Guilt and Money
“Get the whole place cordoned off.”
Inspector Anthony Bewitt looked over to the edge of the field as the first of the journalists arrived. By the dust rising from the country road, it wasn’t the last. He didn’t know how they found out so quickly. He had only got the phone call thirty-five minutes ago. As he reached his car, five journalists rushed at him, each one armed with a microphone.
“What you got, Bewitt?” the man closest to him demanded. The other’s words all just merged into one.
“Stop.” There was hardly any volume to Anthony’s voice, but the gannets ceased their calls and waited for the scraps they were about to be thrown. “At the moment we’ve got a body. No identification. Just a body.”
The questions exploded again. Who found it? How long had it been there? How had it only just been discovered? Anthony dismissed them all with the promise of a proper press conference, wading through the journalists to try and open his car door.
He turned back as a man with his own camera crew spoke.
“Could it be Sarah Moyne?”
The mixed expression of disbelief and disgust on Anthony’s features was caught and broadcast to the whole world.
“No,” he replied. “Sarah Moyne was found in the heathland thirty miles east of here.”
“But it’s true, isn’t it, Inspector, that her parents didn’t believe it? They didn’t want the police to drop the case.”
“It’s called closing the case, not dropping, because it was solved.”
“Semantics, Inspector. What can we tell our viewers?”
“That whosoever pays the news, hears the news he wants.” Anthony ducked into his car and slammed the door closed. He tossed his trilby onto the passenger seat and turned the keys in the ignition, reminding himself how much he hated the combination of guilt and money. The truth of Sarah Moyne’s death was that she had left her parents’ house with her boyfriend. They’d gone out onto the heath, lit a fire, fallen asleep, and burnt to death as their fire spread. But her family owned the local news channel and, through guilt at the fact they’d chosen to go out that evening, her parents had refused to accept the outcome of the police investigation. Sarah had been seventeen at the time.
But, however many times Anthony told himself the facts, it was Sarah’s file which rested on his lap as he fell asleep that evening. It had been an open-and-shut case. There was no way the body found today could have been her.
He jumped awake, muttering angry words as his glass of wine splashed onto the file notes. That was going to be difficult to explain.
The phone rang again. That must have been what had woken him up.
“Yes?” he began, setting it to his ear.
“I’ve just been watching you on the news.”
Anthony remained silent.
“I know you’re there, Bewitt.”
There was a long pause while Anthony tried to work out who would be calling him at home. Apart from Chris, his usual partner who was on holiday with his family, no one ever called his home phone. Chris wasn’t getting home until tomorrow.
“She’s still out there. You know she is. Where can I meet you?”
“Who is this?” Antony asked.
“Someone who knows your home number. And someone who knows that, right now, you’re poring over the Sarah Moyne file. Literally pouring.”
“Who the hell are you?” Anthony growled, looking from the wine-covered file to the closed curtains at the window. There was no way anyone could know his careless mistake.
“Where can I meet you?”
Anthony slammed the receiver down. He picked up the file and lined the sheets out on the desk so they would dry quicker, and stared down at the two photographs which met his gaze. Sarah Moyne, seventeen. Samuel DeBray, nineteen. Two lives gone, wasted. He had no family, a fact Alex Moyne, Sarah’s father, had pointed out publicly in an attempt to undermine the handling of his daughter’s case.
Tragedy. That had been the word Anthony had used. Wasted lives at their own hands. Nothing Shakespearean, just carelessness.
Anthony was still considering the case and the unusual phone call when he made his way to bed. The house suddenly seemed to grow and, while Chris had always told him it was too big for him, tonight was the first time he had ever felt it. The stairs stretched before him, almost insurmountable, and the landing was threateningly dark. Making a mental note to change the lampshade which obscured the bulb, Anthony walked into his bedroom. Everything was exactly as he had left it that morning, neat and orderly, as everything in his life was.
He lay awake staring at the alabaster swirls in the ceiling. Why, when he knew it was Sarah’s remains they had found after the fire, was he still questioning it? Was it just that her parents had questioned him so much, he was now questioning himself?
He jumped as the phone rang downstairs.
