Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Chapter 4.2

DI Geoff Lintott was a troubled man. As soon as he’d realised that the body on the beach was Sandra Cousins’, he knew that this wasn’t going to be a straight forward case. Ronny Cousins had been a hugely influential officer and even now he was still revered by most of the people who had worked for him. His reputation of being a hard drinking, hard working, honest copper was well deserved but Lintott knew that his old DI had a dark side too.

Lintott hadn’t been long in the job when he was called to accompany his DI on a routine arrest. Conrad Black was a well known hard man, bouncer by night and a part time enforcer for the local money lender by day. At first the call had been straight forward. They were to rendezvous with four uniform bobbies at the end of Black’s street before turning on the blues and twos and arriving at his house in force.

The problem started when Black had made a run for it through the alleyway at the back of his terraced house. Ronny had screamed at the poor sod who’d been told to cover the rear of the house despite the fact that he’d been bashed so hard by Black that he needed hospitalisation. The car chase that ensued had been farcical. Ronny had dived into his car to lead the chase through the side streets of Folkestone, screaming into the radio for helicopter backup to join the search.

At one point it was like the Keystone Cops chase with uniform bobbies running through the back alleys and Ronny driving through the side streets in his supped up Avensis yelling for his team to spread out the search down to the seafront and the docks.

Black had eventually been cornered by two of the uniforms who’d been chasing him on foot. They had spotted him hiding in a garden shed and had called for back up. Ronny had been the first on the scene to witness the men crashing through the shed door and diving on the crouching Black. As his young DS, Lintott had watched in horror as Ronny charged through the broken wooden door and aimed a low punch at the hard man. Black had doubled over as Ronny’s fists caught him again and again. Lintott had been frozen to the spot; he couldn’t believe what he was seeing, a senior police officer, his governor, assaulting a suspect. It was only when he heard the sound of footsteps behind him in the alley that he had called out to his boss to stop.

He’d never forgotten the look on Cousins’ face as he turned around. He was sweating and stared at his young DS, as he licked the spittle that had formed at the side of his mouth, Ronny had laughed and pulled Black to his feet.

‘Alright Conrad? I hope your nasty fall off the garden wall didn’t break any bones. Right come on let’s get this young man charged before he does any more damage to himself.’

And brushing down his overcoat Ronny made his way back up the alley way to his car.

‘Come on lad, get a move on.’ He called to Lintott who was still standing by the broken shed door. ‘We haven’t got all day.’

And that was it. Black never did bring any charges against Cousins. The unformed constables never mentioned the incident, and Lintott began to doubt if he had really what had so obviously happened before his eyes. DI Ronny Cousins, good old Ronny, the copper’s copper, the man who played by the rules and always gave 110% had been a bully. A cheap nasty bully, who kicked a man when he was down.

Weeks later they had been in the pub one night, somebody’s birthday bash, Geoff couldn’t quite remember, but the whisky chasers had loosened Ronny’s tongue. Lintott could remember standing at the bar with Ronny’s arm around his shoulders. He was sober enough to realise that his boss was pissed.

‘So Geoff lad, how are you settling in down here?’ he slurred ‘Everything going OK son?’

‘’Yes sure, fine’ Lintott was uncomfortable and was looking for a way to slope off before his boss could say something that he might regret tomorrow.

‘Good result on that Black collar. Went a bit silly at the time, but it’d been a long day. I was getting it in the neck from our god fearing Chief Inspector. Never mind the bible bashing he’d been giving my ear ‘oles a right bashing that morning. Nothing’s ever good enough for Chief Inspector Welling, stupid bastard but that’s no excuse, I shouldn’t have lost it with the scroat. Not professional, sorry’ he sniffed ‘won’t happen again.’

And patting Lintott on the back like an old mate, he staggered off across to the bar.

Lintott sighed as he stared out the window of the small cafe next to the towering lighthouse. Even in the summer, Dungeness could be bleak but now, in the middle of a winter storm, even the seagulls were giving it a wide berth. As the only customer in the Light Railway Cafe Lintott was sure that he would see Sandra’s colleague from the Lighthouse as she arrived without having to stare at the door waiting for it to open. He couldn’t remember the last time he had been out this way, probably when his kids were still young enough to be thrilled by a trip on the little train that ran along the coast from Hythe. These days they were more interested in their bloody Xbox 360s he grumbled to himself.

With the rain lashing against the windows, Lintott nearly missed seeing Mo Chandler as she battled across the car park under a huge black umbrella and it was the icy blast from the opening door that made him turn around in time to see the rain sodden middle aged woman struggling to shut it behind her.

As Mo wrapped her hands around the cup of steaming hot coffee that the young waitress had brought to the table, Lintott revised her first opinions Sandra’s friend. Rather than her being a tubby middle aged woman he realised, as she peeled off her oversized rain coat and brushed her wet hair away from her flushed cheeks, that she was in fact an attractive slim built woman probably in her mid thirties.

‘I suppose that you must have known Sandra well.’ He said

‘As well as most I suppose.’ she answered cryptically.

‘Ronny said that you had worked together for few years.’

‘Sandra only worked part time so I didn’t see her every day.’

‘Did you ever meet up socially?’

‘Sometimes. Once a month a few of us would go out to Ashford for a girly night out. Dinner, a few drinks, you know the kind of thing. A night out from the kids and sometime Sandra would come with us.’

‘But not always?’ he asked.

‘No, not every month. I suppose it was only two or three times last year.’

‘Do you know if she went out with anyone else?’

‘She used to talk about films she’d seen and restaurants she’d been to, so I suppose that she must have.’

‘Maybe she went with her husband.’

‘I don’t know, maybe.’

Lintott sat back in the hard wooden chair and looked at Mo Chandler as she fiddled with the laminated menu on the table and he wondered why this young woman was being so reticent about her friend’s social life.

‘What is it you’re not telling me? This is a murder enquiry, Sandra is dead and we need to get the bastard that did it.’

‘I don’t know anything, not really.’

‘But you suspect something?’

‘Littlestone’s like a small village, there’s always gossip.’

‘And what was the gossip about Sandra?’

‘Her husband was one of you, a Policeman, I mean. He used to work all hours, her sons are married and apart from her part time job she had a lot of time on her hands.’

‘Are you telling me that Sandra was having an affair?’

‘I’m not telling you anything. I’m just saying that until Ronny retired she was on her own a lot.’

‘Did you ever go round to her house?’

‘Only once, she invited a few of us around for supper. I think that Ronny was working on a big case and she didn’t fancy being on her own all night.’

‘A supper party? That sounds very formal.’

‘It was, we were expecting a few bottles of wine and a pizza but Sandra had other ideas.’ Mo looked awkward she turned the crumpled menu over and over ‘If you must know it was really embarrassing.’

‘How so?’

‘Claire and I had met up at Jenny’s house before going on to Sandra’s. She lives up the road in New Romney, by the New Inn in the High Street.’

‘Yes, I know it’

‘Well none of us knew Sandra that well. Sure she’d been out with us a few times but only because I’d felt sorry for her in work when she’d told me that her husband worked such long hours. Claire, Jenny and me have been mates for years, in fact I used to go to school with Jenny and we’d met Claire when our kids had started playgroup together, but until I’d started working with her I hadn’t met Sandra before. She was a few years older than us and I suppose we were a bit nervous about going to her house.’

‘Why’s that?’

‘It sounds terrible telling you this now, what with what’s happened to her but she was always boasting about what she’d got in the house and how well her sons were doing. It had only been weeks since she’d had a new kitchen fitted and that had cost them nearly eight grand. I think that was the only reason she had invited us, to show off her kitchen. ‘

‘So you went to the New Inn for a bit of Dutch courage?’ he asked

‘Yes, we went for one while we were waiting for the bus but we ended up having a couple more than we planned and had to a call a cab. You could tell that Sandra wasn’t happy when we arrived, apparently she had planned this fancy supper and we had nearly ruined it by being half an hour late. It was mad; she made us feel like naughty school girls so there was no way that we were going to invite her out on our girly nights again. I’m sorry, you must think I’m horrible but she made us feel really uncomfortable that night.’

‘How was she with you in work after that?’

