This is a piece I found in the metaphorical sock drawer which I have dusted off and had a gander at. Tell me what you think and feel free to offer any insights.
By Michael Storm
The First Chapter
Carol sat uncomfortably on the bar stool and nervously glanced around her, they were still there, waiting for her. She drained the remaining contents from her glass and ordered another drink. By the time the beer was placed in front of her, Carol knew she was a dead woman. There were two stooges at the main entrance and one at the side door, when she had walked into the bar she had hoped she’d be able to lose herself in the crowd but she had no such luck. She made herself visible to everyone so they wouldn’t risk trying anything as it’d be too public, but she was essentially stuck now. She sipped a few mouthfuls from her beer and made a decisive move, it was a risk but she was pretty much a walking corpse anyway. She attracted the attention of the young barmaid and politely asked if she would mind looking after her handbag while she used the facilities, the barmaid nodded and took the small leather bag underneath the bar. Carol walked to the loo in a leisurely pace, noting that one of the stooges by the front door was now casually crossing to a fruit machine, the position of which would give him a direct view of the area surrounding the toilet door. Once inside the Ladies loo Carol crossed to a nearby cubicle and checked to see if there was a window of sufficient size for her needs. She was in luck and she popped in closing the door behind her. She pulled a small envelope from her pocket and quickly checked behind the system for sufficient space to deposit the article. With a small effort she slipped the article behind the cistern and was about to make a move towards the window when she heard the door open, quickly she sat down and waited for the newcomer to settle into place. Once she heard the sound of the bolt, she hit the flush and climbed through the window. It was a tight squeeze and the landing was hardly dignified but she had got out, she picked herself off the floor and edged round the corner. The street was virtually empty and she made a quick dash across the road towards a small group of people gathering at a bus stop, as she did so she collided with a short chubby businessman in full suit carrying an umbrella.
“Oh I’m terribly sorry,” said the man helping to her feet, “I was miles away.”
“Don’t worry about it.” Carol replied sheepishly and continued on towards the bus stop. She had outwitted them, not long now and it’d all be over for her. She rubbed her leg which was a bit sore. Must of got hit by his umbrella nib, she thought to herself and joined the group. A few minutes later Carol started to feel dizzy causing her to lean on the wall for a moment as she got her breath back.
“Are you alright miss?” Asked an old man in the queue.
“Fine, just a bit light headed.” Carol answered breathing heavily. “Will be ok once I sit down for a minute.” She was feeling quite hot and sweaty now.
A minute later the bus arrived and the people started to ascend aboard, Carol started to walk but found that she was more staggering than walking. She felt so hot and there was a searing pain in her chest, she managed to stagger a few more steps when her vision became blurred and it sounded as if everyone was muffled. Carol vaguely made out the shape of the old man moving towards her before feeling incredibly faint. A moment later Carol’s legs went and she collapsed grabbing onto the old man for support. Two people came to his aided and they lay her down into the recovery position, whilst the bus driver called for an ambulance. Carol started muttering weakly under her breath and pulled the old man.
“Friday, three days,” she gasped before exploding into a coughing fit.
“I don’t understand miss,” said the old man.
“Trans- transfer will take place at the stage,” she forced herself to say. The pain in her chest was extreme now and her vision was dimming. With one last reserve of her strength Carol managed to get final word out. “Fransure.” Then she convulsed violently for a few moments before becoming still.
“Stay with…” the old man began, but then realised he was too late. Her pupils had dilated, her lips were blue and her breathing ceased. Sadly, he shook his head and closed her eyes with his palm. He stood up took of his coat and covered her body up.
“Is she..?” Began the driver, not wanting to finish the sentence.
“I’m afraid so,” confirmed the old man.
The tragic events at the bus stop had not gone unnoticed across the street. The short little man whom Carol had collided into was watching the proceedings, leaning on his umbrella, besides him were the two stooges from inside the club.
“Did it work?” Asked one of the stooges.
“Oh I think it did,” answered the little man. “We need to find out where she left the information. Until then we aren’t clear.” He stood up straight and picked up his umbrella nudging a hidden button in the handle. A short needle emerged from the tip, glistening with liquid in the street light.
“Oh my little pet,” purred the gent, “you’ve never failed me yet.”
