🦋 – a short murder mystery for the Christian reader – Part 6 🦋
Brenda gasped. ‘What?’ She stared back at Constable Hoxley then turned to Inspector O’Malley. ‘When did you find this out?’
‘This morning,’ Hoxley replied. ‘Frank Davies’ drive to claim you several years ago set him into a downhill spiral. He began skimming money from your husband’s bank accounts a few years ago as well.’
‘Davies introduced Carlos Lorenzo to Charles as a gardener,’ Hoxley continued. ‘Lorenzo was to spy on your husband’s clients for Davies and to check your comings and goings. He had an elaborate plan that would not only get you but ultimately Charles’ company and investments. Because of Davies’ dirty dealings, he unintentionally put you in danger, even from some of Charles’ clients. Why, we aren’t completely sure.’
Hoxley flicked through his notebook before continuing. ‘Davies’ plans began to come unstuck when you took a disliking to Lorenzo, whose feelings, as you know, were mutual. However, Lorenzo had already become a loyal worker, and possibly a good friend to Charles, at least someone he could trust. Because of this, Charles learned of Davies’ desire to have you and his money. But, he needed proof. The private door was your husband’s idea for private meetings with Lorenzo and clients who were aware of Davies’ dirty dealings. We suppose Lorenzo simply got tired of playing Davies’ sick games, including the blackmailing.’
Brenda sat in dumb silence. This had been going on for at least two years? It was inconceivable. Why hadn’t I noticed? Where was I when these meetings were going on in my own home? She couldn’t even speculate why Charles put up with Frank for so long, proof or no proof.
‘Six months ago,’ O’Malley broke into her thoughts, ‘Davies represented a small-time drug smuggler. The accused walked and Davies’ pocketed a large amount of laundered cash.’
‘And Charles didn’t know any of this?’ Brenda interrupted, her frustration showing from her usual demeanour.
‘Oh… it gets better,’ O’Malley sniggered. ‘Lorenzo found out about the money and dug up some more dirt on Davies.’
His toned softened. ‘But no, I don’t think your husband was aware, at least not until much later. Perhaps only recently. Charles did pay Lorenzo enough money to pay off the blackmail so Davies wouldn’t know things had changed. This we discovered in a ledger your husband kept for his own records, not that he actually recorded it as blackmail money. He recorded Carlos Lorenzo in his last tax records as a business advisor, hence a higher payment.’
Brenda stood and walked back and forth, not that there was much room with the four of them in the small office. The three officers watched her and waited. She turned to Hoxley. Her mind went back to the early piece of news that shocked her most.
‘But I hardly know Frank. He attended business lunches and dinners with us. I sometimes sat in occasional meetings where it involved my own investments but other than that, I only knew Frank as Charles’ lawyer. Why would I be attracted to Frank?’ She hugged herself and grimaced. ‘I doubt I could ever be. You are kidding. Right?’
Hoxley shook his head slowly. ‘Sorry. They were his words. I admit though, he’s one sick man and you have no way led him on.’ He turned to McDougal who had picked up the file on the Asian guy.
‘This Asian character,’ McDougal began, ‘was one of Davies’ clients. He was also a client of Charles’ for a legitimate business. Somehow after a meeting with Charles, Davies and this client, this file got caught between some of Charles’ own paperwork. When Davies went to work on the file, he couldn’t find it and figured out what must have happened.’
‘So, this file,’ she pointed, ‘is what put Charles and me in danger?’ Brenda asked directly.
‘Yes, and this is where it gets messy,’ McDougal replied. ‘You see this client, Fo-Yong-Ho, is also a member of an Asian drug ring. He had met with Davies before this meeting with Charles; the morning before Charles’ murder.’
McDougal handed Brenda the file page. ‘These numbers indicate names of drug dealers, or rather their code names.’ He walked over in two short steps and stood beside Brenda. He pointed to the third number on the list. ‘This number here for instance: 49560HO is Fo-Yong-Ho’s. This sign here,’ he pointed to an Asian character symbol before the number, ‘represents what would be the third letter of their alphabet. What’s so important about the list is that the ASIS (Australia Secret Intelligence Service) would love to get their hands on it, and as soon as we have finished with the murder case, they can have it along with Frank Davies.’
‘You mean he’s on the list?’ Brenda was beginning to understand. She ran her index finger down the page. ‘71062FB! You’re kidding: number 27. As simple as that? But, does this mean he’s just…?’
