CXVI The Beginning of the End (Book 1): A Gripping Murder Mystery and Suspense Thriller (CXVI BOOK 1) (3 page)

BOOK: CXVI The Beginning of the End (Book 1): A Gripping Murder Mystery and Suspense Thriller (CXVI BOOK 1)
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“Can you think of anything that might have caused Mr
Hussain to take his own life?”

She shook her head.

“Has he ever discussed ending his life?”

“No,” she said, but then hesitated. “He did mention
someone he knew had committed suicide, and I think it had an impact on him.”

Higgson chewed his lip. “Who else knows about your
relationship?”

“No-one,” she said defiantly, crossing her arms. “We
were very discreet, making sure always to go out in separate cars, leaving and
returning at different times, being careful not to advertise we were an item.
Neither of us wanted any trouble, or for our other halves to find out.”

“Do you think your husband suspects?”

She shook her head. “No, he’s only interested in
golf. Oh and maybe his pals down at the golf club.”

Higgson paused for a moment. “Mr Hussain sent you an
e-mail late on Thursday evening.”

“Yes, he did. I didn’t receive it until I logged on
at work yesterday morning. I desperately tried to ring him, but his phone was
switched off. I replied to the e-mail, and never got a response. Then later in
the day there were rumours flying around at work saying he’d died. I deleted
the e-mail; I’ve been frantic with worry ever since.”

“Did you notice anything strange about the e-mail?”

“No, should I?”

“It ended MCXVI. Does that mean anything?”

“Eleven, sixteen, I googled it. It’s the exact time
the e-mail was sent; I assumed he was letting me know it was late. He was
always ending his e-mails with quotes, or silly puzzles that you had to work
out; he was well known for it at work. My favourite was, ‘for the Snark was a
Boojum, you see,’” she looked at Higgson who had raised one eyebrow. “Lewis
Carroll,” she said, with the hint of a smile.

“Oh.” The quote had obviously thrown him off track. “Right,
that’s about it for now. If you think of anything else please give me a call.”
He handed her a card.

“What happens next?”

“I finish my investigations and produce a report for
the coroner.”

“Will there be an inquest?”

“Yes.”

“Will I be asked to give evidence?”

“That’s up to the coroner; he might accept the
e-mail as sufficient evidence or he may decide to call you to the witness box.”

“When will I know?”

“I can’t say really; I’ve still to complete the
investigation.”

“So it’s weeks and weeks of purgatory for me, is
it?” She held her head in her hands.

“I’ll let you know when I’ve completed my report,”
Higgson said, getting up.

 

 

When Higgson returned to his desk
there was an e-mail from the pathologist who had completed the interim post-mortem
report on Hussain; he immediately opened it and started reading. The report
stated that Hussain had died as a result of asphyxia due to hanging by a
ligature; his body had been suspended by an 18mm rope with a six loop hangman’s
knot. The time of death was estimated at around midnight; the chill factor from
the variable Pennine wind and Hussain’s empty stomach made it difficult to
determine. When examined, Hussain’s mouth was open and his face congested; his
tongue was found to be protruding and both eyes were partially open with the
cornea hazy. There was an 18mm ligature mark encircling the neck running
upwards towards the back of his head where there was a small gap which was
beneath the knot. On the right side of his neck were two small 8mm burn marks;
the marks were 14mm apart and approximately 21mm below the ligature mark. There
was no mention of other marks on the body and the major organs were described
as normal, although toxicology results were awaited.

Higgson snatched up the phone, called the
pathologist and after introducing himself asked about the two burn marks on
Hussain’s neck. “Any idea what might have caused them?”

“That’s your job, Inspector.”

“Ignited petrol splashes? It appears he set fire to
his car before walking to the bridge.”

There was a pause.

“Yes, that’s possible.”

“What about sparks from the car fire?”

There was another pause.

“Yes, that’s a possibility too, because the burns
were recent.”

“How recent?”

“Probably within two hours prior to his death.”

“They’re too close together to have been from a
taser or stun gun.”

“Yes, they are. I’d already discounted that.”

“Okay, thank you,” Higgson said, putting the phone
down.

Two minutes later he was disturbed by a call from
the team inspecting the burnt-out car. He listened carefully, making notes as
he did so; then he replaced the receiver.

 

Thursday 29
th
March.

