The Right to Remain Silent Ch. 01byLiveCat©
DCI Abigail Spencer groaned at the persistent and invading noise of her phone and reached over to grab it from the bedside cabinet.
'Gov, it's DS Grisling here. Sorry to call your personal phone but I couldn't get hold of you on your work phone.'
'That's because it was fucking turned off Grizzly.'
'It's Grisling Ma'am.'
'At 3.30 in the fucking morning I'll call you any sodding name I like Grizzly. I was about to take my first day off in 3 fucking weeks so why are you calling me and not DCI Wallace?
'He told me to call you Gov, there's been a murder.
'And? Since when did Wallace need my help on a murder case?'
'Well Gov, erm he's arrested someone and she's a, well she, you know she's....'
'Oh for fucks sake spit it out man!'
'She's a lesbian Gov.'
'Jesus, it's not catching Grizzly, why are you calling me?'
'She knows you Gov. She's pleading innocence even though she was practically caught red handed said she's only prepared to speak to you.'
'Oh for fuck's sake! What's her name?'
'She won't tell us. Won't say a word unless it's to you Gov. She's pleading the right to remain silent.'
'Since you found my private mobile number I'm assuming you can also find my address? Get your arse over here in a division car Grizzly, I've been drinking and I need a lift.' and with that the conversation ended abruptly.
There were those who assumed that Abi Spencer had only risen to the ranks of DCI because she ticked a lot of boxes on the equal opportunities questionnaire and made the force look good for being 'inclusive'.
Those people had obviously never worked with or for her. She was a bloody good copper who had worked twice as hard and used all her smarts to overcome the male prejudice in the police force. She was also totally open about being a lesbian and the jokes had ranged from good humoured banter to totally crass and bloody offensive, but she had weathered them all until finally the novelty wore off.
There were very few jokes now and they were generally made behind her back -- she was too high up the food chain to openly piss off these days unless you wanted to find yourself back in traffic.
Having arrived at the station and dispatched DS Grisling to find her a very strong, very black, very sweet cup of coffee she headed to the custody suite. She always marvelled at how the name 'custody suite' made the area sound appealing -- like somewhere you'd actually like to be, rather than the mass of institutional green corridors with metal cell doors that it was in reality.
DCI Wallace was talking to the Custody Sergeant and looked up as she walked in, a grin spread across his face.
'Ah Abi, come to rescue one of your comrades in arms?'
'Fuck off Wally. Have you gotten her name out of her yet?'
'Nope. The only thing she'll say is that she wants to speak to you; hasn't even asked for a lawyer yet.'
'OK, give me the details.'
DCI Wallace proceeded to explain how a 999 call due to a disturbance had led to them finding a front door wide open in a very upper-class neighbourhood, a trail of blood throughout the house, obvious signs of a struggle (although no signs of forced entry) and the dead body of a very scantily clad woman in the kitchen, with another woman passed out nearby holding a hammer.
The hammer was of course suspected as the murder weapon, and as the unconscious woman had been holding it they knew that her prints were all over it; she was also covered in blood.
To all intents and purpose it looked like a case of spousal murder and DCI Spencer had to admit that it didn't look good for the woman -- whoever she was.
'Have you got an ID on the victim yet.'
'Yes, she was a local pillar of the community apparently. Ran her own businesses, donated to charity, was on the local council for a few years, swanky house on the canal yadda, yadda, yadda...' DCI Wallace had been flipping through his notebook as he spoke looking for the name, but the description was enough and Abigail's face had turned ashen.
'Oh my god, it was Christine Pierce wasn't it?' she gasped, her breath getting caught somewhere in her throat.
'Yeah, that was it. Shit are you OK? Did you know her?'
'Yeah, but this is off the record -- at least for the time being. We had a relationship about 5 years ago but I called it off.'
'She didn't think being open about her sexuality would be good for business and I refused to hide mine. Couple that with the long hours this job demands and you've pretty much got a recipe for disaster.'
'Ain't that the truth' muttered Wallace, who was currently embroiled in his second divorce.
As Abi looked through the small, reinforced window in the cell door she was relieved to find that she didn't recognise the woman sat on the bench.
