11:GETTING A RESULT
As literary theorists since Brecht have pointed out [Nash & Crosby, 1969], the ‘happy ending’ is an intrinsically conservative form, which aims to persuade us that reconciliation can be achieved when in fact such reconciliation is structurally impossible. The ‘happy ending’ within the text diverts our attention from the fact that outside the text there is no ending, happy or otherwise. (J Thomson, Uncompleted PhD thesis on detective narratives)
‘So what Foucault was saying is that knowledge is power and power is knowledge. Knowledge isn’t something abstract and neutral that you can keep shut up tidily in a book. It’s part of the way in which human beings and groups of human beings exercise power over other people and other groups. And that goes for all types of knowledge, for example …’
The sound-proofing of the rooms in the tower-block was notoriously poor, and as Jane walked along the corridor she could hear classes in progress. But she paid them little attention; her whole mind was devoted to the confrontation ahead. Glancing at her watch she made her way along the tenth floor corridor and through the swing doors at the end. Here she found herself at the top of a flight of stone steps, which constituted the rather inadequate fire escape for the building. In her trade-union capacity Jane had several times complained to management about the lack of proper safety facilities in the tower-block, but had always received Roger Kenge’s evasive assurances.
Now, however, Jane turned her attention to the small iron staircase which led upwards to the roof. She looked around rapidly to see if she was being observed, but there was nobody in the vicinity. Of course, she thought, as she rapidly mounted the iron steps, she could always say that she was checking out the safety hazards in the building. The absence of any bar to access to the tower-block roof was another matter on which she had corresponded frequently with Roger Kenge, but he had always maintained that nothing could be done about it. The tower roof held the flag-pole (‘and as you will be well aware, a new flag has been specially designed to recognise the university status of which we are all so justifiably proud’) and maintenance staff had to have access to it. It was also used by geography students for meteorological observations.
Jane pushed her way through the door and came out on to the roof. It was a large flat expanse, with a small wall, perhaps two feet high at most, running around the edge. She had no desire to be seen up here, but something drew her irresistibly towards the edge. She knew that if she looked down she would be hit by a wave of vertigo that would bring her close to physical sickness, but at the same time she could not resist gazing below her. She knew that there was absolutely no danger of a fall unless she threw herself from the roof; yet it was precisely that knowledge that her fate was entirely in her own hands that made the abyss so dangerous – and so tempting.
As she approached the edge, she could see the rows of cars stretched out below, looking like tiny models laid out on a table-top. A few people, so small that they could not be recognised as individuals, strolled between them. Surprised that her sense of vertigo was not stronger, and tempted by the view, Jane moved ever closer to the edge.
Then she stood right up against the wall, her toes touching it, and looked directly down. Now she was feeling distinctly nauseous, but she could not pull herself away from the fascination of the gulf that lay just before her.
How long, she wondered, would it take for her body to plunge to the ground below? The tower was ten storeys high, let each storey be ten or twelve feet high, so perhaps the whole building was a hundred and twenty feet – forty yards. But her O‑level physics was too far away, too deeply buried in her skull beneath layers of information and experience, for her to pluck the formula out and calculate the time. Perhaps three seconds, four or five. She glanced at her watch, looking at the seconds as they ticked away beneath her gaze. How much could one think as one fell? Did time slow down in those last few seconds of life before the final, fatal crunch of the body against the hard stone of the car-park. They said your whole past life went past you in such a situation – it was hard to imagine, but the workings of the human brain were unexplored and miraculous, as the Sunday newspaper features never ceased to remind her.
What was it like to see one’s past life? Did one relive the experiences as in a vivid dream? Would she be with Josie again, would she sleep again with Steven and John? And as she did so, would she know of the future that lay ahead, of the betrayals and the apostasies, or would she recapture the original of the moment? Would she be able, in the bizarre logic of dream experience, to make different choices? And would there be time, before life was crushed into a pile of bleeding meat, to make an evaluation? Had she made some use of her life, of such talents as she had, or had it all been a futile, meaningless waste …?
Her rêverie was suddenly broken as she felt a touch on her back, a hand that seemed to be pushing her, slowly but irresistibly towards the edge. She squealed in terror and turned round to see Steven Sadler standing before her. She stepped back in terror, so that her heels bumped up against the wall. She thrust out her hands to push him away, while tilting her head and chest backwards until she almost lost her balance and toppled into the abyss.
Steven grabbed hold of her hand and pulled her powerfully towards him until she was out of all danger. ‘Steady, Jane’, he said, ‘don’t throw yourself over until we’ve had time for a chat.’ There was a smile on his face, or rather a sneer in which she detected hate, contempt and lust in equal measure.
Now that she was well away from the edge, Jane recovered her mental balance surprisingly rapidly. She glared at Sadler and said: ‘That was a bloody stupid thing to do; you could have killed me.’
