The Missing Man
The NEW Inspector Walter Darriteau Novella,
"The Missing Man".
Call back next week for more news on that.
Towards the end of a busy day, Inspector Walter Darriteau returns to his workstation. There was a neatly written pink notelet on his desk. Please ring Mrs Susan Woodhams, and a local number. He picks up the phone and pokes in the digits. After three rings, a woman answered.
‘There’s something preying on my mind,’ she says, ‘and it has been for more than twenty years.’
‘Go on,’ said Walter, imagining it was something and nothing.
‘Almost a quarter of a century ago, I murdered my husband.’
There was a brief silence before she spoke again.
She asked Walter to call at her apartment at 10am the following morning and she’d tell him all about it, but gives him a warning.
‘Come alone or I won’t say a thing.’
Walter reminds her of the consequences of wasting police time, but seems satisfied and a little interested, and agrees to call.
She coughs up the address and abruptly rings off.
Could the woman be serious? Or maybe she’s lonely and wants some male company. Or could she be setting him up?
Either way, Walter will go, and can’t stop himself imagining how she might have done the deed. Poison in the tea? Knife in the back? Pushed him down the stairs. Run him over in the garage? There were plenty of choices, and either way it would be fun finding out.
The case of “The Missing Man” was up and running, an Inspector Walter Darriteau novella , and like all the others, set in and around the ancient city of Chester.
There is a sizeable excerpt from the book below.
And here's the link to the Pre-Order Page, and it's only 99 pence for a Kindle Ebook.
In the meantime, here are some testimonials from earlier Walter Darriteau books.
As promised, here's a sizeable extract of "The Missing Man". I hope you like it.
Inspector Walter Darriteau was in the police station early. He often was on the days he didn’t have a lead or an appointment away from the base. Sergeant Karen Greenwood came in minutes later. She looked okay considering her dad had been in hospital with a heart scare.
‘How’s your dad?’ said Walter.
‘Pretty good, false alarm, I think. I reckon that strong curry he’d eaten couldn’t have helped.’
Walter could empathise with that suffering as he did from heartburn.
Karen said, ‘What time are you seeing Mrs Woodhams?’
‘And you’re going on your own?’
‘I thought you said she wanted...’
‘I don’t care what she wanted. I decide who accompanies me, not her.’
Karen pulled a face and said, ‘Fair enough.’
‘I’ll go into the flat and see her alone, but I want the conversation recording. You’ll be outside in the car listening.’
Karen bobbed her head and said, ‘I’ll get the gear organised. Tiepin job, you reckon?’
Walter nodded. The tiepin always worked well.
Karen said, ‘You think she might make a pass at you and follow that with a sexual harassment case. That your line of thinking?’
Walter grinned and said, ‘I have no idea, but I do know it’s not a good idea to be alone with a single woman in her apartment. Who knows what techno equipment might be set up there? Could be recording gear, even video, and that can always be edited to make one look bad. No, the thing is, I don’t like to afford anyone the opportunity to bring my career to an early end.’
‘That’s why we always travel in twos.’
‘I’ll go and get the necessary stuff.’
Walter nodded and stood up and ambled over to Mrs West’s office to advise her of his plans.
Walter and Karen left the station at twenty minutes to ten in a grey Hyundai, a new kid on the block, and one that Karen seemed to like.
Carrington Lodge was a red brick newbuild development close to the river, not one of the best apartment blocks that had sprouted across the city in the past twenty years, but not one of the worst either. It had the look and feel of a block reserved for owners and tenants who were fifty and over, though Walter could have been wrong.
Karen parked at the back of the garages out of sight of the windows in case Mrs Woodhams was keeping lookout. They did a final voice check, Walter reciting: If I should die think only this of me...
‘Oh, cheerful Charlie. You’re not going to die. All working, loud and clear. Every word and sigh will be recorded.’
Walter bobbed his head and muttered, ‘Hopefully not too many sighs,’ and already he was feeling better about things.
‘What will you do if she throws her arms around you and makes it clear she wants you to stay?’
‘What I always do,’ smirked Walter.
‘Play hard to get, say I’m old-fashioned, which I am. Things like that don’t happen on a first date. Tell her she has to buy me flowers first.’
‘Really?’ said Karen, laughing at the image. ‘You sure about that?’
‘Not in my world, Sergeant Greenwood.’
‘Seriously, Guv, did the woman really say she’d murdered her husband?’
‘That’s what she said.’
‘How much credence do you give that?’
‘Not much, and hopefully our meet will throw some fresh light.’
Karen thought about that for a second before adding, ‘If it’s true, she could be dangerous.’
