The Visiting Detective – Episode 12

“THE family have lived here for generations,” Gaby said as they stepped off the tube at Bow Wells station. “They’ll tell you they came over with the Huguenots in the seventeenth century. Fenton says he’s always tempted to tell them he wishes they’d stayed where they were. They cause the police more trouble than most of the criminals of this city put together, and very much not confined to the East End.”

Mo Salter was a handsome, statuesque woman who was dressed like a thirty-year-old but had the bearing and face of someone approaching fifty. She stood in the doorway of her ostentatious terrace in Romney Avenue, barring their way with an arm ringed with bangles. It was raining, and already Kit and Gaby were damp from their walk from the Tube.

“Oh, yes,” she said, “I knew Joey Duchesne. I think we were even in the same class at Bow Wells School. Didn’t Joey go to the university? Very nice. I ’eard he was selling, in an auction house or somefing.”

“That’s right, Mrs Salter,” Kit said. He had naturally taken the lead when the woman eyed Gaby with suspicion – they had, of course, met before. “Mr Duchesne worked at Christie’s, and then he acquired his own gallery in Mayfair.”

“Very nice,” Mrs Salter said again. “I don’t go along with art. I like moving pictures, but not the ones you hang on your wall!” Her laugh was harsh. “Now, if you don’t mind, I have a pot on the stove.”

“Might we come in for a moment?” Kit asked mildly.

“As I say, pot on the stove.”

“Joseph Duchesne is dead.”

Kit and Gaby watched her face, but Mo Salter knew better than to betray anything, if she had anything to betray.

“Now that’s a pity,” she said, “and it doesn’t ’alf remind you of your mortality, does it? I mean, we were of an age, him and me.”

“Tell us what you know of him, Mrs Salter.” Kit pulled up his jacket collar against the rain that was being pushed at them by the wind.

“Me? I can hardly remember him, darlin’. Weak boy, I recall. I like a man to be decisive. I bet you’re decisive.” She leered at Kit, and he decided that in her youth she had been good-looking, as the photo had suggested, in an unsubtle way. “Joey Duchesne never could make up his mind,” she was saying. She cackled again.

“You and Mr Duchesne didn’t . . . court?” Gaby threw the question in. “He didn’t like you in that way?” Kit glanced at Gaby. She was, he saw suddenly, using the wiles that Rawlish had spoken of, trying to pique Mrs Salter into revelations.

She looked at Gaby, stood up a little straighter and adjusted the tight sweater she wore over an ample bosom.

“Oh, he had a bit of a thing for me, all right. Used to follow me about the playground, and after, when I was grown.”

“Your youngest son is recently out on bail?” Kit said.

She chuckled.

“Little Derek. He’s my wayward one.”

Gaby suppressed a laugh. As though, her expression said, any of the Salters were not wayward! Kit gently nudged her as Mrs Salter looked back inside the house briefly, as though thinking of her cooking pot.

“Has he any plans?” Kit went on.

“Well, he can’t have plans, Officer, can he? He’s on bail, due to appear in a month. Silly boy.”

“What does your son do for a living, Mrs Salter?” Kit asked.

She blinked at the unexpected question.

“I’m not sure,” she said. “I can’t keep tabs on ’em all, can I?”

*  *  *  *

“What a horrible woman,” Gaby said as they hurried off, both beginning to shiver in the rain.

“But I can see,” Kit mused, “how she might have got a man to fall at her feet.”

Gaby stopped, though the rain was coming down harder.

“Are you serious?”

He stopped, too, and smiled at her astonishment.

“Not this man, DS Clark. I’m trying to look at this from Joseph Duchesne’s perspective.”

Gaby coloured.

On the Tube journey back they found an empty carriage where they could talk freely.

“So,” Kit said, “we have a probable connection between Duchesne and Maureen Salter. Certainly an interest on his side, even if in the past.”

“And Mo Salter does not often crop up without there being something nefarious going on,” Gaby added.

“The chair, the driver son dragged out of custody for an unexpectedly large sum, the painting sold for quick cash, the lovely Mrs Salter in a photo album. It’s all going to link up.”

Alan Spink

Alan is a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. He enjoys working closely with writers and being part of the creative process, which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, he also writes fiction and enjoys watching football and movies in his spare time. His one tip to new writers is “write from your imagination”.