Read Nineteen Seventy-Seven: The Red Riding Quartet, Book Two Online

Authors: David Peace

Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #Police Procedural

Nineteen Seventy-Seven: The Red Riding Quartet, Book Two (3 page)

BOOK: Nineteen Seventy-Seven: The Red Riding Quartet, Book Two
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I say, ‘Now Kenny, we know you knew Marie Watts. All we want to know first is how come your fucking stuff was at her place?’
His face is puffed up, his eyes red, and I hope he’s fucking smart enough to know I’m his only friend here tonight.
At last he says, ‘I’d lost me key, hadn’t I?’
‘Come on, Kenny. It’s not fucking
‘I’m telling you. I’d taken some stuff from my cousins and I lost my key and Marie says it was all right to dump it at hers.’
I look up at Ellis and nod.
DC Ellis brings his fists down hard from behind into Kenny’s shoulder blades.
He screams, falling to the floor.
I’m down there with him, eyeball to eyeball.
‘Just fucking tell us, you lying piece of black shit.’
I nod again.
The uniforms haul him back up into the chair.
He’s got his fat pink mouth hanging open, tongue white, hands to his shoulders.
‘Oh, why are we waiting, joyful and triumphant,’ I start singing as the others join in.
The door opens and another bloke looks in, laughing, and then goes back out.
‘Oh why are we waiting, joyful and triumphant, oh why are we waiting …’
I give the sign and it stops.
‘You were fucking her, just say it.’
He nods.
‘I can’t hear you,’ I whisper.
He swallows, closes his eyes, and whispers, ‘Yeah.’
‘Yeah what?’
‘I was …’
‘Yeah. I was fucking her, right.’
‘Fucking who?’
‘Marie who?’
‘Marie Watts.’
‘What about her, Kenny?’
‘I was fucking her, Marie Watts.’
He’s crying; big fat fucking tears.
‘You dumb fucking monkey.’
I feel Rudkin’s hand on my back.
I turn away.
Noble winks.
Ellis stares.
It’s over.
For now.
I stand in the white corridor outside the canteen.
I call home.
No answer.
They’re still at the hospital or up in bed; either way she’ll be fucked off.
I see her father in the bed, her walking up and down the ward, Bobby in her arms, trying to get him to stop crying.
I hang up.
I call Janice.
She answers.
‘You again?’
‘You alone?’
‘For now.’
‘What about later?’
‘I hope not.’
‘I’ll try and get over.’
‘Bet you will.’
She hangs up.
I look at the bleached floor, at the bootmarks and the dirt, the shadows and the light.
I don’t know what to do.
I don’t know where to go.