‘That’s the funny thing, she was fine, in fact she was probably friendlier than before.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘She started asking little favours, nothing big, just she swap shifts with me and things like that. Oh, and she did tell me that she’d joined that new swanky gym that just opened up in Folkestone.’

‘Folkestone? That seems a long way to go to a gym.’

‘That’s what I thought but she said that a friend of her had got her a special deal on the fees so it was worth the journey.’

‘Did she tell you who this friend was?’

‘No she didn’t say but I got the feeling that it wasn’t a girlfriend.’

‘What makes you say that?’

‘It wasn’t what she said it was more the way she said it. If you know what I mean.’
‘Not really.’ He replied

‘When she said ‘friend’ she winked and smiled.’

‘Thank you Ms Chandler, you’ve been very helpful. If you think of anything else please get in touch. Here’s my card.’

Lintott stood to help Mo into her still damp overcoat and wondered to himself who on the team would be free to find an address for the gym in Folkestone.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


Ronny tried to remember the last time he had spent so much time alone with his sons, probably not since Sandra went to stay with her Mother after her Father had died. The boys must have been only young then, six and eight, no older. He remembered how shocked they had looked when he told them that he would be looking after them while Mum stayed with Grandma to help her arrange Grandpa’s funeral. They just stared, not speaking, just two little faces looking up at him bewildered and confused. At first Ronny had tried to treat it like an adventure. He took them swimming and even offered to cook them their favourite food for tea, but Martin and George had very different ideas about what was their favourite and squabbled so much that Ronny had lost his temper with them and had ended up taking them out for fish and chips which none of them had enjoyed.

Martin had cried himself to sleep the first night and Ronny hadn’t known what to do. This was Sandra’s job, not his, he was meant to go out to work and come home when the boys had been fed and bathed. They should be there ready to say goodnight to him before Sandra took them upstairs for a story before bedtime. DI Ronny Cousins was out of his comfort zone. He could cope with a squad room full of coppers waiting for his direction, he was in his element questioning some low life who had just battered his girlfriend to death because she wouldn’t go to the shops for his cigarettes, but put him in charge of his sons for one night and he was lost.

But this was different, they weren’t little boys anymore, they were grown men who would have to realise that he knew exactly what was happening to them. Their world had changed, their family had changed forever. Dad was no longer the old bugger who’d retired from the force to live out the rest of his life in the same house with the same wife doing the same thing day after day. He was a man whose life and been torn apart by the bastard who had murdered his wife, the mother of his children and he wouldn’t rest until he found the scum who had done this to him.

Ronny jumped as the door bell rang and opening it he saw from the expression on Geoff Lintott’s face that he wasn’t here with good news.

‘Geoff, you on your own?’ asked Ronny as he led his old friend into the Lounge.

‘I wanted a word in private, off the record so to speak. Have the boys gone home?’

‘Yes, I’ve manage to convince them that I wasn’t going to fall apart if I was left on my own for a few hours.’ he laughed

‘Ronny this is very awkward and I probably shouldn’t be telling you this but I’ve just come from the post-mortem and there’s something I need to clarify with you. You told me last night that the last time you saw Sandra was when you waved her off to work yesterday morning.’

‘Yes thats right, as I said, we had a lunch date but she didn’t show up.’

‘And before she went to work how did she seem?’

‘You know what mornings are like Geoff, she was running around getting ready to go to work, nothing unusual.’

‘And before that how were you two?’

‘Before what, what are you getting at?’

Geoff looked at his friend and knew that what he said next could alter everything Ronny felt about his wife. He didn’t want to make this conversation part of a formal interview, not yet, he owed his old boss that much.

‘I’m sorry Ronny but I’ve got to ask this, did you and Sandra make love yesterday morning.’

‘What the fuck do you mean you’ve got to ask? Are you trying to tell me that Sandra had sex yesterday?’ Ronny grabbed the arms of the chair, his face was blood red and his heart was racing.

‘Just answer the question Ron. Did you and Sandra, have sexual relations yesterday.’

‘Was she raped, is that what you’re trying to tell me?’ he snarled

‘Please Ronny don’t make this any harder than it already is.’

‘No Detective Inspector, we didn’t have sex yesterday, or the day before or the day before that.’

‘Were you and Sandra having problems?’

‘She’d gone off it, sex I mean, said it was to do with the menopause. Had terrible hot flushes some nights and slept in the spare room, said that she didn’t want to disturb me.’

‘How long?’ asked Geoff feeling very uncomfortable about how this conversation was going.

‘A couple of months, maybe more. She’d been to the doctor and asked for HRT but that takes a while to kick in apparently.’

‘But apart from the sex, you were OK?’

‘Of course we were OK, we’d been married for thirty years. What’s not to be OK? What is it Geoff, do you know something that I don’t?’

‘No Ron of course not but I’ve got to ask. That’s why this conversation is off the record, I wanted to speak to you as a friend before it all becomes official.’

‘You want to know if I think that Sandra was having an affair?’

‘Well do you?’

‘What do you think? Would I still be here if I thought she was carrying on with someone else? Give me credit for a bit of pride.’

‘And what about you Ron, have you never been tempted?’

Ronny suddenly felt very cold. What was Geoff driving at? Did he know something or was this just a fishing trip? His little indiscretion had been years ago and they’d been very discreet. It was a fling, nothing more than that, well at least on his part. He hadn’t meant for it to happen, but she was young and lovely and he was horny and lonely. Sandra had taken the boys away to the Isle of Wight for the week with her parents. They’d rented a cottage by the sea. He couldn’t go. They were in the middle of a murder enquiry and all leave had been cancelled.

It had been so innocent at first, a drink after work with some colleagues. Working on any murder case was tough but when the victim was a kiddie, well sometimes the only way to sleep at night was to go out and get pissed. Ronny had suggested that they went on for a curry after they left the pub but only Jo had joined him, the rest of the team had cried off and gone home. After the meal Jo had invited him home for a coffee and he’d thought ‘why not’. It wasn’t as if he had anything to rush home for and where was the harm in it, they were just two friends having coffee.

Ronny couldn’t remember who had kissed who first. Maybe it was him who had reached over and held her face between his hands. He remembered her skin being so smooth and clear. His fingers had touched her pink lips and the next thing he knew they were locked together in an embrace that had him unbuttoning her blouse with an urgency that he hadn’t felt for years. They hadn’t made it to the bedroom that first time. He’d thrown the cushions on the floor and had taken her there, no foreplay and very little conversation but he knew that she’d wanted him just as much as he’d wanted her and neither of them were prepared to wait.

And that was the start of an affair that they both knew had no future but they didn’t care. Each time they met up was like the first time and their lovemaking was as passionate the last time as it was the first. But it couldn’t last. Ronny had his career to think of, nothing came in the way of that.

Geoff broke the silence ‘Ron, you know I’ve got to ask this, have you been playing away from home?’

‘What do you think?’ he answered

‘Sorry mate but I had to ask.’

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Chapter 4

Slowly Ronny poured the cold coffee into the sink and opened the dishwasher to put the dirty mug on to the empty shelf.
Sandra had been very particular about her kitchen, a place for everything and everything in its place. She couldn’t abide dirty dishes cluttering up the work surfaces and certainly wouldn’t allow the gleaming butler’s sink to be sullied by even the hint of a coffee stain. Ronny ran the cold tap to wash the coffee dregs away and stared out of the kitchen window at his sons talking in the garden.

He knew that they were discussing him. They’d made the excuse of slipping outside for a cigarette but he knew that they were hatching a plan out there. Probably making arrangements that would mean he wasn’t on his own for too long, like some kind of babysitting service.

It would be very easy, he thought, to let them take over, too easy in fact to be wrapped up in their protective kindness. Ronny turned from the window and refilled the coffee maker and then loaded the grill with freshly cut bread. Sandra didn’t like sliced bread, said it contained too many additives and Ronny had gone along with her, it was her kitchen, her standards, her domain.

‘Come inside you must be freezing out there. If you have to smoke I’ll find you an ashtray, you don’t have to skulk off into the garden. Come on, sit down, I’m just making some breakfast, you’ll need something inside you before you go home.’

George and Martin glanced at each other conspiratorially as they sat down at the kitchen table.

