The Silent Three - A Murder Mystery
Marco Russo was discharged from Gloucester Royal Infirmary after the
doctor’s rounds at nine o’clock, and his mother and father took him
home on the number 54 Painswick
bus. As they got off the bus, he saw Michael Thompson briefly, in the
distance, cycling home from the newsagent’s, wearing his long mac and
his bowler hat against the driving rain, and then he was back in the
there was a roaring fire and strong, hot coffee and toast. It was not
long before Constable Hutchinson was knocking at the door of the black
nissen hut, and within a minute or two, he was sitting at the table
with his notebook
‘Now then, Marco, lad, I’m glad to
see you’re on the road to recovery, but we still have some questions
for you. You can stay, Mr and Mrs Russo, there’s nothing
you shouldn’t hear. Marco, I need you to tell me when you were stabbed,
and if you know who did it. In your own time, lad. When you’re ready.’
Marco took a swig of coffee and
coughed.‘It was Tuesday morning, early, still dark. I was walking in
the field where the fun fair is. There’s a stream runs by the hedge,
and a small wooded area.’
‘I know it.’
‘I saw some boys playing there,
and stopped to ask them what they were doing. They ran off. When I
looked, they were burying something. A sack of kittens. They were all
I started to cover them back over, and then they came back, two of
them, and jumped on me. One of them pushed my face down in the mud, and
the other stood over me. “You didn’t see anything, you filthy wop!”
he said, then out of the corner of my eye I saw a knife in his hand,
and I started to struggle, but he stabbed me in the leg. I passed out
with the pain, and they ran off, I guess. When I woke up, it was about
I managed to stagger home and Momma stopped the bleeding for a time,
then it started up again and suddenly got worse. That’s when you came.’
‘You knew these boys?’
‘Not the second lot, and I’m not
even sure they were the same boys.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘The boys I saw burying the sack
with the kittens, they were small. Ten, maybe, eleven. The two that
came back and attacked me, they were older. Eighteen, maybe even older.
I didn’t recognise them. Not from the village. Not from the fair,
either. I know the boys at the fair. They were older than me, anyway.’
‘So you think the smaller boys ran
off to tell the bigger boys and the bigger boys came and stabbed you?’
‘Only one of them stabbed me.’
‘Yes, of course.’
‘They were all dead. Seven little
kittens!’ Marco said, and there were tears in his eyes. Constable
Hutchinson reached across the table and patted the boy’s hands.
' ll right, lad. We’ll get to the
bottom of this. Don’t you worry. You say you didn’t recognise any of
the boys? Any of them? Either of them?’
‘Probably from another village,
just knocking about. Just boys.’
Constable Hutchinson wrote all of
this down in his notebook, then closed it and put it in his top pocket.
‘Thank you, Marco. Mr Russo, I still have your gun, and I’m going
to hang onto it for the time being. I don’t think there’s any need for
anyone to know about it, for now. I’m going to cycle up to the fun fair
and see what I can see. You rest up here, Marco, and take it
easy. I’m sure you’ll be back on your feet in no time. There’s just one
more thing. Did you run into the missing girl, Brenda McLaren on Monday
at all? We have a witness who says she saw you with her, but
she’s not at all clear when that was. Do you know Brenda? I mean, did
you know Brenda?’
Marco’s eyes widened and he
blushed. How much did they know about
him and Brenda? He
decided to play it safe. ‘Sure, I know her, she lives just down the
road in the main road. She was quite friendly to me. Not everyone is,
‘No, I suppose not,’ said
Constable Hutchinson, uncomfortably. ‘When did you last see her, Marco?’
‘I don’t really remember when it
was – a week ago, perhaps. Why? What’s happened to her? Is she in
‘I’m sorry to be the one to have
to tell you this, she’s dead. Murdered. Her body was found out by the
five trees up by Morgan's Farm yesterday evening.’
Marco looked at his parents. His
mother was trying to choke back tears. ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t see her on
Monday at all,’ he said, choking back the tears whilst
still playing it safe. And he hadn’t, but he had seen her more recently
than a week ago. He was certain no one had seen them together. It had
been early Sunday morning when he had crept out of the back door of
McLaren’s house and made his way back home. Not even Michael, his best
friend, knew about that. And then, after he had been stabbed, he had
gone and hid in a barn up Green Lane, waiting for the bleeding to stop,
then limped home and made up the story about being stabbed by the boys.
There was no way he could tell the police or his parents about the man
who had threatened to kill his parents, even though Brenda had now been
He desperately wanted the
policeman to leave, and for his parents to go out somewhere and leave
him alone to deal with his grief. Brenda had been a year or two older
than him, but
they had been in love, and she had been his first. They had met a month
or so ago, at the youth club, and he had offered to walk her home after
they had missed the last bus.
Brenda had been immediately
captivated with the charming, dark-haired Latin boy, who looked a
little like a young Al Martino, the famous crooner, and a day or two
later, with her
father out at the pub and unlikely to come home at all, they had gone
up to her room and petted. Four more occasions after that they had done
it again, not having full sex, but exploring each other’s bodies,
and cuddling, and Brenda was utterly, completely infatuated with him.
He had never told her he was younger than her, but she would not have
cared anyway. He was the archetypal Latin lover, the boy of her dreams,
and she wrote
in her diary every night, sometimes in code, so that anyone finding it
would not have a clue what she was writing about, but then again, when
she couldn’t express herself properly in code, she wrote in plain
Having first seen him at the youth club with a group of boys who were
apparently not that interested in the girls, she had fallen for his
dark good looks. She could not contain herself any longer, and turned
back to the day
in her diary she had met him at the youth club. She wrote: “Saw the boy
of my dreams in the indoor market. He lives right here, in Brockworth!
He didn’t notice me, so I’ll have to make him. I wonder when
I’ll see him again.” That had not been difficult, he had walked her
home from the youth club and within a month they had become lovers,
albeit inexperienced ones.
Constable Hutchinson dragged
everyone back to the present day. ‘Right. So Mrs Gilmore is right when
she said she saw you together, but it was not on Monday. Is that
‘Yes, it was one day last week.
Not this week, no.’
‘Right then. I have one more
question for you and then I’ll leave you to get some rest. Why were you
out walking so early?’
Marco glanced across at his
parents. ‘I was coming home. I’ve been seeing a girl on the council
‘Marco!’ his father roared,
leaping to his feet.
‘Now then, Mr Russo, no need for
any of that.’
‘Sorry, Poppa. I sneaked out of
the hut when you were asleep. We spent the night together in her
bedroom.’ The lies were coming thick and fast, now, tripping off his
He didn’t know how many more lies he needed to come up with to throw
them off the track, away from the truth, but he was certain they didn’t
know he was lying. Not yet.
‘Marco, Marco, you are too young!’
his mother said, gathering him in her arms.
‘Sorry, Momma. I didn’t mean to
let you down.’
‘What’s her name?’
‘I forbid you to go to her again!’
Mr Russo said.
‘Giuseppe! Basta! Is enough!’
Valentina Russo said. ‘Make a-some more tea. Constable Hutchinson?’
‘Not for me, thank you. I’ll leave
you to it. I’ll tell my superiors to start looking for these boys. If
you can think of anything about them that might lead me
to them, please let me know. You know where I live.’ Marco watched the
policeman leave the hut. He tried to meet his mother’s eyes but had to
look away. The whole story about the boys burying the kittens in the
copse was a pack of lies from start to finish. It hadn’t been boys from
the fun fair that had confronted and stabbed him, and it hadn’t been
boys from another village either. But how could he tell his parents or
the police who had done it, or why? They’d threatened to kill his
parents if he told anyone, and he loved his parents dearly.. But he
couldn’t tell them that. If he did, his parents were dead. That had
threat, and he had believed them. So he made up the story about the
boys and the kittens, and kept his mouth shut about what had really
happened. Even Dougal McLaren didn’t know, and that was the way it was
stay. They were everything to him, and he wasn’t going to lose them.
DCI Maxwell and Sergeant Kimble returned to the village, looking for
Hutchinson, but he was doing his rounds, of course, interviewing people
who might have seen Brenda after Michael
Thompson. There was no suggestion that the two events were connected in
any way, so they settled to their own investigations.
The woman everyone thought was
Brenda's aunt, Alice Long, was not really an aunt at all, but just a
woman friend of Dougal’s. At the McLaren home in Hucclecote Road, they
found her sweeping the stairs. At first they did not know that she was
the “aunt” Brenda had been seen with, but this came out in conversation
over a much needed cup of tea and a digestive biscuit.
Alice Long was in her late thirties. She was a Liverpudlian with a
strong Scouse accent, and John Kimble immediately found her
extraordinarily attractive. His home town, in North
Wales, Rhyl, was close enough to Liverpool for the great city to
attract him. It was there he had met and married Marian before
graduating south to Gloucester. He’d served for a time in the Liverpool
force, and still
had contacts there, some of them a bit dodgy. Now he found himself
sitting opposite a stunning blonde Scouser with breasts the size of
melons that were straining to get out of the confines of her pinafore,
and she appeared
only to be wearing a thin cotton blouse beneath that. He offered her a
cigarette but she said no, she didn’t smoke.
Good, he thought. I hate the smell of fags on a woman. He
didn’t smoke himself, not in public, but he always kept a pack in his
coat. It often helped when it came to getting information from a grass
or a witness.
‘How do you come to know Dougie
McLaren?’ he asked. Maxwell looked at him sharply, but said nothing.
‘Friend of the family. Me Mam’s
Scottish. We came south looking for work.’ Like me, Kimble thought. Like me when things started to get a little hot in
‘And found Dougie McLaren wanting a woman because his wife had run off
with another man?’ Maxwell said with a hint of sarcasm. She looked at
him with a blank expression.
‘Yeah, that’d be right.’
‘I’d like to know when you last
saw Brenda,’ Maxwell said.
‘Yeah. We went to the shops in
Court Road. Got some groceries in that new Co-op supermarket. Then we
walked home down Boverton Drive and through the Avenue, back here. She
off to look for someone, a friend. I didn’t see her after that.’
‘Why not go down Green Street? It
would have been quicker, wouldn’t it?’
‘She wanted to see her Mam on the
way home, in Tamar Road, but she wasn’t in. The neighbours said she’d
gone away for a few days, with her other man, as you put
‘And she never came home?’
‘No. Look, I swear I had nooth’n
to do with it!’
‘No one’s accusing you, Mrs Long,’
‘I just feel responsible, like.’
‘Not your fault. We’ll find out
who did this, don’t you worry,’ said Kimble, patting her hand and
standing up so he could get a better look down the front
of her pinafore. And to hide the uncomfortable bulge in his trousers.
‘We’ll be in touch.’
‘I don’t think we’re quite
finished here, Sergeant,’ his DCI said, shooting him a venomous look.
He could see where things were going between his sergeant
and the Scouse woman. Now that his wife was dead, John Kimble had
become a notorious womaniser, and it had not gone unnoticed by his
colleagues. ‘Sit back down, if you please. Mrs Long, can you tell us if
Alice Long gave him a puzzled
look. ‘What do you mean?’
‘Was she a happy girl? Settled?
Her mother was gone, you’d moved in to live with her and her father.
Did you all get on?’
The house was large, expansive,
open, but very dark and gloomy inside. The décor had not been touched
for several years, and there was plaster in desperate need of replacing
and the whole place could do with a lick of paint. A visit to the small
handyman’s shop in Vicarage Lane would not go amiss. They stocked a
fair amount of wallpaper, paint and other decorating sundries, but
that McLaren was not that well off. There was a small television in the
lounge, he’d noticed that much, but the floor was covered in dirty,
cracked lino, and there was no sign of a rug anywhere in the house. The
where they now sat, had a sink and a wooden draining board, and an
elderly gas cooker. There was a pantry, and while they were talking he
thought he heard the skittering of mice in there. He also thought he
could detect a
faint whiff of gas. The cooker looked like it was on its last legs, and
hadn’t been properly cleaned for a while.
‘I’m going back home at the
weekend for a short stay, just to catch up with me mam and me da. I’ll
be back next week in time for the funeral of course. I don’t
know if Dougal will want me around now his Brenda’s gone, but yes, I’d
say so, as a family we would all have got on. But now she’s gone,
there’s nothing to keep me here,’ Alice said. ‘Him
and me weren’t that close, yer know?’ Maxwell glanced across at his
Sergeant, who could not take his eyes off Alice Long’s magnificent
breasts. Why stay with him in the first
he thought, but said nothing. Men and women often got together for the
most bizarre of reasons. Maybe Alice Long had been brought in
to help look after Brenda, a growing schoolgirl. Dougal McLaren could
well have been out of his depth when it came to young girls. Maybe
Alice and Dougal weren’t lovers, but she acted more as a housekeeper.
