‘I’d just assumed you were as regular a client at the Hammam as you used to be,’ said Theodore. ‘But Percy, an old regular, didn’t remember you at first. Dougie’s a new regular and he’d never seen you before. You haven’t been to the Hammam in years. And you weren’t there Tuesday night either, were you?’
Art couldn’t look at Theodore. His eyes were fixed on the floor.
‘We spread a rumour about a death, but you knew it was murder. I’d believed that detail had been leaked by the killer, or a witness at least, and spread to this “chap in the changing rooms” who then told you. But nobody else who heard the rumour knew it was murder. Not Percy, not Dougie, nor anyone else we spoke to in the bathhouse. The fact it was murder never leaked at all. The only person who could have told you was Butterfield.’
Art made a low, grumbling noise, like a cat with food poisoning.
Theodore turned back to Mr Butterfield. ‘When we arrived at the bathhouse on Wednesday morning, Furqan told us you were interviewing the staff yourself. To find more evidence for the crime, yes, but only so you could hide it from us. But you were also looking for any details you could use as leverage against us. Dev had fond memories of me, as did many of the old staff. And they knew about my history with Art. I suppose you thought I’d trust a lie if it came from an old friend, so you convinced him to pretend to be a witness and feed us false information. And paid him handsomely for it, considering he’s tried to pay for dinner, coffee and a cab in the past week.’
‘It wasn’t just the money!’ Art said, abruptly. But he blanched under Theodore’s eyes and resumed his staring contest with the floor.
Theodore continued talking to Butterfield but maintained his glare at Art. ‘He clouded my judgement, which may have been your intention. You may even have hoped he might cause tension in my relationship with Hugo, though that may be granting you too much credit.’
Butterfield smirked. ‘I’d tell you I planned it but I doubt you’d believe me.’
‘The missing entry in the ledger was no mere mistake,’ Hugo interjected. ‘When I asked Furqan to study the ledger, you had already enlisted Art or were in the process of doing so. Furqan realised that if Art had no entry in the ledger, the lie would become obvious. So Furqan delayed us, giving you time to doctor the ledger. You used lemon juice to erase one entry and replace it with Art’s. That’s why you served us tea with lemon, so we wouldn’t notice the smell of the juice in the ledger. The entry you erased was Charles Parsons checking out. You didn’t think that would matter much. You didn’t expect me to examine every entry from that evening. And while this had the surprise advantage of wasting my time investigating an irrelevant suspect, it also cast the accuracy of the whole ledger into question.’
‘You also got to Keegan’s locker first,’ said Theodore, ‘and removed all of his personal effects. You had an easier time finding his locker than we did because you already knew his name, didn’t you?’
Butterfield smiled, knowingly. ‘Just his first name. His wife used it during their little chat.’
‘Of course, Keegan’s name wasn’t in the ledger. He used a fake one. No problem, you just had your staff search the lockers for anything with Keegan’s name, letting them think—as Dev mentioned to me—that Keegan had made a request to recover lost property.’
‘There were no other Keegans in the bathhouse at that time,’ said Hugo, ‘so you could trust you’d found the correct one. We suspect it was his wallet you found, with his work ID. Either that or he wrote his name in his shoes.’
‘It was his wallet,’ said Butterfield.
‘And then the stage was set,’ said Theodore, dramatically. ‘You sent Art to meet us in the bathhouse, to plant the idea that he was a witness. He supported your fantasy queer-killer with the story of a surly man who was the last to speak with the victim alive, described vaguely enough that you could fit the story to suit any mug who might take the blame.’
‘You didn’t tell him the name of the victim, though. The longer you could keep us from discovering that, the better,’ added Hugo.
‘It was a real stroke of bad luck, then, that the police came looking for Keegan when they did,’ said Theodore. ‘Only a five minute visit that very almost missed us entirely. As it happened, we learned his real name. And that’s when things began to move very quickly for you.’
‘We split up,’ said Hugo. ‘Even if you had hoped Art would cause animosity between us, I doubt this was your intention.’
‘Though we may be weaker detectives separated, we covered more ground and became harder to manage,’ said Theodore. ‘So long as I was in the bathhouse, you knew I couldn’t make real progress. But now armed with Keegan Doyle’s real name, Hugo had become a threat.’
‘It is rather a coincidence,’ said Hugo, ‘that Furqan was working reception yesterday morning and yet Theodore didn’t see him again for the rest of the day. It is also a coincidence in Kensington, on a residential street far from a main road, I saw a cab leaving in a hurry. And the same thing happened in Clapham, on Keegan Doyle’s street. I cannot prove you had Furqan tail me, but the biggest coincidence of all is that, while I was in the victim’s home, speaking with the one person who knew more than anyone about the truth of what happened on Tuesday evening, Theodore received a telephone call from Art, with new information that implicated a promising, though innocent, suspect.’
