A Novel by
John Goodwin 2016
©John Goodwin 2015
Published February 2017
First Published in Paperback
by Anixe Publishing Ltd.
This version produced with the valuable assistance of Jennie Rook
PA Solution Services, Cyprus
Copyright © John Goodwin.2015
The moral rights of the author have been asserted.
All Rights Reserved.
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All characters in this publication
are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead,
is purely coincidental.
Cover Artwork enhancement by J
Images courtesy of shutterstock.com
I would like to thank Detective
Superintendent Michael Field QPM rtd, for his advice and guidance on
police procedural matters which, I believe, lends authenticity to
A special thanks to Teresa Elliot,
whose help and enthusiasm have been invaluable.
To my wife, Jean, whose faith and
support continues to amaze me.
by John Goodwin.
Saturday 26th March
negligee, held closed by her folded arms to cover her nakedness, told
all; but I studied her eloquent face. Those hazel eyes, that once I
thought were filled with love, now held nothing but contempt. Her
mocking laugh taunted me as I moved closer. I held up the knife,
eight inches of gleaming stainless steel.
wouldn’t dare,’ she sneered; but she took a small step back
wanted to speak but no words would come. I wanted to tell her that I
knew she had betrayed me, that the months of devotion and nights
making love were spoilt now. She had shamed me and dirtied herself
with that man. No utterance could express the pain I felt.
be stupid,’ she said calmly. I advanced and she backed down the
hall. Her expression betrayed her mounting nervousness. ‘Let’s
have a drink . . . eh. For old times’ sake?’ Her eyes darted back
and forth, looking for somewhere to bolt.
passed the foot of the stairs. Behind her, the kitchen door was
closed. She backed up to it. I followed, my gaze locked on hers. Real
fear began to show. I had never seen that look on her before and I
liked it. I moved the knife towards her right ear, pushing her blonde
hair aside like a curtain, revealing her long white neck.
a smile begin to grow on my lips as I touched the blade to a spot
just below her ear lobe. A tiny jewel of red sprang from its
razor-sharp tip. She turned her head away, stretching the exposed
flesh. I pinned her against the door with my left hand on her
shoulder and slowly, sensuously, drew the blade across her throat. I
felt it bite through her carotid artery. Her blood, warm and sticky,
embraced my hand.
expression changed from beseeching to terror. Now she could not
blade slid smoothly through the soft tissue. God, I loved that
feeling. After a brief frantic struggle, she slumped against the
wooden panels. I thrust my knee between her legs to hold her up, not
wanting it to end. I brought the blade down and found more yielding
flesh above her groin, felt again the thrill as I cut smoothly upward
until I reached the hard resistance of her sternum. I do not like
that. I peered again into her eyes but there was nothing there; no
fear, just blank. Her death had robbed me of that pleasure. I should
not have cut her throat and let her die so quickly. It was a mistake.
A mistake I would not make . . . next time.
On a good day, Detective Inspector Samuel Miller thought of himself
as wiry and smart but this was not a good day. With nothing to do but
sit at home and brood, he had come into the office to tie up reports
and brood over another case thrown out of court on a technicality,
instead. Holidays were never the same since his wife died but he
needed little excuse to dump the file back in his in tray and get
down the pub. It
is Easter weekend after all, he thought. As he
shuffled the dog-eared sheets back into the folder ready for the off,
his phone rang.
he said gruffly.
like a murder?’ it was DCI Archer, Sam’s immediate boss, from an
better than a suicide.’ Like mine for instance, his unspoken
down in Colman Street, the Brigade found a body.’
foul. SOCO are on their way.’
Sir, on our way.’ This was better than a pub lunch to raise his
The neat terrace of well-maintained two up, two down houses had, in
recent years gained higher status than when Victorian builders had
created the estate of artisan cottages. Occupied mostly by commuters
from the City of London or Canary Wharf, they brought a hefty price
on the Greenwich housing market.
in blue tape it was obvious which house it was. The ground floor
windows were surrounded by smoke stains and the first-floor ones were
missing except for some charred remnants of the wooden frames. Only
one fire appliance remained at the scene blocking the narrow street.
From it ran a small hose passing through the front doorway. Blackened
water trickled down the steps and a couple of the fire crew were
studiously sweeping debris into small piles in the kerb.
called round and dragged Mick Forest, his Detective Sergeant, away
from his family and was still apologizing as they climbed from the
car. A uniformed sergeant whose name Sam could not recall came to
area is secured Sir, but the fire crew are still in there damping
down. Here’s their boss now.’ He nodded towards the front door.
A tall man
wearing a London Fire Brigade cap and overalls emerged from the
building. He looked pale and shaky.
flashed his warrant card, ‘DI Miller,’ he said offering a
Turnbull. Watch Manager.’ The hand was accepted absently. ‘The
Police Surgeon is over there in his car writing up his report.
the seat of the fire?’ Miller gestured towards the gutted first
actually it was in the kitchen . . . ground floor rear.’
safe enough, we’re just damping down.’ Turnbull led the way along
the passage. The musty dank smell of charred wood rose from the
littered floor at each step. A wisp of smoke rose from the stairs.
fire-fighter gave the spot a burst from a mist spray then stopped to
allow them to pass.
looked ruefully down at the crud that was adhering to his previously
gleaming Italian brogues. It had already splashed up onto the
turn-ups of his dark blue herringbone suit. Squeezing past the all
but destroyed kitchen door his elbow brushed the wall collecting a
nasty brown stain. Another cleaning bill that will be knocked back
from his expenses, he mused.
