Oooh boy… This case just keeps getting weirder and weirder. Long story short, it wasn’t a jaguar, it was a hyena! So, now determined to find whoever did this at all costs, Proctor and Gershwin are headed for what appears to be the centre of the madness, St Blaise’s Church.
HEAR ME ROAR
EXHIBIT D: HYENA HYENA
I staggered out into the farmyard, feeling just as sick as I had done when I first looked at Gordon Gloucester’s remains. Keeping a jaguar I might have just been able to understand… In a warped way they are cuddly, adorable, lovable. There is something graceful and beautiful about them. It is a deadly beauty, but quite often the most beautiful things are deadly. I could just about justify to myself the idea that somebody might want to keep a jaguar for a pet, but a hyena? What twisted mind looks at a hyena and thinks they’re beautiful or cool or in any way a nice animal? For a start they look like someone crossbred a dog with a pig but then they open their mouths and start smiling in a way that makes them look like the craziest gangsters on the savannah. That’s before I even get to the wide eyed, evil glare. You can’t read them, can’t tell what they’re thinking. Many animals have been claimed to have been sent by the devil, but hyenas are, in my opinion the most likely to be his minions.
“Are you alright Mr Proctor?” Faulkner had followed me out and she was carrying a drink of some sort.
“Yes… I’ll be over it in a second… A hyena? A God damned hyena? Somebody out there, in my city has a fucking hyena!” I didn’t even want to say the rest of it. All of a sudden feeding a corpse to a jaguar looked positively normal when compared to this. This was sick, it was deluded.
“I’ve brought you a brandy if you want it,” Faulkner offered.
“No… Thank you. I’m driving…”
Gershwin came around the corner and saw us both. She froze and looked nervous.
“What’s going on?”
“Not a jaguar. A hyena!”
“A HYENA?” Gershwin nearly fell over. “We’ve got to sort this sir… Today… Before somebody else gets hurt.”
“I agree,” I said, trying to regain some composure. I turned to Doctor Faulkner and smiled, shaking her by the hand. “Doctor Faulkner, thank you for all your help. It’s been a pleasure. I’ll give you a call about that shop in Stoke.”
I hastened to the car and had my seatbelt on and the engine ready before Gershwin had even got to the door. Now was not the time for Whitney so I cut the CD player as soon as it started up.
“Is the next stop St Blaise’s, sir?”
“Yes. This… I don’t even know what this is anymore… Whatever it is it has become sick and twisted and somehow the would be Jeremy Beadle is wrapped up in it all, as is St Blaise’s church.”
“That Doctor Faulkner as well,” Gershwin suggested. I gave her a puzzled glance. “Did she look like she’d been in Brazil to you?”
“Maybe she doesn’t tan. Or perhaps she’s been so busy inside the conference centre that she hasn’t had a chance to sunbathe. Did you find anything in the outbuildings?”
“Not a thing, though they’d be the perfect place to keep something like a hyena. Don’t you find it suspicious that she had the number for someone who knew what we were looking at?”
“She’s a wild animal expert. She has contacts. Unless you’re suggesting that her friend Professor Ingwe is involved as well?”
“Could be. How do we know he’s really in Cape Town?”
“We don’t… I suppose…”
“Precisely. And she knew about Hobb. She knew about Hobb!”
“Her niece, as she said,” I protested. “And where’s the connection to Gordon Gloucester? To St Blaise’s church?”
“She could be a parishioner.” She could… But trying to tie Doctor Faulkner into this was never going to work. “You fancied her as well.”
“And that makes her guilty?”
“Not denying it then?”
“No… How did you know anyway?”
“You had a misty look in your eyes the whole time you were there, from the moment she opened the door. And as for when she opened that mug cupboard… You could go off to that shop in Stoke as a first date!” Gershwin was being particularly mocking so I tried to ignore her. “Well… You could take her there but it would have to be before you arrested her for feeding Gloucester to a hyena.”
