Victoria explained what was going on as she drove herself and David Proctor to Phillip Moore's home address. He didn't actually live in the town but closer to the city outskirts. That interested Victoria. It seemed to weaken the idea of local harassment towards Jonathan Franks.
"I'm pleased you asked me to help you ma'am but what's wrong with your own lot?" David asked.
"I didn't want to cut you and Sergeant Green out completely. You were there first afterall." Victoria said half-truthfully.
"Thanks, boss." David said, rather impressed. "Havershaw Avenue. Second right after the roundabout."
"Quite an affluent area. According to those notes, Moore made his money in computers. He made enough to retire on." Victoria nodded to the notes on David's lap.
"Retired at forty. We wish eh?" David rolled his eyes.
"Oh we'd only get bored. Number fifteen." Victoria pulled up infront of a cube of flats. The area was made up of these cubes and the flats were quite pricey. She couldn't see the attraction. The cubes reminded Victoria of prison blocks and the estate even had it's own Warden. Evan French was the caretaker and odd job man and he was just emerging from cube 13/14/15/16.
"I'm DI Lowry and this is Constable Proctor. Number fifteen?" Victoria spoke to Evan.
"Got any ID?" He asked and the officers obliged. Evan nodded and lead them up a flight of stairs to fifteen, then used three separate keys to unlock three separate locks. After that, he deactivated an alarm.
"Secure place." David observed.
"Especially this one." Evan told him. "All of the blocks have external locks and alarms but Mr. Moore was a bit obsessed. All the windows are triple locked too, I hired the workmen for him. I'll leave you to it. I'm in the office out front when you've finished." Evan bobbed his head and left the flat.
Phillip Moore certainly liked his computers. Victoria pointed at the two laptops and the desktop computer.
"We'll need those. It looks like he used this place as one big office." There were folders and papers stacked neatly on four big desks in the lounge.
"Ma'am? Look at this." David pulled two large boxes from under one of the desks. "Looks like he was a bit of a crime buff." The boxes contained notes, pictures and newspaper cuttings of different crimes. Some of them were quite old, going by the newspaper dates.
"Lift the lot of it. We'll plough through it at the station." Victoria said.
"Well I won't." David shrugged his shoulders and looked rather disappointed.
"More's the pity. I'll do my best to keep you informed. It's good to see you have an interest straight away. I'm much the same." Victoria smiled.
"Thank you." David returned her smile and took the heavy boxes down to the car, then returned for the desktop computer. Victoria lifted the laptops. Evan was waiting for them outside. He'd need to resecure the flat.
"What was Mr. Moore like?" Victoria asked him.
"Quiet." Evan answered. "A bit of a loner. I barely spoke two words to him. He's what you'd call an eccentric, but we get a few of those here."
"Did he have many visitors?"
"No, not Mr. Moore." Evan shook his head. "He only left his flat through necessity. It's a bit ironic that something as ... oh I don't know ... messy ... killed him. You know? He was a careful bloke."
"Ironic." Victoria agreed. "Thank you Mr. French. I'll take up no more of your time." She got in the car with David.
"Do you need me to stay late, ma'am?" David asked. "It's not a problem but I just like to let the wife know."
"No it's fine, Constable Proctor. I've probably kept you way over your shift time. I'm sorry." Victoria apologised.
"That's OK, you can't think of everything. It probably isn't an issue for you, being on your own and all." David nodded. Victoria had to concede a nod too.
The incident room was deserted by the time David left Victoria with her evidence. She smiled as she looked round the place and saw how tidy it was. It was clear that the lads resented her, and doubted her ability when compared to Tony Kennedy. There wasn't alot she could do to force people to like her but she certainly wasn't going to stand for abuse and undeserved rudeness. Victoria decided that the computers could wait, and dragged the two big boxes into her office. She soon found that the bulk of Phillip's notes were on five cases. He'd researched them and documented them in a very organised manner, which seemed typical of the type of man he was.