When you get a knock on your door at 11pm, it is usually bad news and for Arthur Fransure this was to be no exception. Arthur trotted down the stairs to the front door and opened up, awaiting him on his door step was the familiar face of chief inspector Parton, his liaison with the Police force. Parton was accompanied by a young plain clothes detective and a younger WPC, neither of which he recognised.
“Chief Inspector Parton,” began Arthur, “to what do I owe the pleasure?”
“Let’s skip the formalities Arthur,” replied Parton. “Your presence is required down the station.”
“Well since you haven’t presented me with an arrest warrant, I’m guessing I’m to assist in some capacity.”
“Straight to the point aren’t you.” Stated the WPC.
“Well the inspector did say skip the formalities miss,” replied Arthur. “Are you planning to clue me in or do you have a magical mystery tour lined up for me?”
“Wiggins will fill you in on the way to the station.” Answered Parton.
“If you’d just come with me sir.” said Wiggins.
“Just let me set the alarm.” Replied Arthur flicking a few switches on a panel besides the door. Satisfied he’d set the alarm correctly Arthur crossed to the coat stand and put on his dark blue mackintosh and placed his trilby on his head. Finally he picked up his walking cane with the crystal handle and stepped outside closing the door behind him. Wiggins lead him to the black sierra estate parked in front of the gates. As Arthur slipped inside the car the WPC leant over to Parton quizzically.
“Are you sure he works for the Ministry?” She asked.
“Yes,” answered Parton Why?”
“Well, I don’t think he could choose a set of clothes screamed secret agent if he tried!” She answered smugly.
“Well, he’s always been a little eccentric.” Noted Parton.
Arthur regarded the young Inspector driving him to the station with curiosity, evidently he was a bright young thing if they were letting him bring in him on his own. Arthur smiled to himself, never mind I’ll soon break him he thought to himself.
“So Wiggy,” began Arthur, that should put him off kilter to begin with, “to drag a chap away from his fireside and knitting must be because something big has happened.”
“That would be right sir.” Answered Wiggins, “I take it you are familiar with a young lady called Carol Highgate.”
“Yes, she works in my department.” Confirmed Arthur.
“Worked,” corrected Wiggins.
“Oh I see.” Replied Arthur. “Well since you know who she is I’m guessing you don’t want me to ID the body.”
“No, we’re passing on information to you.”
That was one of things Arthur liked about working with Parton, he cut straight to the chase and liked to keep his hands as clean as possible in the proceedings. After so long the police, even CID and the Yard, would become a nuisance and hinder proceedings.
“I see.” Said Arthur eventually. “Prey tell me, what exactly are the circumstances to bring me in?”
“Ah well,” began Wiggins, “I have no doubt you are familiar with a Doctor Benjamin Webster?”
“Dr. Webster?” asked Arthur quizzically, “I thought he was working abroad.” That was the cover story that the Ministry had created to explain his disappearance.
“So I believe,” answered Wiggins, “but in the meantime his immediate boss, Dr. Young has been filling his position.”
“So why me?”
“Dr. Webster left explicit notes that any unusual deaths were to be referred to us and the you if deemed necessary.”
Arthur sighed slightly, he had secretly been hoping that Dr. Webster may have got back to the UK without the ministry realising. Arthur knew Webster too well to really believe he’d return and not let him or Liz be aware of it, but hope springs eternal. He gazed sadly out the window at the now rain-soaked buildings, he recognised the familiar shape of the police headquarters as the car pulled in.
“Back in business,” Arthur muttered quietly to himself.
Arthur had visited the morgue many times and each time he descended the blue-tiled corridor he felt that little bit sadder. Death was an unhappy aspect of all his jobs, he always felt he should be immune to it after this long but for some reason the approach to the morgue always made him feel slightly saddened. Today was no exception, more so with it being a young lady he was going to see. He pushed open the heavy metal door and looked at the sad metal tables portrayed in front of him. Only one was occupied and even from that distance he could tell it was Carol on the slab, the eminent Dr. Lester Young was standing over the body, staring at a medical chart deep in thought. Arthur quickly crossed over leaving Parton and Wiggins at the door.
“Ah, Dr. Young,” Arthur began extending his hand, “it’s been a long time since we last met.”
“So it has,” noted Dr. Young wryly. He cynically noted Arthur’s outstretched hand and coldly added, “I don’t believe these are circumstances for pleasantries.”
“I guess not,” answered Arthur.
Dr. Young indicated the body on the slab in front of them, picked up his chart and notes and broke into his routine.