‘Dad, we’ve just been talking about that. Martin and I think that you shouldn’t be on your own today, so Martin is going to arrange to stay here this morning and I’ll go home. I’ve got to get in touch with the office and sort out some stuff at home but I can get back here for about 2o’clock and then we’ll swap over and Martin can go home for a few hours.’ Said Gorge, helping himself to the freshly brewed coffee.

When did my boys become men, thought Ronny as he heaped the hot toast onto a plate? It only seemed yesterday that they we running about in football kits pestering him for the latest computer game or a new skateboard and now here they were grown men talking about him as if he was the child.

He knew that he had to keep telling himself that they meant well but all this fussing about was suffocating him. The longer that George explained through the mouthfuls of hot buttered toast, that it would all for the best if they arranged to stay over here with him, at least for a few nights, the more that Ronny felt his world closing in around him. He panicked as if felt his breathing becoming shallower and his pulse racing. Staring across the table he knew that they were talking but all he could hear was a low buzzing noise, like the sound of a mosquito trapped in an empty room.

Ronny took a breath and held it as he gripped the edge of the wooden table. His palms were sweating and his head felt like it would explode as he screamed ‘Enough’

Martin and George instantly stopped talking, it was as if that one word was enough to strip away the years and they were little boys who’d been caught fighting in their bedroom.

‘I know that you mean well, but enough is enough. I’m not some kind of geriatric who can’t be trusted to not piss his own pants. Just go both of you, go home, or go to work or wherever it is you need to be and leave me alone.’

‘We were only trying to help. We just thought that you shouldn’t be own your own right now.’ Snapped George.

Martin handed his brother his coat and together they made their way down the hall to the front door. Ronny knew that this was an argument he had to win. There was no way he was going to be treated like some kind of fool and the sooner his sons realised it, the better.

‘But that’s exactly what I want, I want to be on my own, listen let’s get one thing clear. I am not some kind of feeble old man and when I want your help I’ll ask for it. Is that clear?’

George spun around and stared at this stranger standing in the kitchen doorway yelling at them.

‘Is this the way you spoke to Mum? Did you scream at her when you didn’t get your own way? No wonder she was always looking for excuses to get out the house.’

‘What the fuck does that mean.’

‘Don’t play the innocent with me Dad. Even you must have noticed that she was never at home, she was either offering to cover extra shifts at work or arranging nights out with her girlfriends. She probably couldn’t stand being cooped up with you all day.’

Ronny ran down the hall and grabbed his eldest son around the neck. ‘You little bastard he snarled ‘You don’t know anything about your Mum and I.’

‘Dad stop it!’ screamed Martin as he tried to pull his father’s arms away from George’s reddening neck ‘he didn’t mean anything by it. He’s just upset, we’re all upset.’

Ronny relaxed his grasp and stared down at his trembling hands. Then suddenly, as if he had been punched in the stomach, he collapsed onto his knees and sobbed.

His body shook as the tears flowed and the racking sobs went on and on. His world was spinning out of control and he didn’t know how to make it stop.

Everything he knew and believed in was unravelling before him. His oldest son had looked at him with barely concealed contempt when he’d said that his Sandra, his quiet, shy Sandra had been looking for ways to be away from him. He need to know if Martin felt the same, was it true that his wife couldn’t bear to be in the same house as him?

Martin looked down at his father and with tears rolling down his cheeks bent to help him to his feet.

‘Is it true Martin? Did she hate me so much she wanted to be anywhere but here with me?’

‘No Dad, of course she didn’t hate you. George is just upset, that’s all. Come on let’s get you back in the kitchen.’

Ronny reached up and wiped away the tears from Martin’s cheeks. ‘Don’t worry son, I’ll be fine, go on, take your brother home, I think that we could all do with some rest.’ Seeing Martin hesitate, he continued ‘honestly I’m OK.’ Putting out his arms to his eldest son Ronny walked over to George who was standing with his back to the front door ‘I’m sorry son, I was totally out of order.’ And pulling him towards him Ronny engulfed his son in a hug. Relaxing his grip he patted George on the back, ‘thanks for coming over last night. I don’t know how I would have coped without you two here. But go on home now and see to your families. I’ll be OK, there’s going to be a lot to do over the next couple of weeks and I’ll need you two to help.’

Ronny stood in the doorway as his sons drove off down the street. This wasn’t the time to fallout with your family, he thought. No matter how much of a prick your son was. And closing the door against the threatening grey sky, Ronny turned and walked into the kitchen to feed Buster his breakfast.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Chapter 3

After racing through the morning traffic to the mortuary, Geoff Lintott was inpatient for the post-mortem to begin.  He’d left the squad room in a state of near chaos. All the paraphernalia from the temporary incident suite had just been dumped on the nearest desks and he was anxious that it should be properly co-ordinated and filed before he called this afternoon’s team briefing.  It was vital at this stage that nothing should be overlooked; every report from the SOCO and the Pathologist, every witness statement and observation would need to be recorded and logged.  Setting up a major incident room took time and experience but he was confident that DS Phil Tanner would be on top of things, at least until he was back with the preliminary report from the autopsy.  

Looking around the room he nodded a greeting to the two SOCO officers who had been on the scene last night and who he knew hadn’t managed to get home yet.  They looked as tired as he felt. It had been a long night for everyone and even the large espresso he had managed to drink on the way over from his office hadn’t given him the boost he was hoping for.  All he hoped for now was that the adrenalin would kick in as soon as the pathologist started the autopsy. He was always grateful for the fact that even early in his career he had been able to detach himself from the body on the table and accept that this whole process should be treated as one piece in the investigative jigsaw. After all, when a person dies all that’s left of them is just a body.  The thing that made a body more than the sum of the limbs went when death snatched it away.  

But he’d lost count over the years of the number of young PCs fresh out of training college, uniform still crisp and new, boots polished to a mirror-like shine, who’d swaggered into the mortuary with a look of amused insolence, only to end up fainting like the primmest of Victorian ladies.  Strange how it was often the beefiest looking macho kid who ended up flat on his back on the green tiled floor. Young woman seemed to be made of sterner stuff, maybe it was a constant diet of CSI DVDs that had enured them against the horrors waiting hidden under the white sheet. He smiled to himself when he remembered the exception that broke the rule. It was still a source of much amusement to the station that the first time their battle hardened Desk Sergeant had attended her first autopsy, she had vomited with such force that she only narrowly missed showering the corpse with the remains of her full English.

The room went quiet as Dr Fran Canning approached the table and signalled to the technician to remove the sheet that had been covering the corpse.  Nodding a greeting to Lintott she pulled the overhead microphone across and started her initial examination.  

‘White IC1 female, approximately 170cm tall, weighing 60 kilos’

As the pathologist methodically recorded every bruise and cut on Sandra’s lifeless body, Lintott was, as always, impressed by his friend’s aura of quiet confidence while she was working. The policeman and the pathologist had known each other for more years than either of them cared to admit. They had both been fresh out of college and in their first ‘proper’ jobs when, along with their mutual friends, they had enjoyed many a night at one of the local hostelries where Fran had downed enough whisky chasers to prove that junior doctors’ livers were in far greater peril than half their patients. 

At one time Lintott had toyed with the idea of taking their relationship further. After all she was gorgeous, with those beautiful almond shaped eyes and silky coal black hair, but in the sober cold light of day he knew that it would be far more sensible to keep their friendship as platonic, rather than risk not being able to perform when he thought where her hands might have been only hours before.  Such a strange job for a woman he thought, as he watched her complete the Y shaped incision cutting open the body to reveal the internal organs. It takes all sorts, he thought to himself.

Lintott watched in fascination as Dr Canning lifted out the stomach and placed it into the waiting metal dish.

‘It looks like someone had a good supper’ she announced as she carefully sliced open the waiting organ ‘these look like oysters if I’m not very much mistaken.’ 

‘Can you tell when she would have eaten them?’ asked Lintott moving closer to the table.

‘Not too long before she was killed.  Two hours maximum I would say.’

Dr Canning continued to carefully pass the internal organs over to her assistant, who methodically weighed and inspected them before lining them up for her to check later.  Moving to the top of the steel table she once again retrieved her scalpel to make the first incision across the scalp.  Even the most hardened officers flinched at the sight of the scalp being pulled down across the face and the sound of the drill cutting through the skull. Gently lifting the head from its resting place she examined the back of the skull.

