Authors: Lee Weeks
‘I saw one of them – Toffee.’ Sheila looked at Lyndsey, who nodded.
‘Yes, I saw him too, as I was coming in this morning. I think he was waiting to speak to Simon.’
‘Toffee?’ Carter sipped his tea as he noticed Willis empty another packet of sugar into hers.
‘He’s like a father figure to Martine and the others,’ Lyndsey answered. ‘To the younger lot.’
‘Is he around now?’
‘No. I didn’t see him after I passed him this morning.’ Lyndsey turned to Sheila. ‘Did he come in for breakfast?’
‘I didn’t see him there either,’ Sheila answered. ‘He was definitely upset about something if he didn’t even stay for breakfast. He likes to line his stomach in the
Willis looked up from her note-taking.
‘Toffee? Is that his surname?’
‘It’s his nickname because he talks posh,’ said Sheila. ‘I don’t know what his real name is.’ She looked at Lyndsey, who shook her head.
‘So there is a group of people who come here to eat but who sleep on the streets?’ Carter asked.
‘Yes. They prefer it sometimes, or they just can’t give up the substance addiction. Or they have a dog and the dog means too much to them to give up – sometimes it’s the
only thing that makes life worth living for them. But having a dog keeps them on the streets.’
‘And Martine?’ Willis looked at Sheila for a reply.
‘Martine is anorexic – an abuse victim. She’ll come here for tea in the morning, soup at lunchtime, but she won’t stay long. She spends a lot of time on her own. The
regulars know her at the train station. If the right person’s on duty, they’ll let her sleep in the toilets. When she does pair up, she stays with Mason; he’s about the same age.
It’s then that she sleeps on Parade Street. Mason has a dog.’
‘What’s Mason like?’
‘He’s about thirty. He wears a grey hat pulled down over his ears. He’s a quiet lad. His dog is called Sandy. She’s ugly-looking but soft when you know her.’
Willis was still making notes.
Carter was watching a heated discussion that had broken out at the PCs.
‘Is there anyone that comes here you think we should speak to about this incident?’ he asked.
Sheila stood and glared at the group who were arguing over the PCs. She looked down at Carter.
‘You should speak to the lads from the estate, that’s who.’ She leant forward, spoke now in a hissing whisper: ‘They kill someone for nothing. They kill as part of some
bloody initiation rite. They’re always making trouble. They have attacked rough sleepers from this area before now.’
Willis was watching Lyndsey stare into her teacup.
‘Is that your judgement too, Lyndsey – that it could be someone from the estate?’
She looked up and shrugged.
‘I don’t know the area like Sheila but I know the people who come here will lie about most things – they’ll tell you anything they think you want to hear but I would not
expect any of them to commit murder.’
Simon Smith appeared then, to sort out the dispute at the PCs.
Carter stood. ‘Thanks for your help, ladies, and for the tea,’ he said as Willis closed her notebook.
Simon stopped them on their way out.
‘Sheila and Lyndsey have been a great help, thanks. I wanted to ask you about a man named Toffee. Did you speak to him this morning?’
‘Toffee? Did I speak to him? Yes, briefly.’
‘Just chit-chat, really.’
‘Nothing to concern you?’ Simon shook his head. ‘If you see Toffee again, can you ask him to get in touch with us, please. You have our direct line.’
They got outside and walked to the car. Carter got in and slammed the door shut.
‘Christ Almighty, you’d think he was doing us a favour. A woman died here, probably killed by some people that Smith was serving breakfast to. Stuck-up twat.’ He looked across
at Willis as she closed her door.
‘Simon Smith was a strange mix,’ she said as she did up her seat belt. ‘He looked and talked like a confident public-school boy but then he’s working in a homeless
hostel. There must be more to him.’
‘Doesn’t need to work, probably,’ answered Carter.
‘Daddy’s money. Maybe this was his do-gooder phase, a project. Maybe Mummy says he needs to find out about the real world.’
‘But it’s a strange choice of project. It’s hard work. It must have something to do with the religious aspect. He didn’t stop smiling.’
‘He looked like he was but I’m not sure.’
