August 2022 Books Monthly Review of books and stories magazine - on the web 24 years...
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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
Growing Up in the 1950s | Pen and Sword Books | Living with Skipper | Acker Bilk Album Sleeve Notes | The Back Page | Email

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

Chapter Eleven

Wednesday evening


Mike glanced at his watch, which he wore on his right wrist. Six o’clock. Just enough time to drive home, have a wash, get changed, then off to meet Elizabeth Trigg. He shut the door to Maxwell’s temporary office after leaving him a note to the effect that he had been to see Mary Fielding’s parents to tell them about the murder of her daughter, and that he would be back at the station to resume his deliberations on the connections between the two murder victims at seven the next morning. He at the nearest filling station where he purchased two gallons of four star petrol at 4/6d a gallon, knowing that he now had ten shillings left in his wallet to last him the rest of the week, and hoped that Lizzie Trigg didn’t expect him to pay for the concert ticket. He resolved not to mention it unless she did, and immediately started to feel guilty.

At a minute before half past six, having eaten a cheese sandwich and drunk a cup of tea, he pulled up outside the house that Elizabeth shared with her married sister and her husband. A moment after he had switched off the engine, the door opened and she came out, dressed in a cream two piece suit and matching hat, and wearing white lace gloves.

Wow!’ Mike said. ‘You look amazing!’ She smelt amazing, too. He planted a kiss on her cheek and held open Jasmine’s passenger door for her, his hand on her elbow as she climbed onto the running board.

Thank you,’ she said with a dazzling smile. He turned the starting handle briefly, and the engine roared into life. One day he would get around to sorting out the dynamo and get rid of the need to start her with the starting handle every time, but first he needed to read up about how to do it. He hadn’t always liked tinkering about with car engines, but having successfully changed a tyre and fitted new spark plugs, he was up for the challenge. The Central Library would almost certainly have a workshop manual, probably an Olyslager’s, for the Morris 8 Tourer, and even if it was a reference item he could take his notebook with him and sit and copy out the instructions for removing and replacing a dynamo. One of the many garages in the back streets of the town would surely be able to procure a new dynamo for him. For now, the starting handle would have to continue to do its job. It had never failed him yet.

He parked the car at the library as Elizabeth had suggested, and they walked through the streets to St George's Church. At a little after seven fifteen they joined a fair-sized queue waiting for the concert, which was to be performed by the London Symphony Orchestra. Mike knew very little about Benjamin Britten other than that he had heard his Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes on the Third Programme at some point in the last four years or so. Probably a Promenade concert broadcast.

I’m sure you’ll like this piece,’ Lizzie said. ‘It was used for the opening of the new Coventry Cathedral five years ago, it’s very dramatic but very tuneful at the same time. I hope I haven’t dragged you along to something you’re going to hate!’

The concert finished almost two hours later to rapturous applause, and they emerged from the staggering beauty of Church, which was big as a cathedral. Mike took hold of Lizzie’s arm and fed it through his so that they strolled, arm in arm, back through the shops, all now in darkness, to the library.

Home?’ he asked.

Let’s go and get a drink first, shall we? How about the Cromwell, in the old own?’ The Cromwell was probably the most fashionable local pub, situated at the far end of the old high street. Mike had never been inside, but had heard that it had a reputation for being a very well run, decent inn. They collected the car and drove there, where a group of young men and women seemed to be having some kind of argument.

Leave it, you’re off duty,’ Lizzie said. One of the young men saw the car running past and waved cheerily, obviously amused by the bright yellow car with the black mudguards, a throwback to the years before the war. Then one of the girls turned to look, and Mike thought he recognised her, no, he was sure he recognised her, as Martha Baker. As he slowed down, he knew that it was her, she was dressed in a very short skirt and a skimpy top, and ridiculously high heels. She looked across as the Morris cruised slowly past, saw who was driving it and frowned. She looked to be very drunk indeed, but not so drunk that she had not recognised Mike as the driver and Lizzie Trigg as his fashionable passenger.

Mike thought that Lizzie also recognised Martha, because she laid a hand on his arm, and said again: ‘Leave it,’ gently. He nosed the car forward, heard the clanging bells of an approaching police car, and pulled over in front of the Spread Eagle.

At the bar, he ordered a half pint of bitter for himself and a Babycham for Lizzie, took them back to the little table in the window.

So, what did you think of Britten’s War Requiem?’

I need to buy a recording and listen to it a few times, I think. It was very dramatic, very moving.’

Do you like classical music?’

