Getting Involved

 

Section Six

Anna Edmondson resembled her mother in appearance, but she looked more innocent. There was nothing calculating in her manner. She sat down with her hands folded, eyeing the Inspector a little fearfully and not at all as if she wanted to impress him with her looks.

"I wonder if you could tell me what you did yesterday after tea, Miss Edmondson," Scott said. Based on her mother's age, he guessed her to be in her early twenties, possibly even her late teens. Her clothes and make-up made her look older, though. Girls no longer looked like girls nowadays.

"After tea?" Anna seemed nervous. "I'm not sure if I remember it well."

"Please try," he said not unkindly, in case she was nervous around any kind of authority and not because she was guilty. Some people thought they were under pressure to remember every small detail instantly. That was not necessary. He would speak to them again anyway. Their lives did not depend on this one interview and neither did his.

"I think I went back to the pool with Edwin and Sebastian," she said a little anxiously after having given it some thought. "The four of us had been there before tea."

Anna, Edwin and Sebastian made three. "Who was the fourth person?"

She looked surprised that he had to ask such a question. "The fourth? Edwin, Sebastian, oh, and Poppy, of course. I'm sorry."

"Do you think you went back to the pool or are you sure of it?" He was fairly certain she had ended up there eventually, but she might have done something else first. Poppy had not gone back to the pool at all, but the others might not have known that beforehand. They might have waited for her elsewhere until she was finished with Margaret.

"I'm sure of it." Anna nodded furiously as she spoke. "We went there."

"Right after tea?"

"Yes. We changed by the poolside. We didn't have to go upstairs first."

"How long did you stay there?" The weather was good enough for them to have stayed outside almost until dinnertime. They obviously liked spending time at the pool.

"Oh." Anna screwed up her face. "Until Edwin said we should shower and dress for dinner. I don't know what time that was. I wasn't wearing my watch because I was sunbathing and I'd get a white band if I kept it on. I think he must have had a watch. I don't recall. We just went upstairs when he said so."

"And you did not check the time when you got to your room?"

Anna shook her head. "Why should I? Edwin said it was time. It never occurred to me to check. Why would he say it was time if it wasn't?"

Edwin might have had other plans, but this was hardly a foolproof method of getting his friends out of the way. He could not have counted on two people not to look at a clock at any point. "What did you do in your room?" That might give him some idea as to how long she had been there. If she had barely had time to dress, it had been close to dinner and none of them might have had much time to go and murder Nigel. In fact, in that case Nigel would no longer have been in his bath. Showering and dressing took the average person twenty minutes at most. The problem was that he did not know how average these people were.

"I didn't shower because I hadn't been in the water, but I put on my clothes and my make-up. Did my hair."

Applying her make-up might have taken her a while, he guessed. That would make their departure closer to half past six than to seven o'clock. "Did you see anyone between going upstairs and going back down for dinner who could give us an idea about the time?" They would have spent at least half an hour in their bedrooms, he estimated. Would she have needed even more time? She was Clarissa's daughter. Perhaps she did. Even Margaret Maxwell who said she had got dressed in five minutes would have done some preliminary work in her bathrobe.

Anna had to think about that for a few seconds. "No. Yes, well, Sebastian knocked on my door and asked if I was ready, so I said yes and I went with him. That's all. I didn't see anyone else on the way."

"What time was that?" He did not count on receiving a useful answer. It was likely that she had again not checked her watch. She seemed to leave that to others.

"I don't know. Dinnertime." She looked regretful because she could not be more helpful.

He supposed that was indeed all one needed to know if one spent the entire day lying by the poolside. Perhaps Sebastian would know. "And when you and Sebastian got to the dining room, who were there?" They had not been the first. Nobody had mentioned them so far.

"I think everyone was. Someone told me I was late and only the last person is late always, but it didn't matter because Nigel wasn't there yet himself, so I was relieved. He doesn't like people being late for dinner, so everyone always tries to be on time so they don't get a speech. Except Margaret. She doesn't care. She'll just give him a big mouth if he says anything to her about being late."

That must have been another day that week, unless Anna and Margaret had been here before at the same time. "Did he say something to her recently?"

"Yes, he did."

"And what happened then?" Any argument was interesting if one of the parties had shortly after been murdered.

"Nothing. I couldn't hear. He spoke to her and she said something back. I was just glad she spoke to him, because he was looking at me too. He'd been about to tell me off, but she was even later." Anna had tried to make herself invisible.

Scott did not think nothing had happened. Nigel might not have pursued the matter in public, but the scene must have made some impact if even Anna remembered it. He made a note to ask Margaret about it. Nigel might have come back to it in private and a proper argument might have ensued.

He continued. "Did anyone phone you while you were in your room?" Clarissa had said she had phoned her daughter about her clothes. "And what did they say?"

"Oh yes. A friend did. She asked me to come out to a club, but she didn't know I wasn't in town. And my mum phoned."

"What did your mum say?"

"That I shouldn't wear yellow because she was going to wear beige," Anna said promptly.

At least that was the same as what Clarissa had said. Scott was happy to hear that his questions -- although simple -- led to matching stories for a change. It had been a bit frustrating to deal with the contradictory realities of Poppy Hargreaves and Margaret Maxwell, and then with the lie on either Margaret's or Clarissa Edmondson's side. "But your mum was in the house, wasn't she? Wouldn't it have been easier to come to you?" They might even be in adjoining rooms and if it really mattered to Clarissa what Anna wore, she could have come over in person to pick something out for her.

