|Primary Characters:||Barnaby, Scott, Joyce, Cully, Troy|
|Warning:||murder, adult themes, references to sexual abuse of minor|
|Description:||Daniel Scott has a phone call which stirs up unpleasant memories from the past. He’s forced to return to his family. Soon his father is found dead, murdered. Daniel is a suspect. Things look bad, but perhaps his new family can help him.|
Detective Sergeant Daniel Scott hung up his phone, his face tense and his hands tightly clenched. When the phone rang, just as he was about to turn out the lights for the night, he hadn’t expected anything out of the ordinary.
At best, it might be his fiancee, Cully Barnaby, or at worst another job. Crimes were committed at all hours and he had long since given up the hope of being guaranteed a good night’s sleep, even out in the sticks, where he found himself in exile.
The voice from the past shattered his new-found peace of mind. At first, he found himself unable to reply. His mind was a blank. That voice, which was so smooth and soft, as if dripping with honey, still haunted him in his dreams sometimes.
Come here, Danny. Oh, aren’t you a big, fine boy. So tall, so strong. I’ll bet the girls in school are wild about you, Danny. Don’t be shy. I’m your mother now. Come. Sit here with me. Give me a kiss. What? You don’t have a kiss for your new mummy?
That’s better. My, you’ve grown. When I first saw you, you were such a solemn little boy. Now, you’re so tall and handsome and all grown up. Let me see if you need to shave. Hm. It won’t be long now. Danny, do you have a girlfriend? You know you can tell me anything. Tell me, how does it make you feel when you look at the girls in school? Don’t be shy.
Oh, you’re blushing. Here. Let me – You’re not running a temperature, are you, Danny? Perhaps we need to get you to bed. How fast your heart is beating. Do I make you nervous? There’s no need to be. I don’t bite. There. That wasn’t so bad, was it?
“Danny? Are you there?”
“Who is this?”
His voice came out more sharply than he’d expected. Almost a bark. A copper’s bark. That must be a new experience for dear Joanne.
“Don’t you recognize your own mother, Danny?”
“My mother is dead. What do you want?”
“Is that a way to greet your mother, Danny? Your stepmother if you need to be so picky. It’s Joanne, Danny.”
“Yes, I know who you are. What do you want?”
“Don’t bite my head off. It’s your father, dear. He’s not well. You might want to come and see him, before – ”
“What’s wrong with him?”
“He’s getting on. Aren’t we all?”
An exaggerated sigh accompanied this question, which she couldn’t have expected an answer to. Unless this was meant as his cue to shower her with compliments. If so, she’d be disappointed.
“Besides, you have a little brother. Don’t you want to see him? He’s just like you. A spitting image, as they say.”
Daniel didn’t know what to say. The thought of another little boy in their hands made him feel a hint of panic building up inside him.
“You had a child?”
“Why shouldn’t I?”
For a second, Daniel’s mind made a leap which left him feeling dizzy and terrified. How old was that child? Who was his father? The black spots dancing before his eyes made him sit down, abruptly. That boy couldn’t be – surely –
“Are you still there, Danny? Can I count on you?”
Her voice, from all those years ago, suddenly echoed in his mind. Can I trust you, Danny? Yes, I know I can trust you, sweetie. Give me a kiss and show me you love me.
“Is he – seriously ill?”
“It’s hard to tell what’s serious, for a man his age. Now I’ve let you know the situation. It’s up to you if you want to come or not. I’m sure Willie would love to see his big brother, but you do as you please. Bye now, Danny, dear.”
And so he sat on the edge of his bed, heart pounding like it had that night, when he’d been sitting breathlessly on his bed, Joanne beside him, wearing only a flimsy negligee. Of course he’d been hot and flustered. She’d been sitting so close to him, he’d been terrified she’d notice how aroused her presence made him.
Of course she’d noticed. She’d engineered it that way, but it had taken him years to realize that. At the time, he’d been convinced it was all his fault. There had been some kind of flaw inside him, and he’d first thrown himself into his stepmother’s arms, then – what his father had done, had followed.
Fair enough. He’d been fourteen. All the blokes at school and half the teachers too, fancied Joanne. Everyone said so. What he’d felt hadn’t been wrong, it was what she’d done, what she’d made him do. Even that might not have been so surprising. She was younger than her husband, and Daniel had a feeling she’d always targeted older men. Perhaps she’d been fed up with the old, sagging, sweaty flesh.
It was what his father had done which really hurt. They were family. Blood relations. Joanne’s games with her stepson hadn’t bothered his father at all. Instead, he’d happily joined in.
Daniel wondered bitterly if his father had lived one moment of hell because of what he’d done. Here he was, still paying the price and there they were, going about their lives, as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. As far as they were concerned, all that had happened was that their son – his son and her stepson – had grown up into a thug. He’d acted out and been taken into care, later to be turned over to his grandmother.
The thought of his grandmother finally brought a hesitant smile to Daniel’s lips. She’d healed him. Never in the seven years he’d had with her, had she referred to what the social workers must have told her. She’d never mentioned what he’d done at school or around the neighbourhood. All she’d ever done was take care of him and protect him from her own son and his new wife.
When he’d watched the soil being shovelled over her grave, he’d finally closed and locked the door on his past and forced himself to take on the appearance of another Daniel. Without her love, he would have been that other Daniel.
With an effort, he forced his mind back to the present. He had a decision to make. Go and see his father, who might be terminally ill – or – as he really wanted – try his best to forget Joanne had called. He knew it would be safest to supress the memories and get on with his life. Never before, since his own mother had died, had his life been so – promising and pleasant. If he did something to jeopardize that, would he ever get it back?
That night, he couldn’t sleep. He tossed and turned until morning and when the mobile phone rang at six thirty, he’d come to a decision. It wasn’t one that brought him any joy, but at least he had reconciled himself to what he needed to do. He had to face his father one last time and confront him. Ask him why. Make him acknowledge what they’d done to him. Surely, he deserved that? If not – at least he’d tried. It might be necessary to find closure so he could finally move on.
That morning, he stood before his boss, Detective Chief Inspector Barnaby and asked for a few days off.
Barnaby looked up and studied his face for a moment before replying.
“Anything wrong, DS Scott?”
“No, sir. I just – I would just like a few days off.”
“For personal reasons?”
“Yes, for personal reasons.”
“Well, in that case – We’re not terribly busy at the moment, so by all means. Off you go then. We’ll manage.”
“Thank you, sir.”
Barnaby was still trying to come to terms with the new development in his personal life. At his age, he’d suddenly become a father again. He’d discovered that he had a son. A grown up son. Fortunately, it was a man he already knew and liked. Gavin Troy, his own former sergeant. That was a remarkable coincidence.
His wife and daughter were busy helping Gavin sort out his adopted father’s estate. As Gavin had been the sole heir, he’d inherited the lot, including a cat, which Barnaby still dreaded meeting. He’d been forced to stop visiting his daughter’s flat, though he had a notion she might not be living there for much longer. The thought of her moving in with Daniel Scott still made him slightly uneasy, though he knew that any fault lay with himself, not Daniel.
Daniel took the first train he could get a ticket for. He hadn’t fully realized how the people of Midsomer liked to travel to London to do their shopping, sightseeing or simply commuted to work, though it was rather too far to travel each day. Despite the rush for tickets, he’d managed to get one and was now sitting uncomfortably in his seat, watching the countryside flicker by outside the window.
A family with three children were bickering and making a nuisance of themselves nearby, but he hardly noticed. He was deep into his brooding. Not until now, did he recall that he hadn’t even rung Cully to let her know where he was going. It occurred to him that he hadn’t, because he couldn’t explain to her exactly why he was going.
The thought saddened him. After he and Cully had talked things through, the understanding was that there would be no secrets between them. She knew everything about him and still loved him. Suddenly, he felt trapped again, entangled in Joanne’s and his father’s sticky web and this time, he couldn’t blame his age or his innocence for his foolishness.
No one met him at the station, but he hadn’t expected that anyway. It now occurred to him that Joanne hadn’t told him their new address. Perhaps they were still at the old place. His face set and unconsciously, he clenched his fists again.
The train braked unexpectedly and two boys who had been fighting only inches from him, tumbled down almost onto his lap. A woman with a harsh working class accent shrieked.
“Oy, Cliff and Teddy, watch where you’re going. Look what you done. Ask the gentleman’s forgiveness, boys.”
“Not at all. I’m fine. It was just an accident. No harm done.”