‘It’s possible, but I can look after myself.’
‘If true, I wonder how she did it.’
‘That question has been occupying my mind. Poison in the tea? Knife in the back? Pushed him down the stairs? Crushed him with the car in the garage? The possibilities are endless. Perhaps she’s eaten him,’ and he imagined her carving up roast loin of Woodhams for the Sunday joint with roast potatoes, cabbage and gravy.
They shared a last look. Walter glanced at the dash clock. A minute to ten. Punctuality personified.
‘Let’s find out,’ he said, heaving himself from the Hyundai.
‘I’ll come and save you if she gets fruity.’
Walter guffawed and shuffled off towards the entrance.
The outside doors were locked and in the twenty-first century that was understandable. To the right of the double door was a big bell and a notice: RING and WAIT. No please, no civility, just RING and WAIT! Maybe the sign-maker’s costs were charged on wordage.
Walter rang and waited. From where he was standing he couldn’t hear a sound, and guessed it must ring in a back room out of earshot of the door, if it was working. Ring and wait. Maybe an old caretaker cum doorman would be alerted and come bumbling to the door, and that logic seemed spot on, for an old guy came into sight down a corridor, maybe thirty feet away, as he limped towards the reinforced glass.
He stopped and stared, seemed wary of the big black guy loitering outside with his hands jammed in his jacket pockets.
Walter guessed the man would normally have opened the door, but he didn’t, simply glared and yelled, ‘What ya want?’
Walter flashed ID and said, ‘Police,’ and followed that with, ‘Open the door... please.’
The guy scratched his hairy ear, nodded, reached up, turned the lock, and pulled the door open.
‘Sorry,’ he said, ‘didn’t realise you were a copper. What can we do for you today?’
‘I have an appointment with Mrs Woodhams.’
‘Really? First floor,’ he said. ‘Number twelve,’ but his brain must have been running into overdrive, his attention piqued, for he said, ‘Nothing wrong, is there? She’s not in any trouble, is she? No dead relative, nothing like that?’
‘Not that I’m aware of,’ said Walter, taking the opportunity to step into the polished hallway. ‘Just routine. What’s your name?’
Seemed an unnecessary question, thought the guy, but he coughed it up, ‘Wilson, Craig Wilson, though I’m not sure that’s relevant.’
‘I like to know whom I’m enjoying a conversation with, Mr Wilson.’
The guy pursed his lips and said, ‘Fair enough, I’ll be in the back office if you need me, the stairs are there, the lift’s round the corner,’ and he stood and stared as if challenging Walter to take the stairs. Must have worked too for Walter stepped up briskly and disappeared from sight.
The tie-pin mic had worked fine, Karen hearing and smiling at every word. The next sound she heard was Walter tapping on Mrs Woodhams’ front door. He heard her approaching, heels clacking on some kind of hardwood floor. The door opened and a short dumpy woman peered up at the big man.
‘Ah, you’ve come, have you?’
‘Looks that way.’
‘You’d better come in, don’t want the nosy neighbours knowing my business,’ and in the next second Walter was in her flat, following her along a narrow corridor that opened into a sizeable square sitting room that overlooked manicured gardens to the rear.
‘Take a seat, the kettle’s just boiled, like a tea?’
Walter sat in one of the two two-seater grey sofas lined up facing one another. He was interested in a mug of tea, but in the unlikely event she was telling the truth, he was more interested in avoiding any poisoned drink, assuming that was her killing method of choice.
‘I’ve just had one, thanks.’
She pulled a noncommittal face, crossed the room and went in the kitchen to grab her mug. Walter watched her go. Tight black skirt, maybe a little too tight, and certainly too short, some kind of ruffled black blouse, and black high-heels that didn’t make her very high. Black dyed hair too, centre parted, sitting on her shoulders as if it were permanently fixed and unmoving.
A couple of seconds later and she returned, placing the tea on the low glass coffee table mid way between the sofas. She sat opposite, crossed her legs, and said, ‘I suppose you think I’m a mad old bat with nothing better to do with my day.’
‘No, I wouldn’t say that, but you have to understand, it isn’t every day someone rings and confesses to murdering their spouse. This is a serious business, Mrs Woodhams, and I hope you are not wasting my time.’
‘I am not. Do you want to know about this, or not?’
‘I’m here, aren’t I? You tell me your story and we’ll take it from there.’
She seemed satisfied and opened her pink painted mouth and began.
Susan Woodhams stared across the room at the Darriteau character to check he was paying attention before she started, and then she did.
