Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Jeremy Meets Douglas McAllen & Co

        At six foot four in height Douglas McAllen was an immense, imposing, and regal presence that owned every room he walked into. Like Caitlin he lightly packed his tall and broad frame with lean flesh and muscles, somewhat slackened with time, without being either over or under weight. His face was crinkled with fine lines like cracked drying mud, and the equally wrinkled hand he extended to them betrayed a slight tremor from his sixty odd years of life on earth and from the strain of his daughter’s plight.
        ‘Harry Stavers?’ His deep voice resounded through the room. He slouched down and extended a hand to Harry whose five-foot eight-inch slim frame was dwarfed by the presence of the older man.
        ‘Pleased to meet you in person, Mr. Stavers, and thank you for stepping in to help my daughter and son-in-law so effectively. This is Magnus Laird from McKinley & Laird Solicitors.’
        Magnus Laird walked in a step behind Douglas McAllen and was also a presence of massive proportions in his own right. The two or three inches in height and the half-a-dozen or so years in age he lacked relative to his client, he made up for with three or four stones of extra weight packed liberally around his torso. His face was dominated by a thick walrus moustache, which he was in the habit of combing down with his right forefinger every now and then.
        ‘How do you do, Mr. McAllen, Mr. Laird? Please call me Harry.’ Harry stood upright, greeting them with a steady voice of strength and confidence, like David facing Goliath.
        ‘Och aye, Mr. Stavers. It is a pleasure indeed my dear fellaw. I have heard much abit yer courtroom antics in the High Court from me fellow members of the bar in London.’
        Laird bent forward to shake Harry’s hand heartily, taking care not to topple over, then straightened back up with great effort, momentarily holding onto his own back with his left hand the way pregnant women did.
        ‘And this must be Jeremy Stone.’ McAllen’s blue eyes crinkled further into a smile as he lithely took the half-length of the room with a few long strides. He put his left hand on Jeremy’s shoulder and shook his right hand. The old man liked him.
        ‘I have heard much about you, good things, from Caitlin and Jack. It is a pleasure to finally meet you, son. You must come and visit my factories in Aberdeen some time. I am always in need of a fine engineer of your calibre.’
        ‘I am honoured to meet you, sir.’ Jeremy bowed his head and smiled.
        ‘Och, aye, Mr. Stone, the Engineer. The one who made the laboratory in the barn for our dear Jack, I hear. Very clever, very clever indeed.’ Magnus Laird waddled, carrying his bulk across the room, and shook Jeremy’s hand heartily for a long minute or two with both of his.
        ‘I only gave Jack a hand, Mr. Laird,’ Jeremy protested, but he couldn’t help being cheered by his hearty appraisal.
        ‘It has already been a long morning for us and we don’t have much time before we have to face this bloody police interview. I need a word in private with Magnus and Caitlin first, and then we can discuss matters over a spot of lunch. How does that sound, Mr. Stavers, er, Harry?’

