I 've Heard That Song Before, page 26
“What exactly did you tell your sons, Ambassador?” Tom Moran asked.
“I told them that I believed Susan started taking drugs when she returned from college the beginning of the last summer she was alive, and that she may have been blackmailing someone to get the money she needed. My confession prompted them to open up in turn, telling me things they knew about their sister, things that take on new meaning in context with recent developments.
“My son David had come home for a visit the Christmas before Susan disappeared. Susan had been spending a lot of time at the Carrington mansion. David told me that she confided to him she had noticed that several of the paintings downstairs in the Carrington mansion had been replaced with copies. She was studying art, you know, and knew a lot about the subject. She was sure she knew who was doing the copying, because on one occasion that person invited a young artist to a party in the house, and Susan saw her taking photographs of several paintings.
“David advised Susan to forget what she had discovered and not breathe a word of it to anyone. He said he knew what would happen if Mr. Carrington Sr. found out about it. It would end up as a very messy court case, and Susan might have to testify. David told her that our family had had enough grief with that family because of my earlier affair with Elaine Carrington.”
“So Susan did as David suggested, but that summer, when she needed money, she may have used her knowledge of the theft of the art to try to get it,” Krause suggested.
“I believe that’s exactly what she did,” Althorp confirmed.
“Was it Peter Carrington, Ambassador?” Moran asked. “Was he stealing from his own father?”
“No, of course not. Don’t you see why this is tormenting me? Peter is in jail right now, accused of killing Susan. He had no reason to kill her. David told me that he believes if Susan had asked Peter for the money, he would have given it to her without question, and then would have tried to get her help. But Susan would never have asked Peter because she was in love with him. David said that my silence has been a curse on Peter. When I spoke to David this afternoon, he said that if I didn’t come here tonight, he would never speak to me again.”
“Then who was stealing the paintings?”
“Elaine Carrington’s son, Richard Walker.”
Pat Jennings put down the book she was reading, picked up the television remote control, and flipped on the ten o’clock news. “Have to see what’s going on in the world,” she told her husband, who was dozing over a magazine. Not expecting a response, she turned her attention to the screen.
“We have a breaking news story,” the Fox News anchor was saying. “The body of forty-six-year-old Alexandra Lloyd has been found floating in the East River. The victim had been stabbed numerous times. A neighbor and close friend described her as an art teacher who had recently lost her job at a local high school because of budget cuts. Anyone with information should phone the tipster line, 212-555- 7000.”
“Alexandra Lloyd!” Pat exclaimed, just as the phone rang.
It was Trish. “Pat, I was just watching the news, and-”
“I know,” Pat said, “I was watching it, too.”
“Are you going to call that tip line and tell them about her calls to Richard Walker?”
“You bet I am, and right now.”
“That poor woman. That’s so awful, to be stabbed and dumped in the river. My God, do you think he did it?”
“I don’t know, but that’s for the police to figure out.”
“Keep me posted,” Trish urged as she hung up.
After Charles Althorp had completed his statement and departed with his lawyer, Barbara Krause and Tom Moran stayed in her office, discussing the impact of what they had heard, and assessing how it affected their case against Peter Carrington.
“Even if Walker was stealing good paintings and substituting copies, it doesn’t mean that he killed Susan. And much of what Althorp told us is hearsay,” Barbara Krause said, flatly.
“And it doesn’t answer why Carrington hid his dress shirt that night and why his father handed Maria Valdez a check for five thousand dollars,” Moran pointed out. “Anyhow, the statute of limitations has run out on prosecuting Walker for theft, even if we can prove that he was an art crook.”
Barbara Krause stood up. “I’m tired. Let’s give it a rest.”
Her phone rang. “My family probably thinks I ran off with you,” she told Moran as she picked up the phone. Then, as she listened, her expression changed, and she began to pepper the caller with questions: “When did you find her?…The secretary is sure she was threatening him?…He’s leaving for London tomorrow?…Okay. Thanks.”
She hung up and looked at Moran. “Richard Walker’s name has turned up again. The body of a woman who frequently called Walker at work, and who left an angry, almost threatening message a few days ago, has been found floating in the East River. Her name was Alexandra Lloyd. The information about Lloyd calling Walker came from his secretary. My God, I wonder if the two stepbrothers are both killers.”
“How did she die?” Moran asked.
“She was stabbed at least a dozen times,” Krause said.
“Walker’s mother, Elaine Carrington, lives in a house on that estate. He may be there now,” Moran said.
“We’ll alert the Englewood cops and have them send a squad car over there immediately,” Krause replied, a worried tone in her voice. “I know they have some private security outside the estate, but Kay Carrington is alone in that house at night.”
What are you doing here?” I asked Vincent Slater as I scrambled to get up from where I had been sitting on the floor. “How did you get in?”
“How did I get in? I cannot describe to you the indignity of your asking how I got in. After thirty years of having a key to my own office in this house, after all the years I have spent protecting Peter, including protecting him from prosecution, I arrived here earlier this evening to find that the locks had been changed.”
