Authors: Elizabeth Flynn
“Move that van, please.”
“We just –”
“The only comment I’m prepared to make is that I’m planning to arrest your driver for obstructing a police enquiry.” She turned to Gary. “Gary, drive up close to that van.”
Gary edged them forward, stopping inches from the other vehicle. The driver had his head turned away from them. “The horn, Gary; I’m not playing games.”
Gary sounded the horn.
Then he sounded it again, louder.
The van moved.
Ignoring the camera flashes and continued attempts to extract information, Angela rolled the window back up. She and Gary now had clear access to the shiny, black wrought-iron gates, which slid smoothly open to admit them once they had paused at the intercom to identify themselves. Gary drove them slowly along the short, impeccably maintained gravelled approach to a palatial entrance concealed from the road. Wide, red double doors were set into a vast porch bordered by two imposing columns.
“Wow! Nice pad! Maybe I should have stuck to my piano lessons,” remarked Gary.
“Who knows where they would have led,” agreed Angela, getting out of the car and coming round to the driver’s side, where Gary had the window wound down.
Gary, still absorbed by the house, hadn’t really heard her. “Those are Doric-style columns, aren’t they?”
“Yes, I believe you’re right. I wonder what happens now. Do we just go and ring the bell, or will someone come out? They know we’ve arrived, after all.” Looking uncertainly towards the grandiose entrance, she saw the left door open; a man emerged. In his mid-forties, dressed in understatedly elegant casual clothes, he came across the gravel to them with a smile on his face. Angela thought he looked familiar and couldn’t think where she might have met him. His first words told her.
“Detective Inspector Costello and Detective Constable Houseman? Hi, I’m Desmond Phelan, Brendan’s brother. I was watching your arrival on our CCTV. It didn’t take you long to get through that horde. I’m impressed.”
“I had enough of their questions as I was leaving the Apollo at far too early an hour this morning,” replied Angela. “They’ll get their next statement when I’m good and ready.”
Desmond nodded. “Just leave the car there,” he said to
Gary. “It will be brought round for you when you leave.” He looked from one to the other as Gary left the vehicle to the house staff and joined Angela on the gravel. “OK, this way.” He turned and preceded them through the door. Angela and Gary exchanged one brief, expressive glance, then they obeyed.
Desmond led them into a spacious bright, round hallway. An expanse of deep green carpet covered the floor and pale apple-green walls rose the full height of the house to a domed glass ceiling, through which sunlight streamed down on them. The effect was stunning.
Tilly Townsend did him proud
, thought Angela.
Desmond closed the front door. “Please come this way,” he said, setting off across the sea of green carpet to a circular staircase which began to their right and continued up, as far as she could tell, nearly to the dome. Silently they followed him up the stairs and along the galleried landing into a large, airy living room on the upper floor. Desmond stood back, indicating they should go in before turning away and heading back down the stairs. Here a different colour scheme reigned, peach (carpet) and cream (wallpaper). Light poured in through a magnificent floor-to-ceiling window taking up one entire wall.
As she took in her surroundings Angela quickly realized that it was half-living room, half-music room. At one end stood a baby grand piano covered in loose pages of sheet music paper, and she counted two guitars on stands, a flute, a small drum kit and a keyboard.
A figure sat very still at the piano. Angela’s eyes, moving from the drum kit, saw his bare feet first and travelled up past his jogging bottoms and sweatshirt to find his watching eyes fixed on hers.
As she met his gaze, the vulnerability she sensed affected her sharply. He seemed somehow smaller than the previous evening when she had seen him resplendent in his concert clothes.
The vulnerable look vanished immediately, replaced by his gracious and assured public persona. “Please – call me Brendan.” He stood up and came to meet her, hand outstretched, emanating confidence. This talented, superbly successful man had become accustomed to pre-eminence. “Detective Inspector Costello,” he greeted, shaking her hand. “And this must be D.C. Houseman,” he added, turning courteously to Gary. “Can I get you some coffee?” He led them to the other end of the room.
“That would be lovely,” said Angela, sinking into the depths of the cream armchair he indicated, while Gary took the sofa. She could see why he had so many women fans. His manner was totally unselfconsciously charming.
Brendan picked up a phone and spoke into it. “Any chance of some coffee, please, Des?” and after a few seconds, “Thanks, bro.” Replacing the receiver, he smiled at them. “It won’t be long. Des runs things around here. He had his own building company, but just as my career was taking off he injured his back and had to find something else to do.”
“Sounds like a good arrangement,” said Gary.
