فصل 11

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فصل 11

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CHAPTER ELEVEN

The confession

Detective Chief Inspector Jane Honeywell walked into the interview room and felt suddenly certain that the man sitting at the table was the one responsible for the death of Rose Carter. There was something about the look of the muscular shoulders, the way the large rough hands played on the table, and the deadness in the unfocussed eyes which stared blankly towards the floor.

Pete followed her in and stood behind her as she took a chair and faced Mervin Peck, who was accompanied by a lawyer.

‘This interview is being tape recorded…’ Jane repeated the required words as she had done so many times before. ‘I am interviewing… would you please say your full name?’ She looked at Mervin and waited.

Eventually Mervin muttered at the floor, ‘Mervin Donald Peck.’

Then Jane stated the time and date and finished by saying, ‘This interview may be given in evidence if your case is brought to trial. You do not have to say anything. But it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything which you do say may be given in evidence.’

As she spoke, Jane was watching Mervin closely. He looked pale, and sweat appeared on his nose and forehead.

She began her questions. ‘Mr Peck, when you were arrested earlier, you refused to explain why you threatened mе with a gun. Would you care to tell me now?’ Mervin did not respond.

Jane tried again. ‘Mr Peck, I think you may have some information concerning the death of Rose Carter.’ Again there was no answer. Instead Mervin suddenly gripped his arm as if in pain.

‘Mr Peck, you’re in serious trouble. You will be charged with threatening a police officer. We will then be in a position to collect a DNA sample from you, which we can compare with samples we have taken from the scene of the crime. If there is a positive match, then you will also be charged with her murder. It would save everyone a lot of time and trouble if you would tell us what we need to know now.’

Mervin looked at his solicitor, who nodded. ‘All right, I’ll tell you what you want.’ Mervin’s voice sounded rough, like boots walking over moorland stones. ‘I have this temper. Sometimes it gets the better of me… It was about 4.30 in the afternoon. I was in the shed doing the sheep as usual, you know, feeding and watering and chat. Came outside and thought I heard someone shout. Went round the side of the building and she was there looking at her hand and rubbing it. She must’ve been stung by a bee or something, I don’t know. She said she was going to report me for not looking after my sheep properly. Told her to get off my land. She just laughed at me. I went towards her and she picked up an old axe that was lying around. She must’ve thought I was going to do something to her. I tried to pull the axe away from her. She was screaming at me and I went wild. My arm was bad, see.

The next thing I knew I’d got the axe from her and hit her with the side of it. She fell immediately and was quiet. Hadn’t meant to hit her. Just seemed to lose control somehow. It was an accident, really it was. Didn’t mean to do it…’ The words died away.

‘Go on, Mr Peck,’ Jane told him.

‘Don’t remember too clearly,’ Mervin continued. ‘I knew the boy was coming soon so I’d have to hide her. Thought of the pick-up truck, which I’d left in the top field earlier. Carried her up there and covered her with a tarpaulin. And I put an old beehive on the top that was lying about in the field. To stop the tarpaulin blowing off, see? Was going to take her up to where there’s an old tin mine on the moor later, after dark.’

Sweat was by this time pouring down Mervin’s ash-coloured face. He asked for some water and drank it rapidly. Jane became aware of a strange, unpleasant smell coming from him.

‘And what did you do after that?’ she asked him.

‘The boy arrived and we had a lot to do, with the ewes lambing and all. Later I went back in the house for something to eat and a bit of a sit-down, but I must have fallen asleep. The next thing I know is the boy is pulling at my arm saying I had to go outside with him.’

‘Mr Peck, would you please speak up? Now, are you certain you had never seen Rose Carter before?’ Jane asked.

‘No,’ Mervin said. ‘But I know who she is now.’ He laughed in a cracked, broken fashion. ‘She’s my brother’s fancy woman, that’s what. He phoned me the day after they took her away and it was on the local news. He was upset because it was his girlfriend that had been found on my farm. Told him he should be grateful.’

‘What do you mean, Mr Peck? Grateful?’

Mervin looked confused for a moment. ‘I mean … I mean, my brother’s got a wife. It’s not right to carry on with other women, is it?’ he stammered.

‘I guess you’re right, Mr Peck,’ Jane said. ‘Tell me, if it was an accident, why didn’t you call the police?’

‘Don’t know. I panicked, couldn’t think straight. My arm was giving me trouble, see, and I’d been up all the night before with the sheep. S’pose I thought that no-one had seen me, no-one would know. Seemed easier to get rid of the body, less trouble…’

‘Where is the axe now?’

