As many of you might know, I have aspirations to be an author. I am already in a writers club, and started to write the piece below a couple of weeks ago. For those who have read about the exploits of a well-known detective who lives in Edinburgh, you might recognise the genre, but any co-incidence between this and any other fiction is purely accidental. Anyway as usual I’d love to hear your comments via the link below. This is 2700 words so far, the average novel needs 10-12 times that so I’ve got my work cut out. (Warning: contains some swear words):
A Better Life
By Clive Handy © 2012
A Covus story
Covus picked up the glass and drained it in a resigned manner.
‘Right let’s hit it’ he said to his partner Sheila Christie, and leapt to his feet.
They went outside to Covus’ battered Renault and drove off to have a look at the crime scene. A body had been discovered in undergrowth just off the Wandsworth High Street Knoll Road and Covus had taken upon himself to find out about it, since it was near to his old stamping ground. On the way his 2 way radio crackled into life with the well-rounded tones of his boss, DCI Roy Stubbs who was always ‘on the case’ of DI Jim Covus though he didn’t for the life of him know why. DI Covus had been a detective for over 20 years and relied more on old fashioned ‘gut instinct’ than modern technology even eschewing mobile phones and social networking. Perhaps that is why this ‘young upstart’ DCI had a downer on Covus being much younger and a higher rank than him.
‘Where the hell are you Covus?’ barked the radio.
‘Roger HQ, on my way to Wandsworth over’ riposted Covus who sarcastically replied in that manner knowing full well it was Stubbs at the other end.
‘For Chrissakes it’s DCI Stubbs here and I want to know who authorised this’, you could almost see the spittle flying out as he spoke.
‘Err, my old stamping ground boss thought I might lend a hand’ Covus tried to sound as contrite as possible.
‘I’ve already sent Smithers, he’s on the scene.’
This referred to Fred Smithers who was the ‘blue eye boy’ of the station. Whereas Covus was slightly scruffy and looked in need of a shave, Smithers was immaculately turned out, which Stubbs considered made him a better detective. Covus of course disagreed and knew that his clear-up rate had nothing to do with his dress code, and told Stubbs this, often.
‘Aah but he doesn’t know that particular manor gov whereas I was brung up there,’ returned Covus accentuating the ‘brung up’ to show he was indeed of cockney persuasion, whereas Smithers was from somewhere ‘up north’, but anywhere north of Tottenham was a foreign country to Covus, and gave him a nosebleed. By this time, the ancient Renault was turning off Wandsworth High Street and up to where several police vans and cars were gathered with copious quantities of blue and white ‘police line- do not cross’ tape stretched around the scene of the crime bordering a square white tent which had been placed on a piece of land once occupied by a building, but was now awaiting re-development. The undergrowth was 3 feet high and the body would have been hidden quite well.
‘I want you to return to base NOW!’ The spittle quotient increased from the radio.
Covus responded by switching off the radio stopping the car and getting out to be met by Fred Smithers.
‘What the fuck are you doing here?’ demanded Smithers, ‘DCI Stubbs sent me a text saying he tried to stop you.’
‘Oh I don’t believe in that new-fangled stuff,’ replied Covus, ‘I’m here to solve a crime, what’s your brief, best dressed detective or most annoying shit?’
‘You arrogant bastard Covus, you shouldn’t be here, and I’m going to make sure you don’t interfere.’ Smithers stood foursquare in front of Covus.
‘Go fuck yourself, this is my manor and I’ll be the best judge of what’s what.’ Covus returned.
Smithers phone then be-beeped on the receipt of a text message. He looked at the message and frowned, deeply.
‘Bollocks!’ said Smithers as he held the screen up for Covus to see. It said simply ‘Covus has complete control. Smithers return to base.’
Covus smiled to himself, he knew how that had happened…..
Jenny Wilshire looked like she was one of those girls who people, especially boys, would immediately think as someone they would get to like to know better. She was tall, 5’ 8’, slim and pretty with long blond hair, but there any resemblance to an angel stopped as she definitely did not fit into the mould of ‘nice to look at, nice to know’. She had an arrest list that stretched back quite a few years and at 24 would be considered a fairly hardened criminal even though most of the offences were minor in the extreme, ranging from petty shoplifting to aggravated assault and receiving. There was no earthly reason why she would have turned out like that; she came from a family where both parents were still with each other, lived in their own house and both worked. There is no guarantee that these conditions automatically promote the most virtuous of people, but it’s a better bet than the feckless, single mother having multiple births with different fathers, not working and letting their children do more or less do want they want.
