Authors: Roger Silverwood
An Inspector Angel Mystery
Chief Officer’s office, Senford Open Prison, Suffolk. Friday, 5 August 2011. 7.45 a.m.
ome in, Paschal,’ Chief Officer Wainwright called.
The big man with the black beard came into the office and closed the door.
Chief Officer Wainwright was seated at his desk. He rubbed his chin and looked up at the man.
Paschal pulled a weary face and said, ‘Is this for the regular, goodbye lecture about being a good boy, when you tell me that I have been honoured to be given another chance to be let out on the great, good world and that you don’t want to see me back here again?’
Wainwright’s knuckles tightened. ‘Sit down, Paschal, and listen. You might
Paschal seemed to be considering whether to obey the order or not. Eventually he slumped down heavily into the chair.
Wainwright continued. ‘You seemed to have tolerated the regime here well enough. You are an educated man, let’s hope it has given you time to reflect upon your life and the reasons why you are here.’
‘Oh yes, sir. It’s a great place. I shall commend it to the RAC. They might give it a couple of stars.’
Wainwright’s face muscles tightened. ‘What’s the smart lip for,
Paschal? What’s the matter with you? You’re being released today. You should be very pleased to get out of here.’
Paschal sighed. He looked down at the floor briefly and then he looked up. His mood had changed. The bravado had gone. He spoke quietly. ‘I don’t know, Mr Wainwright, I am all mixed up. I haven’t any money nor any work to go to. Employment prospects are bleak and they’ll be even harder for me in my job. My ex-wife has possession of what
my house – I won’t be welcome back there. I haven’t actually anywhere permanent to go.’
Wainwright looked up from the file open in front of him and said, ‘It says here you’re going to stay with your sister in Nottingham.’
‘Huh. That’s right. Only for a couple of nights or so. Her husband won’t want me under his feet for long, and who could blame him?’
‘Hmm, well, you’ll have a railway warrant, enough subsistence to provide for accommodation and food until your first
with your Probation officer. Whatever Probation can’t provide, you can go the local council, alternatively ….’
‘I know all that stuff, sir.’
‘I suppose you do, Paschal. I suppose you do.’
Paschal’s eyes flashed. He sat bolt upright. ‘This was only my
offence, Mr Wainwright, and it wasn’t my fault.’
The prison officer’s nose turned up. ‘Maybe. Maybe not. But don’t give me that,’ he said. ‘You
blame somebody else. You’ve got to keep away from bad company, lad,’ he said, then he closed the file on his desk. ‘Anyway, we could argue all day and you’re due out in ten minutes. Look lad, you’ve been a model prisoner here. Matron says you’ve been a first-rate sick bay orderly, and the doctor has given you a good report at dispensing the pills. Not so much as an aspirin unaccounted for. I hope you will be a model citizen out there and make a go of it?’
‘I want to, Mr Wainwright.’
‘Well, I certainly hope you do,’ Wainwright said. He stood up and held out his hand. ‘Good luck, lad.’
They shook hands warmly. ‘Thank you, Mr Wainwright. Thank you very much.’
‘And don’t come back.’
Bromersley, South Yorkshire, UK. Tuesday, 6 December 2011. 7.55 p.m.
Detective Superintendent Horace Harker and his wife were at home watching television. The old French wall clock said the time was exactly 7.55 p.m. The policeman wrinkled his nose, turned to his wife and said, ‘Got to go out now. Won’t be long.’
She frowned then said, ‘Right, dear.’
Horace Harker was the Detective Superintendent and second in command at Bromersley police station. Such a position brought with it certain perks and privileges, but also the
sacrifice. That night was such an occasion. He was leaving
, without knowing whether the villainous woman in the prison riot survived the beating from the equally villainous male prison officer or not. And he wasn’t pleased.
He picked up the jar of Vicks and a wodge of Kleenex from the side table and stuffed them into his pocket. Then he ambled into the hall, put on his scarf, overcoat and hat, and opened the front door of the semi-detached bungalow on Pine Avenue, off Creesforth Road. The freezing air met his warm cheeks causing a shiver to run up his skinny spine. He blinked several times, closed the bungalow door and turned round into the cold night.
