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Authors: Geraldine Evans

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BOOK: The Hanging Tree
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Llewellyn made no comment and Rafferty's grin faded. 'Let's hope
ex-Inspector Stubbs appreciates the grammatical quality of my English when I
question him again.' Quickly, Rafferty related what he had learned in London
and added, 'I'm waiting for Great Mannleigh nick to get back to me.'

Mary Carmody put her head round the door. 'I've just got back from
Jaywick, guv. Alice Massey and her mother were there all right, from late
Thursday afternoon to the Sunday morning. They were staying at a guest house
called 'Sunnyside'. Mrs Johns, the owner, confirmed Frank Massey's visit and
the times he arrived and left, though she couldn't swear to it that neither
Alice or her mother didn't slip out later without her noticing.

'It's only a half hour walk to Clacton along the seafront. They could
have got a train from there to Elmhurst. There's also a bus service from both
Jaywick and Clacton to Elmhurst. I asked the staff on duty at both the train
station and the bus depot, but no one recognised my descriptions of Alice or
her mother. I'll check again when the staff shifts are due to change.'

Rafferty nodded.

'DC Lilley's in the canteen waiting to see you, guv. Shall I send him

'Only if he's got good news,' Rafferty told her glumly. He hated this
stage of a case when all the ends still seemed to be dangling, with various
suspects with poor or non-existent alibis. He was beginning to feel like a
juggler with too many balls in the air and too few hands; constantly in danger
of dropping one of them.

Lilley's news turned out to be neither good nor bad, only more of the
same. Smith's neighbour had still not found the piece of paper with the
registration number of the Zephyr.

Rafferty decided he could no longer delay checking out the other Zephyr
owners and he told Llewellyn to get it organised. 'Though it'll probably be a
waste of time.' He stuffed a sherbet lemon in his mouth and crunched. 'Kids
tend to borrow their parents’ cars without always bothering to ask or even
mentioning their borrowing afterwards. And if they find out that Mr Plod the
policeman is investigating Daddy's Zephyr they'll keep shtum for sure.'

The phone rang and Rafferty broke off his complaints. After listening
for a while, he asked a few questions, then replaced the receiver and looked at
Llewellyn. 'That was Great Mannleigh. They confirm they picked up Frank Massey
last Thursday. Though at nine-thirty, not seven-thirty as Massey claimed. He
was drunk as a lord, and kept shouting something about proving he was a man
after all.'

Llewellyn raised an eyebrow. 'He didn't say what form this machismo test
took, I suppose?'

'No, worse luck. Unfortunately, he threw up all over the arresting
officer's boots before he could confide in him further. He went rather quiet
after that. Could be something, could be nothing. Maybe no more than that he's
got lucky with some woman. Still, at least now we know he had ample time to
kill Smith.'

Llewellyn nodded and made the same observation that Rafferty had made in
London. 'Great Mannleigh is only ten miles from Elmhurst. Certainly a short
enough drive for a man looking to prove his manhood.'

Rafferty repeated the thought that had already teased him several times.
'Makes you wonder just how friendly Massey became with Stubbs and Thompson,
doesn't it? We already know that Smith had received an “outing” letter. They
would be aware any attempt to use the police computer to locate Smith could be
traced back to them, so would need to use other means of finding him.

'Could be they got a sympathetic female friend to ring the Social and
persuade that young clerk to part with Smith's address and then passed it on to
the breakaway Rape Support Group. Why would either of them draw the line at
passing the same information to Massey? Especially as Massey was already a friend,
and a hard-done-by friend at that. Especially as, like Stubbs and Thompson, the
case concerned him so intimately.'

'If Stubbs and Thompson were involved and had used Thompson's official
uniform to gain Massey entrance to Smith's flat, they would hardly have left
him to cover up his own tracks,' Llewellyn objected. 'His stupid lie would seem
to indicate that if he did kill Smith, he didn't have police help to do it.'

