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They searched. No trace. Frost peeped out of the back window. ‘There’s a shed in the garden, Arthur. See if she’s in there.’

Frost was beginning to feel despondent. He had been banking on finding Jan O’Brien in Janet Leigh’s house. Hanlon came back, shaking his head.

‘She’s not there, Jack. There’s no sign she’s ever been here. Let’s get the hell out of here.’

‘Don’t let’s waste a flaming golden opportunity Arthur. Do a more thorough search. See if we can find the video camera and the tapes or anything to tie her to the murders.’

They went round each room methodically, looking everywhere where tapes could be hidden. There was a sideboard in the dining room which looked promising.

‘Quick, Arthur. You look in the cupboards, I’ll go through the drawers.’ They found nothing.

The pantry. Nothing.

The airing cupboard. Nothing.

The bath was free-standing without panels, so no hiding place there.

Frost flashed his torch to the landing ceiling. No trapdoor to a loft.

‘The bedroom, Arthur. Our last hope – don’t trip over the po.’

Frost went through the dressing-table drawers while Hanlon poked about in the wardrobe.


‘Shit!’ cursed Frost.

He nearly missed the A4 manila envelope in the drawer of the bedside cabinet. He wasn’t interested in it – he was looking for videotapes – but something made him look inside.

He whistled softly.

‘Bloody hell, Arthur. We’ve got them.’ It wasn’t the tape. It was two colour photographs of Debbie Clark, bound, gagged and naked.

He pushed the photos back in their envelope and sighed with relief. ‘We’ve got the bastards, Arthur.’

‘But without a search warrant, Jack.’ Frost carefully put the envelope back in the drawer where he’d found it. ‘Then we’ll get one. Morgan can stay outside and arrest them if they come back. We’re going back to the nick to make out a search warrant, then I’m dragging old Miller out of her pit and getting her to sign it.’

They were halfway back to the station when a wailing siren made them pull over to one side to allow a fire engine to go roaring past.

‘Off to get some chips,’ grunted Frost, but then he saw a red glow cutting through the night sky way over to the north of Denton. He nudged Hanlon and pointed. ‘Look over there, Arthur – a fire, and a bloody big one.’

His radio crackled. ‘Control to Inspector Frost.’

He clicked on the mike. ‘Frost.’

‘999 call, Inspector. House fire.’

‘We can see it from here. Where is it?’

‘Dunn Street, Inspector. Number 23.’

Frost frowned, and then he jerked back in his seat. ‘Twenty-three Dunn Street. Kelly’s house!’

‘Yes, Inspector. The fire brigade have recovered two bodies. They suspect arson.’

‘We’re on our way,’ said Frost, screeching the car into a U-turn.

There were fire engines and police cars with flashing blue lights, which gave a macabre tinge to the cluster of dressing-gowned figures woken by the noise who had come out to gawp. Most of the lights in the street were on and a uniformed officer was trying to keep the onlookers back.

A traffic policeman flagged Frost’s car down. ‘Sorry sir, you can’t – ’ he began, before recognising the inspector and waving him through to park behind an ambulance, its rear doors wide open.

The chief fire officer spotted Frost and hurried over. ‘Definitely arson, Inspector. Petrol doused everywhere.’ He looked across to his men. One team was rolling up their hoses, the other was spraying water as small pockets of flame re-ignited. ‘We’ve got the fire under control, but there’s not much left of the house.’

‘You found bodies?’ Frost asked.

The fireman nodded. ‘A man and a woman… burnt to buggery The ambulance crew are taking them to the morgue now.’

Two ambulance men were humping a body bag on to a stretcher. ‘Hold it a minute,’ called Frost, hurrying over. They put down the stretcher and waited.

Frost knelt and unzipped the black body bag, turning his head at the smell of burnt flesh that seeped out. The face was twisted, distorted, blackened, the hair burnt off, but there was no doubt about the identification. It was Bridget Malone. He pulled the zip down further. The body was clad in the charred remains of a dress. Frost stared down, shook his head, then straightened up. ‘Let’s have a look at the other one.’

One side of Patsy Kelly’s face had missed the flames, but the other was burnt away, showing blackened jaw and cheekbone. He was dressed in a charred jacket and trousers. ‘Has a police surgeon seen the bodies?’

‘Yes, Inspector,’ said the ambulance man. ‘He didn’t stop long. Said to tell you that they’re dead and could have been burnt in the fire and if you wanted to know more…’

‘… ask that bastard Drysdale,’ said Frost, finishing the sentence for him.

‘You’re a mind-reader, Inspector,’ grinned the ambulance man. Frost stepped back and told them to carry on, then returned to the chief fire officer.

‘What time did the fire start?’

‘About an hour ago. We got a phone call from a neighbour about fifteen minutes later. It was well alight by the time we arrived and we were here within minutes.’

Frost checked his watch. ‘So it would have started around two o’clock. They’re fully dressed – bloody late to be fully dressed and not in bed. And if they were fully dressed, how come they didn’t raise the alarm themselves and get out of the place?’ A slamming of doors made him turn his head to watch the ambulance back out and drive off to Denton General.

His mobile chirped. Taffy Morgan.

‘Allen and the woman have just returned, Inspector. We’ve arrested them, like you said. They’re yelling blue murder. They want to pick up some things from the house.’

‘Don’t let them in the house,’ warned Frost.

‘Cuff them, bung them in your car and wait for me. Don’t take them to the station yet.’

They were halfway there when Morgan phoned again. ‘The woman’s demanding to use the bathroom in the house, Inspector. Says she’s busting for a pee.’

‘She can pee all over your car seat if she likes,’ replied Frost, ‘but don’t let her into the house.’ He knew what she was after. The cow wanted to destroy those photos and flush them down the loo. Well, hard luck, darling, it’s not going to happen.

‘What is this all about, Inspector?’ asked Allen. ‘I bring my ladyfriend back to her house and that Welshman arrests us and handcuffs us and tries to make out we killed those kids.’

‘And I really must go to the toilet, Inspector,’ said Janet Leigh. ‘It is urgent and this is intolerable.’

Frost gave a deceptively sweet smile. ‘We’re going to nip you down to the station in a minute, love, where you can pee to your heart’s content. In the meantime we’ll be getting search warrants for both your houses, and if we don’t find photographs and videos tying you both to the murder of Debbie Clark, I’ll apologise before you’ve had a chance to pull the chain.’ He stopped abruptly and sniffed, then pressed his nose to Allen’s jacket. ‘Fee, fi, fo, flaming fum!’ He beckoned Hanlon over. ‘Take a sniff at the gent’s jacket, Arthur, and see if you can smell what I can smell.’

Hanlon took a tentative sniff. He frowned. ‘Petrol?’

Frost turned back to Allen. ‘We’ve just come from a house fire with two dead bodies. The place stunk of petrol.’

Allen gave a scoffing laugh. ‘You’re surely not suggesting we had anything to do with it?’

‘Then tell me why your clothes reek of petrol.’

‘I filled the car up when we were out. I spilt some on my coat.’

‘I knew there must be a reasonable explanation,’ beamed Frost. ‘Show me the petrol receipt, so I can apologise for my evil thoughts.’

‘I don’t keep receipts. I threw it away.’

‘Ah well, it will be on your credit-card statement.’