Whisper softly or you're dead

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Chapter fourteen.

Christian in name, not heart.

Defoe went with Chase to talk with the mother. He hoped Chase would be able to put her at ease when she found he was a committed Christian. She might relax and open up to him. As expected, she took a while to open the door. She pulled open the door a crack after looking at Chase’s badge through the spy hole. Like the outside of the small house the inside was immaculate.

‘‘Cleanliness is next to Godliness,’’ should have been made to describe this uptight small-minded woman. He hated pious born-again Christians. They had been the type who had given his mother a hard time when she was younger and other men wanted to court her soon after the death of his Dad. In their religiously dominated small hick town they had made it clear she a widow should wear black for years and avoid intimate contact with other men. It had been one of the reasons why she had moved near to his granddad and grandma soon after and taken a job in a big house in town.

His mom had been young and still pretty. Her own Dad had said, ‘‘It was a crying shame for her to be widowed so early,’’ and encouraged her to find a man. Still, she had been careful with Darrell being an impressionable young man and she had not remarried until he had left university.

He tried to subdue his prejudices. The woman after inspecting his ID minutely sat them down with herbal tea and biscuits in her front parlour. She perched on the edge of her hard chair, silently waiting for them to start. She was wired up, ready to go on the defensive if he said a word out of place. He let Chase do the talking. He gave his condolences and then began to explain their role.

‘‘And we want to find out as much information about Sara’s whereabouts over the last few weeks to see if this man knew her through her friends or school mates or other contacts.’’

‘‘She was popular,’’ said her mother, ‘‘but never with the right sort of people. I told her this would happen if she didn’t keep herself pure and I was right. She should never have walked out with Jim Caden. He was bad through and through and not good enough for her. He wanted her to leave school and go to Hollywood and become an actress.’’ She had found out that her daughter had not been a virgin before the attack and it had hit her hard. She was looking for a scapegoat and had targeted Caden.

Chase swopped glances with Defoe. Was it worth contradicting her and telling her it was Sara’s idea to leave school, not that of Jim Caden? Probably not! She was so prejudiced against him. They had spoken to Caden and he was cut up about his girlfriend’s death. He had wanted her to stay at school and make something of herself. He had been saving hard, so they could get married when she left college.

‘‘Have you questioned Caden yet?’’ she asked. ‘‘He did it, I’m sure. He was trying to get her into bed all last year. I stopped her meeting him, but she ran away to her aunt and only came back when her aunt persuaded me to let her see him again.’’

‘‘Yes Ma’am. He has a water-tight alibi. He was working all evening at the carpentry shop with his employer.’’

‘‘One of his horrible friends could have done it.’’ Defoe said, ‘‘We are checking all his connections Ma’am, but we think the drama connection is the one which will bear most fruit.’’

‘‘I told her the devil works with those who pretend they are not what they are. Acting is another way of sinning, says my Church.’’

Defoe rolled his eyes. She had been converted to this brand of religion before her husband had left her. Her Church was a very strict fundamentalist branch of the Presbyterians. Contact with non-church members was regarded as sinning. Their children attended state schools because the Church was so small they could not afford to provide their own. Sara’s mother had home-schooled her while her Dad supported them like other members of the congregation. She had stopped that when she had get a job to provide for herself and her daughter.

Sara had rebelled when her mom had told her to keep away from other children. She could not invite them back to her house but had gone to their houses telling her mother she was at school homework clubs. Her mom had beaten her hard when she found out she was lying but the school had intervened and said she needed friends outside of the church congregation. Her mom had acceded grudgingly after a teacher had threatened to report her to Welfare if the child bore any more bruises as a result of her beatings.

Chase interrupted her. ‘Did Sara attend any workshops at the local university Ma’am?’’

‘‘Once she attended a workshop there. It was a charity function to raise money for needy children and the school children acted out a play which parents paid to watch.’’

‘‘Did you go Ma’am? You might have seen someone, and we might trigger your memory if we showed you some photos?’’

‘‘Of course not! She asked me to attend but I don’t go to heathenish affairs like that. What would I go for? I was ashamed my daughter was performing and told her so.’’ Chase was sickened. He was religious, but this type of fundamentalist doctrinal behaviour gave religious people a bad name. His mom and dad had attended all his sister’s plays at school and college and she had loved them for doing that.

