Detective story. Murderous happenings at the pool.
| Detective Sergeant, David Collins, shrugged on his shabby raincoat and gave a cursory glance in the hallway mirror before leaving the house on his way to the station. The same journey for what seemed to him to be a lifetime.
It still felt strange to leave the house without saying goodbye to his wife. Living alone after Mary’s sudden death brought challenges he hadn’t envisioned, not the least of them was the loneliness; not realising just how much she’d meant to him until she was no longer there. His biggest regret being he’d made work his priority, which caused him to miss out on much of his children’s lives.
“You love your job more than your family.” Mary would complain when he claimed to be too busy for holidays and dinners with friends.
Now he regretted the lost years and would do anything to have his wife back.
The journey to work was just a few miles along the narrow country roads of Derbyshire. The hedgerows were thick with blossoms and blackberries at this time of the year, making the roads even narrower, but Dave had ceased enjoying the beauty of the countryside.
“Morning Sarge,” the custody officer welcome him as Dave entered the station. “There’s been a drowning at the local pool. The medics thought it was suspicious. Want to look into it?”
Dave sighed, he’d been looking forward to sitting down with a coffee before doing any work. It’s time I packed up this job, I’ve really lost all interest.
Arriving at the Leisure Centre ten minutes later, the smell of chlorine reminded him of childhood swimming lessons.
“Sergeant Collins,” he stated, flashing his warrant card to the young receptionist, “Manager please.”
The blonde receptionist stared at the photo of the police officer, looking back again to his tired face. “I’ll see if he’s available.”
A young man came from out of the back office. “I’m the duty manager, Terry Giles, how may I help?”
“Mr Giles, where you on duty this morning?”
“Yes, unfortunately. I suppose you’re here about the old lady? Heart attack I expect?”
“The ambulance officers who attended seemed to think maybe there was more to it. Was she a regular at the aerobic class, do you know?”
“Oh, yes, the old ladies that attend the deep water class have all been coming here for years. They are quite a close group, friends really, they always stay for coffee after. The ladies were in shock, it’s been a dreadful morning. Poor Mrs Fox. They’ll miss her, especially as another one of the group died recently.”
“Really, who else died?”
“Shirley Smith, she died suddenly, poor old soul.” Terry replied.
Later, back at the station, Dave reported to his inspector about the incident. He’d also spoken to the paramedics.
“The ambulance guys were suspicious. They found her flotation belt, it looked like someone had cut the straps. Apparently, Margaret Fox wasn’t a swimmer at all and relied completely on the belt to keep her afloat.”
“Surely someone would have noticed her slipping under the water?” The inspector remarked.
“Not really. There were over 40 people in the pool that day. We’ll interview everyone who was there tomorrow. We’ll see what we can turn up.”
Dave shared phoning everyone who’d been at the pool with several officers at the station the next day. He was on his ninth call of the morning. No-one as yet had any information, and he felt he was wasting his time.
Then he spoke to a lady called Doris. He did the usual preamble and was about to start with the same old questions, when Doris said something that made Dave sit up and take notice.
“It maybe just my imagination but, er, it seems to me there has been a bit of tension within the group these last few months.” Doris seemed hesitant to say more.
“A bit of tension you say?” Dave encouraged to her to go on. “Between whom?”
“Well, it all started after Gladys Knight brought her husband, John, to join the class after he’d had a car accident.”
Dave had an idea that Doris enjoyed a little gossip. She was getting into her stride as she continued with the story.
“Gladys thought it would help him recover quicker. He fitted in with the ladies really well, he’s a lovely man we all liked him. Then Shirley Smith, poor thing,” Doris paused for a few seconds, “well, got a bit too cosy, if you know what I mean? Gladys was jealous, and that was the last we saw of John. She put a stop to him coming to the pool after that.” She gave a deep sigh. “Anyway, dear Shirley, passed away suddenly a few weeks ago.”
“So what, in your opinion, caused this ongoing tension Doris?”
