The Cold Grip of Murder (A noir about the Jimmy Savile scandal that was topical when I wrote it in 2012.)

The Cold Grip of Murder

by

Jack Frayne-Reid

To be imagined as a 1940s film noir.

Leaden footsteps echoed through the corridor. A clink of keys and there were three police officers in the interrogation room. Outside a car rolled by and the flash of headlights lit up the sunken face of the interviewee, whose empty eyes looked up from the wooden table at his hosts.

“Do have a cigarette, old boy,” offered Police Chief Jim O’Rourke.

The man nodded in acceptance and O’Rourke bent over the table to light it for him. He inhaled and sighed, and the smoke billowed visibly as DC Michael Bell, with the hand that wasn’t holding a mug of black coffee, hit the light, which flickered before settling with a rickety functionality. O’Rourke lit himself a cigarette and sighed wearily;

“You understand the press will be here by morning. I appreciate the reserved behaviour, but there is no pretending this is unimportant for either of us.  I insist you tell us at once what on earth could possess a man from your…” he coughed “…racket to turn himself in to the police.”

“You sit down and I’ll tell you,” was the growled response.

O’Rourke sat. Thunder sounded on the outside and rain slammed against the stark main road.  The interviewee sat upright, and glanced around the room. In the corner sat the old police wireless. He laughed maniacally for a second and then composed himself, and his face dropped once more, drained of life.

“Video didn’t kill the radio star…” he spat  colloquially “…I did.”

 

***

 

The next morning, Prime Minister David Cameron stepped into his office and opened up the day’s copy of the Daily Telegraph, a paper whose editor he had once frolicked with in his days as a young Etonian, eating sweet crumpets and branding the local poor with hot Polo sticks. No sooner had he settled down at his desk, reading the cricket reports and relaxing himself by utilising a velvet footrest, in barged his Director of Communications, Craig S. Oliver.

“How do, Oliver? I trust the Manchester Guardian has been kept from publishing another scandalous article on my government?”

“Yes, sir, I’ve had their entire editorial staff sentenced to hang.”

“Jolly good. Will that be all?”

“No, no, sir.”

“Gosh, Oliver. It’s a little early for rough and tumble, don’t you think?”

“I’m afraid there’s a rather unfortunate business brewing up in the newspapers, sir. Are you acquainted with a fellow by the name of William J. Corston?”

“The international drug smuggler? As a matter of fact, I’m rather fond of the man.”

“Yes, indeed, if you recall, he’s a most generous donor to our party…it pains me to tell you, sir, but he’s turned himself to the metropolitan.”

“My, what a drag. I did always like Corston. Good chap, tried his best…what’s the charge?”

“Have you read today’s Telegraph, sir?”

He laughed; “how else could one keep up on the Ashes?”

“Have you read anything other than the cricket section, sir?”

“Don’t be ridiculous, Oliver.”

“Then I urge you to take a look at the front page.”

‘Drug lord Corston arrested in connection to the murder of Jimmy Savile,’ read the headline, the bold letters leaping at Cameron.

“How long has this been so?”

“What, sir?”

“This text on the front page. There’s an awful lot of it.”

“Indeed, sir.”

“Send the editorial team a  telegram this afternoon, strongly advising them to stop this whole business. It makes for a very crowded page.”

“Very good, sir.”

“Anyway, who is this Jimmy Savile fellow?”

“He was  a disc jockey, sir.”

“I must have escaped his broadcasts on the tranny.”

“I believe he’s rather popular with the youth of today.”

“Well, isn’t that just queer.”

“Actually, sir…his…popularity with the youth of today is somewhat of a problem in itself.”

“Please elaborate…” Cameron yanwed, before raising his voice “SAMANTHA, WHERE ARE MY CRUMPETS?”

“Yes, sir…seems he was a bit of a rotten sort, you might say.”

“Oh?”

“Well, it appears that he had a taste for…”

Samantha Cameron ambled through the door and presented her husband with a steaming plate of crumpets.

“Fancy a crumpet, Oliver?”

“No, thank you, sir. It appears that Savile met with a considerable amount of underage boys and girls, and had a bit of a taste for,” he broke into a whisper “intercourse, Mr Cameron.”

Cameron leaped into action and pointed at the door.

