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 What is the Lie?

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Anthony van

What is the Lie? Empty
PostSubject: What is the Lie?   What is the Lie? EmptyThu Nov 30, 2017 2:14 pm

Chapter 7

            Burton stared at Rolf. “Have we got anywhere with locating young Witney?”

“Not as yet sir. He’s obviously holed up somewhere, or trying to get out of the country.”

“Well that narrows it down then, doesn’t it?” he railed sarcastically. “This looks so bad. Our key suspect escapes from our custody and disappears without trace. And now, what was at first a cut and dried case is starting to become very murky.”

“Come on Ade, escaping and hiding like that is proof of his guilt.”

“Ya think so?” Burton barely moved his head from studying the papers before him as he gave his junior a sidelong glance.

“I’m sure of it. He’s as guilty as sin. You’ve got the forensics—his gun, access to the home, timing is within the limits, no alibi and a motive. It’s, as you said, cut and dried.” Rolf held his hands apart with a self satisfied grin.

            “What about Ashley Moore? … He tells us that he just happened to arrive the day before to search out his roots. He just happens to be the son of one of the victims. And, he just happens to be asking about Clarissa Witney’s will when we turn up.” He stared at the wall trying to determine what all this meant. “You know how I hate coincidences. And the old man, he’s hiding something. I think we’re missing something here.” He turned questioningly to Rolf, “Why would a smart guy like Witney do such a rotten job of covering himself?”

The other detective shrugged. “A crime of passion … I don’t know, maybe everything came apart and he just lost it.”

“Do you have any evidence that he had a relationship with the Jones girl?”

“No, but she was very attractive.”


 “That’s my whole point … unrequited love!”

            Burton shook his head half smiling, “You amaze me Ro; you’re the only one I know who uses what he doesn’t know as evidence for a theory.”

Rolf went on the offensive. “Who else? Al Towers, the most likely, has an alibi. He was seen going into the library, booking computer time and, even though the library was quiet, the computer log confirms he was there till late. Then he was seen leaving. It’s got to be Witney. I reckon he’s gambling that we’ll think he’s too smart to make it so obvious.”

“Then why run?” Burton raised his bushy eyebrows. “I’m not convinced about this Ashley Moore. And I want to talk to Ed Miles again.” He spoke as he was drawing some sort of connectivity diagram on a piece of paper. As an afterthought he blurted, “We need to speak to Harry Witney again too.”

“Do you want me to talk to the Miles girl again?” Rolf tried to sound disinterested. Burton grinned, “You may as well. Hint that our suspicions are divided between Witney and her father and see if she can give us any leads then.”

“Right,” Rolf spun around and left with a little greater zest for the job than usual.



            Tom was agitated that he knew so little. Walking, bare footed, on a beach for about an hour did little to clear his head. A skittish, chill breeze tugged at his clothes as, with hands in pockets, he trudged through the soft sand. Gulls congregated in shuffling groups, keeping out of his way, but staying near enough on the off chance that he had some food. He was endeavouring to grapple with the trauma and distress of his experiences and dealing with the dissonance that had arisen in his mind. How could he suddenly accept everything that had happened and, on top of that, cope with Ashley’s appearance? Why his family, why him? What sort of person is Ashley? Could he be responsible for the horror and the disintegration of his secure world? A malaise of self pity clouded around him. Absorbed with his fretting, he was almost unaware of his surroundings. A sudden gust of wind, sand grit was stinging his ankles and the sharp tang of salt stirred Tom back to be alert to his situation. He had wandered farther than he had intended. Turning, he jogged back along the shore.

Getting back into the white utility he drove towards his own place thinking he might retrieve his car. Reason overtook him, though, as he considered the risk of being spotted. But he still didn’t want to flee to his retreat without any more information, so he pulled over into a shopping centre and decided to have some ‘think time’ over a cup of coffee. Luxuriating in a foamy cappuccino at a local cafe, Tom got his cell out and tried to take some notes on his suspect list. Starting with his father he wrote - find out where dad was – find out where Ed went, how long has he known about Ashley Moore?- Check out Al’s alibi – find out about Ashley Moore. He sat and stared at the screen and sipped. The gun. He hadn’t worked out who had taken it. He needed to ask Ed about the spare keys at work. Tom wrote it down. Suddenly a rush of questions flooded his brain. He really needed to meet with Ed. He spent the next ten minutes or so listing dot points.

            After a toilet break he decided to have another coffee, thinking that it might be the last opportunity for a while to have a decent brew.

