By Donna Easto
Constable Brown left for Vernon Saturday evening, promising to return to Lumby early Monday morning. On Sunday afternoon, Angus, Maddie and John set out on a brisk walk to put the unpleasantness of the previous day behind them. Several villagers eager to talk about the crime soon appeared. Theories were aplenty. Some thought it resulted from an argument over a woman, others a gambling debt, still others blamed longstanding “bad blood” between the two men.
After listening without comment, the three friends escaped back to the security of Miss Arnold’s house for dinner and an evening of Bridge.
Constable Reggie arrived Monday morning with his superior Sergeant Rufus Zander. It was Zander’s first murder and a double one at that! He politely invited John Wilson Murray to consult on the case and was greatly relieved when Murray agreed.
“Here’s what I learned. Seems Sidney LaForest was in Vernon Wednesday last – staking a claim on Cherry Creek. Maybe nothing, but men have been killed for gold before. Let’s start by searching Mr. LaForest’s hotel room. Angus, Miss Arnold, you’re welcome to join us.” Three lawmen in Lumby – this would get tongues wagging. Maddie was grateful for the early hour. Fewer people about on main street – except the usual covey of local lads.
The room disappointed, just the usual gear of a bachelor and some gold panning equipment. As they left, the door to a nearby room opened, and a grizzled older man motioned them inside. “And you are?” Sergeant Zander demanded.
“Tom, Thomas Coughlin. You’re looking into that matter with Sly. If I have information, is there money in it for me?”
“If it leads to an arrest, there may be a reward. Can’t say for sure. Let’s hear it.”
“Wednesday, Sly was boasting around that he’d struck gold at Cherry Creek. Thursday evening, I hear voices coming from his room. Got pretty loud – angry. The visitor slammed the door hard on the way out.”
Zander clapped Tom on the shoulder, “This may or may not be of use. Can you identify the voice?”
“Can’t rightly say, coulda been a woman. Kinda high pitched, screechy. Another thing, word is Sly lost big in a Poker game that night.”
Thank you for your assistance, Mr. Coughlin. We’ll be in touch. Good day.”
Zander, Angus, John, Reggie and Maddie headed to the hotel cafe for a quiet conference. Sergeant Zander began, “Let’s review what we have so far. Doc saw the bodies Sunday morning. He figures death at about 36 hours earlier based on rigour Mortis. Saturday morning, some men went to the Duggan homestead and discovered the bodies. Constable Brown arrived at the house and noticed irregularities, asked Detective Murray to go back out there with him later that evening; Murray agreed the deaths were suspicious. An informant tells us LaForest lost money gambling Thursday night and earlier had an angry visitor in his room. That about covers it. Constable Brown, let’s start interviewing hotel regulars to learn if anyone saw the mystery visitor, or if Albert Duggan was at the Poker game. Detective Murray, Angus, have you anything to add?”
“If it’s alright with you, Sergeant, I’d like to ride out and take a second look at the crime scene.” Zander agreed, a thorough search was needed before souvenir hunters arrived.
“As for me,” Angus volunteered,” I’ll try to figure out where that scrap of paper found in the stove came from. High-quality paper isn’t often found around here”.
“I’ll be off to practice hymns for the funeral,” Maddie said sharply.
NEXT: More Questions Than Answers