The Contract and other Hansome and Talanted Cold Case Stories

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Chapter Three

The next morning is a drizzly, grey day, the kind of day with no certainties Sam surmises as he drives to the Forensic Science Service HQ, mulling over the scant information they have on this latest case. All the team are already in the Ops room by the time he arrives and he grabs a cup of coffee from the machine and sits down as Dr. Parts starts to detail the findings on the boat yesterday.

‘So, the blood samples match our hospitalised kidney recipient, the boat is where the operation took place but, nothing else on the boat comes up with anything we can use. A few partial prints but the whole boat was professionally cleaned recently and all the most used surfaces were wiped down as well, coupled to the fact the majority of the boat is unvarnished wood...’ She shrugs her shoulders and sighs, then continues. ‘We found an empty box for surgical gloves but the lack of any surgical instruments, swabs, needles, threads, wipes, clamps etc would suggest the medical waste was collected and, this is purely my guess, bagged, weighted and tossed overboard before coming into harbour last night. The bed sheets are a mass produced kind and old, probably on the boat for a few years.’

‘How about the operating table?’ Sam asks, remembering the metal table.

‘Not actually an operating table. A catering trolley, again old, no branding or serial numbers.’

‘So, the boat is dead in the water as far as leads go?’ Bob grins at his own joke, as Aneeta and Joe groan. Dr. Parts shakes her head at him and replies. ‘Also, an update on the tissue match medical alert I sent out yesterday. Nothing yet but I’ll keep checking. One good thing is there is no evidence of catastrophic bleeding, so whatever surgery took place on board was reasonably controlled and, if I had to guess as to how long ago surgery was performed, I’d say no more than a week ago. Unless he was killed and dumped at sea, he should have survived the removal procedure.’

‘The Harbour Master’s records have the boat registered to a Clifton Hardy, the address given turned out to be the flat building you visited in Dorchester, Sam. We know he hasn’t been seen there since 2011 when he presumably left to run his sailing business.’ Bob adds.

‘He ran out on a relationship and some debts. I guess the boat was a good way to get away. At least it looks like Clifton D’urbeville and Clifton Hardy are one and the same.’

‘I ran an internet search for Clifton Hardy, same as with D’urbeville, his details have been erased as well.’ Joe adds. ‘If you keep offline, work for cash, use different names, it makes it hard to be traced.’

‘So it looks as though we have a profile emerging.’ Sam gets up from his seat and starts writing a timeline up on the Ops room wipeboard.

2010 – 2011 Living at Finchdown Hall, Dorchester. Using name Clifton D’Urbeville. Ran up many debts and ran out on a relationship. Worked on and off as an ‘actor’ until a ‘contract’ for a part in Italy. Leaves Britain.

2011 – 2013 ‘Tess’ is registered to a Clifton Hardy who runs crew trips around the Mediterranean until company goes bust.

2014 ‘Tess’ reappears in Poole Harbour. Clifton D’Urbeville’s kidney turns up in A&E at Poole.

Sam stares at the board for a moment. ‘A loner and a drifter, not good with money, not good with people. What happened to the patient with his kidney?’

‘Good question, I was about to update you all on that.’ DCI Anne waits until Sam sits down.

‘The patient died during the night, acute organ failure. The police are working with Interpol, the thought is it was someone with a background in organised crime and who wanted to stay out of medical records. Nothing obvious to connect the two apart from the name given as the donor for the organ. The van he was dumped in was found burnt out on heathland, another dead end.’

‘Was our man a member of a criminal gang or just got caught up with them through debts?’ Aneeta asks, seeing a pattern in the lifestyle emerging. ’What if the ‘acting’ jobs were actually criminal activity and the boat a cover for smuggling? If he has a problem with personal relationships, he could have fallen foul of whatever organisation he worked for?′

‘I can run a crime pattern analysis for those dates. See if any known activity fits in with his timeline in the area, won’t take too long.’ Joe immediately starts typing on his tablet.

