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The Missing Student

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James Hathaway groaned as the alarm clock went off.  He pressed a button and pulled the duvet over his head. 

The voice beside him muttered, “If you’ve hit snooze and that thing is going to go off again in five minutes time I will not be happy.”

James groaned again and reluctantly climbed out of bed, before making sure the alarm was fully switched off.  He half stumbled down the stairs and made his way into the kitchen, where he grumbled at the cat who seemed far too enthusiastic for a Monday morning.  Not that the cat was aware that it was Monday, and James suspected Monty had spent the greater part of the night outside and now wanted his breakfast before snoozing the day away in the sunshine.  Life was all right for cats and retired detective inspectors, neither of whom had to go into work after an extremely pleasant Sunday to deal with uncooperative witnesses and a series of anomalies none of which made sense.

Having drunk a large mug of coffee and eaten some cereal, James went back upstairs.  He placed a mug of tea on the cabinet next to Robbie and went to have a shower.  From the lack of response, he guessed the tea would be cold before it was drunk.

He dressed and left the house, calling a goodbye, which received no reply, and got in his car.  As he drove he mentally reviewed the case.  A university student had been reported missing by his mother, a don at a separate college from her son.  Since it was at the end of term and not unknown for students to stay out all night no-one else had been concerned.  When contacted, Matthew Carmichael’s father, divorced from the mother, and a don at a third college, had been of a similar opinion.  Then, when no-one had seen the student for over twenty-four hours, the police had begun to make enquiries. 

James sighed.  He knew he would need to go back through those enquiries to see what it was that had left him feeling slightly uneasy.  Sufficiently uneasy to spend part of the previous afternoon punting along the river with Robbie, with the result they had found a bag caught up in some reeds by the riverbank, which looked very much as if it had belonged to the missing student.  The bag had had a stain which looked suspiciously like blood.  And depending on the forensics results this might change from being a simple case of a student having taken themselves off for a few days into something rather more serious.

He parked his car and made his way to his office.  On arrival he was greeted by his sergeant, who offered to get him a coffee.

“No, thank you,” James said with a smile.  “Give me half an hour to look through my emails and then I shall be in need of one.”

“Yes, sir.”  Tomlinson turned back to her own computer.  Suddenly she said, “Sir, this is slightly odd.  You know we requested any information about Carmichael, well, something’s come in.”

“Go ahead!”

“A student in the same college, name of Sophie Waldron, says she walked past Carmichael’s bicycle and saw a pump on it.  But she says he didn’t have a pump because he’d borrowed hers the morning of the day he was last seen, and she’d waited whilst he’d pumped his tyre up.  And she’s sure it was his bike she saw, because he’d put some red tape on the saddle so he could spot it when it was with a load of others.”

“Okay, get uniform to go and pick the bike up.  We may find fingerprints on it.  Of course it could be somebody else’s pump and whoever replaced it put it on the wrong bike.  But for the moment we’ve got so little I’ll take whatever there is.”

“I’ll do it right away.”

James was still replying to the more urgent emails when he heard Tomlinson answer the phone.  “Are you certain about that?” she said.  “Hang on a minute.  Sir!”


“Uniform went to pick up Carmichael’s bike, but it doesn’t appear to be there.”

“Are they sure?”

“Yes.  His mother told us his bike had his initials scratched on the lock, and it was there on Friday when she went to the college.”

“Okay.  I want to have another look in Carmichael’s room, so it would be a good opportunity to go over there.  Tell uniform to have a look round and see if there are any signs of the bike anywhere else, or if anyone has seen it.”

James drove over to the college.  On arrival he and Tomlinson introduced themselves to the porter, who complained he had quite enough to do without checking every bicycle in and out.  He was about to say more when one of the uniformed officers came running over.

“Sir,” he said.  “We’ve found a bike in the river.  Baines is staying with it.”

“Right, Holland.  Show us where,” James said.

He and Tomlinson followed the officer to the river bank.

“Tomlinson, take some pictures on your phone and then we’ll pull the bike out,” James said.

The two constables lay on the bank and leant forward, reaching the bike without much difficulty.  It came up quite easily, and although the bottoms of the wheels were muddy, as was one of the handlebar grips, where it had lodged in the bank, the rest of the bike was surprisingly clean.

“It can’t have been in there for very long,” Baines said.  “I doubt it had been there even overnight.”

James put a pair of gloves on and examined the lock.  It was a combination lock, with at one end the initials MBC.  “It would appear to be Carmichael’s bike,” he said.

“No pump,” Tomlinson said.  “And no red tape on the saddle either.”

“That could have come off in the water,” James replied.

“It doesn’t look as if there was ever any tape on the saddle,” Holland said.

“Hmm.  Well, we’ll work on the premise this is Carmichael’s bike.  Get it to forensics, and say I want to know everything they can find, and also anything they expected to find but didn’t.”

“Yes, sir.”  Holland departed to bring the patrol car round, whilst Baines once more waited with the bike.

James and Tomlinson walked back to the college.  “I’m going to look at Carmichael’s room.  See if you can find this Sophie and get her to repeat what she’s said about the bike.  It may be she was mistaken.”

James headed up the stairs and went into Carmichael’s room.  As he did so he saw one of the college servants about to go past.  “Do you know if anyone has been in here recently to clean?” he asked and showed her his warrant card.

“Not since Thursday, sir.  I work part-time and Sandra, who does the days I’m not here had a funeral on Friday, and no-one goes in at the weekend.”

“Right.  Could you just come in and see if everything is much as normal?”

“Yes, sir.  There were normally books all over the place; although there seem to be less clothes thrown around than usual.”

“Thank you very much.  I’d like the room left untouched until further notice.”

“Yes, sir.”

James glanced round at the room, he couldn’t see anything particularly useful.  There was a list of summer reading, some leaflets with pizza offers on them, flyers advertising gigs.  Most of it looked as if Carmichael had simply emptied his pockets onto the floor rather than into a bin.  He opened the wardrobe and considered the contents.  Without knowing how much clothing Carmichael possessed he couldn’t tell whether he’d planned on going away for a few days and packed a small bag, but there was sufficient left that it could be safely assumed he was intending on returning before the end of term.

He was trying to decide whether it was worth making a proper search of the room when Tomlinson arrived.

“Any luck?” he asked.

“Sophie Waldron repeated the story about the bicycle pump, plus the red tape on the saddle.  I asked her if she was sure about it, and she said she was.  She even pointed out a couple of bikes which looked identical to the one we fished out of the river to demonstrate how many there were of that type.”

“Did you ask her about the lock?”

“She said it was a combination lock; Carmichael was forever losing the keys to padlocks.  Combination number 2424, which was his room number repeated.”

“She’s not his girlfriend, is she?”

“No.  I got the impression they weren’t even particular friends.  She said they had some lectures in common.”

“So if Sophie knew the combination number it’s likely several other people did too.  Which means we can’t use the lock as proof it was his bicycle.  Damn!  I wonder if his mother would be able to identify it with any certainty.”  James groaned.  “I’d better phone her.”

He took his phone out of his pocket and keyed in a number.  “Hello, Professor Bradshaw.  We’ve just pulled a bicycle out of the river and wonder whether you could identify it as Matthew’s.”  He listened for a moment, then said, “Right, thank you,” before ringing off and looking at Tomlinson.  “Carmichael’s bike has his home postcode stamped on the frame.  He hadn’t wanted it, but his mother had insisted.”

“I’ll get onto the station and ask them to check the bike,” Tomlinson said.