This poor girl had wanted support and her mother had rejected her so. No wonder she was so needy and stayed close to her boyfriend. He was one of the few people to give her the love she craved. He liked Jim Caden. He was hard-working, honest and decent and would have made a good husband for Sara. She was immature by all accounts, not allowed to grow up, but if she could have escaped the tentacles of her mother she could have grown into a mature, intelligent, kind and loving woman for Jim.

Susan Tendant sat there pleating her plain grey dress as if she were putting all her emotions into that action. She was thirty-six years of age but looked fifty, hair cut back to her ears, no jewellery around her neck and no make-up softening her features. She had shrivelled up from within; a sad shell of a woman, waiting with her bible in her hands to die.

She could have been one of the women from Harlem who had condemned the witches to death, so stone-like did she watch him. She had showed no emotions when they had broken the news of her daughter’s death. She had just crossed herself, said a pray under her breath and asked for the details.

Hard as nails, thought Defoe. He felt like shaking her out of her religious inertia. How many runaways had he encountered working in the drug clinics who had been driven away from these blocks of ice pretending to be mothers? She would have enjoyed belting Sara, making her cry, hating her daughter’s exuberance; wanting to beat the joy and life out of her lively daughter. She would have enjoyed making her feel guilty for loving Jim in a normal healthy way.

‘‘Look at that young drama teacher as well. A young man like that shouldn’t be teaching impressionable young girls how to flaunt themselves on stage. Most of the girls fell in love with him when he came, the hussies.’’

‘‘He was out of town on a course, four hundred miles away and his alibi is supported by the Course Director.’’ Who else could she throw stones at instead of laying part of the blame at her own door? If she had supported her daughter Sara might have asked her to go with her to the audition instead of facing it alone.

’’Please could you look at this list of people and tell me if you think any of them could be linked to your daughter’s murder Ma’am? And add anyone else we haven’‘t been told about yet.’’

‘‘The Doctor. He suggested I put her on the pill. I wouldn’t dream of it at her age. Shameful!’’ They didn’t tell her that Sara was on the pill already. She had attended a clinic where teenage girls were treated sympathetically. Her aunt had told her of it. Better that than an unwanted pregnancy, she had thought although Sara hadn’t mentioned she was sleeping with Jim.

They gave their condolences again and left. ‘’What do you think? ‘’asked Defoe.

‘‘I don’t think she was in on the murder, but she might have some male friends who were involved. She only socialises with that queer lot from her congregation, so we need to find out their names fast. It wouldn‘t be the first time that a sexually repressed religious male has attacked a member of his congregation when he came over horny.’’

‘’You had better take that group on. Religious fundamentalists tend to take a dim view of psychologists. Think they are in league with the devil, trying to read minds. ‘’That is the job of God,’’ they say.

‘‘I would probably put their backs up.’’

‘‘I’ll send Angie instead. She is less threatening and is a believer and church goer.’’

‘‘A good choice. She looks wholesome and honest and will gain their trust.’’

Kingsley-Deen invited Angie Roden to sit down in the chair opposite to him in his study at home. She noted he did not wait for her to sit down. His Church did not encourage women to be assertive. All the women covered their heads in church and the preachers were male. No women sang in the choir. The women wore long grey high buttoned dresses covering their arms and legs. They were passive and subordinate, just like the men liked them to be. This man worked as an accountant in his day job. Totally absorbed in his micro-world of figures, his barren empire, he dominated his staff and congregation.

He started the interview, determined to control the situation. ‘‘Officer Roden.’

‘‘Agent Roden Sir, I’m on loan from the FBI.’’

‘‘Agent Roden then,’’ he said testily, disliking being interrupted. ‘‘What information do you require? I have little time. My work and the church take a deal of my free time.’’

‘‘I’ll make this as quick as possible then Sir,’ she said holding her ground, keeping eye contact with him. He was the first to look away, seemingly stunned that such a young woman would challenge him in his own office and church.

’’Can you please tell me your whereabouts on the day and night of the 24th of November when Sara Tendant was murdered?’’

‘’I left my house at eight a.m. and came home at six p.m. precisely. My wife served me my supper and then I went to my study until eleven p.m.’’

‘‘Any breaks at work Sir.’’

