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.

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