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Authors: Gerald Hammond

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BOOK: The Unkindest Cut
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‘It could be possible that they were in it together, using the puppy as a distraction to get you on your own in your surgery perhaps.' Ian again looked rather hopeful at this possibility, but moved on to his next question as he saw Jane's frown and shake of the head. ‘OK, well, if we get our hands on your assailant, would he have your DNA or the puppy's on him?'

Jane almost laughed. ‘Not a hope! I never touched him except with a fat hypodermic needle. He might have got a little of the puppy's blood on him, I suppose. Speaking of the puppy, can I have the body incinerated yet?'

Ian looked at her sharply and then shook his head. ‘Not yet. It'll prove to be a huge waste of expensive time but I'd better have the Forensics Department in Edinburgh look it over. Now tell me all about microchips.'

‘I don't know a lot about microchips,' Jane admitted. ‘Just enough to implant one – I use a simple syringe although you can get more sophisticated gadgets – and to read the number of the bar code off the reader. We then register that number and if the patient turns up, alive or dead, we can find out who was the owner at the time. I've never known anybody want it taken out again; if there's a change of ownership we only have to notify the registering office, but in this case the bandit might well want to be rid of it. If the chip was just under the skin that would be easy, but in my aggravation I jabbed it well in. I suggest that you have all doctors and surgeons warned to report if they're approached to remove a chip.'

‘Good point. We'll do that. Bright.' Ian looked over at DS Bright and nodded in acknowledgement that this was to be his job. ‘But, Jane, could
you
remove that chip from his back?' he continued.

‘Yes, I suppose I could. I put it in so I'd know roughly where to look for it. I could remove it from the same general area of a sheep or a horse so, given a patient who would accept an anaesthetic, I could take it out of a person. I would be breaking the law but I could do it.'

‘Then we'd better include all vets in the circular. Who else?'

The two men watched Jane hopefully while she thought about it. She felt as if they were waiting for her to sing or to do a conjuring trick. ‘Dentists, probably. ER nursing staff perhaps. If I think of any other profession, I'll tell you.'

‘Do that. And we'll try to keep an eye on you for your safety, though I suppose you'll be the last person he'd allow near him carrying something sharp. How close would you have to get to tell whether an animal had been microchipped?'

‘Really close. It's not as though I landed him with the sort of transponder they attach to wildlife. This is only designed to give a number close up. I don't begin to get a reading until I'm almost touching the animal. If you were thinking of a scanner that could pick up the presence of a microchipped person in a crowd …?'

‘I was.'

‘Standard equipment wouldn't do it. I brought my reader along to show you.' She opened the plastic box she'd brought with her and put on Ian's desk and drew out a neat instrument resembling an early mobile phone. ‘You should go and talk to Mr Ilwand at the TV and computer shop. He designs that sort of gear. I seem to remember that there was a gadget on the market some years ago for detecting microwaves if they were escaping from a microwave oven and endangering the cook. It had to be taken off the market because it was too sensitive. He might be able to cobble together something like that for you—'

Jane was interrupted by a knock and the entry of a young man in plain clothes and plastic gloves. He had once brought her a shorthaired pointer puppy for neutering. He turned out to be one of Ian's constables. He delivered a paper bag to Ian, gave Jane a friendly nod and departed.

‘This,' Ian said, ‘will be a selection from the rubbish swept up and emptied from the waste bins at Kempfield last night. We were lacking any starting point whatever. It seemed to me that our culprit either did or did not visit Kempfield in an attempt to establish some sort of alibi. If not, then we start with the comparatively limited number of people of suitable physique who were not present. But you said that he had stuffed a handful of your duplicates into his pockets and he would have had to get rid of them. I really couldn't see him having a little private bonfire. And as long as he was walking around with his pockets full of your credit card slips he was marked. So I had my boys bag up the rubbish collected from Kempfield, separating out and discarding obvious irrelevancies like toffee papers. A couple of beat bobbies are looking in the town's waste bins. Give me a moment for a glance at this little lot …'

From his desk drawer he took similar gloves to those the constable had been wearing and drew them on. He sniffed the bag suspiciously and then tipped it out on to his unused blotter. ‘It's a long shot. I don't suppose there will be anything,' he began, ‘but when you start with nothing—' His voice broke off abruptly. There were more paper scraps than Jane would have expected. Ian took a ballpoint pen from his pocket and turned over two of them. ‘Credit card slips!' he said. ‘No, don't touch them, they won't have been fingerprinted yet, but take a look and tell me if you issued them.'

