“Telegram for you sir.” Sergeant Taylor announced as he walked up to the booth Inspector Morris taken habitually taken to occupying in the Eastern Breeze during the three weeks they’d been in town. “From the yard. Got sent to the boarding house, struck of luck I’d gone back to change my shoes otherwise it’d still be waiting for you.”
“Charlotte all right?” Morris said in his characteristic hushed tones.
“No point trying to put anything past you is there sir, she says she’s fine. Seemed a little tired to me, but she claimed not. Trying to work it round to asking her to a dance tomorrow, but not having a lot of luck. Seems interested enough but sometime the topic never comes up, although that postman won’t leave her alone. Anyway I think you’re in with Mrs Merriweather, she’s taken a shine to you and no mistake. Extra sausage in the morning. Good place to retire to this Sir, get out of the smoke, get your feet under the table and no mistake. Widow like that, own business and all.”
“Sergeant.” The gentle comment was enough to break Morris in full flow and guiltily he remembered to fish the telegram out of his pocket. The inspectors look was stormy enough to silence even the Sergeant’s endless ramblings while he swiftly read the telegram.
“I requested that after three weeks of making no headway at all in this case we were reassigned back down to London.” He explained as he read.
“Or they get Sir bloody Archibald to start being talkative.” His voice just raised above its perpetual whisper for the seconds it took to fire off the profanity, before dropping back down again. He crumpled the telegram in his hand.
“However, they say they are pleased with the progress made, which is none, and we are to continue assisting the local constabulary. Who are very glad to have use up here, because they can blame the fact that were no nearer an answer despite the fact that without us they’d have even less of a clue.” The tension in his voice was clearly audible, a rare occasion.
“Well sir it’s not been a total waste. It’s rattled that bleeding Yank a lot and that’s got to be a good thing, arrogant bastards the lot of them. Did I tell you about the time I arrested two yanks as drunks and they told me……”
His voice trailed off, the years together meant that Sergeant Taylor had finally learned when the inspector really was not in the mood. Muttering something about did he want one Taylor made his way to the bar and returned with a pint. He sat down opposite the inspector, pulling the chair close into the table.
“I am afraid we’re going to have to recap what we already know Sergeant. See if we’ve missed anything vital.”
“Again sir?” The silence from across the table was his only answer. “All right, well at least I’ve got my pint.” And with a sip of his beer Taylor pulled his regulation note book out of his pocket and started talking.
“Well Kenton jnr as I like to call him, is almost a perfect ringer for the yank. If he had an identical twin, that’s who I’d say we found on the beach. But he don’t so it’s ain’t that. He giving away about quarter of an Inch in height to the real thing but that ain't noticeable unless your address is Baker Street, the faces are near enough perfect. But you say that if you look at them side by side there are a few differences.”
“It’s around the eyes, the lines there are different.” The words drifted across the table like a feather.
“If you say so. But frankly even with you pointing them out, they look the same to me. The teeth are the same, including the filings even including a badly done repair to one of them. But our dead blokes got no wisdom teeth while Kenton’s got two left. They’ve both got appendix scars, but jnr’s is about an inch longer. They’ve both got a silly bloody tattoo of a butter churn on the upper right arm, but dead blokes is frankly much better done then Kenton, and can I just say an Irish man would have more sense then getting it done by a guy you’d been drinking with all day. Then we get onto the odds on favourite to start shining some light in this mystery- Fingerprints. But of course against all the odds they’re similar. Not the same, but not that different. On a partial print, bad print or not checking that hard you'd think they were a match. But look hard enough and there's just enough difference to tell 'um apart. Fair shook the forensic guy and no mistake. Oh and the dead bloke, he’s missing half his chest, dead give away to me sir.”
His long deep drink tried vainly to fill the abyss his quip had left behind.
“But basically you’d have to be his mother, lover or pigging dentist to spot the difference. Possessions on the body, one key, passport which is an incredibly good forgery, train ticket from London to here, receipts, most useless but one being for hire of a safe deposit box but nothing identifying where it is, leather bag and one weird bit of writing. Oddly no wallet or money of any sort. But if this is a plain robbery then I’m a Chinaman. Room at the boarding house had clothes and toiletries and that’s about it. Certainly no diary, address book, not even a bundle of mysterious typed literature of a fantastic sort. However we did find lots of Mr. Kenton favourite brand of American cigarette in his room, which our fella had been smoking heavily enough in the last few days judging my the ash trays and the comments from Charlotte. But not actually on the body. Actual cause of death a bit of a mystery, well more of a toss up really between the two bullets in his lungs or the shotgun blast in his back. However the sawbones says that the shotgun blast in the front after they’d flipped him over was totally unnecessary. Somebody was really making sure Kenton Jnr was very very dead.”
“Or hiding something.” The inspector interjected.
