(7) Little Grey Cells

‘Officers of the Nottinghamshire Police Major Crimes Unit,’ Paul addressed the huddle. They stank of sweat. Of mud. Of fear. ‘Together we’ve taken down serial killers, cartels, terrorists.’ Some nervous chuckles. ‘Now, we face the worst that the East Midlands has to offer.’

He looked down the football pitch. ‘The Derbyshire Constabulary Homicide and Major Enquiry Team.’

Two weeks of secondment left before he was back in North Wales. Time for one last derby against Nottinghamshire Police’s noisy neighbours.

Notts MCU hadn’t beaten Derbyshire HMET since 2005, and it didn’t start well in 2009.

Pullings clean through, skins Brookes, pulls it back to Mason… two-nil Derbyshire!’ The commentator today a Chief Inspector from neutral Leicestershire. Paul pulled everyone in for another huddle, a team-talk, a rocket about how nobody beat Nottinghamshire four times. With five minutes of the first half to go he got the ball to make a statement about it.

Quinn gets it out wide, goes past Mason and sends in a cross… Willis gets up on the end of it… great header! Two-one, some hope for Nottinghamshire.’

‘Come on lads!’ Paul clapped them on, breathing hard, feeling distinctly out of shape and wishing he hadn’t skipped two weeks of his training routine before the Big Match.

Derbyshire had a record to keep up, and they laid siege to the Nottinghamshire goal for the second half. Paul was deeply grateful for the beardy weirdy who had joined MCU from B Division a few weeks back. ‘Sanders… big man, big save!’

Best goalie on the force.

With injury time looming, Paul threw everything and everyone forward. One goal to take it to extra time. The thought of penalties made him feel almost sick, but as a Welshman amongst Englishmen, maybe the curse wouldn’t affect him.

Quinn on the right against Mason again, giving him the same run-around he’s given him all afternoon… this could be Nottinghamshire’s last chance… Quinn sends in another cross aiming for Willis… ouch!’

Derbyshire’s keeper rushed out to punch the cross away and hit DC Willis in the face instead. Willis’ head snapped back and he went down like a sack of spuds. Brookes and Knowles both rushed forwards to pay the keeper back, Derbyshire’s defenders closed in to protect him, and it took five minutes for the referee to get everyone calmed down, point to the penalty spot, and show Brookes and Knowles yellow cards for rushing in. Somehow, Derbyshire’s goalie escaped with a booking as well.

Willis insisted on taking the penalty. Paul asked him his first name.

‘Tom.’

So far so good. ‘And where are you?’

‘I’m in a field. With people.’

Paul found DCI Dale, team manager for today, on the sidelines, and caught his eye. ‘Tom, who’s the Prime Minister?’

‘He’s on the telly a lot,’ Willis frowned. ‘Is it Jeremy Kyle?’

‘Yeah, you’re concussed,’ Paul told him, and he signalled Dale for a substitution.

Knowles lined up the penalty instead. ‘Don’t bloody miss,’ Brookes breathed behind Paul as Knowles took his run-up, sent the Derbyshire goalie the wrong way, and slammed the ball home.

Two all and extra time.

If they could just cling on for penalties…

That thought lasted for the five minutes it took Brookes to go clattering into Derbyshire’s centre forward in the area. He went down screaming and yelling that his ankle was broken, although Paul noted sourly that he recovered miraculously as soon as the referee gave the penalty. Too late for DC Brookes. His second yellow card, the referee showed him red, and he left the field turning the air a very bright blue.

Most of Paul’s team watched Derbyshire’s centre forward tee up his penalty from behind their fingers, but Paul forced himself to look. Sanders did star-jumps in goal, swayed his hips from side to side, and generally made a spectacle of himself as the forward ran up…

What a save!’ the commentator screamed. Sanders scrabbled to pick the ball up before Derbyshire could try again; Paul breathed out enormously.

Then the ball came to him on the halfway line. Fuck this, I’ve had enough, he thought. He ran straight past the first midfielder, squeezed between two defenders and managed to steer the ball round a despairing lunge from the last, the crowd roared, Derbyshire’s goalie came out with his arms outspread and Paul saw it all perfectly – it was like the trajectory was a little red line in front of him. He scooped the ball up with his foot, sailed it over the keeper’s head, and bounced it into the goal.

The Nottinghamshire crowd went wild. Derbyshire’s players sank to their knees, exhausted and spent. Paul managed half a celebratory run down the crowd line before disappearing beneath a mob-hug of mud-covered teammates.

In two weeks he’d be back in North Wales, but no one cared just now. He’d given Nottinghamshire MCU the victory over their most hated enemies. They’d forgive him anything.

 

Since the MCU football team manager was also Paul’s boss, he got the following day off as well to recuperate. There were wary stares his way when he clocked back in on Monday.

‘It’s because you’re the MCU Duty Inspector,’ DS Sanders explained to him when he asked. ‘Everyone knows shit only ever goes down when you’re the Duty DI.’

‘Mate of mine’s the Neighbourhood Sergeant out in Long Eaton,’ added DC Willis. ‘He almost cried with relief when I mentioned that you were going back to Wales in a couple of weeks. Said it had been such a nice quiet area before you came along…’

‘Superstitious much?’ Paul asked, sipping his coffee. A loud rapping came from the direction of DCI Dale’s office. Dale was standing at his window, beckoning Paul over with one finger. Ignoring the jeers about how much trouble he was in, Paul made his way over.

‘Hiya Paul have a seat won’t you?’ Dale rattled off, followed by his customary hacking cough. A couple more capillaries seemed to have burst since Saturday’s big match.

There was a reason the DCI, back up to forty a day now since he gave up giving up, was the team manager these days. He pulled a small brown envelope out of the drawer of his desk and slid it across to Paul. ‘Got something for youse,’ he smiled. Paul picked it up and opened it with his thumb. He could tell what it was from the shape, from the feel. A smile started to grow. Acting DI no longer.

Inspector/Arolygydd Paul Quinn. A new file photo, and a new Force Identification Number, 509.

Promotion confirmed.

Plain old Inspector Quinn for now though. After two years in Nottingham, North Wales still didn’t have a space for a Detective Inspector, not until one retired in March next. So Paul would be back in uniform for the first time in ten years when he returned home to Cymru, for a few months at least.

