Janice Scrutt racked her brains to try and think of any sort of coherent explanation for these odd events, especially the typewriter in the pit in the garden. Nothing made sense and she refused to believe in the supernatural even if her mind kept insisting that was the only explanation.
Two days after taking the mouth swab and a suit of Roger’s that she hadn’t been able to throw away in the hope it might have some of his DNA on it, Inspector Thorne returned. As she opened the door, he held up a bag. “Croissant?”
“Bribery?” She tried a smile; in truth she appreciated the gesture but she still felt sure she was a suspect. After all, she thought, she probably looked guilty.
When they had settled Peter Thorne opened a case and extracted a notebook. “We ran the DNA results. The hand is a sibling of your husband’s though which twin is something we are working on.”
Janice’s screwed up her face. “I assumed it must be. Only one though? You wondered if it might be both.”
“I’m coming to that. This may be a shock but there was also a match, albeit a different one with you.”
“ME!?” She couldn’t help squeaking in her shock and surprise.
“You and your husband were half siblings. Your father and his were the same.” Thorne waited, knowing this would take some getting used to. “I take it that this is news to you?”
“News? Oh yes, you’d better believe that. Did Rog… no, you can’t know that. He can’t have known, can he? What about his mother? And his bloody father let us marry. How could he?” Her anger was morphing into tears. Thorne wished he’d brought a colleague. He sipped his coffee and waited for Janice to regain some composure. When she, too took up her cup he said, “We can continue later, if you like? Or we can carry on?”
She sat very still for a moment. “Roger said he couldn’t have children. Some genetic issue like Huntingdon’s or something. I never pressed. Was that his way of making sure we didn’t…? Oh God.” She covered her face and sobbed again. Finally she tore off some kitchen roll, blew her nose and held the policeman’s gaze. “What else did you want to tell me?”
“The remains are of one adult male. We believe from teeth marks on the bones that he was eaten by a pig, post mortem. But the hand was left for some reason. The fingerprints on the typewriter are yours but only on a few keys, much as if you sat at the machine, placed your hands in the traditional resting position and then took them away. I wondered if―.”
“Margate.” Her eyes widened in surprise.
She sat staring at her hands for a moment. “I sat at an old typewriter so a man could take pictures of my hands.” She shook her head. “I’d forgotten all about it until just then.” She pulled a face, so hard did she concentrate. “It was weird, that’s why I remember it. We were at this event – Roger had been invited to it by some client, I think – and this man approached us and said he’d seen my hands, thought they were perfect and did I mind if he photographed them.”
“Did he say who he was?”
She paused a moment. “I think he said he was a publisher and his client wanted the images for a book cover.” She paused a beat. “A murder mystery.”
Thorne watched Janice’s expression for any sign she was making this up. But she looked both confident and desperate to be believed. “You’re saying the typewriter in the hole in your in-law’s garden might have been planted by someone who went out of their way to obtain your fingerprints on the keys?”
She dropped her gaze and squeezed her eyes shut. “It sounds ridiculous.”
“It’s lacking a certain credibility on its own.” He pulled out some more sheets. They were blow ups of the pages Janice had found. “Only your prints are on these pages. Not your mother in laws, not your husbands. Which might suggest you planted them. What is intriguing is the damaged ‘p’. It’s not the same as the letter we found in the pit. Our experts think it most likely someone has tried to mimic the damage to the original. It’s close but there are some telltale signs of tampering.”
“What does that mean?”
Thorne shrugged. “A mystery or in our line of work a mess.” He proffered a smile which wasn’t returned. “You said your husband had tried to find his siblings after his father died.”
“Yes, he failed.”
“And your mother in law didn’t want the disappearance mentioned to us?”
“That’s what he said.”
“Do you know how he went about the search?”
“He employed an agency but decided they were getting nowhere so stopped it. He said it was just a waste of money and if his brothers didn’t want to be found then we had to respect that.”
“Why did he start in the first place?”
She rubbed his face. “He and his mother had a strained relationship, Inspector…”
She nodded, though it might have been an automatic reaction. “She pulled him in so many directions. I don’t think he wanted to find them, reasoning if he did they might upset her even more. But yes, once he’d started out it wasn’t like him to stop. He was pretty stubborn, persistent.”
“Do you remember the name of the agency?”
“I don’t but… hang on.” She stood and pulled open a kitchen drawer, flicking through what looked like a fairly ancient address book. She held up the page to the Inspector. “It’s his business addresses. I kept it… just in case.”
The pages showed a neat right sloping handwriting. On the left side someone had written ‘Detective’ but on the right the details were obliterated by a thick felt tip.
Thorne reached out and took it, holding it up to the light. “We might be able to do something with this. Can I keep it?”
“One final thing for now. Did your husband have a laptop, mobile which you still have?”
“His phone was destroyed shortly after he died.”
“This area is rather prone to burglaries. We had a spate around here. Our nearly neighbours were done three times in as many months. We had two visits. The second, just after he died, that’s when his phone was smashed.”
“Did they take much?”
“Money, some cheap jewellery, the first time our car keys.”
“Did they take the car?”
“No, we didn’t realise they’d gone until a few days later. Roger said he’d get the lock changed but when we found out how much it would cost we decided to take our chances. The crooks never bothered. Is this relevant?”
“I don’t suppose so. But I’m naturally curious.” The Inspector scribbled some notes.
Janice watched him. He had a cute dimple, she decided when he was concentration. So focused on it was she that she didn’t realise he had looked up and was grinning. She felt herself blush. To cover her confusion, she said, “Do you think this may have something to do with the missing twin?” She frowned, adding, “You said you weren’t sure which one.”
“We think it is probably Colin who is dead. The one mentioned in the note.”
“Why do you think that? Beyond the fact Colin’s name was on the typed page?”
“That was the other DNA match, with one Christopher Scrutt.”
“He was five years ago. It seems he was asked to give DNA for elimination purposes – there was a nasty sexual assault in a club where he was present. It wasn’t him and the sample should have been destroyed but…” he spread his hands in an apologetic gesture. “Seems we slipped up and kept it.”
Janice studied his face. He smiled and she found herself smiling back. Maybe there would be an explanation. “You think he’s involved in some way?”
“I have no idea but there are too many odd inconsistencies for us to ignore his possible involvement. I asked earlier about a laptop. Did your husband have one?”
“I gave to my brother. He runs a charity for the homeless and they need them for their clients. I’m afraid the hard drive as wiped.”
“Can I have his details, to see if we can retrieve it? If the budget allows we might ask a boffin to see if they can get something.”
“What sort of something?”
“The name of the agency your husband used. If he was in contact with his brother.”
“You think that’s possible?”
“Anything seems possible in this case.”
“More tests, more background digging. We may need to exhume your husband, I’m afraid.”
“Really? Why?” Her blood chilled, the smile long gone.
He swallowed. “You remember that grey streak, in his hair?”
“I’ll never forget it. It appeared out of nowhere. You people didn’t believe me.”
“You were adamant he didn’t do it himself and, well, people tried to give you space, because of how distraught you were. You see, it was dyed, well bleached. I think we tried to tell you but you weren’t having any of it.”
Her head spun. She tried to blink her way through the fug that surrounded her brain. “But… but… I’d seen him that morning. How could he…? Why would he dye it? What was the point?”
He offered her no explanation. “You’ll appreciate all these anomalies make us curious in ways we weren’t at the time. I had better go. If you think of anything at all.”
“Of course.” She hesitated. “Am I a suspect?”
“You know. Now you suspect Roger’s death to be…” She couldn’t say it.
He didn’t help her. “I will be in touch.”