Victoria jumped out of the taxi while it was still moving and ran towards the flashing lights of two police cars.
"She's ... she's dead." Stan Mitchell stammered in utter shock.
"Dead?" Victoria could hardly believe her ears.
"She flung herself from the back window and landed in the stone yard." Stan explained.
"Struggle? Break in?" Victoria demanded, marching to the side of the house that lead to the yard.
"None. She opened the window from the inside. The outer door was closed but unlocked. That's not unusual though, it was a communal door. Her own door on her bedsit was a Yale snib lock and locks when the door closes." Stan explained. They looked down at the crushed and crumpled body of Helen Walby lying in a pool of blood. "Ambulance on its way, so is Scene Of Crime lot.
"What happened to you keeping an eye on her?" Victoria snapped angrily at Stan.
"My constable waved at her less than an hour ago from that very window, then finished his patrol. I told you before, I don't have dozens of men and this is not my fault." Stan snapped back.
"I doubt she cares who's damn fault is is!" Victoria shouted, pointing at Helen's body.
"With all respect, DI Lowry, this is still CID, as you so emphatically keep pointing out. Where were you and DS McKenzie? I'm pleased this wasn't handed over. The press will have a field day." Stan walked towards his car but Victoria overtook him and rammed him up against the wall.
"Listen to me Mitchell. I couldn't give a rat's arse who has the damned case. I couldn't give a rat's arse if the press hold a National Lynching day. What I do give a rat's arse about is people ending up dead. Moore received a letter, he's dead. Helen received a letter, she's dead. I received a letter and I've no intention of wasting my time bickering with you!" Victoria snarled in Stan's face.
"You got a letter?" Stan repeated in shock.
"I want Jonathan Franks lifted and I need a reason. Find one. Parking tickets will do, dodgy books, tax, anything at all. Understand?" Victoria let go of Stan.
"I have to go and lift him?" Stan asked in despair.
"Yes you do so get something convincing." Victoria stamped her way to the front of the house and tried to compose herself. She noticed Alex talking to Stan too, then Stan jumped in his car and drove off out of Victoria's way.
"I think we have something." Alex watched Stan's car disappear round the corner. "You cooled off?"
"No. Get on with it, Alex." Victoria said flatly.
"The day Helen was ran over, a Mrs Towers went to the station. She works in a garage about half a mile out of town. Jonathan Franks filled up a red Astra at 7 am. Mrs Towers even noticed the scratches. Franks told her he'd just bought the car second hand." Alex subconsciously moved away from Victoria. Victoria was absolutely furious.
"And Mitchell has proof of this?" She pointed to the corner in general, indicating Stan's vanishing car.
"Paid by credit card. Dated and stamped, recorded transaction." Alex sighed in frustration. "The bloody idiot."
"The little shit!" Victoria leapt into a police car and glared at the officer in it.
"We need the car, constable Blake." Alex explained. Blake nodded and scrambled out.
"Why didn't he say? Why? He's a bloody Sergeant!" Victoria bellowed. "I'll have him making tea for the rest of his shitty career!"
"He was under the correct impression that we'd be moving on soon." Alex explained.
"So he witheld evidence just so he could produce it later as a feather in his fat cap?" Victoria roared and Alex nodded. "I'll rip him a new arsehole. I'm going to rip Jonathan Franks one first."
Victoria completely ignored Stan at the station, more for his own safety. Stan glanced at Victoria's thunderous face and decided to hand Mrs Towers information to Alex. Victoria was in Interview Room One first. Jonathan looked extremely annoyed and very pissed off and Victoria felt pleased that he did. Mr Trevors, his solicitor, was also there.
"This better be good Lowry." Jonathan growled.
"Spectacular." Victoria sat down. "Helen Walby is dead."
"I see." Jonathan sat back in his chair. "I don't wish to sound cold, but what has that to do with me?"
"You tried to kill her before. You ran her down in your red astra." Victoria stated.
"I believe Mr Franks has already explained that. It was a company ..."
"Company car. Yes I know, Mr Trevors. It was used to rum down Helen Walby at 6am and Mr Franks filled it with petrol at 7am." Victoria put the garage transactions on the table and Jonathan visibly deflated. "The car will be impounded and tested further."
