Dan was surprised to see another box of files had appeared on his desk along with a note from Sergeant Nelson saying he'd 'found them'. One folder contained a list of people who'd been through Andy and Katherine's house, and any followups necessary. The list was quite lengthy seeing as the place was up for sale but at least the viewings had been professionally organised. Dan looked at the list in despair then answered the ringing phone.
"Tessa here. I saw Nelson wandering up there with boxes. He told me to butt out when I asked. You haven't reopened it have you?" Tessa asked in surprise.
"No, not really." Dan exhaled loudly. "Tessa were you honestly convinced by the evidence? I don't mean how it was presented in court, I mean the actual evidence we found."
"I didn't see it. I was a first rung constable. I got more information from the papers than I did from the station." Tessa said and Dan nodded. So had everyone else, it seemed.
"OK so how did the press and whatnot explain how a tiny, teenage girl was physically strong enough to beat an adult man's brains out? She is tiny, Tessa, as you said. I've seen her today. I've also seen pictures of Andy Storey's head wound and it's like a bloody pothole!" Dan exclaimed then realising he was ranting on at poor Tessa, even though she'd told him repetedly that she knew nothing about the case. "Why am I squawking on at you eh? I'm sorry. I'm just a bit frustrated with it all."
"No worries. What about this strangulation stuff?" Tessa asked.
"I don't know yet. The reports are in the labs. In my opinion, that sounds even more improbable. You have to physically overpower someone to strangle them. I've seen pictures of Andy and I think I'd struggle to overpower him, nevermind Katherine." Dan said. "Speaking of Katherine, did she mention any sick relatives when she was in about the bag?"
"No. Why would she?"
"Just something I saw. She lives on Fallows Avenue. It's a bit posh round there, isn't it?"
"I doubt she owns the house. I've heard that some people rent out spare rooms over there." Tessa said.
"I thought that too. Still a bit pricey though. I got the impression that she was more than just a lodger." Dan said thoughtfully. "Oh well. If it's important, I'll get to it. Thanks for putting up with me, Tessa."
"I'm here to help. Don't work all night." Tessa ordered.
Dan got though as many of the Estate Agent's list as he could before his brain started to lag and his eyelids started to droop. That was his cue to call it a night.
Dan's flat was as tidy as it ever was, seeing there was only him in it. He used to share it with his girlfriend, Carol, until four years ago. Carol had decided that police officers made terrible partners, and she was probably right. She left and Dan found a note telling him to go and marry DI Price. What a thought. He was just about to turn off the lights and go to bed when he heard a gentle tap on the door. He looked at his watch and saw it was after eleven at night and presumed it was work related. He opened the door with a weary sigh.
"Tell me if I'm being a nuisance and I'll go." Katherine Harrington said and Dan just blinked at her like an idiot. "Ah, OK. I'm sorry." She turned to leave.
"No! No it's fine." Dan said quickly. "Are you OK?"
"Well I'm all stressed to hell, but physicaly I'm fine." Katherine nodded and smiled weakly.
"Come in." Dan let Katherine into the house and lead her through into the sitting room. "Can I get you anything?"
"Can I have a cup of tea please? I've been sitting in my car for two hours." Katherine sat on the sofa.
"Why have you been sitting in your car for two hours?" Dan went into his small kitchen which was just a partitioned area of the same room.
"Waiting for you to come out of the station. I followed you, then sat for another half hour wondering what the hell I was doing. I thought you'd send me home." Katherine explained, accepting her tea. "Thanks for both."
"If you'd asked for me at the station I'd have gladly seen you." Dan told her.
"I know. I didn't really want the station to see me though. I shouldn't be here. I'm sorry." Katherine apologised.
"It's not a problem." Dan lied. It certainly would be if Superintendant Stone got wind of it. "So what's wrong? Apart from me doing your head in this afternoon."
"That's just what's wrong. Can you tell me what you've found to dig it all back up again?"
"Katherine, I'm sorry. I can't." Dan said sincerely. "It seems unfair, I know. I stress you out by bringing it all back up but I don't tell you why I'm doing it. I really am sorry."
"I understand." Katherine nodded.
"I hope you do. I'm not in the habit of upsetting people, then leaving them bewildered." Dan sighed heavily.
"You don't have to explain. I understand the confidentiality stuff. I'm not stupid. I trust you, for some reason. Maybe with you not being involved in my case. Shit knows I have enough in my arsenal to never trust a copper ever again." Katherine frowned at the floor. "You said you didn't think I killed Andy. I believe you."
