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Continues in this issue: The Four Marys...


Contents: The Front Page | Fiction | Fantasy & Science Fiction | Children's | Nonfiction | Nostalgia | The Silent Three | The Four Marys
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The Four Marys Part 1
The Four Marys Part 2
The Four Marys Part 3
The Four Marys Part 4
The Four Marys Part 5
The Four Marys Part 6
The Four Marys Part 7
The Four Marys Part 8

The Four Marys - A Murder Mystery

By Paul Norman

Part Seven (You can access the other parts from the main menu at the top).

Chapter Ten


Sergeant Wilson had a long list of things for Mike to do but had to remind himself sharply that the lad was seconded to DCI Maxwell for the duration of these murder investigations. Mike started to make some notes about the two murders, hoping to chance upon some connection between the two victims, Mary Simkins and Mary Fielding. It was slow, painstaking work, but it was what he loved doing, and he swiftly became absorbed in his notes. He wasn’t sure why he wanted the murders to be connected, except for the obvious reason, that both had been killed by a blow to the head with a lump of flint, a substance that didn’t occur naturally in this part of the country, which was primarily composed of sandstone and limestone. Flint could be purchased from builders’ merchants for decorative purposes, however. To Mike it seemed absolutely certain that both young ladies had been murdered by the same person, but as yet there was no evidence, unless he could find a link between the two Marys.

Neither of the victims had ever been arrested in the past, so Mike started to make enquiries about them through the electoral register and various other resources available to him as a police officer, and soon determined that they had both been pupils at the Girls' Grammar School in Six Hills Way, the only girls' grammar school that served the New Town. Simkins had then attended the University of Liverpool, gaining a degree in modern languages. Fielding had entered the civil service, and until the time of her death, worked for the Council in a local office. Simkins was twenty-three years old, Fielding twenty-one, but there were only thirteen months between them, so it was quite likely they had run into one another during their school years. It was even possible that they had both been in the same form, as one of them could have passed the eleven-plus at the age of ten, as he had, and just scraped in to the year ahead of her. That would be easy enough to find out, a phone call to the Grammar School would soon clear that up. Mike paused in his note-taking and decided to ask Maxwell if he should drive out to inform Mary Fielding’s parents, Anthony and Janice Fielding, of her death, but the Chief Inspector was away from his desk, so he asked Sergeant Wilson instead.

You’re not working for me at the moment,’ Wilson said with a sigh. ‘Use your initiative, boy. All part of your training. If you can’t find your line manager, use your initiative.’ This was a piece of advice Mike would come to regret, but for the time being, he decided to follow it, hoping that Sergeant Wilson’s heart was in the right place.

Mike thought about asking Lizzie Trigg what he should do about the Fieldings, but decided instead to collar WPC Matthews during his coffee break. They’d been back at the station for less than an hour, and he already had two pages of notes on the two victims, but he thought it was still within the bounds of decency for informing the parents. They would have to carry out the formal investigation of Mary Fielding’s remains, in any case. What did she think?

I’m on my way home shortly, Mike, I’ll follow you, if you like?’

You think we should do it?’

You can’t find Maxwell?’

Not right now. Sergeant Wilson is being uncooperative, he’s lost me temporarily to Maxwell, so he doesn’t want to know. Says I should use my initiative.’

There you go, then. I’ve done it before, but only from an RTA, not from a murder.’

Come on, then.’ They decided to both drive in their separate cars as she had to pick up her children from the local primary school, and Mike would still be on duty. It took them just fifteen minutes to get there, but when they arrived, the house was locked up, and they assumed that both of Mary’s parents were at work, or shopping, or something of the sort. They were about to drive off when they saw a woman walking towards them, having just alighted from the bus that was going past.

Can I help you?’

Mrs Fielding? Mrs Janice Fielding?’

That’s me. Has there been an accident?’ As WPC Matthews was still wearing her uniform, Mrs Fielding knew that this was a visit from the police, and that something had happened.

Could we go inside? Is there a neighbour who could come and sit with you?’ Alice asked.

Two doors down. Why? It’s Anthony, isn’t it?’

