The Creative Peak

New inspired writing from an independent publisher

Model for Murder

Mel Cope

Mystery Thriller

Andrea is an international supermodel arried to Martin, the UK’s youngest Police Superintendent. They become a celebrity couple after Martin is praised on the front pages of newspapers for his courage. Whilst she is drawn away to the fashion houses of the world, and Martin dedicates himself to the hard and gruelling work of his job, they are the epitome of a happily married couple. Suddenly things start to go wrong. Martin’s reputation is on-the-line when he fails to make progress in solving an armed robbery near where they both live. The stress is heaped on him when one of Andrea’s friends is killed. He tries to protect his wife from the horror of violence and death, but she is at the centre of the events. Andrea wants to help her husband but has to deal with Martin’s contrary inspector, who wants her out of harm’s way. The memory of her dead friend means she desperately wants to help. As the case deepens, she becomes frightened, but will not give it as she knows she must give it her all. The fashion catwalks beckon her to return to normal, but will she be safe?

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Chapter One

Her nose touched the soft velvet curtain. It smelled old and damp. She was tense. Her stomach churned, but she was eager to go. Wait. Wait. There was no alternative, she had to wait so she made no noise and didn’t even move a muscle. A droplet of sweat rolled down her forehead towards her eye. Her long blue fingernail flicked at it. It missed. The droplet seemed huge. She closed her eyes and felt it trickle down the eyelid. Her eyes opened and she felt the salty sting. The nerves gripped her. It was like the first time, the feeling never went away.

She stroked her long blonde hair. It was something she always did when she was nervous. The black space covered her. A deep breath drew in more of the musty smell from the damp curtain. The excited jabbering voices on the other side of the curtain got louder. Even if she concentrated she couldn’t distinguish anything in the voices. Her heart began to thump. It wouldn’t be long now, only a few more seconds. The first strains of music were starting. The volume of voices gradually reduced. The music rose. It was Luigi’s favourite. “The Ride of the Valkyries”. Only the music could be heard. No more voices.

She tensed. Anytime now. The music faded down a little. A voice boomed through the speakers, ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, the Luigi collection, led by the world’s top supermodel, Andrea Cain.’

The curtains flew open. She stood still. The lights scorched her eyes so she could see nothing. She counted, ‘One, two, three, four, five.’ Three steps took her to the middle of the dais. It got better, she could now make out the edge of the stage. No amount of rehearsing prepared you for this. The continuous flash of cameras and the deafening music hit you like a wall.

She whispered quietly but inside she shouted, ‘Glide, glide, glide!’ Her shimmer down the catwalk brought people to their feet. The quivering blue silk dress was a winner. The count of ten steps brought her to the end of the catwalk. She stretched the blue faux ostrich boa across her shoulders and down her arms. As she stopped with one foot in front of the other, she let one arm drop to her side, the other she stretched up into a high-five. There was more applause. Shouts from the cameras to hold it. She became motionless. The bulbs flashed.

She spun round. Her shoe dug into her foot. She gasped, and began the count of the catwalk. At the end she knew it was going to hurt, but nothing would deter her from doing it right. She spun. The smile stayed on her face as the cameras flashed. She gave them another ten second pose. Luigi would want her to hold it until the applause finished. It began to die down. Another flourish of the boa and she stepped through into the backstage. The darkness enveloped her, she couldn’t see. Someone grabbed her. ‘Magnifico, Magnifico.’

She hugged him back. ‘They loved it, Luigi, they loved it. More beautiful clothes from the master.’ He released her and rushed to peek through to the stage. The music indicated the second model was now on the catwalk.

Her dressers were waiting. They reached up and unclipped the dress and let it fall. They towelled her body, legs and arms.

‘Where’s my bloody dresses? Don’t just stand there, do something,’ said a nearby woman. Andrea flicked at her long blonde hair in the mirror. One dresser held the evening dress for her. Andrea stepped into it. It fitted tightly around her slim figure. The dress was low cut, so she checked her cleavage in the mirror. The cut of the dress looked good as it stretched across her breasts.

