10

Wednesday

Next morning, when she walked out of her flat to the parking area behind the house, it struck Fry what she could spend some of her money on. Her old black Peugeot could be replaced.

It was obvious, really. The annual MoT and service was starting to get a bit expensive, even though she suspected the garage on Castleton Road gave her a surreptitious discount. Last time, there had been some parts to replace on the suspension system, and French parts weren’t cheap.

The Peugeot had served her well for several years now, and it didn’t show up the dirt too much when she forgot to wash it for weeks on end. But in the bright sunlight of this clear March morning, Fry could see that it was beginning to look a little scuffed around the edges. Its paintwork carried a few too many scratches from squeezing into odd places, like the field gateway near Birchlow yesterday. Each scratch was minor in itself, but the cumulative effect was of an old tomcat with unhealed claw marks from too many late-night punch-ups.

But, if she was going to trade it in, what would she replace it with? She hadn’t the faintest idea.

And she didn’t have any more time to think about it this morning. As she battled through roadworks still puddled with rain, and the cars and buses packed with school children that constituted morning rush-hour in Edendale, she started to prepare herself for the briefing that would start the day.

‘OK, our victim appears to be Patrick Thomas Rawson, date of birth twelfth of April 1964. Born in Digbeth, Birmingham, with a current address in Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands. His wife says Mr Rawson is a company director, type of business as yet unspecified.’

Copies of a photo were passed around the CID room, and DI Hitchens placed one on the board next to a shot taken by the Scenes of Crime photographer the day before, and an enlarged map of the scene at Longstone Moor.

‘The description fits for height, age, and so forth. West Midlands Police have scanned this photo and emailed it to us. You’ve got to admire their efficiency.’

The new photo showed a smiling man in his mid-forties, dark-haired and dark-eyed, almost Italian-looking. Then Fry mentally corrected herself. No, not Italian. He was probably of Irish ancestry, one of those dark Celtic types from the west coast. She could practically see the charm oozing from his smile, and hear the lilting brogue. But that couldn’t be right, either. Patrick Rawson had been born in the Irish quarter of Birmingham, his Celtic roots overlaid by Brummie. In reality, his accent had probably been not unlike her own.

‘It looks pretty conclusive to me,’ said Fry, remembering clearly the dead man lying under the body tent in a spreading pool of blood. It was difficult to be sure, but he might even have been wearing the same coat in the photograph sent from West Midlands.

Hitchens nodded. ‘Yes, I agree. But the wife will confirm identity. Local police have visited Mrs Rawson, and she’s coming up to Edendale today to do the identification.’

‘Who’s bringing her?’

‘A brother, I think they said.’

‘So what was a forty-five-year-old company director doing in a field outside Birchlow?’ asked someone.

‘His wife told the West Midlands bobbies she has no idea. Hopefully, we should be able to get more out of her when she arrives.’

Fry and Hitchens looked at each other. If the death of Patrick Rawson did turn out to be murder, then nine times out of ten the spouse or partner was the obvious suspect. A lot would depend on Mrs Rawson’s demeanour, the consistency of her story, and whether she had a compelling motive.

‘Over to you then, DS Fry,’ said Hitchens cheerfully. ‘You were senior officer at the scene most of yesterday. Let’s have your assessment.’

Fry stepped up and took centre stage. The faces watching her expectantly were only her CID team, plus a few uniforms they’d been allocated. It wasn’t exactly a major spotlight, but it would do for now.

She drew their attention to the map. ‘Right now, we’re working on the theory that the victim drove up towards Longstone Moor early on Tuesday morning and parked his car, a black Mitsubishi 4×4, close to this field barn, here. It seems likely that he went there to meet with someone. Who that was, we don’t yet know. You can probably come up with some ideas.’

‘A woman?’ suggested DC Irvine.

Well, there was a chip off the old block. But DC Hurst, sitting next to him, raised her hand. ‘The person who made the 999 call was male,’ she said.

‘Yes, Becky. It was a young male voice, local accent. We can hear the recording in a minute.’

Luke Irvine and Becky Hurst were the two youngest DCs, who had been in the department a matter of months. Beat and response officers for a few years, then rushed into CID. That was an indication of the shortage of experienced staff. Fry was conscious of an entire generation coming into the police service behind her, with quite a different attitude to the older officers like Gavin Murfin. All of that new generation were born between 1979 and 1991. They were Thatcher’s children.