On entering she looked up into Abi's face and tried to smile but a large bruise covering one side of her face was making it difficult. Abi had to admit that she was damn fine looking -- even dressed in a white paper suit at 4am and covered in bruises.
'Hello, I'm DCI Spencer.'
'Thank you so much for coming, I didn't know what else to do.'
'Well, this better be good. I'm supposed to be on some very overdue leave and instead I get dragged out of bed at stupid-oh-clock in the morning because apparently someone I know has committed a murder.
Lady, I don't suffer fools gladly at the best of times, and this isn't the best of times, so you better start talking.'
'Chrissie used to talk about you all the time, she used to call you her biggest mistake, the one that got away. She always used to speculate on what might have been if she'd been more open about who she was.'
This took Abi back somewhat. She had had very little contact with Chrissie since they'd split up, apart from when they'd seen each other at formal functions or the houses of mutual friends and she'd never been given the impression that Chrissie considered their split a mistake. A wave of sadness rolled over her as she remembered that she'd never get to speak to Chrissie again.
'So, now I'm here are you going to tell me who you are?
'My name is Alice. Alice Roberts. Chrissie and I had a kind of casual on / off relationship. Not really a relationship, no strings or anything, more like fuck buddies really.'
'And are you going to tell me what happened tonight?'
'I don't know!' and with that Alice burst into floods of tears.
Abi was tempted to go and take the woman in her arms and comfort her but she had to remind herself that she was talking to the lead suspect in a murder investigation, so she fished around in her handbag for a tissue and sat on the bench next to her instead.
'Did you kill Christine Pierce Alice?'
'No! God no! Why would I do such a thing?'
'Alice, I'm going to suggest that we take this conversation into a formal interview room where we can tape it. That way I don't have to write notes and anything you remember that may help us get to the bottom of this will be preserved, is that ok with you?'
Alice sniffed and nodded her ascent
'Have they read you your rights?' again Alice nodded as the tears coursed down her face.
'Ok, I'm going to arrange things with the sergeant and I'll see you in a minute.' and with that Abi left the cell, leaning on the wall outside as she composed herself.
'Any joy?' Oh great, Wallace was waiting to pounce. 'Did she tell you all of the juicy details?'
'Wallace grow up! She still claims she didn't do it and you know what -- I'm no psychologist but we both know you get a good nose for a liar when you've been in this game for a while; I'm tempted to think she's telling the truth.'
'Oh fuck it! I knew you were going to say that!' Abi started to protest but Wallace held his hands up to stop her 'I agree with you Abi. I was hoping like mad that you'd walk out of there with a confession but as you say, you get a feeling for things and at the moment, I'm closer to thinking of her as a second victim than I am the culprit.'
'I'm taking her up to interview room 6, you want to join us?'
'No, she is at least talking to you and I don't want to spook her; I'll watch through the viewing pane instead.'
'Interview commencing at 04.30 hours with Alice Roberts and DCI Abigail Spencer. Alice Roberts is aware that she is under caution and has been advised of her right to have a lawyer present -- she has refused this right at present.
She is also aware that this interview is being recorded on both audio tape and video tape and that information given within this interview may be used to aid a prosecution case in the murder of Christine Pierce.'
Abi took a long slurp of her coffee, hoping the caffeine would help keep her alert. The room wasn't overly warm and she was conscious of Alice cradling her cup of tea - for the warmth or to ward of shock she didn't know.
'Ok Alice, what we need to do now is go back through yesterday evening to see if we can come up with any relevant details that will help us get to the bottom of this but firstly, you need to give us your address.
I do warn you that once we have your address it is likely that DCI Wallace will apply for a warrant to search your premises, unless of course you give us your permission for us to conduct a search? but first off we'll arrange for a WPC to go and pick up some clothes for you. Is this ok?'
Alice merely nodded weakly, causing Abi to verbalise her gesture for the benefit of the tape.
'I live at 32 Cromby Street, in the new development near the marina. I don't mind you searching my house but please ask your people to be careful; I'm an antique dealer and restorer and I do a lot of work from home. I don't want clumsy policemen seeing something that looks like junk and not respecting it properly when it's actually something over a hundred years old in need of restoration!
