Out of the past
‘Mandy eh?’ She thought a bit more, then plunged in. ‘Agency, like me, not one of the good ones, she knew Ralph around the same time as me. Perhaps she was in his diary, but why her doing the shooting I don’t know, she was never a crack shot. I mean, it was just not something she’d be into – nails and make-up were her thing.’
‘If Ralph wanted her to though.’
She froze up. ‘I can’t go there, not to that topic.’
‘I could pick her up and charge him tomorrow.’
‘No!’ Then she calmed down. ‘No … please.’
‘Goodness me, after all this time.’
‘Don’t look for reasons.’
‘Not my business.’
‘You think I’m pond life, don’t you?’
‘I’ve seen this too many times, we all have our weaknesses.’
‘I take it your young officer’s been with Mandy now and now he’s with Sarah.’
‘Not yet but he will be.’
‘Impressive, Tim. My report will be appreciative.’
‘As long as you keep doing it of course. Now, let’s get down to it. We have people inside who are not kosher. Are you aware of any of them?’
‘We all hear rumours.’
‘Look at these names.’
He did, whistled and handed the sheet back. ‘Yep, that’s them, never knew about the boss.’
‘I have to warn you, Tim – if we go down this path, a lot of people inside our ranks will go down – everyone wants an honest policeman, but not too honest. I read you as honest but there are big bucks in this game we’ve uncovered – both that and nastiness you’d not want to be the victim of. You can dip out now if you want.’
‘No, I’m in.’
‘Good man. Get over to Amsterdam and sniff around, go to this de Vries and interview him and the girl, we’ll clear it for you. Don’t push, make it a nice interview, use your discretion but be careful of one thing. You did it well with Ms Sobel – promising things you could promise so I think you know this already but be very careful what you really can promise. If we can’t carry out what we promise or threaten, we lose big time, I can’t tell you enough how important this is. Never ever lie to obtain a conviction because it will come unstuck.’
‘You’re interested in my sister, aren’t you?’ smiled Jenny A. A slight smile was on the corners of the mouth of Jan de Vries.
‘Correction – my boss wants me to be interested but I haven’t met her yet.’
‘Why are you here, Inspector?’ asked de Vries.
‘Sergeant. OK, here’s what we know so far.’ He handed over the report, which mentioned contraband but not the underage trade for high-ups. All other details were accurate as far as they knew, including precise details of the route.
Jan de Vries correctly surmised that if this was passed on to his masters, assuming there were masters, then any move by them automatically sunk him and to a point – Jenny.
‘It’s certainly interesting, Mr. Madders. A pity we haven’t been more helpful.’
‘Oh but you have, you have. I’d like to thank you for your time, both of you. Must press on.’ He drank the last of his coffee and stood.
Jan came back from the door thoughtfully.
‘You think he suspects?’ she asked.
‘Undoubtedly. He laid a trap as well. He’s a clever one, our Sergeant Madders – clever people have been known to have accidents.’
‘You do that and it’s all they need.’
‘You think I don’t know that?’
Laura and Jenny B had been living with them for two weeks and Laura wanted to talk to Young … alone. They agreed to wander down to the dock and use her boat.
They wandered onto the wharf, the early morning mist in the air and moisture on the ground, moisture still dripping from the trees, the engines were running, Tom Raines, Miles’s chief of fleet shut them off and alighted, hint taken.
Laura had made some snacky, brunchy morsels and they swilled these down with tea in the dining area. That done, she led him to her stateroom and he knew why that cabin – the acoustics were the poorest in the boat. He sat on the plush chair and she sat on the bed, arms resting on her knees, she was ill at ease.
‘You’re never going to solve this case, Leyton, without my input – may I ask what your main priority is? Is it solving Miles’s murder or is it breaking the paedo ring everyone knows about but no one can touch?’
‘Both but the murder is first, two separate things.’
‘The paedo ring you can’t break because you would not be alive to break it – once you get close enough, things happen, they have different ways of dealing with it. There’s a central organizing group of people – it’s so high that no one’s ever touched them in centuries – but it’s part of a larger, global move for the destruction of society, let’s not get into that now. There are rings which form, then disband, fade away, new ones form – it’s always moving on, always changing. You can nail various figures but usually after their deaths or the deaths follow that and then it’s someone else, it’s a hydra, there is no one head at the top of it all. Not in this world.