She glared at him as if he didn’t really have any say in the matter. The two boys turned a deaf ear to their mother and to Daniel and he looked back at the window, instantly forgetting the altercation.
As his station approached, Daniel began to have second thoughts. He wanted to take the next train back to Midsomer and hide in the sleepy countryside. When he’d moved to his grandmother, he’d never imagined he’d be returning to his father’s house. Never in a million years, was how he would have put it. Yet here he was, walking the same old streets, like a lamb to the slaughter.
After a while, he told himself sternly to buck up. He was a grown man. A police officer. He’d find out what was ailing his father, then get out. As simple as that. What could they do to him now?
When he got to the street corner he stopped and collected himself. Every house looked familiar.
There, to the left of his father’s house, his friend Tommy used to live. Two houses up, and across from their place, Penny Jones used to live. He wished he could say, truthfully, that he’d lost his virginity with her, but that wouldn’t be true. Still, that was what he’d told Penny that afternoon, in the attic. Penny had been seventeen and – how did he put it charitably? – a bit of a tart.
All the boys at school and on their street claimed to have had sex with her. Daniel couldn’t help thinking that if that was true, she couldn’t have had time to do anything but lie on her back all day and all night too. That simply wasn’t possible, because she worked as a shop assistant and periodically as a ticket seller at the cinema.
In the house straight across from their house old mrs Miller used to live. She never missed anything that went on in the neighbourhood. He’d always thought she was the one who had reported them to the authorities. From her bedroom window, she could see his bedroom. He knew that, because he had used to stand on his chest of drawers and stare across the street, hoping to catch sight of one of the girls in the other flats.
No matter how hard he’d tried, he’d never managed that, but he had often seen her walk around her room, dusting old figurines or looking at old framed photographs. She must have seen his father and Joanne coming into his room too often. Joanne would often come, wearing nothing but her underwear or that flimsy neglige and his father would –
He bit his lip and forced himself to continue on his way. That was the past. Today, he was different. If they hadn’t changed, they had at least lost their power to manipulate him.
Resolutely, he rang the doorbell and waited. It wasn’t long until he heard the sounds of high heels clicking and the door was flung open. He felt a sudden stab at the pit of his stomach. She hadn’t changed at all in all those years. Even her perfume was the same. It took him a moment to realize that while she might not have changed much, he had. She was staring at him enquiringly, her hand on the doorknob. A door slammed and a boy of about ten or eleven burst into the hallway.
“Is that for me -”
“Excuse me, can I help you?”
Daniel was at a loss for words. All he could do was stand there, frozen to the spot, watching her face, searching for a sign of recognition.
She frowned in concentration, then her face lit up.
“Daniel, is that you? I wouldn’t have recognized you. Willie, this is your big brother I was telling you about.”
“Oh? Hello. What are you doing here?”
“Hello, Willie. I’m Daniel.”
“Mum, I’m going out. Tim’s waiting for me.”
“Alright, go on then, love. Have fun. Danny, why don’t you step inside?”
He was forced to pass by her so closely, her elbow brushed his arm and he pulled back violently. She pretended not to notice and closed the door firmly. Smiling invitingly, she held out her hands for his coat and he found himself handing it over, not knowing what else he could do. She hung it up and made a big show of smoothing out some imaginary wrinkles. He couldn’t stand to watch her so he fixed his eyes at a point above her head.
“Now then. I’ve got the kettle on in the kitchen. Why don’t you sit down and I’ll make us a nice cup of tea.”
She gestured towards the open kitchen door. He decided to humour her and walked through the door ahead of her, though he knew she’d always tried to drill into him how polite it was of a man to let a lady pass through a door first. A lady that was. Joanne might have more self-knowledge than he was giving her credit for.
“Where’s my father?”
“All in good time, Danny. You might have changed on the outside, but you’re still that impatient little boy on the inside. Sit.”
Mutely, he obeyed. She seemed to be making a big show out of setting out cups and saucers and bowls and pitchers. Now he recalled that she’d always been that way. Everything had to be just so. Her words. She lay out a selection of biscuits and a large piece of cake. Daniel watched her hands moving, quickly and elegantly. The fingernails were still a deep blood red. Those hands had – No. It was over. He was free of her now.
“Well, your manners don’t seem to have improved. When they told me you’d become a copper I couldn’t believe it. You could have knocked me over with a feather. I expect it must be quite a change, chasing after little hooligans smashing windows and slashing tires now.”
“I’m a Detective Sergeant. I don’t chase children.”
“Very well, dear. I’m sure you’re a very efficient police officer.”
“Joanne, let’s cut to the chase. Where is my father?”
“He’ll be back shortly, dear. Don’t be so impatient, now that you’re finally here.”
“What’s wrong with him?”
“Like I told you, he’s getting on a bit and lately, he’s seemed – weaker. He’s had spells.”
“Spells of what exactly?”
“He’s been ill – dizzy, sick.”
“Has he seen his doctor?”
“You know how he is. How could I make him do anything? He’s always been so stubborn.”
Daniel hadn’t seen his father that way. With Joanne he’d always been very docile, but he could tell Joanne wasn’t going to be swayed from her way of seeing things.
“You’ll see for yourself soon enough. He’ll be back in about – half an hour. Now, tell me what you think of your little brother.”
What could he say? He’d seen the boy for all of thirty seconds and he hadn’t been given a very warm welcome by him. At a guess, Joanne hadn’t told him about his older brother until recently.
“He looks like you.”
“Do you think so? Well, he is a very pretty boy, but I think he’s more like his father – or you.”
It was with relief that Daniel calculated that there was no possibility whatsoever that he was the father of Joanne’s son. That boy couldn’t be more than eleven at the most. By that time in his life, he’d been living with his grandmother.
“He’s doing well in school and is ever so well-behaved.”
He could almost hear her saying what was on her mind. Not like you. Seized with a sudden rage, he wanted to tell her that he would never have become a ‘young hooligan’ as she put it, if she hadn’t –
With an effort, he controlled himself. His father would be back soon and when he’d reassured himself there was nothing seriously wrong with the old man, he’d be leaving. If there was no train ticket to be had, he’d spend the night at a hotel. Nothing in the world could get him to stay for a moment longer than necessary.
She fussed around him, pouring his tea, asking if he took one or two lumps and faked amazement, when he refused to take any sugar at all. When she’d tried to offer him biscuits and cake three times, she finally go the message and he thought she was going to sit down. Instead, she appeared again, by his side, this time gripping his chin. He pulled back violently, again, and this time, he grabbed her wrist, hard, and moved her hand away from the vicinity of his face.
“Stop it, Joanne.”
“What’s the matter, Danny? You weren’t always this – cold.”
His face heated up and he was torn between his wish to have it out with her right away and the fear of a confrontation with her. If he recalled correctly, her temper was extremely trying and he didn’t feel up to challenging her. In the end, he said nothing.
The silence felt oppressing and he looked around the kitchen to find a distraction. He didn’t recognize the curtains, and the decorations seemed to be new as well. In fact, he thought they had had the place fixed up.
It was hardly surprising. He’d been gone for half a lifetime. Everywhere, he detected Joanne’s touch. The way he remembered the house, his mother had been responsible for most of the furnishings and the decorations. Joanne had finally had her wish. She’d removed every trace of his mother.
If his grandmother hadn’t made sure he received some of his inheritance after his mother, he would have been left without a single keepsake. Most of it was kept in storage here in London, but now that he and Cully were planning a home of their own, he’d send for it. Perhaps, he’d end up considering Midsomer his home, after all. Of course, there were times when Cully couldn’t wait to get out of there. If so, they might make their home anywhere. London wasn’t the only city in England.
At last, he heard the front door open and close and heavy, dragging steps could be heard coming towards the kitchen. Joanne got up and met her husband in the doorway.
“Look who’s here, Raymond. Danny’s dropped by for a visit.”
Unlike Joanne, his father had changed drastically. He seemed to have shrunk and was now walking with his back slightly hunched over. His face was a sickly yellowish tinge and the eyes, which used to be steely and cool, were now watery and weak. The old man squinted at him, seemingly without a trace of recognition in his gaze.
For some reason, Daniel blushed under the close scrutiny.
“Dad, it’s me. Daniel.”
The old man’s face was lit up by a smile, which seemed to Daniel to be – lacking in – mental sharpness. Was his father going senile? Or had he taken to drinking? There seemed to be a slight hint of a smell of alcohol on his breath, but it might just have been his imagination.
