Killer: Chapter 4 – Or why are you still reading this? Seriously. It’s pants …

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 …

Once upon a time… The Girl Called Jen

Once upon a time there was a girl called Jen.

Jen worked very hard in a very important job doing very important stuff for a company who liked very important stuff doing well. Jen was very good at doing this. Most of the time.

Being an anal retentive, Jen was typically a very organised individual, at least when it came down to cataloguing things like CDs, DVDs etc because Jen liked to have control over things. Jen was also a control freak but that is another story and nothing to do with this one. When Jen chose to purchase books for example, which over recent years had become a much more frequent pastime, Jen liked to make a note of it on Goodreads so that she could track what she had to read. If it were a preorder, Jen would duly make a note of it on her mobile phone calendar so that she knew when to expect the book and the charge to her credit card.

Jen was very clever like that.

Then one day, a little over a year ago, Jen caught an incurable disease.

That disease was called ‘book blogging’.

Since Jen caught ‘book blogging’ her organizational skills have gone to shit. On occasion, she will remember to write pre-orders in her diary but mostly she can’t be arsed and just kind of nods her head in a ‘fair play’ kind of gesture when she notices just how many books she has on pre-order with Amazon. Also, when Jen goes on Goodreads she invariably sits there with a frown thinking WTF! as she scrolls up and down to find the book she is about to read and swears blind she had added, before realising that actually she didn’t and she has waaaaaay more books than she realised in the TBR pile. Can anyone say ‘whoops Jen’?

Jen also does daft things like buying new books all the time, never able to walk past a bookshop without going in. Bookshop homing signal is one of the key symptoms of the disease ‘book blogging’. Jen also regularly visits a clinic that sufferers of ‘book blogging’ know as ‘Netgalley’. The ‘Netgalley’ clinic does not actually help sufferers of ‘book blogging’, it ritually mocks and taunts them until they have requested more books, forcing a self-perpetuating cycle of book envy (from fellow sufferers) and further recurring ‘book blogging’.

As a sufferer of ‘book blogging’, Jen spends most of her days now with a sneaky suspicion that she is being watched on social media, although she has no idea what is going on, as she cannot keep up with all of the notifications and retweets. She probably seems to ignore most people but really, Jen is brain-farting. A lot. Jen also has a permanent nagging feeling that there is something she is meant to be doing but can’t quite remember what. As far as Jen can see, aside from the social media symptoms, the disease ‘book blogging’ has become much like being at work. But fun. And without pay.

Jen still works very hard at her very important job doing very important stuff, but now she makes it fun by using it to settle some of the more alarming side effects of her disease ‘book blogging’. Jen does this by listening to audio books when she is doing long drives or really boring spreadsheets when she would otherwise fall asleep. This makes Jen very productive doing both her very important stuff and managing her disease.

Jen knows that she needs an intervention.

Jen doesn’t care.

Jen likes suffering from ‘book blogging’. Jen hopes that no cure is found.

Fellow sufferers of ‘book blogging’ provide all the support Jen needs. Jen isn’t that bothered about leaving an inheritance for family members as she is also a tightwad and so she is happy to keep managing the ‘book blogging’ symptoms by buying more books.

Jen likes books more than her family. Apart from her cats. They are okay.

Jen is happy.

Jen is ‘book blogging’.

If you do not want to be busy but happy, Jen recommends trying not to catch ‘book blogging’. If, like Jen, you like having fun, reading books, meeting wonderful people and driving your family and friends crazy with book recommendations, Jen knows there are far worse things to be suffering from.

Readers should note that the disease ‘book blogging’ can be contagious and it is easy to spread this to friends and family members if not carefully controlled. You have been warned…

©JenTheNutter 2017

Would You Read On?

Just wondering but would you read on?

It was a flat white with an extra shot kind of a day.

That’s what Ellie had thought when she woke with a start, forty minutes after her alarm was meant to have gone off, and thirty minutes before she needed to be on a train heading for the city.

She should have seen the failure of her alarm for what it was; an omen. A sign that her day was only going to get worse and that she should have just called in sick. But damn her parents and their highly moralistic home as they had instilled in her too great a work ethic to ever give more than a fleeting consideration to pulling a sicky. She didn’t have it in her to tell a lie and she had never willingly missed a day of work in the seven years she had been at Carstairs, Caruthers and Jones. She hadn’t been about to start just because of a silly alarm and maybe a few too many drinks the night before.

