The Slug and the Sliver of Hope

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic


The story centers around a successful and wealthy family man who apprehends an intruder in his house. Subsequently he deals with the situation to his own satisfaction but fall foul of the law.
Trapped by his own mistakes and careless talk to a member of his family he cannot escape the inevitable conclusion of his misdeeds.

Submitted: August 20, 2017

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Submitted: August 19, 2017

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The Slug and the Sliver of Hope

By Graham Redman

 

Jerry lay in that semi-comatose position where the brain is telling you to sleep but the bladder is telling you it’s full. The bladder always wins, so he swung his legs over the edge of the bed and padded into the en-suite. As always he didn’t flush as it usually woke Natalie up, she was a very light sleeper. He had completely forgotten that she wasn’t there that night. Now quite awake, he was about to lift the duvet to return to bed when he thought he heard a noise, a quiet but distinct noise that his brain told him should not be there, the house was empty. Natalie and the girls were away at her parent’s place for a short break, but work commitments had kept him at home on this occasion – thank goodness.

He moved over to the bedroom door that was always kept ajar, an old habit from when the kids were younger. There it was again, a gentle scraping sound, clear against the total silence of his surroundings but still very quiet. He moved silently down the landing corridor to the head of the stairs, he had the distinct impression that there was someone in the house. On moving round to peer down the stairs, he heard the noise again. This time he was sure he had an intruder and a flush of anger overtook him but did not cause him, at that moment, to behave irrationally. Where was the noise coming from? Gently moving down some steps, taking care to avoid the fourth one down which was creaky, he scanned the two doors he could clearly see in the moonlight flooding in through the porch window, the kitchen and dining room. It was obvious now a burglar was in the dining room, the door was ajar and the dim flickering light from a torch being moved around could clearly be seen.

He moved to the bottom of the stairs, but was uncertain as to what to do, the burglar had obviously not heard him, but, if he was to move to the phone to call the police he would hear, and anyway the police would take an age to arrive and he would be long gone by then. Jerry had little time for the police having had a number of minor encounters with them before, his drink-driving conviction and year’s ban two years ago, being the most prominent. He had only just been over the limit but they did him anyway.

Curiosity led him to the dining room and he peered through the gap, there he was, the bastard, carefully going through the sideboard drawers with his back to the door, Jerry remained unseen and withdrew to the hall. He was a fit man of thirty-seven and believed he could, in an encounter, stand up well against most men, but he could not tell how fit this man was or whether he had a weapon, so the element of surprise would give him the advantage. Give the bastard a bloody good hiding and kick him out, it’s the only way to deal with low-life like him. No police, he could deal with this himself.

Now his brain was doing overtime. Having made the decision to attack him, he decided he needed a weapon, a knife would be too drastic. No, it had to be something he could hit him with. The hall cupboard had his set of golf clubs and a cricket bat, but the door was closed and clicked very distinctly when opened. He scanned the moonlit hall, and his gaze fell upon the rest of his cricket paraphernalia on a table by the porch door. The batting gloves were ideal, well padded to protect his hands yet, with the element of surprise, he could pack a heavy punch without hurting himself. His aggression was growing now as he slipped the gloves on and moved back to the dining room door.

The burglar had found what he was looking for now, a small money box that Jerry kept at the back of the left hand drawer of the sideboard for emergencies. He moved quietly across the carpet ready to pack a powerful right hander to the man’s face. So absorbed was the burglar in removing the money that he only sensed Jerry’s presence at the last second, he half turned and didn’t see the powerful gloved fist make contact with the right hand side of his jaw. It was a classic boxer’s uppercut. He went down and the money box flew across the top of the sideboard scattering coins and notes and smashed into a vase knocking it down, taking a chunk out of its rim.

Jerry moved quickly across the front of the sideboard ready to meet the man when he got up with another blow, but only silence greeted him in the darkness. After waiting a few seconds, it became clear that the man was not getting up so he moved to the dimmer switch and turned the light on just enough to assess the situation. The burglar was face-down on the floor not moving at all, nearby was the extinguished torch.

It was obvious he had actually knocked the man out, now perhaps he could get the police, a citizen’s arrest, but first he must be secured in case he came round. After he removed his gloves, he crossed the hall and retrieved a key from a drawer in the hall cabinet, he unlocked the internal door to the garage and took a coil of rope from a hook, he then went to the kitchen to get a knife and returned to the dining room.  The man was still where he had left him, he raised the light level in the room. Now he had a chance to see what he was really like.

There was nothing special about him, short, slim build, about thirty years old, bushy dark brown hair, wearing blue jeans, black trainers and a black lightweight zip-up jacket over a grey tea-shirt. Jerry cut a length of rope and tied his ankles together tightly. It was only when he moved him to draw his arms behind that he saw the blood, it had seeped out from somewhere down the left hand side of his head and onto the carpet. He turned him slightly and tied his wrists behind him before turning his attention to where he was wounded. It was now obvious what had happened, the man had gone down catching his head on the corner of the rather solid display cabinet and had opened up a wound on his forehead. But he still wasn’t moving, in fact, Jerry thought, he didn’t appear to be breathing. Kneeling down he tried to listen for the sound of air entering his lungs, he could not detect anything. First aid skills were somewhat alien to him, you didn’t need them in the world of the Civil Service.

“I’ve bloody killed him!” he said out loud only to himself.

He still couldn’t tell if he was breathing so he tried to take his pulse, firstly on his wrist and then on his neck like they did in the films. He couldn’t feel a response and he became convinced in his own mind that the man was dead.

This changed everything, what to do? He pulled out a chair from the table and sat down. Do the right thing and call the police, after all it was an accident, but he could find himself on the wrong side of the law. It had happened before, being an avid reader of the Sunday papers he ‘knew’ from past cases like this that if an intruder was killed in the course of a burglary the house holder was likely to be charged with manslaughter. Wasn’t there a guy called Martin, a farmer, who killed an intruder and it happened to him and he went to prison. The resulting publicity and going to trial, the uncertainty of the result could drastically change his life, he might even lose his job. His civil-service job in the Ministry of Defence was very well paid but depended on a certain amount of discretion.  Any-way how would Natalie react to all this and what effect would it have on his two daughters. No the price was too high for the sake of a bastard, non-descript, burglar. 

He looked down at the prone form on the floor, nobody’s going to know where the bloke broke in, Natalie’s away, he’s got plenty of time to clean up, he could just put the body in the car and dump him in a ditch somewhere. One thing that got him where he was today was being decisive. His mind was made up, dumping the body would avoid any problems. He went upstairs to get dressed ready for action.

On descending the stairs he heard a strange noise coming from the dining room, dashing in he realised straight away that the man was not dead, he appeared to be coming round. He was moaning and twitching his legs a bit but his eyes were still closed. Jerry pulled him round into sitting position but his head still lolled downwards dripping a little blood. While doing this he searched his pockets finding nothing but a set of two keys, one was a house key and the other to a Ford car, he put them in his pocket.  The noise stopped and slowly the man lifted his head and opened his eyes, Jerry eased him onto one of the chairs at the table. He was a mess, the left side of his face covered in blood but it had stopped flowing from the wound that was now clearly visible on the top of his forehead, it didn’t appear to be that bad but might need stitches.

The burglar’s vision had cleared now, but his brain had not, his eyes darted around the room but he was not sure why he was here, he tried moving and discovered he was well trussed up, so he tried standing but Jerry pushed him back down to the chair firmly but not roughly.

“You’re not going anywhere until I’ve decided what I’m going to do with you” he said looking straight into his eyes.

His eyes had a slightly fearful look about them, he was obviously still confused about his surroundings.

“Do?” He said a little incoherently, “what do you mean?”

“What do you think I should do with a thieving bastard like you then?”

The penny was beginning to drop and his eyes darted to all corners of the room as he took in the scene, suddenly he realised why he was there, but how he got trussed up with blood on his tea-shirt wasn’t apparent.

“What’s happened why am I  tied up?”

“I would have thought that was pretty obvious, I hit you and you went down and hit your head on that”, Jerry said pointing out the cabinet, “you’ve bashed your head but it’s not bleeding now”

The burglar said nothing for a while as Jerry tidied up the room a bit, gathering up the money and putting it in the money box and replacing it in the drawer.

Suddenly Jerry said, “How the hell did you get in here?”

“Easy, you left the back door unlocked, I sometimes get lucky, people often think they’ve locked up properly when they haven’t”, his voice was steadier now, he had virtually returned to full consciousness now.

Jerry suddenly remembered he had put the kitchen rubbish out just before he went to bed, he couldn’t actually remember locking up, so he must have forgotten.

After a short pause he continued, “You could just let me go, I’ll just disappear as if nothing’s happened. I’m sorry” he tried to sound apologetic whilst inwardly anger was beginning to well up, he had been a fool to get caught. He knew he would straight be back inside if the police got him as he was only out on license.

“A little too easy”, Jerry said, “no, I think I’ll turn you in, why should I let a bastard like you get away with it?”

“No don’t do that, it will only make trouble for you, when they take me in they’ll see what you’ve done and start asking questions.”

“What sort of questions?” said Jerry.

“I’ll have to tell them how you hit me with your fists and then smashed my head against the furniture and tied me up, so it would be better for both of us just to let me go”

“That’s not actually true” Jerry replied.

“Your word against mine”, the burglar said in a cocky manner, “and the evidence is on my side and I could sue you for assault as well”. He confidently believed he could persuade Jerry to release him by pushing this argument.

“A good point” said Jerry thoughtfully

Jerry’s thoughts returned to the problem of concealing the crime when he thought the man was dead. The problem would be much the same if he was sued or even charged with assault. He was reminded of an article he had read only a couple of weeks ago in one of the Sunday supplements. It had highlighted a burglary case where the house owner had had a go and apprehended the thief but he, (the thief), had got hurt in the process. Although the man was convicted, he was allowed to sue the house owner for assault. After nearly a year of anxiety the case was thrown out and the house owner was not convicted but the whole process had a profound effect on him causing a great amount of stress and some distrust among his friends and family. He had gone through a lot.