“I assume that this is part of your handy work,” he began emotionlessly. Arthur felt the need to protest, but decided it wouldn’t get him anyway so let Dr. Young continue. “The deceased has been confirmed as Carol Highgate, luckily she was carrying some identification.”
“Yes she is… was one of our field operatives.” Arthur said, confirming
the question Dr. Young was just to about to ask. “So what were the circumstances?”
“Well eyewitness accounts state that she was had ran to a bus stop waited for the bus and suffered some form of seizure. She that collapsed and muttering some stuff merely in delirium, but she did mention your name.”
“Any ideas what she said?”
“Nothing to do with the medical side of things,” answered Dr. Young looking cynically at Arthur, “you’d have to ask Inspector Parton or Wiggins. It’s their job, so I suggest you stop wasting my time with such inane questions and let me go through the details which involve me.”
“So sorry,” replied Arthur and added “you miserable git” under his breath.
“What was that?” Asked Dr. Young.
“Oh it was nothing complimentary so let’s just get on. What was the cause of death?”
“Ah well now we get to the interesting part,” began Dr. Young, “of course I have yet to do a full post mortem examination, but there are several things worth noting.”
“Well I’ve checked her public medical records for any history of heart conditions, seizures and the like. Aside from having had some issues with wind, it appears she was a picture of health.”
“So that rules out any chance of a heart attack or some such?”
“No, it just lessens the chance.” Dr. Young bought their attention to the bruise on Carol’s ankle. “You see this, it’s a puncture wound of some sort. About the size of the tip of an umbrella or walking stick.”
“I see, so she probably got poked by such implement shortly before her death,” summarised Arthur.
“Correct,” confirmed Dr. Young, “My initial examination of the body suggest she was poisoned. The discolouration of the skin around the lips, the dilation of pupils and the way the joints seem to have some kind of minor paralysis. So I made a quick examination of that wound and I found this…” He explained lifting up a small sample bottle with a tiny bit of blood stained plastic inside.
“What it is it?” Asked Arthur, his curiosity raised.
“Well I ended up damaging most of it removing it from the wound, but it looks like some kind of medical capsule, the sort you might use for certain medicines.”
“So you think that administered the poison?”
“I am speculating that,” snapped Dr. Young. “Until I complete my examination I cannot commit to a diagnosis, I do wish you would stop being obtuse. Oh and before you ask, her possessions are with the Inspector.”
“Is there anything else you can add at the moment?” Asked Arthur hoping there wasn’t and he could leave the cold miserable git to the bodies who were evidently more personable than him.
“Not at the moment.” Answered Dr. Young.
“Well th..” Arthur bit his tongue from saying thank god for that, “…then I’ll be off to see the inspector.” With that Arthur doffed his hat and departed.
Inspector Parton had set up the possessions belonging to the deceased ready for Arthur’s inspection. There were pitiful few they had found: A mobile phone, some keys, a VAT receipt from a bar, a small business card and a half empty packet of pear drops.
“Is this all there was?” Asked Arthur quizzically.
“She had a purse as well, that’s how we were able to make the ID.” Answered Parton.
“Can I see it?” Asked Arthur.
“Sure,” replied Parton handing over the small purse, “although I doubt you’ll find anything useful.”
“Probably not, but there may be a hidden compartment or an item which means nothing to you boys.” Said Arthur thoughtfully examining the purse and its contents. After a few detail inspections her replace the items back in the purse and handed it back to the inspector. “But alas you have been proven correct.”
“Well we’ll have the witness statements typed up by morning, so that may be an aid.”
“I’ll have dispatches pick them up,” replied Arthur who was now examining the VAT receipt even more thoughtfully. “My dear Parton, what was the time ambulance call was logged?”
Parton took a quick look at his notes, “Just after six o’clock”
“That’s interesting as this receipt here is for a glass of wine and some cash back.”
“What makes that interesting?” Asked Parton.
“The time the transaction took place. It was forty-five minutes before the call was logged.” Arthur started looking at the remaining items excitedly and with a cry of triumph looked at the call log on the phone.
“Oh what’s making you all excited?” Quizzed Parton.
“The bar’s phone number matches the last four missed calls on the phone,” Arthur beamed excitedly, “I think we may have a lead. I’ll call around the bar in the morning and have a gander.”
“You’ll need a warrant surely?” Asked Parton.
