Read A Quiet Kill Online

Authors: Janet Brons

A Quiet Kill

To André

ONE

December 1997

It was Mary Kellick who
first stumbled upon the grisly scene. Of course it had to be Mary—tense, anxious Mary—who was first to see the waxen corpse. She had heard somewhere—or had she read it?—that there was a great deal of blood in a body, and now she saw it was true. There was blood everywhere—gallons, she thought—seeping into the thick white carpet.

Questioned by the police, she could remember only the blood. “Nothing there,” commented Detective Chief Inspector Hay following the interview, to no one in particular. Not that it mattered. The experts had been on the scene quickly enough with their cameras, plastic bags, and paper envelopes. The corpse was that of a woman in her mid-forties. Her throat had been slashed, and she lay gaping at the ceiling with dark, vacant eyes. She had been identified by Sergeant Roy Carpenter, the High Commission's junior liaison officer for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

The venue was curious and troubling. The Official Residence of the Canadian High Commissioner in London was an unexpected site for violent crime. The body had been found in an anteroom off the main dining hall. The anteroom was richly appointed but too small to accommodate the entire investigation team at once. While the first few experts got to work, the rest of the team waited impatiently in the dining room, which was enormous and flanked by expensive oil paintings. It had space, thought Hay, for some forty well-heeled diners.

Mary Kellick, the High Commissioner's engagements secretary, had been unable to identify the victim. She said that she had been doing her usual nightly rounds, sometime between nine and nine-thirty, when she came across the body. There had been no official function that night—the High Commissioner and his wife were in Scotland—or her rounds would have begun later. No, Kellick had heard nothing at all beforehand. She had been in her small apartment, which was adjacent to the Residence, and Hay allowed her to return there at the end of their talk.

Mary Kellick sat
at her kitchen table. She stared at the cheery blue and white checks on the tablecloth, purchased when French country had been in vogue. All the magazines and lifestyle programs had pronounced, “Accented with yellow, this look is reminiscent of a lovely summer's day in Provence.” Instead, it was a drizzling night in London, and Mary felt nauseous. She had been horrified by the sight of the body in the anteroom and all that blood. All that blood matted in the poor woman's long auburn hair . . . Mary started violently. It had to be Natalie. It was Natalie Guévin, the head of the High Commission's trade section, who was lying on the anteroom floor. She had been virtually unrecognizable. Mary suddenly realized that she was trembling uncontrollably and very, very cold.

RCMP Sergeant Roy
Carpenter stood officiously just inside the anteroom, monitoring the comings and goings of the forensics team and documenting the removal of the various exhibits. He thought that the Deputy High Commissioner, Paul Rochon, had made a mistake inviting the British cops to the Residence so quickly. Carpenter knew that Rochon had contacted High Commissioner Carruthers, who was on holiday in Edinburgh, and that the decision had been made jointly. But a special detachment of the
RCMP
was being dispatched from Ottawa. Surely the crime scene could have waited. It was, after all, technically on Canadian soil—something called extraterritoriality. He wondered randomly whether Rochon might just have been squeamish about the body remaining on the premises any longer than absolutely necessary.

Carpenter, a tall, fit officer who prided himself on his daily ten-mile runs, was rather distrustful of the diminutive, narrow-shouldered Rochon with his pasty face. Rochon always made Carpenter a bit uncomfortable—and Carpenter's own discomfort made him feel, in turn, a bit guilty. He always found it strange to see the cadaverous Rochon, with his long, nervous fingers and that weak chin—why didn't the man at least grow a beard?—riding around in the official vehicle with the flag waving whenever the High Commissioner went back to Canada or otherwise left the
UK
. But Rochon was, after all, the number two, and that was just how it worked.

Although he believed he had a strong stomach—he had been in Bosnia, hadn't he?—Carpenter was content to busy himself by asking questions of the forensics team and taking notes. The state of the corpse was appalling. Anyway, he needed to be in a position to report fully to his own people when they arrived from Ottawa. Sergeant Carpenter stopped one of the junior police officers who was exiting the anteroom, and demanded to know what was in the plastic bag.

The few Residence
staff who still “lived in” had been summarily roused from their evening rituals. A matched set of constables had woken the butler / part-time chauffeur from an early night's sleep; disturbed the chief cook from a televised football match; and, apparently, interrupted a somewhat flustered maid in her bath. All three expressed shock and disbelief over the murder, which was not surprising to the pair of young constables, both of whom believed themselves to have heard it all before.

Annie Mallett, the maid, was both horrified and thrilled by the events. She dried herself thoroughly, dressed quickly, and applied her makeup—complete with Violet Vixen lipstick. This could be an exciting night. She very much hoped that the detective chief inspector would look like that lovely Inspector Morse on television. Maybe she would be asked to look at the body. They might assign security guards to all their rooms. The newspapers might even want to interview her. The possibilities were endless.