No, thought Jerry I’ve got too much to lose, this bastard cannot be allowed to do that so I will have to let him go, but not yet.

Eliciting no further response from Jerry, the burglar said, “I need some water”

“OK” said Jerry absentmindedly as he was still deep in thought. He went out to the kitchen and found a small bottle of mineral water. When he returned the man hadn’t moved so he unscrewed the cap and placed it on the table in front of him.

“Well?” the burglar said.

“What?” said Jerry

“You’ll have to untie my hands so I can drink it”

“Not a chance”, Jerry snapped out of his absentmindedness. He picked up the bottle and tipped it up against the man’s lips.

Infuriated that his plan had not worked, the burglar waited until Jerry was in front of him and then launched himself forward using his head as a ram to try to knock him over. Totally taken by surprise, Jerry fell back, dropping the water and nearly lost his footing. He was saved by backing into one of the other chairs which stopped him falling so that when the man gave a second great hop to try again, Jerry was able to side step him and the man fell down on the carpet in front of the sideboard.

Totally helpless on the floor, the burglar totally lost his temper, and whereas his manner and language had been very moderate while he thought he had a chance of persuading Jerry to release him, he now let fly.

“You f****** bastard, when I get out of here I’ll sort you out, get these f****** ropes off me. I’ll kill you”, he shouted wriggling around to try to find some way to get back on his feet, but to no avail. He continued shouting and swearing for another minute, mainly at his own helplessness

Jerry too had almost lost control and nearly kicked him in the head as he lay there wriggling trying to get up, but once again there was enough rationality in his mind not to create any more problems for himself. So he contented himself by just swearing at the man and poking him with his foot to turn him into a position where he could get hold of him to return him to his chair. He grabbed the front of his coat and hauled him upwards dragging him over to the chair and pushed him onto it. Immediately the man stood up again and tried to push Jerry with his head. This time Jerry was ready and as his body moved forwards Jerry backhanded him hard with his right hand across the right side of his face. The blow threw him sideways off balance and back to the floor again. Jerry caught hold of him and hauled him up again and replaced him on the chair. This time he didn’t move.

The blow had hurt Jerry’s hand and he nursed it with the other while allowing himself to calm down. He looked the man in the eyes, anger and aggression had taken over from fear, in spite of the man’s helplessness. It occurred to Jerry that whatever he did now he could end up the loser, if he untied the man then he may well attack him again and a nagging doubt hung around in his mind that he could theoretically still sue him if he thought he could make money out of it – curse this compensation society, it would be possible that he could admit the attempted burglary, serve a short sentence and make more money from a legal case of assault.

The burglar broke the silence with clear urgency in his voice, “Let me go, you know it’s your only chance. I won’t cause any more problems, forget what I said, I won’t do anything to you, I’ll just go and you’ll never see me again”, he paused, then almost losing his temper again, “get these f****** ropes off me”, he wriggled to try to free himself but again it was to no avail.

Jerry almost wished the man had died when he’d hit him, his problems would have been solved – dump the body and nobody will know.

“OK” he said, “I will let you go, eventually, but I need to be sure you’ll not make any trouble for me or my family”.

He looked into the man’s eyes as he said this, there was still anger and aggression in those eyes. He didn’t trust him an inch.

“Get these ropes off me and you’ll not regret it” the man said calming down again.

Gerry went over to the cabinet and picked up the remaining rope and knife, he went round behind the man and hurriedly tied a loop at one end of the rope, threaded the other end through it to make a noose. He then took the knife and rubbed it up and down on the rope that tied the wrists to give the impression that he was cutting the rope. Moving very quickly he dropped the knife and threw the noose over the head and upper body of the man and tightened it round the back of the chair forcing his body back against the chair back. He hung on tightly while the man reacted trying to get up and wriggle out of it, but he was quite helpless. He threw a second loop around the man’s chest and tied it off at the back very securely. He cut off the remaining rope.

“What the f*** are you doing? I thought you were going to let me go”, he yelled.

“I will but in the meantime I don’t want you to attack me again”

“I won’t. How long are you going to keep me here?”

“Only a little while longer, I’ve got to sort out something first, don’t do anything stupid” Jerry replied.

He left the room and went into the kitchen.

There are often pivotal moments in one’s life when important decisions are made that are so monstrous that they can affect the rest of your life. This was one such moment for Jerry, for he had decided to go back to plan A – dump the body and clean up, no-one will ever know. The problem being in this case the man was still alive and a threat to everything Jerry valued, his freedom, family life, career and life style. He had to go and cleanly. Being a potential murderer was not something that came to a man like Jerry easily and he knew he hadn’t got the guts to stab or strangle him but there was a way that would not be difficult nor make a mess.

He rooted about in the kitchen looking for his murder weapon. He found what he wanted and removed it from the cupboard. Keeping it behind him he went back to the dining room and put it on the sideboard behind the man.

“OK” he said, “the time has come, I’ll let you go now, but if you ever come up here again of threaten me or my family I’ll kill you – understand”

“All right I won’t, just get these ropes off me”, the man’s impatience was obvious in the tone of his voice.

Again Jerry bent down behind the man and took the last piece of rope and made a noose, he threaded the rope round the man’s ankles and the central bracing bar on the chair, took the end through the loop of the noose and jerked violently pulling his ankles back to the bar. Again the man reacted, trying to kick his feet forward but Jerry’s strength kept his feet back. He tied the rope off. He knew he had the man completely helpless now, exactly where he wanted him.

The reaction was immediate.

“What the f*** are you doing? Are you going to let me go or not?”

“No” Jerry replied, “I’m not. I have decided you are too much of a threat to me and everything I value in life. If I turn you in you can make trouble for me, but you also could if I let you go. My solution to the problem is far more radical, I’m going to kill you and just dump your body, no one will ever know and I’ll have peace of mind knowing you can do nothing to me”.

He watched the man as he said this, those eyes no longer displayed anger or aggression, in fact at that moment they were expressionless.

“No no you can’t” the man replied a little hesitantly, “you must be joking. Look you know I won’t do anything, just let me go. I promise I will just go it will be as if I was never here”

“You’re going all right but in the boot of my car”. Once Jerry made his mind up he rarely changed it. He looked steadily at the man meeting his eyes, the expression slowly changed to fear and panic as he realised Jerry meant it and he could do nothing about it.

The next few moments were charged with noise and activity, the man began to beg for his life while Jerry went behind him to prepare his weapon.

 

“No no please don’t, you can’t do this to me – please let me go please – no don’t kill me. I’ll never do this again, I’ll do anything you want but don’t kill me.”

There was clearly an urgency in the tone of his voice. He tried to turn his head to face Jerry who was still behind him, mainly to see what he was doing, but he couldn’t turn it round enough, so he faced the front again and tried another tactic in his panic. As begging had no effect so he started to shout ‘Help’ at the top of his voice with as much panic as he could while wriggling violently to try to get out of the ropes. Jerry knew the noise wouldn’t attract attention, his house was too isolated for anyone to hear. As he shouted Jerry lowered the heavy duty plastic bag over his head from behind and gathered the bag behind his head enclosing the man’s face. He squirmed and tried to throw himself out of the chair or tip it over but he was totally at Jerry’s mercy. He held on for as long as it took for the man to suffocate, then relaxed his grip but left the bag over his head, he didn’t want to see that face again.

Jerry was sweating, not just because he was hot from the exertion, but also from the realisation of what he had just done. There was no going back now. He sat down facing away from the inert body to gather his wits. Gradually he became aware of a foul smell, it didn’t take a genius to work out what had happened, the man had defecated during his death throes and the smell was beginning to make Jerry retch. He left the room, dimming the light and closing the door and went to the living room. There he sat in the darkness for a while, his brain racing. He had done it now but immediately began to have regrets, the enormity of the act began to eat into him. He lay back and closed his eyes while his thoughts moved to a wider plane, he had committed the ultimate sin and taken a man’s life, yes, he was only a common burglar, the World would be better off without him. He needed a drink.

The Scotch was in the kitchen, he had had a drink there earlier. On crossing the hall he was reminded of the body by the smell now seeping under the dining room door. He needed to dispose of that body very soon. He entered the kitchen retrieved the whisky and poured himself a big one. Rational thinking now took over. The body had to go and the house cleaned.

Although yawning through lack of sleep, he made his plans quickly and drove himself on. A glance at the clock told him that as it was only one-thirty he had plenty of time to put plans into action. Obviously the body had to go first. Where was not a problem, he knew the area well, and was aware of a remote area about seven miles away where a body could lay for weeks without being found. How to carry it there without leaving clues from the house was a more difficult problem. He was an avid crime novel reader so he was well aware of how to avoid leaving forensic clues such as DNA and fibres, so he set about his task thoroughly. Firstly he found a pair of rubber gloves from under the sink and put them on. From the garage he fetched a new roll of plastic sheeting he had bought for decorating but not actually used and laid most of it out on the kitchen floor, cutting off the length he needed. Now came the most nauseating task. Steeling up his courage, he went back into the dining room and quickly cut all the ropes and lifted the body through to the kitchen, laying it down on the sheeting. The smell was overpowering and he had to have another whiskey to keep from throwing up.

The next task was to vacuum up all round the body and over it in an attempt to remove any fibres from the rope or dining room carpet. This he did very thoroughly, moving the body to do under it. He finally left it face down, ready to wrap up. Just before parcelling up the body he removed the plastic bag from its head, pleased not to have to look at that face again. The rest of the disposal went like clockwork. Using a new roll of Sellotape he wrapped it up very thoroughly. Moving the body to the car boot was easy through the internal garage door. The smell had now nearly disappeared.

