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The Murder - The Evidence Mounts

 
Joe Spivey's picture
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Arch arrived. It took a while to calm him down and get him to listen but, eventually, the combined efforts of the mayor and the chief constable convinced him that it would be in the best interests of himself and his family if the boys accompanied their father to the constabulary headquarters, where Arthur would then be interviewed. Arch wasn’t happy about having his home searched either, but after Hyle pointed out to him that it would be better for the search to be carried out now, with the minimum of fuss, he relented. The last thing Arch wanted was a circus of curious neighbours outside his house jumping to all kinds of conclusions.

To further keep things as low-key as possible, Arch went with Dr. Troy and sergeant Alana to pick up all three of the boys. Alana then stayed behind where she was joined a few minutes later by two more constable to carry out the search. The mayor and Chief Shadow, meanwhile, made their way back to the constabulary HQ.

After the brothers were led out to the car, Dr. Troy drove back to the clinic, where little Dudley was left in the safe hands of Nurse Maisie. Then the doctor, and a further constable who had been waiting for their return, drove to the constabulary with Arch and the two now rather worried looking older boys to be interviewed by Shadow.

Once settled inside, the chief had the constable wait with young Evan while he took Arthur and his father into the interview room. Once his father and brother had disappeared behind the half-glazed door, Evan was made to sit in the corner of the room on an uncomfortable hard-backed chair which had one leg ever so slightly shorter than the other three, so making it tip just enough so that Evan flinched every time he moved and altered the centre of balance. The guard, also sitting, was conspicuously between Evan and the exit and far enough away so that if the boy tried to bolt then the guard would have enough time to react and stop him. Shadow was smart.

Hyle took all this in while finishing her conversation with Tukiko, who then left to return to the clinic. If this were a normal situation then Hyle would have been impressed by Shadow’s minor, but effective, softening up tactic on Evan while he got on with interviewing his big brother. But Evan was a twelve-year-old boy, not a street-savvy wise-guy from the nearby New Flagstaff.

For an instant a picture of Joe Spivey came to mind and Hyle shuddered at the thought of Evan being turned in that direction by his experience here today. No, Evan Stanton was a frightened little boy in a strange place, surrounded by intimidating adults and Hyle couldn’t help her natural mothering instinct from kicking in.

Dismissing the constable would have undermined Shadow’s authority, so, instead, Hyle pulled up another chair and sat down next to Evan. Very gently then, Hyle engaged him in idle chit-chat about anything she could think of that had nothing to do with the current situation. She asked about school, about his friends and what games he liked to play. Soon, Evan was telling her about his favourite stories, what he liked and didn’t like about school, what he wanted to be when he grew up and all the usual things grown-ups tend to ask children. And Evan leapt eagerly for the opportunity to free his senses from the scary smell of adult authority which permeated every scuffed floorboard and stained wall of the constabulary. When she ran out of questions, Hyle told him stories of Tuki as a child and the scrapes she got into at home and at Haven, where her for proclivity for climbing everything she could resulted in more than one letter home. Evan was soon laughing at these intimate insights into the normally very down to earth town doctor.

Then the door to the street opened and Sergeant Alana accompanied by the two constables arrived back from searching the Stanton home and all conversation stopped. The constables waited by the door while Alana, carrying something long and thin and wrapped in a cloth, knocked on the interview room door. The door closed behind her, and all around Hyle the whispering began. Hyle felt a small clammy hand find her own and she automatically gave it a reassuring squeeze.

Half a minute later, the interview door opened and Chief Constable Shadow, accompanied by his sergeant, led a shaken, white faced Arthur and his equally shocked father into the room. Alana crossed to Evan and gently but firmly pulled him to his feet. Evan’s hand slipped from Hyle’s and she was left looking at Shadow’s grimly set features.

“Arthur Stanton. Evan Stanton. I am arresting you both for the murder of Margaret Louise Decker, more familiarly known to those here as, Magrat.”

