The Suspect - L R Wright

BOOK: The Suspect - L R Wright
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The Suspect

L R Wright
1985

This book if for my brother, Brian
Appleby

AUTHOR'S NOTE

The author wishes to acknowledge the advice and
suggestions provided by john Wright, Marti Wright, Evelyn Appleby,
Dennis Stewart, Jerry Olsen and several members of the Royal Canadian
Mounted Police; any inaccuracies are her own;

There is a Sunshine Coast, and its towns and villages
are called by the names used in this book. But all the rest is
fiction.
The events and the characters are
products of the author's imagination, and geographical and other
liberties have been taken in the depiction of the town of Sechelt.
 
 

CHAPTER 1

He was a very old man.

When he was struck he fell over promptly, without a
sound. His chair made a sound—a twisted squeak of a noise—but it
let him go, made no move that George could see to clasp its wooden
arms around him, hold him close to its padded back, keep him firmly
upright upon its padded seat. It just gave a small squeak as its
rockers skewed frantically on the polished hardwood floor; then it
righted itself, gently rocked back into serenity and was finally
motionless and silent.

Everything was silent, then—silent in the silent
sunshine. Yet George had an impression of uproar and consternation.
There was a thundering in his eighty-year-old heart, a feebleness in
his antiquated knees. His body had become a horrified, garrulous
commentator on calamity.

He did a slow, backward shuffle, his eyes still fixed
on the empty rocking chair, and lowered himself carefully onto the
chesterfield, his right hand wrapped around a cylindrical piece of
brass that had once been a shell casing.

He pushed himself back on the chesterfield and let
his head rest against its flowered slipcover. Then he sat up to take
a large white handkerchief from his pocket and spread it on the maple
coffee table, next to a vase of peonies, robustly pink. He set the
shell casing carefully on top of the white fabric square. He saw that
there was blood on the sleeve of his V-necked navy cardigan.

He leaned back and closed his eyes. He was surprised
that his mind was so calm. He decided that his heart must be the font
of whatever wisdom he possessed. It was still a place of bedlam,
racketing in revulsion at Carlyle lying still and dead, half his face
buried in the braided rug, bleeding neatly, discreetly, there instead
of onto the hardwood floor.

But after a while even his heart became serene.

George realized that he was going to survive this
astonishing thing.

He reached out and picked up the shell casing. It had
a pattern of quarter-inch dots all over it, and up one side was
embossed a voluptuous urn holding a single large flower. He couldn't
identify what kind of flower it was supposed to be. It had thirteen
petals—he counted them—and two large leaves protruded from its
stem. He wondered if Carlyle had had this peculiar decoration imposed
upon the shell casing, or if it had come like that from wherever he
got it.

George studied this object, his weapon, wonderingly.
It was a foot high and hollow, about seven inches in diameter at the
base, tapering to a little less than five inches at the top. A kind
of rim was formed at the base by an indentation etched all the way,
around, about an eighth of an inch from the bottom. He thought it
remarkable that it wasn't even dented. Maybe skulls got frailer as
bodies aged, he thought, and brought his left hand up to touch,
cautiously, the top of his head. There was blood on the base, and
bits of tissue or something. Maybe it was brain, thought George,
detached, as he set the shell casing back on top of his handkerchief.

He didn't like feeling so emotionless. Yet it was a
relief, too. Just as Carlyle's silence was a relief.

They'd probably have to lock him up immediately,
thought George. He was sure there wasn't any bail for murderers. And
he didn't plan to explain himself, either, which wouldn't help. He
was curious about prison. They might put him in one of those
new-fashioned places, where you had a room, instead of a cell, and
got to read and eat half-decent meals. He nodded to himself,
thinking, becoming more and more certain that they wouldn't put a
person of his advanced age into a maximum security facility. It might
be quite an interesting experience, jail. No gardens there, though.

There was some blood on the front of his sweater,
too, he noticed. It ought to make him feel sick, or panicky, but it
didn't. He was quite tranquil.

He remembered his daughter, Carol, asking when she
was very young if he had ever been in jail. He had assured her
vehemently that he had not, but her question had shaken him badly. He
remembered that she'd been surprised and disappointed by his reply;
she'd gotten the idea from somewhere that all men went to jail now
and then. George had worried about their brief conversation for a
long time. He tried to imagine, now, her adult reaction to his arrest
and incarceration, and flinched. He deserved it, no question about
that. But he saw the irony in it, and Carol, of course, would not.

Carlyle's living room was drenched in sunshine. His
body lay in it. The hardwood floor gleamed in it. There was a
disquieting permanence in these moments, George thought. He was sure
the sun would continue to shine steadily through the big window at
precisely this angle. He was sure the earth had ceased its
perambulations at last and come to rest forever at this specific
point in its axis.

George continued to rest on the chesterfield, hands
on his knees, and felt himself blinking stupidly at the sunshine, at
the rocking chair, at the tall cabinet across the room which held a
collection of china. There was no horror in the room, no disapproval.
There was only the benign sunshine and the radiance of polished wood.
The act of murder had apparently been swiftly absorbed, dispensed
with; even George's own body had adjusted to what it had done. This
didn't seem proper. Something judgmental ought to be happening. But
the soporific sun shone in, illuminating Carlyle lying there dead
with no more emphasis than it shed upon the rocking chair, or the
brass-based lamp on the end table, or George's hands, resting on his
knees.