The woman shouted, ‘Stop crying. Go and find my dresses, don’t you understand?’ Shoes were held for Andrea. She kicked off the ones that hurt and slipped into the new ones. These were no better as they still hurt.

‘No, she doesn’t,’ said Andrea, ‘she only speaks Italian.’ Her dressers changed Andrea’s jewellery.

‘Can you help? Do you speak Italian?’

Andrea bit back her first remarks, ‘I’m busy, can’t you see. Go to reception, they will help.’ She stared at the woman who had a pretty face and curly, shoulder length dark hair. Not a model, too small. Part of the entertainment she supposed.

‘Three minutes, Andrea,’ said a voice from the doorway.

‘Yes. Nearly ready.’ She looked in the mirror, quickly adjusted her hair. She was ready.

‘I was promised support. I’m not going anywhere,’ said the woman.

‘Please yourself,’ said Andrea as she left the room.

Andrea heard the wailing before she arrived back. The entertainer was standing in the middle of the dressing room sobbing. Everyone else ignored her, except for the woman who had been shouted at and she was huddled on a chair crying. Andrea took a long glance at the woman. ‘Stop that awful noise!’ she shouted above the wails. ‘Grow up and sort out your own problems.’ She stared at the face. It probably didn’t help to tell a woman in her early thirties to grow up. Tears of frustration were streaming down the wailing woman’s cheeks. Andrea continued, ‘We’re in Italy; people speak Italian, not English.’ She was met with a scowl, but the tears and the noise stopped.

‘Will you help me please?’ asked the woman in a whimpering voice.

‘Providing you stop shouting and wailing,’ said Andrea walking towards her. The dressers were changing her as she walked.

‘Yes, I will, but please help me; I’m determined to do a good show.’ The face looked familiar. Andrea slipped out of her dress. The towelling started.

‘I’m Andrea Cain.’

‘I’m Charlotte Manning,’ said the woman.

‘The singer?’

‘Yes.’ The recognition seemed to please her. Andrea’s hair was being combed as she spoke to Charlotte’s dresser, ‘Dove è vestiti di questa signora?’

‘You do speak Italian,’ said Charlotte

‘Too clever by half if you ask me,’ said one of the other models as she went past.

‘Patsy, great to see you.’ Andrea turned to greet her friend.

‘And you darling,’ Patsy looked at the singer and said, ‘Listen to Andrea she always helps you out.’

‘How’s life?’ said Andrea to Patsy. She could sense that Charlotte was getting agitated again. She must like to be the centre of attention, thought Andrea.

‘Envious,’ said Patsy. Andrea gave her another hug. ‘Envious of you getting the headlines for all the right reasons and me getting them for all the wrong reasons. Must go, I’m on.’

Charlotte repeated, ‘You speak Italian.’

‘No need to sound surprised,’ she said as her jewellery was being changed, ‘this is the country of fashion; it helps to be part of it if you speak the language.’

‘Continuo a dirle. Non sono arrivato. Sono attaccati al bordo,’ said Charlotte’s dresser.

‘That’s the answer then. They are stuck in customs.’

Charlotte began to whimper, ‘It’ll be a disaster.’

‘Five minutes, Andrea.’

‘Luigi, come here please,’ called Andrea. She said to Charlotte, ‘Stop crying, Luigi can’t stand women who cry.’ The little fat man with a bald head scurried over. ‘This is Charlotte Manning, your singer.’

‘Yes, I know.’

‘The dresses for her performance are stuck in customs.’

‘Why do you tell me,’ he said shrugging his shoulders, ‘I am a designer not a customs expert, ask reception.’

‘Think of it, Luigi. The first singer in the fashion world to wear your creations.’ He hesitated in his reply but Andrea continued, ‘Not today’s premiere collection, they are wonderful, but a couple of your specials you keep back.’ Luigi looked them both up and down and then smiled at Andrea.

