My thanks go to PapaGus for assisting me in preparing this story for posting
I hadn't been looking forward to the encounter, but it's one of the many crosses you have to bear in my profession. The victim of an unsolvable crime that had for some years laid dormant in our files, had asked to meet with the investigating officer and ... well, technically that was supposed to be me.
With no witnesses to the crime itself, and no further evidence coming to light in the years since it had taken place -- and it being doubtful that any ever would -- I feared the case was one of the many that would forever lie amongst our un-cleared-up files.
"Mr Thomas, good morning. Take a seat please?" I said when the gentleman was shown into my office.
"Good morning, Sergeant." He replied formally, placing the briefcase he carried on the floor beside it as he took the chair I'd indicated.
"Well sir, I gather that you have been enquiring as to whether we'd made any progress in your case."
"Yes well, I am a little curious."
I looked down at the unimpressively thin file of papers lying on the desk before me. I hadn't been part of the original investigating team at the time, but I had read the papers thoroughly in preparation for this encounter. That's when I knew it was going to be an encounter, between helpless detective and a victim he could do nothing for. As far as I could tell, the investigating officers at the time had asked all the right questions and looked in all the right dark corners. The problem was all I'd be able to tell him was that there literally was "Nothing to go on." It was a phrase that I feared I'd repeat several times during our encounter.
I figured that my best course of action was to summarise the case and what we had. Then I would let Peter Thomas ask any questions he wished. Only I doubted he would come up with any that hadn't been asked already.
"For reasons we can't ascertain, and because of your injuries, you are unable to remember." I added, taking a quick glance over the desk at Thomas. "On the morning of Tuesday 14th of April you left your office at ten-thirty. We have no idea where you went or why. However, by eleven-thirty or there about, you were on the lower level of the stairwell of the town centre car park. Two ladies ... their car park ticket was timed in at eleven twenty-two by the way, were entering the stairwell on the fifth deck, at what we believe was eleven-thirty, when they heard what they took to be, correctly, several gunshots. Frightened, they ran back out onto the fifth floor level and called the police.
"Officers arrived on the scene at eleven-forty and you were quickly discovered lying on the landing between the ground and first levels, with three bullet wounds: One to your head and two to your chest. Your wallet, watch, rings, car keys, and even the small change from your pockets had been stolen. No one saw your assailant, or assailants, or anyone else behaving suspiciously hanging around the car park, either before or after you were attacked.
"I'm very sorry to say, Mr Thomas, that there was very little to go on. I've read through the file and to be brutally honest with you sir ... there were no witnesses and ... well, we had nothing to go on."
"So you stopped looking?"
"Oh no sir, the case remains open. The weapon was probably a .25 calibre semi-automatic handgun, not very powerful. The Yanks would call something like that a "Saturday Night Special".
To that fact alone you probably owe your life. And if it gun shows up or is used again in another crime ... Well then at least we will have somewhere to start. These street muggings are very difficult nuts to crack Mr Thomas. If the culprit uses the same modus operandi regularly, then there's a chance we can tie several cases together and come up with something. Street robbery's using a gun are rare in this country and in your case we very much suspect that most likely the gun went off by mistake. The probably culprit panicked when he realised that he'd shot you. If he has any sense he'll probably have ditched the gun in the river or something. However, your case remains open in the files."
So you have stopped looking!" He repeated.
"Well, I can't see that we can do much more that what was done at the time, Mr Thomas." I replied looking down at the open file again, then for some reason -- probably to remind myself how much of a blind alley the investigating officers had been up against. I flicked through a couple of pages.
"Whenever another investigating officer is transferred into the department, he goes through all the current open files with a fresh eye. You know, I came to see you last year myself. We were hoping that you might have been able to recall some detail of your movements that morning. But as you know..."
I was floundering. There really wasn't very much I could say to the man.
"We've looked into..." I had a quick rethink about what I intended to say. "We've investigated everyone who might have a grudge against you, but there was nothing. We even went as far as checking with the insurance companies to see if ... but the only large policies on your life were not of a suspicious nature. You'd taken two of them out many years before to cover your mortgage and ... well the same standard policies I hold on my own life to look after my family in the event of anything unexpected happening.
"Sir, the officers on the case at the time had absolutely nothing to go on. They had to come to the conclusion that it was just a random mugging. I'm sorry to have to admit that unless some further evidence comes to light that suggests that it wasn't, I very much doubt the case will ever be solved."
Having read the report thoroughly, I felt really sorry for the guy. The three wounds he'd suffered had been serious, and had it been a larger weapon, the one to his head would certainly have proved fatal. As it was, he'd been left in a coma on a life support machine for three years with the doctors telling everyone that he'd probably never come out of it. Actually, after eight months and with a court order, the life support machine had been switched off. But Peter Thomas had surprised the quacks by continuing to breath. However they said that with so little brain activity, they thought he'd remain in the coma forever. Even if he did wake-up he would probably be little more than a cabbage.
A later attempt was made to obtain a Court Order to withdraw sustenance from Peter Thomas. That was refused after the intervention of some right to life organisation.