He didn’t think it was relevant to this enquiry so he didn’t pursue it
for the time being.
‘Could we see her bedroom,
please?’ Maxwell said.
‘It’s standard procedure. I’d like
to see if she keeps a diary or anything. Something that might give us a
clue as to where she was going on Monday after she’d
finished the shopping runs for her Dad.’
‘I told yer, she was goin’ to look
for her Mam, Mary.’
‘If she has a diary, she might
have written the friend's name in there. Could you please show us to
'Top of the stairs, first on the
right,’ Alice said. ‘I need to get on. Dougie will be home soon for his
lunch. And I need to get to the shops for some sausages.
Then I need to start packing my stuff.’
Maxwell beckoned to Kimble to
follow him, and they made their way to the landing. ‘First on the
right, she said,’ Maxwell murmured as he pushed open the door. It was a
surprisingly large room. There was a bed, a bedside cabinet, and a
utility wardrobe. In the dormer window there was a dining chair. On the
wall was a set of shelves containing a handful of books. On the floor
satchel. The bed was neatly made, all her school books were on it, as
though she might have been working on her homework the last time she’d
sat in there. Her school uniform, the blue and yellow of Ribston Hall,
on the wardrobe, and beneath the pillow they found her diary.
‘Bingo! Knew she’d have one. All
girls have diaries.’
‘What’s it say?’
‘Here we are – Saturday. “Fun fair
in the village! Some of those gypsy boys are quite nice. Not as nice as
M, though.”’ Maxwell looked at Kimble. ‘M?
Who’s M? Marco? Michael? Was your nephew seeing the girl, Sergeant
Kimble?'’ Constable Hutchinson had, of course, read out the notes he
had made about Marco Russo when the detectives had arrived yesterday
Kimble shrugged. ‘It's possible.
You'll have to ask him. I'll be seeing him later today, but best if you
ask him officially, don't you think? Carry on, boss,
anything else?’ There could be any number of boys in Brockworth and the
surrounding area whose name began with “M”, and he had so far had only
a short conversation with Constable Hutchinson regarding the
‘Sunday. “Didn’t fancy church. P
pains.”’ Maxwell looked up, baffled.
‘Period pains?’ Kimble deduced.
His wife, Marian, had suffered terribly in the few years they had been
married. Sex was off the menu for a good week out of four while
she suffered agonising stomach cramps.
‘Ah. “Didn’t have any Sunday
lunch. Had some supper. Can’t stop thinking about M.”’
‘We need to find out who “M” is,
‘Yes, Sergeant, I’m aware of that!
I’ll carry on, shall I? Monday. “Half term! Hooray!”’ That’s it.
‘Give it here. I’ll work
backwards, see if it says who “M” is.’
Maxwell handed the slim volume to
Kimble, who sat on the bed and thumbed through it. ‘Here we go. Three
weeks ago. “Saw the boy of my dreams in the indoor market. He lives
here, in Brockworth! He didn’t notice me, so I’ll have to make him. I
wonder when I’ll see him again. Oh, those gorgeous blue eyes! Just like
‘Al Martino, the crooner, I'd
guess. He may have looked quite nice in the 1950s, but now? Your nephew
might know who “M” is, I suppose. Might even be him! We'll
ask him when we’ve finished here, always supposing it isn't him. And
try to take your eyes off Mrs Long’s bosom!’ Maxwell didn’t really
believe that Mike was Brenda's boyfriend, and at this
stage he had no reason to doubt the integrity of his sergeant, even
though he didn’t particularly like him. He didn’t think it likely that
a member of his sergeant’s family could in any way be responsible
for what had happened to Brenda McLaren.
‘Boss.’ They went downstairs to
find Alice Long wearing her raincoat. She was evidently ready to go
‘Finished, have you? Find
‘She was interested in a boy. “M”.
Any idea who he might be?’ Maxwell said. Alice shook her head.
‘Sorry, I don’t know. She didn’t
say anything to me about boys. All I ever saw her do was her homework.
Always had her head buried in a book, that one. Poor girl.
What a way to go, eh? My poor Brenda.’
‘You’re not her mum,’ Maxwell said.
‘I might as well be, for all the
good her mam is! Are you going my way?’
‘No, I’m afraid not, Mrs Long. We
have enquiries to make elsewhere.’
‘Just find who did it and string
him up, won’t you. Fooking bastard!’
Maxwell recoiled inwardly at the
use of the swear word, not liking to hear such things coming from a
woman’s mouth, then he remembered she was a Scouser. Kimble turned to
the door. He still fancied her, and was extremely jealous of Dougie
McLaren for ending up with such a cracker, although from the way she
was talking, she might not be staying with Dougal much longer. Marian,
sister, had died of a brain tumour some years ago, and he’d been
looking for a suitable companion ever since.
‘See you again,’ he said quietly
as Maxwell walked away down the path.
‘If yer like,’ Alice said. ‘He’s
normally in the pub in the evening. Mind you, he might sit at home for
a while here, waiting to see if you find the murderer.
More than likely he’ll be in the pub, though. Drowning his sorrows.
Mind you, at least this time his sorrows are for real, if you get my
‘Right,’ Kimble said. It occurred
to him how flighty a piece Alice Long was, apparently ready to abandon
her home with Dougal McLaren so soon after the death of his daughter.
‘Sergeant!’ Maxwell said, and
Kimble walked briskly to the car. Alice watched him go. She already had
a soft spot for a handsome Welshman, and as she was thinking of walking
out of Dougie McLaren’s life, she might consider coming back from
Liverpool after the weekend if the handsome Welshman was on offer. She
felt a tear at the corner of her eye as she remembered Brenda, and took
from her coat pocket to wipe it away. Here she was, thinking about John
Kimble, while Dougie’s wee girl lay on a slab in the mortuary and the
killer was still at large. She shut the door and started off down the
towards Boverton Drive, and an appointment with some sausages.
Eddie Mason stretched and yawned, and glanced at the clock on the chair
next to his bed. Eight o’clock. He heard the newspapers thud through
the letterbox and looked out of
the window to see a boy wearing a long macintosh and a bowler hat
pushing his bike along the road, weighed down by a bulging newspaper
‘Michael Thompson!’ he said.
‘Sodding Michael Thompson!’ Michael Thompson had been one boy that he
really liked the look of who had resisted his overtures,
and the one boy he thought he could earn serious money from, but the
little sod had turned him down. Now, several years later, he was over
six feet tall and built like a brick shithouse. A wasted opportunity.
When he had first
approached him, he had been the perfect little angel, a boy soprano
who’d sung in Gloucester Cathedral at one of the Three Choirs
festivals, and Eddie had really fancied him. But he’d knocked him back,
one of his ginger-headed twin friends to warn him off later that day.
Once or twice at the primary school he’d asked him again, but the boy
was simply not interested, and he’d eventually given up on him.
He padded downstairs in his
dressing gown and picked up the papers from the mat. Daily Sketch, Gloucester Echo. He tossed
them onto the kitchen table and filled the kettle for a cup of tea.
With his tea and a couple of
digestive biscuits on a plate, he went through to the dining room and
switched on the radio, looking at the front page of the papers on the
way. The headline
on the Echo
caught his eye, and he almost dropped his tea. Staggering backwards, he
fell onto the settee. “VILLAGE GIRL STABBED TO DEATH”, screamed the
headline, and beneath it was a photograph of Brenda McLaren.
‘Shit! Shit!’ Mason said. He
gulped a mouthful of tea with a sharp intake of breath at the heat as
it hit his throat, and then raced to the phone in the hall. He dialled
a local number and waited for someone to pick up.
‘Tell me it’s not true!’ he said.
‘It’s true,’ the voice at the
other end of the phone said quietly.
‘Fuck and damn! How did this
happen? Where are you now?’
‘Why do you need to know?'
‘Did you have anything to do with
‘Just leave me alone. You know
nothing, Mason. You and I never met.’
Mason’s eyes narrowed. The man on
the other end of the phone had approached him a week ago, knowing that
Eddie was in the business of procuring little boys for various clients
around the city and the villages. He had come to the house in broad
daylight, dressed in his filthy work clothes, straight after his shift
at the boiler house. Eddie had made sure there was no one in the street
him into the front room. The row of houses of which Eddie’s was the
last before the road petered out into Vicarage Lane, faced the site of
the new primary school, and was overlooked only by a row of tall trees.
himself that no one had seen him ask the man into his house. The people
next door were away, on holiday.
‘I’ve heard you can get hold of…
certain things,’ the man said. Eddie knew the man from the village,
knew who he was shacked up with.
‘You want a boy? She not enough
for you, then?’
‘I don’t want a boy, no. I want a
girl. A teenaged girl.’
‘A girl? What makes you think I
can get you a girl?’
‘You know everyone in the village.
You must have contacts. You must know who’s likely to want to make a
bit of money on the side.’
Eddie studied the man standing in
his front room and wanted to laugh. He was about five feet eight inches
tall, had an emaciated face like a skull, wore national health glasses
round lenses the thickness of bottle bottoms. He was wearing a shirt
with no collar, grey and grubby from the coal he shovelled into the
furnace in the boiler house up at the council estate on the opposite
side of the main
road, and a multi-coloured sleeveless jumper that had seen better days.
His trousers were fastened at the bottom with cycle clips and he wore a
battered flat cap on his head. Any self-respecting girl would run a
going with him. Eddie knew a couple of girls in the village who would
do anything for a tenner, but he thought even they might shy away from
this ugly, cadaverous man. But he was reluctant to turn any business
‘I might know someone, yes.’
‘I’m willing to pay. Tenner for
you, tenner for her.’
‘That’s a lot of money.’
‘I’m good for it.’ The man’s
lilting accent put him as coming from the Forest of Dean. He smelled of
coal. It was not altogether unpleasant but he would need
to clean himself up before anyone would be willing to do what he
wanted. What he was willing to pay big money for.
‘But it’s not enough. Twenty for
me, ten for her,’ Eddie said. ‘Take it or leave it.’
‘I’ll take it. When can you get
‘Give me a couple of days. Give me
your phone number, I’ll call you.’ The man nodded, handed him a piece
of paper he had evidently come prepared with, walked out
of Eddie’s house and climbed awkwardly into his bike and cycled off.
That had been a week ago. Two days ago, Eddie had seen one of the two
girls he had in mind for his latest client, walking back home from the
in Court Road. He had been on the point of dashing out into the road to
call her over, to offer her a fiver on account, but he had held back,
and when he saw his client pull up in his car just along the road, he
and simply watched.
‘I saw you with her. With Brenda
McLaren,’ Eddie said.
‘You saw nothing! You’ll say
nothing. I’ll make things extremely unpleasant for you if you
‘Did you kill her?’
‘This conversation is over. Keep
your mouth shut and I won’t go to the police about you and your
unsavoury little business.’
Eddie put the phone down. He knew
what he had seen, and if the cops came to see him, which they would,
inevitably, because they knew he had a reputation, he would have to
story straight. Luckily, he knew someone in the force who might be able
to smooth things over for him. If he was somehow implicated in the
death of the girl, he might have to call in a favour. If the worst came
to the worst,
he would have to resort to blackmail…
He needed to think. Sooner or
later, the police would come knocking, and he had to have a story ready
for them. He washed, shaved and dressed, and then went out. The rain
about stopped and the sun was coming out. He wondered how long it would
take the police to find him, and he needed to start getting his alibi
Michael got back home at a little after eight o’clock and had his
second breakfast of the day, an omelette sandwich. His father and
Pauline had left for work, going in opposite
directions as usual. His mother was round at his grandmother’s house in
the Avenue, but she had left him a note telling him to make himself an
omelette sandwich. After he had washed up he went upstairs to get out
his paper round clothes, then went back downstairs just as the postman
popped a few letters through the box. There was nothing to interest him
except for a postcard from Annette, addressed to the whole family, but
mainly for him, he thought. Being twins, they were exceptionally close.
They told each other everything, and often knew what the other was
thinking or feeling. In some respects they were as different as chalk
and cheese. Apart
from the physical difference, for she was eight inches shorter than he
was, and a girl, of course, Annette was just as intelligent as him, yet
she found it a bore having to concentrate on lessons every day and had
at fifteen to get a job in the city as a trainee hairdresser.
