Authors: Oliver Tidy
The First Romney and Marsh File
Copyright 2012 Oliver Tidy
Find me at
This e-book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This e-book may not be sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please download an additional copy for each recipient. Thank you.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form by any persons without the permission of the author.
Oliver Tidy has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act of 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
This is a work of fiction. All characters in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to any person, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Table of Contents
The metronomic wipers beat away at the winter drizzle. Their thumping derailed his thoughts and aggravated further his blackened mood. Scowling, he turned them off only to find that, like the cigarettes, he couldn’t do without them.
His lights picked out a couple huddled together, hurrying along under an umbrella in the late night shadows, their features and genders indefinable in the darkness and their layers. The way they clung to each other in that brief illumination suggested impending intimacy. Or was it just the broken promise of his own evening, still irritably fresh in his mind, clouding his view? He glanced at the dashboard clock: kicking out time.
Bothered by the encroaching misting of the windscreen, he fumbled with the ventilation system. The blower was loud and useless. He turned it off and wiped the screen with the back of his sleeve. A mistake. The condensation only smeared across the cold surface, worsening visibility.
Pulling up at the lights, the only car around, he massaged the tiredness of his eyeballs and felt the rasping of a full-day’s growth. He fished around for gum but came up empty. If he’d had cigarettes, he’d have smoked. He turned the radio on and after three quick changes of channel off. He tapped impatiently at the wheel.
The lights changed. He eased the vehicle onto the town’s one-way system, which would bring him shortly to the petrol station.
The twirling blue lights of the emergency services bounced off the glazed and rain-soaked building fronts advertising the scene of some appalling event, something that would take a paragraph or two in the local rag perhaps; something that may have ruined lives: the crime scene.
A few hardy inquisitives braved the cold, the wet and the hour to gawp at someone else’s misfortune. He felt a twinge of revulsion for them.
A uniformed officer waved him through the temporary cordon and onto the forecourt. He pulled up next to the air and water dispenser, protected from the worst of the elements under the high roof.
DS Marsh came to meet him as he stepped out of the vehicle. ‘Evening, sir.’
‘Sergeant.’ Detective Inspector Romney busied himself with his overcoat, trying to hide his disappointment. ‘Where’s Sergeant Wilkie?’ As a casual enquiry it failed.
Marsh’s features hardened a little at the implication. ‘As of this evening, sir, DS Wilkie’s on paternity leave. His wife had the baby an hour ago. Also he’s a man.’
‘Well spotted. I can see why they gave you a promotion.’
Despite the cold, Marsh reddened. ‘What I mean to say, sir, is that the main victim is a female. That’s why I’m here. That and the nature of the crime.’
‘Then say what you mean, Sergeant.’ Romney didn’t care too much for her tone, the setting of her jaw or her feelings. ‘Let’s have it then. Quickest version you’ve got.’
Detective Sergeant Joy Marsh was new and young enough not to have had known the seventies. She hadn’t made the best of starts in this: her first posting as Detective Sergeant. By her own admission, she had a barbed tongue, especially when confronted with the stupidity, chauvinism and arrogance of her male colleagues. Like most aspiring female officers she had encountered, she felt it a necessary defence mechanism, if you didn’t want them to grind you down.
However the powers that be would like to perceive and portray the modern police force, it was still a sad reality that in most places – especially those like the geographical, cultural and intellectual backwater she’d washed up in – attitudes of officers who’d been in for life were unlikely to respond to the training, directives and expectations of their more enlightened, politically correct, senior colleagues.
Despite the way it was, Marsh was desperate to do well and make a good name for herself. Policing was all she’d ever wanted to do. She was living her dreams, even if at times the content was like things out of other people’s nightmares. She intended to serve her time here then apply for something more glamorous, more specialised, in the metropolis.