‘I’d like to examine Aneeta’s idea more thoroughly. Bob, you and I are going to interview the medical and police teams at the hospital again, see if there is any information pointing to a crime gang or an identity.’ Anne calls the meeting to a close. ’Sam and Aneeta, can you find out more about the holiday crew business aboard the ‘Tess’. See if you can track down anyone who actually sailed on the boat during the two years Clifton Hardy was running it, let me know if you get anything. Let’s go! Clock is ticking and we’re twenty four hours on.′ She is about to leave and then a thought occurs to her.′ You’d better start checking the coastguards as well, Joe, just in case any bodies have washed up along the coast in the last week.′

At some point during the morning, the Poole Harbour Master phones with something he remembered about the boat and Sam takes the call, keen to hear what it is.

’The yacht had a tender. It’s not registered on our details but I do remember it had one, unusual name, stuck in my mind. I’ve been out to check again today, it’s not tied to her or in the marina anywhere. One of those little dinghies with an outboard. I guess it was a later addition as a lifeboat for the crewing trips. ‘Sorrow’ was it’s name. Bad name for a boat I thought, even if it is only a dinghy.′

‘Do you remember the colour at all?’

‘Just a standard grey I think. Nothing unusual, only the name seemed wrong. Is it of any use?’

‘Thank you, yes, it might well be. Thank you!’

After the call Sam writes the name up on wipe board in the ops room. ‘Sorrow, inflatable tender with outboard – missing.’ Sorrow was the name of Tess’s child in the Thomas Hardy book, Tess of the D’urbevilles but the name only made sense if you knew the connection. He passes on the name to Joe who adds it to his search parameters and returns to cold calling a list of holiday companies offering sailing trips in the Mediterranean. The morning wears on with a rain-raddled slowness and no more leads are forthcoming. The case is as opaque as the weather.

Sam jumps when his mobile phone rings, his silent contemplation of the Ops wipeboard, covered with reflections of running water from the rain on the window had begun to look like waves skipping fast alongside a wooden sail boat in his mind. He doesn’t recognise the voice saying hello.

‘Hello, is that Mr. Hansome?’

‘Speaking.’

″This is Mrs. Wilver, you spoke to my Granddaughter, Virginia, she runs the flats for me now, I’ve got too arthritic you see. She said you were looking for Cliff?′

‘Yes, yes we are. Do you have any information or a description of him that could help us?’

’Well, yes. I have a photo... I’ve been looking it out but it takes me a while to find things. My ‘Gina doesn’t like me getting too upset about things you see. And he was a bit of trouble, that young man. Ran up some debts and got a tenant into a bit of well... I don’t think the child is his but... young people these days?’

‘A photo you say Mrs. Wilver?’

‘Yes, just a snap really, on my old phone camera, I don’t really know how to use it but he said it was one of those selfies of us all, at the flats for posterity. You know, just larking around. About a month before he left. I didn’t delete it though.’

‘Could you send the photo to me Mrs. Wilver?’

There is a peal of laughter from the other end.

‘Mrs Wilver, are you still there?’

‘Yes! Yes, sorry! I have no idea how to send the photo to you, that’s all. I don’t really use the phone, it’s for emergencies.’

‘OK, could Virginia send it to me for you?’

‘Oh, she’s not here today, my dear. Now which button do I press?’

‘Wait!’ The thought Mrs. Wilver might delete the only definite photo of their missing man sends a shiver down his spine.

‘I have a better idea, why don’t I come over and pick up the photo from you? I’ll be over in about an hour if that’s OK?’

‘Oh yes, yes, I’ll be here. I’ll see you then. Bye bye.’

Sam grabs his jacket and keys and heads in to talk to Joe. ‘Joe, I’ve got a photo ID of our missing person to pick up in Dorchester, it’s on someone’s phone but they don’t know how to send it to me. I’ll be a couple of hours, let the DCI know if they get back before me!’

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