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Authors: Margaret Duffy

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BOOK: Rat Poison
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‘How did you find him?'

‘Well, having discovered from mugshots that Matlock looks like a gorilla on an off day and that his last known address was in the London Road I drove down overnight and parked in a back lane, hung around the pubs in that area when they opened at eleven and struck lucky when he rolled into the Carpenters' Arms for something alcoholic to sober himself up from the night before. And as you know, I can act rough.'

I hid my amusement this time.

‘And told him to take me to his leader.'

‘He swallowed your story then.'

‘He was so hung-over as well as naturally stupid he'd have believed me if I'd told him I was the Sugar Plum Fairy. So he rang Gill who demanded to know who I was referring to as Uncle. So I told him – Brad Northwood. That appeared to clinch it and he picked us up outside – I thought you said he was banned? – about twenty minutes later. By which time I decided I would throw a real rage at being kept waiting. That seemed to scare them a bit.'

‘Hinton Littlemoor, though?' I prompted, picturing the scene.

‘He said he was on his way there to do a little business and did I mind. I said I minded like hell but he'd better get on with it. And then they could buy me lunch. Somewhere else. I don't know how we got there alive as he made Matlock drive and he must have been ten times over the limit.'

I said, ‘Matthew and Katie really were on to something then.'

‘But we still don't know what it is. I didn't dare get out of the car or show my face to Andrews as he knows me. And if I had asked too many questions they would have suspected my story. But the fact that Gill went to the Ring o' Bells and spoke to Andrews outside does
suggest
that something iffy's involved. One must also bear in mind that he could have simply been booking an evening bash with the boys.'

‘He could have done that over the phone,' Carrick observed. ‘We must know more before we say anything. In mitigation with Matthew's case, I mean.'

‘And we can't mention it to him either,' I said regretfully.

‘Thank you for Matlock by the way,' Carrick went on. ‘He'll no doubt be banged up for quite a while. But what of Gill? He must know you delivered his henchman into the safe hands of the law.'

‘It doesn't matter,' Patrick said. ‘Matlock actually carried on drinking at lunchtime despite his boss getting furious with him. Then he passed right out in the car park. Gill by this time was a bit tight too so was in a let's teach the stupid bugger a lesson mood. So Matlock was delivered to the nick with his blessing. I think he thought that if he grovelled a bit to me I'd leave him alone and go home happy with a glowing report for Uncle. Not so.'

‘You didn't beat him up, though.'

‘No, I don't beat up overweight and unfit men older than me who haven't done me any personal injury,' Patrick replied evenly.

‘He refused to say what had happened to him.'

‘Good. Did you question him then?'

‘No, I thought I'd let him stew for a bit.'

‘You might regret that.'

‘I don't think so. Where's his car?'

‘Oh, I left it on double yellow lines in Wellow village and walked home by the rural route. It was pretty late by the time we'd finished getting Matlock ready for posting so I didn't want to call anyone out to pick me up. Haven't slept under a hedge since army days,' he finished by ruefully saying.

Patrick's service injuries have left him with a right leg of man-made construction below the knee and currently he is taking part in the trial of a prototype that contains springs, a lithium battery and a certain amount of artificial intelligence. Using it has meant the way he now walks is perfectly natural and we plan to pay out a five-figure sum when it comes on to the market. Our automatic Range Rover has been specially adapted with a hand throttle as driving with no sensation in your foot is not easy and something he will only undertake in emergencies or for short distances. Very relevant to this case was that he would not have wanted to bring Gill's vehicle back into Hinton Littlemoor and, worse, be seen driving it.

He smothered a yawn. ‘Sorry, I know I didn't do a very good job. I should have worked on Gill a bit longer but I didn't, I cut it short, partly because I didn't want to blow my cover and thought you ought to talk to him. There's also something concerning Katie that Ingrid will tell you about.'

Which I did and Carrick made no comment.

‘There are a few more not very important details,' Patrick said afterwards. ‘I'll write out a proper report for you.'

