IDENTICAL TWIN MURDER SUSPECTS RELEASED
By crime correspondent Elaine Gifford
Daniel and Reginald Chubb, the identical twin suspects in the Carly Jemmett murder case
have been released from police custody in spite of CCTV footage allegedly showing one of
them committing the crime. The twins cannot be charged because there is no proof which
of them appears in the video. Chief Superintendent John Stent of Tenbridge Police said
today: `We have temporarily released the suspects pending the results of forensic tests. We
are confident that one or both of them will be rearrested shortly.`
The case, which has excited considerable media interest and provoked tension in the local
community is thought to be unique in British legal history. According to Christine
Bateman, lecturer in Law at Thomas Reed College, `There was a case in France in 1963 in
which one of a pair of identical twins was witnessed committing an assault but both twins
were eventually jailed for perverting the course of Justice as they both admitted the act.
The Jemmett murder is different as both suspects deny involvement and you can’t convict
two people even if there is evidence that one of them committed a crime!`
The murder victim, 13-year-old Carly Jemmett was attacked with a wrench in Tenbridge’s
main shopping centre on the night of May 16th. She died in hospital two days later without
recovering consciousness. Video tapes from the centre’s close circuit TV cameras are in the
hands of the police and are said to show the incident in some detail. `Dan and Reg` Chubb,
well-known local characters who dress identically and are said to be inseparable, were
arrested soon afterwards. No fingerprints were found on the weapon but police say they are
not currently looking for any other suspects.
Continued on page 4
I was at my cousin Bharat’s house when I made the decision to become a policeman. His
parents were out and we were watching the Sweeney on television, I was two days away
from my tenth birthday and although Bharat’s parents were less strict than my own they
would not have wanted us to watch such a programme.
I remember cars braking hard and people spilling out and running. I remember some
swearing, but it was not this that made an impression on me. No, it was the simple justice.
Some men were good and some men were bad. The good ones used braking, spilling out,
running and swearing to catch the bad ones. They could have used something else:
questioning, watching, thinking, it didn’t really matter.
That was how it started. When I told my parents that when I grew up I wanted to be a
policeman, their reaction was such that I never mentioned it again, until I joined up that is
by which time it was too late. It wasn’t that they were angry, more like I had said I wanted
to be a Martian, or a horse.
The reaction of Chief Superintendent Stent was rather more supportive.
In his younger days he had been the force’s flyweight boxing champion and could, so
people said, have contended for some title or other. Photographs of some of his triumphs in
the ring were displayed on the office wall alongside his three commendations for bravery.
He was one of those men who, in middle or old age, seem a reflection of themselves as a
child of seven or eight – small, spindly with a big triangular head and quick flashing fists.
He was still short but he seemed like an immoveable object, like a statue. His words were
delivered with a clipped, military plainness – distant but not unkind.
`So you’re the professor are you,` he said on my first morning at the station. He liked to
greet all the new recruits personally.
He hadn’t even acknowledged the existence of the other officer present, Constable Box,
though he had asked to see us both.
`Me sir? No sir,` I replied, not quite getting his drift.
He picked up some papers from the desk in front of him.
`Magdalen College, Oxford?`
He had pronounced the name of the college wrong and I was about to correct him when he
asked what I had studied.
`Archaeology and classical history sir,` I replied.
`Well,` he said smiling, `that should prove a vital resource for modern inner city policing.`
`I hope so sir,` I replied, pleased that my potential contribution had been recognised.
It was only now that he appeared to notice that I wasn’t alone. He scanned another, rather
`Box isn’t it? What do they call you? Ron?` he asked, and made a note of the reply. `Local
lad I see.`
Ron and I had been part of the same intake on training though I hadn’t really socialised
with the others much – they probably thought I wouldn’t like pubs and that sort of thing.
`Welcome to C Division Ron. I see you’re a bit of a sportsman.`
`Yes sir,` said Ron. `football mainly but I like anything competitive.`
This seemed to satisfy the chief superintendent who nodded sagely. `You’ll be with
Thompson, he’s a United supporter but don’t hold that against him.`
Ron laughed enthusiastically and the chief superintendent, after the minimum acceptable
niceties, sent him to the front desk to join his new partner.
The office seemed unnecessarily large or perhaps there was too little in it - a big, old, dark-
wood desk, filing cabinets, three chairs. The building, originally a depot for a courier
service, had been taken over by Tenbridge Police when they outgrew the old Central
Station. The rooms were all like this; large with moveable partition walls.
Once again the chief superintendent engrossed himself in reading my report.
`How do you like to be addressed Constable Mehta?`
Constable Mehta – just the words gave me a warm feeling of pride.
`Arti sir,` I replied. `Sometimes Art but my parents call me Arti.`
He seemed to consider this for a while then looked at his watch.
`Art it is then,` he said with an air of finality. `I’ve got a little job for you Art. How would
you like to be on television?`
We drove through the drizzle in a big black car with soft, leather seats, I think it was a
Vauxhall. Are they big cars? I made a mental note to learn what different cars look like, as
an aid in social situations with my new colleagues.
There were two other police cars in front of us and one behind. The chief superintendent
didn’t speak for some time and the closer we got to our destination the more his air of brisk
authority seemed to be ebbing away. I just stared out of the window, not entirely sure of
`We’ve had a big drive for recruits from the ethnic minorities,` he said out of the blue. `But
they haven’t exactly been queueing around the block.`
I didn’t know whether I was expected to reply or not. `Yes sir,` was all I could manage.
After another long pause he said: `When I talk to the TV people, just stand where the
cameras can see you and keep still.`
It fleetingly crossed my mind that the presence on camera of an officer from a minority
background might be for purposes of public relations – a thought immediately dismissed as
cynical and unworthy.
`Not my idea Constable, directive from above,` said the chief superintendent, embarrassed.
A metal sign, criss-crossed with what looked worrying like bullet holes, welcomed us to
the English Fields Estate. The Chaucer was the smallest and most infamous of the four
estates which make up the notorious English Fields – named after the late Sir Jack English,
disgraced chairman of the local football club. My interest in the social and economic
background to criminal behaviour had inevitably drawn me to study what one tabloid
newspaper had called `the worst estate in Britain`, and I had long anticipated the encounter.
Now that I was here the reports of anarchic lawlessness seemed fanciful in the shadow of
the bleak and dismal towers.
The ground floor flats of the six identical high rise blocks, off white with a wide red stripe
running down the narrower sides, all had thick wire mesh covering their windows and steel
reinforced doors. The municipal dustcarts seldom called there and rubbish was stacked in
huge piles on the almost deserted streets. I gazed out of the windows in fascination but my
professional interest was misinterpreted by the chief superintendent.
`What did you expect Constable, sun-dappled olive groves?` he said with a grim smile, and
lifted his cap to wipe his brow with a perfectly ironed handkerchief.
We turned a corner and pulled into the car park of Miller House. Two large television
outside broadcast vans were parked there with satellite dishes and aerials sticking out of the
top. A small crowd of mostly male, mostly Asian youths stood huddled against the cold
and damp looking restless, their only point of interest being the activities of the television
There was a little more response as the police cars drew up, some desultory cat calls as the
officers got out of the lead cars. As my familiarity with urban street argot was rather
rudimentary, the specific words sounded strangely alien though the sentiment behind them
The chief superintendent didn’t look at all well but took a deep breath and got out of the
car. His age and uniform marked him out as being in charge and the volume increased a
little, the youths vying with each other to find novel terms of abuse.
I followed him out of the other side of the car and as I walked round to the front, for a few
seconds, it seemed as though someone had turned the sound off. The crowd stared at me
and I began to think that I had some magical calming effect. Perhaps they felt an empathy
with me, perhaps…suddenly a roar went up. Hard, sharp sounds like broken glass were
hurled at me. I couldn’t make out words, just Ks, Fs, SHs. I looked around expecting to see
the object of their hatred but there was no-one there. Just me.
In all my life I had never, to my knowledge, been hated. I had never given anyone cause.
Our neighbours, my classmates at school, my father’s patients – we got on fine with
anyone who was like us, and they were just like us. There was perhaps a little jealousy over
my academic achievements, occasional feelings of `separateness` but not this. Nothing like
I must have just stopped and stared at them, transfixed. Bewildered to a point of paralysis.
A sergeant I later discovered was called Tom Petty, the same as a singer, apparently,
`Come on mate, chief’s calling you,` he said.
I looked at him and realised that I had heard my name being called, twice I thought.
I followed Sergeant Petty to an area next to the television vans, one of which was open at
the back revealing walls of silvery-grey equipment. Instead of the white-coated technicians
I expected to see there was solitary young man in jeans and a floppy hat.
The immaculately uniformed chief superintendent stood with military bearing while being
given contradictory instructions by reporters from rival television companies. One of them,
a young woman with a slight northern accent, Newcastle perhaps, seemed to have gained
the upper hand and had positioned the chief superintendent with one of the tower blocks as
a backdrop. He looked around and, with a dorsal-like flapping motion of his hand, moved
me to a position behind him and a little to one side.
`After another night of sporadic violence here on Tenbridge’s notorious Chaucer estate,
locals are once again afraid to venture out of doors. The estate is strewn with the wreckage
of burnt-out cars and gangs of Asian youths are said to have created a virtual no-go area
with threats and intimidation. I’m here with the head of the local area’s police, Chief
Superintendent John Stent. Chief Superintendent, what’s your response to claims made by
local youths that your men are responsible for this trouble with their heavy-handed and
racially divisive approach to policing on this estate?`
The chief superintendent looked as though he would rather be back earning one of his
commendations – tackling a crazed gunman would be preferable to answering this young
woman’s questions. The cloud-filtered light was a more brutal opponent than any he had
faced in the ring and he looked old and tired.
`The men and women of the Tenbridge Police force, every single one of them, have
behaved with professionalism at all times, often in the face of considerable provocation.
The reporter – obviously from the regrettably popular, adversarial school of journalism –
was not to be satisfied with such a stock response:
`Other forces have instigated policies to improve relations with members of local ethnic
minorities,` she said. I thought I detected a slight movement of the cameras towards me.
`Such as specially trained Community Specific Liaison Officers – you don’t seem to have
bothered Chief Superintendent.`
`We are currently implementing just such an initiative,` he replied. `But the problems on
this estate are not racial, they are criminal. Gangs of young hooligans are using race as a
smokescreen to cover up threats, intimidation and vandalism.`
The reporter seemed to visibly relax: this would not be an interview to tax her skills. The
chief superintendent’s precise, considered way of speaking which earlier, behind his big,
oak desk I had found reassuring, avuncular, now seemed anachronistic in this run-down
tinderbox of an estate.
`A report due out later this week is expected to describe your force as being out of touch
with the needs of the local Pakistani and Bangladeshi community.`
She was about to continue when the chief superintendent interrupted in an attempt to be
forceful and commanding. A well-timed shot of the reporter cleverly made the interjection
appear rude and petulant instead.
`If the report isn’t out till the end of the week, your suggestions as to its contents must be
pure conjecture. I’d rather wait to see what it actually says before making any comments.
As for the Tenbridge Police’s relationship with local people, we provide a equal service for
all but are justifiably proud of our strong links with the all the various groups within the
Again I thought I saw the cameras move slightly in my direction but they were merely
swinging round so the journalist could dismissively finish her report.
As soon as the interview was over the chief superintendent, now surplus to requirements,
retired to sit in his car, punchdrunk and forlorn.
Sergeant Petty drove me back to the station and though a man of few words, they were, on
the whole, illuminating if not particularly enlightened.
`Stent’s a bit of a dinosaur,` he said. `The men like him well enough but he still thinks
we’re in Dock Green. Some of the new boys, the ones coming up now, they know a bit
about presentation, not much else mind.`
`I was interested in the idea of Community Specific Liaison Officers.` I said. `I’ve read
about similar initiatives in other racially divided areas. How are they being implemented
The sergeant gave me a look which I found difficult to interpret.
`Are you serious?`
`Sorry?` was my confused reply.
He continued driving for a few minutes in silence.
`There’s no Community whatever Officers. Stent had probably never even heard of them
but he had to say something.`
`But what about the racial tension on the estate?` I asked. His reply demonstrated a jaded
view of humanity which I was to become all too familiar with from my other colleagues.
`There’s always rough areas and there’s always trouble. They’re the places where people
are put who other people don’t want to live near. Including me.
`Now and then it all bubbles up a bit but no-one cares ‘cause we keep a lid on it. The only
reason they send some stroppy cow down from the TV is that the Pakis are involved. No
offence meant, but we’re all used to you lot keeping your noses clean.`
Ron Box seemed to have made friends quickly at the station. As I entered the canteen he
was sitting at a table with five others, two women and three men who were all laughing at
one of his amusing anecdotes.
I made a quick mental note of their relative positions, clothing and any other recognisable
visual cues – observational skills being an area of police work which, despite a rigourous,
self-imposed practice regime, still trailed badly behind my other accomplishments.
The table they sat at was positioned near the counter so I couldn’t really avoid them. Not
that I had any desire to of course but, as a room-mate at university told me as he moved out
– my natural temperament is not `group-oriented`.
Ron saw me and said: `Here he is, the TV star.`
A young civilian called Paula, a control room operator with shiny skin joined in.
`Yeah, how did you do that? I’ve been trying to get on TV for ages, you’ve only been here
I started to reply but another constable, Paul Feltz, known as `shiner`, said: `I hear you’re
our new link with the local community.`
`Well,` I replied. `I haven’t been given any special job or anything, I was just there and…`
`But you must have some sort of like, understanding of them mustn’t you? I mean where
are you from?`
`Guildford` I replied and they seemed to think I had made a deliberate joke.
Paula slurped her tea noisily.
`Ron says you asked to come here – on purpose. I mean Ron was born here but you could
have gone somewhere nice.`
I was pleased to be able to explain the motivation behind my request as it was arrived at
only after careful research.
`I wanted to go somewhere I felt I could be of the greatest help to the local community,` I
explained. `Where the people have the most need and where, I hope, my particular skills
can be best utilised.`
This elicited some raised eyebrows which I took to be an expression of support and, I like
to think, admiration.
`I was also impressed by Chief Superintendent Stent’s service record and his interpersonal
They smiled at each other in agreement and recognition and I went to the counter for my
When I returned with my tray: shepherds pie, ice cream and a nice cup of tea, they had
gone back to work.
After lunch the weather improved a little. The weak sun glistening on the slick roofs failed
to penetrate the long windows of the operations room and the strip lighting had to be turned
on as we entered.
We had gathered for a briefing on the new Community Policing Programme given by
Inspector Bowman, who had been on a course. The inspector was a glum looking sort of
man, plump and jowly with sparse, colourless hair.
I felt that some of my colleagues, especially those more experienced officers who should,
perhaps, have known better, treated both the new initiative and the inspector with less
respect than they merited.
Their main objections concerned the practicality of some areas of the programme, but I felt
it contained some genuinely insightful ideas and pointed out that many of these initiatives
had been used successfully in other countries as described, for example, by Stoughton and
Taft in their book – New Directions: Policing in Detroit.
My comment was greeted with silence, broken by a sergeant who’s name I didn’t know and
who was, I believe, a member of the interview team.
`But we’re not in Detroit are we?` he said. `And besides they have the luxury of being able
to shoot people.`
Everyone laughed at this flippant remark and I was about to give them some interesting
statistics on the numbers of police firearm incidents in the United States when the inspector
cut me off.
`Listen, listen everybody, I know some of this might seem a bit daft,` he said to murmers of
agreement. `But the feeling is that we have to cover ourselves in case things get out of
hand. This initiative is very transparent, everyone can see what we are doing and if it all
goes up no-one can point the finger at us. Now you’ve all got the new booklet PJ19. Read
it, do what it says and we’re covered. Now, back to work and thanks all.`
Such a negative and defeatist attitude fell sadly short of my expectations and I determined
to take upon myself the task of enthusing and motivating my colleagues.
Everybody filed out of the room except a small group who stood talking to the inspector.
He seemed a popular figure – due, I later discovered, to an overly tolerant management
style and out of sympathy for having a mysteriously afflicted wife – but I couldn’t help
being disappointed at his unkempt appearance. I am always meticulous in my personal
presentation: the last thing I do before going to bed is to iron my uniform, clean shirt, socks
and underpants. A slovenly appearance, I believe, does not command respect.
I was just leaving the room when he called me over - the others drifted away.
`Mehta isn’t it.`
`Yes sir, Arti…Art Mehta.`
`Come with me Art,` he said already heading towards the door. Compliantly I trailed after
him along the corridor, down two flights of stairs and out into the car park. My curiosity as
to the significance of our location was satisfied when he fished a battered tin out of his
pocket from which he extracted a very thin, hand rolled cigarette. As a chain smoker the
inspector had taken to the station’s `no smoking` policy with bad grace and the site of him
fuming – in both senses of the word – on the steps of the car park was to become a
`I’ve been looking forward to meeting you Constable Mehta,` he said `As you can imagine
people with your qualifications are something of a rarity in the force. I suppose you must
be quite well read, quite knowledgeable?`
A strange thing to ask, I thought, but my reply was honest and unencumbered by a facade
of false modesty.
`Indeed I am sir.`
His response to this was not what I expected and left me momentarily nonplussed.
`What’s the capital of Surinam?`
`Capital of Surinam lad. We got asked it in the semi-finals of the inter-force quiz last year.
Do you know it or not?`
I gathered my thoughts and replied obediently.
The merest glimmer of a smile flickered across his face.
`Who was the German chemist who discovered nuclear fission.`
The smile returned and this time didn’t disappear. He took a little more time over the next
`What is the unit of currency in Ethiopia?`
`B.I. double R.,` I replied.
A huge and triumphant grin now creased his face.
`Who had a number one UK hit in 1988 with the song `I owe you nothing`.`
It was no use even pretending I knew the answer to this and I had to reluctantly admit that
one pop song sounded the same as another to me. He looked initially a little crestfallen but
quickly regained his previous cheerfulness.
`No matter lad, the others know all about that sort of thing – pop and sport, but ask them
anything else and they’re bloody useless.`
`Do I take it that you didn’t win then sir?` I asked.
The painful memory of the defeat quickly extinguished his smile.
`No we didn’t,` he said bitterly, eking a final draw from the last quarter inch of his
cigarette. `Beaten in the semis by a bunch of know-alls from Blackpool of all places. And
then, as if that wasn’t bad enough, who do you think won?`
Luckily the question was rhetorical and answered immediately.
`Our own bloody CID that’s who and they’ve been rubbing it in ever since.`
The recollection was too much for the inspector who gazed despairingly at the ground, his
head shaking slowly from side to side. Suddenly he looked up and placed his hands firmly
on my shoulders.
`But that’s not going to happen this year is it Constable? Not with you on the team.`
I had never been in a quiz before, having been mysteriously overlooked for `University
Challenge` but was more than happy to play a full and active role in the social life of the
`It would be a pleasure sir.`
`I can see we’re going to get on famously lad,` he said and satisfied with his new recruit,
changed the subject.
`Has anyone made any, er comments.`
He looked away, into the distance.
`Of a racial nature, little jokes, anything like that?`
`Not at all sir. Everyone’s been very professional.` I replied.
He seemed relieved and said: `Good, good, but if they do, we’d want to nip it in the bud, so
you’ll be sure to tell me straight away won’t you?`
`Yes sir,` I replied, `But I really don’t think you need worry about that, not in Tenbridge.`
Our duties for the remainder of the afternoon were assigned to us in the support office
where the other new recruits were paired up with more experienced officers. When my
name was called out, however, the situation was somewhat different.
`Ah yes. Mehta,` said the sergeant-in-charge, a big red-faced man called Mason. The others
working in the office – two constables and two civilians – turned in our direction along
with one or two others slow to take up their duties.
`I thought someone of your calibre should be given a special assignment.`
It was gratifying to have the opportunity to demonstrate initiative so early in the job but I
had to be careful not to appear overly keen.
`Thank you sir. I’ll do my best.`
`Good, that’s what I like to hear. There’s no point having the advantage of a college
education if you don’t get to use it is there?`
This seemed to be addressed not to me but to the others in the room who all voiced their
`What I’d like you to do, and this won’t be easy, is to go out and get us something we’re in
desperate need of.`
The silence in the room indicated to me the importance of the request.
`What we need Constable, is barber’s pole paint.`
`Barber’s pole paint, sir?`
`That’s right Constable, if you can bring back a tin of barber’s pole paint by five o’clock
this evening we’ll know we’ve got someone pretty special on the team.`
This was greeted with such a unanimous show of agreement that I silently vowed not to let
As I walked down the corridor – already planning how to set about the quest – someone
must have cracked a particularly amusing joke back in the support office.
It was a considerable challenge. There were no paint manufacturers, large of small, in this
country called `Barber’s pole` and none had a product or colour of that name. None of the
people I spoke to had heard of it and many found the name unaccountably funny.
I must admit to not being completely confident about the paint I eventually tracked down.
What, I wondered, would a British police station want with a marine rustproofing treatment
made by an obscure company in Westphalia? But I nevertheless managed to have a twenty
litre can specially delivered by courier from a boat chandlers in Plymouth.
My arrival with the tin at a quarter to five was not greeted with the unalloyed joy I had
earlier been led to expect. The argument about the German translation of `Friseur pfotsen`
– which was only settled when someone found a German-English dictionary – was
overshadowed by the question of who should pay for the tin and the courier. In the end
there was a whip-round to which I was happy to contribute.
I could only hope that my successful completion of this task would lead to me being trusted
with other special assignments.
I never had to work hard in order to to pass examinations as I am blessed, or cursed, with
eidetic memory – photographic memory as it is commonly known. Anything I see or read I
remember: Migratory flightpaths (from a brief membership of the junior branch of the
Royal Society for the Protection of Birds), football ground capacities (from a very brief
pretence at interest in order to try to get in with some boys at school). But most of all,
police work: crime figures, forensics, legislature. When I was young some people from the
television asked my parents if they could do a programme about me. I pleaded with them
to let me do it but they were quite protective and so my anonymity remained intact.
My memory ensured that at school and then at university I had time to do a lot of thinking.
Thoughts were, if you like, my craft, and Oxford the perfect workshop. Things are, sadly,
very different in the modern police force.
One of the most disconcerting aspects of the job for me has been that you always have to
be seen to be doing something. If you sit at your desk or your computer and you’re not
writing, typing or telephoning you’re given something to do.
Although I have never been taken with sport and indeed believe I only just scraped through
the police medical, my approach to thinking is that it is brain exercise, like weight lifting.
You flex different parts of your brain, pump thought, and each time you think, the thoughts
you can deal with are just that bit heavier than before.
When I first encountered the problem: `Come on lad, no time to daydream,` `what’s wrong,
not enough to do?` Or people just waving their hand in front of my face, I would go off to
the toilet, sit there and think for a while.
This, however, caused it’s own difficulties. Sometimes, after being engrossed in a
particularly knotty problem I would return to ribald remarks about the inefficient workings
of my bowels.
So I bought a small notebook into which I would jot any fleeting idea that came into my
mind and started to do most of my serious thinking at home.
When I came to decipher my jottings I found most of them to be of little value, but others –
others could be the start of something really quite significant.
The main problem I was wrestling with at this time was, of course, the Jemmett case. It had
been on the national news, mentioned in Parliament and even reported abroad so I was not
alone in pondering it.
The difficulties were mainly legal ones and even those areas concerned with policing:
evidence gathering and procedure, were CID matters rather than our own. We were
however, involved in a peripheral manner. Inspector Bowman had called a meeting and
addressed us in his usual state of dishevelment, his stomach straining to escape his shirt.
`It appears gentlemen, oh, and lady! Sorry Pam.`
Sergeant Collins, a single mother of two young children acknowledged the apology.
`That the `terrible twins,` Daniel and Reginald Chubb, have requested our services in
ensuring their protection.`
This news was greeted with moans of disapproval from the small gathering, just eight of
us, the others being on patrol, other shifts or off sick.
There had been a lot of talk at the station about the Chubb twins, much of it in the form of
suggestions of changes to the law to allow them both to be tried. All of these ideas had
significant flaws which I felt compelled to enumerate – though not trained in law, I had at
least read all the standard texts. One or two officers even talked about fabricating evidence
which, although said in jest, I still felt obliged to inform them was below the standard
expected of us. The inspector continued:
`Luckily CID aren’t going to release the CCTV footage to the media or the Chubbs really
would be in trouble. We haven’t got enough bodies to give them personal protection as it
is, what with half the force down with flu, and we’ve informed them of that, but we have to
cover ourselves. We don’t want them complaining or worse still, being attacked.`
`No, we wouldn’t want that, would we?`
This was said by Sergeant Trevor Wills who had been my patrol partner for the first two-
and-a-half weeks at the station. We hadn’t really got on.
Inspector Bowman continued:
`OK, I don’t like it any more than you do but we have to tread very carefully with this one.
When CID finally get the Chubbs to court,` more moans and someone said `if`. `As I said,
when CID get them to court their lawyers will use every trick in the book to try to get them
off, so we play strictly by the rules. If the Chubbs want protection, they get protection. Is
Amid reluctant murmurs of agreement we all drifted off to our various duties, mine being
general squad car patrol with my new partner, Tom Petty – a considerable improvement
over Sergeant Wills and indirectly the route to my involvement with the twins.
Tom Petty was quiet and we got on well as he found report-writing fatiguing and
appreciated my literacy skills. Often he’d go home and leave me behind to write his reports
and as my reputation spread so others asked me to do the same for them. Naturally I was
pleased to be able to help.
My relationship with Sergeant Wills had been, sadly, a little less amicable. From the start I
had found his attitude unprofessional: pulling into side streets for a cigarette, inappropriate
use of the siren, letting people off so as not to have to file a report. And he seemed
incapable of completing a sentence without swearing. In the end it got so bad that he asked
to be moved.
Most of our time had been spent in the squad car maintaining an uneasy truce on the estate.
We were to provide a visible presence around a parade of shops which suffered, along with
their owners, a good deal of damage.
Two of the shops were boarded up, not because of vandalism but through trade lost to the
Amica Centre – a huge, enclosed shopping mall near to the estate on the Woolpass Road.
While patrolling with Sergeant Wills, there were, luckily, no major incidents. We would
sometimes have to deal with stray packs of feral youths, some of whom were openly
smoking marijuana. In my dealings with them I was always strict but courteous and treated
them with dignity and professionalism, which, I feel, was appreciated if not reciprocated.
Though the sergeant had many traits I considered less than commendable in a police officer
he did have an encyclopaedic knowledge of what he called `rogues` – the local felons and
all their misdemenours. As we drove around our patch he would point someone out and say
`going equipped` or `offensive weapon`, or on one occasion about an elderly lady:
`dangerous dog.` Unfortunately this was of more academic than professional interest to
I began to notice an unusually large number of `burglaries` – all young men – in the
vicinity of the parade’s kebab shop. I considered this fact to be significant and suggested to
Sergeant Wills that we investigate the matter. As the sergeant was of the opinion that we
should only do work specifically assigned to us, and then only when it was unavoidable, I
had to investigate the matter whilst off-duty.
My lunch break the following day was spent searching through the computer records for
young local males convicted of burglary and I found that a number of those pointed out to
me by the sergeant appeared in our files.
The owner of the kebab shop, Yiannis Papas, had no convictions and did not appear in our
database, so further investigations had to be carried out in my own time.
The Council records showed that he had recently moved into the area – his company being
registered in North London where his brother ran another shop. His house, in one of
Tenbridge’s more exclusive outlying suburbs, Grangetown, was unusually large for the
owner of a small fast food outlet and was in an area, along with Ibbottsham and the newly
redeveloped docks, that had seen a sharp increase in property crimes.
The name Yiannis Papas appeared only once in the central library’s microfiche newspaper
records as victor in a successful prosecution of the Metropolitan Police for harassment after
his premises had been searched in vain on three occasions.
I was more successful in convincing my new partner, Sergeant Petty, of the credibility of
my concerns, but this was probably as a reaction to an unpleasant food poisoning incident
he had recently suffered whilst holidaying in Corfu.
We were conscious that there would be resistance to to the granting of a warrant to search
Mr Papas’s property without very strong proof of a crime having been committed and so
began looking for excuses to enter the shop.
Just such an opportunity arrived one afternoon, just after lunch, when the station received a
message from an anonymous male caller about a disturbance at the shop. When we arrived
Mr Papas was being confronted by a group of men and women, seven in all, the flotsam
and jetsam of the distastefully named Fawcett Inn, the estate’s one remaining public house,.
The crowd had surrounded the shopkeeper and everyone was shouting and swearing. The
noise was compounded by the barking and snarling of a large Alsation dog restrained from
scrambling over the counter by being tethered to a ring on the wall.
`What seems to be the problem here?` I asked to little effect.
`Excuse me,` I said a little louder. `Would someone like to tell me what’s going on?`
Again there was no response. I was pleased to have an excuse to go and get Sergeant Petty
from the squad car. We returned to the shop and I went in while the sergeant stood in the
I tried again: `Could you please be quiet and tell me what the problem is.`
The volume remained at the same level but a middle aged woman in a coat made from an
indeterminate wild animal turned toward me. She appeared to be about to say something
when she glanced over my shoulder and stopped. She tapped a man on the shoulder who
stopped shouting and swivelled round, one by one the others followed. The dog quietened
to a frustrated whine.
`Hello Sergeant Petty.`
He was the sort of person that witnesses find hard to describe. Everything about him was
average. Average height, average build, no real hair colour, nothing out of the ordinary at
all, though I did notice his nails were bitten almost to nothing. His name was Lewisham.
According to our records, and there were a lot of them, his first name was Clive, though
few people seemed aware of this. He was thought to control a number of minor criminals
on the estate. Sergeant Petty nodded almost imperceptibly but didn’t reply.
Lewisham’s most recent arrest was for intimidation and damage to the property of a local
man who claimed afterwards to have taken a baseball bat to his own flat before falling
down the stairs. Lewisham was released without charge.
`Right, thank you,` I said. `Now would someone please tell me what the problem is.`
No-one appeared willing to answer so I turned to the middle-aged woman.
`Madam, would you like to explain to me what’s happened here,` I said. She looked at the
others as though for telepathic instructions then towards the sergeant.
`I’ll talk to the organ grinder, not the monkey, Gunga Din.`
This remark seemed to please her tremendously and cause great amusement to the
assembled throng. I, of course, took it in the lighthearted spirit in which I'm sure it was
intended. Nevertheless I felt it necessary to reassert my authority.
`My name is Constable Mehta madam. I think you’re getting me confused with a character
from a verse by the Victorian poet and novelist Rudyard Kipling, also used as the title of an
1939 film starring Cary Grant and Douglas Fairbanks Junior. In the poem, Gunga Din was
a bhisti, a type of lowly servant attached to the British Army in colonial India. I am not a
lowly servant madam. I am a member of her Majesty's Constabulary and I’d like you to tell
me what’s going on.`
This seemed to baffle them into quiescence. A small, prematurely bald young man at the
back said: `I need a wee,` and stumbled towards the door. The sergeant moved aside and
`He’s a thief,` said Lewisham in a tone that suggested that he'd already told me but I hadn't
paid attention. `He overcharged us.`
The shopkeeper had a grubby white coat onto the pocket of which he’d written in biro,
`STAVROS`, as no-one, it seemed, would call him anything else.
`Is this true?` I asked.
`No, they’re liars, they’re all drunken liars.`
This started them all off again though by now even the dog seemed more subdued, or his
throat was hoarse. I held up my hand and turned to the four that remained, two more having
slunk off unnoticed.
`Well here we have a dichotomy. You say one thing and Mr, er, Stavros here says another.
Do you have any evidence to support your allegations?`
Mrs furcoat spoke up, though less stridently than before.
`He always does it, tries it on, thinks we’re all too pissed to notice but I know what I gave
‘im. I gave him a tenner and he gave me change of a fiver.`
Behind the counter, coloured plastic strips hung down over the doorway to the back room.
`Can we go through?` I said to Mr Papas
`Go through? Why?` he said.
`It would be better to discuss the matter in private if that’s all right.`
He quickly glanced into the room.
`It’s a bit of a mess in there I’m afraid. Can’t we talk out here?`
I took a step forward and parted the curtains. Mr Papas stepped forward too, obviously
nervous that I might go in.
`It really would be better if we could have a little more privacy to discuss the matter,` I
said, peering through the curtains.
The back room, lit by a single, bare lightbulb was, in contrast to the shop, cramped and
cluttered. Amongst numerous other things were a filing cabinet, two chairs, a fridge and an
old computer. In the corner, resting against a pile of old blankets and next to the dog
basket, was one of the large skewers of lamb from which slices would be used to make
Only three customers remained now, Lewisham, Mrs Furcoat and a man who looked like
an older version of Lewisham, his father I imagined. The dog was by now asleep. Mr Papas
had grudgingly come to a decision.
`Look,` he turned and spoke ingratiatingly to the three remaining customers. `I’m just
trying to make a living here but it’s possible I made an honest mistake. For tonight only, in
the spirit of communal harmony, I’d like to offer you all kebabs on the house.`
He reluctantly went over to the till.
Lewisham, alone, had eaten his kebab. Lewisham the elder, having taken one bite, had left
the rest on the counter and Mrs Furcoat hadn’t touched hers, but they accepted the money
greedily and shuffled out of the shop. I called good night after them and believe that at least
one of them replied.
Mr Papas, relieved that the matter had been settled amicably, ushered us impatiently out of
the shop with an ostentatious display of gratitude.
`What was that all about?` said Sergeant Petty when we were safely back in the squad car.
`I have a strong suspicion there’s something in the back room he doesn’t want us to see,` I
`Well it won’t be there by the time we get a warrant. Never mind, better luck next time,` he
said and switched the engine on.
`What about environmental health?` I said and explained about the meat in the back room.
`We’re able to accompany environmental health officers if we consider them to be at risk.
And if we happen to find anything else of interest while we’re in there…`
It was unnecessary to explain any further as, with the Greek salmonella incident fresh in his
mind, the sergeant, circuiting the usual bureaucracy, contacted a friend at the council.
By the time we entered the shop with two environmental health officers, Mr Papas had
telephoned one of his assistants who was loading up a car round the back.
After the arrest, as we were driving Mr Papas to the station we passed Lewisham who gave
me an almost imperceptible nod. We never did discover who the telephone call was from.
The find in the end was not huge: a miniature television and some car radios, but a search
of Mr Papas’s home found fatal signs of greed. Rather than passing on all the property as
any good receiver must, he had retained a few special pieces: a carriage clock, a
watercolour and an ornamental garden fountain all of which he claimed never to have seen
The following day I was called into Inspector Bowman’s office which, as if a reflection of
its occupant, was large, cluttered and messy. I like my own living and working
environments to be neat and orderly and I had to restrain myself from tidying.
It appeared that news of the kebab shop incident had circulated around the station and
while it involved no great feats of bravery or intellectual prowess, it nevertheless made a
considerable improvement to our clear-up rate – a fact that was considered politically
`Sergeant Petty was impressed with the way you handled a difficult situation Constable. He
feels that you’re ready for an assignment without him, in fact he’s personally requested it.`
This came as something of a relief as I had worried that my working relationship with the
sergeant was sometimes becoming a little strained. The inspector smiled and nodded.
`You seem to have kept your head down Mehta, got on with your work. Nose to the
grindstone, that’s what I like.`
The inspector’s manner reminded my of my father’s sometimes rather forced effusiveness.
In his case it was in an unnecessary attempt at prising a little more academic effort out of
me. I wondered what the inspector’s motives were.
`I try my best sir. I find the job very rewarding,` I replied trying to assume the same spirit.
`You must do Constable, the amount of overtime you put in. We’ve got married men with
children and mortgages who do less than you.`
This appeared rhetorical so I just smiled but the truth was that I did enjoy the job. Of
course I did have a busy and varied life outside work. I enjoyed reading and had built up a
sizeable library: criminal psychology, legislature, forensic pathology. I also had a computer
and found the internet to be a useful resource for research as long as you appreciated that
information of a criminological nature could have a somewhat dubious provenance. I had
even briefly joined some chatrooms on law enforcement but although one or two people
approached the subject with a degree of intellectual rigour, the majority had rather alarming
views on the subject.
`I’ll come straight to the point Constable,` said the inspector. `Although you haven’t been
here long I’d like you to do a little job that should, technically go to a more experienced
`Thank you sir, I’d be honoured to…`
`Hang on a minute Constable, you don’t know what it is yet.`
The inspector appeared to be trying to find the right words.
`You are aware, I’m sure, that the Chubb twins have asked for our protection and this has
caused a degree of…conflict.`
I was indeed aware of this as it had been the subject of much ill-targeted humour amongst
my colleagues. Two officers – sergeants with much experience and, surprisingly
considering the outcome, some personnel training – had been asked to give individual
protection to the twins. They were now the subject of an official complaint for `abusive and
`The Chubbs, despite having been filmed committing a murder,` continued the inspector.
`Are not currently under arrest. According to CID, evidence is being gathered against them
and very soon one, or both of them will be charged, but in the meantime we have to protect
This I knew to be the case: their windows had been smashed, paint daubed on their front
door and each night crowds of shiftless youths would gather below their flat and hurl abuse
at them until bored, they drifted off.
`What would you like me to do Sir?` I asked, though the answer was becoming evident.
`Nothing much, just make yourself visible,` was the inspector’s cryptic reply. `I’ve asked
the duty officers to route anything involving the Chubbs your way. Patrol the area,
introduce yourself to the twins, get to know them. They’re a bit weird so they might open
up to you' he said enigmatically. 'You never know, they may just let their guard down.`
Of course I was more than happy to do anything within my powers to help but, reading
between the lines, it appeared that I was being asked to try to get a confession out of one of
the twins. This suggested to me that the CID case was not as advanced as the inspector, or
the press releases, had suggested. Though I was in no position to make such a request, I
decided to ask for something in return:
`Of course sir, I’d be more than happy to accept any duties you see fit to ask me to carry
out. I realise that sometimes we have to interpret the regulations with a degree of…
`Exactly Constable, I couldn’t have put it better myself,` said the inspector and, seeming
satisfied with the outcome, moved towards the door. I, however, stayed where I was.
`I was wondering though,` I said.
He stopped and, realising that I hadn’t followed, stepped back to his desk.
`Whether it might be possible to be equally flexible with another rule.`
He looked at me with eyes narrowed.
`We like to accommodate our officer’s needs wherever possible Constable. What rule have
you in mind?`
I had gone too far to back out now so I pressed ahead with some trepidation.
`I was wondering if I might have a copy of the CID report on the Jemmett case.`
I don’t know what he had expected me to ask for: a space in the car park, match duties at
Tenbridge FC. It was obviously not this.
`Well I…` he began.
`I’ve been rather preoccupied with the case sir. If it plays on my mind too much I might
start forgetting things…capital cities, classical mythology, that sort of thing. I wouldn’t be
of much use in a quiz. The report could help but if you’d rather I didn’t have a copy.`
`No no.` He said, a little too quickly to fit his air of feigned nonchalance. `I can’t see it
being a problem, I’ll get something sorted for the end of your shift.`
`Oh and a copy of the video.` I added.
He moved toward the door and held it open for me and this time I followed. As I was
walking out of the room the inspector threw a parting question at me:
Who invented snooker?` He asked
`Colonel Sir Neville Chamberlain.` I replied and the door slid closed.
What a disgrace!.
I was willing to overlook the odd procedural anomaly, the occasional short cut, but the
mistakes, oversights and inconsistencies in the CID report on the Jemmett case were really
What little evidence there was on the murder had been mislaid, tampered with or
contaminated. So convinced were CID of their instantly formed assumptions that even the
most basic rules of procedure had been flouted. It wasn’t until the Chubbs’ solicitor had got
his clients sent home, ten days after the crime took place, that CID belatedly started to
carry out their duties properly, by which time literally millions of people had trampled over
the crime scene! No-one except the twins had been interviewed, the initial post-mortem
was of a most perfunctory manner and information vital to subsequent interrogations had
been given to the press.
As if this wasn’t bad enough there was the video.
As I don’t possess a television I had to return to the station to watch the tape. Eleven
o’clock in the evening was the most convenient time as my fellow officers were busy
dealing with alcohol related incidents and so I was able to view the video five times before
I heard someone returning.
Across the bottom of the screen was the date and time: 16/5 – 23:47. What the footage
showed, from a considerable height and distance, was a small figure facing towards the
camera with light-coloured hair and dark clothing including, probably, trousers. A second
figure, fat, almost bald and dressed in a bright yellow suit, presumably a tracksuit,
approached the smaller figure, facing away from the camera. They stood about six feet
apart for five seconds. The fat figure then approached the small figure, who didn’t move
away, raised it’s right arm and struck the small figure once. The small figure fell to the
ground and the fat figure bent over the prone body. The fat figure then stood up, put
something into the right hand pocket of the tracksuit trousers and walked forward, away
from the camera.
This is what CID saw when they attended the crime scene and, it appears, was all the
evidence they felt was required.
Carly’s body was spotted by some youths at half past midnight and an ambulance arrived at
twelve fifty-five a.m. The hospital could find no identification on her and it was not until
five past eleven on the morning after the attack that her parents reported her missing. The
following day a hospital spokesman described her condition as stable and that she was
responding well to treatment. Despite this she failed to emerge from her coma and died on
the evening of the eighteenth with just her mother at her bedside.
Hidden among the report’s numerous inaccuracies, suppositions and irrelevancies were two
pieces of evidence I felt to be of particular interest. Firstly it appeared that the victim had
known the Chubb twins since she was a young girl and had often visited them at their flat.
The second item of information, discovered during the hurried second pathology
examination was that the victim had suffered a history of sexual abuse. These facts had,
sensibly I felt, been kept confidential. Had they been released to the media, the Chubb
twins would have required more than the protection of a solitary constable.
I wrestled with the contents of the report throughout the night, trying to separate
information from insinuation, intelligence from inference.
First I re-wrote the documents in coherent and intelligible English leaving in only the parts
that I knew to be factually correct. Anything else I put into a separate file entitled: `To be
investigated`. Then I compiled a chart, with as much personal detail as was available, of all
the principal characters involved, directly or indirectly, in the case. I then printed off a
large scale map of the crime scene from the internet which I divided into areas of relative
significance and cross-referenced with the other information.
Whilst none of this led me to any great breakthroughs I did a least know as much about the
case as anybody else even if it was at the expense of a night’s sleep. In fact, for the first
time since becoming a police officer I found myself late for work, something of an
embarrassment as I had on more than one occasion pointed out to my colleagues the
importance of good timekeeping.
The main conclusion to which my nocturnal efforts had led me was that I had to familiarise
myself with the crime scene and the main protagonists in the case. Theory, as I had often
read, is no substitute for first-hand experience and as chance would have it the opportunity
for such experience presented itself on my arrival at work.
There had been a disturbance overnight on the estate. Two police officers had been called
to a domestic dispute at a party in Knights House and their attempts at conflict resolution
had eventually led to thirty officers being involved in running battles with stone-throwing
Knights House was where the Chubb twins lived and any disturbance was seen as an, often
literal, smokescreen for vandalism and intimidation against them. In this case their front
door had been kicked off it’s hinges and a number of people had seemingly mistaken their
flat for a public lavatory.
As I arrived, two men were fitting a new door – double thickness with extra-strong hinges
and three locks, while another man sat outside guarding their van. Most of the flats on the
ground floor were unoccupied and the twins shared a flat on the first floor. Outside on the
landing, the sodden heap of the twins’ hall carpet had started to attract flies.
I pushed the door open and walked into the disinfectant-scented hall. The carpet was
missing of course and there was some staining along the bottom of the walls but the narrow
passageway still managed to demonstrate the twins’ particular taste in decor.
Yellow and black floral wallpaper could occasionally be glimpsed behind what I later came
to know as the `collection.` On sideboards, in bookcases, on shelves of all shapes and sizes,
were ornaments. No purpose or structure could be discerned in what appeared to be a
random accumulation of bric-a-brac. Small figures made out of shells, larger figures made
of coconuts, models of shoes, cars, houses, musical instruments, animals of every
conceivable species, paperweights, thimbles and snowstorms: snowstorms depicting scenes
of every natural or man-made landmark from England, France, Spain as well as snowmen,
While I stared, dumbstruck at this bizarre jumble of trinkets a small figure darted across the
other end of the hall.
`Mr Chubb.` I said, following what I assumed to be one of the twins into a room marginally
less cluttered with ornaments than the hall but only so as to leave space for a kitchen sink
and a cooker. Even the fridge could barely be identified beneath it’s thick layer of magnets.
`Mr Chubb, my name is Constable Mehta from Tenbridge Police,` I said holding out my
The short, round man turned from the sink and held up a china mouse in one, soapy, rubber
gloved hand, a scrubbing brush in the other – hardly how I’d pictured the perpetrator of a
fiendishly clever and brutal crime.
`Look what they’ve done. Disgusting, that’s what they are. They have no place in civilised
society,` he said with a slight catch in his voice, then turned back to the ornament-filled
sink and continued to scrub.
He was dressed in a purple suit. Not a track suit but a shell suit – shiny. I knew from the
report that he was sixty two years old but his smooth, rosy skin made him appear younger,
like a middle-aged cherub. His hair had receded from the middle, leaving a halo of grey
around his head. On his feet were slippers in the shape of rabbits. Undaunted, I continued:
`I’m sorry to hear that you’ve suff…`
The little man turned and shrieked:
`Reginald, there’s a man here.`
He had barely finished the sentence when his twin galloped into the room.
I had only previously seen pictures of identical twins in books on psychology and was
unprepared for the uncanny sameness of them. The suit, the shoes, the height and weight
you could understand but the hair, the eyebrows, the colour of the eyes, everything perfect
`Now don’t go upsetting yourself Daniel. He’s not a man, he’s a policeman,` he said in
exactly the same shrill voice as his brother, and scuttled off.
I was by now feeling thoroughly bewildered, like a witness to a bizarre traffic accident, at
once repelled and fascinated. It suddenly felt imperative that I take control of the situation
but I was at a loss as to how to go about it.
A growing pile of ornaments had started to accumulate on the plastic drainer next to the
sink. For want of something better to do I picked up a tea towel and, without speaking,
started to dry them. As I did so there was a slight pause, a momentary freezing of the
action, but just as quickly it resumed and we carried on working in silence.
After a short while I picked up a little model of a robin on a log, the sort of thing you
sometimes see on a Christmas cake.
`Be careful with that one,` Daniel said nervously. `That’ll be worth a bob or two in a few
I held the object up to the kitchen window and made appreciative noises and gestures as if
to judge it’s value at auction.
`You must have paid a considerable amount for all this,` I said indicating the collection
around me. `Was this piece particularly expensive?
Daniel put down the scrubbing brushing and looked at me intently.
`That’s the amazing thing,` he said earnestly. `People just don’t know what they’ve got.
You won’t believe it but people actually throw this stuff away.`
We both shook our heads in disbelief as we stared at the little plastic object, the only sign
of it’s identity a splash of red paint, chipped and worn.
`Are you a collector yourself,` the little man said, almost pleadingly.
`Oh, no, no,` I replied quickly. `Just an interested amateur. I’m afraid I would never be able
to tell the real thing from the worthless rubbish, you must have a special gift.`
He didn’t reply but seemed to be considering something, weighing it up. Eventually he
`We keep the best stuff in the parlour – the treasure.`
I waited for him to ask me if I wanted to see it but I detected that he had already gone too
`I would imagine that only connoisseurs would be allowed a viewing,` I said. `I really don’t
think I would be worthy of such an honour.`
He didn’t reply straight away but again appeared to be in the grip of a difficult dilemma
`Wait here.` he said eventually, and scurried out of the room.
I went to the doorway to try to eavesdrop on any conversation which might ensue between
the two brothers. The talking was too muffled to make out individual words but I could
hear occasional raised voices.
I looked round the kitchen but knew that it would reveal no secrets. A detailed search had
been carried out at the time of the twins’ arrest but had uncovered no evidence of
involvement in the murder, no articles belonging to the girl, no pornography – child or
otherwise. There were a number of fingerprints, both from the victim and from other
children but the flat must have been a fingerprint officer’s worst nightmare, besides which
it was known that Carly had been a frequent visitor.
