• Chapter 9


    Many murder stories are centred on extraordinarily ingenious ways of killing the victim [see Buckler & Foxton, 1977]. The only problem is to know why the murderer did not adopt a simpler and more obvious method. The key question in any murder story is not how but why. (J Thomson, Uncompleted PhD thesis on detective narratives)

    Rosemary invited Sadler into her office. There was a glow of pleasure inside her; not only did this give her another opportunity to impress the man she desired so powerfully, but she now had renewed hopes that the mystery could be solved, and while Sadler would have to take a good part of the credit, inevitably some of it would fall onto her. After all, it was she who had had the idea of calling in the appropriate consultant. She could almost hear the Chief Superintendent congratulating her, promising to send her on more politically oriented training courses, perhaps even proposing some permanent liaison role with Sadler. Initially she had been a little anxious that some of her colleagues might have heard rumours of her date with Sadler and would spread smutty innuendoes.  But now she didn’t care even if they did. She looked at Sadler’s firm features, his well-proportioned athletic body and thought what a wonderful idea permanent liaison would be. She was glad Whitaker was not there.

    Sadler, who had his own reasons for wanting to make a good impression, showed no inclination for conversational niceties; he was a busy man who wanted to get down to the problem straightaway.

    Quickly, Rosemary listed the main suspects – names which had come up in the preliminary enquiries and which had not yet been effectively eliminated – Val Hawdon, Lisa Schwarz, Mike Applegarth, Sue Norman, John Thomson, Jane Summerson. She also mentioned Drutt and O’Hara, who despite their alibis might have some indirect involvement. She explained the procedure adopted. The national police records had been checked first. None of those listed had a criminal record, except for Seamus O’Hara, who had a couple of minor convictions arising from incidents on demonstrations, and Frank Drutt, who had two convictions for grievous bodily harm and one for incitement to racial hatred. Lisa Schwarz was not a British national, so enquiries had been made in the United States. Initially they had been told that Schwarz did have a record, but the next day an urgent phone call came through from Washington to say that she had no record and that there was absolutely no reason to suspect her of any possible criminal involvement. Rosemary, who had an innate distrust of all foreigners, kept her on the list of suspects.

    However, she went on to explain that, in view of the political ramifications of the case, she had been given special access to the political files held by MI5. Feeling rather pleased with herself for having privileged information – and reminding Sadler rather pompously that this was strictly confidential – she told him that the press reports which had said that political files were kept on three million people had in fact been an underestimate – in fact there were files on over four million.

    Lisa Schwarz had no file, of course, but all the others had. She produced a document wallet containing printouts of the files on John, Sue, Val, Seamus, Mike, Jane and Frank Drutt.  In every case except Drutt’s trade‑union membership was listed, as was activity in political campaigns from CND to the Anti‑Nazi League. In the cases of Jane and John there were copies of published articles, while Sue’s file contained copies of several letters to the local press.

    Rosemary smiled with satisfaction like a child who had done her homework. Surely this would give a sophisticated political analyst like Sadler something to go on.

    Sadler picked up the wallet, flicked through it for about ninety seconds, and threw it down on the table. ‘Pretty useless’, he said.

    Rosemary looked shocked.

    ‘What does it tell us?’ he went on. ‘They’re members of trade unions. So are – or have been – about fourteen million people in this country. Trade unions have been legal for a hundred and fifty years. They gave up murdering scabs and informers at the time of the Tolpuddle Martyrs.’

    ‘How about the articles?’ Rosemary insisted. ‘Might there not be a clue there?’

    Sadler picked up the file, and produced a copy of John Thomson’s 1977 article ‘The Hermeneutics of Surplus Value – a Non-Ontological Approach’.

    ‘Take that home for bedtime reading,’ he said.

    Rosemary felt as if the teacher had just thrown her carefully done homework into the wastepaper basket.

    ‘Look,’ said Sadler, taking the dominant role he wanted in the situation, ‘the whole idea of political files is a nonsense. Four million people – everyone who’s ever been on a demonstration or attended a trade‑union branch meeting; everyone who’s ever signed a petition in favour of higher pensions or rights for dolphins.

    ‘There aren’t four million dangerous revolutionaries in this country. If there were, you and I would have been hanging from the lamp-posts long ago.

    ‘Suppose we had a coup – like in Chile in 1973. You’ve got four million names on computer files. You can’t arrest four million people – they’d fill every football stadium in the country, and if you’ve just had a coup the one thing you mustn’t do is disrupt the football programme. You can’t kill four million people – what would you do with the bodies? And those files won’t tell you who’s dangerous and who isn’t. Forget the files and let’s start looking at the reality.’

    Rosemary looked distraught. ‘I’ve been on a course about artificial intelligence. We were told the computer is the police’s best ally in fighting crime.’

    ‘Listen,’ said Sadler, ‘when I see a computer clever enough to stop me switching it off, then I’ll believe in artificial intelligence.’

    Sadler laid the document wallet aside. ‘Forget it’, he said. ‘The reason why Terence Wicklow was murdered was because someone hated him so much they were prepared to kill him. Very few people murder more than once in a lifetime, so it was probably somebody who hated him so much that he – or she – was prepared to kill for the only time in their life. To understand that we’ve got to get inside somebody’s feelings, inside their skull and inside their gut, understand why somebody could make that sort of choice. A computer can’t hate – or love; it doesn’t have a gut. It can’t begin to understand those emotions. So it’s going to be pretty useless in any investigation that starts with those factors.’

    Rosemary then suggested that some of those under suspicion, who were known political activists, probably had their phones tapped by MI5, and that it might be possible to get the tapes. At this point Sadler began to laugh out loud:

    ‘Listen,’ he said, ‘if you join a left-wing organisation the first thing they tell you is that your phone’s tapped. If you found out it wasn’t, you’d be terribly disappointed. It would be a real blow to your street cred. They don’t even organise flyposting by telephone. Do you really think anyone would be stupid enough to organise a murder on the phone? Only the people who write the BT adverts would be crazy enough to suggest that.

    ‘And I’ll tell you another thing. Forget Seamus O’Hara. If I’m sure that one person in this borough is not a terrorist, it’s O’Hara. If he were actually doing anything, he’d keep a bit quieter about it. Terrorists – by definition – don’t go around advocating terrorism.’

    ‘But surely,’ protested Rosemary, ‘terrorists are irrational. You can’t expect them to be logical.’

    ‘As long as you think that,’ said Sadler, ‘you’ll never know how to deal with terrorism.’

