|Primary Characters:||Barnaby, Scott, Joyce, Cully, Troy|
|Warning:||murder, m/m sex, rape, sexual abuse of minor|
|Description:||Daniel Scott turns out to be a very complicated person. Various people find him attractive, but what is he really thinking? Who is the real Daniel?|
Detective Chief Inspector Barnaby kneeled beside the victim, with some difficulty, and studied his face. It was frozen into a stiff mask of horror. Not surprisingly, since he’d died in agony. Barnaby’s instincts told him that this was a hate crime. He didn’t even have to know about the man’s personal life. The excessive violence the victim had been subjected to was reason enough to make that assumption.
As it happened, he did know who the man was, and one potential motive for his murder. Even in sleepy Midsomer there were people who hated minority groups so much that they were prepared to risk jail rather than leaving them alone. Racist crimes weren’t completely unknown and violent crimes targeting gay men, as in this case, did happen from time to time, usually in the larger towns, rather than like this in a fairly small one.
Not without a certain amount of pain, Barnaby managed to get to his feet again without help. He wasn’t getting any younger, that was a fact. There was nothing more to be learned here anyway. Time for the Medical Examiner to do his job.
Detective Sergeant Scott returned from a walk around the area surrounding the crime scene, a wooded area where the townspeople would go for recreation. Hopefully this kind of pastime was rare. Barnaby couldn’t help remarking on D S Scott’s immaculate appearance. It never ceased to amaze Barnaby how his new partner always dressed as if the promotion board was in session.
“Ah, D S Scott. Anything significant turn up?”
“Not really, sir. Do we have an ID on the victim?”
“Yes. Anthony Fletcher. Local business man. Antiques.”
“Right. What do we know about him?”
“Well, he doesn’t have a criminal record if that’s what you’re getting at. He appears to have been a law abiding citizen. However, P C Henderson told me that mr Fletcher was a part of the gay scene here, minor as the group might be.”
“One of those, eh? A shirt lifter. Could be some date gone wrong then.”
Scott seemed to dismiss the case with some contempt. Barnaby himself didn’t feel very strongly either for or against that particular group of the community, but he couldn’t help feeling that D S Scott’s attitude didn’t live up to today’s expectations of professionalism among the police force.
“D S Scott.”
Scott took one look at his superior and realized his mistake. It wouldn’t do to get a reputation as someone prejudiced or ignorant. That wouldn’t look good when he was taken under evaluation for a possible promotion.
“Sir. Any obvious witnesses to interview?”
“A business partner. A mrs Dora Soames. Widow. Mr Fletcher’s mother. Two close friends.”
“Florist or interior designer?”
“Actually, no. An architect and a landscape designer.”
“Close enough. Well, would you like me to interview the ladies or the – gentlemen?”
“I think I’ll handle the mother in any case, since you don’t seem to be able to treat this case with the proper professionalism.”
“And I think I’ll tackle mrs Soames too. You interview mr Marshall and mr Latimer.”
“Right. I’ll meet you back at the station then, shall I?”
“No. Why don’t we meet at the pub? I hear the beer is good and it will be about lunchtime then.”
Mrs Soames turned out to be a rather pretentious, snobbish and hysterical middle aged woman. She appeared to have been genuinely fond of her younger business partner – ‘the dear, dear boy’ – but the histrionics were entirely uncalled for. Barnaby had a hard time calming the lady down.
He had a rather uncharitable thought. The lady enjoyed the performance and in fact, spurred herself on to new heights of despair. Financially she’d be fine, Barnaby concluded. Their contract had provided for the eventuality of either partner’s premature demise. That might be a motive, though Barnaby found it difficult to believe that the lady in question would have been physically capable of inflicting the horrendous wounds that had killed mr Fletcher.
In comparison, mrs Fletcher had taken the incident somewhat more calmly, though Barnaby thought he detected more of genuine grief here.
“Can you think of anyone who might have had a grudge against your son?”
“No. That’s just it. Everyone loved Anthony. He was such a kind, gentle soul. Ever since he was a child, he was taking in stray cats and rescuing them. I – shall have to bring Barnabas and Montgomery home with me.”
Her voice wavered briefly and Barnaby could see that there were tears glittering in her eyes, but she didn’t make half as much of a spectacle of herself as the business partner.
“Of course. I’ll let my men know you’ll be coming to pick the cats up. I’m sorry to have to ask you these questions but did mr Fletcher – Anthony have a – partner?”
“Mrs Soames – I assumed you had already spoken to her.”
“I meant a life partner.”
“Oh. Not at the moment. Anthony worked too hard to have time to meet any nice young men.”
“There’s William Marshall, of course. One of his friends. But William wouldn’t – they were such good friends still.”
“What about his other friend – mr Latimer?”
“Philip? Nonsense. His friends were just like him, kind, gentle, certainly not prone to violence.”
“Did your son or his friends use any drugs?”
“Detective Chief Inspector.”
“Detective Chief Inspector Barnaby. I must say these questions are in poor taste. My son only drank socially and he certainly didn’t take any other type of drug.”
“I apologize, but these are routine questions. I’m sure you want to find the killer, just as much as we do.”
“Naturally, but – to tarnish a good man’s memory?”
“Thank you, mrs Fletcher. May I return if I think of any more questions I need to ask you?”
“I suppose I have no choice. Good day to you, Detective Chief Inspector.”
“Good day to you too, mrs Fletcher.”
Barnaby didn’t enjoy these kinds of interviews. His instincts told him the mother had nothing to do with the gruesome killing, but that didn’t mean that she had no useful information. Even if she didn’t realize it herself, she might hold the key to the solution of the case. It was all a matter of connecting the pieces of the puzzle.
On his way to the Hunter’s Moon, Barnaby wondered how D S Scott was getting along with mr Marshall and mr Latimer. Barnaby knew he’d assigned Scott that particular job just to teach him a lesson. Scott’s boyish charm would have suited both ladies far better than his own straightforward methods. And after all the years in the business, he felt he could tackle any group of people with sufficient tact.
Barnaby walked into the pub, temporarily blinded by the contrast between the bright sunlight outside and the comparative darkness inside. While his eyes adjusted, he remained standing in the doorway, hoping no other guest would bump into him. Fortunately, he managed to move out of the way before any newcomer did arrive. He looked around for D S Scott and found him sitting at the bar, talking to someone Barnaby didn’t know.
He walked closer but didn’t call out. Was this a friend of Scott’s or –
“I see. Yes, this kind of place can be a bit dull after London. Believe me, I know. So you manage to get back to the city over the weekends sometimes?”
“You bet. Maybe we’ll run into each other someplace one of these days?”
“To chance encounters.”
“To chance encounters.”
Barnaby couldn’t believe his eyes. At first, Scott’s tone baffled him, and now that he’d had time to look closer, even more, the entire body language, the smile and the looks. There was no question about it, Scott was flirting with the man sitting there looking him over so greedily.
Was this the same man who only less than an hour later had been talking so contemptuously about gay men? Now he was wheedling information out of a witness by means of his suave charm. Barnaby, who had only seen Scott unleash that charm on women, was amazed.
“Now please tell me more about Anthony. What was he like?”
The man – was it Marshall or Latimer? – smiled lecherously, and even – at first Barnaby thought he was mistaken – winked at Scott who smiled back, slightly condescendingly, but no less brilliantly.
“Oh, you know. A bit dull. Uptight. Too eager to please mother dearest. Not really adventurous. Oh, you mean the facts. What can I tell you? Good business sense. Honest. Faithful. William was the one to leave him, not the other way around. Of course, William isn’t the most – exciting person around either. So naturally, they stayed friends. William comes to London with me from time to time, but of course, Anthony was alright about that.”
“I see. Any enemies?”
“Enemies? You’re talking like a -”
A broad grin spread on mr Latimer’s features.
“You’re a copper, right? Had me fooled there for a while. Very clever. Enemies? No.”
“Any ex-boyfriends who might bear a grudge against him?”
“Against Anthony? You must be joking, Daniel.”
He placed rather more emphasis on D S Scott’s name than strictly necessary, or so Barnaby thought.
“He was such a good fellow. Thoroughly nice. Well, la Soames might not like him as much as she’s letting on. Her son, Timothy, seems to have become rather too close to Anthony, for mother’s taste. No harm in that, of course. It was all after he graduated.”
“I told you. Anthony was all wholesome and good, through and through. A bit like bran flakes, Daniel. Healthy, but a tad dull. So we’re not going to run into each other in London then?”
“Probably not. If we did, you might wish we hadn’t.”
“You misjudge me. I’m all above board myself. You won’t find anything on me. And unless the older gentleman behind you, whose eyes are boring a hole into your back is your father, I think I’m right in assuming that your boss is here to get your report. Thanks for the drink, Daniel. And the little chat. I didn’t expect any coppers to be this sexy. Personally, I do hope we’ll run into each other again. Perhaps you’ll let me show you around a part of the city you might not be familiar with.”
“I wouldn’t count on that, if I were you. Anything else aside, I’m going to be here for a year or more. I doubt if I’ll have time to visit London any time soon. Thanks for the information, mr Latimer.”
“Philip. I thought we’d settled that.”
“Philip. If you’ll excuse me, I have a report to make to my superior, Detective Chief Inspector Barnaby.”
Barnaby sat down and for a moment, he was struck dumb with surprise. The two images of D S Scott just didn’t add up. Homophobic one second, the next capable of letting a gay man chat him up, all so he could get some information about a murder victim. Would his new partner every cease to amaze him?
“Well, that was quite a change from earlier. I thought you didn’t approve of gay men?”
“What’s that got to do with anything, sir? I felt that under the circumstances this approach was the one most suitable. If you don’t like my methods -”
“No. I didn’t say that. Still, I’d have to say your approach is strictly optional. A bit above and beyond as they might say in the armed forces.”
“Was that a compliment, sir?”
“I believe it was. Well, go on then. If you’re prepared to buy potential witnesses drinks, I should think you might want to buy your boss a beer.”
For just a second or two, Barnaby had thought he’d detected a look of dismay flickering across Scott’s features, as he commented on the way he had been conducting the interview. Now, he looked as smooth and businesslike as ever.
The next step in the investigation was to find mrs Soames son, Timothy. Fortunately, since coming down from Cambridge, he’d made his home close to his mother, rather than in London. This time, Barnaby and Scott tackled the interview together.
Timothy Soames had a small flat in Causton. It was such a long time before he answered the door, that Barnaby had begun to surmise there was no one at home.
Eventually, though, a pale, nervous looking young man opened the door and peeked out. According to Barnaby’s information the young man was 23 years old, but he looked quite a bit younger. More late teens than early 20’s.
“I’m Detective Chief Inspector Barnaby and this is Detective Sergeant Scott. May we come in?”
“What do you want?”
“We have some routine questions for you, regarding the murder of your mother’s business partner. Mr Fletcher.”
“Oh. That was a terrible, terrible business. I still can’t believe Anthony is gone.”
“Quite. May we?”
“Oh, of course.”
“Mr Soames – I understand you and mr Fletcher were close.”
“Who told you that?”
“Yes, well, we knew each other. Mother -”
“I see. So you’re denying there was any intimate relation between you and mr Fletcher?”
“Excuse me, but how is this relevant to the case?”
“We’re trying to trace mr Fletcher’s movements, his friends – anything that might provide an insight into his last hours.”
“I hadn’t seen him for days.”
“When was the last time you and mr Fletcher saw each other?”
To Barnaby’s relief, Scott was now acting with more tact than might have been expected.
“Let me see – I think it was last Wednesday. In mother’s shop. I went in to see her and mr Fletcher was there, so we exchanged a few words. That was all.”
“Can you think of anyone who might harm mr Fletcher?”
“No. He was a good man.”
“You must have been aware of mr Fletcher’s – sexual orientation?”
“I really don’t see -”
“My point is – to your knowledge, had he been threatened by anyone?”
“No. I haven’t heard anything.”
“Right. Where were you last night?”
“Yes, last night. When mr Fletcher was killed.”
“Oh. I was at home.”
“So no one can vouch for your movements last night?”
“I guess not. Am I under suspicion?”
