Thursday, 1 October 2020

Just for Graham. DCI Buchanan 5 The Missing Heiress opening pages




Detective Chief Inspector Buchanan rolled over and looked at the clock on the bedside table, six o’clock. He yawned, pushed the covers back and sat up. ‘You know something Karen?’

Karen, his wife, opened one eye and squinted at the daylight coming through the bedroom window and said.  ‘I know if you are going to get up this early and wake me, you can at least bring me a coffee.’

‘I can do one better than that, I’ll make us breakfast, what would you like?’

‘I’m too tired to think, surprise me.’

‘It was a morning like this when we moved into our house in Glasgow,’ said Buchanan. ‘I remember it as though it was yesterday?’

‘Hmm. I remember the day well, our first house as a married couple’ said Karen as she mopped up the last of her poached egg.

‘Was it really thirty-four years ago?’

‘No, it was thirty-five – You know, if we’d had children, they’d be having their own children by now.’

Buchanan put down his cup and looked at Karen. ‘I know that, and it’s not for the want of trying, it’s just the hand fate has dealt us. But we do have Jill, and I can’t imagine anyone being more like a daughter than she has been. Don’t forget, like us not having children, she has no parents, we’re sort of made for each other.’

‘You are so right my dear, as usual you have just the right words.’

‘Hmm, far too nice a day to work,’ said Buchanan looking out the conservatory window.

‘Don’t go in then. Take the day off. We could take a trip into town.’

‘Town – where to, exactly?’

‘Nowhere in particular. I thought we could just wander.’

‘I’m not taking the day off in order to go window shopping.’

‘Jack, come sit down and have another coffee, you’re making me tired just watching you pace the floor.’

‘I shall be late for work. However, you’re quite right, I suppose being a senior policeman has certain privileges; I’m entitled to another cup of coffee; I’m entitled to occasionally be late for work.’

‘You know we could have many more of these breakfasts together if you weren’t working,’ said Karen as she spread honey on her toast.

Buchanan put down his cup, ‘yes we could, but –’

‘But you’re not ready to retire, am I right?’ she said smiling at him.

He smiled back and pulled a grape from the bunch in the fruit bowl.

‘I was in town yesterday,’ she continued. ‘I went into Closs and Hamblin fabrics to look at material for the spare room curtains.’

‘Did you find what you were looking for?’

‘No, that’s one of the reasons I wanted you to come with me, I need your opinion.’

He shook his head, looked at the time display on his phone, ‘I really should go to work my dear.’

‘But you’re in charge, you deserve to be late occasionally.’

He grinned, ‘You’re quite right, I do deserve to be a little late occasionally. I can be on time tomorrow, would you pour me another coffee, please.’

Buchanan drove into the car park at Hammonds Drive police station and parked beside an empty slot usually occupied by DS Street’s car. He looked at the time and smiled, he was exactly two hours late; the benefits of being a senior policeman. He was puzzled though, Street was usually in the office before this, where was she?

As he walked past the reception desk he asked, ‘anyone heard from DS Street, I mean Hunter, this morning?’

The duty sergeant shook her head and said, ‘Sorry Jack, no.’

It was funny he thought as he walked down the corridor, just how one gets used to the norm and find it difficult to change. Jill Street, his partner had been married to constable Stephen Hunter for almost a year now, and Buchanan still couldn’t get used to her new surname. But since she was known to everyone as DS Jill Street, and after discussing it with her husband, she’d decided she would continue with the Street surname, and besides in her mind she was still fifty percent of the Buchanan and Street combination.

He pushed his office door open with his foot, walked into his office and placed his coffee and slice of banana bread on his desk. Like so many times previous, he took off his jacket, hung it on the back of his chair then sat down at his desk to read his copy of the Eastbourne Herald.

The article on county lines gangs moving out of major cities and into local towns, and about how vulnerable people and young children were being sucked into the mess had him grinding his teeth. At least some of these county lines gangs’ plans had been thwarted. The previous week he’d been to a press conference where he had been informed that during the previous six months, eighty-seven county lines gangs had had their plans foiled, and that had led to 133 arrests. He smiled to himself when he thought about the government’s plans to substantially increase police numbers, plus provide an additional ten thousand prison places. He put down the paper thinking that it might be time to bring back national service.