The John Shark Show
Radio Leeds
Monday 30th May 1977

Chapter 2

Ancient English shitty city? How can this ancient English shitty city be here! The well-known massive grey chimney of its oldest mill? How can that be here! There is no spike of rusty iron in the air, between the eye and it, from any point of the real prospect. What is the spike that intervenes, and who has set it up? Maybe it is set up by the Queen’s orders for the impaling of a horde of Commonwealth robbers, one by one. It is so, for the cymbals clash, and the Queen goes by to her palace in long procession. Ten thousand swords flash in the sunlight, and thrice ten thousand dancing girls strew flowers. Then follow white elephants caparisoned in red, white and blue, infinite in number and attendants. Still, the chimney rises in the background, where it cannot be, and still no writhing figure is on the grim spike. Stay! Is the chimney so low a thing as the rusty spike on the top of a post of an old bedstead that has tumbled all awry. Stay! I am twenty-five years and more, the bells chime in jubilation. Stay
The telephone was ringing.
I knew it was Bill. And I knew what he wanted from me.
I stretched across the other brown pillow, the old yellow novels, the strewn grey ashes, and I said:
‘Whitehead residence.’
‘There’s been another one. I need you here.’
I put down the telephone and lay back in the shallow ditch I’d dug myself among the sheets and the blankets.
I stared up at the ceiling, the ornate brocade around the light, the chipped paint and the cracked veins.
And I thought about her and I thought about him as St Anne pealed the dawn.
The telephone was ringing again, but I’d closed my eyes.
I woke in a rapist sweat from dreams I prayed were not my own. Outside trees hung in the heat, moping in willow pose, the river black as a lacquer box, the moon and stars cut from drapes up above, peeping down into my dark heart:
The World’s Forgotten Boy
I hauled my tried bag from Dickens to the chest of drawers, across the threadbare flooring, pausing before the mirror and the lonely bones that filled the shabby suit in which I slept, in which I dreamt, in which I hid my hide.
Love you, love you, love you
I sat before the chest of drawers upon a stool I made in college and took a sip of Scotland and pondered Dickens and his Edwin, me and mine, and all that’s thine:
Eddie, Eddie, Eddie
I sang and hummed along:
One Day My Prince Will Come
, or was it,
If I’d Have Known You Were Coming I’d Have Baked A Cake?
The lies we speak and the ones we don’t:
Carol, Carol, Carol
Such a wonderful person:
All wanked out on my bathroom floor, on my back, feeling for the toilet paper.
I wiped the come off my belly and squeezed the tissues into a ball, trying to shut them out.
The Temptations of St Jack.
Again the dream.
Again the dead woman.
Again the verdict and the sentence come.
Again, it was happening all over again.
I woke on my floor on my knees by my bed, hands together thanking Jesus Christ My Saviour that I was not the killer of my dreams, that he was alive and he forgave me, that I had not murdered her.
The letterbox rattled.
Children’s voices sang through the flap:
Junky Jack, Druggy Jack, Fuck You Jack Shitehead
I couldn’t tell if it was morning or afternoon or whether they were just another gang of truants sent to stake my nerves out in the sun for the ants.
I rolled over and went back to
Edwin Drood
and waited for someone to come and take me a little bit away from all this.
The telephone was ringing again.
Someone to save my soul
‘You OK? You know what time it is?’
I didn’t even know what fucking year it was, but I nodded and said, ‘Couldn’t get out of bed.’
‘Right. Well, at least you’re here. Small mercies, etc’
You’d think I’d have missed it, the hustle/bustle/tussle etc of the office, the sounds and the smells, but I hated it, dreaded it. Hated and dreaded it like I’d hated and dreaded the corridors and classrooms of school, their sounds and their smells.
I was shaking.
‘Been drinking?’
‘About forty years.’
Bill Hadden smiled.
He knew I owed him, knew he was calling in his debts. Looking down at my hands, I couldn’t quite think why.
The prices we pay, the debts we incur
And all on the never-never
I looked up and said, ‘When did they find her?’
‘Yesterday morning.’
‘I’ve missed the press conference then?’
Bill smiled again. ‘You wish.’
I sighed.
‘They issued a statement last night, but they’ve held the meet over until eleven this morning.’
I looked at my watch.
It had stopped.
‘What time is it?’
‘Ten,’ he grinned.
I took a taxi from the
Yorkshire Post
building over to the Kirkgate Market and sat in a gutter in the low morning sun with all the other dumb angels, trying to get it together. But the crotch of the trousers of my suit stank and there was dandruff all over my collar and I couldn’t get the tune of
The Little Drummer Boy
out of my mind and I was surrounded by pubs, all closed for another hour, and there were tears in my eyes, terrible tears that didn’t stop for quarter of an hour.
‘Well look what the bloody cat dragged in.’
Sergeant Wilson was still on the desk, taking me back.
‘Samuel,’ I nodded.
‘How long’s it been?’ he whistled.
‘Not long enough.’
He was laughing, ‘You here for the press conference?’
‘Not for the bloody good of my health, am I?’
‘Jack Whitehead? Good health? Never.’ He pointed upstairs. ‘You know the way’
It was not as busy as I thought it would be and I didn’t recognise anyone.
I lit a cigarette and sat at the back.
There were a lot of chairs down at the front and a WPC was putting out about ten glasses of water and I wondered if she’d let me have one, but I knew she wouldn’t.
The room started to fill with men who looked like footballers and a couple of women and for a moment I thought one of them was Kathryn, but when she turned round she wasn’t.
I lit another cigarette.