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Hyle Troy's picture

Hyle was quiet as the boys were led away to the cells, too shocked to take in what was happening to them. Shadow indicated with a tilt of his head that Hyle should follow him to his office. Behind them, Constable Alana was politely but firmly explaining to Arch Stanton what was happening, when he could see the boys and what he could do for them. The voices were cut off as the door to Shadow’s small office closed behind them.

The Chief Constable and the Mayor took up the chairs on opposite sides of the old and battered desk, both gathering their thoughts, both unsure of how all this was going to go down. Hyle spoke first.

Shad? Are you sure? I mean, Evan, he’s just a kid.”

Across the paper strewn and ink-stained faded leather inlay, Shadow’s shoulders rose.

I don’t like it any more than you do.”

So why arrest him? He had a crush on Magrat, he wouldn’t kill her.”

Why? Because he’s a kid? Kid’s do kill, Hyle. Need I remind you about the some-time resident of Hope who not only kills people, but eats their flesh… and she’s younger than Evan.”

Hyle knew immediately who Shadow was referring to. But Canni was a special case, a result of genetic jiggery-pokery the half of which she didn’t even want to understand. And, though she might look it, and act like it, Canni Belle was a clone and, like her own daughter, way older than the child body she occupied.

No of course not. It’s got nothing to do with his age. Evan was besotted with Magrat, probably still is considering the risk he took in placing her stethoscope in her coffin.”

Shadow leaned forward, interlacing his fingers on the desk top.

That’s how you see it, Hyle. And I have to admit, that’s how I see it too. But…” He paused to let the ‘but’ sink in in. “… the evidence, the facts, are what they are.”

Hyle sat back, she had already figured out where this was going and, whether she wanted to acknowledge it or not, Shadow was going to spell it out.

Shadow untwined his fingers.

Two facts.” He stabbed the desk with his forefinger. “Fact one. As you said, Evan was besotted with Magrat, and yet she was leaving Hope, and him.”

The finger stabbed again and Hyle noticed the nail was split and jagged.

Fact two. Evan was in the vicinity of the murder at the time we believe it to have happened.” He looked Hyle in the eye. “Motive and opportunity.”

Hyle returned her Chief Constable’s gaze steadily, Shadow was right, of course. His next words were the only conclusion there was.

On that evidence, and with finding what is almost certainly the murder weapon in his home, the ’means’, I had no other choice to arrest him.

There was a long long pregnant silence. Hyle sat awkwardly in her chair, shifting from one side to the other. The facts as presented made sense but she just knew deep inside that the conclusions were wrong. The short time she spent with Evan had not demonstrated a child with something as catastrophic as a murder to hide.

Hyle stood and paced the room, her face set, full of thought. Something was missing from the scenario as presented. Shadow watched her, his own face set on what he should do next.

Hyle breathed out long. “Ok. You are the policeman.” She admitted. “I’m just the politician.” She stopped her pacing and looked directly at Shadow. “But.”

 

Hyle leaned on the edge of the desk facing Shadow, her face as serious as he had ever seen. “I want you to spend a long time talking to Evan. Not accusing, not even pressurising him into some story that a small boy will come up with, either to cover himself or perhaps even some ONE else.” Her ice blue eyes bored into Shadow. “Maybe even leave his interview with Alana, while you speak to his brother. The brother is older, more mature, wiser. You could lean on him more, he can take it. You have to get this right, first time, no mistakes.”

Hyle’s eyebrow raised at Shadow and she gave a short nod to make sure Shadow understood.

He stared back at her, breathing out loudly through his nose. “OK.”

 

Shadow watched as Hyle left him to his task, closing the door behind her. The scant details as known at this point piled themselves up behind his furrowed brow. He trusted Hyle’s misgivings, but only up to a point. He was a policeman, he dealt in facts. And the facts as they stood did not look well for Evan, or for his brother.

 

He opened his office door and called into the hall.

Alana !”

Constable Alana appeared quickly enough.

Yes, Chief?”

