I have only self-edited this chapter, and it is not professionally edited for errors and the like. The working tile of the book is going to change. As you can see, this is work in progress.
Please read and comment—thank you.
The old lady didn’t move, she was in a wheelchair, as her legs were in casts. She must have broken both legs.
“When I hire a private detective, they do what I want, ok? What do you charge per day, Logan?”
“Depends on what you want me to do, Mrs Dobyfoster.”
“Why should you care? You do all sorts of dirty work, don’t you? Anything I want you to do. I’m the boss, alright!”
“Only the legal and truthful kind of work, and I get four hundred quid as a retainer, from people I don’t know because they might not live long.”
“Do a lot of your clients die?”
“Not if they treat me with respect and understanding.”
She smiled and said, “Ok, four hundred pounds. Sit down please Miss Logan and tell me about yourself.”
“Sure, It’s an interesting story. I’m thirty-three years old. I started off in university and the Royal Navy. I worked my way up to captain of a frigate. I missed the love of my life, so I resigned my post and came back to live in Portsmouth. We had our differences, and we parted company, and I moved to Thatcham. I started to do investigatory work, and I’ve solved about six robberies and found about eight husbands doing what they weren’t supposed to do. I’m honest and do my job mostly within the law.”
Mrs Dobyfoster smiled, coughed continuously for about half a minute. She then looked down and said, “Ok, Miss Logan, forgive my cough, it’s a chest infection I’ve had over this weekend.” She reached over for some syrup and took her medicine.
“I brought you here because I’ve had five South African one troy ounce Krugerrand gold coins stolen—I’m sure I know who’s taken them. She’s an associate of my family. So, I don’t want anybody arrested.” She pulled a face and coughed.
“Oh, so they live here, on your estate in Bucklebury House?”
“No, my youngest daughter, Justine, is in a relationship with an older woman living in Reading. Margaret Simpson, she has a betting habit on horses and loses a lot, so is in debt most of the time.”
“I think she stole the coins to fund the betting.”
“I’ll have to speak with Justine to get more information.”
But Mrs Dobyfoster shouted in response, “Well, I don’t think Jussy knows anything! Margret took them. I want them back. Thank goodness lesbians find it harder to get married than a man and woman.”
“Mrs Dobyfoster, you know I am a lesbian though not in a relationship now,” I said and looked her in the eye.
“All right. Can I trust you not to get involved with my daughter, sexually?” Wendy said, adding a cough.
“Yes, I’m professional in my job. I’ll reject any advances from Justine. You know a lesbian isn’t attracted to every woman alive.” I said in a commanding voice. “Also do you have a photograph of Justine and this Margret Simpson?”
“Oh, a picture, I have one here—I think.” She reached across to open a desk drawer and opened it slowly, moved some folders around and found a picture. “This is the both of them, with Justine on the left.”
“The other lady must be Margret Simpson?” My stomach turned upside down in shock as I remembered the woman, but I didn’t know her as Margret. I knew her as Elizabeth Jones.
Wendy answered, “Yes, it’s not a well-focused photo, but it’s acceptable, and only two people are in the picture anyway.”
I enquired further, so I was sure I hadn’t mistaken the identity. “Do you have any closer shot photos?”
“We have some, I’ll ask Grace, my secretary to bring in the laptop as we have more digital photos on the web. So, you know Margret?”
I was afraid my expression might have revealed the fact I knew her. “How old is this photo?” I enquired.
“It’s from late last year. The two girls went on holiday together for the first time.”
She coughed again hard. I thought she was choking, but she picked up her handkerchief to her mouth and stopped. I swung my right leg over my knee. “It’s about a year old then?” If Margret were Elizabeth Jones, the same Elizabeth with whom I came in contact, and I’d suspected she’d had an illicit encounter with one client’s husband. I’d expect the case to get lively as Elizabeth was inventive and, in a way, exciting with her behaviour. In my original report, I’d said she showed traits of being sociopathic, but this wasn’t confirmed nor was she in any legal problems with the police.
Wendy continued, “Why, do you think you know Margret?”
“I need a clearer photo as people can make a mistake for someone else at times.”
Wendy pressed a red button on her desk. Only seconds later the secretary knocked on the door once and came into the room.