“We don’t know it was her!” Gershwin folded her arms and stared out the window in absolute silence. Something had put a bee up her bonnet all of a sudden. She had latched onto Faulkner as a suspect and, ignoring all evidence, had decided she was the one. It was a bad way to do policing. You’ve got to keep an open mind. Everyone is innocent until the evidence categorically confirms them as guilty.
Less than ten minutes later we pulled up outside St Blaise’s church, one of those red, Cheshire sandstone monoliths, not a particularly beautiful looking church, but old and with a cemetery that was packed with tumble down tombstones and long grass. The main thing I didn’t like about it was that the builders hadn’t been able to decide if they wanted a tower or a spire and so tried to combine the two. They failed and the church had ended up looking as though a Soviet observation post had been tacked onto one end.
Greensborough Dewdrop was walking the path to the door and turned around when he heard my car pull up to the pavement. He lifted himself up onto his tiptoes to see who it was and he recognised me instantly. I saw his face twist into a downward sneer and then he came striding towards us, a nasty pounce in his step.
“Simon Proctor… To what do I owe this intrusion?” I stood up as tall as I could, towering over that horrible little man.
“Let’s see… How about we start with the fact that your church appears to be at the centre of some very nasty business involving an animal, one of your recently deceased parishioners and a Jeremy Beadle wannabe who goes to the nom-de-plume of Ubi-Hobb-Throb. I’m hoping you can tell me what is going on.”
“Ubi-Hobb-Throb? Is he that disgusting little wretch that was prowling around my churchyard the other day?”
“You know damn well he is,” I responded. “You know damn well because, just maybe, one of your young female parishioners has told you about him… Or maybe you spend your evenings keeping up wid da kidz and watching popular internet videos… Or, just maybe, his disgusted cameraman told you!” That last one caused a twitch above Dewdrop’s left eyebrow, exactly the sign I was looking for.
“I didn’t speak to that other… person.” Dewdrop spat as he spoke. “All I know is what Hobb shouted at him after he dropped the camera.”
“And what did he shout?”
“He said he was going to get him, said he was going to bring him down. Called him Icepicks.”
“What day was this?” Gershwin jumped in. “The day Hobb turned up and started throwing dung, I mean.”
“It was two days ago… We’d just buried someone very dear to us, to myself and Timmy.”
“And that’s why you both looked upset on the video?”
“You’ve seen it?” Dewdrop looked frightened.
“Yes. Hobb uploaded it last night, in complete breach of his bail conditions.” Dewdrop mumbled something about Hobb being a little shit, definitely unpriestly behaviour. “The person you buried… It was Gordon Gloucester?” Dewdrops’s eyes bulged from his sockets.
“Gloucester was a very dear friend of mine. His death was an absolute… An absolute piece of… A travesty! I told him to buy a new boiler but he kept saying he’d keep it till it broke. Well it did break and it killed him.”
“Mr Dewdrop, may we go inside the church? We have some hard news for you.”
“No. You may not come into my church. If you have anything to say you can say it out here.”
“Very well… The reason Hobb came to our attention was that he was attempting to sniff around a crime scene for video views.”
“Typical! I hope you throw the book at the little… person.”
“You seem particularly animus towards Hobb,” Gershwin snarled.
“He threw dung at me. Of course I’m animus towards him… And he threw dung at Timmy. He was completely shell shocked by the incident. It was made worse by the fact that we had just buried Gordon.”
“Did many people come to the funeral? Any other parishoners?”
“It was myself, Timmy and a few of our WI ladies. That was all.”
“And you are absolutely sure that you buried him, two days ago… That he was in the coffin that went into the ground?”
“Yes. Of course… Why wouldn’t he be?”
“This crime scene Hobb was sniffing around… Somebody had dumped Gloucester’s chewed up remains in the middle of the city centre.”
“Impossible,” Dewdrop scoffed. “He was in that coffin. He was in our crypt overnight… He wanted to spend his last night here, before going up to heaven.”