Sadler smiled again, the same vicious, sneering smile. ‘No danger, Jane my love. Just a little bit of a joke. I was in complete control – and I don’t want you dead, not yet. In any case, it’s actually quite difficult to fall off a roof like this. You have to try pretty hard to manage it. But of course you do suffer from vertigo. That’s why I thought this would be a suitable place for a meeting.’
Jane now felt thoroughly at a disadvantage. ‘But how … why …?’ she stammered.
‘When we were in Paris, back in 1968, you told me all about your juvenile experiences on the Eiffel Tower. Something like that stays with you for life, so I was pretty sure that unless you’d had hypnotherapy or something of the sort, you’d still suffer from vertigo.
‘I always make a point of remembering people’s weaknesses. You never know when they may come in useful. I think Trotsky says something about it somewhere – it’s a long time since I read the Old Man’s works.
‘Then the other day, I was talking to your boss, that amiable Mr Kenge. The conversation strayed on to you – you had been getting a lot of press coverage – and he told me you were a bit of a trouble-maker. Still a bolshie, Jane, after all these years – you must have been well taught. And he happened to mention that you kept pestering him about the door to the roof of the tower-block.
‘So when I got your message it occurred to me that this would be a suitable place for the little conversation you were so anxious to have.
‘Well, here I am. I’m entirely at your disposal. I’ll do my very best to answer your questions – just as I always did in the old days. You were an inquisitive little soul in those days, Jane my love, and it seems you haven’t grown out of it.’
Jane felt frightened of Sadler’s menacing form, still standing between her and the door that led to safety; she felt humiliated by his bantering tone and his sure memory of her youthful years. But she knew that was how Sadler wanted her to feel, so she braced herself and decided to attack the attacker.
‘I want to know who killed Terence Wicklow. I know I didn’t. I know Sue and Mike didn’t, because they’ve got alibis. I know John didn’t, because he couldn’t get himself together to lick an envelope, let alone commit a murder. I know you’ve written a newspaper article suggesting that I may be guilty, at least indirectly; and I know that since you’ve been chief political adviser to Inspector Stoddart the spotlight has been shining on me more and more. I know that I haven’t got a proper alibi because I was due to meet you on a mysterious errand, and that you never turned up. That’s what I know. Now tell me what you know about all this, Steven, because I think you know an awful lot more than you’ve told your pal the Inspector.’
Steven Sadler leaned back against the door that led down to the tenth‑floor fire escape; behind his head the University flag with the DUM logo fluttered inanely beneath the November sky. He smiled with an expression that thousands of television viewers had learned to know as benign. But for Jane it was a sneer laden with menace.
‘What on earth makes you imagine I know anything at all, Jane, my sweet little strawberry?’ He had never called her that outside of bed before, and her shudder of horror had an erotic charge to it which she loathed and feared, but could not escape.
The sneer was still there. ‘I gave up playing revolutionary games many years ago. I don’t believe in conspiracies anymore. For that’s all that Marxism ever was, Jane, the conspiracy theory of history, rewritten for the delectation of intellectuals. The wicked bourgeoisie conspires to extract surplus value from the innocent victim proletariat, and all art, religion, law and politics are organised to assist it in its wicked deeds. The real world isn’t like that. It isn’t more complex, it’s a lot simpler.
‘Terence Wicklow was a lonely man. He had nothing to do on a Saturday night other than go for a quiet walk all on his own. Unfortunately he encountered the terrible consequences of urban decay and social breakdown. A teenage youth, unemployed and with no hope of a job – everyone knows women get all the good jobs nowadays – crazed out of his mind with crack cocaine, attacked him, using a weapon kindly provided by your university, which clearly needs to have its budget cut to make it more careful with its resources. It could happen to anyone. You see why we conservatives want the state to be tougher on crime and the causes of crime.
‘You don’t believe me. I believe it – it’s a plausible story. But I don’t think the good Inspector Stoddart will believe it either. She’s not a Marxist, but she believes in conspiracies too. It comes of reading too many detective stories. She wants to make a name for herself with a bit of clever political detection.
‘Of course you’re quite right about Sue and Mike – they’ve got alibis. And so has John – we’ve checked it out. So really you’re dependent on someone having seen you in that pub. And having been sober enough to take an exact look at the clock to note the time you left. Not something people do in pubs very much. And of course the Purple Heifer is rather notorious for drug dealing. I don’t think many of the regulars will be rushing forward to help the police. People who drink there learn to be discreet if they don’t want their legs broken. It’s all part of the terrible problem of social breakdown, Jane my love.
‘So it won’t need a lot of coaxing from me for the good Rosemary Stoddart to start looking in your direction.
‘Of course all is not lost, Jane. A progressive journalist like my old friend Paul Foot may adopt your case. After fifteen years of campaigning he’ll persuade the Home Secretary to reopen your case. You may get a free pardon, perhaps even a bit of compensation for your old age. In any case, you’ll probably be too old to come back to work; I’m sure that would be a consolation. And by then the trail will be so cold there will be no chance of finding the true killer – our hypothetical crack addict. So it will remain an unsolved mystery – just like the Dave Drutt case, eh?’
