But they said nothing. One drove. The other sat.
‘Where are we going? I don’t live this way.’
‘You’ll have a chance to say all that.’
But they shot through the empty streets at a hundred miles an hour and he got no answer.
‘Out you get.’
Hand on him again.
‘What am I at the police station for?’
Nobby stood. They weren’t any of the cops he knew.
The desk sergeant was a hundred feet tall.
‘What’ve we got?’
‘Brought in for questioning. Loitering in Duchess of Cornwall Close. You’ll need to get someone down.’
‘Have I been arrested?’
‘You have not. Brought in for questioning, you heard the constable. Name?’
‘Full and proper name?’
‘By the canal.’
‘Don’t mess me about please.’
‘The shack by the canal.’
‘And the postman calls there, does he?’
‘I don’t get post.’
They got no further because of the noise made by two half-naked young men brought in, handcuffed, fighting, shouting, singing, swearing.
‘All right, Mr Parks. Someone’ll be down in a bit. Room 3.’
‘Can I have a cup of tea?’
The PC didn’t answer, just stood by the door. Nobby sat at the scabby metal table and looked at the scratch marks. Room 3 smelled of something.
He had no real idea why he was here but maybe it was to do with where they’d picked him up, in which case he didn’t blame them and he could see it hadn’t been the best idea he’d ever had. Going there, hanging about. So, no, he didn’t blame them. He’d sit here and wait, someone’d come and ask questions, he’d answer and then with luck they’d take him home.
The team looked tired and low-spirited.
‘One lead – sort of. Patrol brought in Norman Parks – Nobby Parks, lives in a glorified shed down by the canal, near the old warehouses. Bit of a weirdo. Patrol found him skulking around the sheltered bungalows, near to number 12, just after midnight. Got nothing out of him at all. Seen nothing, heard nothing, no idea why he was where he was. Says he just likes being about at night.’
‘Wasn’t he a witness to the ram raid couple of weeks back? Obviously likes hanging about at night.’
‘Nobby Parks has been hanging about Lafferton at night for years,’ Serrailler said. ‘Harmless loner, one sandwich short of a picnic. He shouldn’t have been up at the sheltered housing but he wouldn’t have been able to resist. Nobby wouldn’t kill anyone. No motive, no history of violence. Just a pity he wasn’t hanging about there the night before, he might have seen something important, but don’t waste any more time on Nobby Parks. Joanne?’
‘Guv. We’ve interviewed all the workmen who were finishing off at the Duchess of Cornwall Close bungalows in the past three weeks. None of any interest except the electrician, Matt Williams.’
‘Yes, odd this. Have we found out if the electricity was actually faulty? Did he have a bona fide reason for going back to the bungalows, and Elinor Sanders’s in particular?’
‘Been checked. It’s true there was a general power blip which tripped everyone’s electricity. Williams went to three houses, checked everything, apparently found the fault which our boys have confirmed. But they couldn’t understand why he went back again to number 12. Nothing particular there and it wasn’t the source of the outage – that was number 1. Fault in the original installation . . . the full report’s in the file.’
‘And why was he working so late? What do we know about Williams? What’s he have to say for himself?’
‘We haven’t got hold of him yet.’
‘Why the hell not?’
‘Hasn’t turned up for work since the night Elinor Sanders was killed, no reply at his flat and his phone is off. Been trying all day.’
‘Van – all kosher, insured and so on, but it wasn’t at the house and no one’s seen it. The number’s out there.’
‘CCTV on the bypass and the motorway service stations? When was he last seen?’
‘Bloke who lives in the flat below says he didn’t hear Williams come home that night, and apparently he usually gets back around six or so, unless he goes to the pub. His local’s the Garter’s Arms and they haven’t seen him for a couple of nights, maybe more.’
‘Done a runner then. Anything on file?’
‘No. He’s self-employed like a lot of them but the building contractors have his details, payslips, bank and so on and that’s all in order – he’s worked for them on and off the last three years. Before that he was employed by a Bevham firm, Bickerstaff’s – they’re checking. They have to dig out past employment details and their office is one down today but we’re pushing.’