Daniel froze, when he felt the old man’s hand on his face. An awkward pat delivered with a slightly shaking hand. He steeled himself and was able to keep still. It was over so soon, he almost didn’t mind.
“Daniel. What a nice surprise. It must be – ten, fifteen years since you were last here. Joanne. What are we having for supper? Give the boy a treat. Fish and chips? Or is it steak and kidney pie you fancy, son? Go on, tell me. No, no, we’ll get lamb and mint. Or steak. Joanne? What do we have?”
“Willie wants fish fingers and mashed potatoes. That’s good enough for both of you.”
Daniel opened his mouth to say he wasn’t staying for dinner, but he closed it again without a word. His father did look ill. Perhaps it was nothing more than old age, but the old man couldn’t be more than – sixty or so.
Joanne busied herself serving her husband tea, then sat down in between the two men. She placed one lump of sugar in her own cup and stirred it with her spoon, her hand prententiously angled.
They finished their tea in silence and Joanne got up and began to remove the china.
“I know you’ll have much to talk about so I’ll just get started on the dishes. Go on. Don’t mess up the sitting room, Raymond. Sit in front of the telly. On the sofa. Off you go.”
Daniel watched his father get to his feet, then unsteadily walking into the hallway. There had to be either a medical reason for that gait, or he’d taken to drinking.
The other room, where the tv was occupying a place of honour, still looked the same. That might be explained by the fact that it had been his father who had planned it, not his mother.
Daniel sat down at the edge of the sofa and watched his father drop down beside him. Any thought he might have had of confronting his father vanished. This pathetic wreck of a human being wouldn’t be capable of answering for his actions.
In a way, Daniel felt as if he’d wasted a trip, but somehow, it helped, seeing his father this way. The man who had abused him as a child was gone, replaced by this weak old man. He had a feeling that replacing his memories of the big, strong man with this, might help remove some of the pain.
“I never thought I’d see you again, Danny. You must stay and get to know your brother. He’s a fine lad, just like -”
It seemed his father recalled the circumstances of his leaving. The question was, did he remember what had caused his transformation into the troublemaker?
“I really can’t -”
“Please, Danny. I’ve missed you so much. You remind me of your mother. Do you remember her, Danny?”
“Yes, of course.”
“So lovely. She was a kind, gentle woman. Tell me what it is you do again, Danny.”
“I’m a police officer, dad. A detective sergeant.”
“Oh, of course. Your mother would have been so proud of you.”
Daniel was hoping so too, but while his mother was still alive, he had been torn between becoming a bus conductor or a fireman. Big red fire engines had been an important part of his life at that time, though no more so than his mother.
In the end, he found himself unable to disappoint the old man and Joanne made up the guestroom. His old room seemed to be occupied by Willie. Apart from some sly, meaningful glances, Joanne didn’t try anything, and Daniel did his best to hold back the sharp remarks which were taking shape on his tongue.
Towards eight thirty, his younger brother returned from his friend and after having his dinner of fish fingers and mashed potatoes, he went up to bed, without doing any homework. At least that was the impression Daniel had. The door was slammed shut and soon the sound of deafening rap music could be heard from his room.
As Daniel was passing his old room, he’d caught a glimpse of a tv set and guessed that it was that, and no stereo playing. The bass sounds were shaking the entire house.
He was about to turn out the light, when he heard his father calling his name. His entire body tensed up and he found it hard to breathe. The voice called out again and now he could hear Joanne approaching his room. His hands were clenching of their own accord and he knew he was preparing to defend himself. Joanne, however, stopped in the doorway, looking at him with an odd expression on her face.
“Your father’s asking for you. He wants to say goodnight. Are you too fancy for your old family or could you spare a moment to talk to your old man?”
Daniel swallowed hard and got up, off the bed. He was feeling at a disadvantage, wearing nothing but his undershirt and shorts, but Joanne’s eyes never changed expression and after a while, he managed to squeeze by her.
His father was lying propped up by several pillows, making it look as if he was in the hospital. Again, Daniel was struck by his odd facial colour. It looked yellow, with an undertone of grey. Even the eyes looked jaundiced.
“Danny. I’m so glad you came.”
He didn’t know what to say, so he forced himself to smile, feeling like a hypocrite. His father began to fumble for something on the bed and since Joanne had apparently gone to say goodnight to her son, there was no one to help him.
“What are you looking for, dad?”
“A pillow. I can’t breathe like this. Would you put it behind my back, please. The smog isn’t doing these old lungs any good.”
He found an extra pillow lying between them and tried to banish the memories of lying exactly in the same spot. Sandwiched between them – No. He bit his lip again and was able to place the pillow behind the old man’s back without losing his outward calm.
“Thank you, my boy.”
To Daniel’s embarrassment, his father now patted his hand lightly. The touch didn’t produce the same revulsion as earlier. He was losing his fear of his father. Who could feel threatened by this pathetic old wreck?
He returned to his room and closed the door, hoping that this time, Joanne would leave him alone. For some reason, he was able to fall asleep but he slept badly and kept waking up. He thought he heard doors opening and closing during the night and at least two different people walking. The odd thing was that the second set of footsteps didn’t sound at all like his father’s did today. It definitely wasn’t the boy’s. He decided that he must have been dreaming and remembering how his father had walked all those years ago.
Towards five thirty, he gave up any hope of going back to sleep and he dressed quietly and left, before anyone should think to stop him. He felt like a coward, for not saying goodbye to his father, but he’d had it with that house. In a week or two, he’d ring the old man and ask if he’d been to see his doctor, but at the moment, all he wanted was to return home.
Home? Had Midsomer become his home now? If he hadn’t been feeling so sombre, he might have laughed at the idea. Daniel Scott – living in the sticks? Ridiculous. Yet, the thought of Midsomer wasn’t as unpleasant as it had used to be. Now, it seemed like a safe refuge.
He reported to work, only slightly late. His boss expressed surprise to see him back so soon.
“Back already, DS Scott?”
“Yes, I was able to finish my – business early, so I thought I might as well get back to work.”
“Suit yourself. Let’s go then. There’s a child missing, and a known paedophile has been seen in the neighbourhood.”
“Sir? If there’s no body, isn’t this a job for our uniformed colleagues?”
“Normally it would be, but – the child’s father is an MP and – you see what I mean?”
They spent the morning overseeing the search and towards noon, they had word the paedophile had been caught by a frenzied mob and was hurt. He had been sent to the hospital. Barnaby and Daniel were about to go and interview him, when there was a disturbance some distance from the village green.
Barnaby had just sat down with a cup of coffee and nodded in the direction of the growing noise.
“Would you find out what’s going on, DS Scott? I’ll just take a few more sips and -”
He was met by a uniformed policeman with an odd smile on his lips.
“What seems to be the trouble?”
“Nothing, sir. In fact, quite the opposite. Turns out the young lady was down by the river picking flowers with a friend. They’d caught sight of a swan and had been entranced. Neither of the young ladies thought to return home to reassure their parents.”
“Are you saying the girl has been found?”
“Safe and sound, sir. She’d merely lost all track of time.”
“That’s good news. Her parents must be relieved. I wonder what Perkins was doing here though. If he was targeting another child, we’d better find out. I’ll report back to the DCI. Thank you.”
“My pleasure, sir.”
Barnaby was up on his feet by the time Daniel got back and he made his report promptly.
“That’s quite a relief. I was beginning to fear the worst. As you say, we should question Perkins though. If he was up to his old tricks we’ll need to find out.”
At the hospital, they found Perkins battered and bruised but no less defiant than was his habit. He glared angrily at them and acted as if he’d been the innocent victim of a village mob.
“Come to take my statement, officers?”
“Yes. Perkins, what were you doing in the village?”
“Playing the hounds, of course. Your lot stopped me from collecting my winnings.”
“I see. And you haven’t been up to your old tricks again?”
“This is police harassment. I’ll get legal -”
“You do that.”
“What’s all the fuss about anyway? Did some posh old bugger’s dog get lost or something?”
“No. A little girl was missing and – you know perfectly well that was why you were attacked. People in the village feared you might have had a hand in her disappearance.”
“A girl? How old?”
“I don’t see that it’s any of your business, but she is nine years old.”
“Bloody stupid coppers. Don’t you know how to read? You thought I’d – befriended a nine-year-old girl? Why on earth would I want to do that? If you’d read my file, you’ll see that I am – fond of boys, teenage boys. I don’t even like girls. They’re tiresome, shrieking little things. Always skipping about. I can’t see how anyone can find them – interesting. Besides, I’ve been to see my shrink as I was told to. Behaving myself. I’m a reformed character. You’ll never see me near a school again.”