“And you couldn’t resist a peek?”
“It was an open casket.”
“I see… May we look at this crypt? Just round the back isn’t it?”
Before Dewdrop could protest I had wandered off across the churchyard, through the tumbledown graves, looking for any sign of a recent burial along the way. There was one, unmarked, in the far corner, where there was a clean cut oblong of finely raked and pressed down soil. The last resting place of, something, but not Gordon Gloucester. In the nearby distance I could hear drilling, building work, the sound of rubble being thrown into a skip. Interesting.
“What time was the funeral, if you don’t mind me asking?” Gershwin interrogated. She and Dewdrop were following me across the churchyard.
“Half ten in the morning. Not that it is of any consequence.”
“And the Hobb incident was shortly afterwards? Before mid-day?”
“Yes. I believe so.”
“You believe so?” Gershwin stopped, stunned. “You only believe so? You can’t remember when somebody threw a steaming turd at you?”
“It was before midday, yes.”
“You don’t sound too certain of that, Mr Dewdrop.” Dewdrop did not say anything, as was unfortunately his right.
I had by now reached the entrance to the crypt. All there was in the way of a door was a metal grating and beyond that some tricksy looking steps which someone might easily slip down. There looked to be no latch or lock on the grating.
“Couldn’t anyone have got down here in the night? How do you keep this door secure?”
“There is a padlock,” Dewdrop sniffed snobbishly.
“If there’s a padlock then where is it?” I searched the grass that was growing around the corners of the crypt entrance to see if it had fallen off. There was no sign of it. “Mr Dewdrop… When did you last see Gloucester’s body? Answer very carefully… Because somehow Gloucester’s body ended up in the centre of Chester less than twenty four hours after he was supposedly buried. Now either somebody came here, in the dead of night, with a spade, and dug him up or they took his body from this crypt and you buried something else.”
“What else would I bury, Mr Proctor?” I pointed in the direction of the drilling noise.
“That? Building rubble! Wouldn’t be too difficult for someone to go skip diving in order to replace the body with an equal weight.”
I swung open the grate and started downwards into the crypt. These steps were awkward, old and treacherous. It was hard to imagine any funeral directors would be willing to allow their staff to carry a coffin down here. I also reasoned that they might have a few things to say about the matter of security.
Nor was it a very nice crypt. It was dark, dingy, and there was a torrid smell. The only light was dim, filtered through some old and cracked stained glass high up on one wall. There was no way anybody who knew this place would want to spend their last night down here, dead or alive. Anyone who wanted to spend their last night in the church would definitely prefer to be above, in the main building.
“Gloucester was kept down here overnight, was he?” Dewdrop uttered not a sound. Gershwin took a wander around, examining the place, and then stepped in something.
“I’m not buying it,” she admitted, trying to see what was on her shoe. “No funeral director would bring a coffin down here. It’s too damp, too smelly…” I heard a derisive snort from Dewdrop.
Returning back to the light of the churchyard, I watched as Gershwin started wiping her shoe against the long grass that was by the entrance to the crypt. She began muttering something about dog shit. There was more of it in the grass near one of the graves, I noticed.
“Why is your churchyard so full of poo, Mr Dewdrop?” I rounded.
“Some disgusting local I shouldn’t wonder… Walking their dog around the church and not cleaning up after it.”
“They’ve got into the crypt as well as by the look of it,” Gershwin cursed. “Seriously… You need a lock on that thing.” Seeing that her wiping was doing little good she removed the shoe. It was covered in a lot of poo.
“Whoever owns that dog, it must have a serious diarrhoea problem!”
“Have you quite finished here?” Dewdrop demanded.
“No. We haven’t. There’s the matter of how Gordon Gloucester’s body ended up in the city centre to work out. We’d also like to speak to your son about the incident with Jessie Hobb.”
“No. I refuse,” Dewdrop defied.
