by JR Bancroft
Chapter Five from The Secrets of Lineage and Truth in Murder
|Chapter Five: Murder
The police showed up to the house on October seventh just after lunch. Before they began the formal questioning of everyone in the house or involved in the case, the detective asked everyone to meet in the sitting room to explain their procedure.
When Clara walked into the room Sarah scoffed and said.” Uck, why is that Charlatan still here?” It was directed at Clara but she didn’t say it to anyone in particular. “Sarah!” Greg said. “Stop it.” “Mind your own business.” She said trying to make Clara as uncomfortable as possible. “I was not his lover.” Clara said sharply, “I was his caretaker.” “Yeah right. I know how he works...” Clara looked very upset. one thing that always got to her was when someone accused her of something that was not true.” Richard walked over to her and handed her a cup of tea, “I’m sorry about her, no matter how you defend yourself she will still harass you. It’s better if you ignore her.” She took a deep breath and decided to follow Richards' advice and ignore Sarah. The police announced that the body would remain in custody until the autopsy was finished. Detective Jerrard Frede was the first detective who was on the scene after Michaels's body was discovered. He revealed that Michael was killed on October fifth and his body was not found until October sixth.
Greg was the first one that the officer took into the dining room. The detective, Jerrard Frede was in charge of conducting the interviews. Frede also brought along two officers with him. One was instructed to stand guard with everyone in the sitting room, his job was to make sure no one talked and corroborated stories. The other guard was tasked with canvassing the house. Searching houses more than once was a pretty common practice, Detective Frede knew with most of the suspects frequenting the estate something new and incriminating could have easily been left behind.
Greg sat in front of Detective Frede, he looked a bit nervous. “Could you state your full name.” “Gregory James Vallow”. How are you related to the deceased Michael Vallow?” “I am Michael Vallow's son” “Ok. Could you go through what you did the day you heard Michael Vallow had died, October sixth I’m assuming.” Greg’s voice was deeper than the average man but not by much. It was also very chipper. “Yes the sixth, after breakfast I got dressed and went to work. I work for a sales company called Sweeply and most of the time I’m on the road. I went to work in the morning, nothing exciting happened. I did try to call dad from my office because he and I were supposed to meet the day before but I had to cancel. There was a lot of commotion near my building but I was late for work so I didn't have time to stop. I learned that a body was found there around 4 am and they were canvassing the place. It wasn’t until I got a call from John around 10 am that I learned dad died. Honestly, I didn’t even put it together that it was dad in the alley. That’s where we were supposed to meet the day before.” “Wait, you're saying you had planned on meeting Mike where he died?” “It sounds really bad but I swear I canceled the meeting. He was supposed to show me some important papers he kept in his office and wanted me to come to his house but I had to work so he said he would meet me in the alley by my office during my lunch break.” “What documents?” “I don’t know, but he said they were important and he needed help with them.”
“So why didn’t you meet him?” “I had planned on it but John called me and said he was in a car accident and needed help. He said he was fine but his car was wrecked. I told him I would be there after I called my dad to tell him I couldn’t make the meeting. John told me not to worry about it since he was stuck anyway he could make the call and then would allow me to get to him faster.
I left and drove to Moraine State Park. He said he was on the North Shore but I couldn’t find him so I went to the South Shore to go call the police and he found him. He was there to rent a cabin for thanksgiving and was on his way out when he wrecked into a tree. After that John and I went home...we live together. I didn’t go back to work because, by the time I found him, the car was taken care of, and all the other details, it was pretty late.” “Ok what did you do after you heard he died the next day.” “After I found out he died, I went straight home. When I got there Mom was crying in the living room. Sarah and Carl were there too. After that, we sat around for a bit and then Carl left.”
The detective continued writing. “Do you remember what you were talking about, anything, no matter how small could be important.” Greg thought carefully. “Mom kept saying how it was her fault, but she was hysterical.” “That’s interesting.” He said, “Anything else?” “No I'm sorry, I can’t think of anything else.” “Do you know where Carl went?” “No...” “Well if you think of anything else please call the station.” “Of course.” He said standing up. Could you send John in?” “Yes.” He said leaving the room.
A few seconds later John entered. “Name?” “John.” “Full name?” John rolled his eyes, “Johnathan Bergius Vallow.” “How did you know Michael Vallow?” “Michael Vallow was my father.” “What sort of relationship did you have with him?” “A father-son relationship.” He said tersely. The detective took a deep breath, trying to suppress his desire to punch him.” “Did you get along well?” “Yes. I was his favorite child.” Detective Jerrard Frede raised his eyebrows as a gesture questioning John’s bold assumption. “I was the only one ever allowed to work for him.” “I see. Do you still work for him?” “No. I moved away a few years back for a job and only recently started coming back for the holidays. I was very busy. I then moved in with my mom to help take care of her.” He yammered on about his mom's relationship with his father. “They never really got along, well I think they did when I was a child but not since we all moved here.” “Can you go through what happened on October 5th?” He adjusted his position.