entered the back room, the burnt building smell was overpowered by
the sickly-sweet smell of death. To their left was what had once been
a line of fitted kitchen units with a large gas hob set in the middle
of the run. A granite worktop lay at an angle on top of the blackened
and collapsed base units. On the other side of the range, it
continued cracked but still horizontal. The afternoon light poured in
through the remains of French doors in the end wall. It illuminated
the motes of dust and vapour hanging in the still air and a blackened
seen some gruesome sights in my time so I’m kind of immune to it,
but this . . .’ Turnbull looked away. Outside a bird was singing
making the silence in the room more poignant. ‘I guess it’s
because someone actually did that to the poor woman.’ The fire
officer stepped over the remains of the kitchen fitments and stood in
the doorway to the small rear yard breathing deeply.
not blame him. The odour of burnt flesh and rendered fat was somewhat
akin to a kebab shop’s drains and the sight of the mutilated corpse
was enough to make a statue heave.
find the body?’ he said softly.
was a young fire-fighter, just out of probation. He’s sitting in
the crew cab. Pretty shook up I’m afraid.’ Turnbull continued to
gaze out across the debris-strewn back yard. The bird had stopped its
bring him through, Mick.’ The DS, who had followed his boss in,
gladly returned to the street.
Turnbull was pale, the young firefighter was more like alabaster;
this was gradually changing to light onyx as he confronted the corpse
keep you a minute, lad,’ Sam said, ‘Just a couple of questions
and you can be on your way.’ Mick had positioned himself behind the
young man ready to catch him if he should faint. However, even the
hard, sardonic detective sergeant avoided looking at the victim.
‘Firstly, did you move the body?’
gurgle choked the young man’s throat. He swallowed ‘Yes . . . It
. . . I . . .’ he swallowed again then the tears flowed and with
them, the words tumbled out. ‘It . . . she was half buried under
the wall units; they had fallen down on top of her. I knew she
couldn’t be alive but I had to check, didn’t I? All I could see
was her legs sticking out all burnt and bloated like.’ He spoke
rapidly as if trying to get it all out in one breath. ‘When I got
the stuff off she was on her side, I rolled her over onto her back.
Oh, God my fingers went right into her arm. I shouldn’t have
touched her, should I? I wish I hadn’t. Oh God, oh God. . .’ A
new line of tears cut a clean trail down his smoke-smudged cheek.
alright son, as long as we know.’ Sam nodded at his Sergeant, who
took the young man by the shoulders and guided him back the way he
his first.’ Turnbull had come back in and was clearly feeling
better. ‘They see videos, of course, but nothing prepares them for
give him the afternoon off if I were you.’ Sam squatted to examine
the remains. In the silence that followed the sound of someone
retching carried from the street triggering a response he found hard
are here,’ Mick called from the front door, ‘and the fire
them through.’ Sam nodded at Turnbull. ‘I suggest we leave them
to it eh. Mick will take charge here.’ The pair made a solemn exit
as the Sergeant led a small crocodile of coverall-clad technicians
into the building.
have a word with the doc and see you back at the office, Mick.’ Sam
turned to Turnbull, ‘Could we have a joint meeting as soon as the
reports are in . . . tomorrow afternoon?’ Sam looked at his watch,
‘say three? I’ll set up an incident room at Greenwich nick.’
The man nodded his assent.
spotted PC Jackie King taking a statement from a large woman on the
steps of the house next door. She looked over with a grim smile. Sam
raised his hand in recognition and left her to it. She had been
temporarily assigned as a trainee detective on his last case and he
was pleased he now had a reason to keep her on. She had been the
first person he called after Forest and responded without hesitation.
Her Kawasaki Ninja was parked between the bumpers of two cars on the
opposite side of the street. Sam wondered how such a slight woman
handled such a heavy motorcycle.
over to one of them, a Renault estate; the doctor was sitting in its
open door, writing in a black leather-bound folder.
“What you hear? What you say?”’ Sam leaned against the rear
door and squinted over the man’s shoulder at the spidery writing
that covered the foolscap page.
the Doctor looked up quizzically.
Cagney . . . Rocky Sullivan . . . Angels with Dirty Faces? 1938?’
Sam shrugged and shook back his sleeves.
doc, I believe you. What have you got?’
it at 08:15 “Life extinct at the scene.” Cause of death, probably
exsanguination. You saw the cut I assume.’ The doctor sadly shook
it,’ Sam replied, ‘What about time of death?’
can say is more than two hours, the fire made anything else
impossible at this stage.’ The doctor closed his folder, ‘The
Home Office Pathologist is on the way. She will be of more help once
she gets the poor woman on her slab.’
else you can tell me?’
fire took all the external evidence.’
thanks, I’ll have to wait for the post mortem I suppose.’
get my report typed and faxed over.’ The doctor swung his legs into
his car tossing his folder onto the passenger seat ready to drive
back across the road to where PC King was waiting on the pavement
scrutinizing the departing Renault as it eased round the front wheel
of her motorcycle.
spoken to the neighbours on both sides, Guv. No one heard anything
until the front windows blew out. Both put that at about five am, her
Sheffield accent reflecting the steely determination of her nature.
Kingy, well done.’
members of the squad had arrived and were stooging around, smoking
and chatting to the uniformed constable on security duty.’ Forest
had reappeared at the door.
Sam waved his DS over and gestured to the rest of the team to join
will be my number two here. He’ll organize a house to house,
uniform can do that. But we’ll need full statements from the
neighbours on either side and those three houses opposite. We’d
better do that ourselves and follow up on anything uniform might pick
to the immediate neighbours, the fire was blazing by five am so we
are interested in everything up to and including the time the fire
crew arrived. PC King can get the numbers of all the cars in the
street.’ He turned to her, ‘it will be your job to trace the
owners when we get back, right?’
