"Something doesn't add up here." said Mallard, tossing the crime file onto the desk and turning to face Ruth Gentry as he thrust his hands into his trouser pockets. "I think we're being led a real song-and-dance. The one thing I hate more than anything else is being made to look a prat."
"What doesn't add up guv?"
"The murders. What do we know about other Triad killings in the area?"
"I've had a look at the data base and to be honest, there haven't been that many in the last sixteen years."
"What's the general M.O?"
"Beheading seems to be favored above anything else. There was one case where a man's hands were cut off at the wrists before his throat was cut. Only three convictions though. It seems that in general the Triads cover their tracks well."
Mallard began slowly pacing up and down the small office.
"So, baring that in mind, what have we missed that's been staring us in the face all along?"
Gentry's face creased as she tried to think of a suitable answer that wasn't going to send Mallard into another of his tantrums. Too late. He suddenly whipped round to look her in the face
"Oh, come on Gentry! Think! It's ruddy obvious! What about the first murder?"
"What about it Guv?"
"It' was messy!"
"Aren't they usually?"
"More messy than usual! You said it yourself; Triad killings are clean. One, maybe two injuries but nothing on the scale inflicted on that drag queen. That was personal. Someone wanted to humiliate George Stefanovic. It was vindictive; vengeful."
"And the second murder was clean. One slash of a sword. I see what you're getting at Guv."
"We were meant to think Stefanovic was a Triad victim, which is why we received a visit from Chang and his goons."
"What about murder two?"
"I'd put money on it being Triad. They were miffed that someone tried putting them in the frame. What better way of warning someone off? Have we got the report back from Ward about the second body?"
"Get on it will you? Meanwhile I want to talk to the boy again. I'll need an interview room."
Ruth looked at her wrist watch.
"I'll book one for the morning."
"That's no good. Get one now!"
"Guv, it's two thirty in the morning. He'll be asleep now; as we should be."
"I don't know about you, D.C. Gentry, but I'm at my best in the early hours."
It never ceased to amaze Ruth how Mallard could skillfully make even the simplest of sentences sound sexual. She turned to open the door and strode out into CID's Duty Office to go and talk to the Desk Sergeant in the foyer downstairs about getting James Threadgold up from the cells and into an interview room.
Despite the early hour, many of the rooms were occupied. As the weekend approached Soho seemed to become a centre of crime and the station became a hive of activity. However Ruth was able to secure a room and it was currently occupied by young James still dressed in his paper coveralls sitting at the loan table awaiting the arrival of Mallard and Gentry.
The two officers paced down the corridor and on discovering Constable Lock standing outside the door, Mallard couldn't just walk past him.
"Well, well, well. Constable Lock. We must stop meeting like this."
"Sir." Lock replied, knowing it would be inappropriate to enter into any conversation with his superior at this time. Mallard opened the door and entered the room, followed by Ruth and finally Lock himself who closed the door behind him.
"Mister Threadgold!" said Mallard, throwing his folder onto the table and seating himself opposite the boy. Ruth seated herself next to Mallard as he activated the recorder on the table, voicing who is present in the room and recording the time of the interview.
"Let's cut to the chase, Threadgold." Mallard began. "We know you killed George Stefanovic, but what I need to know is what motivated the brutality. What was he doing to you that made you loose it on such a grand scale?"
"I didn't kill him. He was my father."
"If that is true then you have nothing to worry about do you? But I think you know more about what has been going on in that club than you are telling us. So why don't you do that? Then perhaps you can get back to your beauty sleep."
"I want my Lawyer present."
Mallard suddenly launched himself across the table at James, grabbing a handful of the paper coveralls and ripping them in the process.
"Don't sod me about! You were covered in blood; your father's blood. You were the first person to see the body. Your dabs were all over the dressing room, the scene of the crime. One of your hairs was found on Stefanovic's clothing. Think about it you stupid little idiot. Your DNA puts you there at the time of death!"
Ruth placed a firm hand on Mallard's elbow and he slowly lowered himself back into his chair. Lock, standing at the door looked decidedly uncomfortable.
James appeared to be unmoved for the first few seconds. Then gradually his shoulders began to move, gently at first but as his sobs became less restrained he bowed his head and let his emotions take over.
Ruth delved into her suit jacket pocket and pulled out a tissue, handing it to James who covered his eyes with it.
Mallard sat back and watched the boy trying to compose himself. Eventually James looked up at Mallard and Gentry, his eyes red and puffy.
"He was evil: preying on young boys. It's best for everyone that he's dead. Just because he was old he thought age gave him some sort of privilege; that he could have whoever he simply looked at."
It was Ruth who sat forward this time.
"Young boys? You mean...?"