Despite that, she’d noticed a few signs that Irvine and Hurst were tending to look to the wrong people for role models. Ben Cooper, for a start. Murfin, even.

‘The victim made his way from his car to this derelict hut at the agricultural research centre, about two hundred yards away. He sustained a head injury at some point here, because blood was found inside the hut. His mobile phone and wallet were also taken. It seems likely that the person who made the 999 call on the victim’s phone was also at the huts, since he told the control room operator that’s where the body was to be found. But, in fact, the victim was still alive. Despite his injuries, he managed to get across these fields before he collapsed and died.’

‘I wonder why he didn’t just head back to his car,’ said Hurst. ‘That would be the logical thing to do.’

Fry looked at Hurst. ‘Yes, but if you see the severity of the head injury, you can imagine that he wouldn’t have been thinking logically. In fact, he was probably dazed and disorientated. He would have been suffering from concussion as well as blood loss, I guess. Hopefully, the pathologist will give us a clearer picture after the postmortem.’

Fry saw Superintendent Branagh settling into a chair at the back of the room, trying unsuccessfully not to be noticed.

‘SOCOs have been assigned to the car,’ said Fry. ‘We’ll bring it in when they’ve processed the scene where it was parked.’

‘A barn, was it?’

‘A field barn. The track to the location is still usable, but the Mitsubishi was parked out of sight of any walkers. We’ll be trying to trace Mr Rawson’s route from the car to the scene where he met his death, and of course establishing his movements prior to arriving at the barn in the first place.’

‘We have two scenes to cover, then.’

‘Three, including the hut. And two of them are totally open to the elements. Just our luck to get the sort of weather we had yesterday morning. We also have separate lines of enquiry on this mysterious 999 caller, and on the hoofprints found all over the scene. Some potential witnesses there, I hope.’

‘Appeals?’

‘Yes, we need to get public appeals out as soon as possible, to encourage these people to come forward with information. Particularly the man who made the call.’

They listened to the recording of the call logged by the control room. It was very brief, just a description of the location in an unsteady voice, as if the caller had been running. An insistence on ‘ There’s a body,’ said twice. Repeated requests from the operator for the caller’s name were simply ignored. Listening to the recording for the second time, Fry thought the man might actually still have been running when he dialled the emergency number.

‘We won’t have the initial postmortem report on cause of death for a while yet,’ said Hitchens, sensing the end of the briefing approaching. ‘But, given the severity of the head injury, this could be classified as a murder enquiry at any time. So follow procedures, no slip-ups at this early stage, please.’

‘The killer seems to have taken his wallet and mobile phone,’ said Irvine. ‘Could this have been a robbery gone wrong?’

Fry shook her head. ‘I can’t see it. No, it’s more likely they did it to conceal the victim’s identity for as long as possible. We were lucky to find the car so soon and get his identity. Our only other lead is this — ’ She held up the evidence bag. ‘A restaurant receipt in the victim’s pocket. Le Chien Noir, in Clappergate. If Mr Rawson used a credit card to pay for his meal, it should provide additional confirmation of his identity, even without the assistance of the wife.’

‘Diane, are you going to follow that up yourself?’ asked Hitchens.

‘As soon as we’ve finished here, sir.’

The DI smiled. ‘By the way, I hear you had a bit of trouble at the hunt yesterday?’

‘It was nothing. One of those situations where everyone claims to be an injured party.’

Superintendent Branagh waited while the meeting broke up. She was wearing a dress this morning. It was dark blue, with a pattern of enormous white flowers, and it was cut so badly that it made her shoulders look even broader than usual. Watching her stand up and come towards them made Fry think of a window ledge that the plant pots had fallen off.

‘I wonder what her vital statistics are,’ whispered Murfin. ‘She’d look good in the front row of the scrum.’

‘Women don’t have vital statistics any more, Gavin.’

‘Ah. Political correctness. Maybe I should get myself sent back in for re-education again. I obviously need my ten thousand mile service.’

As everyone went back to work, Fry noticed that Ben Cooper had sneaked into the back of the room, too. He looked as if he wasn’t sure how welcome he would be, or whether his presence could be regarded as official, even.

It turned out that Branagh had noticed Cooper, too. She turned to Hitchens and Fry.

‘DC Cooper is supposed to be on leave, isn’t he?’

‘Yes, ma’am.’

Fry regarded her with a certain respect. A woman who could memorize the duty rosters must have a ruthlessly efficient administrative brain. Most senior officers wouldn’t even have bothered looking.

‘He heard we were short-handed and came in to see if he could help,’ explained Fry. ‘But I can send him home, if — ’

‘No, why would you do that? We should be encouraging such enthusiasm, DS Fry.’

‘Of course.’

A few minutes later, Fry found Mr Enthusiasm himself standing at her desk.

‘You didn’t mention any trouble with the hunt,’ he said.

‘It was all a storm in a teacup.’

‘Sabs, I suppose?’

‘Yes, but there were hunt stewards involved. I didn’t like the look of them too much, Ben. There were one or two familiar faces, I’m sure.’

‘Customers of ours?’

‘Almost certainly. When I get hold of their names, I think there’ll be a few counts of affray and GBH on record. Some potential suspects there, well capable of cracking a person’s skull. If we could link one of them to Patrick Rawson, then tie it up with the forensics

…’

‘You’re focusing on the hunt stewards rather than the saboteurs?’ said Cooper.

‘The protestors were a motley bunch. But some of them looked as though they wouldn’t say “boo” to a goose. They’d probably be too afraid of violating its rights.’

Cooper perched on an adjacent desk. ‘The sabs are pretty clever and sophisticated now. They’ve had a lot of experience over the years. In fact, some people say successful hunt sabotage needs as much knowledge of hunting techniques as hunting itself. You have to understand the direction a scent travels, possible lines a fox might take. And good communication is vital.’

‘According to Inspector Redfearn, there are mainly hard-core activists left since the ban. They seem to be convinced that hunts are trying to break the law every time they go out.’

‘Not all hunts,’ said Cooper. ‘The Eden Valley have developed a bad reputation with the sabs. Some of the neighbouring hunts, like the High Peak, are considered pretty clean and law abiding. But, yes, there are definitely some extreme groups. A while ago, there were a bunch called the Hunt Retribution Squad, who were alleged to have been responsible for a series of fire bombings. That was after the deaths of two young saboteurs in incidents involving hunt vehicles.’

‘Deaths? Really?’

‘It was a few years ago.’

Cooper had got Fry’s interest now, and he could see it. He sat down at his PC and did a quick search, soon coming up with the details.

‘Yes, they were both in 1993. One in Cheshire, and one in Cambridgeshire. The sabs who died were aged eighteen and fifteen. The fifteen-year-old was crushed under the wheels of a horse box.’

‘That’s just a child,’ said Fry.

Cooper nodded. ‘Funny thing is, the angle of the media reports at the time damaged the reputation of the saboteurs rather than the hunt supporters. There were allegations of children being recruited directly from schools and sacrificed for the “anti” cause, with a few hints at Nazi sympathies thrown in.’

‘Which suggests the hunt lobby might have had better PR than the opposition.’

‘Maybe.’

Fry tapped a pen on her desk. ‘This has been going on for years, then. There could be some old scores to be settled, couldn’t there? A young sab in the early nineties might be in his mid-forties now.’

‘You’re thinking of your victim — Patrick Rawson?’

‘It’s a theory. There were too many horses at the scene for the hunt not to be involved in some way. And I got a bad feeling from that woman, Mrs Forbes, and the huntsman. I was convinced they were concealing something.’

‘They learn to be defensive,’ said Cooper.

‘Even so…’

‘Yes?’

‘Well, let’s be fair,’ said Fry. ‘There are some fairly aggressive hunt supporters, too. What was that slogan some of them had during the campaign for a ban? “Born to Hunt, Prepared to Fight”.’

‘Something like that,’ said Cooper. ‘You didn’t enjoy seeing the hunt, did you?’

‘I’m not a fan of horses, as it happens. They’re too big for my liking — I wouldn’t want one of those things to bite me. And there were so many dogs. Why do they need all those dogs?’

‘Hounds.’

‘Oh, yes — hounds, then.’

Cooper laughed, then tried to look more serious.

‘So what can I do, Diane?’

‘Are you sure you’re free?’

‘I’ve got an appointment to keep at about five o’clock — but otherwise, yes.’

‘Got a date?’

‘No, I’m taking the cat to the vet’s. Have you got some jobs for me?’

‘Well, there are a few addresses that need visiting in Eyam and Birchlow. Potential witnesses to speak to.’

‘Sure. Give them to me.’

Fry handed him the call logs. ‘They’re probably nothing, but best to check.’

‘OK. Where are you off to yourself?’

‘A nice restaurant,’ said Fry. ‘One of the perks of the job.’

Wednesday was market day in Edendale, and Fry had to go all the way up to the top of the multi-storey car park in Clappergate to find a space for the Peugeot.

Le Chien Noir was in a row of retail premises near the corner of the market place, distinguished from the building societies and mobile phone shops around it by the subdued colours of its decor, the deep gloom visible through the windows, the discreet menu under its own little awning on the wall outside.

Though the restaurant wasn’t open for business yet, a frantic bustle of activity was going on. Every time a door from the kitchen opened, a burst of noise filled the empty restaurant: shouting and clanging, voices singing or screaming in several different accents. It occurred to Fry too late that very few workers in the service industry had English as their first language these days. Even if she found the right waitress or barman, she might need to call on the services of an interpreter to get detailed information out of them. And, whatever languages the staff at Le Chien Noir spoke, she was certain French wouldn’t be among them. She prayed that she wouldn’t have to start racking up additional costs on use of the Interpretation Line.

But, for once, she was in luck. Patrick Rawson had been served by the manager himself, who turned out to be a Scot called Connelly, a slim man in his thirties with close-cropped hair disguising incipient male-pattern baldness. He was wearing a brightly patterned waistcoat and a white apron, with his order pad protruding from a pocket.

She showed him a printout of the photo faxed from Sutton Coldfield.

‘Yes, I’m pretty sure I saw that gentleman,’ said Connelly. ‘It was only… what? Monday night?’

‘That would be correct, Mr Connelly.’

‘Most people I don’t remember for very long. If you’d asked me next week, it would probably have gone clean out of my head. I have that sort of mind, you know. I always need something new.’

Within a few minutes, Fry had obtained the credit-card record which would confirm Rawson’s identity, and established that there had been no reservation made. At least, none that had been entered in the book. A walk-in, then. Around eight or eight thirty, the manager thought.

‘What do you remember about him?’ she asked.

‘Well, he was rather loud. Not drunk or anything awful like that, you understand. He was just one of those terribly over-confident men. Ridiculously masculine, wanting to be dominant all the time — and wanting everyone else to see it, too. It turns me right off.’

‘Interesting.’

Fry smiled at him, feeling a growing surge of relief that she wasn’t going to have to dig for details. Connelly’s impressions of Patrick Rawson would be as valuable as gold.

The manager warmed to her approval. ‘Oh, I suppose he was quite good looking in a rugged kind of way. Knew it, too.’ He studied the photograph again. ‘Mmm. Has to be the centre of attention all the time. You can see it in his eyes.’

‘Was he having dinner with a woman?’

‘Oh no, love. His companion was an older man.’

‘Can you describe him for me?’

Connelly shook his head. ‘We see so many middle-aged businessmen in here. There was nothing about him that would have made him stand out from the rest. Greying hair, clean shaven. A suit and tie. What else can I say? He was a diner. We don’t exactly look at the colour of their eyes.’

‘Just the colour of their money.’

‘The colour of their plastic. Our customers rarely use cash.’

‘Had either of these two men been in the restaurant before?’

‘I couldn’t say.’ The manager hesitated. ‘I suppose I could go back through the book and see if your chap made a reservation some time, or check the credit-card records — ’

‘It doesn’t matter,’ said Fry. ‘We can get hold of his credit-card statements ourselves.’

‘That must be fun. I’d love to be able to do that.’

Powerful smells of cooking were starting to drift from the kitchen. They made Fry think of garlic bread, which she daren’t eat during the day, even if it was offered to her. That didn’t stop her salivating, though.

‘I’m interested in this second man,’ she said. ‘Did you hear him speak at all, Mr Connelly?’

‘Yes — when he ordered, of course. And at the end of the meal there was a bit of an argument about who should pay the bill.’

‘Oh? Mr Rawson didn’t want to pay?’

‘No, no, it was the other way around. Both gentlemen wanted to pay, and they had one of those terribly polite little argie-bargies over who had got their credit card out first. We see it so often in here. It’s a sort of ritual they go through. My opinion is, there’s a question of status involved. They all want to be the one who paid for the dinner.’

‘Did you gain an impression of the relative status between these two, Mr Connelly?’

‘Well, I’ve been doing this job for a long time, love. You’d be surprised how good I’ve become at judging that.’

‘That’s why I’m asking you,’ said Fry.

Connelly smoothed down his waistcoat in an unconscious preening gesture. ‘And, in this case, I’d say the two gentlemen were pretty much equals. They knew each other quite well, I’m sure. It wasn’t as if they were meeting for the first time. No ice to be broken, if you know what I mean.’

‘Yes, I understand. So they were friendly?’

‘Mmm. I didn’t say that, did I? On the contrary, I felt there was a little bit of tension. Nothing was said while I was at the table. I’m afraid they were rather too discreet for that. But, watching from a distance, I could see their conversation was getting a bit heated at times.’

Fry looked around the restaurant. Despite its reputation, the tables were pushed fairly close together. Or perhaps that was because of its reputation. Restaurants went in and out of fashion all the time. Right now, Le Chien Noir might be the place to eat, but next month the people with the money could be going elsewhere and reservations would dry up. Managements liked to cash in on a spell of popularity. More covers meant more profits.

‘Was the restaurant full?’ she asked.

‘On Monday night? No way. The good people of Edendale like to stay at home in front of the telly most of the week. We get a nice visiting clientele during the summer, but not in early March. Besides, the weather was bad, wasn’t it?’

‘Yes.’

Connelly followed her glance around the room. ‘Ah, you’re wondering whether any other diners might have overheard their conversation. Unfortunately, I gave the two gentlemen a nice, quiet table in a corner, with no one too near them. I thought they might be discussing business, you see.’

‘And hoped they would be good tippers?’

The manager inclined his head. ‘As indeed they were.’

The kitchen door banged, and someone shouted what sounded like a complicated curse. What was the language? Russian? Polish? Something East European, anyway.

‘You were telling me about the other man,’ she said. ‘Did you notice what kind of accent he had when he spoke?’

Connelly shrugged. ‘He didn’t speak all that much. Local, I would have said. But don’t make me swear to it in court.’

‘Don’t worry, I won’t.’

Fry looked at the credit-card receipt. She noticed for the first time that Patrick Rawson had, indeed, been a good tipper. He’d added a hefty gratuity to the bill, rather than leave cash in hand.

‘It seems Mr Rawson paid the bill at five minutes past ten. I imagine he and his companion left together shortly afterwards?’

‘Certainly.’

‘Can you remember whether they arrived together?’

Connelly tapped the photograph dramatically with a long, pale finger. ‘I believe this gentleman arrived first, by a few minutes. But not much.’

‘Did you see a car outside? Or did they ask you to send for a taxi when they left?’

‘No. Neither. Their clothes weren’t wet, but I don’t think it was actually raining at the time. Just a moment now…’

‘Yes?’

The manager pointed towards the exit, a smoky glass door looking out on to the market place. For a second, Fry felt disorientated. Her eyes had become accustomed to the dim lighting of the restaurant, her concentration had been on Connelly and what he was saying. This sudden glimpse of blue-and-white market-stall awnings, crowds of people passing by, the brake lights of cars queuing at the traffic lights — they all seemed like an intrusion.

‘I do recall them looking out to see what the weather was doing before they left,’ said Connelly. ‘Customers often do that, spend a few moments deciding whether to wait, or to make a dash for their cars. People who dine here don’t like to get wet.’

Fry felt a bit disappointed that Connelly hadn’t come up with anything more. He had seemed so promising in the beginning. But perhaps she just wasn’t asking the right questions.

‘I know your memory is good, sir,’ she said. ‘So if you do recall anything else about either man, anything at all, please give me a call, won’t you?’

She handed him her card, which he glanced at and slipped into his apron pocket.

‘Detective Sergeant, it would be a pleasure. And do make a reservation for dinner some time. Would you like to take a menu with you?’

‘Not just now, thank you.’

‘Well, don’t forget. I’ll make sure you’re given a special table.’

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