Jane was experienced enough in the ways of the police to know that her evidence might later become important. ‘I identify these two slips as having been printed by the credit card machine in my office,' she said carefully. ‘I remember putting through both transactions. You jammy devil! But how stupid to dump that at Kempfield!'

Ian shrugged. ‘Not necessarily. He kept the money that he was after but he didn't want to be caught with anything on him as incriminating as the credit card slips so he got rid of them in the first litter bins that he came to – probably before getting rid of his gloves unless he really is stupid.' He shuffled the papers back into the bag. ‘This can go for examination and fingerprinting. So … it would seem that our knife-wielding robber came straight to Kempfield. Bright, go next door, get on the phone and invite Lucas Fraine to join me immediately. We'll see if Mr Fraine can possibly say who arrived at Kempfield and joined the wedding party just before the bride made her spectacular entry or soon afterwards. I'm sorry,' he added quickly, ‘I shouldn't pull your leg about your state of dress. You looked quite—'

He was interrupted, rather to Jane's relief, by the ringing of one of the two phones on Ian's desk. He snatched it up. ‘I thought I said no interruptions.'

The female voice was quite unflustered. ‘Yes, I know, unless there were reports of a potential knife crime, you said,' the voice insisted. ‘Then you'd want to know and that's what I've got here.'

‘I'll take the call,' Ian said.

‘I'm just putting it through,' said the voice complacently. Ian would not have been given the option of refusing it.

Ian listened, his brow growing ever angrier, to several minutes of a report in a voice so thickly accented that such words as escaped in Jane's direction were unintelligible. He grunted an acknowledgement and said, ‘Tell them to bring the boy in. And have the place locked up until we know what we're looking for.' He hung up.

‘They got him?' Jane said.

‘No such luck! Just what I was afraid of has happened – a knifepoint robbery. You know Hugh Dodd?'

‘Yes. He cuts my grass for me once a week in summer. But it couldn't be him, he's more thickset than my robber and a little taller.'

Ian frowned at her leap to an erroneous conclusion. ‘Nobody's suggesting that he's the guilty party. He was on duty at the filling station, taking petrol money. Somebody with a knife walked in and emptied the till. He isn't hurt.'

SIX

D
I Fellowes was looking at Jane thoughtfully. She was quite used to being looked at by men but she was now a respectably married lady and if he was relishing the erotic memory of her in her nightdress and bridal veil, which must surely have resembled something out of a soft porn film, then that, she thought, was quite enough of that. ‘You've finished with me?' she asked.

Ian snapped out of his reverie. ‘That's exactly what I was wondering. On the whole, because you seem to be a kingpin – or queenpin – of whatever's going on, I'll ask you to remain for the moment. You and young Dodd may help to refresh each other's memories. And you sometimes come up with helpful ideas.'

Jane switched her attention back to the identity of the robber. ‘Well here's another one,' she said. ‘At least I hope you'll find it helpful.'

‘I'm sure I will, but keep it on ice for a few minutes. Bright, get hold of Morrison. I want him to collect all the usual samples from the vet's surgery and from the filling station's office and shop, immediately. Make it clear that this is no longer his day off.' Morrison, Jane knew, was one of Ian's two constables, the one with training as a SOCO. ‘Now, Jane.'

Jane handed over the surgery key and pulled herself together. ‘Eh?' she said.

‘Your bright idea.'

‘Oh yes. First, I'd better say that I'm sorry. I told Helen Maple to clean my surgery.'

Ian did not say a rude word but Jane was in little doubt that he was thinking it from the way his frown deepened and his shoulders slumped in resignation that another aspect of this investigation was going to prove fruitless.

