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Authors: Lisa Cutts

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BOOK: Mercy Killing
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‘I’ve run out of staff so I’d like you to take a look at both of these, please,’ she said as she handed him the relevant paperwork.

He glanced down at the sheets she was holding, inches from his grasp, and tried in vain to read the names on the pages.

‘One is one from Albie Woodville’s past,’ she explained. ‘The other, very much his present.’

‘Have you got one from his future?’ asked Tom. ‘You know, like Scrooge?’

Beckinsale ignored his remark and said, ‘I know you’ll do your homework on them both before you go, but one was originally part of the trial against Woodville years ago and the other
is his girlfriend, Millie Hanson. Take a look at this lot and get back to me if you need to.’

The DS started to walk away from him and called over her shoulder, ‘You never know how they’re going to react; potentially you’ll be sitting on the sofa in a murderer’s
house so take someone with you and keep your eyes open.’

Chapter 19

The street where Toby Carvell and his family lived was on the outskirts of East Rise and filled with neatly kept semi-detached homes. It was the sort of area sought after by
those with decent incomes who wanted the convenience of a town centre, a railway station and a beach near by, but didn’t want traffic and noise. The road was devoid of both people and
vehicles when they arrived.

As Tom pulled the unmarked Peugeot over to a stop outside number 34, he nodded appreciatively.

‘Toby Carvell is doing OK,’ he said as much to himself as to Sophia sitting beside him.

‘So we got his name from the original trial against Woodville in the 1990s?’ she asked. ‘That was bloody fast work. Why wasn’t the paperwork archived or
destroyed?’

‘It was archived,’ said Tom as he checked the facts from his file, wedged beside his seat. He tapped his finger on the page as he read. ‘Woodville was on trial for sexual abuse
against five children. He was found guilty in 1991 of several offences of indecency against three children but acquitted on all counts against another two of them. Toby Carvell was one of the two
victims he didn’t go to prison for. Someone dug this out from the original operation on the HOLMES system and printed off statements, reports and other stuff.’

‘Right, well, let’s see what he’s got to say about where he was last night,’ said Sophia as she gathered her own stuff from the footwell.

The two of them stood next to their unmarked car which was covered in seagull droppings – one hazard of working so close to the coast – and made their way along the driveway to the
Carvell family home.

It didn’t escape Tom’s notice that the dark blue Ford Focus registered to Toby was missing from the front of the house.

The door was answered a couple of moments later by a woman dressed in a purple onesie. Her long dark hair hung loose but was stuck to one side of her face. She looked from Tom to Sophia as they
stood on her doorstep, warrant cards in hands.

Concern ran across her features at the unexpected visitors on a Saturday morning.

She opened her mouth to say something as the hand gripping the door frame tightened, turning her knuckles white. The other hand flew up to her chest.

‘No, Mrs Carvell,’ said Sophia as she recognized the look of a panicked mother when she saw one. ‘Please, it’s your husband we’ve come to see.’

The relief exploded within her and forced a nervous, high-pitched laugh.

‘Thank God,’ she said and stepped aside. ‘The kids were at a bonfire display last night and stayed at their cousin’s house.’

Although Mrs Carvell moved out of their way, as if to let them in, it wasn’t until the realization sank in that they weren’t about to deliver a death message that she pulled the door
behind her.

She stood almost six feet tall, a ferocious Amazon of a woman despite being clad only in her nightwear.

‘What do you want to speak to him about?’ she said, arms crossed.

‘It’s best that we tell him ourselves,’ explained Tom in a tone intended to placate rather than provoke.

A movement behind her on the stairs caught Tom’s eye, and he witnessed two bare, hairy legs descending towards them.

The officer really hoped that Toby Carvell was clothed and just as important that his attitude didn’t match his wife’s. This thought was interrupted by the person they had come to
see as he shouted from the staircase, ‘Let them in, woman. And why are you standing there like Barney the fucking Dinosaur?’

Chapter 20

Once the four of them were seated in the Carvells’ living room, Toby insisted his wife put the kettle on.

‘You’re sure you don’t want me here?’ she asked him over her shoulder as she got up from the two-seater sofa she’d been sharing with her husband.

