Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Chapter 152

The bodies hadn’t been discovered until breakfast time on Tuesday morning. A subsequent hospital inquiry, quite separate from the police investigations, blamed a shortage of staff on the delay, and (some thought, unfairly) castigated two nurses on duty the previous evening for leaving the scissors in the room in the first place. After all, Galloway’s death was hardly an accident…

Galloway had suffered a massive loss of blood when his carotid artery had been punctured by the scissors. From the position of the bodies, the sticky trail of blood (mainly Galloway’s) and the broken glass and jug on the floor, it was later supposed by police investigators that Galloway had been assisting Lawrence with a drink, when there had been a struggle between the two men. As Galloway had most probably pulled back in shock, he’d grasped Lawrence’s pyjama jacket, and the two men had fallen to the floor. The doctor’s blood on the corner of the bedside cabinet suggested he had once again hit his head against it, but this time with a force much greater than the accident that had occurred (and had been documented) a few days previously. Force enough to kill him.

In fact, a lot of attention was paid to the blood deposits on the corner of the bedside cabinet. As a rule, it wouldn’t have been important, but the fine detail of the contract with a cleaning firm meant the police could determine exactly when the furniture in the room should have been last cleaned. A pathologist was later able to confirm, with reasonable accuracy, that he coagulated blood had been deposited within the last 12 hours or so. The triumph of science.

None of this detail was available to Dave Morris when he took the call from Mabel Harris since, in truth, the Practice Manager at the Chapter Road Health Centre only had the sketchiest of details to go on herself. The police, when they had questioned her, had given little away – she knew only that Dacre Lawrence and Cyril Galloway had died at the hospital.

“I didn’t mention anything about the certificates to the police, Mr Morris,” she’d told Dave, once she finally resolved to ring him. “I just felt it would muddy things a little.”

Dave had guessed that Mabel’s reticence to discuss her copying of Dacre Lawrence’s collection of birth, marriage and death certificates probably had more to do with her own desire not to seem to be implicated in what showed every sign of being a potentially messy enquiry. That much was natural. As he ended the call and made his way back into the lounge to give everyone else the news, he knew he’d have to discuss this new development with Jane. He felt sure she’d know how best to approach the police with their findings. He’d caught himself thinking, nonetheless, that the strange (and surely not co-incidental?) deaths of a Yorkshire GP and his business associate, and the information Jane and he would be able to take to the police, was all grist to Gilbert’s mill. His boss, Tom Gauntless, would see at once the value of the resources they’d invested in the project: without it, how would the police ever establish a motive for these deaths? The media would have a field day in speculating about a case like this – at least they’d have some answers for them.

As they processed the news, every individual in the room had reason to pause. Colin McAllistair’s initial thought was a relief that the only other person who could corroborate his role in selling Jonathan Harcourt’s medals – Cyril Galloway - was now unable to do so. Until he remembered, with a jolt, that he had confessed all to Harry, in his phone call to him last week. Bill Blunt, for his sins – although momentarily shocked to learn that a man he’d met just days before in a pub in Birkenhead, was dead - was desperately trying to work out the new angle this fresh news brought to the story he had to have ready for his editor in just a few hours time. He was beginning to doubt his ability to marshal the facts in any meaningful manner – there were just too many dimensions to these ‘missing millions’. That headline was changing, yet again…

Sensing her colleague’s half-masked air of triumph, Jane Tobias was already thinking through how they’d have to go to the police with the information they’d amassed – it was only their professional duty, she reasoned: and this before she even knew how they’d died. Maybe it had been the manner of Dave’s announcement of the deaths, but something had instinctively made her think ‘murder’, until she pulled herself back and reminded herself that, for all she knew, there might be an innocent explanation: a car crash, perhaps? Just as quickly, her mind jumped back to the idea that the two men had killed each other. She knew that Dave must be thinking, now, that the monies for the Gilbert project would be assured for some time to come…

Laurel McFry felt a sense of reprieve from the feeling of dread that the unknown, shadowy figure of Cyril Galloway had come to represent: a dead man could pose no threat to either her or her grandmother. At the same time, she wondered about Dacre Lawrence. He’d warned her about Galloway, and she couldn’t help but feel a twinge of sadness to know he had died before she’d had a chance to meet him. He was her (what?) half-uncle, after all. She might have wanted to thank him for his change of heart – whatever had prompted it – and for deciding to sever his ties with his former colleague. If she’d known exactly what else he’d severed last night, she might have been feeling less charitable towards the good doctor…

Lillian seemed to be the least affected. To her, dying was a simple fact of life to which she had long ago become accustomed: a simple thing that happened, and which you dealt with. Friends and neighbours had predeceased her so often, and with such a steady regularity, that death no longer had the power to shock her. Just like the 29 bus, there’d be another generation along any minute. At least the tragic news had taken the spotlight off her, before Harry McFry could continue his interrogation…

Meanwhile, Harry and Danny looked at each other. What did this mean? They both guessed that the demise of the two co-conspirators was suspicious, and each of them itched to ask how it had happened. The task of asking the question fell to Harry, who turned to Dave Morris.

“How did they die?” he asked.

“I don’t have the full details, but it seems Galloway was visiting Dr Lawrence in hospital at the time.” Dave caught Jane’s eye, and nodded swiftly towards the kitchen. She knew they needed to talk. As she stood up, she looked at Lillian.

“My colleague and I need to discuss what this means for our investigation. Is there somewhere private we can go?” she asked.

