A Walk on the Wilder Side

Twenty-Two

Admiral Street Police station, Liverpool

January 28

‘Don’t think you can light up one of those bloody coffin nails in here Harry,’ barks Willis as Lamplight fingers his Capstan full-strength packet longingly. He grimaces and puts the packet back in his pocket.

   ‘They’re not that bad,’ he mutters.

   ‘They’re fucking lethal Harry. If you don’t believe me go and ask your GP and he or she will give you a half-hour lecture on just how noxious they are. They should be consigned to history along with Bronco lavatory paper. I believe you can still find the odd roll in little corner shops in the middle of nowhere… if you have no respect for your backside that is.’

   ‘I didn’t come here to talk about lavatory paper Stanley,’ says Lamplight indignantly, fidgeting in his seat in front of Willis’s desk. ‘What’s up with you this morning Harry? Are you feeling bilious or something?’

   Willis points to a great pile of paper in a tray at the end of his desk and another almost in front of him. ‘That’s what’s wrong with me. Bloody paperwork and his nibs upstairs.’ He sticks a finger up at the ceiling which Lamplight assumes means the chief super.

   ‘I suppose I’m lucky really,’ he says. ‘My super leaves me to it, more or less, although he did say the other day that he would like to see the Jenkins murder cleared up. Wouldn’t we all.’

   ‘So, it’s good to see you Harry but apart from attempting to poison me with your fags what is the reason for you braving the perilous journey here from the sticks?’ Without waiting for an answer, he continues a little mysteriously. ‘Actually, I’m glad you’re here because there is something I want to run past you.’

   Lamplight sits back in his chair wondering what that might be when a tea lady bursts in with a steaming mug which she unceremoniously dumps down in front of Willis who asks for another for Mr Lamplight. She makes a sound like a trapdoor closing and disappears without a word, returning just half a minute later with another mug.

   ‘Sugar?’ Lamplight shakes his head. The tea lady leaves, noisily closing the door.

   ‘She came with the building,’ says Willis in a resigned tone by way of explanation.

   ‘The reason I am here,’ says Lamplight, ‘is because I thought it might be a good idea if we put our heads together over the two murders. They are obviously connected, don’t you think? They were both involved in drugs; Jenkins as a supplier and Cunliffe as a street gang leader with a network of pushers. I think if we can find the motive for the killings, we will be well on the way to cracking the cases. What do you think?’

   ‘Yes, my first thought as far as the Cunliffe murder was concerned was that it was a turf war and that he was on the losing side. But that doesn’t explain the Jenkins killing and, quite honestly, if it really were a turf war, I would have expected other killings to follow. That’s what usually happens.’

   ‘There’s been no hint of anything like that in St Helens, but we now have a good idea of who the killer was. We know what car he was driving – a new Anglia – and we know what he was wearing. What we don’t have is his mugshot or his name. He was seen by a witness furtively leaving the scene shortly after a gunshot was heard. There can’t be any doubt about it, he has to be the killer, so we have patrols stopping all light blue Ford Anglia’s in the area.’

   ‘What about the other man you were following up, the man in the blue Rover? What was his involvement?’

  Lamplight purses his lips into a frown. ‘I just don’t know,’ he confesses. ‘He must be guilty of something otherwise why did he run when he spotted Wilder and me? Yes, I would like to find him too for that matter.’ He pauses, leans back in his chair and strokes his chin which has a day’s stubble on it. ‘I can’t quite figure him out. We now know he is not Jenkins’ killer, but I have a gut feeling that he is somehow involved. He may be a Mr Big in the local drugs scene for all we know; someone pulling the strings in the background but who never gets his hands dirty. We know his Rover was seen outside the farm which is reason enough to haul him when we find him.’

   ‘Why would he have gone to the funeral do you think?’

   ‘Not sure, but I think that has more to do with Wilder. He seems to have an interest in him for reasons we can only guess at and Wilder has been getting vaguely threatening notes which may, or may not, have been from him.’

   ‘I have an idea which may bring it to a conclusion,’ announces Willis.

   Lamplight eyes him warily. ‘It would depend on the full co-operation of Mr Wilder, maybe even without his knowledge,’ Willis continues carefully. ‘Do you have a good relationship with him do you think?’

