“How could anyone do this” he thought, as he sat down by her beside. Waiting until she had sat up, he opened his notebook. “Mrs Dunnet, I do need to ask you a few questions, if you are up to talking?”
“And you are?” Grace Dunnet’s voice, though thin and cracked through the pain was abrupt, something that shocked the detective.
The man fumbled in his pocket for his card. “Detective Inspector McPherson” he said as he passed the card over. “She scrutinised it carefully with her black and swollen eyes, before putting it down on the bedspread. “Now, please, ” McPherson continued. “Can you tell me what happened?” he hoped his tone sounded as sympathetic as he intended.
Grace sighed, and fell back on the pillow. It was all her own fault, she was daft to ever think that she would be safe, that nothing would happen to her. She should have done what her daughter suggested, and moved away. Moved out of the estate in Tovil that had been her home for almost 40 years, left the memories of her husband and raising her family behind her, and moved into the granny flat that her Son-in law had built on the side of his substantial house in East Farleigh. On her refusal, he had let it out to some dammed immigrant farm workers. So there she was, stuck there, right in the midst of it all. Still, she never thought it would happen to her, despite everything.
“Mrs Dunnet” McPherson’s voice snapped her back into the present, and she eyed him up and down. “It is really important that you tell me everything” he continued. For his part, he was concerned. This was the third such attack on a pensioner in Tovil this past fortnight, the first had been fatal, an 87 year old man named Harry Tomlin, beaten to death as he unlocked his house after returning from a lunch club. The second, another man, Albert Grajecka, was still in a medically induced coma, and now this. At least Dunnet was conscious, and able to talk. If the three attacks were the work of one gang, links needed to be found. The prospect that the elderly were being targeted again filled the DI with dread.
“EH,as I keep telling everyone, I fell.” She snapped back.
“Please, I understand you might be frightened, but we can protect you Mrs Dunnet” McPherson replied.
“What do you want me to say, They were Darkies? Hoods over their faces? Wee Jordan Dace and his cronies? I fell, it happens at my age” she slumped back, as if that was too much effort.”Well?” DS Tommy Smith looked up as she saw the DI walk back into Maidstone Police Station. Smith was older than the Inspector by nearly two decades, and was looking forward to his retirement in a few months. He had risen to DS quite quickly, and had resisted all attempts to promote him, happy with his position. He now ran his fingers through his grey hair as he sat up from the computer screen, looking at McPherson with a quizzical look.
“So far, bugger all.” The DI replied ruefully. He opened his notebook, and scrutinised the contents carefully. “Like the other two, jumped as she was opening the door. Three youths, possibly IC3, hooded tops. Maybe that Dace kid, worth a pull at any rate” Any joy with witnesses?” he asked hopefully.
“Witnesses? from Neville road? Auditioning for open mic night down at the Swan are you?” Smith replied. The DI opened his mouth to say something about his flippancy, bit Smith carried on, in a more serious tone. “Jim, I’ve asked the neighbours, but no-one saw the attack. All people will say is they saw her on the ground, thought she had had a fall, so phoned the Ambulance. It was only because of the other two attacks that made the hospital actually bother to phone us.” He paused, and thumbed through the files on his desk.
“So, once again, we have nothing to go on. Three elderly people, violently robbed in the past week, and everyone is playing three wise monkeys. Honestly Tommy, some times, this society’s callousness winds me up.” He stormed over to make himself a coffee, trying to dissipate his anger. He was angry at a world where this sort of thing went on, and frustrated at his team’s complete failure to find anything close to any evidence pointing to perpetrators. As the kettle boiled, he filled his mug, and slammed the kettle back down, continuing to bang and crash about as he took milk from the small fridge, slamming the door.
Smith, used to his DI’s rages when things were going badly, ignored the noises from the kitchen area, and carried on reading through the report on his desk, the notes from the second attack. As he read carefully, his eyes widened, and he picked up the first report again, puzzled, he called out to the kitchen. “Sir, What was stolen?”
“Pardon?” McPherson said as he walked through into the office, his anger mollified somewhat by taking the aggression out on the kitchen cupboards. Putting his coffee down carefully on his desk, he walked over to the DS, and looked at the files that the older man had laid out on the desk, reading the reports that Smith had laid adjacent to each other.
“I said, what was stolen? Because, and this is what is now looking very bizarre, in the first two attacks, despite the front doors being open, no attempt was made to steal anything.”
“Could have been disturbed” McPherson interjected.”Mrs Dunnet’s attackers …” He tailed off, remembering the report of the woman who dialled 999.
