Chapter 1: The Interview
Tom Lynch sat quietly, waiting for the detective to begin. The man was studying a report, probably re-familiarizing himself with the known facts. A woman sat beside him, looking across the table at Tom Lynch, but saying nothing. At length, he closed the folder and spoke.
"I'm Pavel Janecek, Detective Sergeant, E Division. This is Detective Philliponi. We'd like to talk to you about the disappearance of your wife on the night of April 23rd, this year."
"Why?" Tom asked. "I thought this was all covered when I reported her missing to the Coast Guard."
"Perhaps. However, there have been a couple of developments that they wouldn't have been aware of when you gave your account of the incident."
"How would you describe your relationship with your wife, Mr. Lynch?"
"Fine. It was great. We've been married eighteen years and still going strong. At least ... we were until ... the accident."
"You weren't having any trouble ... you know ... married trouble?"
"No ... not at all!" he said emphatically. "What's this about, Detective?"
"Do you know a man named Brandon Collingsworth?"
"No. Should I?"
"He's one of the senior accountants at Samples and Reed where your wife worked. Are you sure you don't know him?"
"Yes, I'm sure. I didn't have much contact with Veronica's business associates. She didn't report to him, she reported to Marcel Lapierre. They didn't have social occasions that we would attend. Very much a business first and only company. Again, Detective, what's this all about?"
Janecek sighed and leaned back in his chair, still not taking his eyes off Thomas Lynch.
"We had an anonymous tip a few days ago that your wife and Mr. Collingsworth were having an affair. Apparently it had been going on for several months. You knew nothing about this?" he asked sceptically.
Lynch stumbled to say something. The look of shock on his face was telling.
"I don't believe it. An anonymous tip? What does that have to do with her disappearance?"
"Are you saying you had no idea your wife was having an affair with anyone?"
"Yes ... Hell yes!" Tom spat. "I don't believe it. What proof do you have?"
For the first time, Detective Philliponi spoke.
"We interviewed several people at your wife's office. More than one of them suspected there was something going on between Collingsworth and Mrs. Lynch. She wouldn't normally have any contact with him. He was in another department and quite a bit senior to her."
"You're relying on office gossip!" Tom said in an accusatory voice.
"Not entirely, Mr. Lynch," Janecek answered. "We also interviewed Mr. Collingsworth. It took a while, but faced with the rumours and the fact that he thought we had some evidence, he finally admitted that they were seeing each other."
"What evidence?" Tom asked, now pale and looking bewildered.
"The company has security cameras, and by checking them randomly over the past six months, we found several examples of the two of them being quite a bit more friendly than would be appropriate in the office. I think it's safe to say that they were involved at least to some extent and had been for several months."
Tom Lynch's eyes became glassy and he was shaking his head slowly back and forth.
"I can't believe it. I ... there was no hint ... no sign. Why?" he asked, more to himself than the detectives.
Janecek shrugged and Philliponi remained motionless and expressionless as they continued to observe the man.
At length, Tom raised his head and looked at them both.
"Why am I here? Why is the RCMP involved in this?"
"There's a possibility that this could be a suspicious death, Mr. Lynch," Philliponi said. "Perhaps you found out about your wife's cheating and decided to do away with her. Much cheaper than divorce."
"That's crazy. First of all, I didn't know anything about her cheating on me. Secondly, I'm not a murderer. I might have divorced her ... or maybe she was planning on divorcing me, but I wouldn't have killed her."
"That's what all the husbands say," Philliponi said, "but sometimes rage can overtake common sense and bad things happen. You read about it in the papers almost every week."
"So ... are you saying I'm now a suspect in the disappearance of my wife?" Lynch asked aggressively.
"No ... not at this time," Janecek said quietly. "We'd just like to go over the facts with you one more time. I realize you gave the Coast Guard a full report, but we'd like to get your statement on the record here for our own files."
Tom Lynch sat quietly, looking at the two detectives. His mind was working a mile a minute and he was visibly uncomfortable.
"All right. One more time. But if you want to talk to me after this, it will be with my lawyer present. Keep that in mind," he said.
Janecek nodded. Philliponi rose and went to a water cooler, bringing back two cups of cold water, placing one in front of each of the two men before returning to get one for herself.
Janecek opened the file in front of him and passed several pages to his partner. Tom could see that the top page showed Coast Guard letterhead. It was a copy of the statement he gave the morning after the accident. He showed no sign of concern.
"We were entered in the Southern Straits race as we had each year for the past six years," Tom began. "This year the weather was expected to be rough, but not anywhere near as rough as it turned out to be. My boat is well equipped with radar and GPS, plus both Veronica and I had plenty of experience in bad weather, so I wasn't too concerned.
