|Primary Characters:||Barnaby, Ben Jones, Daniel Scott, Cully|
|Warning:||adult themes, sex, murder|
|Description:||A body is found. There are indications that Cully was connected with the victim. Ben Jones has reason to ask himself who he can trust and it might be that he arrives at the wrong answer.|
DS Daniel Scott glanced at the report he’d just printed out. It looked alright. Now all he wanted was to return home, to his fiancee to get some much needed rest. Cully didn’t cook much better than her mother and was far less inclined to try her hand at any fancy cuisine, but Daniel wasn’t picky. He just loved coming home to a flat that wasn’t quiet and empty.
Rosie, the cat, would always come up to him and rub against his legs and if Cully was in, which she was most days when he got back, she’d run up to him and hug him. Usually, she’d kiss him too.
This evening was no exception. Cully was at home, though this time she didn’t run and meet him. She was propped up comfortably on the couch in front of the telly, watching some soap opera. That was odd, come to think of it. Daniel had never known her to be that fond of soaps.
“Hello. What are you watching?”
“Oh, it’s the new soap on Channel Four.”
“I didn’t know you liked that sort of thing.”
“I don’t. Dreadful nonsense, really. It’s just that my ex has a part in it. I had to see it to believe it. If anything he used to hate soaps as much as I do.”
“Your ex? Right. I see your point. Which one is he?”
“Hold on. He’ll be in one more scene before the end, i think. Come in and sit down. I’ll call for takeout in a moment.”
Daniel hung up his coat and walked across to sit down next to his fiancee. Though she was studying the telly, he was looking at her. It was a sight he never grew tired of. He loved her smile, her eyes – everything about her. She leaned into him and pulled him closer. Very nice. He could sit like this all night if she liked.
“Oh. There he is. Look. The tall, dark one.”
“The one who’s punching that other bloke?”
“Yes, that’s the one. He’s supposed to be some kind of gangster.”
“Really? Doesn’t look very criminal to me.”
“Oh. Well, let’s hope the audience doesn’t know that. There. It’s over.”
Cully reached for the remote and turned the telly off. At the same time the phone began to ring. Daniel got up, wondering if it would be another job for him. Crimes were committed at all hours of the day and unfortunately, there were never any guarantees that a copper could sit down and have dinner with his fiancee every night.
“Daniel? Hi, it’s me. Will.”
“Will? Oh, hello. How are you doing?”
“It’s alright here. No problem.”
“I – know I said I wouldn’t ring you and I know I said I didn’t want to hear from you again.”
“That’s alright. You’re always welcome to contact me. Don’t worry about it.”
The boy fell silent and for a moment, Daniel thought he might hang up, without saying anything else. Perhaps it was merely an attempt to apologize for his earlier reaction. Or it might be that the boy wanted a favour. If there was anything Daniel could do, he would. He felt sorry for young Will. First he lost his father, then found out that his mother was responsible for the death. At the age of eleven, Will was more or less alone in the world. It was something Daniel could relate to.
“Listen – I’m sorry I said those things. I was scared and I wanted to blame someone. It was unfair of me. I made a new friend here. Jake. He – told me that his dad had – you know – done things to him. And I thought about it and – I – Anyway, I’m sorry. It was mum who did it, wasn’t it? Like they said in court. She killed dad?”
“I’m sorry, Will, but yes, I think so too. There was plenty of evidence pointing to your mother and her friend.”
“Yeah. So, I – I’m sorry for what they did to you too. It was true, wasn’t it? They -”
Daniel couldn’t bring himself to comment on what Will had just said. The words just stuck in his mouth. But it seemed as if Will wasn’t expecting a reply. He went on hurriedly in a way that suggested he wanted to cover his own embarrassment as much as Daniel’s.
“It’s alright. We won’t talk about it. I just wanted you to know that I’m glad you’re my brother. But – I heard that mum had other – friends. So, I wanted to do one of those tests. To find out who was my father. DNA test. So I can be sure you are my brother for real.”
“It’s alright, Will. It doesn’t matter. I’ll be here for you even if you’re not -”
“No. I want to. I have to know.”
“Alright. I’ll see if I can set it up for you. Would you like me to come to London and see you?”
“Yeah. If you can. It would be nice. I mean, they’re all very nice here. Well, most of them. Gemma – she’s the one who runs the place. And Jake, my friend. But – I’d like to see you again.”
“Alright. I’ll look into it and we can go and have those tests done together. It will be easier that way.”
“Because dad’s dead?”
“Thanks. I have to go now. It’s time for bed.”
“Alright. I’ll ring you as soon as I know when we can have the test done.”
Cully looked inquiringly at her fiance.
“What was that all about?”
“It was Will. My – brother.”
“Oh. What did he want?”
“To have some tests done, to see if we’re really brothers. I think he’s feeling lonely. The poor kid’s lost both his parents.”
“Yeah, that was really tragic. I’m just so glad you’re out of all that now.”
“Me too. Want me to call for that takeout? What do you want?”
“I could make us some spaghetti really fast, if you’d rather have that.”
Daniel smiled affectionately at his fiancee.
“I’ll help you.”
The rest of the evening passed pleasantly and it wasn’t until close to lunchtime the following day that Daniel remembered his promise to Will. He rang the home in London and spoke to a young woman who introduced herself as Gemma Tanner. Daniel remembered that Will had mentioned her the night before.
“Hello. Detective Sergeant Daniel Scott here. My brother Will Scott rang me last night and wanted me to help him set up some tests. For a DNA test.”
“I see. Well, that can be arranged. Did he say why he wanted the tests done?”
“I’m not sure how much you know about his family situation -”
“The police informed me, so I know about Will’s parents.”
“Well, there seems to be some doubts about his paternity, so he wants to make sure that the man he knew as his father really was.”
“I see. Will you be getting those tests done at home, or will you come up here?”
“Will wanted to see me, so I’ll be coming to visit if that’s alright with you.”
“That’s fine. We always want the kids to have a good relationship with their families, when it’s possible. You’re welcome.”
“Then I’ll ring you again when I know for certain when I can make it.”
“Great. Will’s a good kid. It’s been very hard on him, losing both his parents like that. I’m glad he has a brother who cares.”
“Thank you. Bye.”
Daniel looked at the time. He was supposed to be interviewing a witness after lunch, so he might as well go and have a sandwich before that. But first he wanted to clear his visit to London with his boss. He got up and went into Barnaby’s office.
“Tom. I was wondering if I could have a day off, probably next week. Or as soon as possible.”
“I don’t see why not. As long as the crime rate stays as low as it has for the past six weeks or so. Anything wrong?”
“Not at all. I just need to see my brother. He rang me last night and, well -”
“I see. Well, any time you like, as long as it doesn’t interfere with a murder investigation.”
“Thank you, sir. I mean Tom.”
“How about a little something to eat?”
“I was just going out for a sandwich or something.”
“Ah, yes, I think we’ll avoid the cafeteria. The Sword and Crown?”
“They do serve some good pies, don’t they? And the beer is excellent. It’s just a little far out of our way, isn’t it?”
“Oh, never mind, Daniel. We’ll be back here in plenty of time to interview that witness. I would love to have some of that pie – the tomato and cheese one.”
“Well, in that case -”
They set off talking amiably enough, though Daniel still felt a lingering awkwardness around his boss. He knew too much about his past for comfort. Still, he had to admit that his boss had been very decent, considering his traumatic past. Not many men would want to see someone like him as his daughter’s future husband.
On Wednesday the following week, Daniel went up to London to see his brother. To his surprise, Cully and Joyce insisted on coming along. They wanted to do some shopping. He couldn’t grudge them that, so he gratefully accepted their company on the train.
They set off to Harrod’s, after having agreed on meeting later on, at a restaurant.
Daniel went to the home to pick up his brother.
The place he was in looked nice enough, Daniel had to admit that, but he knew he would always be grateful his grandmother had taken him in. Otherwise, he would have had to spend the rest of his teens in an institution.
Gemma, the head of staff, met him at the door, shaking his hand. She seemed like a pleasant young woman, and he was surprised at the authority she exuded. A few of the children looked up as they passed them on the way to Gemma’s office and they spoke to her as if they respected and liked her.
“So. I don’t know when you need to get back to Midsomer, but Will is free to stay with you for the rest of the day, if he wants to. If you want to take him out for dinner, or some other treat.”
The thought had crossed Daniel’s mind and if Will gave any indication he wanted to, he would. He’d already taken that into account. It would be up to the boy. He could only suggest it and see how he reacted.
“Thank you. I have made some plans but I’ll have to see how he feels about it.”
“Of course. Would you like to see his room?”
“Yes, I’d like that.”
“This way, then.”
She took him along a corridor to a small, but well lighted room. It looked just like any other boy’s room, or at least Daniel thought so. He did notice that it wasn’t quite as well equipped in technology as Will’s old room at the house had been. His own old room. Still, there would be a telly in the living room or whatever they had here.