“What do you mean, protecting Peter from prosecution?” I screamed. “Peter is innocent!”
“No, he is not. He was sleepwalking the night Susan disappeared. He didn’t know what he was doing. I’m sure of that.”
“You believe that!”
“His father must have known what happened,” Vincent replied. “That’s why he paid off the maid. I have the shirt; it has blood on it. That’s why I know that he must have done it. You know, Kay, you really had me fooled. At first I thought you really loved Peter, and that you would be good for him. But then you hired Greco, the very man who had located Maria Valdez, whose testimony about a bribe from Peter’s father will put another nail in Peter’s coffin. Weren’t you really hoping that Greco would dig up more evidence, so you could bury Peter once and for all? I know you would have given the shirt to Greco, so that’s why I kept it. Admit it. You married Peter to get your hands on his money. Now that you’re carrying his child, you’ve got a lock on it. Or, is it really Peter’s child?”
I was too dumbfounded to even respond.
“Or is it the child of the man to whom you’ve given a key to my office? I just saw someone coming into the house through my office. He left the door open, and that is how I came in. I came back for two reasons: one, because I had to tell you what I thought about your humiliating me by changing the locks, without even a warning.”
“And the second reason?” I asked scornfully.
“The second reason,” he replied with equal scorn, “is that, if by some remote possibility, I am wrong about Peter having killed Susan, you were inviting disaster this evening by flaunting that page from People magazine in the library. I just can’t fathom why you did that. I don’t know what significance that page has, but I suspect it must have some. Why else would Grace have kept it?”
“Vince, you just told me you saw a man come into this house through your office. Who was it? That door should have been locked.”
“No, I’m right here. Kay, you shouldn’t have left the new keys in the kitchen drawer.”
Startled, we both turned and looked in the direction from which the voice had come. Richard Walker was moving toward us, a pistol in his hand.
Deciding not to use the patrol car’s overhead lights or sirens that would alert Richard Walker if he was at the Carrington estate, Englewood police officer Steven Hausenstock pulled his squad car up to the gate and spoke to the guard. “Do you know if Richard Walker is here?” he asked.
“He arrived around five o’clock,” the guard replied. “He’s still here. He sometimes stays overnight at his mother’s house.”
“Who else is here?”
“Mr. Carrington’s assistant, Mr. Slater, left about half an hour ago, but then came back in the last few minutes.”
“All right. I need to check on Mrs. Kay Carrington.”
“You can drive up to the front door and ring the bell. If she doesn’t answer, the other guard is stationed there and has a key. He can let you in.”
The officer drove up to the front entrance. He could see that the only lights visible in the house were on the third floor.
“Is Mrs. Kay Carrington home?” the officer asked the guard.
“Yes, she is,” the guard answered. “She had dinner guests earlier. They all left about half an hour ago.”
“Who was here?” the officer asked.
“Mrs. Elaine Carrington, her son Richard Walker, and Vincent Slater. Mr. Slater just returned and went around to the back of the house where his office is. He usually enters there.”
“Where did Richard Walker go when he left?” the officer asked.
“He walked with his mother toward her house,” the guard said, pointing in that direction. “He must still be there, because I haven’t seen him. His car is parked outside her house.”
Officer Hausenstock got on his car radio. “Richard Walker is here,” he said. “The guard last saw him a half hour ago, walking toward his mother’s house on the grounds. Send backup units, but don’t use sirens or lights. Hopefully he hasn’t spotted me yet.” Still holding the radio in his hand, the officer asked the guard, “Does Slater’s office lead into the interior of the house?”
“Yes,” the guard replied.
The officer continued to talk into his radio as he walked. “I’m going around to the back of the house to see if Carrington’s assistant, a guy named Slater, is there. If he is, I’ll get into the house that way and check it out. I don’t want to ring the doorbell in case Walker has somehow gotten back into the house without the guard seeing him.”
Officer Hausenstock turned back to the guard. “Richard Walker may be dangerous, and he may be armed. More police officers will be here soon. If you see Walker, try to avoid any contact with him, and alert the other officers as soon as they get here. He may try to drive out. Tell the guard at the gate what is happening and make sure he closes the gates as soon as the other police arrive.”
I stood virtually frozen with fear as Richard Walker moved toward us, but then stopped far enough away so that neither of us would have a chance to grab the gun away from him. Vince stepped in front of me; I knew he was attempting to shield me. Richard was pointing the gun directly at us.
“Richard, don’t do anything stupid,” Vince said calmly. “What is this all about?”
“What is it about?” Walker’s voice was choked with emotion. “I’ll tell you what it’s all about. It’s about the fact that, in the very short time that the present Mrs. Peter Carrington has been here, my life has been destroyed. My mother, for all these years, has protected Peter by hiding that shirt. She saw him wearing it when he came home that night. She could see the bloodstains on it, and she believed he had gotten into some kind of trouble. If she had turned it over to the police the next day, when everybody realized that Susan was missing, Peter would have spent the last twenty-two years in prison.”
