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Authors: Edward Marston

Tags: #Detective and Mystery Fiction, #Historical

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BOOK: Timetable of Death
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‘Lizzie hasn’t slept a wink since,’ replied Walter Grindle.

‘What abaht thy lad?’

‘Sam’s all of a shek.’

‘Who could’ve done sich a thing?’

It was a question that Leeming was there to answer if enough evidence presented itself but there was no sign of it so far. He made a point of sitting in the back row in the nave with his ears pricked to gather the muttered remarks of those nearby. When the coffin was brought in by the bearers with due solemnity, there was an audible sigh of grief. Leeming made no contribution to it. Nor did he hear much of the burial service. He was there to look and listen rather than to be caught up in the emotion of the occasion. What he did notice was that the vicar seemed extremely nervous for someone who must have presided over a large number of funerals in the course of his ministry. The Reverend Michael Sadler was slow and hesitant. In his eulogy of Cicely Peet, he spoke with great care as if fearing that he might offend her family by a misplaced word or a jarring sentiment. Leeming felt sorry for him. The vicar was clearly going through an ordeal.

In a gathering of lowered heads and sorrowful expressions, it was difficult to pick out anyone who might be a potential suspect. As time went on, however, one person did arouse Leeming’s curiosity. He was a young man with pleasant features and a flitting gaze. Since he sat on the end seat in the back row, he was only a matter of yards away from Leeming who could see him across the aisle. Like the detective, he was taking less interest in the service
than in those attending it. No grief registered in his face or behaviour. He kept glancing around at those near him. When the service came to an end, the long procession to the churchyard began and Leeming had the opportunity of taking a closer look at the young man. There was something odd about him that made him stand out but the sergeant couldn’t decide what it was.

Eventually, it was time for the back rows on both sides of the nave to disgorge their occupants. Leeming tried to get close to the young man but there were too many people in the way. Over the heads of mourners, he could see him talking to a number of people in turn but he didn’t get the feeling that he was a local man. He seemed to be as much a stranger as Leeming himself. As the congregation gathered around the grave, Bert Knowles lurked nearby with his spade, seemingly unaffected by the gravity of the event and simply waiting for his moment. Leeming never got near enough to see anything of the committal or to watch the drizzle adding a slippery coating to the coffin. His eyes remained on the young man, who now seemed more and more detached from what was going on. All of a sudden, he turned on his heel and headed towards the gate as if he’d got what he wanted and was anxious to sneak away. Leeming went after him.

The young man was walking briskly in the direction of the railway station. It required a sustained effort for Leeming to catch him up. Placing a firm hand on the man’s shoulder, he brought him to a halt and spun him around.

‘Excuse me, sir,’ said Leeming, politely. ‘I’d like a word with you.’

After having breakfast with Leeming at the Royal Hotel, Colbeck had set off to make his own enquiries. He’d already found out from the hotel management that nobody could remember who had delivered the letter for him. Apparently, it had just been slapped down on the reception desk by someone who left immediately. How much notice he should take of the name he’d been given, Colbeck didn’t know but he was certain that Gerard Burns had not been plucked at random out of the air. The man definitely existed and needed to be found.

Colbeck was waiting on the platform at Derby railway station when a possible source of information materialised beside him. It was almost as if Superintendent Wigg had followed him there.

‘Might I ask where you’re going, Inspector?’ he said.

‘I’m going where I need to go,’ replied Colbeck, levelly.

‘My men are, of course, ready to offer help whenever you need it.’

‘Thank you, Superintendent. I may well need to call on them at some stage.’

‘We await your summons.’

‘Is there any news about the post-mortem?’

‘It’s not yet been completed. My understanding is that … well, it is proving more difficult than at first assumed. When they’re available, I’ll make sure that you have full details.’

‘I’d value that information.’

‘We understand the significance of a post-mortem, Inspector,’ said Wigg, pointedly, ‘so please don’t treat us like country cousins. We’re a young force but no less effective for that. When the Derbyshire Constabulary was established two years ago, we had eight divisions with Belper Police Station as its Divisional Headquarters. That arrangement proved unsatisfactory so it was moved this year to Derby instead and I was put in charge of it.’

‘I’m sure that you deserved your promotion,’ said Colbeck without irony. ‘But since you come from these parts, does the name Gerard Burns mean anything to you?’

‘I’ve never heard of him.’

‘Are you quite sure?’

‘I’m absolutely certain,’ insisted Wigg. ‘I have an excellent memory for names. How did this Gerard Burns come to your attention?’

‘His name was written on the back of a reward notice and sent to me.’

Wigg laughed harshly. ‘Then you can forget all about it. The fellow probably doesn’t exist or, if he does, he’ll have no connection whatsoever with the murder investigation. Someone is trying to stir up trouble for him, I daresay.
As for that reward notice,’ he went on, ‘we’ve had several names sent to the police station. One person is certain that Prince Albert is the killer while another cites Her Majesty, the Queen. Two people have come up with the name of the Duke of Wellington and it’s only a matter of time before we get equally ridiculous suggestions designed to cause us annoyance.’