The postcard was short and to the
point. “Missing you. Marie has
appendicitis so am coming home early. Should be back Thursday around
was tomorrow. Annie was home sooner than expected! Michael’s heart
soared. He had missed her terribly. Annie was a lot like Sandra Dee –
pert, pretty, clever,
sexy, with very similar features. He did love her, with all his heart,
it was just that sometimes he could not think of her as his sister. And
then, a few months ago, he had seen her kissing a boy outside the front
he came home from the youth club, and it had all made perfect sense. It
was because they were twins. She was his twin sister, and he loved her
dearly, that was all there was to it.
Nothing would ever come between
them. And now she was coming home. The words “missing you” were
intended for him and him alone, he knew that now. He could hardly wait
to hug her again, she’d been gone almost a week. He hoped he would be
at home when she arrived. Right now, he had to be somewhere else.
o’clock saw a gathering of sixteen-year-olds in the Cadena Café in the
city, five of them. Michael ‘Tiger’ Thompson”, 'Gaffer' Morris, so
called because his father was a farmer, David 'Hopeless' Hope,
'Professor' Frank Aldiss and Christopher 'Longshanks' Lang, his name
deriving from the fact he had always been on the tall side, except
that now Michael had overtaken everyone in the class. They ordered
coffee and sticky buns and found themselves a table next to the window.
'Tiger! Heard about the murder in
your village – did you know her?' Gaffer Morris asked in his lilting,
broad West Country accent.
'She was my ex,' Michael said
modestly, and a barrage of questions was fired at him, which he fielded
successfully until Hopeless Hope casually mentioned the fact that
Kimble CID was Michael's uncle. He'd met the detective on one of the
rare occasions when he and Mike and a couple of others got together to
play jazz and skiffle records after rowing on a Sunday morning.
'Yes, he's my uncle.'
'Not yet. Not as such.'
The waitress, who was a girl whom
Mike had been at primary school with, brought a tray laden with coffee
and stickybuns, and they waited until she had gone before resuming
Thankfully, she appeared not to recognise him and so didn't embarrass
'So what's this about a bath on
wheels?' he asked, steering the conversation away from the murder of
Brenda McLaren. It seemed to work.
‘There’s an old bath in the cow
shed,’ David Hope said. ‘Dad says we can make a frame with pram wheels,
put the bath on it and push it from Gloucester to Cheltenham,
collecting money along the way. How many villages are there between
Gloucester and Cheltenham, Prof?'
'At least seven,' Aldiss replied.
'I have an Ornance Survey map at home, I'll let you know at the next
‘My father knows the mayor of
Cheltenham,’ Gaffer Morris said. ‘He’ll get him to organise a welcoming
party at the town hall.’
‘And my brother works for the Echo – he can get photos
done and a story and everything,’ Aldiss said.
‘You can play the guitar and I can
play the clarinet,’ Lang said to Michael.
‘Count me in. How much do you
think we’ll raise?’
‘Well, we’ll get everyone we know
to sponsor us, and as we go through the villages – Longhope, Barton,
Hucclecote, Brockworth and all those on the Cheltenham road
– people can throw money into the bath and we’ll count it at the end,’
Hopeless said. He seemed to be in charge of the operation.
‘Great! We should get much more
than we did for the dance,’ Frank said. At the end of the winter term
they had organised a dance in the school hall, and raised fifty pounds
from ticket sales after paying the group. They had tried to get Brian
Poole and the Tremeloes, an East End group they’d seen advertised on
posters locally, but their fee was far too high even though they said
for charity, and so they’d used a young local group, The Rockets, and
the dance had gone down a storm, even though teachers had insisted on
being present and that there was no smoking or drinking on school
‘When are you thinking of doing
it?’ Michael asked.
‘Towards the end of term,’
Hopeless said. ‘Give us time to make the thing. We’ll need quite a few
of us to push it. Some of it is uphill! Especially when we
get to your village, Nick!’
‘There’ll be enough of us to push
a bath, I should think!’ Gaffer said, laughing. ‘Tiger, didn’t you say
you could get a couple of girls to sit in the
‘Yes, I know some girls who would
do it,’ Michael said, realising that he had completely forgotten to ask
Lynda as he had said he would the day before, but he knew his
sister, Annie would do it like a shot.
‘I’m surprised you don’t know any
girls!’ Gaffer said to Longshanks, who was the eldest in the form,
strikingly handsome, with black hair and piercing blue
‘I went to a Catholic all-boys’
school before the Crypt,’ Longshanks said by way of explanation, and it
seemed to satisfy everyone present. He could hardly tell
them he’d felt the stirrings of homosexuality after being grabbed and
fondled by Father Harris, could he? He wanted to experiment with girls
to see if it was all it was cracked up to be, but so far the
hadn’t presented itself. Looking around the table, he guessed that of
the other four, Gaffer, with his John Lennon haircut, was the most
likely one to have “done it” with a girl. Michael Thompson was on
as saying he was saving himself, and no one had laughed when he said
it. The Professor was a bookworm. So was Michael, but Frank ate,
breathed and slept books. There was nothing he didn’t apparently know.
Lang was also a farmer’s son, like Gaffer Morris, and not the most
attractive boy in the group. It was possible he’d also done it, but by
no means certain.
‘When do we start on the bath,
then?’ he said.
‘I thought we could all meet up at
the weekend,’ David Hope said. ‘We’re a bit busy on the farm till then,
but Dad says he can start on the frame on Saturday.
We’ll get together next Monday at school and start designing posters
and stuff. Ask your parents if they have any clean buckets for
collecting money in.’
The meeting broke up shortly
afterwards. The Professor and Gaffer headed back to Tuffley, where they
lived, to play football. Hopeless had to meet his parents to help with
work, and Longshanks lived right out near Painswick, which was actually
in the Cotswolds, so he and Michael shared a bus ride home. They spoke
again about the murder of Brenda McLaren before Michael reached his
stop near the
newsagent’s, but as he didn't live anywhere near the village,
Longshanks wasn't able to contribute a great deal, except to express
his sympathy that Brenda had at one time been a friend of Mike's.
‘I’ll see you Saturday at Dave’s
‘You cycling, Mike?’ Away from the
group, there was no need for the use of nicknames. If there were just
the two of you, you tended to use actual names rather than nicknames.
‘If the weather’s OK. Jimmy should
be back by then, too.’ James Hunter or “Whitey” because of “White
Hunter”, was Michael’s best friend,
and he was away this week on an archaeological dig with his father,
uncovering a Roman road in the Painswick area. Just up the road from
Brockworth, in fact, but not near enough to cycle. He was looking
forward to seeing Jimmy
‘Good, he’s quite useful. I’ll be
at yours around ten o’clock.’
Michael walked briskly up Boverton
Drive, past the parade of shops. He felt in his pocket to see how much
change he had, decided he had enough for a bar of Fry’s Five Boys,
and went into the grocer’s shop. It was a small shop, one in which you
had to stand at the counter and ask for what you wanted, and the
proprietor fetched it for you. Michael doubted it would be able to
the Co-op supermarket in Court Road for long, but it was convenient,
and it had what he wanted. He waited for Mr Gregg to serve a couple of
ladies with children, then asked for his chocolate bar.
‘Could I have a Fry’s Five Boys
bar, please, Mr Gregg?’
Thomas Gregg knew the Thompson
family very well indeed. When they had first moved to Brockworth from
London, before the war, Albert and Cissy Thompson had lived in the flat
Gregg’s shop while their house was being completed, and Pauline had
actually been born there. Gregg had watched the family grow into a
decent one, and was genuinely impressed with Michael Thompson and the
way he was
so polite and respectful. Away from the front page news about Brenda's
murder, he’d been reading in the paper how the start of the new decade
had seen a lowering of standards in the way some young people behaved
in the big urban sprawls where regeneration was taking place, and
thanked his lucky stars he lived in a quiet rural backwater like
Brockworth, rather than somewhere brash, like London, where all manner
of unruly things seemed
to be going on amongst the young people.
‘Of course. Give my regards to
your parents. Sad news about young Brenda. Is your uncle involved in
‘Yes. He was there yesterday
evening, when they found her. I was with the search party, but we
weren’t allowed anywhere near the body. Near Brenda.’
‘What a good thing it’s the school
‘What do you mean?’
‘Give you a couple of days to get
over it, get back to normal.’ That wasn't going to happen, Mike
thought. The death of Brenda McLaren had hit him pretty hard and
had affected a lot of people's lives. It wasn't something that would
just, well, get better in a matter of days. For one thing, until they
caught whoever had murdered her, there was always the chance the killer
strike again, and if it was something to do with young village girls,
everyone needed to be wary of strangers, of people acting suspiciously,
or just about everything, really.
But Mr Gregg meant well. Michael
nodded, preferring not to talk about it any longer. He made his excuses
and left the shop. He hadn’t been a close friend to Brenda for several
years though they spoke whenever they ran into each other. They had
been inseparable during that last year of primary school, until Lynda
had arrived and taken her place, but the rigours of an all boys’
had driven everything else into the background as far as he was
concerned. He was expected to do well, and he knuckled down to the
academic life straight away. There was fierce competition to be top of
the form right from
the word go, and he was invariably third or fourth in the class when
the end of term reports were issued. Some teachers commented that he
could do better, but in reality he was a naturally high achiever and
did very well in
modern languages and literature. After year one he had dropped the
sciences and concentrated on his Latin and Greek, then dropped Greek in
favour of Spanish. He was good at history, but no good at geography, so
that, too. His truly weak spot was mathematics. He could do sums,
adding, dividing, subtracting and multiplying standing on his head, but
couldn’t get that head of his around logarithms, geometry or
Michael, being a September child,
had done his eleven-plus exam at the age of ten and sailed through it,
leaving all but the two girls in his wake. Brenda, Lynda, and he, had
gone to grammar school, the others to secondary modern schools in
Hucclecote and Churchdown. So Michael was always in reality a year
ahead of everyone else. He took his first GCE Ordinary-Level exam at
the age of fourteen
and scraped through with a Grade E in English Literature. He’d taken it
again at age fifteen along with the other six subjects, and got a B.
He’d passed all of his O-Levels at age fifteen with the exception of
maths, which he was to take again in January. Now he was studying “A”
Level Spanish, French, and English Literature. Next term would see the
mock “A” Level examinations, but he was seriously considering
jacking it in and enlisting as a Police cadet. He had never lived away
from home, and wasn’t sure he was ready for three or four years away
from home at university. Two weeks at Hendon Police College might be
though. Yes, he was fairly sure that he had made his mind up to join
He walked home, thinking to
himself that he should pay Marco another visit, but then decided he
would play some records instead. He hadn’t thought about “getting over”
the death of Brenda McLaren until Mr Gregg mentioned it. Now he
believed that listening to some music might take his mind off it, but
everywhere he looked, there was a reminder of death. Not just Brenda’s,
was plastered across the local paper, of course. But there were news
items on the radio, in the national paper (he brought his father’s Telegraph and his mother’s
home every morning), and his father, who had a fascination with
real-life murders, had got out a couple of his own books to read the
previous evening, and hadn’t put
them away. Michael had read some of them. His favourite was Fabian of the Yard,
and it had been that book that persuaded him that he might enjoy life
as a policeman instead of going to university. Fast forward a couple of
decades and the incidence of graduates joining the police force
and being fast-tracked to positions of seniority would be commonplace.
Right now, the police force was a career in itself, and not one that
was remotely associated with university study.
He put on a record of Bach’s
Brandenberg Concertos. His father had taken him to a smoke-filled
workers’ recreation hall one evening in the previous summer,
where they had stood at the back and listened while someone played
gramophone records of Beethoven, Brahms and Bach. After that, he’d
found himself listening to the BBC Third Programme quite a lot,
July and August, when they broadcast the promenade concerts from the
Royal Albert Hall. He never missed the Navy
Our Ken, The
Goons and Hancock’s
Half Hour, and Saturday Skiffle Club
was required listening for all boys his age, but whenever there was an
opportunity, he listened to classical music or jazz,
and over the last couple of years had become quite knowledgeable. The
first classical record he bought was an Embassy 10 inch LP recording of
Beethoven’s Third Symphony, the Eroica, from Woolworths. It had been a toss-up between the
record and an Airfix kit of a Bristol
Beaufighter, and on that occasion the Beaufighter had lost.
The Brandenberg soothed his
troubled mind, but he couldn’t divorce himself entirely from the death
of his one-time friend and country dance partner. He cast his mind back
Monday, when he’d seen her with the woman everyone thought of as her
aunty, but who was, in fact, no relation. There was a small lane, a
footpath which connected Boverton Drive with the Avenue. It served as a
down to Hucclecote Road, and if you crossed the Avenue and followed it
down past the allotments you came out almost at the bus stop. For years
children had been told not to use it for that purpose because there
were a couple
of men who spent most of their time in the allotments who were
considered to be a bit soft in the head, and mothers and fathers didn’t
want their children being spoken to by them. They might have been
harmless, but they
were known to drink a lot, methylated spirits mainly, and they tended
to home in on young unaccompanied children.
