Excerpt for Slow Hand by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Slow Hand

A Novel by

John Goodwin 2016




Slow Hand

©John Goodwin 2015


Smashwords Edition

Published February 2017

ISBN 978-0-9574523-7-4


First Published in Paperback

by Anixe Publishing Ltd.

www.anixepublishing.co.uk

May 2016


This version produced with the valuable assistance of Jennie Rook

PA Solution Services, Cyprus

www.pasolutionservices.com


Copyright © John Goodwin.2015

The moral rights of the author have been asserted.


All Rights Reserved.


Smashwords Edition, License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-soldor given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person.please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.


All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Cover Artwork enhancement by J Goodwin
Images courtesy of shutterstock.com
Acknowledgements
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 this story.
A special thanks to Teresa Elliot, whose help and enthusiasm have been invaluable.
Dedication


To my wife, Jean, whose faith and support continues to amaze me.




Table of Contents

Prologue

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Epilogue.

Discography.

About the Author.

Also by John Goodwin.





Prologue


Saturday 26th March

The 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.

You wouldn’t dare,’ she sneered; but she took a small step back anyway.

I 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.

Don’t 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.

We had 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.

Don’t,’ she whispered.

I felt 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.

Her expression changed from beseeching to terror. Now she could not speak.

The 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.


Chapter 1


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.

‘Miller,’ he said gruffly.

‘Feel like a murder?’ it was DCI Archer, Sam’s immediate boss, from an outside line.

‘It’s better than a suicide.’ Like mine for instance, his unspoken thought.

‘A fire down in Colman Street, the Brigade found a body.’

‘Foul play?’

‘Very foul. SOCO are on their way.’

‘Right, Sir, on our way.’ This was better than a pub lunch to raise his spirits.


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.

Corralled 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.

Miller had 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 meet them.

‘The 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.

Sam flashed his warrant card, ‘DI Miller,’ he said offering a handshake.

‘Bill Turnbull. Watch Manager.’ The hand was accepted absently. ‘The Police Surgeon is over there in his car writing up his report.

‘That the seat of the fire?’ Miller gestured towards the gutted first floor.

‘No actually it was in the kitchen . . . ground floor rear.’

‘And the body?’

‘Same place.’

‘Can we go through?’

‘It’s 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.

A fire-fighter gave the spot a burst from a mist spray then stopped to allow them to pass.

Miller 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.

As they 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 corpse.

‘I’ve 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.

Sam could 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.

‘Did you find the body?’ he said softly.

‘No, it 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 song.

‘Better bring him through, Mick.’ The DS, who had followed his boss in, gladly returned to the street.

If Turnbull was pale, the young firefighter was more like alabaster; this was gradually changing to light onyx as he confronted the corpse again.

‘I won’t 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?’

‘I,’ a 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.

‘It’s 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 came.

‘It was his first.’ Turnbull had come back in and was clearly feeling better. ‘They see videos, of course, but nothing prepares them for it.’

‘I’d 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 to control.

‘SOCO are here,’ Mick called from the front door, ‘and the fire investigation officer.’

‘Send 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.

‘I’ll 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.

Sam 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.

He ambled over to one of them, a Renault estate; the doctor was sitting in its open door, writing in a black leather-bound folder.

‘Hi doc, “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.

‘What?’ the Doctor looked up quizzically.

‘James Cagney . . . Rocky Sullivan . . . Angels with Dirty Faces? 1938?’ Sam shrugged and shook back his sleeves.

‘Before my time.’

‘OK, doc, I believe you. What have you got?’

‘Called it at 08:15 “Life extinct at the scene.” Cause of death, probably exsanguination. You saw the cut I assume.’ The doctor sadly shook his head.

‘I saw it,’ Sam replied, ‘What about time of death?’

‘All I 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.’

‘Anything else you can tell me?’

‘No, the fire took all the external evidence.’

‘OK doc, thanks, I’ll have to wait for the post mortem I suppose.’

‘I’ll 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 away.

Sam walked 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.

‘I’ve 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.

‘OK, Kingy, well done.’

Two more 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.

‘Mick,’ Sam waved his DS over and gestured to the rest of the team to join the huddle.

‘Mick 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 up.’

‘According 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?’

‘Yes, Boss.’ King grinned back.

‘I’ll 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.

Sam 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 thought, first 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?’

‘Come in 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?’

‘Pretty 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.’

‘Do we need them? These things usually turn out to be a domestic anyway.’

‘Maybe so, but it’s pretty vicious.’

‘Let’s see what happens over the weekend. A good bit of old fashioned police work and you could have it cracked by Monday.’

‘If you say so, Sir,’ Sam knew that was coming, ‘I’ve got fire and forensics lined up for a briefing tomorrow at three.’

‘Right 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.’

‘Fine, Sir. It’s pretty mucky in there I’d get coveralls from forensic before you go in if I were you.’

‘Thanks, I’ll do that.’

