Corporate Killer – the Town Hall Cuts

The Night Watch

The ringing sound in Sally’s ears had nothing to do with the several glasses of red wine she had consumed the night before in an effort to block out the nightmare she felt she was living in.  The realisation that it was the phone came slowly as she staggered out of bed and went in search of the source of the noise.

Squinting at the clock, she grabbed the phone off the cradle, it was eight fifteen am but it was Saturday.  “Hello?” she croaked.

“DS Hammond here,” was the terse reply.  “We have a problem with one of the building attendants.”

“A problem?  What with getting into the building?  It’s not that jobsworth Graham again is it?”

“Graham is the problem but it has nothing to do with access.  We think that the killer has struck again and Graham is the victim.  There’s a car outside, how soon can you be ready?”

Sally gulped, “Five – ten minutes tops.”

“Hmmm – that will have to do I suppose.” 

Sally was unable to protest; she heard only the dialling tone, and after replacing the phone did her best not to rouse her sleeping family who wouldn’t be pleased that they’d been woken up early on the weekend especially when she was about to rush off in a police car again.  She threw on some jeans and a sweatshirt, and performed a very cursory wash and brush up with a lick of lipstick.  Grabbing her bag, she kissed her sleeping husband goodbye and got into the waiting unmarked police car.

The front of Mostyn Hall was cordoned off and the usually empty car park was filled with the die-hard paparazzo who could smell that there was trouble.  Flashes went off as she got out of the car and she wished that she’d taken a little more time over her appearance before she left the house.  Her police escort hurried her through the cordon and into the incident room where DS Hammond was waiting impatiently.

Sally slung her bag and jacket on the back of a chair and turned to DS Hammond.  “What happened to Graham?”

“Poison apparently, in his whisky bottle.  The forensic guys are working on it now.”

“Graham’s doesn’t drink officially.  He’s a Jehovah’s Witness, they don’t believe in taking stimulants.   He won’t even drink tea or coffee.  Mind you, I’d heard rumours about the whisky and I’m sure I smelled alcohol on him a couple of times when he got too close.”

DC Long got up from a nearby desk and joined them, opening up his notebook and squinting at what he had written.  “Officially he’s a Jehovah’s Witness, but he had a nice little stack of stimulants in the building attendant’s room, tucked away in a filing cabinet.”

“Did anyone else know about this?”

“According to the other building attendant, no,” said DC Long.  “He says he didn’t get on that well with Graham so they weren’t exactly into sharing a drink together.  He seems to think that Derek might have been aware but as he wasn’t privy to the drinking sessions, he doesn’t know who was there.  Says that he wondered if something funny was going on because Graham was always very happy about letting him finish early when he should have been working till eight o’clock.”

Sally nodded, “By eight o’clock everyone would have left the building, including the cleaners.  We rarely have any late evening meetings now and when we do, they’re held in this room.  Fancy Graham being a secret drinker.  So where was he found?”

“A security officer found him.  One of my officers had to let him into the building because the front door hadn’t been unlocked.  He thought Graham had dozed off in the building attendant’s room but when he went to wake him up the glass dropped from his hand and smashed on the floor.  That’s when he realised and came charging out of the room yelling his head off.  One of our lads went to see what the noise was about and set about cordoning off the area and getting us in pronto.”

“Do you need to cordon off the whole car park?” Sally asked.  “There are other people who use it on the weekend and they’ll be hopping mad if they can’t park. You can still isolate the area around the building attendant’s room.”

“Thank you,” DS Hammond interjected.   “We do this quite often; we do know how deal with a crime scene.”

Sally blushed, “Sorry, I didn’t mean to …”

“…Forget it.  Would anyone apart from the late Derek be likely to be know about Graham’s little secret?”

“There’s no one else who got on with Graham really, Derek liked the way Graham was always creeping round him.  I really don’t like to say this but…”

“Go on.”

“Derek was Donal’s friend.  There were occasions when Donal stayed behind after work and he’d be in with Derek talking about computer games and films.  I suppose it’s possible that Derek may have told Donal about the secret drinking; they probably had a good laugh about it behind Graham’s back.  Graham was so pompous about his religious beliefs.”

