Chapter Seven Paper Chase and another Meeting.
The duty room of the serious crime squad was subdued as all the officers present worked on their reports.
The door opened and Steffi and Julie entered dressed up to the nines.
A male officer gave a wolf whistle that died away quickly in the glare from the Lieutenant and Steffi.
Steffi was wearing a flower patterned summer dress with dove grey gloves and clutch bag as accessories. Her black court shoes shone.
She looked stunning as she adjusted the small hat on her head.
A tan coat belted tightly around her waist finished the look.
Julie who looked dowdy by comparison wore a red summer dress with a raincoat and hat.
The lieutenant nodded with satisfaction.
“I trust you left some funds?” He smile showing it was in jest.
“It didn’t cost a penny Lieutenant. I know a couple of high class escorts who owed me a favour. The clothes are from a large collection their sugar daddies had bought for them.”
“Useful.” He replied. “Be careful Ladies we know how unpredictable Joel Murphy can be.”
“That’s why we will be interviewing his youngest son Mike.” Steffi told him. “Joel passed the Tiffany club over to him. He is the nearest to being straight of all the Murphy’s.”
“So I understand but be careful just the same.”
“It would look odd if we didn’t interview them over Bruno and Laura’s death.”
“Agreed. I hope you know what your doing, doing it this way is hardly police procedure. But while you are about it see if you can find anything about the clubs heavy Helen Marks. She’s their fixer so don’t push it.”
“Right Lieutenant.” Steffi smiled knowing it would be how Steve would have done it.
“Bob will drive you and act as back up. He’s waiting for you down stairs.”
With a nod the two women left.
The Tiffany Club was a respectable club in the theatre district of the city. At night it was a cabaret night club and casino but during the day it was a coffee house where the latest dance bands play and tea dances were the order of the day.
The doorman was a colossal Afro-Caribbean. Steffi was glad she hadn’t got to subdue him.
“Good afternoon ladies. We have the tea dances on in an hour with a dance band.” With a smile that lit up his whole face he opened the door for them and allowed them through.
“Thank you. I’ll look forward to that.” Steffi smiled warmly at him.
The decor inside was styled on Tiffany’s cafe in London England. It was subdued elegance. In the corner was a podium for the band and there was a small stage for the acts. The table were circling a small dance floor like chicks around a mother hen.
A young lady was waiting to guide people to their seats.
“A table for two ladies?” She said with a natural beaming smile.
“No for three if that is possible.” Steffi replied.
“That’s no problem. If you will follow me.”
She guided them through the busy tables to a table not far from the dance floor.
Once seated she gave the women the menu’s.
“Clara will be your waitress this afternoon and will take your orders shortly. Today we have the special on offer which is an English cream tea comprising of two fruits scones with strawberry jelly and whipped cream and a choice of coffee pot or tea pot. The band today is an up and coming one called the Glen Miller nine. The tea dance starts at one o’clock.”
With a smile she left them to take up her position by the door again.
The two officers scanned the menu.
“Have you seen the prices Julie no wonder the get so many movie stars here.”
The waitress came over.
“Have you made your selection ladies?” She said in a dead voice that was matched by her expressionless face.
“Yes. We will have a number one with two Espresso’s please?”
“Certainly. I will bring over the cake trolley so you can make your selection.”
“Well she won’t win any miss personality contests.” Julie said after the waitress had gone.
“Did you see her arms?”
“Because you can see the marks and bruises where she injects herself, probably with heroin.”
Steffi looked round as if admiring the architecture.
“Our targets are at the bar.” She said softly.
At the bar was a hansom young man with a shock of bright red hair and beside him was a woman with a hard face and cold, cold eyes.
The man was the proprietor Mike Murphy and the woman was the families enforcer Helen Marks.
The waitress duly arrived with their coffee’s and the cake trolley. Steffi selected a lemon fondant fancy whilst Julie chose a slice of the pink and yellow Battenberg cake.
While they sipped their scolding hot coffees Steffi’s mind drifted back to the meeting she had earlier with the English medics.
At first the Matron refused her access to the three English medics but relented when she realised that Steffi was the victim of the accident they had dealt with on their way to their posts as interns.
They met her in the hospitals small cafe.
“Thank you for what you did for me, if it wasn’t for you I’d be dead and this conversation would be spooky in the extreme.”
The girl, Gloria, replied with typical British understatement.
“I’m glad we could help a little till the ambulance arrived.” Gloria paused and swallowed hard. “We’ve since learned that the man in the car was your husband. I’m sorry we couldn’t save him.”
“He was burnt toast.” The lanky lad said artlessly.
“Troy shut up.” The second male said whilst the girl kicked Troy in the shins. “I’m sorry about my friend he hasn’t got the sense that he was born with.” He cleared his throat before continuing. “We were coming down ‘Shap Incline’ when we saw the flash of your headlight and heard the squeal of brakes followed by the explosion. When we came to “Hell Heaven Bend’ we could see a whole in the wall and down the slope the burning car. We got out and went down the slope to try and help. ”
“You were just a couple of feet from the cliff edge and going over. In that way you were lucky. Sorry wrong thing to say.”