Number One almost made her put the lot down and go home. A child murder was something she really did not need. This case, however, was thirty years old. Ten year old Alison Bell had been found in woodlands on the outskirts of the town, just south of the prison. Stan Mitchell had referred to Gavin's acquittal of a nasty murder. Victoria read on. Phillip had made references to Gavin too. Gavin had been thirteen when Alison was killed, and sixteen when he and his mother had moved away. Jonathan had stayed, obviously. Victoria turned to her own computer and pulled up the case files. She had to use her security pass because the case was so old and so cold. Alison's killer was never found. Gavin had an alibi provided by his mother and his brother but the thing that sealed the acquittal was Gavin himself. It seemed that he had a handicap in the form of a deformed foot and lower leg that impaired his movement quite significantly. It was decided that Gavin would have been physically incapable of the crime and his family emphasised that and had doctors to back them up. Victoria decided on another visit to Stan Mitchell.
Phillip's Case Two was a bit of an anticlimax after the events of the first one. A twenty one year old man, named Brian Fox, had overdosed on prescribed sleeping tablets. That had been nineteen years ago and was a straightforward suicide. Victoria flipped through Case Two's folder for more information but that was it.
Case Three was slightly more impactive, but only just. Twenty three year old Carol Nixon had been killed outright when her car suffered brake failure and skidded on ice. The car ploughed into a garage wall. That had been seventeen years ago.
Case Four was another accident, ten years ago. Thirty year old Denise Porter had suffered a freak accident when the sail-arm of her brother's boat struck her on the head. She fell, unconscious, into the sea and had drowned.
Case Five was the most recent and had happened only two years ago. Thirty eight year old Eric Summers had jumped from a bridge onto a railway track, straight into the path of an express train.
Victoria re-read Phillip's notes. Four of them weren't technically crimes, so why had he been so interested in them? The only definite crime was the first case, and Victoria reasoned that that was the thing that set off the chain to the other four. She really did need to speak to Stan Mitchell. Victoria glanced at the clock. 10:30 at night. Not many would still be slogging away at that time of night and she wouldn't expect Sergeant Mitchell to be either. Victoria decided to leave the other cardboard box, and switched off the office light.
The following morning, Victoria walked into the incident room, then paused. Alex looked the least uncomfortable in his red tie and black shirt. Brian tugged at the collar of his blue short sleeved shirt and loosened off his brown polkadot tie. Don's white shirt wouldn't even fasten round his thick neck and his maroon and grey tie had a two inch wide knot and a three inch tail. Charlie had obviously worn the gear at one time because his grey tie was knotted in a smart windsor over his lavender coloured shirt. All in all, they made for a very colourful spectacle.
"Much better." Victoria nodded and walked quickly to her office. The men grumbled and tutted, except for Alex who was smirking childishly. After a few minutes, Alex walked through the open door of the office, and left it open.
"All ponced up and ready to go." He announced loudly. Victoria looked at him, then at the men outside who were all looking at him too. She had it weighed up immediately. The men had made a noise to Alex, so now Alex was going to pass it on, loudly, and in full view of the rest of Kennedy's lads.
"Good." Victoria said simply.
"We always got results before, without the collar and tie stuff. I don't think I ever saw Tony Kennedy with a shirt on, let alone a tie. What difference does it make?" Alex spread his hands.
"I explained all that yesterday." Victoria said quietly, keeping her eyes on the computer and not on Alex and the men.
"Look, Tony ..."
"No, you look, Detective Sergeant. You can all sit around moaning and crying all day long if you like, it won't make any difference. While I'm here, you can either get over it or you can request a transfer. I'm sure the DCI will consider having to wear a shirt and tie a valid reason. Anything else?" Victoria asked casually.
"No ma'am." Alex sighed.
"Good." Victoria typed Gavin Franks into the computer and it drew a complete blank. There wasn't so much as a parking ticket in there. She tutted irritably when the phone rang. DCI Woods wanted to see her. "Alex, can you come with me please?" She said, leaving the office. "Brian I need you to run Gavin Franks through every system we have. Charlie, Don, there are two boxes and three computers in there for you to get stuck into. You'll find notes on five cases. I only looked at them briefly, so put them through the systems too. It's worth a try, even though four of them aren't technically crimes."
"Huh? If they aren't crimes why are they here?" Charlie asked.
"They were taken from Phillip Moore's flat. Evidence?" Victoria explained.
"I know what evidence is!" Charlie snapped.
