Last time it was just the first chapter, now it's three. I changed the POV in the GREEN chapters to first person. I think it reads better. Also incorporated some of the early suggestions. Unfortunately the formatting applied to the letter hasn't followed through into Townhouse so the intervening text I have italicised. I am descended from dinosaurs and have a thick skin so please feel free to disagree
I was yanked out of my reverie by that demanding, demonic tool of communication, the telephone. It was answered by Margaret, our resident receptionist, telephonist, filing clerk, mail sorter, diarist, barista and memory prodder and, without whom the office would disappear beneath a tsunami of paperwork.
‘Knock, knock.’ Margaret said as she bumped the half-open door with her ample backside, early mail in one hand my coffee in the other. ‘That call was from Joan, Lewis. She’s had a puncture, waiting for the AA. And the answer to your next questions is,’ she said and smiled. ‘How long is a piece of string?’
‘Thanks, Margaret,’ I smiled. Joan Grey, my very part-time secretary, fiancée and none-live-in-lover. She was over the moon when I proposed but now would neither name the day nor move in. And they say that men won’t make a commitment. Since Carol there had been no other woman, except Joan, with whom I had formed a lasting attachment. ‘Anything special?’ I asked and glanced at my Rolex, its’ dedication impressed in my skin. She would never forget me. I could never forget her.
‘Just the one,’ she said as she dropped the mail in my in-tray. ‘It’s on top.’
I put my cup back in its’ saucer. Less chance of accidents. I was going to be busy. There were twelve large envelopes, probably submissions for the Slushpile but they could wait. Slushpile was the generic title bestowed on unsolicited query letters, manuscripts and synopses from both hopeful and deluded would-be-authors by literary agents, of which I was one.
I’d saved it ‘til last.
A single tri-fold sheet of cream wove. A single line of italic text across the centre.
Be sure your sins have found you out!
In most cases it might have been a simple prank. Not in my case. What! I almost recoiled. I felt sick. The same bitter taste that he had felt in the early hours of that fateful day. But my sins were never far below the surface.
I was the second child of Clive and Patricia Beck, third generation wine importers of Bristol. My given name was Martin. But for my sins I had changed my name to Lewis Green. I could never forgot why and had kept a wary eye over my shoulder. Was fate playing tricks, snapping at my heels? Although I had been interviewed by the police and eliminated from their list of potential suspects, in fact we all had. Was it just my imagination going into overdrive or something else?
I checked the envelope. A plain, white, standard business type envelope with no identifier. Frank smudged but I could just make out NW3 and yesterday’s date. PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL was typed in the top left hand corner and the address:
Lewis Green Esq
Lewis Green Literary Agency
47 Marble House
There were no clues. I could plink on a typewriter the same as anyone else, this was different. This was typed. Which was no help at all.
I asked Margaret if anything similar had arrived in the past although I was sure to have been told if there had and gave her instructions that if anything similarly addressed arrived in the future, to hand it to me personally. The last thing that I wanted was for Joan to find it and start asking questions.
I only had seven days to wait. The envelope identical to the last. Posted yesterday in NW3. PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL in the top left hand corner. A single tri-fold sheet of cream wove. A single line of italic text across the centre:
Two down three to go!
Everything came flooding back. Like a full-blooded thump in the guts. A bitter taste. No doubt that was what was intended. Just what could: two down and three to go mean? Traced? Handed to the police? Murdered? But there had been nothing in the press with all that it implied.
I settled. Wait a minute. Why are you letting your conscience get the better of you like this. Come on get a grip, it’s probably nothing to do with what happened in Leeds.
A quiet word with Margaret. Nothing to worry about. Just some sick joker trying to be funny.
