by Mark Grayson
'Damaged People' The first in a hopefully long line of detective books.
Detective Sergeant Sam Hamilton is standing outside the rear of the Police Station with one of the uniformed sergeants' having a cigarette. Just as they are passing the time of day a 1972 dark blue Rover P5B that is synonymous with Detective Chief Inspector Charlie Thornton comes into the yard and parks opposite from them in its allocated space.
"Oh look out Sam, 'Ere comes the boss." Says the uniformed Sergeant.
"Ah he's not all that bad," replies Sam, "Once you get to know him you realise he's one of the good guys."
"Good guys! Yeah well that he is, but why the hell can't he do things the way their supposed to be done? He's always bucking the bloody system."
Sam chuckles, "Yeah... well that's the Boss for ya!"
Charlie Thornton dressed as always in a dark grey suit and designer shirt but no tie sets his stride across the yard towards them taking the last few puffs of his cigarette. He throws his dog-end to the ground and stamps it out with his foot as though he'd just extinguished a life itself. You only need to look at Charlie Thornton's face to see aggression, anger and frustration.
"There is a receptacle for that on the wall Boss rather than on the floor!" Offers Sam helpfully.
"If that's all you gotta worry about son you're a fucking lucky bastard." Snaps Charlie with his usual gruff tone. "Come on, get inside... we ain't got all bleedin' day ya know!"
As Charlie pushes through the gap between the two sergeants Sam raises his eyes to the other sergeant. He follows him into the building and upstairs to their offices. The team all give a resounding "Morning Boss" and Charlie grunts a "Mornin" to the team as he marches into his office. When he realises that Sam has stopped at his desk just outside on the open-plan office Charlie growls even louder.
"With me Sergeant Hamilton... with me!"
Sam shoots into Charlie's office like a scalded cat;
Charlie looks up from his desk and with a frustrated tone, "Close the bloody door!"
It looks like it's going to be one of those days thought Sam. He stood in front of Charlie's desk waiting for the next instruction or at least to hear the latest plan for catching those thieves who had been targeting the cash machines. His thoughts were broken by Charlie.
"Now Sam... we got a problem son."
"OK boss, what's up?" Sam stood there looking straight at him, concerned as to what on earth was going to come out next, had someone made a complaint against Charlie, after all it wouldn't be the first time.
"We've got a suicide." Charlie announced as he shuffled files across his desk.
"Suicide?" enquired Sam, "Yes son, a fucking suicide. It's all I need 'init, I got enough to do without having to piss about investigating some bloke who topped himself!"
"Yes boss" acknowledged Sam knowing that it was best to just agree. Charlie continued as though Sam had said nothing;
"Take's up all my man power, such that it is, the bastards at the top never want to give me more men and I shall spend every day facing the wrath of our darlin' leader: 'She who must be obeyed!' Shouted Charlie.
"Ah yes sir, the Superintendent!" Offered Sam.
"Yes sergeant, the bloody superintendent. The formidable Ms. Laura Judd, otherwise known as 'she who must be obeyed!" Charlie looked up with a face of thunder, "Never forget that Sam, Superintendent Judd runs the show, or at least that's the idea, and we must bow and scrape at all times. Got it?"
Sam smirked. Charlie Thornton never obeyed or bowed to anyone, least of all the Super!
"So where's this suicide then boss?" Asked Sam,
"Keston mate, you know, where the 'oi polloi hang out, those with too much money and not enough things to spend it on."
"Ok boss, we going up there now?"
"No Sergeant, I thought we'd have a nice cuppa tea and a Rich Tea biscuit...Well of course we are!" Barked Charlie, "It won't sort itself will it, and those fucking wooden tops won't be intelligent enough to deal with it properly will they!" Charlie rose from his chair, picked up his mobile phone and marched out of the office with Sam in hot pursuit behind him.
"We taking my car boss?"
"Not bleedin likely."
