Speak To Me

Sunday 9th July – 01:30

Detective Constable Emily Barrett had already overcome a number of challenges in her life and she had yet to reach her thirtieth birthday. Coming out to unsympathetic parents at sixteen, the death of her brother by a drunk driver at nineteen and a near mental breakdown 12 months into her dream job with the CID department of Police Scotland in Edinburgh. She was far from being immune to dealing with adversity, but she had learned a coping strategy that pulled her through. She would need to rely on this now, more than ever, as she handcuffed her best friend and arrested her on suspicion of murder.

Emily had met Clare Torry at the start of high school and they had been inseparable since. Growing up they had known each other’s secrets, confiding and consulting each other throughout the difficult teenage years. Clare had supported Emily when her parents turned their backs on her, and when her classmates had teased or bullied her upon coming out. The death of her only sibling separated her further from her family, rather than bringing them closer like the various Hollywood movies tend to portray. Once again, Clare had been the one to guide her through the darkness. 

Sunday 9th July – 12:05

A 999 call for an ambulance had turned into a suspicious death and Emily was sent to investigate with her boss, Detective Inspector Roger Gilmour. The property address was in the Murrayfield area of the city, not far from the national rugby stadium. The address was familiar to her, but as she approached the front door, Emily realised that she had never been there before. The door was guarded by a uniformed officer who led them to the main hallway and introduced them to the owner, a well-dressed man in his early forties who had a face that Emily recognised. He led them along hallway of the substantial property, currently a hive of activity with police, forensic and medical personal. He introduced himself as Richard Mason, a partner of one of the larger Edinburgh based law firms. Suddenly to Emily, it all clicked into place.

‘Sir,’ Emily addressed her boss with caution. They paused outside the room and Gilmour asked the owner to excuse them for a minute.

‘I know this family.’ Emily’s voice was controlled, hiding the nervousness she felt in her stomach.

‘Go on.’ Gilmour was direct with Emily, not in a condescending way, he was an officer focused on getting results. He had little time for idle chat or dealing with the emotions of others. 

‘He’s related to a friend of mine, Clare.’

‘Duly noted DC Barrett. We’ll proceed with caution.’

Emily was unable to prevent a subtle gasp as the officers entered the room. The modern interior, tastefully decorated with highly expensive wooden flooring, would have been wooed by most visitors to the house. It certainly would have impressed Emily had it not been for the dead body on the floor. The gasp was not for the dead body, it was for her friend crouched next to it, covered in blood, rocking back and forth on her knees staring at the floor. Mason’s wife, Liza, sat on the white leather sofa, her complexion matching the furniture. The girl rocking next to the body was confirmed as Liza’s sister, Clare. 

DI Gilmour was able to deduce the situation and moved quickly in to lead the questioning. He instructed one of the Police Constables to take Mr and Mrs Mason into the dining room, to be spoken with later. He needed to gather the facts then speak with Clare first. He asked another PC to sit with her as he collected details and his own initial thoughts. 

Emily took out her notebook, noticing the slight tremor in her writing hand. 

The Police medic, Dr Lesley Troy, was writing some notes in her pocket book. She was aware of DI Gilmour’s presence; however, they both knew that she would speak to him only when she was ready. Gilmour also knew she would disclose very little until the post mortem had been completed. Gilmour decided to try his luck with one of the Crime Scene Officers.

Barry Duncan had been a leading forensic scientist for near 20 years. He had seen almost every crime committed and his information and evidence often led to a successful conviction. 

‘Appears pretty clear cut, if you excuse the pun.’ Duncan had a dry sense of humour, on the rare occasion it surfaced. ‘The woman was found holding the knife and it took great persuasion from the first responders to get her to give it up.’ He was gesturing towards Clare. ‘She’s not for moving, but she’s not interfering with our work. You may need to get a psychologist out.’

Duncan went on to confirm that the deceased was a David Wright, the partner of the lady found with the knife, Clare Torry. No sign of forced entry to the property, and only the four people were in the house at the time. Everything at this time pointed to Clare Torry being the killer. 

Emily surveyed the room. As well at the matching white leather sofas, there was a substantial coffee table, some side furniture and a wall mounted television. The property had a period fire place which was unlit. A sheepskin rug was near the fireplace, which now sported bloodstains from the deceased. On top of the coffee table sat some empty wine bottles and glasses alongside some clean cups and full cafetiere of coffee. Something caught Emily’s eye and she crouched down to examine one of the table legs closer. There was a large rubber band lying on the floor with the table leg in the middle of it. She considered it was out of place but thought little of it. She asked the forensic photographer to take a photo regardless.

