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Authors: Gerald Hammond

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BOOK: The Unkindest Cut
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Ian nodded. Two hundred pounds in notes would be a reasonable guess, with credit cards in such general use for the purchase of petrol and diesel. ‘Now tell me exactly what happened.'

Young Dodd closed his eyes in thought for a few seconds. ‘I'd just taken twenty quid on Mastercard from Quent Williamson for that Morgan of his and he'd driven off. And old Mr Mowatt had just filled his can with lead-free for his mower and two-stroke for his strimmer. He paid in cash. I gave him change and a receipt and he'd just walked out the door when this chiel walks in – must've been waiting outside to catch me alone. He had his toorey bonnet pulled down over his gizz and holes cut for his een.' Ian opened his mouth but Dodd answered his question before it could be asked. ‘In fitba colours it was. He had a bloody great knife, just like the one my mam chops up the veggies with, and he jouked under the flap and came behind the counter, which isna' allowed, and next I knew his knife was at my throat. He telled me to open the till. So I opened the bloody till. Whit else would I dae?'

‘I'd have done the same,' Ian reassured him. ‘Tell me about his voice.'

‘Hoarse. Sort of whispery.'

‘Man or woman?'

‘It was a bloke for sure. Quinies don't hold up filling stations with knives.'

‘But from the voice alone could you be sure that it was a man?'

Again Dodd paused for thought. (Ian was patient. He said sometimes that he preferred a witness who took time to think about what he was going to say to one who blurted out a quick reply and was then too stubborn to amend it.) ‘Not just from the voice, but a man has a different shape to his chest and bum and walks different.' Dodd got up from his chair. ‘See, a woman walks like this …' Showing a rare talent for mime, Dodd walked around what vacant floor space the room had. He had the tilt of the hips and the placing of the feet to perfection. Jane decided to monitor her own walk and prevent her bottom from swaying so much.

‘So you're sure that it was a man?' Ian said. ‘Or a skilled actress?'

Dodd resumed his seat. ‘How d'you mean?'

‘Could it have been a woman who could walk like a man just as cleverly as you can imitate a woman's walk?'

It was the right tack. Dodd flushed with pleasure at the compliment to his acting ability but it still got them no further. ‘Don't know, do I?'

‘Think about it and tell me if and when you make up your mind. What sort of size and build?'

‘About my height but a bit skinnier.'

‘And how was he dressed?'

‘Jeans. Plain white T-shirt, no printing on it. It was spotted with something but not a colour. The spots looked grey-like. Could've been paint or some kind of dirt. Oil, maybe. White trainers, new-looking. Digital Timex watch with expanding bracelet, all chrome. Sorry, best I can do.'

‘You've done very well,' Ian said. ‘Better than Miss Highsmith. Mrs Fox, I should say.'

‘Hang on, I'm not finished,' Dodd added, now confident and on a roll. ‘There was a smell but I dunno what of.'

Ian switched his eyes to Jane. ‘Well?'

‘I didn't notice any odour. I told you so.'

Young Mr Dodd grinned suddenly, showing two gaps where teeth should have been. ‘Hey! He done you too?'

‘I'm afraid so. He didn't get much money,' Jane said. ‘I was wondering, though. Were his hands roughened by hard work? Or soft? Were they stained at all?'

‘Didn't look at his hands.'

‘Nor did I. He had gloves on with me. Maybe with you too? Could you make a guess as to what shape of head he had?' Dodd looked baffled. ‘Listen,' Jane said. ‘Some people have a round sort of head like a football. Some have a pointy sort of head, not very wide but …' Jane came to a halt while she tried to conjur up the right words.

‘Streamlined like?'

It came to Jane that a boy like Dodd, with a definite interest in motorbikes, might well see heads in that strange way. ‘Yes, just like that.'

‘No, he wasn't like that. More sort of up-and-down.'

Jane managed to extract a meaning from the words. ‘Like a chimney-pot or a top hat, you mean? High but not going back much at the back and with not too big a nose? Like the minister at the Old Kirk?'

‘Don't say any more just now,' Ian interrupted them. ‘We don't want to put ideas into his head. What did you think, yourself?' Ian looked pointedly at Jane, his expression expectant.

‘I wasn't looking at his head, I was watching the knife and wondering if I dared give him a shot of anaesthetic. And then I went and grabbed the wrong syringe.'

