"Interview with James Threadgold. I am Detective Chief Inspector Mallard, but also present in the room is DC Ruth Gentry and Mister Threadgold's Legal Advisor, Mr. Kenneth Swan. Interview proceeds at..." Mallard referred to the clock on the wall and also checked his wrist watch. "Ten forty-five pm. Mister Threadgold has been read his rights and has been made aware that he is the chief suspect in the murder of George Stefanovic. For the record Mister Threadgold, would you mind telling us in your own words what exactly happened on the night of thursday the seventh of October?"
"I've already been over this, time and time again."
"Not for the taped record, you haven't. So; in your own time, if you please.
"It's all there in my statement." James replied. nodding at the stapled pages in front of the Chief Inspector. Mallard just glared at him then began tapping his finger on the table between them.
"Oh very well." James wiped his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose between index finger and thumb before once again meeting that hypnotic stare of the big man before him.
"I had been out with my friends from school to celebrate the fact that I had won a place at Oxford. I promised my father that I would pop into the club after he had come off stage to continue the celebrating; just him and me. I went through the bar area to the kitchen area behind the scenes. The dressing room for the artistes is just beyond it. The door to the dressing room was closed so I knocked before entering."
"Why did you knock?"
"I asked why you bothered knocking? He was your father, was he not? Why would you bother knocking?" asked Mallard.
"Because...because it's the right thing to do. Not only that but he may have had someone with him."
"I dunno!" James exclaimed. "Another drag queen perhaps...anyone!"
"Was there anyone else billed to appear that night?"
"How should I know? I'm not an expert on the place!"
"There were plenty of posters about. Both inside and outside the club. Surely you would have known if he was appearing with anyone else?"
"May I interrupt?" asked Kenneth Swan, James's Solicitor.
"If you have to." Mallard sighed.
"I fail to see where this line of questioning is going. The point, surely, is that my client did enter the dressing room, not how he entered it or whether or not he noticed any posters about the place?"
"The point, Mister Swan..." said Mallard, leaning closer to the Legal Eagle across the table, "is to establish the truth of what went on that night and your client's part in it. Now if you don't mind, I would like to proceed with my, line of questioning before one of us keels over and dies!" Swan sat back in his chair. "Thankyou! Now then, Mister Threadgold, you were saying...?"
"Oh, right. Yes. Well, I knocked on the door and got no answer so I pushed it open slightly and saw..."
"For the record, Mister Threadgold has broken eye contact with me and is now looking at his hands which are in his lap." said Mallard for the benefit of the tape recorder at the wall-end of the table. "Go on, Mister Threadgold, what did you see?"
"M.my dad. Dead. On the floor."
"What did you do then?"
"Well, I spoke to him. I got down to speak to him."
"A bit strange, wouldn't you say? It must have been ruddy obvious by the mess he was in that he had already kicked the bucket?!"
"Mister Mallard! I cannot just sit here..."
"...And listen quietly? Yes, thankyou Mister Swan, I am perfectly aware of your inabilities. Well, if it's getting a bit graphic for you perhaps you'd like to sit in another room? If not I suggest you shut up!"
"This is unacceptable!" huffed Swan.
"Tough!" retorted Mallard. "So how did this one-way conversation shape up Mister Threadgold?"
"I just called his name and asked if he was alright."
At this Mallard gave an exaggerated laugh. Ruth Gentry nudged his arm with her elbow and Mallard composed himself once more.
"Alright Mister Threadgold. Having established that Daddy Dear wasn't alright, what did you do then?"
"I called for help."
"Who did you call? The police? The Ambulance service? Who?"
"Daisy. For the record, Mister Threadgold is referring to Arthur Goodfellow, the owner of the venue. What did you expect Daisy to do? Give him the kiss of life?"
"I don't know. I just thought he may know what to do next. I wasn't thinking straight."
"By all accounts, very few ever think straight in that place!"
"Mister Mallard! I would appreciate it if you would not bring your own prejudices to this table." Mallard leaned forward again.
"And I would appreciate it if you weren't here! looks like neither of us is likely to have our dreams fulfilled tonight, doesn't it? And it's bloody DCI Mallard, you prat!" Swan sat back and went scarlet in the face. "To continue, Mister Threadgold; so what did Daisy do on entering the dressing room?"
"He screamed?" Mallard echoed flatly.
"That was when I felt sick and ran out into the street to throw up."
"I know the feeling."
"Daisy came out shortly afterwards . . . after he phoned the police of course."
"Were you close to your father, Mister Threadgold?"
There was now a pause.
"He was my Dad." James offered.
"That's not the answer I wanted. I am fully aware of your biological relationship to Mister Stefanovic. What I asked was 'were you close to him?'"
"We'd really only known each other for a few months."
"And why is that?"
"Because he didn't bring you up, did he, Mister Threadgold?"
