“Bloody good isn’t it. A convicted killer and I have to pussyfoot around. Anyone would think that he was some sort of VIP.”
“While you were in with Birch I made a couple of enquiries and they paid off.” Ruth replied as they made their way down to the interview room. “It’s the golf club. Both the ACC and Livings are members. The play together regularly.”
“And that’s it? They’re golf buddies, so Donnelly walks?”
“I’m still checking, but it’s a start. At least we’ve ascertained that they do know each other.”
“There’s got to be more to it than that. The ACC is no fool. He wouldn’t put his job on the line for a game of golf.” Donnelly’s solicitor was sat with him in the room. A tall man in an expensive suit and clutching a voice recorder. Whoever had hired him was willing to pay through the nose.
“Craig.” Calladine pasted a smile on his face. “Sorry to drag you away from your work. But you know how these things are. I’d like to ask you a couple of questions.” He explained, the first smile hastily followed by another. “You okay with that?” Calladine looked at the three men. Donnelly nodded, the solicitor said nothing and neither did the one he presumed was the probation officer. “Can you tell me what you’ve been doing over the past week?” Calladine asked sitting down.
“That’s a lot of time Inspector.” Donnelly looked momentarily thrown by the request. He looked around the room. His gaze bouncing off the ceiling, the walls, as if seeking the answer. Then his face suddenly lightened. “But you’re in luck.” He nodded gleefully at his solicitor who opened a briefcase, pulled out a notepad, and handed it to Calladine.
“Fortunately my client has kept a list. Dates, times, places and the names of people who can collaborate what is written there.
Calladine scanned the pages. Donnelly had made copious notes about his day to day life since leaving prison. It was all there. Almost as if he’d expected to be dragged in like this and had prepared. “You’ve done your homework. I’m impressed,” Calladine tapped the book. “So if I go and speak to …,” he chose a name at random. “Charles Walker. He’ll confirm you were cleaning his windows the day before yesterday, will he?”
Donnelly nodded. “I’ve spent most of my time ministering to the needs of the Reverend’s flock. Charles Walker is eighty two. He can’t manage his windows on his own. After sorting him I dug over Mildred Owen’s potato patch. Kept me until gone nine that night she did.”
“Regular pillar of the community, aren’t you.”
“I’m sure you don’t want a blow by blow account of what’s written in there Inspector,” the solicitor decided checking his watch. “Keep the notepad, check what you will, but in the meantime I must insist that my client is released.”
“Okay,” Calladine said simply. “But don’t leave town,” he added with another forced smile.
That was not what Calladine had expected. Notes, witnesses that could be checked. They really were taking good care of Donnelly. But why? Couldn’t they see what was staring them in the face?
“Inspector!” Michael Livings boomed at him down the corridor as they exited the room. “This really is bad form.” “Just doing my job Reverend,” Calladine assured him.
“Joe Rushton, Craig’s probation officer. The man stood at the vicar’s side thrust a hand the DI’s way. “Craig hasn’t put a foot wrong since he got out. I see him most days. You’ve seen the diary. It’s all in there.”
Calladine nodded. “Good idea that. We’ll start working through it.” He met the hawkish stare of Michael Livings. “Just being thorough,” he assured him.
“Keep off our backs Inspector. I will report you to your seniors if we have any more of this harassment.” With that Livings nodded at Donnelly and they walked off towards the exit.
“What now?” Ruth asked.
“We’ll go and have a word with Megan Heywood. See what she has to say for herself. Get her address and meet me at the car. I want another word with Birch.”
He walked back to the DCI’s office door and was about to knock, but heard her arguing with someone on the phone. From what she was saying it wasn’t about work. It sounded more personal. She was arguing with someone called ‘Reg’. Thinking better of it, he walked away. Birch hadn’t looked right for a day or two. The woman had something eating at her. Ordinarily she’d have been one hundred percent on his side when it came to sorting Donnelly. The fact she’d given in so easily to Livings spoke volumes to Calladine. The woman had something serious going on in her private life.
“Megan Heywood lives on the Hobfield. Down the road from Elsa.” Ruth told him as he climbed into the car. “How does Birch seem to you?”
“Can’t say I’ve had much to do with her since I got back. Why?”
“She’s not right. She’s got stuff on her mind, and it’s influencing the job. In fact it’s playing havoc with her judgement.”
Calladine caught the funny look Ruth gave him.
“You’re judgement is a little off beam too, while we’re at it.”
“In what way?”
“Your obsession with Donnelly and his guilt.”
“I’m not obsessed. Just right. I want every single entry in that notebook checking. I want to know exactly what that bastard has been up to since he got out.”
“I’ve been looking at the Annabelle Roper case.”
“And? Spot anything interesting.”
“Donnelly protested his innocence all the way through. Through all the interviews, during the trial, and later when he was banged up. He never stopped. That only changed when he met Livings.”
“What are you saying Ruth? That Livings has some magical power that made Donnelly finally see the light and repent?”
“No, but until Donnelly did admit what he’d done and show remorse, he was never getting out. Up until that point he had been a pain in the arse. Always in fights, always screaming about being not guilty. Meeting Livings changed all that.”
“You think finally admitting he was guilty was deliberate?”
“Yes, I think it was. Livings coached him. Took him under his wing. Despite the rich wife and the big house, Donnelly was typical Hobfield. A bit of a scally, a bit too fast with his fists when he’d had a skin full. But up until the Roper case he’d never been in any real trouble.”
Calladine could hardly believe his ears. He turned onto Circle Road and pulled into the first available space. “Are you saying you actually think Donnelly could be innocent?” He asked incredulously. “What about the other young women he bothered? Can’t you see the pattern?”
“No, not really. I think that was all circumstantial.”
“There was sound forensic evidence Ruth.” His voice sounded flat. She’d upset him. “Amongst which was a necklace belonging to Annabelle, found in his house. And his blood was found on one of her shoes. He insisted he’d never even met her. So how does that happen if he’s not lying?” “I don’t know. But there was other stuff that didn’t add up. Annabelle had told her friend that she was being stalked. The description she gave to the police could have fitted most men in Leesdon! The local rag got wind of it and several other women came forward. That was where the idea that the stalker had to be Donnelly came from. Eventually a description of the man was cobbled together. But still there was no consensus. One said he was blonde, another that he was bald! But Donnelly got labelled as the Leesdon stalker and the rest you know.”