The Four Marys - A Murder Mystery
stood over her, brandishing his knife, then took a length of rope
from his trouser pocket and started to secure her wrists.
my prisoner now,’ he said. ‘She was my prisoner too, but I killed
she disobeyed me. Besides, I like you.’
and June Cole and the boy, Jason Lassiter, had been playing cowboys
and Indians, with another girl, Mary Radlett, who was the daughter of
the cook. They didn’t really like Mary Radlett, because she was a
and servants didn’t normally mix with people like them, but
Jennifer and June’s mother, Lady Victoria Mary Cottingholme-Cole, had
In any case, Mary Radlett was just eight years old, and Jennifer and
June were just three years old. They had nothing in common, because
of the age difference, but to avoid any unpleasantness, they had
agreed that she could watch them play but not actually join in the
game, and so that was how Mary Radlett came to be watching from the
kitchen door. When they ventured further into the grounds, away from
the house, she followed at a discreet distance. She would never tell
anyone that they had not included her in their game. She made sure
that she could hear what they were saying, though, in case they said
something nasty about her or her Mummy, the cook. If they did, she
tell, and hang the consequences.
I be your squaw or something?’ Jennifer was saying.
like that. Why is your sister named after a month of the year?’ he
know. Anyway, you are too.’
August, September, October, November. J-A-S-O-N.’ She spelled it
out for him as he was not that good with his letters. She wasn’t
even sure he could spell his own name, and often thought that Jason
Lassiter might be a bit simple in the head.
I’ve got a real knife, you know.’
my pocket. I got it from the shed, at home. It’s my grandfather’s
really, but he lets me use it, and he says it’s to be mine when he
dies. I might kill him with it just so’s I can have it for myself.’
not a very nice thing to do.’
don’t like him. He’s very old, and he smells. And he never gives
does. I got two shillings last weekend.’
was with you. Anyway, I thought you said you killed her.’
yes, that’s right, so I did.’
watched sleepy-eyed as the man in the black uniform carried her twin
sister to the ambulance, knowing that it was too late, the damage was
done, she wouldn’t be coming back, there was just too much blood.
On the radio, Dinah Shore was singing “Buttons and Bows”. It was
her favourite song, but she couldn’t listen to it right now. Her
best friend, her twin sister, was dead. Her father folded her in his
arms and tried to comfort her, but she pulled away from him, and ran
out into the garden, wanting to get away from all the blood and the
mess. That was where the police found her. What happened that day
changed their lives forever. She would never be able to look at her
father again because of the shame and the misery, and the fact she
was never going to see her sister again. Where had her mother been
when she needed her? Looking after their newborn baby sister, baby
Mary, probably. Although baby Mary was somewhere, sitting in her
pram. Or, to be more accurate, laying in her pram, propped up with
her cushion so she could see what was going on. Not that she took any
notice, with her little beady eyes. Her older brother, Barney, was away
at preparatory school. He might have been able to help but he just
imagined that her mother was probably sitting slumped at the kitchen
table with a bottle of whisky, which was all she seemed to do
nowadays. Jennifer knew about whisky. It burned your throat and made
you grimace, and sometimes cough. She had tried a sip one day, when
her Mummy was asleep and baby Mary was lying in her pram whimpering.
She couldn’t see the point of drinking something like that,
something that made you feel that bad. Jennifer cried her eyes out,
and no one seemed to care what she was going through, except for her
comforted her niece while Mummy got blind drunk, in an attempt to
shut out the horror of her dead daughter. Mary Radlett watched from
the sidelines while all of this took place, while Victoria Mary
who hadn’t actually witnessed anything at all, and the twins’
father, made up a story about it having been an accident, that June
had somehow fell onto the knife, but Mary knew otherwise.
had seen Jennifer wander off into the woods to pick some flowers for
her mother. She had seen Jason show June the knife, which he had
fetched from his grandfather’s shed at her insistence. The knife
glinted in the sun, momentarily blinding Mary, but she saw that it
was similar to the sharp knife in her own mother’s kitchen drawer.
She heard June ask if she could hold it, but Jason had said no, she
couldn’t. After that it had all happened very quickly, and although
Mary didn’t actually see what happened, she could picture it in her
mind’s eye, and this was the story she came up with in her mind.
had raised the knife to stop June from grabbing it, and then as she
reached for it, he had plunged it into her chest, deliberately, it
had seemed to Mary, although she hadn’t actually seen it happen.