Detective Inspector Romney’s reputation, on the other hand, was well established. All the talk Marsh had heard of him agreed that he could be a cantankerous bastard, difficult to please, intolerant of fools and failings, could sail close to the wind too, but he was a bloody good copper. At least that’s what they said. She was glad of the opportunity to be working with him, although the sentiment appeared not to be reciprocated.
‘Robbery, assault and it appears a serious sexual assault, sir.’
‘Appears? What does that mean? Either there’s been one or there hasn’t.’
‘Yes, sir. The victim – the female victim of the attack – claims to have been raped.’
‘How many victims are there?’
‘Two, sir: one male, one female. Both employees of the garage. Half an hour before locking up time a lone, masked male entered the shop, knocked the male employee unconscious, helped himself to the takings and raped the female employee.’
‘That’s twice you’ve ranked rape last. Any reason for it?’
‘Is that the chronological order of events as they unfolded?’
Marsh hesitated. ‘That needs checking, sir.’
‘Do it then. Sooner the better. It’s an important detail.’
Marsh gritted her teeth. She didn’t need telling and felt she looked bad for it.
‘Where are the victims now?’
‘Does she have a name?’
‘Yes, sir. Claire Stamp. She’s on her way to the William Harvey Hospital. She had to be sedated by the paramedics. It was a brutal attack.’
‘Aren’t they all, Sergeant, by the standards of the law abiding among us?’
‘Yes, sir. The male is in the ambulance by the pumps receiving treatment for a blow to the head. Doesn’t seem too serious, but he’s pretty shaken up by what happened. Doesn’t want to go to the hospital.’
Romney nodded. ‘Who called us?’
‘Ms Stamp’s boyfriend. When he arrived to collect her, he found the place locked up, lights off and things not looking right. Called us when he got no response to his banging on the door.’
The DI took a long moment casting an experienced professional eye around the scene. ‘Security film?’
‘He appears, that is, there is no cassette in the machine, sir.’
Romney grunted. ‘Get on to control. See what cameras they’ve got around here that might have picked something up.’
‘Already done, sir. Waiting on their reply.’
‘Good. Right, I’m going in for a look. Go and speak to the, what’s his name?’
‘Go and speak to Mr Park. See if he can give you some idea of the timings. What happened first to whom?’
‘Get rid of that lot.’ Romney indicated the little huddle of morbid sight-seers. ‘On second thoughts, find out if any of them saw anything, then get rid of them. I’ll see you inside.’
Romney crossed the windswept, oil-stained forecourt and entered the garage shop. A uniformed officer stood just inside the door taking advantage of the overhead heater. Romney didn’t begrudge him that. It was bloody cold out. The DI nodded in his direction. A scene of crime officer in full body suit, mask and shower cap was busy behind the counter: dusting, collecting, recording.
‘Where’s the rest of the circus?’ said Romney.
The constable pointed towards a door hidden behind a rack of crisps. ‘Through the back, sir.’
Romney wandered through to find himself in a white-tiled room about the size of his second bedroom. Two more anonymous SOCOs were dividing their attention between the floor and the small wooden table that, judging by its appearance, must have had a lot of stories to tell. None, however, would be more horrific than what had taken place on its surface that night. A third SOCO was flitting around photographing. The flash exploded intermittently in the miserably lit and windowless space. There was a smell of festering bins and stale cigarettes.
Romney noticed and counted four plastic strips lying on the floor beneath the table. They looked like electrical cable ties, only bigger than any he had seen before.
Detective Constable Grimes appeared at his elbow.
Grimes had been working out of Dover police station longer than Romney by several years. A time server who, despite his apparent apathy for most things, his weight problem, and his disgusting eating habits, was an experienced and capable officer.
‘Significant?’ said Romney, nodding to where one of the SOCOs was bagging and tagging the plastic strips.
‘They are what the attacker used to restrain the woman. Wrists and ankles bound to the table legs with her spread-eagled face down on the surface.’
‘Christ almighty.’ Romney experienced a chill ripple of something nasty wash down his spine at the image his imagination conjured up.