'That's true.' Rafferty felt relieved when Llewellyn pointed out the
obvious. He didn't relish the prospect of arresting either Stubbs or Thompson.

Trouble was, he wasn't over-keen on proving anyone guilty. 'So, whose
he have?' he demanded. 'Smith's door was undamaged, remember. Yet,
if Massey had been alone, he'd have had to break his way in. Smith certainly
wouldn't have opened the door to him.'

As he'd mentioned to Llewellyn, Massey was an intelligent man. He'd been
out of prison for eight years; if he'd been determined on it, he could have
traced Smith long ago. So why hadn't he? Against that, he came back to the fact
that Massey had lied to them. Why else would he do that?

Round and round went Rafferty's thoughts, when, into the middle of them
popped the words: maybe he was protecting someone. Which led him back to the earlier
reluctant suspicions that Mary Carmody had forced him to confront. Into his
mind came a picture of Massey's daughter, Alice; petite, young-looking for her
age, and with all that pent-up emotion waiting to be released. He tried to push
the picture out again.

'I wondered earlier whether Massey might have gone in for the
double-bluff of again failing to provide himself with an alibi, but thinking
about it, I really don't believe – even after his prison education – that the
man has the type of mind for such deviousness. Which means either that he's
innocent. Or guilty, but unconcerned about getting caught.'

'The latter's unlikely, I would have thought,' Llewellyn commented. 'Could
he take another prison sentence?'

'Maybe.' Reluctantly, Rafferty confided his suspicions concerning Alice
Massey. 'If he felt that by doing so, he was protecting someone even less
likely than himself to survive in prison – his daughter, for instance. You
haven't met Alice Massey, but Mary Carmody will confirm that she seems such a
mass of bottled-up rage she could easily go looking for revenge on her own
account. If she did, I think Frank Massey would sacrifice himself in order to
protect her. He’d lost her love, her respect. For Massey, such a sacrifice
would be a way to regain both.'

He shoved another sweet in his mouth and sucked fiercely. 'Let's face
it, she would have had a much greater chance of getting Smith to open his door
than Massey would. She's small, dainty — just the way Smith liked 'em. And she
looks much younger than eighteen. Maybe she sweet-talked him into opening the
door and he was so flattered he let her in.'

 For a change, Llewellyn didn't immediately apply his usual cutting logic
to shoot his theory down in flames. All he said was, 'Do you want them both picked
up for questioning?'

Rafferty's conscience juggled with the opposing demands of natural
justice and duty. Duty won, but only just. However, still squeamish, he
postponed its application. 'It's a bit late to drive up to town. Massey'll keep
till morning.'

Perhaps Llewellyn suspected Rafferty's internal battle where this case
was concerned, for he immediately said, 'And the daughter?'

Rafferty struggled a bit more, before deciding. 'Just Massey. He's the
one we've found out in a lie. If we get nothing from him we can speak to his
daughter again. Mary Carmody and Hanks can pick him up.' He consulted his watch
and got up from his comfortable chair. 'And while it may be too late to journey
to the great Metropolis, it's still early enough to take a little drive to see
Jes Bullock. Even if he didn't kill Smith, he's certainly hiding some guilty
secret. And now that we've got Sam Dally's report on Smith's bruises we might
be able to use it to lever it out of him.' The thought was a satisfying one.





Glad of something to get his teeth into at last, Rafferty set off
happily. He didn't like Jes Bullock and he was relieved this case had thrown up
one suspect who didn't make him feel like the rope in a tug of war contest.

When they reached Bullock's flat, Rafferty didn't shilly-shally, but
came straight to the point. 'Why did you lie to us, Mr Bullock?'