No, it’s your daughter, Mary,’ the policewoman said as Janice Fielding turned the key and led the way into the house. She dropped her shopping bag on the floor and her hands flew to her face.

Shall we sit down? Mike, go and get Mrs Fielding’s neighbour, then put the kettle on.’

By the time Mike returned with an elderly, white-haired lady who had identified herself as Sally Haynes, a widow who had befriended the Fieldings when they had first moved to Stevenage New Town ten years ago, relocating from Willesden, in North London, the news had been broken to Janice Fielding that her daughter was dead.

Tea, Mike, please, hot and sweet,’ Matthews aid. Janice Fielding was sobbing, rocking backwards and forwards on the settee, her arms clasped around her middle. Sally sat next to her and put her arm round her, comforting her.

We’ll need to contact your husband, Mrs Fielding. Can you tell me where he works, and give me a phone number, please?’

I’ll do it,’ Sally said, standing up. ‘He works at the ESA factory in the Old Town. He’s a systems engineer, whatever that is. The number’s in the directory. I’ll tell him he’s needed at home, urgently.’

Thank you, Mrs Haynes,’ Mike said.

How did she die?’ Janice asked.

Oh, Christ, you haven’t told her she was murdered yet, have you? Time to do my duty, Mike thought, and sat next to Janice on the settee.

I’m sorry, Mrs Fielding, I have to tell you that your daughter was murdered, earlier this morning. She was with her housemate, Jenny Rogerson. She discovered Mary this morning, and we were asked to attend the scene. She was murdered. I’m sorry. We can’t give you all the details right now, but we believe it was a blow to the head…’

Jack! Where’s Jack? Is he all right?’

Jack is fine. He was asleep when it happened, and Social Services have him all safe and sound. I’m sure they’ll be in touch with you shortly, but Jack is perfectly safe, and slept through it all. As far as we know he was never in any danger.’

Sally Haynes returned. ‘They’re sending him home. He cycles, so he’ll be a while.’ It was probably in the region of two miles. Mike knew this because he had occasionally cycled all around the new and old town area to familiarise himself with the lie of the land, which was necessary in his line of duty.

I could have gone to fetch him,’ WPC Matthews said. She looked at her watch, then took Mike on one side. ‘I have to get home, one of the kids has been taken poorly, I have to fetch him from Ashtree…’

Mike nodded sympathetically. ‘You go. I can handle things here.’

Call the station, ask them to send someone out to sit with Mrs Fielding and her friend until her husband gets home.’

No need for that, is there? I can hang on here. They may be able to fill me in on Mary’s background.’


I’m trying to find out if the two victims were connected in any way.’

You shouldn’t start questioning them just yet, Mike. They have to get over their grief first.’

I’ll be fine, you go. I’ll just have a quiet word with Mrs Haynes. I promise I won’t bother Mrs Fielding. Not today. And I’ll definitely stay until her husband gets home. You go. I’ll see you later.’

But she was clearly still worried. ‘I shouldn’t leave you…’

Your nipper comes first. I’ll be fine.’

Just don’t do anything stupid!’

I won’t. Go!’

After she had reluctantly driven off, Mike returned to the kitchen and finished making three mugs of tea. He found digestive biscuits in an unopened packet in one of the cupboards and carried everything through to the lounge, where Janice was still crying, and Sally Haynes was still trying to calm her down. Mike supposed that when her husband finally arrived home and had been apprised of the situation, he might be able to slip away with Mrs Haynes and ask her some questions about Mary Fielding.

It turned out to be a long wait for the husband to arrive home, and when he did, he was carrying his bike, an old, rusty affair with straight handlebars and mudguards. He had a puncture, and rather than try to repair it, he had decided to walk with it. Mike met him at the front door and told him briefly and succinctly of the situation.

No, not our Mary…’ he said. ‘Where’s Janice…’ Anthony Fielding, known to his friends and family as Tony, was average height, no more than five feet nine, almost totally bald on top, and wore dark glasses. He wore a shabby grey suit and his trousers were protected from the bicycle by cycle clips. He had removed his tie and shoved it in his jacket pocket. Strapped on the luggage rack behind the back wheel was a battered old leather briefcase.

In the front room with Mrs Haynes. I’ll make you some tea…’ Tony Fielding shook his head.