There were at least two real successes for the police, all be it for the National Crime Agency. The two men who had been arrested for making untraceable firearms in a unit on Diplocks Way Hailsham, had been found guilty. In the old days they’d be in for twenty years at least and spend them sewing mailbags as a punishment. Instead they’d been sentenced to eighteen and eleven years in jail and would probably only serve half of those. The second was the breakup of a stolen-car chop shop in Hellingly, near Hailsham. Two local men had been arrested and soon would be appearing in court charged with the dismantling and sale of stolen car parts.

He picked up his copy of the weekend incident report laying on his desk and read that a significant quantity of construction tools had been stolen from a construction compound by the castle at the far end of the Westham village, his village. In the list of stolen tools were two spades, a toolbox containing various spanners, a hand saw, and a 18-volt cordless drill and a sixteen-volt Makita cordless chainsaw. Closer to home, one of his local churches in Pevensey had the lead stripped from its roof. The report said it was especially sad as the church was a 13th century building with a grade one listing.

But not all was gloom and doom in Eastbourne. The previous Friday, he and Karen had gone to see a comedy stage performance of The 39 Steps at the Devonshire Park theatre. When he’d purchased the tickets, he wasn’t quite sure what to expect as he’d read the story many years ago and didn’t remember it being that much of a comedy.

It had been a busy weekend as Airbourne, Eastbourne’s annual fly-by extravaganza of mostly military aircraft took place on the seafront. The programme, including of an RAF Typhoon, Chinook helicopter, Wing walkers, and helicopter rides around Beachy Head had the town buzzing. Topping off the air display was a fly-by of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight consisting of a Lancaster, Hurricane and Spitfire.

As he read the word Spitfire, he glanced up at the clock and wondered, just where was Jill? She was usually in the office by now him; it was extremely unusual for her to be this late. He turned on his computer to check his emails when the office door opened, and an ashen face Street walked in.

‘What’s the matter, Jill, are you all right? Come in and sit down. Would you like some water?’

She mumbled, ‘yes please.’

Buchanan got up and took a bottle of water from the office fridge.

‘Thanks,’ she said taking a sip. ‘I’ve felt better. Must have been something I ate last night.’

‘What did you have?’

‘Last night, Stephen and I went out for a curry with Morris and Debbie.’

‘Where did you go?’

‘We went to the Royal Indian in Hailsham.’

‘Was it spicy?’

‘Not any more than usual,’ she said screwing the cap back on the bottle. ‘Sorry I’m late.’

‘That’s all right. Do you need to go home?’

‘No, I’ll be fine. Could do with a coffee and something to eat, my last breakfast went down the toilet.’


‘Sounds just what I need. Would you mind driving?’

‘Not at all. It’s quiet today, not much happening.’

‘You realise you shouldn’t say that, you’ll jinx the day.’

‘Nah, that’s just an old police superstition. Nothing is going to happen today.’

‘Feeling better?’ asked Buchanan as he watched Street wash down the last of her bacon roll with a large cup of coffee.

‘Yes thanks.’

‘How is Stephen, did he have the same food as you?’

‘No, he had lamb, I had chicken.’

‘If you’re feeling better, I think we should be getting back to the office. I have a mountain of paperwork to attend to.’

‘You go on out, I’ll get my coffee in a takeaway cup and join you.’

‘What do we have on today?’ asked Street as she followed Buchanan along the corridor to their office.

‘Mostly paperwork.’

‘That will make a change, be nice to have a chance to get caught up. Oh, thanks for the coffee and bacon roll.’

‘You’re welcome.’

‘I’ll just pop down to the canteen and reheat my coffee.’

Street returned a few minutes later. ‘Funny how coffee never quite tastes the same after being microwaved.’

‘Not to worry, we can stop by Starbucks and get a fresh one on our way to the next incident.’

‘What’s that?’

 ‘Control has just called to tell us about a report from a resident in Westham.’

‘And what did they report?’

‘The resident reported their dog had unearthed what looked like a human hand in their flowerbed.’

‘See, I told you, you’ve jinxed the day.’

‘Nonsense, there’s no such animal.’

‘You could say that, but I won’t comment further. What did she mean by what looks like a human hand?’

‘Apparently she didn’t want the dog to go near to what it had dug up, so she stayed indoors and called 999.’

‘Do we have an address?’

‘Yes. Just up the road from where I live in Westham, house name Hibernia. It’s on Gallows Lane, just off of Rattle Road.’

‘Well since we haven’t much else to do this morning, let’s go have a look at the hand from the flower bed.