Jes Bullock stared blankly at him. 'I don't know what you're talking—'

'I'll explain it to you.’ Rafferty cut off Bullock’s expected denials. ‘You
told us your stepson visited you on the Wednesday before he died. Strange that
you should forget that, whatever he did on Wednesday, he certainly visited you
on the Thursday. He was seen by two witnesses.'

didn't see him.' Bullock thrust a belligerent face
inches from Rafferty's. 'Who told you I did? Some lying little toe-rags, was
it? Tell me their names and I'll—'

He'd been drinking. Rafferty could smell the sour lager on his breath
and hoped it might make the man more incautious than even nature had intended. 'You'll
what?' Rafferty broke in. 'Arrange to have them beaten up like you tried to do
with your stepson?'

Bullock's lips clamped shut and he backed away, but Rafferty was
relentless. Aware that he was taking his other frustrations out on Bullock, he
was, nevertheless, unable to stop himself. 'We know you offered to pay someone
to beat up your stepson, so you needn't trouble to deny it.'

`Bullock shouted back at him. 'All right, so what if I did? If you know
that, you also know that no one took me up on it.' His heavy features, thrust
forward aggressively, challenged them to contradict him.

'Was that when you decided to do it yourself?' Bullock said nothing and
Rafferty went on. 'We know you stormed out of the pub, shouting you'd do the
job yourself. We also know from the pathology report that your stepson had
sustained a number of bruises before death and—'

'What does that prove?' Bullock broke in. 'He bruised easy and he was
always awkward. As a young 'un he'd trip over a matchstick, likely as not. Even
now, old as he is – was – he was as likely to bump into the furniture as avoid
it. Ask anyone.'

Rafferty's lips tightened. Damn the man. He knew as well as they did
that Maurice Smith's anti-social lifestyle provided few, if any, current
witnesses to contradict his assertion. He signalled to Llewellyn to take over
the questioning.

'We understand you were later than usual arriving at the public house
the evening your stepson died, Mr Bullock,' Llewellyn quietly began. 'Perhaps
you could tell us what delayed you?'

Suddenly, Bullock lost his temper. Rafferty guessed it would be an
unstable element in the man's personality at the best of times.

'I'm telling you nothing,' he roared. 'I didn't kill him and that's all
you need to know. You should try hounding that bunch of mad bitches he had on
his tail instead of trying to—' Abruptly, Bullock clammed up.

Rafferty and Llewellyn exchanged a glance. So, it said, in spite of his
previous denials, Bullock
known about the “outing” letter.

Rafferty silently reviewed what they had so far learned about the
letter. The Document Examiner's report had told them that while inevitably the
envelope had many prints as it passed through the postal system, the “outing”
letter itself had only Smith's prints on it.

Other checks had revealed no saliva on either the seal or the stamp on
the envelope, indicating that it had been sent by someone knowledgeable about
DNA and the dangers inherent in leaving bodily fluids behind.

Taken together with the stencilled address, which negated handwriting
identification while ensuring the envelope arrived at its destination without
drawing too much attention to itself, it pointed pretty conclusively to the
probability that this had, in fact, been the envelope in which the “outing”
letter had arrived. And, according to their information, Maurice Smith hadn't
received it till
he returned from the Bullocks' on Wednesday
evening, as Mrs Penny had taken it in with her own post that morning and
forgotten about it till Smith's return.

So, Rafferty now mused, if, as Bullock claimed, he hadn't seen Smith at
all on the Thursday, how had he known about this letter? Smith hadn't gone out
again on the Wednesday night, according to his landlady. She had told them that
she often slept badly and that night had been no exception. She had said she
had heard Smith pacing about till the early hours. Now, Rafferty asked, 'Do you
have a phone, Mr Bullock?'

Bullock didn't answer straight away, but as the matter could easily be
checked, he finally admitted that the flat had neither landline nor mobile.

'You stepson didn't receive this  letter till the Wednesday evening
after he returned from his visit to you, so perhaps you can explain how you
knew about it?'