Mike, being over six feet tall and
well built, used the footpath frequently and no one ever spoke to him,
in fact he couldn’t remember ever seeing the two tramps, for that was
what they were. But with the disappearance and murder of Brenda, he
wondered if they were real or something the mums and dads had made up
to prevent their children from running straight out into the Hucclecote
there was a fair amount of traffic.
It was there he’d seen Brenda for
the first time that day, with the woman the police had identified as
Alice Long with the help of Dougal McLaren. He was going to catch the
bus, they were coming out of Mr Gregg’s shop. He’d smiled and waved at
Brenda, and she’d stopped to talk to him Mrs Long waited a few yards
away with her half of the shopping bags.
Now he stood at the head of the lane, remembering the last time he’d
seen Brenda. He’d been coming back up the road off the bus, and there
had been that beige Standard
Vanguard parked down by the telephone kiosk. He had the number plate
written down in his notebook, but that was indoors, and his memory for
such details wasn’t that good. He struggled to remember important
dates other than the really obvious ones like 1066, 1914 and 1939, his
parents’ and his sisters’ birthdays. He had the same problem
remembering pieces of poetry, and it was one of the reasons why he’d
unable to audition for the school play. Instead, he had played some of
the incidental music composed by Alfred Lord, the school’s music
teacher, whom all the boys called Tennyson, on the piano. He could
still play the
piano, but after the incident with Gerard Pallister, the peripatetic
music teacher, he’d given up taking piano lessons and concentrated
instead on teaching himself to play the guitar, picking up rapidly what
on Saturday Skiffle Club and on the records he bought of Django
Reinhardt and the Quintette du Hot Club de France.
His dissertation in French had
been about Django, how he had lost the use of two of his guitar-playing
fingers in a caravan fire, and had devised a way of playing that
to become, in Michael’s opinion, the world’s greatest guitarist. It had
gone down a storm, because many of the boys in his class were
interested in music and respected the fact he’d done so much research
and translated it all into French. He even brought along one of his
and played them his favourite track, the one with the three violins,
“Lady Be Good”, the track in which Django played to beat the Devil –
He wondered if the number plate
had any significance. Well, not the number plate, but the car. Cars
were hardly a rare sight in Boverton Drive. The postman sometimes
by van, but hardly anyone owned a car, with the exception of Mr
Hannaford and Mr Carter. There was a rumour going around the family
that his father was about to invest in a car, put about by Uncle John
and Uncle Eric, but
Michael didn’t take it too seriously. What did they need with a car?
There was a regular bus service into the city, into town,
he had his bike, Annie got the bus into town every day, Pauline got the
bus the other way, to Cheltenham every morning and night, and his Dad
got the works bus to Mitcheldean.
Who needed a car?
He thought about the beige
Vanguard now. He was familiar with most of the cars in the village,
especially the ones belonging to the residents of the Drive and the
Avenue, even the
ones that only visited occasionally, like those belonging to insurance
agents, for example. But he was not familiar with the Vanguard. It had
been parked down the road while he was talking to Brenda, and he’d been
to see the man sitting in it, enough to know that he didn’t know him
personally, but only by sight. He memorised the number plate long
enough to write it down when he got back home.
He would call in at Constable
Hutchinson’s and ask him about the car and the number plate, ask if
might be significant. For the life of him he didn’t know why he still
collected car number plates. What use were they? And cars were becoming
more common all the time. He would stop now, there was no point to it.
As it happened, he didn’t have to
call at Constable Hutchinson’s house, because he saw his Uncle John
emerging from his Gran’s house in Boverton Avenue, and hurried
to meet him.
‘Hello, Mikey. You all
‘Yes thanks. I was coming to see
you,’ he said, which wasn’t exactly a lie.
‘I have to get on. Maxwell will be
here in a moment.’
‘It’s about Brenda.’
‘Brenda?’ Kimble’s eyes were
blank, and Michael guessed that his uncle had been drinking heavily the
night before. In the distance, at the top of the road, he could
see the Wolseley turning in and coming towards them. Maxwell would be
here in a moment and the opportunity would be lost. The Wolseley wasn’t
a frequent visitor to the village, but it had “police car” written
all over it, and in any case, his uncle was expecting it.
‘I saw a car in Boverton Drive
Monday, just before Brenda went missing. A Standard Vanguard. Beige.
Got the number in my book, at home.’ He didn’t see the brief
look of recognition in his uncle’s eyes, because at that precise moment
the Wolseley pulled up next to them.
‘I shouldn’t think it’s anything
to do with it, Mike,’ Kimble said. ‘Got to go. I’ll see you tonight.’
Kimble got into the passenger seat
and the car pulled away. Boverton Avenue was a cul-de-sac, so Maxwell
had to do a three-point-turn, but the road was wide, and he managed it
in two. Kimble waved to his nephew, and Mike waved back. His uncle was
after all, he should know what was important and what was not. If the
beige Standard Vanguard was in any way important to the disappearance
and murder of Brenda McLaren, he would know, wouldn’t he? Michael
home, deep in thought.
Maxwell said, ‘What
did the kid want?’
‘Just asking when I’d be home
tonight, that’s all.’ He
wasn’t telling me about a beige Standard Vanguard that an acquaintance
of mine from London uses to get about in. It wasn’t that at all. Maxwell was saying something else.
‘Did you ask him if he knew who
‘Forgot, Sir, sorry. Wouldn't that
be better coming from you? I can ask him tonight. At least we know it
wasn’t him, Michael. I had a word with him earlier. He knew
her, he was fond of her, but he wasn’t seeing her. You can take my word
for that. I’ll ask him about the eyeteye, like I said.’
‘See that you do. Unlikely as it
may seem, I’ve a funny feeling it might be the eyeteye boy, Russo,
Marco Russo. Just because he’s your nephew doesn’t mean
you shouldn’t do your job. The post mortem is in. The girl was roughed
up pretty bad, she was raped twice, then she was stabbed. Bit of a
coincidence, that, wouldn’t you say?’
‘The eyeteye lad getting stabbed
this week as well. We need to get on top of this, Sergeant. Go and see
the eyeteye boy and his parents, find out who did it, see if you can
find anything out about the knife. I don't believe the story he told
Hutchinson about the kids and the kittens, it just doesn't ring true to
me. Kids don't carry knives. This was an adult, and it may be the
And ask him if he knew Brenda McLaren while you’re at it. Could be
important. Like I say, it might be the same person. Right, here are the
important bits. She was raped, then killed during the early evening of
probably between the hours of five and seven, they can’t be more
precise than that, apparently. Throat cut with a bread knife. Ordinary
bread knife, sort you’d find in your kitchen drawer, and forensics say
looked like the blade was wiped clean on her skirt. She was tied up,
and she was raped. Oh, and by the way, she was pregnant. Just a few
weeks, but she was definitely pregnant, not by the rapist, obviously,
but probably by
the boy “M”. She probably wouldn’t have known about it herself. Not
‘Pregnant,’ Kimble said. ‘Oh,
Jesus fuck! Oh, fuck.’
‘Precisely,’ said Maxwell.
Detective Chief Inspector George William Maxwell lived in Podsmead
Road, just a stone’s throw from the Crypt Grammar School where Michael
Thompson went to school, on the south
side of Gloucester, some seven miles from Brockworth. He parked the
Wolseley on the gravel drive, opened the front door with his Yale key
and closed it quietly behind him. A teenaged girl, Beth Hathaway, who
lived next door
but one, was in the kitchen. There was an overriding smell of Vim in
the room, and he guessed Beth had been having a clean up.
‘Hallo, Mr Maxwell,’ she said.
‘I’ve given your wife her tea but she didn’t eat anything. She drank
some of the tea, though. I’d best be off, I
have some homework to do.’
‘Thank you, Beth. I’ll settle up
with you at the weekend, okay?’
‘No hurry, Mr Maxwell. It’s not
like I have to do much.’
‘Has she said anything today?’
Beth shook her head, her pony tail
dancing. ‘No, she’s been asleep since I got here. I roused her up
enough for her to drink her tea, but she said nothing. I’m sorry.
She may need the loo when she wakes up.’
She was a pretty girl, a little
older than Michael Thompson, and wore a white blouse and blue skirt.
Every afternoon she let herself into Maxwell’s house and made something
to eat for herself and for Mrs Maxwell, then watched television or read
a book, or sometimes, on schooldays, she even started on her homework
until the detective chief inspector came home. It was an arrangement
Beth perfectly, because she lived with her father, and he worked the
night shift at the railway rolling stock company, and she didn’t really
get on that well with him. He was a bully and a thug, and if she could
out of his way by helping Maxwell out with his wife, so much the
better. Her mother had left home two years ago. Tired of being beaten
up, she had thought that her husband would not touch Beth, but she was
wrong. She occasionally
showed up at school on a Monday morning with bruises on her arms, and
once even Maxwell had noticed them, but she had lied about how she had
got them, and Maxwell, against his better nature and his instinct, was
by the girl to take it no further. His mind was preoccupied with his
wife at the time. One day in the not too future, he would have words
with John Hathaway. But for now, all he could think of was his wife.
In the mornings, when he left for
work, a neighbour from opposite came in to sit with his wife, and then
a succession of neighbours and friends dropped in through the day to
she was comfortable. At four o’clock or after, Beth came in, and she
would remain there, sitting with Frances Maxwell until her husband
arrived home. If he was on a case that was going to see him missing
night, like a murder enquiry or something really serious like that, he
would ring her, and she would let herself out of the three-bed semi and
go home, waiting by her own phone to hear that Maxwell was on his way,
she popped back every half an hour. Then she would go to bed and leave
the house well before her father got up. That way, she was in control,
and Maxwell’s support network was complete. There was no need for
the force to know he was nursing a dying wife, no need for nurses or
doctors, and that was the way he wanted it to stay. He was not even
sure he would be with her when she died, because his devotion to his
job almost matched
his devotion to his wife, but he could not think about that right now,
he had too much going through his head. The rape and murder of Brenda
McLaren had shaken him badly. Though he never knew Brenda, he imagined
her to be
the daughter they had never been able to have. Her or Beth Hathaway.
Either would have done nicely.
‘That’s okay, Beth, I appreciate
what you’re doing for her, I really do, you know that. I’ll sort out
some money for you for the weekend, I promise.’
‘I don’t need it, don’t worry
about it. At least he gives me money to do the housekeeping,’ she said,
referring to her father. ‘There’s some stew
in the oven, and I made an apple crumble. You just need to heat it up
for a half hour or so. I didn’t make custard, there wasn’t enough milk,
Maxwell smiled for the first time
that day, or so it seemed. ‘Thanks again, Beth, you’re a treasure. I
don’t know how I would be able to cope without you. See you
tomorrow. By the way, I’m on a murder enquiry, so I may be late. Don’t
hang around all night waiting for me. Go out with your friends or
something. I’m sure Mrs Maxwell will be all right, just make her some
tea, you know, a cup of tea, a boiled egg and soldiers, something
simple like that. I can bring in fish and chips for myself. I can bring
some in for you, too, only I don’t know what time I’ll be finished.’
‘It’s all right, there’s plenty to
eat. I did a big shop on Monday. Just bring your own in. I’d better go.’
‘I’ll stand at the door, make sure
you get home all right.’
‘It’s a few yards away! It’s not
like anyone’s going to come after me!’
He stared at her. She had
evidently read the newspapers. It was even possible she knew who Brenda
McLaren was. Denmark Road school, wasn’t it?
‘Did you know her? The girl who
‘She wasn’t in my class, but I did
know her. Year below. I knew of her. It must be terrible for her
‘Right. Best get going, Beth. I’ll
see you tomorrow evening if I can.’
‘I am quite safe, Mr Maxwell!’
He made sure Beth was safely in
her house, and then he went upstairs to the spare bedroom and opened
the door quietly. There was the smell of impending death there, it hit
he opened the door and looked down at the sleeping skeleton that had
once been his beloved Frances. Diagnosed with cancer of the bowel six
months ago, she was on the wrong side of six stones now, her features
pinched and shrunk
back against her bones, her eyelids fluttering gently, a frown on her
‘I’m home now,’ he said. Not I’m home, but I’m home now.
He always said it, as though the extra syllable would penetrate her
dying brain and bring her some kind of comfort. How long
had they given her, six months ago? Three months maximum, they’d said.