Taylor took another long pull at his drink to refresh his throat. The inspector had settled back in his seat, steepled his fingers together and had his eyes shut.
“No real idea on the number of shooters. Sand way to messed up by locals for that, plus we think they might have tried to muddy the water, as it where. We’ve got two bullets from the body and two dug out of a small nearby boat. But given the angle of fire, most that missed are now rusting in Davey Jones’ locker. Nearby residents claim to have heard anywhere between three bangs and that panicky old bat claims to have heard over thirty. However a retired game keeper says he heard ten distinct shoats, followed by two shot gun blasts one after another, so I reckon he’s good for the number of shoots fired. He also says he saw a big car heading away at speed right afterwards down the coast but while his hearings still good his eye sights gone and don’t have any details. But if that car was the only car, which is a pretty big but I’ve got to say then were looking at no more then seven shooters tops. Which don’t tell use anything really. But I’d guess five shooters at two shots a piece from the revolvers, but I’d not even bet your money on that one. No shell casing were found so were saying the barkers were revolvers and the calibre was .455, so could have been old war surplus and theirs no shortage of them about.”
The Sergeant paused for a second staring into his note book.
“There are according to the post office over five hundred Kitchener Streets across Britain, there are four hundred and five of them that have a number eighty six, the rest being too short or just having the odd numbers. One hundred and twenty two of these in this part of the world. There are however none of them in this bleeding town, nor the ones directly around use. And nor can we find one occupied by a man called Collier as far as we can tell. Without anything to go on it ain’t worth randomly knocking on doors just in case the murders panic. They ain’t the panicking sort. All of which adds up to about no bloody use to me and you.”
“So…” The inspector gently drew the word out.
“So, we started looking at what Jnr had been doing in his week. Now were hampered by the toff telling use that what Mr. Kenton does for a living is ‘Not germane to the investigations.” The last was said in a passable imitation of Sir Archibald. Morris opened one eye before closing it again.
“Which has got to be the biggest pile of nonsense I’ve ever heard. ‘Cause whatever Kenton does is going to be right at the heart of this mystery otherwise, why have this jnr? Anyway so Kenton swears blind he’s never been to this town before. Which means that anybody who knows him, don’t know him but does know jnr. Or that’s what you said. So we start wandering round town with a picture of Mr. Kenton asking people if they’ve ever seen him and don’t it seem like Mr. Kenton jnr’s a regular little hermit as everybody swears blind they’ve never seen him.”
“Aside from the chippie round the corner which said he was regular customer Mrs Merriweather being a breakfast person and not doing evening meals, even if she does serve drinks without a license. But we’ll let that one slide eh sir…?” The wink was totally lost on the contemplative inspector.
“Where we get a small oddity, jnr comes in regular as clockwork for a portion of fish and chips while he’s here. But Mr Kenton says he ain’t fond of fish. Which seems a weird mistake for an impersonator who you say even dresses on the same side as Kenton. Plus the landlady said she prefers this Mr. Kenton, more dashing and his accents not as bad, which again is odd. So while they look like peas in a pod, they don’t act it. Anyway while everybody swore blind that they never seen him before you say that a group in the Turks Head, near the chinks, look quite uncomfortable with use waving the picture around, so we send in Kenton the next night. And sure enough they do know him.” The Sergeant pats his pockets before extracting a fag and sparking a match. A long breath and he starts again, fag slowly burning down in his right hand.
“There still don’t want to talk about anything as soon as they realise were connected to Kenton. So they’re up to something illegal, and Kenton jnr was involved in it. So we start leaning on them and before you know it they’re talking, but not about what we want to hear. They’ve got a cast iron alibi for the night of the murder, as they were all locked up in the cells off Liverpool docks after getting drunk and getting in a fight. All happened the night before but they’d not got out by the night of the murder. But one of them lets slips something about meant to be meeting Kenton that night and how it was lucky for Kenton, otherwise he’d of got caught up in that murder business. ‘Cause were sitting on the news that the dead body’s a ringer for a yank, and just calling him unidentified corpse. Of course Mrs. Merriweather knows as she told use it was Kenton on the beach. But I think you scared her into keep this to her self.” A deep draw and gentle sip.
“Anyway, more pressure, promise that we don’t give a monkeys, which we don’t never said anything about the local boys did we sir. Opium smuggling, ain’t a big ring, but got approached by Kenton who seemed to know enough and dropped enough names and seemed to be legit, well not legit if you follow me. Trying to make a small buy of very high quality stuff and willing to pay big. Turns out they were meant to be providing a sample on that beach that night so Kenton could reassure him self of the quality and make the trade later. So we’ve got a reason why he was on the beach that night but it don’t help use at all do it?” A final drew at cigarette, its life burned away well Taylor talked, before hurling it into an ashtray.