“Not at all. These are just routine questions. At this point in the investigation. But surely you would want whoever killed your friend mr Fletcher brought to justice?”
“I wouldn’t say that we were friends, but yes, of course. This has been a dreadful shock.”
“Quite. Well, that’s all for now. If we think of anything else we need to ask you, we’ll be back.”
“We’ll let ourselves out. Thank you for your cooperation, mr Soames.”
They descended the stairs and got into the car. Once there, Scott turned to face his boss.
“Acting suspciously, wouldn’t you say?”
“Yes. It seems clear that mr Soames has something to hide.”
“Do you think he killed him?”
“It’s possible. But I doubt it.”
“Another one of those, obviously.”
“And on what do you base that assessment? Was it the way he looked at you?”
“Me, sir? I just meant -”
“I know what you meant, and I have to agree with you. But that doesn’t mean that he killed mr Fletcher or even that they were involved. You must learn not to jump to conclusions or typecast suspects and other members of the public.”
“Point taken, sir. But if I don’t form theories, how am I going to solve any case?”
“Theories are fine, as long as they’re based on facts, not prejudice.”
“Right, sir. Shall we?”
“Please. The report from the post mortem should be finished by now. Let’s go and find out what it can tell us about our victim.”
For once, the pathologist had finished the autopsy and was willing to volunteer some information.
“What about the time of death?”
“Between 8 and midnight the night before he was found.”
“What about the crime scene?”
“He wasn’t killed where he was found. The body had been moved.”
“Cause of death?”
Barnaby cast a thoughtful glance at Scott. He didn’t seem to mind looking at a dead body at least, no matter how prejudiced he could be at times.
“A blow to the head. Hard to tell which one. Someone definitely had a grudge against him. Whoever it was must have hit him at least twenty to thirty times.”
“With what? What was the murder weapon?”
“I’m not sure. Something heavy, blunt. A candle stick? A lamp? I’ve made a cast of the impression. Perhaps forensics can do something with that.”
“Would you say that the person who did this was physically strong?”
“Yes. And no. If this person was emotionally agitated, I’d say it wouldn’t take anyone that strong, under normal circumstances.”
“Are you saying a woman could have done this?”
“Yes. In fact, judging by the position of some of the wounds, I’d say it was someone a bit shorter than the victim.”
“Some of the wounds?”
“Yes. About half of them were inflicted when he was lying down. Possibly after death.”
“I see. Anything else you could tell me?”
“He had sex right before death.”
“Yes. We found some in his throat and mouth. I’ve isolated a sample for testing.”
Barnaby again watched Scott out of the corner of his eye. As usual, the young man’s face didn’t reveal much of his true feelings, but this time, Barnaby was certain he could detect some signs of revulsion.
It was unbelievable that D S Scott hadn’t already had experience with this type of evidence. If he had, surely he would have learned to accept it the same way you accepted the victims of road accidents, suicides, raped and murdered children and anything else you were bound to run into in their line work? Barnaby knew it hadn’t taken him long to get used to rotting corpses dug up after ten years in the ground and horribly disfigured faces, brain tissue and much more. Normally, Scott didn’t strike him as overly sensitive.
“Then perhaps we shall learn more when we have the results of the DNA test. Excellent.”
“Really, Tom. You can’t be serious. We’d planned this for weeks.”
“I’m sorry, Joyce. It had completely slipped my mind. But this is important. I’m required to be there. All the senior officers are.”
“I see. Of course.”
“This exhibition will be going on for weeks, won’t it?”
“Yes, but this is the grand opening.”
Barnaby knew how much these things meant to his wife and though he himself loathed similar functions, he would have been happy to escort her to one of the few events of the season. Her voice betrayed the disappointment over her spoiled evening.
“I’ll try to make it up to you. What about Cully? Couldn’t the two of you go together? She’s interested in art too and -”
“Cully’s in London this weekend. Have you forgotten about that too?”
“Oh. I’m afraid that had slipped my mind too. Joyce, I’m really sorry. I know it won’t be the same, but how about next weekend?”
“Yes, fine. It’s alright. I knew what I was letting myself in for when I married a policeman. Go on. I’ll be fine.”
“Are you sure?”
“Then I’d better get going. I’m late already. See you Sunday night.”
He considered kissing his wife’s cheek but decided against it. Even if Joyce now sounded deceptively meek, he was pretty sure she was still simmering inside and soon he’d pay the price for his mistake.
Left to herself, Joyce remained deep in thought. She might go alone to the grand opening of the art exhibition, but it wouldn’t be the same. Her friends would be there, and none of them would be going alone. What a pity Cully wouldn’t be at home. Who else did she know who wasn’t going to the exhibition?
Suddenly, she recalled that Daniel Scott, her husband’s charming new partner had recently had his flat burgled. Perhaps she ought to pay the poor boy a visit? A young man living on his own couldn’t have made much effort to make the place look lived in. She might bring a potted plant, a home cooked meal or freshly made bread and some jam. That was a good idea. Just in case, she might give him a ring first to check if he would be in. A handsome young man like Daniel might easily be out with a girl on a Friday night.
But D S Scott was in and what was more, he sounded absolutely delighted to hear mrs Barnaby’s voice on the phone. In fact, it crossed Joyce’s mind that he might be trying to flatter her. But she subdued that thought, recalling his heart warming smile and the way his eyes always lit up when he caught sight of her.
“I was wondering if you’re busy tonight. Otherwise I might drop by for a moment. I heard that you’d been burgled.”
“Oh, that. That’s nothing really. A couple of years ago I had my flat completely smashed up by some drug addicts. Of course that was in London.”
“Oh, dear. Was that connected with your work?”
“No. Not at all. It was just bad luck. Anyway, I’d love to see you. I don’t have much to offer you, though.”
“Please don’t go to any trouble on my account. I was going to bring you something to eat, if that’s alright.”
“That’s very kind of you, mrs Barnaby. Of course, I always love to sample your cooking. Great. I’ll dig up a bottle of wine for us. When can I expect you?”
“How about around 8?”
“Sounds fine. See you then, mrs Barnaby.”
Joyce decided to bring the stew she had planned on serving Tom later on. She also packed the bread she’d bought in the new bakery in Causton that afternoon, and some jam her neighbour had given her. She hated to think what young policemen ate before they got married. At least tonight, D S Scott would have a home cooked meal.
At 8, Joyce walked into D S Scott’s home for the first time. Just as she had expected the place was bleak and bare. Nothing beyond the mere basics. Her host met her at the door, a brilliant smile on his face.
“Mrs Barnaby. Please.”
“My name is Joyce.”
Scott hesitated, then his smile widened and he nodded.
“Joyce. As you must know, my name is Daniel.”
“I hope this is alright. I don’t usually have guests.”
He indicated the table, which had been set for two. The table cloth looked exactly the way Joyce had expected it to, but the warm welcome from her host more than made up for any material shortcomings. Joyce began to relax. She’d been right to come here. It was disgraceful the way Tom neglected his young partner. When Tom got back, she’d make sure they asked him over for dinner more often and why not take him out for drinks or a meal once in a while?
“It’s fine, Daniel. Here. I brought this.”
She placed the potted plant on the window sill.
“It’s a Dieffenbachia.”
“It’s very easy to care for. Just water it once in a while. And give it some fertilizer.”
“Thanks. It brightens up the place. But you shouldn’t have.”
“You’re very kind.”
“And a stew. I’ll just heat it and we can begin.”
Before Scott could stop her, Joyce had pushed past him into the kitchen and was looking through his cupboards. Eventually, she found what she needed and some minutes later, she was ready to serve dinner.
Scott sat down at the table, a stunned expression on his face. He couldn’t remember the last time anyone had come into his home and taken charge like this.
Joyce glanced doubtfully at her host, but couldn’t detect any sign that he was faking his enthusiasm. She wasn’t used to her cooking being lauded like this, but it was undeniably pleasant.
“Some more wine?”
The wine was your average Safeway’s basic red, but Joyce was feeling too invigorated by the praise and the stimulating companionship to pay much attention.
When the first bottle of wine was gone, Scott brought another one just the same from the kitchen. Joyce only hesitated for a second. She was having far too much fun to worry about a headache in the morning.
Their conversation never touched upon art, classical music or the theatre. Joyce was amazed to find that she had suddenly developed an interest in sports, soap operas and cars. Why not? The way Daniel discussed those topics was widely different than the ways she’d always thought about them.
At some point, they must have retreated to the sofa, where Daniel kept refilling her glass. He also played some CD:s with music Joyce had never to her knowledge listened to before. Whoever Robbie Williams was, he certainly knew how to sing.
She never knew which one of them initiated the contact, but suddenly she became aware of Daniel’s face being so close to hers. Though she knew she ought to pull back, get up, leave, she found herself irresistibly drawn closer instead. Their lips met and for a breathless second, it seemed Daniel would disentangle himself.
He did, in fact, pull back slightly and Joyce was prepared to do the sensible thing and go before she did something else she’d regret. Daniel’s eyes darkened and glazed over. Next thing she knew, Joyce was being pulled not towards the front door, but the bed.
She was lying down. His hands were undressing her. She felt his lips cover her mouth and she remembered thinking, this isn’t happening, before his skillful hands caressing her silenced any objection she might have. Her breathing picked up and she let her fingers stroke his hair. One hand moved down her body, causing new sensations. His lips travelled down to her neck, then further down.
When he looked up again, there was something different about his face, but Joyce wasn’t paying attention. Even his voice had changed when he softly whispered what seemed to her had to be her name, but later, in her memory, turned out to be someone else’s name.
By then, she was beyond words. The only sounds issuing from her mouth were low moans.
She woke up to a pounding headache. The sun was shining into her eyes in a way it never did in her own bedroom. It took all her will power to make her eyes open and it was a while until she could focus properly. When she realized where she was, she gasped loudly enough to wake the man in whose arms she was resting.
Daniel’s eyes had changed again, and there was little recognition in them. She pulled herself free, and he did nothing to stop her. While frantically searching for her clothes, she didn’t look at him again until she was close to fully dressed. He had turned his back on her and had pulled the sheet up to cover himself.
Joyce wondered if she ought to say something or if that would only make matters worse. All the same, she wished he had said something, anything to break the spell. It was the first time since her marriage that she had been intimate with any man other than her husband. How could this have happened? It had been the last thing on her mind when she had paid her husband’s partner a visit.
Without another thought, she fled, heedless of who saw her emerge from the flat. Her daughter lived in Causton and her husband did much of his work there. People knew her. Right now, that knowledge didn’t mean anything to her.
She had to get home. Somehow, she had to make this go away. Make it so it had never happened. She had to wash herself clean of the stains of her guilt. To make matters worse, Daniel hadn’t been the main initiator, she recalled with sickening clarity. She had been at least as active as he had been.
On Barnaby’s return Sunday night, he was met by a transformed wife. Who was this distraught creature? He was afraid she’d suffered a nervous breakdown. It took him hours to stem the flood of tears, then to cajole her into going to bed, where he brought her soup and bread, which she hardly touched.
When he’d finally managed to get her to doze off, with the help of some sleeping pills she’d been prescribed months earlier, after a particularly difficult and stressful time in their lives, he decided to leave the questions for the morning.
Monday morning, he rang his daughter and asked her to come over to sit with her mother. His work didn’t allow any days off, not even when his wife was going through some nameless crisis.
“Cully, please come over. I can’t leave your mother alone.”
“What’s wrong with her? Is she drinking again?”
“No, Cully. Your mother doesn’t have a drinking problem. I have no idea what’s happened. She was alright when I left on Friday afternoon. Well, she was disappointed about the art exhibition.”
“The grand opening? What on earth were you doing away at a time like that?”
“It was a regional meeting for senior officers. I had completely forgotten about it, and it was something I had to do.”
“Oh. Then what?”
“I tried to call your mother on Friday night, then throughout Saturday and Sunday. She didn’t answer the phone. Naturally I was concerned, but for all I knew the phone might have been out of order. I left early on Sunday, as early as I could, to check on her.”
“I have no idea. She wouldn’t tell me anything, but she’d been crying and she was distraught for some reason.”