That her mother could have come to her room seemed a surprising thought to Anna. Her eyes widened. "I guess. But maybe she thought I might still be outside? And maybe she wasn't dressed? Maybe she thought I wasn't? I didn't think about it."

"Is she next door to you?" If she was, Anna might have heard something of the mysterious visitor as well, if he had not already left by the time she arrived upstairs. How long would such a visitor stay? Again, he should have asked Margaret more questions. Evidently he made mistakes.

Anna tried to make up for her lack of knowledge in other matters. She was extra helpful. "No, I'm next to Sebastian and my mum is across from him. She's next to Margaret, who's across from me. There's an empty room on my other side. Sebastian said they might give it to you."

Scott thought that they might indeed. The housekeeper had told him something to that effect. There were two vacant rooms at the far end of the hallway. This meant that Nigel had been closest to Poppy, Edwin Symonds and Arthur Moss. Anna and Margaret would have had to walk the farthest. He made a schematic floor plan and then resumed his questioning. "How long did you spend talking to either person on the phone?"

Again Anna screwed up her face. Poppy had done that too, but contrary to Poppy, Anna did not seem to mind the effort of thinking. "I don't keep track of that. I didn't speak to my mum for very long. Maybe ten seconds because I was already dressed. And to my friend maybe ten minutes. Not very long. She'd only been to two parties, so there wasn't much to tell."

"And you didn't have much to tell her yourself?" Scott inquired. "Do you have any friends around here?" She could have spoken about them and the call might have been longer than ten minutes. He wondered how a party review could last ten minutes.

"Yes, Poppy, Sebastian, Edwin too, I guess. He's cute. I like Arthur, but he's kind of old and a bit ugly. And well, Poppy hates Margaret so she wouldn't like it if I said this, but I think she's okay. She's quite pretty. And I liked Nigel, even if he was kind of old too."


"Can people really be that simple, sir?" Randall asked when Anna had left the room. "She never checks what time it is, but she lets other people tell her when to do what and what to wear. Yet she is afraid to be told off for being late for dinner. I'd think such a person would start by keeping an eye on her watch."

"Apparently not. Although she may be simple, Randall, I don't think she was lying." He was glad for this first completely honest and co-operative person.

"She could be a good actress."

"For the time being, though, I'll believe her. We'll have to wait and see whether Edwin and Sebastian corroborate her story." He had asked for Edwin next, since that seemed to have been the one who had kept track of the time the day before. If Sebastian and Anna had both been late for dinner, Sebastian was also not very punctual. "Edwin Symonds, TV presenter," he read up. "Age?" He vaguely recognised the name, but he could not put a face to it.

"Late thirties?" Randall guessed. "Same generation as Margaret Maxwell." She said that just to vex him. Margaret was probably a bit younger.

Scott did not take the bait. He did not want to say he thought she did not look that old. "What kind of stuff does he present?"

"Large shows discussed on the rush-hour bus the next morning."

The kind he avoided. "Is he any good?"

"Well, he was popular enough to get those jobs and many people would have wanted them. I know he did a smaller thing together with Margaret Maxwell once, years ago, but I've never watched it. He should know her pretty well, though." Randall wondered if he was going to respond to that. "And that means he should be good enough if he progressed to larger shows."

Edwin hung out with Poppy and Anna, not Margaret, whatever they had done in the past. "But he did not lie beside the pool with her." She had not mentioned having any contact with him between tea and dinner and they certainly did not share a room.

"I think the presence of Poppy might have put her off, don't you think? It would have put me off for sure. Margaret might not want to join a group of four if Poppy was one of them. Besides, I don't really see Poppy, Anna and Margaret as three good friends. She's a bit older than the other two. So is Symonds, but it's different for men. They mature later."

"Sure," Scott muttered.

Randall looked at her notes. "So, for half of the critical time we have the old folks in their rooms being solitary, while the young ones are in the pool. The next half of the critical time, which I guess is after half past six or so, they are all in their rooms, unless the men will tell us something different. When do we get a definite time of death, by the way?"

"He could not tell us that," Scott said with a grimace. "It might be by the time we've found out ourselves." It was sometimes annoying that they had to wait for the results of the tests that others did. Maintaining all the contact by phone was not beneficial either, but they were just a little too far away to drive back and forth all the time.

It would make matters easier if the murder had been committed while the three were still by the pool, but everyone would probably turn out to have had the opportunity. It felt as if this was going to be one of those cases.

 

 

Section Seven

"What did he ask you, Anna?" Poppy asked curiously when her friend returned with apparent unconcern, as if the interrogation had not been unpleasant at all, but a mere chat with a friendly stranger.

"It was okay," Anna said in relief. "I don't think he thinks I did it. Edwin, can you go next? He asked for you."

"Edwin?" Sebastian asked with a frown. He had been feeling ignored for a while now, but he had assumed that all ladies were asked in first because that was some standard of politeness unknown to him. Now, however, Edwin was requested next and who was Edwin? He was not a Hargreaves. "Why did he ask for Edwin? Poppy and I are the only relatives here. Why is he skipping me? Don't you think relatives should go first? Edwin, let me go. Maybe he doesn't know who I am."

Edwin had got to his feet as well, but now he hesitated. Sebastian might have a point. Relatives should be seen first. That was only polite. Yet he did not really believe that the police did not know Sebastian's last name. All their names, addresses and occupations had been taken down earlier. He did not want to upset Sebastian and it did not matter to himself one way or the other, so he shrugged and sat down again. "Whatever."

