The Price of Vice – Gruesome Threesome Mystery
While the article never mentioned any facts, there was an insinuation that the police had withheld vital evidence. Covering up relevant information, it said. He glanced at the peeling wall paint hoping for inspiration – it was going to be a tricky interview.
Now, he had to defend a serious allegation of misconduct. According to them, his non-disclosure of phone calls from Candice merited disciplinary action. He had flatly denied it, but he was shown Jackie’s report plus the incriminating evidence.
Adam Forsyth pointed to the transcript of calls. Highlighted by a yellow marker pen, was Candice’s number calling his Pocketphone twice. ‘How do you explain this?’
By denying everything. Let them prove it.
‘All I can say is, I never received them.’
‘So why do both calls show time duration of a couple of minutes?’
‘I don’t know, Sir.’
Kathy Carmichael interrupted. ‘Adam, we have enough to take action.’
The DCS sighed, put the file back on the table, steepled his hands, and announced his decision. ‘DI Hemming, the allegations warrant immediate suspension. I will confirm that in writing today, together with the conditions and your rights. Is that understood?’
So they were out to find a scapegoat? Divert the press from a lack of progress.
The HR Manager held up a hand, and then read from her notes. ‘It’s a precautionary measure to enable the Investigating Officer to carry out a full investigation; it’s not implying the allegation has been prejudged in any way, or as a means of punishment.’
The look on the DCS face implied otherwise.
‘I see. What happens next?’
The DCS coughed. ‘If you can support your claim ... well ... the IO would take it into consideration.’
A snowflake in hell’s chance, by the look on Forsyth’s face.
‘I see. Who is the IO?’
‘DI Andy Hillock.’
‘Isn’t he Bristol CID?’
‘Exactly. He’s totally independent. We are grateful to the Avon force for seconding him to us.’
Cover Forsyth’s ass, more like.
That signalled the end of the interview. He handed over his identity card and mini-van keys; relieved looks from the DCS and Personnel Manager, a scowl from him.
Back at his semi-detached cottage, some ten miles outside Bridleton, he shaved, ran a hot bath, and considered his next move while relaxing in the tub. Being divorced, he didn’t have a wife and screaming kids to worry about. He was still on full pay and benefits.
Until they dismissed him.
So now he had to rely on the insurance policy; Councillor Winterbotham to get him out of the shit, but he had to think it through very carefully. It would be a one-off reprieve; Dixon would want the tape erased. The explanation had to sound plausible without implicating Dixon.
And then there was Andy Hillock. He needed to know what sort of officer he was; trustworthy, or as devious as Forsyth. Only one way to find out; his Bristol contacts.
He pulled the plug on the tub, dried himself, and changed into casual clothes: thick navy-blue roll-top sweater and Levi’s. Black socks and loafers – and he was ready. His Honda Civic parked outside in the drive had seen better days; a few dents he’d picked up over the years, but it was reliable.
The Black Swan near Bristol docks was his third port of call. It had a small bar downstairs and a quiz room upstairs. A couple of weather-beaten shirkers he knew were sitting on the wooden bench outside, braving the cold south-westerly while cradling their fags.
‘Seen Clipper, today?’ Clipper was a local informant who probably knew more about the workings of the CID than did the coppers. It was a risk touting Clipper; but he needed an edge.
‘Aye lad,’ said one, pointing to a frothy mug beside him. ‘Having a slash out the back.’
That was lucky, first time that day. He could feel the wheel of fortune spin back his way. He shivered in the evening air, and made his way inside.
He bumped into Clipper at the bar entrance. ‘I’m buying,’ he said, while indicating that the purchase was more than a drink. ‘Cosy chat upstairs, OK?’
A couple of pints of XB, a nod and a wink from the landlord, and they had the upstairs room unlocked.
‘Okay Mr. Hemming, what’s on your mind?’ There was a sly look on his face. If Clipper had been an animal he would be a weasel: a slim rakish man with a long nose and protruding ears - and mesmerising eyes. He was wearing a brown overcoat with a fur collar, over a white shirt.
They had chosen a table by the window where they could see the passing pedestrians below illuminated under the street lamp. Any sign of trouble and Clipper would be off to his burrow.
‘DI Andy Hillock.’
Clipper stared. His beady eyes bored into Marty’s skull. ‘I’m not going there,’ he said.
‘This is private. A one-off ... and I’m buying, remember.’
Clipper brushed a hand across his nose. Money talked. ‘Nasty piece of work. He’s ambitious; and he ain’t too fussed who he treads on to get results.’
