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A Good Girl's Guide to Murder

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The case is closed. Five years ago, schoolgirl Andie Bell was murdered by Sal Singh. The police know he did it. Everyone in town knows he did it.

But having grown up in the same small town that was consumed by the murder, Pippa Fitz-Amobi isn't so sure. When she chooses the case as the topic for her final year project, she starts to uncover secrets that someone in town desperately wants to stay hidden. And if the real killer is still out there, how far will they go to keep Pip from the truth?
Year:
2019
Language:
english
ISBN:
bcc20f38-494b-43fa-ac24-b170442d63f3
File:
EPUB, 1.07 MB
Download (epub, 1.07 MB)

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21 comments
 
BurntBacon
A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder is a BRILLIANT young adult whodunit mystery thriller about a senior year student, Pippa Fitz Amobi, who decides to ‘re-investigate’ a closed murder case that took place five years prior for her final Capstone Project. I want to stress that the audiobook is absolutely spectacular. It’s narrated full casts complete with cool background music and other accompanying sounds.
09 September 2020 (11:03) 
A
this book sucks you in completely. when i read it, i was unaware of anything happening in my surroundings; all my attention was focused entirely on the words in this book. all i could hear was the voices of the characters in my head and the suspense holly jackson had created. it left me yearning for more.
10/10, a spectacular read, would recommend to all- full-fledged readers as well as people who dont read that much.
24 March 2021 (18:02) 
Madeline Wellham
BEST BOOK EVER!!!
Couldn't put it down. Started 6pm Friday... Finished 11am Saturday!!
28 March 2021 (18:00) 
Amity
Was so excited to read it only to see that I can't open the file.
27 May 2021 (00:09) 
mary
You can write a book review and share your experiences. Other readers will always be interested in your opinion of the books you've read. Whether you've loved the book or not, if you give your honest and detailed thoughts then people will find new books that are right for them.
03 June 2021 (01:44) 
A
This is such a good book, omg. You just cant put it down
05 June 2021 (22:53) 
Cara Solwyn
this book is literally the best. I read the sequel and I can't wait for the last book in the trilogy that's coming out this September!
08 June 2021 (21:53) 
Alexis
How do you open the book?
20 June 2021 (11:49) 
Asmyn Evelyn
I love the book! It is absolutely amazing and the quality of the epub and the download was so easy and efficient. I also loved the sequel and I am so excited for the third book.
22 June 2021 (08:59) 
Apuu
You can open the book if you have downloaded it with epub through epub reader
25 June 2021 (10:07) 
Hannah Frasier
How do I read da book??
23 July 2021 (01:07) 
lousey
you can't read the book by just having a copy here, personally i "Moon + Reader" its an app and you can import your books there
24 July 2021 (07:25) 
teara
To those who aren't able to download the book, you can convert it into a pdf file (by clicking on the arrow next to the download button and selecting the pdf option).
28 July 2021 (10:09) 
jujaikim
THIS WAS SO ADDICTING! I seriously read this in one-sitting, completely unaware of what’s going on with the world. Truly chef’s kiss! I love murder-mystery books and this one is a good read if you like that genre too. 4/5 for me ⭐️
29 July 2021 (06:45) 
OSOK
So guys, Im gonna help you understand if this book is for you or not. This book was more like an extremely suspense movie for me, it was very helpful in terms of visualising. This book has a near perfect blend of comedy,mischief,teen drama and a good amount of murder mystery. If you really like these genre´s, I urge you to read this book. This book also has a lot of hands on like touches, such as transcripts of the interview and Pip(the protagonists) thought. It was carefully mapped out and one of the best murder mysteries I have ever read. To me, this book deserves a 5/5. However, this book has casual swearing so just be careful about that. Not that anyone probably cares. Kudos to the author for making such a brilliant masterpiece.
04 August 2021 (02:26) 
Geisel_Morren
I loved this book. Its very hard to explain how the book made me feel. It captured suspense and dramatic criminal justice type vibes. It really is a well written book. and i cant say how much it had me captured in its spine of pages. I hope you book worms out there can feel the same way about this book that I felt. 10 out of 10.
09 August 2021 (22:56) 
Annapoorni T.S
A Good Girl's Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson.
Brilliantly formatted.
A GCSE school girl investigates a past murder in the town, as a school project. The book is formatted in a narrative technique, interspersed with interview log reports written by the girl.
It's truly like a school project, with visual organisers etc.
As a teacher, I paid special attention to this. Pippa is obviously an A grade student.I give kudos to her methodology of reporting. She is diligent about logging her interviews with care, adding her observations in the end.
At some point, she creates a visual organiser, of a timeline and spaceline of the events abd characters leading to the murder...This I especially, appreciate. I know the power of visual representation. The picture just stays in your mind and can be retrieved
11 August 2021 (16:45) 
Jenluisa
I'm so excited to read it omg
13 August 2021 (22:53) 
Shubhangi Ojha
LOVE IT.......SO BEAUTIFULLY WRITTEN
14 August 2021 (18:42) 
abi ~ closed a case for an epq w/ ravi and pippa
THIS BOOK IS SO GOOD I LOVEEE

OKAYYY I love mystery, murder, crime, theories, detective, work and all that shiz and this book is all about that so i freaking love it.

the plot is amazing and so hooking. i never get bored while reading it, and it keeps me wanting moreeee. along the way i really engage, come up with crazy theories, and use what’s remaining of my brain cells to put things together with all the evidence and info they gather. it’s like im solving the case with them and i’m so thrilled on what’s gonna happen next and how the story’s gonna unravel.

also like the writing, nothing too wordy or lengthy that makes me tired and extra love for short chapters!! though i was able to guess right from time to time, i can’t say that this book is obvious and unexpected. especially with the ending, i never thought it was gonna be like that and the element of surprise was there, i had an ohhh moment and also like what the hell.

love the plot cause it’s so so good aaaa plus the characters to !!

duh of course pippa is the nerdy preppy academic achiever who’s so smart i love her. partnered with ravi my loveee. this duo is so good and i like that there’s not really much romance but their relationship is bombbb cause even if they’re partnership started as detectives to solve the case, u can see how they grew as friends and prioritized the safety of e/o. how they just care is so cute aaa i love !!

also with the other characs. one was really so mysterious, has so many layers, and you couldn’t really figure it out. she a real puzzle to solve so that’s really nice cause she’s the center piece of all these.

the suspects were also well written too cause they all were so sus and you really understand why they are candidates and idk they just seem so fishy cause all of them has multiple weird things going on that resurface as the story goes on. i couldn’t really figure out who the hell killed her cause there wer so many leads and like i couldn’t take them off the list cause they sus. and kinda annoying too haha lolz.

wouldn’t go much in depth about all the suspects cause that’s too much work but all i can say was that i couldn’t really point my hand on who the killer was and until the reveal i had no clue whatsoever. they were all very suspicious.

anyway, i think the ending was quite nice and reasonable too i guess. it wasn’t so far fetched just to be shocking and like there were already underlying hints that point out to it so that’s really nice. i didn’t guess those stuff but i enjoyed the book from the start to the end. it was a satisfying closure and i think author made a good job tying all the loose threads and wrapping up the whole case.

reading this was an adventure, a detective work with pip and ravi. it was lovely and i had my fun.

until our next case - or epq project - , abi.
25 August 2021 (19:18) 
Bhumi
Love it!!! It's so good.
14 September 2021 (17:16) 

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First published in Great Britain in 2019

by Electric Monkey, an imprint of Egmont UK Limited

The Yellow Building, 1 Nicholas Road, London W11 4AN

Text copyright © 2019 Holly Jackson

The moral rights of the author have been asserted

First e-book edition 2019

ISBN 978 1 4052 9318 1

Ebook ISBN 978 1 4052 9384 6

www.egmont.co.uk

A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

Stay safe online. Any website addresses listed in this book are correct at the time of going to print. However, Egmont is not responsible for content hosted by third parties. Please be aware that online content can be subject to change and websites can contain content that is unsuitable for children. We advise that all children are supervised when using the internet.

Egmont takes its responsibility to the planet and its inhabitants very seriously. We aim to use papers from well-managed forests run by responsible suppliers.





To Mum and Dad,

this first one is for you.





Contents

Cover

Title page

Copyright

Dedication

Part I

One

Production Log – Entry 1

Transcript of interview with Angela Johnson from the Missing Persons Bureau

Two

Production Log – Entry 2

Three

Production Log – Entry 3

Transcript of interview with Stanley Forbes from the Kilton Mail newspaper

Four

Production Log – Entry 4

Transcript of interview with Ravi Singh

Production Log – Entry 5

Five

Production Log – Entry 7

Transcript of interview with Max Hastings

Six

Production Log – Entry 8

Transcript of interview with Elliot Ward

Seven

Eight

Nine

Production Log – Entry 11

Transcript of interview with Chloe Burch

Ten

Eleven

Part II

Twelve

Production Log – Entry 13

Transcript of second interview with Emma Hutton

Thirteen

Production Log – Entry 15

Transcript of second interview w; ith Naomi Ward

Fourteen

Production Log – Entry 17

Production Log – Entry 18

Fifteen

Production Log – Entry 19

Production Log – Entry 20

Transcript of interview with Jess Walker (Becca Bell’s friend)

Sixteen

Seventeen

Eighteen

Production Log – Entry 22

Nineteen

Twenty

Production Log – Entry 23

Twenty-One

Production Log – Entry 24

Twenty-Two

Twenty-Three

Production Log – Entry 25

Production Log – Entry 26

Twenty-Four

Production Log – Entry 27

Production Log – Entry 28

Production Log – Entry 29

Twenty-Five

Twenty-Six

Twenty-Seven

Twenty-Eight

Part III

Production Log – Entry 31

Twenty-Nine

Thirty

Production Log – Entry 33

Thirty-One

Production Log – Entry 34

Thirty-Two

Thirty-Three

Thirty-Four

Thirty-Five

Thirty-Six

Thirty-Seven

Thirty-Eight

Thirty-Nine

Forty

Forty-One

Forty-Two

Forty-Three

Forty-Four

Forty-Five

Forty-Six

Forty-Seven

Forty-Eight

Forty-Nine

The Months Later

Acknowledgements

Endnotes

About the Author





One

Pip knew where they lived.

Everyone in Little Kilton knew where they lived.

Their home was like the town’s own haunted house; people’s footsteps quickened as they walked by and their words strangled and died in their throats. Shrieking children would gather on their walk home from school, daring one another to run up and touch the front gate.

But it wasn’t haunted by ghosts, just three sad people trying to live their lives as before. A house not haunted by flickering lights or spectral falling chairs, but by dark spray-painted letters of Scum Family and stone-shattered windows.

Pip had always wondered why they didn’t move. Not that they had to; they hadn’t done anything wrong. But she didn’t know how they lived like that.

Pip knew a great many things; she knew that hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia was the technical term for the fear of long words, she knew that babies were born without kneecaps, she knew verbatim the best quotes from Plato and Cato, and that there were more than four thousand types of potato. But she didn’t know how the Singhs found the strength to stay here. Here, in Kilton, under the weight of so many widened eyes, of the comments whispered just loud enough to be heard, of neighbourly small talk never stretching into long talk any more.

It was a particular cruelty that their house was so close to Little Kilton Grammar School, where both Andie Bell and Sal Singh had gone, where Pip would return for her final year in a few weeks when the August-pickled sun dipped into September.