Gemma knocked on the door and waited. Almost at once, he could hear Will’s voice telling them to go ahead.
Will was sitting at his desk, playing some sort of computer game. On another chair next to him, another boy was sitting. Both boys were staring at the screen, and only partially aware of the two people who had entered. Suddenly, some loud music played and both boys jumped up from their chairs and cheered.
“What level did you get to?”
“Nine. It’s brilliant. We’ll get into the Hall of Fame and -”
For the first time since the newcomers had arrived, Will really looked at them. To Daniel’s relief, the boy smiled.
“Hello, Daniel. So you came.”
“I told you I would.”
“Yes, but – I wasn’t sure if you’d make it. If someone had been killed -”
“No one’s been killed today. My boss said I could have the day off to see you.”
“Oh, that was decent of him. This is my friend Jake. Jake, this is my brother, Daniel.”
The other boy, who was slightly shorter and a bit thinner than Will stared at Daniel. He nodded briefly, then edged away from the desk, squeezed himself between Gemma and the book case and scuttered out through the door.
Gemma didn’t react to the boy’s odd behaviour. She turned to Will again.
“Are you ready to go?”
“Yes. When do I have to be back?”
“It depends on your brother, but you know it’s lights out at ten, so before then, obviously. If there’s any problem, with traffic or otherwise, just ring me.”
Daniel smiled again at his brother.
Will jumped up and grabbed a backpack from his bed. He walked out ahead of the grownups.
Gemma made eye contact with Daniel.
“If you’re wondering what was the matter with Jake, it’s nothing to worry about. He’s just shy around strangers. Especially men. Nothing personal.”
“I see. Well, I’m glad Will has a friend. It must make it easier to adapt to living here.”
“Yes. And it’s very nice of you to take him out. He’s been very excited about it all. Despite the visit to the doctor’s surgery.”
“Ah, yes. I’m sure he’ll get over that fast.”
“Of course. Then I’ll be expecting him back before ten?”
“Absolutely. My fiancee and her mother are here with me and we were planning on returning on the nine o’clock train, so I’ll be bringing Will back here around eight at the latest.”
“That’s fine. I hope you’ll have a wonderful time.”
Daniel and Will took the tube to the doctor’s surgery and had the tests done at once. It was almost four thirty when they were finished. Will didn’t seem to mind the needle very much. The doctor promised to have the results in a fortnight. That didn’t suit Will at all.
“That will take ages. Can’t we get the results sooner?”
The doctor smiled placatingly. She was a woman in her early forties and seemed to have a great deal of experience with children.
“I’m sorry. The labs are overworked. It’s the best we can do.”
Will made a face, then nodded.
On their way out he turned to Daniel.
“When you’re working on a case, you won’t have to wait for two weeks, will you?”
“No. That’s different. The labs give priority to that sort of thing. You see, time is very important in a murder case. The killer might get away if we don’t catch him right away.”
“I see. Can we go somewhere now? Somewhere fun?”
“Where would you like to go?”
“I don’t know. You don’t have to get back to work, right away?”
“No, I won’t be going back until nine this evening. Actually, I was wondering if you’d like to have dinner with me and my fiancee and her mother. They went with me to London to do some shopping.”
“Your fiancee? Yes, I’d like to see her. And her mother too. Are they nice?”
“I think so. Very nice. You’ll like them.”
“Cool. Can we stop at Hamley’s first? I’d like to look at some things there.”
“Why not? We’ll have time for that. I thought it was all computers for you?”
“There’s all kinds of stuff there. Not just dolls and teddies.”
“I see. Well, let’s go then.”
They spent a rather pleasant hour looking at various types of games and – Daniel could hardly smother a smile – some toy weapons. At nearly twelve, Will still seemed to be a bit partial to toys, even if it wasn’t the kind smaller children played with. But it was an MP3 player that most caught Will’s fancy, once they’d moved on from the toy shop.
Daniel made a quick calculation and came to the conclusion that he could afford to give the thing to his brother.
“Do you want that?”
“Yes, but I don’t get much of an allowance from the -”
“I’ll get it for you.”
Will’s eyes fastened on Daniel with a look of such gratitude in them, Daniel felt awkward. In a way, he felt responsible for the situation the boy was in. Naturally, no one could expect him to take the blame for a murder he hadn’t committed, but losing one’s mother at an early age was rough. Daniel knew that from experience.
“Of course. But now we’d better hurry. I said we’d meet Cully and Joyce at the restaurant at six. That should give us time enough to get you back to the home around eight or so.”
“Alright. Thanks. That’s so -”
Daniel paid for the ridiculously small gadget, then handed the little package to Will, who excitedly began to tear it up.
“Make sure you don’t drop anything.”
They arrived at the restaurant at a little past six. Joyce and Cully were already there, eating bread sticks, and seemed to be right in the middle of an animated discussion. Daniel’s and Will’s arrival made them fall silent.
Joyce smiled warmly at the boy, who suddenly looked very shy. He held out his hand, shook those of the two women and mumbled a greeting.
“So this is Will. Nice to meet you.”
Will nodded and stared at his feet.
Daniel pulled out a chair and gestured for the boy to sit down.
“Have you ordered?”
“No, we were waiting for you.”
The waiter arrived and they ordered. Will wanted fish and chips. The waiter stared rather condescendingly, but didn’t argue. They ate in silence, while Will glanced surreptitiously at the two women. He was very quiet, even though all the grownups did their best to draw him out. Afterwards, Daniel got up to take his brother back to the home.
“I’ll see you at the station.”
He bent down to kiss Cully on the cheek, then smiled and nodded at his future mother-in-law.
On the way back, Will suddenly found his tongue again.
“She’s a smasher, isn’t she?”
Daniel cast his brother an amused glance. So they shared the same taste in girls. That should give them some indication about the result of the DNA test.
“I’m glad you think so. We’re very happy.”
“And her mother seems nice. What about her dad?”
“Oh, he’s nice too. He’s my boss.”
Will seemed quite excited to have seen Daniel’s future wife and mother-in-law. Daniel had a feeling the boy missed being part of a family. Again, Daniel was filled with pity towards the boy. He knew only too well how that felt. At least he’d had his grandmother.
“I’ll ring you when the results come in. And you can ring me any time you like.”
“Thanks. You’re being so nice to me. Why? I was beastly to you.”
“That’s alright, Will. I understand. It was a very difficult situation.”
“But you must hate me. My mum -”
“That was your mother. Not you. Try not to think about that. It’s nothing to do with you.”
“Yes, but – why did she do it to you? She was never like that with me. Dad never did anything either. Was it because she wasn’t your real mother?”
“I don’t know.”
“Jake says his dad said that only dads who love their kids very much do that sort of thing. But that’s not true, is it? In school they say -”
Daniel didn’t know what to say. The conversation was making him feel close to panic. His throat constricted and his mouth felt dry. But he didn’t want to put Will off with some insincere explanation that glossed over the facts.
“No. It’s not true. No grownup has the right to use children like that. Ever. There is never any excuse. Remember that. You have a right to refuse. Don’t let anyone tell you different.”
“I knew that. Daniel -”
“I’m really sorry.”
“Never mind. It was a long time ago.”
“So you want to be my brother for real? Be my friend?”
“Yes. Of course. No matter what those tests show. You can always count on me, Will.”
To Daniel’s suprise Will put his arms around him and hugged him quickly, then let go and stared at him as if he wasn’t sure what his reaction would be.
Daniel smiled. He wasn’t sure what his reaction was either, but he knew he’d been telling the truth. If Will needed him, he’d be there for him. Whatever his parents had done wasn’t his fault.
Daniel followed Will inside to officially hand him over to Gemma. Jake hovered somewhere in the background, as if he hadn’t been sure his friend would return. Will shot off down the corridor, his MP3 player clutched in his hand.
On the train back to Midsomer, Cully and Joyce were full of questions about the boy. Daniel tried his best to answer them all.
The digging machine backed off again, to offload its burden of soil. As the heavy load hit the ground, it scattered, despite the relatively high content of water. In other words, it was part mud, but now that the soil spread apart, an oblong object became visible. It was covered by a sheet of plastic, but it was large enough to cause the driver to stop the machine and get out to take a closer look.
He tugged at the plastic and it tore. Squinting at the content, in the bleak light of early morning, the driver had difficulty making out what it was. He pulled a little harder and the plastic came apart at the top. A grinning death’s head leered back at him. The man cowered backwards, then began to fumble for his mobile phone.
One of his colleagues came up behind him.
“What’s going on, Fred?”
“Look. It’s a body. I have to call the police.”
The other man leaned over the plastic oblong and sniffed.
“Ugh. That one must have been dead for years, but it still smells. I wonder if it was murder?”
“Use your head, Barney. Why else would he be wrapped in plastic?”
“Oh. Go on then. Ring the police.”
