The Dog Collar Murders by Roger Silverwood - Read Online
The Dog Collar Murders
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Summary

Detective Inspector Michael Angel and his team are desperately searching for a murderer dressed in a dog collar. Mystified, Angel is unable to determine whether the murderer is a crazed priest or a man in priest’s clothes. Tramps who call at vicarages begging for money are suspected, but nothing is what it seems. Angel is greatly tested, and the investigations become more dangerous, as he races to find the killer to prevent more blood being spilled. This is the 17th in the highly successful Inspector Angel series.
Published: Robert Hale an imprint of Independent Publishers Group on
ISBN: 9780719814600
List price: $9.99
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The Dog Collar Murders - Roger Silverwood

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Copyright

ONE

9 a.m., Saturday, 9 January 2010

It was one of those days when the birds were coughing, the Rottweilers were barking and the police cars were screaming down the streets of Bromersley, while in the kitchen in St Joseph’s Vicarage, Bromersley, South Yorkshire, a brother and sister were having breakfast together.

‘Oh Tom, you’ll be the death of me,’ Phoebe Wilkinson said as she lowered her cup into the saucer. She snatched up a big black shopping bag from the floor at the side of her chair and rummaged around inside it. The bag was always with her, and was always full and bulging.

Tom Wilkinson put down his cup, reached out for the last piece of toast and said, ‘What are you looking for, Phoebe?’

‘My pen. I have a pen in here somewhere.’

‘Why do you want to hump that big bag of rubbish about with you everywhere you go? It’s twice as big as you are, and you can never find anything in there.’

She snorted and dug even deeper. ‘I have told you before that I have all my things in here … things that are important to me … things that I may want … at a moment’s notice.’

‘You know, Phoebe, I’m sure some of the congregation look at you and think you’re the vicar’s batty sister.’

Her nose was in the bag. She glanced out at him momentarily and said, ‘I’m too old to care what anybody thinks.’

‘I care. They are my people. They expect me to set them an example. They might start thinking that I’m batty too.’

She ignored him and continued to rummage.

‘What do you want a pen for?’ he said.

‘To write all this down. I shall never remember everything.’

‘Look, Phoebe, you needn’t worry. Elaine knows all about the arrangements. And the times and dates are in the diary.’

Her fists tightened but she soon released them. The arthritis in her fingers was painful that morning. ‘I don’t want to be dependent on somebody else all the time,’ she said. ‘I want to know it for myself.’

‘Well, borrow my pen.’

She waved him away. ‘I have my own pen in here somewhere, and my notebook.’

Phoebe Wilkinson almost turned the bag inside out to no avail, and then she suddenly found it, held it up and waved it at him, triumphantly. ‘I knew it was here.’

Then she returned to pushing the mish-mash of stuff around the bag again. A wrapped sweet, a single glove, a bottle of pills and a photograph of Frankie Dettori fell on to the carpet. She quickly rescued them and pushed them back in. Eventually she produced a small notebook. ‘There!’

Tom Wilkinson put the slice of buttered toast to his mouth and took a bite.

‘Now, when does the plane take off?’ she said.

‘Monday morning. I am taking the services here, tomorrow, as usual, of course, then on Monday at 10.15, Quentin is collecting me to take me to Leeds airport. I should be in Rome for teatime.’

She pulled a face like an alligator. ‘How very nice for you.’

‘You’ll be perfectly all right, Phoebe.’

‘It’s not right that you’re leaving me when winter is just setting in. And Rome is such a long way away.’

‘It’s my work, Phoebe. The bishop wants me to go to represent him. There are all sorts of meetings and discussions over there he wants me to attend. And it will be the last opportunity I shall have before I retire.’

She sniffed then said, ‘With champagne receptions in noble palaces, I expect.’

‘Some of those too, I hope. Now don’t be difficult, dear. You are going to be perfectly all right. I have tried to anticipate all eventualities. I have arranged for Elaine to come in every day, and Quentin to pop in about seven o’clock daily to check that you’re all right and to lock the door.’

