Chapter 1: THE DREAM TOWN
The new, purpose built town of Queensvale, which had been a functioning community for five years, had been described by some as Britain’s answer to Palm Springs or Beverly Hills. Indeed some of its more caustic critics had described it as a monument to privilege and class snobbery. While one wag had labelled it as a glamour-ghetto. It was said that you needed to be a millionaire to live there; except of course if you were a cook, a gardener, a maid, a handyman, a shop assistant, a street cleaner, or some sort of hired hand or assistant.
It had been laid out and designed by a top team of architects and town planners. But though a new town, the style of its commodious houses and civic structures was deliberately historicist and nostalgic in character. Only the dates of their construction were modern. There were vast, mock Tudor, fake Jacobean and bogus Georgian mansions, set in their own ample gardens, surrounded by sturdy walls, solid gates, and the latest hi-tech, security devices. It was the home of bankers, retail tycoons, oil executives, movie producers, internet executives, advertisement chiefs, popular novelists, syndicated journalists, disc jockeys, new wave comedians, TV celebrities, sports stars, crooners, minor royals, television chefs, fashion designers, style gurus, media barons, oligarchs, arms dealers, property developers, hedge fund managers, currency speculators, and sundry others, drawn from the higher echelons of the commercial elite. And there were even a few crooks here and there, with a bob or two in their pockets, and a good enough social front to pass themselves of as the real Macoy. And amongst the number of the town’s denizens was the winner, six years previously, of the lottery jackpot rollover; James Ferret, and his wife, Florence.
At the centre of that expensive development, and built in the same flamboyant and retro-style as its residences, was the civic nucleus of the community. There was a town hall, fire station, post office, railway station, bus terminus, hotel, library, theatre, concert hall, gymnasium, planetarium, a park (which also boasted a maze) and a botanical garden. For the more profound spiritual needs of its denizens there were churches for those of the Anglican, Methodist and Catholic faiths; as well as a mosque, a synagogue, and temples for Hindus, Sikhs, and Baha’is’. There was an indoor, multi-level shopping mall, in a fussy, art nouveau style – that boasted a plethora of up market, and suitably expensive retail outlets, where the residents of Queensvale could stock up on designer labels and status items. There was a private hospital, and a public school, modelled on Eton. There were clubs, restaurants, and tea houses, an auction house, and an art gallery. And on top of everything else it had a Conservative M.P., to represent its interests in Parliament. The architectural establishment were aghast at the anti-modernist and ‘reactionary’ style of the town. Though Prince Charles was highly appreciative. Surrounding the town and the village were the pleasant, rolling downs of Rumbleshire.
The new town nestled, comfortably, with the charming, old world village of Dudwood; itself the weekend home for a number of City of London high fliers, as well as the place of retirement for some prominent plutocrats and millionaires.
For the first four years of its existence, Queensvale – which on top of a regular police force, had the services of expensive, private security firms – had, as was hardly surprising, one of the lowest crime rates in the country. But now it seemed, for some inexplicable reason, sin had entered that modern, commercial Eden. It began, almost a year ago. Expletive ridden graffiti had been sprayed on the walls of some pompous civic buildings. Rubbish bins were upended and their contents left on the paving stones. In the immaculate Evergreen Park, exquisite neo-classical statuary were vandalised, well-tended flower beds were trampled over, and fish were poisoned in the ponds. Tyres, of expensive cars, were punctured, and gleaming bodywork were scratched. Shop windows were smashed. Houses were broken into - despite all the sophisticated security devices and alarms they possessed - and valuable jewels, antiques and luxury goods were stolen. This anti-social activity occurred mostly at the dead of night, and all the police and security firms had to go on was some ghostly figure, wearing a balaclava, which regularly turned up on CCTV footage, haunting the night streets, whose identity was unknown, and who was suspected to be the culprit behind that spate of wanton behaviour. Though whenever he was picked out by the security cameras, and police squad cars were sent out to track him down, he seemed to disappear back into the shadows.