Fortunately he lived in the last house in the lane, his nearest neighbour was about a hundred yards away and both houses were well screened with high hedges. He doubted his neighbour would hear the car. He drove carefully away from the village using the country roads to find his destination. Turning off the engine and lights, he opened the boot and moved the body to a deep ditch. The place he had chosen was along an unmade track that led to two fields, leading off a little used lane. There were no buildings nearby, and no reason for anybody to go there. The fields appeared not to be used being rather overgrown. The moonlight provided him with enough light to see where the body lay, half in some muddy water, and obligingly there were some old bits of brushwood at the edge of the field that he dragged into the ditch. When he was finished he was sure it would be a long time until it was found.

Arriving back home, he checked the time, about quarter past three. Natalie was not due home for five days, plenty of time to clean up tomorrow. Tiredness drove him upstairs and he slept surprisingly soundly considering what he had done.

His working hours were flexible, so the next morning he called the office and said he would work from home for two days and be in on Thursday. Those two days were enough to thoroughly clean the house of all signs of the burglar, gathering up all the bits of rope, and anything else that may have come in contact with him, placing it all in a black rubbish bag with the contents of the vacuum’s dust bag. He was thorough, even mending the chipped vase with superglue so well that he had to inspect it very carefully to detect the crack, he had thought of throwing it away, but he knew it would be missed as Natalie’s mother had given it to her on her thirtieth birthday. The final act was to dust anywhere the man may have touched, again he was very thorough, especially in the dining room. The most difficult task was removing the blood from the carpet, but he managed it. The final result was very pleasing and helped him put the whole incident behind him. The black sack went out with the rubbish collection on Thursday.

Natalie and the girls were due back on Saturday afternoon, he was satisfied everything was in order, she wouldn’t notice anything out of the ordinary. He was looking forward to a degree of normality again, it would help to finally ease the memory of the event. However he had not anticipated the sudden problem that was to haunt him on Friday evening.

Picking up the pair of trousers from the bedroom  floor that he had worn that day in an effort to tidy up a bit, he felt in the left hand pocket and found the small key ring the burglar had had on him. He had completely forgotten that he had taken it when he searched him. He panicked at first, it all came flowing back. He thought he could just throw them away. But then he thought the car might be close by, and it would be better for him if it wasn’t. Beyond the fact it was a Ford he couldn’t identify it. Action was called for, and once again his careful rational mind took over.

Early Saturday morning he donned a disguise using the type of clothes he would only do the gardening in. An old pair of jeans, grey jumper slightly out of shape and an old cap that someone had left at the house some months ago when they had called. Pulling the cap down to hide as much of his face as possible he walked towards the village, eyeing up any parked cars he came to. He had the key in his hand and kept pressing the remote unlocking button looking for a reaction. Eventually after about four hundred yards an old black Ford Focus flashed its indicators, it was up a residential side road parked between two others. After a good look round and satisfying himself that there was no-one around at that time, he put on a pair of gloves, opened the car and got in. He drove it about two miles away to well over to the other side of the village, leaving it on a side road close to other cars hoping it would be a while before it was found. During the walk back he raked his brain to try to think of anything else he had missed. There was nothing, everything was covered. He suddenly realised he was still carrying the keys and in a frustrated moment he threw them under a hedgerow he was passing. At home he disposed of the jeans and jumper in the rubbish bin.

Natalie and the girls came back as arranged and everything went back to normal. On Monday the girls went back to school and he and Natalie to work. As the days went on he pushed the events of that night well to the back of his mind, never completely forgetting but not haunted about it in any way. As predicted no-one knew what had happened, he was able to carry on with his work and golf at the weekends with all around him in blissful ignorance. He had actually got away with murder, the perfect crime, the police were a clueless bunch of idiots. As time went by he rarely gave the matter a thought and his confidence knew no bounds. Soon the days lengthened to weeks and the thought of it didn’t disturb him any more. He failed to notice, however, a short report in the local paper informing their readers that thirty-two year old David Foreman had not been seen for several months and that his car had been found abandoned close to the Reading road.  Jerry hardly ever looked at the local paper, he never had time.

About four months later an item in the national news reminded him of that fateful night. Another case had come to light where a home-owner had attacked a burglar, this time with fatal results. They had struggled and the burglar had fallen down the stairs, the police and medics were called but the man died from unexpected internal injuries in hospital two days later. Before he died, however, he made a statement in which he claimed that he was deliberately pushed and didn’t fall as a result of a fight. This had caused a national debate on TV and in the press as to who should be believed and should the home-owner be prosecuted for murder or manslaughter. He was on the side of the home-owner.

After seeing this Jerry was even more convinced he had done the right thing. He was even more confident now about his cover up, he was sure the body had not been found, and he  didn’t know whether the car had been, anyway it could not be connected with him in any way. He knew he had got away with murder but he didn’t quite put it completely out of his mind.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~

The girl reached over to her boyfriend to kiss him once again, being careful to avoid the gearstick this time. The sexual temperature was rising as hands started groping on both bodies.

“We can’t do it here” she murmured, “it’s too small, let’s go over there” she pointed over his shoulder towards a field.

“OK” he said, after turning his head to look.

They had been seeking a bit of privacy from their annoyingly intrusive families and had driven up a country lane, turned off and stopped on an unmade track. They vacated the car and climbed over a low gate into the newly mown field. The perfect place and weather, after several weeks of virtual drought the ground was dry and the weather warm with just enough moonlight to stop them losing their way. He flattened a patch of grass by the hedgerow, took off his shirt and laid it down. She took a long look round to satisfy herself that there was no chance of being overlooked and started to remove her clothes but stopped when she reached her underwear, this was, after all, her first time but she knew it wasn’t his. It would be a night to remember. He was not so shy and soon was standing completely naked, he even removed his shoes. He approached her, gently unclipped her bra and let it fall. For a second she put her hands down to hold on to her knickers, a last feeble gesture to preserve her virginity.

“ Come on” he said gently, “it won’t hurt, it will be good”.

She surrendered immediately and let him slide them down, they lay down next to each other and after a few minutes they were locked together on his shirt in the moonlight.

After they were both satisfied they separated, and lay together staring up into the night sky. He started teasing her by imitating what he thought her mother would say if she could see them now, as he did this, he rose and ran up and down by the hedgerow embellishing his acting skills with suitable gestures, while she laughed and told him to stop. In an act of desperation she grabbed one of his shoes and lobbed it at him. It missed its target and disappeared into the hedgerow and the ditch beyond. He turned, dropped to his hands and knees, and half crawled into the hedge to retrieve it.

Now it was her turn to tease him, all she could see was his rear end bathed in moonlight sticking out of the hedge. He came out at her taunting.

“ Shut up will you! I can’t see it, it’s dark in there, I’ve got a torch in the car”, he said, moving towards the gate.

“I think you’d better get dressed first”, she said as she started to put her own clothes back on, “Then I’ll help you”

He came back, got dressed leaving off his shoe, and went off to find the torch. She went over to the hedge to investigate and waited for him. He returned and disappeared into the hedge again and she followed.

“Here hold the torch” he said, “so I can climb down into this ditch”. She duly obliged and he scrambled down holding onto small shrubs but he couldn’t see anything at first.

“Look”, she suddenly said, “to your right, it looks like a shoe”.

“OK, I can see it”, he grabbed it and immediately threw it up to her, “ I’m coming up”.

She failed to catch it but picked it up to move it to safety, somehow it didn’t feel right, moving the torch she looked at it. ‘That’s strange’ she thought there was a sock sticking out, and then she let out the most piercing scream, for beyond the sock she could see a sea of wriggling maggots in the shoe. She dropped the shoe in disgust. He had just reached the top of the bank when she screamed, and he rushed over.

“What’s wrong?” he said rather alarmed. She just shone the torch towards the shoe and when he bent down to examine it, he saw the maggots too. “It’s not mine, ugh it’s revolting”, he dropped it and looked back towards the ditch but didn’t move.

“I’ll have to go back down again”, he said and, taking the torch from her hand, went back to the hedge and ditch. He looked very carefully around the ditch but didn’t go back down. Once his eyes had fully adjusted, he located his shoe and clearly saw another shoe like the one they had just found. He carefully lowered himself to retrieve his shoe and now he could see under some twigs a long form that was wrapped in plastic. One end was open, near the shoe, he now had a pretty good idea what he was looking at. He could just reach his own shoe.

On returning to the field he found the girl had returned to the gate putting as much distance between her and the maggot ridden shoe as she could. “I think there’s a body down there”, he said. She just shuddered and started to sob. They went back to the car together. He took out his phone.

“Dad” he said, “Something awful has happened”. He then proceeded to explain everything and gave his exact location. ‘Sometimes it’s useful having someone in the police in your family’ he thought.

“Your dad will want to know what we were doing out here at this time of night” she said.

“True”, he said, “ but we don’t have to tell him everything”.

She just shrugged, and thought to herself, ‘her first time, it should have been a night to remember for the rest of her life, she would remember it, but now for the wrong reasons, she couldn’t get the image of that maggoty shoe out of her mind.

  ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~

Robert Kemble had just retired to bed when the phone call came through, he made a mental note of the time as he always routinely did. His 18 year old son’s voice had a degree of panic and urgency in it as he explained his gruesome find. He calmed him down advised them to go back to the lane and wait, a car would be up there soon, and not to go back and touch anything. Trying not to disturb Lucy any more than necessary, he crept downstairs to the study phone and placed a call to HQ.  Just as he was about to return to get dressed, having made his mind up to out there himself, Lucy put her head round the door.