“No, I have the authority to look into… Hmm could I borrow Wiggy in the morning? I it will look better if we just make it look like a police matter at the moment.”
“I think I can arrange that,” answered Parton, “do you think this is going to be trouble?”
“My dear Parton,” replied Arthur with a devious grin, “trouble is my business.”
The morning sun rise cascaded its way through the gaps in the blind and prompted Liz to sleepily rise from her slumber. She yawned and stretched in a vigorous attempt to shake away the tempting pull of further slumber and forced herself to get out of bed. She slipped on her dressing gown and proceeded to the kitchen to make herself a cup of tea. The stone tiles were cold against her bare feet causing her to hop around a bit and curse herself for forgetting to set the heating timer the night before or put her slippers on. She filled up the kettle and switched it on and emptied the tea bags left in the teapot into the waste disposal unit. She switched it on and the thing just sat there silently, just bloody typical she thought to herself. She scooped a trio of English Breakfast teabags into the pot and retrieved a bottle of milk, the fridge was silent and Liz shook her head in annoyance. Fridge is screwed now, she thought to herself and the kettle wasn’t even boiling. It was that moment that she realised the four things were probably connected and switched on the kitchen light for a test. The bulb failed to illuminate, power cut or the trip has gone, probably the latter the way her morning was beginning to shape. Liz checked the fuse box and corrected the failed trip and was rewarded by the cacophony that was the waste disposal unit going into operation.
Ten minutes later Liz was sat in the living room with a warm pot of tea, three rounds of generously buttered toast and a small pot of Arthur’s homemade Damson jam, the pull of further slumber now fully dispersed. The loud slap of the morning paper hitting the floor broke the silence momentarily, before it was broken by the familiar ‘shave and a haircut’ rhythm of Arthur’s knocking on the front door. Liz smiled, it was her first day back of leave and already he was dragging her to work, she tighten up her dressing gown and she crossed to the front door to let him in.
“Morning Arthur, what’s the mission?” She asked teasingly.
“Mission?” Asked Arthur innocently as he entered putting his hat and coat on the coat-stand, “can a chap not call on a work colleague without it meaning it’s duty calling?”
“Well normally they don’t pop in at 8 in the morning if its social,” replied Liz smugly.
“Point taken,” conceded Arthur.
“Well I have tea in the pot, you know where the mugs are so help yourself,” began Liz as she disappeared to toward the bathroom, “I’ll be about fifteen minutes.”
Arthur smiled to himself, Liz was always ready to leap into action, how cruel was it going to be when he told her all he wanted her to do was go through the dispatches which would arrive at nine? He fetched himself a mug, poured some tea and lay back in the reclining chair in the corner of the front room and started to contemplate his course of action. Logic dictated that Carol had left an item with her number at the bar, so what was it? A diary perhaps? No, that didn’t make any sense, it’d just be pushed through the post or handed or lost property indefinitely until she returned to collect it. So it must be something else, something someone would think important to keep calling. Briefcase or handbag seemed the most likely, more likely handbag as it’d look less conspicuous for a woman. Arthur smiled, that thought would no doubt enrage Liz. So the question which now was raised was what was in the handbag which made it necessary to leave it behind? Perhaps it was a red herring to put off the murderers, a distinct possibility but hopefully there would be a clue in there or at least in the bar. Arthur’s further ruminations were interrupted by Liz entering the living room dressed in light blue blouse, dark brown mini skirt and black boots.
“So what’s the mission?” She inquired cheerfully.
“Well in a nutshell an agent was murdered yesterday who was on the trail of a security leak in RAF Stansworth,” began Arthur, “she didn’t manage to pass on much information but I’m guessing she’s planted something at her last known location.”
“RAF Stansworth?” Liz quizzed. “Isn’t that the base which is experimenting with using rubies for transmitting data across distances?”
Arthur paused and a raised a quizzical eyebrow at her. “It is, not sure you should know about that though.”
“Well,” laughed Liz, “One-Ten put me on some paperwork just before I went on leave.”
“Anyway, on with the job in hand. I need you to go over the witness statements and details from the police station. Hopefully, the post mortem will be completed by now.”
“Oh more paperwork,” replied Liz trying not to sound despondent.
“Cheer up, shouldn’t take to long.” Arthur answered noting the change in the tone her voice.
“I guess not,” she sighed.