‘Just a pawn,’ the sergeant finished for her. But a valuable pawn to the ASIS.
Brenda went to the sofa and sat down. With her head bowed slightly she touched her wedding ring. She took in a slow deep breath. ‘Look, I’m grateful for you all explaining all this. It gives me an idea what Charles was dealing with. About Frank I mean.’ Her voice wavered. ‘It’s also good to know why Charles died but what I really want to know is who killed him. Was it Carlos? Was it Frank? Or… this Fo-Yong-Ho person?’
‘Let me give you the facts about your husband,’ O’Malley began. ‘He wasn’t perfectly innocent in a few things but if he was still alive, he would probably be charged for withholding information that would have led to the arrests of Davies and at least a few other names on this list. Also, the fact is he would have known sometime after he employed Lorenzo that he was an illegal resident. For those things alone he may or may not have received much more than an acquitted short term sentence.’ He returned to his chair behind the desk. ‘His gun, as you know, was registered but we’re unsure why it was in his drawer fully loaded.’
Brenda had listened in silence as tears suddenly streamed uncontrollably down her cheeks. She didn’t bother to wipe them away. Had her husband been a criminal or just plain stupid? The thought gnawed at her.
Hoxley came over and sat beside her. As if reading her mind, he said, ‘Brenda, the way I see it, the only thing that Charles was really guilty of was protecting the woman he loved. He wasn’t letting any creep-of-a-lawyer claim you, or his company.’
‘That’s about size of it,’ McDougal conceded.
O’Malley cleared his throat and gulped down his cooling coffee. ‘Let’s finish this up so Sergeant McDougal can continue his research on this Fo-Yong-Ho character.’
The officers returned to their notes and waited for each other to continue.
Hoxley took the lead. ‘After Davies discovered that the file was missing he told Lorenzo to find it or else he would report him to the authorities. Davies informed him that you and Charles would be out most of the night and that he would have plenty of time to search. Fo-Yong-Ho called Davies about 10:00 pm to question him about an error in one of the code numbers. Out of panic, Davies told Fo-Yong-Ho that he had hidden it in Charles’ home safe for security and that he, Davies, could retrieve it in the morning. However, when Lorenzo hadn’t reported back to Davies as scheduled he went to the house to see what was keeping him. Shortly after midnight Davies entered Charles’ home office by the side door, just as Lorenzo had done earlier.’ Looking up he added, ‘apparently Davies had known about the side door but assumed it was just for Lorenzo.’ Here he paused to flip to the next page. ‘Lorenzo had found the file and realized what it was or, at least he had a fair idea. Davies found him in the process of photocopying the file. He hadn’t heard Davies enter, probably because of the noise of the photocopier. Davies struck Lorenzo over the back of the head with the eagle paperweight.’
‘Forensics,’ O’Malley interrupted, ‘had discovered some dried blood on the eagle. At first they thought it was Charles’ but until today we really had no idea whose blood it was. When Davies made his statement this morning, forensics paid a visit to Lorenzo in his cell for a sample.’
‘When Lorenzo regained consciousness,’ Hoxley continued, ‘Davies was sitting in Charles’ chair. Lorenzo was tied up and Davies had Charles’ gun pointing at him.’ He looked over to the sergeant.
‘Yes,’ McDougal confirmed. ‘Lorenzo had admitted in a later interview that he had found the gun in Charles’ desk drawer and had been just checking-it-out while the photocopier warmed up. He had placed it on the desk to press the copy button. A silly mistake no matter how you look at it.’
McDougal took a moment to sip his coffee and waited for any questions. When none came, he continued. ‘Lorenzo also told us that Davies forced him to confess everything including details about the ledger that he found during his own search of the office after rendering him helpless. Davies then gagged Lorenzo and threatened him to keep quiet.’
When McDougal stopped to take a long drink, Hoxley continued the narrative.
‘Davies decided he would wait for Charles to have it out with him, only he didn’t expect the telephone to ring on your arrival. He panicked and forced Lorenzo to hide with him behind one of the large double doors he had opened so he would know when you both returned home. Once Charles picked up the phone in the office, Davies waited a few minutes to be sure you had gone upstairs. By that time Davies had figured out it was Fo-Yong-Ho on the phone. Davies said Charles raised his voice at Fo-Yong-Ho telling him that he would deal with the situation at their next meeting. Davies said he was unsure what the conversation was about but figured Fo-Yong-Ho must have used some weak excuse to call, perhaps to make a visit himself. We don’t know.’