DS Hammond turned to the nearest officer and barked, “Find out where Donal is, now!”

Sally sat down in the chair heavily; and took a deep breath, “I should have told you this yesterday but I thought, I hoped that it didn’t mean anything. Then I went home early and I forgot all about it.”

“What now?”  DS Hammond’s voice was of steel.

“I had a conversation with Donal the day before yesterday.  I meant to tell you when I came in but all the stuff with Louis and Hester knocked it out of my head.  Donal was particularly angry with Graham.  Some issues about moving furniture and Graham dragging his feet.  I didn’t think it was very important at the time.  People are always moaning about Graham and how lazy he is.”

“What did he say?  Exactly?”

Sally tried desperately to remember their conversation, “That was all really except, I made some comment about not rating Graham’s chances for survival much and Donal’s reaction was quite extreme.  I put it down to everyone being a bit jumpy at the moment.  There’s something else too.”

DS Hammond drew in a deep breath, “For someone who is supposed to be assisting us with our enquiries, you are not being a very helpful witness right now.”

“Sorry, I don’t want to build things up out of proportion and I really don’t want to throw suspicion on Donal if he’s innocent.  He usually leaves at four o’clock; he was still here when I left and that was about half five.  I couldn’t see what he was doing but whatever it was it was on his computer and he was totally engrossed.”

“Has anyone managed to find this Donal yet?”  shouted DS Hammond, her voice rising sharply as she scanned the room.  There was a hushed mutter of response that did nothing to improve her mood.  “Someone get onto those halfwits in Wales as well, this business with the building attendant makes me feel that our killer is getting desperate and more than a little sloppy.”

Sally felt sick; a combination of fear about Donal and lack of breakfast.  There was no chance of getting anything to eat as the kitchens were locked up over the weekend. “Is there any chance I can go out and get some food please?  I didn’t have a chance to get breakfast this morning.”

DS Hammond looked over at Sally, then motioned to DC Long, “Get it sorted.  I suppose we’ll have to get food in for everyone today and getting your canteen open is pointless if there’s no one to do any cooking.  Sally, can you give Long a hand sorting out what everyone wants please?”

“Yes, of course.  What about Tracey and Susie?”

“Leave them to me, and Sally?”

“Yes?”

“However loyal you feel towards your friend Donal, not a word to anyone, no phone calls, no texts and no tweets.  We don’t know that he is behind all this; there may be someone else in the building who knows something.  I want a list of everyone who was here after five thirty that night.”

“The time-clock!” said Sally.  “Most of the people would have clocked out when they left.  There are a few that don’t use it but they tend to be in directorate and I doubt if any of them work beyond five o’clock.”

“Can we get a print out of that?”

“Yes, I think so, Derek’s boss Jim knows how to access the system.  If we could get him in that would solve the problem but the computers that have the relevant software are in the office next to the building attendant’s room – and that’s cordoned off.”

“Find the person that can access the software and we’ll let them in the room with an officer to supervise.”

Feeling relieved that she had something to do, Sally found Jim’s number.  As key holder to the building he had to leave an emergency number.  He wasn’t overjoyed at being called in on a Saturday morning and she could hear his wife grumbling in the background but luckily, he only lived a few minutes away and promised to get there as soon as possible.  DC Long assigned an officer to take him into the office and within ten minutes of arriving he came back out with a list of people and the times that they had clocked out of the building.

Walking back to the incident room with the list in her hand, Sally glanced down at the list of names and was surprised to see that according to the list Donal had clocked off at four o’clock.  Could she have been mistaken?  She was sure that she had seen Donal that night, there was no mistaking that vivid green sweatshirt.  This seemed like more proof that Donal was involved, why else would he clock off and then come back to his office unless he wanted people to think he was out of the building?  She looked at the list of names again; there were hardly any people from her side of the building that would have seen Donal, and all the staff from the office next to the building attendant’s room had left the building by five o’clock.

Sally handed the list over to DS Hammond; not surprisingly she spotted Donal’s name immediately and raised her eyebrows when she saw his clocking out time.  “I don’t need to ask you, do I?”