Detective Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby put down the phone. A body found on a building site or what was supposed to be a building site by next week at the latest. Or rather was supposed to have been. Now their schedule was shot to pieces. But that wasn’t Barnaby’s problem.
Even after all those years, he still felt a thrill at the beginning of each case. Perhaps it was a kind of primitive reaction. A chase. Tally-ho. He got up, not without effort, and grabbed his jacket.
“Jones. We have a new case. A body’s been found out near Thwickleham.”
The two police officers hurried outside and got in the car. Ben Jones too, felt some excitement at the beginning of each new case. Some were disappointments. A few were never solved, but quite a few led to convictions and many of them were interesting, in their own way. Perhaps not like in a tv series, but there was something about the methods used in police work that appealed to Ben. The pattern. Making out the whole, after putting together the little pieces of the puzzle.
They inspected the premises, noted the presumed position of the body. An older uniformed colleague gave Barnaby his report, then returned to his watch outside the orange tape.
“Jones. See if you can find an ID for our victim. Oh, George is here. I’ll go and see if he can give us anything. And Jones -”
“Find out what this site has been used for in the past. It looks pristine, so there can’t have been any buildings here when our man was buried.”
Barnaby strolled across to his old friend George Bullard, and bent over the body.
Bullard looked up, smiled and sketched a greeting.
“Don’t say anything. You want me to tell you cause of death, time of death and this poor fellow’s age at the time of death, don’t you?”
“Preferably, yes. I’m not expecting any miracles though, so anything you can tell me will help.”
“He’s dead. No wait. I shouldn’t have been that specific. He or she is dead.”
Barnaby smiled at the ME’s sense of humour. He was impatient to know any facts that his friend could tell him, but he wasn’t unaware of the difficulties inherent in such speculation.
“Thank you, George. Anything else?”
George shook his head, and became sober again.
“He or she has been dead for a long time. I’m not going to commit myself, but I’m guessing that had something to do with cause of death.”
The ME pointed at an injury in the back of the skull.
“I’ll let you know later what sort of object caused that. It might have happened post mortem. The weight of the soil pressing down on the cranium, you know. Still, it’s not likely.”
“Quite. Anything on the body? Identification?”
“You wish. Ordinary clothes. Modern. What I mean is this isn’t some poor victim from the 19 century or earlier, at least not that I can see. Modern fabrics. Which seems to indicate at least not any older than the 1970¬®s. I’ll know more when I’ve had time to do some analysis. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll just bag this poor fellow and bring him back to the lab.
Barnaby returned to his car. Detective Sergeant Jones was on the phone. As Barnaby approached, the younger officer terminated the call and faced his superior.
“This was a recreational area until the mid-nineties. It was turned over to a sports club in the late 1960’s, so unless our victim is from before then, I think we can assume someone who was a member or worked for the club might be involved.”
“Look into that. Let’s get back to the station.”
Once they were back, Ben Jones got to work on the site’s history and put out an inquiry about missing persons from the 1970’s and onward. Too many hits came up on his screen. He knew they needed to narrow the field a little. As soon as the ME’s report came in, he could remove candidates that were of the wrong gender and age. If the clothes gave anything, that might help too.
Unfortunately, the results of the background check on the site were discouraging. There were no files listing members of the club. Even if there had been, non-members had been welcome, as long as they were invited by and accompanied by members. He was, however, able to dig up the man who had been in charge. They set up a meeting for the following day.
When Barnaby came into his office, George’s report was already lying on his desk. Barnaby decided to lift the receiver and thank his old friend, for speeding things up.
“Oh, no problem. For some reason, there isn’t much work for us to do right now. Do you think the killers have moved elsewhere? Or are they getting better at hiding their victims?”
“Let’s hope there are fewer murders.”
“Hm. In any case, there was nothing complicated about your man. Young. In fact, more boy than man. Not eighteen yet, if I’m not mistaken. Sixteen-seventeen would be my guess. Someone knocked him over the head then drowned him while he was still unconscious.”
“Is that all?”
“You’ll find the rest in my report. I put the time of death sometime in the early 1990’s. In the summer, if that helps any.”
“Thank you, George. That was helpful. I owe you one.”
George chuckled as he put down the receiver. That was a good one. If Tom really did remember his promise, George would make the most of it. His wife, Kath, was a good friend of mrs Barnaby’s and an outing might please both ladies.
There was no identification mentioned in the report, but Barnaby accepted that philosophically. You couldn’t have everything. When he caught sight of Ben Jones through the open door, he called out the young sergeant’s name.
Ben Jones straightened out, a guilty look on his face. He’d been right in the middle of chatting Wendy up. She was a PC and the only young woman working on the station. Ben found her good fun and if his boss hadn’t interrupted him he might have asked Wendy out. He’d have to leave that for another time.
“Jones. George finished the report early. We have a young man in his mid to late teens. Died in the early 1990’s. In the summer.”
“Sir. That should narrow down the search parameters. Maybe now we’ll come up with a name.”
“You do that. Did you get anywhere with that club?”
“Oh, right. I’m meeting the man who was in charge. Later this afternoon.”
“I’ll go with you. We need to find out more about potential suspects.”
Ben sat down at his desk, glancing around after Wendy. She was nowhere to be seen. He settled down to his search. If he only focused on Midsomer, and the years around 1990 – 1989-93 – and removed all females, all children and people in their 20’s and up, he should be able to get a manageable list.
His hopes were realized. From the time frame he’d specified he was down to only three. One young man had been involved in a gang. If he was dead or had simply moved on to more interesting areas, remained to be seen. The second one was an immigrant. Jones wouldn’t be too surprised if it turned out the boy had returned to his own country. The remaining missing person was a local boy. Andy Barnes. Age 17.
Jones found himself more interested now that there was something to go on. Would it be too much to hope for a connection between the boy and the club? Many young people had frequented it. He’d have to ask the man he would be interviewing around three that afternoon, if he recalled any Andy Barnes.
When the time came, Barnaby and Jones left for their appointment. The man, Michael Spencer, turned out to be the proprietor of a gym, right in Causton. He appeared to find it hard to focus on a club he’d run for a number of years in the nineties.
“Well, that was a long time ago. Besides, I think I already told you, Sergeant, that we didn’t have any proper lists of members. As long as you didn’t just turn up unannounced, pretty much anyone was welcome. Of course we didn’t allow any troublemakers. It wasn’t a serious sports club. Just a way for kids from Causton to get out into the fresh air and spend time together.”
“Do you remember a young man named Andy Barnes?”
“Andy Barnes? No, but then I wouldn’t. I only remember a few of them. My own friends. A couple of the best looking girls. You know how it is.”
“Quite. Do you remember if there was ever a time when the grounds were dug up?”
Mr Spencer appeared to give the question some thought, then brightened.
“Oh, right. We had to smooth the grass a bit. It was too lumpy to play a decent game of anything and jogging or running wasn’t very pleasant either. So we had some machinery there. It was a bit soggy too, so we tried to have it drained. I think there used to be a pond there in the early 1900’s. Someone mentioned that. One of our older members.”
“Do you recall when that was?”
“There I can help you. It was too expensive and I had to take out a loan. In the end, it was what broke me. I couldn’t afford the payments so I sold the land. Some farmer tried to put his livestock there to graze. I could have told him it was no use. Nothing worthwhile would grow there. But he had the land surrounding it. In fact, he was the one who sold it to my father, in the 1960’s. I’ll look it up and let you know. I think it was in 1990. It was in 1991 that I had to sell it.”
Back at the station, Ben Jones rang the officer in charge of the disappearance. He promised to send him the entire file. Until then there wasn’t much else to be done. Barnaby agreed to let Jones go. He intended to go home and surprise his wife. If he was lucky she’d agree to going out to dinner.
Ben Jones decided to walk home. It was a pleasant day and he didn’t have any particular plans. He decided to do some grocery shopping. If he recalled correctly, his fridge was empty and it might be a good idea to restock it before another period of intense work hit him again.
In the shop he ran into Cully Barnaby. Causton really was a small town.
“Daniel had to stay on at work. I think he’ll spend the night there, poor thing. They’ve had a gang who breaks into old people’s homes and the last time an elderly couple was killed.”
“I know. I keep worrying about my grandparents. Mum’s going to invite them over to stay.”
Ben Jones who knew a little about how his boss felt about his in-laws, sympathized with Barnaby but didn’t comment directly.
“And how is your brother, Gavin?”
“He’s fine, but he’s busy too. They have a serial rapist over in his district. Two young women killed in the past three months. I never get to see him either.”
“Oh, I shouldn’t be complaining. Causton is a relatively safe place.”
Cully broke off when she caught sight of someone behind Jones’ back. Jones had the impression that she was frightened or at least dismayed. Whoever it was seemed to be coming her way, because he could see his boss’ daughter looking behind her, as if seeking an escape route. But he wasn’t sure his original impression was correct, because the look on her face changed so quickly.
