Updated: Dec 11, 2019
I wrote this a while back. It introduces Detective Dirk Morecombe. Here are the first few chapters.
I came awake feeling extreme pain. It was a throbbing and consistent pain deep within the region of the temple and, as I recalled the past few days, I found that it was mostly to do with an excessive intake of a rather good Pinot Noir I had set aside for a special occasion and a far too enthusiastic intake of a particularly palatable Portuguese drop normally deferred until after one's evening meal.
My name is Dirk Morecombe.
I normally avoid such poisons, but this was different. The bitterness was an acid that I could taste, a bile in my gut, and I had tried to wash it away with the twin drops and so overcome the deep resentment I was feeling.
I bloody well deserved better. They stood me down, the bastards. No second chance, no opportunity to explain my position, no forgiveness of my miscalculations, of the fact that there had been the perceived influence of emotion rather than sole reliance on the evidence. So, as they saw it, I had stuffed up and they had dumped me, told me to bugger off, take some time away until further notice, forget the whole thing.
It made me furious. I have always been a proud man and proud of my record on the force. As an investigator, my record has been excellent and unblemished and that was where the hurt came from. First mistake (their opinion) and I was considered redundant as far as this case was concerned.
The death of Melvin Spark had appeared, at first, to be an easy one to clear up. He had been shot in the head with his wife's Beretta 3032 Tomcat 32 Auto. The wife had been home at the time, as she admitted, and had a direct motive for his demise.
Melvin had been fooling around with Lillian Morris for months and, in the last week or so his wife, Jennifer, had become fully acquainted with the details. She had a file from P/I Rick Stevens which came complete with dates, times and revealing photographs which had cost her quite a bit but which proved her suspicions beyond any doubt whatsoever.
This file was to have been her asset in assuring herself a generous settlement in the divorce she had been about to prosecute. It was one of the abstracts that led me to the feeling that the open-and-shut case I had been pressured to accept was flawed. I began to look further into the matter against strong advice from above. It was seen to be a waste of time.
Normally, when I raised questions against initial findings my thoughts were encouraged or, at the least, abided. This time my doubts were stamped on from areas of extreme authority.
Even so, I had questions that warranted answers, whether they liked them or not.
Why would the wife wait patiently for a P/I's report, then sit on the information for several weeks, then shoot her unfaithful husband in their home with no alibi and with her own pistol? Where did this Lillian Morris fit in, apart from the graphic evidence in the file? Who else might have had access to the Beretta? Apart from his philandering, did Melvin do anything that someone else did not like?
For reasons that were unexplained and unexplainable these questions were ignored by my superiors who seemed more than pleased to have Mrs. Jennifer Spark in custody as they prepared charges and waited for her to come clean and admit that she shot the bugger in cold blood.
I had continued to probe the outer aspects of the case and, eventually, was called front and centre to be told to desist. I took the opportunity to inform those so informing me that there was no doubt, in my mind, that Jennifer Spark was innocent of the crime.
That was when I was dumped from the investigating team and told to bugger off.
The shooting was called in by Jennifer Spark. I was the first on the scene and, therefore, the first to gain impressions of, and answers from, the lady of the house. One of the impressions was that this was one very fine-looking lady and that Melvin must have been a mug to go playing in the street.
She was blonde, blue-eyed, sexy yes, no doubt of that, about five-five, she had a friendly smile and this when her husband lay dead in the corner of the lounge room.
"Please call me Jenny, D.C. Morecombe".
She said it somewhat shyly as she looked closely at the ID I had flashed on first encounter.
"Sorry, Mrs. Spark, but that's not the best way for these discussions to proceed."
"Oh. You look like a friendly sort of person, that's all."
"Different time, different place, who knows, ma'am but this is a murder investigation."
"Yes, of course."
"Mrs. Spark, were you here when your husband was shot?"
"Yes, I was, but not in the house."
