Sunday, 26 November 2017

21 - The white witch

Tuesday cont.

Gary thought it would be a good idea to talk to Knowles without the presence of Phillis Cartwright so he, Dorothy and Cleo went down to the room in which Knowles was being asked to wait. Nigel went with them to record everything.
“We’ll need to talk to you again, Miss Knowles,” said Gary, “but if I’m not mistaken, Miss Cartwright made a fool of you and she was tryng it on with us.”
“It looks very much like it,” said Knowles. “Aren’t you going to charge me with anything?”
“You were foolish to let yourself in for that soup incident.”
“I thought I was just taking her for a ride. I didn’t know what was in that potion.”
“She did not know she was handling poison either, Miss Knowles,” said Cleo,” but on the other hand, it’s not a good idea to mess around with people think they are clever and cunning.”
“We don’t know that Phillis did not know about the poison, do we?” said Knowles, talking quite differently now it was clear that she was a lawyer. “I quite liked the idea of helping the singing by eating soup laced with some kind of vocally improving substance. Phillis really believed that, or said she did. I just went along with it for fun.”
“You’ll know better next time not to underestimate apparent stupidity. It took me quite a long time to understand that such people either have no reasoning at all or it is too perverted to be taken seriously,” said Gary. “Suicide bombers are made of such stuff. You can’t argue with them that they are taking their own lives at the behest of people who would not dream of taking theirs. They believe in a heaven full of innocent assassins.”
“There won’t be a next time, I promise you. I’m going to come out as a lawyer. I can see that I’m not clever enough to be a criminal, and my excursions into the working world were not a success.”
***
“Which brings me to something I have to ask you about the past, Miss Knowles,” said Cleo.
“Go ahead.”
“Did you kill Laura Finch?”
“What makes you ask that?
“You were seen nearby.”
By Betjeman Crighton?”
“Yes,” said Cleo.
“Little skunk. I was never sure just how mad he was. I think he was just plain evil.”
“He is probably both,” said Cleo.
“He stalked Laura Finch. She never knew when he would pop up, and he exposed himself on several occasion. For an ex prostitute, Mrs Finch could look convincingly appalled,” said Knowles.” She and I did not really get on, but Mrs Finch knew I was lawyer and had asked me to look into Betjeman Crighton’s activities. He frightened her. I was to find a way of getting him locked up.”
“How did Mrs Finch find out about your profession?” Gary asked.
“She had been worried about her so-called nephew. I said I knew someone who might help her. When we were alone, I told her who I was. It was about Jason’s birth certificate, if I remember rightly. She wanted me to make sure the details did not get out, but it was too late to avoid the truth about her relationship with the man she had repeatedly said was her nephew. I think the main problem was that her own past was not to become common knowledge.”
“Did you know about it?”
“I contacted the shipping company and found out.”
“So what happened when Mrs Finch was murdered?” said Cleo.
“I followed Betjeman when I could, but he was usually on his racing bike, so I needed to know where Mrs Finch was going. She told me she was going to the garage yard that day, to where that nasty little grocer and the organist kept their cars. She would tell them both to get off her back.”
“I wish we’d heard all this sooner,” said Gary.
“You had your killer, so I kept quiet,” said Knowles. “I was too late to stop Betjeman pushing Mrs Finch to the ground and stabbing her, and I did not know that Bontemps attacked her because I had left.”
“It could mean that Bontemps came upon her later than we thought and was the last one to stab her, but it really doesn’t matter. The stabbings were located to him and Crighton and Bontemps committed suicide, believing that he had killed the woman he had actually asked to marry him.”
“I didn’t know that,” said Knowles.
***
“It’s your own fault that you have such a bad reputation, Miss Knowles,” said Cleo. “You cultivated it for reasons best known to yourself.”
“Those weird jobs were amusing. The legal profession is not amusing.”
“Phillis’s action at the hospital was clearly murder. She had confessed. Her motive was jealousy. I don’t know if you did anything to provoke it,” said Gary. “But that would not be illegal, would it?”
“I certainly didn’t encourage the woman. I’m happily married, Mr Hurley. I do look a bit like a prize fighter and I’m married to one. I’m not interested in women, but Phillis fascinated me because I could not quite make out what went on in that tiny mind.”
“There is no accounting for what people will do when they are jealous,” said Cleo. ”Murderous thoughts are quite natural in such circumstances, but the problems are normally solved without bloodshed.”
