🦋 – a short murder mystery for the Christian reader – Part 4 🦋
The window resembled no similarities of the peaceful beauty Brenda enjoyed in the church window just yesterday. What she recalled though was the early hours of the cold morning less than a week ago. Only it wasn’t her that sat beside Frank Davies in a stark interview room; it was Carlos.
Police Officer, and now friend, Peter Hoxley, placed a supportive hand on her shoulder. ‘Are you sure you’re okay with this?’ He stood beside the plastic chair where she sat staring through what looked like a two-way mirror. ‘They can’t see or hear you, and you are perfectly safe. They don’t even know you have been invited to witness the interview.’
Brenda took a deep breath, and then eased it out slowly, a technique a counsellor showed her at the prison. It helped somewhat throughout her short but terrifying incarceration. ‘I’ll be fine. I just don’t understand why I’m here.’
At that moment Inspector O’Malley stepped into the small room and leaned back against the door.
With eyes still fixed on the two men on the other side of the glass, Brenda began with reluctance. ‘What surprises me…and it probably shouldn’t, is the fact that Frank is here for Carlos. I mean, is it legal for him to represent both of us?’
‘It is,’ O’Malley replied. ‘At least at the moment.’ He walked over to the glass and watched the two men for a few minutes. The whispering was becoming heated and Carlos was fidgeting and shaking his fist at his lawyer.
‘I think we might begin, Mrs Stanton.’ He paused, ‘or would Brenda make things a little easier?’ At her nod, he continued. ‘I asked you to come because something doesn’t fit with Frank’s story, not Carlos’ so much. I need you to listen carefully, and when I come out Hoxley will see you to my office. I’ll join you once I’ve returned Carlos to his cell…and decide how to proceed with this lawyer character.’
Still slightly confused, she nodded in agreement anyway. She knew that Peter had described to O’Malley what had occurred with Frank the day before which may have been part of the explanation. She watched the men squirm in their chairs when the inspector entered the interview room. Peter turned a dial beside the window she hadn’t noticed before. They could now hear the voices clearly.
‘This interview begins at 9.30am. I’m speaking with a Carlos Lorenzo who is with his lawyer, Frank Davies, in regard to incidents relating to the murder of one Charles Stanton.’
‘Carlos Lorenzo, Frank Davies, are you both aware this interview is being recorded and give permission to do so?’
The two answered with clear responses and confirmed that they agreed to the recording of the interview.
Brenda shivered and pulled her jacket around her. She adjusted her posture and leaned forward.
Peter stood with his forearm against the frame of the window, watching and listening.
Carlos was speaking rapidly to Frank in his own native language. Expletives were obvious.
O’Malley raised his hand; palm facing Carlos to halt the outrage. The room fell silent.
‘Mr Lorenzo, please explain in your own words why you were in the home of Charles and Brenda Stanton in the early hours of last Friday morning.’
He cursed again. ‘I look for pay cheque. Mister Charles…he always pay me on Wen-day. I thought maybe I won’t get now he dead.’
‘Why didn’t you speak to Mr Davies in regard to your payment? He is Mr Stanton’s lawyer. Right?’
He glanced sideways at his lawyer. ‘I do not trust Mister Frank.’
Frank crossed his arms and huffed like a spoiled child.
The inspector looked at Carlos; his left eyebrow slightly raised. O’Malley continued a little quieter, a little more direct. ‘Why don’t you trust your own lawyer, Carlos?’
‘Cause he promise good pay when I start work. Mister Charles did not know this when we disgus’ money…two year ago. Mister Charles always keeps my cheque under ee-gull paper-rate on desk. If he not in office, I take. I do always.’
A deep audible intake of breath caused Peter to jerk his head to face Brenda. She looked at him. ‘I never knew that. I’ve never known Carlos to be in my home.’
The inspector continued. ‘Did you find the cheque?’
‘No. It not there.’
‘Tell me, Carlos, how did you get past the officers at the house the morning following the murder? They had been there since daylight. Before that, two other officers were on guard.’