After two years even his family had appeared to give up on the idea that Peter Thomas would ever regain consciousness. Whilst visiting her husband at the hospital, his wife had struck up a friendship with a man by the name of William Bowman.
Bowman's wife had been admitted to the same hospital suffering from acute liver failure caused by the excessive self-administration of para-acetylaminophenol. Everyday Paracetamol or Panadol tablets to the likes of you and I, and the most common cause of liver failure in the UK and numerous other countries.
By all accounts it wasn't an attempted suicide or anything; Bowman's wife was a bit of a hypochondriac and ... well, shall we say a little delicate mentally, and at the same time she had a rather highly stung nature. It was ascertained -- yes, the officers on Thomas's case were looking at every angle, even at that late stage -- that William Bowman's wife had accidentally overdosed herself with Paracetamol.
Exactly when a romance developed between the William Bowman and Mrs Thomas, there's nothing in the files to even suggest. But after Bowman's wife had passed on, he and Mrs Thomas stayed in touch, Bowman often sitting with Mrs Thomas during her long vigils at her husband's bedside.
Eventually the inevitable happened, they fell in love. Mrs Thomas divorced her husband and then married William Bowman. The officers on Thomas's case took another long hard look at Bowman and Mrs Thomas, but could come up with nothing that showed that either knew that the other existed until the then Mrs Bowman suffered her liver failure.
Why did I know all this? Because it was all in Peter Thomas's file. Just because we officially considered the attack on him had been a mugging doesn't mean to say that we'd closed our eyes to any other possible scenario.
Another eighteen months or nearly two years passed, before Mr Thomas had defied all medical opinion and came out of his coma. Officers had been at his bedside within hours of receiving the news. But to begin with, Peter Thomas suffered from acute amnesia and had very little memory of his adult life. Over the following months his he regained most of his memories.
Was I glad that I hadn't been the officer on the case when he recalled his marriage in detail, and ... well shit, he was obviously aware that his wife had divorced him whilst he'd been unconscious before he'd even recalled that they'd been married. The doc's had had the pleasure of informing him of that fact. But weren't I pleased that I hadn't been around at that time.
"So you see Mr Thomas unless a witness turns up from somewhere or some new evidence comes to light; or you regain some memory of exactly what happened that particular morning, I'm sorry, but very much doubt we'll ever make any further progress in the case."
I kinda hoped that was going to be the end of the interview. But Peter Thomas had an odd expression on his face, that made me ask.
"You haven't remembered anything further, have you?"
"No, but I think I've found some evidence ... well I suppose you could say that I've found a witness really."
Peter Thomas picked up his briefcase and placed it on his lap. Opening it he produced a framed photograph and handed it to me to look at.
I was a little surprised to find that picture was of his daughter and her husband on their wedding day. I even thought I recalled seeing it before when I'd visited their house whilst familiarising myself with the Thomas case.
Standard procedure is to re-interview everyone possible when you take over a cold case, just to make sure something hasn't been overlooked.
"That is your daughter and her husband." I said, letting Peter Thomas know that I'd recognised his daughter. "She's a very beautiful young lady."
"Thank you. What do think of the jewellery she's wearing?"
"Real diamonds are they?"
"Yes, my wife's. At least fifty grand's worth at today's prices."
"Impressive, I hope they are kept securely locked away?"
"I had a hidden second safe put into the house, to store them in. The pendant I bought my wife on our fifth wedding anniversary."
"Lucky lady, my wife would kill for a pendant like that."
"I had the matching earrings made for our tenth anniversary!"
"Very impressive, they must have cost a fortune!"
"They did. But not as much as the necklace I had made to our fifteenth anniversary. The tiara my daughter is wearing is actually the necklace, it fits onto a wire frame. When it's worn as a necklace the pendant can attached to it, with a little clip. Or as you can see, the pendant can be worn separately on its own chain."
"Very adaptable, and a skilled craftsman must have made it." I commented.
"Certainly, a little man who has a workshop on Monk Street. Coleman; do you know him?"
"I know of him, Mr Thomas. But on my salary, my wife is very unlikely to ever find something of his residing in her jewellery box." I replied with a smile.
"Quite, I'm sorry. Anyway, that jewellery my daughter is wearing is my witness!"
"I'm sorry?" I had no idea what Peter Thomas was referring to.
"Well you see Sergeant, my wife lent that jewellery to our daughter so she could wear it on her wedding day. As you are aware, I've done all right for myself over the years and my wife had plenty of other jewellery she could wear. She couldn't outshine the bride on her wedding day anyway, could she?"
I nodded in agreement with Peter Thomas, even if I had no idea where his was leading me. Sometimes it's better to let folks tell it in their own way.
"Well regretfully before she returned the jewellery my daughter must have tried to fit the pendant back onto the necklace and she slightly damaged the clip that secures it in place. I noticed it when I took the set out to have a look at it. You know, that our twentieth was coming up and, I suppose I was wondering whether Coleman could add anything further to the set.