Dr Troy approached Gilmour so Emily joined them, once more taking out her notebook.

‘I won’t be giving you much until I do a full examination back at the lab, but the cause of death appears to be a single stab wound to the abdomen.’ Dr Troy’s confirmation was professional and to the point. ‘Time of death was between 9pm and 11pm last night.’

With that, she left before Gilmour could ask anything further. He knew any additional questions would not be answered at this stage, but it gave him a start. He looked over at Clare and then back to Emily.

‘I’m only going to ask you this once.’ Gilmour had turned to face Emily square on and he spoke at a volume so that only he and Emily could hear. ‘You are the best DC on my team, if it had been anyone else you would have been sent home already. Are you going to be able to handle this?’

‘Absolutely, sir. I am fully aware of my responsibilities here.’ Emily surprised herself on how calmly she spoke, but she needed to be here. She needed to know what had happened. She had spent her life separating her emotions from the difficult situations that she found herself faced with and that was the main reason she was such a good police officer. Gilmour had already told her that she should expect a promotion before the year was out.

Gilmour nodded and they approached Clare. She had been escorted onto the sofa and was sitting with one of the other police officers. 

‘Hi Clare, my name is Detective Inspector Gilmour, I believe you already know my colleague DC Barrett.’

Clare looked up for the first time. To Emily, it looked like she had aged ten years since they had had coffee the week before. Her makeup was smudged and she had two thick black mascara lines that ran down her cheeks from constant crying. She looked at Gilmour for a while, looking like a lost and confused child. She then glanced over to Emily.

‘Emmy.’ Her voice cracked as she spoke Emily’s nickname. Clare was the only person who called her that, the only person Emily would ever want to call her that.

‘What happened tonight?’ The question was out Emily’s mouth before she could stop herself. She knew that Gilmour would not be pleased that she opened the questioning, but he did not show it.

‘Someone killed David.’ She sounded weak, exhausted and her gaze towards the officers what somewhat pleading.

‘Just take me through it step by step.’ Gilmour’s tone was soft, but the words constructed a firm instruction, rather than a question.

‘We had all been enjoying some wine; I took myself off to the bathroom. When I came back, David was lying on the floor. I knew straight away that he was dead.’

‘Did you remove the knife?’ Gilmour continued.

‘Removed it?’ Clare looked genuinely confused. ‘I just picked it up from the floor.’

Gilmour was visibly taken aback by the response. He addressed the police officer sitting beside Clare. ‘Keep her here, we will be back shortly.’

He walked back towards the hallway, Emily following in his footsteps. He headed around the corner to the large dining room he had spotted earlier. Mr and Mrs Mason were sat at the table, the police officer standing beside them. The table showed remains of an earlier meal, with the dessert plates still to be cleared. Mr Mason was holding tightly onto his wife’s hand trying to keep her calm. It did not appear to be having the desired effect. Gilmour pulled up a chair beside them. Emily stood behind him, notebook in hand.

‘So, can you tell me what happened?’

Richard Mason cleared his throat and took a deep breath before speaking.

‘We had enjoyed a meal earlier in the evening and decided to move through to the sitting room for coffee. These chairs are antique in style as well as comfort.’ He gave a small smile, although it was obvious the joke had been used on many occasions before. ‘Anyway, we left David and Clare in the living room and Liza and I went through to the kitchen to make the coffee. We were chatting over our plans for the week ahead when we heard Clare shout out. When we went back through, David was on the floor and with Clare sat beside him holding a knife. I dialled 999 immediately. Clare started rocking back and forth and was unresponsive, I just held onto Liza until the ambulance arrived. You came shortly afterwards.’

‘So neither of you saw the attack, you were both in the kitchen when it happened?’

The Mason’s nodded in unison. 

‘Ok, well I am going to have to ask you both to come down to the station with me so we can ask some further questions and get your full statements.’ He nodded to the police officer who escorted them through the house.

Gilmour turned to Emily.

‘It’s not looking good I’m afraid. I won’t jump to any conclusions, not until I have all the facts, but we do need to arrest her on suspicion.’ He turned and headed back to the sitting room. Emily followed suit, bringing out her handcuffs. She stepped in front of Gilmour and asked Clare to stand. Clare complied, eyes glued to the floor, sensing what was coming. Emily completed the arrest and, as softly as she could, put on the handcuffs. She took her arm and gently guided her towards the police car.

Clare turned her head so her mouth was close to Emily’s ear. ‘It wasn’t me Emmy,’ she whispered.