At that moment James’ phone rang.  “Hathaway,” he answered.  He listened and then said, “Thank you for confirming that.  Let me know as soon as there’s anything further.”

As soon as Tomlinson had finished her call James said, “That was forensics.  The stain on the bag I found yesterday is definitely blood; they’re doing further tests to confirm whether the blood is Carmichael’s or someone else’s.”

Tomlinson’s phone pinged with a text message.  She read it and said, “There’s no postcode on the bike.”

“So why is someone trying to convince us it is Carmichael’s bike?  And I think that’s the intention.  They wouldn’t have put that lock on it otherwise.  Get back to them and confirm I still want to know everything it can tell us.”

“Yes, sir.  What do you want to do now?”

“We’ll go back to the station and I’ll see Innocent and find out how she wants us to proceed.  There are too many oddities to treat this as a simple case of a student wanting a few days by himself.”


Chief Superintendent Innocent listened as James outlined what he knew so far about the case, making the occasional note as he spoke.

When he had finished she said, “I agree with you, we have sufficient to say we suspect there may have been foul play, although as yet whether Carmichael is victim or perpetrator we cannot be sure.  The amount of blood on the bag implies a serious wound, and had it been an accident there would be no reason for the bag to be hidden.  How do you intend to proceed?”

“I think the first thing we need to do is establish when Carmichael was last seen on Thursday evening, and by whom.  I also need to talk to both his parents.  It would probably be best if I speak to one and Tomlinson speaks to the other.”

Innocent thought for a moment, then said, “No, I think you should both visit both parents.  There’s something else going on there: the mother seems too concerned about the whereabouts of her son, the father not worried enough.  And please keep me up to date with your findings.”

“Yes, ma’am.”  James stood up and left Innocent’s office.

When he got back to his own office, he told Tomlinson what Innocent had said about the parents.

She considered it and then said, “Yes, I can see what she means.  Professor Bradshaw sees undergraduates every day.  She must know how they behave at the end of term.  And yet the moment her son isn’t back in his college by ten at night she’s on the phone saying he’s missing.”

Tomlinson arranged for two DCs to speak to everyone who might have seen Carmichael the day he went missing, and then James said, “Right, we’re going to see Matthew’s father.  Professor Carmichael has graciously allowed us half an hour of his precious time.  But we mustn’t be late.”

James drove and fifteen minutes later he drew up in front of an electronic gate.  He spoke into the intercom, the gate opened, and he drove in, parking in a courtyard.

“I thought we’d be meeting him at his college,” Tomlinson said.

“No,” James replied.  “Carmichael said he keeps personal business entirely separate from his academic life.”

The courtyard had buildings on three sides, clearly expensive apartments.  James led the way to the entrance on the left.  The door opened as they arrived, and they saw Professor Carmichael standing in the doorway of the apartment to the right of the entrance lobby.

“Come in,” Carmichael said.  “As I told you I don’t have much time.”

“Thank you,” James said.  “If I may say so, sir, you don’t seem unduly concerned at your son’s disappearance.”

“Why should I?” Carmichael replied.  “He’ll turn up when he’s good and ready.”

“As I told you on the phone, we have new evidence which may indicate his absence is not entirely voluntary.”

The man shrugged. 

“Don’t you want to know what the evidence is?” Tomlinson asked.

He looked disdainfully at Tomlinson and then deliberately turned to James.  “Would you like to tell me about the evidence?”

James was tempted to ask Tomlinson to tell Carmichael, but had a sudden thought, and decided to answer himself.  “A bicycle, which we believe to be your son’s, was pulled out of the river this morning.”  As he said this he gave a small shake of his head at Tomlinson, hoping she would realise he had a reason for using this phrasing.

“But the body of my son was not,” Carmichael said.  “Students can be incredibly careless, especially when they get drunk at the end of term.”

“And your son’s bag, with a significant blood stain, was found in the river bank yesterday afternoon,” James continued.

“Again, my son was not with it.”

“Aren’t you worried your son might have been injured?” Tomlinson asked.

Carmichael sighed and once more addressed James.  “If anything had happened to my son, I would have heard from his mother.  Now, if you have no further questions I would like to get on.”

“One more thing,” James said.  “When did you last see or speak to your son?”

“The Sunday before last.  I had Sunday lunch with him.  It’s been a tradition for us to have Sunday lunch together on alternate Sundays since his mother and I separated, and for some reason it’s one he likes to continue.”

“Are you sure about that, sir?”


“Because when we originally spoke to you, you said he had phoned you on Tuesday evening last week.”

“Did I?  It clearly can’t have been of great significance since it has slipped my mind.”

“Thank you, sir.  That will be all.”

James and Tomlinson left and walked back to the car in silence.  It wasn’t until he had negotiated the electronic gate that James said, “That man was appalling.  I can only apologise for the way he treated you.”

“It’s not your fault, sir,” Tomlinson replied.  “And it’s not the first time this has happened to me.”

“I’m sure it isn’t.  I’d have liked to call him out on it.”

“It wouldn’t have helped if you had.  Not at this stage, anyway.”

“You think we’ll be having further discussions with the man?”

“His answers seemed just too pat.  It was as if he already knew about the bicycle.  I presume you deliberately didn’t tell him we knew it wasn’t Matthew’s.”

“Correct.  I noticed his reaction, or lack of it, too.  Although the bag seemed to come as a surprise.  I’d like to know how long Carmichael was on the phone to Matthew last Tuesday, but it might be difficult getting the records.”

“Actually, sir, we may be in luck.  The phone contract is in Professor Bradshaw’s name, she might be willing to help us.”

“We’ll ask her.  She said she’ll be available from half past one, which will give us just time to grab some lunch.”

They bought some sandwiches and found a convenient spot to sit and eat.  James sat back and closed his eyes, trying to assemble his thoughts into some order.  Tomlinson, having checked James would have no objection, took out her e-reader and began reading.

After about twenty minutes James touched Tomlinson’s arm.  “Ready when you are, sergeant.”

She nodded, switched the reader off and put it back in her bag.  “Thank you, sir.  I find it helpful to switch off totally from a case at times.”

“Very wise.  I listen to music for the same reason,” James said, standing up.

They drove to Professor Bradshaw’s college, where she greeted them rather more warmly than her ex-husband had done.  “I understand you have found Matthew’s bike,” she said.

“We found a bicycle which we thought was Matthew’s in the river,” Tomlinson explained.  “But, in fact, it wasn’t his; there was no sign of a postcode on it.”

“Oh!  Is there anything else?”

“We’ve also found Matthew’s bag in another part of the river,” James said.  “It had blood stains on it, but at this stage we can’t confirm whose blood it is.”

“I understand, these things take time.”  Tomlinson looked slightly surprised at this.  Professor Bradshaw noticed and added, “I’m a chemist, sergeant, and only too aware that there are no instant results on tests.”

“When did you last speak to your son?” Tomlinson asked.

“Monday evening.  I had a brief text from him on Tuesday and we had a short text conversation on Wednesday.”

“But nothing on Thursday?”

“No, I sent him a text and tried to call him.  When I had heard nothing from him by half past ten I sent him a further text to say if I didn’t hear from him by eleven I would be contacting the police.”

“That seems like a high level of parental contact,” James said.  “And unusual for an under-grad.”

“Yes,” the professor agreed.  “My son had a number of issues last term.  There was some debate about whether he should continue his studies this term, and part of the agreement was that he contact me every evening.  He wasn’t enamoured of the idea, but up until last Thursday he had kept to the agreement.”

“Did he give you any indication that anything was troubling him?” Tomlinson asked.

“No.  I’ve looked back at the texts since and there’s nothing different about them.  I can show you if you like.”

