Trinity Island – Chapter 20

February 18, 2013 at 9:05 pm (Trinity Island)

“Do you think your dad is capable of something like this?” Galen asked Claire.

He had called an end to their investigation late the night before, when he’d realized that everyone was tired and not thinking clearly. They’d resumed their conversation the next morning, after a full night’s sleep. Mac brewed coffee in the small machine Galen had purchased for the station. Sarah had pilfered a coffee cake from her cafe.

“I don’t know how I can think anyone is capable of this, but obviously someone is. I guess I don’t know what his reason would be.”

“Money?” Galen asked.

“You mean maybe he’s killing them to keep them away from the Wallis fortune?” When Galen nodded, Claire shook her head. The Wallis fortune was tied up nice and tight, thanks to her grandfather. He’d known exactly what was going on, on the island. He’d set aside a specific amount for his son and then turned everything else over to Claire. “I guess he could be doing it to keep them away from his own money, but they wouldn’t be able to get their hands on the Foundation’s money or my money, whether he acknowledged them as his children or not.”

“What about the way he’s cancelled the Foundation’s board and made his wife the sole person capable of deciding who gets the money?” Sarah asked. “If she can control that, could these other women think that she can hand it over to them? And if they think that, could they be blackmailing her and she’s getting rid of them?”

Claire shrugged, taking a sip of her coffee while she organized her thoughts. “Technically, I guess they could think that, but they’d find out quickly that it wouldn’t work. There are processes in place that make it difficult for anyone to skim money from the Foundation.”

“Even when her brother is the bank manager?” Galen asked.

Claire nodded. “The Foundation’s money comes through Trinity Trust, but it’s not held there. The money is held in several locations around the world, because it’s safer that way. Emma Wallis might be able to decide which petitions get processed and which end up in the garbage bin, but the release of funds doesn’t come from her or from Trent West. It comes from a law firm in New York. If there was any suggestion of fraud, the authorities would be contacted immediately.”

“But it’s possible that these women didn’t know that,” Galen said.

“Oh that’s definitely possible. Very few people would know the steps my grandfather took to preserve the purpose of the Foundation, as well as its fortune.”

“Is it considered a part of the estate?” Sarah asked.

“No, it no longer belongs to me or anyone in my family. It is its own entity.”

“Emma Wallis believes the money is hers.” Sarah explained how on several occasions she’d overheard Emma talking down to other folks in the town, saying how with the vast fortune of the Foundation behind her, she could buy and sell the island, several times over. “Unless Reginald’s fortune alone could do that.”

“He has a large chunk of cash, no question, but it’s nothing compared to the money the Foundation has access to.” Claire knew, to the penny, how much money her father had, because she was responsible for making sure he never ran out. When the lawyers had turned the estate over to her on her eighteenth birthday, it had included a letter from her grandfather telling her what he expected of her. Taking care of her father, who couldn’t be trusted to care for his personal finances, was one of many things she’d been asked to do.

And she’d done it, no questions asked. She couldn’t understand why her father got the free ride while she had to make sure they didn’t go broke, but he did. Claire chose to believe that her grandfather had known, even when she was eight, that she would be able to shoulder the responsibility for her family far better than her parents would. When it frustrated her just how much money her father spent, she tried to remember that.

“Either way, it’s worth a chat with your father and his wife,” Galen said.

He, Claire, and Mac headed out to his truck. Sarah opted out, saying she needed to get back to her store. They drove in silence, Claire thinking about the waste her father has made of his life. She knew he was happy though. How could he not be; he didn’t have to do anything to earn a living and he never had to worry about making ends meet. Claire didn’t worry about money either, because she knew how to make it. Her grandfather had left her very well off and she’d made good friends at her boarding school who helped her keep her finances healthy.

The closer they got to the house on the hill that Claire had originally likened to a giant toad squatting on a too-small lily pad, the uglier the place got. The additions appeared to be fighting each other for supremacy, as though every new project had had to be bigger and more outlandish than the previous one.

“It’s quite hideous, isn’t it?” Mac said.

Claire murmured her assent. If she’d opened her mouth she’d have burst into laughter.

Galen parked in the drive, behind a black Range Rover. Claire looked around, realizing that a close-up view of the house was no better than a distance view had been. Mac trailed them to the front door, observing the landscaping with an appalled look on his face. There wasn’t a lot of land left to see to but, given there were no projects on the go, he was surprised that there was nothing but dead grass and weeds everywhere. He shook his head, muttering under his breath as Galen knocked on the door.

Trent West answered his knock. He pulled the door wide enough so that everyone could enter, without saying a word. Trent directed them to the living room, which faced out the front of the house. They had a lovely view of the town and the water beyond. Emma sat on the couch, her swollen belly protruding out from beneath her too tight yoga shirt. Reginald sat in a chair across the room, reading the newspaper.

Claire was the first to enter the room. She took the second couch, choosing not to sit close to either of the room’s occupants. Mac sat beside her and Galen remained standing. Reginald put the paper aside, but remained silent. No one offered them refreshments or asked what they wanted.