Brandy,’ he said. ‘She’ll need brandy. Some in the kitchen cupboard.’

The afternoon wore on. The doctor was called to give Janice Fielding a mild sedative, and Sally Haynes promised to see that they had a good hot meal inside them later that evening.

Mr Fielding – Tony… You’ll both need to come to the mortuary to formally identify the body – well, one of you will… when you’re ready… The post mortem will be carried out tomorrow morning at ten o’clock, so if you could make it before then, either this afternoon or first thing in the morning, before the pm, that would be good?’

Tony Fielding nodded. ‘I’ll come. Can someone give me a lift? My bicycle…’

I’m on my way back to the station, but I’ll give you a lift to the hospital first, if you like?’

Sally, can you stay with Janice while I…?’

Janice nodded. ‘Of course. We’ll be fine, we’ll be fine.’

Mrs Haynes, I’d like to have a quiet word with you later, when I bring Tony back, if that’s all right with you?’ Mike said to the older lady, whilst Tony was changing into more comfortable clothes.

Me? Yes, if you wish. I’m not sure how I can help you, but yes, of course.’

Thank you. See you later, then.’

The drive to the mortuary took place in complete silence. Mike didn’t know what to say to Tony Fielding, and he seemed to have no desire to talk. Only when they reached the hospital and arrived at the mortuary did he open his mouth. Finding his way down to the mortuary was easier, having already done it once in the company of Nurse Baker, and he wished that he might bump into her, even making a detour past the Men’s Surgical Ward for that very purpose, but she was nowhere to be seen. It had been his intention to make an arrangement to see her again, as he had promised, but today he was out of luck. Nurse Martha Baker was simply not around, at least not in the vicinity.

Did she suffer, constable?’

I’m really not at liberty to say, Mr Fielding…’

I need to know!’

She died very quickly, that’s my understanding, and that’s really all I can tell you. You will be told everything in due course…’

I understand. Sorry to put you on the spot like that.’

Through here, let’s get this done, then I can get you home.’

Lizzie Trigg pulled the sheet away from Mary Fielding’s face and Tony Fielding’s face crumpled into tears. He nodded, and turned away.

That’s her, that’s my Mary,’ he whispered, and Mike felt so sorry for the man that he clasped him round the shoulders and hugged him, comforting him as best he could.

Let’s get you home now. Your wife will be needing you.’

On the drive home, Tony Fielding voiced his opinion that the murderer must have been one of Mary’s past boy friends.

Do you know them, any of them?’ Mike asked, hoping for an insight into the kind of people Mary had associated with.

Not really. We lost touch when she moved in with Jenny. We know the father, of course, Jack’s father. David Smith. Seemed a decent sort of chap, but I expect you know that already?’

On my way now to find out where he ended up. We will have to interview him, of course,’ Mike said. He’d not given Jack’s father a single thought, something both Maxwell and Wilson would be sure to castigate him for if they found out that he had been making enquiries about Mary’s schoolfriends rather than her closest friends and relatives.

Did she visit you, bring Jack to see you?’

Once a week, sometimes less, sometimes more. When she didn’t have anyone to knock about with, she would come home, Janice would take them shopping, get stuff for Jack, sometimes stuff for Mary, too.’

Mary didn’t work?’

Yes, of course she did! She works, sorry, worked for the Library, in the old town, next to Elmes hardware shop.’

Who looked after Jack, then?’

Crèche. Somewhere in the old town, I think, near the library.’

Mike nodded, bringing the car to a halt outside the Fieldings’ house.

Jack’s father, where can I find him?’

He used to work at the railway station, I think. His name is David Smith. I thought you said… I don’t know where he lives, though.’

I just wanted to make sure. Jenny Rogerson said she thought he had moved away from the area. There were no other people at Mary’s house last night – some kind of small gathering to celebrate the finalisation of Jenny’s divorce, I believe, but it folded relatively early, at least that’s my understanding. There was Mary and Jenny, John and Terry. I’ve already spoken to John and his mother. I still have Terry Vincent to see.’