    *   *   *   *   *

    After her first meeting with Sadler, Rosemary had to do a lot of hard thinking. The more she thought about it, the more she was becoming convinced that Val Hawdon was the prime suspect. Why had she been at the conference? It was a University affair, not something you would expect an unskilled factory worker to get involved in. Of course, she had been collecting money, but surely sixty strikers did not depend on a few tenpence pieces thrown into a bucket. They had the resources of a trade union behind them. From what she could gather Val had deliberately set out to stage a confrontation with Wicklow.

    Val was called in for a second interview. Rosemary was much tougher in the questioning this time, but basically Val gave exactly the same answers as the first time round. Steven Sadler did not attend the interview, for his role was to be strictly advisory and behind the scenes. But it was taped, and afterwards Rosemary and Steven listened to the recording together. Rosemary’s eyes were on Steven throughout, hoping to note the occasional nod of approval at her incisive technique.

    But Steven listened quite impassively, and when the tape was finished, he said: ‘Nothing there, nothing at all. I suggest you forget her for the  time being.’

    Rosemary launched into a tirade of reasons why Val seemed to her to be the number one suspect. But Steven shut her up with an impatient wave of the hand.

    ‘Listen,’ he said, ‘you wanted my assistance and you’re going to get it. I’ve met a lot of trade-union militants, a lot of strike leaders, both when I was on their side, and since I’ve been on the other side. I don’t like them. They’re generally arrogant bullies, exercising their leadership as part of a crude ego trip. They have no grasp of economic realities, and they cause a great deal of unnecessary hardship and suffering to ordinary working people, for whom I do have some sympathy. I’d be quite happy to make all strikes illegal and put strike leaders in jail.

    ‘But they aren’t murderers. I’ve never met a trade‑union activist who came remotely close to being a murderer. They may shout “string them up” at the bosses or the scabs, but if  you gave them a noose, they wouldn’t know what to do with it.

    ‘So I’m quite happy to go along with any denunciation of Val Hawdon as an industrial wrecker. But I see no evidence she’s a killer, and if you try to press charges you’ll fall flat on your pretty face in front of the Chief Superintendent.’

    ‘How about the alibi?’ persisted Rosemary. ‘Why won’t she give an alibi, even when she knows she’s in danger of a murder charge?’

    ‘Listen,’ said Steven, ‘you’ve got a list of suspects with no alibis. Try to think about it from their point of view. What were you doing on the Saturday night in question? People do all sorts of funny things on Saturday nights. They have sex with people they aren’t supposed to be having sex with. They commit adultery. They have homosexual liaisons. They pick up rent boys. They screw sheep.

    ‘Or they don’t have sex, when they hope everybody is assuming that they are having it. They sit at home wanking in front of the television, having choirboy fantasies over a video of Songs of Praise.

    ‘And they don’t feel comfortable telling the police about it. I don’t want to shock you, but an awful lot of people don’t like the police very much. They don’t trust them. They certainly don’t want to expose their sex lives and their private hobbies to the first policeman who knocks on their door. So they lie, they bluster, they refuse to answer.

    ‘You aren’t Hercule Poirot, you know. They aren’t going to line up with their alibis, all timed to the minute so you can spot the one that doesn’t fit. But if you try to take them to court, then all of a sudden their alibis will turn up, and you’re going to look awfully silly.’

    ‘Sue Norman,’ said Rosemary, ‘reckons there could be dozens of people out there with a grudge against Wicklow. Women he’d seduced and abandoned, people he’d cheated financially, perhaps even people he was blackmailing.’

    ‘Codswallop,’ snapped Sadler.

    When she looked less than wholly convinced, he embarked on a rather grudging explanation.

    ‘First of all, Sue exaggerates. I’m not saying Terence was a saint. He wasn’t. I knew him for nearly thirty years, and while there’s been a bit of sharp practice, he wasn’t quite in the Maxwell class.

    ‘I’m sure he’s treated a few ladies in a manner that was less than politically correct. But most of that was a few years back; he was getting older, like the rest of us. Why kill him now? He’s been available and in reach for years.

    ‘Certainly his financial affairs were a bit dodgy. He owed a lot of people money. But creditors don’t kill. It doesn’t help them get their money back.

    ‘As for blackmail – if Terence did stoop to that, which I doubt -  blackmail victims are frightened people. They’ve already done something they regret and they’re running away from the consequences.  They aren’t going to make things even more risky for themselves by getting involved in something worse.

    ‘It can’t be a coincidence that the murder took place on the front doorstep of the University just a few hours after the conference. The conference must hold the key. So stick to that line of enquiry, and forget Sue Norman’s fantasy life.’

    Rosemary rather hesitantly added: ‘She also suggested his death might have resulted from his sexual preferences, whatever that might mean.’

    Sadler snorted with laughter: ‘Some hope! Yes, there are stories about Terence and his tendencies towards sado-masochism. I know people do pretty weird things, but I’ve never heard of anyone bent enough to pay someone to hit them over the head with a cricket bat!’

    ‘So what do you suggest?’ she asked.

    ‘Take it systematically. Bring in the other leading suspects. Question them again. Try and frighten them a bit. Maybe one of them will let something slip. I fancy you might get something out of the Summerson woman. She’s an arrogant bitch. I knew her slightly, many years ago. There’s something funny going on there. Starting punch-ups in the street at her age.

    ‘Grill her about how well she knew Wicklow. There may have been more between them than she was willing to talk about. That incident in the pub was very strange. A mature middle-aged woman knows how to deal with that sort of thing without turning it into a brawl.

    ‘She’s not going to confess her entire life and loves to you at the first interview. You’ll have to keep plugging away at it. But in the end I think she may crack.’

    ‘You think she’s the killer?’

    Steven frowned. ‘I didn’t say that. But she knows more than she’s saying, and I think she knows something that could put us on the right track. You see, I’ve always been a great believer in the principle that the past explains the present. If you really want to know what makes people like Jane Summerson tick, you have to delve into their past. And that’s where I can really help you. The clue to this murder may lie in the 1960s and not the 1990s.’

    He paused: ‘One further thing. Do you have the address of the local Anti-Nazi League?’

    ‘I’m sure we can get it,’ said Rosemary. ‘Do you think they were involved?’

    Sadler shook his head sadly: ‘You don’t learn, do you? You just don’t learn.’

    *    *     *     *     *

    Jane opened the door to her flat, went in and slammed the door behind her. It had been a pig of a day. Her seminar on the Korean War had not been properly prepared and she had ended up almost incoherent.

    Then Hetty Brandler had approached her, allegedly on behalf of a group of staff who were suggesting that Jane should stand down as union secretary ‘until this whole murder thing blows over’. It was apparently meant as a kindness to Jane, an offer to take the burden from her shoulders while she was under pressure. But she was well aware that a lot of her colleagues thought she was mixed up in something, even if she wasn’t actually a murderer.

