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Authors: Margaret Duffy

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BOOK: Rat Poison
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‘Oh, I dunno. Short dark hair, tough-looking. She liked wearing combats and desert boots. Deep sort of voice.'

‘So her boss is joining up with Charlie Gill,' Carrick said.

‘God knows. I don't know the ins and outs of it.'

‘Rumour has it that Mick the Kick was going to try his hand at getting into the Bath scene as well,' Carrick continued. ‘War then: the London mobster joining up with Charlie to teach Micky a lesson and kick him out for good with a view to taking the whole prize.'

‘Micky's a real bad sort,' Jessop muttered.

‘Get the feeling your new friends are far worse?' the DCI said in disgust.

‘Do – do I  . . .' Jessop floundered into silence. It had become obvious that he was still very weak with, I could swear, the hint of tears in his eyes. ‘Sorry, I feel a bit strange.'

‘What?' Carrick said.

The man actually swayed a little in his chair. ‘Do I get – well – a deal if I tell you what I know?' he asked faintly. ‘You know, make a statement.'

‘I'll think about it.'

I endeavoured to beam into James's head that this was not the time to play cat and mouse and that he really, really needed this information, even if it did not amount to much. I must have been staring at him rather hard for he suddenly stood up and snapped, ‘OK. I'll interview you again in a couple of days when you're feeling stronger. You'll be brought to Bath nick and it had better be worth my trouble so use the time to have a damned good think.'

‘Good,' Carrick said crisply when we were outside. ‘Thank you. You're getting as good as Patrick.'

But he and I would never achieve the alchemy that Patrick and I do.

‘What were you going to say before you thought it might be Joy Murphy?' Carrick wanted to know.

‘Oh, I was working on the theory that Uncle had masterminded the Bristol lot too to give Gill a fright in order to persuade him to join up with him.'

‘He has Mick on his payroll already, you mean?'

‘Yes – and a little thing like collateral damage in the form of spilled guts and the murder of the innocent wouldn't have bothered him.'

‘Expensive cash-wise, though. What's the special interest?'

‘Perhaps it's just a case of divide and rule by causing as much confusion as possible. He might even be hoping that all the opposition will kill one another, leaving him with a clear field. I don't know. You tell me: it's your manor.'

Reminding him that this might be a personal issue struck home and the DCI, deep in thought, did not speak again until we were in the car.

‘Can you let me have that typed up?' he requested, gesturing towards my notebook.

‘Give me around a quarter of an hour when we get back,' I said.

‘You know, I think you might be right. We need someone to get Gill by the ears and tell him the way it is.'

‘I thought you said he was a hard-headed businessman who knew his way around people like Uncle because of his London origins.'

‘I know, but I've spoken to the man and he didn't give me the impression that he was the sort who'd be overjoyed at the bloody outcome of that night. He might be thinking that the Murphy woman had overdone it. And, as you say, what's Uncle after? I would have thought that Bath was small beer for a man who no doubt thinks of himself as a top crime lord.'

‘I take it Gill runs the drug dealing in the city.'

‘Mostly, yes. But would that alone attract the likes of Uncle?'

‘Can't you touch Gill?'

‘We're building a case against the man but as you know it'll have to be solid as people like him can afford the best briefs. I think I shall have to concentrate on working out what Bath's attraction is for Uncle and try to be one step ahead of him.'

‘It might be nothing more than the Met making life too difficult for him where he is.'

‘That's quite possible. You might get hold of Patrick and tell him that I've reconsidered. Meanwhile, all the routine enquiries into the gang war will continue.'

‘Have you written the Huggins clan out of this investigation?'

‘Reluctantly, yes. Oh, by the way, Mrs Stonelake was shown some mugshots and pictures of the deceased but couldn't recognize any of them as the men she saw.'

Later, when I handed him the notes he informed me that while we were out that morning Carol Trelonic had made a formal complaint that she had been ‘harassed' by the police. This, he told me, would have to ‘go through the proper channels' but on the grounds that her late husband was a suspect in a major shooting incident, and had still not been completely cleared of involvement, he did not think she would get a sympathetic response.

