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Authors: Desmond Bagley

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The Spoilers / Juggernaut

BOOK: The Spoilers / Juggernaut
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The Spoilers
and
Juggernaut
DESMOND BAGLEY

This one is for Pat and Philip Bawcombe and, of course, Thickabe

ONE

She lay on the bed in an abandoned attitude, oblivious of the big men crowding the room and making it appear even smaller than it was. She had been abandoned by life, and the big men were there to find out why, not out of natural curiosity but because it was their work. They were policemen.

Detective-Inspector Stephens ignored the body. He had given it a cursory glance and then turned his attention to the room, noting the cheap, rickety furniture and the threadbare carpet which was too small to hide dusty boards. There was no wardrobe and the girl’s few garments were scattered, some thrown casually over a chair-back and others on the floor by the side of the bed. The girl herself was naked, an empty shell. Death is not erotic.

Stephens picked up a sweater from the chair and was surprised at its opulent softness. He looked at the maker’s tab and frowned before handing it to Sergeant Ipsley. ‘She could afford good stuff. Any identification yet?’

‘Betts is talking to the landlady.’

Stephens knew the worth of that. The inhabitants of his manor did not talk freely to policemen. ‘He won’t get much. Just a name and that’ll be false, most likely. Seen the syringe?’

‘Couldn’t miss it, sir. Do you think it’s drugs?’

‘Could be.’ Stephens turned to an unpainted whitewood chest of drawers and pulled on a knob. The drawer opened an inch and then stuck. He smote it with the heel of his hand. ‘Any sign of the police surgeon yet?’

‘I’ll go and find out, sir.’

‘Don’t worry; he’ll come in his own sweet time.’ Stephens turned his head to the bed. ‘Besides, she’s not in too much of a hurry.’ He tugged at the drawer which stuck again. ‘Damn this confounded thing!’

A uniformed constable pushed open the door and closed it behind him. ‘Her name’s Hellier, sir—June Hellier. She’s been here a week—came last Wednesday.’

Stephens straightened. ‘That’s not much help, Betts. Have you seen her before on your beat?’

Betts looked towards the bed and shook his head. ‘No, sir.’

‘Was she previously known to the landlady?’

‘No, sir; she just came in off the street and said she wanted a room. She paid in advance.’

‘She wouldn’t have got in otherwise,’ said Ipsley. ‘I know this old besom here—nothing for nothing and not much for sixpence.’

‘Did she make any friends—acquaintances?’ asked Stephens. ‘Speak to anyone?’

‘Not that I can find out, sir. From all accounts she stuck in her room most of the time.’

A short man with an incipient pot belly pushed into the room. He walked over to the bed and put down his bag. ‘Sorry I’m late, Joe; this damned traffic gets worse every day.’

‘That’s all right, Doctor.’ Stephens turned to Betts again. ‘Have another prowl around and see what you can get.’ He joined the doctor at the foot of the bed and looked down at the body of the girl. ‘The usual thing—time of death and the reason therefore.’

Doctor Pomray glanced at him. ‘Foul play suspected?’

Stephens shrugged. ‘Not that I know of—yet.’ He indicated the syringe and the glass which lay on the bamboo bedside table. ‘Could be drugs; an overdose, maybe.’

Pomray bent down and sniffed delicately at the glass. There was a faint film of moisture at the bottom and he was just about to touch it when Stephens said, ‘I’d rather you didn’t, Doctor. I’d like to have it checked for dabs first.’

‘It doesn’t really matter,’ said Pomray. ‘She was an addict, of course. Look at her thighs. I just wanted to check what her particular poison was.’

Stephens had already seen the puncture marks and had drawn his own conclusions, but he said, ‘Could have been a diabetic.’

Pomray shook his head decisively. ‘A trace of phlebothrombosis together with skin sepsis—no doctor would allow that to happen to a diabetic patient.’ He bent down and squeezed the skin. ‘Incipient jaundice, too; that shows liver damage. I’d say it’s drug addiction with the usual lack of care in the injection. But we won’t really know until after the autopsy.’

‘All right, I’ll leave you to it.’ Stephens turned to Ipsley and said casually, ‘Will you open that drawer, Sergeant?’

‘Another thing,’ said Pomray. ‘She’s very much underweight for her height. That’s another sign.’ He gestured towards an ashtray overflowing untidily with cigarettestubs. ‘And she was a heavy smoker.’

Stephens watched Ipsley take the knob delicately between thumb and forefinger and pull open the drawer smoothly. He switched his gaze from the smug expression on Ipsley’s face, and said, ‘I’m a heavy smoker too, Doctor. That doesn’t mean much.’

