Where the Bodies are Buried – the complete book online - Monday, 25th July: 3

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Monday, 25th July: 3

His hand was soft. He wore a suit in a Norfolk cut, in drab olive herringbone with a thin dull red stripe woven through it. The suit was new. He must have bought it to come down to the West Country. He was a soft man, with smooth features in a round face, pale round spectacles and a pale bald dome with a wispy fringe of colourless hair. There was a resident twinkle in his eye, which told you he shared your view that what you were just about to say was trenchant and amusing. His lips seemed always on the crest of a smile, though the wave had not broken yet in this interview. This was a very dangerous man. He could send you innocent to the gallows and you wouldn’t hold it against him.

“You’ve been cautioned, Mr Golden. May I call you Ernest?”

“Everyone calls me Ted.”

“Ernest Edward Golden, it says here.”

“You wouldn’t want to be a six-year-old called Ernest in the neighbourhood where I grew up. So I decided to call myself Ted.”

“I had the notion somehow you grew up in Westowe.”

“It’s a long story.”

Detective Superintendent Radcliffe nodded. He reached into his briefcase, unzipped a pouch, extracted a meerschaum pipe and began to fill it with tobacco. I looked at the card he had given me. “I don’t suppose SCB stands for the Swiss Corporation of Banking?”

A bright gleam winked in his eye like a distant light at dusk. “Acronyms. What’s the gain? Do you know what they call British Gas now? B.G. Which everyone has to translate back into British Gas. SBC is the Swiss Bank Corporation. We’re the Serious Crimes Bureau.”

“Scotland Yard?”

“Sort of thing.” Detective Superintendent Radcliffe took the pipe out of his mouth. His smile twitched, but like the pipe, he was having trouble getting it lit. “We are a national unit. Set up to investigate unsolved crimes. Focused particularly on identifying serial killers. So, we’re interested in missing persons where there’s some suspicion of foul play. We’ve got a team of experts up at the National Crime Faculty in Bramshill — analysts, statisticians, psychologists, sexual offence wallahs. They apply the technology. I look after the south-west region. My job is to help local forces with their investigations and collect data to put into the Bramshill hopper — cause of death, injuries, victims’ backgrounds, DNA samples, suspects, location of attacks — to see if any common links surface.” He shone the smile on me like a double-glazing salesman handing me a pen and order form. “Excuse the commercial. Now, where were we?”

I tried my own 18-carat smile. “At the beginning of a long story.”

He raised the stem of his pipe in my direction. “Do you mind if we begin at the end, instead?” He pointed the pipe over his shoulder into the corner of the room. An unwinking red light on a remote-controlled TV camera looked back at me. “This is being recorded by the way. Technology.” He took a document out of his briefcase, and turned over the first page. “This morning, Monday, the 25th of July, you sailed a yacht called the Snow Queen into Plymouth harbour. Belonging to a company called Bequia Vagabonds, registered in the Cayman Islands. Were you alone?”

“Yes.”

“When the Snow Queen left Plymouth marina three days ago a Danish national called Lothar Volkmann and an Australian woman, Mathilda Ferguson, were on board. Friends of yours?”

“They were. You know about the SOS?”

“Would you mind telling me again?”

“I reported that a tow had broken loose on a vessel with two people on board. It had no power, no radio and was unsailable.”

“Couldn’t be sold?”

“Couldn’t be sailed.”

“Sorry, I’m pig ignorant about boats.”

“The jib sheets were jammed. So you couldn’t control the foresail. And the main halyard was stuck at the masthead somehow. So you couldn’t lower the main.”

“That was your boat?”

I nodded. “The Amaryllis.”

“Couldn’t anything be done to bring down the sails?”

“Not when it was blowing hard. I was alone. The boat was thrashing about in thick fog. Lothar and Matty picked me up and took me in tow. It was a great stroke of luck. I was shattered, so they took me on board the Snow Queen and boarded the Amaryllis to sort out the sails. And then the tow rope parted.”

“And you lost them?”

