Inspector Svent Freemont peered through his cabin window, with a hot cup of coffee in his hand, and allowed himself the simple pleasure of getting soaked in the morning sun. An unusually free morning was something he did not know that he missed until today. His schedule was wrapped around with cases of burglary, murder or fraud every day, but today, he looked through the vastness of the green field outside his window that stretched till very far, under the endless blue skies.
“These green plains take me back to a case from some years old, Willy,” Freemont said knowing that Willy was at the table too, behind him, enjoying the warmth of the free morning himself.
“Does it, sir? What was it about?” Willy was excited, as he always is when Freemont opens up the interesting cases he has dealt with.
“It was a case of the unbuckled parachute”
Willy was perplexed. “An unbuckled parachute? As stimulating as it sounds, how did it go, Inspector?”
Freemont had a faint smile on his yellow-washed face. “It went very well, Willy. Since you seem to be willing to hear, here goes it. Nearly four years ago, in the plains of Famtown, about twenty kilometers off the state highway that ran between here and Dunyap, there was a special team of our military that was training ten of its finest soldiers for night rescues. This training included of flying in the murky sky, diving onto the Famtown plains with a parachute, and performing several other tasks in the blinding night.”
“And one of the parachutes was tinkered with!” Willy exclaimed with a slightly unrepressed horror.
“Yes, one of the parachutes was messed with, and it caused Greg Munk an untimely and horrifying death. When I was at the crime scene, there was the head of the training, Lt. Richard Humes, the nine other soldiers, shaken at the belief that it could have been them, and a few other men from the neighbourhood, some shocked, some nonchalant.”
“I would place my bets on one of the other soldiers. At times, jealousy can make one do what passion cannot.”
“Rightly said, Willy. Although, a good detective must not jump to conclusions so soon. I began with my investigations with the Lieutenant in a small building where the soldiers had put up along with Lt. Richard Humes. The soldiers grieved, but the Lieutenant was stern in his appearance. Hands held at his back, his strictly stiff posture made him stand out among all others. There was a very worrying frown on his face, made his furry white eyebrows meet and form creases on his forehead.”
“The pain of oppressive accountability must be eating him up,” said Willy as soon as Freemont paused from his narration for a sip from his coffee.
“It did, but he acted otherwise,” replied Freemont immediately as if imposing his personal respect for the man. “He silenced the grieving of the other nine soldiers by making them believe that this was the time to show resolve and courage; not to mourn. There will be a right time to lament for the loss, which is not in the present day. Today, we endure with the training.”
“Our military needs men like him.” Willy felt respect for Lt. Humes and had goose bumps as he expressed his respect for the man, who stood as a pillar for the country’s defense.
“Upon further investigation,” Freemont continued, unaffected by Willy’s comments. “Lt. Humes happened to mention Tom Bailey, an ex-military, who was let go from the special team due to budget cuts. Tom had strived his way up to the position, where he deserved to be among the ten, but he did not make it. He was agitated, and in fury, he quit the military altogether, and hopped on a mission to defame the special team. He had three years of experience in the military, had a knowledge of parachutes, and did not hold a positive feeling for the special team. What would you do next, Willy? On whom would you fix your eyes on?”
“Clearly, Tom is on the top of my list.” Willy said with growing excitement.
Freemont eventually turned away from the sun, and now faced Willy. Freemont’s involvement in the narration was now to its maximum and it was evident from his voice. “But, Tom was innocent.”
Willy had a growing smile on his face. He felt like he was a kid again. “How did you come to that conclusion?”
“Chiefly, because I know who did it. However, upon questioning Tom, he turned out to be a proud ex-military who would sever a head rather than killing someone passively. His case against the special team was unfairly dismissed by the court, and the injustice on him was sound. Nevertheless, as a man of honour, he admitted the he would have done better than chopping off a buckle from the parachute. I did not rule him out completely, yet. Not until the case was closed.”