‘Geoff I think that you should look at this’

Peeling the flesh away from the skull had revealed what had lain hidden under Sandra’s thick red hair.  Her skull had been cracked with such a force that it had splintered and ruptured her brain.

‘Any idea what could have done this?’ he asked

‘Looking at the shape of the wound I would think that it could be hammer but I’ll have to do more tests before I can say for sure.’

‘Can you give me a time of death yet?’

‘From the ambient temperature readings I took at the scene and that fact that it was a cold night, I’d estimate sometime between nine and ten o’clock.’

‘Is there no way you can narrow that down at all?’

‘There may be one way.’ she said moving across to a table at the end of the room where her technician had placed the clear plastic evidence bags that she had brought back from the scene.  ‘This is the watch she was wearing when she was found.  From the defensive wounds on her hands and arms it looks like she put her hands in front her face like this’  The pathologist crossed her arms in front of her face and bent her head downwards. ‘The watch looks like it was smashed in the attack. If you look carefully you can see that the glass face is broken and what might be even more interesting to you is that the blow stopped the watch at nine twenty.’

‘So if we can presume that she died at nine twenty are we safe in assuming that she ate those oysters at about seven o’clock?’

‘Yes but I’ll be able to give you a more accurate time when I’ve got the results of tests on the stomach contents back from the lab.’

‘There’s another thing that you should know Geoff before you get my report.  I’ve had the results back from a swab I took at the scene.  It looks like our Mrs Cousin had unprotected sex a few hours before she was killed.’

‘Could it have been rape?’

‘There’s no bruising around the vagina or anus that would indicate rape.’

‘Will you be able to get the DNA from the semen sample?’

‘Hopefully’ she answered ‘providing of course he is a secretor’

‘Well let’s hope that he is’ sighed Lintott as he wondered if today could possibly get any worse. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Chapter 2.1

As the night started to fade into morning, DI Geoff Lintott stood in the Cousins’ living room trying to warm his frozen hands in front of the flickering gas fire. He turned as he heard Ronny come in from the kitchen carrying two mugs of steaming coffee.

‘Thanks Ronny I need this.’ He said accepting the scalding brew.

The two friends fell silent, each wondering in their own way what the mornings’ search might bring.  Ronny was clinging to the hope that this was all some terrible accident and that Sandra would be found alive and well hiding out in one of the little beach huts that bordered the sands at Littlestone, but Lintott knew that each hour that passed made the chances of finding Sandra alive that much more remote.

‘My boy’s are on their way over’ said Ronny eventually as he stared into the gas flames ‘they want to get out with the search party.’

‘You know the score Ronny, why not leave it to us for now.  You’d all be better off waiting here just in case.’

‘Just in case what?’ cried Ronny getting up from the chair and striding over to the window ‘In case she comes home?’ 

The first rays of the rising sun were starting to force their way over the horizon casting the sky with an eerily red glow.  

‘We can’t give up hope mate, no yet.’

‘’Hope is about the only thing I’ve got left’ said Ronny staring at the start of the new day ‘hope that she is wandering around somewhere, hoping that she’s had some kind of bump on the head and is confused.  How sick is that,’ he laughed ‘hoping that your wife has been out all night confused and wet and alone. I know as well as you do what this is looking like, even if neither of us is brave enough to say it out loud.’

‘Brave enough to say what?’  Asked his eldest son as the two brothers walked into the room ‘have they found Mum?’

‘No son, your Dad is just worried that’s all.’ Explained Lintott as he got up to shake their hands.  ‘I was hoping to persuade him to get some sleep but he’s insisting that he wants to join the search team with you.

‘That’s why we’ve come over.’ Said Martin ‘we want to help.’

Realising that it would be futile to try stopping them, Lintott watched as Ronny as he made sure that his answering machine was switched on and that all the doors were locked before they left the house and climbed into their cars.

The car park looked a lot different in the cold light of day. Now, as well as Sandra’s car which was hidden from view under an inflatable tent-like shelter, there were half a dozen patrol cars and the county mobile incident room.  The sandhills, that last night were barren and rain soaked, were this morning covered with the dark blue uniforms of the search teams. A small mobile canteen had opened up in the corner of the car park and a line of shivering young constables were waiting to be served with the ubiquitous hot tea. 

DI Lintott led Ronny, Martin and George over to a sergeant who was co-ordinating the search teams and stood back to watch as they collect vinyl gloves and long thin wooden sticks before being led off across a path in the dunes to join a team of men who were already searching the long shoreline.

Even though it was still very early, the mood amongst the men waiting at the canteen was one of despondency.  Some of them had already been searching for what seemed like hours and the only things they had found so far were the usual accumulation of litter left behind by last years’ holidaymakers or that blown in by the winter gales.  Knowing that his time would be better spent retracing Sandra’s last known movements and arranging for her friends and work colleagues to be interviewed if they hadn’t been seen already, Lintott started to make his way across the car park to the blue incident van.

‘Sir, I think you should come and take a look at this’ The DI turned to see one of the constables who had been searching the dunes signalling him.  Turning into the wind he made his way cautiously up the sandy dune.  Hidden in a dip almost completely covered with coarse marron grass he could just glimpse the heel of a woman’s shoe.  Thrusting his trembling hands deep into his overcoat pockets Lintott made his way down into the dip to where the same sergeant who had answered the call last night was standing.

‘What have got Phil?’ he asked the sergeant

Sgt Jones used his stick to carefully separate the long grass exposing the body of a woman clothed only in a heavy winter coat.  Her bare legs twisted revealing the dark triangle of her pubic hair. As his eyes travelled up her naked torso he could see that her coat was twisted around exposing her small white breasts but his biggest shock was when he saw how her bruised and battered her face was.  Her upper lip was split and swollen which even the blue tinge of death couldn’t mask the bruising. Her eyes swollen and squeezed shut.

Lintott ran his hands across his unshaven face,

‘Christ almighty, who would do something like this.  Phil hurry, seal off the area.  Nobody comes down here until SOCCO have done their thing and make sure that Ron and the boys are kept well away.’

‘Do you want me to tell him we’ve found her?’

No thanks, I think that‘d better go and see them.’

Making his way on to the beach Lintott scoured the dozens of men scattered across the beach.  He knew at any moment the call would go up for them all to refine their searching and he wanted to speak to Ronny before that happened.  Spotting the trio further down the beach he hurriedly made his way across the wet sand to them.  Every officer knew that this was the worst part of the job, telling relatives that their loved one was dead.  No matter how many times you had to do it, it never got any easier.  But this had to be the worst, he thought, to have to tell your friend that you just seen the body of his wife half naked, battered bruised and possible worse, though how could even rape be worse than death?

Separating Ronny and his sons from the search team, Lintott bowed his head unable to look into his friend’s eyes as he told him that they had found a body 

‘Are you sure it’s Sandra?’ asked Ronny as calmly as he could.

‘I’m sorry mate there’s no mistake.  It’s Sandra.  I’m so very sorry.’

The DI stood back from the family as Martin and George held onto there father’s trembling hands.  Watching the three men standing there in the early morning light, the bitter wind stinging their faces and blowing the tears from their shocked eyes, DI Geoff Lintott swore to all that was holy that he wouldn’t rest until he’d found the bastard who had done this to a woman who was so loved that three grown men were rendered speechless by the news of her death.

‘How?’ asked Ronny eventually ‘do you know how she died?’

‘Not yet mate, SOCCO is still there, but it’s not looking good.’

‘When can I see her?’

Sorry Ronny, you know the form.  Martin, can you and George take your Dad back home.  I’ll send someone down from family liaison and when I know where they’re taking your Mum I’ll come through and let you know.’

Ronny’s head was bowed as his sons’ struggled against the wind to lead him back to the car park, his feet dragging along the wet sand as if he was sleep walking. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


As the storm clouds raced across the channel, Ronny ran across the beach screaming Sandra’s name into the wind.  With no moon to light his way and only the weak beam from a tiny torch to guide him, Ronny stumbled over the pebbly shoreline scanning the deserted beach for a sign that she might have been there.  With no chance of footprints on the wind strewn sand he knew that his only hope was to find a discarded shoe or scarf, anything to show that she had ventured on to the beach.  