‘I'll write it, you dictate it to me,' I told him. ‘I can email it to James a little later from home.'

Carrick arranged that we were given a lift to where the car had been left and I drove us both home in silence, Patrick half-asleep. The DCI had given no sign that he was disappointed with the outcome of the mission but we both knew that he was. There was no new or useful intelligence that could be used to move the case forward.

‘But at least you got hold of Matlock,' I said when we arrived at the rectory. ‘He might sing his heart out.'

‘He's next to useless,' Patrick said. ‘As well as being on the booze for most of the time the man is genuinely mentally impaired. He forgets just about everything he's told about five minutes afterwards. In my opinion he's on the way to some kind of alcohol-induced early-onset dementia. All I really got out of him was where Gill's living, which he has written down on a piece of paper and keeps in his wallet. He has to remind himself of the address every time he goes there. There was fear there too, not necessarily of me – just fear.'

‘Yet he can still drive a car.'

‘Sort of.'

‘Did it cross your mind that he was pretending to be stupid?'

‘Only to begin with. Then he muttered something about being out in Iraq. He's probably an ex-squaddie – with his mind affected by what he's seen and done.'

We met Matthew in the hall.

‘This is the job, Matthew,' Patrick said, referring to his state of dishevelment before wearily making his way upstairs for a shower and some sleep. ‘Still want it?'

He did not see the boy's reaction but I did.

Oh, brother. Oh, yes. The black jeans and matching leather jacket. That belt, the grinning skull, its red shining eyes. Wow!

Before making a move, and cautious as ever, Carrick had put a watch on Charlie Gill's house, which was in Twerton. Nothing moved. No one went in or out. Then, getting impatient, he sent his temporary sergeant, Frank Keen, and a constable to have a quiet snoop around the exterior. They found an ‘open' window and got in. The place was deserted but a TV was switched on and, in the kitchen, food had been removed from the fridge to prepare a meal. In the living room a coffee table had been knocked over and although these combined factors were not particularly sinister in themselves they did suggest that Gill had left in a hurry.

I was still carrying on liaising between SOCA and Bath and Bristol CID departments. Patrick had contacted Commander Greenway who said he was content, for the present, for the local police to get on with their investigations with us present if needed. Patrick, meanwhile, was finding out all he could about Colin Andrews, the manager of the Ring o' Bells.

As predicted, Carrick got almost nowhere with Matlock in connection with the various charges against him, which were mostly of the oaf-in-attendance at beatings and assaults variety, and he was put on remand with a request for urgent psychiatric reports. Despite Patrick's comments to the contrary the DCI was of the opinion that his suspect was playing dumb. Carrick had already had another setback when the medic at the remand centre had contacted him to tell him that Derek Jessop's condition was no longer considered good enough for him to be interrogated as he had developed a temperature and an infection was feared.

Five days later Charlie Gill's bloated body was fished out of the River Avon. Under the gaze of an audience of tourists who watched avidly from the perfect viewpoint near Pulteney Bridge, the police had removed it, with difficulty, from where it had become jammed on the weir a short distance downstream. After being carried, with even more difficulty, up the narrow steps to road level the corpse was taken away in a plain van.

SEVEN

G
ill had been killed with a single shot to the head but not before being subjected to a savage beating.

‘We need to know exactly what you did to the man to enable us to know what someone else did to him afterwards,' Carrick said, pausing in a whirlwind progress through the nick when he saw Patrick and me.

‘Nothing,' Patrick answered in surprise. ‘I told you I didn't.'

‘But look, Gill didn't let you tie a rope around his ankles and hang him from a beam without some kind of struggle!'

‘Yes, he did. I said I'd been ordered to put him in hospital for a couple of days but was in a tearing hurry. So as I was worried about being watched by Uncle and if Charlie cooperated we could come to a satisfactory arrangement.'

‘He's much heavier than you.'