Sam returned to his desk. There was a mail notification on the screen of his computer. He opened the Inbox.

“Confirmation 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 number.

Probably the first thing he did when he came in, Sam thought.


Sunday 27th March Easter Sunday

(Saturday Continued)

I have 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 accelerant.

Something 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.

Now for 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.

With 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, pocket left.

A kind 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.

‘So, 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.

Sam thanked him with a nod and without waiting for him to make his exit, turned the meeting over to his sergeant.

‘We 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.’

Sam nudged himself off from the wall and hands in the pockets of his grey mohair suit strolled to the front.

‘First 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.

Forest, 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 magnet.

‘The 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

The 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.

I 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.

The 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.

At the 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 seen Sheila?”

She was at Greenwich Town Hall on Friday.” Maureen, replied, “She said she’d be here tonight.”

Oh, I wonder what happened to her then.” I said, faking faint interest.

Chapter 2


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.

The face, 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?

Turning to 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.

Rosie, their civilian secretary burst through the door, raincoat half off her shoulder, dripping on the parquet floor. ‘You all right Sam?’

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 corridor.

‘Keep your head down,’ Rosie hissed.

‘Bad?’ Mick Forest’s voice.

‘About a three,’ she replied.

Sam knew 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”.

Sam walked over to retrieve the bin. ‘What time d’you call this,’ he snapped as he heard his DS come in.

‘I call it eight am British Summer Time, O-700 Zulu if you prefer.’

‘Shut up.’ Sam tried his best not to be in the mood for levity; but they were in Greenwich after all.

It was 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 progress.


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. Typical holiday 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.

‘Our 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.’

‘I’ve 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.

‘As a matter of fact, she had been at a dance right across the road from here on the night she died.’

Sam 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.

‘Any luck with the dance organizers?’ Sam asked.

‘Not 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.

‘The 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.’

Sam strode 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.

‘Coordinate through Mick. I’ll follow up on the dance connection myself. Does anyone know anything about this “Modern Jive”?’

‘I do 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.’

‘If you 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 room.

‘This was such a shock,’ she began, ‘Oh sorry, would you like a cup of tea?’

‘Not 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.

‘Did you know Sheila well?’ he asked.

‘We met 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.’

‘Danced with her?’

‘Yes, 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 . . . nothing more.’

‘And you saw her on Friday?’

‘Oh yes. She was with her usual crowd mostly. They all come from Ceroc Charlton.’

‘Ceroc?’

‘Yes, 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.’

‘And did she leave with them?’

‘I don’t 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.’

‘Would you have a list of everyone who attended the dance?’

‘Like I 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 . . .’

‘That would be most useful,’ Sam said, ‘perhaps you could email it to me.’

‘It 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.’

‘Well do your best. Is there anything else you can tell me about Sheila or that night?’

‘I can’t think of anything off hand . . . sorry.’

‘Well if 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?’

She took 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 Modern Jiver.’

‘How do you mean?’

‘Well, 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?’

Sam did not, but he said, ‘Can you describe him?’

‘Tall, middle aged, well, fiftyish, fair thinning hair, good tan. He wore a nice suit and really expensive dance shoes. Black patent leather.’

‘Would you recognize him if you saw him again?’

‘Yes, I think so . . . quite handsome really. . . Oh you don’t think . . .’

‘Probably 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 Identikit people?’

‘Not at all. Anything I can do . . .’

‘Thank 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.


Chapter 3


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.

The 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 interviewed.

If the 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 again.

The main 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.

Next to 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.

‘This is Julie Button, Guv. She runs the club. I’ve told her what we are proposing to do here tonight.’

‘Good evening Miss.’ Sam tried to sound formal. ‘I’m Detective Inspector Miller. You understand this is a murder enquiry?’

‘Yes. 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 to open.

‘OK Mick 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 Town Hall?’

‘Yes, quite a lot of us did.’

‘And you saw her there?’

‘She sat at our table a lot of the time . . . when she wasn’t dancing. But she was with someone . . . a partner.’

‘Do you know him?’

‘Not really. She introduced him as David. I’d never seen him before. Seemed like a nice guy. Not a Cerocer though.’

‘Ceroc, that’s Modern Jive, right?’

‘Yes, it’s what I teach here. There are other kinds but he was strictly Ballroom. Quite good though.’

There was 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.

Sam posed the burning question, ‘did they leave together?’

‘Yes, I saw them drive away in a big silver car, Mercedes, I think. Or maybe a Bentley’

‘I don’t suppose you got the number?’

‘No reason to. Do you think it was him?’

‘We just need to trace him at this stage. Did you talk to him?’

‘We had a chat while Sheila was off dancing with one of the guys.’

‘Did he seem put-out by her dancing with someone else?’

‘Not at all. It is normal. We all dance with each other, there’s nothing in it.’

‘Did he say where he was from or anything?’

‘No nothing like that. Although I gathered he was a doctor.’

