“I know it’s funny after all these years but every time I walk on the streets, I feel to be abroad and home, at the same time. It’s like… love.”
“Could you please answer the question miss Kulmane?” detective Gillespie interrupted the young woman, although he felt guilty. It wasn’t the first time they’ve met however the very first occasion he was listening. Interesting, he noticed before, he thought eastern women used more make-up but Illa Kulmane seemed to break that habit.
“Sorry detective.” Illa went on, rubbing her skull under the half-long light brown hair. “as I have said before when I reported Martina was missing, she was a little bit lost in this country, since she has spent almost the entire time with her clients. She seemed to be happy as a live-in carer, I mean she was quite an introvert person. She used to say paid isolation was exactly what she wanted.”
Detective Gillespie focused on Illa’s voice; his ears had to get used to the East-European accent, shadowed by the face covering. Rolling through the files he was searching the right questions, after three months of utter disinterest. Well, to be at the fair side, it was a professional disinterest. When Illa Kulmane came to the police claiming her friend, another migrant worker went missing his department took indeed the extra mile. Miss Kulmane wasn’t a close relative nor they have lived in the same household yet detective Gillespie instructed his people to look into the case. Martina Komárová left her client’s house for a planned holiday and she didn’t return. “You never know with these girls.” The agency manager has said on the phone. “Sometimes they go home and never come back, sometimes they find a boyfriend or another employment. We can’t look after them unless they are around.”
Illa popped in every week for news on the case; it was getting annoying until last night when a decomposed female body was found in the district. It’s rather embarrassing now.
“Miss Kulmane” Gillespie released a long, heavy breath leaving a drivelling stain inside his mask. “I would be pleased if you would assist during the investigation as the most valuable witness so far.”
“Of course detective.” Illa replied.
Gillespie reached his hand out then the hand sanitiser towering in the middle of the table stopped him. “Khm…” he stood up “Brilliant. My assistant will look after the necessary paperwork, since this is a confidential case.” he escorted Illa out, and while he instructed his administrator the detective could see the awkward headlines evaporating of his mind. The last thing the police needed these days was a whipped up public interest with opponent camps. A female East-European worker in a low-paid job found dead after month of negligence. Chill ran through Gillespie’s spine; he unconsciously sympathised with the spoke person and feared the independent committee. Huhh, this was over now. He was in charge.
He went to the vending machine for a watery tea with plenty of sugar. As Illa passed by the reception a man turned after her, following the slim figure in nurse uniform with his eyes. Gillespie wouldn’t find this interesting at all, if the man wasn’t the next in the queue to provide information about the victim.
“Mr Hewitt?” Gillespie stepped closer to the sporty man, just before the strike of the years. “May you follow me?”
Hewitt, dragged back to the realm, poked his pocket awkwardly for his face mask. The shy half-smile drew a hole on his cheek and Gillespie felt an instant urge to reach for the handcuff. Instinct, as he nicknamed the instinctive jealousy.
They sit in the office, spartan and tasteless yet it wasn’t that box seen in films. Hewitt’s face turned in grey listening the detective. A homeless man found Martina’s body behind the railway station thirty miles away, in an abandoned warehouse. She was hit on the skull, probably with a concrete block and strangled. Her backpack was rummaged, but cash and documents weren’t missing.
“When have you seen Martina the last time?” Gillespie left no room for processing the situation.
“Martina…” Hewitt mumbled. “I thought she had enough of us.” his palm covered his face.
“When?” the detective asked again.
“About three month ago, around the spring holiday.” Hewitt sighed. “She looked after my grandmother and she used to take a week off every eight-ten weeks. Sometimes she travelled abroad, I thought she was doing that.” he looked at the detective “When she didn’t come back, I phoned the agency.” he paused.
Gillespie waited. The story was unfinished. “And?” he asked when Hewitt fell in silence.
“They sent another carer.” he replied dryly, his glance running up and down the worn furniture. “I didn’t know…” he added wryly. “She was such a nice person, soft and smart. Why would anyone did this?”