All thoughts of the two unwelcome notes were behind me and locked in my bureau drawer. Friday morning I worked from home on the Slushpile. There was a saying that everyone has a book inside them. And, that maybe have been true, although I had my doubts. Many of them should never have seen the light of day and often thought that if I had £5 for every submission that crossed my desk: That was the next million best seller. That would make me rich. Was better science fiction than Wyndham and Heinlein. More competently written than Hemingway or Steinbeck. Made Tolkien look stupid. Wrote better thrillers than Christie or Fleming I would be wealthy indeed. No! No you can’t. You can’t trash internationally acclaimed authors and expect to be taken seriously. That was unfortunately more work for Joan to deal with when she returned from her latest jaunt. She was currently visiting her mother in Huddersfield. Send out our quite apologetic ‘not for us’ letters. But sometimes, just sometimes, there was a glimpse of that bright shining something that made it all worthwhile. And it might just be the next manuscript on the slushpile, although a quick glance at the title in the top covering letter didn’t look too promising: Where My Bones Lie. However, the typed letter did look professional. A welcome change. I settled back in my antique hide upholstered, very comfortable, swivel chair:
17 Seven Oaks Fold
West Riding of Yorkshire
Sharp Lane? How far is that from Dark Lane, Joan lives there, it can’t be too far
Lewis Green Esq
Lewis Green Literary Agency
47 Marble House
15th March 1967
Dear Mr Green
Please excuse my unsolicited approach. I am writing seeking representation for my debut novel, Where My Bones Lie. A 120,000 word police procedural. A crime thriller set in the West Riding of Yorkshire. I am writing to you because I have been a fan of Douglas Marchant’s work for several years. Marchant’s writing style in particular has been an inspiration to me. I see my writing in the same vein.
Marchant’s good, excellent writing style, doing very well. Where My Bones Lie? A bit odd, I thought, talking about their own body. However. And 120,000 words a bit long for a debut – should be able to trim 20 or 30,000 off that.
The story opens with five noisy, happy and well-heeled rugby-playing undergraduates being refused entry to the Mecca Locarno Ballroom situated in the County Arcade in Leeds City Centre. They collect half a dozen girls and go back to the house they rent, for a party. Eventually, five of the girls leave. The sixth, still naked, passes out on a bed. The boys take their pleasure. The girl comes to and is suffocated when she begins to protest. The body is disposed of and has never been recovered. Police enquiries come to naught.
I thought my heart had stopped. Christ! It’s not possible. Another one! This can’t be chance. I stifled the scream heading rapidly for my vocal chords. No! I should have binned the lot instantly but something compelled me to continue.
However this is not the heart of the story, and, you may think this is too close to home but one of the murderers changes his name by deed poll. On leaving university, with a degree in English Literature, he secures a position with a major publishing house later becoming a literary agent. About the same time the murdered girl’s younger sister unearths some information and begins to track the murderers down and kill them in the most brutal manner.
For Christ’s sake I changed my bloody name. I live at the other end of the country. What the Hell is going on? I was sweating and my hands were shaking like Aspen leaves in a gale.
I’m a thirty something investigative journalist who, after many years of promising, has finally put pen to paper and begun to write fiction. When working I do write under a nom de plume. I hope that my material is of interest and I look forward to hearing from you.
Handbrake applied I peered out at the rain. Raincoat collar up. Ignition off. It was like sitting inside a kettle-drum with transparent sides. I was going to get wet. ‘Why is it always bloody raining?’ I muttered under my breath as I picked my way carefully through the demolition site. The sooner this eyesore was down the better. But until that happened there was work to be done.
Twenty yards ahead Sergeant Joshua Maston, nearly got his time in: five ten, slightly overweight and world-weary. If this was as bad as I’d been told Maston would be glad to get out of the way. John Carter, the early turn beat man for 6 beat was on the door. ‘Morning Brian,’ he said and grinned. ‘You’re bright and early.’
I wrinkled my nose. ‘Yeah. I should have been on at ten. Just getting ready to take the wife to her mother’s for some shopping.’
‘Sounds like rescuing the perishing, to me,’ quipped Maston.