A young woman’s voice came from behind him and Jones turned slightly to see who it was.
“Cully. Hello. Where have you been hiding yourself? I heard you were engaged. Is this your fiance?”
An awkward silence fell over them, until Cully was able to go on.
“No. This is dad’s new sergeant. Ben Jones. Ben, this is an old friend of mine. Melanie Stiles.”
“Hello. Pleased to meet you.”
And he was too. Melanie was a real looker. Shorter than Cully and more slender. Her blonde hair fell elegantly to her shoulders and she was expensively dressed. At least that was the impression Jones had. He wasn’t an expert on women’s clothing.
Melanie smiled at him in a way that made him blush and feel hot all over. She looked as if she would have liked to get more physical right away. Or perhaps that was just wishful thinking. A moment later, she was saying goodbye again.
“Cully, we really need to get together. I was saying to Simone only the other day that we haven’t seen Cully for ages. Bring your fiance. Bring Ben if you like.”
“Thanks. I’ll talk to Daniel and we’ll let you know.”
Cully didn’t stay for long. She gathered up her purchases, nodded to Jones and ran towards the exit. Jones continued his shopping. He couldn’t help dwelling on the pretty Melanie and wondered if she’d been serious about inviting him over.
Barnaby put down the receiver, a somber look on his face. Jones entered his boss’ office and waited. Before the phone call, Barnaby had called his sergeant into his room.
“Oh. There you are, Jones. I’m afraid George has had an accident. He won’t be back at work for a long time.”
“He fell down a ladder and broke his leg.”
“I’m sorry to hear that, sir.”
“We’ll get a replacement in the meantime. A Dr Granger. Never heard the name before, but I’m sure it’s someone capable. Shall we?”
The DNA tests on the victim had confirmed that he was Andy Barnes and now Barnaby and Jones were heading out to see the dead boy’s grandmother. Apparently, his father had left early on and a series of stepfathers had replaced him until the mother herself had passed away. The father was in Australia and had been at the time of his son’s disappearance. No other relatives seemed to be living in the county.
Again, it didn’t seem as if they were learning enough. All the grandmother could tell them was that the boy had been popular with his friends and especially with the girls. He’d been an average student and had had no criminal record. The tests on the body only showed the presence of alcohol, and not in any remarkable amounts.
As far as the grandmother could remember, he hadn’t been a member of the sports club, but had worked out at a gym in town.
That was all they learned that day. Barnaby was hoping they could find some of the boy’s friends and hopefully girlfriends.
Again, Barnaby let Jones go a little early. This case didn’t provide any shortcuts.
This time, Jones decided to go to a pub. After all, it was Friday. On his way there, he ran into Cully Barnaby again. She seemed to be a little stressed out.
“Oh, Ben. Hi. I was on my way over to mum and dad. Poor Daniel is stuck at work. If I’m lucky he’ll get home late Saturday night or early Sunday morning. Gavin had to go up to London to follow up on a lead. He might be back tomorrow.”
“Oh. In that case, would you like to have a drink with me?”
“Why not? Mum and dad aren’t expecting me anyway.”
Outside the pub they ran into Melanie again. This time she had two friends with her. They were all very pretty and Jones was hoping they might want to invite him to join them. He noticed that Cully looked a little pale, but he could see no particular reason for that, so he promptly forgot about it.
“Cully. And Ben Jones. Hello again. There you are. Why don’t we go and have a couple of drinks and catch up?”
“Oh, say you will. It’s been such a long time. I heard you became an actress. We want to hear all about it, don’t we, Jo?”
“Of course we do. Come on, Cully.”
Cully opened and closed her mouth, then nodded. Melanie made the introductions.
“Ben, these are my friends Jo Carlyle and Simone Ramsey. Jo, Simone, this is Ben I was telling you about.”
“Pleased to meet you.”
“Well, shall we?”
Melanie put her arm under Cully’s and began to herd her towards the closest pub. Ben Jones followed, filled with pleasant anticipation. It was almost like going on a date with three different girls. Of course, that would be too much to hope for. Melanie was the one who seemed to be most interested. He caught himself feeling sorry for Gavin Troy or Barnaby, whichever his name was. Cully’s brother was missing out on all this fun.
The evening was a great success, at least Ben thought so. Melanie didn’t leave his side for most of the evening. Once they were inside the pub, Jo and Simone sat down one on each side of Cully and kept up a constant chatter. Cully was strangely quiet. Not that Ben was paying much attention. Melanie was flirting with him. He was sure of it, even if she was a little discreet.
At the end of the evening, Cully excused herself and vanished in the direction of her parents’ house. Jo and Simone suddenly made themselves scarce and Ben found himself alone with Melanie.
She was now pressing into him in a way that didn’t leave anything to the imagination. Now all that remained was deciding whose place they’d go to. But Melanie didn’t even ask. She merely told him where she lived and so they set out towards the address, on foot.
It wasn’t that far, about the same as the Barnaby house, except in the opposite direction. Ben’s place was much further away, so her choice made sense.
Her intensity surprised and excited him all at once. There was never any question about where they were heading. She took charge and Ben found that it was much better than having to flatter and court a girl for weeks before finally being allowed to follow her home.
The following day he woke late. He hardly remembered making his way home. His head hurt, and the skin on his back too, but that was only to be expected. The memory made him smile. Intense was the word.
Before he left, Melanie had made him promise he would ring her today and they would go out again, in the evening. She had also said something about going out to Jo’s place. Despite her relatively young age, she was already a widow and her husband had left her a considerable fortune and a large house with some land.
There had been no phone message from Barnaby, so Ben assumed there had been no further development in the case. He was glad to let go of it for the time being.
On Sunday, Cully came to visit her parents. Gavin was back from London and sat with his father in the kitchen, reading the Sunday Times. Joyce was trying to interest Cully in gardening, for the hundredth time. She wasn’t successful and in the end, she gave up.
When the two women returned inside, Barnaby looked up.
“Oh, Cully. There was something I wanted to ask you. Do you remember a boy named Andy Barnes?”
The seemingly innocent question had a startling effect on Cully. Her mother had just handed her a cup of tea, and Cully had been in the process of sipping the contents – free from milk and sugar – she had to keep an eye on her weight. Suddenly, Cully began to cough and splutter. Joyce began to pound her daughter’s back, but Cully seemed oblivious to her mother’s efforts. Finally, when the attack was over, her face was ashen and she looked so exhausted, Joyce became concerned. She insisted on taking Cully upstairs to lie down.
Barnaby forgot about the question and returned to his paper. His wife came down fifteen minutes later, declaring that Cully was doing better but that she would get some rest.
On Monday, Ben Jones went to interview a few of Andy Barnes’ friends from school. His two best friends not only remembered him, which was only natural, but also the time when he had disappeared.
“We were going fishing on a Sunday. On Saturday night he had a date. In the morning Jim and I were waiting for him, but he never showed up.”
“Do you have any idea who the date was with?”
Jim glanced at his friend, Steve, who shrugged.
“You never knew with Andy. The girls loved him. There were always plenty of them for him to choose between.”
“Can you give me any names? Any girl or girls he seemed more serious about?”
“Well, there was one. Blonde. Molly something.”
Steve shook his head.
“No, not Molly. Billie or Callie, I think.”
“Callie – no, Cully. Cully Barnaby.”
Jones felt as if something stuck in his throat. Cully Barnaby. There could hardly be more than one girl by that name in Midsomer. How odd. Of course, as far as he knew, no one had asked Cully if she knew the victim. There had been no reason to believe she’d ever heard his name. Except the local papers had been full of glaring headlines about the missing boy turning up dead. Jones made an effort to continue the interview normally.
Jim shook his head. Steve wasn’t so sure.
“No, I think there was another one. Someone he was at least as serious about. Simone something. Simone Ramsey.”
Another familiar name. Cully’s friend. So this boy Andy had dated them both. That could be considered a motive, but Jones knew he couldn’t draw any conclusion from this random fact. There was no way of knowing if the two girls even knew about Andy being interested in both of them.
He realized he would need to question Simone now. Perhaps the other two as well. This couldn’t have come at a more inconvenient time. Most likely he’d need to interview Cully too, since it might be argued that her father was a party in the case and thus couldn’t be counted on to keep an unbiased attitude towards any evidence that could come to light.
This, even more than the awkwardness involving Melanie and her friends, made Jones feel uncomfortable. If he’d had any other questions for the two witnesses he had forgotten them now. He thanked them for their help and returned to the station, to make a report to Barnaby. That was something he wasn’t looking forward to.
Just as he’d anticipated, his boss reacted with shock. Jones could see that the thought of a potential motive occurred to Cully’s father as well. A very delicate situation.
“Would you like me to interview Cully?”
“What? No. I don’t think it will do any harm if I sound her out. If – but there’s no reason to believe that we’ll need a full statement from her. I’ll find out.”
Jones wouldn’t presume to criticize his boss, but he knew this could be tricky. Still, it wasn’t up to him, so he held his tongue.