‘It fills out the clinical picture,’ argued Pomray.

Stephens nodded. ‘I’d like to know if she died on that bed.’

Pomray looked surprised. ‘Any reason why she shouldn’t have?’

Stephens smiled slightly. ‘None at all; I’m just being careful.’

‘I’ll see what I can find,’ said Pomray.

There was not much in the drawer. A handbag, three stockings, a pair of panties due for the wash, a bunch of keys, a lipstick, a suspender-belt and a syringe with a broken needle. Stephens uncapped the lipstick case and looked inside it; the lipstick was worn right down and there was evidence that the girl had tried to dig out the last of the wax, which was confirmed by the discovery of a spent match with a reddened end caught in a crack of the drawer. Stephens, an expert on the interpretation of such minutiae, concluded that June Hellier had been destitute.

The panties had a couple of reddish-brown stains on the front, stains which were repeated on one of the stocking tops. It looked very much like dried blood and was probably the result of inexpert injection into the thigh. The key-ring contained three keys, one of which was a car ignition key. Stephens turned to Ipsley. ‘Nip down and see if the girl had a car.’

Another key fitted a suitcase which he found in a corner. It was a de-luxe elaborately fitted case of the type which Stephens had considered buying as a present for his wife—the idea had been rejected on the grounds of excessive expense. It contained nothing.

He could not find anything for the third key to fit so he turned his attention to the handbag, which was of finegrained leather. He was about to open it when Ipsley came back. ‘No car, sir.’

‘Indeed!’ Stephens pursed his lips. He snapped open the catch of the handbag and looked inside. Papers, tissues, another lipstick worn to a nubbin, three shillings and fourpence in coins and no paper money. ‘Listen carefully, Sergeant,’ he said. ‘Good handbag, good suitcase, car key
but no car, good clothes except the stockings which are cheap, gold lipstick case in drawer, Woolworth’s lipstick in bag—both worn out. What do you make of all that?’

‘Come down in the world, sir.’

Stephens nodded as he pushed at the few coins with his forefinger. He said abruptly. ‘Can you tell me if she was a virgin, Doctor?’

‘She wasn’t,’ said Pomray. ‘I’ve checked that.’

‘Maybe she was on the knock,’ offered Ipsley.

‘Possibly,’ said Stephens. ‘We can find out—if we have to.’

Pomray straightened. ‘She died on this bed all right; there’s the usual evidence. I’ve done all I can here. Is there anywhere I can wash?’

‘There’s a bathroom just along the hall,’ said Ipsley. ‘It’s not what I’d call hygienic, though.’

Stephens was sorting the few papers. ‘What did she die of, Doctor?’

‘I’d say an overdose of a drug—but what it was will have to wait for the autopsy.’

‘Accidental or deliberate?’ asked Stephens.

‘That will have to wait for the autopsy too,’ said Pomray. ‘If it was a really massive overdose then you can be pretty sure it was deliberate. An addict usually knows to a hair how much to take. If it’s not too much of an overdose then it could be accidental.’

‘If it’s deliberate then I have a choice between suicide and murder,’ said Stephens musingly.

‘I think you can safely cut out murder,’ said Pomray. ‘Addicts don’t like other people sticking needles into them.’ He shrugged. ‘And the suicide rate among addicts is high once they hit bottom.’

A small snorting noise came from Stephens as he made the discovery of a doctor’s appointment card. The name on it rang a bell somewhere in the recesses of his mind. ‘What
do you know about Dr Nicholas Warren? Isn’t he a drug man?’

Pomray nodded. ‘So she was one of his girls, was she?’ he said with interest.

‘What kind of a doctor is he? Is he on the level?’

Pomray reacted with shock. ‘My God! Nick Warren’s reputation is as pure as the driven snow. He’s one of the top boys in the field. He’s no quack, if that’s what you mean.’

‘We get all kinds,’ said Stephens levelly. ‘As you know very well.’ He gave the card to Ipsley. ‘He’s not too far from here. See if you can get hold of him, Sergeant; we still haven’t any positive identification of the girl.’

‘Yes, sir,’ said Ipsley, and made for the door.

‘And, Sergeant,’ called Stephens. ‘Don’t tell him the girl’s dead.’

Ipsley grinned. ‘I won’t.’

‘Now look here,’ said Pomray. ‘If you try to pressure Warren you’ll get a hell of a surprise. He’s a tough boy.’

‘I don’t like doctors who hand out drugs,’ said Stephens grimly.

‘You know damn-all about it,’ snapped Pomray. ‘And you won’t fault Nick Warren on medical ethics. If you go on that tack he’ll tie you up in knots.’

