Chapter Sixteen

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I drove out to Pebble Deeping the following lunchtime, the comfort of my bed proving too much for my new early morning regime. I wound down all the windows and turned my tape deck up high, blasting Guns N' Roses out across the country lanes and enjoying both the music and the blast of air ruffling my hair.

As I passed through the village I saw Martha Wimple coming out of the post office-cum-general store with some groceries in her arms. Taking advantage of this fortuitous happening, I slowed to a crawl and pulled up next to her on the pavement.

"Can I give you a lift home?" I bellowed, trying to out-do Axel Rose. She ducked and peered through the window, beaming when she saw me.

"Sure Satchmo," she said. I opened the door for her and turned the music down. "Cool car," she giggled at me bopping along to the music.

"All the chicks dig a beetle." I made the Beetle drivers' recognition hand signal and she laughed.

Having checked out the first of the possible avenues with my research on Michaels, here was a chance to pursue the other.

"I was meaning to ask you something ... " I tapped out the beat to Paradise City as I drove through the village.

"Of course, Satchmo," Martha replied.

"Who knew about your father's work? More specifically, who could have known that he might have found the gold?" 

I took a quick glance at her out of the corner of my eye; she had one arm out of the window. The breeze blowing a stray strand of her hair about like a pennant, she blinked rapidly with the wind in her eyes and I had to swallow hard and remind myself to look at the road. 

Take me down to the Paradise City, where the grass is green and the girls are pretty ...

"Well ... " she answered, "everyone who knew my father's work also knew his theory. He made sure of that! Let's see; his colleagues at the university, his students, anyone who read his articles in the journals." She counted the groups off on her fingers.

"He didn't have any enemies? No cases of academic jealousy?" I probed a little.

"Enemies!" She laughed. "No, my father had no enemies and his colleagues saw him as a laughing-stock, an eccentric to be humoured not envied." She tucked the strand of hair behind her ear.

"You want to know who had the knowledge and motive to kill my father for the gold?" She asked.

I could see her chewing her bottom lip in my peripheral vision. It could be concentration in thought, could be a nervous tic.

"Yup," I nodded.

"Then you seriously believe he might have been murdered for some archaeological relics?" She sounded incredulous.

"It exists as a possibility," I continued to tap the steering wheel. 

Oh won't you please take me home?

"Why haven't the police raised this then?" Martha demanded.

"Come off it, do you want the authorities involved? There is no real evidence, no suspect and now no motive. There was nothing obviously suspicious about the death of your father. If they did become involved and the artifacts were found before you turned up your father's papers, who would get the glory? The academic kudos? Not you or your father." I stepped through the logic without thinking about how it sounded.

"Are you suggesting that I did not contact the police to ensure I could save academic face?" She was indignant, colour had risen to her cheeks and there was a bolt of lightning in her vivid green eyes.

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