I laughed. ‘Who found the body, sarge?’
‘Old Joe, Joe Carver. Night-watchman,’ he pointed out the elderly male sprawled in an armchair in the building’s foyer. ‘Says it wasn’t there when he checked earlier. But he’s pissed. Stinks of whisky. He’s a half bottle of the Co-op’s finest in his pocket. Or at least what’s left. I’ll lay odds that he didn’t buy it.’
‘I’ll have a chat when I’ve seen the body.’ I paused. ‘Who’s been in?’
‘Just the three. Me, Carter and Joe.’
I nodded. ‘Fine. As soon as the others start to arrive will you put someone up where my car is, stop any rubberneckers and the Press. We don’t want them tramping all over the shop. And keep a record of who they are and the time. No warrant card, no entry.’
‘Got that, Carter?’
John Carter looked out at the rain, grimaced and nodded. ‘Yes, sarge.’
Satisfied that was under control I asked. ‘Which room?’
‘That one,’ he hung back and pointed at the door directly in front. ‘You don’t mind if …?’
He didn’t want to go in. It was bad. I smiled. ‘No, That’s all right, sarge.’
They referred to it as a room. A void would have been more accurate. Almost a hundred yards long by fifty wide with a fifteen foot ceiling. A dead weaving shed, devoid of all machines, furniture or almost anything else for that matter. Although it was chucking it down outside apart from mine there were no footprints, muddy or otherwise on the floor anywhere near the body. Thirty yards away the object of my attendance was taped into a chair. It was bad. Very bad.
It was male. A tall powerfully built male. Naked. There was no sign of any shoes or clothing or personal effects. He was sitting upright in a Windsor arm-chair. What looked like duct tape used to pinion the wrists and elbows to the arm rests. The legs lifted over the wrists and taped in position exposing where his genitals should have been. Tape securing the ankles and his torso to the chair. Tape around the head covering the eyes. No head wounds that I could see. There was some reddening and what appeared to be a puncture wound in the right deltoid. Tape dangling from his right cheek. Between his legs was a bloody mess. The blood had overflowed from the seat into a semi-liquid congealing pool between and around the chair legs. Just how long ago had this happened? A series of small cuts in his right forearm. Four had been bleeding. The higher up the forearm the less blood. The fifth no blood, some plasma. A test for heart death? Somewhat excessive. A stab wound between the seventh and eighth rib, close to the victim’s sternum, his left side. A coup de grace? Overkill? This was no hit-and-run. Whoever was responsible had taken their time.
The door behind me opened. I heard footsteps. If they’d gotten passed Maston I didn’t need to look. ‘Stay where you are, please.’ I called, my voice ringing around the empty space. The footsteps stopped. The pièce de résistance was that the man’s missing penis and testicles were very neatly sown into his mouth and resting across his chin, blood was dripping down his chest. That was a sickener. The question was - prior to hearth death or not? One for the pathologist. To my mind this wasn’t just a murder. It was personal. More to the point it was the second identical killing in the last ten days. I took perhaps a further minute to crouch and scrutinise the floor immediately surrounding the chair and check his feet. They were clean. His hands indicating that he was not a manual worker.
I stood and turned to find Detective Superintendent Creighton, Inspector Nicholson, formerly a sergeant on the Wainwright team and, Detective Inspector Tristram Priestly, my new boss, standing just inside the doorway. Observing. ‘Good morning, sir,’ I said to Mr Creighton. ‘Sorry …’
He looked grim. ‘Don’t apologise, Blake,’ he said. ‘Your observations?’
I nodded. ‘Joe Carver, the night watchman claims that the body wasn’t here when he did his rounds earlier. However he’s drunk. Scotch. He probably couldn’t make an honest guess at when he did check before finding the body just after seven this morning.’
‘I’ve already spoken with him,’ said the detective superintendent. ‘I agree. At the moment he doesn’t know what day it is. An in depth interview will have to wait. Carry on.’