“Daddy, I’m busy, but I suppose I shall have to call in sick and come over. We have to find out what’s wrong. She could be sick or maybe she’d been in an accident or -”
Cully didn’t dare to even voice the last eventuality that had just occurred to her. What if her mother had been attacked? It was the kind of thing you didn’t even want to contemplate. Not about yourself naturally, but even less about your mother.
“I’ve called the station and nothing seems to have happened during the weekend. Unusually quiet, apparently. No major traffic accidents, no violent crimes. Nothing.”
“Right. I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
“For god’s sake, be careful. We don’t want anything to happen to you too.”
“Of course, I’ll be careful, dad. I’m not ten years old anymore. Can you stay until I get there?”
“Tom? What are you doing home at this hour?”
“Just a second, Cully. Your mother’s up.”
“Is that Cully?”
“Yes, dear. How are you feeling?”
Barnaby’s worst fears were realized when his wife avoided meeting his eyes, and shrugged indifferently. Something was very wrong, and she wasn’t going to tell him what it was. Perhaps Cully might pry it out of her. He’d always thought Cully was his girl, but in many matters women were closer. It was only natural.
“I’m on my way to work now. Cully’s coming over to see you, darling.”
“Why? She’s got work to do just like you.”
He had never heard his wife’s voice sound so dull and toneless. Though he knew it was pointless, he felt the urge to grab her by the shoulders and shake the explanation out of her. He needed to know, so he could make things better.
“No. Not today. She’s on her way now.”
Joyce didn’t reply. She merely turned away and went into the kitchen.
“I think it’s alright if I leave now. You’ll get here soon and -”
“Right. I’m on my way. Don’t worry, dad, I’m sure there’s some perfectly normal explanation. You know how mum tends to overreact sometimes.”
“Of course. I’ll try to get home early tonight. D S Scott can take over.”
When Cully unlocked the door, she was unnerved by the almost complete silence inside.
“Mum? I’m here. Where are you?”
Cully impatiently slammed the door shut behind her and began to search for her mother. She found her in the kitchen, staring into a tea cup filled with cold tea.
“Mum. I was calling for you.”
“You were? I’m sorry, darling. I must have been deep in thought.”
“What’s wrong? You’re scaring me. You’re scaring dad.”
“Nothing’s wrong. I’m sorry.”
“Something must be the matter, or you wouldn’t be acting like this.”
“Cully, it’s very kind of you to come over on a work day, but I’m alright. Just feeling a little depressed, that’s all. Your father was overreacting.”
Under her daughter’s anxious stare, Joyce made an effort to pull herself together. She didn’t think she could bring herself to tell anyone about what she’d done. Her behaviour was already causing her husband and daughter concern. It would have to stop, or they’d suspect something.
After a long pause in which Cully perused her mother’s face, she let out a sigh of relief. Her mother appeared to be acting much more in character now. Even if she’d been upset before, it might just be a menopause thing. Dad had been quite insensitive to leave her when he’d promised to take her to the grand opening of the art exhibition. Naturally her mother was upset.
“If you like, we’ll go over to the gallery now.”
Joyce didn’t feel up to any art exhibitions at the moment, but she realized her daughter was making an effort to cheer her up, so she found herself responding not as enthusiastically as Cully might wish, but at least enough to allay most of her concerns.
“That’s very sweet of you, darling, but I’m a bit tired. Perhaps tomorrow.”
“Of course. I’ve been looking forward to going. What a shame the concert was on the same day. Otherwise you and I could have gone together.”
“That would have been nice, dear.”
And if she had gone with Cully, Friday night would never have happened and she wouldn’t be going through what she was right now. How could she have betrayed Tom this way? In all their years of marriage, she knew he’d never cheated on her and she had never even felt tempted. Remembering almost made tears come to her eyes. She had to pull herself together or Cully would be more worried about her than she already was.
“I’m sorry to alarm you and your father. Why don’t we sit in the garden and chat? I’ll just go upstairs and change and so on.”
“Alright. That sounds nice. I’ll wait outside.”
Cully was wondering if something else was behind her mother’s uncharacteristic behaviour or if she’d merely been fed up with her husband’s irregular work hours. It was impossible to tell. Perhaps her father hadn’t been entirely truthful with her either.
They might have argued more than he liked to admit. That might explain the rest. In any case, her mother couldn’t possibly have been the victim of an attack, of any kind, or had an accident. After some more thought, Cully persuaded herself that everything would be fine.
Later that evening, she told her father as much. After seeing for himself how much calmer his wife appeared, Barnaby too arrived at the conclusion that Joyce had overreacted. He’d been thoughtless and insensitive but he’d make it up to her. Naturally, nothing alarming had taken place.
Barnaby had just received the result of the DNA testing of the victim’s body.
“Well. It seems our mr Soames knew mr Fletcher rather more intimately than he was letting on.”
“Right. Do you think he did it?”
“I don’t know yet. But we’ll have to pay young Timothy another visit.”
On second thought, Barnaby decided to leave Scott at the station and pursue this lead on his own. Judging by Scott’s reaction to the intimate relations between men, it might be better not to include him in the interview.
“I’ll go. No, stay here and go over the dead man’s finances. Pay special attention to the contract between him and the partner, mrs Soames. I have a feeling that means something.”
It seemed D S Scott didn’t mind sitting this one out, and this reaction made Barnaby even more certain he’d made the right decision.
Unfortunately, mr Soames was not in when Barnaby called and since he was in Causton anyway, Barnaby chose to visit a florist’s shop he knew his wife favoured. Joyce had seemed different somehow, since her strange attack of nerves the other weekend. Barnaby felt it would be wise to pay extra attention to his wife, so there would be no repetition of the alarming episode.
He decided to have the bouquet delivered, rather than bringing it himself. On an impulse, he also visited the wine shop on the main street, and bought a nice Riesling. If he could get away from work early tonight, he would have a nice surprise for Joyce, always assuming she’d made something edible for dinner. If not, they could always leave the bottle for later, and eat out.
He decided that if mr Soames wasn’t in when he tried the next time, he’d be forced to seek him at his mother’s shop. That would be unfortunate, because no one would feel free to discuss intimate details of his personal life with his mother as witness.
But to his relief, this time he caught the young man at home.
“Detetective Chief Inspector. May I come in, mr Soames?”
“I suppose so.”
“Right. I’ll get straight to the point. The Medical Examiner secured some samples during the Post Mortem and this evidence turned out to indicate that you and mr Fletcher were rather more intimate than you led us to believe during our last interview.”
“On the night mr Fletcher died, you and he had – uh – intimate relations.”
Instead of blushing, as Barnaby had imagined mr Soames might do, his face lost all colour and he dropped into a chair, so suddenly, it seemed he’d been about to faint. Barnaby had rarely interviewed a more nervous man in his life. Women, yes, though more in the past than in the last twenty years or so, but men – not that he could recall.
“Mr Soames? Are you alright?”
Barnaby didn’t relish having to call a doctor, and face accusations of police brutality. Despite everything, he was beginning to wish he’d brought D S Scott along after all.
“Yes. I’m sorry. Well, I suppose it’s no use denying it. Anthony and I were – involved.”
“Why didn’t you say so the first time?”
“What? Oh, I was embarrassed. This town isn’t large enough to – tolerate any deviation from the norm.”
“Still, I would have thought you’d realized that it’s a serious matter, lying during a police investigation.”
“I didn’t lie, Detective Chief Inspector. I merely evaded the question.”
“So you did.”
Barnaby had to smother a smile. This was so like Cully in her teens. She never lied, she merely didn’t answer the question you thought she was answering. In many ways, this young man reminded him of a teenager, rather than a man who had come down from Cambridge with a degree.
“You realize that you might be the last person to have seen mr Fletcher before he was killed. Is there anything you can tell me about that last meeting?”
This time, young Timothy really blushed and Barnaby hastened to assure him that what he wanted to know had nothing to do with their actual sex act.
“What I mean is, did he appear agitated? Did he receive any strange phone call? Did you discuss anything that might shed light on his death?”
“No. Nothing. He was – just as he always was.”
Tears appeared in mr Soames’ eyes and for a while, he was overcome with emotion. Again, it struck Barnaby as entirely unlikely that this young man had committed a murder. He might possibly strike out in self defence and accidentally cause a death, though even that, Barnaby felt was highly unlikely. The young man looked more like a school boy and certainly didn’t seem strong enough to beat anyone to death, except possibly another school boy or girl.
“I’m sorry to remind you of – But you realize I must ask these questions. ”
“Of course. We – loved each other. If – everything had been different, we would have lived together. And now -”
Barnaby was alarmed. If this boy burst out crying, what would he do? He didn’t fancy having to comfort him, though why he should feel so disinclined, he couldn’t say. It would be like comforting Cully when she was a teenager and some boy had left her heartbroken. But those boys hadn’t died, they’d merely taken up with another girl. How did you console someone who felt his life was over because the love of his life had died?
But to his relief, the boy managed to pull himself together.
“I – apologize. You must find all this grotesque.”
“I wouldn’t say that. Contrary to what you might think, all members of the force aren’t insensitive homophobes. Forgive me, but may I ask just a few more questions before I leave you in peace?”
“How did your mother feel about your relationship?”
There was a long, awkward pause. Of all the questions Barnaby could have asked, this was one of the last he’d imagined would cause this reaction.
“She – didn’t know. Perhaps she suspected, but I knew she wouldn’t be able to handle it, so I never told her. Not even that I was – I mean, about my – preferences.”
“I see. Well, this is just a routine question, again, but I must ask – did you kill mr Fletcher?”
“No. I loved him. Didn’t I just -”
“Quite. Well, that’s all for now. Alright. You didn’t ask for my advice, but as a father, I’ll give you some anyway. Right now, you may feel that you’ll never meet anyone to love again. It’s not true. My daughter – anyway, one day, you will get over this and you’ll meet someone else. Even though it might feel that way, hearts don’t break.”
Timothy Soames stared at Barnaby in confusion, then a slow smile began to spread across his pale features.
“Detective Chief Inspector – I – my father died when I was six. You have no idea how I wish he’d been as understanding as you are – if he’d known about me.”
Barnaby noted that the smile never quite reached the eyes.
“Here. This is my card. If you recall anything at all that might be of help, please call. Don’t worry about it, even if it seems like a small insignificant detail. As a part of the entire puzzle, it might still be of help. And – since you loved mr Fletcher, you’ll want his killer brought to justice. I promise you that I’ll do anything I can to make sure that happens.”
This time, there was no smile and no expression on the pale face. Barnaby had the impression that he was again missing something, some minute nuance that might help him solve the case. But he couldn’t think of what that might be, so he gave up the struggle for the moment. Feeling as if he’d been too business like, he hurriedly added another reassurance.
“And – if you need help. If someone bullies or threatens you, call. We’re here to protect members of the public. All members of the public.”
“I appreciate your concern, Detective Chief Inspector. In Cambridge, sometimes we were bullied by older students, and once – but that was a long time ago. Here in Causton, I keep a low profile. Hopefully that will be enough.”
“Quite. Well, just bear this in mind.”
On his way back to the station, Barnaby considered bringing D S Scott along to interview mrs Soames. Even if the son wasn’t guilty of the murder, it wasn’t too farfetched to imagine the mother killing the man she felt was guilty of – what? Seducing her innocent son? Corrupting his mind?
Once back inside the office, Barnaby was greeted by D S Scott, looking as enthusiastic and eager as ever.
“Sir. I think I’ve got something. The victim’s solicitor had something interesting to tell me.”
“And all without a court order? Your charm at work again?”
“Never mind. Tell me what you learned.”
“Mr Fletcher was about to let mr Soames into the business. He wanted him to become an equal partner.”
“Which would have cut mother dear out of some of her share. You’re right, this is interesting. Let’s go and talk to the lady.”
“Right. You think she could have done it?”
“Well, according to the M E, a woman might have done this. Of course, the son might also have done it, though I doubt it.”
They did find mrs Soames at the shop, but she was anything but helpful and no amount of questioning could make her give anything away. Not even D S Scott’s renowned charm produced any results.
Defeated, they left the shop and returned to the station.
“What do you think, sir?”
“I think she might be guilty. But to prove it, is a different matter. Tricky case. I think at this point we’ll need to send a forensics team back to mr Fletcher’s home and go over it again. Especially the bedroom.”
