There was much tension in the air, many people fearing to venture from their homes at night, in these dangerous times, ever since the news of a murder in the village of Watton in Norfolk.
Local man, James Watson, who worked at the Horse and Hound Public House as a barman, alongside his other job as a truck driver, was found murdered on the common, in the early hours of Sunday morning 5th July 1954. According to the police there were no witnesses to the crime, and his truck was discovered a few hours later, empty and abandoned.
Why he was killed has the police baffled, and the greatest fear in the village, is one of their residents could be a killer, but who?
At about eleven o’clock the same morning, a man out walking his dog on the lower cage lane in Stratton, noticed a truck, parked on the verge, doors wide open and unattended, and no one in sight. The circumstances were strange enough to merit the man calling the police, as there were signs of blood on the door.
Sergeant Maxwell, stationed locally, drove to the spot and discovered a bloodstained jacket and coat. At the police headquarters in Norwich, Detective Inspector Miles received the information and set out at once, with Detective Constable Helen Lomax, realising they had a brutal murder on their hands.
With the assistance of the local officer on the scene, the two officers examined the area of the dumped truck, where bloodstained garments and a driving licence were found. Obviously their next stop was to call at the Horse and Hound, where he lived and worked. The Landlady readily recognised the bloodstained garments, but was overcome at the sight of them. When she had got over the initial shock, she informed the officers what she knew about James Watson, who worked part time for them, along with part time truck driver at a local haulage contractors, and resided in the flat over the garages. He was single, 41, not given to heavy drinking or any other excesses as far as she could tell, her husband standing close by, nodded in agreement.
The officers thanked them, for their assistance and left, returning to the site of the abandoned truck. The cab revealed a scene of violence, with Watson’s personal possessions strewn across the ground, papers and documents abandoned in the desperate physical struggle that must have taken place. There was no wallet and no money. It was a case of robbery certainly, but robbery compounded with murder.
It seemed clear to the detectives that Watson had been attacked at some other location, and the truck driven by one of his attackers. His body had been discovered in the early hours of Sunday morning, dumped in the bushes on the far side of the common, close to the pub.
Forensic experts carried out close examination of the interior, but the only fingerprints found within belonged to Watson. The vehicle was taken to Norwich, and subjected to all kinds of tests.
News reached me that James had been killed when I called in the pub the next day. Over the past few years we had eluded the grasp of the law, using the truck as a legitimate business. For the past few years we had dealt in alcohol and cigarettes in small quantity, but had moved up a league. James had a customer, but did want me there, as we never saw eye to eye, it should have been sweet as a nut, and he went with armed backup! So what went wrong?
Somebody double-crossed him. I will find out whom?
My name is Barney; my last name does not matter. James and I have made a small living and never done any bird for our crimes.
I have a flat in Stratton, a decent car a few smart clothes. What’s more I have a gun, so no one going to argue with me! Not if they know what is good for them.
The police had not looked over the flat yet, I slipped in the back way, headed straight for our secret hideaway behind the toilet cistern. A small hole existed behind some loose tiles; carefully I prised it loose. Inside were five hundred pounds, and a small revolver.
I had a quick look around the flat but there was nothing here of any use, except for his address book tucked away out of sight with a list of customers behind the picture frame. I could not let the police discover these, slipped them into my pocket and disappeared. Left the place as I’d found it and headed out looking for his cousin, who was supposed to be taking my place as back up?
If James was going to pay a minder, it would have been his cousin Michael, he would do anything to earn a few quid.
I found him in his Council Flat, on the Lavengro Estate in Norwich. When he answered the door, to my pounding my fist upon his door, he did not look too pleased to see me.
“How’s it going Michael?” I asked pushing my way into his place without much resistance.
“I can’t complain,” he replied.
“So what’s new?”
He just gazed across the room at me, “nothing,” as he shrugged his shoulders.
“Let’s not waste anymore time, we both know why I’m here.” I replied as I pulled out my Smith & Weston revolver.
I don’t believe you,” pointing the gun at his head.
“You were with him as back up weren’t you?”
“I didn’t mean anything to happen to him, he is family you know,” the fear was visible on his face as he spoke.
“What happened?” I demanded shaking the gun at him.
“It wasn’t my idea.”
“Whose was it then?”
“The Old Bill.”
“So what have they got to do with it?”
“I was in trouble with the law. We had a chat. I told him about the deal James had going down.”
“I suppose you put me in the frame as well?”
“No, I swear I didn’t.”
“He said he’d just bust him,” Michael stated. He was shaking with fear.
“The deal went through as it should have, and we were driving back to Watton, where I was to pick up my old banger. Along the country lane between Watton and Stratton, the car in front of us suddenly pulled out across the road, blocking the way, and another at the rear,” Michael quoted.
“What were they driving.”
“The one in front, drove a light coloured Ford, whilst the other drove an old jeep, I don’t know the colour but it had lights fitted on top, that glared straight into our faces,” Michael stated.
“What happened next?” As Barney prodded him with the gun in his ribs.
“They came up to the truck, and started talking to James, and one of them told me to get lost, and that’s the last time I saw James, until you turned up.”
“Who are they?”
“That new DI at Norwich, the bent one.”
“They’re all bent as far as I am concerned.”
“I haven’t heard of him.”
“He’s fairly new, recently transferred from the Met, he’s evil.”
“No please, it wasn’t my fault.”
“You little traitor.”
“I never hurt James,” Michael shouted.
“But you let McCormack do it. So where’s the money now?”
“They more likely have it down the cop shop.”
“Are you joking.”
“Where safer to hide it?”
