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 What is the Lie?

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Anthony van
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PostSubject: What is the Lie?   Fri Dec 01, 2017 5:21 pm

Chapter 8

 

“There’s no way he did it,” Gil thrust out his jaw provocatively. “You don’t know the young man. He wouldn’t harm a fly.”

Burton stood facing the tall, middle-aged man, slightly amused at the clichéd, upper class mannerisms he displayed. Rolf stood next to his superior, notebook in hand, grinding his teeth impatiently at Gil’s self-important proclamations. They were standing on the porch of his impressive, faux Georgian home (the facade being the only thing that was consistent with the historical style).

“Just answer the question.”

Gil glared at the younger officer and spoke punctiliously, “Yes, I saw him on Wednesday morning. I often see him at the shooting range. Are you saying that everyone who participates in sport shooting is a murderer?”

“No, Mr Trentham,” Burton returned quietly. “Did you see him take his gun home with him?”

“If you mean did I see him take it out of the club? The answer is, no. I was still shooting my last bracket.”

“Does he normally take his gun home?”

“Of course; most members take their guns home, but there is a lockup facility there.”

Burton switched tack suddenly, “So, you’re a close friend of the family?”

Gil measured his words in reply. “You … could say that.” He gave no more away.

The detective went on calmly. “Do you know where Tom Witney is?”

“No.” Gil drew himself to his full height and added piously, “And I don’t think I’d tell you if I did.”

“No,” Burton raised his eyebrows. “I suspected as much. And where were you Wednesday afternoon?”

Gil looked offended. “Me? I was here, by myself. I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to trust me on that.”

“So you’re saying no-one can vouch for you.”

“I suppose that’s true. Maybe you should arrest me too.” He held his hands up symbolically to be cuffed.  

            Just then another officer ran up and said a word in Burton’s ear. “We may speak with you again Trentham,” was his parting shot as he turned away and strode toward the car. Rolf was following close behind wanting to know what was up.

                                    -------------------------------------------------------

 

            Old chain link fencing surrounded the grungy, surly buildings of the Charlton Chemicals factory. There was a large, desolate, weedy expanse of land behind the main factory and warehouse. Rows of drums on pallets bordered the far side of the barren field. Tom had driven around the surrounding roads twice and wondered how a place that flouted so many environmental laws was still open. Having heard something of his reputation, Tom tried to imagine the lengths Mr Charlton would go to, to stop Gene. He would visit later and find out what Charlie had to say for himself. Ensuring that he could get away was his main concern, so Tom sat and considered his options.

                                    -------------------------------------------------------

 

            Two cars drew up outside the suburban town house behind a squad car. Burton and Rolf stepped out of the first purposefully. A constable met them and pointed in an animated fashion toward the building. They walked around the side to a tall gate which led to a laneway. The two stood and talked about the parked racing cycle. Anyone observing would think they were prospective buyers and that they were discussing a possible purchase.

            A few minutes later they were upstairs confronting Rick Tanon.

“I was sort of expecting you guys.” He stood back as they wandered into the expensive looking room and took in the minimalist décor. The lounge and adjoining kitchen and dining area was all steel, glass and white leather couches.

Burton turned and faced him as he closed the door. “And why is that Mr Tanon?”

Rick collapsed into a big couch, a silly smile played on his lips. “Well, I know Tom Witney really well. We’re related you know.”

“His cousin on his mother’s side,” interjected Rolf. “That accounts for how you can afford the upmarket apartment,” he added in a disparaging aside.

“Hey, I happen to be a successful accountant.” Rick’s wounded expression was evidence that it was a sore point with him. “Listen, I can’t help it if I come from a wealthy family … it has its benefits, but I earn my own way.”

Detective Burton was undeterred by the direction the conversation had taken. “Do you know where Tom Witney is?”

“No.”

“Has he contacted you?”

“No, not recently.”

“So how did you get hold of the bike that he stole from Clinton Hughes?”

            A cheesy grin spread over Rick’s face. “It sort of just appeared.”

Rolf was losing patience. “Let’s take him in. We can charge him with obstructing justice for one.”

Rick’s face became more concerned as he responded, “No, I’m serious; it just appeared yesterday with a note. ‘Please return this to Clint for me’. So I guess Tom dropped it off.”

