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Authors: Roger Silverwood

Tags: #Fiction, #Traditional British, #Crime, #Mystery & Detective, #General

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BOOK: Shrine to Murder
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The
young man looked up. ‘I do,’ Ronnie said. ‘I start at 8.30, but I always get there by 8.20. She makes me go early.’

`Well,
I don’t want you to be late, that’s all,’ she said. ‘It’s the early bird that catches the worm. You should be grateful.’

Angel
sniffed. ‘What happened this morning?’


The usual,’ Ronnie said. ‘I got there about twenty past eight and sat on the step and waited.’


Then what happened?’


Ingrid came and opened up, like always, and I put my bike in the back, took the shutters down, put the kettle on like I always do.’


Then what happened?’


She gave me two pounds and twenty-five pence and sent me out to
The
Lunch
Box
to get her a sandwich. It’s just round the corner.’


Does she always do that?’


Only when she doesn’t bring her own.’

Angel
pursed his lips. He hadn’t heard of the place. ‘How long did it take you to fetch the sandwich, Ronnie?’


I ran there and back, but she had to make them up specially - prawn and tomato.’


Five minutes? Ten minutes?’


Ten minutes, I expect. I was as quick as I could run.’

Mrs
Striker said, ‘It wouldn’t be long. He always runs everywhere, don’t you Ronnie?’


Yes,’ Ronnie said.


Yes, I’m sure,’ Angel said. ‘Then what happened?’


I went straight through the front shop into the back room,’ Ronnie said. ‘The shop door was propped open with a brick.’


Was it usually propped open like that?’


Yes. In the summer and good weather. I usually prop it

open.


And what did you see?’

Ronnie
’s face turned from a grey colour to a sweaty red.

His
eyes looked straight ahead but he didn’t seem to be looking at anything. He didn’t speak.


Yes, Ronnie?’ Angel said. ‘What happened?’


Ingrid was on the floor by the table and Jesus was kneeling down in a red cloud praying over her.’

Angel
’s jaw dropped.


What did you do?’

‘I
t was amazing.’


Yes, Ronnie, then what happened?’


I knew I shouldn’t be watching. It was a private moment. He was giving her the last rites so I knew she must be dying. I didn’t want to see that. I came out and I ran back home.’


That’s right, Inspector,’ Mrs Striker said. ‘He arrived home at about nine o’clock. He was in a state, poor lad.’

Angel
rubbed his neck and chin. ‘What did Jesus look like, Ronnie.’

He
stared at Angel for a moment then smiled knowingly.


Everybody
knows what Jesus looks like.’


Ronnie!’ Mrs Striker said. ‘Don’t be rude. Tell the inspector exactly what you told me.’


I’m not being rude. Well, he wore…like a long white robe. And sandals.’


Anything else? Anything on his head?’


He had long hair.’


What colour?’


Brown, I think. It was dark, anyway.’


Did he have a halo?’

The
pupils of Ronnie’s eyes slid to the left and then the right. ‘I don’t know about that,’ he said.


Does that mean no, Ronnie?’


I can’t remember, Inspector.’


Did he have a beard?’


I didn’t see his face, but I expect so. He would have, wouldn’t he?’


I don’t know. I didn’t see him.
You
saw him. Are you sure it
was
Jesus, Ronnie? Could it have been a saint or somebody else?’


No. It was Jesus. He held a star in his hand. It shone so brightly I had to close my eyes.’


A star?’ Angel shook his head. This was getting out of hand. ‘What sort of a star?’

Ronnie
frowned. ‘I don’t know. I think he was polishing it on his cloak.’


What colour was it, Ronnie?’

‘I
don’t know. It was bright. It blinded you. It was wonderful.’


Was it silver?’

Ronnie
nodded.


And what were you wearing at the time?’ Angel said.


My jeans, T-shirt and trainers.’


I shall want to borrow those, Ronnie.’

He
looked at his mother.


Yes. Yes. That’s all right.’ Mrs Striker said. ‘The inspector can borrow them.’

Ronnie
pulled a face. ‘I shall want my trainers, Mother.’


It won’t be for long,’ Angel said.

