Sunday, June 7, 2020

OF COURSE BLACK LIVE'S MATTER



Official ME report rules homicide in George Floyd's death




Of course Black Lives Matter, Black Lives have been enslaved, subjugated, blamed, and treated with little or no justice for 400 years. George Floyd can honestly be classed as 'the last straw'. All right minded folk found their voices and protested, and I mean protested big time, to make a change in attitudes toward those who by many have been viewed as sub-class human beings, whose lives were held so cheaply, by the very people sworn to protect, that killing them was often simply shrugged off as 'an unfortunate occurrence in the line of duty' and to bring to them the basic human rights of fair treatment and justice.
The vast majority of protesters didn't want, or even think about, violent rioting, or looting. It simply was not their 'way' of getting their voices heard. It has always been known that a small faction of people will infiltrate protests to cause mayhem, to either harm the very cause that is being protested, or to follow their own anarchy urgings. In the USA it inflamed a brutal police force into ever greater acts of violence against their own countrymen. In the UK a savage attack on the horses of mounted police (bricks, broken glass, and even a bike) cause the horses to surge forward in pain and fear, the shout went up, "Police mounted charge!", and this played straight into the medias hands. The media wasn't there for peaceful protests and rally's, they were there for violence and bloodshed, because that is what 'sells the news'.
Now the topic of conversation is not 'Black Lives Matter', but were the police charging the crowd or not, is it right to put animals in front line danger, is the horse that had its nasal bones shattered OK. ....... The infiltrators had a successful day. As did COVID-19.







Sunday, December 16, 2018

A Dowdy Woman



 
                                             



CHAPTER ONE


Harry Penvelly stood back, and with an admiring look flicked his polishing rag at his brother-in-law Bill Halicot,
“Well then Bill,” Harry said, grinning, “We did it!”
“We certainly did,” replied Bill, grinning back.  “Just got to get this little lady insured, taxed and MOT’d, and then on the market … hope she sells right quick, it’s going to take a week or more just to find the right insurer.”

Both men looked down at the deep black glossy sheen of the late 1950’s Wolseley.  It had been Harry’s Dad’s, and Dad had bought it off the Metropolitan Police Force back in the 1960’s when it had become redundant.  Mr Penvelly senior had driven it with pride, and had lovingly cared and coaxed it into keeping going right up until his sudden death from heart attack in the 1970’s.  It had been the romance of this very car that had inspired Harry into becoming a copper, his boyish mind had reasoned that driving a car like that would make you a fearsome super hero, filling any ‘baddies’ heart with dread.  Mr Penvelly senior had, for some reason, willed the beautiful car to Edith, Harry’s elder sister. Edith had had no use for it, so it had sat in the garage at the end of the garden for over thirty years, and it had been a true labour of love to restore the ‘old lady,’  as Harry had always thought of the car, to her prime condition.

Harry was disturbed in his reveries by Bill speaking,
“Sorry Bill,” Harry mumbled, “I was away with the fairies there for a moment, what did you say?”
Bill gave Harry a sad look and replied, “Are you sure you don’t want to buy her Harry?  She should have been yours, you love her so much.”
Harry sighed, and looked up at Bill saying, “No, no Bill, she’s a beauty, no mistake, but she’s one high maintenance lady this one, go on and sell her, and mind you get a good price for her, luxury cruises don’t come cheap."  
Bill gave a nod, and quickly said, “Not a word to Edith mind, this is to be the grandest wedding anniversary she’s ever had, we've never been further than Penzance on our holidays … ah Harry, she’s deserves this so much, I can’t wait to see her face when I hand her the Boarding Passes, and I can’t wait to go!”

Unseen by the brothers-in-law a shadow of a man was lounging, just out of sight, but not out of earshot, behind an overgrown bush that grew in tangled disarray in a slight bend in the lane that serviced the garages at the back of the terrace of houses.  The man smiled and nodded to himself, “This”, he thought, “will do very well, very well indeed.”

He pulled himself deeper into the shadows and texted a short message, as he hit the ‘Send’ button he heard the conversation turn to one of farewells,
“Coming in for a cuppa?”  Bill asked his brother-in-law.  
Harry glanced down at his watch and replied, “No thanks Bill, I best be getting on, I'm due on duty in an hour or so.”  
Bill snorted a laugh before saying, “I was just being polite Harry, I knew you wouldn't really want to come in, not with Edith and her mates crowding out the kitchen and clucking away on their coffee, oops sorry, tea morning.”  
Harry gave Bill a wink and said before turning to walk down the lane to his car, “You know me so well, bro!”

Edith looked round benignly at her group of friends gathered together in her kitchen for a cup o’ tea morning, and she wondered why they did it; these regularly held cup o’ tea mornings in each other’s houses, it wasn't as though, behind each other’s back, any of them had a good word to say about any of the others, to hear the way they sniped at each other you would think they were mortal enemies, not best friends since school.  Well, perhaps there was one reason they all did enjoy these soirées; it was the chance to have a moan about those other much disparaged people in their lives, their husbands.  It was all petty though Edith thought, they didn't really have any real cause for moaning about their better half’s, perhaps Fran Quiller might have a point, if what she said about her old man Alfie was true,  that he was becoming too fond of the odd drink, and being a bit of a slob in his personal hygiene, but Edith, when she had met him on rare occasions, found him harmless enough, and not particularly smelly. …
But the way Lily Maker went on about her Andrew, you would think he was a slave driver, with a whip, that kept her locked indoors and at his constant beck and call!  Edith knew that wasn't right., Andrew Maker had been in her class at school; he had been a nice enough boy then, and on the few occasions she had run into him in town, she decided he had grown into a really decent chap, Lily had no call to moan about him, … he was quite good looking too.  
No, she was the only one amongst them that had any real reason to complain.   As much as she loved him, her Bill had worked down the sewers since leaving school, and when people talked about ‘bringing their work home with them’ Edith could write a brand new chapter on that particular topic!  She had lived with that smell for nigh on twenty-five years … and she still wasn't ‘used to it’ as her friends insisted she must be by now. She had once, early on in their marriage, taken a scrubbing brush and bar of Sunlight soap to Bill, near flaying him in her effort to remove the all-pervading stench.  It hadn't worked. The only difference it had made was, that from that day, she was forbidden to enter the bathroom whilst Bill was taking a bath, he even, to this day, locked the door! Extremely inconvenient at times that had proved to be.
Well, perhaps Doreen Silvers’ Sid was one who could do ……
Edith thoughts were suddenly interrupted by Doreen Silvers’ whiny voice,
“My Sidney’s been fighting at work again; his boss says he can collect his cards if it happens again.  He’s only got five years to go before his retirement; he’ll lose his pension if he gets the sack. The bugger, no thought for me, no consideration as to how we’ll manage on the pittance the government hands out.”  
This brought a sombre silence around the table, any reason for a husband to endanger his pension was a serious offence to these women.  
“You know,” Doreen continued, “If he was to pop his clogs now, before he retired, I’d be better off than if he did behave himself until retirement!”  
Fran gave a snort of laughter and said, “I’d have more respect for mine if he was dead, and that’s for sure!”  
“So would I,” replied Doreen, a little too emphatically.  
Fran gave her a hard stare, there had been rumours that just before she and Alfie had wed that Doreen had had some kind of dalliance with Alfie, her annoyance wasn't with the suspected dalliance, but with the fact that Doreen hadn't hung on to him and saved her from a future life with a stinking drunk!  “Ah well” thought Fran, “All water under the bridge now.”
Her next thought made her chortle wickedly and addressing Doreen said,
“You going to bump him off for me then Dors?”  
Doreen, realising that she had almost raked up a past best left buried, joked back, “Only if you bump mine off for me!”

Edith didn't like this turn in the conversation, moaning about your husband was your God given right, but talking about ‘bumping him off’ wasn't proper, was downright immoral in fact.  Besides which, her younger brother Harold was a policeman … No, she shouldn't even be listening to that sort of talk. Hoping to bring some kind of sense back to the cackling women she said,“But you couldn't though, could you?  Not do that, not your own husband.”
Fran and Doreen ceased their tittering and looked at Edith.  Fran shook her head and said, “It’s only talk Edith, don’t look so worried, we’re just having a laugh.  What is it the young say now? Oh yes, ‘lighten up dude!’”
This sent all three of Edith’s guests into gales of laughter, Edith wasn't sure she could see the point of the joke, but she gave a wan smile anyway.  
Lily, seeing the uncertainty on Edith’s face, sought to reassure her further,   
“It’s just them letting off steam Edith, all hot air, to be blown away with the next sip o’ tea.”  
And with that Lily pointedly offered her empty cup in Edith’s direction.

The cup o’tea morning was finally over; Edith gave a sigh of relief as she shut the front door on her departing guests.  They left her feeling exhausted with their foolish talk and childish giggles. Besides which she was gasping for a decent cup of coffee … if the rest of them only liked coffee, these mornings would be a whole lot more bearable.  She went through to the kitchen, and before she put the kettle on the hob she opened the back door and yelled,
“You can come in now Bill, they've gone!”

Lily headed for the High Street after leaving Edith’s house.  Andrew had given her a list of things he wanted from the Ironmongers, why he couldn't have got them himself she failed to understand, he was becoming increasingly lazy and demanding.  As she bustled along she wondered if she had ever really loved him, she supposed not, she had married him for the prestige. She had been a mousy, plain sort of a girl who had grown into a mousy, plain sort of a woman.  Marrying the most handsome man in town had been quite a feather in her cap. Sadly, there had been no children to bless their marriage, if there had been maybe Andrew would have been more caring about her, more considerate of her feelings, perhaps then love would have blossomed between them.  No, she decided, she didn’t love him, could never have loved him. She wondered, not for the first time, if she should just up and leave him … divorce … such a horrible, ugly word. And yet, if she did leave Andrew, how would she manage? He had kept a firm hand on the purse strings, managed all the household accounts, she didn’t have the first clue about the financial side of life.  In fact, she had very little knowledge about anything to do with managing any aspect of her life; Andrew had taken responsibility for it all.

Doreen and Fran’s joke about ‘bumping’ off their husbands hadn’t been a joke to her.  If, if, by some sad chance Andrew should pass away, (she considered herself too nice a person to say ‘die’, and as for ‘bumping’ him off, well, that would be murder, unthinkable,) so if Andrew should pass away for whatever reason, then she would be left with a considerable amount of wealth.   Her capable husband had taken out a very large joint insurance policy, there would be enough for her to go and live with her spinster sister, and not made to feel a financial burden, she could pay her own way. Her sister was as capable a person as Andrew, a female version of him in fact … Lily sighed again, going to live with her controlling sister would be like jumping from the frying pan into the fire.

Doreen and Fran had headed in the opposite direction to Lily.  Walking arm in arm, a habit they still had from their school days, Fran said,
"Well, going to invite me to yours for a spot of lunch then? And a decent cup of coffee, if I'd had one more cup of Edith's gnat piss tea I swear it would have been her I'd bumped off!"  
Doreen chuckled and agreed, saying,
"I know what you mean, where on earth did that woman get the idea that we liked tea?  Not that we don't, but pots and pots of it in one morning is TOO much, hasn't she heard of  coffee mornings!?" Both women chortled at this piece of mild spite.

When they reached Doreen's house they went into the kitchen where Doreen prepared a plate each of sandwiches, and two cups of very strong coffee.  Unlike Edith, Doreen didn't hold with eating ALL meals in the kitchen, she preferred to eat hers sat on the living room couch watching TV, as did her husband Sidney, not that she would ever suggest that they eat anywhere else in the house except where he wanted to do so.  Although not violent toward her, Sid's bad temper did incline him to shouting and sulking if he couldn't have things his way ... one gave Doreen a headache and the other got on her nerves, and Sid had been getting on her nerves a lot just lately.

Fran finished her sandwich and placed the plate on the coffee table.  Picking up her cup she took a sip and said, “Err, Doreen.”  
Doreen looked suspiciously at her over the top of her own cup and mimicked back, “Err, Fran … What?”  
Taking a deep breath Fran launched into the words that had been cartwheeling around in her brain, “You know what we were joking about at Edith’s?  About bumping our old men off … well, … well what if I wasn't joking?”  
Doreen started to chuckle, then catching sight of her friend’s all too serious expression stopped.  Still unsure of just what Fran was trying to get across, she carefully asked, “You what? Oh Fran, come on, murder?  Surely you can’t be serious; that joke has gone a bit stale, don’t you think?”
Fran’s mouth became pinched, and her overall complexion paled, in a quiet voice, almost a whisper, she replied,
“I'm not joking Doreen, I'm sick of him, he’s making my life a living hell, I could just about bear it when the kids were at home, he made some sort of effort then, and hardly ever had a drink, but when they went off to university it got worse, and just over the last couple of months he’s unbearable, drunk everytime I see him, dirty in his habits, a slob, a proper drunken slob … Doreen, I can’t take any more!”  
With that Fran burst into tears.

