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Authors: Stuart Pawson

Deadly Friends

Deadly Friends

S
TUART
P
AWSON

 

To Doreen

Thanks to the following for their unfailing assistance and encouragement:

Kath Gibson, Dennis Marshall, John Crawford and John Mills.

Clive David Jordan, FRCS, FRCOG, had it made, and he knew it. Aged thirty-five, he was at the height of his powers and his appetites. For four days each week he worked at Heckley General Hospital, his tall fair presence spreading brisk bonhomie through wards, corridors, offices and staff rooms as he dispensed medicine, expertise and cheeriness to employees and clients alike. A hand on an arm here to comfort a patient, his best boyish grin to a nurse there, to give her an adrenalin boost that would take her to the end of her shift, it was all the same to Dr Jordan. Charm dripped from him like rainwater from a leaky gutter.

One, sometimes two, days a week he worked at the White Rose Clinic, just outside town, on the affluent side. Set in extensive grounds, the clinic was concealed
by the last stand of decent trees before the moors began and nibbling sheep and gnawing winds stunted their growth. Word in the town was that the White Rose Clinic set standards of opulence that were not equalled by any hotel this side of Harrogate. Nobody knew anyone who had actually had treatment there, but the postman delivered their mail and saw what he saw, and the staff were recruited locally. The clinic paid good money, and was able to poach some of the best nurses from the National Health hospitals. Nurses have mortgages and electricity bills, just like everybody else. So, on Wednesdays and the occasional Saturday Dr Jordan's BMW 523i was parked outside the clinic while he doubled his income inside, ministering to the healthy. Strictly speaking, due to the perverse snobbery of the medical profession, he was Mr Jordan, having achieved the lofty rank of consultant.

He was in a relationship. Natasha Wilde – ‘That's Wilde with an e' – was an actress who'd achieved a kind of fame playing a bimbo of doubtful sexuality in a Yorkshire soap opera called Dales Diary, known throughout the county as Mrs Dale's Dairy. Confident that her role in the show was secure, she had recently demanded more money, inspiring the producers to promptly write in a dying sister in Australia and send her character off to the antipodes for six months. Clive Jordan didn't mind. It meant they could spend more time together, either in her rented cottage at Appletreewick, in Wharfedale, or at his modern
executive-style penthouse apartment close to the centre of Heckley.

Dr Jordan was stage-struck. Natasha's friends, who he met regularly at parties, were often seen in a variety of hospital dramas. Sometimes applying the resuscitation electrodes to a stricken victim's chest with a terse: ‘Stand back!' as the current was applied, sometimes gazing thoughtfully at an old x-ray of someone's kneecap while saying: ‘It looks like pre-haemorrhoidal subcutaneous laparotomy to me. We'd better go in.'

But he, Clive Jordan, was the real thing. That was how he earned his living. Often he found himself taken to one side at a party and asked how a certain situation might be handled. He helped where he could, and once received a credit for technical assistance, but he knew they could never play the part as effectively as he did himself. He should really have been the one up there, in front of the cameras.

He certainly had the looks, and his own life would have provided enough material for a couple of
mini-series
. Wednesdays he didn't start at the White Rose until eleven a.m., which gave ample time for the wife of one of his colleagues at the General to pop round and cook breakfast for him. She dressed up – or down – as a French maid, which was totally unnecessary as far as he was concerned, but she seemed to derive an extra frisson of pleasure from it.

Thursday nights, during term time, he had sex with one of the clinic's receptionists in the back seat of the
BMW. Her husband thought she was at a pottery class. Occasionally he found the time and energy for a game of squash.

He wasn't serious about his acting ambitions, but found a more realistic way of melding his two worlds together in a sort of symbiosis. He always carried a couple of the clinic's glossy pamphlets in his pocket, and more than one of Natasha's friends found herself studying it, propped up against the cornflakes packet, after discussing her ‘problem' with him. It was useful having an actress as a girlfriend, as well as being fun. He enjoyed it. When Natasha was in London, seeing her agent, she said, he enjoyed her friends, too.

But it all came to an end. One rainy evening, as the shoppers dashed from one tinsel-draped store to another, looking for that last elusive present before the shutters came down for two blessed days, someone gave Clive Jordan, FRCS, FRCOG, an injection.

In the ear.

With an Enfield 0.38 calibre revolver.