            As he sat there following endless trails of what ifs, Tom noticed a police car pull in to the kerb. Warily, he examined the premises for a way out. There didn’t appear to be an obvious exit. ‘Sit tight’, he urged himself. ‘They don’t know you’re here; they can’t see you in this corner’. He tried to disguise his appearance even more by putting a cap on to mask his eyes. A sidelong glance toward the entrance showed Detective Rolf walking toward the door. Tom tensed, ready to burst out while giving the policemen a decent shove on the way. He was reprieved. Rolf had turned in response to a call. He sat down at a table on the pavement. Tom craned his neck closer to the window. He was stunned. Lori was sitting opposite the detective. Why were they meeting? What would she tell him?

            Tom had to sit there and stew. He was stuck in a foggy, boggy swamp of roiling fears. Every step left him more lost and entangled. Now he had questions about Lori. They sat and talked over coffee. It was almost as if she was flirting with him, smiling, laughing a little and then seeming to be deep in conversation. Strangely, Tom ached a bit. Some emotional angst tied his stomach in knots. He bit his lip. He knew he was developing feelings for Lori and he berated himself. He had no time for sentimentality. 



            An hour earlier, almost as soon as Lori had arrived home, she had received a call. It was Detective Rolf checking to see if she was home. He had wanted to ask her some questions. Seeing this as an opportunity to extract some information, she had agreed to meet him, but only if he was buying the coffee. Lori was appalled to see her dad’s pickup outside the coffee shop minutes before the time she’d arranged to meet the policeman. Too late to change anything, Lori desperately hoped that Tom would stay inside; that he would see the police as they parked by the kerb. She sat outside and called Rolf over to where she was. A flittering shadow in the coffee shop window confirmed to her that Tom was watching them. What would he think? She knew it was all in a good cause and, secretly, she enjoyed the chance to tease a bit.

            Rolf ordered coffees as they initially passed pleasantries. By the time the drinks arrived the conversation was mainly about Tom’s relationship with his parents, his stepfather and Tamara. What sort of person was he and had he shown any unusual behaviour? Lori answered truthfully and tactfully, relating her limited knowledge, putting Rolf at ease before quizzing him.

            “So how can you be so sure that Al Towers wasn’t there?”

“What do you mean?” he was taken aback.

“You seem to have ruled him out just because he says he was at the university library.”

“Well we have CCTV showing him arriving and leaving. It covers the period of the murder.”

“What about other exits?”

Rolf looked at her, “Look, we’ve got no reason to believe that he’s involved, but, we did check it out. The computer records show that the computer he booked recorded active use steadily over the time he was there. So he couldn’t have done it.” Rowan stared at her seriously, “No, Tom Witney is the culprit.” The way he said it made Tom sound like a delinquent child.

            She grinned. “What you’re trying to say is that you think that he’s guilty … that’s because you can’t imagine anyone else committing the murder. You need to use your imagination.”

The detective leaned forward a little. “All right, you tell me who you imagine committed the crime.”

Lori laughed, “I’m not going to do your job for you, but surely it’s clear to you that Tom was set up. If he did murder them, he would have made an effort to hide the evidence, or give himself an alibi.”

“Oh, the old ‘it’s-too-obvious-to-be-true’ argument. You’d be surprised how often the simplest explanation is correct.” Rolf was enjoying this sparring. Lori was attractive. Her brown eyes danced as she spoke and she seemed to relish this battle of wits.

“So, why did he run, if he was innocent?” He jabbed with his index finger to make his point.

She smiled in response. “I imagine … to try and catch the real murderer, since it seems you guys have stopped looking.”

Rolf replied defensively, “We haven’t stopped looking.”

“Do you have any other suspects?”

“We’re still looking into a few. It seems Mrs Witney had a child from a previous relationship.”
“That guy I saw you with at Dad’s work?” She looked at him inquisitively.

“You were there?” He looked confused.

“I dropped in on Dad after you left. So, was he …?” She continued her initial query.

Rolf suddenly became conscious that he was saying more than he should. He leaned back and attempted to be more discreet, “It’s possible.”

“What about Mr Witney, Tom’s father?”

Rolf squirmed uncomfortably. Did she know about their concerns as well? “What about him?”

“It might be worth knowing where he was at the time,” she said almost coyly.

            Rolf became more forceful, “What do you really know about all this?”

