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Authors: Hurley, Graham

Turnstone

Turnstone
Faraday & Winter [1]
Hurley, Graham
(2000)

Portsmouth is a city on the ropes, a poor, dirty but spirited city, with
a soaring crime rate. And it is home for DI Joe Faraday. Faraday has
made it in the CID through diligence, an unswerving commitment to
principle and an uncanny knack for gauging character. Slow to make
friends, a widower bringing up his profoundly deaf son, Faraday pushes
himself hard and expects the same from his colleagues. Stories abound of
the quiet DI's sudden, volcanic outbursts of fury directed at inferiors
and superiors alike who haven't matched his own exacting standards. An
enigma to those he works with, Faraday's refuge from the desperate
business of policing his hometown is his passion for the natural world
and the bird life that teems on the beaches and estuaries of the South
coast. And now the sinking of one of the yachts in the Fastnet race is
beginning to look like the perfect cover for a murder that cuts to the
core of Portsmouth's money set. But only Joe Faraday believes it
happened. 

Turnstone

Graham Hurley

 

 

 

© Graham Hurley 2012

To
Tony and Willy
with love

Acknowledgements

Among the many individuals who have been more than generous with their time and expertise are William Bowman, Scott Chiltern, Ian Corney, Roly Dumont, Fran Foster, Bill Flynn, Bob Lamburne, Barry Little, George Marsh, Colin Michie, Nick Pugh, John Roberts, Ian Rose, Christina Waugh and Charles Wylie. I thank them all. My thanks, as well, to my agent, Antony Harwood, and my editor, Simon Spanton. Credit for the softer passages belongs, as ever, to my wife, Lin.

‘Every contact leaves a trace’

Edmund Locard, 1910

Prelude

The only time she’d ever been inside a police station was the day someone had stolen her bike. Luckily, it had turned up several weeks later, recovered from a second-hand shop near her home, and afterwards she’d realised how worthwhile that trip to Kingston Crescent had been. The police were there to chase the bad people. They knew how to get things back. So who was to say it wouldn’t happen again?

She stood for a minute or two on the kerbside, clutching her white envelope, waiting for the traffic to part. On the police station steps, kids from the estate were trying to cadge fags from a couple of bigger boys. By the time she’d darted across the road, they’d drifted away.

Inside the police station, the waiting room was full. She wedged herself beside a huge man with a dog on a length of rope and blood down the front of his shirt. There was a lot of noise from phones ringing and the banging of doors. The big man tried to talk to her a couple of times but she pretended she hadn’t heard.

At last, the policeman behind the counter called her forward.

‘How can I help you?’ he said, looking down at her.

In her head she’d been trying to work out what to say, but now the time had come words failed her.

‘Has something happened you want to tell me about?’

‘Yes.’

‘Would you prefer to see a policewoman?’

‘No.’ She could feel the outlines of the photo in the envelope. ‘No, thank you.’

There was another long silence. She shuffled from foot to foot. She felt hot and awkward.

At length, the policeman pulled a big pad towards him and reached for a pen.

‘I think you’ve lost something,’ he said, ‘and I expect you want to tell me about it.’

‘I have.’

‘What is it, then?’

She glanced round. Everyone was looking at her. Everyone was listening. She closed her eyes a moment, took a deep breath, and then reached up, putting the photo from the envelope on the counter.

‘It’s my dad,’ she whispered. ‘We can’t find him anywhere.’

One

Asleep at last, Faraday dreamed of the frigate bird. From wingtip to wingtip, it measured a full seven feet. Its tail was long and forked. In silhouette, in the pages of his bird books, it looked like the avenging angel, and for months on end it carved breathtaking hundred-mile arabesques across the world’s great oceans, a flying machine perfectly adapted in the lie of every feather and the tiny corrective tug of every sinew.

People called the frigate bird a born thief, and Faraday loved that too because this glorious creature spent its entire life stealing height and distance from the elements around it. The frigate bird cared nothing for gravity, nor for the crushing routines of daily life. Instead, it soared aloft on those long, delicate, scimitar wings, as free and beyond reach as any creature on God’s earth. It offered limitless possibilities. It spoke of hope.