Jane said quickly, ‘It would seem that your wildest guess has come off. The guilty party hurried up to Kempfield, presumably in case he might have been missed if he'd failed to show up. Because GG was one of the leading spirits of the Creative Adventure Centre and because he was first and foremost a photographer, we have a thriving photography section and, perhaps because I was presenting a certain sort of picture …' She felt her face burning at the thought of so many images of her with her more intimate parts visible through diaphanous lace and found it hard to continue.

‘It's all right,' Ian said. ‘I understand.'

‘Well, the cameras were hard at work during the wedding. You could have read a newspaper by the flashes as Deborah and I walked up what I suppose we have to think of as the aisle. The darkrooms at Kempfield will be busy for the next few days or weeks, being tidied up and put back the way they belong. When you see Lucas Fraine you could suggest that he gets the photography members to print off every shot of people, along with the time of the photograph if the camera is so equipped. You could get everybody who was there to name anyone within a certain age bracket …'

Ian smiled on her and this time she was sure that it was not just that he was recalling her in her nightdress. ‘Yes,' he said, ‘I do find it helpful. But who pays for the huge volume of printing paper is something we'll have to think about. That stuff comes expensive.'

‘Cheapskate! It's grossly overpriced but most of them are using digital cameras now and you can make a perfectly good print from them on typing paper. Not exhibition quality but good enough to recognize a wedding guest.'

Ian had the grace to look ashamed. ‘I should have thought of that, but I leave that sort of thing to the boys who are trained for it. We'll put it in hand, starting with the digital users. Do me another favour. Sit quietly for a minute while I prepare a short email to Edinburgh to let my chiefs know what's afoot.'

It was a fine day. Two fine days in succession made an occasion worthy of a memorial in bronze. Jane looked out at the sunshine smiling on the town while Ian typed away at almost professional speed. They were both interrupted by the return of DS Bright accompanied by a snub-nosed, vacant-faced youth. This was Hugh Dodd, a casual worker at Ledbetter's garage and generally supposed to be a by-blow of the elder Ledbetter. Ledbetter himself made a third.

‘Here!' Ledbetter Senior said. ‘I don't know how much cash the man with the knife got hold of but there's no need to ruin my business for the rest of my day. And what about all the drivers who'll be getting stuck at the roadside?'

‘Your office and shop stay closed until we've examined them,' Ian said firmly. ‘Petrol sales can continue. Sit somebody out at the pumps with a card table and a cash box to take the money.'

‘I need young Hugh. That's his job,' Ledbetter Senior demanded.

‘You can't have him. Do it yourself,' was the detective's retort.

Ian was obviously not going to be overawed by a local businessman. Ledbetter tried a more conciliatory tone. ‘But the read-out of the amounts due is inside the shop. And so's the credit card machine.'

Ian had his own worries. ‘Then I can see you have a problem or two. Go away and solve them.'

Ledbetter, waving his arms, made a grumbling departure escorted by DS Bright. Ian called to his departing back, ‘The bank's hole-in-the-wall is only a minute's walk away. They can draw cash.' The comment was not acknowledged. Ian glared at the youth. ‘You were robbed at knifepoint. Yes?'

‘It weren't my bloody fault,' the boy whined.

‘Nobody said it was but you make me wonder. Now shut up for a minute.' There was silence while Ian added a paragraph to his email and hit a key that Jane assumed would send it. With his superiors in Edinburgh alerted he returned his attention to Hugh Dodd. ‘Now calm down and tell me exactly what happened.'

DS Bright had returned. He set the recorder to work again. Dodd avoided looking directly at it. ‘We don't open 'til ten on a Sunday morning,' he said. ‘I opened up and started taking the money. You usually get een or twa drivers early who've been waiting half the nicht. After that it goes quiet. Mr Ledbetter had emptied the till yestreen, except for a float for making change. You get the odd sale of a gallon or twa, mostly two-stroke, so you need change.'

‘What time did he empty the till?' Ian asked.

Dodd opened his mouth, closed it again and smacked himself on his forehead. ‘'Twasn't yestreen, it were the day before. Bank doesn't open on Saturday and the boss doesn't like the night safe; he's had disagreeances with the bank staff afore noo. Friday it were, just afore it closed. Yestreen was busy, I could tell when I opened up, but mostly not in coins. In notes I'd say about twa hunner.'

BOOK: The Unkindest Cut
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