D I Bones woke up with a really bad headache. He would have liked nothing better than to phone in sick, but he needed to get into Gareth’s flat. He was expecting to see another note on his computer from uniform branch when he got in, but there was nothing new. At 9.25 he went down to reception. The duty sergeant grunted at him and gestured towards a PC standing by the desk. He looked very young.
“D I Bones. Are you detailed for the flat inspection?”
“Yes, sir. PC McIntyre. Sam.”
“OK, Sam. Let’s go. Have you got a car, or shall we go in mine?”
Sam held up a car key. “Got a patrol car booked out, sir. In case we need the kit.”
D I Bones held up the key to Gareth’s flat. “Don’t worry, Sam, we won’t need the enforcer this time. Saves on paperwork.”
Sam looked slightly disappointed. “Very good, sir.” D I Bones led the way out to the car park.
Gareth lived, or had lived, in an old warehouse which had been converted to small apartments intended for young professionals, not far from the city centre. They drove in silence. D I Bones was mulling over the previous night’s débacle. The thought of the paperwork was making him feel even worse. Why hadn’t he realised that Lilian was just another crank caller? It wasn’t as though he didn’t have plenty of experience with them. He supposed it was because she was a university lecturer. He didn’t think he’d met any before this week. Bloody hell. They were a strange bunch. There was that biology woman, Alison whatever, she wasn’t with it at all. The state of her kitchen! And her reaction to the news about Gareth was weird. He’d never, ever seen anyone so uninterested in a death. Sheila Thompson, his supposed suspect seemed pretty flaky. Nice house, though. The Bob character, fairly normal, but a bit, well, feeble? And as for Mrs Hankin… His head throbbed at the thought of their journey back from Sheila’s house. That woman was completely bonkers. He didn’t care if it was un-PC to say it. He shuddered.
“Shall I park here, sir?” Sam had pulled up near the warehouse, next to an empty parking space. D I Bones opened his mouth to tell him to go up to the double yellows just by the main entrance, and then thought better of it. Maybe there were some new regulations about that. They weren’t in a particular hurry. “fine” he said.
“Do I need anything special from the car, sir?”
D I Bones shook his head. “Not really. Just gloves and a pack of evidence bags. The death isn’t suspicious. We just need to see if there’s a note, and we also need to track down next of kin. Looking for address books or whatever. Oh, maybe a mobile. He didn’t have one on him when he was found. I suppose it could have been nicked.”
“Who’d nick a mobile from a corpse, sir?”
D I Bones looked at him. He really was young. He didn’t bother to answer. “OK, well let’s get to it, PC MacIntyre.”
The lift was out of order. They trudged up to the fifth floor. “Bet you’re glad you’re not carrying the enforcer now,” D I Bones suggested. He was panting. Sam, however, seemed fine. He really was young. And fit.
Outside Gareth’s flat, D I Bones stopped and knocked loudly. “I thought the guy was dead, sir?”
“We don’t know for sure that he lived alone. I’ve tried calling the landline a few times. But you never know.”
Sam nodded, hopefully storing away a tip for future searches.
Nobody answered. D I Bones got out Gareth’s keys. He hoped they would fit. There was no actual evidence linking Gareth to the flat. The nearest to a confirmed identification had been Sereena’s glance at the post-mortem photo. Nobody else he’d spoken to had actually met him.
The keys worked. D I Bones realised that he’d been holding his breath. He gave a sigh of relief. That linked the body to the Gareth Jones who’d worked at University of Burston and who’d given this address to Mrs Garvill.
They both put on gloves, and went inside. The front door opened directly into the sitting-room. DI Bones scanned the room. It was sparsely furnished. One chair, medium-sized TV, coffee table, desk and small bookcase in one corner. Big window with a fake balcony. No pictures on the walls, but one slightly dog-eared poster for Coldplay, 2008 tour stuck up just a shade crookedly near the TV. It was very tidy. Or maybe sparse was a better word. D I Bones sighed. “You take this room, Sam. I’ll start with the bedroom.”
Back at the station, D I Bones flipped through his notes.
Items removed from apartment of Gareth Jones:
- Mobile phone, locked, and battery almost flat (Nokia, on bedside table)
- Laptop computer with charger (Toshiba, in messenger bag on the kitchen chair)
That was it. They hadn’t found anything else useful. No bank statements, no utility bills, no personal correspondence, just, nothing. The bedding and the towels looked as though they had been used. The toothbrush and shaving kit were used. But it looked as lived in as a hotel room.