“After breakfast with my mother, I did some work from home for an hour then set out to Moraine to reserve a cabin for thanksgiving weekend.” “Were you able to get one?” “Yes, the last one I think.” After I got the reservation and started the drive home, a small deer ran across the road in front of me so I swerved and missed the deer but hit a tree. I was going pretty slowly so I got out injury free but the car was dead. I walked about a mile back to the office, I went inside but the secretary was not there, I think she was in one of the offices, not sure, I was shaken so I just grabbed the phone and called Greg, he is the first one I call in an emergency. He said he would come right away. I told him to find me at the north shore but I didn’t realize I was at the south shore, so I was stuck there a few hours before he found me. Then once everything was taken care of, we went home.”
“Greg mentioned something about how he was supposed to meet with your father during his lunch break before you called. “Oh, I didn’t know about that.” “He said he told you.” “When?” “He mentioned it at the end of your call from the Moraine office. He said he would be right there as soon as he called your dad to tell him he couldn’t make it.” “Oh, I totally forgot about that.” “Then you said you would call your dad for him so he could get to you faster?” “Oh, I totally forgot about that.” “So you never called your father?” “No.”
“Apparently he was meeting him to look over some papers. Do you know anything about that?” “ No, sorry.” He said, “My dad... well he’s my dad, but he’s not exactly a great moral role model so I try to stay away from anything related to his business and we don’t fight as much.” Frede nodded.
“Ok, that’s about it for now, I already know where you were when you found out since I was the one who told you. Oh, what did you do after I left?”
“I called Richard and Linus.” “Ok, is there anything else you would like to add? Anything odd you noticed?” “Actually yes. Richard lives in England but he was somehow able to get here in a day and he wasn't even home when I called to tell him about dad's death, so I have no idea how he got the news so fast and how he got here.” “Interesting.” Detective Frede said under his breath. “Could you send Linus in next.” John stood. “Of course.”
A few minutes later Linus entered. “Name?” “Linus Winithault Vallow, Michael Vallows son.” Linus was at work when John called him in the afternoon. “I own the bookstore called The BookShelf. It’s downtown, right off of Main Street.” The detective put his hand up to stop him. “I know where it is. What did you do after the call?” “I went home.” “I sat at home trying to process everything, then I called Richard.” “Did Richard answer?” “Yes. He hadn’t heard the news, which I suspected so I let him know what happened.“ “Are you sure it was Richard who answered?” Linus looked at him oddly, “Yes.” “What number did you call.” “He pulled out a little black book from his pocket.
He flipped through a few pages. “ This is it.” He said, “That’s a number here in the USA.” “Yes,” Linus said. “I thought he lived in England.” “Usually yes, but he moved to Virginia a few months ago.” “Ah.” The detective said. “Who knew that he moved?” “I’m pretty sure I’m the only one, it’s possible Greg knew, but no one else would have.” “How can you be so sure?” “Richard has been estranged from most of the family since he was 18. The only people he ever talks to are me and Greg. He and I keep in touch mostly through letters but we do make time every once in a while to talk on the phone.” “Do you know what he was doing in Virginia?” “Yes, he’s one of the owners of the Copan 12... it’s the...” Frede cut him off. “Oh, I know all about the Copan. Is he really one of the owners? That’s very impressive.”
The laser-focused, criminal catching machine, was reduced to an excited little boy for a brief moment. “Sorry, continue.” “They were offered a chance to make a version of the Copan in the USA, so he and his partners moved to VA a couple of months ago to open a factory. Richard actually designed the new American model, he was pretty excited about it.”
They spent a few minutes talking about the automobile then he asked Linus to continue describing what he did after he called Richard. “After I talked to Richard I decided to go visit my mother to see if she was alright... well I really wanted to see Greg more than my mother if I’m being honest, and I knew he would be there. I don’t talk to my mom often, she, Sarah, John, and my dad cause a lot of unnecessary drama and grief, so I keep my visits limited.”
The rest of Linus’ interview strayed a bit off-topic. He spoke about his feelings. He talked about how he didn’t agree with his father regarding a lot of his parenting choices and business practices, but he still felt sad. He was there his whole life. His presence may have been a bad influence but it didn’t erase the fact that he was there for him. Those thoughts left him with even more inquiries.
