Authors: Elizabeth Flynn
Angela was still poring over emails from Oliver’s computer when Gary appeared by her side after his expedition to the Apollo. “Oh – hi, Gary,” she said, looking up. “Mission accomplished?”
“Yes, I took quite a few photos. Do you want me to upload them here?”
“Yes, please.” Angela moved away from the console on the desk. “Look – I’ve been puzzling over these emails.”
“I’ve got a puzzle too,” he replied, plugging his camera into the computer.
“Really? Tell me.”
“I wish I could. Hang on, let me just get these sorted. The reconstruction went very smoothly except I hadn’t realized the theatre wouldn’t have its own flight cases. Still, it was all right because Georgia Pensay’s people were very helpful. They let us use two of theirs.”
“Oh, that’s good. Did Derek get to meet the lady?”
Gary smiled. “I don’t think so, not really, but he managed to be on stage – in the wings – when she was rehearsing. He was full of it in the car on the way back. You should have heard him.”
“I can imagine.”
Gary clicked on the mouse a few times and after some moments the pictures he’d taken at the theatre appeared on the screen.
“It looks very different in daylight, doesn’t it?” remarked Angela. They went methodically and silently through the entire collection that had now been loaded onto the computer.
“It is helpful,” she said, finally. “We’ll need some printed out and put on the board.” She clicked on three. “Those, I think.”
“OK, I’ll get them done,” replied Gary.
“Great. So, what was your puzzle, then?”
Gary blew out his cheeks. “I wish I knew. It didn’t strike me immediately, just later, when we were driving back. I suddenly realized I’d missed something.”
“Go carefully over the sequence of events and what you saw.”
“I’ve been trying to do that. It wasn’t easy with Derek going on, but even so, I don’t know that it would have come to me.”
“No clue at all?”
Gary creased his brow. “I think it’s something I’ve seen that isn’t quite right. Now, whether it’s not quite right from today’s reconstruction or whether it wasn’t quite right on the night of the murder I couldn’t say, and it’s driving me crazy.”
“Never mind; it happens,” sympathized Angela. “You know how to deal with it, don’t you?”
He grinned. “Yes, put it right out of my mind and it will pop back when I’m least expecting it.”
“Exactly,” beamed Angela. “Now, you sort out those photographs. When you’ve done that, you can go over these emails from the victim’s computer.”
Half an hour later, Gary laid the pages down in two piles and looked up at Angela, standing by the desk. “Anything strike you?” she asked.
“I’ve only managed a brief look but…”
Angela smiled and nodded. “Go on.”
“In the first place,” Gary tapped the pile. “The ones I’ve seen so far are all emails sent to a bogus booking agency. I wonder why he saved them to his computer. He must have copied and pasted them into documents. OK. The most
recent name is ‘Concert Sales’ but he’s also used the name ‘Hot-Hot Tickets’ and ‘TicketsGalore’.”
“Yes, I expect he had to change them on a fairly regular basis to avoid being caught. Some of those customers are furious, aren’t they?”
“You can’t blame them. It’s very distressing. I felt really sorry for that man I saw on the night I went with Maddie. It was a birthday treat for his daughter and her friends. They must have been looking forward to it for ages.”
“How long beforehand did you and Maddie book?”
“About three months.” He gave a small smile. “It was a tad embarrassing, actually. We’d only had about two dates when the subject came up and it was, like – er – we’re making this arrangement but we don’t know if we’ll still be together by then.”
Angela laughed. “Patrick and I had a similar experience when we first met. Sometimes you just have to take the risk.”
“Absolutely; by the time the concert day came round we decided to turn it into our three-month anniversary.”
“Oh, that’s nice! So – what have we got? He’s changed the name a few times, which must be par for the course when you’re running a scam. And we don’t know how big the operation is, but we’re pretty certain his tattooed friend was working with him.”
“I reckon it was fairly small-time,” suggested Gary. “It looks like they were just working the Brendan Phelan concerts.”
“I think you’re right. And having done the sale online, Oliver would have to be backstage working on the show.”
“Which just leaves his friend trawling the crowds in front, knowing –”
“Yes, indeedy. Knowing exactly how many punters would turn up with dodgy tickets.”
“A nice little earner, really,” agreed Gary. “They seem to
have kept it simple. I suppose they sold the authentic tickets at double their face value –”
“Only double? I’m sure that’s a modest estimate. I bet they charged whatever they thought they could get away with. Yes. Right, let’s see what we’ve got. Brendan’s on our radar because of the blackmail. That’s one motive, right? What are you thinking now?” she asked, as she saw Gary frowning again.
