Since writing the last blog we have spent a day in London visiting two exhibitions – The Celts at the British Museum and Cosmonauts at the Science Museum. There are no connections between the two other than my interest in Celtic history, art and culture and anything to do with space. Celtic civilisation influenced my vision of the Land, Gwlad, in Evil Above the Stars but you won’t find any direct links to Celtic history there.
What did strike me about both exhibitions was the possibilities for “what if”. The Celts defeated Rome early in its history. What if they prevented the rise of the Roman Empire? The Russians were almost ready to go for the Moon except their big rocket kept failing. What if the Russians got to the Moon before the Americans? So many possibilities for alternate histories. Ideas, ideas . . .
Anyway back to ideas that I have got round to developing – the latest prequel to Painted Ladies and the origins of Jasmine Frame, transsexual detective. Here is the next episode in Flashlight.
Flashlight: Part 5
‘Inspector Metcalfe said you had asked for me, Sir,’ James said aware that there was an uncertainty in his voice.
‘Yes, Frame,’ Sloane replied. ‘We need some extra staff on this case. My sergeant and the rest of the team are otherwise engaged. You know about the Marquis club which may be the source of the drugs that killed the victim and you seem to know something about these transsexuals.’
James saw DC Money’s eyebrows rise.
‘I hope I can assist you, Sir,’ James said.
‘I hope so too, Frame. Now Money, you’d better start your summary again.’
The detective constable looked at his notebook. ‘Preliminary lab tests show that Peck was killed by a massive overdose of heroin. It looks like she was injected with a dose that was much purer than the average street supply but the post-mortem suggests that Peck wasn’t a frequent user. There were no signs of hypodermic marks on the body. Peck isn’t on any list of known addicts.’
‘Thank you, Money,’ Sloane said. ‘What have you got, Sparrow?’
The female officer looked at her own notebook. ‘There is no sign of drugs in the victim’s flat other than the dregs in the syringe used to administer the fatal dose. But SOCO think it looks as though the victim’s belongings have been searched, Sir. The drawers and wardrobe had signs that they’d been disturbed.’
‘Are you sure he wasn’t just untidy?’ Money asked.
James noticed Money’s use of the male pronoun.
Sparrow frowned. ‘The friend says that Natalie was meticulous about her clothes – a bit OCD in fact. Everything had its place.’
‘Alright’ Sloane said interrupting before Money could respond. ‘Let’s accept that Peck’s flat has been searched and items possibly removed. It reinforces the differences between this death and the others.’
‘Others?’ James found himself blurting out.
‘Yes, Frame. Sparrow will get you up to speed soon. This investigation started out looking at the deaths of two known addicts in the last week. Like Peck they were killed by an overdose of unusually pure heroin. But it looks as though Peck was murdered using the drugs that he was dealing.’
‘Were the other victims trans?’ James asked.
Sloane looked surprised as if the idea had never arisen. ‘Money?’ he said.
Money shook his head. ‘No Sir. Murray was a rent boy, pulling tricks to pay for his habit. Butler was a single bloke, occasional user, bit of a loner.’
Sloane scratched his chin as he mused, ‘the only link is that the heroin that killed each of them probably came from the same pure batch.’
‘The sample Constable Frame provided was the same, Sir.’ DC Sparrow said, reaching behind her to pick up a sheet pf paper from the desk she was resting her bottom on.
‘You have a lab report already?’ Sloane said.
Sparrow nodded. ‘Just a preliminary one, Sir. You did ask for it to be fast-tracked. It’s confirmed as being heroin of unusual purity. It’ll take longer to get a full analysis and comparison.’
Sloane turned to James. ‘Well there you are Frame. The sample you purchased has suggested a link between this Marquis place and the three deaths, including the murder of one of the dealers.’
James felt a glow as if he had already made a contribution to the team’s work
‘What does it mean Sir?’ Money asked.
‘Can’t you work it out, Money?’ Sloane said with a note of exasperation. ‘We’ve got a new batch of heroin probably being sold by new suppliers muscling in on existing dealers’ territory. I’d surmise that Peck was killed by the oldsters using his own stock and that his death was a warning to the incomers. If we don’t get to the bottom of it soon we could have a major gangland feud on our hands.’