Pip stopped and rested her hand on the front gate, instantly braver than half the town’s kids. Her eyes traced up the path to the front door. It might only look like a few feet but there was a rumbling chasm between where she stood and over there. It was possible that this was a very bad idea; she had considered that. The morning sun was hot and she could already feel her knee pits growing sticky in her jeans. A bad idea or a bold idea. And yet, history’s greatest minds always advised bold over safe; their words good padding for even the worst ideas.

Snubbing the chasm with the soles of her shoes, she walked up to the door and, pausing for just a second to check she was sure, knocked three times. Her tense reflection stared back at her: the long dark hair sun-dyed a lighter brown at the tips, the pale face, despite a week just spent in the south of France, the sharp muddy green eyes braced for impact.

The door opened with the clatter of a falling chain and a double-locked click.

‘Hello?’ he said, holding the door half open, his hand folded over the side. Pip blinked to break her stare, but she couldn’t help it. He looked so much like Sal: the Sal she knew from all those television reports and newspaper pictures. The Sal fading from her adolescent memory. Ravi had his brother’s messy black side-swept hair, thick arched eyebrows and oaken-hued skin.

‘Hello?’ he said again.

‘Um . . .’ Pip’s put-on-the-spot charmer reflex kicked in too late. Her brain was busy processing that, unlike Sal, he had a dimple in his chin, just like hers. And he’d grown even taller since she last saw him. ‘Um, sorry, hi.’ She did an awkward half-wave that she immediately regretted.

‘Hi?’

‘Hi, Ravi,’ she said. ‘I . . . you don’t know me . . . I’m Pippa Fitz-Amobi. I was a couple of years below you at school before you left.’

‘OK . . .’

‘I was just wondering if I could borrow a jiffy of your time? Well, not a jiffy . . . Did you know a jiffy is an actual measurement of time? It’s one one-hundredth of a second, so . . . can you maybe spare a few sequential jiffies?’

Oh god, this is what happened when she was nervous or backed into a corner; she started spewing useless facts dressed up as bad jokes. And the other thing: nervous Pip turned four strokes more posh, abandoning middle class to grapple for a poor imitation of upper. When had she ever seriously said ‘jiffy’ before?

‘What?’ Ravi asked, looking confused.

‘Sorry, never mind,’ Pip said, recovering. ‘So I’m doing my EPQ at school and –’

‘What’s EPQ?’

‘Extended Project Qualification. It’s a project you work on independently, alongside A levels. You can pick any topic you want.’

‘Oh, I never got that far in school,’ he said. ‘Left as soon as I could.’

‘Er, well, I was wondering if you’d be willing to be interviewed for my project.’

‘What’s it about?’ His dark eyebrows hugged closer to his eyes.

‘Um . . . it’s about what happened five years ago.’

Ravi exhaled loudly, his lip curling up in what looked like pre-sprung anger.

‘Why?’ he said.

‘Because I don’t think your brother did it – and I’m going to try to prove it.’





Pippa Fitz-Amobi EPQ 01/08/2017





Production Log – Entry 1


Interview with Ravi Singh booked in for Friday afternoon (take prepared questions).

Type up transcript of interview with Angela Johnson.

The production log is intended to chart any obstacles you face in your research, your progress and the aims of your final report. My production log will have to be a little different: I’m going to record all the research I do here, both relevant and irrelevant, because, as yet, I don’t really know what my final report will be, nor what will end up being relevant. I don’t know what I’m aiming for. I will just have to wait and see what position I am in at the end of my research and what essay I can therefore bring together. [This is starting to feel a little like a diary???]

I’m hoping it will not be the essay I proposed to Mrs Morgan. I’m hoping it will be the truth. What really happened to Andie Bell on the 20th April 2012? And – as my instincts tell me – if Salil ‘Sal’ Singh is not guilty, then who killed her?

I don’t think I will actually solve the case and discover the person who murdered Andie. I’m not a police officer with access to a forensics lab (obviously) and I am also not deluded. But I’m hoping that my research will uncover facts and accounts that will lead to reasonable doubt about Sal’s guilt, and suggest that the police were mistaken in closing the case without digging further.

So my research methods will actually be: interviewing those close to the case, obsessive social media stalking and wild, WILD speculation.

[DON’T LET MRS MORGAN SEE ANY OF THIS!!!]

The first stage in this project then is to research what happened to Andrea Bell – known as Andie to everyone – and the circumstances surrounding her disappearance. This information will be taken from news articles and police press conferences from around that time.

[Write your references in now so you don’t have to do it later!!!]

Copied and pasted from the first national news outlet to report on her disappearance: ‘Andrea Bell, 17, was reported missing from her home in Little Kilton, Buckinghamshire, last Friday.

She left home in her car – a black Peugeot 206 – with her mobile phone, but did not take any clothes with her. Police say her disappearance is “completely out of character”.

Police have been searching woodland near the family home over the weekend.

Andrea, known as Andie, is described as white, five feet six inches tall, with long blonde hair. It is thought that she was wearing dark jeans and a blue cropped jumper on the night she went missing.’ 1

After everything happened, later articles had more detail as to when Andie was last seen alive and the time window in which she is believed to have been abducted.

Andie Bell was ‘last seen alive by her younger sister, Becca, at around 10:30 p.m. on the 20th April 2012.’ 2

This was corroborated by the police in a press conference on Tuesday 24th April: ‘CCTV footage taken from a security camera outside STN Bank on Little Kilton High Street confirms that Andie’s car was seen driving away from her home at about 10:40 p.m.’ 3

According to her parents, Jason and Dawn Bell, Andie was ‘supposed to pick (them) up from a dinner party at 12:45 a.m.’ When Andie didn’t show up or answer any of their phone calls, they started ringing her friends to see if anyone knew of her whereabouts. Jason Bell ‘called the police to report his daughter missing at 3:00 a.m. Saturday morning.’ 4

So whatever happened to Andie Bell that night, happened between 10:40 p.m. and 12:45 a.m.

Here seems a good place to type up the transcript from my telephone interview yesterday with Angela Johnson.





Transcript of interview with Angela Johnson from the Missing Persons Bureau

Angela:

Hello.



Pip:

Hi, is this Angela Johnson?



Angela:

Speaking, yep. Is this Pippa?



Pip:

Yes, thanks so much for replying to my email.



Angela:

No problem.



Pip:

Do you mind if I record this interview so I can type it up later to use in my project?



Angela:

Yeah, that’s fine. I’m sorry I’ve only got about ten minutes to give you. So what do you want to know about missing persons?



Pip:

Well, I was wondering if you could talk me through what happens when someone is reported missing? What’s the process and the first steps taken by the police?



Angela:

So, when someone rings 999 or 101 to report someone as missing, the police will try to get as much detail as possible so they can identify the potential risk to the missing person and an appropriate police response can be made. The kinds of details they will ask for in this first call are name, age, description of the person, what clothes they were last seen wearing, the circumstances of their disappearance, if going missing is out of character for this person, details of any vehicle involved. Using this information, the police will determine whether this is a high-, low-or medium-risk case.



Pip:

And what circumstances would make a case high-risk?



Angela:

If they are vulnerable because of their age or a disability, that would be high-risk. If the behaviour is out of character, then it is likely an indicator that they have been exposed to harm, so that would be high-risk.



Pip:

Um, so, if the missing person is seventeen years old and it is deemed out of character for her to go missing, would this be considered a high-risk case?



Angela:

Oh, absolutely, if a minor is involved.



Pip:

So how would the police respond to a high-risk case?



Angela:

Well, there would be immediate deployment of police officers to the location the person is missing from. The officer will have to acquire further details about the missing person, such as details of their friends or partners, any health conditions, their financial information in case they can be found when trying to withdraw money. They will also need a number of recent photographs of the person and, in a high-risk case, they may take DNA samples in case they are needed in subsequent forensic examination. And, with consent of the homeowners, the location will be searched thoroughly to see if the missing person is concealed or hiding there and to establish whether there are any further evidential leads. That’s the normal procedure.



Pip:

So immediately the police are looking for any clues or suggestions that the missing person has been the victim of a crime?



Angela:

Absolutely. If the circumstances of the disappearance are suspicious, officers are always told ‘if in doubt, think murder.’ Of course, only a very small percentage of missing person cases turn into homicide cases, but officers are instructed to document evidence early on as though they were investigating a homicide.



Pip:

And after the initial home address search, what happens if nothing significant turns up?



Angela:

They will expand the search to the immediate area. They might request telephone information. They’ll question friends, neighbours, anyone who may have relevant information. If it is a young person, a teenager, who’s missing, a reporting parent cannot be assumed to know all of their child’s friends and acquaintances. Their peers are a good port of call to establish other important contacts, you know, any secret boyfriends, that sort of thing. And a press strategy is usually discussed because appeals for information in the media can be very useful in these situations.



Pip:

So, if it’s a seventeen-year-old girl who’s gone missing, the police would have contacted her friends and boyfriend quite early on?



Angela:

Yes of course. Enquiries will be made because, if the missing person has run away, they are likely to be hiding out with a person close to them.



Pip:

And at what point in a missing persons case do police accept they are looking for a body?



Angela:

Well, timewise, it’s not . . . Oh, Pippa, I have to go. Sorry, I’ve been called into my meeting.



Pip:

Oh, OK, thanks so much for taking the time to talk to me.



Angela:

And if you have any more questions, just pop me an email and I’ll get to them when I can.



Pip:

Will do, thanks again.



Angela:

Bye.



I found these statistics online:

80% of missing people are found in the first 24 hours. 97% are found in the first week. 99% of cases are resolved in the first year. That leaves just 1%.

1% of people who disappear are never found. But there’s another figure to consider: just 0.25% of all missing person cases have a fatal outcome. 5

And where does this leave Andie Bell? Floating incessantly somewhere between 1% and 0.25%, fractionally increasing and decreasing in tiny decimal breaths.

But by now, most people accept that she’s dead, even though her body has never been recovered. And why is that?

Sal Singh is why.





Two

Pip’s hands strayed from the keyboard, her index fingers hovering over the w and h as she strained to listen to the commotion downstairs. A crash, heavy footsteps, skidding claws and unrestrained boyish giggles. In the next second it all became clear.

‘Joshua! Why is the dog wearing one of my shirts?!’ came Victor’s buoyant shout, the sound floating up through Pip’s carpet.

Pip snort-laughed as she clicked save on her production log and closed the lid of her laptop. It was a time-honoured daily crescendo from the moment her dad returned from work. He was never quiet: his whispers could be heard across the room, his whooping knee-slap laugh so loud it actually made people flinch, and every year, without fail, Pip woke to the sound of him tiptoeing the upstairs corridor to deliver Santa stockings on Christmas Eve.

Her stepdad was the living adversary of subtlety.

Downstairs, Pip found the scene mid-production. Joshua was running from room to room – from the kitchen to the hallway and into the living room – on repeat, cackling as he went.

Close behind was Barney, the golden retriever, wearing Pip’s dad’s loudest shirt: the blindingly green patterned one he’d bought during their last trip to Nigeria. The dog skidded elatedly across the polished oak in the hall, excitement whistling through his teeth.

And bringing up the rear was Victor in his grey Hugo Boss three-piece suit, charging all six and a half feet of himself after the dog and the boy, his laugh in wild climbing scale bursts. Their very own Amobi home-made Scooby-Doo montage.

‘Oh my god, I was trying to do homework,’ Pip said, smiling as she jumped back to avoid being mowed down by the convoy. Barney stopped for a moment to headbutt her shin and then scarpered off to jump on Dad and Josh as they collapsed together on the sofa.

‘Hello, pickle,’ Victor said, patting the sofa beside him.