“Exactly, all three, found on their doorsteps. No-one physically saw the assaults, or anyone fleeing the scene. Now” he paused, searching for a way to counter what he knew would be the DI’s objections. “You could argue that they were seen, your “wise monkey’s” argument, but would anyone watch an old man die just to keep silent? I mean, surely if they were seen, they would have called the ambulance quicker.”
“But, why do this if you are not going to steal anything?” McPherson asked, even more confused now. “Sickos getting kicks? I mean, surely, even if spotted, you would at least grab the old dear’s handbag as you ran, but you’re right,nothing was taken.” He sat down, coffee forgotten as he poured over the reports again.
Grace gingerly laid her head on the pillow of her hospital bed, and sighed deeply to herself. Once again, her own foolish pride had caught up with her. She should have seen this coming earlier, after that awful business with Harry and Albert. She could have phoned her daughter, and gone down for a visit for a few weeks, she knew Louise wouldn’t have minded, and her grand-boys would have loved to see her. Instead she did what she always did, kept her head down, and tried to muddle through, carrying on as if nothing had changed.
But, it all had changed, hadn’t it. She wasn’t the same woman as she had been back then, back in the sixties, back after that last prison stint for prostitution. For the life of her, she couldn’t remember when she had first met Harry Tomlin, She knew she had just come out of prison, but wasn’t sure whether it was ’62 or ’64. No, she thought to herself. It must have been ’64, as after she met up with him, down at the Bull where Ernie got her her old job back, she turned her back on the whoring, well, no-one wanted the older ones did they. Instead, Her and Harry explored other avenues, using a few contacts she had made inside, Harry happy to go along with whatever she wanted.
The coffee sat cold and forgotten on the desk as McPherson and Smith studied the printouts of the criminal records of the three Victims. On realising that nothing had been taken in either assault, and on the DI caving in to Smith’s insistence that they look for a connection between the three victims, he had started what he thought would be a fruitless task of using the police’s computerised record system first. Inputting their names, together with what he knew about their dates of birth, had uncovered what to him was a surprising series of convictions and connections dating between 1958 and 1973, as Smith poured through these, he got on the phone, chasing any old paperwork and investigations he could, getting them sent down from Scotland Yard to Maidstone as soon as possible.
“Jim, I wonder if I could have a word?” McPherson’s face fell as he saw his Superintendent walk into the office. He nodded, and followed the man across the hallway to his plush private office, feeling, not for the first time, like a naughty schoolboy summoned to the headmaster’s study over a transgression.
Once they had sat down, Jim gratefully accepting the proffered coffee, Challens stared at him over the top of his half moon reading glasses. “Now, Jim, I have authorised your, if I may say, slightly Bizarre request to Scotland Yard, but I wish you had kept me in the loop. I just hope you gain something from all this, though I doubt it. You should be concentrating on the usual motley crew of suspects, lord knows there is enough in the area”
McPherson paused, his cup halfway to his lips, as he inwardly groaned at the Super’s attitude. “Sir, the fact that, in all three cases, nothing was stolen, led us to wonder about motive. So we looked at the background just really to exclude any connection between the three, just to rule that out…”
Clutching at straws?” Challens interrupted rudely. As he sat back, steepling his fingers and pressing them to his lips. He sighed. The papers were already all over him for failing to catch those who had carried out the attacks, and he could imagine the vitriol that would be cast about when they found out the the Victims were being criminalised.
“Well, maybe this time sir, the right straws.” The DI replied, and proceeded to give his superior a rundown on what they had found out so far, Challens listened, his eyes widening as he realised that there was more to this case than met the eye.
“Thank you luv” Grace breathed as the nurse helped her back into bed. Letting the nurse fuss over her pillows, she couldn’t wondering whether they would be as keen to help and as quick to sympathise if the knew everything. Not that she herself was ashamed of anything she did, but people had different ideas about things, even in the so called liberal permissive era, people still drew funny lines over morality.
You see, that was the problem. It was the swinging sixties, the laws on drugs were toughening, which meant for people like her and Harry, there was money to be made. Not huge amounts, nothing like the big players, but enough to get by, enough to supplement her meagre income as a barmaid at The Bull, never short of customers there to ensure that she and Harry had a comfortable life. That was fine, to begin with. Then, things changed, She fell in with that Pole, Albert,and that Jimmy Dunnet and they broadened out. She sat back and remembered the rows they had about it. How he just wanted things to stay how they were, but how she talked him into it.