And despite all the evidence suggesting the opposite, Emily believed her.

Sunday 9th July – 03:15

The Mason’s were separated for the first time since the incident to give their statements. Mrs Mason added little to her husband’s original statement back at the house. Mr Mason, however, gave a fuller account of events. He stated that he heard a small thud a couple of minutes before Clare’s scream. He said they both thought it sounded like a wine bottle being knocked over and didn’t go through in case he embarrassed his guests. He stated on the record that only Clare and David were in the room at the time of the incident, so Clare was the only person who could have murdered David. After giving their statements, the Mason’s were dropped off at a hotel to allow completion of the forensic work at the house.

With the exception of the words in Emily’s ear after her arrest, Clare had said nothing further, requesting a solicitor before she would answer any further questions. Emily was glad that she had taken this sensible approach and Gilmour had suggested they headed home for some sleep before continuing in the morning. The forensic team were working through the night so the initial reports would be in by then, and Gilmour knew he needed some rest before scrutinising them

Sunday 9th July – 09:50

Emily had gone back to bed, however, had failed to get any meaningful sleep. Her head was filled with visions of Clare’s face, her ears full of her last words to her. She knew that at face value it looked like her best friend was guilty of a horrendous crime, but she had spent so much time in Clare’s company that she knew her better than anyone and that knowledge told her that Clare could never do such a thing.

But what if she was wrong? What if she was out of her depth, that her ‘so called’ best friend did this terrible thing in the heat of the moment? She knew that Clare had been together with David for coming up two years, her first real relationship since her first marriage ended in divorce. She also knew that the relationship was doomed and that Clare had spoken many times about ending it. When they met for coffee, she had said as much. Emily suspected that there may even be someone else, but did not raise the subject and Clare neither confirmed nor denied her suspicions. 

Clare arrived at Corstorphine Police Station earlier than planned and spotted DI Gilmour taking off his jacket, having reached the station just before her. She went across to him.

‘Always happens when I get a murder case.’ He spoke with a mixture of tiredness and excitement. ‘First three nights, I can’t sleep a wink.’

Emily noticed that there was two coffee cups in a holder, recently bought from a local cafe chain. Gilmour took out the first cup and handed it to Emily.

‘I knew that you wouldn’t sleep either.’

Emily took an appreciated sip of the warm latte, enjoying the strong taste of the extra shot. Gilmour had an encyclopaedic knowledge of his staff, he knew their family’s names, birthdays, pets, everything down to how they took their tea or coffee. He could be a fearsome boss at times; however, he was as fair as they came. He was also an exceptional detective. Gilmour took a long sip of his coffee, then broke into a large smile looking over Emily’s shoulder. Emily turned to see Barry Duncan walking towards them, a file in his hands.

‘You said it was urgent, do you want the headlines?’ Duncan passed over the file. Gilmour started flicking through it as he nodded his head in reply to Duncan’s question.

‘A number interesting developments, the first one is regarding some fascinating blood splatter. It was not consistent with a straightforward stabbing; the splatter appears to indicate that the knife was removed after stabbing with some speed. Make of that what you will. Secondly, the blood from the wound dripped towards the side of the deceased, indicating that he was lying on his side when the fatal blow was inflicted.’ Duncan was clearly enjoying his moment in the spotlight as well as the reactions of the two officers in from of him. ‘The third point of note is that fingerprints lifted from the knife show it was handled by the deceased and Clare Torry only. Finally the knife itself,’ Duncan paused, mainly for dramatic effect. ‘A standard kitchen knife with a wooden handle, nothing particularly interesting about the type of knife, however, the handle has a notch cut into it, photos are over the page DI Gilmour.’ 

Gilmour turned the page and stared at the different photos taken of the weapon. ‘It runs in a diagonal angle away from the blade. A bit unusual, but the strangest thing about it is that it was made recently.’ 

With a short bow, Gilmour turned and left, leaving his audience stunned. Gilmour continued to look over the file which contained the basic findings. He knew that there would be more to come, but it continued to point to Clare as the killer. 

Sunday 9th July – 11:10

Clare’s solicitor arrived at the station, a portly gentleman in his late fifties. He was smartly dressed, although his stomach was pushing his hand made pin striped suit to the limit of its size. His double chin rested on top of the knot of his silk tie. He introduced himself to Gilmour and Emily before requesting ten minutes with his client prior to interview. Gilmour pulled Emily aside.