"And neither did your mother, did she?"
Swan interrupted again
"DCI Mallard, this area of my client's life is a very painful one to recount and if it is not absolutely necessary I would advise it best left alone."
"Mister Swan..." Mallard leant forward again, hoping he appeared threatening enough to unnerve this wiry man before him. "I would seriously advise keeping your trap shut until I have completed my enquiries, otherwise I may not be responsible for my own actions!"
"Are you threatening me DCI Mallard?"
"Threatening you? No, I am not threatening you. Not a man in my position of responsibility; that wouldn't be professional, now would it?" Ruth once again drew Mallard's attention to his own conduct by coughing into a clenched fist. "All I am saying Mister Swan is that you may drive me to doing something very silly with the frustration of it all. I may...bend a bloody paper clip!"
"I simply won't tolerate threatening behavior...to me or my client. That's all."
"Then we must make sure that we are all on our best behavior, mustn't we?" Mallard returned his attention to James. "She was a drunken tart, wasn't she, Mister Threadgold?"
James muttered something under his breath without looking up from his hands which were now wringing each other.
"I'm sorry? Did you say something? Louder if you please!"
"Yes!" James retorted.
"A prostitute who plied her trade on the streets of Soho to subsidise her drinking habit, isn't that true, Mister Threadgold?"
"Yes." James was deeply ashamed of this. He began idly tearing at one of the legs of his all-in-one white paper overalls.
"And at the age of three you were taken away from her by Social Services and eventually placed with a Foster Family, isn't that right?"
"I'm sorry, still can't hear you!"
Mallard thumbed through the pages of a dossier in front of him.
"Here we are...a Mister and Mrs. Wang. Korean immigrants who had come to this country as children. Mister Wang came to our attention in nineteen eighty nine when he became involved with a protection racket. Unfortunately the case against him was dropped due to . . . " Mallard quoted from the page. "Mitigating circumstances coming to light that proved beyond reasonable doubt his involvement in the matter. Well, well, well. Luck of the devil, wouldn't you say?"
James chose not to answer but Swan stepped in.
"In my opinion, DCI Mallard, this has nothing to do with the matter at hand."
"Oh but it has! You see, I have left the best bit till last. It would seem that dear old Mister Wang is known to have connections with a local Triad family. It's amazing what knowing the right people can achieve in this world, isn't it Mister Swan? Evidence goes missing, notes mysteriously disappear, solid cases crumble at the crucial moment...! I am now showing Mister Threadgold a clear, sealed evidence bag containing a pair of trainers, a pair of socks, jeans and a shirt. Do you recognise these clothes, Mister Threadgold?
'Mister Threadgold has just nodded his head. Are these your clothes? Again, Mister Threadgold has just nodded confirmation.
'These are the clothes you wore on the night you claim to have found your biological father's body, are they not?"
"Can you explain to me why they should be randomly splattered with your father's blood?"
"You don't have to answer that." chimed-in Swan. James remained silent.
"Why did you murder your father in cold blood?"
"You don't have to answer." reminded Swan.
"What does Pink mean to you?" Both James and Kenneth Swan looked at Mallard, surprised at his sudden change of tack.
"Pink?" asked James.
"Oh, hoo-bloody-ra! It can hear me after all! I'm not just talking to myself!" cheered Mallard.
"Pink the colour?" James asked.
"Don't get smart with me, sonny. You know what I am talking about. Pink...the drug!"
"It's a drink. They sell it behind the bar at the club."
"It's a drug! What do you mean, they sell it?"
"It's a drink. It comes in small bottles, like those you get in mini bars in hotels." said James. This obviously knocked Mallard off guard as he looked away to digest this snippet of information. The hesitation was only brief however as Mallard turned his attention to the tape recorder.
"The time is eleven fifteen pm, I am terminating this interview pending further enquiries." He switched off the recorder then grabbed Ruth's arm as he rose from his seat. "A word...!"
He snatched the door open, allowed a uniformed officer to step in then dragged Ruth out into the corridor. He man handled her against a wall and stuck his face close to her's.
"I don't like being made to look an idiot!" he told her. "You told me that Pink is a drug. Why haven't we got some of it here? Why haven't Forensics analysed it yet? "
"So far we haven't managed to get our hands on any, Guv." she replied.
"They sell it behind the bloody bar, for God's sake! How hard can it be?"
"Tony Tester said ..."
"I don't care what Tony ruddy Tester said, I want facts! Now, you get your pretty little backside out on those streets and get me some ruddy PINK! Do I make myself clear?"
"Yes sir." Mallard released his restraint and Ruth pulled at the bottom of her suit jacket and strode down the corridor towards the Duty Office. Mallard watched her then wiped some sweat from his top lip.
"I need a cigarette." he told no-one in particular and strode off in the opposite direction.