Authors: Elizabeth Flynn
“And Brendan stood there looking very shocked with a smoking gun in his hand?”
“No gun, obviously, and the SOCOs didn’t find one in the alley, but I’ve been thinking about that.”
“OK, take me through the possible scenario.”
“Brendan is talking to Oliver. Oliver’s not static, he’s
turning this way and that, just as Brendan told us. When he’s not looking, Brendan pulls the gun out of his pocket. When Oliver’s back is to him, he shoots him. Oliver falls down. An accomplice takes the gun and dashes into the theatre.”
“Thus making that door banging sound. Right, with you so far.”
“Depending on which way he fell, Brendan nips round to make it look like he had been facing Oliver when the shot was fired and just at that moment I show up.”
Angela considered the possibility. “Hmm. I’m not sure about this.”
Eventually Gary spoke. “Are you laughing quietly?”
“Not at all, Gary. I was only thinking it through. It’s very tight for time and you’d need the most amazing confidence to pull it off. So many things could go wrong – unexpected coppers appearing in the alley, for one thing.”
“OK, stupid idea, let’s forget it.”
“No, no, we won’t forget it. After all, he is a man of great confidence – not least in handling guns. We’ll put it into the mix with everything else we find. Who knows? Maybe that’s exactly what happened.”
A mile further on Gary let out a huge sigh.
“Oh my goodness, you sound like the weight of the world descended on your shoulders!” Angela remarked.
“I’ve just had a thought.”
“Oh – the butler did it after all?” She looked across at him and grinned.
He laughed. “No, if the murderer turns out to be Brendan and I’m on the arresting team, will Maddie ever forgive me?”
Angela let out a kindly bark of laughter. Every now and again Gary said something that reminded her he was still a very young man.
They bought sandwiches at a shop near the office and joined their team for what turned out to be a working lunch.
“It looks as though everybody had a busy morning,” remarked Angela, looking up at the whiteboard. The names of everybody backstage the previous evening had now been written up, and several proper photographs had taken the place of the hastily printed pictures. Somebody had drawn a crude map of the area from the gates to the stage door. “Who’s the budding artist?” she asked. She pointed at the drawing of a stick figure just inside the gate area waving a police ID card; the name “Gary” appeared just underneath. Brendan Phelan and the prone Oliver Joplin were also represented as stick figures.
D.S. Jim Wainwright guffawed and his colleague, D.S. Rick Driver, grinned and held up a hand. “I do my best,” he said.
Angela laughed. “It’s helpful, but I’d advise you not to give up the day job. OK, everybody. What have we got?”
“We’ve spoken to the band, and we’re going to take on the backing singers and the crew who travel with Brendan Phelan,” began Jim. “Then there’s another crew of permanent theatre staff, involved in all productions – including Brendan Phelan’s.”
“We’re doing those,” said Leanne. “We’ve talked to the front-of-house staff already and we’re going for the backstage lot this afternoon. Most of them weren’t there this morning.”
“What about a stage-door person?” asked Angela. “Wouldn’t there normally be someone sitting in that little cubbyhole near the stage door?”
“Yes, there’s a bloke who does that job. He’s part of the permanent theatre staff, so we’ll be talking to him when we go back,” said Derek.
“OK. So what have we got from this morning, then?”
“Some heard the shot and some didn’t. Of those that did, they didn’t immediately clock it as anything strange because they’re so used to hearing shots in the performance. So, not a lot, really,” answered Jim.
“Except…” added Rick.
“Our deceased doesn’t seem to have been a very popular person.”
“What makes you say that?”
“That’s just it,” Jim cut in. “We couldn’t really get an angle on it. Most of them had worked with him for years, so they knew him well; but when we asked if he had any enemies, or if they knew of anybody with a grudge, it was like a wall of silence suddenly went up. Mostly they looked at each other and said he did his own thing.”
“That’s the catch-22 line,” said Rick. “We asked that. But because it
his own thing, nobody else was in on it.”
“Oh, how neat,” said Angela, thinking back over her interview with Brendan Phelan and the questions he’d raised in her mind.
“That’s what we thought,” agreed Jim.
“Leanne, write: ‘What was Oliver up to?’ on the board, please. It can’t be left like that; we’ve got to pursue it.”
“OK, guv,” said Leanne getting up from her chair.
“What about the scene of crime?” Angela asked of the room in general.
“I don’t think it’s going to get us very far,” said Derek, picking up a sheet and reading from it.