“In seconds. It was gusty at the time. The wind filled the sail and just blew them away into the fog. So I sent an SOS. And laid a course for Plymouth.”

“You didn’t wait to help the lifeboat?”

“The lifeboat has radar. There was nothing I could do in the fog. Conditions were rough and I was knackered. I was worried about getting back myself.”

“Couldn’t the lifeboat have helped you?

“I’d rather they found my friends.”

“How did you know where you were? In the fog?”

“No problem. The Snow Queen has SatNav.”

“Couldn’t you use that to find your boat — the Amaryllis?”

“Satellite navigation is not like radar. It just tells you where you are.”

“And the Amaryllis was found before you got in to harbour?”

“I got in late morning. The fog had lifted by then. She was reported drifting a couple of miles off Grise Heel. Full of water, with no one on board. She sank while they were towing her in.”

“So your friends are still missing.”

“Presumed dead.”

“I’m sorry.” Radcliffe had removed his spectacles, and was patting the pockets of his new green suit.

“Your spectacle case is in your briefcase.”

“Ah, so it is. Thank you.” He took a small yellow cloth out of the case and began to polish his specs.

“You embarked from Westowe in the Amaryllis?”

“Yesterday evening.” Less than 24 hours ago. Could that be? It seemed a lifetime ago.

“Were you sailing alone?”

“Yes.”

“Why were you sailing at night?”

“I was off on a little cruise. To the Helford river.”

“At night?”

“It was the right time to catch the tide.”

“How do you see where you’re going at night?”

“The compass is illuminated.”

“Sorry. That was rather stupid of me. But why go out in those conditions?”

“The forecast was unsettled, but not bad. What it can’t predict is local fog. And local gusts off the cliffs.”

“The lifeboat skipper didn’t go out with the boat, I hear.”

“Spider was devastated. Matty was a good friend of his, too. He always reckons things would have been different if he’d been there.”

“Isn’t it unusual for the lifeboat skipper not to go out on an emergency?”

“It’s a volunteer service. You go out if you’re there. I was told Spider was out doing a bit of dawn fishing with a mate of his.”

“Mr Dinsmore.”

“Spider isn’t that keen. It’s really just a treat for Dinny.”

“He’s a good friend of yours, isn’t he?”

“Dinny? He’s a bit simple now.”

“Spider, I meant.”

“We grew up together. I lived with him and his Mam after my parents died.”

“Mr Dinsmore wasn’t always simple, was he?”

“He was never going to compete on ‘Mastermind’. But apparently he fell off the quay on his head one night years ago.”

“He says Malcolm Goodfellow pushed him.”

“Superbloke? I never heard that.”

“Superbloke?”

“We used to call him that.”

“Mr Dinsmore said Mr Goodfellow was trying to kill him.”

“You can’t put much trust in what Dinny says.”

“Can you think of any reason why Mr Goodfellow would want to kill Dinny?”

“I wasn’t in Westowe then. I’ve been away for almost thirty years.”

“Mr Dinsmore said it had something to do with a bucket.”

“A bucket?”

“As you say, his thought processes are somewhat intricate. But have a look at this.” He pushed across a photocopy of a news cutting. It was from the Westowe Weekly Herald, and it was over forty years old. It reported the loss of the sailing yacht Easy Street and the death of Mr and Mrs Franklin Golden in The Devil’s Frying-pan on a squally night. My mum and dad.

“The sea has taken a lot from you.”

“What’s this got to do with a bucket?”

He pushed across a second photostat, from an issue of the same newspaper four weeks later. It was a letter to the editor from a cruising yachtsman complaining that the leading lights at Westowe were not working when he had visited the port in the previous month. Beneath it was a firm rebuttal from the Harbourmaster’s office, stating that this was impossible as a fault locator at the South Western Electricity Board would register any interruption in the electricity circuit, and none had occurred.

“What’s the connection with Dinny?”