As soon as he’d spotted her car abandoned in the dimly lit beach car park he knew without feeling the bonnet that it hadn’t been there long, after all his midnight drive had merely retraced the route he had walked with Buster that morning and he knew that the blue Ka hadn’t been parked there then.  It made sense that any of the patrol cars that had been looking for her would have been over her route to work earlier that evening and they hadn’t reported seeing it. So that meant that she must have parked up some time within the past few hours but  that didn’t answer where she’d been all day and why she would be driving back along the coast road if she wasn’t on her way home. 

The wind was stinging his face and he hurriedly wiped the salty tears from his eyes as he ran back up the beach towards the sandhills.  Grabbing a pole from a discarded wind break flapping in a rubbish bin Ronny started thrashing through the rough marron grass looking for anything that might indicate that Sandra had been there.  Moving slowly across the sandhills he used the pole to search under flapping carrier bags and the empty beer cans that lay undisturbed since last summer’s picnics. 

He knew that this was madness; there was no way that he could search properly in these conditions. He knew that he needed help but he was dammed if he was going to wait idly by until Kent’s finest turned up.  

The distant sound of a police car’s insistent siren cut through his nightmare of screeching wind and Ronny ran back to the car park in time to see a young pc emerging from his patrol car.  

‘Is this your car sir?’ called the constable as he walked across to Sandra’s Ka

‘No you bloody fool, it’s my wife’s car.’

‘There’s no need for that attitude sir.  I’m only trying to establish what’s going here.’

‘This is my wife’s car.  I reported her missing around six o’clock last night.’

‘And who was it found the car sir.’ He asked, pulling his notebook out of his pocket.

‘Who the fuck do you think found it?’

‘I can understand you’re upset sir but that kind of language isn’t helping anyone.  Now can I suggest that you wait in the patrol car until I’ve assessed the situation. Now have you touched anything in the car?’

Gritting his teeth Ronny growled ‘No constable I haven’t touched anything apart from the door handle to see if it was locked.’

‘And was it locked sir?’

‘No, no it wasn’t.’

Standing back as the constable made a play of shining his torch around the door of Sandra’s car, Ronny thrust his clenched fists into his coat pocket. He knew that it wouldn’t do any good to loose his temper with this jumped up little git. At this rate one of them would either end up in the local infirmary or more likely the bridewell and there were no prizes for guessing which one that would be. Settling in on the back seat of the patrol car Ronny watched as minutes later the station sergeant arrived with reinforcements and then an unmarked car that he recognised from his days on the force.

Detective Inspector Geoff Lintott knew it had been a mistake to answer his phone.  Phone calls in the middle of the night were never good news and there was no way he’d wanted to get out of his warm bed and leave his even warmer young lover on a night like this.

But that’s my trouble, he muttered to himself as he pulled the collar of his coat higher, I’m just too bloody conscientious for my own good.

‘OK son what have got’ he asked the young constable who was standing by Sandra’s car.

Constable Joe Collins had been amazed when he’d seen the Governor’s car pull into the rain soaked car park.  Since when, he wondered, did a DI take an interest in a routine missing person?

‘The gentleman in the squad car is a Mr Cousins, he reported his wife as missing a few hours ago and when it got dark and she still hadn’t come home he thought he would go out looking for her himself.  That’s when he found her car.  He says that he hasn’t touched anything apart from the door handle.  Surprised to see you here Gov, didn’t think that this would be a job for the CID.

‘Haven’t been with us long have you son?’

‘Nearly six months Gov, got a transfer down form the Met so that I could be nearer home.  The wife’s just had our first sprog.’ 

‘Well if you’d been here a little longer than six months you’d have realised that the gentleman sitting in your squad car is ex – job.  Ronny Cousins was my old DI’

Crushing his wet cigarette out under his foot, Lintott climbed into the patrol car next to his old colleague.

’I know, filthy habit, though, there are worse ones.  Hello Ronny how are you feeling.’

‘How do you think I’m bloody feeling? My wife’s been missing since nine o’clock yesterday morning and I seem to be the only one out looking for her.’  Snapped Ronny ‘Or do you think that I should have stayed at home waiting by the phone all bloody night?’

‘No, in your position I’d had probably done the same.’

Slipping a piece of nicotine gum in to his mouth Lintott settled himself next to his old Governor and pulled out a battered notebook from his coat pocket. ‘When did you report Sandra missing?’

Knowing that it was futile to try and hurry the system, Ronny tried to suppress his growing frustration and started to retell his story for the umpteenth time that day.   How could he explain that nothing had seemed wrong that morning?  Sandra might have been a bit distracted but no more than usual.  She’d left for work and then just disappeared.  

‘Sir’ PC Collins was tapping on the window.

Reluctant to leave the warmth of the patrol car, Lintott eased himself out and followed the constable over to the abandoned Ka. Battling against the driving rain sergeant Phil Jones was pointing his heavy duty flash light inside the small car.  

‘Looks like somebody got out in a hurry. The keys are still I the ignition and down there in front of the passenger seat looks like a handbag.  Lucky it’s such a bad night, had it been dry the local lads would have had it away.’

Lintott reached across the sergeant and lifted out the leather handbag. 

‘That’s Sandra’s bag.’ Ronny had joined the team at his wife’s car ‘I bought it for her last Christmas.’

Opening the bag Lintott’s heart sank as he spotted the mobile phone among the usual accumulation of things woman felt was necessary to carry around with them at all times.

‘Sarg get SOCO out to check the car over and Ronny I think you should get home now.  Don’t worry when I’ve got things sorted out here I’ll come around. Do you want me to get someone to give you a lift home?’

‘No I don’t want a bloody lift.  I want to get back to looking for my wife.’

‘Ronny’ sighed Lintott as he grabbed his arm ’its pitch black mate. There’s no way we could see anything on the beach tonight.  We’re going to have to wait ‘till morning.’

Shrugging off his friends grip, Ronny walked back to his car.  

‘First light Geoff, I’ll be back.’

Watching Ronny’s car screech away down the coast road, Lintott leaned into his car and radioed for a message to be sent out to his boss.  This was no longer just a runaway wife, and he would need all the help he could get if this wasn’t going to turn into a total nightmare.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Chapter 1.4

Ronny stood in the kitchen with the silent phone in his trembling hand.  

‘Any luck with the hospitals?’ asked George as he walked in from the garden

‘Luck?’ asked Ronny staring at his son as if he were a stranger ‘Just how fucking lucky do you think it’d be to find out that my wife was lying in a hospital bed? Jesus Christ you don’t have a fucking clue?’ he screamed.

‘No you’re right Dad, I don’t.  Why is it you’re so convinced that something bad has happened to her?’ shouted George

‘Statistics son, do you know how many people go missing every year? No? Well it’s over 200,000 and that’s just the ones that are reported.  I can’t begin to tell you how many people go missing and are never found.  Sure some don’t want to be found, some are running away from violent partners or abusive relationships.  Some run away because they can’t cope any more, they are up to their eyes in debt and it seems easier to run away from the problem and start again somewhere where nobody knows them.  Some people run away to be with a new lover, they leave their old lives behind and set up again with no baggage.  Do you want me to carry on?’ he yelled at his silent son.  ‘Shall I tell you about the misery that some of them leave behind?  Husband, wives, kids, who cry themselves to sleep night after night, month after month, year after fucking year. And that’s just the runways; there are others who don’t have any say in the matter.  They’re the ones who have been in an accident or worse. They’re the one’s who will never come home.’

Ronny threw the phone and poured himself a Scotch from the open bottle on the kitchen table.  Swallowing an inch of the amber liquor he looked at his son standing there with his head bowed.

‘I was a copper for too long son, I know too bloody much, that’s my trouble.  I know what can happen to people who go missing, and I’m frightened.’

Standing in the kitchen that had always been the hub of their family home, George felt like a stranger in a foreign land. Without his mother there the house seemed incomplete. She filled the house with love.  This was her domain, her place and there was no way she would leave it willingly.  The kitchen was full of memories, running in from school throwing his bag behind the door and diving into the fridge that was always kept stocked with freshly cooked ham and strong local cheese sweating gently in it’s paper wrapper.  

‘She wouldn’t leave all of this Dad.  This is her home. This is where she belongs.’ 

There was a silence between the two men that threatened to engulf them. George knew that there was only one thing left that they could do. ‘Do you think we should call the police?’