Galen pulled the pictures of the deceased women from a folder he’d tucked into his jacket. He tossed them face up on the coffee table, so that everyone could see them.

“Each of these women are believed to have been fathered by you,” he said, addressing Reginald directly.

Reginald leaned forward and stared at the photos of the women with a blank expression on his face. He didn’t recognize any of them, because their mothers had never tried to hold him responsible for them. He sat back and turned his attention to Galen.

“They’re all dead,” he said.

Reginald frowned, but otherwise didn’t show any emotion.

“He only has one child,” Emma Wallis stated. She patted her belly. “This one.”

Claire snorted. She was the only one her father had ever acknowledged, but here was his wife trying to pretend she didn’t exist.

Reginald cleared his throat. “I have one child, a daughter, and her name is Claire.” He gestured towards Claire in case his wife didn’t know who she was. “I don’t know anything about these women, Detective.”

“Did you know they were yours?” he asked.

Reginald shrugged. “It has never been my way to worry about things like that.”

Claire barely refrained from rolling her eyes. It hadn’t been his way to worry about her when she lived in the same house with him. She wasn’t surprised to hear him casually state that he’d never given any of his offspring more than a second’s thought. But could he really not know how many children he’d produced? She thought for sure that some of the mothers must have come to him looking for support. The family wealth was not a secret, and it took two people to make a baby. Her father should have been paying child support to the families all these years, but had somehow managed to escape even that bit of responsibility. She wondered if there were any fatherless, blue-eyed children running around Europe, where her father had spent a great deal of his time before returning to Trinity with a wife.

“No one ever came to him for support, as far as I know,” Claire stated. “Nothing like that ever went through his accounts.”

Reginald shook his head. “I’ve never paid out money for such as that.”

“And they couldn’t have petitioned the Foundation for it?” Galen asked.

Emma harrumphed. “I would never have allowed my Foundation to pay for someone’s bastard child.”

Claire frowned at her choice of words. She didn’t think people made much fuss over whether a baby was born out of wedlock these days. As to her suggestion that she owned the Foundation, Claire had trouble controlling the smirk.

“I will, however, be making a formal request for the Foundation’s funds to be transferred to my child as his inheritance package.”

Claire raised her eyebrows at that. “That’s not how the Foundation works.”

At the same time, Reginald said, “that’s what this has always been about?”

Emma ignored both of them. “It’s only fair that my son has control of the Wallis estate.” With a glare for Claire, she added, “full control.”

“What does that mean, specifically?” Claire asked.

“It means that once my son is born, I’ll be coming for that house and any other land that the Wallis’ own. You’ll have to find somewhere else to live and someone else’s money to spend.”

Claire snorted once again. “You’re a spoiled fool if you think you’ll be able to touch any of it.”

“I’m married to the Wallis heir and, as such, I can control the Wallis fortune. Just watch me,” Emma seethed.

“Actually, you’re not married to the Wallis heir. I’m not married,” Claire said. When Emma frowned, Claire continued. “The Foundation money has been removed from the estate and is not claimable by any Wallis. As to the house and other land holdings, those are owned by me. My father is not the heir to the estate; I am.”

Reginald bestowed a rare smile on his daughter. Claire ignored it and waited for Emma’s next exclamation. It wasn’t long in coming.

“What do you intend to do for our child?” she demanded of her husband.

“I have one child, a daughter, and her name is Claire,” Reginald repeated. Before his wife could speak, he continued. “The child you carry cannot be mine, as I had a vasectomy ten years ago.”

Claire felt her mouth gape open in shock. Why was he putting up with this mouthy, bossy woman if he didn’t have to? She stared at Emma, whose cheeks were rosy, either from embarrassment or anger, Claire wasn’t sure. Before anyone could speak, Reginald continued. He stated that his recollection of their wedding was quite fogged from drink and he wondered if the ceremony was at all legal. He didn’t care about being married, because he’d never let it hamper his movements before, and he had no intention of letting it do so now. But if she forced the baby issue, he’d get his lawyers involved.

“As to these women, Detective,” he said, gesturing to the photos still lying on the coffee table, “I have no idea why anyone would want to cause them harm.”

“If they didn’t know that the Foundation’s money wasn’t a part of the Wallis estate, could they have put pressure on Emma to give them some of it?” Galen asked.

“Grasping at straws, are you?” Trent spoke for the first time since letting them in the house. “I imagine you’re under a lot of pressure to make an arrest in this case. Do you really think a pregnant woman could have done the things the killer did?”

“Not by herself, no,” Galen said, with a meaningful glance at Trent.

Claire studied Trent, wondering what it was about him that she didn’t like. She’d barely spent any time with him. He’d always palmed her off on his assistant, Marty. He was fit; fit enough to have run through the forest that day Galen had chased someone near the cabin in the woods. Something was ticking away at the back of her mind, but she couldn’t draw it forward. She watched as his fingers plucked at the crease in his pants. His nails were perfectly manicured, his fingers long. He had a ring on his right hand.

