___The following morning, I opened the office and set up, as I do every morning at 9.30 am. I finished typing up a report and covering letter for a previous client, and looked for something else to do. I'd run out of work. Sighing, I looked at the clock. It was now about 10.45, and there was no sign of Jeff. On a case or not, he usually called at the office first thing, or he'd at least phone and let me know what was happening (unless he was out of town, obviously). Annoyed, I picked up the phone. He might have been out on business all night, but I doubted it. I just hoped that he hadn't got himself drunk seeing as he was supposed to be engaged on a case. I frowned, receiving no reply at all from my partner's apartment. I began to wonder whether he was alright, but then I got angry with myself. Knowing Jeff, he had probably been out all hours chatting up some pretty girl and drinking himself senseless - what was there to worry about?
___With that, the outside door opened.
___"Jeff! Is that you?" I called gruffly.
___There was no reply.
___My partner entered. "Sorry, Marty. I had a rough night."
___I was about to ask him how many drinks he'd had, when I saw the look on his face. He didn't look hungover, but he did look terrible. "What's wrong?"
___"I don't know. I thought maybe I caught something after the dip in the Thames that I got, the other day..."
___Normally, I'd have laughed at the mention of it. Jeff had gotten careless in a previous investigation, and had ended up being knocked out and thrown into the river. He was lucky that someone saw what happened and informed the police. He was even luckier that they'd found him before he drowned.
___"I suppose it's possible," I replied, watching him closely. "Have you seen a doctor?"
___"No," Jeff admitted. "But I doubt it's anything serious enough to warrant seeing a doctor, anyway. It's probably just some kind of bad cold coming on."
___I know Jeff Randall very well. I've seen him with colds, and I know all the early signs. Whatever was wrong, it didn't seem much like something like that. While I'm on the subject of knowing my partner very well, I will also tell you that he likes to avoid doctors at all cost. I don't know why.
___"Anyway, I have work to do," Jeff was saying.
___I frowned at him. "I think you should be at home."
___Jeff scoffed at me. "You'll worry yourself into an early grave! I'm alright, Marty." He shivered violently and hugged himself in an effort to stop.
___"Jeff!" I ran to his side and made him sit in the office armchair. "I'm calling Jeannie - she's going to take you home."
___"Marty..." he shivered again.
___"Save your energy. I'm not listening."
___"What about the case?"
___Honestly! Did he think I was that incapable? "I'll handle it, alright? Just worry about getting well."
___"You're always telling me that you hate divorce cases..."
___"Well, I don't have a lot of choice, do I? You're obviously not well enough to go chasing around. You'll probably do something stupid and get yourself killed!"
___"Thanks," Jeff muttered darkly.
___I hadn't meant to offend him. I could see that he was very ill, and didn't want him making himself worse, or making a fatal mistake due to being unable to concentrate. I sighed and returned to my desk, picking up the phone. The phone at the other end rang three times before it was answered.
___"Jeannie! I'm sorry about this darling, but... Can I ask you to do me a big favour?"
___When she answered, I could tell by her tone that she was smiling. "Of course, Marty. What is it?"
___"Jeff's ill - very ill - can you take him home and call a doctor? I'd do it myself, but..."
___"It's alright, my darling. I understand. He's with you at the office, is he?"
___"Yes," I glanced at my partner. He was curled up in the chair, asleep. "I should go, but... I don't really want to leave him. He looks like death!"
___"I'll be right there, Marty."
___Jeff moaned suddenly and shuddered violently.
___"I don't think he can wait. I'm dropping him back myself, and I'll wait with him 'til you arrive, Jean," I was panicking now. I had no idea what was wrong, but he seemed to be worsening rapidly.
___"Alright, Marty. Don't worry. I'll be right there."
___I helped Jeff into his car, leaving mine in wait for me, and started out for his apartment. I kept talking to him gently, as much to reassure myself as it was for his benefit. His condition was beginning to frighten me, but Jeff didn't really seem overly concerned.
___"Marty, I don't know why you're so worried..." he coughed into his hand. "S'just a virus. I'll be alright."
___I turned to force a smile before resuming my driving. "Probably, Jeff. I just don't want to take any chances, alright?"
___We arrived at his apartment, where I did all I could to make him comfortable. Jeannie only took a few minutes to arrive, but waiting there for her was agony. When she finally arrived, I told her all I could, kissed her and left.
___As I headed for the office, to pick up my car, I thought about the first course of action. Jeff had been given a long list of Mr. Heath's movements and most likely haunts. No wonder he had managed to come across him so easily, the other day! This got me thinking. If the wife knew where he often went, why did she need us? I found myself becoming annoyed with my partner again. I'm sure that he would have asked more questions had the client been a man, and he might even have been less inclined to take the case on. Why did he have to be such an idiot? I shrugged and got into my car, tapping the steering wheel lightly as I thought.
___Where to start? Scanning the list, I made a decision and sped off. I headed for a quiet little village in Hampshire, which was situated on the edge of the New Forest. The country road was narrow, so I slowed down - it's the last place that you'd want to meet with an accident of some kind. With that, a deer darted across the road, not far ahead. I was immediately glad that I'd had the sense to slow my speed despite lack of restriction - had I been moving faster, I'd have hit the animal. With that, a car's horn sounded just behind me, making me jump. A glance at my rear-view mirror informed me that it was Mr. Heath, and he was obviously in a hurry. First, I tried pulling over to allow him enough room to get by, but the road was too narrow - even in my little car - so then I sped up and hoped that I'd find somewhere to allow him to pass. Luckily, a little further along there was a grassy bank which would allow for me to pull up quickly. Once Heath had sped by, I followed carefully.