‘’Am I supposed to have flown from work and murdered her and flown back, young woman?’’

‘‘I’m just covering all eventualities Sir, to be able to strike you off our list of suspects. The idea is to narrow the number of suspects to a few we can concentrate on.’’

He huffed and narrowed his eyes but then decided it was auspicious to answer this insolent young woman’s questions. Once cleared he would have a word with her senior officer and ensure her career was blighted for treating him with such disrespect. Any man in authority would listen to a person of his status in the religious community over a whippersnapper young woman who had only just gained her badge.

‘‘One break at 11 a.m. for fifteen minutes, half an hour at 1.30 p.m. and 3.30 for fifteen minutes. My Secretary brings me my lunch which I eat in my office. I drink no stimulants. Satisfied Agent?’’ He went to get up.

‘‘Very Sir, thank you.’’ She wasn’t going to be intimidated by this self-righteous bastard. ‘‘I think you confirmed Sara recently?’’

‘‘Yes, for all it did her. God accepted her and then she rejected him. At heart, she was a wanton.’’

‘‘Did she tell you of anyone she had met recently, anyone outside of her normal circle?’’

‘‘We only talked about her Christian duties and the Bible. We didn’t talk about common place issues. I’m a busy man, Agent Roden.’’

‘‘Is there anyone in your congregation or elsewhere who you think we should investigate, Sir?’’ For a moment, he blinked and hesitated and then said, ‘‘No Agent Roden. No one.’’

He got up and went to the door and let her out. Angie thought, he does know someone, and I bet it is Michael Kurman. Earlier, when she had asked if Michael Kurman was in the meeting he had hesitated and then said, ‘‘Of course. He never misses a meeting. He is a most God-fearing man.’’ Two hesitations set her mind whirring.

Kurman did not wait for her. Cradley rang him personally as Kurman clearly gave no respect to female agents. The next day she went to interview Kurman at the Church. He was waiting impatiently for her.

‘‘Agent Roden. I gather you want to talk with me?’’ Unlike the preacher who was portly and small Kurman was tall and rake thin, his burning eyes scorching her. He would be a terror, scaring little children to death. She could see him scornfully mocking Sara and calling her rude names. Whether he would have the guts to kill her was another matter. Many men would insult a woman but not kill her when push comes to shove. It took a particular type of man to kill a woman in cold blood. Murderers came in all shapes and forms, but she thought they could often be categorised into a few types.

‘‘If you please Mr Kurman.’’ They walked down the street into the park and sat down on a bench

‘’What do you want to know?’’

‘’Where were you during the day and night of the 24th of November when Sara Tendant was murdered?’’

‘‘I was at work until 3 p.m. and then I took my boat out on the lake and didn’t come in until 10 p.m. I shored the boat at 8 p.m. and then messed around there until I came home.’’

‘‘Do you have anyone who can confirm your alibi?’’

‘‘No Agent, but it is preposterous that I might have killed Sara.’’

‘‘Someone heard you having an argument with her Sir, a week before her murder.’’ She waited for him to explain. He huffed and hesitated for a moment and then spoke quickly as if he needed to persuade her, to defend himself.

‘’She threw herself at me; me, a family man and asked to meet me on my boat. She wanted to sail with me and offered herself as payment.

‘‘She was a wanton, a hussy looking like an angel,’’ he blustered, turning red in the face. ‘‘I hear she was giving it to her boyfriend all the time,’’ he said angrily. Angie had heard it all before, from different men of differing ages and ethnic groups; all having tried to defend their bullying a girl for sexual favours.

She had a couple who would swear an oath Kurman had tried to persuade the girl into going to his boat. He was the one who wanted the sexual favours, not Sara. She had spurned him, and it was he who had spread it around the congregation that she was seeing Jim when she had been supposed to have broken it off. He was a snake in the grass. She had now to get evidence to see if he was the killer as he didn’t have an alibi. She would enjoy making his skin crawl.

‘‘Sir, I would appreciate it if you could give a DNA sample, so we can rule you out of our list of suspects.’’ He tuned pale that time. Even if he hadn’t killed Sara she would bet he had been in trouble with the police before. She would ferret out whatever she could on the man.

‘‘Of course, Agent. This information will remain confidential, of course. My wife is expecting our seventh child and I don’t want her to worry unnecessarily.’’

