The Fall Guy Ch. 01byThe Wanderer©
A story told in six chapters. All other things being equal, the chapters will be posted on consecutive days
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: Wicket-gate, a small door or gate built into a much larger door or gate, for pedestrian access. Not quite as common as they used to be, they are the traditional way that prisoners are released from jail in the UK. The Joint and Slammer are pseudonyms for prison. The Scrubs is Wormwood Scrubs prison in West London. Stitch-up = frame-up.
Chapter One: Free Again
The wicket-gate banged closed behind me and there was a loud report as the bolt slammed home. I turned and looked up at the high walls and large wooden gates that I had been incarcerated behind for the last five years.
'Okay, man, just what are you going to do now?' I thought to myself. Revenge on someone was in the front of my mind. I didn't know exactly on whom, but at the same time I would need to be careful. Seven years at Her Majesty's Pleasure was enough for me.
Slowly I began to walk down the short approach road to the prison. A small group of people waiting at the bus stop on the other side of the main road were watching me. They were probably on their way to work and I should imagine they had all seen me being let out; I suppose they must watch prisoners getting released most mornings.
As I got to the end of the approach road, I noticed what I took to be a small group of reporters, off to my right, who were just beginning to make their way in my general direction. Damn, the bastards had been pestering me for years whilst I was inside and now they were waiting to ambush me outside the joint.
Suddenly a car appeared beside me, the door swung open and a familiar face climbed out of it. "Your car, Mr Carpenter," the man said handing me the keys.
"I'd say you could do with getting out of here a bit snappy like," the man said, gesturing in the direction of the approaching reporters with his eyes. "There's £500 cash in the glove box, with a mobile phone and your luggage in the boot. Ronny's waiting at the cottage; he asked if you'd please give him a ring if you decide to spend the night elsewhere."
"Cheers, Ralph!" I said sliding into the driver's seat.
There was no time to adjust the damn thing. I took off as quickly as I legally could. I wanted away from those damned reporters, but I had no intention of upsetting the local constabulary.
Swinging out onto the main road, I headed west away from the city, varying my speed after I got out onto the motorway to check whether I was being followed. It didn't take me long to spot the car, a little white one with a single occupant.
"Damned reporters," I said to myself out-loud as I turned into a motorway service area. This one I intended to scare the shit out of and tell them where to get off.
I pulled into an empty area of the car park and waited for the trailing car to follow me in; surprisingly it stopped quite close to me. Then I got out and walked over to it. As I got nearer to it, I was even more surprised to discover that there was a woman in the driving seat.
"Now look here, lady, I've got nothing to say to any bleeding reporters. You bleeding bastards tried to hang, draw and quarter me. What gives any of you the idea that I'd want to speak to you now? Just piss-off and leave me well alone."
The woman sat there with a curiously neutral expression on her face all during the little tirade that I'd delivered in just about the angriest sounding tone of voice I could muster. Then I turned and walked -- sorry, stomped - away from her car towards the cafeteria. Look, I was a convicted murderer; I was trying to look the part to frighten her off.
But apparently she didn't frighten that easily. I'd just sat down with my cup of coffee when she slipped into the seat opposite me.
"Mr Carpenter, first I need to tell you that I'm not a reporter. Secondly I think I can help you and I really need you to help me. Will you please listen to what I have to say?"
I looked at her closely. Oh, the look was meant to worry her somewhat. But the look I got back told me she wasn't in the least bit intimidated or afraid of me.
I'd say she was about thirty-five, with just about everything of the right proportions and in all the right places, if you know what I mean. Come on, I'd been in the bleeding slammer for seven years; I was going to notice that kind of thing.
"Okay, shoot, let's have your spiel and then you can leave me alone, all right?" I said after trying to stare her out, failing miserably.
She nodded as she reached into her handbag and pulled out a little folder, just like some of the coppers keep their ID in.
'Shit, she isn't a bleeding copper, is she?' I thought to myself.
With a deft flick of the wrist, she opened the little folder. Helen Caffrey, British & International Mutual Insurance it said on the card, alongside an extremely unflattering photograph of her.
"You're wasting your time with me, girl. I've got nothing left to insure. What my missus didn't take in the divorce, she's had in child support and alimony."
"No, Mr Carpenter, I don't sell insurance. Technically I'm a loss adjuster."
"So? I haven't lost anything that I was insured against. You know there aren't many people who think to insure themselves against false accusations of murder."
"You did plead guilty, Mr Carpenter!"
"I didn't have much choice on that one, lady. Those bleeding coppers had me stitched up like a turkey at Christmas. They'd planted so much evidence that, if my mother had been on the bloody jury, she'd have convicted me. No, with the way those arseholes had me stitched-up, if I'd kept pleading innocent, the bastards would have me locked up forever. It's all to do with repenting your sins or some such f-ing crap like that."
