Dan had never been to the prison and he was grateful for it. It was big, grey and depressing. Just looking at it made Dan feel gloomy. He was shown to a room that housed one table, two chairs and a very large warden. Cliff Davies' cell mate had been armed robber, Martin Benson who was up for parole in two weeks. As soon as he entered the room, Benson oozed dislike for Dan. Dan realised that this was going to be a mental 'pissing contest' and Benson wanted to be on top. He watched the prisoner take a seat, then Dan continued to look silently at him, lips pursed slightly. It worked. Benson spoke first.
"So what's the story?" He lounged back in his chair.
"Cliff Davies." Dan replied. That threw Benson off his guard a bit. "Your former cell mate?"
"I know who he is. Bugger all to me, pal. He was in my cell for eight months, that's it. That's a piss in the ocean when you've been here for seven years." Benson shrugged his shoulders.
"He must have been quite a novice compared to you lot." Dan said and Benson nodded in agreement. "You're there with your tales of gun wielding bank jobs and he's there with his of screaming at old ladies down the garage."
"Still got sent down for it." Benson stated.
"So he never mentioned anything else to keep up with the big boys?"
"Can't remember. I don't listen to everyone's shit all the time." Benson said shortly.
"Oh well. Shame about the memory, Benson. I hope you won't need to recall anything for your parole hearing." Dan went to stand up.
"Hey! Hang on! You're on the parole board?" Benson sat forward.
"No of course not, but I am CID." Dan said ambiguously.
"OK but I'm not saying any of it's true. OK? Davies spent half his time crying, and the other half thinking he was Superman. He was a pain in the arse with his blubbering. Everyone knows that your cred in here goes way up if the cons think you've nailed a copper, including Davies. He was so full of shite that no one believed him. I certainly didn't." Benson said.
"So Davies said he'd killed a copper?" Dan clarified.
"Said he strangled one with his bare hands. He said it was easy because the pig was on the floor where he belonged. The stupid bastard thought it was hilarious because the copper had boxer shorts on with pink pigs on them. Moron. I don't think he was all there to be honest with you." Benson said in contempt.
"Doesn't sound like he was. Thanks for talking to me, Mr. Benson, I appreciate it. Good luck with your parole."
Dan sat in his deserted office and theorised. To strangle someone bare handed suggested strength, something he'd thought of earlier. How many women strangled men?
"Tessa?" He said down the phone. "Can I borrow you for half an hour?"
"Office Three." Tessa said. Dan made his way downstairs.
"I hope I'm not going to get in trouble for hijacking Frazer's staff." Dan said as he sat down.
"Oh he's not that bad." Tessa smiled. "So what can I do you for?"
"I was just curious to know how a jury was convinced that a teenage girl could physically strangle a fit, adult man." Dan frowned.
"Which teenage girl? Which adult man, come to think of it?"
"Andy Storey. I presume he was fit and healthy ..."
"Hang on. He wasn't strangled. Where did that come from?" Tessa asked in confusion.
"He wasn't?" Dan felt his stomach sink. Benson had fed him a line? The reason Dan presumed he hadn't was because Benson himself hadn't believed Davies' tales.
"Hell no. The poor bugger was beaten to death. That's how they got the conviction. Katherine Harrington was covered in his blood from the head wound. Poor sod. Apparently he wasn't even supposed to be home. He'd swapped a shift or something, as I recall. What a time to do a swap eh? The same time as your girlfriend goes apeshit."
"So why did she go apeshit?" Dan asked.
"No idea. I told you I was just a plod at the time. Want my opinion?" Tessa leant forward. "Peters, and the rest of them, are taking the piss. I know you and Ken have been haring around like Starsky and Hutch. They're winding you up."
"But why? Remember, it was Johnny Kennedy that Peters asked for, not me. Why would Peters want to piss off Johnny Kennedy and not be here to see it?" Dan pondered.
"How old are you?" Tessa asked suddenly. "Thirty-ish?"
"Thirty two. Why?"
"In Johnny's day, if a villain could take the piss, he would, and Johnny's aggrevated plenty of villains in his time."
"That's my point, Tessa. Johnny wasn't here to wind up and Peters knew that. Is winding me up on par with that? I wouldn't think so. I've never heard of Peters in my life, nor him me." Dan reasoned.
"I still think he was yanking your chain. So which clown told you Andy was strangled? You'd have looked a total idiot if you'd gone ahead with that one. You're a copper. Villains like to see us fall flat on our arses." Tessa told him.
"This shouldn't be as complicated as it is being." Dan drummed his fingers on the desk. "If there were strangulation marks on the body, as well as a head wound, then I was informed correctly. I'm assuming the cause of death was announced as the head wound?"