“I’m glad to hear that,” said Gary.
Cleo treated Gary to blazing eyes and a sardonic smile.
“I’d better phone Robert and tell him that his assistant will not be returning,” she said.
“Yes, you should,” said Gary.
“Wasn’t that butcher guy married to you, Miss Hartley?” said Knowles.
Gary did not wait for Cleo to answer.
“We’ve all had our moments, Miss Knowles,” he said.” You can go now. Let me know how you get on in your professional capacity as a lawyer.”
“I’ll do that,” said Knowles.
“You will also be called as a witness, even if you decide to defend Miss Cartwright. Think twice about that.”
Dorothy had stood by wordless the whole time.
“Don’t phone Robert, Cleo,” she said now. “I’ll pop into the shop and explain things to him.”
“Nigel, can you drive Dorothy to Upper Grumpsfield?” Gary said. “I’ll take my wife out to lunch when we’ve checked back at home.”
“Will do,” said Nigel.
“Take my car,” Gary said, giving him the key to the van. “You could pick me up in the morning. Then we could drive here together and I’d have my car back. Cleo can give me a lift home.”
***
Cleo wondered if Gary was serious about lunch since their relationship seemed to be on trial. Apart from that, he still had to question Ed Fargo while the iron was hot. His interview was set for three. Cleo planned to be home by them.
“When is Dr Fargo coming, Gary?”
“Tomorrow. Greg sent a text to that effect. Let’s go to Romano’s. We have plenty of time.”
“I thought you’d order something to be sent here, like in the old days.”
“Before we got together, I suppose you mean,” said Gary. “I’m glad we got all that sorted out. Ordering was really a ruse to keep you near me for a bit longer.”
“And I did not really notice the way things were going,” said Cleo. “Upstairs or downstairs?”
“Both, since you are obviously not still angry with me,” said Gary.
“I’m not angry with you, but I’m angry with myself. Why didn’t I ask Knowles to explain things before now?”
“Because it was all one of Dorothy’s famous hunches, Cleo.”
“That’s true. I’m not hungry yet. Upstairs sounds more like my kind of thing.”
“A wise decision,” said Gary.
***
After an hour in Romano’s guestroom where it all began and was still sensational, the lovers ate glorious pasta with Romano. He had made it specially and called it #lovers’ lasagne’.
“How is your love life,” Gary asked, knowing that his friend had suffered greatly from Cleo’s mother’s episode with Gabriel.
“She came to see me,” said Romano. “Gloria is still the best thing that ever happened to me. I was not passionate enough. She found another and it happened ot be my younger brother.”
“She wants to give you a second chance, Romano,” said Gary. “You must take it and show her that you are really a Latin lover as well as a great cook.”
“Do you think she would believe me?”
“I’m sure, Romano. Give it a chance. You’ve nothing to lose.”
“I’ll think about it.”
On second thoughts, I’ll go back to the office, Cleo. I’ll get a lift home with Joe if he can tear himself away from his Cop’s Corner.”
***
Nigel was waiting for him at HQ. Ed Fargo was brought to the office by a security guard who was instructed to stay. As a precaution, Gary had locked the door between his office and the observation room and pocketed the key.
“Good news, Mr Fargo,” Gary started, not knowing if Fargo already knew that his uncle had reappeared.
“The only good news I want to hear is that I’m going to be released,” said Fargo.
“I’m not sure you’d want that if you knew that your uncle has reappeared.”
“Has he?”
“He has.”
“Then you know that I didn’t kill him.”
“You didn’t kill him, but you killed someone else, didn’t you?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Let’s talk about Miss Cartwright, shall we?
“Who’s that?”
“She’s the lady who advertised her skill at making pills and potions, Mr Fargo. You contacted her.”
“Did I? I don’t remember.”
“Let me jog your memory,” said Gary.
“Where’s my wife?”
“Somewhere else, Mr Fargo.”
“I want to talk to her.”
“She’s not around. Talk to me instead. For a start, tell me why you contacted Phillis Cartwright.”
“Just for fun.”
“So you do know who that is, I take it,” said Gary.
“I wanted to see what kind of person would claim to be a white witch.”
“And then you gave her a try, didn’t you, Mr Fargo?”
“What if I did?”
“Making potions out of amatoxins is not very nice,” said Gary.