Sometimes a figure is disciplined – they’ve stepped out of line or are about to become an embarrassment. I didn’t know this when I thought I was being so clever on the continent but I was ‘allowed’ to expose such individuals – it happened with Strauss-Kahn. That wasn’t paedo per se but they still had the goods on him in his chosen perversion.
That’s how it’s done, that’s how they keep people under control. I was a fighter for what I believed to be good, seems I was just being used, just as everyone else is. Looking at my past, you could say abused as well – yes, I fit the classic profile, oversexed from too early exposure to it. And it’s not from moral rightness that I’m talking to you today, it’s from personal pride, ego – that they think I’m going to stay quiet.
I’m going to tell you some things and then it’s up to you what you do with them – if you use them, you condemn me to death. I know you to be an officer who does his duty but who also knows discretion. The boats were not so much for the really bad stuff but for borderline, the girls were 18 or close to it, it was for the porn industry. You haven’t got anywhere near the awful stuff but Holland and Belgium are good places to start … or Scotland.
These ones Miles’s boats were used for were for clubs across the land – you might ask why not homegrown. The answer is personal preference of the clientele. Shirl from Barnsley is not quite the same as Maria from Slovakia – they move differently for a start, they do things differently.
The borderline age is much easier to transport in plain sight – take them off a canal boat and they could be some twenty year old guy’s girlfriend, they rejoin later. Meanwhile, their lack of papers – well, there’s a whole smokescreen of illegals right now, isn’t there? It’s lower level but also lower returns – they’re not greedy. You need a drink?’
‘Tom who’s skippering this boat was not involved, this is why he’s here – they kept him in the dark just as much as Miles. Anyone halfway moral is kept in the dark – that’s obvious. Other boats, other skippers, were not so scrupulous. I’d been one of those girls many moons ago, that’s how I got to that agency, that’s how Miles found me. Did he rent girls? No, but girls found him – he represented money in those days, they called themselves hostesses and PAs and Miles was fine with that.’
‘Jan de Vries?’
‘Miles taking him on tells you something about my husband – either Miles really was that naive or else he knew and was keeping the person close, you could never tell, he kept his cards pretty close to his chest. You wonder why I cheated on him. It wasn’t on purpose, Ralph turned up, I’m not strong. Miles was a very pleasant person – if you weren’t hot for him, he was at least someone you could stay around and you sort of loved him. His manner was impeccable, he paid you attention, he was careful to make you feel special … but then I realized he was like that with everyone – male, female, child. He’d relate in this pleasant, cordial, complimentary, even supportive way, he’d back your project, he’d do anything you’d hope your man would do.’
‘But he still kept a lot in reserve.’
‘Well yes. Now look at my work up till then and I sound stuck up here but I was quite a name if I say so myself -’
‘And being at the centre, almost a femme fatale – now you were a fisherman’s wife?’
‘I see where you’re going with that and to a small extent – well yes. But it was something else, something between man and woman, which was more important to me. There was something remote about him, there was no family he’d talk about, I was all the family he had. He was close to you, he liked you. In bed, he wasn’t too bad, he could be inventive, he’d always try to make it good for me and I once said he should just take some pleasure for himself – didn’t register. His concept of a woman was a damsel who needed to be feted. – now what woman would not want that?’
‘A woman who wanted an eyeball to eyeball, down to earth relationship.’
‘Yes, exactly, he was never down to earth. He had the businesses, he had the cash inflow, and yet I was the real one of the two.’
‘Well yes, I was the one covering his back, he did vaguely know and he kissed me for it but I always felt he should have covered himself a bit more. In many ways, he was not in the real world. I could never talk about how sordid my life had been, I could never share a smutty joke because ladies don’t tell them, do they?
It became wearing, Leyton, I had countless opportunities on the boats if I’d been a slut and he never saw how good I was being, he saw it as vindication that he’d chosen the right woman. There was no banter, no cut and thrust, no earthiness or crudity, as you said.’
