Monday, October 8
Cleo was anxious to get on with the Fargo case, so she left the breakfast table to the auspices of her husband and drove to HQ, determined – with Gary’s blessing - to talk to Sally Fargo as soon as possible. Gary phoned Greg, and asked him to get Mrs Fargo to attend a questioning with Cleo and record everything. He would himself go to the hospital and interview the chorus director of the Finch Nightingales who had been admitted with appendicitis, the Hartley Agency had informed him. He would then go home for lunch.
Greg’s office was a smaller version of Gary’s and overlooked the parking yard rather than the main street in Middlethumpton, but it was better for Cleo not to be in Gary’s office as they did not want the Fargo woman to assume that she was on a mission from Gary. Cleo was still waiting for the promised office to be made available to her as resident social psychologist.
“If you want me to take the job seriously, you’ll have to organize a place for me to talk to people and keep all my reference books,” Cleo had complained, but the wheels tended to turn slowly at HQ if you were not a parking or speeding offender, so she would have to bide her time.
After meeting Cleo at reception, Greg took her up to his second floor office and phoned security to have Mrs Fargo brought up. It was only nine o’clock and the day at HQ had hardly begun. Cleo phoned Nigel and asked him to take notes of the interview. He would act as a witness if necessary.
Sally Fargo was quite surprised to see the office occupied by Cleo and that smart police inspector she already knew.
“I’ve said all I’m going to say,” she said. “That other inspector tricked me into saying too much,” she continued, referring to Gary, of course.
“He’s very shrewd, Mrs Fargo, if you are talking about the person I know. He has a method of getting people to talk that has annoyed people before you.”
“Let me introduce our resident social psychologist, Mrs Fargo,” said Greg.
“Resident still without her own office, Mrs Fargo, but I’m hopeful.”
Greg grinned at that the way Cleo had slipped into her job. Applause, applause. Cleo was not going to make use of her relationship with Gary or even admit to it.
“What did you say that you now regret, Mrs Fargo?” Cleo continued.
Greg knew that Gary trusted Cleo, even if he did sometimes make negative comments about private eyes. He knew that Cleo was a shrewd and sly interviewer. Greg still had a lot to learn about the psychology of dealing with suspects and was starting to regret having dozed through the lectures at the police academy.
“I can’t remember,” said Sally Fargo.
“Then it can’t have been very regrettable,” Cleo retorted.
“Can I go now?”
“You’ve only just come and you haven’t asked me why you are here,” said Cleo.
“Why am I here?” said Mrs Fargo, never in her wildest dreams expecting the question that was now put to her.
“Where is your mother, Mrs Fargo?”
“I think her name is Eve Fletcher these days.”
Sally Fargo gripped her hands so firmly that the knuckles turned white.
“What about my mother?”
“Where is she now, Mrs Fargo?”
“Why do you want to know?”
“Because she was declared dead and the tramp you recently identified as Dr Fargo was in fact her husband and only acquitted of her murder because the cops could not get their act together – oh, and the body of your mother had not been found, Mrs Fargo.”
“I did not identify the tramp. My husband did,” said Sally Fargo.
“We weren’t talking about the tramp, but since you clearly have something say, go ahead!”
“I can’t think of anything,” said Sally.
“That’s a whopper, Mrs Fargo. You agreed with the identification of the tramp as Dr Fargo when it was actually Toby Bates and you knew it.”
“All that was before I was born,” said Sally.
“How long before?”
“I don’t remember,” the woman said.
“That indicates that you do, Mrs Fargo, or that you at least know what this little chat is all about.”
Cleo turned to Greg and asked him if the dates of that court case were available. Greg said he would find out and turned to his computer to consult the police archives.
“That would be at a court in Bristol,” said Cleo. “I don’t suppose Weston-Super-Mare had a criminal court in those days.”
“Weston?” Sally Fargo asked.
“Homesick?” Cleo asked. “You live there, don’t you?”
“We used to.”
“Before you moved to the villa?”
“We’re only staying there,” said Sally Fargo. Cleo looked at her sharply. The young woman seemed to shrink under the powerful effect of Cleo’s unflagging gaze.
“Does that mean that you haven’t moved into the yet, Mrs Fargo, although you are giving it as your home address?”
Greg thought that Cleo’s questioning was quite devious. The young woman was getting nervous although she had not been accused of anything and her husband had not even been mentioned except by her.
“Did you recognize Toby Bates in that police casket?”
“Toby Bates was my mother’s husband,” said Sally Fargo. “I never knew him, Miss…”
“Hartley,” said Cleo, confirming that she was not going to present herself as the woman married to the policeman the Fargos knew as Chief Inspector Hurley.