“No, that won’t be necessary, thank you.  Do you remember what you talked about on Monday?”

“My mother’s birthday.  We’re taking her to the theatre and I was asking Matthew when he could come and if he had any preference as to what we saw.”

“Do you know when Matthew last spoke to his father?” James asked.

“Not for sure.  He would have had lunch with him last Sunday week, but other than that I have no idea.”

“We’re hoping Matthew’s phone records may give us some idea of who he’s contacted, would you be able to help us with those?” Tomlinson said.

“Of course.  Would you like me to get them now?”

“That would be helpful,” James said.

There followed a long phone conversation, but by the end the telephone company had agreed to send the records directly to James.  They thanked Professor Bradshaw and left her, promising they would let her know if there were any developments.

In the car, James said, “What did you make of her?”

“I think she’s genuine,” Tomlinson replied.  “She’s clearly worried about her son, and trying to keep it in.  But she’s explained why she seemed over-protective, and it would be easy enough to check whether he did have problems last term.”

“Agreed.  And worth doing, because they may be relevant.  She didn’t seem as anxious as I thought she would be though.”

“I suspect she’s half hoping he’s just done a bunk for a few days, whilst half fearing something’s happened to him.”

By the time they had got back to the station the phone records had arrived.  James printed them off and put the latest sheets on his desk, so he and Tomlinson could both see them.  Meanwhile, Tomlinson glanced through a timeline the DCs had made showing who had seen Matthew Carmichael on the day he went missing and the approximate times.  She brought the sheet over to James’ desk.

“Did Bush and Harper find anything useful?” James asked.

“It’s not too precise,” Tomlinson said, “but better than I thought it might be.  There seems to have been a whole group of students who spent the afternoon and evening together, with people coming and going, and sometimes returning again.  However, the consensus was that Carmichael was definitely within the group up to around five o’clock, and nobody mentions seeing him after seven.”

“What about between five and seven?”

“Some say he was there, others didn’t see him.  But they were well spread out, wandering by the river.  And most of them only have a hazy notion of the time.”

“Well, I suppose it’s better than nothing.  Let’s see if the telephone records give any assistance.”  James ran his finger down the list.  “The last phone call he made was at 13.09 Thursday afternoon.”

“That would tie in with when the group were starting to meet up.”  Tomlinson paused.  “That’s strange, there’s no use of the internet after four o’clock.”

“Wifi only?”

“Well, no.  There isn’t any where they were.”

“Curious.  As is this.  Matthew Carmichael phoned his father for half an hour on Tuesday.  He also phoned him but more briefly Monday and Wednesday.”

“What about his mother?”

“That all ties up with what she told us.  Strangely, having spoken to his father briefly on those two days, he then immediately phoned someone else.  It’s the same number both times.”

“Do you want me to phone it; find out whose number it is?”

James looked at her thoughtfully.  “No, not yet.  It has to be connected in some way.  Maybe we’ll ask Bush to see if she can find out without rousing suspicions.  And contact the college to see if you can find anything which substantiates the agreement Professor Bradshaw mentioned.  I’m curious whether it was something she instigated, or whether there was more to it.  In the meantime, I’ll go and have a word with Bush and Harper, and see if, between us, we can narrow down a possible time when Carmichael went missing.  Do you want me to bring back some tea while I’m about it?”

“Oh, yes please, sir.”

Fifteen minutes later James returned, bearing not only tea, but a bag of doughnuts as well.  Tomlinson was on the phone, so he waited for her conversation to finish before he said, “That sounded interesting.”

He offered her the doughnuts.  She took one and said, “It was quite enlightening.  Matthew Carmichael was admitted to hospital twice last term due to overdoses.  On both occasions he had been very stressed, taken something to treat the stress and ended up in hospital.  There was no record of what he’d taken.  The personal view of the tutor I spoke to is that Matthew feels himself under great pressure to succeed, but this is not part of the official record.”

“Having met the parents, I could believe that,” James said. 

“The college suggested he take this term off and start again next academic year, but apparently Matthew was very upset at the suggestion, which ties in with the perceived need to succeed.  In the end his mother offered to maintain daily contact so that she could spot earlier if there was a problem.  The tutor said it seemed to have worked as well, because Matthew had been fine, and had no problem with taking his exams.  His words were ‘He turned into a dream pupil’.”

“And does this sound correct to you?” James asked.

“I believe the tutor is telling the truth,” Tomlinson replied.

“But …”

“But it doesn’t sound plausible.  How can someone who one term is completely stressed become very calm the next term, when the only apparent difference is a regular phone call or text each day?”

“Agreed.  It sounds like he was taking some form of medication.  I’m surprised his mother didn’t mention it.”

“Maybe she doesn’t know.  If she did wouldn’t she be worried that he’d not got any medication with him?  The amount which he must be taken will be quite high, and therefore it would be dangerous if he stopped taking it.”

“So we need to find out what he’s taking.  Do we know who his doctor is?”

“No, but we can find out.”

“I’ll get Harper to do that and then contact the doctor.  I didn’t see any sign of tablets when I was in Carmichael’s room.  If it was something he needed to take regularly you’d expect them to be in a drawer and easily accessible.  Unless whatever he was taking hadn’t been provided by a doctor.  I think it’s time we had a proper search done of his room.”

James picked up the phone and spoke to DC Harper, asking him to get in touch with the doctor, and also to go with Bush to search the room.  Having put the receiver back down, James stretched and then picked up a pencil and began tapping it on the papers on his desk.  He watched as Tomlinson turned back to her own papers and began to make notes.

“I think we need to visit the area where Carmichael was last seen,” James said.  “Based on the reliability of the different witnesses, I think it would be safe to assume he vanished, for want of a better word, between 17.15 and 17.45.  If we leave now we should be there by five, which will give us a good idea of the conditions.  Although if you think it would be more profitable for you to stay here then say so.”

“To be honest, sir, I’m just going round and round in my head with the same questions.  It wouldn’t hurt to do something different.”

“Good.  Let me make a phone call and we can go.”

James drove and, once he had parked, he and Tomlinson started to walk beside the river.  James checked his watch and said, “This is about the right time.  There are less people around than I would have expected though.”

“There were probably more students last week.  But yes, people would generally be heading back home or to the colleges by now.”

“I think we can rule out abduction.  It would be too obvious.  I didn’t think it was likely, but it had to be considered.”  He looked across the grass and added, “Ah, excellent.  I see our extra pair of eyes has arrived.”

Tomlinson looked in the direction James was pointing and saw Robbie walking towards them.  She waved and he waved back.

When Robbie joined them he said, “Hello, love, you said you had a job for me?”

“Yes.  I want you to imagine the three of us having been walking along chatting.  Around us there are similar small groups of people doing much the same thing.  However now you want to get away, but you don’t want anyone to know you’ve left.  What are you going to do?”

Robbie looked around considering the question for a minute, then said, “I’d mutter something about going to speak to Fred and Herbert who are conveniently behind us.  Then I’d drop back and amble away.  Assuming the groups are fairly fluid then it’s unlikely anyone would notice what I was doing.”

Tomlinson looked around and nodded.  “Where would you go to, sir?”

Robbie pointed.  “That way.  If I walk down by the river there’s a good chance someone will see me walking away, because I’ll stand out.  If I head towards the buildings – that’s part of the science department isn’t it – then I’ll disappear amongst the other students wandering around.  There’s always a chance I’ll still be seen by someone who knows me, but it’s less likely.  And, even if they do, they probably won’t remember having seen me.”