‘‘Of course, Sir.’’ He looked down, failing to make eye contact with her. He is hiding something from his wife and will get into deep trouble if she finds out. He will be wriggling soon, like a worm on a hook. She also wished she could break the alibi of Kingsley-Deen.

Wishes could be granted. The next day she found he had lied. He had been away from the office for three hours. A person working in the diner opposite had served him sandwiches and coffee and he had driven away. The car had not been parked again until he came back a few minutes before he had to collect his things from the office and go home.

Angie asked one of the other male officers to question him again, this time at the precinct and he was asked to give a sample as well. The preacher blustered and refused, and Chase offered him the choice of giving it up willingly or being arrested and giving it up involuntarily. The threat worked. The preacher went home with his tail between his legs.

She summoned Kurman in again. This time he looked petrified, knowing she had something more damning on him. Angie had looked through police records and found his name on file. He had been arrested for allegedly sexually abusing a young twelve-year-old girl in his former congregation. No charges were made but he was formally cautioned for enticing a girl and being found in a compromising position with her in a park.

The sample revealed more information. His DNA was linked to the attacks on young girls in the park near to the churches where he had prayed during the last twenty years. All the girls had attended the churches where he was a member of the choir. He was a potential serial abuser who had gone undetected all this time. He had moved his family three times to avoid being caught

Now Angie had to see if his DNA matched the murderer of their girls. Sadly, it didn’t. It didn’t rule him out. He might have aided the killer. It just meant they didn’t have enough evidence to pin the murders on him yet. He broke down under questioning and admitted the attacks but swore on the Bible that he hadn’t murdered any girls.

Why the heck had he not been charged? Angie wondered. He must have left the congregations and towns very quickly to settle here and start a new life.

Chase felt like slapping him with the Bible. To defile girls in his congregation was beyond all belief.

‘‘We are supposed to protect young girls, you heathen,’’ he snarled, pulling him up by his shirt collar and twisting him double until the man yelled out in pain as his hands were cuffed.

‘‘Get him out of here,’’ said Angie before her colleague could do any more damage to the man.

‘‘Scum like him give the church a bad name.’’

‘‘Well, he will be put away somewhere safe soon, away from little girls,’’ said Angie, ‘‘and someone will leak to the other prisoners what he is. After a very sound beating he will end up in solitary, a miserable lonely man for many years.’’

‘‘Best news I have had all day,’’ said Defoe. ‘‘Hypocritical bastard.’’ Changing the subject, he asked,

‘’Did the preacher’‘s results come clean?’’

‘‘Yes, nothing on him sadly. We are trying to get him to explain where he went for three hours but he isn’t saying anything. He is like a clam.’’

‘‘He must be up to no good. Ask his Secretary if he vanishes each week at the same time.’’

The Preacher’s secretary was very accommodating. Each week he left precisely at the same time and came back on the dot three hours later. He always bought his lunch at the diner where Sara had worked but took it ‘to go’. Angie was fascinated.

‘‘Do you have any idea where he goes and how long this has been going on?’’

‘‘No idea but it has happened for about eight years.’’

Even if he wasn’t the killer Angie was sure he had hidden evidence from her about Kurman. He might have other information about other girls who had been abused or might help the collector win his bounty.

She decided to follow him the next time he went on his trip. She took her old precinct wagon and followed him from the diner out of town. He went to a small house in a mean street in the poorer suburb of the town and knocked on the door. A woman with a small boy let him in. Unlike the women in his congregation, she was dressed fashionably and flamboyantly. She smiled happily at him and the child tried to jump into his arms.

The adulterous bastard. He had been having it off with a woman for years and the product was this child who was his spitting image. He sat in the lounge and to her amazement he drank a glass of wine and smoked. He was sinning in more ways than one. The woman looked quite relaxed with him. Angie went to the local dime store and asked the woman who owned it who the lady was.

‘‘Mrs Brady. Her husband works away and comes to visit her every week and for the occasional weekend.’’

‘‘Is the child his?’’

‘‘Oh yes, he hopes to settle here permanently one day when he retires. It is such a shame splitting the family every week.’’

