The focus is on Linda Parfitt's murder and the DI's growing infatuation with his DC
“What have we got?, asked DI Able rhetorically. “Two murders separated by just a few miles, occurring within a couple of weeks of each other. Both brutal in different ways.” Replied DC Fell. “Yes, but the use of manacles in both murders strongly suggests the one killer, even if the methods were different. Then there’s the link, albeit tenuous, between Linda Parfitt and Micheal Hinkley. The woman Hinkley was involved with said that he’d been threatened by the agent that looked after Ms Parfitt.” “But Sir, that agent died a couple of years ago.” Reminded the DC.
DC Fell was sitting decorously on the only spare chair in the Inspector’s office. It was well past all good girls’ and boys’ bedtime, but needs must and the overtime would come in handy, except as a DI he didn’t qualify. The rest of the office was in darkness except for the light in the duty officer’s room. Emily was quite happy to work late, she just loved moving around pieces of a jig saw, although in this case there were still no sign of an edge and all they had was sky. She also hoped that her preferring to work instead of being with her boyfriend would give him a none too subtle hint where her priorities lay.
DI Able decided that it had been a bad idea to bring in two Big Macs and fries – the place stank. He wiped his mouth and fingers with a tissue, got up and opened his office door. “Remind me next time to order an egg and tomato sandwich.” He went to the flip chart and with a colourful magic marker drew lines connecting the mug shots of the victims and the people so far interviewed. “Nothing leaps out at me, Sir. I mean, the brother seems on the level, except I did get the feeling that he wasn’t telling me all he knew, and as for Mr Shore, what he told me checks out, he has properties in South America and has been around Shoreditch for ages.”
“God, she is attractive.” Thought the DI. If only he’d been a few years younger. “She’s young enough to be your daughter, you dirty old man.” He reminded and reprimanded himself. None of that changed the fact that she was possibly the most desirable creature in the Mid Sussex Constabulary. With some difficulty Michael Able returned to the matter in hand.
“We have no motive for either killing. Forensics have come up with very little in the case of Ms Parfitt besides hers, the char lady’s and the groupie’s finger prints. The traces of seman from the second person provides us with nothing: no match. As for Hinkley, except for the prints of his brother and Mrs Eton, the place was clean.” They agreed that the M.O. for either murder was out of the league of any of the reprobates in the area. They were just going through the motions calling in the local registered sex offenders.
“There’s what Mr Shore told us about Mr Hinkley taking the property off the market.” Emily Fell wriggled her pert backside in the chair as she spoke. “Even though his girl friend Mrs Eton was certain the property had been sold. So what the hell is going on here?”
“Sir, do you think there might be a connection with the Sao Paulo gangs?” The Inspector imagined the DC dressed as a gangster’s moll. “We’ve no evidence just Mr Shore’s speculation. I think it’s most unlikely. No, at this moment we’re not much further forward. Let’s call it a night.”
Emily got into her car, and as she drove out of the police car park her headlights lit up the windows of the new retirement apartments built almost on top of the police station. Michael Able was walking in front of the block. “Sir, want a lift, it’s threatening to rain.” “Thanks Emily, but I need the walk – a bit of exercise and I’ve an appointment with a pint of bitter! See you tomorrow.”
As she drove off, Emily pictured in her mind’s eye an old man sitting alone in the corner of a pub. Around him people are laughing, talking, sharing a joke or two and he’s excluded. All he has is a dark, cold house that’s too much to keep up. Alone, he’ll prepare himself a meal for one in the micro wave, and with a can of beer he’ll pass the evening and wonder where it all went wrong.
“Stop it, that’s not how he’ll end up. He’s bound to meet someone.” As she thought this, she wondered what she should do about her relationship with her beefy, handsome policeman. As far as she was concerned it wasn’t going anywhere. She liked Dave, there wasn’t anything not to like. There was nothing to get overly excited about either. “It’s a mess.” She muttered to herself. If I ditch him it’ll make working in the same station hell, and no doubt he’ll put the blame on me. That would give the Sergeant an excuse to move me out of the area, not working with her DI. That would be awful, but he’d fight my corner. “I wonder why his marriage broke down?” she said aloud. The car behind flashed their lights – the lights had turned green and she’d not moved.