“Grace, can you bring in the laptop so I can show Miss Logan the holiday photos of Justine and Simpson?”
Grace turned back to the office area, and within ten seconds, she returned to the office type room we were in and handed Wendy Dobyfoster a standard size laptop.
Opening the lid and using the mouse pad as it was already switched on, Wendy said, “I’ll find the photos so you can see Margret better.” She turned the laptop around in my direction. “There you go. A clearer and closer picture of Margret.” She screwed her face up and held the handkerchief to her mouth, coughed and spit into it.
I looked closer at the laptop photo, “Ah, thank you. I’ll have to make some enquiries as I haven’t seen this woman in five years. In fact, meeting the woman would be simpler.”
“All right, do your checking on this Margret. I’m sure she’s taken the coins.”
“I may be wrong, but the Margret you describe I believe to be Elizabeth Jones, and I know she’s not lesbian at all. She had various boyfriends according to my recollection and hated females getting too close. Anyway, it has been about five years. Also, it’s better to meet face to face, Mrs Dobyfoster.”
“You may call me Wendy. Oh, Miss Logan, may I see your license and what might you want for your salary?” asked Wendy Dobyfoster.
“Yes.” I reached into my jacket pocket and handed over my detective license and added, “I have a rate of four hundred pounds per day or forty-five pounds an hour for a minimum of five hours. Also, any expenses incurred. My car is eighty-five pence a mile.”
“Oh, expensive—what expenses? I hope to get a chance to object. Also, you’re not scared of me, are you? As I need someone with a lot of forcefulness to get, this matter sorted and resolved,” explained Wendy.
“Don’t worry Wendy. I have a large amount of force at my disposal, and I like the mostly stupid people. They’re easier to read and to manage.” I smiled and adjusted my seat for more comfort. “I also work alone. Private investigators are hired at lower prices. I’m one woman working on one case at a time, I don’t work all the time, and sometimes I might bend several laws, but they’ll always be bent in your favour. I do my best for my clients. But expenses are little things that come up here and there. You never know. But—I won’t incriminate someone who isn’t guilty! If this Margret Simpson hasn’t stolen the coins, then the case ends there.”
My mobile phone picked this moment to chirp a text message. It was, ‘I need the camera back, hope you haven’t broken it, it’s expensive—Carla.’ I looked at it and thought I could reply later and put it back into my pocket. I apologised for the interruption. “Sorry, I’ve got a text. I’ll respond to it later.” I put the phone back in my pocket and went on, “Wendy, does your daughter have any money of her own? Also, I’m not entirely familiar with your family. Please, could you tell me about them?”
Wendy’s eyes rolled. “All my five daughters get a small allowance from me. Except the oldest one, Adele, who’s thirty-seven years old and lives in London with her husband, George Brown.” She coughed a lot.
“Pardon you,” I said.
Wendy continued, “The allowance is mainly as a backup for any unforeseen expenditure. My four youngest daughters live here at Bucklebury. Brenda is my second oldest daughter, and she’s thirty-three years old. She has a part-time job in Reading as a hairdresser. Christine is the third youngest at twenty-seven years old. She also works. Christine is teaching horse riding at a school in Early, South Reading.”
“Oh, I like horse riding too.”
“Indeed,” and she went on further. “Then there’s Diane. She’s twenty-three years old, and working for a company in America, New York City. This leads to Justine, who is the youngest and is now unemployed. At twenty years old, she spends most of her time in Reading with the horrible Margret Simpson. They’re teaming together for a partnership in a restaurant in the Oracle shopping centre in Reading.”
“Big family, all girls too.”
Wendy continued with her disapproval, “I do have my suspicions about the restaurant, as it’s going to be an Italian food type place. My husband, George, died due to a car crash about six years ago now. We were naming the children alphabetically, as you can see.”
“Oh yes, I could see a connection,” I said and smiled.
Wendy frowned and continued, “I gave birth to Justine two months early, and she was in incubation and only just survived. She was having the nickname ‘just’ a lot, so we decided to call her Justine.”
“Thank you for the summary, Wendy. Can you give me any more information on the coins?” I asked.