He eventually hit back in track with the help of the detective. “Greg’s the person I go to whenever I have any issues, I mean he is the person I’m the closest to, well him and Richard. Sadly Richard is always far away so I never see him.” He jumped in before Linus could continue. “Ok, thank you for your time, can you send Richard in?” “Oh yes, sorry.” His face turned a little red. “ I guess I’ve been rambling a bit.” He got up. “Don’t worry about it, it was helpful to get an acetate image of the family dynamic in general.” Linus thanked him and left the room. A few moments later Richard entered, “please take a seat.” Richard sat closer to the detective and he adjusted how he was seated so they were facing each other.
“Full name?” “Richard Conrad Vallow.”
Richard told the detective everything. His account of the events matched exactly what Linus told him. Richard was thrown a handful of procedural questions which he had expected but he was surprised by the onslaught of Copan questions. He learned that Linus told the Detective about his ventures with the Copan and he was thrilled to have another fan. He excitedly answered Detective Frede's questions. They eventually started discussing car designs and he mentioned that he was looking forward to finding out what the American model was going to look like. Richard smiled. “I can show you!” He said. “Give me a minute.” Richard jumped up and ran to his room. He dug through his briefcase and pulled out his final sketches then ran back to the dining room. He knew he probably wasn’t supposed to show anyone what the final design was but he knew there was already a deal in place and he figured he could trust Detective Frede.
“Ok, so it was my and William's job to each design a model for the American Copan. Thomas picked mine and this is what it looks like. Richard laid the paper on the table and smoothed it flat with his hands.
Frede was through the roof that he was able to talk to one of the creators of the Copan. Though he loved the car and he enjoyed talking to Richard he kept his mind impartial when it came to his job.
They eventually returned to talking about the case. Frede was glad when Richard's story matched Linus’s and asked him if his story could be corroborated by his business partners in Virginia. “Yes, of course.” He said.
He began to dig for his number. That won’t be necessary, I already have it.” “Oh ok.” “Is there anything else you need to know?” Richard asked partially hoping they would talk about cars some more. “No, I think that’s it for now, could you send Sarah in?”
“Of course.” He said.
He was just being polite. He would’ve rather not talked to her in any capacity.
Sarah entered with a pleasant smile, she was aware of how her presence and attitude made a difference regarding how people perceived her.
“Can I please have your name?” Sarah Rose Vallow.”
Detective Jerrard Frede continued. “How are you related to the deserted Micheal Vallow?” “Michael Vallow was my father.” They talked for a few minutes but there wasn’t much for her to say, she spent most days at work and went to visit her mother or went home. There was not anything special or suspicious about her daily events. She was at her mother's house when Detective Frede reported the bad news for the first time. She said she stayed with her mother and called Carl, her husband. The detective then asked her what she did the day before and she told him that she worked all day and didn’t leave until around five at night and went straight home. She talked about how she spent a lot of time at her mom's house but she didn’t live there, she lived with Carl a few blocks away.
Detective Frede let her leave the room and didn’t ask her to send anyone else in. He stood up himself and walked to the sitting room to make sure everyone was remaining calm. The officer in the room nodded at him and then he asked Clara to join him for questioning.
They walked side by side through the hallway silently. Clara felt really awkward. They entered the dining room and sat down. “Name?” “Clara Marie Costello.” “Relationship to Michael Vallow?” “Um... company... caretaker sort of...” He looked at her. She explained their relationship and how they met and that she lived there, everything she told Richard earlier. “I’m going to go with adopted daughter.” She smiled. She was so relieved that someone finally understood their dynamic.
“Let’s start with October fifth, what did you do that day?” “I woke up ate then got ready for rehearsal.” “Rehearsal?” “I am a dancer and we rehearse every day and perform at the Bigloe Theater regularly.” “Oh, I love the theater. Though my job keeps me from going as often as I want.” “Sometimes I wish my job would keep me away too.” They laughed. “Before I went to work, Mike was really busy, he got up early and was really wound up. It was a weird panic mixed with excitement. I worked all day and returned around eleven at night.” Are those your typical hours?” “It depends, we have a new routine in the show coming up so they like to really work us nonstop.” “ Did you see anything when you got home?” Lucy was asleep on the couch so I woke her up and sent her to bed and I ate then went to bed too. I noticed that his car wasn’t there but that wasn’t uncommon.” “Do you have a car?” “No.” “How did you get home?” “When we work late Mike sends a car for me.” “How does he know to send one?” “I call him on a break if I know rehearsal is going to go long.” “When did you call him?” I didn’t have to, when I left he told me he was calling a car for me that morning because he was going to be too busy later and he was going out so he wouldn’t be around to receive any calls. Honestly, he knew my schedule pretty well, he knew I had a show coming up so it was pretty obvious I’d be gone most of the day and night.”