‘What if I go dizzy again and have one of my falls?’

‘You’ve got your personal alarm phone. You know exactly what to do. I’ve been through it often enough with you. You press the button, there’s a nurse on duty at the other end 24/7 as they say. You just tell her what the trouble is.’

‘And what if your plane crashes? What am I going to do then?’

‘It won’t crash and if it did, I’d be in paradise a bit early, that’s all. You’d still be all right. Everything is in order.’

‘Huh. I don’t want to have to deal with the solicitors. They don’t speak intelligible English any more. And what if they sell The Grange?’

‘I am only going for two weeks. It’ll keep while I get back.’

‘When will I be able to get my share of the money?’

He glanced up momentarily at the ceiling. ‘You’re always on about that. Soon. Very soon. As soon as a purchaser has completed. And I shall pay Elaine before I go, so you won’t have anything to pay out.’

She glared up at him. ‘I haven’t got anything to pay out with. You’ve got it all. I ought to have something in my purse.’

‘Don’t let’s go through all that again. I put it in the bank for you. You know that you just lose money. And you don’t know what you’ve done with it. And you’ve nothing to show for it. It’s happened so many times.’

‘It’s just my memory, Tom. That’s all. I don’t remember things.’

‘Well … remember to be nice to young Robin Roebuck, if you see anything of him. He’ll be taking some of my services. He’ll be returning those vestments he borrowed. Tell Elaine some of them might need laundering. The thing is, just keep everything ticking over until I get back.’

She looked down at the carpet and shaking her head said, ‘I can’t keep answering the phone, Tom. I don’t know what to say to people. They say they know me but I have no idea who they are. And sometimes it rings all evening.’

‘Everybody wanting me will know that I’m away, Phoebe. There was a piece about it in the magazine, on the pew sheets and I mentioned it in the notices. Anybody who rings up, just tell them I’m away and give them Robin Roebuck’s number, that’s all.’

‘As long as it doesn’t ring during Casualty.’

He looked at his watch, then stood up. ‘Gone nine. Must get cracking, sis. I’ve morning prayers in fifty-eight minutes, and I haven’t prepared a thing.’

He went out.

She drained the cup of the last drop of tea. Then she pushed hard on the arms of the carver and stood precariously holding on to the table. She looked round, then bent down to pick up the black bag. By leaning on furniture and grabbing strategically placed handles, she made her way to the door into the hall and through another door into the sitting room. She was making her way across the room when she heard the front door slam shut. She stopped abruptly and looked back.

A voice called out, ‘It’s only me, Miss Wilkinson. It’s Elaine. Where are you?’

‘In here,’ she called. ‘Sitting room, dear.’

A young woman in a blue overall came in, looked across at her, smiled and said, ‘What are you trying to do?’

‘Get to my chair.’

Elaine put a hand under Phoebe Wilkinson’s arm and supported her to the electrically operated lounger chair by the fireplace. She lowered her into it and then handed her the control panel.

‘There you are,’ Elaine said. ‘Now I’ll get you a nice hot water bottle.’

‘Thank you, dear. No rush,’ she said as she pressed a button on the control panel which started the buzz of a small motor in the chair and caused the leg rest to rise slowly. When it reached a comfortable position, she stopped pressing the button, put the control on the chair arm, straightened her dress, looked up at Elaine and said, ‘Did you have a nice evening then?’

‘Yes, thank you, Miss Wilkinson. Did you?’

‘The usual. At my age, Elaine, one vicarage dinner with your brother and the church wardens and their wives is pretty well much like another.’

Elaine spotted a copy of the local newspaper on top of other papers and magazines on the little table at the side of the chair. ‘You’ve read the Chronicle then? I looked for The Grange again but it is not advertised. It must have been sold.’

Phoebe Wilkinson blinked. Her face brightened. ‘Do you think so?’