‘Where are you headed with this?’
‘I don’t know. I just wanted to let it out, to talk it out and you were the one I felt most comfortable doing that with. Mandy Sobel, my Will. I wouldn’t cut her out anyway as she was the other side of me, she could have been me, she deserves a break but she sees me as enemy. And in a strange way, as she knows about the Will from Jenny A through Jan, then to her – she knows Jan well – she resisted my largesse and though she has good motivation to bump me off, in another way she doesn’t – she makes a mint through her different ventures and she wouldn’t give me the satisfaction of seeming so grubby, so back in those days if you see what I mean …’
‘Yes, I see it.’
‘They all know Mandy and I had a past – I set up wealthy men for her to rob, only for a very short time. I tried to take my share of her haul but she refused and so I shopped her. She did five years and that was a pretty steep sentence for that, I was on a bond and assurance as I’d not profited. The problem was that with my more recent past, they had no real hold. So what if I was exposed, so what if my sexual activities came out? Miles knew those and would have forgiven the extortion. They had no hold on me, I was already a bad girl.’
‘You haven’t said who’s giving the orders.’
‘You won’t know him but he’s well known in Amsterdam, which is why I can tell you with impunity. He uses Jan for a front, Jan in turn uses Jenny A who thinks he loves her, the silly little fool. His name is Ruud van Agt and there was another – Neil Joseph.’
‘The second we know – the paedo ringleader – but that’s a dead issue now.’
‘He’s been replaced by a lesser member of British royalty and a Belgian aristocrat.’
‘We know those two as well. Maybe London knew of van Agt but we didn’t up here in the sticks. I can’t see how van Agt would be remotely interested in bumping you off though.’
‘He wouldn’t, nor would Jan – they just wanted the fleet as no one would look that way. They wanted to put their man in – Jan – he was neither too high nor just a fisherman, he was perfect.’
‘It makes sense. Now, Laura, you know my cynicism – what chance every single thing you’ve said is total guff and you are the mastermind?’
‘Then you’re in real danger … but I’m not. Look at my modus operandi in all I’ve ever done.’
‘Why were you shot at twice?’
‘Plans change. At first, whoever it was over there thought there was no need to alter things, as it was working well. Then I came into it, a known person with her own agenda and there was a feeling I was a rival for the spoils. They knew I knew and that was kept from Miles – I’ll never forgive myself now.
But once Miles was killed, the notion changed to taking over the operation anyway and so I had to go.’
‘Only by luck.’ She stood up and chivalry had him standing too. ‘Come over here.’
‘All right.’ She moved swiftly and with two gentle palms, knocked him to the bed, lying across him, legs akimbo so he couldn’t move.
He made no attempt to push her off, neither did he advance it. She breathed out. ‘I took that risk, I was pretty certain you cared. You do see I care, don’t you.’
‘I don’t want to threaten my marriage, betray Jane.’
‘I know you don’t, which is why we’ll keep it to this.’ Her lips pressed his and he wasn’t strong enough to stop her. She then saw that situation when a person is lying – the tight belt is no longer tight and his was loose enough for her hand to go down there. It grasped something going up the other way and he could not stop. She did not take it any further though, she just lay there and worked it, then planted another kiss.
The instant he stirred enough to take her shoulders and gently push her away, she took out her hand and jumped off the bed, sitting in the plush chair and gazing at him. He was now the one sitting with his hands on his knees.
‘You want me,’ she broke the silence.
‘Of course I do. You know I can’t. You know why.’
‘Perhaps you’d best go. I’m not ordering you, just suggesting.’
He looked over, got up, knelt on one knee before her and placed a kiss on her lips. ‘You’re really something.’ Then he turned and left.
It was held in the meeting room at the Lytton station. Almost all rooms were small, ill lit and drafty but this one passed muster. Each of the women had a policewoman with her, each had to disrobe and was given a robe and slippers, the clothes would be checked
When Tim Madders finally went through with Mandy Sobel, her shock at seeing the company all in gowns was pronounced, her jaw dropped – they sat in the last two places.
