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Authors: Geraldine Evans

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Although it was nine o'clock on an icy winter's night, children as young
as eight were still out on the Bullocks' estate, their pinched faces blue with
cold and their eyes watchful.

As Rafferty and Llewellyn got out of the car, one of the older boys
yelled at them. 'Hey, copper. You wanted to know when Roger the Rapist was
about last week.'

 Rafferty turned. The youth was about fifteen, but he already had cold,
watchful eyes and hardened features. 'That's right,' he said. 'Why? Can you
help?'

The boy nodded. His name was Darren, he told them. 'He was 'ere last
Thursday. I saw him leavin' from up on the balcony.'

Rafferty frowned. 'Thursday? You're sure about that? Sure it wasn't the
Wednesday?'

'Nah.' Darren shook his head. 'Eastenders had just finished on the telly
and I went to knock for me mate. While I was waiting for him to open the door I
saw Roger the Rapist's car pullin' out of the car park.'

Rafferty was surprised that a lad like Darren should help the law. From
the look in his eyes, so was Darren. 'You live here?'

'Yeah. Number 58.'

Rafferty felt a sudden doubt. How well could Darren have known Smith? After
all, not only had Smith visited his family infrequently, he was far from
outgoing and unlikely to pause to swap gossip with the local toughs. 'You're
sure it was Maurice Smith?'

'Course I'm sure. I know everything that goes on in these flats. It's my
place. Besides, 'ow could I mistake that miserable ferret face? It's been
splashed over the newspapers enough lately.'

'I'm not saying I don't believe you Darren. But you must realise that
what you've told us is important. Can anyone corroborate what you say?'

'Do what?'

'Do you know if anyone else saw him at the same time?'

Darren's face cleared. 'Yeah. My mate's mum. Sharon Gates at number 23. She'd
be able to tell you. She opened the door to me just as he reversed his car out
of the parkin' bay like a bleedin' maniac. She yelled at him over the balcony
that he'd kill somebody, drivin' like that.'

His eyes narrowed. 'Course, she didn't actually see him, any more than I
did. The angle was wrong. But we both recognised his car.' Darren's lip curled
as he added, 'Boasted to my kid brother once that he was an Advanced Driver —
passed the test, like. Lyin' bastard. The way he reversed out Thursday night, I
shouldn't fink he's even got a license. Thought old Bullockbrains, his dad, was
a rotten driver, but he's worse. All over the road, he was, nearly ran into my
old man's car.'

Darren was wrong, Rafferty knew. Maurice Smith had passed the Advanced
Driving Test. The searches through his flat had confirmed as much. It was
Smith's one solid achievement in life. 'Might have been drunk,' Rafferty
suggested.

'Nah. Not him. Kevin, his brother, told me once he hardly touches a
drop.' This was said with the scorn of the experienced drinker. Darren's lips
drew back over sharp teeth. 'Know why too, now, don't we? Must 'ave been scared
he'd give away his real identity and let slip what he does to little girls. I
mean, it's not somefing old Bullock would want him to boast about, is it? Not
like 'avin' a bank robber in the family. Must be a bugger 'aving a creep like
that in the family, especially if people find out.'

Darren's sharp features suddenly became even more razor-edged. 'Here —
maybe he was worried it was goin' to come out?'

'Why do you say that?' Rafferty asked.

'Jes Bullock was offering money in the pub to 'ave him duffed up late
Thursday afternoon; a persuader to get him to move, he said. Why should he do
that after all this time unless he had reason to think it was going to get out?
Obviously, 'e was 'oping to scare him away from the area. Or else,' Darren
added darkly, 'he changed his mind and decided to get rid permanent. I mean,
Roger the Rapist is dead, isn't he? You can't get more permanent than that.'

Darren having declined to tell them if anyone in the pub had taken up Jes
Bullock's offer, Rafferty decided not to press the matter and let Darren go off
with one of his mates, leaving the two policemen to check his story with Sharon
Gates, his friend's mother. She confirmed that Maurice Smith had been at the
flats on Thursday evening.