Of course! I’m a frequent listener to the Third Programme. I particularly like the Proms broadcasts.’ Not as much as I like my Jazz, my Acker Bilk, my Bobby Darin, and my Beatles, though… and Django Reinhardt and the Quintette Du hot Club de France…

I’ve been to a prom. Not the last night, of course, you don’t stand a chance if you haven’t been to loads of concerts. Favourite composers?’

Not very knowledgeable, I’m afraid. I like some Beethoven, Chopin, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, a bit of Bach, that kind of thing. Love Puccini. My Dad took me to a gramophone recital in some dusty old hall round near Brunswick Square a few years back. We heard Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. It was crowded. We stood through the entire performance. Worth it, though. I went straight to Woolworth’s the following day, which was a Saturday, and bought a ten inch LP of the piece, very cheap, on the Embassy label, and drove everyone at home mad by playing it over and over again!’

All rather old, though. You haven’t tried people like Shostakovich, or Prokoviev, or Rachmaninoff? Gustav Mahler, perhaps? Even Wagner, or Richard Strauss? I could tell that you weren’t entirely comfortable with all of the Requiem.’

Mike shook his head, sipped his beer. He was beginning to feel he was out of his depth here. He remembered the time his cockney cousin Steven had played two new LP records to him and his Dad during a visit to Hornchurch one year for a short holiday break: Holst’s The Planets, and Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story. Mike’s Dad had dismissed both recordings immediately as “too modern” for his tastes. Mike had enjoyed some of The Planets and also some of the more romantic portions of West Side Story but he’d hidden behind his dad’s thoughts, in an almost cowardly way. Albert Thompson had very blinkered views on what constituted classical music, and rarely strayed beyond Bach and Mozart.

No. I’ve heard of them, but not heard them, if you take my meaning. Well, I suppose I might have done whilst I was listening to the radio and not known, but if that’s the case, then I really didn’t like them that much, I guess.’ This was an admission of not paying attention to the composers that they played on Radio Three unless it happened to be one of his established favourites. These were composers he would come to love in the future, but for now he was ignorant of them, and the ones that followed, as Lizzie continued to quiz him.

What about the English composers? Vaughan Williams, Bax, Holst, Butterworth, Tippett?’

Again Mike shook his head with a grin. ‘I’m more of a trad jazz, blues and skiffle man, I’m afraid, I like Acker Bilk, Alexis Korner, the Rolling Stones. I love the Beatles, and I’ve always been a fan of Darin and Sinatra. The classical stuff is just on for background, really. I used to love hearing a piece called the Swedish Rhapsody, on Children’s Favourites!’

It was Lizzie’s turn to smile. ‘I know that piece. Alfven. What they used to play on Children’s Favourites is a truncated version of a much longer, much more complex piece, which is fantastic when you hear it in its entirety. You must come to my place sometime. I have a small record collection…’

So do I, he thought. But mine are mainly on the Pye blue jazz label, Acker Bilk, Chris Barber, Ken Collyer, loads of Darin, all the Beatles, the first Stones album, a couple of Lonnie Donegans, that kind of thing. He would have been staggered to know that Lizzie Trigg, who was rapidly coming out of her shell, owned upwards of two hundred 12 inch LPs, a hundred or so 10 inch LPs and various assorted 45s and EPs. She had been collecting classical records since her eleventh birthday, when her father had bought her an EP of Rossini’s The Thieving Magpie. At Leeds University she had joined a classical music appreciation society, and all of her spare money had gone on building a comprehensive library of the great composers from Bach to Wagner, and beyond, into the twentieth century greats, with all the various periods in between.

I’d love to. Maybe at the weekend?’

It’s a date!’ she said. Maybe a little too eagerly, Mike thought.

Home now? We need to be up early tomorrow, I’m thinking?’

Yes, of course. I’m keeping you from your beauty sleep!’

It’s not that. It’s been a lovely evening, and we should do it again some time. But I do have to be back at the nick by seven tomorrow, I have a mountain of paperwork to get through.’