The sky was as black as fingerprint ink.
He brushed past the cupressus bush glimpsing a wisp of fog gliding through it. The corners of his mouth turned downwards, he frowned then gave an involuntary cough. Venturing forth into the cold at night did not suit his chest nor his temperament. He pulled the scarf over his mouth.
He was answering an unusual letter that had been pushed through his letterbox requesting – nay summoning – him, to call on Haydn King, of the King’s breweries empire, at his home that evening at eight o’clock. The letter had also said that it was on an urgent matter of confidential police business, and it instructed him to bring the letter with him.
Normally under such circumstances, on a winter’s night like that, Harker would have shredded such a missive, put on his
, embraced a hot-water bottle, sucked on a cube of sugar dosed with drops of Friar’s Balsam and watched
on the television with his wife all the way to its mesmeric conclusion. But not tonight. Haydn King was not a man to be ignored. He was not some small-time nonentity the superintendent could have pushed quietly to one side: King was immensely rich and powerful.
The two men had not met, even though they lived opposite each other on select Pine Avenue. Last summer, when Harker was cutting his hedge, King’s Rolls Royce had slowed and stopped to permit the remote-controlled gates to his mansion to open, and during those seconds, Harker had caught a glimpse of the bearded man in the back seat of the car, with the sour face poring over a document, while constantly picking, stroking, pulling and generally examining his ample beard as if he was a rodent searching for crumbs. Tonight, however, it would be different. He was to meet and converse with the great man face to face.
Harker crossed the narrow lane. There was no traffic at all in that quiet backwater at that hour. He saw that the electronic gates to King’s mansion were open. They had always been shut. They must have been opened specifically to allow him to enter. He set off up the long drive, that twisted elegantly one way and then another through an acre or two of lawn, past a screen of evergreen bushes and trees and round to the front of the big stone
edifice. There was a solitary powerful light visible through the fog. He made his way towards it. It illuminated the big stone entrance to the front door. He climbed the three steps and before he could touch the bell push, the door opened and a fully liveried man in his fifties looked out at him.
‘Good evening, sir. Can I help you?’
‘Mr Haydn King has asked me to call on him. My name is Detective Superintendent Harker.’
‘Yes, indeed, sir,’ the man said. ‘Mr King
expecting you. Please come in. May I take your coat?’
Harker lifted his nose to sense the temperature of the hall. Surprisingly it felt comfortably warm, so he began to unfasten the buttons.
A clock chimed eight o’clock.
‘My name is Meredith, sir. I am Mr King’s butler.’
Harker sniffed then nodded.
Meredith assisted him with the coat, showed him to a comfortable chair in an alcove near the door. ‘Mr King won’t keep you a moment, sir,’ he said. ‘Can I get you any refreshment?’
‘No, thank you,’ Harker said.
Meredith nodded politely, then took the coat down the long hall through a door and disappeared.
Harker looked round. He noticed the brass-faced grandfather clock opposite showing the exact time. He looked up at the dozen or so large old oil paintings on the walls, mostly portraits of elderly men in wigs, occasionally with women, children or dogs. The paintings almost covered the walls. He glanced upward at the high-vaulted timber and plaster ceiling, and the wide staircase.
He settled back in the chair and rested his eyes. He heard a distant door close and footsteps approach. He glanced at the clock and it was four minutes past eight.
The footsteps belonged to Meredith. He came right up to
Harker and in a quiet voice said, ‘Sorry to have kept you waiting, sir. Mr King will see you now.’
Harker stood up, and Meredith went up to the door nearest to them and tapped on it.
‘Come,’ a loud voice said.
Meredith opened the door into a big, shadowy room with books all round the walls. The only light was from a small powerful lamp in the centre of the huge desk. Seated at the desk was a big man in a Reid & Taylor suit, and with an elegant black beard and spectacles. On the desk in front of him, piled high, were books, ledgers and papers of all kinds. He was reading something when they entered and he didn’t immediately look up.
Meredith led Harker to a chair this side of the desk, and Harker sat down.
Meredith returned to the door and standing erect, in his best Shakespearian voice, said, ‘Detective Superintendent Harker, sir.’