Tony nodded and got out of the car. ‘This is a nice little motor. Starting handle job, is it?’ He clearly didn’t want to be thinking about his daughter and how she had died. As soon as Mike had started to talk about the other people in the house, he had steered the conversation away to a subject nearer to his heart, motor cars.

It’s the easiest way.’

Engine size?’

It was originally 918cc. We did a re-bore, that didn’t work so we dropped a larger engine in.’ Mike couldn’t remember the actual engine size, so he didn’t elaborate at this point. If Tony Fielding persisted, he would have to find the log book, which he thought might be with the rest of his papers, including his birth certificate, at home in a battered old suitcase.

And four seats. Not many of those about now. What year is it? 1936, I’d say. Could do with a proper paint job, though. I might know someone who could spray it properly for you…’

I’ll bear it in mind. Mr Fielding, I’m going to ask you the same question I asked Jenny Rogerson: do you know of anyone who would want to hurt your Mary? Kill her?’

Tony Fielding shook his head. ‘No. Not my Mary. She was an angel, that one. Wouldn’t hurt a fly. Do me a favour, will you? When you catch whoever did this, don’t tell me who it was. In fact, don’t let me near them. I will kill them.’

Understood,’ Mike said, knowing full well that Tony Fielding would probably be one of the first people to know who the murderer was. ‘A senior officer will be in touch with you to let you know how things are progressing. In the meantime, I have some more enquiries to make. Terry Vincent, first, I think. He was the other person at last night’s party. Jenny’s boyfriend. I’m sorry for your loss, Mr Fielding. I didn’t know your daughter, but I can see that she meant the world to you and your wife. We’ll get the social services people to make sure you don’t lose touch with Jack. Will you be taking over the looking after of him, do you think?’

Tony Fielding nodded. ‘I can’t think of anyone else. Jenny works full time in the Coop supermarket at the Hyde. She loves him just as much as Mary used to, but she has a life of her own. No, I guess it’s back to looking after a baby for us, at least for a while. If Janice isn’t up to it, I don’t know what we’ll do. Thanks for the lift.’

I’d like to say it was my pleasure, but it wasn’t, really, was it? I’d guess you’d rather still be at work than here talking to me. If you think of anything, call the station. Police Constable – Detective Constable Thompson. Anything at all that might lead us to the killer. I’ll let you know the results of the post mortem as soon as I have them, but it’s fairly certain that she was struck on the back of the head with a piece of flint.’ And if you do come up with the name of someone who might have killed your daughter, don’t keep it to yourself, don’t act on it without telling us. That would be a senseless thing to do, especially now, when your wife and Jack need you.

Tony Fielding pushed the car door shut and walked slowly to his front door, his head bent. Houses either side had already pulled their curtains as a mark of respect. News travelled fast, and everyone knew that the daughter, Mary Fielding, had suffered an horrific death by virtue of the neighbour, Sally Haynes. Mike spoke briefly to Mrs Haynes, who confirmed everything the parents had already told him, and offered nothing by way of information that would help with the enquiry. Mike decided to talk to Terry Vincent, after which he would make his way back to the station and continue with his enquiries into possible connections between the two victims.

He parked outside the Vincent household in Windermere Road and after knocking twice, the door was opened by a young man whom he assumed was Vincent.

Terry Vincent? Detective Constable Thompson. Can I come in?’

What is it? I fixed the light on my bicycle at the weekend, you can’t do me for that…’

It’s not about your bike, Terry.’ Mike followed Terry Vincent into the front room, which was sparsely furnished, and sat on an old G-Plan settee, which had seen better days.

You remember anything about last night, at Jenny’s house, Terry?’

Is it Jenny? Has something happened to her?’ Vincent’s eyes were red and tired-looking. Mike wondered if he might have taken something, and remembered Jenny saying that pills had been passed around at the party they had all attended before going home to the Mary and Jenny's house.

No, Jenny is fine. It’s Mary. Someone broke into the house last night, well, early this morning, to be precise, and murdered Mary. I’m sorry, this must come as something as a shock to you.’

Terry Vincent gave a howl of grief and lurched unsteadily to his feet. ‘No!’

You’d be better off sitting down, Terry…’

I need a drink.’

Mike took him by the arm and lowered him gently but firmly back onto the settee. ‘No you don’t. Not yet. I just need you to answer a couple of questions. What time did you leave the house to come home?’