‘We need to find out about him and the church,’ said Carter.
‘It’s things like – I would have thought he’d know his regulars; he’d make it his business to know them. He must get out and walk around the area,’ Willis
added. ‘But he said he didn’t know them.’
‘Maybe he gets a taxi back to Knightsbridge every evening.’
Carter looked in his side mirror and saw Simon jogging across to them. ‘Hello? Talk of the devil,’ he said under his breath.
He wound down his window. ‘What can we help you with, Mr Smith?’
‘Sorry, I realized I must have come across as unhelpful. Look – I want to help. But it’s difficult for me. I’m not only the warden here – I’m a
minister.’ He looked at each of them in turn, waiting for a reaction. He got a look of begrudging respect from Carter, who had had a broadly Catholic upbringing: dragged to church until he
was too big to be cajoled or bribed or threatened. But his Catholicism affected him in many ways. It stopped him from getting married to Cabrina. He couldn’t risk the marriage failing. Simon
got a look of suspicion from Willis, who had little regard for religion of any kind.
‘I have more than just an obligation to respect privacy. It is a matter of faith – them having faith in me and me sticking to mine. I don’t want people to stop using this
centre. People around here rely on coming here when the weather gets cold like this.’
‘I understand.’ Carter was about to try his charm, thought Willis. He usually managed to win people over – male or female. She was intrigued to see what angle he’d take
with Simon. ‘But, if the press get hold of the fact that a group of homeless people are involved in the murder of a hard-working family-law solicitor, well . . . after all . . . it’s
a tricky thing for the public to get their head round. Even if it turns out to be nothing – it might be too late to stop more prejudice from creeping in. I can see how hard you work here and
what a good job you do. I know how much you rely on funding.’
‘It has nothing to do with this hostel and we get funding by various commercial means. We are not reliant on government grants.’ Simon looked exasperated. He took a deep breath.
‘I was given something to look after this morning.’ Simon took a phone out of his pocket. He handed it to Carter.
Carter switched it on. ‘It’s hers,’ he said as he handed it to Willis. ‘Phone Robbo.’ Carter turned back to Simon. ‘Who gave this to you?’
‘Toffee. The man you mentioned.’
‘What did he say when he gave it to you?’
‘He asked me to look after it.’
‘You didn’t ask him where it came from? You didn’t look at it?’
‘No, I was busy this morning. I was still working when you came in, if you remember. I hadn’t had time to look at it.’
‘So Toffee gave it to you this morning; what time?’
‘At eight. I found him outside when I opened up.’
‘What did he look like?’
‘He had a few cuts on his face. He looked agitated, upset. He looked a mess, but then he often does. I tried to make him come in but he wouldn’t.’
‘We asked you if anything strange had occurred and you didn’t think to mention this?’
‘Because it isn’t strange for here. Fights are common. Injuries happen every day when people live in these circumstances.’
‘Where do you think he will have gone?’
‘I don’t know exactly. He hangs about with another man, Spike. He’s not here either. I think if you try the parks, bus stations – just about anywhere there’s
shelter and they can sit and drink. They never go far.’
‘Do you have a photo of him?’
Simon shook his head. ‘Sorry. He’s about five nine, very thin. His hair is grey, curly. He wears a brown jacket with a lighter-coloured collar.’
‘He’s shorter, bald; with a spider’s-web tattoo on his neck; he’s an ex-con. He’s more vocal. He gets drunk faster. We’ve had to throw him out of here for
Sandy woke instantly from a deep sleep when she heard someone approach. She had learnt to stay absolutely still, next to her master, and to strike at the last minute if the
threat came too near him. She would not step away too far from the man she had to protect.
As the man got within a few feet, she leapt out and wagged her tail and pushed her big head inside the man’s hand to lick his palm.
‘All right, girl. Stay quiet now.’
Mason groaned. ‘Toffee?’ He was having difficulty opening his eyes – they had swollen up as he dozed. Toffee sat down on the blue coat and he examined Mason’s face. Mason
brought up his hand to cover it.
‘You’re in a state, lad.’