I want you to settle the boys in separate rooms, let them think about things for a while. When you have done that, come back here and give me the most detailed report you can on what you found in the Stanton house. I need to know everything, every last detail.”

I would rather die peacefully in my sleep, like Grandad, than screaming, like his passengers

Joe Spivey's picture

Alana walked towards the cells shrouded in her own thoughts. Shadow had arrested both boys. She had no idea what had been said in the interview room before she had appeared with the knife she had found under the floorboards of Arch Stanton’s room, but she had interviewed Evan and, no. Her gut said no, and she trusted her gut. She also trusted her boss. Now her gut hurt.

Then she was at the cells. Arthur and Evan sat together, Arthur had his arm across his little brother’s shoulders. Their heads were together and whatever was being said was being said in a whisper. Only the sound of her key in the door ended the conversation, but not before she heard Arthur’s last words to his brother.

“… just trust me.”

She held the door open.

“Evan, come with me please.”

The twelve-year-old followed her out of the cell and then to a small room with a bed and a chair which was normally used by the night shift constable. Tonight, though, the constable would have to make do with the duty-desk chair.

Evan sat on the bed and Alana sat with him. She tried to talk with him, to be friendly like before, but it soon became apparent that the boy was deliberately ignoring her. Eventually she gave in and stood up.

“I’ll fetch you some supper.” Evan didn’t even respond to that so Alana left the small room, locking the door behind her.

Shadow and Arthur faced each other across the interview room table. Arch Stanton had long since left to pick up little Dudley from the clinic and would by now be at the lodgings he had been given while his house was surrounded in police tape. Alone except for a sleeping toddler, Arch would undoubtedly be trying to make sense of everything that had happened since a constable had come for him at work.

So, instead of his father’s familiar face sitting beside him, Arthur had the company of recently recruited Constable Sweetly, a large ex-enforcer sergeant with a buzz-cut and a very no nonsense look to him.

In their previous little chat, Shadow had found Arthur arrogant and childishly annoying. Arthur referring to his officers and himself as ‘cuntstables’ hadn’t sat well with Shadow then, but now, if Arthur tried it with constable Sweetly siting within slapping distance of him, then Shadow might have to include in his report that his attention was elsewhere at the time and he didn’t actually see the incident in question.

However, he needn’t have worried. Since the arrival of the knife currently being examined by Dr. Troy, Arthur Stanton sat now in petulant silence, staring at Shadow from his slouched, arms folded position across the table.

When it became obvious that Arthur had no intention of cooperating, Shadow had Sweetly take the smirking teenager back to his cell. Shadow, himself, went in search of Alana. Maybe she had had better luck with the younger brother.

The disappointment showed on his tired face. Evan’s copycat silence and the snatch of conversation between the brothers his sergeant had heard, left him ruing his decision not to separate the boys earlier. Now, all he could hope for was either damning evidence from either Dr. Troy or the Stanton home, or to get one of the boys to somehow open up. Whatever, everything was going to have to wait until morning. It was late. Everyone was tired, him especially.

Shadow left the station into the glare of the street lights. The Chief Constable turned his collar against the chill night air and hoped Hyle had supper cooking.

Stick with me kid and you'll be farting through silk.

Joe Spivey's picture

By noon the following day Shadow had almost more ‘evidence’ on his desk than he could cope with.

First there was the report from Dr. Troy, complete with sketches, tables, test results and a long printout that he couldn’t understand no matter which way he held it up. The conclusion, though, was simple enough. The knife found under the floorboards in Arthur’s room was the same as the one which ended Magrat’s life.

To this, Shadow paperclipped the report from his own people. Admittedly, they were still new to the forensics gathering side of things but, a fingerprint is a fingerprint and one of the two sets of prints taken from the knife belonged to the victim. The other set, well, they absolutely belonged to Arthur Stanton.

The rest of the growing pile of reports and witness statements that took up most of the remaining space on his desktop came from the organized chaos that was going on in the main office of the constabulary.