"Your shirt for a start, Charlie. Evidence of godawful bad taste!" Don guffawed and the rest started laughing. Victoria smiled too.
"Oh har-di-har." Charlie drawled. "Go and get that box."
DCI Woods wanted an update. Victoria told him about the notes from Phillip's flat, and the list of five cases.
"I'm not sure about that, Lowry." The DCI said sternly. "The Bell case is the only one that is a case and it's not ours. You said yourself that Franks was cleared because he was an invalid. If this is the only connection you have to Phillip Moore then it's a weak one. Stick to Moore, Lowry and leave Bell with Stan Mitchell."
"Understood." Victoria said in exasperation.
"Oh by the way, McKenzie, is Charlie Thompson going to a wedding or something? Someone ought to tell him he looks like something out of the 70s."
"Er ... yes sir, I'll tell him." Alex had to bite his lip to stop himself laughing. Victoria left the DCI's office then headed in the opposite direction to the incident room. "Where are we going?" Alex caught her up.
"Not 'we'." Victoria stopped to speak to Alex. "I'm going to see Stan Mitchell."
"You sure that's wise? Woods just told you not to." Alex tried to hide his surprise.
"Don't worry about that. That's why I'm going by myself. If he wants me, I'm out interviewing witnesses or something." Victoria said.
"Hang on! What about the lads? Maybe their shirts aren't as smart as Proctor's uniform but the have tried." Alex said in annoyance.
"I know." Victoria sighed. "Their appearance is fine, Alex. You heard the DCI. I'm not about to get anyone else in trouble with the boss and I'm sure the lads wouldn't thank me if I did."
"Yes, OK." Alex conceded. "So what do I tell them?"
"The same as you tell Woods, I suppose." Victoria shrugged.
"Can I make a suggestion?" Alex said impatiently. "How about telling them you're following your gut instincts, despite what the DCI says?"
"You want to tell them I'm ignoring orders?" Victoria said in surprise.
"What do you think they'd do? Run to Woods and tell him? If nothing else, it shows you're human." Alex shrugged his shoulders. That stung Victoria more than she liked. She knew she was gradually becoming de-sensitised and refused to admit it. "They aren't like that, I promise you. You don't have to worry." Alex mistook the expression on her face for worry.
"Fair enough, if you think that would be better." Victoria smiled. "They have tried, I know it and appreciate it. It can't be easy for them having me instead of Tony Kennedy."
"Well in all fairness, that shouldn't matter. I'll go and tell them you're bunking off." Alex smirked. Victoria smiled and shook her head as she headed for the doors.
Stan Mitchell was surprised to see Victoria again and she could tell he wasn't too comfortable with CID on his patch, especially asking about a thirty year old murder.
"It really was a tragic case, DI Lowry. Gavin was arrested more due to pressure on the police to find someone. It was unfair from the start. His mother and brother gave him strong alibis though. They both swore he was home with them, which is likely right. Gavin was lame, you know. His leg below the knee was all twisted and his foot was deformed. He wore one of those heavy shoes. His arm was bent up too so he carried it awkwardly. Even though young Alison was only ten she could have certainly outran him, maybe even physically fend him off." Stan shook his head sadly. "Mind you, he really was a weird kid. There was something ... sinister ... about him. I've had words with him a few times, and with his mother. She actually allowed him an air rifle. Can you believe that? He was shooting birds in the woods then dissecting the buggers on his mother's step right where everyone could see! The little ghoul." Stan shuddered. "It was Jonathan who put him straight, as always. Gavin was a bit scared of Jonathan. There again so were many other kids. He's always had a bit of a temper on him."
"Do you know where they moved to?" Victoria asked.
"No idea. They left pretty quickly once the court stuff was over. You have to remember, this is a small town and dirt sticks, despite the acquittal. They'd hardly leave a forwarding address." Stan shrugged his shoulders.
"No I suppose not." Victoria agreed. "About Phillip Moore. You said he was fine when he left here. Right?"
"Absolutely otherwise I'd not have let him out. Pardon my saying, but CID don't usually deal with folk wandering into the road. What's going on, DI Lowry? Stan asked suspiciously.
"Just tying up loose ends." Victoria replied. "Gavin Franks was mentioned quite a few times, so I'm just verifying his situation completely."
