“Doctor? Would you mind looking at Mrs Mitchell’s hand? She’s the Canadian lady in cubicle four” The nurse smiled at Dr Khan, turned, and walked to her next patient.
Dr Khan slid the curtain of the cubicle back and saw a thin woman of around seventy, her right hand heavily bandaged, held straight out and resting on the knee of her trousers.
“That must be painful. You say your knife slipped when you were preparing vegetables?”
The woman nodded her head rapidly. “Yeah, I was helping my daughter. I’m just visiting from Montreal. Great piece of luck, huh?”
“There’s Good Old Jimmy Barker. Coming home from the golf club. He won’t hit many hole-in-ones now, the state he’s in”. Caroline joined her husband at the front window. “He should be careful, living alone like he does. If he has a fall, who’s going to help him?” Craig smiled, ”I’ll drop in on him later to make sure he is in one piece.”
Craig described the pristine interior of the terraced house. He told Caroline that the fittings and furniture had changed very little since the 1970s. Jimmy had made much of the larger furniture himself, bookcases, wardrobes, that kind of thing. That was long before Craig and Caroline had moved in and, as far as Craig knew, Jimmy had always been on his own. Jimmy was a proud man and hated having anyone else help him. He had worked for many years at a carpentry firm in the middle of town. The business was long gone now, replaced by flats.
Caroline was catching up on her puzzle magazine when Craig rattled the front door as he came in, making an alarming racket.
“Caro! Jimmy’s been stabbed! I think he’s dead. Call the police!” Craig was visibly shaken, pale faced.
The blue flashing lights of two police cars lit up the narrow street and brought neighbours out onto the pavement, craning to find out what had happened at Old Jimmy’s. A cordon of blue and white tape was set up around the terraced house and Caroline could see the interior of no 34 brightly lit by the forensic team. She turned to look at Craig, who was being interviewed by Detective Inspector Conroy, and said “Well, you won’t see your three hundred quid now”. Craig turned his head down and grimaced. The detective sat up. “Mr Phillips, is there something you need to add to your statement?”
Craig shot a glance at his wife and looked at the detective. “The poor old boy needed work done on his boiler. It was clapped out and he had no cover on it. He told me he would pay me back when he could.” “Some time never, more like” Caroline said, her arms folded across her chest. “He had loads of money. His home help Moira told me that. She could not stand him either. He seems to have disliked all women. I was never comfortable talking to him and he could be so rude.”
Craig sighed. “You know what his generation are like with women. And what with him living on his own for so long.”
D.I.Conroy carried on writing, then asked “ I saw a photo of a woman and two children on the mantelpiece” Craig nodded “ I always thought that was his sister and her children. He has other photos of the children.”
Conroy tilted his head to one side “What I thought was odd, is that the photos are obviously quite old, and there are no photos of the children getting any older. You know, university, or getting married.”
Craig shook his head. “I’d never thought of that and Jimmy never talked about it.”
The detective thanked them both and saw himself out. Caroline gritted her teeth and stared at Craig. “He thinks you killed him over the money” Craig was taken aback. “No chance”
Golf Club Secretary Kevin Gilchrist always felt nervous talking to the police. He quickly directed the two detectives to the Bar Manager Andy, and Sheila, who worked behind the bar on the day Jimmy was killed.
“Mr Conroy, Jimmy was a lovely bloke. He’s been a member here for years. Raised money for local charities, served on the committee, couldn’t find a better human being” Conroy thanked Andy and asked “Did he owe anyone money?”
“Oh”, said Andy “ I couldn’t tell you about anything like that. At least he never asked me for a loan. In fact he would often buy drinks for everyone once he had won one of our matchplay tournaments. A great golfer, in his day, was Jimmy”
Sheila looked at her shoes and Conroy noticed. “Mrs Watson, did you know Jimmy well?” Sheila looked slightly alarmed “Err, no. My mum did though. She worked here before me. Started in the 1970s. She always referred to Jimmy as “That Bastard”.
