Authors: Elizabeth Flynn
Rick Driver noted beads of perspiration on the front-of-house manager’s reddening face, wondered briefly what he was nervous about, then realized he hadn’t listened to a word the man had said. His attention had been elsewhere. Apart from last night, he’d only ever been in a theatre as a member of an audience and being here at this time of the day was an intriguing novelty.
“I’m sorry, Mr – er –” Now it was Rick’s turn to blush. He hadn’t even caught the man’s name and he should have checked his notes anyway.
“Grieves. Barry Grieves.” Evidently Rick’s distraction supplied a small measure of relief from his discomfiture. “We’re still looking into what’s happened.”
Rick nodded, considering the other man’s words. What’s happened? Ah yes! He and Jim had asked to see the footage from the CCTV camera that covered the stage door. He dragged his mind back to the job, but almost immediately became distracted by the sight of a very famous woman moving gracefully across the space to his left. Forgetting all about Barry Grieves, he tracked her progress across the bar area. The singer, a country star, known almost as much for her feminine allure as for her deep, throaty voice, stopped and turned to face the two policemen. He saw Jim pull his shoulders back. Rick automatically straightened his tie and smoothed his jacket. The lady looked at them and Rick felt himself go very hot. She smiled at her reflection in a large wall mirror behind them and passed out of their eyeline, a small posse of minders and assistants following in her wake. Rick
turned back to find Jim staring, mouth open, after the now-invisible apparition. “It was her, wasn’t it?” he asked.
Jim, apparently still contemplating the image in his head, smiled beatifically. “Sure was. She’s a cracker, isn’t she?” He glanced at Rick and seemed to come back to earth. “Seems a bit smaller in real life; well, the hair’s just as big as on the telly, of course.”
Rick turned his attention once more, and fully this time, to the theatre manager. “That was Georgia Pensay, wasn’t it?”
“Yes,” Barry Grieves confirmed, manifestly grateful for the distraction she had fortuitously provided. “Yes, it is. She’s doing a series of concerts here and she’s in for the sound check this afternoon.” He shook out a spotlessly clean handkerchief and mopped the trickle of perspiration from his brow, his equilibrium now fully recovered. “Completely sold out, I’m afraid,” he added, as if worried that Rick and Jim might push for tickets.
Rick, mistaking his meaning, smiled at the incongruity of a theatre manager being “afraid” of the idea of a full house. “I love the play of words in her name,” he remarked.
“I beg your pardon? Play on words?” Barry Grieves knew he still had to face the embarrassing matter temporarily in abeyance, but Rick wondered if the prospect felt less alarming by the minute as he realized these policemen were fans, not just officers of the law.
“Yes,” said Rick. “You know – Georgia
. Her name. ‘Pensay’ is – I read it in an interview in the
– from the French
which means a ‘thought’. She chose it because of the song ‘Georgia On My Mind’. Get it? Pensay – a thought – on her mind?”
“Ah – yes,” Barry Grieves’s face broke into a smile. He clearly hadn’t heard this before. And then, irrelevantly: “I’m rather fond of the sound of a brass band myself, to be honest.”
Rick decided they’d better get back to the business in hand. “You were explaining about the CCTV footage,” he said.
“Yes,” Barry was equal to the occasion now. Any sense of dread under interrogation had apparently been dispelled when the officer of the law turned out to be just one more man whose mouth dropped open at the sight of a celebrity in close proximity. “There isn’t any, unfortunately. Our IT person is coming in later to check things over, because I think we’ve been hacked.”
“That’s what it looks like. We’ve got a camera covering the stage door itself, one at either end of the back alley and one trained over the security gates. We’ve checked thoroughly, and there’s nothing wrong with the cameras themselves – not as far as we can tell, anyway. The problem seems to be in the computer program. Those particular cameras were all controlled as part of one group in the system, so if one went out they all did.”
“Blast!” Rick gasped in frustration.
“Quite,” agreed the manager. “They seem to have gone wrong just as we came down.”
“Came down from where?” queried Rick.
“Sorry – theatre jargon. When the show ended.”