Jane closed her eyes for a second, trying frantically to think. Sadler was bluffing, indeed his sneering irony almost amounted to a confession. She opened them again, to see Sadler still leaning nonchalantly against the door that was her only way of escape from the roof.
If he could bluff, so could she.
‘Fine,’ she said, ‘but much as I hate this institution, it’s marginally better than being in jail. At least we don’t have to slop out – not yet, but under a Labour government who knows?
‘So I still want to prove my innocence to the Inspector. I’ll go along and tell her everything I know. All the details of my own movements on the night in question, why and where. Everything I know about Terence Wicklow, everything I know about you – and everything I know about Dave Drutt.
‘As you say, that trail is pretty cold now. I doubt if I’ll go inside for it – especially if I ask for immunity on the basis of providing new evidence. But if they do jail us, then they say women’s prisons are more comfortable than men’s. Perhaps I’m wrong – most of my knowledge comes from watching Cell Block H. We’ll find out. And you may have two sentences to my one.
‘And since you’ve said all you have to say, would you please let me past? I want to go downstairs to my office and phone the Inspector.’
Steven leaned back against the door, firmly blocking Jane’s escape route. His face still bore the identical sneer, but there was a slight stiffening of the body, and Jane knew she had hit home.
‘Just a minute, Jane dear, we haven’t finished our chat. There’s plenty of time. Don’t tell me you have to go and teach. I know you’re free for the rest of the afternoon; the departmental secretary told me when I phoned. I told her I was a publisher’s representative. A very efficient young lady, that one, if I’m not mistaken.
‘I told you one story, one account of how Terence Wicklow died. Now I’ll tell you another one. Another story. Isn’t that what your friends the post-modernists tell us – there are just lots of stories and no-one can say that one is better than any other.
‘Terence Wicklow had a lot of financial troubles. He was closely tied up with Del Morecambe, of course’ – Sadler gave an ironic glance at the fluttering flag – ‘and when Morecambe’s empire collapsed poor old Terence was put in a difficult situation. He’s been floundering about for the last few years. Sometimes he didn’t know where the next prostitute was coming from – of course they are expensive, because he gets a bit vigorous sometimes.’ Sadler leered meaningfully at Jane. ‘Or perhaps you don’t know about his tastes – a bit specialised, a bit exotic.’
Jane retched inwardly, but tried to look as dispassionate as possible. She didn’t know how much Sadler knew about her relationship with Wicklow – and she didn’t want to let him know it hurt.
‘Of course the recession hasn’t done any of us any good – though personally I’m doing rather well. I’ve made quite a bit from my writings, and I’ve always invested it wisely. We ex-Marxists know how capitalism works. And I’ve just got a contract for a new television series. I’m broadening my scope a bit. Roots of violence in modern Britain. Crime, drugs, trade unions, that sort of thing. I’m thinking of doing something on the Kidzphun strike. Maybe you’d have liked to be interviewed; pity it won’t be possible.
‘Anyhow, to get on with the main story. About two months ago, Frank Drutt turned up in Terence Wicklow’s surgery. He wanted Wicklow to reopen the case of his brother’s death. Of course the poor man is half crazy. He hears about the Guildford Four and he thinks he might get ‘justice’. Naturally, nobody cares. The pro-Nazi lobby isn’t very strong.
‘But Wicklow has to listen to a constituent, and in the course of his rambling Drutt suddenly pulled something out of his pocket. It was a black driving glove; it was mine, which I’d dropped as we were getting away. I was rather worried about it at the time, because as you know, I was a bit notorious for always wearing black driving gloves. You and Sue were always having a go at me about it.
‘Of course he’d reported it to the police at the time, but they took no notice. They’re pretty sloppy at the best of times. You’d hardly expect them to investigate standing jokes among the local Trotskyists. But Wicklow isn’t stupid – if he was he wouldn’t have stayed out of jail as long as he did. He’s known me on and off ever since I canvassed for him when he won the by-election. He knew it was my glove.
‘So he contacted me. Said he had evidence that I killed Dave Drutt. We met to discuss it. Of course we were both bluffing – a bit like you and me today. I’m pretty certain the police couldn’t make a murder charge stick – not after twenty-eight years. And Wicklow knows that too. But if he came forward with the information, the police would have to look at it – and of course the news would get out. Even if they didn’t press charges, some mud would stick.
‘And it’s the sort of mud I can’t risk. I’ve never made any secret of my revolutionary past; in fact I’ve traded on it. But the one thing I’ve always insisted is that I wasn’t involved in any kind of violence. I always used to quote Trotsky on individual terrorism. We just didn’t do that sort of thing. I still always tell people -including my rather slow-witted police-lady friend – that the overwhelming majority of the far left are opposed to all forms of individual terrorism. So if Wicklow had managed to link my name with a murder, it would have undermined all my credibility. The television series would go, and my journalistic work too.