“Let’s walk that way then,” James said.

They walked into the science area, but once they were there they realised it would be impossible to predict Carmichael’s next moves.  He might have entered a building, walked straight through and out the other side, or met somebody and gone with them in a vehicle.  James groaned in frustration.

At that moment James’ phone rang.  He answered it, listened to what was said, and noted down a number before saying, “Thank you, Bush.  Have you found anything in Carmichael’s room?  Okay, in which case you and Harper head back to the station and once you’ve left me a note of all you’ve just told me, you might as well go home.”  Turning towards Robbie and Tomlinson, he added, “I need to make a phone call.  I’ll be with you in a minute.”

James walked down the path and found a spot where he wouldn’t be overheard by a casual passer-by.  He dialled the number he had been given.  “DCI Dallimore?” he asked.  “DI Hathaway, Oxford Police.”

He listened as Dallimore explained why James had been asked to contact him.  Then James said, “We are trying to trace a missing student, who called the number in question on two occasions last week, in what might be suspicious circumstances.  I asked DC Bush to see if she could find out who the number belonged to.”

Dallimore replied and James suddenly said, “What?  Our missing student is Matthew Carmichael.  Professor Carmichael is the student’s father.”  James gave a wry smile at the expletive Dallimore uttered.  He listened as Dallimore outlined the plan, before saying.  “Thank you, sir.  We’ll meet you at seven tomorrow morning.  Obviously, we are concerned about Matthew, and if anything happens in the meantime we’ll be there as soon as we can.”  He rang off and went to join Robbie and Tomlinson, his expression grim.

“Right,” he said.  “There’s been a change of plan.  Tomlinson, we’ll go back to the station and make sure nothing urgent has come in.  Then we’ll knock off, because we need to be back in the station for seven tomorrow morning.  There’s a slight possibility I will need to contact you before then, but it’s unlikely.  Robbie, I’ll aim to be home in just over an hour.”

“I’ll see you then,” Robbie said.  He nodded to Tomlinson and headed back to his car.

James remained silent on the drive back to the station.  Once back he glanced through the notes on his desk, decided there was nothing which couldn’t be left until the following day, instructed Tomlinson not to stay more than another ten minutes and departed. 

The first thing James noticed when he arrived home and opened the front door was the smell of pasta sauce.  He breathed in deeply and sighed in appreciation.  He knew he would have ten minutes to grab a quick shower whilst Robbie cooked the pasta.

The second thing James noticed was Monty winding round his legs, informing him that by some oversight of the management he had not yet been fed.  He laughed and said, “You’re as bad as some of the people I’ve met today.  I don’t believe a word you’re saying.”

Robbie called out, “Ignore the cat.  He’s lying.”

“I know.  That’s what I told him.”  James chuckled and went to have a shower.

By the time he had come back downstairs, the table was laid, and Robbie had poured the wine.  Robbie served the pasta and they both began to eat.

After a while James said, “You’re being very quiet tonight.”

“There’s not much to tell you.  I went to the library, as I had an email to say the book I’d reserved had come in, but otherwise it’s been quiet.”

“You were kind enough to meet me this afternoon and provide the probable solution as to Carmichael’s initial movements when he left his friends.”

“Well, there’s little point telling you about that.  You were there at the time.”

“Aren’t you curious about the phone call I received?” James asked.

“I am,” Robbie agreed.  “But I would never ask you to disclose anything.”

“I know.  Do you remember a few years ago we had some dealings with a DI Dallimore?”

“From over Maidenhead way, wasn’t he?”

“Yes.  He’s a DCI now.  It turns out one of the people we were trying to follow up in the Carmichael disappearance case, is someone Maidenhead have a particular interest in.  We’ve been asked not to pursue our enquiries in that direction for the moment.  Dallimore’s bringing some of his team over first thing tomorrow; we’re meeting at 7 at the station.”

“Does it put Carmichael at risk in the meantime?”

“They’re watching their man at the moment.  They’ll now be aware of Carmichael and if anything happens they’ll contact me immediately.  Dallimore was of the opinion it would be safer that way.”

“What did Innocent have to say?”

“She wasn’t in when we got back.  I’ve sent her a message to let her know what’s happened.”

“Fair enough.  She’ll be in contact promptly if she’s concerned.”

“Too true!”


In the early hours of the morning James suddenly sat up in bed and said, “Monty was right!”

“Wassup?” Robbie muttered.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you.  Something just fell into place.”

“It sounded like you said the cat was right.”

“Yes, I did.  Or rather what I said to Monty was right.  Anyway, go back to sleep.”

“I’m awake now.  You might as well tell me what’s going through your head.”

“You know how Monty always maintains he’s not been fed,” James began.  “I told him he was as bad as some of the people I’d met in the day.  At the time that felt incorrect, because the only person I was sure was lying was Carmichael senior.  But I’ve thought some more, and I’m convinced Professor Bradshaw, Matthew’s mother, was lying too.”

“I thought she was the one who reported him missing.”

“She had to, because it would have looked suspicious otherwise.  We had confirmation from the tutor that the daily contact arrangement was in place.  If she didn’t report his absence to us we’d want to know why.”

“Yes, because it would have come up sooner or later,” Robbie agreed.

“I also think we got too caught up in the idea of the phone not being used after four o’clock.  All Carmichael’s contacts were asked if there was anything strange about his behaviour.  I think one of them, at least, would have said something about his not having a phone.  If we go back through the statements I would hazard a guess that there would be something which implies his use of a phone without stating it specifically.”

“Two phones?  But someone would have commented on that.”

“No.  Two sims.  He could have swapped them over without too much difficulty.”

“All of which points to a significant amount of planning.”

“Yes.  And that puts quite a different angle on the case.”

“What about the blood on the bag we found?” Robbie asked.

“No identification yet.  And I’d place odds that it’s someone else’s.”

“Do you want to do anything about it at the moment?”

“No, it’ll keep to the morning.  I’m sorry I woke you.”

“No worries.  I’m not the one who’s getting up early tomorrow.  So, can I suggest you get some more sleep now.”

James lay down again and fell asleep.  He woke to his alarm, which he hurriedly switched off, not wishing to wake Robbie again.  He was just leaving the shower when he heard his phone, and then Robbie sleepily answering it, “Hathaway’s phone.  Hello, Ellie.  He’s just coming.”

James crossed the bedroom floor and accepted the phone.  “Yes, Tomlinson, what’s happened?”  He listened and said, “I’ll come straight there.”

James dressed rapidly.  “A body’s been found in the university chemistry department,” he said, by way of explanation.

“Matthew Carmichael?”

“We don’t know as yet.  I’ll text you when I’m on my way back tonight, I doubt I’ll be early.”

"I’ll be here when you do.”

James drove to the chemistry department, parked and walked over to the main door. 

He was greeted by a woman in a smart suit who said, “DI Hathaway?  I’m DS Stephens.  DCI Dallimore will be with us shortly.  He’s requested that we be allowed to follow your investigation but said to stress we won’t get in your way.”

“Thank you.  My sergeant should be here soon, and once she arrives we’ll make a start,” James replied.

Tomlinson arrived a couple of minutes later and James made the introductions.  The two women nodded and smiled at each other before all three of them entered the building.  Inside the waiting police officer introduced them to a grey-haired woman who was wearing jeans and an old sweatshirt.

“Good morning, officers,” she said.  “I’m Dr Ruth Jones from the biochemistry department.  At about 4.30 this morning the security guard telephoned me to tell me my deep freeze was malfunctioning.  I am currently running an experiment which has reached a critical state and have a significant number of specimens in the freezer which I do not want to start thawing prematurely.  I phoned two of my research students to assist me in transferring the specimens to another freezer.”

