Authors: Peter Turnbull
Table of Contents
AFTER THE FLOOD
ALL ROADS LEADETH
THE ALTERED CASE
THE DANCE MASTER
DELIVER US FROM EVIL
NO STONE UNTURNED
ONCE A BIKER
PERILS AND DANGERS
IMPROVING THE SILENCE
THE GARDEN PARTY
DENIAL OF MURDER
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First published in Great Britain and the USA 2014 by
SEVERN HOUSE PUBLISHERS LTD of
19 Cedar Road, Sutton, Surrey, England, SM2 5DA
eBook edition first published in 2014 by Severn House Digital
an imprint of Severn House Publishers Limited
Copyright Â© 2014 by Peter Turnbull
The right of Peter Turnbull to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988.
Turnbull, Peter, 1950-
Denial of murder. â (A Harry Vicary mystery; 4)
1. Vicary, Harry (Fictitious character)âFiction.
2. MurderâInvestigationâFiction. 3. PoliceâEnglandâ
LondonâFiction. 4. Detective and mystery stories.
I. Title II. Series
ISBN-13: 978-0-7278-8297-4 (cased)
ISBN-13: 978-1-84751-507-0 (trade paper)
ISBN-13: 978-1-78010-520-8 (ePub)
Except where actual historical events and characters are being described for the storyline of this novel, all situations in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to living persons is purely coincidental.
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eoff âthe milk' Driscoll found the lifeless-looking body of Gordon Cogan very early one Monday morning in mid-July.
It was, as he would later inform the police, just as the dawn was breaking that Geoff Driscoll turned his battery-powered, cream-coloured, red-lettered milk float into Lingfield Road, Wimbledon, SW19, once again feeling uplifted by the wealth of lush foliage that met his eye. Driscoll was, an observer would note, a man of lithe and sinewy physique, who had been a milkman for in excess of thirty years and, for the greater part of those thirty years, had delivered milk in SW19. Only snow, he found, ever made his round difficult, and that rarely fell in London, but rain and cold and the dark winter mornings he could easily cope with â once he was on his float. On those mornings he ensured that he was always well protected by the waterproof clothing and thermal underwear which he had purchased out of his own pocket, being far superior to the rainwear which was provided by the Merton and South London Dairies, Ltd. There had, occasionally, been those years when Friday, collection day, had fallen on Christmas Eve, thus obliging him and all other milk delivery men in the United Kingdom to work from 5.00 a.m. until approximately 8.00 p.m., when the fatigue forced him to stop collecting for the day. He would then return to the depot, cash in, plug his float into the power supply to recharge the batteries and then travel wearily home, usually arriving too exhausted to do anything but fall into a deep sleep, often in his clothing, and often in an armchair, with the welcoming cup of tea provided for him by his wife â or in later years, by one of his daughters â remaining untouched. It was days like that particular day in July, though, in the middle of the summer in the suburbs of south London, that always made his job seem worthwhile. For here, he found, was south London at its most well-set, being an area of prestigious housing, which he, as a tenant of a council-owned high-rise flat, could only covet, but he nonetheless enjoyed the calm and settled atmosphere, the mature gardens, the frequent glimpse of suburban wildlife: numerous foxes â too numerous, he felt â and, very occasionally, a badger. Both species, worryingly, thought Driscoll, becoming scavengers rather than the predators which nature had intended them to be, and both species, equally worrying to Driscoll, clearly losing their fear of humans. The wildlife made his round interesting but it was the customers who were the particular source of his enjoyment. They could be reserved at times and also aloof, but they always seemed to appreciate the effort which he put into his job, and always,
paid their milk bill, and did so promptly. When Geoff Driscoll had first joined the Dairies he had, as the âlast in', been given the least popular of the rounds, that being the delivery of milk on one of the âsink' estates where he found the residents unnecessarily surly, and where they frequently avoided paying their milk bill, thus obliging Driscoll to feel that he was harassing them for the outstanding money. He would also often encounter evidence of the previous night's violence on the estate: the burnt-out cars, the broken windows in people's flats, the kicked-in front doors and the pools of dried blood on the concrete. It was also on the sink estate where Driscoll felt that he could not turn his back on the milk float without some person, male or female, pensioner or child, dashing from dark cover to steal a bottle of milk before darting back into the shadows. The cost of stolen milk was deducted from his pay, that being one of the clearly spelled-out conditions of his employment. Turning from the main road into the dull, grey, slab-sided concrete mess that was the housing estate on a cold winter's morning never failed to sink his spirits. Indeed, the very thought of having to drive to the Clifton Towers estate to deliver milk often depressed him to the point that he had