“Late last week I was phoned by the jeweller who sold us the coins, called Chris Hall. He’s at Jacobs the Jewellers, also in the Oracle shopping centre in Reading. On the third floor, I think. He asked if I was going to sell the coins. I think he must know we wouldn’t sell them as they were bought from Jacobs and it’s in my husband’s will that they shouldn’t leave the family. After the call, I went to where I keep the coins, and five were missing. Miss Logan, bring back my Krugerrand coins, and look after Justine, won’t you?”
“Ok, I’ll find your Krugerrands and keep Justine safe. You may call me Harriet.”
Wendy smiled and said, “Thank you, Harriet Logan.”
I rose from my seat, and strangely the maid appeared at the door right on time. Apparently, Wendy Dobyfoster used the remote call button for the maid. The maid and I both smiled at each other, and she indicated I was to leave. On my way out of the room, I turned and bowed my head at Wendy. Wendy smiled back.
Outside the office, I was walking along a corridor in the house when I accidentally on purpose bumped into Justine on her way past me. I said, “Oh I’m sorry.”
“It’s all right. So, how are the cows then? You’ve had your meeting!” Justine said with a sarcastic tone. “Marion told me you weren’t a vet after a lot of interrogation.”
“Really?” I said and turned to Marion the Maid with an alarmed look on my face. Marion almost seemed to freeze. Then she sputtered out, “I stated I didn’t know your job.”
With reluctance, I replied, “All right, I’m a private detective, and I’ve been talking with Mrs Dobyfoster over some problems she wants to resolve.”
Justine jumped in. “What were they about?”
“I’m not allowed to tell you. Not without Mrs Dobyfoster’s permission,” I snapped and added a polite smile. “I’m interested in looking for some lasagna beef recipes.”
“I know about Italian cooking!” Justine said and presented a proud smile.
“Yes, but I have an appointment in Reading to go to now.”
“Oh, can you give me a lift, please? I want to go to Reading, and I’m too late, so I’ve probably missed the train.”
“All right then. Let’s go,” I said pleased for the opportunity to get some more information on Justine’s relationship with Margret. Justine opened the front door and quickly went out. I turned to the maid and smiled. She said, “Thank you for your attendance, goodbye.”
“I’ll see you later.”
I looked for my car keys in my pocket. “What part of Reading are you going to?”
“You know the Oracle shopping centre?”
“Yes, my next meeting is in there. I’m going too.” The central locking opened the doors, and we both got in the car.
“So, you can’t tell me what’s happening and why my mum wants you? Am I the problem?”
“I can’t say, not without permission. Let’s change the subject. You’re interested in Italian cooking. Got any good recipes?”
Justine frowned as she spoke. “Look, I know my mum’s not happy with Mags and me being together.”
“Mags? Who’s Mags?”
“It’s Maggie. We’re in a lesbian relationship together. I’m only telling you because I got a cute look off you.”
“Come on, you know. You’re a lesbian, aren’t you?”
I smiled, took my eye off the road for a second, caught Justine’s eye, then turned back to look at the way we were going.
“I’ll take that as a yes.”
“I’m in a relationship. So, don’t imagine anything. How are you and Maggie getting on?”
“We have our differences sometimes. Also, Mags does gamble a lot, and sometimes she’s rich, but mostly she’s poor.”
I went to the question. “Is Maggie with you at Bucklebury much?”
“Sometimes, but mum doesn’t like her spending the night with me at Bucklebury House. Mags was here two weeks ago. We were making different types of lasagna, and we’ve done it for the others to eat. Where are you going in the Oracle?” Justine ended with a smile on her face.
“I’m going to see security there. You going shopping?”
“No, I’m meeting Mags. We’re trying to get a location in the Oracle to open a restaurant.”
I was driving for about half an hour by the time we were in the middle of Reading. “All right, it’s a multi-storey car park. You can get out here. I’ll park up there somewhere. See you later,” I said.
“Yeah, thanks for the lift.”
“No problem,” I said as she got out and shut the door.
I knew Harveys The Jewellers were on the third floor. I drove up to the second floor but couldn’t find a clear parking spot, so I went up another floor. This was better. A lot of empty spaces. I parked and found the steps to walk down to the ground level and entered the Oracle shopping centre. I didn’t know exactly where the jewellers were so as the steps were at one end I walked past all the shops, watching people buying expensive items. Jacobs, the Jewellers, was a small type corner store. I approached the door. Someone was leaving with a little, lovely looking bag. I let them through and went into the shop. Only one clerk was in the shop. He looked in charge, so I spoke, “Good morning, could you tell me about Krugerrand coins please?”