    That had only been the beginning. She had been phoned the previous day and asked very firmly to arrange a further interview with Inspector Stoddart, this time at the police station. She had gone there today straight after her last class, and had been kept for nearly an hour.

    Stoddart had been much more aggressive this time, repeating the same  questions and accusing Jane of concealing the truth. Jane had refused to be intimidated, but at the same time she was  increasingly aware that there were things that could not be concealed for ever, and that if she was seen as having kept something back, then it would not look good for her if things went further.

    Stoddart kept coming back to the question of how well Jane knew Terence Wicklow. Jane repeated again and again that she had not met him – beyond perhaps seeing him at a meeting – between 1968 and 1996. This was indeed true. Under pressure, she gave more details of how she had met him to negotiate support for the Racial Equality Action Committee, and admitted that she felt very bitter about the way she had been let down. The weekend in Wales, however, went unmentioned. At the time, nobody but Steven and Josie had known about that, and even they didn’t know the details

    Then Stoddart had come back to the question of the alibi. Jane had not lied. In fact, she had dredged her memory for every detail she could remember of the wretched pub, from the colour of the walls to the shape of the tables. Of course, as Stoddart pointed out, all that could have been memorised on a different occasion. Jane described in detail the various individuals she could remember who had been in the pub, especially one with whom she had been in conversation for some time. Again, as Stoddart pointed out, she could have memorised details of the Saturday night regulars on another occasion. The same people tended to frequent the same pubs every Saturday. The one thing Jane refused was to say whom she had agreed to meet that night. She hoped that Stoddart would assume it was a married man and agree to respect her privacy.

    Eventually she was allowed to leave, and she had made her way home. Now she sat slumped in her armchair, shaking with stress, tiredness and fear. It was an hour or more before she summoned up the energy to pour a can of baked beans into a pan and make her tea. She had a class on the First World War to give the next day, and if she failed to prepare it, it would be as big a shambles as today’s. But she was quite unable to concentrate on anything except her own situation.

    She made a few notes to enable her to survive the seminar and crawled into bed. It was a long time before she could sleep, and when she did she tossed and turned violently. When she awoke the next morning, early, a new clarity had entered her head.

    She was in real danger. She could go to jail. Even if the case was eventually reopened and she was proved innocent and freed in fifteen years time, it would not be much consolation. She couldn’t count on the police to find the real murderer. If she wanted to avoid jail, then there was only one thing for it. She herself must turn detective and track down the true killer.

    *   *   *   *   *

    John walked into the room and sat down in the armchair. He looked at the small man sitting in the chair opposite. ‘Good evening’, he said. The other gave what might, but very well might not, have been a cursory nod. The expression on his face did not change.

    For a moment or two John sat as if looking for something to say. The other looked back at him, with just a trace of expectancy on his features, but without giving anything that could conceivably be construed as encouragement.

    ‘I suppose, having come all this way, I have to say something. It would be pretty pointless if I didn’t.’ The small man made no acknowledgement of the obvious validity of what John had just said.

    John sat silent for another moment or two, looked round the room, read the titles of the books on the bookshelf. The small man sat, silently, waiting.

    ‘There are things I really ought to tell you,’ said John, ‘things that have to be sorted out. I’ve got myself into a difficult situation and I don’t see any way out of it. I need help.’ The small man looked as though this might well be the case, but help was not what he was there to provide.

    ‘I suppose I have to come to the point,’ said John. ‘I suppose I have to make a confession, yes, that’s what it is, a confession.’

    The small man did not look as though he were getting ready to impose a penance. In fact he looked as though he would not have been surprised, or even very interested, if John had confessed to anal rape of the  Queen Mother.

    ‘It’s a long story,’ said John, ‘a long, very complicated story, and I suppose I have to go back to the beginning …’

    *   *   *   *   *

    When Rosemary returned to her office, she was met by Sergeant Whitaker, who looked even smugger than usual.

    ‘Can I have a word with you, inspector?’ he asked; ‘it looks as though we’ve just lost our prime suspect.  Mrs Hawdon has got an alibi.’

    ‘Where from?’ asked Rosemary curtly; remembering how Val had squirmed when asked for an alibi, she was profoundly reluctant to give up her theory.

    ‘A clergyman,’ said Whitaker. ‘Seems pretty reliable. They still tend to go down pretty well in court.’

    ‘You never can tell with clergy these days. Half of them don’t seem to believe in God any more, so how can you can trust them to tell the truth about a criminal?’

    Whitaker continued to smile with the insolence of one who knows that he is in the right and the boss is wrong. ‘I’m pretty sure  the Reverend Sebastian Grylls believes in God. He’s one of the old-fashioned sort. You must have read about him in the papers a couple of months back.’

    Rosemary shook her head; she did not devote much time to ecclesiastical matters.

    ‘He was all over the local papers. About the women vicars. He said he wouldn’t have one in his church, and threatened to lock the doors and hide the keys if they tried to bring one in. There was a demonstration. A lot of middle-aged biddies in posh cars, suddenly turning up with placards. They were a real bastard to control. Never had a brush with the police before so they weren’t scared.’

    Rosemary suspected that the Reverend Grylls was becoming a bit of a hero for Whitaker. Presumably he’d like a Chief Superintendent who took the same line and locked all female police officers out of the station.

    ‘So what did he have to say? Where was Hawdon at the time of the murder?’

    ‘Round at the vicarage talking to Mr Grylls. Apparently her son has been in a bit of trouble with the law.’

    ‘What was it?’ asked Rosemary, pleased at the confirmation of  her initial suspicion that the Hawdon family were a bad lot. ‘Drugs, I suppose. Or is he a mugger?’

    ‘No, nothing like that. He’d stolen a book from a bookshop. He was being done for shoplifting. It was a first offence, but since he’s turned eighteen and the shop insisted, they’re going to prosecute. The Reverend Grylls reckoned he’s a very quiet lad; he’s expected to get good exam results. Very keen on poetry.’

    Rosemary had a vision of some sort of rap verse, written in ill-spelt ungrammatical English, and full of exhortations to ‘kill da pigs’. Whitaker continued:

    ‘Complete Works of somebody called Robert Browning. Never heard of him myself, but Reverend Grylls reckons he’s pretty well‑known as a poet. Seems the lad was dead keen to get the book, but he had no money, and he couldn’t ask his Mum with her being on strike. So he nicked it. Not very experienced, apparently; they spotted him straight away.

    ‘Mrs Hawdon is a regular at Reverend Grylls’ church, so she went to him for help over it. Apparently he’s going to appear in court as a character witness for the  lad. She was over at his house discussing it on the night of the murder. His wife and a parishioner who dropped by can confirm it. So it looks as though she’s off the hook completely.’