‘Emily, I am happy for you to observe the interview from the outside, but I will take one of the other DC’s in with me. It is important that we do this by the book. I know that this is personal, regardless of your track record and your professionalism, and I respect that. You need to know that this is my investigation and that you can be part, but I set the boundaries.’

It was a speech Emily was expecting and agreeable to. Most other superior officers would have had her on annual leave and as far away from the investigation as possible, so Emily appreciated the opportunity to watch. She knew there had to more to it, but wanted to see Clare under questioning before moving on some of her initial thoughts.

Clare was brought through to the interview room and sat beside her solicitor. Gilmour had taken in one of the older DC’s who had over 25 years’ experience but no desire for promotion. He was an old school police officer and excelled at it. Gilmour set the scene and started by asking Clare for her account of the nights proceedings. Emily watched the screen closely as her friend explained the events. She talked through the evening as she had done the night before. She added little detail except to say that David had drunk more wine than usual, but did not appear excessively drunk.

‘How was your relationship with David at the time of his death?’ Gilmour asked her.

Clare’s solicitor whispered advice in her ear. She appeared confident enough to answer the question.

‘It was nearing the end, we both knew it. We didn’t fight or argue, we just didn’t get on as well as we did. I guess neither of us had the courage to end it, but I know that I would have left him in the coming weeks if he had not left first.’

‘Will you benefit financially from his death?’ Gilmour was flicking through the file Duncan had given him. It wouldn’t have any financial records in it, so he was doing it for affect.

‘I’m not sure; we never really talked about those types of things. The house we live in is in my name only; it was left to me by my late parents.’

‘Were you, or are you in a relationship with anyone else?’ Gilmour put down the file and made direct eye contact with her. It seemed to unnerve her somewhat. She turned to her solicitor for advice who spoke for the first time.

‘I do not see what relevance that has in current matters, Detective Inspector.’

‘A failing relationship, living in a house owned outright, someone else in the picture. It could all add up to motive.’

Clare’s solicitor consulted her once more.

‘No comment.’

Emily knew that the answer given would be the same for the rest of the interview. Gilmour knew the same and, although he tried another few questions, decided to bring the interview to a halt. Gilmour came out of the room and walked passed Emily and back to his desk. The DC stopped beside her and looked at the screen showing Clare being taken out of the interview and back to the cell.

‘If it was just based on the interview, I would not be convinced.’ He spoke in monotone, never taking his eyes off the screen. ‘But given the evidence against her, I would say she has no chance.’

He walked away leaving Emily to her thoughts. It was hard to disagree with what he had just said, but she knew that there was something else to this. Something in the evidence that pointed to something completely out of the ordinary, something that no one would believe. To prove it she needed to get access to David’s computer and phone.

Sunday 9th July – 17:50

A forensic team had been sent to Clare’s house and were removing evidence for further examination. David and Clare’s computers, phones and tablets had all been taken and were currently being reviewed by the forensic IT team. Although Clare had only been held just over 12 hours of the allotted 24 hours grace, Gilmour had been granted a further 24 hour extension to continue questioning her, but he was convinced that the a charge would be made before the extension ran out.

Emily spent the afternoon working on background research into David, having been informed that other officers would do the same on Clare. Although she had been in David’s company a number of times, she and Clare mostly socialised on their own be it the cinema, cafes or pubs. Emily had been single for most of the period that they were a couple and Emily had the impression that Clare liked to spend time away from him. They rarely spoke about the relationship, so Emily only picked up on subtle hints and passing comments. Clare had always been private on these matters, so Emily knew not to pry.

The background checks did not reveal much information; however, there was something that did catch Emily’s eye. To be sure of her suspicions, which would also go some way to proving the theory she was currently considering, she would need to hear the results of the autopsy.

Monday 10th July – 9:10

DI Gilmour and Emily stood waiting for Dr Troy in the mortuary waiting room. Neither of them had had the appetite for breakfast nor the usual morning coffee. They were into their second 24 hour period and Gilmour had confirmed that he was planning to charge Emily before the extension period was over. He was now treating the case as a formality. Emily, on the other hand, knew that the autopsy report and the IT team’s findings were all that stood between Clare’s guilt and innocence.

Dr Troy strode purposefully into the room and escorted them into her office area.

‘I don’t have all the details yet DI Gilmour; however, I will give you two key findings. Firstly, the stab wound is consistent with the knife found at the scene and was precise.’

‘Precise?’ Gilmour’s question was asked in a mixture of surprise and confusion.

