Who killed Mr Archer? Part Two: Locke & Edgecroft investigate

by Anthony D. Cliffe

Mr Archer

Part: Two – Locke & Edgecroft investigate

The office phone downstairs awoke Private Detective Alec Locke from his broken sleep. He never slept particularly well and certainly not around the start of June. Those early weeks in June always left him with the nightmares of what happened two years ago. Rolling over the digital clock on his bedside table blinked 10.05 a.m. one of the only furnishings inside his bedroom. Detective Locke was certainly not one for unnecessary things. If it didn’t serve a purpose or wasn’t some sort of efficient benefit to his day then he had no need for it. He rolled back into his bed and rubbed his eyes cursing the person who decided to phone on a Saturday morning. It was the only day of the week he cherished his sleep in, especially lately. They can wait he mused. If it’s important they’ll leave a message. He strained his ears as the answering machine let out a voice “Alec, morning mate. Yes I know you can hear me. Get out of bed you lazy bastard and pick up the phone, you’re going to want to take this case. Call me…actually I’ll email it. Have a look yourself”.

A surge of curiosity rippled through him, if he’s phoning on a Saturday then this must be a good case indeed. It’s been a while. The voice belonged to D.I Daniel McBride, his old police partner. Before leaving the force two years ago to become a Private Detective, D.I McBride and Locke were the two best detectives in this part of the world. They both joined the police academy at the same time and instantly their friendship grew. They both came through the ranks together and both became detectives, their differing styles complementing each other well. There was no case that wasn’t solved and they both got results, no matter the cost. The police force allowed them to bend the rules until one day the rules were bent too far. After the events of two years ago D.I McBride was one of the only few in the police department who didn’t hold any animosity towards him. Despite the local police force resenting Alec Locke there was no doubt he got results and was incredibly effective in his job. He passed every analytical test they could throw at him and would be so effective at how he would throw himself into cases. So much that it cost him his job and his wife. After leaving the police force by mutual consent and taking the rap for what happened to save McBride’s job he set up Locke Investigation Services. Like his police work, Locke got results and despite being a single 38 year old, his P.I work was ticking along well and he considered himself a success. A quiet arrogance was part of his charm. The local police would often, albeit reluctantly, give cases to him to solve and to do things that the police couldn’t and it was always McBride, his old pal, who would come to him and as always they were the cases that seemed unsolvable. Of course, this relationship went both ways, Detective Locke could access files that no other P.I could and the police force still respected the man and would turn a blind eye to some of this more colourful techniques.

What is it going to be this time he pondered as he recalled the last case McBride had given him “the hangman” as he slowly walked into the shower. That case was a particularly interesting case of a murder on May Day of a local councilman. He was found hanged in a barn that was completely empty. Nothing but the empty ground and the bare walls. At first it was deemed suicide but there was no way that he could have got to the heights that he did with nothing in the barn. The time of death all suspects were at the May Day celebrations and were all accounted for and had cast Iron alibis. A clever trick of using ice as a platform was used to kill him. The perfect crime with no trace. Another crime solved and another person behind bars. That buzz of justice still fuelled him every morning as did the cheque of reward that helped things to tick over.

After showering and changing into his normal attire, smart jeans and a Tweed jacket, he skipped breakfast and went straight for his morning coffee. Nothing could ever be done effectively without it.

Ping

An email popped through to his mobile device that was charging on the kitchen island.

Subject: Who killed Mr Archer?