Dale was holding out his hand. Paul shook it. ‘Took your lot far too fucking long, they should have given you that years ago,’ Dale said. ‘But I’m not complaining. Got two good years out of youse.’

His biggest headache, he explained, would be replacing Paul. They’d need to schedule a discussion about those Sergeants who had passed the National Inspectors’ Exam for sometime in the next two weeks, talk about who would get the promotion.

Paul made his way across the MCU3 incident room from Dale’s office to his own, made a show of holding the new warrant card up and got a small cheer for his trouble. As he reached for the door to the Inspectors’ Office, his phone rang.

A deathly hush fell across the incident room as he answered.

After thirty seconds, Paul rapped on the Inspectors’ Office window and beckoned Dale across. ‘Murder, sir, B Division area, north of Newark…’

He heard DC Willis’ grumble of ‘See? I bloody knew it,’ before Dale closed the door.

 

‘I think I went there once with the wife and kids,’ DC Knowles said. ‘It was a nice day out, lovely ice cream in the shop. They had a lovely garden. I didn’t realise anyone still lived there.’

‘Most of the aristocracy still live in their old houses,’ Paul said. ‘Opening them up to the public was a money-spinning venture for a lot of them in the 60s and 70s.’

Needless to say the aristos could spot a money-maker when they saw one. There was a reason they’d stayed on top for so long.

Longbeck House. DC Knowles couldn’t say too much about it, other than he thought it was built in the Eighteenth Century, and the owners were the Earls of Errinby, wherever that might be.

Brookes, in the back, asked what the family had done for its money. Knowles didn’t know. Paul suspected that the Earls had become somewhat coy about the source of their money when they opened Longbeck House to the public, because the 60s and 70s were when most people realised that the slave trade was a Bad Thing.

A house built on the blood of his ancestors. Atrocities that modern Britain would prefer to quietly and awkwardly forget.

The two-car convoy rushed down the drive of the house scattering dust and pebbles, blue lights flashing. It was a forty minute drive from Nottingham, and the body was getting colder all the while. The first hour after investigators arrived at a murder scene was the Golden Hour, when the enquiry could be made or broken, and the sooner it started, the better. Whilst DCI Dale got the full team together, Paul’s group had raced ahead to get everything going.

Longbeck House was a grand marble building, with colonnades around the main entrance, and big French windows on the ground floor. There was a water feature in the middle of the drive; two angels entwined with a fountain spewing out between them. Concentric circles of Bentleys, Aston Martins, Porsches, Jaguars were parked around it, glittering in the August sun.

And there, out in front of the steps leading up to the main entrance, sat two rusty Vauxhall Astras in police Battenberg colours. Paul’s pair of dirty unmarked Mondeos were hardly adding anything.

‘Heads up, top brass,’ Knowles nodded at the steps. The house had been evacuated, of course, and a hundred or more of the nobility were milling around in front of one wing of the house, some still clutching champagne, in their top hats and tails. One of them, a handsome-looking man in his early thirties, was speaking to a man in a police dress uniform with a thick line of silver braid on his cap.

‘Oh shit,’ Paul grumbled as Knowles parked up. ‘Who’s the CO of B Division again?’

‘Er… that guy,’ Knowles said.

‘Thanks, Knowlesy. It’s almost like you’re a detective…’ Paul retorted. He had a quick two-minute conference with DS Sanders from the other car, and then accepted his fate and went to speak to the Chief Superintendent, whose name he didn’t know. Nice and unhelpful of the man to show up.

‘Sir, I’m DI Quinn, with the Major Crimes Unit. DCI Dale is following on and will be here shortly,’ he said.

‘Ah, Quinn, good. Good to see you,’ said the Chief Super, sounding far too cut-glass and urbane for Paul’s liking. He indicated the man to whom he was speaking, who was wearing what Paul took to be some kind of Army ceremonial uniform – a scarlet dinner jacket festooned with lace and medals, crowns on either shoulder. Paul thought that made the man a Major. ‘This is the Earl of Errinby.’

‘Sir,’ Paul nodded at him curtly.

‘My lord.’

‘I beg your pardon?’

‘It is correct,’ said the Earl, ‘For you to address me as “My lord.”’

‘I see,’ Paul said. ‘Could I have your name please, sir?’

‘Excuse me? Why is that necessary?’

‘For our records sir, as you’re the property owner. We can’t use your title; we have to have your legal name.’

‘Kennington. Edward Kennington. I shall remind you again, Inspector, that I am correctly addressed as “My lord.”’

Paul turned to the Chief Superintendent. ‘Control hasn’t given me any details on the victim, sir, just that a body had been found. Is there an identification?’

The Chief Superintendent nodded at Kennington, who cleared his throat. Not a trace of emotion showed on the Earl’s face as he spoke. ‘Her name is Sarah, Countess of Errinby, and at eleven o’clock this morning she became my wife.’

‘I see,’ said Paul, suddenly unsure of himself. Kennington’s manner was so cold and detached he felt almost awkward saying that he was sorry for the man’s loss. ‘Can I have a word, sir?’ he asked the Chief Superintendent, to find a way out.

Taking the man to task for speaking to the victim’s husband ahead of MCU would be DCI Dale’s job – a Detective Chief Inspector could assert himself against a Chief Superintendent in a way that a mere Detective Inspector could not. Paul simply asked why he had come out. Not very often a Division Commander showed himself at a murder scene…

‘Lord Errinby is a member of the Forester’s Club,’ the Chief Superintendent elaborated, as though that explained everything.

‘I’m sorry sir, is that a golf club?’ Paul asked. The Chief Super huffed, looking impatient.

‘It’s a local political organisation, established in 1765 to protect Tory interests in the local area,’ he explained shortly.

‘I’m really not sure I follow you, sir,’ Paul said, unable to keep the surprise off his face. Many of the police still voted Conservative, of course, but doing any favours for any politician or party was seen as beyond disgusting by most officers.

‘Two of their members sit on our Police Authority, Quinn,’ the Chief Super said, starting to sound snappy. ‘I am here, to ensure that the Earl’s friends are aware that we are doing everything in our power to bring this murderer to justice.’