There it was, he’d said it.  The one thing that neither of them had wanted to voice.  The final admission between them, this was one problem that his Dad couldn’t solve.

Putting down his glass and picking the phone up from the table, Ronny looked at his son with a sadness that went deep into his eyes and dialled the number of his old squad in Ashford.  ‘Geoff, its Ronny Cousins, I think I need your help.’


It was nearly midnight when Ronny closed the door behind George and suddenly the house felt cold. With only Buster for company, he walked into the lounge and switched on the electric fire. The artificial glow from the fire gave the dark room a ghostly feel, Ronny walked over to the window.  The bare branches of the old tree in the front garden swayed madly in the wind.  How many coppers, he wondered, would be out on a night like this looking for his wife?  DI Geoff Lintott had done his best to reassure his old boss that everything possible would be done to find Sandra.  They would check the hospitals again tonight and alert the patrol cars to look out for her car.  Most of the leg work would have to wait for the morning when they would check out her friends and colleagues and scan the local CCTV for any sightings of her. 

All very routine, he thought, everything by the book, but this wasn’t a routine case, this was different, this was his wife who was missing.  Grabbing his car keys Ronny ran out to his car.  Turning the heating and windscreen wipers on full, he pulled right out of his drive and retraced Sandra’s route this morning.  If she was planning to go to work she would need to have driven down Coast Drive to Dungeness and until he knew for certain otherwise, he had to presume that she’d intended to go there.

Ronny’d seen her leave for work at eight thirty as usual and Mo had told him that she had spoken to Sandra at about ten to nine, so what had happened in that 20 minutes gap.  If she had really been ill then surely she would have turned around and gone home. Nothing added up, years of experience told Ronny that something was very wrong.  He couldn’t explain it to the boys and he wasn’t sure that he wanted to.  He knew that in cases like this families wanted to cling onto any ray of hope they could, no matter how tenuous. They had to believe that their case would be the one with the happy ending.  But Ronny knew that life wasn’t like that. No matter how hard you pray, shit happens.

Peering through the rain spattered windscreen Ronny scoured the road ahead in vain for any sign of Sandra’s Ka.  The only driver mad enough to be out so late on such a foul night was the landlord from The Seahorse Inn making his way home.  Ronny knew that his sons would think that he was a fool to be prowling the streets like this but with a long night of sleeplessness ahead he knew that even this wild goose chase was better than sitting in staring at the four walls.  He wasn’t prepared to just sit and wait for something to happen, he had to be out looking himself.  

Pulling onto The Parade at Greatstone, Ronny looked over into the car park opposite the Jolly Fisherman pub and suddenly braked.  There tucked into a bay up in the corner was a dark blue Ka.  Ronny held his breath as he threw his gears into reverse and screeched into the dark car park.   He didn’t need to look at the number plate to know that this was Sandra’s car.  The RNLI sticker in the back window together with the slight crease in the offside wheel arch screamed at him as he parked up beside the empty Ka.

With the torrential rain battering his face Ronny ran around to the driver’s door and tried the handle.  As the unlocked door opened, his heart sank as he spotted Sandra’s key ring hanging from the ignition and her black leather handbag lying open on the front seat.

‘Sandra’ he screamed into the black night. ‘Sandra my love, where are you?’ 

Friday, May 1, 2009

Chapter 1.3

Shaking himself from his stupor, Ronny knew that the only way he was going to find his wife was to start at the beginning and even the most junior rookie knew that the first thing was to talk to the family and friends. Had any of them known what she’d been planning for today, had she confided with anyone, had they seen her today or even heard from her.  The longer he sat doing nothing the colder the trail would get.  But he also knew that how he asked the questions would be as important as the questions themselves.  He had to appear calm and unconcerned, the last thing he wanted to do was start some kind of panic when Sandra could walk back through the door at any time.   

‘Hi Wendy, sorry to bother you but is Sandra there?’

‘No’ his daughter in law answered hesitantly ‘I thought that she was meeting you for lunch today’

‘Yes so did I but she didn’t turn up, in fact she didn’t go to work either, apparently she phoned in sick.’

‘Sick?’ asked Wendy ‘she didn’t say anything about feeling ill when I spoke to her last night.’

‘No, she didn’t say anything to me either when she was leaving for work this morning’ said Ronny trying hard not to sound as exasperated with the situation as he felt.

‘What, she left for work and then phoned in sick?  What’s going on Ronny, where is she?’

‘If I knew that I wouldn’t be looking for her would I.’ he snapped

‘Sorry Ronny, I didn’t mean to upset you, it’s just not like Sandra to go off and not tell anyone.  Do you want me to phone George to see if he has heard from her?’

‘Yes please love, if you do that I’ll ring Kate to see if her or Martin has heard anything.’

‘What about Sandra’s friends, do you have any of their numbers.’

‘Only those she‘s written in the book and I can’t be sure how many are in there, Sandra usually phones her friends from her mobile and she took that with her.’

‘Don’t worry Ronny, I’m sure that there’s rational explanation for all this.’

Ending the call Ronny wondered how many times he was going to have to repeat the same thing over and over again.  How many different ways were there to say that his fifty three year old wife had kissed him goodbye and left for work as usual that morning.  How could he explain to people that his dependable, quiet, loyal wife had left him sitting waiting and worrying all afternoon without a word.  

Hearing the muffled whimpering of his dog long abandoned in the kitchen, Ronny reluctantly stood up and made his way down the stairs.  It was only when he switched the lights on in the gloomy hall that he realised how late it was getting.  Poor Buster must be starving he thought to himself and busying himself in the kitchen he set about filling the dog’s water and food bowls.  As Ronny bent to put the bowls on the floor Buster fell on them as if he hadn’t seen food for as week and had polished off the food before Ronny had walked across the kitchen to open the back door.

With the evening sun slowly fading behind the trees, Ronny walked out into the darkening garden. Sandra loved to be out in the garden at this time of day.  The fruit trees, she had so carefully planted when the boys were little, were catching the last of the sunlight and transforming it into spidery shadows across the well tended lawn. 
Ronny had never had much time for gardening, it had been his wife’s domain, her passion and even in the winter months the borders that in the summer were full of bedding plants were still full of colour from the evergreen shrubs.

Walking down the path to the small pond at the end of the garden, Ronny, hunching his shoulders against the cold, remembered back to when the boys were young and Sandra had despaired of ever having a beautiful lawn. They loved nothing more than kicking a football about and in the end she had given in and resigned herself to the fact that she would have to wait until they had left home before she have a lawn instead of the scrub grass that was more child resistant.  Sitting down on the wooden bench beside the pond Ronny wondered when all this work on the garden had happened.  How many hours had she spent tending the flower beds and sculpting out the lawn?  How had she managed to lay a path and build the greenhouse without his help? 

Not for the first time that day, Ronny wondered how much he really knew about his wife. It seemed that for so long their lives had run along parallel lines, each had their own friends, their own hobbies and their own responsibilities.  His had been work, golf with colleagues and drinks with the few close friends that had been around since his rookie days at the police college in Maidstone.  The force had been his life for as long as he could remember and even now since his retirement, he could count on the fingers of one hand the number of friends he had who weren’t associated in some way with the job.  

But what of Sandra, where all her friends the same women she had met at the boys’ school gates or had she made new ones over the years?  Apart from her part time job did she have another life that he didn’t know about, did she have any hobbies or interests that didn’t involve the family home. It frightened him to realise that he really didn’t know his wife very well at all.  Frightened and embarrassed him.

That’s the truth of it, he thought, this whole situation is just one huge embarrassment.  He was an ex-Detective Inspector for god’s sake and he couldn’t even list all his wife’s friends. 

‘What are you doing sitting out here in the dark?’

Ronny looked up with a start to see his youngest son walking down the garden.

‘I tried ringing the front door bell but there wasn’t any answer and I was getting worried that something had happened to you as well.’

‘What do you mean me as well, what’s happened, have you heard something?’

‘No Dad’ answered George as he sat down on the bench ‘I haven’t heard anything and I’m guessing that you haven’t either.’

Ronny sat with his head bent staring at his hands as he slowly rubbed them together.  How many times had he seen other people do this sitting staring without seeing, unable to focus on even the most mundane of actions?

‘Dad what’s going on, where’s Mum?’ 

