Thursday, 24 July 2008

Episode 58 - One death too many

Comandante Goito Arroyo Lopez walked out of the police station and into the bar and lit his first cigarette of the day. Whatever he told his wife Isbel, he was still going to enjoy this cigarette with his morning brandy after all how was he supposed to think without nicotine? It was bad enough that the police station was now smoke free without being deprived of his morning hit in the bar. And this morning he felt that he really needed something to help him with the latest death in the village.

Two incomers dead in as many months, his Coronel was starting to ask questions, even the English speaking press were getting in on the act. He needed to clear up these cases and quickly before they started reporting the area as the latest crime hot spot.

Sonny Langford’s murder had seem fairly straightforward at first, a violent robbery late at night that went horribly wrong. Sure his boss had been surprised when he’d found out that Michael and Sonny had been lovers but as far as the English were concerned nothing surprised Goito any more. Isbel accused him of being cynical about foreigners but Goito said he was only being realistic. There were as many different types of Englishmen as there were pebbles on the beach, so anything they did was only to be expected.

But the Russians they were different. The gangs that had moved into the area were running brothels and drugs down on the coast. So to Goito it seemed a natural progression for them to move into muggings and murder. Well let them stay on the coast we don’t want their sort around here.

The old lady’s death was different though. According to her friends and neighbours she was a quiet and law abiding soul. When they first examined the body, the detectives were convinced that she was merely the victim of a tragic accident. It appeared to them that she had slipped in the hall breaking her ankle and that when she had tried to stand she must have fallen again, this time hitting her head with fatal consequences. But not all her friends were so sure and Senora Hale had some friends in very high places.

Goito Arroyo had been assigned to investigate by the Coronel personally. Apparently there had been phone calls from London to some very senior members of the Civil Guard expressing concern that the old lady’s death shouldn’t be dismissed as an accident.

So here he was, as if he didn’t have enough on his plate with the Langford murder, he now had to investigate the old lady’s death too. Sipping his brandy and lighting his second cigarette Goito opened the autopsy report that the pathologist had sent over to him earlier.

Wading through the medical jargon it didn’t take Goito long to realise that the old lady’s friends were right. Clara Hale hadn’t died as a result of her fall. The pathologist was convinced that his investigations proved that she had been suffocated. Her mouth and nose had been covered, probably by a hand until she had stopped breathing.

The Comandante looked up from the report and sighed. He had promised Isbel that he would be home early tonight, she wanted to go and visit her father for his birthday and the old man was expecting them for his party at eight o’clock. His shoulders stooped as he walked out of the bar, not many things scared Goito but his wife’s anger when she realised that he would be working late yet again, was enough to make the toughest of men afraid to go home.

Back at his desk and fortified by the nicotine and alcohol, Goito called his officers into a meeting. What he need now was as much information as his detectives had managed to gather about both cases.

Around the room one of the junior detectives has been compiling a story board of all the evidence from Sonny’s road-side murder and this seemed as good a point as any to start from. Seeing the timeline of the investigation in front of him trigged something in the detective’s memory. Buried somewhere in all this was a link to both these cases, he just knew it.

‘Comandante, the Colonel wants to see you.’ Goito turned from the board and snarled at the young officer who had broken into his train of thought.

‘Can’t you see I’m busy’ he snapped

‘I’m sorry sir but the Colonel says that he needs to see you urgently.’

Goito grabbed his jacket and stormed up to his boss’s office ‘You wanted to see me Colonel.’

‘Yes Comandante Arroyo, come in. Please let me introduce Mr Justin Crowther. Mr Crowther is here about the death of the English woman Senora Hale. He thinks that he might be able to help you with your investigations.’

Goito glared at the Englishman, that’s all I need he thought a British Bobby telling me where I’m going wrong.

Justin Crowther uncrossed his long legs and stood to shake Goito’s hand ‘Comandante I’m very pleased to me you. Please sit down, the Colonel has very kindly offered me the use of his office for the rest of the day.’ Taking this as his cue to leave, the senior policeman hurriedly picked up his briefcase and left the room.

‘You must be a very senior policeman to have my Colonel being so generous with his office.

‘No, Comandante Arroyo, I’m not a police officer at all. I work for the British Government, the intelligence service to be precise.’

‘Goito looked stunned ‘Why is British Intelligence concerned about the death of an old woman in southern Spain?’ He asked

‘Because Clara Hale was one of us, retired of course but none the less we still like to think that we can look after our own, no matter how old they are.’

It took Crowther nearly two hours and several cups of strong coffee to tell Goito about Clara’s history in the service and when Goito thought that he couldn’t be any more surprised Crowther dropped the final bombshell.

‘A couple of months ago I had a late night phone call from Clara. She was worried that an old colleague of ours from another government department had recognised her. You must understand in our line of work the last thing any of our retirees need is to be recognised. As a policeman you know better than most that there are some very dangerous people out there. People who would pay dearly for information about an agent who they might hold responsible for, shall we say, some past indiscretion.’

Goito’s mind was whirling with everything he had learnt about the woman who had fooled her friends into believing that she was just a poor old spinster living out her final years in the sun. Could it be that she too had been a victim of the mysterious eastern European that had attacked Sonny. How ever mad it might sound, could there really be a Russian hit man on the loose in his patch?

‘You said that she had recognised somebody from her past. Did she tell you who it was?’ He asked

‘Yes she did’ said Crowther ‘it was Michael Angers. Sonny Langford’s lover. So now you understand why I thought I could help.’

‘Yes Senor Crowther, I understand a lot. I think that I should have another little chat with our Senor Angers but this time I think that it will be him that will need a lawyer.’