“It happened when they were just lads. According to Mr Dinsmore — Dinny — Goodfellow attacked him because of what Dinny had been saying in the pub one night. That when he was a child he’d seen someone at the leading light early the morning after your parents died. And later he saw a brown plastic bucket that had melted like chocolate in the sun. Goodfellow senior was taking it out of his dinghy.”

“Thomas Goodfellow fell into the sea some years later. From a point where you can see that light on The Elbow.”

“Local rumour has it that was suicide.” Detective Superintendent Radcliffe reached for his pipe with one hand and his spectacle case with the other.

“Your tobacco pouch is in your briefcase,” I said.

He looked at the spectacle case, nodded and half-smiled, then replaced it with the tobacco pouch and began to push the leaves into his pipe. “Did you know Goodfellow senior and your mother were having an affair?”

A closed door creaked open in my mind. Uncle Tom? Thomas Goodfellow? I tried not to blink. “Local rumour again?”

“Yes, and more than forty years old I’m afraid.”

“I never heard it.”

“I don’t mean to distress you. I have to scoop everything up and stuff it in the databank. Rumours, lies, press cuttings. The dirt with the nuggets. Like an industrial Hoover.” We were both silent for a few seconds. I watched the TV camera watching me. “I’ve been given to understand that you and Mrs Streb are quite close.”

“We were childhood sweethearts.”

“And since you’ve been back?”

“Just good friends.”

“Now that her husband’s dead, you don’t suppose — .” His voice trailed off in a wave of the hand.

“She’s still in denial.”

“Of course. Malcolm Goodfellow was close to Mrs Streb too, wasn’t he?”

“He helped her arrange her exhibition.”

“Amazing success, that. Not my cup of tea, exactly. Still.” His pipe wandered in the air. “You don’t suppose he was jealous of you?”

“Bartholomew?”

That drew a sharp glance. “Surely you returned to Westowe well after Bartholomew Streb went missing?”

“I arrived in November. He left last August.”

“Yes.” He puffed on his pipe. “I was thinking of Goodfellow fils actually. If he were jealous of you and Mrs Streb, he might remember what his father had done and try it again.”

“I don’t think he felt about Angie in that way.”

“It’s a scenario.” He twinkled at me. “I really shouldn’t speculate, of course. My job is simply to Hoover, and feed all the grit into the great machine at Bramshill. Still, what do you think? Is he, was he, the kind of man who could do a thing like that?”

“I think anybody can wish somebody dead, if there’s no other way out of a problem. Very few people can actually do it. But any man can run.”

Radcliffe took his pipe out of his mouth and leaned forward. “That’s an interesting remark.” He laughed for the first time. “Mind telling me what it means?”

“You think you’re looking for a grotesque serial murderer. I think you’re looking for a bunch of men wearing false beards and looking over their shoulders on the Costa del Sol. Local rumour has it, as you probably know, that Goodfellow had serious financial problems. So did Lord Nick. So did Colonel Meeker.”

“What about Bartholomew?”

“He was blown up in his boat. Calor gas is heavier than air. If there’s a leak in the system, it builds up in the bilges. Strike a match to make a cup of tea, and — boom. The others — all four of them — I reckon they all did a Stonehouse.”

“Yes, I had heard that. Your local constable, Mr Starr, is quite keen on that theory.” He looked up with a full smile. “Did you say four of them?”

My mind froze, chilling my blood. Had I counted Charlie? I ticked them off slowly. “Colonel Meeker. Lord Nick. Malcolm Goodfellow.” I paused. “And that fellow from Bristol. Fergusson? Well, he must have been a suicide, I suppose.”

“Ah, Fergusson. With a double s. Yes, I was rather excluding him, because he wasn’t local. I thought perhaps you’d heard already.”

“Heard what?”

“Mr Segui, the Club Secretary, has been reported missing. By his sister.”

“Charlie? Any idea what’s happened to him?”

“None whatsoever. No abandoned dinghy, no split catamaran netting, no tidy pile of clothing on the cliff-top. He’s just vanished.”

