Det. Cosgrove was sitting in a smaller meeting room with Con. Doyenne, when the forensic pathologist made an appearance. His preliminary diagnosis was that Banks’ died primarily from a poison administered in beer, almost definitely a plant based derivative. His likely candidate was moonseed. There was a slightly unpleasant smell to it, perhaps mitigated by its scent of honey, found on the spoon next to the bottles. Given the tight time frame of the events, he couldn’t at this point narrow time of death beyond a window wide enough for multiple second party scenarios. There didn’t appear to be any prints on the beer bottles or the glasses aside from the victim’s. The detective showed the doctor the small piece of, presumably, beer label, and pointed out the slightly embellished metallic scent. A quick inspection by the pathologist provided an opinion that there could be a higher content of lead or cadmium, commonly found in such labels, than usual.
While her boss was mulling this over, Con. Doyenne fleshed out her main report from her search upstairs.
The lodge abode of treasure hunt winner Stanley embraced contradiction. On the one hand, a thick lined pad filled with notes and speculations about Y2K fallout, on the other, a pair of gaudy, celebrity jackets, each worth at least five figures, hanging in the closet. On his desk was a Hamleton ATAS club ten year anniversary pin. In Ms. Quinn’s room the constable found a guide concerning auctions and collectibles shows coming up in 2000. Circled, with maroon ink, were ones featuring vintage watches. Sanders’ room included a display case with bottles of Macallan, Glenfiddich, and Bowmore brand whiskies, plus two six-packs of lager beer, a dark one and a fruit infused one, both apparently unopened. On Currie’s desk there were half a dozen eight by ten colour prints of antique furniture, specifically clocks. In a briefcase were photocopies of other prints akin to Poe or Lovecraft, similar to those of Banks. Next to the briefcase was a large bowl of pretzels. Aside from expensively finished miniatures of classic cars, parked on desks and tables in Blackburn’s room, the noteworthy item was his club ten year anniversary pin. The unretrieved clue sheets were found in the accommodations of Ms. Heath and Broughton, along with lists of five expensive wines, hers whites, his reds.
Det. Cosgrove sat, musing, “The murderer coordinated extracting those documents, and putting Banks out of commission, so quickly and quietly”
Feeling an opening, Con. Doyenne said, “Whoever it was, how could he or she be able to open the case, sir? As we know, the director put the one and only key in the lodge safe, at the request of Mr. Banks. He closed and locked the portfolio. Director Ryder, just before leaving the room with the victim’s key, stated he happened to glance as Mr. Banks was closing it, and he swears there were several documents in each pocket.”
“Let’s have another look at that portfolio case.” The detective picked up the key from the lodge safekeeping, and led his assistant briskly upstairs.
Before opening the case, they made a thorough search of the room, but found nothing helpful, certainly no other keys. Det. Cosgrove examined the portfolio case. Clearly it required the right key. He looked assiduously at the aperture, and found a microscopic scratch. But it was problematic that this was meaningful, since a clarification would not be coming from Banks. He used the key to open the portfolio case. An extremely high quality, gilt lining, with leather lined pockets was revealed. Letters of Intent, and projections concerning possible Y2K scenarios, were in one embossed pocket. The other slot stood out like a mini, abandoned closet. As Con. Doyenne concluded her search elsewhere, the detective sat in an easy chair and surveyed the scene.
Another issue. Banks apparently died after drinking beer spiked with poison, its sour taste muffled with honey. Why would Banks even drink something that didn’t taste right in the first place? Wouldn’t he be suspicious?
Could any of them be ruled out? One parameter was opportunity. As things stood, no one was eliminated yet.
Det. Cosgrove asked the lodge director to see him. “Would any member be able to gain access to what you secured in your safe, by a request on behalf of another?”
Corban Ryder looked back with a mix of horror and concern. “I don’t know if this is supposed to be some kind of a test, detective, but no, only the member can request direct access to his or her valuables. Unless the person is assigned power of attorney. And even then…”, he trailed off, seemingly uncomfortable with such a possibility. He shook it off, and resumed, “Before you ask, detective, let me assure you I speak for my employees in following responsible procedure.”
“Thank you, we’ll take it on your word for now. Please send Mr. Blackburn back here.”
Blackburn returned looking a little frustrated. “How can I help you now, detective?”
“Mr. Blackburn, I need contact information for Mr. Banks, particularly his personal assistant or associate back in town. A couple of issues to follow-up.”
Det. Cosgrove spent almost twenty minutes on the phone, mostly with Banks’ assistant. The detective seemed satisfied as he hung up the phone. He looked at the constable. ‘”Let’s go back upstairs and have another look in a couple of the rooms.”
“Then I want to see all of them in the conference room.”