Hi Alec, I know you’ll be up by now. I have a case for you that you’re going to want to look into. I’ve attached the statements, photograph and some witness files. Early indicators point to an accidental drowning, toxicology is being run now but I have a feeling all is not as it seems. Police are pretty satisfied it was accidental death. I think otherwise but it’s out of my hands. I suggest you read yesterday’s paper page 28. Also, the wife is convinced he was murdered. She’ll pay you to investigate it. I’m still here but we’re finishing up and we’ll be gone by afternoon, I told her you’d help. All the suspects are here. Address is the Glenfield Estate. See you then.
McBride

With a sip of his morning coffee he eyed the folded up local paper that was propped up against a fruit bowl. The local paper consisted more of local adverts than any noteworthy news, although he always analysed the letters to the editor page for fun. He would read their letters, usually some complaint about yobs or bin collections however most were about the proposed move of the Glenfield site potentially leasing their land for a windfarm. When he read the letters he would profile the authors, give them an identity, what job they did, what they liked and disliked. He was always spot on and always congratulated himself every time he met one of them in this village. Not that he actively went seeking any of the villagers. He wasn’t one for socialising if he didn’t have to. He once spotted a coded message in the letters section between two names who exchanged messages weekly about the state of the local Bowling Green. To anyone else it was a man and a woman who held opposing views on a trivial matter. If you looked hard enough however it was secret messages between two people having an affair. He still chuckled at how despite technology, some were still hell bent on some cloak and dagger fooling around. Especially as the woman using a pseudonym he identified as the Mayors wife. He wondered how long it would be until that was the next big scandal to rock the town of Plumston. Well, maybe page 28 might be the next headline.

Glenfield opens its doors to the public

The Glenfield estate opens its doors this weekend to the public for a big fundraiser event for various local charities. The entire estate will be open for public viewing for the first time in its history. Explore its exquisite grounds and house. Fundraising events will take place in the evening. Mr Archer said “I know there has been a lot of opposition to the potential plans about allowing a wind farm on our land but let me remind you that is just one option. The Archer family feel that by putting on this event we can reconnect with the community and work towards reducing the growing conflict in the village”. The estate will open up from 11 a.m. this Saturday.

A man who accidentally drowns before a big event, that’s questionable. His wife who’s adamant that he was murdered, plausible.

As the last drop of bitter black coffee was swallowed he was concerned that the number of potential suspects could be large. He’d met Mr Archer at a few events, a suave well to do man who had the persona of looking down on people. Alec knew that look all too well. Money and status was the only thing that he ever seemed to care about. Alec had met his wife at one of the events, the complete opposite to him and he wondered how she even put up with him. He knew they had a son not that they’d ever met or that he’d ever seen, in the two years that Alec had lived here.  He’d drove past their large walled estate plenty of times but had never seen it, until today anyway.

Getting into his dark blue Volkswagen Passat estate he pulled out of his driveway and headed in the direction of the Glenfield estate but not before picking a passenger up on the way.  The in car phone began to dial the number under Eleanor Edgecroft.

A concerned voice filled the space in the car “He-Hello Alec?”

“What are your plans for today?” he was never good at small talk, especially when he was on a case.

“Good morning to you too boss, I’m fine thanks, how are you?” Eleanor’s voice was chirpy and laced with sarcasm. She was more than used to his direct approach and knew he needed her for something. She waited for a moment for his non response before answering his question “It’s my little niece’s birthday today. I’m going to the par-” she was cut off by him.

“Great so you’re free then! We have a case I’ll be there in ten minutes” and he hung up, driving through the small town to her apartment.