Thanking her, Angie went back to the house. He was leaving early and after kissing the woman he drove back into town. There was no evidence that he had helped the killer. He was just a hypocrite. She wondered if he would leave his wife and set up home with his lover if he were found out. His house had been poorly maintained. Running two houses probably stretched his income.

She intended to find out if Kingsley-Deen knew about Kurman’s previous assaults on girls. If he knew and had not said anything about the harassment of Sara, he deserved slinging out of his church and shunning by the worshippers.

She called Kurman in. Kurman was now waiting to be charged for other offences that were being investigated. She knew if she leant on him he would willingly shop Kingsley-Deen if it meant he got a shorter sentence.

He sat nervously watching her, while she looked through some papers.

‘‘We want to know how you managed to escape being found out about over the last seven years. You were either aided or someone turned a blind eye.’’

He shifted in his chair. Turning the recorder off, she spoke quietly but menacingly, putting the pressure on. ‘‘You are going down for a long time. If you want a nice easy time tell me what I need to know. I have many contacts in the penitentiary.’’

‘‘You wouldn’t?’’

Her deathly stare said, ‘‘I will.’’ He couldn’t risk it. He had suffered enough in the last jail while being investigated and had had to be shifted to solitary before he was cut up by the inmates who didn’t understand his needs.

She turned the recorder on and nodded to him to start speaking. He caved in.

‘‘I had no help. I was well respected by the Ministers in those congregations. They looked away when I talked to the girls and met them in the park. If the girls complained to them they turned their complaints against them saying they encouraged me and were Jezebels.’’

‘‘Which ministers?’’ asked Angie starkly. These guys would be stripped of their collars if she had her way.

‘‘Stephan Donovitch of St. Sebastian, Michael Browell of St. Davids, Graham Smith of St. Lawrences, William Bolton of St. Bartholomeus and David Mathai of St. Pauls. Each one knew what was going on. Michael Bowel and William Bolton also played with little girls.’’

‘‘What about Kingsley-Deen?’’

‘‘He was not interested in young girls.’’

‘‘Do you think he was involved in her murder?’’

‘‘No, but he hated that girl and thought she was too big for her boots, she wanting to be a Hollywood actress. He thought she was treating with the devil. He believes the things he preaches you know.’’

‘‘What about his second family then? Is that not sinning?’’ retorted Angie.

‘‘Many evangelical religions allow a man to have more than one wife. It has just not been formalised in our denomination yet.’’

‘‘Get him out of here!’’ ordered Angie to one of her officers. ‘‘He makes me sick.’’

This case was turning out to be more complicated than Angie could have imagined. Chase, a professional detached officer in all other cases was being torn apart by the deaths of these victims. He came in each morning pale and dark eyed, his inner turmoil written on his face.

Her faith, still strong, was being tested when she saw the victims. How God could let this happen to Sherylee she couldn’t understand. The suffering the poor girl had undergone stretched her belief to its limit. Mrs Tennant’s cold indifference to her daughter’s fate and her ability to discard her own blame redefined her meaning of the word Christian and evaluate how low a parent could behave when they wanted to justify their own behaviour. If she had her way these hypocrites would be branded and thrown out of the church. She bit her lip and set out to interview Kingsley-Deen again.

Kingsley-Deen came in. His pomposity and arrogance were pricked when she informed him,

‘‘Kurman has admitted to making indecent suggestions to Sara and he said you knew about it all the time.’’

‘‘I most certainly did not,’’ the man blustered.

‘‘He also said he admitted to you that people had tried to cause trouble at his last church over his interest in young girls, but you had said young girls were tempting and difficult to resist and you understood.’’

‘’I may have said that some girls like Sara push themselves at older men and I understand the temptation, but I never condone any misbehaviour. I expect my congregation to be as honourable

as myself.’’

‘‘Is that why you have been having an adulterous relationship with a woman called Sylvia Brady and you have a son by her?’’

His face fell. They knew. He stumbled over his next words. ‘‘I knew Sylvia when I was a young man and my father insisted I marry someone inside my own church. Later Sylvia and I met again. I could not consider divorce. My wife thinks it is against the sanctity of marriage. She also has a trust fund that would revert to her if we separate. My firm had needed a cash injection and I invested the income her trust brought in. I am tied to her and I am now stuck in no man’s land, waiting for her to die or me first.’’

