The Cuckoo Murders

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Chapter 26

The Moselle river flows through North-Eastern France, Luxembourg, and West Germany. It drifts by a small village in Luxembourg called Schengen, at the tripoint where the borders of those three countries meet. Schengen is a wine-making village of little note except that one of the most important European Treaties was signed there in June 1985. The Schengen Treaty abandoned border checks throughout most of Western Europe. Ground-breaking as it was, it brought about the internationalisation of many crimes, including drug trafficking.

The European States had to do something about it, so they came up with the Schengen Information System, SIS, European Arrest Warrants, and formed SIRENE bureaux in each member state to handle cross border information requests. The SIS is a collection of databases across the EU, rather like the Interpol system, containing information about criminals. It can be accessed by any state with a SIRENE bureau. The UK has one.

During the autopsy of Rancid Ronnie, Jane Edwards found fibres and a single hair on his body and sent it to the laboratory for further analysis. Earlier the SOCO team that had examined the Mercedes had also sent samples for analysis. Giordano was the first of the team to read the results. They looked promising. Fingerprints had been found in the cabin and boot. Fibres had been found on the rear seat that matched fibres left on Ronnie’s body, and best of all, a strand of hair from which DNA was extracted was found in the boot, and it matched the one Edwards found.

Standard procedure was to send the information to SIS, and it had come back almost instantly with a match on the prints. They belonged to one Jean LeFevre, wanted in France for drugs trafficking and pimping. SIRENE requested a photograph and the full file. They were sent directly onto Giordano. Now Giordano was fixated on her computer screen, staring at the face of a murderer.

Frustratingly the prints did not ring any bells in UK databases, and neither did FRS match the photograph. It meant LeFevre did not have a record in the UK. Still, she had a name and a face.

She called Thomas and Grey to her office and showed them the files. ‘LeFevre is a new name to us, but he is French. Could he be Boucher?’ Grey wondered.

‘Odds on I would say.’ Thomas said, ‘should be easy to find out. We have a photograph. What about a passport photograph? Can we find out if Boucher has a passport or a Driving Licence? One of those should tell us.’

‘I’ll get right on it sir.’ Giordano said, cursing herself for not checking before she called the team together.

‘Ok, while you’re doing that Grey and I will be at Diana Hall’s autopsy. We’ll check in after it’s over.’

Thomas and Grey left her to it and made their way towards the car park. Outside, a biting wind was howling, and the sky was hidden behind a leaden shield, below which angry thunder clouds rushed by. Thomas drove. ‘It’s ironic sir.’ Grey said without explanation.

Taken aback Thomas said, ‘What is?’

‘Diana, sir, Greek and Roman Goddess of hunters. Ironic that she should be the hunted.’

‘I doubt anyone thought of Hall as a Goddess except perhaps her mother.’ Thomas chuckled.

‘No argument from me sir. Her death puts two of the three gang bosses out of commission, leaving the field open for Boucher. ’

‘It does and it’s a powerful motive.’ He replied.

The trip from Brackmills to Cliftonville was short but blustery. The car was being buffeted badly by the wind and more than once Grey had to react quickly to prevent cracking her head against the passenger window. She felt queasy when they reached the mortuary and was glad to breath in fresh air. Autumn leaves were skidding across the concrete as they climbed the steps to the entrance, a foreboding heavy black door with a large round brass knocker.

The mortuary had the appearance of a large cottage, with slated roof, and ivy climbing up the walls. But there were no windows, and its purpose was obvious from the moment they entered. Bright lights, stainless steel tables, rubber drainage hoses, the unmistakable metallic stench of blood, and lingering traces of cadaverine and putrescine in the air, despite the efforts of the gallant ventilation system to expel them.

Grey shuddered. The place gave her the creeps. She followed Thomas to the gallery and took a seat next to him. ‘Jane said two-thirty, shouldn’t be long now.’ He said.

Grey popped a mint into her mouth. All the autopsy tables were in use except one. Theatre staff buzzed about carrying saws, scalpels, trays of organs. A few were hosing down, blood and off-cuts streaming and gurgling down the many drains. It was noisy with the clatter of steel against steel. A stink of bleach and death. The Pathologists dressed like butchers, with leather aprons covering the fronts of their gowns. Grey wondered if they used them to sharpen their knives.

Suddenly a naked body was wheeled in and lifted onto the table directly in front of them. Jane Edwards followed shortly afterwards dressed in theatre blues, long rubber wellingtons, and a skull cap. She carried a Dictaphone. An assistant began to photograph the body, here and there using a ruler to give scale, Edwards directing from a yard away. She spent a long time on the neck area. Once satisfied she inspected the external injuries, bruises, strangulation marks on the neck, haemorrhages in the eyes, enlarged tongue.