The sense of adventure began to swell within her but also anger at his complete disregard for any of her plans. Her mother kept telling her that he wasn’t a good boss and she should be treated with more respect and that she could find another job. Despite his arrogance and to the point attitude he was the best boss she had ever had in her 28 years on this earth. Once you knew his quirks he was an excellent mentor and fair and nowhere else would she get these skills, let alone practice them. She didn’t want any other job. She’d always felt a sense of justice as a kid, a clear right and wrong, good and bad. She always wanted to be a police officer until in her early teens she discovered the world of criminal psychology and so set a course for a career in that industry. After a degree in Forensic Science she spent a few years working in different labs and travelling before starting a masters degree in applied criminal psychology. By the age of 26 she worked for a law firm before starting a PhD at the age of 27. She moved universities and moved to the area and was looking for some extra work to pay the bills when fortunately, a year into Locke Investigation Services an advert was placed for an Administrator. Alec had started to take more and more clients on from affairs, to missing people, to murders and was increasingly in need of another pair of hands to handle the paperwork. Eleanor saw it as an easy job to go for, file some papers, do some finances, deal with some clients then go home. A perfect job to help compliment the PhD. At the interview Alec was impressed and she was hired. It wasn’t before long that Alec noticed that she was wasted as an admin woman. She was incredibly quick at her job and whenever she wrote up interviews or case notes she would pass comment on what she thought. He quickly realised she held an excellent aptitude for detective work and started to involve her more and more in cases until eventually he saw her as a detective in the making, someone to train. He made it his mission to give her proper training so that she could for fill her unknown potential. Highly intelligent, thought outside of the box and was very much a people person. She could wangle her way into events and get information from people before they even realised they’d been probed for it. He saw her as a vital asset and it was nice to have another female around again in his life. He held a lot of respect for the young woman and he knew it wouldn’t be long before she would eventually leave for a top law firm or even to start her own. She certainly had the skills for that and he was pleased for her and equally impressed. Not that he gave her unwanted praise. He only praised her when it was needed, something she found annoying but when that praise did come, she knew it was earnt. He got a kick out of mentoring a new detective and she learnt from one of the best. The perfect mutual beneficial working partnership. Despite his flaws and she knew full well what happened two years after doing some detective work of her own. They had developed a solid friendly working relationship. Their differences complementing each other well.

He pulled up outside her ordinary one bedroom flat in the centre of the small town. It did its job for what she needed although he always passed comment on it. Her small petite figure slid into the car followed by her long locks of auburn hair.

“Where we off to then that stopped me from having a social life?” she shot a look across the car that could kill as she strapped herself in.

“How old is your Niece?” he enquired without a hint of remorse or any actual hint of caring for her answer.

“She turns one today” a large proud smile creased across her face.

“One!?”

“Errm yes…One!”

He laughed as he pulled out onto the street and started their journey through the country lanes to the Glenfield estate “A birthday party for a one year old? She’s not going to remember it! What’s the point?” he spat the words out in between laughs.

“Well I’d remember it! Plus we have this new technology called a camera which captures events, you know, so you can look back on them” she retorted.

“Really? I didn’t know that!” he could take as well as dish out sarcasm. Their back and forth he always saw as a mental sparring something he enjoyed, especially when someone was as good as him at it. “We’re off to the Glenfield estates, Mr Archer died. In the glovebox is an email from McBride and he’s included the first statements”.

“What did he die of?” she enquired as she fished the folder from the glove compartment, already her detective brain starting to get to work. Secretly she’d rather be spending the day doing detective work than go to a family party. She was more than fed up of the questions she would get from her Nan of why she was single at every family party. Alec spoke as she cast her eyes over the documents.

“Drowning apparently, pissed out of his skull they believe.”

“– and we’re going to this because?” more annoyance was present in her words. Called out from a family engagement to investigate a death of a self-entitled drunk man, not the usual cases she was used to working on.

“The wife, Catherine Archer is adamant that he was murdered by someone. The police are pretty content with accidental drowning. He was heavily intoxicated, took a bath and drowned. There are no marks on his body to indicate a struggle and no signs of foul play. According to his report all suspects had an alibi. Yet, McBride has a feeling it’s not all that it seems. He had a few enemies did Mr Archer.”

“And you suspect something is up too?”

“Well the wife is adamant that he was murdered and she’s paying for the investigation so it’s worth checking out.”

Before long they entered through the main gates of the Glenfield estate, the old house looming up in the distance along the gravelled road. Two police cars passed them on their way out as they snaked along the tree lined road. One car, a black unmarked BMW was parked in front of the house, the lions looking down as if protecting one of their cubs. A man appeared from the grand oak door as they approached, it was Detective McBride. No matter the weather he was always wearing his long beige coat and his tie always halfway down his chest. Alec always wondered why he even bothered to wear that thing at all.

“Alec, good to see you again” he held out a sincere hand as Alec stepped out of the car with a crunch of gravel under his feet. “How’ve you been?”

