Read For Death Comes Softly Online

Authors: Hilary Bonner

For Death Comes Softly (10 page)

BOOK: For Death Comes Softly
12.1Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
Todd nodded towards the statement. ‘Top of the fourth page, I think,' he said. ‘See for yourself.'
I turned the pages of the transcript, the lay-out and language of which was so familiar to me.
DAVEY Tash and I had a bit of a row after lunch that day. She said she wanted some time on her own. She had the use of a small cottage on the island as well as coming and going freely to my house. She said she was going to her cottage and she'd stay there that night. Basically she told me to leave her alone.
DS PITT And did you?
DAVEY Of course I did. We were both angry. Two stubborn people. Neither of us was going to give in for a bit. You have no idea Superintendent how much I wished I had gone to her. (
The witness has turned away and covered his face with his hands. There is a pause of several seconds
DAVEY I'm sorry. It's just, it's all such a shock.
DS PITT That's quite all right, sir. Do you feel able to carry on now?
DAVEY Yes, of course. I want to help in any way I can.
DS PITT Would you tell me what the argument was about, sir?
DAVEY Oh God, it all seems so bloody stupid now. It was the wedding. We were arguing about our bloody wedding. (
The witness is punching the table before him with the clenched fist of his right hand
DS PITT I see sir. Could you tell me what about the wedding please?
DAVEY Yes. Old families you see. Two old families. Mine were determined I be married on Abri, all of the Davey weddings are always on Abri. Tash's lot were insisting we be married in their village church where all their family are always married. Ridiculous I know. I'd marry her on the moon if that's what she wanted, if only I could have her back now. (
The witness breaks down in tears
I replaced the sheaf of papers on Todd Mallett's desk and looked up again, my turn to be quizzical.
‘His grief was genuine enough,' said Todd, answering my unvoiced query. ‘Pitt did the interviewing but I met the man myself, after all, he is the victim's fiancé. Genuine grief, I'm sure of it. I've seen enough. I should know the real thing when I see it.'
I nodded. ‘What then?' I asked. ‘You're investigating a suspicious death? What do you suspect? Who do you suspect? Davey?'
‘Maybe. Always the most likely isn't it? Husband, fiancé, boyfriend. Or the boatman. Who knows? We talked to him, of course. Seems perfectly normal, but can't remember even taking the boat out that afternoon although he accepts absolutely that he did. Maybe he's not all that he seems. He's undergoing all kinds of medical tests, naturally. Did you believe the story when it happened to you?'
‘Absolutely. I didn't have any doubts about that at all. He was brought to apologise to me. He was like a frightened animal. No, I think the tests will back up what you've been told about Jason.'
‘So do we,' said Mallett. ‘And I don't know where I go from here. If Davey was involved in some way in his fiancée's death it is hard to imagine what possible motive he could have, apart from anything else. They were head over heels, according to all reports. Their argument just a lover's tiff. Par for the course.'
The superintendent finally jerked his chair forwards into a safe upright position on all four of its feet and leaned towards me resting his elbows on his desk and cupping his chin in his hands.
‘So I don't know a lot, Rose. But I know something doesn't add up. Therefore the investigation continues and what we have is a suspicious death. No less and no more – so far.'
Abruptly he leaned away from me again, hoisted himself out of his chair and walked to the window where an electric coffee percolator bubbled away on the ledge. ‘Some more?' he gestured.
I accepted gratefully.
‘OK, what I need now is a formal statement from you, Rose,' he announced.
I had expected no less. I knew that this meant I might be called to give evidence even if the case got no further than the coroner's court. There had to be an inquest, at least.
Mallett went through everything with me in painstaking detail. I was flattered that he interviewed me himself. More normally a witness like me would have been handed over to a couple of his Detective Constables, and I knew that the superintendent did it himself out of deference to my rank.
I don't think I told him anything he didn't already know, but it was obvious that he was by nature a painstakingly thorough man, the kind of police officer who only very rarely made mistakes.