Arthur rose to his feet, picked up the dirty crocks and quickly deposited them in the kitchen sink before returning to the hall where Liz was slipping into her leather jacket.
“I’ll give you a lift to the station, save your legs.” He said as slipped on his coat and hat.
In the full swing of an evening when fully illuminated, the Bojangles Bar was a fine beacon upon the other shop fronts upon Weeping Willow road, but in the cold harsh light of the morning it resembled little more than an estate agents and did not attract the attention of the passing citizens. A few posters adorned the windows advertising various bands which would be performing in the near future or various drinks offers designed to entice the casual punter to frequent the premises. Arthur and Wiggins studied the shop front in an attempt to decide whether it would be better to knock on the front door or try round at the trademan’s entrance, Arthur made the decision and wrapped his walking cane rhythmically against the wood door. A few minutes elapsed and just when Arthur was about to try again, there was the sound of the fumbling of keys and the front door opened on the chain, through the gap in the door Arthur could make out a raggedly dressed woman peering out at them.
“Good Morning,” began Arthur, “I’m DCI Fransure and this is my partner Wiggins.” Arthur produced a card from the depths of his coat and handed it to the woman.
“Oh I see you’d better come in.” The woman replied, pushing the door forwards and removing the chain. Wiggins and Arthur entered and took in their surroundings and the woman. The Bar was quite vast with several alcoves along the walls, a good number of tables in the main section which terminate with a reasonably sized stage where a well tickled grand and a series of microphones stood permanently. To their left was the bar which sported twelve cask pulls, eight fonts for keg products and a post mix machine. The back bar was dominated by an array of spirits, liqueurs and fortified wines. There was an impressive wine rack and a series of fridges selling various bottle products, both Alcoholic and Non-Alcoholic, which terminated with what looked to Arthur like a wine fridge, boards at various locations around the venue listed the prices of the various products. Their host was a woman of about thirty of diminutive stature with dark hair and brown eyes wearing clothes which were evidently not intended for playing host.
“We’re here looking into the death of a young lady yesterday evening,” Arthur began to explain.
“The girl who died at the bus stop?” Inquired their host to which Arthur confirmed. “I believe she visited last night, but you’d have to talk to Carla as she was duty manager last night.”
“Well could you provide a contact number or address?” Asked Wiggins, “it’ll save us having to conduct a paper chase in order to find her.”
“Easy as pie boys, she lives in the flat above.” Replied their host with a smile.
“Thank you Mrs…” Said Arthur realising he hadn’t inquired their hosts name.
“Miss,” she replied. “Miss Trudy Jolson. I’ll just be a few moments.”
With that Trudy departed through one of the doors behind the bar, leaving Arthur and the police officer along in room. Arthur made a quick gesture to Wiggins to have a quick, but discreet, look around the bar while Arthur proceed to look and around the tables. A few minutes later, with their quick search around the bar bearing no fruit the two gents sat at one of the tables and started to take in the various posters and point-of-sales material behind them.
Trudy didn’t particularly get on that well with Carla, it wasn’t anything vindictive on either of their parts, it was just a case of personalities which didn’t gel. But as Trudy often thought to herself, credit where credit was due, Carla was very effective at her job and the punters liked her as did a lot of the entertainers. Trudy herself preferred to get the job in hand so tended to leave the PR gubbins to Carla while she would do what she considered the important part, the office and the general maintenance of the place, which often met with long periods of time being locked away sorting out the tills, the safe, wages, bookings etc… This was where she and Carla clashed: Carla didn’t see that as a bar manager’s job. Carla had a set idea that if you weren’t on the floor pulling pints, serving food or clearing up after patrons you were being lazy. Trudy knocked twice on the door to Carla’s flat and waited, after a couple of moments the door creaked opened and the semi-awake figure of Carla peaked out.
“What is it Trudy?” She asked wearily trying her best not to sound too grouchy and failing miserably.
“There’s two police officers downstairs who want to talk to you about that lass who died last night.”
“I see,” replied Carla. “I’ll just be a moment.” With that, the door clicked shut. Trudy was relieved that it was Carla who needed to speak to the police as it would interfere with her morning work load. After all, the bar wouldn’t get itself tidied and the books wouldn’t get themselves done. A train of thought, it occurred to Trudy, which probably hadn’t even of crossed Carla’s mind. Trudy pulled out the office keys from her pocket, deciding that it would be better for both business and for the police if she got on with the bookwork first.