The growing consensus, both with the richer citizens of Queensvale, and the police authorities, was that someone, for some strange, perverse reason, was leading a double life in the town. And that the nocturnal vandal who haunted the night streets was perhaps by day a seemingly solid and respected figure within the community.
All those criminal acts, against property, were irksome enough – but then, that mysterious, nocturnal eminence, crossed a further moral boundary, and began to attack people as well. A merchant banker was mugged, given a pair of black eyes, had his wallet stolen and an expensive signet ring was painfully pulled off a finger, after taking a quiet evening stroll. A policeman, walking a night beat, was punched on the nose by a figure that jumped out of a doorway. And though the copper gave chase to his assailant, the man seemed to disappear, as if into thin air. A woman was molested, while walking in the park, though her loud screams and the hurried approach of others saved her from worse indignities. A dog, a pedigree, belonging to a rock promoter, and that had won prizes at various shows, was poisoned by a deliberately doctored biscuit and died shortly afterwards.
People began to look over their shoulders. Some were reluctant to go out, alone, at night. The previous, relaxed, free and easy atmosphere that had presided in the town, evaporated away, leaving it a more tense and fretful place altogether. The rich man’s utopia, as some press and media commentators had labelled the town, now didn’t seem to be quite so accurate a description. The prosperous and well-heeled residents of that gilded, purpose built town, had purchased everything, it seemed, except for peace of mind.
Irate letters were sent, by disgruntled residents, to the correspondence column of the local newspaper, The Queensvale Despatch, demanding the immediate arrest, and lengthy incarceration, of that troublesome miscreant, whoever he was? The local, luckless police were denounced as an incompetent outfit, which were not much better than the Keystone Cops. And hard headed businessmen resented shelling out small fortunes on sophisticated, and well established, private security firms that seemed equally clueless and cack-handed in the face of that one man crime wave.
News soon filtered down from that privileged locality, to the Capital and the nation as a whole, about that singular crime wave in Queensvale, to the amusement, and indeed schadenfreude, of many – especially at the lower end of the economic ladder. Indeed to some, of a Marxist, or anarchist persuasion, that singular individual, rather than being the subject of opprobrium and censure, was positively admired, for carrying out a one man class struggle against the capitalist elite.
The discomfiture of that wealthy and influential echelon soon made itself felt in higher places; and it wasn’t long before the decision was taken – after some confidential discussions between the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary – to send the nation’s most seasoned crime investigator, Detective Inspector Bill Moose, down to Queensvale, in order to beef up the local police force. Along with Moose went his old colleague, Detective Sergeant Eddie Clayton, and a top team of experienced crime investigators from New Scotland Yard.
On a clear autumn day the two detectives arrived in that exclusive town they had heard, and read so much about, but had never actually seen before, excepting for images on their TV screens
‘So this is where all the business big shots hang out?’ reflected Clayton.
‘Yeah. You’ve got to be as rich as Croesus to live here.’
Clayton stared at the grandiose architecture of the residences with a mixture of awe and envy. ‘If you ask me it looks like a Disneyland for grown-ups.’
Moose nodded. ‘Aye. Maybe some of them are having a second childhood.’
The car at length pulled up outside Queensvale Police Station and the two detectives got out of the vehicle. Moose was a large, burly, overbearing man, in his fifties, with a craggy face and a greying moustache. He wore a trademark crumpled coat and a rather battered hat. Eddie Clayton, ten years junior than his boss, was a smaller, thinner, and more dapper man. He had, also in marked contrast with his boss, an easy grin and a twinkle in his eyes.
Both men looked on at that strange, architectural apparition before them, and for a time were quite dumbstruck.
‘Well I’ve seen it all, chief. A police station with a thatched roof.’
‘Well, Eddie, if their police procedures are as outmoded as this building, it’s no wonder they’ve made no headway on this case.’
‘It wouldn’t surprise me if we had the Bow Street Runners in there.’
‘Well let’s get in there, Eddie, and see if we can shake some life into this investigation.’