She was still alive, hanging in there, but was she alive, really? It
had been two months to the day since she had last said a word to him.
going for my tea, then I’ll come and sit with you, and I’ll read to
you,’ he said, and closed the door. As he stepped onto the first tread,
he heard her take a deep, rasping breath. Either she was in pain,
which she was, always, of course, or else she had heard something of
what he had said. The doctor had given him some powerful tablets for
her, to ease the pains, and he noted that Beth had given her some while
she had been
looking after her.
When he’d eaten, and washed up the
plates and cutlery, he took his briefcase upstairs with him and sat
with his wife.
‘Just going to read through some
papers,’ he told her. ‘Some papers to do with the case I’m working on.
I might make some notes, and I might say things out
loud from time to time. If you want anything, you just sing out. I’ll
make some more tea for you soon.’
But before he could get out the
papers, he knew that he needed to get her out of bed, to get her
undressed and washed, and to take the bedclothes and put them in the
like every other night, she had wet herself. Mixed with the smell of
impending death was the unpleasant, acrid smell of urine, and he
couldn’t leave her soaking in her own wee, could he?
Almost an hour later, at eight o’clock, he turned on the wireless and
tuned it to the Light Programme, turning the volume down so as not to
disturb her. The gentle strains of
some dance band or other drifted through the bedroom. Frances Maxwell
was now dressed in a clean pair of pyjamas, and smelled of soap and
talcum powder. He opened the first file and read it quickly, paying it
The second file had been brought to his attention by a uniformed
sergeant back at the nick.
‘Think you should read this one, Sir. Sergeant Kimble had it, he was
supposed to return it to the warrant officer, but I found it lying on
Maxwell picked up the autopsy report on Brenda McLaren that had been
given to Kimble that afternoon. The contents of her stomach,
unsurprisingly, were quite normal: the semi-digested
remains of breakfast – cereal and milk – and a couple of boiled sweets,
probably Spangles, and fish and chips, which presumably had been her
last meal, her lunch. She had been brutally raped, as evidenced by the
severe bruising around her vagina. This was well before the advent of
DNA evidence and testing, and perpetrators didn’t think twice about
leaving ‘samples’ then. There was also substantial bruising about
her arms and legs, and inner thighs, and there was evidence that she
had been tied up, by the wrists. The cut that had killed her had been
made with a bread knife, the sort you would find in any kitchen drawer.
A knife with
a long, serrated edge. He wondered where the knife was now, and why the
officers who’d searched the murder site hadn’t found it.
Brenda McLaren was eight weeks
pregnant. Just long enough for them to tell.
Not any more, she wasn’t. Maxwell
tried not to picture the tiny drop of blood that would some day have
grown into a foetus, lying in a kidney bowl in the pathologist’s
room which would have grown into a foetus, but it refused to budge, and
he felt a tear brush his eye. He knew the pathologist wouldn’t remove
it anyway, they knew she was pregnant from carrying out blood tests,
image remained in his head. He looked across at Frances, and was
pleased to see that she was now sleeping peacefully. He decided that he
would not make her any more tea tonight, it would only disturb her. If
she awoke during
the night, he would make her a cup, or some weak squash.
In another file he found a
handwritten note from Kimble, together with an evidence bag containing
the girl’s diary. He flicked through it quickly, found the reference to
he and Kimble had seen earlier, and then found another note from
Constable Hutchinson, about his visit to the Nissen Huts to interview
‘”M”?’ he said, musing aloud. His
wife snored deeply, then her eyes opened for a second, she looked at
him, no, through him,
and then she closed them again and snored. ‘I definitely think that
your boyfriend was Marco Russo,’ Maxwell mumbled to himself. ‘Not
Thompson? Are we sure about that? Could Kimble be covering for his
nephew? Maybe it was both boys?’ he said, thinking out loud. He decided
to make some notes on the Brenda McLaren case, and started to write in
Brenda McLaren, 16 years
Living with father and Alice Long,
mother is Mary Lamb, left home to live with George Clark.
Attended Ribston Hall school for
Raped then stabbed.
Died Monday pm, probably between
5pm and 7pm.
Last seen Monday pm, by Michael Thompson exiting the newsagent’s, just
before 3pm. With unknown woman, possibly Alice Long. Possible sightings
at local funfair later by
a couple of witnesses. Read their statements tomorrow. How had she got
to Morgan’s Farm? Home in opposite direction to Morgan’s Farm. Was it a
chance encounter with the rapist out at Morgan’s Farm, or was
she taken there by the rapist? In which case, they must have had a car,
otherwise someone would have seen her being taken to the Churchdown
Road, and would have reported it. Unless she knew them, and had gone
with them willingly?
Eight weeks pregnant – by whom?
Marco Russo? Michael Thompson?
“Saw the boy of my dreams… he
lives here in Brockworth…”
Brenda McLaren, born December
1945, attended Brockworth New County Primary School from 1951-1957,
same time as Michael Thompson, so she already knew him. Need to find
Marco Russo went to school. Hutchinson said the Russo family had lived
in the huts for quite some time. He was obviously the son of Giuseppe
Russo, a former Italian prisoner-of-war, so if he also went to BNCP
School, did she
also already know him? Did she meet up with the father of her child,
confront him with the fact she was pregnant, and he killed her to
escape responsibility for the child? But why rape her? Was the father a
than “M”? Faced with the shock of being told you’re the father, you
might have lashed out at her, and in a fit of rage you might have
killed her (with a breadknife??? Who carries a breadknife around???)
you wouldn’t have raped her first, surely? Doc says she was raped and
People interviewed so far:
Dougal McLaren – father. Known for
being drunk and disorderly. Always the prime suspect at first, but I
don’t think he did it.
Alice Long – McLaren’s woman
friend(?) A woman could have killed her. Dougal McLaren could have got
her pregnant (her own father – it happens!) and Alice Long
could have killed her because she was jealous.
Mary Lamb. Brenda’s mother –
questioned by Hutchinson along with George Clark. Hutchinson was
probably writing up their statements right now, knowing him. He worked
long hours, always prepared to go the extra mile, was Hutchinson.
Jack? – gypsy lad from the funfair.
Get their full names before the
funfair moves away from Brockworth.
Still to be interviewed:
Michael Thompson – saw Brenda in
the morning and then again in the afternoon, possible boyfriend, or
former boyfriend. She rejected him and he was jealous? Last person to
see her alive that we know about.
Ida Marsh, woman who says she saw
Brenda at the funfair after 3pm Monday afternoon. Read her statement
Marco Russo – find out about
schools and if he was seeing Brenda.
Maxwell felt his eyes getting heavy. He stood up and put the files back
into his briefcase, then bent to kiss his wife on the forehead. ‘Going
to bed, love. Early start in the
morning. Sleep tight.’
He made himself a cup of coffee
and ate a couple of chocolate digestives, then went to bed, knowing
that before he left for work in the morning, he would have to do the
hang it out. It wasn’t Monday, it wasn’t laundry day, but he couldn’t
leave those bedclothes lying in the washing basket for others to find.
Bamber lived in Westfield Avenue, at the westernmost end of the
village. She was studying for her A-Levels, like Michael. She was a
petite, very pretty girl, with an hourglass
figure and well-developed breasts that were not too large, but firm.
She was five feet three inches tall, and had short brown hair that
tended to curls. Her snub nose and almond eyes were her best features.
She went to Ribston
Hall School for Girls, in the city. It was a grammar school, and along
with Brenda McLaren and Michael Thompson, she was the third pupil from
Brockworth New County Primary School to pass the eleven-plus
examination and go
to grammar school in 1957. She saw Michael walking up the road from her
bedroom window, and ran to the door to let him in. She’d seen him on
more than one occasion, walking through the village or delivering
on his bike, and she had noticed him, recognising him as the nice boy
from primary school with whom she had partnered at country dancing all
those years ago. She had been hoping to bump into him, strike up a
with him, and here he was, coming up her drive and knocking on her
front door! She could not believe her luck.
‘You’ve grown!’ she said, standing
on her toes to plant a moist kiss on his cheek. For a moment, he was
completely taken aback. This wasn’t behaviour he was
used to from a girl he hardly knew, had barely spoken to in the six
years since they had been at school together. Female cousins sometimes,
reluctantly kissed him on the cheek. But not strangers. He glanced down
at her blouse,
which was a pretty lemon colour, and wanted to say that she’d grown
too, but he thought that might not be entirely appropriate and wasn’t
sure how she would take it. Some girls liked to have their breasts
others were more coy, more reserved, and it was five or six years since
he had last felt the thrill of holding Lynda Bamber’s hands during
country dancing. He wasn’t entirely sure how to act around girls his
‘Would you like a drink? We have
some coke in the fridge.’ Michael knew that some people in the village
had refrigerators, but Lynda’s was the first house he’d
ever been in that actually had one. The larder kept everything cool
enough, and they managed. It was as simple as that.
‘Go through into the lounge.’
A minute later Lynda returned with
a tray, two glasses and two bottles of Coca Cola. Michael had never
tasted anything quite so wonderful. He’d heard about it, of course, and
seen advertisements in various magazines, but had never plucked up the
courage to try it for himself. It was every bit as delicious as the
advertisements said. He had absolutely no idea that it was going to
ruin his teeth,
but then dental care from the NHS was still in its infancy; children
regularly bought and ate whole packets of boiled sweets, such as
Spangles, without giving any thought to the damage they were causing.
Although this was
Mike’s first taste of Coca Cola, there was a drinks lorry that came
round once a week, from which his Mum would buy a couple of bottles of
Corona, one of lemonade, one of limeade. The bottles had cork stoppers
held in place by a wire lever arrangement. When these soft drinks ran
out, the children were expected to drink water, tea, or now that they
were old enough, coffee. Occasionally, if they were going on a family
a walk up to Cheeseroll Hill, his Dad would fork out for a bottle of
Tizer from Mr Greggs’s shop at the bottom of the road.
‘How’s school?’ he asked. ‘You
heard about Brenda, I expect?’
‘Yes, it’s awful, isn’t it? Poor
‘I saw her. In the afternoon,
before she went missing. My Uncle’s a detective, he’s working on the
‘So you’ll get to hear all the
gory details! Poor you!’ She sat next to him on the sofa, and their
thighs touched. He made no attempt to move away. The thought of
sitting next to Lynda Bamber, this close, was stirring something inside
his trousers. The last time he’d felt anything this wonderful was when
he’d sat next to his cousin Jill, in the front room the weekend before
last, before Annie left for Boulogne. They’d been having a family party
to celebrate his mother’s birthday, and the entire family, it seemed,
had dropped in, even some of the London branch, to wish her well, to
bring cards and presents. Cissy Thompson was popular in the extreme.
Michael and one of his younger cousins from a branch of the family that
had stayed behind in London, in Camberwell to be precise, had been
sitting next to
each other on the settee, and he had tried to keep his hands to himself
but couldn't, and as he put his arm around his cousin, Jill, her name
was, it had accidentally brushed against the underside of her breast,
turned and smiled at him, and he had smiled back, but didn't take his
hand away. Nothing further had developed from this encounter, which he
now regretted, because Jill was a really attractive girl, a year
him, with shoulder-length black hair and hazel eyes, but she and her
parents had gone back to Camberwell the same day, and he didn't have
any idea when they might meet up again. Now, sitting next to Lynda, he
‘Well, he doesn’t tell me
everything. He would if I were to ask him. I’m thinking of joining the
police force myself.’
‘You’d look good in a uniform.’
‘Thanks. Actually, I was hoping to
be a plain clothes detective.’ He was well aware that progression to
CID was dependent on at least two years in uniform, but he felt
like he needed to make the point.
‘What did you come for?’ she said,
ignoring his last remark. She was evidently still thinking about
Michael Thompson in a uniform.
‘Hmm? Oh, to ask if you wanted to
ride in a bath we’re pushing from Gloucester to Cheltenham for charity.
In the summer. There would be a civic reception and stuff like
‘Ride in a bath? I’d love to!
There would be cushions and so on, I guess?’
‘I expect we could manage a few
cushions. And blankets if it's cold, and an umbrella if it’s raining,
of course! Do you know anyone else at your school who might join
in? We could do with a couple of girls.’
‘I could ask Janet.’
‘Janet Hobbs?’ Michael knew Janet
Hobbs. She was a year older than Lynda, two years older than Michael.
She had been at the primary school until 1956 and then she and
her family had moved to Longlevens. He presumed that Janet had also
made it through the eleven-plus and now attended Ribston Hall with
‘Yes. She’d be up for it, I’m
sure. You’d have to let me know where and when.’
‘Of course. I like your record
‘My Dad bought it for me for
Christmas. I’ve got heaps of singles. Have you heard this one? “Love Me
Do” it’s called.’