‘Married? Previous addresses?’
‘Not married so far as we’ve found.’
‘Get round to his place again. Keep ringing the phone. Check vehicle reports. If he isn’t back by tomorrow afternoon we’ll get a warrant to search his rooms. I want to know where he’s worked before the Bevham firm, going back as far as we can, and any serious violent crimes while he was in those areas, particularly attacks on elderly women, robberies, assaults . . . nice bit of delving.
‘OK, forensics – not a thing, crime scene clean as a whistle . . . no prints, no hairs, fibres, skin cells, blood, saliva . . . This is Mr Disembodied.’
‘I NEED A few details, Mrs Stewart. Your name and address please? It’s only for our files, don’t worry.’
‘Hilary Stewart, 30 Cumberland Avenue.’
And so on, through date of birth and the rest, while she twisted her fingers together and bit her lip and then told herself to stop, because she was behaving as if she had done something wrong, and she’d done absolutely nothing wrong, not a thing.
But the policewoman was pleasant-faced, though not pretty, had neat hair, nice jacket. But bitten-down fingernails. You can get stuff for that, Hilary wanted to say. Tastes disgusting but it works.
‘Thank you, Mrs Stewart, that’s all. Now, tell me what I can do for you?’
‘This may seem rude, but can I ask how long you’ve been been here – at this police station?’
‘Two and a half years. Why?’
‘Then you won’t know. I’ll have to tell you. It’s my sister . . . Lynne, Lynne Keyes. Have you heard of Alan Keyes?’
‘Nooo . . . no, I can’t say I have.’
Hilary sighed. ‘Right. I’d better start right back then.’
It didn’t take long and everything she said was noted quickly down.
‘I’m sorry,’ the DC said when she’d finished. ‘So is your sister Lynne living with you now?’
‘No, she’s in a grotty bedsit. But I’ve sorted it with my husband that she can – she should come and stay with us. They didn’t use to get on that well but it was a lot better after Alan was off the scene. Once we knew Alan wasn’t ever coming back we all felt . . . well, relieved for a start. He’s a nasty piece of work, Miss . . . Mrs . . .’
‘Rose is fine.’
‘Rose. Right. Thanks. The thing is, read it all up in the newspapers and you’ll see. He killed those three old people as sure as I’m sitting here, everybody knew it, your lot knew it, the lawyers knew it . . . we knew it. Nobody was more sure of anything, it was cut and dried, he was going down for life. And then there was something wrong with some bit of evidence . . . some mix-up, someone forgetting what they’d seen – all rubbish, none of it was very important, we knew he was guilty. And then he wasn’t.’
‘You mean he was found not guilty?’
‘It was – what do they call it? – a travesty, a travesty of justice if ever anybody saw one. Only it happened, that was that, and he just vanished. Nobody ever saw him again.’
‘I’ll have to look all this up and check with my boss obviously. I don’t know anything about it, and to be honest I’ve never had to deal with this sort of case before. Someone being given a new identity is very unusual. It would have been for his own protection, given that the acquittal was so controversial.’
‘If he’d have shown his face, he’d have been torn apart. He wouldn’t have walked away alive.’
‘Which is why he was whisked off.’
‘How do they do it?’
‘I’m afraid it’s something I can’t tell you much about, Hilary. One thing I am pretty sure about is that no one – not you or anyone in your family – will be able to make any sort of contact with Mr Keyes. Of course he won’t be called Alan Keyes now. He probably won’t look the same as he did either.’
‘What, you mean glasses and a big black beard?’
‘They were divorced, him and Lynne. She didn’t ask for that, though I know she’d have got round to it sooner or later – she just got a letter telling her it would happen and then not long after she got the decree thing through the post. So she isn’t his wife now but she was his wife for thirteen years and I just think it’s human decency to let him know. Not that Alan knows what human decency is himself. But it is.’
‘Hilary, have the doctors given you any idea how long Lynne has to live?’