“Got to go out” he said, “it’s Tom, he’s got a problem”

“Drunk again, can’t drive, Dad to the rescue again, at least he has the common sense to phone you rather than try to drive, you should never have given him a car in the first place. Which pub is he in? Why do you give in to him, you ought to ......” her voice was rising in anger and her tone becoming shriller.

“It’s not like that this time, he thinks he’s found a body” Kemble interrupted loudly as he looked for his shoes. He started going upstairs as she yelled after him.

“A body? What do you mean?”

“A dead body in a ditch by the side of a field” he replied, as he donned a pair of trousers and a shirt.

“Oh” she said quietly as she joined him in the bedroom, having had the wind taken out of her sails “what’s happened”.

“He’s with Emma and they were together in a remote field, he lost his shoe in a ditch and found a body when he went to get it back”.

It went a bit quiet, Kemble finished dressing and picked up his keys and warrant card.

“What were they doing in a field at this time of night? Why hadn’t he got his shoes on?” she asked.

“For goodness sake Lucy, it wasn’t that many years ago” he said opening the front door.

“Oh you don’t mean – oh, I hope he had a condom, remember that’s how Tom was created in the first place” she said in a slightly raised voice down the garden path.

“Shush, it’s nearly midnight, the neighbours!”, he said smiling quietly as he got into the car.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~

The two uniform officers had arrived only five minutes before Kemble. The WPC was talking to Tom and Emma, taking notes while the PC had armed himself with a powerful torch and disappeared into the field. Kemble didn’t know either of them, and was glad he picked up his warrant card to prove who he was. Tom and Emma were both OK but still a bit shaken, their statements could wait until tomorrow. He took them to one side.

“I can only guess what you were up to out here at this time of night”, he said quietly

“Dad, it wasn’t like that, we were only kissing and so on”, Tom said straight away.

Emma was glad it was so dark and no-one could see her blushing, and she started to move away, but Tom’s dad caught her arm gently and said to them both.

“Look both of you, I am not too bothered about what you did or how far you went, but you will both have to give a true account of what you were doing, best not to lie in a police statement, after all you’ve got to explain why Tom had taken his shoe off and how it ended up in a ditch”. Turning to Emma he continued, “Your mum is not going to get to know the full details from us, so you can tell her what you like”

They both murmured “OK and thank you”

As an afterthought Kemble said to them, “I hope you used a condom”

Emma replied immediately, “No, it’s all right I’m on the pill, we’d been planning.....”, suddenly she put her hands up to her face and turned away embarrassed realising what she just said.Kemble turned away with a wry smile and walked over to the gate to liaise with the PC in the field.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~

“Sonia, Eric and the kids are coming for a meal on Saturday evening”, Natalie said as she came downstairs after a half hour conversation on her mobile with her sister.

Jerry inwardly groaned, they were all right but Sonia was a big gossip and spent all her time reminiscing about family and childhood and Eric was dull, he didn’t play golf or any sport and was a history teacher with very little conversation outside the world of education. Their two teenage children were pleasant enough, his two girls looked up to their 17 year old cousin and the younger lad was easily satisfied by using the Wii that Natalie had to keep fit.

“When are they coming? I won’t be here until about half past six as I’m playing cricket”, he said, glad he had a valid reason to excuse himself at least for the afternoon.

“About two”, she answered.

The family turned up as arranged on Saturday and separated into different groups. Sonia in the kitchen gossiping and occasionally lifting a finger to help Natalie prepare the meal, Eric found a comfortable garden chair and satisfied himself with a good book and the Daily Mail and the lad was playing tennis with a stick-like opponent on the TV. The two girls, Charlotte and Chloe, and cousin Emma went upstairs to a bedroom to discuss their usual teenage topics. After a while Emma thought she would tell them what happened the previous weekend.

“Do you two want to hear what me and my boyfriend found in a ditch last weekend?”, she said in a slightly superior manner, hoping to make a big impression.

“Yes” replied the two younger girls in unison,  twelve year old Charlotte adding” Go on then”.

“A dead body” she announced expecting a horrified reaction, but what she actually got was doubt that she was being truthful.

“You’re lying, you didn’t”, Charlotte said

“We did and we had to tell the police all about it” Emma added.

“What did it look like, was it horrible?”, ten year old Chloe said now naturally curious.

“I don’t know, I didn’t see it, but my boyfriend did, but I did see something really horrible”, Emma continued, enjoying her audience now that they believed her, and were hanging on every word she said.

“What was it?”, Chloe asked.

“A shoe with loads of maggots in it, it was horrible, it had come off the body”, Emma said with some relish enjoying the effect it was having on her cousins.

“That’s revolting, it makes me feel sick”, Charlotte retorted.

“Why did it have maggots in the shoe” Chloe asked, being the more practical and curious of the girls.

“Because the foot from the body was still in it”

This drew an immediate reaction from both girls, they both grimaced and spoke together, “Ugh that’s horrible”, Charlotte adding , “I really am going to be sick in a minute.”

“Do you mean that the foot had actually come off the body? Did your boyfriend pull it off?”, Chloe asked.

“Not exactly”, Emma answered, “you see the body was in a ditch at the side of the field and Tom’s shoe had gone into the ditch. When he went down to get it he found the wrong shoe, it was the one with the maggots in. He had to go back to get his shoe and that’s when he saw the body.”

Both the girls failed to ask the obvious questions as to why they were in the field and how the shoe got into the ditch, so Emma was spared the task of lying about the sex and nudity. Chloe’s curiosity had not been satisfied yet.

“What did the maggots look like?”, she asked.

“I had a torch and when I shone the torch down into the shoe I could see all these white wormy things crawling about over each other. I screamed and dropped the...”

“Girls, come down, there’s a drink and some chocolate biscuits for you”, Natalie yelled up the stairs.

“I’m going down, ugh, I’ve heard enough”, Charlotte said, getting up and making for the door.

“Go on”, said Chloe, looking at Emma, “what happened?”

“I want something to drink, I’ll tell you later”, Emma said, also getting up and joining Charlotte at the door. Reluctantly Chloe went along with them and they all tripped downstairs.

Up until the meal Emma and Chloe never did find time to finish their conversation and by then Charlotte had lost interest.

The meal came at about seven, the conversation was light and forgettable when during a pause Chloe turned to Jerry and spoke out.

“Daddy, do you know what Emma and her boyfriend found last weekend?”

“No”, he said in all innocence, “tell me”.

“A dead body”

“Really?” he said, not really believing what his youngest daughter was saying, and more or less dismissing it as a childhood story.

“And she found something really horrible”.

Emma butted in straight away, “Don’t say anything, we’re eating”.

Eric now took up the conversation, “It’s true, we had a visit from the police. She was with her boyfriend in a field that had a ditch at the side, up a farmers track out near Whitchurch Hill. The body was in the ditch and apparently one of its feet had come off. It’s all quite horrible really”

There were exclamations from Natalie and Sonia, who apparently didn’t know the full story. Emma was now the focus of attention at the table but she decided she didn’t want to talk about it anymore for fear her mother might find out more than she wanted her to. She clammed up and said nothing more.

Jerry was the only other one who said nothing, he knew straight away that it must be the burglar’s body, Whitchurch Hill was close to the place he left it, it all fitted, in a ditch, next to a field, up a farm track, the memories all came flooding back in an instant. He was glad of the few moments that Emma was the focus of attention; he had time to compose himself.

He suddenly said, “We don’t want to talk about dead bodies any more”, but his tone had a ring of sharpness and irritability about it and killed the conversation dead.

Natalie looked at him with a slightly puzzled expression on her face, “OK dear if that’s what you want, we’ll talk about something else”

Jerry rose from the table and left the room and Natalie followed him.

“What’s the problem, why are you so upset?” she asked

“I’m not really, I’m probably a bit overtired, it’s been a long week”, he replied wearily.

Natalie left it there though she was still a bit puzzled at his uncharacteristic outburst and went back to her guests.

Jerry thought that was the end of dead body talk for the evening, but he hadn’t reckoned on the abiding curiosity of his youngest daughter. She found him alone a little later, on the patio in the garden.

“Daddy”, she said, “What does a dead body look like?”

“It’s just like a person lying down”

“But why did its foot come off and why did it have maggots on it”

“Well”, he said getting a little irritated, but trying not to show it, “that happens when a dead body has been left out for a long time. Now can we drop the subject please”

Not easily put off, she continued, “When Emma’s boyfriend found the dead body in the ditch did it have maggots all over it?”

“No”, he said, thoroughly fed up with this conversation now, and in a careless moment he added, “It was all wrapped in plastic so the maggots couldn’t get to it, now I’m not telling you again, we are not going to talk about dead bodies anymore”

Reasonably satisfied she went indoors to join her sister and cousin on the Wii. An hour later as the guests were leaving she saw Emma for a few seconds by herself.

“Your boyfriend didn’t see the body with maggots on it because it was all wrapped in plastic”, she said in a sneering tone.

“Yes it was”, Emma replied a little puzzled, “But I didn’t tell you that, how did you know”

“Daddy told me”, she answered

At that point the conversation ended as Emma was called to the car. Later in the back of the car she thought to herself, ‘How could Uncle Jerry know it was wrapped in plastic, it’s very strange, I’m certain I didn’t mention it’, then she just dismissed it from her thoughts, until another time when the topic came up in conversation with Tom.

