City Crime

City Crime

Ian Richardson

Format: 13.5 x 21.5 cm
Number of Pages: 310
ISBN: 978-3-99064-321-1
Release Date: 29.08.2018
Two dead bodies and several suspects with motives - a neglected wife, a belittled business partner, a scorned mistress and a humiliated daughter - keep two City of London police detectives very busy in this compelling, twisty page turner.
Chapter 1

Fred Tassell stood on the bank of the Grand Union Canal in Mile End and looked vacantly at the dirty water. For the first time for many weeks in this bleak summer of 1992 the sun was shining. He told himself that if it continued much longer he would take the step of removing his raincoat. He was used to rain seeping under the collar of his raincoat as he held his fishing rod out in the vain hope of catching something. As he looked up, it occurred to him that the greyness of the concrete in front of him was bathed in warm sun and looked almost welcoming. Then he looked sadly at the litter-strewn canal path and reassured himself that things were still going downhill. He often took it upon himself to pick up rubbish dropped by passers-by and enjoyed writing to the local paper about the amount of litter around the canal.
Tassell often wondered why he chose to come out to fish this canal, but then reminded himself that anything would be better than being cooped up in the vandalised tower block where he lived. He could not remember when the lifts had last been working and it was a strain at his age walking up and down all those flights of stairs. Still, there were times when he felt like a breath of what passed for fresh air in this run-down part of the East End and today he had to admit to himself life was just about tolerable.
Just then something unusual floating along the canal caught his eye. It looked like a loose piece of material in the distance and as it floated closer, Tassell squinted at it in idle curiosity. Suddenly he started in surprise. As it floated by, he could tell it was a dead body, bloated from being in the water for several weeks. A crow perched on its face, pecking at its eyes. Tassell threw a stone to scare the bird off, and stretching out his rod, managed to pull it slightly out of the water to stop it drifting away.
The stench from the body made Tassell turn away in disgust. He had been a soldier and had seen plenty of dead bodies in his long life, and he calmly decided what to do. He had heard of mobile phones that were becoming popular but had never seen one, so he walked as fast as he could to his nearby council flat to call the police. In the entrance hall he pressed the button for the lift, then cursed under his breath when there was no response. He walked as quickly as he could up five flights of stairs then dropped the key in his excitement as he tried to open the door of his flat. After more cursing to himself, he succeeded in letting himself in and rushed to the old-fashioned black phone.
Tassell waited impatiently for the emergency operator to answer. “Police, of course … I’ve found a body in the canal … Right near here … At the end of Mile End Road. My name’s Tassell. I’m on the fifth floor of the flats nearby.”
An hour later, Tassell ventured out again to see if the police had taken any notice of his call. When he reached the canal, the body he had discovered was stretched out on the towpath. Behind a cordon, a doctor was closing his bag obviously having performed the redundant but legally necessary task of declaring the man dead. A young uniformed constable and an older man in plain clothes were looking through the pockets of the corpse’s suit. This had probably once been of the finest quality but was now little more than threads. A single brick was tied to one leg.
“That wouldn’t be enough to weigh him down,” the officer in plain clothes was saying. “I bet there were other bricks, but the ropes have worn away or been eaten by fish. Together with the air in the body that must have been enough to bring it to the surface.” Just then he noticed Tassell standing nearby smoking a pipe. “Can you keep walking please, sir. It’s not a pretty sight.”