Boss.’ King grinned back.
see you all back there later, planning meeting at four. No Easter
holidays for us now.’ He tried to look sympathetic. The guys
shrugged and set off to carry out their tasks.
scraped the crud from the instep of his shoes on the kerb before
returning to his car.
I should have waited for some overshoes, he
job, go home and change.
Sam, once again immaculately dressed, sauntered past the large open
plan squad room that was his domain and poked his head round DCI
Archer’s half-glazed office door. ‘George?’
Sam’ Archer looked like an advert for Pringle. His golf clubs were
standing in the corner behind his desk. ‘I was just about to come
down to Coleman Street. How is it?’
bad, Mick Forest sorting out that end, I came back to set up the
incident room. We can use the squad office I reckon. I’ll make room
for the HOLMES team at the back.’
need them? These things usually turn out to be a domestic anyway.’
so, but it’s pretty vicious.’
see what happens over the weekend. A good bit of old fashioned police
work and you could have it cracked by Monday.’
say so, Sir,’ Sam knew that was coming, ‘I’ve got fire and
forensics lined up for a briefing tomorrow at three.’
I’ll get off down there.’ Archer stood up and collected a garish
plaid cap from the drawer of his filing cabinet. ‘You’re my
deputy SIO on this one. Keep me informed. Text will do for now.’
Sir. It’s pretty mucky in there I’d get coveralls from forensic
before you go in if I were you.’
I’ll do that.’
returned to his desk. There was a mail notification on the screen of
his computer. He opened the Inbox.
of verbal instruction from DCI G. H. Archer. To DI Samuel C Miller
appointed as Deputy Senior Investigating Officer in the case located
at Coleman Street Greenwich.” it was dated and timed with the crime
the first thing he did when he came in, Sam
Sunday 27th March Easter Sunday
often watched TV detective programs so I realised that it required
something extreme to blot out traces of my DNA and such. Wearing a
pair of Marigolds, I found under her sink, I raided the drinks
cabinet and found plenty of alcohol to act as what they call an
like an adrenalin rush gripped me as I doused her body and the
kitchen units. The plan seemed to form instantly in my mind. I
recalled how once I had left the gas on under a chip pan and caused a
fire that, if it was not for my prompt action with a damp tea towel,
could have easily spread through my flat. It was easy to replicate
that scenario supplementing it with half a bottle of vodka standing
in the oil. By lighting the gas under the pan as I left, I figured I
would get a good ten minutes before the oil caught.
myself I was covered in her blood. No way could I walk through the
streets like that. I stripped naked, right there in the kitchen.
Soaking my clothes in a rather good single malt scotch, I left them
in a heap on top of her body. My shoes and socks I kept. Upstairs I
showered and put on a pair of zip at the side slacks. I found them in
her bedroom together with a blouse and the wig she sometimes wore
when her hair was a mess. There was no problem getting into her
clothes, and now I had a fuller appreciation of how curvaceous her
body was. There was plenty of alcohol left so as a precaution, I
soaked her bed and wardrobe in brandy then ran a trail of Tequila and
Sambuca to form a fuse cocktail back to the kitchen.
one last look round I put on her favourite fur-trimmed duffel coat
lit the gas under the pan of oil and, slipping the knife in the coat,
of post coital trepidation consumed me as I made my way back to my
third floor flat. Two miles of sweating and shaking, trying not to
run, keeping the hood up and my head down; I dreaded someone seeing
through my disguise. Safely indoors, I heard the first of the sirens.
After that, they seemed to be wailing on and off all day. I cannot
wait to see what the papers have to say.
Sam glanced through the tall square paned windows of the first-floor
room in Greenwich Police Station. The Town Hall clock, across the
way, showed it was ten past three. It was a large open plan office
but the other half dozen occupants were clustered round a whiteboard
at one end. He leaned a shoulder against the wall and returned his
attention to Bill Turnbull who was summarising the Fire Investigation
team’s preliminary report.
there you have it, gentlemen. The fire was started in the kitchen and
using flammables that were already present deliberately spread to the
first-floor bedroom.’ Bill had asked to present his stuff first so
that he could get away. It was after all no longer his case and he
had other things to do on an Easter Sunday afternoon.
thanked him with a nod and without waiting for him to make his exit,
turned the meeting over to his sergeant.
believe that the victim is the householder, a thirty-seven-year-old
divorced woman named Sheila Delaney. We won’t get confirmation
until dental comparisons are done on Monday. From what we have
gathered from the neighbours either side, she was a pleasant outgoing
person, perhaps a little too friendly for their taste. Not exactly a
hooker but a serial dater. Often disposed to entertain men younger
than herself.’ Mick turned to his DI. ‘I have organised uniform
to do a CCTV trawl of the High Street as well as the house to house
to see if there are any significant comings and goings in the last
twenty-four hours.’ He glanced at Sam who nodded approvingly.