Head Chef Luciano Alfredo Carillo was not pleased. Eight years in some of the finest cooking schools in Europe, executive chef in a top Swiss hotel, and now stuck working for these Canadians with their pedestrian palates. He had thought it would look good on his
CV
, but it had been a boring and frustrating couple of years. He sometimes wondered whether he was losing his passion for food as he wasted his talents on burgers and bran muffins for the Ambassador and his snob of a wife. Cooking for diplomatic functions was almost as bad:
this
one wouldn't eat pork,
that
one wouldn't eat beef,
she
was a vegetarian,
he
was allergic to shellfish . . . no wonder he felt his creativity being sapped. Tonight, however, with an absent High Commissioner and no functions to worry about, he had been enjoying the football match, which Manchester United was winning handily, and his bottle of Cabernet. Well, it wasn't his bottle exactly as it had originally been part of the High Commission stores, but Luciano Alfredo Carillo felt entitled to the odd liberty. And now he was being dragged out for some murder. As he pulled on his sweater, he suddenly had an unwelcome thought: was this murder perhaps a poisoning? He very much hoped not.

Anthony Thistlethwaite knotted his tie. He had been awakened from a delicious early-evening sleep by a knock on the door and two officious young constables announcing a murder.
Well, well
, he pondered,
in service in the Residence for thirty years and I thought I'd seen everything. Especially that cross-dressing fruitcake they sent here as High Commissioner a few years back. Kept complaining about the closet space. Or the time when that Kellick made a mess of the dinner invitations and twenty dignitaries, dressed to the nines, arrived at the Residence a week early. Now this. Well, well.

The young constables
reported back to
DCI
Hay that Mallett, Carillo, and Thistlethwaite were assembled and ready to be interviewed. “Tell Carpenter, will you?” said Hay. “He will want to be in on the interviews.”

“He's a bit of a nosey parker, that one,” muttered Constable Brent to his colleague.

Hay stiffened and raised his eyebrows. “A nosey parker you think, do you? This is technically Canadian soil. We are here at the invitation of the High Commission. You had best remember that.”

Like many very tall men, Hay was imposing at the best of times, but when annoyed he could be positively intimidating. At least that was the young constable's opinion at the moment.

“Yes, sir. And, er, the Deputy High Commissioner should be arriving shortly. And,” he repeated, trying to redeem himself, “we have collected the household staff for interviews. Sir.” The last was uttered in a hopeful tone that served only to annoy Hay further.

“Bully for you,” grumbled Hay as he strode back to the anteroom. “And Brent,” he said, turning in mid-stride, “get Carpenter a cup of tea.”

Deputy High Commissioner
Paul Rochon sped toward the Official Residence, blinded by the reflection of oncoming headlights through the rain. He glanced at the gas gauge, remembering with annoyance that he was running low. He had meant to fill up the following morning, but then he could hardly have anticipated a murder at the Residence. It had been Carpenter, the
RCMP
liaison, who had called him at home, although it seemed that poor Mary Kellick had discovered the body. Smart kid, Mary, if terribly sensitive. Apparently she had been an excellent engagements secretary at one time but had become increasingly anxious and high strung in recent years. Sometimes she seemed nervous almost to the point of paralysis.

Paul's thoughts reverted to the matter at hand. He had contacted the High Commissioner at his hotel in Edinburgh without difficulty; the relief that he had experienced at hearing his boss's voice had been almost physical. Not that he was unaccustomed to making decisions and dealing with emergencies, but this was something altogether different. It was likely to become very complicated. Paul wondered vaguely if there was any precedent to such an event but doubted it very much. He was pleased to follow Wesley Carruthers's advice: phone the London Criminal Investigation Department, alert the Operations Centre in Ottawa, and request an
RCMP
team from Canada. Get to the High Commission. Alert the program heads.
No press
.

The High Commissioner had a cool head in a crisis. It had been a political appointment, as was usually the case in London, and Rochon had been prepared to dislike the newly minted High Commissioner Carruthers on sight. But the astute youngish former cabinet minister (Justice, wasn't it, followed by Environment?) made a surprisingly adept head of mission. Even Rochon, who had climbed steadily if not brilliantly through the ranks of the foreign service, had to admit that Carruthers possessed some excellent qualities, including a few not normally in the skill set of the average foreign service officer. For one, the High Commissioner got along remarkably well with the press and wasn't intimidated by them. As a former politician, he seemed to have accepted the credo that no publicity was bad publicity—except, at least for the moment, under the present circumstances. Many in the professional service, including Rochon, preferred to remain in the background and do their jobs with little or no fanfare. To have your name even mentioned in the press was not only embarrassing but often also a
CLM
—a “career-limiting move.”

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