I realised my future was tied up at Longbridge Road, Police Station, and that meant big trouble. They have my money, and now James is dead, no one to split it with. Not that I wouldn’t rather have James here, than this grass of a cousin Michael.
“So what’s shift is he on?” I demanded.
“McCormack. When’s he working? You’re his informer, you’ve got to know.”
“Nights. This week he’s working nights.”
“Thanks.” I said, pushing the gun into his face, pulling off two shots, moving out of the way to avoid any blowback.
I worked out a plan on my way home. I needed access to the Police Station, on legitimate business.
The next morning just to be on the safe side, I phoned Longbridge Road Police Station, from a public phone.
“C.I.D.” I said when I got through.
“C.I.D. – Miles,” said the soft voice on the line.
“DI McCormack,” I said.
“Wait.” The voice disappeared for a few minutes, then came back. “He’s on after ten tonight. Any message?”
“No thanks. I’ll call back later,” and I disconnected the call before his next question.
I hung around the flat all day, and close to ten I drove over to Longbridge Road. I took my Smith & Weston, and my holdall with me. I wore my black overcoat over jeans and a jumper, with black driving gloves on my hands.
I went through the front door of the Police Station, up to the desk and said to the constable on duty.
“Excuse me, I was out walking my dog the other night and saw an altercation taking place on the Watton to Stratton road, involving a truck. I read the driver had been killed in the paper. I wonder if what I saw can be of any use?”
“Can I have your name sir?”
“Crane, Mathew Crane” I said.
“Would you wait a minute please, sir.”
He went into the back, and I stood studying the wanted posters covering up the cracks in the walls.
“Mr Crane?” an officer spoke as he entered the reception.
“I’m Sergeant Stephens. Would you please come this way, D I McCormack will see you now.” I couldn’t have planned it better. Two rotten apples at the same time, McCormack and Stephen’s, both bent as each other.
I followed him through, carrying my holdall, and up three flights of stairs to a door marked C.I.D. Longbridge Road is only a small station, and at that time of night it seemed pretty well deserted, which suited me. The C.I.D. main office was dimly lit and empty, as I was led through to an adjoining office where a large man was sitting behind a desk, and said. “This is DI McCormack.”
Sweet as a nut I thought to myself.
McCormack was well built maybe of the same age as myself. He looked like the type of officer you could trust with your darkest secrets, but I knew better.
“Inspector,” I said.
“Take a seat Mr Crane,” said McCormack.
“Yes please,” I said as I sat in front of his desk.
“Sergeant.” With that Stephen’s went off to get the tea.
“So you saw someone having an altercation on the Watton Stratton road, whilst you were out walking your dog.”
“Could you identify him.”
“There were two of them, they had blocked the vehicle front and back. I didn’t get a good look at their faces, but one walked with a slight limp.
McCormack looked at Crane for a moment, but there were slight signs of sweating upon his face.
I quickly unzipped my holdall, and pulled out a revolver, pointing it straight at McCormack.
“What’s this?” he gasped.
“Your worst nightmare.”
“For what?” he asked.
“You killed my mate James,” I said. “And stole my money.”
“I see.” He was regaining his cool. “And what gives you that idea.”
“Your little grass Michael told me.”
“So I imagine it was you who shot him.”
“That wasn’t a very nice thing you did.”
“No more than he deserved, he was your grass and a thief.”
“Did it occur to you he could have been lying.”
“No. I’d stake my life on it, he was telling the truth.”
“Which is exactly what you’re doing. You must be a very stupid man to come here after me, and then admit to murder.”
I didn’t bother informing him, he wouldn’t be around to tell anyone.
“Don’t waste my time,” I said. The longer he kept talking the more chance he had of Stephen’s returning or someone else coming in.
“Just give me the money,” I demanded.
“You don’t really think I’d keep it here do you?”
“Where better and safer,” I said, and I shot him in the arm. You could barely hear the recoil above the sound of the air conditioning.
He gazed at the wound.
“I’ll keep blowing bits off you until you hand over, what belongs to me,” I said. “I’ve got plenty more bullets.”
“Alright, alright,” he said. “Keep calm, it’s over here in the locker.”
“Get it.” I ordered. No tricks or you’ll end up like Michael.”
He got up to do as he was told.
“The keys are in my pocket,” he said.
“Pull them out slowly, I’m watching every move you make.”
He did as he was instructed, then inserted the key in the locker keyhole and turned it anti-clockwise. As he opened the door, Stephen’s entered the room with a tray of tea’s.
“Put them down gently,” pointing the pistol in his direction.
“What goes here?” whilst looking at the gun.
McCormack saw his chance and turned from the open locker with revolver in hand. He fired and the bullet missed me by inches smashing into the wall. I fired back twice in quick succession, and he went down, then Stephens got into the act, lobbing the tea in my direction whilst heading for the door. I shot him twice in the back, he skidded face forward across the carpet and lay still. When I went over he was dead.
I went to the locker, checked McCormack pulse. Nothing. I pushed his lifeless body to one side, and saw the bag sitting on the shelf. I picked it up and stuffed it into my bag, which I had bought with me.
That’s what you get for greed looking down at the two dead officers sprawled across the floor.
On the way out I met the desk constable coming up the stairs. “Did you hear that crashing noise?” he asked.
“No,” I replied.
“Are the DI and the Sergeant in their office?”
“One of them should have shown you down.” He suddenly looked at me in a curious way, that policeman’s look.
He left me no option, so I killed him too. They shouldn’t have killed by lifelong friend and partner James, see. It wasn’t necessary.
When I was sure he was dead too, I let myself out into the night air of Longbridge Road, and drove home.