"Oh ok boss... whatever." Answered Sam with a sarcastic tone.
Charlie stopped in his tracks, turned and looked Sam straight in the eye,
"Tell me sergeant... with your substantial powers of deduction... why the fuck would I want to ride in a Ford Focus when I can drive my lovely Rover P5B, a car of class, comfort and luxury... why sergeant... why?" Asked Charlie equally as sarcastic. He turned on his feet and marched on.
"Whatever you want boss... you're the guvnor." Offered Sam trying to keep the peace.
"Yep, that's right son... I am the boss and I will do whatever I want!"
Sam decided the best thing was to just go along with the flow, Charlie was not in the best of moods and when he was like this it could go in any direction. He may stay the same, his mood may improve or of course, he may get worse and go into one of his well know fits of rage at which no one, but the Superintendent, could calm him and even she struggled.
They got into the old classic Rover. The car is Charlie's pride and joy. It belonged to his late father and Charlie took it on when his old man died. The old boy had had it since new and had treated the bloody thing like a Rolls-Royce. He nurtured it, loved it and washed and polished it every week. He never went over 70 MPH and only used it at weekends and one evening a week in which to take Charlie's mother out for a meal. It had very low mileage and was virtually trouble free motoring. Charlie worshiped the car as much as his father had. He had no time for modern cars and considered that the old styles, shapes and interiors on the old models were much better. Whenever he got into Sam's Ford Focus he did nothing but complain at how uncomfortable it was. Sam was quite happy with it and couldn't see the problem, but Charlie hated it and made no secret of it.
"So who is it that's died then Boss?" Asked Sam.
"Some estate agent called Tony Broadbent. They're based in Beckenham, just the one shop, been there for 'bleedin years. He was found in his garage in his car, you know... hosepipe job."
"Oh nice!" offered Sam,
"Yeah great. Monday bloody morning and we get a suicide."
When they arrived at the house in Keston there were several police cars parked outside and several officers standing around. The Funeral Directors were already there waiting for Charlie to give the OK to take the body to the Coroner's Mortuary. Charlie and Sam got out of the car and started walking up the drive side by side.
"Oh look Sam, Crispian Palmer-Smith!" Charlie said whilst trying to put on a posh accent. Crispian Palmer-Smith was the Police Pathologist. A nice guy aged about thirty-eight who had attended public school and sounded like it as well. He was part of the actual aristocracy which got right up Charlie's nose. Charlie had decided he didn't like him even before Crispian had even inspected his first cadaver for him. Word had come down from above that this posh guy was taking over from Max, who Charlie liked and so Charlie took an instant dislike to a man he hadn't even met yet. Typical Charlie.
They locked horns regularly but the pathologist always had the upper hand, he was the one who would provide time, state and details of death along, most importantly, with the cause.
As Charlie and Sam entered the large double garage there was an elderly but top of the range Datsun parked inside. A hosepipe was attached to the exhaust and had been stuffed in the rear window surrounded by cloth so that no air holes were present. The driver's door was open and sat in the driver's seat was a man aged about sixty-five, head tilted back resting on the headrest and as dead as a door knocker. Crispian was kneeling down beside him dressed in his usual garb, a white forensic all in one suit and wearing a mask and gloves. He turned his head, removed his mask and smiled at Charlie then turned to Sam and smiled more broadly,
"Morning Sergeant, how are you?" he asked.
"Very well thanks Crispian and you?" Sam enquired,
"Cool thanks 'ol boy." He said cheerily. Charlie butted in whilst shooting a glare at Sam;
"When you two fucking love bird's have stopped exchanging pleasantries perhaps the good doctor here can tell us the SP Sergeant!"
"Oh yes! Morning Inspector." Said Crispian with a hint of sarcasm.
"Chief Inspector" reminded Charlie looking down his nose and with a glare that could turn a stone to water.