Doreen felt alarmed at her friend's obvious and genuine distress and rushed to sit beside her on the couch.  Placing an arm around Fran’s shoulders she pulled the weeping woman into her arms and murmured,
“Oh there now Fran, don’t take on so, you can always leave him and get a divorce … Ohh my dear, I didn’t realise he had started drinking, he was always such a sober man … he hasn't … hasn't hurt you, has he love?”  
Fran pulled herself out of her friend’s embrace, and half turning to face her, said tearfully,
“No, not struck me, he has raised his fist at me but never struck out, he pushes me roughly out of the way when I try to stop him going down the pub, even when I beg him not to go, he keeps saying I nag him all the time, but if he would just stop drinking, just clean himself up...”
“Then just leave him, get a divorce,” Doreen reasoned.  
“I can’t,” gasped Fran, “We’re Roman Catholic, it would be a sin!”  
Doreen was beginning to feel a tendril of impatience with Fran, and her next words came out a little harsher than she had intended,
“Well, just how much more of a sin would it be bumping him off?!”  
Fran eagerly grabbed Doreen’s hands and blurted,
“That’s what I'm saying, if you were to do it, and in return I’d do for yours … yes, yes, I know, that would be a sin too, but not half as bad a one as doing for my own husband, and if it was made to look like natural deaths, accidents, no one would even suspect … and at least I wouldn't be looked down on and excommunicated, the disgrace I would have to suffer if I divorced …”
Doreen’s patience finally snapped, her voice this time was purposefully stern as she replied,
“That’s enough, I don’t want to hear any more of this foolish talk, go see your priest and tell him to have a word with Alfie, and then go see your doctor, you need help too!”  
Fran’s mouth once again became pinched and pursed, giving it a mean look.  Fran had been so sure that she would find a willingly ally in Doreen, had even turned on the water works for her,
‘God,’ thought Fran, ‘The woman must have a heart of stone!’

Fran went to the down stairs cloakroom to freshen her face, and then quickly making her excuses and extracting a promise from Doreen never to breathe a word about their conversation, Fran left.

Fran couldn't face returning home just yet, she knew the mess that would still be waiting for her to clean up, the puddles of urine on the floor around the toilet bowl, the vomit by the back door, and the blood on the carpet where Alfie had taken a drunken tumble and cracked his head on the hearth.  She had found him there this morning, lying full stretch on the hearth rug in yet another pool of vomit mixing in with the blood. He was not, as she had hoped, dead, but snoring, grunting, and farting. Her disgust had driven her out of the house, and it was her disgust that was making her drag her feet about returning there.  With a sigh she headed for town, perhaps a bit of window shopping, and later another coffee and … yes … a cream cake at the café would lift her flagging spirits.

The drizzle of rain had turned into hard patter by the time Fran reached town, so she postponed her window shopping and went directly to the café.  As she entered she spotted Lily sitting at a corner table, looking miserable as usual,
‘Ye Gods,’ thought Fran, ‘If faces like that were an Olympic event, I swear that woman would take Gold every time!’  
Fran hurried over and sat at the table, taking the chair opposite Lily,
“Hello there Lily, are you OK love, you look proper down in the dumps,” Fran asked, more out of politeness then any real wish to know.  She took up the menu and studied it to see what tasty treats would take her fancy.
Lily looked up from staring dejectedly into her empty coffee cup,
“Oh, hi Fran.  No, I'm OK, really, it’s just that the Ironmongers haven’t got any four inch Philip screws in stock until Friday, and I have no idea where else to go to get a screw, Andrew is not going to be best pleased with me, he said he particularly wanted them for something today.”  
Fran resisted the urge to burst out laughing at this, and quelling her amusement by making a pretence of studying the menu even harder, she replied,
“Well, I hardly see how Andrew could blame you for that, he’ll just have to wait ‘til Friday for his much needed screw.  Now, what have you just had, which cake is the yummiest?”
Lily stared hard at Fran, her mouth slightly open, was Fran so dumb as to not understand how serious this was, Andrew not getting what Andrew wanted, when he wanted it, was terrible.  He would make her feel a failure, a bad wife, a waste of space, which she supposed she was, in a way. She couldn't even get this simple errand right. And what was so funny about wanting a screw?  The man in the Ironmongers looked as though he was about to snigger too, just like Fran.

Fran was looking at her and making the common noise of enquiry,
“Mmmmm?”   
Lily, who had been staring at the screen of her mobile phone which had just sounded the ‘incoming text’ ring,  paled and shook her head. She looked up at Fran, and before answering paused, as if to collect her thoughts,
“No, no I just had a coffee.  I must be going Fran, see you at Doreen’s on Monday.”  
With that Lily collected her coat off the back of her chair, along with her handbag, gave Fran a peck on the cheek and left.  

Later, when she had finished her own coffee and superb cream doughnut, Fran had stepped up to the counter to pay, and much to her irritation, she discovered that Lily had left in such a hurry that she had forgotten to pay for her own coffee, leaving Fran to pick up her bill;  Fran would have words with Lily about that on Monday!




CHAPTER TWO

Lily didn’t turn up for coffee at Doreen's house on Monday, and when she didn't put in an appearance at Fran’s on Thursday either, Doreen announced that she would pop round her house the next day to see if she was OK.
Andrew answered the door to Doreen, who, not waiting for an invite, bustled straight in, saying as she did so,
“Is Lily poorly?  Is there anything I can do to help?”  
Doreen put her head round the living room door, and as Lily wasn’t there, made her way to the stairs in the hall,
“Poor lamb, taken to her bed has she?”  Doreen crooned, and was about to make her way upstairs when Andrew caught hold of her arm, saying,
“No, she’s not up there.”  
Doreen was surprised by the the gravelly harshness in Andrew’s voice; he was usually such a soft spoken man.  Her eyes opened wide as she considered another possibility, “Oh god Andrew, she’s not in hospital is she? What’s wrong?  What’s happened?”
Andrew was shaking his head and redirected Doreen to the living room.  When they were both seated, he murmured,
“I don’t know where Lily is.  I haven’t seen her since last Friday morning.  Silly cow’s packed a bag and run off! I was hoping you, or another member of your coven, would know where she’s gone.”  
Doreen ignored the insult and asked,
“Is she at her sister’s?”  
This time Andrew openly sneered at her without saying anything.  
Doreen, feeling embarrassed, looked down at her hands resting on her lap and whispered, “Yes, yes, of course, you’d have already checked.”  Much louder she said,
“Look Andrew, I’ll ask the others if they know anything, try not to worry, I expect there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation.”  
Andrew, still sneering, snarled back at her,
“Well it had better be a perfect explanation for leaving without telling me, she’s my wife, and her place is here, in my house, looking after me!”  
Just as quickly, Andrew changed his tone of voice from snarling to his usual soft spoken pleasant one, the sneer was replaced by a polite smile.
“It was good of you to call round Doreen, but I expect you’ll be wanting to be on your way now.”  
With that he stood and opened the living room door, obviously indicating to Doreen that she should leave, no arguments.

As Doreen left the house Andrew called after her from the living room, still in a pleasant and now friendly manner,
“And if you hear anything, anything at all Doreen, please call me straight away, I’m out of my mind with worry.”

Doreen hurried home to call her friends with this astounding turn of events.  As she bustled along she wondered if Andrew’s at times hostile attitude toward her was indeed due to his worrying about the errant Lily, but, she had felt not so much insulted but cowed, almost bullied.  

As she let herself in her back door she sighed and gave a little nod,
‘Hardly surprising,’ she thought.
If Lily was right about Andrew’s controlling temperament, no wonder she had done a runner!  Good luck to her, but where had the daft old bat gone?

The three women agreed to meet round Edith’s house later that evening.  Bill had already left left to go on the work’s annual weekend fishing trip, so there would be no men around to butt in with unnecessary comments.

Bill had given his customary parting comment of “Fishing for real fish and not for turds,” which seemed to be a hilarious ‘in’ joke with Bill and his colleagues, one that Edith found distasteful, and was fed up with hearing every blooming year!  But at least he had regained his good humour, he had been in a right ‘paddy’ as he was packing the car up.

Once settled around Edith’s kitchen table, with a cup of tea in hand, and for once tea was just the right drink, the women sat in silence, each composing their own thoughts so as to come up with a reasonable explanation for Lily's disappearance.  Doreen spoke first,
“I still think she has gone off to her sister’s.”  
Fran added to the conversation with,
“She was pretty upset when I saw her in town last Wednesday, something about not being able to buy something or other for Andrew, and how he would be angry at her because of it…. I can't say as I was paying much attention, you know how she witters on.”
“No, I’m not sure that I do.”  said Edith coldly, then turning to Doreen said,
”Surely Doreen, didn’t you say that Andrew had told you he had rang her sister already, and she wasn’t there.”  
“Yes, but,” replied Doreen, “If she didn't want to speak to Andrew, or have him going round there to drag her off back home, she may have told her sister to say she wasn’t there.”  
“I’m sorry Doreen,” interjected Fran, “But that just doesn’t sound like Andrew.”  
“I agree,” said Edith, and continued, “Andrew is such a nice chap, always polite and thoughtful, not the type to get angry, or drag Lily anywhere, it’s just not like him!”  
Fran nodded in agreement, Doreen snorted and replied,
You weren’t there when I called round Lily’s earlier today.  You didn’t see him, his face, it was a horrid expression, and the way he acted, he left me feeling, oh, I don't know, manipulated and worthless somehow, that’s the only way I can think of putting it.”  Doreen gave a sigh and shook her head sadly, before going on,
“I used to think Andrew was a great guy too, I’d set my cap at him when we were teenagers, but he only seemed interested in girls like Lily, and later, when Lily was older, in Lily herself.  I thought that was so romantic, but now, now I think he’s a bully, just like Lily tried to tell us.  I think he married little Lily because she could be bullied!  I for one wouldn’t blame her for running off?!”

Silence fell on the trio once more as they digested this astounding revelation.  It was Edith who broke the silence by giving a nervous cough and saying,
"I've Lily's sister's phone number, her name's Maude or Mabel, something like that....Do you think I should give her a call?"  
"YES!!" the other two shouted in unison.  
"Right, OK, I won't be a minute," Edith replied, uncertainty making her voice tremble.  Then crossing the kitchen to a dresser, she opened a drawer and took out a small book. As she left the kitchen she thumbed through the book.  The others heard her dial, and then say,
"Oh, um, yes, hello, I'm Edith Halicot, I was wondering, could I speak to Lily, please?  We're best friends, and I was told she was visiting with you."
"Ye gods," Fran whispered to Doreen, "She sounds as though she's fourteen again, has the woman no gumption?!"  
Doreen clapped both her hands over her mouth to stifle a laugh, Fran frowned at her and held her hand up to signify she should be quiet as Edith was talking again.  
"Oh, I see, and you've not ....... no ......... OK, well, sorry to have disturbed you ..... Oh, if you do hear anyth ..... oh, you've gone."

When Edith returned to the kitchen she shrugged at the other two before returning the book to the dresser drawer.  As she sat down once more at the table Doreen asked,
"I assume that means Lily isn't at her sister's then?"  
"No ... I mean yes, that's right, she's not," replied Edith, continuing, "The sister said she hasn't seen or heard from her in over a month.  She was pretty miffed at being asked, apparently Andrew had been ranting at her a few days ago, insisting that Lily was there, then she cut me off, what a rude woman."  
"A few days ago!" exclaimed Fran, "Just how long has Lily been missing?  I thought she'd done a runner this morning, or last night."
"Well," replied Doreen, "Andrew said he hadn't seen her since last Friday morning ... didn't I say?"  
Fran shot Doreen a cutting look, then her eyes widened, as she gasped,
"Oh god, I must have been the last person to see her then, in the cafe, she was trying to tell me how unhappy she was, I just didn't listen, then she just left, in a hurry, she just left."  Fran put her head in her hands.
Edith looked alarmed and said, "You're talking as though something, something bad has happened to her.  You don't think something has do you?"
"No, I don't!"  exclaimed Fran, "I think she has finally shown some bottle and taken herself off, I'm just cross at myself for not listening to her last Friday, I missed getting in first with a tasty bit of gossip!"  
Edith frowned at this lack of propriety, and looked to Doreen for support, but Doreen was softly smiling and gave a wistful sigh  as she said,
"She's done a Shirley Valentine!"

Edith wasn't a hundred percent sure what a 'Shirley Valentine' was, but she was getting concerned about how long Lily had been gone.   She voiced her concern to the others, "A week without telling anyone where she is, not even her sister?  No, that's not right, not for Lily. What did the police say when Andrew reported her missing Doreen?"  Doreen pulled a face and creased her brow before replying,
"I don't think he has reported her missing, at least he didn't say he had, and that's not the sort of thing you'd miss out of a conversation about your missing wife, is it?"  
"No, no it isn't," replied Edith quietly.  
A moments silence followed whilst the women took in the ramifications of this new information, then Edith drew a deep breath and said,
"I'm going to call my brother Harold, see what advice he can offer."  
Once more Edith went into the hall to make a phone call.