Jenny was bought up in a fairly strict household and was taken to church every Sunday by her God fearing father so this may have subjugated against her becoming someone similar. As soon as she had the chance, she was off into the working world, getting a job in the local electronic component factory, where she was surprising deft and accurate in her work, assembling specialist circuit boards. This was despite the 6 Grade 1 GCSEs and 2 A* A levels she attained at school without so much as breaking sweat. Of course her parents and in particular her father wanted her to go to University, but Jenny was having none of that, she wanted to get out into the wide world and enjoy life. And enjoy she did, spending all her wages on going out and getting mainly drunk with a little dabble in drugs on the side. If her father found out about this part of her life he would have grounded her and then thrown her out, so she kept it quiet, which is perhaps the start of her downfall.
Covus was completely in his stride now that Smithers had gone, tail between his legs back to demand from Stubbs the explanation of what was going on. Covus knew of course why he had been preferred over his smarter colleague, and he was glad that he had the opportunity to investigate the death of the person inside the white tent. Jenny Wilshire’s father Phil was a good friend of Covus and through his position as a parish councillor had contacted DCI Stubbs superior officer and especially asked that Covus be put in charge of the investigation into his daughter’s death, without giving the reason. Stubbs had been told this after Covus had turned off his radio hence the late call for Smithers to stand down. Covus lit a cigarette, not the easiest vice to give up, which is was trying to; as he was on maybe 20-30 a day. Trouble is he liked to smoke and since he didn’t have any one else to please, he didn’t really want to give up. Sheila Christie appeared beside him, a striking brunette of about 5’ 9’ with short Mia Farrow style hair and a very slim body. Covus assumed she worked out at the local gym, unlike him for which any form of exertion was anathema.
‘What’s the griff?’ he asked.
‘Tall, slim girl, 5’ 9’ – 5’ 10’, several stab wounds in the chest, death about 8 hours ago according to the doc.’ Christie answered in a slight midland accent.
‘Weapon?’ said Covus hoping against hope.
‘Still looking, doesn’t look good’. Christie confirmed Covus fears.
Covus finished his ciggie and walked towards the evidence tent, pulling back the door having been booked in by the wooden top on guard. Bright halogen lights were burning away illuminating the scene, driven from a generator humming in the background, its petrol engine quite muted. In the centre of the tent a plastic sheet covered the obvious outline of a body. Christie motioned to pull back the sheet but Covus shook his head, seeming to falter slightly. Although he knew the father from way back, he had never met the daughter and didn’t know how he was going to react, despite having seen many dead bodies in his time. This one was slightly different in that he was seeing the girl before any of the family, who would have to do the official identity, at the mortuary. Covus indicated the sheet to be removed and Sheila obliged. The girl was lying on her back with several bloody circles dotted around her chest. She was wearing a short skirt, no tights, little flat shoes and a flimsy cotton top. She was very pretty and already motives for her stabbing were flooding into Covus’ mind. He knelt down next to the body and looked at her left hand, the fingers of which each had several cheap rings on them, none precious and a cheap watch. On the other wrist were several of the bands young girls like to wear, including bizarrely one for ‘Help the Heroes’, the charity which helped soldiers returning from overseas who needed help outside the normal MoD assistance. Bizarre because this was not a military area and her family had nothing to do with the army, so that interested him. Rigour mortis had set in and her arm was stiff when lifted. Covus wanted to have a closer look at her hand and had already donned plastic gloves for the purpose. There was definitely something under the nails, which were false, of course, but did look nicely done. There was some scratching on the back of her left hand and left side of her face. He would let forensics look closely at those clues; that is if the lab was open. Recent cutbacks had put paid to 24 hour forensics cover with the uncivil servants putting paid to full coverage. There was also the risk that the private firms now starting to take over the forensic duties would price any but the most wealthy forces to be unable to afford their services.
‘Right I’m off back to the factory to do some digging,’ Covus motioned to Christie to follow him.
‘Looks a bit pat’, he commented to her as they walked towards the Renault.
‘What do you mean gov?’
‘There isn’t any frenzy, no clothes ripped off, no disturbance of the ground, as if she was stabbed somewhere else possibly while she was asleep and then put here afterwards. See if you get the locals to have a scout around for any disturbance, start knocking on doors.’
