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Authors: Roger Gumbrell

A Perfect Likeness

BOOK: A Perfect Likeness
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Roger Gumbrell

Copyright © 2012 Roger Gumbrell

The moral right of the author has been asserted.

Apart from any fair dealing for the purposes of research or private study,

or criticism or review, as permitted under the Copyright, Designs and Patents

Act 1988, this publication may only be reproduced, stored or transmitted, in

any form or by any means, with the prior permission in writing of the

publishers, or in the case of reprographic reproduction in accordance with

the terms of licences issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency. Enquiries

concerning reproduction outside those terms should be sent to the publishers.


9 Priory Business Park,

Wistow Road, Kibworth Beauchamp,

Leicestershire. LE8 0RX

Tel: (+44) 116 279 2299

Fax: (+44) 116 279 2277

Email: [email protected]


ISBN 978 1780889 726

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data.

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

is an imprint of Troubador Publishing Ltd

To my wife, Blanca, for her unceasing encouragement and support.

Chapter 1

Detective Inspector Terry Deckman read the letter for a second time. The first reading had done nothing to make him believe this day would turn out better than any other. He was beginning to believe the opposite was much more of a possibility. There was no denying the writing was elegant; the most perfect he had seen and the style unique. As if the writer wished to emphasise each letter of every word he had written to ensure the reader, and he knew it would ultimately be read by Deckman, had an absolute understanding of their meaning and importance. He judged the writer to be a maestro of the written word, but it was the choice of those words that made him feel a growing sense of uncertainty. He believed they displayed an honesty that any writer would have found difficult to record in such a way were they not the truth and that was something he had no wish to contemplate. If the letter held the truth, Deckman would have to admit to making the most serious error of his career.

He had not considered the Victoria Campbell case since the appeal. For Deckman this was a disgraceful waste of public money and should never have been heard. It was a clear case of husband murders wife in a fit of anger and the offender, Michael Campbell, was now locked away for a good number of years. He folded the letter and returned it to the envelope before handing it back to Jackie Salter, Victoria Campbell’s sister.

He said nothing, made a rapid turn to avoid eye contact and in four strides he was at the office window looking down on the street two storeys below. It was mid-morning and a broken down bus exacerbated the usual traffic chaos created by the weekly market. Deckman saw nothing. He adjusted his already perfectly knotted tie and tugged the bottom of the jacket of his immaculate blue suit before sliding his hands into its pockets. He needed a few moments to consider the right words and ‘his window’ was the place to think them through.

Jackie fidgeted in her chair, impatient to speak, but not daring to interrupt his deliberations. She shifted her position, but not allowing her eyes to drift away from his handsome profile. Her face contorted in concentration as she tried to catch some idea of what he might be thinking. It was too much, she couldn’t wait any longer. ‘Insp…’ she began, but Deckman immediately raised his hand signalling her to remain silent. She was furious with herself and continued her observation in silence. The pressure of the wait was getting to Jackie and when Deckman cleared his throat she jumped, almost tipping herself off the chair.

Deckman returned to his desk and eased himself onto the recently re-upholstered swivel chair producing a squeak as he slid into a comfortable position. ‘Sorry, I’ve not even offered you a drink. You must think me very rude. Would you like a tea or coffee?’

Jackie felt her anger rising, but managed to keep it under control. ‘No, Inspector, nothing thank you. Just give me your decision.

Deckman adjusted his tie for the second time. ‘Look, Jackie, I have read many letters such as the one you are holding. You know, it is not unusual for a convicted criminal to write to his, or her, family pleading they were not guilty of the crime for which they were imprisoned. I’m very sorry, but there is nothing I can do on the strength of this letter. It gives me no reason to.’ He did not feel secure as he spoke, but hoped he had managed to hide his anxiety or, at least, trusted Jackie hadn’t noticed it.

‘I guessed you might say that.’ She frowned, her disappointment obvious.

‘Did you really expect me to say otherwise?’

Jackie shrugged and shook her head. ‘Suppose not.’

Deckman brushed a non-existent crumb from the desk-top with the back of his hand. ‘And I can remember how you almost jumped for joy when Michael lost his appeal. You told me then you hoped he would rot in jail, although I recall your exact words were somewhat stronger, and now you are asking me to have another look at the case. I can’t think why the letter has brought about such a change of heart.’ Not only was he trying to convince Jackie that Campbell’s words were of no importance, but also himself.

She wiped a trace of wetness from her eyes and gave an involuntary sniff. ‘Oh, I don’t know that it has, Inspector. It’s got me at a vulnerable time I suppose. Been sitting on the letter for a couple of days now wondering what to do. I’ve read it a hundred times, or so it seems, and it is two years ago today that Victoria died. I’m not sure whether Michael planned it to arrive so close to the anniversary, or not. I wouldn’t have thought so as his mental state is supposed to be a bit suspect. However, knowing Michael as I do, well, as I thought I did, I have to say I find the letter very convincing. Don’t you think so, Inspector?’

Deckman did happen to think so, but he wasn’t about to tell Jackie. ‘I was not aware he had a problem.’

‘Oh, sorry, Inspector, I just assumed you must have been told, although I imagine your interest finished after the appeal. He was transferred to Nunhouse prison a few weeks ago so he can be kept under twenty-four hour watch. His parents were told that he had become much more withdrawn and was not communicating with anyone. There were concerns for his safety. Not sure what that means, but he has always refused to see his family and made no contact with the outside world, until now that is,’ she said, waving the letter.

