Scott couldn’t remember how he got home. He knew he used the car because it was there on the drive when he checked. The news at the hospital had been devastating. He suspected he hadn’t been very polite in his grief, but couldn’t really remember doing anything terrible. He just hoped he was OK with Toni’s sons. At some stage he was going to have to talk to them about funeral arrangements, but couldn’t face that for the moment. Instead, he wanted to find the bastard that had done this to Toni.
He called the police, managed to get hold of Hargreaves, and arranged to meet him at the station. He also called work, and spoke to Donna, making his excuses, and passing on the sad news. He said he would probably be back to work on Monday, depending on how things went with the police and the funeral arrangements.
He decided to make a list of things he needed to find out, that he could take to the police station. Apart from finding out if the police were any nearer to identifying and catching the attacker, more specifically he wrote down the following:
1) What had they obtained from my P.C.?
2) Had they found the real Francoise?
3) Had they managed to find and talk to the chicken that was posing as Francoise?
4) Had they spoken to Debbie’s friends, and were they connected with the attack?
5) Had they managed to trace the vehicle that was used by the man taking Francoise’s suitcase?
6) Had they followed up the lead relating to the Swaffham Times?
7) Am I still a suspect?
Having done this, he went into the study and turned on his computer. He wanted to see if he could find anything from the Swaffham Times, before meeting with Hargreaves. His P.C. refused to boot, it said there was a disk error. It didn’t look damaged, the fan started running, and he checked the drives to see if there was a CD or anything confusing it. He turned it off again, and added another item to his list.
8) Tell Hargreaves about the computer (could be related).
The problem with the computer worried him though. Only the study, lounge and hall appeared to be disturbed. The attack appeared frenzied, but the attacker appeared to have taken Toni’s computer.
9) Ask about Toni’s computer.
Somehow they had wiped or damaged his hard drive so that he couldn’t use it – why? This appeared to be a sophisticated attacker, looking for specific information, or destroying it!
He checked through his list again, crossed out item 7). If they hadn’t realised it wasn’t him by now, he didn’t really care, he’d find the killer.
He debated trying to use his mobile phone to search for information about Blue Farm on the Swaffham Times’ web site, but decided it would take too long. He grabbed his coat, there was an internet cafe in town he could visit before going on to the police station. He was about to go out the door, when his mobile phone rang, it was Debbie, so he answered.
“How are you? Donna told me. Is there anything I can do?”
“I feel dead!” Was his honest reply.
“Look, I’d like to help if you need anything. Your head can’t be in a good place right now.”
“Sure.” He said, not really telling her anything. “I’ll call you if I need anything.”
She wasn’t satisfied, and didn’t believe him. “Don’t hang up. You probably need to talk to someone. Have you told your family?” He realised that his Mum and Dad were probably unaware of anything that had happened.
“No. I intended to call them after she was attacked, but was too busy, and now she’s dead, and they still know nothing.” He could feel the tears welling up inside, and had to pause for a moment. Thankfully, Debbie said nothing, she must have heard the pain in his voice, and was giving him time to recover. Eventually he felt able to continue.
“It’s something I still have to do. I will call them today.”
“If you want someone to be there with you, is there anyone else you can call?”
He considered this for a moment. He didn’t feel close enough to any of the neighbours, Toni’s sons would be struggling with their own grief, and he didn’t want to ask any of his mates, in case they thought he was being pathetic. The people he most needed at this time were his parents. In the end he just braved it out.
“Yes, don’t worry, I’ve got friends who can help.”
“That’s good. Will you call them?”
“Yes.” He assured her.
He then started to explain that he was going to see the police, as it seemed whoever had attacked Toni had also damaged his home computer. Hargreaves might have some answers, and he planned to stop off at an internet cafe to see if he could look on the web site of the Swaffham Times. Debbie was interested in what he was doing, and especially that relating to the Swaffham Times. She was very easy to talk to, so he started to explain about the notes that constable Hamilton had made, and that he thought there was a connection with Blue Farm Research, since it was located fairly close to Swaffham. In the end, he had read out his whole list to her, discussing each point, but hesitating over the incident with the man at Francoise’s flat. However, she seemed to have got over any fear, and now she was helping him to relax.
