Friday: 8:00 am

Detective Chief Inspector William Slade, stood over the body and stroked his chin. The detective was known as “Bill” to his friends and colleagues, although to the London underworld, he was “Billy Boy.”

Bill’s ID stated that he was six feet tall, 79 kilos. and 43 years old, although whenever he was weighed and measured at his annual physical, he was recorded as 5 feet 11 and a half. Much to his annoyance, however much he stretched his neck he could never hit the six feet marker. He complained that the doctor’s equipment was not being maintained correctly. The scales also showed him to be closer to 84 kilos, and he did admit that he needed to lose a few pounds from his waist.

He had recently become aware that he had reached middle age. The first sign was the need of eye glasses for reading, the second was that the hair above his ears was turning grey. He thought about hair coloring, but knew he didn’t have the patience to keep it up.

Bill loved coffee and he was now was dying for a cup. The call about the murder came in at his office in Scotland Yard at 7:58 am, just as he was about to tackle his first cup of the day. He didn’t get to take a sip, and now he was at an Italian bistro enveloped in the tantalizing odors of freshly brewed Columbian.

“Okay, Mr. Bartelli, the first thing I want to do is to sample the same kind of coffee the deceased was drinking before he got killed and one of those croissants would be nice, if you don’t mind,” said Bill with a smile on his face.

“They not croissants. They cornettos. And he drink cappuccino…okay,” said the bistro owner.

Vincenzo Bartelli had opened his bistro near the fashionable Kings Road, Chelsea, five years earlier. He had carefully chosen the site, aiming at an affluent market. The residential area, set away from the crowded shopping street, was one of London’s most sought-after districts in which to live, and therefore one of the most expensive. Not many ordinary people lived there. The artists and bohemians, who had originally made Chelsea popular, had long ago been forced out by ever rising prices. The area was now populated by the nouveau riche; high-powered company directors, politicians and financiers with a sprinkling of actors, successful writers, musicians and over-paid professional footballers. A glance at the rows of parked cars, which included Rolls Royces, Ferraris and Lamborghinis, among the more common Mercedes and BMWs indicated the wealth of Chelsea’s residents.

Bartelli had carefully designed his menu to suit his exclusive customers. Unlike most of his bistro-owning Italian compatriots, he offered a huge selection of coffee. He had a range of more than twenty fresh coffee blends from all parts of the world, and his speciality breakfast patisserie was freshly made every morning. He wanted only the classiest of customers, and he didn’t need a doorman to prevent commoners from entering. The prices on the menu, prominently displayed at the front door, were enough to deter anyone other than his target customers — the very wealthy!

His Bistro was always packed from the moment it opened to the moment it closed. Every day there would be celebrities passing through, in addition to the regular customers. It was the current place to be seen, and he wanted to make the most of it before his fickle customers found the next “in” place to frequent. Not surprisingly, his world fell apart when the body was found. He blasphemed in Italian. Why could anyone have done a thing like this to him, if you want to kill someone then go and kill them some other place, he said to himself. He was ruined. None of his customers would ever return.

One of Bartelli’s waiters rang 999 as soon as the body was discovered. When Bill arrived at the bistro, his sergeant was already at the scene, talking to two local constables. Chelsea Police station was just around the corner, so it only took a few minutes for them to arrive. He acknowledged the Chelsea constables with a brief nod of his head. He then turned to his sergeant and said “How did you get here so quickly, Hawkins?”

“Heard about it on the radio, on my way to work, and came straight over,” said Detective Sergeant Hawkins.

By this time, many of the customers had fled the bistro, but some of the curious waited to see what was going on. Maybe they’d get to see a dead body. Some people have a morbid curiosity.

Bill’s experienced eyes surveyed the fancily decorated “rest room.” Nothing unusual jumped out at him, except, of course, a bloody body slumped on the toilet. He asked Sargent Hawkins why the forensic team had not yet arrived. “Traffic” was the answer.

”Hawkins, get everyone out, who wasn’t here when we arrived. I only saw those three over there when we got here. I want them to give you a description of all the people they saw here this morning, and any other details of people coming and going, especially if they saw the victim going to the gents and anyone else who went in there. And leave everything just as it is on the tables. Well, you know the routine, so get on with it. ....and put WPC Jones on the door to make sure we don’t have any more people drifting in and out.”

