Making A Killing (The Romney and Marsh Files Book 2), page 1
The Second Romney and Marsh File
Copyright 2012 Oliver Tidy
Find me at http://olivertidy.wordpress.com/
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Oliver Tidy has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act of 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
This is a work of fiction. All characters in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to any person, living or dead is purely coincidental.
Table of Contents
Sometimes life could be good, thought Duncan Smart. Sometimes it was worth enduring the ninety percent of crap for the ten percent of pleasurable existence. In fact, he reflected, rather philosophically for the time of day, without the crap there could be no pleasure. They needed each other to exist. It was a symbiotic relationship. They fed off each other. No crap, he reasoned, would mean no benchmark to measure pleasure against. And vice-versa, of course. That deserved a drink.
Perhaps that whack with the spanner on the engine block had fixed something. Without incident, he nursed the car up the steep Jubilee Way – Dover’s quick escape route for those fresh off the ferry with more appealing destinations in mind, and who could blame them? Who would want to waste valuable time navigating the tawdry and depressing centre of the port town when it could be bypassed and forgotten in minutes?
He went the wrong way around the roundabout at the top, just for fun, and continued his unhurried way along the A258 that linked Dover with his hometown of Deal.
A week of working nights on the cross channel ferry was behind Duncan. He looked forward to his three days off: catching up with sleep, catching up with friends and catching up with a few sessions of what he fondly referred to as, ‘the real ale experience’. He took another quick swig from the open bottle of duty free vodka clamped between his thighs. Feeling better every passing minute.
The one blot on his landscape was the barrage of anonymous phone-calls he’d been receiving. These unsettled Duncan as they would anyone. It wasn’t simply the anonymity that bothered him. No, rather it was the threats of extreme physical violence that were promised to be visited upon him that disturbed him. Duncan Smart had made fifty-three without breaking a single bone in his body. He certainly didn’t want to experience having several broken at once as the caller kept threatening. Perhaps he should go to the police.
Since his latest divorce had been recently, officially, legally and surprisingly well-settled – from his perspective at least – a load had been lifted from his mind and his general outlook on life had bounced back from the bout of depression he had languished in for some months. It had been a depression, he had realised, that was not borne of having lost another wife to another man, but rather the prospect that he could lose his home. To have lost even a part share of his humble mortgage-free terraced property at his time of life through a court judgement would have ruined him financially and almost certainly irrecoverably. God only knew what it would have done to his mental health. He’d have had to sell. The banks and the mortgage companies wouldn’t be offering him any further financial assistance. Probably, he would have ended up in one of those residential static caravan parks with communal concrete shower blocks that were breaking out like pustules on a plague victim to spoil the countryside and to meet the demand for cheap accommodation for those only one rung up the property ladder from bed-sit-land. He knew a couple of men who had been reduced to such ignominious existences by broken marriages and subsequent court judgements. He didn’t envy them. In spite of the brave faces they put on, the effect on them as men was deep and clear. Despite the early morning warmth, he shuddered at what might have been and raised the bottle in silent thanks, smiling at the hypocrisy of the gesture as only a true non-believer can. Cheers.
The phone-calls had started the day after the divorce was settled – a connection only a fool would ignore. A male. A deep, deeply accented and deeply disturbing voice. Eastern European. Or Arabic. Possibly African. Duncan wasn’t good with accents. Always the same man. Always threatening violence. He would threaten violence until Duncan hung up, seemingly not short of ideas of how to hurt people. How to hurt him. There was little repetition.
Duncan instinctively felt that hanging up on a man threatening violence was probably only going to make him more angry, more vengeful, possibly more determined, but what else could he do? He should dwell less on it. Stop answering the phone. That might do it. His tormentor would get bored. Fade away. Leave him alone. He took another pull on the bottle. Life was good. Forget him. He was probably just some disturbed nut asylum seeker who’d got his number from somewhere. Duncan tried to remember if the man had ever used his name.
As he drove across the top of the White Cliffs on the otherwise deserted road with the glistening English Channel on his right, he wound down the window of his old Sierra to drink in the pungent, virgin, glorious freshness of a new day, just as the sun cracked the horizon. Wonderful.
Lowering the sunshade, he reflected, not for the first time, and with a smug feeling, on the memory of the judge’s withering summing up that had been directed at his now ex-wife with a sense of warmth, and knowledge that justice had indeed been done. Money-grabbing-whore. And not for the first time, he wondered whether he hadn’t sensed something just a little personal in the Honourable Judge Deakin’s remarks regarding the settlement that said money-grabbing-whore of short marital duration had been pursuing. Had he at one time been similarly stung? Duncan wondered. Bottoms up. Here’s to the Honourable Judge Deakin.
