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Authors: Margaret Duffy

Tags: #Mystery

Rat Poison (6 page)

BOOK: Rat Poison
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‘Don't worry, you won't.'

‘But that man—'

‘I believe you.'

‘But—'

‘Anyone who comes at a lad as though he's going to kill him is a crook. I'll work on it. Shall we go home?'

‘You should have told me that Matthew had followed you to Bath,' I said when we had had a couple of hours sleep and, weary-eyed, were drinking tea in the kitchen.

‘You would only have freaked out.'

‘That's what women do.'

Patrick smiled. ‘Only a short while ago you were worried because he was still nervous of the dark.'

‘But he could have been attacked by yobs in the bus station!'

‘I know. I thought about it. But there are usually plenty of people around at that time of night. And, sometimes  . . . you have to let go a bit. Besides which, he can run like a stag and knew exactly where I was likely to be.'

‘It would look very bad if you went and spoke to Andrews about what happened.'

‘Give me credit for some sense. Any more nags right now?'

‘Sorry,' I said, blowing him a kiss.

‘Andrews might leave it for a couple of days and then contact Carrick and, all smiles, say he's going to forget all about it.'

‘Why should he do that?'

‘Because even if he isn't involved with anything iffy he has a business to run and must know that the rector and his family are respected around here.'

‘Do you really believe that Matthew and Katie have found out something important?'

‘What they've seen doesn't
necessarily
mean they're right on target about dodgy goings-on at the pub. But as I said to him, I'll work on it. Frankly, if Carrick had said something similar we probably wouldn't be where we are now. But he's overstretched and having to work on the shootings case so one can hardly blame him.'

I had felt somewhat sidelined in all this but my feelings did not matter, for this affair was primarily a man and boy situation. I knew that Patrick and Matthew had had another heart-to-heart discussion later when a promise had been extracted from Matthew that he would not, under any circumstances, go near the Ring o' Bells again and that he and Katie would file this particular case under ‘pending'. I knew, though, that deep down Patrick was extremely proud of the way he had behaved under pressure.

But Andrews made no contact with Avon and Somerset Police and the charges against Matthew remained. We received a letter to the effect that an appointment would be made for us at the offices of the local Youth Offending Team. It seemed likely that, because of his age, he would get an official police reprimand, noted down, that would lead to a final warning if he got into trouble again. After that it would be a matter for the courts.

FOUR

‘
M
rs Stonelake?' Carrick said quietly.

The woman in the hospital bed opened her eyes and looked surprised. ‘Oh  . . . hello.'

‘I'm Detective Chief Inspector Carrick and this is my assistant, Miss Langley. I'd like to ask you a few questions if you're feeling well enough.'

It appeared that I would be riding shotgun for him, literally or not, for the next few days at least, the force not being remotely with him, having gone down in droves with some mystery stomach bug. HQ was reported to be like a ghost town.

‘Yes, I – I think so,' stammered the lady, slightly overwhelmed.

Well, the Scot was once described to me by a friend as ‘wall-to-wall crumpet'.

‘Miss Langley will take a few notes if that's all right.'

She flashed a wan smile at me and, when we had drawn up a couple of chairs, said, ‘Not that I can really remember very much. And it all happened so quickly.'

She was around fifty years of age, from what I could see of her of slight build, fair and with pale blue eyes. Her head was bandaged, an injury resulting from her fall, hitting the kerb, a bullet having taken her in the left leg, breaking the tibia.

‘I understand that you were on your way home after work,' Carrick began by saying.

‘Yes, it was later than usual as there'd been a big party. Lots of clearing up to do.'

‘Please tell me as much as you can recollect.'

She thought for a few moments. ‘Well, I did hear bangs in the distance but not for a minute did I think it was guns. Fireworks, perhaps, or a car. Even when the noise came closer I still didn't get really worried although I don't like it at the best of times when stupid boys mess around with fireworks.'

‘The restaurant's in Nash Square. Where were you by this time?'

