The Visiting Detective – Episode 09

“SAYS here,” Kit said the next morning, “that Mr D was at school in somewhere called Bow Wells.” He was leafing through a sheaf of papers. “Aged forty-eight at time of death, no spouse or children. Gallery owner since 1958, er . . . worked in an auction house before that.”

“Bow Wells,” Gaby said, chewing a pen, “why do I know that area?”

“The Salter gang all live there,” DC Fenton called across the room. “They rule that suburb. ’Orrible bunch of petty criminals.”

“Oh, yes, with the matriarch,” Gaby said. “What’s her name?”

“Maureen Salter.” Fenton grinned. “Don’t try getting in her bad books.”

“They’ve been quiet, the Salters, as far as I know,” Gaby said.

“Let me check that out,” Fenton said.

An hour later, the young DC came off the phone.

“Yes, you’re right: Ma Salter and her charming offspring have been in abeyance, though there’s no record of any of them earning an honest penny. Derek Salter got hauled up very recently for a minor offence, but there’s nothing else on our books.”

“Thanks, Charlie,” Gaby said. “Nice work.” She leaned back. “I’ve got a headache,” she said, “and it’s nearly five. I’m going up the Tottenham Court Road to buy myself a new gramophone. I saw a lovely one at the weekend.”

“I’ll come,” Robinson said immediately. Gaby blinked at him. “I mean,” he went on, “I’m tired, too, and I haven’t had much chance to see London yet.”

“It’s only the telly and record shops up there,” Gaby said.

“That’s OK. I need the walk.”

Gaby felt an unfamiliar twinge of pleasure that she’d have a companion on her trip.

They walked down Oxford Street looking in shop windows, and turned left up the Tottenham Court Road.

“Look,” Kit said after a while. “Habitat! I’ve always wanted to go in there. I’ve seen pictures of it in a magazine.”

They went in and looked around the ground floor of the store.

“Look at that suite,” Gaby said.

Kit examined the set of velvet squashy chairs and low sofa she’d pointed out.

“It’s very . . . blue,” he said.

“This spring’s colour,” Gaby insisted.

“I think I like it,” Kit said, moving away. But then he stopped and turned back, and Gaby looked up at him. “No,” he said thoughtfully, “it’s not that I like it; it’s that it reminds me of those velvet chairs in Duchesne’s office. In fact, it’s the same suite, but his was green.”

“You’re right,” Gaby said. “Very trendy guy.”

Kit was gazing at the furniture. Suddenly he turned on his heel and left the store, with Gaby hurrying after him.

“I need to think,” he said, striding off. Gaby hurried after him, again, wishing he wouldn’t have these bursts of brain activity.

Kit didn’t share his thoughts on Habitat furniture. They trudged in and out of shops, and Gaby didn’t buy a gramophone.

“You keep criticising the records I plan to play on it,” she said, “and it puts me off.”

The shops were all closed now, but they walked on. Their walk turned into a to-and-fro ideas session as they tried to work out who would steal a valuable painting and sell it so quickly and cheaply.

“They must want a certain sum of money fast,” Kit said.

“Unless they found it hard to sell,” Gaby said, “and so took a hit.”

“Then why pinch an item that’s tricky to pass on in the first place? By my calculation – very rough – the thing was passed on no more than twice between Mr D’s and your Park Lane man. No time for more. So I think it’ll have been flogged by the skylight thieves for, let’s say, fifteen thousand. I know the pattern of depreciation for stuff like that.”

“So what’s the significance of that sum?”

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”.