At first, it went well. Harry, Albert and Jimmy, hit the Peters Gang before they knew what had happened, and made off with the proceeds from the armoured car robbery that the Peter’s gang had carried out.. Jimmy had used his contacts to get the money into the system later that day, the laws on that sort of thing being laxer back then. Then it started, the threats from Big Billy, The Bull being targeted by what the police described as “ruffians” the blame put onto the Mods and Rockers that dominated the news headlines. She knew better, and made the decision that the Peters gang had to be taken out.
“…and that is what the two Male victims went down for” McPherson continued his briefing, pleased to see a representative from Serious and Organised in attendance. Grajecka and Tomlin got thirty years apiece for the murders, while cases against Grace and the other one, er,” He studied his notes for a second, “Jimmy Dunnet”
“Grace’s late husband” Smith added for clarification
“Yes, they married a year later,” added McPherson “Needless to say, they were deemed innocent, got married, and moved away, buying a house in Tovil with presumably,the, now nicely laundered, proceeds from the robbery.”
Jane Birstall, the representative from S & O, looked at him for a moment. “So are you suggesting that your cases are linked to this, forty years a a long time to get revenge, and what the hell has it got to do with us? These events are years old. This is cold case, not my concern.” She stood huffily, and went to leave the room. “Thank-you for wasting my time Inspector.”
“If you just wait a second, SARGENT Birstall” McPherson snapped back, I think you will find that this is highly relevant to some of your existing casework. Let me fill you in on some other background.”
“Well, This had better be good” Birstall snapped back, sitting down grudgingly.
Grace stared at the plate of food in front of her, wondering how she was going to be able to manage with one arm out of action. She sighed as she remembered the reason why she married Jimmy. She didn’t see that she had any choice if she was going to keep her hands on the money, and she knew that he had taken a shine to her.
After a few years of living in the flat above the Bull, they moved out to Maidstone, into a new estate that was built, and she had her Lou. Not that Lou was her first born, but the first one that she was in a position to keep, her two elder children, born over a decade earlier, were adopted out after her first jail sentence.
It was Jimmy who bought the other houses, slowly, letting them out until Harry and Albert were released in the early part of this decade, and they moved in, the promise to “see them right” for not grassing never forgotten. He had the brains for that sort of thing, and his job in the estate agent in town gave him access to all sorts of things. It was her, however, who was in control of their other properties, those used as Marijuana farms, spread through various places in Kent. Oh, some had been raided down the years, but no-one ever suspected the Dunnet’s involvement, such were they able to work the system. They never got involved in the drugs themselves anymore, unlike during the sixties. The crops were sold on to a dealer network, the money Jimmy laundered through his connections.
“I’ve checked the records myself,” McPherson said, looking directly at Birstall. “Over the past 30 years, fifteen raids have been carried out on Marijuana growers in Chatham, Tonbridge and Maidstone, all on properties owned by the Dunnets. Just nothing to put together as a pattern until now. I have spent a sleepless night looking at all the paperwork from the last few, and there are some names being mentioned that do concern you, ” He passed his handwritten notes over to her, noting her interest spike as she read the names to herself.
“Well,” She said, new admiration in her voice, looking at McPherson. “I think we had better re-interview this Mrs Dunnet.
Half an hour later, they were sitting at Grace’s bedside, McPherson’s earlier sympathy for the woman being replaced almost wholly with the revulsion he cast on career criminals. “Well, would you like to tell us now?” He asked.
Under his stare, Grace lost the helpless old woman act, her face hardened, and she looked away from them for a moment. “Well,” She said after a while, “Harry and Albert weren’t satisfied with a rent free house, they reckoned we owed em more, they wanted a cut in on our business. But, see, it wasn’t our business to cut ’em in on, we was working for who we were always working for.”
“The Fratelli’s” interjected Birstall.
“Exactly. The hit on the Peter’s gang, that was our way in see, only Albert and Harry got done for it.” She paused, and with difficulty, took a sip from her water. “So, where was I, oh yeah, They wanted a cut, or they would go to the police, and, well, with Jimmy having died of the big C, there was only me to say, so I made a few calls, got things sorted.”
“The attacks on Tomlin and Grajecka” McPherson replied. Grace nodded, taking another sip from her glass. “But, that doesn’t explain what happened to you, Why you were attacked?”
Grace sighed, throwing her good arm into the air, a sort of shrug. “It was YOU that insisted I had been attacked Inspector. As I have kept trying to say, I fell. I have not been myself these past few weeks, and I got dizzy.” She paused, and stared above the officers heads, “Mind you, I won’t get prison, will I, I mean, not at my age, they won’t send an sweet old lady like me down.”