Sitting down with a victim’s family was never a favoured part of the job for Williams or Daly. They never knew quite how much explanation about a person’s family circumstances was deemed to be too much description, and how much was essential to the plot.
This was especially true today as, with the investigation (aka the story) being done completely on the fly, and not having actually bothered to think about it for what amounted to a considerable period of time, nobody really knew where this whole thing was heading and what was, or wasn’t, going to be relevant.
On the off chance, and risking reader wrath, Williams took a good look around the neatly appointed front room of Kevin Williams. Neatly appointed. That was a good choice of phrase as it covered a lot. Modern. That was also a word which could describe the room without being too descriptive. Readers could therefore fit out the room with the furnishings they had in their mind, without being boxed in by the story.
‘Mrs Williams,’ Williams said, taking the obligatory serious and yet understanding tone required of a fictional detective in a situation such as this. He still wasn’t sure about facial expressions, so tried to remain fairly neutral looking. ‘We are very sorry for your loss.’
‘Thank you Detective …?’ The wife paused, looking expectantly at Williams.
Was it expectantly?’ Williams wondered. He wasn’t entirely sure what expectant looked like when not applied to pregnant women. She was clutching a paper tissue in her hands and frequently wiping her eyes and nose. This did feel a little bit like description to Williams, but it felt important to let the reader know that she was upset. With a steady stream of liquid running from both her eyes and her nose, it wasn’t a very pretty sight, so mostly best left to people’s imaginations anyway.
‘Williams,’ he replied. ‘Detective Inspector Williams. And this is Detective Sergeant Daly.’
‘Williams?’ Mrs Williams asked. She sniffed and looked somewhere between bewildered and constipated as Williams nodded. ‘Oh. That could be confusing.’
‘You’re telling us,’ Daly muttered. Muttering seemed to be a bad habit she had picked up from somewhere, which typically earned her a stare from Williams, but he was still trying to be neutral looking.
‘You had best call me Mary,’ Mrs Williams said. She looked across at Daly. ‘That is unless …’
‘My name isn’t Mary,’ Daly confirmed with a small smile. Mrs Williams, Mary, nodded.
‘So … Mary,’ Williams continued. ‘When was the last time you saw Kevin?’
Mary looked upward. She was thinking. Williams noticed that whenever she was thinking she looked upward. Some people thought that if you looked one way you were remembering and the other way, making up a lie. Williams had read somewhere this was actually bollocks so just waited for her to reply instead.
‘Yesterday afternoon,’ she said eventually. ‘Just before I left for work.’
‘And you work in …’
‘Tesco,’ Mary replied. ‘I used to work for Sainsbury’s but fancied a change. Morrisons weren’t hiring and Aldi and Lidl are a bit too far out of town for me.’
‘What about Asda?’ Daly asked. It was one of the only major supermarkets in the area that she hadn’t mentioned, and Mary didn’t seem like much of a Waitrose or M&S Foodhall kind of person. It was important to get in all of the major supermarkets so as not to be seen as endorsing any one in particular. It’s not like Daly was working for the BBC, but she was still against gratuitous product placement in novels and TV shows.
‘I didn’t like the uniform.’ Mary blinked. This wasn’t particularly relevant but she had done it regardless, so Daly noted it in case it became relevant later. Probably not.
‘Right …’ Williams looked at Daly. ‘So. What time was this?’
‘Ooh. About three thirty. I was due on shift at four.’
Mary sniffed, wiping her eyes and then her nose with the now sodden paper tissue. It was making Williams feel a little sick but he didn’t like to say anything. Strong and macho detectives aren’t meant to be put off by a little snot and he was aiming to develop his macho image to ingratiate himself with female readers. He knew that in order to get a steal on the fictional competition, and he was already several books behind some of the best male leads, he needed a good hook and being book boyfriend material as well as appealing to manly reading types, without appearing to be too much of a cliche, was very important.
‘And Kevin?’ Williams asked. ‘Where did he work?’
‘He worked at the new burger place down on the High Street. Four Ladies.’ She nodded, looking at Daly. ‘Do you know the one? They claim to do the best burgers in town but I’m not sure they’re actually able to say that. Can they say that?’
‘They can say it,’ Daly replied. ‘It doesn’t make it true.’
‘Probably not. I prefer the competition if I’m being honest, but Kevin felt a bit too old to work there.’
Williams frowned. All this talk of food was making him hungry for a burger, but that wasn’t why they were here and wasn’t helping the investigation. He noticed that he was becoming quite obsessed with food ever since he had started to watch his calorie intake again. But he needed to be careful. There was a chance it would be criticized for being unnecessary filler, and this would likely not make a final edit, on the highly unlikely chance this story was ever going to be edited. Which it wasn’t.
‘How long had Kevin worked at Four Ladies?’ he asked.
‘About three months. Ever since he got dismissed from the Bank.’