“Good to see you again Dan, not bad. How’s the kids?” The pair shared a strong handshake and a smile and Eleanor was amazed to see Alec so conversational. His question to him about how the kids were seemed genuine. So he can be normal. “So then, murder?” those short pleasantries were over and Alec was here to work.

McBride rubbed his hands over his stubble on his face “I think so. The wife is convinced anyway. Look Alec, you know the score. We’re chronically understaffed. Looks like an accident that’s good enough for us. I have a hunch but my hands are tied. I’ll send over the autopsy and the toxicology when I get it. Plus, if it is a murder I’m sure you’ll let me know.”

Alec knew full well the state of the force since his departure. He dreaded to think how many murders hadn’t been solved and just passed off as accidental deaths. That thought made a chill run up his back. If this was a murder he was going to go out of his way to prove it. “So the suspects then? What have you go for me?”

“They’re all in the reception room. The wife Catharine, Michael the son and Sarah the assistant. Time of Death looks to be around 8.30 to 9.30pm, Good luck!” the pair exchanged another handshake “we really need to stop meeting up at crime scenes Alec! If you need anything, call me.”

Alec and Eleanor watched as the black BMW drove off down the gravel lane leaving nothing but the distant hum of gravel on tires and a dust cloud. “Another case to solve. Let’s go” the excitement bubbling in Eleanor’s voice. The pair walked under the gaze of the lions above the door and entered the grand reception area of the house. A sprawling staircase greeted the both of them, the red worn carpet standing out against the dark wood panelled walls that were illuminated by antique gas lamps. The place had a sense of power, despite it being the home of the Archer’s this was unlike any home the pair had ever stepped foot into. To their left down a corridor muffled tears could be heard along with a woman’s voice. The pair followed in the direction of the noise until they came upon the reception room. The room was large, lined with books and a grand fireplace. Alec pondered how cosy it must feel in here on a cold dark winter’s stormy night. In front of him he got his first sight at his potential three main suspects. In the large arm chair was Catherine Archer, the wife. Her tears had made her make up run and her eyes were as red as the carpet on the staircase. She was well dressed in a designer green dress with a shawl, the gold jewellery glinting in the light. She was clutching a cup and saucer of tea that had long gone cold. Sitting on the arm of the chair was a young handsome slender man, Michael. Upon first inspection he didn’t seem too upset about his father dying. Both Alec and Eleanor had already made a mental note of that. On the far side of the room was a very pretty young blonde woman dressed in a pencil skirt and a white blouse, her glasses outlining her attractive features. She was quiet staring out of the window until she noticed the pair in the doorway. She was the first to spring up out of her seat and walk over to introduce herself to the pair.

She outstretched a well-manicured hand to the pair as Alec introduced himself “Detective Alec Locke and my associate Eleanor Edgecroft” he flashed his P.I badge at her not that she took any notice “we’re here to investigate the death of Mr Archer.”

“We’re very sorry for your loss” Eleanor interjected, trying to add a bit of humility into the situation.

“Thank you.” She was softly spoken and evidently still in shock at what had happened to Mr Archer. “I’m very sorry too, he was a good man. I’m Sarah…Sarah Rosedale”.

“Are you a family member?” Eleanor quizzed.

“I like to think I’m an honorary Archer but no I’m Mr Archer’s among many things on his estate, I’m primarily his assistant. My job is to help with the day to day running of things. But please – you need to talk to Catherine”.

She led the two towards his wife who was still sniffling into her cold tea. Her bloodshot eyes looked up at the pair “you need to find who killed my Husband. I don’t care what it costs. There was no way that was an accident.”

Locke took a seat on the small green leather couch in the centre of the room and pulled out his well-used notebook. Any major details or questions to follow up he would always make a note of. Eleanor slowly lowered herself down next to him after shutting the door. Now the investigation started.

“So, Mrs Archer…can you tell me where you were after 8.30pm last night?”

 

  • End of part two