Motive, means, and opportunity – Episode 2

Detective Bryson interviews Stacey Bergman

If there was one thing Bryson hated, it was informing the next of kin of a death.  And particularly when that next of kin hated the victim.

He had to admit, going up in the elevator in what was a sumptuous and expensive building of apartments, that the ex, in this case, had done very well out of the marriage breakup.

A quick search of the internet, as background, he discovered she was to battle him over what appeared to be hidden assets, and endure some rather terrible disclosures on her post-separation behaviour, in the process, but 20 million plus a penthouse worth 10 million more could make that humiliation bearable.

As for Bergman himself, and his role in the divorce proceedings, Bryson was not expecting much cooperation.

He had also called ahead knowing that unless he had a purpose to be there, he would not get inside the front entrance, let alone get up to the apartment to see her.  Security, in the wake of the divorce revelations, made getting into the building the same as entry to Fort Knox.

That advance call told him almost everything he needed to know about her.  If this was in medieval times, he would be wearing a full suit of armour.

He steeled himself, then rang the doorbell.

The door was opened by a maid, dressed in a maid outfit.  Who insisted on that convention these days?

“Detective Bryson to see Mrs Bergman.”

“You might want to rethink how you address her.  It’s now Ms Hollingworth.”  A look of disdain on the maid’s face told him the weather inside the apartment was cold, with a wind chill factor of minus ten.


The maid stepped to one side and let him pass.

Just inside was a small vestibule, and a second set of concertina doors now open, displaying a rather ornate living space with marble floors, spectacular views of the city, and scattered works of art that screamed expensive.

Bergman was paying dearly for the divorce.  One article suggested he needed better lawyers.

The maid closed the concertina doors leaving him alone in the room.

For about three minutes.

Mrs Bergman, no, get it right, Ms Hollingworth, no, damned if he was going to call her Ms Hollingworth, swept into the room, nothing short of a grand entrance.

Stacey Bergman, now Hollingsworth, was a chorus girl before she became a trophy wife.  Yes, the trashy press still ran stories like that, and Bryson still read the trashy press, not only for the salacious stories but for information that could prove useful when dealing with society.

But that fanciful group were, he concluded a long time ago, the same as everyone else except they had money to burn.  But like everyone else, they still had the same failings, jealousy, greed, and the one difference to the common man, they could afford to hire someone else to commit the crime, and then hire the best lawyers to divert the blame.

This woman before him was everything that was wrong in the world.

She stopped by the settee, put her hands on the back-head rest and surveyed him, a look of distaste on her face.

He told himself not to be fazed by such intimidation.

“What is it that couldn’t be said on the telephone?”

“I regret to inform you that your ex-husband, James Bergman is dead.  I am sorry for your loss.”

He had expected some form of an emotional response, but she didn’t even blink.  He had a feeling she probably never felt anything for him.

“Don’t be.  I’m glad the bastard is dead.”

“Be that as it may, we are treating his death as suspicious, and in doing so we will be interviewing everyone he has been in contact with recently.  Can you tell me where you were between 10pm yesterday and 5am this morning?”

“I don’t have to tell you anything.”

Defiance.  He’d expected as much.

“No.  Not here.  But I could have an arrest warrant issued and we could do it downtown after a discreet call to certain members of the press, but I think you’re more reasonable than that.  Be assured, this is a murder investigation, and I will do what I have to.”

He wasn’t initially going to go hard on her, but she was typical of the over-privileged who believed the rules were different for them.  He could also feel the intense dislike for him in her unblinking stare, while she considered his words.

“I was here, at home.”

“Can anyone corroborate that, like your maid?”

“No.  You have my word.”

He tried hard not to let his contempt for her position show though.

“When was the last time you saw your ex-husband?”

“About a week ago at my lawyer’s office.  Another round of talks that fell on deaf ears.”

“No communications since?”

“One phone call two days ago with another ridiculous offer so I told him he could go to hell.”

There was hostility in her tone.  The hostility could fuel a motive for murder.

“A word of advice.  You might want to keep your legal team on standby because you’re high on the list of suspects.  Given the hostility you’re harbouring, you have a motive.  Not having corroboration of your movements at the time of the murder doesn’t help your case.  I suggest you try to be less hostile and more cooperative.  Don’t leave the city, I will have more questions.”

The man opened the concertina doors. His interview was over.

Or was it. 

“Something else that comes to mind, Detective.  He had a girlfriend, I didn’t hear what her name was, or who she is, other than once when I heard him making a date at a restaurant in the city, in one of the Hilton’s.  Probably got a room too.  If he cheated on her too, maybe she had a good reason to kill him.  I didn’t care that much because I needed him alive so I could take him for everything he owns.”

Succinct, and quite possibly the truth, Bryson thought.  He wouldn’t be much good to her dead if she was in it for the humiliation.

“If you do think of a name, call me.”  He left his card on the table, then remembered something else he needed from her.  “Do you have your husband’s phone number, and the name and location of his business?”

Another long stare at him, a withering glance to a lesser man he thought, then she went over a desk by the far wall, pulled out a monogrammed piece of notepaper from one of the drawers and scribbled on it.

She held it out and he came over to collect it.  A phone number and a business name.  “Don’t know the address?”

“Brooklyn somewhere, I think.  Didn’t really care.  I have no head for business, and he had no interest in telling me.”

An odd arrangement, but then, some wives were like that.  “Thank you.”

© Charles Heath 2019-2023

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