Money mishaps and murder, p.1

Money, Mishaps and Murder, page 1


Money, Mishaps and Murder

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Money, Mishaps and Murder

  Money, Mishaps and Murder

  David Beard

  Copyright © 2015 David Beard

  The moral right of the author has been asserted.

  Apart from any fair dealing for the purposes of research or private study,

  or criticism or review, as permitted under the Copyright, Designs and Patents

  Act 1988, this publication may only be reproduced, stored or transmitted, in

  any form or by any means, with the prior permission in writing of the

  publishers, or in the case of reprographic reproduction in accordance with

  the terms of licences issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency. Enquiries

  concerning reproduction outside those terms should be sent to the publishers.


  9 Priory Business Park

  Kibworth Beauchamp

  Leicestershire LE8 0RX, UK

  Tel: (+44) 116 279 2299

  Fax: (+44) 116 279 2277

  Email: [email protected]


  ISBN 978 1784625 672

  British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data.

  A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

  Matador® is an imprint of Troubador Publishing Ltd

  Converted to eBook by EasyEPUB



  Other books by the author


















  Other books by the author

  The Missing Earring.


  ‘A body has been found in the Grand Western Canal, Dexter. Can you get there as soon as possible?’ Superintendent Sheila Milner’s voice wafted down the phone line.

  Detective Chief Inspector Dexter Smalacombe sighed; why did these things always crop up on a Monday morning?

  ‘I know you’re knee-deep in other things but there isn’t an inspector I can call on at the moment to deal with it.’

  What’s new, he wondered?

  ‘Are you still there?’

  ‘Yea, yea, yea! I will get the details and take the new sergeant with me.’ He ended the conversation abruptly, hurriedly finished his breakfast in between running around collecting his things and finding his car keys.

  ‘Can’t you sit down and eat properly?’ Freda complained.

  ‘I got to go.’

  ‘You’ve always got to go. Look, I don’t want a retirement on my own,’ Freda moaned. ‘I suppose you are now going to tell me you don’t know when you will back for dinner.’

  ‘Spot on. Really sorry love, but this is how my job works.’

  ‘Don’t I know it! Take care.’

  Smalacombe made for the door.

  ‘And no goodbyes?’

  He turned, came back and kissed her on her cheek, ‘Sounds like I have another rotten murder to deal with. It winds me up.’

  ‘Me too,’ she responded.

  Dexter Smalacombe drove in silence along the M5 motorway, going north to junction twenty seven. He was deep in thought but not with concern for the case to which he had been assigned. His assistant for some time, Clive Tiley had been promoted and was now operating as an inspector in Torbay. Seated next to him was a new colleague; someone he didn’t know well and he was worried. Would they be able to work together?

  Detective Sergeant Emily Corndon was still in her twenties. She had only recently been promoted and this was her first assignment to the Major Crimes Investigation Team. This inexperience didn’t bother Smalacombe; in fact it encouraged him as he would be able to guide her.

  His problems were more of a personal nature. He found her extraordinarily beautiful; it disturbed him and he worried that it might inhibit him in developing a professional relationship with her. There were other aspects too. Emily was a fast-tracking graduate and the quality of her mind matched her beauty. This was endorsed with a double-first in her first degree to be followed by a masters’ degree. Of one thing Smalacombe was sure: before long he would be answerable to her and probably, so would his superior, Superintendent Sheila Milner.

  Smalacombe had huge confidence in his ability as a detective and with justification but, he recognised, he was no Einstein. He also knew that he was rarely at ease in the presence of someone like Emily. He accepted he was renowned for his political incorrectness and how would that play with her? Somehow he had to build the relationship. He understood that it was his job to do so, not hers. He also knew that it would not be long before he said something he should have put to one side. Very often, his mouth operated before his brain had cleared the message. What he didn’t know was what would be her reaction or the repercussions if she was offended? What he did know was that he had no intention of changing.

  As he left the motorway he asked his new colleague, ‘Do you know of the Grand Western Canal, Emily?’

  ‘Yes, well, sir.’

  ‘In private, it’s Dexter. You can guide me there then? I haven’t a clue.’

  ‘Thank you. Yes, I know it well. Turn off down here. We cycle on it regularly.’

  ‘Bit wet, isn’t it?’

  Emily smiled, ‘OK. I mean on the towpath.’ They glanced at one another and laughed. ‘I peddle not paddle.’

  Smalacombe couldn’t resist a play on words. ‘I hope you don’t piddle while you peddle.’ Immediately he regretted his remark; the early test had arrived quicker than expected. He decided to hurry on with another topic but she responded immediately.

  ‘Are you suggesting I make a puddle whilst I peddle?’

  ‘I’ve run out of options now.’

  ‘Poddle doesn’t make sense, does it?’ she asked.

  ‘When was the last time you poddled?’

  ‘I’m not revealing my secret private life.’ They glanced at one another and laughed again. The episode relieved Smalacombe immeasurably: she had a sense of humour.