'I told you Jes Bullock had a guilty secret,' Rafferty remarked smugly
as they tramped back down the stairs. 'Do you think it was him driving the car
that night and not Maurice Smith at all? He might not have been good at
anything else, but you've got to be a first rate driver to pass the Advanced
test. His stepfather's a big bloke. He could easily have overpowered Smith and
taken him somewhere private so his mates could convince him it would be
healthier for him if he left town. Or maybe Darren's right, and he decided to
end the problem of his stepson once and for all. It's possible, especially if
Maurice had told him about the “outing”' threat.'

Llewellyn didn't agree. 'Why bring him back to Smith's flat, stab him,
then take him all the way to Dedman Wood and string him up from The Hanging
Tree? If there was one way to guarantee that Smith's picture appeared on the
front page of every newspaper, that was it. Surely that would be the last thing
Jes Bullock would want? Even if he did decide to rid himself permanently of his
stepson, he would be certain to remove all traces of Smith's identity and dump
the body far from home. That way the body would be just another John Doe and
Jes Bullock could tell anyone who asked that his stepson had moved away.'

Rafferty nodded. 'Maybe.' As Llewellyn made in the direction of the
other staircase that would lead them to the Bullocks' landing, Rafferty stopped
him. 'After what we've just learned, I think, we should wait till Sam Dally's
got a few more answers for us on those bruises before we tackle Bullock again. He
surely can't be much longer, unless his Christmas rush has started, after all. Anyway,
I want to check what Darren told us with the pub landlord. Let's get along
there and see what we can find out.’

 

With a certain reluctance, Tim Hadley, the landlord of the Pig and
Whistle confirmed Darren's story about Jes Bullock offering to pay someone to
beat his stepson up. However, he added, as Bullock had the reputation of being
a penniless scrounger, no one had taken him up on it as far as he knew.

'When my regulars just jeered at him and asked to see the colour of his
money, he shouted that he'd do the job himself, then stormed out of the bar. He
was the worse for drink, of course.'

That had been around four on Thursday afternoon, they learned. Five and
a half hours later, Mrs ffinch-Robinson had found Smith's body hanging in
Dedman Wood.

'Remind me to bell Sam Dally in the morning before I go to London,'
Rafferty remarked as they left the bar. 'I want to get in early before he gets
busy and remind him I'm still waiting for those test results on Smith's
bruises. If he has them, and they confirm what I suspect, we might be able to
lever a little more out of Bullock. Might even get a confession out of him.'

Llewellyn didn't seem to think it likely. 'Drunk or sober, I can't
believe Bullock would be so stupid as to kill Smith after making such an
announcement. If Smith had died accidentally from a blow, it would be
different, but he didn't. He died from a single knife wound to the heart. Rather
unlikely that could have happened accidentally. Even more unlikely that Bullock
wouldn't have tried to cover his tracks.'

Rafferty had to admit that Llewellyn had a point. He scowled and
commented tartly, 'It's just one damn obfuscation after another, isn't it?'

Llewellyn merely nodded, shot a quick glance at Rafferty, cleared his
throat and murmured, 'Er, Sir – Joseph-'

Oh God, thought Rafferty. Here it comes. Although he'd long ago asked
Llewellyn to stop being so formal and call him by his first name, he rarely
did. When ‘Joseph’ came accompanied by throat-clearing, it was a sure sign he
was about to be told something he would rather not hear. For instance, that
Mother Llewellyn's visit was already promising to be an unmitigated disaster. And
that it was his fault. He took a deep breath and forced himself to ask, 'So
what's on your mind?'

'It's just—' Llewellyn paused, looked doubtfully at him for a moment and
then began immediately to backtrack. 'It's nothing. Really. Never mind.'

Rafferty, never being a believer in meeting problems halfway, didn't
push it.

