Bill Kitson

 

Read below for an exclusive extract from Back-Slash

1999

Anna was late. Her clattering footsteps on the concrete steps of the multi-storey car park reflected her haste. Although she was behind schedule she had taken precious minutes to check her appearance in the mirror before leaving the office. She wanted nothing to give Alan cause for suspicion. She felt a twinge of guilt at the thought of Alan. Deceiving him was the worst part of the whole business.

The car park was deserted, badly lit. Most of the light bulbs had succumbed to the attention of vandals. Anna wrinkled her nose in distaste, the stairwell smelt of stale urine and vomit. Her car was on level seven, parked against one of the concrete supports in the most remote corner. She unlocked the door and was about to step in when she heard a rustling sound. She glanced round. Surprise turned to shock, shock to horror and she opened her mouth to scream.


2000

The trial lasted three days; extremely short for a murder case. The evidence was circumstantial but convincing. The plea of not guilty had little to support it. Faced with the allegations of the prosecution and with little to refute them, the judge’s direction to the jury was disposed heavily in favour of the Crown. As one reporter whispered to another, ‘Why bother with a jury, the verdict’s already been handed down.’

The jurors needed less than an hour to consider their findings. They filed back into the court, conspicuously avoiding the defendant’s gaze. Their foreman rose in response to the usher’s call.

‘Have you reached a verdict?’

‘Yes, my lord.’

‘And is that verdict unanimous?’

‘Yes, my lord.’

‘On the charge of the murder of Anna Marshall, how do you find the defendant Alan Charles Marshall?’

‘Guilty.’

‘Alan Charles Marshall, you have been found guilty of the murder of your wife Anna Marshall, a verdict with which I entirely agree. This was a brutal crime carried out in cold blood. You knew your wife’s love for you was dead. You knew she was on the point of leaving you. You could not tolerate that rejection so you slit her throat in the cruellest and most gory manner; using such violence you almost decapitated her. Then you calmly drove more than sixty miles to dispose of the body into the North Sea. Hoping no doubt that it would remain there so that the evidence of your foul deed would remain undetected. However, the sea gave up the corpse, your wife’s body was identified and the police investigation uncovered the motive behind your evil action. In view of the nature of the crime, the complete lack of remorse you have shown, and your refusal to acknowledge your undoubted guilt in the face of unchallenged evidence, I therefore sentence you to life imprisonment with the recommendation that in this instance that should mean a term of no less than twenty-five years.’


2006

‘It is the opinion of The Court of Appeal that this conviction is not safe. Our findings are based on inconsistencies in the evidence presented by the prosecution at the original trial and we are less than satisfied that the direction to the jury was other than prejudicial to the defendant. This court deems that the defendant’s guilt was not established beyond reasonable doubt, and therefore determines that the conviction of Alan Charles Marshall for the murder of Anna Marshall be set aside. The defendant is free to return to the community.’

As the handful of attendees filed out, Marshall stepped from the dock. He was greeted by his counsel with a curt nod. As the barrister stuffed the case notes into a folder, Marshall asked, ‘How much is this going to cost?’

‘No concern of yours. The bill’s been paid. You’re a free man, what more do you want?’

‘I want to know who paid.’

‘I’m not at liberty to say. Accept your freedom and be grateful. If you want something to worry about, prepare yourself for the press when you walk through that door.’


The small dwelling was more than remote, it was isolated. Although the scenery was beautiful there was little else to recommend it. The single-storey cottage had nothing in the way of luxury apart from an ancient, but serviceable, Aga. It was no place for the social-minded. For a hermit it was ideal. The prospective tenant nodded approvingly. ‘It’ll do.’

‘You understand the terms? If you leave your job you’ve to leave the cottage.’

‘I understand.’

‘You’re quite sure? It gets lonely out here and pretty bleak in winter.’

‘Suits me.’

‘Then it’s yours, and the job with it.’