‘I'll gather up some officers of around the right size and borrow some bonnets and we'll have a parade of head shapes. Thank you both very …' Ian paused and raised his eyebrows at the screen of his laptop. ‘I've got an answer already. That's quick. Phenomenal. You can both go now, but I'll want you again. Stay in touch.'

Jane walked out with young Dodd for company. ‘What was that about a syringe?' he asked.

‘I stuck the mannie with a microchip,' Jane said, ‘but don't you go telling everybody about it. Mr Fellowes wouldn't want that.'

Just as Jane was about to walk out the main door of the police station, with Dodd in tow, she was called back by a shout from down the corridor. ‘Jane, sorry Mrs Fox … can I have a quick word?' Fellowes was striding up the corridor, suit tails flapping, as he rushed to catch Jane before she left. ‘I'm sorry, can I just steal you for a few minutes more? It's very important,' Ian implored her.

‘Oh,yes, I suppose so, it's only my honeymoon for God's sake!' Jane felt she had to make Ian feel slightly guilty for demanding her presence once again on this day after her wedding. But truthfully she knew if she wasn't here at the station that she'd be doing some other chore, which would probably involve a lot more physical effort, so she was perfectly happy to put her brain to some good use in helping the investigation along.

‘That's much appreciated, thank you.' Ian showed his appreciation and lead her back down the corridor and through a plain door labelled ‘Interview Room 1'.

Inside was sitting DS Bright and another man, this one probably in his mid to late sixties, with a weather-beaten complexion and the brown leathery skin that comes with working outside most of your adult life. He also had the large and work-hardened hands to go with the impression that Jane had of him so far as a manual worker of some sort.

‘This is Mr Mowatt. He is also a witness in this investigation and I'd like to conduct a joint interview with the two of you now, in the hope that you can remind each other of any significant details.' Fellowes introduced the man to Jane and gestured to her to sit down on the other side of the table from the older man and DS Bright. After going through the legal procedure for recording an interview, Detective Fellowes was ready to begin the next round of questions.

‘Mr Mowatt, why were you at Ledbetter's garage earlier today?' Fellowes began.

‘Well, I needed to get some petrol, didn't I, for my Monday job up at Hay Lodge. There's strimming and mowing of the lawns that's got to be done early, so I was getting prepared and I hates filling up on a Sunday afternoon with all the commuters – they get on my nerves.'

‘OK, Mr Mowatt, thank you. And what did you see as you were leaving the garage shop?'

‘Well, I was just coming out the door of the shop when a person came out of nowhere and sneaked in through the door behind me. It was odd because the person had a hat pulled down very low over their head, so I couldn't see their face at all, and they were all hunched over like as if they didn't want to be recognized, which I thought was also a bit strange. It got me thinking as I was walking over to my car, so I turned round, but by then the person was almost inside the shop and all I could see was a plaster on the back of his neck. I then just thought I was being silly to suspect anything and anyway I wanted to get home in time for the beginning of the racing on TV, so I thought no more about it until you called me to say there'd been a robbery and had I noticed anything strange. Well, that's about the gist of it. Hope I've been helpful,' Mr Mowatt added.

‘You have, thank you, sir.' DS Bright answered on behalf of Inspector Fellowes who wasn't reacting and seemed instead to be in the process of mulling things over in his mind. ‘Any memory of what the person was wearing at all, sir?' DS Bright took the opportunity to get in some questions of his own.

‘Hmmm, well, jeans, like everyone does nowadays, and a white top. Oh, and old scruffy-looking trainers. I always looks at a person's shoes. That's what got me wondering about him, really. The shoes looked uncared for – made him look untrustworthy.' Mr Mowatt was pleased with this supposition of his and waited for Ian to jump on this nugget of information. But Detective Fellowes was still engrossed in thought, so Mr Mowatt sat back disappointed and had to wait.

A minute of silence later and Ian was ready to ask his next question. ‘And how do you think the culprit arrived at the petrol station, Mr Mowatt? Did you see any type of vehicle that didn't seem to belong to other people filling up?'

‘Well, there was no one else there as I left, mine was the only car in the forecourt, but I did notice a bicycle propped up against the wall, very new-looking it was too, so it could have been his, but I never saw him arrive or leave so I wouldn't like to say.'

