It was only a name.
“Guv,” one of the forensic team in a white boiler suit walked over to him and handed him an evidence bag. “Place is as clean as any I’ve seen, but this is pretty interesting, they’re putting it through as urgent and the lab should have something on it soon.”
Eddie Wilson, turned the jiffy bag over and flattened the piece of yellow paper inside so that he could read what was written. It was a listing from the yellow pages containing the victim’s name, Lesley Johnson, her address and telephone number. It had been circled in pen and then ripped jaggedly from the page. “Good work Jackson, this, Lesley Johnson didn’t rip her own number from the book. That all you got?”
“Yes, sir, like I said he was pretty careful. Best bet to hope for is that the beat lads turn up something. He won’t have been as clean as the scene, he’ll have been splashed.”
“We think so yes, male, young, aggressive, stabbing to the neck and chest with a long blade. No sexual contact, in fact from the positioning of the wounds I’d say that he went out of his way to avoid any sexual organs. The body was covered with a sheet and she was stabbed through it. The planning involved was cautious but the actual attack was frenzied, out of control…”
One of the door to door officers ran up to Eddie, He was out of breath and took a moment to take a of lungful of air while he found the relevant entry in his notebook. “Sir, we might have something.”
“Take your time lad, she’s not going anywhere.” He motioned to the house with the yellow and black tape across the gate behind him. A small crowd of people had gathered on the street. Eddie pulled the constable back into the shadows and out of ear shot. “What you got for me, lad?”
“Lady at number thirty two … that’s her there in the blue fleece. She says there’s been a bloke hanging round for a couple of days. He’s been parking a red car in her parking place, which is why she’s noticed it. She thinks it might be a Golf but isn’t sure, she said it had big speakers in the back window. She didn’t note the reg.”
“Good work Brown, anything else?”
“Yes, sir. It’s a young bloke, late teens early twenties, First time she saw him he was smartly dressed in jeans and a denim jacket, second time he was scruffier, wearing a tracksuit with the hood up and a black knitted hat under that. That was yesterday, says that she noticed what he was wearing because it wasn’t that cold like, seemed unusual.”
“This is good, might well be a clear lead. But how did she get such a good look at him if he was in his car?”
“Well, that’s just it see, he parks his car outside her house and then walks up and down the street a bit. And that’s not all, the woman from the house on the corner reports seeing a man. Sounds like the same one. She saw him bout nine o’clock last night. He was leaning on the lamppost smoking a fag. Said he looked a bit ‘shifty’, like.
“Right I want number… er… that house on the corner sealed off and forensics in….”
“Already done it Sir, Sergeant Barry got them straight there, found a couple of fag butts but they look a bit old and manky, don’t know if it’s his or not.”
“Right let’s hope he turned left onto Ainsley Street, there’s a big street camera there. Get to central control and tell them I want all the footage for the last week. There’s a speed camera on Anson Street, same, I want everything they’ve got. Get into all the shops on Ainsley and Oxford, tell them I want their CCTV footage, especially the one’s with the pavements outside their shops and the street views covered. Get the two women down to the station for a detailed interview and get the artist in for composite drawings. Get back onto the other neighbours. This could be a good lead lad. Well done. We’ve got to get this one, and fast, he’s a ruthless bugger.
Eddie Wilson left the scene of crime at ten in the morning. The body had been discovered two hours earlier by the victim’s lover coming home from a night shift. By three thirty that afternoon they had a name.
Street cameras had images of both a likely suspect and his car. Records located the car on their database and named a Jason Collins, nineteen of Torver Road Blackpool. That surprised Eddie, this had all the markings of being a local grudge killing. He hated having to hand his case over to the Fyld police. The SOCO guys had finished up at the scene and nothing else remained to be done except wait for news of a collar and then he could close the case.
He’d just turned his attention to a problem with some drunken yobs in Dalton when a call came through on his phone from Fyld police radio. His oppo in Blackpool identified himself and explained that he was in the house of the suspect interviewing the boy’s mother. The guys had gone in mob handed with a warrant to search and had scared the woman half to death. DI Stoker was talking discretely from the hall of the house.
“Not a thing to be seen. We’re confidant that the mother knows nothing. Adamant that he’s a good lad, never been in trouble. Bedroom clean as a whistle. Not a thing out of place, too clean, if you know what I mean. Not natural for a lad. He’s home on holiday from university, goes back next week… thing is, he’s been out a lot lately, and he never came home last night. Mother says that’s out of character. She woke up this morning to find his bed hadn’t been slept in. She’s in a state obviously, rung round all of his friends. He’s lost contact with most of them with going off to uni. She has no idea where he might be.”
Constable Brown launched himself into Wilson’s office letting the door slam loudly behind him. “Sir, Sir, sorry Sir no time to knock,” Wilson covered a smile as Brown continued, “there’s been another one Sir. Tony Griffin, pub landlord from Ulverston. His wife’s there now, right shook up by all accounts.”
Wilson was already grabbing his coat, “Tell them I’m on my way and not to do anything until I get there.”
Mrs Griffin was pretty even with snot drizzling from her nose and black tramlines of mascara running down her face he could tell that she as a stunner. “What’s going on?” she wailed, “Why would anybody do that to my Tommy. Everybody liked him. He only went upstairs for a shower before we opened.”
“We’re very sorry for your loss, Mrs. Griffin,” Eddie began solicitously. “I know this is very difficult for you but if you could just try and answer some questions for us as quickly as possible we should be able to catch the lad that did this to your husband.
She raised her head. “Lad?” she asked looking bemused.