And then June’s father was there, and all Hell broke loose, with
shouting and screaming as he carried June’s bloodied body back to
the house and someone called for the police. She was never called as
a witness, though, never even questioned by the police. Instead, she
had been whisked away to stay with a relative at the seaside for a
while, returning only when the inquest had returned a verdict of
accidental death and Jason Lassiter had walked free. Except the price
he paid was to be sent to a young person’s mental hospital, and
neither Jennifer nor Mary ever saw him again. In fact Jennifer
herself died in an horrific car accident a month short of her
sixteenth birthday when the car she was driving illegally, spun off
the road and into an oak tree, killing her instantly as the car
exploded in a ball of fire. There were rumours that she had been
driving recklessly because of her extreme depression, or that someone
had been tinkering with the steering and she had lost control, or
even that she had been drinking or taking drugs. The police chose not
to pursue that line of enquiry at the request of her father, and for
the second time in the tragic lives of the Cottingholme-Cole family,
a verdict of accidental death was returned.
June screamed, Jennifer came running, and Mary ran for help. She had
seen it all, clearly, in her mind, she had seen the plume of blood
spurting from June’s chest, drenching her pretty white blouse with
the frilled sleeves in a torrent of blood, and it was Mary who had
run to the house to raise the alarm. Now it was all about poor
Jennifer, and her distraught parents. It was because of them that
June was dead, because of them Jennifer no longer had a twin sister.
Mary was only five, but she knew right from wrong, and she thought
that Jason Lassiter had murdered June Cole. She had seen it in his
eyes. He hadn’t wanted to share his precious knife with anyone,
even though it was only a common or garden kitchen knife like
everyone had in their cutlery drawer.
hadn’t wanted to play with them in the first place, because she
knew that Jason Lassiter was a sadistic little bully. She knew him
from the farm where he lived with his father, his mother having died
giving birth to him. Jason’s father had a reputation for being
quite brutal with the animals he kept, including his sheepdogs, and
she had witnessed Jason following in his father’s footsteps on more
than one occasion. She desperately wanted to say something, to tell
the people investigating June’s death that Jason had done it
deliberately, but no one would listen to her. Some weeks later,
Jennifer Cottingholme-Cole caught a chill that progressed into
pneumonia, and she, too died. Now there was only Barney and Mary, the
paid any attention to Mary Radlett in the days or weeks that followed,
would be several years before she would sleep through the night
without waking from an intense and frightening nightmare. The horror
of what she thought she had witnessed but had never had the
opportunity to discuss with anyone, lived with her until 1966. Until
her own untimely death.
man’s head had almost been cleaved in two. A jagged wound ended
just below the hairline on his forehead, and the shock of the blow
had dislodged his eye socket. His left eyeball was loose, the eye
staring and lifeless. Dried blood from the enormous wound had
congealed over his brow and down onto his nose. A huge bruise was
beginning to show around the left eye, which was open and staring.
The right eye was closed, and there was dried blood around both
nostrils. Around his throat was an angry red weal, as though
something had been tied around his neck and pulled tight to strangle
him. More bruises discoloured the flesh around his shoulders and down
his arms. Lacerations. Yellow-green bruises to his ribs. A stab wound
to his chest.
George Maxwell stood up and addressed the small gathering.
still fancy being a copper?’ he said. In the room were three young
men aged between sixteen and twenty, and a pretty young girl with an
elaborate bouffant hairdo; she was probably eighteen years old.
Michael Thompson spoke first. ‘Yes,’ he said, and pushed the
photograph of the dead man away from him. He had seen enough, but he
knew that this was what he wanted to do. The girl also nodded her
head. The other two young men said nothing.
don’t have to make up your minds today, obviously. The photographs
I have shown you this morning were taken at a crime scene yesterday
evening. That is now a murder enquiry, which we shall pursue with all
the full vigour of the law, and the considerable forces at our
disposal. We have a long day ahead of us, so those of you who want to
stay, follow me. You’ll see fingerprinting, statements, interviews,
possibly even an identity parade. Those of you who have not yet made
up your minds, or have been put off by these photographs, which are
of real victims, and which we come across every day, I suggest you go
home, think about it some more, and apply for the next careers day,
which will be in six months’ time.’