Barnaby was about to lift the receiver and place a call to his daughter, to set up a meeting, when the phone rang again. It was someone from the ME’s office.
“Sir? We found a hair on the victim’s clothes.”
“Yes. I see. Run it through the system and see if you can find a match. Our man might have a record already.”
“Well, the hair is so long, I’d guess it came from a woman, but the analysis will tell.”
“I don’t have to tell you that time is of the essence, I hope? Hurry the tests up as much as you can.”
“Yes. We’ll do our best. We haven’t had Dr Bullard’s replacement yet, but -”
“Oh. Well, do what you can.”
Barnaby smiled. He felt as if finally, they were making some progress.
In the meantime, Ben Jones rang Simone and made an appointment with her. He wasn’t looking forward to this interview either. If he wanted to do his job to the best of his ability, he knew he’d have to confront Simone with the information that her one-time boyfriend had also dated Cully Barnaby at virtually the same time. If Simone didn’t know about it, he’d place Cully in a difficult situation with her friend. On the other hand, if Simone knew, it might be a motive. Unless she was really simple, she’d know that too. The question was, would he get an honest answer? Whether or not the young woman was guilty, she’d have reason to lie.
The interview went as smoothly as could be expected, but he couldn’t help noticing that Simone looked tense and edgy. She claimed to have had no knowledge of Cully’s involvement with her boyfriend and even pretended not to care, but Jones knew enough about women to realize that was nothing more than an attempt to cover her reaction.
“Why should it bother me now? That was fifteen years ago. We were teenagers. These things happen. I’m sure you dated more than one girl when you were that age, Detective Inspector Jones.”
Jones avoided the question. The truth was, he hadn’t dated even one girl at that age, let alone several. His time had come later, and even now, he didn’t feel as lucky as he would have liked to. No matter how much he liked his home, there was no denying it was a bit dull when it came to the dating scene and possible entertainment.
Over the next few days, they followed up on various leads, which on closer inspection turned out to lead nowhere. Then on Friday morning, the DNA result of the hair found on the body came in. Barnaby had just arrived and was holding on to a cup of coffee, which steamed invitingly. Jones stared longingly at it, but he didn’t feel as if he could go back for a cup now that the gov wanted to give him his orders for the day.
The phone rang, and Barnaby picked up the receiver, dropping the pencil he was about to use as a spoon.
“Excellent. What did you find out?”
“The hair came from a woman, just as I told you before, sir. A young woman, or rather a girl. Someone under eighteen. She didn’t take drugs or drink too much alcohol, but that’s all we can tell you at this point. We’ll need to compare it other material.”
“Thank you. Let me know if you find a match.”
Barnaby hung up and began to stir his coffee, as he shared the new information with DC Jones.
“That hair. It came from a young woman. A girl, really. Under eighteen. She hadn’t taken any drugs and not much alcohol.”
“Oh. That doesn’t get us very far, does it, sir? No drugs or alcohol. Unless she was known for any other crimes, we might not be able to find her at all. Besides, according to our information, the Barnes boy dated extensively. Simone has dark hair, though.”
It seemed the two officers were struck by the same thought all at once.
“I suppose – since Cully did date our boy, we should – compare the DNA of the hair with hers, just to eliminate her from the inquiry.”
Jones would never have dared to say so himself, but he did see the necessity of what his boss was suggesting. He hurriedly mentioned something else, just to cover the slight awkwardness.
“It might be pointless, but perhaps we should consider their other friends. Cully and Simone were best friends. They were also close to two other girls. Jo Carlyle and Melanie Stiles. Jo’s hair is auburn, if it’s genuine. Melanie’s is blonde too.”
“But as far as you know, the other two never dated Andy?”
“No, sir. There has been on indication of it so far.”
“Why don’t you try to find more friends of Andy’s? I’ll tackle the grandmother again.”
Ben Jones left his boss’ office, with a great deal of relief. He certainly didn’t want to be the one to ask Cully for a DNA test. He didn’t even want to ask Barnaby how the test turned out. It would be as if he was implying that his daughter was implicated in a murder case.
The friends had contradictory information. One claimed Andy had been seeing Jo, but the others didn’t know. To make things more difficult, Andy seemed to have dated a number of other girls during that last year of his life. Girls on language courses. A Danish girl. Another who was German. Possibly a French or an Italian one. There was also talk of a black girl who had moved to Midsomer from London, but she had moved back again, by the time the murder had been committed. She didn’t seem to have any connections with gangs. On the contrary she was the daughter of a lecturer at the university.
Jo’s possible involvement with Andy didn’t mean anything at this time, from the point of view of the hair. However, Cully was at least a potential suspect, until more evidence could be uncovered. Since there was no way of knowing what colour of hair the language students had had, Jones decided to focus on the locals first, though at least the Danish girl and possibly the one from Germany were likely to have been blonde too.
Barnaby must have obtained the hair from Cully, because nothing more was said about it for some time. In the middle of the following week, the ME taking George Bullard’s place rang Barnaby with the results.
“Dr Granger here.”
The voice was harsh and seemed to belong to a woman who was sure of herself.
“I have the result of a DNA test here. A hair found on a body, if I’ve been correctly informed.”
“It was a match with your sample. The hairs belong to the same person, although of course the new sample comes from a grown woman.”
The news stunned Barnaby. When no reply was forthcoming, Dr Granger tried again.
“Detective Chief Inspector Barnaby? Did you hear me? I don’t have all day.”
“Sorry. Thank you.”
Dr Granger wasn’t one to worry needlessly over other people’s reactions, but she had rather expected the man in charge of the murder investigation to be pleased to have had a solid lead in his case. Apparently, this DCI was different. That was his problem. She’d done all anyone could ask of her.
Barnaby remained sitting with the receiver in his hand, dumbfounded. He had to ring back and ask if there was any indication of when the hair had ended up on the body. Before or after death.
“How should I know? I’m not psychic. There might be instances when it will be clear from the juxtaposition of other objects or the position of the body, things like that. In this case, there is no way of telling.”
“I see. Thank you.”
“I can tell you that the hair was new. Whoever dropped it must have done so within the last twenty-four hours of the boy’s life. It wasn’t some hair that had become stuck in a button and been left there for days or even weeks.”
“Oh. Right. Again, thank you.”
“No problem. Will that be all?”
“Yes. Thank you.”
Not that it was any of Dr Granger’s business, but that DCI sounded a bit confused, possibly a bit disorganized in his thought. Far be it from her to judge a police officer in charge of a case she was involved in, in a professional capacity, but was she being over-imaginative if she speculated that this one was a bit past it?
Barnaby finally let go of the phone and called for Ben Jones.
“You will have to interview Cully. That hair – it was a match. It was hers.”
DS Jones squirmed uncomfortably. This was a very difficult situation for him. Regardless of how he handled the matter, he’d be in for it, if he wasn’t much mistaken. What copper would enjoy having his own child put forward as a possible suspect in any type of case, let alone a homicide?
As soon as Ben Jones had set out to find his boss’ daughter, Barnaby himself returned home to discuss the situation with his wife. By chance, his son, Gavin, was there. He’d been interviewing a witness and decided to go and have lunch with his mother, since he was already in Causton.
“Gavin. Joyce. There’s something I need to tell you.”
Joyce glanced incuriously at her husband. Tom was always one to overdramatize. She wouldn’t be surprised if it merely involved some minor mistake made by his new sergeant or perhaps some interesting news he’d overheard at work.
“Dr Granger rang -”
Barnaby frowned. Why was Gavin interrupting him with irrelevant questions?
“Yes, the ME replacing George during his convalescense. I was saying -”
“That Dr Granger. She’s my gov’s partner.”
“My boss, DCI Miles Preston is living with a Dr Granger. She’s a pathologist.”
“I see. How very odd. She sounded a bit -”
“Tough? You’re probably right. Preston seems to live in fear of her. Sorry.”
Barnaby couldn’t keep his mind on Gavin’s boss or his partner. The news about Cully was worrying, but surely there could be a natural explanation for the presence of her hair?
“A hair was found on the body of the victim whose death we’re investigating at the moment.”
Joyce was losing interest. It was all very well for the men to talk shop, but she really needed to keep an eye on lunch. Poor Gavin hardly ever had a decent home-cooked meal.
“It was a blonde hair and – it matches Cully’s DNA.”
Joyce frowned. What was Tom going on about? Cully’s DNA? What did that mean? Why did he drag their daughter into his murder case?
Gavin twitched as if he’d been stung by something. His sister’s DNA found on a murder victim? That was serious, even if there was a natural explanation for it.
“Cully was dating the dead boy.”
“There you are.”
Joyce turned her back on him and began to stir a casserole which smelled appetizingly, at least she thought so and she hoped Gavin would agree. Tom, of course, was completely hopeless. All he cared for was fish and chips or toast and beans or bacon and eggs. Greasy, high calorie, fried food. As if he was looking forward to a heart attack.