“Yeah it would have been real bad.” Troy added causing the other two to scowl at him.
Steffi quickly realised that Troy was the groups weakest link and with the right pressure could split right open.
“Troy did you see my husband in the car?”
“No the flames were to hot and I wasn’t going to get too close, bad Karma lady.”
“I tried twice to get to him but the flames and heat kept driving me back. But by then we had found you.”
Steffi took out her handkerchief and wiped away the tears that had gathered in her eyes. This was harder than she thought, in fact it was pure agony.
She steadied herself.
“I don’t remember much till I woke up in the hospital. Can you remember how bad I was Troy?”
“You were pretty badly smashed up.”
“You had several bones broken including your ribs. You were badly burnt too and you had a sucking wound threatening to collapse your right lung.” Gloria said with professional coolness.
“You had a nasty head wound and had lost a lot of blood so I took the camper van and drove to the nearest phone and called for help while Gloria kept you alive.” The other male, Tom, said.
“Your heart stopped twice but I managed to get it going again just as the ambulance arrived.”
“Thank you.” Steffi said sincerely.
“I don’t know why the limo didn’t stop to help.” Troy said. “They must have been behind you when you went over but as we arrived it turn tail and drove away back the way it had come.”
“I don’t supposed you got its make and number by any chance?”
“Yeah. Like its a hobby. It was a Lincoln continental and I remembered the number plate as it was a personalised one. B4UN0. I specifically remember that because the way it was printed spelt out...”
“Bruno.” Steffi finished for him.
“Yeah.” Troy said in admiration.
Steffi got up and shook each of them by the hand.
“Thank you for my life.” She said solemnly her unshed tears like those of Gloria glistened in their eyes.
Steffi took a few steps before turning back.
“Who told you to leave me out of your statements?”
“What statements? We were interviewed by some sort of bigwig and that was it.” Gloria replied.
“So you didn’t sign anything?”
“Oh yeah we all signed our name when we passed over out contact details.” Tom told her.
“And you don’t remember the bigwigs name?”
“No sorry. We weren’t in the right mind to think straight and notice these things.” Gloria told her.
“Yes I can quite believe it. I know you will think I’m mad but can you all sign your names for me.” She took out her note book and pen. “Some one in authority has lied to me over my husbands death and created statements from your interviews which they appended your forged signatures.”
“Oh that’s to deep man.” Troy moaned.
“Yes Troy I’m afraid it is but I’ve got to bring to the light all they have hidden in the deep.”
They readily signed their names and added their contact detail vowing to help if they were needed.
She thought of the iron lung she had come to standing by with nothing save a few bruises to show for her trauma.
Steffi brought herself back to the present as Mike Murphy arrived at their table.
“Hello Ladies.” He said with a bright smile. “Come for the Tea Dance have you. Well you won’t be disappointed. Part of Glen Millers band called Glen’s Nine will be performing songs old and new with the Squadronaires vocal group who are drawn from all the armed services, so it should be good.”
Steffi smiled back at him whilst sipping her scolding hot coffee. She opened her warrant card and badge for him to see.
“Detective Sergeant Stephanie Corrigan and Detective Constable Julie Mantel of the Serious Crime Squad. Oh buy the way the coffee is very good. Please join us?”
A little reluctantly he sat down.
“We have come in plain clothes in respect to you and so not to alarm your clientele. I’m sure people like Judge Briers and Secretary Hooper would hightail out of here taking their friends with them if we turned up in our Blues.” Steffi explained with a wry smile.
“Thank you for your consideration but plain clothes?”
“I happen to know a couple of high class escorts that owe me a favour. They have both got nice sugar daddies.”
Mike tried to look relaxed as he leaned back in his chair as Steffi took a bite out of her fondant.
“Beautiful. Do you have them flown in or do you source them locally?”
“My second cousins run a patisserie down on Brompton. And out of respect to you I will not have Helen and Tony throw you out with a boot up your official sorry arses.”
Steffi and Mike smiled at each other.
“Now the perlimeries are over lets get down to brass tacks shall we.”
“Always ready to help our local constabularies. How can I help ladies?”
“We are here investigating two murder’s the first is of Bruno Carlotto and ask if we can ask some questions?”
“So someone has done away with the bastard at last, he’s no loss.”
“Do I take it you didn’t like the man?” Steffi asked.
“No I didn’t he was a brute of a man who was fast to use his fists and feet in temper.” Mike noticed something that piqued his interest. “Your colleague isn’t taking notes I noticed. Is this a new system used by the NAPD?”
“No not in the slightest but I thought we had already established that these interviews were off the record.”
“Oh I see. Thank you for clearing that up for me.” Steffi fail to mention that Julie had a photographic memory and would write up the notes later.
“You were telling me about Bruno?” Steffi gently brought the subject back to Bruno.