He supposed Sebastian had to make up for all those times that he had felt less important than the rest because he was not well-known. There was probably something annoying about going into the village together and not getting any attention. Come to think of it, the last time they had gone the girls had only had eyes for himself and not for Sebastian. It had not bothered Edwin, obviously, but he could see that Sebastian would jump at the chance to be more important for once, no matter how ridiculous this was.

It was Margaret's prerogative to comment on the ridiculous and he expected her to seize the opportunity to voice what some of them were thinking, but she did not. Where was she? He did not see her. Then he remembered she had left the room and she had never come back. He thought they were obliged to stay in here, but presumably they were allowed to leave after they had been questioned.

He said nothing in order not to set Poppy off, but he spoke quietly to Arthur and Clarissa, while Poppy tried to find out from Anna what she had been asked.


"Excuse me, sir. This is not Mr. Symonds," Randall spoke up when the wrong man appeared in the interview room. She was not sure that Scott would be able to tell the difference if he never watched any television. She guessed this weasel must be Hargreaves. Moss was probably older because Anna had said he was old and ugly. There had to be a small amount of truth in that, even though he might be no more than forty.

"It is not?" That was interesting. He had already been wondering about the fact that this man lacked the physical appeal that a television personality ought to have to impress the masses. It made sense if this was not Symonds, but where was Symonds then?

"I'm Sebastian Hargreaves," said the man rather pompously. "I'm related to the deceased and I don't understand why you keep interrogating people before me who aren't related to Nigel in any way. Shouldn't it be family first? Because we've suffered a loss and we ought to receive some respect?"

"Not at all," Scott replied very calmly. He never allowed himself to be ordered around by suspects. He was in charge, not they, no matter how demanding they sounded. "I decide on the order around here, Mr. Hargreaves, and I've decided I want to speak to Mr. Symonds first. Please return to the sitting room until I send for you and please ask Mr. Symonds to come here."

"But!" Sebastian had clearly not expected to be dismissed. He looked incredulous to find that happening. "Aren't you listening to me?"

"I am listening to you, Mr. Hargreaves, and my answer is the following. Please return to the sitting room until I send for you. Kindly ask Mr. Symonds to see me next." Scott was not going to let the suspects take over here and make up their own rules.

He took a short break from the interview room while he let Sebastian out and ran into the policeman in the hall. "Sir," said the young officer respectfully, thinking he could not avoid bringing up this topic. He would rather do it before the DCI found out himself and asked why this had not been brought to his attention. Then he would be dead. "Something happened."

"What did?"

"One of the ladies, sir, she left the room. You were busy, sir, so I didn't disturb you." He looked anxious, not sure that this had been the correct way to handle it.

"Well, if the lady returned to the room I see no reason why you should have asked me if she could take a break," Scott remarked. He did not want to be informed of every visit to the loo.

"S-S-She didn't."

He narrowed his eyes. "She did not return?" She was not still in the lavatory -- he had just been there. That meant someone had gone missing.

"I'm still waiting, sir, but I don't think she will." The young policeman shuffled his feet. "She said she was going to her room because she couldn't stand the stupidity. I didn't dare to send her back. She would have!" He gulped. " She said she wasn't going to leave the house, but that you could find her in her room if you needed her."

"Which lady?" Scott thought he already knew the answer. There was only one who would dare and only one who would have frightened this lad.

"Miss Maxwell, sir."

That was what he had guessed. He did not think she had left because he did not think she had any reason to go, so she was probably where she had said she would be. She had probably wanted to be provocative. It was too bad for her that he would let her. "You may disturb me if Miss Maxwell leaves the house. And next time Miss Maxwell feels like ignoring my orders, you may tell her that she can come to tell me about it personally."

The policeman nodded furiously, but he had no plans to obey. He was sure the lady would bite his head off if he opened his mouth to protest against anything she did.

 

 

Section Eight

Edwin Symonds appeared a minute later. Apparently he had been held up by Sebastian Hargreaves and his anger. "I'm sorry," he apologised right away. "It wasn't my idea to let him go first. He insisted and it didn't matter to me when I went. I had no idea it mattered to you."

"That's all right, Mr. Symonds," Scott answered. Now that the man was before him, he indeed looked familiar, but only because he ought to be. Should he pass him in the street, he would never notice. It looked like a perfectly friendly man, perhaps a little too aware of his popularity with the ladies especially. "I never got the impression that it was your idea to send him first. Please take a seat. I'd like to ask you some questions about yesterday afternoon. What happened after tea?"

"We'd been lying by the poolside all afternoon and we went back there after tea. I was with Sebastian, Poppy and Anna."

It was remarkable that while none of the women had seemed to care that they had had no company to prove their alibis, Symonds stressed whom he had been with right away. He might prove to be more reliable in his other statements as well. "Until what time did you stay there and did any of you leave in the meantime?"

"Oh, let me see. It was nearly a quarter past six when I looked at my watch and knowing how long the girls take to make themselves presentable, I thought it might be wise if they went upstairs immediately. None of us had left the pool before then."

Again he mentioned more than one girl. At first Scott thought he had referred to Poppy's presence before tea time, not afterwards. "Was Poppy with you then?" Poppy had been with Margaret after tea, according to both women. Poppy had not said she had returned to the pool after the session with Margaret. Anna had not mentioned her either.

Edwin frowned. "Poppy? Oh no, you're right, she wasn't. One day looks so much like another around here. She's usually with us. Sorry. Yesterday Nigel ordered Maggie to go over some things with Poppy after tea. They usually do that in the morning only and a bit after dinner sometimes, but Maggie was due to leave today, so I suppose Nigel had some last ideas he wanted her to work on. But still. Forty-five minutes to get ready is difficult for Anna as well, so it doesn't really matter whether Poppy was there or not."