“Right. I’ll get on it.”
“If you would. I need to get home to mrs Barnaby. She’s been upset lately and I should do what I can to cheer her up.”
“Of course. Go on. I’ll send forensics over to mr Fletcher’s place.”
“Thanks. After that, you could take the afternoon off yourself.”
“Thank you, sir.”
Bringing the wine bottle, Barnaby drove home and surprised Joyce. To his amazement, if anything, she appeared to be more distressed by his gesture. He couldn’t figure her out. The only explanation he could think of was that her age crisis still wasn’t a thing of the past. Perhaps he’d better see a travel agent and arrange a trip to Madeira or perhaps somewhere more adventurous.
She went to bed early, leaving Barnaby to once again consider the puzzling case. Was mrs Soames guilty? Or was the son somehow implicated? Could one or both of the deseased’s friends be involved? Or was the crime the work of some unknown homophobe?
His thoughts were interrupted by the phone ringing. It was close to midnight and Barnaby’s first concern was that something had happened to Cully. But the voice at the other end of the line belonged to someone else.
“Hello? Who is this?”
All he could hear was a wordless sobbing. Just as Barnaby was about to hang up, all his efforts to produce a coherent reply in vain, at last the caller spoke up.
“She killed him. It was horrible. One minute we were making love, the next – she was screaming and -”
“Excuse me? Mr Soames?”
“Yes. I can’t bear it anymore.”
“Please, try to compose yourself. You were saying -”
“My mother killed Anthony.”
“Right. I think we’ll need to do this down at the station if you don’t mind.”
“No. I can’t.”
“What if I were to come over to your place then? I could take you to the station. And we’ll make sure you get legal representation.”
After some more protests, Timothy gave in. It seemed to Barnaby that he didn’t have enough energy to argue anymore.
Barnaby just paused enough to check in on Joyce, then he was outside, in his car, driving towards Causton. He picked up the mobile phone with one hand and managed to punch in Scott’s number. For this statement to have any legal value, at least one more police officer would need to be present.
They rang the doorbell of Timothy Soames’ flat at around 1 am. The door opened at once, revealing a distraught, red-eyed young man.
“May we come in?”
Their host, as it were, was far too upset to give any thoughts to his manners. Seeing this, Barnaby and Scott sat down anyway, prepared to take mr Soames’ statement.
“Now, you were saying -”
“My mother killed Anthony.”
“I see. Go on.”
“She has a key and she walked in and she saw us together. It was awful. We tried to reason with her, but she was too upset and – Anthony asked me to leave the room so he could talk to her – he was always protecting me – so I went into the bathroom to get dressed and – I heard -”
For a moment, he lapsed into silence as he recalled the distressing events.
“She must have managed to get her hands on a work of art Anthony had bought in London – a metal thing of some kind. Not very artistic in my opinion but Anthony knew the artist – an ex-boyfriend -”
“Mother – was hitting Anthony and he was holding his arms over his head to protect himself, but it was no use and – he fell and – he didn’t move again. Mother just went on beating him again and again and – I was frightened of her. At last, she stopped and – she told me to -”
“Would you mind if we continued this interview down at the station? We should do this by the book, you understand.”
“Oh. Yes. But -”
“It’s best if you let us take you down to the station. I promised I’d get you legal representation and I will. You have nothing to worry about.”
D S Scott gave Barnaby a surprised glance, but Barnaby ignored him. Something about this boy made him feel almost protective. In no way was it possible to consider him a threat to society.
Towards morning, they’d finally gone through all the formalities of the case. Mrs Soames had been picked up and faced with the overwhelming evidence against her – the forensics team had come through – she broke down and confessed. Her son was hospitalized for shock, and all in all, the case was closed in a very satisfying way.
After some hours of sleep, Barnaby and Scott returned to the station to type out their reports.
“I suppose this shows that you never know. The mother – I must admit that I’d never guessed it might be her. At least not this way. Poison maybe, but bludgeoning a man to death? Oh, well. It takes all kinds.”
“You could say that. Well, at least we got our killer. If you ask me, it wasn’t just the moral outrage. She was upset about being cut out of the business.”
“Only by a small percentage. And the new partner was her own son. You’d think she could have thought of that arrangement herself.”
“Yes, you would, wouldn’t you? Some mother. Oh, well, not all mothers are equally maternal I suppose. Anyway, case closed. And young Timothy will most likely get a lenient treatment.”
“That’s what I don’t understand. He was an accessory after the fact. That’s a crime. Why are you making excuses for him?”
“The boy lost his father at the age of six. His mother must have been dominating. And with his sexual orientation -”
“Exactly. Is sexual orientation an excuse for committing crimes?”
“That’s not what I was saying.”
“I lost my mother when I was 8. Does that mean I’d be excused if I commit a crime?”
“I’m sorry to hear about your mother, Scott.”
“Thank you, sir. It was a long time ago.”
“D S Scott, no doubt you have your reasons to feel the way you do about gay men. Personally, I didn’t see a gay man as much as a distraught boy. But to each their own. Now – since this case is closed and we don’t have anything else too pressing, shall we go out and have a few beers to celebrate?”
“I’d like that. There. All done.”
Barnaby glanced at the printed out report which Scott was handing to him. Neat and tidy, just like everything else this young man did. Did he have no weaknesses?
“Very nice. Thank you. Shall we?”
Outside, Barnaby stopped to consider which pub they’d go to.
“Do you have any suggestion? Where do you usually go?”
“There’s a little place right across the street from my place. In a little side street, I mean.The beer’s quite good.”
“Excellent. Let’s try that. We’ll take my car and -”
“Thank you, sir.”
But when Barnaby parked the car in Scott’s street, it was clear that they wouldn’t be having any drinks in that pub. It was closed for repairs.
For the first time since Barnaby had met Scott, the young man appeared ill at ease. Was he embarrassed? Surely he realized that his boss wouldn’t hold him personally responsible for the misunderstanding?
“I – haven’t been out for a while. I’m sorry, sir. But I have some beers upstairs. Why don’t we go there? I don’t have anything else to offer you, but -”
“A couple of beers will be just fine. No problem, D S Scott. Let’s go.”
“Thank you, sir.”
The few beers Scott claimed to have turned out to be a considerable collection. Barnaby vaguely wondered if his young partner could possibly have a drinking problem, but he dismissed the thought right away. And Scott hurriedly offered an explanation.
“I just thought I’d save time.”
“Did you get a discount?”
“Never mind. I’ll help myself, if you don’t mind. Cheers.”
After a third beer, Barnaby was beginning to relax. It was refreshing not to have to discuss art and other cultural topics for once. He loved his wife, but at times, the way she kept him on his toes was just a little bit tiresome.
In fact, he had such a good time, he found himself drinking far more than he would have thought wise, had he taken the time to consider. As he relaxed and became more drunk, his inhibitions vanished along with his common sense.
His eyes kept straying to his young companion and somehow, he kept recalling how Scott had looked on that first Sunday he was working in Midsomer, as he was struggling to get dressed under his gov’s critical stare. His chest and – What was wrong with him? This was a young man. How on earth could he find him attractive?
But as the evening wore on, he was forced to conclude, if coherent thought was anything he was capable of, that with every beer he did indeed find Scott increasingly appealing.
There wasn’t much room on the sofa even to begin with, but somehow, they had ended up sitting closer together. In a pause in their conversation, Barnaby found himself irresistibly drawn towards Scott’s smiling face. The lips alone looked more tempting than he had believed possible and –
Before he knew what he was doing, Barnaby closed the distance between their faces and their lips met. For a brief moment, Scott tensed up, then he tentatively began to respond. They deepened the kiss and Barnaby felt himself reacting to the stimuli. It seemed Scott noticed as well. Again there was a pause, then Scott’s hands began to unzip Barnaby’s pants. Scott reached inside and began to touch him in a way that was driving Barnaby out of his mind.
Once more, Scott stopped what he was doing, as if pondering his course of action, then the hand withdrew, leaving Barnaby desperate for more.
The young man kneeled in front of his boss, and continued to pull the pants down further. His face hovered closer, but before he made contact, he looked up, as if searching for approval.
With a voice that sounded strangely young, he whispered a word that instantly banished the mood as far as Barnaby was concerned.
It was as if someone had dumped bucket of icy water over his head. What was the boy saying? Suddenly, stone sober, Barnaby got to his feet and hastily rearranging his clothes, he fled for the door, leaving Scott still kneeling, an empty look on his face.
Oblivious the risk of being stopped by a uniformed colleague, Barnaby sought out the shelter of his car. He had to get away from here. But he knew that there was no getting away from what he’d done, or almost done. What was wrong with him? In all his years as a police officer and long before that, there had never been any doubt in his mind that he was exclusively interested in women and frankly, as of the past ten years or so, not even that to any greater extent.
This was something that simply couldn’t have happened, yet it had. He had to forget, and hope that Scott too, when he came to his senses, would realize that their working together would be impossible, if this was ever brought up for discussion. If they both ignored it had ever happened, then maybe their professional relationship could continue unharmed.
To make matters worse, he now had to face Joyce, with this – unforgivable lapse on his conscience. What would she think of him, if she ever found out? No. She must never know and he must make sure he never gave her any reason to suspect. From now on, he’d be a much better husband to her, he resolved.
“Tom – do you have a moment? There’s something I’d like to discuss with you.”
“Yes. Of course. What is it?”
“Cully rang while you were at work and -”
“How is Cully?”
“She’s fine. Tom – how would you feel about Gavin coming to stay with us over the weekend?”
“Gavin? What on earth for?”
“He’s visiting Cully and she was wondering if we could put him up.”
“Oh, I see. Well, why not? It will be nice to see the boy. I’d be interested to know how he’s getting on up there.”
“That’s what I thought. I’ll tell Cully it’s alright then, shall I?”
The following day, Cully herself paid her parents a visit and Barnaby had a chance to speak to his daughter in person.
“I hear you’re seeing Troy over the weekend.”
“Yes. I realized I miss him. He’s very nice, even if he’s a bit – awkward.”
Barnaby smiled in recognition. Awkward. Yes, that was his former partner, Gavin Troy, in a nutshell. Awkward, clumsy, uptight. But perhaps he’d matured since his promotion.
“Awkward, yes. But you never know, he might be different now. The responsibility will have done him good, I should think.”
“I’m certainly looking forward to seeing Gavin again. He’s such a nice boy.”
“Mum, he’s hardly a boy.”
“I know, dear. I suppose you’re not a girl either, but I’ll always think of you as my little girl anyway.”
Cully smiled affectionately at her mother and gave her a hug.
“It’s alright. I don’t mind, and I’m sure Gavin won’t mind either.”
“A little home cooking will be good for him.”
Barnaby and his daughter exchanged glances. Perhaps, but most likely Troy would prefer something else. Still, there was no telling Joyce that, so they just smiled and agreed.
“So, Cully, what are your plans for the weekend?”
“Gavin and I will be going to a film on Friday night and then I think we’ll go back to my place and talk. We have a bit of catching up to do. On Saturday – well, I actually thought we’d go for a nice long walk. On Sunday, before he has to go back, we’ll go and see an exhibition in the art gallery. Not the one you and mum were going to. Another one.”
“Right. Are you sure Gavin will enjoy all this highbrow stuff?”
“Dad. I did ask him first, believe it or not and he said he’d love to go. If you think he was just trying to flatter me -”
“No, no. Not at all. I’m sure the boy knows his own mind.”
Barnaby could see that he’d ruffled his daughter’s feathers so he hurriedly made amends.
“Cully, I didn’t mean to offend you. It’s just that, well, men don’t always like the same things women do.”
“Please. You think you know more about men than I do? Wait. I know that didn’t come out the way I meant it to.”
“I think I know what you meant. Fine. You don’t want my advice. Sorry. I won’t say another word.”
“You’d better not. I’ve been looking forward to this for weeks. Finally, Gavin has time to come and see me. I won’t let anything spoil this for me.”
On Friday, Cully and Joyce met Troy at the railway station. They headed back to the Barnaby residence to drop off Troy’s luggage. Joyce had prepared tea for her guest and though Barnaby was still at work, the other three had a marvellous time reminiscing about the years Troy had been working in Midsomer.