Slapping his hand onto the clock, the LED number flashed into existence. 2:37. Anthony had decided not to have his phone beside the bed. He had a mobile which people could ring if they needed him and, more importantly, he could set to silent if he needed to escape them. His mobile was switched to silent now.
Who would call at such a time?
Anthony slotted his feet into his slippers, tucking the backs over his heels and taking as much time as possible. Hopefully, the phone would have stopped by the time he made it downstairs. But it kept ringing.
“Where can I meet you?”
“It’s the middle of the night,” Anthony snapped back.
“I’m not asleep. You’re not asleep. I bet you know every swirl of that pattern above your bed by now.”
“Are you spying on me?” Anthony demanded. “Who are you?”
“Tomorrow, at ten o’clock, meet me outside the fish market. Wear what you wore the day you found Sarah Moyne, and I’ll do the same. Then you’ll know who you’re looking for. You do remember, don’t you?”
Anthony opened his mouth to retaliate with a string of angry words, but the hollow sound of the dialling tone was the only voice on the phone now.
If going up the stairs had been an obstacle to him before, it was now an impossibility. He sat down in the deep leather armchair and, while his head tried to make sense of what he had heard and seen, he felt his exhausted senses succumb to sleep.
He woke up to the sound of birdsong, and the clock over the empty hearth showed six-thirty. Rubbing his neck, he eased himself out of the chair. The house was his own once more, and he walked upstairs without any consideration for the disquieting feeling the same action had caused in him last night. He showered, shaved and dressed before returning downstairs.
He walked into the study and was about to collect the papers of the Sarah Moyne file, but stopped as he stared down at the large photograph which lay on top. It was a picture of him, taken on the October day they had found Sarah and Samuel.
Someone had been in his house. While he slept, someone had left a reminder of that day, of what he had been wearing. Anthony had been determined to ignore the request from the mysterious caller, at least for a day or two, but now he felt his anger piqued and he scowled down at the desk.
He did, however, manage to retain some common-sense and tucked the photograph into a plastic wallet before gathering the papers and carrying them through to the hall. Moving aside the top garment on the coat hooks he frowned at the beige trench coat which hung there. It was the one from the photograph, the one he had been wearing when he and Chris had been called out to the heath. He unhooked it and pulled it on, looking at himself in the mirror as he placed his trilby over his receding hair.
That had been almost three years ago. It was only his thrift which had made him keep the coat, it hardly fitted him now. He felt swamped in the garment but scooped up the papers and left the house.
He drove straight to the station, arriving a little after eight o’clock. Rush hour was no longer an hour, but more like two. After parking the car and returning the file to his desk he picked up the phone and dialled an internal number.
“Fisher, I’ve got something I wondered if you’d check for me.” He didn’t have the time and couldn’t find the inclination to spare niceties. The person on the other end of the call seemed neither surprised nor offended.
Anthony walked down the two flights of stairs and along the corridors until he reached the forensic wing.
“This is a picture of you, Anthony,” Fisher began. “Have you got a stalker?”
“Just tell me what you can find out about it. Someone was in my house last night.”
“Are you sure?”
“Well, this isn’t my picture,” Anthony returned. “But it turned up in my house this morning.”
“I’ll check,” Fisher promised, his face softening as he spoke.
“Thank you,” came the unusually grateful reply, and Anthony walked out.
He felt ridiculous standing in the square outside the fish market. It was the middle of summer, one of the hottest days in the year so far, and he was wearing a long coat which stretched below his knee. Everyone else was wearing shorts and T-shirts. Not that Anthony would ever wear anything like that. Men in suits wore open collars, and women wore light-weight dresses.
“You certainly stand out in a crowd,” laughed a voice behind him.
Anthony turned to face its owner and stared across at a familiar face. He found himself scowling as he recognised the journalist from yesterday, the very man who had made him question Sarah’s case.
“What do you want?”
“To talk to you. Since you never listen to me when the camera’s there, and just seize the defensive, I thought I’d meet you without the crew. But as you’ve played the part so well, let me buy you a coffee.”
Every bone in Anthony’s body told him he shouldn’t go with this man, but equally there was something which told him he couldn’t afford not to.
There was a small coffee shop on the square, the sort where most people queue to take their drinks away, but there were a few tables outside and Anthony sat down at one of them, the other man placing an espresso before him.