It came as a real blow to Jerry to know that the body had been discovered by his niece, what an awful coincidence. He was edgy for a few days almost expecting a knock on the door, but as time went by and the police did not come, his confidence gradually returned and life went back to normal. The murder was always at the back of his mind and he often wished he could turn the clock back and undo what he had done, but he couldn’t so he just had to live with it. Had he known about the short conservation that had occurred between Chloe and Emma when Emma was leaving, he would have been far more nervous about his indiscrete remark to Chloe. In fact he hadn’t remembered what he actually said to Chloe at all, he had just said something to get her off his back at that moment.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~

Though the disappearance of David Foreman was reported to the police by his mother, it didn’t cause a real stir, after all he was a petty criminal aged thirty-two with tendency to spend periods of time away from home, sometimes in prison. Officially he lived with his mother in a small terraced house on the outskirts of Reading, but he was often away from home. The disappearance was noted but not actively investigated. About six weeks later a local resident reported a car to the police, it was a black Ford Focus that had been parked outside his house for a long time and appeared not to have moved. Only when they checked the VIN was a link established with the disappearance of Mr Foreman. There was a possibility that something might have happened to him, so the matter was put into the hands of a junior detective who made local enquiries, but with nothing to go on the enquiries amounted to nothing and were eventually dropped. The car was removed, stored in a police pound and then forgotten. It only had a very cursory examination and yielded no clue as to the whereabouts of David Foreman.

The finding of a body in mid July did create a stir and, as it was obvious it was a case of murder, it landed in the hands of DI Kemble, if for no other reason, because his son had found the body. It didn’t take him long to establish its identity, by simply comparing its fingerprints to those of any local missing persons. As Foreman’s prints were on record he had a name for his corpse in less than two days. What Kemble really wanted was the report back from the forensics, hopefully, to give him a starting point in the investigation. When it came, nearly a week later, it was very thorough and detailed, and while it clearly indicated how Foreman died and the fact that he had been tied up and subjected to violence, it didn’t give a clue as to who might have been responsible. The report stated that because it was wrapped tightly in plastic sheeting it was in an amazedly good state of preservation for a body that had been in a ditch for four months throughout a fairly warm spring and much of a hot summer. The feet had parted company from the body and the report stated that the end of the sheeting had not been so tightly wrapped and possibly a fox had opened up the foot end and scavenged on the flesh of the feet and lower legs allowing blow flies access to lay their eggs, hence the maggoty feet.

The link between David Foreman and Jerry came about shortly after the body was found, it came quite by chance and because of fussy Mr Harper.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~

It may well be true that every village has a Mr Harper. He was a short, slim man in his late sixties who lived alone in a cottage close to the centre of the village. His wife had left him seven years earlier to seek ‘a life’ away from a man who was too fussy and exacting, never took a risk and always had to do the ‘right thing’. Frankly he was dull and impossible to live with any more, it hadn’t always been like this but he had got worse after he retired from the income tax office when he was sixty. His house and garden reflected his general outlook on life, dust and disorder were not welcome in his house, everything had a place and nothing was ever out of place. In his garden, weeds and dead flower heads were never allowed, and his lawn got a close trim about every four days and always looked as if Wimbledon’s grounds men had been at work there. While his garden looked neat it was not exciting.

Every now and again he cleaned up under his front hedge, sometimes rubbish got dropped there or blew in from the street. It was not a task he relished as he had to kneel down to do it and his neatly creased trousers often got marked. The twentieth of July was a day for such a task. He worked his way along the hedge, moving the foliage away with one hand while he looked for rubbish underneath. About three quarters of the way along he spied a set of keys and was about to pick them up when he noticed a brown slug squatting on the key fob, an unwelcome visitor to most gardens but especially his. He carefully picked up the keys by the metal ring and was in a quandary as to what to do with the slug, he certainly couldn’t handle it. While he usually did the ‘right thing’ in life, his love for his garden outweighed his love for his neighbour and his untidy garden, the slug would love it there, so, after having a really good look round, he approached the fence and with a quick flick of his forefinger the slug was propelled into the long grass of his neighbour’s lawn. The fob was very slimy but he knew what to do, the keys would have to be taken to the police when he was next in town, for that was the ‘right thing’ to do, but he could not take them as they were, so he took a small clean plastic bag and dropped them in and sealed it. Two days later he handed them in at Reading police station.

Chance would have it that the WPC on duty was the same one who had interviewed Kemble’s son and his girlfriend about a week earlier. She had taken an interest in the case since the body had been found and had had a couple of informal chats with DI Kemble. She knew that a Ford car was involved in the case and she noted that a Ford key was in the little plastic bag.

So through a quirk of fate involving a fussy man and an alert WPC, with a little help from a slug, the car keys were preserved carefully in a plastic bag and found their way into the hands of Kemble who had the intelligence to have them fingerprinted before trying the car key out in the Ford Focus, which it fitted. He also checked that the house key fitted his mother’s front door, it did. There was a print on the other side of the slimy fob, not that of David Foreman but another one in their records, a certain Gerald Kirk, otherwise known as Jerry. This was evidence that would have been lost if Mr Harper had not done the ‘right thing’ and the slug had settled elsewhere.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~

The finger print evidence only proved that Gerald Kirk had handled the keys, not that he had murdered anybody, obviously he could claim to have found them. Kemble had his team do some background research into the Kirk family and made a few very discrete enquiries, he did not want to alert Mr Kirk that he was on to him. He noted his address and went to view the outside of the house. It looked to him to be typical of the sort of place that Foreman would try to burgle, a large house in a wealthy area, and fairly isolated, perfect for rich pickings. Foreman usually went for small items such as money, jewellery, laptops,  i pads, computer games or small pieces of silver.

Kemble also had in his possession one very small piece of physical evidence which the forensic team had found on Foreman’s body. If he could match it to an object in the Kirks’ house it would strongly indicate that Foreman had been there and was probably murdered there as well. He was becoming convinced in his own mind that Gerald Kirk had murdered David Foreman, but he had no proof. His quandary was that the evidence in the house might not be there and if that was the case then there was precious little else found with the body that could link it with Kirk. He didn’t want to show his hand just yet. He was still pondering over this problem when a chance conversation helped make the decision for him.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~

It must have been during the second week of August that Kemble came home one day after work to find his son Tom was in for the evening, maybe Emma was washing her hair that night! Tom and his Dad chatted about various things, much to do with his impending university course on forensic science that he would be starting soon. However Tom suddenly switched the conversation round to the night he and Emma had found the body.

“Dad there’s something Emma said about the body we found a few weeks ago that is a bit puzzling, well it’s not actually about the body but something that happened about a week later that has confused her”, Tom said

“Go on then”, Robert said, at this stage not really that interested.

“She went to visit her Uncle Jerry’s house with her family for a meal and was talking to her cousins about how we found the body and the maggoty foot. Well, during the meal her cousin Chloe started talking about the body and her dad got a really upset and told her to stop and then left the room”

“Well that’s not unusual, sensitive people can get very upset when talking about death especially during a meal, why do you think that’s puzzling?”

“That’s not all. Later Chloe was talking to her dad about maggots being all over the body but her dad told her that the maggots weren’t all over the body because it was wrapped in plastic. Emma was absolutely certain she had not mentioned the plastic to Chloe, she didn’t even see the body, so how did her dad know about it?”

“How old is Chloe”, Robert said, showing a little more interest now.

“Ten I think”

“The chances are that Chloe’s made a mistake, children do sometimes, but if Emma’s coming over sometime I’ll ask her about it”

There was a short pause and Tom got up to leave the room. Robert suddenly said, “What did you say her uncle’s name was?”

“Jerry”

“Do you know his surname”

“No but I can ask Emma”

“Don’t do that now. I would like to have a chat with Emma, could you bring her over here tomorrow night”

“Yes OK”, Tom left the room. Robert had made the connection Jerry and Gerald, both the same. It would be too much of a coincidence if they were one and the same person. He would soon know.

Tom brought Emma round the next evening. He bought her into the living room where Robert was sitting in his usual easy chair reading the paper.

“Hello Emma”, Robert said in a cheerful manner, “sit down”, then turning to his son, he said, “get Emma a drink will you Tom.”

“Hi Mr Kemble”, Emma said equally as cheerfully. She had met Kemble several times before, including the time in the field when they had found the body. She was at ease in his company, as he wasn’t overbearing or judgemental about her relationship with Tom.

“What would you like to drink Emma?”, Tom asked.

“A J20, orange one if you have it.”

“OK”, Tom disappeared into the kitchen.

Robert put his paper down. “How are you?”, he asked.

“OK, Mr Kemble, I feel fine”

“Good, glad to hear it. Tom told me that you went to your uncle’s house for a meal the other day and had a strange conversation with your cousins about the body in the ditch”

“Yes I did”, she said, quite happy to talk about it now to Kemble in spite of him being a police detective. In fact she didn’t really think about his position very much, he was just her boyfriend’s dad. She went on “We went to his house last Saturday and I told my cousins all about finding the body. They wanted to know all the details, especially Chloe so I told them about the foot coming off and all the maggots in it.”

“What was their reaction then?”

“They went ugh and Charlotte said she felt sick. It was quite funny really. Chloe wanted to know more”, she said.

“Did you tell them what the body looked like in the ditch, that it was all wrapped in plastic and so on.”

Emma didn’t realise that Kemble was trying to glean information from her, and continued in a light hearted conversational manner. “I didn’t see the body but Tom told me it was wrapped in plastic. It was strange because I didn’t mention the plastic to Chloe but just before we went home she came up to me and said that there weren’t maggots all over the body because it was wrapped in plastic.”

“That was a bit strange”, Kemble said, “how did she know?”

“She said her Dad had told her, how could he know? I never did find out as we had to go home. It’s still a mystery now.”

“Chloe’s Dad is your Uncle Jerry is he?, what is his second name?”, Kemble was fishing now, but Emma still didn’t realise it.

“Kirk”, she said a bit absentmindedly as the conversation had got her thinking about the mystery again.

“Where does he live?”, Kemble went on, continuing his fishing expedition.

“In a big house on Treetops Lane, it’s the last one in the village”, she answered, “you know Mr Kemble I really don’t know how Uncle Jerry knew about the plastic, I am absolutely sure I didn’t tell Chloe about it.”