Scott accepted that explanation for the moment. If all they did was lie by the poolside it might indeed be difficult to distinguish one afternoon from another. While Poppy had said Maggie out of contempt, he assumed Edwin said it because they were good friends. It was interesting to note. "And you all went upstairs at a quarter past six. Why did you and Sebastian go too if only the girls need so much time to get changed?"

"Otherwise Anna wouldn't go, of course. The girls are silly like that." Edwin shrugged, as if he did not know how to explain it otherwise.

They might well be silly. That certainly tallied with the impressions they had made. "Did you see the two others go into their rooms?"

"I don't recall not seeing that, so I must have." Edwin closed his eyes and tried to remember. "We made some last remarks standing in front of our respective doors. I remember wondering if Poppy was already in her room and up for a quick cuddle, but then I decided it wasn't worth the trouble because she'd make a fuss over not having enough time to get dressed, so I didn't go to check."

Scott raised his eyebrows at this revelation. Poppy had not mentioned that she was involved with Symonds. "Are you and Miss Hargreaves in a relationship, Mr. Symonds?"

Edwin gave a rakish shrug and spoke lightly. "Nothing permanent, Inspector. Strictly occasional. I don't want all the fuss. You know how it is with women. They always make a fuss."

Scott did not answer whether he knew how it was with women. He wondered if this was one of the unreal relationships Margaret Maxwell did not keep up with. It had to be, since no others had come to light so far. Still, if Edwin had an affair with Poppy, he would not be the one who visited Clarissa. Perhaps that was a too monogamous point of view, he thought cynically. "So instead of going for the cuddle you went to get dressed yourself."

Edwin did not mention doing anything else. "Yes, showered and dressed. I went downstairs around seven and was the first there, but someone rang me on my mobile and I went out on the terrace to have a better reception. When I got back into the room, Arthur and Maggie were there and Poppy came shortly after."

"Can you think of anyone who would have wanted to kill Mr. Hargreaves?"

"No, I can't."

"That's a quick answer."

"I've had all night, or didn't you think we'd discuss this among ourselves?"

Scott agreed with Symonds. It would only be natural for the guests to have thought and speculated. They had indeed had all night. Yet nobody had given any indication of having done such a thing. "Frankly Mr. Symonds, most people we spoke to so far didn't appear to have thought about anything at all. Some even seemed surprised that they had to answer particular questions."

Edwin Symonds looked amazed to hear it. "Nobody said anything to that effect? That's odd, because Maggie and I decided last night that it was an inside job. We didn't know or care to explore who could have done it, though. Not yet. It makes you wary of people, maybe for no reason."

Scott raised his eyebrows interestedly. "Which people could have a motive? Though you may not have spoken to Ms Maxwell about that, you must have some idea." He wondered why Miss Maxwell had not mentioned anything about this. Many people thought it got them off the hook if they said they had wondered who had done it.

"Nothing strong enough for murder." Symonds did not want to elaborate. "But that's what you usually think, isn't it? Since most people don't kill."

Randall wrote it down in the unlikely case that Scott would not remember that Symonds had private conversations with Miss Maxwell. She and Symonds had discussed the murder. One had not spoken about that at all and the other was unwilling to say much. It could mean they knew things about people in the house that were important. Maxwell and Symonds were the ones with the most decent brains so far. The others had not really impressed her. It figured that these two had sought each other out to share their thoughts, but it did not figure that both were reluctant to voice their suspicions.


"He's a bit of a player, isn't he, sir?" Randall frowned somewhat disapprovingly when the man had left the room, remembering Symonds' comment about women and the fuss they always made if the relationships were more than strictly occasional.

"Indeed, but I thought women fell for that. Don't they? Hmm." He would be interested in hearing if Edwin Symonds had now fallen from grace in Randall's eyes. Fame was not everything. The man might be attractive from a distance, but from up close he had some less appealing ideas, notably about women. He studied his scribbles. "Forty-five minutes. Is that a normal time for someone to need to get dressed?"

"It seems a bit long, but it's the shortest time spent in a bedroom that we've heard about so far," she pointed out. "And he did say the time was meant for Anna. All the other women took much longer. And even Anna didn't take forty-five minutes because she was also on the phone in the meantime."

"He didn't tell us much of what happened after he decided not to see Poppy." Scott's mind wandered off to the possibility that Edwin had chosen to visit Clarissa Edmondson instead. It would not matter much to Edwin, by the sound of it. As long as the woman was not fussy. But if it was that normal to him he might have mentioned it and not felt embarrassed. There was a problem there. He could have mentioned it, or would even Edwin have thought it was a little too much?

He wondered if the friendship between the two was a good reason for Margaret Maxwell not to have told him it was Edwin Symonds. How close would that friendship be and did he know she knew? Scott did not suppose Symonds would have three girlfriends strung along that all stayed in the same house. That was impossible, unless television presenters had sets of values that differed completely from his. Randall would think him prejudiced if he even asked that question, so he did not.

"No one told us very much. I wonder if Arthur Moss will be any different. He was not with anyone we have spoken to so far. You'd expect some of these people to have run into each other while going in and out of their rooms, but that doesn't seem to be the case. Odd. We have eight people sleeping on the same floor. We've seen the straight corridor all rooms lie on. Eight people have gone in and out of their rooms at various times without seeing or hearing each other, apart from the three that went upstairs together," Randall said.

She thought it just as odd that he did not mention the conversation Symonds claimed to have had with Margaret Maxwell. If the pair of them had speculated the night before, they ought to have had more to say right now. They should at least have had to share those speculations.