‘At the bottom of the hole where I throw dead lambs and that kind of thing.’ Mervin fell silent. He gripped his arm and gave a groan of pain. Jane realised suddenly that the man was probably quite ill. His eyes were over-bright and he was plainly feverish. He stared up at her and she saw in his eyes the same expression as she had seen in his sick sheep. She didn’t know if it was the look of a troubled conscience or of fever. Or both.

‘Mr Peck, are you feeling all right?’

‘No, as it happens. Can’t stand this pain in my arm much longer,’ he whispered.

Mervin’s lawyer glanced at Jane and opened his mouth but she spoke first. ‘All right then, we’d better stop for a bit so a doctor can take a look at you,’ she said.

‘Well, that was all rather strange,’ Jane remarked to Pete a little while later, after the police doctor had examined Mr Peck. The doctor confirmed that he was indeed not well enough to be questioned and arranged for him to be admitted to the local hospital.

‘What do you mean?’ Pete asked.

‘Well, he’s obviously quite ill for one thing. But that’s not what I mean, really,’ Jane said. ‘From what he says he has an uncontrollable temper and he’ll use violence, and he’s quite prepared to throw a dead person into a hole like one of his sheep. Yet he disapproves of his brother having an affair. The man has a rather twisted sense of right and wrong.’

‘Listen,’ Pete said. ‘Farmers work with animals. They’re used to violence. Nature is violent. Up on the moor on his own all the time. Only talking from time to time with a boy who’s simple, not seeing another human being for days, it’s not surprising that things get out of proportion.’

‘I suppose you’re right,’ Jane said slowly. ‘But I still think there’s something not quite right about all this. It seems odd that he hit her on the head simply because he lost his temper.’

‘We don’t need to worry about that,’ Pete said. ‘We’ve got the confession on tape. He’s told us where to find the murder weapon. As soon as he’s recovered we can charge him and it’ll go to court with no problem. That’s it. Come on, let’s go and celebrate in the pub. I’ll buy you whatever you want.’

‘Well, that’s some offer.’ Jane laughed.

‘I mean, whatever you want to drink,’ Pete said, going a little red.

‘We haven’t charged him yet. Isn’t it a little too early to start celebrating?’ she remarked.

‘Never mind about that. Come on, let’s go and relax now. We deserve it.’

‘I’ve got to get my car fixed,’ Jane said.

‘You don’t need to worry about that, either. It’s already in the garage for our mechanics to look at,’ Pete smiled. Jane looked at him in some surprise. How thoughtful of him to have arranged that for her.

It was well after 6 o’clock when Jane ordered a red wine in the pub and found a table. Pete followed behind her with a large glass of beer.

‘Er…’ Pete began as they sat down. ‘This case, ma’am. It’s kind of hard for me to say this but I’m impressed with the way you’ve handled it. You know, I was hoping for your job myself, so I wasn’t too pleased when they gave it to someone else, especially…’

‘Especially what?’ Jane said, knowing what he would say. She could read him like a book.

‘Well, you know we’re a bit old-fashioned around here…’

‘And?’

‘And well, I guess I shouldn’t say this kind of thing these Jays, but I really didn’t think it was a woman’s job. But, um, I can see I was wrong. Prejudiced… ‘ There was a pause in the conversation.

‘Where’s a good place to get a car stereo?’ Jane said suddenly.

He smiled at her, showing a row of even white teeth. ‘Well, as it happens I know someone with a shop. If you need advice on stereos, you can rely on me…’ He was clearly relieved to be talking about a familiar subject.

Jane looked at him closely for the first time since they had had their difference of opinion last Monday morning.

He was quite attractive, really. He had a nice smile and a pleasant face, though he somehow reminded her of a reptile. Perhaps it was the slightly heavy eyelids. Also he could do with losing a bit of weight.

‘You must be joking,’ she exclaimed. ‘Rely on you? I’d as soon rely on a man-eating crocodile.’

‘Don’t you mean person-eating?’

‘Oh, ha ha, very amusing.’ Jane pulled a face at him. ‘Anyway, now this is over, you lot are going to be starting on Operation Wasp: road checkpoints, watching car parks, the lot… I’ll tell you about it tomorrow.’ Jane gave a half smile.

Just then her mobile phone rang. It was Maggie Pincombe. ‘The hospital’s just phoned,’ she said. ‘Apparently, Mervin Peck’s quite poorly. His condition has worsened.’

‘I’ll go and see him before I go home,’ said Jane. ‘I’ve got a bad feeling about this.’

‘I’ll come with you,’ Pete offered.

‘Don’t worry,’ Jane said. ‘You go on home and relax.’

‘OK, but I’ll drive you to the hospital first. Don’t forget, you’re without a car.’ Again Pete flashed his charming smile.

‘All right, then. Thanks,’ Jane replied.

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