When Barnaby rang to ask his wife to pick him up at work, Cully and Troy came along. Troy and his former boss shook hands and spent ten minutes chatting, until Cully began to display signs of impatience. While Barnaby and his wife returned home, Cully and Troy set out for the cinema.
The film was a great success, at least as far as Cully was concerned and Troy, at least appreciated Cully’s company, if not the film. He didn’t mind, but these foreign films were a bit difficult to understand, despite the subtitles. Troy, if given the choice, would have chosen an action movie any day.
Afterwards, they walked back to Cully’s place. It was still early and they had much to talk about.
“Would you like a glass of wine, Gavin?”
“Sure. That would be nice. Thanks.”
“I’ll be right back.”
While Cully went to get the wine, Troy sat down on the sofa. His new job was rewarding in many ways, but he hadn’t had time to make any new friends. It felt great being back in Midsomer again. And he’d missed Cully and her parents. It was almost as if they were his family too.
His pleasant contemplation was interrupted by the sound of the doorbell ringing. Cully returned from the kitchen carrying the wine bottle and two glasses. She set them down on the low table in front of him and excused herself.
Who could it be at this time of night? If it was dad come to check up on her and Gavin, she’d –
“Hello. I was just -”
Remembering her manners, Cully put on a polite smile and asked Scott in, trying to smother her disappointment. Just when she and Gavin would have some time to themselves after all this time.
“Would you like to come in?”
“If you’re sure it’s no bother.”
“Of course not. This is Gavin Troy, your predecessor.”
“I know. Detective Chief Inspector Barnaby told me. That was actually why I decided to impose on you like this. I thought it might be interesting to meet the great man. Your dad has told me a lot about him.”
Cully didn’t like Scott’s tone when he referred to Gavin, but couldn’t think of any way of protesting. Instead, she turned to Gavin and introduced Scott.
“Gavin, this is Daniel Scott, your successor.”
Troy was wondering what on earth the other policeman was doing at Cully’s and looked from one to the other, trying to figure out if something was going on between them. He didn’t have much luck.
Sullenly, he was forced to conclude that the other man was far more elegant than he was. Probably better looking than he was too. If Scott was after Cully, there was no reason why he shouldn’t get her. The night couldn’t have had a worse start, as far as Troy was concerned.
Cully wasn’t any more pleased. Scott was very sexy, but she had a feeling he was a ruthless careerist and what she’d first taken for charm and an attraction for her, she now put down to intentional flattery of the gov’s daughter.
But she couldn’t very well turn her dad’s partner out, so she dutifully returned to the kitchen and brought back another glass.
All in all, they managed to have quite a pleasant conversation, but after an hour or so, Cully was beginning to wish that Scott would realize he was imposing and leave. To her dismay, he showed no sign of wanting to go and after a while, she acknowledged defeat and went into the kitchen to find another bottle.
Scott certainly seemed to appreciate the Rioja. He thoughtfully regarded the content of his glass.
“This is really good. Much better than the wine I usually buy. Where do you get this?”
“At Causton Wine Imports. You must have seen it on your way to work. It’s right on the -”
“Oh. You get it from a wine shop. I usually get mine at Safeways.”
Cully cast Scott a look filled with sympathy, but merely smiled, not knowing what to say. Men.
Troy wisely put Scott’s mistake down to social class, but by now he was getting pleasantly drunk and he could view the other man’s intrusion and anything else about him with detachment.
So they kept on getting more drunk by the minute, and the conversation slid down to new lows, and everyone had a good time, more or less.
After a while, Scott moved closer to Cully but the glances he cast at her had long since ceased to bother Troy, who was regarding everything from a distance. The simpleminded smile on his face would have fooled anyone into believing he was nothing but a PC off duty and not an officer who had recently been promoted.
Encountering no resistance, Scott moved closer still and put his arm around Cully. Since Troy had just removed his arm from the same place, Scott had no trouble pulling his hostess closer. He spotted a strand of hair that had escaped and was getting into Cully’s eyes, and he pushed it back where it belonged.
The action which would have caused her to frown only half an hour ago, now made Cully smile. Scott really was incredibly sexy. Now he leaned closer and whispered a few words into her ear. When he was done, she could feel his hot breath on her neck and she was hoping he was going to kiss her.
Troy, who until very recently would have wanted to punch the other man out for his audacity, now giggled elatedly at the sight of Scott’s face so close to Cully’s.
“No. He’s not.”
Cully, too, was giggling helplessly as if the simple question had been unbelievably astute.
“Gavin’s never made a move. The only time we kissed, it was because I started it.”
“And what would you have told him if he had?”
“I don’t know. What do you think?”
She giggled again and leaned closer as if the bestow another confidence on Scott.
“I think you should have said no. Gavin’s a good police officer and he’s probably a nice bloke, but he’s got no fashion sense at all.”
Troy joined in the laughter, good naturedly as always, until belatedly, it dawned on him that he was the butt of their joke.
“Hey. I may not dress like a fancy London poofter but Cully likes me, don’t you, Cully?”
“Are you calling me a poofter?”
For a second, it seemed as if the two men were going to end up arguing, but Cully sensed their mood and turned towards Troy and before he had a chance to say anything, she’d planted a kiss on his lips.
Feeling left out, Scott promptly forgot about his rival and pulled Cully into his arms, and this time, he really kissed her. The kiss lasted much longer than the one Troy had received and it was, or at least looked, far more passionate.
Troy felt no resentment. The evening was turning out to be a huge success and he had to say that Cully was looking unusually sexy, which was saying a lot when it came to her. He’d always admired her, but usually, at least when sober, he felt intimidated, both by her father’s position and her obvious class.
While he was pondering this delicate problem, things escalated between Scott and Cully. Before long, Cully’s skirt had slid up to her waist, and Scott’s hands were moving up her thighs. They were kissing and wiggling about a great deal, but Troy merely moved back towards the edge of the sofa, to provide more space for them.
He had long since ceased to feel left out. Short of being allowed to join in, nothing could please him more than watching the object of his desire having sex with another man.
Cully proved amazingly agile, and soon she was on top of Scott moving about on his lap in a way that proved enormously stimulating for their audience of one.
Scott focused on pulling off her top to gain access to her breasts. He effectively shut out the low moans coming not from the girl on his lap but from his left. Again, Cully’s mouth covered his and her touch blotted everything else from his mind.
When it was over, Cully slid off Scott’s lap and leaned back, contentedly. With one last lingering look, Scott regretfully pulled his pants up. He caught sight of Troy sitting on his other side, still aroused, judging by his facial colour and the way his eyes had glazed over.
Cully wasn’t in a fit state to observe anything with cool detachment, but it seemed to her that suddenly, Scott was transformed before her eyes. His face changed and he began to inch closer to Troy.
Slightly surprised, Cully now saw Scott beginning to fondle Troy’s face and neck. By now, the two men were sitting so close together, she was surprised Troy didn’t react in some way. Instead, he went on smiling vacuously, obviously still as happy a child in an amusement park.
From Cully’s point of view, the whole scene was becoming more and more interesting by the second. She could clearly see how Scott’s hands sliding inside Troy’s shirt. His hands moved expertly across Troy’s skin causing the other man to moan louder. The other hand moved down to Troy’s crotch and again, the hand began its skillful work.
In a voice that sounded low and cajoling, Scott now began to speak to Troy.
“Danny, it’s alright. Don’t be frightened. That’s it. Good boy. Feels good, doesn’t it? That’s my boy. Yes, Danny.”
Scott began to kiss Troy’s neck and while he was touching him, bringing him to climax, the other hand was still fondling Troy’s chest. A little sigh, escaping Troy’s lips, told Cully it was over.
There was a big grin on her face, and she had never felt better. Who would have thought watching two men get off together would be so stimulating?
But something was happening to Scott. He appeared to tense up and before Cully had time to say anything, abruptly he got to his feet and left. She heard the door close behind him.
With some effort, she was able to get off the sofa and without another word, she went into her bedroom, leaving her guest on his own.
She woke up to the unpleasant sensation of a pounding in her temples. When she made the mistake of moving, she felt a wave of nausea wash over her. What had she been up to last night? At first, she couldn’t remember anything. Wasn’t she supposed to meet Gavin? They’d been to the cinema and – Gavin. Daniel.
Concentrating hard on not throwing up, she at last managed to pull herself out of bed. How lucky she wasn’t going to work today. The thought of breakfast made her feel even sicker, so she decided to shower and brush her teeth first, hoping it would make her feel better.
First of all, though, she’d better check on Gavin. He was supposed to be over at mum and dad’s but she’d never seen him leave. Memories of last night began to flicker in and out of her consciousness. Had she – no. That had to have been a dream. And what about Gavin – surely he and Daniel hadn’t –
The shock of remembering was having the same effect as a cup of strong coffee or a cold shower. Her mind was clearing, but with clarity, memory resurfaced and she knew last night hadn’t been a bad dream. She’d had sex with Daniel Scott. Unprotected sex, with Gavin watching. And Gavin – she was remembering correctly – Daniel had had sex with him too. What was happening to them? Who was that man anyway? What did dad know about him?
The sound of her footsteps had woken Troy up. He looked up and faced her and for a split second, he smiled at her. Catching sight of the expression on her face made his own face fall. He was beginning to remember –
A wail escaped his lips and his eyes filled with such pain, Cully almost forgot about her own situation for a moment. Poor Gavin. She knew all about his homophobia. What a way to make his second sexual debut, always assuming he’d made the first one. Cully wasn’t entirely sure about that.
“He – it’s true, isn’t it? He – we -”
He couldn’t go on. What had happened last night was something he couldn’t live with. He couldn’t accept it. Anything but that. He felt violated, but the fragments of memory playing back in his mind’s eye, told him he’d made no move to defend himself. Instead, he’d cheerfully taken anything he was given. What was wrong with him?
Seeing that Gavin was in a far worse state than she was, Cully sat down and put her arms around him. With Cully so close, Troy couldn’t help but calm down slightly. He held on to her, hoping that somehow she’d be able to make the horror of last night go away.
It was seemingly hours later, when she finally managed to get him to stand up and go into the bathroom to clean up. She made coffee while she waited, then stepped into the shower herself. Furiously scrubbing at her own skin, she tried to make Scott’s touch go away.
But who was she fooling? If anything, she’d been more active than he had. The truth was she had wanted it. All of it, even – and this was the hardest to bear – watching Gavin with Daniel. She had to be evil or insane or both. How could she have taken any pleasure in seeing poor Gavin being violated like that?
Unable to bear it all any longer, she decided to go home to mum and dad. She was a grown woman, but in a time of crisis, she always headed back home. Though she really knew better, she wanted to seek refuge in the safety of her family.
“Come on, Gavin. Let’s go to mum and dad. They must have expected you last night. If we don’t show up, mum will be sending out a search party. We don’t want to find dad standing on my doorstep.”
Unresistingly, Troy allowed himself to be led away.
Cully had no idea what to tell her parents. She just knew she had to be with them, to feel safe and not have to face the depth of her own depravity.
There must have been a temporary lull in the criminal world, because Barnaby was at home, and was sitting at the kitchen table reading his paper for the second time.
The moment Joyce opened the door to find her daughter and Troy standing on her doorstep, she knew something was wrong. Troy appeared close to a breakdown, and Cully too, looked decidedly stunned.
“Darling, have you been in an accident?”
“No, mum. It’s nothing really. We just didn’t have much of an evening. I’ll tell you all about it later. Can we come in?”
“Oh. Of course. Gavin? Would you like some breakfast? Tom’s in the kitchen and -”
Faced with mrs Barnaby’s obvious kindness and care, Troy managed to pull himself together. The result wasn’t too impressive and his smile was a mere grimace.
“Thanks, mrs Barnaby. I’ll go right through then, shall I?”
“Yes, go right ahead. Tom will get you coffee and I’ll be in right away to make some more toast.”
She’d been about to add that the dear boy knew her first name, but decided against it, bearing in mind another young partner of her husband’s whose use of her first name had led to such dire consequences. Naturally, she knew that Gavin wasn’t at all like Daniel, but for the time being, she couldn’t bring herself to make the suggestion.