He wouldn’t forget, too, the look that the money-grabbing-whore had given him. Pure loathing. Perhaps he should have just ignored her. Perhaps smiling back and giving her the finger wasn’t very grown up, wasn’t very helpful.
There had been a man waiting for her outside the court. Duncan hadn’t paid as much attention to him as he now wished he had. He only remembered him being large and dark-skinned. That was it. It had been just a glimpse, but it was enough to suggest to Duncan that he was not of local extraction, not that many appeared to be these days in Dover. He’d stay clear of the town centre for a while; wouldn’t run the risk of bumping into her, or her boyfriend.
In no hurry, he covered the few miles towards his destination along the old main road that had once been the only terra-firma link between the always busy port town of Dover and the smaller, quieter and certainly more refined settlement of Deal.
Pushing all other thoughts to the back of his mind, he gave himself over to the impending pleasure of his next activity. He could think of no better way to start three days off – and such a magnificent morning into the bargain – at this stage of his life. His bag containing a half-set was stowed away in the boot.
Duncan Smart had been a member of the White Cliffs Golf Club for three months. He’d played a bit a long time in the past, but what with the expense and the time involved, he’d been forced to pack golf in when the kids of his first marriage came along. At the suggestion of a couple of golfing drinking pals – or were they drinking golfing pals? – he’d taken out a year’s membership since splitting with the money-grabbing-whore and rekindled an interest. But it was more than that. Golf got him out in the fresh air, gave him some exercise and a feeling that he was doing something with his time. And what with the price that membership cost and his shift work, he was determined to get as many rounds in as he could for his money, rain or shine.
The course would not be open at this time of the day, not officially. But there was only a five-bar-gate to negotiate and then the whole landscaped expanse was his alone. For that short period between his first tee shot and the time that the green-keepers turned up for work he was lord of all he surveyed. He enjoyed that feeling. Once his routine had been established, he became a regular feature of the early morning inspection for those in charge of course maintenance.
With the car parked up ticking cool on the verge and the gate bouncing on its hinges behind him, Duncan strode purposefully, if a little unsteadily, towards the first tee. He ran through his shot preparation check-list as he went, a little like a pilot might run through his pre-flight check. Head down, focus on the back of the ball. Make sure toes are aligned with where you want the ball to go. Keep that left arm straight. Nice easy swing, don’t try to smash the cover of the ball. And don’t forget that little waggle. No one’s looking. It really helps. Makes you feel like a pro.
By the time Duncan reached the first tee his heart was thumping noticeably and his breath was a little short, a combination of the excitement and tension that the first shot of a fresh round would always bring – even when he was so alone – and the exertions of climbing the gate followed by the march across the turf. He removed the bottle from his bag and treated himself to one last nip. Make that two. He took a moment to enjoy the glow flush through his system. Duncan realised he was smiling.
He took a couple of practice swings and felt his stiff body protest at the extremes of his rather limited arc. He decided to take an extra minute’s preparation time. These things shouldn’t be hurried. Duncan set down his driver, careful to keep the rubber grip clear of the dewy surface, and slowly wind-milled his arms forwards and backwards. He followed this with a couple of rotations of his trunk, some gentle stretching, during which he felt hamstrings pulling like well-chewed gum, and almost managed to touch his shins. Satisfied, he took one of his new, outrageously expensive, Follow-Thru golf balls – the exact same ones that Tiger was driving so far with these days – and teed it up.
Happy, Duncan took another long look around himself savouring the beauty and the peace. The Channel twinkled, looking its early morning best. In the clarity of the new light he could make out a number of different sized and shaped ships far out to sea making their way up and down one of the busiest sea lanes in the world. The air quality afforded him a clear view of the French coast in the distance. A ferry was making its way as the crow flies from France, cutting a swathe though the water, throwing its white bow wave up in front of it like a freshly laundered and starched shirt collar, its path bisecting the general flow of traffic. Duncan loved to watch the boats, always had. Off to his left a magpie fired off a volley of chatter in a thicket of stunted and wind-bent old trees.
In front of Duncan stretched the short but deceptive opening hole: three hundred and twenty eight yards; a par four that Duncan had still not yet done in less than six. Perhaps today would be his day.
Mentally relaxed and with his pulse once again even, Duncan made the effort to empty his mind of all distractions. Taking up his position he checked his distance from the ball and the alignment of his feet. He straightened his back, bent his knees, stuck out his backside and waggled. He took a final lingering look through narrowed, challenging eyes down the gently sloping fairway, raised his chin, cast his gaze down to read the ball’s maker’s name – facing backwards – flexed his grip for the last time and initiated his backswing.