Covus got to his car, and was approached by a middle aged man, wearing dirty, scruffy, ripped clothes, old dirty trainers and was in need of a good wash, shave and a haircut. He was also a bit ‘high’.
‘Do you want some info abaat this?’ he asked Covus.
‘How do you know to ask me?’
‘I saw you coming out o’ that tent, I’ve seen CSI you know, I know you are a senior copper.’
‘OK, bearing that in mind, what do you know?’
‘Err, I could do wiv ….’
‘Oh that, right.’ Covus took his wallet out of his back pocket, fished out a fiver and handed it to him.
‘Is that all?’ For someone in his position he seemed to know how much information was worth.
‘It’ll do for starters, if it’s worth any more, you may get more. What do you know?’
‘Car pulled up in the middle of the night, I was hunkering down in that shed in that, in that garden just over there’, he said, indicating a run-down semi-detached house that was obviously unoccupied on the opposite corner,
‘trying to bed dan for the night. The motor stopped and I heard whispered voices and doors slamming. When I looked over I could see two bodies carrying another one out of, out of the car.’ He had a propensity for repeating phrases, maybe it was a stutter.
‘What did they do?’
‘They went further into this plot, I know the building that was here was demolished sometime ago, because I used it, used it sometimes when the night watchman didn’t see me.’
‘Yeah OK, besides the history lesson, what happened after that?’
‘Well the next thing I saw was the figures, get back into the car and drive, drive orf.’
‘Make, model, colour, reg?’ intoned Covus in the age old fashion.
‘Well, it were a saloon, dark colour and no I couldn’t see the reg, the number plate light was aht.’
‘Which direction did it go off in?’
‘That way.’ He indicated towards the Wandsworth High Street.
‘And you never thought to contact anyone earlier because….’
‘Leave it aht guvnor it was silly o’clock and I was bloody cold and ‘ungry.’ As if that were explanation enough.
‘OK, what’s your name and of course you must be no fixed address?’
‘Brian Wilson, no not, no not the Beach Boys one.’
‘Where can I get hold of you?’
‘Most of the day, day I’m in the church mission hall, in Haldon Road’
‘Right don’t go far from there, I’ll want to speak to you later’
Covus got in, so did Christie and they drove off. Wandsworth wasn’t too bad for traffic at this time of the day and he got to the ‘factory’, i.e. the police station in Wandsworth High Street in under 5 minutes. As usual there was no parking so he had to park in the museum adjacent to the station. Luckily he had a ‘Police – on call’ notice he kept in the car, which he put in the windscreen. Covus ‘swiped in’ with his entrance card and entered the staff entrance of the station, nodding to a couple of colleagues as he walked in. Tony Lewis a DC in his office, came towards him,
‘Stubbs wants to see you’
Covus walked into the CID office, Stubbs’ was a closed windowed cage inside the main office. He walked up to the door, didn’t knock and strode in.
‘Don’t you believe in knocking?’
‘I could see there was no one in there with you, what’s the diff?’
‘Courtesy.’ Stubbs didn’t like Covus much but he grudgingly admitted he was a fairly good copper, even though his methods weren’t exactly Hendon. Stubbs was a high flying university entrant, who had made very good progress to become a DCI at the age of 33. This was the modern approach to senior officers, get them straight from university and fast track them through. Unfortunately this meant that some of them didn’t gain enough experience along the way, and thought they could succeed on intellect alone. This was fine but didn’t give the broad experience that a really good detective needed. Covus was of course, old school, which meant he didn’t have a string of formal qualifications to his name having joined up as a PC, did his probation, and worked on the beat for five years before turning in a few shifts as a seconded DC in mufti, civilian clothes, and made a good impression. Later he formally applied to become a DC, was accepted, did his training and went on to promotion to sergeant and then inspector; the classic route so well-established for many years. Stubbs on the other hand, came out of Brunel University, Uxbridge with a first class honours degree in psychology having already joined the Met to get his bursary through university. The Met did this to recruit potential fast track officers to fund their university education in return for a commitment to a term in the Met. Stubbs did his probation, even that was being dispensed with nowadays, did his two years minimum as a PC, then was automatically chosen for the detective course at Hendon. The rest was history. Sergeant at 27, DI at 30 and now recently promoted to DCI, not bad going and quite well paid at nearly £55,000. But there were drawbacks, like his lack of experience and lack of what could be called ‘people dealing’, i.e. being too insular and wrapped up in his own little world and not looking out to see what was going on. ……. to be continued.