This is the twenty-first part of a fiction serial, in 1300 words.
Sally Wilcox woke up with backache, and a woolly feeling in her head. When she had got back from the city yesterday, there was no sign of Emily. She eventually found a note lying on the pillow on her side of the bed.
‘Took some leave, and going to visit my sister. Give you time to think about the way you talk to me’
No signature, no kisses. Emily overreacting as she always did. Sally had thought about her conversation with Lucy during the shopping trip. Alex Conroy and Emily had a lot in common. They liked to control things, to be in charge. She had opened a bottle of Chardonnay, and drunk the lot. But she hadn’t forgotten that Mullins had called a team briefing for this morning, so now she was running late, and not feeling like going in at all.
Tom let Karen sleep in, then took her a cup of tea when he heard her stirring. “I have to go in love, a team briefing. Shouldn’t be too late”. He took the Sunday Herald with him, tucked under his arm. No need for Karen to see any headlines just yet. Hopefully, she might not bother with the TV news until later too. He was uncharacteristically smart that morning. A dark pin-stripe suit, previously reserved for weddings and funerals, together with very shiny black shoes that didn’t feel very comfortable.
Tony Mullins hadn’t even had a chance to read the newspaper when Superintendent Singh phoned. As he struggled into his trousers, the mobile tucked under his chin, he could tell the boss was far from happy about something. Short, curt, and to the point. He was coming to the briefing. He finished getting ready, then left the house without disturbing his wife and baby, stepping over the newspaper on the mat behind the front door.
Alex had risen early, and was dressed by the time the doorbell rang. There was no sign of Lucy, so he guessed she was still asleep. He had read the front page of the Sunday Herald whilst enjoying some very expensive but delicious coffee. It was the type that has the beans passed through the digestive system of a Civet Cat before the grinding. That didn’t concern him in the least. He grinned at the headline, shaking his head. The photo they had used had been taken from the official Town Council website, and Alex approved of that, one of his favourite photos of himself. Above it, in bold type, was the supposed ‘scoop’.
LOCAL COUNCIL EXEC SUSPECT IN DISABLED BOY’S MURDER
Derek Farley. Chief Reporter.
A reliable source in the County Police has told this reporter that the distinguished chief executive of the Town Council, Alexander Conroy, is currently the main suspect in the case of the murder of Allan Sinclair, his next door neighbour He has no alibi for the night in question, and investigations lead detectives to believe that he may be hiding something in his house or garden that could give a valuable clue to what happened to the teenage boy. However, because of his connections in the town, and his unblemished reputation, it seems the powers that be are stalling the investigation by refusing to request warrants, and failing to properly investigate Mr Conroy’s story. This reporter is asking what’s going on, and suggesting that those connections are trying to protect Mr Conroy, simply because of his wealth and social status. I consider (Full story, Page 3)
Alex hadn’t bothered to turn to page three. He made a brief phone call, got showered and dressed, then waited for the phone or doorbell to ring. Detective Henderson had not only taken the bait, he had swallowed it whole.
When Tom got into work, he was not surprised to see Superintendent Singh sitting in Inspector Mullins’ chair. DCI Neil Williamson was in the incident room, along with a group of other detectives Tom vaguely knew. They were taking down all the photos and maps, placing them into transit boxes along with every file concerning the case. The DCI spotted him, and beckoned him over. “The briefing is cancelled, Tom. Please go and see Superintendent Singh. Don’t forget to knock and wait now”. Williamson was grinning as he spoke, as if trying to stop himself laughing out loud.
The Superintendent looked up at Tom. “I won’t ask you to sit, Constable Henderson. He indicated the newspaper under Tom’s arm. “Got anything to tell me about that?” Tom feigned surprise. “No idea sir, I reckon the reporter is just fishing”. Singh shook his head. “Thanks to you, I now have a shit-storm brewing. The Chief Constable is up in arms because his Sunday golf has been ruined, and we are now left with no alternative but to launch a full scale investigation into one of the most respected men in the town. I have to transfer everything to Mr Williamson’s team in the city, to make sure it’s all done by the book. Still got nothing to tell me?” Tom shrugged.
Singh sat back in the chair, and rubbed his eyes. Tom noticed that his turban was sky-blue today, a nice casual look for a weekend. “Thirty years in the job, and an unblemished record, until today. I am pleased to accept your written request for retirement on full pension, effective immediately. Please leave your badge and I.D. card on the desk before you go next door to write your resignation. Alternatively, you can opt for a full suspension from duty, pending disciplinary action. Your choice”. Tom threw the shiny leather holder onto the desk. “Thank you, sir”.
Tony Mullins wondered what the hell was going on. Mr Singh behind his desk, no sign of Sally, Tom Henderson typing something up in the corner, and Williamson and his team stripping out his incident room. He caught the smug detective’s eye. “Neil, what’s all this?” His superior looked sympathetic as he spoke. “You need to have a chat with the boss, Tony. Don’t forget to knock and wait now”.
Mr Singh slid the Sunday Herald across at Mullins. “I presume you have read this?” Tony spotted the photo below the story, and recognised the familiar face of Conroy from the Town Council Police Liaison Committee. “No sir, I didn’t have time. I was on my way in for a briefing”. Singh slid the paper closer. “Read it now”. Mullins didn’t bother to turn to page three. “This is all bollocks, sir. Conroy has never been a suspect. He has no motive, and besides, there is no evidence. This must have come from Constable Henderson. He approached me with this crap, and I told him to forget it”. Singh seemed to mellow. “Constable Henderson has applied for his pension. He is leaving as soon as I have his letter of resignation. Sit down, Tony. I have some good news for you”. Mullins sat down in the chair, relief washing over his face. “I am pleased to tell you that your promotion has come though. You are going to be a Chief Inspector, how does that sound?” Mullins was delighted, his promotion was well overdue.
“It’s back in uniform though, I’m afraid. The new station in the city needs someone to be in charge of the Control Room. You know, the emergency calls coming in and such. I think it will make a nice change for you, and ease you into your new rank”. Mullins swallowed hard, his face darkening. “Thank you, sir”.
Sally Wilcox was stuck in traffic. Someone had been knocked down a few cars ahead, and the ambulance was blocking the road. She was going to be late for the briefing, and she hated to be late. Despite trying a few times to let him know, her inspector wasn’t answering his phone.
To be continued…