“Hmm… it’s just – well, given that Brendan’s been quietly paying the blackmail for all these years, my question is; why wouldn’t he go on paying it? I don’t suppose he was happy about it, but it wasn’t breaking him. He must have learned to live with it. Why kill Oliver now?”
“From what his girlfriend says, it was affecting his whole life – remember? He was stuck in respect of his relationship with her, stuck in his musical output – this was ruining everything.”
“Good point. But now we know Oliver was running a ticket scam as well as the blackmail.”
“What an enterprising bloke.”
“He was. Might that not provide an equally likely motive?” Angela grimaced. “Hmm. Except this little ticket business seems to have been very contained. Who would want to kill a small-time ticket scammer?”
Gary laughed. “Nobody, I would have thought, except maybe a big-time ticket scammer?”
Angela waited until he’d finished laughing and then waited some more. Gary straightened his face, considered the matter and frowned as the thought took hold. “That’s quite an idea,” he said, eventually.
Angela nodded. “As we’ve already discussed, some ticket scams are very big business.”
“Oh yes. And what makes big-time criminals unhappy?”
“Small fry muscling in on their territory.”
“Bingo, Gary. It’s a nuisance to which they don’t take very kindly at all. And they usually do one of two things, don’t they?”
“Which two things are they?”
“They either take over the small-time businessman or they eliminate him.”
“Exactly! Now let me show you something.” Angela selected some of the pages and spread them out on the desk.
Gary leaned over and looked at them in turn. “‘
’” he quoted. “‘
I’m going to find out who you are and sue the backside off you!
’” Gary glanced at Angela. “I wonder how much that person got ripped off?”
“Look at this one: ‘
You completely ruined my wedding anniversary and quite possibly my marriage
’,” read Angela. “‘
I’m going to make it my business to see you shut down.
“Empty words,” said Gary. “Oliver had probably shut himself down by that point, and moved on to another address.”
“Quite; there are a couple more measured ones which claim to have reported the site to the police.”
A pause ensued.
“Er…” mumbled Gary, “they’re not all dissatisfied customers, I see.”
“You’re right. These ones,” she said, tapping the relevant pages, “come from people claiming to be pleased with the service they received. Have you noticed something else?”
Gary scrutinized the pages again but shook his head, bewildered, after a few moments. “I’m still not sure what I’m looking for, specifically.”
Angela smiled. “Stop looking at the content of the emails and concentrate on the provenance.”
Gary gazed again at the pages. “Well, I don’t know.” He put his finger on one. “This one’s from somebody called [email protected] That rings a bit of a bell for some reason, but I don’t know… Oh!” Gary opened his eyes wide. “Hang on, the manager of the support act – Don – his name’s Buckley. He seemed like a straight, honest bloke to me. He was very helpful, I remember.”
Angela merely smiled and tapped the pages. “If you look, you’ll find a few more familiar names.”
Gary looked back at the desk. “D. Travers? Ah, Brendan’s manager… J. Waring – well, we know him all right; the production manager. Here’s C. Paterson – that would be Carla – and T. Dexter… and – look! That one’s a bit odd, if you ask me,” he finished, pointing to yet another familiar name.
“Which one have you got there?”
“B. Grieves. That must be Barry Grieves, the theatre manager. But he works at the theatre. He helped Derek and me this morning. All the rest of the names would have been involved in the tour.”
“Good point; what else do you notice?”
Gary glanced rapidly through all the emails. “These names are all so satisfied with the service they received they’ve taken the trouble to write and say so.” He checked the dates. “The most recent ones even say they’ll be booking with this company again.” Gary paused and looked at Angela.
“What does that suggest to you?” she asked.
“Given what we know, most of Oliver’s correspondents would have been ripped off like everybody else.”
“So why write and praise the ticket agency?”
“It’s sarcasm. Somebody’s on to him and they’re letting him know it.”
“That’s exactly the conclusion I reached,” agreed Angela.
“Look at that one,” she said, pointing.
Gary leaned over and read it out. “‘
I really loved the concert. It’s been a pleasure doing business with you and I’ll be dealing with you in the future.
’” He looked up at her. “That could be taken as a threat, when you think about it.”
“Oh yes.” She stood up. “Distribute these among the team. I want a powwow about it. But right now I’m going to get myself a coffee. Want one?”
“No, I’m fine, thanks,” said Gary, gathering up the sheets of paper.
While she was in the kitchen pouring hot water onto a generous heap of coffee granules, Angela’s mobile rang. “D.I. Costello,” she answered, manoeuvring the milk out of the fridge with her free hand.