Lori smiled; a touch of triumph in her expression. “I know it’s time I went.” She rose from her seat. “Thanks for the coffee and … thank you for all your help.” She grinned impishly at him and then refocused, as if she were looking at someone behind him. He half turned, almost expecting that she was meeting up with someone, but she just walked to her small, red car and drove off. He vaguely responded to her vigorous palm movement with a half wave, concerned that he’d been the one who had been questioned. Wasn’t he supposed to have made her uncomfortable by casting aspersions on her father?

            Tom watched as Detective Rolf ambled to his car and drove off, appearing deep in thought. He wondered what Lori had told the policeman that had made him so absorbed. 

He stood and stretched his legs ready to leave. Near the window he was giving a cursory examination of the highway when Lori’s car drew into the car park from the opposite direction. She jumped out of the car and tried to restrain a sashay in her stride and a broad grin on her face. She came in and sat down next to where Tom was standing.

“What was that all about?” he asked suspiciously.

“I think he was questioning me.” Her shy downturned face peering up at him mimicked helplessness, but he knew better. Tom resumed his seat, controlling a desire to hug her. Breathlessly she started, “When I saw the utility there I couldn’t believe it. I had to make sure Rolf didn’t go in. Then I saw you near the window, I knew you’d stay inside.”

“So, you knew I was watching,” Tom nodded knowingly.

“Were you?” she smirked. “Anyway, I made sure he’d gone then drove around the block.”

“Why’d you come back?”

Lori stopped briefly. His comment took the wind out of her sails. “I’m just trying to help,” she brooded disconsolately.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it like that. It’s just … I didn’t expect to see you.”

She brightened a little. “Dad called. He said he’d see you back in the office if you want. They’re not watching him any more, as far as he can tell. He said you both needed to talk.”

“That’s certainly true,” Tom assented. He studied Lori till she wordlessly tilted her head questioningly.

“I’m trying to work you out,” he responded to her inquiring look.


“Exactly! Why? Why are you doing this for me?”

“People help each other,” she managed in an unconvincing, stilted, even slightly embarrassed fashion.

“Yeah,” agreed Tom doubtfully. “And what did you talk to Rolf about all that time?”

Lori gathered herself. “Why do you want to know?” she taunted.

“…because he’s after me.”

“I told him where he could find you and what a terrible person you are … what do you think?” she was truculent now.

Tom held up both hands in submission. “I was just curious … What did he say?”

            Lori spent the next few minutes explaining how she dug for information and probably didn’t add anything to Rolf’s knowledge about the case.

“I left before he got to ask whether I’d seen you,” she skewed her mouth humorously. “I didn’t want to lie.”

“You know he likes you, don’t you?”

Although Lori had lowered her head, a small dimple betrayed her growing smile. “It doesn’t hurt to make friends,” she chuckled. “You should try it some time.”

            He thought her quiet dig was meant to chastise his abrupt manner, but Tom was unaware that she was closely watching his reaction. Instead of cueing into the intimation behind the remark, he rose and suggested they go. Tom assumed that Lori would come along back to work, but she said she needed to get a room ready for Holly, because Tom’s sister had no desire to stay alone in the same house as Al.



Despite Lori’s assurances that it was safe to go back, Tom was vigilant, ceaselessly scanning side streets, mirrors and the road ahead. Using the same entrance as before, he snuck in.

Once back in the building he relaxed some. Ed greeted him like a long lost brother, slapping his back as he hugged him.

Stepping back he observed, “You look a sight. I’m not sure if they’d recognise you now.”

Tom rubbed his stubble and screwed his face wryly. “I feel pretty grotty. I might have a shower before I leave.”

“Keep the face fuzz if you want to stay in hiding. There’s a touch of homeless derelict to your looks.”

“Thanks very much,” Tom tried to sound insulted.

Ed spent some time apologising for not telling him about Ashley Moore. His rationale had been that he thought it would be better coming from Ashley and that circumstances had derailed a proposed meeting. Ed went into some background and it was all a revelation to Tom.

            “You see,” he stumbled awkwardly, “Ashley tried to contact your mother about two years ago, but unfortunately spoke to your dad. He immediately confronted Clarissa and after a considerable row, from what I hear, your dad took off.”

“So that’s why he left all of a sudden,” interrupted Tom. “So he knew about Ashley all this time?”

Ed nodded, “I’m afraid so. Anyway, Ashley has taken time off from teaching to find his roots. He was a bit envious of your comfortable life but I didn’t think he was up to any mischief. I mean, he seems decent enough. Well, just the other day he visited your mother … his mother,” he corrected, “and got on quite well until Gene tried to run him off. I’d been invited to attend by your mum as legal advice and Ashley and I left together when it became a bit heated. The next day he contacted me and said Gene had tried to pay him off if he disappeared and never came back.”