“Really? Why not?” asked Angela.
“There’s just so many people coming and going through that stage door in the course of a concert.”
“And Gary and I had a look in that crate – sorry; flight case – left standing by the van.”
“Yes, full of heavy-duty electric cables,” said Derek. “And on top of the van that –” Derek looked up at her with a puzzled frown – “gel? Is that right?”
“Yes, it’s OK, I know what a gel is now,” said Angela.
“Not something you put on your hair, then?” surmised Derek. The bafflement hadn’t completely disappeared from his face.
Angela laughed. “When you go back to the Apollo, get someone to show you what a lighting gel is. It’s to do with colouring stage illumination. But you haven’t yet mentioned the thing I’m waiting to hear about,” she said to him.
“No sign of a gun anywhere, guv.”
“Hmm. OK. Blind alley. Gary and the bouncers at the gates. Then it looks like the perp dashed straight into the theatre with it.”
“That must have been the door-banging sound you heard, Gary,” said Jim.
“Must be,” replied Gary.
“Which means,” said Angela, “he or she could be among the group of people who came out of the stage door right after Gary arrived by the body.”
“Were they all searched?”
“Yes, guv,” said Derek. “The uniformed officers got them to go through their pockets and once the auditorium was empty we all had a good search under the seats, but we didn’t turn up anything unusual.”
“It’s probably in the Thames by now,” suggested Jim.
“Not far to go to chuck it in, is it?” added Rick.
“Well done, Derek and Leanne, for hanging on to check under the seats in the wee small hours,” said Angela. “Rick, Jim, make sure the dressing rooms get searched, OK? I’m sure you’re right, it’s much more likely to have disappeared by now. The river is the best bet, but we’ve got to tick all the boxes.” The room stirred into life as everyone scrunched and dumped their sandwich wrappings and gulped down the dregs of their drinks.
“OK, everybody, so what do we do now?” she asked.
“We dig deeper,” came back the chorus.
“Yep,” she agreed. “Don’t forget the security cameras,” she reminded Rick.
“They’re on the list. As soon as we’ve finished the interviews,” he assured her. “Where are you off to, Angie?”
“I’m going to talk to Brendan’s manager,” she answered, finishing the last of her coffee, crushing the polystyrene cup before tossing it into the bin.
Angela and Gary found Doug Travers in his office in the heart of London’s theatre district. Glossy publicity photographs of Brendan Phelan adorned the walls in a cramped reception area and gave way to more personal ones as they entered his office. Doug and Brendan, in evening dress, smiled at her over champagne glasses. From a frame behind the desk, Brendan – looking every inch a country gentleman, in Barbour and gumboots – beamed proudly, a mean beast of a rifle slung over his shoulder as he leaned back on the bonnet of a 4x4. Angela’s eyes travelled from the photograph to the man sitting in front of it. She found him watching her, a small smile playing around his mouth. “It looks like Brendan Phelan’s got into the hunting, shooting and fishing set,” she remarked. “Or was he always?”
The smile on the manager’s face widened. “No, it’s Terry
who’s set himself up as landed gentry. Brendan’s a townie through and through, but he likes to go out to Terry’s place – just beyond Amersham, it is. They take a pot at clay pigeons from time to time.”
“Ah yes, Terry Dexter,” replied Angela, and without thinking began the self-applied description she remembered from interviewing him, “musician/songwriter –”
“– lead guitar,” finished Doug Travers. Angela glanced at him and caught an unmistakably ironic smile on his face.
OK, I might as well start here as anywhere
, she thought. “He told me he’d co-written Brendan’s first hit.”
The sense of irony in Doug’s expression deepened into scepticism. “Hmm. He did the riff. It fitted in well so Brendan saved himself the effort of writing one.”
“What did his co-writing amount to? Fifty per cent of each song, would you say?”
Doug shook his head gently. “More like twenty. He bigs himself up, does our Terence; but he’s loyal. And to be fair to him, he’s a competent musician. Reliable, too. And they do go back a long way.”
Angela nodded and looked more intently at the photographs filling every available space on the walls. She could see more scenes, casual and formal, beach, bar and boardroom, and in each one Doug featured, either to one side or just behind Brendan.
“I’ve got a good gig and I know it,” he said following the direction of her eyes. “Fifteen years ago I was running a stable of third-rate acts who, frankly, would never get a better booking than their local pub. I was on the point of chucking it all in when a certain London-Irish teenager strolled through the door of my office with a second-hand guitar slung over his shoulder. That was then, this is now. Neither of us look back much, except to be grateful.”