‘Absolutely, Shirley,’ he replied, raising his eyebrows at the two officers on opposite ends of a larger leather sofa. ‘I’m gasping for a cuppa. I had a couple of beers
last night and my breath’s as rough as crap.’

He aimed the last remark at Tom, as if to band together with the other man in the room, somehow implying this was how their entire gender began its Saturday mornings.

Sophia took her opportunity to give Toby Carvell the once-over and drew her opinion that he was a good-looking middle-aged man who kept himself in shape. She then found herself shifting
self-consciously in her seat because his loosely tied, mid-thigh-length dressing gown was beginning to gape in the middle.

One awkward aspect of police enquiries was at what point the officers informed their witnesses that their genitals were on display.

‘Shirley,’ he called out towards the kitchen, ‘put some toast on as well. I’m starving.’

‘The reason we’re here, Mr Carvell,’ began Tom, ‘is that we’re investigating a murder.’

He looked closely at Toby’s face for any sign of anxiety or the tiniest indication that he had any idea what he was going to say next.

Not one facial muscle moved.

Tom edged forward on his seat, the squeak of the leather loud in the otherwise silent room.

‘The victim’s name is Albie Woodville.’

Tom Delayhoyde saw something pass across Toby’s face. The detective had a feeling that he was hiding something from him. The problem being, he wasn’t sure what that something
was.

Toby Carvell might have been hiding his part in a murder, but he equally might have been hiding the secrets of his childhood. Tom was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, but not to the
extent of letting a murderer go free, whatever the circumstances.

As soon as the sound of the kettle boiling could be heard, and Toby was safe in the knowledge that its hum obscured their conversation, he leaned forward and said, ‘So what exactly brings
you to my door?’

‘We know that you knew Albie Woodville,’ answered Tom as he held the older man’s stare.

‘Knew?’ said Toby, as he ran a hand over his shaven head. ‘I more than knew him, the dirty, fucking bastard. You’ll know all this anyway.’

His last remark was made with a glance across to Sophia.

‘Are you comfortable talking in front of both of us?’ asked Tom, not wanting to be left alone without a colleague for back-up but wondering if it would be a better idea if Sophia
wasn’t in the room.

‘Ah, the police at their best,’ said Toby with a wry laugh. ‘I had all this, you see, the first time round, when I gave evidence against the scum that is Albert Woodville. The
police came round to see me, a nice couple of blokes they were. They gave it all the spiel: Was I all right talking about it? Did I prefer to speak to fellas or women? Did I care? How was I
feeling? Don’t upset yourself, Toby. We believe you, we really do. They took me to a house somewhere, made me tea, bought me a sandwich, put me in touch with support groups.’

He stopped talking and wriggled in his seat, fingernails on the sofa either side of him. He was almost digging them into the material, trying his best not to tear the cover.

‘Worst thing of all, worse in some ways than the abuse I suffered at the sick fuck’s hands, was the way I was treated in court. That horrible sod probably couldn’t help it, but
here was a courtroom chock full of legally trained professionals, intent on ripping me up for arse paper. And the fucking judge let them.’

The two officers watched in silence as the person they had come to talk to about his whereabouts on the night of the murder of a convicted sex offender seemed to melt into the furniture.

‘I got into that witness box,’ he said, voice full of horrors never quite forgotten, ‘and I was made to feel like a lying piece of crap. I was accused of making it up for
compensation. I didn’t want money, I wanted justice. Except, justice is a bloody joke.’

He seemed to remember where he was and that there were two detectives sitting in his front room on a Saturday morning whilst he poured out his heart over his second degrading assault, this one
in a court in front of a judge, jury, legal teams and spectators in the public gallery.

‘So, in answer to your question,’ he said, voice louder now, ‘I’m fine talking in front of you both. I’ve been laid bare in a court, so why should I object to you
two?’

The kitchen door opened and Shirley walked in with three mugs of tea.

‘Do me a favour, love?’ said Toby as she plonked the last of the three mugs down.

‘I know,’ she sighed, ‘make you some toast.’

‘No,’ he said, as he reached for his tea, ‘go and get dressed. You’re offending my eyes.’