Detective Inspector Harry Penvelly was sat on his sofa with his feet on the coffee table, an opened paper package, containing fish and chips, was on his lap.  He glanced up at the television as he liberally sprinkled salt over his vinegar soaked supper, they’d be kicking off any minute now.
‘This’, he thought happily, ‘is what I call a proper night off.’  He was about to pop a soggy chip into his mouth when the phone rang.  
It was his night off, he wasn’t going to answer it, was determined not to answer it, then plonking his supper down on the coffee table and getting to his feet, knew he would answer it.  “A copper’s lot,” he moaned as he crossed the room to the telephone.  
“What!” he barked down the receiver, “And hurry up, my supper’s getting cold … oh, Edith, it’s you … is everything alright love, it’s just that I’m busy and … yes, I was having my supper … What?  Slow down. Who’s gone missing? … Edith! Can’t this wait? … Oh, alright, I’ll be round in ten minutes … Yes, I’ll bring my supper with me.”

Edith popped Harry’s supper, now properly placed on a plate with another covering it, into the oven to warm up whilst Harry seated himself at the kitchen table with Doreen and Fran.  

Before he had come out he had set the video recorder to record the big match, he could watch it later, but it wasn’t the same as watching it live, as it was happening.  His supper would be well and truly ruined too, fish and chips were never the same heated over. With these morose thoughts he glared at the women around the table, “This had better be good,” he growled at them.  
“Now, now, Harold, that’s enough of your moaning’s”, said Edith as she introduced Harry to them, proudly giving his full rank.  
“Yes, yes, now what’s this all about Edith, and start from the beginning,” said Harry, he was still feeling hard done by, he had never been able to refuse his big sister anything, but that didn’t mean he didn’t resent that fact.

Harry let them tell their story without interrupting them.  When they had finished, he asked questions, nodding but not commenting on their answers.  By this time his supper had been heated up and Edith served it along with a slice of bread and butter and a mug of tea. Rather sadistically, but without any guilt, Harry let them wait for his opinion on their tale until he had finished eating.  

When he had done Edith cleared away the plates and Harry took a large gulp of tea before saying, “Now then ladies, the way I see it is this.  Lily Maker had always complained that her husband was a bit of an overbearing sod … sorry Edith … but you had never seen any signs of any physical abuse on her.  Soooooo, I would say that you had thought right in as much as she’d had enough of him and scarpered. I can’t say, or think, why she didn’t tell you where she had gone, but, there you go, she didn’t.  My advice is to do nothing, she will be in contact when she is good and ready, and not before.  And … please do not let me hear of any of you ladies harassing her husband for answers. He didn’t report her missing because she wasn’t, she just doesn’t want to be found, there is a difference.”

The three women, on recounting their story to Harry, had convinced themselves that something bad had happened to Lily, which is why they stared at him incredulously for a moment or two before Fran blurted out,  “And that’s it? Do nothing? Aren’t you even the least bit worried over a woman’s sudden disappearance?  Doesn’t it sound just the tiniest bit suspicious?”
“No,” answered Harry, suppressing a burp, “It doesn't, and it may seem sudden to you because you have just heard about it, for all you know Mrs Maker could’ve been planning this for months.”  
“I don’t think so,” exclaimed Doreen, “She surely would have told us, her closest friends.”  
“Why?” asked Harry,  
“Because, because, she just would have!” Doreen all but shouted.  
“Look at the facts, the evidence,” replied Harry, trying to stay reasonable, these women were, to his mind, interfering, nosey, busy-bodies, “Mrs Maker was, by her own words, discontent in her marriage, she seemed even more perturbed when you,” and here he pointed at Fran, “Last spoke to her, by your own admission you believed that she was trying to tell you something, but you didn’t pick up on it, and then her husband tells you,” and this time Harry’s accusing finger was directed at Doreen, “and there is no reason to disbelieve him, that Mrs Maker had packed her bags and left.”  
Harry paused for breath and smiled as he looked at the women, then without another word to Fran or Doreen, he kissed Edith on the cheek, bade her ‘goodnight’ and left, leaving the women to their frustration of ‘not being in the know’ about the scandalous goings on of their friend.

Harry decided he deserved a pint, so he dropped into The Taverner’s Arms on his way home … and wished he hadn’t.  He must have been at his sister’s house for well over an hour, the Big Match was now well and truly over, the results and the highlights of the game were being loudly discussed by the pub’s locals.  

Harry stood morosely at the bar, it wasn’t even worth rushing home to watch the recorded game, knowing the outcome would take all the excitement out of the match now.  He ordered another pint and felt a friendly hand clapped on his shoulder, “Good game, or what?” asked off-duty Sergeant Bert Applewhite.
“Wouldn’t know,” mumbled Harry into his fresh pint.  
“What?!” exclaimed Bert, “How come you missed it?  I thought you had booked this evening off especially.”  
Harry gave a dramatic sigh and told Bert where he had been during the greatest, not to be missed, football match.  Bert gave his heartfelt commiserations, and then went on to say, “You know, I for one, am not surprised that Lily Maker took off.”   
“Oh,” replied Harry, “You know the Makers then?”  
“Yes”, said Bert, and took a swig of his beer before continuing, “Well, I sort of knew them from school, I was always surprised that Andrew took up with Lily.”  
“Why’s that then?” asked Harry, not really interested, but the copper in him couldn’t help but ask.  

Bert went on to explain, “Well Lily was a dowdy, plain sort of girl, really quiet, nothing that would make a chap look twice at her really, and Andrew, now he was a good looking bloke, still is from all accounts, built like a boxer, all the girls had a ‘thing’ for him, in fact he could have had any girl he wanted, but he chose Lily.”  
Bert paused for another gulp of his pint before going on, “before him and Lily got serious he went out with my sister, she dumped him though, said he was an overbearing and bossy sod who tried to put her down all the time, tried to belittle her I think she meant  … if he acted like that toward Lily, as I said, I’m not surprised she left, I’m just surprised she put up with it for such a long time.”
Harry gave another sigh, he didn't want to continue with the conversation about Lily bloody Maker, the whole evening had left him depressed, Bert hadn’t told him anything that the three women already had earlier, what a waste of one of his oh-so-rare night’s off.



CHAPTER THREE


The weekend passed quietly enough for Harry, and Monday evening found him at home on call.  He was fervently hoping that the phone wouldn’t ring before he finished watching his box set of ‘Frost’, his all time hero cop, the only one who brought a sense of realism into coppering, in his opinion.  

He had rang for an Indian takeaway, and the boy Ranjid, had just delivered it.  Harry breathed deeply, inhaling the spicy fragrances of his Indian meal as he removed the cardboard lids from the aluminium cartons.  He rubbed his hands together in anticipation of what he hoped was an uninterrupted evening of viewing and gourmet noshing.

The phone rang.  Harry knew he shouldn’t be surprised, he was on call, and he had always believed in ‘Sod’s Law.’  He glared at the offending telephone anyway. With a martyred sigh he crossed the room and answered it.  

It was Edith.  Before she could get any further than speaking his name, Harry told her, in no uncertain terms,
“Edith love, I’m on call, I can’t chat, have to keep the line free, ring you soon.”  
He was about to put the phone back on the cradle when he caught the sound of a muffled sob.  
Harry felt a pang of alarm, “Edith?  What’s up love?”
Ohhhh Harold!” came the responding wail, “It’s Bill, he’s … he’s not c-c-c-come home, he didn’t even g-g-g-go, and now he’s not come back, Harold, I’m so afr-afraid.”  Edith’s sobs were threatening to become hysterical, and she wasn’t making any sense at all.
Harry reassured Edith that he would be ‘there in five,’ and fervently hoping that his sister hadn’t interrupted another of his evenings’ plans with some silly, over-dramatised, misunderstood, cock-eyed notion of life’s easily explained happenings, he stormed out of his house.

He knew that Edith would be sat at the kitchen table waiting for him, so he used his back door key and let himself in.  (Edith and Harry had jointly inherited their parent’s house, when Edith married Bill Harry couldn’t see himself as being a gooseberry, so he moved out, but had hung on to his house keys.)

Edith was indeed at the kitchen table.  The worry that was etched into her face as she turned to Harry as he crossed from back door to table was heartbreaking, he felt a pang of guilt at his earlier exasperation at being dragged from his supper, yet again.  Edith, once she had acknowledged Harry’s presence with a sob choked, “Ohhhhhh Harold!” bent her head and resumed twisting her tear soaked handkerchief with hands that were visibly trembling.

Harry took a chair opposite her, and grasped both her hands across the table with his, as she looked up he said, in a soft voice, “Edith, tell me what has happened, from the beginning, take your time, there’s no hurry.”  A sudden thought struck Harry, he patted his jacket pocket before squeezing Edith’s hands as he quietly told her, “Before you start Edith, I must phone in and let them know where I am, I’ve left my mobile at home, calls from the land-line are directed there if I don’t answer … Now, take a deep breath and compose your thoughts, I won’t be more than two shakes of a lamb’s tail.”  
Edith didn’t answer, but nodded her understanding.

When Harry returned to the kitchen he resumed his seat, poured himself a cup of tea from the still hot pot, smiling he said, “Now Edith, what's this all about?”  
Edith gave her head a couple of sharp nods, and closing her eyes to help compose herself, she falteringly at first, but quickly gaining momentum, told Harry what had happened.

“Friday just gone, after work, Bill went on his work’s fishing trip, he just popped home to collect his things before he set off, you knew that?  Well, he was due home Sunday night, but he didn’t, come home that is. I thought perhaps they had all gone out for a drink and, maybe Bill was too tipsy to make it home and had dossed down at his friends, one of those he had gone fishing with, and …”  
Harry interrupted her onward rush of words by saying, “Edith, slow down,”  
“Yes, yes”  Edith nodding, agreed.  “Umm, yes, I thought he would have gone straight to work from his friends, he has a spare set of overalls at work… But, but, ohhhhh Harry I don’t understand what’s happened to him, I can't think where he is, what if something bad has happened, what if he’s …..”  
Edith, stop!”   Harry barked at her, and speaking in a firm voice went on,  “Right, so did Bill go into work today?”  
Noooooo!”  wailed Edith, that’s what I’m trying to tell you.  His manager rang to ask if he was OK, Harry, he hadn’t even turned up for the fishing trip!”

Edith had collapsed into noisy, wet sobs again, Harry ignored her whilst he thought things through.  The works fishing trip was due to start last Friday evening, and end Sunday afternoon. If Bill hadn’t even turned up at the quayside, then where could he possibly have gone?  Something was niggling in the back of Harry’s mind.
Turning his attention back to Edith, he asked, “Edith, are any of Bill’s clothes missing?  Other than those he would take for his fishing trip that is.”
Edith whipped her head up to look at her brother,
“I don’t know, I didn’t think to look … no Harry, if you’re thinking that, then no.  Bill would never leave me, never!”
Harry gave his sister a gentle look, and quietly asked,
“Can you look Edith, I’m not saying that’s what happened, but we have to eliminate all possibilities, don’t we?”  Feeling reassured Edith left the kitchen to go upstairs.

Edith was shaking her head when she returned,
“No, all his clothes, except for the ones I packed for his fishing trip, are still there.  Harry, I’m feeling sick with worry, and I’m scared to phone round the hospitals, in case, in case … you know, an accident.” She whispered the last two words as large fat tears rolled down her cheeks.  
Harry sighed and said,
“Try not to worry love, we’ll find him, I promise.  Now, he had all his fishing gear with him, yes?” Edith barely nodded as Harry continued, “And he had only those clothes he would need for his trip, you’re sure?”  Again Edith gave a nod. Harry was about to say something more when Edith interrupted him,
“Do you think he’s run off with Lily?”
What!”  Harry barked, and chuckling  he stood and pulled his weeping sister into his arms.  Rubbing her back to calm her Harry said,
“No Edith, I don’t think he’s run off with Lily, not unless Lily is the kinky sort who likes smelly fishing gear and stinky boots!  You know there is, 99.9% of the time, a plausible and usually boring reason why spouses don’t return on time, believe me. Now, I’m going to make a couple of phone calls, just to get the ball rolling in the direction of getting Bill home so you can give him a right earful, and you Edith, are going to make us an enormous plate of scrambled egg on toast with beans, the curried ones if you have any, right?”  
As Edith gave no reply Harry gave her a little shake and repeated,
“Right?”  
Satisfied now that Edith would keep herself occupied making them something to eat, Harry went into the hall, carefully shutting the door behind him.

As he took the few steps that would take him from the kitchen door to the telephone stand, Harry gritted his teeth and made a vow, when Bill Halicot showed up, with whatever miserable excuse he had for absenteeism, he, Detective Inspector Harold Penvelly, was going to black both his eyes.  One for upsetting his sister, and the other for the cold glukky mess his Indian takeaway, at home on his coffee table, would now be. Harry picked up the phone and rang his Station.

Having satisfied himself that Bill Halicot had intended to go on his work’s fishing trip and had not ‘done a runner’, Harry left instructions with his Duty Sergeant Bert Applewhite to firstly send a patrol car to that stretch of coastline, where there were numerous places to pull in and park, the patrol was to be on the lookout for Bill Halicot’s car, he gave Bert the make, colour, and registration number.  

