"Good morning Mrs. Castle. My name is Detective Burke," he said as he came into the room. "Now I can appreciate that this is a very difficult time for you," he continued, but to the sad, nervous woman sat in the questioning room, his voice sounded cold, hard, businesslike - anything but appreciative. She sat with her head down, clutching her handbag tightly.
Burke continued. "I`m going to be heading this investigation from now on, and there are some questions that I`m afraid I`m going to have to ask you."
Burke helped himself to a seat and looked Debby Castle straight in the eyes. He knew that some of the guys in the office had already opened a book on the murderer, with Mrs. Castle top of the list at 3 to 1, but the instant he looked into her face he knew that would be a bad bet to make.
Colin Burke had been in the force all his life. He considered himself a good judge of character, and often let his instincts lead the way in cases such as these. He had occasionally proven his own instincts to be wrong, which simply reinforced the fact that you lived and learned, but now he instinctively believed that Mrs. Castle was not responsible for tying her husband, Philip, to the bed, covering his mouth with strong tape, and smashing him to death with an axe.
And yet there was something - something he could not quite put his finger on - which was why he was going to question her now.
"Now then, do you need anything? Tea, coffee, a solicitor?"
Her head snapped up at the last comment. "Do I need a solicitor?"
He shrugged. "You tell me. If you`re innocent, then there`s no reason you should," he replied, a brilliant catch-22 line he liked to deliver whenever someone asked if they needed a solicitor.
"I`ve done nothing wrong. Unless you class being told that your husband has been murdered as doing something wrong!" She was almost in tears again now.
"Is that a 'No'?" Hard, brutal, but Burke felt it was necessary. Only when he had broken them down, could Burke really trust the answers a person gave him. A shake of her head told him that it was time to begin.
"I`ll be honest with you Mrs. Castle..."
"I`ve been honest with you!" She implored, assuming he was going to state otherwise.
"I know you have," he continued. "I truly believe you have. And yet, I don`t think you`ve told us everything." A pause. Only a second or two, but to the interviewee this seems like eternity. "Now that may be because we haven`t asked the right questions yet. And that`s why I`m here." He stopped while he got a packet of cigarettes out of his shirt pocket. Debby accepted one, and they both inhaled deeply as he studied her through the smoke.
"What was the last thing you did before leaving the house this morning?" he asked.
"I opened the bedroom curtains as I always do." She quickly responded.
With a switch of tack he asked, "Was your husband having an affair?"
She choked slightly on the smoke at the suddenness of the question. "I... I," she stammered. "Not as far as I`m aware."
There was a knock at the door and Burke had to excuse himself for a moment. Bob Childs was there when he opened the door. "Sorry to disturb you boss."
"Not a problem. What have you got?"
"Not much I`m afraid, only the usual insurance policies, you know, endowment, a small personal life cover policy. Nothing big enough to indicate this was done for the money."
Burke nodded. "Okay. Do me a favour Bob. Run me a quick check. Find out if he was having an affair of any sort, quick as you can."
"Some of the boys have already made some initial enquiries boss, door to door stuff. The guy was clockwork - a workaholic. Every day, the same thing. All the neighbours agreed, if he had been up to anything, they would have known."
"So why were the police called?"
"As I said, they were clockwork. When the neighbours didn`t see the curtains open and Mrs. Castle leave on time, they got suspicious."
Burke seemed to come alive. "Right. Find out about her. I want to know where she was last night. Was she having an affair?"
Childs paused. "Not sure on that one. I`ll check and get back to you. Anything else?"
Burke shook his head and went back into the interview room. He Knew she had lied now, but continued to make small talk with the woman, trying to make her feel at ease. He knew there was only so much he could find out, only a small amount he could really believe, until he built up a base of possible situations from which he could work. His boys out in the offices, the lads knocking on doors on the street, were all helping him to achieve his goal of putting the pieces together.
The policeman refused to ask Debby the crucial question he was now dying to know the answer to: Was she having an affair? If the husband wasn`t, Burke was reasonably sure that she was, especially now that he had caught her out once, but until he had more to go on, he would wait.
Another knock at the door, and Childs was there again. "As far as we can tell, she was having an affair. Well, at least she was seeing someone. Neighbours say that she and her husband weren`t getting on, lots of raised voices and stuff. How much he knew we can`t tell."