“You haven’t seen him at all since Wednesday?”

“No, and before that, not since last weekend. We played golf.”

“So you saw him on Wednesday?”

“Yes, Wednesday’s our gun club morning. But you knew that didn’t you?”

Burton’s mind went to the list of half a dozen names from the club given to him by one of his detectives. These people were associated with Witney in some way and he wanted to follow up on them all. He questioned Rick about Tom’s demeanour that morning and his personality as a whole with little success.

            Finally, Adrian Burton had had enough of the verbal gymnastics. He sat down opposite the stocky young man and leaned forward. He spoke in a quiet, stern voice.

“I want you to think carefully Mr Tanon. Knowing Tom Witney so well, where do you think he’s hiding out?”

Rick looked a little bemused that they were expecting him to ‘inform’ on Tom.

“You really think he did it?” he asked incredulously.

“Let’s just say that he’s a person of interest. Do you have some information that might help?”

After a moment’s thought the young man reluctantly ventured, “You might try the holiday house down the west coast, um,” Rick seemed to pause thoughtfully. “Or possibly camping up on the Snowy.” He shrugged. “That’s all I can think of. I’ll let you know if I think of anything else.”

Rolf, who had been taking notes all the while, peered up at Tanon and then at Burton. The senior detective gave a little nod and then they excused themselves with the prescribed dose of gratitude.

            Just at the door, Burton turned as if he was animated by afterthought. “Oh, by the way Tanon, where were you on Wednesday afternoon?”

“Me? You’re kidding right?” Rick spread his arms across the couch arm and back with an air of surprise and sureness.

“Just for the record Mr Tanon,” iterated Burton in a monotone.

Rick rubbed the stubble on his chin. “Well I was at work and then left early and went to my mother’s. You can check it out if you like.”

“We will. What time did you arrive at your mother’s home?”

“About three.”

“Thank you again Mr Tanon.” Burton made a pained attempt at a smile as he left.

            Outside the consensus was reached quickly.

“He’s keeping something to himself. Do you think he knows where Witney is?” Rolf quizzed.

“I’d bet on it. Even if he doesn’t know for sure, I reckon he thinks he knows where he is.” Burton turned to the younger detective. “Get Arrington and Lee to keep a watch on Tanon. I’ll call Gully and see what’s going on with Miles.” Burton went to the car while Rolf spoke with the other plain clothes officers who had been waiting with their car.

                        --------------------------------------------------------------------

 

            Tom had finished his survey and was adding to the list of suspects and things he had to do. He resigned himself to somehow engage Burton’s help in locating suspects. The first thing was to call the police number on his cell. He spoke quickly when they answered, ignoring questions and relying on the belief that the calls were recorded:

            “This is Tom Witney. Tell Detective Adrian Burton that I need his help to find Ashley Moore. He had access to my car keys and he probably returned them to Ed Miles’ office. Also he needs to follow up threats made to Gene Towers by Charlie Charlton.

He hung up but left it turned on as he headed for half an hour in the wrong direction. It was shut down before veering north and then east. Tom knew the anxiety he was experiencing was manifested by his clammy clothing. It was starting to get late and he didn’t want to be driving the mountain tracks at night. If he drove uninterrupted he’d get back to the turnoff in a little over an hour.

                                    -------------------------------------------------------------

 

            The detectives had arrived several minutes earlier at the Miles’ home where Burton was planning to ask some searching questions about contact with the fleeing suspect.

“Ade, Arrington and Lee are trailing Tanon. He’s heading towards Grimpton.” Rolf was yelling through the open car door.

“Right,” Burton called raising his hand to signal he’d received the message. He had been on the other radio talking with headquarters about Tom’s latest message. Explaining to them that they should send a squad car to the location. Nevertheless, he also assured them that Tom Witney would be nowhere nearby by the time they got there, but it was a procedural thing. It was nearing five and he was fairly tired of the whole investigation. ‘Lancaster could take over tomorrow,’ he thought, and he would have a nice quiet Sunday.

            He spoke to the detective sitting behind the wheel. “Gully, nothing’s happening here. I want you to go to Tanon’s mother and ask her where he is going. When you’re there check out his story too, will ya?”

“Aw, Boss, I always miss the chase,” Gully gave a hang dog look.