“Let’s hope so, Perkins.”
“If you’re thinking of harassing me again, I’ll ring my – ”
“Yes, so you told me. Listen, Perkins. Stay here and rest and we’ll look into your story. If we find that you haven’t been approaching any boys here, we’ll let you go. For your own safety, you’d better leave. Go back to London as soon as you can. As you can see, you’re not welcome here.”
“I have as much right to be here as anyone. Don’t think you can intimidate me with all that copper’s talk.”
“Remember what I’ve said, Perkins.”
When Daniel walked into his boss’ office, Barnaby was pulling out a handkerchief and wiping his forehead. All the walking about had obviously tired him out. This reminded Daniel of his father and he was wondering how the old man was doing. Then there was the case. It had been – upsetting, despite the happy ending. Perkins had been into teenage boys. Being near him, had made Daniel feel uncomfortable again.
“Well, that was lucky. It’s not often you find the suspected victim alive and well. Oh, just before you walked in, I received a call from the race track. Apparently, Perkins had been there all morning and after that, he was attacked and sent to the hospital. It seems we can’t hold him on any charges. In fact, we’ll need to look into that lynch mob. We might have to charge some of them.”
The phone rang again, and Barnaby picked up the receiver. He didn’t say much, but listenend intently. During the course of the conversation, his eyes turned to his sergeant and he studied him closely. He nodded confirmation, then checked himself, realizing the person he was speaking to couldn’t see him.
“Yes. I will. Thank you.”
Now the look in his eyes was grave as he fixed his gaze on Daniel.
“DS Scott – Daniel – I’m sorry, but I have some bad news. Your father – is dead.”
“Dead? But he can’t be. I just saw him last night and he seemed – ”
Fine? Not really, but at least he hadn’t given any impression of being that seriously ill.
“You saw him last night?”
“Yes, I went up to London and – visited my family.”
“Right. I’m afraid there’s more. Your father – seems to have been murdered.”
“Yes. Someone appears to have suffocated him.”
Daniel suddenly felt faint and he sat down, without having been asked.
Barnaby gravely studied his sergeant’s reaction.
There was a look of incomprehension on Daniel’s face as he tried to make sense of the news.
“I don’t understand. Who could have wanted to -”
He broke off, realizing that there was at least one person with a strong motive. Someone who had every reason to want to see the old man punished. His son.
“I don’t know much more than what I’ve just told you but we’ll learn more shortly, I expect. However, the officer in charge of the investigation will want to question you. As you seem to have been on the scene.”
“When did they say my father died?”
“They didn’t say, but he was discovered dead early this morning. Around seven thirty. When did you leave?”
“About five thirty.”
Barnaby’s eyebrows shot up. That seemed unusually early, for a man who had taken a few days off. Why had Daniel suddenly wanted to return to work?
Daniel stared at Barnaby, as if trying to sense his reaction. Did his boss suspect him already? Was that how little trust he placed in his colleague? Sadly, Daniel reminded himself that perhaps he hadn’t seemed all that reliable, considering his indiscretions in his spare time. He didn’t know if mrs Barnaby had told her husband about her infidelity, but in any case, Barnaby himself would remember what had occurred between them.
“Yes. I wanted to get back here. To work.”
He could hear how lame that explanation sounded, even in his own ears. Barnaby, who had years of experience as a police officer, would no doubt be able to detect the lack of sincerity.
“I’m sure it’s just a formality. There will be traces of a burglary gone wrong or – who knows – your father probably had some enemy or someone who wanted him dead. Try not to worry about the questioning. I had the impression they’re going to send someone here. You won’t have to return to London just for that.”
“Really? That sounds like a lot of trouble on my account.”
“You have your work here. I’m sure they’re understanding. Now, unless there was something else you wanted to tell me, perhaps we should get on with our work.”
“Yes, of course, sir.”
Daniel couldn’t get Barnaby’s suspicious gaze out of his mind. It seemed to him that he was already a suspect and he didn’t even know the full circumstances of the crime yet.
Somehow, he got through the day, but again, he found it hard to sleep. Cully rang and wanted to know how he was doing. He put her off, rather curtly and the second she’d hung up, he wanted to ring her again, to explain and apologize. Instead, he lay back on his bed, trying to get to sleep. Last night, he’d had practically not sleep and the night before, it had been just as bad. It was amazing how tired he could get, without automatically falling asleep.
The following morning, he was sent to Barnaby’s office, hoping to learn more about his father’s death. This time, Barnaby looked decidedly sombre.
“Daniel, I have to tell you that – there seems to be some kind of physical evidence linking you to the scen of crime.”
“But that’s impossible. I swear to you that I didn’t kill my father. Do you believe I’m guilty, sir?”
“Calm down, Daniel. The officer who is to question you will be here shortly. You’d better take a moment and reflect on what happened the day before yesterday. Were you in your father’s bedroom that night?”
“Yes. My stepmother came to tell me that he wanted to say goodnight, so I went. He – oh, now I see what they’re talking about.”
“He asked me to put another pillow behind his back and I did.”
“I see. That explains it. Just tell the officer that and you’ll see, it should be alright.”
“Has the M E’s report come in yet?”
“If it had, I wouldn’t be given a copy, as you well know, Daniel. I did hear that your father was suffocated with a pillow.”
Daniel’s face lost all colour and again, he was forced to drop down into a chair.
“My fingerprints were on the murder weapon? No.”
“Daniel, pull yourself together. Just tell the truth and it will be alright. I think it would be best if you took a day or two off. Clearly this has been a bad shock to you and perhaps you’ll feel better if you -”
“Are you relieving me of duty, sir?”
“You look unwell, Daniel. Are you getting enough sleep?”
“What’s that got to do with anything?”
“I’m merely concerned about your health. Cully will be too. After the interview, go home. Lie down. We’ll manage without you.”
“They’ll say I did it.”
“Nonsense. Daniel, pull yourself together. The officer who will question you will be here any minute now. You’ll need to calm down.”
Daniel stared at his boss, an agonized look in his eyes, making Barnaby wonder if perhaps there was more to this affair than Daniel was letting on. What was he hiding?
Barnaby was uncomfortably reminded of the night they’d almost – What had finally broken the spell had been a word spoken in a whisper, so faint that Barnaby had had difficulty catching it, but he didn’t think he was mistaken. Daniel had said ‘daddy’, as he was about to –
Even at the time, Barnaby had felt that was an indication that his sergeant could have been the victim of sexual abuse as a child. If that was the truth, didn’t that give him a strong motive for wanting his father dead?
With some effort, Barnaby got up and placed a hand on Daniel’s shoulder, in an attempt to show his support, despite everything. Daniel’s reaction was startling in its fierceness. He pulled away and got to his feet, his back against the wall. For a second, the look in his eyes was so tormented, Barnaby was filled with pity, while at the same time, his mind began to speculate on what Daniel’s reaction might mean.
At once, Daniel realized how his boss would interpret his actions and he tried desperately to think of something to say, to explain away his reaction. He couldn’t think of any, so in the end, he merely mumbled an apology and left.
Only five minutes or so later, the officer from London arrived. To his surprise, it was a young, black woman. She seemed to notice his reaction and smiled rather condescendingly, it seemed to Daniel.
“Then I’ve found the right person. Where can we speak in private?”
Daniel searched his mind and all he could come up with was one of the interrogation rooms.
“We have a few interrogation rooms. This way, please.”
She made no comment on the choice of location, merely nodded.
Once inside, they sat down facing each other, making Daniel feel as if he was a teenager again, being interrogated about yet another building which had been vandalized. Once it had been arson, but that time, he hadn’t been guilty and the coppers had found the perpetrator almost right away.
“You realize this isn’t a formal interrogation?”
“Yes. Of course. Go ahead.”
“You went to see your family in London on the day before your father’s death? Was that a common occurrance? Your visiting your family, I mean.”
“I see. May I ask why you suddenly decided to visit your family since you obviously hardly ever do so?”
“My stepmother rang me and told me that my father had taken ill. I was concerned and I felt I had to take a look for myself.”
“I see. When did you arrive?”
“In the early afternoon.”
“Right. What happened?”
“You know, what did you do?”
“Oh. My stepmother made tea and quite soon my father came in and we had tea together.”
“And after that?”
“My father and I went into the other room and sat there talking.”
“Reminiscing about the past. He mentioned my mother and my profession, for instance.”
“Your biological mother?”
“She’s been dead -”
“Since I was eight.”