“Inspector? I – er – I…” The voice broke. It sounded familiar, but Angela didn’t immediately recognize it. She had no doubt about the sense of strain, though.
“Hello caller,” she replied, making sure no sign of impatience appeared in her voice. “Take your time. I’m listening.”
The voice began again. “Sorry… I – it’s Brendan Phelan.”
Angela stopped what she was doing. If an intelligent, articulate and talented man couldn’t string a sentence together, something calamitous must have taken place. “What’s happened, Brendan?”
She heard him take a deep breath. “My nightmare goes on.”
“Are you talking about the blackmail?”
“Yes.” His voice caught on a sob.
She made an instant decision. “Look, Brendan, I’ve just got a meeting with my team and then I’m going to wrap things up for the day. My D.C. and I can come up to see you.”
She heard the relief in his voice. “I’d be grateful if you would.”
“God and the London traffic allowing, we’ll be with you by about six-thirty,” she said. She finished the call, hurriedly slopped some milk into her coffee, kicked the fridge door shut and dashed back into the incident room. “Gary,” she said as she took her place in front of her assembled team. “I hope you haven’t got any firm plans for the early part of this evening.”
“I was going to trawl the crowds going to a gig at the Brixton Academy, if you remember.”
“Oh, yes. I think you’ll still have time to do that. But we’ve got a date in Hampstead.”
“Aw, guv,” wailed Leanne. “If Gary’s busy…” She looked across at him. “Or if he breaks both his legs in the next ten minutes, which can be arranged…”
“Sorry, Leanne, I know you’d love to come with me, but it sounds as though something’s happened to upset Brendan and it’s best to keep continuity in terms of the persons dealing with it. OK, everybody. You’ve all had a chance to see what the lab found on Oliver’s computer. I’m sure you’ll agree he was an enterprising chap.”
“Yes,” said Rick. “A ticket scam as well as blackmail.”
“And he didn’t give up the day job, did he?” remarked Jim.
“Indeed. Hence all that lolly in his bank account. Did you find out about the provenance of that, by the way, Jim?”
“Yes, he hadn’t been left any money or given any gifts. Apart from what he banked of his wages, it looks like ill-gotten gains from his sidelines.”
“Right. Even so, it’s a lot to believe
the people supposedly sending him emails were actually involved in some kind of plot to shoot Oliver Joplin.”
“And setting up a buzzmail account is just about the easiest thing to do on the Internet,” said Derek.
“Absolutely, so let’s proceed on the basis that there’s one person behind all these names and see where that takes us.”
“We’re still going to have to talk to each of these so-called satisfied customers, aren’t we?”
“Yes, but that’s for tomorrow. Jim, you and Rick take Don Buckley and Carla Paterson. Leanne and Derek, talk to Barry Grieves and Doug Travers. Gary and I will speak to Terry Dexter and Jack Waring. As well as the usual questions, sound them out about each other. Somebody might not be on their guard and you could get something. OK, team. We’ll all meet up first thing tomorrow – by which time Gary and I will be able to fill you in on our meeting with Brendan Phelan.”
Somebody must have been watching for them; as the Homicide Assessment Team car arrived at the Hampstead house, its gates slid smoothly open and they drove through into the now-familiar curving drive. When they drew up at the house, Brendan was standing in the open doorway, silhouetted by the hall lights behind him. He led them through to the kitchen, where a pot of coffee, one of tea and a plate of biscuits had been set out at one end of the central island.
“No Desmond tonight?” asked Angela.
“He’s meeting up with some friends,” confirmed Brendan. “I’m sorry you’ve had to come back here, but I’m a bit hesitant to go out at the moment.” He indicated the pots and the biscuits.
The price of fame
, thought Angela. “Thanks, I’ll have a coffee,” she replied, helping herself to a biscuit. She noticed the strain around his eyes and sensed the fragility of his smile. She decided to launch straight into the reason he had called her. “You said your nightmare goes on.”
Brendan set down the pot because his hand was shaking. He took a deep breath. “Yes. It’s worse than ever.”
“Worse? Is the blackmailer asking for a lot more money?”
Another deep breath. “No. He hasn’t asked for anything yet. He just said he was Oliver’s business associate, that things haven’t changed and he would be in touch. It seems worse than ever because I thought I was free of it.”
Angela nodded. She could understand that. She felt for him in his evident torment. “It’s not as bad as it sounds,
Brendan,” she replied. “This could be easier to deal with than it was before. Did you recognize the voice?”
He looked puzzled by the question. “No. Should I?”