A door opened down the front and out came the police, damp suits and ties, red necks and faces, no sleep.
The room was suddenly full, the air gone.
It was Monday 30 May 1977.
I was back.
Thanks, Jack
George Oldman, in the middle of the table, began:
‘Thank you. As I’m sure you are aware,’ he was smiling, ‘the body of a woman was found on Soldier’s Field, Roundhay, early yesterday morning. The body has been identified as that of Mrs Marie Watts, formerly Marie Owens, aged thirty-two, of Francis Street, Leeds.
‘Mrs Watts was the victim of a particularly brutal attack, the details of which we are unable to reveal at this stage of our inquiry. However, a preliminary post-mortem by Professor Farley of the Department of Forensic Medicine at Leeds University, has determined that Mrs Watts was killed by a substantial blow to the head from a heavy blunt object.’
A substantial blow
and I knew I shouldn’t be here, letting him take me there:
Soldier’s Field: under a cheap raincoat, another rollneck sweater and pink bra pushed up over flat white tits, snakes pouring from her stomach wounds
Oldman was saying, ‘Mrs Watts had been living in the city since October last year, after moving up from the London area where it is believed she worked in a number of hotels. We are particularly interested in talking to anyone who can give us more information about Mrs Watts and her life in London.
‘We would also appeal to any member of the public who was in the vicinity of Soldier’s Field on Saturday night, Sunday morning, to come forward for purposes of elimination only. We are particularly interested in speaking to the drivers of the following cars:
‘A white Ford Capri, a red or maroon Ford Corsair, and a dark-coloured Landrover.
‘Again, I would stress that we are trying to trace these vehicles and their drivers for elimination purposes only and that any information received will be treated in the strictest confidence.’
Oldman took a sip of water, before continuing:
‘Furthermore, we would like to appeal for a Mr Stephen Barton of Francis Street, Leeds, to come forward. It is believed that Mr Barton was a friend of the deceased and could have valuable information about the last few hours of Mrs Watts’ life.’
Oldman paused, then smiled: ‘Again, this is for elimination purposes only and we would like to emphasise that Mr Barton is not a suspect.’
There was another pause as Oldman went into a whispered huddle with the two men next to him. I tried to put names to the faces: Noble and Jobson I knew, the other four were familiar.
Oldman said, ‘As some of you are no doubt aware, there are some similarities between this murder and those of Theresa Campbell in June 1975 and Joan Richards in February 1976, both of whom were prostitutes working in the Chapeltown area of the city.’
The room erupted and I sat there shocked that Oldman had said this so openly, given all his previous form.
George moved his hands up and down, trying to calm everyone: ‘Gentlemen, if you’ll let me finish.’
But he couldn’t stop it, and neither could I:
It was worse than I thought it would be, more than I thought it would be:
white panties off one leg, sandals placed on the flab of her thighs
Oldman had paused, his best Headmaster stare on show until the room went quiet. ‘As I say,’ he continued, ‘there are some similarities that cannot be ignored. At the same time, we cannot categorically say that all three murders are the work of the same individual. However, a possible link is one avenue of inquiry we are pursuing.
‘And, to that end, I’m announcing the formation of a task force under Detective Chief Superintendent Noble, here.’
That was it, chaos; the room couldn’t contain these men and their questions. All around me, men were on their feet, shouting and screaming at Oldman and his boys.
George Oldman was smiling, staring straight back at the pack. He pointed at one reporter, cupping his ear to the question, then feigning indignation and exasperation that he couldn’t hear the man. He put up his hands, as if to say,
no more
The noise subsided, people sat back down on the edge of their seats, poised to pounce.
Oldman pointed at the man still standing.
‘Yes, Roger?’ he said.
‘Was this latest victim, Marie Watts, was she a prostitute then?’
Oldman turned to Noble, and Noble leant into Oldman’s microphone and said, ‘At this point in our investigation, we can neither confirm nor deny such reports. However, we have received information that Mrs Watts was known in the city as something of what we would describe as a good-time girl.’
Good-time girl
The whole room thinking,
Oldman pointed to another man.
The man stood and asked, ‘What specific similarities have led you to investigate a possible connection?’
Oldman smiled, ‘As I say, there are some details of these crimes that we are unable to make public. However, there are some obvious similarities in the location of the murders, the age and lifestyles of the victims, and the way in which they were killed.’
I was drowning:
Blood, thick, black, sticky blood, matting her hair with pieces of bone and lumps of grey brain, slowly dripping into the grass on Soldier’s Field, slowly dripping over me
At the back, I raised a hand above the water.
Oldman looked over the heads at me, frowned for a moment, and then smiled. ‘Jack?’ he said.
I nodded.
A couple of people down the front turned round.
‘Yes, Jack?’ he said again.
I stood up slowly and asked, ‘Are these the only three murders under consideration at the moment?’
‘At the moment, yes.’
Oldman nodded and pointed at another man.
I sat back in my chair, drained, relieved, the questions and answers still flying around me.
I closed my eyes, just for a bit, and let myself go under.

BOOK: Nineteen Seventy-Seven: The Red Riding Quartet, Book Two
3.16Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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