“So, the murderer, whoever it was, did not care about which one of the ten died. It indeed could have been any of the ten!” Willy was moved at the thought of having escaped death so closely. “How innocent were the other nine soldiers?”
“On the other day, the nine soldiers were in the woods, training on military strategy. It was hide-n-seek but on a more serious level. If you were sought on the real playground, you could die.” Freemont took the last sip from his coffee, and placed the cup on the wooden table. “And in that hide-n-seek, a loud burst of a bullet shot came in from the woods, and shot one of the remaining nine down. A woman soldier, with whom Lt. Humes had a semi-secret relationship with. The team knew, but none others.”
Willy was horrified. “And then, there were eight.” Agatha Christie’s mystery thrilled Willy every time he read her books. This was happening in real.
“Eight.” Freemont took a pause. “On the bright side, this time, I had a lead that I could pursue. Not one, but two leads, in same day. As the forensics were analyzing the bullet from the soldier’s body all night, Lt. Humes was next on the death list. A bomb was found under the bed of Lt. Humes and when he woke up to find his slippers from underneath the bed, he took notice of the bomb. It had an hour to go. Such luck!”
“This keeps getting better. I would like to move my bet to one of the eight soldiers, now! That soldier killed two colleagues and now the head of their training. It is clear as a whistle!”
“Only if were so simple, Willy,” replied Svent with a smile on his face. He continued. “The bomb was defused on time, and Lt. Humes was under a tighter security for the entire night. Now, is when it starts to get interesting, Willy. Hold on to your socks.”
Willy moved slightly on his chair, and he leaned forward bringing his keen ears forward.
“The bullet information led me to one of the men from the neighbourhood who was at the crime scene on the day one. It was not very easy to catch the owner of the gun, but I had no alternative but to find him. Nevertheless, I had no clue why he would kill the soldiers. I had not the slightest idea on his motive, and thus, I brought him in for questioning. He was a bartender from the nearby bar, where the soldiers usually frequented, and Lt. Humes was there once, too, as claimed by one of the soldiers.”
“But why would a bartender…” Willy was lost in the complications of the case.
“Lt. Humes asked me the same. I knew exactly how to bring the truth on the front page.”
Willy could not wait till he got to the end of this story. His impatience was ever-growing.
“With Lt. Humes, the bartender and me in a locked room, the bartender was interrogated oppressively by the both to break him down. He did not. He was shocked at the allegation as well as at the idea of him being brought in. Since he did not budge, I took out my bag, and unpacked the same bomb that was found under Lt. Humes’ bed and placed it on the table. I knew the bartender would rather defuse the bomb than die, so I ticked the bomb on and timed it to ten seconds.”
“Unbelievable! You risked your life to prove the bartender guilty!” Willy widened his eyes in shock and at the courage that Freemont had shown for his duty.
“Ten seconds, Willy. Ten seconds. The bartender was horrified, and he quailed in the corner of the room, shocked and sweaty. Seven seconds. He was shouting for help and at five seconds he had given up.”
“Did he defuse it in mere five seconds?”
“It took him less than two seconds, but it was not the bartender who did it.”
Willy froze. “It was Lt. Humes all along?” He could not believe what he was hearing. “But…why?”
Willy’s shock brought Svent an even bigger smile. “Turns out, that the first kill, Greg Munk, was only to confuse the investigation.” He let the words sink in. “He was after the second kill, the woman named Martha Neef. She had threatened to charge him with sexual assault if he did not promote her, which Lt. Humes could not. Instead of having his decades-old career jeopardized, coupled with disrespect and hatred, he thought of solving the problem by eliminating it, rather than facing it. Juvenile criminals, I’d say.”
“And, he placed the bomb under his bed to throw off the lead from him, framing himself as a victim.” Willy was at a loss of words, but he felt the brilliance of Freemont’s mind strongly and rightly. “Impressive, inspector.”
Then the lonely phone at the table rang and Willy picked it up immediately. It was a time for a new adventure with Svent Freemont.