I did not tell him anything about my mixed up feelings about Robin Davey, of course. But I had this curious feeling that he was one jump ahead of me again, that he had twigged my motivation right away. You see, I didn't want to think that the paragon I had turned Davey into in my mind could be mixed up in anything dodgy, let alone a dodgy death, but I really needed to know one way or the other. Considering that I had had only such a brief acquaintance with the uncrowned King of Abri it was pretty daft really.
‘He's a very plausible man, is Davey,' Todd remarked at one stage, for no apparent reason. ‘Got an answer for everything. Smooth blighter. You have to watch a man like that, you know . . .' His voice tailed off.
He seemed capable sometimes of getting answers without asking any questions, did Todd Mallett. Very disconcerting. I remembered suddenly that Mallett knew a bit about becoming emotionally involved where you shouldn't and pitting logic against your feelings. The story of how he had fallen dramatically in love with a faded movie actress during a murder investigation was a popular piece of gossip in virtually every nick in the West of England. At the time the woman's son had been the number one suspect. But Todd had been lucky. The boy was found to be in the clear and Todd had been free to carry on with his romancing. He and the actress were still together too, apparently.
I wondered fleetingly if he would have carried on even if the boy had been guilty, even if his own professional position had been put in jeopardy by the relationship. And it was of some comfort to me that I thought there was a very strong chance that he would have done.
I signed my statement form, retrieved my car from the car park and drove back to Bristol. On the way I began thinking about all that I had learned. The very idea of Natasha having died in the way that she did made me feel quite sick. I could no longer really understand why I hadn't reported my own near fatal Abri experience. I had allowed Robin Davey to convince me that nothing like it would ever happen again, and, particularly given my job, my behaviour had been unforgivable.
During the afternoon I did my best to concentrate on my own workload. But I could not get the death of Natasha Felks, overshadowed always by the spectre of her lover, out of my head, could not stop myself going over and over what it really meant.
I stayed in my broom cupboard office until gone 10 p.m., kidding myself that I was making up for the time I had lost that morning. And by the time I got home to my one-roomed hovel I was tired out and looking forward to nothing more than a stiff whisky and bed.
As I walked in the phone was ringing. It was Robin Davey.
‘I expect you've heard the news,' he said quietly.
I forced myself to be businesslike. I was a bloody policeman after all.
‘Why are you calling me?' I asked, keeping my voice as cool as I could.
‘Well . . . because it nearly happened to you, of course.' He paused. ‘I can't explain more than that . . . I just wanted to call . . .'
‘I didn't know about Jason's little peculiarity when I went out to the Pencil,' I said. ‘Natasha did. Why would she go with him?'
I could almost feel him shrug.
‘Tash was like that. Impetuous. Thought she could always be in charge, thought she knew Jason well enough to spot the danger signs, I expect. We'd had an exceptionally big school of dolphins off the island. It was a beautiful day for the time of year. Nonetheless . . . foolhardy, I suppose. Can't really explain it . . .'
It was almost exactly what he had said in his statement to Todd Mallett. His voice tailed off, and there was a pause before he started to speak again.
‘This is not the first time I have suffered a tragic loss, you know . . .'
From the moment I first met Robin Davey on Abri I had found that strangely old-fashioned way of talking he sometimes adopted quite endearing – except when poor Natasha had abruptly arrived on the scene when suddenly everything about the man had irritated me – and he certainly sounded terribly upset. But I was angry. I was not going to get involved in this – or rather not any more than I was already. I felt I had been dragged into something which should not ever have concerned me, and I suppose one of the reasons for my anger was that I knew it was largely my own fault that I had got into a tangle. There was no doubt that I should have reported what had happened – certainly to the Health and Safety Executive and probably, in my case, to cover myself, to my senior officer. I had after all been the victim of almost criminal negligence on a holiday island. I hadn't reported it for one reason and one reason only – because of my quite irrational infatuation with Davey. In a way I too could be held responsible for the death of Natasha Felks.
My anger boiled over. And I wasn't going to fall for emotional blackmail either.