Forest went on, ‘we have not as yet been able to find a photograph
but apparently, she was a tall woman with long blond hair and
greenish or brown eyes. There is still no sign of the weapon. SOCO
are still going through the debris but it will take time.’
himself off from the wall and hands in the pockets of his grey mohair
suit strolled to the front.
of all, thanks for coming in. I’m sorry to ruin your long weekend
but this is a particularly nasty one and we can’t afford to waste
any time on it.’ He gave them what he hoped was a sympathetic smile
before going on. ‘Now. The Pathologist says that death was quickly
brought about by a cut across the throat with an extremely sharp
instrument.’ He gave an almost imperceptible nod to his DS.
taking this as his cue, extracted a photograph of the injury from a
folder at his side and pinned it to the board with a small round
rather gory abdominal wound,’ Sam paused while a second picture was
displayed and the murmured reaction died down, ‘It had minimal
local bleeding so was almost certainly post mortem. There were only
the two precise incisions with no ripping, stabbing or sawing action,
which leads the pathologist to conclude this was not a frenzied
attack. The victim would not have known anything about the second cut
so what was the motive for it? Perhaps a ritual or to send a signal?
If so to who? We need to find out what she was in to and trace her
movements over the last few days. So, full victimology report is a
priority. Also, I want all relatives, boyfriends, partners, work
colleagues . . . anyone who knew her traced and interviewed. Mick
will give you your assignments.
Monday 28th April Bank Holiday
report of the fire made the London News on TV but with only a passing
reference to a woman’s body being found in the building. I was
disappointed. They must have realised how she had met her fate.
popped down to the minimarket bought a beef dinner for one and a
bottle of Barolo. I toyed with the idea of spending the night in but
Monday night was one of my dance nights. It would look suspicious if
I changed my habits.
venue was in Welling and the most direct route passed the end of her
road. As I approached, I was so tempted to make a loop round the
block into Colman Street, just to see what was happening. I found
myself tensing as I joined the queue at the traffic lights. My neck
felt like it was in a splint and, although we shuffled slowly past, I
did no more than swivel my eyes in that direction. All I saw was the
market trader packing up his stall on the corner.
Jive night, no one made the connection between the body in the fire
and Sheila so I played along. I even managed to ask, “Has anyone
was at Greenwich Town Hall on Friday.” Maureen, replied, “She
said she’d be here tonight.”
I wonder what happened to her then.” I said, faking faint interest.
Rain lashed the windows of the incident room the running water
distorting Sam’s view of the commuters scuttling towards the
station in the street below. He drifted over to his desk passing the
whiteboard he picked up an eight by four photograph from a table. The
lab had blown it up from a snapshot that SOCO had recovered from a
singed and sooty photo album in the burnt-out house.
so different to the one he had viewed in the mortuary, smiled at
something out of shot. Her eyes sparkling, lips full and pink, hair
cascading with abandoned elegance onto bare tanned shoulders, all
frozen by the lens, in the act of turning. A picture of life . . . a
life that someone ended in such an horrific manner. What motive would
anyone have to do that to her?
secure it to the board his toe brushed against the waste paper bin
beside his desk. He drew back and kicked it with all his might across
the room. The metal tub clanged and clattered against the window and,
for a moment, he thought the glass might break.
their civilian secretary burst through the door, raincoat half off
her shoulder, dripping on the parquet floor. ‘You all right Sam?’
shrugged, ‘Get me a coffee would you.’ The anger in his voice was
apparent even to him, so he added, ‘when you’ve got your coat
off.’ As he fixed the picture to the board, he could not help
overhearing a hushed conversation as the woman retreated into the
your head down,’ Rosie hissed.
Mick Forest’s voice.
three,’ she replied.
that his team had a scoring system for his mood swings, “1” being
suicidal and “10” being intolerably manic. “3” was not too
bad but he knew that if he did not get some immediate progress he
would soon be approaching “2”.
over to retrieve the bin. ‘What time d’you call this,’ he
snapped as he heard his DS come in.
it eight am British Summer Time, O-700 Zulu if you prefer.’
up.’ Sam tried his best not to be in the mood for levity; but they
were in Greenwich after all.
going to be a long day, waiting for information to trickle in about
the victim. Maybe a relative would pop up, probably demanding to know
why they had not caught the killer yet. There were the reports from
the house to house to go through, enough to drive a man to drink. Sam
called a meeting for three o’clock, 1400 Zulu to go over the
The heavy rain had stopped but this was worse. Thick dark clouds lay
low in the sky oozing a fine drizzle onto the already wet street.
weather, Sam thought. British Summer time
be-damned. He looked up at his team from his accustomed position by
the window and nodded to Mick who opened the briefing.
victim’s name is confirmed as Sheila Delaney a former showgirl,
dancer and entertainer. Had a bit of a career working on cruise ships
and a spell at Butlin’s but her last employment was working in a
florist shop in Charlton.’
spoken to the owner who says that she was an open and friendly woman
and as you can see from this picture quite attractive.’ He tapped
the board alongside him, ‘She had any number of male admirers but
as far as we can find out not anyone significant at this time. One
thing she was known for was her ongoing love of dancing. Ballroom,
Jazz, Rock-and-Roll you name it she did it. Out to some dance venue
or other three or four times a week.
matter of fact, she had been at a dance right across the road from
here on the night she died.’
glanced down to where the cantilevered canopy of the Town Hall
covered the side entrance that led to the function room where the
Easter dance had been held. Right on his doorstep.
luck with the dance organizers?’ Sam asked.
yet, Guv. They are some sort of amateurs, only hold about three or
four dances a year . . . Something called “Modern Jive.” I only
have an address and a home number, no answer, but I expect we’ll be
able to contact them this evening.’ Mick went on, ‘From the
house-to-house we gather that Delaney inherited the property from her
mother and has no siblings or in fact any close relatives.