Brendan flashed a disarming smile. “It keeps my mum happy at any rate, having big brother on guard. She’s heard some terrible things about the wicked world of rock music and she thinks every one of them could apply to me.” Angela and Gary laughed politely. “Thanks for coming here to see me,” he continued. “I was expecting to be summoned to a police station.”
“It depends on the circumstances,” replied Angela. “In
your case, we weren’t sure if you’d fully recovered. Late last night you seemed to be in quite some distress.”
A shadow of horror flitted across behind his eyes and he shuddered. He glanced out of the wide window at the beautifully tended shrubs and trees in his garden. “I was stunned.”
That’s a bit of an understatement in my view
, thought Angela, but she remained silent, waiting for him to say more. He turned back to the room and looked at her. “This is going to sound extraordinarily naive, Inspector, but I’ve only ever associated guns with sport; boys and their toys, eh?”
At that moment Desmond entered with the coffee, a fresh pot, and three cups on a tray. “I mean,” Brendan continued, “of course I understand they’re dangerous and must be handled with care. But always in sport. And, to be candid, it’s one I excel at. There’s a thrill in hitting the bullseye. It’s just good fun.”
“Yes.” He nodded soberly. “It wasn’t fun last night, was it?” He sat down on the other cream armchair. “I never imagined it could lead to… that brutality.” She watched his stricken face as he relived the sight of Oliver Joplin lying motionless and bleeding on the ground.
When Desmond had left the room, Angela got out her notebook and asked, “Would you like to tell us exactly what happened? Everything you can remember.”
Brendan turned a distracted gaze upon her. He seemed not to have heard her. “This should solve the problem,” he said.
Gary put his coffee cup down and slid his notebook and pen from his pocket.
“Which problem would that be, Brendan?” Angela asked.
He flicked his eyes to Gary, back to her, and gave her a rueful smile. “I must think before I speak. There isn’t one, now. And even when it existed, nobody would kill over it.”
“Now you’ve got me completely intrigued.”
A short laugh escaped him. “Yes, if I carry on like this I could dig myself into a very deep hole, and all for nothing.”
All for nothing?
thought Angela. “Nonetheless?” she said.
“Yes, of course, you’re looking for motives for his murder. I can’t give you one. Olly and I were having a conversation outside the theatre, in the alley.”
Angela nodded. “I became very familiar with the layout last night. What was this conversation about?”
Brendan leaned back in his chair. “There was an issue with Olly and I wanted to talk to him about it, to check it out myself.”
Angela took her time writing this down and noted that Gary did the same. She looked up from her notebook into Brendan’s attractive face and was suddenly struck by something she should have noticed before. He had the look of Patrick about him, the same Irish type, intelligent, charming, a similar smile. Brendan’s eyes didn’t yet crinkle as Patrick’s did; he was still too young. She pulled her mind back to the job.
“Tell me about this issue.”
Brendan took a sip of his coffee. “There’d been whispers for a while about him not pulling his weight. He was a bit
too fond of checking out the nearest pub at any venue we were playing, and he’d be in there when he should have been working. The other techies covered for him, but things had got a bit worse lately and he nearly missed a couple of cues. I can’t have that. The lights work in conjunction with the sounds – well, they do on most shows.”
“Yes,” nodded Gary. Both Angela and Brendan turned towards him. “I’ve seen the show,” he explained, addressing Brendan. “I was there last night.”
“Ah! Did you enjoy it?”
“Very much,” replied Gary, with enthusiasm. “The sound and lighting effects were tremendous. Those whip cracks are
Brendan looked pleased. “Thank you. We’ve worked hard on it.”
Yes, definitely a Paddy-type smile
, thought Angela. “Is it normal for you to deal with your staff like this – yourself, I mean?”
Brendan turned his attention to her. “I know what you’re thinking and you’re right. I’ve got a production manager to handle that sort of thing.”
“It does sound like having a dog and doing the barking yourself.”
“Yep; normally Jack would deal with it but I’ve known Olly – I
known him – a long time, and I like to think there’s a good team spirit in my crew.”
“I see,” replied Angela as she made a note. She didn’t really feel her question had been answered but couldn’t find an argument against Brendan’s explanation. Brendan must have sensed this because he spoke again.
“When you’re a megastar you tend to get a lot of things done for you that you’d do yourself if you were an ordinary bloke. Every now and then, I go through this thing where
I tell myself I need to
and take responsibility. This was one of those occasions.” He produced another disarming smile. “It won’t last.”
Angela laughed, noted the comment in her book and placed a large question mark after it. “So, you were talking to Oliver about his attitude to work.”