‘Hi, Dad, you were so quiet I didn’t even know you were home.’

‘My Pipsicle, you are too clever to recycle a joke.’

She sat down next to them, Josh and her dad’s worn-out breaths making the sofa cushion swell and sink against the backs of her legs.

Josh started excavating in his right nostril and Dad batted his hand away.

‘How were your days then?’ he asked, setting Josh off on a graphic spiel about the football games he’d played earlier.

Pip zoned out; she’d already heard it all in the car when she picked Josh up from the club. She’d only been half listening, distracted by the way the replacement coach had stared bewilderedly at her lily-white skin when she’d pointed out which of the nine-year-olds was hers and said: ‘I’m Joshua’s sister.’

She should have been used to it by now, the lingering looks while people tried to work out the logistics of her family, the numbers and hedged words scribbled across their family tree. The giant Nigerian man was quite evidently her stepfather and Joshua her half-brother. But Pip didn’t like using those words, those cold technicalities. The people you love weren’t algebra: to be calculated, subtracted, or held at arm’s length across a decimal point. Victor and Josh weren’t just three-eighths hers, not just forty per cent family, they were fully hers. Her dad and her annoying little brother.

Her ‘real’ father, the man that lent the Fitz to her name, died in a car accident when she was ten months old. And though Pip sometimes nodded and smiled when her mum would ask whether she remembered the way her father hummed while he brushed his teeth, or how he’d laughed when Pip’s second spoken word was ‘poo,’ she didn’t remember him. But sometimes remembering isn’t for yourself, sometimes you do it just to make someone else smile. Those lies were allowed.

‘And how’s the project going, Pip?’ Victor turned to her as he unbuttoned the shirt from the dog.

‘It’s OK,’ she said. ‘I’m just looking up the background and typing up at the moment. I did go to see Ravi Singh this morning.’

‘Oh, and?’

‘He was busy but he said I could go back on Friday.’

‘I wouldn’t ,’ Josh said in a cautionary tone.

‘That’s because you’re a judgemental pre-pubescent boy who still thinks little people live inside traffic lights.’ Pip looked at him. ‘The Singhs haven’t done anything wrong.’

Her dad stepped in. ‘Joshua, try to imagine if everyone judged you because of something your sister had done.’

‘All Pip ever does is homework.’

Pip executed a perfect arm-swung cushion lob into Joshua’s face. Victor held the boy’s arms down as he squirmed to retaliate, tickling his ribs.

‘Why’s Mum not back yet?’ asked Pip, teasing the restrained Josh by floating her fluffy-socked foot near his face.

‘She was going straight from work to Boozy Mums’ book club,’ Dad said.

‘Meaning . . . we can have pizza for dinner?’ Pip asked. And suddenly the friendly fire was forgotten and she and Josh were in the same battalion again. He jumped up and hooked his arm through hers, looking imploringly at their dad.

‘Of course,’ Victor said, patting his backside with a grin. ‘How else am I to keep growing this junk in my trunk?’

‘Dad,’ Pip groaned, admonishing her past self for ever teaching him that phrase.





Pippa Fitz-Amobi EPQ 02/08/2017





Production Log – Entry 2


What happened next in the Andie Bell case is quite confusing to glean from the newspaper reports. There are gaps I will have to fill with guesswork and rumours until the picture becomes clearer from any later interviews; hopefully Ravi and Naomi – who was one of Sal’s best friends – can assist with this.

Using what Angela said, presumably after taking statements from the Bell family and thoroughly searching their residence, the police asked for details of Andie’s friends.

From some seriously historical Facebook stalking, it looks like Andie’s best friends were two girls called Chloe Burch and Emma Hutton. I mean, here’s my evidence:

This post is from two weeks before Andie disappeared. It looks like neither Chloe nor Emma live in Little Kilton any more. [Maybe private-message them and see if they’ll do a phone interview?]

Chloe and Emma did a lot on that first weekend (21st and 22nd ) to help spread the Thames Valley Police’s Twitter campaign: #FindAndie. I don’t think it’s too big of a leap to assume that the police contacted Chloe and Emma either on the Friday night or on Saturday morning. What they said to the police, I don’t know. Hopefully I can find out.

We do know that police spoke to Andie’s boyfriend at the time. His name was Sal Singh and he was attending his final year at Kilton Grammar alongside Andie.

At some point on the Saturday the police contacted Sal.

‘DI Richard Hawkins confirmed that officers had questioned Salil Singh on Saturday 21st April. They questioned him as to his whereabouts for the previous night, particularly the period of time in which it is believed Andie went missing.’ 6

That night, Sal had been hanging out at his friend Max Hastings’ house. He was with his four best friends: Naomi Ward, Jake Lawrence, Millie Simpson and Max.

Again, I need to check this with Naomi next week, but I think Sal told the police that he left Max’s house at around 12:15 a.m. He walked home and his father (Mohan Singh) confirmed that ‘Sal returned home at approximately 12:50 a.m.’ 7 Note: the distance between Max’s house (Tudor Lane) and Sal’s (Grove Place) takes about 30 minutes to walk – says Google.

The police confirmed Sal’s alibi with his four friends over the weekend.

Missing posters went up. House-to-house enquiries started on the Sunday. 8

On the Monday, 100 volunteers helped the police carry out searches in the local woodland. I’ve seen the news footage; a whole ant line of people in the woods, calling her name. Later in the day, forensic teams were spotted going into the Bell residence. 9

And on the Tuesday, everything changed.

I think chronologically is the best way to consider the events of that day and those that followed, even though we, as a town, learned the details out of order and jumbled.

Mid-morning: Naomi Ward, Max Hastings, Jake Lawrence and Millie Simpson contacted the police from school and confessed to providing false information. They said that Sal had asked them to lie and that he actually left Max’s house at around 10:30 p.m. on the night Andie disappeared.

I don’t know for sure what the correct police procedure would have been but I’m guessing that at that point, Sal became the number-one suspect.

But they couldn’t find him: Sal wasn’t at school and he wasn’t at home. He wasn’t answering his phone.

It later transpired, however, that Sal had sent a text to his father that morning, though he was ignoring all other calls. The press would refer to this as a ‘confession text’. 10

That Tuesday evening, one of the police teams searching for Andie found a body in the woods.

It was Sal.

He had killed himself.

The press never reported the method by which Sal committed suicide but by the power of high school rumour, I know (as did every other student at Kilton at the time).

Sal walked into the woods near his home, took a load of sleeping pills and placed a plastic bag over his head, secured by an elastic band around his neck. He suffocated while unconscious.

At the police press conference later that night no mention of Sal was made. The police only revealed that bit of information about CCTV imaging placing Andie as driving away from her home at 10:40 p.m. 11

On the Wednesday, Andie’s car was found parked on a small residential road (Romer Close).

It wasn’t until the following Monday that a police spokeswoman revealed the following: ‘I have an update on the Andie Bell investigation. As a result of recent intelligence and forensic information, we have strong reason to suspect that a young man named Salil Singh, aged 18, was involved in Andie’s abduction and murder. The evidence would have been sufficient to arrest and charge the suspect had he not died before proceedings could be initiated. Police are not looking for anyone else in relation to Andie’s disappearance at this time but our search for Andie will continue unabated. Our thoughts go out to the Bell family and our deepest sympathies for the devastation this update has caused them.’

Their sufficient evidence was as follows: They found Andie’s mobile phone on Sal’s body.

Forensic tests found traces of Andie’s blood under the fingernails of his right middle and index fingers.

Andie’s blood was also discovered in the boot of her abandoned car. Sal’s fingerprints were found around the dashboard and steering wheel alongside prints from Andie and the rest of the Bell family. 12

The evidence, they said, would have been enough to charge Sal and – police would have hoped – to secure a conviction in court. But Sal was dead, so there was no trial and no guilty conviction. No defence either.

In the following weeks, there were more searches of the woodland areas in and around Little Kilton. Searches using cadaver dogs. Police divers in the River Kilbourne. But Andie’s body was never found.

The Andie Bell missing persons case was administratively closed in the middle of June 2012. 13 A case may be ‘administratively closed’ only if the ‘supporting documentation contains sufficient evidence to charge had the offender not died before the investigation could be completed’. The case ‘may be reopened whenever new evidence or leads develop’. 14

Off to the cinema in 15 minutes: another superhero film that Josh has emotionally blackmailed us to see. But there’s just one final part to the background of the Andie Bell/Sal Singh case and I’m on a roll.

Eighteen months after Andie Bell’s case was administratively closed, the police filed a report to the local coroner. In cases like this, it is up to the coroner to decide whether further investigation into the death is required, based on their belief that the person is likely to be dead and that sufficient time has elapsed.

The coroner will then apply to the Secretary of State for Justice, under the Coroners Act 1988 Section 15, for an inquest with no body. Where there is no body, an inquest will rely mostly on evidence provided by the police, and whether the senior officers of the investigation believe the missing person is dead.

An inquest is a legal enquiry into the medical cause and circumstances of death. It cannot ‘blame individuals for the death or establish criminal liability on the part of any named individual.’ 15

At the end of the inquest, January 2014, the coroner returned a verdict of ‘unlawful killing’ and Andie Bell’s death certificate was issued. 16 An unlawful killing verdict literally means ‘the person was killed by an “unlawful act” by someone’ or, more specifically, death by ‘murder, manslaughter, infanticide or death by dangerous driving.’ 17

This is where everything ends.

Andie Bell has been legally declared dead, despite her body never having been found. Given the circumstances, we can presume that the ‘unlawful killing’ verdict refers to murder. After Andie’s inquest, a statement from the Crown Prosecution Service said: ‘The case against Salil Singh would have been based on circumstantial and forensic evidence. It is not for the CPS to state whether Salil Singh killed Andie Bell or not, that would have been a jury’s job to decide.’ 18

So even though there has never been a trial, even though no head juror has ever stood up, sweaty palmed and adrenaline-pumped, and declared: ‘We the jury find the defendant guilty,’ even though Sal never had the chance to defend himself, he is guilty. Not in the legal sense, but in all the other ways that truly matter.

When you ask people in town what happened to Andie Bell, they’ll tell you without hesitation: ‘She was murdered by Salil Singh.’ No allegedly , no might have , no probably , no most likely .

He did it, they say. Sal Singh killed Andie.

But I’m just not so sure . . .

[Next log – possibly look at what the prosecution’s case against Sal might have looked like if it went to court. Then start pecking away and putting holes in it.]





Three

It was an emergency, the text said. An SOS emergency. Pip knew immediately that that could only mean one thing.

She grabbed her car keys, yelled a perfunctory goodbye to Mum and Josh and rushed out of the front door.

She stopped by the shop on her way to buy a king-size chocolate bar to help mend Lauren’s king-size broken heart.

When she pulled up outside Lauren’s house, she saw that Cara had had the exact same idea. Yet Cara’s post-break-up first-aid kit was more extensive than Pip’s; she had also brought a box of tissues, crisps and dip, and a rainbow array of face mask packets.

‘Ready for this?’ Pip asked Cara, hip-bumping her in greeting.

‘Yep, well prepared for the tears.’ She held up the tissues, the corner of the box snagging on her curly ash-blonde hair.

Pip untangled it for her and then pressed the doorbell, both of them wincing at the scratchy mechanical song.

Lauren’s mum answered the door.

‘Oh, the cavalry are here,’ she smiled. ‘She’s upstairs in her room.’