Eventually a twin, it transpired to be Daniel again, entered the kitchen. He spoke rather
formally but appeared to be choking back tears.
`I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to leave. My brother isn’t feeling very well.`
`I’m very sorry to hear that, Mr Chubb,` I replied. `I hope he feels better soon.`
We walked down the hall made narrow by the exhibits on either side.
`I hope you’ll allow me to come and see you again Daniel,` I said `I’d be very interested in
seeing your other pieces.`
I wrote my home telephone number on one of my cards, gave it to him and turned to go.
`Constable…` He looked at the card. `Mehta. I’ve always admired your people. Very
I assumed he meant the police but he said: `You know. Maharajas and all that. Not like
these around here. Real gentlemen.`
It was not long after my first visit to the twins’ flat that the party took place, the
recollection of which can still elicit from me a wince of pain. I have never been entirely at
ease in social situations and, as people can, I believe, sense these things, they try to spare
me the discomfort by not inviting me. I was, therefore surprised to be approached by a
young constable, Donna Newbury, who I had never before spoken to, as I sat alone in the
canteen, reading. The rather raucous group she was with – Constable Box again – were
giving her vocal support.
I looked up expectantly.
`A bunch of us are going to the Glitz, in town. It’s my birthday. I wondered if you wanted
The Glitz had once been a public house called, among other things, the Sly Old Fox, and in
my short time at the station I had had occasion to attend a number of disputes there. This
was one of many reasons why I would rather not have gone to the party but I had
determined not to get a mistaken reputation as unsociable, as had happened both at school
and at university.
`Thank you,` I replied, `I’d enjoy that.`
`It’s a bit rough, the Glitz, I don’t know whether you’d like it.`
`That’s all right,` I said.
She looked around at the rest of the group who, touchingly, were urging her on.
`It’s really loud, the music,` she said. `And there’s alcohol. Are you allowed to drink
`Yes.` I replied. Did she think I was on medication?
`Oh, OK,` she said. `See you later then.`
When she got back to the table a big roar went up. I must be more popular than I had
imagined! I thought then that perhaps the evening wouldn’t be too unpleasant. I was
The Glitz is in what is now called the Old Town. It is not actually old at all but, with most
of the retail trade having gone to the Amica Centre it has a rather dilapidated air about it,.
The area is generally deserted during the day but far from it at night.
No time had been given so I arrived at nine o’clock. The Glitz, it transpired, is the sort of
establishment people would go to after the public houses had closed and I therefore sat
alone for two and a half hours drinking fruit juice. My avoidance of alcohol is due not just
to having witnessed it’s debilitating effects but also to my somewhat delicate constitution.
The long wait was made all the less bearable by the incessant boom, boom, boom of the
current hit parade fare.
When, eventually, the others arrived they comprised quite a large group. Ron Box was
there as were Trevor Wills and Tom Petty. Most of the others I didn’t know personally,
having merely seen them in various capacities at the station but I knew that some of them
were in CID.
They all seemed very pleased to see me and insisted on keeping me supplied with sweet,
tangy drinks in a bewildering variety of colours which they told me were fruit juice. My
recollections of the remainder of the evening are a little hazy.
I remember being uncustomarily emboldened to speak to Marcia – a friend of Donna’s.
Aware as I was that other people did not necessarily find the minutiae of police work as
fascinating as I did, I tried another subject of which I have some interest: the town plan of
Luton. She seemed a little distant even when I drew diagrams and suddenly remembered
that she had to make an urgent telephone call.
At one time during the evening I recall being on the dancefloor for which I received a great
deal of encouragement from my colleagues.
Eventually I found myself sitting next to a man I judged to be in his mid forties with an
expensive looking suit and excessively dark hair. He seemed a little out of place, both with
the party and the venue.
`Hello,` I shouted as comprehensibly as I could manage above the noise. `My name’s Art.
Art Mehta. I’m a constable – Tenbridge C Division, I think I’ve seen you there haven’t I?`
He replied without looking in my direction as he seemed fascinated by the females gyrating
on the underlit dancefloor:
I held out my hand but he didn’t appear to notice.
`Ah yes,` I replied `you’re the senior investing official on the Jemmett case`
At last he looked at me.
`That’s right, the Senior Investigating Officer.`
Surely that’s what I had said.
I knew that I should take care in discussing the case but unfortunately was in no fit state to
make rational judgements. I decided to broach the subject of the current impasse in the case
with a degree of diplomacy but my self-editing faculties were misplaced somewhere
between my brain and my mouth:
`Good piece of work that Detective spector, a top notch piece of detecting,` I said and
attempted a snort of derision.
`And what’s that supposed to mean Constable?` he drawled disdainfully.
`Well,` I said, `Your case. It’s not exactly Sherlock Holmes is it? After all he relied on
clever deduction and…what’s that other thing? Oh yes, evidence.`
Sarcasm was not something I had ever knowingly managed and I found my new-found skill
quite hilarious. Detective Inspector Launce, however, did not share my opinion.
`You seem to know a lot about the case Constable.`
`I keep my ear to the grindstone,` I replied, tapping the side of my nose as I had seen other
`At least when I interview suspects in a murder enquiry I use a bit of subtlety, a bit of
He was looking at me intently now.
`So you’ve been interviewing murder suspects have you?`
`Someone’s got to. Your men have got all the detecting skills of a…` I tried to find the
word but my ability at witty wordplay had deserted me…Bee,` I said lamely.
He was quite cross now and put his face rather closer to mine than I found comfortable. I
had started to feel a little queasy.
`Now you listen to me Mehta,` he said in a voice stripped of it’s previous polish. `I know
all about you. You college boys don’t impress me. You’re just some little runt with glasses
and a piece of paper that means nothing on the street. I’m going to spell it out for you –
we’re going to get the Chubbs, one of them or both of them, I don’t care which but if I hear
that you’ve been within ten miles of this case I will make life very unpleasant for you. Do
you understand Mehta?`
My digestive system was screaming at me to back down and go outside for some air but
sadly the alcohol was still in charge.
`That’s if your men can find me in front of their…`
He grabbed me by the lapels and pulled me towards him. Unfortunately the violence of the
action was such that my stomach finally rebelled. I never saw Detective Inspector Launce
wearing that particular suit again.
I had to work on Tuesday and I don’t think there has been anything in my entire life that I
have wanted to do less.
I did consider not going in. No resignation, no explanation, simply returning home. My
parents, who had always tried hard to conceal their disappointment at my choice of career,
would have been understanding and supportive of what they would consider to be the
inevitability of my situation and some of my more distant relations would say they had
predicted it all along, but this all seemed preferable to returning to work.
I was sure there would be sarcastic comments, sniggers and whispers from my workmates
even though they were entirely to blame. There may even have been some sort of official
reprimand for which I was prepared but felt to be grossly unfair.
It was not that I was ashamed of my behaviour, embarrassed but certainly not ashamed.
Once I had reconstructed the sequence of events at the nightclub I realised that it was my
colleagues who should feel shame. What they doubtless considered a harmless prank was
just the sort of immature behaviour that tarnished the reputation of the United Kingdom
Police Service. What did pain me however was to think that I could so easily lose my self
control and the memory was like a burning scar.
The day following the party, which I had planned to use for reconnoitering the murder
scene, was instead spent in bed. I don’t know, or want to know, how I got there. I just
remember fervently wishing that the belated effects of alcoholic poisoning would carry me
off to a better place.
Tuesday, however, rolled round with grim determination and I grudgingly had to accept
that I was still alive.
I was on the afternoon shift that week and thankfully Tenbridge FC had a Tuesday fixture
against an old rival so most officers had been assigned to match duty.
Inspector Bowman had left a message for me to see him before he went home so it
appeared that there were going to be repercussions after all. I was therefore surprised to be
warmly welcomed into his office with a rather too hearty slap on the back.
`Well done, lad. Come in and sit down.`
I was a little taken aback by the warm reception and sat down rather warily, still half
expecting to be suddenly shouted at.
`How are you feeling, still a bit delicate?`
I considered trying to explain the circumstances surrounding the incident but decided that
brevity was probably the best course.
`I’m much recovered thank you sir.`
`Good, good. But you have to be careful of alcohol lad, it destroys the brain cells. We can’t
have our star player forgetting things can we? What’s the collective noun for Capercalie?`
`Tok,` I replied automatically.
`Good, good,` he grinned. `I must say though Constable, when I heard what you did to
Launce I nearly wet myself, serves him right, funniest thing I’ve heard for years.`
Making disparaging comments about a fellow officer in the presence of one of more junior
rank was an act of unprofessionalism Inspector Bowman was destined to repeat on
`Come on Mehta, it’s not the end of the world! Blimey, we all have to find our limit.
Admittedly you had a couple of pints of creme-de-menthe after finding yours but…`
He started laughing again.
`Of all the people you could have puked up on.’
I was puzzled and a little disappointed that the inspector should treat my predicament with
`Are you not a friend of Detective Inspector Launce sir?`
He smiled as he considered the question.
`D.I. Launce and I go back a long way Constable but I wouldn’t say we were exactly
`I don’t think the detective inspector would consider me a friend either,` I said stoically.
The inspector stood up and started putting papers into his briefcase in readiness to go
home. I took this as a signal that I should leave even though the interview had been
strangely inconsequential. As I stood up he started to speak again.
`Sergeant Petty tells me that you and Launce were having a little chat before the, er,
incident took place. He said it got a bit heated.`
It seemed that the long awaited reprimand was coming after all.
`I’m afraid that I’m not used to alcohol sir. There’s no excuse for the detective inspector’s
violent and abusive behaviour but I may have said things in a way that left them open to
He clicked the briefcase closed with nicotine-stained fingers.
`What things? What about?`
Even though alcohol had dulled my senses I still had word-for-word recall of my
conversation with Detective Inspector Launce. I have always prided myself on being
scrupulously honest and therefore gave the inspector a verbatim account though doing so
caused me acute embarrassment. This was not helped by the inspector drolly responding
that I had at least had the last word.
Inspector Bowman had a disconcerting habit of displaying protean changes of
temperament, from angry to friendly, morose to ebullient and in this case from levity to
`I’ve read the report on your meeting with the twins – very detailed, in fact a textbook
report – but it left the most important part out. You can tell me – off the record. Which one
of them d’you reckon did it?`
`To be honest sir,` I replied once I’d adjusted to the sudden change of subject. `My meeting
with them was rather brief and inconclusive. They’re certainly eccentric but I couldn’t
detect any signs of sociopathic behaviour in either of them – in fact their personalities seem
as similar as their physical appearance. Plus they appear to be completely inseparable.`
`So you think they were in it together then?`
Since the meeting I had pondered every word they had uttered, speculated on every aspect
of their bizarre existence and searched for clues in their every movement but even though I
had studied psychology and sociology to an advanced level I was, after all, just a humble
`I really wouldn’t like to venture an opinion based on such a short meeting sir.`
The inspector nodded in contemplation.
`We’re going to have to be a bit more careful how we proceed with this case then aren’t we
`Careful sir? I assumed…`
I started to realise that a reprimand may have been preferable to the morass I felt myself
being dragged into.
`The detective inspector made it very clear that my assistance wasn’t required on the case
sir. He really was quite explicit.`
`That’s why I say we should be careful lad.`
I remained conspicuously unconvinced but the inspector had reverted to his backslapping
`Don’t worry Constable, We still have to patrol the estate and we’ve been asked to give
protection to the twins so we’ve got every justification for our presence. Now if on your
rounds you ask a few question, pick up bits of gossip, that’s what community policing’s all
A Tupperware sandwich box that wouldn’t fit into the briefcase was carefully tucked under
the inspector’s arm. I stood up and moved to the door but before I could open it he was
suddenly serious again:
`CID cocked this one up Mehta. They’re going to get the parents to make an appeal and
that’s usually a sign that they haven’t got a clue. If we could find out which one of them
did it, that would really get one over on CID. This could be important for us – show
everyone what we’re made of.`
`I’ll do my best sir,` I said truthfully but with little optimism.
The inspector looked at his watch.
`I’ve got a bus to catch,` he said placing a cigarette behind his ear, and was gone.
The following morning I was waiting outside the town hall as it opened. The early sun was
burning off a thin haze and having considered my position I was feeling marginally more
optimistic than I had in recent days.
What little remained of the night after finishing work had been spent logically examining
the conflicting arguments for and against my involvement with the case: On the one hand
the CID enquiry had so far been less than professional and my superior officer had given
me, an inexperienced police constable, a special assignment to investigate the case. On the
other hand I had told the senior investigating officer that his enquiry was less than
professional and my superior officer’s motives were obviously based on some long-
harboured personal animosity. This was compounded by the fact that the investigation was
mired in legal complexities and may well not have been any more advanced had it been
conducted correctly. I had written these arguments down and made up a chart projecting all
the possible known outcomes, and my conclusion was – that I couldn’t give up if I had
Unfortunately I have a particularly tenacious personality. Once I start to contemplate a
problem it becomes like an annoyingly persistent tune, humming another tune or listening
to the radio only brings temporary relief.
And so, along with a ragged troupe of council workers and aggrieved taxpayers I crossed
the threshold of the old town hall.
My plan was to concentrate on the less contentious areas of the investigation – I could see
no objection to my finding out a little about the Amica Centre. The council offices held the
plans of the building and some details of the companies that built and owned it whilst the
library had microfiche records of any relevant newspaper reports.
My shift started at three o’clock in the afternoon and I had planned to arrive early for a
meal in the canteen, but my researches, whilst not uncovering any revelations, were
sufficiently engaging to ensure that I missed lunch.
The first thing that struck me upon seeing the plans was the sheer size of the building. The
Amica Centre is the fourth largest enclosed shopping centre in the country but by far the
largest in a city centre. In order to squeeze it into a built-up urban area it had to have a
seemingly haphazard, non-geometrical shape and be rather taller than usual with shops on
four floors plus two, eight-storey car parks which between them held an astonishing forteen
The centre had been built in record time, four years earlier, by a Dutch contractor for the
London-based property company who still owned it. It was run on a day-to-day basis by
Leighton Management PLC and apart from the various retail organisations who rented the
units, the only outside companies working in the mall were the contract cleaners – Paines
and a company called Link who provided in-store security.
It was on account of Link that I had not had cause to visit the centre in an official capacity
to date. They had a reputation for being efficient and well-organised if somewhat over-
zealous in the execution of their duties and not as zealous as they could be in the vetting of
their staff. Most of my colleagues, whilst disapproving of what they considered to be
`amateurs`, conceded that policing a shopping centre of the size and complexity of the
Amica was something that they were content not to have to do. The guards were highly
visible and afforded in large numbers through being paid the legal minimum wage plus
hefty incentives for 'actioning' security practices. They were known to be adept at keeping
out undesirables which in their parlance were shoplifters, buskers and window shoppers.
The mall’s reputation for always prosecuting ensured that our infrequent visits were simply
for the transportation of those malefactors foolhardy enough to attempt a crime at the
I made copies of the relevant information for my case file but while all this provided
interesting and necessary background information, it was plain that a personal visit to the
centre would have to be undertaken.
In the meantime however there was the televised appeal.
My flat is two-point-two kilometers from the station and takes exactly twenty three minutes
to reach by foot. I usually arrive fifteen minutes before my shift starts but this day arrived
an hour early just as the Jemmetts sped in through the station’s electronic gates in an
unmarked police car.
There had been practically no information on Norman and Elizabeth Jemmett in the CID
reports and neither of them appeared in any of our files. All my searches had revealed so
far was that Norman was forty two years old and worked, when work was available, as an
engineer, mainly in the fields of air conditioning and refrigeration. Elizabeth was two years
older and was employed by a major supermarket chain, in what capacity and at what store I
didn’t know. Three of their four remaining children lived at home and only Amelia, the
eldest at nineteen, appeared in our files as having used forged documents to make a
fraudulent claim for housing benefit.
Their ordeal had taken it’s toll on them and they both looked rather older than their years.
Though physically very different, they somehow seemed well-matched. Mrs Jemmett was a
tall, well-built woman with shoulder-length hair, blonde apart for the roots, and a round
face which would have looked benevolent were it not for the mouth, downturned at the
Mr Jemmett also had shoulder length hair, greyish brown, with a slick sheen even though,
presumably newly washed. He was quite short and gaunt looking with sunken cheeks and
deep furrows in his face. Both had made an attempt at dressing for the occasion and wore
clothes which perhaps had been brought for a wedding, in the case of Mr Jemmett’s flared
trousers, possibly his own.
Televised appeals always generate a great deal of interest at police stations and I watched
the broadcast in the mess room with all those at the station not on duty and quite a few who
should have been.
The couple sat in the middle of a long table covered with a plain white paper tablecloth
littered with a jumble of microphones. To their left were a CID officer I didn’t know and
the Jemmett’s solicitor. On the other side, next to Mrs Jemmett was Detective Inspector
Launce and his deputy, a stockily built Detective Sergeant called Mike Purley – captain of
the local rugby team.
Such was the repute of the case that the room was overflowing with television and
newspaper reporters. Detective Inspector Launce looked suitably sympathetic and had
numerous, presumably supportive, consultations with the couple before opening the
`OK ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for being here this afternoon. You’re all aware, I’m
sure, of the unusual and tragic nature of this case and you’ll appreciate what a devastating
effect all this has had on the Jemmett family.`
Despite any personal feelings I may have harboured towards the detective inspector I
nevertheless felt that he displayed a sense of gravitas appropriate to the occasion. Some of
my colleagues however were less complimentary and my concentration was tested by their
numerous facetious remarks.
`Mr and Mrs Jemmett have lost a much-loved young daughter and have courageously
agreed to make an appeal here today in order to try to jog people’s memory of the tragic
events surrounding her death.`
At this there was an audible sob from Mrs Jemmett and her husband put a supporting arm
round her shoulders.
`Of course you’ll understand that Mr and Mrs Jemmett will not be answering questions
after the appeal but there will be a short question and answer session from the investigating
He moved his chair backwards and bent over to whisper something to Mr Jemmett who
nodded gravely before clearing his throat and speaking, or rather attempting to speak. At
first his voice cracked with emotion and, with his wife holding his hand the solicitor filled
a glass with water from a large jug on the table. Mr Jemmett took a sip and made a second
`Carly was everything you could ever want in a daughter. She was kind, loving…She was
the most beautiful girl in all…`
At this point he broke down and with a handkerchief covering his eyes, started sobbing.
His wife was crying too and briefly he laid his head on her shoulder. Some of the
journalists shuffled their feet uncomfortably but most seemed too jaded to be much
affected by the scene. I observed a similar reaction in the mess room with one or two of the
female, and younger male, officers surrepticiously wiping their eyes whilst the older men
looked on stony-faced.
After a few seconds and with a great effort, Mr Jemmett took a deep breath and started
again. The lines in his face seemed to have deepened but whilst his eyes were wet with
tears Mrs Jemmett’s remained dry.
`Carly was a lovely girl who wouldn’t hurt a fly. It wasn’t just her that was murdered that
night, it was all of us. We’ve lost a daughter, our other children have lost a sister, our
family’s destroyed, my wife, me…`
Again the handkerchief covered his eyes as his shoulders heaved and jerked. This time it
appeared that the grief was too much for him and he turned pleadingly to his wife. When
she spoke it was clear and measured but with a smaller voice than her frame would have
`All we want is justice. If anyone knows anything. Anything at all that could assist the
police in catching Carly’s killer, please, please, just tell them what you know.`
She seemed to contemplate her next sentence carefully.
`Carly was a good girl, she would never speak to strangers. She knew her killers, she must
Detective Inspector Launce sat passively next to Mrs Jemmett, looking concerned for the
couple but relaxed and doubtless content with the proceedings so far. It was therefore
surprising how quickly he was out of his chair when Norman Jemmett suddenly leaned
forward and spoke.
`Someone must know which one of them did it. We’ve got the bastards on vid…`
Within a second the detective inspector had moved behind him, applying gentle restraint
with one hand whilst shielding the microphones with the other.
There was pandemonium in the room. The detective inspector and his colleagues circled
the Jemmetts and amid the confusion of shouted questions and the flashes of countless
cameras, managed to spirit them out of the room. Only the detective inspector and his
After a brief consultation between the two officers, Detective Inspector Launce attempted
to speak but as soon as he opened his mouth a volley of unintelligible questions ensued.
After a few seconds he stood up and held up his hands in a gesture more like a blessing
than quelling a braying crowd. I couldn’t help contrasting the ease with which Detective
Inspector Launce dealt with the media and the Chief Superintendent’s discomfort on my
first day on the job.
`Ladies and gentlemen, I’m sure that you’ll exercise the utmost discretion in interpreting
Mr Jemmett’s last remark. He’s very upset as you’ll doubtless understand. It’s horrendous
to lose a daughter in such circumstances but the…frustrations of the investigation have
taken a terrible toll on the couple.`
A slight pause before continuing proved too much for the assembled journalists. A number
spoke at once but the detective inspector’s hearing was keen enough to discern `BBC`
amidst the din.
`Tim Harrison. BBC.`
Detective Inspector Launce smiled at the reporter
`Yes Tim. What’s your question?`
`You’re investigation seems to have ground to a halt Inspector. Isn’t it the case that you
have suspects, you have considerable evidence against them, but that you’re clutching at
straws trying to find anything that will help you arrest them?`
Detective Inspector Launce appeared to take this in his stride. The other journalists waited
breathlessly for his response.
`The investigation is ongoing. We are keeping an open mind with regard to suspects but
yes, we are concentrating on establishing the guilt of a particular party. We…
`We’re talking about the Chubb twins aren’t we?` An older man shouted from the back of
`Thank you for your question Mr Franklin,` replied the detective inspector with a
courteousness that seemed to highlight his disdain for the veteran reporter from the
Tenbridge Echo, a newspaper which had maintained a rigourous and at times, rather
personal, campaign against both the Chubb twins and the investigating team.
`As I was saying, we are in the process of gathering sufficient evidence for a satisfactory
case to be brought against the suspect or suspects in this case.
Clearly dissatisfied with the reply, Mr Franklin pressed on:
`So you’re relying on the general public to provide the evidence are you?`
Detective Inspector Launce for the first time looked slightly piqued but replied in his usual
flat and considered tone.
`We have a successful partnership with the general public and their involvement is an
important weapon in our armoury but no, Mr Franklin, of course we’re not relying on their
evidence for our investigation. We have a number of lines of enquiry and are in fact
subjecting our CCTV footage to an examination using the very latest, cutting edge
techniques from the United States.`
Annoyed that he had been pressured into revealing an area of the investigation he was
hoping to save for another time, the detective inspector wound the proceedings up rather
Trevor Wills, my erstwhile partner, turned the television off as those that should have been
working swiftly dispersed.
I had been moved by what I considered to be the courageous and dignified conduct of Mr
and Mrs Jemmett and now felt that I may have misjudged Detective Inspector Launce. I
was somewhat taken aback therefore by the reaction of the sergeant.
`Oscars all round I think,` he said to general murmurs of agreement from the few officers
collecting together the various accoutrements of duty. Sergeant Wills’s new partner, a
constable by the name of Taylor who had been passed over for numerous promotions and
was therefore older then was usual for his rank, joined in with the pithy comment: `Oily
I felt unable to allow these tasteless and uncalled-for comments to go unchallenged.
`I really think you could show a little respect, What the Jemmetts did today was extremely
brave and I must say I have a new-found respect for the detective inspector.`
The others in the room looked at each other and smiled in a way I had seen numerous times
before but which I found impossible to interpret.
`Listen Art. That’s your name isn’t it, Art?` said Constable Taylor in a manner at once both
friendly and slightly threatening. `You haven’t been here long so you don’t know how
these things work. Launce is as tricky as a bag of monkeys. Do you really think he didn’t
know Jemmett would say something like that? Launce is clever at the politics and
Jemmett’s a well-known pisshead and loser. He was trying to wind things up, make
something happen. However all this ends, whether the Chubbs get off or not, one thing you
can put money on is that Launce’ll come out of it all right and someone else’ll get dumped
As he reached the door he turned to give me the benefit of one final nugget of wisdom.
`He’s going to be running this place, and probably soon. You picked the wrong man to
puke up on chummy.`
I had still not had the opportunity to visit the Amica Centre and as a thorough inspection
would require time, I had put aside Friday, my next day off, for the task. I was lucky
enough to be put on special duties for the remainder of the week – even if it was as a result
of the inefficient implementation of the support office roster system.
`Excuse me Sergeant. I don’t seem to have been assigned a partner,` I said to the officer-in-
Sergeant Mason looked up slowly from the papers on his desk, piled like a snowdrift
against the wall.
`Well it’s getting a bit difficult to find a suitable partner for you to be honest Mehta. The
last three who were supposed to be on with you phoned in sick and the ones that come
somewhere near your, er, exacting standards, all seem to volunteer for other duties. Why do
you think that is Constable?`
`I really don’t know sir,` I replied. `I always try to be friendly and professional, and my
colleagues do benefit from a higher than usual arrest rate when they’re with me.`
`Yes, that’s another thing,` he said scrabbling through the papers on his desk. `Here it is.
Two arrests for dropping litter.`
`That’s not entirely accurate sir – the arrests were for abusive behaviour after I had taken
their details for dr…`
`You don’t need to take details Constable,` said the sergeant, reddening. `You tell them to
pick it up and put it in a bin. And what about this one, `allowing a dog to foul the public
footpath`, an eighty-two year-old man for God’s sake.`
`He encouraged his dog to attack me sir.`
The sergeant, unable to counter the logic of my argument, simply sighed and shook his
`A little tact, Constable, that’s all I’m asking. Police officers don’t like it when colleagues
complain about them.`
I assumed he was referring to the traffic warden incident.
`Traffic wardens are among the most vital members of our support staff sir. They deserve
our protection when being waylaid in the execution of their service. Any personal
animosity that Constable Feltz may have harboured towards them should not have
influenced him in his duty to help a fellow officer. If I may say so sir, I was surprised that
he only received a verbal warning.`
In the light of this defence Sergeant Mason thought better of citing yet another report he
had found and instead simply gave me my instructions – a special assignment. This was
what some might consider mundane work. Although filing is not generally held in high
regard, it is an essential element of modern policing and I took it upon myself to oversee
the restructuring of the station’s inefficient office system.
This work had been assigned to me as I had become known and, I believe, respected, for
being methodical and orderly. My uniform was always perfectly creased, my locker an
oasis in a desert of untidiness and it was most trying to find, as I often did, that pens and
papers on my desk had been moved unnecessarily and sometimes, I suspect, maliciously.
Some of my fellow officers put very little store by such virtues as neatness and punctuality.
As a consequence of the previous unpleasantness my colleagues knew better than to ask me
to socialise with them and so all my spare time was now devoted to research. A
considerable amount of experimental work had been carried out on the social development
of twins but very little on their criminal behaviour. I did manage to find a dated but
interesting book `Criminal tendencies in identical siblings` by Professor Guiseppi
Lampedusa. It took me two evenings to get through as no English translation existed but
threw very little light on the Chubb twins.
One thing of significance did occur that week. Sadly, Chief Superintendent Stent suffered a
heart attack. Not, apparently, major but enough to enforce an absence of eight weeks and
fuel rumours of a replacement in which the name Launce featured prominently.
Since my experiences on my first day, the chief superintendent had not had cause to call on
my services though he had always been friendly when we met – personally congratulating
me on the arrest of `that Greek`. I was a little disappointed, however, not to get a response
to the reports I had written outlining my ideas for improvements to certain aspects of
policing and community relations which Inspector Bowman had assured me he would pass
As Sergeant Petty had predicted, the news media’s interest in the troubled estate had
waned. I nevertheless felt that the sergeant’s cynicism was misplaced – the recent decrease
in the amount of petty crime and mindless vandalism, and my own programme to improve
community relations on the estate were, I believed, not entirely unconnected.
I had visited The shopping mall in Guildford only twice in the years I lived there, once to
order a book and once again to collect it. It was brightly lit with numerous cafes, shops, and
a department store which people walked around to the accompaniment of barely audible
music. I harboured no ill-feeling towards it, the temperature was regulated, there was an
information kiosk and even a fountain. The shoppers felt safe and had everything they
wanted under one roof.
Had I an interest in sports clothing, small electronic gadgets, or required fruit-based skin
products or candles I might have frequented it but my needs were better served by
Franklin’s Specialist Books on Market Street.
I had even less necessity to visit the local mall when I was at Oxford, a town well
represented with bookshops, but had on one occasion to remedy a deficit of socks on a
Sunday after being the victim of a childish student prank.
What I found, to my dismay, was that it was practically identical in every aspect to the only
other mall I had been to. The shops, the cafes, the design were all the same and as I left
with one dozen pairs of long, black, all-wool socks I was momentarily unsure what town I
was stepping into.
With the benefit of these experiences I felt fully prepared when, early on Friday morning I
set out for the Amica Centre – my confidence was short-lived.
It is true that all the shops and cafes appeared to belong to the same chains as in other malls
but the centre was built on an entirely different scale. The Amica was monumental.
I had studied the plans before I left and knew the general shape to be a very haphazard five
pointed star. Three of the points, called `spurs` in the plan, were quite short, two on the east
side and one on the west. The remaining points which were almost in a line opened out into
the North and South `Piazzas`, both of which were served by eight storey car parks.
Apart from its size the significant difference between the Amica and other malls was it’s
construction. Rather than the faux marble commonly favoured in such projects the Dutch
architect had used a rather beaten looking pewter-like material on all exposed surfaces
including the floors.
The ceiling, constructed of panels of yellowish glass, gave the surfaces an odd, rain-
dampened appearance rather than the golden glow presumably intended. In the South
Piazza, the larger of the two, there was an immense sloping wall made of the same
substance, down which a thin skin of water continuously ran.
The stairs and escalators were suspended on a system of rising vaulted arches, and this
theme – neo–mediaevalism according to the architect – was carried on in all the upper
storey handrails and the struts that held up the roof. Every piece of moving machinery that
could be open to public view was exposed.
I entered the mall by the South Piazza. Here I was struck by another difference between the
Amica and other shopping centres. The central aisle was much wider than usual and had
another, double, row of shops running along it which protruded at seemingly indiscriminate
angles. This design had, to my surprise, won numerous awards.
The South Piazza had four storeys of shops on one side and a department store on the other.
In the centre of the hall were more shops arranged in a three storey island, rising to a point
like the spire of a cathedral. Alongside this was the `waterwall`, a children’s play park with
sizeable, real trees, and an information point. Escalators and lifts seemed to be scattered
My intention was to get a general impression of the mall before exploring it in greater
detail and I promptly set off in a direction which I took to be toward the North Piazza.
After walking past interminable shops that appeared to sell only one thing: ties, teapots,
running shoes, I found myself in a section of the complex with three storeys of shops and
no car park. As the North Piazza has four storeys and a car park I realised I must have
taken a wrong turning and retraced my steps.
I had passed a branch of a large record retailer on my left and now appeared to pass it on
my left again which made me think I had somehow turned round – rather puzzling as I
have a usually infallible sense of direction. I turned left at the next opportunity, convinced
that I would find myself in the direction of the North Piazza. Instead, after walking for
some time I faced the waterwall again.
I made a second attempt but this time decided to walk up the other side of the main mall.
This proved no more successful as I eventually found myself in another of the spurs and
was by now becoming a little disorientated. I decided to ascend to a higher level to see if I
could discern a pattern in the design.
From my vantage point on the second floor, the mall appeared not as a single entity but as
something that had grown organically over a long period. Though a mental map of the
shopping centre still eluded me I nevertheless had started to form some idea of the curious
thinking behind it.
The size of the centre and it’s conflicting influences made it appear rather like a small city
but with a carefully premeditated randomness. The key to its popularity was no doubt that
it had all the quirks and vagaries of a city but without the traffic, the weather and with
accessible public toilets.
None of the well-known chains had shops on this floor, preferring to be on the more
expensive but better frequented ground floor. There were shops which sold jeans,
paintings, computer accessories. Further on they made way for what I assumed were some
of the centre management’s offices – six anonymous grey doors. There was a camera fixed
to a nearby roof strut but I estimated that the first two of the doors were outside it’s field of
vision. I furtively tried the handles. The first was locked but the second, surprisingly,
opened, revealing cleaning materials and a partially dismantled floor polisher you could sit
on and drive.
Walking back I looked at my watch and realised that after nearly two hours my intention of
getting an impression of the Amica was not far advanced. It was now mid-morning and
much of its daily tide of half a million shoppers had mysteriously formed around me like a
I crossed one of the curved walkways that bridged the chasm between the shops to look at
an illuminated map I had noticed on the other side. The map stood in front of a shop selling
shoes, just female as far as I could see.
A salesman, probably the manager as there was only one other, younger man in the shop,
was arguing with two girls, trying to stop them leaving the shop. One girl was of Afro-
Caribbean origin with hair straightened and slicked down across her forehead. The other
was white with a hooded jacket. They looked about sixteen which meant that they were
probably thirteen or fourteen.
`Look girls, if you just come through to the office it’ll be far less embarrassing for
everyone, otherwise you’ll have to empty your bag out here.
The two girls were shouting and swearing at him while simultaneously all three were
tugging at one of the girls’ bags. Suddenly the handle of the bag broke and the contents
spilled out onto the floor of the shop.
Among the arcane mysteries of feminine impedimenta was a pair of silver sandals and a
blazer. The sandals seemed to be at odds with the girls’ rather unglamourous fashion sense
but were probably all that would fit into the bag. It was, however, the blazer that interested
me – burgundy with a gold crest.
Willowfields School was not one of the most troublesome in the area though we returned
its truanting students with monotonous regularity. It was, however, the school that Carly
Jemmett had attended and these girls looked about the same age. They had presumably
used the common ploy of slipping out after morning roll call.
Usually, even whilst off duty I would have taken it upon myself to give the girls a stern
talking-to but on this occasion decided that another approach might prove more fruitful.
Police work is largely scientific: evidence gathering, witness interrogation, forensic tests,
painstaking examination of files. But even the most academic writers concede that there are
occasions where an officer has to follow his or her intuition.
Not having ever knowingly had an intuitive thought before, I was unsure whether this was
one, but before I could stop myself I was in the shop.
`Ah, hello girls. Did you get the shoes?`
All three stared blankly at me. The man wore a badge that said: Brian Kirby – Manager. I
looked down at the debris on the floor.
`Are these them?`
No-one replied. I got my purse out and smiled at the girls in a way that I hoped would be
`Come on! We’ll be late.`
I had a credit card but seldom had recourse to use it and generally just carry a small amount
of cash, I hoped it would be enough.
`Right how much are they?`
The manager eyed me shrewdly.
`Are these girls with you?`
`Yes, they’re my nieces, I sent them in to find some shoes for a party.`
Over-elaborate, I knew, but I didn’t have time to compose my lines. The girls gathered up
their belongings and handed the shoes to the still unconvinced manager. He walked slowly
to the till as the girls behind me whispered to one another.
Mr Kirby seemed to be in the grip of an inner struggle – on one side the adrenalin-fuelled
desire to detain shoplifters and on the other the mundane need to make a sale, probably the
first of the day. Commerce finally won.
`One hundred and twenty nine pounds ninety nine pence please.`
`What! But they’re only…`
I momentarily considered saying they were too expensive and chastising the girls for
choosing them but knew I was on rather dangerous ground. I looked with growing
apprehension in my purse. Eighty, one hundred, one hundred and twenty, one hundred
and…I breathed a sigh of relief – one hundred and thirty pounds. I reluctantly handed it
over and accepted my penny change.
Thanking the manager I put the shoes in the bag which I kept as insurance. I slid between
the girls and gripped an arm each just hard enough, I hoped, to restrain them from escape.
Once out of earshot of the shop they began a tirade of abuse in which they, amongst other,
less savoury things, questioned the motives of my actions. They calmed down, however,
when they realised that my grip hadn’t loosened and that no member of the public had
taking a blind bit of notice.
`Right, now I’ve just saved you from prosecution and brought you a ludicrously expensive
pair of shoes. It’s not too late to return to the shop and say that you tricked me into buying
Their look had changed from anger to sullen belligerence.
`As you have probably guessed I want something in return.`
The white girl sneered.
`You think I’m gunna do it with a scrawny little Paki like you? I’d rather go to jail.`
I tried applying a little more pressure but my wrist had developed cramp.
`I’m going to let go now if you promise not to run away.`
I wasn’t terribly optimistic but knew that my wrist wouldn’t hold out much longer. I
gingerly weakened my grip. They looked at each other but didn’t move.
`If you’d allow me to finish ladies. In return for my extremely generous and probably
foolish gesture, all I want from you is a cup of coffee and a little chat.`
A mixture of curiosity and having nothing better to do kept them from running. The black
`Let’s find somewhere we can talk.`
We didn’t have to walk far as the mall had nearly seventy restaurants and cafes the nearest
of which was part of a ubiquitous American chain. The girls asked for an extra skinny latte
and a double mocha but when I explained that I had spent all my money on their shoes they
settled for a coke with two straws and nothing for me. We sat at an uncomfortably high,
`Now I’m going to ask you some questions. There’s nothing to worry about, I’m not going
to take you back to school or anything. I just want honest answers.`
They had decided for the moment that they were safe and adopted expressions that they no
doubt considered nonchalant.
`First, I’d like to know your names.`
The white girl took on the role of spokesperson.
`I’m Francine, she’s Persephony.`
`Thank you Francine. Do you go to Willowfields School?`
`Yeah.` We’re doing field research.`
A thought rather belatedly struck her.
‘Ere, are you police?`
Persephony saved me the trouble of a response.
`Don’t be soppy, have you ever seen a policeman like that?`
They laughed at what I assumed was meant as a compliment. I decided to proceed in as un-
policemanlike a fashion as I could manage.
`As I’ve said, there’s nothing to worry about, I’d just like the answers to a few questions
and then you can go and take your shoes with you.`
They started sucking at the straws which I took as assent.
`Right, we’ve established that you go to Willowfields', and then, as if struck by a thought:
'Wasn’t that the school that Kylie Jemmett went to?`
`Her name was Carly Jemmett.`
`Oh right, Carly. Did you know her? Friends perhaps?`
Persephony feigned sticking her fingers down her throat.
`God no. We wouldn’t be seen dead with a scuzzy Jemmett. No offence meant but yuck.`
`I see. Not really your sort is that it?`
Francine replied conspiratorially:
`We used to call her mouse. She was just, like, so not us. You have to have standards don’t
After the shocking language I had heard from them earlier this took a bit of adjusting to.
`She’s…was OK as a person I suppose but didn’t even try to fit in, didn’t make the effort.
She wore these old clothes that had been her sister’s. I mean, how gross can you get?`
`How many brothers and sisters were there?` I asked.
`There’s what? Five of them? Two at our school.`
`Three,` said Francine. `A new one started this year, just like the others.`
I knew that the Jemmetts were a large family. In a separate road called `the Reeves` tucked
away behind the six tower blocks, stood eight large semi-detached houses designated to
families too big for a flat. The Jemmetts lived at number four.
`So you don’t really know anything about her then? Friends? Hobbies? That sort of thing.`
They shook their heads and looked around, close to the end of their attention span. I
`What about those twins. What are they called? The Chubbs?`
`Yeah, weirdos.` said Francine.
`They’re not so bad,` interjected Persephony a little too quickly. `I mean…`
Francine’s mouth dropped open.
Sephy! You haven’t been there have you?`
Persephony struggled to extricate herself from a situation that could cost her a place in the
`Just once. When I was little. All the kids went there. There was jelly and stuff.`
She seemed to be running out of steam.
`What did you do there, apart from eat jelly?` I asked.
She was starting to panic.
`I didn’t know they were murderers did I? There were loads of kids there. We just played
with all this stuff they had. Junk.`
`Did they ever…?`
The girls had become distracted by something looming over my shoulder which turned out
to be a large man in a dark green Link Security uniform. I swivelled my chair to face him
and a smaller, rodent-like colleague stepped into view. The smaller of the two men leaned
forward and spoke slowly and quietly in a broad, Northern Irish accent.
`Good morning sir. As part of the Amica Centre’s policy of continually monitoring and
improving your shopping experience, we’d like you to assist us in a customer satisfaction
This, it transpired, was the sum total of training received during their `Security Officer
`Well, I was just having a quiet chat actually. What exactly do you want me to do?`
Having delivered the difficult opening oration, the little man could now trust his colleague
with the easier follow-up line.
`If you’ll just follow us sir, we’ll explain it all in private.`
With our fellow customers taking a keen interest in the proceedings I weighed up the
alternatives to obeying them only to find that there were none. Thanking Francine and
Persephony I warily followed the security men.
We crossed back over the bridge and walked round to the section where the shops petered
out. They knocked on one of the grey doors I had investigated earlier. An extremely
overweight man opened the door, grunted a greeting and returned to a bank of monitor
I was a little concerned about the larger of the two men but as soon as the door was closed
it was the smaller one, a strong, wiry fellow as it transpired, who pinned me against the
wall with his forearm across my throat. He put his face uncomfortably close to mine, his
breath being less than fragrant.
`Now I’m going to explain company policy to you in nice easy steps: one – we don’t like
perverts who pick up under-age girls, two – we don’t like people who wander round
without buying anything and three – we don’t like people who snoop around. Anyone who
breaks these rules – how can I put this…Stan?`
The other guard put his face even closer to mine than his little friend, with halitosis
exchanged for copious dandruff.
`Gets first-hand experience of the Amica’s award-winning disabled facilities.`
The small guard nodded vigourously.
`Well said, Stan. Do we make ourselves clear?`
I was unable to speak so just nodded agreement.
`My colleague Derek and I are going to watch you leave and if it takes more than five
minutes there’ll be the most appalling consequences. Understood?
I managed a affirmative croak and he released me with a painful upward movement of his
I decided there and then to take the matter further with a strongly worded letter to the
managing director of Link Security. For now though, leaving the premises was probably
the best policy and I managed, after the frustrations of numerous, worrying, wrong turns, to
find an exit through the North Piazza car park.
Once outside and with only a penny to my name I reluctantly faced the long walk home.
I trudged wearily round the endless wall of yellowish brick that formed the east side of the
Amica. As an afterthought someone had decided that the depressing monotony of the
facade would be enlivened by primitive mosaic murals of the town’s less forgettable
Eventually I arrived at the intersection of the two east side spurs where a huge arched
canopy covered a walkway to the sliding doors of the mall. Although it was hard to
recognise from the video, this was the spot where Carly Jemmett had been murdered.
One confusing element of the case now became clear. I had wondered how, when all the
doors to the centre were locked at ten o’clock, the murder had taken place over an hour-
and-a-half later. The video, and indeed the report, had made it appear as if the murder had
taken place inside the mall but I could now clearly see that that wasn’t the case.
I scanned the suspended, arched canopy for the CCTV camera that had filmed the incident.
The centre, as I had discovered, had one of the most sophisticated surveillance systems
available but it appeared that their primary concern was in what went on inside the
building. Out here, just a solitary camera, fixed high up on one of the canopy’s steel struts,
looked down from afar upon the main entrance. This was the only camera on which the
attacker appeared though the victim was filmed by two others.
I retraced my steps. The point of both spurs had entrances, smaller than this but each
covered by a camera. This was the only way back from the main entrance at night and
anyone walking this way should have appeared on at least one of the cameras.
I started waking back to the entrance again but came to a halt when I recognised, even at
some distance, the familiar figures of Stan and Derek the security guards waiting by the
doors. Enough investigating had been done for one day. It was now time to return home,
reflect and review.
To my surprise the red LED on my bedside answerphone was blinking when I finally
trudged up the stairs to my flat. Generally the only telephone calls I received were a weekly
communication from my worried mother enquiring after my diet, hygiene, finances, sleep,
whether I had made any new friends and whether I wanted to come home. The only other
regular callers – double glazing and energy salesmen – generally avoid leaving messages,
so once I was comfortably horizontal I picked up the receiver and pressed the button. I
recognised the voice even though it now effected an elaborately formal tone.
`Oh hello Constable Mehta this is Mr Chubb here – Reginald.`
`And Daniel,` said another voice, only slightly more distant.
`I just wanted to apologise for my rude behaviour during our recent meeting – it’s the strain
you see, the strain of…`
`Ask him,` cut in Daniel’s insistent whine.
`All right, all right, now do be quiet,` Reginald replied in a theatrical whisper, louder than
`Constable, I believe you displayed an interest in our collection and we wondered if you
would be interested in a private viewing.`
I got the impression that this simple message had been the subject of considerable
deliberation and had not been easy to make. The final line was delivered in a garbled rush
before the receiver was replaced like a hot coal.
`Please phone us back to arrange a time. Bye bye.`
Soaking in a much needed hot bath I reflected on recent events. Since my
misunderstanding with Detective Inspector Launce I had confined my enquiries to
uncontroversial areas of the investigation and my various duties at the station had ensured
that Inspector Bowman was unable to give me assignments that could lead me into
conflicts with CID. The call from the twins would put me in a difficult position but I
reasoned that they, as citizens, had contacted me, a policeman, and I couldn’t refuse to
follow their request.
I was also keen to practice an interrogation technique which had interested me for some
time and which had been shown to be more effective than the usual more confrontational
method. The technique, developed by Ishmael Rebtov of the University of Tel Aviv is
based on the Prague school of psychoanalysis and requires nothing more than a condusive
atmosphere and time to let the subject unburden him, or her, self. As Dr Rebrov told me on
one of his rare visits to Oxford: `A criminal naturally abhors a verbal vacuum.` We would
After the bath I walked to Caribbean George’s on the corner of my road and Fairfax Street.
Generally I eat in the station canteen but on my days off I had become partial to Jamaican
Patties and now had two with a nice cup of tea.
Bathed, rested and with my hunger assuaged I now felt ready to telephone the Chubbs and
an arrangement was made for me to visit their flat for `luncheon` the following day.
I hadn’t been called on to visit the estate for over a week though the disturbances had
continued sporadically and randomly. During one conversation in the locker room, a
colleague suggested, jokingly, that the incidents were sparked by changes in temperature.
Though I was not actually involved in the conversation I thought they would be interested
to know that a number of studies had been carried out in which pollution and weather,
particularly atmospheric pressure, was shown to be closely linked to incidents of violent
crime. I like to join in with this sort of comradely banter whenever possible and believe it is
For as long as I can remember I have had exactly four-and-a-half hours sleep per night –
from half past one until six o’clock and any deviation from this pattern causes a degree of
debilitation. It was not surprising then, that I was not looking forward to my first week on
nights. To compensate, I tried to sleep late but the day was so oppressively hot that I woke
even earlier than usual.
I arrived with an hour to spare in order to look around the estate. Most places look nice on
a hot, sunny day but not the Chaucer. The glare of the sun seemed to pick out and
accentuate the defects, glinting off broken glass, casting shadows under peeling paint and
bringing out the smell of rotting food.
A council lorry was removing an abandoned and stripped car. Two dogs had a fight. I
thought I saw a rat.
The roads were by and large deserted. Even by eleven o’clock it was too hot for the usual
gangs of truants to be playing football in the streets. One or two, mainly elderly, people
were about, popping to the shops to buy some forgotten groceries. They seemed pleased to
see me and greeted me kindly.
I walked through to the far end of the estate to see the house the Jemmett family lived in.
The road snaked between the blocks but although I seemed to have walked a long way I
ended up just a little behind, and overlooked by, the twins’ rear window.
The eight houses in The Reeves were an odd mix. Built a few years later than the tower
blocks, it was as though the architects had try to eradicate any noticeable design feature so
that they ended up looking like the sort of houses young children draw. One of them had
eight, partly dismantled cars in the front garden, another had a fenced-off area in which
were tethered three large dogs. But next door there were colourful window boxes and a
newly painted swing on the neat front lawn.
Number four was somewhere in between. An attempt had been made to keep it tidy but
rather less care had been lavished on the house than on the old, but spotless caravan parked
behind the large Nissan motor car on the front drive.
Backing on to the houses was a recreation ground – a wide strip of scruffy grass with a
children’s playground to one side.
From here I could see over the wooden fence into the back gardens. Again the Jemmetts
had made an effort but had been defeated by the twin ravages of nature and their children.