“Right. Then you had a stepmother. When?”
“Oh, I must have been about twelve. I don’t recall exactly. She showed up quite soon after the funeral, but didn’t move in until several years later.”
“I see. Did you two get along?”
Daniel hesitated. What could he say that wouldn’t be a complete lie, but still left out the truth? For once, he felt he had some understanding for the suspects he would bring into this room and how they’d struggle to leave out the important bits while still not lying outright.
“She was my stepmother. I missed my mother. No, I can’t say I was thrilled at first.”
“Well, I suppose I got used to her.”
“She’s a very attractive lady. I’ve been told she was – the talk of the neighbourhood.”
“Don’t tell me you didn’t know that. Didn’t your friends at school mention her?”
“I suppose so. It was a long time ago.”
“Quite. You must have been – thirteen – fourteen?”
“Something like that.”
“Let’s return to the evening you spent at your father’s house. You spent the night there?”
“You went up to your room – the guestroom?”
“Did you leave your room at any time during the night?”
“Not during the night. I went in to say goodnight to my father, but otherwise, I stayed in the guestroom until the morning.”
“When did you leave?”
“Around five thirty.”
“That’s quite early.”
“I wanted to get back to work.”
“Right. Did you hear anyone come in or leave the house during the night?”
Daniel hesitated. He hadn’t heard anyone enter, but he had heard people walking around. Was it worth mentioning or – since he’d dismissed it as a dream – was it irrelevant? He found it hard to decide, but in the end, he came to the conclusion that he might as well be honest. After all, he hadn’t done anything wrong.
“I did hear people walking about the house.”
“The family members?”
“One of them sounded like Joanne – my stepmother – but the other person wasn’t familiar. I was wondering if I might have been dreaming. The other set of footsteps sounded somehow more – forceful than my father’s. Than the way he is now, I mean. More like when he was younger.”
“And you’re sure it wasn’t your stepbrother?”
“No, but I really don’t think it was. He’s only about ten or eleven. The impression I had of him was that he’d be running and slamming doors. You know.”
“Yes. I do know. So you think it could have been someone else, someone not part of the household?”
“If I heard correctly, then yes. I didn’t sleep very well in that unfamiliar bed and my mind was – ”
“On my work. I felt guilty for taking some days off, without prior warning.”
The young sergeant’s eyes bored into him and he had an uneasy feeling she knew he was lying about that. What he’d been dwelling on hadn’t been the job, but the past. His memories of life in that house.
“I see. When you were saying goodnight to your father, did you touch anything in his bedroom?”
“Yes. A pillow. He was asking me to put another pillow behind his back and I did.”
“You touched a pillow?”
“You might not know this, but one of those pillows was the murder weapon. It’s just been confirmed. Fibres from the pillow case were found in your father’s lungs.”
Daniel swallowed nervously. The pillow he’d been touching. Just as he’d feared, it had been the murder weapon.
“Well, that explains how your fingerprints came to be on it. I thought it was odd. Why would you touch your father’s pillows? But now I see.”
Daniel felt himself squirm under her close scrutiny. What exactly did she see? Her questions about his relations with Joanne had made him uncomfortable. He had the impression she knew and was only toying with him.
She got up and held out her hand towards him. She hadn’t shook his hand when she arrived, but suddenly she wanted to do it now.
Daniel too got up and let her take his hand. She made eye contact and held his gaze rather too long for comfort.
As she was leaving, she turned and fired off a few last words.
“I hear you were quite a vandal at that age. The social services had some interesting information about you.”
She didn’t stop to hear his reply, but merely closed the door behind her.
Daniel sank back down on his chair, trying to collect his thoughts. She knew. There was no other explanation. The only question was why she hadn’t confronted him outright. His past provided a strong clue to a motive. Daniel knew that in her position, he’d have been forced to advance that theory sooner or later, in a similar case.
He’d been waiting to hear her say something like: Oh, by the way, I know that your parents sexually assaulted you. How did that make you feel? Come on, it must have made you feel resentful at the very least. Anyone would have hated a father who did what your father did to you. It would only be natural if you wished him dead. Did you? And if you did, did you act on that wish?
He might have used those exact same words. The suspect would have been forced to acknowledge the facts and try to explain that while he naturally had hated his parents, he had in fact not killed them. Or – the poor sod would have had to say that he had killed his parents or the one he felt was more guilty. To finally know peace of mind, if that was possible.
Daniel couldn’t help feeling that it was only a matter of time before DS Williams returned, alone or with some colleague to press him further. He’d done the same thing himself many times. It was a matter of getting under the suspect’s skin, making him feel that he was understood. Once the first barrier was down, the confession inevitably followed. Except it wasn’t always that easy. Some suspects were guilty of one of the crimes or of some other crime, but not the majority of what he stood accused of.
His years as a police officer had taught him that far more people than you might have expected had dirty little or not so little secrets. All of those secrets weren’t necessarily crimes. They could merely be something the suspect would rather risk anything than admitting to.
Like his secret. He would rather have died than tell that smug, condescending bitch about his past, and now, she knew anyway. She’d have read the social worker’s report. There might not have been any details, but there was enough to provide her with plenty of fodder for her imagination.
Daniel scowled at the memory of her questions with their ambiguous undertones. The door opened and his boss looked in, catching the angry expression on his sergeant’s face.
“There you are. Didn’t I tell you to go home? Off you go.”
Daniel hurriedly got up and nodded agreement. After his performance earlier, he knew he couldn’t afford to arouse any more suspicions.
“Yes, sir. Thank you.”
He barely had time to reach his flat, before the doorbell rang. Half expecting it to be Cully, he resignedly opened the door, only to find two colleagues standing outside. One of them was that intolerable DS Williams. The other was unknown to him. She was about forty, tall and well dressed, with a vague face, without any distinguishing features, which partly drew attention away from the penetrating, intelligent eyes.
“DS Scott? I’m DCI Hill. You already know my colleague. Would you come with us please?”
“We’d like to ask you some further questions. In London.”
“Am I under arrest?”
The older woman nodded gravely. She turned to her colleague, who seemed to have been waiting for her cue. She cautioned him and for a moment, Daniel was afraid they’d cuff him as well. In the end, they merely escorted him downstairs, to a waiting car. A constable was driving, while DS Williams took the seat beside him. DCI Hill sat beside Daniel. All the way back to London, they sat in silence.
Daniel couldn’t help remarking that DCI Hill was unusually young to have made Detective Chief Inspector. He had a feeling his own boss hadn’t been promoted quite that soon. The thoughts of Barnaby, made him think of Cully. What would she be thinking when she found out that he was under arrest – suspected of murdering his father?
He had to try and collect himself. They’d let him see his counsel. Whoever that was, could get in touch with Cully, unless Barnaby did that himself. Daniel had no doubt his boss would have been informed. That was a matter of course, when a police officer was placed under arrest. He’d never thought that knowledge would apply to himself.
Barnaby put down the receiver, a frown on his face. His worst fears were being realized. Daniel Scott had already been taken away for further questioning in London. Worse, he’d been placed under arrest. No longer would he be ‘helping the police in their enquires’.
After considering the matter closely, he reached for the phone again and punched in his wife’s number. He knew he ought to tell Cully first, but he was stalling for time. His daughter would be devastated and he didn’t feel up to disillusioning her just yet.
“Darling, it’s me. I’m afraid Daniel Scott has been arrested and taken to London for questioning.”
“Arrested? For the murder of his father?”
“Yes. I don’t know that much about it, just yet, but of course, this is a serious matter.”
“Cully will be distraught.”
“That’s why I was – hoping you could tell her. I think I’m going up to London, myself.”
“Are you going to help Daniel?”
“I’ll do my best. Try to console Cully the best you can. When I know more, I’ll be in touch.”
He took his own car, rather than trying to explain to his own superiors why he’d used a police car for what might be described as personal reasons. On the way, he used the hands-free and rang an old friend at CID.
“Harvey, Barnaby here. I could use a favour.”
“Tom? Go right ahead. The last time I checked, I owed you one or two anyway.”
“Thanks. My sergeant, Daniel Scott has been arrested for the murder of his father. I – I’d feel better if I could verify the facts myself. You see, I know this young man and I find it hard to believe that he’d -”
“Who’s in charge of the investigation, do you know?”
“A DCI Hill.”
“Ah, yes. The brilliant young prodigy. Hm. Yes. She likes to keep her own counsel. Difficult woman, if you ask me. All these modern officers have these new-fangled ideas and – but that wasn’t what you asked. Right. I’ll see what I can do. Anything specific?”