Hope Springs is a small town, and in small towns news travels like a virus. It comes in through open windows and fleeting contacts on the street as residents walk to work. It is passed around at breakfast tables and at work. By the time Shadow reached his desk this morning there was already a murmuring crowd outside the constabulary, another at the town hall and other, smaller gatherings at the post office, the store, the hostels and even outside the school.

But these people weren’t angry, even those who had so vocally rebel-roused before. They were in shock. Shock that two children, two brothers known to everyone in the town, could have done such a horrible thing. However, Shadow couldn’t take the risk that the shock might wear off and white-hot anger brew in the hole it left behind. So he had constables, just a single one to each gathering, stand nearby. Not doing anything, not threatening, just leaning against a wall or standing in a doorway, for all the world just enjoying the beautiful morning.

And then they started to come. Singly at first, then in ones and twos. Forming a line at the duty desk that soon snaked out the door and towards the wafflehouse. Residents of Hope who had information to give. Most of it was of little or no use of course, because that is the nature of such things, but every now and then a sheet of paper would arrive on Shadow’s desk that added tiny pieces to the growing jigsaw of evidence. And what these little pieces revealed brought a growing feeling of relief to the hard-bitten, often crusty chief constable.

From three of the teenagers who habitually hung around the statue of Noah Barret, young Evan was seen leaving the wafflehouse alone at around 18:20 on the evening of the murder. He walked past them in the direction of his home. They do not see him again.

However, from those same teenagers, Arthur was reported arriving at the Black Beer at around 18:00. Importantly, Magrat, the victim, walked past the front of the bar towards the wafflehouse just a few minutes later.

Another piece of paper is the statement of the barman that night. Arthur Stanton bought four beers for his father. Nothing unusual there, according to the barman, Arthur often did that. However, two of those beers were found unopened in the bathroom some time later. The barman did not recall seeing Arthur leaving.

So, rather damning, albeit circumstantial, evidence against Arthur Stanton. But the evidence of the teenagers concerning Evan basically exonerated the younger Stanton brother from being involved in the murder. Directly at least.

Shadow sat back, rocking backwards on the rear legs of his chair while he re-read the reports and the statements. Suddenly, the chair dropped forwards onto all four legs and Shadow raised his voice.

“Sergeant!”

Alana appeared around the door.

“Yes Chief?”

“We’re releasing Evan Stanton, dropping the charges.”

Alana’s face broke into a grin that lit up the room.

“That’s great news, Chief.”

Shadow stood up.

“It is. But before we do, I want a word with his brother. Bring him to the interview room, will you?”

The sergeant started to duck back out but Shadow stopped her.

“Alana?”

“Chief?”

“Say nothing to Arthur.”

“Yes Chief.”

The door closed behind his sergeant and Shadow took a moment to gather his thoughts. He had one last chance to break the older Stanton boy’s stubborn silent routine and wrap this whole thing up. His face set hard as he left the office for the interview room.

Stick with me kid and you'll be farting through silk.

Joe Spivey's picture

Arthur fidgeted. Then he looked up to the ceiling. He coughed a couple of times and unfolded his arms for a few seconds to scratch his knee. Every now and then, subdued noise from the small line of people still outside would drift up from below and Arthur would glance at the window. But mainly he just sat and looked at the scratched and gouged grey PVC that covered the table in front of him.

Across that table, Shadow silently watched him. They had been sitting together like this for several minutes. Arthur on one side with constable Sweetly sitting almost, but not quite, next to him. The ex-enforcer’ face set into professional disinterest. Sweetly’s only apparent concern being to monitor the recording device on his end of the table.

The chief placed the folder, which he had been nursing on his knee all the while, onto the table. He turned it so that it faced the sullen seventeen-year-old and opened the front cover.

“Please carry on with the silent treatment all you want Arthur. It’s actually quite restful just sitting here with everything going on outside like it is.” Arthur deliberately didn’t look at the open folder or the picture on the first page which showed the knife from his room laying alongside a ruler to show scale.