‘I bargained and haggled with him, played for time. But he was desperate for money. Of course if he went bankrupt he couldn’t continue as an MP. He gave me an ultimatum the week before the conference. So I promised to meet him to hand over the cash outside the University on Saturday night. He was a bit suspicious about meeting me there alone. But he was as keen as I was that no-one else should be involved, so we agreed. I’d seen your fine array of weapons as I came into the conference, so I had no problem. I’m a lot fitter and healthier than Wicklow. I’m pretty sure he was dead after the first blow. But I didn’t want to take any risks.
‘I’d already made the rendezvous with you, which I didn’t keep. A shame in a way, I’ve always had fond memories of you. And then I took the high moral tone in the press the next day and everybody was looking at you and not me. End of story.’
Jane looked at Sadler, still smirking confidently as he leaned on the door. She had got what she wanted. The half-formed suspicions in her mind had all been confirmed by Sadler’s narrative, and he had tied all the loose ends together neatly for her. What she had not yet thought through was what came next.
But as so often in the past, Sadler was thinking more quickly than she was.
‘So there you have it, Jane my sweet love. The confession you wanted. Or did you really want it? Because you can’t expect me to let you live now, can you? You know far too much. And I can’t make things any worse. There’s enough blood on my hands; a few drops more won’t make a lot of difference.’
Jane advanced, as though to push Sadler aside and make her way down the stairs.
‘Don’t be silly, Jane, don’t be silly. I’m taller than you, and a couple of stone heavier. I go to the gym three times a week. I shouldn’t think a demanding job like yours gives you time to keep fit. And remember, I have a black belt at judo. You’re not going to get in a fight with me.’
‘I’ll scream,’ said Jane. ‘It’ll be a bit embarrassing for you if you’re found brawling on the University roof. I should think my story will sound more convincing than yours.’
‘Jane, my sweet love, you won’t have a story to tell. You start to scream and I’ll have you over the edge of the roof within five seconds. I’ll tell everyone you confessed to the murder and then committed suicide. I tried to stop you but couldn’t. Of course they’ll believe me. I’m a respectable person, not the sort of person who has hysterics on picket lines.
‘Don’t think I’m too soft to do it. Remember I’m in the political centre now. The left are too sentimental to be ruthless; the right are too stupid. It’s the centre who are the real ruthless bastards. Never underestimate the enemy. I used to think we could beat the ruling class. Now I know they’re too powerful and too clever to be removed. So I joined them. Now I’m as ruthless as they are.’
Sadler walked over towards the edge of the roof, taking Jane by the arm and drawing her with him. ‘Don’t try to run away; I’ll catch you.’
Standing at the roof edge, still holding Jane by the arm, Sadler plucked a ball‑point pen from his pocket and tossed it over the edge. Jane listened for what seemed like several minutes before there was a tiny click as the pen hit the ground.
‘That, Jane, my dear, is how long you have to live.’
Jane looked down into the abyss, thinking of the fall, the dreams, the past life, the bruised meat at the bottom, the welcome, everlasting oblivion. As ever vertigo appalled but it tempted too. All over within seconds – better than a slow lingering death from cancer
‘Just a minute’ she said. ‘I’m not completely stupid. I did think of this situation before I decided to come up here and meet you. I’ve written a complete account of how Dave Drutt died, and of what has happened since Terence Wicklow died, including my reasons for meeting you here. This morning I delivered it to an old friend of mine – and yours: Sue Norman. If for any reason I don’t return from this interview, then Sue will make it public immediately.’
‘You’re a smart bargained,’ said Sadler. ‘All those years as a bolshie trade‑union militant seem to have taught you something. I fancy you’re a better negotiator than that clown Applegarth.’
The sneer was still on his lips, but Jane could see that his confidence was shaken.
‘And I’ll tell you something else. I made my will this morning. I don’t have any family, so I’ve left everything to Sue, including the rights on my memoirs. I’ve written it all up during the last few weeks. My life and loves. You feature prominently. Remember those games we used to play. You dressed up as a prostitute and I was a policeman searching you for drugs. If you’re up on a murder charge, the News of the World will pay thousands for that. Sue can give the money to the Labour Party election fund.’
* * * * *
When I began writing this account of my history I was doing it solely for myself, with no intention of showing it to anyone else. I was trying to come to terms with my own past, perhaps to exorcise a few of the demons that still give me nightmares twenty and more years on. And so I had no intention of including the death of Dave Drutt. I still feared that justice might catch up with me, and I had no intention of setting down a confession, even on the privacy of a computer disc.
But the events of the last few weeks have brought me to a far different situation. I risk being framed for a murder I did not commit and had no connection with, and I have slowly begun to grasp the role played in all this by Steven Sadler. The cases of Dave Drutt and Terence Wicklow are surely linked, although I have not yet managed to piece together quite how.