‘Just coming from Hot Bath Street and crossing the road where Macfisheries was years ago. All the shops seem to sell gifts for visitors now, you know, no real shops at all. My husband used to say that you couldn't even buy a bag of nails.'

‘Then what happened?'

Her eyes narrowed. ‘These men came running down the hill from Milsom Street, first two and then more a little way behind. The front two were looking absolutely terrified. Then there was another bang from somewhere behind them and the two turned round and fired their guns. I hadn't noticed until then that they were carrying them. I ran myself then, I promise you.'

‘Can you describe them at all?'

‘The first ones looked a bit sort of foreign, but street lights make people look different, don't they? I didn't see the faces of the ones behind them.'

‘Foreign in what way?'

‘Well, sort of quite short and dark-haired. Curly hair. I don't mean they were black, mind. More like gypsies really.'

I wrote HUGGINS followed by a question mark in my notebook.

‘That's all really,' Mrs Stonelake said. ‘Only that I ran and ran and at least two of them were behind me all the way down Stall Street into Southgate. A couple might have gone somewhere else. Someone was laughing. Then they must have fired at me for I fell down. I didn't feel anything straight away so I thought I'd just tripped. I played dead and that's all I remember until I woke up here. They won't come after me again if they find out I've talked to you, will they?' Her lips quivered.

Carrick put a hand on her shoulder. ‘No, no chance. There's an armed police officer just outside the ward at all times. Is there anything at all that you want to add – even if it seems unimportant to you?'

‘No, I don't think so.'

‘Was there any traffic?' I asked. ‘Cars whose drivers were trying to get out of the way, for example?'

‘No, at least  . . . Yes, that's right, I remember now. I did glimpse some cars but they'd stopped at the top of the road, from where the men had come. They were too far away to see exactly what they were, though.'

‘And of course lower down it's a pedestrian precinct,' Carrick said.

‘Yes, but they drove down that,' I reminded him.

‘So they did.'

‘Oh, yes!' Mrs Stonelake exclaimed. ‘That's right, I did see some cars around Southgate. And there was a big car parked without lights.'

‘Something like a Rolls-Royce?'

‘Not quite as big and posh as those.'

‘Where was it exactly? Can you remember?'

‘Near the bottom where I was hit.'

‘Was anyone sitting in it?'

‘I didn't notice.'

‘What colour was it?'

‘Very dark. Black, probably. Yes, that's right, the windows looked dark too – dark glass so I don't suppose I would have been able to see anyone in it. Now you've reminded me I remember thinking it might be the mayor's or somebody like that, waiting to pick him up from a do.'

‘And it's silly to ask if you noticed any of the registration.'

Another wan smile. ‘No, sorry, I didn't.'

Carrick said, ‘Do you think you might be able to recognize any of the men if, when you're better, you looked at some photographs?' He did not add that included those of the dead, the bodies carefully made more or less presentable by the mortuary assistants.

‘I wouldn't have thought so,' Mrs Stonelake said dubiously. ‘I suppose I could always try. But I'd be worried I'd get people into trouble if I picked out the wrong ones.'

‘That's my responsibility,' Carrick assured her. ‘And we don't arrest people without good reason.'

Well, not for most of the time, I thought.

We left, Carrick giving her his card should she recollect anything further.

That afternoon there was a meeting designed to create a progress report. It proved to be a depressing experience. The first thing to emerge was that no evidence had been found to connect Adam Trelonic with the shootings even though there was no satisfactory explanation as to why he was in the city centre at that time of night. His wife still maintained that she had no idea why he had been there – but surely, I thought, a woman would know if her husband had gone out for a beer – and it had become obvious that the couple's marriage had not been healthy. She had finally refused to cooperate any further. With reluctance on Carrick's part the man was now being regarded as an innocent passer-by either caught in crossfire or singled out later by those who had ‘won' or, at least, survived.