They found Lauren fully submerged in a duvet fort on the bed; the only sign of her existence was a splay of ginger hair poking out of the bottom. It took a full minute of coaxing and chocolate bait to get her to surface.

‘Firstly,’ Cara said, prising Lauren’s phone from her fingers, ‘you’re banned from looking at this for the next twenty-four hours.’

‘He did it by text!’ Lauren wailed, blowing her nose as an entire snot-swamp was cannon-shot into the woefully thin tissue.

‘Boys are dicks, thank god I don’t have to deal with that,’ Cara said, putting her arm round Lauren and resting her sharp chin on her shoulder. ‘Loz, you could do so much better than him.’

‘Yeah.’ Pip broke Lauren off another line of chocolate. ‘Plus Tom always said “pacifically” when he meant “specifically”.’

Cara clicked eagerly and pointed at Pip in agreement. ‘Massive red flag that was.’

‘I pacifically think you’re better off without him,’ said Pip.

‘I atlantically think so too,’ added Cara.

Lauren gave a wet snort of laughter and Cara winked at Pip; an unspoken victory. They knew that, working together, it wouldn’t take them long to get Lauren laughing again.

‘Thanks for coming, guys,’ Lauren said tearfully. ‘I didn’t know if you would. I’ve probably neglected you for half a year to hang out with Tom. And now I’ll be third-wheeling two best friends.’

‘You’re talking crap,’ Cara said. ‘We are all best friends, aren’t we?’

‘Yeah,’ Pip nodded, ‘us and those three boys we deign to share in our delightful company.’

The others laughed. The boys – Ant, Zach and Connor – were all currently away on summer holidays.

But of her friends, Pip had known Cara the longest and, yes, they were closer. An unsaid thing. They’d been inseparable ever since six-year-old Cara had hugged a small, friendless Pip and asked, ‘Do you like bunnies too?’ They were each other’s crutch to lean on when life got too much to carry alone. Pip, though only ten at the time, had helped support Cara through her mum’s diagnosis and death. And she’d been her constant two years ago, as a steady smile and a phone call into the small hours when Cara came out. Cara’s wasn’t the face of a best friend; it was the face of a sister. It was home.

Cara’s family were Pip’s second. Elliot – or Mr Ward as she had to call him at school – was her history teacher as well as tertiary father figure, behind Victor and the ghost of her first dad. Pip was at the Ward house so often she had her own named mug and pair of slippers to match Cara’s and her big sister Naomi’s.

‘Right.’ Cara lunged for the TV remote. ‘Rom-coms or films where boys get violently murdered?’

It took roughly one and a half soppy films from the Netflix backlog for Lauren to wade through denial and extend a cautionary toe towards the acceptance stage.

‘I should get a haircut,’ she said. ‘That’s what you’re supposed to do.’

‘I’ve always said you’d look good with short hair,’ said Cara.

‘And do you think I should get my nose pierced?’

‘Ooh, yeah.’ Cara nodded.

‘I don’t see the logic in putting a nose-hole in your nose-hole,’ said Pip.

‘Another fabulous Pip quotation for the books.’ Cara feigned writing it down in mid-air. ‘What was the one that cracked me up the other day?’

‘The sausage one,’ Pip sighed.

‘Oh yeah,’ Cara snorted. ‘So, Loz, I was asking Pip which pyjamas she wanted to wear and she just casually says: “It’s sausage to me.” And then didn’t realise why that might be a strange answer to my question.’

‘It’s not that strange,’ said Pip. ‘My grandparents from my first dad are German. “It’s sausage to me” is an everyday German saying. It just means I don’t care .’

‘Or you’ve got a sausage fixation,’ Lauren laughed.

‘Says the daughter of a porn star,’ Pip quipped.

‘Oh my god, how many times? He only did one nude photoshoot in the eighties, that’s it.’

‘So, on to boys from this decade,’ Cara said, prodding Pip on the shoulder. ‘Did you go and see Ravi Singh yet?’

‘Questionable segue. And yes, but I’m going back to interview him tomorrow.’

‘I can’t believe you’ve already started your EPQ,’ Lauren said with a mock dying-swan dive back on to the bed. ‘I want to change my title already; famines are too depressing.’

‘I imagine you’ll be wanting to interview Naomi sometime soon.’ Cara looked pointedly at Pip.

‘Certainly, can you please warn her I may be coming around next week with my voice recorder app and a pencil?’

‘Yeah,’ Cara said, then hesitated. ‘She’ll agree to it and everything but can you go easy on her? She still gets really upset about it sometimes. I mean, he was one of her best friends. In fact, probably her best friend.’

‘Yeah, of course,’ Pip smiled, ‘what do you think I’m going to do? Pin her down and beat responses out of her?’

‘Is that your tactic for Ravi tomorrow?’

‘I think not.’

Lauren sat up then, with a snot-sucking sniff so loud it made Cara visibly flinch.

‘Are you going to his house then?’ she asked.

‘Yeah.’

‘Oh, but . . . what are people going to think if they see you going into Ravi Singh’s house?’

‘It’s sausage to me.’





Pippa Fitz-Amobi

EPQ 03/08/2017





Production Log – Entry 3


I’m biased. Of course I am. Every time I reread the details from the last two logs, I can’t help but hosting imaginary courtroom dramas in my head: I’m a swaggering defence attorney jumping up to object, I shuffle my notes and wink at Sal when the prosecution falls into my trap, I run up and slap the judge’s bench yelling, ‘Your honour, he didn’t do it!’

Because, for reasons I don’t even quite know how to explain to myself, I want Sal Singh to be innocent. Reasons carried with me since I was twelve years old, inconsistencies that have nagged at me these past five years.

But I do have to be aware of confirmation bias. So I thought it would be a good idea to interview someone who is utterly convinced of Sal’s guilt. Stanley Forbes, a journalist at the Kilton Mail, just responded to my email saying I could ring any time today. He covered a lot of the Andie Bell case in the local press and was even present at the coroner’s inquest. To be honest, I think he’s a crappy journalist and I’m pretty sure the Singhs could sue him for defamation and libel about a dozen times over. I’ll type the transcript up here straight after.

Oooooh booooooyyyyyyy . . .





Transcript of interview with Stanley Forbes from the Kilton Mail newspaper

Stanley:

Yep.



Pip:

Hi, Stanley, this is Pippa, we were emailing earlier.



Stanley:

Yep, yeah, I know. You wanted to pick my brains about the Andie Bell/Salil Singh case, right?



Pip:

Yes that’s right.



Stanley:

Well, shoot.



Pip:

OK, thanks. Erm, so firstly, you attended Andie’s coroner inquest, didn’t you?



Stanley:

Sure did, kid.



Pip:

As the national press didn’t elaborate much further than reporting the verdict and the CPS’s later statement, I was wondering if you could tell me what kind of evidence was presented to the coroner by the police?



Stanley:

A whole bunch of stuff.



Pip:

Right, could you tell me some of the specific points they made?



Stanley:

Err, so the main investigator on Andie’s case outlined the details of her disappearance, the times and so on. And then he moved on to the evidence that linked Salil to her murder. They made a big deal about the blood in the boot of her car; they said this suggested that she was murdered somewhere and her body was put in the boot to be transported to wherever she was disposed of. In the closing remarks the coroner said something like ‘it seems clear that Andie was the victim of a sexually motivated murder and considerable efforts were made to dispose of her body.’



Pip:

And did DI Richard Hawkins or any other officer provide a timeline of what they believed were the events of that night and how Sal allegedly killed her?



Stanley:

Yeah, I do kinda remember that. Andie left home in her car and at some point on Salil’s walk home, he intercepted her. With either him or her driving, he took her to a secluded place and murdered her. He hid her body in the boot and then drove somewhere to hide or dispose of her body. Mind you, well enough so that it hasn’t been found in five years, must have been a pretty big hole. And then he ditched the car on that road where it was found, Romer Close I think it was, and he walked home.



Pip:

So, because of the blood in the boot, the police believed that Andie was killed somewhere and then hidden in a different location?



Stanley:

Yep.



Pip:

OK. In a lot of your articles about the case, you refer to Sal as a ‘killer’, a ‘murderer’ and even a ‘monster.’ You are aware that without a conviction, you are supposed to use the word ‘allegedly’ when reporting crime stories.



Stanley:

Not sure I need a child to tell me how to do my job. Anyway, it’s obvious that he did it and everyone knows it. He killed her and the guilt drove him to suicide.



Pip:

OK. So for what reasons are you convinced of Sal’s guilt?



Stanley:

Almost too many to list. Evidence aside, he was the boyfriend, right? And it’s always the boyfriend or the ex-boyfriend. Not only that, Salil was Indian.



Pip:

Um . . . Sal was actually born and raised in Britain, though it is notable that you refer to him as Indian in all of your articles.



Stanley:

Well, same thing. He was of Indian heritage.



Pip:

And why is that relevant?



Stanley:

I’m not like an expert or anything, but they have different ways of life to us, don’t they? They don’t treat women quite like we do, their women are like their possessions. So I’m guessing maybe Andie decided she didn’t want to be with him or something and he killed her in a rage because, in his eyes, she belonged to him.



Pip:

Wow . . . I . . . Err . . . you . . . Honestly, Stanley, I’m pretty surprised you haven’t been sued for defamation.



Stanley:

That’s ’cause everyone knows what I’m saying is true.



Pip:

Actually, I don’t. I think it’s very irresponsible to label someone a murderer without using ‘suspected’ or ‘allegedly’ when there’s been no trial or conviction. Or calling Sal a monster. Speaking of word use, it’s interesting to compare your recent reporting of the Slough Strangler. He murdered five people and pleaded guilty in court, yet in your headline you referred to him as a ‘lovesick young man’. Is that because he’s white?



Stanley:

That’s got nothing to do with Salil’s case. I just call it how it is. You need to chill out. He’s dead, why does it matter if people call him a murderer? It can’t hurt him.



Pip:

Because his family aren’t dead.



Stanley:

It’s starting to sound like you actually think he’s innocent. Against all the expertise of senior police officers.



Pip:

I just think there are certain gaps and inconsistencies in the supposed case against Sal.



Stanley:

Yeah, maybe if the kid hadn’t offed himself before getting arrested, we would have been able to fill the gaps.



Pip:

Well, that was insensitive.



Stanley:

Well it was insensitive of him to kill his pretty blonde girlfriend and hide her remains.



Pip:

Allegedly!



Stanley:

You want more proof that that kid was a killer, fangirl? We weren’t allowed to print it, but my source in the police said they found a death threat note in Andie’s school locker. He threatened her and then he did it. Do you really still think he can be innocent?



Pip:

Yes I do. And I think you’re a racist, intolerant, dickhead, mindless bottom-feeder –



(Stanley hangs up the phone) Yeah, so, I don’t think Stanley and I are going to be best friends.

However, his interview has given me two bits of information I didn’t have before. The first is that police believe Andie was killed somewhere before being put in the boot of her car and driven to a second location to be disposed of.

The second bit of intel lovely Stanley gave me is this ‘death threat’. I’ve not seen it mentioned in any articles or in any of the police statements. There must be a reason: maybe the police didn’t think it was relevant. Or maybe they couldn’t prove it was linked to Sal. Or maybe Stanley made it up. In any case, it’s worth remembering when I interview Andie’s friends later on.

So now that I (sort of) know what the police’s version of events were for that night, and what the prosecution’s case might have looked like, it’s time for a MURDER MAP .

After dinner because Mum’s going to call up in about three. . . two . . . yep . . .