“Give it a rest Gully,” Burton rolled his eyes as he walked back towards Rolf. “Okay Ro, let’s go and find out where Rick Tanon is heading.”

They drove off in a rush, Rolf switching the flashing lights on as Burton called for some more support.

            Inside the entry way, behind one of the two brick pillars that were on either side of the driveway, Lori stood quietly. She waited for the second car to leave before going inside. Rapidly she located her father’s number and punched enter. There was no response.

            At that exact moment Tom was paying for some petrol at a service station. He smelled some hot food at a takeaway counter and considered sitting down to a meal a bit further down the road.

            Lori waited a few minutes before trying again, still no luck. After twenty minutes she was getting frantic. She had to let him know somehow. Where was he? Had they already caught him?

            Tom was nearing the next small township when the phone rang. He swung over into what looked like a timber track and answered the repetitive summons.

“Tom, it’s Lori. Where have you been? I’ve been calling for the last half hour.”

“I stopped off for a hamburger. Why, what’s wrong?”

“I think Rick is heading up to the cabin, and the police are following him.”

“Oh great!”

“You need to get away from there.”

“How did you find out?” Tom was scouting the distance behind him as he asked.

“They were here, outside the house, Burton and Rolf and another car, when they received a call … and I sort of overheard them,” Lori commented diffidently.

            In the distance Tom noticed flashing police car lights racing toward him. He didn’t want to draw undue attention to himself by pulling out in front of the cars, so he sat and held the phone as obviously as he could against his ear while still obscuring his face as much as possible.

“Tom, are you there?” Lori’s stressed words conveyed her unease.

“It’s the police.” His words were terse, “They’re coming up behind me now. If they’re looking for this car I’ve had it.”

The first two cars screamed by, but the third slowed appreciably. Burton had told Rolf to see if the driver needed help. As they drew near the driver waved them on, pointing at the same time to the cell phone in his hand.

Tom breathed a sigh of relief as the last car disappeared from view.

“They’ve gone. I’m heading back,” he said with relief.

“I’ll pick you up at Grimpton.” Her offer came unexpectedly.

He hesitated briefly, “You’re crazy, but, considering everything… okay?”

“Wow, I didn’t think you’d agree. How come?”

“Because that’s about the third time they would have seen your Dad’s ute. They’ll work it out eventually that I’m driving. I need a different car.”

“You can’t take yours.”

“What do you suggest?”

Lori thought furiously. “What about Holly’s car?”

“It’s garaged at home. They’ll be watching there. Besides I doubt if Al will let us just waltz in and take the thing without making a fuss. I think I ruffled his feathers last time we met.” His words gave no indication of the convoluted ideas suddenly springing up in his head. It was not so much a result of what Lori had said as a reaction to her concern and remembering the warmth of her presence.

“Maybe I could swap cars with a friend and you could use it.”

Tom could hear Lori turning the ignition as she was speaking. He countered, “No, the fewer people involved the better. And if you’re caught doing this it will be aiding and abetting. Lori, it might be best if I do this myself. Don’t worry about picking me up.”

“What are you going to do?” she said apprehensively.

“I’ll sleep on the boat tonight and head off in the morning.”

“Where?”

“I don’t know, east probably; they’ll be expecting me to go to the beach house.”

            There was an extended interval of wordless rumination as the two of them attacked the problem, searching for some possible solution.

“Tom, are you there?” Lori’s faltering query gave little clue to the storm of ideas that flooded her mind.

“Yep, still here,” was his slightly distant comeback.

“If you park around the back of the supermarket in Grimpton, I’ll pick you up there.”

“I thought we agreed …,” he began to protest, but she cut him off.

“Shush! Listen; if they don’t see a car at the docks, they won’t know for sure that it wasn’t just me or dad taking the boat. If they see the utility they’ll guess for sure that you’re on board.”

“Mmm, okay granted,” Tom reluctantly agreed, although not convinced of the wisdom of involving Lori.

“And I know exactly where you can go.”

“What do you mean?”

“I know where to go,” she repeated. “There’s a church camp I used to go to, on one of the islands in the lakes. It has a small inlet and jetty and Joe the caretaker is a family friend. I’ll write him a note. I’m sure he’ll let you stay a while.”
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