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Authors: Gerald Hammond

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BOOK: The Unkindest Cut
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‘I don't suppose he could get the address from City Cabs anyway,' Marie said.

‘Leave this to me.' Producing her own mobile phone, Jane found that Honeypot's number was still programmed into it. She called the office and asked for Superintendent Potterton's extension. ‘Tell her that Jane Highsmith is calling.'

After only a few seconds, Honeypot came on the line. ‘Jane? How are you doing? But you're not Jane Highsmith now, are you? You're Jane Fox. I've been seeing your photograph in the papers.'

Jane ground her teeth. ‘Will nobody ever allow me to forget the show that I made of myself? I was dealing with an injured puppy and it sprayed blood all over my wedding dress. Anyway, more to the point, I'm in Edinburgh just at the moment. Ian Fellowes invited me to find a witness who did a bunk so I'm here with one of his female officers. We were going to phone you as soon as we could count on you being at your desk.'

‘In other words, you want help.' Honeypot was her usual perceptive self.

‘You read me like a book. This girl we're after seems to have called on her cousin briefly and then phoned somebody else and called a taxi. We could hardly dash around your patch interrogating people,' Jane said in tones of virtue. She had her fingers crossed. ‘And they probably wouldn't tell us anything anyway.'

‘All right,' said Honeypot. ‘You don't fool me for a moment, but I still owe you a favour. Give me all the relevant phone numbers and your own mobile numbers and I'll get somebody on to it straight away. I have a cadet who needs a little practice in kicking bums. Keep your phones switched on.'

They disconnected. Marie's eyes were popping. ‘It's not what you know, it's who you know,' Jane said complacently. ‘When she gets back to us, you can take over. Then some day you'll be able to remind her who you are. These contacts can count in your favour later.'

There was an open café on a street corner and they went in for a second breakfast. Then they went back and sat in the car. ‘We ought to go back to Newton Lauder,' Marie said. ‘These things take forever, especially at a weekend, and I'm sure Mr Fellowes has something useful for me to do.'

‘You're probably doing something much more useful here,' Jane said. As she spoke her mobile phone played its little tune. She answered the call, stated the name of the café they were sitting outside, then smiled and expressed great enthusiasm and words of thanks before replacing the phone back in her handbag.

Marie swallowed nervously before asking what was going on. Jane smiled enigmatically but remained silent as she looked out of the car window.

A minute later she exclaimed, ‘Ahhhh there she is,' before leaping out of the car and rushing over to a woman who was in the process of elegantly unfolding long, shapely legs out of a sleek, top-of-the-range Mercedes. ‘Honeypot, how are you? So good of you to come in person,' Jane was saying to the very beautiful sophisticated woman who was now walking with Jane towards the car where Marie was sitting transfixed by the scene unfolding in front of her.

As they approached the little car, Marie forced herself out of her paralysis and nervously came out of the car to greet them. Marie had to stop herself from curtsying as if she was meeting royalty, as the superintendent was after all the most important policewoman or policeman that Marie was ever likely to meet, let alone talk to.

‘So sorry I couldn't make it to the wedding,' Honeypot was saying, ‘but we had a rather important murder enquiry come up and I just couldn't get away. Read all about it though – and saw some photos. Nice dress,' she added with a teasing smile and a friendly punch of Jane's arm.

‘Yes, yes, very funny,' Jane replied, before getting down to the business at hand as she'd really had enough teasing on that particular subject to last a lifetime – even from old friends she was asking favours of. ‘So, any news on our disappearing witness?'

‘Ahhh yes, back to the nitty gritty.' Honeypot almost looked disappointed having to get back to police work. ‘Well, my hard-working cadet managed to find out for us that a certain Miss Maple took a taxi to the bus depot in St Andrews Square and caught the last coach to Aberdeen. We then found the coach driver – we were lucky, the driver had brought the same coach back to Edinburgh this morning and was about to go home. My wonderful cadet had managed to get hold of this photograph of your witness Helen Maple taken at your wedding, Jane.' Again, Honeypot had the beginnings of a teasing smile playing around her mouth as she showed them the photograph.

Jane was horrified to recognize herself in the background of the picture, skimpy dress and all.

