26 March 2017

10 - Robert

Wednesday cont. into Thursday August 7

By the time Gary got home, everyone else was assembled and Dorothy was expected to come along with a report of what she had found out that day. When she had delivered her report, it was clear that Gary could not put off or even refrain from interrogating Robert Jones. One reason was Cleo’s oft quoted theory about what makes a killer. If Robert Jones had killed Kelly, he might decide to wipe out the other men with whom he thought Edith Parsnip had seen fit to have sex. That was enough reason to haul him in as soon as possible.
“I’ll question him tomorrow morning,” Gary promised. “Today was a bit crammed with other things, but I see your point.”
“You’d better phone him,” said Dorothy. “Tell him when he has to be at HQ. No discussion.”
“Dorothy’s right. He’s not a friend but a suspect right now,” said Cleo.
“Won’t it bother you, Cleo?” said Gary.
“It would bother me a lot more if he decided to go on the rampage and liquidate a few more of the men Edith bamboozled with her sex fantasies,” said Cleo.
Grit had been listening to the discussion. Now she commented that they would all torture themselves until clarity was gained about the role played by Robert in the events surrounding Kelly’s death, so speculation was just a waste of energy.
“Who is staying for supper?” Cleo asked.
“I’ll go home,” said Grit. “Joe will be working on his newsletter this evening and I promised to cook for him. Then I’m going out with Roger again.”
“I hope you are not planning to move out of your lovely cottage, Mother,” said Gary, who wondered about his mother’s long-term planning.
“No chance, Gary. I want to be near my children and grandchildren. I have Joe to look after and Charlotte when she arrives.”
“Except that Joe will want his own place sometime soon,” said Gary.
“Then he’ll leave a space, won’t he? To be honest, I don’t know what the future holds. I didn’t used to think I had one,” said Grit.
“We are delighted with the way things are going, Mother,” said Gary.
“Enjoy the evening,” said Grit as she left.
“We enjoy every evening, Grit,” said Cleo. “Even when the kids are obstreperous.
“On the other hand, I think we all need an early night, especially me,” said Gary.
“Don’t tempt fate,” said Cleo. “We’ll start with the evening and see where that leads us, shall we?”
“If I were not married to you, I propose right now,” said Gary.
“And I’d say yes,” said Cleo.
The Hurleys got their early night but at three in the morning the phone rang.
“Don’t answer it, Cleo.”
“It may be an emergency, Gary.”
“OK. Answer it, but don’t make me run around Upper Grumpsfield for the rest of the night.”
“Tailor here. Is that Miss Price?”
“No. It’s Cleo Hartley of the Hartley Agency. I expect Miss Price has put the calls through. She quite likes her sleep, Mr Tailor. What do you want at this hour?”
“I’ve just remembered something. Can I talk to Miss Price about it?”
“You‘ve called me, Mr Tailor. You can tell me instead and we’ll deal with it in the morning.”
Cleo wondered how momentous a forgotten thought could be to induce a phone-call in the middle of the night.
“I know who one of Kelly’s associates was, Miss Hartley.”
“I don’t think it was a customer.”
“Do you know the name of this associate?”
“Robert Jones, Miss Hartley. That’s the butcher in Upper Grumpsfield.”
“I know who that is, Mr Tailor,” said Cleo. “Thanks for telling me, even at this time of night. Get some sleep now. I’m going to. We’ll talk tomorrow, OK?”
“OK, Miss Hartley. I’m sorry to have bothered you. Good night.“
“Wow, Gary. Kelly was getting visits from Robert. Can you figure that out?”
“Not at this moment, but if you could just wait until after breakfast I’ll think of something.”
“Now you’ll have two reasons to question Robert.”
“That will just make it more complicated.”
Gary sighed deeply and lay flat on his back, arms crossed, apparently meditating. Cleo watched this scene for a few moments before lining up next to him in the same pose.
“Are you counting sheep, Gary?”
“No, just women in kimonos, Cleo. And do you know what? They all look like you.”
“I’m not wearing my kimono.”
“The exception proves the rule.”