The pair sat for a few moments in silence as they listened to the train thunder past overhead. People were getting in their cars in the car park. Doors slammed, laughter hung shrill in the
Toffee turned to watch Sandy as she went across to the next archway, to look for food amongst the rubbish.
‘Why did you go back?’
Mason shrugged and propped himself up. His head tilted back on the side of the stone. He squinted at Toffee, shook his head. Then he closed his eyes again.
‘That face will get infected. You need to clean it, stitch it up. We can’t take you to A&E – they’ll be watching. I’ll go and find you something to do it with
and get you a drink too – help to ease the pain. I’ll be back. Stay here. Here’s some money, in case you need it.’
He rolled two twenty-pound notes tightly before pushing them into the lining of Mason’s coat.
‘I don’t want it.’ He shook his head.
‘Take it. You earned it, lad.’
After they watched Simon walk back into the hostel, Carter started the car. He called Robbo again.
‘We’re bringing in Olivia Grantham’s phone but I need a team of officers to go in to Hannover Estate within the next hour. I want to hit it quickly and a message sent out to
signal we mean business. If we leave it too long, gang members will have had time to intimidate any possible witnesses and time to cement stories. Make sure the gangs know we’re not going
anywhere. I need a team of ten officers, in pairs. Have armed police on standby. We need to find Mahmet Balik—’
‘Guv?’ Willis interrupted. ‘I want to go in as part of the team.’
Carter nodded. ‘Robbo – correction, we’ll give this phone to a patrol car to bring in to you and we’ll coordinate the search of Hannover Estate ourselves. Pick officers
who know this area where you can; we’ll wait at the entrance to Parade Street.’
Hannover Estate was an amalgamation of postwar red-brick council housing and newer high-rise concrete towers. The two had been botched together with social housing based on
small streets and balconies, gardens and civic pride. The reality had been the opposite. Families who didn’t care for the community had been dumped there and the place became a breeding
ground for gangs. There had been no more building since the early 1990s. The estate was slowly being left to decay from the inside out, as the council stopped maintaining it in the hope that it
would slowly empty of residents when their lives became intolerable.
They waited in the car with a map of the estate up on Carter’s iPad and worked out how they were going to cover the whole of it.
‘It will take several days to make sure we catch the people at work,’ said Carter as he moved the map on the screen. Willis jotted down the names of the various areas.
‘We will split the estate into five sections and you and I will take the one here, nearest to the crime scene. This is also the roughest end, where the gangs are causing the most trouble.
We’ll try and catch them by surprise. Where is Balik supposed to be living?’
‘In one of the four-storey blocks, Drydon House, apparently – that’s the one beside the tower block.’
‘Okay, we’ll go straight there when the rest of the team arrive; we all start at exactly the same time, so that we have a chance of seeing who we flush out.’
As they sat waiting at the end of Parade Street, they saw Sandford coming out of 22. He was stretching out his long back as he went across to his van, then took something out from the rear.
‘People never die where it’s easy to get at them, do they, Eb?’
‘No, they’re never so obliging, are they? They must be getting ready to move her soon.’
They stared down the street in silence as they watched Sandford go back inside the building.
‘This street reminds me of where I grew up,’ said Carter. ‘It was here in the East End in Shadwell before it was upmarket. None of your swanky restaurants and private clubs
then. Good honest people that took care of one another. People lived alongside one another. My nan lived in a tower block – she and the other residents took it in turns to wash the
Willis was watching the council estate – it seemed peaceful. It was school time. Monday midday. A few mums were chatting and pre-school kids were running around the green bits between the
buildings. Dogs were coming out to defecate. She looked back at Parade Street and at Carter, who was still being nostalgic. A police van drew up behind them and uniformed officers got out.
‘Okay – we’ll brief the team and get on with it.’ Twenty minutes later the five teams of two were ready to move into the estate. Two of the teams got back into the van
and were taken to start at the other end of the large estate.
‘Keep in constant touch with each other. Anything you think should be followed up then call Detective Willis or myself and we’ll pursue it. We have armed officers ready to assist
should we need them but I want to keep this friendly. This is an exercise to find out if anyone saw anything last evening and to locate Balik.’