Gavin suddenly felt a chill. He sensed his father felt the same way. If Cully turned out to be involved in the case somehow, even if she wasn’t guilty, things could get sticky for a while. Poor Cully.
“I sent Ben Jones to interview her.”
Joyce turned to face her husband, a puzzled look on her face.
“Interview? Surely that can’t be necessary. Why don’t you simply ask her? Don’t tell me you suspect her, Tom? Your own daughter.”
“Joyce – these things have to be done properly. I’m too closely connected with her. If there is any more incriminating evidence, I’ll be taken off the case. Someone else will be called in.”
Joyce made a face which seemed to hint at how she felt about police bureaucracy.
“Lunch is ready. Will you be staying, Tom?”
“What? Yes, why not? I just wish I knew how that interview is going.”
DS Jones rang Barnaby before he left home to return to the station. He reassured his boss that Cully had answered his questions in a satisfactory way.
Relieved, Barnaby sank down in his chair again. Of course. He couldn’t see why he’d been so concerned.
“Thanks, Jones. See you at the station.”
Again, it seemed the investigation had come to a standstill, which was the reason for Ben Jones’ presence in the pub that night. Melanie rang him on his mobile and before long he found himself walking in the direction of her flat, once again. Her potential connection to the case he was investigating seemed tenuous and Jones put it out of his mind. It had been so long since he’d been seeing a girl like Melanie. In fact, he’d probably never met anyone quite like her.
The following morning, Jones and Barnaby visited the crime scene again, or rather the site where the body had been found. It bothered Barnaby that they hadn’t made any progress in finding out where the crime had taken place. They also had no idea how the body had been transported to the site.
Jones decided to take one last look around the path leading up to the site, since the light was still good. It was slippery and muddy and he tripped on a stone and almost fell. As he tried to right himself, he kicked a small stone loose from the hole in the ground where it had been lodged and he happened to see something glinting in the sunlight. Metal.
Vaguely interested, he bent over and studied the small object. It looked too regular to be just a piece of scrap metal and it seemed too solid to be a piece of metallic paper as in a wrapping. He took a pen out of his pocket and turned the object over. The back of it was less muddy and the shape looked vaguely familiar. A heart? Just to be sure he didn’t inadvertently spoil evidence, he grabbed a plastic bag out of his pocket and picked the object up.
A locket. No. Too thin. It was a pendant in the shape of a heart. He turned the heart over, and thought he saw an inscription at the back of it.
Barnaby’s voice, rather strained came from behind.
“Jones? Are you done yet? Did you find anything?”
“Yes. I’m coming.”
He showed Barnaby the heart and they returned to the station. Jones handed the plastic bag with its content over to the ME. Since he and Barnaby were curious, they stayed as a young man began to dust the heart for prints. When he’d taken the partial print found on the back of it, the surface that had been face down, he began to clean it. He held it up to the light.
“There’s an inscription here, sir.”
“I know that. What does it say?”
“To Cully from Grandmother.”
Barnaby started violently. He moved forward and stared at the pendant.
“Let me see.”
He squinted at the tiny script, then had to agree that it did say exactly what the man had told him. Even if the hair had been irrelevant to the case, this proved that Cully had been on the scene. He’d asked her if she’d ever been to the sports club and she’d denied it, definitely. A dull, leaden feeling settled over Barnaby. How could his little girl be implicated in a murder?
He couldn’t stop himself from ringing his wife to ask about the pendant.
“Tom? Where are you? Can you pick up a few things for dinner?”
“Yes, yes. Later. Joyce, didn’t Cully have a pendant, in the shape of a heart?”
“Yes. Mother gave it to her. Why?”
“Do you know what became of it?”
“She dropped it. One day I noticed it was missing and she became very upset. So upset I had to let it go. Mother was very disappointed. Cully was fifteen or so at the time, so she really ought to have known better. Why do you ask?”
“I’ll tell you later.”
Barnaby returned to his desk and sat down heavily. He knew his duty, but it felt harrowing to have to do it. His only daughter. His little girl. It was impossible. Even now, there had to be a natural explanation. But until they’d had the chance to pursue the investigation in the proper manner, he couldn’t let his feelings for Cully influence him.
He rang his superior, then waited for the inevitable.
“I’m sorry, Tom. You know the drill. Take a few days off to be with your wife. I’m going to request DS Williams and DCI Hill to be transferred to us, temporarily. I’d rather use outsiders. You know my position. Everyone here knows you too well. It’s better this way. If DCI Hill wants to use your sergeant, it’s up to her. Otherwise, he’ll be working with someone else for the time being. You understand. Try not to worry too much. I’m sure there’s a perfectly natural explanation and DCI Hill will find it.”
He didn’t sound as if he believed it himself. Barnaby certainly thought it had a hollow ring to it. Even if Cully wasn’t a murderer, he failed to see how she could have been at the site where a murder victim was found, at the time of his death. She’d denied ever setting a foot in that place. There had to be a reason for that, and though he wracked his brains Barnaby could only think of one.
DCI Hill and DS Williams didn’t seem to have any use for Ben Jones, other than as a general gofer. They set up an interview with Cully. As a concession to Barnaby, as a colleague, he was allowed to listen in, from behind the one-way mirror wall.
Barnaby suddenly felt every last one of his years. For a second, he even contemplated doing as his wife had often encouraged him to – take early retirement and get a house on the coast, or in the countryside here in Midsomer, and take up the cultivation of roses. It had seemed too dull for words, but right now, Barnaby could think of worse things to do with his life.
He found himself unable to focus on the details of the interview, a fact which made him wonder if he was experiencing the first relentless symptoms of senility. The questions regarding Cully’s relations with the dead boy were what seemed particularly hard to follow.
It was clear, however, that Cully seemed tense, in shock even. She pleaded her innocence in a way that made it painfully obvious that she had something to hide. DCI Hill handled the interview with more tact and finesse than Barnaby had expected, though he wasn’t fooled by the subtle variant of the ‘god cop, bad cop’ game.
In the end, Cully was allowed to leave, but she was cautioned not to leave Midsomer without letting the police know. It felt unreal to hear his own daughter be told those very words, that he himself had had to tell so many different suspects over the years. Some entirely innocent, involved in routine inquiries, others less innocent, but still not the actual murderer, and finally, some that were unquestionably guilty and as a result of their crimes were now enjoying the hospitality of the crown.
Barnaby hurried outside to offer Cully a lift. He found that Daniel Scott had beaten him to it. Gavin was there as well. Barnaby had to smile. His son certainly had adapted to his new life as a member of the Barnaby family.
Barnaby limped across to his daughter and held her for a while. She was barely in a state to speak. Meeting his future son-in-law’s gaze, Barnaby spoke softly over Cully’s head.
“Take her home, to her mother.”
Daniel nodded his understanding. Gavin approached and awkwardly patted Cully’s shoulder. It was as if she wasn’t aware of his presence.
Barnaby felt chilled. This type of behaviour was usually only exhibited in a few cases. If the person in question wasn’t guilty of the crime, he or she had usually witnessed it or found a dead body, possibly in a more gruesome state. There had to be something behind Cully’s behaviour and Barnaby was hoping Joyce could wheedle the truth out of Cully, like so many times before, when she’d been a little girl.
Ben Jones found himself forgotten and clearly unwanted at such a personal time. He vanished back into the station and when he returned outside, Barnaby and son, and future son-in-law were gone. Ben decided that a visit to the pub might be called for.
Ten minutes later, he found himself relaxing a little. The situation with Barnabys was troubling, but as there was nothing he could do to help at the moment, he might as well enjoy himself a little. He was wondering if Melanie might not show up, but instead, he caught sight of Wendy, from the station.
“Hello. Ben Jones. So you’re out for the evening?”
“Yeah, I thought I’d relax a little. Things have been a little unsettled lately.”
“You don’t say. Who would have thought?”
“Can I get you a drink?”
Wendy’s smiled broadened. Ben Jones was usually good fun. Since her latest boyfriend had broken up with her, or rather since she’d broken up with him, she was eager to get back to dating again. Ben would do nicely.
After the first beer, Wendy surprised Ben by ordering the next round herself. Not that he minded. He liked a modern independent woman as much as the next fellow.
As they were sitting there, laughing and chatting on about cases they’d worked on, together or one or the other alone, Ben suddenly became aware of a feeling of being watched. He turned around and found that Melanie was standing just inside the entrance, looking rather odd.
Despite the awkwardness of the situation, he was pleased to see her. A pity about Wendy, but it couldn’t be helped. He waved and called out a greeting to Melanie.
After a brief pause, during which Melanie’s face was completely without expression, she smiled and nodded.
“Ben. So you’re making a night of it?”
“This is Wendy. A colleague. Wendy, this is Melanie. Melanie, Wendy.”