‘Pablo,’ called Luigi. They whispered in Italian. ‘I shall do as you say,’ he said. Andrea kissed him on the head and Charlotte hugged him.

‘Two minutes, Andrea.’

‘On schedule.’

She turned to Charlotte. ‘Remember today is not about you and me. It about Luigi. Make sure you show the dresses off.’ This brought a twirl from the smiling Charlotte.

‘Pablo, teach her to do it properly.’

‘One minute, Andrea.’

‘Coming.’

Chapter Two

The cold damp mist hung low between the trees of the Rivelin Valley. The steady rain soaked all in its path. The raincoats were drawn tighter and the umbrellas pulled down closer to heads. The rain drops had no glistening light through them. They fell onto tarpaulins over makeshift shelters and then ran off in a stream. One constant drip produced a regular heartbeat of drops on to a scaffolding pole. A microphone was nearby. The barely audible resonance of the pulsing drops filled the mist. There was no other sound.

The priest stared at the brass plaque. Inaudibly he kept repeating the words, ‘Luke Kennedy, Luke Kennedy. It shouldn’t have happened.’ His stare didn’t break as Luke’s mother threw in a handful of earth. He very slowly made the sign of the cross. It was the turn of the two eldest brothers. Each in turn left their mother’s side, stood and stared at the coffin and dropped some soil. They returned to their towering presence over their mother. The priest’s eyes were unflinching. He felt a pang of anger. Luke’s twin brother wasn’t here. He prayed. It took a long time for two hundred people to pay their respects. He never deviated his stare.

‘Father, may I?’ It was Ma Kennedy’s voice. He didn’t look up, but nodded. She slowly unfurled a green flag with a golden harp at its centre. She let it float down to drape the coffin. When it had finally come to rest on one side of the coffin he raised his head. The bright lights on the television cherry-picker dazzled him. He looked at them in disgust. The noise level gradually rose. The mourners were leaving. The priest scowled as they mixed with the two hundred, maybe more, of the public and press waiting in the road. The sudden rise in noise made the eight hearse horses jumpy.

‘Bless you, Father,’ said Ma Kennedy, The rain beat down on the small wiry woman. Her bright eyes peered from under the wide-brimmed hat and glared at the priest. ‘People who are here today will judge Luke.’

‘Go with peace of mind, my good woman, only the Lord may judge.’ He caught her bony hands in his. ‘I have known Luke for many years. He was a headstrong young man but I saw goodness in him. Loyalty was his great strength.’ Ma Kennedy nodded. ‘His soul is with the Lord now and he is at peace.’

‘Thank you, Father.’

‘And now, devoted brothers,’ the Priest said to the two tall men at their mother’s side.

‘If I find out which one of them did…’

The priest raised his hand towards the man’s face. ‘Shush, John. We are in the presence of the Lord.’ John didn’t know what to do. ‘Your role is to support your good mother in this time of grief. I want you and Mark to go home, and with your Ma, read from the Book of Romans. The passage is “Vengeance is mine saith the Lord”. Will you do that for the soul of Luke?’

The big man dropped his chin and looked towards the ground. ‘Yes, Father.’

The priest stood out of their way and turned to watch them as the sons each held their mother’s arms. They picked their way across the muddy grass. The rain teemed down, but they did not notice. The Priest knew each of them was with his own thoughts.

As they passed into the mist a man came and stood beside the priest, who continued to stare at the fading figures. ‘I didn’t see you at the service, Wayne,’ said the priest, without looking at the man standing next to him.

‘No, Father. Churches give me the creeps.’

He turned to face the man. The words were slow and deliberate, ‘Then you should be very fearful for your soul.’

‘Yes, Father.’

‘I can hear your confession later my son.’

‘I am not a Catholic.’

‘There is always time for people to mend their ways in the eyes of the Lord.’

Wayne did not reply. The priest eyed him up and down. His lip quivered as he looked at the fluorescent yellow jacket and the green Wellington boots.