“You have no choice, Mr Dewdrop.” That was not strictly true, though I didn’t want to tell him that. Seeing as he had no good reason to refuse and was just being obstructive, I thought it for the best if I overruled him.
“You cannot interview a minor without a consenting adult present,’ Dewdrop complained.
“No, Mr Dewdrop. Just an adult. Doesn’t have to be consenting.” You didn’t even need that, if I was being absolutely honest, though it does usually help.
“I’ll have your badge for this you low born scoundrel,” Dewdrop threatened.
“Great! Early retirement will suit me just fine,” I deflected. “Now… Is Timothy in the church?” A petulant look from Dewdrop signified that he was.
I headed straight for the church, defying Dewdrop’s protests. This may not have been entirely appropriate behaviour, overriding the wishes of a member of the public and what not, but I wasn’t going to back down in the face of this awful man. I wanted to see him suffer, to see him flounce about and whinge and cry that I was abusing my authority. It gave me a kick, a thrill, and I didn’t much care if he made an official complaint. The expression on Gershwin’s face, she was now holding her dirty shoe and hobbling behind myself and Dewdrop, said that she would back me to the hilt. Dewdrop was an obsequious, bully with a superiority complex. The further he was brought down the better, in my opinion.
Timothy, or Timmy as Dewdrop the Elder insisted upon calling him, was absolutely the opposite. If I hadn’t known, and if they hadn’t both had the same kind of fat, squashed nose and pointy chin, I’d have bet money that the late Madame Dewdrop had once had a fling with the man who comes to read the gas meter. He was sat on the floor of the church, sorting through a bag of papers and arranging them in piles.
“Timmy,” Dewdrop the Elder puffed. “This gentleman is from the police. He’d like to talk to you about what happened the other day with that… that person throwing the poo!” Timothy smiled up at me and nodded. I sat down on the floor beside him, not a wise thing to do at my age for there was every chance I might not be able to get back up again, and looked at the papers he was sorting. They all appeared to be drawings, some of them good and some of them awful.
“These are all from Mr Gloucester’s animal club,” Timothy explained. “I’m finding the best so I can make a display.” He didn’t take his eyes of the pictures or stop sorting through them.
“I like this one,” I pointed to a darn good one of a hedgehog snuffling through some leaves. Timothy smiled and moved it onto another of the piles.
“Yes. I like that one too.” He showed me one that he had put to the side of him. “This was mine.” The picture was a kind of ‘Noah’s Ark’ tableaux, with kangaroos and tigers and Zebras and an awful lot of dogs.
“Do you like dogs?” I asked him.
“Oh yes. I love dogs. I love all animals.”
“Did Mr Gloucester like animals too?” Timothy nodded.
“Mr Gloucester loved animals… He bred hedgehogs… And dogs.’ Dewdrop coughed from where he had arranged himself on the nearest pew.
“If you could keep this brief, Mr Proctor,” he snarled.
“Timothy… When your father discovered Mr Gloucester’s body… Were you there as well?”
“Yes. It wasn’t very nice.” I decided not to dwell on that subject.
“And the boy who threw poo at you the other day? Do you know who he was?”
“Yes. Isherwood told me.”
“Isherwood… He was very kind. He helped us after the boy threw the poo. He made sure we were alright.”
“Was Isherwood the cameraman?” Timothy gave a slow nod.
“Do you know what his last name was?”
“Spicks,” Timothy said clearly. Isherwood Spicks… Of course… I. Spicks… Icepicks! With a name that unusual he wouldn’t be difficult to find.
“One more question Timothy, if you don’t mind… The night before you buried him… Where was Gordon Gloucester’s coffin?” I saw there was a sudden terror in his eyes, as though some great beast had just caught him.
“He was in the crypt,” he told me, uncertainly, unconfidently. I let it drop. Instead of pressing the matter further I picked my creaking bones up from the floor and made for the exit of the church, Dewdrop the Elder and Gershwin hobbling behind.
