Friday, November 27, 2009

Timestream, Part 8

[Click for Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, and Part 7.]

The next morning, after clearing the fog from my head, I thought I should talk with young Jason Billings again. I reached the holding cells to find Commodore Billings talking with his nephew.

“I was just leaving, Miss J. Talk to the boy all you need, and see if you can get any sense out of him. I’ve about had it.” Jason bristled, but said nothing.

As the guard let Tom Billings out of the cell and allowed me in, I said, “I talked with both Mr. Patterson’s daughter, Angela, and Mr. Schneider. They both seem fairly put out by your behavior, and they would not be surprised if you turned out to have killed Mr. Patterson.”

“I don’t know how many times I have to tell you – or the police, or my uncle – but I didn’t kill anyone.”

“Do you have an alibi for the time of death?”

“I wish I did. If I had known I’d need one, I would have found a large crowd and made myself so obnoxious no one could forget me, then I would have shouted out the time.”

I laughed. “I will take that as a ‘no.’ All right, then. That is unfortunate, but let us continue. Were you familiar with any of the projects Mr. Patterson was working on at the time of his death?”

“Not really. I don’t have a head for science, so even when Farley would tell me about something or the other it would make no sense to me. He only talked about items he completed and released for sale, because he was paranoid that someone would take an idea of his and rush a product to market before he could perfect it. Unlike a lot of weekend inventors, Farley made his living through his ingenuity, so he protected his ideas pretty carefully.” He paused, then looked up. “Oh, I know! If you really want to know, ask my uncle.”

“The Commodore? Why would he know?”

“I overheard the last part of a big set-to between my uncle and Farley. Farley was saying that he couldn’t just give things away, and my uncle was saying he’d be willing to pay a fortune, but he didn’t have a fortune. Farley laughed in a kind of nasty way and said this would make a fortune, and was my uncle in or out as an investor? He said he had already developed a prototype and, as the demonstration showed, he had it nearly working, so he had little need for investors now, just a small need for some cash to tide him over until the royalties started coming in. Tom said the price was still too steep for him to afford, and that was that. I walked in, Farley said hello to me, and left. In fact, that was about a week before Farley confronted me about manipulating the books on his investment account, so I guess he really needed the money and was mad because his account was almost empty.”

“Hmm. I must say, Mr. Billings, you are a difficult client with whom to work. You keep coming up with motives for you to have done what you swear you did not do.” Jason started to protest, but I held up a hand to quiet him. “Perhaps the best way to handle this is to work from the other direction. I shall see what I can do to, um, persuade the judicial system to look elsewhere.” I certainly hoped that the police and courts in this country were not incorruptible, but, from what I had seen so far, that was unlikely to be a concern.

1 comment:

HeadBurro Antfarm said...

oooo if it weren't for a little matter of "The truth" I'd say let the bugger swing!