‘’Do you admit then to knowing about Kurman’‘s harassment of Sara?’’

‘‘What difference does it make now she is dead?’’

Chase came behind her and turned off the machine. ‘‘A lot, we are not allowing you and Kurman to blacken her name, you filthy piece of shit!’

Angie turned it on again. She must make Chase get some psychological help or he could jeopardise this investigation if he continued to lose his temper with suspects. He was nearly out of control.

‘‘She deserved some happiness with her boyfriend instead of being harassed by your friend.’’

‘’She was always making eyes at the men. A harlot in that innocent’‘s disguise.’’

‘‘A normal healthy young woman,’’ said Angie, ‘‘who was maturing sexually but your church and her mother wouldn’t recognise it and look where she is now; on a mortuary slab. If her mother had offered to take her to the church for the rehearsal she would have found no-one there. The murderer would have vanished if her mother was coming.’’

‘‘I think we should explain all this to his wife,’’ said Chase. ‘‘I spoke earlier to her and she asked why her husband was still being questioned. I didn’t tell her anything, but she deserves to know that you Mr Kingsley-Deen are under suspicion for aiding a child harasser and molester.’’

Kingsley-Deen’s face clouded over. His eyes narrowed, and he gulped. He clearly feared the consequences of his wife hearing about his behaviour.

‘‘Very well, I did know what Kurman was up to, but I told him to lay off Sara. I told him to stop touching girls in our congregation. I’ll make a statement to that affect but let me explain everything to my wife before you talk with her. She is very unforgiving. She may wish me to leave if she hears about my other family.’’

Angie agreed. He would lose his Minister’s position. She would make sure of that. No other young girl would be neglected under his care. She was now wondering about his connection with the murderer of Sara. Sara had been murdered in the hall of the church he ministered.

‘‘Tell me about the Church Hall. Did you book it out to a woman or a man?’’

‘‘A woman made a booking over the internet. No phone call, just a name and credit card.’’

‘‘Don’t you check the authenticity of those who use your facilities?’’

‘‘We do a credit card check to make sure the card is valid. The lady said she represented the company Talking Productions. Her name was Charlotte Beausame. She is a real woman and the company is real. I checked up. The company gets a grant from the local uni and works with local schools and drama associations. There was no reason to believe she wasn’t genuine.’’

‘‘When she did pick up the key?’’

‘‘She could pick it up after the hall was cleaned, after 11 a.m.’’

Angie thought she had got all she could from this man. There was nothing else to connect him to the murders. She had already found out the cleaner had left the key in its key-box and the murderer had been given a combination that only lasted twenty-four hours. Sara was murdered between 9-11 p.m. that evening and found the next day. The only description they had of the woman was that of the one given by the cook in the diner. They were stuck again.

Kingsley-Deen was collected by his wife because his car was being scrutinised by forensics. A skinny, even scraggy woman, badly dressed in a colourless high buttoned frock and coat and boots, she stared through narrowed eyes at her husband, her pinched face and pursed lips the epitome of pious indignation.

‘‘Why is my husband still here?’’ she asked.

‘‘Let me explain my dear,’’ he said anxiously, wanting any conversation to be private between the two spouses. She looked contemptuously at him, no longer the obedient passive wife.

‘‘Is this in connection with the murder of Sara Tendant?’’

‘‘Yes, Ma’am but also in connection with some other potential crimes. You husband is not a suspect in any of these crimes; we have ruled him out, but he may be able to supply other evidence which might lead us to the murderer.’’

‘‘Were you having an affair with Sara Tendant?’’ she demanded of her husband.

‘‘No, dear, of course not.’’ He looked shocked. She looked at Angie. ‘‘Is he telling me the truth?’’

Angie blenched. She detested the man; he was a toe-rag, an adulterer, a hypocrite but as far as she knew he was not guilty of that accusation.

‘‘We have no evidence to suggest that he was indulging in any affair with Sara, Ma’am. Your husband took the booking for the hall Ma’am and we are looking into that.’’

‘‘It is about my connection with Kurman my dear. He was harassing Sara and had done similar things to other girls in his last congregations.’’

‘‘And you turned a blind eye to his behaviour,’’ she said. It was not a question, just a statement of fact, muttered in a matter of fact way.