Pathologists report confirmed cause of death as massive and rapid
blood loss brought about by the cut to the throat, severing the
artery here.’ He pointed to the pictures taken at the scene. ‘The
weapon, still not recovered, is a long high quality blade, extremely
sharp like a butchers or chef’s knife. It seems to have been
wielded with a certain amount of skill, cutting just deep enough to
open the epidermis especially the lower cut,’ he pointed to the
blow up of the lower torso, ‘these were inflicted post mortem.’
to the front of the group. ‘Right, for now, follow up on the
house-to-house. Anyone who might have seen her on Friday night going
off to the dance or coming back. Was she alone when she left home?
Did she walk or maybe get a cab? And I want the area searched again,
find that knife. Also, the killer would have been covered in blood.
How did they leave the scene? Someone check the traffic cameras.
through Mick. I’ll follow up on the dance connection myself. Does
anyone know anything about this “Modern Jive”?’
Guv’ Rosie raised her hand, ‘I have a friend who does it,
apparently, it’s like rock and roll but you don’t have to learn
any formal steps and everyone dances with each other as well as if
they were regular partners. Thousands of people belong to clubs all
over the country.’
say so, Rosie.’ Sam wondered if there was some kind of dance
rivalry as a motive.
Gloria Wallace, the woman who organized the dance, lived in a private
block of flats way over in Ealing, West London. She was not exactly
pretty but had a pleasant look for someone who obviously worked out
in excess. Her slim build and tight musculature betrayed her
obsession with the physical. She showed Sam into her small sitting
was such a shock,’ she began, ‘Oh sorry, would you like a cup of
just now thank you.’ Sam looked around the room. A narrow
mantelpiece was adorned with dance trophies and the opposite wall was
smothered in framed photographs of Gloria with various dance
partners. In the majority of them she seemed to be airborne.
know Sheila well?’ he asked.
often at various venues, that tends to happen you know. We’d chat
sometimes but I can’t say I know her well. Danced with her once or
twice, she was good.’
women often dance together. In the clubs there is often a shortage of
men so sometimes we swap roles just to get some practice in. Sheila
was a better partner than most men I know. We love to dance . . .
saw her on Friday?’
She was with her usual crowd mostly. They all come from Ceroc
it’s a dance style, a franchise business actually. They meet every
Wednesday. They have a nice venue in the back of the Charlton Working
Men’s Club. I’ve been there once or twice.’
she leave with them?’
know. I didn’t see. We had two hundred people there that night and
I was busy at the end sorting out the D.J. and stuff.’
you have a list of everyone who attended the dance?’
said there were two hundred, but I could probably put together a list
of those who bought tickets. They tended to buy two or more at a time
but if that would help . . .’
would be most useful,’ Sam said, ‘perhaps you could email it to
might take a while some paid by credit card and I’ll have a record
of that but most paid cash when I saw them at other venues and that
will be only from memory.’
your best. Is there anything else you can tell me about Sheila or
think of anything off hand . . . sorry.’
anything comes to mind,’ Sam fished in his jacket pocket and found
a business card. He quickly scribbled on the back, ‘This is the
incident room number, call me there any time’ He showed her the
card then flipped it over ‘My email is here, OK?’
the card, wedged it under one of the trophies above the fireplace,
and showed him to the door. She paused as she turned the latch,
‘There is one thing,’ she said, ‘It may be nothing but . . .
she danced a lot with someone I’d not seen before . . . not a
most styles of Modern Jive, Ceroc, Le Roc, Le Jive and so on are
interchangeable but he was clearly a ballroom jiver. Very big on
steps, you know?’
not, but he said, ‘Can you describe him?’
middle aged, well, fiftyish, fair thinning hair, good tan. He wore a
nice suit and really expensive dance shoes. Black patent leather.’
you recognize him if you saw him again?’
think so . . . quite handsome really. . . Oh you don’t think . . .’
not. But at this stage we need to speak to anyone who saw her that
night. Would you mind coming in and describing him with one of our
all. Anything I can do . . .’
you, Miss Wallace you have been very helpful, we’ll be in touch.’
On his way
back, Sam called his DS on the hands free and filled him in. At last,
there was something to go on. Sam was up to a six.
By the time Wednesday evening came around, Sam’s impatience was
beginning to show. Greenwich, being astride several of London’s
main arteries had plenty of traffic cameras but without knowing what
they were looking for, the search of the tapes was pointless. Sheila
was well known at the local minicab office but had not used a cab
from them that night. She was a familiar figure in the local shops
friendly and chatty but the dozens of interviews did not reveal
anything significant. Only the local branch of Boots had CCTV and
nothing significant showed up on it.
several days of rain had lifted and the evening sky was streaked with
high cirrus clouds dyed pale pink by the late afternoon sun. Sam
drove his Saab Aero to Charlton arriving at a quarter to seven. Mick
had already assembled the team in the small concert hall at the back
of the CIU club. The marked cars had been parked discreetly a block
away for fear that their presence might panic their quarry. Anyone
arriving for the dance night would be politely invited to stay until
change in the weather had been reflected in his mood, Sam would have
been pleased. As it was, he was all too aware that the more time that
passed the chance that they would catch the killer diminished.
Furthermore, without a clear motive, could it be that they would kill
entrance was by way of a small lobby, with doorways to male and
female toilets on either side. Just inside the double doors to the
auditorium, an arch to the right led to a small bar. A barman,
employed by the proprietor, was already being interviewed by a young
DC. The Hall was about twenty-five-metres by ten, laid out with a
line of bench tables to each side; folding type chairs were set
around them. There was a raised stage at the farthest end where a
young man fussed with cables connected to speakers set on tripod
stands and a music consol.