   ‘Better than I do with most other journalists. I can trust him to keep his mouth shut if that’s what you mean and as a quid pro quo he gets preferential treatment by getting stories first. It works out fine most of the time,’ he says staring at Willis quizzically. ‘What have you got in mind?’

    ‘What I want to do is to use him as bait’ Willis says bluntly. Lamplight stares at him, astonished. ‘Bait! In what way and with what aim?’

   ‘The aim is quite simple,’ says Willis smirking. ‘To make him the target for Jenkins’ and Cunliffe’s killer and to tempt the killer out to silence him.’

   Lamplight looks thunderstruck and gapes at Willis as he lights his pipe and puffs away contentedly. Willis fingers his packet of Capstans and is about to protest that if it’s OK for Willis to fumigate the room with his Three Nuns, why is it not OK for him to light up. He decides to ignore Willis’s earlier remarks and he brings out his packet and selects a cigarette. He lights up, smiling contentedly. Willis sighs and walks over to the window, flinging it open wide saying: ‘Don’t blame me if the fire brigade arrives.’

   ‘So, tell me how this plan of yours would work?’ he asks Willis.

   ‘We concoct a story saying that a witness has come forward with information that will lead us to the identity of Jenkins’ killer and who is the mastermind behind a major drugs ring. Then we feed that to the press but not through the Star agency.

   ‘I take it that the witness is Wilder?’

   Willis nods in affirmation. ‘Will he go for it do you think?’

   Lamplight is looking doubtful. ‘He would be putting himself at some risk, even if we guarantee protection. It’s never one hundred per cent as you know only too well. Things can always go wrong.’

   ‘True. I cannot deny it.’

   ‘Is it even legal?’

   ‘Probably not but we are talking about a ruthless bastard who ruins countless lives without a second thought. I for one will not have a sleepless night if I bend the rules slightly to bring him to justice.’

   Lamplight is stroking his chin thoughtfully again.

   ‘What if he refuses, what then?’

   ‘Supposing we don’t tell him!’

   ‘You aren’t serious Stanley. We can’t put him in the firing line and not even tell him. He would have a legitimate cause to complain, wouldn’t he, not to mention having it in for us for the rest of his life?’

   ‘He would have a bloody good story though, wouldn’t he?’ says Willis smiling slyly.

   ‘If he survives,’ counters Lamplight gloomily. ‘How exactly would it work? Run it past me and let’s see how it looks in the light of day.’

   Willis leaps up from his chair, marches to the door, opens it quickly and stares at all the activity outside. One or two people glance at him, no doubt wondering why the boss has suddenly appeared and then, when it becomes obvious there is going to be no great pronouncement, return to what they were doing. Satisfied that nobody is within hearing distance, Willis returns, closes the door firmly and sits on the end of his desk, leaning forward towards Lamplight. He speaks in almost a whisper.

   ‘It will work with Wilder because he is already involved. It was he who found Jenkins’ body and he has been involved with the case ever since so it won’t take much for the gentlemen of the press to put two and two together once the story is leaked.

   ‘I am going to get one of our tame PR people to leak a story to the Press Association. It will be non-attributable, only to a ‘police source,’ saying that a reporter in St Helens knows who the killer is and is willing to take to the stand once he has published the story… naturally! It will not take long for people to eliminate all the scribblers in your God-fearing little town and to begin looking in Wilders’ direction.’

   ‘Including Wilder. He’s not stupid Stanley and he is going to look in our direction, isn’t he?’

   Willis waves his hand as if swatting a wasp. ‘We will just dismiss it as mere media speculation and all he has to do is to deny it.’

   ‘What happens after that?’

   ‘I have no doubt the vultures will start circulating over Wilder, whether he denies it or not.’ He stares at Lamplight, who is looking decidedly uncertain, expecting approval but who simply says: ‘What then Stanley? What happens then?’

   ‘Oh, I have no doubt they will come for him ‘for a talk’.

   Willis rubs hands gleefully.

   ‘Not bad eh?’

   And then, as if to reassure Lamplight, he says: ‘But we will be watching, never fear.’

   ‘You do realise Stanley, that if it all goes wrong, our heads will be on the block.’

   Willis stands up and stretches expansively.

   ‘It won’t my dear fellow. Trust me.

   Lamplight lights up another Capstan.

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