فصل 04

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فصل 04

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CHAPTER FOUR

The sound of a shot

‘But Blackheath isn’t a violent place, Inspector,’ Mr Crowther said. ‘We’ve lived here for thirty years and nothing like this has ever happened before. Of course there’s a bit of stealing sometimes, but never murder. We’ve always felt very safe here.’

Eliot wanted to say that murder could happen anywhere, even in the nicest places. But he only said, ‘Hold on, sir. We don’t yet know that it was murder.’

‘Then you think it looked like suicide?’ Mr Crowther asked.

‘That’s impossible,’ his wife said. ‘Alex would not have killed himself. What reason could he possibly have had?’

‘I don’t think anything yet, Mr Crowther,’ Eliot replied. ‘I just have to consider all the possibilities, including accidental death.’

‘Oh, the gun,’ Mrs Crowther began. She stopped, and gave her husband a quick look. There was a silence before Eliot continued.

‘Can you tell us about Mr Forley’s job?’ he asked. ‘You said he had a shop in Greenwich.’

‘Forley Antiques,’ she answered. ‘It’s one of those big antique furniture shops on Park Street, near the Royal Naval College. You must know it.’

Eliot had been there once, when he was first married, before Sally’s birthday. He had seen a small table in the window which he knew she would love. With his recent salary rise, he thought he might be able to afford it. But he had been really shocked to hear the price. The young girl assistant had made him feel quite uncomfortable, and he had left quickly.

‘Yes, I’ve been inside,’ he answered. ‘But I don’t remember seeing Mr Forley.’

‘Oh, he doesn’t spend much time there,’ Mrs Crowther said. ‘He doesn’t have to. He just chooses the furniture.

There’s a manager and a part-time assistant who do most of the work.’ She was talking of Forley in the present tense again, as if she could not believe he was dead. She and her husband both looked very tired. Eliot would not get much useful information from them this evening.

‘We won’t need to stay long,’ he said. ‘But I’m afraid we’ll have to come back tomorrow. There are just one or two more things I need to know now. Did you notice anything unusual this afternoon?’

The two houses were not attached, and both had thick walls. But it was just possible that the sound of a gunshot next door would be heard here.

‘I’m afraid I can’t help you, Inspector,’ said Mr Crowther. ‘I was out most of the afternoon. I went for my usual walk after lunch, and I didn’t get back till about ten past four. You didn’t hear anything, did you, my dear?’ he asked his wife. She seemed to be choosing her words carefully.

‘Well, I do remember hearing a bang while you were out. I was working and I didn’t really think about it at the time. I paint pictures, Inspector, and my work takes all my attention. There are so many fireworks at the moment that didn’t give it another thought. But I suppose it is rather unusual to hear a firework in the middle of the afternoon.’

‘What time was this?’ asked Eliot.

‘It must have been after three o’clock,’ she said. ‘That’s when I started painting. Probably around three thirty.’

‘Where were you?’ he asked.

‘In the front room upstairs,’ she answered. ‘You can see Alex’s front door from there. Oh, why didn’t I pay more attention? If someone had come out of the house, I could have seen them.’

‘Unless they left through the French windows,’ Eliot said. ‘Now, I’m afraid we’ll need someone to identify the body, to be sure it is Mr Forley. You told us he had no relatives when his mother died. Did he ever marry?’

Mrs Crowther covered her face with her hands. Her husband put his arm round her, and answered for her.

‘No. He had a girlfriend, though - Amanda Grant. I always thought they would get married some day. We’ve got her address somewhere. I’ll go and get it.’

He came back into the room and handed Eliot the address.

‘Please don’t contact Miss Grant,’ said Eliot. ‘We’ll give her the news ourselves.’

Eliot nodded at Bowen and they both stood up. They had all the information they were going to get that evening.

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