___After a time, Heath pulled up at a little cottage and jumped out. I pulled out the cameras and found a good vantage point from which to watch what happened. Heath walked up to a man, had a brief talk with him... and shot him! For a moment I was frozen - I'd expected to get pictures of him with another woman, not standing over a body! - but then the proffessional detective that I am kicked in and I set to work. My mind began to race. Who - or what - was Heath, and who was the man that he'd just murdered in cold blood? Why had he shot him? I ducked out of sight as Heath looked up and started to walk towards me. Hoping he hadn't seen me, I crept back to my car and pulled away as quietly as I was able. Rather than trying to drive as far from the cottage as I could before he started coming after me, I drove into an open field and pulled out a birdbook and fieldglasses. Hopefully, he would be so busy searching for a man running away, that he'd completely overlook me.
___I listened as a car raced along the road behind me, resisting the temptation to turn and look. If he saw me and stopped, I'd be in trouble - there was nowhere to hide and I'd be forced to run. After what seemed an age, the sound of the engine faded into the distance.
___I jumped back in my car and headed for home, wondering what to do. I knew that I should go to the police, but I didn't really have very much information to give them, and they were bound to try dragging me into the mess somehow. I decided to talk to my partner before doing anything else. Ill or not, Jeff was bound to be a little more helpful than Inspector Large.
___When I returned to Jeff's apartment, it was empty. I couldn't understand it - surely Jeannie hadn't decided to take him out for a walk? On the coffee table, there was a note.
The doctor said to take Jeff straight to the hospital. He thinks he has been poisoned somehow.
Try not to worry.
Love, Jeannie. xxx
___Try not to worry? Jeff's my best friend, as well as my partner.
___"Aw, Marty, I didn't know you cared!" Jeff smirked at him.
___Hopkirk raised a hand to hit him, before remembering that he couldn't. "Of course I care," he finally muttered in reply. "I care about a lot of things, Jeff. Not that I expect you to understand that."
___"Nasty," his partner remarked.
___"Well, what did you expect me to say?"
___Randall shrugged and took a sip of coffee.
___I paced the floor for a while, thinking. I read the note again. The doctor thought he had been poisoned - how? In what way? More importantly, did it have any connection to Mr. Heath, who I now knew to be a murderer. I kept going over all that had happened, but all that brought me was a headache. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that I had to go to the police. I went into Jeff's bathroom
___"Marty, did you have to put that in?" Randall laughed.
___Hopkirk glared at him but said nothing.
___I went into Jeff's bathroom and set up the darkroom equipment. There is no point in going to the police with information but no evidence.
___Though it was unknown to us at the time, Mr. Heath was talking with his wife.
"Look, Trish, I've had two detectives chasing me for the last two days..."
___"That has nothing to do with me, Rob!"
___"Oh, doesn't it? Then why were you seen calling on Randall and Hopkirk?"
___She stared at him blankly. "Who?"
___"Detectives, Trish. You went to see them when you 'popped over to your sister'. I had you followed. I had a feeling I couldn't trust you anymore."
___"You mean the office block I called at? It had nothing to do with detectives! I went to a different company!"
___"Oh yeah? Which one?"
___"Clive Murray - a theatrical company," she replied, relieved that she'd had a look at the list of agencies by the door. "I was thinking about going back to work..."
___"What, as some little dancer in a poxy nightclub? With all that I can offer you?"
___"It'd be nice to stand on my own two feet again, Rob. I just want to know that I can still do it."
___Randall rolled his eyes. "Come on, Marty! How do you know all that happened?"
___"Something like that - it had to, didn't it?"
___Hopkirk sighed and turned to glare at him. "We know that she was a dancer and singer at a nightclub before she married Rob Heath - she was performing on the night of my do, remember?"
___"The night before I was married."
___"Oh, your stag party," Randall smirked. "Oh yeah! When I got you drunk!"
___Hopkirk scowled at him and continued his work.
___"If you say so, Trish," Mr. Heath wagged a gun under her nose. "But if I thought that you'd put them onto me, you'd be as dead as Randall!"
___"What do you mean?" she asked carefully, trying not to seem overly concerned.
___"I left him a present. All he needs do is touch it - it was 'spiked' with poison."
___Mrs. Heath stared at him. "Is that a good idea?"
___"Well, I thought it was a bad idea to murder cops... the rest of 'em are onto you before you have time to..."
___"They ain't cops! They're private eyes! Kill 'em off, the police give a rousing cheer!"
___Meanwhile, I was talking with Inspector Nelson.
___"This is all very interesting, Hopkirk," he remarked, looking over the pictures again.
___"I'm not sure about the motive... I only witnessed the murder because Heath's wife was paying us to follow him. She said he was having an affair."
___Nelson scoffed. "An accidental witness, eh?"
___"Yes..." I groaned, as something fell into place. "No, I wasn't! She knew exactly where he'd be, and when he'd be there!" I pulled out the list from my pocket and handed it over. "It was no accident at all that I came across Mr. Heath in time to see him at work!"
___"If you're right, the wife's in it up to her neck!"
___"And desperate to get out," I finished.
___"I think we should pay the Heaths a little visit, don't you?"
To Chapter Three