‘Anyway, our coach driver remembered Helen and, indeed, my cadet suspected that he had rather fancied her, which is wonderfully helpful as he then remembers her disembarking at the Kinross Services. And that, I'm afraid, is as far as my information goes.' Honeypot finished with a flourish, aware that she'd gone above the call of duty – and probably friendship too – in taking so much time to pass on the information herself.

Jane told her as much when she thanked her again for coming to see her personally.

‘Oh, it's nothing,' Honeypot replied. ‘I had to see the blushing bride in person at some point, now didn't I? And to wish you another congratulations, I've just noticed …'

This time Jane didn't begrudge Honeypot her teasing smile and they embraced before saying a final goodbye.

Back in the car, Marie exhaled and exclaimed a mere, ‘Wow!' She collected herself before adding, ‘When Honeypot, sorry Superintendent Potterton, shook my hand goodbye she asked me if you'd told me about the well incident yet …? What does she mean?' Marie was genuinely confused, thinking there was some important fact that she was meant to have picked up about the case but failed to do so.

‘Oh for goodness' sake,' Jane exclaimed, annoyed again by Honeypot's persistent teasing. ‘When I was young my sister's boyfriend fell into a well. I was the only person small enough to be lowered down to attach a rope to him. Big deal!'

‘Oh yes,' Marie said as recognition dawned. ‘I remember the fuss on the tele now. It
was
a big deal.'

To change the subject, Jane brought them back to their current situation. ‘I can do Kinross in an hour,' she said. ‘Shall we go for it?'

‘We'd be going off our patch. I'll speak to the DI.' Marie, back in work mode, made a call and this time was lucky and got through to Ian.

‘You've done very well,' Ian said, ‘with a little help from Honeypot. Yes, go to Kinross and then phone me again. I'll speak to Fife and make sure that it's all right.'

‘Protocol, protocol,' Marie sighed as she put away her phone. The word sat oddly on her Highland lilt. ‘Tell me more about going down the well.'

Jane raised her eyebrows and realized that as they were about to embark on a fairly long car journey her refusal to go into detail of that historic event would have to be rather short-lived if they were to have a remotely pleasant expedition.

SIXTEEN

T
raffic remained light. Once they were clear of Edinburgh they devoured the motorway in good style and paused at Kinross Services for Marie to use the official credit card to fill Jane's tank. She then phoned Ian Fellowes again. Jane had two cups of coffee waiting. ‘We're to wait here,' Marie said. ‘Somebody from the Fifers will come and join us.'

They chatted over their coffee – not very good coffee as Jane remarked – and watched the traffic come and go. Most vehicles entering the services filled up with fuel and they had small bets as to which ones would park and come inside for a snack and, at long odds, which would be their contact. They had each been wrong several times when a man finally brought another coffee to their table. He was, he said, Detective Sergeant Lovelace. He was small for a policeman and old for a sergeant but he had a ready smile.

‘How did you recognize us?' Marie asked.

‘Lothian and Borders faxed a photograph through.'

‘Head and shoulders, I hope,' said Jane. As far as she was aware there were very few recent photographs of her in circulation other than those from her recent wedding.

The sergeant produced his smile. ‘The full monty,' he said. Jane's face felt hot. The sergeant sensed her discomfort and tactfully got back to the business at hand. ‘It only took three phone calls. Your witness booked into a bed and breakfast in Kinross. But that landlady can't be doing with her overnighters hanging around all day, so by ten o'clock out they go and after six they can come back in again. Your witness probably has friends or relations in the town that she plans to spend the day with. Your best course of action would be to give us the facts and then get back to Newton Lauder and leave us to get a statement from her.'

Jane was getting tired of the sergeant who was revealing a rather patronizing manner. ‘I'm afraid that wouldn't do,' she said. She seemed to be saying what everybody had been telling each other for days. ‘The witness is very nervous and has already had a severe shock, which is why she upped and ran. I'm not police, but I was the first victim of Knifeman and I rescued her when she was the latest. She trusts me, so I was sent along for reassurance. There's something worrying her; we don't know what it is but she'll have to be coaxed, and not by strange cops.'

‘I'm not really all that strange.' Lovelace tried to sound hurt. ‘but point taken. If you follow me I'll point out the bed and breakfast and then you're on your own for the day. If you have a problem … Give me your mobile.'