“It’s just that Oliver was a member of your road crew; would this caller be another member, do you think?”
His brow cleared. “Oh, I see what you mean. I didn’t recognize the voice, and I think I would if it had been one of the crew. The current lot have all done at least two tours with me.”
“The thing is,” Gary put in, “Oliver was able to come up to you backstage and ask for money; but if this new bloke isn’t on the crew that’s the first thing that’ll be different.”
“Yes,” added Angela. “Getting the money from you just won’t have the convenience of the previous arrangement.”
Brendan’s expression lightened. “I hadn’t thought of that.”
“He’s going to call you again,” said Gary. “We can put a trace on the phone for a start.”
“Yes, and we can work with you on the money angle so we can arrest him when he comes to collect.”
Brendan’s face, which had begun to express the start of a beatific smile, suddenly fell. “No!” he almost shouted.
Angela and Gary exchanged perplexed glances. “But,” said Angela, “we can put a stop to this thing.”
Brendan dropped his head into his hands and a low moan escaped him. “Oh, no –
!” He looked at them, his face a picture of misery. “It can’t be done. I can’t press charges.”
“But – I don’t understand,” said Angela.
Brendan took a deep, shuddering breath. “I know what you’re saying, and believe me I’m grateful, really I am. I think I might have got you here on false pretences.”
“Then why –?” Gary was perplexed.
“You can tap my phone and stake-out the handover. You can even arrest him and charge him, but you won’t be able to
stop him leaking what he’s got on me – and I can’t face that. I just can’t!”
Silence reigned in the shining kitchen.
“Public crucifixion,” said Angela, after a few moments.
Brendan nodded. “No nails, no cross; but it would be just like that – you
it would.” Angela and Gary could only agree. “I’m in a good place now. I’m established. My fans are growing with me. Sure, I’m rock’n’ roll and that’s where my roots are, but my audiences are expanding. I get families coming to my shows. Some of the appearances I’m being asked to make – well, I just wouldn’t have got those invitations a few years ago. My career is on the up. I just can’t risk it.”
Gary nodded in sympathy, his expression glum. “Yes, the media doesn’t hold back. We’ve seen quite a bit of it in recent years, haven’t we?” He didn’t say any more but he didn’t need to. They were all familiar with the headlines he was referring to; celebrities pilloried, their privacy invaded and their lives made miserable, regardless of whether they were guilty or innocent.
A bleak silence followed these words. Angela didn’t see how they could persuade Brendan to move from his position, and couldn’t really see a way forward; but she didn’t want to leave the matter there. She wanted to hold out some hope to this man. “Look, let me think about it,” she said. “There might be another way to manage things without any risk to your reputation.”
To be honest
, she thought,
I don’t see how it can be avoided and my advice is to call your blackmailer’s bluff. But that’s easy for me to say. I don’t have a glittering show business career to defend.
Brendan, his tread heavy, his shoulders slumped, led them back to the front door. “I’m sorry to have wasted your time,” he said, as he opened the door.
“You haven’t,” Angela assured him. “We need to know there’s a blackmailer out there. If we come up with anything, we’ll be in touch.”
He gave a grim smile. Angela didn’t need to be told he had no hope of that happening.
A short while later the HAT car was heading south through Swiss Cottage. “You know, every time I hear that tune in future, I’m going to think of this case,” said Angela.
“Was I humming it?” asked Gary.
“Yes,” smiled Angela.
Silence reigned in the car until she spoke again after a few moments. “You’ve got to feel really sorry for Brendan, haven’t you?”
“I should say. I noticed you didn’t tell him his precious secret might all come out anyway.”
“Yes, well – I didn’t want to alarm him.”
“But if this blackmail has any bearing on the murder, we’ll need to take a very close look, won’t we?”
“Absolutely. We’ll have a lot better idea once we’ve caught up with this bloke with those tattoos. We can get something in place, though. I haven’t pushed this, and we’ve all had plenty to do, but first thing in the morning, I’m going to ask Leanne to get a copy of that birth certificate.”
Heavy traffic slowed them down. It took an hour to reach Angela’s home. “Are you seeing Maddie tonight?” she asked, as the car pulled up in front of the house.
“We left it open once I knew we’d be going to Brendan’s. I said I’d call her just as soon as I’d got home and showered.”
“You might as well come in and sort out your arrangements with her now,” said Angela. She got out of the car and led the way, calling, “Hi, darling, I’m home,” as she pushed her way through the front door.
“In the living room, Angie,” came Patrick’s voice.