“Why did you choose this particular freezer?” James asked.

“We maintain a list of freezers which have space for just such an emergency.  This freezer had sufficient space all the specimens could be kept together, which would be easier for us to keep track of.”  James nodded, and Dr Jones continued, “Holly took the first batch of specimens to the freezer.  She opened it, saw the body and screamed.  Dave, the cleaner, heard her and went to see what the matter was.  He then brought her down here, called for me, and telephoned the police.”

“And what did you do then?”

“I told Holly to sit down and gave her a bottle of water.  I retrieved the tray of specimens from where she’d left them, gave them to Callum, the other research student, told him to find spaces for all the specimens within the other freezers, keeping a log of where he’d put them, and then came back to Holly.”

“You didn’t see the body?”

“No, Dave had closed the freezer again.”

James was aware that someone else had come into the building, but they didn’t come any closer.  He saw Stephens give a nod and presumed the newcomer to be DCI Dallimore.

“Thank you.  I think that will be all,” James said.  “Oh, one last question.  How would the usual user of the freezer react to finding you had filled it with your specimens?”

“I’d have left Professor Carmichael a message to say what I’d done, and he’d have let me know if he had plans for using it.  Which is what I shall be doing with the three or four freezers we’re now using.  That was the other reason for choosing a freezer with most space; only one person to have to notify.”

“Thank you very much, Dr Jones.  This is my colleague, DS Tomlinson.  I’d like her to take a statement from Holly if she’s able to give one at the moment.”

“That’s fine.  Holly should be okay, now she’s got over the initial shock.  If you’d like to come this way, Sergeant.”

Tomlinson followed Dr Jones, and James turned to the newcomer.  “DCI Dallimore, James Hathaway,” he said.  He held out his hand and Dallimore shook it.

“Has the body been identified yet?” Dallimore asked.

“Not yet sir.  It’s possible Holly recognised whoever it is, but she hasn’t given any indication as yet.”  James called the police officer over.  “Barnes, what has Dave told you?”

Barnes consulted his notebook.  “Dave Talbot says he heard the girl, Holly, screaming and went to see what the matter was.  She pointed at the freezer, he looked inside and saw the body of a male, frozen solid.  Since the person concerned was clearly dead he closed the freezer lid - he was wearing gloves – and escorted Holly down here, called for her supervisor and then rang for us.”

“He seems remarkable calm for someone who’s just seen a dead body,” Dallimore said.

“Talbot left the army a couple of years ago.  He supplements his pension by working here three mornings a week.”

“Did he recognise the body?” James asked.

“No, he said the face was covered in a layer of ice and he didn’t look too closely.”

“Thank you.  We’ll have a quick word with him anyway.”

“I’ll go and find him for you.”

When Barnes had departed, Dallimore said, “Do you think the body is that of Matthew Carmichael?  It seems unlikely to me.”

“No, I don’t,” James replied.  “That would imply some form of revenge on Carmichael senior, which doesn’t tie in with what we know.  And I’ve been thinking, and it seems far more likely that Matthew Carmichael is involved in something rather than a victim.”

“As soon as SOCO have dusted for prints we can take a look at the body.”

“They’ll be here soon, as will Dr Hobson, our pathologist.”

Barnes returned with a man wearing an overall.  “This is Dave Talbot, sir.”

“Thank you,” James said.  “Mr Talbot, I understand you were in the army.”

“Yes, sir. The REME.”

“And presumably during your period of service you saw dead bodies.”

“Unfortunately, yes sir.  I served in both Iraq and Afghanistan.”

“We were surprised how calmly you dealt with this morning’s situation.”

“To be honest, sir, I’ve seen worse.  He was clearly dead, so my priority became the girl.”

“I understood you said the body was covered in ice, but you knew it was a man?” Dallimore queried.

“I couldn’t see the features clearly, but it looked like a man to me.”

“And why did you close the freezer again?” Dallimore continued.

“I’m not sure, sir.  It seemed a sensible thing to do.  I was still wearing my gloves – I wear them for cleaning - it seemed wiser than leaving the freezer open.”

Dallimore nodded, “Fair enough.”

James said, “That should be all, Mr Talbot.  Thank you for your time.”

Once Talbot had gone, James said, “Do you think he was involved?”

“No,” Dallimore replied.  “He was calm enough that it was possible he already knew about the body, but as he said, he’d seen worse, and just did what his many years training had taught him to do.  Ah, are these your SOCOs?”

James introduced the SOCOs, plus Laura Hobson, who had followed them into the building.  While James and Dallimore had been talking to Talbot, DS Stephens had checked the location of the freezer and she led them all to where it was situated.

When they got there, James said, “Can you dust for fingerprints on the freezer first, please.”

The SOCO did as instructed and said, “There’s only one set of prints, some of them are slightly smudged.”

“Yes, I imagine they are Holly’s from opening the freezer, smudged by Dave Talbot when he closed it.  They’ll need to be checked.”

The SOCO opened the freezer and James and Dallimore looked inside.  The body was that of a young fair-haired man.

“Not Matthew Carmichael,” James said.  “He’s dark-haired.”

Laura stepped over to the freezer and looked at the body.  “Strictly speaking I should get into the freezer to do my initial examination.  However, I’m not convinced that’s practical.  There’s also a good chance of my slipping and contaminating the evidence.”

“If the body is raised out of the freezer is it likely to keep its position?” Dallimore asked.

“Initially, yes.  Long enough for me to do a preliminary exam anyway.”

James nodded.  “We’ll take photos in situ and then raise the body.  If it’s placed on a body bag beside the freezer would that suffice?”

Laura agreed, and, once the body had been placed on the floor, she began her examination.

Tomlinson joined them.  “I’ve taken statements from both Holly and Dr Jones.  I’ve also spoken to Callum.  They’d like to know when they may go.  There’s a couple of people outside who have been knocking on the main door, demanding to know when the department will be open.”

“You can tell them the department will be closed for the foreseeable future,” James said.  Turning to Dallimore he added, “I can’t see any reason why the others shouldn’t be allowed to go, except that so far the news of the body has been contained, and I don’t think poor Holly should be forced to stay silent.”

“Tell them it’ll be about ten minutes and then they can leave,” Dallimore said.  “Oh, make it clear that there’s no option to stay at this point.  I’m sure Dr Jones can find another way to tell her colleagues she’s borrowing their freezers.  It’s not as if they can do anything with them anyway.”

Tomlinson glanced at James, who nodded his agreement.  She departed to give the news.

“Well, it’s slightly forced our hand,” Dallimore said to James, “but I think we should bring in Armstrong, the man we’ve been following.  He’s Carmichael’s assistant, and finding a body in Carmichael’s freezer is good enough reason to want to ask questions of him.  Do you think we could use one of your interview rooms?”

“I’m sure that would be okay.  I presume you have more to ask him than just about the body.”

“We do, which is why I would have preferred to wait a little.  However, needs must.  I expect you’d like to observe?”

“Actually, I’d like to speak to Carmichael,” James replied.  “Would there be a problem if Tomlinson observed instead?”

“Not at all.  How about we swap sergeants?  You take Stephens and Tomlinson works with us.  That way we can combine our pool of knowledge.”

“That suits me.”

Dallimore phoned one of his officers and told her to arrange to bring Armstrong to the station. 

As he did so, James said to Stephens, “If we can slip out of the side door we might be able to get to Carmichael’s before he learns of the discovery.  I’d like to see what his reaction is.” 