    Rosemary remembered her row with Steven about this; it looked like total humiliation. But she was unable to shed her suspicions at one go.

    ‘So why didn’t she tell me this when I saw her? I asked her on two occasions where she had been that night, and she said she was at home alone. If she’s such a good Christian why was she lying to a police officer?’

    ‘Apparently,’ responded Whitaker’, she was very cut up about it all. Grylls says they’re a very respectable family; there’d never been any trouble with the law before and she didn’t want anyone to know about it.

    ‘It seems she’d told him that she thought she was under suspicion after the first interview and he’d offered to give her an alibi, but she said no. But now he felt he had to come forward. He asked us not to tell her he’d been to see us; but he says if necessary he’ll appear in court, along with his wife and the other lady.’

    Rosemary nodded. ‘All right. Thank-you very much. Now I’ve got work to do,’ she snapped at the wretched Whitaker, who walked out with a large, complacent grin on his chops.

    *   *   *   *   *

    Jane and Sue had exchanged telephone numbers at the end of their conversation in the pub after the conference. So that evening, as soon as she got home, Jane phoned Sue and arranged to see her later that evening.

    Sue understood the urgency immediately. That very afternoon she had been contacted by Stoddart, and told she was required for a further interview. If Jane was a little relieved that she was not the only one in the frame, they both agreed that it was time they started to take a more active role in the situation.

    ‘Can we assume we’re both innocent?’ asked Sue. ‘That’ll make a start, and then we can check out any other suspects.

    ‘I suppose I’d better tell you the whole truth,’ said Jane. ‘Then at least we’ll both know where we are.’

    She told Sue how she had first met Wicklow, at least some of the squalid details about the weekend in Wales, and the way Wicklow had betrayed her. She also told Sue how Steven had made a rendezvous with her on the day of the conference, and how she had spent an evening waiting for him.

    When she had finished,  Sue sighed and said: ‘I wish to God I’d known the full story about you and Wicklow. I knew he let us down politically, but he could rationalise that. It’s his job, rationalising bent politics. If I’d known the rest, it would have saved me a lot of trouble.’

    Almost in tears she told Jane the story of how she had had an affair with Wicklow about seven years ago, ending with Wicklow leaving her pregnant and refusing to give her any support with the abortion she needed.

    ‘That’s why I hated the bastard. I survived, but there were others who might not have done. I think at least one woman has killed herself as a result of Wicklow.

    ‘I agree with you that we have to find the real killer, to protect ourselves. But whoever it was was doing a public service. I shall be in no hurry to hand him or her over to the police.’

    ‘All right,’ said Jane, ‘but now it’s your turn for confession. I’ve told you about my alibi. Where were you on the night of the crime?’

    Sue smiled. ‘It’s no real problem. I’ll produce an alibi before I go down for twenty years, no doubt about that. But I object to that swine Stoddart prying into my private affairs. And it is a bit embarrassing.

    ‘You see, there was a real chance of getting rid of Wicklow before the election. And those of us who’d been working on it had been thinking about who we wanted to replace him. We were fairly clear we wanted a woman, and we picked a young woman called Martina Goldsmith. She’s really excellent. She’ll make a wonderful MP – and of course now they’re going to start selecting in a hurry.

    ‘The old guard in the party aren’t stupid. They were standing by Wicklow, but they’d heard the stories. They knew that at some point they might have to drop him like the proverbial hot potato. And they didn’t want to have a situation where we had a candidate and they didn’t. It would have given us too much of an advantage, especially if it all had to be done in a rush.

    ‘So they picked a candidate too. Nothing public, of course, but everyone in the right circles knew about it. A man called Mark Cobb. Late forties, life-long Labour Party member, a nice guy – but very right wing. Loves New Labour, really enthusiastic about getting rid of Clause Four. You know the type. Although nothing had been said officially, the battle‑lines had been drawn. Everybody knew who the two people lined up to fight over the succession were. Wicklow certainly knew. That’s why he was getting so desperate. And now, once Wicklow is decently in his grave, all hell is going to break out.’

    ‘So what’s the problem?’ asked Jane. ‘I imagine that sort of thing goes on in every Labour Party.’

    Sue grinned ruefully. ‘The problem,’ she said, ‘is that I spent Saturday night – as I spend every Saturday night – with Mark Cobb. In bed.’

    She stared at Jane as she had stared at Mike all those years ago, when they were having one of their regular fights. ‘My private life is no concern of anyone. It’s no concern of Martina Goldsmith, it’s no concern of the Labour Party, it’s no concern of any moralising feminist, it’s certainly no concern of Inspector sodding Stoddart.

    ‘I’m not betraying anyone. I shall vote for Martina and campaign for her when the time comes. Mark knows that. I don’t whisper campaign secrets to him across the pillow. We never talk politics. We both like football and French movies, and we both like sex. So I go round to his place on a Saturday night for Match of the Day and a Godard video; and then we go to bed. The rest of the week we fight each other like cat and dog, just as members of the Labour Party are supposed to do with each other.’

    *   *   *   *   *

    Sadler walked into the pub, ordered a half of bitter and sat down. The Spice Girls were telling the world what they really wanted, but the world seemed relatively indifferent. Sadler glanced at his watch, pulled a newspaper from his pocket and settled down to wait.

    At exactly four o’clock a young woman walked in. She was in her early thirties, short and slender, no more than five foot four, dressed in tee shirt and jeans. She walked up to Sadler’s table. ‘Steven Sadler? I’m Becky Forrester – Anti‑Nazi League.’

    When Sadler offered her a drink she accepted a coca cola, and sat down opposite him. ‘Well,’ she said, ‘what can I do for you?’

    ‘It’s quite simple,’ said Sadler, ‘I’m a television journalist. I’m preparing a series on the present state of the far right in Britain. As I’m sure you know, they’re pretty weak at the moment, but they may grow stronger very quickly if there’s a change of government. After all, look at Le Pen in France. I just want to find out your assessment of the situation and see…’.

    As he spoke Becky was drumming her fingers impatiently on the table‑top. Now she interrupted him:

    ‘Listen, Mr Sadler. Don’t waste my time. That isn’t your analysis of the situation, it’s ours. There’s not a lot of point you reciting an ANL press release to me; I’ve got a cupboard full of them at home.

    ‘We know your record. Some of the comrades said I shouldn’t talk to you. I fancy you just want to produce some sort of witch-hunting piece about how the ANL is run by evil Trotskyist saboteurs with subsidies from Colonel Gadafy. Well, you’re not going to get any ammunition from me. You said on the phone you had some specific enquiries to make. Tell me what you want to know and I’ll tell you whether I want to tell you. I wasn’t fucking born yesterday.’