"Look I didn't try to kill her. OK?" Jonathan exhaled loudly. "I didn't! That was never my intention. I wanted to scare her, that's all. Christ I didn't even mean to hit the lunatic! She was carrying two big bags and she lurched sideways with the weight of one of them. The car hit her."
"Cars don't hit people on their own. You mounted the pavement and drove into her." Victoria pressed.
"Yes!" Jonathan yelled. "I meant to rev the engine a bit to frighten the damned woman into leaving me alone!"
"She died from multiple injuries after falling from a third floor window a few hours ago. You are in deep shit Mr Franks." Victoria narrowed her eyes at Jonathan.
"W ... what? And you're saying I had something to do with that? Are you mad?" Jonathan said in disbelief.
"Helen claimed to have been terrorised for months by your brother. She claimed that the reason for this was a confession Gavin had made to her regarding the murder of Alison Bell. We know it can't have been possible for Gavin to have been harassing Helen recently, but someone was. G.F was. Your mother will also be questioned." Victoria looked evenly at Jonathan, who's mouth was working noiselessly.
"Gavin told me he'd hit Alison Bell with a rock." He said at last. He took me out into the yard and showed me the rock he'd put in the dustbin. There wasn't a mark on it, DI Lowry. No blood or anything. Gavin insisted that Alison was dead and I panicked. I was fifteen years old. I ran out there to see for myself. The girl was dead but there was no mess at all. I dragged her further into the woods and hid her under the bushes." Jonathan said in a daze.
"Do you think Gavin strangled Alison?" Victoria asked quietly. Jonsthan nodded and held his head in his hands. "And the rock?"
"I don't know. Honestly I don't. Gavin was making very little sense when I tried to talk to him. From what I can gather, Gavin had the rock and would have used it if Alison had moved again. That's just what I interpreted. I honestly don't know and neither did Gavin."
"It was believed that Gavin wouldn't have been physically able to kill her." Victoria pointed out.
"Yes he would. At that time he would. Just about all of his care fell on my mother. She exaggerated his disabilities and I backed her. No one had any reason to disbelieve her. Gavin was disabled." Jonathan looked exhausted.
"Why would Helen's aggrevation anger you so much now? You've spent thirty years lying about it quite calmly. She had no real proof of anything." Victoria said.
"I've done impossibly well for myself here. The whole family was shunned and Gavin's acquittal only lessened that slightly. Many people in the towm admired me for staying here and standing my ground, especially at such a young age. Yes it was a horrible secret but Gavin's acquittal meant I'd got away with my part in it. I'd never get away with it again if it was looked into now." Jonathan glanced at Victoria and picked at his fingernails.
"I can't see the point. I've told you enough."
"Excuse me, boss." Alex leant forward. "Mrs Harrison is being driven down here."
"Thank you DS McKenzie." Victoria stood up.
"Wait!" Jonathan said in alarm. "This will kill her. I'll talk to you. Leave her alone, please."
"OK." Victoria resumed her seat.
"What made up my mind that Gavin had killed Alison Bell was when he served a four year jail sentence for indecency on a minor. Oh god." Jonathan buried his face in his hands again. "Gavin and my mother moved away, as you know. About a year after his acquittal, he was convicted of pushing a girl down a flight of steps, then assaulting her while she was unconscious." He looked at Victoria again and he'd crumbled completely. "Four years in prison, four years in hospital after he suffered a massive stroke. He was released into my mother's care in the state he is now. I didn't want all that looked into, DI Lowry. I protected myself, my family and my business."
"Helen Walby's death?"
"I swear I knew nothing about it. I'm finished here now. I'm completely ruined. I'd have nothing to lose by telling you any different. I was in the shower when Stan Mitchell lifted me. Before that I was watching TV and I can tell you every program and what they were about. If you check my work computer, you'll find three emails that I sent myself during the course of the evening. I can't remember the exact times. It wasn't me, Detective Inspector, and it certainly wasn't Gavin, or my mother."
"I'm sure Sergeant Mitchell will look into that." Victoria said and Stan nodded. "Just one more thing. We ran Gavin's name through the systems and returned blanks on both Franks and Harrison."