“His sister will tell you Charlie was in a bit of cash squeeze, too. You’ll probably find him under the next but one beach umbrella to Superbloke.”

“It’s a wonder they didn’t charter a plane.” Radcliffe shot me a conspiratorial glance. “If your theory is correct, we’ll find them. But it does seem just a wee bit sinister, don’t you agree? Eight people have died or disappeared in this tiny village in the past year. Bartholomew Streb, Colonel Meeker, Lord Farthing-Tattersall, Goodfellow, Fergusson, and now — on the same night — Segui, the Danish fellow and the Australian girl.” He paused and jotted on a note-pad. “Ferguson with one s. Fergusson with two. Do you suppose that’s a coincidence?”

“Eddy Starr would have a theory for it.”

Detective Superintendent Radcliffe smiled. “Eleven people, if we go back a few decades and include your father and mother and Goodfellow père.”

“As they say, worse things happen at sea.”

“So, what’s the connection?”

“I knew them all. I suppose that’s why I’m here.”

“My dear fellow, you’re here because — .” He broke off. “You knew Angus Fergusson?”

“No. I forgot about him. That would have to be a suicide, wouldn’t it?”

“Any connection with Goodfellow?”

“Coincidence. All the publicity about the disappearances could have brought him to Westowe on the same day.”

“A copycat? It happens. And he’s the one that doesn’t fit the pattern.”

“What pattern?”

“All the other victims were local. There were money problems. Or romantic attachments.” He began to polish his spectacles again. “Bye the bye, man to man, I’d tread carefully with Mrs Harris.”

“Rab — Ronny?”

“Police Sergeant Starr seems to be very keen on her.”

“I wish them every happiness.”

“Good.”

“While we’re speaking man to man, there’s something I’d like to get off my chest.”

“Please do.”

“Pixie and Poxy.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Those two animals. Do you employ them?”

“I don’t believe there’s anyone of either name on our register.”

“Two thugs in blue jeans, leather jackets and police issue shoes. A big one wearing size twelves. And the other size six.”

“What about them?”

“I think they’re drug-pushers.”

“A serious charge.”

“Or if they’re Customs and Excise officers, they’re way out of order.”

“Do you wish to make a formal complaint?”

“No, I just want to pass on some local rumours. In case you haven’t hoovered under the carpets.”

“I’m listening.”

“Rumour one: said agents entrapped a local lad called Simon, and forced him to spy on Lord Nick, so he almost drowned with His Lordship. Rumour two: they broke into the castle, they assaulted me and may have beaten up Matty. They set up Matty, too. Framed her with drugs and blackmailed her into sailing off with Lothar. And they pissed in a bottle of Glenmorangie.”

Radcliffe took his pipe out of his mouth. “Was there whisky in it?”

“Two-thirds full.”

“Appalling. I’ll see to it right away.” He made a beckoning motion towards the glass partition to his right. The door opened and Pixie and Poxy stepped into the room. There were out of uniform, neatly dressed in ties and sports jackets, and unsmiling. Detective Superintendent Radcliffe gestured at two wooden chairs and Pixie and Poxy sat down, hands folded on their laps in identical, erect postures.

Radcliffe looked at me. “Detective Sergeants Smart and Noble.” He looked at them. “You know Mr Golden.”

“Yes, sir,” they chimed.

“You’ve heard his allegations?”

“Yes, sir.”

“It seems there may have been a misunderstanding. Perhaps you could clarify the situation for Mr Golden.”

Pixie spoke. The Thames estuary nasal-speak had been replaced by an Oxbridge accent. “Yes, sir. We were investigating Mr Golden in connection with the disappearance of Mr Bartholomew Streb and Colonel Lawrence Meeker.”

“What led you to Mr Golden?”

“You want me to reveal the source of our information, sir?” Radcliffe waved a hand. “We were acting upon information received from Mr Golden’s former partner, Mr Donald Penny. He had sponsored a civil suit against Mr Golden, accusing him of the death of his wife, Mrs Maire Golden. He informed us that Mr Golden had returned to Westowe to live in the home of his former lover, Mrs Bartholomew Streb, and that Mr Streb had gone missing.”