“Why out in the alley?”
“I knew we wouldn’t be disturbed out there. You can go right to the other end of it and be private.”
“Surely you’d get the same privacy in your dressing room?”
“I could ask for it, but there’s a lot goes on after the show. A whole host of people appear backstage and you’re either pleased to see them or you’ve got to glad-hand them. I’d be forever answering knocks on the door and asking people to wait. You know how it is?”
Angela didn’t really, but she could imagine.
“Can you take me through the sequence of events?”
A look of distress she had no doubt was genuine clouded his features. “I think I’m still traumatized. We were talking.”
“So I’m trying to gee him up without it turning into something aggressive. You know, just a bloke-to-bloke thing. ‘People are talking, Ol,’ I said. ‘You need to smarten your act up.’ I didn’t want to get too heavy and I thought Jack might, if I left it to him.”
“That makes sense,” said Angela. She could see Brendan relaxing, but she added another question mark to the page. “And then what?”
Brendan steadied himself with a couple of deep breaths. “I can’t remember exactly what I’d been saying. We walked to the other end of the alley and back and I think we’d stopped. No, I’d stopped. Olly had been moving, walking to and fro
and suddenly his face appeared in front of mine. He said, ‘OK, Bren, I get it,’ or something of that sort. Then there was this colossal noise echoing all around us. I immediately thought of a gunshot but didn’t see how it could be. Then I thought, maybe a car had backfired. The next thing, Olly’s eyes went wide. He kind of stared like he was really puzzled by something. I think I wondered for a moment if I had dirt on my face. Then he staggered towards me, just a step, and fell. I think he might have reached out to me but I’m not sure now.” Brendan’s cheeks had become red and his breath came in short gasps. Clearly the shock was still with him. “I didn’t see any blood at first.”
“What were you aware of?”
Brendan calmed a little. “Not much. I think I might have heard a door bang.”
“Yes,” said Gary. Both Angela and Brendan looked at him. “I heard a shot and what I thought was a door banging while I was standing in the street.”
“You said so last night,” remarked Angela.
“I think I remember you,” said Brendan, looking closely at Gary. “And Don; did he bring me a coat and a chair?”
“Yes,” Gary confirmed.
Brendan nodded. “I hadn’t been aware of feeling cold but I do recall suddenly feeling better with the coat round my shoulders.” He looked at Angela. “I’m sorry, that’s all I can remember.”
“You’ve done very well,” replied Angela. “Your account is helpful. Please let us know if any other memories of the event come back to you.”
“I will, of course.”
“At any point in the conversation were you conscious of anybody behind Oliver?”
“I think I should be the judge of that, Brendan.”
Brendan flicked a glance at her as if recognizing her authority for the first time.
“I don’t see… oh, OK. A van was parked outside the stage door, right?”
“Yes, I remember seeing it.”
“It was to take some things to the O2 for tonight. I was due to sing a set at a charity gig, but I’ve cancelled. I mean, it’s a matter or respect, but the doctor also advised me to.”
“Very wise, I’m sure. What was odd about this van?”
“Not the van itself. There was a long, narrow flight case on top of it and a gel leaning up against that at an odd angle. And, I can’t be sure but there might have been a black bin bag up there at well.”
“A gel is a square of, like, transparent coloured Perspex or acetate that you put in front of a spotlight to produce the different colours.”
“Oh I get it.”
“Yes, so a gel isn’t just stuck in front of a light, of course. It goes into a frame and is fitted on the front of the spotlight. You can have a few gels fitted onto a spot at the same time and you bring each colour on as and when needed.”
“Oh yes,” said Gary. “There was a moment last night when the whole stage seemed to be bathed in this red light and then it went to blue and back to red all in time to some whip cracks.”
“It was a stunning effect.”
Brendan smiled. “Yes, I like that moment. You can always sense the audience going, ‘Wow!’”
“So,” continued Angela. She remembered the items on the top of the van very well, but wanted to know why Brendan had mentioned them. “There was a narrow flight case, a gel and possibly a bin bag lying on top of the van. Should they have been there?”
Brendan had fully recovered now. He smiled. “No.”
“Jack’s very particular about the packing. Someone drove off once leaving a very valuable piece of equipment stuck on top of the van. It fell off, needless to say, and it’s been a no-no ever since.”
thought Angela, and suddenly remembered looking closely at the roof of the vehicle the previous evening. “I noticed there was no roof rack on the van.”
Brendan shot her a sharp glance, as if impressed that she’d noticed. “Possibly not, though we sometimes use one with a rack. Even so, I wasn’t planning to take the whole show to the O2, just a couple of bits and pieces. I’m certain what we needed would all fit inside.”
