“this is a murder case like any other, “ detective harold hogan told this reporter with a straight face. “ we treat every case the same, whether the victim is a scrubwoman or a dame that wears two mink coats to bed.”
hogan had expected fireworks, but the chief, when he called him in, seemed in a surprisingly mellow mood.
not enough to offer hogan a cigar when he lit one up himself, but he did indicate a
chair for hogan to sit in without glaring or barking at him.
"this case -" the chief began, and then yawned. a colossal, world record yawn, which caused the freshly lit cigar to shake a bit in his fingers, and which left a trace of tears at the corners of his gray eyes.
"oh - were was i?" he asked hogan when he was finished.
"the winfield case," hogan answered.
“winfield. yes.” the chief rubbed his eyes. “you’ve talked to some of the relatives of the winfield woman already, right?”
“yes,” hogan replied cautiously. “ but there are more. a lot more. you know how it is with these rich people.”
“yes. yes, indeed. ever wonder about that? why these rich people seem to have families that just go on and on? even more than poor people who live twelve in one room?”
“i guess nobody ever runs away from home. too much money lying around.”
“i agree. anyway, some of the relatives have been talking to the commissioner - or the commissioner talked to them - you know how it is -“
“and the commissioner noticed something right away.”
hogan just nodded.
“maybe you noticed the same thing,” the chief continued.
the chief continued. “something not totally surprising. but a little bit - that they would be so frank about it.”
“nobody liked them. her - or the husband.”
“right. nobody is crying about her - or defending the husband. you talk to any of their so-called friends yet?“
“’so-called friends’ is right. so far, nobody has a good word to say about either of them.”
hogan waited. had the chief called him in just to tell him this? “it is still a case. somebody has to work it. am i still on it?”
“oh, of course. by the way, i liked your comment to the paper that this was just a case like any other.”
hogan shrugged. “what else was i supposed to say?”
the chief laughed. “indeed. well, keep up the good work. “ he picked a pen up from his desk, indicating that hogan was dismissed.
“the papers might still make a big deal of this case,” hogan said as he stood up.
“you know how to deal with that, ” the chief answered without looking up.
“do you want me to keep you informed?”
“not particularly. just keep up the good work.”
so that was the message. that it really was just another case. despite the wealth and position of the victim and the likely killer, there was no pressure from the commissioner , or the d a, or any other politician.
hogan should have felt relieved. he was, but he was also curious. a little more curious about the case than he had been before.
closing the door of the chief’s office behind him, hogan suddenly thought - maybe they actually want the case not to be solved. maybe the commissioner and the d a are covering up for somebody. maybe that was the message.
but that was too subtle for him. he decided not to worry about it, and get a cup of coffee and a couple of doughnuts before talking to some more of the winsteads’ “so-called friends”.
“i want to see the body. i want to see this so-called body of auntie roselle’s.”
ophelia did not look up from the steaming cup of breakfast tea she was raising to her pale lips. “don’t be a bore, minerva. the matter is settled. well bred little girls do not go to the city morgue to look at mangled bodies.”
“i do not care to be well bred. and i’ve seen dead cats and dogs. how much difference can there be?”
“it is out of the question,” ophelia repeated.
minerva kicked the underside of the table with her two feet in the familiar way she had - so familiar that the table had been padded to accommodate her. no tea or toast or grapefruit or newspaper was disturbed by the kick.
“this body can’t be auntie roselle’s. just because it had her drivers license or whatever - that doesn’t mean anything.”
“davenportia identified her,” ophelia replied, as she put her tea down and picked up and spread open her two-day old airmailed copy of the london times.
“davenportia is a nincompoop. couldn’t they get somebody with a few brains to identify her? couldn’t they get a lawyer or a doctor to identify her?”
“davenportia is her first cousin. they grew up together as girls.”
“ha! what else would they grow up together as, monkeys? vacuum cleaners? and roselle didn’t like her. ”
“you don’t know that,” ophelia replied mildly, as she began reading an interview with sir stafford cripps. “and that’s not a very nice thing to say.”
“not at all, “ echoed the only other person at the table, cousin hapwell.
cousin hapwell was beneath minerva’s notice and she ignored him and kicked the underside of the table with her two feet again.
minerva was a classic dreadful child, but a dreadful child with a future. in seven years’ time, on reaching her eighteenth birthday, she would come into full possession of the largest slice of the gray family fortune.
ophelia’s slice was modest by comparison. and nobody was sure what cousin hapwell’s slice was, or if he even had one. hapwell ate his three meals a day, handled his liquor moderately well, and never made a fuss.
now minerva returned to the charge. “you would think a death or a murder had never been faked before. it happens all the time.”
ophelia laughed. “only in the excellent entertainments of miss agatha christie and mister john dickson carr, dear. not in real life.”
“ha! what is ‘real life’ if you please?”
ophelia glanced at cousin hapwell. “don’t answer her.”
“i had no intention of doing so,” hapwell replied. “ah! thank you, bessie.”
a maid had brought in a tray with platters of scrambled eggs and three kinds of sausages.
a few pale rays of sun filtered through the curtains of the breakfast room.