Only after she had examined every spot did she reach for her scalpel and make the common ‘Y’ shaped incision.

‘Shouldn’t be long now.’ Thomas said as if he was watching a movie. Grey could not wait to get out of there. She tried not focus as Edwards removed and weighed organ after organ, all the while talking into the Dictaphone. At last after half an hour Edwards instructed her assistants to finish up.

She met Grey and Thomas in her office adjacent to the theatre. She had discarded her PPE and was dressed in a tight red sweater and knee length black pencil skirt. Grey wondered if she had a date. She watched to see how Thomas reacted, but he showed no sign of noticing. ‘Morning you two. A surprise. Cause of death was strangulation. She was strangled manually. Finger marks both sides and back of the throat, and she was badly beaten before death with a blunt instrument, possibly a baseball bat. She died between ten and ten-thirty last night and was transported to Foot Meadow. She was dead before she was moved. The slashed throat was literally overkill. And she was raped.’

‘Any traces?’ Grey asked.

‘Oh yes, I got good latents from the neck, and lots of other areas, and there are minute traces of fibres on the body. No semen. I’ll send what I’ve found to the lab for examination, and I’ll send the pictures of the prints to you. I’m sure there’ll be enough for you to make a match, assuming there is one on file’

‘That sounds promising. Careless her assailant didn’t use gloves when he thought to use a condom.’

‘Probably didn’t realise we can lift prints from human skin. Not many people do. One of the miracles of modern technology.’ She said.

‘Vorsprung Durch technik.’ Grey said. Thomas smiled and Edwards laughed.

They left a few minutes later. ‘Should make our job a lot easier sir.’ Grey said as they walked towards the car park.

‘Indeed. Five murders in a week stretches us, but we’ve solved two and we have good evidence in another two, leaving just Markovic as a puzzle.’

‘There were traces left on his body too.’

‘There were, but we have nothing to go on. We found prints and DNA on your snitch, and now latents on Hall. And with any luck we will trace this LeFevre easily through his passport or driving licence, and if whoever killed Hall is on file, we will get another quick result, but we know Markovic is more tricky, we have no matches.’

They reached Thomas’ car and climbed in. ‘The other problem with Markovic is we have no motive; he was a ghost. A few people saw him, but nobody knew him.’ Grey said as she strapped in.

Thomas reversed out of his spot and pulled off, slowly at first, but picking up pace once he was on the main Cliftonville Road. It began to rain, and fuelled by the heavy winds, spots were bouncing off the road and the bonnet. The windscreen wipers were working overtime and Thomas had to switch the fan to full blast to prevent the screen from misting over. Puddles were forming rapidly on the uneven blacktop, and within seconds overtaking cars were spraying muddy water over slower vehicles, hindering visibility.

‘No but we do have fibres and DNA, so once we have a suspect, it will be easy to rule him in or out.’ Thomas said as he pulled into the Brackmills car park.

‘If this is a gang war, it has to be Boucher sir. He’s the only one to benefit.’

‘I agree Boucher solves most of the puzzle, but he doesn’t solve Markovic. If these cases are all connected, there might be something else going on.’ He said.

Thomas stopped the car as close to the entrance as he could and they both hurried out and ran to the entrance. Grey was windswept and soaking when she stumbled into the lobby. Thomas was shaking himself down, his hair and face drenched. They agreed to meet in a Giordano’s office once they had dried off.

On her screen, Giordano was reading the announcement of Malan’s retirement due to ill health. It was such a shock; she was not sure how she felt. Malan had never done her any harm, but she knew he had been cruel to Thomas and had tried to fire Grey more than once. She wondered what was wrong with him. He was not an old man, nowhere near retirement age.

When Grey walked in, she was still transfixed by the announcement. ‘What’s up gorgeous? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.’ She said.

‘Read this. I can’t believe it.’ Grey peered over her shoulder and scanned the screen. ‘Holy shit! It must be Christmas!’

’Yes, but it says due to ill health. He’s only in his mid- forties. I wonder what’s wrong with him?’

‘I’m not going to piss on him if he’s on fire.’ Grey said scathingly.

‘Sheila! You can’t say that!’

‘Oh yes I can! He’s made my life a misery from the day he arrived. I have no sympathy for him.’

‘Even so, it must be serious.’ Giordano said.

‘Maybe so, I don’t wish ill on anyone, but could make an exception in his case.’ Grey said, quieter.

At that moment Thomas arrived. He noticed the embarrassed looks on their faces and said in good humour, ‘What’s going on? You look like you’ve been caught with your hands in the till.’

‘We’re a bit shocked to be truthful sir. Just read Superintendent Malan is retiring. Apparently, he’s ill.’