The only guy in the shop replied, “Surely. In 1970, South Africa controlled eighty percent of gold production if we take out the Communist bloc who were hoarding their gold at the time as China is now. Such a position put South Africa in a prime status to expect and dictate the future of the gold market. Anticipating an end to the gold standard, the Rand Refinery decided to manufacture modern bullion coins for public consumption as, during the gold standard, private ownership of gold was forbidden in many countries. So, the gold standard was abolished in the United States in 1971 although it had been deleted here in the UK in 1931. South Africa manufactured the one troy ounce first gold bullion coin since 1968. Eventually, other countries saw success in this and started to produce their own currencies. The Krugerrand one troy ounce coin was the only South African coin made until 1979. In 1980, they also added a half troy ounce, a quarter troy ounce and one-tenth of troy-ounce coins in twenty-four-carat gold. The price these days is around eight hundred pounds for one troy ounce coin. The price is controlled by the price of gold at the time of the sale.”
“Thank you. What’s your name please?” I asked.
“My name’s Christopher Hall, and I’m the owner of this shop, and that’ll be two pounds please,” he announced.
“Sorry? What for?” as I wasn’t sure what had caused the charge.
“I’ve spent the last two minutes telling you about Krugerrand coins. The information is available to everyone in a library or on the internet. You have taken up my time to inform you about it. The cost of the speech is two pounds. Also, who are you?” said Christopher with a smile.
I moved closer to him around the corner of the serving desk and took a two-pound coin from my pocket. “All right, fair enough, there you go, there’s two quid. I’m a private investigator for Mrs Dobyfoster. I’m working on the theft of her coins. You phoned Mrs Dobyfoster about selling her Krugerrands, didn’t you? You knew they weren’t for sale. I’m sure someone tried to sell them to you.”
“Why would they do that?” asked an uneasy Chris Hall.
I smiled and replied, “They wanted the money. The thieves knew your shop was in a corner away from the busy shopping that goes on in the Oracle, and you’re a guy who I’m sure wouldn’t make any unreasonable threat.”
“You assume all this because I phoned Mrs Dobyfoster and asked her if her Krugerrand coins were for sale?” asked Chris looking surprised.
“You knew they weren’t for sale. They’re the early 1968 coins and as you know having sold them to the Dobyfosters a few years ago. I’m sure you are aware the Dobyfoster’s collection is not for re-sale. You wanted to buy them.”
I complimented his conduct by saying, “As a reputable dealer, you’d protect Mrs Dobyfoster or her insurance from a loss of money. But, the purchase of stolen goods is illegal, and you’d know you would have to give them back free of charge.”
“I am aware of the law and recognised the coins may have been the Dobyfoster’s property, from the large, unusual shaped scratch on one coin.”
I smiled and relaxed a little. “Okay, let’s have the coins.”
“Don’t be silly. I have not paid for the coins, as I would have to give them back to the Dobyfosters. They are due back tomorrow morning to return with the coins for my purchase.”
I asked, “What did she look like, the girl who wanted to sell you the Krugerrands?”
“Well, he was tall, I think six-foot. He was completely bald, although he was thin but dressed in a blue suit, white shirt and a yellow tie. He had brown leather shoes, and his left one had a lot of muddy dirt on it. Maybe he’d stood in a big puddle. He said his name was Robert Stewart.”
I grinned and asked, “What about his inside leg measurement?”
“I didn’t have a tape measure.”
“Oh, so neglectful. Robert Stewart’s age?”
“Well, I didn’t get up close to him, and he was in his thirties, I think.”
I smiled and winked at Christopher. “Okay, I’ll see you tomorrow morning, at 9 a.m. so we can confront the thief and alert the police.”
Chris Hall handed me a business card as I was turning to leave. I put it in my pocket and walked out of his corner shop. I stepped out of view from inside the shop and left my wallet, so it trapped the door open slightly behind me. As I expected, he immediately made a phone call to someone. He didn’t ask for anyone by name, and he didn’t say who he was, so they apparently knew each other well. Chris talked about the interaction, and he said, “They’re coming back tomorrow and letting the Police know.”