"We were half brothers. Harrison is my mother's maiden name and we were given our fathers' names. Gavin was called Fielding."
"Fielding?" Victoria just stared at Jonathan.
"Yes. Mine was called Franks, obviously." Jonathan hung his head in utter dejection.
"Thank you." Victoria almost sprinted out of the room.
"Boss!." Alex caught up with her. "It's just a name, OK? Where are you going?"
"I ... I ... back to the station. I have to go and ... and ... I don't know." Victoria looked at Alex. "How many coincidences can you fit into one case, Alex?"
"Come on, back to the Boatman's. We can't do anything tonight and you've had enough." Alex opened the station door.
"Don't make me do this through medical grounds Victoria. You're exhausted." He held open the car door and Victoria just nodded and stumbled into it.
The journey to the city the following day, was made in complete silence. Victoria was desperately trying to grab all the pieces and make them stay still so she could study them. They just wouldn't stop spinning. There were probably dozens of Fieldings in the phone book, that was true, but in a small town? Was there a tie? If so, what was it?
"Oh I was just going to put you two on the missing persons list." Charlie said as they walked into the office. "DCI is looking for you."
"Great. He'll either want me to lean on Franks, or take me off the case. Alex can you bring the lads up to date please?" Victoria ignored her summons and went to her own office and her computer. She found Gavin Fielding without much trouble.
Gavin had been sixteen and his young victim had been eight. Victoria ignored the case notes completely and went straight for the background reports. Gavin's father was named as David Fielding but his whereabouts were unknown. He'd never been a part of Gavin's life. The only other family members documented were Jenny and Jonathan.
"You OK?" Alex interrupted her with a cup of coffee.
"Not alot here." She said.
"Do you want there to be?" Alex sat on another chair.
"Something's not fitting in Alex. You can feel it as well as I do. I want Mark out of this particular picture. Surely you can see this?" Victoria sighed wearlily.
"Victoria that's an official Social Services report used in a trial. It shows no connections. Jenny, Jonathan and Gavin. The only reason Gavin's dad is mentioned is because Jenny had him on the birth certificate. She probably did the same with Jonathan." Alex reasoned.
"Alex!" Victoria squealed. "Shit! Hell I am so bloody stupid! Why would Jenny Harrison register someone else's baby?! Gavin's dad cleared off while she was pregnant and Jonathan's dad was just before him!" Victoria waved her arms around.
"I'm not with you. Sorry." Alex shook his head.
"The connection could be via the father, Alex. One father, two mothers!" Victoria explained. "It's bloody obvious."
"No it's not. You're torturing yourself boss. Don't you think Mark would have mentioned this? Even if he had no memory of that time, he seemed to know Gavin pretty well and he'd have picked up on the name." Alex pointed out.
"I know." Victoria rubbed her temples. "I don't know. Damn it! I need to think." Alex nodded and left her to it.
Who could she ask about Mark's family without Mark knowing about it? This could all come to nothing and he'd surely want to know why he'd been investigated. Victoria didn't trust her own temper enough to approach Stan Mitchell.
Victoria picked up a painting from the school folder Mrs Stone had given her. The painting was Alison Bell's. She'd have done this just before she died. Mrs Stone told her they were class portraits 'photographer' style. She wondered which one was Mark. She picked up another and it was by Andrew Collins. The next one in the pile was Mark's. Victoria felt the tears pricking in her eyes. These were from a time when everyone was young and innocent without any notion of the tragedies that would later tie them together. How could it have gone so wrong? Victoria put the pictures in the box and something caught her eye. She took them back out and tried to see what had got her subconscious attention. It took her a full ten minutes of studying all twenty eight pictures before she noticed what it was. Twenty seven pictures contained twenty eight people and one contained twenty nine. Mark's had an extra pupil in the middle row. Had he included the teacher? Surely a teacher would be bigger and dressed differently. Maybe Mark just miscounted or got carried away with the painting. Mrs Stone.
Alex was just putting down the phone when Victoria hurried by. "Boss DCI wants ..." Alex grit his teeth as Victoria waved her hand at him and left the room. Alex got to his feet and marched into the DI's office.