 

 

Section Nine

Arthur Moss, the next suspect, was a high-ranking television executive. He was in his fifties and he wore a suit and tie, despite the weather. Scott wondered if he did so all the time or if this was done with the sole reason to convince the police of his importance, or perhaps to be respectful to the deceased. It was hot outside and if Scott had not been working, he would not have worn a suit himself either.

"I spoke with Nigel very briefly after tea. He urged me to persuade my American business associates that Poppy was perfect to host this new concept we're considering," said Moss when he was asked what he had done after tea.

"Which is?" He had asked for Moss next so he would have more time at the end to give Sebastian Hargreaves all the attention he was due, or perhaps because he was not above being human and all for putting the weasel in his place -- whichever of the two reasons applied.

Moss leant slightly forward, as if he were imparting something in absolute confidence. "It's a secret. I can't tell you, I'm sorry. Millions are involved and other companies might run off with our idea if it leaked out too soon."

Scott had no idea if it things truly worked out that way, or if Moss was exaggerating his own importance as the man who created huge television successes. He wondered if the project was indeed so impressive that it warranted such secrecy. He had never had much patience with discretion about vague concepts. Usually it was nothing but air. And what was the man thinking? That he would give up his police career to steal the concept and make a lot of money in the television business? "But Nigel Hargreaves knew about it." Perhaps that was because of Hargreaves' millions. Even secret projects needed to be financed.

"He promised to invest a few millions in the project, but only if we gave Poppy a chance at stardom." Moss paused and sighed, indicating that he was in a very difficult position. "That was really difficult. I know a good concept when I see one and this one was brilliant, believe me, but I also know a failure when I see one and Poppy was going to be one. Definitely. But Poppy, no Nigel and no Nigel, no money and he was our main investor."

The dilemmas some people were facing were truly awful. "I can see some diplomacy was required there. But if Poppy was a guaranteed failure, why still consider the project with her in it?" The way Scott saw it, the project would be a guaranteed failure as a result. Why would someone still be keen on carrying it through? Was there really no one else who could invest in an apparently brilliant project?

Moss looked apologetic. "If you get a good idea you want to carry it out and you can't stop thinking about it. What I was trying to do was to get Nigel interested in the main project, while also trying to make him see that Poppy would be better off trying her luck at something smaller, a tried and tested formula. If she screws up a totally new concept, chances are great that the public will never be interested in that concept again and investors will be hesitant towards anything I propose in the future. I'd never risk that. I was trying to get Nigel interested in trying out the concept with another presenter first and when it proved successful, to replace him or her by Poppy -- to get Poppy into an existing formula as a kind of damage control." The way he sounded they might not even follow up on that promise.

That made more sense. There had been no reason for Moss to wish the man dead if he wanted something from him, if he was speaking the truth, and if there were no other investors lined up. In case there were, if Hargreaves was being difficult about his daughter, it might have been more desirable to get rid of him. "And now? What happens now that Mr. Hargreaves is dead?"

Moss shrugged. "We'll have to put the project back on the shelf for a while until we find a new investor willing to take the risks that come with a totally new concept. It's a pretty costly project and if there aren't any certain rewards! There's so much competition on the market that hardly anyone would take such a large risk. And we have to be careful, because if we're too open, someone else will steal the idea before we get the chance to develop it. That happens every day."

"But you no longer have the Poppy problem now that Hargreaves is dead." That could be progress.

It did not really make sense that investors would not gladly step into a new project, but that it might be stolen anyway. However, Scott supposed that if it was stolen and produced with a small adaptation, Moss would be accused of stealing it if he produced it in its original form. Such things seemed to happen all the time. Every time something turned out a success there was someone who claimed that the idea had been stolen from him or her.

He was still convinced that half of this business was about selling air and that it did not warrant a third of the importance and secrecy in which it was clouded.

"No, but we also don't have any funds, so we have to look for new sources very carefully, like I said." Moss looked a bit impatient when Scott did not seem to understand the need for total secrecy. "I can't just approach other investors. They might listen, not like my terms and approach someone else with my idea. You see?"

Scott had to take Moss' word for it. "Out of curiosity, were you thinking of any other presenters in particular?" Coincidentally, or perhaps not, there were two of them in the house. He did not know where such deals were closed. It could be in the countryside. Neither Symonds nor Margaret Maxwell had mentioned anything about it, however.

Moss nodded gravely. "I was. Edwin Symonds or Margaret Maxwell would both be a success, I am sure of it."

And they were both here. Were they here because of Moss, or was Moss here because of them? They would be able to tell him whether Moss was speaking the truth about this project. "Were they interested?"

"Margaret was not. Edwin was."

"Is that one of the reasons why they were here?" Scott asked. If so, the situation was a trifle more complicated than he had first assumed, between Nigel and Edwin especially. He was glad to hear that Margaret had not been interested in the mysterious project, because it would have given her a motive. It certainly gave Edwin a motive. If he was after that show, Nigel was in his way. Simply disposing of Nigel would not be of much help to Edwin, however, for it would also dispose of the necessary funding. Suppose Edwin had been trying to change Nigel's mind about Poppy as well?

"Margaret was training Poppy, as she has probably told you. Edwin has his own agenda."

"Involving Poppy Hargreaves?" It was possible that Nigel Hargreaves might be persuaded to invest in a project for Poppy's boyfriend as well, if he could not do so for Poppy herself.

"You could say that," Arthur Moss agreed. "They seem to be an item."