Around two o’clock.’

And did you see anything unusual? Any vehicles parked in the road? N your way home from Jenny’s house?’

Vincent shook his head, and Mike had no reason to disbelieve him at this stage. If Vincent had been off his head on drugs of some sort, the likelihood of his being able to remember seeing anything on his walk home in the dark were virtually nil. Mike asked a couple more routine questions then made his way back to the station. Wilson informed him that DCI Maxwell had been called back to HQ in Hertford and that for the time being he was to carry on with his own investigations into the two murders, but at the same time, the sergeant insisted that he made inroads into the mountain of paperwork that had accrued on his desk while he had been out.

Mike wrote up the few notes he had made from the morning and afternoon’s interviews he had carried out, then pulled a few of the files off the top of the pile and leafed through them, but his mind was still on the possible connection between Mary Simkins and Mary Fielding. He decided to ring the Girls' Grammar School but the school was on the point of closing and he realised with a start that it was gone four o’clock. All of the pupils would have gone home to their various neighbourhoods, and although the secretary, a Mrs Anne Laker, was still there, she was not sure if any of the teachers were still in the building. Mike reminded himself that Abigail would be home by now, and that he should drive out to have a word with her. He didn’t expect that she would be able to contribute anything, or tell them anything they didn’t already know, but it had to be done.

Perhaps I can help you, Constable?’ Mrs Laker was saying, and he jerked himself back to the present.

You might be able to, yes. Have you been there long? At the school?’

Since 1955.’

Would you remember two of the pupils from around the early 1960s? Mary Simkins and Mary Fielding?’

There was a moment’s hesitation before the reply came.

I remember Mary Fielding yes, vaguely, but I remember Mary Simkins better. Fielding was always in trouble of some sort, mainly with the police… No one thought she would get a decent job, to be quite honest.’

Mike realised he hadn’t checked on either girls in the police records. But then Maxwell should have done that, shouldn’t he?

Troubled home life, was it?’

Shouldn’t you have all that on file?’

Yes, of course, I’ll check, but anything you can add would be very helpful, of course. What makes you remember Mary Simkins more, would you say?’

She was always the centre of attention, the one who starred in the school play or the Christmas musical, you know? Everyone liked her, she was beautiful, kind, funny, plenty of friends, that kind of thing. Always ready to help anyone who needed it.’

Do you remember if she and Mary Fielding ever knocked about together?’

Again there was a momentary hesitation before the answer.

No, I don’t think so… wait, though, there was that one time…’


When Mary Fielding was arrested for shoplifting, the other Mary said she would take care of her. Next day, at school, they were inseparable, but then the older girl graduated back to her normal friends in her own year, and I don’t recall them seeing much of each other during school time. I couldn’t say if they met out of school hours, of course, you’d have to talk to the families.’ They had been in different forms, then, a year apart, but more or less the same age.

Yes, I’ll do that, thank you very much for your time, Mrs Laker. I may need to call you again, and you may have to make a statement.’

Wait a minute!’ For a moment, Mike thought that Anne Laker had remembered something else, something vital, but no.

Wasn’t it Mary Simkins who went missing and turned up dead a couple of days ago?’

Yes, it was.’

Do you think Mary Fielding might have had something to do with it, then?’

I’m not at liberty to discuss it, I’m afraid.’ I’m certainly not at liberty to tell you that Mary Fielding has also been murdered, today, and by the same method.

No, of course not. A statement, you say?’

It may come to that, yes. Any information we can gather about a possible connection between the two girls will help to build the case notes we’re compiling.’

He killed the connection and went through to Maxwell’s office, the one that had been vacated by a detective inspector who was on annual leave, and rifled through the piles of paperwork on his desk. Sergeant Wilson saw what he was doing, and pulled him up short.

This is the chief’s office, Thompson. What do you think you are doing in here, going through the DCI’s paperwork?’

Looking for something, Sarge. A file on either Mary Fielding or Mary Simkins.’

That’s all?’

I won’t be a moment, Sarge. Here we are, both files. Shall I take them through to my desk, or sit and read them here?’

