The Fall Guy Ch. 03byThe Wanderer©
I thank my LadyCibelle and Techsan for their patience, proof reading, editing skills and of course encouragement they always give me. As I've been known to fiddle with stories, after they've seen it. I take full responsibility for the content and any cock-ups in this story.
While I'm at it, I think from now on I'm going to thank all my friends out there, who write to me and encourage me to continue writing and posting these demented ravings of mine. Your emails are greatly appreciated.
Whilst, there some sex in a couple of the chapters, this is not a stroke story. So if you were looking for one of those kind-of tales, I would suggest you'd be better served looking elsewhere.
Clarification: TWOCing (pronounced twock-ing): The act of Taking a car Without the Owner's Consent, usually in order to engage in joyriding. The pavement in the UK is a sidewalk to some folks.
Unwelcome, Welcome Guests.
Jenny didn't wake me in her usual fashion the following morning. I was suddenly aware of her shaking me.
"John, wake up. You've got visitors," I heard her say through the fog in my brain.
"Wow, I don't need any of that shit this morning," I said to her, when I noticed she had another glass of that concoction of hers in her hand. "Who's here anyway?"
"The police! I think one of them is that inspector that Helen mentioned yesterday."
"At this time of day! Um, what time is it anyway?" I asked, still trying to clear the fog in my brain.
"Eight-thirty!" Jenny replied.
"In a bleeding hurry, aren't they? Okay, tell them I'll be down in a minute."
Jenny, after giving me a nice smile, left the room and I climbed out of bed. As I stood up, the sudden pain in my head told me that maybe I had hit the juice a little on the hard side the previous evening; I could just about remember staggering home. I made a mental note to cut down on alcohol.
Then having had second thoughts, I gulped down Jenny's weird concoction, making another mental note to get the recipe for it from her as well. The stuff tasted like shit, but it definitely did the trick.
"Where are they?" I asked Jenny when I came down the stairs that led off of the lounge.
"Outside waiting, of course. John, unless they have a warrant or just-cause, the police can't enter a house unless the owner invites them in. This is your house so I made them wait until you are ready to receive them. It never hurts to show them who's running things, you know."
"I'm beginning to worry about you, Jenny. You haven't had some run-ins with the police, have you?" I asked her, smiling.
"Let's just say my father wasn't flavour of the month with them, shall we? I learnt all about what the police can and can't do at a very young age." Jenny grinned back at me as she went to open the front door.
The familiar face of Inspector Gary Harris entered the room followed by an officer whom I vaguely recognised and I assumed was the sergeant that Helen had mentioned.
"Mr Carpenter, thank you for agreeing to see us," Harris said as he entered the lounge.
"Sit down, Inspector. I'm afraid I don't remember your oppo here's name."
"Frank Stevens," the other man said, offering his hand for me to shake. "Sergeant Stevens now; I was a PC when we met last."
Once I'd shaken the Sergeant's hand, Gary Harris shoved his hand in my direction. For a moment I detected the mason's grip, but when I didn't return it, it rapidly disappeared. "So, inspector," I thought to myself, "a brother, are we? I wonder if you knew I was before I went down or whether you're trying to tell me you are?"
"Well, John," the inspector began, but then corrected himself. "Sorry, may I address you as John, Mr Carpenter?"
"You did the last time we met and never asked my permission, Gary," I replied sarcastically.
"I'm sorry, John. The situation was very different then. Look, that was then and this is now. Helen ... er, Ms Cafrey has informed me of the investigations that she and her late father have been making. What I believed all those years ago is not necessarily what I believe now. Ms Cafrey is convinced that Bill Simmons killed his wife and that your wife was instrumental in planting the evidence against you. I've come to believe that there is a possibility that she could be correct."
"A possibility? Is that so?" I said sarcastically.
"John, I don't put people behind bars because I like the idea. I have to act on the evidence that is before me at the time. Now my trouble is that Helen has come up with certain information that leaves me to believe that someone could have fooled me, and the courts. I don't like to think that someone pulled the wool over my eyes, and if they did I intend to see that they go to prison for a long time."
"So you're not convinced I'm innocent then?" I asked.