I’ve just received the reply from Steven Sadler; a short message on my answer‑phone telling me he will meet me at two o’clock tomorrow on the roof of the tower-block at Del Morecambe University. A strange place to meet, possibly a dangerous one. I must take my precautions. So here is the full story of what happened in the week after Josie Wade died.
Slowly my sorrow turned into anger. I tried to talk to my friends, but none of them seemed to understand. Of course there was a lot of feeling. There was a big meeting in the college; hundreds turned up. We could have got the Racial Equality Action Committee going again, but somehow the bitterness between the people who had been at its hard core prevented that happening. Josie’s funeral was like a huge demonstration; thousands turned out from the college and the local community, and marched behind the coffin to the cemetery. Terence Wicklow had the impudence to come along and make a speech. I couldn’t listen – I just went away into a corner and was sick.
The police were supposed to be investigating the killing. They interviewed me in a rather half-hearted way, but I had the impression they didn’t expect to find the killer and that they weren’t too bothered about it.
I didn’t know who had killed Josie, and I still don’t. But I knew the people who had been raising the level of hate on the estates all through the summer, with their leaflets and local meetings. It was the Drutt brothers. They had been at the heart of all the racist activity in the area, right back to the time of the Notting Hill disturbances in 1959. The Powell speech had created a new climate for them and they were exploiting it as fast as they could.
Whether it was one of the Drutt brothers who had started the fire that killed Josie I didn’t know. It seems unlikely. They probably didn’t get their own hands dirty with that sort of thing. Nor, probably, did they directly organise it in terms of telling some of their acolytes to go out and do the job. But they had created a mood in which people more irresponsible than themselves might do such a thing.. I had no doubt that they were the villains.
The only person I dared speak to about this was Steven. I knew he was an organiser, a wholly reliable person, someone I could trust. I had followed his political judgement on a great many things. But it immediately became clear I could not trust him on this one. All he seemed interested in was running a major feature in the Red Republican about Josie’s death. To me that seemed like turning my friend’s murder into just another bit of journalistic copy.
I explained my plan to Steven. His immediate reaction as to treat it with contempt. Marxists, he told me, did not engage in assassination. Lenin’s elder brother had been a terrorist, and was hanged, but Lenin had set his face firmly against that style of politics. And he recited the main arguments from Trotsky’s article on Individual Terrorism, a text I was fairly familiar with.
Now Trotsky had a pretty rough life, that is undeniable. But when he wrote the article in question, I don’t think he had just been down at the morgue examining the charred corpse of his best friend. Or if he had, then he had a greater ability to make generalised political judgements than I had. Which wouldn’t be very surprising.
I turned on Steven. All my anger was focused on him. I screamed at him, I called him a coward, I told him he had never liked Josie, I even suggested that he was a racist and didn’t think she was very important just because she was black. If she’d been a white man, he might have done something about it. And I told him in very clear terms that if he thought I was ever going to play silly dressing‑up games with him again, then he could go away and fiddle with his stunted cock, because he was getting no more sex from me. I used obscenities that had never crossed my lips before. Steven said nothing, he didn’t try to defend himself, he just turned round and walked out.
So now I’d lost my best friend and my lover. For two days I didn’t go out, I didn’t eat, I did nothing except lie on my bed and think of horrific mutilations I’d like to impose on virtually every human being on the globe.
Three days later Steven knocked on my door. I had calmed a bit and I let him in, but I was very cool. As I might have expected from Steven, he began with a political argument. We were on the same side, whatever specific differences we might have. He acknowledged that the argument about terrorism was about tactics and not about morals – he even had a quote from Trotsky to prove it. I said very little, just nodded from time to time.
But as he went on, although tenderness was not exactly Steven’s strong point, I could see that he was also very keen to be reconciled with me. Lust or affection? I suspect the former was predominant, but the latter not entirely absent. Perhaps I flattered myself. Steven certainly enjoyed playing dressing-up games with me, and I do flatter myself I was quite good at capturing the spirit of the thing. There was one game we used to play where he was a revolutionary carrying secret microfilm that contained essential information about the insurrection concealed in his private parts. I was the policeman conducting a body search. As I groped around the genital area I would feel his erection swelling ever larger as I insulted him and made reactionary remarks. I think I had a talent for that sort of thing.
While I listened to Steven my brain was working frenetically. An idea was forming in my mind and I was desperately trying to think through the implications. I had prostituted myself once, to Terence Wicklow. The results had been pretty horrific, but that could be blamed on Wicklow’s treachery. I had no doubt the action would have been justified if it had been successful. After all Josie would probably still have been alive. And if I had done it once I could do it again. The only difference was that this time I would demand the payment first.
Steven was not a stupid man, and he caught my drift rapidly. There was a dubious look on his face, and he was obviously hesitating. But he was not a man to waste time in excessive moral reflection, and he soon made it quite clear he accepted my terms.
