A Stab in the Dark

A detective. A forensic scientist. A journalist.
Three lives drawn together by a murder.
When evidence lies and the case evolves, who can you trust in a city full of lies?
---- Updated every Wednesday ----

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17. Playing Detective

Fuck Lloyd Jones. Fuck him left, right, and centre. Fuck him all the way down to Hell. He was the biggest fucking prick I’d ever met, and I’ve interviewed my fair share of creepy shits in my three years as a journalist. Who the fuck did he think he was? There wasn’t nearly enough evidence to chuck me into this cell, and yet, they’d turned a blind eye to him. What was he, twenty-five? Twenty-six? Not nearly old enough to be such a fucking prude. Not nearly powerful enough to do whatever the fuck he wanted with every prisoner he took a dislike to. Not nearly smart enough to get the better of me, the best damn journalist in London. Or even Charlie, for that matter.

“Bring in the wasted one,” Chesterfield had said. They had Charlie. He was probably in interrogation right now, that dank dirty room with gum and scum mashed into the corners of the table and the carpet. Charlie’d been almost sober when I left, in one of his dazes. I couldn’t help snorting as I imagined that Wonderkid himself would probably be interrogating him, even though his job was scraping blood and guts off pavements, not playing Detective.

With Jackie Truman gone, the police didn’t stand a chance of solving the case.

And that meant I’d probably be here for a while. Stuck in this bloody goddamn fucking holding cell that reeked of body odour and spent cigarettes. Yeah, I was pissed off. My family’s poor as muck and I’ve lived in London all my life, so yeah, I’ve lived in more than my fair share of shit-holes, but believe it or not, prison was the worst yet.

Yet.

The door crashed open with a ridiculous explosion of metallic grinding that could have been hailing the end of the world. Harry Chesterfield walked in, shadows carving chunks out of his raw-meat complexion, and turned on the lights. As his keys grappled with the door of my cell, I bothered to look up from the corner and noticed he had Charlie. Charlie, surprisingly enough, was swearing his arse off.

“I’m innocent, you bloody twat!” He was yelling. “I didn’t kill no-one! I didn’t kill my mum, I didn’t! What the fuck’s wrong with you? I’ve got rights! Tell ‘im, Max!”

At least he remembered my name this time.

“Sure, Charlie,” I sighed as he was shoved into the cell, dragging the stench of vodka with him. “You’ve got all the rights of a fucking pig for slaughter.”

“Shut up, smartarse,” Chesterfield drawled from the preferable side of the metal bars. “You’ll be stuck here till you confess, you prove you didn’t do it, or we find the person who did.”

He locked the cell with a ridiculous flourish and left.

“Y’hear that, Max?” Charlie slurred, collapsing onto his arse in the other corner. “We’re murderers.”

“No, Charlie.”

Yeah. That’s what the police said.”

“Charlie, we aren’t just guilty because some colossal knobhead in a silly hat told us so. Did you kill anyone?”

As he held a finger up and started to stutter, I raised one eyebrow and started listening more carefully, but eventually he frowned and said, “Uh, no.”

“Right. So are you a murderer?”

“Well, I must be.”

“Because Harry Chesterfield told you so?”

“No.”

I furrowed my eyes. “Well, why, then?”

I had to be careful now. I knew who the suspects were, and I knew who bloody well didn’t do it. So now, I had to figure out who the hell did.

“Because-” Charlie said. “Because J-Jones told me.”

My mouth lolled open in gormless disbelief. “B-but- Jones told you?”

“Uh-huh.”

Lloyd Jones? The fucking twat in the suit?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Well, what did he say?”

“He was interrogating me. He was the detective.”

I got up. “No, Charlie, he wasn’t the fucking detective. He isn’t. He’s the forensics guy.”

“The fuck’s fonezrics? Ain’t that one of the Muppets?”

I closed my eyes. “Charlie, Lloyd Jones isn’t a police officer, so between arresting me and interrogating you, he’s broken a good few laws, for fuck’s sake! Where is he now? Where is that prick?”

“He left.”

“What, while you were still there? He left to go where?”

“I dunno. He had a tantrum.”

I smirked. “A tantrum?”

“Yeah. Like a goddamn baby. Because Chesterfield was ordering him around.”

“Well, he had every right to, he’s a bloody police officer! Lloyd was doing Chesterfield’s job!”

“But Lloyd got really mad with him and he started swearing and crying and then he stormed out and I saw him throwing his phone on the floor and smashing his head against the wall when Chesterfield brought me here. I think he’s crazy.”

“Yeah.” I frowned and dumped myself back down on the bunk. “You don’t say.”

“So what the fuck’d’we do now, genius?” The last word was slurred so much it sounded like Jesus. I decided not to correct him.

“Well,” I said. “You heard Harry, right?”

“Sure. He told Lloyd to stop swearing in front of the prisoners.”

“No, after that, you drunk idiot. When he ditched you in here. He said we’re stuck here till…” I raised one finger. “One, we confess to the murder. You got anything to confess?”

Charlie’s drunk, red face got even redder. “Uh, nah. But why’d that get us released?”