“Just at the crucial time,” added Jim. “Which means either it’s an amazing coincidence, or –”
“Yes. Or it was planned and someone went to a lot of trouble to set this murder up,” said Rick. He looked at Barry Grieves. “We’ll need that IT report the minute it comes in.”
“Oh yes, no problem. I’ll send it through straight away.”
Rick frowned in thought, recollecting the details Gary had described of last night’s crime scene.
“Most of us entered through the front door,” he said, “but my D.I. and another colleague came in through the stage door and they told us this morning there was nobody sitting in that little place where –”
“Oh yes, where the stage doorman normally sits. Yes, that’s true. Trevor’s the man you mean. He’s our stage doorman. The monitors for those cameras are there and he keeps his eye on them, so when he noticed the screens had gone blank he naturally tried to find out what was going on.”
“How would he have done that?” asked Jim.
“In the first place he’d have called through to the front, to my office; but by then both my assistant and I were standing more or less where I am now, waiting for the audience to start piling out. So that’s when he left his post to come and try to find one of us.”
“And did he find you?”
“No, by the time he got round to the front the place would have been heaving with people. But as it happens he tripped over something left lying about in the corridor. It gave him a nasty bruise and a cut to the shin, so he took himself into the toilets to administer a bit of first aid.”
“So when did you hear about the cameras?”
“Sitting in the auditorium with everybody else waiting for the police to come and talk to us. Trevor came to find me. He mentioned it then.”
“Have you any idea who might have hacked the system? And why do you assume it was hacked? Couldn’t it just have broken? Has it happened before?”
“Never. I actually thought it must have been a simple computer glitch at first, but I got to thinking while we were sitting waiting in the stalls. It seemed very suspicious that the cameras in just the right place should have gone down at just the moment somebody got murdered. That’s why I came to the conclusion we must have been hacked. But, who did it? I can’t help you there, officer. As you can imagine, I’ve given that a great deal of thought.”
Rick could see he’d gone as far as he could with this line
of questioning. “OK. Just as soon as your IT people have got back to you, then – let me know.”
Barry Grieves nodded. “I will.”
“We’d still like to speak to – Trevor, you said his name is?”
“I can give you his address.”
“Oh. He’s not working today?”
“He wouldn’t be in at this time of the day in any case but, as it happens, we’re dark now until Georgia Pensay opens at the end of the week.”
“Dark?” asked Jim.
“Sorry – I mean we haven’t got a show in at the moment.”
Rick made a note of this snippet of theatre jargon. He thought it might come in handy for another interview.
“Is there anybody here who was here last night?” asked Jim.
“Oh, certainly. The theatre technicians and some front-of house staff, plus the cleaning and maintenance still have to go on. Would you like to speak to whoever I can find?”
“Yes please, Mr Grieves,” replied Rick. They followed him across the crimson carpet of the foyer.
Angela and Gary heard Jack Waring before they saw him. As they approached through an industrial unit in north-west London, they could hear somebody whistling, a rich, cheerful sound.
“Ooh, that’s familiar but I just can’t place it,” remarked Angela, after listening for a moment.
“Me neither,” agreed Gary, “but I know I’ve heard it before.”
The whistling stopped just before they reached him. Seated on a stool in the open doorway of a small warehouse, sipping from a very large mug, he looked up at their approach. Inside they glimpsed various items of lighting equipment and
several of the flight cases they’d seen the previous evening. A couple of these had the lids open. Everything else seemed to be stored very neatly. “Good afternoon, Mr Waring. Sorry to disturb your tea break,” began Angela.
“Oh – please! ‘Jack’! Not a problem.” He stood up. “I knew you’d be along for a word at some point. There’s a café round the corner, there,” he said, pointing.
“We won’t bother,” replied Angela.
Jack sat down again. “I think I’m going to disappoint you.”
“Really, why is that?”
Jack moved his head from side to side. “Saw nothing, heard nothing, did nothing.” He grinned.
“When did you become aware of what had happened?” asked Angela.
Jack screwed up his eyes and thought for a moment. “I’d agreed with the lads that we’d do the get-out as soon as we could. You know, we had to load up our van with some things for the O2 tonight. I was able to put some things in a case while Bren did the encores, and I got that one out to the van.”
“Ah, yes,” said Gary. “The one already outside when the shot was fired.”