“Hearsay. Gossip. Surely insufficient grounds for interviewing Mr Golden?”

“Precisely, sir. We simply opened a file. But then, Colonel Lawrence Meeker also disappeared in Westowe. Because of the circumstances an inquest was held. Which revived our interest in Mr Golden.”

“What was the result of your interview with Mr Golden?”

Poxy shifted his large frame on the small wooden chair and shot a black scowl at me, but it was Pixie who continued to speak. He thumbed through the pages of a notebook.

“We spoke to Mr Golden on Wednesday, 2nd February. He was not living with Mrs Streb, but in property owned by her husband. There was no evidence that he and Mrs Streb were having an affair, nor that he was in any way involved in Mr Streb’s disappearance. However, the inquest placed him centrally in the matter of Colonel Meeker’s disappearance. It was established that Mr Golden was the last person to see Colonel Meeker, and he also recovered the dinghy he set out in.”

“Mr Golden has suggested that you compromised a young man called Simon.”

“Certainly not, sir. Although we are aware of a Customs and Excise operation in which he may have been involved. We are not at liberty to discuss that in front of Mr Golden.”

“And did you break into Mr Golden’s residence?”

“On the night of Saturday, 26th March, we investigated the Westowe Castle. We were given permission to do so by Mr Charles Segui, the solicitor acting for Mrs Streb in the rental of the property.”

“Did you talk to Miss Ferguson that night?”

“She arrived unexpectedly before we had completed our investigation of the premises. We took the opportunity to interview her. She volunteered certain information which we subsequently referred to Customs and Excise investigators.”

“Did you assault her, blackmail her or threaten her in any way?”

“Certainly not, sir.”

“She was badly beaten up that night. Do you know by whom?”

“There is circumstantial evidence suggesting it could have been her boy friend, Lothar Volkmann. Also known as Wolfgang Stederman. Both he and she are the focus of an ongoing Customs and Excise investigation.”

“Did you — ” Detective Superintendent Radcliffe swivelled his gaze to Poxy “ — either of you — assault Mr Golden that night?”

Poxy looked at me as he spoke. His accent remained true to form, though his vocabulary had increased. “I discovered Mr Golden lying prostrate on the ground outside the castle, and helped him to his bed. He’d been drinking.”

“Finally, did either of you relieve yourself in his bottle of Glenmorangie?”

Poxy answered. “I think the aperture would be a bit small, sir.”

Pixie added, glancing at me, “I can’t imagine a drinking man committing that offence, sir.” Of course — Eddy Starr. He doesn’t drink.

Radcliffe turned to me. “Are you satisfied, Mr Golden?”

I shrugged, and thought a promotion might go down well. “I am, if you are, Chief Inspector.”

“Detective Superintendent.” He failed to smile and struck a match to relight his pipe, while his two subordinates left the room. “Mind if I ask a few questions?”

“You’ve answered mine.”

“You moved to Westowe last November. Why was that?”

“I’d lived there as a child. My wife had died. I’d lost my job. I came back to think things over.”

“And you bought a boat. It’s a dream we all have. Casting off from routine. Most of us never get the opportunity.”

“I’d rather my wife were alive. And I’m too young to retire.”

“But you’re well fixed financially?” He said it as if he were ready to offer me a loan. “Your share of the business, and your wife left you some money.”

“My ex-partner is contesting the payout, and there’s a court injunction on the estate. Until that’s lifted I’m skint. You know all this, surely.”

“Donald Penny.”

“He was my wife’s lover as well.”

“After you left her?”

“Not before. As far as I know.”

“Your mother died suddenly when you were a child. As a young man you broke off your engagement, left home and didn’t come back for almost thirty years. Your wife left you for another man. Your name has been linked serially with three different women since you’ve returned to Westowe. Your former lover, Mrs Streb. Mrs Harris. And Miss Ferguson, whom you were the last one to see alive. Would it be fair to describe you as someone who has difficulty establishing lasting relationships with women?”

