Excerpt from Chapter 7 of Murder by Moonlighting – A woman’s body has been found in an alley in the City of London. Scotland Yard has been asked to investigate.
Detective Sergeant Patrick Shea shared what was known about the case, but it wasn’t much: The victim had been found in the alley at 9:20 a.m. by the granddaughter of the owners of the Brunch Bar. A homeless man had heard a “ruckus” in the alley at 12:46 a.m. which was probably the killer dumping the body in between the two skips. Tracks in the alley showed that the victim had been wheeled to the dump site. Her handbag, mobile, one shoe, and coat were missing, and it was possible that rings and earrings had been taken as well.
“Are you thinking robbery?” DI Abbott of the Snow Hill station asked Tommy.
“With nothing but my nearly thirty years as a copper to go on, my first impression was that this woman was in Town for the weekend to earn some extra money as a prostitute. If that’s the case, then it’s possible she was killed and robbed by a john. On the other hand, it could be something as simple as a woman taking a wrong turn and being waylaid by a cutpurse.”
“A cutpurse?” Abbott said, chuckling. “Sounds like something out of Dickens.”
“A thief, if you prefer,” Tommy said and winked at Patrick. “But until we get a positive ID, guesses are all we’ve got.”
DS Marvine Cressman returned with the photo of the victim and placed it on Abbott’s desk.
“Most of the johns in the City are businessmen or government employees who can bury the cost of a call girl in their expense reports. And most of these girls truly are call girls who cater to the foreign market. The johns have their numbers in their mobiles before the plane lands at Heathrow.”
“What about hotels?”
“Not here in the City. The managers won’t tolerate soliciting because they don’t need prostitutes to fill rooms. The City is close to everything, so it’s prime real estate. But I do know a few independents who work out of some of the nicer restaurants in Smithfield. As long as they keep a low profile, nobody bothers them.”
“Independent? Do you mean they don’t have pimps?” Tommy asked.
“Most of the prostitutes on our radar are East European with a few Asians and Africans thrown in to fill out the menu… The way it works is that a handler may charge an illegal up to a thousand pounds for a high-quality passport, and the girls have to work it off in trade…
DS Cressman added: “For the clientele you find here in the City, twenty-four is about as old as they come. The average is closer to eighteen. Your victim is well past the sell-by date.”
“If this were your case, what would be your take on it?” Tommy asked Abbott.
Abbott thought the alley chosen to dump the victim was particularly telling.
“The City is the oldest part of London, and despite centuries of tearing down buildings, redevelopment, fires, not to mention German bombs, a lot of it is old—damn old. If you know where you’re going, you can walk from here to Aldersgate and rarely leave an alley.” Abbott took out a map of the city and circled where the body was found. “This here,” he said, tapping the centre of the circle, “is a dead zone at the weekend. There’s no entertainment, no real sit-down restaurants, no tourist sites, which means he’s most likely a Londoner, and he probably works around here because he knows the alleys.”
“So what you’re saying is that our victim was wheeled to an alley where no one is going to find her until the start of the work week, and he moved the body by pushing her in some type of conveyance through these alleys.”
“A john who knows the alleys?” Patrick asked. “That doesn’t sound right.”
“Not likely, but possible. Johns take shortcuts just like the rest of us, but it does lend itself to our killer being a native Londoner or at least someone who works in London. On the other hand, if this is a trick gone wrong, then maybe she was killed in a hotel and wheeled here on one of those—you know—luggage carts—the thing where they place your kit until they can get it up to your room.”
“That could very well be it,” Tommy nodded. “If those luggage carts can carry a half dozen bags, it could certainly hold the weight of our victim.”
Patrick’s Burberry hummed, and when he checked the screen, it was a text message from DC Karen Makela: Have ID on missing person. I’m in an incident room at Snow Hill.
“DC Makela has an ID on our victim,” Patrick announced, “and she’s here at Snow Hill.”
“I’ll lead you to her,” Abbott said, rising.
* * *
Three’s A Crowd, A Novella introducing the character of DS Patrick Shea – In this passage, Patrick is looking for a teenage girl who had been reported missing by her mother .
After telephoning the station to ask that a panda car meet him at the South Hill estate, Patrick decided to walk. He wanted to get the stale smells of the arcade out of his nostrils. There was another reason. If he parked the car on estate property, he risked slashed tires, a broken windscreen, or, possibly, his car going missing. But after ten minutes of frigid air pouring into his lungs, he wondered if saving a seven-year-old police car was really all that important.
While waiting for the panda car, he thought about what he would encounter once he entered the complex… Fleeting shadows would spread the news that a copper was in the building, and his every step would be watched by eyes peering out at him through torn curtains. Behind the numbered doors were people who had plummeted to the bottom of society because, if they hadn’t, they would no longer be calling South Hill home.
After flagging down the police car, Patrick motioned that he wanted to get in the back seat, and he heard the lock click open. Officers Owen Llewellyn and Greg Grant had been partners for a decade. There wasn’t anything the two hadn’t seen or done, including getting shot at during a bank robbery gone wrong, and they knew their patch better than their own back gardens.
“Good morning, gents. Lovely weather we’re having,” Patrick began.
“Shea, you must be a nutter walking around in this weather. I can’t even take a piss for fear my dick will freeze up and fall off,” Llewellyn answered.
“Now, the missus wouldn’t want that or would she?”
“She takes all I’m willing to give her,” Llewellyn answered, grabbing his crotch.
“Enough with the macho shit,” Grant said. “What have you got for us, Paddy?”
“Seventeen-year-old Tanya Dorsett went missing following a row with her stepdad,” he said, handing Grant a photo of the missing teen. “She’s done it once before, but the last time she was gone for only two days. Today is the fifth day, and her mum’s worried sick. She thinks she’s hiding out with her boyfriend, Denny Fisher. The little shit of a manager at the arcade said I needed to talk to a bloke named Lem, Denny Fisher’s errand boy, and that I could find him on the estate.”
“Lem is Lee Mason, a lad with his IQ written in red ink, but he wouldn’t hurt a fly,” Grant said. “Although he’s only nineteen, he’s been living rough or holing up in one of the squats for a couple of years now. Denny offers him some protection from the gangs on the estate. In return, he does whatever Denny asks him to, but it’s usually nothing illegal as the kid’s a mental midget and would screw it up for sure.
“As for Denny Fisher, he got out of prison for nicking cars about a month ago. Since then, he’s been selling enough cannabis to keep him in groceries. Right now, he’s flying under radar, and we’ve had no reason to try to find out where he’s living because we don’t get overly excited about marijuana, not with the amount of cocaine and crystal meth sold on the estate. Knowing Denny, I can tell you there’s no way he would hole up in a squat in South Hill. He’s a pretty boy and has standards, especially if he’s trying to impress Miss Dorsett. She’s a good looking kid.”
Patrick showed the officers the address Molly had got from Fisher’s probation officer; both shook their heads. “That’s Fisher’s sister’s address,” Grant said, “but I know Denny’s not there because yesterday we hauled her son’s arse into the nick for vandalism. While arresting her kid, we asked her about her brother, but she said Denny knew better than to show up at her house. She’d kick his arse all the way to Brighton if ever he did.”
“She’s got a one-criminal quota for living in her house,” Llewellyn said, chuckling.
“What about Lem? Is he around?”
“He should be in,” Llewellyn answered. “You want to play good cop/bad cop?”
“Which one am I?” Patrick asked.
“You’ve got to be kidding? With your baby face, who’d ever take you for a villain? Besides, as soon as Lem sees me, he’ll shit his pants.” The six-foot-three Welshman got out of the car and put on his game face.