Tired one day, I nevertheless sat down to write. Over the last two years I’d completed Death Comes To The Dale and Death Returns To The Dale and self-published both. I must admit I like the total control of self-publishing. Everything is my call! A control freak, according to my boss when I actually worked for a living. Anyway, I didn’t feel that I’d finished with the characters I’d created, even though the two books had essentially fulfilled my ambitions. So, after writing and editing I produced the first chapter below, without having any clue as to where the plot might take me. Do I continue or do I just say that all this takes too much out of me and I should stick to driving my Mini and betting on the horses and doing my walks? No idea!
Thanks for reading.
Detective Chief Inspector Alan Tate was seated in Interview Room 1, his elbows resting heavily on the table in front of him, his head in his hands. He had interviewed many a criminal over the years in this very room, from petty crooks to serial killers but, today, he was on the wrong side of the table. His brain was spinning with the events of the past few hours. Standing to attention only ten feet away was PC Mark Craven, a uniformed officer who Tate knew well. There was a great deal of mutual respect between them but, for the last hour, this had been overwhelmed by complete silence.
The door opened and in walked two men who Tate only vaguely recognised. They sat down opposite him, and one switched on the recording equipment and mumbled into it while his obvious superior set out some paperwork in front of him and nodded to Craven who silently left the interview room. Tate sat back in his chair, folded his arms, and waited. It was at least a minute before the senior officer spoke.
‘I am Detective Superintendent Dennison and this is Detective Inspector Judd. We have been parachuted in from Northallerton HQ by Superintendent Blair. We would like to treat this initial interview as informally as we can, if that’s alright by you, Alan, although, if you wish, you can be cautioned and have a solicitor present. There is no question of an arrest. We just need all the facts as you see them. Everything that’s happened since Saturday afternoon, say.’
Tate puffed out his cheeks and shook his head slowly.
‘This is a bloody nightmare!’ he exclaimed. ‘And thanks for the sympathy. My wife is dead!’
Dennison and Judd exchanged glances.
‘Alan, you must realise that we have to get through this with you. We clearly have the utmost sympathy but there are questions and anomalies. Let us start from Saturday. Please.’
Dennison’s tone was calm and measured.
At that moment, a nervous PC Helen Warren entered the room, set down three coffees on the table, and left without any eye contact with Tate. Each man picked up their paper cup. Tate drank the whole cup in one go and seemed to be calmer now. He began to talk.
‘On Saturday evening I was here, in my office, finishing paperwork for the CPS that should have been in last week. I finished it around eleven-thirty. Yes, I know, late, but anyway, I got home about midnight. My wife had gone to bed. She goes early sometimes if I’m not back, reads a bit and gets a full night’s sleep. I decided not to disturb her, so I slept in the spare room. I got up about eight on Sunday morning and went downstairs to have breakfast and watch some football.’
‘So, you never saw your wife on Saturday night?’ interrupted Judd who was making notes.
‘No,’ said Tate firmly. ‘Anyway, I made some tea and toast for Anne, and was just about to take it up to her when the phone rang. It was DS Trueman. A call out to a Skipton jeweller. Urgent. I shouted up to Anne but got no reply. I assumed she was still asleep, so I left a note for her on the tray with her breakfast and headed for the jewellers. The shop window had been smashed to hell and over twenty grand’s worth of watches had gone. Too easy. We interviewed the owner, did a complete search, pointless probably, and checked camera footage. No joy. I left Trueman to sort out finger printing and forensics and to file a report and went to the Crown Inn on the High Street for a pub lunch after messaging Anne. We often go there on Sundays. Hell! I waited for her and tried phoning again. No reply. I had a couple of drinks and then went home. Got back about three. The rest you know, Detective Superintendent.’
‘No, we don’t, Alan. Tell us exactly what you found from the time you entered the house, what you saw. I’m sorry, but we need everything, everything before you phoned in, at around 3.30 I believe?’
‘It’s all in the written statement that I gave last night. Do I really have to go through this?’
‘I have your statement here, Alan,’ said Dennison, holding up half a dozen sheets of paper. ‘We’ve been through it very carefully. And we now have the pathologist’s preliminary report and, this morning, we examined the crime scene with Superintendent Blair and DS Trueman. We need your cooperation, Alan.’
Judd began to shift in his seat and looked more than mildly irritated, while Dennison stared into Tate’s eyes, motionless.