Carlos fidgeted and Frank stood and paced.
‘Well?’ Inspector O’Malley persisted.
It was Frank who answered. ‘There’s a side door.’
‘Where?’ O’Malley’s question echoed Brenda’s, from the other side of the glass.
Peter moved closer to Brenda. ‘Are you OK?’ She sucked in her lips and nodded but had missed the first part of Frank’s reply.
‘It sounded like his closet.’ She paused. ‘Oh God,’ she whispered.
The inspector must have said something similar because Carlos continued with: ‘not clozit. Like clozit. It old window. He ren-no-vate. Missus Stuck Up did not like Carlos.’ He crossed his arms and sat back.
Heat filled Brenda’s cheeks. Her eyes stung.
Frank continued to pace.
‘Where were you on the night Charles Stanton died?’
Carlos glared at his lawyer and swore in English. ‘You tell.’
Pressing his lips together he locked his arms tighter. Frank’s jaw jerked sideways and stiffened. He shoved his hands into his pockets and returned to his seat. He glanced down at his knees and then looked into O’Malley’s eyes. ‘I think I need a lawyer.’
Brenda stood up; her mouth opened.
Carlos smiled and turned to O’Malley. ‘Carlos in Mister Charles house…with Mister Frank.’
Brenda’s knees went weak.
‘Whoa there.’ Peter grabbed her elbow and helped her back into the chair.
She continued to listen but she could no longer watch.
‘Shut up!’ Frank exclaimed and jumped to his feet.
‘NO! You shud-up’
‘That’s enough,’ O’Malley snapped back.
‘Mister Frank said Carlos must get a…’ he clicked his fingers and looked thoughtful.
‘A file, if you must know,’ Frank finished for Carlos. ‘A client’s file.’
‘Go on,’ O’Malley insisted calmly.
By now, Brenda had regained her posture but was taking long slow breaths to help ease an attack of nausea, which threatened to overwhelm her. She noticed that Peter had closed his eyes. His lips were moving in silent prayer. She touched his arm. ‘Thank you,’ she whispered.
Frank started to pace again; hands deep in his pockets. ‘It was the client that Charles was speaking to on the phone that night.’ He paused, and then returned to his seat placing his hands in front of him on the table. He sighed. ‘Carlos is guilty, but for only one thing: he entered Charles’ home that night without permission. I’ll continue this interview only after I make my allowed telephone call and have a lawyer present.’ He leaned back and folded his arms.
A smug grin crossed Carlos’ unshaven face.
O’Malley officially brought the interview to a close and instructed them to wait.
Once O’Malley had closed the door behind him he looked at Brenda with eyes that glistened. He smiled apologetically and asked Hoxley to take her to his office and make coffee for three. It was going to be a long meeting.
‘A penny for your thoughts,’ Hoxley asked, handing Brenda a steaming mug of black coffee. ‘Sorry, no milk,’ he added apologetically.
‘Black is fine, thanks.’ She sniffed the tantalizing brew and sipped. She grimaced and pressed two fingers into her closed lips but not before a sob escaped. ‘Sorry,’ she sniffled.
He handed her a handkerchief from his pocket. ‘Don’t be. That wasn’t something any of us expected…and you’re right, the coffee’s does tastes worse than it smells.’
Brenda wiped the wetness from under her eyes. She glanced down at the smear of mascara on the white cloth. ‘What will Cheryl say?’
‘She’ll understand.’ He sat on the corner of the desk sipping his coffee.
O’Malley entered the room.
Still sitting, Peter pointed to a mug of coffee beside the computer. O’Malley thanked him and sat down. He took a couple of long slow mouthfuls before replacing the cup on a cardboard coaster. Peter stood and moved a few steps to a chair near the door.
The office was small but comfortably furnished. She had sat on a small sofa of sorts that was probably the most expensive piece of furniture in the room. It was a lot more comfortable than Brenda felt in the silence. She sipped more of the foul tasting brew and warmed her hands on the cup.