"Either that or the beating. I'm not totally sure. It certainly wasn't strangulation. Katherine Harrington is only around five feet tall for a start. He'd have ... ah right, your original point." Tessa nodded. "So what are you going to do? The Super?"
"Well I'll need old case files and he's the only one up on high right now. What are my chances?" Dan grimaced.
"Oh you smooth devil." Tessa smirked.
"I meant with the Super ... getting the Super ... OK nevermind." Dan laughed with Tessa then began the long walk to Superintendant Stone's lofty office.
Dan had only seen the Super a handful of times. He was a huge, imposing man and would have looked at home on a military base.
"Come in!" Stone boomed when Dan knocked on the door. Dan did so and the Super looked blankly at him.
"I have a problen, sir." Dan began. "As you'll know, DI Price is away just now and DS Scott is working a case along with two DCs. I'm on my own up there, sir."
"Aw! You poor thing! Do you want to move in here with me?" Stone glared at Dan. "Who are you, again?"
"DS Daniel Buckley, sir. Er ... no, I won't need to move in here, sir, but I love what you've done with the place." Dan smiled and shrugged his shoulders. He was vastly relieved when the Super barked a laugh. He managed to start at the beginning and finish with his conversation with Tessa, without mentioning Tessa at all, just as a precaution.
"That was cleared up years ago Butler." Stone scowled.
"I know sir but now I have Peters' confession, implicating Davies. I also have Benson's account of Davies' confession."
"It's a bit thin, isn't it?" Stone was far from convinced.
"Maybe, sir, but I can't see why Peters would confess to it, then Benson back it up independantly. If I could dismiss the strangulation claim, then I can put it all down to a wind up." Dan explained. Stone looked at him for eons.
"You don't have enough to re-open the case, Lockley." The Super stated.
"I didn't think so, no. I'd just like to satisfy myself that I'm not being jerked around. It's Buckley, sir." Dan tried to smile.
"I'd say you were. Satisfy yourself quickly, Battley. I'll issue you a temporary clearence pass." The Super nodded curtly and Dan restrained himself from whooping.
Ten years ago meant no computers to speak of. Dan had to go to the bowels of the earth and dig about among rows and rows of dusty boxes and folders. He'd been told that anything going out of the vaults needed signed for item at a time so he found himself a desk and a lamp and wiped away layers of dust with his sleeve. Dan ignored the yellow papers and went straight for the pathology and autopsy reports. He didn't have to be a pathologist to see the jagged, square, hole in Andy Story's skull. Even holding the gory photographs under the lamp, didn't give a clear enough view of the neck region. He'd definitely need a magnifier. Dan concentrated on the written reports instead. It said the wound was massive. Oh you don't say? Because of the wound, bloodloss, and general lividity, the head wound was given as the cause of death. Right at the bottom, in a section titled 'Post Script Notes' Dan read something that made his heart hammer in his chest. There were feint bruises around the throat that could easily have been caused during a struggle. The hyoid bone had not been broken. These two observations combined lead to the conclusion that this was of a lesser importance to the gaping wound in the man's head. Dan ran to the bottom of the stairs and grabbed the phone.
"Sergeant, can you see if Superintendant Stone is still in the building please? It's urgent." He heard several clicks while the lines were connected.
"Ah Becket. Be quick. I was just leaving." Stone said curtly.
"Sir there was evidence of neck bruising on the body of Andy Storey." Dan said quickly.
"There was also evidence of a bloody great trench in his head too." Stone said flatly.
"Yes sir, that's the most glaringly obvious wound. The neck trauma was relegated to secondary struggle injuries." Dan explained.
"If these injuries were passed off as secondary, they wouldn't have even been mentioned in any official capacity, sir. Martin Benson mentioned it. He didn't say Davies told him he'd battered his head in, he told him he'd strangled him with his bare hands. How would he know such a thing?" Dan elaborated.
"I don't like this." Stone said darkly. "If strangulation was the cause of death, then that's what it would say."
"Maybe not with all the other evidence being so prominent and plentiful, sir. Can I at least ask Dr. Simons to have a look at these reports?" Dan almost begged. The Super didn't answer. "I'm not disbelieving the original pathologist sir. All I'm saying is that it could look different to someone who didn't see the actual blood and brains strewn all over the place."
"Ugh. Yes OK, I get your drift, Butcher. So you just want this neck trauma business sorted out, yes?" Stone said irritably.
"Make sure you sign for everything otherwise Sergeant Nixon gets hysterical." Stone stated. Dan thanked him and hung up quickly just incase Stone imposed any stipulations. Even if the blow to the head had killed Andy, the neck trauma was still suspicious. How had Benson known to mention it? How had the trauma occured to begin with? The report said due to a struggle. Back to physical strength. Andy just couldn't get round that at all.