Sally shook her head.  “I saw him.  He was definitely in the office when I left and you can see from the list that I left at five thirty-two.  Have you found him yet?”

“He wasn’t in yesterday.  Officers have been to his house but there’s no sign of him.  His wife hasn’t been seen by the neighbours for almost a week.”

“I can’t believe that he’s behind all this.  He’s such a lovely kind man, such a good friend.”

“Funny how I’ve heard that so many times from the family and friends of serial killers.  Does Donal drive?”

“He used to.  He’s been using the bus and train all the time I’ve known him and I can vaguely remember him saying something about giving up driving some years ago.  I’m not sure why.  I assumed it was a matter of costs and parking, although parking isn’t usually an issue here.”

“Just to let you know how much more trouble your list has caused; the police in Wales can’t find your friend Tracey, and Susie isn’t answering her home phone either.”

“Susie won’t be communicating with anyone today.  She’ll be out getting clothes for her garden party.  She’ll need to buy at least three new outfits; she’d never wear anything that she’d been seen in before.”

“I’d send someone out to her house but it might be quicker if I could get hold of her by phone and find out where she is.”

“I’ll get a mobile number from Jim; he’s got access to everyone’s contact details.” 

Susie was not particularly happy about having her shopping trip disrupted; she had only just arrived at the Trafford Centre and had no intention of abandoning her quest for the ideal ensemble for her garden party.  DS Hammond, in a rare moment of affability, agreed to let the shopping continue provided Susie accepted discreet surveillance.  Fortunately, there was a female police officer at the local station who was quite happy to shadow Susie on her mammoth trail round the designer shops.

DC Long had taken a copy of the list and called everyone who had been present after Sally had left on Thursday night.  No one had seen Donal but no one had seen Graham either.  This was not the kind of news that either Sally or DS Hammond wanted to hear but it did at least confirm that Donal seemed to be making an effort to appear that he wasn’t in the building and couldn’t be implicated in either Louis’ accident or Graham’s death.  The medical examiner had confirmed that Graham had probably died sometime after ten o’clock when the building was empty and he felt safe enough to settle down for his late-night drink.  From the residue in the broken glass and the whisky left in the bottle, there was little doubt that Graham had fallen victim to a tasteless and swift acting poison but forensics were being quite cagey about which poison it was exactly. He hadn’t been on duty the night Louis had found the biscuits, so Friday night would have been the first opportunity he would have had to sample his favourite tipple.

Sally looked up from the report; unsure whether her nausea was caused by what she had just read or the fact that she still hadn’t eaten anything yet.  The seductive smell of bacon wafted in through an open window and she was relieved to see that Jim had called the chef in, and between them they were preparing brunch for anyone who needed it.  She wandered into the canteen; it seemed strange to see packed with uniformed staff and without the faces she was so familiar with.  Her bacon butty and hot, strong coffee went some way to restoring her equilibrium and from the looks on the faces of the incident room staff, she wasn’t the only one.

She filled up her coffee cup again and accepted the chocolate muffin pressed on her by the chef, who was quite pleased at the overtime rate he was being paid to come in and cook on a Saturday morning.  Sally felt the need for a quiet corner and took her coffee back into the incident room.  Not looking directly at the gory pictures on the notice boards had become a matter of habit now and she managed to negotiate her way back to her laptop without even catching sight of her own photo either.

“Can I join you?”

Sally looked up from her coffee and saw the friendly face of DC Long, holding a mug of tea and a plate piled high with a fried breakfast.  Sally moved the pile of papers to one side and took the plate from him as he went off to get another chair.  They ate in the comfortable and companionable silence of two people who had little time for small talk when hunger set in.  It wasn’t until Sally got to the very last crumb of muffin that she realised she hadn’t seen DS Hammond for a while.  Pushing his plate aside, DC Long seemed to sense the unspoken question.

“She’s gone to Wales.  They appear to be having a problem locating Tracey.  Is there any more you can tell me about her?  Anything that might help us to find her.”