He then rang a senior officer in Traffic Control who owed him a favour or two, (what he was about to ask was only usually available when a crime was suspected, not locating absentee brother-in-laws.)  Firstly he requested a list of any RTAs since last Friday involving, again he gave the description of Bill’s car be faxed through to the Station. Harry then asked if there were any CCTVs operational around the Killipie Harbour area, there wasn’t.  Harry swore under his breath at that, if only he could be sure that Bill had at least headed in the direction of Killipie, this could mean he took, for whatever reason, an entirely different direction.
Harry’s cuss brought a terse reminder from the Traffic Control officer that he was doing Harry a favour, which led Harry to remind the officer of the favours he owed him ….
”Well, alright then,” said the officer tersely, “Just don’t you ever swear at me, or push your luck with me again Harry.”  With that the officer slammed the phone down.
There wasn’t anything more Harry could do but wait and see what would turn up, if anything, in the meantime Harry decided that he would tuck into his scrambled eggs on toast with baked beans, hopefully the curried variety.

There were indeed curried baked beans, with the added bonus of little pork sausages in them.  Harry was just mopping up the last of the baked bean juice with a slice of crusty bread when the phone rang.  He held his hand, palm first, up to Edith indicating that he would get it and she was to remain where she was.  

Edith hadn't felt like eating, but had watched Harry consume his meal with a lustiness that she found puzzling, she wondered how he could eat at a time like this, but she was so glad he was here.  She remained at the kitchen table staring disconsolately at Harry’s now wiped clean plate whilst Harry went to answer the phone. She didn’t notice he had once again closed the door behind him.

Harry picked the phone up with a curt, “Well?”  After a few moments of listening carefully to what was being said, he sighed and replied,
“Yes, I’ll be right there, perhaps it would be better if I came to the Station first, get Patrolman Keen to come back in, there is back up at the site isn’t there? …...  Right, yes, and get Bob Halman out of his pit to meet me at the Station, Keen can drive us to the site and de-brief us on the way, oh, and if you can send WPC Grenville ….. yes here, to sit with my sister, you have her address? ……..Good, as soon as possible.”  Harry slowly put the phone back down, he would have to tell Edith, not all of it of course, not yet, just enough.

As Harry re-entered the kitchen Edith looked at his face, her own face turned white and her hands flew up, covering her mouth.  She gave a muffled cry of,
Oh no, Harry, please, no!”  
Harry strode quickly over to where she was sitting and removed her hands from her mouth, he cupped her chin and lifted her head, saying,
“Listen Edith, all I know for sure is that they have found Bill’s car, now I’m going to see what it’s all about … Edith, do you understand, just the car.  Now WPC Grenville is coming to sit with you while I’m gone, so you won’t be alone, you’ve met her haven’t you, she’s a nice kid."
Harry stopped there realising that his words were becoming condescending. WPC Grenville was also the Family Liaison Officer, something he fervently hoped Edith wouldn’t cotton on to, not yet anyway.

Harry sat comforting and reassuring his sister for a further ten minutes, he really had to go, he stood, and with a final,
“As soon as I know what is going on I’ll ring.  WPC Grenville will be here soon.”
As if on cue the doorbell rang.  
“Ah, that will be her now, just try to stay calm.”  Harry let the WPC in and showed her into the kitchen, he then left by the back door.  He really didn’t like lying, or half-truthing, to his sister, but at least she wouldn’t be alone.



CHAPTER FOUR

Harry, and his Detective Sergeant Bob Halmer, walked over to the blue crime scene tape.  Bob looked at his boss and said, “Look sir, if you’d rather stay here, I’d understand.”  Harry didn’t even bother looking back at Bob as he replied, “Just shut up Bob.”

Forensic Pathologist Marcus Dolhern, clad in hooded whites, ambled over to where they stood.  He nodded to Bob and then turned to Harry asking, “I understand you knew him?” Receiving just a brief nod from Harry, he continued, “If you could make a positive ID now, do you think you’re up to it now Harry?  We could always wait til we get to the morgue.” Again Harry gave the briefest of nods, taking that to mean he would do the identification now, Marcus said, “Right, if you both get suited please…” Marcus broke off what he was saying, realising that he was talking to one of the most experienced Detectives on the force, one who had been through this routine of ‘first investigation of site’ procedures many, many times before, but this one would be different, this one would be personal.

Harry and Bob, accompanied by Marcus, walked over to Bill’s car.  It was parked in a little known clearing, just off a gravelly track.  The clearing was surrounded by trees, there was a small path leading through the trees that would come out on the cliffs overlooking Killipie Harbour.

One of the few people who knew about of this out of the way parking place had been Bill. He had once told Harry that it had been a favoured courting spot of his when he was ‘stepping out’ with Edith.  They had spent many an hour watching the moon across the Harbour from the cliff top. He had also told Harry that he still liked to go there when he had the opportunity, although Edith never seemed to want to go with him these days, even though the air was so clean and fresh on the cliff top and the views across the bay stunning, the cliffs themselves had become increasingly dangerous, eroding into the sea, Edith was terrified of them now.

Harry had quite forgotten what Bill had told him about his courting spot until now, and so apparently had Edith, why else would she not have mentioned it as a place he might have come to, being as he was in the vicinity anyway.  
“Oh Edith,” Harry muttered under his breath, his heart flooding with pity for his sister, the tragedy being that whilst Edith had all but forgotten her joyful courting place of then, she would always now remember it with pain.

The rest of the Forensic Team respectfully stepped back as  the trio reached the car, the doors of which had already been opened.  Harry bowed forward and looked in. The acrid stench of car fumes bit into Harry’s throat and made his eyes stream, he quickly withdrew his head, but not before he had seen both the green garden hose forced into a small space in the barely open passenger window, and that of the body, lying with his head resting against the headrest, it was indeed Bill.

Bill looked for all the world as though he was taking a nap, his hands were resting loosely on his lap.  It was just his face, florid red, that gave clue to his death, carbon monoxide poisoning.

Marcus was asking a question, Harry shook his head and tried to clear his throat, he wiped his streaming eyes,   “You mean it’s not?” Marcus asked,
Harry looked at him and frowned, “What?” he asked in return with a croaking voice, Marcus very gently repeated his original question, “Harry, do you recognise him?”  
“Er, yes, yes, it’s my brother-in-law, it’s Bill.”  Harry confirmed, his voice still rasping from the fumes.

Marcus spoke into his handheld Dictaphone, “DI Penvelly has formally identified the deceased as….”  Here Marcus broke off and looked at Bob, Bob gave the information needed, so Marcus continued, “......as William Halicot, the identification was done in situ, at … oh for God’s sake has this place even got an address….”  

Harry had turned and taken a couple of steps away, he was about to take more on his way back to the patrol car, trying desperately to work out how he was going to break it to Edith that her husband had committed suicide … suicide? …  
He came to a sudden stop, whirling around he suddenly shouted back to Marcus and Bob, “I thought this was called in as a suspicious death!”

Marcus returned his Dictaphone to his pocket and gestured for Harry to come back to Bill’s car.  

Bob took a step toward Harry saying, “Sir, please, you can’t get involved in this one.”  Harry shot Bob a malignant look and snarled, “And I told you to shut up!”
Harry arrived back at the car and said to Marcus, “Right, what have you got to show me?  What makes this a suspicious death?”
Harry had turned from grieving brother-in-law and concerned brother to a Criminal Detective in an instant.

Marcus reached back into the car, standing sideways so as to allow Harry to better see what he was pointing out, and seemingly impervious to the acrid stench he gently lifted Bill’s head.  With equal care he pointed to a dark matted area on the back of Bill’s head, there was a responding dark stain on the head rest.
“Here Harry, this poor chap had quite a hefty wallop to the back of his head before he died, it almost definitely didn’t kill him, his rosy skin suffusion points to carbon monoxide poisoning, but it would have knocked him senseless, and at a guess, before you ask, he’s been dead for a few days, long enough for rigor mortis to have come and gone, and ….”  
Marcus was interrupted by Harry being jerked back by an increasingly anxious Bob.  Bob’s face was almost as suffused as Bill’s, but with anger, he shouted at Harry,
“Sir, I really must insist that you return to the car,”  Then in a more reasoning voice, “ You are too close, too involved, to investigate this one.”  
Bob was waiting for the explosion of fury that he would have expected from his boss, but instead Harry nodded and gave a wane smile before replying to Bob’s righteous outburst, “You’re right of course Sergeant, Marcus, give all the information you have to Bob, I’ll just stand here and observe … unless of course Sergeant you intend to physically remove me!” Bob gave his superior a long, suspicious stare, and knowing that was the best he could hope for, he gave Harry a curt nod and turned to Marcus.

There wasn’t a lot more Marcus could tell Bob without a post mortem, so Bob was about to instruct some of his team to make a search of the surrounding area now that Marcus had finished at the crime scene, they were to look for evidence of anyone else having been at the site, bloodstains, or anything that could have been used to deliver the ‘wallop’ on Bill’s head, when one of the Forensic boys gave an urgent, “Sir!”  
He was standing at the rear of Bill’s car, with the boot open.

Much to Bob’s chagrin Harry reached the rear of the car before him.  Giving his superior a look of pure malice, Bob elbowed Harry aside and looked into the boot.  Tightly curled in a foetal position was the body of a woman. Her head was unnaturally tucked down low into her chest, her knees drawn up so far as to almost cover her face.  Her arms were behind her back, and so tightly pulled so as to be, once more, in an unnatural position, in the crook of one arm was a black strap, giving the initial appearance that her arms were bound at the elbows.  She was fully clothed, and was wearing a tweed coat, plain and homely. Her feet, with heels tucked tightly into her buttocks, had one plain brown court shoe on one foot, and the other was missing a shoe, the toe of that stocking ripped to allow her toes to protrude.  Wedged tightly behind the body was a small brown leather suitcase, old and scuffed.
Bob caught Harry by the elbow and gently murmured, “Sir, let the forensics to their job, come away now.”  
Harry shook his head to clear it. Suddenly aware that he had been staring at the woman’s body intently,  
“Yes, yes, of course,” rasped Harry, his throat dry, “You’ll organise a search, a fingertip search, of the surrounding area … there’s no CCTV, but someone must have seen something, surely to God, someone …”  
“That’s enough sir,”  Bob still kept his voice gentle, “Go back to the car, I’ll get PC Keen to drive you home, your sister has to be told, not everything,” and here Bob glanced back at the boot of Bill’s car, “Not yet, but the news of her husband’s death would be better coming from you.”    
Harry nodded his agreement and returned to the patrol car to wait for PC Keen.  He couldn't shake the image of that plain brown tweed coat from his mind, there was another word to describe it that, for the moment, kept slipping his memory, a word that seemed important …… Dowdy! ……. That was it, dowdy.  Why was that word so meaningful?  
Sticking his head out of the open window of the patrol car Harry shouted over, “Look for a handbag Bob, it’s important we know who she is straight away.”

Harry had been transported from the crime scene to his sister's’ house before knowing whether a handbag had been found or not.  

‘A dowdy woman.’ that’s how Lily Maker’s friends and Duty Sergeant Applewhite had described her, and ‘dowdy woman’ would described the body found in the boot of Bill’s car perfectly.  Coincidence? Well, of course it could be just that, but Harry didn’t think so. His experience, his instinct, was telling him that Lily Maker had turned up. But how she came to be in his brother-in-law’s car, what was the connection between them, other than Lily and Edith were friends, he had yet to discover.  

Except of course he couldn’t, Bob was right, he was far too close to the incident to remain objective.  Even as the car was pulling up outside his sister’s house, he was dismissing the idea that Bill could have been involved romantically in any way with Lily, he knew the man, it wasn’t in his character … and it was this thinking that was the reason he couldn’t become involved, closing his mind to a line of enquiry was not how good coppering was done.  

There was nothing however, stopping him from acting as an official expert consultant in the case, or so Harry thought.

Telling Edith that her Bill was dead was hard, trying to explain how he died was even harder.  Harry carefully explained that they had found Bill’s car and where, Edith interrupted him reminiscing about her and Bill’s days of courtship at that place, then her hands flew up to her mouth and she gasped, “Oh Harry, did he fall from the cliff, the reason I wouldn't go there anymore was because the cliff was crumbly.”
“No, Edith, no, it wasn’t the cliff, now listen … listen, I’m going to tell you what we think happened, and I want you to be very brave … OK?” Harry replied.  
At Edith's shaky nod, Harry continued,  
“Bill was sitting in the passenger side of his car, poked through the window, through a small gap, was a garden hose that led to the car’s exhaust.  The hose was pointed directly into Bill’s face, he breathed in the fumes till he di … passed, he wouldn’t have suffered, felt any pain, just slipped away.”
Edith stared at Harry, at first with total incomprehension, then, as the scenario he had just described sunk in, she grabbed the lapel of Harry’s jacket and gave it a vigorous shake, saying in a surprising low voice,
“No, Harry, you’re wrong, Bill wouldn’t do that, he just wouldn’t, why would he?  What reason would he have, to leave me, like that, suicide? No, not my Bill. Harry, it couldn't possibly have been Bill you found, you’ve made a mistake, a terrible mistake.”
Edith had started to sob, so Harry pulled her into his arms to give her the rest of the awful news.  
“Edith, we do not believe is was suicide, we think Bill was knocked unconscious, and whoever did that put him in the car and made it look like suicide.”
This time Edith’s voice rose to a shriek,
Murder?! … but why?  Who on earth, what monster, who would want to hurt my Bill?”
Harry stroked the back of his sister’s head and murmured,
“We don't know Edith, not yet, but I promise you we are going to find them and put them away for a very long time.”