‘Most likely.’

She smiled. ‘Half of that money is mine, you know.’

‘I hope they got a good price for you, Miss Wilkinson,’ Elaine said. ‘What are you going to do with your half?’

‘Not sure, Elaine. I’m really not sure. Haven’t made my mind up. There are so many good causes. My brother said we might have to take a low price because of the recession. But you know him, always the pessimist.’

Elaine’s eyes glowed. ‘Some people say the recession is over. I heard that some really good houses are fetching big money. Your father’s house is a lovely house in an expensive area. Probably fetched millions. Imagine all that money to do whatever you like with.’

Phoebe Wilkinson did not need Elaine to draw her any word pictures.

‘Whatever it is, imagine all that in cash,’ Elaine said.

Phoebe Wilkinson shook her head. ‘It’ll come in a cheque or a warrant or something like that, I suppose. It’ll just be so much paper.’

Elaine said, ‘I heard on the news that they’re talking about doing away with cheques? Some shops won’t take them now. It’s back to old-fashioned cash. My father still buys everything with cash. Doesn’t have a bank account. Doesn’t trust banks. Is there any wonder? Well, who does these days, I ask you? Huh.’

‘Well, I haven’t a cheque book now,’ Phoebe Wilkinson said, then she shook her head. ‘Think of it. Had one since I was twenty-one. All those years, then last April, my brother wouldn’t let me replace it because I lost it between here and the chemists. If I want any money for anything now, I have to ask him for it.’

Elaine didn’t think that was right, but she knew that she oughtn’t to say so. She patted the old lady’s hand and said, ‘I’ll fill you a hot water bottle, Miss Wilkinson, then I’ll make you a nice cup of coffee.’

‘Lovely, dear. Thank you.’

Elaine went out and closed the door.

Phoebe Wilkinson half closed her watery blue eyes and slowly rubbed her chin. There was something on her mind. Something was troubling her. After a minute or so, she made a decision. She blinked several times thoughtfully as she reached out for the phone book. She soon found the number she wanted and underlined it with her ballpoint pen. Then she reached out for the phone and tapped out the number. As it rang out, her lips moved silently as she rehearsed what she intended to say.

It rang for a long time and then it was answered by a man who sounded startled. ‘Er … hello?’

Phoebe Wilkinson frowned and said, ‘Is that Mace and Hall, solicitors?’

‘Well, yes, but the office is closed,’ the voice said. ‘It’s Saturday, you know. I wouldn’t normally be here. I just called in because I had forgotten something.’

‘I know it is Saturday, young man. Nevertheless, this is Miss Wilkinson here. Miss Phoebe Wilkinson, and as you happen to be there perhaps you would be kind enough to assist me?’

‘Oh, yes. Miss Wilkinson. If I can I will, Miss Wilkinson,’ the young man said.

‘Would you kindly tell me what progress you have made with the sale of my late father’s house, The Grange, Duxberry Road?’

‘Oh yes, Miss Wilkinson. Good morning to you. The Grange? Oh yes. In its own grounds. Natural lake. Five bedrooms. I remember. It’s not my department actually, but I seem to remember that there was a lot of interest shown in it. At the price, it is rather an exclusive property … and there are not many potential buyers who have immediate access to that amount of ready cash in this financial climate. They may be in the process of trying to raise the money from the banks or building societies. This snow and ice and bad weather may have slowed down people’s intentions. Though it might be getting warmer soon.’

‘I don’t want a weather forecast, young man. I simply want to know if it is sold. Can you please confirm that for me?’

‘I really don’t know, Miss Wilkinson.’

‘It could be, then?’

‘Oh yes. If it was a cash sale it very well could be.’

‘A cash sale? I see. Ah well, how soon could I expect to receive payment?’

‘We don’t hang on to clients’ funds longer than necessary, Miss Wilkinson. In such circumstances, fees and disbursements are quickly worked out and deducted and the balance paid out by our cashier in a very few days.’