‘No, I wasn’t told, but he’s in the best hands if he really does have a problem. The Nunhouse medical officer and I just happen to be members of the same golf club. He’s an excellent doctor and is used to dealing with mental problems.’ Deckman looked across the organised office towards ‘his window’ and thought for a while longer. The letter was convincing enough, he thought, even without new evidence. ‘Listen, Jackie, all I can promise you is if you give me good enough grounds then I’ll have another look, but it will have to be something pretty significant.’

‘Well, at least it isn’t a flat refusal.’ Jackie shifted to a less defeated position.

‘The best I can do.’

It was Jackie’s turn to think for a while. She stood up and stared hard at Deckman. ‘Okay, but how the hell do I go about it?’ she demanded, her arms outstretched pleading for help. ‘What should I do? I don’t have a clue where to begin.’

Deckman didn’t react to her sudden burst of hostility. ‘I would suggest you first of all go and see Michael and find out what the letter is all about and

‘No, no, no.
I couldn’t do that,’ she interrupted. ‘It’s just not possible. Not possible at all. You don’t honestly expect me to face him when I still believe he murdered my lovely sister. Come on, Inspector, that is out of the question and I don’t want my family, or Michael’s, involved at this stage either. You see, I haven’t told anyone else about the letter.’ She calmed as quickly as she had erupted.

‘Try and control this anger you feel, Jackie, it won’t do you any good and it’s not helpful.’

‘I know. I’m just being silly because I don’t know which way to turn.’

Deckman smiled. ‘I’m very sorry, I didn’t mean to distress you. In that case I think you should hire a private investigator. There
some good ones out there you know.’

‘Sounds more like it, but where do I begin to find a good one?’ She hesitated, looking towards Deckman for guidance that was not on offer. ‘Telephone directory I suppose, but how do I know a good one from a bad one? Oh, Inspector Deckman, please help. Are you able to recommend one for me?’

‘No, Jackie, I can’t do that, but I will give you the name of a lady you might try to contact. Trish Grant. She and her husband ran a top class agency until six or seven months ago when he ran off with a wealthy client. Trish did have a very good reputation, but I understand she found the break-up very difficult and has been struggling to come to terms with it. I believe she is still in the area, but whether she is still operating I really don’t know. They used to operate out of an office in Clumber Street, near the university and opposite a pub called ‘The Study’. Remember, this is
a recommendation so you find her, talk with her and then
must decide whether she is the right one for you.’


Jackie opened the gate to the once pretty front garden of her parent’s house. She followed the zigzag path that lead to the solid oak front door. A direct path would have been more appropriate, but her mother had always loved the idea of having a zigzag and so her father provided it. Like he did with just about everything her mother wanted, but what he couldn’t do was bring back her daughter, and she wanted that more than anything else.

The house and garden had always been meticulously maintained, but since the death of Victoria it had become, like everything else for Mr and Mrs Salter, an irrelevance. An unnecessary chore. The garden would normally have been brimming with colour; a tasteful display of seasonal flowers, but now those flowers needed deadheading, weeds were in abundance and the postman’s short cut across the zigzag path direct to the front door had become a permanent feature. The house, once the envy of the street, had lost its sparkle and passers-by no longer stopped to give it the admiring glances it had once merited.

Brian and Margaret Salter were on a four week fly-cruise holiday in the Caribbean; it was their first time away from home since Victoria had been murdered. Jackie had persuaded them to go hoping it would help bring about changes that would enable them to enjoy a happier lifestyle once again. She had told them on a number of occasions it was what Victoria would have wanted.

Jackie had decided to walk into town that morning knowing parking would be difficult. It was always a problem in Draycliffe, but on market day it was like the summer when the thousands of holidaymakers made it impossible. She normally enjoyed the walk, especially as it gave her an opportunity for a spot of window shopping. Today was different. The walk home brought on a growing sadness and a desperate need to talk to her sister. She slammed the front door and ran up the blue carpeted stairs to the bedroom she had shared with Victoria until Jackie had moved in with her boyfriend. Three months later Victoria married Michael. Life was good and the two couples were inseparable. That was until Jackie discovered her partner had been having an affair for almost twelve months. There were no second chances; she moved straight back home despite him begging forgiveness. She remembered how wonderful Michael had been in helping her over a very difficult time and then, just six months later, Victoria was dead. Murdered. She kicked off her shoes and lay on her bed looking at the photograph of Victoria on the bedside table. She reached over and took hold of it, clasping it tight to her chest. Jackie cried, as she always did when thinking of her sister and wiped the tears from her cheeks with the back of her hand. She raised the photo and kissed the image of Victoria.

‘I wish you were here, Sis, I’m so confused. I know when I talk to you it is always about the things we have done together and the great times we have had, but today is different. You see, I have had this letter from Michael telling me it was not him that… that… that took you away from us. I hated Michael for what he did to you, but the letter has made me think again and I feel I must do something about it. I can’t explain why, it is just a feeling I have and you know how Michael was with words. Could make you believe anything, couldn’t he? Inspector Deckman didn’t appear impressed though. Says that most prisoners write to their family saying they were innocent.’

BOOK: A Perfect Likeness
7.29Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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