Written To Death
When Sandra and Alex disembarked from the Boeing 737, they had to brave the damp, cold April wind. They hurried across the tarmac before escaping through the doorway then climbed the staircase into the terminal. The welcoming five-tone Nokia jingle from Alex's phone heralded their arrival.
Sandra playfully punched Alex's shoulder, chiding him, “I thought you enjoyed the holiday. We've been back in Glasgow for twenty seconds and already you've switched your phone on. Can you never relax?”
“Although it was only a short break, I can honestly say that was the best holiday I've ever had. Sorry, switching the phone on was a reflex reaction. In any event, I need it to contact the mini-cab we booked to say we've landed. Don't you remember? It was much better value than the airport taxis. So, I'm totally innocent. You're off work until Wednesday. Although, I'm back tomorrow, we still have the rest of the day to do what we like.”
Alex sent the text, but as they took their place in line for passport control, his phone rang. He pressed receive, expecting it to be a call confirming his booking before noticing the caller was Sanjay.
“Hello, Boss. How was the holiday?”
“I'm still on it. I've only just landed in Glasgow. Why are you calling?”
“Sorry, Boss. I didn't realise. Do you want me to call back later?”
“You've started. I'm guessing it's something important, out with it.”
“It's a mysterious death. I wouldn't have bothered you normally, but this one's happened in your backyard.”
The queue shuffled forward and Alex and Sandra were now at the front.
“You have to switch that off before you step forward. Can't you read?” the immigration officer announced to Alex. He pointed to a large sign stating the use of mobiles was prohibited while passing through the check point.
In response, Alex opened his wallet, showing his warrant card displaying DCI Alex Warren, and replied, “Police business.”
“I don't give a stuff,” the border said. “You have no jurisdiction here.”
“I'll get back to you in a minute, Sanjay. I have a man with a small problem here, or maybe it should be a small man with a problem.” Alex ended the call and placed his phone in his pocket. His towering frame dwarfed the man as he handed his passport to the official. The border guard took his time scanning, then carefully examining it before returning it to Alex with a curt nod and a whispered, “Thank you, Sir. Have a nice day.”
Stepping past the desk, Alex was approached by one of the airport police who'd recognised him. “I'm sorry about that, Sir. He was within his rights so I couldn't do anything. He's not really a bad lad, but he had his balls chewed the other day by one of his supervisors for being too lax, so perhaps he's overreacting a bit.”
“No sweat, it'll take more than the likes of him to put me off my stride. Besides, I'm chilled out. I've had nearly a week away from the job.”
Sandra raised her eyebrows, clearly amused. Although she realised Alex's statement had been meant in earnest, she observed the falseness of his words. As she steered him forward, he fumbled in his pocket to recover his mobile and reconnect to Sanjay.
“I'm back, now. You were saying something about it being in my backyard and precisely what did you mean by 'mysterious'?”
“Well, we can't completely rule out an accident but personally I think it most unlikely. The victim was stabbed through the heart,” Sanjay stated. “As for the location, it took place on the stage of the main hall at Eastfarm School.”
“Oh my God, that's my kids' school. Was it one of the pupils? What age was the victim? How did it happen?” There was a distinct note of panic in Alex's voice, any residual trace of being chilled out after his holiday totally disappeared.
Sandra stopped walking and instead directed Alex towards a quiet corner of the baggage reclaim area, a deep frown now furrowing her brow.
“Relax, Boss, it had nothing to do with the kids or the school for that matter, other than the venue,” Sanjay reassured. “The stage had been loaned out to a local community group to rehearse a play.”
Alex raised his hand to indicate to Sandra not to worry. “Okay, who was the victim? Was he from a local am-dram group?”
“Not quite, Sir. To start with, he's a she and it wasn't an acting group, it was the local writing group. It's quite bizarre really.”
“I'm a bit confused here, Sanjay. I want you to go back to the beginning and tell me what's happened.”
“Yes, sorry, Boss. It is a bit mixed up and it's getting more so the deeper we dig. We were called to the school earlier this afternoon. A woman is dead as a result of being stabbed through the heart. Her name is Sheila Armstrong and she's a member of the Eastfarm Writers' Association. They meet on a regular basis at the Community Centre. Their members are apparently working towards a national competition to produce a one act play. They need to perform it for the competition, so they've been allowed to use the school's stage facilities to rehearse.”
“Okay, now it's starting to make a bit more sense,” Alex said.
“Here's the really bizarre bit,” Sanjay added. “The play they were rehearsing was written by Sheila herself. It was a spoof about a stage production where the female lead is a writer and she's stabbed to death, on stage.”
“You're telling me she designed her own murder?” Alex asked.
“Well, yes, in a manner of speaking,” Sanjay replied.
“Listen, you can give me the details later. I take it you'll be there for a while. I'll be out of the airport in a few minutes. Sandra's at the baggage belt looking for our cases as we speak, so I need to go and give her a hand. I should be home within the hour which means I can be with you within two. Who else is there helping you?”
“Phil, Steve and Mary are already here and Donny's on his way. We have a few uniforms as well, keeping order. Scene of crime are already on the job and Duffie's due at any minute. Mind you, I can't see them telling us too much more. We already know how and when she died and we've got the knife. We also have about a dozen eye witnesses, but I suppose we still have to go through the motions.”
“Don't be so complacent, there's an awful lot more the technicians can tell us than we can hope to learn from witnesses. What's more, the scientific evidence doesn't have a vested interest. It isn't biased the way people are.”
“Sorry, Boss, you're right of course.”
“Get everything set up and I'll be with you as soon as I can.”