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فصل 07

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CHAPTER SEVEN

The rest of the evening and night passed in a blur. He told the local police officer what he had seen. Afterwards his mother collected him and sent him to bed with a hot toddy. Even in the warmth of his bed he felt cold and he was unable to sleep. He kept on going over what had happened, wondering if he had mistaken a horrible accident for something worse. Each time he reached the same conclusion. He tried not to think about who was lying at the bottom of the cliff. The rescue helicopters and life guards would hopefully be able to answer that soon.

Morning came and Angus called the police station first thing. A body had been recovered and identified. It was Stephen McLeod. They would need him to come in again later that day for more questioning. But they had to wait until more senior officers arrived from the mainland. Until then, there were restrictions on who could leave the island.

Angus put the phone down and processed all this information. His mum brought him a cup of tea and gently reminded him about Susie: “Isn’t she arriving on the early flight? Should I come with you to collect her?”

Angus nodded gratefully.

A few hours later the three of them were sitting in his mother’s car, waiting to leave the airport for the drive back to Tarbert. Angus was asking Susie for advice.

“How can I be sure about what I saw? It was so windy and dark. I could be wrong. I could have misinterpreted what I saw.”

“That’s true, but there’ll be other evidence. You can only tell the truth and let the police worry about finding whoever it was - and deciding if it was an accident or not. Try not to worry about it.”

Susie reached back her hand between the seats and Angus squeezed it.

“I’m so pleased to see you. Just wish it wasn’t in these circumstances.”

“I know. But I’m here for a few days, so you can deal with all the police stuff and then you can show me your favourite bits of the island. And maybe if you’re up for it,” Susie turned to Mrs Fleming, “I could treat you to dinner at that pub you were at? It sounded fun.”

“That would be lovely,” Angus’s mother replied.

Tarbert was buzzing when they got back. Journalists from the national press had arrived, the first suspicious death on Harris for years was too attractive to miss.

As they drove past the post office, Mrs Muir ran out. Moira Fleming stopped the car.

“Oh dear, you’ll never guess what has happened. They’ve arrested Stuart McLeod! They think he pushed his brother off the cliff. Apparently they’d been arguing earlier that day and then he went out. No one saw him until much later.”

Two other women in the shop had followed Mrs Muir out and joined her by the car.

“I can’t believe it myself. Such a nice lad.”

“Aye, but you know he stood to only inherit half his father’s money. And that despite all the many years’ hard work he’d put in. I’d be angry in his position…”

Moira said firmly: “Thank you for the information but it’s far too early to know exactly what happened. And gossip never did anyone any good. Good day to you all.”

Susie could have laughed at this well-placed jibe, but a look at Angus’s face stopped her. He’d turned white as a sheet.

Angus didn’t want to go to the police station. He was certain that Stuart was innocent but also aware that he couldn’t know this for sure. He didn’t want his testimony to put his friend in jail. Susie walked with him into the village. At the door to the police station he muttered something: “I’d never realised how hard this is. Writing about criminals and interview rooms is, well, it’s totally different.” Susie stroked his arm and pushed open the door.

Angus was led to the interview room and two police officers sat down in front of him: the local officer from Tarbert as well as a more senior officer from the mainland.

“Mr Fleming, I know you told Constable Duncan what you saw but, if you don’t mind, it’d be useful to hear what happened again. So, in your own time, can you tell us what you saw last night on the cliff?”

Angus took a deep breath, “Well, I was heading back along the edge of the cliff in the direction of Tarbert when I heard voices ahead of me on the path.”

“What time was this?”

“About 2 o’clock, I think. Maybe a bit later.”

“And what were you doing out on the cliff path at that time?”

“Well, I had gone out for a walk, gone down to the bay, the one we call Pirates’ Cove. I’d hoped to find my friend there.”

“You mean, Stuart McLeod.”

“Yes.”

“And why did you think he’d be at that beach?”

“His brother - Stephen McLeod - had told me he’d gone down there. Their… their father has just passed away. I guess he, Stuart, just wanted some air. Anyway, I’d wanted to see him to, you know, give him my condolences…”

“And did you see him?”

“No, he wasn’t there.”

“Did you know that Stephen and Stuart McLeod had argued before Stuart went out?”