With an effort, Paul managed not to roll his eyes. Evidently someone fancied themselves a Tory councillor when they retired.

‘Ok, sir, we appreciate you showing a presence. From MCU’s perspective, it would be easier if you concentrated on ensuring access to the scene for forensics and the home officer pathologist. It’ll create less confusion if our own officers interview the witnesses.’

‘Inspector –’

‘Thank you for your help, sir,’ Paul said, and walked off before the Chief Super could call him back. If he didn’t want to be doing the job of a Sergeant, he shouldn’t have shown up to do a Sergeant’s job. Let him complain to the Assistant Chief Constables, see what they thought about a uniformed officer interfering in a murder enquiry.

Sanders had the others together by the cars, awaiting the results of Paul’s chat with the top brass.

‘Well?’

‘I think he’ll need a minder till the DCI can get here and tell him to piss off,’ Paul said. ‘Henshaw, that’s you.’ DC Henshaw looked thrilled. ‘The victim is Sarah Kennington. This is her wedding reception, from what I can gather.’  A few raised eyebrows at that. ‘Sanders, Knowles, Brookes, start speaking to the guests, find out their movements in the half-hour before the 999 call was made. No one leaves until you speak to them. Willis, Lewin; with me, we’ll view the body.’

 

Lady Kennington had been younger than her husband. Paul placed her in her late twenties. She’d been beautiful when she was alive, her body was fit and toned. Paul could see her galloping around her family’s fields on a stallion, playing polo, full of zest for the life she’d been granted.

In death her face was red and purple, her eyes bloodshot, some blood on her chin from where she’d bitten her tongue. There was a clear line on her neck where her naturally pale skin ended, and the lividity began. She had been left on the floor of what Paul thought was some kind of drawing room on the first floor of the house’s East Wing. The main ballroom was just below, and at the time it had been filled with guests, all awaiting the bride’s arrival at her wedding feast. Her wedding train had been draped over an armchair that probably predated the Vikings, and probably cost more than five years of an Inspector’s salary.

‘Ok, Lewin,’ he said. ‘What three things am I looking for here?’

He, Lewin and Willis all wore the white paper suits, with face masks and goggles. It only took one stray eyelash to contaminate a crime scene. Trainee DC Lewin, still MCU’s youngest and newest, cast her eyes around the room before answering.

‘Is this the primary crime scene or a body dump? Routes of ingress and egress? Potential for witnesses?’

Willis, Lewin’s training officer, gave one nod of approval. Paul went on.

‘First question?’

‘Er…’ Lewin looked around again, less certain this time. Willis subtly pointed at the window with his pen. ‘Was the window open or shut when the body was found?’

Paul nodded. ‘Very good. Next?’

‘Why… why was the bride here?’ Lewin asked. Paul was sure she was frowning. He could hear it in her voice, but behind the goggles and mask it was hard to tell.

He pointed to the train of her wedding dress. ‘De-training before the meal, most likely.’

‘What’s missing?’ Willis asked, letting Paul know that he was running at something close to his best. He’d been concerned after the concussion at the football match, but Willis had insisted on coming back in with the rest of them. Paul had read somewhere that the residual effects of a concussion could last for weeks – he’d taken five days to feel right that time he’d taken a whack on the head, and it had only been a minor one. But he had to trust Willis to be sensible about his own health.

This time Lewin looked from the outside in, like she’d been trained to do.

‘No murder weapon,’ she said, after a minute.

‘No,’ Paul agreed. ‘So the killer took it with him.’

‘Third question?’ Willis asked Lewin, whilst Paul knelt down on one knee by Sarah’s neck and examined the ligature mark. Not that he was a Home Office Pathologist, but he knew enough about ligature marks to tell that whatever had left this one had been quite wide. Like a belt, maybe.

Lewin said that the next thing they needed to know was who knew where Sarah would have been, and when. Paul wondered if the killer had used his own belt. Something totally innocuous, something no traffic cop on a chance stop would look once at, let alone twice.

 

‘Fucking hell Quinn,’ Chief Inspector Dale shook his head and rolled the Qu at the start of Quinn. ‘Youse must be the only bastard on the force who could wind up with a fucking country house murder mystery. Has anyone talked to the butler yet?’

‘I’ll tell DS Sanders to make it an operational priority,’ Paul sparred back. Dale was right about one thing, this was going to do nothing for the theory that Paul was cursed.

They stood on top of the stairs leading to the grand entrance, enduring surly looks from all the various Lord and Lady Hyphenated-Surnames who had to congregate on the front lawn, angry that they could neither re-enter Longbeck House until the police had declared it open, nor leave until they’d been questioned. The oily Chief Superintendent from B Division hadn’t liked that, had asked Paul if that was really necessary in a tone that suggested that he, the Chief Super, was absolutely convinced that it wasn’t. Paul had stood his ground, and DCI Dale had arrived in time to respectfully but firmly remind the Chief Super that operational decisions relating to Operation Linear were reserved exclusively to the Major Crimes Unit.

‘If DI Quinn says it’s necessary, sir, it’s necessary.’

Dale had then introduced himself to Lord Kennington, who seemed to be accompanied by a younger man in the same uniform, with fewer medals and the rank insignia of a police Chief Inspector on his shoulders. Assuming that crowns outranked pips in the Army as well, that probably made him a Captain. Paul judged from the strong family resemblance that he was the Earl’s younger brother.

‘Don’t know if I’m supposed to call forensics or fucking Poirot,’ Dale grumbled loudly, earning a couple of scandalous looks from the upper crust.

‘What did the Earl say?’ Paul asked.

‘He can’t think of anyone he knows who might hurt his wife, is outraged that we’re treating his guests like suspects, and believes we’re looking for an opportunistic thief.’

‘That doesn’t seem likely,’ Paul shook his head.

‘Go on?’

Paul related the conclusions he’d reached from his initial recce of the body. ‘In summary, sir, we can discount an opportunist thief on the following grounds: one, the remoteness of the property; two, the fact that nothing was actually taken; three, the apparent murder weapon; four, the lack of a struggle indicating that the victim was taken by surprise, with no time to raise the alarm.’