No-one appeared to be about and there were no windows open which, on a day this hot
suggested that the parents were at work and the children at school.
As I walked slowly back to the Chubbs’s flat, various indistinguishable styles of loud
music, emanating from open windows, faded in and out as though someone was tuning a
They were waiting for me of course, probably had been for the last two hours, fussing and
fretting over their tiny sandwiches and cakes. They had seen me through the window and
one of them waited impatiently by the front door.
`Constable Mehta. Thank you so much for coming.`
His brother shuffled up behind and, though I had only been there for a second, said:
`Don’t leave him standing on the doorstep Reginald. Dear oh dear! He’ll think we’ve got
no manners at all!`
This started a little quarrel, just a few sentences and then it was all over. These little squalls
transpired to be their usual mode of communication, not really malicious, more like
They ushered me inside. A slight smell of disinfectant still clung to the hall but apart from
a few more ornaments and a little less visible wallpaper, it was much as I had seen before.
Once again the twins were absolutely identical in dress and general appearance but I
noticed that the twin who had answered the door had a small plaster round the third finger
of his left hand – an accident sustained while cooking perhaps. This was interesting for two
reasons: firstly it suggested that their need to copy each other was not pathological or both
would have sported a plaster. Secondly, and more practically, it meant that I would know
which twin was which.
`Thank you for inviting me Reginald, Daniel. Is it all right if I call you that?`
They vied with each other to assent, thanking me profusely for coming and at one point
Daniel almost genuflected.
`And what shall we call you? We can’t go on calling you Constable Mehta.`
`My name is Arti.` I replied. `But they call me Art at the station.`
`Well we’ll call you Arti.` Said Reginald. `Abbreviations are just pure laziness – especially
Dan and Reg. Only the papers call us that.`
`I’m sorry I haven’t been able to visit you in my professional capacity,` I said. `You know
how it is, a policeman’s lot… Have their been any more problems? You know you must
phone immediately if there are any incidents.`
By this time we had slowly filed along the narrow hall until we were outside the lounge –
the `treasure` room. They stopped and, with pursed lips, replied. Daniel first:
`No. No incidents.`
`But only because we can’t go out.`
`Stuck in here like prisoners.`
`In our own home.`
`They’d be waiting for us.`
Reginald was almost in tears.
I felt sympathy for them but at the same time slightly concerned at their lack of self-
control. They were like little balls of emotion. Anger, sorrow, happiness could be triggered
by anything: a word, a gesture.
I could see that I would have to be careful what I said but was also aware of how useful this
failing could be to me.
`What about shopping?` I asked. `You have to buy food surely?`
Daniel resumed the verbal bombardment.
`A woman does it for us.`
`From the Social.`
`She does it.`
`We can’t go out you see.`
`They’d get us.`
A change of subject was urgently needed to quell the rising note of panic that had crept into
`I can’t tell you how much I’ve been looking forward to seeing some more of your
collection. I really do feel honoured.`
Broad smiles spread across their faces. Daniel opened the lounge door and said:
`What you’ve seen so far are just baubles compared to what’s in the parlour.`
And with a flourish he led me in.
Though it was a blindingly bright day, the room was gloomy. Gloomy and hot. The single
window was tightly closed and a thin light slid between the ornaments crammed onto the
windowsill and dangling from the top of the frame.
There was a sofa and two chairs, none of which matched, but these were the only things in
the room with a readily discernible function. Every other object, and there were hundreds
and hundreds of them, were ornamental. The coffee table was a circular piece of glass
balanced precariously on three rearing horses.
A path could vaguely be made out between some of the larger pieces: statues, carvings,
garden ornaments which littered the floor. An assortment of ill-matched shelves started
about eighteen inches off the ground and rose almost to the ceiling which itself was not
immune from the twins’ attentions. Around the central chandelier were wind-chimes,
children’s mobiles, anything that could be attached to a piece of string.
Just as in the other rooms their appeared to be no theme or pattern to the collection and
absolutely nothing of value to anyone apart from the Chubbs.
Luckily my look of blank incredulity was interpreted by the twins as awe. They waited for
me to make some comment but eventually Daniel’s patience was stretched too far.
`Well. What do you think?`
I struggled to find a way of telling the truth without offending them.
`Incredible,` I said, finally. `It must be the work of a lifetime to amass a collection like this.
You couldn’t put a price on it.`
A look of childlike glee passed between them that at last they had found an adult who
appeared to appreciate their great passion.
I hated to deceive them but I have never understood the desire to own anything that has no
function: paintings, pottery, silverware. Admittedly I had a large number of books, all
carefully annotated and cross-referenced but these things were of practical value. `A messy
house indicates a messy mind,` my father would say, `objects without purpose are clutter.`
Reginald went to a shelf and picked up a plastic tissue-box holder.
`This is quite a new piece,` he said handing it carefully to me. I examined it all over. It was
sprayed gold and had an intricate design of crude squiggles but was devoid of tissues. I
shook my head in wonder which was considered a sufficient and apt response.
Another object was handed to me. A small plastic coffin with a slot in one end.
`Have you got a coin.` said Reginald excitedly. We’ve got one if you haven’t.
`No, no.` I replied, extracting a two-pence piece from my pocket. `I’ve got one here. What
do I do with it?`
I followed the giggling twins’ instructions to put the coin in the slot and press a button on
the side. The coin sat there unmoving for a few seconds and then a small, bloody hand
came slowly up through a slot in the top of the coffin, grabbed the coin and jerked back
into it’s dark place.
The twins almost exploded with laughter while I tried to look suitably foolish.
Reginald suddenly stopped laughing and exclaimed:
`Oh my God!`
`What is it Reginald?` said his stricken brother.`
`Arti must think we’re the rudest people in the world – the food Daniel, the food!`
They both shrieked and scuttled off into the kitchen, emerging almost immediately with
what could have been the provisions for a doll’s tea party. Tiny, crustless sandwiches
festooned with greenery and miniature cakes bedecked with cherries and those little
coloured things: hundreds and thousands.
While Daniel was in the kitchen making the tea and Reginald fussed over me I gently
probed the shadowy corners of the twins’ curious existence.
`Have you ever had your collection valued Reginald? I should imagine art experts would be
very interested in it.`
Reginald shook his head sadly and thrust a plate of sandwiches toward me.
`No, not really,` he said, preoccupied with his domestic duties. `Have one of these, they’re
Daniel came back in carrying a tray: three unrelated china cups and saucers, a big teapot
under a knitted cosy and a cow-shaped milk jug. The sugar was in a jam jar.
Swallowing the glutinous mass of my sandwich I persevered with my questions:
`I was just asking about your collection, Daniel, I can’t believe that it isn’t more
As the twins performed their elaborate tea ceremony, Daniel started to describe a sort of
We’ve been told, by so-called experts, that these things aren’t what people are collecting at
Reginald poured milk into the cups and continued speaking.
`But the world of fine collectables is fickle Arti. These things will be worth something one
day, you mark my words.`
He poured out the tea. It looked worryingly weak.
`Anyway, we collect things for the pleasure they give.`
I took a sip of what looked like beige milk to wash down the sandwich which Reginald
`You have to see past the financial value,` he said. `That’s what these supposed experts
can’t do. You have to look with innocence. With innocent eyes.`
Daniel leaned closed to me.
`That’s why we took to you Arti, you’re not corrupted, we can tell.`
A strange private atmosphere like a coven had begun to develop in the stifling, airless
room. A feeling like confidences could be divulged, secrets shared. But the atmosphere was
fragile. A misplace word, an awkward gesture and it would be gone. Like a sigh.
`Have you found anyone else who can see it? Any other innocents?` I tentatively asked.
Daniel sat back in his chair. I thought I had said the wrong thing but he answered matter-
`Of course. The children.`
We were silent for a while. The tea cooled and the sandwiches lay forgotten. As each
question formed in my mind I rejected it on different grounds but mainly because the
silence somehow felt right.
`They don’t judge you.` said Reginald eventually. `That’s why we like them – the children.
The clocks ticked arrhythmically and sweat dribbled down my back. I wanted to leave the
twins to continue unprompted but an introspective pall seemed to have settled over them.
`Do they still come here?` I asked eventually. Reginald’s voice cracked as he replied.
`They won’t let them come here now will they? They want to, the kiddies, they want to
Daniel rose and stood behind his brother, resting a hand lightly on his shoulder.
`Don’t, Reginald. Don’t.`
`It’s gone so quiet now,` he said slumping back in his chair.
`Their used to be such laughter, such wonder. You should have seen them playing Arti. It
was their special place you see. Their treasury.`
The time would always be wrong to bring up the subject of the Jemmett girl, it was wrong
now but everything inexorably lead to it.
`Was Carly an innocent? Could she see past what these things represented?`
There was no fight left in them. They lay sprawled like crash victims but didn’t reply. I
spoke very quietly and very slowly so they had to look at me and concentrate on what I was
`I won’t pretend I can imagine what you’ve been through. The pain, the guilt. But I can
share it with you. I want to if you’ll let me. I can take just a little bit of it away and then
you’ll feel better. It’ll be a relief. A blessed relief.`
Daniel lifted a hand to his eyes and his head rocked slowly from side to side. Reginald’s
voice was sad and still and weary.
`Usually they would stop coming round when they got to a certain age, when they went to
big school and got too old for these things. They’d still be friendly if they saw us in the
street of course but, well, there were distractions. Carly was different. She loved the little
ones and they loved her. She wanted to be a nursery nurse you know. She used to come
here…to get away from home.`
A tear slid down his shiny, pink cheek. A big, round, real tear. There was a distant rumble
of thunder. After a deep breath and a long, long sigh Daniel spoke.
`She seemed to really like us. She’d kept it you see, the innocence. The others always got
to a point – you could see it – when they thought we were…strange. They hadn’t seen it
before, they just liked us for what we were, but then they’d drift off. One by one. But not
Carly, She was like us. She just wanted to make people happy, that’s all.`
A few big spots of rain splattered against the window. Car doors slammed downstairs.
`Did she want to make you happy?` I said.
The twins looked at one another and slowly reached across the divide between their chairs
until they held hands. They wanted to tell me something. I could feel it laying heavy in the
Reginald raised his head to speak but suddenly there was a loud noise I thought was
thunder. It sounded like it was all around us and we jumped.
`Mr Chubb. It’s the police. Open the door`
The banging continued. We stood up. The twins still held hands.
`We know you’re in there. Open the door or we’ll break it down.`
The twins were white with shock, unable to move. I went into the hall and walked towards
the door. The knocking got louder.
`I’m going to count to ten and then break the door down. One, two…`
Detective Inspector Launce, five other officers and a small crowd of onlookers were
gathered outside the door as I opened it. The detective inspector didn’t say a word when he
saw me but I could see the muscles in his jaw tighten.
He and his men charged in, brushing me aside like an insignificant but unpleasant obstacle
– a cobweb perhaps. I followed them into the lounge. The twins hadn’t moved. Couldn’t
Detective Inspector Launce looked down disdainfully at them.
`Which one of you is Daniel Chubb?` he asked.
They still seemed unable to move.
`Daniel,` I said gently.
He turned to me with a look of blank incomprehension.
`Are you Daniel Chubb?` asked the detective inspector. Daniel nodded, eager to please – to
do the right thing.
`Daniel Chubb. I am arresting you for the murder of Carly Jemmett.`
The arrest was the major story on that evening’s news on the wireless and with it the first
reports of sexual abuse.
`Evidence gathered using cutting edge video enhancement techniques has lead to the arrest
of local man Daniel Chubb for the sexual assault and murder of schoolgirl Carly Jemmett.`
Reginald had insisted on going to the station with his brother and naturally I was not
welcome so there was little for me to do but return home and prepare for work.
The rest of the day oozed by under a clammy veil of despondency. The reaction to the news
from my colleagues at the station was a mix of satisfaction that an arrest had at last been
made and the fatalistic anticipation of what they felt would be the insufferable smugness of
I went about my work with the usual efficiency but little enthusiasm. The arrest was, I
thought, probably inevitable and I had no reason to doubt the veracity of the new evidence
but still I was left with a vague feeling of unease. If CID had arrived two minutes later I felt
certain I would have learnt something of significance.
It was particularly galling to acknowledge that my meticulous enquiries, research and
psychological profiling had been bested by an inefficient and poorly managed CID team
with a piece of American gadgetry.
Of course there was a lot of rather implausible conjecture among my colleagues as to the
exact nature of the new video evidence. This ranged from the fanciful `being able to see
Daniel’s name tag in the collar of his jacket,` to the redundant `seeing his reflection in the
I would have liked to have discussed with Inspector Bowman, the events surrounding my
meeting with the twins but he had lost all interest in the case since Daniel’s arrest had
robbed him of the chance to `get one over` on CID. The inspector’s time had been
increasingly taken up with his share of Chief Superintendent Stent’s work but whenever I
saw him – usually smoking in the car park – he would have a question ready to spring on
`What’s the next perfect number after six?`
`What is the name of the vein that runs down the middle of a leaf?`
So far I had not failed him and despite his workload and general dour demeanour he always
seemed to leave these encounters with a slight spring in his step.
I was supposed to be partnered that night by Sergeant Feltz but he had phoned in sick – the
first time he’d had off work in three years. My new duties were just being arranged in the
support office when a report came in of trouble on the estate – and it involved Reginald
An ill-sorted gaggle of surly locals, riled by the heat and the imperviousness of the twins’
new front door had decided that the window offered a suitable alternative and had gathered
below with a stepladder. Finding this too short, one of their number had been dispatched to
find one of more suitable length which was being carried up the road as we arrived.
Five squad cars attended and though we were outnumbered, our presence immediately
tempered the atmosphere from potentially violent to one of ineffectual bluster.
The general consensus was that as no-one had ever seen either of the Chubb twins alone
they must have committed the murder in tandem and that both of them should therefore
have been arrested. A number of punishments deemed suitable for `paedophile murderers`
were suggested and these included castration, beheading, hanging and several variations on
the fate of Edward II.
Numerous studies have been carried out into gatherings of this sort. They generally
comprise a central core of two or three instigators, usually fathers in their thirties or forties
plus their acolytes, often siblings and other family members, and a loose and fluid band of
followers – the easily led. The leaders were usually male but the followers often women.
There is little for police officers to do on these occasions – the crowd is ordered to
disburse, they argue for a while so as not to be seen as blindly obedient and then drift off.
A small contingent of officers remain long enough to dissuade them from re-forming.
On the periphery of the assembly was a small clutch of women, some with children, one
with an old-fashioned pram. While my colleagues argued, or rather, concurred, with the
main protagonists, I found that I had somehow drifted towards the women.
A couple of them I recognised as mothers to whom I had returned errant teenagers and
whilst my lecture on the responsibilities of parenthood had, perhaps, fallen on stony ground
they nevertheless greeted me courteously.
`How’s Bettina?` I asked one of the ladies, Kath Munnery, who’s sixteen-year-old daughter
I had arrested for possession of two ecstasy tablets.
`Moved in with her boyfriend thank Christ.` She replied.
`And Marvin?` I asked another, `Is he still helping out at the community centre?`
She replied resignedly.
`Look Constable, it’s good what you’re trying to do, don’t get me wrong, getting them
doing stuff and all that, but you know what they’re like, can’t stick at anything, just want to
hang around with their mates.` She shrugged and tailed off.
Another woman who I had seen around the estate but never spoken to joined in:
`They never tell us what they do anyway – treat the house like a bloody hotel, drift in, eat,
sleep and they’re gone.`
We lapsed into silence – spectators to the drama acted out in front of us.
I saw Reginald briefly at the window. One of the other women saw him too.
`There he is.` She said, just loud enough for us to hear but not audible to the main group.
`Silly sod, what did they want to do something like that for?`
Mrs Munnery turned to me.
`I was saying to the others. The times my Bettina was round here…if I’d thought for a
second they could do something like this…`
A collective shudder ran through the group. The lady with the pram continued. She was
older than I had at first thought – probably the baby’s grandmother.
`All of mine have been round here.` She said., `Boys and girls. We never thought anything
of it. Well, you wouldn’t would you?`
I let them continue talking, gently prodding them back in line if they started to drift off the
subject but generally acting like a rather reserved member of the party.
The mothers on the estate had looked on Daniel and Reginald as a sort of unofficial child-
minding service. Of the women present, only one – new to the area – didn’t have children
who had been to the Chubbs’ flat. Whenever they wanted their children they knew where to
find them and would go to the flat to pick them up. It was rare that a child was there alone
and all the visits became less frequent and gradually stopped around secondary school age.
There were dark areas into which the conversation wouldn’t venture without my
intervention. The timing and the manner had to be just right. The instinct for a mother to
keep a child safe is a fragile thing, protected fiercely. Any suggestion that the children were
put in danger could be misinterpreted, could reflect badly. There would be none of the
usual neighbours’ response `I always knew there was something odd about him.`
`You can never tell.` I said reflectively, looking up at the window. `It’s often the ones you
trust the most. I know that if any of you had even the slightest suspicion…`
`We’d have had our kids out of there like a shot.` said Bettina’s mother to general
`But then, how would you know?` I said. `Some children wouldn’t tell their mothers.`
`Mine would.` said one.
`And mine. They always knew they could tell me anything, especially the girls,` said
another and on this they were all agreed – nothing had happened to their children. If it had
they would have known about it.
`Anyway,` said the pram lady. `Mine are grown up now. They’ve got nothing to hide from
me. If anything had gone on they’d tell me now, what with it being in the papers and
`So why Carly?` I asked no-one in particular. `Why her?`
After a pause Marvin’s mother said:
`Well she was older wasn’t she. Not a little kid like the others. Mine had stopped going
there long before they got to her age.`
We watched as the main group started to break up and drift off homeward, shouting at
Reginald, in a parting gesture of mock defiance, that he wasn’t safe and they’d be back.
`And to think Bev, it could’ve been your Kevin’s Millie they got…` said the pram lady.
I left a suitable silence in the hope that this cryptic allusion would be explained but was
eventually forced to request a clarification. Beverley Gardner, another grandmother but
better-preserved, enlightened me:
`Millie, that’s Amelia – the poor dead girl’s sister,` she said. `She’s been living in my flat
now for, what, four years? She’s my boy Kevin’s girlfriend.`
`Disgrace, that was,` said the lady with the pram and the others nodded agreement.
Seeing that I was rather nonplussed she took pity on me:
`Millie’s mum and dad – the Jemmetts…` the look from the assembled women was not one
of approval `…chucked her out when she was just fifteen.`
`It was a good job she was going with my Kevin,` said Mrs Gardner. `She’d’ve been on the
`Has Amelia told you why?` I asked. `She must have done something – you don’t just
throw out a fifteen-year-old girl for nothing.`
`Well they did,` she said, and Marvin’s mother, as if sealing the Jemmett’s coffin said:
`And they’ve never said a word to her since.`
When the women had said their goodbyes and departed. Only Sergeant Wills, his new
partner Constable Box and myself were left behind to prevent the group from reforming.
Whenever I was in his presence Sergeant Wills had taken to deliberately doing things he
knew would irritate and offend me: swearing, making lewd remarks and talking about
football. I had, on a number of occasions, and to no avail, remonstrated with him about his
behaviour. This time, to preserve my equanimity, I told them that I was going to look round
the estate and left them to it.
Little had changed since the morning. Darkness had fallen and despite the earlier storm it
was still hot and humid and the same music still blared from the same windows. A few of
the less lethargic had stirred from their stuffy flats in a vain search for a cool breeze.
The crowd that had gathered below Reginald’s flat was small compared to the one outside
the Fawcett Inn. From what I could see, the pub’s darkened interior was empty but the long
hot evening had brought out whole families onto what the landlord liked to call his terrace
– a piece of wide pavement with wooden tables and chained-up shrubs.
I stopped and chatted to some elderly ladies sitting at a table with half-pints of Guinness.
They were the estate’s longest established residents having lived in the old back-to-back
houses before the tower blocks were built. They regaled me with their usual catalogue of
grievances: the weather, noise, food prices, Bosnians, none of which I was able to remedy
but they seemed to appreciate the sympathetic concern.
Sitting at a corner table was most of the group from the kebab shop incident: Lewisham,
Lewisham senior, Mrs Furcoat and bald young man plus a couple of new faces. I made my
excuses to the ladies when I saw Lewisham enter the saloon bar.
`Hello Mr Lewisham,` I said as he waited for his drinks with a dripping, tin tray. `I was
surprised not to see you at the little gathering earlier, you know – the Chubb flat`
He looked at me without hostility, without any emotion – a trait for which he was known.
`Oh yes? he said. `And why would that be then?`
`Well, they say he’s a paedophile don’t they? I would have thought you’d take exception to
that sort of thing on your territory.`
The drinks came and he handed over a twenty pound note.
`They say a lot of things Constable. Some of them are true and some aren’t.`
`And which one is that, true or false?` I asked as he pocketed the change and lifted the tray.
`You’re the detective,` he said and started toward the door. I spoke to his retreating back:
`I’m just a humble constable Mr O’Connell. I don’t decide who’s innocent and who’s
guilty. We’ve got a system of justice for that.`
He stopped and turned, unable to let that pass without a comment.
`Justice is where the guilty get punished.`
`You must be quite satisfied then,` I said. `A crime’s been committed, someone’s been
arrested, he’ll be tried and if he’s guilty he’ll be punished`
He shook his head and looked at me like I was a stupid child:
`Yeah. Everything’ll be fine now you’ve taken Tweedledum and Tweedledee down to
And with that confused reworking of two children’s classics he turned and left.
I had to suffer the return journey to the station with Sergeant Wills and Constable Box who
conspired to supplement their usual offensive behaviour with football on the radio and
We got back in time for our break but checked with the support office sergeant that no
serious incidents had occurred that would require our assistance. All was quiet but as we
were walking out he said:
`Did you hear about the tape?`
`What, the CCTV tape? Do we know what’s on it?`
My colleagues, by now bored with the subject, drifted off to the canteen.
`That’s right son,` said the sergeant though he was only a few years older than me. `It’s
been on it’s travels apparently. First to the States where they tarted it up, got a nice clear
close-up and then to Redding or somewhere for a lip-reading expert to give it the once-
`And…` I said when he failed to continue.
`And it’s Bona Fide, one hundred per cent genuine, straight from the horse’s mouth,` he
said. `Or at least the horse’s girlfriend’s mouth.`
The sergeant could be annoyingly obtuse.
He spoke with the rising interrogative endings that make statements sound like questions.
`Paula? From control? Engaged to a Andy Lear? Detective Constable? CID?`
`All right,` I said through gritted teeth. `We’ve established that the information has come
from a reliable source but what exactly does the tape show?`
He replied melodramatically:
`The girl says: `Dan, what are you d…?` and then gets bashed on the head.`
The next day was even hotter. By the end of my shift a big bleaching sun had lumbered up
into the haze and had started to drain everything of colour and energy.
Sleeping would have been difficult even without the heat as, having a constitution suited to
routine and order, my acclimatisation to shift-work had been as difficult as I had feared.
In other circumstances I might have made some attempt anyway, perhaps getting a fitful
couple of hours to sustain me through the next shift. But not today.
Since hearing about the tape I had been able to think of little else. I had misfiled two
reports, taken a man arrested for attempted burglary to the wrong cell and even spelt the
word affray with one f.
Some of my colleagues had noticed that I was preoccupied and took great delight in
pointing out my mistakes, except, of course, the misspelling.
The new evidence had been corroborated by another officer who had seen the lip-reading
expert’s report and I had no reason to doubt it but nevertheless when I got home I started to
re-examine my accumulated research.
There was no forensic evidence to speak of and except for the indications of sexual abuse
the pathology report added little to the investigation.
The main problem I had was with the Chubb twins themselves. They fitted no offender
profile I could discover in the subject’s copious literature, they had never been seen
individually by anyone, and no allegation had ever been made against them after having
been visited by hundreds of children over the years.
I kept trying to rationalise my sense of unease, to balance it against the overwhelming fact
that one of the twins was shown on film committing the crime. None of the enquiries I had
made had produced any evidence to the contrary and the latest niggling doubt I had hardly
even counted as intuition. But still it had nagged away at me all night, lurking in shadows
and squawking out of my radio. It seemed silly but – I couldn’t imagine anyone who knew
the Chubbs well calling Daniel, Dan.
Many people may be called by more than one name especially by someone they are
approaching with a large wrench, but nevertheless there are Daniels and there are Dans.
Some Daniels could also sometimes be Dans but not this Daniel. Not Daniel Chubb. He
was a Daniel and you couldn’t imagine him being a Dan under any circumstances.
I compiled two files on the investigation – one supporting Daniel’s arrest and the other
supporting…what? My disquiet. The former was the larger of the two, in fact it had almost
all the evidence in it. One thing neither had however, was even the slightest suggestion of
After a long, fevered day I had to reluctantly admit that the case against Daniel Chubb was
so strong and any notion to the contrary so flimsy, that taking the investigation even the
slightest bit further would be absolutely pointless except…perhaps I would go and see
Reginald the next day.
The shift that night was unspectacular apart for our break, in which Inspector Bowman had
organised a practice for the quiz team – the first round being in Leeds the following
Eight of us were gathered in the inspector’s office and though most of the team were on
other shifts they had all agreed to come in specially. The inspector had compiled a list of
eighty questions divided into the sixteen subjects most commonly covered in previous
I answered all but five of the questions, two on pop music, one about horse racing, one on
football and the last concerning a celebrity chef – an oxymoron surely? Our efforts pleased
the inspector though I detected a slight frostiness from my fellow team members. He
nevertheless gave them each a subject to research: classical mythology, foreign airports,
phobias, and asked me to `just try to remember everything.`
I had decided not to embarrassment myself by voicing my concern about Daniel to the
inspector but nevertheless remained in the office once the rest of the team had trooped out.
He opened the room’s single, large window and got out one of his distressed-looking
cigarettes. I gave him a disapproving look which he acknowledged by looking contrite but
lit his cigarette regardless.
`CID got the result they wanted then sir?` I said.
He was engrossed in feeding his quiz papers through the shredder.
`The Jemmett case sir. CID got their man, as it were.`
He put another sheet into the machine.
`You, can’t be too careful, son. They’ve got spies you know. Now what were you saying?`
`The Jemmett case sir.`
He finished and looked up from the pile of shredded paper that had missed the waste-paper
`Oh well, we were on a hiding to nothing really. It was worth a go but even CID couldn’t
fail with the whole thing on video.`
`Have you seen it sir?` I asked. `The new tape?`
He gave a sad little laugh.
`I’m afraid we’re the last people that’d get anything from CID. We’re not exactly on their
Christmas list. You being at the Chubb’s flat was the last straw Constable. Launce has got
it in for the lot of us now.`
I suddenly had an overwhelming urge to share my misgivings with someone, anyone, even
if it did mean looking ridiculous.
`I wanted to talk to you about that sir, being at the flat that is. You see, in the short time I
was with the Chubbs I got to know them quite well and…I’m not sure why but I’m not
entirely convinced that Daniel is actually guilty.`
The inspector shook his head.
`I don’t think there’s much chance that Reginald did it Constable. Not now.`
I struggled to find the words that wouldn’t make the inspector doubt my sanity.
`I know the video evidence seems overwhelming,` I said. `But that’s really all there is sir,
just the video.`
`And the confession.` said the inspector.
`Didn’t you know son,` he said. `Daniel’s confessed to the murder.`
Ever since that day back at Bharat’s house I’d dreamt not just of being a policeman, but a
brilliant policeman. In matters cerebral, I have always had a certain facility, scaling each
academic peak, sailing through each exam, and I felt that there was nothing about police
work I didn’t know.
Even so, it seemed that family expectations, and perhaps my lack of physical stature, would
ensure that my passion was to be subsumed into a future in academia. That was until I was
eighteen. I had returned from Oxford for Christmas and was among the seasonal crowds in
my home town’s shopping centre when a young man snatched a nearby lady’s handbag.
Most people don’t know how to react to such an incident – they stand and stare open
mouthed or peer, embarrassed and a little ashamed into a shop window.
Afterwards I was surprised at my reaction. It was as though an invisible piece of elastic
connected me to the thief. There was no conscious decision, I was a servant of the moment.
The young man was undoubtedly fitter and quicker than me but was so surprised to hear
anyone running after him that he simply dropped his plunder and sprinted away.
It was after I had returned the bag to the embarrassingly appreciative victim that I realised
that, for me at least, being a policeman was not a career choice, it wasn’t even a vocation, it
It is for this reason that I have sometimes been, perhaps, a little unforgiving of the
shortcomings of any colleagues who treat what I consider to be a duty and a privilege as if
it were a mere job.
With this in mind I had naturally assumed that when I joined the force I would use my
incisive, logical mind, brilliant organisational skills and in-depth knowledge to be a one-
man crime-solving machine. How could it not happen?
Well it hadn’t happened and the revelation that my intuition and judgement could be so
flawed came as a profound shock and disappointment. The only thing that stopped me
considering another career was my total lack of interest in anything else.
And so I settled down to being what I believe some people call a `plod`.
I tried to ignore the clutter, the waste, the inefficiencies and suspicions of occasional acts of
minor `trousering` – the local term for accepting a bribe – which I faced in my daily duties.
For what remained of that week I worked doggedly and industriously but with little
enthusiasm. Even at the meeting of the Chaucer Estate Residents’ Action Committee for
which I had volunteered as Police Liaison Officer, I took a far more passive role than usual.
One lady even enquired after my well-being when I meekly acquiesced as the Young
People’s Archaeology Club – one of many youth programmes I had initiated – was
disbanded due to a surprise lack of interest.
Life at the station was still interesting and exciting but I no longer experienced the work’s
daily frisson. The good-natured practical jokes my colleagues had played on me since my
arrival had become more sporadic now that my reactions were increasingly subdued.
I paid scant attention to the little I heard about the Jemmett case. The Crown Prosecution
Service were preparing the papers, Daniel was in custody in a high security prison and
Reginald had been put in a bed and breakfast hotel for his own safety.
When, occasionally, thoughts of the Chubbs came to my mind I would quickly dismiss
them to allay the risk of having more of my embarrassing conspiratorial fantasies.
All this came to an abrupt end on the Saturday night – the last night of my shift.
A fifteen-year-old youth was brought into custody in connection with a burglary and with
him came his social worker. He had made a mistake common to the impatient, tyro
housebreaker of not waiting until four o’clock – the optimum time for breaking and
entering when the occupants are likely to be in their deepest mode of sleep. He was instead
captured at one-thirty by the home-owner’s son, still awake and using the internet. His
social worker left the interrogation room as I was walking along the corridor.
`Yes madam, how can I help you?`
The ability to estimate peoples’ ages is not one of my more developed skills but I would
say that she was in her forties. Thirties or forties. Or fifties. Short brown hair, glasses,
brown corduroy skirt, flat shoes. She held out her hand.
`Irene Hargreaves. I’m Daniel and Reginald’s social worker. I guessed it was you. They
spoke very highly of you.`
I shook her hand.
`Very pleased to meet you Mrs Hargreaves. Are you still seeing Reginald?`
`I’m afraid so. Sorry that came out wrong, I didn’t mean I don’t want to see him, it’s just
that, well, it’s heartbreaking to go round there, really it is.`
`He’s not taking it well then?`
She shook her head despondently.
`What with being apart from Daniel in a cold, empty flat and being constantly questioned
by the police. I really don’t know how much more he can take.`
Even though I’d promised myself that I’d let the matter drop, I found myself inexorably
slipping back into my old investigative habits.
`I suppose he’s not used to being by himself,` I said.
`He and Daniel haven’t been apart for more than an hour since Reginald had his appendix
out twelve years ago,` she replied.
I refrained from pointing out that, according to CID, if that was the case, Reginald was at
least an accomplice to murder. I tried a less contentious approach.
`How long have they been your clients?`
`On and off for the last five years,` she said. `I‘ve had to do quite a lot for them. They’re
so…unworldly. They just wouldn’t know how to function in normal society, but I would
have sworn on my life they weren’t violent.`
`What sort of things have you had to do?` I asked.
`Oh you know,` she said. `All sorts of things really. They’d forget to pick up their money
from the post office or lose their book, get into a panic. Sometimes they’d just want some
ornaments put up. I’d go round with my electric drill and screwdriver. I shouldn’t do that
sort of thing really, what with us being so busy, but they really wouldn’t have a clue how to
do it themselves.`
The CID report had said that no complaint had ever been made against the twins but I
wondered whether there had ever been anything that hadn’t been made official. Whether
she would answer such a question would have to be seen.
`So many children have been to the flat over the years, you’d have thought there’d be some
hint that something was wrong.`
Her reply came out before she could vet it.
`No nothing, not against them anyway.` She quickly looked at her watch. `God, is that the
time? I must run.`
She turned and walked briskly down the corridor calling goodbye behind her. I had to run
after her to keep up.
`What did you mean `not against them` Mrs Hargreaves?`
She sped up a little, nearly at the door.
`Nothing. Nothing at all. Slip of the tongue.`
She went out through the double glass doors without slowing. Once outside she
accelerated, almost running to her car with me resolutely keeping pace a few steps behind.
`Mrs Hargreaves,` I said. `It must have meant something. I want to help. To help Daniel
She was trying to get the key into the lock of her car door.
`I’ve said too much already Constable, I’m sorry.`
`Mrs Hargreaves please. I can help.`
The key slipped and made a small scratch just below the door handle. She sagged against
the side of the car.
`I know it’s confidential client information and I know you can’t say anything but I really
want to help.`
She turned and looked at me.
`Please Constable Mehta, I can’t.`
`Look, if I ask you a question and you don’t reply then you haven’t disclosed anything
classified have you? All you have to do is to deny anything that isn’t true and not deny
anything that is true. There wouldn’t be anything wrong in that would there?
She looked down at the ground and gave a slow resigned nod.
`Have there ever been allegations against anyone else involved in the case?`
Her gaze remained determinedly fixed on the tarmac.
`Were these allegations against a member of the victim’s family.`
No reaction, just a slight tightening of the jaw.
`And did these allegations involve a member of his own family. A daughter perhaps.?`
Finally it had got too much. She turned and this time unlocked her car door at the first
attempt. She sat inside mumbling an apology before slamming the door and starting the
engine. Gravel sprayed up as she drove off.
I walked back to the main entrance deep in thought. Unfortunately a couple of my
colleagues had witnessed the entire episode and I knew I was in for some more of their
`Lover’s tiff Art?`
`Never mind. She’ll give you a few social services later.`
`You’re a bit of a dark horse aren’t you?`
They would generally enjoy the acute embarrassment this caused me but tonight they were
to be disappointed as my mind was on more weighty matters, and what I was thinking was:
If the Chubb twins didn’t even know how to use a screwdriver what on earth would they
want with a wrench?
`Question number 1: How many fluid ounces in a gill?`
Inspector Bowman had taken me to one side earlier as we waited for the minibus:
`It might be an idea if you don’t just jump in with every answer lad. Leave it a few
seconds, see if anyone else on the team knows. They feel a bit – disadvantaged, you know,
I didn’t really. Surely if you know the answer, the thing to do is to come right out and say
it, but Inspector Bowman was captain.
I waited the allotted few seconds. The rest of the team looked at each other. Then they
looked at me.
`Five. Five fluid ounces.`
Dennis Munroe was our scribe. He was on the team because, as the station’s I.T. expert, he
was considered knowledgeable in all things technical though the way he had networked our
computer system was woefully inefficient. Luckily I had been on hand to point this out to
`Question number 2: Who is the patron saint of police officers? There are two possible
answers to this – I’ll take either one.`
Now surely someone else should know the answer to this one I thought, but no. I was just
given the same blank looks but this time preceded by a lot of ums and ers.
`Genevieve and Sebastian.`
We had arrived after a long drive, swathed in a fug of smoke, during which the inspector
had painstakingly outlined our `strategy` which appeared to be: answer the questions we
were sure of and guess all the others.
Immediately upon our arrival we were plunged into controversy over the conduct of the
inspector’s mortal enemies, the CID team, headed by Chief Superintendent Launce, which
had three members not currently serving as police officers.
`They just have to be employed by the police service, Inspector,` said a rather officious
`But old Bob Pullen has been retired for five years and I’ve never even seen one of the
others. I’m going to make an official complaint.`
It transpired that the CID team had in it’s ranks two professors, one of psychology and one
of forensic pathology. The former, the elderly Professor Trevor Carr had published some
modestly well-regarded research while the latter, Professor Stephen Burnell had written
`popular science` books which I had found of little academic merit. Ex-Superintendent
Pullen’s proudest moment had been when he had led his pub quiz team to the finals of a
competition shown on satellite television in the middle of the night. All were at least
occasionally on the force’s payroll.
`Question number 3: In which country was the American film star Bruce Willis born?`
Once again there was a lot of frowning and shaking of heads, this time accompanied by the
more hopeful `ooh I know this`, but eventually all eyes turned in my direction.
`Who’s Bruce Willis?` I said.
Amid much groaning and mumbling at the shocking level of my ignorance it was decided
to plump, wrongly as it turned out, for South Africa.
There were a number of questions in that vain: Television, film and pop music trivia the
answers to which various members of the team knew, or more frequently, almost knew.
Eventually four teams from our group were selected to go on to the next round. We were
through of course, as were CID who finished one point ahead of us though I had serious
doubts about the veracity of one of the answers.
As part of our strategy only soft drinks were to be consumed until all questions were
answered but some members of the team now rather over-compensated for their
enforced abstinence. I found this most frustrating as I was keen to have a quiet word with
Obtaining more information about Norman Jemmett’s past was, I knew, going to be
difficult. With a suspect in custody supported by clear video evidence and a confession, the
idea of reopening the case would be greeted with less than universal enthusiasm. Though
quite capable of accessing Social Service’s records through illicit use of the internet I
would never stoop to illegal methods of gathering information and concluded therefore that
I would require help.
After attempting in vain to speak to Inspector Bowman during the rather frustrating ride to
the quiz venue, I conspired, a little forcefully perhaps, to sit next to him on the return
journey. After a lengthy post-mortem of the evening’s entertainment with other members
of the team the inspector gave me his almost undivided attention.
`Inspector. You know Norman Jemmett.`
`Norman who?` he said, still preoccupied with the great quest and, it has to be said, a little
the worse for drink.
`Jemmett sir. The father of the murdered girl Carly Jemmett.`
He tried to think above the noise of our increasingly rowdy fellow passengers.
`Oh him,` he said. `What about him?`
I spoke quietly as I felt it prudent that my colleagues remain unaware of my involvement in
`I just wondered what you knew about him sir. I know he’s never been charged with
anything but I’ve got the impression that perhaps we’ve had dealings with him in a less
The inspector thought for a few seconds.
`I’ve never crossed paths with him myself, let’s see if the others know anything.`
Before I could stop him he had turned round to the rest of the team and shouted through the
thick haze of smoke:
`Anyone know anything about Norman Jemmett, the dead girl’s father.`
There was a general shrugging of shoulders and shaking of heads. Only Sergeant Frank
Dyas, the oldest member of the team, had any memory of Jemmett.
`Haven’t heard anything of him for at least five years. Never charged with anything but we
had to attend a couple of fights, stuff like that. Sorted himself out with Alcoholics
Anonymous I think but he was no trouble, his wife kept him in line. Why, who wants to
I was already quite uncomfortable with my interest in the case being made public like this
but the inspector now compounded the problem considerably.
`Constable Mehta here. He doesn’t think Daniel Chubb murdered the Jemmett girl.`
This appeared to be the most hilarious thing my team-mates had ever heard and it was
another twenty miles before the laughing finally petered out. Some time during this period
of levity however, someone, I think it was Sergeant Dyas again, said something interesting.
`You should tell old Stent that. The idea of Launce’s lot getting it wrong would make his
day. Stopping Launce from getting his job is the only thing keeping the old sod alive.`
The owner of the Tenbridge Lodge Hotel had been forced, like many others, to make a
decision as to the future use of the building once the huge `Travel Inn` and `Motor Lodge`
motels were built in the town centre. Some opened residential homes for the elderly, others
tried their hand at the potentially lucrative conference market, John and Irene Leneman
plumped for a less risky but no less strenuous path: the council bed and breakfast.
They had no doubt made some attempt in the beginning to maintain their previous level of
hospitality but found that, regardless of the state of the rooms, there was a constant stream
of paid-for customers, and so began the inexorable erosion of standards.
Reginald’s room was much like all the others. Whether you were a refugee from a brutal
regime, a family evicted on an anti-social behaviour order or a care in the community
mental patient made little difference – you got the legal minimum home comforts.
Reginald hadn’t even bothered to bring any of his `collection` with him and seeing him in
this bare room was like seeing the Mona Lisa or the Laughing Cavalier cut from their
canvas and pasted onto a white wall.
Though Reginald insisted he was in good health and keeping his spirits up it was plain
from his blank look and disinterested monotone that this was far from the truth. He and his
brother had always been, if idiosyncratic in their dress, at least clean and smart, almost
dapper, but he was now in a noticeably dishevelled state: An old, holed, cardigan over a
grimy shirt, track suit trousers and a sock with a little toe poking through. I asked if he had
seen his brother.
`Mrs Hargreaves drove me up to the prison the day before yesterday,` he said. `Daniel isn’t
coping well I’m afraid Arti. He’s not strong you see. I’m the strong one. I’m fine here,
really I am but he’s more sensitive. I do worry about him.`
I followed him into the tiny kitchen: sink, fridge, cooker, where he offered me the choice of
a cup of tea or a fizzy drink in a garishly coloured can. Reginald’s capacity for domestic
hygiene had sunk to a level at which the sweet, carbonated water was the safer of the two
options. He put a teabag in a dirty cup and filled it with hot water from the tap.
`And how have the police been treating you? You’ve been interviewed haven’t you?`
`Every day,` he said. `Sometimes for hours. They just keep on and on. Over and over again
the same questions, I’ve told them the truth so far but…`
He stared into space for so long that I thought he may have forgotten I was there.
`Reginald?` I said.
He looked pathetically at me – not the pathetic of Victorian paintings of puppies, but
terrible and empty.
`If I tell them I did it as well do you think they'd put us in the same prison? Would we be
It had been naive to think that I could come round on the pretext of a social visit. I hadn’t
wanted him to have unrealistic expectations over what was almost certainly a lost cause but
even a false hope was better than no hope at all. I couldn’t imagine him surviving like this
for much longer and he wasn’t the one in prison.
`Reginald. I want you to listen very carefully. Daniel did a very silly thing when he said
he’d murdered Carly. He said it because he’s not as strong as you. It’s very important that
you remain strong. Lying is easy. It’s comfortable, like giving in to sleep when you’re cold
and tired. But that’s the sleep you don’t wake up from. If you lie too then you’re lost,
you’re both lost, but all the time that you tell the truth there’s a tiny glimmer of hope.`
Barely acknowledging what I had said Reginald shuffled back into the bed-sitting room
with his tea and sat forlornly on the edge of the unmade bed. He rocked slowly back and
forth while he stared at the black pit only he could see through the bare floorboards.
On the way to see him I had stopped off at the market and brought a snowstorm: a little
plastic globe in which three camels stood in front of a pyramid about twice their size. That
this would make him step back from the chasm of despair was surely a forlorn hope but it
was all I had. I retrieved it from my pocket and gave it to him.
`I thought you could give this to Daniel when you next see him. He could keep it in his
cell, brighten the place up a bit.`
Reginald stared blankly at the cheap ornament in his hand. It was impossible to tell what he
was thinking – if he was thinking. His grip on the world seemed so tentative.
`Do you think he’ll like it?`
He struggled out of his reverie, seeming to see the snowstorm for the first time.
`Oh yes Arti, thank you very much, he’ll be very grateful.`
Talking to him now was like trying to get a good reception. One minute the picture was
clear, the sound strong, but the connection was prone to interference. I had to take my
opportunities while the signal was good. I pulled up a chair and sat just in front of him.
`Reginald, I want to help you and Daniel but I can’t do it by myself. Do you think you can
I sat very close to him, looking into his eyes. I didn’t want him to look away. He nodded.
`When I last visited you and you brother you were going to tell me something but then the
policemen arrived. Do you remember?`
He thought for a second.
`Oh yes, it was nothing, it doesn’t matter now anyway.`
`Was it about Carly?` I asked and as I stared into his eyes they seemed to come into focus
`The police. The other ones. They asked us if we had ever met Carly’s parents and we said
no which was strictly true, but we didn’t tell them about the phone call.`
`You had a phone call from Norman Jemmett?` I said.
`No, not the father. Not him. It was Mrs Jemmett we spoke to – or rather listened to.
He looked down at the snowstorm and gave it a little shake.
`Carly had changed. She was always quiet but now she seemed – different. One day, after
the children had gone home and we were clearing up – the three of us, we were talking, just
joking really, and she said `If you were God what would you have made the world like?`
We thought it was a funny question but we were having fun so we started inventing this
world. It would be a world for children we said. All the things they like: playgrounds and
sweets, and animals would always be young – puppies or kittens. We said there would only
be nice grown-ups – nice mummies and daddies but she said there’d just be mummies. No,
we said, there’d have to be daddies, or there couldn’t be any babies and she started crying.
Really upset she was. We’d never seen her like that before.`
Reginald took a sip of his tea, grimaced and put it down again.
`Anyway, about a week later we had a telephone call in the middle of the night. It was her
– Carly’s mother. She was shouting and swearing, saying `keep your nose out of our
business` and suchlike. It was very upsetting. We really didn’t know what she was talking
about. Then she slammed the phone down.
He smiled apologetically, but at least it was a smile, the first sign of emotion I’d seen from
`I’m sorry Arti, I told you it was nothing, it seems so trivial now.`
`No,` I replied. `It’s often the trivial things that prove to be the most important,` though to
be honest I had been hoping for something a little more substantial. I looked at my watch.
`I’m sorry, I have to go back to work now.`
He rose from the bed and showed me to the door, putting on a show of rationality, of
normality. I asked him to promise me something.
`Of course Arti, of course, anything.`
`I want you to promise to keep strong for Daniel and to keep telling the truth.`
He promised he would, and I think he meant it – then.
Following my televisual conversion to the cause of crime detection, I started buying, and
secretly reading, police novels. After I had read all the books based on the Sweeney, I
greedily devoured any novel I could find involving police work and criminology.
Most, I quickly realised, were woefully lacking in accurate background research, but even
those authors who approached their task with some degree of rigour tended towards one
fatal flaw: the romantic notion of `the renegade cop who doesn’t play by the rules`.
I swiftly grew out of these fictions but even before that I realised that a policeman working
on his own, without the approval of his superiors and the technical and logistical support of
his fellow officers, would be hopelessly hampered in the pursuit of his investigations.
In my present situation, apart from the question of the effectiveness of this course of action
there was also the fact that I was simply not comfortable working without the sanction of
my senior officer.
Following my initial enquiries of Inspector Bowman on the quiz night I had made two
further attempts to persuade him of the logic of my suspicions, but to little avail. While he
was happy to humour me for the sake of the quiz team, he had come to believe, like
everybody else, in the safety of the Daniel Chubb conviction.
It was during the second of these unsuccessful interviews that he mentioned the paperwork
to be delivered to the chief superintendent.
Though still convalescing at home, Chief Superintendent Stent had asked to be kept
updated on all matters pertaining to the running of C Division and a thick pile of papers
was delivered to his house every week. The inspector seemed happy to trust me with that
duty, assuming it to be another example of my habitual keenness.
Chief Superintendant Stent’s neat bungalow was in the Cordingley district, a quiet suburb
out on the old Western Road. The shiny, red front door was opened by Maureen Stent who
appeared then, and in all my subsequent dealings with her, to be a very nice lady but a
ferocious protector of her husband’s well-being.
`Good evening madam,` I said. `I’m Constable Mehta. Inspector Bowman asked me to
deliver some papers to your husband.`
She thanked me and went to take the papers.
At her heel was a tiny, sturdy little dog who returned my gaze with disinterest.
`Is that a Norwich Terrier?` I asked.
`Why yes,` she replied with enthusiasm. `They’re not a very well-known breed. Do you
know much about dogs?`
The sum total of my canine knowledge was acquired long ago in a primary school project
but I could still identify most breeds – none of whom had ever shown anything but hostility
`I’m not an expert but he’s such a charming little fellow isn’t he?