“I was wondering, did the victim and his wife or well, my sergeant’s stepmother, have a criminal record of any kind? Even if the charges were later dropped, I’d like to know.”
Barnaby swerved to avoid a rabbit and lost his concentration for a while. By the time he’d regained control of the vehicle, his friend was talking again.
“I said, I’ll have it looked into and let you know. You’re still in Midsomer, aren’t you?”
“Yes, but I’m going up to London right now, to see if I can be of any help.”
“Alright, Tom. What’s really going on? Why the sudden concern about a sergeant?”
“He’s my daughter’s fiance.”
“Oh. Why didn’t you say so right away? That makes it tricky. Damnably tricky. I don’t suppose I need to tell you that. It might be interpreted as if you’re – personally involved.”
“I know, but I’m sure you can see my position.”
“Of course. How is little Cully? Remarkable, how time flies. It seems like yesterday when she was this little girl with ponytails, hanging about the stable. Funny, I half expected to see her become a professional.”
“She’s fine. Or – was until this -”
“Quite. Very well. I’ll do my best. It would be a crying shame if this sergeant of yours broke her heart.”
“Daniel Scott. Wasn’t that – oh. Bad luck all round, eh?”
“As you say.”
“Brilliant young officer. Hard to imagine that he’d do such a thing – but then again, you never know. With personal feelings involved -”
“Let’s hope he is innocent.”
“Yes, yes. Well, I’ll let you know anything I can find. I don’t mind telling you that I’d like to see that self-satisfied bitch burn her fingers on a case. She’s had far too much smooth sailing, if you ask me. Nothing like a bit pf adversity to sharpen a good officer’s senses. Right. I’ll have to get on with my work now. Give my best to Joyce.”
“Thanks, I will. Please, give my best to Ruth.”
Barnaby turned his full focus on his driving and arrived without incident at Scotland Yard. He gave his name at the reception desk and was told to go on up.
Harvey Smythe didn’t have time to see him, but a DI Johnson met him and took him to an empty office. He was told he could use that for the remainder of the day. A thin file lay on the table, and turned out to contain photocopies of the investigation into the murder of Daniel’s father.
DI Johnson stood at his elbow, making him feel as if the man was there to keep an eye on him. However, after Barnaby had taken a brief look at the file, the man cleared his throat. There was a strong smell of breath mints on his breath and Barnaby wondered if the man had a sore throat, a drinking problem or merely an inferiority complex.
“Sir – I was told to inform you that the murder victim didn’t have a criminal record. The wife, however, seems to have a bit of a motley past.”
Barnaby raised one eyebrow slightly.
“She’s been arrested twice for prostitution and it says somewhere that she was involved in the production of pornography.”
That was an odd way of putting it and Barnaby wondered if it was just part of the man’s personality to express himself that way, or if it had some hidden meaning.
“In what way?”
“Involved in the production of pornography – what does that mean?”
“Oh, the usual and – she seems to have been involved in recruiting actors.”
“Actors? Women, you mean?”
“Yes, but also young men.”
“I see. If that would be all, I’m not going to keep you, DI Johnson. Carry on.”
“Thank you, sir. If you need anything, let the secretary know. She’s right outside.”
“Thank you, I will.”
It was rather interesting, that the wife was dodgy, but at present, that didn’t really tell him anything. He was slightly disappointed that he hadn’t found any criminal record on the father. His theory was that the father alone or along with his wife had sexually assaulted Daniel.
That would at least explain – the odd behaviour his sergeant had evidenced that – not that Barnaby in any way excused himself. In a way, his own behaviour had been even more abnormal, but that wasn’t the purpose of his enquiries. He had to admit to himself that the incident had weighed on his mind and he’d felt guilty about it ever since that night. Perhaps, it wasn’t only out of concern for Cully, that he felt it necessary to conduct his own investigation.
The file, unfortunately, didn’t tell him much, so he was forced to consider requesting an interview with his sergeant. Once the prodigy had finished questioning Daniel, he didn’t think they would have any reason to refuse a visit from his superior.
As Joyce Barnaby hung up the phone, her newfound son, Gavin, walked in. They’d been sorting out his father’s estate and as a result, he’d ended up a bit grubby. He’d just finished cleaning himself up, using the upstairs bathroom, while his sister, Cully Barnaby, had been making use of the downstairs one. She was still recovering from her injuries sustained in a car crash a few months earlier.
“Is anything wrong, Joyce?”
“Yes. Daniel has been arrested.”
Cully had just walked in and she’d caught the last word.
“Who’s been arrested?”
Joyce turned anxiously towards her daughter. This would be a blow to Cully. Her fiance, arrested.
“Darling, sit down. I’m just about to explain.”
Cully sat down, but kept her eyes fixed on her mother’s face. She had sensed something about her mother’s tone of voice and was immediately concerned.
“Daniel has been arrested. His father was murdered the day before yesterday and – apparently, Daniel is considered a suspect.”
“But that’s nonsense, mum. Daniel’s father lives in London. Daniel hasn’t been there for years.”
“Apparently, he was there, the night in question.”
“What? That’s impossible. He would never see his family. They – didn’t get along.”
“I only know what your father told me, dear.”
“Gavin – we have to do something. Surely you see that he can’t possibly be guilty, both of you.”
Unfortunately, Gavin knew only too well, an incriminating circumstance which provided an all too credible motive for the murder.
Joyce too, recalled something, which might point in the direction of Daniel’s guilt. One night, not so long ago, Joyce had been unfaithful to her husband. She’d spent that night with Daniel, who later became her daughter’s fiance. Considering her daughter’s feeling for the young man, Joyce had never told her about it, but she recalled that Daniel had called her Joanne, and if she wasn’t mistaken, that was the name of Daniel’s stepmother. Didn’t that suggest a rather unnatural attachment between stepmother and stepson?
Joyce had no first hand experience of police work, but she had been married to a police officer for more than thirty years. She knew a thing or two about motives.
“Yes, well, of course, I’ll do what I can.”
“I’m coming with you.”
“No, Cully, please. You’ve been injured. Stay here and I promise I’ll keep in touch regularly.”
Cully’s voice held an imperative note. Unfortunately, for her, her normally so biddable mother, chose this moment to exercise her maternal authority. Rather more sharply than usually, she spoke up.
“No, Cully. Gavin’s right. You’re staying with me. It’s very kind of him to want to help Daniel, but there’s nothing you can do. You’re no police officer, dear, so leave that sort of work to the professionals.”
“But I -”
Cully broke off before she had time to reveal to her mother that she had on one particular occasion played detective and found out the truth about Daniel’s troubled past.
“Mum, please. He’s my fiance. I love him.”
“That’s exactly why you need to let Gavin do his work. Your dad is already trying his best too. Don’t worry. I’m sure they’ll soon find evidence to clear Daniel.”
Finding herself outnumbered, Cully gave in. She did have a slight headache, and the thought of a trip to London wasn’t appealing. It was just so infuriating to be forced to rely on others, when the man she loved was in trouble.
Gavin wasn’t sure what he could do, but he dutifully made arrangements to go up to London. He managed to get on a train and arrived, rather late in the evening. At first, he felt at a loss what to do. After all, this was strictly speaking not his case. He didn’t work in London, or for that matter, anywhere, at the moment. He’d resigned his job up north to be closer to his family and hadn’t found new job yet. The work on his father’s house took enough time as it was.
On the other hand, he did know his profession. If a man was killed in his own home, the neighbours normally had something to say. His first step would be to question the people living close to the murdered man. Neighbourly gossip usually held a kernel of truth in it.
Barnaby found that he’d been right. Harvey Smythe’s name, as well as his own position, made it easy to gain access to the suspect. They’d taken Daniel to a cell, but at his request, they moved him back to one of the interrogation rooms.
Even if Daniel had been shaken the last time Barnaby had seen him, the change that had occurred since then, was remarkable. His normally so well dressed sergeant, looked rather dishevelled, but the exterior was the least changed in comparison. There was a look of despair in his eyes, as if he’d given up all hope. Even the appearance of his boss, didn’t produce much of a reaction.
“Daniel. How are you doing?”
“Oh, you know -”
The vague reply wasn’t very reassuring and Barnaby hadn’t expected better.
“I know this is easier said than done, but try not to give up hope just yet.”