"I apologise profusely, Chief Inspector. Good morning." Smiled Crispian,
"Good? What's good about it, I'm short of men and now some silly fucker kills himself and it's only Monday, what's good about that?" Charlie wandered about the car looking up and down for God knows what.
"Killed himself?" Remarked Crispian.
"Yeah!" said Charlie "Killed himself!" His mood was taking a turn for the worse and Sam could hear the tone changing, a sure sign that a 'rage' was coming on!
"Well... Detective Chief Inspector..." said Crispian with his best aristocratic accent, "Our friend here did not kill himself. He was murdered." Crispian stood as he said it and looked straight at Charlie.
"Murdered?" Charlie replied with a hint of shock in his voice.
"Yes... murdered." Replied Crispian with a gleeful tone feeling he had rather won the first round!
"Oh for fuck's sake... the day gets worse" Charlie put his hand to his forehead and let out a great sigh, "That's all I need... "
Charlie glared at the pathologist. Realising that Charlie was not in the mood to take the rest of the news Crispian decided to turn his ramblings to Sam.
"Yes murder I'm afraid. As you can see there are two bruises around his neck, bruises around his wrists and if I lean him forward and pull his shirt up I wouldn't be surprised if he had bruises around his back, rib cage etc." He smiled at Sam as Charlie wandered outside to the long gravel drive.
"I would say Sergeant he's had a few good old whacks, poor old thing, and I would think he was placed in the car afterwards. It's been made to look like suicide but I can categorically say it isn't."
"How did you come to that conclusion" asked Sam, rather delighted to be given the opportunity to show off, Crispian continued;
"Well if you look at his shoes, the toes have been scuffed, commensurate with being dragged in a forward position towards the car. The other tell-tale sign is the gravel on the drive. If you look Sergeant, you will see two shallow tunnels in the gravel from the back door of the house to the garage floor, showing that he was almost definitely killed in the house and then dragged out here to make it look like he'd killed himself in the car."
Sam walked to the door of the garage and looked around the corner, he was right, there were definite drag marks. Sam walked back in and smiled at the pathologist.
"Ok Sergeant?" Crispian asked.
"Yeah, great... just bloody great! This will keep the Boss in a foul mood for the rest of the day..." Sam sighed, "Probably for the week!"
Crispian smiled with a Victorious look, "Ah Sergeant, that's why you are here - to keep him as happy as the poor soul can possibly be!" Crispian said being as sarcastic as he could be.
Sam grimaced and went to join Charlie who was still standing on the driveway.
"So, murder then Boss." Sam offered,
"Yep. Murder. Great, great... bloody great. What a way to start a week!" growled Charlie.
"He was killed in the house and dragged out to the garage Boss." Informed Sam.
"Really Sergeant." Charlie turned to face him, tilted his head back a bit and flared his nostrils,
"And how did you get that idea? Been chatting with your posh mate?"
Seeing an opportunity to be equally as sarcastic as both Charlie and Crispian had been, Sam thought better of it.
"Do you really want me to go through the lengthy explanation that the pathologist gave?"
"No I fucking don't, that prick winds me up just by being at the scene of the crime let alone describing it all to me. I'll wait for his report!" barked Charlie.
He turned and started walking towards the house; Sam followed three feet behind, a bit like the Duke of Edinburgh does with the Queen. Sam knew his place and it was always best to be around three feet away, it meant he was just out of punching range if Charlie really lost it, which was always a possibility.
They went inside of this large rambling mansion. As they wandered from room to room there was an array of antique furniture and some very expensive looking paintings on the walls. A grand piano adorned the sitting room, but was somewhat lost in the size of the room itself. There was a large dining room, large kitchen and a decent sized study. Charlie flicked through correspondence on top of the desk. You could see he was deep in thought. They wandered off and came across a door that was closed. Charlie opened it.
"Mmm very nice indeed." He remarked.
Sam strained his neck to see round Charlie and what had clearly impressed him. There was a very nice swimming pool with a hot tub at the far end, sun beds and a table and chairs sat on the tiled floor next to the pool.