A half a
metre lower on the polished wood main floor Mick was talking to a
young woman. When he saw Sam in the entrance, he took her by the
elbow and guided her towards him.
Mick’s hulking great frame the woman looked quite petite but, as
Sam got her into perspective, he realized that she was quite shapely
in a chunky way. Not particularly tall, she took long, confident
strides to match Forest. The diminutive, flared skirt swayed with
every step and her full bosom bounced under a loose sweatshirt that
hung off one shoulder. However, it was her iridescent blue eyes that
drew Sam’s attention.
Julie Button, Guv. She runs the club. I’ve told her what we are
proposing to do here tonight.’
evening Miss.’ Sam tried to sound formal. ‘I’m Detective
Inspector Miller. You understand this is a murder enquiry?’
It’s terrible . . . she was a lovely girl. Why would anyone want to
kill her?’ Moisture began to fill her eyes making the blue orbs
sparkle even more. ‘I thought about cancelling this week’s
session, out of respect, but it would not be what she would want. She
loved dancing.’ Her focus flicked to the entrance as a door began
you get on I’ll interview Miss Button.’ Sam guided her to one of
the tables where PC King sat with notebook in hand. ‘This is not a
formal interview. We just want to establish Miss Delaney’s
movements last Friday night. Did you go to the dance at Greenwich
quite a lot of us did.’
saw her there?’
at our table a lot of the time . . . when she wasn’t dancing. But
she was with someone . . . a partner.’
really. She introduced him as David. I’d never seen him before.
Seemed like a nice guy. Not a Cerocer though.’
that’s Modern Jive, right?’
it’s what I teach here. There are other kinds but he was strictly
Ballroom. Quite good though.’
a background hum as, in twos and threes, the dancers started to
trickle in. They were ushered to the tables where officers were
waiting to take their statements.
the burning question, ‘did they leave together?’
saw them drive away in a big silver car, Mercedes, I think. Or maybe
suppose you got the number?’
reason to. Do you think it was him?’
need to trace him at this stage. Did you talk to him?’
a chat while Sheila was off dancing with one of the guys.’
seem put-out by her dancing with someone else?’
all. It is normal. We all dance with each other, there’s nothing in
say where he was from or anything?’
nothing like that. Although I gathered he was a doctor.’
know, I’m afraid.’
there anything else you remember about him?’
very well off. Nice clothes, proper pumps, like I said, Ballroom. Oh,
and I think he was married.’
d’you say that.’
ring, third finger left hand . . . like yours.’
definitive evidence but it helps.’
not married then?’
more. No.’ That was the first time he had admitted that out loud
since his wife died. He wondered, why now. ‘Would you be able to
identify him if you saw him again?’
Just one more thing, do you have a list of members handy? We need to
be sure we speak to everyone who knew her.’
will be a long job she belonged to a lot of dance groups and she was
there other groups at the dance on Friday?’
most of them in the area. I know she went to another Modern Jive club
at Woolwich on Mondays. She told me she also did Jazz, Zumba and
Ballroom classes. That was probably where she picked up her doctor.’
know where that was?’
in town I think. She didn’t say . . . perhaps one of the others . .
ask. Now if you have that list we can see who is here tonight.
Perhaps you can mark up all those that were at the Town Hall for me,
Constable, make sure they all know to ask about that, right?’
what is this Modern Jive all about?’ Sam asked Julie as they walked
across to the corner of the stage where she had left the box file
with her paperwork.
simplest form it is a formula and set of signals that enables
strangers to dance with each other in a similar way that regular
partners would.’ She turned to face him, ‘Here, give me your
. . . I’m no dancer,’ he stammered.
could be.’ she picked up his hand and hooked her fingers over his.
‘No, don’t grip . . . now spin me.’ Reluctantly, he pushed her
hand to one side; she pirouetted on the spot and returned to face him
in the blink of an eye. ‘There,’ she said, ‘you’re dancing.’
The intoxicating perfume of her long blonde hair wafted over him.
Thoughts he considered long forgotten flashed into his head. He felt
his face redden and was suddenly aware that many of his team were
watching him. Most looked away at his glance but Mick just grinned.
Sam lip-read across the room “seven.”
less than an hour to process the twenty or so dancers that turned up
that night. Half a dozen had been at the Town Hall but they could not
furnish any more information about the mysterious doctor than had
Julie. There were a couple of absentees to follow up and they knew
their names and addresses. Tomorrow they would re-run the CCTV
footage. This time they were looking for a silver Mercedes or
Bentley. The team bustled out leaving Mick and Sam to have a quick
beer at the bar.
to be him, Guv,’ Mick said raising his voice as the music started
in the hall, ‘he obviously drove her home, probably hoping to get
his end away.’
the pathologist found evidence of recent sexual activity . . .
consensual as far as she could tell.’ Sam sipped at his lager, ‘No
useable trace of semen so far. The fire took care of that.
find him tomorrow no problem. You can’t get out of Greenwich
without being picked up on the traffic cameras these days.’ Mick
downed his beer in one. ‘If you don’t mind, Guv, I’d like to
get off home for a bit.’ He glanced at the clock above the bar,
‘Too late to tuck the kids in but the wife will be pleased that I
go Mick; I’ll just finish this then be off to my bed too.’ In
truth, Sam was considering ordering a scotch.
night, Sergeant,’ Julie called after him as Archer made a hasty
exit. She had donned a headband microphone, which pulled her hair
back from her face. ‘Inspector, how would you like to continue your
jive lesson, I am about to start the beginners class.’
don’t think so . . .’
come on, you’re off duty now aren’t you?’ She looked deep into
his eyes as she took his hand again. ‘Come on it will be fun.’
to resist he allowed himself to be dragged out onto the floor where a
line of five men faced a line of seven women. ‘We need you to make
the numbers up.’ She whispered. Reaching behind her back, she threw
a switch on the small radio transmitter. ‘Everybody,’ her voice
boomed from the speakers, ‘this is,’ she covered the black bulb
of the microphone that was suspended on an arm in front of her full
lips, What’s your first name, inspector?’
but . . .’
