Saturday mornings in Sally’s household were usually a good reason for lie-ins and late breakfasts. On this occasion however, sleep was disturbed by an authorative knock on the front door, and simultaneous text message on Sally’s phone announcing that the team in charge of the investigation into Gavin Slime’s activities would be visiting shortly.
Ed went down to answer the door, show the two detectives into the front room, and put the kettle on while Sally and Ruby made themselves look presentable with a lick and a promise. It was a good job that they didn’t take any longer as their presence was needed urgently.
The detective inspector held the floor, whilst his constable took notes. It appeared that, after contacting Ben and a rather cross Michael, the police were indeed going to access Gavin’s office and computer, but they were also needing to check out Margaret, and the CEO’s offices and computers as well, because Gavin claimed that he as only following orders from above. Not that the police gave any credibility to this defence, but after speaking to Michael and Ben, it became quite obvious that Margaret had been aware of some of Gavin’s plans at least, and that her involvement with the CEO’s fraudulent appointments were worthy of police investigation as well.
The contents of Gavin’s trunk had yielded up the address of the deserted cottage in North Wales that he had bought, and set up deliberately as a prison for Sally.
“I need to tell you that it wasn’t just a question of imprisoning you. We found a quantity of drugs, including Rohypnol, and what might be considered equipment linked to sexual assault and restraint.”
Sally gasped and shook her head.
“Margaret is rather odd, but I can’t see her asking Slime to do anything like that. From what I can gather, she just wanted me to drop the tribunal, and had asked him to gather any information that could be used to intimidate me. Desmond told me that she was very angry that I hadn’t put her in the book though; perhaps that’s what made her flip?”
“Book?” said the inspector. “What book?”
His constable looked up. “We’ve got a copy of Sally’s book in the office. It’s doing the rounds. It’s very funny in parts, but although it’s quite positive about the police force, it isn’t so complimentary about local government. I understand there were a few resignations and early retirements afterwards – perhaps as a consequence?”
Sally shook her head again.
“The caricatures that made it into the book were based on colleagues that were more interesting than others, and yes, I admit it, I used those characteristics that I found most annoying when I wrote the book. At the time I could put up with Margaret’s behaviour, because her husband is a very dear friend, and I didn’t want to cause him any more grief. I gave him information about Margaret, and the meetings with the CEO when he came to visit me. I understand that he passed this on to Ben, for inclusion in the report that has led to Margaret’s suspension.”
“Her husband has disappeared apparently,” said the detective. “But there doesn’t seem to be any link with the fraud at the Town Hall.”
“Good Lord no!” Sally laughed. “Desmond is as honest as the day is long, and one of the nicest people I know, present company excepted. I have an idea where he’s gone, and I know that he’ll be happier there, but I’m sure that his disappearance is to do with getting away from Margaret rather than anything dodgy.”
“Unlike your other friend Donal…”
“Ben tells me that Donal’s old boss in Finance says the entire debt has been paid off – and typically of Donal, he has included the interest. I do receive the odd card or email from him and his wife to say that they are well. The cards come through several different countries before they reach me though, and emails are routed through a complex set of servers. I don’t know where he is, but he was as much a victim of the system as I am. What happens next – with Slime, Margaret, and the CEO?”
The detective didn’t look totally convinced about Donal or Desmond, but decided to leave it for now. There were much bigger fish to fry.
“Intensive IT analysis will be carried out on all three of them, although most of the evidence on Slime came from the contents of his room at home. I have a list of people whose weekend is going to be disrupted. What can you tell me about Slime’s secretary?”
“Joanna? Lovely looking, but with an intellect that is fairly limited. Ben tells me that she sees him as her knight in shining armour, so if anyone can get her to shed light on Slime’s comings and goings, he’s your man. He is also my nephew.”
“And seems to be very adept at uncovering deception.”
“He’s had some help from Ruby here, and a young lady called Karen who has turned out to be a very good private eye.”
“All on my list of potential interviewees. Not right now though. We need to get warrants for this Margaret and the CEO. Not that I think we’ll find much at their homes but you never know. This could just be the tip of the iceberg.”
Ed showed the police out and came back in to find Sally in tears, and Ruby giving her a much-needed hug. He grabbed a box of tissues and handed them to Sally; he knew how much she hated being snotty. She looked up gratefully and blew her nose.
“It was hearing about the preparations that Slime had made. That kind of perversion goes far beyond whatever Margaret may have asked him to do.”
“The man is a sicko.” said Ruby in disgust. “Remember the story that I told you about him stalking a female councillor, and the number of different posts that saw him paid off and promoted elsewhere. I’d imagine that his trunk is full of details for the police to follow up in different local authorities. Margaret merely gave him the permission he needed, to live out his weird fantasies. From what Karen told me about his mother yesterday, he has a pathological hatred of strong women. I’m not sure that I’d be too keen on Mrs Slime from what I’ve heard.”
“Will his parents be alright without him?” asked Sally.
“Karen says that they have carers, and a very protective cleaning lady. It’s a reasonably nice house and they are both on disability benefits, which will increase when Slime is no longer getting carers allowance.”
“Oh well, I think we should take a few days off from the tribunal work. I’ve invited Ben over for dinner tonight, will you stay Ruby? Please?”
“Ben said he hoped that you’d be here.”
Ed gave one of those looks.