The early morning drizzle did little to lift Micheal Able’s mood. Haywards Heath was dank, dark and decidedly unattractive at 7 am. As usual he walked to the station from his place on Penland Ave. On a sunny day the street with its neatly arranged homes and manicured lawns fulfilled the home owner’s dream. Car parked in the drive way, ready for the school run and home delivery vans making light of the weekly shop. This morning, it looked dismal. Kitchen, bedroom and bathroom lights blazed as commuters prepared for the daily drag to London.
He’d moved here after his marriage had collapsed, buying a much too big a house. In two years and he’d still only spoken to two of his neighbours. Today he’d have preferred to have stayed in bed.
The local paper had decided that the police were falling down on the job – two murders and one false arrest was not satisfactory. The editorial was full square behind the police: except this time they seemed to be behind the curve. The local MP had chipped in – having secured additional resources from Whitehall he expected results – none were forthcoming. All this ended up on the Chief Superintendent’s in box leading inevitably to a catch up meeting between the Chief Inspector and DI Able.
“Do you need more resources?” enquired the CI. “ Not at the moment Sir, thank you. We’ve got SOCO doing their best, but so far they’ve turned up little that’s useful. It’s not more resources we need, it’s a lead. And it doesn’t help having the press on our case.” The DI was thinking he could be interviewing the lovely Mrs Eton of Surbiton, instead of soothing Chief Inspector Mitchell’s fevered brow. “The thing is Sir we don’t have a motive for either killing, as I said we’ve few clues – the Hinkley murder weapon is still awol – as yet so much of both crimes make no sense.” “But the use of manacles on both victims is very suggestive. The same person killed them both.” The CI was grasping at clues. “That’s what we're working on Sir, but if so we’ve no clues as who that might be.” The CI liked his DI, he’d made a real impact following his move from Tottenham. He’d fitted in well with the team, and although they’d only been working together for a couple of months he and DC Fell had the makings of a fine team. He didn’t like having to call him in. He sighed. “Michael, what I need is something that will calm down the CS. He shit scared of attracting attention from the Home Office. Is there anything I can offer up at this stage?”
Both men left the meeting disappointed. The CI had little enough to satisfy his Superior; just the promise of increased effort and “all leads are being pursued”. DI Able was unhappy that his boss was unhappy. Francis Mitchell was a decent chap, if a little office bound and with, what DI Able thought was, a unhealthy propertorial interest in his DC. “But Rome wasn’t built in a day”, he reminded himself.
Linda Parfitt had been a very popular actor; she had a wide circle of acquaintances in the business and in the local community. She had never married but wasn’t short of male companions to escort her to first nights, celeb parties or photo shoots. Yet no one could say they were close to her. She kept her private life, her inner thoughts and feelings very much to herself. It was this that DI Able decided to focus on. Her second sexual partner and killer was known to her: he suspected that it was likely to have been a casual pick up – Peter Boyes’ experience suggested that. But where to start?
DC Fell had been through Ms Parfitt’s computer’s hard drive with a fine toothed comb, but there was nothing helpful there. No Facebook, No Instagram, nothing on the social media front: even her e-mail correspondence was bland. “For someone in the spot light she had a really small foot print”. Michael Able was going through a print out of all the material on Linda Parfitt’s computer. “Sir, it’s quite unusual: I mean nowadays most people have some kind of electronic foot print, but hers is vanishingly small.” Emily was right clicking on icons on the screen. There were letters to charities, bills, payments, contracts with people in the entertainment business and on line accounts with John Lewis and Naked Wines but other than that it was a desert.
Michael was tapping on the mug shot of the lady pinned to the flip chart. “What about the agent, he must know something about her private life surely?” “No Sir, after her last agent died she decided to manage her own career. There’s plenty about that on her computer.” “It’s as if she deliberately hid her profile – rather unhelpfully don’t you think Detective Constable?” “Yes, Sir.” Replied the long legged detective as she smiled at her boss’s playfulness. “Sir, you’ll recall that our victim had a falling out with a Mavis Hancock who runs the local drama group. It was over the production of “A Season’s Greeting.”” “Yes, what of it?” “Well, I did a bit of digging. There’s quite a bit of history with those two. Years back they were really good friends, then they had a falling out.” “A man?” Sparked the DI “Spot on Sir.”
“No, Stephen the line is “O that this too too solid flesh would melt.” This is Hamlet, a spoilt, somewhat death and mother obsessed prince of Denmark, not a character out of Emmerdale. Now try it again.” The two officers quietly closed the village hall door and tip toed to where Mavis Hancock was sitting, text in hand and with a wad of performance notes.
