It had been an overcast morning. As the wind howled its ferocity to the world and the dried leaves scuttled like hunched spiders across the road, I yawned, and put another sugar lump in my coffee. It was going to be another tiring day, if the previous ones are anything to go by; there had been an increasing interest in the theft of the Johnston diamond in our local museum. While the was apparently impossible, it had been done, and the media had been relentlessly digging up new news articles: “Security guard in total shock; could it be him?” and, today, “Mystery apparently unsolvable”. It therefore had been hard this week in the local police to keep the media and the public at bay. And today was going to be no different; as my chief, Dermot Clark, explained to me yesterday.
“Farnham, we cannot take this any further to the media; who knows what they could make up with the extra information!” he had said. I pity him; he had been devoid of any sleep since the theft.
Two days ago, at seven thirty in the night, a security guard in the museum had heard breaking glass, and seconds later the ringing of an alarm. He had rushed there as fast as he could, but the diamond had already been stolen, prised out of a shattered glass casing. The entire lack of suspects was baffling: since the guard told us that he had locked all the doors and windows, and there was a shattered glass pane found right next to the exhibit the next morning, the mystery was how exactly the thief managed to get through locked doors and windows to reach the exhibit.
Today, I was heading to the police station to meet up with the chief. He had apparently got hold of a suspect that had been what he described over the telephone as in an “excited state”. The police station was a one-storey brick building, with a tall wooden fence encompassing it on three sides except the front, where a driveway led up steeply towards the garage. What bothered me was that although the house was partly bordered, there was nothing to stop someone from going around the house form the front, as the only door was one that was easily opened, with no lock. As I entered, the chief led me to a small interrogation room positioned facing towards the fence. There was a window partly open; but the blinds were drawn and the high fence prevented anyone overhearing the conversation. I could see that the chief was excited; his eyes practically sparkled as he led me to a chair. The witness was brought in. She was Joanna Richardson, the accountant living just across me; however, with a recent workplace scandal, she was close to being in debt. With the preliminary questions complete, she began her statement.
“Well, I was on my way to a restaurant (It was Friday, after all). I left my house at five-thirty, and took the main road, which led past the museum. It was nearing night when I approached the museum, and it was dark; the streetlights did little to make people see where they are going. Anyway, I was past it when a car swerved violently across the road, and came towards me.”
“Where were you at the time?” I asked.
“Just slightly past the museum, almost to the intersection. Then, as it swerved towards me, I saw his face-“
“Whose?” I asked.
Then, suddenly, a shot rang out. It was astonishingly loud, and narrowly missed Joanna. I believe that we were all in shock for a moment. Joanna was trembling, repeating the words “someone took aim at me” over and over, her face blanched of all colour. Then, slowly, The chief got up, and strode over to the window. He spent some time attempting to raise the blinds. When he did, the culprit was gone. All that was left was a revolver.
A still loaded revolver that was still smoking.
“Well,” the chief remarked, “it seems to be over.”
After obtaining the name of the person that Joanna saw on the night of the crime, and noticing that a) the person had the same make of revolver that had been used to take a shot at that had gone missing in the past week b) that he had a motive for the crime and c) he was near the police station when Joanna had been shot at, apparently visiting a friend, Henry Forbes was immediately arrested, without any questions being raised as to the fact that the gun had been missing the previous week. Joanna had now retired back home with her husband, a smug and incorrigible man that always seemed to know secretly your problems, and would hold them upon everybody else, threatening you with it. All in all, I did not trust him. And the crime did not make sense.
“But, Chief,” I objected, “Forbes’s maid stated that almost everybody in town knew that he had a revolver, and that it was kept in an in securable place”.
“Well, that has little bearing on the case. But, since we have time, why don’t you explain your objections to the arrest to me?”
Seeing an opportunity to express myself, I hastily rushed into the act.
“First,” I started, “why didn’t Forbes shoot Joanna dead?”
“What do you mean?” said the chief, puzzled.
“Well, after realising that the first shot had missed, why didn’t he shoot at her again? There were plenty of shots left, and there would be ample time, since we were stunned immediately afterwards. Secondly, why leave the revolver at the scene of the crime, which would inevitably lead us directly to him?”
“Well, you heard what he said: It was common knowledge in town, and that he could have thought that it would lead nowhere.”
“Yes,” I said, “but surely it would be better to take it with him? That way, the identity of the murderer could be even more well-hidden.”
I could see that the chief was starting to accept my observations. Encouraged by this, I continued:
“Therefore, since Forbes revolver was found at the scene of the crime, he was not responsible. And I was particularly mystified by Joanna’s remark, “Someone took aim at me”.”
“Well, if she knew that Forbes was a likely murderer, would it be more likely that she said “he” instead of “someone”?”
“Yes, ” I said. “Joanna was lying in the fact that she saw Forbes, or anyone at all, although Forbes was driving to the shops at the time, at a place near the museum. And the fact that the shot missed her, prompting no other shots from the gunman given that he still had plenty of time, I think that we could say that she could be guilty. After all, she claimed that she was outside on the day of the theft on five-thirty, thus giving her plenty of time to run, take a taxi or some faster way of transportation to the museum; even walking would get you there before dark. She then goes in, hiding in some obscure location, perhaps the lavatory, until the museum closes. Then she comes out, steals the diamond, then smashes the window and escapes into the night. She would sell it later to pay off her debts.”
“Impossible,” said the chief.
“No, it is particularly possible. Remember that we have not questioned her husband, and that we do not know where he was when there was an apparent attempt on Joanna’s life. He could have stolen the revolver a week ago, when they were preparing for the theft together; they might have also kept themselves informed of Forbes’s actions, so as to incriminate him since he was also in a debt, but a much larger one that had to be repaid at a sooner date.”