“What can I say?  She is rather – masculine – and the rumour mill says that she and Angela are more than friends.  She has dogs; I’m not sure what all of them are but I know she has several and from the cocker spaniel sticker on her car I’d assume that she has a least one of those.  She has a narrow boat and goes on frequent trips along the canals, especially when we need her to get an urgent piece of work done.  She talks well and that’s why she’s still in her job.  Her hearing is not too good so she doesn’t do so well when there’s a lot of background noise.  She and Susie are known as the odd couple because they are complete opposites and yet they share an office and like to spend their lunchtimes together too.  Any good?”

DC long nodded in appreciation.  “We knew most of that but not about the dogs.  We’ve sent officers out to her house but there’s no sign of anyone there.  Do you think they are likely to be on the boat together?”

“I suppose so, but I thought Tracey gave you all the details of her whereabouts and how to get hold of her?”

“She did.  She appears to have changed her mind about where she was going however, there’s no sign of her and her phone is switched off.  Unlike your Modern Apprentices who have all mod cons in the way of iPhones and laptops, Tracey has a very modest mobile which we’re having difficulty tracking.  There also seem to be issues regarding the capabilities of our colleagues in Wales and their motivation in trying to find Tracey and Angela.  That’s why DS Hammond has gone off in high dudgeon.  I feel quite sorry for the Welsh.”

Sally laughed feebly.  The thought of DS Hammond bearing down on a group of provincial Welsh bobbies like Boudicca in a chariot with sword-bedecked wheels was both frightening and amusing.  Sally started to gather up the plates and cutlery and placed them on the tray ready for taking back to the canteen. 

“I could do with collecting some work from my office really.  Do you need me here?”

DC Long shook his head.  “No, I know where to find you if I need you.  Are you okay?”

Sally nodded, and after taking the plates back to the canteen, walked through the silent corridors and up the stairs to her office, trying to forget the sight of the new pictures of Graham slumped in his chair that one of the officers had been pinning onto the notice board.

Who Let the Dogs Out?

Sally was surprised when her phone started ringing moments after she sat down at her desk.  It was Ruby.

“I phoned you at home and your husband said you’d been called in.  Where have you been all morning?”           

“Helping police with their enquiries again I’m afraid.  I’m still not sure if I’m a suspect or a supergrass.  Did I miss anything exciting yesterday?”

“Are you kidding?  First of all, I was corralled in the portakabins with literally hundreds of paparazzi flashing their cameras at me, then when I was actually allowed back into the office I wasn’t allowed to sit at my own desk because there was a rather attractive man dusting it for fingerprints.  Which was actually quite nice.”

“Taking pictures – did the paparazzi get you then?” 

“Yes, but your nice detective rescued me.”

Sally looked puzzled.  “MY nice detective?  You don’t mean DS Hammond surely?”

“The Ice Maiden!  Good grief no!  The cute young one, DC Long is it?”  Ruby feigned ignorance about his name but Sally knew only too well that she had probably been pumping his fellow officers for his personal profile already.

“I’m going to have to go Ruby, I just nipped up here to pick up a few things and I’m bursting to tell you things but if DS Hammond ever found out she’d have my guts for garters.”

“I understand honey, you know you can call me if you need me for anything though.  Byeee”

Sally sat down at her desk and turned on the computer.  Another fifty-two e-mails had filled up the inbox whilst she’d been off.  She worked her way through them methodically; prioritising the urgent requests and binning the junk.  It was surprising how many of her colleagues who worked away from Mostyn Hall were now trying to renew their acquaintance with her in an attempt to find out what was really going on behind the crime scene tape.  She read each e-mail several times, trying to think with DS Hammond’s analytical mind in case any of the enquirers could be the killer.  She was reaching the point where every sentence held a hidden meaning and decided to find some real work to get immersed in. 

Sally leaned back in her chair and enjoyed the peace but wondered how long it would be before the storm broke again.    She put on some music and went back to her research; bookmarking the pages carefully and saving any useful documents and articles in a separate file.