The two of them walked to the back of the building, James phoning Tomlinson as they walked, to let her know the plans.

It wasn’t long before they drew up in front of the electronic gate of the apartments where Professor Carmichael lived.  Stephens spotted one of the residents leaving via one of the side gates and showed her warrant card.  They opened the gates for them and James parked the car and led the way to Carmichael’s block.

He pressed the intercom and Carmichael answered.  “Yes, what?”

“This is DI Hathaway, we’d like to have a word with you.”

“I believe I told you everything yesterday.”

“Some new information has just come to light, and it would probably be better if we spoke to you in private rather than announcing it for all your neighbours to hear.”

The buzzer sounded, and James pushed the door open.

“Tell me what is so important you need to disturb me first thing in the morning?” Carmichael demanded.

“I believe you have a freezer for use for your work in the department?” James said.

“Yes, what of it?  That’s hardly news.”

“A body has been found in it.”

Carmichael looked startled, then said, “You’re joking!”

“I can assure you we are not.  Apart from yourself who would have access to the freezer?”

“My assistant obviously.  And any one of my colleagues.”

“So, you can categorically confirm you were unaware of a body in your freezer.”

“Of course I can.”  Carmichael sounded annoyed.

Stephens made to ask a question, but James moved his hand and she refrained.

“Would you have any objection to accompanying us to see if you can identify the body?” James asked.

“As a matter of fact, I would.  I have work I need to be getting on with.  I don’t have time to identify dead students.”

Again, Stephens made to speak, but James shook his head.

“But as your department has been temporarily closed,” James said, “You won’t be able to go in just yet anyway, so you would have time to accompany us.”

“And if I refuse?”

“That’s your prerogative, sir.”

“I refuse.”

“Very well.  In the circumstances we shall require you to come into the station to make a statement as to when you last used the freezer.  We’ll also need to take a copy of your fingerprints for elimination purposes.  Please come in later this morning.”

“I will.  And if there’s nothing else, I would be obliged if you can leave me now.  I have things to do.”

“As you wish,” James agreed.

Once they had left the apartment James phoned and requested someone be sent to follow Carmichael.  They got back into the car, and James said, “I realise you were desperate to ask Carmichael questions and I do appreciate your respecting my wishes not to do so.”

“He didn’t ask anything about the body, and surely he should, but even so he knew it was a student,” Stephens said.

“Quite.  ‘Is it my son?’ would have been a reasonable question; we can assume he knows it isn’t.”

“But that would imply he knows who the dead student was.”

“Or, and I think this is more likely, he knows where his son is.”

“So he may not know who the body is, although he clearly thinks it’s a student.”

“Yes, I don’t think he realised quite what he’d said, which is why I didn’t want to pick him up on it at that time.  My guess is he has a good idea who it might be, but he wasn’t aware the body had been hidden in the freezer.”

“What happens now?”

“We wait to see where Carmichael goes.  My guess is he’ll try to speak to his assistant.”

“Surely he’ll phone him?”

“Oh yes, but when he gets no reply, he’ll drive over to see him.”

Stephens nodded.  “Would it be worth our waiting until the tail arrives?” she asked.

“Good idea.  I’ll park round here.  We can see the gate clearly enough.”

They sat in the car for a couple of minutes and were rewarded by seeing Carmichael’s car emerging through the gate.

“Sir, there’s two people in that car,” Stephens exclaimed.

“That’s Matthew Carmichael.  What the hell are they playing at?”

“Can we follow them?”

“It should be possible.  Get in touch with Dallimore and let him know what’s happening.”

Stephens phoned her boss and James could tell from her responses he was as surprised by the turn of events as they had been.

“Sir, Inspector Hathaway, did you hear me?” Stephens suddenly asked.

“Sorry, yes.  This is getting more and more curious.  I thought we’d be heading to Armstrong’s place, but this is close to where Professor Bradshaw lives, that’s Matthew Carmichael’s mother.”

“You mean, she’s in on it?”

“Yes, I think she is.”

They watched as Carmichael drove into his ex-wife’s driveway.  James found a space to park further up the road between two cars.

“I wish we could get closer,” James said, “But they’ll be sure to recognise me, and Carmichael’s seen you.”

 “I can try if you like,” Stephens said.  Quickly she let down her hair, which had been neatly tied back, and slipped off her pale grey jacket, revealing a striped blouse.

James nodded.  “Yes, please do.”

James watched from the car.  He could see Professor Bradshaw had opened the door, and father and son had both got out of the car.  Then Carmichael senior had returned to his car and driven off, and by the time James had looked back at the house the front door was shut again.

Stephens returned to James’ car and slid in.  “Bradshaw was furious.  She shouted at Carmichael and then pulled Matthew into the house.  They all three seemed very rattled.”

“Good.  What do you think the reaction would be if we call on Bradshaw now?”

“She’s definitely on the back foot.  What reason will you give?”  Stephens tied her hair up again and put her jacket back on.

“Personal visit to reassure her the body which has been found isn’t her son.”

This time they both got out of the car and walked down the road to Professor Bradshaw’s house.  James knocked on the door.

After a pause, Bradshaw opened it.  “Inspector Hathaway, what can I do for you?”

“May we come in?  This is DS Stephens,” James said.

“Um, er, yes.  Of course.”  Bradshaw opened the door wider to admit the two police officers and indicated to them to go into the lounge, following them in and closing the door behind her.

“You may have heard rumours of a body of a student having been found in one of the university research freezers,” James began.  “We’d like to reassure you this is not your son.”

Bradshaw nodded, but didn’t speak.

Stephens said, “Obviously we are continuing the search for your son, and, in the circumstances, this has become even more urgent.  I understand your son lives with you outside term times.”

Bradshaw nodded again, but James thought she looked slightly wary.

Stephens continued, “I wonder if it would be possible for me to take a look at his room.  It may be there would be something in there which would help our investigation.  Sometimes it can be the most insignificant item which provides the vital clue.”

“I can’t see it would be of any assistance to you,” Bradshaw said.

“Nevertheless,” Stephens began.

James was wondering how this was going to finish, when the door burst open and Matthew Carmichael stumbled in.

“Why does she want to look in my room, mother?” Matthew asked.  “There’s nothing in there.  It’s just like a hotel bedroom, no, worse than that, a Travelodge bedroom.”

“Matthew, you don’t know what you’re saying,” his mother said.

Stephens leapt up and took Matthew by the arm.  “Matthew, come and sit down next to me.”

“Get your hands off my son!” Bradshaw shouted.  She lunged at Stephens, but James quickly moved between the two.

Matthew sat down and put his head on Stephens’ shoulder.  “Can I go to sleep?” he asked her.  “I’ve been really sleepy lately.”

“It would be better if you tried to stay awake,” Stephens said.

“Tell your sergeant to leave my son alone,” Bradshaw yelled.

“My sergeant is only trying to help your son,” James replied.  “Please tell me what you have given him.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

James looked at Matthew, who had fallen asleep.  “Call an ambulance,” he said to Stephens.

With difficulty, Stephens extricated her phone from her jacket pocket and dialled 999.

“You have no right,” Bradshaw said.  “You will leave my house immediately.”

“Since I currently believe there is danger to life, I do have the right to remain,” James said.  “And I will repeat my request that you tell me what you have given Matthew.”


“Then could you tell me why your son has fallen asleep?”

“Lack of sleep.  He’s been missing for nearly five days, and clearly hasn’t slept during that time.”

“That may be.  And can you also tell me when you were planning to let us know Matthew had returned?”

“He’s not been back long, I was going to contact the police station.”