‘They hedge their bets, don’t they? But I managed to get something out of one . . . he said he thought a month or so . . . not more than three, probably a bit less. That was what made me decide I had to find a way of letting Alan know.’
‘Did Lynne agree?’
‘I haven’t told her. I haven’t told anybody. I thought I‘d find out how the land lay and get some advice from the police first. She wouldn’t want to see him though, I’m dead sure of that.’
‘She wouldn’t be able to see him. Now, let me get you some tea.’
‘Coffee would be nice, thanks. Milk, one sugar.’
‘I’ll be back as soon as I can, when I’ve had a word with the DCI. You won’t want to spend much time with our coffee.’
Rose was not long. The reply was brief and conclusive. There could be no contact on either side and no further information would be given.
‘So that’s it then?’
‘I’m afraid so.’
‘Right . . . Goodbye then.’
She was about to go through the doors of the station, but turned round on an impulse, and hugged the policewoman. She had no idea why. But she was full of emotions which bubbled up and spilled over, so that her eyes filled with tears, for her sister’s miserable marriage and lonely years since, her illness, the fact that she would die soon, and for herself, because a nail of guilt had gone into her one night ten years earlier, and was still painfully there and could never be removed. The tears were of anger and frustration too, and grief for the women Keyes had murdered, and their families who had never been able to come to terms with any of it and more so because of his acquittal. It was ten years ago and it was yesterday and today, and it would be tomorrow.
The only person she did not shed a tear for was Alan Keyes. Or whoever he was now.
MATT WILLIAMS WAS recognised at a builders’ merchant’s in Plymouth. Forty minutes later, a car was on its way to pick him up. By seven o’clock, he was in Interview Room 1 at Lafferton Police HQ.
‘Present, Acting DI Ben Vanek, DC Frank Gilmore, Matthew Kevin Williams and Mr Iain Ferguson, Duty Solicitor. For the benefit of the tape, will you please give your full name?’
‘Matthew Kevin Williams, and the first thing I need to say is I’ve been brought here against my will.’
‘All right, you’ll get your chance to protest, but for now, you’ll answer some questions please.’
‘I haven’t been arrested.’
‘No, you haven’t.’
‘Or charged with anything.’
‘So if I want to get up and walk out of here you can’t stop me.’
‘No, I can’t.’
Matt stood up and pushed his chair back.
‘Sit down please.’
‘I’m not under arrest, I can go. You said. So I’m going.’
‘Listen, if you stay here and answer all my questions, so that I’m happy to let you go, that’s in your best interests, Mr Williams. Because if you go now, I can tell you, your action will be saying something about yourself and you’ll become the subject of even closer police interest than you are now. In fact, you’ll be back in here before you know it.’
‘You’d have to charge me.’
‘We’d think of something, don’t fret. I think the Plymouth officer said he’d noticed the tax disc wasn’t correctly displayed on your van.’
‘Nothing wrong with my tax disc. Nothing wrong with my van.’
‘Glad to hear it.’
‘So I’m out of here.’
‘And you put up a bit of a push and shove with him when he asked you to go with him from the store. Made his arm ache. He said.’
‘Now listen –’
‘Just sit down, answer the questions, get it over with, we can all go home.’
‘I’ve got nothing to hide.’
‘Then you’ve got nothing to fear, have you?’
Matt Williams glanced at the solicitor. The solicitor nodded to the surface of the table.
‘OK, get on with it.’
‘Good. Right decision there, Mr Williams. Now, I have some questions to ask you about the day before yesterday, 28 February. You were working at Duchess of Cornwall Close, is that right?’
‘Yes. Been working there for weeks. It’s new-build bungalows.’
‘Have you been working alone or with a team?’
‘Plenty of other tradesmen. Well, obviously.’
‘Two. But I work on my own, I’m not with a firm.’
‘So sometimes you’d be working on the electrics by yourself in a house, or a flat, other times you might be there with – what? Another electrician? A carpenter? Tiler?’
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