    Sadler smiled benevolently. ‘Of course, of course. If you’ve done your research into my evil career properly, you’ll know I used to be a leftie myself. I used to talk to journalists just like you do. You’re quite right; never trust anyone. But I’m sure you’ve read Left Wing Communism. You know when to compromise. Aren’t you willing to make a deal?’

    Becky looked profoundly unimpressed. ‘You’re the one quoting Lenin, not me. Tell me what you want and I’ll see what I can do.’

    ‘As I told you, I want information, about the local Nazis. And I’ll pay.’

    ‘I don’t take money from journalists. I was in two minds whether to accept the drink – but since it’ll probably rot my teeth and give me indigestion, I thought it wasn’t compromising me too much. But I’ll take a donation to the ANL.’

    Steven took out his cheque book and filled in a cheque. He flashed it under Becky’s nose, then put it face down on the table.

    ‘Frank Drutt. What do you know about him?’

    Becky began to giggle. ‘I didn’t realise you’d moved into comedy programmes. Even you couldn’t make Drutt into a serious threat to civilisation as we know it. The man’s a complete clown.’

    Sadler nodded slowly, as though his suspicions were being confirmed. ‘Go on.’

    ‘Drutt’s the sort of person who gets Nazis a bad name. He’s been round here for years and years. Before I was born. He’s a vicious bastard. Put him in charge of a concentration camp and none of us would last long. I’m sure he’d find you had a Jewish granny. But he doesn’t actually do anything. He buys up Nazi memorabilia; his house is full of it, I’m told, though obviously I’ve never been asked round for tea. And he’s down the George the Fourth every Saturday night, ranting on about wogs and niggers, to about four of his mates who are even stupider than he is. But that’s about the limit of it. He hasn’t got much of a following. In fact, he was kicked out of a couple of Nazi groups because he made a nuisance of himself.’

    ‘How about the leaflet they put out at the Kidzphun strike?’

    ‘I think he had outside help on that – there  were only five spelling mistakes in it. And it did take them six weeks before they got anything going. Not an impressive intervention.’

    ‘Do you know anything about his brother – Dave Drutt?’

    Becky pondered. ‘Before my time. 1968, wasn’t it? Apparently their house got fire-bombed and Dave was burnt to death. I mean, no tears for him; I think he was the clever one of the two. There’d been a whole number of racist attacks, and the Drutts may have been involved. But I’ve no idea who would have done something like that. It certainly wasn’t anybody on the left. You may not understand this, but we actually oppose that sort of thing totally.’

    Sadler nodded. ‘I have read Trotsky on the question.’

    ‘It may have been some nutter; I gather there were a lot of them around in 68. Sometimes I’m sorry I missed all that stuff, and sometimes I’m quite glad.’

    ‘So Drutt isn’t involved in any violence now?’

    ‘No,’ smirked Becky, ‘he’s too old, and like I told you, he couldn’t get it together. Dave was the brains of the family – though the competition wasn’t that hot. Frank hasn’t the organising skills to buy a packet of cigarettes, let alone beat anyone up.’

    ‘Well,’ said Sadler, ‘thank-you very much for your help. I think that’s about all.’

    Becky pocketed the cheque and stood up. ‘I won’t thank you,’ she said. ‘Not for the money or the drink. As you said, it was a deal. I don’t owe your sort anything. Now I’m going to go home and have a bath.’

    And she walked out of the pub, leaving Sadler unflattered but satisfied.

    *     *     *     *     *

    Two days later Sue rang Jane in a rather excited state. She had seen Lisa Schwarz again. Lisa had begun by asking her questions about what she thought reactions were to Terence Wicklow’s murder. But Sue had turned on her and demanded to know who she was and where she lived. At first Lisa had backed off, almost in panic, saying she hadn’t meant to intrude. But Sue could be a very ferocious lady, and she did not let Lisa go until she had established her address. ‘I’ll bring a friend to see you,’ she had said; ‘we’ll answer all your questions, and you can answer ours.’ At this Lisa had looked as though she were about to burst into tears.

    Although they had only discussed the matter briefly, Jane and Sue were in no doubt as to their hypothesis about Ms Schwarz. They had both grown up in the period when the CIA was benefiting from the tireless public relations work being done by its most ardent unpaid advocates, the international left. They had heard innumerable speeches, read countless articles about the power of the CIA. It had agents on every street, in every college and every workplace; reports flashed back to the huge central computer, where files were kept on every activist, indeed on everyone who dared so much as make the odd remark critical of US foreign policy. Nothing was secret from the all-knowing Big Brother. Ruthless gangs of assassins murdered anyone who stood in the way of American imperialism’s interests, bribed and infiltrated their way into every organisation, so that even the smallest and most irrelevant left-wing group found its members watching each other with distrust in case one of their number might be a CIA agent.

    This, of course, was the decade in which the US were being humiliatingly expelled from Vietnam as the price of their colossal ignorance of the elementary realities of South-East Asian society. Over the years, as the ruthless CIA assassins bungled their way round the globe, and the information choked every artery of the massive computer, Fidel Castro, Colonel Gadafy and Saddam Hussein all remained in power, while George Bush, a former CIA boss, was shamefully ejected from it.

    But if Jane and Sue were expecting to see the office of a technologically sophisticated agent of American imperialism when they banged on Lisa’s door, they were sadly mistaken. As Lisa let them in, they saw the single room she lived in. On the bookshelves were two or three dozen books, almost all of them relating to medieval poetry. But on the floor, rather half‑heartedly arranged into a semblance of order, lay dozens and dozens of newspapers – Tribune, Morning Star, New Statesman, Socialist Worker, Militant, and others. A pile of press cuttings lay untidily in the corner. Lisa waved them to sit down on the bed – it wasn’t clear if it had been made or not – while she took the only chair in the room.

    Briskly, Jane explained that she and Sue had been surprised to be confronted by her on so many occasions; that they had been bewildered by her questions, her attempts to get information about the British left when she was so patently and lamentably ignorant of it.

    Lisa twitched, then somehow discovered within herself a reserve supply of human dignity and began to speak. She was, she admitted, a CIA agent – of a sort. She had been a student in the United States, a very successful student planning to come to London to pursue her study of thirteenth‑century English poetry under one of the most eminent specialists in the field.

    Then she had been discovered in possession of a small quantity of drugs. Nothing particularly unusual in that, but a prosecution would have been very embarrassing to her highly religious parents who were leading lights in the Republican Party in their state. Then she had been contacted by the CIA, who had promised her immunity from prosecution, providing she sent regular reports on ‘left-wing’ activities in Britain.