"I'll come back for the rest!" Dan dashed past Sergeant Nelson with two boxes full of files.
Dan's first port of call was the labs. He peered round the door to make sure Hugh Simons wasn't up to his elbows in god knows what. Dan and Hugh were good friends outside of work too. Dan had introduced Hugh to Amanda, a university friend, to whom Hugh was now engaged. Dan deposited the pathology reports on the desk and told Hugh he needed a fresh pair of eyes to look over them.
"Ten years ago? I hope this isn't going to lead to any dig-ups." Hugh pulled a face.
"I doubt that. Don't read the conclusions page, Hugh. I'd like your own conclusions." Dan told him. Hugh looked at the folder.
"DS? He was a DS? Here?"
"Yes he was. I've just had a few related bumps thrown at me Hugh. I need them ironed out. Just whenever you can, there's no rush."
"Well it's waited ten years already." Hugh put the folder in his drawer.
"How's Amanda?" Dan changed the subject.
"Blooming and flourishing." Hugh smiled.
"Good to ... Blooming?"
"My mother used that word to describe all four of my sisters when they were pregnant. Oh yes?" Dan laughed and Hugh beamed broadly. "Congratulations! Don't forget to give her my love."
"Cheers Dan. I won't forget." Hugh let Dan out of the labs.
The first thing Dan pulled out of the box was a photograph of Andy Storey. He was a fine looking young man, and judging by the door frame behind him, he was around the six foot mark.
"So what about you, Miss Harrington?" He unearthed a picture of Katherine Harrington. Tessa had been right, the woman was tiny. Her details showed her to be 5'1 and very slightly built. She was also very pretty, in an elven type of way. She had very dark hair that was cut short, and huge brown eyes. Sergeant Nelson interrupted Dan's reading.
"I was checking the stuff you took out and this was on the shelf." Nelson put a blue folder on the table. "I've signed for it so don't worry about that." He ambled out of the office. Dan recognised the folder and was rather surprised it was in the vaults. It was a prison folder and would contain details of release dates. The prison were obliged to give the police this information because Katherine had served time for a violent crime. He pushed away the thought that he maybe wasn't supposed to have this misplaced file, and began reading.
Katherine had served eight years of her fifteen year sentence. She'd been a model prisoner, popular with both the staff and the other inmates. What he read next, didn't exactly make him happy. There had been some sort of official review of Katherine's case, unknown to her. There was an air of admittance that her sentence may have been a bit harsh when compared with modern day judicial processes. Comparisons were also drawn, albeit quite vaguely, between policing and technical methods of the two times. Dan re-read it a few times, then found three other reports offering the same, or similar sentiments. He sat for a while and deciphered the overblown legal jargon, and evasive, long wided sentences until he was left with the bare bones. He didn't know whether to be astonished, outraged, or just plain angry. Basically, Katherine had been released before she decided, or was advised, to appeal. Due to the comparatively crude forensic methods of ten years ago, they'd actually struggle to get a conviction today. He delved into the box and found scene of crime photographs. Going by the blood drenched pair of jeans and white top, Katherine had been covered in the stuff and it was all Andy's. She'd been found with the body and two feet from the murder weapon which had her fingerprints all over it. It seemed that Katherine and Andy weren't getting along at all at that time, and were going through a split. This split also included the sale of the house that they both owned, something that Katherine was very much against. It had also been pointed out that the death of one of the mortgage payers would mean a reduction in the amount paid by the surviving partner. Katherine Harrington had been jailed when she was nineteen years old.
"There was either a blindingly magnificent prosecution, or your defence was utter shit, Katherine Harrington." Dan sighed wearily.Murder? Not even manslaughter, but full out murder? "Time to visit the ex-con herself, I thnk." Dan grabbed his jacket.
Katherine's home address was in quite an affluent area and on a tidy, tree lined avenue. The house was a white painted semi with a sprawling rose garden, surrounded by a low red brick wall. None of these properties were for rental so Dan was very surprised indeed. Katherine herself answered the door and Dan immediately noticed how little she'd changed in ten years. She had the same pixie hair and eyes.
"Miss Harrington? I'm DS Dan Buckley." Dan showed her his badge and she just glanced at it.
"I told you what happened. He ran into the road." Katherine said irritably. "CID for a failed bag snatch?"
"That's not why I'm here Miss Harrington. I'm here regarding Andy Storey's death." Dan said. Katherine visibly recoiled. "I'm not here to pester you ..."
"Go away." Katherine said shakily. "Go on! Sod off!"