“Maybe someone else told him after the meal”, Kemble, had finished fishing now and wanted her to forget it as much as possible.

“I suppose they must have done, though I don’t think I told Mum or Dad or my brother all the details, I don’t think they knew about the plastic either.”

“Well perhaps it was a lucky guess”, Kemble said.

At that point Tom returned with drinks for Emma and himself and the conversation move on to other things.

 Of course he knew straight away that Uncle Jerry was Gerald Kirk, what a strange coincidence that his son was going out with Kirk’s niece and that she had been there when the body of his victim was found.

This little story was another strong indicator that Kirk was involved. Ideally he would like to have been able to interview ten year old Chloe to confirm the events, but there are ethics that quite correctly prohibited him from interviewing a child with the view of tricking her to give evidence against her own father. Emma’s story would have to do.

The one thing that all this did do was confirm in his mind even more strongly that Kirk was the murderer, and it tipped the balance, he was going to have to show his hand and interview Kirk and search for the one piece of evidence he needed. He called his team together and gave them very specific instructions as to what to look for in the house and then applied for a search warrant to be issued.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~

It was seven-thirty on a Wednesday morning, about two weeks later, towards the end of the school summer holiday. Jerry was ready for work and about to leave the house to drive to the station, Natalie was in the en-suite showering and the girls were arguing about the how they were going to spend their time at their Nan’s house while Mum was at work. The hammering on the door was quite intense, and when Jerry opened it he was shocked to see four police officers outside. They were brisk and workmanlike, two female officers disappeared upstairs and the senior officer waved a search warrant at him. He was wanted at the station for questioning and the house was to be thoroughly searched. Natalie was quite upset at the disturbance and dressed hurriedly. She and the girls were escorted out and Natalie was allowed to drive them to their grandparent’s house, trying to satisfy their curiosity by making out a quick excuse that the police had made a mistake and there was nothing wrong. However she did not go straight to work, the female officers wanted to talk to her at the station.

Jerry was outraged at this treatment and started to get very agitated, constantly asking what they wanted, and whether they were arresting him and then threatening to sue them. Obviously it occurred to him that it might be connected with the murder, but the two officers would only tell him that a senior detective would see him soon. He was taken to Reading Police Station and escorted into an interview room and told to wait.

Twenty minutes later two plain clothed officers came in and sat opposite him both neatly dressed, one looked about fifty with receding hair, he introduced himself as Detective Inspector Kemble, the junior one was very tall and rather gaunt looking and was introduced as Detective Sergeant Smith. At this stage the interview was very informal. Kemble produced a photograph of the burglar and immediately Jerry knew now what it was about. He denied everything, he didn’t know the man, he knew nothing about a Ford Focus car, he had not had a burglary, nor did he know the man was dead. However, he didn’t lie about whether he was alone in the house on the night in question as that could be easily checked. After about half an hour he was fairly certain they were fishing and his confidence in his cover up was so strong that the anger and worry began to leave him. At the close of the interview he expected to be able to leave, they showed no sign of wanting to charge him, but they asked him to remain behind as they had a few further details to check with him later. He knew they couldn’t keep him too long but after a couple of hours he began to get impatient and demanded to be allowed to leave. Nobody had been to speak with him, and he had had his fill of tea and biscuits. His only minor worry was about what they may have said to Natalie, he needed a cover story just in case.

He was duly released and returned home to find nothing appeared to have been disturbed, they informed him that they were taking a few things from the house and left him a receipt which, had he examined it properly would have puzzled him, for there was one item listed below his computing equipment that he didn’t notice. As soon as he saw the words ‘computer and printer’, he threw the receipt down in disgust, and went to the telephone to protest in the strongest possible terms. He knew there was nothing incriminating on the computer but he used it for work when he was at home, and its loss would be very annoying. He smoothed things over with Natalie by telling her that there was a major fraud case in the MOD and several managers had been checked in the same way. He could say little about it as it was an official secret. She bought the story but was a little upset about how she and the girls were treated.  She told him that they had asked her where she and the girls were on the fourteenth of March, she had worked out that that was the week they were away, they didn’t want to know anything else but said it was all routine and not to worry so she had gone to work. Jerry just told her that it was in March when the fraud was committed. Things calmed down eventually and his computing equipment was returned to him about a week later. Neither of them had noticed the other item that was missing from the house and that wasn’t returned. Their lives were just too busy to take in such details, and the receipt was put in the sideboard drawer.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~The day that changed his life for ever was Friday the fourteenth of September, this was the day that everything he lived for and enjoyed in life was to be lost. He arrived at work as usual and after about half an hour two gentlemen arrived at his office. His secretary called him on the intercom to inform him that two detectives were here to see him.  She showed them in. They were the same detectives he had seen about three weeks earlier. They introduced themselves again, and it was Kemble who did all of the talking.

They sat down when invited and DI Kemble came out with those fateful words.

“I’m here to arrest you for the murder of David Foreman” , he then continued by reading him his rights and then telling him he would be taken back to Reading police station to be interviewed. Jerry was too shocked to say anything.

The police were very discrete, they allowed him to inform his secretary that he had to go out and would be back later. They also informed him straight away that they were aware that Natalie knew nothing of the crime and was not aware at that time he had been arrested.

The journey back was held in complete silence, the officers contemplating the task ahead of them and Jerry wondering what they the hell had they got on him, and how he could bluff his way out of it. He slowly went over all the events of that evening in his mind.

At the police station he was booked in and offered refreshment to which he said yes and legal representation which Jerry turned down, he was convinced he could counteract anything they had on him. They asked him if he was ready to be interviewed. Jerry confirmed that he was, mainly to get it over and done with. He was led into the interview room and joined five minutes later by Kemble and his tall gaunt assistant, Sergeant Smith who carried a manila folder and a large lidded box. Again Kemble did all the talking and the tape recorder was switched on.

Taking a photo of Foreman from the folder, he asked, “Do you recognise the man in this photograph, have you ever seen him before?”

Jerry shook his head. Kemble gestured towards the tape recorder and Jerry then replied “No”.

“I don’t believe you. On the night of Monday March the fourteenth this year I believe you murdered this man in your dining room by suffocating him possibly with a plastic bag while he was incapacitated by being tied up in some way. Have you anything to say?”

Jerry just stared at the detective almost open mouthed but retained his composure. Kemble noted his reaction and went on.

“I think it is likely he had broken into your house, he was a known to us as a burglar, and somehow you had a fight which resulted in him receiving a blow to his forehead, he was then tied up somehow and eventually suffocated. Obviously I do not know the nature of any conversation that may have taken place, but the final result was his death at your hands. Do you have anything to say?”

Jerry just sat there impassive, inwardly he was shocked at how accurate the man was. Once again Kemble continued.

“At sometime later you moved his car away from the vicinity of your house discarding the car keys under a hedge as you walked back”

This time Jerry spoke, he was over the initial shock, but decided he must deny this now.

“I haven’t a clue what you are talking about, we’ve been through all this before, and I made it clear then that I didn’t know this man or his car, there was no burglary and certainly no murder. I’m disgusted at the very thought of it”

At this point Kemble produced from the folder a plastic evidence bag with the two keys Jerry had discarded and showed it to him. Kemble hadn’t finished yet.

“These are the keys to Mr Foreman’s car and house, they were found under a hedge in the village. The fob had your fingerprints on it”

Jerry chimed in straight away, “I don’t believe you, when were they found?”

“About two months ago in July”, Kemble replied.

“If they were left there in March, the fingerprints would not still be there four months later”

“They were in a very sheltered place away from the effects of the weather, I can assure you your prints were on the fob”

Jerry realised he had been extremely careless, and had to come up with a reason for this evidence. He needed more time to think, but there wasn’t any more time available.

“I did find a set of keys a bit like those about two months ago”, he said as casually as he could, “I picked them up to look at them and decided they were no good so I dropped them. I was in the village at the time”.

“We thought you might say that”, Kemble said, “Look let me continue and tell you what we think happened, then you can comment on our findings.

“We believe that David Foreman broke into your house, and you discovered him. A fight ensued and he got knocked down near the display cabinet in your dining room, cutting his forehead. Somehow, possibly because he was unconscious for a while, you got him tied up to a chair with a strong rope, and had his hands tied behind his back. You probably had his ankles tied as well but because of the damage to his lower legs, there is no evidence of this”.

Jerry was startled by all this, the detail was so accurate, he started to deny everything again but Kemble checked him, and continued.

“For some reason that we are unaware of, we think you decided to kill Mr Foreman by placing a plastic bag over his head, or by a very similar method. You succeeded and disposed of the body by wrapping it in plastic and placing in a ditch near Whitchurch Hill. Then came the cleanup”.

Again Jerry tried to interject and Kemble held up his hand to stop him.

“Is this close to what happened then Mr Kirk? Do you wish to tell us the full truth now?”.

Jerry just said quietly, “No, none of this happened”

“Let me continue”, said Kemble, “You cleaned up your house very thoroughly, and were careful in disposing of all the evidence connected with the murder, obviously you had plenty of time with the family being away. You should be congratulated, our forensic team couldn’t find anything that was a direct link to the body or the car, no rope, plastic sheet or sellotape in your house that matched those that were used in the crime. Nor were there any fingerprints of the deceased or fibres and although the DNA results are not complete we believe there will be no DNA links either. Well done, a thoroughly good job.”

Jerry nearly fell into the trap of asking what he had on him then, if all that was true, but his natural caution checked him, so he remained silent, very confused as to how this man could be so confident if there was no evidence.

“Another thing”, Kemble continued, “A chance remark by your daughter, Chloe, has also indicated you guilt”.

“My daughter, what has she got to do with all this?”