“Why are you so certain this isn’t Sarah Moyne?” he asked, sitting opposite the inspector.
“Why are you so sure it is?” Anthony returned, taking off the coat and folding it to rest on his knee. He readjusted the trilby to shelter his eyes from the sun. “Forensics proved it was Sarah and Samuel we found after the fire. And how did you get into my house last night?”
“I admit, Alex Moyne’s a bit obsessed. But he lost his daughter.”
“He lost his mind,” Anthony muttered. The journalist seemed to think nothing of this, or perhaps didn’t hear.
“I’m Jasper, by the way. Jasper Connelly. I’ve stood in front of you several times, but I don’t suppose you can tell one reporter from another.”
“But you work for Alex Moyne. I’d remember you anywhere.”
“Well, he pays my bills,” Jasper laughed. “I’ve stacked up quite a few debts.”
“But you’re new to this game, aren’t you?” Anthony replied. “I’d not seen you before yesterday.”
“I had a break. A sabbatical, I suppose you’d call it. But, with yesterday’s events, Alex wanted me back.”
“First name terms, eh?” Anthony remarked and watched as Jasper laughed.
“We go way back, Alex and me.”
“Why did you ask me here?” Anthony drank to the bottom of the tiny cup, scrunching his face slightly at the strength of the coffee, but hoping it would help him stay awake.
“I happen to agree with you, Inspector Bewitt. Alex Moyne did lose his mind.”
“You’d better not quote me on that,” Anthony replied dryly.
“But I wanted to warn you. That body you found has opened up the wound of his daughter’s death for Alex. He’s going to throw everything at you with this. He’s still carrying the guilt of it.”
Anthony remained silent as Jasper continued.
“I don’t think it will be me interviewing you next time, but it’s been good to chat.”
Anthony watched as Jasper walked off, becoming lost in the crowd. Collecting his coat and straightening his hat, he left the table and the square behind.
He spent several minutes staring at the papers of Sarah’s case. The red wine, where it had seeped through the pages, looked like blood. At least there had been no blood at the scene. In fact, there was no violence at all. He picked up one of the photos showing the burnt forms of the two bodies. There had been absolutely no sign of any struggle. And the two bodies were side by side.
“Strange,” he whispered. Surely one or the other of them would have woken up as the flames spread. Wouldn’t someone have tried to go for help? Or at least dragged the other away in the hope of finding safety. Perhaps they had shared a suicide pact.
Anthony grabbed the phone as it rang.
It was Fisher. He had found no prints on the photograph but, using something in the ink, had managed to confirm it had definitely been taken at the time of the Sarah Moyne investigation. Anthony didn’t understand the science behind it all, but was happy to accept Fisher was right. He thanked him and hung up.
After a second of staring blankly at the case papers, Anthony turned to the computer, which sat isolated on the corner of the desk. Chris would have made light work of it, but Anthony laboriously typed in what he wanted to find.
Anthony pulled his chair towards the screen as he read on. Connelly had been arrested once or twice for drug-related offences but never charged. The last one had been three years ago. Since then, there was nothing. Coincidence, perhaps, that he had suddenly cleaned himself up at the same time as Sarah Moyne had died. Or perhaps not.
Snatching his hat, Anthony rushed down the stairs, out of the station, across the car park, and drove off. It had been thirty-four months since he last visited the ostentatious house he now stopped outside. It sprawled left and right at a tangent to the circular drive, and Anthony laughed slightly as he climbed out of the car. It matched Alex Moyne perfectly.
He walked up the steps and knocked on the door.
“Inspector Bewitt,” announced Jenny Moyne as she opened the door. “I’m a bit surprised to see you here, to be honest.”
“I came to see your husband actually, Mrs Moyne. Is he in?”
“Yes,” she replied curtly, “I’ll see if he wants to talk to you.”
Unwilling to verbally admit him, Jenny stepped back and allowed Anthony to walk in. She pointed to a chair and, as Anthony sat down, she went to find her husband. Anthony looked around him at the array of pop art on the walls. The room looked like a seedy record shop. He looked up at a poster for Abbey Road signed by three of the Beatles.
