Detective Victor Vernon, stared at the pictures of the three suspects with an expressionless face but eyes as fierce as those of a glaring lion.
After a thorough investigation into the case of missing accountant John Williams, the investigative faculty had zeroed on those three suspects.
The first was Jamie Smith, the chubby owner of ‘Smith’s liquor house’, the liquor shop where Williams was last spotted.
Next to him was Percy Sexton, Williams’ high school friend who according to his fiancé was the person closest to Williams in the town.
And then was Rochelle Harvey, to whom Williams was engaged.
“John Williams was last spotted at your liquor shop, was he a regular, did you know him already?” asked Vernon with voice grave enough to intimidate Jamie Smith.
“Yes sir, he visited every week, we were quite friendly,” replied Smith.
“Do you remember the day he visited last?” asked Vernon.
“No sir, but it was around six in the evening,” said Smith.
“What did he talk about?” asked Vernon tilting his head a bit to the right.
Smith looked back quickly and turned before he replied-
“He talked about the rugby game between the Bulls and Lions, from the previous day.”
“Just that? Nothing else?” insisted Vernon.
“No sir, it was a short conversation,” said Smith.
“Very well,” said Vernon as he rose and walked out of the chamber.
“It was Tuesday evening he called me,” replied Percy Sexton.
“Tuesday you say?” asked Detective Vernon in a confirming voice.
“Yes sir,” said Sexton.
“What did he say?” asked Vernon.
“He asked me to meet at the Greenwood Park,” said Sexton.
“Did you go?” asked Vernon.
“Yes sir I did go, in fact we clicked a picture together,” replied Sexton.
“It’s on your phone?” asked Vernon.
“Yes sir,” replied Sexton.
“Hey, Jackson!” called Vernon, “Can you get me Mr. Sexton’s phone?”
“Sure sir,” said Jackson who was standing outside the chamber.
Jackson fetched the phone. Vernon checked it, brought up the picture and showed it to Sexton.
“This?” asked Vernon.
“Yes sir,” replied Sexton.
“So, this is the last photograph of John Williams?” asked Vernon. Sharpness shining in his voice.
“Last with me, it was taken on the same day he disappeared,” said Peter.
“What did he talk about?” asked Vernon.
“He was sad. He even said he wanted to end his life,” said Peter.
“Did he give any reason for his sadness?” asked Vernon.
“He said he was not at all happy with his job as an accountant.” Said Peter.
Vernon lit a cigar as he leaned back on the chair. A stream of tear rolled down Peter’s cheek as he said-
“Sir save him please, after the death of my wife he is the only family I have.”
Vernon didn’t reply.
“He called me yes.” Admitted Rochelle.
“For what?” asked Vernon.
“To wish me happy birthday,” said Rochelle.
“It was your birthday? What date it was?” asked Vernon, hiding the excitement of finding a lead under the garb of his usual sternness.
“27th November,” said Rochelle.
“Did he say anything else?”
“Just asked about the health of my mother, nothing else,” replied Rochelle.
“Did he ever mention any dissatisfaction with his job?” asked Vernon.
“He did mention that occasionally,” replied Rochelle.
“Was he too worried about it?” asked Vernon.
“He was worried as far as I can tell,” replied Rochelle.
Victor Vernon scratched his head and said-
Two days later
Three suspects sat in a line. There were three police officers in the chamber. Victor Vernon entered the room. The door smashed against the wall due to the rage with which Vernon pushed it open. Without wasting a moment, Vernon held Percy by his jaw and asked him-
“Where is Williams?”
“What do you mean!” exclaimed Percy, in a voice that seemed as squeezed as his face.
“Well then…” said Vernon.
The next few moments witnessed some brutal violence, until a distorted faced Percy said-
“He is in my outhouse. Unconscious!”
Blood gushed out from every inch of his face. His nose was broken. His right eye…swollen.
A look at Percy’s face and Jamie smith fell unconscious.
Rochelle was awestruck. She felt betrayed. Percy was the person Williams trusted the most. All she could say at that moment was-
“Let me tell you madam,” said Vernon as he washed blood from his hands.
“John Williams visited Jamie’s liquor shop at around 6.00 pm on a November evening. He talks about the past day’s rugby match and leaves. He calls you wishes you happy birthday, which comes every year on 27th November. Also, the rugby game that Williams talked about to Jamie happened on 26th November. This confirms the fact that Percy was kidnapped on 27th November. Now, according to what Mr. Sexton said, that Williams called him to meet at the Greenwood Park the day he was kidnapped. Mr. Sexton also supports this with a photograph.”
Saying so, detective Vernon brought up a printed version of the photograph that Percy showed him during interrogation. He showed it to Rochelle.
“Was this the dress, Williams wore that day mam?” asked Vernon.
“No this is the hood he wore the previous day, that day he was wearing a northface jacket,” said Rochelle.
“Exactly this is the picture from the previous day. Percy planned it all very carefully he only got the day wrong, because 27th November was a Wednesday not a Tuesday as Mr. Sexton said,” concluded Vernon.
“But why Percy? Why?” asked Rochelle.
“Because I wanted you, I wanted you Rochelle…I wanted you. John didn’t deserve you,” said Percy.
Rochelle slapped him on his already bloodied face.
“You will never be the man he is,” said Rochelle as she burst into tears.
John Williams was rescued by the officers. He married Rochelle and left his apartment to live with Rochelle and her mother. Percy Sexton after the completion of his punishment left the town to live a new life.
Jamie Smith’s liquor shop now had a new regular. Detective Victor Vernon.