Edith had started to sob in her grief and loss, so Harry, who was finding it difficult to know what more to say to his sister, handed her over to WPC Grenville.
“Yes,” he reassured Edith’s pleas for him not to leave her alone,
“I’m going to stay with you Edith, it won’t take me long to throw some things into a suitcase, I’ll be back before you know it, I promise.”

Back at his flat the first thing Harry did was to scoop the greasy, stinking remains of his Indian takeaway into a black bin liner and put it out in the wheelie bin.  He then made sure to collect his mobile phone and charger, putting both into his jacket pocket. Before packing a suitcase and putting together a wash-bag, he phoned his station.  Sergeant Mike ‘Happy’ Young answered his call. Harry explained to him that he would be staying with his sister for an indeterminate time and gave the Sergeant Edith’s landline number and address.
“Ah Harry,” said Mike before Harry could put the phone down, “I’m glad you called, the Super wants a word, as soon as possible … How’s Edith bearing up?”
“How the bloody hell do you think she’s holding up, someone’s just done for her old man!” Barked Harry, releasing some of the tension that had built up inside of him, he continued in a more conciliatory manner, with a weary edge to his voice,
“Yes, alright Mike, tell the Super I’ll be in when … no, tell him I’ll be in straight away.”

A quick look through the window as he was finishing his packing showed the first dull light of dawn, where had the night gone? Superintendent Foster would feel obliged to have come in at this ungodly hour for a double murder, but his mood would be as black as ink.  Harry had a feeling what Foster wanted a word with him about, it was pointless putting it off.

Sighing deeply Harry turned the electric off at the main switch, and leaving his little batchelor kingdom for who knew how long, he locked the door behind him.  He hoped that Edith wouldn’t fret that he was being overly long at getting back.

Seated in front of Superintendent Foster’s desk Harry took a long swallow at the much needed cup of coffee, and looked up at his superior officer,
“Sir,” he said, “I can fully understand why I can’t work on this case, but to give me extended leave?  Isn’t that going a bit too far? I mean to say, we have a backlog of other cases I could be dealing with, where I could be of some use, surely”?
Foster replied with one of his favourite retorts, one Harry loathed, “I hear you Harry,”  
‘Go on,’ thought Harry, ‘Let’s have the but.’
“But,” continued Foster, not disappointing, “I know you, and knowing you as I do, I realise there would be very little chance of you not interfering, not butting in, I can’t have it, you could muddy the waters terribly if, no, when this comes to court.”
Harry slumped in his chair and mumbled, “Fair point.”  Then looking up once more Harry asked, “Who are you getting in to head the investigation?”  
That’s all this case needed, thought Harry sardonically, an outsider, but he went on, “DS Halmer is far too inexperienced to handle this.”
“Well,” said Foster, pulling himself even more upright in his chair, “I shall head this one, with Halmer as my bag man.  You know Harry, you do Halmer a disservice, in future you must give him more responsibility, he’s a good man.”
“I’ll bear that in mind for the future then.”  Harry sarcastically replied, knowing that the sarcasm would go over Foster’s head.  Foster would soon get to know Bob’s limitations. Bob was incredibly bright, and a good researcher, but he didn’t have the feel, the instinct, that has to go along with it, that makes you a good copper.

Foster had started shuffling papers which was a clear indication to Harry that the interview was over.  Taking his leave Harry made his return to a situation that he was way out of his depth in, that of a consoling brother … Now, Bob would have been excellent at that.




  CHAPTER FIVE

Before the autopsies were carried out there was one duty that Foster had left to Bob.  The day after the discovery of the bodies Bob, accompanied by the very experienced WPC Jayne Grenville, called on the husband of Lily Maker to break the sad news of her death to him,

After the three of them were sat in Andrew Maker’s living room Bob cleared his throat, and bearing in mind that now Maker was now a possible suspect in his wife’s murder, gave him the sad tidings.  But before he did so, there was one question he had to ask first,
“Mr Maker, when did you last see your wife?”
Maker shrugged and replied, “It’s all a bit embarrassing, my wife left me last week.  Packed her bag and just left, no goodbye, no explanation, nothing … why do you ask?”
Bob nodded to the WPC as a signal for her to go into the kitchen and make a mug of hot, strong, and very sweet tea.  As she left, Maker watched her with a mild curiosity, Bob sighed and began the age old words that every family dreaded hearing.
“Mr Maker, I am so sorry to have to tell you that last night a woman’s body was found, and we have reason to believe that it is your wife Lily.”

It was now time for the probable bereaved to take the information in and react.  They all reacted differently, some screamed and collapsed, some sat and seemed to switch off, some just cried, either noisily or loudly, some even got angry and showed the informing copper to the door. Maker just shook his head and gave a sad smile as though he was hearing about someone he didn’t know, with whom he had a passing acquaintance with, not a woman who had shared both his life and bed for some twenty odd years. He turned the sad little smile toward Bob and asked, “Was it an accident?  She always was accident prone was my Lily.”
Bob waited for a moment to reply, expecting the dam to finally burst, he was disappointed.  

The WPC had returned and put a mug of tea in front of Maker, he looked at the mug and frowning he looked up at the WPC.  Maker then placed the mug on a coaster which he got from a little rack of coaters at one end of the coffee table. He did this so pointedly, so deliberately, all the while frowning at the WPC that she blushed and turned toward Bob raising her eyebrows.  His reaction to the news of his wife’s death was perplexing to the WPC, this was a new one on her, but she couldn’t help feeling that, somehow and without a word, she had been well and truly admonished for not using a coaster. Bob gave his head a brief shake and let his eyes go to the chair, indicating that she should sit and be quiet.
“Mr Maker,” Bob continued, speaking as softly as he could, “Your wife was found in circumstances that lead us to believe she was unlawfully killed.”
Murdered?!” Maker bellowed at Bob.
‘At last,’ thought Bob, ‘A reaction’.  He knew that anger was a part of grieving.  Maker had risen to his feet and was pacing the living room.
“What do you mean?”  Maker yelled, “What do you mean she was murdered?”
Again, trying to keep his voice even and calm, Bob answered as best he could, “Mr Maker, we can’t answer all your questions at this time, I hope you can understand.  Is there someone we can call to be with you?”
No!” snapped Maker, “Just go, I want to be alone.”
Bob nodded, but as he left the house he said to Maker, “We will keep in touch Mr Maker, keep you informed of the investigation, but in the meantime there has to be a formal identification, one of my officers will call tomorrow, but if you would rather make your own way to the Mortuary my WPC can give you directions .. someone will call you later today with a time.”
Maker made no reply, so Bob left it at that, for now.  It did worry him that they had to leave Maker alone, it didn’t seem right somehow, but he had to respect the man’s need for solitude at a time like this.

As they walked to the car the WPC remarked, “It’s funny sir, well not funny ha-ha, but funny strange.”
“What is?” asked Bob as he unlocked the car door.
“Well sir, he never asked how, he never asked why, or where, or even who would do such a thing .. and they usually do.”

The next morning Bob watched as Andrew Maker got out of the unmarked police car at the Mortuary.  Maker looked pale and worried, as one would expect, this was not the most joyful of occasions. Bob went over and greeted Maker with a “Good morning,” and offered his hand to shake.  Maker grunted at the greeting and ignored Bob’s hand, but he did follow Bob into the building where they were met by one of Marcus Dolhern’s Mortuary Assistants. The assistant led them into an office and invited them to take a seat.  

Once seated the assistant, who according to the name badge on his green scrubs, was called Henry Gills, ran through what Maker could expect to see, he also stressed that the deceased was not to be touched.  He then attempted some ‘small talk,’ presumably to put Maker at his ease, and was met with a wall of stony silence. Henry gave one or two vigorous blinks in consternation at this reaction and sighed, he then stood and pulled back a ceiling to floor curtain, behind which was a door.  He opened the door and stood to one side, an invitation for Bob and Maker to enter.

The room they entered was white, all white.  To one side of the door as they entered was a chair, and in the centre of the room was a hospital trolley.  The remains of Lily Maker lay on the trolley covered by a white hospital blanket. Her hands, outside the blanket, were neatly folded on her chest.  Bob initially felt alarmed, the preliminary forensic report from the crime scene stated that Lily had been strangled, not the sort of injury that a spouse should see, however, Lily had a disposable and sterile shroud on, the collar of which came high on her neck, to just under her chin.  She also stank of disinfectant.

Maker crossed the room to stand at the foot of the trolley, Bob held back to give him some space at this upsetting and deeply personal time.  Maker suddenly spun on his heel and left the viewing room, re-entering the office. As he passed Bob he said in a hoarse whisper, “Yes, that’s her.”  Once more Bob sensed a deep anger in the man.

In the car taking Maker back to his home Bob, who had decided to accompany him, the driver could take him back to collect his own car at the Mortuary later, tried to reach out to the man.  He twice tried to get him to talk about Lily, their life together, their interests … anything, but Maker was having none of it, he remained silent and brooding. Once, when WPC had opened her mouth to speak Maker had shot her such a dark and ominous look that she had reddened and bent her head to avoid looking back at him.  Bob had never seen this reaction in a Liaison Officer as experienced as Jayne Grenville before.

On Maker’s doorstep Bob asked him once more if there was anyone he could call on to sit with him, the black scowl he received was taken as a ‘No.’  With assurances that he would keep in touch, and that Maker was free to call the Station at any time, Bob left this difficult man to his own devices for handling grief.  The man had even screwed up and handed back the grief counselling leaflet that the WPC had handed him.

Maker closed the door  on the cop. Why did they seem to think he wanted to talk about Lily?  All he wanted to do was forget about Lily, she had been an irritating little bitch when she was alive, and she was proving to be just as irritating dead.  He crossed the hall to the telephone, lifted the receiver and quickly dialled a number.

The woman in the boot of Bill Halicot’s car had been identified as Lily Maker from the contents of her handbag, Maker’s identification made it official.  

The black strap that had been seen around her arm whilst she was still in the boot had proved to be the handle of the handbag, which was hidden by her body.
 
Autopsies on both Bill and Lily had concluded that they had not been killed on the same day.  Lily had been dead for at least a week, and Bill had probably been killed later on the day that he had left for his fishing trip.  

Lily had died from asphyxiation brought about by manual strangulation, the bruising indicating a person with large hands, most probably a man.  There was no evidence to suggest that she had been killed in or near Bill’s car, but had been placed there after the event. Bill’s fishing tackle, which was known to have been stowed in the boot of the car when he had set out for his fishing trip, had been removed and thrown haphazardly on the back seat of the car.  There was also no evidence that she had any sexual activity recently before her death, either consensually or not.

Bill’s death was fairly straightforward too, although it did pose more questions.  He had at some point after arriving at the little tree hidden car park left his car, the reason for having done so was still unknown.  Then he had been rendered unconscious by a blow from a heavy object. His assailant had then presumably placed Bill in the front passenger seat of the car, taken a length of garden hose, which had been sealed to the exhaust using black gaffer tape, to the barely open front passenger window of the car, the small gap in the window was then sealed with the same gaffer tape.  The engine had been switched on and left to run, causing Bill’s death by carbon monoxide poisoning.

The main question posed was:  If the perpetrator had hoped to fake Bill’s suicide, then why the bang on the head, there was no way of disguising that Bill had been unconscious before he was placed back in the car, this strongly indicated that Bill’s death had not been planned.  On the other hand it initially was unknown where the garden hose and gaffer tape had come from, indicating to the investigating officers that Bill’s death could have been intentional if the hose and gaffer tape had been brought to the scene by the murderer.  However, after interviewing Edith Halicot it was now known that the hose and gaffer tape belonged to Bill and were already in the car. So why was Bill Halicot killed?

Two things suggested themselves, one, and the one that Harry favoured, was that Lily was killed at an unknown location and by someone as yet unknown and her body had  remained hidden for a week, why the weeks wait was also unknown. Killipie Point was to be the dumping ground, but Bill was there and the murderer could not have left him as a witness to whatever he had … well, witnessed.  Bob Halmer had also put this scenario forward to Foster. Foster disliked it because of the number of ‘unknowns’.

The theory favoured by Foster was that Bill and Lily were killed for a connecting reason.  They shared a reason that infuriated someone enough to murder them both. The fact that there was a week between their deaths could be explained by opportunity.  Someone knew that Bill would have stopped at Killipie Point when ever he was in the area, how opportunistic of them to make it look like Bill had first killed Lily, put her in the boot of his car and then topped himself!  Foster’s eyes were turned to the only person who could have had both knowledge, motive, and opportunity. Foster believed that the case was a crime of passion. But for now he would keep his suspicions to himself.

Bob would have preferred to stay at the Station and work on correlating witness statements, and making an information board of who was where and when for the last ten days.  However, Superintendent Foster seemed to prefer that he accompany him on all interviews,  particularly the one that Bob really wished he was not present at.