’I don’t know son, I really don’t know.  I’ve phoned everybody I can think of and nobody’s seen or heard from her today, well not since she phoned in sick this morning. I’ve tried phoning her mobile but it kicks straight to answer phone so she must have switched it off.  I’m getting worried George’ he said looking at his son. ‘It’s getting late and you know how your Mum hates driving in the dark. What if she’s had an accident or something, I can’t think of any other reason for her to be out so late.’ Hesitantly rising from the bench, Ronny turned to his son; ‘I’d better start phoning the hospitals.’ 

George was shocked as watched as his dad got up and make his way back to the house, it was as if he had aged ten years in the past two days.  George couldn’t understand why his Dad was making such a drama out of his Mum being a few hours late, and yet he was behaving as if she had been missing for days.

When he’d been growing up, George had always thought of his Dad as a man who could solve any problem. His Dad was strong, tough, a man’s man, a man other men respected.  But there had been times when George had wished that he had a Dad like his friends had.  One that worked regular hours, played football in the garden with them, turned up at parent’s evening in a car that didn’t have a blue light on the top.

He had often wondered if his Dad would have been so much different if he hadn’t been a copper. Would he have spent more time with his family?  Or was the job an excuse to use when they were young.  All George could ever remember was his Mum being there for them.  She was the one who stood on the touchline cheering him on when he scored the winning goal of the Under 15’s cup final.  It was his Mum he phoned when he skidded on the mud and crashed his first car through the hedge into the farmer’s field.

It was always his Mum because his Dad was busy chasing the bad guys.  His Dad’s job was so very important, but more important than his family?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Chapter 1.2

The narrow road out to the lighthouse was as deserted as the landscape that marooned it, with only Bill’s once white van breaking the monotony of the grey tarmac.

Scanning the horizon for Sandra’s dark blue Ka, Ronny wondered yet again what had been so important that she should have missed their date, without even letting him know that she wouldn’t be meeting him as arranged.

As they pulled into the car park for the lighthouse even old Bill was looking puzzled when he realised that her Ka was not there. ‘It looks like the Visitor’s Centre is open’ said Bill peering through the rain soaked windscreen ‘Do you want to pop in and see if your missus is inside? Go on mate, I’ll wait here and look after Buster’

Thanking Bill, Ronny pulled the hood up on his jacket and ran towards the open door.

‘Hi Ron’ called the harassed looking middle-aged woman from behind the reception desk.

‘I thought you didn’t work on a Tuesday Mo?’

‘Don’t usually, but when Sally phoned in sick this morning I offered to cover her shift. Is everything OK love, how’s Sandra?’ asked the woman finally looking up from the paper work she had been busy filing away.

Ronny tried to explain his unexpected appearance at the Lighthouse to his wife’s friend as best he could, without sounding a complete fool, but even to his own ears, it sounded ridiculous.  Sandra had left for work this morning, she’d eaten her breakfast, picked up her bag and coat, kissed him on the cheek, reminded him about their lunch date and had driven off in the direction of the Lighthouse.  Never once had she complained about feeling ill and she certainly hadn’t phoned anyone.

‘What time did she ring you Mo?’ asked Ronny

‘Not sure, probably about ten to nine. Yeah, that’s about right, it couldn’t have been before that because I remember saying to my Clive that I would have to get a shake on if I wanted to be in work by half past nine. You don’t think that anything has happened to her do you?’  

‘No, I’m sure she’s fine’ reassuring her when he felt the beginnings of a fear that he wouldn’t allow himself to acknowledge. ‘Maybe she’s gone to our daughter-in-law, probably didn’t want to worry me if she wasn’t feeling too good.’

‘Yeah, that’ll be it.’ Said Mo looking over Ronny’s shoulder seeing a coach party of schoolchildren racing across the rain soaked car park. ‘Sorry Ron but I’ll have to keep me eyes on this lot, the last school party we had in robbed us of all our novelty pencils while my back was turned, little buggers.’ She muttered in that way, that only middle aged woman who has brought up two perfect children can.

Leaving Mo to keep guard over thirty potential kleptomaniacs, Ron ran back to the waiting van.

As they drove back alone the coast road to Littlestone, Ron tried yet again to phone his wife only to be greeted by the same voicemail service as before.  Resisting the urge to shout down the phone demanding an explanation, Ron meekly asked that Sandra should phone him back as soon as she picked up this message. Keep calm, he kept reminding himself, there must be an explanation.  Maybe she left he phone at home, it wouldn’t be the first time, or maybe she had forgotten to charge it up and it was sitting, blank faced, in the bottom of her handbag.  Yes, he thought, that must be it. She must have used it to phone work this morning, there were precious few phone boxes around these days for her to have used one of them.

‘It doesn’t look like your missus is here either.’ Said Bill, pulling-up outside the house on Marine Drive that had been in Ron’s family for two generations.

‘Thanks for the lift Bill, I owe you’ said Ronny pulling a sleepy Buster out of his warm hiding place.

‘No problem mate, you can buy me a pint next time you’re in The Pilot.’

Walking around to the back of the house, leading the still damp dog into the conservatory, Ronny cautiously let himself into the house.

Methodically checking all the rooms downstairs, Ronny could see that everything was as he had left it earlier that morning.  The washed dishes were still on the draining board waiting to be put away, the cushions on the sofa were still plumped up from his early morning housework routine, and Sandra’s heavy coat was still hanging in the cloakroom next to the empty peg where she had taken her raincoat from before leaving for work.  This is madness thought Ronny as he climbed the stairs up to the bedrooms, there must be a rational explanation.  She might just have gone through to see their grandchildren but why didn’t she tell him that what she was planning to do, why had she told him that she was going to work.  This didn’t make sense, after all wives don’t just disappear, other men’s wives’ maybe, but not his Sandra.

Forcing himself to check her wardrobe, afraid that all he might find would be a row of empty coat hangers, Ronny didn’t know whether he was relieved or more anxious to discover that her clothes were still there as usual, nothing was out of place, nothing seemed missing.

Many years ago, as a lowly DC, Ronny had been involved with a number of ‘mispers’ Missing Person cases.  They had for the most part been just like this, no reason why the wife, or husband, shouldn’t be exactly where they always where, no reason anyone could think of for them to go missing. There hadn’t been a row, they didn’t seem unhappy, just one day, out of the blue, they had gone.  Sometimes, for the lucky ones, there was a rational explanation, a missed phone call or a confused message but, sometimes, it was the worst thing that anyone could imagine, the stuff of nightmares.  

No matter how long Ronny sat there on the end of the double bed staring at the phone in his hand, he dreaded making the first call.  He didn’t want to know that his situation was the one that was the unimaginable.  Is this what everybody feels like, he wondered, is this why so many people delay reporting a misper for hours, even days. Were they hoping against hope that their case will be one of the lucky ones’? He new that any minute, Sandra could walk through the door with her hands full of orange Sainsbury’s carrier bags, moaning about how she couldn’t be bothered going to work this morning and how she had spent the morning having coffee with her girlfriends and shopping. So why hadn’t she?  Why was he sitting there alone, hoping for the best but secretly fearing the worst.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Chapter 1.1

Ronny Cousins picked up the empty tea cup from his wife’s bedside table and balancing it carefully on top of the full laundry basket carried it all down to the kitchen.  As usual by this time in the morning, Ronny had finished his breakfast and after washing up the dishes and loading the washing machine he was ready to take Buster for his early morning run along the beach.

For ex- Detective Inspector Cousins life had become very predictable since his retirement for the Kent Police, housework, cooking, walking the dog, weekly visits to the library and 18 holes of golf three times a week with some of his old pals from the force.  So far he had resisted the temptation to find himself a nice little job in one of the many security firms that some of his old colleagues have been busy setting up.  He had even managed to convince Sandra that he was happy to take over the lion’s share of running the house while she carried on with her part time job as a receptionist at the lighthouse in Dungeness.

The only person left to convince was himself.   It was easier during the summer months. Then it felt like he was on extended leave with picnics at High Weald and day trips across to France with Sandra.  Ronny was content to let the strain of 35 years of policing seep out of his body as his pale skin had tanned to a gentle honey brown.  Looking in the mirror each morning was enough to reassure himself that he had made the right decision in taking early retirement, his shoulders that were once hunched through tension and tiredness were now thrown back and muscular with days spent playing golf and his eyes once hooded and shadowed now were bright as if they had seen for the first time the beauty that had been hidden to him for so long.  But now, in the depths of the coldest winter in living memory, Ronny was beginning to wonder if he self imposed exile from the world of work was such a good idea.