‘By precise, I mean that the killer knew exactly where to strike. Not many single stab wounds are fatal, however, the location and angle of the wound indicates that the killer was either very precise or extremely lucky. In my experience, I would suggest the former.’

Gilmour did not respond to the confirmation, instead letting the information sink in.

‘Secondly, and with the benefit of medical records, had the victim not been killed yesterday morning, he would have been dead in 2 months. He was recently diagnosed with an extremely aggressive brain tumour.’

Once more Gilmour was speechless and lost in thought. Emily, on the other hand, had heard half of the information that could save her friend.

Monday 10th July – 11:35

The IT team had provided their initial findings and Emily scrolled through the information from David’s devices. She found two pieces of information which were of interest to her, one she fully expected and other that confirmed her suspicions. She approached Gilmour at his desk.

‘Sir, I believe I know now exactly what happened at the Mason’s house and it was not everything it seemed. We need to go back to the house and speak to the Masons. It would be easier to show you than to try and explain it.’

Monday 10th July – 14:15

Emily and Gilmour arrived at the Mason’s property and were escorted through to the sitting room. Mrs Mason had gained little of her normal complexion since their last meeting and remained seated on the sofa. Mr Mason offered them tea or coffee, however, Gilmour declined on behalf of them both. He was keen to hear Emily’s theory as much as the Mason’s were. Gilmour stood by the door and allowed Emily to pass and begin her explanation.

‘I am sorry that Clare will not be able to hear this first hand, however, I expect that she will be happy to be free regardless.’ Emily’s voice was calm and controlled; she had been mentally preparing her speech for a few hours now. The Masons looked at her in complete stunned silence.

‘I knew that Clare was not capable of murder and, although all the evidence pointed to the contrary, I was determined to prove this. Mr and Mrs Mason, you both state that you were in the kitchen preparing coffee when the killing happened. Clare confirmed as much in her own statement, so that fact cannot be disputed. No one else came in or left the property, so that left only Clare capable of the murder. As I have said, she is not capable of murder, so the only other person who could have killed David Wright, was David himself.’ 

Mrs Mason let out a small shriek and was comforted by her husband. Gilmour asked Emily to continue.

‘To confirm this, I had to prove motive and opportunity. We found out that he only had two months to live, however, that on its own did not prove anything. The motive part was actually confirmed when the IT team provided us with two key pieces of information. Firstly, his phone had text messages from a friend confirming that he had been having an affair with Clare. She refused to answer a direct question in relation to this which would seem to corroborate the fact. If she had nothing to hide, she would have denied the allegation of an affair. Secondly, David had an interesting internet search history. He had been researching medical sites relating to fatal injuries and, more specifically, fatal knife wounds. I can only suspect that he planned to make his suicide look like murder at a time when all the evidence pointed to Clare.’

Emily walked over to the coffee table and stood by the spot they had found David’s body. The floor had been cleaned, but she knew that the Masons would have it replaced in due course. Emily reached into her pocket and took out an elastic band and held it up to the Masons.

‘Do you recognise this?’

‘We found one like that by the coffee table this morning.’ Mrs Mason confirmed.

‘I thought when I first saw it that it was very out of place within a room such as this. Forgive me for being graphic now, but it is best for me to show you how he did it.’

Emily lay down on the floor, just as they had found David.

‘He would have had to time it perfectly and his research would have told him how long he had before the wound would stop his heart and kill him. He may have started proceedings on hearing the flush of the toilet, with the bathroom being directly above us. He lay down on the floor like this, placed the elastic band round the leg of the coffee table and used the notch on the knife handle to remove it after he had delivered the fatal stab. The removal of the knife both caused suspicion and helped the process. When Clare came down, she would have been faced with David lying down with the knife next to him, rather than still on his body. No one would have suspected suicide when the knife was away from the body rather than still implanted.’

‘The thud we heard,’ Mr Mason shouted suddenly. ‘It was the knife hitting the floor, not a wine bottle as we had suspected.’

Gilmour walked across to Emily.

‘If the forensic team confirm your theory, I will let you release her yourself.’

Three Months Later

Emily and Clare sat next to each other in a quiet bar off the Royal Mile, sipping on their wine glasses. It would take Clare a long time to get over her ordeal; however, Emily knew it was time she returned the favour for the support she had received over the years. The forensic and medical teams confirmed Emily’s theory of what happened and David’s death was confirmed as suicide. 

‘I don’t know how I am going to get through this.’ Clare’s words were filled with pain and sorrow. Emily reached over and took her hand.

‘Whatever happens Clare, whatever you do, all you need to do is speak to me.’


%d bloggers like this: