Dinner in the canteen at the prison was as unpalatable as it had been in the cell. Benton had picked up his tray and quietly made his way over to an empty table in the far corner of the room, feeling the eyes of his fellow prisoners following him as walked. He was tempted to turn his back on them while he ate but felt it would be safer to face the room, so he sat down with his back to the wall and tried to appear unconcerned. The meal passed largely in silence, with a few remarks exchanged between some of the prisoners, the presence of a number of warders discouraging unguarded chatter. Benton glancing up, caught sight of Sims, who was at a table with Baxter and his cronies. Seeing Sims gesture in his direction, Benton lowered his eyes quickly. He felt as if he was at school again, being sized up by the bigger boys to see if it was worth their while trying to nick his lunch money. Another bell signaled the end of meal time and, with some grumbling and shoving, the prisoners got to their feet, carried their trays to racks that stood by the door and then filed off back to their cells. Talking wasn’t permitted when moving between the cells and the dining room, but Sims, who had caught up with Benton on their way out, nodded emphatically and put a finger to his lips, suggesting that he had important information to share as soon he could do so. Once they had reached the cell, Benton took up what had become his usual seat on the edge of his bunk, while Sims looked quickly up and down the corridor, then pulled his chair closer to the bunks and leaned forward. In a low voice he said:
“I’ve had a word with Captain Baxter. He wants to see you tomorrow. I think he might want you in the group.”
Sims sat back, looking pleased and excited. Benton, who knew quite well what he meant, decided to show a bit of caution.
“Who is he? What would I have to do?”
“He, well, he’s the sort of person you’d want to have on your side. He’s going to get out of here, soon and he’s got a big payday lined up, but they need another man who can handle a bit of action, after, well…”
“Well, one of the other blokes...look I’d best not say too much. It’s your choice, but once you’re in, you’re in. Captain Baxter will do right by you if you’re loyal, but he’s not a man you want to cross.”
Benton looked down, seemingly weighing up his options, then sighed.
“Ok, I’ll give it a try. When do I go and see him?”
Sims smiled and clapped Benton on the shoulder.
“Good man! We’ll meet up tomorrow morning after breakfast, there isn’t time now before lock up.”
“Right…” Benton appeared lost in thought once again, then asked, “can we call people? I know we don’t get visits straight away but I’d really like to talk to my sister, she worries, you know? I won’t tell her anything I shouldn’t, I just…”
“Oh, that’s alright mate, we’ve all been there,” replied Sims, “didn’t Fulton tell you when he showed you round?”
“If he did, I’ve forgotten.”
“Probably forgot to tell you himself, he’s all swagger and no trousers that one. There’s a payphone near the library, you get one call a week given you and the rest you have to pay for. I’ll show you tomorrow after we’ve seen the Captain.”
Benton’s shoulders sagged,
“Thanks mate,” he said, sounding relieved.
“Don’t mention it. Oh” as the bell for lock up sounded. “they’ll be along to shut the doors in a minute, so we’d better stop talking about it now.” Sims patted Benton’s shoulder again, then picked up a book from the desk and swung himself up onto his bunk. Benton, taking the hint, tried to recline comfortably on his and opened Where Eagles Dare. A moment later, one of the warders looked in and, seeing them apparently reading quietly, grinned and slammed the cell door.
“Git,” remarked Sims.
Benton grunted in agreement as the electronic lock engaged with a clanking noise to shut them in for the night. Sims, having said his piece earlier, remained silent for the rest of the time between lock up and lights out, which suited Benton fine. He read steadily, trying to put what might happen the next day out of his mind and rest. When the lights went out, Sims said “Sleep well, lad,” and Benton replied, “you too,” but that was all that was said. With one last clank, the lights went out and there was darkness and silence in the cell.
Having served himself and Iolanthe with fish and chips and opened the beer, the Brigadier opened the autopsy file and spread out the contents on what remained of the surface of his desk. He and Iolanthe then looked at the evidence together, trying not to get greasy fingermarks on the photographs. Iolanthe explained that she had felt there was something missing, something that should have been present that wasn’t.
“Humph,” grunted the Brigadier, “Well, there isn’t much in a prison cell to start with.”
“No, and that’s why I thought...”
she looked down at the photograph of Webster’s personal effects, his pyjamas, uniform, washbag with flannel, soap, safety razor… suddenly light dawned.