No wonder they chose him. It was going to be a stitch-up.
Marty sat back, deep in thought.
Clipper swallowed a gulp of his pint. ‘If you’re buying, there’s more.’
Marty looked at him, raised an eyebrow.
Clipper leered. ‘What’s it worth?’
‘Depends on what you’ve got.’
Marty sighed, reached into his pocket and pulled out his wallet. He extracted a few notes and put them on the table. ‘If it’s on target, a bull’s-eye should cover your costs.’
Clipper reached out a hand and slipped the money into his overcoat pocket. ‘He’s a gambler, Mr. Hemming. Poker, mainly.’ Clipper’s eyes flickered, and he lowered his voice. ‘Word is, he owes several grand and a few favours to some unsavoury characters.’
‘Anyone I know?’
Clipper closed his mouth; looked expectantly at the table.
Marty grunted and put a few more notes on the table. ‘The names?’
The money disappeared into Clipper’s overcoat. ‘I hear the Creek brothers have a piece of the action.’
The Creek brothers – local mafia; heavily invested into illegal gambling and prostitution.
Marty picked up his pint and took a hearty swig. ‘Cheers.’
Clipper seemed disappointed. ‘Is that it, then?’
Marty left his pint on the table and got up. ‘It’s enough. Oh, and by the way, Clipper, this conversation never happened. I’ll know if you leak anything, and then your life won’t be worth living … you understand?’
Clipper put a finger across his lips. ‘Sealed, Mr. Hemming.’
Maybe - but it was the edge he needed if it came to it.
Dixon Winterbotham would be a completely different animal; more of a baboon than a weasel. Marty had called in at the town-hall the following morning after a restless night, but with a draft plan in his mind. The PA apologised, said the Councillor was at a meeting in Bristol; back after lunch.
He guessed where Dixon would be: Expressway Clinic. The trip in his Civic took nearly forty-five minutes by the time he manoeuvred around the city traffic. He found a space in a council parking area close by, and walked to the clinic.
Dixon had told him he was known as Mr. Winters at the clinic, and Marty tested his theory at the reception desk.
‘I’m waiting for Mr. Winters to complete his treatment.’
The young girl, wearing a blue uniform that matched the colour of her eyes, just nodded and motioned to a seat. ‘He’s with Dr Avis. Help yourself to tea or coffee.’
He helped himself to black coffee from a percolator and an oatmeal biscuit while he waited. The reception area had had a make-over since he was last there. An interior designer must have been given free rein and plenty of money; no cheap furniture here; it was all solid wood and leather sofas scattered with art nouveau cushions. Sepia pictures of Bristol, as it was a hundred years ago, adorned the walls; there were fresh floral arrangements in Chinese pots resting on ample side tables, along with a few “Homes & Gardens” magazines.
No expense spared. He thought back to the headline in the Evening Argus.
The Price of Vice.
He was on his second cup when Mr. Winters strode into reception with an alarmed look on his face. When he recognised Marty he did a double-take, but didn’t speak. Instead he asked the receptionist to book a double appointment for the following week. No, it couldn’t wait – it was urgent.
Marty was at the door when Mr. Winters turned around. Dixon was scowling, but waited until they were outside before speaking.
‘Time we had a quiet chat in Cloud Nine.’
‘I’m calling in a favour.’
Dixon laughed. One of those laughs that sounded hollow and desperate. ‘Just as well it’s now, then. I seem to have exhausted the high-active drugs; they’re going to try the latest experimental one next week.’
Dixon grimaced. ‘Seems like it’s a last resort.’ Another hollow laugh. ‘Welcome to hell.’
Marty steered Dixon into the massage parlour; he paid for a room – without a girl. ‘No we’re not gay ... just want some privacy,’ he told the smirking manager.
Marty sat on the bed and got down to business. He explained his predicament and that an Investigating Officer had been appointed. Then he told Dixon that he would be interviewed as a witness, probably the following week, if they got their finger out.
Dixon was sitting on the plastic chair: he looked puzzled. ‘I don’t get it.’
‘You’re my alibi.’ Marty outlined the plan. ‘Get me off the hook, and the video never existed.’
Dixon shrugged. ‘The only reason I’ll go along with this is to protect my family, especially my eldest son, from unwanted media attention. David’s due to take his finals soon and he’s in line for a rowing blue. Otherwise, I couldn’t give a shit what you do with the video.’
Nevertheless - sorted.