Having seen Gavin disappear into the kitchen, Joyce dragged her daughter into the living room.
“Cully, tell me what’s really wrong. I can see it’s something more than just an evening that didn’t turn out as pleasant as you’d hoped.”
“Mum, not now, please.”
“Can’t you see that I worry about you, when you won’t tell me the truth?”
“I know. I just don’t want to get into it right now. Honestly, mum, it’s nothing really alarming. It’s just so – humiliating. And puzzling. I’m fine. Yes, I am. We’ll talk later.”
“No, darling. We’ll talk now.”
“Fine. But don’t you think dad and Gavin will wonder where we are?”
“On a Saturday morning? Your dad will be reading that paper until lunchtime.”
“Alright. Suit yourself. Last night, Daniel showed up.”
Her mother’s gasp was all but lost on Cully as she once more relived last night.
“Yes. Dad’s partner.”
“We got drunk. He wouldn’t leave so I brought another bottle and – anyway, he and I – well – Mum, I hate this. It’s personal.”
“You and Daniel -”
“Yes. Are you happy now?”
“He didn’t – force himself on you?”
Cully’s face took on a deep, red colour and she refused to meet her mother’s anxious gaze.
“No. If anything, it was the other way around. There. Are you happy?”
“Darling – I’m sure you feel embarrassed right now, but if you’re not hurt and -”
“Why is Gavin so upset? He and Daniel didn’t get into a fight?”
“No, of course not. Gavin is hung over. And maybe he’s a bit jealous too. He was – there. When we – when Daniel and I -”
“There. Don’t ever make me be this honest again, mum. I mean it. It’s almost worse than before.”
Joyce tried her best to smile reassuringly at her daughter. If she’d ever had any inclination to tell her daughter about her own experience with Daniel, that died now. She could never tell Cully that they’d both slept with the same man. But listening to Cully’s story, Joyce realized one thing. She couldn’t keep her secret from her husband anymore. He deserved to know.
“You’re not still worried about me?”
“No, of course not. Naturally, I’m upset that you’re upset, but I promise I won’t pry anymore. But don’t feel bad. I’m your mother. Surely you can tell me if there’s something bothering you?”
“No. Please, mum. I mean, if I had cancer or something like that, I would tell you or if I’d been in an accident, but this kind of thing – I mean, would you have told grandmother about well, if you’d done anything similar?”
“I would like to think that things are different today, than when I was young.”
“Some things never change, mum. Now I think I’d like to have some breakfast too and check on Gavin. What a weekend this is turning out to be for him. The poor thing. And I was the one to drag him down here.”
“I’m sure Gavin doesn’t blame you. You all made the decision to drink too much.”
“I know. Don’t remind me.”
“Oh, you poor thing. Would you like something for that headache?”
In the meantime, Barnaby was having a hard time understanding why his former partner was looking as if he’d been caught red handed tampering with evidence or corrupting a crime scene.
“Troy – Gavin? Why the long face?”
“Oh. Sir. I’m afraid I had a little too much wine last night. And – I’m sorry for not returning here, but I fell asleep on the sofa and Cully was kind enough not to wake me.”
“Oh. I see.”
Barnaby was hoping that was the explanation. He sincerely hoped last night hadn’t involved Troy and Cully sleeping together. Not that he was such an old-fashioned father he’d object too strenuously if this was what Cully really wanted, but still – He could hardly imagine a boyfriend less suited for his daughter.
Shaking his head, Barnaby returned to reading his paper, after getting Gavin some apparently much needed coffee.
From time to time, though, his eyes strayed back to the young man, who really didn’t look happy. That was odd. He looked as if he was in a state of shock. Perhaps he’d better tackle Cully later and inquire after the real reason for Gavin’s emotional state.
But any amount of questioning failed to produce any information at all from Cully, beyond the phrase repeated over and over – ‘we drank too much’. Well, perhaps Gavin wasn’t used to being hung over. That, Barnaby could easily imagine.
Just in case, he resolved to ask his wife the first chance he had. And it seemed they had their opportunity sooner than he could have hoped. Cully went upstairs to lie down and Gavin retreated into the guest room to catch up on his sleep.
To avoid any chance of being overheard, Barnaby and his wife chose to go into the garden, where they had a pleasantly secluded spot not visible or audible from any of the neighbouring gardens.
“I must say they’re acting a bit odd, the pair of them. What do you think is behind all this? Did Cully tell you anything?”
Joyce felt a twinge of conscience. Usually, she never lied to her husband. She had always prided herself on not being that sort of woman. Now, though, she didn’t feel she could betray Cully’s trust. Telling the girl’s father this sort of thing just wouldn’t be right.
“No. She’s got a terrible headache, poor thing. That’s all she told me. Oh, and Daniel Scott showed up last night and wouldn’t leave. She says that’s why they all ended up drinking too much.”
“Daniel was there?”
For some reason, Tom appeared to be as dismayed as she was, to hear about Daniel’s presence at Cully’s flat. Joyce had a premonition that Tom knew more than he let on about that young man, who had seemed so pleasant. Though just like Cully earlier, Joyce forced herself to be honest about the incident. She hadn’t been compelled to do anything. Whatever had happened had been completely voluntary on her part.
“Yes. Perhaps he wanted to talk to Gavin. Did you mention he was coming?”
“I think I did, yes. Oh. Well, that explains it, I suppose.”
“Yes. Tom – I’m afraid there’s something I need to tell you.”
“That sounds ominous. You’re not ill I hope? Or Cully?”
“No. Not at all. It’s just that – I have a confession to make.”
Barnaby didn’t know what to make of Joyce’s tone, but for some reason, he was unpleasantly reminded of the weekend not so long ago when he’d returned home to find his wife a nervous wreck, close to a breakdown.
“I don’t know how to tell you this so I’ll just go ahead and do it anyway. Tom, I’ve – been unfaithful to you.”
He was too stunned to be upset. The idea was so farfetched, he still couldn’t believe it. What on earth was Joyce playing at? Trying to rekindle their love by making him jealous? But the agony he could read in her eyes told him she was serious. He still couldn’t be angry with her. The whole thing was just too unreal.
“Yes. Tom, the weekend you were away -”
“When we were supposed to go to that art gallery? Yes, I remember.”
“I went over to Daniel’s flat and we had dinner and then -”
For some reason, Barnaby still couldn’t make the connection. He was wondering why she had to make such a long story out of the incident. Why not simply get to the point? He wondered who she might have found to pay him back for his betrayal with. One of the neighbours? One of his colleagues – No. Perhaps her friend Harold from the art society?
“We – went to bed together.”
“You and who else? Darling, you’re not making much sense.”
“Daniel and I, of course.”
“Daniel Scott? Detective Sergeant Scott? You can’t be serious. Joyce, I realize that you were upset with me, but making up unlikely stories like this -”
For a second, Barnaby was even considering the possibility that Joyce had suffered some kind of nervous breakdown and was now delusional. But again, he forced himself to watch her face, the way he did during interviews with suspects. She was telling the truth.
And why should it be so farfetched? Though he had tried his best to forget the drunken incident between him and Daniel, he knew how alluring the young man could be. And even if he’d ever been inclined to jealous rage, how could he do anything but forgive her for her mistake? She was genuninely sorry and so upset that Barnaby was again beginning to worry.
“This was a surprise.”
“I’m terribly sorry, Tom. I don’t know what got into me. If you hate me, I’ll understand.”
“Joyce. Darling. I must say I’m amazed. But if you don’t want a divorce -”
“A divorce? Absolutely not. Not if you don’t want to. I really don’t know what got into me.”
“Then we’ll say no more about this.”
“You forgive me?”
“Of course, I forgive you.”
To Joyce’s amazement, her undemonstrative husband pulled her into his arms and held her for so long, she felt extremely gratified. To think that she’d been afraid he’d throw her out. Apparently, he loved her far more than she’d ever imagined.
But later, on his own, Barnaby, couldn’t help dwelling painfully on his own unforgivable betrayal of Joyce. He knew he ought to come clean about the incident, but he also knew it would impossible for him to ever refer to it in any way. How could he explain that he’d become obsessed with a young man?
In the aftermath of the shock of what Daniel had said to him, the attraction had faded. Barnaby didn’t think he’d ever feel the same way about young Daniel again. But the incident would always weigh on his conscience and he knew that from now on, he’d be far more attentive to Joyce’s needs, if only out of guilt.
His thoughts returned to Daniel, this time in a widely different context. What did he really know about him? Who was that enigmatic young man?
And – bearing in mind what he knew about Daniel’s relations to himself and to his wife – what had really happened that night at Cully’s flat? Had Daniel and Cully or Daniel and Gavin –
But Barnaby knew his daughter and to a lesser extent his former partner. Neither would tell him anything, if there was something sexual behind their reaction to last night. Troy was as homophobic as Daniel and Cully would never confide in her father about anything remotely embarrassing.
Still, whatever had happened, it was time he tried to get to the bottom of the mystery, before anyone else was hurt.
Monday morning, Barnaby was sitting in his office, having sent D S Scott out on a routine errand. Fortunately, the young man had been as eager as always to perform his duties to perfection. Who in London would it be best to approach? It would have to be someone who was in a position to tell him the truth, rather than the official story, and also someone who was likely to be honest with him.
Someone like his old friend Charles Delaney. Yes. Old Charlie would be straight with him. And Charlie still owed him a favour from years back. Perhaps he ought to ask Charlie to dinner some day. Charlie was always telling him about how his wife was always nagging him to get out into the countryside more. That was an idea. He’d talk to Joyce about it in the evening. But for now, he needed information.
He got Charlie’s secretary online and asked for his old friend.
“Yes, sir. Hold on a second.”
“Tom Barnaby. I say, it’s been a while. How long, do you remember?”
“Six or seven years, I should think.”
“Seven? More like nine, if I remember correctly. How time flies. You must come here more often, Tom. What kind of restaurants do you have out there?”
“Some pretty fine ones, actually. Joyce is always finding new ones for us to go to. You and Priscilla really have to come and see us again.”
“I’d love to. Now, what can I do for you? I’m sure you didn’t call me just to reminisce, pleasant as it might be.”
“You’re right. Recently, I had a new Detective Sergeant transferred to me. If you recall, my old sergeant was promoted and -”
“Quite so. What is the new boy’s name again?”
“Daniel Scott -”
Delaney’s voice held a hint of something odd, something that Barnaby couldn’t quite interpret. So there was something about Scott. Just as he’d guessed there was some secret concerning that young man and at last he was to find out what it was.
“Ah, yes. Dreadful business. Absolutely appalling. And such a promising young man too. I’ll tell you, I never get used to these new times. When I was young, that sort of thing would never have -”
“What? No one told me anything. He was just a name before he showed up and so far I haven’t learned anything about him, except that you’re right. He is promising. Works hard. Takes his job seriously. But what happened to him?”
“Oh. I assumed you knew. Quite a shock to us all, I must say. At least we were able to keep the media gagged about it. Otherwise, his career could well have been over.”
“Yes, but what happened?”
“You remember that huge trafficking ring that was blown wide open last year? All those women and young girls and boys too being smuggled into the country for -”
“Yes. I know. Our big success story last year. Was Daniel involved in that?”
“Involved? Tom, he was instrumental in breaking the case. Quite remarkable. The intuition and all the hard work. On his own time too, some of it. He just wouldn’t let go. Just like a terrier. Amazing. They don’t make them like that anymore, Tom. But unfortunately, we didn’t get all of them. Someone must have been able to order the hit on him.”
“There was an attempt on his life?”
“If that was all there was to it, it would have been fine. I mean, since he made it. No. It was far worse than that. Those people, they’re not human. One night, as he was walking home he was attacked by a whole gang of thugs. And – eh – how do I say this? He was – gang raped.”
“Daniel was raped?”
“I’m afraid so. There were about five or six of them. He was in a bad way physically as well, but the emotional impact after that sort of thing – Well, you can imagine.”
“Yes. I suppose so. And it was revenge for breaking up their trafficking ring?”
“It appears that way. One of them told him so, apparently. It was a message from their first in command. Some Dragan or other. I believe he was a war veteran from the Balkans. One of those camp commanders. You know what I mean.”