They seemed to be? This was not the first time today that Scott felt he was not being told everything. Poppy Hargreaves had held back, Margaret Maxwell had, Clarissa Edmondson had, Edwin Symonds had, and now Arthur Moss. Only Anna Edmondson had seemed to tell him everything she knew, but ironically she was the one who knew least. "Were they already an item before this project came up?" It was possible that Edwin had tried to get what he wanted by using Poppy.

Apparently Moss thought the same. "I couldn't say, but it seems unlikely."

"All right," said Scott, getting back to his first question. People in this house were inconveniently discreet about other people's relationships. He usually met with more willingness to discuss amorous adventures and the compatibility of couples. Nevertheless, knowing there was more to find out also posed a good challenge. "After tea you briefly spoke with Hargreaves, you said. How briefly? What time did you leave him and where did you go?"

"I left him close to half past four. We'd been in here, in his study. He told me he had an appointment with someone else at four thirty -- so in fact he dismissed me when it got close to that hour."

That was interesting. "With whom did he have that appointment?" Was that someone from the house or an outsider? An outsider would not be as likely to murder Hargreaves in his bath if he met him in his study and the appointment might not even be connected to the murder. It would not even make sense for another investor to murder Hargreaves. They would not have to. Moss was ready to switch to anyone who did not have a Poppy barring his way.

Which guest could it have been instead? No one had so far mentioned talking to Hargreaves and the only one left to be questioned had been accounted for by two others for the time of half past four. If it had been someone from the house, he or she had lied and it had to be one of the women, but not Anna.

"I did not ask. I'm sorry. I left him and went to my room to confer with a business associate by phone, which lasted rather long. I sent some quick emails as well."

"From your room?" He supposed Hargreaves was rich enough to have installed this facility throughout the house. It made him wonder if emailing was possible from his own room as well. It would be useful for communicating with his headquarters.

"Nigel told me that it's possible from two or three rooms. I have one of them and I think Margaret does. She sent me an email last night, so I suppose she did so from her room. Don't ask me about technicalities."

"Could we check your computer?" Scott nodded at Randall to take a note. They should also check what Margaret had sent and when. Apart from teaching Poppy, Margaret apparently also socialised with Symonds and Moss. He was trying to get a grip on relationships and friendships here.

"Of course. The emails should still be under sent items." Moss did not appear concerned. "I'll take care not to delete them until you've checked."

"Did you leave your room at any point before going down for dinner?"

"No, I did not. I did not leave until seven o'clock sharp. I would have arrived at the dining room a minute later. It doesn't take that long. Not longer than a minute or two, at any rate."

"Was anyone there already?" Someone claimed to have gone down before Moss -- Edwin Symonds.

"I seemed to be the first and poured myself a drink. Then Margaret came and we talked about the project, and Edwin came in through the French doors with his phone."

That tallied with Symonds' own account. "Had he been out there all the time?" Perhaps Symonds had made a remark to that effect when he came in.

"Possibly. I didn't check the terrace when I came in. I headed straight for the drinks," Moss apologised. "I'd had a rather strenuous discussion with my business associate. We'd been trying to convince each other of what we thought was best. I really needed to unwind. I just sat in one of the lazy chairs in the corner with my eyes closed, savouring the brandy. I suppose if someone had been really quiet they might even have come in without me noticing them. I certainly didn't pay any attention to the terrace."

"Thank you, Mr. Moss. That'll be all for the moment." Perhaps some questions would be raised later. He could not think of everything at once.


"Would Edwin Symonds have done it, sir?" Randall asked, scanning her notes. He wanted that show, whatever it was, even though he had not spoken about it.

Scott shook his head thoughtfully. "He would have benefited more from a live Hargreaves. They couldn't do anything without that money. Moss didn't mention other possible investors, so they were stuck on Hargreaves. Edwin couldn't do anything without convincing Poppy and Nigel that it would be a better job for him than for Poppy. He didn't stand to gain anything from Hargreaves' death, as far as I can see. Unless he had another investor, but I think he would have mentioned this to Moss."

"What if they did it together and had another investor ready?"

That was a bit far-fetched. "They could easily dump Hargreaves and move on, couldn't they? He'd understand that if they did not like his terms they would look elsewhere. Isn't that how it goes? They weren't bound to him, but to his money, otherwise they would have gone along with his demands already. We could suspect everyone of lying and having ulterior motives because they have other investors lined up, but until we have any proper evidence for that, we shouldn't."

"And Margaret Maxwell?"

He wondered why she asked. "Maybe she would have the most influence over either, but Moss says she wasn't interested in his project. On the other hand, she herself told us Hargreaves had promised to fund a programme she'd really like to do."

Randall voiced what he was also wondering. "It might be the same programme and she could have lied to Moss for some reason."

He did not believe that. "That doesn't make sense. Moss is not in the race himself. There was no need to lie to him about her wishes if he basically controls who gets to do it. It must be something else that she wants to do."

"Sir, does Hargreaves have the money to fund all these different programmes?" It seemed to Randall that he would need several millions. While the man had been rich, had he been that rich and had he been willing to gamble with his fortune, investing in new television programmes all the time?

"I'm thinking Margaret Maxwell wants to do something out of the ordinary, or else she would have got the idea funded already. If it was certainly going to be a big hit, she would have managed, based on her track record. Perhaps it's not for such a large audience. It might not cost that much. Not as much as Moss' concept anyway." Still, it would be a project with uncertain returns, just like Moss' idea, and nobody would like to invest in a failure.