Maxwell picked up the photographs and replaced them in his manila
folder. Mike and the girl, whose name was Felicity Vanneck, followed
him. To Mike, she looked a little like Dusty Springfield, and
possibly might have had some Italian blood in her, though the name
suggested otherwise. Dutch, maybe? She wore lots of elaborate
make-up, especially around her eyes. Her hairdo and her make-up would
be the first things to go should she sign up to join as a female
police cadet, he thought, but he said nothing. For one thing, he was
enjoying her company, and she was easy on the eye. One of the boys
caught hold of Mike’s arm.
staying, then, Tiger?’
was Mike’s nickname from school, because he had been obsessed with
comic when he had first started at the Crypt Grammar School. Still
read it from time to time. He nodded. ‘Yes. It’s what I want to
do. Besides, this is only an open day, to get a feel for what it’s
like. You can pull out, not join, walk away later. Up to you. No one
will think any less of you if you don’t want to do it.’ If
you’re not up to it,
was what he wanted to say. Yelland, who went to the same school, the
Crypt Grammar School in Gloucester, and was in the same form as Mike,
waivered. Mike had never really got on with him, he was not a close
friend, not one of Mike’s circle. It would have been nice to go
through cadet school and then on-the-beat training with someone he
knew, but not essential. Felicity Vanneck, “Fliss” to her
friends, and that included Mike, would do just nicely.
again in six months’ time, Pete.’ Yelland nodded. George Maxwell
waited for Mike and Felicity to catch him up.
for this, you two? It gets worse. Those were just photos.’
ready,’ said Felicity Vanneck.
DCI Maxwell wants to see you pronto.’
Thompson, six feet three inches tall without his helmet, stooped his
way into DCI Maxwell’s office and stood to attention.
ease, Thompson, just me and you now, son.’
in the canteen. Let’s walk down the road to Petropoulos’s, or the
Cadena, maybe? I’ll square it with the desk sergeant, say I’m
briefing you on a case I need you for.’
left the station in the Bear Gardens, Gloucester, and walked silently
to the nearest coffee house, in Northgate Street, which was run by
Gino Petropoulos, a Greek immigrant. He served the best espresso
coffee in the city, everyone acknowledged, and Gino knew to keep his
mouth shut when he saw Maxwell walk in, other than to ask what they
both wanted and to serve them.
found a table at the back and sat down. Gino brought their coffee.
‘On the house, Mr Maxwell.’
need for that, Gino. Here’s the money. You have a family to feed,
just like everyone else. Take it.’
took the money with a mouthed but silent “thank you” and went
back behind the counter.
moving on,’ Maxwell said.
to, Sir?’ This was a bombshell Mike had not been expecting to hear.
CID. Two weeks’ time, the DCS job is mine if I want it.’
Chief Superintendent? Congratulations, Sir.’ Mike tried to analyse
quickly what was going through his own mind. This could not have come
at a worse time for him, what with the upheaval in his own life,
which was not yet resolved.
nodded. ‘Work out the rest of my years, retire to one of those
pretty little villages in the north of the county. Knebworth,
Datchworth, somewhere like that. Roses round the door, that sort of
thing. Might get a dog. Spaniel. Always liked spaniels, something
about them. Very waggy tails, always pleased to see you.’
grinned. ‘I can’t see you ever retired, Sir. Not really. You’ll
always be a detective. Sir.’
had something of a reputation as a good, solid, dependable detective
who did plenty of legwork and almost always got his man. A good,
old-fashioned detective who was not afraid of hard work. It was
unthinkable that he was thinking of retiring, even if it was still a
few years off.
word is, you’re not happy. Private life.’
squirmed uncomfortably in his seat. He was not happy, true, but he
didn’t really want to discuss it with DCI Maxwell. He wanted to be
off on his beat. He didn’t want to discuss it with anyone, it was
too big a deal to get his head round.
with my conscience, Sir.’
can’t decide whether or not to move to Australia with the rest of
eyebrows raised. Someone had been blabbing to the DCI. ‘How did you
know that, Sir?’
to the ground. A good detective is always one step ahead. In this
case, I’m one step ahead of you.