“Right. I had no idea. You wouldn’t think that sort of thing would happen here.”
“It wouldn’t have if we didn’t have all those war criminals hiding out here.”
“Quite. Anyway, thank you. I do think I should have been informed, though.”
“I suppose the general idea was that since D S Scott was deemed fit for work, the fewer who knew about the incident the better. If word got round, you can imagine there would be talk behind his back and his position would be undermined.”
“Even so – I am his superior officer and -”
“Quite. Well, if that would be all, I’m afraid I should get on with my work. You know how it is.”
“Of course. Thanks again. And I was serious about the invitation. Talk to Priscilla about it and I’ll discuss it with Joyce.”
“Absolutely. Smashing idea. I’ll get back to you, Tom. It was good to hear your voice again.”
After hanging up, Barnaby remained deep in thought. He couldn’t possibly have imagined anything this terrible. His sergeant, the victim of a gang rape. In all his years on the force, he’d never heard of anything like it. Not even with a female officer and definitely not a man.
He had to find a way of tactfully suggesting to Joyce that she ought to go and see their GP. Not that Daniel would have been sleeping with anyone if he’d been infected with anything. But still, one could never be too careful. It occurred to him that he also owed it to Joyce to let her know what had happened to Daniel. Not only was she his wife, but she was also, though this took a bit of getting used to, someone who had recently had sex with Daniel.
Another thing to be grateful over. He hadn’t gone that far, no matter what had been about to happen between them. If he’d had to explain to Joyce why he too needed to get a checkup, their marriage might well have been over.
He came home to find that Cully and Troy were still staying in his house, and both appeared just as upset as they had been during the weekend. Barnaby was beginning to fear that something had indeed occurred between Scott and Cully if not between Scott and Troy. But he knew better than to ask his daughter about it.
Instead, after dinner, he managed to find his wife alone. Cully and Troy had gone for a walk, leaving the older generation to deal with the dishes.
“Joyce, leave that for a moment. I’ll help you later. There’s something I have to tell you.”
“Yes, I’m afraid so. Come on. Let’s sit down.”
“Is it serious?”
“Yes, at least as far as he’s concerned. Joyce, I called Charlie Delaney this morning.”
“How was Charlie? And Priscilla?”
“They’re fine. In fact, I asked them over for dinner.”
“Oh, how nice. It’s been such a long time. We really need to keep more in touch with our friends.”
“I know. He said he’d get back to us about dinner.”
“Good. Now, what did he tell you about Daniel?”
“Joyce – last year there was a big trafficking case -”
“I remember. One of your greatest successes in later years, wasn’t it?”
“It appears Daniel was instrumental in bringing the men behind it to justice.”
“Oh. That’s fantastic. He must be brilliant.”
“I know. Unfortunately, someone involved in the ring ordered a hit against him. He was – gang raped. By five or six men. Apparently, he was pretty badly beaten as well.”
Joyce’s eyes widened in horror. Barnaby realized that still, after more than thirty years as a policeman’s wife, that sort of thing didn’t exist in Joyce’s world. He was sorry he had to bring it to her attention. Now he was beginning to wished he hadn’t. Perhaps he should simply have suggested the blood tests anyway.
“Yes. I know.”
“The poor, poor boy. I -”
There were tears in her eyes, and apparently, her own dilemma was momentarily forgotten in the wake of this shocking revelation.
“Joyce – I don’t want to be indelicate, but don’t you think that under the circumstances, it might be best if you – uh – went to see dr Singh? You know, to run a few tests. Just in case.”
“You mean – Oh, Tom, that hadn’t occurred to me. But -”
Barnaby hadn’t known his wife was inclined to blush that vividly.
“No. Really. He – used – I mean – he had a – He used protection.”
“Oh. I see. Well, that was a relief. But still, you don’t think you ought to – just as a precaution?”
“Yes. Of course. I should have thought about that myself. I’ll call dr Singh first thing in the morning.”
Barnaby felt his own face heat up as well. Would this bad business never end? One thing led to another. But one thing was certain. He was extremely relieved that whatever madness had led him to feel attracted to Daniel had been cured. He didn’t feel a trace of attraction for his sergeant now. If only he could be sure that Cully hadn’t – He decided to try one last time with Joyce. Perhaps Cully had confided in her after all.
“And another thing. About Cully and that night – You know what I mean. Perhaps you should ask her if she and Daniel -”
“Oh. Well, really, Tom. But alright. I will ask her. She’ll be so embarrassed.”
“That’s all very well, but she might have to consider her health.”
“I know. Alright. I said I’d ask her.”
Joyce decided to urge Cully to see dr Singh right away. On second thought, they might both be better off seeing some other doctor. This was a small place and talk could get around. In any case, she herself would go somewhere else. Quite some distance away, where no one would know her.
On the other hand, Cully was a different matter. She was young. Dr Singh would understand. A young woman Cully’s age might easily be prone to indiscretions once in a while.
At her mother’s urgent request, Cully sensibly did call dr Singh and made an appointment. Though the cause for her visit was humiliating, she noted with satisfaction that dr Singh didn’t seem to judge her. Perhaps he was used to women her age making mistakes like hers.
Not that she thought she’d be infected with anything. There was no reason to suspect anything like that. But mum was right. You could never be too careful. She should have thought of it herself really.
She didn’t feel quite as confident the afternoon dr Singh rang her up to let her know the result of her tests.
“Ms Barnaby – Cully. I thought I’d let you know the results of your tests.”
“First of all I’d like to stress that physically you’re fine. All the tests came back negative. No infection of any kind.”
“That’s a relief. Thank you, doctor. Was there anything else?”
“Ah, yes. Another test was in fact positive. Cully, it seems you’re pregnant. I thought it was best to let you know right away, in case you’d like to – do something about it. I take you’re not currently in a relationship?”
“No. Are you sure? I’m really pregnant?”
“Well, these blood tests aren’t always fully accurate. That’s why I’d like you to buy one of those test kits. Test yourself at home, then get back to me. Perhaps that one will be negative. The urine tests are always more reliable. It could be nothing. I only felt it was in your best interests to let you know right away, so you can make an informed decision.”
“Thank you, doctor.”
Cully sank down into a chair, her face pale as a sheet. Pregnant? She just couldn’t be carrying Daniel’s baby. That would be too – If she was, she’d need to do something she’d never thought she’d even consider. But if she was pregnant, she’d have no choice. She couldn’t bear the child of a man she barely knew and though she was or had been physically attracted to him, she didn’t even like him.
There were too many mysteries concerning him. Her memories of that night were sketchy but what little she could recall made her feel uneasy. Something about the way he’d acted with Troy turned her stomach. Not the actual sex, but his strange behaviour.
First things first though. She had to get a pregnancy test kit. Not here. She’d need to get on the train or bus and find a chemist’s where people didn’t know her. This was one thing she didn’t like about country life. The way everyone checked up on everyone else.
Her hands clammy and her face drawn, she grabbed her purse and ran for the bus stop.
An hour later, she was back home, trying to squeeze out a few drops of urine. She’d been aware of being late, but she’d forced herself to ignore it. Now that was no longer possible.
At last she managed to produce enough to dip the test stick in, and waited breathlessly. She waited for longer than strictly necessary so there wouldn’t be any doubt.
No. She had to sit down on the toilet seat. This couldn’t be happening to her.
Again, she ran back to her parents’ house. She wanted to talk to her mother about this. With any luck, her dad wouldn’t be back from work yet.
He wasn’t. Joyce met her daughter at the door, alarmed at the way she had sounded on the phone. Filled with a premonition, she pulled Cully into her arms.
“What’s wrong, darling?”
“And this is Daniel’s -”
“It has to be. It’s been ages since I – never mind. It is him.”
“What are you going to do about it?”
“There’s only one thing I can do. I’ll have to get a termination. Right away. The sooner the better.”
“I see. Darling, are you sure? You’re not getting any younger and – Oh. By the way, did dr Singh test you for any infections?”
“Yes. I’m fine. Everything was negative.”
“Oh, good. Well, I don’t suppose you have any choice.”
To Joyce’s relief, her own tests too, had come back negative, but then again, she had never been worried on that score.
“I’ll call the clinic in the morning. No use sitting around waiting.”
“And you’re absolutely sure you’re pregnant?”
“Dr Singh told me to use one of those home test kits. It was positive too. Look.”
Cully produced the small stick and waved it in the air in front of her mother’s face. Joyce’s hand shot out and she grabbed Cully’s wrist, to steady her hand. Yes, there was no doubt about it. The test was positive. That kind of thing wasn’t available when she was young, but she knew the theory behind it. She’d made a point of learning the use of those kits for Cully’s sake, though at the age of 16 her daughter had been livid with anger at the embarrassment.
To Cully’s surprise, she was told there was an opening the same week. Friday afternoon. The young woman at the other end of the line informed her that it was imperative that she rang right away if – as she put it – the circumstances changed. Cully assumed that meant if she had her period. Or did the girl refer to a miscarriage? Either way, she couldn’t hope for a miracle.
On the morning of the day the abortion was scheduled to take place, she woke up with an intense pain in her lower abdomen. She wondered if this was the way it would feel when they performed the procedure. But later in the bathroom, she realized that her wish for a miracle had come true. She wasn’t pregnant, or at least not anymore.
Joyce had intended to keep Cully’s secret from Tom, but as the morning wore on and Cully didn’t ring her, she couldn’t contain herself anymore. She lifted the receiver and punched in her husband’s number at work.
To her relief, he picked up right away.
“Detective Chief Inspector Barnaby. How may I help you?”
“It’s me. Joyce. Oh, Tom, Cully’s gone to have an abortion. Today.”
He glanced furtively around the room to make sure there was no one listening, before he continued the conversation.
“Yes. An abortion. I wasn’t going to tell you, but it’s so terrible. A daughter of ours, having an abortion.”
“Cully’s having an abortion? I didn’t even know she was pregnant.”
“She didn’t want you to know.”
Barnaby broke off, again glancing searchingly around the room. Hadn’t that been a door opening and closing? He didn’t hear anything now and he hadn’t seen anyone either. Perhaps it was further along the corridor. That was the problem with these modern buildings. Paper thin walls and everyone overhearing everyone else’s private conversations. Perhaps he’d better lower his voice.
But someone had opened the door and overheard his question, spoken just a bit too loudly. Daniel Scott hurriedly shut the door again and turned and left. Cully was pregnant. For some reason it never occurred to him that the baby could be anyone else’s. He just knew he was the father. Becoming a father wasn’t high on his list of priorities right now, but Cully was.
If Troy hadn’t been at her flat that night, it would have been the happiest night of his life. He’d never met a girl like Cully, and when she’d appeared to be as interested in him as he was in her, it had seemed too good to be true. Maybe it was. But he had to talk to her, before she went to that clinic.
Hearing the doorbell ring, Cully for a moment expected it to be her mother, even though she hadn’t rung her. She ran to open the door, only to find the last person she wanted to see, standing there, an anxious look on his face. Again, he was different.
Would he ever cease to amaze her? This time, he looked so affectionately at her, she would have been taken in, had she not seen him with Gavin that night. And at work, he was sly, smooth talking and ingratiating. How could she know which was the real Daniel?
Noticing her reaction, for once Daniel’s suaveness failed him. His face fell and he was about to turn and leave, with only a few words of apology. But he had to say what he’d come to tell her. He loved her too much not to at least try.
“Cully, please. Can I come in? Just for a few moments.”
She hesitated. It wasn’t that she was afraid of him. Not a bit. But after what had happened that night, any trust she might have had in him was gone. She didn’t know this handsome stranger and right now, she wasn’t sure she wanted to.
“Cully, I overheard your father talking on the phone. I assume he was talking to your mother – In any case, I heard. Please don’t do it. Don’t have the abortion. If you don’t want to marry me, at least let me contribute financially. I thought – I was hoping – But if you don’t want to have anything to do with me, it’s alright. I’m sorry I misunderstood you that night.”
If she hadn’t remembered just how he’d seduced Gavin that night, she would almost have been taken in. He sounded so sincere and what he was saying was exactly what she wanted to hear.
“Daniel – I was going to have an abortion. But this morning, I found out that I don’t have to. Do you understand what I’m saying?”