“That’s right. After I took it out, I went to the stage to wait for Bren to come off. I wanted to greet him – congratulate him, that sort of thing. There’s a nice feeling backstage at a moment like that, everyone’s pretty much on a high.”
“I can imagine,” said Gary.
“I thought I must have missed him – thought Bren must have already gone to his dressing room, because there was no sign of him, and the band and singers had left the stage; so I got started on another case. The rest of the crew took a breather at that point – they probably stopped for a cuppa in the crew room before dismantling the bigger bits of equipment. I was just stashing the easy stuff.”
“Did you hear the shot?”
“No, I didn’t hear a thing. As I say, I got this second case ready and wheeled it through and that’s when I found them all standing outside the stage door looking at Olly, dead on the ground. And Bren – well, you know what he was like.” Jack addressed this last comment towards Gary.
“Yes, I remember your arrival,” said Gary.
“Yes. So I took the case back in, like you said, ’cause I was disturbing a crime scene. Phew!” He looked at Gary with sympathy. “You expect scenes in a theatre but not outside, and not like that, eh?”
“No,” said Gary. “It reminded me of a magic act. I suppose it was these black flight cases.” He pointed into the open space behind Jack.
Jack half-turned. “I suppose they can seem a bit like the boxes magicians use.” He turned back and smiled at Gary. “That takes me back. That’s how I started off in the business.”
“What, show business? Working for a magician, you mean?”
“Yes, on a seaside show. Looking back I can see I got the job because I was cute – just a little kid, you know – and in reality we were quite a tacky outfit, but I was so thrilled. I was a magician’s assistant and I had to dress up in Eastern clothes with a turban on my head; thought I’d arrived at the big-time, I did. And I got to see all the tricks of the trade. I had to help the lady get into the box –”
“– who was then cut in half! That’s it!” said Gary, gleeful at the memory. “Yes, one of those acts. It’s all come back to me now.”
“I thought you ran a gun club,” said Angela, deciding that if they were going to take a trip down memory lane they might as well keep it relevant.
“That was later,” said Jack. “I did the seaside show for a couple of years until I got too tall to be the magician’s lad.”
“And I expect you grew out of your ‘cute’ phase,” remarked Angela.
“Oh yes. The stage manager gave me a job backstage. By then we had a Wild West act in the show, a marksman dressed up as Wyatt Earp picking off cardboard coyotes and plugging the symbols in playing cards while some pretty girl held them up close to her face – you know the sort of thing. There’s not much call for it nowadays, but that’s when I became interested in guns and it stayed with me – which was useful.”
“Useful?” asked Gary.
“Yes, I had a few lean years when I couldn’t seem to get theatre work at all, but I was a member of a gun club – just as a hobby – so when the owner needed a new manager he offered me the job. I settled for that, but it’s funny how things work out, isn’t it? Because that’s where I met Brendan and Terry; still schoolboys, they were then. And, lo and behold, at the time Brendan began to become well known he’d started using guns in the act and needed someone he could trust to handle them properly. So here I am, back in show business again.”
“I think you’re employed for more than just experience of guns,” suggested Angela, admiring the clean, neat interior of the garage.
“Yes, I like to keep things tidy. You know where you are then. And you have to keep track. Some of the equipment’s our own, but some is hired in. Sorting out what’s what is down to me.”
“You said you thought Brendan had gone back to his dressing room?”
Jack flicked a quick glance up at Angela from under his eyebrows. “I did. I was wrong, obviously. He must have gone outside with Olly for one of their little talks.”
“‘Little talks’? What were those all about?”
Jack shrugged. “Search me. I don’t know what their relationship was, but every now and again some sort of hush-hush conversation went on between them. If we saw the two of them with their heads together we generally steered clear of the area. And sometimes they’d phone each other, too. No – hang on – I think it was usually Olly phoning Bren.”
“Do you think,” said Angela carefully, “Oliver could have been supplying Brendan with drugs of some sort?”
Jack lifted his shoulders and let them fall again. “I wondered about that at first, but I don’t think the idea’s a goer. Brendan did a bit of pot here and there in his younger days, but drugs aren’t really his thing – unlike certain members of his band.”