“I don’t know what you are talking about.”
“Toadstools, Mr Fargo, possibly of foreign extraction if you say so.”
“Sally picked them. We looked them up and they were harmless.”
“All of them?”
“Yes.”
Do you expect me to believe that, Mr Fargo?”
“Why shouldn’t you?”
“So what did you do next?” said Gary.
“I gave them to the white witch. She made up a translucent potion and sold it to me. She said it was a pick-me-up.”
“But you knew better, didn’t you, Mr Fargo?”
“I don’t know what you are getting at, Inspector.”
“What did you do with the liquid?”
“I don’t remember,” said Fargo.
“Of course you do. As far as I’m informed, you decanted it into a bottle of wine and gave it to a tramp. Why did you do that?”
“Sally did that.”
“You told her to, Mr Fargo.”
“I don’t remember.”
“You wife remembers everything,” said Gary.
“She makes things up,” said Fargo.
“What she did not know until now was that the tramp you picked on because you needed a corpse was possibly her father.”
“Rubbish.”
“It’s true. We’re getting a DNA test done and that will settle the matter.”
“So she killed her father,” said Fargo, sneering, and Gary noted that the guy was a really nasty piece of work..
“What makes you say she killed him, Mr Fargo?”
“She gave him the wine, didn’t she?”
“You had prepared it with poison, Mr Fargo.”
“You’ll have to prove that, Inspector.”
“We will. We know you wanted to be rid of your uncle. Identifying the tramp as your uncle was the first part of the plan.”
“Blast you. I did not even know where my uncle was.”
“But you moved into the villa and dressed a doll in his clothes so that people would think her was at home. That was before the idea of the tramp occurred to you, Mr Fargo. If your uncle was dead, you could inherit the villa. No one could prove it wasn’t your uncle if he had been cremated. If or when he turned up, you would dispose of him, probably in that freezer in the cellar and then in a suitably large hole, possibly under a tool-shed from the DIY. It’s been done before.”
“You can’t prove anything,” said Fargo. “I haven’t done anything.
“I think we can,” said Gary. “We know where you got the amatoxins and we know what Miss Cartwright did with the rest, which she had kept for her own use as a beautifier and restorer of singing voices.”
Fargo laughed.
“It isn’t funny. It cost two people their lives, three, if you count that tramp. Forensic science can prove that the poison was unique – the fantasy of a woman who thought she was a white witch – and supplied wih the poisonous plants by you.”
“You don’t believe that woman, surely.”
“We’ll also have your wife’s testimony, Mr Fargo.”
“She is lying, Inspector.”
“About what?”
Ed Fargo realized that anything he said would incriminate him. There was nothing left of his plan to become rich on the inheritance from his uncle.
“Oh, and there’s also the business of your first wife, Mr Fargo. I’ll have to get that case reopened. Your wife will tell the truth about that this time. How did you get her on your side?”
“Mind your own business,” said Fargo.
“Take him back to his cell, please,” Gary ordered the guard.
Nigel declared that Fargo was one of nastiest characters he had ever come across.
“He would make a perfect pair with Phillis,” said Gary.
“Revolting,” said Nigel.
“We’ll talk to Dr Fargo tomorrow morning,” said Gary. “I don’t suppose Fargo will still be in line to inherit anything.”
“I can’t wait,” said Nigel.
“I’ll take you home now Nigel.  Thanks for helping me with that little crisis Cleo had. I’ve never know her to be jealous.”
“You’ve never flirted with a suspect like Knowles before,” said Nigel.
“I wasn’t flirting.”
“The mutual attraction was unmistakeable, Gary.”
“She was just interesting. That’s all.”
“You don’t have to convince me.”
“What do you suggest, Nigel?”
“Flowers and jewelry. They always work.”
“Thanks for the advice. We did make it up at Romano’s at lunchtime, but a little more spoiling is probably a good idea.”
A garnet set in gold on a gold chain and a huge bouquet of roses later, Gary arrived at the cottage to find Cleo cooking dinner.
“You have a clever assistant in Nigel, Mr Hurley,” she said.
“I have wonderful wife, Mrs Hurley,” said Gary, fastening the chain around his wife’s throat.
“These are counted out trysts,” he added as he put the roses into a vase.
“Make sure you don’t forget about your wonderful wife again, Mr Hurley.”


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