“It didn’t occur to you to mention it when I told you a body had been found in one of the freezers?  I specifically said we’d come to tell you it wasn’t your son.  Surely the natural response would have been to say you knew, because he had just returned home.”

Bradshaw glared at James but didn’t reply.  They heard the sound of the ambulance siren, and James went to open the front door.  He was waiting for the paramedics who were walking up the front path when he heard Stephens give a shout.  Instantly he ran back into the lounge to find Bradshaw brandishing a syringe.  At the same moment Stephens swung one of the cushions from the settee, which knocked the syringe out of Bradshaw’s hand.

James moved to restrain Bradshaw, and Stephens, having pushed the still sleeping Matthew over to one of the paramedics, went to help him.  Once Bradshaw was handcuffed, James bent down and, using an evidence bag, picked up the syringe.

James called the station to request uniformed officers to take Bradshaw in, plus a further officer to go straight to the hospital to meet the ambulance.  He also asked for a forensics officer to be sent.  One of the paramedics brought a stretcher in and Matthew was transferred onto it.  He grunted as they laid him on the trolley but didn’t wake, and the paramedics wheeled him out.

As they did so, Bradshaw screamed, “Bring him back.  You are forcibly removing my son from under my care and that is illegal.”

“Carry on,” James instructed.

The uniformed officers arrived and escorted Bradshaw to the police car.  Once they had left, James asked, “Are you okay?”

“Yes, thank you, sir,” Stephens replied.  “I was half expecting her to try something.  She seemed very edgy to me.  I almost wonder whether she’s taken something herself.”

“I think it’s entirely possible.  I’ve told Holland to ask the custody sergeant to request the M.O. to take a look at her.  We’ll need forensics to make a thorough examination of the house, but in the meantime we need to see if there’s any sign of what Bradshaw has administered to her son, because whilst we have one syringe there’s no guarantee it contains the relevant substance.”

They had just begun to search when James’ phone rang.  He answered it and said, “Yes I’ll go straight there.”  He rang off and said to Stephens, “Matthew Carmichael has recovered consciousness and is keen to talk, so I’m going straight to the hospital.  Can you stay here until forensics arrive and then fill them in on what we’re looking for?  After which DCI Dallimore has asked that you join him back at our station.”

“Yes, sir.”

James drove to the hospital, and found Tomlinson waiting for him.  Together they made their way to the side room, where a nurse showed them in.

“Hello, Matthew,” Tomlinson said.  “I’m DS Tomlinson and this is DI Hathaway.  We understand you asked to speak to us.”

Matthew was propped up on a couple of pillows.  He looked slowly from Tomlinson to James and back again.  “You look different,” he said to Tomlinson.  “Your skin, um, it’s well, not that I mind.”

Tomlinson smiled.  “I am different.”  James looked sharply at her, but she continued, “It was another DS you met at your mother’s house, DS Stephens.”

Matthew sighed with relief.  “Thank goodness for that.  I’ve been so muddled these last few days, but if you’re two different people that at least makes sense.”

James sat back and nodded at Tomlinson to continue the interview.  Matthew seemed happy talking to her and was more likely to be open with her than if he took over.

Tomlinson said, “We understand you wanted to talk to us.”

“Yes,” Matthew replied.  “When the inspector and the other sergeant came to the house, I heard them say something about a body of a student being found.  Who is it?”

“We’re still trying to identify him.  Do you have any idea who it might be?”

Matthew blinked and seemed to be thinking.  “I suppose it might be Jack, he’s had a couple of bad trips.  Is the body, er, the same ethnicity as you?”


“It’s not Jack then.  I’m afraid I don’t know.”

“That’s okay.  Can you tell us where you’ve been for the last few days?”

“I’ve been at Dad’s.”

“What?”  James exclaimed.

“I’ve been asleep most of the time, but I don’t remember going anywhere else until Dad said we had to go to Mum’s this morning.”

“Why did your Dad say that?” Tomlinson asked.

“There were problems at work he needed to sort out, so he couldn’t stay with me, so I had to go to Mum’s.”

“Why did you go to your Dad’s?”

“I wasn’t feeling well.  I’d gone to the department to give Liam Armstrong a mobile SIM.  I’d had to swap mine for one he’d given me.  Then, when I was there, I started feeling unwell, so Dad said he’d take me to his home.”  Matthew closed his eyes.  “I’m sorry, I’m feeling tired again.”

“That’s all right.  You get some more sleep.”

James and Tomlinson left the hospital room.  James nodded to the constable who was sitting outside.

“Do you believe him?” James asked, as they walked back down the corridor.

“Yes,” Tomlinson replied.  “He’s clearly still whoozy, and, if he was deliberately lying, he could say he wasn’t aware of what he told us, but he seems genuine to me.”

“And it explains why no-one remembers him saying ‘goodbye’, because he expected just to be giving Armstrong the SIM and rejoining the group, so he wouldn’t be gone for very long.”

They drove back to the station, and then walked in together.  They were met by Stephens, who was having trouble containing a grin.

“So, what’s so funny?” James asked.

“Bradshaw was being brought for interview – she’d been fine for the M.O. so he said there was no reason why we couldn’t interview her – when Carmichael arrived.  I’m not sure which one of them started it, but in no time at all they were screaming things at each other and both accusing the other of being at fault.  In my days in uniform I attended some lively domestic incidents, but this was on a par with the worst of them.”

“And what happened?”

“They were physically separated, and Bradshaw was taken back to a cell, because there was no way we could interview her the state she was in.  Carmichael is waiting for you to interview him; he’s insisting he has nothing he can tell us.  And Armstrong is refusing to talk, but a search of his flat has produced all sorts of dubious substances.”

“Do we have any further details about the dead body?”

“Not that I’ve heard of, but the DCI might have further information by now.  He was on the telephone when I came down to meet you.  He was using your office.”

They walked through the station to James’ office, where they found Dallimore working on his laptop.

“Hathaway,” he said, “your Chief Superintendent said it would be all right if I borrowed your office for an hour or two.”

“Of course, sir.”  James cast a quick glance round, but it looked as though Dallimore had simply put his laptop on the desk and ignored anything else.

“The pathologist is still waiting for the body to thaw completely before doing a full post mortem,” Dallimore said.  “However, she confirms there are cuts to the body which would have led to significant blood loss.  Whether they were sufficient to cause death she can’t yet say.”

Dallimore was about to say more when the phone rang, and James answered it.  “Put them through,” he said, and passed the receiver to Tomlinson.

“Hello,” she said.  “Hello, Sophie, yes of course I remember you.”  She listened, then said, “Do you have any photos you could show us?  Excellent, I’ll come over straight away.”

When she had replaced the receiver she said, “That was Sophie Waldron, you remember she was the one who told us about Matthew Carmichael’s bicycle.  They’ve heard about the body in the freezer, the grapevine has worked rapidly, and they wondered if it was one of the students they haven’t seen for a few days.  The thing is, he has a bicycle which is the same type as Matthew’s.  I thought it would be worth following up.”

“Yes, definitely,” James replied.  “And I’ll go and have a word with Professor Carmichael, which will leave my office free for you, sir.”


The interview wasn’t going well.  Carmichael continue to deny any knowledge of the body and expressed surprise that he had thought it a student, then suggested it might have been because it was the sort of thing students did as a prank.  James was just listening to Carmichael’s rambling explanation as to why he’d failed to mention Matthew being in his flat, when there was a knock on the door and the constable said Tomlinson wished to speak to him.  James gladly put a temporary halt on the interview and left the room.

He took the phone and said, “Go ahead, Tomlinson.”