"So are you now saying that you were framed and didn't kill Mary Simmons?"
"I'm not saying anything. I'm on parole, you know. Yeah, maybe you do know that. Have you been sent to try and stitch me up as well?"
"Mr Carpenter, look, my name's Helen. May I call you John?"
"Call me what you like. It doesn't change anything."
"John, have you got time to listen to a story?"
"Go on then, young lady, I'm listening. For the moment!"
"John, my father was a loss adjuster and he taught me the business. Do you know what loss adjusters actually do?"
"Yeah, they come to look at the damage when you make a claim and then try to wriggle the insurance company out of paying out on it."
"Well, I suppose it could look that way from some peoples' perspective. But really my job is to make sure that the claim is genuine and people aren't trying to rip off the company."
"That's what I said, didn't I? The companies figure every claim is somebody on the fiddle and it's your job to prove them right."
"I somehow don't think we're going to find any common ground on that," Helen finally said.
"You've got that one right, girl." Helen gave me a frown. I was quite pleased with myself; I'd found her Achille's heel. She didn't like being called "girl"; quite a lot of women don't like that.
"John, some of us are specialists. We investigate claims that look suspicious or inflated. That's what our real job is."
"So what do you want with me. I ain't made any claims."
"The company my father and I work for carried a life insurance policy on Mary Simmons."
"Hey, what? And you think you can get the money back from me, because I've been convicted of killing her. Well, you're out of luck on that one, baby. My missis made a pretty good job of cleaning me out."
"John, please be serious for a minute and listen to what I've got to say, will you? It's important."
"Okay, shoot, girl. I won't interrupt again."
"William Simmons took out a massive insurance policy on his wife six months before she was murdered. Although he'd taken out a similar policy on himself as well, my dad was still suspicious about it for some reason. The company had to pay out when you were convicted of Mary's murder, but my father wouldn't leave it alone. William Simmons cancelled his own policy just a few months after his wife was murdered and my father didn't like that either."
"Well, Mary Simmons was a rich woman. When he got his hands on her money, I should imagine insurance was the last thing Bill Simmons was worried about."
"You knew the Simmons well?"
"Not really, only through business. We handled some of Mary's company recruitment. Not much, because she was a good boss and the staff turnover was minimal."
"Look, John, my father always suspected that something was not right about what happened to Mary Simmons and you. Even after you changed your plea to guilty, he still wasn't convinced."
"What about you? Did you think I stabbed Mary Simmons in that hotel room?"
"Well, to be honest with you, yes, at the time I did. But...." Helen suddenly stopped talking.
"But my father wouldn't let it go. John, have you ever seen Columbo on television?"
"Oh, yeah, I've watched a lot of Columbo over the last few years in the nick, nothing but repeats on the telly nowadays and there wasn't much else to do. They don't like to let us dangerous murderers get bored."
Helen ignored or wasn't the slightest bit phased by my hint that she was sitting there with a convicted murderer.
"Well, my dad, once he'd got the bit between his teeth, was a little like Columbo. He wouldn't leave it alone. Everywhere that Bill Simmons went my dad would try to be around. Just letting Simmons know that he wasn't convinced."
"You're speaking of your father in the past tense," I commented.
"Yes, my father died in a road accident some time back. A hit-and-run accident involving a stolen car, which the police put down to joy riders. They found the car burnt-out later the same evening.
"At first that's what I thought it was as well. That is, until I was clearing out my father's flat. I discovered a massive file in his desk, about you, William Simmons and Mary Simmons' murder. I hadn't known that my father was keeping an eye on Simmons. Well, why should he still have been on the case? The claim had been settled right after you confessed.
"Anyway it was apparent from that file that my father had been keeping an extremely close eye on what Simmons had been up to in the years following his wife's death and your conviction. You know, Bill Simmons gradually liquefied all of Mary assets and the cash all seemed to disappear. Well, my dad couldn't find out what he did with it; he thought Simmons moved it out of the country, but he didn't know where.
"Dad had a lot of Simmons movements listed, like where he'd go and whom he'd met. But there was a lot of time when dad couldn't find out where Simmons had been. You've got to remember my dad was apparently doing all this in his spare time.
"My father watching Simmons got me curious and I thought I'd just have a little nose around. The only trouble was I couldn't find Simmons. He'd disappeared off the face of the earth. For two years now I've been trying to track him down. Now whether I liked it or not, that is really suspicious, and I really want to know what the hell has been going on; but I'd run out of options.
"So I thought I'd better go right back and start at the beginning, with Mary's death and your conviction. You wouldn't speak to my father when he tried to see you in prison, and you wouldn't speak to me whilst you were inside either. Will you tell me about it now?"