"John, to be honest with you, what Ms Cafrey and her late father turned up has put your guilt in question, forgetting the trial for the moment, if we may. In my mind you are just a suspect in the murder of Mary Simmons. Can you understand what I'm saying?"
"Oh, so if you can't pin it on Bill Simmons, you're quite happy that I've just spent seven years in the slammer," I replied.
"John, I can only act on the evidence. But there is something much more important than your guilt or innocence at stake here," Gary Harris said, with a very serious look on his face
"Inspector Harris, what in the world do you think is more important to me than my conviction."
"What about the safety of your ex-wife and children?" Harris asked.
That statement by Harris really knocked the wind out of my sails.
"John," Frank Stevens carried on, "If what Helen believes did happen and Bill Simmons did kill his wife, it stands to reason Angela must have helped him plant all that evidence implicating you. Now suddenly just before you come out, your wife and children have vanished into thin air. The inspector and I are concerned that Bill Simmons might get worried that you would put pressure on Angela to tell what she knows. John, what we've got to take into account is that, if Simmons did kill his wife for her money, what's to stop him killing again to keep the secret?"
I looked from one officer to the other, as what Sergeant Stevens had just said to me sunk into my brain. This was a completely different ball game, and something I hadn't in my wildest dreams contemplated. A sudden feeling of panic began to rise within me.
"Well, what the hell are you doing to find them?" I demanded.
"Everything we can, John, I can assure you. Checks have been made at all airports and ports; we're pretty sure they haven't left the country," Gary Harris said, in an attempt - I think - to reassure me.
"What use is that? He's hardly likely to take them abroad before he kills them, is he?" I replied, my anger still rising.
"Calm down please, John. We don't know that he is going to harm them. It's just something we have to take into account. We - or rather Helen - believes they are in hiding in the country somewhere. We'll track them down in the end, you can be sure of that," Harris said.
"John, Hel ... Ms Cafrey thinks they can't be too far away. Bill Simmons must have been living somewhere fairly close by when he was visiting Angela at the flat. We very much suspect that Angela and the children are staying at his place," Frank Stevens added.
I had noted that, whilst trying to sound formal where Helen was concerned, both officers would refer to her by her Christian name when they let their guard down. There had been some undertone in Helen's voice that I'd picked up when she had mentioned Frank Stevens the previous evening. It wasn't a conscious thought at the time, but I was beginning to wonder whether there was something going on between them. Frank Stevens was a handsome guy and more Helen's age than Harris was.
"I can't see how you guys expect me to help. You know everything I know from those interviews we had years ago and I've been the slammer ever since."
"Well, John," Harris said with an unusual tone to his voice, "actually our hands are pretty well tied. But what Frank and I were thinking was that if we could put some pressure on Curtis, you never know; he might get scared enough to do some talking."
"And how do you intend to do that?" I asked.
"As police officers, we can't really. But we could hint to Curtis that you have been going on about him lying in court and appear to be after him," Frank Stevens suggested.
"Well, shouldn't I be pissed with him?"
"Generally convicted felons don't go after the witnesses who gave evidence against them, if they told the truth in court. They might be fairly pissed off with them, but they don't generally go looking for them. The idea is we let Curtis know you're after his blood and then you make a couple of appearances," Frank said
"And that's supposed to scare him into telling you the truth?" I asked.
"Well, not exactly, John," Harris said. "What we expect Curtis to do is try to kill you!"
"Do fucking what? Where the hell would that little wimp get the guts to kill me?"
"We're pretty sure he's killed before," Harris announced.
"Who? That little wimp couldn't have stabbed Mary Stevens."
"No, that's not his style. Curtis likes to use cars. We're damned sure it was him who ran down Helen's father," Frank said. "And do you know that Sheila Thomas was also killed in a hit and run accident? A stolen Ford again, the same as Helen's father; as a teenager Curtis had a habit of TWOCing Fords. It appears he finds them easy to nick."
"Holy shit! Sheila's dead? But that makes some sense; she was supposed to have been with Angela the night of Mary's murder. What do you think? Sheila looked after the children whilst Angela went to the hotel to get that bleeding chit for the Champagne that you found in my pocket?"