‘GP or hospital?’

‘Don’t know, I’m afraid.’

‘Is there anything else you remember about him?’

‘Seemed very well off. Nice clothes, proper pumps, like I said, Ballroom. Oh, and I think he was married.’

‘Why d’you say that.’

‘Gold ring, third finger left hand . . . like yours.’

‘Not definitive evidence but it helps.’

‘You’re not married then?’

‘Not any 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?’

‘I think so.’

‘Good. Just one more thing, do you have a list of members handy? We need to be sure we speak to everyone who knew her.’

‘That will be a long job she belonged to a lot of dance groups and she was very popular.’

‘Were there other groups at the dance on Friday?’

‘Yes, 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.’

‘Do you know where that was?’

‘Somewhere in town I think. She didn’t say . . . perhaps one of the others . . .’

‘We’ll 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?’

‘So, 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.

‘In its 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 hand,’

‘No, no . . . I’m no dancer,’ he stammered.

‘But you 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.”

It took 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.

‘It has 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.’

‘He did, 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.

‘We’ll 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 tried.’

‘Off you go Mick; I’ll just finish this then be off to my bed too.’ In truth, Sam was considering ordering a scotch.

‘Good 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.’

‘No I don’t think so . . .’

‘Oh, 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.’

Powerless 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?’

‘Samuel but . . .’

‘This is Sam. First time tonight so try and help him out, right ladies?’

Sam almost 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.

Tantalizing 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.

Mercifully, the record came to an end and Sam excused himself to make a dash for the bar before another track started.

Julie joined him there. He offered her a drink; she flashed him a dazzling smile and asked for a bottle of mineral water.

‘Can’t I tempt you to anything stronger?’ Sam downed his Scotch and added a larger to his order.

‘Not while I’m on duty,’ she grinned. ‘But you can buy me a vodka at the end if you like.’

Sam knew 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 impressed.

Several 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.

The intrusion of a ballroom dancing doctor had to be the answer. He was definitely at “seven.”


Wednesday 30th March

The 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.

I was 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.


Chapter 4


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.

Sam’s 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,’

‘Lucky him,’

‘He’s working. Cruise Director or something.’

‘Better 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 of crime.

‘I’ve traced some relatives, Guv.’ Rosie called from across the incident room.

‘Good, send someone round to break the news and bring them in for a formal ID.’ ‘Perhaps they might know this man.’

‘Maybe not,’ Rosie responded, ‘they’re in Australia.’

‘Shit . . . OK. Get the details off to their local police; let them break the news . . . Where abouts are they?’

‘Canberra, Guv,’

‘Do the honours Rosie. Make sure they ask about recent boyfriends.’

‘I’ll 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.

‘Can’t 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.

‘Priority,’ 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.

‘Now,’ 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?’

‘Mostly 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 hundreds.’

‘OK, the 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.’

‘We’re on it, Guv.’

‘Come on 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 turning back.

‘Do they always have it this loud?’ He bellowed at Mike.

King was 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.

Sam 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 . . .’

The woman glared at him. ‘I’m holding a class here . . .’

‘I won’t 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 picture.

‘Knew?’ said the instructor.

‘I am 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.’

‘It’s Sheila. Sheila Delaney.’ The colour drained from the woman’s face making her look gaunt and old. ‘What happened?’

‘Murdered, I’m afraid. We are particularly looking for a recent boyfriend, possibly a doctor?’ He handed her the Identikit.

‘I 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.

‘She did 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,’

‘Do you happen to know where she went?’

‘Not really, but I think it was across the river because she was on about the traffic in the tunnel.’

‘Nothing else?’

‘No, not 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.

Julie turned and kissed the child, ‘Thanks Mum,’ she said, ‘I won’t be late . . . will I Sam?’

‘What 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.

‘You know PC King?’

‘Yes, we met at Charlton,’ Julie smiled.

‘It’s Jackie.’ King grinned.

‘Before we go take a look at this picture,’ Sam showed Julie the Identikit. Is that the man Sheila was with at the Town Hall?’

‘Yes, that’s him.’

‘Good, 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.

King 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.

A tall, 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.’

Julie turned to Sam, ‘This is Tony Russell, he runs this venue. Tony this is Detective Inspector Miller.’ They shook hands.

‘Did you know Sheila well?’

‘We used to dance together, came second in the national championships last year.’

‘And when did you last see her?’

‘At the dance, Friday before last,’ Tony frowned, ‘she was with this bloke.’

‘Did you know him?’

‘No . . . he wasn’t a modern jiver.’

‘Well did you speak to him? We need to locate him urgently.’

‘No. Not a word. He stayed with the Greenwich crowd mostly.’

‘Did you see him leave?’

‘Yes, he took Sheila home.’

‘Did you see his car?

‘Yes . . . Big flash S-Class Merc’’

‘Are you sure it was an S-Class?’

‘Yes, silver, nearly new, worth a small fortune.’


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