Clockwise around the U-shaped seating plan in the room were Laura, a constable, Jenny B on the corner, a constable, Mandy Sobel and Tim Madders, then on the right – a very angry and aggressive Jenny A, a constable to whom she was handcuffed and over by the door were two policewomen. There was water on the tables.
Centre front was DI Young, a projector and screen just behind his right. He began.
‘First the apology – we had to do it like this as we can’t afford either recording devices or weapons, you’d understand why, even if you don’t like it. Everything of yours out there is safe, in tubs and on hangers.
‘The aim of this gathering is to accuse the killer of Miles Forrester. Note please I said killer, not murderer and accuse, not arrest and charge. That’s important.
Having subjected you to the robes, now it’s time to give you assurances. There are things which are going to come out today but they only relate directly to the killing of Miles. If we mention something from the past, it’s because it’s either directly related or someone lied and we’re going to correct that lie.
If you told either Sergeant Madders or me something in confidence, plus it was not a lie, plus it does not directly relate, it stays a confidence. Ms Laura – may I call you that – said to me at our last meeting:
‘I know you to be an officer who does his duty but who also knows discretion.’
That’s exactly how we’re going to do this but there are complications. The main complication is that people’s ideas about others here were not quite right, not as they thought or surmised or else the views changed, loyalties changed. This has made the case so difficult. Some of you wish another person an injury but you’d be wrong to because that person may not now be against you – it’s taken quite a bit of sorting out.
Everyone here wishes to protect someone here, including us. Every one of the ladies has at least two charges we could bring against her. What do we want? The truth. How will we get it? Firstly, by honouring confidences, secondly by this threat now. If you lie to us, with what you will see we know, then all bets are off and the book is thrown, let’s be quite clear.
Ladies, I think you understand me exactly so you’ll have big decisions to make. Let me say it once more – we are going to name the killer today. Some of it is recorded and you will see the constable turn it on and off. Should you wish to hear that tape – not a disk, a tape – then come here one day and we’ll play it.
All right, let’s start with Mandy Sobel. DS Madders met her in a McDonald’s and asked her various questions, she was free to go at any time, which she then decided to do. What came out was this:
1. There is a conduit between Amsterdam and Britain for bringing in underage girls … but only just underage, brought by various routes but mainly via canals, road vehicles and some boats in Miles’s fleet. Every single person in this room knows about that -’
‘There’s no way she could know that,’ interrupted Jenny A, ‘she has no contact with Amsterdam.’
‘No contact with Jan de Vries, no she doesn’t. We thought she was couriering but she didn’t go over there to meet any of the principals. Her contact has always been Ralph Stammers. However, de Vriet knows of her as he recognized the photo. Van Agt knows her very well – we have his movements on file.’
2. We suspect it is one of those two who asked her to fire the shots at Ms Laura -’
‘That’s rubbish,’ Laura angrily put in. ‘He would not be remotely interested in getting that tramp to kill me, he doesn’t care enough.’
Laura clammed up.
‘This is your ‘cooperation’? No matter. In one of Ms Laura’s two letters, Stammers makes such a threat about Mr. Forrester but I agree, that hardly convicts him.’ Laura relaxed, vindicated. ‘The letter recovered from Ms Sobel’s apartment though was another thing -’
‘You bastards, you promised,’ Ms Sobel pointed at DS Madders. Young looked to Madders to respond.
‘I did not search your apartment,’ said Tim Madders. I did not say anything about a letter, I’ve kept my promise to you and will continue to.’
‘Quite right,’ said Young. ‘That letter was recovered by a thief and sent to us. The deal between Constable Madders and Ms Sobel still stands.’ She was still furious.
Young continued. ‘There’s a fourth letter, one a prison officer intercepted, not for lawful reasons but to blackmail Stammers … and Ms Sobel agrees to the terms. We’ve had copies made of that letter, as that officer has now been dismissed and charged, the letter is public domain. One copy for Ms Sobel now please … and one for Ms Laura.’
The look on Mandy Sobel’s face was one of total shock. The look on Laura’s face was fury, she looked daggers at Mandy Sobel, the latter looked away.
