Motive, means, and opportunity – Episode 6

Detective Bryson interviews James Anderson

Before Bryson visited James Anderson, he checked out the residence, the proximity to the park where Bagman’s body was found, a distance of two and a half miles, which to him didn’t constitute ‘near’, and whether there were any CCTV cameras along the way.

He made a note of several and sent to report back to Worthey who was sinking under the weight of several investigations at once.  His chief was not allocating more men to the case yet unless he found compelling evidence that needed more personnel.

They had also obtained James Anderson’s phone records, and there was little or no damning evidence there.  No calls to or from Bergman, and three in the last month to and from Wendy, his wife.  James had no social media presence, was a high-flying lawyer who came to earth with a thud after a breakdown, after the death of their son coincidentally and was now battling an acrimonious divorce.

He was currently not working, except as a pro bono lawyer at a local courthouse.  A check of his finances showed that he had put away funds when he had them, and made wise investments, but had left himself exposed to what might be described as an opportunistic wife who was seeking an extravagant settlement.

In contrast, Bergman’s financial situation could be best described as distressed, and the company basically insolvent, and a meeting with his lawyer would no doubt confirm the rumours Worthey had found that he was about to declare bankruptcy, a state that would cause a whole new collection of people distress and a motive for murder.

But killing him before then would not do them any good, so he doubted it was one of them.

Perhaps when Wendy fleeced her husband, he was going to blackmail her for the funds to keep his businesses afloat.  Stranger things were known to happen.

The residence was old and decrepit and showed that Anderson was not necessarily a man of means.  Bryson knew otherwise, but it might mean he was just careful with his money.

Bryson had called earlier and was expected.  It was clear from that phone call, the first, that Anderson knew of Bergman’s death; he had seen it on the news.  A point to note, he didn’t seem particularly distressed.

Anderson answered the door, and then showed him into the lounge.  Inside the house was better than the outside, though dated and tired.  It was reasonably clean, but that might be because of the visitor.  It didn’t look like Anderson had many visitors.

“I’m going to say from the outset that I have had a preliminary interview with your wife, Wendy,”  Bryson said this to gauge James’s reaction, which was minimal, as though he expected it.

“Was it interesting?”

An odd response to his statement.  “Not very informative.”

“No.  They have been friends for a long time.  I was included once upon a time, but I’m sure you’ve discovered in your preliminary investigation that the death of our son drove a wedge between Wendy and I and drove her into his arms.”

A different kettle of fish, Bryson thought, with this one.  He sought to get ahead of the narrative.

“How did that make you feel?”

“I don’t feel.  Not since Jimmy died.  I don’t blame myself for his death but regret not doing more to prevent it.  She was always in love with him, or the notion of it because Bergman was never a one-girl guy, he always had a string of them available.”

“Yet she married you,”  Bryson said it, and regretted saying it the moment it left his mouth.  And he was trying so hard not to get involved.

“A moment in time I’m sure she’s regretted many times since.  Except that she had more money to play with while with me.  Bergman was hopeless with money.  His business is on the rocks, and his wife is in for a shock if she expects anything in a settlement, other than a mountain of debt.”

A mental note: how does Anderson intimately know the financial status of Bergman?

“Your relationship with Wendy, I take it it’s over?”

“The moment we left the hospital when Jimmy died.  She blamed me for it and there was no other reason.  Nor could she be told, by the police or by the medical staff.  And whenever drugs were mentioned, it was me who drove him to them.”

“You’re living apart then?”

“She has the apartment we shared.  I moved out.  It was easier that way.  We don’t speak all that often, and since the divorce, rarely.  I’ve been on my own for about a year and a half now.”

“She mentioned you are refusing to sign the divorce papers.”

“I’m still waiting for her to clarify her situation with Bergman.  Once I sign the papers, she gets the settlement.  I don’t have a problem with that, but I do have a problem if Bergman is waiting in the wings to take it off her, or worse, she gives it to him to throw down the drain he calls a business.”

“Which brings us to your relationship with Bergman.”

“None.  That pretty much ended when we separated.  She was seeing him behind my back long before that, though, but it wasn’t a surprise.  I used to care, but like a runaway train, standing in front of it isn’t going to stop it.”

Interesting analogy.

“When did you last see him?”

“Last night.  The bastard turned up on my doorstep and virtually told me to sign the divorce papers or else.”

“Or else what?”

“He didn’t say.  I sent him packing and told him not to come back.”

“What time was this?”

“About 8 pm.  He was making such a noise he roused the neighbours.  You can go and ask them.  Old man Bentley saw him get in his car and leave.”

“Wendy says you own a gun?”

Bryson noted the change in Anderson’s demeanour, not overly defensive, but he knew it was coming.

“We do and both of us had training on how to use it, and as far as I’m aware, it’s still in the safe upstairs.  Has been for a long time because there’s been no reason to take it out.  In fact, I haven’t checked to see if it’s still there for years now.  I don’t like guns, and it’s only there in case we needed to defend ourselves.  It’ll still be in the gun safe here.”

“I thought the apartment was your primary residence.”

“No.  We bought that just before Jimmy died.  I’ve never stayed there.  If I had, I would have moved it there.”

“Can I see it?”

“Of course.”

Anderson led the detective upstairs and into the room where the gun safe was.  Bryson looked into rooms as he passed them, and briefly stopped at one.

“Jimmy’s.  Haven’t touched it since he died.  Too many painful memories in there.”

They moved on to the room at the end of the passage, a study, then Anderson opened it.

Everything else was there, except the gun.

Bryson could see the genuine surprise on Anderson’s face.  That was not something that could be faked..

“It’s been in here forever, still in its packaging, and bullets removed from the clip and stored elsewhere in the house.”

The papers that came with it were still in the safe, so Anderson pulled them out and handed them to Bryson.  It would detail what sort of weapon it was.”

“I can assure you I have no idea where it is, or why it’s missing.”

“Who has the combination to this safe.”

“Only Wendy and I.  Hang on.”  Anderson rummaged through the papers and stopped at a passport.  “Her passport is missing.  She’s been here recently.”

“She has keys to the house?”

“She has the keys to everything.  And all the alarm codes as well.  I can ask the security company to give me the access records for the last year if you like and you can see all the comings and goings.  We both had separate codes, and I never told her mine, and she never told me hers.”

“OK.  I’ll get forensics to come and have a look around.  There might be some prints we can get which might be a help, but that’s doubtful given you just opened it.  If you can think of anyone who might also have had access, or might know where it is, other than your ex-wife, call me.”

“Like I said, it’s been here for years, and it’s the first time I’ve used the safe in about six months when we needed the passports to go on a holiday.

“OK.  That will do for now.  Don’t leave the city.  Make sure that data from the security company gets to me.”


© Charles Heath 2019-2023

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