He was so comfortable talking to Debbie, that he felt able to ask her about the funeral arrangements. He was worried about discussing this with the boys. He had his own ideas, and no doubt they would have theirs. The last thing he wanted to do was to upset them by insisting on something that they didn’t want. Debbie did not have the answers, but she certainly helped.
“You probably know Toni better than anyone. But, her sons will know a different side of her. The answer is going to be a mix of everyone’s ideas. Did Toni leave a will?”
He knew they had a joint will, leaving almost everything to each-other, the exception being her interest in her old family home, which would go to the boys.
“We have a will, but there’s nothing in it about how she would like to be buried.”
“You’re creating a problem that might not even exist. You have to talk to her sons anyway, so ask them how they feel, they might be in exactly the same position as you!”
“You’re right, but I don’t know how to have that conversation.”
“Just talk to them, you’ll find the words. It might be some time before the police release Toni’s body, there must surely be an autopsy, and if there’s an arrest or prosecution, the courts may want the body re-examined. I don’t think things will move very quickly.”
The thought of Toni lying in a cold cabinet for weeks on end worried him more than any conflict over the funeral, but he knew she was right, he was making a mountain out of a mole-hill.
Eventually, he said he’d better get going, because he didn’t have much time left to stop at the internet cafe, and Detective Hargreaves would be waiting.
“I’ll tell you what,” Debbie suggested, “I’ll log onto the Swaffham Times web site and see what I can find. If you have time, you can try too, with us both looking we’re more likely to find something.”
“No, please don’t!” He didn’t like this idea. The last time he’d asked someone to help in this way, they’d ended up in hospital, and worse.
“I’ll be OK. There are a lot of people here at work.” She had heard the fear in his voice, and was trying to reassure him. He could tell she wanted to help, but he wasn’t sure it was a good idea. He also realised he wouldn’t be able to stop her, if that’s what she wanted.
“OK.” he agreed. “But, do something for me?”
“If you find something, will you call me? Also, tell Donna or Geoff, so that you are spreading the risk, and if it looks particularly big, don’t go home on your own, make sure there’s someone with you.”
“I’ll find a gorgeous hunk to look after me.” She was teasing, but he rebuffed her.
“Yes, that would actually be a very good idea.”
She laughed and said goodbye.
He made his way to the police station, parking on the edge of town, and walking in. He fancied some air, and it was a little too early to see Hargreaves, but too late to stop at the internet cafe. He had to wait in the police station reception for over twenty minutes, two people in front of him kept the receptionist busy, and no-one else was around to help. Eventually it was his turn.
“Hi, I’m here to see detective Hargreaves.” Scott began.
“And, your name?”
“Is your solicitor joining you Scott?”
“I’m sorry, will that be necessary?”
“No, it’s your choice. Many people prefer not to have a solicitor present unless they are charged.”
“Oh no, I’m not here to be charged.”
The receptionist gave him a long look. “Well, good luck then! Please take a seat and someone will be with you in a minute.”
Did he really look like a criminal?
The officer on reception disappeared off to find Hargreaves, and shortly after he came through the security door to greet Scott. They went inside and he took Scott to an interview room, similar to the one where they had questioned him previously.
“I hope you didn’t get a hard time, the officer on duty thought you were here to, erm ‘help’ with our enquiries.”
“I was wondering.” Scott pulled out his list, “I’m hoping you can answer a few questions.”
“I’ll help if I can, but I not making any promises.”
“I don’t know if you noticed, but my home computer is not working, and I think it may have been damaged or sabotaged by whoever broke in.”
“We were aware of this, but since there was no sign of damage to the base unit, we assumed that it was not working beforehand.”
“I thought you guys never took anything at face value?”
“Bring it in.” Hargreaves requested. “We’ll have a look, It might help, but I don’t think it likely.”
