On their way back to the stairs leading to the ground floor, Marks and Wallace passed the flat of Miles Thomas to see George Groves and his team leaving the scene. Marks looked at his watch and only then realised that they had all been at the flats for over four hours.
“Anything to report?” He asked as the forensic pathologist met him at the door. Groves smiled – this was typical of Dennis Marks.
“I’ll know more when we get all this stuff back to the lab” Came the standard response.
“What about the body?”
“Definitely dead” The man’s sense of humour was unique.
“Very funny, what about time and cause?”
“Odd that. He’d been beaten and both legs were broken, but I think the beating itself occurred much earlier than the rest of the injuries. Cause of death itself was blunt force trauma with a wooden implement, probably something like a baseball or cricket bat.”
“Anything interesting in the flat?” Marks pushed a little further as Groves started down the stairs.
“Apart from the blood stain, the place was covered in fingerprints, and we’ll need to take samples of them and DNA from all the residents as soon as possible – I’ll leave one of my staff to do that. We’re checking the broken furniture for any missing pieces that could have been used as the murder weapon, but apart from that you’re going to have to wait for my report. I’ll get it to you as soon as I can.”
“OK, there are four or five more people to talk to, so we won’t be finished much before six. I’ll catch up with you later.”
Peter Spencer returned from his attempt at tracing Gasparini, and Marks assigned DC Wallace to assist in the fingerprint and DNA sampling. Giorgio had disappeared and despite Spencer’s visiting all his known haunts, no-one seemed to know where he could be found, a fact which didn’t surprise either of the detectives. They made their way downstairs to Flat 4 where, according to Thornton’s list, the tenant was Carol Thorpe who lived there with her eleven year old son, Martin. According to the notes which they had taken in his interview, Leroy Randall had made vague allegations to Marks and Wallace of something untoward concerning the boy. Marks knew that he would have to tread very carefully if he were to find out just what that had involved.
Carol Thorpe was twenty-eight and a single parent who worked full time for a local firm of chartered accountants. Her son, Martin, had been without a father figure since Peter Thorpe had walked out six years ago when the boy was five. Despite her not coming home each day until around six, this had not been a problem as Martin had been collected from school by Pauline Welch, a friend of Carol with a boy of Martin’s age. However, since they moved away eighteen months ago, Martin and Carol’s domestic routines had been disrupted quite badly. With time on his hands both before and after school, he had fallen in with a bad crowd and had become very disruptive both there and at home. Counselling had not really helped as the boy had simply ‘clammed up’ and refused to co-operate. It was then that he came into contact with Miles Thomas.
At first, his behaviour seemed to improve as Thomas took an interest in him, but almost overnight there was a dramatic change in his personality and Carol began to notice items going missing from around the flat. When questioned, Martin denied all knowledge and became very aggressive, but it wasn’t until she found a syringe that she began to realise what was happening.
The detectives were admitted to the flat by Martin who looked at them both with deeply suspicious eyes. He shouted his mother and retreated immediately to what Marks supposed was his room, slamming the door behind him. They waited, front door still open, for Mrs Thorpe to arrive and when she eventually appeared it was clear that she had been taking a bath when they called. Closing the door, she muttered something incomprehensible concerning her son’s letting them in, apologised for her appearance and retired to dress. Returning five minutes later, she invited them into the lounge and asked them to take a seat. She was an attractive young woman bearing the signs of ageing at an early stage, no doubt due to the responsibility of raising a child alone. Her smile, though welcoming, made Marks think she was nervous of their presence, possibly due to something relating to Martin.
“What can I do for you Inspector? Is it something to do with my son? Has he done something wrong?”
This was a very defensive start, and they would have to be careful not to alienate the woman into concealing any information on Miles Thomas.
“No, nothing like that Mrs Thorpe.” Said Marks “We are making enquiries about Miles Thomas. No doubt you will have heard by now that he had been found dead.”
“Yes, my son said something to me an hour ago. On the roof wasn’t he?”
“That’s true, but I am interested in a statement made to us by one of your neighbours. Leroy Randall told us that there was a connection between Thomas and your son, Martin. Can you tell us what it was?”
Carol Thorpe paled noticeably at this statement and averted her eyes involuntarily, a clear sign that Marks had touched a nerve. She stood up and walked over to the window, staring out into the now cloudy and rain-filled sky. She turned back suddenly to the detectives as if she had steeled herself into action before she lost her nerve. Returning to her seat, she took a deep breath and opened her mouth to speak.
“No, don’t tell then mum! They’re coppers, it’ll only cause trouble and they’ll split us up – you know what Miles said don’t you?”
Martin Thorpe had entered the room without anyone noticing, and was now standing at the door with fists clenched and tears streaming down his face. He was shaking uncontrollably and his eyes flitted between the three of them with alarming speed. In the silence caused by his interruption he suddenly turned, ran to the apartment door and vanished. They heard the front door to the flats slam as he evaded the officers posted there to ensure that no-one left the building. Marks cursed under his breath and made a note to reprimand the PC responsible. Carol Thorpe held her head in her hands, and DC Wallace moved over to her chair to comfort her. From Martin’s demeanour, Marks guessed that the boy’s relationship to Thomas had been more of a commercial nature than anything else. It was anyone’s guess at present whether it was restricted to merely supplying the lad, or, more seriously extended into using him as a conduit for access to schools in the area.
It was a further fifteen minutes before Carol was sufficiently calm for them to continue with their questioning. Miles Thomas had indeed taken an interest in Martin some six months ago, and had supplied him with a range of increasingly powerful and dangerous drugs. The disappearing items from the flat were the boy’s way of financing his habit, and when that ran out he was persuaded into dealing as a means of paying his way. Martin was now addicted to Heroin, and despite Carol’s repeated and increasingly vehement protestations to Thomas, the man had just laughed in her face. It had reached such a pitch that during one particularly belligerent encounter, Carol had been heard by other residents threatening to kill him unless he left Martin alone.
“I didn’t kill him Inspector Marks, I just lost my temper. It was only a threat - I was upset and when he laughed in my face, I just exploded. I’m glad he’s dead though, he was an evil man, but I didn’t do it.”
“Mrs Thorpe, whilst dealing in any prohibited substance is a criminal act, your son’s addiction is not our primary concern here. Whoever killed Miles Thomas may have done so for one or more reasons and it is our intention to follow that trail wherever it may lead us. We will be taking fingerprint and DNA samples from all of the tenants, and when Martin returns we will need to speak to him. If you could ensure that he is here, I would be grateful.”
Dennis Marks and Peter Spencer left the flat with yet one more trail of enquiry to follow. They needed to find out more about the circumstances of Miles Thomas’ enticement of Martin Thorpe and also the location his supplies. This thing was expanding beyond the confines of the apartment block, they still had two more tenants to see and needed to re-interview the house manager who had proved a little evasive when Peter initially saw him. There was however, one passing comment which he had made, and this hinted at some sort of relationship between Carol Thorpe and John Fraser the occupant of Flat 3.
© Copyright 2016 Phil Neale 1952. All rights reserved.