“Chloe asked you why the body wasn’t covered with maggots and you told her that it was because it was wrapped in plastic, a fact that only the murderer could have known at the time”, Kemble continued, knowing he was taking a bit of a risk here, other people did know at that time but not Chloe.

Jerry stood up and shouted at Kemble “Have you been questioning my daughter? How dare you, she’s only ten years old, this is getting beyond a joke”

Immediately Sergeant Smith stood up too and the PC at the door moved into the room, but Kemble gestured to them to stay where they were.

“Sit down Mr Kirk”, he said. Jerry sat down but still annoyed and confused.

“Of course I haven’t questioned your daughter, but I have spoken to your niece, Emma, and she has told me what happened”.

“Emma?”, Jerry questioned, feeling a little calmer now, “This is getting too confusing, where does she fit into your fanciful story”

Kemble then related the full story of the conversation between Chloe and Emma, leaving out the fact that Emma was his son’s girlfriend. No doubt he would find that out eventually, but now was not the time.

Jerry’s reaction was predictable, he said that Chloe had a vivid imagination and was great at story writing at school, she must have made up the story or imagined that I said that when I didn’t. He didn’t question how Kemble got to know Emma, which Kemble found surprising considering how intelligent Kirk was.

“Of course we could go and ask Chloe, couldn’t we”, Kemble said, knowing full well in himself that he would only arrange that as a last resort, he continued, “We could set up a proper interview with a suitable WPC with her mother present as well”

“No don’t do that”, Jerry said, “She really knows nothing and I don’t want her upset by the police”, he wasn’t really worried about what she might say, after all he could find a way to counteract that, he was genuinely concerned that she shouldn’t be upset. He really loved his daughters and hated to see them upset by anything.

Kemble noted a subtle change in Jerry’s demeanour and noted the tone he used when he  said that she knew nothing, implying that there was something to know, but he said nothing yet. He changed the subject.

 “On finding the body, our forensic team got to work. You had obligingly wrapped it up so well that the air had not got to it and it was in an excellent state of preservation considering the time it had been there, except for the feet, and they weren’t so important,. The pathologists managed to find a lot of evidence about his last moments. They knew how he died by suffocation, and about the blow on his forehead. There were rope burns on his wrists and bruises on his chest to show he had been tied up. There were no fibres or fingerprints, nor any DNA, you had been very thorough with cleaning up. None of that, though, led us to you. Once we knew he was dead the car became more important in our investigation. It was stored up at the pound and would probably have been scrapped eventually. Up till then we had no reason to believe that anything had happened to Mr Foreman, only that he was missing. The car yielded no fingerprints, only a few blue jeans fibres, which we have been unable to match to any of your clothes. As you know the keys finally led us to you, it was good luck for us that they were found by a very careful and fussy person, otherwise it is unlikely that we would have found you. Our ‘scene of crimes’ officers are very thorough and although you had made an excellent attempt at cleaning up, there were many small signs in your dining room to show that something had happened there. There were small scuff marks on a chair that were consistent with a rope being used and part of the carpet was slightly brighter and cleaner as if something had been spilt there and carefully cleaned up, perhaps it was blood”

As he spoke he produced photographs one by one of all the things he mentioned, he even had a plan of the dining room to show where the body may have laid on the floor. The photos were very clear and detailed.

Kemble paused, and a silence descended on the room. Eventually Jerry said, “We spilt some wine on the carpet by the cabinet, and as for the chair, those marks are just normal wear and tear”. He didn’t sound very convincing, inwardly he was now very worried that all these little things could be explained away, but collectively they could indicate that he had done the murder. The cocky attitude he had when he first came in was now seriously dented, but all was not lost, he thought to himself how would a jury react when all these so called clues were presented, each one could be explained away, there would be reasonable  doubt, he couldn’t be convicted on this evidence. He knew he still had to bluff it out.

“Look”, he eventually said, “Nothing you have said really means that a murder in my house has taken place. I did not do it, it didn’t happen, I found the keys and spilt the wine and cleaned it up and so on. There was no murder”, he emphasised the word ‘no’, then sat back in his chair, folded his arms and put a smirky grin on his face to demonstrate his defiance.

Kemble knew he was right and that he hadn’t presented any convincing evidence yet, but he had one more card up his sleeve, and this time he hoped it was an ace.

“OK, I hear what you say, but if I could prove that David Foreman must have been in your house before he died, what would you say”

“You can’t, you’ve already said so yourself, there were no fibres, DNA or anything at all, so I would not be convinced, he’s never been there”, Jerry was still not confident but kept up the front.

“I’m going to hand over to DS Smith now”, Kemble said.

His silent companion, Smith, was finally going have his say, but he said nothing straight away. Instead he opened the box he had brought in at the beginning of the interview and drew out of it the vase that had been on the sideboard, the one that had been a present to Natalie from her mother, that he had mended so carefully.

“Do you recognise this vase?”, Smith said in his deep voice with a distinct London accent.

Jerry knew it was pointless to deny it, so he said yes and left it at that.

Smith continued, “We removed it when we visited your house before, from the sideboard and ...”

Jerry interrupted, “You can’t do that; you didn’t tell me you were going to do that.”

“It was on the receipt we gave you”, Smith said.

“It wasn’t”, Jerry replied immediately

Smith fumbled around in the manila folder and produced a copy of the receipt, and showed it to Jerry.

It was there, clearly listed under the words ‘computer and printer’, Jerry hadn’t seen it because of his annoyance at having his computer taken.

Jerry handed it back in silence and just sat there impassively.

“Would you like to examine it? Don’t do anything stupid like accidently drop it as it has been photographed from all angles”, Smith said.

Jerry took the vase and looked at it, he could just see the lines where he had mended it with superglue, he had done a good job, it was almost as good as new.

“So what”, Jerry said, “it’s just a vase, it got broken at sometime and I mended it”

“Turn it over and look at the base”, Smith said.

Jerry did so and examined it closely. It was one of those vases that had quite a large ceramic lip round the base because it had a curved bottom, but there didn’t appear to be any wrong with it.

“Well he said, what’s wrong with it?”

“Run your finger round the inside of the lip”, Smith said.

Jerry did exactly what he said and realised that there was a rough part on the inside of the lip as if a small part had broken off, it was difficult to see but easy to feel.

“I’m sure you’ve noticed a small sliver of white porcelain has broken off the base, well we have that piece”, at that he produced a plastic bag from the box that had a very small sliver of porcelain in it.

When the forensic team had found the tiny sliver of porcelain Kemble didn’t attach very much importance to it, until one of his team had suggested that it might have come from something in the house, so he gave very specific instructions to the two PCs who searched the house to look for something that had a very tiny piece missing. They were very thorough and found the vase. The laboratory did a sterling job of fitting the sliver into the base, it was an exact match, clearly it had broken off when the vase was broken at some time. They produced a series of photos to prove how well they matched.

Kemble knew that all the evidence he had so far was very weak, he had nothing to connect Foreman to Kirk, or to link Foreman to the house. There were just a few indicators but no proof. When this evidence came to light he knew he had one and only one piece of evidence that could link Foreman to the house. He told Smith that this little sliver of porcelain was all they had, he called it ‘a sliver of hope’ as he hoped it would persuade Kirk to change his mind and even confess. This couldn’t be explained away so easily.

“I don’t understand what you’re getting at”, Jerry said, calm on the outside but inwardly very disturbed, somehow he knew a bombshell was about to drop.

“I’m sure you noticed from the photograph that Mr Foreman had very bushy hair, our forensic scientists recovered this tiny sliver of porcelain from his hair, somehow it had got caught there and was overlooked by the murderer, we think it may have got there when you had some kind of fight with him”, Smith replied.

“That thing might not be from the vase”, Jerry said still trying to bluff it out.

“Oh I think it was”, said Smith, producing another set of photos that clearly showed how it fitted in. “If necessary we can have the material that the vase is made of matched to the material of the sliver scientifically, now have you anything else to say”.

Jerry said nothing.

Kemble said “I think we will stop now”, he leaned over to the tape machine and said “Interview suspended at 12:20 pm” and switched the machine off.

Smith and Kemble rose to their feet, and Kemble said, “We will have to put you in a cell for the time being, while we go and see Natalie to put her in the picture and ask her a few questions, we may even have to talk to your daughter, Chloe, eventually if we can’t get any answers to our questions”

They both walked towards the door as the PC opened it.

“I didn’t mean to kill him”, Jerry said suddenly.

Both Kemble and Smith heard what he said and stopped and came back into the room.

“Would you repeat that?”, said Kemble.

“I didn’t mean to kill him, it just sort of happened”, Jerry said.

Kemble put the folder down on the table and sat down again. “Would you be prepared to give us a statement on tape and in writing, repeating what you have just said and giving us more details?”.

Jerry had surmised that he was trapped, this simple bit of evidence was much stronger and clearly indicated that Foreman had been in his house. He was also convinced that there was probably more evidence to come, things that he had overlooked. Bit by bit the police had been drip-feeding details and he thought it was not going to stop here. Had he known that the ‘sliver of hope’ was the only thing Kemble had that was at all convincing, he still might have tried to bluff it out, but he was only going to confess on his terms.

“I’ll do a deal with you”, said Jerry, “I’ll tell you everything, if you’ll do two things for me. Firstly I want to be the one to tell Natalie what has happened, that is going to be really difficult, and secondly at no time do I want Chloe interviewed or even spoken to by the police. You’ve got to promise me both those things or I’m saying nothing”.

Kemble looked at Smith who nodded and then he said, “Yes I can promise you both those things providing there are no more lies, and your statement is a clear admission that you killed Mr Foreman in your house on the fourteenth of March this year”.

“Yes OK then, now can you go and get Natalie and after I’ve seen her I’ll give you my statement”

“I’m sorry”, Kemble said, “We will have to have a short statement first to get the basic details sorted out then we will fetch Natalie”

Jerry pondered on this for a while and then said that was OK. Smith sat down again and the PC closed the door.