Angela nodded and sat on the chair in front of his desk. Gary found a stool in a corner. “How did you know he wasn’t just another third-rate act?”
“I didn’t, not immediately. But he had a kind of presence about him, it’s unmistakable and that’s always a good start. Then he sat just there, where you’re sitting now, and sang me one of his songs and completely blew me away. That voice – you must have heard him sing.” Angela thought she might have done, but Gary nodded with enthusiasm. “And the stuff he writes; he’s way ahead of the field.”
“That’s no guarantee of making it,” objected Angela. “There are any number of talented people out there who can’t afford to give up the day job.”
“That’s true. I couldn’t have known for sure. I still took a risk but, with Brendan’s talent and charisma, a lesser one. I’d been front of house,” he continued, as if he’d been asked the question. “I’d been to see someone. I got back to the stage door area just when it all kicked off.”
Angela passed to the reason for her visit with equal smoothness. “Did you hear the shot?”
“I did. My immediate thought was that someone had had a bit of an accident putting the guns away.”
“So then what happened?”
“Don came past me. He looked really agitated, which is unusual in a normally placid man like him. I was just about to ask him if anything was up when he said someone had shot Olly and it looked like Brendan had turned to stone. Anyone else and I might not have believed him, but Don doesn’t mess around. I think I said, ‘What?’ but he just said he needed a coat and went off somewhere. I was still standing there trying to take it in and figuring my next move when Jack went past pushing a flight case.”
“Yes,” remarked Angela, remembering what Gary had told
her of the moments immediately after he’d arrived at the stage door.
“He would have been getting stuff out for tonight. There’s a big charity gala on in aid of abused kids. It’s an annual thing. Brendan’s done it about four years in a row. Well, he’s not doing tonight’s now, the doctor advised against it.”
“So I understand.”
“The next thing I remember was that we were all being asked to congregate in the stalls and wait there. As I joined them I could hear some people whispering about Brendan and I felt worried about him because I didn’t know what Don meant by being turned to stone. Then I saw Don going through to the back with a chair and a coat. And I think he had a drink as well. He said Brendan was all right but a bit shocked and that a doctor was on the way. That calmed me down, although I would much prefer to have been able to go out to him.”
“What do you make of it all?”
Doug let out a noisy breath. “I didn’t know what to think; I still don’t, to be honest. It was a real shock. I know show business can have some dodgy connections, believe me I’ve met one or two in my time, but I’ve never come across anything like this.”
“Were you aware there’s been a suggestion that Brendan was the intended target?”
“Who said that?” he asked. Angela remained silent. “Doesn’t seem very likely to me.”
“You don’t believe it?”
Doug scratched his temple. “Not really. I mean, I know there are some crazy people around and it’s always possible that Bren’s got an enemy, or someone who thinks he’s an enemy, but then I’d expect it to be someone lurking on the outside – you know – like it happened with John Lennon. No
members of the public can get into that area.” He shook his head. “I don’t see that somehow.”
“How well did you know the dead man?”
“That’s an interesting question. When it comes to the crew, Jack does the actual hiring and firing, so I don’t have to be really involved with them. And some you get to know better than others, as you’d expect.”
Angela nodded. “Yes, I can imagine. So, Oliver Joplin…?”
“Olly – well – his case is a bit different because Brendan dealt with Olly directly. I think he felt comfortable with him, being the longest-serving crew member, and Olly had known him from just as he began to get really famous. And I seem to remember Brendan once saying he felt sorry for Olly because he had a sister to support.”
“How did you get on with Oliver?”
Doug shrugged. “There was no animosity. We said hello and how are you and that sort of stuff; but that’s not really knowing someone, is it? He was a fairly quiet bloke, usually on the edge.”
“The edge of any little circle. I never saw him at the centre of the conversation, but on the other hand he wasn’t outside of it, either. But you need to talk to Jack, really. He was a lot closer to him – to them all, in fact. My contact with the crew is through Jack. Maybe I should be a bit more involved ’cause it does seem strange.”
“What seems strange?”
“When I talked to Brendan he passed it off as ‘manning up’ and ‘taking responsibility’ but I don’t buy it. A star of Brendan’s calibre doesn’t talk to his staff about their work… Jack deals with the crew; it’s what he’s paid for. But it apparently doesn’t seem odd to anyone else that Brendan was outside the stage door talking to Oliver Joplin.”