2008

There were only ten shopping days before Christmas. DI Mike Nash grimaced at the thought; office parties, drunken brawls, domestic violence and opportunist thieves. That’s what Christmas meant to him. When he walked into Helmsdale police station he was surprised to see the reception desk manned by Sergeant Binns, who’d been working at HQ in Netherdale. ‘What are you doing here, Jack?’

‘I’ve been sent back. Flu!’

‘Who’s gone down with it now?’

‘Almost everybody. Apart from you, me and your visitor.’

‘My visitor? Who?’

‘The chief constable, no less. She doesn’t visit many of her officers’– Binns gave a sly glance – ‘but we all know she has a soft spot for you.’

‘You’ve been listening to Clara too much; you’re getting to sound like her.’

Nash hurried upstairs to his office. ‘Morning, ma’am.’

Gloria O’Donnell, the highly respected chief constable, known irreverently as ‘God’ because of her initials, more than her rank, looked up from his desk. ‘Morning, Mike. I came to ask for help because of the flu outbreak, but it seems you’ve got your own problems.’ Nash raised his eyebrows questioningly. ‘I’ve taken two phone calls since I got here. Both Mironova and Pearce have gone down with the virus. Netherdale station is like the Marie Celeste. You’re the only CID officer in the area who’s fit for duty. There seems little chance of any of them returning to work this side of New Year.’

‘That’s going to be fun, with the mayhem the festive season brings.’

‘Tell me about it. The only solution I can come up with is to let civilian clerical staff run the desk at Netherdale. You’ll have to make do with a community support officer here. That’ll free Binns up to work with you in CID. I’ve just got hold of DC Andrews. She’s been on attachment to Yorkshire Central. I told them I needed her back. She’s on her way. They squealed a bit, but I pulled rank. She lives in Netherdale, so that helps. Oh, and I’ve had a word with HMIC. In view of the circumstances, they’re prepared to lend me Superintendent Edwards again, short term. You’ve worked together before, so that shouldn’t be a problem.’

‘That would help. Don’t suppose a recruitment drive’s on the cards yet?’

O’Donnell sighed. ‘Let’s not talk about that. The cutbacks are getting worse. I can’t have a new deputy, vacancies aren’t being filled; even civilian staff levels are being culled. Put it this way, if you drop a paperclip, pick it up.’

‘That bad?’

‘With the whole country having to tighten its belt, then so must we. With rising unemployment there’s bound to be a hike in the crime rate, but that carries no weight. We’ve to knuckle down and get on with it. It’s not much I’m afraid, but it’s the best I can do for the time being.’

‘That means Helmsdale has four officers, Edwards, me, Binns and DC Andrews, plus a rookie for the desk? I should be able to cope.’

O’Donnell paused before telling him the worst. ‘No, Mike, that’s to cover Netherdale as well.’

**************

‘Mr Brown?’

‘Who’s asking?’

‘Mr Jones.’

‘I know several Mr Joneses.’

‘I’m sure you do. Let’s just say I’m one of the Yorkshire Joneses.’

‘Oh, that Mr Jones. We haven’t spoken for some time.’

‘I haven’t had the need for your special talents until now.’

‘Then I take it you have a commission for me?’

‘Yes, and it’s quite urgent. I assume you’re still engaged in that line of work?’

‘Most certainly,’

‘As we haven’t done business recently you’d better tell me your current fees.’

Brown named a figure and added, ‘Plus expenses.’

There was a pause. ‘I see. You’re right, it has been a while. Inflation I suppose. Can I assume your terms are still the same?’

‘You can.’

‘And my order should still be delivered in the same way?’

‘Absolutely correct.’

‘Very well, I’ll attend to it immediately. One other thing; when you’ve completed this commission there may be others. I assume that presents no problem?’

‘Certainly not. However, I need your security name to satisfy myself everything is as it should be’

‘Of course. The secure name is Harry.’