Liz was not impressed with the amount of transcripts she’d had to wade through particularly as they’d all pretty much said the same thing only in increasingly bizarre syntaxes. Save for one who wouldn’t swear to the colour of Carol’s dress as he was colour blind and one who was more concerned about the cost of getting her coat cleaned after Carol had thrown up, the accounts were most helpful. Liz was surprised by how much detail the account by the elderly gent contained, what was of particular interest was how he’d noted her last words which he’d found incomprehensible. For a moment Liz sadly reflected the stakes of the world she’d got herself into, sure when she was a nurse she’d had to take a lot of tragedy and injustice in her stride. She witnessed the optimistic bright young things find their future dreams and hopes waylaid by diagnoses of life changing or threatening illness, families split apart by tragic accidents… Bright young things she mused, funny how despite not being out of her mid-twenties she felt so much older. She was just one of those ’bright young things’ when Arthur had first turned up in her life, back in the day. Back when she didn’t know what was going on behind the scenes as it were, still this wasn’t a time to get morbid, she had a job to do. So, three days, she guessed that was when the next transfer of information would take place. So she had a when, the where was more complex but no doubt Arthur would be able to help with his information.
Arthur had just consulted the programme for the club when Carla entered the bar, she was of average height with almost cherub like features and flow of auburn coloured hair. Like Trudy before her, Carla was not dressed as if she was expecting visitors.
“Did we wake you up?” Asked Arthur sweetly, noting that Carla was dressed in what appeared to be a nightie, a very short night silver nightie which was only just able to conceal the lady’s might bosom.
“I’m afraid so,” Carla answered with a friendly grin, “but seemed silly to get dressed for a quick interview.”
“What makes you think it’ll be quick?” Chirruped up Wiggins.
“Well I think you don’t have the stamina your friend has,” she quipped back.
“Yes well,” coughed Arthur prompting a change to the matter in hand. “We understand that you were one of the last people to talk to a miss Carol Highgate.”
“Was that her name? I guess I must have been.”
“Well could you tell us what happened?” Asked Wiggins. So Carla explained how Carol had come in ordered a glass of wine and had some cash back. She detailed how Carol had been reasonably chatty, a welcome voice of sanity after the usual bloke banter from early doors.
“She kept watching the door,” Carla continued, “at first I thought she was meeting a date, but she started looking nervous and worried. Especially when a group of guys from the industrial estate came in.”
“These guys…” began Arthur, “are they regulars?”
“They’ve been in a bit for the past week or so. Can’t say I’m very fond of them.”
“I don’t know, just a feeling.”
“Anyway, back on topic,” began Wiggins, “what happened after these guys arrived?”
“Well a few got some drinks and sat in one of the alcoves, while two went on the fruity.”
“What about miss Highgate?”
“She bought another drink, nipped to the loo and well it got a bit funny then. As she left her handbag behind, which had an address book in it. It was only later I realised she hadn’t collected it, but well that’s when it got complex looking back.”
“Oh how do you mean?” Inquired Arthur, his curiosity peaked.
“Well I got a message from a customer that one of the cubicles in the loo hadn’t been unlocked for over an hour. So I forced it open and found it was empty, with the window off the latch. I didn’t see her leave, so I guessed she climbed out the window.”
“Well,” began Arthur now using his authority tones and somehow appearing to grow a foot taller as he talked, “we’re going to have to take the handbag as evidence.”
“I thought you’d want it, it’s still behind the bar.” Carla replied. “I’ll get it in a second.”
“I know we don’t have a warrant to do so, but could we have a look at the toilet cubicle?” He added.
“Sure,” answered Carla. “Every boy should have a hobby.” She added with a cheeky smile. Carla rose from the chair and crossed to the bar and bent over to reach down for the bag. Arthur nodded to Wiggins to attend to the bag, while he went into the loos. After a few moments, he identified the correct cubicle and made a detailed but quick examination of the unit. Just as he was about to leave, a thought struck him and he produced a pen knife from his pocket, slipped it behind the system and extracted the concealed envelope from its hiding place. Satisfied with his endeavour, he allowed himself a smug smile before slipping the envelope into the depths of his coat and emerged from the toilet. Wiggins had persuaded Carla to make a brew and they seemed to be engaging in some casual chat, the hand bag sat at his feet. Arthur crossed over to the two as they talked, both blissfully unaware of his approach. He’d make his presence know very easily, a cheeky grin formed on his lips.
