Things are seldom what they seem. Rory Calder, criminologist, lecturer, psychologist, and profiler from New Zealand, knows this better than most. Now, he must put his extensive experience to the test before obsession consumes him. He's struggling to find sense in the deaths of his estranged wife, Serena, and their three children. The deeper he digs, however, the murkier the waters become. Rory knows there is more to the story than he's being told, as surely as he knows that he may be the only one who can see through the confusion to find the horrible truth that eludes him. Was it murder? Suicide? An accident? And why was Serena in Cornwall with their children in the first place?
The truth is never what it seems or should be. Will he ever find it?
As clarity finally begins to emerge, a mysterious phone call from a man who calls himself Moorhead changes the direction of Rory's investigation. Desperate and depressed, Rory returns to New Zealand, where three days of insanity await the exhausted investigator. After another call from Moorhead, Rory travels to a small seaside village and is surprised to finds his former colleague and lover, Detective Superintendent Marguriette Bronson.
Hanging to his sanity by a thread, he will stop at nothing to understand this unbelievable whirlpool of events. Swirling around him are the signs of an emerging crime network involving espionage, drugs, diamonds, gold, even white slave trafficking. Is this all in his imagination? Who is pulling the strings-and why?
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The Domino Coincidence
By Roger Weston
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 Roger L Weston
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTHE BEGINNING–Plymouth April 23rd 2010
Rory Calder, stood at the apartments window, his head throbbing, aching, as if a steel band were around it. His body felt no better, it was being wracked – as if the torture instruments of the Middle ages, were being slowly tightened. Stretching every nerve fibre! Appropriate considering not only his present situation, but the City that he was in.
Outside cold bitter rain laced with hail and snow flurries, sleeted down from the north – swirling and smashing onto the glass, thick rivulets running to the wide stone sill, the streets below awash. Out across to the sea, black thick clouds were cut with vivid lightning flashes, and rolls of thunder shook the windows.
Rory's mind bounced from one thought to another – back again and then sideways over the events of the last weeks. He leant his head against the glass, and looked out across the park, past Smeaton's Tower and the Plymouth Dome, towards The Sound.
The reflection from the window against the dark sky beyond reflected his haggard image.
Calder was above average height, an inch under six feet. He was well built, with a strong muscled frame, his features under his long dark wavy hair were slightly too rugged to be called handsome, but he was considered by some of his former female companions, to be unusually attractive. His deep blue penetrating eyes had drawn him a considerable number of admirers, as did his personality – one that always took and interest – and he always listened, and rarely talked of himself. But at this present moment his face was tired – drawn – the eyes dark, sunken, the brow furrowed, the last thing on his mind was how he looked, but the thoughts – they were another matter.
Off to his right, he could just glimpse in the distance churning black water, with waves crested with white, cris-crossed by the stark frames of cranes. Beyond that, the Naval base, it's cold grey mass rose from the water - matching the stark cold of the morning – adding to his dark mood.
Away to the left the uncompromising Royal Citadel, the fortress constructed in 1666 to intimidate the population of the only town in the south west to be held by the Parliamentarians in the Civil War, another reminder of the bleakness of his situation.
Rory looked down into the street below, where early ants of cars, and fleas of people, scurried to and fro in the wet dawn light. He had been standing staring now for two hours, he'd watched the darkness fade to drizzled grey. But his mind, mulling over – at first slowly, then rushing through the turmoil of the previous days events, didn't lighten or enlighten any more than the skies would that morning.
It was fifteen days since the bodies of his wife and three children had been found, but only three days since he'd been contacted, requested to attend an interview, as it was first referred to, by the British Police in Plymouth.
Rory had been on holiday in Scotland, when the shock news reached him. It had numbed every fibre of his body and brain. It had taken several hours and a half a bottle of brandy to help alleviate the initial pain, stop the tears, the shaking, and the bile and vomit that was wrenched from his body.
He had taken a flight from Glasgow to Heathrow, this had been draining, as it had been delayed six hours because of the weather, and despite his being in the VIP lounge and virtually alone, the hours couped up had been extremely taxing – mentally. He had considered a rental car and driving down, but had rejected that and opted to fly. A decision he now regretted.
Then the journey, firstly from London to Bournemouth in a small uncomfortable underpowered hire car, (Hertz unusually, had not been helpful) had added further to his frustration. The traffic was unbelievably tight and heavy – and – the countryside that he loved as much as that back home took on a dark and sinister veneer.
Very tired and irritable, Rory stayed a night at a moderately priced, and very pleasant, comfortable Guest-house – Eartham Lodge, on Alumhurst Road.
It was in a pleasant area near the shoreline, and normally he would have found it a good place to stroll the town before dinner and the seaside later. But, after an adequate meal and several glasses of wine, he went to his room, threw himself onto the four-poster bed and looked out the window at the darkening sky. For some time he went over and over the previous days, then the weeks before – but his tired brain could come to no conclusions.