            Out of the blue Tom interjected, “The key’s still here.” He had been sitting on Ed’s desk listening intently when his eyes had wandered to the key rack on the desk.

“What do you mean?” Ed, who had been sitting on a couch, leaned forward intrigued.

“Oh,” Tom looked up holding the keys, “I’m trying to work out who took my pistol from the car. These keys are still here, so unless you used them to take my gun … well I guess it’s down to the spare keys at home.”

“Whoa, not necessarily …” Ed’s brow was furrowed and there was a quizzical expression on his face. Tom reacted to his puzzlement. “What’s wrong?”

“Those keys were missing. I hadn’t noticed that they were back.”

“What are you saying?” Tom was totally focused.

“Someone took those keys … probably to get into your car and, it’s quite possible, it was the person who took your gun.”

            Tom was standing now. He gave Ed a determined stare. “Who Ed? Who had the opportunity to take them … and more importantly, put them back as well?”

“I’d say just about anyone who works here, except for a couple things. One, it’s impossible to imagine anyone here doing this.”

Tom grunted, “Huh, maybe it’s a sign of how desperate I am, but I’m imagining everyone being involved.” He sat down next to Ed and put his head in his hands. “I hate to admit it Ed, but you’re even on my list.”

Ed gave him a consoling pat. “I’d like to say I understand. The truth is I have no way of knowing how you feel at the moment. I mean it’s unreal. One day everything is fine and then catastrophe strikes.”

            A silly smirk played on Tom’s lips. “You’re just trying to make me feel good, huh?” he looked up at his finance manager. “So what’s the other exception to suspecting everyone?”

Ed fixed his gaze on Tom, heightening a sense of the import of what he had to say.

“Those keys were returned today.”

It didn’t register immediately with his young boss so Ed elaborated. “Ashley Moore is the only person I can think of who was here to take them and then return them.”

“Ashley,” breathed Tom audibly. “We have to find him and confront him.”

“He seemed so genuine. “ Ed shook his head, “You be careful Tom. If he’s the killer he won’t hesitate to kill again.”

            Ed scrunched his face as if in pain. Tom sat riveted to the spot, aware that something was amiss. “What’s wrong?”

“There’s something else.”

“What is it?” There was an unusual commanding quality to his query.

Ed looked apologetically, “I used your car that morning, for about an hour.”


“… Just to drop some legal papers off for your mother. I wasn’t there long, but I’m afraid …” Ed’s face contorted with the ramification of what he was thinking. “I didn’t lock the car.”

“Oh, Ed.” Disappointed, Tom tried to grasp how this information altered his perceptions.

“I’m sorry Tom.” Ed was contrite. “I know this means anyone could have grabbed that gun; anybody could have come while I was inside and taken it.”

“Did you see anyone?”

Ed looked dejected. “No.”

“Oh well … it just widens the field. I’ll still have to work on who could have used the keys.”

            They spent a few minutes trying to work out how to put some leverage on Ashley should they find him. How could they find him? The problem was, the keys were back and all that they had proposed was sheer speculation.

            Pacing the room, Tom’s mind went over what he had learned. A suspicion deviated his thinking in another direction. “What about the Will? Who benefits most from mum’s Will?”

Ed looked above his metal frame glasses. “It won’t be read until after the funeral.” The mild reprimand was meant to be a salutary piece of information, but Tom paid no attention to the rebuke.

“You’ve already suggested Holly and I are in it. You know exactly what’s in it don’t you?” Tom almost challenged.

“If you mean, did I assist your mother in drafting it? The answer is yes, but it’s a bit unethical to release it before the official reading.”

Tom rebutted with a bit of emotion, “Murder is unethical and, as you can appreciate, I won’t be able to attend the official reading.”

“Hmm,” he stood, turned and stared at the picture on the wall. There was a text that Tom hadn’t noticed before: ‘Your word is Truth’.  Ed cleared his throat. “I won’t tell you exactly what it says, but I can say that only you, Holly, your father and two others were mentioned. I think that should be very helpful for you.”

Tom’s reply was almost monotone, “Two others? Surely not Al?”

Ed faced him. He didn’t answer verbally. He just raised his eyebrows and pulled his lips tight, not clearly affirming or denying the negatively framed question.

            The room was quiet. A mood of hopelessness invaded Tom’s being. He flopped onto the couch and put his head in his hands again. ‘Surely not Al?’ he repeated in his thoughts. Then, when Ed’s comment eventually sank in, it dawned on him that there was something else to explore.