Christmas Eve we had a rape. The woman didn’t report it until the day after Boxing day, so hers was the only Christmas it wrecked. We were having a social evening in the canteen when she walked into the station. Highlight of the celebrations was a bullseye quiz; the idea stolen, I am told, from television. The CID A-team, captained by yours truly, Charlie Priest, tied with the Angels for first place, so we had a sudden-death play-off to decide the winners.

‘Mr Priest, of the CID, has won the toss and put Agnes of the Angels in to bat first,’ Gareth Adey, my uniformed opposite number, informed the crowd. ‘Select a category, please,’ he ordered Agnes.

‘Pop music,’ she announced, predictably, and lined herself up with the dartboard. Pop music was the twenty.
If she hit it the question was worth double points, and so far she hadn’t missed.

Plunk!

‘Number one,’ Adey pronounced. ‘Television. And here is your question.’ Short pause while he shuffled his papers. He likes to do things properly, but he can be a bit of a prat at times. For five points, who played the part of Steed in the Aven—’

‘Patrick MacNee!’ Agnes interrupted, thumping the air with a calloused hand.

‘Cor-rect. Would Inspector Charlie Priest now approach the oggy?’

I pulled Agnes’s dart from the board and ambled to the line. If I threw well and knew the answer, we’d win. If I missed but still knew the answer, we’d draw. ‘General knowledge,’ I said.

‘Number twelve,’ Adey informed us for the hundred and fiftieth time.

Plunk!

‘Number nine. Sport.’

‘Useless,’ I heard my DC, Dave ‘Sparky’ Sparkington, mutter. ‘Absolutely useless.’

I wasn’t worried – I know a bit about sport.

‘And your question, with a chance to dead heat for first place, is as follows …’

‘Get on with it,’ someone shouted.

‘Quiet, please. For five points, who was the first person to run the mile in four minutes?’

‘Yes!’ and ‘Hooray!’ I heard, sotto voce, from
Sparky and Nigel Newley, my other team members.

I wasn’t so confident. I let about five seconds tick away, then asked: ‘Is this a trick question?’

‘I am unable to enter into a discussion,’ Adey replied in precisely the tone he uses for cautioning juveniles. ‘You have five more seconds.’

‘Do you mean in exactly four minutes, or under four minutes?’ I demanded.

‘I will repeat the question as it is written here. Who was the first person to run the mile in four minutes?’

I waited until he opened his mouth to tell me I’d run out of time, then said: ‘Derek Ibbotson.’

‘Derek bloody Ibbotson!’ I heard from Sparky, over the groans and cheers from around the room.

‘Wrong,’ Adey pronounced. ‘The answer is Roger Bannister. I declare the Angels as winners of the competition.’

Sparky and Nigel looked hurt and disappointed, as if I’d run over their toes with a Lada. ‘Derek friggin’ Ibbotson,’ Sparky whined as I sat down with them and reached for my pint glass. ‘What made you say Derek Ibbotson? Who ever thought that Derek Ibbotson ran the first four-minute mile? Even Nigel knows it was Bannister, don’t you, Nigel?’

DS Nigel Newley nodded into his beer. ‘’Fraid so, Boss.’

‘Roger Bannister …’ I tapped the table with my forefinger for emphasis, ‘… was the first person to run the mile in under four minutes. Derek Ibbotson was
the first person to run it in exactly four minutes. Four minutes, nought point nought nought nought seconds, and that’s what I was asked.’

‘Was he ’ummers-like!’

‘He was!’

‘Everybody knew what he meant!’

‘Well he should have said what he meant. We’re supposed to be detectives. Next time I’m giving evidence I’ll say: “You know what I meant,” to the defence barrister, see if he agrees with you.’

Sparky said: ‘Talk about a minefield of useless information. That must be the most useless ever, if you ask me.’

‘There’s no such thing as useless information,’ I stated, draining my glass and plonking it down to give the words maximum authority. ‘Information is knowledge, and knowledge catches crooks. What does knowledge do, Nigel?’

‘Catches crooks, Charlie.’

‘Exactly.’

They drank their beer unforgivingly. If ever it was my round, it was now. ‘Anyway,’ I declared. ‘Ibbo’s a local lad, not some toffee-nosed southerner. Sorry, Nigel,’ I added. He’s from Berkshire, so we have to make allowances.

I fetched the drinks and sat down again. Silence engulfed the table like a cloud of nerve gas. Maggie Madison, one of my DCs, was passing, so I reached out and pulled her towards me.

‘Can I come and sit at your table, Maggie?’ I asked. ‘These two aren’t talking to me.’