I nodded. ‘Sir. Whoever did this had planned meticulously and taken their time. The victim was obviously alive when he arrived. It was dry. Other than mine there is no trace of any footprints, muddy or otherwise. His feet are clean. He was a big man, over six feet tall and well-muscled. He has what looks like a puncture wound in his right deltoid, could have been injected with something to incapacitate him. Otherwise why not fight back before he was taped in the chair? Did he undress voluntarily? If so, why? Where are his clothes and possessions? It doesn’t appear likely that it was a tryst. And of course the stab wound. Finally, where did the chair and the sack-wheels come from?
I waited for a few seconds. There were no comments. ‘I didn’t see the first victim, sir. However, from what I understand this is remarkably similar: Naked. Eyes taped. The manner in which he’s been trussed. The mutilation. The stitching of his genitals is quite neat and even, almost as if they were taking pride in what they were doing. Almost ritualised. Stitching through flesh is quite difficult. But one thing I didn’t notice on the first report, sir, was anything like these,’ I pointed out the cuts on the forearm. They stepped forward to look. ‘There are five. Four showing that they had been bleeding and just one which hadn’t ... And what’s the link between the two victims.’
The ensuing silence was broken by DI Priestly. ‘The link, Blake,’ he said tersely, ‘is that they were murdered by the same person or persons. I’d heard you were big on ideas, Blake. And, I have to say that some of yours are exotic if not quixotic. To be appointed to CID with two and a half years’ service is remarkable, and, your report and exam result from your CID course were impressive. But you will find that the work of the detective is hard work. Nose to the grindstone. Not acting on exotic hunches. You’ve a great deal to learn. So leave the planning and analysis to those with the experience, understood?’
He wasn’t having a go at me per se, just letting me know, in front of the area detective superintendent, that the freedom I had under Mr Valentine’s tutelage was ended. He was in charge. That had never been in question. What could I say? ‘Yes, sir. I understand.’ Inspector Nicholson was gazing round the room and the superintendent holding back a smile.
‘I’m sure DC Blake will have taken your words to heart, Mr Priestly. However, I think some of his observations have merit. We can discuss those along with everything else, later.’ The Superintendent turned to Inspector Nicholson. ‘Will you ensure that we don’t have anyone gathering outside and have a search made for extraneous tyre tracks and footprints always assuming this rain hasn’t washed them out. We’ll have a full search made of the complex shortly. Any contractors that arrive are to be kept out of the way. The only people in this room are the pathologist, forensic and the photographer.’
He acknowledged and left.
‘Blake, you will supervise here. The photographer, and ensure that he doesn’t make excuses and leave early,’ I nodded. I knew what he meant. Some of the photographers were noticeably squeamish. In the circumstances I wouldn’t be at all surprised if that happened. ‘Once the pathologist and forensic have completed you will accompany the body to the mortuary and complete the sudden death report, then liaise with the coroner’s officer. You will attend the post mortem examination.’
I acknowledged and stood back whilst Messrs Creighton and Priestly carried out their own examination.
They hadn’t been gone more than five minutes when the photographer arrived, traipsing mud and dripping water. He took one look at the victim. ‘Bloody hell, I’ll bet that hurt,’ he said and laughed. ‘You’re DC Blake?’
I nodded. There would be no trouble with this one.
‘John Dixon. Right, what do you want?’
I walked him round the scene. Pointed out the salient shots and stood back. It amazed me that with all the improvements in camera technology the police insisted on still using the old cameras complete with plates. So I asked him. Why? ‘Fair question,’ he replied. ‘But no matter what they’ve got on the market at the moment you can’t get the definition when you blow them up. In a case like this you never know what the investigating officer will want enlarging. Or indeed, the Defence. If we produce an image that isn’t pin-sharp it may throw the entire case. An open goal for the defence.’ I couldn’t argue with that. He was good. Within twenty minutes he was gone.