She was skimming through a particularly pertinent article when a shadow darkened the light from the corridor and looking up, she saw DC Long in the doorway.  The look on his face told her all she needed to know.  Tracey and Angela had obviously been found and it didn’t look as if it was good news.

“Shall I pack up things here and come downstairs?”

“Yes.  I’ll explain when we get down there.  Can I help you do anything?”

“No, just take a seat.  I do this every day and I’ve got it down to a fine art now,” said Sally as she performed her usual closing down tasks with the computers and phones.  DC Long got to his feet and took the rubbish bin out of her hand, placing it outside the office door as Sally turned off the lights again and pulled the door to.

They walked down to the incident room in a less comfortable silence than ever before, and as they walked in through the main doors Sally saw a couple of high-ranking police officers, folders in hands, walking along the parade of the victims’ photographs.

DC Long motioned to Sally to sit at her desk and walked out to the front of the room.  He looked a little nervous; even more so when the important officers stopped their perusals of the notice board and sat down at desks slightly to one side of him.  He cleared his throat.

“As some of you will already be aware, Tracey’s boat has been found.  There were several dogs on board and the remains of two females believed to be Tracey and Angela.  I’m afraid that when the scenes of crime photos come through, they won’t be pleasant viewing.  It seems that the women were savaged by at least one of their dogs; forensics is trying to establish whether this happened before or after death.”

Sally sincerely hoped that it had been after death.  She tried very hard to concentrate on the rest of the information that DC Long was passing on to the rest of the team.  Tracey’s boat had been found at a little used mooring by a passing fisherman who was worried because the dogs were howling so much.  Tracey had told DC Long that she would be mooring up at a nearby marina but it transpired that this particular place was a favourite haunt of hers; somewhere she went to get away from everything and everyone – except her dogs and her partner. 

Just as DC Long was winding up the discussion, one of the printers began churning out pictures taken at the scene. Sally felt sick and knew that she would have to shut her eyes as she walked past that particular board.  There were however, several police officers crowded round the printer to see each new photo as it completed.  She had thought their interest ghoulish at the start of the investigation but realised now that it was just another part of her job.

DC Long came over to her with a cup of coffee in his hand.  “Here you are,” he said.  “I remembered about not giving you tea and I put some extra sugar in it.  I guess that was a bit of a shock.”

Sally nodded and took the coffee gratefully; the hot, sweet drink was just what she needed.  “How’s DS Hammond?”

“Incandescent.  She’d told the local bobbies to make sure that they knew where Tracey was at all times and they simply didn’t bother looking for her when she failed to turn up at the marina.  Some issue with sheep rustling and a spate of car burglaries apparently.   She’s been using language that has shocked some of the very moral chapel-going community support officers who’d been delegated to keep an eye out for the boat.  I believe she’s drafted in some more proactive police from Chester to carry on the investigation when she returns.  She should be back soon.”

“Poor Tracey, I didn’t know Angela that well but how awful for both of them.  I suppose the dogs have had to be put down as well?”

“Yes.  We had no choice, poor little beggars.”

“What happens now?”

“We’re still looking for Donal.  Susie has finished her shopping and has returned home.  She’s been informed about Graham, Tracey and Angela but still insists that we are making a fuss about nothing, and her garden party has to go ahead as planned.  It’s going to cost us a small fortune; she insists on plain clothes police and most of them are complaining that they haven’t a thing to wear!”

This at least raised a small smile from Sally, who found that Susie’s selfishness in the face of so much evidence was just typical of her behaviour in general. 

“She’s spent all year organising this garden party, even the forces of nature don’t dare to let it rain on the day that she’s chosen.  Quite a few people book weekend breaks once they know when Susie’s garden party is; guaranteed good weather and an excuse not to attend.”

“Have you ever been to one?”

“Good heavens no!  The likes of me don’t get a look in.  Susie invites all the local gentry, members of parliament, magistrates, dress designers and a small hand-picked selection from Mostyn Hall.  I don’t think you realise how important this event is to local society.  For all her airs and graces, Susie has been very clever in building this garden party up over the years to the point where getting an invitation also opens doors to every ball, gallery opening and major public event across this county and several others on the borders. I may moan about Susie’s laziness when she’s here, but from what I’ve heard, and seen in the local press, she really knows how to throw a good party.”