 

It was only days since Jonathan
Plant had left and already Pauline was feeling unsettled. Before leaving he’d
told her he was flying to Peru, and would probably be away for a couple of
months; he’d promised to telephone as often as he could, but said not to expect
any contact for the next couple of weeks. Although he’d divulged more
information than ever before about his intended destination, and was promising
to keep in touch, she was still convinced he worked for the Secret Intelligence
Service. Furthermore, she doubted he’d be staying in Peru, and thought this was
most probably a stopover, before travelling on - none of which had done
anything to assist with her contentedness, and as each day passed her anxiety
intensified.

In an effort to take her mind off things, she’d
spent the day out hacking on Huntford, a ten-year-old, 17 hands, jet black
thoroughbred gelding, who could not be described as anything other than possessing
presence. He was her favourite horse, whom she enjoyed taking out to explore the
beautiful Yorkshire Dales countryside with her. Together with her three loyal
chocolate Labradors, Isambard, Kingdom and Brunel, obediently tagging along,
she’d become well-known around the area, where the locals referred to her as
the friendly lady from the large farmhouse.

After returning home and bedding the animals down
for the night, she’d eaten and, hoping for a relaxing evening, settled in front
of the log fire with a bottle of wine. Unfortunately, her mind had other ideas
and instead of relaxing she become increasingly tense. In an effort to combat
this she opened a second bottle.
You’ll regret this in the morning,
she thought,
sipping from the glass.

Around 10.30 p.m. she was awoken by the telephone
ringing; she’d fallen asleep on the sofa. She got up to answer the call, her
heart thumping.
Oh my head
.

“Hi, Pauline, it’s Tracey.”

“Hi. W… What time is it?”

“Half ten, I haven’t got you up have I?”

“Err… no, I’d fallen asleep in the lounge, too much
wine.”

“I thought you sounded slightly off key.”

She cleared her throat. “Is everything alright?”

“Yes, I’m fine.” There was a pause.

“Have you forgotten? I said I’d ring this week so
you can tell me all about who you’re dating.”

“Oh yes, of course you did. Just bear with me a
second while get some water from the fridge.” She headed to the kitchen, taking
the phone with her. “That’s better,” she said, sipping the iced drink and sitting
at the breakfast bar. “Right, I’ve met this guy called Jonathan, he’s tall,
handsome, very fit and he speaks seven languages. . .”

“He sounds interesting.”

“He reminds me so much of Gerrard; in fact he looks
similar, he’s ultra-confident, cool, calm, has a very dry sense of humour, and
is totally unflappable. He was on the same table as me at a charity function in
Harrogate. We got chatting and one thing led to another. That was eight months
ago.”

“I like the sound of this. And have you. . .”

“Yes, and before you ask, he’s wonderful.”

“I’m becoming jealous.”

“Ah… Well, before you get carried away, there’s a
problem. . .”

“Let me guess; he’s married.”

“No, he’s not. The problem is that he’s away for
months on end; he spends all his time travelling the world.”

“Pauline, are you sure he’s not married?”

“Tracey, he’s not. He works for the Foreign Office,
something to do with the Diplomatic Service. It’s all covered by the Official
Secrets Act, and so he can’t tell me exactly what he does.”

“Wow, a Secret Agent?”

“Well, that’s what I think, but he won’t admit to
it, which makes me even more convinced. Anyhow, because he’s away so much it’s
driving me crazy; when he’s here it’s heaven, but as soon as he walks out of
the door it’s hell. He stayed the weekend and we had a fantastic time and then
he flew out of the country on Monday. I’m already hitting the bottle trying to
numb the pain.”

“Surely he keeps in touch. You can Skype from
anywhere these days.”

“We had a bit of a heart to heart when he arrived on
Friday, and he’s promised he will this time, but I’m getting fed up of feeling
like this; it’s torturing me. The only time the pain goes away is when I’m
sleeping. As soon as I wake it’s there, just like a dagger in the heart.
Perhaps it would be better if I could go to sleep and not wake. . .”

“You scare me when you say things like that. Maybe
it’s time to move on; look for someone else.”

“Yes, but that’s easier said than done.”

“Pauline, you could have any man you wanted, just
look at what you’ve got to offer; you’re beautiful, intelligent, sophisticated,
you’ve wealth beyond most people’s dreams.”

“I don’t want someone who only wants me for the
money; I need someone to love me, care for me, appreciate me, and most of all
make me happy. All the money in the world doesn’t buy that. I just wish I could
shake off this depression; it’s like a dark cloud that follows me around.”

“Have you considered counselling? Some professional
support might help.”

She hesitated.
That’s not a bad idea.
“Could
you recommend anyone?”