The man was dead. There was no doubt about it. There
was an incontrovertible sense of absence in his stillness.

George looked vaguely around the room and continued
to sit quietly, waiting for some feeling to claim him. But nothing
claimed him. Nothing choked his chest, not remorse or
self-satisfaction. He was empty of all things important.

He thought back to the moments of the murder. He
could remember each second clearly, but the seconds didn't accumulate
neatly in his mind to form a definable experience. He shouldn't have
come here. He hadn't been in this house for months, and he certainly
shouldn't have come today. He couldn't remember what Carlyle had said
to persuade him. He couldn't remember walking here. But he remembered
arriving. The front door was ajar. On either side of the concrete
steps, wide and shallow, was a pot of lemon-scented geranium. They
were terra-cotta pots.

The door was ajar. Carlyle had a habit of doing
things like that, leaving his doors and windows open for any
bright-eyed burglar to get through. When he drove a car, he had never
locked it and had often left his keys in the ignition. He was never
robbed, and announced this often. "Never been robbed,” he
would say proudly. "Never. Trust people; that's my motto."
His left eye would close, then. He probably thought he looked droll,
winking like that, but to George he only looked like he had a left
eye that wasn't reliable any more.

Never been robbed, thought George, sitting on the
flowered chesterfield. And now he's been murdered.

Carlyle had droned on and on from his rocking chair,
looking out the window at the sea. When George finally realized what
he was leading up to he tried to stop him, he tried very hard to stop
him, but Carlyle put up his hand and shook his head and went right on
talking.

At some point George started to leave, but Carlyle
said, "I'm talking about your sister, George. Your family."
He turned around to smile at him. "Pay some respect, George. Pay
some attention."

It was the smile, that mocking, knowing smile, which
held George planted to the floor, his feet apart, a horrible
prickling sensation moving from the middle of his back right up
his spine.

Carlyle had turned back to the window and commenced
again to talk. George, behind him, told him loudly to shut up, but
still Carlyle went on, his voice flat and deadly. He admitted
nothing, nothing, he said such awful, dreadful things, he was going
on and on .... And then George looked wildly about him and saw the
shell casings, two of them, identical, side by side on a bookcase
shelf.

His body propelled him relentlessly toward them, his
right hand grabbed one of them, he turned around and lurched toward
Carlyle, who was still looking out the window, still talking, and
then as if suddenly alerted Carlyle began to turn, his left hand
grasping the wooden arm of the rocking chair. But the shell casing
had already begun its descent. In the split second before George shut
his eyes tight and the weapon crashed down upon Carlyle's skull he
saw fear in Carlyle's eyes and knew he had seen it there before and
tried to remember when, and where, and why he'd seen Carlyle
terrified in the past, and it even occurred to him to ask Carlyle,
but then of course it was too late.

The sound was unlike anything George had heard
before. Once while he was unloading groceries from the back seat of
his car a cantaloupe had hurled itself upon the concrete driveway. It
was something like that.

George sighed, and rubbed his head, and wished he
could weep.

He wanted to go home. He wasn't ready yet for the
hustle and bustle of being arrested. He was too tired to answer
people's questions, to explain to his lawyer, who had never handled
anything more complicated than a will or a real estate transaction,
that he now had a murderer for a client. He had to have time to rest,
to prepare himself.

Gradually, as he sat thinking, it occurred to George
that to give himself up was pointless. Even stupid. When they caught
up with him, fine. He'd go to trial and to prison without
complaining, with dignity, even, if he could manage it. But to spend
any more time locked up than was absolutely necessary—it made no
sense.

Besides, he thought, it had been self-defense, in a
way. The man had been babbling wickedly about things he didn't
understand and had no right to know, trying to hurt him with them, as
though George hadn't been hurting always, through-out his adult life,
since long before he met Carlyle. And George knew Carlyle had been
going to confess, too, to things George had struggled for years to
put from his mind.

It was lucky he'd worn his dark blue sweater, he
thought, struggling up out of the soft-cushioned chesterfield. The
spots and splotches on it could be anything at all.

He hobbled on prickly half-asleep legs into the
kitchen, where a fish in a plastic bag lay in the sink. Even this,
the sight of Carlyle's never-to-be-eaten lunch, couldn't move him. He
rummaged around in drawers until he found some big paper grocery
bags. Into, one of them he loaded the shell casings; he wasn't sure
why he took them both, but he did. He stuffed his handkerchief,
marked now with Carlyle's blood, into his back pocket. Then he
shuffled cautiously over to where the body lay. He didn't get too
close to it, because he didn't want to look at any more of the head
than he had to.

Carlyle's eyes were open. George's heart twisted in a
sudden, painful spasm. For a moment he thought Carlyle was alive
after all, and he felt an awesome relief. I'll leave this time, he
told himself; this time I'll leave, quickly, before he can do any
more talking, any more harm.

But Carlyle wasn't alive. His eyes were open, but he
was dead. He seemed to be gazing across the floor at the heat
register in the wall behind the chesterfield.

George went slowly down the hall, slightly stooped
from the burden of the shell casings in the paper bag, lodged under
one arm. He opened the front door, which he had closed when he
entered the house.

BOOK: The Suspect - L R Wright
11.45Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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