I sat back in my seat and looked at Helen, then I looked around the almost empty cafeteria. "Well, young lady, I could be willing to talk about it. But this is neither the time nor the place. I've just got out of jail and to be honest I've not got my mind sorted out yet. Give me a couple of days and I might decide to meet you again. Then maybe we can talk properly."
"I've waited two years already. If that's what you want, I can wait a few days. Give me a number where I can get in touch with you."
"Sorry, girl, I haven't got a telephone yet," I lied. I knew there was a mobile phone in the glove box of the car. "You give me a number where I can get hold of you and I'll call you."
She gave me a card with her telephone numbers on it and then after thanking me for talking to her, she got up and left. I watched her walk away, appreciating the way she filled her clothes.
Once I'd given Helen time to get out of the car park, I went back out to my own car. Helen's car was nowhere to be seen. Then it was back on the motorway to check whether anyone else was tailing me. I travelled nearly sixty miles before I was convinced that there was no one back there. Then I left the motorway and began the journey back by the old roads.
It was nearing three o'clock when I arrived at the cottage. Ronny Macintosh, my sometimes legal representative and best friend, had purchased the cottage on my - or should I say a Bahamian company's - behalf, some months prior to my release. In theory I was renting the place. It was Ronny who had also laid on the car and everything else outside the prison. With his help, I'd managed to keep my off-shore investments secret from Angela's grabbing hands.
"Where the fuck did you get to?" Ronny demanded as I walked in the door.
"I got tailed from the prison. I don't want every bugger in the world to know where I'm living. It's bad enough I have to tell the parole people."
"Keep your nose clean and they shouldn't bother you. Anyway who followed you?"
"Some bird. Something to do with the insurance company who got stitched up for a big pay-out on Mary Simmons' death. Helen Cafrey; do you know her?"
"Cafrey, Cafrey. Yeah, that name rings a bell," Ronny said as he opened his briefcase.
He took from it a file with my name prominently printed on the front and looked through it.
"Ah, here we are. But it isn't a Helen Cafrey, it's a George Cafrey. When they first sent you down, he asked me a few times to set up an interview with you. You told me to tell him to take a hike, in your usual terms. And then his daughter turned up a few months back. I told her to forget it, as well." Ronny read from the document.
"Yeah, well, I think she reckons that the grieving widower might have murdered Mary and her father," I said.
"No, that was well checked out at the time. Bill Simmons had a cast iron alibi. The police gave him a very good look over, before they even thought about you."
"And then made a very nice job of framing me."
"Look, John, you keep on saying that it was the police who framed you. Just suppose for the minute that it wasn't them but someone else. Maybe even Bill Simmons."
"No, there was no way he could have done it. He'd have needed access to my house and my office. There was no way in hell that he could have planted all of that evidence, even if he did break into the house. No, those bleeding coppers planted it all when they did their so called searches."
"John, I know you've always thought that the police fitted you up, but I can't see why they would have any reason to...."
"To get a nice easy conviction, Ronny. An heiress is murdered in a luxury hotel. Three days later her lover and local businessman is charged. Very efficient policing! I'm going to bet that there was more than one promotion came out of that little stitch-up. Anyway let's forget all that for the minute. What about my kids? When am I going to get to see them?"
Ronny didn't answer for I moment or two.
"Look, Johnny, we've got a bit of a problem there." He finally replied with a concerned look on his face.
"I don't want to know about your problems. I want know when I'm gonna be able to see my children. In a way I can understand Angela divorcing me after that load of bullshit that was banded around in court. But she could have brought the children to see me now and again."
"Well, the point is, John, we don't know where to find Angela or the children at the moment."
"She sold the house last year; she's been living in a rented flat for some years now, you know."
"No, I didn't know! What the hell would she want sell the house for? It was all paid for and everything."
"I don't know, Johnny. She wasn't very communicative with me, you know that. Anyway that isn't the worst of it. John, I sent Ralph round last week to arrange a visit for you with the kids and she'd gone. The flat was empty and there was no forwarding address."
"Why the hell would she do that?"
"Its speculation, John, but you know she's got a court order banning you from contacting her directly or going within a mile of her residence. Perhaps she's frightened of you. You know you were a little vocal the last time you spoke to her."
"Well, didn't I have a right to be? She'd just told me she was going to divorce me because of my so-called affair with Mary Simmons. I'd expected my wife to believe me and stand by me.
"Fuck it, Ronny! Get the hell out of here and leave me to think about this, will you? I'll call you in a day or so, when I've got my head straight, and we'll talk then. In the meantime, find out where my bloody kids are."
Before he left, Ronny ordered me a Chinese take-away to be delivered and told me all about the cottage, what days the housekeeper came, et cetera. When the meal finally arrived, I settled down to enjoy my first night of freedom with it and a bottle of Scotch.
End of chapter one