The men murmured, and Conroy asked “Why was that?”
Sheila shifted from one foot to the other. “My mum said he treated his wife and kids appallingly. He used to beat her, give her a black eye more than once”
“Sheila!” said Andy. “ Don’t speak ill of the …”
“So, she left him. Took the kids to Canada. I heard she remarried”
“Well, that’s a suspect we won’t have to look for then” said Conroy. “Did anyone at the Club have a key to Jimmy’s home?” The bar staff looked at each other and shook their heads. At this point Kevin Gilchrist leaned in. “I think I can help there Detective Inspector. I once gave Jimmy a lift home, and his home help was in the house already. Err, a Jamaican lady I think”
“Thank you Mr Gilchrist, that’s most helpful” said Conroy.
“Excuse me madam, are you Moira Patterson?” Moira’s face dropped as Conroy and D. S. Rahman showed their warrant cards. She was taking shopping to her car. Conroy explained why they had stopped her. “Yes, I heard he had died. And, yes, I have a key to his house. Should I give it to you?”
Conroy smiled “ No, Miss Patterson. That’s not necessary. What time did you see Mr Barker today?”
“Oh, I did see him about five thirty. I just clean around the kitchen and upstairs, like I usually do. He was in good spirits, ‘cos he did win at golf today. He showed me the notes he had won on bettin’ ”
“So, what time did you leave?” asked Rahman.
“Around six o’clock. He was asleep in the chair then, so I just let myself out”
“Did you see anyone around in the street outside”
“There was a car, drivin’ slowly, like it was looking for an address. That’s all I remember.”
The detectives looked at each other. “Thank you Miss Patterson”
“You’re welcome darlin’.”
The doors of the Audi thumped shut and the noise from the street fell away. Rahman tapped his notebook “Craig Phillips! Got to be! Barker owes him money, and when Phillips goes to check on him, he sees the cash. Barker tells him to bugger off, Phillips loses it and stabs him. Also, he has a key to the house.”
“Hold on Sunny. I’ve just heard a woman has been brought to the station. Let’s see who that is”
Margaret Mitchell looked frail and defeated. Her bandaged hand was in a triangular sling, resting on the table in the interview room. A police constable had been, not unusually, in Accident & Emergency at the time she was being examined by Doctor Khan. The constable had heard about the earlier stabbing, thought there may be a connection with the old lady’s injury. After her wound was patched up she was driven to the police station. She was cautioned, provided with a duty solicitor, and the whine of the recorder marked the beginning of her interview.
“A woman matching your description was seen getting out of a car yesterday evening in Bryson Street, near the address of Mr James Barker who was later found dead. Do you have any comment to make on that?”
Mrs Mitchell flicked her head up and sat back in her chair. “Yes, that was me. I had always kept my front door key. To remind me of how things got better. I was visiting my ex-husband. I wanted to tell him I am dying from bone cancer. The consultant told me it was connected to a broken ankle, and fractures I received many years ago.”
The detectives paused and Conroy said “Go on”.
Mrs Mitchell’s eyes were becoming teary. “I told him that he knew he was the cause of those injuries. That is why I took Peter and Jenny and went to Canada. I followed him into the kitchen as he brushed past me. He asked me “What about it? It’s a bit late for compensation now, you crippled old bitch”
Rahman offered Mr Mitchell a clean, pressed handkerchief.
“In that moment” she said “ I felt the anger of forty years building up. Things were really hard when we first got to Montreal. My ankle never healed properly and it made walking painful after a time. I found it hard to get any shop work because that would mean standing for hours. If I had not met Dennis, who loved me and accepted my children as his own, who knows what might have happened to us. But that diagnosis brought all the pain back and, standing in that kitchen again, it gave me the strength I never had in my marriage. So I stabbed him. My hand slipped down the blade of the kitchen knife. That’s when I went to the hospital.”
“You have just admitted to killing your ex-husband, Mrs Mitchell”
“Yes. He has taken away my life, so I am entitled to take his”.