‘A few days?’

‘Earlier if there were special circumstances.’

‘Yes, well, please tell your cashier there are special circumstances …’

‘I certainly will, Miss Wilkinson.’

30 Park Street, Forest Hill Estate, Bromersley, South Yorkshire, UK.

7.10 a.m., Monday, 11 January 2010

Detective Inspector Angel was at the bathroom sink lathering up his face with a new badger-hair shaving brush he had had bought for Christmas.

His wife Mary came into the bathroom with an opened letter in her hand.

‘Michael,’ she said, rubbing her temple, ‘I have been reading that letter from Lolly again.’

He squinted at the mirror. References to Lolly, Mary’s sister, tended to irritate him. She reminded him of a butterfly that fluttered about the place seemingly unable to decide where to land and when it did, it settled by a burning flame and singed a wing.

He picked up the razor, rinsed it under the hot tap and applied it to his lathered cheek.

‘Can I read the bit I mean?’ Mary said.

His eyebrows went up. ‘Do I have a choice?’

She glared at him momentarily and then looked down at the letter. ‘It’s the last bit. She says, Mary, darling, you are my only sister and we used to be so close. We had such fun. Do you remember when we all used to go to Grandpa’s in the summer and stay for simply ages? You and I used to go down to the pond and paddle and fish and sunbathe. That’s where we met the Simpson boys. Barnaby had a crush on you. And Nigel had the hots for me. Happy days! I know that I miss you terribly. I would love for us to spend some time together again. We could have a really great time when Michael is at the office doing his murders and things. It would be simply great if we could get together again. I would love to come over and see you. I hear there are some great shops in Leeds these days. I wonder what happened to Nigel. As it happens, my apartment is being decorated the first two weeks in January and will pong of fresh paint for a week or two after that. If you could do with me about then, it would be great. We haven’t seen each other since Pa’s funeral, and I haven’t seen you since you moved into your new bungalow. It would be great to give you a big hug. And Michael, of course. Lots of kisses. Love you. Lolly.

Angel growled and then said, ‘What about it? She wants to come here for a holiday and to get some clean Yorkshire air in her lungs.’

Mary’s eyes flashed. ‘It’s to see us and get away from the smell of fresh paint.’

‘Those foreigners smell of onions.’

‘It’s the garlic. I keep telling you. And my sister isn’t foreign.’

‘I don’t care what it is. I don’t like it. She probably smells of garlic now. She’s been living over there long enough.’

‘Don’t be ridiculous. She smells perfectly … clean.’

He was making a long downward stroke with the razor. He broke off and said, ‘They can’t help it. They eat a plateful of garlic, swill it down with a bottle of house red, and then dance a few choruses of the Can Can. Then they begin to sweat … it comes out through their skin.’

Mary’s face went scarlet. ‘All right, all right!’ she yelled. ‘I’ll write and tell her she can’t come, because she smells.’

She turned and made for the door.

Angel, realizing he had gone too far, stopped shaving mid-stroke and said, ‘Besides, there’s nowhere she can sleep.’

There was a second’s delay.

Mary turned back. Her voice softened. ‘That back bedroom is spotless. It just needs clearing out, the curtains cleaning and the paint washing. All it needs is a new bed.’

‘There is a bed. There’s that bed in the summerhouse that came from your mother’s.’

‘She can’t sleep in that. It’s about a hundred years old.’

‘It’s a valuable antique. It’ll be cosy.’

‘It’ll smell.’

‘She’ll never notice.’

She breathed in rapidly and said, ‘Michael. We need a new bed.’

He rinsed the brush out vigorously and put it in its stand to dry.

‘It can go on my credit card,’ she added. ‘We’ll hardly notice.’

His eyebrows shot up again. ‘It’ll still have to be paid for. It won’t come free because it’s on your credit card. The gas bill’s due, and the half-year rate bill is overdue. Forget it, love.’