‘It all looks quite slick and well-planned,’ Dale agreed. ‘So, this means that the good lord’s guests can’t go anywhere?’

‘We need to account for the whereabouts of everyone at the house from Sarah leaving the wedding party to her body being found,’ Paul confirmed. ‘It would also be a good idea to ask all the male guests to hand over their belts for forensic testing. Or any suspenders. Or ties.’

Dale’s expression made it abundantly clear what he thought the chances of that were. They agreed they would also need to make a list of anyone who refused.

‘This doesn’t look like a burglary gone wrong, sir, but I don’t think we can discount an intruder entirely,’ Paul said. ‘It was Sarah’s maid of honour who found the body, she said that the window was open in the room. It’s entirely possible that the attacker gained access that way, if he or she knew where Sarah was likely to be alone, and when.’

‘You think someone paid for her to be killed?’

‘You said it yourself sir, this was slick and well-planned, seems like a professional job. And it’s not like that lot,’ and Paul nodded at the cream of Britain’s aristocracy, ‘Ever do anything that they can pay someone else to do for them. I’m just not sure where the Duke of North South Middleton would find a hitman. They don’t exactly move in the same circles.’

Dale frowned at the Kennington brothers, standing side by side. James was between Edward and the rest of the crowd and seemed to be dealing with any questions. Beyond knuckles whitening around the stem of the champagne flute he gripped, Paul could see no sign of a reaction in the Earl of Errinby.

Dale cleared his throat with his usual nuclear-force coughing. ‘They’d know where to find a killer or two.’

He was still looking at the Kennington brothers. It took Paul a moment to process what he meant, but Dale, the former Royal Military Police Sergeant, would have clocked the Army uniforms immediately. ‘Infantry regiment, that,’ Dale went on lightly. ‘They’re only trained to do one thing. And no one gives them any training on how not to do it when they leave.’

 

Two hundred guests. Fifty-odd staff. Traffic cameras on five access roads. However many former soldiers that Edward and James Kennington had served with during their time in the Army – a number that would probably run into the high hundreds at the very least.

It was a mammoth task, and it was far too much for MCU3’s twenty-odd detectives to begin to tackle. Dale begged, borrowed, and stole fifteen more from the other MCU teams, and the Chief Super from B Division jumped at the chance to second a dozen more of his own officers, then threw another hissy fit at the thought that they might question anyone important. Paul placed them all on CCTV review.

All the same, they were working through the night, grabbing three- or four- hours’ kip in sleeping bags spread around the Newark CID office.

MCU3 had three Detective Inspectors to support its DCI – Paul, Adam Turner, and Charlie Dennis. Charlie’s team got the job of tracing the movements of every guest and wedding staffer, and it was fair to say that the guests were not pleased to be rung up at dark o’clock in the morning and asked to account for their movements during the wedding. Every time Paul walked past them he could hear outraged upper-crust hissing and spitting down the phone.

Occasional ironic calls of ‘shot!’ that seemed to coincide with the phrase ‘Treating me like a common criminal,’ being snapped from the other end of the phone.

Paul’s own team had a mountain of files sent over by the Royal Military Police. DCI Dale still had good contacts there from his own days in the service, so getting the Redcaps’ cooperation had not been the problem.

No, the problem was the sheer volume of paperwork, representing all the officers and men of the Kenningtons’ Regiment during their time in the Army.

‘If Kennington was a Major when he left, he never commanded anything more than a company, so focus on soldiers under his direct command. If his brother’s a Captain now, then he’s only ever been a company XO at most, so same thing,’ Dale suggested when the boxes first started being carted in. ‘It’d have to be someone they knew they could trust, so probably an NCO, and if they knew he’d kill for money his service record can’t have been that great, so if he did make rank he wouldn’t have gotten very high. Corporal at most.’

Taking Dale’s suggestions on board, they prioritised Lance Corporals and Corporals who had served in a Platoon commanded by either Kennington brother. In their combined years of service, that was about twenty five people. That was much more manageable than however many hundreds of soldiers had passed through their Regiment since 1999.

It was a very long night, all the same.

Running on fumes and over-brewed coffee, they staggered and slumped into the rows of uncomfortable plastic chairs that had been laid out in Newark Police Station’s main briefing room. The civilian staff had wheeled in three whiteboards and placed photos of Sarah, Edward and James Kennington on them – there were also a couple of maps of Longbeck House and its surroundings, and a sketch of the room where Sarah’s body had been found. No crime scene photos as yet – Nottinghamshire’s crime scene photographers hadn’t yet upgraded to digital cameras, so they were still awaiting developing.

The piece of paper with ‘Operation Linear,’ on it had even been laminated.

Strictly speaking, they should all have stood up when Dale entered the room, but everyone was too tired, and he didn’t look like he’d noticed.

‘Ok, we’ve got the preliminary findings of the Home Office pathologist,’ he said when he’d finished the pleasantries. ‘Sarah Kennington was strangled with a ligature, between one and one-half inch in width. Bruising at the back of her neck indicates it had some kind of metal buckle which was used to hold it tight, so DI Quinn’s initial assessment that a belt was used looks pretty accurate. There were no defensive wounds sustained, but Sarah did have black fibres trapped under her fingernails. The pathologist believes that Sarah was attacked from behind, taken by surprise, and attempted to scratch her attacker’s arms. Her attacker was wearing some kind of long-sleeved top, and she got some of the fibres from it lodged under her nails. Forensic are still analysing them.

‘Time of death is between three and five yesterday afternoon. With the first Triple Nine call being placed at three forty seven, we’ve got roughly a forty seven minute window for the attack to take place.’

Charlie Dennis’ turn next. His yawn was enormous as he heaved himself to the front. Paul was tired, but nowhere near as bad as Charlie. Jesus, he isn’t ten years older than me. Paul told himself that Charlie had two kids and a third on the way. That was it, definitely.

‘Based on the timeline of Sarah’s movements, it seems reasonable to assume that she was killed at around three twenty p.m.,’ Charlie said. ‘This being shortly after she’d removed her wedding train. She had gone to the upstairs drawing room with her maid of honour, Sophia Goodley-Turner – that’s the Viscountess of Billingsby to us plebs – at three to remove her train, but asked Goodley-Turner for ten minutes alone once the train was removed.’