"But you want me to leave it at that. Right? You made it pretty clear you wanted nothing to do with it again." Dan could hardly blame her for that.
"I don't think I could cope with re-living it. The whole investigation was a living nightmare for me and I don't know how I survived it. I don't think I'd be able to handle it again." Katherine said sadly.
"And the other person in the house? I suppose you have to be supportive of them too if they're sick." Dan fished.
"Yes." Katherine answered simply. "The person in the house is of no concern to anyone apart from me. I said I trusted you, so you can trust me on that one."
"I'm sorry. You told me before it was none of my business. I'm a copper! I'm nosey by definition." Dan said and made Katherine smile. "So what do you want me to do, Katherine?"
"I don't know really." Katherine shook her head. "Keep the mob off my back, I suppose. Coppers work in packs and I don't want the aggrevation. I don't want them hanging around my home, or me. I just want privacy, Dan. I think I'm entitled to it."
"So do I. As for the cop mob? Well there's only me. My colleagues are all doing other things and my DI is away just now." Dan explained.
"I knew you were a nice man." Katherine smiled. "So Johnny Kennedy's away, is he? Holiday? Hopefully he'll stay on holiday."
"Oh no. Katherine, Kennedy isn't my DI. He's dead Katherine. He'd actually retired not long after your trial." Dan said tactfully.
"Poor old Johnny." Katherine sighed wearily. "God knows why I feel sympathy for the bastard, but I do. What about Stone? Please say they've pensioned him off."
"Harry Stone?" Dan laughed. "He's the Superintendant."
"Oh you jest!" Katherine pulled a face. "Bloody Tick and Tock, those two. They did more fighting between themselves than they did fighting the villains. Yes, I can well imagine Stone getting to the top and stabbing everyone in the back to get there, Kennedy included."
"I take it you've had a few dealings with them." Dan commented.
"None of them nice. Kennedy used to tell me that every second man on the street was a copper, and they were all out for me. Shit, I was terrified. They even hauled in a sixty year old librarian called Doug Harrington because they mistakenly thought he was related to me. What's that all about? Poor old sod. Kennedy wigged out big style when he found out I'd no relatives." Katherine smiled at Dan's disgusted face. "You'd never have made a copper ten years ago, DS Buckley."
"I'm beginning to agree with you. I know you're trying to make light of it, but I can see it still haunts you." Dan said unhappily.
"When most people lose a loved one they get councelling. I got banged up for eight years with every prison officer in the place trying to get me beat up. I couldn't go to his funeral and I couldn't even grieve. I lost everything, including my liberty. Yes it haunts me." Katherine said miserably and hung her head.
"It should never have happened." Dan said gently and put his hands on Katherine's arms. "Katherine, you should never have been convicted and I'm completely convinced of that. I have to try and rectify that, can't you see? I'm not talking about my job as a police officer. Someone out there took Andy from you and from the police force and I don't want him out there any longer. It's time it was put right, Katherine." Dan said and a big tear splashed onto Katherine's boots. "Don't cry. I'll get you more tea."
"I'm sorry. Hell I'm such a bloody big drip. I didn't come here to cry and blubber all over the place. Believe it or not, I'm not the blubbery type." Katherine snivelled.
"Blubber all you like. I don't mind." Dan knelt infront of Katherine and handed her a tissue.
"Thanks." She gave him a watery smile. "Can you look into it all without involving me?"
"The last thing I want is to persecute you. I'd never do that." Dan replied and they looked at each other for a fraction longer than was necessary.
"I ... I better go." Katherine recovered first. Dan grimaced and stood up, Katherine doing likewise.
"Katherine? Well ... you're OK." Dan said awkwardly.
"You're not too bad yourself." Kathering laughed and let herself out. Dan closed the door, let out a long sigh, and turned off the light.
The next morning found Dan feeling agitated. He hadn't slept much and Katherine's surprise visit had thrown him off balance. Added to that was the blasted case that seemed to be everywhere and nowhere. He picked up a message in his office to call Hugh Simons. Dan needed to know an absolute cause of death and he sincerely hoped that he could compile enough sense on paper to have this case reopened properly. It would cause alot of upset and painful memories for Katherine, but despite that, it could clear her name completely. Surely all wrongly convicted people would want that? So why was Katherine so reluctant? It was pretty obvious really. She was protecting the sick person she shared a home with. He decided to go and see Hugh in person and found him tidying away his medical equipment. These items always looked disturbingly barbaric to Dan. Hugh stopped and gave Dan a long, hard look that set Dan't stomach off in knots.
