Back in Marcia Simpson’s house, Karen relayed the latest information to her boss.
“I know Steve says death occurred between ten and midnight, but surely he’s not going to rule out half past nine.”
“No, you’re right.” Detective Inspector Owens stood up from Marcia’s desk, where he was still going through all her paperwork. She had been a hoarder of some magnitude. “Let’s go and speak to Mr West.”
Hartfield House was still in some state of disarray, though the marquee had been dismantled and all the tables and chairs removed. The house itself bore witness to having had a big event, however, with furniture out of place and a less than perfect veneer to every surface. Harry West was up and about, which was apparently unusual on a Sunday, and happened to answer the door himself. Instead of taking them through to the large and handsome drawing-room that Karen would have loved to see, he said, “Let’s talk outside. There’s too much going on in here.”
“Now, Mr West,” Jim Owens said after the introductions. “As you may have heard, we’re investigating the death of Marcia Simpson, which involves asking pretty well everyone in the village if they noticed anything untoward on Friday evening. We’d like to know your movements.”
Harry West was either a good actor or his astonishment was genuine.
“You were seen in Peterford at the relevant time, sir. You were seen leaving the wedding and again in the middle of the village, so can you tell me what you were doing?”
Harry was obviously deeply shaken.
“Crikey. Nothing’s secret, is it?”
“Surprisingly little. So where were you?”
“I was in the park. I was meeting someone.”
“Can I ask who?”
“I’d rather not say, if you don’t mind.”
“I’m afraid that’s not an option, sir. You were seen reasonably near Thistle Cottage at the relevant time, so I have to confirm your whereabouts. I’m sure you understand.”
“In the park, sir? Wasn’t it dark?”
“Not entirely. We could see each other.”
“So who was it? Who were you with?”
Harry West thought for a moment, and then drew a breath.
“Sandra Williams. She’s a friend.”
“I see.” Jim stayed still, and Karen wrote down the name. “And what exactly is your relationship with Miss Williams?”
“Mrs. She’s married. That’s why this is so delicate. Her husband is a cruel and unforgiving man, Inspector. I was trying to get her to leave him, but instead instead of that, she ended our relationship.”
“I had fixed to slip away from the wedding because she said her husband was going to be away and she’d get a chance to come out. We didn’t ever meet at her house. So last night we met in the park.”
All thoughts of Marcia Simpson left their minds. There was no doubt that Harry West was desolate at the end of his affair. If he had been going to murder anyone, it would have been Mr Williams. But everything still had to be checked out.
“So where can we speak to Mrs Williams? Will she be at home?”
“I imagine so. Just go gently, Mr Owens. She’s a lovely girl stuck in a loveless marriage, trying to do the right thing. I don’t agree with her on what the right thing is, but I don’t want her hurt.”
“Message received and understood, sir,” Jim said. “Thanks for your help.”