‘Boss, question,’ DC Brookes raised his hand. ‘Could Sarah wanting time alone have been expected?’

‘Sarah indicated to Goodley-Turner that the purpose of the time alone was to change her underwear for her wedding night,’ Charlie replied. ‘Insofar as we can tell, Goodley-Turner wasn’t expected back down without Sarah, but an intruder could have overheard their conversation and decided to wait for Sarah to be alone.’

‘In which case, the fact that Sarah was still dressed would say that the attack happened almost immediately,’ one of the Detective Sergeants suggested.

‘And that the killer may have initially expected to have to kill two women, not one,’ DC Henshaw added.

‘Plans change,’ DCI Dale said. ‘The killer took advantage of the more favourable circumstances. But the fact that he was comfortable controlling a situation with two women… he had to know exactly what he was doing.’

‘He had training,’ Paul said.

‘Come to you in a minute, DI Quinn,’ Dale acknowledged. ‘Charlie?’

‘The Kennington brothers were both in the main hall of Longbeck House, at the wedding party’s table, from just before three p.m. until around three forty, when they began to search for Sarah,’ said Charlie. ‘Plenty of witnesses confirmed that. The location of other guests and staff isn’t entirely nailed down yet, still chasing a few confirmatory alibis – nine guests were alleged to be having sexual encounters during the murder timeframe, and not everyone involved in those has wanted to be forthcoming as some of them were married. Some staff were running errands and were alone for five or ten minutes, so we’re trying to confirm that those errands were completed to rule out any possible involvement. But it looks like no one in the house was responsible.’

‘So we’re definitely –’ Dale broke off for a yawn, which proceeded to travel around the room. ‘–starting to move in the direction of an intruder. One who knew Sarah Kennington’s likely movements.’

‘Wait,’ said DC Knowles. ‘Nine guests were having sexual encounters?’

‘Yes.’

‘Nine’s an odd number.’

‘DS Sanders, if you wouldn’t mind finding time to go through the birds and the bees and the bees with DC Knowles after this briefing,’ Dale smiled. Paul noted Charlie Dennis frowning.

‘Actually, sir, there is something I need to discuss with you that came up during our enquiries after the briefing.’

‘Ok, catch me after. Paul,’ Dale nodded at Paul.

‘So far we’ve gone through about forty former soldiers who served with one or both Kenningtons. We’ve prioritised men who served in their platoons at the rank of Lance Corporal or Corporal, looking for soldiers with bad conduct charges that prevented further promotion but who might have ties of loyalty to either brother. Four stood out.’

Paul had made sure photos of each were placed on the board before the briefing, and he pointed to each one in turn.

‘Former Lance Corporal Ben Mallory, served in James Kennington’s platoon during the invasion of Iraq, was promoted by James to Corporal in 2004 but demoted in 2005 following insubordinate comments to a senior officer. Mallory joined Greater Manchester Police in 2007, and we’re waiting for confirmation that he was on shift at the time of the murder.

‘Former Corporal Kevin Grimes, served under Edward Kennington in Sierra Leone, then under James after Edward was promoted. Grimes left the Army in 2006 suffering from severe post-traumatic stress disorder, has no last-known address, and last appears on any system two months ago in Leeds, where he seems to be sleeping rough and has an alcohol addiction.

‘Former Corporal Evan Butler, served under Edward Kennington in Iraq in 2003 and 2004 as a Lance Corporal. When Edward was promoted and James assumed command of his platoon, Butler was promoted to full Corporal, but was denied the chance at further promotion to Sergeantcy after brawling with a Corporal from another battalion in a nightclub. Butler also served under James in Helmand Province in 2007, and left the Army in 2008. He seems to be living with his sister in Leicester and earning cash in hand as a casual bouncer at local clubs and pubs.

‘Former Lance Corporal Joe Wellings, again served with Edward Kennington in Sierra Leone and Iraq, after which he was promoted to Corporal. In 2004, he was arrested by the RMP and charged with ABH against his wife. He was sentenced to four years, served two, and resumed Army service at the rank of Private under James Kennington in Helmand Province in 2007. James promoted him to Lance Corporal. He also left the Army in 2008 and now lives in Birmingham, where West Midlands Police intelligence suggests that he’s become a low-level enforcer for a local organised crime group.

‘Tracing, interviewing, and eliminating all four men is a priority.’

‘All right, thanks Paul. Adam.’ Paul sat down and DI Turner replaced him. Turner had been given charge of the CCTV trawl and didn’t look happy about this. Paul wasn’t too surprised. Turner rarely looked happy about anything.

He was fighting hard to stay awake, and missed completely the comment by Turner that set Henshaw and Willis scrambling through one of the files. Paul only became aware of the excitement from the rustling of paper behind him.

‘Something to add, Detective Constable Willis?’

‘One moment sir…’

‘What was the reg of that Astra again, sir?’ Henshaw asked, not looking up, tearing through another one of the files.

‘HG03 JFT,’ Turner said, in a tone that indicated he didn’t have too much patience remaining.

‘That mean something?’ Dale asked.

‘Hang on… got it!’ Henshaw pulled out a piece of paper and poked it with her finger. ‘DVLA lists Evan Butler’s sister as the owner of a blue Vauxhall Astra, registration HG03 JFT.’

Turner had added two photos to the board, Paul realised, showing the road leading past Longbeck House. One showing a blue Astra heading towards the house, the other showing it heading away again.

‘Paul, get onto Leicestershire, have them pick Butler up for us,’ Dale ordered. ‘Knowlesy, get his phone records. Henshaw, full financial checks. Brookesy, full checks on both Kennington brothers. Jaffrey, get onto the Royal Military Police…’

Paul leaned back in his chair and found DC Willis and TDC Lewin sitting together. Willis had been assigned as Family Liaison Officer, because he was also training Lewin, and the Family Liaison Officer was one of the most important roles in any murder enquiry. ‘Tom, get back over to Longbeck House and speak to both Kenningtons. Find out as much as you can about their relationship with Evan Butler.’

The briefing room was humming and fizzing with energy. Everyone was still knackered, no one had had any more sleep, but they’d caught a break. The adrenalin boost was instant.