It was clear that Daniel was merely making assenting noises, not really paying attention to what was being said. Barnaby felt distinctly uncomfortable, bringing up the topic he knew would be necessary, but for Cully’s sake, he couldn’t give up on Daniel. Not before he knew for a fact that he was guilty. Even then, he felt he owed the boy any help he could give him.
“Daniel – forgive me for asking this, but – did your father sexually assault you?”
Daniel was finally shaken out of his lethargy. Suddenly, he seemed prepared to defend himself, physically, if need be.
“With all due respect, sir, you have no right to ask me that question.”
“Yes, I do. You’re Cully’s fiance. Of course I have the right. And if you want me to help you, you’d better answer me as truthfully as you can.”
“You think I killed my father, don’t you? You too.”
“I don’t know, Daniel. You gave me your word you didn’t kill your father, but – you have to admit that’s hardly the sort of thing one would freely admit to.”
“I didn’t kill my father, but if I had, I would have confessed right away, rather than cause Cully any pain. Any more than this must already be -”
“Yes, yes. Never mind that. Unless you deny it, I’m going to assume that you were abused by your father. By your stepmother too?”
Daniel opened his mouth to – was he really going to lie to his superior? – but he changed his mind. Barnaby was right. If he wanted help, and – it was extremely generous of his boss to put himself out like this – he had to be honest. So he didn’t say anything.
Barnaby repeated his question.
“Was your stepmother involved as well?”
After a brief pause, during which Daniel struggled with himself, he took a deep breath and replied.
“Why isn’t there any records of it? I had a friend look into your father’s and your stepmother’s past and there wasn’t nothing there of – that kind of thing.”
“I never admitted it. Of course, it was obvious that they knew, but I wouldn’t say anything.”
“But there has to be someone who knows?”
Daniel thought bitterly about Cully and Gavin, but immediately resigned himself to the situation. They had been justified in wanting to know who he was. After what he’d done, it was only natural that they’d want to know what was his motivation.
“A social worker. A doctor, I think. They tried to make me agree to a physical examination, but I refused.”
“If – Daniel, I’m not saying you killed your father – but if you did – this might be considered a mitigating circumstance.”
“It will also give me a motive. That can only strengthen their suspicions.”
“I know. Daniel, why didn’t you – denounce them? Were you still trying to protect them?”
Daniel shook his head.
“Why? You obviously don’t understand anything. I was fourteen. Just like every other boy at school and probably at least half the male teachers, I – fancied her. At first, it just seemed like a dream come true. Of course, I didn’t know that my father would – You really don’t get it, do you, sir? Try to imagine it was you. Would you like the world to know what you’d done?”
“What they’d done to you. If you had denounced them, they would have been punished for what they did. Didn’t you want justice?”
“Justice? No, I wanted it not to have happened. Since that wasn’t possible, I wanted to forget it ever did. Besides, it wasn’t just what they did. I did things too. I -”
By now, Daniel had lost his struggle to remain calm. Tears stung his eyes and he had to bite his lower lip to stop the sobs from breaking free. He turned away from Barnaby, seeking at least a measure of privacy.
Barnaby felt guilty for making Daniel relive his dark secret. In retrospect, he knew he’d sounded callous. So much like the conscientious copper, trying to ensure a conviction. Not enough concerned with the victim’s feelings. He put his hand in his pocket and found a tissue, or perhaps a paper napkin. In any case, it was clean and unused. He placed on the table in front of Daniel.
Daniel caught sight of the movement and whirled around. When he found the tissue, he checked himself, then picked it up and turned away again.
Barnaby waited, and some minutes later, Daniel appeared to be more in control again. The interview hadn’t given much so far, and Barnaby had a feeling the answer didn’t lie with Daniel at all.
However, there was still one more thing he wanted to say to his sergeant. He just wasn’t sure how his words would be accepted. Perhaps it would be best not to push it. Daniel was upset enough as it was. On the other hand, this might be exactly the time for it. He wanted to make things clear.
“Daniel – about that night -”
Somehow, there was never any doubt in Daniel’s mind about what night his boss was referring to. He’d dreaded this conversation ever since the incident had occurred. If Barnaby demanded an explanation of his actions, what would he say? He had no idea what had triggered his mortifying behaviour. But what his boss had to say wasn’t even a question.
“I – I’m dreadfully sorry. I don’t know what got into me. As you know, I’m not – In any case, it was unforgivable of me.”
“Oh. You – must have wondered.”
“Yes, well – It was entirely my fault. Don’t blame yourself for – ”
“I’ll try not to, sir.”
“Tom. Please. You know my name. I’m Cully’s father. You’re her fiance.”
“Try not to give up hope. I’ll look into the case again and see what I can come up with. There has to be some other evidence, implicating someone else. Perhaps the stepmother did it?”
“It’s possible. I’m not sure, but there also seemed to be someone else there that night. Judging by the sound of the footsteps, anyway. Whoever it was couldn’t have been my father or my younger brother.”
“You see. There has to be evidence someone was there.Then there’s the murder weapon, that pillow. You were placing it behind your father’s back. If you’d been using it to suffocate him, you’d have been holding it in a different way. The difference should be clear.”
“With all due respect, s- Tom, that’s very tenuous.”
“Forensics is an exact science, as you should know, Daniel.”
“Let’s face it, if they were going to find evidence to implicate someone else, they’d have already found it. It’s no use.”
“Daniel, that’s no way to be thinking. Trust me, I’ll -”
It just occurred to Barnaby that when he’d heard Daniel describe his visit to his family, there had been something that had struck him as not being quite right. He thought about it and realized that it had something to do with why Daniel had decided to go and see his family.
“Wait a minute. Didn’t you tell me that your stepmother rang you?”
“Yes. To ask me to come and visit them.”
“According to her statement, you showed up quite unexpectedly.”
“She has to be lying.”
“Yes, of course. The question is, why was she lying? I think – she invited you over so she could blame you for the murder. There’s something else too. In the postmortem report, there was something about medication. Large quantities of a drug. Too much, is what the M E said. Even if your father had been ill, that would have been too much, but he wasn’t ill. What you saw must have been the effects of the drug.”
“He wasn’t ill?”
“No. Nothing out of the ordinary for a man his age.”
“I see. That must be her doing. I wasn’t there more than once. How could I have administered any drug from Midsomer?”
“Exactly. I think she was going to pass his death off as natural, but then she had the idea of hurrying him along a little faster than she’d first planned. For that, she needed a scapegoat. You. Someone with a strong motive.”
“No, that doesn’t make sense. If the motive became known, she would have been implicated too.”
“Not if she intended to blame your father exclusively. He wasn’t around to say otherwise.”
“I could tell them.”
“When you didn’t the last time? She must have thought she was safe. Besides, with you as the prime suspect, she might have counted on you not being believed. Diabolical.”
“I suppose I should have admitted it. That way, her – part would have been documented. She might not have dared to kill my father.”
“Don’t count on it. There has to be a reason why she chose this particular time and I’m betting that won’t be so difficult to find out. I’ll look into it.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“And Daniel, forgive me for not understanding. I was too busy seeing the whole thing from a copper’s point of view. Not the victim’s. Of course it would have been too much to ask that a fourteen-year-old boy tell the police about – such an experience. When I was fourteen – I might have killed myself. I must say you were brave. To turn your life around and – not let your past stand in your way.”
“Except it did. I never allowed myself to – open up. In a way, it was all an act. The brilliant young police officer. Not me, just a character I was playing.”
“You did it well, in that case. Very well.”
“It’s kind of you to say so. When I met Cully, I finally let myself be me again.”
“I’m glad. You’ve made her very happy already. She hasn’t had much luck with her boyfriends earlier.”
“If you ask me, sir – I mean Tom, she’s still not having much luck.”
“Nonsense. I’ll go and talk to my friend now. Even if I don’t find anything right away, I’ll try to get them to let me see you again. Don’t give up hope, alright?”
“I’ll try not to.”
Barnaby called the guard and had to watch Daniel be taken away. Despite his promise not to give up hope, he looked miserable and dejected. It was hardly surprising. Usually, when a police officer was arrested, the other suspects in cells nearby would find out somehow and give the poor man a hard time.
Outside Smythe’s office, Barnaby ran into Gavin, to his astonishment.
“Gavin? What are you doing here?”
“Well, sir – Cully wanted me to look into the matter and I -”
“You went and played detective on your own. Alright. Did you find anything useful?”
“Yes, sir. That’s why I’ve been trying to get into this Harvey Smythe’s office for – over half an hour. It’s urgent. I think I know who killed Daniel’s father, sir – I mean Tom.”