“You’re missing one,” he pointed out as Alex Moyne entered.
“I didn’t have you down as a Beatles fan, Inspector Bewitt.” He begrudgingly shook Anthony’s hand. “I saw you on television last night.”
“Your news cameras never seem to leave me alone, Mr Moyne. I imagine you see me everywhere.”
“You’ll slip up sooner or later,” came the acidic reply. “You were wrong about Sarah, you know? She was murdered. It was no more an accident than your coming here today was. She was so full of life. She’d never do that.”
“After your reporter challenged me yesterday, I went back to Sarah’s file. It does seem strange that neither she nor Samuel went for help. That they just lay there.”
“She was murdered, Inspector. I told you that from the start.”
“It was a long way to go, out to that heath.”
“What are you getting at?”
“The more I think about it, the more I wonder if they planned it.”
“You think she killed herself?”
“Is that less agreeable to you than if she’d been careless?” Anthony asked coldly. “I’m struggling to keep up with your thoughts. But then you know that, don’t you? That’s why you got one of your reporters to break into my house and leave me clues. You couldn’t let me just move on, because you couldn’t just move on.”
“I never broke into your house.” Alex’s face looked indignant. “I’ve no idea where you live. And I don’t care, either.”
“But you did send Jasper Connelly.”
The change this name brought upon Alex Moyne was dramatic to say the least. After flushing red with anger only moments earlier, his face now paled. He reached out to steady himself on the back of a chair and his eyes grew wider and wider as Anthony rose to his feet.
“Jasper Connelly?” Alex whispered. “You’re a liar.”
Anthony frowned at this but remained silent.
“I laid off Jasper Connelly almost three years ago. It’s all in the files.”
“Can I see those files, Mr Moyne? Only, the man I met yesterday, who broke into my house and sat drinking coffee with me this morning, was quite convincing as he waved around his press badge.”
“Someone’s played you for a fool, Inspector,” Alex continued. “Not a difficult thing to do, I imagine. I invited Jasper Connelly to go, and he would never come back to work for me.”
Anthony left the house finding more questions in his head than answers. The one which constantly whispered in the back of his mind was Jasper Connelly. Who was he? And why did Alex Moyne hate him so much?”
He was still considering these things when he reached his office. Most of the day staff had gone, and the station was diminishing into its skeleton crew. He picked up a sheet of paper which was placed on the desk. It was the pathology report for the body which had been found yesterday morning. It was a man, aged about twenty. So, not Sarah Moyne. Anthony sighed in relief. He knew it couldn’t have been her.
While this victim had suffered a violent death, his skull being more crack than bone, the pathologist had highlighted how unlikely it was that any of the blows were defended against. All that force and not a hint of struggle? There was a handwritten post-it on the top announcing they were running the remains against their database of missing people. There had been no identification, but there was a plastic bag of pills found with the body, too many for use, so he must have been a dealer. Unusual in drug-related crimes for a dealer to be killed and left with his supply still on him.
Anthony rubbed his eyes and reached for the phone as it began ringing.
“I thought you’d want to know,” the voice at the end of the phone began. “You’ve got a match on your body in the field.”
“And?” Anthony prompted.
“It’s a Jasper Connelly. Used to sell drugs to college kids. He used to work for that news guy, Moyne. We were after him for selling some bad pills, still had them on him.”
“Would they have killed anyone who took them?”
“Lab report says so,” the jovial voice announced.
Anthony felt sick as he looked back at Jasper Connelly on the computer screen. It all suddenly made sense, or almost all of it. Sarah and Samuel had died of an overdose, that’s why they hadn’t tried to escape. Who would have looked for drugs when there were two bodies found in such a way as theirs? And Alex Moyne must have discovered it was his own reporter who had sold them the drugs. No wonder the man had turned deathly white when Anthony had mentioned his name. But then…
Anthony brought up Connelly’s picture on the computer once more. The phone slipped from his hand as he looked at the man on the screen. It was the same man he had met earlier. The man who had only appeared yesterday, on finding the body.
He jumped as Chris walked in and dropped a pile of papers on the desk.
“Hi Tony,” Chris began cheerfully. “I thought I’d get a head-start on tomorrow. Are you ok? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”