‘Gerard Burns does not belong among the hoaxes, Superintendent.’

‘How do you know that?’

‘It’s a question of instinct.’

‘I may lack your detection skills, Inspector, but I do know how to pick up a scent and follow a trail.’ He fixed Colbeck with a stare. ‘What will happen if I and my men solve this crime before you and Sergeant Leeming?’

‘I thought that you were offering to help us?’

‘We’re at your command,’ said Wigg, spreading his arms, ‘but it’s not wholly impossible that, through our own individual efforts,
we
bring this investigation to the desired end.’

‘What – as you did so in the case of Enoch Stone?’

Wigg gritted his teeth. ‘Please answer my question.’

‘If that happens,’ said Colbeck, pleasantly, ‘I’ll be the first to shake your hand and to congratulate you. I’ll also point out to Mr Haygarth that, instead of bringing us all the way from London, he should have relied on the local police force instead.’

‘Haygarth will never admit that he made a mistake.’

Colbeck studied him. ‘Why do you dislike the man?’

‘It’s not so much a question of dislike as of distrust.’

‘He struck me as being very decisive.’

‘Haygarth is
too
decisive, Inspector. He exceeds his authority. Mr Quayle would never have done that. I had my reservations about the man but they can be disregarded. As a future chairman, he had all the right qualities.’ Wigg sniffed loudly. ‘That’s not the case with Donald Haygarth.’

‘When we first met you,’ remembered Colbeck, ‘you jokingly put his name forward as a possible suspect.’

‘There was no joke involved, I promise you.’

Colbeck was taken aback. ‘Are you being serious, Superintendent?’

‘I was never more so,’ said Wigg. ‘I may have made the suggestion in a light-hearted way but that was deliberate. If you want to compile a list of suspects, you can cross out the name of Gerard Burns and insert Haygarth in its place. He’s involved in this crime somehow and I hope to be the person to place him under arrest.’

 

‘How long have you been there?’ asked Leeming.

‘Three years.’

‘Do you like the work?’

‘I love it, Sergeant. It’s opened my eyes in every way.’

‘What did you think of the service?’

‘It was very dignified.’

‘Is that what you’ll say in your report?’

‘Yes,’ said Philip Conway, ‘but I can’t guarantee that my words will be printed. The editor always trims my articles to the bone. The main thing he wanted me to get were the names of all the bigwigs who attended. People like to be mentioned in a newspaper – in the right way, that is.’

Victor Leeming had warmed to the young reporter. Conway had looked shifty at first but, on further
acquaintance, he’d turned out to be an enthusiastic young man with a questing intelligence. As soon as the sergeant had introduced himself, Conway had fired half-a-dozen questions about Scotland Yard at him, and he was still wide-eyed about meeting a man who worked alongside Inspector Colbeck.

‘I’ve followed his career,’ he explained, ‘so I must have seen your name as well. We have all the London newspapers here, you know. They’re delivered by train at a surprisingly early hour.’ He gave a sheepish grin. ‘My ambition is to work on one of those papers one day.’

They were in the Malt Shovel, the public house where Leeming had booked the room and where he’d invited Conway to share a pint of beer with him. From the table where they sat, they could see a malt shovel perched on two hooks above the bar. The beer was exceptional and the atmosphere flavoursome. Leeming had taken to the place immediately.

‘I’ve got some cuttings about the Railway Detective’s cases,’ said Conway with a boyish grin. ‘You saved the royal train from being blown up, didn’t you?’

‘We were lucky enough to do so,’ replied Leeming, modestly.

‘Then there was a case somewhere in Yorkshire.’

‘The village was called South Otterington. Actually, Spondon reminds me of it in some ways. I can’t say that I enjoyed my stay in Yorkshire very much but there was an unexpected bonus.’

‘What was that, Sergeant?’

‘We found a village named Leeming.’

They shared a laugh then sipped their drinks. Ordinarily,
Leeming would have been very circumspect when talking to a reporter. Colbeck had warned him to say too little to the press rather than too much. Some editors had an agenda that included biting criticism of the Metropolitan Police Force. The
Derby Mercury
had no such axe to grind. In its edition that day it had given an account of the murder and welcomed the arrival of the detectives from Scotland Yard. Besides, Leeming decided, the young reporter was not there to denigrate them in any way. Conway was in awe of them. He was also a native of Derbyshire and therefore able to relate more easily to local people. Leeming had not just made a new friend, he’d acquired an assistant.

‘Then there was that case in Wales,’ recalled Conway.

‘Let’s forget our past successes,’ said Leeming, firmly. ‘If we spend all our time talking about them, we won’t be able to add to the list. I need to know this village inside out. You may be able to help me.’

‘I’ll do what I can, Sergeant, but I have to answer to an editor. He tells me where and when I can go. I was sent here to attend the funeral and to gauge the reaction of Spondon to the murder. The second bit is easy. This village has been knocked senseless by the crime.’

‘Who have you spoken to so far?’

‘Lots of people,’ said Conway, fishing a notebook out of his pocket and leafing through it. ‘The first person I interviewed was Walter Grindle. It was his daughter who leapt into the grave where Mr Quayle was lying.’