“Samantha, dear;  make yourself scarce,” she scurried out of the room, and Cameron locked the door, peeping through the keyhole to make sure the foolish woman wasn’t eavesdropping. He returned to his desk, and faced Oliver, “how many are we talking about, here? An acceptable amount?”

“Sir, it’s a rather long list. Around three-hundred or so.”

“I should jolly well say it’s none of our damn business, Oliver, what a man does in the privacy of his own home, nor car, other people’s homes, places of work, eating emporiums…ah, Gideon.”

Cameron’s old chum from Eton, Gideon Osborne, had stopped by for a cup of tea.

“How’s the economy, old chap?”

“Oh, I wouldn’t know,” chuckled Osborne, and the other two joined in raucously. “Just caught up with Philip Hammond,” he paused at the blank look on the PM’s face, “the secretary of state for defence.”

“The homosexual?”

“No, sir, that was his predecessor, Mr Fox.” Oliver corrected.

“And what the devil did he want?”

“Saudi Arabia, David. One of the colonies, I think… they wish to purchase some weaponry.”

“I suppose you’d better check the kitty, Oliver. Surely we have some leftovers from the war?”

“I’ll make a note of it, sir.”

“Oh, Gideon, I don’t suppose you know some sort of radio presenter…fellow called Savile?” Cameron asked Osborne.

“Certainly. I believe he was close to Mrs Thatcher.”

“We were all close to Mrs Thatcher…” wisecracked Cameron.

“Ho ho ho! It’s as if we’re back in Eton.” said Osborne.

“Oliver tells me the old blighter had a taste for young girls.”

“Who doesn’t?”

“Yes, well, it seems the press have caught on,” Oliver explained, “and it’s become a rather nasty business, not least for the British Broadcasting Corporation. It seems they may have covered up some of the incidents in question.”

“’Incidents,’ you say? Surely a dead man’s playful joshing is of no business to anybody but himself and his maker?” Osborne huffed.

“It seems that he may have gone so far as…S-E-X.”

“Gadzooks. Who were these children? I trust the old fellow was sensible enough to keep it in the family.”

“No, old pal. It seems to be somewhat wider than that – a right royal kerfuffle…Oliver?”

“Yes, sir. The press are putting increasing pressure on us to launch an enquiry into culture and practises in the BBC, and it seems that this chap had more-than-tenuous connections to the Royals and the wider establishment.”

“Damn shame, damn shame. What I really want to know is, where does this Corston character come into it?”

 

***

A streetlight cast a hew of sallow grey over Scotland Yard. O’Rourke’s tailcoat billowed in the harsh wind and a page from the dossier of paperwork he clutched blew out onto the streets. He looked back, gritting his cigarette in his teeth, then walked on.  He never liked that page anyway. Inside, he looked inquisitively through the bars of cell 462, the subject of his gaze being one William Corston, who sat in the dark with his eyes closed and his fists clenched. The ketamine racket in London was not the same without its figurehead, and Corston felt the burden of abandoning the business he’d spent his life building and legitimising. O’Rourke opened up the door, and sat down beside Corston.

“Why should I believe that the famous Willy Corston killed Jimmy Saville?”

“Because you have my word,” grunted Corston, finally opening his eyes.

“Sometimes word’s not good enough, Corston. This goes beyond you and I.”

“I killed him. I remember it like it was yesterday.”

 

***

            Corston had men on the streets all through Britain to distribute his product, but when it came to celebrity customers, he preferred to take a hands-on approach that befitted the larger amounts of money involved. As he sat in that dank cell, he remembered finding Savile’s front door unlocked, and helping himself to a cigar that sat on a cabinet in the hallway, lighting it on one of the candles that provided the only illumination to the endless, black corridors. He’d served Savile before, but never in his place of residence. Then he heard the noises upstairs. Wedging the cigar between his teeth and putting his back into dragging the sack of five ounces of uncut horse tranquilisers up the spiral staircase. When he reached the top, Will paused for breath, and looked around. Savile’s bedroom, where the gasps emitted from must be to the far left, by a taped-up window that overlooked a crooked oak tree. Will opened the bedroom door and dropped the product. She ran out at once, shrieking.

“You fuckin’ nonce twat!” Will yelled, pumping his customer with lead.

 

***

            Back in the cell, O’Rourke was curious to hear the tale recounted, but still dubious.