If Lizzie had been hoping that Mike would stay overnight with her, she did not show it. They drove home in relative silence, Mike saw her to her door and kissed her gently on the cheek, thanked her again for introducing him to Britten, then drove home, parked his car and went indoors. The lights were still on next door, in WPC Matthews’s house, and he thought he heard raised voices, but decided it was none of his business, and fixed himself a slice of toast, then brushed his teeth and climbed into bed, thinking how lucky he was to be living in a police house, and what a terrific evening it had been. He realised suddenly that he didn't know WPC Matthews's first name, and resolved to ask her the following day. For a brief moment he wondered what she looked like with her hair down, for he had only ever seen her in uniform and wearing her hat. Her face, he realised, was quite beautiful. He started to feel sleepy, and the faces of the three young ladies who were suddenly a major part of his life: Martha Cole, the spitting image of Sandra Dee; WPC Matthews, the spitting image of June Thorburn, and Lizzie Trigg, who was strikingly beautiful too, but didn't remind him of anyone else. He spent the next few moments wondering which one of them he might conceivably end up with, but sleep was rapidly overtaking him – it had been an intensive and busy day! The “Swinging Sixties” might be exploding all around him, but he had never had any intention of sleeping with Elizabeth Trigg on their first date, and it was better that she knew that, knew how his mind worked, what his ambitions were. Within minutes of his head hitting the pillow, he was asleep.

























Chapter Twelve

Thursday


Thursday morning dawned bright and clear, with only a handful of fairweather clouds in the sky. Mike arrived at the station at a minute before seven, and was greeted at the back door by Sergeant Wilson. He knew very well that Wilson had been out drinking the night before, he had been boasting about what he was going to do all day long, “going to make a night of it in the Fold”, he’d said, inadvertently revealing that he lived out in the Shephall area, and yet he looked as fresh as a daisy and none the worse for wear, alert, and with a clipped smile on his face.

The guv’nor wants to see you toot sweet,’ he said, ‘and there are a couple of high flyers waiting to see you in reception. Guv’nor first, a’course.’

Sarge.’

He’s been in since six o’clock, so you’d best get a move on.’

Sarge.’

Mike hurried through to Maxwell’s office, and from the expression on the DCI’s face he knew intuitively that he was in for a bollocking.

Shut the door,’ Maxwell said. Mike did as he was bid and stood in front of Maxwell, almost to attention.

Who told you to go and see the Fieldings?’

No one, Sir.’

And yet you did. You went there, you told them their daughter had been brutally murdered and then you dragged Mr Fielding down to the mortuary and made him identify his daughter. Correct?’

Yes, Sir.’ There was little point in trying to tell Maxwell how sensitively he had tried to handle things, or that WPC Matthews had accompanied him, at least for some of the time.

You took it upon yourself to do this on your own initiative?’

I did, Sir, yes. Sergeant Wilson said…’

It doesn’t matter what Sergeant Wilson said, Constable. You are supposed to be working for me. Could you not have picked up the phone?’

I was told you were at HQ, Sir. Not to be disturbed. Sir.’

And that’s your excuse, is it? You couldn’t get hold of me at the precise moment you decided you needed to drive out to tell the parents about the brutal murder of their daughter? So you decided to go anyway?’

I asked for advice, Sir.’

I don’t give a shit about that!’ Maxwell stood up, menacingly. ‘It was not your place to go and see them or tell them anything! You are a constable! You are the lowest of the low in this force, and you have seriously undermined my authority and made me doubt the wisdom of seconding you to my team! Don’t do anything else on these two murder cases unless I specifically tell you to do so! Now get out and carry on with some of the work you are actually qualified to do!’

Sir.’

Mike left Maxwell’s office, wondering who, if anyone, would have gone to see the Fieldings if he hadn’t, all the time aware that all of the officers, including WPC Matthews, were wondering what on Earth was going on. Some were snickering with silent laughter, others, with whom he had a decent working relationship, were worried for him, sympathetic to him. Matthews clearly hadn’t been called into explain her actions to DCI Maxwell. Someone had to tell the Fieldings their daughter had been murdered, and he didn’t really see what he had done wrong. It was something that could not have waited until today. Seething with resentment, he made his way through the throng of onlookers, and down the stairs to reception. Bob Seeley was on the desk.

Constable Thompson, good morning. I have someone in cell three who claims to be a friend of yours, and behind you, in reception, there are three people waiting to talk with you. Sir Alastair Cottingholme-Cole, his wife, Lady Mary, and their son Barney. If I were you, I would attend to them before you interview this friend of yours in cell three.’ He winked at Mike, proud of his pretence at being serious, and began to shuffle his paperwork until he found the sheet he was looking for. ‘Here you are, this is the charge sheet for cell three. Drunk and disorderly, resisting arrest, assaulting a police officer. That was WPC Matthews, by the way, in case you were wondering. I was the arresting officer. She was lying on the floor nursing a bruised jaw. The inmate had already given me a good kicking, and that’s just for starters! Now off you go, there’s a good lad, don’t keep the royalty waiting!’

'Bob, I don't suppose you know what WPC Matthews's first name is?'