‘OK. As I said, I got home about three o’clock. I went through the front door and shouted something like ‘sorry I’m late, how come you didn’t text?’ very loudly. There was no reply and Anne didn’t seem to be anywhere downstairs, so I went upstairs. When I opened her bedroom door I was faced with horror. She was lying naked face down on the double bed with what looked like a large piece of red elastic, maybe an exercise band, tied around her neck, and several stab wounds in her back. She was obviously dead. I just stood there in the middle of the room, staring at her. I was crying inside but I couldn’t shed a single tear. After a few minutes I seemed to come out of some sort of a trance, and I phoned my boss’s home phone number. God knows why! Then, I just waited with Anne, sat in a chair in a corner of the room, until Superintendent Blair and the team arrived. Trueman marched me straight out of the house and, for the last twenty-four hours, I’ve been treated like crap in my own bloody police station.’
‘I understand your anger, Alan, but Superintendent Blair had to protect the crime scene, the integrity of this investigation and, frankly, he wished to protect you. Whoever killed your wife may have wished to kill you, for instance.’
Tate was unconvinced.
‘Well, no bugger’s said anything of worth to me since I was deposited back here. Time of death, forensics, any leads, nothing! Isn’t it time you told me what you’ve found out, Dennison?’
‘That would be unwise, DCI Tate,’ interjected Judd. ‘We are investigating your wife’s murder. Clearly, you cannot be part of the team, nor can anyone else in Skipton police, without our say so, until things clarify. Only Superintendent Blair will be privy to what we find out unless we deem otherwise.’
‘And who the hell are you, Inspector?’ shouted Tate.
‘Inspector Judd and I are running this investigation under the direct orders of the Chief Constable, DCI Tate. We have carte blanche. I can give you some information about your wife’s murder, however. She died sometime between ten o’clock on Saturday night and four o’clock on Sunday morning. She was probably strangled by one of her own exercise bands. We found three more of varying colours, in her wardrobe. The pathologist is certain that she was already dead when she was stabbed in the back. There were eight superficial stab wounds, but no sign of a weapon at the scene.’
‘Then she must have been dead when I arrived home at midnight,’ said Tate with apparent certainty. Neither Judd nor Dennison made comment. Tate started to ask the question he didn’t want to ask.
‘Were there any signs of sexual?’
‘No, Alan. No evidence of sexual activity of any kind.’
Dennison glanced at Judd who nodded.
‘Well, Alan, let me thank you for your cooperation at this difficult time. You cannot, of course, return home yet. Further examination of the house is necessary. Superintendent Blair suggests gardening leave for a period of time while the investigation proceeds. Is there anyone locally who you might stay with, or, perhaps, a convenient hotel? Superintendent Blair is keen to help. But, again, I must caution you that this is our investigation, not yours. Is that clear?’
‘As crystal,’ retorted Tate, ‘and I can stay with my brother Charlie. He lives in Grassington.’
‘Then, for today, our questioning is over,’ said Dennison with a half-smile, glancing at Judd.
‘Just before we call it quits,’ said Judd, ‘I have a final question or two.’
Tate looked warily across at the Detective Inspector.
‘You got back home on Sunday afternoon at three o’clock. Did you go into the kitchen?’
Tate thought hard, picturing himself entering the house.
‘I shouted to Anne, walked through the lounge and, er, looked through the kitchen door. I checked that she wasn’t there and then went upstairs.’
‘To her bedroom, you said. You didn’t say ‘our bedroom’. You slept apart?’
‘I snore,’ offered Tate, fidgeting nervously.
‘I wonder who drank the cup of tea and ate the toast,’ said Judd, calmly, staring with intensity into the eyes of DCI Tate. ‘You are sure you left tea and toast on a tray with a note for your wife on Sunday morning?’
Tate’s face showed his confusion.
‘Yes, I’m certain!’ he barked. ‘Surely you found them there, on the worktop, next to the sink?’
Dennison raised his right hand towards his colleague to stop any response.
‘There was an empty tray, Alan, on the worktop, but no teapot, no cup of tea, and no plate and no toast, not even a crumb. And, before you ask, we found no note.’
Tate was visibly shaken.
‘So, are you telling me that my wife was killed in the early hours of Sunday morning, that the murderer was upstairs with my wife’s dead body for the rest of the night, and that they then calmly left the house after I’d gone, after first drinking a cup of tea and eating toast and clearing up in my kitchen?’
‘Is that what you’re telling us, Inspector Tate?’ asked Judd sardonically.
Tate had no idea what to say. He just sat there in silence shaking his head slowly from side to side.
‘No, Alan, this does not seem to make any sense, does it? To be fair, though, what you have told us is completely consistent with your written statement.’
Dennison gestured towards the recording equipment and Judd ended the interview with a few cursory words and a flick of a switch. He pressed a button and PC Craven entered the room.
‘Please escort DCI Tate to Superintendent Blair’s office,’ said Dennison.
He picked up his papers and the two senior officers from North Yorkshire Police Headquarters left to discuss how to proceed with the investigation into the murder of Anne Tate.