“Not really, but I’m sure you’ll be able to find
some expensive clinic the celebs use.”

“Mmm…” she was thinking again. “I’ll start looking
in the morning; I can’t fight this alone anymore.”

 

Friday 30
th
March.

 

Detective Inspector Higgson’s
investigation into the death of Abdul Hussain concluded that suicide was the
most probable cause. There was clear evidence of difficulties in Hussain’s
private life and of work-related pressures. On the night of his death he’d left
home just after nine o’clock intending to pick his son up in Slaithwaite. But
on the way something caused him to deviate and instead drive up to Scammonden
Dam and park in the car park where he and a work colleague — Mrs Julie Noble — 
regularly ate lunch together. His phone had then been switched off between 9.21
and 11.12 p.m. A suicide note in the form of an e-mail had been composed and
sent to Julie Noble at 11.16 p.m., with the phone being once again turned off
one minute later. The suicide note ended with roman numerals, indicating the
time; a usual ruse of Hussain’s, reinforced by Mrs Noble and other work
colleagues. After sending the e-mail it was presumed Hussain had got out of the
vehicle, leaving his keys and taking an 18mm rope. He then set the car alight
with an accelerant - the remains of a plastic petrol can had been recovered
from the burnt-out wreck. Either splashes from the accelerant or sparks from
the fire caused two small burn marks on Hussain’s neck. It then took him around
thirty-five minutes to walk the two and a half miles around the dam up to the
bridge, where he tied the rope to the balustrade railings and hanged himself.
Only Hussain’s fingerprints were discovered on the handrail where the rope was
secured and the west-bound traffic camera at Junction 23 of the M62 motorway had
not recorded any activity on the bridge that night as it was a new moon and in
complete darkness.

Higgson’s report was finalised and ready for the
coroner.

 

 

Chapter 3

Wednesday 16
th
May.

 

Detective Superintendent Greg Woods was
forty-nine, married, with twin teenage daughters; he was six foot, four inches
tall, of slim build, with very short bristly fair hair, giving the appearance
of being almost bald. He rarely smiled, had chiselled, well-defined features
and his presence was both noticeable and intimidating. Woody, as he was
sometimes called by his colleagues in the West Yorkshire Police, headed up the
Murder Investigation Team and was renowned for solving high-profile cases.

He was known for being
a perfectionist with a lightning quick brain that focused on detail. He hardly
ever needed to take written notes and possessed the exceptional ability to
recall historical criminal investigations with pin-point accuracy.

Woods’ ethos was based
on experiential learning, and his high expectations, combined with his
inability to accept that humans were fallible, formed his main weakness.
Consequently, he did not suffer fools and his reputation preceded him.

Unusually for Woods, as
he drove into the Police HQ car park, he was running late.
Damn
, he
looked at his watch; and, while awkwardly trying to put on his jacket, he
sprinted over to the building. He ran up the stairs two at a time. “Morning
everyone,” he shouted as he entered the Incident Room. “What the hell’s wrong
with the traffic?” he asked no-one in particular, as he headed over to his
office.

“Aye, the motorway’s
closed between 39 and 40,” McLean called across.

Woods nodded an
acknowledgement, but didn’t respond. Instead he disappeared into his room and
scanned through the various messages scribbled on pieces of paper scattered
around his desk.
Nothing too urgent,
he thought as he grabbed his
briefcase and went back out into the room. “I’m going up to see Foster; I should’ve
been there at 9.00. Hopefully he’s been delayed too.”

“Is this a first?”
Barnes asked sardonically. “Should I write it in the almanac?”

“Haven’t you got work
to be getting on with?” Woods snapped as he headed for the door, catching sight
of her waving and smiling sweetly at him.

“Aye, you’re pushing
your luck, Maria,” McLean said. “He doesn’t take kindly to being ridiculed.”

“Oh, I don’t know; he’s
not as bad as people would have you believe.”

“Aye, he is, you’ve
only been here a month. Don’t get on the wrong side of him, not if you’re
planning on staying around.”

 

 

Woods knocked on Detective Chief
Inspector Malcolm Foster’s door. He listened carefully and after a few seconds
he heard Foster say, “Come in.”

Damn, how’s he managed
to get through the traffic?
He walked in and said good
morning.

“I thought we were
supposed to be meeting at 9.00,” Foster said, glancing at his watch.

“Sorry, it took me
thirty minutes to get across town.”

