Friday, 10 January 2014
Freedom Overspill: Episode #4
After a long absence the fourth part of the gripping cop saga, Freedom Overspill is now up for your delectation. I was thinking of posting the whole story but, at a staggering 6,000 words I thought i might be a little bit too large for the blog’s feed so, if you are a newcomer and want to get into the groove from the beginning, here are the links to the first three parts:
In a nutshell, the year is 1986 and two cops, the redoubtable Hall and Lomacks are on a case against the backdrop of The Westland Affair, Iran Contra and the release of Genesis’s seminal Invisible Touch.
Back at the Hand & Hand, Hall and Lomacks approached the Landlord, as a couple of locals, by the name of Ben Cross and Linley Harrison look on, State of the Nation by New Order was playing in the Background, lending an uncomfortable, paranoid edge to the whole affair. Cross turned to Harrison.
“I think they might come over and talk to us in a minute Lin, they aren’t going to get much out of Dave.” Harrison looked puzzled.
“What do we say though? All we’d done was played a round of golf on the common and come in to have a few pints here. As I remember we were talking about John Martyn when the explosion happened.
“Fact is Lin, I hardly knew Niven, I mean, I lived next door to the man for 10 years and never once was I invited round, we never shared a pint in the pub. Nothing!” Spotting the two golfer in tense conversation, Hall and Lomacks crossed over to them, Hall spoke first.
“Excuse me, do you mind if we interrupt? The thing is we don’t like to drink alone.” With a brush of the hand Harrison acquiesced, what choice did he have?
“Please detectives, and don’t worry, we know why you’re here.”
“Oh?” Lomacks gave him a suspicious look, but Cross interjected
“Well…we can only guess that you want to talk to us about the Nivens.”
“In a nutshell!”
“Well there is really little I can tell you. I mean, as I was just explaining to my friend, although I lived next door to them for ten years we, by that I mean my wife and I, were never invited around. Perhaps if we had been able to have children it might have been different, as I am roughly the same age as Digby Niven, but that wasn’t meant to be.” Hall did his best attempt at empathy, he’d never had children, married to the job as he was.
“quite understand, Mr…”
“Mr Cross, I don’t suppose on the rare occasions that you bumped into Niven he discussed his business.”
“It was a few chance meetings at the Delicatessen or the Newsagent really. Besides, High finance has never been my forte. I’m and artist by trade.” Something suddenly clicked with Lomacks.
“Oh I know you, didn’t you exhibit at the Serpentine Gallery a couple of years ago?” Hall was always impressed by his partner’s urbanity but would never admit that to anyone, let alone some strangers in a pub
“you’ll have to forgive my partner, he’s something of a dilettante when it comes to culture.” Cross laughed.
“None taken, it’s nice to meet a fan. Look, I don’t know what help it would be but come and speak to my wife, as she knew Mrs Niven better that I ever did Mr...” But Hall cut him short.
“Thank you Mr Cross for your time. We’ll grab something to eat and then we’ll be over.”
“Oh you haven’t eaten yet? Well, it would be a pleasure to give lunch to one present appreciator of my work and perhaps a future one.” Hall never liked to take freebies off the public.
“We couldn’t impose.”
“I insist! I live just over… well you know where I live by now I’m sure (Laughs). I am afraid I can only offer you cold cuts and some salad, but I do have a nice bottle of White Burgundy which is in dire need of consumption. I do take it you drink?” Lomacks eyes lit up.
“Does the Pope shit in the woods?” Hall scowled.
“Shut up Lomacks. That sounds very nice.”
Soon they were in Cross’s dining room and following a rather convivial lunch of cold lobster with mayonnaise they set down to the business in hand, police work.
“That was an excellent bottle Mr Cross.” Said Hall, wiping his mouth on his napkin. Cross concured.
“Yes, I quite agree, I drove over to Burgundy last year and picked up a shed load of the stuff.”
“I’m sure customs would have had something to say about that.”
“Well, if they had known. I have a few friends at customs and excise who turn a blind eye. Well, selling paintings abroad you’ve got to ensure some flexibility.” Cross tapped his nose in a conspiratorial way. Hall knew this as the trademark of the white collar smuggler. He laughed.
“Well, Mr Cross, I think you are safe on this occasion!”
“well that is a great assurance detective!”
“By the way, Where is Mrs Cross?”
“Oh she’ll be back in half an hour. Look it’s such a nice day let’s have coffee and Brandies in the garden. Are either of you interested in flowers.” Once again the young dilettante chipped in.