‘Right, Meredith,’ the big man said, waving him away.
Meredith left the room, closing the door quietly.
‘Did you bring the letter I wrote to you, Superintendent?’ the big man said.
Harker took the letter in its envelope out of his inside pocket and passed it across the desk.
The man reached out for it.
Harker’s eyebrows raised slightly when he noticed that the man took it out of its envelope, glanced at it then tossed it to one side on his desk.
The man leaned back in his chair. His face was out of the glare of the desk lamp. He began to rub his chin and pick at his beard. ‘Now then, Superintendent,’ he began. ‘I have a strange tale to tell. Firstly, I want you to understand that I am a man of some substance. I founded and built up the King brand of beers and lagers, which now sell all over the UK and seventeen countries abroad. I am chairman of the company which is now a PLC, and
the stock market valuation is over two hundred and fifty million pounds. I have been married and divorced. I have no children. I have travelled all over the world, executed business with all kinds of people. My own physician tells me that I am sound in body and mind. I swim more than twenty-four lengths most days. I don’t smoke. I drink very little. I don’t take drugs. And I am not on any prescribed medication. Right?’
‘Right, Mr King,’ Harker said. ‘Are you going to tell me—’
‘I am coming to the point, Superintendent,’ he said. ‘Every night, for this last two weeks or so, when I have finished here, I go upstairs. Get undressed. Get into bed, and go straight to sleep. At some early hour of the morning, I have the strangest
. I dream that I waken up. I go downstairs to the swimming pool, take off my night attire, put on my trunks, dive into the pool, eventually rise to the surface of the water to find that I am dead. However, somehow I manage to see my dead body still there floating in the water. I look down at the dead man as if it is somebody else, but no, it is
. I begin to shake and shudder, and feel as if I want to vomit. I cannot bear to look at my own body dead in the water. Right?’
‘Right,’ Harker said.
‘Well, what do you think to that, Superintendent?’
Harker frowned. After a few moments he said, ‘Is
the matter you wanted to speak to me about, Mr King?’
‘Yes. Of course it is,’ he snapped.
Harker blinked several times. ‘Well, sir,’ he began, rubbing his chin. ‘How do you waken in the morning?
‘In bed, of course.’
Harker sighed, then slowly said, ‘
in bed? Is nothing in the bedroom disturbed?’
The man’s eyes glowed like a cat’s in headlights. He stared hard at the policeman. ‘Don’t tell me it’s just a dream. It is far too vivid. And it is repeated each night in such detail. I see myself
floating face-down in the pool. It is
body. I am
! Something strange is happening.’
‘You need a doctor,’ Harker said. ‘Or maybe a holiday. Or both.’
The big man thrust his arms up in the air in anger.
‘I need more than that,’ he roared. ‘The fantasy is too vivid. I have dreamt it too often to ignore it any longer. There must be a reason for it. Can you not solve the mystery then?’
Harker shook his head.
‘You’re a detective, aren’t you? What should I do? Have you nothing useful to say? Can you not solve the puzzle? Have you no explanation? Can’t you suggest what I might do?’
Harker continued shaking his head. ‘I am sorry, Mr King, this is not a police matter. I am afraid not, sir.’
The man leaned forward onto the desk and stuck his thumb on a button push, one of several, and held it on. At the same time he stared hard at Harker and said, ‘You are useless. Get out. Get out. What do I pay my taxes for? Get out!’
Harker stood up, his face as red as a judge’s robe. ‘This is preposterous,’ he said. ‘Outrageous. This is not the way to speak to a Superintendent of Police. If you have no respect for me, you should at least have respect for the force.’
The door opened. It was the butler, Meredith.
‘The Superintendent is leaving,’ the man roared and returned to the papers on his desk.
Harker wondered what to reply.
Meredith took in the scene. He stood by the open door trying not to catch Harker’s eyes.
,’ the man added, waving an arm.
Harker stamped out of the room.
Meredith closed the door. He produced Harker’s coat from a nearby chair and held it up for him to put on. ‘I hope Mr King hasn’t upset you too much, sir.’
Harker’s breathing was heavy and laboured. He didn’t reply. He tucked in his scarf and yanked on his leather gloves.