“And two others?” he prompted his mentor. When he got no reaction Tom pressed on, “You wrote something about an allowance for Al if he kept to his studies, didn’t you?” The older man made no comment. “That wouldn’t amount to much and he would have to actually study right?” There was still no response from Ed.

“It’s Ashley isn’t it?” Tom cried. Then gaining momentum and volume Tom pushed on, “That would give him a reason to murder. Do you know where he was later that afternoon?”

Ed’s perplexed look said all that was necessary.

“So, what you’re not saying,” he grated with an ironic twist on his face, “is that he’s got motive and, probably, opportunity.”

            There was another uneasy quiet as Ed stared at the keys and Tom watched him, his mind muddling through a gluey inertia caused by emotions about confronting his friend.

“You’ve seen Dad, haven’t you?” he blurted apprehensively. Ed turned to face him. His scrunched features betrayed the contortions his thoughts were performing.

“What can I say?” he replied softly, “I’m in a difficult place here.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, your father and I are old friends. I don’t talk about it, but we’ve kept in touch.” Ed strained a little, as if he was embarrassed about what he would say next.

“He … he saw me last Wednesday … wanted to er,” he shuffled nervously, pouting his lips, “… to er, sound me out as to how you’d feel if he wanted to come back to work here.”
Tom skewed his head intrigued, “He wants to come back?”

Ed nodded.

            “Of course I don’t care if he comes back or not.” The words were almost scathing. “The thing is he was here. I have to find out where he went—.”

“You don’t think—” interrupted the older man.

“I don’t know. But I have to hear it from him. He’s lied to me once now. This time I want to hear the truth.”

            There was an uncomfortable lull in their conversation as Tom brooded over his father.

“Tom, this is not you. He’s your father for goodness sake!” Ed’s utterance was pleading and conciliatory at the same time.

“I may not be myself, but what about my Dad?” Tom almost snapped, “He just leaves, right out of nowhere. I thought I knew him, but he didn’t give a clue about what was on his mind.”

“I know …” the older man said quietly and lowered his head. He took a deep breath and spoke more purposefully. “Tom, I explained why Harry ran off. You have to understand. It was a huge shock. He knew nothing about it and then he was wondering what else was secret … he just started saying crazy things.”

“I guess it would be a shock.”

“Well, now he blames himself for what’s happened. He says if he’d been around he would have protected Clarissa.”

“That’s silly. Why should he feel responsible for this mess?” Tom glanced up at Ed.

Looking back at him over his glasses like a paternal school master, Ed replied sagely, “Because he’s just like you. You both act first and think later.” He smiled, “… and then you come and tell me your regrets.”

            They spoke a little more about Harry before Tom enquired about how his friends and employees were reacting to the news.

“I think they’re all a bit stunned by it all,” Ed admitted. “I mean some think, like Holly, that you should just give yourself up. Gil rang and said if you needed a place to hide you could use his place.”

Tom snorted softly as he considered his Uncle Gil. He was somehow related to Clarissa—a second cousin or something like that—and often dropped by. Being on the moneyed side of the family, it was he who tried to distract Tom with fishing or tennis and had introduced him to the gun club. It was just like him to treat Tom’s evasion from the police as a bit of a lark.

“Rick dropped by and wanted to know everything, and then asked if there was anything he could do.”

“Does he know I’m up at his cabin?

Ed shook his head, “I didn’t tell him, but he may guess. You know you won’t be able to keep this up for long, don’t you Tom?”

“Mm,” Tom conceded reluctantly. “Anyone else show particular interest?”

“Everyone!” responded Ed. “Erin couldn’t believe it and then asked if I thought you’d done it. Drake and Gerhardt came up with multiple scenarios describing how you were framed while a lot of others took the view that your running indicates your guilt.”

Tom looked up at Ed. “I don’t blame them really … and I’d think the same thing.”

            It was then that Ed filled him in about Charlton Chemicals and how Mr Charlton had been angry at Gene. It was possible that someone had gone to the house to ‘straighten Gene out’ and things had gotten out of hand. It seemed unlikely to Tom but he said he’d follow it up. After giving the details of the company’s address to Tom, Ed left. Tom then spent as much time as he dared under a hot shower.

            As the archetypal ‘fugitive’ he was loath to leave without finding out anything substantial, but he’d already spent an hour there and he was sure it was one place the police would check regularly. At a loss as to knowing how he would continue his search for the murderer he decided to inspect the Charlton Chemical Company. Tom needed to plan his visit and organise a quick getaway should things turn ugly.
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