A Brilliant Plan

Chapter 44

FOWLER AND I spent the rest of the afternoon and the early evening giving our statements to the police.

Ron gave us a quick update on Billy Bounce. Had we ever seen him before? No. Fowler and I shook our heads, while I crossed my fingers under the table. They held him on several accounts, mostly the resistance and shooting stuff. Although it appeared that he was some kind of professional thug, he wasn’t on anybody’s wanted list. Billy Bounce simply asked for his attorney, made his one phone call and within an hour had the best lawyer in town at his side; another hot legal eagle from L.A. was also on the way. Ron speculated that Billy Bounce was a robber among robbers and simply wanted to get the piece of pie for his master. Followed by another quick look at me.

Still denying any involvement with Phoebe’s murder, Altward was interrogated several more times. So far, his statement matched the story he gave us.

In parallel, Paul Faulkner was also brought in for questioning. At first, he too refused to talk and waited for his lawyer to arrive. Juanita and I were behind the mirror screen of the interview room while Ron and another policeman tried to pull something, anything out of Faulkner.

“Do you know this man?” Ron was asking. He put down the same photo of Hans Polter we had shown to Altward.

Faulkner didn’t even glance at the photo. He folded his arms, “Can I have another coffee?”

Ron tried some other questions to rile Faulkner into an answer, any answer, but no such luck. Faulkner simply stared at some undisclosed spot on the wall. A few minutes later, his lawyer arrived, the serious type with a Hermes silk tie and a calfskin briefcase. He introduced himself as Henry Winston, what fitting irony if you know about fine jewelry. He glared at the mirror screen as if he could make us out behind it.

Juanita whispered, “Has regular lunch with the mayor and plays golf with the chief of police.”

“Can I confer a few minutes with my client, Officer?” He inquired politely.

Ron said easily, “We only have a few questions for Mr. Faulkner, no big deal.”

“This doesn’t have anything to do with the Eastman murders or the break-in at the gallery?” Winston raised a skeptical eyebrow.

“It might,” Ron conceded.

“Is there a place where we can have privacy?”

They all got up, Ron showed them out and we heard them shuffling along the corridor, another door opening and slamming. A few moments later, Ron stepped into the interrogation room with fresh coffee and sat down, studying his file. Juanita and I sat down, too, and waited.

Faulkner and Winston met for about twenty minutes and then they marched back into the room. Ron switched on the recorder and stated the names of the people present.

“Who is behind the screen?” Winston pointed at the mirror.

“Detective Garcia, Officer Smithson, police consultant Moonstone and insurance agent Wynn,” Ron said. “They all belong to the investigation team. May we begin?”

“Go ahead and ask your questions.”

“First, I want to inform you that we have arrested your gallery partner, Andrew Altward, on the counts of killing your security guard, Wally Eastman, and attempted insurance fraud, other counts are pending.” He left out the Maximilian part. “He will be officially charged tomorrow.” Ron held up his right hand in a stop gesture. “And before you say ‘ridiculous,’ I further inform you that Altward has confessed to both counts.”

“He has representation?”

“He does, be assured. And a good one.” Ron pushed the photo of Hans Polter over the desk. “Do you know this man?”

“I might,” Faulkner said, without looking at the photo.

“Is that a yes or a no?”

“Neither. I meet so many people in my profession, it is possible that I have met him but forgot him already. Happens all the time.”

“Does the name Hans Polter ring a bell?”

“No, can’t say that it does. German?”

“Norwegian, living in the US.”

“No, I don’t know him.”

“Your partner Mr. Altward claims that you do.”

Faulkner shrugged, played with his empty coffee cup. A small smile played around his lips. “Asked and answered, Detective,” the lawyer said impatiently.

Ron didn’t show any reaction, simply continued asking his questions. “Did you contact Mr. Polter at the night of the break-in?”

“Don’t know him, couldn’t contact him.” At least Faulkner didn’t skip any answers. “I was in Mexico at that time, remember?”

Ron rolled his eyes. “This is the new millennium, there are international phone calls!”

“I remember the evening of the break-in. Yes, Andrew called me in the evening or late at night. But as far as I do remember, it had to do with one of his clients.”

“How did he sound?”

“His usual self. Had a date with his girlfriend and a customer that night.”

“He didn’t mention an argument with Wally Eastman?”

“He had an argument with Wally? The night of the break-in?”

“Didn’t mention it?”