Thursday morning

Cleo had mixed feelings about accompanying Gary to the interview with Robert, even if she remained unseen. Fortunately one of the drugs squad asked for her help with an addict they had picked up that night, in her capacity of advisory sociologist.
Cleo was glad she did not have to make a decision about witnessing Robert’s ‘little chat’ with Gary. Working with drug addicts was not something she liked, but witnessing her ex-husband undergoing a grilling was not a happy prospect either.
Since Robert had only been asked to attend Gary’s office for a talk, he was not treated as a suspect. Nigel would be on hand as a witness. He would sit in his usual corner of Gary’s office and take notes. Gary assured Robert that it was normal procedure because every interview had to be recorded.
“I think I know why I’m here, Gary,” said Robert.
“If you know, tell me Robert. I’d rather have it that way.”
“It’s about Edith, isn’t it?”
“In part. Do still keep up contact with her, Robert?”
“Yes and no.”
“Which half do you want to talk about first?” said Gary.
“I still like her, despite what she did to me,” said Robert.
“You withdrew charges against her for rape, Robert, and the court decided that official charges could not be proved conclusively.”
“She’s such a little person,” said Robert. “I’m ashamed that I could not deal with her.”
“But she’s had therapy, hasn’t she? She was instructed by the judge to have anti-aggression therapy.”
“I wouldn’t call it anti-aggression therapy,” said Robert.
“What would you call it?”
“Promiscuity therapy, I think Cleo would have said.”
Gary reflected that that was a word Robert would not have had in his vocabulary unless Cleo had put it there and as a description for therapy it was totally inappropriate.
“What exactly do you mean, Robert?”
“When she is on a sexual overdrive trip, she finds someone to spend her energy on,” said Robert sounding disgusted. “Such as Paddy Kelly.”
“Are you sure?” said Gary.
“I watched them,” said Robert.
“You watched them? Does that mean that you stalked Edith?”
“I feel responsible for her,” said Robert.
Gary reflected that Cleo and Dorothy had explained the situation almost in those words.
“I hate to do this, Robert, but I must ask you how you managed to observe them.”
“Edith went into the front room and I saw them take their clothes off and she behaved in the same way as she behaved with me,” said Robert. “Only Kelly enjoyed himself. He knew how to handle her, Gary. It was humiliating.”
“So how long did you stare through that window?”
“Long enough.”
Gary wished he had the support of at least one woman at what was becoming rather a grotesque confessional for a guy weighing not far off thirty stone. He begged a break and managed to get Mia Curlew to his office. He explained the situation to her briefly out of Robert’s earshot.
“Miss Curlew would like to ask you one or two questions, Robert.”
“I don’t think I can tell a woman anything,” Robert said.
“You can tell me, Mr Jones. I was raped as a young girl. I know what it feels like.”
“I did not know it could happen to a man,” said Robert as if hearing Mia’s words was actually comforting.
He didn’t react like a man, reflected Gary. More like a mouse. To his own shame, Gary reflected that it was no wonder Edith had gone at him like a fury unleashed.
“It can and does,” said Mia.
Gary withdrew to his desk.
“The man you saw with Mrs Parsnip was coping, wasn’t he?” said Mia.
“He was enjoying himself,” said Robert.
“Did you resent Kelly’s conduct?” Mia asked.
“I was angry,” said Robert. “Edith was egging him on to do obscene things and she was doing obscene things too.”
“That was your judgement, Mr Jones. They may not have found what they were doing obscene. You have to take that into consideration.”
“Can I ask you a question, Miss Curlew?” said Robert.
“Of course.”
“How did you cope afterwards?”
“It took me a long time to get over it, Mr Jones. It’s important not to be aggressive yourself.”
“Oh,” said Robert.
Gary felt it was time he stepped in.
“So retribution is not the right way forward, is it, Robert?”
“No. Revenge did, I mean does not help,” said Robert.
“In other words, killing Kelly was not therapeutic, was it?” said Gary.