So professional-looking. But it does help to visualize the police’s version of events. I had to make a couple of assumptions when creating it. The first is that there are several ways to walk from Max’s to Sal’s; I picked the one that heads back through the high street because Google said it was the quickest and I’m presuming most people prefer to walk on well-lit streets at night.

It also provides a good intercept point somewhere along Wyvil Road where Andie potentially pulled over and Sal got in the car. Thinking like a detective, there are actually some quiet residential roads and a farm on Wyvil Road. These quiet, secluded places – circled – could potentially be the site of the murder (according to the police’s narrative).

I didn’t bother guessing where Andie’s body was disposed of because, like the rest of the world, I have no clue at all where that is. But given that it takes about eighteen minutes to walk from where the car was dumped on Romer Close back to Sal’s house in Grove Place, I have to presume he’d have been back in the vicinity of Wyvil Road around 12:20 a.m. So if the Andie and Sal intercept happened at around 10:45 p.m., this would have given Sal one hour and thirty-five minutes to murder her and hide the body. I mean, timewise, that seems perfectly reasonable to me. It’s possible. But there are already a dozen ‘why’ and ‘how’ questions elbowing their way in.

Andie and Sal both leave where they are at around 10:30 p.m., so they must have planned to meet up, right? It seems too coincidental for them not to have communicated and planned it. The thing is, the police have never once mentioned a phone call or any texts between Andie and Sal that would account as a meet-up arrangement. And if they planned this together, at school for example, where there would be no record of the conversation, why didn’t they just agree that Andie would pick Sal up from Max’s house? It seems weird to me.

I’m rambling. It’s 2 a.m. and I just ate half a Toblerone, that’s why.





Four

There was a song in her. A sickly beat troubling the skin on her wrists and neck, a crackling chord as she cleared her throat and the jagged trill of her breath. Next, the terrible realization that once she noticed her breathing she couldn’t, for the life of her, un-notice it.

She stood before the front door and willed it open. Every second grew syrupy and thick as the door stared her down, the minutes unrolling themselves into forever. How long had it been since she’d knocked? When Pip could stand it no longer, she picked the sweating Tupperware of fresh muffins out from under her arm and turned to walk away. The ghost house was closed to visitors today and the disappointment burned.

Only a few steps away, she heard the sound of scraping and clicking and turned back to see Ravi Singh in the doorway, his hair ruffled and his face drawing tight in confusion.

‘Oh,’ Pip said in a high-pitched voice that wasn’t her own. ‘Sorry, I thought you told me to come back Friday. Today’s Friday.’

‘Um, yeah, I did,’ Ravi said, scratching his head with his eyes somewhere around Pip’s ankles. ‘But . . . honestly, though . . . I thought you were just taking the piss. A prank. I wasn’t expecting you to actually come back.’

‘That’s, um, unfortunate.’ Pip tried her best to not look hurt. ‘No prank, I promise. I’m serious.’

‘Yeah, you seem like the serious type.’ The back of his head must have been exceptionally itchy. Or maybe Ravi Singh’s itchy head was the equivalent of Pip’s useless facts: armour and shield when the knight inside was squirming.

‘I’m irrationally serious,’ Pip smiled, holding the Tupperware box out to him. ‘And I made muffins.’

‘Like bribery muffins?’

‘That’s what the recipe said, yeah.’

Ravi’s mouth twitched, not quite a smile. Pip only then appreciated how hard his life must be in this town, the spectre of his dead brother reflected in his own face. It was no wonder smiling was hard for him.

‘So I can come in?’ Pip said, tucking up her bottom lip and overstretching her eyes in her best pleading expression, the one her dad said made her look constipated.

‘Yes, fine,’ he said after an almost devastating pause. ‘Only if you stop making that face.’ He stepped back to let her in the house.

‘Thank you, thank you, thank you,’ Pip said quickly and tripped over the front step in her eagerness.

Raising an eyebrow, Ravi shut the door and asked if she’d like a cup of tea.

‘Yes please.’ Pip stood awkwardly in the hallway, trying to take up as little space as possible. ‘Black please.’

‘I’ve never trusted someone who takes their tea black.’ He gestured for her to follow him through into the kitchen.

The room was wide and exceptionally bright; the outside wall was one giant panel of sliding glass doors that opened into a long garden exploding with the blush of summer and fairy-tale winding vines.

‘How do you take it then?’ Pip asked, resting her rucksack down on one of the dining chairs.

‘Milk till it’s white and three sugars,’ he said over the sputtering-inferno sounds of the kettle.

‘Three sugars? Three? ’

‘I know, I know. Clearly I’m not sweet enough already.’

Pip watched Ravi clatter around the kitchen, the boiling kettle excusing the silence between them. He dug through an almost empty jar of teabags, tapping his fingers on the side as he went about pouring and sugaring and milking. The nervous energy was contagious, and Pip’s heart quickened to match his tapping fingers.

He brought the two mugs over, holding Pip’s by the scorching base so she could take it by the handle. Her mug was adorned with a cartoon smile and the caption: When’s the best time to visit the dentist? Tooth hurty.

‘Your parents aren’t in?’ she asked, setting the mug down on the table.

‘Nope.’ He took a sip and Pip noted, thankfully, that he wasn’t a slurper. ‘And if they were, you wouldn’t be. We try not to talk about Sal too much; it upsets Mum. It upsets everyone actually.’

‘I can’t even imagine,’ Pip said quietly. It didn’t matter that five years had passed; this was still raw for Ravi – it was written all over his face.

‘It’s not just that he’s gone. It’s that . . . well, we’re not allowed to grieve for him, because of what happened. And if I were to say “I miss my brother”, it makes me some kind of monster.’

‘I don’t think it does.’

‘Me neither, but I’m guessing you and I are in the minority there.’

Pip took a sip of her tea to fill the silence but it was far too hot and her eyes prickled and filled.

‘Crying already? We haven’t even got to the sad parts.’ Ravi’s right eyebrow peaked up on his forehead.

‘Tea hot,’ Pip gasped, her tongue feeling fluffy and scorched.

‘Let it cool down for a jiffy , or, you know, one one-hundredth of a second .’

‘Hey, you remembered.’

‘How could I possibly forget that introduction of yours? So what questions did you want to ask me?’

Pip looked down at the phone in her lap and said, ‘Firstly, do you mind if I record us, so I can type it up accurately later?’

‘Sounds like a fun Friday night.’

‘I’ll take that as you don’t mind.’ Pip opened the zip on her metallic brass-coloured rucksack and pulled out her bundle of notes.

‘What are those?’ He pointed.

‘Pre-prepared questions.’ She shuffled the papers to straighten the stack.

‘Oh, wow, you’re really into this, aren’t you?’ He looked at her with an expression that quivered somewhere between quizzical and sceptical.

‘Yep.’

‘Should I be nervous?’

‘Not yet,’ said Pip, fixing him with one last look before pressing the red record button.





Pippa Fitz-Amobi EPQ 04/08/2017





Production Log – Entry 4


Transcript of interview with Ravi Singh


Pip:

So, how old are you?



Ravi:

Why?



Pip:

Just trying to get all the facts straight.



Ravi:

OK, Sergeant, I just turned twenty.



Pip:

(Laughs) [Side note: OH MY GOD, MY LAUGH IS ATROCIOUS ON AUDIO. I’M NEVER LAUGHING AGAIN!] And Sal was three years older than you?



Ravi:

Yes.



Pip:

Do you remember your brother acting strangely on Friday the twentieth of April 2012?



Ravi:

Wow, straight in there. Um, no, not at all. We had an early dinner at, like, seven before my dad dropped him at Max’s, and he was just chatting along, like normal Sal. If he was secretly planning a murder, it wasn’t at all obvious to us. He was . . . chirpy, I’d say was a good description.



Pip:

And what about when he returned from Max’s?



Ravi:

I had already gone up to bed. But the next morning, I remember him being in a really good mood. Sal was always a morning person. He got up and made breakfast for us all and it wasn’t until just after that he got a phone call from one of Andie’s friends. That’s when we all found out she was missing. From that point, obviously, he wasn’t chirpy any more, he was worried.



Pip:

So neither Andie’s parents nor the police rang him during Friday night?



Ravi:

Not that I know of. Andie’s parents didn’t really know Sal. He’d never met them or been to their house. Andie usually came around here or they hung out at school and parties.



Pip:

How long had they been together?



Ravi:

Since just before Christmas the year before, so about four months. Sal did have a couple of missed calls from one of Andie’s best friends at, like, 2 a.m. that night. His phone was on silent, though, so he slept through them.



Pip:

So what else happened on that Saturday?



Ravi:

Well, after finding out Andie was missing, Sal literally sat on the phone, calling her every few minutes. It went to voicemail each time, but he figured if she’d pick up for anyone, it’d be him.



Pip:

Wait, so Sal was calling Andie’s phone?



Ravi:

Yeah, like a million times, throughout that weekend and on the Monday too.



Pip:

Doesn’t sound like the kind of thing you’d do if you knew you had murdered the person and they would never pick up.



Ravi:

Especially if he had her phone hidden somewhere on him, or in his room.



Pip:

An even better point. So what else happened that day?



Ravi:

My parents told him not to go to Andie’s house, because the police would be busy searching it. So he just sat at home, trying to call her. I asked him if he had any idea where she’d be, and he was stumped. He said something else I always remembered. He said that everything Andie did was deliberate, and maybe she’d run off on purpose to punish someone. Obviously by the end of the weekend he realized that probably wasn’t the case.



Pip:

Who would Andie be wanting to punish? Him?



Ravi:

I don’t know, I didn’t push it. I didn’t know her well; she only came around a handful of times. I mean, I presumed the ‘someone’ Sal was talking about was Andie’s dad.



Pip:

Jason Bell? Why?



Ravi:

I just overheard some stuff when she was here. I figured she didn’t have the best relationship with her dad. I can’t remember anything specifically.



[Phew, he says ‘specifically’ not ‘pacifically’.]



Pip:

Specifics are what we need. So when did the police contact Sal?



Ravi:

It was that Saturday afternoon. They called him and asked if they could come over for a chat. They arrived at, like, three or four-ish. Me and my parents came into the kitchen to give them a bit of space, so we didn’t hear any of it really.



Pip:

And did Sal tell you what they asked him?



Ravi:

A bit. He was a little freaked out that they recorded it and st–



Pip:

The police recorded it? Is that normal?



Ravi:

I don’t know, you’re the sergeant. They said it was routine and just asked him questions about where he was that night, who he was with. And about his and Andie’s relationship.



Pip:

And what was their relationship like?



Ravi:

I’m his brother; I didn’t see all that much of it. But, yeah, Sal liked her a lot. I mean, he seemed pretty chuffed he was with the prettiest, most popular girl in the year. Andie always seemed to bring drama, though.



Pip:

What kind of drama?



Ravi:

I don’t know, I think she was just one of those people who thrives on it.



Pip:

Did your parents like her?



Ravi:

Yeah, my parents were cool with her. She never gave them a reason not to be.



Pip:

And so what else happened after the police interviewed him?



Ravi:

Err, his friends came around in the evening, you know to check if he was OK.



Pip:

And is that when he asked his friends to lie to the police and give him an alibi?



Ravi:

I guess so.



Pip:

Why do you think he did that?



Ravi:

I mean, I don’t know. Maybe he was rattled after the police interview. Maybe he was scared he would be a suspect so he tried to cover himself. I don’t know.



Pip:

Presuming Sal’s innocence, do you have any idea where he could have been between leaving Max’s at 10:30 and getting home at 12:50?