We made our plans rapidly. The two Drutts lived together and we had known their address for some time, without any clear project of using it. I recalled that when we had had a Sunday night meeting on the Hungarian Revolution earlier in the year – it seemed like five years ago – Steven had explained how to make a Molotov cocktail.
At eleven o’clock that night the estate was quiet. There was an upstairs light still on in the Drutt house; in most of the other houses around all was dark. Steven, his coat pulled high above his chin and his cap forward over his eyes, slid down the tiny front path, banged heavily on the door and then retreated into the shadows at the side of the door.
A moment later the door opened and Dave Drutt peered menacingly outside. I lit the Molotov and hurled it. To this day I can’t tell you whether I intended to kill or simply to cause a fire and a great deal of alarm and damage for the Drutts. Murder or manslaughter?
I hurled the Molotov with the accuracy I had learnt in years of deep fielding at cricket. It hit Drutt full in the face and exploded; with howls such as I had never heard before – or since – he staggered back into the house, leaving the door swinging wide open, his clothes and his hair on fire. I had avenged Josie.
I crept inconspicuously away through the maze of little streets, and found the place where I was due to meet Steven. He was there before me, but thoroughly alarmed, since he had lost one of his driving gloves. But we agreed that there would be far more risk involved in going back to look for it. We walked away, listening to the distant sound of fire-engines, ambulances and police-cars.
Of course the killing of Dave Drutt made a brief sensation. The police, hardly surprisingly, directed their main attention to the black community, and especially to Josie’s friends and neighbours. A lot of them had their homes ransacked and got interrogated in a pretty vicious fashion. I did feel bad about it, and began to see the point of some of Steven’s arguments. But my main feeling was of relief when the police did not even bother to question the white people who had been on the Racial Equality Action Committee. After a few weeks the whole thing began to blow over. I kept my side of the bargain, and Steven and I still had the occasional romp, though it was never quite the same again. But I never actually regretted the fact of Dave Drutt’s death. I still don’t.
* * * * *
Rosemary Stoddart sat in her office. She had finally managed to get hold of the file on the Drutt murder from 1968, and she was perusing it with interest. She had no great confidence that there could be any connection with the Wicklow case. But on the other hand there was little else to do for the moment. When she had seen Sadler the previous day, he had told her very confidently that he expected, not so much an arrest as a confession, within a matter of days.
She presumed that he meant the Summerson woman. He seemed convinced that the evidence was stacking up against her. Her refusal to be specific about her alibi was quite damning. And under questioning several people had confirmed that she had spoken quite violently to Wicklow immediately before the conference, although it appeared that he had offered no provocation other than to invite her to dinner. Surely even the most militant devotee of political correctness could not regard that as sexual harassment.
And Steven had also got a long statement from Roger Kenge, who obviously had no compunction about informing on colleagues. In it Jane was described as being guilty of left-wing extremism, violent language and unco-operative behaviour. He attached a letter from a student, Lucy Riddell, who had made a formal complaint that Jane had defended political assassination in a history seminar.
And finally Steven had dug up – Rosemary didn’t quite know how – the fact that Jane used to play cricket in her youth. Yet somehow Rosemary was not quite convinced. She had taken an instant dislike to Jane the first time she had seen her, and nothing that had happened since had done anything to endear Jane to her Yet she was still not quite sure that that was enough to make her a murderer. Was Steven being a touch too enthusiastic?
There was knock on the door. It was Sergeant Whitaker.
‘May I come in, Inspector?’
She invited him in and enquired if there was anything new.
‘Well, Inspector, I’ve been back to The Purple Heifer. About that Miss Summerson’s alibi.’
‘I though we decided there was no future in that line of enquiry.’
‘Well, Inspector, since you hadn’t given me any other line of work, I thought I’d go on pursuing that one. You see the landlord was most unco-operative, but I managed to get the drug squad to lean on him a little bit, and it seems his memory has improved quite considerably. He distinctly remembered seeing Summerson in the bar on the night in question, and he gave me the name of the man she was talking to, a chap called Peter Barratt. And this morning I managed to track him down. He’s a nutter and a half.’
‘So you mean his evidence is worthless.’
‘On the contrary, Inspector. He apparently had a long conversation with Summerson on the question of the Single European Currency. He found her views extremely illuminating, he tells me. I had to spend half an hour listening to his views on the European currency to get any facts out of him. But he was quite certain it was Summerson. I showed him a picture and he had no doubt. And he told me the time to the last second. He’s very hot on figures, is Barratt. Exchange rates, times, distances – he’ll have a jury eating out of his hand. Miss Summerson has just got herself a cast‑iron alibi. We can cross her off the list and forget all about her.’
When Whitaker had gone on his way to complete a full written report – keeping references to a single European currency to a minimum – Rosemary Stoddart sat back and wondered. She was right out of her depth. Steven was undoubtedly more astute than she was in every respect, yet he had put all his eggs in the Summerson basket. Now they were back to square one. Of course, this was the moment where Morse or Miss Marple, having spent days or weeks pursuing the wrong person, would suddenly identify the real killer.
