Thursday 30 March – Saturday 1 April 2017
The crime scene had been attended by so many officers, forensics staff, photographers, and the top brass that there was little hope of Fraser and Corbyn finding any new evidence.
‘I want one little thing. One tiny little piece of evidence that was missed. Just a speck. A skerrick even. Something that gives us a leg up.’ Fraser overturned a cushion that had fallen from a nearby chair onto the floor, his hopes dashed when there was nothing underneath.
‘There’s nothing here to find, Jack. This scene’s been gone over this with a fine-toothed comb. What are you expecting to find?’
‘Anything. Something. Evidence that . . .’ Fraser was lost. He didn’t know what to expect, only what he hoped to find.
Corbyn wandered to the window. Below them, the world appeared to be running on fast forward. Bodies shooting from one side of the street to the other. Bike couriers wove between trucks and cars and traffic lights. Inside the room, however, the world stood still for Corbyn and Fraser, and it had ended for the victim they initially knew as Benjamin Rowe.
‘Okay, okay, maybe I’m looking at this from the wrong perspective, Ali.’
‘Keep going, Poirot.’
‘We’ve been trying to figure out who Benjamin Rowe was and why someone would want to kill him. Maybe, maybe we should be looking at who he was and who would want him out of the way.’
‘Seems logical,’ Corbyn replied. ‘So, where do we start with that one?’
‘You don’t happen to know anyone who has anything to do with witness protection, do you?’
‘If I did, do you think they’d actually tell me about it? It’s witness protection for a reason, Jack.’
‘Good point, Marple, good point.’
Fraser looked around, willing a piece of evidence to show itself to him. Nothing but blood spatter, finger print powder, and general mess greeted him.
‘Shit. SHIT!’ He kicked out at a cushion he’d looked under earlier.
‘Steady there, Wayne Rooney, the cushion did nothing to you.’
‘Ali, what are we missing?’
‘His identity before he became Benjamin Rowe.’
‘Exactly. So, what here, in this room, might give us some idea where to start in finding that out?’ His eyes fell on the opposite wall. Ali followed his line of sight.
‘Photos,’ Fraser repeated in the same tone of voice as his partner. ‘Collect as many photos as you can, and we’ll have a good look at them to see what we can find.’
Ali followed Jack’s lead, rushing through the room to gather all of the photographs she could see. Once the obvious photos were in a pile on a chair, they set about checking every drawer, every shelf, anywhere that Benjamin Rowe could have concealed photographs. When they were sure they’d exhausted every possibility, Fraser and Corbyn perched themselves in front of the chair and began examining each photo for clues of Rowe’s previous existence.
Shadows travelled across the room as the hours passed. At some point, Ali was unsure when, Fraser turned a light on so they could continue what was appearing to be a futile exercise. She rubbed her eyes, dry from a combination of the crappy air in the room and the long period of scrutinising photos. Her temples were next. She massaged them with her fingertips, working out the tension nerve ending by nerve ending. Eyes closed, Ali silently prayed for a miracle.
* * * * *
‘PC Dave Anderson, how can I help you?’ Anderson answered his mobile phone the same way, whether he was on or off duty.
‘Hello, Dave. How’s it going?’
‘Yes, PC Dave. Who else would it be?’
Anderson’s heart skipped more than a beat. Roy Mackey was not a man who suffered ignorance from anyone around him.
‘Sorry, sorry, I wasn’t expecting you to call. That’s all.’
‘Fair enough, PC Dave. So?’
‘So, how’s it going? You never answered my earlier question, PC Dave.’
Anderson had known Mackey for only a short time, and in that time, he’d never seen Mackey demonstrate anything remotely close to concern for others. This was not a good position for Anderson to be in – on the back foot, an unexpected call from Mackey, and walking home from the station in the dark.
‘It’s – it’s – it’s going okay, Mr. Mackey. What can I do for you today?’ Sweat rolled down Anderson’s face, but the brisk pace of his steps had nothing to do with it.
‘Did you do what I asked you to do?’
‘Yes, I did. Benjamin –’
‘Don’t go any further,’ Mackey interrupted. ‘A simple yes or no will suffice.’
‘Yes, Mr. Mackey.’
‘Good, PC Dave. I’ll be in touch when I need another favour from you.’
‘The thing is,’ Anderson found an ounce of courage to speak up. ‘The thing is, I can’t help you any more, Mr. Mackey. I’m a police officer, and I uphold the law.’
‘Of course you do, PC Dave. But,’ Mackey menaced, ‘the thing is that I own you now. I’ve got evidence that you’ve done something very bad, PC Dave. Not to mention the great big gambling debt that you owe me, and the gambling debts that you’ve accumulated around town. I own you, PC Dave. Plain and simple.’
The call disconnected in Anderson’s ear before he could say another word. Roy Mackey had him by the balls and there was no easy way out of that. The world closed in around Dave Anderson on his way home from work.
. . . To be continued . . .