"Yeah. Nice if you can afford it!" said Sam.
"Well he could, couldn't he? He was the chairman of the board, as I said; the firm's been there for years. One hundred and fifty I think?"
"Fuck boss, really?" Sam said surprised. "I didn't think Estate Agents lasted that long, thought they had all been shot by the Mafia after twenty-five years!"
Charlie chuckled. "Well, someone didn't like this bugger. That's for sure!"
"Any thoughts boss?" asked Sam.
Charlie looked at him with the puzzled look that he displayed when he wasn't happy about something or if he hadn't quite worked it out.
"Thoughts?" he said, "Thoughts. Well what we got son? A dead bloke in a car, that didn't get himself there, marks in the drive and a fucking great house that is stashed to the gunnels with expensive gear, a desk that doesn't seem to have been tampered with, no sign of forced entry, nothing spilled, nothing untoward. Mmm, what are my thoughts?"
Sam stood and waited, he had learnt that this is the way Charlie worked.
"Sam, I want SOCO all over this place like a fucking rash, no stone, and I mean no stone unturned. I want to know what the fuck went on in this gin palace and I want as much DNA as they can muster."
"OK boss" Sam replied.
"Well don't just stand there, fucking get on with it!" Charlie's mood returned rapidly!
Sam scurried off to find one of the uniformed officers to get the ball rolling thinking that Crispian had probably gone. Just as he reached the garage door Crispian came out and they bumped into one another.
"Sergeant! You really must look where you're going!" Cried Crispian.
"Sorry Sir. I thought you'd gone by now."
"Just about to Sam... So where's the fire?"
"The boss wants SOCO on it pronto! He wants DNA and the whole place given a thorough going over. I think he thinks the answer is in the house but where abouts I'm not sure, but he's definitely got the bit between his teeth."
Crispian sighed, "Yes... he's really is in one of his moods today isn't he?"
"Oh yes!" Chirped Sam, "He's in a mood alright. He was in a mood when he thought it was suicide, now it's murder he's even worse!"
Crispian laughed, "What's wrong with the chap for God's sake!"
"Don't think he had enough sugar on his cornflakes this morning" Sam replied with a chuckle.
Crispian smiled, "If you ask me old chap, he needs a good woman to keep him happy."
"Huh! He had one and she buggered off!" Sam replied.
Crispian smiled again, "Can't say I blame her Sergeant!" he replied as he raised his eyebrows. Sam ginned and Walked Crispian to his car.
"Leave it with me Sam. I'll get SOCO and the boys onto it. We will leave no stone unturned!"
"Bloody hell, you're starting to sound just like him!" Sam laughed.
"If ever you accuse me of that again Sergeant, you will be the one I take my saw too!" Crispian shut his car door smiling at the Sergeant.
"Great, thanks Crispian." Sam shouted through the closed window. He let out a sigh of relief; it was one thing he hadn't got to worry about now.
As he watched Crispian drive off Charlie came down the drive.
"I want to know everything there is to know about this bloke." He said,
"Okay boss, where do you want to start?"
"Let's go and pay the Estate Agents office a visit, find out what we can there. I don't think he was married, no photos of nice family gatherings!"
Sam opened the driver's door of the Rover. Charlie got in and Sam walked round the back of the car to the passenger door. He jumped in and as he was putting his seat belt on Charlie sat motionless in the driver's seat.
"What's up boss?" asked a bemused Sam.
"I was just thinking. This Tony Broadbent." Charlie said,
"Yeah boss, what?"
"He was investigated some time ago... but nothing came of it."
"Investigated?" queried Sam.
Charlie leant forward and started the car then sat back and put the lever into 'drive', as he put his foot on the accelerator he answered,
"Yeah Sam, investigated... for sexual assault."
Charlie pulled away as Sam sat in the passenger seat looking at him. Nothing else was said all the way on the journey to Beckenham.