Australia’s a vibrant young country still. Plenty of opportunities
for a newly qualified copper like you.’
going, are they?’
knew the Thompson family well, after the murder enquiry three years
ago, when he had first met the sixteen-year-old Mike Thompson.
Together they had solved two murders, that of Trevor Bamber, killed
by his wife, June, and her daughter Lynda, with whom Mike had been
about to start a liaison, and that of Brenda McLaren, a childhood
sweetheart of Mike’s from primary school, whom Lynda Bamber had
murdered in a jealous rage, believing that she was still interested
in Mike. There were Albert and Cicely Thompson, the parents, Annie,
Mike’s diminutive, beautiful twin sister, and his older sister
Pauline. The murder enquiry had hit them hard, finding out as they
had that their son, Mike, had been involved right from the start. It
was the tireless legwork Mike had put in on the two murders that had
convinced him that his future lay in the police force, and Maxwell
had encouraged him right from the start. He and constable Hutchinson,
who lived opposite the Thompson family in the village of Brockworth,
nestling at the foot of Cooper’s Hill, where they rolled the
cheeses at Whitsuntide.
Thompson family were mostly from London, and it had been a standing
joke amongst them when Mike had declared his interest in joining the
police. None of them had believed he was serious. But the threat to
Annette’s life when Gordon Clark had bundled her into the car and
when Lynda Bamber had subsequently fired the shot that had nearly
killed her had brought the reality of injury or even loss of life too
close for comfort. Especially as Mike’s uncle John, a detective
sergeant who worked for Maxwell, had caught the bullet meant for
Annie in his back and was still confined to a wheelchair three years
later. Probably always would be, despite his own best efforts and
those of the national health service to get his wasted leg muscles
back into action.
knew and Maxwell knew that John Kimble had been a bent cop, but they
had agreed to keep it quiet because Kimble was a hero, he had saved
Annie from being shot. Nothing much had appeared in the newspapers
about Kimble’s dodgy dealings, and he was still the family hero,
whilst everyone had tried their best to deter Mike from pursuing his
chosen career. But he had become a cadet and then a fully fledged
constable, and now, here he was, discussing the move to Australia
with his friend and mentor, DCI George Maxwell, the man he looked up
to more than anyone else.
except Pauline, Sir. She’s married and staying in Gloucester. Well,
out in Matson, actually. She doesn’t want to go, but says when she
has enough money saved up they’ll go across for a holiday.’
Maxwell said, raising his coffee to his lips.
is down, not across. Across would be the United States, or Europe.
Australia is down. Don’t they teach you anything at school these
days?’ There was a twinkle in Maxwell’s eyes as he said it – he
knew better than anyone that Mike Thompson was probably the best
educated young man he had ever known.
do geography, Sir. I know where Australia is, though.’
you don’t fancy it?’
really, Sir.’ He didn’t need to spell it out for Maxwell, how
much of a wrench it would be, watching his beloved twin sister, Annie
set sail for Australia.
took his pipe and tobacco from his coat pocket and began to fill the
pipe, looking down at the table all the while.
with me, then.’
Come with me. A couple of years on the beat, then do your sergeant’s
exam, or better still, apply for a transfer to CID. I’ll put in a
word for you. What d’you say? Fancy it?’
face split into an enormous grin. ‘Yes, Sir, that would be great!’
Constable Thompson… That had a nice ring to it…
an opening for you, under Sergeant Trevor Wilson, at Stevenage New
Town nick. I’ve known him for some time, worked with him on a
couple of occasions in the past. He’s all right, he’ll look after
you, nurture you. There’s accommodation, too, a police flat, might
even be a house for all I know, next door to a pub. Should suit you
down to the ground.’ Knowing
how Mike felt about alcohol and the untold damage it caused, this was
ironic, but Maxwell was not to know about that side of Mike’s life,
at least not at this stage…
got it all worked out, haven’t you, Sir?’
have, as it happens. I heard you weren’t keen on Australia and I
rather like the idea of having you where I can see you. Keep my eye
on you, see you don’t get into any trouble, as it were. In
loco parentis. Now
drink your coffee and we’ll go back to the nick and get some of the
paperwork under way. You can always change your mind and go off down
to Australia at the last minute. Like I said, they’re crying out
for good coppers in Australia, I’ve heard.’
going to happen, Sir. Not yet. My future is here, in Britain. Maybe
in a few years’ time… And I can always visit, like Pauline. Even
go with her.’
want me to drive out to Brockworth and help you break it to your
lived in the village of Brockworth, half way between Gloucester and
Cheltenham, at the foot of Cooper’s Hill, the hill where they
rolled the cheese down at Whitsuntide.