“Wiggy my boy, her face is up there,” he teased.
Wiggins suddenly snapped up a little flustered spilling part of his coffee (or was it tea?) on the bar and going slightly red. Carla seemed unbothered by the thought, but was amused by his reaction to Arthur‘s comment.
“I was stirring… I er…”
“Don’t worry I was only pulling your leg,” laughed Arthur.
“Never mind sweetie,” Carla added as she Arthur with a warm mug of tea. “Sugar is with lover boy there.”
“I don’t take it,” answered Arthur. “This tea is much appreciated though.”
“Find anything in the toilet?” Inquired Wiggins.
“No, I’m afraid not,” answered Arthur with a sigh. “Well, except that some graffiti artist hasn’t realised that ‘cough’ doesn’t rhyme with ‘Slough’ .” He noted Carla’s muted reaction, was she being nosey due to her feminine wiles or was it more serious? Not that it really mattered too much, he wasn’t concealing the data just from her. He didn’t want to involve Wiggins too much, he was a wet behind the ears lad who at this stage he didn’t know enough about. After finishing the tea, they bid Carla adieu and departed the premise. A few moments later Trudy returned from the office and crossed over to Carla was seated polishing of her tea.
“The police gone have they?” She inquired rhetorically.
“Yeah,” confirmed Carla. “Nice guys, barely looked at my tits at all.” She added with a cheeky laugh.
Trudy examined Carla’s attire, quite why she just didn’t stroll around in her underwear if she was going to wear such a short nightie she didn’t understand. Not that it was a jealous feeling, more envious, if she’d got a figure like Carla’s she’d show it off a lot.
“What’d you tell them?” Trudy inquired.
“All I know,” answered Carla. “Which isn’t a lot.”
“Carla be careful what you say to the police, don’t you know about…”
“..Yes I do.” Interrupted Carla, “I don’t think they’re even aware of it.”
“I hope you’re right, we’re playing a risky game here.” Said Trudy sternly. Whatever Trudy thought of Carla’s work ethic, she certainly trusted her diagnosis of people so there probably was nothing to worry about.
Arthur had returned to his home and was waiting for Liz and her dispatches, he’d dispensed with Wiggins at the station and had returned home to examine the contents of both Carol’s handbag and the envelope she had concealed. The handbag had contained the address book Carla had mentioned, two bottles of deodorant: one roll on, one aerosol, a well thumbed copy of The Old Man & the Sea, a couple of receipts for petrol, a comb, small bottle of perfume, a pack of that foul smelling shag she was always smoking and her pipe. Arthur never understood whatever it had been which had persuaded Carol to smoke a pipe or think it was good for her image; she didn’t have a beard, wear a flat cap or drink mild… well the latter not to his knowledge away. He skimmed through the address book looking for any obvious clue, then tried a few of the old code tricks and still found nothing. The deodorants were a no go, so maybe Hemingway would provide the answer. He skipped through the pages and noted how a few pages had words circled on various lines and spaces, but there seemed no sentence structure in them in any permutation. He’d get Liz to look at them later, perhaps she’d pick up something he had missed. Next Arthur opened the envelope and emptied the contents on his table. There were three photographs, a copy of the club’s programme and a copy of the RAF Stanford Officer’s Mess weekend menus, whatever the significance Arthur was oblivious to it. Carol had evidently been in a cryptic mood before she died, evidently she was covering her tracks. Arthur looked at the photos, they were of various bands performing on a stage, there were various people in the crowd but not exactly in focus so identifying them would be difficult. He browsed over them and noted in two photos the bass player and drummer were the same, so possibly session players. He scanned the photos for anymore details; there were a few unidentifiable posters on the walls, a fruit machine, a busty girl clearing glasses from a table, a chubby looking man with his back to camera and… wait a moment… Arthur back tracked to the girl. It was Carla, the photo was taken in the bar! So what was the significance of the bar? Was Carla involved or was it just for identify the bar? Who were the musicians and how were they significant? Arthur mused over these questions as he went to make himself a cup of tea and await the dispatches.
Carla had returned to her flat and was preparing herself some breakfast when she spotted the car pull into the car park, it was that lime green mini-cooper from last week again. What was the name of the client again? Oh damn her memory, she was fairly certain Trudy had dealt with then last time so it was no doubt her turn this time. She took a deep breath, turned off the grill and went to her bedroom to get dressed. Carla just hoped that she wasn’t getting the client in a bad mood, that would not be a good start to her work day.