I just hoped she would not hit a soft target instead.

SIX

I
left a message on Patrick's phone with the news that, at the time, Carrick had not omitted to tell him about any complaints and that he would like his practical help after all. I made no mention of any difficulties between us but said that he ought to tell me where he was and what he was doing.

I heard not a word.

Two days later Katie, just back from school, came to find me in the kitchen. ‘Mum, you know you said we mustn't go anywhere near the pub?'

‘I did,' I agreed, wondering what on earth was coming.

‘Had you forgotten that the school bus stops almost right outside now?'

I had, and apologized.

‘In the mornings Matthew and I stand a little way off in case that horrible Andrews man sees us and makes more trouble. But when we come home  . . .'

‘Yes?' I prompted.

‘Well, we have to get off nearly right outside, don't we? And just now  . . .'

She looked a bit bothered so I sat her down and gave her a drink of juice.

‘What's wrong?' I asked, sitting down beside her.

‘Matthew stayed behind for cricket so I was on my own. There was a car outside the pub, like ours only black. The windows were made of that dark glass but were open a bit as they were smoking. A man was sitting in the driver's seat and another was talking to Mr Andrews by the pub door. Then I saw another man sitting in the back seat. He looked a bit horrible really, they all did. Then he saw me and gave me a
really
horrible look and shut the window.'

‘He deliberately frightened you. That was nasty of him.'

‘But it was
Dad
!'

For a moment I was rendered speechless.

‘I ran away. I've thought about it now and know he wanted me to run away and not show I'd recognized him.'

‘Are you
sure
it was him?'

‘Yes. He had his hair all flattened down with that gel stuff and hadn't had a shave but I know it was him.' After a pause, she said, ‘He did frighten me actually.'

‘That would only be to make sure you stayed right away from any possible danger.'

I could not tell her that when we are working undercover he sometimes frightens me silly too.

‘You didn't by any chance get the number of the car?'

She had and not only that gave me quite good descriptions of the other two men. From information I already had from Carrick I knew that the man talking to Andrews had almost certainly been Charlie Gill, who was very fat and given to wearing a suit and loud ties. There was every chance the individual behind the wheel was the ‘spavined idiot' so picturesquely described by the DCI.

‘I won't say anything to anybody about it,' Katie said in a low voice. ‘Not even to Matthew.'

‘Especially to Matthew,' I emphasized. ‘Only for a while, though, as we don't usually have secrets. I'll find out what's going on.'

Katie had a sudden thought. ‘He must be investigating the goings-on at the pub,' she said with shining eyes.

Again, I urged her to keep it to herself but doubted if she could hide what had happened from Matthew for very long. Patrick had obviously forgotten that the school bus no longer stops outside the church as well or he would have kept his window closed. He had taken a huge risk by appearing in Hinton Littlemoor at all but perhaps he had had no choice.

‘He was smoking too,' Katie said sadly as she went out of the door.

‘He does
sometimes
smoke little cigars,' I said to thin air.

I rang James Carrick.

‘I could have done with knowing about this before,' he grumbled.

‘You imagine I couldn't?' I retorted.

‘Please do your best to get in touch with him.'

‘Doing my best' would normally involve utilizing one of our ploys, starting with phoning his mobile number, allowing it to ring four times and then hanging up, repeating this several times. I could not do this as Patrick's phone was switched to the messaging service. I had already left him a conventional message before this latest development so decided to wait until at least the next day.

Just before seven the following morning I had a call from Carrick.

‘Guess what?' he said, continuing before I could speak with, ‘Keith Matlock was found dumped in a wheelie bin just around the corner to the entrance to the nick this morning done up like a parcel.'

‘Who's Keith Matlock?'

‘Charlie Gill's sometime driver and right-hand moron,' he replied in the tone of voice that suggested I should have known.

‘Oh, the spavined idiot!'

‘Yes, him.'

‘Well, you know who that little present was from, don't you?'