"So!" Randall recapitulated. "We are stuck with a load of subjects who'd all have been better off with Hargreaves being alive and none of whom had an apparent motive. So who killed him? Was he killed at all? Wasn't it an accident? Yes, I know," she said to head off any comments. "It's hard to have an accident with a CD player if it was placed sufficiently far from the bath."

He did not want to start concluding anything yet. "We still have one to go -- Sebastian Hargreaves, the impatient relative. Notice how he didn't specify the exact relationship?" Scott asked. People with money always had distant relatives sponging off them. "Which means it's probably very distant. A third cousin of sorts who just happens to carry the same family name. Mind you," he continued in a very grave voice, connecting things all of a sudden. "If the money all goes to Poppy now, it's entirely hers to dispose of. She might invest in Moss' project with a starring role for herself." Although it had not sounded as if Nigel had been in her way very much, he had been hesitant nevertheless. "Or for any other presenter she likes." Such as Edwin Symonds if he manipulated her well. Poppy was probably too self-centred to cede her place to Edwin, though.

"Would she have the brain power to have actually thought of that beforehand?" Randall said doubtfully. Edwin might have thought of it, but it was too uncertain a bet, given Poppy's selfishness. "Oh, and do you believe Moss when he said he didn't look out onto the terrace?"

"His story seemed plausible," Scott said with caution. He could imagine that after a lengthy phone conversation one would need some time to relax and think it over. Moss might indeed have closed his eyes while sipping his drink. Why would he look out of the window? They would need to check where the lazy chairs were. "Symonds must have moved away from the direct vicinity of the door. He might even have gone onto the lawn. Moss would have certainly seen him had he stood in front of the window, but one rarely stands still with a mobile phone."

"So we don't know for sure if Edwin Symonds was there first at all."

"No. He might have left the house through another exit and come in through the terrace later."

"Symonds went downstairs around seven o'clock," Randall read up.

"That's too vague. It couldn't have been after seven, or else Moss would have run into him for sure as he left his room," Scott decided. "Note down that we ask him about the precise time, Randall. Around seven o'clock might even be as early as ten to seven, which would have given him more than ten minutes, maybe even fifteen. He didn't get back to the room until after Margaret got there. Assuming all clocks are correct except the dining room clock, she would have got there at six past seven."

Randall had another point to bring up that contradicted her first thought. "But Hargreaves wouldn't have been still in his bath at ten to seven, sir. He would need more time than that to dress, wouldn't he? And he was not usually late. Ten past seven, I heard. That was his usual time. Symonds couldn't have counted on it at that hour. So whatever Symonds did on the terrace or elsewhere, it couldn't have been killing Hargreaves. Not at that point in time. But if he'd killed Hargreaves earlier, there was no point in going onto the terrace unless he was really on the phone. So he was really on the phone. Otherwise he would have wanted to be seen by as many people as possible."

Scott had been scribbling down some notes. "Hmm," he answered absentmindedly. "Indeed. Let's see what Sebastian Hargreaves has to say. I wonder if he's still upset."

 

 

Section Ten

Sebastian Hargreaves still looked impatient and insulted when he came in. "I want to start off by saying I didn't do it."

"What was your precise relationship to the deceased?" Scott inquired, not offering any apologies for the order in which he questioned suspects. That was his decision alone and no pouting or demanding suspect could interfere with it. The only thing they accomplished was a brief mental note about their attitude. They would certainly not receive an explanation or apology.

"He was a cousin of my father's." The man did not seem to realise that such a family relationship was not proportional to his attitude. He exuded self-importance instead.

It was as Scott had thought. Not a very close relationship, but Sebastian had very little else going for him. He had neither the face nor the figure to impress. He would not stand out compared to Symonds, for instance, so it was no wonder that he took pride in this vague connection. "A first cousin?"

"Yes, Inspector." He spoke as if that was obvious.

"And so this was a family visit?" Scott did not assume that Nigel's cousin's son would live here. He would have to look at the Hargreaves family tree to see how many other Hargreaves there were. If there were more family members, Sebastian's closeness to Nigel was a bit strange. If there were none, it was more understandable. Sebastian may have been to Nigel what Poppy was to him now. In that case he might bear some resentment towards the girl or the uncle.

Sebastian shrugged. "Yes, sort of. Poppy told me Edwin and Anna were coming and the four of us always get along pretty well, so she invited me over too."

If Iain Scott ever took some days off it was because he had something constructive to do, but apparently all of these people had the time to lounge around a pool for a few days. Their professions were listed, except Margaret Maxwell's, oddly enough the only one who was here to work. He had noticed that before. Sebastian Hargreaves had indicated that he was in the computer business, whatever that might mean. Was there anyone nowadays who was not in the computer business?

"Aren't you and Mr. Symonds a bit older than the two girls?" There should be at least ten to fifteen years between them, Scott estimated. The men were in their thirties, the girls in their early twenties. Sebastian could never be a childhood friend of Poppy's.

"Yes, but we are good friends nonetheless. It's possible. They're very pretty girls."

Out of the corner of his eye Scott could see Randall make an irritated movement and he suppressed a smile. No, that was not the sort of comment that went down well with her. "What did you do after tea yesterday, Mr. Hargreaves?"

This was not the time to decide whether the friendship was meaningful or not. Randall would have something to say about it later, undoubtedly. Women should not be valued for their looks alone. Perhaps he could direct her towards Miss Maxwell, whose opinions on the distinction between real and unreal relationships would appeal to Randall, as well as her opinions on the looks of women, so they could rant together. He suspected that they would enjoy it immensely.