I glanced across the room at the prone body and the forensic team taking their evidence of the crime scene.
"Did you hear the sound of the shot?"
"Where were you when the shot was fired?"
"I was outside, in the garden. I was picking flowers for the vases."
"What did you do immediately after hearing the report of the pistol?"
"Well, I wasn't sure what I had heard but, after a minute or so, I came inside to see if I could work out what had happened. I went to the kitchen and put the flowers in the sink and then I came in here and then...then I saw my husband there and the blood and, yes, and the gun, and I think I screamed and then I pulled myself together and rang for the ambulance and the police."
"Did you see anyone else on the property or in the house?"
"Mrs. Spark, did you shoot your husband?"
"No. Oh dear. No! How can you think that?"
She was upset, tears were on her cheeks, concern for her situation it seemed to me together with a thought for the departed husband.
"Well, you must see this. Your pistol was used to shoot your husband and there appears, at this stage, to have been no other person on the property. Can you see how this will look to the investigating team, Mrs. Spark?"
"Yes. But you believe me, don't you?"
"I have to follow the evidence, Mrs. Spark and to date I have insufficient evidence to form an opinion as to your innocence or otherwise."
She looked me in the eye.
"I am disappointed. I had the feeling that you believed in me."
"Sorry, Mrs. Spark, we just follow the evidence. The apparent lack of a third party on the premises means that your position will revolve around reasons why you did not shoot Mr. Spark."
“What does that mean?”
“Well, fingerprints on the pistol, for example.”
She frowned as she recalled the moments.
“I picked up the gun as I was looking down at poor Melvin. It was lying there alongside him. Could he have shot himself?”
“I don’t think so but forensics will work all that out in time. He has been shot dead-centre in the back of the head. It might be assumed that it was by someone who knew him well enough to be standing directly behind him.”
“Such as me, you mean?”
“I am not accusing you of anything, Mrs. Spark.”
She looked at me for a moment, sadly, a hurt woman in a terrible situation.
"There must have been someone else here."
I felt a strange moment of conviction when, suddenly, I realised that, despite all the training and my earlier assertions to her, I believed that some other person had killed Melvin Spark with Jennifer Spark's pistol.
The powers within the precinct made several things abundantly clear.
"You are banned from the Spark home and its perimeter, you are not permitted any access to Lillian Morris and the report of the private investigator is filed away under lock and key until the trial of Jennifer Spark for the murder of her husband. The case is closed as far as you are concerned, Morecombe, and you had better get it through your head or you'll be out of the force."
The desk-thumping and strident instruction was never going to work, of course. I was totally bored before mid-day of the first day of the stand-down and I was already totally involved in the case. Nothing would take my mind from it. Sloppy police work was anathema to me and I began to wonder as to whether there were hidden motives involved.
I had seen the P/I's name on the report and decided to have a chat with Rick Stevens. I found him, after hours, at 'The Red Oak'.
"Rick, you probably don't know me but I'm actually pretty harmless and I am after a bit of a favour. Buy you a beer?"
"Buy me a beer but there's no guarantee of a favour."
"All right. Back in a minute."
I returned carrying a couple of schooners and Stevens got rid of the two fellows he had been with before I turned up.
"Good health, then."
"Yair. You too."
We quaffed in silence for a minute or so.
"So, what's this favour?"
"I'd like a copy of one of your recent reports. Look, I'll pay a reasonable price for your trouble, know what I mean?"
"You're a copper, right?”
"And you want a copy of my report to Jenny Spark, right?"
He gave me the grin of the winner of a Friday night chook raffle.
I felt a jolt, my hopes of an easy transaction were dashed.
"Yes, that is the one I was after."
"Look, my files are confidential anyway but, in this case, they are locked up tight. I have been told that nobody ever gets to see a copy of that file."
"Yes, really. It would not be worth my licence or the damage to the bones I like to be in working order for me to go against such an order."
