But clearly, Sykes was very unhappy.
“Why am I not surprised to see you here?” he barked in the gravelly tone he reserved for criminals, and now Harry.
What bothered Harry was that he had not untied him, just taken off the gag. Perhaps he was going to conduct an interrogation of his own. He was the only policeman in the room, so anything was possible.
“Wrong place, wrong time. I came to see Angela like I told you. When I arrived here, I found Al lying dead on the floor. Angela tied up, and Jennifer presiding over the crime scene with a gun in her hand. What brought you here?”
“Your friend, here, Felicity. Your only friend, it seems. And I didn’t get that phone call, and I can see why. All those arguments that you should leave the police work to the police fell on deaf ears, and I suspect, prevented the apprehension of the perpetrators. You might find yourself with a charge of accessory after the fact. It looks to me like Angela and Al were working together. Did you tie her up, and did she kill Joseph Jones?”
On the face of it, Sykes had every reason to charge him. He had the Jones women within his grasp, and they'd outsmarted him. No, that wasn't quite true, he had never been in a position to bring them to justice.
“You could let me out of these bindings. I had nothing to do with anything that happened here.”
It was worth a try, but he could see Sykes was not going to be in a charitable mood.
“That’s what you say now. I let you go; I could be letting a murderer go free. No, you can sit tight and tell me what happened here, and I’ll see if I can believe a word of it.”
He pulled out a free chair and sat beside him. From his perspective, it must seem off, a dead body on the floor and two potential suspects tied up, but, Harry thought, even the most basic of detectives should be able to tell that neither of them had tied themselves to the chairs.
But Harry knew he would have to convince him.
“I know I didn’t kill Al. I couldn’t say for sure if Angela did or didn’t, but from what I've seen and heard, I don't think she did either. Check the knots that are tying us to the chairs. It would be impossible for either of us to tie them so tightly ourselves.”
He glared at me, as if he was not interested in having his pet theory, that one or other of us was a murderer, disproven.
“Then, if what you tell me is true, what happened?”
“I came to ask Angela a few more questions, because, like you, I came to the conclusion Al was still alive, and when I arrived, Jennifer answered the door. I had no reason to suspect her of anything, so I came in. A minute later, after seeing Al on the floor with a bullet in his head, and Angela tied up, I realized she was pointing a gun at me.”
“Jennifer? Al’s wife?” No mistaking the incredulity in his tone or expression. Loke Harry before him, he hadn't suspected her of anything but a poor choice of husband.
“What was she doing here?”
“Apparently cleaning up the loose ends, and collecting a particular computer, the one Miriam used to steal the money. All the claims their husbands were having affairs was a smokescreen.”
“Then who killed Joe?”
“Edwina said Al did, and it’s very likely Al did with Angela’s help. Angela wanted Al to ‘teach Joe a lesson’ for what apparently was an ‘accidental’ death. There is supposedly video evidence somewhere that supports that theory, evidence Angela says exists.”
“Edwina too?" More surprise, and a look of disbelief. He might be prepared to consider one, but not the both Jones wives.
"Unfortunately, but true, they were in it together. I sure as hell didn't see it, nor suspect either of them."
He let that pass over his head for the moment, and continued, "So who killed Al?”
“I think it was Edwina, from outside the window behind us. You can see the holes several bullets made in the curtain. One was for Al, the other for her own daughter.”
His eyes went to the window, saw the evidence, and then looked back, now bordering on astonished.
“Why would she do such a thing? You're beginning to test the limits of my patience Harry. I never took you for being a storyteller.”
“I'm not, though this tale borders on the unbelievable in every sense. But, according to Edwina, Joseph and Miriam were embezzling funds. Al didn’t know anything about it, so he was trying to cosy up to Miriam to find out. Jennifer says Miriam committed suicide, but not before telling her the passwords to the accounts where the money was stashed, infer from that what you will. I suspect Jennifer and Edwina are now happily ensconced in a country where there’s no extradition, a lot richer for their troubles.”
A thoughtful moment of silence, the Sykes muttered, “OK, it's possible. And you say the pair of them also tied up Angela”
“It's probably why Edwina shot her. She has a roughly bandaged wound to her top left shoulder, which I suspect was to incapacitate her so either Edwina or Jennifer could tie her up. She will need an ambulance and hospital treatment, sooner rather than later.”
A glance in her direction showed the wound was still bleeding and the bloodstain was getting worse. She was still bound and gagged, and unconscious. It didn’t seem to concern Sykes who didn’t move from the chair. He simply looked at the window again, and then to Al, then back to Angela.
“That's also possible. Fortunate for you, Al’s body is still here, this time. But it also raises the question of who, or what, you saw the first time you reported him dead.”
Easily explained, now, Harry thought..
“Is Angela...?” Harry nodded his head in her direction.
“Alive. Yes. She’ll live, by the way. The injury isn’t very serious."
A knock on the door got Sykes out of his seat and walking towards the front door. Police reinforcements had arrived. A lot of police.
He cut Harry's bindings and he stretched out his aching limbs. It was hard to tell what he was thinking, but setting Harry free meant, at the very least, Sykes didn’t think he was guilty of any major crime.
"It looks like there’s not going to be a payday for you. If it’s any consolation, they fooled both of us. I’m going to need a statement from you regarding all of this, but, for now, you can go.”
“I’m sure, as you said, she’s involved in various crimes, but what they will be will depend on how good her lawyer is. I wouldn’t concern yourself with her problems, you have enough of your own. I suspect this result doesn’t affect who tried to kill you or trash your office, but even so, and for what it’s worth, I think you should walk away, take up some other profession, one that isn’t life-threatening in another part of the country.”
Harry said he would think about it.
© Copyright Charles Heath 2019