"We went back to the pool to lie in the sun some more. At some point Edwin said we should get dressed for dinner because it was time, so we all went upstairs. In my room I noticed it was a bit early still, so I had a long bath. It was a bit too long because I dozed off and suddenly it was ten past seven and I still had to dress myself. I hurried and then checked if Anna had left yet. She's next door to me and I'd heard her talking on the phone a bit earlier, so I didn't think she was gone yet and she wasn't. We went downstairs together and we were the last. You should always avoid coming in last, so that's why I went to get Anna. It's not so bad if there are two of you. I know Margaret put the clock back there the other day, but that was only two minutes."

"What did she do that for?" He recalled the grin with which she had told him the clock in the dining room ran behind.

"So it looks like it's a quarter past seven when in fact it's a bit later. She was two minutes late the other day."

"And what happened?" According to Anna Nigel had spoken to Margaret about it and she had told him off. He was curious what other people's perception of the incident had been.

"Nigel told her openly that he didn't appreciate such bad manners and so on. I couldn't hear what she said in reply, but it was effective because he left her alone. I guess she gave him a taste of what real bad manners look like. He made it look like he'd won the argument, but she looked rather smug behind his back."

Hargreaves' behaviour in this case might be indicative. He might often have acted like this. "Was he a bit of a tyrant then?" Tyrants were often wished dead, even though nobody had so far betrayed any dislike of the man. The general mood appeared to be indifference, but on the first day after the murder people often behaved strangely. They might also be under the impression that they should not speak ill of the dead.

"No, he just liked people to be on time. The girls can be slow and we often have to wait for them. He thought it was perfectly all right to 'educate' them. It works on Anna, but not on Margaret."

"Miss Maxwell is considered to be one of the girls?"

"I wouldn't say so," Sebastian said readily. "But Nigel might have thought she was."

"Did she dislike him?"

"No, I don't think so. Why would she come here if she did? Nobody here disliked him. I think it was a burglar looking for money or something."


"Well, that was helpful," Randall commented. She was always the first to open her mouth after a suspect had left the room. Scott was usually too lost in thought to speak immediately. This time was no different. "He didn't tell us anything we didn't already know."

"What is their obsession with taking showers and baths?" Scott said in a dissatisfied voice. "Hardly anyone has an alibi because everyone was in the bath -- alone." It was far too convenient an excuse, yet for most people it would be true.

"Aren't you usually, sir?" Randall ventured a bold question.

He did not even consider answering that. "And the rest were using a mobile phone. Everyone was alone between a quarter past six and seven. They could all have left their rooms because nobody heard or saw anything."

"We could check with the phone companies."

They could indeed, but was that at all helpful or conclusive? "Who says they didn't go into Hargreaves' bathroom with their phone in hand?"

"Sir. That seems unlikely."

"It would be a superb alibi." He grabbed a pen and piece of paper. "We need to make a table of events. Who claimed to be where at which moment. Someone is lying. No one told us they left their room to murder Hargreaves and yet someone did." Possibly two people had -- someone had visited Clarissa as well.

Nigel
16:00-16:25 in study with Arthur
16:30 visitor

Poppy
16:00 in library with Margaret
in bedroom
19:08 dinner

Sebastian
16:00-18:15 pool with Edwin and Anna
18:15-19:15 bedroom
19:15 dinner

Edwin
16:00-18:15 pool with Sebastian and Anna
18:15-19:00 bedroom

Anna
16:00-18:15 pool with Edwin and Sebastian
18:15-19:15 bedroom, phone
19:15 dinner

Arthur
16:00-16:25 in study with Nigel
16:25-19:00 bedroom, phone

Clarissa
16:00-19:09 bedroom
19:09 dinner

Margaret
16:00 in library with Poppy
bedroom
19:05 dinner

Scott surveyed the table and Randall looked over his shoulder. "Do you see anyone who doesn't have a gap in his alibi between a quarter past six and seven? We don't even know what time Nigel Hargreaves reached his room. The time of death was put between five and seven. At five o'clock three people were still by the poolside. Why didn't Poppy join them, by the way? They didn't leave there until a quarter past six. She could easily have gone there. It would have been worth her while. And at five o'clock two people were already in their rooms -- Arthur and Clarissa."

"But not together." Moss had claimed to have been phoning his associates. And Scott had not indicated Clarissa's tryst in the table. Randall wondered why Scott was also forgetting about Margaret -- and Poppy.

"They might have been. Miss Maxwell reported that Clarissa had a visitor and Miss Maxwell might have been in her bedroom by five o'clock as well. She neglected to tell us when she went upstairs," he realised. But it was not so much a matter of her not having told him, it was a matter of his not having asked. Margaret and Poppy might have left the library by five. How long did it take to recite poems? Poppy would not be able to stand it for longer than half an hour, he suspected. There would be no cosy chatting in between -- it would be all instruction. How long would Margaret manage? Half an hour? Forty-five minutes? The average attention span was forty minutes or something like that. Poppy's would be well below average.

"You neglected to ask her to be specific, sir. Perhaps you had already decided she didn't do it," Randall remarked very innocently. She would have winked at a third party had there been one. Winking at Scott was useless. He would pretend not to understand her.

Scott ignored that. He was as fallible and flawed as the next person, but he did not need to have that pointed out. He could simply not think of everything at once. "If Arthur Moss -- who was phoning, he said -- was not the visitor, the visitor couldn't have come until a quarter past six because the other two men were by the poolside. We should ask Miss Maxwell again. If it was earlier, it was Hargreaves himself."

"Shall I ask her or do you prefer to do that yourself, sir?"

 

2004 Copyright held by the author.

 

Back

Next

Back to Novel Idea