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Guilty Not Guilty

Guilty Not Guilty

by Felix Francis

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Overview

New York Times-bestselling author Felix Francis returns with another nail-biting thriller in the Dick Francis tradition.

It is said that everyone over a certain age can remember distinctly what they were doing when they heard that President Kennedy had been assassinated, or that Princess Diana had been killed in a Paris car crash, but I, for one, could recall all too clearly where I was standing when a policeman told me that my wife had been murdered.

Bill Russell is acting as a volunteer steward at Warwick races when he confronts his worst nightmare--the violent death of his much-loved wife. But, the aftermath proves much worse when he is accused of killing her and then hounded mercilessly by the media. Losing his job and in danger of losing his home too, Bill's life begins to unravel completely. Even his best friends turn against him, thinking him guilty of the heinous crime, despite the lack of any compelling evidence.

As Bill sets out to clear his name, he finds that proving one's innocence isn't easy. He believes he can track down the true culprit, but can he prove it before he becomes the murderer's next victim? Guilty Not Guilty is a journey of greed and jealousy set against the grief of personal tragedy, with many a twist and turn along the way.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780525536802
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 11/19/2019
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 436
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

Felix Francis, a graduate of London University, is an accomplished outdoorsman, marksman, and pilot who has assisted with the research of many of his father's novels. The coauthor and author of numerous Dick Francis novels, most recently Crisis, he lives in England.