“The motorway’s
closed.” Foster again looked at his watch, but this time purposefully.
“Nevertheless, I’ve another meeting at ten, so we need to get a move on. The
reason I wanted to see you was to ask how Barnes is fitting in.”

Woods’ hackles rose. He’d
raced to the meeting thinking there was some important reason he’d been
summoned, only to discover it was to discuss his new detective sergeant. “It’s
difficult to say. She appears to be getting on with everyone, but they’re all
very wary and are keeping their distance.  I’ve decided to have her reporting
to me, which has ruffled a few feathers, but after our last discussion I
thought it better if she had strong leadership; someone who doesn’t tolerate
the sort of behaviour she’s been accused of in the past.”

“That’s exactly why I
chose you. I don’t want any repetition of the fanciful accusations she’s come
out with.”

Woods sighed; this
wasn’t news, he’d heard it all before, but Foster continued, “She’s got an
overactive imagination that will land her in serious trouble. You’re her last
chance, Greg. Any more problems and she’s out.”

Woods rubbed his chin,
and decided to throw a spanner in the works. “To be honest, she’s got the
makings of a good detective; if you keep her busy she produces some excellent
work, you just need to push her to get the best results. I think. . .” He
stopped mid-sentence allowing Foster to answer the telephone. He could only
hear half of the conversation, but got the gist of it.

Foster replaced the
receiver. “Did you know Paul Mateland at the Motorway Unit?”

Woods nodded. “I
wouldn’t say he was on my Christmas card list.”

“He was killed last
night on the motorway. Someone threw a drain cover off the footbridge between
39 and 40; it smashed straight through his windscreen.”

Woods frowned. “If I’m
not mistaken, that bridge is covered with a steel cage to prevent that sort of
thing.”

“They must have thrown
it off the top then. Will you get out there now? The Accident Investigation
Team is on site; you’ll need to speak to Sergeant Mick Greenwood.”

“That’s ironic;
Mateland’s team investigating their leader’s demise.”

“I’ll need you to head
up the investigation; the Chief Constable will want a speedy conclusion.”

He stood up. “Okay, I’m
on my way.”

 

 

When Woods returned to the Incident Room
he looked around.
Where is she now?

“Aye, she’s in the
canteen, if you’re looking for Maria,” McLean said.

Woods sighed. He put
his briefcase in the office and came back out. “Mateland from Traffic was
killed last night.”

“What happened?” McLean
asked, looking aghast.

Woods gave the
detective inspector a quick update and then made for the door. “I’m heading out
there now, that is, if I can find madam.”

“Aye, good luck,”
McLean said quietly to himself.

Woods bumped into
Barnes on the staircase; she was carrying a sandwich, “You’ll have to eat that
in the car,” he said brushing past her. “Come on we haven’t got all day.”

“Where’re we going?”

“Motorway footbridge
between 39 and 40. I’m thinking of throwing you off. Do you know how to get to
it on foot?”

“Y… yes,” she replied,
running after him.

He glanced over his
shoulder and noticed her scowling. “It was a joke, Maria. You’ll need to get
used to my sense of humour.”

She caught up with him
as they reached the car park, “A joke is a story, anecdote or wordplay that’s
intended to amuse. I didn’t think your comment was very amusing - did you?”

“No, Maria, you’re
absolutely right. It wasn’t.” He shook his head slowly and sighed, “I’ll try
harder next time. So how do we get to the bridge on foot?”

“It’s easier if we go
in your car.”

“Yes, Maria, I can
appreciate that. I wasn’t intending walking there, I just didn’t think you
could actually drive right up to it.”

They arrived at his
car.

“Oh… I see, well yes
you can. I go out running that way on an evening. Why are we going there?”

“Inspector Mateland
from the Traffic Unit was killed last night. Someone threw a drain cover off
the bridge.”

She stood motionless.

“Come on, get in,” he
gestured, opening the car.

She climbed in the
passenger seat and fastened the seat belt. “I wonder if this has anything to do
with PC Wright,” she said.

“Why do you say that?”

“He’s having an affair
with Mateland’s wife.”

Woods hesitated. “Are
you sure, or is this gossip you’ve heard in the canteen?”

She scrunched up her
nose and appeared wounded. “No, it’s a fact. I’ve seen them both together up by
that very bridge.” There was absolutely no doubt in her words.

Woods rolled his eyes.
“How do you know Mateland’s wife?”

“I don’t, but I know
John Wright; he works in Mateland’s team.”

“Yes, but how do you
know he’s scr...” Woods hesitated, “having an affair with Mateland’s wife?”