'Sorry, mate, I don't. Between you and me, I don't think she wants anyone to know. Perhaps it's Griselda, or something like that? Why don't you ask her? You and she seem to be getting on OK.'

Mike turned round and edged his way nervously into reception. Barney Cole recognised him instantly and stood up.

Constable Thompson! We thought we should speak to you first. These are my parents. Allow me to introduce my father, Sir Alastair, and my mother, Lady Mary Cottingholme-Cole.’

Mike shook hands with the couple that stood before him, unsmiling. He led them to a vacant interview room and went off to make coffee for all four of them. Sir Alastair Cottingholme-Cole was wearing an expensive-looking three piece suit in a mid-grey, with a matching tie and a handkerchief in his top pocket. His shoes had been brushed to within an inch of their lives and shone like the devil. His wife, Lady Mary, wore a pale pink coat, almost to the floor, gathered at the waist. It hung slightly open to reveal a pristine white blouse and a pencil skirt. Her shoes were open-toed sandals and Mike noticed immediately that her feet, which were bare, were remarkably similar to Martha’s, and very well looked after, with neatly trimmed toenails. Like Martha, too, her make-up was very understated, almost as though she wasn’t wearing any. Her hair was the same colour as Martha’s, and in a similar style. You could be forgiven, thought Mike, for thinking that this might be an elder sister, rather than her mother. Barney was wearing the same outfit as when he had met him, with the exception that he was wearing a clean, check shirt.

Sir Alastair raised the mug to his lips and grimaced at the taste of the cheap, nasty coffee, and Mike offered a hasty, almost silent “sorry, Sir.”

Can I ask what this is about? Why are you here, all of you?’

You’ve not been told?’ Barney said. ‘Martha was arrested last night. I was nearby, in the Old Town, and saw the scuffle. I ran to help, but I was too late. She kicked a police officer and knocked his helmet off. There was a female officer there too, I think she was injured at the same time. They dragged her off to a van and threw her in a cell. She’s been there all night!’

And you called your parents?’

I didn’t know what else to do. You weren’t on duty.’ No, but I was driving past, and saw some of what happened. Not the resisting arrest bit, or the assaults on my colleagues though. She was out of it, totally wasted. Dressed like a hooker and blind drunk. Nice.

I doubt they will let you see her before she’s been up before the magistrate.’ Mike directed this last comment at the father. Both he and Lady Mary had so far said nothing.

That won’t be necessary,’ Sir Alastair Cottingholme-Cole said. ‘I know the magistrate. We’ll be taking Mary home with us.’

She might not want to go with you, Sir,’ Mike said.

What are you talking about?’

I need to interview her first, and I’m just warning you that she may not wish to accompany you.’

In fact I know bloody well that she won’t want to accompany you! What was it she had said to Barney Cole? “You are not to tell your mother and father where I am, not ever. If you do, I won’t see you again, and I’ll move away, somewhere you can’t find me. Do you understand?”

I’m not sure I like your tone, constable.’

I’m not being disrespectful, Sir, I’m just conscious of the fact that Martha – your daughter – expressed a wish that she should not come into contact with you. Sir. Also, it's my understanding she's been cautioned, and you can't take her away until she's been interviewed and released by us.’

Sir Alastair’s eyebrows raised substantially. Mike supposed he was addressing someone who had at one time been in the armed forces. Still the mother had said nothing, only stared at her shoes, her eyes bloodshot and betraying nothing. If Mike had to put money on it, he would say that Lady Cottingholme-Cole also liked her drink, a trait she had passed on to her daughter. And he wouldn’t mind betting that Lady Mary’s breakfast this morning had included at least one or two alcoholic drinks. He knew nothing of the circumstances that might have driven her to drink, of course, and was not judging, but he wouldn’t mind betting that Martha had inherited her birth mother’s taste for strong alcohol.

But that was before she was arrested and thrown into a cell. Things have changed. She needs to come home with us, where we can prevent her from getting into any further trouble. That’s an end to the matter.’

She is, legally speaking, an adult, Sir. Like I said, I need to interview her before she can go anywhere, and I’m pretty sure she will have to appear before a magistrate. Sir. If she expresses a wish not to see you or to go with you, I shall have to respect that wish. Sir.’

I think I had better have a talk with your superior officer, constable.’

I’ll see who is available to talk to you, Sir.’ Mike left the room, conscious of the fact he had just had a serious bollocking from Maxwell, and that the matter of Martha being arrested for being drunk and disorderly and assaulting a police officer was hardly a CID matter. He found Sergeant Wilson and brought him swiftly up to speed.