“I met Sophie and two of her friends.  They showed me pictures of Zac Grier on their phones and he certainly bears a good resemblance to our body, although obviously we’ll need formal identification.”

“Any idea when he was last seen?”

“They weren’t sure, apparently he was a bit of a loner.  I get the impression they normally wouldn’t have thought about him, but with Matthew being missing, and the bike being pulled out of the river, when they heard about a body being found they began to wonder.”

“I think that’s sufficient to make further enquiries regarding Grier.  Can you get uniform onto it?”

“Yes, sir, will do.”

James returned to the interview room and said to Carmichael, “What can you tell me about a student called Zac Grier?”

Carmichael looked up, and hesitated.  James got the impression this was not a question which had been expected.  “An able enough student but inclined to pursue his own enquiries rather than those subjects within the syllabus.  He found it hard to comply when told he had gone too far.”

“In which respects was he going too far?”

“He showed an interest in one of our current research projects and I permitted him to assist us.  Initially it seemed a good idea, he had promise, but he failed to understand that all good research is conducted slowly and kept trying to push for quicker results.”

“I’m surprised a lowly undergraduate was able to express such thoughts,” James said.  “What did you do about him?”

“I asked my assistant …”

“Liam Armstrong?”

“Yes.  I asked him to have a word with Grier and put him straight.”

“And did this word include permanently silencing him?”

“Of course not!”

“Can you tell me what subject this particular research was concerning?”

“That’s irrelevant.”

James thought and then said, “Professor Carmichael, we are going to detain you whilst we make further enquiries.  The duty sergeant will explain your rights to you.”

“On what grounds?”

“Potential involvement with the death of the student whose body was found in the freezer, plus possibly keeping your son in your flat against his wishes.”

Carmichael remained silent and James terminated the interview before leaving the room.

He returned to his office to find Tomlinson waiting for him.  “DCI Dallimore and DS Stephens are interviewing Armstrong.  Professor Bradshaw has said she wants to make a statement and has requested her solicitor be present; she’s on her way.  And I nipped out and bought some sandwiches.”

She passed a paper bag and a bottle of water over to James, who thanked her.  They sat and ate their lunch in silence, whilst James scrolled through his emails.

He’d about finished when Tomlinson said, “I’ve just had a message from uniform.  They’ve found a number of unidentified substances in Grier’s room.  I’ll ask forensics to go over there.”

“Has there been a formal identification yet?”

“No, I believe one of the college tutors was asked to see if they could identify him.  Shall I phone the mortuary and see if there’s been any progress?”

James’ phone pinged.  “Ah, that may not be necessary.”  He looked at the message.  “The tutor has formally identified the body as being that of Zac Grier.  Nothing to be made public until his family have been informed.”

“Do you want me to oversee that?”

“No, I’ll get one of the DCs to do that.  I’d rather you were with me when we interview Bradshaw.”

James and Tomlinson returned to their own tasks and about ten minutes later the phone rang to say Bradshaw’s solicitor had arrived and was ready for her client to be interviewed.  They walked down to the interview room, where Tomlinson began the formal process.

Professor Bradshaw said, “Professor Carmichael and I have been developing a new form of anxiety reducing drug.  It’s one which may well have less side-effects than those commonly prescribed and has great potential.  We’re not ready to begin proper trials but we were keen to see the effect the drug could have, and Matthew was the ideal subject.”

“Was he aware that this was a new drug?” James asked.

“Yes, but we hadn’t told him how experimental it still was.  It seemed to be working and then my ex-husband phoned to say there was a problem, but he’d keep Matthew at his home while it was sorted out.  The difficulty was, of course, that I had to follow up about Matthew’s absence in case anyone queried it.”

“You didn’t see Matthew during this time?”

“No, it would have seen very strange for me to go to Tom’s flat.”

“And what can you tell me about Zac Grier?”

“Grier used to run errands for Tom.”  Bradshaw glanced at her solicitor, then continued, “I suspected Tom was selling the prototype drug, but I didn’t ask any questions, and Grier was the courier.”  She stopped, then said, “Is it Grier’s body you’ve found?”

“We believe so,” Tomlinson said.

Bradshaw went white.  “Who?  How?  Oh no, surely not Matthew?”

“Did Matthew know Grier?”

Bradshaw remained silent.  Her solicitor said, “I don’t think my client needs to answer this question.”

James said, “Not if she doesn’t want to.  Professor Bradshaw, we know Professor Carmichael brought Michael over to you this morning, what did he tell you?”

Bradshaw looked at James blankly, and said, “He phoned, said there was a problem he needed to sort out and he was bringing Matthew to me.  He came over and almost immediately afterwards you arrived.”

“Why did you object so strongly to Matthew going to hospital?”

“Because I didn’t want anyone investigating what Matthew had been taking.  Although on further thought he must have been given something other than the drugs we were trialling to have that much of an effect on him.”

“Thank you.  If there is nothing else you wish to tell us we have no further questions for you for the moment,” James said.

James and Tomlinson left the interview room and walked back to their office. 

“Do you think she’s telling the truth this time?” Tomlinson asked.

“Basically, yes.  She may have more information on Carmichael’s dealings than she’s told us, but I don’t think she knew anything about Grier’s death, and her worry when she thought Matthew was involved was genuine.”

“What’s your opinion on Matthew’s involvement?”

“What do you think?”

“He might be lying to us, but I’d say he was doped up in Carmichael’s flat when Grier was killed.  We could see how he reacts to being told the body was Grier’s.”

“I’m reluctant to do that.  So far the information we’ve had from him has been willingly volunteered; the state he’s in at the moment if we try to shock him into saying something we’ll be accused of using undue pressure.  Let’s go and see if Dallimore’s got anything useful out of Armstrong.”

They found the DCI back in their office.  “We’ve applied to have Armstrong released into our custody, so we can continue with the enquiries which originally brought us over here.  He began by denying any particular knowledge of Zac Grier and has been backtracking since we told him Carmichael had said Grier was involved with the project.  We have enough evidence of our own to hold him for the moment, so we don’t need to charge him with the murder as yet.”

“I don’t see either Armstrong or Carmichael admitting to anything, but Bradshaw’s evidence should at least give us areas to concentrate our investigations on.  And I suspect when she finds out exactly what Carmichael did in drugging their son, she may well be prepared to tell us more.  I need to speak to CS Innocent and bring her up to date, but so long as we can have further access to Armstrong, I see no reason why he shouldn’t be released to you.”

James left to meet with Innocent and then, following a long discussion, returned to his own office.  He and Tomlinson spent the rest of the afternoon arranging for the various strands of the case to be investigated. 

Finally, James stretched and said, “I think we should call it a day and then pick this up again tomorrow when our minds are rather fresher.”

When he arrived home, he was once again greeted by Monty.  “At least, cat, you are open about the fact you’re trying things on,” James said.

Robbie came out of the kitchen.  “How’s it going?” he asked.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done, but there’s enough evidence around we should be able to build a case to convict both Carmichael and Armstrong.  Bradshaw’s been released on police bail, she knows her career’s over.  They’re keeping Matthew in hospital overnight for observation, after which he’ll go and stay with his mother.”

“Is that wise?”

“It’s not ideal, but she is genuinely concerned for him.  We still need to find out how far Matthew was involved, but as yet there’s been no evidence he was doing anything other than taking the new drug.”

“So you’re relatively happy with progress so far?”

“Happy enough to have a few hours off, enjoy whatever you’ve been cooking and have a large glass of wine.  Tomorrow, as Scarlett O’Hara so rightly said, is another day.”