I know this is difficult but I'd appreciate some discretion too. Having loads of blue flashing lights outside my house isn't going to do my reputation any good and I don't want to be associated with antique fakers by accident.'
'I promise they'll be as careful and discrete as possible and depending on how we get on here you may be able to be there when they carry out the search, so lets get on with it shall we? I'm sure I don't need to remind you that we're investigating a serious crime here.'
Abi felt sorry for the woman, she was sure she hadn't committed the murder but even so -- she wasn't about to be dictated to by someone on the other side of the interview desk, especially at this time in the morning.
As the interview progressed Abi found out that Alice had met Chrissie a few months ago at a charity event hosted at the local football stadium in aid of providing sport therapy to disabled children.
She had explained that Chrissie had approached her and they had spent most of the evening chatting, finally leaving together and sharing a taxi as they lived fairly close to each other. Alice had invited Chrissie in for a nightcap and they'd been seeing each other ever since on a casual basis.
It seemed that Chrissie still wasn't keen on making her preference for women known to the world at large and as far as Alice knew Chrissie hadn't been seeing anyone else, male or female.
They had been to the theatre tonight to see a touring production of Taming of The Shrew, then they'd had a late supper at a nearby tapas bar, then they'd gone home to Chrissie's house.
'Then what? I need you to remember as many details as possible. Did you see anyone outside? Did Chrissie take any phone calls or listen to messages? Did she user her laptop? Did she open or lock doors? Did she set the alarm? I need you to think about everything that happened from the moment you got there.'
Alice looked as if she was starting to get annoyed at all of the questions, as if they were irrelevant somehow. Maybe she just didn't understand the importance -- or was she hiding something?
'We got home around midnight. Chrissie unlocked the door and turned the alarm off. We poured wine -- a merlot if I remember rightly, and then we sat on the sofa in the living room.
We started kissing and after a few minutes Chrissie started to undo the buttons on my blouse, and kissing the skin that she had exposed on my shoulders and the tops of my...'
'I get the message! You got in, left the alarm unset and started to make out on the sofa' It had been a situation she herself had been in with Chrissie many times herself and she could almost visualise the scene, from the beeping of the alarm as they first entered the house, to the plush velvet material of the sofa.
'Carry on please, without the intimate descriptions please.'
So Alice continued to describe how they had taken their wine up to Chrissie's bedroom where they had made love for about an hour before falling asleep together some time after 1am.
The next thing Alice knew was waking up alone and hearing noises in the kitchen downstairs. She lay in bed waiting for Chrissie to return, assuming she had gone to get a drink of water and when she failed to return after a few minutes she called out to her asking if everything was alright.
When she didn't get an answer she pulled on a robe, walked down to the kitchen and found Chrissie on the floor.
'There was blood everywhere. It was on the floor and the cupboards and all over her head. I knelt down next to her to see if she was breathing and the next thing I know I was being woken up by a paramedic and the place was full of police.'
Alice was crying hard at the recollection and Abi couldn't help confirming her original assumption. She was either innocent or an extremely accomplished liar.
'What about the bruise on your face?'
'I don't know, it wasn't there before. The back of my head is sore as well so I guess I have another one there too.'
They were interrupted at this point by a WPC with some clothes for Alice, so Abi went to talk to DCI Wallace while she changed.
'What do you reckon Wally?'
'Sounds like she probably alerted the assailant to her presence by calling downstairs, allowing them to hide themselves ready for when she entered the kitchen, at which point they attacked her and planted the hammer.
The ME has just confirmed that it was definitely the murder weapon and there was no obvious sign of sexual assault. We'll have to wait for the rest until she's finished the PM.
So what are your thoughts?'
'You know what's puzzling me. If Alice had heard noises loud enough to cause a neighbour to call the police she wouldn't just have assumed that Chrissie was getting a drink, especially since those houses are detached and sat in large plots. She'd also have noticed the place had been trashed way before she got to the kitchen, so she's either not mentioning it or it happened after she was attacked. Have you taken a formal statement from the neighbour?'