Mrs Stent smiled broadly and picked up the creature.
`Look Pinky, this is one of daddy’s men, say hello to Constable Mehta.`
`The dog was quite oblivious to my presence.
`I was wondering if it would be possible to have a quick word with the chief
superintendent. Inspector Bowman asked me to make sure he’s all right and see if he needs
Like a gaoler tricked into handing over the keys she ushered me down the hall to the
lounge and stopped outside the door.
`He’s still quite weak Constable. The doctors say he should avoid any form of excitement.’
`Don’t worry Mrs Stent, I just want to pass on the good wishes of everyone at the station.`
Mrs Stent went into the room to talk to her husband before asking me in and saying she
would make us both a cup of tea.
The chief superintendent’s oversized armchair emphasised his small frame. His wiriness
had disappeared and he had developed a yellowish parlour. Advanced medical training was
not required to see that he wasn’t a well man.
`Inspector Bowman is a bit busy so I offered to bring the papers over. I hope that’s all right
`No need for formality Art,` he said. `We’re off duty now, call me Maurice.`
I agreed reluctantly, not just because I was uncomfortable with such familiarity but because
it seemed like a tacit acknowledgement that he wouldn’t be returning to work. I handed
over the thick pile of reports which he quickly scanned before laying them on a coffee table
in front of his chair.
`I was sorry to hear about your illness s…Maurice,` I said. `Everyone at the station wishes
you well. I hope you’re on the road to recovery.`
He thanked me but I noticed he said nothing about the present state of his health.
The room was neat and tidy. A modern standard lamp – the only concession to current
fashion – stood uneasily amongst furniture from other periods. On the wall was a
photograph of the chief superintendent receiving a commendation from a previous, now
forgotten, home secretary and in a glass case in the corner of the room stood a number of
trophies – proud momentos of a short-lived boxing career. Mrs Stent left our tea while I
looked at a large silver shield in the cabinet.
`This must have been where you beat Jacky Knox. Quite a fight I heard. Points wasn’t it?`
The chief superintendent levered himself out of the chair and stood by my side – even in
cardigan and slippers he retained his ramrod-straight formality.
`I didn’t know you were interested in boxing, Art,`
`Well I’m no expert,` I replied with justified modesty. `But you’re really quite well known,
everyone’s heard of Maurice Stent.`
I’m not sure that he believed me but he did seem pleased. It hadn’t been easy finding the
information – the only Maurice Stents I could discover on the internet was a professor of
microbiology at Columbia University and a drummer from Hull looking for work. None of
the boxing websites mentioned him. I had eventually found a footnote in the seventh book
on boxing I speed-read in the library en-route to his house. I hoped it wouldn’t lead to a
conversation on the subject as this was the sum total of my pugilistic knowledge.
`The highpoint of my boxing career, that was,` he said wistfully. `And the last time I ever
fought in the ring.`
`Which hand was it you broke?` I asked. `The left wasn’t it?`
He held up his big, wide, boxer’s hands, fingers splayed.
`It healed pretty quickly. I could have taken on, I don’t know, Billy Milton or someone and
then, who knows, but I lost confidence in this hand and once your nerve goes…`
For a while we stared at the silverware gleaming in the cabinet, he at the dates and places,
me at the reflections.
`Tea,` he said suddenly, and thankfully changed the subject.
We both sat down in the overly soft armchairs – he with evident relief after standing for
two minutes. I struggled forward to reach my cup of tea.
`Some of these reports,` he lifted the pile of papers. `Will be about you Art.`
`Me sir?` I replied in surprise. Naturally I hadn’t looked at any of the papers I delivered as
they were confidential.
`I get regular updates on all new recruits – how they’re doing, any problems, that sort of
thing. I’ve had rather mixed reports about you Art.`
`Really?` I said, surprised and a little affronted.
`Now don’t get me wrong, no-one’s said anything against your work – quite the opposite –
way beyond the call of duty in fact. But you have had a few run-ins with, well, lots of
people haven’t you?` he said in his clipped, precise way – even a slight criticism from him
seemed supportive, almost comforting.
`I get on very well with most people sir,` I said. `I really don’t know why but one or two
people seem to have taken against me – a few people perhaps.
The chief superintendent blew on his tea before taking a sip. A lawn mower started up
`Being a policeman isn’t about books or research or policies Art, not really. It’s about
people – you’ve got to give them a bit of leeway, a bit of slack. With your qualifications, if
you played your cards right, fast-tracking and all that, you could be in CID in no time –
Biscuit?` He said nodding toward a tin barrel on the coffee table. I chose the one on the top,
a pink wafer which tasted pink and wafery.
`To be perfectly honest sir, I’m really quite content where I am for the time being. I feel it’s
an honour to be a constable – the backbone of the British police service. Naturally in due
course I’d like to be a detective – perhaps when there’s a change of leadership in CID.`
`Ah yes,` he replied, leaning back in his chair and closing his eyes. `DI Launce is one of
the people who’s unaccountably taken against you.`
`Not quite unaccountably in his case I’m afraid sir,` I said.
The chief superintendent opened his eyes and smiled at me.
`Yes, I heard about that. You’d be wise to make up with DI Launce, you won’t get very far
if you don’t.`
We sipped our tea in silence. I had previously thought to give the chief superintendent only
the vaguest hint of my concerns but there seemed little advantage to this now. He had risen
to a very senior position in the force, but here, in his neat bungalow, where even mowing
the lawn was beyond him, he was just an old man – bored, depressed and deprived of a
`Sir. Maurice. There’s another reason why Detective Inspector Launce is less than amicable
towards me, apart from my, er, unfortunate illness. I’m afraid that I criticised the way he
carried out the Carly Jemmett murder investigation. I know it’s not my place and I know
the evidence appears overwhelming but the fact is that I think they’re wrong. I have serious
doubts that Daniel Chubb committed the murder.`
Telling him had been something of an anticlimax. No rush of relief for me and no great
show of enthusiasm from him, but at least his reaction had not been negative, just a slight
frown followed by: `Go on.`
I told him about the CID report, the forensic tests, about what Irene Hargreaves had told
me, about the twins’ midnight phone call from Elizabeth Jemmett. As I was talking I could
see, out of the corner of my eye, Mrs Stent, through the French windows, mowing the
lawn. Back and forth she went and by the time I had finished she was near the greenhouse
at the bottom of the garden.
`The only two things in favour of Daniel’s conviction are the confession which, knowing
the twins as I do is of little value, and the video which is…`
`A bit more of a problem,` said the chief superintendent – the first words he had uttered
throughout my tortuous speech.
`Despite what you may have heard I’ve got nothing against DI Launce,` said the chief
superintendent after a contemplative pause. `He’s a career policeman and no better or
worse than a lot of others, just a bit better at the career than the policeman. To be honest I
don’t really care who runs the place after me,` he said though I was not entirely convinced.
`Have you ever been to a moor Art? Dartmoor? Yorkshire Moors?` he asked
`Only en-route to somewhere,` I replied.
`You should go. Those places are like Tenbridge – bleak but beautiful. I know to most
people it’s a bit grim here but I could never leave and neither could Maureen – it’s where I
was born and where I’ll die. You can build all the estates and shopping malls you like but I
know the people and they don’t change, not really.
`They’ve been very kind to me,` I said and, unlike most others, the chief superintendent
accepted it in the spirit meant. He continued:
`The trouble with Launce is that he can’t see it. He just sees a stepping stone to better
things – something to stop him getting his feet dirty, and if the stone tips over, goes under –
well, he’ll be on the other side won’t he?`
Once again he struggled out of the chair and stood, getting his balance and catching his
breath before moving to the French windows. Mrs Stent had finished the lawn and was
winding the electric lead neatly round the handle.
`Don’t mention this to my wife Art,` he said turning to me. `She’ll only worry.`
He walked slowly over to an escritoire, rolled back the top and took out a video tape. As he
put it in the machine and pressed rewind he said:
`I’ve been in charge of a few murder enquiries myself Art.`
`I know sir.` I replied. `I did some research when I knew I was coming to Tenbridge. I was
particularly impressed with your work on the Marley murder case – and of course the
He straightened up with difficulty. When he continued talking it was with sadness, as if to
`They’re all like this one – no Mr Big sunning himself on the Riviera, just ordinary people
too weak to control themselves.`
I was going to ask if he thought Norman Jemmett could be like that – weak, lacking self-
control, but the video had wound back to the beginning and automatically started playing.
The few seconds before the murder and the act itself were the only thing on the tape. It was
surprisingly well defined – some pixelation of fast movements: the arm raised, the long arc
down with the wrench, but there was no doubt what we were watching. The angle was
steep but Carly’s face was clear and even as a non lip-reader I could tell what she was
saying: `Dan, what are you d…?` You could even see a little spurt of blood.
The chief superintendent rewound the tape and we watched again. You couldn’t judge the
murderer’s height because of the angle of the camera but it certainly looked like one of the
twins: the same build, same bald patch. We watched again – the object glimpsed being
retrieved from the victim’s pocket appeared to be dark and the bulge it made suggested the
shape of a purse.
`If anyone says anything,` said the chief superintendent locking the video back into the
desk. `Just say you were following my orders – I’ll take responsibility.`
`So you think there might be some basis to my concerns then sir?` I said.
The back door slammed shut and we heard Mrs Stent moving about in the kitchen – taking
off her special gardening shoes. I thought it was probably time to depart.
`No, not really,` he said `But I like to give people a chance to show what they’re made of –
not that you’re allowed to nowadays, it’s all reports now. Anyway, it makes a change from
Mrs Stent’s footsteps padded softly along the passage. The chief superintendent whispered:
`I’ll see what I can find out, my daughter-in-law works for Social Services.`
`Oh! You’re still here Constable, that’s nice,` Mrs Stent said as she entered the room.
`Yes Mrs Stent. We were having a gossip, got a bit carried away.`
My Uncle Sunny was the sole member of my father’s labyrinthine family to go into into
business rather than a profession. As a reaction to being rather looked-down upon by his
relatives he sometimes felt compelled to make an ostentatious display of his considerable
wealth and the ultimate excuse was his daughter’s wedding. I had little choice but to attend
even though I had not seen her since I was eleven and found these events to be rather
This would be the first opportunity for my bewildering array of relatives to inspect the
latest bizarre curio – the family policeman: the most unusual aberration in the family since
a distant auntie grew a beard.
The reception was held in a marquee which, though huge, was swallowed up in the grounds
of my uncle’s house. He lived on a modern estate very different from the one in which I
had spent so much time recently. The security systems in my uncle’s house cost more than
an entire flat would on the Chaucer estate but in a strange way they resembled one another
– the same uniformity, the same sense of isolation.
I spent some time amid the horticultural excesses of the grounds, inspecting an unusual
Mongolian Lime and some escallonia macrantha infected with red spider mite, in order to
avoid the discomfort of a conversation with distant relatives.
My mother was in her element though, catching up on the news with family members she
seldom saw, including a number who had come over from the old country. It was as though
the veil of her early, brilliant academic achievements had been lifted to reveal an old
village washerwoman, gossiping over the fence with her neighbours.
A series of varyingly successful younger members of my family were paraded in front of
me as a demonstration of what I could still be if I came to my senses: lawyers, doctors,
architects. Even my cousin Bharat, who had joined the civil service, had risen quickly to
the position of a personal adviser to the Chief Secretary to the Treasury – one of many
though you would never have known this from talking to him.
For some time I successfully avoided my maternal grandmother, an inveterate matchmaker,
but was eventually cornered with the daughter of my uncle’s business partner. For a law
student she displayed a lamentably short attention span and a rather rather worrying lack of
interest in any aspect of police work. She eventually drifted off to fraternise with members
of the band.
The food, prepared at enormous expense by a apparently famous chef, was faddish and
fiddly and I found myself yearning for one of Caribbean George’s delicious Jamaican
All in all the entire gathering was becoming hard to endure and I was trying to calculate
how early I could leave without being considered rude when I saw someone I had
completely forgotten about – Anita.
Anita was a distant relation – a second cousin or thereabouts – and had been a constant
presence on the periphery of my childhood and adolescence. She was one of those people
who, to my eternal shame as I was as guilty as anyone, was alternatively pitied and ignored
due to the fact that she was profoundly deaf.
Though as capable as any other member of our family she had foolishly been sent to a
special school where her deficiencies were cultivated and her abilities smothered. She now
did a menial job at a local solicitors but had developed a talent for withering sarcasm which
some liked to think, wrongly in my opinion, was borne of bitterness.
As I watched, a succession of relatives, approaching her out of a sense of familial duty,
reeled away bemused or scandalised.
`Well, well, if it isn’t PC – in both senses of the word – Mehta,` she said with the rounded
monotone of those born with hearing but later afflicted.
Though I hadn’t seen her for some time we immediately slipped into our comfortable
routine – Anita rude and impertinent, me fogeyish and offended. I felt better already.
`Hello Anita, how are you?`
`Can complain, must grumble,` she said, not for the first time.
`Have you spoken to the happy couple?` I asked.
`No, the bride and groom distracted me.`
Behind her curmudgeonly facade I knew she was happy to see me as I was a good, if
unwitting, straight man.
`You’ve heard that I’m a proud member of her Majesty’s Constabulary then?` I said.
`Yes, it must be quite handy, you can beat yourself up, cut out the middle man.`
And so it went on, me saying something innocent and waiting to see what she would do
with it, how she would twist and mould it into her own little creation. Usually I would have
objected to such groundless slurs but from Anita they they were so quick and light-footed,
and no more meant than when an actress says her lines.
That Anita’s potential had not been realised was less a result of her disability than other
people’s perception of it as she had become an expert on sign language and, I belatedly
`I’d like to ask you a favour Anita,` I managed to interject eventually.
`I didn’t think the police were too badly paid but I could probably stretch to a fiver.`
This was Anita’s single but fatal flaw. For her, sarcasm was both a weapon and an armour
– a shield she was reluctant to lower. I persevered.
`No I’m serious.`
`OK a tenner then but only to get the crack whores off your back.`
As this was a common reaction from anyone talking to her, those nearby merely glanced in
our direction and carried on with their conversations.
`All right,` she said, a little less adversarially. `I never thought I’d say this to a policeman
but – fire away.`
It suddenly felt like a rather foolish thing to ask but I was committed now:
`I just want you to tell me what I am saying.`
She gave me a look of mock bewilderment.
`But I know what you’re saying and I would assume you do too.`
`Yes I know you know what I’m saying I just want to know if you know…Let’s start again.
I’m going to walk a few paces away and I want you to tell me what I say. That’s all. Will
you do that?`
Anita shrugged a sort of affirmation.
The murderer of Carly Jemmett had taken three steps forward to strike the fatal blow, so I
stood approximately the same distance from Anita. I lowered my head so as to be at
roughly the same angle as Carly was to the CCTV camera.
`Dan, what are you d…?`
Anita didn’t reply immediately but frowned quizzically.
`This is serious isn’t it?`
`Yes,` I replied. `It is.`
`Do it again.`
I lowered my head once more and spoke the words.
`Dan, what are you d…?`
I walked back to her and waited impatiently.
`It’s hard to be sure. The same shapes can form different sounds, you have to work out a
context – something that makes sense. And it’s not just the lips, you learn the positions of
the tongue, there were no Ls, I would have seen the tongue come forward and I couldn’t
see yours but I’d say,` she considered for a moment. `Let’s see it again.`
Once again I stood about six feet away and lowered my head.
`Dan, what are you d…?`
I looked up. She nodded thoughtfully.
`Yes I think I’ve got it.`
For the first time her flat, expressionless voice sounded strangely beautiful.
`Dad, what are you d…?
Chief Superintendent Stent’s clear injunction to avoid all exertion, which in his present
state of health meant avoiding walks of more than six paces, had just one exemption – his
trips to the library. Mrs Stent made her husband submit rigidly to his doctor’s advice but
even she accepted that being couped up in the house with only the company of herself and
daytime TV presenters was unlikely to aid recovery.
And so, once a week, she accompanied her husband to the library in a taxi and, having
ensured that he was successfully ensconced, off she went out to look around the shops.
The chief superintendent had developed, during his convalescence, a keen but short-lived
interest in a number of subjects. By the time I arrived he had books on heraldry, the lost
kingdom of Atlantis and steam tractors and I began to sympathise with Mrs Stent’s
predilection for shopping.
The chief superintendent still had a sickly pallor and the walk from the taxi to the escalator
had taken it’s toll, causing him to take quick gulps of air between sentences. I sat down
`I think you’re looking a little better.` A rare but, I thought justifiable, untruth. He smiled
and nodded non-committally.
I passed on to the chief superintendent a few small, but germane pieces of information I
had unearthed since I visited him.
The bright yellow track suit that the murderer wore had a hood, the inside of which, though
only glimpsed briefly in the video, appeared to be green. I found a surprising number of
sportswear manufacturers specialising in clothing in the gaudier shades but only one with
that particular combination. Wing Yo Sports Fashions were positioned at the more
economical end of the leisure clothing market and their wares were sold in hundreds of
shops, stores and markets throughout the country. Though the relevance of this was not
immediately obvious it was something to tell the chief superintendent and was of course
one more thing CID had deemed superfluous to their investigation.
We had to be quick so as not to be seen by Mrs Stent who would have banned her husband
from taking an interest in the case on health grounds. I have to say I was a little concerned
about this myself and tried to downplay the importance of Anita’s revelation lest my
enthusiasm became contagious. My ruse failed to work however, as the chief
superintendent leaned forward like an excited schoolboy, or the closest approximation his
infirmity would allow.
`I’ve done a bit of digging around myself,` he said. `And June – that’s my son Patrick’s
wife – has come up trumps. She’s not really one for client confidentiality and all that
nonsense so she was happy to look in the files. There’s nothing official, it never got that far
but they were certainly keeping an eye on Jemmett.`
We were on the third floor of the new library building at a table specially chosen so that the
chief superintendent would be able to see a rear view of his wife coming up the escalator.
Assorted students, writers, anyone with reason to research, were sitting silently at the other
tables and I became a little paranoid that the chief superintendent’s wheezing whisper
could be clearly overheard.
`Apparently the older daughter, what’s her name?`
`That’s it, Amelia. A friend of hers had told a teacher about something Amelia had said – it
didn’t say what and the girl wouldn’t repeat it but it involved Amelia, her father and was
reported to Social Services so it wasn’t a day at the seaside. The teacher passed the
information on because Amelia had become withdrawn and had started getting into trouble.
They did a few checks but never took it any further.`
`This would have been, what, four years ago?` I asked.
`About then yes,` he said. `Anyway, there were no more incidents so they forgot about it
until Carly began acting the same way – not getting into trouble but quiet, withdrawn. The
same teacher noticed and got in touch with Social Services again. This time they
interviewed the parents and had put someone on the case when Carly was murdered. Then
it all seemed a bit academic what with the video and everything.`
`The Jemmetts must have assumed that Carly had told the twins and that they had reported
them to Social Services,` I said.
The chief superintendent nodded and leaned back with his hands clasped in front of his
face, index fingers together and outstretched like a steeple, or a gun. I was a little
concerned that his wife might return and was about to ask for some advice as to my next
course of action when he said:
“Understand the people and you understand the crime” that’s what my old sergeant used to
say. You’ve done some good work so far Art but don’t get too bogged down in detail. You
have to be able to stand back and look at who’s involved. No-one wants to commit murder
– everybody loses out. Ask yourself why they do what they do and you usually find it’s just
people who get out of their depths and panic. Does that sound right in this case? That’s
what you’ve got to ask yourself.`
I was reluctant to interrupt, but mindful of the time, ventured:
`Sir, if I write our findings up as a report, with your backing it might be enough to get CID
to at least question Mr Jemmett. It does make Daniel Chubb’s arrest look doubtful doesn’t
The chief superintendent smiled grimly.
`Policemen are like priests – they can’t afford to entertain doubt. I’m afraid Norman
Jemmett with a signed confession and a bloodstained wrench wouldn’t make CID change
their mind now.`
`But they couldn’t ignore you sir,` I said.
He gave a sad little laugh.
`They can and do ignore me. Most of them don’t think I’ll be coming back anyway but
even if I do – well I just don’t fit with the modern way of doing things. These days it’s not
what you do it’s how it looks. I’m just a throwback to most of them.`
`I can assure you sir,` I said. `That you’re held in very high regard by the ordinary men and
women at the station. They really do appreciate your…`
`Quick, hide it’s the missus.`
I turned round to see Mrs Stent slowly rising up the escalator.
`Here take this,` he said handing me a large, but thin, envelope.
I grabbed it and managed to get out of my chair and crouch behind a case of books before
Mrs Stent reached the top of the escalator and turned round.
`Hello dear. Did you get anything nice,` said the chief superintendent.
Mrs Stent showed him something, an item of clothing perhaps, that she had got for a
granddaughter and then asked if he had managed to find any good books. Crouching
uncomfortably in front of the historical romance section I almost missed his reply.
`I picked up one or two interesting things. But what I really wanted to find out about was
Alcoholics Anonymous. Some very interesting people have been along to them you know.`
`That’s nice dear,` said Mrs Stent.
On the bus journey home I opened the envelope the chief superintendent had given me. It
contained part of a report he had written a couple of years before, based on an intelligence
gathering operation concerning the area’s middle-ranking career criminals – the ones who
controlled other criminals but who’s operations were not national or international.
Mr Lewisham, as I had suspected, ran crime on and around the Chaucer estate – at least
that crime for which there were financial rewards. He was in charge of eleven known
prostitutes as well as such things as re-programming stolen mobile phones, selling
cigarettes and alcohol on which no duty had been paid and the peddling of drugs – anything
illegal that someone would be willing to pay for.
The drug dealing caught my attention as it appeared to be limited to cannabis and
amphetamines. There were a number of people on the estate dependent on heroin and crack
cocaine and the fact that these poor souls were supplied from outside suggested that Mr
Lewisham was not quite as independent as he liked to suggest.
It is not uncommon for such criminals to work this way – a sort of sub-contracting system.
The crimes that Lewisham was in charge of on the estate were the mundane but lucrative
day-to-day felonies – not life-threatening but a scourge nevertheless. The more serious
crime – class-A drug dealing and murder for example, would be organised by someone on
the next rung up the ladder of shame. They would allow Lewisham to continue his
wrongdoing in return for a `consideration` – usually a sizeable percentage.
Lewisham’s involvement in the investigation was only peripheral but it was good of the
chief superintendent to pass on the information – besides which I was sure to have dealings
with Mr Lewisham in the course of my future duties.
The news that greeted me at the station early the following morning came as little surprise.
The previous evening Reginald had walked into Perry Hill police station – the closest to his
accommodation – and given himself up. He and Daniel were being interrogated at separate
police stations as was the usual practice. No information had yet been released to the media
but I assumed he had been charged with conspiracy to commit murder.
I had been mulling over Chief Superintendent Stent’s cryptic suggestion to investigate
Norman Jemmett through his membership of Alcoholics Anonymous. The people who
attend it’s meetings are invariably alcoholics but they are also anonymous – there is no
official membership and no records are kept – so I was unable to find out officially whether
Carly’s father had ever attended.
The nearest meeting place for Norman Jemmett would have been the Church of Our Lady
of the Sacred Heart, a large red brick building on the outskirts of the estate. However,
recovering alcoholics often attend meetings at a number of different venues both to help
others and as a way to avoid temptation.
With the plan of attack for further investigation proving frustratingly elusive, any
displacement activity was most welcome and there were few duties at this time that I didn’t
make myself available for. Eventually I was given the opportunity to be included in an
early morning drugs raid – a `bust` – and as this was my first such operation I was quite
exhilerated by the prospect.
Twelve of us, including two dog handlers, gathered in the operations room for the briefing.
The raid had been organised as a result of an intelligence gathering exercise which
suggested that the leader of a local drugs ring lived at a certain address and major arrests
were confidently predicted. I have to say that I had my doubts which, when voiced, were
rather dismissively overruled.
Drugs legislation and policing have been an area of particular interest for me ever since I
tried, unsuccessfully to my shame, to save a fellow student – now a television executive in
Los Angeles – from the perils of drug abuse.
My special areas of study have been the approaches taken by different legislative and law
enforcement agencies to this shocking problem and I am, in my humble but eminently
correct opinion, more than usually knowledgeable on the subject.
Drug dealers, I discovered, tend to conform to a limited range of common profiles. Up until
a certain level – of both wealth and hierarchy – they would generally deal to pay for their
own habit, but beyond that they invariably not only would never touch drugs themselves
but look on those that do with disdain.
The address we were targeting was a derelict cinema in Tar Street, on the edge of the Old
Town – a squat, earmarked for demolition for some years. It was inevitable that some drugs
would be found on the premises but I thought it likely that any serious underworld figure
would be a few steps removed from such squalour.
Just as I suspected, after storming in behind two officers who battered the door down, we
discovered three bleary-eyed and disorientated young men in their underpants tripping over
their two under-fed dogs amid the jumble of their shabby squat. All three – Stinky,
Wheezer and Pob as they liked to be known, were registered drug addicts, drugs were
found in the flat and they all admitted dealing but the quantities were disappointingly
Such was the annoyance of my colleagues at failing to unearth the drugs haul they had
anticipated that there was talk of letting the young men go – a course of action to which I
was strongly opposed. Drug dealing is a serious crime at whatever level, I told them. It
blights the lives of thousands of young people and it would be an abdication of our duty not
to make an arrest – I was assigned to accompany the prisoners back to the station.
Joining me in the back of the van with the three hastily dressed convicts, was Sergeant
Wills, who spent the entire journey sitting in the corner reading what he describes as a
After I had given them a severe lecture on the perils of drug abuse, one of the men – a boy
really – came and sat on the bench next to me. He tried to speak softly enough so that the
others wouldn’t overhear but their disapproving glares suggested that this ploy had been
`Ah man,` he said. `This is a mistake. I don’t live at that place, I don’t really even know
these guys. I was just visiting – passing through, you know man?`
`I’m sure that if you explain that to the magistrate he or she will take your submissions into
account and they will be reflected in your sentence,` I said in what I hoped was a stern but
He continued – a rising note of panic in his voice:
`No you don’t understand man, I’ve never been in trouble before – I just got sucked into it
– sort of got in with the wrong lot.`
This proved too much for the others who voiced their disagreement with unrestrained
venom. The sergeant calmed them down in typically unprofessional style with an
unwholesome and illegal threat but not before one of them said:
`Daddy not able to get you off this time then Pob?`
The sergeant, at last, took notice.
`What’s your name?` he said gruffly.
`McGrath. John McGrath,` said the young man.
`Thought so.` said the sergeant and returned to his newspaper.
After waiting in vain for an explanation, I asked:
`And who is your father, John?`
`Patrick McGrath. He works at your station. He’s the buildings manager.`
`Caretaker,` said the sergeant without looking up.
`The thing is,` once again McGrath tried unsuccessfully to address his words only to me.
`This could be really bad for my dad – he says his job’s on the line if I get into trouble
again. He’s had one or two little…problems himself.`
The sergeant, overhearing this, gave me the universal hand sign for the taking of alcoholic
`Well I can assure you that your father’s position at the station won’t be jeopardised by the
actions of his son – however foolish.`
`Nice try,` said the sergeant as McGrath settled down for the rest of the journey with an air
of resentful resignation.
My working relationship with Patrick McGrath had been, at times, difficult. Since starting
at the station I had been compelled, on numerous occasions, to inform him of
contraventions of the health and safety regulations: obstacles blocking fire exits, faulty
electrical supplies, spillages. He had never responded with either alacrity or good humour
and seemed rather affronted when I pointed out that as a buildings manager rather than a
caretaker, he didn’t have to do anything himself but could simply telephone a contractor.
This in itself would have a made a friendly chat difficult enough but the subject matter
brought it’s own set of problems. Tentative enquiries amongst my colleagues had elicited
the information that McGrath had twice taken extended leave on alcohol-related medical
I have never been comfortable with subterfuge but was not unaware that simply asking
about Alcoholics Anonymous could appear insensitive. In the end, finding myself in the
basement on an unconnected matter I forced myself to knock on his office door before I
could back out. Objects could be heard being hastily moved before he said:
McGrath sat up primly – pen in hand, papers on the desk in front of him When he saw me
he said `Oh, it’s you,` pushed the papers to one side, leaned back and put his feet back on
`Hello Mr McGrath. I just wondered how your son was getting on. I feel a bit responsible
as I was one of the ones who arrested him.`
He eyed me suspiciously. He was thick set with a broad, red face. Everything about him
was earthy and rough except his hair which, though apparently natural, was so thick and
black and with such luxuriant waves that it was commonly thought to be a wig. Able to
find no ulterior motive for my question he warily replied:
`As far as I know he’s all right. To be honest I’ve washed my hands of him – he’s just
going to have to learn the hard way.`
`I hope he does,` I said. `I’d hate him to end up like some that I’ve seen. Addiction can be a
`You’re right there,` he said. `But no-one can say I haven’t tried.`
He seemed, grudgingly, to have accepted that I might be genuinely concerned for his son –
which, of course, I was.
`I’ve got information about local rehabilitation centres, support groups, that sort of thing,
if you’re interested.`
He sighed: `I’ve tried them. I’ve tried them all but If someone doesn’t want to be helped…`
We lapsed into silence.
`They say that with addiction you have to really want to stop. Not just with drugs but it’s
the same with say…smoking or alcoholism.`
There was no reaction. Just a nod.
`It must be hard on your own though,` I continued. `It would be so much easier if there
were people to help you. People who are in the same position as you.`
Still no sign of anything but polite interest – I was obviously allowing him to be too
`I mean, say I had a friend for example. Someone who I felt was drinking more than was
healthy. What would you suggest I should do?`
He frowned and then his expression changed, as though something had just clicked into
`This hypothetical friend.`
`All right this hypothetical friend. Does he accept he has a problem?
`Yes he knows he does,` I said.
`And is it affecting his work, his home life, relationships?`
`Yes, all of those things.`
He walked round the desk and stood in front of me looking as supportive and sympathetic
as his course features would allow.
`What you’ve done today constable is very important. Important and brave.`
Suddenly this wasn’t going according to plan.
`You’ve taken the big first step, admitting you’ve got a problem and need help.`
`No no,` I said, rather flustered. `I haven’t got a problem. I’m not an alcoholic.`
`I know your not, none of us are until it’s too late and we’ve lost everything. The denial
you’re going through is a very common reaction. The sudden panic when you realise your
friend the bottle is going to be taken away from you. But you must have courage. You’ve
got to keep your nerve if you want to get better.`
It had become terribly important that I wasn’t thought of as having this awful weakness, I
made one more desperate attempt to scramble out of the hole I had dug myself.
`No I’m fine honestly, I can handle it.`
Why did I say that? That of all things?
`Look, I want to help you,` he said. `You probably won’t believe this but I have been an
alcoholic. I know how low you’ve sunk because I’ve been there myself. I too have picked
arguments for no apparent reason. I too have been sick over people in clubs.`
This was really getting too much.
`No it’s really not like that at all. Other people were buying me drinks, I just couldn’t say
no. Sorry, that didn’t come out right at all. What I meant was…`
`I know, I know,` he said gently – just as others must have done with him. `The brain
knows what it wants to say but the mouth won’t follow orders. It’s very common in the
advanced stages but you’ve made the first important step. You’ve accepted that you need
help and I promise I won’t let you down.`
I was still desperate to prove that I wasn’t asking about myself but my struggle to construct
a convincing defence that couldn’t be misconstrued took just that second too long – a
second that Mr McGrath took advantage of to deliver the decisive blow.
`I want you to promise me that when you finish work tonight you won’t sneak into a pub or
go home with a bottle for company. I know that’s hard but I’ll give you whatever help I
can. I’m going to a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous at St Maud’s in the old town tonight
and I want you to come with me.`
Somehow I’d arrived at the outcome I’d originally hoped for, but by a circuitous and rather
unsavoury route. I just prayed that anonymity was indeed guaranteed – some of my
colleagues would, quite rightly, consider my past pronouncements to be hypocritical in
light of such a revelation.
`That’s settled then,` he said brightly. `We’ll have to go by bus I’m afraid – I haven’t got
my license back yet.`
One of the many sayings that my father has in his extensive repertoire, ready for use
whenever he considers it amusing or apposite is: `No-one ever died from an excess of
moderation`, indeed it could be our family motto.
Sadly it was not a saying familiar to the people I met that night at St Maud’s, the red brick
church which squatted solidly on the crown of Hill Rise in the Old Town. Those present,
through differences in social background and age, would probably not have mixed in other
circumstances, but were thrown together in mutual need.
From the outside the church promised little of architectural interest so it was with some
surprise that I noticed, to one side of the apse, a rare, early Gothic lancet window set
uneasily among the increasingly unsympathetic additions, made up until the the 1950’s
when it had been given it’s present facade.
The inside of the church hall was comfortable if utilitarian, and I was made very welcome
by the sixteen people who attended the meeting. Mr McGrath had gone in ahead of me and
explained the situation: I was there just to `get a feel for the place,` meet the people and
find out about the organisation. This was a considerable relief as the prospect of having to
say: `My name is Arti and I’m an alcoholic` in front of a crowd of strangers had filled me
with considerable disquiet.
Items of news were read out: fund-raising, reports of successes for some ex-members,
condolences for others. There was the handing out of leaflets and discussions about
possible outings – but mainly there was not drinking.
I couldn’t simply ask everyone I met if they knew Norman Jemmett but I was determined
to salvage something from what, to an abstainer, was a less than rivetting experience.
Tea and coffee were in plentiful supply and most of the evening was spent sitting or
standing in groups of two or three studiously avoiding alcohol.
In none of these little chats was the organisation’s purpose mentioned but they instead
centred around those staples of polite conversation: type and place of occupation, domicile,
and size and constitution of family.
I spoke to a teacher – a divorced mother of three with a small house in the suburbs who
taught in a school near the estate. Unfortunately it was a primary school a little distant from
A chat with a doctor made me more hopeful. He lived out in Grangetown but worked one
day a week in a surgery on the estate. My optimism proved unfounded as he specialised in
geriatric medicine – a discipline he described in some detail but which I felt unlikely to
have been administered to the Jemmetts.
Eventually I had spoken to everybody except Dulcie Kerr, the group leader. Everyone
knew by now that I was a policeman, I lived alone and my many interests included reading
and cataloguing but I had discovered little useful information from them.
Dulcie was a jolly little round woman, a picture of health, but even she had been a player in
that common tragedy – a bad man, debts, another woman. She now dedicated her life, with
single-minded enthusiasm, to deflecting others heading along the same path.
While she and Norman Jemmett would have been unlikely acquaintances in the normal
course of events, her wide knowledge of the local branches of Alcoholics Anonymous and
those who attended it’s meetings were encouragement enough for me to try to redeem
something of the evening.
`I’d been thinking of coming to one of your meetings for a while now,` I said. `A friend of
mine mentioned that he had found it a great help, you may know him, Norman. Norman
I thought I saw a slight clenching of the jaw, a thinning of the lips but it quickly turned into
what I took to be the usual big Dulcie smile:
`Oh yes dear, of course I know Norman. He’s quite a stalwart, always popping into one or
other of the meetings, making the tea, helping out.`
`Yes,` I said. `He told me there were times when the meetings were the only thing stopping
him from…you know.`
`Oh I know only too well,` she replied, this time without the smile. Suddenly she
`You must know Cyril then,` she said, taking me by the arm and dragging me over to a tall,
stooping man in the corner. `He’s a friend of Norman’s, used to work with him. Cyril,` she
shouted halfway across the room. `This is Arti, he knows Norman. Isn’t this lovely, I’ll
leave you to it then,` and off she went to distract someone else.
I had actually spoken to Cyril earlier but his expression was so dolourous and his answers
so monosyllabic that I had quickly found an excuse to drift elsewhere.
`So, you know Norman then,` I said.
`I understand you used to work with him.`
`Was that in engineering? That’s what Norman does isn’t it?`
`Where did you work together.`
I had made something of a study of interrogation techniques. Books, videos and a number
of papers were available on the subject. They contain some useful methods for spotting the
tell-tale indications of lying, multiple interrogator systems, punishment and reward
strategies. Nowhere in any of this material had I found any mention of what to do when
confronted with someone who just couldn’t be bothered to answer you.
I could see Dulcie in the kitchen with Mr McGrath and a couple of others I had spoken to
earlier. It seemed extremely unlikely that any of them would be able to furnish me with
information on Norman Jemmett but anything would be more enlightening than this – even
if it did mean yet another cup of tea.
`Well…I think I’ll just go and have a drink.`
Cyril seemed to straighten out, almost to slowly unfurl infront of me. Even his flat,
featureless diction had now gained a hint of animation.
`I wouldn’t do that if I were you,` he said.
`I didn’t mean…`
`I know,` he said. `It’ll just be the one, then straight home. But maybe there’ll be time for
another, and another and then there’s some more at home.`
Was there some special alcohol counselling scheme that he and Mr McGrath had attended I
wondered, or was this the natural reaction of seeing someone hurtling towards the oblivion
they knew so well? At least my previous experiences had taught me the futility of denial.
`I suppose you’re right,` I said. `But the long evenings can be very difficult.`
`A hobby’s what you want,` he said, warming to his subject by exchanging monosyllables
for a monotone. `Fancy pigeons, that’s what I do. I tried building model aeroplanes but
you’re stuck in the house by yourself, and it’s so easy to put it off – not tonight, I’ll do one
tomorrow, murder that is. No what you want is a hobby like mine. You can’t put off
looking after birds or they’ll die.`
Cyril had become something of an authority in his field: The breeding, rearing and showing
of fancy pigeons, their ailments, feeding and mating habits and in particular, the political
machinations of the competition world were all described in some detail. His relative
enthusiasm made the subject quite interesting but pictures I later saw of the disturbing
creatures made the recreation lose it’s appeal. With the bizarre characteristics that could be
bred into the poor birds it was quite understandable that Charles Darwin became a fancier
himself. I nodded politely but was all the while trying to think of ways of steering the
conversation in a more productive direction.
`I suppose a hobby like that keeps you from having a relapse,` I tried.
`Never been a problem since I’ve had the birds. They’ve been a godsend.`
And he was off again for another ten minutes before I could return to my question.
`But I should imagine many people do go back to their old ways – those without such an
`Well, yes, some do I suppose but I like to think I’ve helped a few people – kept them on
the straight and narrow.`
`Unfortunately,` I said truthfully. `I suffer from a bird allergy – I’m allergic to most
creatures in fact, so fancy pigeons wouldn’t really be suitable. What other hobbies are
`You want to steer clear of stamp collecting or anything like that,` He said thoughtfully.
`You need something that gets you out and about, fishing’s not good though – too many
I cast my mind back to the Jemmett house.
`What about caravanning?` I suggested. `I’ve always fancied that.`
`Ah yes,` he replied. `Norman does that.`
At last, I thought.
`And has it been a help to him? Has it kept him on the `straight and narrow`?`
`Oh yes, he said. `He loves that caravan. Not that it gets much use – two weeks on his
sister’s farm in Suffolk, same thing every year, nothing else in all the years I’ve known
He leaned forward conspiratorially.
`The caravan has helped a bit – but Norman’s had a lot of bad luck, a lot of stress and
worry. Sometimes it all gets a bit too much and he…`
I tried to look sympathetic.
`Yes,` I said. `A few months ago I remember he was a little the worse for drink. When
would that have been? Early May I would think.`
`But you can understand that though. That’s when his daughter was murdered.`
`No,` I replied. `It was before that. Poor Carly was murdered about a week or so later but
around that time he had definitely been drinking.`
Cyril frowned thoughtfully and I wondered for a moment if I had made him suspicious.
`Oh yes, I remember now. That was a difficult time for him. He does a lot of building site
work – short contracts. Norman’s fine while he’s working but when a contract comes to an
end…that’s why I got out of it.`
`It must be hard, sitting around at home all day,` I said. `Maybe he should look for
something more permanent. Has he always worked as an engineer?`
`As far as I know,` he said. `Except for a couple of years back when he just had to get any
old job for a while – worked in a breaker’s yard I think – they wouldn’t let him sign on you
see.` He leaned forward and lowered his voice. `I feel bad about that. It was partly my fault
– I got him a job where I worked – casual if you know what I mean, cash in hand. The DSS
found out and he got chucked off the dole and off the job.`
`When would this have been?` I asked.
`About three or four years ago I suppose.`
I had a strong suspicion what the answer to my next question was going to be.
`And what was the job?`
`A big air conditioning installation. Do you know the Amica Centre?`
I solved my first murder at the age of fifteen.
That would suggest, perhaps, that I have solved many but in fact it was the first of only two
to date, the second being a mundane and tawdry affair when I was at University.
Crimes in which the perpetrator leaves a series of fiendishly clever cryptic clues are rather
less common than popular fiction would have us believe, and brilliant crossword-solving
detectives even rarer. On the extremely infrequent occasions that such cases have occurred
the criminals are, of course, caught – why leave clues if you don’t want them to be solved?
Whilst I was not, at that age, a detective, I was more than usually interested in crime and its
detection and had completed the Times crossword every day since I was eleven –
occasionally straying to the Guardian or Independent when I felt too familiar with the
And so I found this case especially intriguing.
Five girls had been abducted. Their countries of origin were of particular interest – one
from the United States, one Indian, an Irish girl and two French. Their ages ranged from
seventeen for the Irish girl, to a twenty-five-year-old student from France. Two of the
others were also students but the Indian girl was visiting relatives and the remaining French
girl worked for her father.
The places from which they had been taken appeared to fit no pattern – walking home from
a club in Hull, cycling to college in Leeds, driving near Ripon en-route from London to
No ransom was demanded, no evidence left at the scenes and witnesses were rare and
The case would probably have been filed and forgotten about like so many others until
some years later when a patio would be dug up by new home-owners – were it not for the
The first arrived within days of the initial abduction – a pattern which was to be followed
for all five. Foolishly, and tragically, the police didn’t release this information to the media
until after the fifth girl had disappeared when, in desperation, they were shown on a
popular television crime programme.
Much time and effort had been spent on the notes by the forensic team but to little avail.
Copies had been sent to cryptographers, lexicographers – even cartographers, none of
whom had been able to de-cypher what was immediately obvious to me.
The five notes each comprised one of the girl’s name followed by the name of a country –
Columbia, Niger, Sierra Leone, Luxembourg and Iceland.
Just as the solution to an anagram will sometimes leap at you off of the printed page when
no-one else can see it, so it was with these clues, though to this day I don’t know why I
thought of the International Vehicle Registration Letters.
Columbia has CO, Niger has RN, Sierra Leone’s letters are WAL, Luxembourg has just an
L, and Iceland, IS – CORNWALLIS.
Cornwallis, Charles, 1st Marquess has gone down in history – unfairly some might say – as
the British Major General who lost the American War of Independence. He was
subsequently, and most importantly, Governor General of India, Viceroy of Ireland and
negotiated the Treaty of Amiens which, for a while, halted hostilities in the Napoleonic
My parents were adamant that I couldn’t take time off school to investigate the case even
though they could see that the evidence was compelling, and so, one Tuesday lunchtime I
presented my notebook to the desk sergeant at my local police station.
He appeared to treat my observations on the matter with a slightly mocking scepticism but
took my name and address and said it would be looked into.
That evening a team of detectives from Leeds descended on my home and asked me to
share with them any ideas I had on the abductions.
At that time my understanding of crime and criminology was, I now realise, rather naive
but in this case, surprisingly accurate.
I told them all I knew about Cornwallis and suggested that they should look for someone
who had written or lectured in his defence. I thought he would live in York as it was central
to the places of abduction and because Cornwallis was defeated in Yorktown. One of the
detectives asked why two French girls had been taken and I said I thought it was because
the French were involved twice – once through the Treaty of Amiens and again bacause the
French army fought with Washington against the British.
Two days later an arrest was made: Frank Chester lived in a house called Brome Hill: the
name of Cornwallis’s Suffolk home. He had, briefly, married a girl called Jemima – as had
Cornwallis, and he had, in the past, given lectures to the Women’s Institute on `Cornwallis:
the truth,` until, overwrought in the support of his hero, he had failed to attract any more
When the police arrived to arrest him he was laying a patio under which the remains of all
five girls were found. The head of Leeds CID gave me a medal on a children’s television
For some time afterwards I believed, with the unworldliness of adolescence, that crime
detection would always be that straightforward. I now looked back wistfully at my youthful
innocence and fervently wished that the solution to the present case could be as obvious.
The gathering of evidence had become an almost academic exercise for me and I had to
remind myself that a young girl had been brutally murdered by a man who currently was
not officially under suspicion.
I was adding to the evidence all the time: Cyril’s story was easily verified through the local
library’s newspaper archive. The Department of Social Security’s Fraud Investigation team
had, at the time, a high profile publicity campaign and the story was on page one of the
Tenbridge Echo. Four people had been fined and had their claims shut down for making
fraudulent claims following a night-time raid on the Amica Centre. One of the four was
The evidence I had collected, though largely circumstantial was, I felt, persuasive. It was
also, importantly, all I had. No strategy presented itself on how to further the investigation
despite scouring the literature for comparable cases. And so, with a palpable sense of relief
I made my decision – I would present my evidence to Detective Inspector Launce, even
though I was well aware that it would not be received with much enthusiasm by the
Over the course of a two-day break I reviewed and collated the file I had compiled which
now ran to four hundred and thirteen pages plus assorted maps, diagrams and appendices.
Everything I had discovered so far had reinforced my suspicions that Carly had been
murdered by her father and despite the misgivings of Chief Superintendent Stent I was
confident that Detective Inspector Launce would put any feelings of personal animosity
behind him and consider my report with impartial professionalism.
I typed up a precis of my findings and left it, along with a box file containing all the
evidence, on Detective Inspector Launce’s desk on my return to work. It was a great relief
to be able to leave the investigation to people with experience and expertise and
concentrate on areas of my work I had rather neglected.
When I got back from his office I was summoned to see Inspector Bowman. The news that
greeted me only went to strengthen my suspicions but not before other, seemingly more
important, matters were dealt with. Inspector Bowman was not a happy man.
`I’m sure the team will be fine sir,` I said placatingly. `There’s really nothing to worry
`Nothing to worry about? Nothing to…?`
I was getting a little concerned about the inspector who’s already ruddy complexion had
taken on a purple hue.
`Listen son. A good quiz team is like a well-bred racehorse. One cog out of place and
you’re all over the shop.`
What led to this mixing of metaphors was that the inspector had been sent on a course. He
tossed a leaflet towards me.
`Look at this – paintballing and drumming. That’s how to get the best out of your men
apparently, paintballing and bloody drumming. I bet bloody Launce is behind it – he’ll do
anything to win the quiz.`
I assured him that he must be mistaken but he just shook his head despairingly.
`The other day I asked Munroe what the last letter of the Greek alphabet was and do you
know what he said? Zeta, that’s what – just ‘cause it starts with a Z. I told him `that’s the
seventh letter you prat.`
`Good lad, just testing. Look I’m relying on you Mehta. If we didn’t have you on the team
I’d give up here and now.`
`I’ll do my very best sir,` I said. `I’m sure we’ll be all right on our own – I mean, obviously
it’ll be hard without you but we’ll manage.`
`Of course it’ll be bloody hard Constable. It’s hard enough with me there – it was only you
and me that answered any questions last time.`
This was not strictly true. The inspector had admittedly answered one question correctly
but it was one that I could have answered myself. I was more concerned that without his
steadying hand some of the team might lower their standards of propriety and temperance.
`And the station doesn’t run itself you know, we’ve got people sick, people on holiday, the
Chief Super still out of action.`
Even though I had probably seen Chief Superintendent Stent more recently than the
inspector I asked:
`Have you heard from the chief superintendent sir? Any indication when he might return?`
The inspector harumphed – a sound more commonly associated with large, slow moving
mammals – elephant seals and the like.