"Something along those lines. Look, John, we didn't just assume anything. I know you think we railroaded you but we checked out everyone. Sheila Thomas assured us that Angela didn't leave the house until you got there."
"That's right; she was leaving when I arrived home that night."
"Well, it's more than a slight possibility that Sheila died because she knew that Angela had left the house," Harris added.
"And you think that Curtis drove the car that killed her."
"It's a possibility. Or more likely, we think he could have stolen the car and someone else drove it. Bill Simmons, for instance. Look, John, modern cars aren't all that easy to steal, although actually they aren't too difficult either, if you know what you're doing. The odds on Bill Simmons knowing how to break into a car and being able to drive the thing away are pretty long. But to Curtis, a Ford is a piece of cake.
"The plan is we put the wind-up on Curtis. Then you show up and make sure he sees you. We thought it would be best if you book into a hotel near where he lives. We can clear that with your probation officer. There's no point in leading Curtis back here if it doesn't work. Then we sit on you and Curtis, and wait to see what the bugger does."
"This all sounds a little dangerous to me," Jenny's voice came from the doorway.
I'd almost forgotten she was still in the house. Jenny entered the room carrying a tray of teas. When she had put the tray on the table, she sat herself in one of the spare chairs.
"I'm not sure I like what you are planning," Jenny began. "John, I understand that you're pissed off with Curtis, but are you sure it's a good idea to put yourself in the firing line like that?"
"To be honest, Jen, I'm not too keen on the idea myself. But the only other option is for me to kick the shit out of the little Pratt and I can't see Gary or Frank here letting me get away with that in a hurry," I replied
"Now, that would put you back inside," Gary said. "But, Jenny, I don't think John's going to be in any real danger. He knows what the score is and will be expecting trouble. Look, John, if Curtis doesn't take the bait quite quickly, we'll have to think of something else anyway. We only have enough manpower to watch him around the clock for a few days."
"Well, if you're going to do something silly like this, I want to help," Jenny announced. "You can book me into that damned hotel as well and I'll watch John's back. I can smell a policeman half a mile away. What's to say Curtis can't do the same?"
All three of us looked at Jenny, and from her facial expression we knew what was going to happen. There's some women who, when they've made their mind up, nothing is going to dissuade them from their choice of action.
Two days later Jenny and I moved into separate adjacent rooms in a hotel about a mile from Curtis's place. Personally Jenny and I thought the police officers that were there to watch my back, stuck out like sore thumbs, but we were expecting them to be there and actively looking for them.
That evening a couple booked Curtis and his Mercedes to take them to the hotel's restaurant for dinner. As Curtis pulled up outside the hotel, I was standing on the steps at the main entrance smoking a cigar.
I pretended not to notice Curtis, but Jenny - who was watching from the hotel's lounge - told me later that he certainly not only noticed me but recognised me as well. Jenny said he stared at my back and if looks could kill I'd be on my way to the morgue.
When Curtis turned up to collect his customers later in the evening, I followed them out. This time I stared at Curtis as he opened the car door for them to get in; he did try to pretend that he wasn't aware that I was watching him.
The plan had been that he would assume it was just chance I was outside when he arrived. But I had seen him and had been waiting for him to return. The customer was going to innocently tell him that I had been asking questions about their chauffeur that evening and had told them I wished to hire a limousine.
Just after I got to my room the connecting door opened and Jenny came in with one of the officers on the stakeout. He was just about to knock off for the evening but agreed that Curtis had definitely seen that I was there. When he left - via Jenny's room - Jenny stayed.
"I thought you said no all-nighters, Jenny?" I said as she began to divest herself of her clothes.
"Well, that was when I could get home to watch what that bugger was up to. You can bet your bottom dollar that he's giving that little slut one right now. So why shouldn't I have some fun? Oh, Helen's coming in the morning so we'll have to get up early so she doesn't catch me in here."
"Why worry? I think I've worked out that she's sweet on Frank. They might even have a thing going already," I replied.
"Could be but somehow I doubt it. Frank Stevens has three children and is devoted to his wife," Jenny said.
"How'd you know that?"
"Bert told me earlier whilst you were outside waiting for Curtis to turn up. I told you to go after that one; I reckon she's a good catch."