Rafferty could almost see the metaphoric clunking and whirring taking
place inside Bullock's brain as he sought to provide an answer that didn't
implicate him further. He had already admitted that his stepson's notoriety had
caused him and his son a lot of difficulties in the past. Once he had learned
of the “outing” threat had he decided enough was enough? He had certainly
uttered threats in the pub. Had he gone one further and carried them through
himself? After all, as young Darren had said — Maurice

Bullock's brow unfurrowed. His air became quite jaunty. 'He dropped a
note through the door didn't he? Sometime last Thursday, mentioning this threat
he'd received. Of course, I'm only guessing that it was women behind it. Maurice
didn't say either way. But, I do read the papers and to my mind, this has got
man-hating bitch written all over it, just the same as those other cases I've
read about. It's the sort of thing these bloody feminists would go in for. Anyway,
he asked my advice as to what he should do.'

Aware he had been snookered, Rafferty tried to put a brave face on it
and continued to stare Bullock down. 'So, where is it, this note?'

'Threw it away, didn't I? What would I keep it for? Not my problem.'

'What about your son?' Llewellyn broke in. 'Did he see it? Surely you
mentioned it to him.'

Bullock transferred his truculent gaze to Llewellyn. Again the whirring
and clicking were evident as Bullock presumably decided whether to strengthen
the lie by committing his son to confirm it, or whether to brazen it out. Given
his belligerent personality, it wasn’t surprising when brazen won. 'Why would I
do that? Not his problem either, was it? He never saw it and I never mentioned
it to him. Saw no reason to.'

Rafferty took over again. 'When did you find this note? Morning? Afternoon?'

Bullock shrugged. 'Afternoon. Found it on the mat when I got in.'

'Was this before or after your threats in the pub?' Rafferty questioned.

Bullock ignored him and went on with his explanation as to what he had
done with the note as if Rafferty had never interrupted.

'Screwed it up and threw it over the balcony when I'd read it, didn't I?
Nothing to do with me.'

 'Oh, come on!' Rafferty countered. 'Nothing to do with you? If you felt
that way why did you try to get him beaten up that very day?'

Bullock's lips drew back. Rafferty could practically see the words
hovering. But then he clamped his lips shut. Rafferty cursed inwardly as
Bullock showed he still had sufficient wit to say nothing.

'He asked for your advice,' Llewellyn pointed out reasonably into the
sudden silence. 'Are you saying you never tried to contact him?'

Bullock dropped into an armchair, leaned back and, as if aware that
victory was his, demanded softly, 'Why should I? Told you, it was his problem. Nothing
to do with me.'

'Apart from any other considerations, you
his step-father.'

Bullock scowled and slumped in a chair. 'Hardly my fault. I married his
mother — I got him as well. Doesn't make me responsible for him for life.'

Presumably exhausted at successfully answering so many ticklish
questions, Bullock now tried for the sympathy vote as if hoping to waylay any
more awkward questions. 'If you'd known what it was like for us in the past
you'd understand why I didn't want to know.'

He reached for another can of lager and sucked on it for comfort, like a
baby with a dummy. 'Couldn't even send my lad to school when Maurice was
arrested. Killed the Missis, of course. Killed her stone dead, the shame and
worry of it. Nobody thinks about the families, do they? Nobody thought what it
would be like for us when they let him go.'

Although Rafferty was reluctant to sympathise with the man, grudgingly he
found himself nodding. But sympathy didn't stop him saying, 'You realise I'll
need an alibi from you for Thursday evening? It's up to you, of course, but you
must understand that it would be better from your point of view to admit that
you beat him up earlier that evening and give us the names and addresses of
anyone who can give you an alibi for later, than be suspected of anything

A crafty look came into Bullock's eye as if he realised Rafferty had
deliberately not pointed out the other alternative.

'Beat him up? My own stepson? Not me, Inspector.' He drained the can of
lager, threw it in the general direction of the kitchen and opened another. Apparently,
he realised that this late declaration of paternal affection was unbelievable,
because he added, 'I admit I shouted my mouth off a bit in the pub. But I was
upset at the thought that all the trouble was going to start up again. I didn't
really mean it. Course I didn't. I've barely laid a hand on him since he was
fifteen. As a matter of fact, I met a few mates to talk business that evening. We're
thinking of buying a dog — a greyhound.' He mentioned two names and where they
were likely to be found.