    She had had a most disconcerting briefing from a senior operative. Now that the Cold War was over, the CIA was extremely confused as to who the enemy might be; but of one thing they were absolutely sure, there must be an enemy of some sort, or they would be out of work. So the hapless Lisa had been sent off, unbriefed and unarmed, to wander leaden-footedly through the undergrowth of the British far left, looking for conspiracies and threats where none existed.

    *   *   *   *   *

    When the question of his alibi came up, John was very alarmed. As he confided in Hetty Brandler, one of the few colleagues he could talk to, people tended to have very backward attitudes to mental health. Even on the left; in fact especially on the left. ‘Go into a left-wing meeting and tell them you’re disabled, and they’ll probably applaud you. If you’re in a wheel-chair, they’ll fall over themselves to help you. But if you say you’ve seen a psychotherapist they’ll run away as though they were frightened of being murdered. And if lefties are like that, what can you expect from the police?’

    *   *   *   *   *

    Mike sat back in his armchair. ‘Fine,’ he said, ‘you’ve a right to know, so you can prepare your defence. It’s not a deadly secret. But for obvious reasons I didn’t want – and still don’t – it being discussed too widely.

    ‘The night of the murder Jimmy Hale and I were meeting the management of Kidzphun. It was the only way to break the log-jam. The women wouldn’t negotiate. I understand why. But all strikes have to come to an end. We were the only line of communication there was.’

    Jane had temporarily forgotten all about her own situation, so angry was she at what she had just learnt. ‘You mean you went behind the women’s backs in order to sell them out.’

    Mike sighed. He would not have got as far as he had in his profession if he had flared up every time he was accused of a sell-out.

    ‘Listen,’ he said, ‘we got a settlement. It wasn’t a perfect one, but it was probably the best we could get. Kidzphun wasn’t doing terribly well, you know. They make toys an awful lot cheaper in South‑East Asia, precisely because there aren’t any wicked trade-union bureaucrats like me over there. We did our best.’

    Jane almost screamed. ‘You didn’t do your best for Val Hawdon. She hasn’t got her job back. She’s on the dole.’

    Mike sighed again: ‘Look,’ he said, ‘my heart bleeds for poor old Val, it really does. She’s a fighter. But she’s a difficult lady to work with. I can see the management’s problem. And we had to get a settlement. Otherwise they might simply have closed the whole place down. Then nobody would have had a job to go back to.’

    Jane retorted: ‘Kidzphun were feeling the pressure. They had orders coming in.  If the strike had lasted a bit longer they would have caved in. The women knew that.’

    Mike sighed again, even more deeply. ‘Look, it wasn’t just the situation in the factory. I had Jimmy Hale on my back to get a settlement. And he had people on his back.’

    ‘Who?’ snapped Jane.

    ‘People,’ said Mike, ‘Just leave it at that. People.’

    ‘The Labour Party leadership’. Jane was not asking a question, she was asserting the answer. Knowing there was nothing to be gained from the discussion, the two women rose. But as she was going through the door, Sue turned to Mike and said: ‘You seem to have screwed those women much more successfully than you ever managed to screw me.’

    *   *   *   *   *

    Once again Rosemary was confronted by Sergeant Whitaker, looking as ever irritatingly efficient. ‘I’ve closed another line of enquiry,’ he reported in a smug tone that made Rosemary want to smack him in the teeth. Wearily, she listened as he reported:

    ‘One of Mr Thomson’s colleagues from the University – a Miss Brandler – told me, in complete confidence of course, that she thought he was doing psychotherapy. So when I saw Thomson again, I asked him, very casually of course, and not mentioning any source, if he was having medical treatment.

    ‘He flared up at me as though I’d accused him of the murder, and then suddenly calmed down and told me he was doing psychotherapy regularly every Saturday evening. Gave me the name of his therapist.

    ‘I’ve checked it out. Of course the bloke was very cagey about revealing professional confidences, but when he was told it was a murder enquiry, he told me Mr Thomson had been with him, right over in South London, between 9.00 and 10.00 p.m. on the Saturday night in question. Showed me the record in his appointment book.’

    ‘But,’ Rosemary asked, ‘how did that bit of curled up wire get into Wicklow’s pocket? That was surely one of Thomson’s paper‑clips.’

    ‘I asked Kenge about that,’ said Whitaker smugly. ‘Thomson had been scattering them all over the table during the conference. Wicklow had some very brief notes for his speech which he kept in his  wallet. He put them on the table and he must have picked up the paper‑clip along with them when he put them away.’

    *   *   *   *   *

    A couple of days later Jane was called in for a further interview. This time it was much more formal; Stoddart was joined by Sergeant Whitaker, and together they did their best to be as intimidating as possible. She was offered the right to have her lawyer present, but she decided that there was no point. The questions were pretty much the same as before – Jane’s knowledge of Wicklow, her behaviour in the pub, and her alibi. Although the whole thing went on for over an hour, no new information was extracted.

    As she was leaving, she saw a familiar figure walking down the corridor towards her. It was Steven Sadler. For a moment he looked alarmed, then his face changed to a cordial grin and he greeted Jane cheerily.

    ‘Hello,’ he said. ‘Is this still the Terence Wicklow case? I suppose they think you can help out with some of the background. They have to be amazingly thorough.’

    And before Jane could answer, let alone enquire what Sadler was doing here, he went on:

    ‘I have to say, I’m very impressed by how serious the boys in blue – and the girls in blue, of course – are. They’ve brought me in as a sort of consultant on the political background. They really are exploring every dimension and every angle. It’s quite remarkable.’

    Lowering his tone he added confidentially: ‘We never dreamt of this sort of thing when we used to do those Sunday night discussions on the class nature of the state.’ And he moved on out of sight.

    That evening Sue and Jane shared a bottle of wine while they discussed this new piece of information. ‘It’s funny,’ said Jane, ‘but I was starting to get the impression that Stoddart wasn’t doing it all on her own. The first time I met her she was pretty flabby, but since then the questions have got much tougher and more direct, almost as though she knows more than she’s letting on. But if Steven is masterminding the whole thing from behind the scenes, then it starts to make sense. He was very cordial this afternoon, but with his record I wouldn’t trust him as far as I could throw him with a sack of coal round his neck.’

    Sue produced a piece of paper. ‘Let’s make a list of what we know and what we still need to know.

    ‘Start with you and me. We’re innocent.’

    ‘So’s little Miss CIA,’ added Jane.

    ‘And Mike’s telling the truth. In any case, Mike has his faults, but he’s not going to murder a Labour MP. It’s not his style. How about John?’