Thomas was suddenly serious. ‘Ah, yes. I was hoping to speak to you both before it was made public, but I just haven’t found the time. He has pancreatic cancer. He hasn’t got long. It’s dreadful for him and his family.’

Grey suddenly felt sick. ‘That is appalling sir.’

‘It is. He has young children and a wife.’

When nobody said anything, Thomas continued. ‘Details of his illness are not being made public so please keep it to yourselves. Meanwhile we have to carry on.’

Giordano had turned pale but said, ‘Well I was going to say things were looking up, but after this I don’t think they are.’

‘How do you mean?’ Grey asked.

‘Five minutes ago, I received a reply from SIS via Interpol. Also, I checked DVLA and found a passport and driving licence in the name of Jacques Boucher of Ecton. I put the picture of LeFevre and the picture from the passport into the FRS and got a match. To be honest they looked the same to my eye, but I checked anyway.’

‘So, Boucher is LeFevre.’ Thomas said.

‘Yes, sir, and he killed Rancid Ronnie.’

‘Excellent work, excellent.’ He said.

‘With him gone the gang will be three heads short.’ Grey said.

‘Yes. One dead, one set up, and now this one on a murder charge.’

‘It’s your good work Giordano. You organise the arrest. Well done both of you.’

In his office on the western outskirts Kubric was incandescent with rage. He had his phone on loudspeaker and was shouting at Boucher. ‘I told you to do nothing!’

‘I didn’t kill her boss. It was not me.’

‘You’re lying Boucher! You deliberately disobeyed me. There will be consequences. You will pay taxes for this!’

Boucher knew what that meant. ‘You have to believe me. It was not me! I swear it!’

‘You lying French rat! I know you killed her. You just couldn’t wait. Instead of thinking with your head you’ve let your balls take control. You will do nothing, do you hear me? Nothing! Wait there for me. I will speak to you after I have cleared up your mess.’

Kubric rang off and threw his mobile onto a chair.

He took a few minutes to control his breathing, then arranged to meet Cameron at Overstone Park Golf Complex half an hour later. He locked his house and climbed into his Lexus. It was the one luxury he allowed himself. His house was comfortable but modest. He lived a simple life in the middle of the countryside where he fitted in perfectly. But his car was his joy. An IS model with sports wheels, leather seats, and every app known to man, it was like sitting in an aeroplane cockpit. All Kubric had to do was turn the wheel, and he imagined soon he would not even need to do that.

The plush cabin was the perfect place to relax. By the time he arrived at the club he had calmed down and could think properly. He knew also that Cameron would not panic. He was a good man in a crisis.

He parked his car on the Roundel, a circular grassy area bordered by tall pines, close to the entrance. He locked the doors and hurried out of the rain into the reception area, where he nodded briefly to the attendant. Cameron was already seated at a table close to the bar, sipping a coffee. Kubric ordered a double scotch on the rocks and walked over to greet his friend. He sat down heavily and said, ‘This is terrible Cammy. Boucher has gone mad. Completely disobeyed me. He will pay, believe me, he will pay.’

‘Are you sure he is responsible?’ Cameron asked, the voice of reason.

Kubric nodded vigorously. ‘Oh yes, I’m certain. Who else? He threatened to do it earlier, but I told him to wait until this Markovic business was settled.’ The waitress brought his drink and he gulped it straight down and ordered another.

‘He has always been hot-headed. This time he has not thought it through. He admits he was losing money before Markovic was killed. How then could Hall be responsible?’ Cameron reasoned.

‘Exactly, Cammy. This goes deeper. But now we have an immediate problem. We are short of leaders in two areas, perhaps shortly all three. We need more manpower, more security. I will find people, but meanwhile I want to change things Cammy. Can I rely on you?’

‘Of course, you know you can.’

‘I’m going to merge the areas under one head. I want you to be the head Cammy. We need your brain. Can you handle it?’

Cameron shook his head slowly. ‘Not without security. If there is to be a war, I’m going to need people.’

Kubric breathed deeply. ‘I know Cammy, I know. Look, why not take Foal for a start. He’s young but he will be a useful asset in a war.’

Cameron did not look impressed. ‘He’s nothing but a young thug. No brains.’

Kubric’s drink arrived and he clutched the glass in both hands like it was a lifeline. ’But you have the brains Cammy. You need the muscle, and he has it. With the right leadership, he will be useful to you until I can organise more men.’

‘What about the fine? Boucher is due to pay but he thinks McVey should, which means me now.’

‘Let me worry about Boucher. I will deal with him. Can I rely on you Cammy?’

Cameron nodded. ‘You can boss, you can.’ He said.

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