We drove north on state highway one under an overcast sky, sleet beating down on us, for about five minutes before pulling into the parking lot of the Bay Front Motel. It was a quaint little place whose walls were painted a burnt orange and potted flowers brought a splash of colour to the place. Entering through the sliding doors we headed to the reception desk. An older Maori woman sat reading behind the pale wood desk, a cheap flat packed desk that had been thrown together in a hurry and there was a small gap between one end and the desk top. She looked up from her book as we approached and smiled.
“Sorry no vacancies tonight. But you could try the Bay Viaduct just across the road.”
“Actually we are here to see someone. Mr David Robinson and a Ms Shelly Robinson checked in earlier today I believe?”
“Oh right. Hold a minute let me check. Yes here it is. They have asked not to be disturbed though.”
“We’re here on police business.” I stated giving my most disarming smile as I showed her my badge. Louisa followed suit. The woman lowered her voice and in a hushed tone asked,
“I do hope there won’t be any trouble? They aren’t fugitives are they? We can’t afford to lose customers. They are in room 101 at the end of the hall.”
“No we are just here to ask a few questions. They haven’t done anything wrong. It’s just routine.” I reassured her before heading through the fire door and down the short corridor. The paint was a funny shade of green and a well-worn olive coloured carpet adorned the floor. The bland pan lights were spaced every few feet overhead and produced a most unnatural brightness. Stopping outside room 101 we both braced ourselves for what came next. Dealing with families of the recently deceased was never a job to be enjoyed. It was one of the most harrowing and stressful parts of the job. It needed to be done however and on this occasion it fell to us. I gave sharp knock at the door and stepped back. After a minute we heard the lock unbolt and a tanned athletic looking woman stood before us, dressed in a sombre outfit of black. I presumed that she was Shelly Robinson and couldn’t help thinking that she looked good for a thirty eight year old.
“Yes. And I’m guessing that you must be the police.” She extended her hand and gave a firm shake.
“I’m DI Luke McIntyre.”
“DC Louisa Speer.” Louisa stepped forward and shook Ms Robinson’s hand.
“We just need to ask you and your brother a few questions if we may?”
“Yes come in. but will you keep it short.” It was a statement more than a question, “David isn’t in a good way. I honestly don’t know why they released him from the hospital.”
“Of course.” We headed into the small room which was home to two single beds clad in flowery sheets, two mismatched dining room chairs and a small vanity table. To one side was the bathroom and opposite the door was a spectacular view of Caroline Bay, or at least it would have been had the weather been better. So this was why people came here. Up until now I had been struggling to find any appeal at all in this scruffy little motel.
“Hello again Mr Robinson.” I wanted to ask if he was feeling better but it only took one look at him to see that he wasn’t. Instead I decided to jump straight in and get this whole unpleasant conversation over and done with as quickly as possible. “David can I ask if the front door was usually kept locked?”
He just looked blankly at me; it was almost as if I were invisible.
“I can answer that.” Piped up the sister, “no they rarely locked the door in the day. At night it was always locked though.”
“Thank you Ms Robinson. So the door wouldn’t have been locked after David went for his run I assume?” even as I asked the question one of my favourite quotes resonated in my head, assumption is the mother of all fuck ups.
“I wouldn’t have thought so. It would have been very unlike mum or dad to lock it behind him.”
“Can either of you tell me if it was locked the night before the murder?”
“No sorry I really couldn’t say. I would assume so but I can’t be sure.” Shelly answered again.
“Ms Robinson can you think of anyone who would want to hurt your family? Any ex’s or anything?”
She shook her head and looked me straight in the eye, “no. I have been trying to think of someone, anyone, who might do this but I can’t. I’m sorry but I can’t. I know people make my parents sound like saints, and I know that most cops wouldn’t buy it but in this case it is just about true. They loved everybody. They were kind to everybody and they would help anybody who needed it. I’m sorry I just don’t see why anyone would want to hurt them.”
I nodded sadly. I was starting to believe that this was a random act. In the past I had always refuted the fact that any act, criminal or otherwise, was completely random, but this case was starting to make me rethink my belief system. A sudden animalistic sound erupted from the corner causing us all to jump. David Robinson was sat with his knees pulled up to his chest, and his forehead pushed hard against his knees, rocking back and forth.
“It wasn’t….it wasn’t….it wasn’t.” He repeated over and over. Louisa and I stepped back to give Shelly room to calm her brother.
“What wasn’t sweetie? What are you saying?” Her voice was soothing and nurturing.
“The door…it wasn’t.” Came the choked reply.
“The door wasn’t locked the night before?”
“No!” He wailed almost hysterically, “it’s my fault! It’s all my fault!”
“David no! This is not your fault! You couldn’t have done anything differently.”
“It is…it is…I went to the pub…I was drunk…I didn’t lock it…I didn’t…” his voice trailed off leaving just the sound of his distressed cries echoing around the room. Shelly wrapped her arms around him and held him tightly, whispering inane words of comfort in his ear.
After what seemed like hours I broke the silence. I had to finish these questions or I would end up running from this building screaming.
“I’m sorry to have to ask you these questions but the answers could be really very helpful. Did anything happen at the pub Mr Robinson? Anything that might have seemed strange or out of place?”
“No not that I remember. I was pretty drunk.” He had managed to calm down for the time being and was back to staring through me. “There was one guy who brought me a drink. Said I looked like I needed it. I told him I was having woman trouble. You know? The sort of conversation blokes have in pubs. I had a fight with Becky before I went to the pub. She was pissed off at me for some reason that I still can’t fathom. It all seems to childish now…” his voice drifted off.
“What was the fight about?”
“I was drunk; she was pissed at me for it. I was on holiday you know? I was letting my hair down for a change. I work so hard all the time back at home and I was just making the most of my holiday…it all seems so silly and pointless now…”
“Which pub were you drinking at?”
“The one in Pleasant Point opposite the station. I can’t remember the name.”
“The Steam On Inn?” offered Louisa. David nodded meekly.
“And one last question. May I see your running shoes?”
“Why in the world would you want to see his running shoes?” Shelly asked.
“Just for elimination purposes. We found a print at the house and just need to know if it belongs to your brother or to the killer.” I didn’t dare tell them that, due to its position, it could only be the killers and that we were just ruling David out.
Shelly pulled his trainers from a carrier bag that sat by the bed and handed them to me. Reebok size 12.
“Thank you.” I smiled as I handed them to Louisa who looked at them just long enough to see they weren’t a match before she passed them back to Shelly. “Will you be staying here for a while?”
“Until you have finished with your enquiries, yes.” She replied sadly.
“Thank you very much for your time and we will do the best we can to get this guy. You have my word.”
“Thank you detective.” She walked us the door and said good bye.
Once outside Louisa and I conferred under the shelter of the porch.
“Well it definitely isn’t his shoe print. And I’d say there is a good chance that the killer just walked straight in. God this sucks. I shall never leave my door unlocked again. Not even for a minute.” Louisa said.
“Yeah I know what you mean. What do you make of the guy at the pub? Sounds innocent enough to me but might be worth checking out?”
“Umm. Yeah I suppose. Don’t see it getting us anywhere though.” I nodded my agreement and we hopped back in the car and back to the station, where we spent the rest of the day writing reports and continuing the hunt for the dark coloured car and large alcohol sales. We did learn, from the specialist pathologist that had been called in, that all the victims had definitely been alive when the fire was lit, and we also learned the fingerprints of all three adults had been preserved well enough for comparison. All was not lost and the day was not a total washout.
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