 

 

CHAPTER TEN

 

Rafferty was glad of the excuse to get away to London. It would give him
a brief respite from the endless reports as well as from the increasingly
hang-dog look that Llewellyn had worn since his mother's arrival.

Rafferty was convinced that his fears about the visit were coming true. Especially
as, when in the office, Llewellyn had taken to spending a large part of his
time uncharacteristically staring into space, and his face, long and lugubrious
at the best of times, seemed now to be permanently creased by frowns.

Rafferty had already tried several times to find out the worst from his
Ma and sisters, but none of them returned his calls. Now, becoming paranoid, he
decided they were making him sweat it out as punishment for inflicting
Llewellyn's Welsh dragon mother on them. If it suited her, his Ma was more than
capable of forgetting that she was the one who had insisted that Llewellyn's
mother visit at Christmas.

As he stared at Llewellyn's long, lean profile, he asked himself why he
had pushed him into this visit? It was obvious now that he hadn't been that
keen. Grimly, he resolved to never, ever again get involved in someone else's
love life. It was a fool's errand. God knew, it wasn't as if he had made a huge
success of his own. It was hardly surprising that as Christmas Day and the big
family dinner got nearer he felt more and more apprehensive.

Forcing his mind back to business, he asked Llewellyn, 'Have you managed
to get anything on who might have been passing official information about
Smith?'

Llewellyn dragged himself from his reverie and stared blankly at him. 'I'm
sorry. What did you say?'

Rafferty repeated his question.

As though annoyed at his own inefficiency, Llewellyn's frown deepened. 'I
meant to tell you. I haven't been able to find out anything on the police
angle. Apart from us, nobody has accessed the computer for information on
Smith, but an official at the Department of Social Security got back to me
first thing this morning before you got in. He told me one of their young
clerks had admitted giving out Smith's address.'

'Did this clerk remember anything about the person they spoke to?'

'Only that the voice sounded sufficiently authoritative to persuade her
to part with the information and that it was a female voice.'

Rafferty nodded and Llewellyn once more lapsed into silence. Wary of
Llewellyn's silences and what they might bring forth, Rafferty hastily got on
the phone to Dally. Sam told him the tests on Smith's bruises had yet to be
done, but that he expected them to be finished by the end of the day.

Rafferty rang off, got up and pulled on his overcoat. Made anxious by
the simmering undercurrents, he gave his instructions with unusual hesitancy. 'About
Stubbs and Thompson,' he began. 'I know I don't have to warn you to be
discreet, but—'

'Don't worry.' Llewellyn gave him a bleak smile. 'I shall be as discreet
as if it were you I were investigating.'

Rafferty wasn't sure he liked the comparison, but at least he knew he
could rely on Llewellyn; he was the most discreet copper he knew. 'I'll
probably be away for most of the day. I'm taking Mary Carmody with me. These
interviews with the families are going to be difficult enough without us
flat-footed males making it worse.'

Usually, Llewellyn would have been sure to point out that his comment
was unfair; certainly as far as
he
was concerned. The fact that he
didn't left Rafferty even more convinced that his sergeant had other things on
his mind. Worried that Llewellyn might overcome his reluctance to confide with
more success than he had managed the previous night, he made his escape to
London.

 

Left alone, Llewellyn stared broodingly into space for another five
minutes before, giving himself a mental shake, he picked up the phone and rang
through to Liz Green. After telling her he'd be back to pick her up later for
the interviews with the Dennington and Figg families, he made for the car park.
He was glad of another busy day. It would keep his mind occupied.

Putting aside his unprofitable thoughts on personal matters, which he
had, anyway, already gone through over and over again without forming any
constructive conclusion as to what he should do, Llewellyn forced himself to
concentrate on the task Rafferty had left with him. At least there he felt he
had a reasonable chance of success.