Having no confidence she could do the same, she began to leaf through the Drutt file in a desultory fashion. Reading Frank Drutt’s statement, she was suddenly struck by a reference to a black driving glove. A black driving glove. Where had she seen a black driving glove?
Connections began to form in her synapses, but rather than leading to the sudden revelation that constitutes a solution, she felt her whole world about to disintegrate.
* * * * *
Rosemary tickled Galore’s ears and told him all about it. She had asked for an urgent meeting with the Chief Superintendent, and had told him that she could not continue to take responsibility for the Wicklow enquiry. She explained that little progress had been made despite her best efforts, and that her main suspect had now got a fire-proof alibi.
She also explained that she had taken the responsibility for bringing Steven Sadler into the investigation. She had trusted his judgement, but now she had reason to believe that he was less trustworthy than she had supposed. In particular, he had apparently been trying to make Jane Summerson appear guilty. She also admitted that she had become more personally involved with Sadler than she should have, and that therefore she was the wrong person to pursue the case any further. She did not, however, tell the Chief Superintendent how she had invited Sadler to dinner and she certainly did not tell him that she had dug out her old uniform for the occasion.
Nor did she say anything about the black driving glove. After all, it proved nothing. Sadler wasn’t the only person in the world to wear black driving gloves. And if she did have a shrewd suspicion that Sadler had some connection with Dave Drutt’s death, that didn’t in any way relate to the Wicklow enquiry. Sadler had clearly been trying to push the guilt onto Jane Summerson. But why? To cover up someone else’s involvement, or even his own? All that was surmise. All she knew was that she couldn’t trust Sadler any more, but that after their brief intimacy she certainly was not prepared to lead an investigation of which he might become the victim. What really hurt, though she said nothing about it to the Chief Superintendent, was that Sadler had been using her, that any affection he had seemed to show had been solely a means to an end.
Even her highly sanitised account of her dilemma was enough for the Chief Superintendent. He agreed immediately to replace her forthwith at the head of the enquiry. Whitaker – ‘a very reliable young man’ – would be given additional responsibilities to ensure a smooth transition. Rosemary was to take a month’s accumulated leave, to think over her position.
The Chief superintendent showed her a report he was reading, headed ‘Gridlock’. Traffic density in the area was increasing at an alarming rate and would get worse as public transport deteriorated. It was highly probable that one morning within the next five years residents would awake to find that the previous evening’s traffic jam was still in place, with roads packed solid with motionless cars, drivers asleep over their steering wheels and the roads wet with urine.
‘Have you considered transferring to traffic policing?’ he asked; ‘It might be a better field for your talents.’
Having told Galore everything, she leant back in her chair and switched on Capital Gold. No more than three bars had been played when she announced ‘Fortunes: You’ve Got Your Troubles: 1965.’ Galore looked duly impressed. She felt in her true element.
* * * * *
Sadler looked at Jane. ‘So. What do you want? Do you want a deal? As Marx pointed out, under capitalism there’s always something to trade.’ The defiant sneer was still on his face, but he knew he was beaten.
Jane had just won her life, which a few moments earlier had been in extreme doubt. But she knew that she owed it to others, she owed it to Josie, she owed it to any future victims of Sadler, to get a decent settlement to this affair.
‘Stay where you are,’ she said to Sadler, who was still leaning on the door. ‘I want five minutes to think.’
Slowly she walked to the far end of the roof, and stared down into the abyss, the abyss which now would not claim her. Sadler would not dare to kill her now. All she had to do was to walk downstairs to her office, telephone the police and tell them of the confession Sadler had made. Even if he denied it, they now had the whole picture. It should be possible to piece together the evidence.
Yet she had her doubts. Rosemary Stoddart seemed to be in Sadler’s pocket. Was it possible to convince her, or to by-pass her? Jane thought of the Birmingham Six, the Guildford Four, and all the other perversions of justice. Could she have any hope in the police or the courts?
What was justice anyhow? Terence Wicklow was a corrupt sadist, a lying opportunist in politics, and now, she had learned, an extortioner as well. She rejoiced at his death. However dubious Sadler’s motives, did she really want to bring him to ‘justice’ for this? Wicklow was a bigger criminal than Sadler.
And, she was aware, it was not simply a matter of high principle. If the Wicklow murder came into the open, then the Drutt case would be reopened. If it was unlikely that they would convict after so many years, it was not certain – especially as Frank Drutt would be baying for blood.
She cast one final look down at the car-park below, persuaded herself that self‑interest and morality pointed in the same direction. She would make a deal..
She walked back to face Sadler. ‘Right,’ she said, ‘you can buy my silence.’
Sadler sneered: ‘So now you’re turning into a blackmailer … I’m sorry, I mustn’t use a politically incorrect term like blackmail.’