"Hey! Are you supposed to go in there?" Charlie asked. Alex copied Victoria's hand wave at Charlie. "Good when everyone goes by the book, isn't it." Charlie sat down and resumed his report writing.
Mrs Stone welcomed Victoria into her house and set about making some tea.
"Awful thing with Helen, just awful." Mrs Stone shook her head. "Jonathan Franks involved in it too! The town has never seen so much chaos."
"How many people were in the class Mrs Stone." Victoria accepted her tea.
"Good grief it was thirty years ago. I can't remember. You'll know anyway, DI Lowry. You have the class paintings." Mrs Stone replied.
"It was the paintings that got me thinking. They all had twenty eight pupils except one, that had twenty nine." Victoria said casually.
"Did it? How odd."
"There was nothing to suggest that an teacher had been painted. Wouldn't a pupil draw a teacher bigger? Dressed differently?" Victoria asked.
"Almost certainly, yes. How strange. Who's was it?" Mrs Stone asked.
"Actually it was Mark's. Dr Fielding's." Victoria tried to keep her voice light.
"Oh I see. Yes I'm very annoyed with myself now for not seeing that at the time." Mrs Stone said grimly.
"There's a reason for the extra pupil?" Victoria asked in surprise. She hadn't expected that reaction at all. She expected the teacher to brush it off lightly. The kids had only been ten afterall.
"I thought he was managing. Poor lad. He seemed to have got through the bullies and everything." Mrs Stone said sadly.
"I'm sorry Mrs Stone you've completely lost me. Mark was bullied in school?" Victoria asked in confusion.
"Children can be very cruel, especially if they see something different. Just look at Gavin." Mrs Stone said.
"Mrs Stone, Gavin was physically disabled. Mark isn't. Why was Mark different?"
"Oh my lord. He hasn't told you? I thought with you two getting so close ... I'm sorry." Mrs Stone was genuinely upset. "Mark was a twin. His brother died of leukaemia when they were four. Mark took it very badly at the time, poor little thing."
"Twin?" Victoria's heart hammered in her chest and her brain struggled to take this in.
"Identical. Gary was sickly from birth but ... DI Lowry! Are you OK? Dear girl you've gone white. I've given you an awful shock. DI Lowry?" Victoria was close to blacking out and her chest wouldn't let her breathe. Gary Fielding. G.F.
Victoria stumbled outside and took several gulps of fresh air. She dropped her phone three times as she fumbled to send Mark a text. She told him she was finishing details and asked if he wanted to do lunch at the Boatman's Arms. She was close to hysterics as she waited for him to reply. He told her he was delighted she was here and that he'd meet her in his lunch break. Victoria sat in the car and just stared into space.
Victoria sat at one of the tables outside of the Boatman's, in the forecourt.
"I can't do this." She whispered to herself. "I can't." She took out her phone to text Alex, just as Mark pulled up in his car. "Shit."
"Gorgeous girl sitting on her own!" Mark smiled as he headed towards her. Once he was closer, he saw her face. "Hey, what's wrong? Victoria?" He sat down opposite her.
"Mark is Gavin Franks your brother?" Victoria asked shakily.
"Ah I see." Mark exhaled loudly. "I knew I should have explained all this. Technically, half brother. Gavin, not Jonathan. We had different mothers, obviously, and were raised seperately. I never knew our dad, Victoria. He left when I was weeks old. I always considered him dead and I still do."
"Do Jonathan and Jenny know?" Victoria asked.
"I doubt it. There's no reason why they should really. He'd cleared off from their family a few years before that. Maybe if he'd been a local man then they'd associate the name, but he wasn't. We'd all know if he was." Mark shrugged his shoulders. "I only found out after my mother died. I'm so sorry. It was stupid of me not to tell you." He said miserably.
"You didn't want the association and the disgrace. Much like Jonathan." Victoria said and Mark nodded. "Tell me about Gary." Mark jerked back so violently, he almost stumbled off the seat.
"I ... I'm not sure where you're going with that, but I'd rather you didn't. Gary has nothing to do with anything." He blinked at Victoria in shock.
"The note I received wasn't from Gavin, was it Mark? Franks or Fielding, it wasn't from him, was it?" Victoria felt close to collapse. "It was a death threat. Why?"