 

The Leicestershire Police Force transferred Evan Butler into Nottinghamshire’s custody two hours later. Dale made some more quick decisions – Charlie Dennis’ team to go to Leicester to search Butler’s sister’s property, Adam Turner’s team to conduct the interviews of Butler, and Paul’s team to continue trying to establish a link between Butler and either Kennington brother.

Edward Kennington, as befitted the Earl of Errinby, banked with Coutts, just like the Queen. James, as the second son of an Earl, did not apparently get to keep his money safe with the Royal Family and instead relied on something called Harrods Private Bank.

Which was a cut still far, far above Paul’s current account with HSBC. And his savings account with Barclays. And his ISA with Howard from the Halifax.

All three of which would have cooperated pretty quickly with a police request for access to his banking records. Not so the private banks of the Kenningtons – Paul could hear Henshaw, Brookes and DS Sanders arguing with them, still going after nearly two hours.

Henshaw’s check on Butler’s finances had shown that he’d stopped withdrawing cash two weeks previously, and hadn’t paid for anything except standing direct debits electronically since then. That was a classic spending pattern of people who’d just received a lot of cash in hand. They were well past the threshold test for an arrest of Evan Butler. But apparently that wasn’t enough to get access to either Kennington brother’s finances without a court order.

Two DCs from Adam Turner’s team handled the initial interview, which had been planned as more of an informal chat to buy time for the search teams to turn up some evidence. That plan fell apart when Butler responded to being asked to state his date of birth for the tape by reciting his name and National Insurance Number.

It shattered into pieces when he responded to being asked if he’d like a water bottle or a packet of crisps before they started in the same way.

‘Jesus Christ,’ Paul shook his head in the observation room. He, Dale and Turner had all squeezed in together. Turner smelled strongly of bacon crisps.

‘He’s been trained to resist interrogation, remember?’ Dale said. ‘Drawing on that, I reckon.’

‘He’s not in bloody Afghanistan and he hasn’t been captured by the fucking Taliban,’ Paul growled. ‘Does he know that might harm his defence?’

‘He’s probably thinking that he can argue that he was following his interrogation training,’ Dale said. ‘Everyone likes soldiers right now.’ The DCI’s phone started buzzing. ‘Excuse me. It’s Charlie.’

He left to take Charlie’s call. The silence between Paul and Turner quickly got uncomfortable.

‘He’s a hard bastard, that one. We won’t crack him,’ Turner said confidently. Paul rolled his eyes. Of course, Turner was an Army groupie. There were plenty of them in the police, who viewed soldiers as some kind of apex predators, and wanted their approval, some sort of acknowledgement that they’d have been War Heroes too, if only they’d had the chance.

Most of them weren’t terribly good police officers.

Dale stuck his head back through the observation booth door. ‘Charlie’s team found a large sum of cash in Butler’s shoebox. They reckon there might be a hundred grand in it. They also found a burner phone with a single contact on it. Multiple calls and texts between them. The last one, sent at three thirty yesterday, was apparently “Job done.”’

Paul ordered Knowles to pull location data for both Butler’s burner phone, and the one it had been calling.

‘Henshaw, Brookes, we’re looking for a single large withdrawal, on the order of a hundred K, just over two weeks ago. See if either bank is willing to confirm that.’

‘Boss!’ Knowles called from his desk.

‘That was quick.’

‘Not the location data, boss, the mobile service providers are still working on it. This is Sarah Kennington’s mobile phone history. I was looking at it just now, and, well…’

Knowles passed Paul two wads of paper stapled together. One was Sarah’s call history. It showed a lot of calls to Edward Kennington’s mobile phone.

It also showed a lot of calls to James’.

The second wad was the text history. Knowles had started highlighting texts to Edward in green and James in yellow. Paul read the last text Sarah Kennington had sent to her future brother in law.

I ache for your hands to touch me again, but it can never be. I will not cancel the wedding. The scandal would destroy us all.

James had replied You will reconsider, or you will leave me with no choice.

Paul showed the texts to Dale. ‘Ok Paul, get across to Longbeck House and bring James Kennington in.’

 

Longbeck House was sufficiently big that DC Tom Willis and TDC Sophie Lewin had managed to find a quiet room away from either Kennington and their staff to compare notes from their questioning. It overlooked the main entrance and driveway, giving them a lovely view of the two crime scene vans that looked to have deliberately parked up to be as visible and take up as much space as possible.

The Earl of Errinby had irritated everybody, it seemed.

‘Edward barely seem to remember Corporal Butler,’ said Willis. ‘Beyond that he drank too much, and more after they went into Iraq.’

‘Can you blame him?’

‘Not really,’ Willis shrugged. ‘What about James?’

‘Full of his praises. A good man, a good soldier, damned shame he couldn’t get a Sergeantcy, damned shame he left the service,’ Lewin made her voice as deep, taut, and cut-glass as possible. Willis chuckled. His phone rang.

‘DC Willis… yes, boss. Understood. Do you want us to… all right, boss. Fair enough. I’ll let the on-guard uniforms know.’

Lewin raised her eyebrows at him. ‘DI Quinn just called. Text messages suggest that James and Sarah Kennington were sleeping together. Sarah tried to break it off the night before the wedding, at which point James became threatening.’

‘Do they want us to arrest him?’

‘No, wait for the DI and DS Sanders. With his military training, James could be dangerous. The DI wants to wait for more numbers.’

‘Makes sense,’ Lewin shrugged. She was happy enough to sit back and wait for the cavalry, although the idea seemed to be setting Willis’ teeth on edge. She guessed that he probably liked the idea of a punch-up a little too much, especially with that recent concussion that she didn’t think he taking anything like enough care of.

From downstairs, there was an enraged shout, and then what sounded like a clash of metal on metal.

‘What the hell…’

 

They weren’t in enough of a rush for the blues and twos, but Sanders pushed it anyway, a steady fifteen miles an hour over the limit on the main trunk roads and overtaking lorries whenever possible. This earned him an angry flash from one when he misjudged how much room he had and forced the driver to brake to let him back in.