“Thank you for the information, I may need to talk to you again since you were the only one living here, well you and Lucy.” “That reminds me can you bring Lucy in?”
Several minutes passed then Clara returned. “We can’t find Lucy.” The detective stood up, what do you mean?” No one was supposed to leave the sitting room that’s why officer Jones is in there.” He ran to the sitting room. “What’s going on?” “Lucy said she had to use the bathroom... I can’t watch two places at once.” “Jones, the front door is right outside this door, hell you can see everything from the hallway you should have watched her from the sitting room doorway!” “Yes, sir.” “Go find her, Cole is on back door duty, check if he saw anything.”
The detective stayed in the sitting room until Jones returned. “While everybody is here I wanted to get the facts straight. Three workers from the Westerly Barrel factory were leaving their shift when they cut through an alley. That’s where Henry, Jan, and Bob stumbled upon Michael's body. According to their account, Henry ran to the Main Street and started yelling for the police and caught the attention of an officer stationed outside of a bank.”
The detective also revealed that “The autopsy was conclusive and he was killed by a bullet, it was almost an instantaneous death, though they are going to conduct a few more tests before the body can be released.” “What does that mean?” Greg asked. “He most likely wasn't in much pain, he didn’t suffer. I also wanted to ask if there is a will, I was hoping that maybe he left a copy of his personal papers with a solicitor or friend?” “No.” John said aggressively just as Clara said “Yes.” In a more somber tone. John looked at her, “What?!” He said, Sarah, looked startled too. “He kept the original copy of his will and various other papers with his solicitor.” “That’s odd.” Said Sarah, “I remember when I was younger, mom would beg him to keep papers with a lawyer and he refused, it was a weird obsession he had, hating lawyers.” “Well, he really didn’t trust anyone...” “That is true, it was probably not solicitor exclusive.” “Clara, do you know who his solicitor is?” Everyone was watching her, “um, yes, would you come with me, I have the information in my room.” She led the detective to her room and shut the door behind them.
Clara’s bedroom was very dark when the lights were off. She had thick heavy velvet curtains that completely covered the large windows that led to the balcony. She hit the light switch.
A lot of her clothes were folded and lined up on the floor and some of her flower vases were wrapped in paper.
“I only brought you here because I wanted to speak with you privately. I don’t know who shot Michael, but I don’t exactly trust everyone here, I figured it would be better if I told you the solicitor without any prying eyes. I know it’s probably just a paranoid musing...” The detective smiled, “No, that is smart, thank you. Wills can be very sore subjects, I want to make sure to get everything in order by the book. The killer is clearly trying to hide something other than their identity.”
She pulled a business card out of her purse, “Here, he’s my solicitor too.” “Thank you.” He said moving out the door. He suddenly stopped, “You know what? I have an idea.” He looked in the hall to make sure no one was listening then shut the door again. “Would you like to help me?” “Of course.” She said, “What do you need me to do?” “Nothing dangerous, just...” He dug through his pockets and pulled out a piece of paper and a pen. “I’m going to write down a solicitor friend of mine and his address, tell everyone that this is Michaels solicitor where he left his will.” She smiled. “We will keep eyes on the office, and see if anything happens.” “Of course.” She said, “I don’t know who you trust here but you can’t tell anyone the truth so this works, not a soul.” She wrapped her fingers around the paper and slipped it into her pocket while they walked back down together.
He returned to the sitting room with her and asked if anyone had any new information to tell him that they forgot? No one answered. He informed everyone that he would be returning the next day for a final sweep of the house and he would be looking for Lucy. “If Lucy returns, keep her in the house and call us.”
When the detective left Sarah walked over to the bar cart. “I’m relieved that father used a lawyer, claim to his effects has been causing me stress.” Linus looked at her. “Not that I want claim, just without a will, death can mean years of red tape...” “Yes, because you’re so prone to caring about others,” Richard said. She glared at him. “No fighting,” John said. Sarah rolled her eyes. “You’re not dad, John..as much as you always wished you were.” He turned to her. “What are you talking about?” Clara started to walk away. “Wait, Clara, who is father's lawyer?” Sarah asked. “Oh,” She said as she plunged her hand into her pocket and pulled out the paper. “Someone named Henry Plither, his office is on Geron street in town. She placed the slip of paper on an end table and left. I better go see if she’s ok.” Greg said. Greg left the room and made sure he shut the door behind himself. He grabbed his coat and left the house.