Kemble said, “Before we start I should advise you that you can have a legal representative here but it may take a while to arrange”.

Jerry declined the offer, he just wanted to get this over so he could talk to Natalie. Kemble switched the tape recorder on again and then started the interview.

Kemble got Jerry to admit that Foreman had broken into his house, that there had been a fight of some kind and he had killed him. He didn’t go into all the details about the murder, Jerry was still claiming that he didn’t mean to do it. That could wait until later. He also admitted that he moved the car and dumped the keys.

Later, during the afternoon, Natalie was brought to the police station and she and Jerry were allowed to talk in an interview room with a WPC outside the door.

After the door was closed Natalie turned to Jerry and said, with a degree of urgency in her voice, “For God’s sake Jerry, what is going on, the police have just picked me up and told me you were here but they wouldn’t say anything else. Why are you here?”

“Sit down Nat” , Natalie sat down opposite him at the table, “ I’m not sure how I’m going to tell you this so I’d better just come out with it. I’m probably going to be charged with manslaughter or murder”, Jerry tried to keep his voice as calm as possible so as to not get too emotional.

Natalie stood up again with a horrified expression on her face, “Murder!”, she exclaimed, “Murder, what do you mean, you haven’t murdered anyone, you couldn’t have, it’s impossible”, she turned to face away from him and walked towards the wall.

Turning round to face him again, one look at the expression on his face told her that it was true, “I don’t get it”, she said, approaching the table again, “How could you murder, who was it?”

“Please sit down again Nat, it is true, I did kill someone, and technically it was murder”,  Jerry was still trying to keep calm.

She sat down again and placed her handbag on the table.

“Jerry what is this all about, who are you supposed to have killed?”, she asked, also trying to keep too much emotion out of her voice.

“There’s no supposed about it”, he said, “it was a burglar who broke in one night. He threatened me and I killed him, so he couldn’t hurt me or my family in any way.”

“There’s been no burglary that I can recall. Are you sure there’s no mistake, perhaps you only think you killed somebody. Jerry you couldn’t have done it, you’re not like that, you wouldn’t harm anybody, you are not a violent man. When did all this happen?”

“Do you remember when you took the girls away to stay with your parents last March...”

“March”, she shrieked standing up again and backing away from the table, “are you telling me you killed a burglar in March and have kept it a secret all this time, no Jerry, this is too much. I’ve been living with a murderer for six months, no, no, it can’t be”, with that she turned round and strode to the door, throwing it open and rushing out past the WPC down the corridor to the grill leading out to the rest of the station. She began to sob, great heaving sobs almost wailing in between each one.

The WPC followed her and gently turned her round with a hand on her arm, Natalie buried her head in her shoulder trying to speak between her cries, but it was a bit incoherent and the officer couldn’t understand what she was saying. She guided Natalie to a chair and sat down beside her.

Natalie took a minute to calm down a bit and spoke tearfully to the officer, “He said he killed a burglar in March, I don’t believe it, he couldn’t have done.”

“I’m afraid he did, he’s confessed to it, but he wanted to be the one to tell you about it.”

“What happened, why did he do it?”, Natalie asked turning to face the WPC.

“I think he wants to tell you all about it himself, so why don’t you go back in and listen to what he has to say. Take as long as you like”, she said.

They both stood up and the officer gently led Natalie back to the room. Jerry was still sitting on the other side of the table with his head down. As Natalie walked in he looked up and waited until the WPC closed the door again.

“I’m sorry Nat, but it’s all true. Look sit down and try to calm down a bit and I’ll tell you exactly what happened”, he said.

“It’s not easy to find out that you husband, who you’ve been married to for fifteen years, turns out to be a murderer and you’ve been sleeping with him for six months after he did it”, she said sitting down and trying to keep her voice as steady as she could.

“I know”, he said, “I’m sorry, look let me tell you what happened as calmly as possible and then you can ask me any questions afterwards.”

“OK, go on then”, she said, still a little tearful.

Over the next half hour Jerry talked and Natalie listened. He told her virtually everything about the burglary, mentioning how he got in, how he knocked him out and disabled him by tying him up. He went into details about the conversations they had emphasising how he felt trapped, no matter what he did the burglar threatened to make life difficult for him and his family. He just said he killed him and disposed of his body. Only at that point did Natalie interrupt.

“What did you do Jerry”, she said, “how did you kill him?”

Jerry looked down at the table, this was the most difficult part of their conversation. “I put a plastic bag over his face until he couldn’t breathe any more.”

“Oh Jerry, how could you?”, Natalie said in a quiet faltering voice.

Jerry looked up and saw she was trying to make eye contact with him while tears were streaming down her face. He said nothing.

Natalie started fumbling in her handbag and eventually drew out a tissue which she wiped her eyes and face with.

After a pause she asked, “What did you do with him then?”

“I wrapped him up and dumped him in a ditch by the side of a field near Whitchurch Hill”, Jerry said quietly, suddenly wishing he had not disclosed the location but it was too late.

It took a few moments for the penny to drop, but suddenly it did.

“Whitchurch Hill!”, she exclaimed, “why that’s the area where Emma and her boyfriend found a body.”

Pause.

“Oh my God, Jerry, that’s was it, wasn’t it. The body Emma found was the one you dumped. What a dreadful coincidence. You knew all the time at that meal when it was mentioned didn’t you?”, her voice was rising now as the facts began to knit together.

Jerry just nodded.

“It wasn’t easy when I found out that it was Emma and her boyfriend who found it.”, he said quietly, “but somehow I knew it was the burglar. Do you know, now I come to think about it, I never found out why she was in that field and how she found the body.”

“Sonia told me that she thinks Emma and boyfriend Tom went into this field for sex, though Emma said they only had a cuddle and a kiss, and were larking around throwing their shoes at each other when one of them went into the ditch and they found the body when they searched for it. Sonia said it was the way Emma spoke about the event that made her sure that there was more than a cuddle and kiss, she was a bit off-hand and furtive.”, For a moment Natalie seemed to have forgotten about the situation they were in and related this story in a calm and collected manner.

“Do you know who the boyfriend is?”, Jerry asked.

“His name is Tom Kemble and he is a policeman’s son.”, she answered.

This time it was Jerry’s turn to be surprised, “Kemble!”, he exclaimed, “that’s the name of the officer who been interviewing me. So that’s how he found out about Emma and what Chloe said to her.”

At the mention of Chloe’s name Natalie suddenly stood up, “Oh my God Jerry”, she shrieked with rising panic in her voice, “what am I going to tell the girls, how can I tell them their Dad’s a murderer. I can’t do it. I’ll have to tell them you’ve gone away and left me. That will be hard enough, I can’t tell them you’re a murderer, I just can’t.”

“You’ll have to tell them, as it will be in the papers and possibly even on the news, you can’t keep it from them”, Jerry said, “sit down Nat, let’s think this out properly.”

“No, you’ll have to do it, you’ll have to tell them”, she said still panicking.

“No, I don’t want them to be bought to a police station, they must be kept out of this and protected as much as possible”, Jerry said emphatically, “it’s going to be very hard for them with school and all that, but you will have to be the one they lean on, you’ll have to be their rock.”

“Oh Jerry, how could you do this to us all. How could you put us in this position. I can’t cope.”

“Calm down Nat, we’ve got to think rationally. After I killed the burglar I thought I had covered my tracks and it was impossible for the police to catch me. I thought no-one would ever know and we could carry on as usual. It worked for a while but I made a couple of mistakes and they got me.”

Natalie sat down but started to sob again, “Jerry I don’t know what to do”, she cried. Then she stopped for a moment and continued, “how did the police catch you anyway?”

Jerry had deliberately not told her about the car and keys, nor had he mentioned the vase or anything else to do with the house. Neither had he mentioned the conversation with Chloe, he was adamant that his children would not suffer any more than they had to because of him.

“Do you want me to tell you the rest of it? It might take a while”, he asked.

“No don’t bother, I don’t really want to know. I’m going now to fetch the girls from school. Somehow I’ve got to tell them the truth. It’s going to be a difficult night.” With that she stood up, turned and walked out without looking back or saying goodbye.

~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~

That evening Kemble and Smith met for a drink in a small pub close to the station.

“We didn’t really have that much on him that would have stood up in court did we?”, Smith said.

“No” said Kemble, “Do you realise that this case has rested on a slug and a sliver of hope, if that slug had settled elsewhere then Mr Harper probably would have picked the keys up by the fob and obliterated the fingerprint evidence, we would never have found Kirk, and even when we did, the sliver was the only thing we had that was hard evidence, but it was enough to convince him to confess”

The following day Jerry gave a full statement covering all the details. He still tried to make out that he didn’t mean to do it, but his excuses didn’t sound at all convincing. Putting a plastic bag over somebody’s head and holding it there is a deliberate action in anybody’s book. It took nearly three hours to get written out properly and signed. Before he was taken to court Kemble went down to the cells to see him and have an informal chat with him.

“You worked hard at covering yourself so no evidence was left to link you to the victim, but you made just the two little mistakes, firstly the fingerprints on the keys and secondly the sliver of porcelain you overlooked in his hair. How come you cleaned round the body so well but missed his hair?”

“I vacuumed everywhere around him but the bag was still over his head, I didn’t want to look at his face while I was doing it, so his hair was not vacuumed. I only took the bag off just before I wrapped him up.”, Jerry replied.

“That explains it then”, Kemble said and turned to go.

“Actually I only really made one very big mistake Mr Kemble”, Jerry said, “and that was forgetting to lock the bloody back door when I put the rubbish out”.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~

 

THE END

 

 

 


© Copyright 2017 Graham Redman. All rights reserved.

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