I was on a high after being re-assigned to an active role in the case and as I approached Mrs Bell's front door for the second time that day, I was determined to prove to Mendrick I was up to the task. Straightening my skirt and checking my jacket for any crumbs that might have been left behind from the sandwich I'd hurriedly eaten in the car on my way here, I finally knocked on the door.
I was feeling surprisingly nervous when I heard footsteps getting closer and heard the lock in the door crunching open. Mrs Bell's face appeared and quickly dropped into a scowl when she saw my face. Getting my foot in the door before she could shut it in my face, I made sure she was listening.
'Mrs Bell, please don't shut me out just yet.'
'Why should I let you in my house? You're all the same. Coming here and accusing my husband of such horrid things.'
'I can assure you Mrs Bell, we never meant to hurt or offend anyone. We only want to find out what happened to your husband.' There was silence on the other side of the door and the pressure on my foot eased off slightly. 'May I speak to you Mrs Bell?' There was a pause which seemed to last for an eternity, then the door opened and Mrs Bell stepped aside to let me in. 'Thank you.'
I was led through into the kitchen again and sat in the same seat I had occupied earlier that day. I got a notepad and pencil out, preparing to take notes, but a look from Mrs Bell told me I was doing something wrong. Hurriedly trying to correct myself, I pushed the pen and paper away and looked directly across the table at my witness.
'OK then. Could you talk me through what you and your husband did yesterday. Anything strange that could have suggested your husband knew what was going to happen to him.'
'I can't think of anything.' Mrs Bell said, clearly distressed already. I could tell I was going to have to tread carefully. 'He left for work in a good mood, as he always does. He forgot his dinner so I took it in for him and he still seemed fine. A little tired perhaps but that doesn't signify anything.' She was sniffling into a hanky, every so often dabbing at her eyes with it.
'What your husband acting strangely at all over the past few days or weeks?' Mrs Bell looked at me for clarification. 'Jumpy? Getting visits from strangers? Hate mail?'
'There wasn't anything in his behaviour to suggest he was worried if that's what you mean. But,' she paused, rubbing her temples as if she was trying very hard to remember something. 'There were two men who came to the house last week.'
'Go on,' I said, suddenly feeling very excited.
'I didn't think much of it at the time. I didn't recognise them but they said they worked with Christian so I didn't think twice about them.' She blew her nose very loudly, but still insisted on sniffling.
'Did your husband speak to them?'
'No, he was out at the time.'
'Did they come back to speak to him?'
'No, not to my knowledge. I never saw them again.' As my stomach began to sink, Mrs Bell said one of the best things I'd heard all day. 'But they did leave a business card.'
'Do you still have it?' I was crossing my fingers under the table as she stood up and went over to the counter to look for it.
'I thought it was a little odd at the time,' she said, rummaging through a drawer. 'I mean, how many zoo-keepers do you know that keep business cards?'
'I can't say I know many zoo-keepers,' I mumbled under my breath. I don't think she heard me, because in the next moment she was handing me a small rectangular piece of card with a name and phone number on it. 'Thank you Mrs Bell, you have been most helpful.' I stood up and picked up my pad and pen. 'If you think of anything else that might be of use, you have my number.'
As I was led to the door, Mrs Bell turned to me and asked, 'do you think my husband was murdered?'
'I can't say Mrs Bell, it's against my integrity as an officer.'
'But as a human being,' she insisted, 'do you think someone else killed him?'
'In truth? Yes, I think Christian Bell was murdered.' An odd expression passed over Mrs Bell's face, one I couldn't place. A split second later it had vanished.
'Thank you for being honest with me,' she said, her eyes filling up with tears again.
'It's my pleasure.'
I left the house feeling ecstatic. Mendrick would not be regretting giving me a second chance. Not only did I have a potential suspect or witness, I also had a name. Taking out my phone I pressed speed dial 6 and waited to hear David's voice.
'Boss? I've got something you're going to love.'