‘The Beatles – yes, I have the
album. You’ll have to come to mine and listen to it. I met them, you
know, in the town, in Hickeys.’ He had met the Beatles,
in person. Last month, when they were doing a supporting tour in
Gloucester. He’d been on his way home from school one afternoon and
he’d gone into Hickey’s, the music shop in Westgate Street to see if
had a copy of Ray Charles’s “What’d I say?” They didn’t have it by Ray
Charles, but in a box of 45rpm single records, he’d found the song
performed by Bobby Darin, and that suited him perfectly,
because Darin could do nothing wrong. Amazingly, Michael had no idea at
the time that his favourite singer in the entire world, was married to
his favourite actress, the incredibly, painfully beautiful Sandra Dee.
He’d been about to take his
purchase to the desk when he caught sight of three young men, dressed
in black trousers with black leather jackets, and mop-headed haircuts,
around with the guitars, of which there was a small selection in the
other room, the musical instrument room. Hickeys sold sheet music, a
very small selection of gramophone records, and musical instruments,
mainly brass, woodwind,
and orchestral strings, but they also carried half a dozen guitars. It
was here that Michael had bought his Rosetti cutaway, the nearest he
could get to a Macaferri, like the one Django played. It had cost him
The lad with the aquiline nose was
holding a guitar exactly like Michael’s, and was playing expertly,
producing chords Michael could only dream of. One of the others was
in a high voice, ‘There were bells, on the hill, but I never heard them
ringing…’ And then the one playing the guitar was picking out the most
exquisite solo, his long fingers flying over the strings and
producing an incredible, easy, sumptuous sound.
They finished. And Michael
‘What record you buying, kid?’
Aquiline said. You’re not much older
than me, Michael thought. Who are you calling “Kid”?
Walking over, he showed them the record. ‘”What’d I say”. The Bobby
‘Ace!’ Aquiline said, approvingly,
and shook his hand. ‘We’re the Beatles,’ he said, in a nasal,
Liverpudlian accent. ‘On at the Regal. Supporting
some fooker or other. You comin?’ They
were supporting the Tommy Roe/Chris Montez tour. Who would have thought
that they would go on to eclipse every other singer and band in the
‘I hadn’t thought about it.’ The Regal
Cinema had displayed a poster, and he had thought about it, but the
date had slipped his mind. 18th
March 1963 – something had happened to stop him from going to see his
new favourite group, a family illness or something like that.
you go to music concerts?’ the one who’d been singing asked.
‘I went to see Mr Acker Bilk and
his Paramount Jazz Band at Cheltenham Town Hall last month,’ he told
‘Well, then. Come and see us,
kidder. See some genuine rock and roll. Like Buddy Holly?’ Michael
realised this last was a question. He nodded.
‘Yes, he’s great! Was great…’
‘Great guitarist,’ Aquiline said.
‘You’d like us. Hey, have they got any of our records in this shithole?’
The manager of the shop, who had
been keeping his eye on the lads in leather, walked over and extricated
the Epiphone guitar from Aquiline’s hands. ‘I’m going to
have to ask you to leave,’ he said. ‘You’re upsetting my other
‘What other customers?’ Aquiline
‘They’re not upsetting me,’
Michael said, and immediately wished he hadn’t, because it was
disrespectful to the manager. For an awful moment, he realised that
if the man asked him which school he went to, he would have to say “The
Crypt”,a nd to give his name, and the man would be within his rights to
report him to the headmaster, Mr Woods. But he simply snorted, made
a face and walked away. Michael was the only customer in the shop.
‘They’re the Beatles. They’re on at the Regal.’
‘They’ll have to leave, I’m
Michael paid for his record and
followed the Liverpool lads outside. There they were joined by a fourth
Beatle, this one had a huge nose and an even more pronounced accent
other two. He was carrying an expensive looking camera, and Michael
guessed that he might have been round at the cathedral, taking
pictures. He realised that the third Beatle, the one with the longest
hair, hadn’t said
a single word.
‘Enjoy yer record, kid,’ Aquiline
said. ‘Come and see us. One night only.’
Michael never went to see the
Beatles that night, and only one of his friends, Jimmy Hunter, believed
his story about meeting them in the music shop. He dragged himself back
present, to the now, to sitting next to the delectable Lynda Bamber…
‘I’d love to,’ Lynda said. And
then, incredibly, her arms were around his neck, and her breast was
pushing against his arm, and her mouth was just an inch from his.
She kissed him, softly, expertly, taking away his breath. He didn’t
know what to do with his hands, so she took one of them and placed it,
carefully, on the firm mound of her breast, and then moved against it.
thought his erection was going to burst out of his trousers. She
disengaged from him, and patted her hair. Her cheeks were flushed.
‘That was nice,’ she said, and
then the most incredible thing happened. She took his hand, and he
thought she was pushing it away, but she was putting it inside her top,
and he found himself caressing the bare flesh of her stomach, and then
upwards, underneath her thin brassière, and her whole, young breast was
in his hand, and the most exquisite sensations began to flow through
She kissed him again, and caressed the side of his face, feeling the
juvenile stubble that was beginning to grow there, and then her hand
sort of dropped into his lap, and came to rest on his erection.
‘Do you want to go upstairs, to my
room?’ she said in a whisper, and for a brief moment, Michael Thompson
thought that all his birthdays had come at once, and that he
was about to break his own self-avowal not to have sex before marriage.
She actually stood up, and took his hand in hers, which was just as
thrilling, to Michael, as touching her naked breast. They went to the
she kissed him again. Something in his brain was screaming at him, “It’s too soon, too soon! You barely know her!” but
his heart told him he’d known her from way back, from primary school
days, he’d always fancied her, she’d been his country dance partner,
and this was just catching up. Nothing wrong with
it. Nothing at all. This was what young lovers did. He thought of A Summer Place
and Molly, played by Sandra Dee, and whatshisname, played by Troy
Donahue, who wasn’t a patch on Bobby Darin. This was what they did.
Young lovers. They made love. It was natural, it was nature.
‘My father has some rubbers in his
drawer,’ she said, and then the back door opened, and the dream of
making love to Lynda Bamber that day was suddenly shattered. Michael
felt his erection shrivel.
‘Lyn, you there?’
‘Hi, Mum,’ Lynda said. ‘Michael’s
here. I was just going to show him my record collection.’
‘Oh, right. I forgot my purse.
‘Hallo, Mrs Bamber,’ Michael said.
June Bamber was extremely attractive, just like her daughter. Her long
blonde hair was naturally wavy, and she looked very much like
a young Diana Dors, with pouting lips, and breasts that looked much,
much bigger than Lynda’s.
‘Don’t mind me. I’ll be out of
your way in a moment. Better not go upstairs, Linnie. You know what
your Dad’ll say. Bring the records down here, in the lounge.
Michael, say hallo to your Mum, won’t you? I haven’t seen her in a
Mrs Bamber knew what they were
about to do. She didn’t really mind that much, but for the sake of
keeping up appearances, she preferred that they didn’t do it under her
nose, and not upstairs. That would mean pulling the curtains, and the
neighbours, particularly Mrs Offer across the road, would know that
something was going on at number 23 Westfield Avenue.
‘Right, I’m off,’ she said, and
closed the back door behind her.
‘Perhaps we’d better….’ Michael’s
voice trailed off, and he looked embarrassed. Not so Lynda. She put her
arms around his neck and pulled him to her,
kissing again, deeply.
‘Maybe when I come to yours, to
listen to the Beatles, you could show me your bedroom?’ She seemed to
sense that the mood had changed, that now was perhaps not the right
time after all. She knew that Michael Thompson wanted her, wanted her
badly. She had done it twice, before, with her last boyfriend. The
first time it had hurt, but the second time it had been glorious. That
had been at Christmas,
but then they had split up. It was a while since she had last made
love, and she was missing it badly. In fact, she was experienced in
adult sex too, because of her father, but he had gone missing earlier
in the year. She
didn’t miss him, had hated what he had made her do with him, and was
only now beginning to experience the thrills of teenage sex rather than
being forced to do something she hadn’t wanted to do.
‘Yes,’ he said in a quiet murmur,
and then, ‘You could come round tomorrow! Wait, though, my Mum will be
‘Won’t she have washing, or
cleaning, or cooking to do? We don’t have to make a noise.’
Michael considered for a moment.
‘We could listen to some records, in my room. We could carry the
Lynda smiled. ‘No need for that.
My one’s portable. I’ll bring it round. What time shall I come?’
‘Four-ish? You could stay for tea.
Let's say around four.’
‘Okay. Friday then. That will be
‘I’d better go. I have stuff to
do.’ He kissed her on the cheek, but she held his head between her
hands and turned it so that their mouths were almost touching.
‘I’m really sorry about Brenda,’
‘Yeah, me too.’
‘I saw her, you know. The day she
‘Yes, so did I. She was with
someone, a woman, her aunty, I think.’
‘I saw her getting into a car.’
‘You what?’ If Lynda had seen
Brenda McLaren getting into a car, it was surely something the police
must take seriously.
‘I was walking along to the shops
to get something for Mum which she’d forgotten to get in town. I saw
Brenda. The car was parked at the roundabout, pointing towards your
house, you know, going up the Drive. It was black, the car. I don’t
know what make it was, I don’t know anything about cars, but it was
quite small. She was talking to a man. He had his back to me, but he
a flat cap.’
‘Are you sure it was her? What time was this? It could be important.’ Not the beige Standard Vanguard he had seen on Monday,
‘Well, I do know Brenda from primary school. Yes, I’m sure it was her.
I was at the funfair. It was about three-thirty. She got into the car
and they drove off, up your
way. I’m sure it was her. What should I do?’
‘What do you mean, do?’
‘Should I tell the police? Should
I walk up and tell Constable Hutchinson?’
‘I could tell my uncle.’ Like I tried to tell him earlier, and he told me it
couldn’t be right, Brenda could not have been getting
into the Standard Vanguard… only now it seemed as though Lynda had seen
her with a man who was driving a small black car.
‘All right, you tell your uncle, and then when I come to yours you can
tell me what he said.’
Michael nodded. ‘I’ll see you
later,’ she said.
Then she kissed him, properly,
rushed upstairs to her bedroom and watched him walk off down the path,
smiling to herself. Michael Thompson was a good boy to have as a
was tall, strong, good looking… and he’d asked her to ride in this bath
thing they were going to do. Maybe he would have asked Brenda if she
had been alive. Lynda sat on her bed and hugged herself, smiling all
DCI Maxwell stopped the car in the lane near to the coppice where
Brenda McLaren’s body had been found. A uniformed constable was there,
and kind of saluted when Maxwell and
Kimble got out of the car and walked over to him.
‘Had a look in the farm
buildings?’ Maxwell said, jerking his thumb towards the barns.
‘No Sir, waiting for you, Sir.’
‘Right. What’s your name?’
‘Crosby, Sir. They call me
“Bing”.’ Maxwell winced.
‘Where you from, Crosby?’ said
Maxwell, ignoring the last remark.
‘Churchdown, Sir. On secondment,
Sir. Cycled, Sir.’ As though the fact was relevant. Churchdown wasn’t
‘Right. Let’s take a look here
first, then. This is Sergeant Kimble. I’m DCI Maxwell.’
There was a depression in the
boggy crater where the body had been found. There was apparently
nothing else there.
The trio crossed the field to the
farm, the house now a burnt-out wreck. There were two sets of tyre
tracks, one leading to a burnt-out Landrover, which had in all
to the farmer, Mr Morgan, the other belonging to the Wolseley. Maxwell
and Kimble had been the first officers on the scene after hearing the
news that the body had been found by Tommy Hinkley. Kimble had remained
the forensic officers, looking for the murder weapon and anything that
might lead them to the murderer. Then he’d walked home in the pouring
rain, back to Boverton Drive, where Cissy had given him soup and a
helping of stew, together with a bottle of brown ale.
‘I remember the house going up in
flames,’ Kimble said, recalling the fire that had destroyed Morgan's
Farm. ‘There were hundreds of people came to watch, vicar
included. He was the first to report it, I think. He could see it from
his bedroom window. I was at home, in Boverton Avenue. It was about
seven o’clock that night, just starting to get dark, last October. They
to put it out, but it was too far gone.’
‘Was anyone hurt?’
‘Morgan himself died. He was
carrying a pale of water, and he slipped in the doorway. He never stood
a chance. One of his sheepdogs died trying to drag him away, out of the
‘Right, let’s take a look in the
barn, shall we? Over there, gents, that's where she was murdered,
according to the pathologist, then she was carted across to the
five trees.’ Maxwell led the way to the biggest barn, untouched by the
fire, and separated from the main house by about fifty feet. Inside,
the forensics officers had found a coil of rope, and left an annotated
to say where they had found it. Maxwell had read their report, and so
had Kimble, of course.