    ‘John couldn’t set a mouse-trap. He has no sense of anything practical. In any case, on Saturday nights he does his psychotherapy, right over in South London. He’s been going for years. He doesn’t like people knowing, which is why he was so cagey when he left the pub. He told me once in an unguarded moment and he’s been regretting it ever since.’

    ‘And I met Val Hawdon a couple of days ago. They seem to have dropped her completely. She seemed to think her vicar had put in a good word for her.’

    ‘Right. And Seamus O’Hara told me that they’d apparently sent round a couple of coppers to check out the pub where he always drinks on a Saturday, and they haven’t bothered him since then.’

    Sue frowned. ‘So Steven claims he’s a consultant. If he’s spending time on it, he’s doing more than telling the coppers that the Labour Party is more left-wing than the Tories. If he’s involved, he’s manipulating the whole thing.’

    ‘And it’s clear that he’s manipulating it towards me. After all, they seem to have lost interest in you now, haven’t they?’

    Sue nodded.

    ‘So what can his motives be?’ Jane went on. ‘Obviously it would help his reputation as Joe McCarthy’s true successor if he helped to mastermind the conviction of a leftie for murder. They could bring out my record from the sixties. He could dig that up quite easily.

    ‘But does he actually think I might be guilty? Of course, when you read some of his stuff about evil Trotskyist agitators, he seems to be living in a dream world. Remember that article he wrote about me after the picket. It’s like something out of Dostoevsky.

    ‘Yet whenever I actually speak to him face to face, he’s nice as pie. And on the day of the conference he actually asked me to meet him for a drink.’

    Jane paused. It was as though she were on the brink of an abyss. The wine was breaking down the barriers inside her skull which had stood for so long under the influence of tiredness and panic. Now everything was coming together.

    ‘Now why did he do that? I’ve been asking the wrong question. And it’s my own stupid fault.

    ‘I thought – hoped – imagined – that he wanted to sleep with me. I’ve been getting up in the morning, staring in the mirror at my wrinkles and my grey hair, and saying to myself: “Steven still wants to sleep with me”. And because I’ve been kidding myself like a mentally retarded eighteen-year‑old, I’ve missed the point completely. And that bastard Steven is clever enough to know I’d react like that! Damn him!’

    Jane thumped her fist on the arm of her chair, and continued.

    ‘What would have happened if I hadn’t driven out to Harlow? I’d have gone home. I might have watched television on my own. But generally the couple in the flat downstairs look in. Sometimes we go down to the pub. Sometimes we get a couple of bottles of wine in. Quite often I see Matilda from next door as well. Not exactly a riotous social life – but it is an alibi. I’d probably have been a bit grumpy with Stoddart, but as soon as she put the heat on, I’d have given her everybody’s name and phone number, and I’d have been off the list in half an hour.

    ‘Instead of that I ended up in a big pub in Harlow where nobody knew me. Why should anybody remember? I don’t take notes on strangers who turn up in the pub.

    ‘And because I was still wrapped up in love’s young dream about getting together with Steven again, I wouldn’t say who I was supposed to be meeting. Of course, if I’d said it was Steven he would simply have denied it. He’d have accused me of fantasising. And since he’s official political adviser to Stoddart, and I’m some menopausal trouble-maker with a record of picket-line violence, it’s not hard to see that he would have been believed rather than me.’

    Jane sipped her wine pensively.

    ‘So it looks very clearly as though it was Steven who set me up.’

    Sue asked: ‘Why would he want to do that?’

    Jane looked thoughtful. ‘He can’t have a grudge against me after all this time. I suppose I’m still hung up on how he feels about me. I’ve got to get rid of this teenage nonsense once and for all and think this through clear-headedly.’ For a few moments she sat silent, thinking.

    At last she spoke: ‘It’s obvious. I was looking at it wrong way up again, putting myself at the centre of the picture. If I can’t believe Steven still lusts after my decaying body, then I have to believe he’s on a crusade to hurt me.

    ‘It’s neither. He was just using me. I was convenient because I was there, and because he knows a little bit about me. But I wasn’t the main point of the exercise.

    ‘Steven wants to direct attention onto me because he wants to direct it away from somebody else. And obviously that somebody else has to be the real killer.’

    ‘So Steven knows who the real killer is.’

    ‘He does indeed.’

    *   *   *   *   *

    ‘The Summerson woman,’ said Steven Sadler, as he sat down in Rosemary Stoddart’s office, ‘knows that I’m working on the case. I just passed her in the corridor, and I had to tell her why I was here.’

    ‘Is that a problem?’

    ‘Not for me. I did ask you not to make it public that I’d been brought in as a consultant. But I imagine I’ll have to appear at the trial. So it has to come out some time.’

    ‘Trial,’ laughed Rosemary. ‘That’s a long way off. We haven’t got an arrest yet.’

    ‘We may be closer than you think,’ said Sadler. ‘We’ve eliminated quite a lot of suspects. Val Hawdon is out.’

    ‘And I’ve finally got a reply through the Foreign Office,’ said Rosemary. ‘They checked with Washington, and there’s definitely no suspicion attached to the Schwarz woman. In fact we were warned pretty firmly to leave her strictly alone. And Whitaker’s checked out John Thomson; he was seeing a therapist in South London. Of course, they’re very cagey about confidentiality, but we do seem to have a clear alibi.’

    ‘So,’ said Sadler, ‘that just leaves Sue Norman and Jane Summerson.

    ‘Now as far as Ms Norman is concerned, I’ve been making some enquiries with a couple of contacts in the local Labour Party. I’ve always kept up my Labour Party friends, you know; they can sometimes come in useful.

    ‘ It’s certainly true that she had a pathological hatred of Wicklow. She was the driving force of the whole deselection campaign; it would have faded away quite quickly but for her. After all, most people expect MPs to be corrupt sexist pigs, so they don’t get excited about it. Apparently she had some sort of an affair with Wicklow a few years back, so it’s the normal wounded woman syndrome.’

    ‘They can be killers,’ said Rosemary. ‘More people kill for sex than for politics.’

    ‘Too right,’ said Sadler, ‘which all goes to show how basically sensible most people are. But there’s an additional complication in the case of Ms Norman. She’s got a new boy‑friend.’

    ‘So?’ asked Rosemary.

    ‘He just happens to be the leading light of  the New Labour wing of the local party. The man who will probably take Wicklow’s place at the by-election. The sworn enemy of Ms Norman’s clique of leftie feminists. They’ve both tried to keep it very quiet, but you can’t stifle gossip in a Labour Party.’

    ‘Embarrassing for her,’ said Rosemary, ‘but I don’t see what difference it makes.’

