“Mr Stevens, can you please tell me where you were on the night of the 17th?” DI Manning did not like the man sitting in front of him and he was having a hard time disguising the fact. Cole Stevens had a fleshy face, bulbous nose and slack wet lips, added to which his personal hygiene left more than a little to be desired.
“I told you already” Stevens’ voice was wheedling and childish “I was at home with Mother; we had fishfingers, chips and beans for dinner, I remember because it’s my favourite, and then we watched a film” All this was said with a wide eyed, seemingly genuine innocence that, with any other suspect, Manning may have accepted but there was something off here. Stevens hands were in his lap, his manner was non-aggressive, he was obviously making efforts to be friendly but there was something repellent about him.
“Your Mother will confirm this if we question her will she?” Manning had, in fact, already spoken to Mrs Stevens and she had confirmed that her son was at home with her on the night in question; he could see where Cole had got his good looks and charm, the woman was an absolute harridan. She’d berated Manning for several minutes for having the audacity to arrest her beloved son, confirmed his story with a curt ‘yes’ and then slammed the phone down.
“Of course she will, Mother would never lie and she brought me up the same way, I promise you Inspector, we were together, at home; a cozy little twosome” Steven’s let out a little giggle, no doubt at his own pathetic attempt at wit.
“And yet one of your neighbours reported seeing you leave the house that night and said that you didn’t return for..” he checked his notes “almost 2 hours. Are you telling me that she’s lying Mr Stevens?”
“Well I did put the cat out at around 7.30pm, just before we had our dinner but then that was it for the night. I went back inside and Mother and I got comfortable in front of the telly. Maybe, Maureen, I assume it was Maureen, heard me open and close the door and just assumed I’d gone out” Steven’s ugly face was open and he was smiling slightly, obviously trying to ingratiate himself with the detective.
It had indeed been Maureen Fisher who’d given them the information, she was a known busybody and not very popular in her neighbourhood as, not only did she spy on everyone, she was also a notorious gossip.
“Do you know Detective” Stevens was leaning forward and saying to Manning, in hushed, conspiratorial tones “that woman caused the break up of the Beckett’s marriage. She told Sally that she’d seen her husband kissing another woman. I never knew if it was true but I could see that she took great pleasure in telling that little story, I can tell you. I try to be friends with everyone, as does Mother, but we both struggle with Maureen”
Manning was aware of Maureen’s reputation and, under normal circumstances he’d take any information she had to offer with a pinch of salt but there was something about this man in front of him…..he wanted to believe that he was guilty.
‘Damn’ he thought to himself ‘I can’t afford to lose objectivity here. Am I targeting this guy because he looks like such a creep?’
Stevens had no real record except for an incident 3 years previously when he’d been accused of abducting a child. That and the neighbour’s testimony had been enough for Manning to warrant questioning him. The notes showed that he’d protested his innocence, saying that he’d found the boy wandering alone in the Supermarket and was taking him to the police station when he’d been stopped by a suspicious security guard. The young lad had been crying for his Mum and did not look as though he was with Stevens willingly. However, the Mother admitted that she’d taken her eyes off the little boy while she was sorting out her other two kids, no harm was done and the case was dropped.
“How do you explain that the witness saw you re-entering your property at 10.30pm that night? This wasn’t a case of hearing a door open or close, she actually saw you and she said that you were carrying something”.
Stevens’ eyes flickered for a brief moment but the look had passed before Manning had any time to really register it
“I am sure I don’t know Detective, perhaps it was another night? I did collect some dry cleaning from the late night place in Rossamund Street on the Thursday, maybe that’s what she saw. She does like a tipple or two in the evening our Maureen, it wouldn’t surprise me if she’d got her dates confused” He rolled his eyes and motioned with his hand to indicate having a drink. It was another childish action and Manning wondered at the man’s intellectual capacity, he didn’t seem stupid but then he didn’t seem the full ticket either.
Manning knew that he had no real cause to keep Stevens in custody but he felt sure that he was hiding something and wanted to interview him further. He leaned forward, thinking about how to frame his next question.
“Guv!” The door had flown open and Sergeant Greaves entered at a run. He stopped alongside his boss and whispered in his ear
“There’s been another one Guv, 5 year old girl, missing since last night” the words were spoken urgently and with the desperate energy of a man who’d delivered bad news such as this more than once.
Manning shot up, almost knocking over his chair in his haste
“Stevens, you can go but I might be wanting to speak to you again, do you understand?”
“Yes Detective, of course, it would be a pleasure” those flabby, fleshy lips curled into a smile
‘Urgh!’ Manning thought to himself as he followed his Sergeant out of the room and motioned for a WPC to escort Stevens out of the building.
“Thanks dearie” said Cole as he turned up his collar and walked in the direction of the nearest bus stop.
‘Mother will be pleased to see me back’ he thought ‘she’ll need some help down in the cellar now. It will be such a nuisance moving all those sweet little teddies’ that’s what Mother had always called them, ‘teddies’, she’d taught him so much over the years and he really did love her dearly. ‘I’ll have to do something about Maureen though’ he thought ‘such a nosy woman!’ He’d been so careful to be quiet that night but she’d obviously seen him coming back in.
He hadn’t really wanted to go out but Mother had made his favourite dinner and she’d been so insistent that he find her another little teddy, she’d always been such an avid collector and it was nice for them to have something to do together. He sighed. He felt sorry for his Mother in some ways, she’d never been quite the same since the accident with his little brother, poor Teddy, he missed him………
After a short absence, Fandango has hooked me with another of his one word prompts