“I trust this will be the last I’ll be seeing of you, Mr Proctor?” Dewdrop grumbled as I reached the car.
“Not on your nelly Mr Dewdrop. I’ll be back with an exhumation order as soon as I get one. I want to make sure Gordon Gloucester isn’t in his grave.” There was a worried and angry expression upon Dewdrop’s face.
Back in the car Gershwin held up her poo covered shoe.
“Do you have a bag I can put this in?” I pointed to the glove box where I kept a stash of spare evidence bags.
“I don’t believe him about the local with the diarrhoea dog,” I said as we drove off.
“You think it was the hyena? A hyena with diarrhoea?”
“Think about this… Gordon Gloucester… His body was taken from the church, according to Dewdrop. So… Either somebody took his body away to be eaten by the hyena, or the hyena was there.”
“Interesting theory sir. But why did the hyena have diarrhoea?”
“That I do not know… But there is one definite way to find out if my theory is correct. If we get Pearson to analyse the poo on your shoe he might be able to find out if it came from a hyena or a dog.”
“He’s going to love that!” Gershwin drawled.
“After having to stare at Gloucester’s body a bit of hyena poo is going to be like living in paradise,” I fired back.
Gloucester’s home address was our final call. Tarvin was quiet, dead, nobody around, exactly as a suburban village should be at that time in the morning. The only people walking around were old ladies with tartan shopping trolleys and they paid us very little heed, just went about their day as though it were normal to see a third rate sports car driving past them.
As Gershwin and I pulled up to the pavement the first thing we clapped eyes on was Gloucester’s car, a twenty year old Hyundai Excel. It was parked incredibly badly, half across the lawn and half on the drive, as though whoever had put it there had been in a rush. From what little I knew, Gloucester didn’t seem the type to park in such a haphazard way, especially not over his own drive. He seemed like the sort of man who, even if he were flustered or hurrying, would make sure he parked dead straight and proper. I confirmed this by peering through the window of the front room. Everything was neat and ordered, very tidy. The carpets were clean, there was no litter or magazines or anything left lying around. There was a place for everything and everything was in its place.
I headed back to the car, got down on my knees and looked underneath. The ground was wet, very wet, not bone dry as it ought to have been.
Gershwin, meanwhile, had decided to go diving through Gloucester’s bins. Last week had been a recycling collection so the waste was almost full. From the bin she pulled a small white bag enclosing another small white bag within which was yet more, by now very smelly and very mouldy, poo. Gershwin did not look happy about holding it.
“Detective Sergeant Gershwin,” I said, getting up off the ground and wiping myself down, “we are going to need a search warrant.”
Two hours, a trip up to Blacon to deposit both Gershwin’s poo shoe and the bag found in the bin, and we were back with Pearson, the warrant and a few uniforms to keep what few people there were at bay. We gained entry by way of a neighbour who had a spare key.
It is never comfortable, entering the empty house of somebody who has recently died. All their possessions are still there, exactly where they last left them. The ghost of the person is still hanging around. It is not like they’ve died at all, it’s like they’ve gone on holiday and they might come through the door at any moment. At such times I always feel like an intruder, like I’m not supposed to be there. Most police work I enjoy, even if some of it is in a perverted way, but entering the homes of the deceased is never enjoyable. It’s the part of the job which I hate the most.
“What are we looking for?” Pearson asked, shining a UV torch around the place. There were smudged fingerprints on everything.
“Signs of a hyena and of somebody who isn’t Gloucester.”
“Somebody who isn’t Gloucester might be difficult. This place will have been trudged through by police and paramedics when they found the body.”
“True… But I suspect there will be something more recent than that.”
We headed up the stairs, looking through a notepad by the telephone along the way. There was a phone number, the name Bathsheeba Badoing, and underneath an underlined ‘Cheshire Wildlife Trust,’ on the first page. Most of the rest of the upstairs was nothing; a bedroom, a room full of junk, the bathroom. There was the study, however, and Pearson immediately moved to examine the keyboard.