“But the autopsy showed no signs of foul play.” He ruminated.

“Take another look, and I’ll guarantee you’ll see I ain’t bullshittin’ ya.” Will confidently declared.

“What are you waiting for, Corston? Get up. I’ve got a car here!”

 

***

They drove to the cemetery in an unmarked cop car through the blistering cold and a storm whirled above their heads, the lightning seeming to strike a pole somewhere, causing the car’s radio to splutter as the signal was lost. The BBC crackled and shut down. O’Rourke hit the brakes, stopping on a sodden dirt road that snaked up towards the graves. He threw the cigarette he’d been smoking to the ground out of respect for the dead, and unlocked the boot, taking out a shovel. Corston eyed the cigarette butt, mangled by the wet, that had formed the lawman’s gesture. He sniggered cynically, and took a drag on his own.

“I trust I don’t need to handcuff you, Corston.” O’Rourke snuck him a sideward glance.

“I was never much into that sort of thing, myself…”

Savile’s grave was found at the top of the hill the cemetery was built upon; Here lieth Sir James Savile – Friend of children. Alternately wiping his brow and shivering in the bleak winter, O’Rourke crashed the spade into the earth with a great power, thumping upon the ground like the tolls of the reaper. A flash of lighting emitted in the sky, and a mound of airborne dirt disintegrated in its sharp gaze, landing with a soft thud upon Corston’s left foot. He looked down, threw his cigarette and, without a word, took the shovel off the policeman, taking over the excavation.

“You got a broad in your life, O’Rourke?”

“Huh. With this job? Only dame I ever meet is the wife of whatever dumb hood gets bumped off this week.”

“I’d like to see my moll one more time before I’m left to rot in the joint. One of them, anyway.”

“Now, now, Corston. If you continue your cooperation with us, we could be very lenient indeed. It’s not out of the question for us to cut your senten-“

Before he could finish, the shovel connected with wood. Corston reeled back, the contours of his face amplified by another resonant lightning strike.

“We’re in.”

“Good chap. Crack open the coffin, won’t you?” Corston did so; he lifted the spade above his head, and brought it down upon the coffin with a great force. The wood splintered, but it was not yet open. He hit it once more, and the lid fractured into two jagged halves, falling aside to reveal the corpse of James Savile. O’Rourke dropped to his knees and examined the body.

“Interesting. Somehow the morticians failed to notice the seventeen bullet holes in his corpse!”

“What did I tell you?” Corston sighed, taking a glance. “That’s him, alright.”

“I mean, were they on marihuana?! His arm’s been shot off!”

“Maybe they was on his payroll. It wouldn’t look good if it got out that he’d been done in ‘cause ‘e was a wrong-‘un. Uh, it don’t look good right now, for example.”

“Damnit, Corston. This mystery just gets deeper. Don’t suppose you have a bottle of hooch on you?”

“Not…quite, no. Mind if I…?” O’Rourke shrugged as Corston got up, and heaved at the adjacent gravestone to Saville’s. Without any strain, it came up, and he picked up something from underneath, replacing the stone and sitting down next to O’Rourke with a bag of ketamine. He dipped his finger into it and sniffed, and then offered it to O’Rourke, who obliged.

A wizened hunchback of around ninety years of age had scuttled up the hillside, and leered in front of them. The lightning struck yet again, as it so often seems to in this sort of situation.

“Telephone for you, Mr O’Rourke…” came the oral slime from this monstrosity’s distorted kisser.”

The glass of the chapel was stained, and not just with paintings of worship. Through it, the huddled figure of O’Rourke could be seen pacing, the receiver clasped stiffly to his ear, bathed in the dull light of the full moon. Back at the hill’s peak, Corston indulged in another line – perhaps his last as a free man. He turned around when he heard O’Rourke’s footsteps coming closer.

“Bad news, Corston. I’m afraid we must be getting back.”

“What’s gone wrong?”

“It’s the Director General of the BBC, George Entwistle! They found him this morning…”

“What, dead?”

“No, even worse – resigned!”

“That’s some tough shit. What’s the story?”

“It seems the story was improperly researched. Some public information flick by the name of Newsnight went out, falsely accusing Baron McAlpine of being an accomplice of Savile. Entwistle had no choice but to take the fall.”