“I’ll bring it in next time I’m coming this way.” Scott promised. “That kind of brings me onto Toni’s computer. It’s not there, did THEY take it, or do you have it?” It seemed he was going through his list in reverse order.
“We found a laptop on the floor of the lounge, it had blood on the case and the screen was broken.” Scott imagined it covered in blood even though that was not the way Hargreaves had just described it. “We are trying to read the hard drive, but it was damaged when we found it, so this is taking some time. Since it appears that it was deliberately broken, we suspect that it might contain clues as to the attacker.”
Hargreaves went on to explain that they were unable to identify he person who had sent him a text message on the day of the attack. The phone was on a pay-as-you-go tariff, and they could not locate the user.
Going back to the top of his list, they had found nothing on his PC at work that suggested anyone had played with it. However, this was not the end of the story. Since Francoise had gone missing, they had checked out her PC too. They found files that were captured from video streams. She had videos of each of the other accountants working at their desks. More specifically, these showed people using their keyboards and screens. They had found one of Scott typing his password, and it was likely that Francoise had obtained his password from this source. This led the police to search the areas around the accountants’ desks, and they found small cameras hidden in strategic locations, sending data wirelessly to a receiver in the back of Francoise’s computer. Gladwell had been informed of the situation, and officers were now removing the cameras as evidence.
As for the whereabouts of Francoise, they still had no idea. The search for either the real Francoise or her imposter had so far revealed neither. However, the number plate of the van outside Francoise’s flat was a new lead. They had traced the vehicle registration to its owner, and were talking to this person. Hargreaves was not prepared to reveal any more about this lead at that stage. Scott pressed him for something, but he would not even say what part of the country they were from. Scott asked Hargreaves if the person could have come from Norfolk. There was a flicker in his eyes that suggested he was correct.
Scott then asked him about Debbie’s friends. Again, Hargreaves was a little cagey.
“We have managed to trace three of the gang from the information provided by Miss Little. The last person is proving more difficult, but we expect to find him soon.”
Scott picked up on the fact that Hargreaves had used the word ‘him’. “Is Dave the missing person?”
“No, we have managed to talk to that gentleman, and are able to rule him out of the investigation for the time being.”
“And the others?” Scott sounded disappointed.
“Two of the four have good alibis for the time of the attack. A third cannot provide a firm alibi, but this does not mean that they were involved.”
This did not fully satisfy Scott, and it probably did not satisfy Hargreaves either, but for the moment that was all they had. Scott suspected that there was more that he was not telling him, but again, he wouldn’t be pushed.
Scott’s mobile phone started to ring, he looked at the number, saw it was Debbie, so said “Excuse me.” and answered the call. Debbie said she had something to tell him, and asked if they could meet after work.
“I’ll call you back shortly, I’m at the police station.”
Finally he asked Hargreaves if they had followed up the lead regarding the Swaffham Times.
“This is on our list.” In other words ‘no’ Scott thought.
“All lines of inquiry will be followed up, but at the moment we have more promising leads. We are taking this whole matter very seriously.” Hargreaves was doing his best to reassure Scott and to discourage further probing. “This is now a murder enquiry, so apart from anything else it now means we will have more resources. Everything will be done to find Toni’s killer.”
He then told Scott that Toni’s sons had requested an autopsy. However, this being a suspicious death, an autopsy would be carried out as a matter of course. If the boys were not happy with the findings of the autopsy, they could always request another be carried out.
Scott thanked him for his time. “Will you please let me know if you have any more news?” Hargreaves had not quite finished. “You should not have gone to the flat by yourself.”
“Debbie, Miss Little, was there too.”
“I think you know what I mean. Don’t interfere with our investigation, this is a police matter. There could be a dangerous killer out there, so please leave this to the professionals. Your amateur investigations might hamper our enquiries.”
“I was just trying to help.”
“I’m well aware of that, but no more amateur detective stuff.”
“OK, I’ll leave things to you guys, but I have brought you everything I’ve found out. And, without Debbie and me, you would not have known about the connection with Swaffham or got the van registration number.”