Sir, thank you. They already know I don’t want to go. It’s Annie
who’ll take it the hardest. We’re close, as you know.’
nodded, draining his cup. He stood up.
your decision. Only you and Annie can decide if you can bear to be
apart. I know how close you are. Feeling each other’s pain and so
on. It’s a well known fact. Isn’t it? With twins?’
stood up too, and stared at his feet, ignoring the question. ‘I’ve
made up my mind, Sir. I can always go and visit, just like Pauline
and her hubby are going to.’
nodded and made his way to the door. He raised his hand to Gino, who
nodded silently, and Mike followed him into the street.
better be off on your beat. I’ll see you back at the nick later,
we’ll fill those papers in. Know anything about Stevenage New Town,
do you?’ If the truth were known, Maxwell had already filled in the
forms, and Mike Thompson’s career with the Gloucestershire force
was at an end. All that was required was his signature.
really, Sir. Heard of it, of course.’
read up on it, it’s unique, from what I’ve heard. One set of
traffic lights, in the Old Town, loads of roundabouts to slow down
the traffic, cycle tracks alongside all the major roads, cycle
underpasses at all the roundabouts… designed to keep the traffic
flowing, and no need for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists ever to
come into conflict. Unique. Split into neighbourhoods, supposed to be
like villages, I think. Plenty of nice countryside around it, too.
Low crime rate. Like I say, read up about it before you turn up for
work. Familiarise yourself with the layout and the various
neighbourhoods. Nothing worse than turning up for work in a new town
and not knowing anything at all about it. In your own interests.’
questioned, Roger Simkins said that his wife, Mary Simkins, née Mary
Radlett, had simply disappeared.
shops. The chemist’s. I was waiting outside. It’s a small shop.
In the corner.’
know where it is,’ the visiting DCI said, not smiling. ‘Your wife
went in to pick up a prescription.’ When Roger Simkins’s name had
cropped up, he had been called, and had arrived within the hour. The
DCI vacancy had been filled a few weeks earlier by George Maxwell,
but he was still getting his feet under the table, and in any case
would have known nothing about Roger Simkins. Besides, Maxwell was
soon to become the new DCS, and his hands-on involvement could be
next to nothing.
I told you that.’
saw the pharmacist bring out a paper bag from the dispensary and call
He didn’t speak very loudly, though. Like I said, I was waiting
you describe him?’
was tall. Swarthy. Stocky. He was the pharmacist. Mr King. He’s
always there. He wears a white jacket thing. They all do.
Pharmacists. They all wear them.’
DCI referred to his notebook. ‘Stocky? And tall?’
built. Muscular. And quite tall, yes.’
there anyone else in the shop at the time?’
a couple. Old ladies, buying stuff, perfume, shampoo, that kind of
thing, I think.’
prescription counter is separate?’
You just queue up and ask. Just the one counter. Look, you’re
wasting time. My wife has been abducted!’
DCI looked straight into Simkins’s eyes. Unmoving, unfeeling.
‘There is no evidence that your wife has been abducted, Mr Simkins.
Shall we continue? Any other shop assistants in sight?’
went in with her. She asked the assistant for her prescription, and
the assistant went out back. I went outside so they wouldn’t think
I was queuing for anything. I stood with my back to the shop window.
Five minutes went by, or at least it seemed like that long. I turned
round and looked through the window, and the pharmacist came from out
the back with her prescription. Then she followed him into the
a room in the corner of the shop. It says consulting room on the
door. I’ve been in there myself, it’s just a broom cupboard.
there a window in the door, or is it a solid door?’
don’t know. You could go and look.’
officers will be checking it out, Mr Simkins, rest assured. Your wife
followed the pharmacist into this office – the consulting room.’
she never came out.’
I mean yes, she never came out.’
was how long ago?’
told the desk sergeant. It happened this morning, at eleven-ish.’
it took you three hours to report it?’
came straight here. I’ve been waiting to talk to someone. I didn’t
wait, I’ve been kept waiting. Actually, one of your WPCs arrested
me. Restrained me.’
you saying you were mistreated, Mr Simkins?