Bartelli, a little calmer, was waiting in his tiny office to be interviewed. Bill drained the last dregs of his cappuccino before beginning the interview. ”I know this is distressing for you, sir, but the sooner we close this case, the better it will be for all of us.”

Bartelli’s elbows were on his desk and his face covered by his long, slender fingers. He let out a long sigh before slowly looking up, indicating that he was ready to answer some questions.

”Did you know the deceased, sir? Asked Bill.“

”Yes, he come here every morning, same time and stay about twenty minutes before leaving to work. A taxi pick him up every morning half-past seven.”

”Do you know his name?”

”Yes, I know him as Nick. Not know last name.”

”This morning, did you notice anything different?”

”No, inspector, he came in usual time, ordered the same — cappuccino and cornetto, and after went to rest room for cigarette. We not allow smoking anywhere in bistro. But you say.... turn our blind eyes for smoking in rest rooms.”

”I see,” said Bill as he wrote in his little book. “Did anyone follow him into the rest room?”

”No, I’m sure. People going to rest room must pass in front of the counter and I always behind the counter for morning rush time.”

”Well, did anyone go to the rest room just before him?” Asked Bill.

”No, Inspector, I didn’t see anyone.”

“Who found the body?”

“One of the nancy boys complain to me. He say he needed to pee. Somebody in there fifteen minutes. I bang on door, but nobody open. I think something wrong so I force open door and see Mr. Nick — dead!”

Bill continued questioning the now sobbing Bartelli, but nothing useful came to light so he left the rest of the routine work to his team who would report back to him later in the day.

It was obviously a homicide and he needed to see statements from the staff and customers, the fingerprint analysis, and whatever else the forensic team had picked up from the body or in the restaurant. He’d also ordered all tapes from the street CCTV cameras which were omnipresent in London.

The victim was identified by documents found in his brief case. According to his business card he was Nicholas W. Styles and was a solicitor at Goldstone, Markowitz and Burr on Charing Cross Road. No wallet was found on the body, and he wore no watch or other jewelry. Bill could see that he had a long day ahead of him.

Detective Sergeant Hawkins had taken charge of the crime scene while his boss was interviewing Bartelli. ”Listen up, everybody, I want everyone who came into the bistro after we arrived to go to that side, and those who were here when we arrived to stay on this side,” said Hawkins. Three young men, including the one with the weak bladder, stayed where they were, as did a well-dressed elderly woman who continued to read her book, as if she were unaware of what was happening around her. Everyone else shuffled over to the other side.

”Now, you lot can leave, but give your names and phone numbers to WPC Jones on your way out, in case we need to contact you.”

Hawkins looked at the three young men and the older woman and said, “You four, stay where you are. Inspector Slade will be speaking to you individually.

The three young men looked at each other and seemed excited about being involved. The old woman continued to read her book. There was a murmur of disappointment from the crowd as they filed out. It was getting interesting, the forensic team had arrived and the team members who didn’t go into the gents, were packing up every single thing on the bistro’s tables including the fancy blue and white plates with half eaten pastries and cups containing coffee dregs. A photographer was busy photographing everything before it was packed away.

8 thoughts on “Chapter 2”

  1. Saturday, 25 September 2021 06:13

    Since this takes place in the UK you might want to put his weight in kg (more recently), or stones and lbs (older).  Using lbs is more usual for the US.  I guess it depends on who you see your main market as.

    1. Sunday, 26 September 2021 09:13

      Good point, Jeff. Changed to kilos.

  2. Monday, 07 February 2022 20:48

    10th paragraph or so "you get" here so quickly twice instead of once


  3. Monday, 07 February 2022 21:17

    Thanks, Lawrence — corrected.

  4. Tuesday, 08 February 2022 18:52


    Intrigue continues as do I ….

  5. Tuesday, 08 February 2022 20:24
    The deceased is definitely a solicitor.

    Enjoying it!
  6. Wednesday, 09 February 2022 08:39

    Thanks, Pinki — changed "lawyer" to "solicitor" again.

  7. Thursday, 10 February 2022 12:06

    10th paragraph or so “How did you get you so quickly, Hawkins?” should be "How did you get here so quickly, Hawkins?"