"You can certainly pick them Dan." Hugh said at last.
"Don't I know it." Dan agreed. "What have you got for me?"
"That massive injury to his head didn't splinter too deeply into his brain." Hugh pointed to the wound on a photograph. "Oh it could have killed him, that's quite possible, but he wouldn't have just dropped dead immediately."
"Could he have bled to death because of it? God knows there was enough of the stuff."
"Yes. Even if he didn't lose consciousness with the bash on the head, he could have bled out, lost consciousness, then died." Hugh nodded. "Maybe."
"Maybe?" Don tried not to squeal.
"See this?" Hugh showed Dan a magnification of the neck area that Dan had tried to see in the vaults. "It says in the footnotes that those contusions were the result of a struggle. Possible I suppose but not really likely. The marks are on both sides. See? They're almost symetrical. You don't get symetry in a struggle."
"So what are you saying?" Dan asked cautiously.
"I'm saying that it's possible that someone had hold of him around the neck." Hugh shrugged.
"Enough to strangle him?"
"Possible but the hyoid bone was intact. That's in the report too."
"Hugh, is that bone always broken during strangulation? Come on, you know what I'm getting at." Dan said impatiently.
"It's usually broken but not always. I'm not here to tell you what you want to hear, Dan."
"So he could have been strangled. Yes? He could have been clubbed on the head, went down, then strangled." Dan nodded.
"I've no way of knowing the order of things. If I'd done the original reports, I definitely wouldn't have relegated those throat injuries." Hugh skirted.
"So you wouldn't have ruled out strangulation as the cause of death?" Dan stressed.
"Not absolutely, no."
"Shit." Dan sat down on Hugh's desk.
"Now you're sitting down, I'll tell you the rest." Hugh pulled out a sheet of paper. "It was quite easy to get DNA from Storey and Harrington. Storey's blood was everywhere and Harrington gave samples when asked. That got me thinking. I'm not sure why they'd want a sample from Harrington. Storey had obligingly just taken a bath before he was killed, and Harrington was at work. A clean slate completely. The only reason they'd need Harrington's sample was to check it against DNA found on his body that wasn't his so I checked it out. Harrington had Storey's blood, his DNA, all over her but there was none of hers on him, as written in the final report." Hugh frowned at the papers.
"So they wanted Katherine's to compare to ... what, exactly?" Dan tried to keep up.
"Probably to the small patch of dried saliva found by Andy's left ear, as mentioned in the original report. It never was identified and seems to have been shuffled to the bottom of the stack." Hugh shook his head.
"What?" Dan exclaimed in shock. "Are you serious? They disregarded a whole sample just because it wasn't Katherine's?"
"You have to remember the technology back then Dan. In those days you needed quite a large sample for an effective test. These days we only need a microscopic one. Andy Storey had bled his sample, all over his girlfriend Katherine Harrington."
"Is that saliva sample still here?" Dan asked hopefully.
"What's left of it, yes. I know where you're going with this Dan, and I can't without authorisation from god upstairs." Hugh pointed to the ceiling, indicating the Superintendant.
"I can't see that he has a choice." Dan said flatly. "You'd have to be blind not to see all this, Hugh. It's looking alot like Katherine Harrington's done eight years for someone else's crime. We got the wrong person."
"And Super Stone is going to be delighted about that one." Hugh said grimly. "You get the authorisation and I'll try and test what's left of that sample. I'll tell you now though, it's ten years old and it's already been subjected to crude testing."
"I understand. As long as it's not Katherine's or Andy's would be a plus. An identification would be better." Dan stood up and rubbed his eyes. "I'm not looking forward to Stone."
"I wouldn't be either. Good luck on that one."
Superintendant Stone's face was like a granite slab. To say he wasn't happy would have been the understatement of the year.
"You do realise we can't bring Cliff Davies in for this. He'll tie us in knots himself, let alone his solicitor. Circumstantial, Huxley, and that's not enough."
"Reopening the case would be a start sir and I think I have enough for that. It's Buckley, sir."
"You reopen it quietly. Do you understand? You have notions and theories, nothing more. If this goes public and it goes titsup there'll be all hell to pay and I'll put you right in the firing line. You'll also report to me with any progress made. Is that clear?" The Superintendant leant forward.
"Yes sir. Thank you." Dan hurried out of the office incase the Super changed his mind. If he didn't come up with something soon, the whole thing would be buried again. Quietly, he'd said. Dan took that to mean not involving any other officers to minimise any damage if it all went to hell. Re opening old cases was always an awkward one, more so if the case had previously reached a conclusion. This one had been concuded with a jail sentence.