‘We need a new bed, Michael, and then if anybody wants to visit us, we’ve the accommodation.’

‘Why?’ he said through the towel. ‘Are we going into competition with The Feathers?’

She glared at him again, then stormed out of the bathroom.

Northern Bank, Bromersley, South Yorkshire, UK. 10 a.m., Monday, 11 January 2010

The First Security Delivery Services van driver and his mate came out of the Northern Bank on to Main Street, dropped the boxes they had collected through the slot in the side of the van, locked it and then climbed into the cab. The next point of call was the Yorkshire and Lancashire Building Society on Market Street, so the driver carefully drove the van along to Western Bank then turned right down into Almsgate, a tiny one-way back street, manoeuvred his way through the line of parked cars and delivery vans and suddenly discovered a large black furniture van slewed across the road blocking the way. The FSDS driver had just applied the brake when there was a thunderous bang on the cab roof. It resounded in their ears. The vehicle rocked and the roof collapsed several inches. The two men gasped and crouched down as they thought it might cave in completely and kill them. Then through the windscreen they saw a giant metal claw pierce the radiator. The sight of the advancing claw made the driver’s mate’s blood run cold.

‘What the hell?’ he said.

Steam hissed and billowed over the bonnet. The windscreen shattered. Their vision ahead was entirely blocked. The driver struggled to open the cab door to make his escape but he could not budge it. They heard the crunch of metal behind them as the van sides were being pierced by two other giant metal claws. The noise grated on their ear drums.

The vehicle was on the move upwards. It was swinging from side to side.

‘God. What’s happening?’ the driver said, his chest banging like a Salvation Army drum.

‘Press the automatic raid transmission advice, John,’ he managed to remember to say.

The driver’s mate pressed a red button on the radio transmission set. It was programmed to send a standard recorded emergency message that the vehicle was being raided to the branch office in Sheffield. There was already an automatic live twenty-four-hour satellite navigation system link that advised them of the vehicle’s location at all times.

The van then suddenly rose upwards.

The two men looked at each other. Their eyes showed stark fear.

The van swung to one side, clipped a parked car then rushed straight upwards as if it was a bouncing ball on the rebound. The men’s stomachs dropped as it gained momentum. Through a broken side window the driver could see some first-floor office windows. The van was swinging away from them. They were sailing through the air as if in a hot-air balloon.

They stared at each other, their mouths open and their eyes the size of traffic lights. ‘What’s happening?’

There was the screech of torn metal as the giant claws opened to release their grip.

The van was in freefall.

‘Hold tight, John.’

‘God help us.’

The driver grabbed hold of the steering wheel. His mate grabbed the door and the handbrake cowling, preparing himself for a hard landing. The front of the van landed first. It made a hell of a racket and jarred every bone they had. But they were back on the ground. They were grateful for that, but their arms and hands were shaking. They tried to open the cab doors. They had to push and kick them. It was hard work but they eventually prised their way out. The van was a wreck. They looked round. They were in a small private walled car park, but there were no cars there and the gate was closed. The crane grabber was rapidly retreating into the sky. Several men in balaclavas and carrying guns were busy at the back of the van. One of them saw them, left the back of the van and dashed up to them. They knew he meant business. He herded them together to the corner of the car park well away from the mangled van. He told them to take off their helmets and lie face down on the ground. It was cold and hard. The van driver looked back to try to see what was happening.

He felt a gun in his back.

‘Look down!’ an angry voice yelled.

Suddenly, there was a loud explosion. They felt it through the ground.

A few seconds later, men’s voices shouted jubilantly.

One of the men said, ‘Fill that case. Hurry up.’

There was a lot of activity and noise. Heaving and banging, metal on metal. A few moments later, the same voice said, ‘Don’t mess about. Come on.’

Another man came across to the van driver and his mate. He had a roll of two-inch-wide black sticky tape. He quickly wrapped it tightly round the two FSDS men’s wrists behind their backs, their ankles and across their mouths