The Granny by David Macfie
As he had done so often, Fletcher was standing with the driver of the mortuary van and two familiar patrol cops. The body was lying in a dumpster behind the burger joint in the main town shopping center.
“The owner called it in,” explained, Mahoney, the elder of the two uniforms. “Forensics are on their way, but the MO is the same as the stiff we have in the mortuary. You remember? The one from two weeks ago.”
“Yeah, I remember,” replied Fletcher, with a grimace. “Throat cut, no other marks of violence, girl about twenty two, still unidentified and no signs of sexual activity prior to death.”
“That’s the one,” confirmed Mahoney. “We figure she must have been just in from some other part of the country otherwise she’d have been reported missing here, by now. She was found in a dumpster also. The one behind the fancy-schmancy restaurant on the other side of the mall.”
Fletcher took a closer look at the latest victim. She’d been a pretty little thing, now diminished in death. Her throat looked like the smile of a clown’s red-painted lips, but her clothes showed no signs of violence, except for the blood stains all down her front. And the outfit didn’t look cheap so she’d obviously had access to reasonable funds. There was no purse or hand bag.
“OK, I’m off. Ask forensics to get their report to me ASAP. Were details of the last one sent out to all the stations nearby?”
“Yep, about ten days ago. We sent pictures and a description to all the towns in a radius of fifty miles. We got nothing back so far.”
“Hmm! That probably means she came from further away. Send again for that one and add this one, but extend the radius to two hundred miles. Also contact the train and bus companies, who’ve had trips here in the last three weeks. Ask them to show the pictures to drivers and conductors. Maybe someone will remember the girls. They’re both attractive enough to attract male attention.”
“Will do,” replied Mahoney.
With his cell, Fletcher took pictures of the victim then moved away. He already had copies of the photos of the first girl on his phone. He spent several hours going from establishment to establishment asking questions and showing people the photos. He also asked for the names and contact details of regulars to the two eateries involved.
Late in the afternoon he got lucky. A guy was entertaining clients in the smart restaurant. He’d done the same for two of them the day before the first girl was found. All three remembered her. They said she’d been in the restaurant that day, eating with a much older woman, who could have been her grandmother. Fletcher made a time for all three to come to the station to give statements and one said he sketched as a hobby and might be able to help produce a picture of the older lady.
Fletcher returned to the burger joint. He had a hunch that he wanted to check out and went straight to the owner.
“Mister Delaney, I’m detective Fletcher from the police department. May I ask you a few questions?”
“Sure, Fletcher. How can I help?”
“Did you find the victim yourself?”
“No, one of my staff found her and came straight to me to report it. Then I called it in.”
“Did you go to have a look?”
“No, we’ve been busy today.”
Fletcher showed him the photos.
“Do you recognize her from last night?”
Delaney took a really good look.
“Yes, although it’s a bit difficult to get past the wound in her throat. She was here last night, late on. Some of my staff had already left so I served her myself.”
“Was she alone?
“No, she was eating with her grandmother.”
‘Bingo,’ thought Fletcher.
“Did you recognize the grandmother?”
“No, I’m afraid not.”
“Would you be able to help us with an identikit of her?”
“I guess so. She was quite striking. She reminded me of my wife’s mother so I noticed.”
Fletcher thanked him and made a time. Then he turned to go. But his mind gave him a prod and he turned back.
“One last question. Did you overhear any of their conversation?”
“Only one small part as I approached the table to take the order,” admitted Delaney, a little sheepishly. “The young girl said she’d only just arrived from Charlotte after five hours in the bus.”
Fletcher nearly jumped with joy.
“I’m sorry, Mister Delaney, that begs another question. Did the old lady reply?”
“Yes, she did. She mumbled something about the girl must be tired.”
“What did her voice sound like?”
“Kinda husky, like she smoked too much.”
Fletcher rushed back to the station, collared Mahoney and quickly filled him in. Mahoney was quick on the uptake.
“I’ll send the photos and dates to all the stations in Charlotte and I’ll find all the buses that run from there to here. I’ll also check when any long distance buses are due here from now for the next couple of weeks. Then I guess we’ll set up a trap, right?”
Fletcher grinned. “Right!”
It took two days to pull all the information together. Both girls were from good homes in Charlotte. The first had decided to run away from her boyfriend and discussed it with her best friend, who’d got worried after a couple of weeks and set out to find her. Both, had arrived in Halifax, early evening. Neither had traveled with an elderly woman. The next long distance bus was only due in ten days’ time. Fletcher organized a team to follow any attractive young girls who got off.
There was only one. She was picked up immediately by the surveillance team. One of them jostled the girl and planted a wire on her so that any conversations could be monitored. The girl asked one of the passengers where she could get a meal. She was directed to the shopping center and set off in that direction. She hadn’t gone more than fifty yards, when she bumped into an old woman, who stumbled. The girl helped her stay on her feet.
“Just arrived in town, luv?” asked the old woman, in a husky voice. Fletcher instantly alerted his team.
“Yeah, not five minutes ago.”
“Five hours in a hot bus.”
“You must be tired and hungry. Can I buy you something? I know a place with good food at a good price.”
“That would be kind. Thank you.”
The old woman led the way and kept the girl talking all the time, so that she didn’t take much notice of her surroundings. Finally they got to an Italian restaurant, where they ate until late into the evening. The old woman offered to put the girl up for the night and she gratefully accepted. Meanwhile, Fletcher and the team waited and watched. Finally, the two left the restaurant.
“There’s a short cut through here,” said the old woman indicating an alley to the back.
The girl trustingly led the way as Fletcher’s men closed in. The detective saw the old woman reach into her pocket and bring out something that glinted in the dim lamplight. Towards the end of the alley, just as the old woman closed on her unsuspecting victim, Fletcher caught up with her. He grabbed the wrist just below a wicked looking carving knife and put his other arm round the old woman’s waist. The young girl was whisked away to safety by two policemen, while Fletcher grappled with an unexpectedly strong grandmother. Two other members of his team rushed to his aid and soon the old woman had been restrained and handcuffed. In the scuffle she had struggled desperately and a wig had fallen from her head.
Not entirely to Fletcher’s surprise, the granny was a man.