“If this is where the tweet to Hobb was sent from, the prints of whoever sent this…” He snapped on a pair of gloves and immediately began extracting the top layer of prints.
“Mightn’t whoever sent the tweet have sent it from their own mobile?”
“Possible, D.S Gershwin, possible. But they’d have first had to access Gloucester’s account, even if it was just to get the password.”
Whilst he was getting on with the job I checked all the upstairs windows for sign of forced entry. They were all locked from the inside and all opened only a tiny smish, barely enough to squeeze a hand through. Finding no sign of entry, I went to check downstairs, being careful not to touch anything, and found not a sign. Whoever had been in here obviously had a key of some kind.
By the kitchen sink I noticed a glass, empty apart from the dregs of some brown liquid. I left it for Pearson to take a look at and instead took a gander in the fridge. On the top shelf was an unappetising, cling filmed bowl of raw meat. It resembled beef. More interesting was the milk in the shelf on the door. This was fresh, so fresh that it might have been bought two days ago. It was three days ago actually, as I discovered by opening the pedal bin next to the back door. There was a receipt lying on the top of a lot of rotting vegetable peelings. Gordon Gloucester certainly didn’t buy that milk, though it was local, bought from a shop on Tarvin High Street. Whoever had bought it also smoked as they’d bought a packet of cigarettes as well.
Though a small thing, this was more useful than all the fingerprints and DNA evidence in the world. That shop would have CCTV and with a time stamped receipt I could finger and identify exactly who had bought this milk and those cigarettes.
I showed the receipt to Pearson who was coming down the stairs. He sniffed it.
“Has this been in the bin? Christ, I don’t envy your job one bit Simon. I may have to prod through mouldering corpses but at least I don’t have to go rooting through bins! Did you find anything else?”
“Glass of something by the sink. The milk from that receipt… Not much else.”
“Have you tried the garage?”
Pearson went for a door between the kitchen and the hall. It was locked, but it didn’t take long to find the key in a draw. The light switched on, both of us sighed. There wasn’t much in here apart from three cat carrying cages, all open, and a couple of dog bowls that were filled with stagnant waters. Pearson discovered some strands of fur that had got caught in one of the cage doors and started bagging it up.
“DNA testing should tell us if this matches the poo.”
“Bit small for a hyena these,” I pointed out. I was starting to look through a chest freezer in the corner of the room. There seemed to be an awful lot of beef in there, a staggering amount.
“Could have had them for when the hyena was a puppy… Or whatever you call young hyenas.”
“Then why are there three of them?”
“Sir…” Gershwin was in the door waving a portable sat nav. “Found this in the glove box of the car.”
“The last journey?”
“The last journey!” She started playing with the buttons and came up with a history. Two days ago that sat nav had been programmed with a journey from our present location to the back of Crook Street. The strange thing was the time, half seven in the evening, definitely before Gloucester’s body had been dumped. I passed the sat nav to Pearson.
“That can’t be right. Either you’re looking at a dead end or somebody trying to clever.”
“My money is on somebody trying to be clever. Have you checked the boot yet?”
“Allow me,” Pearson offered, leaving by way of the garage door.
Gershwin tossed him the keys and Pearson, hands in pockets, strode to the back of the car. He froze for a second after unlocking the boot and left it hanging a millimetre from springing up.
“This is going to be bad,” he warned.
That boot was covered with small, half chewed up bits of Gordon Gloucester.
NEXT WEEK: Jessie Hobb… Andrew Parsons… Greensborough Dewdrop… Timothy Dewdrop… Isherwood Spicks… Or, perhaps, Caroline Faulkner? Which one of them did the deed? Find out in the grand denouement of Hear Me Roar: EXHIBIT E: Suus ‘Iustus A Ludo, Brah
Image from phenomena.nationalgeographic.com