3. Ms Sobel was involved in a scheme with Ms Laura many years ago – this again breaks no trust as it is public domain. We were told – shan’t say by whom – that Ms Sobel went down for five years for theft and that Ms Laura tried to get her cut out of it and couldn’t, so she shopped Ms Sobel. However, the record does not show that.’
Mandy Sobel had been just about to explode but she now waited. ‘In fact it was the reverse – Ms Laura was the one convicted and Ms Sobel tried to get her cut out of Ms Laura for setting up the victims.
Enter Ralph Stammers who was sweet on Ms Laura but was also seeing Ms Sobel who thought he was for her alone after Ms Laura had departed the scene. I see Ms Laura understands this in Mr. Stammers. It was Mr. Stammers who had given Ms Laura the snippet which led to the early release, Ms Laura did not tell us this – we found it out.
Ms Sobel never understood who gave Ms Laura the information, she always understood that Ms Laura had got off for a different reason and now she, Ms Sobel, was charged. She did one year inside and swore to get Ms Laura -’
‘You have no proof I swore that. She had three inside, I was happy enough.’
‘You stupid cow,’ exploded Laura. ‘Now you’ve admitted the thing happened that way. Say nothing you don’t have to, you stupid woman.’
‘As that does not directly relate to the murder, there’s no need to go further into it. Let’s press on, people. Let’s go back to Ms Sobel’s talk with DS Madders who did not record the talk, but he does remember part of it. Obviously, none of that would stand up in court.’ Sobel nodded to Madders. ‘First thing he remembers is Ms Sobel saying, ‘I’m not naming names.’ And she didn’t. She also said, ‘I never knew this Miles, so don’t know what he knew.’ Any comments from anyone?’
Laura was about to but didn’t, Jenny A was quiet and interested now, Jenny B had been intrigued from the start.
‘No? Then let’s keep going. Ms Sobel also said something else curious, ‘There’s a Dutchman whose girl is connected with someone involved with the boats this side.’
‘She has no way of knowing that!’ literally screamed Jenny A. ‘This is a set up and I wish to go.’
‘PC Robins, please hand Ms Jenny this.’ He passed a sheet of paper and it was given. Jenny A shut up. ‘That, Ms Jenny, is what you will be charged with should you go through that door now. You would last less than a day without our protection for the rest of your life. If you stay where you are now and just be quiet for goodness sake, none of this need come out. You will note we have not made this public in this meeting now, we have no intention of mentioning it, this is the carrot we’re offering you. You know they’d kill you.’ Jenny A subsided.
‘Moving on, Ms Sobel also said, ‘I’m not interested in that, all I know is it wasn’t me.’ She’s referring to the hit on Miles -’
This time, Jenny B exploded. ‘Of course she’s going to say that, isn’t she? Is she going to admit to a murder?’
‘No, Jenny, she’s not. But nor is she going to say she knew if she didn’t. So we had to find out, didn’t we? We have Ralph Stammers’s own admission that Mandy was in Edinburgh, visiting that day, corroborated by the prison record. We could not have hoped for a more satisfactory confirmation.’
Laura was quite out of sorts now, quite distressed. She was asked if she needed a few minutes with the two constables outside, they would wait. ‘No, go on, let’s get this over with.’
‘Ms Laura did make threats, according to Ralph Stammers, towards Ms Sobel – please pass this to Ms Laura now – but at that time, Ms Laura was Mr. Stammers’s muse. Later, that changed and Ralph Stammers told Ms Sobel what Ms Laura had said. Yes or no, Ms Sobel?’
‘I’m not going to say.’ Laura looked at her, surprised. Ms Sobel went on. ‘If I say yes, you can tie me to that murder.’
‘Who’s to say it was a murder?’
‘I don’t know – you said, it, everyone just accepted it was. Stop playing games and get on with it.’
‘Let’s summarize. We can be pretty certain Ms Sobel was there for attack N3. By the way, Ms Sobel, far from being down on you, Ms Laura was supportive of you during her talk with me. I felt she was protecting you. However, then it came up about Jenny A shooting Miles -’
‘I was in Holland.’
