Sam sits in his car at the end of the small cul de sac, leading to the rundown mansion flats. On the gate post is nailed a For Sale sign. In the garden is a young woman hanging out her laundry while a couple of kids play in a big plastic sandpit. Perhaps she’d remember Clifton D’Urbeville.
At the gate, Sam leans against the sign and coughs loudly. The young woman turns and nods in acknowledgement. ‘You here to view the place?’
‘Umm... yes... ’ Sam glances up at the sign. ‘You don’t mind do you? Bit unannounced.’
‘They’re meant to tell us, but half the time they bloody forget. Not that there’s much interest. You looking to invest then?’ The woman opens the gate, careful not to let her kids out. ‘My name’s Lisa, we could do with someone who can bring the flats back up.’
Sam follows the young woman as she gives him a quick tour of the old building, pointing out the crumbling cornices, leaking roof, damp cellar walls, the dodgy wiring and tired décor.
’So how long are the tenancies? Sam thinks of a way to glean some information.
‘Rolling six months but I’ve been here since 2009.’
‘Ah! Then you might have known Clifton D’urbeville? He lived here in 2010?’
The young woman’s tone changes and she stiffens with hostility at the name ‘Cliffy? Oh, yes, I knew him alright! See little Bethany... that’s what he left me with. I haven’t seen him since 2011, he owes me a lot of maintenance money not to mention the back rent. Did a runner. Why? You a friend of his?’
‘No, no I’m just interested in trying to track him down.’
‘Good luck with that!’ Lisa sighs heavily and points to the door. Sam gets the feeling he has outstayed his welcome.
Back in his car, Sam rings Aneeta to see if the boat ‘Tess’ had bought about any fresh leads.
‘From 2011 the boat was running crewing holidays around Italy and the Mediterranean. Was quite successful for a year or two, then 2013, the company went bust. The boat wasn’t seen again, presumably kept away from mainland Britain to avoid repossession. It turned up late last night at the harbour. It looks like it has been abandoned, no sign of any crew according to the Harbour Master. Seems like more than a little co-incidental. I’ve let the DI and Bob know, they’re on their way down to Poole Quay now.’
‘Thanks, Aneeta, I think I’ll head over that way now as well. It looks as though our chap hasn’t been in Dorchester since 2011.’
The road to the Poole is relatively free of rush hour traffic and Sam reaches the Quay within the hour. Parking up on the quayside he stops for a moment to admire the view. Poole Harbour sparkles in the sunshine, and the warm breeze is filled with the sound of sailing ropes clinking against yacht masts in the harbour. Across the water, Brownsea Island hugs the horizon. He scans the boats moored along the jetties looking for ‘Tess’. She’s moored near the Quay wall and he can see Anne and Bob are still on board, moving past the portholes below deck.
The wooden gangplank to the boat sways slightly as Sam steps onto it, reminding him he has never had good sea legs. ‘Helloo?’ he calls as he steps on board.
‘Hi, Sam?’ Anne calls up from the below deck, ‘Watch your step, it’s quite a mess down here.’
Sam joins them in one of the cramped cabins beyond the main galley, a jumble of boxes and bloodstained sheets and a hastily abandoned operating table fill the room. Bob returns from checking the other cabins and nods at Sam as hello, and shakes his head at Anne. ‘No bodies.’
’Well, I think it’s fair to say this is where some kind of operation took place, whether it’s where Clifton D’Urbeville’s kidney remains to be seen. I’ll call Dr. Parts and get forensics down here, Bob, could you see if there’s any kind of log book in the wheelhouse and then secure this boat till the forensics team get here. Sam, let’s see what the Harbour Master’s Office knows about Clifton Hardy or Clifton D’Urbeville.