The two mutilated bodies were still unidentified but due to their appearance and blood group types were being tentatively labelled as belonging to men of mid-European extraction. Their fingerprints and, when available, DNA details would be circulated to all relevant authorities. It would all take time. And, adding to the DCI's gloom, the people who Lynn Outhwaite had spotted in the restaurant were proving impossible to trace.

On the positive side, the man living rough who had witnessed some of what had happened had been located at a Salvation Army hostel. He had been sufficiently close to the injured to be able to positively identify the Jessops from mugshots and was emphatic that they had been carrying weapons, at least one of which had been swiftly grabbed by someone although it had been impossible to tell whether whoever it was had been one of those who had shot them. This was valuable, pre-empting any claim by the brothers that they had merely been passing.

DI Black could not be present at the meeting but I was able to stand in for him and update those not in the know with regard to the Bristol-based mobsters. Three of the dead had been identified almost right at the start with another two, at the time, unknown. One of these had been found to be listed as a missing person; the other had assumed a stolen identity. Both had been known to the police at one time and all five had been connected to a crime boss who called himself Mick the Kick on account of his enthusiasm for kick-boxing. This individual was being sought to help with enquiries.

That left finding out who was running the other gang. Someone had gone round recruiting men fairly local to Bath. It was vital to discover what part, if any, the London crime lord referred to as Uncle had played in all this. More might be learned when Derek Jessop was deemed fit enough to be questioned, soon it was hoped. His brother Billy was still dangerously ill.

‘You need to get SOCA involved,' I finished by saying.

‘You think that would be useful?' Carrick asked, his tone light and neutral.

‘There's a possibility the pair who are thought to have been of mid-European extraction could have broken away or were fugitives from gangs from Romania and the Czech Republic that have moved to the UK and SOCA are trying to smash. We might be able to discover who they were from cases that are being currently worked on.'

‘All details
were
sent to the Met,' he responded.

‘May I send them to Commander Greenway?' A breakdown in communications would be nothing new.

He pondered for a few moments and then said, ‘Yes, that's fine by me.'

Patrick set off from Manchester to drive to London that evening.

‘I've briefed someone and handed over the job to her,' Patrick said when he rang me before starting his journey. ‘There's actually very little left to do as thanks to old intelligence from Richard Daws we've located most of this guy's chums – he originally came from the Midlands – and there'll soon be a few dawn raids. Hopefully that'll lead to info as to where he's hiding out.'

‘I take it you've been recalled by Greenway for another job,' I said.

‘Didn't you suggest I was brought in to help with the turf war?'

‘I did, but was being careful as I wasn't sure what had been said – and you might not have been.'

‘Are you coming up?'

‘What, to London? Do you need me right away?'

‘For several reasons,' he replied before uttering a dirty chuckle. Then, ‘What's that faint rumbling noise I can hear?'

‘Pirate's successor and her brother,' I answered. ‘They're on my lap, purring.'

Michael Greenway had suffered a gunshot wound to his left shoulder not all that long ago and was still moving a little stiffly. I knew it must be causing him huge annoyance as he has a large garden in the Ascot area and unwinds by getting it into shape with various powerful implements.

‘I understand you winged some bloke who took a pot shot at Jim Carrick,' was his opening remark to me. He and the DCI have met several times.

‘Derek Jessop,' I said. ‘With his brother Billy he was involved in the Bath shoot-out.'

‘I thought you were joking!' Patrick exclaimed.

‘I rather hoped you thought I was joking,' I told him.

It was mid-morning the following day and we were in Greenway's spacious office. On the way up to London on the train I had been wondering about the wisdom of my impetuous suggestion to involve SOCA. While it was true that Patrick had wanted to be involved with the case right from the beginning, the people we would be dealing with were highly dangerous and organized criminals. I had cheered up slightly when I remembered that Patrick is a highly dangerous and organized investigator.

‘I've been following this carefully,' Greenway said, seating himself in the revolving leather chair behind his desk with more care than usual. ‘Even more so when Uncle's name was mentioned.'

BOOK: Rat Poison
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