Eventually he shrugged of his clothes and crawled into the soft bed. He didn't sleep well, and after a restless night, he discarded the idea of breakfast and had left early, before six am.
Rory's aim was hopefully to avoid the choking traffic, but unfortunately not. All through the slow drive to Plymouth he wondered how and why? The 'how' – how had the police even known where he was? It wasn't as if he had been involved in anything to do with Serena for many months – that is – apart from the 'lawyers letters' that flowed from one side of the world to the other – and all around Britain – and the why. Why Plymouth for this meeting? If the accident had occurred near the Torbay area, surely Torquay, Brixham or Dartmouth, would have been one hell of a lot more convenient? He had suggested this, but had been cut short and he was just told – be in Plymouth – contact us as soon as you have settled in. He had considered ignoring their request – but had thought better of it considering the circumstances.
Now – nearly twelve hours, after leaving Dunoon in Scotland, Rory was in Plymouth. He'd been summoned for an Inquest – questioning, regarding Serena and his children's deaths. Rory supposed he could have refused, as he saw that there was little point in pursuing the matter as the accident had nothing to do with him. They had been estranged for a long time, more than two years. But it was his children – and he loved them dearly – deeply - he too needed answers as plainly the Police did. Yes the death of Serena was tragic – and in many ways produced deep sadness in him, but the loss of his children– this pain, the agony of that loss would not leave him – now – ever. He needed answers to all the 'whys and wherefores'. Whether he or they would get any, could be another story.
He'd booked into a Hotel – The Beeches, opposite Hoe Park – an easy stroll to the Barbican, the Mayflower steps and Sutton Harbour. An area, once again near the water, it was a quirk of his nature that wherever he went he had to be as close as possible to the sea – or a lake, and he loved this part of the old town the History that oozed from it fascinated him. This sometimes over fertile imagination, as he walked the old streets and wandered into the taverns and bars, took him back to the era of Drake and Spanish Armadas!
However this visit was nothing to do with fantasy or day dreaming – it was deadly serious - about death. He called the police and informed them that he'd arrived in the town and where he was staying.
The Police had – surprisingly – and somewhat strangely, he thought, adding to their already unusual previous requests – opted to interview him in a private room at the back of the Hotel – an area that was used for small conferences.
Their interrogation had begun with accusations and innuendo – questions to which he had no answers. He just had no idea what they were talking about, this didn't help the mood of the enquiry. Rory knew he had no information other than what they had been telling him and he had nothing that he could add in anyway.
In actual fact – apart from the fact that the tragedy touched him – more because of the children – yes and the loss of Serena, despite the antagonism over the last years, also touched sensitive nerves – there was in his opinion, no reason for him to be questioned at all.
Frustrating mind games had been played – by the Police, and by his own frustrated confused state, and these were taking an even greater toll on his nerves.
The Police had originally questioned him on the phone, for nearly an hour, immediately after they had rung to inform him of the accident. But it went much further this time – and he continued to be frustrated and puzzled as to why did they feel he may a suspect? They didn't answer this question and continued to ignore his pleas for answers to his 'whys'.
It crossed Rory's mind several times, as to why they hadn't asked him to accompany them to a Station or any other Police facility, or suggested he call his lawyer. They had talked, twisted words and phrases, delved, asked obscure yet wildly suggestive questions, often hardly waiting for an answer before going to their next point. But they really had nothing to go by – nothing at all to connect him to the accident. However an 'accident' was also becoming even more unlikely – so what and where was the truth?
Seemingly it appeared now, from the little he gleaned from them, that someone had deliberately set out to kill her, planned it all – and had 'they' – whoever this 'they' were, had also set out to kill the children - deliberately, or was that an unknown equation, and that the children were not expected to be in the car with Serena? The word 'deliberately' raged in his mind.
Rory had been tempted a number of times, to alter the direction of the questioning, and to inform them of his real occupation, and he wouldn't have been talking about his work at the University. But he refrained, it may have only served to complicate matters further – and that wouldn't be a wise move – and would not benefit anyone at this stage.
Serena's car had been found in the Dart river, near a caravan park outside the country town of Galmpton, about twenty miles south east of Torbay on the fringes of Dartmouth. There was evidently little damage to the car. All had drowned, all were still inside the vehicle, all the car's windows were partly open. This was strange, considering the time of day that the accident was said to have occurred. The weather conditions had been wet and cold, the road slippery, which may have been a factor. It appeared the car had skidded, rolled down a bank, and sunk into the slow moving waters where the river curved deeply into the side of the road.
In this instance, at this point of the investigation, excessive speed didn't appear to be a factor. Which Rory also found a fraction unusual. Serena was more than 'quite a fast driver'. He'd often commented about the speed she drove, the risks she took. Particularly when she had the children in the car. Serena had never appreciated his comments and they'd often argued over the matter. In fact they had argued over a considerable number of matters, including his work and the hours that it involved, and the secrecy.