Angela saw that Brendan had become completely relaxed, almost relieved, about something. She wondered what internal process had brought this about. “Are you saying somebody could have hidden behind these things on top of the van to shoot at…?”
“Either one of us,” confirmed Brendan. His voice was low and the tone sombre but he had no fear in his eyes.
“Do you think you might have been the intended target?” she asked.
He flicked a glance towards his windows, took in Gary and settled back on Angela. “No, I don’t. It’s in the interest of everybody I work with to keep me hale and hearty, Inspector.”
, thought Angela. She made a decision. She wanted to think a few things through before she went much further
with him. She closed her notebook and stood up. “Thank you so much for your time, Brendan, I think that’s all for the moment. I need to liaise with my team, get an overall picture of the events and see what other interviews have turned up. I probably will need to speak to you again, though.”
Brendan rose with them. “No problem, Inspector. I’m just staying around the house for the next few days, taking things quietly. Let me see you out.” He moved to the circular staircase and led the way downstairs. He came to the door with them himself and stood on the step as they drove away. Angela, behind the wheel, could see him in the rear-view mirror. He watched until they turned the corner of the drive.
The proportion of the two groups in the street outside seemed to have changed slightly – more fans, fewer journalists. The fans faithfully called out their enquiries about Brendan, but the journalists seemed to have decided she and Gary weren’t worth the copy.
They’d left Hampstead behind before Angela spoke.
“What did you make of that, Gary?” she asked.
“Did you cut it a bit short?”
“Yes, I did.” Angela turned this comment over in her mind. “Didn’t seem too abrupt, did I?”
“No, not that. I just had the feeling you had more to ask then changed your mind. I don’t think he would have noticed.”
“That’s good. OK, I’ve got a couple of thoughts. Remember Terry Dexter talking about the dead man being a less than ideal technician? Well, surely the others must have noticed, don’t you think? Besides which, if Terry knew, I’d have thought the rest of the world would hear all about it in short order. So why, when Brendan decides to tackle him about it, does he make such a thing of having privacy?”
“Er… just common decency, I’d have thought. Plus, it’s an employment protocol thing, isn’t it? If D.C.I. Stanway had to tell me off over something everyone knew about, he’d still do it in private.”
“Yes, but that begs another question. The D.C.I. would probably assign me the job of dealing out the reprimand in the first place.”
“True,” agreed Gary. “What was the other thought?” he asked, as they emerged into the traffic that roared around Swiss Cottage as their journey took them closer to central London.
“Well, it arises from what that runner, Carla, said. I didn’t want to mention it when we were with him just now, even though he acknowledged that either one of them could have been hit. But she seemed to think Brendan must have been the target.”
“She struck me as a bit of a loose cannon; mouthy little piece, as well. She would have run that interview if you’d have given her the chance. It hadn’t occurred to Terry Dexter until you mentioned it and he must know if Brendan’s got any enemies.”
“You’re right. OK, scrub that idea for now. Let’s wait and see if it comes up in other interviews. We mustn’t lose sight of the salient points.”
“There were still just the two of them talking outside in the alley and we’ve established that Oliver’s slapdash ways couldn’t have been much of a secret.”
“Perhaps Brendan really did want to take this one on.”
“Possibly. I could be mistaken, but I don’t really buy this
business. A star of Brendan’s calibre doesn’t talk to his staff about their work. His manager does it, no matter how much of a team spirit he likes to think they have.”
“So what were they really talking about?”
“Exactly, that’s the question. But it beats me how we’re going to get the answer.”
“You don’t suppose…?”
“Is it possible that Oliver initiated the conversation, not Brendan?”
Angela considered the matter. “It’s possible, I suppose. I would have thought the same protocol must apply in the other direction, surely. If Oliver wanted a word with Brendan, he’d have to go through Jack Waring or Doug Travers. But I’m not au fait with show business circles.”
“It was just a thought.”
“And a good one; keep ’em coming.”
“Actually, I’ve got a thought which might be totally ridiculous but I’d like to air it.”
“Don’t laugh, but could Brendan have done it?”
“I’m not laughing. Let’s consider it. From what you told me last night you got to the stage door very quickly. How much time are we talking about?”
“I was in the street with Madeleine and we’d been trying to see into the alley. I heard the shot and went to the gates where those bouncers tried to stop me entering. I flashed my ID at them and pushed past. I was by the body in about – oh – no more than a minute, probably a bit less, from when the gun went off.”