“I understand. I’m ready.” Corston sighed, tucking his ket away in the folds of soil, and hanging his head solemnly, waiting for O’Rourke to lead him back to his car.

“Hold it there, O’Rourke.” Came a voice from behind them. Will began to turn around. “And you, Corston. I’m armed to the teeth and ready to blow you both to hell.”

“Recognise this worm’s dulcet tones?” Corston sneered at the supposed captor.

“Well, it’s certainly not the hunchback, as it’s vaguely intelligible. That you, Bell?”

“Right you are, O’Rourke!” sniffed his subordinate, DC Michael Bell. His face quivered with fear, but his feet remained glued to the ground.

“I must say, old chap, this is rather a drag. May we at least turn around and see you?”

“…Go on, then! But any funny business, and I’ll whack the both of you!”

Corston and O’Rourke turned around and faced Bell, who tried his best to uphold his composure.

“What are you doing here?” he yelled.

“I could ask you the same question.” Huffed O’Rourke indignantly.

“I was on my own way here, to replace Savile’s body with another,” down on the dirt road, an overwhelmingly pungent aura of a disgraced (and now, recently-shot) glam-rock star tied up in the whole twisted Savile affair, hummed from Bell’s car, “that way the truth about his murder will never be revealed.”

“You’ll never get away with this, you bent cop.” Screamed Corston.

“Hey, I’m a family man!” replied the affronted Bell.

“What d’you do it for, Bell?” O’Rourke quizzed him, “How much money did you make? How much abuse did you cover up?”

“You didn’t like his broadcasts, O’Rourke? Any abuse I covered up enabled millions of hard-working Englishmen to enjoy decades of classic entertainment, on the wireless, television programming, public appearances. Everything I did was for the greater good.”

“You’ve gone wrong, Bell. You’ve got a part missing.”

“I think you’re a bellend.” Corston added.

“Where did this evil spring from? You were a good man!”

“I’m a better man than you, O’Rourke.” Came Bell’s guttural howl, as he tightened his grip on his gat “Thirty years I worked the daily beat outside the Broadcasting House.  Did my duty for King and country! I had to be within meters of Jeremy Clarkson…frequently! Do you have any idea what that can do to a man?!”

“I didn’t know, Bell!” O’Rourke stepped forward “It’s no wonder you’re deranged. I’m deeply sorry. Let’s just go back to HQ and we can…”

But it was too late. Bell gripped the trigger, shooting O’Rourke in the chest. He collapsed to the rain-soaked ground. However, O’Rourke had saved Corston’s life by stepping in front of Bell, distracting the crazed maniac. Corston socked him in the jaw and grabbed the gun out of his hand, pumping a spot of lead into him for good luck. The lightening ceased and Will Corston stood atop the hill amidst the soft moonbeam, gun in his hand, bodies of the two men lying at his feet like Hamlet at its close. The hunchback peered out from lower down the hill, and Corston eyed him with a resigned certainty.

“Hold the line, Victor. Looks like I’ll be needing to use that telephone.”

 

***

“Just thought I’d tell you, sir, McAlpine seems to be holding up rather well, considering the circumstances. It can’t be easy being an innocent man called out for pederasty on national television.” Oliver was pontificating in the heat of 10 Downing Street.

“He was innocent?” Cameron asked.

“So it seems, sir.”

“And him, a baron…I need a holiday until this whole nasty business blows over. What was that place in the far east, again, Oliver? Afghanistan, was it?”

“Saudi Arabia, sir.”
“Yes, yes, South Africa. Charter me a private flight for tomorrow morning and I’ll hobnob with the royals over there. They do have royals, Oliver?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Jolly good. Just do not let the press get wind of this – I’m getting most irritated by their constant cries of ‘questionable human rights record’ this, or ‘unethical business dealings’ that.”

“Yes, sir, well, there’ll be none of that nonsense in Saudi Arabia, I’m sure of that.”

Oliver put his arm around Cameron and led him out of the office, past the set scowls of his predecessors, forever encased in paint upon the wall, past the bustle of the party people and the civil servants, attempting to deflect the controversy that was moving up the ranks of establishment so rapidly, past Gideon and past Philip Hammond, and past the iconic front door and into the grip of the anonymously high-end black Jaguar.

“Oliver,” David chuckled, patting him on the back as he followed him into the back seat, “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

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