`Whenever I’ve seen him he looks like he’s at death’s door. Just between you and me I
don’t think he’ll be coming back and neither do a lot of other people. Launce certainly
doesn’t – he’s been all over the Chief Constable like a rash.`
`I suppose he would seem the most likely successor,` I said. `He’s certainly shown in the
Jemmett case that his public relations skills are keenly developed.`
`That’s one way of putting it,` he said. `But it’s typical of Launce to come out of a
monumental cock-up like this smelling of roses. They get Chubb on video and they still
take weeks to arrest him. And now they can’t even get him and his brother to agree on a
This was news to me though I had wondered why it was taking so long to issue a press
release trumpeting Reginald’s charge of accessory to murder.
`They’re getting conflicting statements then are they sir?`
`Apparently, though of course I’m not privy to the innermost workings of CID,` he said
with more than a hint of petulance. `But I’ve heard on the old grapevine that they can’t
agree on anything: times, what clothes they were wearing, how the girl was hit, even
whereabouts it took place.`
This was an interesting development. Being so familiar with the contents of the video tape
it was easy to forget that the general public – including the Chubbs – hadn’t seen it, and
except in the vaguest terms, didn’t know what it contained
It is usual for prisoners to be interrogated separately so that they cannot corroborate their
stories but in this case CID would have liked to interrogate them together so that they
could! If they were taken to court with statements that didn’t correspond, their councils
could cause difficulties for the prosecution case. Surely in the light of the evidence I had
submitted they would have to review their current strategy?
`That seems rather strange – what can it mean sir?` I asked.
`Well it suggests to me that either they’re criminal geniuses and worked out separate,
complicated stories to make it look like one of them wasn’t involved, or alternatively only
one of them did it.`
`Or neither.` I said, unintentionally aloud.
`Don’t start that again Constable, I’ve got enough on my plate with this bloody quiz.`
Now that the twins were no longer available for persecution, the estate’s vigilantes had
found a group of Bosnian refugees to be a acceptable substitute, cowering as all good
With a number of adolescent boys among their number, this state of affairs was likely to be
only temporary and so, functioning in my liaison role, I took it upon myself to introduce
the refugees to the rich and varied social life of the estate.
Through an interpreter, I described the work of the residents’ committee and explained that
there were a number of social groups they could participate in including some I’m proud to
say I instigated myself. The parents and grandparents eventually agreed to go along to the
bingo or the pop-in-parlour and I outlined the various activities available to the younger
members of the group. Sadly their troubled homeland had not been immune to the
influences of American culture and it was therefore the DJ’ing workshop they opted for in
preference to my local history or chess clubs.
It transpired, as I discovered when I attended the group, that DJ’ing is a bizarre pastime in
which two different but uncannily similar records are played at the same time, very loud.
Young local men of various ethnic backgrounds queued for the chance to demonstrate the
skills this pursuit apparently required whilst groups of seemingly indifferent girls formed
and re-formed on the periphery.
As I was present in my capacity as a member of the organising committee, I was not in
uniform but blended in by dressing casually in sharply creased jeans and tweed jacket.
There was a little good natured dissent on the two occasions that I was obliged to ask them
to lower the volume – the community centre being right in the middle of the estate – but
otherwise the enterprise was undertaken in good spirit.
Apart from those of Bosnians descent all the young people spoke English but peppered
with so much slang that I barely understood a word of it. Many of the boys seemed to talk
about their ‘hoes’ – odd as the community is far from rural.
As soon as I was satisfied that all was well – no conspicuous drugs and little threat of
violence – I went outside to escape the incessant thumping noise. Orel Youngblood, a
charming man of Jamaican origin and a tireless do-er of good work around the estate, was
outside smoking a large cigarette.
Orel had a laugh which was loud, infectious and seemingly random in it’s application –
often when I said quite serious things as was the case now:
`If that’s marijuana I’m going to have to ask you to extinguish it and hand over any more
`Oh Arti,` he said, wiping a tear from his eye. `You are so funny, you get me every time.`
I decided to pursue the matter no further as my previous attempts to give him a caution or
even explain the considerable health risks associated with the drug, had only given rise to
In his capacity as Social Secretary of the Chaucer Estate Residents’ Action Committee Orel
knew everything that went on in public on the estate and was privy to much that should
have been private. He was also an inveterate gossip though I did sometimes have difficulty
understanding his peculiar way of speaking.
`I wonder how Daniel and Reginald are bearing up under the strain of their enforced
incarceration,` I said.
`Oh man,` he said shaking his head. `That’s a terrible ting, a terrible ting.`
`Did you know them well?` I asked.
`Everyone knew them, such funny people man.`
This started him off laughing again as he took a big draw on his cigarette.
Having handed over the investigation to CID I had absolutely no need or desire for any
further information on the case, but it seemed a waste – for reasons of professional interest
– not to take advantage of Orel’s inside knowledge.
`What about the parents – Mr and Mrs Jemmett? Do you know them?`
`Mr Jemmett – don’t know him,` he replied. `try to get him into some of the tings we do ya
know but him not join in – that’s OK. Sometime the kids come along but not much.`
`What about Mrs Jemmett, do you know her?` I asked.
`Lizbeth? – yeah, she help out sometime.`
Oh, ya know,` he said. `The usual ting. For the old folk, bit of baking for the fete, help out
with the dramatics.`
`She’s involved in the Christmas play?` I asked. `What does she do?`
`Costumes,` he replied. `She’s real good at them costumes man, make it all herself, sewin’,
measurin’, make-up, real professional – does it outside as well. What are them people
`That’s right,` he said. ` She in one of them hamateur dramatics.`
This was an interesting though probably irrelevant fact as I fully expected Norman Jemmett
to already have been taken in for questioning. But then again any further information I
gathered couldn’t do any harm:
`Do you know I rather fancy going to see a play. You wouldn’t by any chance know the
name of this amateur dramatic group would you Orel?`
`No man,` he replied. `Don’t know what them’s called.`
I nodded disappointedly – trying to work out how I would find the information.
`Don’t know what them’s called but them’s the one at the church by the park – near the
market, ya know man.`
Was that banging and shouting I heard from inside the community centre? It was hard to
tell as the music seemed to be based around banging and shouting.
`That’s very interesting Orel. I shall go and see a play and tell you all about it.`
Now we both thought we heard a commotion in the hall and started toward the door.
`One more thing. You wouldn’t happen to know where she works would you? Mrs
Jemmett that is.`
His reply was almost lost in the din as we approached the door but I just about made out:
`Ah man, she work in Savefast. The one in the Ami…`
The door burst open and a number of girls ran out.
The scene inside the hall – in which chairs and the occasional body were airborne – was
what Orel would call a ruction. A serious altercation was, in fact, under way, which we had
to attempt to quell – apparently one of the boys had accused another of taking his hoe!
Two interesting things happened at work the following day, or rather one thing didn’t
happen: Norman Jemmett wasn’t brought in for questioning. I consoled myself with the
thought that the not inconsiderable amount of evidence I had supplied would have to be
painstakingly checked but I can’t pretend I wasn’t surprised and a little disappointed.
I had been expecting and rather dreading the second occurrence – a further meeting with
Mr McGrath. Whilst I appreciated the succour and support he offered to those in need I
have to say I became nostalgic for the surly and belligerent character I had been
I was sitting alone in the canteen when I detected someone behind me.
`Hello Mr McGrath, won’t you join me?` I said out of courtesy as I had just got to an
fascinating section in a report on fraudulent accounting practices. He had with him a plate
of eggs and chips and a steaming cup of tea so I knew that the chances of further reading
were slim and put the report away.
Once again he had that disconcerting look of concern on his face.
`How are you Art? How are you bearing up?`
From previous experience I knew how easily he could misinterpret practically anything I
said, so was careful not to give an overly positive reply.
`Oh, you know – one day at a time.`
He nodded as he began dipping chips into the egg yokes.
`And have you – you know – managed to stay off the…`
`Yes thank you,` I replied. `I found the meeting very helpful. You feel like you’d be letting
the others down if you stray.`
Again he nodded, busy with his food.
`Talking to Cyril was a great help. He gave me some interesting ideas for hobbies,` I said
gazing in fascinated horror as he stuffed more and more chips into his mouth as if storing
up for the winter. I continued in a vain attempt to give him time to swallow before saying
`He breeds pigeons – fancy ones.`
He nodded and, through a mouthful of food, mumbled something incomprehensible which
I reluctantly asked him to repeat. After interminable chewing and swallowing he finally
`I said, I know, I saw him the other night,`
`Cyril and Norman,` he replied. `Wednesday night. No it would have been the Thursday
night meeting at the cricket club. You really should come along. Do you know it? On the
old Dorstead Road?
`Er no,` I said, rather more interested in the subject of their conversation than the location
of the Thursday night meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. `And how is Norman?`
`Oh, not too bad, considering,` he said harpooning more hapless chips onto his fork. `We
were talking about you – Cyril said that you’d been asking after him.`
`Really,` I said, a little alarmed. `And what did he say?`
Unfortunately he had taken the opportunity to replenish his fork and I had to suffer another
`He couldn’t actually place you to be honest. I told him all about you but had to go and
help out with the tea.`
This was a slightly worrying and unforeseen turn of events.
`Well I’m not really what you’d call a friend, just a passing acquaintance really.` I said.
`Yes, that’s what I said but Cyril thought you must be quite close – he said you knew a lot
about him. Anyway they probably sorted it out between them.`
Running through my conversation with Cyril I couldn’t recall anything that should give
serious cause for suspicion but nevertheless I was now, more than ever, convinced that I
had done the right thing in handing my evidence over to CID.
Mr McGrath finished his eggs and chips and started noisily on his tea while I pondered the
possible repercussions of this latest turn of events. The anxiety must have shown on my
face as he leaned forward and put a meaty hand on my forearm – a gesture of support but
rather more tactile than I’m comfortable with.
`One day at a time Art. One day at a time.`
I usually get my shopping at Mr Speedybuy’s on Marle Street, just past the gasometers on
the walk home from work. This seldom amounts to very much: milk, tea, poptarts, as I
generally like to eat in the canteen or from Caribbean George’s. The culinary arts took an
understandably distant second place to my parents' careers during my childhood and
adolescence and my own skills therefore don’t really extend beyond Marmite soldiers.
It just so happened that I was low on certain household items and indeed almost out of
black shoe polish. Mr Speedybuy kept a rather limited stock of such merchandise and
therefore it was necessary for me to make a rare, unavoidable, visit to a supermarket.
There were three within easy travelling distance of my home: Carters to the west, BLF in
the Old Town and Savefast in the Amica Centre.
I avoided Carters as it was not on a direct bus route and the one time I had been to BLF I
had found the selection of foodstuffs disconcertingly ethnic.
I was not unconscious of the fact that Savefast was the workplace of Elizabeth Jemmett but
it was the logical choice and my enquiries were, in any case, no longer being conducted.
The supermarket could be entered either from the centre itself or, as in my case, from the
Kingsway. It was large, bright, clean and boasted a bafflingly varied selection of
Savefast fronted onto the North Piazza of the Amica via huge sheets of glass through which
the centre’s amber glow was made to look dull and eery by the glaring light of the
Looking through the windows into the mall I could see that the main rush of shoppers had
long since drifted away but there were still a sizeable number making their purchases en-
route from work to home.
In common with much current architecture no attempt had been made to hide the workings
necessary to a modern building and large, circular air-conditioning ducts snaked all around
the walls. It was, presumably, these that Norman Jemmett had been working on when he
fell foul of the DSS.
Inside the supermarket the operators of the eight working checkouts reflected the broad
range of ages and backgrounds which this work, and it’s meagre rewards, attracts. In front
of the checkouts was a counter behind which two supervisors stood, answering queries and
shuffling their staff around.
I walked past the perfectly shaped and coloured fruit and vegetables, past pasta sauces
bearing pictures of people supposedly famous but unknown to me, along aisles of mens’
grooming products and between chiller cabinets full of `two for the price of one` special
Though not an especially large supermarket, Savefast tried to satisfy it’s customers’ every
need. As well as the food, there were various cheap electrical items, garden furniture, CDs
and video tapes, clothes and – thankfully for me – cleaning products.
The clothes were mainly for children and all looked like tiny versions of what their parents
would wear but there was a small selection of clothing for adults. Just to satisfy my
curiosity I had a look at the track suits – they were all made by major sportswear
manufacturers, the tee shirts and sweatshirts likewise.
There was nothing of relevance to the current investigation so I determined to drag myself
away – after a quick look at the baseball caps.
Despite little national interest in the game, the shop kept a sizeable stock of its headgear. I
spent some time looking for the manufacturers name on the labels before I realised that the
companies’ logos were all emblazoned on the front. Again these were all manufactured by
large corporations except one, a plain purple hat with no writing on. I looked inside and
there on the label was the name – Wing Yo.
That the shop Elizabeth Jemmett worked in sold merchandise manufactured by the same
company favoured by her daughter’s killer was no great revelation – they were very widely
available – but it was interesting nevertheless.
Armed with my shoe polish, some disinfectant and a packet of double-choc cookies I went
to the checkouts. Only one customer was in front in the nine items or less queue and I was
quickly through and making my way to the exit when it occurred to me that while I was
there it would be a wasted opportunity not to ask about the track suits, especially as there
was no sign of Mrs Jemmett.
`Excuse me,` I said to the eager-to-please young supervisor – Jo according to her name
badge. `I’m looking for a track suit in yellow. There aren’t any on the racks but I wondered
if you had any in stock.`
`Right sir,` she said brightly. `I’m not really sure. I’ve only just started. Hang on I’ll just
She turned to a middle aged, thin, blonde lady standing behind the supervisor’s station.
`Maureen – yellow tracks suits – have we…?`
Maureen looked me up and down as if to appraise my suitability for such a request.
`Yellow?` she said.
`Yes, bright yellow. I’ve seen them, I just wondered if you had any.`
`Mmm,` she said in a manner that suggested `there’s no accounting for taste`. `We used to
but I think were right out. Jo, go and ask Betty.`
Betty – it didn’t immediately register as a diminutive of Elizabeth so I nodded and smiled
as Jo walked along the front of the shop toward the offices.
`No!` I shouted suddenly. `Sorry. Don’t worry, it really doesn’t matter.`
Jo turned and smiled: `No trouble, won’t be a sec.`
I ran after her.
`No really. I’m in a hurry, don’t…`
I reached the door just as she opened it.
`Elizabeth. Do we have any of those yellow track suits left?`
I made my way as quickly as I could without actually running, towards the exit – no more
than a couple of seconds. I thought I would probably manage to leave the shop before Mrs
Jemmett could register the significance of my enquiry, but no. As the doors slid open and I
stepped over the threshold I turned. There, silhouetted in the office doorway, looming over
Jo and scowling at me was Elizabeth Jemmett.
Inspector Bowman’s absence ensured that the mood was rather more buoyant on the
second, even longer, minibus journey of the Tenbridge Police C Division quiz team, indeed
there seemed to be a general, if unaccountable, air of optimism.
The situation could easily have been very different as the previous night I had received a
telephone call from the inspector:
`Listen, I’ve thought about this and I’m coming back. I’ll tell the course leader I’m sick and
drive up there first thing.`
My heart sank at the prospect of passing this news onto my team-mates, some of whom had
complained, only half-jokingly, of quiz-related stress syndrome.
`But it’s over four hundred miles!` I said.
`That’s all right,` he replied. `I’ve driven further than that on holiday.`
`I’m sure you have sir,` I said. `But you’ll be awfully tired for a quiz afterwards.`
It took some time and all my powers of persuasion but in the end I convinced him that we
could reluctantly struggle by without him having to undertake such an arduous and
pointless journey. In all honesty I couldn’t see the presence of the inspector making any
significant difference to the final outcome. Though we had previously been beaten by CID
we had nevertheless come a good way ahead of anyone else and, as I explained to the
inspector, the team were at the peak of their physical and mental powers.
Unfortunately my optimism proved unfounded: Sergeant Collins – the team member with
the greatest knowledge of popular culture – had been unable to arrange a babysitter. In the
absence of the only female on the team, the humour on the journey sank to an unpleasantly
This was compounded by the fact that Sergeant Dyas was suffering from a severe gastric
complaint that led to us making a number of sudden, unscheduled stops on the way to the
venue. When we finally arrived he rushed to the toilet from which he emerged, looking
drained and exhausted, for the return journey.
Apart from myself, the remaining three players’ contribution in the previous round had
been to answer four questions – two of which were wrong and the other two I knew.
Whatever skills I had were going to be sorely needed.
The same CID team were present as before. Detective Inspector Launce gave me a barely
perceptible nod when I arrived and though I was careful not to read too much into it I
nevertheless thought it a positive sign.
Dennis Monroe made something of a fuss about getting a good position – well away from
other teams, his back to the wall and with the other two players on either side.
As before, the questions, while not being particularly exacting, were sufficiently rigorous
to separate the lesser teams from the stronger: How long was Queen Victoria’s reign?
Who’s clocks are furthest ahead – Brussels or Ankara? What do three horizontal lines
mean when used as a mathematical symbol? Plus, of course, the obligatory questions on
pop music and television soap operas.
On the whole I felt we were doing remarkably well under the circumstances – that was
until I started to notice a strange pattern of behaviour from the unusually knowledgeable
Dennis Monroe: Each time a question was asked which I didn’t immediately answer he
would look down at his hands, shielded beneath the table, nod sagely and answer the
question. His two friends seemed happy to sit back with inane grins on their faces.
Initially just curious, as the evening progressed I became increasingly suspicious – he
hadn’t displayed this odd trait during the previous quiz and indeed hadn’t answered a single
There were to be forty questions and by the mid-thirties I was convinced that something,
literally, underhand was going on.
Question 37. Which pop group got to number one in the UK album charts in 1968 with
Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake?
I, of course, was blissfully ignorant of such matters. The question was repeated and
Monroe looked to be deep in thought.
`Mmm, now I know this,` he said taking a couple of stealthy glances beneath the table
before finally: `Oh yes, of course, it’s the Small Faces.`
It was not without the bounds of possibilities that he might have known this so I waited for
the next question.
Question 38. To which Pacific Islands did the mutineers from the Bounty go?
The pattern was the same as before. The question repeated, the look of deep concentration,
the prolonged pause and the downward glance.
`I think it might be the Pitcairn Islands.`
Not the most difficult question but, I thought, surely beyond the capacity of Dennis Monroe
and his mute friends.
`What have you got under the table Mr Monroe?` I asked.
`What do you mean? There’s nothing under here except my legs,` he replied in a tone of
mock innocence which amused his friends.
`I demand to know what you’ve…`
Question 39. What is the name of the SI unit of measurement of inductance?
The possibility of him actually knowing the answer to this could be entirely discounted. He
started his little ritual.
`Oh yes, now let me think`
`Mr Monroe,` I said courteously. `I’d like you to put your hands on the table, look at me
and don’t look anywhere else.`
`What would I want to look at your ugly mug for?` he replied rather less civilly.
I sat back, looked into his eyes and waited.
`Well?` I said. `Do you know the answer?`
Another member of the team and a good friend of Monroe’s, Constable Alan Purcell,
leaned forward and whispered impatiently:
`For Christ’s sake Mehta, what’s wrong with you? Can’t you ever take a joke? We’re just
having a laugh.`
I repeated my question.
`Are you going to show me what you’ve got under the table?`
With an exasperated sigh and a furtive look round, Monroe brought out a mobile phone
with a large coloured screen which, as we watched, started to display the correct answer to
the question – Henry.
`It’s a PVS9000 – state of the art,` he whispered. `Internet and everything.`
He slipped the device out or view.
Question 40. What is the name of the sixteenth century Danish astronomer who first
suggested that comets were heavenly bodies?
Monroe adopted a more conciliatory tone:
`Look Mehta. It’s like Al said – just a joke.`
`I’m afraid I don’t think cheating is a joke – ever,` I said. `I suppose you have some friends
in on this. They can hear the questions over the phone I assume?` Monroe nodded. `And
they have what? Books? Internet?`
`Yes,` he said reluctantly before reverting to his former angry whisper. `We would have
been in the top two or three teams anyway. We’re just sick of sitting here like prats while
you rattle off all the answers. What harm is there?`
This was not a difficult quandary for me. I absolutely would not accept cheating of any
`You have two choices,` I said. `You can either cross out all the answers you arrived at
through deception and we’ll take our chances or…`
`Or what? He said.
`Or I’ll inform the invigilators that we cheated and should be disqualified.`
He looked at me with undisguised hostility.
I returned his stare.
He looked down beneath the table and then up at me. Did he dare call my bluff? He looked
down again and then with a cold, steely glare said:
`Tycho Brahe – put that down Al. T.Y.C.H.O. B.R.A.H.E.`
`Okay ladies and gentlemen, that’s all the questions. If you could all put your pens down
Sergeant Douglas will be coming round to collect your papers.
`Last chance Mr Monroe,` I said.
Still staring fixedly at me he reached over and took the pen out of Constable Purcell’s hand
and laid it on the table with a loud click.
The journey home was undertaken in frosty silence.
`In second place with thirty two points: the Wapping River Police Marine Support Unit, but
in first place with a very impressive thirty seven points is the Tenbridge CID team.`
Everyone seemed to be looking in our direction and whispering. There was a smattering of
applause followed by a simple:
`Tenbridge C Division have been disqualified. Thank you ladies and gentlemen, have a
safe journey home.`
There were no recriminations. In fact no-one said a word to me – even Sergeant Dyas was
silent though he was admittedly still indisposed. The other teams had stayed to have a drink
but under the circumstances it was felt that for us a swift return would be appropriate.
I had to remonstrate with our driver who, at the insistence of others present, took the final
few miles of the journey at reckless and foolhardy speeds in order to arrive back in time for
`last orders`. The mood on our arrival at ten past eleven was somewhat less than fraternal.
I was not, of course, invited to partake in the compromise solution of a curry – not that I
would have accepted anyway, curries being a little rich for my delicate digestive system.
And so I started the short walk home. I was really in no doubt that I was completely in the
right and that after a meal and a night’s sleep the others would accept that I had acted with
A dampening mist hugged the ground as I walked past the scrap of waste-ground just round
the corner to my home. I heard the footsteps behind me – running footsteps I realised too
late. Something was thrown over my head. a blanket? A sack? Two strong arms encircled
my chest from behind.
My thoughts had been so preoccupied with the evening’s events that at first I thought this
must be connected.
`Now come on, don’t be s…`
The first punch to the stomach knocked the wind out of me. Even for the slighted Mr
Monroe this was a disproportionate response. My head jerked sideways, jarring my neck as
a fist thudded into my cheek, breaking my glasses. It crossed my mind, for the first time,
that perhaps my colleagues might just be tucking into poppodoms and lager.
I went to cry out but another punch, high in the stomach, doubled me up in pain. The
person holding me from behind pulled me upright. I heard a crack as a fist slammed into
my nose. Each new pain obliterated the last one.
It was a voice, whether real or from inside my head I couldn’t tell. My face was being
`Are you listening to me?`
It was a male voice – a real one. I could only nod.
`This is just a warning.`
The voice came from behind me, from whoever was holding me tight.
Another fist smacked into the underside of my jaw cracking my teeth together. I think my
tongue was in the way.
`This is just a sample of what you’ll get if you don’t leave me and my family alone.`
Another punch to the stomach made little difference.
`Is that clear?`
But by that time it was too late for me. I plunged into a soothing pool of unconsciousness.
I received two visits during my stay at the Queen Mary hospital – a planned one from
Inspector Bowman and a coincidental one from Mrs Stent who noticed me en-route to her
husband in Primrose ward.
I didn’t inform my parents that I was hospitalised, hoping my wounds would have healed
before I’d see them again and so spare them the worry of acknowledging the dangers my
My wounds were less serious than they both looked and felt. My nose and one of my ribs
was broken and I suffered cuts and abrasions. I was advised to recuperate for a fortnight
though I felt that a week would be more than sufficient.
The officer who took a statement about the attack was none other than Constable Purcell
who’s typically distant manner towards me was not improved by recent events. I knew that
passing on my suspicions about the identity of my attackers would be pointless so simply
told the truth: they didn’t identify themselves, I didn’t see them or recognise their voices
and nothing was taken. He told me it was unlikely that the perpetrators would be caught but
they’d do their best – just as he would tell an elderly victim of robbery.
As usual I found it impossible to predict Inspector Bowman’s mood. Resigned
disappointment was one possibility, seething resentment another. What I didn’t expect was
the air of slap-on-the-back bonhomie he displayed when he arrived.
`How are you Art you lucky bugger? Managed to wangle yourself a fortnight off.`
`Not too bad thank you sir,` I said around a mouthful of badly bitten tongue. `The doctors
say I was lucky – I passed out more quickly than usual.`
`Before I forget,` he said handing over a get well soon card. `Sorry about the lack of
signatures but everyone’s a bit busy at the station – I signed it and so did one of the girls in
An inappropriately flippant cartoon on the front of the card depicted a man in a hospital
bed swathed in bandages.
`Thank you sir, I appreciate the thought.`
For some time we skirted the subject of the quiz by discussing things I considered far more
important: Chief Superintendent Stent – collapsed at home, looked `bloody awful`, the
twins – still not charged, no-one else brought in for questioning, Inspector Bowman’s
course – complete waste of time, what a racket. Eventually I was unable to defer broaching
the subject any longer.
`I’m sorry about the quiz sir. I know how much it meant to you but I really didn’t have any
choice – the cheating was quite blatant.`
`Oh that,` said the inspector dismissively. `Let’s face it, cheating was the only way that
lot’d get any questions right.`
I was surprised and relieved that the news had been met with such equanimity.
`I suppose there’s always next year,` I said consolingly.
`Next year?` He said with a contented smile. `We’ve got this year to get through yet.`
It transpired that as I had brought the cheating to the judges’ attention and three other team
members were not present, we still had four eligible players – the minimum number
required to make up a team. The inspector had spoken to the organiser – an old friend –and
we had been allowed through to the semi-finals on a `wild card`.
`It’s good that you’ve got some time off really Art – you can get down to some serious
Though my injuries were relatively superficial, I was nevertheless hospitalised for two
nights due to an allergic reaction to the dressings.
Aware of the woeful lack of concern shown by my colleagues for Chief Superintendent
Stent’s condition I felt an obligation to look in on Primrose ward before I left. Apart from
being anxious about the chief superintendent’s health, he was also the only person with
whom I could discuss the source of my injuries and the rather worrying news that Norman
Jemmett had still not been brought in for questioning. I was initially gratified to find him in
his own room but the equipment he was attached to suggested that this was not out of
deference to his rank or age. Unfortunately he was asleep when I stopped by his ward but I
had to concur with the opinion – put more colourfully by Inspector Bowman – that he
really did look rather poorly.
Apart from a dull ache in my chest, a searing pain in my head and a constant feeling of
nausea I felt quite well and was confident that after a few days rest I would be sufficiently
recovered to resume work.
In the meantime there were one or two items I would require from the station if I were to
make gainful use of my convalescence and so I made the short detour on my journey home.
Few people were present and those that were seemed fully occupied, so after collecting a
few books, some papers and a couple of memos from my pigeon hole I slipped out of the
The station’s large, round waste bins were being emptied into the back of a refuse lorry as I
walked across the car park. The procedure was accompanied by the usual smell of rotting
vegetation from the canteen and I noticed in passing that, despite my regular injunctions on
recycling, a great deal of waste paper was tumbling out of the bins. I made a mental note to
redouble my efforts on my return to work but for the moment was preoccupied with the
dull ache in my ribs.
The flash of turquoise brought back memories of kingfishers, occasionally glimpsed during
my childhood on our stretch of the river Wey. So peripheral was the image that I had taken
a few steps toward the gate before its significance struck me.
It was a plastic box-file of exactly that colour, purchased especially for the evidence on the
Carly Jemmett murder case, that I had laid on Detective Inspector Launce’s desk.
The medication-induced nausea I thought I was recovered from welled up inside me as I
gazed despairingly into the churning innards of the dustcart. Initially I consoled myself
with the thought that the box-file was brought from a well-known high street stationers –
there must be many others. But then I saw the map, the map and the graph and then some
`’Scuse me mate, some of us’ve got work to do!`
`Sorry,` I said shuffling aside like an automaton so that the dustmen could continue with
The pain and the nausea may have still been there on the walk home, I don’t know. I
reached my door but carried on walking. I carried on to the park, then across the park to the
canal and along to the end of the tow-path where I sat and stared at the refinery.
Try as I might I couldn’t understand it. My colleagues in Criminal Intelligence had worked
hard to attain their various ranks. They had passed exams, gained promotions. They
weren’t stupid or lazy, they were public servants, dedicated to protecting the lives and
property of the citizenry.
A fish flashed silver in the newly clean canal.
I felt as though I had no substance, did not impact upon other people’s lives. Detective
Inspector Launce was tying up the loose ends of a successful case, Inspector Bowman was
trying not to let running a police station interfere with his passion for the quiz and Chief
Superintendent Stent’s poor, weak heart was struggling defiantly to feed oxygen to the rest
of his failing body. All these things would have been the case had I never started work at
I had no solution. I had done all that I could and in return had been beaten and ignored. Not
knowing whether to be angry or sad, I returned home and, as had become my custom when
troubled, started to tidy – there being nothing like a well-scrubbed bath to put things in
perspective. I placed the books I had collected from the station among the others – filed by
subject and alphabetically by author. The various papers were catalogued or placed in a
neat pile next to my alarm clock for bedtime reading. Armed with a cup of tea and a
chocolate biscuit I settled down to work on some software I had been writing for accurately
calculating the numbers of participants at mass protests. Even this much needed endeavour
was insufficiently consuming to dispel the air of melancholy that had descended on me.
I switched the computer off and sat staring into space – a common enough practice for me
when deep in contemplation but today I didn’t think of anything – or rather I thought of
Without purpose or reason but for some stimulus to react to I reached over for the memos.
Well at least someone took notice of my complaints:
`Would all officers please note that during periods of particularly hot weather, except for
the wearing of jackets all rules of uniform must be strictly adhered to.`
Dubious grammar but welcome all the same.
`Some documentation relating to driving offences are still not being filled in correctly. If
you are not sure of how to complete the forms please ask your duty officer!`
Even worse grammar and, of course, not applicable to me.
The third sheet of paper, unusually for a memo, was folded in half. When I opened it I
found a handwritten note.
`We should have a chat. Call me.
According to Detective Inspector Launce it was space limitations that led him to
temporarily move into the office of the indisposed Chief Superintendant Stent, some of
who’s boxing photographs had already been replaced with ones showing the detective
inspector as a family man and friend of dignitaries.
The room now seemed even larger than before and I noticed dark lines on the carpet where
the partition walls had been moved back a few inches.
`Hello Constable Mehta, thanks for dropping by,` he said standing up behind a desk
stacked with papers, sorted, I was pleased to observe, into piles according to urgency. He
extending his hand. `How are you? Recovering I hope.`
`Yes thank you sir, I hope to be back on duty shortly.`
`Good, good,` he replied with a smile honed to put people at their ease. `I expect that
you’ve guessed why I’ve asked to see you.`
`Yes sir, I think so. I must say I was a little concerned that you might have felt my services
were surplus to requirements.`
He sat down and shook his head reassuringly.
`No, not at all. In the short time you’ve been at the station you’ve demonstrated that you
have a great deal of specialist knowledge.`
This was really going rather well. The unfortunate incident at the nightclub seemed to have
been forgotten and I thought it best to let it remain that way.
`I hope so sir, as you can imagine I’ve put in a great deal of work.`
He got up and went over to a rather elaborate espresso coffee machine – another recent
addition to the office – and, without asking, poured me a cup which I accepted graciously,
despite the knowledge that I would have to deal with my body’s reaction to the caffeine
`Now in order to proceed you’re going to have to come on to the CID team – just a
temporary secondment mind, but rules are rules.`
`That would be a great honour sir,` I said. `I had hoped that one day I would join the CID
but never thought it would be so soon.`
He spooned some of the froth off of the top of his coffee and popped it in his mouth.
`Well don’t get too excited Constable, as I said it’s only temporary but I’ll be getting rid of
DC Taylor to make way for you. Have you got any ideas about strategy?`
How grievously I’d misjudged the detective inspector! Not only was he capable of
admitting that the entire premise of his case had been unsound but he obviously had a
forward-looking and inclusive managament style.
`Well sir,` I said, exercising a considerable degree of self-restraint. `I’m pretty sure that if
we brought Mr Jemmett in for questioning we wouldn’t have to wait very long for a
His initially blank look darkened into a frown.
`Jemmett? What’s Jemmett got to do with the quiz?`
It was my turn for the blank look.
`Quiz sir – but I thought… Didn’t you…? I mean, aren’t we talking about the Jemmett case
He emitted an exasperated sigh.
`You’re not still on about that bollocks are you?` he said, once more causing my see-
sawing estimation of him to plummet.
`But sir, didn’t you read my report? There’s so much evidence. I assumed…`
His fist crashed down on the desk rattling his empty cup and tipping my full one over. I got
out my handerchief and started to mop it up.
`Leave it,` he said letting slip his natural, rather less refined accent, then shouted: `For
Christ sake leave it.`
I sat down feeling unaccountably as though it was I who had done something wrong.
`I’ll spell things out for you once and for all shall I Constable Mehta? Dan Chubb murdered
Carly Jemmett. He was videod committing the crime and has confessed to it. Is that plain
enough for you?`
Coffee was dripping off of the edge of the desk onto my trousers and a thin rivulet slithered
towards a stack of papers. The urge to clear it up was almost unbearable.
`But the Chubb twins don’t even know where it happened sir,` I said feeling the coffee
cooling on my legs. `How can you take them to court if they can’t agree on anything?`
The detective inspector stooped to open the desk’s bottom drawer, emerging with a box of
tissues which he at last started to administer to the spreading coffee slick. Grabbing a tissue
I managed to save the documents seconds before the dribble of coffee waylaid them.
I could see the detective inspector’s jaw muscles twitching as he estimated the damage to
the desk then inhaled long and slow through his nose before replying.
`For your information Constable, Reg Chubb has tried to harm himself on a couple of
occasions. We’ve had a psychiatric report done and he’s going to a secure unit so won’t
have to stand trial,` he said as if referring to an act of charity. `I did read your report. It was
all very clever. One day you’ll make a good detective when you learn a bit of discipline – a
bit of self-control. And you’re right about Jemmett – he is a rather nasty piece of work but
he isn’t the murderer – Dan Chubb is.`
The use of the names Reg and Dan grated on my frayed nerves. Detective Inspector Launce
`Now I am willing to generously overlook your behaviour on this and previous occasions
for the sake of inter-departmental harmony. Despite everything that’s happened I’m still
going to allow you to be a member of the CID quiz team.`
It was as if I had been transported to a strange, alien world in which general knowledge
competitions were of more importance than the lives of real, ordinary people. Suddenly I
felt like I was back in the Glitz but without needing the emboldening effects of alcohol.
This time I would give him a piece of my mind and I didn’t care how rude and offensive I
`With all due respect sir, I think your priorities may have become somewhat skewed if you
don’t mind me saying so sir. I believe there may have been a serious miscarriage of justice
and you seem more interested in demonstrating your knowledge of trivia – I’m very sorry
but it just doesn’t really seem right sir.`
Not quite the coruscating fusillade I had planned and, sadly, without the intended effect. He
leaned back in his chair and with pursed lips said:
`So you’re determined to stick with that bunch of losers are you? Well I’ve put in an
official complaint to stop you lot wheedling your way back into the next round, but if you
do get through we’ll thrash you. We’ll make you look like the bunch of retards that you
are. Is that clear constable?`
Occasional news reports and the fancies of popular fiction may give the impression that the
United Kingdom Police Service is seething with corruption but the reality is more prosaic.
A number of research studies carried out by independent academic bodies indicate that
police officers are considerably less likely to break the law than ordinary members of the
public. However the general public does not have a monopoly on avarice, incompetence
and laziness and it is generally these failings rather than a criminal proclivity that leads to
the sullying of the good name of the force.
I was fully aware that some of my colleagues regarded me as perhaps, a little pedantic in
my rigid adherence to the rules but that first, small, seemingly insignificant act of
wrongdoing – accepting a `drink` from a grateful customer, letting a licensee stay open ten
minutes late – is a step onto the slippery slope.
I have personally come across this on a number of occasions. It is disappointingly common
for example, when taking down details of a burglary, for the victim to expect you to
`invent` a few items for insurance purposes. One or two have been quite put out when I
refused to include anything that they couldn’t give me fully documented details of.
Detective Inspector Launce was not of course in any way corrupt – one can’t rise through
the ranks to a position of seniority without demonstrating the highest level of probity – but
I had to regretfully accept that his quest for personal advancement and desire for an easy
arrest had, on this occasion, blinded him to the greater cause of justice.
In the wake of recent disappointing events, I felt a slight but tangible sense of
disillusionment and realised that I needed to do some serious thinking. It would be at least
another week before I could return to work and, needing a break from Tenbridge’s
undoubted charms, I reluctantly decided to return home to the sanctuary of what I used to
call my `ruminatorium`.
A sympathetic environment is of vital importance to the incubation of serious thought and
my room at home had been designed and refined until it was the perfect place for me to
study and contemplate. At the top of the house, away from all but natural noise its
proportions were based on the golden ratio which I had become fascinated with at the age
of nine. The most important element of the room was it’s lack of distracting features –
white walls, single, high window with no curtains, no skirting boards, minimum of
furniture, nothing with curves and everything perpendicular.
My classmates, with their pop star and football posters, would have no doubt thought it odd
had they ever visited but I spent many happy hours there and it was the scene of some of
my greatest cerebral triumphs. Unfortunately I still had a long way to go to replicate it in
my flat in Tenbridge.
My father, whilst pleased to see me and concerned at my injuries, was extremely busy and,
as had been the norm during my formative years, left me to my own devices. My mother on
the other hand fussed over me, administering food and unguents until satisfied that I was
not in any pain – a feat I managed only through clenched teeth.
I unpacked my overnight bag and after washing and hanging up my clothes in the
concealed, walk-in wardrobe, I settled down to let the room weave its old magic.
It was to ease the boredom and misery of being so often bedridden due to a mystery
condition of the lower intestine, that I taught myself a method of what I suppose would be
I settled into my usual position – on a high-backed chair, facing away from the window
looking at the blank wall. At first the events of recent days skittered around in my head but
it wasn’t long before these distractions began to dissipate and the old clarity of vision
returned, like a veil lifted.
As I had done so many times before, I slowly peeled away the layers of the problem until
all that remained was the problem itself – artless and unadorned. And what I suddenly
realised was, that while my efforts so far had been directed toward collecting evidence and
trying to convince others of the validity of my case, I still didn’t actually know how the
crime had been committed.
The video the murderer appeared on wasn’t the problem – it was fairly simple for a person
skilled in theatrical costume and make-up to disguise someone well enough to convince at
a distance. It was the videos the murderer didn’t appear on – the other CCTV cameras –
that were most puzzling and which, to be honest, I had rather ignored.
My mother was surprised and a little disappointed to hear that I had been urgently called
back to work having been at home less than an hour but I was eager to return to test my
When I detrained at Tenbridge East Railway Station it was getting dark and I caught a bus
straight to the Amica Centre. The mall had just closed as I approached the canopied
entrance between the two east spurs. Checking the cameras as I approached I satisfied
myself that it was impossible to pass through to the entrance without being filmed. The
murderer had walked forward beyond the range of the cameras but had not entered the mall
– the doors were locked and there was a camera just inside.
The inner side of the smaller of the two spurs was a completely featureless wall, four
stories high which would have required specialist equipment to scale. I walked along the
other spur. A sealed and toughened shop window ran along for thirty metres from the
entrance to almost within range of the cameras but just at the far end of the window was
what I had been searching for. An anonymous grey hatch about two-and-a-half feet square,
entered using a special pincer-like key and used for inspecting the air conditioning.
Of course Norman Jemmett hadn’t appeared on the other cameras – if he had gained entry
here he could have emerged somewhere inside the centre any time the following day.
Despite the dangers and the distance from the Amica Centre to my flat I forsook public
transport and embarked on the long walk home – so preoccupied was I that my aching feet
and recently received injuries were entirely forgotten.
It seemed likely that Norman Jemmett would have emerged from, say, a toilet or a store
room inside the mall some time during the morning of the Seventeenth of May – the day
following the murder, and that being the case he would have been filmed by the centre’s
internal CCTV cameras.
It was also probable that he would appear on the previous day’s tapes as there was no
footage of him approaching the scene of the murder.
My problem, as before, was the frustration of having to work with no authority – no official
investigative powers. I couldn’t simply demand the tapes from the Amica Centre without
the sanction of my superior officers and I reluctantly accepted that such support would not
I considered going to the newspapers. Ken Franklin, the reporter from the Tenbridge Echo
had been a long-time adversary of Detective Inspector Launce and an unstinting critic of
the investigation. The Echo had, however, not only been supportive of the investigating
team since the arrest of the twins – who they had mounted a rather spiteful campaign
against – but Mr Franklin had now redirected his rapier-like pen of truth and justice against
the town’s skateboarding youth.
There was also the possibility of taking my evidence to the national press. Though the
murder of a teenage girl is, sadly, not uncommon, the unique characteristic of the accused
in this case had ensured that it had received considerable media coverage. Like the Echo,
however, none of the national newspapers had shown anything but prurient glee at the
arrest of the twins and the story’s previous front-page position had, in any case, now been
usurped by sordid political scandal.
There was an alternative but it was one I had been avoiding.
Daniel Chubb was being represented by Rupert Furnish – the son of Sir George Furnish of
Furnish, Furnish and Keen, Barristers at Law – who’s path I had crossed in less than ideal
circumstances at Magdalen College.
I had initially held Rupert up as something of a role model and it had taken some time for
the disillusion to set in due, mainly, to his cavalier attitude towards the study of law. An
expert oarsman, captain of the rugby team and equally popular with both females and
bookmakers he had shown not the slightest talent nor interest in the legal profession. In his
final year I had been forced on no less than three occasions to make official complaints
against him: once for taking my bicycle without permission, once on discovering him to
have been guilty of plagiarism and once, shortly afterwards, when he de-bagged me.
Considering his now elevated position I assumed either that with the onset of maturity he
had applied himself with diligence and flair to his chosen profession or that the selection
process for those being called to the bar was not as discriminating as I had been led to
My initial telephone call to his chambers – made at ten o’clock in the morning – did not
bode well as he had not yet arrived for work. When I tried again at twelve thirty I was
informed that he was at lunch – a pattern repeated at two o’clock and then again an hour
later. I eventually got through at four o’clock when he was just preparing to go home.
`Mehta, no, sorry, don’t recall the name.`
The moment I heard that charmingly confident but dismissive drawl I was almost won over
but then some of the less savoury incidents from my university life started to swim back
into my memory.
He had been the leader of a small coterie from the same public school who possessed an
almost perfect lack of self-doubt but without ever actually demonstrating what skills or
abilities this confidence applied to. Yet they somehow managed to emerge, praised and
honoured from each successive escapade.
`You stole my bicycle,` I said.
It sounded foolish – another of his gifts.
`I stole a lot of bicycles, you’ll have to be a bit more specific.`
`You stole my trousers as well.` I said.
`Well,` he slurred. `I stole a lot of people’s tr…Hang on – Mehta. Not Baster-Mehta?` He
said using the smutty spoonerism that had so dogged my college life. `Oh yes, I remember
you Baster. Your mother was always bringing you food and clean clothes and you were
always swatting and telling people off – mind you we had some fun didn’t we? You never
failed to fall for our little good-natured japes. Do you remember that time we sent you to…
`Yes I do remember thank you Rupert,` I said, having successfully obliterated the
embarrassing incident from my memory until now. `Much as I’d love to reminisce I
actually phoned on a professional matter regarding a client of yours. I have some
information which could be of considerable advantage to you. I wondered if it would be
possible to arrange a meeting.`
`Well,` said Rupert, showing a little more interest. `Furnish, Furnish and Keen undertake a
lot of highly specialised commercial work and we’re well known for our, er, discretion. If
it’s a partner or perhaps a member of the family business I can assure you that it’ll go no
further than my office. Now who’s the client?` he asked.
`Daniel Chubb – the Carly Jemmett murder case.`
There was a pause during which his voice seemed to lose some of it’s sympathetic gloss.
`Chubb? Oh God, him! What’s happened, have they dug up more victims?`
`Quite the contrary,` I said. `I have evidence that strongly suggests that he’s not gulty of the
He let out a long, irritated sigh.
`Listen Mehta. I don’t want to disappoint you but I’ve got about as much chance of getting
Chubb off as you’ve got of getting off with…well, just about anyone. The only reason we
took on this pig’s ear of a bloody case is that some soppy twat solicitor who apparently
works part-time for nothing – for nothing! took on this hopeless case and as a favour to
Lenehan’s – who usually give us some decent work – I’ve been lumbered with defending a
low-life inbred in some God-forsaken hell-hole. The only saving grace is that it’s bloody
obvious he did it so I won’t have to spend all my time travelling up to that cesspit, so you’ll
forgive me if I don’t exactly rejoice at your proposal.`
`But you wouldn’t want the wrongful imprisonment of an innocent man on your conscience
would you Rupert?` I said, realising as the words formed that with Furnish, Furnish and
Keen, this would not be the most affective argument. I attempted a tone of subtle
`If you could give me just half-an-hour of your time I’m sure that you’ll find that it’s to
your benefit, I could see you in your chambers or we could meet up when you next come to
Tenbridge if that’s more convenient.`
`Oh very well,` he said after a long pause – the sound of his time being wasted. `I’ve got to
go up on Thursday – I suppose we can meet then. Leave the details with my secretary –
you can buy lunch.`
Then as an afterthought:
`Anyway, what’s your involvement in all this – not a relative are you?` he said with an
`No Rupert. I’m a policeman, a member of Her Majesty’s Constabulary.`
Now what was so amusing about that?
I had, naturally, kept duplicates – on disk and in hard copy – of all evidence gathered in the
case so far but now had to spend two days on the tedious task of re-compiling it for my
meeting with Rupert Furnish.
Of the attractions for which Tenbridge has become known – it’s flyovers, it’s agricultural
machinery museum – gastronomy is notable by it’s absence. Even though I have little
experience or interest in recreational dining I could still recognise that the town’s many
eating establishments were of a different order then those in the environs of our capital’s
Inns of Court. Despite recalling that the few times I had witnessed Rupert and his friends
eating, most of the food had been airborne, I nevertheless wanted him to feel comfortable
and therefore chose Bonkers, a stylish and fashionable wine bar near the law courts.
`God almighty Mehta. What have you dragged me to this toilet for?`
Having stayed at Oxford to do a post-graduate degree I hadn’t seen Rupert for four years.
Maturity didn’t appear to have left it’s mark.
`The Tenbridge Echo gave it an unprecedented four stars.` I said feeling an unaccountable
need to defend my new home town.
`Mmm,` he said wiping imaginary dust off of the table with a forefinger. `But I would
hazard a guess that Michelin didn’t.`
He glanced dismissively at the menu.
`Jesus Mehta, don’t they know the war’s over?`
This was obviously going to be something of a trial.
`The hot-pot’s a speciality,` I said recalling the review.
`Now why doesn’t that surprise me?` he said disdainfully. `I suppose at least if it’s been
stewed long enough most of the bacteria should have died - of old age probably! All right,
bring it on.`
This set the tone for the entire meal with Rupert interposing somewhat embroidered
anecdotes about his exploits between endless complaints about the meal despite which he
had four courses, a bottle of what he called `that tinny plonk,` and coffee. Eventually I
managed to steer the conversation round to the reason for lunch being shared by such an ill-
matched pair. I briefly outlined all the evidence I had against Norman Jemmett and Rupert
gave the papers a perfunctory glance.
`Hiding to nothing old man,` he said pushing the folder back across the table. `Chubb’s on
video and he’s confessed – rest my case.`
This time I had anticipated the objection.
