By Donna Easto
The investigators regrouped over lunch to share what they’d learned. Sergeant Zander revealed that LaForest and Duggan weren’t strangers to each other. Three years before moving to Lumby, they’d done time in jail for passing counterfeit money. The quality of the printing was poor; the money easily traceable. Their accomplice, the pressman, died suddenly before the police could arrest him. As near as Zander could determine, Sly and Albert, while not outstanding citizens, were now somewhat law-abiding.
Constable Brown’s questioning turned up no leads on the identity of the mysterious visitor in Sidney’s room. Duggan was definitely not at the poker game. According to Pennington, he never joined in the games. Seems Albert had a regular business meeting Thursday evenings.
John Wilson Murray reported his search of the Duggan farmhouse came up empty, but the barn was another matter. “I know I was only to investigate the house, but it kept nagging at me that we were missing something. In the barn, I found some nitric acid, pyrite crystals, and a small amount of what looked to be real gold. Our two victims were scheming fraud once again.”
Angus cut in, “That fits in with what the assay office in Vernon told me. Sidney LaForest brought in a small sample for assay about a week ago. He also registered his claim in partnership with Alfred Duggan. No surprise there. So, what can we surmise from all these threads, gentlemen…Zander?”
“It’s puzzling indeed. What we do know is that there had to be a third-person out there. But, who and why? Was it his intention to kill both of them? Or, was Albert the target and Sidney, an unintended victim. Picture this: Sly hears a noise behind him, pulls his pistol, too slow – he takes a slug in the head. Duggan tries to reach the door and is shot in the back.”
“The assailant then takes the time to burn something. Betcha that paper is the key to all this.” Angus added, “sorry, I couldna figure it out. Asked the stationer, he said it was medium quality. Like notepaper found in any hotel room.”
“There are three main motives behind murder,” said John softly, “love, lust or loot.”
Constable Brown piped up, “my vote is loot. Probably already swindled some poor sap out of his money on their bogus gold mine. Trouble is, nothing we’ve uncovered so far gives us a suspect.”
Maddie spoke up at last. “Don’t discount the mystery visitor too easily. Some people know more than they’re telling. You’ve not asked for my input, but I suggest we get everyone we’ve questioned together at the hotel tomorrow. Further questions need to be asked”.
Zander snorted, “pardon me, miss, but I think three police officers are better suited to decide how to solve this crime. After all, your most famous “cases” involve finding a pudding and a flock of turkeys.”
“Now, Sergeant, you underestimate Miss Arnold’s abilities. I support her suggestion.
Zander sputtered, “This is highly irregular. You have no jurisdiction in this province. I asked you to witness the investigation simply as a courtesy to another law enforcement officer. Nevertheless, I will allow this most unusual request. It’s not for you, Miss Arnold, but for Detective Murray that I do this. Can you guarantee results from such an unusual tactic?”
Maddie, not rising to the challenge, replied softly, “Guarantee? Of course, I cannot. But, there’s nothing to lose, is there? Oh Reggie, may I speak with you privately after lunch? “
NEXT: Conclusion: A Tangled Web