“No!, No! you’re killing the fucking text. This is by the greatest dramatist that has graced this planet and you are treating it like a lump of shit.” The young actor Stephen visibly shrunk under the fusillade. “Now, all of you take a five minute break and we’ll try it again. Claudius where did you get that costume?
“Ms Hancock?” interrupted the Inspector. “What!” her head snapped round and she stared at DI Able. “I’m Detective Inspector Able. I’m sorry to disturb your rehearsal but DC Fell and I are investigating the murder of Linda Parfitt. We were hoping you could help us with our enquiries?” To Michael’s surprise Mavis purred, “Of course Inspector, anything to help. O.K. people we’ll call it a night, but I want you all here tomorrow at 7 prompt. And Stephen remember who you’re playing. Claudius get a new costume. Goodnight all.”
“He’s really very good, one of my best students. It just that Hamlet’s a blind spot with him at the moment. Now how can I help you, Inspector?”
It turned out that Linda and Mavis went back many years. Both had been to drama school and had spent time honing their craft in the same reparatory company . Linda got an early break having been seen by a TV producer in a production of “As You Like It”. There followed a substantial role in a sit com, rave reviews and her career was ignited. Mavis toured the provinces. They remained friends, keeping in touch, meeting up at reunions with fellow actors of the rep days.
“Linda was extremely attractive. Men literally melted at her feet. She’d gone through all her rep male friends and was getting a reputation as a man killer. She never had a “steady”, but was hopping out of one bed into another. We’d lost touch over the years but then met up at an opening night in the West End. She was really friendly and we became good friends again.”
This was all very interesting but thought DI Able “It was not getting us very far.” He went for the jugular. “You had a great falling out with Ms Parfitt a few years back isn’t that so?” Ms Hancock shuffled a few pieces of paper on the table in front of her. DC Fell couldn’t but notice one which read “You want to kill but haven’t the balls. Discuss.” “that sounds like Hamlet” thought Emily Fell. “Ms Hancock?” the Inspector lent over and retrieved the piece of paper. “I was in a relationship; it had been going strong for a while. I thought he was happy and then Linda came along. In a matter of weeks he was in her bed and I was left devastated. He moved out and shacked up with Linda. Linda dumped him after a few months. Can you imagine how that felt? “
“So how is it that you were living in the same village.” Queried DC Fell. “Serendipity. I have a new partner and we’d decided to move here. It was quite a shock finding out that she was at the other end of the village. I was, however, determined that my life was not to be shaped by hers, so we stayed. I’d retired from the theatre – more accurately the theatre retired me – and I set up this local drama group and school. Linda continued to be successful and we managed to be civil to each other - most of the time.”
Mavis Hancock looked away as she spoke, and raised her eyes to the ceiling of the village hall. “No doubt one of the tricks she’d learnt as an actor. Mind you maybe she still hurts.” The Inspector tried hard to look understanding. “Your first partner, the one Ms Parfitt took from you, where are they now? Asked Emily. "No idea, lost contact years ago."
"We heard that you and Ms Parfitt had a falling out over a Christmas play." "Why's that relevant?" Ms Hancock stiffened and then relaxed. "It was Alan Ackbourne’s "A Season's Greeting": She was right. It's a clever farce and I directed the life out of it."She also had her eye on my leading man. It was rumoured that young men would turn up at her house at a late hour only to be seen leaving in the morning. But that was only a rumour”
"In the theatre, we're always looking for a motive. Aren't you going to ask if there was anyone I could think of with a motive to kill Linda?" With that Mavis Hancock smiled and shut her annotated script of “The Danish Play”. "Nope", was the Inspector's reply.
The officers thanked Mavis and apologised for disrupting the rehearsals and wished her well with her Hamlet.
"She's onto a loser there." Confided the DI. "Hamlet"! if she couldn't put life into dear old Ackbourne what chance has she with the Bard?" He spoke with the air of some authority.
It was the Chief Inspector that helped move the case of Linda Parfitt along. It was another of his visits to see how DC Fell was progressing that found both the Inspector and his acolyte down in the mouth. The interview with Mavis Hancock had been interesting but not that helpful, other than the rumour of young studs sniffing around her late at night.