“Where’s his toothbrush?”
“There’s no toothbrush here, or toothpaste.”
The Brigadier looked at the photograph.
“No, you’re quite right. I suppose he might have used up the toothpaste and thrown the tube away.”
“But the brush at the same time?” Iolanthe pulled out the written report. “It says here that traces of the drug were found on his tongue and gums. I bet that’s how it got in to him. Someone put it in the toothpaste and then when he brushed his teeth that evening … they wouldn’t need to be there because they’d already committed the crime!”
The Brigadier frowned.
“Are you suggesting the sabotage was done by a prisoner or a member of the staff?”
“I’m not sure. Whoever it was would need access to the drug and a syringe? I think it must have been injected into the tube.”
“I agree. And then the evidence needed to be disposed of. Who found the body?”
Iolanthe consulted the report from the scene.
“One of the warders. A man named Hooper.”
“Ah, that’s interesting. I haven’t told you yet, but Miss Hawthorne called to say that she had overheard a conversation between a warder and the prison medic that suggested that they are involved in the escape plot. If that’s the case, they could also be connected to the murder of Webster.”
“I see. Yes, that makes sense. The doctor could have supplied the drug and Hooper could have contaminated the toothpaste and then taken the evidence away with him when he ‘found’ the body… unless someone else did the toothpaste…”
“Who was Webster’s cellmate, the one he had the fight with?”
Ioanthe looked back at the report.
“A man named Sims. It says here that Webster claimed that Sims had started the fight and that he had no idea why, but, as Webster had previously been involved in fights before and was a known associate of Baxter, and Sims is a trusted prisoner the staff assumed Webster was lying and removed him to solitary confinement.”
“Sims is a trusty, eh? Does it say where he works?”
“No. We’d need to find that out. Could he work in the Infirmary?”
“It’s a possibility, of course if he did he wouldn’t usually have access to drugs but if the doctor is involved in Baxter’s scheming..?”
“He could have given the drugs to Sims, who contaminated Webster’s toothpaste, then started the fight to get Webster isolated, so he’d be alone when he died, because he wouldn’t have used the toothpaste until just before lights out.”
“And then Hooper, I think we can assume that the warder who Miss Hawthorne overheard was Hooper, makes sure that he is the one who finds the body and scoops up the evidence before anyone else gets to the scene.” The Brigadier looked at Iolanthe, his eyes alight.
“I believe we’ve got it Miss Grosvenor,” His face became serious again, “but as we have to let the escape take place for the gang to lead us to the guns, we can’t take any steps to pursue the perpetrators yet. However, what Miss Hawthorne heard suggests that we won’t need to wait much longer for that. I wish we could get in touch with Benton, but we can’t risk his cover by flouting the visiting rules.” The Brigadier leaned forward and rested his chin on his hands. “We’ll have to wait until the day after tomorrow for Miss Hawthorne to get back in the library, unless he manages to make contact in the meantime. Now, tell me, did you get anywhere with the gang’s personal data?”
“Not very far, I’m afraid, I’m hoping for more information from Records tomorrow, and I’ve requested the staff records, so I hope I can find some connections there.”
“Mm. I’ll see what I can do about speeding those up, said the Brigadier, making a note.
“Thank you, Sir. About Sims, he isn’t in the list of Baxter’s original gang.”
“No. It looks as if he has been recruited by Baxter while in prison, I’d say he was certainly capable of attracting followers, he seems to be a charismatic sort of chap.”
Despite the seriousness of the situation, Iolanthe felt a sudden urge to laugh at the Brigadier’s tone, he clearly distrusted charisma. Keeping a straight face, she replied,
“Yes, all the reports suggest that. That was what made me wonder if he might be the hypnotist, but I can’t see anything in his record to suggest it. We might need to leave that aside for the time being anyway and concentrate on the escape and finding the guns.”
“Yes, the members of the gang who gave evidence, and who, by the way are in other prisons and who have escaped Baxter’s vengeance for the time being, confirmed his involvement. It would be satisfying to prove how he did it, but, for the time being, the location of the weapons and tracking the escape are our main concerns.”
“However,” said the Brigadier, getting up from his chair, “my immediate concern is making sure that all the members of my team get home safely. Come along, it’s too late to be thinking about buses, I’ll run you back in my car.”
Iolanthe smiled with weary gratitude and followed her commanding officer to the car park.