So, Shadow went on.

“The fact is, we now know that the knife found under your floor is the murder weapon. We also know that the fingerprints on it are yours.” Still nothing, so Shadow slowly pushed the open file directly into Arthur’s line of sight. “Witnesses have come forward placing you in the Black Beer bar at the time of the murder. Those same Witnesses also put your brother just outside at the same time.”

Arthur’s eyes flicked upwards and held Shadow’s for just long enough to betray a glimmer of anger. Shadow lounged back against his chair.

“Read it if you want to, you’ll see.” Now Arthur did look at the folder, stared hard at the picture of the amputation knife. Shadow kept his voice conversational. “Yup. I reckon we’ve got all we need now to send you two away for a long, long time.”

Arthur’s breathing became angry and he was struggling to keep up the feigned disinterest he was sure would lead to himself and Evan being released. Say nothing, isn’t that what they said? Don’t incriminate yourself. But the picture in front of him… It held his gaze and it dawned on him that he had never looked closely at it before. Never since…

Shadow could see how close he was. Just one more little push.

“It’s a shame for Evan though. What happens to young boys in those places…”

Arthur lurched to his feet but that’s as far as he got as constable Sweetly’s iron-hard hand descended on his shoulder and easily, and painfully, pushed him back down into his seat. The teenager’s head bowed.

“Evan had nothing to do with this.” Shadow glanced at the recorder to be sure it was working. It was. He turned back to Arthur in time to hear a wet-sounding sniffle. “He wasn’t there… He… He doesn’t even know…”

Arthur lifted his head. Tears and snot exposed the failure of the emotional dam Arthur had been building. He stared at Shadow with eyes that were almost pleading.

“It was an accident.”

Stick with me kid and you'll be farting through silk.

Joe Spivey's picture

It was an accident.

Shadow struggled to keep under control the sudden desire to see Arthur Stanton spread evenly in a thin film across the wall behind him. Constable Sweetly, picking up on the dangerous atmosphere turned his head towards Arthur but kept his eyes firmly fixed on his boss. His words were softly spoken.

“What happened son?”

Magrat acknowledged the kids around the statue of the old bald man with a happy wave. All she got in return was a nod from one of the boys and a half smile from the girl sitting in his lap. But Magrat didn’t care. Right now, she was the happiest she had been in her entire life. She hugged the presentation box containing her very own stethoscope to her chest. And it was only going to get better.

In the Black Beer, Arthur paid for and carried the four bottles of beer past the pool tables towards the door. He stopped for a few moments to listen to the happy-clappers singing one of their songs, it made a nice relief from Dudders’ incessant and demanding whining. When the song finished, he turned towards the door, which is when he saw her. Evan’s ‘girlfriend’ walking past the front of the bar on her way to where he knew his little brother would be waiting for her, all gooey-eyed and tongue tied.

It wasn’t fair.

It wasn’t fair that he had to do the lion’s share of looking after Dudley. It wasn’t fair that Evan got to go to school. It wasn’t fair that he couldn’t hang with his friends like he used to. And it certainly wasn’t fair that Evan had a girlfriend.

Ever since Evan had come home that day and wouldn’t shut up about the new girl working at the clinic, Arthur’s resentment had begun to grow until he went to bed dreaming about how he would take her away from his brother. In his fantasy he saw himself and Magrat laughing at Evan, teasing him, calling him names. It should be him, not Evan. He was the oldest. How could the dumb bitch even look at Evan? He’d show her. All she had to do was look at him, right? And all he had to do was…

Arthur pushed awkwardly past the happy clappers. His heart was racing. In his head the plan was so simple. He was an adult. He had beer to prove it. He’d talk to her, give her a beer. She’d smile and do that thing girls do with their hair when they are into you. They’d talk about shit and then he’d walk her past the front of the wafflehouse and Evan would see. It would be so funny.

