Ian fiddled with his watch, he couldn’t get the step counter to synchronise with his smartphone. Mike teased him that the watch couldn’t handle any more connections while his wife was using it to track his whereabouts. Mike knew Ian was worried about his wife leaving him, they had been arguing a lot – more than usual. He had bought the watch to get in shape, for her. Mike also knew that Ian was distracting himself with the watch, telling himself he was making an effort. The effort he needed to make was to talk to her. Mike also knew she was having an affair, everyone knew. Was she hoping that Mike would tell his friend that his marriage was over? Mike didn’t like that idea. He didn’t like Ian that much, they weren’t proper friends, they were colleagues. After seven years working and drinking together, people just assumed they were the best of friends. Mike had never once asked Ian to join him for a drink. The concerts, the films, the football matches, all Ian’s ideas.

Mike had a frightening thought If Lisa kicks him out, I’m all he’s got. This boiled potato could turn up at my house one night, looking for a place to stay. He had to do something. The first step would be to find out who Lisa was having an affair with.

It was a dark and stormy night, Mike opened their wheelie bin, took a bag home and opened it in his garage. The flickering blueish light exposed the contents and smell of his friend’s domestic routine. Junk mail, credit card bills, a mouldy orange, a brand-new book entitled “Wait. The useful Art of Procrastination”, receipts, and a business card; Charles Thornton, Redmill Publishing. Lisa was a small business advisor at a high street bank, why would she throw away a business card? Something to hide? Then he found the bank statements, two withdrawals of seven thousand, one of six thousand. She’s moving money before springing the divorce. I suppose that’s how it goes; she must have seen a lawyer already.

Mike went onto an office networking website and found Redmill, eighteen staff where on the website and he had second degree contacts with two of them. He sent off a jovial email claiming he was trying to reconnect with his old friend Charles Thornton. They had never heard of him. A google search found thousands of Charles Thorntons, that was no help. He called the number from the business card, Charles answered, Mike panicked and hung up the phone. He had a feeling that he might have made a mistake.

Charles Thornton looked at the number on his phone screen, he called his contact at the phone company and got a name for 25 pounds, Michael Thompson. A few minutes on the internet and he had Mike’s address and social media pages. He made the connection with Ian and called Lisa. Charles demanded another twelve thousand, he said he would have to get rid of Mike too. Lisa argued that Mike was Charles’s problem, it wouldn’t come back to her. Things got heated, she agreed to five thousand more if he would get a move on. Lisa cursed Mike, five thousand pounds for that useless lump of lard. I could have had a spa weekend with that money; I could have had a week.

The last Friday of the month was always casual Friday at work followed by drinks at the pub. Lisa would join Ian and Mike and their colleagues and then the three would share a taxi to Ian and Lisa’s house for a nightcap. Mike would then walk home, it was a familiar pattern, this time there was a difference. Charles Thornton had been watching them. Lisa had forgotten most of what she had told Charles in their one meeting. Charles habitually extended conversations long after he had what he needed, Lisa would naturally only remember the parts that were most interesting for her. He sat opposite the pub and ate a ham and mustard sandwich. When he was finished, he left them to finish their evening and went to their house. He let himself in and waited.

Inspector Hartley arrived once the scene had been secured. He would be the lead investigator. The Constables on the scene filled him in; a classic love triangle, husband shoots the lovers and turns the gun on himself. The gun was there, in the Ian’s cold dead hand, which was still a bit warm. The neighbour confirmed that Lisa was having an affair. They did the routine forensic checks and went back to the station. By the end of the following week Hartley was in Superintendent Robertson’s office with the draft report. There were a few loose ends. The missing money from Lisa’s bank account, the neighbour’s claim that Mike was not the man having the affair with Lisa, and the business card in Mike’s pocket from the untraceable Charles Thornton.

Superintendent Robertson took the view that the neighbour was mistaken, as witnesses often are, and the money must be stashed away in preparation for a divorce. He concluded that only Mike could have told them who Charles Thornton was, there was no reason think he was connected to the case, and every case has a red herring or two. Hartley thought that Thornton was the secret lover, and he must have staged the whole scene, Mike was just visiting his best friend. Why would Thornton kill Lisa? Why did Thompson have Thornton’s business card? asked Robertson, citing William of Ockham – the simpler answer is the usually the correct answer; it’s a love triangle, plain and simple. On top of that, 95% of all murders are domestic, the victim knows the killer, it all adds up.

They agreed to leave these little musings of the final report, it looked like a job well done. The business card and bank statements were filed and archived. The town Mayor commended all of the brave officers and constables involved.

19 July 2021