“I’ve brought Gary in with me,” she said, going over and planting a kiss on his mouth.
Patrick smiled. “Evening, Gary, take a seat. Her ladyship’s upstairs.”
“Want a drink, Gary?” asked Angela.
“I wouldn’t say no to a coffee,” he beamed. As Angela went to make it, she could hear Gary once again humming the elusive melody as she walked along to the kitchen. He was still at it when, coffee in hand, she arrived at the living room door just as Madeleine came down the stairs. Gary looked up at their entrance and fell silent.
“Don’t stop, that brings back happy memories,” said Madeleine, going over to greet him with a kiss.
“You know, I was just thinking something similar but couldn’t remember why,” added Patrick.
“Don’t stop what?” asked Gary, taking a steaming mug from Angela.
“You were humming again,” said Angela.
“He was,” agreed Patrick. “If you hang on, I’ll tell you what it was.” He screwed up his face in the effort to remember.
“Mum,” said Madeleine. “It reminded me of Mum.”
“Ah yes!” exclaimed Patrick. “Hang on, hang on, it’s coming.”
!” they both said at once.
“Oh, that’s right!” Angela chimed in. “Walt Disney! I remember seeing Mickey Mouse getting in trouble to this piece of music.”
“My goodness, you’ve got a good memory, Maddie,” remarked Patrick. “Louise and I got this and a few other films to take on our holiday one year to keep you entertained in case of bad weather. I don’t remember any rain or such, as it happens, but we all watched it together one afternoon. You could only have been about seven.”
“Yes. I was. It was the last holiday we had before Mum got ill,” replied Madeleine.
“So it’s fixed in your memory,” said Angela. “My situation was also related to kids; well, it would be with a Walt Disney film, wouldn’t it? I had to babysit my niece and nephew on the day their next sibling was expected. I don’t know who enjoyed it more, them or me.”
“I haven’t seen the film at all,” smiled Gary. “I just heard Jack Waring whistling it. Anyway, I’m glad the mystery’s solved.”
“Talking of music, Gary,” said Madeleine. “Did you say something about going to Brixton Academy tonight?”
“Ah, yes – but it’s work-related. I wanted to trawl the crowds before the concert. We’re trying to catch up with someone who might be able to help us.” He looked across at Angela. “To be honest, though, we’re not very hopeful.”
“Why don’t we do it anyway? We can get a takeaway and go on to your place afterwards.”
“OK,” he said, standing up and gulping down some coffee. “It’s not too late. Let’s go for it.” He headed into the hall followed by Madeleine, blowing kisses as she went.
“Send me a text if you strike lucky,” Angela called after them.
Later, no text having arrived, Patrick and Angela spent a quiet evening. At about nine-thirty Patrick wrote in the final answer to the newspaper’s daily crossword and leaned back in his armchair. Angela sat curled up in the other one, hemming a blouse she’d made. “What on earth must that poor bloke be going through?” he said.
“Yes, Pads; he was set up then hung out to dry. He’s in a wretched state, only just holding it together.”
“Do you suppose it’s this bloke with the tattoos who’s now trying to collect?”
“We can’t be certain, of course, but we haven’t come across any other associates of Oliver Joplin; so it’s the natural conclusion to jump to.”
“Yes, I see that. But I’m surprised about the young girl in all this. Well, I say young girl; she’d be about twenty-two now, wouldn’t she?”
“If she was fourteen eight years ago, yes; why do you mention her?”
“Well, it’s just that since this happened there’s been all that brouhaha over Jimmy Savile and a whole variety of other people hauled up before the courts.”
“And a good many of those on completely trumped-up charges,” replied Angela.
“Yes, indeed. But this wouldn’t be a false accusation. Brendan admits to having sex with the girl. His defence is that he thought she was of age.”
Angela threw him a puzzled look. “Where are you going with this, Paddy?”
“Well, obviously the brother and the sister were in it together. Given that she was so young, we can assume she was acting under his influence. The thing is, now he’s dead and she’s twenty-two, the situation can’t be the same. Whoever made that call to Brendan can’t have the same influence over her, surely?”
“Something along those lines had occurred to me,” she answered. “It’s not going to be so easy to collect the money, but she can still go to the police and make a formal complaint about historic sexual abuse.” She gave a bleak smile. “I didn’t say any of this to Brendan, but he’s a bright chap. He’ll think that one through himself soon enough, if he hasn’t already done so.”
“This birth certificate – I don’t suppose there’s any chance it could have been doctored?”
“That’s what I’m hoping to find out. I’m going to get Leanne chasing that one up tomorrow.”