"Jenny, it's not about who's a good catch, it's about falling in love with someone."
"Oh yeah and what good did falling in love do to the likes of us. My old man's shagging that slut from the Rose and Crown every chance he gets and your so-called loving wife is shacked up with a guy who framed you for his wife's murder. You know, when you think about it Angela must be bloody nuts to get hooked up with Bill Simmons. What's he liable to do when he gets bored with her?"
"That's an interesting point. I wonder if Angela's ever thought that one out?" I replied.
Jenny must by habit be an early riser. She must have started her wake-up-John routine about five AM. How her old man ever found the energy to lay that bleeding barmaid, I'll never understand. In the back of my mind I think I was possibly glad that our ages were so far apart and there wasn't any real chemistry between Jenny and me. I'm damned sure that she would have sent me to an early grave.
"Jenny, how well did you know Bill Simmons?" I asked as we were getting out of the shower.
"Hardly at all. I'd seen him around the tennis club a few times. Why do you ask?"
"Just wondering if he'd employed you to kill me, that's all!" I said smiling at her.
"Just for that we won't do it again until after breakfast." She laughed back at me.
Helen arrived as I was finishing my coffee in the restaurant.
"Do you want any breakfast, Helen?" I asked as she slid into the seat opposite me.
"No, thanks, just a coffee. I've already eaten. I'm surprised that Jenny isn't sitting with you." She replied.
"No, she's over there with her admirer, Bert. He's my bodyguard so having him and his mate hanging around Jenny is good cover for them."
"You think he fancies Jenny then?"
"Either that or he's a damned good actor. You don't see a smile like that on a copper's face very often."
"Does he know that you're sleeping with her? Oh, don't look so surprised, John. I wasn't born yesterday!"
"Um, well..." I spluttered.
"Don't worry about it, John. I'm cool with it. You've been locked away from women for some time. In a way it's a relief. From what I've been told some guys turn a little, um, ambidextrous after they've been inside for a few years."
"Well, I'm not one of them!"
"Calm down, John, I never said you were. I just said that's it's nice to be reassured that you weren't, that's all. Anyway down to business. Frank says that you should show up near Curtis' office around nine-thirty. Apparently he does a regular morning run, then stops for breakfast in a café and returns to his house, office or whatever you call that dump he lives in around nine-forty. Once you are sure he's seen you, come back here."
I was leaning under the bonnet of my car, pretending to be doing something to the engine when Curtis turned up. I watched him out of the corner of my eye as he kept taking quick glances in my direction. Once he was inside the office he kept looking out through the blinds. I decided not to leave right away, but hang it out for a while to make him sweat. It was about a quarter past ten when I left to return to the hotel.
"Someone, we assume it was Curtis, rang reception and asked whether you were staying here," Bert said when he joined Helen and me in my room just after I got back. He entered from Jenny's room so I assumed he had a key, because Jenny was still downstairs in the lounge.
"Did they tell him?"
"Yes, the guy working on reception with the girl is my partner. We need Curtis to think he knows everything."
Suddenly Bert's mobile rang, and he went into Jenny's room to take the call. He was back within a coupe of minutes.
"Curtis's gone mobile, heading out of town. The boss," I assumed he was referring to Gary Harris, "said he left his place like he had a bullet up his arse right after you did. He tailed you for a while, probably to make sure you were coming back here, then made off up the London road. The boss is hoping he's heading for wherever Simmons is living."
For the next two hours we heard nothing. Bert had returned downstairs and Helen and I sat and talked, mainly about her and my own children. She told me more about how she'd discovered that her husband was having an affair with his PA and how it must have been going on for sometime before she caught on.
Then Helen and I went down to have some lunch. It was whilst we were eating that I noticed Bert take a call on his mobile. Straight away, from his body language I could see that it wasn't good news.
As we finished the meal, Jenny, who was also giving out bad vibes, caught my eye and then looked up. I gathered a parlay was required in my room. Helen and I left the restaurant first and we were in the room when Jenny arrived on her own.
"They lost the bugger, in that bloody one way system in Richmond. Frank told Bert that they were positive he was heading for wherever Simmons and Angela are staying," she told us.