"No!" Mark shook his head. "Just ... no."
"You used me Mark. You used me and the relationship to throw me off track. You had something to do with Alison Bell's death all those years ago and when a vulnerable outcast stumbled upon the body, you persuaded him to confess to it. You got Gavin to incriminate himself infront of witnesses, a gang of kids. It was you who terrorised them over the years, Mark, wasn't it? Was it incase they worked it out once they were adults? Was it because they gave you hell in school after Gary died?" Victoria asked desperately.
"Gary ... Gary ... don't you talk about Gary!" Mark sobbed loudly.
"Were the initials some sort of dramatic, theatrical twist? Did you sign Gary's initials, then realise you could make a scapegoat of Gavin a second time? What was it Mark! Tell me!" Victoria demanded.
"Stop it! Stop it Victoria!" Mark cried. "I never used you, you have to believe that. I love you." He got to his feet when Margaret came out of the pub. "You shouldn't have got that note, it shouldn't have been sent. I've sorted that out now."
"Is everything OK?" Margaret picked up a few glasses.
"It'll all be OK Victoria." Mark nodded. "I swear it's all fine. It's OK." He ran across the forecourt and sped off in the car.
"I heard shouting." Margaret wandered over. "Aw you're upset! I'm sure it's only a tiff. Where's he gone?"
"Home. Thanks Mrs Ward. I need to phone Alex." Victoria trailed into the lobby.
"Victoria!" Alex shouted down the phone as soon as Victoria had dialed his number.
"I need you down here Alex." She said in complete dejection.
"I gathered that. I'm on my way. What's going on?" Alex asked.
"It's Mark, Alex. He's ... not who I thought he was. I think he's ill. Very ill." Victoria fought with the tears.
"Oh shit. You at the hospital?"
"Meet me at Mark's house. That's where he is." Victoria hung up before Alex could ask any more questions.
Mark's front door was wide open and Victoria approached it cautiously.
"Mark?" She called softly and her voice seemed to echo through the house. The sitting room was empty, as was the kitchen. A door at the end of the hallway was open. Mark's office. Victoria crept towards it, and pushed it open further with her foot.
Mark was sitting on the floor among piles of photographs, some in bags, some in albums, some in boxes. Victoria could tell even from the door that they were family snaps. They were pictures of the twins as babies and of their mother.
"Hello gorgeous." Mark looked up with damp eyes and smiled weakly at her.
"Hello Mark." Tears streamed down Victoria's face.
"You're upset about that note. You shouldn't have got it." Mark hung his head.
"Where did it come from, Mark?" Victoria sat on a chair by the door.
"Gary sent it." Mark said miserably. "He shouldn't have and I told him so. It won't happen again, I swear. I told him you'd love us both and he hadn't to hurt you." Victoria squeezed her eyes closed and wished this nightmare away. It was still there when she opened them again.
"Did Gary hurt the others Mark?"
"It wasn't his fault Victoria. Please believe that. He's twelve minutes older than me." Mark smiled sadly and Victoria just wanted to hold him forever and ignore the rest of the world. "It wasn't his fault. He was looking after me. He always has."
"Why did Gary hurt the others?" Victoria asked and Mark's face creased in anguish. He shuffled across the floor and put his arms round Victoria's legs. "It's OK, Mark. There's no need to hurt anyone else."
"He won't stop." Mark mumbled into Victoria's knees. "He told me he'd get them all. They deserve it. You saw what they did to me. You've seen it. They pushed me onto those railings and left me to die. They ran away and they were laughing. They were laughing at me! Alison Bell always was a little bitch. She was the one who got them all rallied round and all worked up. She just had to be the ringleader with the big fat horrible mouth. She turned round and pointed at me and laughed and I couldn't even move. Gary stayed with me. Gary always stayed with me. Always."
"I know Mark. It's over." Victoria cradled Mark's head in her lap and stroked his hair. Alex moved quietly into the room. He'd heard all of that and the shock was threatening to make him keel over.
"Police and ambulance are here boss. I kept them out of the house. Come on, it's finished." Alex put his hand on her shoulder. Mark looked up and smiled and Victoria felt her heart split in two completely.
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©Alex Harvey 2011