Simkins considered for a moment. ‘No. Not at all.’ He did not
wish to make matters worse for himself. He genuinely required the
cooperation of the police. He wanted them to find his wife so that
she could explain what had happened. His mind was racing. Could there
have been a basement in the pharmacy? Was there a trapdoor or
something? Something that would explain the mysterious disappearance
of his wife and the pharmacist?
do you think could have happened, Mr Simkins?’
are you asking me?’
you had a row?’
you had a disagreement with your wife?’
between you was normal.’
What are you suggesting?’
not suggesting anything. You say your wife disappeared.’
In the chemist’s shop. This morning.’
don’t think she could have just walked out on you?’
get away from you?’
No. Why would she?’
this is ridiculous. Are you going to look for her or what?’
you go into the shop when she didn’t come out?’
Yes, of course!’
what did they say?’
was no one in the office.’
did they show you the office?’
one in there.’
And no other way out. Not that I could see.’
it possible she came out when you weren’t looking and went out
through the back of the shop?’
didn’t turn away.’ But he couldn’t be sure. He might have been
distracted for a moment. Long enough for his wife and the pharmacist
to leave the room and for her to be rushed out the back and through
the back door. All the shops in the parade had a back door, of
course, a door that gave out onto the row of garages behind the
shops. From there it would have been easy to get away from the
Longmeadow shops, while Roger Simkins was inside arguing with Mr King
the Pharmacist about what had happened to his wife.
even for a second? You said you had your back to the shop. You
couldn’t see, could you? You couldn’t be sure, could you? It’s
a hot day. There were probably plenty of diversions for you.’
do you mean?’
young girls wearing hot pants and skimpy tops and very little else,
for example. Someone might have caught your eye. Distracted you, just
for a moment. Long enough for your wife to come out of the consulting
room and out through the back. Describe what you saw when they took
you into the office.’
didn’t take me. I opened the door.’
said they showed you the office.’
well, I just opened the door.’
one in there.’
wife was not in the office. The consulting room.’
pharmacist. Was he in there?’
he wasn’t in there either.’
do you think he went, Mr Simkins?’
not interested in the pharmacist. It’s my wife who’s
the pharmacist, if what you say is true about there being no way
don’t care about the pharmacist!’ Simkins thought for a moment,
then continued. ‘He was back behind the counter when I went in to
look for my wife. Back behind the counter. Pretending that nothing
had happened. When I asked him where she was, he said she had left
the shop. He was lying! She never came out of that shop!’
is no need to shout.’
not doing anything!’
I said, my officers will check out the chemist shop.’
beg your pardon?’
will you do about it?’
are you going to start turning the place over? Looking for my wife?’
have no authority to do that, Mr Simkins. Your wife is a grown woman,
Sir. Technically speaking, she’s only been gone a few hours. She’ll
turn up, you mark my words, and then you can sort this out between
you. You’ll see.’
almighty! What do I have to do to get through to you?’
of your neighbours confirms seeing you and your wife leaving your
house this morning at nine am, shouting at each other.’
sent one of my officers round to your house to have a word with the
neighbours while we were waiting to interview you. They said there
was a row when you both left the house this morning. Do you deny that
you left the house in the middle of a violent argument, Mr Simkins?’
Yes. We were just discussing something, that’s all. It wasn’t an
argument as such. What is all this? You have no intention of looking
for my wife, have you?’
neighbour says she heard your wife say something like “you can fuck
off, Roger, I’m leaving and that’s that.”’
she say that she was leaving you when you left the house this
No. Yes. Not leaving me, just leaving.’
you explain that, please?’
go to work, that’s all. Look…’
calm down, please, Mr Simkins, and explain what your wife meant when
she said she was leaving you.’
wasn’t leaving me!
She was leaving her
Giving up her teaching job.’
was she leaving her teaching job.’
didn’t discuss it. I don’t know why. We were going to talk about
it this evening. Over dinner.’
out of the blue, as you left the house this morning, she informed you
she was leaving her job.’
We agreed to meet at Longmeadow shops mid-morning, during her break,
she was going to pick up her prescription, she was going to give me a
hint about what she was thinking of. Did my neighbours tell you that?
