Monday 23 April 2018
‘Keep your cool, Claire. Stay calm,’ Steven whispered. ‘He’s just going to check our story. He’ll contact the Coast Guard, they’ll go out and search for Harry, they won’t find him, and they’ll come back. We’ll probably be questioned over a few days and then they’ll let us go because they’ll have no other option than to assume Harry did fall overboard and disappear in the ocean. But you have to stick to the story and stay calm.’ He looked out of the detective’s office at the police officers moving around the room, engrossed in whatever tasks they’d been set, whatever cases they were investigating. Detective Lucas Gates stared straight back at him. Claire noted Gates’ furrowed brow.
‘He’s on to us.’
‘No, he’s not,’ Steven snapped.
‘Yes, he is, Steven. Look at him. He knows we did it. He knows we killed Harry, and he’s just trying to figure out a way to prove it.’
* * * * *
24 hours earlier
Harry was slumped over the dining table in the galley. The ebb and flow of the ocean threw the Lady Windermere around and with it, Harry sliding the length of the table. Hysterical laughter escaped Claire’s lips as she took in the sight of Harry and the table. Benson glared at her.
‘This is not the time, Claire.’
‘If not now, when? It’s not like he’s going to wake up any time soon. Is it?’ She rifled around in a drawer, pulled out a wooden spoon, leaned forward and using the handle, poked Harry hard on the shoulder. ‘See? Not waking up.’ She poked him again.
‘You keep doing that, you’re going to leave bruises. You leave bruises and our Harry fell overboard story will fall apart.’
She returned the wooden spoon to the drawer, defeated by Steven’s logic and unable to inflict the pain on Harry that he had inflicted upon her time and time again.
‘Let’s get this bastard overboard,’ exclaimed Claire. She reached out to grab Harry’s arm but was intercepted by Steven. He clasped his hand around her bicep, preventing her from reaching the unconscious man.
‘Gloves. We need to put on some latex gloves and rain gear. We don’t want to leave any trace of us having touched him. No evidence.’
‘Won’t the salt water corrupt that sort of evidence?’ Claire asked.
‘Probably, but I don’t want to risk it. Better to be safe than sorry.’
A few minutes of ferreting around the Lady Windermere and Steven had gathered the rain gear together. Claire held out a pair of latex gloves to him when he re-entered the galley.
‘Get these on,’ he ordered as he tossed rain gear towards her. He snatched the latex gloves from her hand, and then slipped his rain pants and jacket over the top of his clothes. With the gloves snapping onto his hands, Steven watched as Claire readied herself.
‘Good to go?’ he asked. She nodded. ‘You take his feet, I’ll take his head.’
‘Why do I get the dirty end?’
‘It’s the lighter end for God’s sake.’
‘I can live with that,’ she replied.
Forty-seven minutes had passed since Claire watched Harry’s body slip beneath the ocean’s furious surface. The cold would have seeped into her bones long ago had it not been for Steven’s idea to wear rain gear when disposing of Harry’s body. Despite the sound of the waves, the wind, and the cold biting her ears, she knew Benson had joined her on deck again.
‘I just want to make sure that he’s gone . . . not coming back . . . dead,’ she shouted above the sound of the waves surrounding them. The violence of the ocean and the isolation of being in the middle of that great mass of water made Claire feel vulnerable and she longed to make port.
‘He’s gone. No way he could survive out there without a life jacket, and certainly no way he could with the drugs that were in his system.’
‘Are you sure? Really sure?’
‘Yeah. Yeah, I’m sure. You should come below now. We need to make sure our story is straight. Last thing we want when we go to the cops is to have differing accounts of what happened.’
* * * * *
Detective Gates strode back into his office, quietly closed the door behind him, and took his place behind his desk. The chair groan as he sat down. He smiled apologetically at Steven and Claire.
‘We’ve notified the Coast Guard and they’re heading out now. They’ll retrace your route and hopefully, pick up your husband along the way. We removed the GPS from the Lady Windermere, and the Coast Guard are taking it with them.’
‘Do you think they’ll find Harry?’ Claire asked in a tine she believed to be fitting of being grief stricken. Gates sighed and leaned forward on his desk. He anxiously fiddled with a pencil, tapping it and rotating it end to end as he spoke.
‘Look, to be honest, Mrs. Miller, with the way the weather’s been here the last few weeks, and the continuing storm fronts we’ve been experiencing, I have to say that I don’t think it’s looking at all good for finding your husband. I think it’s best that you come to terms with that early on. It’s highly unlikely that even if he was a strong swimmer he’d have survived the ocean last night. The temperature was . . . it was cold. The storm front kicked up some pretty serious waves. The two of you are lucky that you didn’t end up capsized.’
Claire sat perfectly still and took in what the detective had just said. Benson put his arm around her shoulder as if he were consoling a grieving widow. He’d told her last night that it would be the little details that made the story ring true, and from the look on Gates’ face, they were doing a fine job of it.
. . . To be continued . . .