Ronnie
looked down at the black polished leather shoes and stamped on the floor several times. ‘I can’t get round in these shoes. I told you. They’re too heavy. I can’t run in them.’


Of course you can,’ Mrs Striker said. ‘The inspector needs to examine your clothes. Let’s have no more argument about it.’

Ronnie
wriggled irritably in the chair then went back to looking at his fingers.

Angel
licked his lips. He wanted to finish this interview quickly.


We’re nearly done, Ronnie. Just two more questions, then you can have a look at the handcuffs.’

Ronnie
looked up.

Angel
nodded reassuringly.

Ronnie
began to peel bits of loose skin from around his fingernails.


You said this all happened in a cloud…a
red
cloud?’Angel said.

Ronnie
looked up again. His eyes glazed over. Then he said, ‘Yes, Inspector. It was all round the Lord everywhere. It was wonderful.’

Angel
pursed his lips. ‘And what colour red was it?’

Ronnie
screwed up his face. ‘Just red. Ordinary red.’

Angel
said. ‘There are lots of reds.’

Ronnie
shook his head.

Angel
then opened the desk drawer and rummaged around. He found an old stick of sealing-wax. ‘That’s
one
red,’ he said. ‘Was the cloud that colour?’

Ronnie
put his hand to his chin and rubbed it.

Angel
pointed to the tiles on the office floor. ‘Those tiles. There’s another red.’

Ronnie
looked down at the floor, and shook his head.

Deep
in the drawer, Angel found a typewriter ribbon he had had for years. It was unused. He hadn’t had the heart to throw it away.


What about that?’

Ronnie
looked from one to the other, his lips, nose and forehead twitching uncertainly.

Angel
said: ‘Just a minute.’

Then
he quickly rattled through the morass of pens, pencils and paperclips and other stuff in the drawer and found an unopened packet of white blotting-paper which he opened and put on the desk top. Then he took out a very old razor blade and slammed the drawer shut. The blade was blunt from years of sharpening pencils and other jobs he had found to do with it, and was far from hygienic, but he made a slight cut on the little finger of his left hand, squeezed the finger and applied it to the blotting-paper. A small spot of blood quickly spread to the diameter of a pea. He held the paper up to Ronnie and said, ‘Was it
that
red?’

Ronnie
nodded. ‘Yes, Inspector.
That
was the red.’

 

Chapter Five

 

Ronnie Striker hadn’t seemed guilty of any wrong doing, so Angel had sent him and his mother home in a marked car, at least for the time being. He had watched Ronnie jump up and down and clap his hands at the prospect. Angel had also sent a SOCO officer with a sterile bag to collect Ronnie’s jeans, T-shirt and trainers for examination.

Angel
was still puzzling over the extraordinary evidence Ronnie Striker had given him. He had recorded the interview and played the tape back on the miniature personal recording machine he had concealed under a letter on his desk. It could not be used as evidence, but it saved time trying to remember and write down all the fine points of Ronnie Striker’s actual words. It needed some evaluating and understanding.

He
rubbed his chin.

There
were still a few urgent details to be attended to before he could leave for home. He looked at his watch. It was five minutes to five.

He
reached out for the phone. ‘Ahmed, I want you to pass the word that there will be a case meeting in the CID briefing room at 08.30 hours tomorrow morning. I want all the team there.’


Right, sir.’


And I still haven’t seen DS Crisp, you know.’


He’s here now, sir,’ Ahmed said.

Angel
felt anger rise in his chest. ‘Well tell him I want him in here.’ He said and he banged the phone on to its cradle.

A
few moments later, there was a knock at the door. ‘Come in,’ Angel roared.

It
was Crisp. ‘You wanted me, sir?’

Angel
looked up. His jaw muscles tightened. ‘This morning I wanted you. At this time, I am not so sure. Where the hell have you been? You are beginning to show me how easy it is to manage without you.’

Crisp
looked closely into Angel’s face, trying to judge how upset he was. Crisp reckoned he was pretty angry. He had to think quickly.


Sorry, sir. Been pretty well tied up. Mrs Krill
didn

t
go to see her daughter, you see. I have been trying to find out exactly where she
did
go.’


What
?’ Angel yelled. ‘Why didn’t you answer your mobile?’