The telephone on the table at the bottom of the stairs leading to the third floor began to ring. Walker made a gesture to us to be quiet so that he could hear if a message was left on the answering machine.
I had put the volume on high that afternoon so that I could hear any messages while I was on the third floor. A moment later, Maggie’s voice, sounding anxious and frightened, said, “Kay, it’s late. Where are you? I just remembered who it was your father told me he’d heard whistling that song. It was Richard Walker, Elaine’s son. Kay, wasn’t he going to be at your house for dinner tonight? Kay, please be careful. I’m so worried about you. Call me back as soon as you get this message.”
I could sense that Richard knew that it was all over for him. I stepped away from Vincent. Whatever was going to happen, I wanted to confront Richard. “It was you who killed Susan Althorp,” I said, my calm tone masking the fear I felt. “It was you and Susan that I heard in the chapel that afternoon, wasn’t it?”
I pointed to the painting I had been examining. “You’re the art dealer with the gambling problem. I think you’re the one who switched this painting-and God knows how many others. Peter told me that the best art was on the walls downstairs. Well, this one was hung in the dining room, but it’s only a copy. The real one can be seen on the wall behind Marian Howley in that People magazine article. That one actually belongs in this house, doesn’t it, Richard? Grace was on to you, just as Susan had been years before. Susan knew a lot about art. She confronted you about the theft, didn’t she? I don’t know why Susan would blackmail you instead of telling Peter’s father, but she did.”
“Don’t say anything more, Kay,” Vince warned. I realized that Vince was concerned that Richard might lose control and shoot, but I was determined to finish what I had begun.
“Your mother wasn’t protecting Peter,” I said. “She was protecting you. And there’s a lot more. My father prepared a landscaping design for the other side of the fence, the area where you had buried Susan. He sent it to Peter so he could pass it on to his father, but Peter was away at school and didn’t see it. But I think that your mother did see it, and then she showed it to you. You both realized then that you had to get rid of my father. It wasn’t enough that you had already fired him. You were afraid that he might still communicate with Peter’s father about the design, and you couldn’t let that happen. You made his death look like a suicide, and then you buried my father here on the grounds, because you thought they’d never search these grounds again.”
Vince had grasped my arm; I could tell he was frantic to stop me. Richard’s hand was shaking. Even though I knew he would probably shoot us, I had to keep going. I was overwhelmed by the emotion of all the years of desperately missing my father, and, even worse, believing that he had abandoned me. I was tortured by the weeks of watching my husband shackled and chained, and it was all because of this man.
In that moment, I became aware of a shadow moving in the hallway behind Richard. I wondered suddenly if it could be Elaine Carrington or Gary Barr, coming to help Richard. Even if Maggie had decided to call the police when I didn’t answer the phone, it was probably too soon for them to have arrived here. Whoever it was out in the hallway, I wanted that person to hear what I had to say to Richard Walker.
“You not only killed Susan and my father, you killed Grace, too,” I continued. “She had that page from the magazine in her pocket when they found her in the pool. She must have realized that the original Morley painting belonged in this house. And Richard, you might be interested to know that the person you had copy it for you was so proud of her work that she actually signed her own name under the forged Morley signature.”
I pointed again to the painting I had been examining. “Tell me, Richard, who is Alexandra Lloyd?”
With a sigh of resignation, a weak smile crossed Richard’s face. His hand stopped trembling. “As a matter of fact, Alexandra Lloyd was an
Richard then looked at Vince, and spoke directly to him. “I am sorry, Vince. I did not come here intending to harm you. You have always been decent to me and to my mother. But, unfortunately, you showed up at the wrong time. It’s over for me. My luck has run out. The police will eventually connect me to Alexandra, and then they’ll figure out the rest of it. I still have a small chance of escaping, though, and so I can’t leave you here to notify the police.”
Richard turned to me. “But if they do get me, I’ll have the satisfaction of knowing, when I’m sitting in prison, that you won’t be enjoying yourself on the Carrington money.” He aimed the pistol toward my head. “Ladies first, Kay.”
As I whispered Peter’s name, the shadow I had seen in the hallway became a cop who burst into the room, knocked the weapon from Richard’s hand, and tackled him to the floor. “Police!” he shouted to Richard. “Stay down, stay down!”
As the police officer struggled with Richard, Vincent kicked the pistol across the room and then fell onto Richard, trying to help the officer subdue him. Moments later, there was a pounding of feet on the stairs and two more police officers raced into the room. When he saw them, Richard stopped struggling and began to sob.
As if in a trance, I watched as Richard was handcuffed and pulled to his feet. One of the officers retrieved the pistol, and the officer who had been out in the hall turned to me. “I heard everything, Mrs. Carrington,” he said. “Be assured, I heard everything.”
MARY HIGGINS CLARK SERIES:
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