"Miss Harrington I have new information that can only benefit you. It won't harm ..." Dan turned round when he heard the garden gate squeak open. A middle aged lady in a nurse's uniform edged by him towards the door.
"Go through Pam. Help yourself to the kettle first if you like." Katherine welcomed the visitor.
"Is everything OK?" Dan asked automatically.
"I don't want you here." Katherine stated flatly.
"I just want to talk, Miss Harrington. As I said, these new findings could benefit you." Dan pressed.
"Oh? So I'll get time taken off the time I've already done? Don't you dare mention the word benefit to me, DS Buckley." She snarled. "It's gone and it's done with. Do you understand? I don't want it all dragged up again."
"I can understand that." Dan persisted. "I'm ..."
"Can you hell. Leave me alone." Katherine went to close the door.
"I don't think you killed him." Dan said quickly and Katherine paused, then turned round. "Everything I've seen makes the suggestion a bit absurd, in my opinion. What they did have was circumstantial."
"Circumstantial or not, I still spent eight years in prison." Katherine said. "Just leave me alone, DS Buckley."
"I don't know who you're protecting but are they worth it?" Dan nodded towards the door of the house. "Are they worth you being branded a killer?"
"No you don't know who I'm protecting. You know nothing about me. I've been trying to move on from this for two years. Please let me do so in peace." Katherine sighed and rubbed her eyes.
"For the last ten years there's been a cold blooded killer out here thinking how wonderful he or she is for getting away with this. Andy Storey was your fiance, Miss Harrington, and someone killed him. I'll struggle on with this myself but it would be easier with you onside." Dan said factually.
"I miss him." Katherine said quietly. "Stay there. I'll be back out." She disappeared into the house and closed the door. Two minutes later she reappeared at the side of the house and sat on the wall that seperated the garden from the street. Dan walked over and joined her.
"If I've upset you then I really am sorry. If it wasn't so important, I'd never have bothered you." Dan apologised.
"As much as I mistrust the police force, I believe you." Katherine smiled at Dan. "So why do you suddenly believe me now?"
"I was given fresh information very recently regarding Andy's death. I knew nothing at all about the original case so I had to start from scratch. I didn't attach must weight to my new information to begin with but I was obliged to follow it up. It gathered weight the more I looked into it. I hate things that don't fit, and not much of this does." Dan explained.
"I don't think I can handle it all again." Katherine squinted at the sun through the trees. "The police gave me a hammering from hell ten years ago because Andy was one of their own." Dan winced slightly. That had to be horrendous for her. "I don't care what your reports say, DS Buckley. I loved him."
"But you were selling the house. Right?"
"Sadly, yes. I really liked that house but it was a huge, Georgian monstrosity. Basically, it was far too big and the mortgage was far too much. It had five bedrooms and there was only the two of us. We'd bought it the year before in a fit of passionate madness and simply couldn't afford it." Katherine looked at Dan. "I know what was in your reports. One dead, payments reduced. That arsehole in the courtroom pushed that point. It was a house, DS Buckley, bricks and cement. Andy was my fiance. Andy wins hands down. I'd have built another house with my bare hands if he'd asked me to."
"I really can understand you not wanting to be dragged back ten years." Dan smiled. "I thought it only right to tell you I was looking into it." He felt a wave of pity for Katherine Harrington. Trying to picture this tiny girl, sitting on a wall dressed in leggings and a t-shirt, wielding a weapon and bludgeoning a man to death, just wasn't working. Trying to picture her physically strangling a man was just ridiculous. He was more and more convinced that they'd jailed the wrong person for Andy Storey's murder. It was a very awkward feeling to suspect that the officers on the case had gone for a quick result because Andy was a policeman.
"I suppose I should appreciate that. Thanks." Katherine said hollowly.
"This is a lovely house. My aunt lives in one a few streets away. How did you end up here?" Dan changed the subject.
"Scandalous, isn't it? Nasty little peasant like me on Fallows Avenue!" Katherine rolled her eyes and stood up.
"I didn't mean that. My aunt lives just over there. Forgive me, I didn't mean to sound insulting." Dan apologised.
"Ah it's fine. I have a rather large chip on my shoulder. Don't give yourself a nosebleed, DS Buckley. I don't live here alone and no, I'm not going to discuss my domestic arrangements with you."
"Fair enough." Dan smiled. "I'll let you get back indoors. You obviously have things to do." He nodded to a side window where the nurse was rummaging through her coat pockets.
"I do yes. Don't pull me back into all this, DS Buckley. Take care, I like you." Katherine went back indoors and Dan sat for a while and watched after her.
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©Alex Harvey 2013