‘I’m not surprised,’ she replied. ‘Everybody knows three universal facts: where they were when Kennedy was killed; who ran the first four-minute mile; and … something else.’

‘We came second,’ I protested. ‘That can’t be bad.’ Sparky broke his silence. ‘We were beaten by the cleaning ladies. I ask you, the flippin’ cleaning ladies!’

‘It could have been worse,’ Maggie assured us. ‘You could have been beaten by the woodentops.’

‘Or even traffic,’ Nigel added.

‘Nah!’ Sparky said, grinning. ‘Not traffic. That’s being silly.’

It looked as if my lapse was forgiven. Not forgotten, though. I knew I’d be reminded of it every day until some greater calamity replaced it in the mythology of the police station.

Maggie said: ‘’Scuse me, I’m wanted,’ and walked away from us.

I looked across the room and the other two swivelled round in their seats. A female PC was in the doorway and had evidently caught Maggie’s attention. They stood there for a while, deep in conversation.

‘She’s attractive,’ I said. ‘Is she new?’

‘Been with us about a month,’ Nigel informed me.

‘I thought you’d know. Is she in with a chance?’ I asked, looking across at her. She was fair-haired, wearing it piled up so it wouldn’t show when she wore
her hat. I wondered if I had a thing about women in uniforms.

‘No,’ Nigel replied. ‘She’s too young for me.’

I nodded in agreement and pulled my glum face. She must have been nearly ten years younger than Nigel, and he was twice that younger than me. The trouble with growing old is that the people on the outside are more aware of it than you are. I took a long drink of denatured lager, but it didn’t help a bit.

‘Right,’ I remarked, brightly, banging my glass down. ‘So what sort of a Christmas have you both had?’

‘Awful,’ said Sparky. ‘The kids say thank you for the presents.’

‘They’re welcome. Tell them thanks for mine. My CD collection was short of a Gary Glitter.’

‘Sophie said he was your era.’

‘Yeah, first time round.’ I turned to Nigel. ‘And what about you, Sunshine?’

‘Same. We were working, remember. Some of us didn’t have three days off.’

‘I know. I’m thinking of doing it again next year, too. Murder, wasn’t it?’

Nigel nodded. ‘Christmas seems to be a good time for murders; it brings out the worst in people.’

‘Don’t remind me,’ I told him. ‘I had my fill last year.’

‘I thought that was a suicide.’

‘The mother was suicide. The baby was murder.’

‘Of course it was. I’d forgotten the baby.’

I’d never forget the baby. That memory would be with me for ever. I said: ‘And how do you like working for DCI Makinson?’ Regional HQ handle all murders, and had appointed one of their own as SIO.

Sparky chipped in with: ‘Very nice. He’s a good bloke, isn’t he, Nigel?’ I felt a movement under the table as he kicked Nigel.

‘Er, yes,’ Nigel confirmed, wincing with pain. ‘He’s good. Very … er, professional.’

‘And very thorough,’ Sparky added.

‘Yes, very thorough – does everything by the book.’ ‘That’s right, and he doesn’t go chasing off in different directions without telling us.’

‘No, he keeps us fully informed, all the time.’

‘Yes, he’s very good like that. And he listens to what we have to say.’

‘What I really like about him is that …’

‘OK! OK!’ I interrupted. ‘I get the message. So has the brilliant Mr Makinson caught the killer yet?’

They shook their heads.

‘So what’s he got you doing?’

Sparky looked downcast. ‘Door to doors,’ he replied. ‘And you?’

‘Interviewing staff at the White Rose Clinic.’

‘Is that where the late departed doctor did his doctoring?’

‘Only one day per week. I’m not complaining – I think they choose them for their looks rather than their medical qualifications.’

‘I’ll give Makinson a week,’ I told them. ‘Then they’ll be asking me to take over and solve it.’

Maggie was heading back our way, looking serious. She bent down beside me and spoke softly. ‘There’s a woman at the front desk, Charlie. Says she’s been raped. She’s being taken to the suite. Shall I ring Mr Wood?’

Mr Wood is our superintendent, and Number 1 Cop at Heckley. In his absence I am most senior, mainly because of length of service. Officially, I was on leave until tomorrow.

‘Is she … you know … all right?’ Now I was asking the stupid questions, but she knew what I meant.

‘I think so. She found her own way here and isn’t hysterical, or anything.’

‘OK.’ I looked at my watch. ‘I want to make a phone call from the office. You’ve done the training, Maggie, do you think you and the WPC can handle it?’