Eight thirty. DI Priestly returned accompanied by the pathologist, Professor Snodgrass. He stood quietly inside the doorway taking in the scene, including me. ‘We’ve met before,’ he said and then held his hand up as I was about to answer. ‘No, don’t tell me … Blake,’ he said at length. ‘You in the CID now?’ I agreed. ‘Good. It was a young woman, Sally? No don’t tell me … Dunster?’ I agreed again. He nodded and smiled and indicated the victim. ‘Tell me what you see.’
I went through my little presentation again as Professor Snodgrass looked and nodded. He made no comment. ‘How old do you think he is?’ he asked at the end.
‘A bit difficult with his eyes being taped. As a rough guess I would suggest late twenties.’
He didn’t comment. ‘And what do you make of these?’ He indicated the cuts on the victim’s right forearm.
Thanks professor. ‘Not sure.’
‘Guess,’ he smiled. ‘Something you can do. But I can’t.’
‘My gut reaction was a cardiac countdown.’
DI Priestly asked. ‘If it stops bleeding he’s dead?’
‘But professor,’ said the DI. ‘Wouldn’t that be obvious from the chest wound and the blood loss?’
He threw it straight back at me. ‘It’s a novel suggestion. Want to try and answer it?’
I took that as a compliment. Although how the DI would react I don’t know. ‘Sir, you can’t get muscular development like the victim has without a strong heart. So unless something had been administered that affects the heart rate he would have a natural-fear-anger response, which includes a rapid heart rate. The murderer wouldn’t have objected to being seen because the victim would be dead. But taping the eyes and I suggest from that tape adhering to his cheek, the mouth, the victim is in isolation. He can hear but not see and probably can’t speak or shout. We’ll probably never know if anything was said or not but at some point the murderer grabs him by the genitals, pulls, and slices him off, lock, stock and barrel.
The loss of blood would be exacerbated by an increase in heart rate, the effect of heart rate and gravity wouldn’t help. Gravity would continue to draw down blood but not from anything above the heart. So, by making cuts to the tissues eventually they would stop bleeding when the heart stopped. The chest wound would certainly guarantee death however, it might even have been post mortem.’
‘But that’s …’ We never found out what the DI was about to say. He suddenly went pale. His eyes rolled. He slumped against me. Carefully I lowered him to the floor slackened his tie and undid his top shirt button. There was a carotid pulse, quite rapid.
The professor checked the DI’s pulse against his watch. ‘You can never tell who will be affected. Even experienced detectives .. I think he’s just fainted. Leave him here, he can’t fall any further. Check on him in a minute or so.’
‘Can you give me an idea when death occurred, professor?’
‘Rigor isn’t established yet,’ he said moving the victim’s hands and feet. ‘So, roughly within the last six hours. I’ll try be to be more accurate after I’ve carried out the PM.’
I glanced at my watch. A mortified DI came round a few seconds later. ‘You went a little dizzy, sir,’ I said as I helped him to his feet.
‘Anybody come in?’ He looked embarrassed.
‘No, sir. No-one.’
He nodded. ‘Thanks.’
‘Has this ever happened before, Mr Priestly?’ the professor sounded concerned.
‘Well, it’s probably nothing. Just of those things. However, my advice would be to have a quiet word with your GP. Tell him who sent you if you like,’ he added with a touch of black humour. ‘Better safe than sorry.’ The DI nodded. We watched as he fastened his shirt, straightened his tie and went for a walk around the shed.
‘One thing professor. How soon can I remove our victim from his prison?’
Professor Snodgrass bit his lip. ‘Forensic are en route?’
‘Be guided what they say.’ I nodded. ‘As soon as possible, the poor man’s suffered enough. At least we can give him a degree of dignity.’ I nodded again. ‘You’re providing continuity for the body?’
‘I am, professor.’
‘Very well. I will do the PM at ten am tomorrow at LGI.’ He had a quiet word with the DI and they left together. The DI still didn’t look well.