‘Looks like this is where it
happened,’ Maxwell said. ‘The murderer probably tied her up before he
raped her, poor kid.’
‘Any fingerprints on anything,
Sir?’ Crosby said, but Maxwell shook his head.
‘No, lad, I don’t think so. Not
according to the report, he probably wore gloves. No footprints,
either, so he must have erased them all before scarpering. Easily done
on ground like this. Anything worth printing they’ll have done. It’s
mainly the knife we’re looking for, I think. Something forensics
missed, which isn't likely. Something dropped. Anything. Off you go,
start in that corner. I’ll start in the middle, you do the other
corner,’ he said to Kimble. ‘Work towards the hay and then we’ll see
what we’ve found, if anything.’
‘I’ll take the middle,’ Kimble
said. Maxwell raised his eyebrows but said nothing, and moved away to
the right-hand corner of the barn. Kimble had already seen something
from the corner of his eye, a silver cuff-link, and he didn’t want the
others to find it. He picked it up swiftly and pocketed it before the
others could see, then bent to the task of fingertip searching once
of the hole in his pocket. The cufflink dropped back onto the floor of
the barn and Kimble’s size eleven boot ground it into the earth. It
took them the best part of a half hour to search the floor of the barn,
that time all they had found was a cigarette end which Maxwell
carefully placed in an evidence bag. Nothing else at all.
‘What about the hay bales, Sir?’
Crosby said. He was a keen young constable, anxious to make a good
‘It’s unlikely, but we’d better
have a look. What’s your first name, Son?’
‘Jason, Sir. After the Argonauts.
Jason Crosby, Sir.’ They call me “Bing”.
don’t follow football,’ Maxwell said, and Kimble laughed behind his
back. ‘Just see if you can get up there, will you?’
Crosby climbed easily onto the
first tier, then began to haul himself upwards. But there was nothing
to be found. Searching every square inch of the hay bales would take
They concluded that there was no murder weapon, because the murderer,
or murderers, had taken it with them.
‘All right, come down now. Let’s
go and get some lunch. Sergeant Kimble, you live in this village, where
do you suggest?’
‘Well, there’s the Flying Machine
up by the Shurdington Road roundabout, or there’s the Pinewood, almost
‘Well, which one?’
‘Flying Machine, Sir,’ Kimble
said. ‘It’s nearer.’
‘Crosby, you get back to
Churchdown and resume your duties. I doubt we’ll find anything else
here. If we need you, we’ll phone through.’
Crosby cycled off along the lane
towards Churchdown. Maxwell and Kimble sat in the car.
‘You’d think we would have found
something,’ Maxwell said.
Kimble felt for the cufflink in
his jacket pocket, found nothing, and his heart skipped a beat, but he
said nothing. It must have fallen through his pocket and into the
thought. He would find it later. He’d found it, hadn’t he? It must
still be there, in the lining of his pocket. They had swapped places,
and he was now in the driving seat.
‘Right, then. Lunch. Then we need
to go and see Marco Russo, in the Nissen huts, and I’d better have a
chat with your nephew. Both their names begin with “M”.
I’m aware you told me that Michael was not seeing Brenda, but I need to
question him all the same. And then you can organise a house to house.
I want Boverton Drive, Boverton Avenue, Church Road, Ermin Park, Court
Vicarage Lane, oh, and Westfield Avenue, and Westfield Road, the bottom
end, near the shops done. And maybe Green Lane and the roads off that,
too. Get Hutchinson to help you. And phone Churchdown and get Crosby
back if you
think it will help. Someone must have seen her. I want to know why she
came here, of all places. Everyone seems to think she was running
errands for her father, so what brought her up here to this godforsaken
‘What do you mean? Maybe she was
meeting someone here, someone who lost his temper and raped her, Sir?’
‘That's one possibility, I think.
If it was the eyeteye boy, Marco Russo, maybe things got out of hand,
he got stabbed in the leg and she got her throat cut. It’s
the most likely scenario to my way of thinking. At the moment he's our
prime suspect, wouldn't you say? No signs of a scuffle, though. Anyway,
there was no reason for her to come out to Morgan’s Farm, no reason
whatsoever, unless she was meeting her lover. If he didn't do it, if
he's not our killer, then I don’t believe she was meant to be here at
all, I think she was brought here by whoever raped and killed her.’
He wanted to add in a car
but the only tyre tracks they had found belonged to the police
vehicles. It was as though all the evidence had been cleared away,
The torrential rain of the past few days hadn’t helped, of course.
Maxwell’s mind was working overtime now.
‘Your nephew could just as easily
be our number one suspect, Sergeant. He knew Brenda McLaren well. He
might just as well be the “M” in her diary, don’t you
think? Just because he’s your nephew doesn’t mean he couldn’t be
involved. He might be lying to you about not seeing Brenda after three
o'clock Monday afternoon. Might have been him who stabbed Marco
Russo, after finding out she was cheating on him. Suppose she knocked
him back, said she preferred the eyeteye, and he lost his temper, raped
her and killed her?’
‘My Mikey?’ Kimble said, his eyes
reflecting genuine horror at the thought that his beloved nephew could
do something so terrible, and that he might inadvertently have
become a suspect.
‘He and Russo could have been
here, waiting for her. Or they could have met her in the village and
walked her out here to this remote spot, and done the dastardly deed.
overlook anything at this stage in the investigation, Sergeant.’
‘Not Michael. Not Mikey,’ Kimble
said, shaking his head. ‘He’s a good boy, he wouldn’t do anything like
‘I’m sure you’re absolutely right,
Sergeant, but we must not rule him out until we’ve spoken to him. Does
he have any other girlfriends right now?’
‘Not that I know of,’ Kimble said,
unaware of how quickly the lives of teenagers change. But he was
convinced that his nephew by marriage could not have had anything to
do with the death of Brenda McLaren. Into Kimble’s mind flashed an
image of Eddie Mason. This was not his style, from what he had heard.
He had no previous form for picking up young girls, taking them to some
spot, a building site or something like that, having his way with them
and then murdering them. He was far more likely to introduce her to a
life of prostitution because she was too ashamed to go back home. And
then sit back
and rake in the profits. But murder? He didn’t think so, but then you
never knew people really until something like this happened. Eddie
Mason could lose his temper with the best of them, Kimble knew that.
Men had come
back from the war expecting things to get back to the way they were,
but it didn’t always happen the way they wanted it to. Some men, having
got used to a life of violence, and finding no one except a loved one
it out on, lashed out at their wives or their girlfriends. Some men who
had been used to giving orders, and finding themselves back home under
the thumb of a dominant woman, sometimes reacted badly, and domestic
Kimble knew that Eddie Mason had
not come home to a wife or a girlfriend, he knew that Mason was a
homosexual, because everyone in the village knew it and the vast
a blind eye, even the Vicar, who was himself partial to little boys
rather than little girls. Eddie, having secured for himself a
reasonably well-paid job as caretaker of the primary school, often lost
his temper with the
kids when they made fun of him, but as far as Kimble was aware, he had
never touched a child in public, not in anger. More than his job was
worth. But you never knew when people would snap, and he would have to
keep an eye
Kimble put the Wolseley into gear
and drove off.
The car was pushed through the wrought-iron gates, the ones Albert
Thompson had made himself, and onto the driveway, where it now sat.
Luckily it was not raining, for the roof was
down. It was a 1936 four-seat Morris Tourer, pale green, with running
boards. One of the flip-up indicators was broken and hung loosely at an
angle. One of the headlamps was cracked. It was a convertible, but the
work. It wouldn’t start, of course, for it had lain, unused, in a dingy
garage the other side of town, and Albert Thompson had parted with
twenty pounds for it. His brother, Eric Kimble, John’s brother, who
in Matson, had borrowed a neighbour’s delivery van, and had towed it
from Matson to Brockworth that morning, and there it stood.
Cicely Thompson had stood in the
front doorway, a blank expression on her face. Twenty pounds would have
paid for three or even four weeks’ shopping. But Albert Thompson, being
a senior charge-hand at Ranks in Mitcheldean, had decided that he
required a car as a status symbol. He could not afford a new Ford
Anglia, like Mr Hannaford next door, or Mr Carter across the road. It
would take him the best
part of a month to strip and rebuild the engine, and to source the
replacement parts for those that did not work, but he was an engineer.
He knew how things worked, and he had no doubt he could get the car
‘She’s called Jasmine,’ he said,
and his wife turned, abruptly, and went back indoors. Secretly she was
quite pleased with the acquisition, and knew that Albert
would make a good job of it in the end, but there was no need for him
to know that just yet, was there? She knew he would get it going, he
would make it look nice – jasmine was his favourite colour, and there
was a large
tin of bright yellow paint in the corrugated iron garage. Albert had
taken a day off to get his car and start work on it. He needed to push
it into the temporary garage which he and John Kimble and Ernest
Thompson had carried
round from the Avenue in sections, and which stood on the flat lawned
area up an incline towards the back of the house. He would need help
with that, and would wait for Michael to come home, as there was quite
a slope to the
garage. He had already laid the foundations for the new garage, which
he would build next to the house, and the breeze blocks he was going to
use stood just outside the gates, on the pavement next to the telegraph
too, had to be moved. They’d already been peed on twice by various
neighbours’ dogs. The Hannaford twins, who lived next door, had
volunteered to help, and Michael would help too, of course. He might
ten bob each, and hoped that his horse came in at the weekend so that
he would not be out of pocket.
‘The first thing is to get the car
in the garage,’ Albert said. He was small, wiry, but incredibly strong.
Looking at his son, he sometimes doubted the boy’s parentage,
but Cicely was nothing if not loyal, and tall men ran in her family,
even if it did not on the Thompson side. In any case, you only had to
look at Michael’s features to know beyond a doubt that he was Albert
son. If anyone had been unfaithful, it would have been Albert. In fact,
he had been unfaithful, twice, and the second affair was still going
on, with a woman from accounts who lived in Cinderford, a short walk
from the Rank
factory where they both worked. Cissy Thompson was blissfully unaware
By two o’clock the four of them
had pushed the car into the dark interior of the galvanised iron garage
which Albert had secured to Mr Ellis’ fence with strong bolts,
– with Mr Ellis’ approval of
Thompson was a decent man and a handy person to know, because he knew
about engineering, and on more than one occasion he had got Mr Ellis’s
little delivery van going on the cold, frosty mornings of winter.
Then they bent to the task of
carrying the breeze blocks down the path to stack them next to the
front door on the fresh concrete. Henry and Harry Hannaford were a year
Michael, and were known as the “ginger twins” because of their fiery
red hair. They rowed with Michael, and if anything, were both slightly
shorter than him, though only by an inch at the most. They started off
carrying one breeze block each, but when Michael and his father took
two each, they followed suit and soon all of the blocks were moved. The
sand and the concrete had already been delivered, and Albert had
decided that he
would start mixing and laying the first course that very afternoon.
Michael had promised to help again at the weekend, and realised he was
now double booked because of the charity bath push meeting. He would
have to make his
excuses, for he could not let his father down.
Albert thanked the twins, gave
them a ten shilling note each, and a third he gave to Michael. It was
worth it, and he could always work overtime during the coming weeks to
up. Or place another bet. For now he had everything he wanted, his new
car, and the bricks and mortar for his new garage.
‘Thanks, Dad!’ Michael said,
genuinely pleased at his new-found wealth. Now he could get the Tarzan
book he was missing, Tarzan At The
Earth’s Core, a Four Square paperback sitting on the revolving rack in
the basement of Bon Marché in King’s Square. He ran indoors and asked his mother if Lynda could stay
for tea on Friday.
‘Yes, I've got sausages for tea
tomorrow, Mikey. You’ll need to nip down to the butchers and get some
extra sausages, Michael,’ she said.
‘Ok. How many?’
‘Eight. Uncle John will be coming
to tea again because Gran’s going into Cinderford on the bus to see
Uncle Dick. I’ve got some in the larder, so another eight should
do. Do I know Lynda? What’s her second name?’
‘Oh, yes! Her Dad went missing a
few months ago, during the winter, when we had the snow. Is she a nice
girl?’ The winter of 1962-63 had been the worst on record, eclipsing
even the terrible winter of 1947. The snow had started to fall on
Boxing Day and when they tried to get out of the house they found
snowdrifts around ten feet tall and had to dig a tunnel from the front
door to the front gate
to get out onto the road. Then it had frozen, and stayed frozen for the
best part of three months. Michael remembered cycling to school over
ruts of ice that were a good two inches high. He also remembered
sitting in class
on the second storey when the sun finally came out in March, and the
snow and ice had started to melt.
