Cliff Davies sat in the interview room with the inferno radiator with a solicitor who'd been appointed to him, and Ken Watson. He had a three inch cut down his cheek and an ugly, cobweb and heart tattoo on his wrist. Dan walked in, sat down, then took his time taking his notes out of his folders.
"How did you cut your face Cliff?" He asked while reading Cliff's home address.
"A shelf fell on me." Cliff replied.
"Where were you at nine o clock last night?"
"At home putting up the shelf."
"So my officers will see this nice new shelf, will they? They're tossing your flat right now." Dan looked at Cliff.
"I know they are! That isn't right, pal! Mr. Fenton here is going to look ..."
"I'm sure he is." Dan interrupted.
"Are you going to get to the point, DI Buckley?" Mr. Fenton looked at his watch.
"Gladly. I think you tried to mug a young woman outside Springford Hospice last night Cliff." Dan said evenly.
"I was at home." Cliff said stubbornly.
"You tried to mug her, she dragged her keys through your ski mask and booted you in the balls." Dan went on.
"I was at home." Cliff repeated loudly.
"So the DNA from your home won't match the DNA from the blood on her jacket? Are you sure? Maybe my men will find the mask, hoodie and jeans you wore too. Come on Cliff." Dan pressed.
"And maybe they won't." Mr. Fenton decided to speak up. "Mr. Davies told you he was at home, and unless you can prove otherwise, I suggest you leave this line of questioning."
"OK." Dan shrugged. "How long have you had the tattoo?"
"Huh?" Cliff automatically looked at his wrist. "This one? I have a few."
"I thought they weren't allowed to put them there. Isn't it dangerous? I bet it hurt like hell."
"Borstal special. They put them where they like and now no one will cover it for me." Cliff explained.
"Is that what you told Katherine Harrington too? She lit your cigarette for you right outside her house, ten years ago. She remembers you, and the tattoo." Dan said quietly and Cliff's eyes and mouth opened in panic.
"I don't know what you're on about." He said quickly. "Ten years ago? Get real." He glanced at his solicitor who looked like he really didn't want to be there.
"She remembers it because it was the night her boyfriend was killed. You were right outside the house, Cliff. You were lookout for Greg Peters." Dan said.
"That was nothing to do with me!" Cliff yelled.
"How long were you in the house, Cliff?"
"I wasn't in the house." Cliff snapped.
"So you just stood outside while Peters battered Andy Storey to death? You didn't go and see what had gone wrong? You both expected the house to be empty. So Peters didn't let you know that it wasn't?" Dan leant foreward and looked Cliff in the eyes.
"No! I mean ... I don't know! I was outside. OK?" Cliff ran his fingers through his greasy hair.
"You must have heard something, Cliff. Come on! Andy and Peters must have taken each other by surprise. Where were you standing?" Dan demanded.
"Outside. I just told you. I was outside watching the street." Cliff nodded furiously.
"So outside the front door. Yes?"
"Or just down the path a bit. Greg was in the house, not me." Cliff asserted.
"So you heard, or saw, Greg in the house?"
"He was in there, I'm telling you! I saw him through the window." Cliff told him.
"So what was he doing? Creeping about? Trashing the place? Did you see Andy Storey? I need to know what happened after Andy's unexpected appearance sent the plans to bollocks, Cliff. What happened?" Dan asked calmly.
"Well the bloke did surprise Greg, like you said. Greg was busy robbing the place, you see? He did all that type of stuff." Cliff said and Dan nodded. "Yes. So Greg's unplugging the DVD and that and Storey walked in on him. A fight broke out."
"Hang on, let me catch up." Dan frowned and Cliff nodded eagerly. "So you saw this through the window? Greg was unplugging the DVD player when Andy walked into the lounge. Is that right?"
"It could have been the TV or the Sky Box. I'm not too sure about that one." Cliff said seriously.
"But you saw Andy go for Peters and a fight broke out right there in the lounge. You saw that through the window. Have I got that right?" Dan asked.
"Spot on." Cliff said. "It was so quick! I hadn't even time to get my gloves on, let alone open the door to stop him. He was always a wrong one was Greg. I knew he'd go too far one day." He sighed sadly.
"Andy Storey was killed in the kitchen, Cliff. It isn't visible from the front of the house. I've been there." Dan stated flatly. Cliff's mouth flapped noiselessly for a while and his eyes darted slightly.
"I remember. I did go round the back, yes. I was ..."
"Oh leave it out Cliff." Dan heaved. "You were in that kitchen too. All the lounge crap is just to finger Peters."
"N ... no!" Cliff shook his head.