to force himself to rise from his bed, especially on the dark mornings when rain was lashing against the windowpanes. Geoff Driscoll felt himself to be trapped because he was the sort of man, not infrequently met, who might be described, and might feel himself to be ânot a people person'. In his life, Driscoll had never known universal popularity. He was, on that particular day, approaching state retirement age and had always felt himself to be the classic square peg in a round hole, never fitting in, always on the edge if not on the outside of any group of colleagues. He was a man who marginalized his life. Any employment which had involved teamwork had proved unsuitable for him and so he found himself pursuing solitary occupations. He was unhappy being a bus driver because the one-man operation involved too much interaction with the public and the frequent traffic jams caused him distress. A postman's job with its very favourable conditions of service would have been ideal for him had it not been for a back injury which prevented him from carrying heavy bags of mail. He had thus gravitated to a job as a milkman with Merton and South London Dairies and started at the âbottom' delivering to one of the sink estates. He had doggedly stayed at the round, given five years of good service, and his present round had been his reward. That had been some twenty-five years earlier. In that time he had stopped being simply âthe milkman', and had become âGeoff the milk', being valued by the residents as much as âPete the postie' was valued. Here, in âthe village', as it was known, in winter and summer, but especially in the summer, his spirits were lifted each morning by civil humanity combined with nature's bounty. In âthe village' no one stole milk from his float, nor did he ever encounter evidence of any violent act perpetrated during the previous night.
Until that fair Monday morning in mid-July.
The strange, even the oddest thing about the grim discovery, Geoff Driscoll would often, in later weeks and months, recall when telling and re-telling the tale, was that he saw the shoe before he saw the body, even though the latter was in plain sight. The finding of shoes and other items of clothing, even underclothing lying in the roadways or parking bays, or on the pavements was not at all unusual for Driscoll when he delivered milk in Clifton Towers, but finding clothing in the street in Wimbledon Village was, in his experience, utterly unheard of. That morning he had turned into Lingfield Road from the Ridgeway and the parade of shops, relishing the fresh morning air and the blue, almost cloudless sky. He'd driven onwards, leaning forward, resting both his elbows on the steering wheel as the float whirred slowly along the road under the overhanging branches when he saw, some one hundred feet ahead of him, a man's shoe, lying on its side, brown against the dark grey of the road surface. The shoe lay on âhis' side of the road opposite a line of parked motor vehicles. Driscoll eyed the shoe with growing curiosity and slowed the float as he approached it. On the Clifton Towers estate the shoe would not have merited a second glance but here, in Wimbledon Village, it was, he thought, unusual, and one of his late father's often-used expressions, âThe hairs on my old wooden leg tell me something is amiss', surfaced in Driscoll's mind.
Then he saw the body.
Focusing on the shoe, as he had been, it was thus a few seconds before he noticed the body lying to the left of it, half in and half out of the gutter, looking, he thought, like a crumpled pile of unwanted clothing. Geoff Driscoll brought the float slowly to a halt just in front of the shoe, and nimbly stepped out on to the road. He approached the body slowly, with awe and caution. It was, he saw, that of a male â probably, Driscoll guessed, in his late thirties or early forties. The man, he noted, was in a very bloody mess, particularly about the head. The body showed no signs of life that Driscoll could detect. Being of the age he was Driscoll did not, and often thought himself to be the only person in the Western world who did not, possess a mobile phone. As a consequence he ran up the driveway to the front door of the nearest house, which he saw was a rambling three-storey, late-Victorian Gothic-style building with a highly complicated roof line and elaborate turret windows. By then in a state of increasing agitation, he took the stone steps up to the front door two at a time, rang the doorbell and, for good measure, rapped the metal doorknocker â repeatedly so â until he had succeeded in raising one of the occupants of the house, who opened the door and presented themselves in the form of a well-built man with white hair, dressed in a blue Paisley-patterned dressing gown. The man looked down at the small, gasping for breath figure of Geoff Driscoll, pulling a facial expression which to Driscoll seemed to be a blend of curiosity and annoyance.
âSorry, very sorry, sir,' Driscoll panted, âbut I must use your phone â¦ or if you could phone â¦ the police â¦ and an ambulance â¦ emergency â¦ three nines â¦ to come here â¦ in the street outside this house â¦ right outside your house, sir, if you please â¦ Damn me if there hasn't been a murder.'