“Yes we are looking for a suspect who we believe may have killed your husband. He’s only a young lad of nineteen,” said Eddie. Do you know somebody by the name of Jason Collins?
“Nineteen? My Tommy was forty-seven,” She said as though the mere fact of the age difference made the killing impossible.
“Quite, Please Mrs. Griffin try and answer the question. Jason Collin’s do you know him? It’s imperative that we find this man before he does this to anybody else.”
She squinted at Wilson and ruffled her nose up in concentration. “Jason, Collins, I’ve never heard of him. There’s a Jason that comes in the pub, but he’s not nineteen, mid twenties I’d say. I’m pretty sure he’s away on the rigs at the moment. He hasn’t hurt my Tommy has he? Tommy was always nice to him.”
Wilson ensured that his voice was gentle but firm. The witness was crumbling in front of him and he knew that her usefulness to the case was going to diminish if he let her dissolve into hysteria. He decided to hold back the photographs until she had a better grip on herself.
“Mrs. Griffin, this may be another shock for you but your husband’s is the second body that we’ve found in similar circumstances today.”
She stopped sobbing and looked up from her soggy tissue. Her eyes were still moist but he had her attention. He had to ask the question but he was already prepared for the fact that this woman would never have heard of the other victim. The murders were almost certainly committed by the same person but they felt random, if there was a connection between the two then it certainly wasn’t obvious. He cleared his throat. Have you ever heard of a woman by the name of Lesley Johnson?”
She blew her nose on the already disintegrating tissue. “Yes, that’s me,” she said matter of factly. Wilson was shocked, he hadn’t expected that at all.
“I beg your pardon,” he asked, just to be sure.
“I’m Lesley Johnson. Well, I use his name mostly now, we’re as good as married after all these years…but my real name’s Lesley Johnson.”
Wilson tried to slot this new piece of information into the puzzle of evidence. There was no slot for it. They already had a Lesley Johnson; there wasn’t room for another one. Wilson took the two photographs from an envelope, one of the murder victim Lesley Johnson taken on a holiday in Cyprus six months earlier and one of the suspected killer, Jason Collins.
“Please be sure, Mrs Griffin. Have you ever seen either of these people before.”
She looked at the pictures while Wilson studied her reaction carefully. She looked from one smiling face to the other, a frown passed momentarily across her face and then cleared.” No, inspector, I’m quite sure that I don’t know either of these people. The boy sort of looked familiar for a moment, maybe he’s been in the pub. If he has it’s not recently, I’d have remembered. I definitely don’t know either of them.”
He was acting purely on a feeling, “What’s your date of Birth?”
“Sixth of the fifth, sixty-three,” she answered the question in a flat monotone. Her answer instantly brought animation to Wilson’s face, he consulted his notes almost certain that he was correct.
“It’s the same birth date as the woman who was murdered this morning. You share the same name and the same birth date. The two of you sharing personal details may well be a massive co-incidence but the fact that it’s related to this case most certainly isn’t. The answer to all of this must be in there somewhere. He looked again at his notes and began to read aloud, “Jason Collins, born twenty fifth of February nineteen eighty three. Resides…”
“What did you say?” Lesley’s face was pale. Her hands shook. Without waiting for him to reply she began talking in a quiet flat voice. “Tommy and I met when we were only kids, fresh out of school we was… and very much in love. My parents didn’t like him, said that he’d bring me down. Sure enough I got pregnant. Very convenient it was, for them when Dad got a posting in the Manchester office that same month and took it. We moved away and I had a baby, a little boy. Born on the twenty fifth of February, nineteen eighty-three. A mother never forgets a date like that. They literally tore him from my arms. Took him away and I never saw him again. Never saw Tommy again either, not for years. He didn’t know anything about it and I never told him. Not for a long time. We met up again ten years ago on an internet dating site.”
She stared out of the window for a second as a fresh wave of tears overcame her. Wilson’s mind had romped ahead. He had all the information he needed now. All the pieces of the puzzle fit but he let the distraught woman finish her story, it’s the least he could do.
“…It was as though the years in-between had never happened. He was separated and I’d never been married. We were so in love… but there was always that one thing between us,” she paused and Eddie didn’t invade her silence. “I only told him about the baby two years ago. Tommy went mad. He did everything he could to find his son…. Everything. Said he had nineteen years of not being a father to make up for… and now… and now, he’s gone.” She sobbed loudly and Wilson Excused himself, leaving her sobbing into the arms of a WPC. He rushed into the hall to make a phone call.
Jason Collins was picked up later that day. He was found sitting in his car in a lay-by in Thornton-Cleavleys. He was just sitting staring out of the windscreen at nothing.
Several lives were ruined that day. Wilson couldn’t understand the lad, but it was not his job to understand, only to bring to justice. The motive was abandonment and yet, Collin’s had had a charmed life, adoptive mother and father who loved him, everything he could wish for and a good career ahead of him when he qualified as a vet. Wilson supposed that some hurts just go too deep to atone for.
The father had searched for the son who murdered him. He’d been down every avenue in an attempt to find him but adoption records had been closed back then and in their case all the paper trails led nowhere. He’d applied to three different reuniting talk shows to appeal for the lad with nothing more than a hospital and birth date to go on, but hadn’t heard from any of them.
The boy was filled with hate and rage against a mother and father who had abandoned him as a baby. He’d had more luck with paper trailing from the other direction. He’d spent his entire life feeling abandoned and rejected, despite having a second family who doted on him.
And the first murder victim… well, Wilson scratched his head … she was just born with the wrong name … that’s all.