“Look, if you’re thinking of doing anything else, call me first.” Hargreaves passed him one of his cards.
He left the police station with nothing more to lead him to finding the person who had attacked Toni. Hargreaves had been fairly free to talk, but nothing he said gave any further clues. Scott did at least know that the damned chicken had gained access to his PC at work, but he had guessed this much anyway. It was the way she had done it that had surprised him. Either this was a very intelligent chicken, or she had some serious help.
He started walking back to the car, and called Debbie on her mobile as he walked. When she answered he apologised for not being able to talk before. She said it was OK, but asked if they could meet. She needed to tell him something important, face to face. At first he was reluctant, but did not argue too strongly, she said she’d meet him at the pub where they had gone after the Earth Mates meeting earlier in the week. It was less travelling for him, and in a relatively neutral and therefore safe location. She hung up, and Scott carried on walking towards the car. He was slightly happier for some reason, and realised he was looking forward to seeing her. He needed to be with someone he liked, and was starting to trust and could talk to, someone who clearly liked him too. Remembering what she had said earlier, he made a call to his parents.
His father answered the phone. They greeted each-other warmly, asking how each other was. He started to tease Scott about the football team he supported, forgetting that his own team was in a lower division. Scott didn’t respond with the usual comeback, but just said “Dad?” He instantly knew something was wrong, and asked outright.
“Is everything OK?”
“Is Mum there?”
“Yes, she’s in the kitchen preparing the dinner, do you want to speak to her?”
“Sorry, just wanted to make sure. There’s something I need to tell you both.”
“OK, what is it?”
He told him all about the attack on Toni, how she had been in Hospital for nearly two days, and had passed away in the early hours of the morning. His dad wanted to know why Scott hadn’t called him earlier.
“I know I should have done, but it has been difficult”.
“Don’t Worry, I understand.” His dad answered, but Scott knew he was feeling hurt. His father handed the phone over to his mother, who was already crying. She had been listening in on the conversation. He tried to calm her down, partly because he wanted to be able to talk to her, and partly because she was making him well-up too. Fortunately, he reached the car, so climbed in and shut the door. He didn’t bother to hold back any longer, and allowed the tears to flow for what seemed several minutes. Surprisingly, this had the opposite effect on his mother, whose instincts took over, she stopped crying and was trying to calm him down.
She kept telling him how sad it was, how sad she and his father were, and she said how bad she felt for Toni’s sons. He agreed, over and over again. Gradually the conversation turned to how Scott would manage, and he felt he was on firmer ground.
“Please don’t worry, I will manage.” He reassured her.
“Don’t be stubborn, your dad and I will come down and take care of you and the house, so that you can take care of the arrangements.”
“No Mum, you really don’t need to.” He didn’t want them there with the house in a mess. “I have everything under control. Work are being kind and giving me time off.”
“Nonsense, you can use some help, and some company.” She was right, but it just wasn’t that easy.
“Yes, but I’m going to need you here for the funeral, and that might not be for some time, you can’t leave everything at home for what could be weeks.”
“Well.” He knew he was starting to win, so he pushed home his advantage.
“I’ll call you when I know more about the arrangements, you can come down a few days before to help me prepare.” She was happier, feeling needed, feeling she had helped.
Having made the call to his parents, Scott was happier, having performed his duty and carried out his promise. He was relieved, so just sat in the car for a minute. He felt hungry, tired and in need of freshening up. It had been nearly 24 hours since he had last showered and changed, and nearly ten hours since he had last eaten. He started the car and drove home. He had enough time to shower and change before going to meet Debbie, and would grab a bite to eat too. By the time he reached the drive-way at home he barely had the strength to get out of the car.
As soon as he got indoors he went into the kitchen. He needed some food quickly, so made a mix of cereals with plenty of milk and sugar. It filled his stomach and would provide him sufficient energy for the next few hours. Then he shaved, showered and went into the bedroom to get dressed. He was very tired, the bed was soft and comfortable, so closed his eyes for a couple of minutes.