“Mam still loves me.”

“Mrs Meersman, who brought you up. What kind of a woman is she?”

“She was the local midwife. Knows everybody and everything. Or did until she started to forget.”

“A strong woman?”

“Her world is absolute. Old Testament.”

“Domineering, would you say?”

“She doesn’t suffer fools like me gladly. But then, as it turns out, she’s always right.”

‘ “Did you have any siblings?”

“Spider and I were like brothers. But I was an only child.”

“You left Westowe and made something of yourself. Are you really going to be content to drift through life now as a kind of sailing bum?”

“Just because I don’t wear a suit anymore doesn’t mean I’ve become a psychopath.”

Detective Superintendent Radcliffe rewarded me with another shy smile. He started fussing with his pipe again. “Ever read any John Wilson?” I shook my head. “Oxford philosopher. In the 1970s he invented a lot of neologisms. Words like phil, emp, gig and krat. These described various stages of a person’s moral awareness, starting at the bottom with those whose behaviour depended on what their mothers or teachers had told them, through the dogmas of various belief systems, to those who function according to their own rational convictions.”

“Are you going to tell me I’m a bit of a krat?”

“I can’t remember the various categories. But certainly you and I are morally autonomous. But some people go further along the spectrum. According to the texts we read at Bramshill a serial murderer may not be a psychopath, but he is, by definition a sociopath. Someone who is intellectually deviant.”

“In Russia they sent them to Siberia.”

“It’s relative in each society, of course. But the distinguishing characteristic of the true sociopath is that he has no sense of moral responsibility to anyone or anything in the society in which he functions.”

“The last Tory cabinet was full of them.”

Radcliffe surprised me by saying, “And they got away with murder.”

I had to smile. “Apart from cabinet members, how can you identify them?”

“There are various types. The one that might apply in this case is the hedonist. He kills simply to enhance the comforts of his life. We always keep our eyes open at the scene of the crime, because the hedonist will take a keen interest in the public coverage of his murders. He’ll often turn up around the investigation. Attend the inquest, say.”

“What about personal characteristics?”

“He is methodical. The temperament of an artisan rather than an artist. He often chooses to work at jobs which are below his skill level. He was probably the eldest child. Family discipline was inconsistent. He took most abuse from his father. There will be a background of a prior association with a domineering female.” Radcliffe pointed his pipe at me. “Sound like anyone you know.”

Lothar, I thought. But what I said was what I had said before: “Mam still loves me.”

“Would you say you had a happy childhood before your parents died?”

“I was happy when we were in Westowe.”

“Before that?”

“I don’t remember anything before I was six years old.” Except driving to the beach with Uncle Tom.

Radcliffe grunted and pushed a notebook across to me. “Have you seen this before?” It was one of Lothar’s. I opened it. It was the one in which he had kept the newspaper cuttings. He had updated it with the increasingly hysterical coverage given to the disappearances of Lord Nick, Superbloke, and Angus Fergusson.

“Eddy Starr has a notebook like that.”

“With newspaper cuttings?”

“Eddy doesn’t let anyone look into his notebook.”

“We found it on your boat.”

“The Amaryllis?”

“No, the one you sailed into Plymouth marina yesterday. Snow Queen.”

“Where?”

“In the chart folder.”

I hadn’t found anything incriminating in Lothar’s sea bag, so I’d left it. But I hadn’t looked in the chart folder. “So?” Deputy Superintendent Radcliffe was looking at me with a faint smile.

“So what?”

“Is it yours?”

I shook my head. He passed me a piece of paper on which four dates were written:


FRI 28 JANUARY
WED 27 APRIL
SAT 25 JUNE
SUN 24 JULY


“Do you see any significance in these dates?”

“The first three dates must be about when they disappeared. Meeker, Lord Nick, Goodfellow. The last one’s yesterday.”

“Charlie Segui.” Detective Superintendent Radcliffe pulled without success on his pipe. “Anything else in common?”