‘‘I knew that girl would get into trouble. She had trouble written over her. She enticed men and then didn’t know how to handle them. She came to a bad end just as I had predicted. I warned her mother about her relations with that wicked Jim Caden.’’ She stared at Angie, eying her tight jeans and tee shirt, assessing her and finding her wanting.

‘‘Her clothes, those tight jeans and tee shirts she changed into once she had left home; wanton clothes and behaviour, encouraging and enticing men to chase her.’’

Her eyes shone brightly, the eyes of a fanatic. She was the fanatically religious one, not her husband, the pastor. Sara had almost felt sorry for the woman being married to Kingsley-Deen until she started to slag off Sara. She was hypocritical, having different standards for men and women.

‘‘I have written a statement, so I should be allowed home now.’’ His wife turned to him and said,

‘‘This will come out. You will have to resign your office as Pastor now.’’

‘‘Only if anyone tells the community and the police will not.’’

‘’You are a blithering fool Henry. It will leak out and you will be a laughing stock. No church around here will have you as their leader. Where will we pray? Already, I have had impertinent questions asked about your whereabouts.

‘‘I knew you were foolish, but I thought you wanted the next position in the church hierarchy, Henry.’’ She looked angry then said softly but with no gentleness. ‘‘I want you to leave Henry. I put up with your adultery while no-one knew about it and your second family, but I will not be turned out of my own church because of your behaviour. I’ll talk with the lawyer about it tomorrow.’’

She turned to go to the door, but her husband stopped her by grabbing her arm. ‘‘You knew all along?’’

’’Of course! When I suspected eight years ago I tailed you to that whore’s house and it was easy finding out who she was and who the father of her child was. I didn’t care, you didn’t share my bed. Six children were enough and if I had divorced you I would have got a less luxurious lifestyle as you hadn’t built your business up then. I don’t work and who would have employed me with no qualifications or experience.

’’Now my children are grown up it is different. You are now the head of a large prosperous firm and can afford to pay me alimony that will keep me in a good lifestyle. You used the income from my trust fund to fund your firm’s expansion and I will now get the rewards.

‘‘I gave up worrying about the sanctity of marriage years ago. I’ll find someone from the church who will marry me.’’

Kingsley-Deen looked gobsmacked. The woman in front of him was not the deferent wife he had known but a cool calculating woman who was now holding all the cards. She had used him and was now disposing of him in her cold severe way. He felt a wave of relief passing through him. Those hours every week with his lover and son had given him the only happiness he had experienced after enduring years of his barren, desert-like marriage. His children by her were married and he had no worries now about striking out on his own.

She would divorce him and make him happy. He would settle down with his lover and his son. No more living with this wizened excuse for a woman who complained about everyone’s morals and was as sanctimonious as hell.

Angie led them out, pleased to rid herself of both. She thought they deserved each other but hoped the Pastor’s lover would be happy in the future if he chose to live with her. They now had to try to trace the credit card and interview the Director of Talking Productions.

The credit card trace turned up blank as they expected. A card had been taken out in the woman’s name by a woman who answered the description given by the cook at the diner. She had been granted a small amount of credit by a company in Asia that checked her documents through the post and asked few questions after they had seen her comfortably full bank account.

The murderer must have hacked into the real Charlotte Beausame’s accounts and copied her information. She had a very good forger and IT specialist on her side. The money had been collected from a lesser known money transfer organisation but the account was closed after one day. One clerk had seen her face and the description she had given was of a tall flamboyantly and expensively dressed blond haired woman with green eyes. Not even the same description as that given earlier. The murderer was playing with them. They must interview the theatrical people to get some leads.

The Director of Talking Productions and his sister sat solemnly before them. They had been devastated to hear their company’s name had been plagiarised and used to draw the girl to her death.

‘‘So many young girls are star struck that we only operate auditions through formal channels. We advertise to drama schools and drama groups and theatre clubs. Every audition is published in the paper. We try to protect the audience we are attracting,’’ said Charlotte Beausame, ‘‘but every so often someone falls through the hoops. Several girls have disappeared in this way throughout the country, five this year.’’

Angie took the names and regions where these girls had disappeared to see if there was any connection with their girls. Every clue had to be checked but she believed they were unconnected. Charlotte said she had cancelled her cards recently because they had been hacked. Other than that, they could not help her.

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