Lillian was serene and composed. “Well, I would normally suggest the drawing room, but I’m having it decorated. You’ll have to use the kitchen.”

Bill Blunt suppressed a smile. He’d already played the part of butler, maid and doorman, so the idea that Lillian’s tiny bungalow might have had its own drawing room, and perhaps a library and billiard room to boot, was the kind of fanciful notion that tickled him.

“Thank you,” Dave said. Pointedly ignoring Lillian’s sarcasm, he retraced his steps to where he’d taken the call from Mabel, closely followed by Jane.

“Well!” Bill said. “This is a turn-up for the books! What do you make of this, Mr McFry?” He only just stopped himself from calling him ‘Harry’.

It seemed to Harry that all eyes were on him, and that an explanation was expected from him. He wasn’t sure he wanted to give one, just now. He’d caught the exchange between Dave Morris and Jane Tobias, and started to suspect that the visitors from Cardiff had their own agenda here. He wondered whether Morris knew how the two men had died, and had chosen not to reveal it.

“I’m not sure,” he said. “I would have liked to have spoken to Dacre Lawrence – if only to find out what he knew about the McFry family. Or at least, what he had worked out.” Danny Longhurst, meanwhile, was watching Lillian, now. She seemed just a little too relaxed, for his liking.


In the kitchen, Dave was leaning against the wall, while Jane rested herself comfortably against the sink. Before he could say anything, she smiled.

“It’s an ill-wind, Dave!” she said, in a half-whisper.

He caught her drift. “I know. It won’t do us any harm – although I must admit I’d have liked to have had the chance to interview Lawrence. Especially now we know about this bond – although it’s going to complicate matters. We’re going to have a lot of explaining to do to the North Yorkshire police. What do you think?” He was relying on Jane’s background in the police service to guide them.

“They’ll be alright. If they suspect foul play, they’ll ratchet it up a gear. But at least we can show them a link between the deceased. And the bond is the obvious motive. They might’ve had difficulty with making that link. If it was murder, I imagine they’ll be grateful for our help!”

Dave Morris shuddered at the very mention of the word, but he knew murder might be what they were dealing with. The police may not have told Mabel Harris this – but they didn’t need to. He didn’t know it, but he shared Harry McFry’s suspicion of co-incidences.

Jane turned and picked up a glass from the drainer, filling it from the tap. “Want a drink?” she asked, proffering it to him. He watched the tiny, grey bubbles settle, until the water was clear.

“No, you’re OK.” He paused a second. “I was wondering what to do about those certificates Mabel Harris sent through to us….” His question trailed off, as though he already knew the answer.

“Me too,” Jane replied. She took a sip of the water. “Seems like we’ve got the people we need right out there. Professional genealogists. I vote we let them take a look. It won’t do any harm.”

Dave had been thinking the same, and was pleased to see that Jane – not for the first time – was tuned into his wavelength.

He nodded. “I agree. It’s fascinating how they’ve picked up this case. With a couple more days, they could have been onto Lawrence before we were.”

Jane had started gingerly opening the cupboards in the corner of the kitchen. “Yes. It’s an interesting approach: a sort of forensic genealogy.” As she closed one door, she opened another. “A totally different way of tackling things. You won’t believe what you just missed while you were taking that call….”

“Oh?” Dave said. “No – don’t tell me: Lillian got as far as the 1950’s.” Deadpan wasn’t Dave Morris’ forte, and Jane winced at the lameness of the joke. She seemed to be considering her reply, for a moment.

“You know, Dave, you could learn a lot from the study of people. Body language – all that stuff. Bet you didn’t think Harry’s assistant was Lillian’s granddaughter, for example?” Jane moved to the next cupboard.

“What?” Dave asked, unable to hide his incredulity. “You mean that Ana woman? How did you work that one out?” He wondered, briefly, whether Jane was losing the plot, but dismissed the thought as quickly as it came.

She told him what he’d missed while he’d been in the kitchen earlier. It didn’t take him long to catch up.

“So - this Harry McFry character… he’s known about this relationship for a some time?”

“I guess so. That’s why he brought her down here, posing as his assistant. There’s been a lot of deception going on out there,” Jane said. “Not everyone is who they seem.” Dave waited for her to continue, as he knew she would.

“For example…we’ve got Harry and Danny: the genealogists. Harry seems to know what he’s talking about, and Danny’s in tow. But what do you make of Colin McAllistair?”

“The historian? He hasn’t said much. What’s his angle on things?”

“Exactly! I want to know why he’s involved. You saw how he reacted to the news of the deaths. And what about his assistant?” Don’t you smell a rat?”

Dave started to think anew about the people in the lounge. How had they come to be involved in all this – what had brought them all together, in the same room, at the same time?

“I’m quite happy with the family historian angle, Dave,” Jane continued. “As I said, they approach things differently. But a journalist – they’d tackle things differently again.”

Morris looked perplexed. “What do you mean, a journalist?”

She looked at him with mock disdain. “Don’t tell me you haven’t worked out that Elliot Blunt is press? The notepad. The shorthand. He’s got it stamped all over his forehead!” She continued her hunt through the cupboards, as Dave realized he’d underestimated his colleague’s powers of observation.

“Well, now you mention it, I suppose he could be … but, Jane! What are you doing?” Digging through an old woman’s kitchen cupboards without her knowledge wasn’t something he would have expected Jane to do.

She gave him a wry smile. “I’m hungry, Dave!” she exclaimed. “I’m looking for the Battenberg.”

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