Williams sat up straight. Dismissed from a bank and working in a burger joint. This was getting interesting. He had no idea why but it seemed like a cusp of a plot twist kind of moment.
‘Dismissed from a bank?’ he asked. ‘Why was he dismissed, Mary?’
Mary frowned and looked up again. She really did do a lot of looking up. ‘Well. It wasn’t like they said. Not really. He wouldn’t have pestered that woman. Not Kevin. Kevin was a gentleman. But she complained. Told the manager that he made her feel uncomfortable. That he’d made rude comments to her when she went to make a withdrawal.’
‘Rude comments?’ Daly asked. She too leaned forward in her seat. This was appropriate and not too descriptive as things were getting interesting now.
‘Yes.’ Mary nodded and wiped her nose again. ‘But I can’t say it as it’s too rude and people will complain. I’ll write it down for you.’
Daly passed Mary her note book and pen and looked to Williams. He was still trying to look neutral. To Daly he just looked kind of bored. When Mary had finished writing she handed the pad and pen back to Daly who handled them very carefully as they were not in a fit state to be handled or described for fear of making the readers ill.
‘And which bank was this?’ Williams asked.
‘The one in town between the one with the big X and the one with the big black horse.’ Mary was good. She had completely avoided unnecessary advertising this time while still making it pretty clear which banks she meant. And it barely counted as description. Unlike this narrative which was getting completely out of hand.
‘What time was Kevin working last night?’ Daly asked Mary.
‘He was on the late shift. From Six until closing. Midnight.’
‘And when he didn’t come home? You weren’t worried about him?
‘Well of course not,’ Mary said. She was shaking her head. Williams thought that maybe she looked incredulous too. At least what he interpreted incredulous to look like. ‘I was asleep, wasn’t I?’
Mary nodded like it was the most natural thing in the world for Kevin not to come home. Maybe it was. They really didn’t know Kevin. Mary knew Kevin but they didn’t have time to ask more questions as this was only ever meant to be a short story, and it kept the mystery going a bit longer, while they tried to come up with the rest of a plot.
‘Just one last thing, Mary,’ Williams said. ‘Can you think of anyone who would want to hurt Kevin?’
Mary shook her head. She was staring at Daly and Williams.
‘Really Inspector? That old question? It’s a bit cliched don’t you think?’
Williams frowned. Was it a bit cliched? It seemed a perfectly logical question to him but maybe it was a bit overused in Detective fiction. After all if she knew who had wanted to hurt Kevin she would have said from the off and prevented the reader from having to suffer all of the preceding drivel. It wouldn’t have made for as tense a read but as none of the read had been tense so far, it probably wouldn’t have been a problem. Unless …
Williams frowned some more. It wasn’t very original but he had just thought of something awful.
Mary sniffed very loudly as the tissue finally gave up the ghost. Strange saying that, Williams thought, Give up the ghost. Can a tissue do that as it is an inanimate object? Will readers object to the use of such language due to the unlikely chance of it actually happening?
No, Inspector Williams,’ Mary said. ‘I can’t think of anyone who would want to hurt Kevin.’
Williams nodded. They had all they would get out of Mary and he needed to talk to Daly in private.
Outside, Williams paused beside the pool car.
‘Daly,’ he said. ‘We have a problem.’
‘A problem, Gov?’ Daly stared at him, a blank expression on her face. ‘I need a new notebook, and probably a pen now, but that’s not much of a problem. More an inconvenience. But you should see what she wrote in the book -’
‘Not that, Daly.’ Williams interrupted and grimaced. ‘Although that is disgusting. No, Daly. We have a bigger problem.’
‘A bigger problem, Gov?’ Williams nodded. ‘What? Bigger than the Williams, Williams, Daley, Daly, Kevin, Kevin problem?’
Williams nodded again.
‘Yes Daly. Much bigger. I’ve just noticed that we’re up to the end of chapter four and there isn’t even the slightest hint of tension in the story anywhere. This is going to be a terrible crime story.’
‘Flipping heck, Gov,’ Daly exclaimed. Exclamation seemed appropriate here as it was quite an important discovery. ‘You’re right. What are we going to do?’
‘We need to investigate further.’ Williams said. ‘We have the Bank and the Burger bar. He was fired from the bank. There may be a motive tied in there somewhere.’
‘Could be, Gov,’ Daly agreed. ‘This really is very rude …’
‘But if he was at work that night before he was killed,’ Williams said, ignoring Daly. He Did that a lot. ‘Well, there may be witnesses there who saw something. Or CCTV. So where do we start?’
Daly thought for a moment before both of their stomachs started grumbling, taking the decision out of their hands.
‘Burger bar,’ they said in unison.
‘I’ll drive,’ Daly said, racing round to the driver’s seat.
Williams dropped his face into his hands. Oh for fu –‘
‘Language Inspector.’ He could just make out Mary’s stern voice through an open lounge window. ‘Watch that language.’
To be continued … eventually … maybe …