‘He was a big man, oh, I don’t mean down there,’ she said, smirking. ‘No, I mean tall and wide, a little like you in some respects. When I first introduced him to my sister she said we looked ridiculous, which wasn’t the best of starts. Little and Large she called us, but it never bothered me that he was six foot plus and I was pretending to be five feet something. He said it didn’t bother him either, and I believed him too. But the thing that did annoy me was he had an eye for the ladies. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised. He was a great looking fella, and I’ll tell you this, both my sisters were jealous as hell when I produced him.’
Walter wasn’t keen to interrupt but wanted to clear up one fact before proceeding
‘What’s your husband’s name?’
She thought that seemed a decent place to begin.
‘Jack Jonathon Woodhams, though he hated the Jonathon bit. He didn’t even want it reading aloud in church, but I insisted on it. You can’t lie in front of God, can you? Mustn’t leave anything out because it’s a tad inconvenient.’
‘Date of birth?’
Susan recited it without a second thought. Most couples know their better half’s date of birth, but not all. There are many who have to think hard, and some have forgotten.
The policemen didn’t write it down, he hadn’t written anything, and that made her wonder if he was treating her seriously.
‘Aren’t you going to write it down?’
‘No need,’ he said.
On another day he might have added: It’s all being recorded, but he said, ‘I’ll remember, I have an excellent memory,’ which was true, most of the time. She sipped more tea as he glanced at the tie-pin and would like to have whispered: You hearing all this, as he suppressed a grin and asked another question.
‘Where did you meet?’
‘Quaintways. It was a pub club thing in the city centre back in the day. Lots of people met there. You ever go there?’
‘No, I think it was before I arrived here, though I’ve heard a lot about it.’
‘It’s all true,’ she said, grinning a knowing look and waiting for his next question.
‘How long after meeting him did you marry?’
‘Less than a year.’
‘And how long after that did you notice he was eyeing other women?’
‘About two days, on the bloody honeymoon in Tenerife, if you want to be precise. Lots of tall lissom creatures parading half naked around the pool, and Jack’s eyes almost falling out of his head like some kind of crazy cartoon character.’
‘Lots of men can’t help themselves admiring other women, but it doesn’t mean they are unfaithful.’
‘I know that! But do you do that? How would you like it if the boot was on the other foot? Imagine if we were a couple and every time we went out I was gawping at other blokes, and saying things like, “Wow, what a hunk!” – How would you like that? Be honest, you wouldn’t, would you?’
‘No, I can’t say as I would, though I’m not sure it’s grounds to kill someone, hurtful though it might be.’
‘It was much more than that!’
‘Tell me more.’
‘I suppose it was about three years after we’d married. The boy had come along by then, Gerald, and yes, that was my choice of name, though God knows why. Can’t say as I’m enamoured of the name now, can’t say as I’m much impressed by the boy either these days, though his two sons, my grandchildren, are the most important people in my life. Peter and Douglas. They’re over there,’ and she nodded hard at a framed landscape sized picture on the side wall featuring two happy looking kids, staring out across the room through big, innocent eyes.
‘And you think Jack was having an affair while you were carrying Gerald?’
‘Something like that.’
‘What made you think so?’
‘Women’s intuition to begin with, and then...’
‘At Christmas I found an expensive black trouser-suit in the boot of his car. They were all the rage, and I really wanted one.’
‘Maybe it was for you.’
‘That’s what I thought, and you know what it’s like when you stumble on a hidden present, you can’t resist taking a quick peek, if nothing else to make sure the dumb ass has bought the right size.’
‘And he hadn’t?’
Mrs Woodhams gasped, shook her head and said, ‘Certainly not for me, extra long trousers, the kind of garb those long-legged creatures would wear when not at the pool.’
‘Did you ask him about it?’
‘Course not, what do you think? I needed more evidence. I am a little like you I suspect in that direction. I was keeping my powder dry until I had an incontrovertible case. Kept my mouth shut, forced myself to enjoy Christmas, for Gerald’s sake if nothing else, and hugged and kissed Jack as if nothing had happened. But I was forever wondering what he was thinking, and who he was with.’
‘What happened next?’
‘I employed Carlo Conte.’
‘Who is Carlo Conte?’
‘A private Dick, a detective.’
‘Where did you find him?’
‘In an old Yellow Pages, of all places.’
‘Was he any good?’
‘He was fantastic,’ and she couldn’t stop herself adding with a grin, ‘in more ways than one.’
‘Tell me about this Carlo Conte character?’
‘Be my pleasure.’
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"The Missing Man" - Copyright David Carter 2020.