‘I saw the blacksmith as well. On the way into church, he stood close to me. I heard him say what an effect the discovery had had on his children.’

‘They’re terrified.’

‘In the same circumstances, mine would be as well.’ Leeming sat back and his chair creaked. ‘What exactly did Mr Grindle say to you?’

 

Nottingham was a thriving manufacturing town with a population that had increased markedly in the past decade. It owed much of its reputation to a textile industry in which the quality of its lace, in particular, stood out. Yet it had by no means lost all of its charm and its picturesque aspects. When he glanced through the window of his compartment, Colbeck saw a community sited conveniently on the navigable River Trent and still possessing striking relics of its past such as its Norman castle, now in ruins but with undeniable grandeur. News of the murder in the neighbouring county had caused great upset in Nottingham because the victim had hailed from there and was a well-known figure. As soon as he left the train, Colbeck overheard people speculating on the identity of the killer and his motivation. The name of Vivian Quayle seemed to be on everyone’s lips.

When he left the station, Colbeck made for the cab rank. He had not needed to ask anyone where Quayle had lived because the man’s address had been printed in that morning’s edition of the
Derby Mercury
. The cab drove to the edge of the town before turning into the gateway of an estate. Filtered by the trees, bright sunshine was casting intricate shadows over the winding track. When he emerged from a hundred yards or more of woodland, Colbeck saw ahead a well-tended lawn edged with flower beds and, beyond it, a large Jacobean mansion in an impressive state of repair. Having met many railway magnates in the course of his work, Colbeck was used to seeing the high standard
of living that they enjoyed, but Vivian Quayle’s abode was more sumptuous than most.

The cab stopped well short of the house because a uniformed policeman stood in its path with his hand raised. He came over to eye the passenger.

‘This is a house of mourning,’ he said, crisply. ‘No visitors are allowed.’

‘I’m not a visitor, Constable. My name is Inspector Colbeck and I’ve been summoned from Scotland Yard to lead the murder investigation. It’s imperative that I talk with a member of the family.’

The man was suspicious. ‘How do I know you are who you say you are?’

‘You simply have to look into my eyes.’

Colbeck gazed at him with an intensity and a sense of authority that made the policeman back away. Producing a weak smile of apology, he stood aside and waved the cab on. The man had been officious but Colbeck approved of his being there to keep unwanted visitors at bay. Quayle’s murder would have set the local press buzzing and the last thing that the family wanted at such a time was a demand from reporters to make a statement. They would still be reeling from the thunderbolt that had hit them. Colbeck needed to behave with the utmost tact.

When the cab drew up outside the house, he asked the driver to wait then went to the front door. It opened before he could even reach for the bell and he was confronted by a beetle-browed butler who seemed as intent on sending him on his way as the policeman. Having heard who Colbeck was, however, the man grudgingly admitted him and took the visitor along to the study. Colbeck was left alone to
gauge something of the character of Vivian Quayle from the room in which he’d worked. Patently, he was not a reading man. Though two walls were lined with bookshelves, there were very few books on them. Pride of place had instead been given to delicate porcelain. It occupied the majority of the shelves and the most attractive objects stood in a glass-fronted cabinet.

Above the gleaming marble fireplace was the item that told Colbeck most about the dead man. It was a full-length portrait of Vivian Quayle, standing in front of a locomotive with an engine shed in the background. Well dressed and well groomed, Quayle had a smile on his face that spoke of unquestioning confidence in his abilities. He cut an incongruous figure against the industrial grime behind him but the fact that he’d asked the artist to paint the portrait in such a place showed a genuine love for the railway. Colbeck had more than a passing interest in the locomotive itself because his wife had developed her artistic skills to a point where she could sell her paintings of locomotives and he was pleased to see how superior her work was to the one before him. While the portrait painter had captured the essence of Vivian Quayle, he’d struggled to make the locomotive and the engine shed look at all realistic.

‘He loved that painting dearly,’ said a voice.

Colbeck turned to see a tall, sleek man in his thirties who had just opened the door noiselessly and entered the study. At a glance, Colbeck could see that the newcomer bore a close resemblance to the figure in the portrait.

‘I’m Stanley Quayle,’ the son went on without offering a handshake. ‘You’ve come at an awkward time, Inspector Colbeck.’

‘I appreciate that, sir, and I’m deeply sorry to intrude.’ He glanced up at the painting. ‘The locomotive is from the Jenny Lind class, isn’t it?’

‘You’re very observant.’

‘It’s a later model so it was probably built in Derby. The original Jenny Lind, of course, was built in Leeds by E. B. Wilson and Company. Mr Kirtley, the esteemed locomotive superintendent of the Midland Railway, improved on the design. But,’ he said with a smile of apology, ‘you don’t wish to hear me rambling on about locomotives.’

Quayle motioned him to the sofa then made a point of sitting in the chair at the desk as if signalling that he had just claimed part of his inheritance. While he was looking Colbeck up and down, the latter was appraising him.

BOOK: Timetable of Death
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