Angus paused, “No, I didn’t know that. I… I know what you’re getting at. I know that you’re holding Stuart, that he’s a suspect. But I just don’t believe that he is capable of that. Of murder. He and Stephen had their differences but they… it just can’t be him!”

“Your assumption is correct. Stuart McLeod has an alibi. Someone saw him walking along the road in the direction of the cliff not long after you say Stephen was pushed.”

Angus heaved a sigh of relief, but one that was cut short by what the officer said next.

“Which unfortunately makes you our number one suspect, Mr Fleming. So I’m going to ask you again - and think carefully before you answer - what happened last night on the cliff?”

Angus just looked from one officer to the other in disbelief.

An hour later Angus stumbled out of the police station. Susie, who had been keeping warm in the shop opposite, came out to greet him.

“How did it go?”

“I’m… they think I’m lying. They say I’m a suspect! What am I going to do? I didn’t do it!”

“It’s OK. I know that. Now start from the beginning - what happened?”

“Stuart has an alibi and they haven’t found any evidence that someone else was there. They’re still looking and haven’t arrested me, but say I’m to stay at home and not go anywhere.”

“OK, OK, let’s go back to your mother’s and figure out what to do.”

They walked in silence for a few moments, then Susie spoke again:

“I could go and speak to Stuart. It can’t do any harm. He may know something about his brother, any problems he might have had.”

Angus nodded at this, it made sense, and they hurried off in the direction of the bungalow.

After two cups of tea and a long discussion, Moira and Susie set off in Moira’s car for the McLeod house. They left Angus looking online for anything about Stephen that might possibly be a clue.

It was dark as they turned into the drive. Unusually the front door was closed and locked, so Moira suggested trying the door to the kitchen round the back.

“I know the woman who works here as a cook. If she’s there she’ll let us in and may even know something.”

However, the kitchen was empty, the lights off but the door was unlocked. They knocked but when no one came, they went in. Going through into the hallway, they saw some light shining under a door and after a pause walked in.

Stuart McLeod was sitting in a dark room, a fire in the grate the only light. He didn’t seem surprised to see them, and motioned to them to sit down. He had a whisky in his hand and it didn’t look like his first.

“I’m sorry, Mrs Fleming. I didn’t mean to get Angus involved in all this. Is he OK?”

“Yes, he is. A bit shaken, but he’ll be fine. But we need to prove he didn’t do it. Can you help us?”

“I… I don’t know.”

“Stuart, I’m Susie Kirk, Angus’s girlfriend. I’m also a police officer in Edinburgh. So I know that sometimes details which seem unimportant can be vital. Perhaps your brother mentioned a name or did something unusual which could lead us to the real suspect. If I understand correctly, Stephen’s been living in London and didn’t, well, didn’t have the best of relationships with your late father. What did he do in London? Where did he live? Do you know?”

“Uh, only bits and pieces. As you say, he didn’t get on with Dad and we didn’t have much contact, either. I know he worked in the City, not sure what he did. Had some fancy apartment, partied a lot, travelled, led a completely different life from the one he would have had here. And Dad didn’t worry much to start with. Thought he’d grow out of it.”

Stuart took a gulp of his whisky.

“Do you know if he had any problems in London? Girl trouble, money worries, that kind of thing?”

“Well, it would have been boy trouble… but no, I don’t know of anything. Except… he did ask me for some money last year. Said he’d had a wild weekend playing poker, had lost a lot and owed someone. Asked for 1000 pounds. I thought it was a one-off, but… who knows. Maybe he lost again?”

“Thank you Stuart. And we really are very sorry for your loss. For both your losses.” Moira Fleming squeezed Stuart’s shoulder. “We’ll see ourselves out.”

Sitting in the car, she turned to Susie, “Was that helpful?”

“Yes, very. Money is a strong motive. And a jealous or jilted lover, too. Did you know…?” Moira shook her head. “Do you think his father knew? Would it have been a problem? Could it have been a motive?”

“That he liked men? I don’t know. Where to now?”

“Home, let’s see if Angus has found something. I think it might be good to go back to the cliff tomorrow when it’s light. I may need to borrow a better waterproof though, if that’s OK?” Susie smiled and tilted her head towards the window - the rain had started again.

“Of course, dear, anything you need.”

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