Buster’s nose was twitching as he scoured the beach at Littlestone for what ever it is old Labradors are looking for beneath the cobblestones.  Ronny pulled his scarf higher around his mouth as the biting wind blew in from the channel and he set off a pace along the shore line forcing Buster to leave his trail and run after his master.  It was foolish to linger too long on such a cold day and Ronny was looking forward to a pint at the Pilot Inn before his lunch date with Sandra.

Ronny was surprised when Sandra had suggested this lunch together, after all these years together he couldn’t remember the last time they had had lunch together  He still wondered whether Sandra had resented the hours he had spent at work when the boys were little, bringing up a family when you’re married to a copper can’t have been easy, he thought, but Sandra had never complained and the boys didn’t seem to resent the fact that the job had to come first, although neither of them had followed him into the Police. Martin had a good job up in London with a foreign bank while George was happy teaching in a private school just outside Hythe.  Ronny was proud of his boys and doted on his three little grandchildren, Sandra would have liked to see more of them but as he was always telling her, you have to let them live their own lives.  

Sandra had been a good Mum, always there when the boys came home from school, always ready to drive them to their football practice or sit in the sailing club with a flask of hot chocolate and dry clothes for them to change into when they came back from sailing the small two man rigger that Ronny had managed to get them from an old pal of his.  He supposed that it wasn’t surprising that when they had gone off to University that Sandra had felt so bereft.  The boys had been her life’s work and now they didn’t need her any more, well not until they came home with rucksacks groaning with dirty washing begging for her home cooking. It was after the boys had left home that Sandra had started looking for a job. 

Ronny wondered if it was selfish of him to think that after the boys had gone that Sandra would have been happy just to have more time for him.  He had hoped that she would have planned her shopping trips to Ashford to coincide with his meal breaks so that they could have spent time together in one of the few pubs not frequented by the Kent constabulary but Sandra had worried that any plans they made would be ruined if he was called back to the station.  She hadn’t been married to a DI in the Murder Squad for so many years to think that he would be able to take an extended lunch break whenever it suited him.  

Walking around the bay towards Dungeness the wind seemed to be getting colder and even Buster was being buffeted along the beach. As the sand whipped up into his face, Ronny could feel his eyes stinging with the sea spray and not for the first time this week, secretly longed to be back in his warm office surrounded by his old team, busy working away in front of their computer screens.  That’s the trouble with bloody television, he mumbled to Buster through his scarf, everyone thinks that a Bobby is only busy when he is chasing after the bad guys in a high speed car chase or standing in a muddy field shouting to a pathologist for a precise time of death, blood fools, he shouted to the wind, all the pathologists he’d ever worked with would have been more likely to say ‘how the fuck do I know’.  What the general public didn’t realise was that most of police work is dull.  It’s time spent sitting in front of a computer screen, accessing databases, looking for patterns, reading reports and compiling lists.  The days of a DI standing in front of his team screaming for results was, if they ever existed at all,  long gone.  Twenty first century policing is methodical, planned and costed down to the last penny and god forbid if a case should ever go over budget, Sherlock Holmes would be spinning in his grave, he laughed to himself.

With the welcome sight of the pub coming into view Ronny checked his watch, he had made good time and with any luck would arrive at The Pilot just as Michelle was opening up the bar.  The thought of that first pint of Theakstones Old Peculiar drove Ronny along across the beach onto the scrub land boarding the pub with Buster racing along after him, he knew that he had about 10 minutes to down his pint and get the food ordered before Sandra arrived.  As he walked into the bar Ronny saw that only one other windswept bugger had beaten him  to the first pint of the day, Bill Drapper, still dressed in his yellow waterproof fishing trousers, was perched on the bar stool next to the door with a freshly pulled pint of special  grasped in his gnarled hands.

The Pilot was still a favourite haunt of the local fishermen as it had been since 1633 when the first bar on the site was built from the wreck of the Spanish vessel Alfresia which had been lured aground and looted of it’s cargo of spirits by local smugglers.  Most of the new incomers to Dungeness thought that the days of smugglers were long gone, but Ronny’s time on the force had shown him that smuggling was still alive and flourishing despite the endeavours of the Kent police and the ever vigilant coast guards.  With the coast of France only 30 miles away the smuggling these days tended to be of the human rather than spirit variety.  It seems that England is still a country where the poor of Eastern Europe think that they can start a better life.

With the skate and chips on order and Buster fast asleep at his feet, Ronny settled down to wait for Sandra to arrive.  Even on a bitterly cold Monday in January The Pilot could expect a decent smattering of lunch time clientele attracted by the promise of well kept real ale and lovingly prepared freshly cooked fish.   As the door opened the icy blast from the channel raced into the bar and Ronny recognised the men as workers from the now decommissioned Nuclear Power Station at Dungeness.  Glancing again at his watch Ronny was surprised to see that at nearly 12.30 Sandra was running late, at this rate she would barely have time to finish her lunch before she had to rush off back to work. 

Pulling his mobile phone from the pocket of the new walking jacket that had been a Christmas present from Sandra he checked to see if he had missed a call from her.  

‘What do you want to do about your fish Ron?’ asked young Hannah who had arrived at the table struggling to carry the massive portions of freshly friend skate wings ‘do you want me to pop them in the oven until Sandra get here?’

‘Thanks Love, that’ll be great.  I don’t know what’s keeping her.’

‘Probably stuck with some daft tourists who don’t want to go back outside in this bloody weather.  My Mum recons it’s cold enough for snow.’

‘You’re probably right.  I’ll give her ring though, just to see if she’s OK’

As the young waitress carried the steaming plates back into the kitchen, Ron pressed the speed dial for Sandra’s mobile.  After only five rings the irritatingly cheerful voice of the voicemail service instructed him to leave a message after the beep. 

‘Where the bloody hell are you? Your dinner’s getting cold here. I hope you didn’t forget that we had a lunch date for twelve o’clock today?’ snapped Ronny, despite his intention of leaving a more loving message.   He didn’t mean to be short with his wife but lately he had found himself getting more and more irritated by her vagueness, it was as if she wasn’t all together with it sometimes. 

He had caught her last night staring out of the window at the coal black sky, and when after at least five minutes he had asked her what she was looking at she had turned to him as if she didn’t recognise him and shaking her head had answered ‘nothing’. No explanation, no conversation even, just the one word ‘nothing’ before she shrugged off her dressing gown and climbed into bed.

Ronny had moved across the bed to cuddle into her curled body, but her cold arms had pulled away from him and turning her back to him she switched off her bedside lamp and fell silent.  In the morning Ronny had slipped out of bed to go downstairs to make the tea. 

As he carried the steaming cups back into the bedroom Sandra had been sitting up propped against the snowy white pillowcase smiling as if the night before had never happened.  Ronny wondered, not for the first time, if it was him that was going mad or was it just a bad dream that his wife could turn from him as if he meant no more to her than an irritating smell?

With no sign of Sandra’s car pulling into the large car park and her lunch hour ticking away, Ronny pulled on his coat and fastened Buster’s lead back onto his collar.

‘Sorry about this Michelle’ he said to the bar maid as he made his way through the bar ‘I don’t know what’s happened to Sandra. I’m going to try and make my way out to the lighthouse and see if I can catch her.’

‘Do you want a lift Ronny? I’ve got the motor outside’ asked Bill struggling down from the high bar stool with his van keys jangling from his finger

Deciding that even a lift in Bill’s old van was preferable to braving the icy winds, Ronny thanked him as he bundled Buster into the well under the front passenger seat and settled himself the best he could onto the old potato sack that served as a seat cover in Bill’s smelly van.

‘Sorry about the pong’ said Bill as he fired the engine and pulled left out of the pub car park ‘didn’t get a chance to scrub it out after I delivered this morning’s catch to the fish market’

Even on a day as cold and windy as this, the enormous sky over Britain’s only dessert at Dungeness was as ethereal as if it had been painted by Monet himself.