Wendy noticed the other woman’s icy stare and decided this wasn’t a good time to get to know Ben Jones better. If he was already dating this Melanie, who seemed to be a bit of a cold fish, he was welcome to it.
“It’s getting late. I’d better get going. See you at work tomorrow, Ben.”
“Yes. See you.”
He ordered a beer for Melanie, and after a while, it seemed as if the earlier awkwardness was forgotten.
“Ben, the other night, Jo, was saying how nice it was to meet Cully again. So I was wondering if you’d like to come out to Jo’s place tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. For drinks. I’m going to ask Cully and perhaps her fiance would like to join us too.”
“That sounds really nice.”
Ben was about to mention that Cully and Daniel most definitely wouldn’t be able to make it, but he held his tongue. Cully could tell Melanie herself.
To Ben’s surprise, Cully came to Jo’s house the following night. She looked pale and tense, and Daniel was nowhere to be seen, but she came. By then, Ben had heard that there had been no arrest made in the case. Perhaps it was all a misunderstanding. Surely Cully couldn’t have been involved in a murder?
It felt a little odd to be the only bloke present at what was virtually a dinner party. He was uncertain what sort of party this was supposed to be. Melanie had mentioned drinks, but Jo had cooked dinner and after drinks, they went into the dining room and sat down. It was a light meal, rather like supper or a late lunch, but Jo’s cook seemed to know what she was doing.
He remarked on the quality of the cooking, and Jo smiled and told him she always cooked herself. She had a cleaning lady who came out on Mondays, but other than that, she kept house on her own.
After dinner, Jo and Simone took Cully for a walk around the grounds. Melanie wasted no time flirting with Ben. Soon he’d more or less forgotten about Cully’s predicament. It was unusual for him to date a woman so – uninhibited, but he wasn’t complaining. Her assertive manner excited him.
Just as he thought she was going to ask him into the house – or to her car, she pulled herself free.
“I’ll just be a minute. Why don’t you go and take a look at the pool? Perhaps later we could all go for a midnight swim.”
Visions of himself alone in the pool with four young women kept Ben busy, while Melanie went to the bathroom or whatever she did.
He stood watching the soothing play of light over the water, his mind happily dwelling on the evening ahead. Suddenly, he thought he heard something. Smiling, he was about to turn and face Melanie, when something hit him in the back of the head. Everything around him faded away and the last thing he recalled was thinking ‘I’m falling into the pool’.
His head hurt. It was pounding like after a particularly wild night during his training. He was wondering if he’d had too much to drink, when he became aware of two things. Something was restraining his movement. Not that he felt like moving about. He was sick. Wherever he was, the room was spinning around him unpleasanty, dizzyingly. Secondly, some music was playing. An old song. He couldn’t recall the name of the band, but he had a vague memory of having danced to it back in school.
A voice dragged his attention away from the song.
“So you’re coming to. Good.”
It was Melanie’s voice, but different somehow. There was a chill in it, that he’d never heard before. With some effort, he was able to open his eyes. At first, he couldn’t focus, but after a while, her face swam into view. The light was still odd, as if moving about. He felt a sickening smell, which made him worry that he’d throw up. Chloride.
His eyes darted about and he found that he was lying on the edge of the pool.
“Melanie? What happened?”
“That’s what I’d like to know. I thought we were dating.”
“Then what were you doing with that bitch at the pub?”
“Wendy? I told you she’s a colleague -”
“Yes, you told me she’s a copper. What were you two talking about?”
“You’re all alike. Can’t stay faithful to one woman. There’s always another and another. I thought you were different, Ben.”
“Melanie – what -”
“Oh, the ropes. So you’ve noticed that. It’s to help you stay focused on me.”
“This isn’t funny. Let me go.”
“So you can run back off to Wendy?”
“Shut up. Just shut up.”
Melanie kneeled beside him and began to unbutton his shirt. He still couldn’t take her behaviour as anything other than a joke, though a rather farfetched one. The girl who was kneeling before him was so lovely and he still felt excited by her presence. Perhaps this was her idea of a kinky game. If so, he thought he could get used to it.
She tore his shirt open in front, then got to work on his pants. Suddenly, he heard footsteps coming from behind. He looked past Melanie and found that Jo and Simone were leading Cully between them. Cully’s face was a chalky white, with a yellow tinge. Her eyes looked unnaturally wide.
“What are you doing, Mel? Are you going to shag him before -”
“Leave me alone. Take her inside and wait until I’m done. Go on. Sod off.”
“Fine. Come on, Cully. You’re not going anywhere. We’ll deal with you later.”
“I didn’t say anything. Honestly. They don’t know. Let me go. I won’t say anything. Please.”
“Let you go, so you can run back to daddy and your fiance and your brother and tell on us? Don’t be stupid, Cully. You know what will happen if you do. Come on.”
“I never told anyone. I swear.”
“Cross your heart and hope to die?”
There was a chilling tone in Jo’s voice that wasn’t lost on Ben.
Cully began to sob. She was breathing shallowly and Ben wouldn’t be surprised if she was about to hyperventilate. At the moment, he was just as worried about himself though. What had Simone meant when she said ‘are you going to shag him before -‘ Before what? Ben suddenly felt chilled. Melanie’s hands on his chest suddenly left him stone cold.
“You’re mine. No one else is going to have you. That copper bitch will never have you. Look at me, Ben. Yes, that’s right. Look at me.”
She pulled off her top, revealing that she wore nothing underneath. The flickering light from the pool fell softly on her skin. She was breathtakingly beautiful, but she might as well have been plain and flat-chested. Ben’s mind was busy trying to find a way out. What Melanie had just said more or less confirmed his suspicions. She was going to kill him.
Making sure she held his attention, she stepped out of her skirt. Again, she wasn’t wearing anything underneath it. Just a pair of stayups and a pair of high-heeled shoes. This was like something straight out dreams Ben had had, usually when he was younger. Now the sight filled him with dread. Melanie’s eyes seemed to be huge and the pupils were so widely dilated they looked almost black.
She straddled Ben, but at the moment, he was too terrified to react in the way she had expected. Her hand moved in an arc and hit his right cheek, hard.
“Are you still thinking about her?”
“Melanie, please. It’s been fun, but – you have to let me go. People know where we are, Cully and I. Her parents, her fiance, her brother. I told a few mates of mine that I was coming out here. If you -”
“I’m not going to hurt you. This time, it’s Cully’s turn. She didn’t do her part, the last time. We had to twist her arm to make her help us get rid of the body. Now shut up or I’ll change my mind about this.”
She accompanied her words with a more emphatic use of her hands. Again, she was disappointed.
Ben tried to keep a clear head. He was a police officer, after all. Trained to deal with difficult situations. But it was different going into a dangerous situation, with armed backup. Lying like this, at her mercy, made him feel utterly helpless.
“Hold on. I can fix that.”
He saw her head move down his body, then felt her hair tickle his thighs. Despite himself, Ben felt a reaction building. He knew he’d be dead soon, but that knowledge suddenly ceased to matter, for the moment.
Satisfied that she’d dealt with the problem, Melanie moved on top of him and began to move in a way that kept Ben’s mind off the future. He closed his eyes and drifted into a pleasant state of euphoria. No intruding thoughts of his impending demise penetrated the haze.
Cully was shaking uncontrollably. It was a warm night, but she felt chilled to the bone. Her teeth were clattering and she was hugging herself. Simone and Jo had locked her into a tiny storage room. There was no window and no place to sit. She stood leaning on the wall, trying to steady herself.
This couldn’t be happening. The last time, she’d almost managed to convince herself it had all been a bad dream. Finding Andy lying dead, his head still under water, in the bathtub at Jo’s parents’ house. Simone and Jo and Melanie, surrounding her, frightening her, making her grab Andy’s dead arms and lift him off the floor. She’d dropped him twice and Melanie had shoved her face so close against her own that she’d cowered back, whimpering in fear. Melanie had hissed threats that Cully’s mind only half took in.
Then the bumpy ride in Jo’s father’s van out to the muddy field, where they’d buried Andy. And still the girls she had thought were her friends hadn’t left her alone. They’d circled around her, pushing and shoving her, asking her if she wanted to join Andy.
She hadn’t known Andy had been involved with Melanie and Jo and Simone too. When the other girls in school had said that Andy was a cheat, she hadn’t wanted to believe them. He was so hot and his smile so warm. When he looked at her, she’d known she was the only girl for him.
Jo had confronted Andy and when he hadn’t bothered denying it, she’d grabbed a heavy candlestick and hit him. The first time, he hadn’t dropped. He’d been standing there looking at the girls as if he couldn’t believe what had just happened. Though he might have been able to make a run for it, he hadn’t made a move. Jo had hit him again, then she and Melanie and Simone had dragged him into the bathroom, filled the tub and –
It was hard to breathe. There was something she had to remember. Not just Andy. Someone else too. Not Richard, Jo’s husband. He was already dead. Something had told her Jo had had something to do with that riding accident, but she’d never dared to ask. Someone else.
