Sunday 17 – Monday 18 November 2013
She was virtually oblivious to the visitors to her studio. Wade had come about an hour before the two detectives arrived, perched himself in the chair, and silently sat drinking coffee after coffee while she worked. When the detectives arrived, Erica stopped painting long enough to invite them in, and when they said they needed to speak with Wade, she’d slipped back to work and left them to their own devices.
‘Have you found Nora?’ Wade asked. Hugh Scott was making his way around Erica’s studio, examining every painting, every drawing, every print and doodle that he came across, leaving his partner, Amy Griffin, to do the hard work.
‘No, not yet, Mr. Aitcheson.’
‘Then why are you here? Do you need to pull the Spanish Inquisition routine on me again? Is that it?’
‘No, no. I understand that you’re angry, Mr. Aitcheson, but I’d really appreciate it if you’d be quiet and let me tell you what we have managed to find out.’ Griffin waited for Wade to indicate his understanding, but he simply returned to sitting silently.
‘Mr. Aitcheson, your wife is still alive,’ Scott called out. ‘Unfortunately though, she’s absconded with all of your money, and a man by the name of Sean Gaynor. Well, that’s not his real name, but it is the one he’s calling himself.’
Erica fumbled with the paintbrush, struggling to hold on to it and prevent it falling to the floor. She was more surprised by the information than Wade was.
‘So you’re saying what? She set this up?’ asked Erica.
‘It seems that way,’ Griffin replied. ‘From the information that we’ve been told, she may have been working towards this for a while.’
‘Why? Why would anyone do something like that?’
‘We believe that Mrs. Aitcheson faked her own abduction as a payback, Miss Keen. She wanted her husband to suffer for everything he’d put her through.’
‘Everything I’ve put her through? Like what?’ Wade finally spoke.
‘The women, the affairs, the long hours at work away from her. We won’t really know until we find her, Mr. Aitcheson. That’s where you might be able to help us. Is there anywhere Nora might have expressed an interest in vacationing, or living? Anything at all that you can think of?’ Griffin spoke quietly to the shocked husband.
He considered her questions. If she really did set him up to be the prime suspect in her disappearance, if she had bled his bank accounts dry, if she was the kind of woman that the police were speculation that she was, then he was not going to allow her to get away with it so easily.
‘It’s hard to say. There were a lot of places that Nora wanted to visit. The Caribbean, the Bahamas, New Zealand, Switzerland, France, Canada, the Netherlands, Denmark. I don’t know. Take your pick. But there weren’t any woman or affairs. She never believed me when I told her. It really was only work. I never had any affairs.’
‘Well,’ said Scott joining his partner in front of Wade, ‘it’s going to be somewhere with no extradition arrangement with the U.S. and probably some place where your money becomes untouchable. That leaves us a few places, but I’d think a woman like Nora would likely head to somewhere like Switzerland. As to the matter of your affairs, that’s something you best take up with your wife if we manage to get a hold of her.’
Wade agreed with Scott, his head nodding up and down like a nodding dog in the back of a car.
* * * * *
The autopsy room was cold, metallic, and sterile, and it gave Frank O’Brien the creeps. He shivered, as much a result of the temperature as of the feeling the basement level room gave him.
‘Give me the short version, Doc Smith,’ he said, nervously rubbing his hands together.
‘Someone’s done a very nice job on your Marvin Turner here.’
‘The quicker the better, please,’ pleaded O’Brien.
Doctor Smith looked squarely at O’Brien, and knowingly smiled.
‘It rather amuses me, Sergeant O’Brien, that an officer of your standing and experience is grossed out by having to come down and see me.’ She let out an almost comical evil giggle. Max Deacon’s smile widened. He was always happy to find a niche in his partner’s armour.
‘Get on with it,’ O’Brien said.
‘Right. It was a professional job, a nice sharp blade, long too. Maybe something like a katana.’ She stopped speaking when O’Brien smiled.
‘Thanks, doc. I think I know who we should be looking at for this. Come on, Deacon, we’ve got a drug lord to arrest.’
Deacon followed O’Brien from the room, pausing only briefly to say goodbye to Doctor Smith.
‘Where are we going, Frank?’
‘We need to speak with Andrew Lee, our favourite drug dealer and importer. My guess is we’ll find links from Marvin Turner to Andrew Lee. He’s the guy we were missing in our drug importation equation. I’ll bet my pension on it.’
* * * * *
Coffee-Stop Coffee Shop
The detectives, Scott and Griffin, had made it to the coffee shop before the rush hour crowd. When Scott saw O’Brien and Deacon enter, he waved them over to the detectives’ table.
‘Sit down boys. You both look like you could do with strong coffee,’ Scott said. He raised his hand to get the attention of the young waitress who had served them some days before. She collected to mugs and a coffee pot on the way to the table. Putting the mugs on the table in front of the now seated officers, she smiled at Deacon as she poured their coffee.
‘And would you mind bringing my two colleagues here a slice each of that cherry pie, please?’
‘Sure,’ she replied to Scott, and wandered back to the counter to complete the order.
‘Somebody pinch me,’ Amy Griffin said. Deacon reached across the table and pinched the back of her hand.
‘Now why did I do that?’ he asked her.
‘Because I’ve heard it all now. Hugh Scott was just polite and courteous to the waitress. Where has my chauvinistic partner disappeared to? What have you done with him?’ She slapped Scott’s arm as she spoke. The waitress returned with two slices of cherry pie. O’Brien shoved a chunk of his pie into his mouth as soon as the young woman handed him a fork. Deacon, Scott, and Griffin simultaneously cringed at his lack of decorum.
‘Hanging out at an autopsy does this to me,’ O’Brien said without looking at any of them.
‘How’s your case going?’ Deacon asked.
‘Nora Aitcheson is alive, and somewhere in the world with all of her husband’s money, and this guy calling himself Sean Gaynor. Wade Aitcheson is off the hook as a suspect. Yours?’ Griffin replied.
‘Marvin Turner’s dead. Murdered by, we think, Andrew Lee. He’s a major drug dealer in the city, as you probably know. We’ve got him in custody, but he’s not speaking until his lawyer arrives, and he is a six-hour drive away. So, we’ve got some time to kill.’ Deacon sipped his coffee after answering Griffin’s question.
‘Typical day at the office then,’ Scott said. ‘Here’s to a life in the force. Cheers.’ He raised his coffee mug and waited for the others to do the same. O’Brien was the first to follow, then Deacon and Griffin.
‘Wouldn’t have it any other way,’ O’Brien said, and then returned to wolfing down the cherry pie.
After only a few precious minutes of calm, chaos and disorder was restored when Amy Griffin’s cell phone rang.
‘Griffin,’ she said. ‘Okay, we’re on our way.’ She disconnected the call, drank the rest of her coffee in two big gulps, slapped her partner on the shoulder, and stood up.
‘Back to the grind, hey?’
‘Yes, Scotty, back to the grind,’ she replied. ‘We’ve got a floater.’
Scott threw twenty dollars on the table, and joined his partner.
‘This one’s on me, boys,’ he said, and then walked towards the coffee shop door, disappearing in a wave of blue uniforms of off-duty police officers.
. . . The end . . .