“I know,” Tassell replied, proudly. “I found it.”
“You were the man who called 999? Mr Tassell, isn’t it?”
“That’s right.”
“I hope it wasn’t too much of a shock. It must have been distressing for you.”
Tassell snorted with scorn. “It would take more than that to distress me. I was here during the War. We saw worse sights than that every time there was an air raid.” Tassell grew enthusiastic as he told of excitements of long ago. “The whole canal was in flames one night …”
“Well, perhaps you can help me,” the detective interrupted quickly, probably anxious not to hear any war reminiscences. “I’m Detective Sergeant Clement. Can you tell me which direction the body was coming from?”
Tassell silently lit a match and, after shaking it out, threw it into the canal where it slowly floated southward. “The North, of course. Everything round here flows down into the Thames.”
“How fast was it floating?”
“As fast as that matchstick,” Tassell replied, enjoying displaying his knowledge of the canal.
“And I suppose it could have been dumped anywhere from here to Liverpool.”
“No, it would have to be within about a mile upstream of here.”
“How do you work that out?”
“There’s a lock about a mile upstream. It couldn’t have floated over that.”
“Is there anything else you can tell me? Have you seen anything suspicious around here recently?”
“Not exactly,” Tassell replied after a moment’s thought. “The other night I did see a big black car drive slowly round, but that’s all.”
“How do you know it was black if it was night? Did you see the make?”
“I don’t know. It just seemed black to me. All cars look the same to me nowadays, but it seemed expensive, the way it glided around. You don’t see many cars like that around here, unless they’ve been nicked.”
Clement made another note. “A big black car. Thank you, Mr Tassell. If there’s nothing else you can tell me, we will take over now. Please come down to the station in the next three days and make a statement.”
“We don’t often see the police around here. Do you think you could do something about the litter? You wouldn’t believe the amount of rubbish I have to pick up every day. I’ve got plastic bags full of it. I’m saving it up to show the council.”
“Perhaps you could raise the litter issue with them, sir. I’m sure they’ll be able to help. Now I do have a murder inquiry to deal with …” Tassell nodded and started to walk back to his flat. He was looking forward to telling his friends how he had performed his civic duty as well as making Clement look a fool in front of the constable.
Clement waited for Tassell to walk out of earshot. “Thank God the golden oldie’s gone. Does he think I’m going to drop a murder case to look into litter? And I can’t put a big black car through the computer. I’d be a laughing stock. I’d probably end up arresting the Queen,” Clement picked up something caught in the remains of the corpse’s suit. “Now that’s interesting.” He produced a credit-card sized piece of plastic with the words ‘MacGregor and Company, City of London Auditors’ on it. “That looks like one of those new electronic keys they give you in hotels or fancy offices. If he was murdered in the City and dumped in the canal, then this is the City boys’ case. I’ll give them a ring as soon as the body’s been identified. It’ll give them something real to do for once,” Clement said, cheering up for the first time as he saw the chance to pass this workload onto another force.
“It might not be murder. Perhaps it’s a suicide, sarge,” suggested the constable. “He may have weighted himself down to make sure he couldn’t swim to safety.”
Detective Sergeant Clement looked down at the dirty water and shook his head. “I don’t think so somehow. No one could ever get desperate enough to throw themselves into that.”