Two minutes later Inspector Nicholson returned with one Dr Jack Hawkins. Forensic biologist. I greeted him ebulliently. ‘Hi Jack, how’s tricks?’
He returned my grin. ‘As I live and breathe, detective constable Blake. I haven’t seen you for what? All of six months. Since the Wainwright trial. People will be starting to talk.’ We shook hands. ‘I heard about your appendix perforating. That was tough luck.’ I had to agree. Since my attachment to the Forensic Science Lab two years ago we had dogged each other’s footsteps albeit in a friendly manner. He turned to the inspector. ‘Mr Nicholson, Every time Brian and I meet there are multiple bodies. Can’t you do something with him. Like have him transferred?’
‘Sorry Doc,’ he replied with as serious a face as he could manage. ‘He’s much too valuable.’
‘Ah well, it was worth a try,’ he smiled, turning to the victim. ‘Poor bastard,’ I heard him mutter. ‘Whose wife have you been screwing?’ A couple of minutes later he stopped, removed two large sheets of plastic from his kit and opened them side-by-side on the floor behind the victim. He gave us a pair of surgical gloves each and between us, avoiding the blood, we carried the chair and contents placing it on the left-hand sheet. Jack Hawkins severed the tape and we very carefully lifted the occupant from his prison and laid him on the second sheet.
The chair, securely wrapped in plastic, had already left for the Forensic Science Lab at Harrogate. I was to follow the body to the LGI mortuary when Jack stopped me to confirm details of the PM. We would meet again in the morning.
Before leaving I had a quick chat with Inspector Nicholson, principally concerning the DI who wasn’t looking too clever and was overseeing the search of the demolition site.
Safely deposited at LGI I left our victim in the safe hands of the Coroner’s Officer, completed the sudden death report and returned to the office.
I poured a generous measure of Glen Morangie. Downed it in one. Settle the nausea. Gritted my teeth and shuddered. I put the letter and manuscript on the desk, picked up the phone and dialled Directory Enquiries. ‘It’s a Huddersfield number,’ I said. ‘The name is Rodahl, Granville Rodahl, R-O-D-A-H-L. Sorry, I don’t know the address.’
It was a long moment. The wall-clock second-hand seemed to have frozen. ‘Sorry, caller. There is no Granville Rodahl listed in the Huddersfield area.’
‘Sorry, no. Would there be anything else?’
I simply replaced the handset.
I stood for a long time staring out of the window of my flat at the world beneath wondering if it could possibly be a coincidence. The answer was a firm, No. I took my keys from my trouser pocket and unlocked the top left-hand drawer in the bureau. The only drawer to which Joan did not have access. The blue manilla folder was at the bottom. Inside were the two typed notes glider-clipped to their envelopes. Both envelopes bearing London franks addressed to me at the office. Both marked private and confidential. Neither dated. The top one franked ten days ago:
Be sure your sins have found you out
The second, three days ago:
Two down three to go!
Now this manuscript. What exactly did it all mean? Don’t be stupid, you know exactly what it means. Someone has talked. I poured a second helping of Glen Morangie and sat.
Jeremy worked for Reuters and usually had his finger on the national pulse. ‘Jeremy,’ I cried, when he came on the line. ‘What’s happening in this world that you can’t tell me about? Do tell.’
‘Fishing again?’ he laughed. ‘Trying to find plots for your worked-out clients.’
‘Not really,’ I replied trying to keep the tremor out of my voice. ‘Just a trifle bored.’
‘Well, there’s the usual havoc and mayhem in London and the Home Counties. Up in the West Riding the police are in a bit of a sweat over a murder. Very cagey.’
Once again my heart was pounding. Stomach twisting itself into a knot. ‘Really, any details?’
‘They’re very tight lipped. All we know is from the press release. No conference. Which is not like them.’
‘I’m intrigued,’ I said taking a mouthful of scotch.