Sometimes life could be really shit, thought Detective Inspector Tom Romney. Sometimes he wondered why so many people, himself included, put up with the ninety percent of crap for the ten percent of pleasurable existence. In fact, he reflected, rather philosophically for the time of day, perhaps everyone would be better off without pleasure for without pleasure there could be no crap. They needed each other to exist. It was a symbiotic relationship. They fed off each other. No pleasure, he reasoned, would mean no benchmark to measure crap against. And vice-versa, of course. He reached for his coffee and cursed his luck.
Romney heard Detective Constable Grimes before he saw him. Or rather he heard the strains of some straining tenor coming from his in-car entertainment system over the similar straining of second gear as Grimes’ vehicle approached down the narrow, hedge-lined lane – a jarring disharmony that tore a rent in the otherwise tranquil early morning. Romney took one last deep drink of the atmosphere, threw back the dregs of his coffee and crunched down the gravel drive to his ride to work.
Grimes lifted a carrier bag off the front passenger seat and tossed it in the back as Romney got in.
‘You can turn that off for start.’
Grimes killed the sound. ‘Morning, gov. Nothing like a bit of Puccini to get the juices flowing first thing in the morning.’
‘Do you have to say things like that? I haven’t eaten yet. But I do understand why you’d listen to it.’ Grimes nodded encouragingly at his senior officer to finish the thought. ‘It’s so nice when you turn it off.’
‘Very droll, gov.’
Grimes edged out into the lane just in time to almost collide with the huge front wheel of a big red tractor. Romney found his feet stamping on pedals that weren’t there.
‘What’s up with her this morning then?’ said Grimes, seemingly oblivious to the near collision.
‘The car. I take it you called me for a lift in because there’s something wrong with it and you’re sort of on my way to work, not because of some eco-friendly car sharing initiative that area are forcing on us. And presumably it isn’t because we share similar tastes in music.’
‘Oh don’t get me wrong,’ said Romney. ‘I like a bit of classical as much as the next pseudo. Just not at six o’clock in the morning.’
‘Really, when then?’
‘With food, mostly. Preparing, cooking and eating. But to be honest I’m not keen on the vocals. I prefer the noise of instruments. Apart from that one the BBC used for Italia ninety. Remember that?’
‘Genius,’ agreed Grimes.
‘Is that who it was? Why are they always foreigners?’
Grimes stole a suspicious glance at his passenger.
‘Bloody good anyway,’ continued Romney. ‘Emotive. Bloody emotive if you ask me.’
‘Agreed,’ said Grimes.
‘Flat battery,’ said Romney.
‘Leave something on?’
‘No,’ said Romney, a little too quickly. ‘At least I don’t think so. By the time I’d finished fiddling around with all the switches and buttons I couldn’t remember what was where when I got in. I’ll get someone from maintenance to have a look.’
‘Not got breakdown?’ said Grimes, as though that were as natural as wearing socks.
‘Probably,’ said Romney, stifling a yawn. ‘What’s that smell?’
‘What smell, gov?’
Romney sniffed loudly and looked around the foot-well and then the back seat. ‘Don’t tell me you can’t smell fish. I hope that’s not the effect of all that Puccini.’
‘Oh that. No gov. I was out beach fishing last night. Caught a few nice dabs, actually. They’re in the bag on the back seat. I’m bringing in a couple for Joyce in the canteen. Her cat likes them.’<
Romney turned to look at the bag that Grimes had taken from the seat that he was now sitting on and saw that a damp patch had formed on the upholstery around it. He felt under his backside. ‘Jesus Christ. Why didn’t you say something before I got in?’
‘What’s up, gov?’
‘It’s leaked all over the bloody seat. Stop the car.’
Detective Sergeant Joy Marsh was walking into Dover police station car park as Grimes pulled in and straddled two parking spaces. DI Romney was sitting in the back seat looking severe and struggling with the door. Grimes heaved himself out as quickly as his big frame allowed and opened it for his senior officer.
‘Child locks,’ said Grimes, by way of apology and explanation.
Romney stepped out without thanking him.
‘Lovely day, sir,’ said Marsh.
‘Is it? I hadn’t noticed.’
Romney strode off towards the station doors leaving Grimes and Marsh standing awkwardly.
‘What’s up with him?’ said Marsh. She squinted at his retreating form. ‘Has he sat in something? And why are you two coming in together? Something I should know? By the way, nice touch letting him ride in the back like that. He’ll have you wearing a cap next.’
‘Everyone’s a comedian today,’ said Grimes.
Grimes was sent to look for the DI and found him standing in the men’s room in his boxers holding the seat of his trousers under the hot air blower.
‘What is it?’
‘A body up at White Cliffs Golf Club.’
‘Definitely. Man’s been found on the course with his head smashed in.’
The machine’s timer cut out. Romney held the trousers up to his nose. A uniformed officer walked in.
‘Still fishy?’ asked Grimes.
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