Saturday again! I hope you are all well and have had a great week! Its time for another instalment of the horror story The Photograph.
Last week, our Protagonist, BIFF KELLER, was continuing his questioning by the police about the disappearance of his friend THORLEY LANGDON. Biff was recounting the moment when Thorley’s wife, known as ‘Sparrow’, told him that her husband hadn’t come home.
“Where did I get to?”
“You had told Mrs Langdon not to worry,” Daly said. He held out a hand, inviting Biff to continue his description of events.
“Oh, right. I called on Sparrow the following day. She had still not heard from Thorley. I don’t think she had slept; she was wearing the same dress and shawl I had left her in the previous day, and that’s not like Sparrow; she was always immaculately turned out; I’d never seen her with so much as a hair out of place.
“There was nothing I could do. I again suggested calling the police, but she was still against that idea; said she didn’t want to trouble you boys over something so silly. I think she was embarrassed, but I abided by her wishes and left her. I went home again and waited. For what, I can’t say, but I was hoping that he’d just turn up and bang on my door, and we would have a laugh about it over a glass of brandy. He didn’t, of course, so I waited all day by the phone, not wanting to go back and sit with Sparrow. She was my best friend’s wife, you understand. It wouldn’t be right for me to spend a whole day with his wife, would it? People might talk.”
“I guess so,” said Curtis. “When and how did you come to be in contact with Mr Langdon?”
“It was the same day; that evening, in fact. I was having a glass of brandy by myself in my bungalow, watching the television, when the phone rang.”
“What time would that be, do you recall?”
“Just after nine.” No hesitation. “Maybe five past?”
“How can you be so sure, Mr Keller?”
“Well, that celebrity jungle programme had just started. When the phone rang, it was a welcome relief. How those people can be considered celebrities is beyond me-”
“Okay, just after nine.” Curtis didn’t like interrupting Biff, but his meandering conversation was beginning to wear thin. “And that was Mr Langdon?”
“‘Biff,’ he said, ‘are you alone?’
“‘Yes,’ I said. ‘Are you alright Thorley?’
“His voice sounded distant, as if he was trying to avoid being overheard.
“‘Where are you?’ I asked, ‘Sparrow’s worried. We’re all worried’.
“‘I’m at the Park Hill Travel Lodge. Room 208.’ He didn’t sound like himself. Not the Thorley I knew. If I didn’t know better, I’d say he was crying. A Navy officer for twenty years. But still, I would swear he was crying.
“‘Are you okay?’ I asked him. ‘Why are you in a hotel?’
“‘I can’t go home,’ he said, ‘too much at stake. Too risky.’
“‘What’s at stake?’ I asked him. ‘Thorley, you’re not making any sense.’
“‘I know where George is.’
“Thorley must have thought we had been disconnected, because after a few seconds, he spoke again.
“‘Biff? Biff? Are you still there?’
“Well, as you can imagine, this had me stumped.” Biff said, running a hand over his face. Both detectives sat taller in their seats.
“That’s his son right?” Curtis said.
“Yes sir, it is. Was,” Biff corrected himself. “That boy was everything to Thorley.” He paused and looked at both detectives. “Ten. That’s how old he was. Can you imagine losing your only son at ten years of age?”
“I can only imagine, Mr Keller.” Curtis spoke in a respectful tone. “The boy’s body was never discovered, was it?” Curtis already knew the answer to this question.
“No sir, it was not. And that was the killer. Thorley was a broken man after that. Not knowing where his son had ended up, not knowing what he had to go through in the final moments of his life.” Biff took a handkerchief out of his pocket and used it to wipe the wetness from his cheeks. “Terrible,” he finished.
“Would you like a moment, Mr Keller?”
Biff returned the handkerchief to his pocket and cleared his throat.
“No. No. It’s just difficult to think how long he had lived with that uncertainty. Thirty plus years is a long time. If it wasn’t for Sparrow, I think he would’ve taken his own life a long time ago.”
“Is that what he did, Mr Keller? Take his own life? Was that your final gift to him, to cover up his death?”
That’s all for today, but come back next Saturday to see if Biff is covering for his friend…