`OK Rupert, let’s say that is what happened. If Daniel Chubb murdered Carly Jemmett as
he said then the Amica Centre’s CCTV footage for the following day shouldn’t show
Norman Jemmett, or if it does he should be seen entering and leaving the centre in the
normal way. If you can get me all the videos for the day of the murder and the day after,
then if Carly’s father doesn’t appear I’ll humbly apologise and we’ll forget I ever
mentioned it. If, however, the tapes show Mr Jemmett and he doesn’t make a conventional
entrance then I’d simply ask you to consider my evidence more seriously.`
He looked at me, lips pursed, as he calculated what he had to lose. I continued:
`All you have to do is get me the tapes Rupert – I’ll do all the work. If they don’t show
Norman Jemmett then nothing has changed, you go ahead with a nice easy case but if they
do then you hand the evidence over to the police, they interview Jemmett who’ll
undoubtedly confess and they release your client – even easier case.
I could see that he was swayed by the thought of the favourable publicity this might bring
but Rupert couldn’t condescend to simply agreeing to my suggestion.
`God, you always were a pain in the arse Mehta. Waitress – another bottle of red.`
I took that as a yes.
The obtaining of physical evidence for a defence counsel case can take a number of
different courses and involve a range of labyrinthine procedures and methods. In the
normal course of events these things can take time – items get mislaid, arguments rage for
weeks over the authority of signatories.
Such problems don’t seem to arise in Rupert Furnish’s rarefied world. It was a world, I
have to admit, initially attractive to me – in which things seemed to be painted out –
negative things, as though someone has gone through the dictionary crossing through the
words that don’t apply to him: unable, insufficient, unattractive.
And so the day after our luncheon a worryingly large parcel was delivered to my flat.
The surveillance in the Amica Centre was in the process of being upgraded to a digital
system and so forty four DVDs were included with the fifty two videos tapes.
It is a truly mind-numbing experience watching ordinary people going about their
mundane, daily business – if ever such things were broadcast on television the audience
would surely switch off in their droves.
Luckily I was able to cut down the process to a considerable degree – if the Jemmetts
reported Carly missing at five past eleven on the morning of the seventeenth then Norman
Jemmett must have been home at that time. Their house is some twenty minutes away by
car from the Amica Centre so it was unnecessary to scrutinise the material beyond ten
It was a daunting task and I have to admit that on more than one occasion my mind
wandered and I had to rewind sections to view them again.
After three hours I had a break for lunch.
Even though I viewed the tapes on fast forward and there were many thousands of people
in the mall that morning, I felt confident that my quarry could not evade the vigilance of
my gaze. After some refreshment I settled down to watch more of the videos – three hours
later I started to become concerned.
It had not occurred to me that there might be a problem, so convinced was I that Norman
Jemmett would materialise at the appointed time, but by nine o’clock in the evening I had
seen all the videos and no such appearance had been made.
I moved on to the DVDs. The picture quality was superior and they were easier to view at
speed but the glare of the monitor was fatiguing and at two o’clock my head gently alighted
on the keyboard.
The following morning, refreshed and ready to continue, I embarked on the remaining
twenty six DVDs but after the first half-dozen, a feeling of relative optimism was
superseded by a gnawing sense of disquiet as the `to be watched` pile inexorably shrunk.
Sixteen to go. I didn’t think I could face going through them again and there was no point
in viewing the previous day’s tapes – if he didn’t leave the mall on the seventeenth then he
couldn’t have arrived on the sixteenth.
The mesmeric scurrying of thousands upon thousands of shoppers fused into an abstract – a
pattern. The doubts had also started to coalesce into certainty – the more I thought about it
the more fanciful my theory became. I put another disc into the computer.
It presented a gloomy vista of the South Piazza car park’s ground floor. I quickly tried the
next disc – it showed the second floor – the final sixteen discs were of the car parks!
There was little point in watching the remaining footage – if I hadn’t seen Norman Jemmett
inside the building I couldn’t expect to see him approaching his car – but by that time my
actions were automatic: the computer’s little drawer whirred open and in went another
Each tape and disc ran for twelve hours – from midnight to midday. The time ran along the
bottom of the screen and I had been searching for, and viewing, only the sections from
around nine-thirty to ten forty-five in the morning. A thought occurred to me suddenly and
belatedly. Assuming that Norman Jemmett had driven to the shopping centre – a necessity
given the vagaries of Tenbridge’s notorious public transport system – he would have had to
leave his car in the car park overnight amongst those of the contract cleaners, security and
I went back to the first of the car park DVDs. The ground floor was surprisingly full at
midnight and it was disappointingly hard to identify individual makes of vehicle in the
gloom. As the floors ascended, the number of cars parked on them got fewer and fewer. On
the fifth floor there was just a pick-up van, nothing on the sixth and a solitary, small saloon
on the seventh, parked there, it transpired, as the venue for a romantic tryst.
The eighth floor had as it’s roof a cold, starry sky. The only landmark in the flat and barren
expanse of tarmac was a concrete construction in the corner, the door of which lead to the
stairs and lifts. Next to the exit, another, presumably locked, door displayed the familiar
diamond-shaped warning notices – Hazchem and a lightning graphic. Parked next to it was
a large, beige Nissan motor car.
I located the period of the morning I knew so well from the other tapes and discs but this
time watched at standard speed. Few cars had arrived by nine-thirty in the morning as the
car park tended to fill up from the lower floors and I submitted myself, with quiet
confidence to the restful nothingness playing out in front of me.
He emerged at ten twenty-eight a.m. The maintenance door opened and out he stepped.
Quickly looking around, he turned and locked the door, walked to his car, got in and was
gone. It seemed sudden and ordinary after the long journey to it’s discovery. I watched it
again. He wore blue trousers, a short jacket and carried a large black holdall. As the big car
turned and slid toward the exit ramp the caravan club sticker was clearly visible in the rear
window but there had in any case been no doubt who I was watching.
It was a simple process to find the footage of his arrival the previous evening. The car
ascended the spiralling ramp at nine-sixteen – just long enough before the centre’s ten
o’clock closure not to attract suspicion. Level eight had just a sparse smattering of vehicles
and no-one on foot so, after a quick look around he was through the door and by nine-
eighteen had disappeared into the machinery of the building.
The sudden realisation that I hadn’t eaten since the previous lunchtime prompted a flurry of
activity. I made two copies of the relevant sections of the discs – posted one to Furnish,
Furnish and Keen and one to my father with instructions to put it in his office safe, before
treating myself to a miracle of the Jamaican patty-makers art.
The following day – an unremittingly grey Sunday – I dutifully visited the still hospitalised
Chief Superintendent Stent.
According to Mrs Stent, in a valiant but unconvincing attempt at cheerfulness on the
telephone, her husband `seemed slightly better, was occasionally conscious and the doctors
thought they could detect a slight improvement`.
None of this was at all evident when I pulled my chair up next to his bed in the narrow
space between the drips and the monitors. He lay, pale and gaunt, attached by little tubes to
the surrounding equipment like one of it's component. I called his name softly and then a
little louder, but his eyes remained closed and his breaths rasped on deep and steady.
For want of anything better to do I talked. At first about the station – about my colleagues
and their amusing antics, about Inspector Bowman and the quiz, but then I told him about
the case. For an hour-and-a-half the room weltered in the soft hum of my story, the beep of
the heart monitor, the occasional gloop of the bubbling drip but the chief superintendant
My hands, all the while, had rested on the stiff, white coverlet and as I slowly straightened
up and went to move them away his hand slid over to mine. His eyes remained shut, his
pulse steady, but he grasped my hand and squeezed.
Those better schooled in the complexities of the human spirit would know how to interpret
this but to me it was just a sweet little mystery.
I followed the green arrows – painted onto the corridor floors to guide bored and worried
relatives towards the exit – so intently that I walked straight past Constable Box.
I turned, startled.
`Not been in another fight have you?` he asked facetiously. He was in uniform so I
supposed he was on official business though that was by no means certain.
`I’ve just dropped in on Chief Superintendent Stent actually,` I said. `You’re aware, of
course, that visiting friends or relatives whilst on duty contravenes regulations?`
`Christ Mehta, don’t you ever let up? He snapped.`I’m here to protect a patient if you must
While most of my colleagues worked with diligence and conscientiousness, I had become
so accustomed to an unprofessional attitude from one or two officers that I tended to
automatically assume the worst. I felt quite contrite and forced out an uneasy apology.
`Don’t worry about it,` he said grudgingly. `Anyway, can’t hang about – got to take over
from Purcell, bloody waste of time though – standing about doing nothing all afternoon.
Bloke’s got a fractured skull and three broken ribs and his wife still thinks they’ll come
back and finish him off even though we’ve got the bloke who did it – little toerag called
Gardner – from the estate.`
He looked at his watch.
`Christ I’m late – see you later.`
He turned and loped off. Gardner – it took a couple of seconds for the name to register as
the young man with whom Amelia Jemmett was living. I caught up with Constable Box at
`Ron. Sorry, I just wondered, the person you’re protecting, what’s his name?` I asked with
a strange feeling of anticipation.
`Jemmett, Norman Jemmett,` he said in time with the ping of the lift.
Having largely recovered from my injuries, and having a low boredom threshold, I returned
to work the following day. There was, in any case, going to be a meeting of the somewhat
diminished quiz team and following Detective Inspector Launce’s unworthy behaviour I
was now as determined to win as Inspector Bowman.
I knew that a telephone call to Rupert before ten o’clock would be fruitless but was
exasperated to find that he had taken a long weekend and wouldn’t be in his office at all
Even though this was just supposed to be a lunchtime strategy meeting for the quiz team
Inspector Bowman couldn’t restrain himself from posing a few questions.
`In which country is the town of Timbuktu?`
`Congo,` said Sergeant Dyas.
The inspector and I looked at each other – we would obviously have to moderate the
sergeant’s, impulsive nature.
`What’s the right answer constable?`
`Mali sir,` I said.
On the whole, despite being a mere half of it’s former size, the team acquitted itself quite
adequately. Sergeant Collins – in a state of stress whilst undergoing training for the
interview team – answered well in her areas of specialisation and Sergeant Dyas’s
impetuousness would pose no problem in a written quiz.
The CID team had submitted a complaint about our inclusion in the semi-finals but the
inspector seemed strangely sanguine about the outcome – whether through knowledge of
the rules or, less sportingly, through an acquaintanceship with one the judges, I didn’t
As we were leaving I took the opportunity of asking Sergeant Collins if she had been
involved in interviewing Kevin Gardner.
`Well I’m just doing observation at the moment,` she replied. `Not that Gardner was a very
good subject – never said a word.`
`And what about previous convictions?` I asked.
`Nothing like this,` she replied. `His particular talent is forgery. He’s good at it but not too
careful – arrested twice. The next time he’ll get a serious sentence.
`This time you mean?` I said.
`Oh no,` she relied. `He’s been let off. The victim, or rather his wife – it was her who found
him when she came home from work – wouldn’t identify him, so there’s not a lot we can
do. It’s not like he were arrested at the scene, we got him at his lock-up trying to get rid of
`Paint?` I said. `What paint?`
We had been walking slowly down the corridor. Sergeant Collins stopped and frowned.
`Yeah, It’s strange but he’d written paedophile – spelt wrong of course – on the victim’s
front door. God knows why. It was Norman Jemmett he beat up – you know, the one who’s
daughter…there’s nothing on the files like that. It’s all a bit odd really.`
`Do you think that’s altogether wise sir? I’m only just recovering from the beating they
Shocked to discover my name on the personal protection rota for Norman Jemmett I had
sought out the inspector in his habitual smoking haunts. The temperature had dropped over
the last few days and we sheltered from the drizzle under the entrance to the station’s rear
`Now now lad, you’re letting your imagination run away with you. You’ve had some nasty
blows to the head – luckily it hasn’t affected your memory – but I’m getting quite worried
about this obsession you’ve got with Jemmett. Why on earth would he want to beat you
I had neither the time nor the inclination to try, once again, to convince the inspector of
what were now rather more than suspicions. According to the rota my first duty would be
the following morning. Rupert was expected back at work then and would surely want to
see the DVD straight away. I could foresee no reason why Norman Jemmett would still be
at liberty by the end of the day.
`Could I at least be put further back on the rota sir? If I swap with, say, Constable Newbury
I wouldn’t be on protection duty till the day after tomorrow – it just means swapping two
`No Constable,` he said, flicking the last quarter inch of his cigarette into a puddle. `I’m
sorry but I’ve got to put my foot down – there’ll be no favouritism under my command.
You’ll do your protection tomorrow and that’ll be an end to it.`
What I did next was, I feel, justified, but weighs heavily on my mind to this day. Inspector
Bowman shivered and turned to re-enter the building.
`Ask me a question sir.` I said. He stopped.
`Ask me a question – a quiz question.`
He faced me and frowned.
`Ok, let’s see. Who’s only stage play was called Exiles?`
`Albert Einstein,` I said resolutely.
`Wha…,` he spluttered. `You know perfectly well that Einstein never wrote a play. Come
on lad. Irish writer.` He mouthed the letter J.
`I’m sorry sir,` I said honestly. `But I believe the answer to be Einstein. Albert Einstein.`
He looked at me in silence as understanding slowly dawned. A palpable, clogging air of
disappointment settled over us.
`This is blackmail.`
I looked at my feet.
`I’m really very sorry sir.`
I managed, through sheer strength of will, to postpone telephoning Furnish, Furnish and
Keen until ten thirty the following morning. A somewhat overprotective clerk informed me
that Rupert was in court and not expected back until some time in the afternoon – try again
at three o’clock. This was cutting it worryingly fine – even if he watched the DVD
immediately on his return it would be hard to organise things so that Norman Jemmett was
arrested that day – and I was committed to giving him my protection the next morning.
I spent the rest of the day in a state of agitation. Although Norman Jemmett was harmlessly
bedridden, his wife Elizabeth had grown to gargantuan proportions in my imaginings and
was hell-bent on my destruction.
`Hello, is Mr Rupert Furnish there please?` I said at two forty-five – the latest my fraying
nerves would allow.
`I’m afraid Mr Furnish isn’t available sir.` There was a noticeable lack of deference in the
`It’s really quite crucial,` I said. `Mr Furnish is expecting me to call.`
`Mr Furnish tells me if he expects a call and he hasn’t done so,` he said, obviously tiring of
the conversation. `He has retired for the day to prepare for a very important case.`
This sounded more promising – surely he must mean the Chubb case.
`I sent a small package to him – he would have received it yesterday – you wouldn’t
happen to know if he has taken it with him would you?`
`No sir,` he said ambiguously – did he mean he hadn’t taken it or he didn’t know if he’d
taken it I asked. – He didn’t know. Could he find out? – that wouldn’t be possible. Could
he give me Rupert’s home number? – he wasn’t at liberty to divulge such information.
`This really is of the utmost importance. A man’s life may be at stake.` I pleaded.
`I’ll pass that message on when I see Mr Furnish,` said the clerk and replaced the receiver.
Various methods were open to me for obtaining Rupert’s telephone number, all of which
would require me to relax my ethical standards and were therefore not to be considered. I
would have to trust in providence and, rather less comfortingly, the conscientiousness of
My only contact with the twins throughout this time was vicariously via their social
worker, Irene Hargreaves. Despite the less than ideal circumstances of our only previous
meeting, she accepted my phone calls graciously as the only other person who took the
slightest interest in Daniel and Reginald’s well-being.
It seemed that Daniel, separated from his brother and his `innocents`, was taking his
incarceration as badly as could be expected – a situation not improved on receiving notice
through the prison system’s clandestine communication network that after the courts had
dealt with him, his fellow prisoners would mete out their own, less formal, justice.
Even though I was confident of his imminent release once Rupert set in motion the
inexorable juggernaut of the law, we agreed that in his current fragile state of mind any
possibility of disappointment was best avoided.
Reginald, on the other hand, was now in a mental institution and, as no legal proceedings
were currently being brought against him I could see no reason why he shouldn’t receive a
The Trenton hospital was not officially a high security institution but those who entered did
so on a permanent basis. Built ten years previously in the briefly fashionable Gothic revival
style so as to look like an office block with spires, it’s inhabitants were not inmates but
'guests' not at liberty to leave.
`Hello, I’m Constable Mehta, I telephoned earlier concerning Reginald Chubb,` I said for
the third time – first to the security man at the entrance to the hospital grounds, then to the
receptionist and now to a male nurse in the recreation centre.
I followed the bulky, white-tunic'd figure to a large lounge where a dozen disparate souls
were watching someone paint a house on an oversized television. I had formed a mental
picture of elderly people drugged and insensible but the patients here varied in age and
mental agility and gave me a lively greeting – Reginald however was not among them.
`He’s through here,` said the nurse leading me to a plant-filled conservatory.
Reginald sat in a wicker armchair, rocking backwards and forwards, backwards and
forwards. The nurse left once his offer of refreshment had been politely declined and I
pulled up a chair to sit directly facing Reginald.
His clothes were more conventional than I had seen on him before: dark trousers, checked
shirt, and he was smartly presented in the way that children are when their mothers dress
them. The bandages poking from the cuffs of his shirt were the only tell-tale signs of recent
events. He seemed to look through me, or at me but without recognition.
`Hello Reginald, it’s Arti here – Arti Mehta.`
Nothing. His eyes didn’t follow as I moved my head.
I told him what I had found out and that I was expecting Daniel’s imminent release as a
result. I thought perhaps something would get through, something would stick and later
coalesce into a memory or a hope but as I spoke I could see that it was too late for that. The
light had gone out.
My lack of confidence in Rupert Furnish proved to be well-founded. When I arrived at the
station the following day there had been no developments in the Carly Jemmett murder
case – no arrest warrant had been issued for her father and Daniel Chubb remained in
And we would have known. The station has a system for disseminating gossip so finely
tuned that any news seemed to be transmitted to us by instantaneous osmosis. On the vague
off-chance that the story hadn’t filtered through yet I asked our mole, Paula, to check with
her fiance in CID, but it was a vain hope – nothing in the case had altered.
And so, steeling myself for duty at the hospital I checked with the support office sergeant.
`Nice easy job for you Constable,` he said. `Our Mr Jemmett has discharged himself from
I barely concealed a sigh of relief.
`What would you like me to do instead sir?` I asked.
`Oh you’ve still got to do the protection,` he said to my dismay. `But you won’t be standing
in a draughty hospital corridor for four hours, you’ll be in a nice warm house drinking cups
of tea. What about that for a cushy little number?`
This was beyond my worst imaginings. Trapped in a house with a woman who had nearly
killed me. Apart from feigning sickness – a course I would never condone – I couldn’t
think what to do. Perhaps Mrs Jemmett would be at work and I would just have her invalid
husband to deal with.
Clinging to that hope I made the journey – usually interminable but today annoyingly quick
and easy – to the Chaucer Estate and number four, The Reeves.
As I walked up the drive, past the beige Nissan and the spotless caravan, the hastily painted
front door opened and out came the officer I was to relieve – Constable Newbury. I liked to
think that the kindliness with which Constable Newbury had treated me since the incident
at her birthday party, was not just a result of a guilty conscience.
She glanced over his shoulder then leaned forward to whisper.
`Welcome to the morgue – God, it’s the most boring duty I’ve ever done, mind you I’m not
complaining – slept through most of it.`
Assuming this admission of unprofessional conduct to be said in jest I enquired as to the
whereabouts of Mr Jemmett. She indicated upstairs with her head.
`He’s in a bit of a state but he’s milking it for all it’s worth. If the bloke had wanted to kill
him he would have done, but he knows how bad it’d look if anything else happened to him
– what with his daughter and all.`
`And what about Mrs…`
As I spoke I became aware of a presence in the shadowy hall – an amorphous shape which
slowly materialised as it emerged into the light of the doorway.
`You forgot your book Constable.`
She saw me then. There was little reaction – her mouth retained the shape of a smile but the
eyes hardened to stone. She was dressed, but not for work – old slacks and a large pink
`Thanks very much,` said Constable Newbury. `This is Constable Mehta, he’ll be here for
She didn’t reply immediately but loomed over me like a cat looking down on a captive
`Well, we’ll have to make Constable Mehta welcome then won’t we?` she said stepping
aside and gesturing for me to squeeze past her.
The house was disconcertingly normal. The front door opened onto the hall and staircase.
The sound of a television filtered through from the room at the end of the hall – a kitchen,
probably with a dining room adjoining if I had calculated the shape of the house correctly.
A door off to the left led to the lounge – a room dominated by a huge television but
scattered with evidence of the various passing interests of her children – CDs, a
Playstation, a judo suit. From upstairs I could hear the sounds of morning preparations for
school and near one wall a vacuum cleaner stood, plugged in.
Ignoring me Mrs Jemmett passed the door of the lounge and disappeared into the kitchen.
An avalanche of uncoordinated feet on the stairs was followed by two boys, one a little
older than the other – eleven and twelve according to my notes – rushing past the open
doorway and through to their waiting mother.
The Jemmetts were plainly unconvinced of the benefits of a cooked breakfast as the boys
were out of the house in about two minutes. Mrs Jemmett did not emerge from the kitchen
and I remained in my discomfort amid the ordinaryness of the lounge.
Lighter feet now skipped down the stairs and I waited for the youngest daughter to walk
past to the kitchen. Instead there was the sound of objects being rummaged through in the
`Mum, where’s my music stuff?`
In the corner of the lounge, on the flat top of an electronic keyboard was a green
transparent folder patterned with music notation in red. Inside could be seen a simple piano
piece I remembered from my own lessons and which, like all the pieces I had studied, I
could still play from memory. Eventually I had discontinued the lessons after having
passed my grades, with distinction, in record time, but with uniformly disappointing
comments on artistic interpretation.
`It’s out there somewhere,` her mother shouted from the kitchen.
`Where? It’s not here,` whined the girl.
I picked up the folder and walked to the door.
`Is this what you’re looking for?`
Her father had been in hospital until the previous evening so she presumably hadn’t yet
seen any of the officers protecting him – my appearance was in any case clearly
unexpected. Mrs Jemmett emerged from the kitchen and mother and daughter stared at me
each with a different expression – one of confusion, the other less benign.
`This is one of the policemen looking after daddy.`
I knew the girl’s late sister only through forty five seconds of videotape viewed over and
over but something about this child – a movement of her head perhaps – reminded me of
Carly and I suddenly realised that this case was not just about a crime already committed.
She still retained a look of suspicion but accepted the folder. Ignoring me she said:
`How long’s he staying?`
`He won’t be here when you get home from school.`
Everything Elizabeth Jemmett said sound to me like a threat.
Without another word they went into the kitchen and I returned to the lounge.
The Reeves, tucked away in a back corner of the estate, was passed by few vehicles, and
even fewer pedestrians. A postman walked past number four having delivered to the houses
either side. Beyond the road, the two, net-curtained windows looked onto the sheer brick
wall of an industrial estate.
A young girl walked up the drive and rang the bell.
`Bye love, see you later,` shouted Mrs Jemmett.
The daughter’s reply, if there was one, was not audible to me but immediately on joining
her friend she started an animated conversation which they continued as they made their
way to school.
`Excuse me,` I said at the door to the kitchen.
Mrs Jemmett turned from making the tea – teabags in two cups, one of which said Betty
and the other, Norman. She didn’t speak.
`Could you tell me where the toilet is please?`
She replied without expression: `Use the one upstairs. Straight in front of you on the
The bathroom, like the rest of the house, was unsurprising: avocado suite, fish-motif
shower curtain, myriad feminine toiletries. A white, plastic cabinet contained yet more
cosmetics and hair preparations as well as ointments, cold remedies, a disused electric
toothbrush, but nestling at the back on the top shelf was a small, flat, brown case which
opened with an old-fashioned clasp on the side. The case contained a syringe and a small
phial upon which the word insulin was written – a rather antiquated way of treating
diabetes and one I thought more likely be used by an adult than a child – but which adult?
Four doors led off of the landing, two of which were ajar. A ceramic plaque with the name
Nicola and a picture of a kitten was stuck on one – posters depicting groups of young men
adorned the wall and girls’ things were placed neatly around the room.
The other bedroom was quite the opposite. I have never understood teenage boys’
predilection to disorder – certainly not a feature of my own adolescence – which this room
exemplified with its bunk beds and all other flat surfaces buried under the debris of
Of the two closed doors, one, I assumed, led to what had been Carly’s room and behind the
other lay the incapacitated Norman Jemmett – my nemesis.
Mrs Jemmett was climbing the stairs as I started down and I reversed to let her pass. She
entered through the closest of the two unopened doors and I stopped halfway down the
stairs in the hope – unrealised – of overhearing their conversation.
I returned to the lounge for what turned into a long wait, longer than it would take to
deliver or even drink a cup of tea and though I was glad to be alone, the seconds ticked by
with a vexing lack of urgency.
On the mantelpiece, in a cabinet and hung on the wall were photographs of the children –
only one of Amelia, as a child, four of the eldest boy, three of his younger brother and three
of Nicola, the youngest daughter. Also among them were two pictures – not especially
large or prominently displayed – of Carly. The one that had been reproduced extensively in
the newspapers showed a sullen and defensive teenager and I wished they had used the
other, taken just a couple of years earlier, in which she looked pure and delicate.
I thought I heard a sound from upstairs. Raised voices? At the foot of the stairs I could hear
nothing except the television, still on in the kitchen. I went through and had a look. The
television was actually in the dining room – separated from the kitchen by a breakfast bar –
and was showing, in bright, block colours, a childrens’ cartoon. That must have been it.
Through the kitchen window I could see, across a strip of grass the width of a football
pitch, directly onto Knights House, it’s thick shadow like a stain seeping towards us.
It had been half-an-hour since I had seen either of the Jemmetts and I started to become a
little concerned. I knocked on the bedroom door.
`Excuse me, Mrs Jemmett.`
I was about to knock again when she opened the door a few inches, her large frame entirely
filling the space.
`Sorry to disturb you,` I said. `But I’m not really supposed to let Mr Jemmett out of my
sight for long periods.`
This was, judging by her expression, not at all convenient and she turned, still blocking the
view, and looked inside before saying:
`He’s asleep but I suppose there’s no harm in you looking,` and stepped aside.
The bedroom was no less conventional than the rest of the house – pinks and blues, white
fitted wardrobes. Without entering I could see Norman Jemmett laying in the bed, dressed
in grey pyjamas, head bandaged, eyes closed.
`Look at him,` said Mrs Jemmett without moderating the volume of her voice. `After all
we’ve been through this is the sympathy we get – he’s had to be dosed up with painkillers.`
I knew only too well how painful being assaulted could be but had the presence of mind to
refrain from mentioning it.
`It would really be much better if you were willing to identify his assailant,` I said. `We
won’t be able to offer you protection for ever and then he’ll be at liberty to do it again.`
We looked at the sleeping figure for a few seconds in silence.
`You don’t have to live here do you Constable Mehta?` she said with a sort of sad venom,
and closed the door, leaving me standing alone on the landing.
Downstairs, the shadow of the tower block had crept over the house and even the lounge
was immersed in drab gloom. The only reading material in the room was a television
listings magazine and a copy of caravanning weekly, both of which, even if the
circumstances had not been so traumatic, I would have found less than engrossing.
The tediousness of the shift was, however, a considerable improvement over the reception I
had feared and if, as it appeared, Mrs Jemmett was content to avoid my company then I
could at least look forward to completing the duty unscathed.
Unfortunately after about ten minutes I heard the soft padding of slippers on the stairs.
`Cup of tea?` she said with comparative good cheer.
Hesitantly I accepted her offer hoping that she would leave it for me and return to her
husband’s sickbed but this was not to be. A few minutes later she returned to the lounge
carrying a tray on which were two mugs and an almost empty packet of chocolate
`There you go,` she said with a discomforting smile. `Sorry about the biscuits, I could make
you a sandwich if you’re hungry.`
I politely declined, still uneasy about her change of temperament. For a brief moment I
began to question whether it was actually the Jemmetts who had assaulted me. `This is just
a sample of what you’ll get if you don’t leave me and my family alone,` they had said. Was
there any other family that could have a grudge against me? I had perhaps been a little
more diligent in the execution of my duties than some of my colleagues but I couldn’t
imagine any of the delinquents, racketeers and drug addicts I had arrested considering it
any more than an occupational hazard. Then there were the other things – Norman’s
conversation with Cyril at the AA meeting, the reaction of Mrs Jemmett in Savefast – no it
had to be them.
`Are you not working today? I asked.
`Later,` she said. `I’m doing the two-till-ten shift.`
`And your eldest – Amelia – is she not at home?`
She placed the tray on the coffee table before returning to push the door closed.
`Flown the nest,` she said matter-of-factly.
The thickness of the carpet made closing the door a difficult, and obviously rare,
`Why don’t you come and sit over here? `she said putting one of the mugs on the table in
front of the long, green leather sofa which stretched along the wall, between the door and
the partition to the kitchen. We sat down initially about two feet apart but I shuffled
sideways, increasing it to three.
`Shall we have the telly on?` she said pressing the button on the remote control in lieu of a
The huge screen lit up and Mrs Jemmett increased the volume from its already more than
A middle-aged man was interrogating members of a, mainly female, studio audience about
their clandestine existence as prostitutes. One or two of the women sat next to their
husbands who’s stunned expression suggested that the programme’s title, `My secret life of
prostitution`, was indeed accurate.
`Is this all right?` said Mrs Jemmett. `Or do you want to watch something else? There’s
usually just cartoons and stuff on this time of the morning.`
`No, no,` I replied. `This is fine.` Though in truth I watched in appalled disbelief and with
I thought I heard a noise outside in the hall and turned towards the door. Mrs Jemmett’s
words came out in a rush:
`There must be something else on,` she said, switching channels. The television seemed to
be getting louder as she flicked through the stations, eventually stopping on one which
showed a castle set on a lake:
`Oh look, I like this, it’s set in Scotland, my sister lives there, Scotland, not the castle, I’d
like to go there wouldn’t you, we always have our holidays in the same pl…`
There was another noise. I stood up.
`What’s wrong?` she said, rising and blocking my path.
`I think that was the front door,` I said.
`It’ll just be the post, I’ll check,` she said and went to the door. From my position I was
unable to see into the hall as she pulled the door open a few inches, rucking up the carpet,
and quickly peered round.
`Yes that’s it, just a couple of letters,` she said with a nervous, but too emphatic, smile.
It was possible that the postman had returned with some overlooked post but I thought it
highly unlikely. Mrs Jemmett seemed by now like a cat, all nerves thinly veiled with calm,
and became even more agitated when I picked up the remote control. I stepped around the
coffee table as she moved towards me and just as I turned the television off I heard a car
door creak open. We both looked toward the window.
I got there first with Mrs Jemmett, having just failed to intercept me, cleaving to me like a
shadow. I looked out. Her husband, head now unbandaged, threw a dark holdall on to the
passenger seat of his Nissan. The collar of his pyjama jacket peeked over the neck of a dark
blue fleece as he walked round the back of the car, in obvious pain, to drag the caravan the
couple of feet to the car’s towing bracket.
I went to run to the door but the solid figure of Mrs Jemmett stood in my path, arms
outstretched and teeth clenched. I darted to the right and got around her but she grabbed my
arm and swung me back. I feinted to the left and went right again, this time almost getting
to the door before she crashed into my back, sending me ricochetting off the wall and onto
the sofa. Awkwardly I picked myself. My knee throbbed with pain as, once again we
squared up to one another. I heard the clunk of the caravan being attached to the car.
`Mrs Jemmett, I’m going to have to insist that you let me out of the room.`
With a guttural and, I thought at the time, quite demonic, shriek she took a flying leap at
me. Few people to whom I have since described the incident have been able to comprehend
just how frightening, imminent contact with a bulky airborne housewife can be.
She smashed into me and we both went sprawling into the space between the sofa and
coffee table, sending the tea things flying. As I struggled to extricate myself from under her
she managed to get a good purchase on me, employing her weight to hold me down and
pinning my wrists to the floor with her hands. Her face was almost touching mine and I
spat wisps of straw blond hair out of my mouth.
`Elizabeth Jemmett, I’m arresting you for…`
`Quiet,` she snarled. The car door thudded close outside. I tried to dislodge her but in doing
so enabled her to assume a seated position on top of me. I looked up and saw that she was
crying. Weeping with rage and self-pity.
`He’s a good man,` she choked. `It’s the drink. He’s a wonderful husband, wonderful father
when he isn’t drinking.`
An engine started up outside and I heard the squeek of the caravan’s aged suspension. She
turned her head towards the window and I put up one more vain struggle to escape before
sinking back onto the floor.
`He hasn’t had a drop since…` Her faced crumpled with grief, and shiny tears splashed
onto my uniform.
`Since he murdered your daughter.`
She rolled over onto the sofa and lay there, looking blankly at the ceiling as I radioed the
`Good morning ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming.`
The hum of conversation from the assembled journalists gradually petered out. The layout
of the room remained the same as at the televised appeal by the Jemmetts but a rather
smaller group were present.
Few of those in attendance had much faith in the proceedings throwing up anything of
great moment. They had been lured by the promise of an important revelation but Carly
Jemmett’s murder was no longer a major story and their editors would be unimpressed by a
mere trial date or further evidence.
Detective Inspector Launce displayed his customary relaxed but authoritative manner but
in the wake of recent events I could no longer afford it even my previous conditional
CID had arrived promptly at the Jemmetts’ house some three minutes after Norman
Jemmett escaped. That they arrived at all was not as a result of my call to the station but to
Rupert Furnish belatedly strolling into action. Even in this he eschewed the usual legal
niceties and merely mentioned the videos in passing to an ex-Chief Constable he was
`I’ve asked you here today because there have been a number of significant developments
in the Carly Jemmett murder investigation.`
This time only three people sat behind the table – Detective Inspector Launce, his next-in-
command, Detective Sergeant Purley and a female CID officer introduced as Fionnuella
McAndrew – also a detective sergeant. The throng of journalists stood, pens poised over
notebooks, but without a look of great expectancy.
`As you’re aware, for some time now we’ve had in custody the local identical twins –
Daniel and Reginald Chubb. They were arrested on the basis of CCTV evidence gathered
from the murder scene which clearly appeared to indicate the involvement of one of the
Emphasis subtly placed on the word `appeared` did not go unnoticed by those more astute
`A less professional and conscientious team of officers would have simply accepted this
evidence – overwhelming as it appeared – at face value, but the team under my command
was unbowed by public and media pressure for a quick-fix, easy-arrest solution.
`Because of certain anomalies we had serious reservations right from the start of the
investigation and have diligently and painstakingly continued with our enquiries, re-
examining all the evidence in order to ensure that no miscarriage of justice could possibly
`Even with voluntary and unsolicited confessions from both Daniel Chubb and his brother
we still continued with our exhaustive investigation in order to eliminate any possibility of
a wrongful conviction. In doing so we compiled a dossier of evidence which threw serious
doubt on the safety of the original arrests.`
By now the atmosphere – even from the safe distance of the mess room television – had
become noticeably more charged.
`Are you saying the Chubbs aren’t guilty – have you let them go?` asked a member of the
select, front row of journalists.
`At this point in the investigation we are keeping our options open,` came the standard
reply. `But because of inconsistencies in the statements from the Chubbs and as a result of
our intelligence-based policing operation we have, over the past few days, had another
suspect under surveillance.`
Absolute hush descended over the room but a dramatic pause from the investigating
officers proved too much for one journalist.
`Who’s the suspect? Who have you arrested?`
The faint undercurrent of murmurs and whispers became more voluble then stopped
abruptly when the detective inspector resumed.
`In answer to your question, we have reason to believe that Norman Jemmett, the father of
the murdered girl is…`
The remainder of the sentence was drowned out by a flood of questions from the ranks of
assembled reporters, though the word warrant could still be discerned. Detective Inspector
Launce didn’t try to quell the crowd but sat back down, looking solemn and wise.
Eventually he leaned forward to the thicket of microphones:
`As I was saying, we have had Norman Jemmett under investigation for some days now
and a warrant is currently out for his arrest.` Here he left a dramatic pause. `But due to a
serious manpower shortage in my department we were forced to pass the surveillance
operation over to uniformed officers.`
Such was the detective inspector’s skill at managing the theatricality of the event that even
the most hard-bitten journalists present hung on his every utterance.
`During this surveillance and despite having recently sustained serious injuries the suspect
managed to evade the officer assigned to this duty and is currently at large.`
Again the room erupted in questions until Detective Sergeant Purley asked for quiet. The
detective inspector continued:
`We are currently considering the possibility of disciplinary action being taken against the
officer in question.`
He stood up and leaned over the microphones.
`Now if you’ll excuse me ladies and gentlemen, I’ll hand you over to Mike Purley, my
second-in-command for the details.`
`I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes Mehta,` said Sergeant Wills turning off the television.
One or two of the other officers present shook their heads and inhaled sharply through
`It might not be too bad Sarge,` said Constable Box. `After all, what’s the worst that could
happen to him?`
Constable Purcell interjected unhelpfully:
`He could lose his job, be made a laughing stock in the national press, be disowned by his
family and end up a bitter and broken social pariah.
`Mmm, I suppose there is that,` replied my erstwhile co-trainee.
`Actually,` I said. `I’ve been looking into past disciplinary cases and could find no
successful prosecutions against any officer assaulted in the execution of his duty.`
`Yes,` said Sergeant Wills putting his jacket on and heading for the door. `But I bet they
weren’t beaten up by a housewife while her invalid husband legged it – dereliction of duty
that is.` The others all nodded sympathetically as they filed out of the room.
I hadn’t expected the incident at the Jemmett’s home to have gone unremarked by my
colleagues – indeed a coarse cartoon depicting me being sat upon by a very large woman
had been stuck on the door of my locker – but despite the comradely ribbing I did feel that
I had let my fellow officers down.
My one consolation, however, was the knowledge that justice had been done and no more
reward was needed than to see the innocent freed and the guilty punished.
Unfortunately the guilty in this case had not yet even been detained and until he was,
Daniel Chubb would in all likelihood remain in custody.
On top of that the three youngest Jemmett children had been taken into care while charges
were being prepared against their mother. As Chief Superintendent Stent had said:
`Everybody loses out in a murder`.
Life at Tenbridge C Division continued regardless. Despite the unprecedented level of
media activity around the station, neighbours still got into arguments, thieves still
misappropriated others’ property and drunks still drove.
In all honesty it was a relief to settle back into the comfortable routine of policing –
especially as I was deputised to the support office where I was pleased to be able to suggest
a number of improvements to their duty rosta system.
Inspector Bowman, in common with most other people at the station, claimed to have had
reservations about the case all along though not, it seemed, strong enough to warrant
passing on my misgivings to the investigating officers.
`I was quite worried when I heard about your run-in with that…virago,` he said. `The
team’d be well and truly buggered without you.`
I decided to avoid thanking him for his concern – my rare post-Glitz attempts at sarcasm
having invariably been taken at face value.
It was inevitable that the subject of the quiz would arise as the semi-finals were only two
days away and Inspector Bowman’s sister had been put on standby in case of difficulties
with Sergeant Collins’ babysitter. Whereas in the past I would have found the contest an
irrelevant diversion at best and at worst an abdication of our duties, now beating Chief
Inspector Launce had become more important to me than I would have liked to admit.
Never having been a sporty person – I was once described by a games teacher as `fiercely
uncompetitive` – this was a novel sensation for me but one I rationalised as a natural desire
for `fair-play`, an opportunity to realign our delicately balanced relationship with CID.
At least the inspector was more optimistic than my fellow officers about my chances in any
subsequent disciplinary proceedings.
`Typical Launce diversionary tactic that is – stop people asking questions about why it took
so long to realise they’d got the wrong man. As long as they pick Jemmett up soon they’ll
be too busy basking in glory to bother about you.`
The inspector retrieved his tobacco tin from the breast pocket of his increasingly tired-
looking suit – invariably a preamble to a visit to the car park.
`Have you heard anything about how the search is progressing sir?` I asked, trailing the
inspector along the corridor.
`I’ll know about what CID are up to when I read about it in the papers – and they’d stop me
doing that if they could.`
Inspector Bowman’s lighter touched the tip of his thin, stringy cigarette the moment we hit
fresh air. He took the long draw his every cell craved and his portly frame settled into
`I did hear on the old grapevine that they’ve got a few bits and pieces from the house,` he
said. `I don’t know what but forensics have been there all day.`
It was nearly the end of my lunch break and I always like to be back at my desk three
`One more thing Art,` said the inspector as I went to re-enter the building. I stopped,
hoping for some almost forgotten revelation.
`You couldn’t bone up on seventies prog rock could you – not one of Pam’s strong suits.`
To my amazement Mrs Jemmett was given bail. The needs of her children had apparently
outweighed, in the mind of the judge, any danger she posed to the public – my own
position having been unrepresented.
It is practically unknown in the animal kingdom for a female to protect the father of her
young – who’s job after all, has been done. Among our own species such instances are
barely more common. My researches showed, however, that while most crimes of violence
are, of course, committed by males, one of the most frequently cited motives for such by
women is revenge – a trait some seemed worryingly inclined toward.
Two days had now passed since Norman Jemmett’s escape and the subsequent press
conference and even with blanket media coverage no sightings of the beige Nissan or the
caravan had been reported.
The support office was the collection and transmission centre for all the station’s gossip
and I was therefore ideally placed to keep up-to-date with news of the investigation. I
learnt, for example, that the farm belonging to Mr Jemmett’s older sister Frances had been
subject to a fruitless search, as was the home of practically every friend and relative of the
CID officers, armed with photographs of Norman Jemmett, had been to caravan parks up
and down the country as well as conducting door-to-door enquiries and talking to work
The search of the Jemmett’s house had been unproductive as traces from both victim and
suspect were naturally found everywhere but nothing had been discovered that tied Mr
Jemmett in with the murder – a fact which must have caused considerable concern to CID.
There was little doubt that a prosecution, even with just the accumulated circumstantial
evidence, would be successful but something tangible from forensics would circumsribe
any embarrassing questions about the investigation.
What was really needed, of course was the yellow tracksuit.
My experiences of the theatre had, to that point, been limited to: bafflement when, at the
age of nine, my family grudgingly attended a local production of `The Mikado`, followed
by; annoyance at being barred from accepting a friend’s invitation to a West End farce at
the age of thirteen on the grounds of unsuitability, and then further bafflement at the age of
nineteen at some `physical theatre` staged by fellow students. I inherited from my father a
near inability to suspend disbelief and a feeling that fiction – written or performed – was a
pale and rather suspect imitation of real life.
With this in mind, I would not describe myself as either an expert nor champion of the
terpsichorian arts and so my expectations of the St Mark’s Theatre Guild’s production of
Mr Priestley’s play `An Inspector Calls`, were not high.
It was, therefore, with some surprise that I found myself thoroughly enjoying the evening’s
The actors were nice and loud which, as I was sitting at the back, more than compensated
for their lack of realism. Clever use was made of the scenery – shared with the Christmas
production of `Babes in the Wood` – including a number of scenes which had been
relocated, not too incongruously, al fresco. On top of this the play went along at a cracking
pace due to judicious pruning of the script to accommodate the early departure of large
numbers of pensioners – resulting in surprisingly few plot inconsistencies.
Even with the general high standard exhibited by all involved in the production, the
wardrobe and make-up department stood out as being noticeably professional with
particular emphasis placed on authentic period detail.
It had been something of a gamble to assume that Mrs Jemmett would not be present but as
she had only been released on bail that afternoon it was a chance I felt confident to take.
Because my attendance was of an impromptu nature, I made the spontaneous decision to
pursue the investigation during the interval. While the rest of the audience were busy
taking tea and coffee at the back of the hall I slipped through one of the doors at the side of
the stage with the vague idea of talking to whoever was charge of the costumes. The
backstage area transpired to be a communal dressing-room for the actors whose
disapproving looks at being disturbed mid-performance were sufficient to prompt a swift
The second half was so gripping that I was willing to entirely overlook the historical
inaccuracies in the representation of pre-first world war police procedure though I found
the character of the distant and selfish patriarch Mr Birling to be rather unbelievable.
In light of my earlier embarrassment I waited until the audience’s final few stragglers had
faded into the night and the first members of the cast had started to emerge before
venturing backstage again. A few well-wishers and lift-providing spouses were there
already and the remaining actors – in the final stages of dressing and makeup removal –
seemed unconcerned at the presence of strangers.
In the corner of the room behind a folding screen an elderly lady was collecting the
costumes together. I congratulated her on the high standard of her work.
`Thank you dear – hand me that hanger would you, there’s a love?`
I took a wooden hanger from a nearby chair and held it up while she draped the inspector’s
raincoat over it.
`Do you do all the costumes yourself?` I asked.
`Oh no,` she replied. ` I just help out, Betty’s in charge of the wardrobe, Mrs Jemmett,
she’s very good, makes all the costumes herself – and does the make-up.`
A girl who had put on a brave show as Mr Birling’s daughter, Sheila, brought over her
dress and said goodnight.
`I suppose you must have built up quite a collection of costumes over the years,` I said,
`with all the different shows you’ve done – or do you dispose of them after each
A middle-aged man in a red waistcoat – the director perhaps – stuck his head round the
`Thanks everyone, see you tomorrow.`
The elderly lady ignored him and replied to my question:
`Oh no dear, a lot of the childrens’ productions, pantos, that sort of thing, come round
every few years so we keep everything – they’re in there,` she said, indicating a door in a
recessed corner behind her.
She finished hanging the costumes on a castered clothes rail and went off to ensure that
everything had been collected together. With only a few audience members remaining the
hall would soon be locked up and the opportunity to investigate would have slipped away
but on the other hand simply disappearing into the storeroom would look suspicious to say
the least. I had just, reluctantly come to the conclusion that, on balance it would be better to
leave and try to return at a more opportune moment, when the decision was suddenly made
`Hello Molly, how did it go tonight?`
In light of my recent experiences I couldn’t have failed to recognise that voice and luckily
had the presence of mind to quickly hide myself behind the screen.
`Oh hello Betty,` said Molly, sympathetically. `I wasn’t expecting you. How are you dear?
We heard about what happened. It must be awful for you. You shouldn’t have come tonight
– we can manage…`
The elderly wardrobe lady continued, I should imagine, for some time in this vain but I
thought it prudent to effect a more thorough concealment and as I couldn’t leave the room,
the costume cupboard was the only available location.
Once inside I didn’t dare look for a light but simply felt around for what I thought would be
a good hiding place – huddled in a corner behind racks of costumes from their recent
production of Fiddler On The Roof. I estimated the time I hid there to have been half-an-
hour but found, when I eventually emerged that I had erred on the side of caution and had
spent over an hour in the tiny room.
The hall was in darkness and the front door, when I eventually groped my way to it, was
locked. The building was next to the church and no-one lived in its immediate vicinity but I
nevertheless considered it unwise to turn any lights on and navigated instead by the dull
light of the street lamps. Apart from the main hall all I could find was a small kitchen and
male and female toilets but no office and no telephone.
Attempting to make gainful use of my night’s incarceration I went back to search the
storeroom. Fortunately it had no windows so it was safe to close the door and search with
the light on.
It was the wig I found first – a skin coloured rubber cap surrounded with a fringe of grey
hair. The yellow track suit took a little longer to locate but was rolled up with some
padding in a plastic bag at the bottom of a chest of odds and ends. Of course they would
have to be examined by forensics but by now I had become used to the inevitable accuracy
of my intuition, or was it just that I had got to know how the Jemmetts – how Elizabeth
Jemmett – thought?
Satisfied that the disguise, even if it had been washed, was likely to provide enough
evidence to tie Norman Jemmett – and his wife – in with the video, I settled down for an
uncomfortable night’s sleep. After about ten restless minutes on one of the hard, wooden
chairs in the hall, I admitted defeat and started to wander about absent-mindedly. My eyes
had by now become acclimatised to the dim light. The kitchen contained little of interest,
just what was required to make, serve and clean up after a hundred cups of tea and coffee,
and the toilets inevitably contained nothing of relevance, so I returned to the dressing room.
I sat for some time, staring abstractedly at my silhouette in one of the mirrors before I
realised that on the make-up table right in front of me was a handbag. Usually I would be
extremely reluctant to rifle through a lady’s personal belongings but this, I reasoned, was
an emergency. Whether the handbag had been left accidentally or contained only non-
urgent items I never discovered. What it did contain was a mobile telephone.
Inspector Bowman sounded, at first, rather irritated – it was, after all, one o’clock in the
morning – but when I explained the situation, and he had realised how it could effect his
long campaign against CID, his temper improved immeasurably.