Ravi:

No, because he also told us that he started walking home from Max’s at like 12:15. I guess maybe he was alone somewhere so he knew that if he told the truth he’d have no alibi. It looks bad, doesn’t it?



Pip:

I mean, lying to the police and asking his friends to as well does look bad for Sal. But it’s not absolute proof that he had anything to do with Andie’s death. So what happened on the Sunday then?



Ravi:

On the Sunday afternoon, me, Sal and his friends volunteered to help put up some missing posters, handing them out to people in town. On the Monday, I didn’t see much of him at school, but it must have been pretty hard for him because all anyone was talking about was Andie’s disappearance.



Pip:

I remember.



Ravi:

Police were about too; I saw them looking through Andie’s locker. Yeah, so that night he was a little down. He was quiet, but he was worried, that’s what you’d expect. His girlfriend was missing. And the next day –



Pip:

You don’t have to talk about the next day if you don’t want to.



Ravi:

(Small pause) It’s OK. We walked into school together and I went off to registration, leaving Sal behind in the car park. He wanted to sit outside for a minute. That was the last time I ever saw him. And all I said was ‘see you later’. I . . . I knew police were at the school; rumour was that they were talking to Sal’s friends. And it wasn’t until like two-ish that I saw my mum had been trying to ring me, so I went home and my parents told me that the police really needed to speak to Sal and had I seen him. I think officers had been searching his bedroom. I tried calling Sal too, but it just rang out. My dad showed me this text he got, the last time they’d heard from Sal.



Pip:

Do you remember what it said?



Ravi:

Yeah, it said: it was me. I did it. I’m so sorry. And . . . (small pause) it was later that evening when the police came back. My parents went to answer the door and I stayed in here listening. When they said they’d found a body in the woods, I was so sure for a second that it was Andie they were talking about.



Pip:

And . . . I don’t want to be insensitive, but the sleeping pills . . .



Ravi:

Yeah, they were Dad’s. He was taking phenobarbitals for his insomnia. He blamed himself afterwards. Doesn’t take anything any more. He just doesn’t sleep much.



Pip:

And had you ever before thought that Sal could be suicidal?



Ravi:

Never, not once. Sal was literally the happiest person there was. He was always laughing and messing around. It’s cheesy but he was the kind of person that lit up a room when he walked into it. He was the best at everything he ever did. He was my parents’ golden child, their straight-A student. Now they’re left with just me.



Pip:

And, sorry, but the biggest question then: do you think Sal killed Andie?



Ravi:

I . . . No, no I don’t. I can’t think that. It just doesn’t make sense to me. Sal was one of the nicest people on the planet, you know. He never lost his temper ever, no matter how much I wound him up. He was never one of those boys that got in fights. He was the greatest big brother anyone could have and he always came to my rescue when I needed it. He was the best person I ever knew. So, I have to say no. But then, I don’t know, the police seem so sure and the evidence . . . yeah, I know it looks bad for Sal. But I still can’t believe he had it in him to do that.



Pip:

I understand. I think those are all the questions I need to ask for now.



Ravi:

(Sits back and lets out a long sigh) So, Pippa —



Pip:

You can call me Pip.



Ravi:

Pip then. You said this is for a school project?



Pip:

It is.



Ravi:

But why? Why did you choose this? OK, maybe you don’t believe Sal did it, but why would you want to prove it? What’s it to you? No one else in this town has trouble believing my brother was a monster. They’ve all moved on.



Pip:

My best friend, Cara, she’s Naomi Ward’s sister.



Ravi:

Oh, Naomi, she was always nice to me. Always over at our house, following Sal around like a puppy. She was one hundred per cent in love with him.



Pip:

Oh, really?



Ravi:

I always thought so. The way she laughed at everything he said, even the unfunny stuff. Don’t think he felt the same way back, though.



Pip:

Hm.



Ravi:

So you’re doing this for Naomi? I still don’t get it.



Pip:

No, it’s not that. What I meant was . . . I knew Sal.



Ravi:

You did?



Pip:

Yeah. He was often over at the Wards’ house when I was too. One time, he let us watch a fifteen film with them, even though Cara and I were only twelve. It was a comedy and I can still remember how much I laughed. Laughed until it hurt, even when I didn’t quite get it, because Sal’s laugh was so contagious.



Ravi:

High and giggly?



Pip:

Yeah. And when I was ten, he accidentally taught me my first swear word. Shit , by the way. And another time, he taught me how to flip pancakes because I was useless at it but too stubborn to let someone do it for me.



Ravi:

He was a good teacher.



Pip:

And when I was in my first year at school, these two boys were picking on me because my dad is Nigerian. And Sal saw. He came over and just said, very calmly, ‘When you two get expelled for bullying, the next grammar school is half an hour away, if you even get in. Starting from scratch at a completely new school, think about it.’ They never picked on me again. And afterwards Sal sat with me and gave me his KitKat to cheer me up. Since then, I’ve . . . well, never mind.



Ravi:

Hey, come on, share. I let you have your interview – even though your bribery muffins taste like cheese.



Pip:

Since then, he’s always been a hero to me. I just can’t believe he did it.





Pippa Fitz-Amobi EPQ 08/08/2017





Production Log – Entry 5


I’ve just spent two hours researching this: I think I can send a request to the Thames Valley Police for a copy of Sal’s police interview under the Freedom of Information Act.

There are certain exemptions to disclosing information under the FOIA, like if the requested material relates to an ongoing investigation, or if it would infringe on Data Protection laws by divulging personal information about living people. But Sal is dead, so surely they’d have no reason to withhold his interview? I may as well see if I can access other police records from the Andie Bell investigation too.

On another note: I can’t get these things Ravi said about Jason Bell out of my head. That Sal first thought Andie had run away to punish someone and that her relationship with her father was strained.

Jason and Dawn Bell got divorced not long after Andie’s death certificate was issued (this is common Little Kilton knowledge but I corroborated it with a quick Facebook investigation). Jason moved away and is now living in a town about fifteen minutes from here. It wasn’t long after their divorce that he starts appearing in pictures with a pretty blonde lady who looks a little too young for him. It appears they are married now.

I’ve been on YouTube watching hours and hours of footage from the early press conferences after Andie went missing. I can’t believe I never noticed it before, but there’s something a bit off about Jason. The way he squeezes his wife’s arm just a little too hard when she starts crying about Andie, the way he shifts his shoulder in front of her so he can push her back from the microphone when he decides she’s said enough. The voice breaks that sound a little forced when he says: ‘Andie, we love you so much’ and ‘Please come home, you won’t be in trouble.’ The way Becca, Andie’s sister, shrinks under his gaze. I know this isn’t very objective detective of me, but there’s something in his eyes – a coldness – that concerns me.

And then I noticed THE BIG THING. On the Monday 23rd April evening press conference, Jason Bell says this: ‘We just want our girl back. We are completely broken and don’t know what to do with ourselves. If you know where she is, please tell her to call home so we know she’s safe. Andie was such a huge presence in our home, it’s too quiet without her.’

Yeah. He said ‘was’. WAS. PAST TENSE. This was before any of the Sal stuff had happened. Everyone thought Andie was still alive at this point. But Jason Bell said WAS.

Was this just an innocent mistake, or was he using the past tense because he already knew his daughter was dead? Did Jason Bell slip up?

From what I can tell, Jason and Dawn were at a dinner party that night and Andie was supposed to pick them up. Could he have left the party at some point? And if not, even if he has a solid alibi, that doesn’t mean he can’t somehow be involved in Andie’s disappearance.

If I’m creating a persons of interest list, I think Jason Bell is going to have to be the first entry.





Persons of Interest Jason Bell





Five

Something felt a little off, like the air in the room was stale and slowly thickening and thickening until she was breathing it down in giant gelatinous clots. In all her years of knowing Naomi, it had never felt quite like this.

Pip gave Naomi a reassuring smile and made a passing joke about the amount of Barney dog-fluff attached to her leggings. Naomi smiled weakly, running her hands through her flicky ombré blonde hair.

They were sitting in Elliot Ward’s study, Pip on the swivelling desk chair and Naomi across from her in the oxblood-leather armchair. Naomi wasn’t looking at Pip; she was staring instead at the three paintings on the far wall. Three giant canvases of the family, immortalized forever in rainbow tinted strokes. Her parents walking in the autumn woods, Elliot drinking from a steaming mug, and a young Naomi and Cara on a swing. Their mum had painted them when she was dying, her final mark upon the world. Pip knew how important these paintings were to the Wards, how they looked to them in their happiest and saddest times. Although she remembered there used to be a couple more displayed in here too; maybe Elliot was keeping them in storage to give the girls when they grew up and moved out.

Pip knew Naomi had been going to therapy since her mum died seven years ago. And that she had managed to wade through her anxiety, neck just above the water, to graduate from university. But a few months ago she had a panic attack at her new job in London and quit to move back in with her dad and sister.

Naomi was fragile and Pip was trying her hardest not to tread on any cracks. In the corner of her eye she could see the ever-scrolling timer on her voice recorder app.

‘So, can you tell me what you were all doing at Max’s that night?’ she said gently.

Naomi shifted, eyes moving down to circle her knees.

‘Um, we were just, like, drinking, talking, playing some Xbox, nothing too exciting.’

‘And taking pictures? There’s a few on Facebook from that night.’

‘Yeah, taking silly pictures. Just messing around really,’ Naomi said.

‘There aren’t any pictures of Sal from that night, though.’

‘No, well, I guess he left before we started taking them.’

‘And was Sal acting strangely before he left?’ said Pip.

‘Um, I . . . no, I don’t think he was really.’

‘Did he talk about Andie at all?’

‘I, err . . . yeah, maybe a bit.’ Naomi shuffled in her seat and the leather made a loud, rumbling sound as she unstuck herself from it. Something Pip’s little brother would have found very funny and, under other circumstances, she might have too.

‘What did he say about her?’ Pip asked.

‘Um.’ Naomi paused for a moment, picking at a ripped cuticle by her thumb. ‘He, erm . . . I think maybe they were having a disagreement. Sal said he wasn’t going to talk to her for a bit.’

‘Why?’

‘I don’t remember specifically. But Andie was . . . she was a bit of a nightmare. She was always trying to pick fights with Sal over the smallest things. Sal preferred to give her the silent treatment rather than argue.’

‘What kind of things were these fights about?’

‘Like the stupidest things. Like him not texting her back quick enough. Things like that. I . . . I never said it to him, but I always thought Andie was trouble. If I had said something, I don’t know, maybe everything would have turned out differently.’

Looking at Naomi’s downcast face, at the telling tremble of her upper lip, Pip knew she needed to bring them up from this particular rabbit hole, before Naomi closed up entirely.

‘Had Sal said at any point in the evening that he would be leaving early?’

‘No, he didn’t.’

‘And what time did he leave Max’s?’

‘We’re pretty sure it was close to ten thirty.’

‘And did he say anything before he left?’

Naomi shuffled and closed her eyes for a moment, the lids pressed so tightly that Pip could see them vibrating, even from across the room. ‘Yeah,’ she said. ‘He just said that he wasn’t really feeling it and was going to walk home and get an early night.’

‘And what time did you leave Max’s?’

‘I didn’t, I . . . me and Millie stayed over in the spare room. Dad came and got me in the morning.’

‘What time did you go up to bed?’

‘Um, I think it was a bit before half twelve. Not sure really.’

There was a sudden triad of knocks on the study door and Cara poked her head in, squeaking when her messy topknot got caught on the frame.

‘Bugger off, I’m recording,’ Pip said.