CHAPTER SIX

Harry wished he could say that he had settled into living with his big sister … but he couldn’t.  Edith, bless her heart, was trying to put on a brave face over the death of her beloved Bill by just carrying on with her usual routine, which included set mealtimes.  Harry hadn’t had a ‘set meal time’ since joining the force, he was finding it all too exhausting trying to remember to be home, washed and sat at the kitchen table on time.  He had been late on a couple of occasions when chatting to Bert Applewhite down the pub, the look of hurt betrayal on Edith's face was enough to convince him to be more ‘time aware’ after that.

Harry was gleaning a little information about the case from Bert over a pint down the pub, he now knew that the woman was indeed Lily Maker, and that she had been formally identified by her husband.  He was also aware that WPC Grenville wasn’t happy with the way Maker had reacted to the news of his wife’s death, and had only shown any proper reaction when the word ‘murder’ had been mentioned. Jayne Grenville was much respected by Harry for her ability to ‘read’ people, but he gave pause to wonder if either Foster or Halmer had paid any heed to her concern, he doubted they had.  It was so frustrating, so annoying, to be left out of this investigation and to have to sit on the sidelines and watch it being mishandled.

‘And why,’ Harry thought to himself, just as the doorbell rang, ‘Hadn’t they interviewed Edith or Maker?’  The spouse of a murder victim is always, always, at the top of the list for interviewing, if only to eliminate them from the inquiry.  What were Foster and Halmer fannying about for?

Out of respect for the investigation Harry hadn’t as yet told Edith about Lily’s body being found in the boot of Bill’s car, it was important for them to gauge Edith’s reaction to that piece of unsavoury news.

The kitchen door opened and Foster and Halmer walked in, closely followed by Edith.
“Harry,” Foster gave by way of greeting, Bob Halmer just looked sheepish. “We’re here to interview Mrs Halicot, and also to do a preliminary search of this property … Now, I don’t have a warrant for a search Harry, but, well, do I need one?”
Harry shook his head, a search was part of the procedure, Harry felt sure that it would reveal nothing, which for Edith was all to the good.
“Now then Harry,” Foster continued, “You may remain whilst I interview Mrs Halicot, but I’m warning you Harry, one word of interruption and I shall have you removed, or if you prefer I can take Mrs Halicot to the station now for an interview, which is it to be?”
Harry fumed quietly, but nodded.

Foster turned to Edith and said, “Mrs Halicot, if you would care to be seated.”
Edith fiddled with her pinny before pointing toward the stove, “A cup of tea Superintendent?”
Foster smiled and replied, “Maybe later Mrs Halicot, first we have a few questions we would like to  ask you.”
You bastard,’  thought Harry, giving Foster a scowl, the least he could have done was let the poor woman make a cup of tea.  Foster hadn’t even bothered to bring a WPC to the interview.

Edith plonked herself down on a chair, Foster and Halmer sat too.
“Now then, may I call you Edith?” asked Foster, smiling as warmly as an alligator.  Edith nodded, “Now then Edith,” continued Foster, “take us through the last time you saw your husband, alive that is.”

This unfortunate choice of words from Foster caused Edith to burst into noisy sobs, she too had seen her spouse at the morgue, it wasn’t necessary as Harry had already officially identified Bill, but Edith wanted, needed, to say goodbye.

Harry really, really wanted to punch Foster on the nose for his lack of empathy, but he contented himself by reaching across the table to hold Edith’s hand, his teeth grinding in suppressed rage.

It was Bob who had the presence of mind to make a cup of tea for Edith, and as her sobs subsided and she managed to take a sip, he said kindly to her,
“Edith, I know this is so upsetting for you, but it helps with our inquiry, helps catch whoever killed your Bill, please help us Edith.”
Harry threw Bob a grateful look and nodded at Edith.  Edith, with the occasional sob, told them about Bill’s fishing trip, and how he had never turned up for it, and how he had never turned up at home either.

When she had finished Bob gently said, “You're doing well Edith, really well.  Now this next question is really important, so take your time about answering it…”
Bob broke off there and looked at Harry, Harry nodded and moved his chair to sit directly next to Edith.
“Edith,” asked Bob, “How well did you know Lily Maker?”

Edith looked up at Bob, confusion in her eyes, “Lily?  Lily was one of my closest friends … why?”
Before Bob could reply Foster butted in with,
“Why did you say ‘was’ Mrs Ha …. Edith, has something happened that has stopped you being close friends?”
Edith’s frown deepened, and after a brief pause she answered, “No, no, I don’t think so, it’s just that Lily’s run off, left her husband without a word, no word to us either, just run off.”

Harry could see that Edith desperately wanted to know what Lily had to do with Bill’s murder, she just as desperately didn’t want to hear the answer too.  Harry held her hand tighter, knowing what was coming next.
Bob paused for a  while before he said, “Edith, when we found Bill, we found Lily too, in the boot of Bill’s car.”
Edith stared hard at the hand being grasped so tightly by Harry that it was beginning to ache, she shook her head before asking, “Was she OK?”
“No Mrs Halicot, she was not,” said Foster, a little too harshly for Harry’s liking.
“Mrs Halicot,” Foster continued sternly, all pretence at friendliness now gone,
“We believe that your husband was having an affair with Lily Maker and they were planning to run away together.”
Edith gave a small scream and covered her mouth with her hands, Bob’s face was one of complete surprised shock.

Harry had jumped to his feet, this time his anger bursting out.  He had caught Bob’s shocked expression at Fosters announcement out of the corner of his eye, his angry words spat across the table at Foster,
No, you bloody don’t, because it simply isn't true, you’re jumping to conclusions, you have not one shred of evidence to back that up!”
“Sit down Penvelly!”  barked Foster, he was about to continue berating Harry when a knock came at the back door.  The door was opened and a young police officer poked his head round and said, “Sir, I think you should see this, it’s important.”
Foster pointed his finger at Harry and said, “Stay put,” he then turned his finger to the young PC and growled, “And you see that he does, and YOU DO NOT discuss anything.”
Foster, closely followed by Bob, walked from the kitchen to join a group of PCs by the garage at the bottom of the garden.

When  they returned it was Bob’s face that Harry couldn’t tear his eyes from, it had a look of disbelieving horror.  

Before Harry could question Bob, Edith had grabbed Foster’s arm, her voice was pleading, begging,
“My Bill, no, not my Bill, he wouldn’t, he just wouldn’t … he couldn’t kill anyone, please, please, not my Bill.”  Edith turned and collapsed against her brother sobbing.
“No, I agree Mrs Halicot,” said Foster, walking toward the hall door, “Your husband didn’t kill Lily Maker, we never suspected that he had,  someone else did before killing him.”
Foster paused at the door and continued, “We are impounding the black Wolseley in the garage, they’ll be here to collect it within the hour, please do not attempt to go near it, and make sure all the paperwork that goes with it is given to the team collecting it.”

As the front door clicked shut behind Foster and Halmer Edith raised her head to look at her brother,
“Harold?” she whispered.
“I don’t know Edith, I honestly don’t know what’s going on.”

Back at the station Bob looked down at the evidence bag on his desk, it contained one plain brown court shoe.



CHAPTER SEVEN

Tracey stood looking down at Bob as he sat on the sofa, his elbows on his knees, his hands covering his face.
“Bob,” she said quietly, “It's dinner time.”
Bob gave a muffled “Mmm,” as he lowered his hands and looked up at Tracey.  His face was etched with worry, and dark smudges below his eyes gave witness to his weariness.  Tracey’s heart gave a sharp twange of concern, and walking around the coffee table she sat next to Bob and gave his back a rub.
“Bob, you’re doing fine,” she murmured.  Bob shook his head and turned to look at her.
“No Tracey,” he whispered, “I’m not doing fine, I miss Harry’s no nonsense approach to this case.  Superintendent Foster has got it fixed in his mind exactly what he believes has happened, he just won’t, or seems incapable of, looking beyond the circumstances of what appears to have happened …. Does that make sense?”
“No,” Tracey replied, giving his shoulder a gentle squeeze she continued, “Come into the kitchen and try to eat something while you run it all past me, who knows, a fresh pair of ears and all that.”
Smiling fondly at his new wife Bob allowed her to grab his hand, pull him to his feet and lead him into the kitchen.

As he sat at the kitchen table opposite Tracey, Bob listlessly pushed his peas around his plate.  After a few false starts, he began to talk.
“All the witness statements are in, all forensics have been collected and logged, the pathology report is back … but Foster has given it all, except the pathology a perfunctory glance.  He question poor Marcus Dolhern as though he was a suspect … he kept asking the same thing over and over, ‘Would it be possible for Bill to be semi-conscious after the blow to his head?  Just enough for someone to aid him to walk to the front of his car?’ Of course, Dolhern said it was possible, anything was possible, but he doubted it.”  
Bob was now mashing his peas with the back of his fork, Tracey let him without commenting on it.
Tracey gave a little frown before asking, “I can’t see what is wrong with that, I mean, if it was possible … why is it so important?”
“Oh it’s important, you see Foster’s got it lodged in his mind that Edith killed both Lily and Bill in a fit of jealous rage when she found out about their supposed affair!”
“What!” exclaimed Tracey, “That’s ridiculous, I’ve met Edith, she’s not the type, she’s not strong enough to carry, half carry, or support a semi conscious man as large as Bill Halicot.”
“I know, I know,” said Bob shaking his head slowly, “But Foster won’t listen, he keeps telling me to remember that the simplest explanation is always the most obvious, whatever that means.”

Tracey felt sick to her stomach, no wonder Bob didn’t have any appetite, she had met Harry’s sister and her husband on a number of social occasions and had really liked them, she couldn’t, wouldn’t, believe that Bill, a devoted husband would have an affair, and the thought of Edith murdering both Bill and her best friend Lily in a fit of jealous rage was laughable.

A horrible thought struck her, she took a large gulp of wine and asked, “You’re going to arrest Edith, aren’t you?”
“Yes,” whispered Bob, “Tomorrow morning.”
Tracey closed her eyes tight, as if to shut out the idea, “Bob,”  Bob was staring down at his plate, so Tracey called his name again, loudly, “BOB!”
This time his head snapped up, “What,” he mumbled tiredly back at her.  Tracey took a deep breath and launched into what her husband should have thought of already, and probably would have if he hadn’t been so tired and dejected.
“Bob, you are going to do what you do best, you’re going to have to sift through all the evidence and prove conclusively that Edith couldn’t possibly have murdered Bill and Lily, and you are going to have to do it tonight, with Harry’s help.”  
Bob was already on his way to the telephone.

Harry had arrived at the young couple’s small terraced house within half hour of receiving the phone call.  He now sat on the edge of the sofa where he had been studying the evidence and investigation notes that Bob had given him, he had begun with the post mortem findings.  

His face had paled when he read the list of logged evidence, there was only one item of any note on it, a plain brown court shoe, proven to belong to the deceased Lily Maker.  It was not the shoe that drained the colour from his face, it was where it was found … the boot of a black 1956 Wolseley, the registered owner being Mrs Lily Halicot. Heaving a mighty sigh he dropped the last of the papers down on the coffee table where it joined the rest of the jumbled mass of paperwork.  Taking a large gulp of now tepid coffee he lean back and closed his eyes. Tracey opened her mouth to say something, but caught the look in Bob’s eye and closed it again. Bob knew that Harry would be churning everything over in his mind, slotting it together and putting it in order, like a three dimensional jigsaw puzzle, it wouldn’t do to interrupt this process, it had often in the past led to a remarkable understanding of what had happened.

“So,” said Harry, drawing the word out, “Let me get this clear… The evidence suggests, and this without, or very little, forensic backup, that Edith had found out that her husband Bill, and her friend Lily, were having an affair.  She further discovered that the pair had planned to run away together. In a fit of jealous rage she lured Lily to her garage, strangled her, stuffed her in the boot of her car, a black Wolseley. A week later she drove her to Gillispie Head, where she knew her husband would be, as he was always in the habit of stopping off there when he was in the vicinity and there she clonked her husband on the back of the head, not fatally, which enabled her to half drag, half support Bill back to his car.   She then hauled the dead weight of Lily from her car boot, and stuffed her into Bill’s car boot, then went on to set up the murder/suicide scene, my goodness, Edith was a busy lady….The only solid evidence that led to this scenario is that one of Lily’s shoes was found in the boot of the black Wolseley ….. Yes? Have I missed anything?” “No”, replied Bob, “That’s all we have.”

Harry’s eyebrows raised, lowered, and then met in the middle in an angry frown as he said, “Ok, ok, it could fit, just, if you used a bloody magical shoehorn, except for two things, one, my sister is five foot two inches tall and weighs eight and a half stone, her husband is six foot exactly and weighs, weighed, fourteen, fat bugger. Edith has never been physically strong.   Two, and I think this is pivotal, see what you think, Edith Halicot never, ever, has been able to drive, she’s not even that good on a push-bike,  so unless she flung the week old and smelly corpse of her dear friend over her shoulder and boarded a number 78 bus, without anyone noticing, I really am at a loss to see how she could have got Lily Maker to Gillispie all on her ownsome!!”
“You mean,” said Bob hesitantly, “She had help, she was in…”   
“No Bob,”  yelled Harry, “I mean she didn’t bloody do it!”  
By this time Harry was pacing up and down the living room, his anger and frustration almost tangible.  He stopped suddenly and waved his finger at Bob, saying “You know, of course, I’d be favourite for being that missing piece of help in Foster’s mind when he finally works out that Edith can’t drive  … we crack this Bob, and we crack this tonight.”