“It won’t. It’ll just get us sent to a cushier, more permanent prison.”

“Oh. I don’t like the sound of that.”

“Me neither.” I stuck up another finger. “Two, we prove we didn’t do it.”

“Well, we didn’t!”

“I know, mate. But we can’t prove shit from in here, can we? I mean, we look pretty fucking bad. Martha was killed after a fight with you, Jackie was killed after a fight with me, and both of them died within spitting distance of our house. I’d say we’re fucked.”

“There was another one.”

“Another what?” I turned to face him.

Charlie laid down on the floor and raised his arms above his head. “Another option for getting out of here.”

“There’s two more.” I stuck up my third finger. “Three, they find the guy who did do it.”

“Well, how’d’we do that?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “But we’ve got to try, right?”

“Whatever.” He rolled over.

“Charlie!”

“Mhm?”

“Are you in this or not?”

“Whatever.” He repeated.

“Okay,” I said, ignoring the compromised answer. “So we’ve got, what? A few suspects at this point.”

Charlie sat up and jarred his back against the wall. “And they are?”

I’d been thinking about it for hours. This part was easy.

“James Kane,” I started. “Your dad.”

“He didn’t do it,” Charlie said.

I frowned. “How do you know that?”

“Because he called me that night.”

“He called you?”

“Yeah.”

“To say what?”

“Uh, I dunno. I was shitfaced.”

“So how do you know that meant he wasn’t the murderer?”

“Because he was, uh…” Charlie trailed off. “I have no idea.”

“Well, did he have a problem with Martha?”

“Who? Martha? Nah, I was talking about the other murder. Jackie’s one. He called me last night.”

“And?”

“He was back in Cornwall.”

My face fell. “Oh. Are you sure about that?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay, that brings us to the next suspect.” I cleared my throat and narrowed my eyes at him. “You.”

To my shock, Charlie didn’t react. Instead, he just said, “How do I know it wasn’t you?”

“Well, you don’t. But I do. It wasn’t me. So it was either you or your dad or someone else who knew Martha, right?”

“What about Carol?”

“Carol?”

“The woman. My kind-of-aunt.”

I remembered the snivelling wreck of a woman hiding behind Jackie the second day of the investigation. “No. not her.”

“Well, why not?”

“She had nothing against Martha. And…” I frowned for a second. “She had too weak a will to go around killing detectives to cover her tracks. Especially Jackie. She liked her. I think.”

“How d’you know all this crap?”

I sighed. “Because, Charlie, I read people’s minds for a living. It ain’t easy getting interviews for a shitty paper no-one respects. Trust me. It wasn’t Carol. It’s obvious whoever did this killed Jackie because they knew she was getting close to finding them out, right?”

“Right.” Charlie got up and fell messily against the wall before regaining his balance. “And who was just talking to Jackie that night?”

“Uh..” I paused. “What do you mean?”

“You said the backstabber knew she suspected them, and she’d literally just been to our house to tell you she suspected you, right?”

Shit.

I stuttered and struggled for a second before settling on a shrug. “Good point. Next.”

“Nah,” Charlie said with a weird giggle. “There’s no way in shit you’re getting out of here.”

“Well,” I said. “I know I didn’t do it, and that’s what I care about.”

“I don’t.”

“Whatever. There’s someone else,” I said. “Harry Chesterfield.”

Charlie blinked. “What?”

He was acting weird at the crime scene; I saw him. He kept looking down at Jackie with this weird look in his eyes, y’know? I watched him for a bit before she spotted me. He just looked like he hated her. Like he hated her for doing her job.”

Charlie giggled again. “Maybe he just thought she had a nice arse.”

“Charlie, for fuck’s sake!” I turned around. “He hated Martha too.”

“Right, okay, okay. So it could have been him. But he’s police, and we’re prisoners. So how the fuck do we prove it was him?” Charlie sat down on the bunk next to me. “Or anyone, for that matter? We’re stuck in here till… till Heaven freezes over.”

“Well, that brings me to the fourth option,” I said.

Charlie looked at me, blowing a gale of rancid liquor right into my face. “The fourth option?”

I tried not to wince. I swear when he’s drunk, he’s got a memory like a bloody sieve. Actually, no. Scratch that. Sieves retain some information. Charlie’s drunk memory was like a bucket with the bottom missing. And that, actually, among other things, was why I was suspicious of him.

“The fourth option,” I said, “for getting out of here.”

Charlie sat up. “Oh yeah?”

“You’ll like it.”

“I know.”

I paused and trailed my gaze up to the CCTV camera I’d spotted on the wall of the cell earlier. I climbed the ladder to the top bunk, reached over, tore the camera off the wall, and fell six feet down onto the floor.

“Bollocks!” I groaned, rolling over on the stone floor with the ruined camera still in my grip. I stuck my middle finger up right in the lens and then ground it under my heel as Charlie watched, incredulous.

“The fourth option,” I said, panting and cringing as the pang in my back tweaked agony down my spine. “Is that we break the fuck out of here.”

*            *            *            *            *

I swear, the sound of that door smashing open was like a fucking cutlery emporium getting blown up with a nail bomb.