Plainly, I couldn’t hear the other person speaking. But, they must have said a lot as Chris was quiet for about thirty seconds. The next he said was “All right. It’ll be sorted by tomorrow morning and meet you here at midday. Bye” He put the phone down.
Damn it! I didn’t find out much about what was happening. Only, I did now know someone else was involved. Anyway, this was the coin recovery side of the problem. I should phone Mrs Dobyfoster and let her know I’d found her coins. I had the matter of Justine and her lover, Maggie Simpson, to deal with. I still had to discover if Maggie had taken the coins. Well, I was hungry, and I was in a shopping centre with a lot of cafes. I found one and got an all-day breakfast and coffee.
Afterwards, I walked back and got into my car. I used my mobile phone to call Mrs Dobyfoster. “Hello, I’m Harriet Logan. May I speak with Mrs Dobyfoster, please?”
“Yes, Miss Logan. Please hold the line,” said the secretary.
“Hello, Miss Logan. I should report to you, our meeting led me to return to where the Krugerrands were kept before they were stolen. I opened the cabinet, and to my surprise, they had returned. I don’t know where they have come from, but they’re back in the enclosure.”
“What? Mrs Dobyfoster, you have them back?”
“Yes, so I’ll pay you by the hour, and that’s three hours at forty-five pounds an hour. One-hundred and fifty pounds. You can meet me here in Bucklebury House at three o’clock tomorrow. Okay?”
“But, are you able to identify the coins as your Krugerrands?”
“They’re 1968 Krugerrands. I haven’t sat looking at them too long over the years. But, they seem the same.”
“We’ll have to talk tomorrow, Mrs Dobyfoster,” I said, knowing the situation must be more complicated than she thought.
Wendy Dobyfoster said abruptly, “Tomorrow at three o’clock. Thank you and goodbye.”
I decided I’d keep the 9 a.m. meeting with Chris Hall at Jacobs the Jewellers to see one of the sets of coins and see if they were the real ones. As I was already in my car. I decided to drive home to Thatcham.
In the evening, I spent the time on the internet looking at Krugerrand coins and how to prove their authenticity.
The next day I arrived at the Oracle shopping centre multi-storey car park five minutes after eight o’clock in the morning. It was raining so I was wearing a big coat with a hood. A little early I parked on the ground level. Walked to the Oracle and used the escalator to get to the second floor. I was at the opposite end of the shopping mall, so I saw a lot of shops on my way to Jacobs, the Jewellers.
I arrived at the jewellers forty minutes early. A light was on so I went inside and shut the door behind myself. I went to the desk where we had been talking yesterday, and it was perfectly quiet. I said, “Hello, Mr Hall, it’s Harriet Logan, a little early for our 9 a.m. meeting.” I didn’t hear anything. I shouted “Hello!” Still nothing.
I went to the desk as I saw another door and it was closed. I turned the handle and pushed. It wasn’t locked. I opened the door far enough to I get my head in to view the room. It had no windows, and the lights were off. Too dark to see any detail. The light switch was to the right of me, so I turned it on. I paused.
This was my first time finding a murder victim. Christopher Hall was still sat at a workbench not facing me. He was sat back in the chair, and his head was facing the roof with his glasses on his forehead. A lot of blood had escaped from his back. A needle file was evident on the right side, between his second and third ribs. I approached him and felt for a pulse on his neck. He was cold, so this must have happened last night. I could see semi-circle holes, one for each of the benches. He was sat at one, and there were files, screwdrivers, hammers and tweezers of all kinds of sizes on the bench and some on the floor next to him.
Clearly, the Krugerrand coins weren’t there. I took out my iPhone and shot a photo from each side and the workbench. I looked at his glasses, and they appeared to be flat on the front surface, which meant they were for short-sighted people. Long-sighted people’s glasses have a dome cover at the front. I picked up his shirt sleeve and tried to raise his arm, but it would not rise.
The police needed to know about this. I left the room and didn’t touch anything else so I wouldn’t smudge the other fingerprints. I assumed I was on video now. I got my mobile phone and called ‘999’, asked for the police and gave them my name and job description and reported finding Mr Christopher Hall, dead from being stabbed in his back. I thought—I’m not getting paid for this now, shit!