“Well, Margaret Fox, the old lady who drowned yesterday, was Shirley’s best friend, and she didn’t like the way Gladys had accused her of chasing after her husband, and she said so. Since then it’s been icy.”
Dave pulled a wry face, thinking the last place one would find intrigue, jealousy and drama would be at a fitness class for old-age pensioners. He rubbed his stubbly chin.
“Doris, would you mind coming into the station, or I could come and see you if you’d prefer?”
”Oh! I don’t want to come to the station. Someone may see me and wonder why I was there. Maybe I’ve said too much, I don’t want to accuse anyone of anything.”
Dave assured her it was all routine, they were speaking to everyone. He told her he’d come around for a chat.
The next call he would make would be to Shirley Smith’s doctor. He needed to know if there were any suspicious circumstances of her death.
Dave went home that evening to his empty house, he still wasn’t used to Mary not being there. Hanging his coat on the stair post, he could almost hear her call out. “Hang it on the coat hook, not on the stairs, and isn’t it time you stopped wearing that old Mac?”
She’d always tried to smarten him up, and she’d been right to, he supposed, when he saw, reflected in the hall mirror, the unshaven face and grey hair long past needing a cut. He would have loved to have discussed the case with her, as he’d often done. She may have been able to shed some light on how a group of old women could still feel passion, jealousy and hatred.
The following morning at the station he asked which officer had spoken to Gladys Knight when they’d done the phone interviews. The officers checked their notebooks.
“I did Sarge, prickly woman, not very forthcoming.” Constable Moss replied.
“I think we’ll pay her a visit,” Dave nodded at the young man to accompany him.
As they drove to Gladys’ house, Dave received a call on his phone from Shirley’s doctor.
“This Dr. Green, I have the information you asked for regarding Mrs Smith’s cause of death. She died of anaphylaxis after eating something containing peanuts. She was highly allergic.”
Dave thanked her, and asked if Shirley had used an EpiPen to reverse the effects of the peanuts, and if not, why not?
“I would have thought she would have one with her at all times, but apparently not.
”Dave finished the call and hung up. They had arrived at Mrs Knight’s house.
Gladys Knight opened the front door a crack. She appeared annoyed when she saw the uniformed police officer accompanying Dave.
“Yes?” The pinched white face peered around the door.
“We need to ask you a few questions about the accident at the pool a few days ago. May we come in?” Dave moved toward the woman. She reluctantly opened the door and let them in.
Dave sat on an ancient leather sofa without waiting for an invitation; he was sure the old woman would have left them standing in the gloomy hallway.
Going over the usual questions about the group, instead of speaking about Mrs Fox’s drowning he turned the topic to Shirley Smith.
“I understand you had an issue with her?”
She appeared shocked and denied that she and Shirley were anything but best friends.
“Why I even visited her a couple of days before she died, I made her a cake.”
“Did you know she was allergic to peanuts?” Dave said casually. “I believe it was general knowledge, apparently she was always extremely cautious.”
“I had no idea!” Gladys exclaimed.
Later that day Dave applied for a warrant to search Mrs Knight’s house; arriving at the house once more, this time with several police officers.
“We need you and your husband to stay here in the kitchen, this police officer will stay here with you whilst we search your house. It shouldn’t take too long.”
Dave enjoyed seeing the look of shock on Gladys’ face. He glanced at Mr Knight. John’s used to doing as he’s told, Dave thought. Poor old bastard.
“Sarge!” A voice called out from the main bedroom.
Dave went to see what they’d found.
“Found it Sarge. One EpiPen.”
A further search found a box cutter.
“Bag it. We’ll let forensics see if this matches up with the sliced flotation belt,” Dave said, as the officer slipped both items into evidence bags.
The EpiPen had Shirley’s DNA all over it, and the blade contained microscopic fibres from the flotation belt. The evidence was strong against the old lady. Her hen-pecked husband admitted his wife had always been insanely jealous, and he wasn't really shocked she’d go to such lengths to dispose of anyone who she thought an enemy.
Dave spoke softly to his wife as he lay in the dark. “You would have enjoyed this one Mary,” he put his hand on to the empty half of the bed.