He decided to begin the delicate task of investigating the two police
suspects by first looking into Stubbs' movements. Of the two men, he felt the
older, more senior, man had been the most affected by the failure of the case. It
was therefore logical to assume he would be the most likely of the two to take
action. Llewellyn felt it wouldn't have been difficult for him to get hold of a
police uniform; he might have managed to hold on to his old one from the time before
he had joined the CID.

Llewellyn, having taken Rafferty's hints to heart, resolved to speak to
Stubbs himself only if he could find out what he needed to know no other way. Stubbs,
like Thompson, had devoted years of his life to the force and deserved a
certain consideration – especially if he turned out to be innocent. He felt
Rafferty had been right about that. Llewellyn was a little surprised to find
himself agreeing with his inspector. It was a novel experience.

Settling on Stubbs's cheery neighbour as the obvious source of
information, he parked the car round the corner from their street. Fortunately,
he had only to wait half-an-hour before he saw Stubbs drive off towards town.

Llewellyn waited for a minute, drove round the corner and parked in
front of Stubbs' bungalow. He got out of the car and, for the benefit of
Stubbs's gnome-like neighbour who was standing at his front door chatting to
the postman, he made a pantomime of disappointment at finding Stubbs' drive
empty.

Things were falling into place nicely, Llewellyn reflected, with a tiny,
self-mocking smile. If Stubbs's neighbour hadn't been standing at his own door,
he would have had to knock which would have robbed the visit of the casual air
with which he had cloaked it.

The neighbour shouted hello and walked up the path as the postman
resumed his deliveries. 'Aren't you one of those chaps who visited Mr Stubbs
the other day?'

'That's right.' Llewellyn walked over to the gate.

'Thought I recognised you. I'm afraid you've missed him. What a pity. He
gets so few visitors.' The gnome seemed a kindly man and was genuinely upset
that Stubbs should have missed this one. But then he cheered up. 'He's only
gone to get a bit of shopping. I don't suppose he'll be more than
half-an-hour.'

Llewellyn made a play of consulting his watch. 'I can't wait,
unfortunately and I won't be able to return till Thursday evening. I suppose
he'll be in then?'

'Thursday?' The gnome frowned. 'He's not often in on Thursday evenings. Usually,
he goes to visit a friend of his — a chap called Thompson. Perhaps you know
him?'

'No. I'm afraid not.' Llewellyn hadn't expected it to be so easy. Now he
knew where Stubbs was generally to be found on Thursday evenings, the next step
was to try to find out if he and Thompson had actually been there last
Thursday. Llewellyn gave the helpful gnome one of his rare smiles. 'Thank you. You've
saved me another wasted journey.'

'Maybe I can give him a message for you?'

Llewellyn paused as if considering. 'No. I don't think so. It's nothing
that can't wait. But thanks for the offer. I'll contact him myself another
time.' Llewellyn said goodbye and as he walked back down the path, he could
almost hear Rafferty's cryptic voice telling him he was a jammy devil. 'Simply
a matter of finesse and delicacy, sir,' Llewellyn murmured under his breath as
he got in the car. 'You should try it some time.' His shoulders slumped as he
remembered that finesse and delicacy weren't working quite so well in other
areas of his life.

He checked in his notebook for Thompson's exact address and set off,
working out how best to repeat his success thus far. However, this repetition
proved elusive as he soon discovered that Thompson had no neighbours. He got
out of the car and walked round the perimeter of the cottage. There was not a
sign of another house for half-a-mile in any direction. The loneliness of the
location brought a return of the melancholy thoughts.

Too late, he realised he should never have let Rafferty talk him into
agreeing to his mother coming for a visit while his relationship with Maureen
was still so new. Of course Joseph Rafferty's enthusiasm for his own ideas had
a way of carrying all before him. Besides, it had been a generous offer and it
would have been churlish to turn him down.

 Llewellyn felt sure of nothing but his own uncertainty. He'd never been
in this situation before; a woman on either side pushing him and he wished he
could find the courage to act forcefully.

