Read A Question of Motive Online

Authors: Roderic Jeffries

Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #Police Procedural

A Question of Motive

Table of Contents

A Selection of Recent Titles by Roderic Jeffries

Title Page

Copyright

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

A Selection of Recent Titles by Roderic Jeffries

AN AIR OF MURDER *

ARCADIAN DEATH

AN ARTISTIC WAY TO GO

DEFINITELY DECEASED *

AN ENIGMATIC DISAPPEARANCE

AN INSTINCTIVE SOLUTION *

AN INTRIGUING MURDER *

MURDER DELAYED *

MURDER'S LONG MEMORY

MURDER NEEDS IMAGINATION *

RELATIVELY DANGEROUS

SEEING IS DECEIVING *

A SUNNY DISAPPEARANCE *

SUN, SEA AND MURDER *

TOO CLEVER BY HALF

* available from Severn House

A QUESTION OF MOTIVE
Roderic Jeffries

This ebook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author's and publisher's rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.

 
 

First world edition published 2009

in Great Britain and 2010 in the USA by

SEVERN HOUSE PUBLISHERS LTD of

9–15 High Street, Sutton, Surrey, England, SM1 1DF.

Copyright © 2009 by Roderic Jeffries.

All rights reserved.

The moral right of the author has been asserted.

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data

Jeffries, Roderic, 1926-

A Question of Motive. – (An Inspector Alvarez mystery)

1. Alvarez, Enrique (Fictitious character)–Fiction.

2. Police–Spain–Majorca–Fiction. 3. English–Crimes

against–Spain–Majorca–Fiction. 4. Detective and

mystery stories.

I. Title II. Series

823.9'14-dc22

ISBN-13: 978-1-78010-331-0 (epub)

ISBN-13: 978-0-7278-6857-2 (cased)

ISBN-13: 978-1-84751-206-2 (trade paper)

Except where actual historical events and characters are being described for the storyline of this novel, all situations in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to living persons is purely coincidental.

This ebook produced by

Palimpsest Book Production Limited,

Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland.

ONE

T
he end of the net dropped off the branch of one tree, causing the left hand to jerk free and the net to fall to the ground. Velaquez swore. He was losing his skill in setting up the thrush trap. Age stripped a man of everything. He crossed to the canvas satchel, brought out a bottle, and drank.

A distant sound – something snapping? – alarmed him and he prepared to act quickly and hide the net in the satchel, regaining the appearance of an honest man enjoying peace in the solitude of the woodland. Catching and eating thrushes had been declared illegal many years before but, like many Mallorquins, he regarded laws of little consequence unless they could not be evaded.

The sound was not repeated and he slowly relaxed. He drank more wine and brought a slice of pa amb oli – bread coated in olive oil and brushed with air-dried tomato – out of the rucksack.

Shafts of sunshine reached through the canopy of needle leaves, creating patterns on the rough, sparse undergrowth. A cicada shrilled, several replied and all became silent. He leaned his back against the trunk of a tree, lit a cigarette, buried the head of the used match in the ground. Fire was an ever-present danger with the undergrowth tinder dry. As he smoked, he noted any thrush on the wing which might suggest a flight path in which to set a net. He gazed briefly at the unusual, triangular outcrop of rock which ended in a sharp point. A century before, Ripoll, a halfwit, had insisted a giant had begun to carve himself a boat, but had found the rock too hard even for him and had given up. Derisively, the spur of rock had been called Ripoll's Barca, a name reduced in time to Barca.

When young, Velaquez, after a bet with Jorge, had tried to climb the steep wall of rock and had reached halfway before he had lost his grip and fallen, broken a leg. His mother had consoled him, his father had cursed him for incurring doctor's fees and Jorge had claimed the bet.

The top of Barca was flat – the foredeck? – before the land rose to a thousand metres – the accommodation and bridge? His father remembered the time when a retired Nationalist colonel had had a house built on the flat land. It had burned down in the mid forties of the previous century, some said through arson. The land, and the gutted house, had been put up for sale. Only a fool would buy it, was the local judgement. Eventually, that fool turned up. An Englishman who could judge the value of the site and with so much money he had built a grand house. Four bathrooms. What did one do with four? A swimming pool. When the sea was only seven kilometres away? A garden that had needed many, many lorry loads of imported earth and which grew nothing edible?

Velaquez stood. Jainta, his wife, wanted to be driven to Inca to see a friend who was ill. But before he left, he would spend a little time looking for thrushes on the other side of the Barca. He walked around the bows and stopped suddenly. Lying on the ground, his head battered, one arm outstretched, one under his body, lay a man.

Velaquez cursed his bad luck. He should report this, but to do so in person would cause the Policia Local to question why he was in the woods and they were unlikely to accept his reason that he enjoyed the peace. They would wonder if perhaps he was the man who had recently been selling forbidden thrushes to the villagers.

The duty officer picked up the receiver. ‘Policia Local, Llueso.'