Never one to miss an opportunity for one-upmanship over CID, the inspector made a rare
personal appearance along with the extremely disgruntled forensics officer he had dragged
out of bed. Alas for me he had also bought with him the two officers most likely to make
play of the fact that I had to be rescued after being locked in a church hall – Sergeant Wills
and Constable Box. Between us we made a thorough search of the storeroom and
eventually left at five-thirty in the morning with bags containing the wig, tracksuit and
padding plus some suspect make-up – Inspector Bowman looked rather pleased with
Sergeant Dyas’s car was sufficiently spacious to accommodate what Inspector Bowman
described as his `streamlined` quiz team, on the uneventful journey to the semi-finals.
The inspector’s less than subtle presentation of our recently discovered evidence as a
triumph of conventional policing over what he called CID’s `flash Harry` style had done
nothing to ameliorate the tension between the teams. I avoided eye contact with the fully
represented eight-man CID team as we entered the venue – a conference room in a modern
hotel chosen as roughly equidistant to all twelve teams. An invigilator was assigned to each
table so that there would be no repetition of the previous round’s unsporting behaviour.
It was now four days since Norman Jemmett’s disappearance and despite CID’s confident
predictions to the media of his imminent recapture his whereabouts were still a mystery.
Mrs Jemmett had been questioned on two more occasions but in spite of her now obvious
involvement she continued to enjoy her freedom. As regards my own part in the
proceedings, suffice to say that the circumstances surrounding Elizabeth Jemmett’s role in
her husband’s escape were not being treated with the seriousness I believed they merited.
The later stages of the UK Police, inter-force quiz were, however, bestowed with a fitting
degree of gravitas and accordingly no alcohol was to be consumed during the competition.
All the teams were assembled at least a quarter of an hour early and waited nervously as
the minutes crawled towards the nine o’clock start. Eventually the quiz master started the
Sergeant Collins had a remarkable recall of modern cultural trivia, knowing for example,
the name of the singer in the group 'Herman’s Hermits' and guessing correctly that 1982
was the year in which the film Chariots of Fire won the Academy Award for best picture.
Rather surprisingly Inspector Bowman beat me to the reply: `Lord Acton` as the source of
the famous quote: `Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely,` and
Sergeant Dyas, a keen amateur sailor, knew that South-east Iceland is the most northerly of
the UK shipping forecast sea areas. I was reasonably confident of my own contribution –
answering practically all the other questions correctly – and all in all, by the time the
interval arrived, an air of quiet optimism had descended on the team.
Having rather over-indulged in the bottled water provided for each table, I found it
necessary to visit the gentlemen’s toilet and was embarrassed to find Detective Sergeant
Purley standing at the urinal. I hesitated at the threshold, not because of any animosity I felt
towards the detective sergeant but because my urethra muscles fail to function in anyone
else’s presence. I considered returning in a couple of minutes but the detective sergeant had
seen me in the mirror and my leaving would have looked odd.
`Seen any good plays lately Constable?` he said sarcastically.
I went and stood inconsequentially at the urinal. I suppose it must have been obvious that I
had been behind the discovery of Norman Jemmett’s disguise but I had rather hoped that
the less sensitive Inspector Bowman would be the focus of CID resentment.
`I was just following up a hunch sir,` I said, annoyed at myself for sounding so defensive.
He zipped himself up and walked towards the door uttering a grudging `Mmm`.
`Well at least you have proof now that Mrs Jemmett had some involvement in the murder,`
He stopped and turned towards me.
`Why do you say that?`
I thought it was self-evident and would have assumed that he was joking had his expression
not indicated otherwise.
`Well, the costume sir, and what she did to me and…`
`What she did to you Constable?` he sneered. `There’s only your word she did anything to
you. You know what we reckon? We reckon you fell asleep in front of the telly when old
man Jemmett scarpered and rather than admit it you make up this old bollocks about being
I was so mortified by this outrageous slur that I just stood there open mouthed while he
`As for the costume, Elizabeth Jemmett kept the keys to the church hall at home – Norman
Jemmett could’ve taken them any time without his wife knowing. Me and DI Launce did
the interviews with her personally and unless you want to tell us how to do that part of our
job as well you’ll just have to accept that she knows nothing about the whole thing.`
`But what about…` I began before realising that CID didn’t know about Mrs Jemmett’s
telephone call to the twins or about the circumstances surrounding my first assault.
`What about what?` he said aggressively. He walked over and stood uncomfortably close to
me so that I had to look directly up at him, and spoke with menace – as though trying to
emulate his boss.
`You’ve been lucky so far Mehta but it’s time to leave things to the professionals. For your
information Elizabeth Jemmett has been very co-operative. She was going to leave her
husband soon anyway and has given us some useful information.`
The door opened and a short, florid man entered – not a member of any of the quiz teams.
The detective sergeant turned and walked out and even though I had so far failed to
evacuate my bladder, I followed him into what the owners of the hotel liked to call its
`Has she told you where he is then sir?,` I asked as he walked back towards the conference
room. He turned and sighed exaggeratedly.
`Don’t you ever give up Mehta?`
`Sorry sir,` I replied. `I’m just interested in the investigative strategy. I wondered why it
was taking so long to find Mr Jemmett.`
He gave me a searching look.
`Do you know what DI Launce says? He says he can never work out whether you’re taking
the piss or just an idiot,`
Not understanding, I tried a friendly smile. He shook his head.
`I suppose you might as well know – it’ll be in the papers tomorrow anyway. It looks like
Jemmett’s in Scotland – we’ve got helicopters up there so he won’t hide out for long. Now,
are you satisfied or do you want to ask any more bloody stupid questions?`
I actually wanted to ask a lot more questions but limited myself to what I considered the
`Why do you think he’s in Scotland sir?`
`I told you Mehta, DI Launce and me interviewed Elizabeth Jemmett ourselves. We’ve got
ways of getting information out of people – ways you clever college boys’ll never
`And…?` I prompted when he appeared to consider that he’d given a sufficient
explanation. He gave another sigh and continued:
`The Jemmetts have been there for holidays. Norman told his wife that if he ever needed to
disappear for any reason that’s where he’d go – she thought it was just a joke. Anyway he
reckoned he could hide out for ages but we’ll see about that. Now, if you’ll excuse me I’ve
got a quiz to win.`
And with that he wheeled round and marched towards the doors.
`But sir, Mrs Jemmett told me…`
His succinct reply – delivered without the inconvenience of turning was a simple `Shut it,`
as he disappeared back into the room.
During the interval the remainder of the team had been working on a picture quiz. I had
given them a cursery examination, thinking that, perhaps, Lloyd George or Chiang Kai-
shek might be among those depicted but there were just some poorly photocopied images
of people who, apparently, had appeared on television. My team-mates seemed contented
with their answers.
Some of the questions in the second half were really quite testing, indeed Inspector
Bowman even went as far as to say he suspected skullduggery on the part of the CID team
among who’s number were experts on forensics and psychology:
`How many bones in the human skull?` for example.
Luckily, though self-taught in human pathology, my own, humble learning compared
favourably with that of most members of the medical profession and I was therefore
confident of the answer: twenty two.
Similarly, although I didn’t actually know that triskaidekaphobia was a fear of the number
thirteen, I was able to extrapolate it from the Greek.
The standard was not always at this intellectual level however. I was disappointed, for
example, to be asked to name the adopted son of Fred Flintstone’s friends Barney and
When we handed our paper in at the end we were confident of seveneteen out of the first
twenty answers and eighteen of the second. The picture quiz remained a worrying unknown
but my team-mates seemed hopeful.
There was a widespread, if unaccountable, display of pleasure when Tower Hamlets – the
only team from the Metropolitan Police area, scored the lowest marks. This was exceeded,
however, when the UK Atomic Energy Constabulary scored only two more points and was
also knocked out.
The final result was unsurprising: both the CID team and ourselves were through to the
finals ahead of a team from East Sussex Constabulary and another CID team, this time
from the Wirral.
The fact that Detective Inspector Launce and his accomplices had scored two more points
than us was mitigated, in my view, by the fact that they had twice as many team-members.
This opinion was not shared by Inspector Bowman for whom our eventual score of forty
four out of a possible fifty was a disaster requiring counselling and support throughout the
long journey home.
Just as Detective Sergeant Purley had predicted, the following day’s newspapers
prominently featured the story of Norman Jemmett’s supposed flight to Scotland. The story
had also featured on the television news, accompanied by a photograph and pictures of a
car and caravan of similar make and colour to the Jemmetts'.
In light of the singular manner in which the murder was carried out, the British media now
considered Norman Jemmett to be a criminal mastermind with extraordinary gifts at self-
transformation and assumed that he would be travelling in some fiendishly clever disguise.
My own view that he was a weak and foolish man with a cunning and manipulative wife
would have made less racy headlines but would almost certainly have led to a speedier
I made one further attempt to inform CID about the Jemmett’s somewhat unadventurous
holiday routine, but was told that whilst my part in the accused’s escape was under
investigation no-one in CID was available to speak to me.
And so, once again, I found myself, much against my will, pursuing the investigation alone
Offender profiling is considered by most policemen to be one step away from crystal-ball
gazing or reading tea-leaves and is generally employed only when all else has failed and
then only to placate the media. In the case of Norman Jemmett I had been inclined to agree
with this view as he failed to fit into any of the standard sex-offender profiles I knew of.
My researches had yielded quite a lot of information about him – family background,
friends, work record, education, interests etc. none of which uncovered anything in the
least bit surprising or unexpected. There was the incident with the DSS at the Amica Centre
but, sadly, such acts of dishonesty are not at all uncommon. Of, perhaps, more interest
psychologically, was the fact that he had married eighteen-year-old Elizabeth, secretly, two
days after his sixteenth birthday.
Looking back over the amassed evidence he seemed like a cipher – a peripheral character.
The reason, I now realised, that Norman Jemmett was so unprepossessing as a criminal was
that he was not the person I should have been concentrating on. Of course, he had
committed the murder itself but all through the investigation, with each new revelation and
at each new dead end there loomed, like a distant stormcloud, the malevolent figure of
Her character type – jealous, domineering, manipulative – was not uncommon at a far less
pathological level but I could find few examples in the literature of it being manifested to
such extremes. The level of both control and need in these cases was such that the
relationship was that of parasite and host with Norman being inhabited by Elizabeth like a
husk, a hollow thing.
Generally, when murders are committed by a couple or a group, one character – invariably
male – is dominant, but is also usually the principal perpetrator of the crime.
A fellow-post-graduate of mine: Susan Berg – now Professor Berg of the University of
Princetown – argued in her book: `Willing pawns – moral transference among partner-
murderers`, that most females in murdering couples would be leading relatively normal
lives as housewives, were it not for the coincidence of a chance meeting with their
partners-to-be in crime.
I’m not sure that I would go quite that far: Susan had a strong intellect and has admittedly
progressed far, but I found it necessary to point out to her a number of inaccuracies in the
thesis upon which the book was based, despite which the same errors – unnoticed by critics
– appeared in the highly successful published edition.
Her case-studies were of the most celebrated murderer-couples in which the female had
procured the victims and often taken part in the torture and killing. Certainly the family
history and psychological background of these women fitted her promulgation but there
have been some, admittedly few, cases which her theories fail to explain.
The closest case I could find to that of Elizabeth Jemmett was Bobby-Joe Kincaid,
convicted in the United States of accessory to murder after her husband Kenny killed three
young women following her precise, written instructions. Even in this case, however, the
couple didn’t exhibit the symbiotic relationship that the Jemmetts seemed to have.
I would have been less convinced of Mrs Jemmett’s dominant role in the crime had it not
been for her behaviour towards her eldest daughter Amelia. It could be argued that the
eviction of an abused fifteen-year-old daughter could have been carried out for the girl’s
own protection and to put temptation out of her husband’s reach. This however does not
explain why she disowned Amelia and refused to speak to her from that day.
The only logical explanation was jealousy: Elizabeth felt that the sexually abused Amelia
had surplanted her in Norman’s affections. When it happened again, this time with Carly,
this jealousy was compounded by the threat of discovery and a more extreme solution was
Elizabeth’s history was so closely intertwined with Norman’s that my investigation into her
past uncovered little I didn’t already know. I was not surprised to learn that she had briefly
worked professionally as a make-up artist for a television production company but had left
when Amelia was born. The only piece of information that struck me as worthy of note was
her rather unusual maiden name – Cletch – and then only because, on my train journeys
home I had often passed a car breaker’s yard of that name in the town’s unlovely western
suburbs. As this was one of only two listings of the name I could discover in the whole
country, the other being over four hundred miles away and having the forename Wolfgang,
it would have been surprising if Elizabeth Jemmett and Mr Cletch of Cletch’s Auto
Breakers weren’t related.
Cyril had mentioned that his friend Norman had got a job at just such a business after
having been discovered working while claiming benefits and though this could have been
at any breaker’s yard it was too much of a coincidence to leave uninvestigated.
My knowledge of the workings of the internal combustion engine is advanced but purely
theoretical so I thought it best to seek the counsel of a neighbour, Mr Treeves, who
constantly tinkers with his own vehicle. On the pretext of seeking advice on a potential
purchase and after listening to a less-than-riveting half-hour’s lecture on the common
failings of a number of vehicles, I came away with some idea of the most popular motor
cars and their associated mechanical failings.
The moment I saw him I knew. The resemblance was remarkable though a close inspection
revealed little that was truly similar. Frank Cletch, like his sister, was large – not just tall or
fat but somehow exaggerated. His hair was thinning black, his nose too big, they both had
the same cruel, downturned mouth but it was more that being near them was like being in
an airless room.
As I arrived he stood outside the Portakabin that served as an office. At his feet lay a dog, a
Doberman Pinscher, one of two kept at the yard. He didn’t ask what I wanted or how he
could help as I approached but relied instead on a lazy raising of the eyebrows.
I enquired whether he had a starter motor for a Ford Fiesta.
`Year?` he asked – a question I had the foresight to anticipate.
Without a word he turned and went into the office, emerging a few seconds later with the
appropriate, nondescript lump of machinery. Never having been to a breakers yard before, I
had assumed that I would have to find and remove the part myself, allowing me the
opportunity to investigate the premises.
`There’s one or two other parts I need actually,` I said. `Would it be all right if I look
He shrugged disinterestedly, turned and shouted `Delia`, the name, it transpired, of the
other dog who trotted over in that purposeful way that dogs have.
I spent over an hour looking around the yard. Once or twice the dogs came snuffling round
but otherwise I remained undisturbed. At the end I had seen no sign either of Norman
Jemmett’s motor car nor his caravan. I was not surprised or particularly disappointed as the
off-chance of finding anything had been slim but, I thought, worth the effort involved.
I returned to the office resigned to the needless purchase of a starter motor. Mr Cletch’s
dogs eyed me with sullen contempt as I handed over the money and took possession of the
I turned to leave, disappointed that the visit had ended so inconclusively:
`One other thing,` I said tentatively. `You wouldn’t by any chance have any parts for a
Nissan Bluebird 610.`
He didn’t appear suspicious but answered matter-of-factly:
`You from the Datsun owners club?`
`Yes,` I lied, baffled that there should even be such a thing.
`That was quick, I only put the ad in yesterday.`
`Well, `I confided. `I know a few people at the club.`
He seemed easily satisfied and asked me to follow him, the dogs trotting along behind.
Attached to the back of the Portakabin was a wire mesh enclosure containing two large,
old-fashioned dog-kennels. We went inside and Mr Cletch reached behind the kennels and
pulled off a tarpaulin. At first I could only see engine parts but as I moved around the side a
beige wing came into view.
Norman had presumably asked his brother-in-law to destroy both his beloved caravan and
the car but greed had got the better of Frank Cletch. If the search, following Norman
Jemmett’s escape, had been carried out correctly, Mr Cletch would have been required to
remove the dogs so that the cage could be examined. He could depend, with disappointing
certainty, on CID not following this procedure.
`What year is it, your 610?`
I hadn’t considered this eventuality. It looked old but how old?
`1982,` I said with what conviction I could muster. Now he looked suspicious.
`Delia! Missy!` he said quietly. The dogs stood up, ears erect.
`It might be earlier, er, 1979,` I tried.
`In the Datsun owner’s club and don’t know what year your car is?`
I started to back up. The dogs growled.
`It isn’t mine. It’s for a friend.`
I was at the wire gate to the cage. The dogs padded towards me, teeth bared.
`What Datsun have you got then?` he said. `If you’re in the owner’s club you must have
I turned and grabbed the gate, leapt through and swung it closed after me. I sprinted
towards the closed, double wooden gates to the yard. The dogs were frantic. I could hear
them first at a distance and then right behind me. I still had the starter motor. Without
turning I threw it backward, underarm. There was a yelp. A door was open in one of the
gates. I made a flying dive just as teeth clamped onto my calf. The dog dragged me down
but my momentum propelled me sideways through the door, the dog hitting the gate and
coming unfastened. I slammed the door closed and started to run down the road but my leg
gave way, blood pouring from a gaping wound. I stood up and tried to walk a few more
paces towards a bus stop where schoolchildren and, I think, an elderly woman were
waiting. It seemed such a long way away and I was suddenly terribly tired. I laid down, just
for a minute.
I should have just been an outpatient at the Queen Mary as I merely required stitches, quite
a number of them, but unfortunately I fainted in the accident and emergency department
and had to have a bit of a lie down.
When I had recovered sufficiently I made two telephone calls – one to the station to inform
them that I would, reluctantly and at the insistence of the doctor, have to take some more
time off, and the other to Daniel and Reginald's social worker, Irene Hargreaves. After
enquiring after my health and the current status of the Jemmett case she had passed on the
positive news that Daniel was, at last to be released pending the results of a medical
examination. This could not be carried out until after the weekend so Mrs Hargreaves said
that she planned to tidy up the twins’ flat the following day in readiness for Daniel’s
homecoming and, to ameliorate the boredom of further absence from work, I offered my
`Hello Arti,` she said with a concerned look when she answered the door. Water dripped
off of her yellow rubber gloves onto the hall carpet.
`Are you sure about this? You really don’t have to help you know. You should be resting.`
When, eventually she was satisfied that I was capable of wielding a feather duster, she led
me down the hall.
`Sorry about this,` she said, holding up her gloved and soapy hands. `But you know how it
is – you think you’ll just tidy up a bit and before you know it you’re scrubbing the kitchen
I followed her into the lounge. It hadn’t been touched since the twins’ arrest but apart from
a thin layer of dust on the ornaments – the removal of which would itself be a major
undertaking – nothing else had changed.
When Mrs Hargreaves had returned to the kitchen I had my first opportunity to see the
twins’ bedrooms and it was no great surprise to find that they weren’t decorated in a
modern, minimalist style. Each had a narrow, single bed, with an old-fashioned candlewick
bedspread, one in pink, the other in blue. No concession had been made to their function as
bedrooms – the ornaments had been chosen with the same seemingly deliberate
randomness as in the rest of the flat.
The heating was on to banish the chill that had set in during the weeks in which the flat had
been uninhabited. Snaking my hand between the ornaments hanging in front of the window
I wiped away the condensation to see beyond the recreation ground to the back of the
`Would you like some tea or coffee,` said Mrs Hargreaves, making me jump. `There isn’t
any milk I’m afraid.`
I declined her kind offer and asked if there was anything I could do. She handed me a cloth
and I said I’d start here in the bedroom.
As I went about the comfortingly mindless task I had been given I kept an almost
unconscious eye on the house across the way but was so busy cleaning that I almost missed
her leaving. Elizabeth Jemmett was nearly at the end of The Reeves when I noticed her.
Walking briskly she rounded a corner and was out of sight. I was able to see nothing from
the lounge as the window looked out over the wide communal balcony and so I had to steal
along the corridor to the balcony itself.
She strode purposefully, almost manfully, along the road. Hanging down below the bottom
of her coat was about an inch of the green Savefast uniform – she would have been en-
route to start the two-till-ten shift. Over her shoulder was a bag – larger than a handbag,
and she also carried a laden plastic shopping bag as she cut through an alleyway to the
As I continued the cleaning – removing each of the little trinkets to polish beneath, I
reflected abstractedly on what an an ideal vantage-point the room would be to oversee the
comings and goings of the Jemmett household.
At around five o’clock Mrs Hargreaves’ called out to say that she had to leave – her tireless
dedication to her clients’ welfare having to eventually be sacrificed for that of her own
`I think that’s about all we can do today,` she said, struggling into her coat as I entered the
lounge. `I won’t be able to come back tomorrow as I’m visiting my mother. The flat still
needs a good airing but it’s a bit better than it was.`
I said I’d get my things together and returned to the bedroom – who’s I still didn’t know –
and looked out of the window at the Jemmett’s house. Dusk was gathering and the kitchen
was already lit – upstairs a dim light filtered through from a front bedroom
`I’m not doing anything tomorrow. I could come back,` I called out spontaneously though
unsure quite why. `I could do a bit more dusting – open the windows for a while.`
Despite her half-hearted protests as I followed her down the hall where she had hung up a
plastic banner – `Welcome home Daniel`, she handed me the keys and left, proffering
I settled, once again, into the satisfying routine of cleaning, stopping only for a takeaway
pizza. Mrs Jemmett arrived back home at twenty to eleven, dropped off by another lady,
presumably a colleague.
The house was too far away to see any detail beyond the blue flicker of the kitchen
television. The youngest girl’s bedroom light came on shortly after her mother’s return, the
boys’ following shortly afterwards and by a quarter to midnight the house was in darkness.
It was unlikely that any further activity would take place until the morning so I settled
down to a couple of hours’ sleep.
Surveillance – sometimes considered to require little skill – is a discipline dismissed by
policemen at their peril. I however, had treated it with the utmost seriousness from my
earliest interest in crime detection. Despite being a fundamental part of our work, there is
surprisingly little information available in the conventional police literature and it was to
the less well regulated area of various countries’ secret services that most of my research
had to be directed. Of course these operations often required very specialist electronic
equipment – much of which I was able to replicate myself – but whatever approach is
taken, in the end it comes down to watching and waiting. This became an important part of
my self-imposed training, learning to concentrate for hours on a fixed spot, to cat-nap on
the edge of consciousness, to locate suitable surveillance points and, if necessary, to follow
undetected. At first my lack of proficiency in this latter discipline would lead to
misunderstandings in which my worried parents became embroiled, but as my skill
developed I found I was able to follow my randomly-selected subjects for many hours, and
over long distances, undetected.
I selected a suitable chair – not so hard as to be uncomfortable and not soporifically soft –
and sat in front of the single window of the darkened room. I had left other windows open
to air the flat as Mrs Hargreaves had suggested, but the cold would also keep me awake. It
was a little before four o’clock – four hours before the rising of the sun.
I faced the Jemmett’s house and slowly my body settled and relaxed – my heartbeat
slowed, my breathing became shallow and I watched. At seven o’clock I went to the toilet
and at half past nine had a drink of water. Nothing happened – no lights came on and no-
There must have been activity all around me: people waking, turning on the radio, doors
banging, but I had learnt to block it out.
Little of note was occurring in the Reeves – the sole caller at number four being a paper
boy making a delivery at half past eight. At ten fifteen a bulky apparition in white –
Elizabeth Jemmett in a bathrobe I assumed – appeared in the dining room.
She was soon joined by another figure. At this distance and without optical aids they were
just tiny, indistinct blobs but a fuzzy pink suggested the daughter – the boys being at an age
when such a colour was unlikely to be acceptable.
Events were acted out at the lazy pace of family Sundays – ablutions, reading the
newspapers, watching the television. The girl went out at half past eleven and soon
afterwards the boys retrieved bicycles from the garden shed, emerged through the gate at
the end of the garden and pedalled away furiously.
For the next two hours nothing happened. Mrs Jemmett didn’t leave the house and no-one
A thin frost had descended overnight but the bright sun had quickly burnt it off and now sat
low in the cloudless sky. Mrs Jemmett, dressed in blue or perhaps green, took advantage of
the good drying weather and emerged with a basket of washing at two o’clock.
Slowly, one by one, she selected items from the basket and pegged them onto the rotary
washing line: jeans, children’s underwear, lots and lots of socks, shirts, her work uniform.
Then, near the bottom of the pile, she picked out something grey, two items – trousers and
a jacket – a suit? no, you wouldn’t wash a suit, and besides, these were thin and flapped
listlessly in the breeze.
It was not out of the question, I reasoned, perhaps not even unusual, for someone to have
two identical pairs of pyjamas – but then she picked up the dark blue fleece.
It came as no great surprise, in fact it was – now that all the various facts had coalesced
into some form of logic – exactly what I would expect her to do. Not only was Norman
Jemmett not in Scotland but he was close enough for his wife to be taking things to him –
to even be washing his clothes.
Deep in thought I continued to clean until, late in the afternoon, defeated by the scale of the
task, I locked up and left.
There was a message on my answering machine when I returned to my flat asking me to
call Inspector Bowman at home. Even though the inspector’s support for my investigations
had been rather inconsistent I was nevertheless eager to discuss my latest discoveries.
Unfortunately events of even this magnitude seemed insignificant compared to what the
inspector had to tell me.
`I’ve got a couple of bits of bad news I’m afraid Art.` he said.
At first I thought it might be some problem concerning the quiz but his flat delivery rather
than the usual apoplectic ire indicated something rather more grave.
`I’m afraid they’re going ahead with the disciplinary action. I’m pretty sure it’ll come to
nothing but CID still haven’t found Jemmett and they’re taking a lot of flack from the
papers. They need a scapegoat and I’m afraid you’re it – you’re suspended on full pay.`
This was indeed terrible news but in the light of my recent findings surely…
`There’s another thing Art. I had a call from Maureen Stent this afternoon. She said the
chief superintendent died in hospital this morning.
I felt surprisingly sad. Though my dealings with the chief superintendent had been limited,
he had been the only one at the station who’s support had been unconditional and he
seemed – even in serious illness – to be somehow too sturdy to die. I really couldn’t think
of anything to say. Phrases sprang to mind but they were platitudes – things of little
`Sorry sir. I don’t really…this is terrible,` I stammered.
`It certainly is. Bloody Launce is bound to get his job and he’ll make our life a misery.
`No sir,` I said. `I didn’t mean that. I meant…`
`I know Art,` he said bitterly. `You can’t be a member of the team if your under suspension
and we haven’t got a quorum without you.` He sighed with an infinite sadness. `We’re out
of the quiz Art. We’re out of the bloody quiz.`
The telephone calls began that evening. The press – sensing blood as CID ran out of
excuses for not having yet found Norman Jemmett – had been thrown my name as bait and,
despite themselves, had turned their backs for the feast. After the first three calls I
unplugged the telephone.
A police officer under suspension is, naturally, prohibited from taking part in any ongoing
investigation but in order to escape unwanted media attention and because I had nowhere
else to go I found myself, at eight o’clock the next morning, sitting, well insulated against
the bitter wind and clutching a Thermos flask, on a bench outside the Amica Centre.
Elizabeth Jemmett had left for work at six thirty-seven. The twenty-three minute walk had
been accomplished without stops or detours. Again she had carried a bag – full but not
Her movements during the lunch break would be difficult to monitor. I had positioned
myself on a grassy bank from which I could see the exits closest to the Jemmett’s house but
if she was meeting her husband elsewhere then she could leave via other routes.
I needed to keep her under observation during the entire lunchtime period but finding an
inconspicuous position from which to look in through the store’s windows proved difficult
and I was not keen to repeat my previous unhappy experiences inside the mall.
The only alternative was the department store which, from some distance, overlooked the
store’s entrance. I stayed near the windows of each of the four floors for as long as I could
without attracting undue attention but in order to remain for the necessary duration I was
forced to purchase an MP3 player, a rug, a set of saucepans and a ladies’ dressing gown.
Elizabeth Jemmett had not made an appearance.
Once outside and weighed down with unwanted shopping I ventured a look through the
supermarket window. The hundreds of shoppers appeared aimless and directionless but
eventually arrived, trolleys loaded, to queue at the checkouts.
At the far side of the shop, beyond the stacked shelves, I could see the thin, blonde
supervisor at her station but not Mrs Jemmett. I went closer to the window and walked
along, peering down each of the narrow aisles: tea and coffee, cleaning products – no sign
of her – cheese and yoghurt, frozen meat. She was probably in the office but I needed to be
sure – tinned vegetables, breakfast cereals, carbonated drinks – and there she was, ten feet
away and headed straight for me. Fortunately, owing to poor circulation, I have always had
to wrap up warm and the large hood of my anorak hid my face as I quickly looked at the
Satisfied that she hadn’t left the shop I returned to my observation point for the afternoon.
At four o’clock, without her shopping bag, she went straight home where she remained,
undisturbed for the evening.
At eleven o’clock I thought it safe to return to my flat where I offloaded my unwanted
purchases and listened to the forty nine messages on my answering machine. There were
details of the chief superintendent’s funeral from Mrs Stent, welcome support from Mrs
Hargreaves, and a message from my baffled mother about some journalists who had called.
This was an embarrassing development if not altogether surprising – a minor headline in a
tabloid newspaper I noticed in the mall had read: `Kipping cop couldn’t keep crutches
killer captive`. That Norman Jemmett had not been on crutches was obviously considered
unimportant when weighed against the opportunity for alliteration.
As the remaining forty-six messages were all from newspapers and it was too late to return
any of the other calls, I had a snack and went to bed – an hour earlier than usual – in order
to be be in place for when Mrs Jemmett left her house the following morning.
The bitter cold had been superseded by stinging sleet driven sideways by a pitiless wind as,
once again I took up my position outside the Amica Centre. The pattern of the preceding
morning had been repeated as Mrs Jemmett, shopping bag in hand, had taken her usual
route to work where she remained all morning.
The previous day had been something of a disappointment – not that I had expected her to
simply lead me straight to her husband but I had hoped for some sign – some confirmation
that my instincts were not totally misguided.
In order to avoid more unnecessary purchases and to allay suspicion I decided not to return
to the department store, and instead, took up a not entirely satisfactory position near the
supermarket window. The view was poor and I was rather exposed but I could just about
see the supermarket’s exit and felt confident that, were Mrs Jemmett to leave I would see
And so she did. Just as I was about to return to my windswept bench for the remainder of
the afternoon she hurried out of the shop’s exit into the centre’s main concourse. As she
hadn’t put her coat on I thought it unlikely that she would be leaving the Amica so I raced
round to the mall’s nearest entrance.
The number of Link Security personnel on duty and their 24-hour shift system made me
fairly confident that briefly re-entering the lair of their over-zealous guards Stan and Derek
was unlikely to cause any problems. Once inside, however, I could see no sign of Mrs
Jemmett among the milling mass of shoppers. The mall’s peculiar capacity to disorientate
had immediately become apparent as I wandered aimlessly past shop after shop looking for
In the distance a blonde head bobbed above the tide of people. I hurried as fast as the
churning crowd would allow but as I drew nearer I could see the few, thin wisps clung
tenaciously to the head of a middle aged man.
An escalator transported me to the first floor for a better view but still there was no sign of
her and I realised that the sheer number of both shoppers and of her possible destinations
made a sighting frustratingly unlikely. Disappointed at my poor planning I decided that I
had little choice but to wait in sight of the supermarket for her return.
To ensure that customers passed as many shops as possible the down and up escalators
were situated some distance apart. It was as I was traipsing dejectedly past one anonymous
retail establishment after another that I suddenly noticed her.
She was the third of five winter bargain hunters in a queue at a travel agents. A man and
two young ladies were serving and each had a similar number of waiting customers so the
small shop was quite well filled. In view of recent events it seemed a strange time to book a
At school, one of the many short-lived fads that caught the fleeting attention of my
classmates was an interest in Ninjas – practitioners of the art of stealth, a Japanese martial
discipline which for my co-pupils meant using flattened hands instead of fists when
pretending to fight. Along with most of the cultural ephemera of my formative years I
dismissed the entire notion as frivolous until one day I overheard an older boy telling some
friends of a special type of Ninja – one who, after years selflessly dedicated to study and
meditation, was able to go unnoticed in any situation – not invisible, he stressed, but
unobserved. The final test, so the boy said, to his friends’ astonishment, was to walk into a
crowded room, naked, and remain unseen.
Even though my researches eventually led me to doubt the veracity of the tale, I retained an
interest in the idea – an interest and, I later discovered, a skill.
What began as a tendency to be ignored, to be overlooked as inconsequential, became, with
time and application an ability to be – almost immaterial.
I had noticed this skill on many occasions – not tested to the point of nakedness of course,
which I appreciated was merely the stuff of schoolboy yarns – but I knew that when I
walked into any crowded place, no-one would turn, no-one would look.
With this in mind I felt that the imperative to find out what Mrs Jemmett was doing in the
shop outweighed the possible dangers of being seen.
Behind Mrs Jemmett was a young lady of around five feet in height but behind her was a
tall and well-built man. The queue – now the shortest in the shop – had shrunk to just four.
Another man went in and started towards Mrs Jemmett’s queue. I darted in and, just before
he arrived at the end of the line, slid in in front of him.
He glowered at me, with good reason, and I fought off an almost overwhelming desire to
apologise. With clenched jaw he moved to the next queue.
After the young man at the front of our queue eventually concluded the painstakingly
drawn-out negotiations for himself and eleven friends to go to Magaluf, Mrs Jemmett
moved to the counter.
I now came across an obstacle I hadn’t foreseen – I couldn’t hear her! I couldn’t hear a
word she was saying. That light, strangely girlish voice of hers seemed to dissipate and
diffract into the air around her head. I tried craning around the gentleman in front but
pulled back sharply as Mrs Jemmett looked around.
Thankfully the girl behind the counter was not quite as softly-spoken as her customer but
even so, and with enormous concentration, I just about managed to discern the words –
`Spain,` and `two`.
She didn’t notice me as she left the shop – I just looked the other way and blended.
The icy wind had abated and the temperature had risen to a slightly more bearable level
when I settled down for the afternoon shift on the bench. There was a lot to think about and
I would have left to investigate elsewhere were it not for the fact that I still hadn’t
discovered the most vital piece of information – the whereabouts of Norman Jemmett.
Mrs Jemmett had evidently planned her and her husband’s escape. How and when I didn’t
know but if I could find Norman first, that would be a problem I wouldn’t have to face.
At five to four, emboldened by my previous, uneventful visit, I re-entered the Amica
Centre. Mrs Jemmett emerged through the exit to Savefast at two minutes past four
wearing her coat and carrying one of the supermarket’s carrier bags – again not full but not
Instead of turning north to the exit most convenient for her walk home, she headed south.
For a moment I allowed myself the tantalizing thought that she was heading to the south
piazza and from there into the back alleys of the old town and a secret rendezvous with her
husband. The likelihood, however was that she was merely doing some shopping before
heading home and that, it appeared, was going to be the case.
She walked with her usual resoluteness – not fast but undistracted by the shiny
merchandise beckoning from the shop windows.
After a while we arrived at the intersection of the central spurs where Mrs Jemmett turned
right. This was the only time she entered a shop – a chemist, where she purchased a packet
of pain relief tablets which she dropped into the shopping bag.
From my previous observations the west spur appeared to be the area of the Amica Centre
that was the least frequented and probably cheapest to rent. It had mainly specialist shops –
those that sold ethnic goods, paintings and the like as well as some of the centre’s offices
and various stock rooms and cleaning cupboards.
Mrs Jemmett went up the escalator to the third floor. There were no well-known retail
chains here and with very few people in the area I had to be more careful not to be seen.
One shop – Strapped for Cash – crammed with gaudy gifts and gadgets reminded me
sharply of the twins and gave my surveillance added purpose.
Though I was some distance away I could follow her movements quite plainly. At the end
of the right hand aisle, just as the shops and offices petered out was a rubbish bin into
which she quickly, but carefully placed her carrier bag, the handle just protruding over the
bin’s lip. She then turned and descended the elevator to the ground floor where, with her
deliberate, manly gate, she started walking north.
I took me a little over half-an-hour to get to Kevin Gardner’s flat during which time I tried,
unsuccessfully to formulate what I would to say. Kevin’s mother Beverley answered the
door with a towel wrapped round her head and wearing a post-bath dressing gown. A baby
cried in the background.
`Who’s that in there,` she said and I realised that I still had the capacious hood of my
anorak up. I fumbled with the string and eventually managed to lower it.
`It’s only me Mrs Gardner, Constable Mehta – Tenbridge Constabulary.`
`Oh Christ, what’s he done now?` she said resignedly. I tried to be as reassuring as I could.
`I really just need a quick word with Kevin, just to clear something up. It’s really nothing
to worry about.`
`That’s nice ‘cause I need a word with ‘im meself,` she said. `When you see ’im, give ‘im a
clip round the ear from me.`
This was an eventuality I had hoped I wouldn’t have to face. Down the hall somewhere, the
baby quietened a little and in the silence I heard a placating `shhh, shhh,` before it resumed
`Have you any idea where he’s gone?` I asked hopefully.
`No. He does this. Goes off for a few days – stress he says. It’s about time he bloody well
grew up, he’s got a little boy to look after now.`
Behind Mrs Gardner I saw a young woman emerge from a room on the right.
I had never seen Amelia before. Her nineteen years had not treated her kindly and she wore
a gender-obscuring tracksuit but she would still be considered pretty – the prettiest of all
the Jemmett girls. She didn’t acknowledge my presence but turned and walked to the room
at the end of the corridor, gently bouncing her baby as she went.
What would be the best use of my limited time? Should I return to the Amica Centre or go
home and see if there had been any developments or…
`Would it be possible to have a quick word with Amelia,` I asked.
`Well,` she said doubtfully. `I’ll go and ask but she don’t know nothing about what Kevin
When she saw that I hadn’t been put off she reluctantly headed for the room at the end of
the corridor from where a familiar blue light flickered.
The door slowly swung shut and I stood, shivering on the balcony. At the fourteenth floor
this was the highest I had ever been up any of the blocks on the Chaucer Estate. It was a
crystal clear night and the wind had died down – there would be a frost.
Eventually the door opened and Amelia stood there, eyeing me warily.
Her earrings, hair pulled back tightly in a pony tail and logo-encrusted sports clothing
seemed like a conscious attempt at assimilation into her new family – or a distancing from
her old one.
`Yes?` she said with neither friendliness nor malice.
`Thank you for agreeing to speak to me Amelia. My name’s Arti. I’m a police officer but
I’m not working officially at the moment.`
Her expression didn’t change – in fact she didn’t seem to have an expression.
`I know you’ve had some dealings with the police before, as has your boyfriend, but I’m
not interested in that. Anything you tell me today is confidential and will go no further.`
`What’s it about then?` she said in a soft, gentle voice – like her mother’s.
`It concerns your father.`
Without warning she took a step back and shut the door. I waited but after a few seconds of
non-activity I rang the bell again – it was opened immediately by Mrs Gardner who seemed
`Now you’ve gone and upset her,` she said. `After all what she’s been through.`
How much of Amelia’s sad and troubled past Mrs Gardner knew of, I could only guess, but
I decided to make one last attempt before moving on to more fertile investigative waters.
`Mrs Gardner. I promise I wouldn’t ask Amelia if there was any other way but this really is
terribly important. A lot of people have suffered and I want to put a stop to it.
`No. I’m sorry but she’s nothing to do with them any more. Millie’s ours now. She’s with
She turned to go back inside just as a tiny, elderly lady appeared from the neighbouring flat
and hobbled out onto the balcony.
`What’s going on, who are you,` she croaked.
Mrs Gardner opened her mouth to speak but the words came from over her shoulder.
`Don’t worry Nelly,` said Amelia. `It’s only a friend, we were just having a joke, you go
back inside now.`
Without anything having been said, the three of us walked in single file into the lounge at
the end of the narrow hall. Once again a television, perpetually on, carried on its tireless
labour to entertain. I waited in vain for Mrs Gardner to leave or for Amelia to lead me
`Would it be possible to have five minutes alone with Amelia please Mrs Gardner?`
The baby lay on the carpet in the middle of the room. He looked around at us and,
evidently not satisfied with what he saw, gave out a piercing wail. Amelia picked him up
and started to walk slowly round the room before Mrs Gardner replied:
`Amelia’s family now. We’ve known all along what her dad did but she’s had nothing to
do with the lot of ‘em since she was chucked out. You can ask questions if you want but
you’ll have to ask them in front of me – and besides, we don’t know nothing.`
Amelia laid the baby on the carpet again and started the unsavoury procedure of changing
his nappy. I stared fixedly at Mrs Gardner.
`They’re trying to get away,` I said, abandoning any attempt at subtlety. `Amelia’s mother
and father are trying to go abroad where they can carry on as though nothing’s happened. I
think I know where Mr Jemmett is but no-one will believe me. I want to try to stop him but
I need help.`
Thankfully Amelia had now acquitted her distasteful, maternal obligations and announced
that she would put the baby to bed. I was about to continue the increasingly desperate
interview with Mrs Gardner when there was another in the long succession of interruptions
– this time the telephone. She answered it and started on what sounded like it could be a
long conversation. I mouthed the word `toilet` and she pointed along the hall.
I had naturally assumed, throughout my years of self-imposed preparation for the cause of
law and order, that I would always work rigidly within the regulations of Her Majesty’s
Constabulary. It was with some shock, therefore that I found myself, under suspension and
with neither a warrant nor the owner’s permission, rifling through the drawers and
cupboards in Kevin and Amelia’s bedroom.
The dressing table and the wardrobe contained nothing but clothes and a wide, padded
chest at the end of the bed was full of blankets. There were no false bottoms or backs to
any of the drawers.
I had left the door slightly ajar and could still hear Mrs Gardner’s occasional laughter from
the lounge but Amelia’s soft voice didn’t carry from the room across the hall. A few inches
of the hall’s bright light sliced into the unlit room but the clear, moonlit night was all I
A small case under the bed contained just personal items – inexpensive jewellery mainly –
and a large suitcase on top of the wardrobe was empty. The contents of the bedside
cabinets were similarly of little consequence.
The carpet didn’t appear to have been moved recently – the marks from the furniture were
all well established. I tried the skirting board to see if it was loose but it all seemed secure.
The walls were bare of pictures or mirrors.
Standing carefully on the bed I surveyed the room for anything that appeared out of place. I
had practiced this many times at home – asking my mother to hide something and then
undertaking a thorough search. She had become quite good at it in the end.
The flat was more straightforward than my family house – a building of this age and
design, with its thin, plain walls, leaves little scope for structural concealment so I
concentrated on the furniture. I had taught myself to look for anything out of place –
anything that didn’t look right. The only thing I noticed that didn’t seem to fit was a small
screwdriver among the hairbrushes and make-up on the dressing table.
I was getting dangerously close to the limit of what would be considered acceptable for a
visit to the lavatory so I looked around quickly for anything held on with screws.
The bedside cabinets were on legs as was the matching dressing table but the wardrobe had
a wooden panel along the bottom held in place by two small, gold screws instead of the
more usual glue. I reached for the screwdriver and quickly undid the panel.
Gardner was indeed a talented forger. In a loose drawer under the wardrobe there were
hundreds of assorted documents including at least fifty expertly fabricated passports.
I screwed the panel back on and, leaving the room exactly as I found it, darted quickly
across the hall and flushed the toilet.
Rather than return to the lounge where I could still hear Mrs Gardner engrossed in her
conversation, I knocked lightly on the door to the baby’s room. As I entered, the child
started to fidget and make babyish noises. Amelia, sitting by the cot, looked none too
`Now look what you’ve done,` she whispered wearily. `It’s taken me ages to get him to
`I’m really sorry Amelia, I said. `But I really can’t stress enough how important this is.
The baby had started crying again properly and Amelia picked him up and started to rock
`I know it’s important but they’ve been good to me,` she said. `I just want to forget about
the old times and look forward, that’s all.`
Tiredness had quickly replaced any annoyance the baby felt at being disturbed and Amelia
gently laid him back in the cot. As we stood looking down on the sleeping child, I told her
what I knew of Kevin’s criminal activities all the time trying in vain to see a connection
between his skills at forgery and the attack on Norman Jemmett.
`He’s a good dad – Kevin,` she said sadly. `He just needs an outlet for his creativity – he’s
naturally artistic you see, always has been. He’s going to art college soon so he’ll be a
proper artist, he won’t need to do the other stuff any more.`
I hesitated to advance a theory which, though unlikely, had an increasingly nagging logic:
`Amelia, did you know he’d done passports for your mother and father?`
At first she didn't reply, weighing up the pros and cons of a denial. `No,` she said finally.
`And neither did he or he wouldn’t have done them.`
`But he must have seen the photographs,` I asked, puzzled.
For the first time she looked up from the baby.
`Well he didn’t recognise them.`
`And did you?` I asked.
She shook her head.
`I never saw them, I never see anything he does.`
I looked down at the child as I considered this perplexing turn of events and said almost to
`Then how did he know they were your parents' passports?`
When I looked up I saw that Amelia was looking over my shoulder. I turned and saw Mrs
Gardner standing in the doorway with a look more of resignation than anger. How long had
she been there? How much had she heard?
She gently closed the door and walked over to stand next to us by the cot.
`It wasn’t the passport, it was him – Lewisham,` she said with obvious disapproval. `It was
him who got Kevin involved in the first place and he still gets him all his work. He told
Kevin he’d just done Millie’s mum and dad’s passports just to wind him up – he enjoys
that sort of thing.`
`And Kevin went from there to the Jemmett’s house?` I asked.
`Not straight away. He came back here first – he was so mad.` She shuddered thinking
about it. `He’d wanted to do something about Jemmett ever since Millie came here but we
wouldn’t let him. When Carly was murdered we had our suspicions but then them two were
arrested and…well, it seemed that was that. Then when Kevin was told about the passports
he put two and two together.`
`He wasn’t trying to kill him though. He just thought that if the police knew about him,
about what he’d done, they’d investigate and arrest him, that’s why he wrote what he did
on the door.`
`Fat chance of that,` said Mrs Gardner. `Not with you lot in charge.`
I was about to ask another question but the look on Mrs Garner’s face indicated that I’d
outstayed my welcome. She turned and went back into the lounge while Amelia showed
me to the door.
`What are you going to do now?` she asked.
`I’ll go back to the Amica,` I said `I’ve got to try to get in after it’s closed.`
My look of despondency must have accurately reflected how I felt – as I walked away I
heard Amelia padding softly after me along the cold concrete balcony.`
`Wait there,` she said. We were outside a flat three doors down from her own. She knocked
on the door and a girl of about eight answered.
`Hello Millie,` said the girl. `Do you want mum?`
`No love, it’s your dad I wanted, said Amelia. `Is he in?`
The girl wheeled round and skipped down the corridor to be replaced a few seconds later
by her father. His prematurely wrinkled face was offset by a loose fringe of hair which
flopped lazy over his forehead and a big, genuine, smile, but what I noticed above all was
his Link Security uniform.
He greeted Amelia warmly and gave me a friendly grin.
`Hello Bob,` said Amelia. `This is Arti, he’s a friend of mine – could he go down the mall
with you – see what you do?`
`Yeah, sure,` he said. `I was just on my way.`
And that was it. An important lesson I would have to remember – always tell the truth and
rely on people’s natural generosity. None of the complicated over-elaboration I would have
resorted to and which would undoubtedly have caused suspicion.
Five minutes later I was being driven to the Amica Centre.
`Thinking about a job in security then are you?` said my amiable guide.
Bob Marsh was Security Manager for `D-shift` at the Amica Centre. He had few illusions
about the importance of his job title but managed, nevertheless, to remain resolutely
`Security work is something I might have to consider,` I replied truthfully.
Bob’s friends had apparently told him on many occasions that he should be on stage but,
unlike others, he had accepted it as a compliment but sensibly taken it no further. His
torrent of light-hearted banter provided welcome relief from my recent tribulations and
precluded me from having to further explain my interest in his work.
We arrived at the centre five minutes before his ten o’clock shift started. Most of the shops
had long since closed and the last few customers were drifting away from the cafes and
Some of Bob’s colleagues were a little suspicious of me but seemed to accept my presence
as another of the idiosynchracies of their shift leader.
As soon as the centre closed there was a surprising amount of activity with cleaners driving
round in little polishing cars and various maintenance personnel ambling along to their first
job of the night.