Didn’t hear it, sir. Perhaps I was in a bad reception area. There are lots of tricky places like that in Sheffield.’

Angel
didn’t believe him but he did want to know about Kathleen Krill. ‘Where was she Saturday night through to Sunday morning?’


The time of her father’s murder? I don’t know yet, sir.’

Angel
clenched his hands. ‘When you find out, let me know. And when you’re on duty
keep
that
mobile
switched
on
.’


Oh yes, sir.’


But before you get back to that, I have a little job for you.’ He told him about the murder of Ingrid Underwood, the day’s events and Ronnie Striker’s unusual story. ‘I simply want you to find the sandwich shop called
The
Lunch
Box
, it’s round the corner from 221 Bradford Road. Check out whether the lad is telling the truth, that’s all. Phone me on my mobile anytime tonight. I won’t be getting home for a little while. And I want to see you in the CID briefing room here tomorrow morning at 8.30 sharp.’


Right, sir.’

Crisp
dashed off.

Angel
reached out for the phone. He wanted to speak to his opposite number in the uniformed division, Inspector Haydn Asquith before he finished his shift.


Yes, Michael, what can I do for you?’


I need high-profile, twenty-four-hour cover on a murdered woman’s house, Haydn. She was murdered in her shop this morning. I haven’t a lead or a motive yet. There’s possibly evidence in the house. SOCO will do a thorough search tomorrow. Understand she has family somewhere, but we haven’t had the opportunity to follow that up. I was going along there now to see for myself. The address is 22 Park Road.’


Leave it with me, Michael,’ Asquith said. ‘If anybody’s been there or there’s anything untoward, I’ll get the lad to ring you on your mobile, if you like?’

Angel
thanked him. He closed the phone, put it in his pocket, then he shuffled together the files and correspondence on his desk and shoved them into the middle drawer. He stood up and made for the door. Somebody knocked on it as he pulled it open. It was pretty DS Carter. They were both surprised.


Find anything out?’ Angel said.


Nobody noticed anything, sir,’ she said, ‘except the man who has the bicycle shop right opposite, Carl Young.’

Angel
sighed. ‘I’ve already spoken to him at some length.’

Carter
said, ‘He said that Ronnie Striker was already sitting on the shop step when he arrived just before 8.30. He said that Ingrid arrived about a minute after he did.’


He’s certainly very interested in Ingrid Underwood’s business.’


I’d say he’s got the hots for her,’ she said with a smile.

Angel
didn’t smile. ‘Aye, but did he see any
other
activity around the shop?’


No sir. He said he was busy with a customer just after that.’


So he didn’t see Ronnie leave to fetch a sandwich, a man dressed like Jesus arrive, Ronnie return then run off, then the man dressed like Jesus leave and Miss Jubb, who found the body, arrive?’


No, sir.’

He
sniffed. ‘Well, he missed a helluva lot, didn’t he?’


He said that he saw the marked car arrive at about 8.50.’ 



That was pretty observant of him. A blind man on a galloping horse can see a police car half a mile away.’

Carter
didn’t know what to say.


You asked down the road, didn’t you?’ Angel said. ‘All the shops and offices and any place that had a direct line of sight of Ingrid Underwood’s shop door?’


Absolutely every one of them, sir.’

He
wasn’t pleased.

The
phone rang. He snatched it up. It was Dr Mac.


The woman was stabbed in the aorta, Michael. And a vicious wound it is. Made by the same dagger that was used to murder Luke Redman. I am afraid you have a serial killer on your hands.’

Angel
took the news as confirmation of what he had already guessed. ‘Aye,’ he said. The worry is that if my understanding of the messages on the mirrors are to be understood, the murderer has said that there are now four more to die.’


He’s out of his mind,’ Mac said, ‘a lunatic. His MO, repetition of a theme, is bound to give him away.’


How many of the four will he be successful in murdering before we catch him?’


Well, you needn’t spend any time looking for a laurel leaf, Michael.’

Angel
blinked. ‘Why?’


Found one. It was tucked in the flap of her blouse.’

Angel
swallowed.

Mac
said, ‘Speak to you tomorrow.’