"You mean threat."
"Call it what you like, the answer is no and thanks for the beer."
Stevens walked away and joined the two mates to share a few more drinks.
I finished my beer and left the bar.
I decided to maintain a watch over Rick Stevens and found that, once at the pub, the man always stayed for at least a couple of hours, more than enough time to search the office he maintained for the sake of appearance.
The file would not be in the main filing system; it would be well hidden wherever Stevens had a safe place for special items. The copy file would be kept as an insurance policy for Rick as he would be distrustful of those who forbade him to keep one.
The P/I would be in all sorts of strife if they were to find that he had made a copy but could be in a lot more trouble if he was unable to prove, later, that he had investigated Melvin Spark and reported in full to the wife who had commissioned the report and that he had given a copy to the police.
I had no doubt that there was a copy of the report.
A search of Steven's office revealed nothing of any value. I was not surprised. The copy report would be in as safe a place as Stevens had at his disposal.
Several nights later, Rick joined his mates at the pub and I entered the P/I's home property under cover of darkness. I noted a trellis which gave access to an upstairs balcony and was sure that this would be the easiest means of entry. As I was about to reach for the trellis I got a hell of a fright and threw myself headlong into a garden bed of azaleas and camellias.
A figure in dark clothing was descending using the exact route that I had planned. It was probably a man but not a large person, quite agile, and he, or she, left hurriedly on reaching the ground. I noted that we may well have collided in the middle of the lawn had I arrived just a few minutes later.
I waited until certain that the other intruder had left the property and then scaled the trellis and entered the home via the balcony.
There was a small room off the main bedroom which, apparently, was used as an extra office. There was a filing cabinet and a small cupboard and, if it had been neat and tidy when Stevens left home, it was now littered with papers and items that had been pitched to the floor and out of the way of the person who was looking, in a hurry, for something which might have been a copy of the report in which I had developed an interest.
There was no point in looking around. The place had been ransacked. If the copy report was found it was out of my reach; otherwise it was unlikely that I would find it in the area already searched, following the degree of effort the other person had expended.
I just wanted to look a little further. There was no desk to hide it under but there was a chest of drawers in the bedroom.
I carefully pulled out the drawers and felt at the bottom as well as on the underside and, at drawer five of six, I found it, taped to the underside, not an original gambit but often the choice when one did not have a safe or a bank safety deposit facility.
I had a small camera and, taking my time, snapped each page and photograph, replacing the file as neatly as I could with the existing tape.
I left via the balcony and the trellis, alert for any other in the stillness of the night.
I wanted to know about Lillian Morris and, now that I had the P/I's report, I expected to be updated on her involvement with Melvin Spark and her effect on the case. I was very quickly apprised of her goings-on with Melvin but it was a few other observations in the file that caught my attention. Lillian had another man on the side and a complicated life as she juggled Melvin, the second visitor and her husband in a series of weekly manipulations.
She was a looker and well-endowed as far as attracting men but it seemed, from the report, that her husband was not all that excited by her attributes and tended to stay late at work and at pub with work-mates rather than rushing home to marital bliss. This had obviously made Lillian's scheduling easier than it might otherwise have been.
The third man on the scene was a mystery. There were no photographs of him and there was no detailed description. Stevens summary had been generic: 'This other man is stocky, a little under six feet tall, dark-haired and appears as a man who is, or has been, in the forces. Perhaps military, perhaps police, but there is a way that he walks and carries himself that suggests forces to me.'
I spent three nights camped in the street, observing the home of Lillian Morris, hoping for something to happen. I saw the husband arrive home quite late each evening, lights go on and go off in a repetitive sequence but no other movement of interest.
There was, in the report, detail of a night when Lillian went, alone, to the 'Dreams and Dames' bar which was, predominantly, a male hospitality site offering strippers and lap-dancers and viciously expensive cocktails for those with ready cash or no-guilt credit cards.
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