Coffee. Ifan Rhys-Morgan needed coffee. He had not slept well last night – he rarely did – and he felt rough. He looked rough too but, as his men and women filed into the briefing room, he did not really care.
The car they had sent to the Jackson farm last night had found the place deserted. With the nearest neighbour at least half a mile away, it was not possible to conclude the cause of the absence but Rhys-Morgan feared the worst.
Detective Sergeant Jenkins was the last one into the room, carrying two steaming mugs. He nudged the door shut with his foot and passed Rhys-Morgan one of the mugs.
“Thanks, Tommie.” Rhys-Morgan slurped a mouthful of liquid. It was weaker than he was used to but it was coffee.
Once Jenkins had taken his seat in the front row, Rhys-Morgan began the briefing.
“OK, guys and gals. This is the situation, as we know it. At approximately four a.m. yesterday morning, a bomb exploded in a field near Bon-y-maen, claiming the lives of twelve or thirteen people. There were no survivors.”
Rhys-Morgan allowed himself a sip of coffee before he continued. “The victims were probably engaged in some form of religious or cult activity and, as far as we can tell at this juncture, suicide is the most likely explanation. However,” he took another sip of coffee and paused for a moment to let the possibility of an alternative sink in, “we cannot yet rule out death under suspicious circumstances. The press are being told very little until we can identify the casualties. Fortunately, word doesn’t seem to have leaked out yet so we’re not being badgered.”
The Inspector took another swig from the mug then set it down on an empty chair next to him. It was replaced in his hand with a piece of chalk.
“So far, forensics have managed to identify three of the victims.”
He chalked the victim’s names on a large blackboard at the front of the room, speaking them out as he wrote: “Frank Jackson, David Lloyd and Patrick Edwards.”
The first two names were written close together in the top left corner of the board, the latter isolated on the right. Rhys-Morgan drew a line linking Frank and Dave.
“Frank Jackson and Dave Lloyd have known connections. Dave worked for Frank and even lived in his house. They were arrested together – and cleared together – for cruelty to animals. Frank also had known pagan interests.”
Rhys-Morgan wrote the word pagan under Frank’s name. He then drew another line from Frank, at the end of which he chalked Sarah?
“Frank’s wife Sarah is currently unaccounted for and the house is empty. We fear she may be a fourth victim.”
Rhys-Morgan now turned his attention to the right-hand side of the board. “Patrick Edwards was fined for possession of cannabis a few years ago.” He wrote cannabis under Patrick’s name. “What else do we know about him, Tommie?”
“Not a lot I’m afraid, Guv.” Tommie replied, setting his own mug down under his chair. “No friends or next of kin that we know of. When he was arrested, he did not even use his phone call. He used to work as the live-in caretaker at St Mildred’s girls’ school, but was forced to resign after the cannabis thing. Understandably, the School Governors did not think it appropriate for a Catholic school.”
“So much for forgiveness.”
Tommie shrugged. “After that, we don’t know. No known address, no job details, nothing.”
“OK, Tommie. Thanks.” Rhys-Morgan had added St Mildred’s and caretaker under the word cannabis, followed by a big question mark, the height of all three.
“Right,” he said firmly. “What do we have from the scene? Cerys?”
WPC Evans fidgeted slightly in her seat. “Not a great deal unfortunately, Inspector. Basically, the only unusual object that the dogs found was a tortoiseshell that seemed to have been caught in the blast. It’s been sent down to forensics. No personals effects, though.”
Rhys-Morgan toyed with the idea of writing tortoise? on the board but decided to leave it. He was not too knowledgeable about the flora and fauna of South Wales. As far as he knew, tortoises were regularly found wandering around in the field surrounding Swansea. This one was just unlucky.
“Excuse me, Chief?” said PC Roger Davies, a lanky man with a round face and close-cropped black hair. “We did find that golden sickle.”
“That’s right, sir,” agreed PC Davie Rogers, a round man with a lanky face. “And they was all wearing those white robes.”
Rhys-Morgan chalked golden sickle on the board with druids underneath it. He then linked these with a line to the word pagan under Frank Jackson’s name.
“Okay, what else?” he asked. “Yes, Tommo?”
PC Rhys Thomas had raised his arm. “In a sweep of the surroundings, we came across three abandoned vehicles in a lay-by, last night. A red ’82 Landrover, a beige ’88 Volvo, and a red ’96 moped.”
Rhys-Morgan wrote these on the board.
“That Landrover sounds like Frank Jackson’s car,” said PC Robert Williams, a middle-age copper soon to be sergeant, and beginning to spread around the middle in preparation.
“Find out, Bobby,” Rhys-Morgan told him. “Take Tommo and between you find out who owns all three vehicles and, if possible, where they are.”
“They’re in the police compound yard, Guv.”
“The people, Tommo. Find out where the owners are. If that Landrover is Frank’s car, then the other two will probably identify two more of the victims.”
Williams nodded. “Yes, Guv.”
Rhys-Morgan drew horizontal lines from Volvo and Moped and ended them with question marks. After a quick scan of the board, he turned back to the assembly. His gaze settled on WPC Evans. “Cerys, I want you to go to St Mildred’s. Find out anything you can about this Patrick Edwards character.”
“Leave the dogs behind, though. We don’t want another repeat of the St Mary’s incident1.”
(St Mary’s was another catholic school, in eastern Swansea. WPC Evans and the dogs were visiting the school for a drug awareness class which, as the only room large enough to hold all the students, was held in the school chapel. The focal point of the chapel was a crucifix that the school had picked up during a Mexican exchange trip. Unknown to them, cocaine with a street value of two million pounds was hidden inside it. As soon as Cassidy caught whiff of the drugs, thinking it was part of the lesson, he went metal and started attacking the crucifix, trying to break through to the secret compartment within. Aware only of the idol’s sentimental value, the school priest, Father O’Savemie, tried to interject. The holy man received wounds in places that even his Lord had probably managed to avoid.)
Rhys-Morgan carefully replaced the chalk on the chair. “Tommie. Find Jackson’s GP. Get hold of his wife’s medical records and try to find out if he’d been depressed or anything recently.”
“Sure thing, Guv.”
“The rest of you, chase up any missing persons reports from last night. We’ve got nine or ten bodies in the morgue that need names on the toe-tags.” When no one moved, the Detective Inspector clapped his hands three times in quick succession. “Let’s make this a priority, people!”
As his troops filed back out of the room, Ifan picked the mug up off the chair and drained its contents. He sensed DS Jenkins beside him.
“What about you, Guv?”
Rhys-Morgan pivoted to face him, wiping a grain of sleepy-dust from one eye with his non-chalky hand. “I’m going to Smeg and Butterworth. I want to find out if there’s any fallout from that court case that we don’t know about – death threats, that kind of thing. There’s something dodgy about this case, Tommie. I can feel it.”