‘Hang on…’ Brenda interrupted. ‘Back up a bit. This Fo-Yong-Ho, Charles had no idea that he was a drug dealer. Right?’
‘Fo-Yong-Ho was a client of Charles with a legitimate jewellery business, which was also a cover-up for the drug dealing, but he used the family company name when dealing with Charles.’ Hoxley checked his notes. ‘Minh Nhung’.
‘Davies has confirmed that Charles knew nothing about the drug deals,’ McDougal added for Brenda’s benefit.
After a quiet minute in thought Brenda nodded for them to continue. She was tired and felt like she had been sucked through an engine of a jet plane but she needed to know the rest so she could make sense of it all.
O’Malley’s phone rang before anyone could speak. ‘O’Malley. Yes, right. Good job! Thanks.’ He hung up. ‘A highway patrol constable has Fo-Yong-Ho in custody but more on that later. We’re almost done. Continue Hoxley.’
‘According to the telephone company the call lasted no more than a couple of minutes. Davies confirmed it. When Charles replaced the telephone receiver, he turned to follow you upstairs only he was confronted by Davies who had stepped out from behind the door with Lorenzo held tightly in his grip and the gun in his free hand. Davies claimed he just wanted to talk. His plan was to take Lorenzo as hostage and leave the country with Fo-Yong-Ho. He told Charles if he called the police or tried to follow, he’d have Fo-Yong-Ho get someone to kill you.’ He paused. ‘Davies also told us that he would never have done that and his real plan was to have you abducted and take you out of the country too.’
Brenda felt ill and must have looked it. McDougal filled a glass with water from a jug on O’Malley’s desk and handed it to her. She accepted it with thanks.
Hoxley continued. ‘Lorenzo kicked and twisted himself out of Davies’ grip. Charles made a dive for Davies but the gun was by then, aimed at Lorenzo. Charles dived between them as Davies fired, taking the bullet for Lorenzo. Charles apparently died instantly. When Lorenzo began to gag on his own vomit, Davies dragged him back out the side door to the garden before he removed the handkerchief from his mouth telling him to stay put and keep quiet or he would get a bullet in his head. Davies then went back inside, wiped the gun clean and placed it in Charles’ hand. He also wiped his prints off the paperweight but missed the blood. Because he was a regular to the room, he didn’t bother to clean up too much else. He was so flustered he left the room without the file and the photocopy he had placed on the filing cabinet behind the door when he hid there with Lorenzo. He returned for Lorenzo and left. When he realised his carelessness he sent Lorenzo back to retrieve the file but by that time they had to wait until the forensics had left. He was in the house when Davis took you back to pack a suitcase.’
‘Thinking back on it,’ McDougal added, ‘Davies’ behaviour was meant to be a distraction and probably timed your visit to make sure Lorenzo wasn’t caught. What he didn’t expect was your sensitive nose.’
Brenda took a deep breath. ‘So it was Frank?’
‘Yes. Davies was the one who pulled the trigger that ultimately killed your husband.’ Hoxley walked over and put his hand on her shoulder and sat down. ‘He died saving Carlos’ life and trying to stop Frank from proceeding with his plans.’
Brenda gave a deep audible sigh. ‘I need to be left alone. Please.’
McDougal and O’Malley quietly collected their notebooks and empty coffee cups and left the office.
He stood up. ‘Do you want me to send in Cheryl?’ Hoxley asked.
‘Not yet,’ she replied weakly. ‘Give me half an hour,’ she added. She managed what she hoped was a thankful smile.
He left and closed the door quietly.
In some ways she was relieved; relieved Charles didn’t suffer. Relieved it was all over. Relieved they had found Fo-Yong-Ho and relieved the law would deal with Frank and Carlos. Yet, a sensation of unexpected sadness tugged at her.
Carlos was also a victim and almost killed by this lunatic, perhaps trying to save Charles. Her emotions confused her. ‘Oh Charles, why?’ The pain was drowning her. She rested her head on the back of the sofa. Just as she did, a still small voice spoke within her. ‘Child, lean on me. Cast all your burdens upon me and I will give you rest.’ Brenda prayed quietly until the floodgates opened. It seemed to wash all the pain, grief and dread of the past few weeks away in one cleansing torrent.
The life she and Charles had shared was over but she knew deep down this was a new beginning. She thanked the Lord for ten wonderful years with Charles, her safety and a closure. It was time to move on, on to a new life with her newfound faith in a God who loved her.
© Chrissy Siggee
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.