“The widow – Joanne – has a friend – well, to be honest, a lover, and – he’s loaded. Everyone who knew them seemed to think it was only a matter of time before she took off. There was talk about – well, that she wanted to keep the house and what her husband still had in the bank.”
“Excellent work, Gavin. You have – documented everything, haven’t you?”
Gavin smugly patted his jacket pocket. In there, in his mobile phone, he had recordings of every interview. There was also a written record of the prinicipal witnesses. He hurriedly handed it all over to his father. When Barnaby tried his hand at approaching the great man, he was having better luck than his son. Five minutes after the secretary had announced his presence, the door opened to let him in.
Barnaby handed over the evidence and waited. His friend cast an eye on the sheet of paper, then eyed the mobile phone uncertainly.
“Tell me in your own words, briefly, what you know.”
Barnaby did so.
“This seems to be conclusive. I just learned that there was physical evidence indicating another man was present that night. We’ve just picked him up, along with the widow. Unfortunately, they’re blaming each other. The good news is, they’ve abandoned the claim that your sergeant did it.”
“So he’s free to go?”
“There shouldn’t be any difficulties. He’s cooperated fully, or so Hill and Williams tell me. Nasty business. Oh, there was a minor child on the premises. We have him here, awaiting transfer to social services. As you know, it’s rather difficult to find a suitable placement for a boy that age. We have far too many in need of help.”
“Of course. I was wondering – if perhaps you’d let my sergeant see the boy. It is his brother.”
“The lady appears to have had a rather wide circle of – friends. Over a period of time.”
“Oh. Still, the boy grew up believing he was the son of Daniel’s father. They could still be half brothers for all we know.”
“Certainly. He’s still here, as I said. I suppose a DNA test will find out for sure, but – by all means, let your sergeant speak to the boy.”
“Will you give the order for him to be released then?”
“Of course. I’ll do it now. If you’ll just wait a few minutes, I’ll have them take him to meet you here. Oh, and the boy, naturally. He’ll be taken here as well.”
“Don’t mention it, Tom.”
Barnaby joined his son outside, had a seat and waited. Only a few minutes later, Daniel appeared, carrying his tie in his hand and – stuffing his shoelaces into his jacket pockets. They’d certainly done his arrest by the book.
Gavin nodded in greeting.
“Gavin found the missing evidence.”
“Gavin? What were you doing here?”
“Oh, well, you see, Cully -”
So his fiancee hadn’t been able to resist playing detective again, with the help of her brother. It occurred to Daniel that Cully might have chosen to become a police officer herself. Having such an inquisitive mind, she would have been a natural.
“Oh. Well, thanks. Both of you. I appreciate your help.”
He would have appreciated keeping his privacy too, but under the circumstances, that did seem petty and he forced himself not to dwell on the past.
“Oh, Daniel. My friend Harvey sent for your brother, in case you’d like to have a word with him. Social services will be coming for him soon, but if you like -”
“Thank you, Tom. I’ll – try to talk to him. They will have explained to him already, I assume. About his mother and so on.”
“I should think so. Daniel – just one thing – he might not be your brother. It seems your stepmother had lovers over a period of several years so -”
“Why does that not surprise me? She certainly didn’t lack admirers.”
A female PC arrived, ushering a boy with her. The boy didn’t look particularly pleased to have been made to come. He caught sight of Daniel and called him by his first name. Not in a very friendly way, it seemed to Barnaby, but then the boy had had a bad shock recently.
“Hey, you. Daniel, right? These dumb coppers say my dad’s dead and that my mum did it. How stupid can you get? Can’t you talk to them and get them to let my mother go?”
“Listen, Willie – could we talk?”
Daniel looked around, searching for some private place to have the awkward conversation. Barnaby asked the secretary and she paused a moment in reflection, then got up.
“This way, sir. There’s a room where the staff can have a cup of tea or a sandwich during the day. At this time, it should be empty.”
Daniel followed his brother – or at least his stepmother’s son – to the room the secretary showed them. There were a few tables and some chairs at each table. As the secretary had said, it was quite empty.
“Sit down, Willie.”
“Alright, but why can’t we just tell them my mum wouldn’t do something like that and they’ll let her go?”
“Willie – have you heard about forensic science?”
“Like they say on the cop series on tv? Yes. Why?”
“I’m afraid there’s evidence linking your mum and – a friend of hers – to the crime.”
“You mean my dad was murdered?”
“Yes. I’m sorry.”
“But my mum can’t have done it. She’s – that friend of hers, who’s that?”
“I’m not sure. A man.”
“He did it.”
“I knew they were lying because they – asked me if my mum had – you know – shagged me. I mean, my mum? Come on. Dad too. I mean, they asked me if he’d – done things to me. Touched me. So, they have to be lying. My mum wouldn’t do that, and dad wouldn’t either.”
“That’s good, Willie. Really good. I’m glad.”
Willie stared at Daniel, suspiciously. He had the feeling his older brother was humouring him. To prove his point, he went on.
“They said that mum and dad had – done things to you too. So you know, they were making up things about you too.”
“Willie – I can’t promise you that your mum will be set free. I hope the investigation proves she’s innocent, but I don’t know that. In the meantime, social services will come for you. I’ll give you my phone number so you can ring me anytime you like, but you’ll have to go with them.”
“You don’t think mum did it, do you?”
“I don’t know.”
“Of course she didn’t -”
Again, a look of suspicion flew across Willie’s face.
“You told them. You’re the one who made up those lies about mum and dad. How could you? Perv.”
“Did you tell them mum and dad did those things to you?”
“No, but -”
“You think she’s guilty. Why do you hate her so much? Is it because she’s not your real mum?”
“Willie – I don’t know if your mum’s guilty or not. I was asleep. For your sake, I’d be glad if she didn’t do it, but – I can’t make any promises.”
“I hate you.”
Willie reached into his pocket and pulled out Daniel’s card and tore it up. He threw the pieces onto the table and got up.
“I want to go now. Let the sodding social services take me. I don’t want anything to do with you.”
Daniel couldn’t think of a reply so he just followed Willie back to the secretary’s table. He waited until the woman from social services turned up, and watched them take Willie away. The boy stubbornly refused to face him.
Barnaby and Gavin rose as well.
“Are you ready to go back to Midsomer?”
Barnaby watched Daniel searchingly, sensing that his conversation with the boy who might or might not be his brother, hadn’t been a success. He waited until they were all sitting in his car, before attempting to find out.
“Daniel – how did it go? Talking to that boy, I mean.”
“Not so well. Apparently, he’d been asked if – he’d been abused and he didn’t take kindly to that kind of questioning. In my opinion, he hasn’t. He blamed me for that and refused to have any further contact with me. Perhaps it’s for the best.”
Gavin had watched his future brother-in-law all the way down to the car and while listening to his brief account of his conversation with the boy.
“I’m sorry. Why should he blame you?”
“He thinks I’m responsible for – making up lies about his parents. I didn’t say anything, but he guessed that I wasn’t fully – convinced of his mother’s innocence. It’s only natural that he wants to lash out at someone. He’s lost his father and – probably won’t see his mother for a long time. I don’t take it personally.”
Except Gavin could tell Daniel had at least been seriously upset by the accusations. No one had forced him to have that conversation with the boy. He’d taken it upon himself, out of kindness and that boy had thrown his kindness back into his face. Naturally he had every right to be upset.
“In any case, it was good of you to at least try to talk to him.”
Daniel shrugged. He clearly didn’t want to discuss the topic further. There was something about his face that suggested extreme fatigue. Gavin felt a touch of concern for his sister’s fiance. He looked so – stricken.
“How are you holding up?”
“I’m still here, aren’t I? Sorry. I didn’t mean to snap at you. It’s just that – I’m tired and – it’s been a difficult couple of days, that’s all. I’ll be fine. Don’t worry about me. I appreciate your concern, Gavin.”
Barnaby glanced at Daniel in the rearview mirror. He had a feeling Cully might be the one who was best suited to deal with Daniel’s emotions right now.
“I think it would be best if you spent the night at Cully’s place. She’ll have missed you terribly and worried about you. The last time I rang her, she was about to give up waiting and jump on a train. I was able to dissuade her, but – you can see that she’s impatient to see you again.”
Daniel could imagine. He couldn’t help smiling. It felt as if he’d found a new family. Whatever his brother – or stepbrother – had said, at least he wasn’t alone. The people around him cared about him. That was more than he’d ever hoped for, since his mother had died all those years ago. Of course, he’d be fine. It would only take a while, that was all.