Authors: Elizabeth Haynes
Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #Police Procedural, #Thrillers, #Suspense, #Women Sleuths
For Samantha Bowles, who made this book so much better
In addition to the fictional case documents found in the text, charts produced by the Major Crime analyst for the Op Nettle investigation, created using IBM’s Analyst’s Notebook software, are available in an appendix at the end of the book. Additional documents can also be viewed online at www.op-nettle.info.
Although this book is intended to simulate an authentic murder investigation, all characters, locations, and situations are fictional.
Officers currently engaged in the investigation into the murder of Polly LEUCHARS (Op NETTLE) are as follows:
Detective Chief Inspector Louisa (Lou) SMITH
—Senior Investigating Officer
Detective Inspector Andy HAMILTON
Detective Sergeant Samantha (Sam) HOLLANDS
Investigating Officers and specified investigative roles:
Detective Constable Alastair (Ali) WHITMORE
Detective Constable Leslie (Les) FINNEGAN
Detective Constable Ronald (Ron) MITCHELL
Detective Constable Jane PHELPS
—Exhibits & Disclosure Officer
Detective Constable Miranda GREGSON
—Family Liaison Officer (FLO) deployed to the MAITLAND family
Detective Constable Barry HOLLOWAY
—Incident Room Reader-Receiver
Civilians attached to the investigation and their roles:
—HOLMES Data Inputter
Op Nettle Interview Strategy Planning/ Persons of Interest
1. Hermitage Farm residents and employees:
—deceased, subject of Op Nettle
—manager of the stables at Hermitage Farm
—their daughter, lives in Briarstone
—groom/farmhand, casual employee
2. Hayselden Barn residents/relatives:
—daughter of Brian, lives in Briarstone
DISPATCH LOG 1101-0132
• CALLER STATES SHE HAS FOUND HER FRIEND COVERED IN BLOOD NOT MOVING NOT BREATHING
• AMBULANCE ALREADY DISPATCHED – REF 01-914
• CALLER IS FELICITY MAITLAND, HERMITAGE FARM, CEMETERY LANE MORDEN – OCCUPATION FARM OWNER
• INJURED PARTY IDENTIFIED AS POLLY LUCAS, FAMILY FRIEND OF CALLER
• CALLER HYSTERICAL, TRYING TO GET LOCATION FROM HER
• ADDRESS YONDER COTTAGE CEMETERY LANE MORDEN VILLAGE
• LOCATION GIVEN AS OUTSIDE VILLAGE ON ROAD TO BRIARSTONE, PAST THE LEMON TREE PUB ON THE RIGHT-HAND SIDE
• SP CORRECTION POLLY LEUCHARS DOB 28/12/1984 AGED 27
• PATROLS AL23 AL11 AVAILABLE DISPATCHED
• DUTY INSPECTOR NOTED, WILL ATTEND
In years to come, Flora would remember this as the day of Before and After.
Before, she had been working on the canvas that had troubled her for nearly three months. She had reworked it so many times, had stared at it, loved it and hated it, often at the same time. On that Thursday it had gone well. The blue was right, finally, and while she had the sun slanting in even strips from the skylight overhead, she traced the lines with her brush delicately as though she were touching the softest human skin and not canvas.
The phone rang and at first she ignored it. When the answering machine kicked in, the caller rang off and then her mobile buzzed on the windowsill behind her. The caller display showed her father’s mobile. She ignored it as she usually did. He was not someone she really wanted to talk to, after all.
Seconds later, the phone rang again. He wasn’t going to give up.
“Dad? What is it? I’m working—”
That was the moment. And then it was After, and nothing was ever the same again.
Thursday had barely started and it was already proving to be a challenge for Lou Smith. Just after ten the call had come in from the boss, Detective Superintendent Buchanan. Area had called in a suspicious death and requested Major Crime’s attendance. A month after her promotion, she was the DCI on duty, and it was her turn to lead the investigation.
“Probably nothing,” Buchanan had said. “You can hand it back to Area if it looks like the boyfriend’s done it, okay? Keep me updated.”
Her heart was thudding as she’d disconnected the call.
Please, God, don’t let me screw it up.
Lou reached for the grubby
on the shelf in the main office; it’d be a darn sight quicker than logging on to the mapping software. She couldn’t remember ever having to go to Morden, which meant it was probably posh. The paramedics had turned up first and declared life well and truly extinct, waited for the patrols, and then buggered off on another call.
The patrols had done what they were supposed to do—look for the offender (no sign), manage the witnesses (only one so far, the woman who’d called it in), and preserve the scene (shut the door and stand outside). The Area DI had turned up shortly afterward, and it hadn’t been more than ten minutes before he’d called the Major Crime superintendent. Which meant that this was clearly a murder, probably not domestic.
“Nasty,” the DI said cheerfully when Lou got to Yonder Cottage. “Your first one, isn’t it, ma’am? Good luck.”
Lou recognized him. He’d been one of the trainers when she’d been a probationer, which made the “ma’am” feel rather awkward.
“Where have you got to?” she asked.