Damn the man, thought Rafferty again as he recognised the names of two
persistent troublemakers, both with several convictions. He thought he'd got
him rattled enough not to realise he had a get out. He so much wanted Bullock —
rather than anyone else — to be guilty of Smith's murder, he'd been over-eager.

 'You ask my mates,' Bullock continued confidently. 'They'll confirm I
was with them last Thursday. And none of us saw Maurice. If he came round here
that night, as you say, I never saw him. I wasn't in. He must have gone home

Rafferty's lips clamped shut and he fought to get his own temper under
control. The desire to charge Bullock with something, even if it was only
assault, was strong. Now, it looked as if he was to be denied even that small

Although Mrs Penny, Smith's landlady had told them Smith had been at
home at seven-thirty that evening, it was only a few minutes’ drive from his
flat to the Bullocks' place. He could easily have gone out after she had left
the house. Darren had said he had seen Smith leave; he hadn't mentioned seeing
him arrive. And, so far, no one else on the estate who had been questioned had
admitted seeing Smith arrive either. It could have been as Bullock claimed and
that Smith had turned up at the flat only a few minutes before eight and,
finding no one home, had left immediately. And unless and until they found
someone to say otherwise Bullock was off the hook.

Brusquely, Rafferty thanked him for his time, turned on his heel and
left, trailed by Llewellyn.

It was only when they turned into the station car park that Rafferty
finally remembered who it was that Bullock senior reminded him of. It was
Dobson, Fatty Dobson, his old junior school headmaster, and as ardent a sadist
as Rafferty had ever encountered.

Dobson and Bullock both shared that truculent, aggressive air, the
menace not far below the surface, though Dobson's had been smoothed off by
education. Instinctively, Rafferty sensed they also shared a pleasure in the
infliction of pain and he wondered how many beatings Maurice Smith had taken at
his stepfather's hands.

Rafferty, one of the back row rebels as a schoolboy, winced as he remembered
his buttocks’ sting after he had paid yet another of his frequent trips to the
headmaster's study.

About to remark to Llewellyn on the similarity between Dobson and
Bullock, he wisely kept silent. Llewellyn wouldn't understand his instinctive
feeling that Bullock was a thoroughly nasty piece of work; certainly a liar and
a bully and probably worse. He doubted the Welshman had ever been on the
receiving end of a vicious caning; he'd have been the school swot, at the front
of the class, first with his hand in the air and first with the answers. He
wouldn't understand Rafferty's instinctive dislike of Bullock at all.

Rafferty recalled the aftermath of another beating he had suffered at
Dobson's hands. It had been the last. The headmaster had never touched him
again. The evening of the beating, he had been in the tin bath in front of the
fire trying to soothe his wounds. This had been before they had been allocated
the Council flat with its proper bathroom and he had been at that
self-conscious age that demands privacy. The younger children were in bed, his
father was up the pub and his mother, after he had insisted that he was old
enough to bathe himself, had been banished to the scullery. He had been
climbing out of the tub when Ma had bustled in in her usual busy manner, his
request for privacy either forgotten or suspected as a ruse to avoid clean ear
inspection. Of course, she had seen the scarlet stripes criss-crossing his
buttocks. He'd never forgotten what followed.

The next morning, she had marched him to the school, his brothers and
sisters running behind in an awed silence and straight into the headmaster's
study. Before Rafferty had realised her intentions, from the wall, she had
grabbed the thinnest, most venomous of Dobson's instruments of torture and set
about the headmaster with it, lambasting him across his back, across his legs,
across his quivering, jelly-buttocks. Dobson hadn't shown his face in the
school for a week. Rafferty chuckled. The memory always amused him. His ma had
been lucky Dobson hadn't sued her for assault.

BOOK: The Hanging Tree
11.89Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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