Liz had finally got away from the station with the dispatches, she could of got away earlier but she had decided to stay on until the autopsy on Carol had been officially filed, Arthur would appreciate that even if One-Ten wouldn’t. She hadn’t looked over the report just yet, Dr. Young had offered to go through it with her and she declined. Partially as she wanted to crack on, partially because she couldn’t stand Dr. Young’s patronising tones when he went through a breakdown and mainly because the station was rapidly filling up with irate drunks being released from the night before. The mix of foul language, the overt stench of BO, stale beer and, bizarrely, garlic had proven too much for her. She let herself into Arthur’s place with the spare key he had given her sometime ago, she crossed into his living room and noted the items on the table and the tea set by his armchair. He was absent, probably answering a call of nature, but she could tell him been mulling things over related to the case as his knitting set was out on the chair. It always amused Liz that her level headed, cold calculated somewhat bullish boss would knit to aid his mental processes, still at least it was less disturbing than playing the violin. It also meant that she was never short of socks, gloves and scarves, so there was a benefit for her in his hobby.
“I didn’t hear you come in,” said Arthur as he returned to the sitting room.
“Is this a six sock problem we’re on?” Quizzed Liz with a smile.
“No,” replied Arthur. “A one pullover puzzler.”
“I’ve got the dispatches from Parton and…” she paused for dramatic effect, “…and also the post mortem results for Carol.”
“Excellent, what’s the cause?”
“Yes Arthur I’d love a cup of tea, not to mention a few biscuits.” She chirruped.
“Oh sorry pardon,” Arthur replied sheepishly picking up the teapot and pouring Liz a cup to her specification.
“I haven’t looked yet, you know how Dr. Young goes on.”
Arthur nodded in sympathy and relieved her of the dispatches, going for the post mortem results straight away. Get the nitty gritty over and done with was his motto in these circumstances, he scanned the notes and whistled as he read the breakdown.
“Oh dear, a poisoned umbrella in this day and age,” tutted Arthur. “I guess it’s not as barmy as hiring a witch-doctor to charm off Fidel’s beard.”
“Poisoned umbrella?” Asked Liz, “like the Bulgarian weatherman?”
“Quite so,” confirmed Arthur. “The poison is… was some kind of Digitalis off shoot.”
“Digitalis. That paralyses the heart muscles and you can revive someone from it,” said Liz appalled, “did noone think to try CPR?”
“Liz, your average Joe on the street wouldn’t know that about Digitalis, let alone she’d been poisoned,” snapped Arthur. Realising he had done so, he regained his demeanour “Toxicology also states there was more than one dose of digitalis and some other chemicals to mask the symptoms.”
“So the assassin was making sure that Carol wouldn’t survive to hospital,” deduced Liz.
Arthur started to leaf his way through the various statements, and compare them with his data on the table.
“So we have an agent down, the RAF Stanford menu for the weekend, some photos in a jazz bar, Ernest Hemingway and..”
“Jazz bar?” Interrupted Liz springing to the files, “did you say jazz bar?”
“It makes sense now,” stated Liz scanning the transcripts for the old mans.
“It does, I’m so glad.”
“Sarcasm doesn’t become you Arthur.” Muttered Liz as she pulled out the appropriate file. “Carol’s last words were, Transfer will take place at the stage, Three Days.”
A smiled formed across Arthur’s lips and his eyes brightened up, an idea was forming in his mind.
Carla returned to her flat and made a second attempt to make her breakfast, luckily the client had been quite civil today and the appointment had gone successfully. So that would mean it would be an simpler weekend this time, hallelujah. She quickly cooked up a full English breakfast and devoured it in less time, she had ninety minutes until duty called for her again. She needed to get her uniform for the weekend in the wash, have a scrub up and… and one more private duty to perform. This would be the last one, after that no more, doing as many as she had done had made her feel dirty. Carla crossed to the kitchen drawn and pulled out a small key, with key in hand she slowly crossed to the small ornate box on her bedside table, unlocking it she produced a mobile phone. Selecting a name she dialled the number as the voice answer she took a deep breath.
“This is Carla,” she said nervously. “I am offering up my services for you again, the usual rate.”