Sam. First time tonight so try and help him out, right ladies?’
walked out when he realized that he would not be dancing with Julie
but he was handed over into the firm grip of a large woman with
tattoos and multiple piercings who introduced herself as Carol. She
took him into custody to practice the first move. Julie leapt onto
the stage and shed her t-shirt to reveal a sporty crop top and, with
the aid of the DJ as a partner, danced a short sequence of moves that
she proposed to teach in the session.
glimpses of thick but firm thighs fascinated Sam enough to keep his
interest as she broke the dance down stage by stage. Sure enough, he
did not need to learn any steps. Just hold his hand in a certain way
and push or pull as appropriate.
At the end
of each set of instructions Julie chimed, ‘One lady on please’
and he was presented with a different partner. By the time they had
gone through the whole sequence he had met and danced with every one
of them. He was back with the painted juggernaut that he had started
with. A new record was put on and they were left to practice the four
basic moves on their own.
the record came to an end and Sam excused himself to make a dash for
the bar before another track started.
joined him there. He offered her a drink; she flashed him a dazzling
smile and asked for a bottle of mineral water.
I tempt you to anything stronger?’ Sam downed his Scotch and added
a larger to his order.
while I’m on duty,’ she grinned. ‘But you can buy me a vodka at
the end if you like.’
it was a trap but stayed. He watched with interest as the others
demonstrated their dancing prowess. Some were busy practicing basic
moves, while others showed a remarkable array of complex contortions.
Julie moved among them giving tips here, demonstrating there. He was
women asked him to dance during the course of the next hour or so. He
managed to decline all, except for when Julie took him to practice
his four moves. He hardly noticed when she slipped in another one
which he took in his stride and in all he quite enjoyed the
experience. How much because of his vivacious partner he could not be
sure. He fervently hoped that the Modern Jive element of the case
would not prove significant.
intrusion of a ballroom dancing doctor had to be the answer. He was
definitely at “seven.”
Wednesday 30th March
police were at Charlton interviewing everybody. They were interested
in the doctor. Serves him right. They took down my details then lost
interest because I had not been at the Town Hall on Friday. Later,
the detective in charge stayed on and made a prat of himself in the
beginners’ line. I joined in myself just for the fun of it.
surprised how easy it was to brazen it out. After the half hour
beginner’s class, I sat chatting with some of the more advanced
dancers. I joined in the intermediate class, perfecting a complicated
cross-armed manoeuvre with which I had previously struggled. In the
free dance session that followed, I asked Julie to go over it again
with me, working it into a new routine. She was wearing a Nike top
with a bare midriff and a flared skirt which showed flashes of her
knickers when she spun. Although I enjoyed dancing with her, I could
not help imagining how her ever-smiling expression would change as my
blade sliced slowly through her dimpled navel.
It is amazing how many Silver Mercedes cars pass through Greenwich on
a Friday night. Only one Bentley, but that was green. They were
looking for any owned by a doctor but came up with none.
mood was slipping. ‘Have you traced the ex-husband? Sam shot a
glance at Mike who was talking to PC King by the door. ‘He’s on a
cruise in the Caribbean,’
working. Cruise Director or something.’
check it out, make sure he’s actually on board.’ Sam knew that in
many cases husbands, especially ex-husbands, had a hand in this kind
traced some relatives, Guv.’ Rosie called from across the incident
send someone round to break the news and bring them in for a formal
ID.’ ‘Perhaps they might know this man.’
not,’ Rosie responded, ‘they’re in Australia.’
. . OK. Get the details off to their local police; let them break the
news . . . Where abouts are they?’
honours Rosie. Make sure they ask about recent boyfriends.’
email them the pictures now, Guv. The Identikit picture has just come
through from Acton, Shall I send that too?’ She nodded towards a
printer that was humming its way through a new sheet of A4.
do any harm.’ Sam studied the image of a handsome, well-groomed
man, in his early forties, a first hint of grey at his temples. Dark
brown eyes looked back at him without any hint of malice. Could this
be the killer? He handed it to Forest and stood with him as he stuck
it onto the board.
Sam said to the office in general, ‘Find this man.’ Check it out
with those we know saw him make sure it’s accurate. If we don’t
find him by morning, I’ll get the boss to put out a TV appeal.’
Printers hummed as his team ran off extra copies.
Sam placed a hand on Forest’s shoulder, ‘Sheila belonged to
several other dance groups. Let’s get round to them. Do we know
where they are?’
local, Guv. The Zumba class is on at Greenwich Baths this afternoon
it’s more a fitness thing,’ the DS checked his notes, ‘Jazz at
the college tomorrow night and another Modern Jive on Mondays. We’re
still looking for a ballroom connection; it could be one of
ballroom connection is the key to finding the man. He could have been
lying about being a doctor. Keep going with the car trace, I want all
the owners interviewed.’
on it, Guv.’
Mike, let’s get down to the Baths, Kingy can drive.’
They could hear the Zumba class as soon as they entered the building.
