This is the eighteenth part of a fiction serial, in 1530 words.
Jenny gets a gun
Ten days into her self-imposed exile, Jenny couldn’t understand why the news reports were so quiet. The electronic photo-fit shown briefly looked nothing like her, which was some relief. She had phoned into work, and agreed that her continued absence would be covered by unpaid holiday leave. That would keep Pat off her back, and stop anyone reporting her missing.
Of more concern was her high temperature, and the annoying fact that she couldn’t find out anything about Leo after the time she had been sent to prison.
She hadn’t been having any luck with Cathy Neal either, until she stumbled across an entry well down the pages on Google. It was in the name of Verity Harris, who appeared to be a famous name in feminist literature. Dating back a few years, it highlighted the name Catherine Neal, next to a link that went to an article in a feminist magazine long since defunct. It was about one of their chief writers getting married to another woman. The other woman had taken the unusual step of adopting the married name of her partner, and was to be known as Catherine Harris.
Armed with the correct surname, Jenny’s eyes widened once she hit ‘search’. But her delight at finding the girl who had stolen Mel away from her was tempered by the reality that she had been promoted to the rank of Assistant Chief Constable on the very force investigating Mel’s murder. She poured herself a large vodka, and spoke out loud into the room. “You couldn’t make it up, you really couldn’t”.
Gemma Fox had come round a couple of days ago with clean sheets and towels. But even though she was feeling like death warmed up, Jenny couldn’t let her do housework, and change the bed. “Leave it there, Gemma, I will do it. Honestly, it will take my mind off things. I will wash the sheets and towels too. I only have to put them in the machine”. The older woman had looked a little disappointed. Maybe she just wanted some company. But Jenny deliberately didn’t offer her tea or coffee, hoping she would get the message. She didn’t. “How’s the book coming on? Would I have read any of your other stuff? Not invited to sit, she perched on the arm of a small sofa under the window.
Jenny stroked the closed laptop. “It’s all in here, a work in progress. It’s about a serial killer on the run from the police. My first book though, so you won’t have read anything else”. Gemma grinned. “Murder mystery eh? That’s right up my street. I would love to read it when it’s finished”. Jenny stood up, indicating it was time for her to go. “You will have a signed copy, with my thanks. I will post it to you”. As she walked to the old car, Gemma turned. “I’ll hold you to that. My famous tenant. I will tell everyone I knew you before you started writing best sellers”.
Commander McDonald had deployed some of her team to keep a watch on the Kowalski house. When her daughter arrived, there was a chance that the whole family could be in danger. But most of the resources were still targeted on Leonora Quigley, and her small army of criminal associates. If they were ever going to connect her to the murders, they would eventually have to raid the house, and look for evidence. The best way to do that was to request that her and her boyfriend come in for questioning, then get a Section 18 warrant to search and seize while they were languishing in an interview room. Her fingerprints hadn’t shown up at any crime scene, so they were going to have to go with her connection to the school to justify applying for the warrant.
She dictated a list of what they would be looking for to the young man writing on his pad.
“The knife used in the murder of Tanya Birch.
Laptops and mobile phones owned by any of the victims.
A blonde wig, and black spectacles.
A hammer, and plumber’s tape.
Any papers relating to the suspect’s car.
Any shopping receipts pertaining to any items used in any of the crimes.
The paperwork relating to any guests booked in by Mrs Wilkinson.
Plus any computers or phones owned or used by Quigley and her gang that might show contact with any of the victims, either by email, or relevant Internet searches.
And I want the mobile phone mast search extended to cover all phone activity in the vicinity of every victim for at least twenty-four hours surrounding each crime”.
Her subordinate nodded, then stood up and left the office to get on with his tasks.
Jenny had run out of milk and bread, so a drive to the shops would be necessary. She still had a high temperature, and the open wound on her left breast was getting larger. She could no longer tolerate wearing a bra, and was now using two dressings to soak up the oozing fluid. The shops that Gemma had mentioned were a fifteen minute drive away. A general store of the type only seen in such country districts, selling pretty much everything. There was a chemist shop that dealt with all the local drug prescriptions as well as selling toiletries and baby stuff, and a butcher selling local meat of high quality, at greatly inflated prices. At the end of the small row of shops was a petrol station that looked like it hadn’t changed since the 1950s. Just two pumps, a general car repair workshop, and the attendant had to come out and fill up your car.
The two elderly women in the general store were very nosy. They asked her a lot of questions, excited to be serving a stranger. One of them was behind the glass of a small sub-Post Office at the back, and called out to Jenny as she browsed the few shelves. “If you need any cash dear, you can draw it out from me”. Dropping a sliced loaf into the wire basket, Jenny smiled back. “I’m fine thanks”. When she had bought all she needed, she wandered next door to the butcher, and treated herself to a stupidly expensive fillet steak. She hadn’t had one of those in years, and it would be good to get more protein. With the shopping put away in the car, she drove the few yards to the petrol station, and paid at least twenty percent too much to have her car filled to the brim. Unsure whether or not she should tip the very old man who operated the pump, she thanked him and gave him some notes, adding “Keep the change”.
Heading back to the cottage, she noticed the sign for Old Hill Farm, and turned into the driveway on a whim.
Gemma Fox was standing outside the front door of the farmhouse as Jenny arrived, shooing two excitable Jack Russells back inside. She beamed a big smile at the sight of Jenny’s car, and walked over to her. “I was just popping down to the chemist to get my thyroid tablets. Go on in, I will be back in ten minutes. The dogs are friendly, I keep them for the rats”. Wrapping her jacket around tighter, to cover up the fact that she wasn’t wearing a bra, Jenny accepted the invitation. The inside of the farm house was incredibly untidy, with stuff piled everywhere. Both the dogs seemed pleased to see her, and settled down after she had stroked them.
When Gemma hadn’t returned after the promised ten minutes, Jenny walked outside, and had a look around. Although most of the sold-off land was now fenced by the new owner, the property was still substantial, with a kitchen garden, and four outbuildings. In one of the dilapidated large sheds, there were lots of ancient farm implements, including a rusty tractor that looked like it had been there since world war two. A row of metal lockers ran down one side, and they looked like they hadn’t been used in years as well. The door of one of them was hanging open, and she automatically reached out to close it.
There was something inside, wrapped in a waxy brown cloth. It was long, and propped up in the corner, covered in dust. Gently unwrapping the top, Jenny could see that it was a shotgun. One of those with two barrels, side by side. Behind it at the bottom of the locker was a crumpled cardboard box, containing shells for the gun. Without hesitating, Jenny bent down and picked up the box. Then she grabbed the cloth, wrapped it tight around the barrels, and walked to her car with both items. Placing them in the boot behind her shopping, she closed the hatch just as Gemma’s battered Land-Rover came wheezing up the driveway.
The cheerful-looking woman waved a paper bag containing her tablets. “I got chatting in the chemist’s, sorry about that. Been having a look around? The old place is not what it was, I’m afraid.
Come on in, and I will make us some tea”.