“He was a nasty piece of work. After your lot put nearly all his family away for long stretches he tried to keep control of the two main cores of the business, extortion and prostitution. But lately he has been trying to expand the business, treading on toes as he went. So no I not surprised that someone killed him it was all he disserved.”
“Was that murderer you?” Julie asked as Steffi took another bite of her cake.
“What is this some kind of joke.” Mike’s body language gave Steffi all the answers she needed.
“No joke just a routine question that we have to asked but now that’s done we will move on. Oh before we do where were you two nights ago? Just to put my mind at rest you understand because I know you weren’t here.”
“I was up at my families retreat in the mountains.”
“Can anyone collaborate that?”
Mike hesitated a moment and then lied.
“No I was on my own.”
Helen had crossed over and stood behind Mike’s chair and catching the last part of the conversation shook her head.
“Well no not quite, Helen was with me but wasn’t if you catch my drift.” Mike said awkwardly.
“Family disapprove do they? Well that’s families for you.”
“No not the family just her brute of a husband. Helen is getting a divorce on the grounds of his violent behaviour but if we are seen together he could counter sue for unfaithfulness.”
“I’m surprised no one has bumped him off.” Steffi said with a sigh catching the couple off guard. It was obvious from the glance they gave each other that they were in love.
“That would be unprofessional besides which he’s family and they would feel duty bound to deal with the murderer with severe action and I certainly don’t want to incur that thank you very much.”
“By the way I didn’t tell you how Bruno was dispatched. His head was cut off and by a sword no less. We have found the body but not the head.”
“Nasty.” Mike and Helen seemed unfazed by the news.
“Last night Laura Cantrell was murdered.” Julie said allowing Steffi to study their body language while she finished her cake.
The difference was marked.
Mike couldn’t hide his concern quickly enough to stop Steffi noticing.
“She was flayed while still alive.” She told them. “Her skin was attached to the wall while her body was crucified in central park.” Steffi paused before continuing with a concerned voice. “I am so sorry I know how close you were. I’m afraid I was the officer that discovered her.”
She spied the flicker of pain in his eye’s.
“She was an acquaintance that’s all. I was helping her trace her family back in Ireland. I’ve got contacts there.” Mike said defensively.
“Oh. I must have got my wires crossed somehow. I could have sworn she was more than a friend.”
Mike looked up into Helens face.
“These two fine ladies are with the Serious Crime Squad, the gang busters the papers are calling them.”
“Can you collaborate Mr Murphy’s story about his whereabouts over the last two nights?”
“Yes absolutely.” Helen replied.
“Thank you. Well that clears that little matter up.” Steffi said breezily before saying more forcefully. “Unless of course that you put a hit on them both. Well did you?”
“Don’t be absurd!!” Helena retorted.
“Me thinks the lady protests to much. I don’t care who’s toes I step on to get this madman I just want this nut job.
Now did you commission a hit on Bruno and Laura. They were embarrassment alive but hopefully forgotten when they were dead.”
“No!” Mike retorted through clenched teeth so not to upset the punters.
“No? In that case send a message to the rest of the family that we want him and find out if they had put the finger on them. You don’t know how irritating I can be if I don’t see results.”
Mike nodded his understanding.
Even Helen had to back down.
The two police women got up to go.
“The fancies and coffee were first rate. You know where to find me if you find out anything.”
“Like a coppers stool pigeon you mean.” Helen spat.
“No like a concerned citizen after all he may be coming for you next.”
Mike and Helen escorted them to the door.
Steffi paused as she reached there and turned to face them.
“Oh I nearly forgot, what am I like. The death of Detective Lieutenant Stephen Corrigan has been reopened in light of new evidence. It’s now a murder investigation.” Steffi saw both of them go pale as Helen’s scent hit her nostrils.
“Nice perfume, what is it and can I get it on my police salary?”
“Baton Rouge by Channel so no I don’t think you could afford it.” Helen replied.
“Pity. Know this, if I find you implicated in the four murders I will see you dance at the end of a rope.”
Steffi reached for her purse to pay the girl at the till but a shaken Mike wave her hand away.
“No, on me ladies.”
“Thank you. By the by just before Laura died she said your family will be next. Goodbye.”
After they had left Steffi peered through the window to see them arguing.
As they reached the car Steffi gave out her orders.
“Ben I want a vehicle traced, a Lincoln, registration plate B4UN0? Here’s the number and I want you to also find out all you can about a Channel perfume called Baton Rouge. Mary back at the precinct will be able to help you. Call it in when you’ve joined July in her car.”
“What do you expect them to do Sergeant?” Julie asked as they got into their vehicle.
“I’ve shaken the tree now we see what drops out. My that was quick.” Steffi replied as Mike and Helen came out of the club in a rush, practically running to their cars.
“Corrigan to Judy, you and Ben follow Murphy while we follow the fragrant Helen. Over.”
“Received and understood, over and out.” Judy replied over the radio’s static.
The two police cars rolled out from under the tree’s and made their way after their targets.
The chase had begun.