Gillespie leaned forward, one elbow on the desk. “I will find the answer to that.” he kept the man’s gaze captured. “How would you describe the relationship between the two of you?”
After a minute of hesitation Hewitt cleared his throat. “Warm.” he whispered. “But… nothing more.”
“Sure.” nodded Gillespie and he struggled up his chair, slowly.
The quiet suburb area with the red bricks and tiny little backyards offered the home-feeling, how anything wrong could happen to those dog-walking, organised people with their stylish front yards? Gillespie tried to see through Illa’s eyes and, ultimately, through Martina’s. Getting closer to the victim seemed to be easier this way than through the coroner’s report.
Hewitt waited outside the house, with Illa in a due distance. The lab guys messed around their toolboxes, in lab suits. How convenient, they could be counted off the numbers of households mixing, Gillespie thought.
“My grandmother” Hewitt received the detective and his team at the doorstep “will be ninety-nine this year. She has advanced dementia.”
“I’m aware.” Gillespie replied. “Our psychologist is already there to support Mrs Hewitt and her care-assistant.” and he headed inside, giving way to Illa.
They started in Martina’s room upstairs. Everything she left behind has been packed in a veggie-box, with her own bedding and winter coat in a separate bag. The new carer didn’t want to share the tiny bedroom with a ghost so she stored the stuff on the narrow corridor.
“Her books…” Illa ran her fingers over the books. Agatha Christie, Val McDermid, Patricia Highsmith…”
“Do you know them?” Gillespie asked, while fighting with his latex gloves.
“Not as much as she did.” Illa inserted the Poirot book back into the crest. “She loved mysteries. and romance too” she pointed at a series of cheep novels, packed laid down.”
“Anyhow” Gillespie noticed “she’d read in English. She wasn’t lost, afterall.”
Illa giggled. Then she got her decent face back. “Yes, detective Gillespie, she was able to write and read in English. She was able to talk to, moreover to listen to her clients in English.”
“Fair enough.” Gillespie thrown out, miles away. He stepped outside to arrange a phone call.
By the time he came back Illa was sitting on the edge of the sofa, beside the psychologist and the awkward carer lady. Mr Hewitt stood beside his grandmother, his look like rabbit’s in the spotlight.
“They said it was my Richard, but I know he wasn’t.” Mrs Hewitt explained, apparently not the first time. “He’ll come home soon, will he?” she startled up “I have to cook something, he’ll be hungry!”
The carer stepped in. “Don’t you worry Mrs Hewitt, I will look after the dinner if Mr Hewitt will come home.” The old lady sat back. “A cup of tea Mrs Hewitt?”
“Oh, thank you.” she replied and she rocked back into the pleasant mood.
The carer left, to come back with a tray of mugs and hot water, for everyone.
Gillespie turned to Hewitt, speaking sotto voce “What she was talkin’ about? What wasn’t Richard, and who is Richard?”
Hewitt pulled him towards the never-used fireplace. “My grandfather.” he said, also very quiet. “He was the private driver of Lady Mogg, but it was decades ago. My grandfather killed the Lady, at least he was accused of. He committed suicide in custody.”
Gillespie nodded. “I see.” he said to himself. “It’s always risky to crime above your class.” he turned to Hewitt “What do you think?”
“Where’s Richard?” Mrs Hewitt screamed out and his grandson made a use of the chance. He sat next to her grandmother. “I’m here, granny.”
“Who are you?” the old lady looked puzzled, with increasing panic in her eyes.
“Your tea, Mrs Hewitt.” the carer stepped in, occupying Mrs Hewitt’s horizon. “Drink it before it gets cold.”
But the elderly lady couldn’t find a way out of the maze anymore. The blood ran out of her face, she looked around in despair. The psychologist and the carer bombarded the poor soul with comforting nonsense, none worked this time.
“A photo album.” Illa said “could help. Martina spent hours watching old pics with her clients.” Without asking permission she opened the drawers one after other, then she found an album on the top of a pile of old Christmas cards. “Here, look Mrs Hewitt!” Illa pushed the young Hewitt away.