Dan collected the list of prospective house buyers of ten years ago, then as an afterthough, included pictures of Cliff Davies and Greg Peters.
Price and King Estate Agents had been there as long as Dan could remember, and a good while longer. Tracy Keen was the Agent who'd conducted the viewings for Andy and Katherine's house and that's who Dan asked for, after introducing himself.
"Sorry sir, I don't know anyone of that name." The young man at the desk told him.
"It was ten years ago. Is there anyone here who could help me?"
"Ten years." The man said slowly. "I was only twelve."
"Excuse me? Can I help you?" A smartly dressed lady was standing my an open door.
"DS Dan Buckley. I'm looking for someone who worked here ten years ago." Dan spoke to the redhead.
"Yes I heard. What name did you say?" She asked.
"Come through to the office please. Robin, call through when Mr and Mrs Fellows get here please." She said and the young man nodded.
"I hope I'm not interrupting you too much." Dan said, taking a seat in a comfortable chair.
"I'm free until my next clients get here. Tracy Keen?"
"Yes. She worked here ten years ago and dealt with a house on ..."
"Redtree Road." She exhaled loudly. "Who could forget that? I'm Tracy Keen, or at least I was ten years ago." She tapped a name plate on her desk. Mrs Tracy Hall Manager. "It has to be to do with that. I can't think of any other reason the police would be asking for me at work, again."
"We were given a list of all the prospective buyers who'd visited the house prior to the incident that took place there." Dan put the list on the table.
"For what use it was. It was the girlfriend, wasn't it? I could hardly believe that! I'd spoken to her dozens of times, him too." Tracy shook her head.
"Does the name Clifford Davies mean anything to you?" Dan asked.
"Not a thing. Is he on the list? I can't remember, not after ten years." Tracy looked at the list.
"No he isn't. What about Gregory Peters?"
"Never heard of him." Tracy said.
"These two?" Dan put the photographs on the desk and Tracy took a sharp intake of breath. "You recognise these two?" Dan said in surprise.
"Not that one, no." She pushed away Cliff's picture.
"So you recognise this man here?" Dan pointed to the picture of Greg Peters.
"This is difficult." Tracy sighed wearily. "But it was ten years ago, I suppose. That's Robert Taylor. He's on that list somewhere, or at least he should be." Dan traced down the list and found Taylor, Robert, just as Tracy had said.
"You seem pretty sure, Mrs Hall. It was ten years ago, as you said." Dan said carefully.
"I'm sure because ... because ... we had a special interest in each other." Tracy said, then grimaced. "He came to view the house and we just seemed to click. I went out with him a few times. Oh it was nothing serious, or long lasting. He told me he was moving away to work, but it didn't matter. It was just a few dates and a bit of fun."
"Did you tell the police this at the time?" Dan collected the photographs and the list.
"No and I realise now how stupid that was. Seeing Robert was pretty stupid too, in retrospect. I was a twenty year old saleswoman and it was my first viewing. I'd have lost my job if I'd spoke up." Tracy said heavily and looked at the desk.
"Well it probably didn't seem relevant at the time." Dan reassured her.
"I was never asked so I didn't volunteer. I was asked to draw up the list and that was it. Has Robert done something wrong?" Tracy asked.
"He may have, yes. His real name was Greg Peters for a start, not Robert Taylor. I mentioned him before I showed you the pictures." Dan explained.
"What?" Tracy exclaimed. "Why would he lie like that?"
"He needed to be in your good books, Mrs Hall. He needed to know he could have viewings of the house on demand. It's my guess he's on a few other lists too, possibly under different names." Dan was quite astonished at the way this latest twist was heading. "Mrs Hall, I think he was casing the house prior to a burglary."
"Oh my God!" Tracy said in shock. "And I helped him? Was I an accomplice or something? Oh God!"
"You weren't anything of the sort, Mrs Hall. You were doing your job. He took you in and he was very, very good at it." Dan said grimly. "Thanks for helping me. Put it out of your mind and don't let it worry you."
"I'll do my best." Tracy said shakily. "You keep referring to him in the past tense. Is he dead?"
"Yes. He was hit by a car."
"Oh Lord. Look, I'm here until six every evening except Sundays." Tracy gave Dan a business card. "Call me here if I can help you in any way." Dan thanked her and left the building.
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©Alex Harvey 2013