‘I suppose you have come for your money,’ said the priest.

‘Money?’ said the man.

‘For the singers that you supplied for the service. As their agent I suppose you collect the money.’

‘Did you find them uplifting, Father?’

Again there was a slight quiver of the priest’s lip.

‘I have to accept that the blend of Gregorian chants and pop music may well have appealed to Luke. And the service was for him. Personally I found it a little … a little … flighty.’

‘They get excellent reviews. They have been on my books for over two years now.’

‘The money?’asked the Priest.

‘No Father, certainly not. I know the family well. I do a lot of business with them. I wouldn’t dream of taking any money at all on a day like today.’ A crash of thunder spooked the horses as the empty hearse began to leave. Both men looked up at the clouds. The faintest of smiles came across the priest’s face. It was then gone.

‘Then on behalf of the family I thank you. They have been very generous in their donation to the church restoration fund. The money that I put aside for the …er... singers... I shall add to the fund. If that is all right with you?’

‘Yes, yes that’s fine. Whatever you think best.’

‘St Mary’s Catholic Church is in the centre of Hillsborough,’ said the priest.

‘Yes, Father, a magnificent building. I have been past it many times.’

‘Its restoration and maintenance costs a lot of money.’ The priest was looking directly at Wayne.

‘Yes, yes, of course.’ He slid his wallet from his pocket and grabbed a bunch of £20 notes. ‘A small contribution to assist, Father.’

‘Most generous.’

‘I haven’t seen you for a few months, Father.’

He nodded.

‘I’ve recently taken on a really popular singer who is growing internationally.’

‘What is that to me?’

‘She has the same surname, Manning.’

‘Charlotte, I presume.’

‘Yes, Father.’

‘I disapprove, so does my sister, Margaret. I would appreciate it if my relationship with her did not become widespread.’ He turned and strode away.

Chapter Three

‘If I may invite the well-known local figure of Colonel Gerald Manning to join me on the stage.’ A ripple of applause passed round the fifty people who were sitting in the Painted Hall at Chatsworth. The small man had a sharp-featured face, his hair was short and cut in the traditional style of an officer. He wore a precise lounge suit. He rose from his chair and took a few brisk steps onto the low stage. The medals on his chest glistened in the light as he stood to attention. Gerald looked around the audience of local dignitaries and above them to the mural on the ceiling. He gave a short nod to show his approval of all that was before him.

The Lord Lieutenant addressed Colonel Manning and the audience, ‘I, as Lord Lieutenant of the County, have been instructed by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, to officiate at this ceremony. It is to award the George Medal for gallantry. You will see amongst the many medals on Colonel Manning’s chest there is the George Cross awarded for extreme gallantry as a serving officer in our local regiment. It makes me very proud to be in the distinguished company of these two very brave men. If I may ask Colonel Manning to read the citation.’ Gerald strode forward to the edge of the stage and declined the use of a microphone.

‘He displayed the most conspicuous bravery and extreme devotion to duty in the presence of a suicide bomber. With the full knowledge that there had been three similar explosions in other towns he walked slowly up to the man and sat with him on the steps of the shopping centre. It allowed other members of the police to clear the shopping centre and nearby offices. He finally persuaded the man not to pursue his intention.’

‘Thank you, Colonel. Before we proceed with investiture I would like to invite the Chief Constable, Arthur Fremantle OBE, to make an announcement.’

‘I attended the Sheffield & Peak Constabulary Promotion Board and would formally like to announce the promotion of this brave man to the rank of Detective Chief Superintendent.’

The Chief Constable stood aside and the Lord Lieutenant returned to the microphone. ‘If I could ask Chief Superintendent Martin Cain to join me on the stage. The Lord Lieutenant looked at the tall, slim man with short black hair, who stood, and then moved onto the stage.

‘By the powers invested in me by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, I award you the George Medal for Gallantry.’ The audience applause was led by an enthusiastic Gerald Manning who stepped forward to congratulate Martin.