And how do you know the young lady in cell three, constable Thompson?’

I met her at the hospital, Sarge. When I was interviewing her about the possible rapist. She’s the one you sent me to see. It’s all in my notes. And in her file.’

I’ll get the chief super to deal with the landed gentry. More than my job’s worth, I might say something I might regret. I hate the bastards! All of ‘em. You get off and interview this girl, write your report and we’ll get her up before the beak as soon as possible.’

Sarge.’

Mike found another empty interview room and Bob Seeley escorted Martha to it, sat her opposite Mike. As he closed the door, he winked. Martha was dressed in a skimpy, filmy top that revealed her white lace bra, and a very short mini skirt that showed off her beautiful legs to perfection. Mike swallowed hard, gathered his thoughts. Unlike the normal intake of hookers and drunks, Martha wore no make-up that had run. She looked more than ever like Sandra Dee this morning, a Sandra Dee who had just tumbled out of bed. A little worse for wear, but alert, and her eyes seemed bright enough.

You look like a hooker, Mike thought. He started to make notes on the statement form in front of him. There was an overwhelming smell of alcohol and tobacco on Martha’s breath, and the smell of stale sweat. True, there had been no opportunity for her to wash or to brush her teeth in the filthy little cell in which she had spent the night. But her whole body seemed to be exuding these powerful, unpleasant smells.

Martha…’

Are they really here? My parents?’

Mike gazed at her beautiful hazel eyes. ‘Yes.’

You promised!’ she hissed.

It wasn’t me,’ he said, matter-of-factly.

Who, then?’

Barney. Your brother.’

She stared at him sullenly. He thought her lip was bruised, and there was a small scratch, an inch or so long, running down one cheek. Knowing that she didn’t use any make-up, that was going to show.

She stared at the table. Pale grey oilcloth, covered in all manner of stains. Some of them would be blood.

I’m going to be late for work.’

You probably won’t be going into work today, Martha. You’re up before the magistrate at eleven this morning. Best to call in sick, really. I’ll do it for you, if you like.’

I’ll go in later, then.’

If you’re not banged up, Mike thought. This wasn’t the first time Martha had been arrested for being drunk and disorderly, and on previous occasions, she had been let off with a caution. Today, however, there was the matter of resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer. Mike pulled the manila folder to him and opened it, and was not surprised to see the names Bob Seeley and WPC Matthews as the arresting officers. Matthews's signature was an unreadable squiggle. He remembered suddenly that Bob had already intimated as much. She must have come back to work a split shift the previous evening. Maybe to avoid a further row with her husband. Mike remembered that he had heard raised voices next door when he got home after dropping Lizzie Trigg off at her front door, where she had offered him a chaste kiss on the cheek and asked to see him again.

We’ll see. First I need to take a statement. Your version of what happened last night.’

I was drunk. I got into a fight outside the Cromwell. Your fellow officers just happened to be passing by and misunderstood what was going on. They tried to arrest me, I tried to stop them. I might have accidentally knocked the man’s helmet off…’

You kicked Constable Seeley on the shin and you punched WPC Matthews, Martha. These are serious charges, you know. Drunk and disorderly. Causing an affray. Resisting arrest. Assaulting a police officer. Two police officers, actually. Serious charges, Martha. Why did you do it?’

A man was coming on to me. I punched him in the face.’ She showed him the knuckles of her left hand. They were bruised and bloody. ‘They should have arrested him! Not me! I was in danger…’

How much had you had to drink, Martha?’

Not that much. A bottle of wine…’

A whole bottle? On your own?’

‘…and the man bought me a couple of whiskies…’

Christ almighty! Martha? What were you thinking? Your liver…’

‘…a Babycham to start with… get me in the mood…’

‘…must be shot to pieces! In the mood for what? No wonder this man came on to you. You were fair game, dressed like that, weren’t you? Tanked up to the eyeballs… what were you thinking?’ He thought again: You look like a hooker…

A quiet night in the pub with my friends…’

A quiet night? A bottle of wine, a Babycham and two whiskies! And dressed like that? What were you thinking? You need help, Martha. This is serious…’

I don’t need help! Can you get me off, Mike? I could lose my job!’

Get you off?’

If I were to apologise to the officers concerned?’

I’ll see what I can do.’ Mike said abruptly. He put all the papers in the manila folder and stood up. He’d had enough of her for the time being. How he could ever have been attracted to her was now a complete mystery to him. Looking and smelling like she did this morning, she would be lucky to attract punters with money to spend. He left the room in disgust and went to find Bob Seeley.



The Four Marys continues in the September 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.