"The mugging I mentioned earlier, Cliff. The blood sample off the girl's jacket is being tested against a sample that was found on Andy Storey's body. Now I don't think Greg Peters rose from the dead to carry out a mugging. Do you?" Dan looked evenly at Cliff. "It's over, Cliff. You've had a ten year run of it but it's over. What happened?"
"Shit." Cliff held his head in his hands. "It just all went wrong. Really, badly wrong. The place was meant to be empty. Greg went in through a side window and I stood out front, as I said. I heard a commotion and ran round to get in the same side window but Greg had closed the bloody thing. I heard all this racket so I ran round the back just as Greg was opening the back door. Christ, the bloke was lying on the floor in a pool of blood. I swear I didn't hit him with that thing. He was on the floor in his own blood." Cliff looked desperately at his very shocked solicitor. "Greg did all that, I swear!"
"You may have to." Dan said darkly. "What happened next?"
"I was bloody terrified! I'm a thief, a toerag. I'm a wrong one and I've never denied it, but not ... that!. I told Greg what a stupid bastard he was. I wanted to get the hell out of there. I was just about to leg it and Storey gurgled! He was still alive and he made this funny noise. I told Greg to get an ambulance and he told me not to be such a dick. He'd seen us, right? Both of us would go down for years if we got caught, especially with the violence stuff. The bloke started moaning and he was trying to get up! Shit I was crying and everything! I was shaking like a leaf! Greg's harping on about him describing me to the coppers and how we'd get sent down. I ... I just didn't want him to recognise me. You know?" Cliff looked up at Dan as though he didn't know where he was.
"What did you do, Cliff?" Dan asked quietly.
"Greg ran for it when he heard sirens. Arsehole. He left me on my own with the bloke and all the blood and the smell. I didn't want him to turn me in. Don't you see? The coppers were coming and he'd turn me in! I just put my hands on his neck and leant on him a bit until he stopped gurgling. He was dying anyway because Cliff beat his head in. He'd have died anyway but the coppers ... I ... left him there."
"Ran before the coppers got there." Dan stated.
"Ran? I could hardly bloody walk straight. I saw the cop lights flashing at the end of the road while some kid gave me a light for my cigarette. Funny thing is, they drove straight past. They weren't even going there." Cliff said in a daze.
"Andy's girlfriend, Katherine Harrington, lit your cigarette just before she went in and found her dead boyfriend. She served eight years for it." Dan glowered at Cliff.
"I read about it. I tried to tell Greg and he had me beat up for my troubles. The bloke was dying, I swear he was. Greg bashed his head in with that hammer thing. I didn't do that." Cliff started to cry.
"What was attacking Katherine in the hospice carpark last night supposed to achieve?" Dan asked and Cliff looked genuinely confused.
"Katherine? The girlfriend? That was her?" Cliff showed real shock.
"Are you telling me you didn't know?"
"I swear to god I didn't! Jesus! Carparks of any sort are good for a quick bag snatch. I needed the money, that's all. Honest to god I didn't know it was her." Cliff said desperately.
"I doubt Greg Peters did either when he tried the exact same thing. She kicked him in the nuts too, but he fell in front of a car. That's what set this all off, Cliff and the same petty crime finished it."
Mary Storey was buried with her son and over half the station attended. Harry Stone stood to the back of the mourners with Dan.
"You did a good job Darren." The Super decided to get familiar and still got the name wrong. "The Crown Prosicution Service can't possibly bugger it up either." He watched Kathering throw a handful of dirt into the grave. "She'll nail my arse to the courtroom wall."
"Well I think her sentence being overturned and an official apology is what she's after. It's what she deserves." Dan replied.
"There'll be an inquiry. I'm expecting it." Stone heaved a sigh. "Your reports will be used to discredit me and Johnny Kennedy."
"My reports are written a bit better than that. Your name isn't even in them, nor is DI Kennedy's." Dan said in irritation. This wasn't really about Stone and Kennedy and Dan was still seriously ruffled about Katherine's treatment by the legal system as a whole. "Hopefully what it will come down to is a comparisson of scientific technology between then and now. There was nothing you could have done with that saliva sample back then." Dan said and the Super just nodded. "Can I ask you something sir?"
"Can I stop you?" Stone said moodily.
"Did you ever think, even just as a nagging doubt, that she was innocent?"
"I don't get paid to speculate on that, lad, and nor do you." Stone said wearily. "We follow leads and collect evidence. The legal lot present it. If I had to speculate on every conviction, I'd be in an early grave. You'll learn this."
"Dan?" Katherine was on her way over. "Can I ask a favour? Will you sit in the car with me until we get to the tea room, please? I was sick on the way here."
"Yes of course I will." Dan started to walk away with Katherine.
"Don?" He turned round when the Super got his name wrong. "Yes I did. Many, many times." Dan nodded and followed Katherine.
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©Alex Harvey 2013