“Did you check for CCTV footage?” asked the CI innocently. “She didn’t have CCTV.” Replied Emily. “Oh, I just wondered.” the Chief Inspector Mitchell having had a none too happy meeting with the Chief Constable. “I mean I thought most celebs had something like CCTV so they knew who was at their front door.” “We checked that Sir, one of the first things we did – nothing…Except she had electric gates.”
They found the camera half way up a tree which overlooked the gates to the drive way. It was cunningly hidden but provided a clear picture of anyone coming to the house. The monitor and its hard drive was harder to find, but once the technical boys were called in they were found in a small cupboard behind the headboard of Ms Parfitt’s bed. Apparently the camera was linked to the monitor via wi-fi. Once the signal was detected the hiding place was soon discovered.
“There’s Boyes sir, in the front seat with the victim, further confirmation, if any was needed, of his story.” Then shortly afterwards another character appeared. He was dressed in a track suit and was hooded. Going up to the gates he tested them, spent some time looking around and moved off. After that nothing, except for a man and his dog and a young girl on a pony. “He could be the killer.” Suggested the CI. “I’ll get the technical boys to see if they can improve the image. He has a logo on his track suit top.” Said Inspector Able.
“What’ll you have?” The Inspector asked DC Fell as they entered Deli 13 on the Broadway. “Just a tea.” “Any sort? “They just do one type here, Sir.”
DC Fell picked a table by the window. The café was in one of three old houses on the street, on the right was the “Coiffure” , ladies hairdresser and on the left an old fashion dress shop, its window permanently filled with half naked manikins and “Sale now On” “50% reduction” signs plastered over the shop front. She wondered how any of these shops managed to turn in a profit. “Thank you Sir.” Inspector Able sat down opposite with an expresso and éclair. The constable indicated that she was happy with just her cup of tea. “I don’t know how these little places keep going. I mean I’ve never seen anyone in any of the shops – it must be dispiriting. The tea’s good.” She said in reply to his question. “You see the shops across the road.” The DI indicated the arcade of shops in the 1980’s build opposite. “At any one time one or maybe two of the units will be empty. I don’t think one of those businesses has lasted more than a year. Some parades are like that, built when there was considerable passing trade on foot. Now no one gets out of their cars on their way to the Orchard’s shopping mall and even that is looking decidedly dated.”
“It feels strange, Sir, almost unnatural that the killings should take place in such mundane, ordinary surroundings. I can even imagine Linda Parfitt buying her bras and knickers from “Ouh la la..” next door. Saying that the DC undid the top of her jacket. Michael Able couldn’t help but notice the milky complexition of her neck and the slight lift of her jumper where her bra had clasped her breasts. He needed to take his mind of that.
“How are things with you and that handsome hulk of a boyfriend?” he asked his smouldering lady constable. “I don’t know Sir, it’s not…well it’s…a bit of a dilemma if I’m honest. I like Dave, don’t get me wrong, but there’s not the spark there. As far as I can see it’s going nowhere so we might as well call it a day. The trouble is we work in the same station? Breaking up won’t help the working relationship.” “God, she looks really downhearted.” He thought as he imagined putting his arms around her to comfort her. “I’m sorry to hear that.” he said.
“Sir, what do you think I should do? She asked. “Well for a start you can stop calling me “Sir”. Call me Michael.” He wondered if that was the right thing to have said. He liked her calling him “Sir”, but a more informal form of address might now be appropriate . “What nonsense are you talking you old fart, “form of address” my arse.” He couldn’t believe his self deception. “Yes Sir: I mean Michael!” she replied and they both started laughing. “O.K. DC Emily… I’m really not the person to ask. Not much good at relationships i.e. my marriage”
“ If you don’t mind me asking Sir: I mean Michael how long were you married?” “Too long…10 years. No, it was good while it lasted but things went awry. We drifted apart and that was it. After a while we couldn’t see any reason to stay together. There were no children to worry about so we called it a day.” As he talked he was back in Tottenham – was it only 2 years ago? – at the Bash restaurant on West Green Road. Why they chose West African cuisine he can’t now remember; but the food was good if a little unusual. He’d moved out a month or two before and they met up to sort things out. They’d sell the house, she’d buy somewhere local and he’d already expressed an interest in a job out of London. He wasn’t too old to start again. “It was an amicable separation.” He continued. “She’s with her new man and is happy, at least she was the last time I heard from her about a year ago. Anyway that’s enough about me. Let’s get solving a couple of murders.”
Mundane, peaceful Haywards Heath, however, had one more grisily surprise up her sleeve.