“I’m sure we’ll have a lovely time.”

“We?”

“DS Hammond requires your attendance at Susie’s party I’m afraid.”

“This thing about keeping her eye on me is getting ridiculous now.  Surely she’s accepted that I’m not the serial killer?”

“She accepts that you aren’t, but your friendship with Donal is a weak spot.  She’s not a hundred per cent sure that if she leaves you to your own devices, Donal won’t try to contact you – or you to get hold of him.”

Sally started to protest but he held up his hand to silence her.  “Hear me out please?  You still don’t totally believe that Donal is behind this do you?  He can’t be.  He’s not that kind of person.”

“They never are, and I know you’ve been told that before.   If you’re with us at the garden party, we don’t have to deploy extra staff to make sure that you’re safe.  We’re pretty sure that Donal – or one of his associates – will put in an appearance.  He may try to make contact with you, after all, Susie is the last name on the list and the end of the list marks the end of the killing hopefully.  DS Hammond feels that you exert a powerful influence over Donal – you managed to save Linda from possibly strangulation with a posh bra after all.  We think Graham was supposed to die on Thursday night too but he swapped his night shift for Friday.”

“It may not just have been Linda I saved.”  said Sally and began to relate the incident of the noisy colleague outside her office.  DC Long had his notebook out in a flash and scribbled down what she was saying.  She tried therefore, to keep it as concise as possible.  The thought of the garden party still preyed on her mind however.

“What on earth am I going to wear?”  Sally wailed.

“Oh, not you too!” said DC Long.  “If I’ve heard that once over the past twenty-four hours, I’ve heard it a dozen times.  You may have noticed that the work force is slightly reduced?  That’s not just because it’s a Saturday; they’re taking turns to nip off to the Trafford Centre to snap up a bargain on expenses – that’s if Susie’s left anything to buy.  I suppose the blokes will be okay but our female officers are in a dreadful state.  You have less of a problem – and please don’t be insulted by this.”

“What?” said Sally suspiciously.

“All you need to put on is basic black.  Susie has agreed to allow you to attend only if you join in with the catering staff.  They’ll provide you with an apron.  Don’t worry; I will be joining you as a waiter – black uniform trousers, white starched shirt and black bow tie.”

“Evil bitch!  Sorry but that is just typical of Susie.  No appreciation of the efforts people are making to save her scrawny neck and she still finds the opportunity to humiliate us.”

“Relax,” he said, putting a comforting hand on her arm.  “Our job is to wander around with the odd tray of canapés keeping an eye out for anything unusual.  The real waiters and waitresses have to do all the hard work.”

“I bet DS Hammond isn’t dressing up as a servant.”

“No, she bought an appropriate outfit yesterday evening and is accompanying the Chief Constable who is quite excited because he’s never been invited to anything like this before.”

“That’s a bit of an oversight on Susie’s part isn’t it?”

“No.  He’s only been here a couple of months and having risen very quickly through fast track, he ‘s not had the benefit of attendance at many social events.”

“Is he here?”

“Yes, the one with the newest dress uniform in the group over there.  Be subtle when you look at him.  He isn’t used to the attention yet.”

Sally did her best to look nonchalantly at the group of men dressed in their best uniforms.  The Chief Constable stood out as the youngest of the group and the silver on his uniform shone with a lack of exposure to the hard, cruel world of policing.  He looked very young but she decided that he had quite a nice face.  It was at that moment that he looked in her direction and frowned.  Sally looked away quickly and muttered, “Oh no, he’s spotted me.  Is he coming over?”

“Yes.  Just relax, look him in the eye and answer honestly.”  DC Long got to his feet and introduced them.  The Chief Constable extended a hand and Sally took it.  His handshake was firm but not knuckle grinding, and his hand was dry and warm.

“I hear that your method of tension release is at the heart of these dreadful murders?” he said, in a quiet and level voice.