The assault on the eardrums as they entered the room almost had Sam
always have it this loud?’ He bellowed at Mike.
already waving at the instructor, a slim dark haired woman in a
bright green leotard, trying to get her to stop the class. The woman
waved back but continued to call encouragement to the assemblage of
sweating women in front of her.
marched down the side of the room, found where the amplifier was
plugged in and turned it off. Warrant card in hand, he stepped up to
the instructor, smiled without humour and said, ‘Sorry to interrupt
your . . . er . . .’
glared at him. ‘I’m holding a class here . . .’
keep you long.’ He scanned her class, they stared back, some with
malice but the majority, it seemed to him, with relief. ‘We are
looking for anyone who knew this woman,’ he held up a copy of the
said the instructor.
sorry to tell you,’ he composed his face, ‘she was found dead
earlier this week. We need to establish her movements. I understand
she was a member of this group.’
Sheila. Sheila Delaney.’ The colour drained from the woman’s face
making her look gaunt and old. ‘What happened?’
I’m afraid. We are particularly looking for a recent boyfriend,
possibly a doctor?’ He handed her the Identikit.
gathered she had quite a few male friends but I never met any of them
and she didn’t mention a doctor.’ The instructor picked up a
towel from a plastic chair beside the wall wiped her face and swigged
from a bottle of water. ‘I can’t believe anyone would hurt her
she was a lovely girl, very fit.’
Sam sat on
a chair beside her and watched the interviews going on in front of
them. Mike and PC King were moving among the class taking details
occasional shaking of the head in Sam’s direction, indicated that
this visit was fruitless. ‘Do you know of a ballroom dancing class
she might have gone to?’ he asked.
mention that she had taken it up. She loved to dance.’ A tear ran
down the woman’s cheek. She dabbed her eyes with the towel, ‘It
was her new thing,’
happen to know where she went?’
really, but I think it was across the river because she was on about
the traffic in the tunnel.’
that I can think of. We didn’t talk much; she always had to rush
off after the session.’
Back in the incident room, Sam refocused the search for the Ballroom
dancing class to those north of the river. There were two tunnels she
might have taken, the Blackwall that led to Newham and Canary Wharf,
and Rotherhithe to Tower Hamlets and the City. Even in that limited
catchment area, there were more than thirty dance organizations. With
the exception of Rosie and PC King, Sam set his team off trawling
around them, armed with Sheila’s picture and the Identikit picture
of the Doctor. Resources were short so Sam decided to take on the
remaining Modern Jive club himself. He called Julie Button and asked
her if she would accompany him. To his delight, she agreed. All he
had to do was keep busy over the weekend until their date on Monday
night. He set about making a nuisance of himself among the other
lines of enquiry but only succeeded in allowing the frustration to
drive down his mood. By Monday afternoon, he was a depressed four.
Julie Button lived in a mews cottage in Bexley; about a twenty-minute
drive from Greenwich. Sam had phoned ahead and arranged to pick her
up, so when the police car slid to a stop outside the house,
effectively blocking the lane, she appeared almost instantly at the
door. She was wearing a knee length, summery print dress and looked
stunning. Behind her, an older woman stood half in shadow, holding a
toddler by the hand. Sam jumped out from the front passenger seat and
opened the rear door.
turned and kissed the child, ‘Thanks Mum,’ she said, ‘I won’t
be late . . . will I Sam?’
time does she have to be in by, Mrs Button?’ Sam almost put his
hand on Julie’s head to guide her into the car before checking the
autonomic response. Closing the door after her, he leapt back into
the front and swivelled in his seat to look into her eyes; noting in
passing the smirk on his trainee’s face.
know PC King?’
met at Charlton,’ Julie smiled.
Jackie.’ King grinned.
we go take a look at this picture,’ Sam showed Julie the Identikit.
Is that the man Sheila was with at the Town Hall?’
Jackie put that in the system as a confirmed identity.’ Sam
swivelled back to face Julie, ‘If it’s alright with you, Jackie
will drop us off, we’ll get a cab back.’ Sam wished he could be
in the back with her but protocol prevented that. Of course there was
the ride home to look forward to.
The club referred to as Woolwich was, in fact, located in the
function room of a large pub in nearby Welling. Apparently, the group
had moved there when the original venue had closed down. Sam was
relieved as the Woolwich area had become depressingly shabby. Most of
the decent shops, in the formerly bustling town centre, had moved out
leaving it to tacky pound shops and boarded up frontages. He did not
want anything to spoil his mood.
dropped them off in the already crowded car park and quickly drove
away. By contrast to the Zumba place, the music was playing softly in
the background. A man and woman were practicing some moves in one
corner of the dance-floor, while two young women danced
enthusiastically in front of the large speakers set up on the low
stage at the far end. Everyone else seemed to be gathered round the
bar near the entrance. The buzz of conversation dropped dramatically
as they pushed through the double doors.
athletic looking, man of about thirty detached himself from the knot
of people and came over to greet Julie. He gave her a hug and
murmured, ‘I heard about Sheila . . . so sorry she was a good
friend of yours . . . of all of us.’
turned to Sam, ‘This is Tony Russell, he runs this venue. Tony this
is Detective Inspector Miller.’ They shook hands.
know Sheila well?’
to dance together, came second in the national championships last
when did you last see her?’
dance, Friday before last,’ Tony frowned, ‘she was with this
‘No . .
. he wasn’t a modern jiver.’
did you speak to him? We need to locate him urgently.’
a word. He stayed with the Greenwich crowd mostly.’
see him leave?’
took Sheila home.’
see his car?
‘Yes . .
. Big flash S-Class Merc’’
sure it was an S-Class?’
silver, nearly new, worth a small fortune.’