He phoned the IT team. Maybe they’d find something useful on the computer. And they needed to unlock the mobile.
Alison looked at her watch. It couldn’t be so late, could it? She still had loads of things to do. The phone on her desk rang. ‘Geoff Sanders’ said the display. God, what now? She picked up the receiver. “Alison speaking.”
Geoff sounded upset. “Alison. Can you come straight to my office, please?”
“Is it really urgent, Geoff? I’m trying to finish up the course modification forms. They’ve got to be in by tomorrow.”
“Please, Alison. Please.” Was that a sob? She must have misheard. Geoff was permanently vague. He didn’t express any emotion about anything. Even yesterday, with that unpleasant incident with Jen and Mr Patel, he hadn’t really seemed bothered. He was just going through the motions. “OK.” she said, and hung up.
She locked her office and walked down the corridor. The lights came on just as she got to the stairs. As usual, she thought how handy the lighting system was for intruders. She went up one flight and turned left. The lights were already on up here. Geoff’s office was slightly recessed from the main corridor. As she got nearer, she could hear voices. Odd. Who else would be around at this time of night? Like her, Geoff often worked late, but most of their colleagues were long gone by now.
She turned into the recess and stopped dead. An unfamiliar person was sitting in the doorway to Geoff’s room. She was leaning back against the frame, with her knees pressed to the other side. Alison frowned, then shrugged and stepped over her. “Geoff?”
Geoff was hunched over in his chair. “Alison.” He looked up at her. “Alison. Thank you for coming.” He sniffed loudly.
Alison felt exasperated by this behaviour. “Geoff” she repeated. “What did you want to see me for? I am quite busy.” Geoff gestured towards the door. “her.”
Alison turned back to the figure in the doorway. “What about her?”
Geoff looked incredulous. The problem was obvious. He leaned forward and whispered “I can’t get rid of her. I can’t go home.”
Alison saw no need to lower her voice. “What do you mean, you can’t get rid of her? Who is she, anyway?”
“She’s one of our students.” Geoff gestured at her to whisper. “She came to complain about the Cell Biology lectures being cancelled. She says she pays £9000 a year for this and she’s staying here till I teach her. She won’t go. ”
Alison stared at him. “Don’t be ridiculous, Geoff.” She went over to the student. “I’m Alison Fraser, the course leader. I gather you’ve got a problem with the course. Why don’t you tell me about it? What’s your name?”
The student looked defiantly up at her. “Sue. I’m not going till I get my Cell Biology course. I’ve paid for it and the lecturer never turns up. ”
“Sue. I can understand why you’re upset.” Alison used her special, calm, tone. “I know this isn’t the best way to start your course, but we have had a particular problem with Cell Biology, and I’ve spent the last two days trying to sort it out.”
Alison cursed to herself. One of the things on her job list that she hadn’t got to was to email all of the first year students to tell them what had happened and what she was going to do about it. She’d got Alex on the case with trying to find a timetable slot so she could catch up for them, but he hadn’t got back to her with anything yet.
“Now, why don’t you get up and I can explain it all to you? It’s a bit difficult to chat when you’re sitting on the floor.”
Sue glared at her. “I’m not going until I’ve got my course.” She repeated.
Alison turned back to Geoff, who was watching them, rapt. “How long has she been here, Geoff?”
He looked at his watch. “Since quarter to five.” Alison sighed. He really was ineffectual. She crouched down to Sue’s level.
“Sue. You’ve been sitting there for two hours. You must be really uncomfortable. Why don’t you come with me and we’ll get a cup of coffee, and I’ll explain what’s happened. You do know that your lecturer, Gareth, died very suddenly?”
Sue looked shocked. “Gareth? But he’s so young. How did it happen?”
Alison stood up and held out a hand to Sue. “Come on. I’ll take you for a coffee and I’ll tell you all about it. I’m sorry we haven’t let you know. We only found out on Monday ourselves, and we’ve been concentrating on finding a replacement.”
Sue took her hand and let herself be pulled up. Alison glanced round at Geoff. “I’ll take it from here, Geoff. See you tomorrow.”
“Mmm.” Geoff looked crushed. “Thanks” he added, quietly, as they left the room.
Follow @wadingtreacle on Twitter, or like the Wading Through Treacle page on Facebook to be informed of updates, or click on ‘follow’ at the bottom of this screen to register for new episodes by email. Tomorrow’s episode: Working the Phones