“But you had seen photos of him, Mrs Fargo.”
“From before I was born, Miss Hartley.”
“Did your mother say who he was?”
“She never said he was my father, if that’s what you mean.”
“I found the photos of her wedding. My mother was very angry about that, but I kept one and still have it in my wallet.”
“Why would she be angry?”
“Because I thought the man she lived with was my father. I called his Daddy.”
“I’m puzzled,” said Cleo. “If you thought Mr Bates was like the man on your photograph, why didn’t you say something?”
“It would only have complicated things and Ed did not know about the photo.”
“What motivated you to steal that photo, Mrs Fargo?”
“I was angry that my mother did not tell me about her marriage.”
“Why should she? It was over,” said Cleo.
“Something is not right, Miss Hartley. I felt it then, and I feel it now.”
The room fell silent as Sally Fargo sat motionless and troubled. Cleo let her wallow in her confusion about what significance it could all have. Eventually, Cleo thought the timing was right to go on. Greg was fascinated. Cleo seemed to have broken into Sally Fargo’s consciousness.
“Your husband he did not tell you of his plan to dispose of his uncle, did he?”
“No, Miss Hartley. I only heard about it in that interview with the Chief Inspector.”
“I believe you, Mrs Fargo, but tell me about your mother in return for the trust I am putting in you. She did tell you what happened that day on the beach, didn’t she?”
“She told me enough for me not to want to meet that person.”
“Although he could have been your father?”
“My mother told me he wasn’t.”
“Your mother escaped from a jealous husband who was prepared to kill her rather than let her go to another man, Mrs Fargo.”
“Is that what happened?” Sally Fargo asked.
“I think so,” said Cleo, wanting to pursue that theory without delay. Mrs Fargo was obviously distressed.
“Did Bates try to bury your mother on that beach in Weston- Super-Mare, Mrs Fargo?”
“She told me that a stray dog had chased him from the hole for long enough for her to escape, Miss Hartley.”
“Wow,” said Cleo. “So that’s why she hid from him. And then he was acquitted of her murder, Mrs Fargo, because he did not kill her.”
“But he tried, didn’t he? She was mortally afraid of him, Miss Hartley.”
“She must have been. It does explain why she did not come forward in her husband’s defence. I don’t think I would, either.”
In the meantime, Greg had found the information Cleo had asked for.
“The trial was held in July, Cleo. Bates was acquitted and the case closed months later when the body of Eve Bates had still not been found.”
“When is your birthday, Mrs Fargo?”
“September the thirtieth.”
“So your mother must have been pregnant when she escaped. Where did she go?”
“The man I know as my father took my mother to Ireland that same day she escaped. He had followed them to the beach and was able to help her to get away.”
“Are your parents still alive, Mrs Fargo?”
“Where do they live?”
“In Dublin some of the time.”
“Are you in contact? Can I talk to them?”
“Yes. They could be back in Bristol. My father runs a gym there. I talked to my mother a few days ago. My husband does not know I am in contact with her.”
“Please give the Inspector a phone number or email address for your parents. I don’t need to ask you any more questions right now.”
“But I need to ask you a question, Miss Hartley.”
“If I was born only months after my mother got away, I don’t know who my father is, do I?”
“I can’t answer that, Mrs Fargo. You could ask your mother, but she may not know, either.”
“I always thought of my mother’s partner as my father. There is no father’s name on my birth certificate.”
“Understandable if she thought the father was someone who had tried to kill her. I can talk to your mother about Toby Bates. She left him charged with murder and never came forward to clear his name.”
“When I asked her about the photo of him she said he was past history. I later learnt some of the details from the man I knew as my father.”
“Toby Bates really had tried to kill her. The man you knew as your father was a witness. Toby Bates would have gone to prison for attempted murder.”
“The dog belonged to my father, Miss Hartley. It chased Bates for miles along that beach. It saved my mother’s life, didn’t it?”
“Yes. That’s why I want to get that case reopened and the record put straight, even if Toby Bates is dead.”
“Can I get proof that I am not related to him? Does it matter anymore? I think I killed him, Miss Hartley. I gave him the wine. I thought my husband was looking after him with little treats.”
“So he gave you wine specifically for that tramp, did he?”
“Yes and he said not to drink any. If it was poisoned, I’m guilty.”
“Don’t jump the guns, Mrs Fargo. We must prove that your husband had access to and made use of the poison identified in the tests. I know you’ll help us.”
“I’m not a murderess, Miss Hartley. Please believe me.”
