Monday 28 – Tuesday 29 May 2018
‘What are you thinking, boss?’ Amy Turner cautiously asked. She’d seen Gates in these moods many times and the key to successfully dealing with him was to tread carefully. He didn’t like being pushed.
‘What I’m thinking is . . . I have no idea.’ He looked at Turner, frustration painted over his face. ‘I thought I knew where this was going. I thought it was a simple man overboard or a simple suicide but it’s neither of those. There’s something else going on here, and whether it’s all down to Steven Benson or whether Claire Miller’s got something to do with it, I just don’t know. And it’s pissing me off.’
‘What’s your gut tell you?’ It was the best she could offer.
‘Good question, Turner.’ He considered her question before responding with a shrug of his shoulders. ‘My gut tells me that Harry Miller’s death is murder but he’s been in the water long enough that I doubt there’s any evidence on him, or in him for that matter. My gut tells me that Steven Benson’s hiding something but I don’t know what. My gut also tells me that Claire Miller is . . . Claire Miller . . . is in this up to her eyeballs and there’s no way I can prove it.’
‘When’s the autopsy?’
Gates looked at his watch. ‘Sanderson said she’d be ready to go whenever we got there.’
Turner smiled. ‘I’ll get the car then.’
* * * * *
‘So, what’s your official verdict, Beth?’ Gates leaned against the door frame. Autopsies always made him feel off. He’d never been able to get used to the blood and guts or the smell that accompanied the deceased.
‘Come on, Lucas, you know I never give out an official until I’ve got all the test results back. I’m waiting on toxicology and I’m not going to say a thing until I’ve got that report.’ The coroner wiped her hands on an immaculate white cloth as she spoke.
‘Please, Beth, just this once. Just for me.’ Gates feigned begging on bended knee. Beth Sanderson simply grinned, shoved him aside, and wandered into her office. Gates pushed himself up from the floor where he unceremoniously landed.
‘You’re killing me here, Beth. No pun intended.’ He followed Sanderson into her office.
‘You’re going to have to wait. The best I can do is say what I always say to you, Lucas . . . when I know what’s gone on, you’ll know.’
‘But if you had to take a guess at it. And educated guess. What would you list as cause of death?’
Sanderson pursed her lips. Their ritual of toing and froing over an early call for cause of death played out the same way every single time she and Gates worked together.
‘It’s not an official call, understand?’
‘Yep,’ Gates nodded.
‘He has cyanosis of the lips –’
‘And that means?’
‘I was getting to that if you hadn’t interrupted me.’ She glared at Gates. ‘Could be a sign of drug abuse. Wasn’t on his peripherals so not from being in the water. Didn’t see any signs of a struggle on his body. No water in the lungs, which you’d expect if he’d drowned.’
‘Dead before he went into the water?’ Gates pondered.
‘I’d put money on it.’
* * * * *
It had been a treacherous night, but Claire and the Lady Windermere had emerged the other side of the storm unmarred. After a few hours rest, Claire plotted the course she would take to escape once and for all from the life she had led and the crime she had perpetrated. She stood alone on deck with the breeze at her back and the sun, peeking out from behind the clouds, laying its gentle rays upon her face. She closed her eyes and allowed herself to really breathe for the first time since she’d begun planning Harry’s demise.
She opened her eyes and surveyed the ocean in front of her.
‘Cheers, Harry and Steven. Can’t say I’ll miss seeing your faces.’ She took in the 360-degree view. It’s what she loved the most about being on the ocean – nothing to see for miles when you were in the right spot. A glint of reflected light caught her attention in the distance. From what she could tell, it was a smaller boat and it was approaching the Lady Windermere at speed.
‘And just who are you?’ She went below deck to find her binoculars.
* * * * *
‘Boss. BOSS!’ Amy Turner ran through the office to find Gates.
‘What is it?’ He poked his head out of the men’s toilets.
‘Steven Benson’s just told his solicitor to tell us he wants to confess.’ She was almost jumping out of her skin.
‘You’re shitting me?’
Turner shook her head. ‘Nope. And that’s not all.’
‘Well, go on,’ Gates demanded.
‘Coast Guard have a present for you.’
Gates looked confused.
‘They’re bringing the Lady Windermere and Claire Miller in to port. They got her.’
‘Holy shit! Could this day get any better?’
As if on cue, Beth Sanderson appeared in the corridor. She handed Gates a folder and smiled.
‘You might find this interesting,’ she said. Gates opened the folder and looked down at Sanderson’s report.
‘You’re shitting me!’ He looked up to express his gratitude to Sanderson but she’d disappeared as quickly as she had appeared in the corridor. He turned to Turner. ‘Jesus, Sanderson’s like a magician, appearing and disappearing like that.’
‘Boss, what’s the report say?’ Turner was keen to learn Miller’s cause of death.
‘It says we’ve got a murder on our hands.’
. . . To be continued . . .