Mrs. Hewitt found the path to her inner peace. Faded, black and white photos of her childhood and younghood restored her deceitful feeling of belonging to the reality. “Isn’t the Queen’s birthday starting soon?” she asked.
“Indeed.” the carer replied and she waved everyone out, with a remote control in her other hand. The disc was in the player, ready.
Gillespie took the photo album with him.
Two days later he was turning the pages over and over again with no answer. A photo was missing and detective Gillespie couldn’t get a reliable answer from the old lady. The Czech colleagues killed his hope the case could belong to them or, at least to the Europol. Finally, the technicians got something. These guys are so slow, Gillespie longed for the good old times with indigo papers and fax machines sometimes. Or, at least, to bring these guys down to the pathology to get them closer to the real world.
Anyhow, Richard Hewitt junior sat in front of him again. “You said miss Komárová took a break.” he poked into the folder abstracted.
“Yes, she booked her annual leave.” Hewitt replied, suspiciously firm.
“Actually” Gillespie took a sheet out “you booked the accommodation for her, in a hotel nearby the place she was found dead.”
He swallowed; his hands trembled. “It’s nothing like that.” Hewitt mumbled. “It was only one night!”
“Have you killed her after one night?” the detective asked kindly. “Mr. Hewitt, you overperformed your grandfather. Or, underperformed, dunno.”
“No!” Hewitt startled up “I didn’t!”
Gillespie, the middle size middle age living statue of cynism looked up in anticipation.
Hewitt, settled back on the ergonomically dysfunctional chair, changed tactics. “I have a membership to a discount booking site and Martina said she was going to visit Ashcliff. So I booked it for her at a bargain, and she paid in cash.” He looked really broken.
“Ashford… isn’t it near Castle Dome where… that unfortunate event happened to your grandfather?”
“Is it?” Rchard Hewitt’s eyes widened in shock. Honest shock.
Homicide was rather rare in the area, it was a god-given, to be frank Gillespie-arranged luck miss Illa took part in the investigation. The detective took the Latvian nurse to visit the Ashford scene and the castle. She was absorbed in the photo album all the way along. Also, detective Gillespie re-opened the Lady Mogg case.
Lord Mogg wasn’t cooperative, to say the least. In his seventies, he was fit and hard. “I remember” he said when they found him in the huge garage nursing his collection “My mother shouldn’t have an affair with that sort” he turned back from the display he was polishing “but you know.”
“I know, Lord Mogg, you was the only one who claimed they have an intime relationship.“ Gillespie said.
The Lord raised his hand almost invisibly and the bodyguard stepped forward. The detective let him win this round.
The Mogg estate was huge, much bigger than expected by a simple detective or an east-European nurse. “The missing photo will be the answer.” Illa said as they lumped along the wet, muddy lawn.
“Maybe.” Gillespie wondered “But where it is?”
“Does it matter?” Illa stopped, taking the album out of her backpack. “Look! This is the story. New year party, mascaraed, and so on.”
“Yeah, for these people life is a never-ending party.” Gillespie noticed.
“Forget the class-envy!” Illa cut it short. “This is a photo collection of a driver. Look, the Queen’s birthday photo is missing.”
Gillespie stared at the gap on the page. “The day when Lady Mogg died.” he whispered.
“Yep!” Illa shut the photo album so theatrically that cloud of dust flitted out the old pages. “Martina was keen on mysteries. I’m sure she figured out what happened fifty years ago.”
“What happened?” Gillespie asked however he had a strong guess.
“The young Lord, I mean the old guy in the garage, murdered his Mom on the Queen’s birthday party. He accused Mr. Hewitt. But, the photo must be the late Mr Hewitt’s alibi.
“And he killed Martina when she faced him with the truth.” Gillespie finished the hypothesis. He gently pushed Illa towards the car.
“What’s now? “ she asked.
“We’ll nail the bastard. This is the XXI. century, after all.” Gillespie replied, reminding himself.