If only, just the once, she had listened to the devil on her right shoulder instead of Jiminy Cricket on her left, she might not be in this mess now, sat in a police interview room for the second time in less than a month. She had never been in a police station before in her entire life. Never had so much as a parking ticket always staying within the law. She had never given anyone any cause to make a complaint about her, never played her music too loud or disagreed with a neighbour. And yet now, at the age of twenty-five, she found herself staring across a dull grey table at two very serious looking Detectives, one of her possibly former bosses to her left, and a whole pile of metaphorically steaming shit laid out in front of her.

She hadn’t quite dared to enquire about her employment status with Mr Carstairs in the short time they had to confer before the Detectives arrived. After all she had missed a lot of work, far more that if she had just taken that silly day off. She wouldn’t blame him if her did want to fire her. She would if she were him. She also didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry but one look at the stern expression on the Detective’s faces, she knew that laughing wouldn’t help her one little bit.

She glanced over at Mr Carstairs who was too busy looking down at some documents to notice her at that moment. She had told him everything. Well, nearly everything. But not about him, about the part he played in it all. Not the whole truth at least. Mr Carstairs was certain, from what she had said, that they would deem everything as self-defence and that it was highly unlikely that there would be any charges against her. When he had raised his focus from her chest just long enough to look her in the eye, she could see that he was telling her the truth and that was good enough for Ellie. She didn’t need to bring him into it. Not fully. She’d have to mention him, she couldn’t avoid it, but they didn’t need to know what he had done. What they had both done. She owed him that at least.

Ellie took a deep breath, swallowing hard and clasping her hands in her lap as she turned to face the Detectives, answering all of their introductory questions, her name, confirming that she had been read her rights, that at this stage she was there voluntarily as a witness, all the usual kind of things she had seen on the TV. As she glanced at Mr Carstairs again she could see his right brow arch high, his mouth set in a long thin line as he let out a harsh breath, his posture so telling. He was bored already.

‘Shall we move this along, Chief Inspector? My client understands her rights. Miss Fairchild has been through a very traumatic experience and I don’t believe it fair that she is held any longer than necessary. While she is no doubt suffering from delayed shock and the Doctor’s have advised that she shouldn’t even be here, she is fully willing to cooperate with you and eager to sort this matter as quickly as possible. So please, just ask your questions so that I may take Miss Fairchild home to rest.’

The two Detectives looked at each other, the younger man nodding to the other before looking back at Ellie. She swallowed hard again, slowly raising her arm until it wrapped around her middle, tucking a loose strand of hair behind her ear with her free hand.
‘Miss Fairchild,’ the older man said, flashing her a warm and sympathetic smile. Detective Chief Inspector Nesbitt had been the one who took her first statement after the incident at the station. His younger colleague was new though, Detective Sergeant Chase. ‘Thank you for your co-operation today. I know that what you have been through must be quite distressing for you but the sooner we can take your statement, the sooner we can file charges against Niall Malone for your abduction and assault.’

Ellie blinked rapidly, her eyes dropping to the table between them and her brow creasing. Without realising her free hand fell to the hole in her shirt, resting it lightly against the bandage which covered the cut just above her right breast. As the memories flooded back, she closed her eyes briefly, waiting as a tide of nausea washed over her before opening them and looking up at Nesbitt again.

‘Miss Fairchild?’ He looked down at her, the concern clear on his face. ‘Ellie? Are you okay? Would you like a drink of water?’ He glanced quickly to his left, DS Chase poised ready to fetch her something if she said yes, but Ellie shook her head.

‘No. Thank you. I’m fine. I’d just like to get this over with if you don’t mind. Go home. Heath will be missing me.’

‘Heath?’

‘Heathcliff. My cat. My neighbour Mara was keeping an eye on him for me but after the break in he’ll be so upset and after last week and then this… I’ve barely been home for two weeks and he’s a very nervous cat. I don’t know how long it will take me to calm him down and I need to get home to make sure he’s okay. I’m sure she never feeds him properly. Mara that is. She says she does but when I went home to visit my Aunt in Blackpool for a couple of days he was so much thinner than when I left. That was only two days. I couldn’t take him with me you see because Cousin Janet is allergic to cats and I…’

Ellie felt a hand resting gently against her arm and she paused, looking over to Carstairs. He sat watching her, a patient smile upon his face. As she looked from him back to the Detectives they too were smiling of sorts.

‘It’s okay, Ellie,’ Carstairs said, squeezing her arm a little. ‘If this is too much for you -’

‘I’m sorry,’ she said quickly, interrupting him. ‘I’m rambling. Sorry.’

‘It’s okay,’ Nesbitt said, his brown eyes sparkling a little as he watched her. ‘You’ve had quite the couple of weeks. You’re bound to be scared. But you don’t need to be, Ellie. You’re safe now.’