Sit here, don’t take them away. Make sure you put them back exactly where you found them, and I want you out of here in half an hour. Then I’m locking the office.’

Yes, Sarge.’

Mike pulled the first file towards him, the one for Mary Simkins. In it were various pieces of paper, witness statements from the pharmacist and the cleaning lady with whom he had spoken earlier. She had evidently been in to make her statement as promised, probably whilst Mike and Alice were out with the Fieldings, breaking the news to them about the death of their daughter. He scanned the statement quickly, nothing out of the ordinary other than what she had mentioned in the chemist’s shop. The pharmacist’s statement was longer, more complicated, and suggested, as the cleaner had, that he had taken Mary Simkins into his little consulting room (broom cupboard, thought Mike) and reviewed her medication, while the husband, Roger Simkins, waited outside. There had been some kind of diversion, a scuffle of some sort, involving a couple of teenagers, and whilst Roger Simkins was otherwise engaged, his wife had slipped out of the shop, turned right and disappeared around the corner. After which, Roger Simkins had become quite agitated, demanding to know where his wife was, and at which point the police had been called.

There was the statement from Roger Simkins stating quite clearly that there had been no scuffle outside, that he had been watching the shop the whole time his wife was inside, and that she had definitely not come out through the front of the shop. Not to the best of his knowledge, at any rate. Mike remembered that DCI Maxwell had spoken about going to see Roger Maxwell, and also that there had been a note from Simkins to the effect that he had seen his wife go into the little consulting room, she had never come out, and that there was no other way out of it. Had anyone checked that there was, in fact, a back door to the chemist’s shop? It was unthinkable that there was only the front door, but surely someone would have checked, to see if there was any evidence that Mary Simkins had left that way instead? Everyone seemed to have assumed that the story about the commotion outside was correct, and that Roger Simkins had been looking the other way when his wife had left, and he had simply missed her.

That begged the question as to why his wife had wanted to avoid him in the first place, but there was, he remembered, a record somewhere of the interview with Roger Simkins in which it had been alleged, but which he had denied, that he and his wife had had a violent row the morning of her disappearance, something he vehemently denied.

Mike leafed through the pages in the file, but could find nothing in them relating to an interview between DCI Maxwell and Roger Simkins. It could be, of course, that Maxwell had not had time to write up his notes on such an interview, but from what he knew about the chief, Mike was more inclined to think that it had turned up something interesting, something suspicious that the chief wanted to investigate further. He finally found the piece of paper on which Roger Simkins had written his own note, and read it through. The final paragraph was the most revealing.

There was no way out of the consulting room, and I am convinced that my wife did not leave by the front door. It’s as though someone spirited her away. No one believes me. No one takes me seriously. It’s as though my wife simply ceased to exist. It was like a diary entry by Jonathan Harker in Bram Stoker’s gothic horror classic, Dracula, Mike thought.

Should he stop off at Roger Simkins’s house at knocking off time? Should he try to get in touch with DCI Maxwell to see if he had already been to see the man whose wife had disappeared two weeks ago, and who had now turned up dead, murdered with a piece of flint, just like Mary Fielding? Mike started to shuffle the papers and tidy the file, when a scribble inside the back cover of the brown foolscap file caught his eye. He was familiar with DCI Maxwell’s handwriting, and there it was, in the top right hand corner of the file, faint but unmistakable, the two words, followed by a question mark:

Witness Protection?

Mike made a note in his notebook to the effect that he still had to interview Abigail Walker, the babysitter, and resolved to catch up with her the following morning before work, if possible. Then he decided that enough was enough for one day, and left the station, putting all thoughts of the two Marys to one side. As he realised that he intended spending an evening with Elizabeth Trigg, he thought briefly about Martha Baker, and smiled to himself.

I’ll catch up with you tomorrow, Martha,’ he said, and then he was off.

The Four Marys continues in the August issue...

The small print: Books Monthly, now well into its 24th year on the web, is published on or slightly before the first day of each month by Paul Norman. You can contact me here. If you wish to submit something for publication in the magazine, let me remind you there is no payment as I don't make any money from this publication. If you want to send me something to review, contact me via email at paulenorman1@gmail.com and I'll let you know where to send it.