Chapter 2

Detective Chief Inspector David Gould of the City of London police woke in his Barbican flat with a dry sensation in his mouth. It was matched by the ache in his back from the uncomfortable settee on which he was lying. He wondered what had woken him up. After a worried moment, he was relieved to discover that the ringing in his ears came from the telephone on the coffee table nearby. Gould reached out his hand and picked up the receiver.
“Gould, here.” There was a long pause. “Isn’t that the Met’s area? … Yes, I see. It might be worth checking out. I’ll be right there.” Gould put the phone down and stretched himself awkwardly. He told himself it was an absurd cliché for a married man to be sleeping on a sofa in the living room after a row with his wife. As he stood up and looked from his twelfth-floor window at the life going on down below, he reflected on how far his married life had degenerated. Audrey had accused him of being more interested in investigating the criminal life of the City of London than in her. He could not remember when he had last been so annoyed by a remark; in part his annoyance stemmed from the fact that his wife’s remark was largely true.
Gould was one of the few City officers who lived in the Square Mile. He was born and brought up in the City and could not imagine living anywhere else. He enjoyed watching the commuters stream out of Moorgate tube station at nine o’clock in the morning and home again at five in the evening. Despite the veneer of civilisation in the financial world of the City, he knew better than anyone how much crime took place in the offices he could see below him. He had resisted all invitations to move to the Metropolitan Police. He loved the strange anachronism of the City with its distinctive police uniforms and the ritual surrounding the ancient office of the Lord Mayor. His own modern flat contrasted sharply with the many Wren churches he could see below.
Gould grabbed his clothes and started dressing in his tailor-made suit. In order to blend into his exclusive manor, he dressed with more style than most police officers, which set him apart from his colleagues in other forces. He had spent the previous day in South Wales interviewing some teenage hacker who claimed to have information about drug dealing at a travel agency in the City called Harvey and Ward. It had probably been a waste of time and his mood had not been improved by the implication of the local police that he was some overpaid interloper from London.
When Gould was ready to leave the flat, he knocked on the bedroom door. “I’m out on a call.”
No reply came from the bedroom. He knew his wife was getting ready for her work as a primary school teacher. He knew from experience that the silence meant the row between them was continuing. Deciding it was best to let the row blow over, he shrugged his shoulders and left the flat to visit Mile End.
Gould’s job provided him with the advantage of his own parking spot close to the Barbican. After a few minutes, he drove out of the City and was soon in some of the poorest neighbourhoods in London. He managed to find Mile End police station with its barred windows in one of the roughest parts of the East End. Gould was relieved to find there was space to park his car in the protected yard.
Gould decided to walk around the side of the police station to the front door. He looked up and down the road, his designer suit out of place among the tatty shops around him. His policeman’s eye ensured he could recall every important thing he saw without effort. Once inside the station, Gould was directed into Detective Sergeant Clement’s office. Clement immediately stood up respectfully when he saw the imposing blond, rather handsome, detective chief inspector enter.
“DS Clement? I’m DCI Gould,” the visitor said as the two men shook hands. “Thanks for calling me into this case. What have you got?”
Clement showed Gould some photographs of the corpse. “We have a body that might interest you. This is how it looked when we arrived. Some old codger fishing in the canal found it. The methane inside the corpse must have pushed it to the surface. We think it was in the water for about three weeks – the skin was beginning to burst open. It looks as if bricks had weighed it down but only one of them was left – probably some fish had eaten the other ropes. According to the pathologist, death was by garrotting – the marks are still around his neck – look there. All together it looks like a professional killing. The corpse must have been dumped up to a mile upstream of where it was found, but it’s a busy towpath, and we have not found any other witnesses.” Clement was happy to use the benefit of Tassell’s knowledge of the canal. “It’s not an area where we get much help from the public.”
“Have you got any identification yet?” Gould asked.
“His name was Hugh Marks,” Clement replied, looking at his notes. “He had been reported missing three weeks ago. There was an electronic key in what was left of his pocket, which helped us. Marks was twenty-five years old and worked for MacGregor and Sons, which is a firm of auditors in the City. That’s why we called you.”
“Fine. What have you found out? What about his home life?” Gould asked.
“He was very conventional,” Clement replied. “He lived with his girlfriend in Enfield, which would be about ten miles away from where he was found. They were planning to get married later in the year. Marks’s parents are dead. I had to tell his girlfriend – I hate that part of our job. We can’t find any connection with Mile End at all, and there’s nothing suspicious in his background. He was part-qualified as an accountant and well thought of by his employers and everyone we’ve spoken to.”
“Somebody didn’t think well of him,” Gould said, looking at the photographs of the bloated corpse. “This is a very professional killing. He seems to have crossed some dangerous people. Did he owe any debts? Did he gamble at all?”
“Not as far as we can see,” Clement said. “His bank account was all in order.”
“Was there any evidence of drugs?”
“There were no needle marks and no other evidence of drugs in the body. Mind you, the pathologist said any traces would have vanished by the time the body was found.”
“Have you managed to interview Marks’s girlfriend?” Gould asked.
“Yes, since I broke the news to her she’s been in a state of shock. I feel sure she’s not involved. I asked around the neighbours, but there wasn’t anything out of the way,” Clement replied. “They’ve known each other for years, and everyone says they seemed well matched and happy. Even if they did have a row and she wanted to kill him, I can’t imagine a young girl garrotting a larger man then dumping his body in a canal. It must have taken at least a couple of men – professional criminals, I’d say.”
“The most likely motive seems his work in that case,” Gould said. “As his firm was in the City, I’ll look into the victim’s work side.”
“That’s very good of you, Chief Inspector,” Clement exclaimed, relieved to have passed on this responsibility.
“I’d like to meet Marks’s girlfriend first,” Gould said. “It might be better if you come with me.”
4 Stars
Met Ian on holiday - 02.02.2019
Lynne Threadgold

Met Ian on holiday and got a copy of this book. I loved it. Crime thrillers are my love and I found this book as good as many others I have read. Well done Ian, cant wait for the next one

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