“You have the book on natural poisons from the library, don’t you, Mrs Fargo?”
“My husband wanted it. He said the information might come in handy one day. You don’t think…..?”
Sally Fargo gasped in horror.
“How do you know about the book, Miss Hartley?”
“I wanted the book and it was not available at the library.”
“Do you think my husband made up a poison?”
“I don’t know yet, Mrs Fargo. We can arrange for a DNA test with the pathologist. It will tell us whether you were related to Mr Bates. I don’t think you should discuss our talk with anyone.”
“No. I hate Ed Fargo and I don’t want to upset my parents.”
“Did he know about a possible relationship between you and Mr Bates?” said Cleo.
“I’m no longer sure about that, Miss Hartley, but if he poisoned Mr Bates, maybe he poisoned his uncle too and maybe I’m to be the third victim.”
“He won’t get an opportunity to go down that path,” said Cleo. “Keep silent about our talk. We’ll get you out of HQ as soon as possible. I am sure that your husband will be invited to stay.”
“Since your mother never applied for a divorce, she is now a widow, Mrs Fargo, so she could marry again.”
Sally Fargo smiled for the first time in that interview.”
“I think she’ll want to, Miss Hartley.”
Well satisfied with how the confrontation with Sally Fargo had worked out, Cleo signalled to Greg that the woman could go back to her cell to await clearance and release.
Greg’s thumb-up gesture showed his appreciation of the talk. It was a lesson in persuasion that he had yet to learn.
When Mrs Fargo had been led away, Cleo tapped Eve Fletcher’s phone number.
“Is that Ms Fletcher?”
“Who are you?”
“My name is Cleo Hartley and I’m calling from Middlethumpton.”
“I have news for you, Ms Fletcher.”
“I hope it’s good news, Miss Hartley.”
“I’m sure you’ll think it is. Toby Bates is dead.”
“Who is dead?”
“The guy you were married to.”
“Listen, Miss Hartley. I don’t talk about that bastard. Get off my phone please.”
“No, wait. I’ve been talking to your daughter.”
“To Sally? Is she all right?”
“She’s fine. Can I come to talk to you, or can you come here?”
“If it’s urgent, we’ll drive to you if you tell us where that is. Do you want me to identify Bates?”
“No. But I think we should have a talk.”
“Are you a policewoman, Miss Hartley?”
“No. I’m a social worker at Middlethumpton police headquarters, so if you could come there it would be a help.”
“Can I call you back, Miss Hartley? I’ll have to ask my partner when he has time.”
“Sure. Thanks for not hanging up,” said Cleo.
“Thank you for phoning, Miss Hartley. I’m sorry if I was unfriendly. Thirty years in hiding from a person who tried to kill me have taken their toll. I expect you know the story.”
“I do. You won’t have any more hauntings, Ms Fletcher.”
“You’re right. I’m free now, aren’t I?”
Gary’s spontaneous visit to the hospital was not as successful. He was informed that he could not talk to Miss Keys that day because she was in the post-operative ward coming round after her appendix operation at seven that morning. He had no alternative but to drive home again, secretly relieved that he had not been obliged to talk to Miss Keys, and openly delighted because he could spend the day with his children. He expressed his joy by singing along to a Mozart symphony on the radio. Cleo would have called his performance deafeningly untuneful, but Gary was alone in his car and enjoying life.
Cleo was on her way home, wondering whether Gary had had any luck with Lisa Keys. It was too early for a siesta, but a second breakfast would be enhanced by goodies from the bakery and her report of the interview with Sally Fargo.
Cleo had not forgotten that call to Dorothy. It was the first time Dorothy had not responded to a call from the cottage and Cleo was sorry that Gary had not behaved well the previous afternoon. He would have to apologize for joking about a matter Dorothy was taking seriously and he should have been, though he had tried to mend the situation. But the damage was done. Dorothy, who had urged him on so often and come up with so many good ideas, was hurt.
Gary had stopped by the hospital flower shop on the way out. He bought a bunch of red ‘tryst’ roses for Cleo and a huge bunch of mixed pink flowers for Dorothy. Before going home he drove to Dorothy’s cottage and rang the doorbell. Dorothy stopped banging out Beethoven and came to the door.
“I’m sorry I was grumpy yesterday,” he said from behind the bouquet. “I still love you Dorothy and I can well understand that you were disgusted.”
“I was disgusted,” said Dorothy, “but I still love you too, Gary. The flowers are lovely. Won’t you come in?”
“I’d better get home,” said Gary. “I have some more apologizing to do.”