usually worth listening to, not just for their entertainment value.
“It goes back over 30 years,” Dorothy started, “but I’ll only tell you what’s relevant.”
“Get to the best bits, Dorothy,” said Cleo.
“Well, the newspaper cuttings reported that Mr Bates’s wife Eve disappeared during a walk on the beach in Weston-Super-Mare, where they lived. Since Mrs Bates disappeared without trace on a lonely part of the beach, Bates was soon suspected of murdering her. The police theory was that the couple had dug a deep hole in the sand. Bates had had a sinister reason for what she thought was a game. He was suspected of killing her and burying her in the hole they had dug together. He claimed that his wife had tried to rescue a dog from a sandbank and been swept away to sea or sucked under. The police argued that since the tide was ebbing, the dog could have escaped on its own.
Toby Bates was charged with murder. The next incoming tide washed away any signs of a hole, but the police decided that it was only a matter of time before the corpse would be washed out.
But it wasn’t.
Eventually the police had to admit that they had no evidence to support their theory and no proof that Bates had been lying. They tried to get some kind of confession from Bates, but he insisted that his wife had gone into the sea to rescue an animal, and not returned.
Witnesses claimed to have seen him walking to the far end of the beach with a woman and returning alone. Since there was no evidence to support the murder theory, Bates was release from custody. He disappeared. The little house he had shared with his wife was found to have been stripped of everything personal. The police looked for Eve and Toby Bates all summer.
 Bates had a brother with whom he had almost no contact. Eve Bates had a sister. Neither relative had any idea about where Eve and Toby were, but it was later accepted that Eve Bates had drowned. Toby’s brother thought he might have gone to the South of France because he and Eve had spent holidays there, but the French police found no record of anyone ever seeing either of them again, even among the thriving British community in and near Limoges where everyone seemed to know everyone else. Eve’s sister believed Toby Bates’s story about her disappearance.
The police in Weston were sure that Toby had disappeared because he was guilty of her murder. The case was eventually abandoned.”
“Very good, Dorothy, but what does it have to do with the Fargos?” said Gary.
I thought it was just background information, but now I’ve heard that the Fargos lived in Weston-Super-Mare, I’m starting to wonder how much of a coincidence it is that they chose Toby Bates as their victim.”
“It’s too far-fetched, Dorothy,” said Gary.
“Wait a minute,” said Cleo. “I don’t think we should reject the idea. Wasn’t Toby Bates’s identification confirmed by an old letter he carried around with him? It was anonymous and accused him of killing his wife. The letter was dated 30 years previously. Why had he kept that letter and why had he kept his wife’s wedding ring and was still wearing his when he died? And why, for goodness’ sake, hasn’t that anonymous letter been followed up?”
“Poison pen letters are common. Suspected murderers get them even if they are acquitted. Someone always thinks they must be guilty,” said Gary. “We can’t follow up every anonymous message.“
“But why would he carry it around with him all that time?” said Dorothy.
“Probably because he really was innocent, Dorothy,” said Cleo.
“I suppose that makes sense, but you are going to look into a connection between the Fargos and Bates, aren’t you?”
“No, Dorothy. Bates left Weston over thirty years ago. The Fargos are in their mid-thirties. They were little kids when the drama of Eve Bates’s disappearance happened.”
“I’m sure it’s a coincidence, Dorothy, but we can look into it, can’t we, Gary?”
“If it makes you happy.”
“And what about that wedding ring? Bates could have kept the wedding ring after taking it off his wife’s finger after he had killed her, but Gary pointed out that if she left him it is quite possible that she took off the ring and left it for him to find as a sign that she was going for ever. The ring was not necessarily evidence even that Eve Bates was dead.
“So we don’t know if Eve Bates is alive, do we?”
“And now we come to the best bit,” said Dorothy.
“Make it good,” said Gary.
“What if I were to tell you that Eve Bates was Eve Fletcher before she got married?”
“I’m not sure I would believe you,” said Gary.
“You’d have to. My research into Toby Bates’s biography got as far as finding out who Eve Bates was before they married and that is the link between Sally Fargo and Toby Bates, Gary,” said Dorothy triumphantly.
“He could have been her father,” said Cleo.
“She did not know that, however,” said Dorothy. “For that you would need to compare DNA samples.”
“Nothing easier,” said Gary. “Sally Fargo is about 30. I wonder if she knows where her mother is.”
“I think I should ask Sally Bates,” said Cleo.
“I think you should,” said Gary. “I hope Eve is still alive. Somehow the idea of that tramp wandering around for thirty years is crass.”
“I think it would be even crasser if Sally Fargo had actually murdered her father, Gary,” said Dorothy.
“I wonder why Eve Bates walked out on Toby Bates,” said Dorothy.
“He might have had another woman,” said Cleo.
“Don’t make it any more complicated than it is,” said Gary.
“Can I talk to Sally Fargo tomorrow, Gary?”
“Yes Cleo. We can’t move forward until we’ve looked into the past. I can see that now.”

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