‘We’ll get to that. Ms Laura said she knew Jenny A had not done it.’ Both Jennies now looked at Laura. ‘Ms Laura then told me, ‘Because I know who did. It was Mandy Sobel. She took all the shots at me.’
‘That’s an utter lie!’ shouted Mandy. ‘Tell her, Inspector, you know exactly where I was.’
‘Yes, our record said you were not there for Miles, you were in Edinburgh.’
‘That’s a lie!’ hissed Laura. She was very much there.’
‘A lie?!’ cried Mandy. ‘Ha! She’s the one lying through her teeth – she’s protecting someone.’
‘Yes, neither of you will name anyone, you just assert something is or is not so. But we know Ms Sobel was in that helicopter because we found the helicopter and forensic matched the jumpsuit.’
Mandy clammed up. Young went on. ‘Ralph went to the wrong place, he did not know Ms Laura’s boat because he’d only been to the shop boat and something, maybe a safety valve in Ms Laura, meant she kept it that way.’
Laura said not a word.
‘Ralph fired all right, through a porthole but he got a woman through the head. That woman ran a fleet of boats north of Amsterdam, the same crowd who wanted that fleet. Here are the documents on that.’
They were distributed and there were some mixed reactions. Laura was chagrined. ‘He was set up by you, you bitch.’
‘I swear he wasn’t, he was there for that job and -’
‘Yes, Ms Sobel?’
Leyton Young continued. ‘All right, he was clearly framed for the hit on Miles, he knows he himself didn’t do it because he was doing a different one and he’s now gunning for Ms Sobel, so to speak. He’s drawn the conclusion that seeing as Ms Sobel flew down with him, she must have been where he wasn’t. He’s put two and two together and it comes out Mandy Sobel. Stop, Ms Sobel, let me finish. It would never stand up because it’s hearsay.
Ms Sobel was playing a very dangerous game. We know she double-crossed Mr. Stammers and that makes two enemies for her – Mr. Stammers and Ms Laura. She can’t afford to make a third enemy, the one from Holland who came over to kill Miles. And that person is also being protected by Ms Laura and Jenny B. She’s under the direct influence of de Vriet and by extension, van Agt.
‘Prove it,’ said Jenny A.
‘Here.’ A three page report was handed to her. She sank back into her chair.
‘No you’re not. You are under the influence and that’s as far as I’m going on that. The police officers here have no need to hear any of that, it’s a separate issue. We now know who the culprit is … or the mastermind if you want to put it that way … who has caused it all. But that person is in danger because of betrayal, I’ll say no more. It’s not in our interests to pursue this thing any further, other than to say that if de Vriet or van Agt are contacted by this mastermind, they’re immediately arrested and so is the mastermind.
We’re getting close to the end, I know it’s been a long time. We’ll now show you some slides, anyone wish to leave?’
Naturally, no one did and the machine was ready. Laura noticed three slides in the carousel, not one, they were advanced one by one and then suddenly, there it was.
‘Observe please,’ said DI Young, ‘that this was an opportunistic photo. The photographer has been stalking our subject – that bus station has an electronic date and time of buses and you’ll notice which buses are coming up next. Constable, please.’
The next slide was clicked through. ‘This is a blow-up of a wider shot of that bus station and it’s pretty clear which it is. It’s the bay which has the bus going to the dock. So it’s a fair surmise that whoever it is in this shot was going to the dock by bus. Not final by any means, I grant you, not on its own, but a fair surmise. Constable, please.’
The last slide now showed up on the screen behind and to the right of DI Young’s head.
‘And as you can see, it is one of the Jennies -’
‘It’s me going to the dock of course, to join Laura,’ said Jenny B and everyone looked across at her. ‘I thought you actually had something.’
‘It could well be you … or it could be Jenny A. Point is, none of us could tell from that shot but let’s accept for now that it is, in fact, Jenny B. Why is she going to the dock at that time? Look at the time on that board again. It says when the next bus is coming but Ms Laura and Miles were already out to sea at that time that day. An anomaly, yes?’
‘This is a trap, you’ve doctored that.’