Wanker!’ he called back over his shoulder. That was the point at which Paul grabbed the fuck-me handle. He was grateful when his phone rang for the distraction it created.

‘DI Quinn.’

‘Anything interesting?’ Sander asked when he’d hung up.

Very,’ Paul said. ‘Knowlsey and Henshaw finally got the banks to disclose some details of the Kenningtons’ financial –’

2561 to Charlie-Mike, status zero status zero at my location! Officer down, two suspects both armed and dangerous!’

‘Jesus,’ Sanders shook his head. ‘That sounds bad.’

Received 2561,’ the control room replied. ‘Charlie-Mike to all callsigns in the Newark area, officer reporting status zero at Longbeck House. Two suspects, armed and dangerous…’

Shit!’

Sanders hit the gas properly, pedal to the metal. Paul flipped the siren on and reached into the footwell behind the front seats for the magnetic blue light.

‘I’ll call Willis and Lewin!’

Both phones rang and went to voicemail. Paul tried the radio next, and got no answer. Good chance both of them had left them in their car, along with their batons and pepper-spray. Most detectives did, especially if they weren’t expecting trouble.

Two IC-One males, one’s got a sword, the other one’s got some kind of… large… ball-hammer,’ said the radio.

‘What the hell is going on there?’ Sanders asked.

‘No fucking idea,’ Paul shook his head and reached for the radio to let the control room know they were responding and would be there in eight minutes.

Control replied to say that an Armed Response Vehicle had been sent and would arrive in ten minutes. Paul asked if they had any contact with DC Willis or TDC Lewin. Control hadn’t, but would keep trying. Paul grabbed the fuck-me handle tighter, jaw tensed, trying not to think what was happening, or had happened already, to Willis and Lewin.

A sudden thought hit him that Lewin reminded him a lot of how his sister might have been if she’d still been alive, and he squashed it down hard.

Their Mondeo roared down the driveway to Longbeck House and swung to a stop next to the Crime Scene vans in a spray of pebbles. Paul ran back to the boot for his body armour and gear, clipped his radio into its holder and ran towards the house trying to zip up the armour and rack his baton at the same time. He could hear angry roars and frantic shouting coming from the main entrance.

James Kennington had a sword. He swung it at two uniformed officers as Paul ran through the door; they both ducked out of the way, batons in the first strike position at their shoulders but neither seeming to want to find out just how stab-proof their stab-proof vests actually were.

Paul assessed – he was in the younger Kennington’s blindspot. He armed his Captor spray, and took two big strides towards the Earl’s brother. ‘Mr Kennington!’

James whirled towards him and Paul sprayed him. James dropped the sword and grabbed at his eyes, screaming. Both the uniforms piled into him and drove him to the ground. Sanders darted past Paul and threw himself down on James’ back, wrestling his arms into handcuffs.

Paul looked around the grand entrance. Two suits of armour had been robbed of their weapons – James had one, and the other, a large mace, lay near where the Earl of Errinby, Edward Kennington, lay on his back propping himself up with his elbows. Sophie Lewin stood between him and his brother, pale but unhurt, holding up a chair to defend herself. Tom Willis was on the ground, not bleeding but clutching at his head. Paul walked towards them. Sanders snapped his handcuffs closed on James’ wrists.

‘James Kennington, I am arresting you on suspicion of the murder of Sarah Kennington –’

‘Edward Kennington, I am arresting you on suspicion of the murder of Sarah Kennington, contrary to the common law. You do not have to say anything but it may harm your defence if you fail to mention when questioned something you later rely on in court, and anything you do say may be given in evidence,’ Paul cut across his Sergeant. Edward didn’t resist as Paul flipped him over onto his stomach and cuffed him.

‘What?’ Sanders asked.

‘The money to Butler. It was Edward who withdrew it, not James,’ Paul said. ‘Knowlesy told me about it right before we got the radio message.’

‘Right,’ Sanders said, stretching the word out. He and the two uniforms still had James pinned to the floor. James had turned red and was almost foaming at the mouth with rage. ‘So… what do I do with this one?’

‘Re-arrest him, this time for the attempted murder of his brother and four counts of attempting to inflict grievous bodily harm on a police officer with intent to resist arrest,’ Paul said, after a moment to think about it. He could only somehow assume that James had realised that Edward had paid for Sarah’s murder, and decided to take revenge himself, and he’d be lying if he said that he didn’t understand that urge.

But it was still illegal. And James could have killed any of the four police officers. That couldn’t go unanswered.

They took Edward Kennington out to Lewin and Willis’ car. Willis was still groggy, so Paul radioed for an ambulance to take him to hospital. Get that hard head of his properly looked at. No return to work until they were sure that his concussion was cleared. Paul went back for James.

‘What do you think you have on me?’ James spat as he was hauled to his feet. ‘I did not lay a hand on my brother, or your officers.’

‘You didn’t harm your brother because my officers intervened,’ Paul said as equably as he could manage in the house that the blood of his ancestors had built, whose occupants still spat down from on high even as they were dragged across its thresholds in handcuffs. ‘And you didn’t harm them because of their training. However, the law does not reward an attacker who fails to harm his intended victim because they defended themselves effectively. So no, Mr Kennington, I’m afraid that you will go before a judge and a jury, and you will go to prison. Earls of Errinby or not.’

‘That title,’ said James, struggling against the officers restraining him, ‘Has been in my family since the Eighteenth Century. We owned sixty per cent of the wealth in this country, and we still do. We make our own rules.’

Paul closed his eyes and saw Jamaica. Sun beating down, men like him toiling in the fields under the lash, men like the Kenningtons rolling in the gold that all their labour produced, because they’d decided that those men, those black men, were less than human. Their wealth that they hadn’t earnt, built on the labour of those they’d stolen from Africa. It took every ounce of self-control and training Paul possessed not to sink his fist into Kennington’s stomach.

‘That’s a very interesting comment, Mr Kennington,’ he said instead, forcing the words out, forcing his voice to be level. ‘DS Sanders, make a note of it. Mr Kennington believes his aristocratic background places him outside the rule of law.’ He leaned in close to James. ‘We’ll be sure to inform the judge that that’s how you feel. Judges don’t tend to like people who think they’re above the law.’ He nodded at the uniforms, who dragged James out of the house.