‘You’d already had Dougie lined up as a potential scapegoat,’ said Theodore. ‘You told me you didn’t learn the story of the incident in the east hot room before yesterday evening, but that can’t be true. Dev wasn’t here then. He told me himself, with the exception of Tuesday evening, he’s been on morning shifts all week. The very latest time you could have interviewed him was yesterday morning, hours before Art relayed the story to me. Hugo forced your hand when he found Molly Doyle, and Dougie was the strongest card you had to play. The best lies contain some truth after all. But like a schoolboy who’s copied his homework, there wasn’t a detail in Art’s version of the story that wasn’t in Dev’s. With one exception. Neither Dev nor Dougie mentioned the part where Dougie called Keegan a pervert afterward. I take it that was a detail you requested he add, to ensure I viewed the incident in the correct light.’
Even though Art was slumped in his chair, Theodore still felt him wince.
‘You didn’t know how much of the truth I had learned from Molly,’ said Hugo. ‘Or whether I understood the significance. You might have tipped off the police about Keegan’s body then, though obviously you didn’t. Perhaps because Art told you that Theodore appeared to have taken the bait about Dougie. Nevertheless, you arranged a meeting with us for the following the morning, so you could assess how much of the truth I had learned. Theodore told you I would be there. You didn’t expect me not to show up. And by then you had no idea where I was or what I was doing. You couldn’t have Furqan tail me again.’
‘But since I seemed to still be taken in by Art’s story, you decided to forge ahead,’ said Theodore. ‘And this feels like another of you one-problem-at-a-time plans. You arranged my interview with Dev to strengthen Art’s story, since of course his account would match. But Dougie would surely deny all accusations if I confronted him, so your intention must always have been to plant evidence on him, even if you hadn’t worked out quite how at that point. I imagine you expected more time to improvise. You didn’t know I had already met Dougie and presumably thought it would take me longer to find him. That might have unravelled your plan right there, if I hadn’t telephoned Art. Not only did he warn you what I was about to do, he provided you the perfect tool to make sure the confrontation happened the way you wanted.’
‘You said you found Keegan’s wallet in his locker,’ said Hugo. ‘We already know you must have had it. Otherwise, how could Dev have told you about the incident in the east hot room? He didn’t know Keegan’s name or about his tattoo. Any other description would have been too vague. The only way you could have asked about Keegan and received a reliable answer is if you had shown Dev a photograph. And of the three photographs of Keegan that exist, the only one unaccounted for was in the wallet.’
Butterfield shut his eyes for a moment, nodding to himself.
‘Your plan was to plant the wallet on Dougie,’ said Theodore. ‘He wasn’t hard for you to track down. You had gotten his first name from Dev, the same way I did. That’s why he struggled to remember the name Keegan went by, yet recalled Dougie’s name immediately. He’d already done it once, when you asked him. And there was only one Douglas in the ledger, so it was easy to learn his surname. With that information, you could have found the address of his business in any London Directory.
‘When we arrived at his shop, Dougie said, “Great, now you’re here,” the emphasis on you’re, implying we were not the first familiar faces to pay a surprise visit that day. You had sent Furqan to the shop ahead of us, to plant the wallet. That’s why Art was late meeting me, because he had to wait until Furqan told him where the wallet was hidden. I suspect it was not a customer who made that opportune phone call to distract Dougie. Since Furqan had been to the shop before, it’s possible he learned Dougie’s phone was in the back room and you used that to your advantage to distract Dougie. I imagine that trick was how you placed the wallet there in the first place. This time, you did it so Art could search the desk. If I hadn’t spotted the wallet first, I expect Art would have “found” it himself.’
‘Your plan very nearly worked,’ said Hugo. ‘Incriminated by the wallet, Keegan’s denials would have seemed like obvious lies. But you had presumed Douglas was an ordinary bather whom Keegan had targeted at random. You didn’t know that Douglas held genuine affection for Keegan. So when Douglas learned that Keegan was dead, he reacted sincerely, in a way the murderer would not. Theodore knew at once that Douglas was innocent.’
‘You’ve played us very well,’ said Theodore, ‘but the game is up. You’ve lost.’
There was a lot of confidence in these words. But throughout the whole conversation, Butterfield hadn’t shown the slightest hint of concern. Even now, his amused smile didn’t falter. With the detectives’ story finished, the room fell into a tense silence, sullied only by the sound of Art’s agitated breathing. Calmly, Butterfield tapped the ash off his cigar, took one last puff and rested it in one of the grooves on his ashtray. Then he spoke.
‘What do you intend to do about it?’
Next Update: 25th September