He ducked quickly into the bathroom, checked his hair, smelled his breath, pulled a cool pose. Nailed it. But he had too many beers. Two beers is cool, four is… four is just too many. Arthur hid two of the beers behind the trash bin. He stood up, there, sorted. Shit, she might be gone by now. Arthur ducked out of the bathroom and almost ran down the passage to the side door. Magrat wasn’t in sight.

In fact, she was just entering his peripheral vision, walking towards the wafflehouse. Releived, Arthur leaned against the corner post by the steps and struck his coolest pose. She could see him now for sure. He snapped the cap off the beer bottle against the wooden rail and lifted the bottle to his lips. The movement made the girl look in his direction. Fucking perfect. He saluted her with the bottle.

“Hey.”

“Oh. Hi.”

“Magrat right?”

Magrat paused. Her experience with boys in the camp had rarely been ‘nice’. But this wasn’t the camp and Magrat had been trying to let her guard down a bit. So, she turned on a smile.

“That’s right.”

Arthur pushed himself away from the post and descended the steps in that slow, sexy way the hero always did in the movies.

“Thought so. Evan described you perfectly. The way your hair…” But the compliment, also learned from the movies, was interrupted.

“You know Evan?”

Arthur hid the slight irritation.

“Yes, he’s my brother.”

“Oh. I didn’t know he had a brother.” Politeness, indicated that she should perhaps move towards the boy. But still…. She glanced to her right, the wafflehouse was only a few metres away. Comforted in the knowledge that Theis was close by, she overcame her caution and took the few steps to where the boy waited at the bottom of the wooden stairs.

Arthur offered her the remaining beer.

“My name’s Arthur. Here, have a beer.”

Magrat smiled graciously.

“No thanks, I’m on my way home…”

“One beer won’t hurt.”

She declined again.

“I’m sorry. It’s not allowed. Look, I better get going. It was nice to meet you.”

Magrat turned away towards the waffle house. Towards his little brother. In a flash of anger, Arthur closed the gap towards her and grabbed Magrat’s shoulder to spin her around.

“Hey! Don’t…”

Magrat had lived in a raider camp for half her life. As a girl, she had had to develop ‘certain skills’. One of those skills was to anticipate trouble before it started. The other, was to deal with it when it did.

Tossing to one side the presentation box with her precious stethoscope inside, Magrat dropped into a crouch, freeing herself from Arthur’s restraining hand. As she dropped her hand found the carefully concealed slit in the seam of her trousers and her fingers curled around the worn handle of the long, dangerously sharp amputation knife she had sneaked from an old box in the clinic. Pushing herself backwards, she regained her feet and brandished the knife in Arthur’s direction.

Arthur stared in shock at the glinting blade. Not understanding his danger, he took the fatal step forward to try and take the knife from the stupid girl. Fending off the first warning slash, Arthur managed to grab Magrat’s wrist. They tussled for bare moments, pushing and pulling to gain control of the long blade. Then the girl just stopped and Arthur looked into her widening eyes. Was she giving up?

Magrat crumbled to the floor and Arthur had to dance backwards to escape the incredibly long gout of red spurting from the blossoming rose on the front of her shirt.

Arthur backed away. No. Nonononono! This was all wrong. He just wanted to talk to her! Shit! Sure that people would already be running towards him, arthur looked around wildly. then he spotted the expensive-looking box. He picked it up, a plan already in his panic filled brain. A robbery! Yes, a robbery would do. Arthur grabbed the box and took off at a run, behind the Black Beer, where he threw the box into the long grass. Then off again, behind the houses and all the way back home. Even then, it was only when he was trying to open the back door of his house that he noticed the bloody knife still gripped tightly in his equally bloody hand.

Shadow stared at the boy across the table. None of his anger had abated after hearing Arthur’s account, not one iota of it. He barely trusted himself to speak and had to force the words through gritted teeth.

“Lock this piece… Just lock him up.”

Stick with me kid and you'll be farting through silk.



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