“ I grew up in Devon and as you can imagine the range and variety was amazing.”
“Indeed,” Cross was impressed, “well, you must come and see my foxgloves.”
“Ah Digitalis...” Lomack mused, “beautiful but deadly.”
“like so many things in life Mr Lomacks, like so many things…”
In the garden, Hall, Lomacks and Cross walked around a long, attractive border looking at the remarkable array of plants that Cross had. Bees were buzzing and birds were chirping away in the trees, you wouldn’t have guessed that just 20 metres away there had been a massive explosion, it all seemed so tranquil. Suddenly Lomacks saq something flashing in the flower bed.
“One moment Mr Cross,” he caught artist’s arm, “I think I see something in the flower bed. It looks like a piece of tooling equipment or something.” Hall, who had been rather bored by the nature trail was roused from the lethargy that the booze had inflicted.
“it looks like part of a lathe or something. Used to hollow out metal tubing, quite specialized equipment. My father used something of the sort when he worked in the motor industry.” A frown came across Cross’s brow.
“How very strange, I certainly don’t use such stuff, industrial art isn’t really my thing”
“Was it Niven’s?”
“Search me, you seem more the expert on this.”
“Very strange indeed, Lomacks have you got a biro.” Lomacks handed a Bic to Hall and used it to pick up the tooling part and drops it in his jacket pocket. From the distance there came the sound of the front door slamming shut, Cross turned.
“Ah! I think I can hear Mrs Cross coming in now.”
“Thank you Mr Cross, we shall go and speak to her now?”
“Happy to be of what little assistance I can be.”
Digby Niven’s was sitting in his office, sitting at his desk with a Black Label on the rocks and a recently used mirror and credit card augmenting the rather vulgar alabaster ashtray and desktop lighter. Reaching into his pocket he pulled out a Dunhill, lit it and drank deep of its various flavours and toxins. He had four packs delivered each day to his desk and there would be four empty packs in the bin by the time he left for the days. The phone rang, he answered.
“They brought it.” came the unmistakable voice of Cross.
“That I have had nothing to do with you, as far as they know, you’re just someone that I bump into every now and then at the Newsagent.”
“Excellent, it seems that all is going to plan. And you gave them lunch I suppose.”
“Oh yes, they got through two bottles of the White Burgundy.”
“This gets better and better, drinking and scoffing on the job at a potential witness’s house. They better not dig much deeper or IA will be getting a well placed and of course, anonymous phone call.”
“There’s just one thing...” Cross hesitated.
“What, what could there possibly be? This is too perfect for words.”
“It seems the explosion sent some debris from your house flying into my flower bed.”
“Well, it was a piece of tooling, and Det. Hall identified it as part of the lathing process used to shape the gun barrel. Granted, it was small so he won’t have known its real purpose.”
“And you told them.”
“I feigned ignorance, told them that I hadn’t had you down as an industrial artist.”
“Good, great Cross, you’ll be an even richer man before the month’s out! Now have you talked to the shippers?”
“I have, in my capacity, of course, as a non-exec director of Lansing & Tolsen Building materials.”
“Well I think it is only right that we do our bit for social reconstruction in the Middle East.”
“You mean re-configuration.”
“hahaha, you are learning my dear Cross, We should have had you in Grenada! Excellent! Well, just stay on your toes and let me know if those two stooges come sniffing around the Common again. By the way, what did your wife say?”
“They are right that ignorance is surely bliss, almost as if I had drafted her statement for her. Your late wife was an upstanding member of the local community and member of Conservative Association, avid horse rider and of course the classic line: ‘I don’t know who’d want to kill her’.”
“You sly dog! Look, I’ve just seen my secretary come in so I will end it here. Until next time.”
“Until next time.”
Looking up, Niven recognised his secretary, a long-legged saucy young thing with a pronounced Essex accent.
“Sorry to disturb you Mr Niven.” She chirruped. Niven was in a good mood but he tried to hide it behind false grief.
“Not at all Susie, what’s up? I was just talking to my lawyer about my Wife’s effects.”
Susie looked puzzled as the tone of the previous phone conversation, although muffled through the frosted glass wall, sounded a bit too jovial to be about his late wife, he has been acting erratically recently. She merely put it down to sheer emotional stress. After all she wasn’t being paid £60,000 a year to ponder Niven’s mental state.
“I have General Adnan Khairallah here to see you about the Macarthur account.”
“Indeed…please send him in.”