For a long moment neither of them spoke. They watched the SOCOs going about their business lifting possible samples with swabs and sticky tape, bagging them and carefully recording on the labels.
Romney said, ‘How old is she?’
‘Late twenties, early thirties. They’re electrical cable ties. Heavy duty for heavier gauge commercial wiring.
‘Which suggests what to you?’
‘That he came prepared to tie people up. It wasn’t a spur of the moment decision.’
‘The rape or the robbery?’
‘Either way, he’s no opportunist, unless they were just lying around, of course.’
‘It’s possible. Check that as soon as you can.’
‘Won’t know until we can speak to the lad who was knocked out. No reason to suggest there would be though if you ask me. Not in an out of the way dump like this.’ Romney nodded his agreement. ‘It gets worse, gov.’ Romney turned his gaze on Grimes. ‘The boyfriend – the one who called us – is Simon Avery.’
Romney blew out his cheeks. ‘Where is he?’
‘Down at the nick.’
‘Didn’t take too kindly to being told he wasn’t allowed in. He got a bit physical with one of the uniforms. They had no choice but to arrest him and take him in.’
As they stood, each with his own professional thoughts, one of the SOCOs kneeling down under the table came up with a thin red strip of plastic held in tweezers. Carefully, it was dropped into a bag. It was only when the officer spoke that Romney realised she was a woman. ‘Interesting.’
‘What is?’ said Romney.
‘Looks like the top off a condom packet.’
‘What’s so interesting about that?’ said Grimes.
Behind him, Marsh said, ‘It’s unusual for a rapist to use a condom.’
‘If it is the top off a condom packet,’ said Romney, ‘and if it was used by the rapist. Let’s not jump the gun. Must get pretty boring working the late shift here.’ The distasteful comment hung in the air between them – something vulgar to mix with the putrid stench of the bin and the lingering foul ghost of the depraved event that had taken place there. ‘Let me know if you find the rest of whatever it’s from.’ Romney turned and walked back into the shop. ‘What news of the bloke? What’s his name again?’
‘Carl Park, sir,’ said Marsh, following him out. ‘The paramedics are insisting they take him to hospital for x-rays. He took a hard knock on the head. Thought I’d speak to you before we let him go.’
‘Right. Anything from that lot by the gate?’
‘Let’s have a quick word with our Mr Park then.’
They strode out through the automatic front doors and across to the ambulance. The chill wind played around their clothing seeking out openings in which to plunge and shock. Romney rapped on the back doors, and a gloved paramedic stuck his face out.
‘Detective Inspector Romney come to make a house call on Mr Park if he’s in a fit state?’ The DI didn’t wait for reply. Grabbing the handle, he pulled himself up into the rear. Marsh followed.
The small space went from cosy to crowded. A green-uniformed medic was applying a swathe of bandage around the top of the head of a spotty youth who looked in his late teens. His face was white. His eyes protruded slightly. He had the expression of a frightened rabbit and the front teeth to match.
‘Carl Park?’ said Romney. The youth stared blankly back. ‘I gather they’re going to take you off for a more thorough going over. Mind if I ask you a couple of quick questions first?’
Park began to stammer something incoherent looking a mixture of bewildered and frightened.
‘I’m sure you want us to get a head-start on finding whoever did this to you and your colleague, don’t you, lad?’
‘Course I do,’ said Park, ‘but...’
‘Good lad.’ Romney cut him off and addressed the medics. ‘Sensitive stuff. Sure you understand. Give us five minutes, would you?’
They shuffled their positions – as though on a crowded dance floor – and the medics squeezed out. Romney perched on the portable bed directly opposite Park. Because of Romney’s size, their knees touched. Park edged backwards. Marsh took out her notebook and waited. Park looked intimidated, which pleased Romney. He generally found that people told the truth quicker with a little such discomfort, or at least became worse liars, and he already had a couple of awkward questions to ask the young man, although top of his list hardly seemed worth the bother once he’d clapped eyes on him.