All three sat once more on the sofa, they read and reread everything, each making notes on their own notepads.  They spent another hour pushing theories back and forth, seeing if they matched the facts they had, they carefully avoided pushing the facts into the theory.

“Well,” said Harry, finishing his fourth cup of coffee, “We have a bit of an idea of how, but no idea of who yet .. Tell me Bob, when you were interviewing Andrew Maker, what did you feel about the man?”  
“To tell the truth, I didn’t like the man, I felt  uneasy about him, nothing I could put my finger on, but, well, I don’t know,” said Bob.   
Harry’s face suddenly lit up, and he sounded almost triumphant as he declared, “Then that’s where we’ll start, right, get yer coat.  Tracey love, you stay here and ring round the Coven, sorry, Edith’s friends, and find out what they know about insurance policies, theirs, their spouses.  As my old boss used to say, when all else fails, start again with the bleeding obvious!”

Bob got out of the car when they had parked outside Andrew Maker’s house.  The lights were on downstairs, so it was a good bet that he was both at home and not retired to bed.  

As Harry had not made a move to leave the car, Bob leaned forward and said through the open door, “Sir?  Is something wrong?”
Harry sighed and looked up at his junior, “Something will be wrong is I go in that house and start interviewing Mr Maker.  I’ve been taken off this case Bob, been all but suspended, Maker’s solicitor would have a field day, any evidence or statement gained could be rendered null and void.  You’re on your own matey, go see what you can find out.”

Bob was greeted with a bad tempered, “You are aware of how late it is?” by Maker. Bob gave his apologies and entered the house, he was shown into the living room, but he wasn’t asked to sit down.  Maker, on the other hand, sprawled down on the sofa. Bob had no idea what he should open with, but the way the other man was sprawled, in a cock-sure manner, irritated him, he was further irritated by Maker’s next words,
“I hear you are about to make an arrest Sergeant.”  
Bob knew that this was one of those ‘do not answer questions,’ so he edged round it by asking, “Just tidying a few loose ends Mr Maker, now, if I could just go through a few things with you, …”  

Before Bob could finish his sentence Maker’s attitude took a marked turn-a-round. His eyes narrowed, his knees came together in a defensive manner, he brought his arms, which he had spread along the back of the sofa, back down to his sides with his hands resting, no, not resting, grabbing his knees.  His voice, when he spoke had a rasping quality,
“But, I had heard it was all wrapped up, you had the murderer bang to rights,”  
Bob decided to play on Maker’s edginess, “No, no, Mr Maker, I can’t think where you got that information from.  Is there something you need to tell me, something not in your statement.?”
It was a gamble, Bob knew it was, but he knew it was right.

The silence lasted for all of ten seconds before Maker shook his head, not in denial, but as if to clear it, he coughed to clear his throat before replying, “I do have an alibi you know, it’s all been checked out, I was nowhere near the gar…., I was nowhere near where Lily was killed.”
Both men exchanged looks, the mistake by Maker was there, and once said could not be unsaid.  Exactly where Lily had met her end was not public knowledge. Bob quietly asked, “You were nowhere near the… what Mr Maker?”

After opening and shutting his mouth several times Maker, with tears filling his eyes, blurted in a high pitched whine, “Ask Alfie ….., I wasn’t there, I have an alibi, …. Look, it was supposed to be a joke…It wasn’t meant to ..I didn’t, I didn’t know, I wasn’t there.”

Bob read him his rights, and arrested him for withholding vital information in a murder enquiry, at that time it was all he had, but until the full story came out, it would do.  Two policemen arrived shortly after Bob had phoned the Station, they cuffed Maker and took him away, all Bob had said to the officers was what he had arrested Maker for, and that he would follow them in shortly.

When Bob returned to his car he saw with alarm that Harry didn’t appear to be in it.  As he opened his door Harry popped up out from the back seat where he had been hiding.  He greeted Bob by saying,
“That was close, but I don’t think the wooden tops saw me. How’d you get on. Those cuffs looked promising.”  
Bob told him what had happened.  
Harry grinned and told Bob, “Now that is interesting, your missus has just been on the mobile to me, and you’ll never guess what, well you probably will, but only two of the women had substantial life insurances taken out by their husbands for them in the past few months, one was for Lily Maker and the other was for Fran Quiller. Sounds like this is a macabre game of ‘You scratch out my missus, I’ll scratch out yours!’
“Do you think we should send a car round to the Quillers to make sure Mrs Quiller is safe?”  asked Bob.
“No my dear Robert, I don’t,” chortled a triumphant Harry, “Mainly because that is exactly where we are headed now.”

Alfie was curled up on the bathroom floor in alcoholic soaked misery, he hadn’t been sober since, since, his mind refused to name, to picture, what he had done. Through the thick mists of alcohol came a distant ‘bang, bang, bang!’ Perhaps also his name was being shouted. It wasn’t Fran, Fran was gone, really gone. Alfie gave a grin and hiccuped and turned clumsily to once more empty his stomach down the loo.  
‘Gone but still with us,’ he thought, out loud he said, “But bloody silent, finally, at last, the cow’s silent!!”
“Bang, bang, bang,”   
“Alfred Quiller, we know you’re in there, open the door, NOW!”  
Alfie did nothing, said nothing, there was nothing he even felt like saying or doing, except a another drink would be good.  Gripping the edge of the loo with one hand and bath with the other he hauled himself to his feet.
He looked down at the bath, and said, “Not that it would make an ‘app’th of difference, but you’ll go all wrinkly if you stay in there any longer.”

Alfie half staggered and half stumbled his way downstairs, as he reached the hall the front door burst open.   Bob, closely followed by Harry, had arrived!
Bob yelled in the drunken man’s face, “Alfred Quiller, you are wanted in connection with the murder of Lily Maker, what have you to say for yourself?!”
Alfie put his hand on Bob’s shoulder to steady himself, and with a boozy hiccup replied, “Give me a drink, and I’ll tell you anything you want.”  
“No” replied Bob, “you’ll tell us all about it, without a  drink.”
Alfie was about to start negotiations on the topic when Harry spoke up,
“Now, now Bob, take it easy, Alfred here has agreed to tell us everything in exchange for a drink, isn’t that right Alfred?”  
“Mmmyup”  agreed Alfie.  
“Alright then,” Harry continued, “You go into the living room with Bob, make yourself all comfy cosy, and start telling him what happened, and if you can finish before you get your first drink, why then Alf, I’ll get you a second!  How’s that for a deal?” Alf swayed a bit, mulling Harry’s proposition over,
“Sounds perfect,” he finally managed to say.  

Alf staggered into the living room assisted by Bob, who was somewhat worried, interviewing a person of interest was never done when they were drunk, especially so when more alcohol was promised in return for information!  

Harry, had gone into the kitchen in the meantime and put the kettle on, Alf hadn't specified what kind of drink he wanted, so Harry had taken it upon himself to serve coffee, gallons of it if need be.

Once Bob had managed to sit Alfie on the sofa and then sat himself on an armchair opposite, he took a small tape recorder from his inner jacket pocket.  It was while he was fiddling with it that the first soft snores came from Alfie’s direction. It was at this point that Harry walked into the room carrying a large mug of black coffee.
ALF!”  Yelled Harry.
Alfie sat upright with a grunt and wiped a stray string of saliva from his mouth with the back of his hand,
“What?”  he asked.
“Ahhh Alfie,” crooned Harry, “get your chops around this, it’s pure nectar, just what a body needs.”  
This sent Alfie into uncontrollable giggles, when he had regained control he accepted the proffered mug and took a large gulp, “Ahhh” he sighed.  
“Now then Alfie, Bob here is going to ask you questions, all you have to do is answer them, truthfully mind, think you could do that, there's another mug of nectar in it for you,” said Harry,  Alfie nodded.

Bob looked up at the retreating back of his boss as he made his way back into the kitchen and wondered if he would ever be a good enough copper to pull off a prime piece of physiological skullduggery such as he had just witnessed.

Alfie not only answered Bob’s questions, but seemed more than willing to elaborate on the details.  Every now and then Harry would wander through with a fresh cup of coffee, black for Alfie, and white with two for Bob.  Not once did he comment or interfere in any way with Bob’s questioning, it was important that he didn’t, he was there as a member of the public, just to make coffee, not as a copper.

As Alfie spoke the story unravelled, all the pieces came together, it was callously sickening in it’s conception.




CHAPTER EIGHT

It had been a pact between two greedy, discontented men.  Andrew Maker had taken a good look at his wife and seen a woman, no longer a doting young girl, her plainness as a teenager was appealing, even sexy in his eyes, but now all he saw was a dowdy, boring, pathetic old crone.  He wanted to live his dream, a road trip across the USA in a Chevvy … he just couldn’t see Lily as his companion. He couldn't leave her behind, out of sight, out of his control, getting up to goodness knows what. She didn’t have the common sense of a milking cow, who she had now come to resemble closely, best she was put away, “Kinder too” he thought, after all, without him she was a nothing.

Alfie Quiller wasn’t a practising Roman Catholic, but the echoes of fear the religion had imprinted on his mind as a child were indelible.  The children had came in quick succession shortly after he and Fran were married. Fran became engrossed in the rearing of her children, she seemed to barely notice Alfie.  Then one day the last of the brood left the nest and Fran’s eyes did, at last, come to rest on her husband. It should have been the time of life usually described as ‘their time’, a happy time, a time of rediscovering the romance. Fran decided before any kind of time could be spent together in close proximity her husband would have to be pulled, pushed, and nagged into a suitable and presentable spouse.   Alfie never drank much, but it became ‘too much,’ Alfie took a bath every week and washed every, nearly every, day. This, in Fran’s eyes, became ‘dirty habits.’ And so it went on, nothing was good enough, nothing matched up to Fran’s expectations. Alfie’s resentment of his wife grew. Divorce was out of the question, but he was near the end of his tether, more than that, he would have loved to sink just one whole bottle of beer at home, in front of his fire, watching his telly, before the bottle would be whisked out of his hand and the sad, despondent noise of it glugging down the kitchen sink would reach his ears.

Then Andrew Maker and Alfie Quiller had met up, quite by accident, one morning when both had slipped out for an early paper.  They had recognised each other as being the ‘other halves’ to childhood friends. It didn’t take long for the men to meet up for an occasional pint at the local and exchange their  tales of woe about their respective marriages. A plan was hatched and agreed upon. Some of the details were a little confusing to Alfie, but Andrew seemed to know what he was doing and be in full control.  Alfie had his doubts about being able to kill a woman, well, kill anyone for that matter, he had nothing against Lily, but Andrew had simply told him to imagine that it was Fran …. And that made it do-able in Alfies mind.  

The insurances had been taken out, or in Maker’s case increased, as he had already had an insurance for Lily.  They had agreed to ‘dispose.’ or scratch out, the bains of their lives, their respective wives. It was to look like an accident. Neither man was to have any details of exactly how the accident was to happen, all they had to do was to make sure that the unfortunate spouse was in the right place at the right time and, of course, make sure they had alibis.

Lily was to be the first.

Andrew knew what Lily was doing every second of every day, it was part of his controlling nature.  He knew Lily would be at her friends for a morning chat and pot of tea, he knew she would then be going on to town after, he had made sure of that.  All he had to do was wait for a text from Alfie. He also made sure that he would be at his local pub, somewhere he was well known, he had even accidently spilled his pint, the ever willing barmaid had mopped it up for him, his alibi was rock solid.    

The  text call from Alfie came,  it was on, it had started, his USA trip was becoming a reality, not a dream.  Andrew had never been so grateful for Text, he was sure if he had had to call Lily and speak to her in person his breathlessness, brought about by excitement, would have given him away.  It was so, so easy. His dim-witted, ugly, little wife fell for it hook line and sinker. He kept his text to Lily simple and to the point, “Pick up woodwork tool from Mr Halicot, Mrs Halicot will meet you by garage in 10 mins.”

Alfie, still in hiding in the bushes, waited until the coast was clear before he quickly walked over to Bill’s garage.  He looked up and down the lane a couple of times and leaned with his back against the garage door. He applied pressure both with his shoulders and, raising his foot, gave a backward kick, should anyone have suddenly appeared he could have claimed he was feeling giddy and was leaning back against the garage door for support, no one did appear, and the door gave with a creak.  Alfie wasn’t too concerned about smallish noises, Bill’s garden was quite long and beside the garage was a high and solid wooden fence and gate, he wouldn’t be seen from the house. He spun round and pushed the door forcefully open and slid inside. Closing the door so there was a gap of about six inches he saw, just inside the door, the keys to the Wolseley. He didn’t have much time.  The car was conveniently parked with the boot facing the garage door, he opened it and waited.