Ellie nodded, watching him closely. He was quite a good looking man for his age. Probably early forties if she had to guess, his dark hair just starting to pepper with the slightest hint of grey. Not that forties was old really. Not old like Carstairs who sat next to her, his hand still on her arm, his thumb gently rubbing up and down it to comfort her, every so often straying from it’s path and glancing against her breast. She was sure that it was an accident but still, it made her shudder, something that Nesbitt picked up on immediately, his eyes moving quickly between Ellie and Cartairs before dropping to where Carstairs’ hand sat upon her arm. As he moved his thumb again, this time slowly, deliberately, brushing against her as he stared calmly and impassively at her face, she saw Nesbitt flinch, his eyes narrowing and the muscle in his cheek twitching a little.

‘Mr Carstairs,’ Nesbitt said, drawing the older man’s attention to him. With his focus now on the men in front of him, Carstairs cheeks coloured and he coughed, clearing his throat as if realising for the first time where he was and who his audience were. ‘Perhaps we should let Ellie tell us her story.’ He turned his gaze back to Ellie who flashed him a thank you by way of a weak smile and he nodded his understanding. ‘Ellie,’ he said. ‘I’d like you to take us through what happened. From the beginning. From the day that you met, James Barton.’

Ellie swallowed again, glancing down before looking up at Nesbitt and holding his gaze. His eyes were soft. Kind. They calmed her, just like his eyes had done. Reassured her that if she was honest with him, everything would be okay. She just needed to tell the truth.
‘It was all Beth’s fault,’ Ellie began. ‘That I was late for work. If she hadn’t insisted on coming over on the Sunday I never would have forgotten to set the alarm and I never would have met James Barton.’ She paused, frowning. ‘No. That’s not fair. It’s not Beth’s fault. I could have told her no. But I never do. She’s my best friend, you see? She’ll be devastated that all of this has happened because she split up with Jeremy again. She doesn’t even like him. Not really. But she was so upset that they broke up and because of that I agreed to have a few drinks with her. I never do that,’ she added, turning her head to look at Mr Carstairs, her expression one of wide eyed innocence. ‘Not on a Sunday at least.’ She turned her gaze back to Nesbitt. ‘ But you see, if we hadn’t had those drinks, I wouldn’t have missed setting the alarm and I wouldn’t have been late. I would have caught my usual train and then none of us would be here. Well, you would, obviously, because you’re the police and you work here but I just mean that I wouldn’t be.’

‘Ellie?’ As she stared at Nesbitt he smiled again, the sparkle of amusement in his eyes

‘Sorry,’ she said, smiling a little sheepishly, colour starting to flood her cheeks. ‘Rambling again. But you need to understand. I didn’t plan this. Stuff like this shouldn’t happen to someone like me. I’m just a receptionist. I’m not important.’

‘You were important to someone Ellie. People like Niall Malone don’t just abduct women off the streets. He’s far more subtle than that. If he took you, it was for a reason. But we’ll get to that in time. Tell us how you met Barton.’

‘Well that’s what I’m trying to do,’ Ellie said, her brow creasing. ‘You see, I met him on the train, the eight fifty from Richmond to Waterloo. I’d normally get a much earlier train but I’d been drinking -’

‘And you overslept,’ Nesbitt said, smiling as Ellie nodded, shrugging and smiling back.

‘Do you ever get the feeling,’ she asked, her hands falling back to her lap as she looked from Nesbitt to Chase and back again, ‘that it’s just going to be one of those days? You now? Those really crappy ones where you just wished you called in sick and stayed in bed? Not that I’d ever,’ she added hastily, not even glancing across at Carstairs this time, ‘but you know? You just feel like you should. That was one of those days. All I wanted was a coffee. Just one lousy coffee to wake me up. So I went to Richmond instead of getting on the train in St Margaret’s like I usually do. I mean, it was just a coffee. I’d already overslept. What else could possibly go wrong?’

©JLucas 10/5/17

The Discovery.

She should have been there first. Alone. This was her time.

The hike to the summit took thirty-five minutes. Slower than usual, but then she was out of practice. Work, family drama and a seasonal cold had all conspired to break her old routine. The path had been thick with mud, the soil churned by a myriad of walkers who had come this way since the monsoon conditions two nights before. Rain hadn’t fallen in nearly twenty-four hours now but the ground was saturated. Water permeated the dense woods, drawing out the essence of ‘eau-de-disinfectant’ from the giant fir trees, peppering the low grasses with an early morning dew. A fresh rock fall had littered the path just before the Halfway House. She slipped twice as she passed through.

Continue reading “The Discovery.”