"I've spoken to several of the younger drag artists who work there. The oldest is only about twenty three. They hated sharing the same dressing room with him. As soon as he had a few drinks inside him he'd start with his wandering hands. He wouldn't take any notice if they protested, he'd just keep on feeling them up. He insisted I go to the club that night. Wanted to show me off, so he said. Oh, he wanted to show me off alright. He wanted to get me involved with his perversions. He said he thought the others would be more willing to have sex with him if I was there and joined in. "New young flesh" he called it. It didn't matter to him that we were related, I was a means to an end. The others didn't want to be on their own with an aging old creep like him, so if I was there, naked, they'd be more inclined to get on with it."
"How many of the younger ones were there that evening?" Mallard asked.
"Two." James replied. "They were disgusted and left early. I stayed on and ended up having a blazing row with him. How dare he involve me, his son, in his sick, perverted life style? That's the last time I ever see him. He had proved what he thought of me. He didn't see me as a son, he saw me as fresh meat. Sick. So sick."
Mallard was now more subdued when he asked
"So, how did things escalate to the point of you brutalizing him and killing him?"
"I went through to the kitchen area to calm down. I couldn't get his suggestions out of my mind. I had never felt so alone in the world. My own father, for God's sake! I cried my heart out. Then I saw the rack of knives and the cheese wire. I wasn't thinking rationally any more. I wanted to do him harm. I grabbed what I could carry and went back to the dressing room. He was..." James paused to compose himself once more. "He was standing with his back to me when I walked in, but it was obvious what he was doing."
"What was he doing?" Ruth asked.
"He was doing it to himself. Just standing there naked, throwing his head back and enjoying thoughts of me with his friends, pleasuring him."
"This is what you thought he was thinking?" prompted Ruth.
"I know that's what he was thinking. I couldn't help myself. I brought the cheese wire over his head and pulled it round his neck, tight. I pulled it so hard and for so long. I looked into his eyes. His head was on my shoulder at this point. He just stared ahead. He looked surprised. But then his eyes slowly turned to look into mine. Something changed in that instant."
"Like what?" asked Mallard who was now visibly perspiring.
"He was no longer shocked or afraid. His look of horror became one of lust. As if I was giving him the greatest sexual experience of his life."
"Hmm, it has been known for people to take themselves to the point of death to achieve a powerful climax. There have even been fatalities in the past when people have gone too far." said Ruth.
"Oh, thank you for that DC Gentry." Mallard said, distancing himself from Ruth as best he could.
James continued, speaking freely now that he has established in his own mind that there was no turning back.
"That's exactly what happened. Blood was running down his chest, splashing on the walls; but when I looked down . . . he was a pervert to the very end."
"Oh God." Mallard wiped his flattened hand over his mouth in disgust.
Ruth cleared her throat before continuing.
"So, James. Once you knew he was dead, why didn't you leave it there? Why did you cut him and beat him?"
"To show him."
"To teach him a lesson. I did to him what he wanted to do to the others; using his own parts. But that wasn't enough. His eyes were still open as if he was watching and approving of what was happening to him. I kicked him, punched him then finally brought a metal flight case down on his head. It had somebody's costumes and props in it so it was quite heavy, but somehow it didn't feel heavy at the time."
The room was silent as everyone thought about and digested what had just passed. Mallard opened his file and read one page within it.
"What was with the Chinese Dragon?" he asked.
"My pendant? I had a tattoo done on my leg based on that design. I've had it since I was a kid. As I looked down at him and thought about what I had done, I suddenly realized that if I didn't do something quick, the finger was going to be pointed at me. I knew a lot of Chinese guys used the bar and; well, it was a spur-of-the-moment thing. I took my pendant off the chain round my neck and stuck it in his mouth. I thought it would look like a ritual killing and the police would automatically look to China Town for the murderer."
Mallard sat back and rubbed his eyes with the palms of his hands then folded his arms and stared at James Threadgold across the table. He was speechless. He had witnessed some real atrocities during his time with the Met, and never once had he felt any affinity with the perpetrators of the crimes. Yet he couldn't help feeling that he somewhat understood this boy's motive, although of course he couldn't condone what he had done.
He read the boy his rights, checked that they were fully understood then, accompanied by DC Gentry, left the room. Constable Lock followed them out into the corridor and took up his post once again outside the door. As Mallard and Gentry were about to make their way back to the office, Lock called him back.
"What is it Constable?" Mallard asked, looking down his nose at the young man.
"I'm sorry Sir, but it is my duty to report what I had seen in there."
"What you have seen? Tell me, Constable Lock, what have you seen?"
"I saw you violently man-handle the prisoner, Sir."
Mallard looked at his feet as he digested this information then, without warning punched the constable in the stomach, winding him and making him bend double.
"You want something to report? Report that constable." He then marched back along the corridor leaving Ruth looking at the younger man incredulously. She gathered herself then ran after her superior. On catching up with him she said
"That was a foolish thing to do Sir. Now you really have got trouble."
"I'm not in the mood DC Gentry, so give it a bloody rest!"