"Can't say I blame you. You don't want the press collecting any ammunition, not after that other crap you had." Stan sympathised.
"Well I'll let you get on with your day, Sergeant. Thanks." Victoria shook Stan's hand and left the station.
Jonathan Franks was out in his yard talking to his men when Victoria arrived. He didn't look exactly pleased to see her as he excused himself from the discussion.
"You'll have read about Phillip Moore's death." She said, rather than asked.
"I did, yes and I'm not too surprised to see you back. Look you saw for yourself he was already on top notch here. He was like that when he first came charging in here too. I'm not in any way, shape, or form, responsible for winding him up." Jonathan sounded fed up with the whole thing.
"And Gavin would be incapable. Right?"
"What?" Jonathan glared at Victoria and looked very intimidating. "I thought I told you, Moore had no basis at all for all that crap!"
"Because of Gavin's disability?" Victoria pressed.
"No because Phillip Moore was a nut job!" Jonathan raised his voice. "Look DI Lowry, I haven't seen my half-brother in two decades. Yes he's handicapped, he was born like that. I don't even know where he is, but I do know he isn't here."
"Half-brother? Sorry, I didn't realise. So he's still living with your mother?" Victoria tucked the information away in her memory.
"I presume so." Jonathan shrugged. "The last I heard from her was by telephone, five years ago. She asked me for money for some home adaptations for Gavin. Apparently he's got worse as he's got older."
"You don't visit them?" Victoria asked.
"No." Jonathan looked evenly at her. "Family closeness doesn't come into it. Disability aside, Gavin was not a nice kid. He was a spoiled brat and he was a vicious little bastard. I'll give you an example. My mother gave me a box of toy cars for my seventh birthday. Predictably, Gavin wanted them so I was told to share them. Not good enough for Gavin, he wanted all of them. When I told him no, he had a tantrum from hell, shut himself in the bathroom and hacked all his hair off with a pair of scissors. He was five. Guess who my mother gave the cars to. It's was more than sibling jealousy. Later on, the cars were tidied away and my mother put them under my bed, not Gavin's. He stabbed her four times in the back with the scissors. He was forgiven in spectacular fashion. She had to go to the doctors for stitches and she told him I'd left the scissors on the sofa and she'd fallen on them. Vicious little bastard, as I said, and she was a waste of space. DI Lowry, I was pleased to see the back of the pair of them." Jonathan finished decisively.
"There was just the three of you. Is that right? Can't have been easy." Victoria said tactfully.
"I never knew my dad, he cleared off when I was born. I think he died before my mother left here but I'm not a hundred percent on that one. I never saw Gavin's dad either, but I was only two. I doubt he was a big, or committed part in my mother's life." Jonathan said dryly. "So now you have it, warts and all. I have a business to run and I don't need this crap."
"Thank you. I hope you understand why I had to ask. Moore was very agitated, and he had mentioned your half-brother."
"He was nuts, I told you. While you're here, you can keep that other idiot out of my face. It's obvious the two of them have blethering about me." Jonathan snapped. "Bloody ridiculous is what it is!"
"Who would that be, Mr. Franks?" Victoria asked.
"Just give her a warning or something, she's a bit of an alcho. Helen Walby and she'd jump on any bandwagon passing to have a go at me. No, I'm not paranoid, I know what her problem is." Jonathan folded his arms.
"If you want me speak to her, it would be an idea to tell me what her problem is too." Victoria was getting the impression that Jonathan Franks had quite a few local enemies.
"Right after Gavin's court case she announced that Gavin had ... bothered her. You know? As though we weren't catching enough shit! Attention seeking little bitch. Gavin was in hospital at the time she said this happened so that was her exposed for what she is. She's never gotten over it. Totally her own doing. She's had a few goes at me in the past when she's full of gin. I just want to be left alone to run my business and my own life. Too much to ask?"
"Thank you for your time, Mr. Franks. You've been exceptionally helpful. Is there a guesthouse or somewhere I could stay the night?" Victoria asked. She intended hiding from Woods for as long as possible.
"Boatman's Arms in the main street lets rooms." Jonathan pointed to the town in general. Victoria thanked him again and left the yard.
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©Alex Harvey 2011