‘There's a man lying on the ground at Barca.'

‘Is he dead or injured?'

‘Dead.'

‘How can you be certain?'

‘Because his head's like a squashed pomegranate.'

‘Who is he?'

‘I don't know.'

‘Is there any ID on him?'

‘Haven't looked.'

‘Your name?'

The line became dead.

Alvarez drove slowly through the streets of Llueso, made even more narrow by badly parked cars, to his normal parking space. It was occupied by a car with French number plates. In an alternative space was an English-plated car. Foreigners' money might be necessary to the economy, but they weren't. He finally found a space, but this left him with a fifteen-minute walk through streets whose buildings trapped the breathless heat.

At the Guardia Civil post, the duty cabo pointed at the wall clock. Alvarez ignored the unnecessary indication that his siesta had been prolonged. He climbed the stairs, went into his office and slumped down on the chair behind the desk. Man was not made to work in such heat. Man was not made to work.

The telephone rang and he stared at it with sharp dislike. It might mistakenly be called one of the benefits of modern civilization; in truth, it was a bane.

‘Enrique, Felipe Oller here. Long time, no see, so how's the world treating you?'

‘It never does.'

‘As cheerful as ever! I saw Dolores a few days ago, but there wasn't time for a chat. Young Juan must be quite a lad now. And Isabel will be having her first communion . . . By the way, I'm calling to say there's a report of a body of a man at the foot of Barca. Do you know where that is?'

‘You think I'm from Barcelona?'

‘Seems he fell from up top and landed on his head.'

‘What's the victim's name?'

‘No idea.'

‘Who reported it?'

‘Anonymous.'

‘You've confirmation of the report?'

‘No.'

‘Then it's maybe a hoax.'

‘Which is why you'll need to check.'

‘It's your job to do that. It'll have been an accident.'

‘Who's to say? Years ago, soon after I started here, a young unmarried woman who was in bud threw herself off Barca because in those days she'd have been held in contempt by everyone when she popped it.'

‘Men don't become pregnant.'

‘A word of warning. Our new sergeant is a pocket Napoleon. If he thinks you're trying to skive, he'll create trouble.'

‘Skive? All I'm making certain is that the right procedure is observed.'

‘And I believe in mermaids.'

Resentfully, Alvarez replaced the receiver. People were becoming ever less ready to work.

TWO

I
t was many years since Alvarez had last seen Barca, yet nothing had changed. The tourist tsunami had not wreaked its havoc. No unsightly huddle of flats and houses was in sight.

He rounded the spur and saw the body. The telephone call had not been a hoax. As he approached it, he tried and failed to overcome the harsh reminder that to live was to die, sometimes violently.

The damage to the head made it difficult to judge age and appearance, but guesswork suggested early sixties. The dead man wore a white cotton shirt, white shorts, good-quality sandals. The shirt label recorded it had been made in England; in a pocket of the shorts was a note on which was written, in English: 3 AAA batteries, mobile,
Telegraph
. The victim was probably English.

There was nothing to do until the doctor and photographer turned up, so he settled on the ground. Relaxation was a stressed man's therapy.

Jurando was the first to arrive. He gave Alvarez a cheerful greeting – an unusual doctor – briefly referred to the last time they had met and asked after Alvarez's family. He put a small bag down on the ground, studied the body from a distance. ‘What do you know about him?'

‘Nothing. The policia received an anonymous phone call to say there was a body here and I decided to come and check, rather than leave it to them. I had a brief search for identification, naturally taking care to disturb as little as possible, and there's good reason to believe him to be English.'

‘Right. I'll see what information I can add.' Jurando opened his bag and brought out a pair of surgeon's gloves and a forensic thermometer. He crossed to the body, walked slowly around it, bent down and began his examination. Watching, Alvarez was saddened by the irrational thought that death could strip a man of all his dignity.

Jurando returned, put gloves in a disposable plastic bag, thermometer in a clinical holder and returned both to his case. He stood. ‘Injuries are consistent with a fall from some height.' He scratched the lobe of his right ear. ‘There are signs of bruising on his stomach.

‘I suppose you'll want a time of death, even though this will be as unreliable as ever. Rigor is in the face, jaw, and neck muscles, but not in arms and legs; together with the body temperature, this suggests roughly six hours ago.'

Alvarez looked at his watch; death had been at around 1300 hours.

‘From here, there's no sign of fencing above. If there is some, which surely there must be, it's set well back, so it's unlikely he was on the wrong side by chance. A possible suicide?'

‘More likely he'd been drinking and forgot where he was.'

‘PM results will answer that one. You can arrange for the body to be collected and taken to the morgue. And if you'd let them know I'll hope to carry out the PM at midday tomorrow.'

Jurando left, his walk as brisk as when he had arrived. Alvarez lit a cigarette. It was depressing to witness such energy in a man of roughly his own age. Perhaps he really should give up smoking and drink less.

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