Read an Excerpt

1
 
 
It is said that everyone over a certain age can remember distinctly what they were doing when they heard that President Kennedy had been assassinated, or that Princess Diana had been killed in a Paris car crash, but I, for one, could recall all too clearly where I was standing when a policeman told me that my wife had been murdered.
‘Detective Sergeant Dowdeswell, Thames Valley Police,’ announced the plain-clothed officer, holding out his police ID warrant card. I glanced down at it. ‘This is PC Roberts, Warwickshire Constabulary.’ He indicated towards a uniformed officer by his side. ‘Are you The Honourable William Gordon-Russell?’
I was, although I never used that name.
‘Bill Russell,’ I said, nodding. ‘That’s me.’
The detective seemed slightly confused but quickly recovered.
‘From Banbury in Oxfordshire?’
‘Yes,’ I said. ‘Well, I live just outside Banbury.’
‘The Old Forge in Hanwell?’
‘Yes,’ I said again nervously. ‘That’s right. Now what’s this all about?’
‘Bit of bad news, sir, I’m afraid,’ he said.
Not more. I’d had nothing but bad news for weeks.
‘What is it now?’ I asked with a sigh, fearing the worst.
That’s when he told me. Brusquely and without any compassion.
‘Murdered?’ I said, my voice somewhat squeaky from the sudden constriction I could feel in my throat. I also felt weak at the knees.
‘I’m afraid so, sir,’ the policeman said.
‘How?’ I asked. ‘And where?’
‘All in good time,’ the policeman said. ‘Now, sir, we would like you to come with us.’
It all sounded rather official.
‘Where to?’ I asked.
‘The station,’ he replied, and I didn’t think he meant the railway station.
‘I’d rather go and see my wife,’ I said.
‘I’m afraid that won’t be possible at this time. You need to come with us.’
There was something about the policeman’s tone I didn’t like.
‘Am I being arrested?’ I asked.
‘No, sir. We just need to ask you some questions.’ He said it in a manner that made me think that I might very well be arrested if I didn’t play ball.
‘But I have duties to fulfil here,’ I said. ‘I can’t just leave.’
That seemed to flummox him somewhat.
‘What duties?’
‘I’m a steward.’
‘A steward?’
‘Yes,’ I said. ‘I am one of the four stewards at the race meeting this afternoon. We are responsible for ensuring the Rules of Racing are observed.’
‘Oh,’ he said, suddenly nodding in understanding. Perhaps he’d thought I would be serving drinks or keeping the crowd in order.
The three of us were standing alone in the Stewards’ Room, which was attached to the weighing room at Warwick Racecourse. It was just after one-thirty in the afternoon. The first race was due off at two.
‘Someone else will have to take over,’ stated the detective unequivocally.
Indeed they would. Even if I hadn’t had to go with the policemen, I was no longer in a fit state to adjudicate on a children’s game of tiddlywinks let alone six competitive horse races.
I suddenly felt very unwell.
I sat down heavily on one of the chairs and leaned my head down on the table.
‘Are you all right, sir?’ asked the detective.
‘No,’ I said, without looking up.
Murdered!
‘Here,’ said the policeman, holding out a glass of water. ‘Drink this. My colleague has gone to fetch medical assistance.’
I drank the water.
‘I don’t need medical assistance,’ I said. ‘It’s just the shock, that’s all.’
How could Amelia be murdered? Suicide I could have understood. We had lived on that knife-edge for the past three years. But murder? Surely not. Who would have wanted to murder the kindest and gentlest person on this earth?
‘Her brother,’ I said, glancing up at the detective. ‘Now that’s who you ought to question.’
‘That’s funny,’ he replied without smiling. ‘That’s exactly what he said about you.’
‘So you’ve spoken to him?’
He didn’t answer and I sensed he was berating himself for revealing anything at all.
One of the racecourse doctors arrived carrying his regulation bright-red medical kit slung over his shoulder. Dr Jack Westcott. I knew him well. He was a long-time friend. His regular job was as my local GP but his role at the races was to be on hand to tend to any fallen jockeys. An unwell steward was clearly also within his remit, especially one who was his regular patient.
‘Hi, Bill,’ he said, crouching down to my level. ‘What’s the problem?’
‘I feel a little faint, Jack, that’s all. I’ve just had some bad news.’
‘Not Amelia, I hope,’ he said.
He was only too well aware of how badly our lives had been in turmoil. Over the previous three years, Jack had acted not only as our family doctor, but also as our confidant and unofficial therapist.
I nodded. ‘She’s been found . . .’
I stopped. I couldn’t bring myself to say it.
‘Dead,’ said the detective, over my head.
‘My God, Bill. That’s awful.’
Jack laid a comforting arm across my shoulder.
‘Doctor, can you just hurry up and check him over?’ the detective said impatiently. ‘Mr Gordon-Russell needs to come with me.’
‘For God’s sake, man,’ the doctor replied, looking up at him. ‘Have some sympathy. The man’s just heard his wife has killed herself.’
‘She didn’t kill herself,’ Detective Sergeant Dowdeswell said bluntly. ‘She was strangled.’
If Jack was shocked, he didn’t show it.
‘There must be some mistake.’
‘There’s no mistake,’ replied the detective. ‘Mrs Gordon-Russell was found on her kitchen floor with a ligature still round her neck.’
I wondered if the policeman had again said more than he should. It was certainly more than I wanted to hear. I felt ill again.
‘But you surely can’t suspect Mr Russell,’ said the doctor.
‘Mr Gordon-Russell,’ – the detective placed the emphasis on the Gordon – ‘needs to come with me in order to assist us with our inquiries.’
‘And if he won’t?’
‘Then he will be arrested for obstructing a constable in the execution of his duty.’
At least it wasn’t for murder.
I looked forlornly at the doctor and he stared back at me.
‘I didn’t kill her,’ I mouthed at him.
He wrinkled his forehead with incredulity and shook his head as if the thought had never crossed his mind.
It had mine.
I had often wondered if I could have done more to alleviate Amelia’s mental anguish. Had I done enough? Was her death now a further manifestation of her psychiatric problems? Or was it something entirely different and infinitely more sinister?
Murder?
I still couldn’t quite believe it.
‘I’m not at all sure that Mr Russell is well enough to go with you,’ Jack declared, standing up. ‘I consider that he needs to go to hospital for a full medical check-up.’
To say that DS Dowdeswell was unhappy with this announcement was an understatement – he was apoplectic.
‘He will be seen by a police surgeon at the station,’ he said decisively.
‘No!’ Jack replied loudly with even greater determination. ‘Mr Russell should go to hospital now. And I trust you won’t be arresting me for obstructing a constable in the execution of his duty.’
I knew what he was doing. He was trying to protect his friend. But it was like attempting to hold back the tide – hopeless and impossible.
‘It’s all right, Jack,’ I said to him. ‘I’m feeling a bit better now. I’ll go with the police. I have nothing to hide.’
‘Are you sure?’ he asked, looking straight me. ‘I can still insist that you go to hospital.’
‘No, Jack. I’m fine. It’s best if I go with them now. They won’t give up.’
He smiled. ‘I’ll send you a cake with a file in it.’
I glared at him. ‘I didn’t do it.’
‘No, of course not.’
But I could see a touch of doubt creeping into his eyes.
‘Can you tell George Longcross that I can’t act as a steward today after all.’
‘He won’t like it.’
‘Tough,’ I said. ‘It’s not as if I have any choice.’
George Longcross was the designated chairman of the stewards for this day’s racing, and he was a stickler for everything to be done exactly by the book. He abhorred absence or lateness and was determined that nothing should go amiss on his watch.
As if on cue, George Longcross walked into the Stewards’ Room, no doubt having enjoyed a lavish luncheon courtesy of the directors of the racecourse. Not that I hadn’t been invited. But I had learned from experience that a plate of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding in the middle of the day, together with all the trimmings and a dessert, was no good for my waistline, and also had a tendency to send me to sleep at the very time when I needed to be alert and on my mettle.
George took a quick look around the room, and then settled his stare on the uniformed policeman.
‘What is going on here?’ he asked in his usual booming authoritarian voice.
There was a brief pause before the detective sergeant answered.
‘Mr Gordon-Russell has had some bad news,’ he said.
The chairman of the stewards transferred his gaze to the detective in his open-fronted leather bomber jacket over a black T-shirt, blue jeans and trainers. George Longcross, meanwhile, was, as always, attired in a dark pin-stripe suit, highly polished brogues, white shirt and silk tie, with a matching handkerchief in his breast pocket. I couldn’t imagine that he even possessed a black T-shirt or a pair of jeans, and certainly not a leather bomber jacket.
‘And who are you?’ he asked in an accusing tone.
‘DS Dowdeswell, Thames Valley Police.’ The detective again flashed his warrant card. ‘Mr Gordon-Russell needs to leave.’
‘But I require him here,’ George said. ‘He’s a steward.’
‘Find somebody else,’ said the detective decisively. ‘He’s coming with us, and right now.’
It seemed to take the wind out of George’s sails.
‘Oh,’ he said. He looked at me. ‘It’s all very inconvenient. Very inconvenient indeed.’
I felt like telling him that it was not as inconvenient as one’s wife having been found murdered, but I said nothing. I just turned away and accompanied the policemen out of the door.
I may not have been arrested but it certainly felt as if I had, especially if the reaction to my departure was anything to go by.
The weighing room was filling up as the time for the first race approached, with trainers and officials milling around completing their duties, and jockeys weighing out.
However, as I was being escorted through the throng by the police, the general hubbub died away to silence and I could almost feel the stares of those watching.