A slow smile warmed Faraday’s sleeping face.
Fregata magnificens
, he thought. Total release.

The trill of the phone brought Faraday back to earth. It was Cathy Lamb, the weekend’s duty CID sergeant.

‘We’ve got a G-28,’ she said briskly. ‘I’ll be round to pick you up.’

A G-28 was office-speak for a dead body. Faraday hauled himself out of the armchair, the mobile clamped to his ear. His first-floor studio looked east, over the gleaming expanse of Langstone Harbour. This morning the tide was on the ebb, sluicing out between the tall wooden posts that marked the navigable channels, and on either side, busy amongst the stranded boats of local fishermen, were the birds that feasted on the rich harvest from these glistening mud flats. Normally, through the scope on the tripod beside his chair, Faraday could rely on half a dozen species at a single sweep: egrets, lapwings, curlews, oyster-catchers, cormorants, turnstones, all of them carefully assembled bricks in his wall.

Cathy was detailing the background to the discovery of the body. The dead man’s name was Sammy Spellar. He lived in Paulsgrove, a council estate to the north of the city, sprawled across the lower slopes of Portsdown Hill. A neighbour had raised the alarm after hearing sounds of a struggle next door. Uniform had attended and found Spellar on the carpet in the front room. Scenes of Crime had already secured the premises and the police surgeon had confirmed that Spellar was dead. He was an old man, seventy at least. Most of the injuries had been to his head.

Cathy paused for breath. Her ability to marshal so many facts in so few seconds had never failed to impress Faraday.

Now, he glanced at his watch. Nearly one o’clock.

‘Give me the address,’ he muttered. ‘I’ll meet you there.’

‘You can’t, sir.’

‘Why not?’

‘Your car’s buggered. You told me last night.’

She was right. Down in the kitchen, trying to wrestle a slice of bread into the toaster, Faraday used his mobile to phone the garage. He’d known the older of the two mechanics for years. When he explained the problem, the man groaned.

‘It’s the brakes again,’ he said. ‘I thought I told you to go easy.’

Easy? Faraday snorted, pocketed the phone and left the kitchen. The big lounge was flooded with sunshine and he stood by the full-length glass doors for a moment, gazing out at the harbour. Year after year, he could set his watch by the arrival of the spotted redshanks from their breeding grounds in the far north and he looked for them now, still waiting for the toaster to pop.

Cathy appeared minutes later. She was a big woman, one year short of thirty, with cropped brown hair and the easy grace of a natural athlete. Most weekends would have found her afloat – either canoeing in Wales, or water-skiing with her husband over on Hayling Island – but lately CID had been stretched to the limit, and the concept of time off had become an increasingly sour joke. Not that Cathy was the sort to complain.

She drove north through the choked city streets, declining a bite of Faraday’s bacon sandwich. Lunch could wait.

‘When did all this happen?’

‘This morning. The neighbour says about half nine.’

Faraday was gazing out at the pasty-faced mill of shoppers. The hottest summer for years seemed to have passed the inner city by.

‘So how come you took so long?’

‘I’ve been out on another job. It’s been hectic.’

‘They couldn’t raise you?’

‘No, sir, they couldn’t.’

Something in Cathy’s tone warned Faraday against inquiring further. She’d come from the Paulsgrove estate herself and at moments of stress it showed. When he asked whether the Scenes of Crime Officer, the SOCO, had managed to keep things nice and clean she said she’d no idea, and when he inquired about the detail of the dead man’s injuries she just shrugged. She’d got the brief by phone from the uniformed sergeant on the spot. Some of his blokes had already started on house-to-house. Beyond that she was in the dark.

Faraday grunted, wondering whether he shouldn’t push Cathy for a proper explanation for the delay in contacting him. Some days she seemed as preoccupied as he was. Some days, indeed, she was so tetchy, so defensive, that he’d begun to consider the possibilities of a serious conversation.