‘Brenda,’ O’Malley finally said. ‘I can’t go against the magistrates court order but I think once you find another lawyer we can get some of these bail restrictions lifted. By that time we may even get you cleared of all charges.’ He looked up at his young constable thoughtfully and then back to Brenda. ‘Why don’t I have Hoxley drive you to the motel and get your things.’
‘Why? I can’t go home. Not yet.’
‘No. You can’t,’ Hoxley answered for his boss. ‘I think, what Inspector O’Malley is suggesting is that I take you home to stay with Cheryl and me until we organize a few things.’
‘It’s not quite the norm but considering the unusual situation,’ O’Malley pointed in the direction of the holding cells, ‘I think you’ll be safer with the Hoxley’s. No one, except us three, and Cheryl, will know where you’ll be staying.’
Brenda almost spilled her coffee. ‘What are you saying? Am I in danger?’
‘I didn’t mean to alarm you but there’s no easier way to say it. Yes, I believe you are in danger. From whom, I’m not sure. I’m hoping the only two involved are sitting in our holding cells. But, there’s still a missing link and I want you safe until all this is over. You can stay with Constable Hoxley and his wife at least until I can get a safe-house, or witness protection organized.’
Brenda only realised she was shaking when hot black liquid spilled on to her hand and down into the sleeve of her jacket. She felt numb. Even when Peter had rushed out and returned with ice water, she hadn’t realized her hand was scalding red. What the inspector had said in those short moments, she couldn’t comprehend.
‘Why?’ Was all she could manage as Hoxley slopped icy cold water over her hand and dabbed at it lightly with his handkerchief that he had somehow retrieved from her clenched fingers.
O’Malley sat beside her. ‘Brenda,’ he took her hand and checked it as he talked. ‘I’m hoping it won’t come to that, but you need to know before you leave here. If we uncover anything that may show you to be in danger, you have to be protected.’ He released her hand.
Her hand stayed poised in mid-air momentarily and looked down at the now stinging hand and wrist. Blowing on it she accepted the cold glass from Peter and rested it on the back of her hand, the area that smarted the most.
‘Take her via the hospital and get that checked out Hoxley. Call Cheryl before you leave here to make sure she’s alone. No visitors. Understand? At least until we know more. I’ll send an officer around until you finish up here for the day.’
‘Yes, Sir.’ Peter grinned at Brenda. ‘Looks like you’ll be explaining about the mascara yourself.’
Brenda could only force a small smile and thank them. ‘I’m sorry,’ she said to both officers.
‘Don’t be. There’s nothing to be sorry for,’ O’Malley said. There was a measure of gentleness in his voice. ‘Now, I want you to try and relax while I go into the front office and get some of these calls taken care of, and while Hoxley gets organized.’
He pointed to the seat Brenda was sitting on. ‘Put your feet up while you wait.’ Stepping back around the desk, he grabbed his coffee and left.
Hoxley followed but turned at the door. ‘It will be all right. Try and hand it over to the Lord.’ He smiled and closed the door behind him leaving Brenda to herself.
The cushions were soft and inviting but she was too distraught to relax. Resting her elbows on her knees and head in her hands, she wept. Realization had struck hard. Charles was dead. Murdered! ‘By whom? Carlos? Frank? Who? Am I in danger too?’ Brenda bolted upright. She remembered something Frank had said yesterday.
‘Who was he trying to protect me from?’ She said this aloud as Hoxley stepped back into the office. She glanced at him and repeated her question.
‘We don’t know. If we knew that we might start getting to the bottom of this.’ He wrapped a burns bandage loosely around her hand then retrieved a pillow from a locker beside the window. ‘Now, please. Try and rest.’
She smiled. ‘Is that an order, Constable Hoxley?’
‘A direct order.’ He grinned and left the room.
Finally Brenda allowed herself to close her eyes.
© Chrissy Siggee