The Police had questioned acquaintances, and professional colleagues – as to perhaps the reasons she'd been in the area. They had found an appointment diary in her briefcase, and an entry indicating that she was to have a meeting with her solicitor in Southampton around the time of the accident, also quite a large sum of money. The notation, 'Peterson and Waltham: Solicitors - James coming down from London - meet, Elizabeth House, The Avenue 3:30.' So why was she near Dartmouth?
Serena was travelling in the opposite direction and was miles away from where she perhaps was supposed to be. Why were the children with her? They should've been in their Boarding School.
The Police mentioned this to Rory early in the interview. He was completely unable to shed light on anything to do with it – nor did the names mean anything, they were not the names of the people that he had thought were representing her, and were definitely not the names on letters he had previously received from Serena's Lawyers.
The interrogation continued. The Detective Sergeant's voice had droning on. 'Where have you been for the last four months, Mr. Calder? Who have you seen? Have you been near your wife's car or her house? Why did you split up? The neighbours told us about your continual rows. They also gave us a description of a man coming to the house several times – it matches your description very closely!' over and over - continually repeating the same line.
Rory was stunned 'I've no idea where Serena's been living since she moved to England.' He shot back. 'I've never been to her house – I don't even have her phone number! I don't know who she was arguing with - it certainly wasn't me!'
They ignored his requests for information and repeated their same questions over and over again, occasionally rephrasing them, but they were still the same. All connected in some way – all had to do with their individual lives, and their marital problems.
Rory tried to answer sensibly - calmly, but their line of questioning and arrogant attitude eventually touched too many nerves, and he called his lawyer in London. He was advised to take it all quietly, to just follow the path they were trying to lead him down. Later they would discuss matters. The brief conversation had left him feeling helpless, out of the loop – whatever loop they were in! And of that he wasn't at all sure. It seemed from the tone of his legal eagle, to just say as little as possible and then forget it. That thought didn't sit well in Rory's mind.
This was another factor that had baffled him for a moment, until he realised what their angle may be - but he'd done some damage with one or two of his outbursts – damage that in the end would be of no significance at all.
'If you are accusing me of involvement in this accident – you can bloody well forget it!' It was more his tone and some of the adjectives, that hadn't helped his cause and that his voice had now risen in volume. Their glances and aside comments only served to increase his aggravation.
The fact that Rory had now, after nearly two hours, since he made his call to his legal advisor in London, that he demanded a lawyer present. That had produced satisfied smirks, and the Police suggested a local firm that may help. The Police Sergeant gave Rory the name of a supposedly reputable firm in Plymouth. He made his call, and was able to briefly 'brief' the solicitor he was put through to, about the situation.
When the Lawyer finally arrived around forty minutes later, and the interview continued, the Police told them of – "suspected tampering with the vehicle" - brake lines appeared to have been partially severed, and the steering was also suspect..
'Well it sure as hell wouldn't have been me – I wouldn't have a bloody clue how to do that – and as I was fucking long damned miles away – what are you suggesting, that I had a hit man on the job? Get a bloody life – you're living in fucking TV land!' Rory's outburst and deep anger didn't help the temper of the meeting – but it was quietly acknowledged that they weren't insinuating anything, as to whether or not that he had any involvement with the accident. More puzzles 'Why then – why am I here – being put through this 'third degree'?'
His outburst did nothing to improve the flavour of the moment, and the police carried on. The Sergeant's bland look the tone of his comment 'You're just helping with our enquiries sir,' was more acidic than before.
Rory admonished himself for being such an emotional twerp, it was not his normal behaviour or his character.
An inspection had been carried out within hours of the removal of the vehicle from the river. They'd obviously been extremely fast off the mark in their investigation of the scene and the removal of the car from the river.
He thought later about that, that it was possibly far too soon, under normal circumstances, but what were the circumstances for them to have investigated the vehicle?
After the interview, Rory spoke to the Lawyer regarding who he was, his occupation, and what he'd been doing in Australia, then the States, before he'd returned to Scotland for the last few days of his holiday. Also apart from this business of his estranged family, he should have been back in Cardiff at the University - getting organised for the next Semester. So this whole episode was causing a considerable inconvenience.
He suggested that it might now be a good idea to give that information to the Police. The Solicitor agreed, and said that he would do so, and that he would be in touch in a few days. He took down Rory's mobile number, asking also where he could be contacted. But, as they left the building with them, he said nothing and turned away in the opposite direction.
Rory had taken the Solicitors card, and put it in his wallet. He would call him as soon as he had stopped somewhere where he would be for more than a few days. Where that was at that point he was not sure. Probably back in Cardiff.
These arrangements never came to fruition.
Excerpted from The Domino Coincidence by Roger Weston Copyright © 2012 by Roger L Weston. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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