“And now at the end after three weeks of investigation we get to our mysterious letter. Which is odd, even by the standards of this mad old case. Yesterday morning, hand delivered, typed envelope, typed insides. Telling use to be at the sight of murder that night from midnight to see something that would interest use and would explain why the 2nd barrel was fired. The grisly nature of this guys death was something we’d kept secret so who ever sent it know something. So out we troop, me, you, Harrison and a couple of his boys, all carrying barkers. And spend four perishing hours freezing our self and see a grand total of bugger all.”
“You know my theory. Something was going on last night, something we were not meant to see and we were being distracted. It’s very simple.” The voice was calm and confident.
“Well the only thing they distracted me from seeing was the inside of my eyelids frankly sir, and all that does is make me cranky and means that who ever did this, when I get hold of them taking a dive down some bloody stairs.” The last was delivered with considerable enthusiasm and the final dregs of a pint.
“You’d not of got much sleep anyway, since as I was letting the rest of the squad go back to London since we’ve finished the leg work and door knocking, they stayed up well past midnight drinking heavily. Which our esteemed land lady would never normally do as its lights by ten normally.”
“Well that’s the lot sir and it’s a single pinter. Which given the oddities of the case is a clear condemnation of what we've found out as anything I've heard. I’m going for another, you want one?” A grunted replay and a pause well Taylor brought two pints and starred down the impressive cleavage of the barmaid. He pushed the inspector’s pint over to him
“All of which helps me not a single thing, your recollection is superb, as always, but in this case I had not forgotten anything. Not a single thing we have uncovered has thrown any light on what to me are some of the most puzzling incident of this case, which may seem like a sideline to many, but I think of vital importance.” He left it hanging, inviting the Sergeant to ask.
“What’s that then?” Never a man to refuse an invitation
“Timing Sergeant, timing. The shooting was reported at 10 PM, police got to the scene at 11 PM, roused Mrs Merriweather from her deep sleep with repeated knocking at 11.30, well she’s shaken awake by Charlotte she identified the body by midnight. Overcome with shock she drank several medicinal brandies, while a bobby looked after her. Eventually she remembered the number and so the Sergeant phoned the number at more of less precisely 1 o’clock. It was instantly answered, the gentlemen who answered said he knows Mr. Kenton and if something had happened to him he’d be right over. Those government gentlemen, and the real Mr Kenton arrived at 4 o’clock in the morning. Mr Kenton not showing his face, till he pulls his stunt with us, then they flash their ministry ID’s and explain representatives of Scotland Yard are on there way. We arrive having taken the first train from London, getting here just passed eight o’clock in the morning, to find the body’s not been moved, the suns barely up and sea mist on the ground. What time were you roused from your slumbers sergeant?”
“Not sure sir.”
“I am, I was woken up at 1.27 am. Being generous, I’m going to call that 40 minutes after the call was made, as nobody is entirely sure when the call was made. In that time, these spooks were able to ring our boss and get to him to agree to send use up. Since our boss would never let use go without a damn good reason, I’m betting that his instruction came from the police commissioner. Forty minutes to get this much pressure, to get use on a train north is frankly a miracle. And enough pressure that our boss gave us five uniforms for leg work as soon as we asked, and getting that on our patch would have been a fight. Out of London, when there’s locals about? Add to that Sir bloody Archibald.”
“What about Archibald?”
“The document he had. He boarded our unusually busy night train at a station two hours south of here. A gentleman of his status happens to be in the area when something this odd goes off. Unlikely, but the strange happens. But that he’s carrying documents, signed and sealed, naming use, naming the case. Documents available only in London. So the how in heavens name did they managed to get these signed by the Home Secretary himself and up to Archibald within the five hours they had?”
Taylor sat looking dumbly as his inspector, poured forth in uncharacteristic verbosity.
“There’s more. Someone rings you up and tells you Kenton’s dead, you phone some people, they phone some people but at some point somebody phones somebody who’s sitting with Kenton. It’s a mistake, it’s case of mistaken identify clearly since Kenton is sitting with you. Call off the dogs, don’t wake up the home secretary, don’t get spooks moving. But not this time, this had to have been kicked this into top gear the minute Kenton jnr was found dead, at the very least. And it don’t let up for a second when Kenton is found moving around.” With unaccustomed vigor Morris started cleaning his pipe.
“And finally there’s the contact phone number Mrs. Merriweather had. Why did the impostor leave a number that contacted people connected to the real Kenton? Without that we might never have found out he was an impostor. That’s to say if he is an impostor! Aside from the words of the ministry men, we’ve not got a single scrap of evidence to confirm that an impostor died on that beach. We could have spent three weeks with an impostor while Kenton’s gone to an unmarked grave, and we’d never know!”
And in a giant gulp he drained half his pint, while the Sergeant sat shell-shocked.
“To quote you, and not the immortal bard. It’s all bollocks, innit.”