"We took turns at the wheel, with four hours on and four hours off. I set it up so that I took the midnight to four am watch, while Veronica got some sleep. In fact, I didn't plan to wake her unless she woke up herself. I had coffee in a thermos and some energy bars to keep me going.
"Shortly after I took over, the storm started getting more intense and I could see on the radar that it was going to be stronger than forecast. I checked the reports on the various light stations on the marine radio and they confirmed it was going to be a rough night. I put my survival suit on and hooked up my tether, just in case. I left Veronica's suit at the bottom of the companionway so that she wouldn't come on deck without it. That was standard operating procedure for us.
"Everything was fine until just before two am. I had been feeling poorly since midnight, but now I was having internal cramps. They felt like bowel cramps. I've had them before if I've had some tainted food, but these were getting worse. I knew I wouldn't make it until four am without relief, so I pushed the alarm bell for Veronica to let her know I needed her right away. Five minutes later she was on deck, wearing her survival suit. I explained the situation, and she immediately took over, telling me not to come back until I was better.
"I made it to the head and relieved myself. Whatever was bothering me had given me diarrhea and it took a while to purge myself. I could hear something banging on the deck I thought something had come loose and was causing the racket. I was sure Veronica wouldn't leave the helm until I returned, so I cleaned myself up as best I could and suited up to go back up on deck. When I got up to the cockpit, there was no sign of her. I turned on the big deck light and called her name, but there was no answer."
"How long were you away from the cockpit?" Janecek asked.
"I'm not sure. Maybe ... fifteen or twenty minutes. No more."
"Carry on," the detective said.
"The boat was on self-steering, which was unusual. We seldom use that when we are in bad weather. The noise I heard was the inflatable. One of the oars had come out of its cradle and that's what I heard below. I went below again to make sure Veronica hadn't gone to the other head or into one of the cabins, but there was no sign of her. I guess I was in shock. It hadn't quite sunk in that she had gone overboard. It took me a couple of minutes to decide what to do.
"I dropped what little sail we had and started the engine. I circled back the way we had come using the GPS plotter to determine my course. I turned on the deck light again, and began calling her name. I knew it was futile, but I had to do something. While I was motoring, I made a distress call to the Coast Guard and told them what had happened. I'm sure they'll have a recording of it.
"I went back and forth over the area I thought she might have fallen in, but there was no sign of her. With the waves and wind at the time, I'd have to have been very lucky to spot her. As time went on, I began to lose hope. She could last for a while in her survival gear, but with the water temperature where it was, I doubted it would be long enough for us to find her alive.
"The Coast Guard cutter turned up just before four am, and by then I was a basket case. They checked my GPS to confirm the area where she disappeared and began their own search, but I knew just by talking to them that it was hopeless. I had lost her. Somehow, someway, she had fallen overboard and she was gone."
"Your wife's body has never been found?" Philliponi asked, knowing the answer.
Tom Lynch shook his head, looking sadly at the two police detectives.
"Is there anything else that you can think of that might help us clear up this case?" Janecek asked.
"No ... I'm as confused as you are about the ... cheating thing. I don't see how it could be related to her disappearance."
"As I said before," Philliponi stated, "An angry husband might be prone to take revenge on a wayward wife. If she was planning on leaving you for her lover, maybe you figured out how badly you'd come out in the divorce. She'd get half of everything, including your business. So, if you did know about the two of them, you'd have a pretty strong motive."
"No! How many times do I have to tell you? I didn't know anything about her affair. I had no reason to kill her. It was an accident ... that's all. A tragic, horrible accident."
The two detectives sat quietly watching the distraught man in front of them. Was he telling the truth? They had no evidence to the contrary, but he had a motive if he knew of his wife's cheating. Was it just a coincidence that she went overboard, missing without a trace? They were taught not to believe in coincidences.
"That's all for now, Mr. Lynch. We'll contact you if we need to talk to you again. In the meantime, if you're planning any trips out of town, please let us know. This file is not yet closed."
Tom Lynch stood, looking at the two angrily.
"If I'm down here again, I'll have my lawyer with me. I'm not going to be your personal whipping boy while you try and make two and two equal five."
With that, he turned and walked out of the interview room. The pneumatic closer prevented him from the slamming the door as he so desperately wanted to.
"What do you think?" Janecek asked his partner.
"Don't know. It really hinges on whether he knew about her fooling around on him, doesn't it? I guess that's what we have to find out. Did he know?"
Janecek nodded. Any case at all hung on that one question.