‘OK, that's very useful, Mr Mowatt.' Fellowes thanked him and then turned to Jane, who up until this point had been wondering why she had been involved in proceedings so far. ‘Jane, sorry Mrs Fox, can you confirm any of the details that Mr Mowatt has brought to our attention? Did you see a plaster on your attacker's neck? Or a new bicycle outside your surgery?' Ian asked hopefully.

‘No, I'm afraid not. I definitely didn't notice a plaster on his neck. I suppose I never really saw my attacker from the back – only once he was leaving and by then I was so glad to see him go that I crumpled down to the floor in relief. So no, sorry. And I never noticed any bicycle. As I said to you, I heard him running off and it was definitely feet on gravel I heard, not tyres.'

‘OK, fair enough.' Ian looked disappointed again, annoyed that he was once more no further along in their investigation despite there being all these new witnesses. ‘You may both go – for real this time,' Fellowes added and smiled a thank you to Jane.

She made her escape quickly this time, preparing herself not to turn round if she heard her name being shouted down the corridor again.

SEVEN

J
ane arrived home hungry. Roland, who had lived a bachelor life for several years before meeting Jane, was pottering vaguely in the kitchen. He was perfectly capable of catering for himself but preferred to mime helplessness on the grounds that nothing was where he had put it and he had no idea what victuals they had in stock.

Jane sighed. First she phoned her own surgery answering machine but there had been no emergency calls. She still felt hard done by. She, after all, was pursuing a profession with obligations and long but fairly regular hours while her old partner but new husband was engaged in an elastic operation much of which – the cerebral part – could be pursued while carrying out some unconnected manual task. Washing up and bed-making sprang first to mind but any suggestion that he should take over such responsibilities while composing mentally his next few pages would usually bring on a well-reasoned and beautifully worded riposte to the effect that such divided interest was unworkable. Jane had admitted defeat and given up trying to encourage such domestic help from him on the understanding that any ‘manly' tasks that wanted doing were very much his domain. So far he had yet to be tested on that score.

Roland was looking out of the kitchen window at the sodden world outside when the phone rang. He'd barely answered it with the words ‘the Fox residence', when the caller obviously demanded to speak with Jane as quickly as possible and Roland obligingly obeyed.

Jane listened attentively, saying very little and wandered about the kitchen getting various bits and pieces out of pantry cupboards and fridges. At last the call was over.

‘What was all the kerfuffle about?' he asked. ‘Still your visitor with the cutlass?'

Jane had managed to begin assembling some semblance of a meal whilst on the phone, mostly composed of what had been surplus to requirements for the wedding feast. ‘Well,' Jane replied and readied herself to fill in Roland on all the details of her earlier meeting with the detective and her subsequent recent phone call, as that was who had just demanded her attention for the last ten minutes or so. ‘Fellowes asked me in earlier as the same bloke has now committed a new offence. He visited the filling station office this morning and emptied the till. Gave Hugh Dodd a hell of a fright. He got away with a lot more cash than he did from my place so maybe we'll get a little peace and quiet until he's spent it.'

‘Not if he's being blackmailed or if it was the down payment on a luxury car. Let me know if he gets arrested. I'd like a word with him. There must be a lot of valuable material going to waste.'

‘Writers!' Jane said. ‘You never shut down. Anyway, some new bits are being added to the equation, it seems. After I sat in on the interview with Hugh Dodd earlier this afternoon, Fellowes then asked me to stay on whilst he had a chat with old Mr Mowatt, who was a witness as well as he'd just finished paying for some petrol he needed for his mower just as the burglar arrived at the petrol station. Anyway, it transpires that the attacker had a plaster on the back of his neck as if covering a pluke, as he calls it – you know, a rather unpleasant spot. So keep your eyes open. Ian's asked me to mention it to you.

‘And he's asked me to check with you that whilst you were waiting anxiously for my arrival at our wedding, did you notice anybody who came in at just about the same time, somebody young, probably male, probably on a motorbike or scooter, possibly by pushbike. If pushbike, it may have been very clean and polished. Or new,' she added. This may have been the new information supplied by Mr Mowatt's witness statement, but as Jane realized, the burglar's gain from the robbery at her surgery would not have covered a new bicycle, so it was unlikely to be significant.

BOOK: The Unkindest Cut
3.76Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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