DCI Wallace looked at his shoes, realising he'd missed something important.
'The call was anonymous. They claimed to be a neighbour but gave no name; I'll get someone tracing the address right away.'
Abi's emotions ranged from anger at his incompetence to feeling slightly smug but she knew it was all too easy to let the details slide when you thought you had someone firmly in the frame already.
Just as she was about to go back into the interview room she had a thought and turned back to her embarrassed colleague.
'What about her dog?'
'Chrissie had a massive German Shepherd called Oscar; he was a big stupid, shaggy thing that wouldn't hurt a fly but he had a bark that could wake the dead.'
'Abi, there was no sign of a dog in that house, not a dog bowl or a chew toy to be seen.'
When she re-entered the interview room Abi had to stop herself staring. Alice had been a good looking woman before but now the loose paper suit had been replaced with a pair of figure hugging black jeans and a white shirt, her hair brushed and pulled into a ponytail, she looked stunning. The WPC obviously hadn't thought to pick up a bra and Alice's nipples were tenting the shirt and Abi had a quick flash of embarrassment as a mental picture of laying Alice over the metal desk and sucking on those nipples flew unbidden into her mind.
Regaining her composure quickly she asked Alice to sit down, turned the recording equipment back on and resumed the interview.
Alice confirmed that the house had been in good shape when she'd gone downstairs and that the noise she heard just sounded like someone pottering about in the kitchen.
'What about Chrissie's dog, Oscar?'
Alice looked sad at this question and explained that Chrissie had found him dead in the garden about a week ago. The vet had suspected poisoning but Chrissie hadn't known where from and had assumed he must have eaten something when they were out for a walk.
The interview continued for about an hour, by which time both women were visibly exhausted.
'Alice I think we've got everything for now and we both need to get some rest. I'm going to have you taken back downstairs but you shouldn't be there too long; try to get some sleep. If you think of anything important, tell the custody sergeant.
One last question -- who had keys to the house?'
'The cleaner must have a key; I don't know if the gardener has one. I think a neighbour used to keep an eye on the place and look after Oscar if she went out of town.'
'What about you?'
'No, I don't have one. I was only ever at the house with Chrissie so I didn't need one, in fact most of the time she came to my place, it saved her having to explain me to the neighbours.'
Abi had heard this before as when she and Chrissie were together it was generally at Abi's house. They hadn't exchanged keys either, it seemed to be a sign of commitment that Chrissie wasn't able to make and it had caused arguments between them.
She needed to get some sleep and soon, but she needed to speak to Wallace first.
'You hear all that?' she enquired testily 'We need to get Oscar dug up from the garden and find out what poisoned him in case it was a deliberate act to facilitate entry into the house.
We also need to track down the cleaner and anyone else who may have a key to see if they still have them.
Any news on the 999 call?'
'Yeah, I don't think it was from a neighbour unless they went out to a pay phone in the middle of the night to make the call. I've got SOCO all over the phone box and we're checking to see if CCTV turns anything up, but in an area like that it'll mainly be private systems, so we may not get anything.
I've arranged for a team to search the Roberts house later this morning. I'd like her to be there so we can watch her reactions, will you meet us in Cromby Street at 1pm?'
Abi walked into her bedroom and sighed as she saw the sleeping figure in her bed. She had forgotten that she'd left Sarah there when she'd left and was pleased not to be on her own, even if Sarah would be getting up for work in a couple of hours.
Stripping and slipping under the duvet as quietly as she could, she snuggled up to the warm sleeping form and spooned her closely from behind.
Sarah was a relatively new and very welcome addition in Abi's life. She was a fitness fanatic with a beautiful body that Abi never got tired of and a genuinely nice, down to earth person. She was also a rising star at the neighbouring police station, so she fully understood the pressures of the job because she had to deal with them too.
Abi had never dated another copper before, preferring to keep business and pleasure separate, but something just clicked between them when they met on a nasty rape case that involved both areas. She had to admit that it was nice having a partner who she could actually discuss her day with for a change and Sarah had a bright mind and was often able to offer some insight or different perspective that helped Abi out on a case.