‘Aren’t we all.’ As Jeremy began to expand the story I broke out in a cold sweat. There were ripples across the surface of the whisky as my hand began to shake ‘Twenty six year old lecturer in modern languages at York. Married with a twelve month old son. Father, professor of history, mother, three sisters – all younger. Played in the pack for the varsity, second row,. Goes by the name of … just a sec.’ Goes by the name of Bill Boxley. We nicknamed him ‘Moliere’ because of his love of French literature. I thought. Christ! ‘Name of William Boxley, aka ‘Bill’.’
It was becoming all too real. ‘Is that all?’
The reply was terse. ‘Don’t sound so bloody disappointed, Lewis,’ he said. ‘The poor sod is dead.’
‘Sorry,’ I replied. I couldn’t quite prevent the stammer. ‘I-I didn’t mean to. But it doesn’t appear to warrant any reason why the police would be silent on the matter.’
‘No, I agree. It doesn’t. There’s a whisper, no more than that, that it was a ritual killing. The body was mutilated. But they won’t release any details.’
‘Christ. That sounds gruesome.’
‘Hmm,’ he mused thoughtfully. His tone probing. ‘He was an alumnus from Leeds. You went there if I remember correctly.’
‘True,’ I replied. ‘And I played rugger. But the name Boxley doesn’t mean anything, sorry.’ The lie was glib.
‘Pity,’ Jeremy said. ‘Still you can’t have everything. Now, that’s the end of the briefing. I’ve got work to do, Lewis, even if you haven’t. Let’s meet for a drink. Can you manage next Wednesday, usual place, say one o’clock?’
Following placing a regular order with his newsagent for the northern edition of the Yorkshire Post I called Max Crawshaw, my latest client. In his work there was that glimpse of the Gold, and Max Crawshaw was a retired detective from the West Riding. ‘Max? Lewis Green. How goes it?’
A delighted Max Crawshaw beamed at the phone. ‘Very well, thank you, and for the call. It means a lot. I’d had so many refusals before you I was beginning to think I was wasting my time.’
‘Not at all. Refusals are par for the course. But you already know that. However, there’s always someone who will spot potential. In your case it was me. How long do you think it will be before you’re in a position to re-submit? I’ve written to the commissioning editors in the publishing houses who specialise in crime. My standing in their eyes following the success of Douglas Marchant’s latest is high. No guarantee mind you, but the omens are good.’
‘About another week, Lewis. Your comments hurt a bit. But now that I’ve tried it out it does read better than before. And, it doesn’t change the essentials.’
‘That’s excellent. Oh, before I go you might be able to shed a little light on something that I’ve heard about a murder in Yorkshire.’
‘I’ll try, but remember, Lewis, I’m no longer in the club.’
‘I will. Apparently it was someone who used to go to Leeds University at the same time as I did. Called him Box, Boxer or something like that. And the police aren’t giving anything away.’
The reply was immediate. ‘It’s Boxley.’
‘That’s the name!’ My throat felt as dry as old sticks. I took a drink. ‘There was a suggestion it might be a ritual killing because the body was mutilated.’
I could hear the laughter all the way from Yorkshire. ‘Whenever the police are tight-lipped, or to use police parlance, as tight as a duck’s arse. Rumours proliferate. Stories get made up simply because people want to believe the worst things that their imagination can produce. To be honest, Lewis, I can’t help because I don’t know and, I don’t believe that guessing does any good.’
‘No, you’re probably right, Max. Thanks,’ he said. ‘I look forward to your re-submission.’ I put the phone down, emptied my glass and put the kettle on. It was too early in the day. I rationalised my thoughts. In the end they were too nebulous to be threaded together to fit the scenario in my mind. There must be, had to be, some sort of rational explanation even if it wasn’t obvious. Annoying and unwelcome it might be, but not a threat. I put the manuscript, covering letter and synopsis back in the folder and locked the drawer. For now, they could wait. I needed to get to Almondbury.