The four men were arranged by the two photographers for the press shots. Martin Cain whispered to the Chief Constable. He nodded and said, ‘Of course, how remiss of me. Mrs Cain, your husband has asked that you join us on the stage.’ Martin and Andrea Cain formed the pinnacle of the picture with the three smaller men on the flanks.

As the photo group finished Gerald Manning said to Andrea, ‘You have a very brave husband.’

‘Thank you. As the Lord Lieutenant said we are in the presence of two very brave men.’

Gerald Manning nodded in acknowledgement. ‘Your daughter said you would be here today,’ said Andrea.

‘Margaret?’

‘No, Charlotte.’

‘Oh, yes.’

‘You must be very proud of her. She is a very successful singer.’

He caught Andrea’s elbow and took her to one side. ‘I’m afraid I do not approve of the route she has chosen to take in her life. I cannot condone her performing on stage in the outfits she wears.’

‘Does that include my job?’ said Andrea.

‘I wouldn’t be so impolite to offer any opinion about your chosen profession. Charlotte is my daughter. I have expressed my sentiments to her. She has chosen not to listen.’

Chapter Four

‘Fitzwilliam, in here,’ shouted the man through the open doorway. He slammed the door. It bounced back and the handle fell off. ‘Bloody thing.’ He kicked the handle into the corner of the office and went back behind his desk.

Fitzwilliam snarled as the shout interrupted his doodling. He hauled himself to his feet. He tried to tuck his shirt round his belly into his trousers but it gaped open. He left it and ambled towards the office. He passed the Editor sign on the door and grunted as he walked in. He went to sit down.

The Editor said, ‘Don’t sit on that chair, it’s already broken from the last time you were in here.’ Fitzwilliam kicked another chair forward and dumped his body on it. ‘This centre spread you’ve done for Sunday...’

‘Brilliant bit of journalism, even if I say it myself.’ He gave the editor of the Sunday Journal the first smirk of the day.

‘I’m pulling it.’

‘Why? It’s good.’

‘Who the hell do you think you’re kidding. If I wanted rubbish like this on the paper then I’d get an ex-royal correspondent who would produce something “very nice”.’ The last two words were delivered with venom.

‘It’s a fair reflection of them, they’re nice people.’

The editor sprung from his chair and ranged round the desk. ‘You’re supposed to be the tough-nosed investigative journalist that will write the truth whatever it takes.’

‘As I said they’re nice people.’

‘I pay you to find the skeletons in people’s cupboards. That’s what our readers want. All the majors will run this at the weekend. I was relying on you for a different view of this nice and cosy couple.’

‘Can’t find what’s not there. I can’t invent the story.’

‘It hasn’t stopped you before.’

‘I bloody resent that.’

‘Tough.’

The editor was staring out the window. He spun round, ‘Are you taking a backhander to make them look good?’

Fitzwilliam stood up as quick as he could and kicked at his chair, ‘I don’t have to put up with you.’

‘You damn well do if you want paying. Let me give you a clue. He is the youngest Chief Superintendent in the country and she is the world’s top supermodel. They must have trodden on someone to get there. Find out who and you’ve got a story.’

‘Get someone else to do it.’

‘Fitzwilliam, you’ve been caught with your hand in the till before. So get your fat arse up to Derbyshire and I want a decent story on my desk. Until I have it, you don’t get paid. Now get out.’

Chapter Five

Andrea kept repeating, ‘C-24, C-24.’ She stepped out of the lift. A two-tone alarm was sounding.

‘Stand clear. Coming through.’ A nurse and doctor rushed past her pushing an equipment trolley. The huge red letters on the side read, ‘Cardiac Arrest Equipment. Emergency Use only.’

Andrea looked at the door opposite. C-17. To the left in the direction the trolley had gone it was C-18. She took a deep breath. Her eyes followed the trolley. It turned into a room halfway down. The policeman in the corridor had stood to one side to let it into the room. I hope it’s not Calum. She walked slowly towards the policeman who now had his back to her. C-20. C-21. The trolley had gone into C-23 or C-24. Which did she want? She’d forgotten.

