Parsons and Carson
"Right," Sandra shook off thoughts of Robert Strickland and his odd behaviour as she walked out of her office, coat in hand. "Brian? Are you ready? You and me are going to see ex-DCI Parsons. Steve, Gerry, take Freddie Carson."
The boys extricated themselves from their respective workstations and assumed their coats. Steve and Gerry had their now usual silent debate over whose car they would take (for some reason, Steve always won – they would take Gerry's), while Brian locked out his laptop.
"Re-opening the case?!"
Sandra held out a hand to stop the grey-haired ex-detective from slamming the door back in their face.
"I'm sorry, it's just a bit of a shock. Come in," he stepped back and admitted Brian and Sandra into his comfortably furnished semi-detached home. "I don't know why really, please, take a seat. I had heard that Johnson was up for parole. Just, never imagined that it would initiate a re-investigation. I thought he had confessed?"
"To the murder of James Carson, yes," Sandra perched on the edge of the armchair while Brian chose the adjacent sofa. "But never actually to your daughter's killing."
"You were working in Fenchurch at the time?" Brian probed.
"Yes, Fenchurch East," Parsons confirmed. "Finished up there too, five years later. One of the best nicks I ever worked at."
"Were you in regular contact with your daughter, Mr. Parsons?" Sandra asked.
"Simon, please. Yes, we spoke at least once a week, on the telephone or met up for a drink if she wasn't working. We had our separate lives but, well, after her mum died, er, cancer, 1998, we made sure to keep, well, in contact."
"How long had you known that Elaine was having a relationship with both James and Freddie?"
"I'm not sure, not long. Maybe a couple of months before she died."
Gerry pulled up outside the block of council flats where number fifty-six was registered to Freddie Carson. He and Steve peered out of the Stag's windows up at the less than well-kempt building with experienced eyes. You could tell a lot about a bloke from where he chose to live, or where he ended up. Their research had shown that Freddie worked a few hours a week as security at a snooker bar, the money wouldn't be enough to give him a rock-star's lifestyle so neither had been surprised when the address had come through.
"Come on then," Gerry removed the key from the ignition and made sure that the windows were wound the whole way up. This was not an area he was prepared to take any risks with his pride and joy. He locked and double-checked the car doors as they left the vehicle and walked toward the block. "This way," he read the faded and graffiti-covered sign on the wall indicating which staircase would lead them to the right flat. The silence of the block during the day was uncanny, but as they passed numerous boarded up windows, they were not perturbed by it.
Steve rang the doorbell outside of fifty-six, a dull buzzing could be heard within but no one came to answer their call. He knocked on the door instead while Gerry peered into the grimy windows of the flat. Steve bent down and pushed at the letter box, calling Carson's name through it. He stood up and exchanged a shake of the head with Gerry who had ascertained that the neighbouring flats on both sides were equally as unlikely to hold any conversation for them.
"Come on, we'll try the snooker hall," the Londoner said, lighting a cigarette. "He's gotta be somewhere."
Steve grinned, his colleague was rarely thwarted he had noted. It had only been a couple of months in the smoke for him, and despite the sometimes cold-shoulders of Brian Lane and DS Sandra Pullman, he was enjoying the company. Gerry in particular had relished in finding a new drinking partner and had welcomed him in. But then Gerry was a more open character than the other two, easy to get along with. They made their way back to the car, Gerry checking every light and tyre before driving them to the snooker hall where they made equally as little progress. Apparently Carson wasn't due in until the evening.
"Back to base then," Gerry said, frustrated. "No, wait, I've got an idea."
Gerry led the way out of the club. He stood on the street for a while, looking both ways before making a decision and setting off up the road. He turned right at the top of the street and sure enough, two hundred yards ahead of them was a pub. He grinned triumphantly at Steve, who checked his watch, well, it was after lunch.
It was an old fashioned sort of pub, now quiet. Gerry ordered them each a drink and extracted from the landlord that Freddie Carson did usually drink there most days before going into work. In fact, if he was working that evening, the landlord was quite surprised that he wasn't already in attendance. The two detectives thanked the landlord for his time and took their leave. Gerry pulled out his phone.
"Sandra? Yeah, it's Gerry. Listen, have you left Parsons? Yeah, what time? Right. I think we've got something. No we haven't talked to Carson yet. Yeah, yeah, ok. Look, we'll see you back at the station in an hour, there's something, anyway. Yeah, bye."
Steve looked at him quizzically.