Lily managed, by half brisk walking interspersed by an occasion trot, to reach the garage down the stoney lane in nine minutes, it never even occurred to her that even if she had been a few minutes late Andrew would never have known!  The garage door was ajar, so she pushed the door open further. She half entered and was about to call, “Edith, cooeee, I’m here” when the breath was pushed out of her by an arm encircling her body, pinning her arms to her side. A large gloved hand was clamped over her mouth.  Edith tried to shake her head free from the hand, but she was lifted off her feet pulled further into the garage and then spun round.

Edith couldn’t for the life of her think why Alfie would be playing such tricks when she managed to focus her eyes and had recognised who had grabbed her so roughly. As  Alfie’s hand came away from her mouth she was about to give him a piece of her mind when both of Alfie’s hands had come up and encircled her throat. Darkness came quickly to little Lily Maker.  Her last thoughts were ones of confusion, Alfie was calling her Fran, swearing at her, telling her how much he hated her...if only she could tell him she was Lily, not Fran, everything would be alright.

Fran, of course, was Alfie’s alibi.  It was Fran who would attest that he was in no fit state to move from the hearth rug, surrounded by his own vomit, (he had put his fingers down his throat) and blood, he did wonder if he had over played the part with that one, he had wiped a bloody lamb chop from the fridge across his brow and over the hearth. He had been drinking the night before, but not much, just enough to make his vomit smell of it.  The drinking, the really hard drinking, didn’t start until after, after he did what he did.

Alfie crammed Lily’s body into the Wolseley's boot, forcing her legs to bend at the knee and her head to be bowed forward almost on her chest.  He was about to slam the boot closed when he remembered, the suitcase, he had forgotten the bloody suitcase Maker had given him the night before, it was to be found with Lily’s body, it would lead to the assumption that she had run away before meeting with a terrible accident.  It was important, and he had forgotten it. He slammed the boot, he would have to come back, no worries, he was going to leave Lily in the boot for a few days anyway, Halicot and his brother-in-law had finished working on the car, he had heard them say as much, it would take more than a week to sort insurance for a vintage car, and then it had to be booked in for an MOT, yes, he had a week at least, so long as he didn’t cut it too fine.

Alfie didn’t want to finish the job, chucking Lily off Killispie Cliffs was more than his stomach could bear.  He had told Andrew as much during the week, but Andrew had threatened to go to the police and tell them what Alfie had done and deny that he had any part in it, Alfie had no doubt that he would.  So Alfie returned to the garage a few hours after nightfall, exactly a week after he had strangled poor Lily Maker. He added the suitcase to his guilty cargo, which was being to give off the faint bittersweet smell of death. He didn’t slam the boot, sound seems carry further after dark, but clicked it shut, went to the front of the car and entered the driver's seat.  It took him a moment after frantically searching for a seat belt to remember there wouldn't be any, he was beginning to panic. He took a deep breath and just a nip from the half bottle of cheap Scotch. A few seconds later the black Wolseley backed out of Bill Halicot’s garage, turned, and then proceed down the lane.

A few hours earlier Bill Halicot had been out the front of his house also closing the lid of the boot of his car.  He was all packed up and ready to leave on his weekend fishing trip. Edith seemed to be in a strange pensive mood, she didn’t even raise an eyebrow when, placing his fishing gear in the boot, he had sworn he had taken all the gardening odds and ends out, which among other things included a new reel of hose and a reel of gaffer tape, (he was, really was, going to get around to fixing the watering system from the water butt soon.)  A kiss goodbye to Edith, and off he went.

Bill had arrived at Killispie Point first.  He had sat in his car, just thinking things over, making sweet plans.  He was sure the Wolseley would bring a cracking price, why not, it was a cracking car!  A cruise. That had always been Edith's dream, Bill wasn’t quite sure where they would take a cruise to, and quite honestly, he didn’t suppose it really mattered.  Bill chuckled, Edith would be crowing and strutting like a prize rooster telling her friends she was going on a cruise for her anniversary. Bill looked up at the rear view mirror when he heard a soft rumble and crunch of gravel as a car pulled into the Point’s parking area.

Alfie knew exactly what to do as he pulled into the Killispie Point car park.  Lily weighed nothing. He would carry her body from the car park, then along the short path to the top of the cliffs.  There he would drop her, and her suitcase, onto the rocks below, the tide might take her, or maybe not. It wouldn't matter.  It was a very, very, long way down with rocks jutting out of the cliff face, Lily would be in a very, very, smashed up state when she hit the bottom.  Alfie’s stomach gave a lurch, he reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a half bottle of whiskey. Taking a large swig he wiped the back of his mouth with his hand, and frowned.  He hadn’t noticed the car parked closer to the trees when he had first pulled in.

“Oh bugger” he mumbled as he watched a man climb out of the car and walk towards his own.  He would just have to have a wee chat and hope the man was on his way, and that he didn’t have a companion in the back of the saloon and would be asking Alfie to leave.

Bill had recognised the outline of the car immediately, after all you didn’t see many of them about these days.  He wasn’t going to let this opportunity to meet and greet a brother Wolseley enthusiast go. The driver of the Wolseley had also got out of his car, and stood by the open car door.
“Well, well,” said Bill taking a step back and running his eyes over the Wolseley.  “A true beaut ain't she?”
Without waiting for a reply he started to walk around the Wolseley to admire her further,  she was so much like his own. He paused at the rear of the car and checked the number plates to see what year she was, and to his horror he realised it was his car!

Bill was at a loss to understand how his beloved Wolseley came to be here, driven by a stranger, although in truth there was something vaguely familiar about him.  Bill let out his breath and grinned, putting his hands on his hips he assumed an attitude one would use when telling someone off,
Harry!  This is in no way, shape, or form, funny, now just get her back to the garage and…”  

That was as far as he got before Alfie Quiller, with the aid of a wheel brace, hit him on the back of the head.

The wheel brace had been in the passenger footwell of the front of the Wolseley, Alfie had spotted it earlier.  He just gave Bill a tap with it. Nothing too hard, just enough to send him into the land of nod. Bill Halicot could join Lily at the foot of the cliff.

Alfie had a lot of difficulty just getting the large frame of Bill off the ground, there was no way, he knew, of getting him to the cliff edge.  He couldn't leave him where he was, he might regain consciousness any moment, and the thought of finishing the job with the wheel brace was just too much for Alfie’s beleaguered stomach, there had been no blood with Lily.   

Alfie decided the only course of action was to put Bill back in his car.   Alfie’s stomach gave another lurch as he realised that even though using the wheel brace was out of the question he could not leave Bill alive, he had recognised his own car, even though he thought it was being driven by someone called Harry.  Alfie dropped Bill back to the ground to think things through. By the time he had worked out what should be done, the half bottle of whiskey was empty.

Alfie stopped talking and started swaying and gulping, he looked distinctly green around the gills, the full horror of his actions was sinking in to his booze soaked brain.  But there was to be no mercy from Bob.

“So”, said Bob, “You decided to set up a murder/suicide, everyone would think Bill Halicot had killed Lily Maker and then topped himself with the garden hose gaffered on the exhaust trick.”   
Alfie nodded, his hands were shaking quite badly now, he desperately needed a drink, and not coffee, how had that other copper managed to trick him into drinking coffee?!

“Trouble is,” Bob went on, “Giving Bill Halicot a tap, as you call it, on the head led to the obvious conclusion that he couldn’t possibly have set up his own suicide, or he could have set up his own suicide and then, what?  Tapped himself on the head, hid the implement he did the tapping with, and all that before he got into the car and turned on the ignition? It was never going to make sense.”

Alfie’s teeth were now clenched, so his voice came in a hiss, “Jussst a tap, jusssst, nothing, not hard, shhhhhould made it hhhhharder.”   
“Sometimes,” Bob told him, “That’s all it takes, one small mistake for things to go tits up.”

Alfie was now swaying manically, but he managed to say, “Wore gloves, no  proof, his wifey did ‘em in, not me, not my fault, not me.”
He then slid ungracefully into unconsciousness and onto the floor.




CHAPTER NINE

It took three days of hospitalisation, Alfie was suffering from extreme exhaustion, and was badly dehydrated along with a mild case of alcohol poisoning,  it also took a lot of explaining to Foster before the interview could resume.

There was a lot that Alfie had said, now on tape, that could only be known if the person saying it had been present at the event.  He had condemned himself. He also noisily made sure that Andrew Maker’s part in the whole sordid affair was recorded. Alfie was charged with murder on two counts, Maker was charged with complicity in a murder, and planning to commit a murder.   Harry was reinstated.

Harry decided to pay Alfie a visit in the prison hospital, where  he was on remand, it was time he knew, and understood, that Bill was family, Harry’s family.  He also wanted to know where he could get hold of Mrs Quiller, she had a right to know just what her disgusting hubby had been up to, and where he would probably be spending the rest of his miserable life.  When they had interview Quiller she hadn’t put in the appearance that two coppers breaking in through the front door would warrant, the assumption was that she was out.

When Harry had asked Edith if she knew where Fran was, she had seemed to think that she would be staying with one of her children, she sometimes did, but Edith had neither a contact phone number or address.

Harry pulled a chair up to the bed which contained a desolate Alfie Quiller.  A prison warden remained standing at the closed door. Harry had brought with him a large brown paper bag of sweet black grapes.  He didn’t offer the bag to, or to even to share them with Alfie.
“Now then Alfie,”  said Harry in a suspiciously friendly manner popping a grape into his mouth, “How are they treating you, terribly I hope.”   

Alfie brought his head up, he looked dreadful, his face was a pasty white and blotched, his eyes were red rimmed.  
“I know he was your brother-in-law Mr Penvelly.” Muttered Alfie.
“Do you now?” Snarled Harry and was about to launch into verbal assault when Alfie burst into tears, “I’m sorry, alright?  I’m really sorry, if I could go back and undo it I would, I really would,” he sobbed.
“Sorry?” shouted Harry, “Sorry?  Really Alfie? No you miserable little worm, the only thing you’re sorry for is getting caught!”
“Please, please, Mr Penvelley, please,”  Alfie himself was a little unsure what he was pleading for, perhaps another appeal to Harry’s better side, it didn’t work.
“The trouble is Alfie,” Harry went on, his voice as cold as ice, “You’re stupid, and stupid people, when they turn to evil, always, always, get caught….ain't that right Mr Cap?”  The last to the warder stood at the door with a grin on his face.
“That’s right Mr Penvelly,” Mr Cap cheerfully confirmed, he then went on, “And, Alfie me lad, Mr Penvelly is perhaps one of the, if not the, wiliest coppers on the force.  From the get go you didn’t stand a chance of getting away with it!”
“Why, thank you Mr Cap, have a grape.”  Harry knew that this banter would grate on Alfies nerves, and he was glad that it did, the little beast deserved no less.  In the old days Alfie would have been sat there with two black eyes not bloodshot ones.

“Now then,” said Harry, getting back to the reason for his visit, “Where can I get in touch with Mrs Quiller, I assume she is staying with one of her children and I need a contact number and address.  It’s time she learned what a low life she’s hitched to, and that she is now rid of him for a very long time … if not forever.”

Here Harry raised his eyebrows, hoping the hint of what the length of his sentence could be, hit home hard.  Just in case it didn’t, he went on, “Of course, in the good ol’ days it would have been forever.”  

Harry stood up and leaned over Alfie, spitting venomous words and grape pips in his face,
“Because, you useless, mindless, piece of dog’s shite, you would have hung by your neck until it broke, or stretched, or your head popped off, accordingly to how skilled the hangman was!”

Harry resumed his seat, and popped another grape in his mouth.  With a bit of luck Alfie would have the worst kind of nightmares from this day on.

Alfies eyes had gone wide in terror, but now they were narrowed, and he stared hard at Harry.  
“Clever are you, wily, like a fox, are you?  No copper, you're not, not at all, not even a bit no…..” And here Alfie started to laugh uncontrollably.

It was Harry’s turn to stare now, at Alfie.   Suddenly he spat the grape in his mouth back into the bag, leapt to his feet, and overturning the chair he was sat on in his haste, shoved  Mr Cap out of the way and flew out of the door.

They found Fran Quiller’s body in her bath, where her husband Alfie Quiller had drowned her.  She had lain there during the interview and arrest of Alfie, during the days he had spent, first in the County Hospital, and then in the prison hospital, she had lain there until the police, ambulance, and forensic team had turned up, if not to rescue her, she was beyond that, but to give her some dignity.

Although Alfie never denied murdering Lily Maker, Bill Halicot, and Fran Quiller, he always maintained that he felt truly regretful about killing Lily and Bill, however, killing Fran, he maintained, was the best and most satisfying thing he had ever done.

Doreen Silvers kept the conversation she had had with Fran in her living room to herself, she didn’t know if it would have any bearing on anything, but she did wonder if they, or even she, Doreen, had killed Alfie there would have been three good people still left living.







OF COURSE BLACK LIVE'S MATTER

Of course Black Lives Matter, Black Lives have been enslaved, subjugated, blamed, and treated with little or no justice for 400 years...