Briefly, he wondered how Rafferty would deal with a similar situation
and his unhappy expression lightened momentarily as he realised that Rafferty
would undoubtedly start shouting, slam out and go up the pub; a simple outlook
perhaps, but at least he would have done something, however pointless. Llewellyn
felt incapable of doing anything at all. He longed for the boldness which he
had always lacked in relationships, wished he could convince himself to act
decisively, but too much thinking had always been his trouble.

He had already tried to ask Rafferty's advice once and had then thought
better of it, but now he wondered whether he ought not try again? After all,
the inspector had a reputation at the station as something of a ladies' man and
if the canteen talk was true, he certainly had plenty of experience with women.
There again, was it the right sort of experience?

Llewellyn's lips twisted at the thought that if he was truly considering
asking Joseph Rafferty's advice about his love life he must be desperate; the
inspector had a tendency to give advice first and think about its wisdom
afterwards, if at all. Had he reached the point where he was desperate enough
not just to ask for his advice, but to take it?

Conscious that a decision was as far away as ever, he forced his thoughts
back to work matters. Reluctant to return to the station to report failure, he
sat in the car for several more minutes, turning over what they already knew
about the two men.

Out of all his old colleagues, Stubbs had kept in contact with only
Thompson, his right-hand-man during the long drawn out rape investigation. Thompson
had been transferred from Burleigh police station to Great Mannleigh after the
collapse of the Smith trial and had remained there ever since.

Llewellyn wondered about the friendship between the two men. On the
surface it was as unlikely a one as the growing bond between himself and
Rafferty. Stubbs, very much the loner in every other respect but this one,
self-contained and apparently self-sufficient and Thompson, also a widower as
it happened, though a very recent one, was reported to be a much more outgoing
character and was a regular at the police club in Great Mannleigh. The only tie
likely to bring them together in such an unlikely friendship was their mutual
bitterness over the Smith case.

Rafferty, with an ease Llewellyn couldn't help but envy, had tapped into
the police grapevine with as little trouble as a bird tapped through the foil
on a milk bottle. With a rude joke and the rough exchange of banter that
Llewellyn knew he would never manage Rafferty had learned that, as they had
suspected, Thompson's hopes of advancement had been continually blocked. The
taint of the Smith case and the embarrassment it had caused his superiors had
effectively removed the career ladder from Thompson's feet.

Such things happened, Llewellyn knew. It served no purpose to rage about
their unfairness as Inspector Rafferty was inclined to do. They were both aware
that a word here, a whisper there, were sufficient to bring a man's career to a
standstill or to an abrupt end like that of Stubbs.

Unconsciously, Llewellyn echoed Rafferty's unspoken question: Why, if
they
had
killed Smith should they act now? There was no reason, or none
that they had been able to discover.

Thompson's wife had died in a road accident a few months ago certainly,
but Smith hadn't been involved, they'd checked. Even the death of Stubbs's
wife, which could be attributed indirectly to Smith, had happened years ago. So
why act now?

Aware he was going round and round in circles, chasing his own tail in a
way that Rafferty so often did, Llewellyn forced his mind to pause and
consider. He remembered he had seen a pub a mile back along the road,
presumably it was Thompson's local and he decided it might be worth paying it a
visit.

From the outside, the pub looked for all the world as if it was designed
to repel strangers. Small and scruffy, it appeared strictly a neighbourhood
pub, which indicated the locals would be familiar with one another's routines.

After parking the car, he opened the pub door and was pleased to find
that, inside, the pub wore a far more welcoming air. It was a real
old-fashioned place and had a smell all its own, made up of some aromatic
tobacco in the unlit pipe of one of the old men playing dominoes in the corner,
hearty vegetable soup simmering its way to lunchtime from the kitchen behind
the bar and the sharp tang of wood smoke curling from the fire. Tense earlier,
Llewellyn found himself relaxing into the ambiance of the place.