Monday, 25 November 2013


Sunday, October 17 – Two Days Later

‘I should inform you, Mrs. Connor, Mr. McAllen, that my men are doing a search of the McAllen BlackGold offices as we speak,’ Edwards announced as he stood near the same seat as he had the day before, and paused to observe the effects of the news.
Ah, you’re going to find the place as clean as a whistle, Inspector, Jeremy thought, chuckling to himself.
Magnus had got up from his seat with great difficulty by leaning to the left on the armrest and was now heartily shaking startled Edwards’ hand with both of his.
‘Welcome, welcome, Inspector Eddie. I’m Magnus Laird. This seat is for ye, ole boy. Please sit here.’
He pushed Edwards into his armchair, who fell backward with some alarm and landed in the middle of his seat to everybody’s relief. Magnus bent forward enthusiastically and handed him half a dozen McKinley & Laird business cards, dropping the rest on the floor between the seats. He tried to pick these up by bending forward, taking great care not to topple over by holding onto Inspector Edwards’ knee, but then gave up and sat himself down. Edwards, having recovered from Magnus’ welcome, picked up the cards and politely handed them back to him.
Everybody sat down.
‘Thank you, Mr. Laird. Er, now where was I? Oh yes, the keys to the offices were among Mr. Connor’s personal effects. I have instructed my men to take the PC base units and any laptops from the office rooms of Jack Connor and yourself, Mrs. Connor.’
‘Police at the gate, sénora,’ Félipé interrupted them and hurriedly cleared the trays, replacing them with a fresh silver tray of bottled water and glasses. ‘I put Max and Molly in the stables.’
Jeremy got up and hurried out to the front door. A marked police car was being slowly and deliberately driven down the driveway from which DCI Edwards and WPC Hansen emerged, intermittent radio messages scratching the air over the tetra radio communications units attached to their belts. DCI Edwards was in a grey suit with a strained buttoned jacket he was clearly growing too paunchy for. WPC Hansen joined him by his side in her uniform of black trousers and white short-sleeved shirt under the black Kevlar vest with the blue “police” sign on it, accessorized to impressive effect by a baton, radio units, handcuffs, and a gun.
Jeremy greeted them at the door and led them to the living room where he had left Caitlin with Harry for some last minute advice.
‘Is this okay, Inspector?’ Caitlin asked after the introductions, gesturing to the two arm chairs they had set to the left of the couch she was seated on and at a right angle to it. ‘If not, we could use the board room.’
‘This is fine, Mrs. Connor.’ Edwards seated himself on the chair closer to Caitlin’s couch.
Hansen took the other chair and set her files on the side table that Félipé brought over. She poured two glasses of water for her boss and herself.
Jeremy walked unobtrusively to the wide bay window with a cushioned bench built into the wall below the ledge. Perched on the ledge with one foot on the bench he could see Caitlin over the shoulders of the officers seated with their backs to him.
‘Mrs. Connor, we need to ask you some questions in relation to the murder investigation of Michelle Williams. As you know your husband is also being questioned in connection with her death. I’m sure your solicitors have advised you of your rights.’ He paused briefly.
‘Yes.’ Caitlin nodded and shifted uncomfortably in her seat.
‘To be clear, you do not have to answer any of the questions. What you do say may be given in evidence. . .’

Saturday, October 16 – One Day Later

Despite the comfort and luxury all around him Jeremy was woken from a night of disturbed sleep by the sound of the dogs barking. It was 8:20 Saturday morning. There were voices downstairs in anxious chatter. His room (huh, he thought of this as his room now, did he?) was a first-floor en-suite with a bath. Actually it had a shared bathroom separating two twin rooms, but the second one had never been occupied whenever he had been here.
Jeremy washed his face quickly and hurried to the cupboard. Caitlin had laid out some clean clothes. He set his oversized laptop case, in which he carried a sleek laptop he had enhanced to pack in massive processing and memory power, so compact it hardly took any space, on the bed. Into the remaining space he generally packed various gadgets and electronics equipment he needed at client sites, including some “emergency” underwear and socks.
He pulled on a pair of black slacks and a blue Polo T-shirt from the cupboard. They must be Ronnie’s. Being slightly over 6 feet tall and having a wider frame, he did not fit so well into Jack’s clothes. He stepped out of his room and followed the voices downstairs.
One of the boys who worked in the stables and on the land, a brown lad in muddy Wellington boots, was talking animatedly to Caitlin, who was still in her dressing gown, in the kitchen.
‘There is police again at the front gate, sénora,’ he said with a heavy Spanish accent. ‘I put Molly and Max in the stables, ha?’
Caitlin and Jeremy hurried to the front reception with little Bubbles the puppy Lab running circles around them. There were two police cars at the gates.
‘If you could open the gates, Caitlin, I shall handle this,’ he said, thinking how lovely and vulnerable she looked with no makeup on and with tousled dark brown hair some length between short and medium. Something about a damsel-in-distress in silks stirred a man’s loins.
Jeremy went back to his room, splashed his face with icy cold water, and put on his shoes. He stepped out as the police cars pulled up outside the front door.