On her way out, she called a few choice words in her husband’s direction, which made him grin as he watched her leave the room.

The problem for him was that his brash way of dealing with people wasn’t fooling Sophia and Tom for one moment.

They had seen the real, vulnerable Toby Carvell and they had a growing feeling that he was involved in Albie Woodville’s murder. Their problem was going to be how they proved it.

Chapter 21

Try as hard as he could, DI Harry Powell could only summon feelings of hatred towards Albert Woodville. Yes, he saw him as a victim of murder, the worst crime imaginable, but
he had also handed out his own death sentences. One of his victims of sexual abuse had attempted suicide following the end of Woodville’s lengthy trial, and another had an impressive criminal
record, beginning around the time he was placed into Woodville’s care, when, presumably, the abuse started.

Harry knew that however the enquiry went, there would be no winners, certainly not amongst his staff.

He hadn’t failed to recognize what Sophia was trying to tell him about Gabrielle Royston but as ever, it was what he did with the information. He could call Gabrielle into his office and
ask her for her opinion of perverts, but even if for one minute she didn’t jump to the conclusion that her senior officer was trying to come on to her, she would hardly tell him if she had a
secret longing to annihilate everyone convicted of sexual offences. Nothing in life was ever that simple.

This particular Saturday was likely to turn into a very long one. Harry gave a brief thought to the hours he worked and the strain it had put on his marriage over the years, something that for
so long he hadn’t considered to be a problem. His domestic instructions were now very clear: unless he fancied the idea of being divorced, he wasn’t to ‘hide at the sodding police
station’. Even he knew that the threats weren’t idle and that their marriage was on the rocks. He could either pay Mrs Powell more attention or she would leave him, obliterating
everything he had aimed for and built. He simply didn’t want to risk it.

Not that he would ever tell anyone that. He made excuses that he was getting on a bit and didn’t have the staying power of his younger years. The truth was that he hated the idea of his
marriage going wrong and was petrified of being alone after being a husband with children around. He was sure that life had the potential to go the right way for him and he wasn’t going to
let a dead paedophile spoil things.

Or so he thought.

‘Hi there, Harry,’ said a voice from the office doorway.

He smiled before he looked up from his computer screen.

‘Don’t be too pleased to see me yet,’ said DCI Barbara Venice. ‘You don’t know why I’m here.’

‘Babs, I’m always pleased to see you. What can I do for you?’

‘Don’t call me Babs, for a start.’

‘I’ve been calling you that for decades.’

‘And I’ve been asking you not to, you cantankerous old bugger.’

By now, the two old friends were sitting opposite each other, like grey-haired bookends, bitter at the world for the crap it had thrown their way, but still determined to do the best job they
could, despite the ever-growing difficulties that accompanied any investigation.

‘There was a time,’ said Harry, ‘when you and I would have cracked open a bottle of Scotch and sat talking bollocks.’

‘I don’t drink,’ she replied. ‘But go ahead with the talking bollocks. You’ve always done enough of that for two.’

‘As much as I’m loving the verbal sparring, Babs, what did you want?’

‘The murder we had on Friday possibly wasn’t a one-off.’

Harry threw himself back in his chair, head tilted, eyes on the cracked and blistered ceiling paint, hands going up to his face. He rubbed at his stubble, something he always fought a losing
battle with. As a new recruit, he was berated for not shaving properly, so one morning, to his then sergeant’s astonishment, he brought his shaving gear to work with him and shaved in the
parade room in front of the entire shift. Three hours later the stubble was back and no one questioned his standards ever again.

‘Where and when?’ he said eventually.

‘Someone’s been looking into suspicious deaths in the last year,’ she said. ‘I’m amazed they linked these two so quickly, especially as the one I’m going to
tell you about happened several months ago in another force’s county.’

‘If there are other departments with so many staff on at a weekend, perhaps they can send me some. I’m scratching around here for an outside enquiry team. I’m only grateful
I’ve got Pierre coming back from his annual leave on Monday and a new DC, Hazel Hamilton, starting. Pierre I can vouch for, but she better be as good as her reputation. I’m up shit
creek here.’

BOOK: Mercy Killing
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