Authors: Elizabeth Flynn
“I came down and went out the back and that’s when I saw Oliver on the ground and him – er – your officer there.” Don dipped his head in Gary’s direction.
“That’s right,” confirmed Gary.
“And then I tried to sort Brendan out because it was obvious that he was shaken up.”
Gary spoke. “I asked him to get something to keep Brendan Phelan warm. Once he’d gone off, loads of the other backstage people crowded out through the door. It reminded me –” Gary broke off. “Never mind,” he said. “I told them all to go back inside.”
“It strikes me as being a bit extreme, using guns in a pop-rock show,” remarked Angela. “I mean, as part of the act.”
“Apparently Brendan’s always been into guns,” replied Don. “In a gun club even when he was at school. Some of the crew also shoot, even one or two who didn’t before. They got interested through working with Brendan.”
“They use real guns?”
“Oh no! They’re starting pistols. Jack – you know, the bloke looking after the equipment – is someone Brendan knows from his gun club. He’s very particular about making sure everything is done properly.”
“Is he related in some way to the girl who was sitting next to him, the very distressed girl?”
“That’s Carla. No, they’re not related. She’s –” Don stopped.
He ran a tongue round his lips. “She’s the runner.”
“I see.” Angela let a pause elapse.
I’m sure you were going to say something else just then
, she thought. She let the silence lengthen and after a moment Don spoke again.
“Jack got Carla the job. I thought he was her dad at first but he’s not. He looks out for her, though.”
“Comes from the gun club as well, does she?” asked Angela, with a smile. She said it as an amusing aside but the answer surprised her.
“Yes. I think she was junior champion or something. A very good shot by all accounts.”
That should teach me not to be so sexist
, thought Angela. “So how many people working on this show are familiar with guns?” she asked.
Don grinned, his eyes full of sympathy. “At least five that I know of,” he said. “Won’t make life easy for you, will it?”
Angela nodded, her heart sinking. “We’ll have to wait and see how all the statements and alibis hold up,” she said. “So you heard the shot and came down to see what had happened. After that you helped out a bit with trying to calm Brendan Phelan.”
Angela looked up from her notebook and smiled at him. “Thank you for your help. We might need to speak to you again.”
Don smiled as he rose. “Not a problem. I’m not going anywhere.”
Once he’d left the room, Angela turned to Gary. “During that interview you were about to say something and then stopped.”
Gary raised his eyebrows. “Was I? Oh yes,” he grinned. “It was nothing.”
“Still, something struck you.”
“It doesn’t have any bearing on this case, Angie. I think it was to do with one of the blokes who came out to see what was going on. He stood by one of those flight cases and for some reason the sight took me right back to being a little boy of nine or ten at home with my dad watching some magic act together. I think it’s the cases, they’re like magician’s boxes,
aren’t they? I’d started to panic a bit, to be honest, at that point; felt a bit like a helpless kid.”
Angela smiled. “Never mind, the cavalry soon turned up, didn’t we?”
Gary laughed. “Yes, thank God.”
“OK, let’s see this young girl next. Carla, is it? She looked like she could do with going home to bed.”
“Does she need an appropriate adult sitting in?”
“We’ll check it out before we begin.”
A short while later, Carla, waiflike and still tear-stained, stood facing them on the other side of the table like a schoolgirl called before the headmistress, frightened of what punishment awaited her. Angela hastened to put her at her ease. “Take a seat, Carla, don’t look so scared.”
Carla didn’t look much comforted by this advice, but she sat down as directed, gave her full name as Carla Paterson and astonished Angela and Gary by revealing her age as twenty-two.
“We need to know where everybody was when the shooting occurred,” said Angela.
Carla sniffed as a fresh tear rolled down her cheek. “I don’t know,” she replied, picking at a brightly coloured fingernail. “When was it?”
“So you didn’t hear the gun go off?”
“OK, so where were you between 10:45 and 11:05 this evening?”
Carla shrugged and her expression became even more scared. “All over the place. I’m the runner.”
“How did you become aware of what had happened?”
“I’d just taken some dresses to the wardrobe and I popped into the loo. While I was in there I heard a couple of the blokes going past in the corridor. They were full of it. They were, like, ‘Have you heard what’s happened? It’s unbelievable, man.’ So
I guessed something was up. Then I came downstairs and we were all being asked to go and sit in the auditorium because there’d been an incident outside the stage door and the police were on their way.” More tears rolled down her cheeks.
“I’m sorry to distress you, Carla, but these questions have to be asked.”
Carla gave a sniff, wiped her eyes and nodded. “S’all right, I know they do.”
“Were you particularly fond of Oliver Joplin?”
Carla looked at Angela with an astonished gaze. “Oliver? Fond? You must be joking. I’m upset about Brendan!”