Aye. Thank you, Mac. Goodnight.’

He
replaced the phone and looked up at Carter. ‘That was Mac. Confirmation - if we had needed it - that we are looking for a serial killer.’

Carter
’s eyebrows shot up. She sucked in air as fast as a Maclaren.

*

Angel was pleased to be arriving home.

He
drove the car into the garage, locked the door and made his way up the garden path. He looked at his watch. It was a quarter to seven. He usually arrived a few minutes past five. Mary would be waiting for him and she wouldn’t be pleased. He knew he wasn’t going to win a popularity contest.

He
unlocked the back door as usual and went in.

Mary
glared at him from the sitting room door and followed him through the kitchen to the hall wardrobe, her face as straight as a gun barrel.


What time do you call this?’ she said.


Yes, love. I know I’m late,’ he said as he took his coat off and put it on a coathanger. ‘I’m sorry.’


Dinner’s ruined. I don’t know what I am going to give you. Whatever’s happened?’


It doesn’t matter. I’ll have…anything.’

She
looked at him and stiffened. ‘You won’t have
anything
. You’ll have a proper cooked meal, like all normal good-living people. What an outrageous thing to say, “I’ll have anything.” As if I would let you have any old thing that was…that was hanging around.’


A corned beef sandwich would be fine,’ he said shuffling into the sitting room.


I haven’t got any corned beef, and I wouldn’t dream of giving you a sandwich for your main meal,’ she said. Then she looked up as if inspired. ‘Ah. I’ve got some eggs,’ she said and rushed away into the kitchen.

Angel
went to the end of sideboard and looked for the morning’s post. That’s where it was usually put, but there was nothing there.


Any post?’ he called.


Nothing for you.’

He
pulled a face then nodded. At least, no post meant there were no bills.

He
meandered through into the kitchen. Mary was busy cracking eggs into a bowl. He opened the fridge, took out a bottle of German beer, knocked off the cap, poured it into a glass, made his way to the sitting room, sat down in his favourite chair, kicked of his shoes, loosened his tie, unfastened his top button and switched on the TV. As the set was warming up he heard Mary call out.


Are you hungry?’


Not really.’


You’d better be,’ she said, trying to sound threatening. His mobile phone rang. He fumbled around in his pocket for it.

Mary
also heard the ring, groaned and muttered something.

Angel
looked at the LCD. He saw that it was Crisp. ‘Yes?’ he said as he sat down in his favourite chair.


I found the sandwich shop,
The
Lunch
Box
, sir. Ronnie Striker
did
go there this morning before nine. The woman who owns it said that she was not sure of the exact time. He ordered a sandwich that she prepared fresh. It took her only two minutes. And she understood that it was for Mrs Underwood. That’s about it.’


Did she say if he seemed agitated…did he behave any differently from normal, in any way?’


No, sir. He wasn’t a talker. Didn’t have any social chitchat. She knew
that
. So she didn’t try. She said that she knew that he was…that there was something wrong with him.’

Angel
’s jaw muscles tightened. He squeezed the phone and put it closer to his mouth. ‘The only thing that’s wrong with the lad is that he has learning difficulties and has the mental age of a twelve-year-old. He’s not…he’s not
mad
.’


I think she thought with me checking up on him that we had him down as a possible suspect. That’s all.’


Well, maybe she’s wrong. Thank you, lad. Let’s leave it there. Goodnight.’

He
closed the phone. It rang again.

There
were more groans from the kitchen. ‘Don’t be long on that thing,’ she called. ‘I’ll be bringing your tea in shortly.’

Angel
pressed the button. It was Police Constable Weightman. ‘Sorry to bother you, sir, but I was instructed to give you a bell about the security of 22 Park Road.’


Yes, John.’


Seems all right, sir. Nobody here. No broken windows. Curtains open. No sign of a break in.’


Right, John. Thank you. I hope you have a peaceful night.’


Thank you, sir. Goodnight.’

He
pocketed the phone as Mary appeared with a plate of scrambled eggs, toast and cutlery.

Neither
spoke as they watched the news on the television. After the weather forecast, Mary found the TV remote and pressed a button. The screen went black.

BOOK: Shrine to Murder
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