‘Excuse me, officer.’

He reacted immediately, ‘Sorry madam, only approved…’. He turned and stopped what he was saying and saluted, ‘Sorry Mrs Cain, I didn’t know it was you. We weren’t expecting you.’

‘Which room is Calum in?’

‘Not that one, I’m pleased to say. Inspector Brodie is in C-24, just there.’

‘Are you guarding him?’

‘Inspector Brodie? No. I’m keeping an eye on this one. Not that he’ll be going anywhere for a long while.’ He pointed to the room with a lot of voices and shouts of ‘Stand clear.’

Andrea knocked gently on the door. ‘Come in,’ came the strong reply.

‘Hello, Calum, I said to Martin I would like to come and see you. I’m Andrea Cain.’ She held out her hand. He gave it a brief shake.

‘Yes, I know who you are. At least you had the good sense not to bring any fruit or flowers,’ he said, looking round the room, ‘Can’t get any more in.’

Andrea looked at Calum who was sitting up in bed. His short brown hair was dishevelled. He had a large forehead and deep-set eyes. He was unshaven. ‘I believe you were quite badly hurt,’ said Andrea.

‘I was shot twice, once through the shoulder and the other through the leg, and as a consequence I lost half my blood and spent three hours on the operating table. So if you count that as quite badly hurt, then yes I was.’

‘I was worried when I saw all the equipment in the corridor that something had happened to you.’

‘No, that was our friend next door, where the copper is outside. He must have nearly had it. There were alarms and a hell of a lot of noise.’

‘When do you hope to get out?’

He ignored the question, ‘I suppose you are better looking than the Chief Constable’s wife.’

Andrea smiled, ‘I’ll take that as a compliment.’

‘Sorry, I’m sore and irritable. I don’t do small talk as you have found out. The legions of do-gooders have come in droves.’

‘I can go if you want? But you’re entitled to feel frustrated and irritated. Looking at your physique I would say you were a keen sportsman and long to be out of here.’

‘Yes, rugby and squash are my games.’

‘I don’t play rugby for obvious reasons but when you’re up to it I’ll give you a game of squash. I’m not very good but I might manage to give someone who’s convalescing a good game.’

The first signs of a smile came from Calum.

‘Your husband was here about half an hour ago.’

‘I didn’t realise. I’m back from London much earlier than planned; I just decided to drop in.’ Andrea walked over to the window. ‘Lousy view even though we’re on the seventh floor.’ It looked like Martin walking across the car park. It was raining and he had his overcoat collar up. A woman in a multicoloured anorak ran up to him. Andrea couldn’t see her face because of the hood. She flung her arms around him and kissed him. He hugged her but then stepped away quickly and looked around. They linked arms and walked across the car park. ‘Two lovers enjoying themselves,’ said Andrea.

‘Everyone else seems to, except me,’ said Calum.

I thought it was Martin but it couldn’t have been. Her thoughts were interrupted by the nurse who came in.

The nurse said, ‘I didn’t know you had a visitor.’ She faced Andrea and said, ‘The policeman shouldn’t have let you in. He needs rest not a constant stream of people.’

‘I’ve only popped in for a few minutes.’

The nurse wouldn’t be defeated, ‘Keep to just a few minutes then.’

Andrea looked at Calum. He wasn’t well so she couldn’t expect him to be in a good mood. She turned her eyes to the nurse who was checking the drip. The nurse was just doing her job.

Andrea said, ‘I think I really should be going. Can I come and see you again?’

‘I bet you don’t,’ he said. As she passed the nurse on the way to the door she caught the name badge, ‘Margaret Manning.’ But Andrea decided it wouldn’t be a good time to say anything.

Calum said to her back, ‘Don’t bother going in next door.’

Andrea stopped and turned, ‘I obviously wouldn’t, he’s very unwell.’

‘That’s because your husband shot him,’ said Calum.