“He didn’t.”

Faulkner could deny everything as long as we didn’t had any concrete proof of his involvement. It was just Altward’s incriminating statement against Faulkner’s story. As Hans had gone underground for good, there was no one to support Faulkner’s involvement. The phone call had been explained, no harm done.

“That weasel,” I remarked quietly to Juanita beside me.

Juanita nodded. “We need to get our homework done real soon; otherwise he will just slip through our hands like a flopping fish.”

Ron continued, “So you didn’t call Hans Polter on the evening of the break-in?”

Faulkner ignored the question.

Ron flipped over some pages in his case file. Suddenly, he snapped it shut and said, “That’s all. Thank you for your time. The officer will show you out.”

Henry Winston was probably pissed that he couldn’t bill more time and he jumped up. “Hang on, Officer Closeky, you didn’t drag my client here just to ask him two questions and then let him go again. This is close to harassment.”

Ron looked him evenly in the eye. “I think your client lies. He was incriminated in a statement that he had been actively involved in the break-in of the gallery and therefore involved in the murder of Wally Eastman.” Faulkner and Winston got up, started to protest. Ron held up his hands to stop them from speaking. “Gentlemen, you denied any involvement, I took your statement, that’s all for today. We will contact you as soon as there are new developments. Don’t leave town, etc.; you know the drill from endless television series.”

Faulkner and his lawyer left without another word.

We were sitting in the detective office again, discussing the short, inefficient interview.

“This is impossible,” I said. “He gets away with murder!”

Ron looked me evenly in the eye. “He does, Calendar. There is nothing but Altward’s word so far and the fact that hacker boy Polter seems to be suspect number one when it comes to pulling off the computer break-in. But so far, Polter has been very good at hiding himself, so we have no statement from him. Do we?” He again gave me that glance that seemed to ask, ‘Do you know more?’

“What about phone records, a dig into the past of Mr. Faulkner?”

“Come on, this is still hot. We will continue digging. And digging turns up something, believe me. He is still on our list for Phoebe’s murder.”

“If we believe Altward’s tear-stained confession,” I argued.

Ron shrugged. “Sounded plausible to me. I am still looking for Phoebe’s killer. What about you, Juanita?”

Detective Garcia wagged her head. “Still looking, I think you are right.” Turning to me. “Don’t count on the background check of Mr. Faulkner. Even if we find a connection between Polter and Faulkner, he has given us a perfect explanation. ‘May have met him, didn’t remember.’ The phone call was also explained. He is slippery. He keeps his options open should we eventually find a connection between them.”

I stomped on the floor, frustrated. We had the story so far, but one of the protagonists would walk.

“How can we connect the Maximilian Jewels with Faulkner?” I asked.

“Since the Mexican connection, Mr. Toledo, is dead, I doubt we can,” Ron sighed.

A long day was coming to an end.

As I got ready to leave, Ron asked, “Can I take you home?”

“You can take me to dinner first, if you don’t mind,” I replied, stretching on my chair, yawning.

So we drove in the downtown direction and stopped at a Little Italy in a nearby mall. Ron flashed his shield and we got a table immediately. While we ordered, I could see Marion Altward’s weekend home and outside shots of the Altward Gallery on CNN on the TV over the bar. An important looking reporter was summarizing the daily events, a spokesman from Washington followed. Happy endings.

I ordered a large heap of carbonara and a green salad, Ron continued staring at the menu, finally put it away and ordered a salad.

“Hey, you can cheer up, pup. Most of your worries are gone, Ron,” I rapped, freestyle, patting his hand on the table.

He gave a feeble attempt of a smile. “Has anyone told you lately that you have very good intuition?”

“Not today,” I admitted.

“Remember our conversation about deduction after we interviewed Altward for the first time?”

“The smell of turpentine,” I remembered.

“Yes. And guess what. I was wrong and you were right. Altward had used the turpentine to get rid of any possible incriminating bloodspots or skin residue. He told me so himself when I asked him tonight.”

“You don’t look too happy about that fact,” I said, unsure where he was leading the conversation.

Ron gave me a serious look with a desperate undertone. He wasn’t smiling, “I have a confession to make, Calendar and it is not an easy one.”

“It can’t be that bad,” I assured him and thought, “or can it?”

“It is! I used you to flush out the murderer and to solve the gallery heist.”

Tip: You can use left, right, A and D keyboard keys to browse between chapters.