The lights changed to green and Cathy swore as she made a mess of slipping the clutch. While she restarted the engine, Faraday stared up at the line of flat roofs above a parade of shops. Two sparrows were having a noisy squabble in the guttering, raising tiny clouds of dust. Territory, he thought, and the incessant need to confirm the pecking order.

Sammy Spellar’s council house lay at the top of Anson Avenue, one of a grid of streets that featured regularly in the quarterly divisional crime stats. Paulsgrove was a council estate where post-war good intentions – decent housing, clean air, brand-new start – had slowly given way to the tide of social anarchy that had engulfed so much of the city. In his glummer moments, Faraday likened CID work to fire-fighting. You attended the blaze. You did your best to limit the damage. But about the underlying causes – poverty, ignorance, family breakdown – you could do absolutely nothing.

Now, Faraday made his way through the crowd of watchers gathered in the road. The uniformed constable held up the blue ‘Police No Entry’ tape and then unclipped a pen to note his arrival on the Scenes of Crime log. Faraday paused outside the house. The gate to number seventy-three was hanging off its hinges and a dismantled bed frame lay rusting in the long grass beyond it. Beside the front door was a row of uncollected milk bottles. None of them had been washed and whoever had kicked over the nearest one hadn’t bothered to clear up the shards of glass. On the doorstep, Faraday studied them a moment. His instinct was to tidy them up, to gather them in a twist of newspaper and chuck them in the rubbish bin, but he knew the Scenes of Crime protocol backwards. The SOCO was king here until the forensic checks were complete and anything that spoke of violence was potential evidence. Even the remains of a week-old milk bottle.

The front door was open and the sour, rank breath of the house brought Faraday to a halt. The narrow, uncarpeted little hall smelled of damp and neglect, of re-used chip fat and unwashed bodies. Kitchen rubbish spilled from a bulging black sack and Faraday caught a blur of movement as a cat bolted upstairs. The SOCO’s row of metal stepping plates flagged a path into the front room.

‘Jerry?’

The door was ajar and it opened further when Faraday gave it a push. Peering round, he looked in vain for Jerry Proctor, the duty SOCO. Sammy Spellar was still lying on the carpet, a frail, thin little body in stained brown trousers and a grubby nylon shirt with his knees drawn up to his chest where he’d tried to protect himself. There were taped plastic bags over his head and hands. The side of his head was matted with blood, his mouth was torn, and through the thin film of plastic it was possible to see that one of his eyes was hanging out of its socket. For Faraday, still rooted by the door, a single glance was enough. Fifteen years of Portsmouth murders told him that Sammy Spellar had been kicked to death.

A movement behind him brought Faraday out of the room. Detective Sergeant Jerry Proctor was a big, heavy-set, bear-like man with a bone-crushing handshake and a developed sense of territory. Like most SOCOs, he insisted on keeping live bodies at the scenes of crime to an absolute minimum and was fearless about imposing his ground rules on more senior officers. As a detective inspector, Faraday had shared dozens of murders with Proctor and knew there was no better way of getting himself up to speed. The man would have been here for hours, carefully logging every last particle of evidence.

‘What have we got then?’

Proctor slipped off a plastic glove and wiped the sweat from his face. He was wearing a white, one-piece paper suit and Faraday knew from experience how hot they could get.

‘The neighbour called at half nine,’ he said. ‘Her husband had looked in through the window and saw the old boy on the floor.’

‘Cathy mentioned some kind of row.’

‘That’s right. There’d been fighting. Par for the course, apparently. The old boy’s son lives here too. Nothing but trouble according to next door.’

Sammy’s son was called Mick. He’d left the house shortly after the fight. Asked for a description, the next-door neighbours had come up with rat-face, dog-breath and piss-head. They’d tried to be nice to him for more than three years but seldom got anything but abuse for their troubles.

‘Guy’s a scrote,’ Jerry concluded.

Faraday was looking back along the hall. Outside he could see Cathy making notes as she talked to a uniformed sergeant. Already Mick Spellar’s details would have been flashed to every patrol car and beatman in the city. As a kicking-off point for CID inquiries, he sounded deeply promising.