She focused on the ring. She’d seen it somewhere before, hadn’t she? She must have seen it on him the rare times she’d seen him at the bank or in town. The gold glinted in the sun coming through the windows. She could barely make out an initial overtop of the square of onyx set into the ring. And then it hit her.

“That’s a very interesting ring you have on, Trent. Where have I seen that before?” Claire asked, looking at Galen.

Galen turned his attention to the ring before Trent could tuck his hand away. He made the connection immediately, and shifted his focus to another woman. He pulled a cell phone from his pocket and brought up the text message Kay had received the night she was attacked. To Reginald, he said, “you were supposed to meet with Kay last Saturday?”

He nodded. “I called her in the early afternoon to say that I wouldn’t be meeting with her after all.” Galen asked if he’d sent her a text message reinstating their date. Reginald shook his head. “I had other plans that night.”

“Care to tell me what those plans were?” Galen asked.

Reginald shrugged. “I spent the evening with Melody Fiegel. I took her for dinner at Crossroads Fish House and then spent the night at her place.”

“Pig,” Emma muttered.

Galen noticed that she didn’t sound surprised. Addressing Reginald again, he said, “you didn’t send her a text that said ‘Hey babe, we’re on. Wife’s gone to bed early with a migraine. Meet me, same time and place. Reggie.’?”

“He would never have used the name Reggie,” Claire said.

“Hate that name,” Reginald muttered.

“My mother used to call him that when she was annoyed with him.” Claire watched as Emma bit her lower lip, her eyes darting around the room. “I imagine his current wife has also called him that from time to time.”

Emma glared at Claire, but didn’t deny it. She crossed her arms over her ample breasts and stuck her lower lip out in a pout.

“The text to Kay came in just before seven that same evening,” Galen said. “Where was your phone at that time, Mr. Wallis?”

“It would have been here. I was getting ready for my date, so I was probably in the shower.”

“Here, where anyone in the house could have accessed it without you knowing.” Galen split his attention between Emma and her brother, waiting for one of them to crack. Trent has started to sweat, but otherwise remained silent. Emma continued to pout.

“Kay was attacked by a man wearing a ring on his right hand,” Galen said, focusing on Trent. “A gold ring with an onyx stone in it and an initial on the stone. Like yours.”

Mac stood and wandered over to the only exit from the room. He leaned against the door jamb, arms crossed over his chest.

Trent slouched in his chair, twisting the ring around his finger. “Emma was worried her husband was becoming too enamoured of Kay.” He waited until his sister stopped shrieking at him before continuing. “She wanted Kay off the island, so I scared her and then told her to leave.”

“Got a little carried away, didn’t you?” Galen asked. And then he took a shot in the dark. “Like you did with Larry Streiber?”

Trent’s head shot up and he half raised himself from the chair. He saw the truth in Galen’s eyes and knew that his days of having gotten away with murder had ended. He slumped back down, his head hanging low. He’d always thought that if anyone found out the truth, it would be a relief, but it felt more like a noose tightening around his neck.

Galen read him his rights, but Trent ignored them. He hadn’t done the job alone and he wasn’t going to be the only one who went down for it. He ratted out Bill Hallison. Bill had come up with the ingenious method of body disposal. They’d had no idea they were being watched until Galen’s team had pulled all of the other bodies from the marina. Trent clammed up when it came to the reason for killing Larry Streiber. He refused to say another word after that, and then he asked for a lawyer, so Galen was forced to stop questioning him.

Galen addressed Emma next. “I’ll leave it to the prosecuting attorney to decide if he wants to press charges against you.”

Emma stroked a hand across her protruding belly. “They wouldn’t put a pregnant woman in jail for sending a text, would they?”

“Your text put a woman in the hospital. At the least, it’s malicious intent.”

Emma turned on her husband. “This would never have happened if you’d learned to keep it in your pants!”

Reginald raised an eyebrow, crossing one leg over the other. “You knew how I was when you met me.”

Claire did roll her eyes that time. She walked over to stand next to Mac. Galen handcuffed Trent, hauled him to his feet, and marched him towards the exit. Claire watched as her father picked up his newspaper, ignoring everyone in the room once again. She stared up at Mac. “Can you imagine the basket case I would be if you had let my parents raise me?”

Galen paused at the exit and whispered, “thank God for you, Mac.”

Mac snorted. “Come on, let’s get out of here.” He led Claire out of the house without another glance at Reginald Wallis or his wife.

Galen drove to the station so he could process Trent West and have him transferred to Vancouver to stand trial. After locking West up, Galen went in search of Bill Hallison. He figured Bill must have seen West getting marched into the station, or the gossip mill had whispered about their visit to Toad Hall, because Bill Hallison had to be removed from the ferry before it could depart for the mainland. He hadn’t packed a thing aside from some cash and his passport. Galen had placed a call down to the docks, asking them to keep an eye out. They’d confirmed that Hallison was already loaded on the ferry. West received some company in the makeshift cell at the station.

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