‘Sorry, emergency, two secs,’ Cara said, lingering as a floating head. ‘Nai, where the hell have all those Jammie Dodger biscuits gone?’

‘I don’t know.’

‘I literally saw Dad unpack a full packet yesterday. Where have they gone?’

‘I don’t know, ask him.’

‘He’s not back yet.’

‘Cara,’ Pip said, raising her eyebrows.

‘Yep, sorry, buggering off,’ she said, unhooking her hair and closing the door behind her again.

‘Um, OK,’ Pip said, trying to recover their lost tangent. ‘So when did you first hear that Andie was missing?’

‘I think Sal texted me Saturday, maybe late morning-ish.’

‘And what were your initial thoughts about where she might be?’

‘I don’t know.’ Naomi shrugged; Pip wasn’t sure she’d ever seen her shrug before. ‘Andie was the kind of girl who knew lots of people. I guess I thought she was hanging with some other friends we didn’t know, not wanting to be found.’

Pip took a preparatory deep breath, glancing at her notes; she needed to handle the next question carefully. ‘Can you tell me about when Sal asked you to lie to the police about what time he left Max’s?’

Naomi tried to speak, but she couldn’t seem to find the words. A strange, underwater silence mushroomed in the small space. Pip’s ears rang with the weight of it.

‘Um,’ Naomi said finally, her voice breaking a little. ‘We went around on Saturday evening to see how he was doing. And we were talking about what happened and Sal said he was nervous because the police had already been asking him questions. And because he was her boyfriend, he thought he was going to be a target. So he just said did we mind saying he left Max’s a little later than he did, like quarter past twelve-ish, so the police would stop looking at him and actually concentrate on finding Andie. It wasn’t, um, it didn’t seem wrong to me at the time. I just thought he was trying to be sensible and help get Andie back quicker.’

‘And did he tell you where he was between ten thirty and twelve fifty?’

‘Um. I can’t remember. No, maybe he didn’t.’

‘Didn’t you ask? Didn’t you want to know?’

‘I can’t really remember, Pip. Sorry,’ she sniffed.

‘That’s OK.’ Pip realized she’d leaned right forward with her last question; she shuffled her notes and sat back again. ‘So the police called you on the Sunday, didn’t they? And you told them that Sal left Max’s at twelve fifteen?’

‘Yeah.’

‘So why did you four change your mind and decide to tell the police on Tuesday about Sal’s false alibi?’

‘I . . . I think it’s because we’d had some time to think about it, and we knew we could get in trouble for lying. None of us thought Sal was involved in what happened to Andie, so we didn’t see the problem in telling police the truth.’

‘Had you discussed with the other three that that’s what you were going to do?’

‘Yeah, we called each other that Monday night and agreed.’

‘But you didn’t tell Sal that you were going to talk to the police?’

‘Um,’ she said, her hands racing through her hair again. ‘No, we didn’t want him to be upset with us.’

‘OK, last question.’ Pip watched as Naomi’s face ironed out with evident relief. ‘Do you think Sal killed Andie that night?’

‘Not the Sal I knew,’ she said. ‘He was the best, the nicest person. Always cheeky and making people laugh. And he was so nice to Andie too, even though she maybe didn’t deserve it. So I don’t know what happened or if he did it, but I don’t want to believe he did.’

‘OK, done,’ Pip smiled, pressing the stop button on her phone. ‘Thanks so much for doing that, Naomi. I know it’s not easy.’

‘That’s OK.’ She nodded and stood up from the chair, the leather squeaking against her legs.

‘Wait, one more thing,’ Pip said. ‘Are Max, Jake and Millie around to be interviewed?’

‘Oh, Millie’s off the grid travelling around Australia and Jake’s living with his girlfriend down in Devon – they just had a baby. Max is in Kilton, though; he just finished his master’s and is back applying for jobs, like me.’

‘Do you think he’d mind giving me a short interview?’ Pip said.

‘I’ll give you his number and you can ask him.’ Naomi held the study door open for her.

In the kitchen they found Cara trying to fit two pieces of toast in her mouth simultaneously and a just-returned Elliot in an eyesore pastel yellow shirt, wiping down the kitchen surfaces. He turned when he heard them come in, the ceiling lights picking up small wisps of grey in his brown hair and flashing across his thick-rimmed glasses.

‘You done, girls?’ He smiled kindly. ‘Excellent timing, I’ve just popped the kettle on.’





Pippa Fitz-Amobi

EPQ 12/08/2017





Production Log – Entry 7


Just got back from Max Hastings’ house. It felt strange being there, like walking through some kind of crime-scene reconstruction; it looks just the same as it does in those Facebook photos Naomi and co. took of that fateful night five years ago. The night that forever changed this town. Max still looks the same too: tall, blonde floppy hair, mouth slightly too wide for his angular face, somewhat pretentious. He said he remembered me, though, which was nice.

After speaking to him . . . I don’t know, I can’t help but think something’s going on here. Either one of Sal’s friends is misremembering about that night, or one of them is lying. But why?





Transcript of interview with Max Hastings


Pip:

All right, recording. So, Max you’re twenty-three, right?



Max:

Wrong actually. I’m twenty-five in about a month.



Pip:

Oh.



Max:

Yeah, when I was seven I had leukaemia and missed lots of school, so I got held back a year. I know, I’m a miracle boy.



Pip:

I had no idea.



Max:

You can have my autograph later.



Pip:

OK, so, jumping straight in, can you describe what Sal and Andie’s relationship was like?



Max:

It was fine. It wasn’t like the romance of the century or anything. But they both thought the other was good-looking, so I guess it worked.



Pip:

There wasn’t more depth to it?



Max:

Don’t know, I never really paid attention to high-school romances.



Pip:

So how did their relationship start?



Max:

They just got drunk and hooked up at a party at Christmas. It carried on from there.



Pip:

Was that a – what are they called – oh, a calamity party?



Max:

Holy shit, I forgot we used to call our house parties ‘calamities’. You know about those?



Pip:

Yeah. People at school still throw them, tradition apparently. Legend is that you were their originator.



Max:

What, kids are still throwing messy house parties and calling them calamities? That’s so cool. I feel like a god. Do they still do the next host triathlon bit?



Pip:

I’ve never been. Anyway, did you know Andie before she started a relationship with Sal?



Max:

Yeah, a bit, from school and calamities. We sometimes spoke, yeah. But we weren’t ever, like, friend friends, I didn’t really know her. Like an acquaintance.



Pip:

OK, so on Friday the twentieth of April, when everyone was at your house, do you remember if Sal was acting strangely?



Max:

Not really. Maybe a little quiet, if anything.



Pip:

Did you wonder why at the time?



Max:

Nope, I was pretty drunk.



Pip:

And that night, did Sal talk about Andie at all?



Max:

No, he didn’t mention her once.



Pip:

He didn’t say they were having a disagreement at the time or –



Max:

No he just didn’t bring her up.



Pip:

How well do you remember that night?



Max:

I remember all of it. Spent most of it playing Jake and Millie on Call of Duty . I remember ’cause Millie was going on about equality and stuff, and then she didn’t win once.



Pip:

This was after Sal left?



Max:

Yeah, he left really early.



Pip:

Where was Naomi when you were playing video games?



Max:

M.I.A.



Pip:

Missing? She wasn’t there?



Max:

Um, no . . . err . . . she went upstairs for a while.



Pip:

By herself? Doing what?



Max:

I don’t know. Taking a nap. Taking a dump. Fuck knows.



Pip:

For how long?



Max:

I don’t remember.



Pip:

OK, and when Sal left what did he say?



Max:

He didn’t really. He just slipped out quietly. I didn’t really notice him going at the time.



Pip:

So the next evening, after you’d all learned that Andie was missing, you went round to see Sal?



Max:

Yeah ’cause we figured he would be pretty bummed out.



Pip:

And how did he ask you all to lie and give him an alibi?



Max:

He just came out and said it. Said it was looking bad for him and asked if we could help out and just change the times a bit. It wasn’t a biggie. He didn’t phrase it like: give me an alibi. That’s not how it was. It was just a favour for a friend.



Pip:

Do you think Sal killed Andie?



Max:

He had to have done it, didn’t he? I mean, if you’re asking if I thought my friend was capable of murder, the answer would be no way. He was like this sweet little agony aunt. But he did it because, you know, the blood and stuff. And the only way that Sal would ever kill himself, I think, is if he’d done something really bad. So, it all fits unfortunately.



Pip:

OK, thanks, those are all my questions.



There are some inconsistencies between their two versions of events. Naomi said that Sal did talk about Andie and told all his friends they were having a disagreement. Max says he didn’t mention her once. Naomi says Sal told everyone that he was heading home early because he wasn’t ‘feeling it’. Max says he slipped out quietly.

Of course, I am asking them to remember a night over five years ago. Certain lapses in memory are to be expected.

But then there’s this thing Max said, that Naomi was M.I.A. Though he said he didn’t remember how long Naomi was gone for, he had just before indicated that he spent ‘most’ of the night with Millie and Jake and for that particular activity Naomi wasn’t there. Let’s just say I can infer that she was ‘upstairs’ for at least an hour. But why? Why would she be upstairs alone at Max’s house instead of with her friends? Unless Max just accidentally told me that Naomi left the house for a period of time that night and he’s trying to cover for her.

I can’t believe I’m actually going to type this, but I’m starting to suspect that Naomi could have had something to do with Andie. I’ve known her eleven years. I’ve lived almost my whole life looking up to her as a big sister, so I might learn how to be one too. Naomi’s kind; the sort of person who’d give you an encouraging smile when you’re mid-story and everyone else has stopped listening. She’s mild-tempered, she’s delicate, calm. But could she be unstable? Is it in her to be violent?

I don’t know, I’m getting ahead of myself. But there’s also what Ravi said, that he thought Naomi was in love with his brother. It’s pretty clear from her answers too that she didn’t particularly like Andie. And her interview, it was just so awkward, so tense. I know I was asking her to relive some bad memories but the same goes for Max and his was a breeze. Then again . . . was Max’s interview too easy? Was he just a bit too aloof?

I don’t know what to think but I can’t help it, my imagination just threw off its leash and stuck its middle finger up at me. I’m now picturing a scene: Naomi kills Andie in a jealous rage. Sal stumbles across the scene, confounded and distraught. His best friend has killed his girlfriend.

But he still cares for Naomi so he helps her dispose of Andie’s body and they agree to never speak of it. But he can’t hide from the terrible guilt of what he helped conceal. The only escape he can think of is death.

Or maybe I’m making a something out of a nothing?

Most likely. Either way, I think she has to go on the list.

I need a break.





Persons of Interest





Jason Bell





Naomi Ward





Six

‘OK, so now we just need frozen peas, tomatoes and thread,’ Pip’s mum said, holding the shopping list out at arm’s length so she could decipher Victor’s scribbles.

‘That says bread,’ said Pip.

‘Oh yes, you’re right,’ Leanne giggled, ‘that could have made for some interesting sandwiches this week.’

‘Glasses?’ Pip pulled a packaged loaf off the shelf and chucked it in the basket.

‘Nope, I’m not admitting defeat yet. Glasses make me look old,’ Leanne said, opening the freezer section.

‘That’s OK, you are old,’ said Pip, for which she received a cold whack on the arm with a bag of frozen peas. As she dramatically feigned her demise to the fatal pea wound, she caught sight of him watching her. Dressed in a white T-shirt and jeans. Laughing quietly into the back of his hand.

‘Ravi,’ she said, crossing the aisle over to him. ‘Hi.’