Clara was standing at the top of the stairs and watched him leave. A cold shiver passed through her body. She wasn’t sure if it was from the cold air blasting towards her as he shut the door or the thought that Greg could be tied into Michael's death. She really didn’t have any suspects In her mind, she knew it was likely that one of his business associates was the person who pulled the trigger but nothing was certain, and Greg leaving wasn’t a good sign. She ran her hands through her dark brown hair and pulled it up into a messy bun.
She decided that she needed to take a nap. Her head hurt and she had enough distressing thoughts that she needed a break from.
When she returned to her room the light was still on. Her bed had never looked better. The air was cold and her bed was covered in fluffy thick blankets. The base blanket was her own, from her former life, the other two were from Michael. She ate then fell asleep.
The wind jostled the bare tree branches by her bedroom window. The solid tendrils scraped against the pane, back and forth like a haunted spirit trying to breakthrough.
Clara awoke a bit later. She decided to gather some food so she wouldn’t have to go down to the kitchen all the time. The desire to stay in her room was part laziness and part fear. She was very aware that it was likely one of the people living with her was a murderer. She felt there wasn’t a reason to linger around unprotected.
As she was walking back through the main hallway to her room she noticed a light emanating from Michael's study. It was easy to spot because the lights in the hallway were off. She set her bag of food on the floor by her feet and peered in. Someone was holding a torch, she leaned in further. It was very obvious who it was.
Sarah was sitting at her father's desk with a flashlight mere inches from her face, while she dug through random papers. She seemed to be scrambling and was very focused on what she was looking for. Clara must have made some sort of noise because Sarah broke from her task and looked straight at the door.
Clara jumped back. Luckily for her, Sarah only heard her, her eyes had adjusted to staring at the bright flashlight and not to the darkroom around her so she was essentially blind to the darkness in that moment.
Clara grabbed her bag and ran to her room. She sat on her bed breathing heavily, not from the run but from the panic of getting caught spying on Sarah. She realized after calming down that she needed to keep a log of everything she saw.
She walked over to her desk and sat down. Her desk was cherry with an unrecognizable clam shell carved into the front above it’s one main central drawer. She pulled out a fancy pen and a slim notebook from the drawer.
She looked at the cover of the notebook somberly. Michael gave it to her and she had yet to use it. It was very thin but most likely very expensive. Its cover was leather and each page tip was edged with gold.
She couldn’t think of a better use for the book than using it to help catch his killer.
She wrote down that she saw Sarah in the study and that she saw Greg leave right after she told them who Michael's lawyer was. Writing that only took a minute which left her unsatisfied. She tried to think if there was anything else she was missing.
She wandered down to the front door to go through the mail, she had been neglecting it and thought maybe she would find something there.
She dug through it to see if there was anything important.
She was right by the front door when the doorknob began to turn. She jumped back as she watched the door open. She was relieved when she saw it was only Lucy.
Lucy looked ashamed as she entered. “I’m just here to get my things.” She said. “What do you mean?” Clara asked. “ I ran when the police were questioning everyone, I shirked my duty and it pretty much was an admission of guilt to the police.” “Why did you run?” “I... I think I know who killed him.” “What?!” She said, “How?” “I can't get you involved, I don’t want you to get in trouble too.” “I might be able to help.”
They walked into the kitchen and Clara fixed them both food. They ate together while she talked. “I was cleaning Mr. Vallow's office and I found some notes on his desk... I know I shouldn’t have read them but I couldn’t help it, they were extortion style letters, most of them were addressed to Elizabeth...that’s his wife.” Clara nodded. She always wanted to meet her, she wondered if Richard looked like her because he didn’t look like Michael. “What did the letters say?” “Apparently she borrowed money from a bad loan company and they were threatening to hurt her if she didn’t pay. Assuming.., since Mr. Vallow had the letters, he had to be the one doing it.” Clara sat silently thinking. “Did you tell anyone about this?” She asked. “ As soon as I saw them I got Greg to read them.” “What did he say?” “He said not to worry about it, and that he would take care of it.” “Oh my goodness.” She said. “Can I see the letters?” “That’s actually not possible, they are gone.” “What I remember is that one of the letters was from the loan company. They were asking to meet Elizabeth in the alley between Foster's Flowers and Sweeplys. Then another letter addressed to Mr. Vallow said they would drop the debt if the person who was writing the letters could meet with him.” “Wait, if there was a letter to Michael, he couldn’t be the one pressing her for money, and why would he, he had tons of money.” “That’s what I thought but why did he have all of the letters? I thought maybe it was a weird ploy or something.”
Clara shuddered. The letters were clearly important and most definitely connected to Micheal’s death.