"I don't know why, or how, but I reckon Carson knows we want to talk to him, and I don't think he wants to talk to us," Gerry frowned. If Sandra and Brian had only just left Parsons' then it wasn't Parsons who had tipped off Carson, he wouldn't have had time. "Right, this bloke's a creature of habit, doesn't move beyond his immediate area. Hang on, does he have a car? Tell you what, I'll make a quick call to that, you start in there."
Steve looked at the bookies that Gerry pointed to and nodded. He smiled as he crossed the road, if Gerry had stayed in the job there was no way he'd have left as a sergeant, he thought.
An hour later they had succeeded in proving Gerry's hypothesis; Freddie Carson had a set routine around his immediate network of pub, shop, bookies and work. And no-one had seen him since yesterday. They made their way back to the station.
"Well?" Sandra asked as soon as they walked through the door.
"Nah," Gerry took off his coat. "He's been warned off. But how, who or why," he shrugged.
"Ok," she sighed. "Well, we'll assume that he's going to turn up somewhere, I'll put it out."
Sandra exited to her private office to make the required phone call for uniform to keep an eye out for Carson while Steve and Gerry settled themselves back in the office, observing the new notes that had been added to the case board. It was approaching four in the afternoon. Gerry opted to fill the kettle for the last brew of the working day while Steve scribbled the notes on their excursion down for reference. Brian was organising himself ready to talk to DCI Thomas who had promised to nip down for a chat with them at the end of his working day. He scratched his cheek as he checked his e-mails for updates on information that he had requested.
"So, you think someone tipped Carson off?" he inquired of his colleagues.
"Dunno," Gerry frowned rolling the packet of teabags back up and replacing it in its place on the side. Kitchen areas were the only place he was ever as organised as Brian, liking everything to have its assigned place to make it easier to find. Everywhere else, his desk especially, tended to be arranged in a state of balanced chaos. "But, he doesn't strike as the kinda bloke who deviates from his routine without good reason."
"Question is why?" Steve pondered. "Maybe it was him what shot Elaine after it came out that she had been shagging his brother? A sort of weird revenge tactic?"
"Grief-stricken he decides to shoot her?" Gerry shrugged. "Maybe."
"Either way, we've got to find him first," Sandra re-entered the room. "Brian, are you ready to talk to Thomas? He'll be here in fifteen minutes apparently."
"Half-day?" Steve looked at the clock. Half-past four was hardly a time for a chief inspector in serious crime to be knocking off, as far as he was concerned.
Sandra shrugged and studied the board. Gerry handed her a cup of tea and she drank it while they filled each other in on what they had found out. Twenty minutes passed before a grey-haired DCI Thomas knocked on the door. Sandra greeted him and introduced him to the boys before her and Brian relocated with the man to one of the interview rooms. They quizzed him on what he could remember about the case, his impressions of the people involved, why he had accepted that Johnson had killed Elaine Parsons and whether he had any idea why the man was now changing his story.
"I couldn't honestly say," he replied to the last question. "He didn't have any form, so my guess would be he's decided he doesn't like prison and is looking for a quicker exit."
"Right, well, thank you for your time, I hope you won't mind if we need to speak to you again?" Sandra said more out of routine than any thought that they would need to talk to him again. He had been as most officers whose cases she reinvestigated were – reluctant to admit fault.
"Of course," he replied, with a little less courtesy than she felt she had offered him. He stood up quickly. "My pleasure."
She frowned at Brian after the man had left. "Why do I keep getting the feeling that there's something funny going on here?"
"How do you mean?" Brian finished scribbling on his pad.
"Him, Parsons, Johnson. All of them are a little bit, I don't know. It's like they know more than they're telling us. Maybe I'm just being cynical. But then, Carson disappearing…"
"Could be coincidence," he reminded her gently as he held the door. "But then, I tend to agree. Johnson didn't have any form, why now? He was just a kid. I don't think he would have sat in prison quietly for one sentence if he thought he could get out of it. Fingering the real killer would have worked in is favour at the time, why now?"
"He was protecting someone?" she wondered aloud. "Freddie, perhaps? Tomorrow, I want to know if there is any possible link between them."
She looked around the office as they returned. "And I want to talk to the girl who has the restaurant now. And right now, I want to go to the pub."
"There's an idea," Gerry perked up behind his computer. "I've ran a search, Carson doesn't have any transport beyond his own two feet. Not even a rail card or a bus pass."
"Right, well hopefully uniform will get a sighting at some point, failing that I'll get a warrant in the morning to search his flat. Steve?"
"If someone tipped off Carson, it must be someone who knew about us reopening the case or someone who knew that Johnson was changing his story, get on to finding any connection between them. Anyway, pub?"
"Pub," the boys replied in unison.
She smiled and went to her office to close down her computer and get her things, she glanced at Jack's desk as she passed it, life went on.