‘No problem.’

‘Right. Come on, then. I’ll hang about in the office in case you want me. If she knows who did it we’ll have to get moving.’ I pushed my nearly full glass towards Sparky. ‘See if they’ll give you a refund on that, please.’

‘We’ll be here if you want us,’ he replied.

Going up the stairs Maggie said: ‘Is it Annabelle you’re ringing?’

‘Yes.’

‘Did you both have a good Christmas?’

‘Not really,’ I admitted. ‘We went to her married
sister’s, in Guildford. I’ve left her down there, drove back yesterday. Not my types, I’m afraid.’ I didn’t mention the separate bedrooms.

‘They’re called the in-laws,’ Maggie replied, knowingly.

She diverted to the front desk and I continued upwards to the CID office on the first floor. I unlocked the door and turned a few lights on. It hadn’t changed much in three days. The balloon, our concession to the festive season, had nearly deflated, but everything else was just the same.

I met Annabelle that day about five years ago when the sun moved backwards in the sky and one of our tennis players hit one back against Boris Becker. She’s tall and elegant, and looks just as beautiful when she’s meeting ambassadors and statesmen as she does when she’s halfway up Goredale Scar and the rain is running down her neck. I’ll lean on a rock to gasp for breath, and she’ll think it’s the exertion and give me an encouraging smile. But her nose wrinkles when she smiles and all that does is make the lead weight sitting on my diaphragm feel heavier and heavier, and I have even more trouble trying to breathe.

Nobody answered at her sister’s. She’s called Rachel and they have hardly spoken since they were schoolgirls. Their family was well-off until daddy ran away with his secretary and their mother hit the bottle. Annabelle went to work in the Third World, married young, was widowed and fell in with me. Rachel married Harley
Street’s Osteopath to the Stars and enjoys the fruits of his success. Christmas was some sort of attempt at reconciliation and I think it worked. We had lunch at the golf club – fifty quid a head – and, while the sisters gossiped, George, Rachel’s husband, introduced me to his friends and explained all the fascinating golfing memorabilia that adorned the walls of the clubhouse. I’d have preferred having extensive bridgework without anaesthesia.

I pushed the phone away and wandered into the annexe where we make the tea. Some kind person had washed all the mugs. I dropped a teabag into one with ‘The Boss’ in gold letters on the side and plugged the kettle in. There was a new notice above the sink, printed in forty-point Hippo. It said: ‘Please do not leave your used teabags in the wastepaper bins.’ The advent of the word processor has greatly improved the quality of informal notices. When I’d brewed I left the bag sitting in the spoon on the draining board because I couldn’t see a more preferable alternative.

Nobody answered again. Or should that be still. They must have gone out somewhere. I put my feet on the radiator and fished the top document out of my in-tray. It was a request for next year’s budget forecasts. I wrote: ‘Deal with this, please, Nigel,’ in pencil across the top and dropped it on his desk. After a sip of tea I reached for the next document but immediately slid it back on to the pile – this was becoming too much like work. When my phone rang
I grabbed it before realising it couldn’t possibly be Annabelle.

‘Charlie?’ enquired Maggie’s voice.

‘Yep.’

‘This woman. She’s in the rape suite. Apparently the offence took place on Christmas Eve, so there’s no point in a medical or anything, but she knows the bloke. I’ve asked her if she has any objection to a male officer being present and she says she hasn’t.’

‘I’m on my way.’

My tea was too hot to finish, and no doubt they were having one themselves, so I carried my mug down with me. The rape suite is a haven of luxury and calm in the midst of the normal utility and hurly-burly of the nick. It’s all pastel tints and deep armchairs, but there’s a sophisticated tape recorder on the wall and a medical examination room through a door. I chose the pictures. I was an art student before I became a policeman, so I get all those jobs. My own choice would have been Pollock and Kandinsky, but I’d reluctantly decided that they weren’t to everybody’s taste and settled for Monets. I knocked and went in, sliding the bolt across to the occupied position behind me and engaging my empathy mode at the same time.

I was right: they all had disposable cups from the machine. ‘Hello, Mr Priest,’ Maggie greeted me. ‘This is Janet Saunders.’ Turning to the woman she said: ‘Inspector Priest is the senior officer at Heckley at the
moment.’ Looking back at me she said: ‘You know PC Kent, don’t you?’

It was the nearest I’d get to an introduction. I nodded at her without smiling.

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