Angela and Gary exchanged glances. Angela gave an infinitesimal nod towards Gary to indicate that he should take over the questioning. Gary moved forward a little and rested his notebook on the table.
“Why would you be upset about Brendan?” he asked.
Carla widened her eyes as if she thought the question silly. “Well, he’ll be worried, won’t he? Frightened; it’s horrible, him being the target of this sort of thing.”
Gary and Angela were careful not to look at each other but both, at that moment, took a well-educated guess at the other’s thoughts. Gary spoke again. “I understand that having one of his crew shot is very distressing, and will be a matter of concern for Brendan, but why would he be frightened? It was Oliver that was shot.”
“Yeah, but the bullet must have been meant for Brendan, mustn’t it?” argued Carla.
Angela took over. “Why do you say that, Carla?”
Carla’s eyes shone. “Well, he’s great, isn’t he? He’s fantastic. The best. There must be jealous people out there who’ve got it in for him. And in any case, who’d want to shoot Oliver? He was horrible. I’m glad he’s dead. He was nothing but trouble.” Carla shut her mouth tightly as if afraid of saying
more. Angela and Gary, while recoiling from her questionable logic, focused on the gem lying among all the silt.
“Why do you say he was trouble?” asked Angela.
Carla’s face gave the impression that she thought she’d said too much. She shrugged. “Don’t know.” She looked up from under lowered eyelids and her glance travelled from one to the other.
You don’t seriously think I’m going to let that pass, do you?
thought Angela. “You must have some reason for thinking he was trouble,” she said.
Carla gave another shrug but didn’t look up at them this time. “I really don’t know. I think he was up to something. I heard whispers here and there but nobody tells me anything.”
“What kind of whispers?” asked Gary.
“I don’t know. They don’t tell me, do they?” she replied. “Look at me. I’m small. I look young for my age. I’m just regarded as some sort of kid around here – the runner – right? Nobody tells me anything. I think I deserve more respect than I get.”
Angela wasn’t prepared to be diverted. “But you must have some idea about what these ‘whispers’ mean.”
Carla gave a sigh, as if she resented the information being dragged out of her. “Look, I don’t really know but I think he was up to something, that’s why –” she stopped abruptly, stealing another upward glance.
Realizing that Carla was playing this interview according to some agenda of her own, Angela felt her patience wearing thin. “You can’t leave it there,” she said, dropping the calm, formal tone and injecting a harsher note into her voice. The look Carla flashed her showed she understood.
“You’ll have to ask the others,” she replied. “I really
know, but Oliver had been on the crew longer than anybody else and he gave the impression he had some sort of ‘in’ with Brendan.”
“What do you think, Angie?” asked Gary as the door closed behind Carla.
“I can’t make her out. There’s this gamine thing going on. Then when she spoke about Brendan the first time she sounded like an adoring fan. She put up a big signpost about some undercurrent, though, didn’t she?”
“Yes, and I got that a bit with Don. He hesitated when you mentioned company politics.”
“Indeedy; just for a nanosecond. Look, forget what I said earlier; let’s just see this Terry Dexter next and then we can have a quick meeting with the rest of the team. We’ll make sure we’ve got everybody’s names and addresses and allocate who’s going to speak to whom. And once the SOCOs have finished with the crime scene we’ll call it a day. I don’t know about you, but I’m not much of a night owl and I don’t do my best work when I’m shattered.”
The smile on Gary’s face showed his relief at the decision. “Woohoo!” He stood up “I was hoping you’d say that. Thank you, Angie. I’ll go and get Terry, then. Wonder what he’s got to say for himself?”
“He seemed to be trying to give the impression that he knows everything about everything, didn’t he?”
His energy renewed at the thought of going home, Gary disappeared from the room. A few moments later the door was thrust open and Terry the musician/songwriter/lead guitarist stood on the threshold. “At last!” he said, coming fully into the room, allowing Gary to slip in behind him.
The slight smugness in his face did not escape Angela.
No doubt he thinks it’s only right he’s one of the first interviewed
, she thought. “Take a seat, Mr Dexter,” she began.
“Before you ask,” he said, sitting down, “yes, I’m the person who co-wrote Bren’s biggest hit, the one that kick-started his whole career.”
Angela thought it diplomatic to make a note of this unexpected information. The most surprising things might later become relevant. In any case, she could gain nothing by antagonizing a man who’d already demonstrated his readiness to become irritated by small matters. “Right, got that,” she said, lifting her pen from the page. “Now, about this terrible business tonight.”
“We go back absolutely years. We were at school together.”
“You were at school with Oliver Joplin?” verified Angela, as Gary made a note of the fact. She wondered if it would have a bearing on things.