    ‘Firstly,’ said Sadler, ‘I would think her life was quite complicated enough without getting involved in a murder. If she wanted to kill Wicklow for what he did to her, she’d have done it years ago, not now that Cupid’s arrow has struck again. She’s always said that what she wanted was to publicly humiliate Wicklow, and I believe her. It would be a much sweeter revenge than a murder she could never take credit for.

    ‘But secondly, and much more important, I fancy the reason Ms Norman has been so coy about her alibi is that she spent the Saturday night in question curled up with lover-boy. It would be a bit mortifying to admit it. But by the side of twenty years in the nick, what’s a bit of mortification. Mr Cobb – that’s lover-boy – will speak up before then. And as a pillar of New Labour respectability, very firm on law and order and family values, he’ll be quite a solid witness. I think we can forget Ms Norman.’

    ‘So what does that leave us with?’

    ‘It leaves us,’ said Sadler, ‘with Summerson.

    ‘Now I suppose I ought to own up. I did tell you I’d known Jane many years ago. Actually I knew her quite well. I think she rather fancied me, but she’s always been the sort to suffer from unrequited love.

    ‘Now I’ll be honest with you. Jane is a very talented woman. Very clever – at purely academic things. I’m sure she’s a brilliant lecturer. But she’s unstable. She gets very upset and carried away. Her best friend died in a fire in 1968. Now anyone would be upset by a thing like that; but Jane kept insisting it was a racist attack – her friend was black, a charming young woman – even though there was never any evidence. It took her years to get over it.

    ‘You saw the same thing on that picket line. I’m sure she didn’t intend to get involved in violence. But if something flares up, she just can’t help herself. She has to be in the middle of it.

    ‘First of all, she had the motive. She’s always hated Wicklow, ever since they had a brief affair back in  ’68. I heard rumours at the time, but now I’ve checked it out. She fancied him – in fact I think she fancied him more than she fancied me. They had a bit of a fling. A weekend together at a hotel in Wales. We could probably get the details. I fancy she’d crack up if you confronted her with that under cross-examination. She wanted to take it further, but of course he was an MP. He didn’t want a wild-eyed leftie student as a steady girl-friend. I think there was a lot of resentment there. To rub salt into the wounds, he wrote a very damaging piece in the  local press, which made Jane’s colleagues very hostile to her, and then rather tactlessly, it must be said, tried to chat her up on the day of the conference. Her outburst shows just how seriously she took it.

    ‘Secondly, she had the opportunity. She systematically refuses to give an adequate alibi, and when we check out what she did give us, it doesn’t stand up.

    ‘Thirdly, we know she’s a violent person. There was the incident on the picket line. And Kenge has told you of a number of other cases where she’s behaved in a violent and threatening way to her colleagues. And of course’ – Sadler gave Rosemary a knowing look – ‘she’s nearly fifty; she’s going through a difficult stage of life. Women often behave erratically during the menopause.

    ‘And finally, she’s quite capable of it. I don’t think a small woman like Sue Norman could have struck the blows. But Jane’s a pretty hefty lady – and she used to  be a cricketer. She’d know how to swing a bat. Most people wouldn’t have finished him off so quickly and so cleanly.

    ‘And she’s been seen practising swings with bats from that skip. That would be a nice bit of supplementary evidence in court.

    ‘Now I agree, none of those things on its own would be sufficient. But put them all together and they start to make quite a case. How exactly she did it I don’t know. She must have lured Wicklow to that gate under some pretext and then felled him. It’s the only possibility that fits the facts we have.

    ‘So,’ he concluded, ‘just keep leaning on her.’

    ‘She’s still being very stubborn about the alibi,’ said Rosemary.

    ‘She’s a stubborn lady,’ said Sadler; ‘all the more reason to keep questioning her till she cracks. If I know her, she’ll start fantasising. She’ll probably claim it as me she was going to meet at the Purple Heifer.’

    He laughed briefly and Rosemary giggled sympathetically.

    ‘Bring her in again. Throw Wicklow at her till she breaks down. And then charge her.’

    Rosemary nodded cheerfully.

    ‘And now,’ said Sadler, ‘since we seem to have reached some sort of turning‑point in this case, why don’t I take you out to dinner to celebrate? Go home and change. I’ll meet you at 8.30, at the same place we went to last time.’

    *   *   *   *   *

    As Rosemary dressed and put on her make-up, she gloated to Galore. ‘Two successes in one day. Things are looking up. I may even bring home a new friend to meet you later on tonight.’

    Galore mewed with pleasure, glad to see that his mistress had overcome the problems of the last few weeks.

    *   *   *   *   *

    While Rosemary and Steven were smiling at each other over a bottle of champagne and a candle-lit dinner, their intended victim emptied her wine-glass.

    ‘I’m going now, Sue,’ she said. ‘I’ve got a few things to sort out before I go to bed. I’ll call a taxi.’

    It was not a long journey, yet by the time she got home the effects of the wine were fading. But Jane was taking no chances. She needed a clear head and an articulate tongue for the job that lay ahead. She boiled the kettle and made a large cup of black coffee. As she drank it, lucidity seemed to force its way through the blocked arteries of her skull.

    Then she opened her desk drawer, and began to root through it. For a moment she feared that she would not find what she was looking for, that she had thrown it away or mislaid it among the huge piles of paper that congested her flat.

    But soon she found the object of her quest, a small piece of paper with a telephone number scrawled on it, and the rather ambiguous initials SS. When Steven had phoned her on the night of the conference, she had pressed 1471 and noted his number, ‘just in case’. ‘Just in case’ she muttered, ‘just in case I might be able to persuade him to  be overcome for lust with me; just in case we might fall in love again, like brainless teenagers.’

    The case that had now arisen was a rather different one. But the number would serve. She sipped her second cup of black coffee, and as she did so, began to make notes on a piece of paper. She had to get this right; a lot depended on it.

    After about quarter of an hour, she had a satisfactory message drafted. She read it over aloud, four, five, six times, until she was quite satisfied with the intonation.

    Then she picked up the phone and dialled Steven’s number.  As she had expected, she got an answering machine. ‘Mr Steven Sadler is not available. Please leave your message and number after the tone.’

    As the machine bleeped in her ear, she began to read into the speaker in a firm clear tone:

    ‘Hello Steven. This is Jane. I know what’s going on. I know you’re trying to frame me for Wicklow’s murder. I want to talk to you. Alone. Face to face. No police. Nobody else. You know things I don’t and I know things you don’t. We need to talk. But there are some things we both know. Remember Josie Wade … (She paused for a few seconds.) Remember Dave Drutt. Phone me back. You have my number. And make it soon.’