Dead Man's Wharf - By Pauline Rowson


Monday 5 January

'Has Mr Jackson received death threats before?' Inspector Horton tried to contain the anger in his voice. Usually he took such matters seriously, but not this time.

'No, Inspector, and neither has Nick.' The woman opposite him dropped her eyes as soon as they connected with Horton's. Was that from guilt, he wondered, at wasting police time?

She was perched nervously on the large leather chair opposite him. The woman dressed from head to toe in black looked more like a nun without the wimple than a television director to Horton. But then he guessed his views of directors were coloured by newspaper and magazine articles where they were usually men of presence and power. Wrecks Around Britain, though, was hardly Titantic and Perry Jackson wasn't exactly Leonardo DiCaprio. Not that Horton had met Jackson yet as Corinna Denton had waylaid him and Sergeant Cantelli the moment they had entered the plush reception of the Queen's Hotel on the Southsea seafront.

On their way there, Sergeant Barney Cantelli had told him that the programme always contained an element of danger, which had convinced Horton that the anonymous threatening telephone calls were a publicity stunt designed to attract media coverage. He had bet Cantelli a month of free canteen lunches they were.

'Television personalities do get stalked, you know, Andy,' Cantelli had replied. 'There are some seriously weird people out there.'

'I know, I've met them.'

'Then why so sure these calls are fakes?'

'Let's just say I can feel it in my gut.'

Did he? Or was he simply angry that he'd been ordered here by his boss, DCI Lorraine Bliss, because of the status of Perry Jackson and his television partner, Nicholas Farnsworth. Horton had never heard of either of them, but that was hardly surprising when he didn't own a television on the boat where he lived.

'Where is Mr Jackson now?' he asked Corinna Denton.

'Having breakfast with Nick.'

The threats obviously hadn't affected his appetite then! Horton had missed breakfast. Not that he could have eaten a thing anyway. Since he had decided, in the middle of the night, to meet Emma at Heathrow Airport earlier that morning, food had become of periphery interest.

His mind slewed back to the arrivals lounge and Catherine's incensed expression as their eight-year-old daughter had run into his arms. He had promised Emma that she could stay with him on the boat. She was overjoyed. Catherine was outraged. A state she seemed to be permanently in regarding matters relating to him gaining access to Emma. He didn't know why. He guessed that Catherine was already on to her solicitor complaining. Well, let her.

He brought his attention sharply back to the matter in hand. The sooner he got this out of the way, the quicker he could return to the station and get on with solving real crimes.

'Where are your film crew?'

'Jason, our camera and sound man, is probably still in bed.'

Horton noted the slight shift in her tone that told him she didn't approve of this. Or perhaps she didn't approve of Jason.

'We work on a very tight budget, Inspector. If we need any extra lighting or cameras then we hire it in wherever we're shooting. We're only here for a few days, doing some external shots, meeting with the diving contractors, working out a schedule. And Perry's doing some additional research. He's writing a book.' Corinna said it as if it was the only book in the world, and maybe it was to her and Mr Jackson. 'The dive is being filmed in May,' she added, running a hand through her short dark hair. 'We'll call up anyone else we need then.'

So why the anonymous calls now if this was a publicity stunt? Surely it would have been better to have staged them when the programme was being filmed. But because Horton was a cynical copper, he asked, 'Are they showing the programme on television now?'

There was a slight hesitation and lowering of eyes before she answered. 'I think they're repeating the Diving off Devon series.'

You think! You bloody know. And the media attention this stunt would attract would draw in additional viewers. Not bothering to hide his contempt, he said, 'Have you mentioned these calls to the press?'

She looked surprised. 'Of course not. Perry didn't even want me to phone you. I wouldn't have bothered, only Nick insisted. If it had been just the one call, but three—'

'I'd like to speak to Mr Jackson.'

'I'll call him.'

'He's having breakfast, you said.'

Before she could stop him, Horton was marching across the