"So no idea who it was?"
" Sorry boss, couldn`t even tell you for sure that it was a man!" Childs confessed.
"Okay. Next thing, and fast. I want you to run a check on her bank account. Look for any recent large withdrawals. You know the sort of thing I mean."
"You think she may have paid for him to be bumped off?"
He shrugged, but when he walked back into the room, Burke had made a bold decision. "You didn`t come home last night did you Mrs. Castle! So who was he then? " he asked.
To his surprise she gave a small laugh. "Yeah, well I suppose you could say that now you`re asking the right questions. He`s a businessman..."
"Name!" A straightforward demand.
"His name`s not important."
"Just humour me please."
"Dave. David Smith." And she watched as he quickly rose and left the room, calling for Childs as soon as the door was opened.
As the detective arrived, Burke told Childs the revelation and swiftly gave his instructions. "Another quick favour. Check his account too."
"You really think ...?" But Burkes mind was elsewhere and he turned back into the room.
"How long had you and your husband.... Been arguing?"
She shrugged. "A long time. Months. You know how it goes, it all starts so slowly ."
"And when did you start this affair? Before or after the arguments?"
"Look, I can see where this is heading. I can admit that I didn`t love Philip. If I`m truthful, I hadn`t loved him for some time. And yes, we argued, but there was never any violence, and I can promise you that I didn`t kill my husband."
"That`s not the question I asked!"
"Neither did Dave!" She shouted.
Burke paused again. The silence fell heavy in the room after her outburst. He lit another cigarette, and she accepted one again. The silence slowly drew itself out.
"Okay, okay! I started seeing Dave after the arguments started. Soon after, but after. And I didn`t cause them as an excuse to see him."
He nodded. He had run out of questions for now, and was grateful when there was another knock at the door.
Childs looked agitated. "Ten grand boss, taken from his account."
"Excellent. Now that gives us something to work on. We could have something here!"
"But there`s bad news boss - It was only taken out first thing this morning."
Burke frowned. "But no hitman would do the job without getting paid first! And in full. Are you sure that`s all there is?"
Childs nodded. "Up until today, it`s all normal transactions."
Burke stood alone as Childs walked away. What was going on here? Something was wrong, and he couldn`t see it yet. He could picture the woman now, alone and scared, sitting quietly, smoking her cigarette and still clutching her handbag....
He burst into the room with such a suddenness that it startled her. Before she knew what was happening he had her bag in his hands, but as she pulled on the strap, trying to regain it, the contents spilt onto the floor.
It was all in fifty pound notes. They were loose, not in bundles as he might have imagined, and she let out a small whimper as she saw them scatter on the floor. Mrs. Castle collapsed into her chair and started to cry.
Burke took a seat, but before he could begin to question her the truth began to pour out, and it was obvious that she was actually grateful it had come to this.
"You see it all the time don`t you?" she began. She wasn`t actually talking to him, and seemed as if she were just talking to herself. "Loan sharks! Well I went to one. I went to one for one reason only - I was going to leave Philip. That was a year ago. A one off payment of five grand, repayable with one hundred percent interest in a year. Except of course that I wasn`t even going to be here." She started crying more heavily, and accepted another cigarette.
"Then Dave showed up. God, he showed me how to live and love again. I realised that I had to get the money together, but for some stupid reason I just kept putting it off. Well payday soon came around. I went round to see the guy, to strike some sort of deal." She gave a short ironic laugh. "Well the deal was that if I didn`t pay up, then Philip got whacked. And you know what? I didn`t care. But then the bastard found out about Dave, and he still said that he`d whack Philip to show me what would happen to Dave later."
"But you thought you`d wait until your husband was dead before paying up?" Burke interjected.
"Nooooo! That`s what`s so wrong. I was supposed to pay him today! Philip was killed, and it`s my fault - But it`s not my fault because I had until today! He shouldn`t have died."
She was almost inconsolable now, so Burke had to move quickly. "What`s the name of the shark Debby?"
She whispered the name Ian Green, and he left the room to arrange for a female detective to look after her, before he and Childs went to interrogate the computer.
It was over an hour before Burke had all the information he needed. It had been a long day, but for someone it was going to be even longer... For someone had to tell Mrs. Debby Castle that Ian Green was an employee of one businessman named Dave Smith.