‘Patience, Jenny B. That led us to examine this shot you now see, which came to us as a digital through an email sent from a library and even here the person was clever. The person whose turn on that computer it was, just a member of the public, left it for a couple of minutes and our miscreant used that person’s email to send the shot you’ve seen, then moved it to a folder already there. Opportunistic. In other words, the person who took the shot accessed her own site, got the pic and sent it to me through that other person’s email. Having my email address was interesting, don’t you think, ladies?
The people we can track who were at the computers at that time generally saw nothing but two of them did describe the person who’d sent the email. At least, let’s be precise – these two members of the public saw this person touch the keyboard and work, standing, at that computer. We’ll keep that to ourselves for now.
‘Now we get to something very interesting. Look at this close up of the board. Someone has colour sampled a dot from the digital display on that bus station board and there are vague outlines of the other dots not illuminated. Piece of cake one evening to add two dots in those spaces to convert 11 to 14. She even blurred the dots to resemble the others. At the distance we were meant to see it from, it looked like a 14, or 2 p.m., too late to catch Ms Laura and Miles going out with me. The killer had to have been well in place by 2 p.m.
‘Let’s switch topics for now. In that photo, would you agree it’s one of the Jennies? Yes? All right, why do you assume it’s a Jenny?’
‘Jumpsuit – their motif,’ said Mandy S. Laura nodded. ‘Those pockets, that plunging diagonal, the deportment, the hair, many things.’
‘Fine, let’s look at this jumpsuit.’
‘No.’ It was Jenny B. ‘I’ll tell you because I know exactly what you’re going to reveal. I was staying at the Inspector’s place, Jenny A was in Holland. Mrs. Young asked me to leave my black bag for washing – clothes that is – on the washing machine before going to bed that evening. It was a regular thing.’
‘Let me take it up now, Jenny,’ said Young, ‘as the layout of our house is involved. Our kitchen is directly below the guestroom, which is why we wash clothes in the morning but in this case, my wife Jane needed some smalls for the next day and a polyester top. She loaded the machine but had room, so she reached into Jenny’s bag and pulled out some smalls, plus that suit. She knew Jenny was going out early next day and so it was wise to get it washed and dried now.
Once it was done on the short cycle though, Jane realized, only then, that our drier makes too much noise for night time so the only way was take the suit outside, around the corner in the back yard and hang it to catch the morning sun. Not good but all she could do.
Jenny’s felt it was her job to follow her Sis. She vaguely knew why her Sis was there near the dock, she didn’t know exactly, so she followed her. She was going to confront Sis and demand she desist from whatever she’d planned.’ Jenny B nodded and Jenny A stared at her, horrified at this betrayal.
Now we get to the main part. Just as we identified Ralph Stammers’s boat, so we identified this one, with a much better resolution. That phenomenon of the lucky break comes in here. What were around in the harbour in that week of the year?’
‘Harbour porpoises,’ answered Tim Madders. Jenny had a sinking feeling, Jenny A was stone-faced.
‘Right and look at this ad in the Lytton Times – pass it around please.’ It did the rounds and was handed back.
‘Now look at the photo of that launch not blown up – what are behind it? Porpoises of course. Now look at the first close up.’ The projector was switched back on and people waited impatiently.
Then there it was – the registration number. ‘We know when it was hired, where it went, what time it went back. It wasn’t hired from that harbour. And now let’s look at the last one.’
They all did and then looked at Jenny A. She was stone-faced, in shock. She tried to rally. ‘You … you can’t pin that on me, it’s too blurred.’
‘Look at the jumpsuit. What’s in your hand?’
‘It’s not pointing at anyone.’
‘No it isn’t. Look at the person sitting at the table. Recognize anything, Ms Laura?’
Laura shook her head. Said Young; ‘Second example of ‘honesty and cooperation’, is it? All right, Sergeant Madders, describe what attire Mandy Sobel was wearing at McDonald’s.’
‘Black jumpsuit with purple and green flashes.’
‘Hell, they’re as common as muck – high street.’
‘Maybe but unusual to see such a thing on that boat. He testifies it was a woman in such a jumpsuit.’
‘Crap, this is a set-up. There’s no way anyone could identify me, as I wasn’t there.’
‘Yes you were. Compare these two forensic reports – one from the helicopter, one from the boat.’
‘You have nothing, nothing you shit!’
‘I’m going to draw this to a close. The person who killed Miles Forrester was Jenny A, or Sophie Daniels. But she did not murder him. Something else happened and all four women sitting here know it full well. There are two reasons she won’t be charged – firstly, she was physically overpowered, secondly, she was also under the influence of something diabolical -’
‘What, spirits?’ mocked Mandy Sobel.
‘In a way. No, far nastier, part of the things which go on but that’s way above the level of this meeting to deal with here. It’s a different investigation.’
‘I wish you the best of luck with that one.’ And this time, Ms Sobel was not mocking.
It was apparently a prison fight over woodworking tools, the upshot was that Ralph Stammers was dead, just one week after that meeting, there was some suggestion that Mandy Sobel had been visiting another inmate and it had happened soon after but there was no way to sheet that home.
Tim Madders was seated in their dingy office, DI Young half sat on his desk, smiling. Tim Madders was not happy about the case.
‘Good,’ said Young, ‘good. Now tell me why.’
‘Jenny B wanted her sister stopped, she took those shots to stop her. She thought that if she could get us to arrest Jenny A – well, a cell protects you from the rain.’
‘There were two people to be framed – Stammers and Jenny A, for blackmail purposes.’
‘I’d say so but can’t pin it down. The shot at Laura and Jenny B was actually a shot at the Jenny who could be seen through the telephoto, who deliberately wore her Sis’s hat – we know this – and it drew fire. We can’t pin that on Mandy Sobel but I can’t see how it could be anyone different. Why take out Jenny A if they were attempting to frame her?’
‘Because … because … she failed to respond as a robot and someone else had to kill Mr. Forrester.’
‘I’d say so again. By the way, I asked Jenny B point blank why she wore her sister’s hat. She went about two seconds before denying it, I showed her – she knew it already – it gave her away. She admitted wearing it because she knew her Sis was a target and wanted to protect her.’
‘Where’s Jenny A now?’
‘In custody, in a safehouse. I’ll tell you more later because you’ll need to guard her.’
‘Come to mama,’ said Jane Young, ‘and tell her all about it. I know your brooding, Leyton and in this case, it’s two young women.’
He glanced over, then at the ceiling again. ‘It really was much simpler in the early days – a naughty person was a naughty person. He’d done the theft, sometimes even the murder, sometimes he had an elaborate scheme but once you nailed him, it was x number of years inside. Yesterday I had to tell a meeting that there was a difference between murder and killing.’
‘Yes, true but it’s got me thinking about guilt.’
‘Because she’s young and pretty – don’t answer that. I take the point that she is under some sort of influence – explain that.’
‘We always knew this sort of thing went on and the internet confirms there’ve been attempts to prosecute people involved in the big agencies through the years but it’s a hydra. I always thought it was the big money behind closed doors, the hidden government and not really my field. Sometimes an order would come down to lay off and we thought it was because it was special section or diplomatic – I never knew it was this. It’s more than people being blackmailed or paid obscene amounts – its actually Dr Mengele stuff, it’s experimenting on people, on their brains, torturing them to break their minds. If even half of it is true, then people are sitting ducks. You go into a building expecting to be bribed or threatened and instead end up in a chair with electrodes attached. No one’s prepared for that sort of thing.’
‘And that makes her less guilty?’
‘Ah well, diminished responsibility let’s say. I know the old test – how would I feel if it had been my child killed by Jenny A – but she is still under their power, she becomes their robot. That’s the whole point. I don’t know with Ms Sobel whether she’s a perpetrator or victim or both and my job is still to investigate a crime and charge the miscreants but who are the miscreants, Jane?’
‘It’s not just Jenny A … is it?’
‘No. No it’s not. The station boss is one of them, I know of two officers and now another. Found out today by chance. They succumb, same formula – first money, then blackmail and threat, then torture if stubborn. It takes a special person to refuse. This thing is a nightmare, we don’t know who are the goodies or baddies. And they change as scenarios change.’