‘I do indeed. Has he contacted you?'

‘No, but do look through Matlock's pockets.'

‘I'm just going in to work. Do you want to be present when I interview him?'

‘No, if you don't mind. It's a bit too close to home right now with Patrick in the enemy camp.'

‘I'll keep you right in the picture,' he promised. ‘Oh, and I've been so up to my neck in work I've had to reschedule interviewing Derek Jessop. I take it you'd like to be there when I do.'

‘Yes, please.'

‘I'll let you know.'

Three quarters of an hour later he phoned again. ‘You were right. There was a note addressed to me containing directions – or at least an OS map reference – of where Gill can be found. I get the impression he might be in the same kind of fix as his henchman. So I'd better send someone out there pronto and call you again later.'

Not ten minutes after this one-sided conversation had taken place I heard someone come in the back door. It was Patrick, still with his stubble, smarmed-down hair and accompanied by a definite aroma of cigar smoke and sweat. He looked as though he might have hiked across fields and through several ditches as there was mud, leaves and twigs affixed to his person as well.

‘I'm sorry I went off like that,' was the first thing he said.

‘And I'm sorry I forgot to tell you what your mother had told me about Carol Trelonic.'

He walked forward quickly and gave me a kiss. ‘Is Katie still here or has she gone to school?'

‘She's here and should be down for her breakfast by now. I'll call her.'

We were both in the kitchen when she appeared a minute or so later, Patrick making himself a much-needed mug of coffee. She paused in the doorway when she first saw him and then ran over to give him a hug.

Patrick fished in the pocket of his leather jacket and drew out a small parcel. ‘That's to say sorry for scaring you,' he said.

In the box inside the wrapper was a little gold heart on a chain, a single tiny sparkle in its centre.

‘It's a real diamond,' he told her.

‘It's so pretty,' Katie breathed. And then went on to thank him more times than was really necessary.

‘Do I look cool like this?' he asked her, striking a pose.

‘Yes, but not the belt,' she said without hesitation. ‘It's horrible and silly.'

It is the one he insists brings him luck with the phoney brass buckle in the shape of a grinning skull. Red glass eyes too.

The gift was put into my care and very shortly afterwards she left the house to catch the bus. Matthew had stayed at a friend's house the previous night.

‘I nearly blew it,' Patrick said, subsiding into a chair by the kitchen table and tiredly rubbing his hands over his face. ‘The last thing I thought he'd do was head here. And stupidly—'

‘You had forgotten that the school bus now stops by the pub,' I interrupted.

‘Yes. But I couldn't allow frightening her to continue. I had to do something to  . . .'

‘She wasn't all that scared,' I said when he stopped speaking. ‘One of the first things she said to me was that you'd frightened her to make her run away and not show she'd recognized you. What did you do with Gill?'

A reflective and, if I am honest, cruel smile appeared. ‘Left him in a barn near Wellow. I take it Carrick got the message.'

‘He did. And I should imagine we need to have a debriefing session with him – right now.'

‘Hung by his heels,' said James Carrick heavily, having slammed the door of his office.

‘Poor guy,' Patrick murmured.

‘We had to let him go.'

Becoming exasperated, probably on account of lack of sleep, Patrick said, ‘Of course you bloody well had to let him go! The whole idea was that you'd end up as buddies having received a tip-off as to his whereabouts.'

‘So what's the story?' the DCI enquired, not at all ruffled. These men are, after all, good friends.

‘I did a couple of day's work at HQ on stuff for Greenway and dug out everything I could find about these mobsters. Greenway was still all for the direct approach to Gill but I decided not to go for the maverick cop option on the grounds that I really am one of those. So when I'd run him to earth down here I said I was the man from Uncle.'

‘Go on,' Carrick said after I had laughed loudly.

‘I told him that my visit was to ensure that he knew precisely where he stood and that he was to do exactly as he was told. Now it's your turn – get in there and offer him police protection as long as he tells you everything he knows.'

BOOK: Rat Poison
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