“Full moon, maybe. The moon yesterday was just past full.”

“Each date is two days after the full moon. Which apart from its association with werewolves and the menstrual cycle, affects the tide, doesn’t it?”

“Full moon and new moon bring the highest tides.”

“In European waters the peak of the spring tide comes two days after the full moon, isn’t that so?”

“You’ve been cramming Reed’s Nautical Almanac.”

“Can you see well enough to navigate by a full moon at sea?”

“Perfectly. Unless it’s overcast.”

“So on those nights the tide might be high enough so that a yacht might be able to reach a place which was normally inaccessible?”

“You’re thinking about a drug drop?”

“Just a scenario.”

“Am I in it?”

“Where were you on the night of Friday, 28th January?”

“If that’s when Meeker disappeared, I was in my bed in the castle.”

“Alone?”

“Regrettably.”

“But on the night of Wednesday, 27th April, according to Sergeant Starr, you were not at home.”

“The night Lord Nick disappeared? I was asleep on my boat in the Mud Creek car park. Alone again.”

“And when Malcolm Goodfellow disappeared and Angus Fergusson jumped or fell into the Devil’s Frying-pan — the night of Saturday, 25th of June?”

“On my boat again. On a mooring. Alone.”

“And last night, when Mr Segui disappeared, you were on your boat again. With two other people. Who have also disappeared.”

“I almost disappeared myself. My boat did disappear.”

“You see why we’re interested in you.”

“Why would I want to kill all those people?”

“Are they dead?”

“Aren’t they?”

“We can only be sure about Bartholomew Streb and Angus Fergusson.”

“I wasn’t in Westowe when Bartholomew left, and as far as Angus Fergusson is concerned — .” A picture flashed into my mind. A woman’s bottom pumping the air. And on it, tattooed, a no-entry sign.

“Yes?”

“He may have died happy.” I told him about the naked couple Eddy Starr and Dinny and I had seen in the gorse in the early evening of the 25th of June.

The cherubic face of Detective Superintendent Radcliffe frowned. He looked like a prune. “Starr didn’t mention that.”

“That’s why he’s not in the Serious Crime Bureau.”

Radcliffe put on his counselling face. “Why is it, do you think, that you have to make a joke of everything?”

I was accustomed to dealing with that charge. “A mask for basic insecurity. Surely they taught you that in ‘Psychology for Plods’. Or maybe I just find life before death is an absurd idea. Trench humour.”

“I don’t mean to be uncharitable.” He shook his head. “It’s just that I could never do that. People would never take me seriously.” With some effort, his smile returned, sun emerging from cloud. “Sorry about the Glenmorangie, by the way.” He puffed on his pipe, holding me with his eyes. “Still, you can afford it.”

“Now, you are being uncharitable.”

“Not at all. Have you talked to your lawyers recently?”

“They are, as the saying goes, not in funds.”

“Donald Penny is off your case. He’s been charged by the Serious Fraud Office. His action has lapsed. Your wife’s family never supported it. That court order on your assets has been withdrawn.”

“Am I free to go?”

“If you’re planning a holiday abroad I would ask you to defer it. I could need your help at short notice.”

Detective Superintendent Radcliffe stood up and led me to the door. There he stopped and took my elbow. “What about low tides?” he asked.

“Pardon?”

“Does the full moon affect the low tide too?”

“Springs are the most extreme tides. Both high and low.”

“So it means you might be able to walk or land somewhere you couldn’t normally.”

I hastened to steer him off that track. “Twice a year, at the equinox, they are particularly extreme. A hundred years ago they used to play cricket on the sand banks which rose off the Needles at equinox spring low tides.”

“You don’t say.”

“But you must know that, Chief Inspector.”

“Detective Superintendent.”

“Not for long, surely. Isn’t that a Royal Thames Yacht Club tie you’re wearing?”

He plucked at it and his face reddened. “Is it? How embarrassing. My wife picked it up at an Oxfam shop.”