Jerome stared, aghast, at the note. He felt a lump forming at the base of his throat. It was almost as though the writer of the note was pressing them to inform the Police with his insistent correspondence. If they did not approach the Police, what if he or she divulged the events of that night? Jerome would not be able to bear considering the consequences. The whole trajectory of his life could be altered. All resulting from the mishap caused by their simple prank. Jerome turned his eyes to the others seated around the table.
They sat in silent contemplation. Finally, Robert spoke.
‘We have to go to the Police. Somebody knows what happened that night. If we don’t go forward, he very well might. We can tell the Police exactly what happened. It was an accident. If we do face any criminal charges, an early guilty plea would afford us leniency,’ he reasoned.
Saira sat still, her elbows resting on the table, her hands in the air clasped together. Her head rested between the grooves of her clasped thumbs. Motionless, she bemoaned, ‘My parents would be so ashamed. We were so foolish. He must’ve been so frightened by the whole ordeal. We’re responsible for what happened to Salim.’
‘Robert’s right. We’ve got to do the right thing,’ Greg opined simply.
Fred swept his perceptive eyes around the group before intervening. ‘Say, we do go to the Police to tell them everything. They would interview us separately to get our accounts. Say, some of us alter the story, for whatever reason. That casts doubt on everything. What if the Police even starts considering the whole thing premeditated? Then we could face a whole set of more serious charges.
‘Nobody knows who this mystery writer is, he could just have an axe to grind. It is best for us to remain silent and if the Police do start asking about Salim we’d just say we were never there,’ he advised.
Greg glared from across the table, his eyes boring into Fred.
‘What do you suggest we do with the notes?’ Robert questioned Fred, his eyebrow raised.
‘One of us should take the notes and hide them. What about you?’ Fred responded.
‘Then what? No secret remains buried forever,’ Greg said.
‘We just hope it does,’ Fred answered.
Greg sat still sipping his coffee, lost in the memories. He had known then that Fred was manipulative and could do anything to safeguard himself. Nothing had changed in the ensuing years. He did not know what Fred was capable of doing to protect himself. However, Greg’s conscience could not bear keeping the secret any longer. He turned his eyes to the Police station that loomed large across the street, the sunshine glancing off the cemented bricks forming the building.
His eyes then shifted to the written statement that was spread open on the table. ‘Are you happy with this admission?’ he questioned Ashraf and Saira who were sat across from him. ‘Yeah,’ Ashraf said, swallowing.
Saira did not respond immediately, her eyes fixed upon the wooden table. They had cancelled their return flight. She had pondered how she would be able to look her children in the eye if they ever discovered what had happened. The real question was how would she look into their eyes, aware of her own complicity in Salim’s demise and her consequent dishonesty?
Her husband had been right; they had to take responsibility for the past. Regardless of whatever transpired from their admission, she knew the children would be in safe hands with her sister. Saira tilted her head up and gave a nod.
Constable Eleanor Graves scrutinised the office register, the nimble fingers of one hand flicking the lined papers. She jotted down the names of Robert Smith’s visitors, the dates and duration of their visits with her other hand. She then surveyed any statements that any visitors had already supplied to explain the reason for their appointments with Robert Smith. She had been through the register several times to ensure the accuracy of her review.
Eleanor reached the final page of the register, from 21st March, the day Robert was murdered. She noticed something. The office emblem at the top of the page was slightly fainter than on the other pages. The entries on the final page had been written in ink slightly lighter than on the previous pages. It was a photocopy. How had she missed that? Where was the original page?
Her eyes narrowed; Eleanor scanned the page in it’s entirety. The bottom most entry was completely blank, even slight parts of the lining on the page were missing. Somebody had tippexed out the entry.
Eleanor’s brow furrowed. She flipped to the previous pages, examining the names. That’s when she noticed a recurring name, appearing on the day before Robert Smith’s murder and also a week earlier. The length of the stay of the visitor on both occasions was around 2 hours. The name did not appear anywhere else in the register. They had not obtained a statement from this person either.
The person had visited Robert Smith twice before his death. She reread the name: Jerome Walters.