No, I didn’t think so!’ The truth was that she had said she was
going to pop out in her break to pick up her prescription, and he had
taken time off work to be there, to find out what she was doing. Only
she had refused to discuss it there and then, and had stomped off
into the shop. He had followed her inside, and then when the
pharmacist had said her prescription would be ready shortly, he had
made his way outside and waited for her, only she had never come out.
He did not recall a distraction outside, and wanted to believe that
he had kept his eyes planted firmly on the shop the whole time she
had been in there, but now, after this persistent and stupid
questioning, he could no longer be sure of anything. But he wasn’t
going to tell the policeman that!
you expect me to believe that?’
believe you are lying, Mr Simkins. I believe you had a violent
argument with your wife, and she rushed out of the house with you
following her, shouting at you, telling you she was leaving you. You
bundled her into the car, drove somewhere and killed her, then
disposed of the body and made up this ridiculous story about her
going into the chemist shop in the high street and being called into
the office – the consulting room, and not coming out. I believe you
murdered your wife, Mr Simkins.’ This was such a stupid suggestion
that Roger shook his head and smiled, a sneering kind of smile that
said “you are saying anything that comes into your head rather than
take me seriously and get down to the business of what you are
supposed to be doing – finding my wife.” There were witnesses at
the shop – the pharmacist, the cleaning lady who had been stacking
the shelves when they were there. This stupid, arrogant, bullying
policeman could not seriously be saying that he and his wife had not
been at Longmeadow shops at all this morning?
Simkins could not believe what he was hearing. He slumped back in his
chair, unable to comprehend the events of the last three and a half
hours. He could find no words to say. The door opened and a uniformed
constable spoke quietly into the detective’s ear.
be back shortly, Mr Simkins. We’ll get the duty solicitor, we’ll
interview you again, formally, then we’ll think about charging
No…’ Roger’s eyes misted over and he felt tears begin to form.
This couldn’t be happening to him, it simply couldn’t. He’d
come to the police station to report the fact his wife had
disappeared, and here they were, talking about charging him with her
murder… There was no body, for God’s sake, was there? Had they
found a body? Was that what was going on? Had he walked into some
nightmare? His wife had disappeared from the chemist’s shop in
Longmeadow, and three and a half hours later, they were going to
charge him with her murder… this was madness of the highest order.
Roger felt light headed, sick, even. He asked for a glass of water,
but the DCI ignored him.
detective left the room, leaving the constable standing at the door,
his arms behind his back. Roger was going nowhere for the time being.
Marshall conferred with one of his uniformed colleagues, Sergeant
Trevor Wilson. ‘I think we have enough to hold him here for a few
hours, then we’ll send him on his way. His wife is safely away,
guv, as per instructed.’ Mary Simkins was, in fact, “away”, but
she was far from safe, as it turned out. But Sergeant Wilson was not
to know that at this stage.
I don’t like it, not one little bit, but orders are orders.’
better get back in there. I wouldn’t put it past him to start
want me in there, guv?’
you’re all right. I can handle it. It’s not as if Roger Simkins
is a violent man, is it? Quite the opposite, I believe.’
what the neighbour says, guv.’
but how much was the neighbour paid to say what she did? What a mess.
What a Godalmighty mess. Still, we’ve done everything we were asked
to do, so that’s that. It’s Mr Simkins I feel sorry for. He
doesn’t have a clue, does he? Not a clue.’
call came through to the station an hour or so later. Mary Simkins
had disappeared without trace. She had not arrived at the safe
house in Little Wymondley, where she was supposed to wait until
someone picked her up and drove her away to her new life. Somehow she
had given her minder the slip and had disappeared. At three thirty
that afternoon they let Roger Simkins go with a caution for wasting
police time. He had walked out of the station and got into his car,
an Austin Seven, and dissolved into tears. Mary Simkins was the love
of his life. They had been married only a short while. That morning
she had told him she was leaving her job in a month's time, but
would not tell him why. The case file lay untouched on Sergeant
Wilson’s desk for several days, and would not be opened again until
Mike Thompson arrived to take up his post with the Hertfordshire
Police Force exactly two weeks later. DCI Marshall returned to Police
HQ in Welwyn Garden City. His name did not appear in the file. The
name of the interviewing officer was crossed out and smudged.
small print: Books
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