“Okay, who ripped the camera out of the wall?” Chesterfield said, turning the light back on.

“Oh, that was me,” I said. “I didn’t know how else to get your attention.”

“Get my attention?” Chesterfield scowled. “I thought you were conspiring or some shit. Smith and Jones reckoned you were discussing the murder. That’s why they made me come in here.”

“Right,” I said, stretching out across the bunk bed. “Well, tell Jones and Smith to go and royally fuck themselves. Especially Jones.”

“Uh, well…” Chesterfield was at a damn loss. He’d bust into the room like he was expecting to see us escaping through the window or setting the damned place on fire or trying to kill each other. Instead, we were lying on our bunks looking cool and collected. Well, Charlie was on the floor, and I wasn’t entirely convinced he was still conscious, actually, but that wasn’t important right now. What was important was why Chesterfield was here.

“Okay,” Chesterfield said, taking a step towards the cell. “So what the fuck do you want?”

“Well,” I said, “you see, we’ve been talking.”

The police officer frowned. “Oh yeah?”

“Yeah.” I looked at Charlie, who just raised his head from the floor out of Chesterfield’s view and nodded. “And we want to confess.”

*            *            *            *            *

“You made the easy choice, mate,” Chesterfield said as he hauled me down the corridor. Charlie was in handcuffs. I wasn’t. They only had one set, and surprisingly enough, they felt more threatened by him.

I grinned to myself and twisted my wrists in his grip. “I did, did I?”

“Yeah.” Chesterfield turned and bit his lip. “If you hadn’t confessed, the trial would’ve been a bloody nightmare for paperwork.”

“Ah. Well,” I said, catching Charlie’s eye as we shuffled towards the interrogation room. “Happy to save you some work.”

The corridor was clear. So, at the end of the hallway, was the porch. I was totally shit at navigation, so it was lucky I could see the front doors from where I was.

Not so lucky. Up to the front door pulled Lloyd sodding Jones’ Ford sodding Mondeo. Out, in case I’d been expecting or hoping for any different at this point, stepped Lloyd sodding Jones.

He burst through the front doors with outrage written on his face so plainly it could’ve been scrawled in Sharpie across his forehead.

“What the hell is going on?” He blustered, running down the hallway like the floor was hot coals. “They’re confessing?”

I raised my eyebrow.

“Yes, Wonderkid,” Chesterfield sighed. “They’re confessing.”

Lloyd stepped to one side and theatrically dragged a hand across his forehead. “Thank God! The murderers have been caught! I’m so glad!”

Charlie sniggered. “Twat.”

Lloyd’s face flashed. “What did he say? What the hell did he just say to me?”

Charlie raised his voice and widened his eyes like he was talking to a child. “I SAID you’re a TWAT!”

Lloyd lunged forwards and the police officer escorting Charlie grabbed him and held him back.

“Jones, SOD off home!” Chesterfield said.

“I won’t!” Lloyd whined. “I can’t! I can’t- you can’t just let two murderers off this easily! Not when they’ve confessed to this!”

Both officers needed to hold him back. The grip on my wrists was loosening and the one on Charlie’s cuffs was gone altogether. The moment was right.

Thank God for Lloyd sodding Jones.

“We haven’t,” I said.

Chesterfield grabbed Lloyd’s fist before it could reopen the gash on my nose. “You what?”

“We haven’t confessed to shit yet.”

“But!” Lloyd said, batting away another hand and pointing at me like a teacher scolding a kid. “But you’ve offered to confess!”

“There’s just one problem!” Charlie yelled. I held my hands up behind my back. Three fingers up. He saw it and locked eyes with me.

“What’s that?” Lloyd said.

I put one finger down. Two.

Charlie’s face got darker and his eyes got brighter. I swear, that kid could get hired by a bloody drama series while he was shitfaced.

“Well,” Charlie said, his voice wavering like the wind outside the door.

One.

“We didn’t fucking do it.”

Chesterfield let go of my arm as Charlie made an early lunge for the door. I stuck my last finger down and curled my hand into a fist, grabbing Charlie’s arm and hurling us both down the corridor.

“Come back!” Lloyd yelled, hot on our heels.

I laughed, legging it out the double doors into the black night. Why the fuck do they always say that in action movies? “Come back?” As if I’d just stop and think “Hey, you know, he’s right. I should go back.”

How about “Fuck you, and no. I’m never coming back.”

“Fuck you!” I yelled, pausing next to Lloyd’s car. He’d left it unlocked, the twat. I chucked Charlie in through the door first and got into the driver’s seat. My hands froze over the wheel.

‘Cars. Cars. You must know something about cars.’

‘Maybe there’s something to learn from action movies after all.’

I saw Charlie getting his head off the ground and flipping Lloyd off through the wing-mirror. I turned the keys and the engine didn’t exactly roar to life. It sort of whined. Like Lloyd, actually.

I jammed my foot down on the accelerator and hurtled off down the road. Like I gave a shit if we got run over. Right then, I was just glad I had a chance to solve the case properly.

Oh, and the look on Wonderkid’s face as we peeled out of the car park in his car was pretty priceless too.

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