An atmosphere combining expectation and discomfort hung over the surviving members of the Hamleton ATAS club assembled around the conference table. None, however, seemed to want to betray their feelings, so a glance would have found a sea of stoicism, at least superficially. Det. Cosgrove, flanked by Con. Doyenne and Alina Munroe, clutching her ever-present notepad, slowly gazed around the room. As the detective spoke, his deliberate delivery pierced the air.
“We have a particularly challenging situation here, ladies and gentlemen. I’m not going to waste time, there are logistical considerations. Given the time frame and proximity of the crime, you all appear to have had opportunity to do in Mr. Banks. Let me be clear, I’m convinced this is a murder, and at least one of you is involved in it.”
“As far as motive is concerned, we’re looking at shades of black. Groups of investors like yourselves naturally have reason to worry about what could actually happen around the world January first. In that sense, anyone in the developed world has a stake. However, when we consider your exposure individually, it seems likely that your perceived level of exposure coincides with the amount of your interaction with Mr. Banks. Some of you reacted to Banks’ intentions as more of a threat. Nevertheless, each of you has reason to feel at least some degree of peril. Potential motives.”
“A corollary issue is the significance of the stolen papers from the victim’s portfolio case, and what happened to those papers. It seems certain that these were more important than the letters of intent which were not taken. We can assume they directly tie-in to motive.”
“We now come to the third ingredient of the murder triumvirate, means or method. It’s in this analysis things will become clearer as to who is guilty.”
“In short, underlying this investigation are the questions of, how exactly were the murder and thefts perpetrated, and where are the containers of the poison and the stolen papers now? ”
Det. Cosgrove waited for reactions. He settled for a rapt audience.
He resumed. “What we have ascertained includes the following.”
“At least two of you were seen confronting the victim at the cocktail party, namely, Mr. Sanders and Mr. Stanley. But, of course, one or more of you might have done the same less obviously, there or elsewhere. Some of you have admitted this. I have discovered, for instance, that at least Mr. Blackburn and Mr. Stanley are long time members, presumably somewhat proudly so in view of having brought your ten year pins here. How much is the stability and integrity of the club at stake, as far as you gentlemen are concerned? Whatever everyone’s responses during our interviews, the fact is I can’t rule any of you out in terms of access to the victim around the time of the murder. If this was accomplished as seamlessly as it appears, the chance to have done so unseen is real.”
“Now, what is the most likely composition of the missing papers? Something to do with the missing prints? I think not. Considering the juxtaposition to the letters of intent, which by definition are intentions, not done deals, it’s very probable the missing documents represent decisions actually taken – namely, sell orders he intended to put through tomorrow!”
“Speaking of the three prints found in the rooms of Ms. Quinn, Mr. Currie, and Mr. Stanley, I suspect this was primarily intended to muddy the waters, little more. By the way, I assume you all appreciate, and have no objection, to the fact that the constable and I conducted thorough searches of your rooms.”
“I also believe the bottles of beer and glasses on the bar next to the body served as a diversion, that is, not the real source of the poisoning.”
Det. Cosgrove was a little annoyed to see that the dynamic of his control was being breeched. Broughton periodically glancing at his portable computer. Ms. Heath secretly flipping coins. Blackburn mentally working on, perhaps, his next agenda. Currie fantasizing, probably, about a world of antique stores selling netherworld mementoes. The detective stared, shrugged, and continued.
“What we have ascertained about the murder is that the victim ingested a small amount of alcohol, specifically beer of an unknown variety, laced with a plant based poison and honey. Only the spoon on the scene of the crime indicates this. It’s not even certain, at this time, the poison on the spoon is the same as what did in the victim. The two open bottles hold no scent or taste of poison. Since I maintain it’s not on the bar, where is the bottle with the poison? With respect to the physical scene, the lack of mess or damage implies that the final drink of Mr. Banks was held in otherwise cordial circumstances, meaning in all likelihood with a well-known acquaintance from whom immediate threat was not apparent. Somehow he was persuaded to let down his guard, at least concerning his taste buds. He allowed himself to drink a potion posing as a flavoured beer.”
“It’s also apparent that the murder occurred smoothly and efficiently for the murderer, to the extent of being undetected long enough to give Banks the fatal drink, set up the death scene, meanwhile opening the case and escaping with the missing documents. Plus, of course, the poisoned bottle.” Det. Cosgrove deliberately stopped to look around at the members as he said, “Save for overlooking a portion of a label, found on the floor in the washroom.”
The detective slowly drank a glass of water. An air of nervous expectation re-emerged as the distracted members quietly refocused.
He continued, “Expertise was required in accomplishing the two actions in Banks’ room. Opening the case without a key and without damaging it for one. Successfully administering the poison, then hiding it quickly and securely enough.”
“Anyone have any thoughts?”
(end of part four)