‘Robin, I can't help you with the past,' I snapped. ‘Natasha's death is a police matter now. It's in the hands of the Devon and Cornwall Constabulary as you well know. It is nothing to do with me and I don't want any further connection. I have given a statement about what happened to me on Abri and that's the end of it all as far as I am concerned. It would be better if you didn't call again.'
I put the phone down and afterwards I couldn't believe what I had done. I had hung up on my paragon.
The phone rang again half an hour later. I cursed myself for half-hoping in spite of myself and my instruction to him that the caller might be Robin Davey again.
It was Julia.
‘Everything all right?' she asked.
I was tired. ‘Why shouldn't it be?' I responded rather sharply.
‘Well . . .' Julia continued patiently. ‘I heard about Natasha Felks' death. Could hardly miss it, splashed across all the papers. “Second tragedy for dashing millionaire”, and all of that.'
‘It's nothing to do with me, Julia.' I was still speaking curtly, protesting too much, more than likely.
At this point I thought she may have given a little sigh of exasperation, although I couldn't be certain. But when she started speaking again her voice quite clearly held a note of deliberately exaggerated patience.
‘Rose, she was killed in the same way you nearly were. The Devon and Cornwall Constabulary are treating her death as suspicious and are investigating. It seems pretty bloody likely to me that they're investigating your friend Robin Davey.'
‘So? Why should that bother me? He's not my friend anyway,' I said airily.
‘No, no, of course not.' Julia's voice indicated quite clearly that she didn't believe a word of my protests.
I relented just a little.
‘I've had to give a statement, though. Thought I'd better come clean.'
‘As you should have done when it happened.'
Julia had a knack of getting straight to the nub of the matter, perhaps that was the journalist in her. I said nothing for a moment. She probably knew me better than anyone, and when she spoke again she had changed tack. She was suddenly reassuring. I realised that she had sensed my guilt, my niggling suspicion that if I had reported my narrow escape on Abri at the proper time, then Natasha Felks might still be alive.
‘Oh, don't fret,' she said. ‘It's easy to be wise after the event. It's just a terrible accident, I'm sure.'
‘An accident I might have prevented, ‘I said. And I didn't feel very wise at all.
I buried myself in my work more relentlessly than ever.
The Stephen Jeffries investigations continued to take us nowhere fast. In addition to our so far fruitless enquiries into Richard Jeffries we also looked for other suspects who may have had both opportunity and inclination to abuse the boy, but to no avail. I was vaguely aware that for all kinds of reasons I was becoming perhaps just a little lukewarm in my efforts personally.
One way and another both the Social Services and the CPT made little or no progress. Eventually we interviewed Stephen again, but this time he seemed even more guarded than before. He was clearly nervous and uncomfortable and remained so however much Mellor and Freda Lewis tried to put him at his ease. Both Richard and Elizabeth Jeffries told us they would object strongly to any further interviews with their son, and, to be honest, I didn't entirely blame them, and felt myself that we could not justify talking to either of the Jeffries children again without substantial new evidence.
Eventually, at the beginning of March, I called a formal Information Sharing Meeting where all of us involved gathered to discuss the outcome of our investigations and decide on whether or not any additional action should be taken.
Claudia Smith and Freda Lewis were among those invited. Claudia Smith remained disconcertingly certain that her initial judgement had been right.
‘Stephen's behaviour is still odd,' she insisted. ‘He's all over the other children.'
She admitted that there had been no further incidences of behaviour which could be specifically regarded as sexual. Nonetheless she felt that not only should Stephen Jeffries and his sister not be taken off the At Risk register, but maintained, as indeed she had done from the beginning, that the children ought to be put into care while yet more enquiries were made.
BOOK: For Death Comes Softly
12.1Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

CRAVE - BAD BOY ROMANCE by Chase, Elodie
Jack of Ravens by Mark Chadbourn
Latin America Diaries by Ernesto Che Guevara
From the Ashes by Gareth K Pengelly
Love Finds a Way by Wanda E. Brunstetter
The Corpse Reader by Garrido, Antonio
The Perfect Retreat by Forster, Kate
The Last White Rose by Desmond Seward
A Perfect Home by Kate Glanville