“Yes, I’m so sorry.  I had no idea that such a silly article in a gossip magazine could lead to all this.  I would never

“…I don’t think anyone blames you directly but if the media gets hold of your list, we’ll never hear the last of it – and neither will you.  Please be careful what you say to people?  The most important thing is to prevent any harm coming to – what’s her name?  Ah yes, Susie, at this garden party tomorrow.   Long says you have been extremely helpful to us.”

“It’s the very least I can do.  I don’t seem to have been able to prevent much so far though.”  Sally looked down, unable to bear the scrutiny of his gaze any longer.  He had the kind of bright blue eyes that would have had Ruby melting in a pool of desire in moments.  Unable to help herself, Sally looked down at the hands holding his uniform cap. No wedding ring!  She blushed at such trivial thoughts when there was so much else going on.  The Chief Constable nodded dismissal and made his way back to his colleagues.

Sally began going through her wardrobe mentally, trying to think if she had anything that looked remotely like a waitress’s uniform that would also be comfortable and practical.  She had plenty of black clothes but did she have time to buy anything new?  Shoes – what shoes should she wear?  She looked at the clock; it was almost five o’clock already and she hadn’t even told her husband what was going on yet.

DC Long took pity on her.  “Give your husband a ring.  Good job it’s late-night shopping tonight.  You can put in an expenses claim for anything you buy for tomorrow.”  He broke off as his mobile rang and he took the call, not saying much but listening intently.  The call ended abruptly and he turned to Sally with a serious expression on his face.

“DS Hammond is about ten miles away.  She needs to talk to you before tomorrow and there’s a picture of a lad coming through on the printer that she wants you to look at.  Apparently, there’s CCTV footage of him talking to Tracey at one of the locks and the bobbies have found an abandoned tent and some cooking gear in the woods close to the mooring.  DS Hammond was wondering if he’s one of your Modern Apprentices.”

Sally nodded compliantly, with all thought of the shopping trip gone from her head.  They walked over to the printer and waited impatiently for the picture to come through.  Like most CCTV pictures it was in black and white and very grainy where the picture had been blown up.  Sally squinted at it and shook her head.

“He looks like most lads really.  It’s hard to tell much from the picture though.”

“We’ve got some digital stills coming through on one of the computers; you might have more luck with those.”

One of the officers beckoned them over to the computer and pulled up a chair for Sally.  These pictures were much clearer and Sally felt a huge sense of sadness as she looked at shots of a laughing Tracey steering her boat through the lock.  It was easier to see the lad in these pictures but he still didn’t look like anyone she knew from work.

Leaving DC Long in conversation with his colleague, Sally returned to her desk and called her husband.  He knew enough now to understand the reason for the brevity of her conversation and promised to go through her wardrobe and look for suitable black clothes.  He even promised to polish her black shoes and the thought of this small kindness in the midst of such chaos made her eyes prick with tears.

A sudden noise at the door made Sally turn her head to see DS Hammond striding toward her with a look of extreme determination.

“Well?  Did you recognise him?”

Sally shook her head. “No, I’m sorry.”

This was not the answer DS Hammond wanted and that was evident from her expression.

“There is one thing I noticed though.  I’m not sure if it’s relevant.”

“Yes.” The word came out as if it had been bitten off.

“The lad in the pictures, I think he’s wearing an England shirt.  Wasn’t the lad seen near Colin wearing one too?”

“Yes!”  This interjection was triumphant in tone. DS Hammond wheeled round.  “Find me those pictures that the Portuguese police sent over. Let’s get a comparison going.  I also want any photos of people attending any of the other crime scenes.  Come on jump to it!”

She turned to Sally, a slight smile on her lips.  “You’d better get off home.  You’re going to be on your feet a lot tomorrow.  Long will collect you at seven thirty.  Be ready!”  She turned on her heel and stalked over to the long conference table where officers were already sifting through a pile of pictures.

DC Long beckoned to an officer standing nearby.  “Take Sally home please and drive very carefully, she doesn’t need sirens or blue lights.” He turned back to Sally who was still a little stunned by the impact of her simple observation.

“Well done!” he said and squeezed her arm.  She picked up her jacket and bag and left the room in a daze.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.