‘We’ll see. I’ve handled tough ones before.’

Pomray grinned suddenly. ‘I think I’ll stay and watch this. Warren knows as much—if not more—about drugs and drug addicts as anyone in the country. He’s a bit of a fanatic about it. I don’t think you’ll get much change out of him. I’ll be back as soon as I’ve cleaned up in this sewer of a bathroom.’

Stephens met Warren in the dimly lit hall outside the girl’s room, wanting to preserve the psychological advantage he had gained by not informing the doctor of the girl’s death. If he was surprised at the speed of Warren’s arrival he did
not show it, but studied the man with professional detachment as he advanced up the hall.

Warren was a tall man with a sensitive yet curiously immobile face. In all his utterances he spoke thoughtfully, sometimes pausing for quite a long time before he answered. This gave Stephens the impression that Warren had not heard or was ignoring the question, but Warren always answered just as a repetition was on Stephens’s tongue. This deliberateness irritated Stephens, although he tried not to show it.

‘I’m glad you were able to come,’ he said. ‘We have a problem, Doctor. Do you know a young lady called June Hellier?’

‘Yes, I do,’ said Warren, economically.

Stephens waited expectantly for Warren to elaborate, but Warren merely looked at him. Swallowing annoyance, he said, ‘Is she one of your patients?’

‘Yes,’ said Warren.

‘What were you treating her for, Doctor?’

There was a long pause before Warren said, ‘That is a matter of patient-doctor relationship which I don’t care to go into.’

Stephens felt Pomray stir behind him. He said stiffly, ‘This is a police matter, Doctor.’

Again Warren paused, holding Stephens’s eye with a level stare. At last he said, ‘I suggest that if Miss Hellier needs treatment we are wasting time standing here.’

‘She will not be requiring treatment,’ said Stephens flatly.

Again Pomray stirred. ‘She’s dead, Nick.’

‘I see,’ said Warren. He seemed indifferent.

Stephens was irritated at Pomray’s interjection, but more interested in Warren’s lack of reaction. ‘You don’t seem surprised, Doctor.’

‘I’m not,’ said Warren briefly.

‘You were supplying her with drugs?’

‘I have prescribed for her—in the past.’

‘What drugs?’

‘Heroin.’

‘Was that necessary?’

Warren was as immobile as ever, but there was a flinty look in his eye as he said, ‘I don’t propose to discuss the medical treatment of any of my patients with a layman.’

A surge of anger surfaced in Stephens. ‘But you are not surprised at her death. Was she a dying woman? A terminal case?’

Warren looked at Stephens consideringly, and said, ‘The death rate among drug addicts is about twenty-eight times that of the general population. That is why I am not surprised at her death.’

‘She was a heroin addict?’

‘Yes.’

‘And you have supplied her with heroin?’

‘I have.’

‘I see,’ said Stephens with finality. He glanced at Pomray, then turned back to Warren. ‘I don’t know that I like that.’

‘I don’t care whether you like it or not,’ said Warren equably. ‘May I see my patient—you’ll be wanting a death certificate. It had better come from me.’

Of all the bloody nerve, thought Stephens. He turned abruptly and threw open the door of the bedroom. ‘In there,’ he said curtly.

Warren walked past him into the room, followed closely by Pomray. Stephens jerked his head at Sergeant Ipsley, indicating that he should leave, then closed the door behind him. When he strode to the bed Warren and Pomray were already in the midst of a conversation of which he understood about one word in four.

The sheet with which Pomray had draped the body was drawn back to reveal again the naked body of June Hellier.
Stephens butted in. ‘Dr Warren: I suggested to Dr Pomray that perhaps this girl was a diabetic, because of those puncture marks. He said there was sepsis and that no doctor would allow that to happen to his patient. This girl was your patient. How do you account for it?’

Warren looked at Pomray and there was a faint twitch about his mouth that might have been a smile. ‘I don’t have to account for it,’ he said. ‘But I will. The circumstances of the injection of an anti-diabetic drug are quite different from those attendant on heroin. The social ambience is different and there is often an element of haste which can result in sepsis.’

In an aside to Pomray he said, ‘I taught her how to use a needle but, as you know, they don’t take much notice of the need for cleanliness.’

Stephens was affronted. ‘You
taught
her how to use a needle! By God, you make a curious use of ethics!’

Warren looked at him levelly and said with the utmost deliberation, ‘Inspector, any doubts you have about my ethics should be communicated to the appropriate authority, and if you don’t know what it is I shall be happy to supply you with the address.’

BOOK: The Spoilers / Juggernaut
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