A look of irritation passed across Terry Dexter’s face. “Olly Jop…? No, I’m talking about Brendan Phelan.”
Angela felt so glad she’d made the decision to go home after this interview. “Mr Dexter, how well did you know the dead man?”
A look of annoyance settled into his face as Angela bypassed his claim to fame. “As well as anyone else working with Bren, I suppose. He’d been on the crew for – well, a long time, unfortunately.”
“Unfortunately? Why do you say that?”
“Because he did naff all,” said Terry. “If I’d been in charge I’d have let him go a long time ago. But there you go; Brendan’s a soft touch. He needs protecting from himself sometimes.”
“Really, in what way?” asked Angela, and watched as a guarded look came down on his face.
“Oh, just that, really,” replied Terry, making a creditable stab at airy nonchalance. “He likes to give everybody the benefit of the doubt.”
Angela wrote, “
” in her notebook and got back on track. “Did you hear the gunshot?”
“Where were you at eleven o’clock?”
“As it happens, I can be fairly exact. I was hovering in the wings. Nobody else was around so I suppose I can’t prove that.”
“Why were you there?”
“You know we’re due to do a set tomorrow – well, tonight now – at the O2? I like to make sure I’m around when my instruments are packed away, so I was waiting till the team got to my stuff. I remember being so deep in thought that I didn’t register the shot. I think the door from the back of the stage must have been opened by someone and I heard one of the crew saying, ‘What was that?’ and I saw others moving in the same direction. So I followed.” He shook his head. “Of course, I should have known. I should have stuck closer to Bren.”
“Why do you say that?” asked Angela.
“It’s not good for Brendan to be associated with this kind of incident,” replied Terry. “Like I said, he needs looking after. He’s very gifted, he’s rich, he has an enormous number of fans; that sort of life brings its own burdens and pitfalls.”
“But,” Angela kept her tone carefully neutral, “it isn’t Brendan who’s been shot.”
Terry seemed not to register what she said. “A rich and successful person will attract leeches, Inspector; you know what I’m saying? And sometimes they can seep through into the closest of inner circles round a celebrity.”
“Was Oliver Joplin a leech, do you think?”
For the first time in the interview, Terry looked guarded. “Who knows?” he said. “All I can tell you is that his technical skills weren’t of the highest order, which is a shame in a techie. If it had been up to me, I’d have sacked him long since.”
Everyone’s an expert
, thought Angela, hiding a smile. Every industry had its share of people who thought they could run
it better if only they were in charge. It seemed that show business was no different. “Were you aware of any tension between Oliver and other members of the backstage staff?” she asked.
Terry’s gaze slewed off to the right and he brought his hand up to tap his mouth as if considering the question. But the actions were slightly out of sync, and the pause a shade too long. “There are all sorts of tensions that arise in a crew like this, it’s only to be expected, mostly little niggles which are forgotten the next day. Olly was involved in his fair share of them.”
You haven’t really answered the question
, said Angela to herself, making yet another note.
“Of course, the motive might be somewhere in the man’s history,” continued Terry.
Angela looked up to find herself staring into a very direct gaze. “In the history?” she queried.
“Yes, back in the mists of time, so to speak,” answered Terry, doing better with the nonchalance, this time. “Don Buckley, for instance, knew him years ago, and there’s no love lost between them, from what I can see.”
“Are we talking about open animosity?”
“Not really; they mostly avoided each other.”
“Wouldn’t that be difficult on a tour?”
“Not for someone as antisocial as Olly.”
“Do you know the reason for the bad feeling?”
Terry shrugged. “Search me; it must stem from way back.”
Angela made a note.
I’m sure you’ve got more to tell me,
But I’ll let it rest for now. You’ve got a verifiable alibi for the time of the shooting, so I’ll just pick your brains
. “Tell me how things work backstage on a show like this,” she said.
Terry sat up straighter in his chair and became much more animated. She could see he was more comfortable with this
line of enquiry. She could imagine him holding court in pubs and cafés near whatever venue Brendan was appearing in.
“Ooooh, do you actually know, Brendan Phelan?” “What’s he really like?” “Can you get me in backstage?” “Can you get me his autograph?”
They would recognize him, of course. Brendan was often photographed with his backing singers and band. Angela wouldn’t be surprised at all to discover that Terry had, over the years, become very used to basking in Brendan’s reflected glory. She wondered how that made him feel, deep down inside.
“It’s quite a simple set-up, really,” he said. “Most theatres have their own staff to deal with any equipment belonging to the venue. Besides that, we bring quite a bit of our own stuff – catering, wardrobe, lighting rig and sound deck; as well as our own instruments, of course. We fit into the venue as a self-contained unit, but we’re free to use, in addition, whatever of their staff or gear we require.”