‘We arranged a few hay bales underneath; he lay down on the top one and I pulled them away afterwards. You should have questioned him when you found him.'

Carrick threw his arms up in the air and went away.

‘Cops don't think like you do,' I explained.

‘I gave him that man
on a plate
,' Patrick said furiously. ‘And now he's dead, murdered. He should have been questioned and given police protection. As it was he went home, rang Uncle to complain about his treatment and they promptly took him apart and then killed him to teach the interferer a lesson. Uncle – and who the hell else could have done it? – now knows someone's on to him. It wasn't me who screwed up, was it?'

‘No,' I agreed calmly. ‘But don't forget Joanna's due to give birth at any time and James is dead worried about her. And while I remember it, Matthew has his appointment with the Youth Offending Team a fortnight tomorrow. Will you be there?'

‘Of course.'

‘What are you going to tell them?'

‘The truth.'

‘What, about Andrews having a possible connection with criminals?'

‘If necessary. That boy's future is far more important than a bloody police investigation.'

Michael Greenway was furious, blaming both Carrick and Patrick for what he called ‘their appalling lack of consultation and communication with one other'. As the commander was the latter's immediate superior it was he who received the reprimand, and I am sure, having overheard that bit without difficulty, the fact it was delivered over the phone did not dilute it one iota.

I had tactfully withdrawn from the room – the call had come during that evening only a few minutes after Patrick had come home from work – and when I returned from my little walk around the garden he was pensively pouring himself a tot of whisky.

‘I screwed up,' he said. ‘Official.'

I refrained from trite statements along the lines of ‘you can't win 'em all' and reckoned the oracle was about to be released from her box.

‘So what do I do?' he asked.

‘You could turn everything around by working with what you've got. As you said yourself Uncle knows someone's on to him but he probably won't think it's the police as cops don't tend to string mobsters up by the heels. I'm sure you've created a certain amount of confusion so Uncle might be on the trail of Mick the Kick right now, assuming he was behind it.'

‘And?'

‘Stay in character.'

‘Go after him, you mean?'

I did not want to say it but did. ‘You might have to gain his interest even further in order to get inside his organization.'

‘People like him are always on the lookout for specialists.'

‘That's right. He might offer you a job in order to get you off his back. He might think that's what you're after.'

‘Serious criminals are always on the lookout for experts, in money laundering for example. I've done a bit of work on the ins and outs of international finance but that kind of thing has never been my strong point.' Patrick pulled a wry face. ‘He already has an in-house psychopath: Murphy.' He added wistfully, ‘I'm good at those.'

‘She could always be taken out.'

‘Ingrid, you don't normally suggest I top women.'

I tut-tutted and then smiled at his concern. ‘I'm not. Surely she's wanted in connection with several crimes – under suspicion for murders committed during the Bath turf war, for one thing. Arrest her.'

‘Or I could play the alcoholic, junkie, psychopathic cop with a long tongue that zaps people around the ears like that alien who wears his innards on his head in
Farscape
,' Patrick muttered after a short silence, throwing himself down on to the sofa.

‘OK, delete all the above and just go after him.'

‘As me.'

‘Yes, as you, the man from SOCA.'

‘But not in character as a lean, mean, gunning machine?' he asked sadly, very much tongue-in-cheek.

‘There's very little difference. Just forget the hair gel and leave off that confounded belt with the skull buckle.'

He went into a reverie and I left him to it to deal with domestic matters, wondering if I had just written myself out of the job.

‘I might take your advice,' Patrick said at just before eleven that night, coming into the bedroom. ‘But there's something else I want to do first. It's really important to  . . .'

The rest of what he was saying was muffled as he pulled his open-necked shirt over his head. Most men undo a few more buttons first.

‘Say that last bit again,' I requested.

He delved into a drawer and unearthed a dark blue sweatshirt. ‘Find out what's going on at the pub.'

I stared at him. ‘Do I take it you're going to break in?'

BOOK: Rat Poison
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