Chapter 30 The Second Murder

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Riggs straightened up and took two steps away from the body. "So, he was shot from just about here?"

Dr. Hara nodded and closed his black bag. "That would match the entry point for the wound."

"Being so close, our murderer wouldn't need great aim to hit him."

"That's true, but the murderer fired one shot and got him through the heart. That may have been luck or the murderer may have known what he was doing. Two inches lower and Rompier could have lasted fifteen or twenty."

"One bullet at six feet," Riggs said to himself. Then he turned to the doctor, "Could you take a look in his bathroom? He had a few bottles of pills. They could be important."

"You think he was on dope?"

Riggs shrugged. "He's behavior and the way he spoke was often...erratic."

"I'll have a look," Dr. Hara said. He went to the bathroom and the police photographer resumed his work. Riggs considered the situation. There was no sign of robbery or a break-in and except for the sizable bruise on Rompier's jaw, there was no sign of a struggle. All very tidy. The front door was ajar and Riggs heard a woman's voice talking to Inspector Turner.

"It's okay, Turner," he called out.

The young officer stepped aside and Victoria came in. She stopped short when she saw the body on the floor.

"That's right," Riggs said, "you're not used to the gritty side of things."

She stepped beside him and looked down at Bernard's unnatural form. "I wouldn't be too sure of that," she mumbled. "The war was rather gritty." She walked over to the telephone and began looking around. "And I hope I always find murdered body disturbing. Do you have the weapon?"

"Not yet. Fisher's down the fire escape having a look around."

"What about that bruise on his jaw? It looks like somebody hit him."

Riggs nodded. "Maybe, but he was probably standing up when he was shot."

Dr. Hara came back from the medicine cabinet. "I found a couple things for headaches and sleeping, but I'll have to have it analyzed to be sure. And I'll let you know about his body as soon as I've had a chance to do the autopsy."

"How long has been dead?" Victoria asked.

The doctor looked at his watch. "At least an hour and a half before Hattie telephoned us but it could have been as many as three hours. I'd say he was shot sometime between 11 o'clock and 12:30."

Riggs said, "The man next door said he heard a loud noise about a 12:15. He thought a car had backfired."

Victoria went over to the windows, looked down onto the street, and muttered something to herself. Then she turned back and asked, "And what about Loretta Newcastle? How long had she been dead when you saw her, doctor?"

Dr. Hara said, "That case was easy since Mr. and Mrs. Forrester witnessed the crime being committed."

"That's right," Riggs agreed, "we know that Loretta Newcastle was murdered at 7:43."

Victoria frowned, but before she could say anything they heard a rumble from outside and Fisher's panting voice announced, "I found it."

The young inspector came in from the fire escape. He was holding a gun with his handkerchief. "It was under the bushes out back, just off of the alleyway. I'd say either someone dropped it out the kitchen window or they left it when they ran out the fire escape."

"Probably the kitchen window," Riggs said. "The fire escape door was locked on the inside." Riggs examined the gun. "Standard army issue."

"And there's another thing," Victoria said. "I think Hattie's being followed."

"She's still in the police car, isn't she?"

"Yes, but she's scared. She says Bernard knew who the murderer was. He telephoned her this morning and warned her to be careful. Loretta's memorial service is at four o'clock."

Riggs looked at his watch and swore. Then he turned to Fisher. "We're not going to take any chances. Stay with Hattie Lake and contact me when the services are over. Take her wherever she needs to go, but don't leave her alone."

"Understood." Fisher nodded and left.

"As soon as this memorial is over, I want to talk to all of them. We received a telephone from one of Clyde Newcastle's neighbors. Apparently, a man matching Rompier's description confronted Clyde at his house early this morning. The exchange got violent. Newcastle hit the man on the jaw."

"Where is Newcastle?"

Riggs frowned. "The school secretary said he showed up this morning, but left within an hour."

Victoria raised her eyebrow.

"And according to the neighbor," Riggs went on, "the man who accosted Newcastle this morning accused him of murdering his wife."

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