‘I wonder who gets the house now?’ Sander mused when both Kenningtons were gone. ‘The way that these posh bastards are, there’s probably some chinless cousin out there licking his lips already.’

A quip floated through Paul’s brain about how in police terms he was posh because he occasionally drank wine instead of beer. But instead he found himself thinking again of the blood and bones of all the slaves that had built this house.

‘They should tear the fucking place down and grind the bricks to dust.’

 

Edward Kennington would always be the Earl of Errinby until the day he died. Only an Act of Parliament and the consent of the Queen could take that title away from him, and Paul had learnt earlier from a PC back in North Wales that he supposed he was mentoring now, that that hadn’t happened since the First World War.

Sandi Hendriks was a history buff, so Paul had asked her to look up whether lords lost their peerages when convicted of a serious crime out of interest. The answer, of course, was no they didn’t.

Kennington would lose nothing by confessing. His voice was cool and detached as he laid out to DC Henshaw and DC Brookes exactly why he’d paid to have his wife murdered.

‘I became aware of Sarah’s affair with James three weeks ago,’ he murmured, so softly that Paul wondered if the tape recorder would even hear him properly. ‘Quite by accident, you understand. I had been away riding on my estate that day, and asked James to entertain Sarah whilst I was out. When I returned, I noted that she smelt of his aftershave.

‘Two days later, I claimed to be called away by my financial manager on urgent business whilst Sarah and James were in the house together. Of course, I did not leave. Instead, I remained and watched them enter James’ room together. I remained outside for several minutes. Enough to hear them making love.

‘Of course, it would all come out. The scandal could ruin the family. The Earldom might not survive, there would always be questions over the legitimacy of any heir, and my reputation… it would not survive being cuckolded by my own brother. For the good of the family, it had to be covered up.’

‘Why not kill your brother instead?’ Brookes asked. ‘If he was the one with whom Sarah was having the affair?’

Kennington looked at Brookes like he’d gone mad. ‘I couldn’t murder my own brother!’

‘But your wife… she was just fair game?’ DC Henshaw asked, leaning back in her chair and not fully hiding either her surprise or her disgust. Kennington didn’t seem to know quite how to respond to her, he stuttered a little and then shook his head. ‘For the tape, the interviewee is declining to answer,’ Henshaw added.

Next to Paul, Charlie Dennis cawed something about how he was properly addressed as Your Grace.

As far as Paul knew, Evan Butler was still repeating his name and National Insurance Number to the interviewers from Adam Turner’s team. Forensics had tested all his belts for skin cells and were confident that, if he hadn’t ditched it, they’d find the one he’d used to kill Sarah. They had matched the fibres under Sarah’s fingernails to a black jacket Butler wore, so the chances were good that if he hadn’t ditched that yet, he hadn’t ditched the belt either.

It wouldn’t matter if they didn’t find it, though. Edward Kennington’s confession would nail both of them.

‘What did you want to ask the DCI about this morning? After the briefing?’ Paul asked.

‘Oh, that. Yeah, we, er, well… three of Kennington’s guests were having a threesome when Sarah was killed,’ Dennis said. ‘One of them was sixteen.’

Paul’s top lip curled in disgust. ‘Pervy, but not illegal,’ he said.

‘No, but the story is that that the two older, erm, participants, have been having sex at every wedding they’ve been too since they got married four years ago,’ Charlie said. ‘The sixteen year old walked in on them two years ago and asked if she could join in. They said not until she turned sixteen, but apparently they’ve been actively encouraging her in between times.’

‘Jesus.’

‘So, I thought we should look at potential grooming offences,’ Charlie said.

‘Bloody right,’ Paul nodded. ‘What did the DCI say?’

‘That I needed to get legal advice from the CPS, but that he didn’t think we could charge them,’ Charlie said grimly. ‘I asked if we could look at Section 16 of the SOA, because both of them are her cousins.’ Section 16 of the Sexual Offences Act raised the age of consent to 18 where the older person was in a position of trust or responsibility towards the younger. ‘He said to go to the CPS again, but that a cousin relationship might not count as either trust or responsibility for the purpose of the Act. And that the Marquess of this village in Wales that I can’t pronounce would be able to afford the best lawyers to make that argument.’

‘“We make our own rules.”’

‘What?’

‘Something James Kennington said when I arrested him,’ Paul said. ‘About how rich bastards like him make up their own rules.’

Charlie made a low growling sound and turned back to the monitor for a moment, where Edward Kennington explained how he’d located Evan Butler through the Regimental wives, having told them that he wanted to thank Butler for saving his life during a firefight in Basra. He’d known he could trust Butler because of their shared service history. And he’d known that Butler was strapped for cash and at a loose end after leaving the army.

Paul felt low, and that was unusual. Normally, the end of a murder case was a buzz like no other; everyone laughing and joking, a massive Pizza Hut order that was sometimes on expenses if the DCI felt like pushing his luck with Business Management, with drinks and karaoke at the local to follow. The work was intense and closing a murder felt like surfacing from twenty feet under.

Not this time.

Edward Kennington had ruined his life, his brother’s life, and Evan Butler’s life. And he’d murdered a woman he was supposed to love, all so he could avoid the embarrassment of her infidelity becoming public. And he’d still be Earl of Errinby at the end of it. Still have his big house and his millions when his twenty years were served. Hell, when Evan Butler was paroled, he’d probably become Longbeck House’s new gardener.

And James would serve no longer than ten years, and no doubt reinvent himself as a dashing romantic hero, imprisoned for trying to avenge his lover’s death, and there’d be plenty of aristocratic women who’d want to marry the Bad Boy of Longbeck House, Paul had no doubt. Their children would probably inherit the Earldom.

Bastards like him won even when they lost.

‘They make their own rules,’ he muttered again. Charlie sighed next to him.

‘What else is fucking new?’

 

If you’ve enjoyed this story, then please check out the other stories featuring Paul Quinn and Sandi Hendriks. They can be found by clicking on the Short Story link above, and either follwing the drop-down menu or selecting the Short Story page itself, https://attemptedmurder.uk/shortstories/. If you like this, or any other story, please help the site grow by Sharing far and wide!

 

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