Bob explained that he would usually spend most of his shift in the control room, just
venturing out every few hours to check that his staff had encountered no problems. This
was something of an academic exercise on the night shift as no incidents had ever been
reported inside the Amica Centre while it was closed. In light of this, the two security
officers sitting in front of the control room’s banks of monitors did not exactly demonstrate
a heightened sense of alertness. One settled down to read a newspaper while Bob sat at the
back, continuing his routine which now included impersonations and comic voices. I got
the distinct impression that the others in the room were not hearing it for the first time.
Each monitor automatically changed camera view every few seconds and it quickly became
obvious that this method would prove quite unsuited to my needs.
`Is it possible to get a monitor to remain on a single camera Bob?` I asked.
`Certainly is,` he said springing up and walking over to the monitors, `We can stay on a
camera, zoom in, change the angle, whatever you want.`
He leant forward and flicked a switch. Nothing happened immediately but after a little
while I noticed that all the other monitors had changed view except that one.
`Could you do that with, say, the camera in the west spur, third floor, beyond the offices?` I
asked, trying to make it sound nonchalant – like a random request.
The other two looked at each other but said nothing, indeed not a word had passed between
them since I had arrived. Bob seemed more than happy to oblige though. He leaned
forward and with a few more button presses, got the view I had requested.
For some reason we all became strangely fixated by the screen. The newspaper was put
down and we sat and watched the lifeless scene. No-one was in the area – the cleaning staff
worked on the main thoroughfare first and it would be some time before they ventured into
the spurs. In the periphery of our vision, on the other monitors, people worked busily,
cleaning or repairing, or simply stopped and chatted, but the focus of our attention
remained dormant, like a still life.
`Can you change the camera angle?` I asked.
Only the outside edge of the waste-paper bin showed up on the screen so I wasn’t able to
see the carrier bag sticking out of the top. The security man turned the camera away from
`No,` I said. `The other way please.`
Again he did as I asked. It was probably because of the monotony of the job that my
requests, rather than being the cause of annoyance seemed to give them some purpose.
Even at its furthest setting the camera didn’t take in all of the waste-paper bin but I could at
least now see the edge of the plastic bag.
We settled down to stare once again at the screen – Bob’s two subordinates sitting at the
desk, Bob himself leaning forward on a chair behind them and me standing directly in front
of the monitor.
When it happened it was almost too fast to see – one second the bag was there and then
suddenly it was gone.
Bob was the only one to react – the other two were so shocked that something had actually
occurred that they sat there, paralysed, in open-mouthed disbelief.
`What! Who was…? stammered Bob as he starting to run aimlessly around the tiny room
until, suddenly focussed, he grabbed his hat and dashed out through the door.
The three of us ran after him through the complex of passages that zigzagged between
shops, down and then up, escalators and across aerial walkways until finally we stood,
panting by the waste-paper bin.
We all looked around at the empty space beyond the last of the shops. A discarded cigarette
packet lay in a corner and above, beyond the eerie yellow lights, the glass panels of the
ceiling appeared as opaque black.
Norman Jemmett couldn’t have come out of the storerooms as their doors showed up on
the camera but there didn’t appear to be any other way in. We checked all the surrounding
doors just in case but they were all locked.
The two control room guards – despite their obvious disappointment, this being the most
dramatic series of events ever encountered on the night shift – reluctantly slouched back to
the monotony of their little cell.
`I think it’s about time you told me what’s going on,` said Bob at his most serious.
He had been avidly following the story in the newspapers but even just the more recent,
unreported events were difficult to compress into a few minutes. When I had finished he
removed his hat and scratched his head.
`Blimey,` he said. `What are you going to do now?`
This was precisely the question I had been asking myself.
Between the hours from ten o’clock at night to eight in the morning various contractors
arrive to work on new shop layouts or repairs and refurbishments to the centre and its
facilities. The Amica’s own small maintenance team are entrusted with little more than
changing light bulbs and appeared as bored as their colleagues in security. Andy,
responsible for the present shift was, according to Bob, a `jobsworth` who wouldn’t lend
you a pencil without written permission in triplicate let alone grant access to the inner
workings of the building so it was decided that we would be better off without him.
We made a more thorough search of the area and eventually Bob found a panel –
removable using an allen key – which we assumed had been Norman Jemmett’s route to
his supplies. On removing the panel I was shocked to see how small the space was.
Belatedly settling on a plan, I wrote down Inspector Bowman’s home telephone number -
on the notepad I always carry with me along with a penknife, some string, elastic bands,
loose change and a safety pin – and gave it to Bob.
`Tell the inspector what you saw and that I’ve gone in after him,` I said.
`It could get a bit hot in there,` he said and handed me his torch.
The shaft I crawled into had a fifteen inch square cross section of shiny, polished steel.
Where it snaked through walls to be exposed to the view of the Amica’s customers it was
encased in a brightly coloured, corrugated plastic sleeve.
Inside, however, there was less emphasis on aesthetics and more on maintaining the
shopping centre at a comfortable temperature with the result that the interior surfaces were
covered in a thick layer of oily dust. Bob’s warning about the heat turned out to be an
understatement – the centre’s dry, choking air was pumped through the duct and the metal
was only just bearable to the touch. I struggled in the confined space to remove my coat – a
necessity if I was to remain conscious – even though this left me at the mercy of the bolts
that jutted out sharply every few feet where sections joined.
The narrowness of the shaft precluded the use of anything but elbows to propel me forward
and at the end of the first section of about fifty feet I was exhausted, filthy and covered in
cuts and bruises. I would have abandoned the quest there and then had reversing proved
At this point the duct turned vertically upwards for about ten feet and I had to roll over onto
my back to negotiate the sharp angle.
Even though the bolts gave me a precarious foothold I still managed to slip once and add a
gashed shin to my other injuries. At the top the shaft levelled out again and after slithering
along for what seemed like an eternity I encountered the first grill through which I could
just about identify a small, darkened toilet – probably at the back of a shop.
From this point the shaft gradually angled upwards and after more interminable crawling it
split into two – one way leading forward to another grill and beyond that to some sort of a
machine room – the other way carried on to the right. I was by now desperate to get away
from the heat and the dust but found the grill impossible to move. I returned to the junction
and managed, with great difficulty and at the risk of getting stuck, to turn round so that I
could use my feet to kick the grill out but even this proved impossible.
In desperation I returned to take the alternative route. As I slithered along I became
convinced that the duct was getting narrower, the walls closing in on me. It seemed to be
getting hotter as well with the heat sucking away all my oxygen and I could see little in the
dull, flickering glow of the torch.
By now my strength was fast draining away and I berated myself for having embarked on
such a reckless and foolhardy course of action.
I had to rest but the greasy metal was too hot to lay my head on and my neck ached from
keeping it in an elevated position. Just my breathing and the maddening hum of machinery
filled my head.
For perhaps five minutes I lay there trying to decide which was the least impossible option
– reversing or trying to find a way out further on. It was just as I was about to move on that
I thought I heard it. I stopped breathing and strained to listen beyond the sound of the
circulating air but there was nothing – I thought I must be hallucinating.
I steeled myself for another burst of will-sapping activity and began to inch further forward
when I heard it again – whistling. Despite only having subjected myself to this suffering in
order to find Norman Jemmett I fervently hoped that I was instead hearing a maintenance
worker who would be able to get me out.
I was in a curved pipe perhaps thirty feet long which took me an eternity to crawl along but
by the end, where it split into right and left hand paths, the whistling was definately louder
and I stopped to try to locate it’s direction. The sound seemed to be coming from straight
on and, almost apathetically I plumped for the right hand route. Just as I did so the light
from the torch faded to insignificance before finally stuttering out to leave me in total
By now my shoulders ached so much that I had to rest after every forward movement but in
the dark I could at least hear better. I struggled to identify the tune – it was old but not
classical – I remembered its forced jauntiness when I had played it on the piano. Of course,
it was that perennial favourite of the nervous whistler – The Entertainer.
As the duct curved to the left after a few yards the whistling increased in volume until it
seemed to be directly below me. There was practically no grease along the floor of the
shaft in this section – wiped away, I suspected, by regular, and recent, use.
The pipe dipped down and deepened so that I could almost stand up. The whistling was
coming from just beyond the wall and I was tempted to cry out but something stopped me.
I ran my hands along the moulded, plastic surface, the panelling of which I recognised
from the start of my ill-judged journey. I recalled that the square inspection hatch had been
identical to the rest of the panels except for the tiny allen key holes accessible from the
outside only. If there was one on this wall I would only be able to tell by feeling for the
It appeared at first that no such hatch existed and it was only on the second attempt that I
felt a slight groove around one of the panels right at the bottom of the wall.
Close to exhaustion I got down on my hands and knees and gave it a gentle push. The
hatches should all have been locked when not in use so it was no surprise that it didn’t
move. I decided to give it one more try before shouting for help. I put my hands flat against
the warm plastic and leant my weight lightly against it.
The panel started to yield before I realised that my centre of balance was too far forward to
stop the momentum carrying me through the hatch. My second shock was the discovery
that whereas inside the shaft, the inspection hatch was close to the floor, it was near the
ceiling of the room that I was tumbling headlong into.
I closed my eyes against the blinding light and so was unaware that the pain that jolted
through my shoulder was caused by my smashing into a table which overturned under the
I lay there, winded, among the wreckage, my body by now a catalogue of misery. The
feeling of deliverance as I met with the rush of clean, cool air was tempered by the
worrying realisation that all was not well with my shoulder. I must have passed out
momentarily but was nevertheless aware that I was not alone in the room.
I swam back into consciousness and forced my eyes open to find, with relief, that I was still
able to turn my head. Sitting against the wall – almost pressed into the wall in panic – was
Norman Jemmett, white as a sheet, eyes bulging and mouth agape.
I tried to stand but sitting up against the wall was the best I could manage. A half-eaten
sandwich and a spilt bottle of water lay at my feet along with the unopened packet of
tablets supplied by Mrs Jemmett. An almost empty tin of yellow paint had been knocked
over and its contents formed a small pool on the floor.
Norman rubbed his right forearm and grimaced as a thin trickle of blood meandered down
the side of his head – I realised that he must have been sitting at the table when I made my
I managed, through gritted teeth, to struggle to my feet and, leaning against the wall,
looked down. My broken glasses swung from one ear and bounced noiselessly off of my
leg into the pool of paint. My trousers were ripped from thigh to ankle and exposed grazed
and battered legs. There was hardly any evidence that my shirt had once been white and
one of my shoes had mysteriously disappeared.
`You’ve led me a merry dance, Mr Jemmett,` I said, unable to summon the intended sense
of authority. `I’m going to have to ask you to accompany me to the police station.`
`You’re a nutter.` he said, obviously still in a state of shock.
My legs suddenly felt incapable of supporting my weight and I struggled to draw up a chair
without, I hoped, my weakness being too apparent. It was becoming obvious that in my
enfeebled state, even an injured Norman Jemmett would prove beyond my capacity to
restrain. Perhaps, away from the venomous influence of his wife, I could appeal to
whatever better nature he might have to give himself up. I reached down to right the table
but a sickening jolt of pain stabbed through my shoulder and I had to wait for the hurt to
subside before making another attempt with my other hand.
`Why don’t you come and sit down Norman? You’d be more comfortable.`
He looked at me with suspicion. I swivelled round and with my good arm picked up the
tablets and the almost empty bottle from the pool of water it lay in.
`You might want to take one of these,` I said pushing them to the other side of the table.
Having recovered from his initial panic he was now in a position to calculate the negligible
disadvantages of following my suggestion. After a few seconds he rolled onto his knees,
dragged himself up the wall and stumbled over to the one chair that remained upright. With
shaking hands he ripped open the packet, shook out four of the tablets and washed them
down with the dribble of water still in the bottle. The cut on his head had dried to a matted
clump but he remained in obvious pain – unlikely, I thought, to be worse than my own.
`I saw Amelia this evening,` I said. Norman involuntarily looked down. `She’s got a baby
of her own now.`
`I do know I’m a grandfather,` he snapped, but then calmer, said: `I see her around – she
never says anything. I’ve tried but…`
`No. Well…` I replied – the `that’s hardly surprising` left unsaid.
`What about the others though Norman? The boys and little Nicola. Aren’t you going to see
them again? Only two tickets, that’s all Elizabeth got, just two.`
He looked up at me in obvious surprise.
`Oh yes, We know all about the escape plan.` I said. `You didn’t honestly think it would
He made little agitated movements, rubbing his chin, drumming his fingers on the table. I
leaned forward, my hands flat on the table near his hands, my face near his face though he
wouldn’t look at me. The congealed blood had dried dark on his cheek.
`They say you’re a terrible man Norman. But I don’t think you are. I tell them – `It’s not
him, not his fault, it’s his wife. You’d be the same if you were married to her. It’s all down
to her, her and the drink`.`
I sat back and waited. He started to nod his head slowly but said nothing.
`She isn’t here now Norman. She can’t tell you what to do – you can make the decisions
He went to speak but still needed that extra little push.
`They won’t understand how it was for you Norman. Just because Elizabeth didn’t actually
hold the wrench they’ll say she had nothing to do with it. You’re the one that’ll go to jail
for life because it was you that dealt the fatal blow.
He was still looking down at the table so I could barely hear his mumbled reply.
`Sorry Norman, I didn’t quite hear what you said .`
At last he looked into my eyes.
`I said It wasn’t a fatal blow.`
I maintained eye contact but refrained, with difficulty, from further prompting.
`She would have recovered.`
He spoke in short, tremulous phrases.
`All the doctors said so, it was just a matter of time. I prayed that she would, even though I
knew I’d go to prison. I wanted her to live. I couldn’t hit her that hard you see. I couldn’t.
They were shocked when she died – couldn’t explain it – but I could. She said she wanted
to see her alone. I suppose she used a pillow.`
I managed to be simultaneously stunned and unsurprised by this latest revelation. The
doctors had said that Carly was responding well to treatment and only her mother had been
at her bedside when she died. It seemed somehow fitting that Norman would have half-
heartedly mismanaged his part of the plan leaving the unfeeling and calculating Elizabeth
to finish it off. The fact that two post-mortem examinations hadn’t uncovered the tell-tale
signs of asphyxiation no longer surprised me at all.
`That means you didn’t kill her, Norman,` I said. `You’re not a murderer.`
He started to rub his arm again. He reached for the tablets and picked up the bottle, but
seeing that it was empty, threw it angrily across the room.
`Attempted murder, that’s all you’ll probably be charged with, just attempted murder with
mitigation, not murder with a statutory life sentence – she’ll get that – Elizabeth.`
With difficulty he stood up, leaned on the table then immediately sat down again.
`Will you speak up for me?` he asked.
There is a significant moment in any successful interrogation – what is sometimes called
`the turn`. It has to be handled carefully but I struggled to concentrate as a wave of pain-
induced nausea almost engulfed me.
`No Norman.` I said. `I never make promises I can’t keep and besides, it wouldn’t make
any difference. This is your decision. No-one else can make it for you. Do what you think
is right, tell the truth and put your trust in others.`
He rose and this time managed a few paces before returning to the chair.
`So if I tell them what happened, that it was all her idea and I couldn’t go through with it –
what do you think?` he asked – almost pleaded.
`I think you’ll be free Norman. Free from her.`
His face went through a range of emotions culminating in a look of quiet determination. By
contrast my own features must have developed a deathly palour as I was almost sucked into
a thick cloud of unconsciousness.
`What do you want me to do?` he asked, now broken in – quite tame.
If only this wretched, debilitating feeling would pass. I closed my eyes and breathed
`In a minute Norman, we’ll…`
I thought I heard a vague buzzing sound, barely distinguishable above the hum of the
machinery. With the blank look of one who’d expected all along that his dreams would
come to nothing Norman fished a mobile phone apathetically out of his pocket.
`No, Norman. Don’t`
My shoulder screamed at me as white stars shot across my vision.
`Please Norman. You can do it. Just you,` I whispered frantically.
`Yes, OK, yes.` he said matter-of-factly into the phone.
I was slipping. I grabbed the edge of the table but I had slid half off of the chair and the
shiny floor beckoned invitingly.
`All right love. See you later.`
`Before I passed out I think he apologised. But I might have just imagined it.
By the time they found me he was long gone.
Inspector Bowman, rudely woken once again, had, fortunately, recognised the gravity of
the situation and immediately dispatched four officers to a search the centre. The Amica’s
own security personnel, grateful for the distraction, lent their invaluable assistance and
even maintenance man Andy, galvanised by the presence of uniformed police officers,
authorised his staff to join in.
The potential benefits of a sizeable search party were sadly wasted by there being just one
main, and one spare, set of keys and so two large groups of men in an array of uniforms,
idly milled around as each door, cupboard and inspection hatch they came to was opened.
When I awoke, my previous searing agony had been replaced by a general, non-specific
ache and my already ruined clothes were now covered, I’m embarrassed to admit, in vomit.
With difficulty I managed to locate, and then swallow, two painkillers after which I made a
brief attempt at shouting for help which I quickly abandoned as pointless and painful. Thin
crescents of yellow trailed back from a chair – placed beneath the open inspection hatch –
to the drying puddle of paint.
I had been missing for almost three hours when one of the search parties, having covered
only a third of the building, finally discovered me.
Inspector Bowman had to be called over from the other group and rather brusquely ordered
the assorted well-meaning volunteers back to their posts. A security man who had
undergone first-aid training declared that my shoulder looked `funny` and that I should go
to hospital – advice I would be happy to follow once more pressing matters had been dealt
`Sir, it’s imperative that you get someone over to the Jemmett’s house. Norman Jemmett
was here, his wife was…`
`Done lad,` said the inspector. `I’ve sent a couple of cars over to pick them up.`
`So they’re in custody?` I asked anxiously.
`We don’t know yet, I’ll find out.` he said, then turned and shouted.
There was no reply and the exasperated inspector strode over to the door.
`Where’s that bloody Constable M…`
Just as he arrived, Detective Inspector Launce materialised like an apparition from the
other side. The contrast between the two men was stark. The short and stout Inspector
Bowman, dragged out of bed, and wearing an old anorak and displaying white, sockless,
ankles beneath rather short trousers, was towered over by the immaculately dressed
Detective Inspector. With him was, as ever, Detective Sergeant Purley.
`Bit past your bedtime isn’t it Bowman?` said Detective Inspector Launce.
Rising to the bait the inspector replied:
`Things must be getting desperate for you to make a personal appearance. What’s wrong –
seeing your promotion slipping away?`
It was disappointing to see two intelligent men in positions of seniority and importance
acting in such a inappropriate manner and at a moment of such urgency. I interjected to
forestall any further bickering.
`Sir – the Jemmetts?`
Scowling he turned away and went in search of Constable Miles, leaving me alone with the
detectives. They looked me up and down with ill-concealed distaste.
`If you wanted to go shopping you should have waited till the doors opened like everybody
else,` said the Detective Sergeant drily.
`Mind you Mike, he could do with some new clothes,` said his commanding officer and
they both smiled without humour.
I had no idea how much they knew of recent revelations – Inspector Bowman would only
have known what he had been told by Bob Marsh and it was unlikely that he’d have shared
that information with CID voluntarily. It seemed to me that the complacency with which
they treated the present situation was based on an unrealistic assessment of the likelihood
of the Jemmetts being apprehended. Feeling compelled to stress the consequences were
that not to be the case, I approached them and in my eagerness was temporarily
unconscious of the state of my personal hygiene. They involuntarily recoiled and I
apologised and backed away a few feet.
`Sir, I’ve uncovered some information that could be of vital importance if Mr and Mrs
Jemmett, by some chance, aren’t at home.`
Instead of replying to me Detective Inspector Launce spoke to his deputy.
`Purley, organise some transport for Constable Mehta would you – better make it a van
rather than a car,` and then, rather dismissively to me: `Go home Mehta, clean yourself up
and get some sleep.`
The prospect was so tantalising that I had an almost overwhelming urge to bloody-
mindedly walk away and leave them to it. They moved to either side of the door to let me
through and watched as I trudged wearily a few feet across the concourse – but of course I
couldn’t. Even in my present parlous state I was ashamed that my own personal feelings
had, even momentarily, blinded me to the greater cause of justice.
`You do know about the passports don’t you sir, and the tickets, and Mrs Jemmett’s
involvement in the murder?`
The looks the detectives exchanged suggested that this was indeed news to them and the
return of Inspector Bowman with the unwillingly proffered information that the Jemmetts
were still at large seemed to initiate a grudging change of attitude towards me.
`Get Mehta cleaned up would you Purley. Get him something to wear and bring him back
here – quick as you can.`
Fifteen minutes later I was being driven to the airport, still a little wet from my shower and
wearing a pair of green overalls a few sizes too big and a pair of boots at least one size too
small. Inspector Bowman had, despite all his worst instincts and with considerable
reluctance, filled the CID officers in on recent developments and in doing so rather
exaggerated my own humble contribution, with the result that I was no longer under
We made our way towards Stonefield – the only major international airport within
reasonable travelling distance of Tenbridge and therefore the Jemmetts’ most likely
destination. Detective Inspector Launce seemed somewhat dejected when he found out
from airport information just how many daily flights there were to Spain. They flew
regularly from all terminals and indeed two had departed in the last hour. Compounded
with the fact that other, smaller airports also had flights to Spain, our task appeared
The gravity of the situation ensured that, temporarily at least, my superior officers were
working with the degree of concord that should have been habitual and both Inspector
Bowman and the CID team had raised every available, and some unavailable, colleagues to
It was decided that even with off-duty officers dragged from their beds, manpower would
still be too limited to cover the minor airports and that small teams would be better
deployed in each of Stonefield’s four terminals.
Detective Sergeant Purley drove the large, marked police car at speeds perilous to both
other road users and my, still delicate, digestive system. Detective Inspector Launce in the
passenger seat, and Inspector Bowman next to me in the back, spent the entire journey on
their mobile telephones displaying, at last, the organisational skill I had been confident they
With a basic contingent of officers in place we encountered our first obstacle – giving them
a description of who they were looking for. Inspector Bowman initially instructed the
teams to keep a lookout for any suspicious male and female couple until I pointed out that
even this was an assumption – they may well have been travelling independently.
The head of airport security was on hand to give us much needed directions as we arrived.
Each of the senior officers would take charge of a team – numbered after their respective
terminals: Detective Inspector Launce to T1, Detective Sergeant Purley, T2 and Inspector
Bowman to T3. I was assigned, in a consultative capacity, to the remaining team.
The airport, known as the Big Top due to the buildings’ resemblance to huge circus tents,
seemed to be strewn untidily over a wide expanse of countryside and the long walk to
terminal four was executed with some degree of physical discomfort.
I arrived to find a worryingly vast space with some passengers dotted randomly along the
semi-circular rows of plastic seats that faced a bank of monitors like an entertainment-free
amphitheatre. Others strolled restlessly around the shops, queued at the airline desks or
gazed distractedly out of the terminal’s huge windows.
The senior officer for terminal four was a detective sergeant from CID who seemed more
than happy to accept my advice in lieu of more specific instructions. All I could really
suggest was to concentrate resources on the check-in desks for flights to Spain – anyone
they were unsure about should be apprehended and, as the person most familiar with the
Jemmetts, I would inspect their detainees. I was given a police radio and passed on these
necessarily vague instructions to the other teams before settling down for what I suspected
would be a long and frustrating vigil.
The first call came from my own team but the couple they had stopped en-route to their
flight were obviously too young – even as a layman in the art of disguise it was plain that a
transformation to look older would be far easier than younger. Almost immediately
afterwards there was a call from terminal two – an elderly couple had arrived with minutes
to spare for their flight to Magaluf. With the assistance of the security officer assigned to
our team I took what was described as a short cut, to arrive panting in front of a tall old
man and his tiny, incensed wife. I belatedly gave the teams an estimate of the Jemmett’s
Following a further couple of false alarms there was a hiatus which I hoped wasn’t an over-
reaction to their previous overzealousness. Inspector Bowman suggested I took on the
uneasy role of roving morale-booster. Nearly two hours had elapsed since our arrival at the
airport and about five since Norman Jemmett’s escape from the Amica Centre. A palpable
feeling of despondency had enveloped even the senior officers whilst I was feeling in less
than perfect condition myself – a debilitating tiredness had overtaken me and I had to
replenish my stock of painkillers.
All the while I was in radio contact with the four teams. They would describe to me what
they saw: a family – mother, father and two children, a young backpacker, an elderly lady
saying goodbye to a younger woman – probably her daughter. Occasionally I would be
given descriptions of people they thought looked suspicious – either rejecting them by
radio as unsuitable candidates or trekking wearily to the appropriate terminal only to reject
them in person.
On my last visit to Terminal one Detective Inspector Launce had been prowling around the
cavernous room like a lion ready to pick off the straggler from a herd of antelopes. To him
everyone was suspicious – children, families, the captain.
`I can see a lady in a wheelchair approaching the desk. She’s being pushed by a man.`
`How large is the lady in the wheelchair?` I asked.
`It’s hard to say but the man looks like he’s wearing a wig.`
That was sufficient to make me hurry, as much as my plight would allow, to inspect the
With the others I had seen there had been no doubt – wrong size, too young – but this
couple I wasn’t sure about. They certainly didn’t look like the Jemmetts, they were much
older, the gentleman was fatter but he was about the right height and the lady in the
wheelchair, with judicious application of make-up and clothing could possibly be…
I approached them for a closer inspection. The woman wore a coat buttoned up to her neck.
A blanket draped over her knees reached to her shoes and she wore a headscarf. The man,
while quite plump, had a thin, lined face, a bulbous nose and grayish palour with a thick
grey moustache and wisps of matching hair protruded from beneath a shiny, brown wig.
Detective Inspector Launce and I approached the couple.
`Excuse me sir, madam,` I said. `Could I see your passports please?`
The man frowned.
`I sorry,` he said. `My Eengleesh ees…`
`PASSPORT,` said Detective Inspector Launce, slow and unnecessarily loud.
`Ah, passport,` said the lady and began rifling through her handbag.
Detective Inspector Launce moved swiftly round to the other side of the wheelchair, ready
to intercept anything untoward which might emerge from the bag. The lady’s hands were
shaking and she mumbled incoherently under her breath while her husband seemed equally
agitated, gripping the wheelchair’s handles tightly as he glanced nervously around the
Afterwards I reasoned that everything had pointed to this being the object of our pursuit:
the comparative physical similarity, the nervousness, what appeared to be attempts at
`Norman and Elizabeth Jemmett. I’m arresting you for the murder of Carly Jemmett,` I said
and with this I reached over, grabbed the man’s moustache and gave it an emphatic and
It didn’t come off.
Instead his head shot forward and he emitted a strangled howl of pain. At the same time his
startled wife jerked round in her chair, dislodging her scarf to reveal a head utterly bereft of
hair – a result, it later transpired, of the medical treatment she had been undergoing during
her trip to England. I looked round for Detective Inspector Launce but he must have been
urgently called away.
Although Spanish is not one of the languages in which I am fluent, I was nevertheless able
to proffer apologies both profuse and heartfelt to the unhappy couple – insufficient
however to dissuade them from taking the matter further.
When, eventually, they had been escorted by sympathetic aircrew to their flight – the man’s
eyes still watering copiously – I sat down, embarrassed and contrite on one of the
terminal’s blue, plastic chairs.
A pale dawn was now seeping through the long windows. I was no longer able to
remember when I had last slept and to keep myself awake I radiod Inspector Bowman who
had already heard about the unfortunate incident in the minutes since it had happened.
`This is hopeless,` he said. `I think we should all just go home before we assault any more
Normally I would have defended myself against the implied criticism but in the present
circumstances I was not inclined to disagree. All feeling in my shoulder had, worryingly,
disappeared and I secretly longed for Detective Inspector Launce to accept the inevitable
and call the operation off.
A pilot passed by, ramrod straight, wearing a sharply creased uniform – a pointed reminder
that Chief Superintendent Stent had been dead for barely two days though it seemed like it
had happened an age ago. Daydreaming, I reflected on what our current situation would be
were the chief superintendent to have been in charge of the operation. Two things I was
confident of were that firstly he would have enquired after my wellbeing by now and
secondly he would not be about to give up.
`Mehta? Mehta?` Inspector Bowman’s voice crackled out of the radio.
`Yes sir, sorry sir, I was…`
The pilot had disappeared down a long white tunnel. I stood up and willed myself to adopt,
at least mentally, the formal Stent posture.
`Look around and tell me what you see sir`
` tell you what I don’t see,` said the inspector. `The bloody Jemmetts.`
He waited in vain for me to endorse his pessimism.
`There’s just the usual,` he said with a tired sigh. `A bunch of lads off for what they hope’ll
be a fortnight of hedonism, some hippies – too young to be the Jemmetts, a couple of
rabbis or hasidic jews or whatever they’re called, a couple of families…that’s about it.`
`What are they doing?` I asked.
`You know, just standing around waiting. The lads are mucking about, one of the families
is queuing up with their luggage, the rabbis are eating burgers. Like I say, just the usual.`
`What sort of burgers?` I asked.
There was a pause while the inspector, past questioning what he considered to be my
eccentricities, went to investigate.
`I’ll be right down,` I said already walking.
The Jewish dietary laws are interpreted with some fluidity by individual adherents to the
faith and inconsistently enforced by some of it’s elders. Foremost among the laws are those
proscribing the eating of non-Kosher meat – that which is not slaughtered in accordance
with Jewish laws – and the mixing of meat and dairy products. While there may be those
who can be tempted by the smell of a bacon sandwich, many others at least try to follow
the laws to the letter and of those, rabbis and members of the hasidic movement would be
among the least likely to flout the rules so brazenly.
Inspector Bowman waited for me expectantly but unsure why.
`Sergeant Feltz is a Jew and he eats anything,` he said with a worried look when I had
explained my suspicions. I reassured him that I was not about to re-enact on religious
grounds, my unedifying assault on the disabled.
We positioned ourselves behind one of the massive steel pillars that propped up the tent-
like structure. The objects of my suspicions sat facing away from me and I could discern
little apart from their dark coats and wide-brimmed black hats from which dark ringlets
hung. When they turned their faces in quarter-profile to talk or look up at the monitors I
could also see that they wore thick, dark beards and that one of them sported round
We took a circuitous route to the opposite side of the terminal from where I could see the
couple face-on, but seated, and still from a frustratingly long distance.
`What do you think?` asked the inspector sceptically. `It can’t be them can it?
This was a question I had asked myself and I began to wonder if tiredness had made me
lose my reason. A uniformed cleaning lady started to sweep between the back rows of the
`I can’t tell from here sir,` I said. `If you can get me her broom and hat I might be able to
get a closer look.`
`OK,` he said nervously. `But for God’s sake don’t approach them. If you think it’s them
just signal and we’ll go in.`
I waited while the inspector cajoled the somewhat hostile cleaner into complying with his
request, but only after after ensuring that we were aware just how inconvenient it was.
My overalls were reasonably in keeping with my new role and the peaked cap, though a
little large, could be pulled down to conceal some of my face.
I started to sweep along the far aisle, some distance from where the couple sat. From here I
could see that they were dressed from head to foot in black and both were impressively
bearded. They took no notice of me as I skirted round in front of them beneath the bank of
overhead monitors which the larger of the two scrutinised intently while the other looked
With head bowed as if to inspect my handiwork I was able to get a reasonably good look at
them though still at greater distance than I would have liked. Very little could be
distinguished in the shadowy space between their hats and their beards but as one of them
turned, the light momentarily reflected off of the spectacles, suggesting flat glass, like a
I moved round to their side of the seats to try to see them in profile. When I was within,
perhaps, fifteen feet of them, the monitors displayed their flight and they stood up, forcing
me to spin round in alarm to face the other way. As they started walking towards the airline
desks I looked back to see a group of my colleagues, including Inspector Bowman, a few
yards away. He held up his hands as if to say `well?` but a shrug was the best I could
manage in reply.
The two bearded figures joined a queue behind a young couple and in front of a family of
three – mother and two small girls. Positioning myself a little behind them I was able to
determine that physically they could be the Jemmetts – one was slightly taller and bulkier
than the other. The clothes of the larger of the two were ill-fitting – the coat sleeves slightly
short and the trousers displayed an inch of black socks. The fingernails were long but the
hands were large and not overtly feminine.
The thinner figure was just a dark form viewed from behind. With the black hat and the
collar of the long coat meeting at the neck, it was only the bony hands that were exposed to
my view. The trousers, I could now see, were not black but a very dark, inky blue and the
heavy black shoes were scuffed and scratched.
They took a step forward and as they did so I thought I saw a narrow streak of yellow on
the inside of the thinner figure’s right shoe. A memory – a fleeting, indistinct vision of my
glasses lying in a pool of yellow – the same yellow? – skittered across my mind and
embedded itself like a splinter.
I moved closer until I stood next to the family waiting patiently behind them in the queue.
One of the little girls watched, fascinated, as I pretended to tackle a particularly stubborn
area of floor. The young couple in front took a step forward. I positioned myself adjacent to
but slightly behind the what? Rabbis? Jemmetts? The larger of the two shuffled forward.
The other’s right foot moved just a few inches but it was not enough – the yellow mark was
still concealed. Against the soundtrack of the relentless, rhythmic swish of my broom I
When I was almost beside the couple I bent to get a better look. The left foot moved and
this time the thin smear of bright, lemony yellow was clearly visible. I felt confident that it
was the paint I had spilt just a few hours before. This was Norman Jemmett. This was
Now all I needed to do was to turn and walk slowly away until I was close enough to
Inspector Bowman for a nod to send the team into action. I started to straighten up and just
as I did the thinner figure turned. He could have turned a few seconds before or a minute
later but he didn’t. He turned then and looked straight into my face.
Initially no reaction registered on the gaunt, impassive face, so I swung round and started
to walk away with all the nonchalance I could muster. It seemed unlikely but perhaps he
hadn’t recognised me. After a few paces I couldn’t restrain myself from looking back. They
both stared at me now – Norman with blank shock and Elizabeth with unbound loathing.
Their disguises now seemed ridiculous – Elizabeth Jemmett looked like a grotesque parody
of a pantomime dame – I was amazed that I hadn’t seen through it immediately.
Which way should I go? The rest of the team were too far away. At this distance they were
just a foggy blur without my glasses. I started to walk back towards the Jemmetts hoping
that some strategy would present itself, some vague suggestion of a plan.
The couple looked equally uncertain as to their next move. Norman seemed to teeter on the
brink of panic as Elizabeth looked around ominously.
There was little point in subtlety now and I wheeled round and waved my arms frantically
at the rest of the team. When I turned back my stomach churned at what I saw. Elizabeth
Jemmett had grabbed one of the little girls. The child’s mother, reaching out instinctively,
received a crunching blow to the face and dropped in a heap on the floor, blood pouring
from her nose. The young couple in front were frozen in disbelief as the wailing child was
thrust into Norman’s arms, dislodging his beard and glasses. Elizabeth’s hat had fallen off
to reveal streaked blonde hair, gathered in a knot on top of her head, looking ludicrously at
odds with her prosthetic beard.
I gathered my thoughts and realised with some consolation that, as they were about to
board an aeroplane, they were unlikely to be equipped with weapons. With what little
facility my injuries would afford I started to run the few yards that separated us – hopeful
that I could get the child away from Norman – when I saw his wife pull from her coat
pocket a small brown box I had seen somewhere before. She opened it, and with a
swiftness borne of a lifetime’s practice extracted a syringe, dropped the box and fitted a
needle before I had taken two paces.
The male half of the young couple who had been ahead of the Jemmetts bravely took a step
forward and I could hear running footsteps behind me.
`Get back,` shouted Elizabeth and with a single stride grabbed a handful of the screaming
child’s hair and thrust the syringe under her chin. I couldn’t tell whether the thin plastic
tube contained insulin or just air but either way an injection would, in all likelihood, prove
The area was gradually filling up with police officers, all eager but impotent bystanders to
the events unfolding in front of them. The Jemmetts started to back away towards the exits
but then Elizabeth seemed to change her mind.
`Get the ‘plane ready – no-one else is going on it, just us and the pilot,` she shouted blindly
to anyone burdened with the necessary authority.
They changed direction and began backing slowly towards the round tunnel leading to the
runways. Norman was by now visibly shaking and seemed to clutch at the little girl for
`But…` he stammered.
`SHUT UP!` screamed his wife.
The couple’s would-be fellow-passengers had run, or been dragged, away until the
Jemmetts stood alone in a wide semi-circular clearing surrounded by an ever-increasing
army of police officers. The child’s screams were now just a whimper but still the loudest
sound in the dead air of the cavernous space.
Inspector Bowman had arrived by my side, prepared, no doubt, with some usually-effective
cliches – `be sensible`, `you know you’ll never get away with it` – but dismissed now as
redundant after one look at Elizabeth Jemmett’s hate-filled face.
`WELL?` THE PLANE!` she yelled, the needle making a tiny indentation in the little girl’s
`OK, OK,` the inspector said, holding his hands up placatingly as he backed away. `Don’t
do anything, I’ll see to it.`
The Jemmetts reversed slowly towards the tunnel as the great arc of uniforms shuffled after
them with myself in the vanguard – perhaps five yards from the couple, decreasing to four.
`Norman,` I said quietly.
`What?` spat Mrs Jemmett.
`Norman,` I repeated, my gaze on him unwavering.
`He’s not saying anything to you,` said his wife defiantly.
`Is that right Norman?`
`Don’t talk to him.`
`Is that what you want Norman?`
`Do you agree with that Norman?`
He bared his teeth and squeezed his eyes shut but still it was only Elizabeth who spoke.
`I told you…`
`Did you tell me Norman?`
`I’ll kill the baby!`
`Do you want the child to die Norman?`
`I’m warning you!`
`It’s up to you Norman, your decision.`
He opened his mouth but only a tiny croak emerged. Elizabeth turned to him in alarm.
`Don’t say anything. It’s a trick.`
`What’s your opinion Norman? Do you think it’s a trick?`
`HE’S NOT TALKING TO YOU!` Elizabeth yelled.
Norman shook his head.
She jerked the needle sideways. The assembled officers moved forward as if they were a
single entity but the syringe had only scratched the child’s skin and now nestled against
Norman’s leathery neck. Detective Sergeant Purley took the opportunity to move to a
position just a few feet away from the couple.
`What was that Norman? I didn’t quite catch it.`
Elizabeth made a guttural, animal sound into her husband’s ear. The baby slipped down a
couple of inches.
`What’s the best thing to do Norman? What do you think? What do YOU think Norman?`
He still shook his head like a parcel-shelf dog but the baby had now slid down to just above
waist height, his hands under her arms.
I could detect a strange growling noise but it took me a few seconds to realise that it
emanated from Norman Jemmett. It gradually rose in pitch and intensity, a terrible, tortured
sound mirrored by his face – even Elizabeth looked shocked by it though she didn’t move
the syringe. He held the baby now at arms length as if passing her to someone. Detective
Sergeant Purley lowered himself to a crouch. Norman raised his head, opened his mouth
and screamed as if a mighty enough scream would save him. He swung the child out in a
wide arc away from Elizabeth.
We never knew what his intention was – whether he was about to club his wife with the
child or throw her to safety. Detective Sergeant Purley used all the skills learnt and honed
on the rugby pitch to make a spectacular flying leap, the tackle of a lifetime, snatching the
child in mid-air and rolling in a protective ball to safety.
The great mass of police officers surged forward to grab the couple but it was too late for
Norman. He stood there, the syringe jutting from his neck, plunger pushed in as it bobbed
up and down with the blood that pumped through his arteries, ferrying a bubble of air to his
Inspector Bowman had just approached the couple, ready with a caution, when Detective
Inspector Launce emerged, as usual, from nowhere. Dismissing Norman as beyond the
authority of earthly justice he turned instead to his wife and said:
`Elizabeth Jemmett. I’m arresting you for the murder of Carly Jemmett.`
I had never been inside Scotland Yard before and being at the very hub of policing in the
United Kingdom was both an honour and a privilege. No London teams had got through to
the finals of the quiz this year but the venue was symbolic and it’s use had become
something of a tradition.
I was by no means fully recovered from my ordeal at the airport – it having taken place
only two days before – but I was at least rested and my shoulder had been set.
Our team – half the size of any of the others – had arrived with little time to spare after
attending Chief Superintendent Stent’s funeral which was, like the man himself, short,
formal and strangely inspirational. The CID team had, by contrast, arrived early at the
venue where Detective Inspector Launce’s renowned networking skills had been very
much in evidence.
The room, usually used for conferences, was ideal for our purposes with plenty of space for
the eight teams present and well-equipped with any technology which could be pressed into
There was a unspoken feeling from the outset that the other participants, despite having
acquitted themselves well in previous rounds, were really there for a day out and tacitly
acknowledged who the competition was really between.
When the questions began – name the school of philosophy founded by Diogenese, for
example – Inspector Bowman reeled back at their level of difficulty but luckily they were
not all as hard:
`By what name has Lancelot Brown been better known for the last 250 years?`
That wasn’t too difficult – even Sergeant Dyas knew that the name was coined after the
famous gardener told his clients that his creations had `capabilities`.
Sergeant Collins was in fine form on the minutiae of popular culture but I surprised them
all by knowing that it was the progressive rock group Yes who in 1973 released a record
called `Tales from topographic oceans,` an area of study reluctantly embarked upon at the
urging of the inspector.
`Which Premier League football club has the stadium with the smallest spectator capacity?`
This was a tricky one – I could remember what the capacities of all ninety two English
League grounds were twelve years before but had no idea which ones were currently in the
Premier League. After conferring we narrowed it down to Portsmouth with 20,688.
My desire to put recent events behind me and simply enjoy the evening was briefly put into
suspension when, with a coincidental twist of irony we were asked:
`What are: Trumpetters, Jacobins and Damascenes?`
I had a sudden vision of Norman’s taciturn friend Cyril and his curious hobby and replied
By the end of the first half Sergeants Collins and Dyas were pleased with their
contributions, I was satisfied but not complacent and Inspector Bowman was almost at a
point of nervous collapse. The desire – the need – to beat CID, which had previously been
a mere all-consuming passion, had now become an almost pathological obsession for the
inspector. From the way he described it Elizabeth Jemmett’s arrest by Detective Inspector
Launce and the `ostentatious display` by his deputy after `we` had done all the work, were
part of a conspiracy against him. Whilst I felt it not unreasonable that our modest
contribution had not been mentioned at the subsequent news conference – it, after all, being
CID’s case – I did, nevertheless, feel the team displayed a hint of uncalled-for
It appeared that the members of the CID quiz team were no less intent on winning than
Inspector Bowman. Each question was greeted with either intense brow-furrowing and
head-scratching or back-slapping jubilation.
The second half got off to a reasonable start. There was a question about how Jesus was
related to Lazarus, another on an ex-secretary general of the United Nations, the expected
periodic table question plus some, more geared towards Sergeant Collins’ specialisms such
as Christmas number ones or television soap-operas.
After the papers had been collected we settled down for the wait in a state of excited
anticipation – except for Inspector Bowman who paced and smoked outside like an
The reading of the answers was greeted, in practically every case, with an embarrassing
display of whooping and punching of air by the CID team and a more measured response
from ourselves. As well as keeping an account of our own scores I was able to estimate
from the degree of animation that each answer provoked from CID, our likely relative
The answers we gave to two of the questions were pure guesses – one pertaining to the
comparative lengths of the rivers Loire and Elbe, which I’m ashamed to say I was ignorant
of, and the other on the game of darts. It transpired that we miss-plumped in both cases.
CID seemed to know their rivers but were more subdued when the answer to a question on
ballet terms was read out.
The only question in doubt was:
`Name the monarch described as the first ruler of Great Britain.`
It was the wording that threw us. If it had simply said: `Name the first ruler of Great
Britain,` the answer would not have been in doubt – the Act of Union between England and
Scotland became law in 1707 when Queen Anne was on the throne. But it was the
misleading and quite unnecessary use of the word `described` that caused us to vacillate
and, finally, to write down the wrong answer. Perhaps in retrospect it would have been
better not to have mentioned that James I had given himself that title over a century before,
thereby convincing Inspector Bowman that it must be a trick question and our certain route
to victory. My own conviction – voiced to no avail – was that it was just badly worded
thereby making a relatively straightforward question seem unreasonably obscure.
`The answer to question 36 – the first ruler of Great Britain was Queen Anne.`
The inspector was purple with rage – a condition not improved by CID’s exultant response.
We had to restrain him from making a formal complaint there and then but he was
determined not to let the matter drop.
The reading of the scores was accompanied by a degree of nervousness, contagiously
transmitted by the inspector. A team from the rural West Country did surprisingly well
with 32 points – the other five being spread throughout the twenties. We awaited the last
two scores with trepidation.
`In second place, with 37 points…`
Inspector Bowman gripped the table with whitened fingers.
`…Tenbridge…C Division, putting Tenbridge CID in first place with 38 points. Would a
representative of Tenbridge…`
The inspector cut him off mid-sentence. A discussion ensued, heated on one side, initially
between Inspector Bowman and the quiz master but eventually also involving his three
assistant adjudicators. There was much head-shaking from the officials and some indignant
whispering from the inspector. The chief adjudicator had a quiet word with Detective
Inspector Launce who listened attentively and then answered with crossed arms – never a
None of us had the courage to ask Inspector Bowman what the outcome was when he
finally sat down again but waited with some pessimism while whatever the collective noun
for adjudicators is – a query? – came to their decision.
Would a representative of Tenbridge CID like to come up and receive, once again, their
While the embittered Inspector Bowman retired to the minibus, the rest of us found our
attempts to be gracious in defeat were, sadly, not mirrored by the CID team. I was
surprised and disappointed that even a man of the maturity and repute of Professor Carr
could sink to the level of vulgar hand gestures.
Some of my colleagues – notably the ever-pessimistic Sergeant Wills and Constable Box –
expressed the view that my new role as beat officer on the Chaucer Estate was given as
some sort of punishment by the recently-appointed Chief Superintendent Launce. Surely, I
argued, the fact that the estate was previously considered too dangerous for a beat officer is
a vote of confidence in my skills at diplomacy and my ability to engender social cohesion.
For my part I am more than happy with my new duties – I have made some good friends
and feel that I could, with luck and perseverance, make a real difference to the lives of
ordinary people on the estate. I am not, however, entirely convinced about the use of the
bicycle – currently my third, despite heavy padlocks – as a sense of balance is not my
In truth it is only through the personal intervention of the chief superintendent that I am
working at all, as I should really be, once again, suspended on full pay. It was, apparently,
the dying wish of Mrs Rodriguez that her husband use all his energies to seek redress for
my unedifying assault on the unhappy couple. The solicitor put at my disposal by the
federation, considers that under the circumstances, and taking into account how the case
concluded, I should just get an official reprimand in any disciplinary hearing – an
insignificant punishment compared to the everyday shame of my actions.
Life under the new regime is not as bad as many had predicted. Admittedly CID have
received a much larger slice of the budget than had previously been the case but the
presentational and customer-awareness aspects of our work has been given an enhanced
profile and we have been sent on some thought-provoking management and motivation
courses. Inspector Bowman has, sadly, taken extended leave for nervous depression and
there is talk of early retirement, but the new chief superintendent has apparently earmarked
an interesting job for him should he recover.
Once a week Mrs Hargreaves and myself visit Reginald in the hospital. On the first two
occasions Daniel accompanied us but stopped when the experience proved too upsetting.
So far Reginald hasn’t said anything but Mrs Hargreaves thought that he showed signs of
recognising her on a recent visit – the doctors thought it unlikely.
Daniel has been moved to a nice one-bedroom flat high up in his old block. The rooms look
a little bare without his bric-a-brac, discarded as `childish`, and he now spends his days
watching his newly-acquired television. My visits are rare as they have tended to clash with
his favourite programmes and are therefore not considered convenient..
To my surprise Mrs Stent put her house on the market the day after her husband’s funeral
and is now living in the Lake District.
The vast majority of people on the estate are very nice and I have high hopes that in the
fullness of time the others will respond favourably to the initiatives I have put in place. So
all in all I really have nothing to complain about. Things are going very well really – very