You could hardly fault Old Man Madderfy's reaction to the arrival of the cops. Without missing a beat, he put on his most urbane expression and his most winning smile, and turned in his seat to face the police squad.
"Why, Miss Luncardy," he said smoothly, "What a pleasure it is to see you here."
The Inspector stood framed in the doorway, even her lanky form dwarfed by the big Goblin in black. Behind her stood the taciturn Sergeant and a phalanx of at least four other cops - about average for her, I would say - and, following up the rear, Madderfy's other two goons. These last had probably been half-asleep, or more so, when Luncardy's crew arrived. No time to give a warning at all. I really wouldn't want to be in their shoes when Madderfy found exactly what happened.
"It's Inspector Luncardy to you," she said tartly, adding after a barely perceptible pause, "Sir."
She moved into the room, ignoring the goon who was looking to Madderfy for instruction. She stopped in front of the desk, her sharp eyes flitting from Madderfy to me and back again. Finally, they focussed on the Old Man.
"To repeat my question, sir" she said levelly, "What was it you were telling Mister Gask here not to talk about?"
"Oh, I was just advising Gask not to repeat his unfounded suggestions about my business," he lied smoothly, "Wouldn't you agree that libellous remarks are to be avoided?"
He turned away from Luncardy and glared at me, daring me to contradict him.
"I have no intention of making any libellous remarks about your business to the police," I said, robot-like. I think Luncardy got the message.
It would only be a little later that I would remember that I hadn't actually mentioned Madderfy's private business, let alone utter baseless speculations about its nature. So why was this the first lie that sprang to the Old Man's mind when caught out?
"Mister Madderfy," Luncardy said formally, "I am here on police business to interview Mister Gask. I am afraid I must ask you to leave."
"Of course, of course," Madderfy replied urbanely, then added, "Does your Captain know you're here?"
"I will of course be filing a report in the usual way," Luncardy replied primly, "And I am engaged in a murder enquiry."
Old Man Madderfy stood up slowly, the smile seemingly nailed to his face. He barely gave me a glance, although his manner made it clear he was not happy with me, and with the situation. He moved towards the door sedately, without rushing, without acknowledging that he was being thrown out. He was just about to step over the threshold when Luncardy called out.
"Mister Madderfy. I will need to interview you. Please could you confirm your expected whereabouts for today and tomorrow?"
Madderfy's face was like thunder when he turned around. I could have applauded Luncardy for that look alone. Mind you, the control in his voice when he replied was also a masterpiece.
"Why do you feel the need to interview me?"
"I'm investigating a murder," she reminded him, "Your son, daughter and son-in-law - deceased - all of them knew the victim. The company you used to run had dealings with him. So perhaps there is something you know which will help with our enquiries."
It was eminently clear that Madderfy did not like this level of official interest in his affairs. He was used to being in control where the police were concerned. Although I wondered what kind of explosions would punctuate the next interview between Luncardy and Wester. She wasn't like his tame police captain. She had morals, or at least pride. She wasn’t going to be distracted from this course easily.
"I'll be at home," he replied, speaking slowly and carefully, "You can reach me there anytime."
That should keep him out of my metaphorical hair for a little while.