“A few weeks ago I was
out running up by the bridge and I saw two cars there; John Wright and a woman
were sitting in one of them, obviously up to no good. Wright clearly recognised
me because he looked away and tried to hide his face, so I made a mental note
of the registration numbers and when I got to work the next day. . .”

“You checked them out
on the systems,” Woods exclaimed, raising his eyebrows.

“Yes, one belonged to
Wright and the other to Mateland’s wife. I recognised her from the photograph
on her driving licence. You see they’re having an affair.”

“Maria, we need to have
a long hard discussion about protocols.”

“You won’t be saying
that if it turns out to be John Wright who threw the drain cover off the
bridge.”

Woods was becoming
exasperated. “It still doesn’t prove they were having an affair. They may have
just been talking.”

“They were half
dressed, for goodness sake, what kind of talking do you call that?”

He stared at the
dashboard.
Why did I agree to have you in my team?
He put the keys in
the ignition and started the engine. “Which way do we need to go?”

 

 

As they pulled up at the bridge it was
still cordoned off with police tape and there was a PC preventing unauthorised
access.

“I didn’t even know
this dirt track existed,” Woods said looking around.

“The farmers use it to
access the fields.”

“Is this where you saw
Wright and Mateland’s wife?”

“Yes, up there,” she
pointed. “It’s lovely place for a chat.”

Woods was annoyed.
“Maria… I cut you more slack than anyone else in the force, don’t be facetious.
Otherwise we’re going to fall out.” He could tell she was stifling a smile.

“Sorry, it was a joke,”
she said. “You’ll need to get used to my sense of humour.”

He
chuckled, and smiled uncharacteristically.
“Touch
é, Maria…
touch
é,”
he echoed, “Come on, let’s go find Greenwood.”

“Oh,
great. The man who believes he’s God’s gift to women. I bet it’ll be less than
ten seconds before he’s trying to chat me up.”

He
didn’t respond; instead he was out of the car and walking over to the PC; he
held up his ID and was allowed through. Barnes scurried along behind. Before
going onto the bridge he stopped and examined the semi-circular steel cage that
surrounded the walkway.

In effect the bridge
was not dissimilar to a large animal enclosure. The metal cage over the walkway
enabled pedestrians to walk through, but prevented anything of significant size
being dropped onto the traffic. The 4.5m diameter semi-circular structure was
constructed in 2m long sections; there were thirty-five bays in total, making
the overall length of the cage 70m. Each of the thirty-six semi-circular column
posts were in two halves, bolted together at the top and fixed to the bridge
deck; they were connected together by horizontal box rails positioned equally around
the semi-circle and these were lined with square mesh caging: 25mm square at
low level and 75mm square at higher level, with horizontal plate covering the
joint between the two. The fixing bolts were security fastenings and the nuts
had been welded to the structure to prevent removal. In addition there was an
extending section of metalwork outside the cage, five bays from each end, which
formed a greater semi-circle above the extremities and was there to deter
anyone from walking out on top or around the sides of the cage.

Woods stood pondering.
Whoever
designed this did an excellent job; it’s virtually vandal proof
. He walked
onto the bridge. The motorway below had been reopened and traffic was finally
free-flowing, but there
was a 50mph speed limit
in place
due to extensive roadworks on both carriageways; o
nly the middle and outside lanes were open
. He
turned to Barnes. “Maria, take some photos of how the cage is constructed, the
bolts, fixing and the various rails.”

She did as requested. Meanwhile
he spotted Greenwood at the far end of the bridge chatting to a young female
PC; he headed towards them, but something caught his eye on the northbound
carriageway. He stopped, went over to the rail and looked down on the
approaching traffic.

Greenwood approached
them.
“Hello Superintendent,” he said, and then
turning to Barnes, “Hi Maria, it’s good to see you again. I note you’re working
with the big guns now; I’m impressed.”

“I was
wrong; five seconds,” she said.

But
Woods was concentrating on something else. “What’s the story, Mick?” he asked,
still watching the oncoming traffic.

“Mateland
was travelling up the northbound yesterday evening at 9.30, on his way to work
to start the night-shift at 10.00. The cameras at Junction 39 show he was
travelling in the middle lane doing 50mph, and there was light traffic with no
HGVs in the vicinity as he started to approach the bridge, so the drain cover
didn’t fall off the back of a lorry.”

BOOK: CXVI The Beginning of the End (Book 1): A Gripping Murder Mystery and Suspense Thriller (CXVI BOOK 1)
9.14Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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