He programmed his own number into Marie's mobile and led them into the car park. His car was a large but old Jaguar that they had noticed but dismissed on its arrival. They followed the big boot across the motorway and down into Kinross. The sun had come out and the old town was looking its best. The Jaguar paused outside a stone house with a glaring bed and breakfast sign at the gate while an arm emerged and pointed; then the big car accelerated away.

‘I think we can trust them to have made sure that she isn't still hiding inside,' Marie said. ‘Or might she have told the landlady a sob story?'

Jane weighed up her judgement of Helen's character. ‘She might, but it's unlikely. If we go in asking questions we could do more harm than good. It's not a big town. Let's start looking in the sort of places where a single girl might pass the time.'

Three cafes and a souvenir shop later Jane said, ‘Thar she blows!' The expression might be unfamiliar to a Western Highlander so she added, ‘There she is, in the red coat. We need somewhere private to talk so I'll fetch the car. You keep an eye on her.' She fetched the car from where it had been parked outside the Premier hotel. She could imagine returning to find both ladies vanished, but when she stopped at the kerb she received a nod and an upraised thumb from Marie, who was backed round from the shop door and leaning comfortably against a railing. Jane gave Marie the car keys and entered the shop.

Helen was browsing through a rack of magazines. When Jane tapped her arm she jumped and turned white. ‘We need to talk,' Jane said. ‘But not here. Come out.' Helen followed on rubber knees.

Marie had established herself in the front passenger seat of Jane's car. Jane and Helen settled in the cramped rear seats. Jane was well aware that she had only been sent along for reassurance but Marie seemed uncertain how to open the questioning, so Jane took charge.

‘Why did you run away?' Jane asked.

Helen shook her head and pinched her lips together, then opened them to whisper, ‘I can't tell you.'

That seemed to be a pretty comprehensive refusal to speak out. ‘Can't or won't?' Jane asked.

‘Both.'

Marie had produced one of the small recorders beloved of the modern, high-tech officer and stood it on the dashboard. She opened her mouth but closed it again without speaking. Jane had already slipped her own microwave reader out of a deep pocket, switched it on and swiped it over Helen's back. She also passed it over Marie's back for luck and then wondered what she would have done if it had registered positive.

Jane took a deep breath. ‘Helen, I've dug you out of trouble once but I don't want to have to do it again. In fact, I
won't
do it again. I have things to do, a business to run and –' she remembered suddenly – ‘a husband to look after. You're heading straight back into trouble but this time you're doing it on purpose and if that's the way you want it …'

Helen was shaking her head so that tears hopped down her cheeks. ‘I never wanted any of this.'

Jane had to keep talking but she decided that her words were unimportant compared to a soothing tone of voice. ‘But you're digging yourself deep into it. Can't you see what you're doing? I think I know for a fact that you're not Knifeman – never mind how I know – so you've got to be messing around on behalf of somebody else. Who is it? Relative? Boyfriend?' Helen's head-shaking was becoming frantic but Jane went on mercilessly. ‘Can't you see how it's going to look? If a court doesn't think that you were Knifeman, probably with an accessory for days when you were known to be elsewhere, it will certainly believe that you're covering up for your nearest and dearest. When the police get hold of Knifeman, as they certainly will, the fact that you tried to avoid incriminating him or her will look very bad.' Jane was close to running out of arguments. ‘Flight is evidence of guilt so by running away—'

To Jane's great relief, Helen broke down. ‘I never wanted to be involved and I didn't want him to do it at all. We c-could have been happy as we were. I told him and told him that I couldn't do more for him than I was already doing even if we were set up together but he wanted us to be properly married with our own house, and he couldn't face the time it would take saving for a deposit as a first-time buyer. And it was all my fault because I said, joking, that if he'd give me that necklace out of the window I'd marry him straight away and he took me seriously and started picking up on the joke and saying that we could do it if he pretended to be Knifeman and I was horrified …' Helen paused to draw a deep, shuddering breath. ‘I told him not to be so damn silly and I said that there was nowhere I could wear it if we came by it that way but he was talking less and less as if it was a joke and more as if it was a real plan. And then he walked into the shop with a knife and a length of clothesline and he said that he'd rather have me dead than walking around not his and he put the knife to my throat and made me lie down behind the counter.' Helen's voice was racked by distress but a note of pride was creeping in. It was not given to every woman to be so much desired …

BOOK: The Unkindest Cut
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