 The landlord was as welcoming as his pub and put his paper away and
gave Llewellyn a warm smile and a 'What can I get you?' as he perched on the
well-polished oak bar stool. Llewellyn was beginning to understand something of
Rafferty's inclination to head for the nearest pub when life was proving
difficult.

Llewellyn hesitated. Although teetotal and relatively unacquainted with
pub rituals, he had learned enough during his time with Rafferty to be certain
that the purchase of his usual orange juice or tonic water would be
insufficient to encourage the landlord to gossip. As he ordered a pint of
Elgoods, he sent up a silent prayer that Inspector Rafferty didn't somehow get
to hear of it. For a man of his age and rank, Rafferty could be extraordinarily
childish and would be sure to tease him unmercifully if he learned of his
broken non-drinking vow.

'Not seen you in here before, sir,' the landlord commented. 'Just
passing through?'

'That's right.' Llewellyn took a sip of his beer, surprised to discover
that bitter was a misnomer. It was actually rather sweet and the feeling of
distaste that had been building quickly waned. 'Attractive countryside round
here. It must be delightful in the spring.'

'Tis that.' One of the old men in the corner spoke up. 'Very popular
with young couples is this area.'

'It certainly appeals to me. Actually,' catching Rafferty's habit, he
crossed his fingers against fate's revenge, even though the bulk of what he
said was true. 'I'm hoping to marry soon and I was by this way last Thursday
evening and noticed a cottage I thought might be ideal for my girlfriend and
me. There was no For Sale sign, so I didn't knock and make enquiries — not that
there were any lights visible. That's why I came back today, but there's still
no one in. Perhaps you know it? It's about a mile up that way.' Llewellyn
gestured with his thumb back the way he had come. 'It's set back from the road
quite a way.'

'That'll be Harry Thompson's place,' the landlord told him. 'Doubt he'll
sell, though. He'll not be there now. You should have knocked last time you
passed it. He's generally at home on a Thursday night.' He turned to the old
man who had spoken earlier. 'Doesn't he have that retired copper friend of his
over on Thursday nights, Sid?'

'Ar. That's right. Two Thursdays out of the four, anyway. He's usually
on duty the others.' Sid ambled over to the bar, stroking his unshaven chin. 'Though,
now I come to think of it, the pair of them passed my place around eight last
Thursday evening. Still weren't back when I walked by for me nightly pint at
half-nine.' Sid sniggered. 'Maybe Harry fixed his mate up with a blind date.'

'Blind?' his friend in the corner echoed and commented, 'she'd need to
be, and all. That mate of Harry's has a face on him that'd stop a clock. Miserable
looking bugger.' The other men laughed.

'Maybe you should try coming back another time if you're that taken with
the place,' the landlord suggested. 'Though, as I said, I doubt Harry will
sell. He lost his wife a few months back so I shouldn't think he'd want the upheaval
of moving just yet.'

Llewellyn nodded, pleased he had learned so much with so little time and
effort. It meant he now had ample time to return to the station, pick up WPC
Green and drive to Burleigh. Altogether it was turning out to be a very
successful day and he spared a thought for Rafferty. Interviewing Massey, his
ex-wife and daughter would be difficult, requiring a tact and delicacy that
Rafferty rarely displayed. Llewellyn hoped he didn't make a hash of it. Apart
from any other consideration, having the inspector stomping about the office in
a foul temper was the last thing he needed right now.

'Another in there, Sid?' the landlord asked.

The old man was still at the bar clutching his empty pint pot, and
Llewellyn, although unused to pub traditions, was quick to guess what was
expected of him. 'Allow me,' he said and put a five pound note on the counter.

'Ta very much.' Sid smiled, exposing a mouth entirely innocent of teeth.
'Don't mind if I do.' He raised his replenished glass and saluted Llewellyn. 'You'll
find the natives friendly hereabouts, young man, if you do move this way.'

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