“They’ve started the house-to-house,” he responded. “Nothing so far. The woman who found her is in the kitchen up at the farmhouse with the family liaison. Mrs. Felicity Maitland. She owns the farm with her husband, Nigel—Nigel Maitland?”
The last two words were phrased as a question, implying that Lou should recognize the name. She did.
Maitland had associates who were known to be involved in organized crime in Briarstone and London. He’d been brought in for questioning on several occasions for different reasons; each time he’d given a “no comment” interview, or one where he stuck to one-word answers, in the company of his very expensive solicitor. Each time he had been polite, cooperative, as far as it went, and utterly unhelpful. Each time he had been released without charge. Circumstantial evidence, including his mobile phone number appearing on the itemized phone bill of three men who were eventually charged with armed robbery and conspiracy, had never amounted to enough to justify an arrest. Nevertheless, the links were there and officers in a number of departments were watching and waiting for him to make a mistake. In the meantime, Nigel went about his legitimate day job, running his farm and maintaining his expensive golf club membership, the horses, the Mercedes and the Land Rover and the Porsche convertible, and stayed one step ahead.
“Mrs. Maitland’s in charge of the stables, leaves all the rest of it to her husband,” the Area DI said. “The victim worked for them as a groom, lived here in the cottage rent free. I gather she was a family friend.”
“Any word on an offender?”
“Nothing, so far. Apparently the victim lived on her own.”
“She’s at the bottom of the stairs. Massive head trauma.”
“Not a fall?”
“Definitely not a fall.”
“Nothing obvious. CSI are on the way, apparently.”
Yonder Cottage was a square, brick-built house separated from the main road by an overgrown hedge and an expanse of gravel, upon which a dark blue Nissan was parked. The scene tape stretched from the hedge to a birch tree; outside of this a roughly tarmacked driveway led up to a series of barns and outbuildings. Beyond this, apparently, was the main house of Hermitage Farm.
“Right,” Lou said, more to herself than to anyone else, “let’s get started.”
Her phone was ringing. The cavalry was on the way.
DCI 10023 Louisa SMITH
DSupt 9143 Gordon BUCHANAN
Thursday 1 November 2012
Op Nettle—Polly Leuchars
Hope the MIR is coming together. Ops Planning have given us the name Op Nettle for the murder of Polly Leuchars. Let me know if you need any further help.
Central Analytical Team
DCI 10023 Louisa SMITH
Thursday 1 November 2012
Op Nettle—analytical requirement
Could someone please contact me asap about providing an analyst for the Major Incident Room of Op Nettle. I have a full MIR team with the exception of an analyst and I have failed to reach anyone by phone.
DCI Louisa Smith
Julia Dobson, fifty-eight years old and current Ladies’ Golf Champion at the Morden Golf and Country Club, pulled the heavy velvet curtain slightly to one side and peered out. From where she stood in the bay window of Lentonbury Manor—which was not actually a manor house, in much the same way as Seaview Cottage, a few yards further toward the village, did not actually have a sea view—she could see some distance up Cemetery Lane toward the entrance to Hermitage Farm on the left, and Hayselden Barn on the right.
“That makes three,” she mused. “Good lord, what on earth is going on?”
Ralph, her husband, murmured in reply from behind his copy of the
, delivered by the newsagent’s van an hour ago. They didn’t have a paperboy anymore. The last one had nearly been run over by a tractor, and his mother had insisted he went and got a Saturday job at the greengrocer’s instead.
“Ralph, you’re not listening,” she said peevishly.
“Three, you said,” and then a moment later he shook his paper and looked up. “Three
“Police cars, Ralph. Three police cars in the lane. The first one had the siren going. You must have heard it! I wonder what’s going on?”
He put the paper down and joined her at the window, mug of coffee in one hand, in time to observe an ambulance driving at high speed down the lane. It turned into the driveway of Hayselden Barn, which was just within sight before the road bent sharply to the left. A police car rounded the bend from the opposite direction and followed the ambulance into the driveway.
“Barbara must have had one of her turns,” Julia murmured.
?” he snorted. “That’s a new word for it.”
Julia set her lips into a thin line. “Well, there’s only one way to find out.” Without further ado, she retrieved the phone handset and dialed the number for Hermitage Farm.
Taryn stared at her screen, trying to catch the reflection of the activity that was going on in her boss’s office, behind her and to her left.
“They’re talking,” Ellen said. She was sitting at the desk opposite and had a commanding view.
“Have they all sat down?” Taryn asked.
“No. Reg is sitting behind his desk, but the two police are just standing there. Oh, hold on, here we go . . .”
Taryn heard the office door open and couldn’t help turning round to look. Reg was heading in her direction. The two police officers were still in the office. One was a woman, which indicated that whoever they were here to see was about to receive some bad news.
“Taryn, would you step into my office, please?” Reg said, giving her a look that should have been empathetic but was somehow the wrong side of slimy. He scuttled off in the direction of the kitchen. Maybe they’d told him to go and make a cup of tea—
first time for everything
, Taryn thought.