“He did. He wants to explain all the things that have gone on at his end – including his HR team meal last night. And also, that Melissa has changed her mind about London now that it looks like Ben will be staying here permanently.”
“What?” said Ruby.
“I forgot to tell you. Michael has offered him a permanent post to replace Slime, and oversee the office move to the new buildings. Ben sent Melissa a message hoping that she’d be pleased. She wasn’t, and she told him that she had changed her mind, and was going away for the weekend with some new friend. Ben was rather relieved and said he dearly like to ask for your assistance with the office moves, Ruby.”
Ed held his hands up in defeat and went off to organise some breakfast.
The police visit to the CEO’s house was fairly uneventful. His disgusted wife stood back with her arms folded, whilst they worked their way through the building. She pointed out that most of the fixtures and fittings in the house were legitimately hers, rather than her husband’s but they were very welcome to take everything from his office. When her husband was led out of the house in handcuffs, she laughed – laughed long and loud. Her husband had dressed for a day at the golf course, having sent emails to councillors who he felt would support him in what he felt was a big mistake. So far no one had replied, and he couldn’t get anyone to join him in a game of golf either. His bright pink trousers and emerald green polo shirt would look rather out of place at the police station, but he wasn’t given time to get changed into something more suited to the occasion.
Margaret sat at the kitchen table. She had texted Desmond, but got no reply.
She texted their daughters, in the hope that they might be sympathetic to her situation.
Their reply texts were terse to say the list but informed Margaret that their Dad had explained what had happened, that they were glad he had left, and that they wouldn’t be visiting her, or having her visit them.
She continued to sit and stew in self-pity. She blamed Desmond for turning their daughters against her. She blamed the CEO for getting her suspended, and the entire HR department, but especially Slime and Ben. This led on to blaming Ruby, but ultimately Sally. Sally who didn’t even consider her interesting enough to put in a book. Sally, whose loyalty to Margaret had been tested and failed.
This was ultimately Sally’s fault. Margaret was about to phone Sally and tell her how hateful she was, when there was a very loud knock, and a shout of ‘Police! Open the door!’ She got to her feet, pulled on the black jacket with the dead cat collar, squared her shoulders and went to open the front door. Her shoulder sagged in the face of the mob of police, who began to swarm around her house, and it wasn’t until she saw her laptop being brought downstairs in an evidence bag that she began to feel fearful. Another policeman picked up her mobile phone and popped that in another bag. She handed over her house keys, and allowed herself to be led out to the waiting police car. She actually felt quite insulted that no one put handcuffs on her; perhaps they thought that she didn’t pose a risk to anyone. Her anger boiled over at this point, and she kicked out at the policeman who was helping her into the car.
She was helped out of the car quickly and with far less care, handcuffed, and had to wait outside her house until the van came to collect her. Living in a quiet village meant that any sign of the emergency services was bound to arouse some interest, and this was no exception. Most of the village seemed to have a reason for walking down the street that morning.
The main reason that Michael was grumpy when the police contacted him that morning, was that he had spent most of the previous afternoon and evening, ploughing through Ben’s reports, and advising councillors of the change of circumstances regarding the CEO. He had also had a long and very sobering conversation with his former boss John.
Sally had always been one of John’s favourites, and he had made it quite clear to Michael in the past that the decision to rescind her compromise agreement could cause more issues than it needed. Even John couldn’t have predicted the hornet’s nest that had opened now though. The police had given Michael more information about Slime, his capture, his claim that he had been told to prevent Sally pursuing her employment tribunal no matter what, and the wealth of evidence against him and Margaret, that had already been recovered.
Once Michael had given the police access to all the offices and computer systems that they needed, he left Ben to liaise with the, and set up an emergency council meeting in the Town Hall. Normally unhappy about being dragged in to attend a meeting on the weekend, Michael had dropped enough hints to ensure that this was not a meeting to be missed. Some of the councillors present were very quick to point out that Margaret had told them that the CEO’s application was the only one worth considering, and that they hadn’t seen any other documents.
Ben’s report on the CEO contained a wodge of application forms that should have been considered, and both of John’s were among them. He had been very popular with many of the councillors previously, and they had been surprised when he had failed to apply for the CEO post., and gone to work for another local authority.
Damage limitation was needed, and relying on Ben’s intuition about which applicants would be worth considering, Michael set up a new interviewing panel and asked them to read through the forms, and draw up a short list. He also pointed out that he had spoken to John, who confirmed that he would like to be considered, but only if they could guarantee a level playing field. Scared that any of the fraudulent behaviour committed by Margaret and the CEO might tinge them, the new panel went away determined to be as objective as possible.
Michael trudged back to his office and called Ben. It had been a very long day. The police had left the main office building and the Town Hall. carrying a large number of evidence bags and archive boxes. Ben was still at his desk; tying up a few loose ends, and making sure that the team would have a reasonably tidy office to work in on Monday. He brought Michael up to date on everything that he could, and told him that he was going off to Sally’s for dinner, and to catch up on the situation at their end. He didn’t say anything more but he was also rather keen to see Ruby as well.
Although he felt that he was being forced into a corner, Michael felt that it was time to make a decision about Sally.
“While you are there Ben, give Sally a message from me, will you?”
“Of course, Sir.”
“Tell her that the arrangement made by John is reinstated, but that includes the confidentiality statement. I do not want to find myself in another of Sally’s murder mysteries.”