She didn’t think he did, not quite, but that was just as well. At least he did seem to get the gist of what she was saying, which was what she’d intended.
“You’re not pregnant?”
“No. False alarm.”
“Oh. Then I won’t take up your time anymore. I just wanted to tell you that no matter how you feel about me – I love you. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have -”
“That’s all I have to say. I see that it doesn’t mean anything to you, so I’ll just go. Forgive me.”
Perhaps it was just as well that he left. If he’d stayed, she would have felt impelled to ask him what that business with Gavin had been all about, if he really loved her.
At least she didn’t need to worry about a pregnancy anymore. Suddenly, she felt much better. Daniel might be a mystery, but he’d just told her he loved her. That couldn’t exactly spoil her day, no matter how little she believed in him.
It was time she found out a little more about him. She was about to ring her dad to ask him, but decided against it. There might be some conflict of interest involved. Some kind of internal police man’s code of honour that excluded any outsiders from knowing their secrets.
Gavin would tell her. He had nothing to do with Daniel. Well, he shouldn’t have. And after what had happened, she was sure he would want to know more about Daniel as well. They had to learn what was causing his strange behaviour.
She rang up Troy right away, and after a bit of persuasion, he agreed he’d get in touch with an old friend who was now working in London. Troy promised he’d call back as soon as he knew something.
He felt reluctant to do what Cully asked of him. All he wanted was to forget what had happened that night. He still cared about Cully and her family, but at the moment, the less he heard from Midsomer the better. Still, he couldn’t refuse her request.
He rang up a his old friend Toby Frobisher. It had been more than a year since they’d last talked. To his surprise, it seemed Toby didn’t want to tell him anything. He had to ask twice before Toby lowered his voice and informed him as briefly as he could. Apparently, this was an open secret on the force and everyone was under strict orders not to discuss it with anyone.
He hung up, feeling sick. Suddenly, the night at Cully’s flat acquired a new perspective. What had happened had been a nightmare, but not quite the same type of nightmare the poor sod Daniel Scott had been subjected to.
Despite everything, Troy felt a little better. He’d been touched by another man. Touched. Scott had been gang raped. Troy couldn’t even imagine how that might feel. How it would make you feel inside. He still couldn’t guess what had made Scott act the way he did, but at least he knew one thing – things could have been far, far worse. What had happened to him, some of his mates from school would probably have tried, one time or other, watching a porn movie at some friend’s house.
Now all he had to do was tell Cully. She picked up on the first ring, and he didn’t waste any time letting her know what he’d found out. He was a little hurt at her reaction. After all they’d been through thanks to that guy, she was still concerned about him. Then his conscience struck him. What had happened to Scott, he wouldn’t wish on his worst enemy.
At least Cully thanked him and encouraged him to keep in touch. He would. Just not for a while.
With this new information, Cully’s attitude towards Daniel changed again. Poor Daniel. What a terrible tragedy. But somehow, she didn’t think this explained anything, except why he’d shown up so suddenly in Midsomer when it was plain that he didn’t want to be there. His strange behaviour still demanded an explanation.
She knew the answers wouldn’t come to her on their own. If she wanted to know the truth about Daniel, she had to go where the answers were to be found. London.
After doing some basic detective work, Cully was able to trace Daniel to the neighbourhood where he used to live as a child. She discovered that she knew a friend of a friend who had gone to the same school. That would be her first stop.
She checked into a hotel, prepared to spend a few days away from home. Getting to the bottom of the mystery was her first priority, but she didn’t mind getting away from Midsomer for a while either.
The young man who had gone to Daniel’s school proved easy enough to chat with. In fact, he was only too happy to ask her out to lunch. Reluctantly, she agreed. Right now, she wasn’t interested in getting to know a new guy.
“Daniel Scott. I haven’t thought about him for years.”
“What was he like?”
“A real thug. He was always in trouble. If someone had broken a window or slashed the tires of a teacher’s car, nine cases out of ten, it was Daniel. I think he was angry about something. He’d lost his mother very young. I don’t know if that was it.”
She hadn’t expected that. It was bewildering, trying to keep track of Daniel’s many faces. Who was the real Daniel?
“Was he always like that? I mean, ever since primary school?”
“We didn’t go to the same school back then. From what I hear, he was different earlier. My best friend’s cousin was in primary school with him and he said he was a really well behaved boy in those days.”
“Oh, really? That’s odd.”
“Yes, I found that hard to believe as well. Perhaps he didn’t like his stepmother.”
“He had a stepmother? I see.”
“A really nice looking woman. Very hot. Wow. But who knows? She might have been a right bitch.”
“Yes. I suppose so.”
All this had given her much food for thought. She could tell her informant was wondering at her sudden silence, but she was too absorbed in her thoughts to pay much attention.
After lunch, she made a few phone calls and managed to dig up a social worker who had been responsible for the district where Daniel had lived until he was in his mid-teens.
The man was in his fifties and slightly chubby, but he seemed to think he was irresistible to women. He turned Cully’s stomach a bit, but she knew she could take advantage of his misapprehension. Flirting in a way she wasn’t really comfortable with, she managed to pry the story out of him, bit by bit. To her relief, his enthusiasm abated a little, when he recounted the case to her.
“You know, I really shouldn’t be telling you this. But I suppose there’s no harm in it, after all these years.”
“I do appreciate you taking the time to tell me about it. It would mean so much to me.”
She shot him a fake smile, hoping he’d fall for it.
“Yes, well – it was a real shock to me. One of the first really serious cases I worked with. It turned out that both father and stepmother had been abusing him sexually. I believe it all started when he was 13 or 14. What first called our attention to him was his behaviour. Aggressive. Destructive. Self destructive too. His grandparents came and took him away, and I hear he straightened himself out. That was after a year or two.”
“I see. You’re right. How awful. I can’t believe people will do something like that to a child.”
“I know. And Joanne was such a beautiful woman.”
“Well, thank you so much, Ted. You’ve been very helpful.”
Again, she smiled brilliantly, and before Ted could think of anything to hold her back, she got up and left.
What she’d just learned was devastating. Poor, poor Daniel. And when he was finally back on his feet again, he’d been assaulted. Finally, she thought she could understand what had caused him to act the way he had with Gavin. With a shudder, Cully realized that the words he’d spoken to Gavin must have been what his father had told him. The mystery of Daniel’s many masks was beginning to unravel.
Much as she’d loved to get away from Midsomer, she was now just as eager to return. She had to speak to Daniel. Perhaps he really did love her. And how did she feel about him? Was there more to her reaction to him, than mere physical attraction?
She got back to her own flat late in the evening. Since she’d told her parents she might be away for a few days, she didn’t ring them to announce her return. Was it too late to go and see Daniel? Or at least to ring him up and ask if he would see her? Her first impulse was to see him right away, but she forced herself to pause and consider the matter carefully.
Was this something that Daniel would want to discuss or even be reminded of? She couldn’t imagine that he would. On the other hand, he’d told her he loved her. If he wanted her to return his feelings, shouldn’t he be prepared to discuss something of this importance? Judging by his recent actions, what had happened to him as a boy wasn’t just past history. It was affecting his behaviour today.
Yes. She would talk to him about it. The only question was when. But she couldn’t wait any longer. This needed to be discussed right away. If he refused to see her, she would have no choice but to wait until another time. Otherwise, it was best to get it over with.
Her hands shook slightly as she punched in his number. She could tell from the sound of his voice, that he hadn’t expected to hear from her again, but also that he seemed pleased.
“Daniel, I know it’s late, but I was wondering if I could see you. Tonight. Right away.”
“Oh. Of course. No problem. Would you like me to come over?”
“It might be easier. I don’t have a car and I’d rather not take the bus or walk at this hour.”
“Of course. I must say I didn’t expect to hear from you again.”
“Yes. I can see that. There’s something I’d like to discuss with you.”
“Oh? Well, I’ll be right there.”
She was hoping he’d still be as pleased to talk to her as he seemed to be now, after he’d learned about the reason for her call. When she heard the doorbell ring she jumped. Could he really be here already?
“Please, come in. Would you like to sit down?”
It was eerie, how their conversation more or less echoed the one they’d had on that fateful night. She felt she had to say something to explain her decision to terminate the pregnancy. That was hardly what a man liked to hear from the girl he claimed to love. On the other hand, watching the man who claimed he loved her, having sex with another man, didn’t exactly inspire confidence either.
“First I’d like to explain why I felt I had to have an abortion. In fact, it all ties in one way or another. Daniel – I realize we were all very drunk that night, but I wasn’t completely unconscious. What you did to Gavin -”
Daniel tensed up and seemed about to get up and run away. She had to hold him back.
“Please, Daniel, I’m not accusing you of anything. I’d just like to ask you why. You say you love me, yet you – have sex with a man. Can’t you understand that it makes it a little hard to believe you can love me?”
He refused to meet her eyes and she could tell he was still intent on escape. This wasn’t going very well. She had to find a way of making him open up. Perhaps she’d started at the wrong end.
“Daniel, I went to London and made some inquiries about you. I think it’s only fair if I know a little about you, since you know so much about me. And what I learned -”
“About what? About what happened last year?”
“I heard about that, yes. Daniel, I’m terribly sorry. What you did was fantastic. I had no idea you were this brilliant even if dad’s raving about his new sergeant practically every day. And for something like that to happen -”
“Is that it? What you wanted to talk about? I suppose you’re not interested anymore, now that you know.”
“You’re wrong, Daniel. The reason I need to talk to you, is because I am interested.”
“Yes. But the – assault – doesn’t explain what happened with Gavin. Daniel, I know about what your parents did to you.”
This time, she couldn’t stop him from getting to his feet. The look in his eyes was so fierce, Cully cowered back into the cushions on the sofa, hoping she hadn’t made a mistake, bringing that topic up. But the outburst died as soon as it had begun. He sank down on the edge of the sofa, as far away from her as possible.
“I – haven’t thought about that for years.”
His eyes no longer took in Cully’s living room. Instead, he remembered another home, a long time ago, miles from Midsomer.
Cully’s voice recalled him to the present.
“I’m sorry. It’s not something I’ve been able to discuss with anyone. Ever. I knew that the social workers had figured it out. They asked me all kinds of questions. A doctor tried to examine me and – I don’t suppose you can understand – I felt it was my fault. I was 14. And I thought – I had control over everything that happened to me. But – I guess, I was wrong. To begin with it seemed so – exciting. She was so beautiful. Sexy. And for once, my dad paid attention to me. After mum died, I felt as if I was in the way. Looking at me, reminded him of what he’d lost.”
“Of course I can understand. When I was 14 I thought I could do anything. I was never afraid of anything. Daniel, I’m terribly sorry. About everything.”
“So am I. Could you – tell Gavin I’m sorry. I didn’t plan for that to happen. It was just as if part of me was suddenly back there.”
“I know. And I want you to know that I – what we did – I wanted it.”
“I was afraid – that you felt that I had – taken advantage of you. That’s the last thing I wanted. Especially after last year. I never thought I’d get back on my feet after that. I was – it felt as if I was dead inside. And when they sent me here, it was as if I was being punished. I just wanted to get on with my life. Of course I know what they were trying to do. They just wanted to get me out of the way of the media attention. Perhaps they were right. Everything else aside, that really would have been the end of my career.”
“I hope you’ll learn to like it here. It does have its advantages you know.”
“You don’t have to tell me that. I’m looking at the greatest advantage right now.”
He couldn’t believe she still wanted him, after all she’d found out about him. But the way she was smiling at him, told him that he had nothing to worry about.
Cully took his hand and pulled him closer. Whatever had happened here all those weeks ago, was beginning to fade away. It didn’t make them uncomfortable anymore.
This time, Cully knew she wouldn’t feel any regrets. Now she knew who Daniel really was. All the pieces of the puzzle had fallen into place. He’d dropped his masks and was facing her as himself, for the first time since he was a teenager.
Daniel couldn’t believe he was back here, with Cully, after all that had happened. She knew everything about him, and it only made her love him more. Perhaps he’d been wrong to create the new Daniel. The real Daniel was ready to face the world again. From now on, there would be no more acting. Being himself didn’t hurt anymore.