‘That’s serious, boss.’ Money said.
‘You’re right for once. So we’ve got to get to work. This link with the Marquis suggests that the new owners may be involved. You get on to them Money. See if they have any history.’
‘Yes, Sir,’ DC Money said pushing himself erect and moving around the desk to sit at the computer.
‘What about, me?’’ Sparrow asked.
‘Go over the files on Murray and Butler, with Frame, here. See if you can find out who their supplier was. Perhaps there is a link with Peck.’
‘Yes, Sir.’ Sparrow said. James felt pleased that he was going to work with the young woman instead of Money.
‘Well, get on then,’ Sloane said impatiently as he headed for the door, ‘I need to report to the Superintendent. Warn him that we might have an intrusion from outside the area and the consequences that could bring.’ He departed.
DC Sparrow went to sit at Sloane’s desk. ‘Come and sit down next to me she said smiling at James, ‘Oh, we don’t have a spare chair.’
‘Don’t know why we have to work here anyway?’ Money grumbled. ‘We could just as easily do this investigation from Kintbridge.’
‘Oh stop grumbling, Keith,’ Sparrow said grinning, ‘don’t mind him, uh, I don’t know your first name Constable?’
‘It’s James. I’ll go and find another chair. I know this building pretty well.’
James hurried out into the corridor feeling elated. He was part of a plainclothes investigation team working on a big case involving drug gangs and murder. It was what he’d always wanted.
It took moments to find a vacant chair and return to the office. He placed the chair next to DC Sparrow who was sorting through the papers that Sloane had left on the desk.
‘Well done, James,’ she said and again James received a warm smile, ‘By the way I don’t think DCI Sloane introduced me fully. My name is Camilla, but most people call me Milla.’
‘Oh, thanks. My friends call me Jim,’ James replied.
‘Glad to have you with us, Jim. I’ve got a feeling we’re going to be pretty busy. Sloane likes to get results quickly.’ Milla picked up a sheaf of papers. ‘Have a look through these. This is what we’ve got on Murray and Butler.’
‘I thought it would all be online,’ James said.
‘It is,’ Milla said, ‘but Sloane likes paper. He’s a bit old-fashioned.’
Money, head close to his screen, grunted. ‘A bit?’
‘We don’t have a spare computer here at the moment, Jim. I need this one.’ Sparrow pointed to the screen pushed to the edge of the desk. ‘I know it’s cramped in here but make yourself as comfortable as you can.’
‘I’ll manage,’ James said. He put the pile of papers down on the edge of the desk leaving plenty of room for Milla to work. He began reading the reports on the deaths of the two overdose victims. Most of it was factual reports of the discovery of the bodies and the reports by scene of crime officers and the pathology team. James looked for clues about the victims lives. Murray’s body had been discovered by his flatmate in the shabby bedsit they shared. It was clear that they were both gay, sometime partners, and both selling themselves to other gay men to pay for their drug habits. There wasn’t much on where they picked up their clients and James realised he would have to speak to the surviving partner himself.
There was even less on the other victim who lived alone and apparently had a decent job in the town. He’d been found by a middle-aged woman who he employed to clean his flat one day a week. He didn’t seem to have any close friends – no-one at his place of work had shown much interest in his death and all his family lived up north. I wonder if the cleaner knows more about his lifestyle, James thought, cleaners usually have an opinion or two on their employers.
James put the papers down. ‘Do you think we should talk to this partner of Murray and Butler’s cleaner again?’ he said to whichever of Money or Sparrow was interested. He hadn’t yet worked out which was the senior. Money was the older but Sparrow seemed most switched on and alert.’
‘Yeah, if you like,’ Money said, eyes still locked on his screen.
Sparrow looked at James. ‘Why, Jim? What do you think they can tell us?’
‘Perhaps they know more about the victims than they’ve said so far. We may find a link to Natalie and the Marquis.’
‘Good idea, let’s go.’ Milla tapped a key, reached down for her shoulder bag and stood up. ‘You didn’t think Sloane would let you out on your own do you?’ She said to James’ surprised face. ‘We work in pairs when we’re out of the office, Jim. This is the Violent and Serious Crime Unit. You never know what we might come across.’