  Emily was amused but felt confused that her superior’s first conversation with her should be so odd and so carnal. Sheila Milner had warned her of her unsophisticated boss. Was this the beginning of days of stupid exchanges? She summed up that he was a country boy at heart and the nuances of modern metropolitan interaction had passed him by. Maybe, when the real work began she would take a different view. She concluded that he was lucky, as she too had a reputation for a ribald sense of humour.

  She quickly returned to the topic of the canal. ‘It’s great for cycling – no uppy downies on a towpath. There’s a dozen miles of open countryside; it’s beautiful and a really good day out.’

  ‘Not today it isn’t. You said, we. Boyfriend?’

  ‘No, I’m married. My husband is an accountant.’ She returned to the matters in hand, ‘Where exactly did you say the body was found?’

  ‘It’s close to the Devon Somerset border at Ebear Bridge, I’m told. I’m not exactly sure where it is…’

  ‘I know it well, Dexter. Turn right at the roundabout. There’s a lay-by when we get there and a gate down to the towpath. You won’t need your sat nav. I can guide you.’

  ‘Well, that’s a good start,’ he said with feeling. He knew of her academic prowess but he wondered is there anything she doesn’t know? She even knows the canals of England and she’s guiding me already.

  The lay-by was long and between the road and the towpath. It w
as almost filled with police cars but they managed to pull in off the road and take up the last remaining area large enough for a vehicle. It was a bright summer’s morning; the canal glistened in the sunlight and to their right, in the distance, a church stood majestically at the top of a hill.

  At the end by the bridge they noted a car had been taped off, with a constable guarding it. Smalacombe asked him, ‘What is the problem with this car?’

  ‘Who wants to know?’

  Emily Corndon saw a need to intervene. She showed him her card and introduced her superior.

  ‘I’m sorry, sir, but I can’t be too careful. The lady who found the body told us this car was here. We don’t know if it is connected but we have to make sure. No one has been here to claim it.’

  Smalacombe nodded in agreement, ‘Is it locked?’

  ‘Oh yes.’

  The two moved on to the bridge where another constable was on duty, stopping access to the towpath. This time, the officer, who had overheard the previous conversation, stood back and let them by.

  As they walked through the gate to the short track that led down to the towpath, they saw much activity around the area below them and one person, Angela Marriot, caught Smalacombe’s eye. She was a pathologist and someone he knew incredibly well; in fact, too well. Had he not been brave enough to make distance between him and her, he and Freda would not have celebrated their silver wedding anniversary.

  From their elevated position they could see, close to the bridge, the body of a male, semi submerged and face down in the water. It was fully clothed, but both guessed that from the towpath it would be hidden behind the abundance of summer growth by the waterside. Ducks and moorhens were busy in the canal carrying out their daily business and unconcerned by the activities around them.

  ‘Good morning, Dexter. You have come just in time as I want to remove the body from the canal. Is there more you wish to see before I do?’ Angela Marriot greeted him and it was evident she was pleased to see him. ‘There is little more SOCO can do until I get him out.’

  ‘Give us time to look around, Angela, and it’s good to see you again.’ He reached out and touched her shoulder. She gave him a big smile. ‘What do you think we have here? Suicide?’

  ‘I’ll tell you more when I get a closer look,’ she advised.

  ‘May I introduce my new sergeant, Emily Corndon.’ The two women acknowledged one another.

  ‘May I point something out, Dexter?’ Emily began and immediately realised her mistake. She held her hand over her mouth, ‘Sir.’

  ‘Angela and I are old friends and she knows how I operate. So what do you wish to say?’

  ‘The foliage here, between the towpath and the canal, has not been disturbed.’ She pointed along the track. ‘It seems to me therefore, he didn’t get into the canal from the towpath.’

  ‘You’re right, Emily,’ Angela concurred. ‘SOCO have already identified traces of fabric on the parapet above us, which appear to match the sodden overcoat. We think he fell from the bridge.’

  When the body was removed from the canal and laid on the towpath, almost immediately the pathologist came to a conclusion. ‘It’s not suicide, Dexter.’

  ‘Sheila Milner was right to call us out, then.’

  Emily interjected and decided to follow her superior’s original instruction with regard to address, ‘He has been shot, sir, with a shotgun.’ She commented on the obvious. She realised it immediately but this was her first acquaintance with a mutilated, murdered body and the horror of it had left her shocked and bemused.

  She felt the need to make a response. This wasn’t a made up version on television, sanitised enough to suit a vision in a family’s front room; this was for real. She felt nauseous; the reality of the violence inflicted had not been subjected to any censorship. The huge hole in his chest revealed blackened organs; its ragged edges had strands of skin and pieces of flesh hanging by a thread. His chin was missing; lumps of jawbone protruded from the wound and only a part of his lower gum and teeth remained. She turned her back on the scene, went to the other side of the towpath and took deep breaths to ward off impending retching.

  The full force of the blast had centred on his chest, with the trajectory going upwards. The front of his overcoat was in ribbons, the shirt beneath it was more holes than fibre and it was scorched. Smalacombe was confused; why was the victim wearing an overcoat in August?