Robert looked startled. He stood up suddenly. Mia looked at Gary. She had her hand on the handcuffs tucked into a pocket of her leather jacket. Gary shook his head. Nigel got up and came nearer. He was horrified at the scene, but Robert was a big man and Nigel thought Mia could use some help.
“Wait a minute,” Robert shouted. “Is that why I’m here? Do you think I killed Kelly?”
“Well, did you?” said Gary.
Robert did not answer. He backed to the chair on which he had been sitting and flopped down.
“Let’s just retrace your steps, Mr Jones,” said Mia and Gary looked at her thankfully. “How many times did you observe those sex scenes?”
“About half a dozen times, then I knocked on the door.”
“That was brave of you, Mr Jones. What did you want to achieve?”
“I wanted to get her out,” said Robert.
“And did you?”
“Edith came to door and said I was to leave her alone,” said Robert. “She was naked, Miss Curlew.”
“At that moment she had no inhibitions, Mr Jones.”
“She said I could come in and join them or go home,” said Robert. “I told her to put her clothes on. She laughed at me and then Kelly laughed. I can’t repeat what he said and did then.”
“I don’t want you to,” said Mia.
Robert looked helplessly at Gary and Gary wondered what he could do with him. It was possible that Robert had killed Kelly because he had judged him to be depraved and not fit to live.
“The problem is that Kelly and Edith were not doing anything illegal,” said Gary. “You were acting illegally by stalking and spying on Edith. You do understand that, don’t you, Robert?”
“What would you have done, Gary?”
“If you had taken my advice and had nothing more to do with Edith, you would not be in such mental distress now, Robert,” said Gary. “I suggest that you go home and think about your own behaviour. You cannot see Edith as your responsibility. She’s a grown woman. She can do what she wants as long as it does not offend anyone.”
“She offended me,” said Robert.
“Only because you were spying on her. She is not answerable to you, Robert.”
“Aren’t you going to arrest me?”
“Should I?”
“I did not kill Kelly,” said Robert, “but I wish I had.”
“Let’s talk again, Robert. “If you did not kill Kelly, who did?”
“Are you letting Mr Jones go free?” Mia said when Nigel had left the office to escort Robert to the main exit.
“We have no proof. I need the ballistics report and identification of the weapon. I need to know if Robert Jones has an alibi. He won’t get up to anything, Mia. He has a shop to run and that is his personal love affair.”
“It might be a good idea to talk to Edith,” said Mia.
“I think so, too. Would you do that?”
“I’d like to know what kind of a woman she is and if that all really happened,” said Mia.
“I think you’ll find that it did, Mia, but go ahead. I’d rather you challenged Edith than my wife or Dorothy Price. Edith is more likely to open up to a stranger and for all we know, Robert will spend the afternoon with her at the vicarage.”
“That would make this morning’s performance theatricals.”
“He would not be the first culprit to act his way out of a sticky situation, Mia.”
Cleo had drunk coffee in the HQ canteen until she had an OK from Gary and was able to go to his office.
“You look as if you went through a gruelling,” said Cleo.
“Mr Jones did,” said Mia. “On reflection, it was rather an ordeal for all of us.”
“Did he confess to anything?”
“No and I don’t think that his initiative went further than stalking Edith, spying on her sex predation and feeling disgusted,” said Gary. “I asked Mia to come because I needed female support. I thought he was more likely to answer questions a woman he had never met put to him and it worked.”
“What do you think about him?” Cleo asked Mia.
“He’s very mixed up, Cleo. Sick with jealously, or is it just possessiveness?”
“Both, I should think. But he is not a violent person,” said Cleo.
“I’m not so sure,” said Mia. “At one stage he became very belligerent.”
“But you let him go, I see, Gary.”
“Mia is going to talk to Edith and will warn her to get in touch with the police if Robert stalks her again.”
“I’ll give her my cell phone number,” said Mia.
“That’s a good idea,” said Gary.
“And we’ll leave her to you, Mia,” said Cleo. “I’d like to know the names of any other men she has accosted.”
“So would I,” said Gary. “If they are anything like Kelly was, she’s having a whale of a time.”