‘Anyone else live here?’

‘Mick’s got a son, Scott. Nice lad, according to next door.’

‘Was he around?’

‘No idea. He certainly wasn’t here when we turned up.’

‘Has he got a room of his own?’

‘Upstairs. I had a brief look this morning, but it’ll be this afternoon before we get round to it properly.’

‘What was it like?’

‘Neat. Tidy. And the lad’s mad about football. Kit and banners and stuff everywhere.’

Proctor’s grunt of approval brought a smile to Faraday’s face. Until very recently, the SOCO had turned out for the divisional rugby team, laying waste to a long list of opposing forwards. People foolish enough to take on Jerry Proctor seldom made the same mistake twice.

Faraday glanced at his watch. According to Proctor, the house would be off-limits for the rest of the day. There was a hands-and-knees search of the front room to organise once the body had been removed and he wanted more photographs of bloodstains on the wall around the fireplace. Fibre collection and then fingerprinting the room to eliminate intruders would take God knows how long, and on top of that there was the post-mortem to arrange. The local hospital was offering ten o’clock in the evening but he’d yet to pin down the Home Office pathologist. The guy lived down in Dorset and had taken his daughter to some gymkhana or other.

‘And the old boy?’ Faraday nodded at the front room.

‘Fractured skull probably. Whoever did it will need a change of footwear.’

Proctor wiped his nose on the back of his hand and shook his head. Eleven years on the Scenes of Crime unit had armoured him against the more obvious forms of shock, but the sight of Sammy Spellar had added yet another cooling body to the sad tally of broken lives that no amount of hi-tech forensic investigation could put together. People were screwing up more and more. And he had a thousand photographs to prove it.

On the point of leaving, Faraday paused. He’d heard something from the back of the house. It sounded like the splintering of wood. He glanced at Proctor. He’d heard it, too. Both men were setting off down the hall when the kitchen door burst open in front of them. The intruder was in his forties. He had a bony, yellowing face and a snake tattoo down the side of his neck. He carried a Thresher’s bag in one hand and a carving knife in the other.

Without warning, he dropped the bag and lunged at Faraday with the knife, narrowly missing his shoulder. In the tiny hall, the smell of booze was overpowering. Faraday took a step backwards, waited until the knife hand came up again, then kicked the intruder’s knee as hard as he could. The knife skittered down the bare boards of the hall while the intruder grabbed at his knee, bellowing with pain and rage. Hobbling, he came at Faraday again but it was child’s play this time to turn him. Moments later Faraday had an armlock on his neck, tightening it to throttle-point every time he tried to struggle.

Proctor was squatting in the hall, studying the man’s trainers and the bottom of his jeans with interest. The bollocking he was about to give the uniforms outside, the ones who were supposed to have sealed off the house, could wait. He glanced up at Faraday, shaking his head in amazement, then stood upright again, towering over the intruder.

‘A name would help,’ he said. ‘Just for the record.’

Faraday relaxed the armlock enough to permit speech. When the intruder lashed out at Proctor with his feet, he tightened it again.

‘Get the neighbour in here,’ Faraday said. ‘It’ll be quicker.’

Proctor went to the front door and called to one of the uniformed PCs. A couple of minutes later, the neighbour confirmed that the intruder was Mick Spellar. By now, he was sitting on the stairs, taking great gulps of air. He’d been down to the office for a couple of bottles of vodka. He’d treated himself to a mouthful or two on the way home. Coming in through the back, he’d heard voices. Round here you were barmy to investigate without taking precautions. Hence the knife.

Faraday told him to turn his pockets out. From his denim jacket, with some reluctance, he produced a debit card. Faraday took it outside to the daylight to be sure of the name on the bottom. It read ‘S. Spellar’. Spotting Cathy, he threaded his way through the crowd and told her to call off the search for Mick.

‘Why?’

‘He’s turned up. Pissed as a rat.’

‘You’re serious?’

‘Yes.’

‘Then he’s a dickhead.’ She stared at Faraday. ‘Isn’t he?’

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