  ‘There was no sign of blood around here, when we checked,’ Angela Marriot explained waving her hands around in front of her, ‘or up on the parapet. There will be plenty in the canal I suspect when the water got to the wounds but my immediate reaction is that he was already dead when he was brought here, possibly using the car up there. Bear with me whilst I take another look. I will be able to confirm all of this later.’

  Emily returned to the scene, she had warded off a bout of sickness but still found it difficult to concentrate on the horror before her. She looked for distraction as a way of coping with the initial impact, ‘The canal is two hundred years old. I suspect this is a first,’ she made a quite extraneous comment to what was in hand. ‘Must be suspicious…… Wow!’ She spotted a flash of bright turquoise fly past them and over the bridge. ‘Kingfisher,’ she added, and felt relieved to find another distraction. ‘That’s the first this year for me. You don’t usually see them until now, as they don’t nest by the canal.’

  ‘Why not?’ Smalacombe had acknowledged that his recent conversation with her was peculiar but this one, under the circumstances, was surreal.

  ‘The banks don’t lend themselves to it. They go off elsewhere but when the young have fledged they are back. There are rich pickings and glorious food here.’ She was now well aware that she was looking for distractions. How else could she cope? ‘Sorry, sir, I had better get back to business.’

  ‘I think so! Have you any idea of his identity, Angela?’

  ‘Yes, here look, his wallet. Fortunately, it was in his trouser pocket. He is…,’ Marriot searched through the various compartments and drew out a driving licence, ‘Mr Henry Crossworth,’ she explained.

  ‘Should be easy to solve then.’

  ‘Not if it’s cryptic,’ Emily observed.

  ‘You both have it wrong,’ Marriot felt the need to make the correction. ‘It’s Crossworth, not word,’ she explained.

  ‘What else is in the wallet?’

  ‘Most everything you would expect: credit and debit cards, a couple of hundred quid.’

  ‘So, it’s not a robbery then.’

  ‘His driving licence tells me he is fifty nine years old. There is a very sodden mobile in his back pocket. Whether its contents will be recoverable remains to be seen.’

  ‘I’m told immersing it in rice will dry it out,’ Emily felt pleased she could return to the case and make a positive observation. ‘In any case we can get all the records.’

  ‘What I don’t understand,’ Smalacombe moved on to other aspects, ‘why is he wearing a greatcoat in the middle of August? It isn’t just a raincoat: it’s a heavy long thing stretching down to his ankles.’

  Before either Emily or Angela could respond the local PCSO came forward, ‘Can I have a word, sir?’ Smalacombe nodded. ‘We have identified the owner of the car. She is Mrs Heather Lynley, she is a teacher and she lives in Tiverton. She has connections with this area and helps with some local charities I believe. I have no knowledge whether she knows the victim, but my guess is she does, as he was deeply involved in the parish’s activities.’

  ‘Thank you. We will have to contact her if she doesn’t arrive soon to collect the car.’

  ‘We have tried her home number, but she is not in. Surprise, surprise! We don’t know if she has a mobile. There is one other thing, sir. I ran along the towpath and up there,’ he pointed to the gate, ‘and over the bridge, late last evening. I’m pretty sure nothing was here then.’

  He moved back to the position detailed to him.

  Emily Corndon moved away to talk to other mem
bers of the investigating team and there were calls she needed to make to gain information on the queries that came to her mind. Smalacombe realised he and Marriot were an earshot away from the others. ‘It’s good to see you again, Angela.’

  ‘And you,’ she replied.

  ‘Everything all right?’

  ‘Not really. Oh, Dexter, how is it that I can plan things so carefully? I have a head for organising things. In my professional life I am so careful with detail and yet, I can still make stupid mistakes.’

  After a moment’s thought Smalacombe realised the best course of action was to say nothing, but he couldn’t resist touching her shoulder once again.

  She moved closer to him, ‘He’s left me, Dexter,’ she said, confirming Smalacombe’s fears. He felt secure whilst she was married. Before he could answer, she opened up once more. ‘This isn’t exactly the right scenario to get concerned about this, is it? Another time maybe?’

  To Smalacombe’s relief, his mobile rang. The feeling of extrication did not last long as, when he checked the device, he noted the call was from his superior, Superintendent Sheila Milner. Life is never easy, he thought.

  ‘Dexter, are you still at the canal?’

  ‘Yes, and it is murder. A bloke has been shot and dumped.’

  ‘That makes matters worse. Look, I have a big problem and I need to talk it through with you.’ This came as a surprise to Smalacombe and he noted that she didn’t actually suggest that she needed his advice. ‘Dexter, we have another murder on our hands and we don’t have the resources to cover both.’

  Smalacombe understood her dilemma. As a chief inspector, he should be at the station shuffling papers not here on the scene. The force was always tight with its workforce but August added to the problems with all the family men and women looking for summer vacations. The population was almost double with a vibrant tourist trade; it was always a busy time. ‘Are you suggesting I tackle that one as well?’

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