“You can go in now” The staff nurse said quietly to the detective waiting outside the room. “Just be careful not to stress her too much” she cautioned. He followed her in, looking in horror at the elderly woman on the bed. Her face unrecognisable behind it’s patina of bruises, her wrist in plaster, her arm in a sling. He watched as she tried to push herself up the bed, saw her wincing in pain, as if every slight movement caused her unimaginable amounts of pain.
“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.
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.
“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.
“…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 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.
“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.
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.