Jane ignored the bluster of a defeated opponent.
‘Two conditions. First you persuade your friend Inspector Stoddart that I’m not a suspect any longer. I don’t want you to frame anyone else; I just want you to find the evidence that I couldn’t have done it. I’m sure you’ll have no difficulty with that.
‘And secondly you can make that television programme about the Kidzphun strike. Yes, I’ll be in it. But more important, so will Val Hawdon. For once in your life you can tell the truth about a strike. Tell them about the rotten conditions in the factory, about the bullying supervisors, about the low wages, about how the management provoked the strike. Tell them how Val Hawdon lost her job because she was a good shop steward, because she was a black woman. Coming from you it will carry conviction. You can make the management look like the scum they are. You might even shame them into giving Val her job back.
‘Two simple conditions. Otherwise I tell the police everything I know, everything you told me. Is it a deal?’
Sadler looked to the ground. He knew he was beaten. Slowly he nodded.
‘Right,’ said Jane, ‘now let me go downstairs. You can wait five minutes before you follow me.’
Without a word Sadler let her pass. As she stepped onto the metal staircase, she thought to herself: Murderer, prostitute, and now extortioner – ah! well, nobody’s innocent.
Jane made her way slowly down from the roof to the tenth floor and called the lift. As it came bumping up the shaft she was still turning over the possibilities in her mind. Had she had any other option? Was she bound by her word? Obviously the agreement she and Steven had come to a few moments ago was not in any sense legally binding? Indeed, legally she had a duty to go straight to the police station and report the whole affair to Rosemary Stoddart.
But Rosemary Stoddart, who had co-opted Sadler as a colleague, and was obviously infatuated with him, would be hardly likely to believe her. And while she knew just how corrupt and devious Steven Sadler could be, she none the less could not stop thinking of him as the man who had once been her lover and her best teacher.
The lift arrived and she bumped her way slowly down to the ground floor together with two young women who had obviously just emerged from the seminar on Foucault.
‘Didn’t think much of that,’ one was saying. ‘Knowledge is power. What the hell’s that mean?’
‘Not a lot,’ said the other. ‘You may know all about Foucault but it won’t get you a job. Not much power in that.’
The lift arrived at the ground floor and the two young women rushed away, exulting in their ignorance. As Jane walked towards the door, she saw Roger Kenge coming towards her. ‘Jane,’ he said, ‘I have to see you about the Course Development Committee. We have to have a report by next week.’
Jane glared at him. ‘I’m sorry. I can’t see you today. I’ll make an appointment with your secretary.’
‘It’ll only take a few moments.’
‘No!’ said Jane, and walked away as quickly as she could. She added as she walked away: ‘Shop me to the fucking Vice-Chancellor if you want – just like you shopped me to the police.’
As she walked towards the front gate she looked back at the tower-block. She imagined her own form looking down from the top of it, then visualised it falling towards her, screaming as it plunged to earth and crashed lifeless and twisted into the car-park.
Swallowing her nausea, she turned away and walked quickly to the gate. Her car was broken yet again and she would have to take the train. It was beginning to get dark, though it was not yet four o’clock; the air was damp with impending rain. As she turned to walk through the industrial estate she looked across the road at the Kidzphun factory. All the lights were on, and work was proceeding as normal - only Val Hawdon was missing. Doubtless she was still hunting for another job. Few employers would be keen to employ a victimised shop steward.
Workers from several of the other factories were emerging and making their way towards the railway station. As Jane approached the station she could see two rather bedraggled figures standing at the entrance, selling Socialist Worker.
Then the station seemed to fade and she saw before her three faces – the faces of the dead. Dave Drutt and Terence Wicklow – which did she hate more? Drutt was like a poisonous snake. You didn’t blame a snake for being venomous – it was its nature. But you made sure to crush it underfoot before it could bite you. Wicklow was a different matter; he claimed to be on the side of decency and social justice, yet in his own way he was more poisonous than Drutt.
The third face was Josie’s. In the last twenty-eight years racism and fascism had claimed many more victims, from Soweto to Stoke Newington, from Los Angeles to Rostock. But there had been victories too. What would Josie have thought of the new South Africa? But then what would Josie have thought of anything? There were so many renegades, so many who had betrayed or strayed from the ideals of the sixties. Would Josie have been a renegade too? A professor, sacking her staff; an MP, legislating against her own people; a journalist, with the smug conservative ideas of maturity? If she had lived, might Jane now be wishing she had died young?
It was a futile question. You couldn’t know. All you could do was carry on, throwing a few grains of sand into the right pan of the scales.
Jane had written her own story; it had served its purpose in saving her life. Would she now retrieve it from Sue and destroy it? Or let Sue read it? It contained the key to the mystery, and yet, as Jane was well aware, it was only a part of the truth. All stories are partial; all narratives are unreliable.
She reached the station, bought a Socialist Worker, shoved it into her handbag and went to catch her train.