It was so hard to think. Something she had to do. Ben Jones. Dad’s sergeant. Her friend. They wanted him dead too. And after he was dead, she would have to –
No. No. No. Not again. Andy’s skin had been so cold and his arms so heavy. And his eyes –
Wasn’t there anything she could do? What would Daniel have done? Gavin? Dad?
The door was locked from the outside. Any minute now, they would come for her. Ben would be –
She rubbed her hands against her skirt, and felt a small hard object. At first she couldn’t find the pocket. Her hand moved back and forth across the fabric, until finally she could get her fingers into the opening.
The mobile phone felt cold and smooth and hard to hold on to. She dropped it once, and it clattered to the floor, making a deafening noise in the silence. She waited, breathlessly, but no one came. The second time she was more successful. She was able to punch in Daniel’s number and waited. Her palm felt slippery and she held on to the phone so hard, she was afraid she’d break it.
There was no reply. Daniel was working late. That was one reason she hadn’t been able to tell Simone no, when she’d insisted on her coming over to Jo’s house. She left a message on his voicemail, then terminated the call. Her fingers were punching in her father’s number, when she heard footsteps coming in her direction. Hastily, she killed the sound, then hid the phone behind a paper box, filled with what looked like old magazines.
When Jo and Simone opened the door, she was standing as they’d left her. They grabbed her arms hard and began to push her towards the door leading to the pool. Cully whimpered softly. It was too late. Ben would be dead. She didn’t want to help them bury him.
As they were passing through the door, she began to struggle. Simone raised her hand and slapped Cully a few times, hard. Jo didn’t touch her, but the look in her eyes was so chilling, Cully’s nerve broke and she walked docilely between them. There was nothing she could do.
To her surprise, Ben’s eyes were open and they weren’t staring sightlessly into the air. Melanie was standing some distance from him, looking smug somehow. Cully noticed that Ben’s clothes were in disarray. His shirt had been torn and his pants –
So Melanie had – That didn’t interest Cully. What she couldn’t understand was why Ben was still alive.
Melanie turned and faced Cully, an odd look on her face.
“The last time you didn’t pull your weight. This time, you’re going to do more. Here. You know how to do it. There’s nothing to it. Just hit him as hard as you can. Go on. Do it. If you don’t want to help, we don’t have any use for you anymore. You were always a fawning daddy’s girl. A tattletale. If you don’t prove your loyalty to us, we don’t want you.”
Cully stared at Ben. He was securely tied to the railing around steps leading into the water. There was no way she could work him loose without the girls noticing. Even if she tried to hit Melanie or one of the others, there would still be two against one. They were standing so close to her, she couldn’t break away and run.
But she couldn’t hit Ben either. She’d never killed anything in her life. Not even when a school friend had taken her on a hunt, when she was fourteen. It had just been too gruesome. The friend had never asked her over again.
Melanie had a hammer in her hand. Ben didn’t know where she’d found that. Perhaps she’d kept it hidden somewhere nearby. That had to mean she’d planned it all ahead.
Cully was still standing over him, looking as if she was about to pass out. He could see her hands shaking.
Melanie moved closer to Cully, away from Ben. He strained uselessly against the ropes.
Cully stared at the hammer, her hands damp with perspiration. Melanie lost patience with her and pressed the hammer into her hand.
“Take it. Just hit him. It’s not difficult. Once will be enough. Then you just hold his head under water until you’re sure he’s stopped breathing. It’s easy. We’ll help you hold him. All you have to do is push his head under. Go on.”
Cully took a step closer to Ben, taking her one step further away from the girls she’d thought were her friends. They had never liked her. Suddenly, she was quite sure of that. They’d kept her around because it amused them. The tattle-tale. Daddy’s girl. Her dad. She wished he’d been here. He would have known what to do. Gavin and Daniel too. Her eyes filled with tears and she shook even harder than before.
Simone’s harsh voice grated on her ears.
“It’s no use. She’s no good. We’ll have to do them both. Maybe we can set it up as if he’s raped her or tried to and she defended herself. Or that she killed him. I mean, if we tell them she killed Andy, won’t it seem likely she wanted to kill again? Get that hammer from her and -”
Suddenly, the silence was broken by squeeling brakes and slamming car doors. Before either of the three girls had reached Cully, they were surrounded by at least six men in uniforms. Behind them, three men in plain clothes moved in.
Cully felt her legs give out under her. She sagged to the ground, dropping the hammer into the pool. Daniel ran to her and pulled her into his arms. One of the uniforms was kneeling before Ben Jones, working on the knots that tied his wrists.
Gavin and Barnaby caught up with Daniel and helped get Cully away from the centre of activity. They took her to Barnaby’s car and made her lie down in the backseat. Daniel sat down, and let her head rest on his lap.
Cully opened her eyes to find that she was lying in her bed back at her parents’ house. Her mother was sitting at the head of the bed, and she could see her father, her fiance and Gavin sitting further away. The small room was more or less filled to capacity.
“Darling? Are you awake?”
“Mum. Is Ben alright?”
“Yes, darling. Ben will be just fine. Tell her, Tom.”
“Your mother is right, Cully. There’s nothing the matter with DS Jones. Thanks to you. Do you think you can answer a few questions, then I’ll leave you alone.”
“There’s nothing to be frightened of. Joyce – do you think you could make Cully a cup of tea?”
Joyce vanished downstairs to put the kettle on. She was aware of her husband’s little ruse to get her out of the room, but since she had no wish to hear any lurid details about a murder and she knew Cully would be much the better for a nice cup of tea, she didn’t mind.
“Cully – did you kill Andy Barnes?”
Cully was beginning to feel a little better. The knowledge that her former friends were not only far away, but also safely locked up somewhere, contributed to her feeling of well-being. It felt so good, being at home and safe, with her family around her.
“Were you present on the night he was killed?”
“Can you tell me which one of them did it?”
“It was Jo, and I think – I don’t know, but I think – that she also killed her husband.”
“I see. We’ll look into that later. Were they all involved in moving the body?”
“Yes. Dad, they made me help too.”
Cully was again overcome with tears and Barnaby waited patiently while his daughter recovered. He patted her hair reassuringly. Daniel made a move as if to get closer, but changed his mind again. It might be best to let Barnaby handle things for now.
“I’m sorry, Cully. I’m sorry you didn’t feel you could confide in me. You do know that I would have made sure you were safe?”
“Yes, but – afterwards – it was all like a bad dream. I tried to forget about it and – for a while I almost succeeded.”
“I understand. Well, that’s enough for now. Try to get some more rest. I think I’ll go downstairs and join your mother.”
Gavin got up to follow his father, but first he walked over to Cully’s bed and hugged her.
“Don’t worry about those three harpies. They won’t bother you again.”
“I know. Thanks, Gavin. See you later.”
Daniel waited until Gavin was outside before he sat down at the head of the bed. He pulled Cully into his arms and for a while, they didn’t say anything. Finally, Daniel pulled back.
“Darling, I’m really sorry you had to go through this. It was very brave of you to ring me. We found your phone. It’s bagged and entered into the evidence log, but you’ll get it back. Very clever of you.”
“No, it wasn’t. If I’d been clever I wouldn’t have let them get me out there and I would have found a way to warn Ben off. Are you sure he’s alright?”
“Yes, he’s fine. A bit shaken up, that’s all.”
“Melanie had sex with him, while he was tied up there. Right before she was going to kill him. She must have been completely insane.”
Daniel nodded. He didn’t think those two actions necessarily followed, one on the other, but as it happened, he agreed. It had been plain that DS Jones had been in a state of undress and it hadn’t taken a genius to figure out why. Daniel was just surprised he’d been able to perform under those circumstances, but as he well knew, your body could betray you in the most extreme situations.
“At least he’s alright now. Thanks to you. I’m sure he’ll want to thank you later.”
“I should have warned him.”
“It’s alright. Anyone would have been scared of those three. Try not to think about it.”
“Alright. I’ll try. Oh. Did you hear from Will again?”
“Yes. The results of the DNA test came in. He is my brother. Perhaps even Joanne would have baulked at passing another man’s child off as dad’s son, but there’s no telling with her. Will was pleased. I think it means a lot to him to have some family left.”
“Invite him over. He can stay with us or mum and dad. It might not be what he’s used to, but there’s plenty of fun things to see and do for a kid that age.”
“I’ll do that. Now, try to get some rest. I’ll be back in the morning.”
“I love you.”
“I love you too.”
When Joyce came up the stairs ten minutes later, carrying a tray with sandwiches and a pot of tea, Cully was asleep. Her mother backed out again and took the tray back to the kitchen. She and Tom could use a little something to calm their nerves. At least Cully was safe and sound. If she focused on that, she knew she’d be able to get through the next couple of weeks, during the investigation. She’d make sure Cully stayed close to home. Daniel could take some time off and spend it with her. It was the least he could do.