A nice girl? Not if things go to plan,
Michael thought. Aloud, he said, ‘yes, of course she is!’ He took the
proffered money and cycled
down to the butcher’s shop. Mr Manelli, in his familiar blood-stained
overall, served him with eight of his finest pork sausages.
‘I heard about Marco,’ he said,
wrapping them in greaseproof paper. ‘Bad business.’
‘Yes,’ Michael said. ‘Those kids
from the fun fair… Why do they have to carry knives?’
Mr Manelli stared at him. ‘What
kids, Michael Thompson?’ he said. He always called Michael by his full
name. Michael wasn’t aware of him doing it with anyone else,
just him. ‘What kids are you talking about?’
Manelli had been a prisoner of war
himself, and at one time had worked on the land behind Boverton Drive
and joining the Nissen hut camp. He was a short man, with slicked back
hair that was parted in the middle, and an olive skin. He had married
Ruth Jollye, but she was unable to have children, much to their regret.
Everyone knew and liked the couple, and they had settled into village
He had a long, straight nose. Aquiline, they called it. One of the
Beatles had been sporting a nose just like it, Mike remembered.
kids are you talking about?’ Mr Manelli said again, and Mike jolted
back to the present. If there was one thing he was really good at,
it was daydreaming, and reminiscing about the past came a close second.
‘The ones who stabbed him. From
the fun fair. I don’t know what the police are doing about it.’
‘It wasn’t kids from the fun fair
what stabbed him, Michael Thompson. He got stabbed because he was
messing around with a girl he shouldna been messing around with.
‘Yeah, right!’ He couldn’t believe
he’d said that, and immediately apologised. One thing you did not do
was to cheek your elders. You treated them with respect
because they were older than you, and they deserved that respect.
‘Sorry, I shouldn’t have said that!’
‘Don’t worry, Michael Thompson. I
won’t say nothing. You listen to me, though. That was a man looking out
for his daughter. Marco Russo is lucky to be alive, I’ll
‘What man?’ Michael said. He knew
some of the rougher kids from the council estate went around in gangs,
but he could no more imagine them having a knife than the Hannaford
‘I don’t know what man, Michael
Thompson, but don’t get involved! When it comes to men and their
daughters… you know?’
‘Right. Thanks! Bye.’
Michael cycled back with the
sausages and his mother put them on the cold slab in the larder. Some
houses had refrigerators in Brockworth, but by no means everyone had
one. The larder
kept everything cool, there was a hole in the back wall covered with a
very fine metal gauze that allowed the cooler air from outside into the
larder, and they managed, they had always managed. It was as simple as
remembered the cold, refrigerated Cola at Lynda’s that morning. The
luxury of modern appliances had not yet reached the Thompson household,
although they had watched a demonstration of one of those spherical
the one shaped like a spaceship, a door-to-door salesman had brought
one to the house, and Cissy Thompson was thinking of saving up for one
or even buying it on hire purchase. Albert had his car, and she was
have a vacuum cleaner. Right now she had other things on her mind
though, like tidying before Lynda Bamber came round to have tea with
them. She had managed to place Lynda’s mother, remembered hearing how
had disappeared, more or less overnight, but that was nothing
whatsoever to do with Mikey's friendship with Lynda, and she still
wanted to make a good impression on June Bamber’s daughter.
Michael had other things on his
mind right now, like getting to the bottom of what happened to Marco. He should be back home from the hospital by now,
he thought, so he left and cycled through to the huts. There were
another four semis going up, and there seemed to be a whole army
of workmen there, mixing concrete, mixing mortar, carrying bricks up
almost vertical ladders on vee-shaped things with long handles which he
later learned were called hods. The workmen occasionally turned up in
fields and joined in one of their games of football. They were
friendly, hard-working men, some not much older than him. He waved
cheerfully to them, and made his way round to Marco’s hut. Giuseppe
Russo was out working
in the fields. He was a farm labourer. Val, Marco’s mother, was in the
small enclosed yard, hanging out washing. Marco was inside, sitting on
his bed, reading one of the books Michael had given him.
‘Marco! How’s the leg?’
‘Stinging a bit.’
‘I was talking to Mr Manelli,’
Michael said. ‘He said it wasn’t kids from the fun fair.’
‘Yeah? How would he know?’
‘I’m just telling you what he’s
saying. He said you upset some man or other. Something about a girl?’
Marco’s eyes lowered.
‘I can’t tell you,’ he said in a
conspiratorial whisper. ‘They’ll hurt my mum and dad.’
‘So it’s true, then?’
Marco nodded. ‘I daren’t say
anything,’ he said miserably.
‘Surely you can tell me? Who am I
going to tell?’ Your uncle, the cop,
Marco thought, but it went unsaid.
‘Not really. It’s complicated. There is a girl involved. I didn’t know
she was one of theirs, I thought she was just, you know, a girl.’
‘What do you mean, one of theirs?’
‘I can’t say. He warned me off. He
said he would hurt my parents if I went to the police.’
‘Who was she?’
Marco’s misery was complete. He’d
come this far, now there was no going back. He owed Michael big time
for helping him with his English. Because of Michael, he had the
promise of an apprenticeship at the garage on the Shurdington Road
'Mike, it was Brenda,' he
Michael stared at him
open-mouthed. He had made a promise to himself to do everything in his
power to find out who Brenda's murderer was. Hearing Marco say that the
girl he had
been seeing was Brenda opened the floodgates in Mike's mind, and he
immediately tried to put himself in the position of an investigating
police officer. This was his chance to find out what had happened, and
going to let it go. Marco was his friend, but he had not told him the
truth. It was up to him to ascertain the truth, to find out if Brenda's
murder had been anything to do with Marco.
'Right, Marco,' he said. 'From the
top. Who was it that stabbed you?'
'One man,' Marco replied. 'It was
just one man.'
'From the village?'
'I don't know. I haven't seen him
before, but he could be from the estate.'
'The council estate, you mean?'
'And what did he say to you?'
'He saw me with Brenda a week or
so ago. We had been to the cinema, the flicks, you call them.' The
“flicks” was a local fleapit that showed films about six or
more months old, unlike the Odeon in Kings Square, which was bang up to
date with its screenings. 'I took her home, then started to walk home
myself. He followed me home, hung about for a while, then went away.
on Monday evening, he stopped me at the bus stop, and warned me not to
see Brenda again. I said I would carry on seeing her if I wanted to,
and he took a knife from his pocket and waved it at me. “Not if you
good for you!” he say. “She is not for you, she is spoken for.”'
Michael noticed that Marco was shaking as he told his story.
‘I told him she was my girlfriend
and he went crazy, shouting at me and waving his knife. It was only a
small one, a penknife, but he was bigger than me, and very strong. We
struggled. He stabbed me in the leg. I tried to stop it bleeding, I ran
away, up Green Street because I was too ashamed to go home and tell my
parents what had happened. I crawled inside one of the barns and fell
I woke up and tried to walk home, it started bleeding again. The rest
you know. I swear I didn’t see Brenda after last week. Not even to talk
to in the street! You have to believe me!’
'Mr Manelli thinks you’ve fallen
foul of some gangsters,' Michael said. 'I'm not so sure. Can you
Marco shrugged his
‘It was just one man. If I
describe him to you, you will tell your uncle and my Mama and Papa will
‘Marco, did you have anything to
do with Brenda’s murder?’
‘Of course not! I didn’t see her
on Monday, not at all!’
And if he hadn’t seen her Monday, then he couldn’t be the murderer,
could he? Michael believed Marco,
because as far as he was aware, the Italian boy had never lied to him
and had no reason to lie now.
Michael left knowing that sooner
or later he would have to tell Maxwell and his Uncle everything that
had just passed between them. He set to wondering how Marco had come to
with Brenda McLaren in the first place. At the back of his mind was the
thought that Marco might know something about how she had come to be
murdered, but simply couldn’t say because of the threat to his parents,
he couldn’t think about that right now, he had other things on his
mind, like the forthcoming visit of Lynda. Cycling back home, he
resolved to tackle his Uncle John about it over tea, and wished that
Lynda was coming
tonight and not tomorrow. Talking about police work with his uncle
would surely impress her?
‘It almost looks like Noddy’s
car,’ Michael said. ‘Will you be painting the wheel arches red and the
The Morris Tourer was out on the
grass in front of the garage, where the gentle slope would make it easy
to coax it back inside. Albert Thompson obviously wanted the
to see and admire his car, and had given it a first coat of the bright
yellow paint, but right now he was mixing concrete. The first course of
breeze blocks was cemented in place. A few half blocks lay discarded
failed to cut them accurately enough, but now he had the hang of it.
Michael had helped him for a while, but then there was nothing he could
actually do to help for a while, so he went indoors to read.
Uncle John sat in
one of the armchairs in the sitting room and opened his Daily Mirror. Michael
often read the Garth and Jane cartoon
strips, much to the displeasure of his father, who believed the
conservatives were the only people who could bring the country back
to its former glory. He was in the kitchen, with parts of the Morris
Tourer’s engine spread out on sheets of newspaper. Cissy was in the
dining room, listening to music on the Light Programme. Pauline was out
boyfriend at the pictures.
‘Uncle John?’ Michael said. ‘I
spoke to Marco Russo today. He said it wasn’t boys from the fun fair
who stabbed him after all.’
‘No, he said it was over Brenda.
He said it was a man who warned him off seeing her. I thought that sort
of thing only happened in London. I mean, I know some of the kids have
penknives and so on, but this?’
Kimble put his paper to one side
and took a long draught from his pint. ‘What makes you think that,
Mikey? There are plenty more big cities besides London. You have no
what goes on after closing time in the cities, young man. There are
stabbings in Gloucester some weekends, when they tumble out of the pubs
on a Friday night after they’ve been paid. They don’t all get reported
in the papers, but they happen, nevertheless, believe you me.’
‘Well, you don’t hear about it. I
mean, I only read the headlines in the local papers, I don’t have time
for anything else, but I’ve never read anything about
knives or anything like that. Some of the kids on the council estate
have a gang, but they’re just little kids.’
‘I wouldn’t worry about it,
kidder. This Marco, eyeteye, isn’t he? They’re very excitable. Probably
made it up just to get your attention.’
‘He wouldn’t do that!’ Michael
made no comment about his uncle’s racist tag, but it didn’t go
unnoticed. Political correctness had simply not been invented
in the 1960s, and people were free to call others whatever they liked,
eyeteyes, wops, spicks, niggers, you name it, anything was acceptable
in those days.
‘Well, take it from me there
aren’t any knife-wielding gangs in Brockworth, or in the city for that
matter. Rest easy, nothing’s going to happen to you. I’m
a copper, for God’s sake! Who’s gonna mess with a copper’s nephew?’
‘It’s not me I’m worried about.
Suppose there is a gang in the area and they’re targeting young girls
like Brenda? Who next? And there’s something else.
You remember I told you I saw a car in the street the day Brenda went
missing? My girlfriend saw her too, and she said she saw her get into
the car. That’s important, isn’t it? Will she have to make a
He failed to notice the colour drain from John Kimble’s face.
‘She – she may have to, yes. I’ll
check with Maxwell and I’ll let you know, Mikey. Ok? We will obviously
have to question your friend Marco as a suspect in
the murder, you know? I'll nip across the road later and get PC
Hutchinson to phone through to the DCI.’
‘I have homework to do,’ Michael
said abruptly, and went into the other room. Kimble could no longer
concentrate on his newspaper. What had the girl seen? What had the
eyeteye kid been saying? They needed to pay a visit to talk to Marco
Russo, tomorrow, find out what he knew, so that Kimble could set things
‘Cissy, I’m off down the pub,’ he
said, putting on his coat and his trilby hat. He knocked on Constable
Hutchinson's door and after a moment was let in. As soon
as the phone call had been made, he continued down the road to the pub,
and tried not to think about Brenda McLaren or Marco Russo until the
following day, but all the time knowing that they should have gone
round to the Nissen
hut immediately. He would worry about that tomorrow. For now, he was
off duty, and if he got into trouble with Maxwell over it, well, it
wouldn't be the first time and in any case, he now had bigger things to
than DCI Maxwell.
To be continued in the
November 2021 issue...
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 email@example.com and I'll let you know where to send it.
o n t e n t s:
& Science Fiction
The Silent Three
Growing up in the 1960s
Living with Skipper
selection of the kind of books Mike Thompson would have had in his
collection in 1963. The portraits of Dirk Bogarde and Yoko Tani on THE
WIND CANNOT READ above are of photographic quality, and quite