‘Hi,’ he smiled, scratching the back of his head, just as she thought he might.

‘I’ve never seen you in here before.’ Here was Little Kilton’s only supermarket, pocket-sized and tucked in by the train station.

‘Yeah, we usually shop out of town,’ he said. ‘But milk emergency.’ He held up a vat-size bottle of semi-skimmed.

‘Well, if only you had your tea black.’

‘I’ll never cross to the dark side,’ he said, looking up as Pip’s mum came over with her filled basket. He smiled at her.

‘Oh, Mum, this is Ravi,’ Pip said. ‘Ravi, my mum, Leanne.’

‘Nice to meet you,’ Ravi said, hugging the milk to his chest and stretching out his right hand.

‘You too,’ Leanne said, shaking his offered palm. ‘Actually, we’ve met before. I was the agent who sold your parents’ house to them, gosh, must be fifteen years ago. I remember you were about five at the time and always wore a Pikachu onesie with a tutu.’

Ravi’s cheeks glowed. Pip held in her nose-laugh until she saw that he was smiling.

‘Can you believe that trend never caught on?’ he chuckled.

‘Yeah, well, Van Gogh’s work was unappreciated in his own time as well,’ Pip said as they all wandered over to the till.

‘You go on ahead of us,’ Leanne said, gesturing to Ravi, ‘we’ll take much longer.’

‘Oh, really? Thanks.’

Ravi strode up to the till and gave the woman working there one of his perfect smiles. He placed the milk down and said, ‘Just that, please.’

Pip watched the woman, and saw the creases crawl through her skin as her face folded with disgust. She scanned the milk, staring at Ravi with cold and noxious eyes. Fortunate, really, that looks couldn’t actually kill. Ravi was looking down at his feet like he hadn’t noticed but Pip knew he had.

Something hot and primal stirred in Pip’s gut. Something that, in its infant stages, felt like nausea, but it kept swelling and boiling until it even reached her ears.

‘One pound forty-eight,’ the lady spat.

Ravi pulled out a five-pound note but when he tried to give her the money, she shuddered and withdrew her hand sharply. The note fell in an autumnal glide to the floor and Pip ignited.

‘Hey,’ she said loudly, marching over to stand beside Ravi. ‘Do you have a problem?’

‘Pip, don’t,’ Ravi said quietly.

‘Excuse me, Leslie,’ Pip read out snidely from her name tag, ‘I asked if you had a problem?’

‘Yeah,’ the woman said, ‘I don’t want him touching me.’

‘I think it’s safe to say he doesn’t want you touching him either, Leslie; stupidity might be catching.’

‘I’m going to call my manager.’

‘Yeah, you do that. I’ll give them a sneak peek of the complaint emails I’ll drown your head office in.’

Ravi put the five-pound note down on the counter, picked up his milk and strode silently towards the exit.

‘Ravi?’ Pip called, but he ignored her.

‘Whoa.’ Pip’s mum stepped forward now, hands up in the surrender position as she came to stand between Pip and the reddening Leslie.

Pip turned on her heels, trainers screaming against the over-polished floor. Just before she reached the door, she called back: ‘Oh, but, Leslie, you should really see someone about getting that arsehole removed from your face.’

Outside she could see Ravi thirty feet away pacing quickly down the hill. Pip, who didn’t run for anything, ran to catch him.

‘Are you OK?’ she said, stepping in front of him.

‘No.’ He carried on round her, the giant milk bottle sloshing at his side.

‘Did I do something wrong?’

Ravi turned, dark eyes flashing. He said, ‘Look, I don’t need some kid I hardly know fighting my battles for me. I’m not your problem, Pippa; don’t try to make me your problem. You’re only going to make things worse.’

He kept walking and Pip watched him go until the shade from a cafe awning dimmed and took him away. Standing there, breathing hard, she felt the rage retreat back into her gut where it slowly simmered out. She was hollow when it left her.





Pippa Fitz-Amobi

EPQ 18/08/2017





Production Log – Entry 8


Let it never be said that Pippa Fitz-Amobi is not an opportunistic interviewer. I was at Cara’s house again today with Lauren. The boys joined us later too, though they insisted the football be on in the background. Cara’s dad, Elliot, was chattering on about something when I remembered: he knew Sal pretty well, not just as his daughter’s friend but as Sal’s teacher. I’ve already got character assessments from Sal’s friends and brother (his generational peers, I might say) but I thought maybe Cara’s dad would have some further adult insights. Elliot agreed to it; I didn’t give him much choice.





Transcript of interview with Elliot Ward


Pip:

So for how many years had you taught Sal?



Elliot:

Err, let’s see. I started teaching at Kilton Grammar in 2009. Salil was in one of the first GCSE classes I took so . . . almost three full years, I think. Yeah.



Pip:

So Sal took history for GCSE and A level?



Elliot:

Oh, not only that, Sal was hoping to study history at Oxford. I don’t know if you remember, Pip, but before I started teaching at the school I was an associate professor at Oxford. I taught history. I moved jobs so I could be around to take care of Isobel when she was sick.



Pip:

Oh yeah.



Elliot:

So actually, in the autumn term of that year before everything happened, I spent a lot of time with Sal. I helped him with his personal statement before he sent his uni applications off. When he got his interview at Oxford I helped him prepare for it, both in school and outside. He was such a bright kid. Brilliant. He got his offer from them too. When Naomi told me I bought him a card and some chocolate.



Pip:

So Sal was very intelligent?



Elliot:

Yeah, oh absolutely. Very, very smart young man. It’s such a tragedy what happened in the end. Such a waste of two young lives. Sal would have got A stars across the board, no question.



Pip:

Did you have a class with Sal on that Monday after Andie disappeared?



Elliot:

Erm, gosh. I think so actually. Yes, because I remember talking to him after and asking if he was OK about everything. So yes, I must have done.



Pip:

And did you notice him acting strangely at all?



Elliot:

Well, it depends on your definition of strange. The whole school was acting strangely that day; one of our students was missing and it was all over the news. I suppose I remember him seeming quiet, maybe a bit tearful about the whole thing. Definitely seemed worried.



Pip:

Worried for Andie?



Elliot:

Yes, possibly.



Pip:

And what about on the Tuesday, the day he killed himself. Do you remember seeing him at school that morning at any point?



Elliot:

I . . . no, I didn’t because on that day I had to call in sick. I had a bug so I dropped the girls off in the morning and had a day at home. I didn’t know until the school rang me in the afternoon about this whole Naomi/Sal alibi thing and that the police had interviewed them at school. So, the last time I saw Sal would have been that Monday lesson time.



Pip:

And do you think Sal killed Andie?



Elliot:

(Sighs) I mean, I can understand how easy it is to convince yourself he didn’t; he was such a lovely kid. But, considering the evidence, I don’t see how he couldn’t have done it. So, as wrong as it feels, I guess I think he must have. There’s no other explanation.



Pip:

And what about Andie Bell? Did you teach her too?



Elliot:

No, well, um, yes, she was in the same GCSE history class as Sal, so I had her that year. But she didn’t study history any further so I’m afraid I didn’t really know her that well.



Pip:

OK, thanks. You can go back to peeling potatoes now.



Elliot:

Thanks for your permission.



Ravi hadn’t mentioned that Sal had an offer from Oxford University. There might be more he hasn’t told me about Sal, but I’m not sure Ravi will ever speak to me again. Not after what happened a couple of days ago. I didn’t mean to hurt him; I was trying to help. Maybe I should go around and apologize? He’ll probably just slam the door on me. [But anyway, I can’t let that distract me, not again.]

If Sal was so intelligent and Oxford-bound, then why was the evidence that linked him to Andie’s murder so obvious? So what if he didn’t have an alibi for the time of Andie’s disappearance? He was clever enough to have got away with it, that much is clear now.

PS. we were playing Monopoly with Naomi and . . . maybe I overreacted before. She’s still on the persons of interest list, but a murderer? There’s just no way. She refuses to put houses down on the board even when she has the two dark blues because she thinks it’s too mean. I hotel-up as soon as I can and laugh when others roll into my death trap. Even I have more of a killer’s instinct than Naomi.





Seven

The next day, Pip was doing one final read-through of her information request to the Thames Valley Police. Her room was sweltering and stagnant, the sun trapped and sulking in there with her, even though she’d pushed open the window to let it out.

She heard distant knocking downstairs as she verbally approved her own email, ‘Yep, good,’ and pressed the send button; the small click that began her twenty-working-day wait. Pip hated waiting. And it was a Saturday, so she had to wait for the wait to begin.

‘Pips,’ came Victor’s shout from downstairs. ‘Front door for you.’

With each step down the stairs, the air became a little fresher; from her bedroom’s first-ring-of-hell heat into quite bearable warmth. She took the turn after the stairs as a sock-skid across the oak but stopped in her tracks when she saw Ravi Singh outside the front door. He was being talked at enthusiastically by her dad. All the heat returned to her face.

‘Um, hi,’ Pip said, walking towards them. But the fast tap-tap of claws on wood grew behind her as Barney barged past and got there first, launching his muzzle into Ravi’s groin.

‘No, Barney, down,’ Pip shouted, rushing forward. ‘Sorry, he’s a bit friendly.’

‘That’s no way to talk about your father,’ said Victor.

Pip raised her eyebrows at him.

‘Got it, got it, got it,’ he said, walking away and into the kitchen.

Ravi bent down to stroke Barney, and Pip’s ankles were fanned with the dog-tail breeze.

‘How do you know where I live?’ Pip asked.

‘I asked in the estate agents your mum works in,’ he straightened up. ‘Seriously, your house is a palace.’

‘Well, the strange man who opened the door to you is a hot-shot corporate lawyer.’

‘Not a king?’

‘Only some days,’ she said.

Pip noticed Ravi looking down and, though his lips twitched trying to contain it, he broke into a big smile. That’s when she remembered what she was wearing: baggy denim dungarees over a white T-shirt with the words TALK NERDY TO ME emblazoned across her chest.

‘So, um, what brings you here?’ she said. Her stomach lurched, and only then did she realize she was nervous.

‘I . . . I’m here because . . . I wanted to say sorry.’ He looked at her with his big downturned eyes, his brows bunching over them. ‘I got angry and said some things I shouldn’t have. I don’t really think you’re just some kid. Sorry.’

‘It’s OK,’ Pip said, ‘I’m sorry too. I didn’t mean to step in and fight your battles for you. I just wanted to help, just wanted her to know that what she did wasn’t OK. But sometimes my mouth starts saying words without checking them with my brain first.’

‘Oh, I don’t know about that,’ he said. ‘That arsehole comment was pretty inspired.’

‘You heard?’

‘Feisty Pip was pretty loud.’

‘I’ve been told other kinds of Pip are pretty loud too, school-quiz Pip and grammar-police Pip among them. So . . . are we OK?’

‘We’re OK.’ He smiled and looked down at the dog again. ‘Me and your human are OK.’

‘I was actually just about to head out on a dog walk, do you want to come with?’

‘Yeah, sure,’ he said, ruffling Barney’s ears. ‘How could I say no to that handsome face?’

Pip almost said, Oh please, you’ll make me blush, but she bit it back.

‘OK, I’ll just grab my shoes. Barney, stay.’

Pip scooted into the kitchen. The back door was open and she could see her parents pottering around the flowers and Josh, of course, playing with his football.

‘I’m taking Barns, see you in a bit,’ she called outside and her mum waved a gardening-gloved hand to let her know she’d heard.

Pip slipped on her not-allowed-to-be-left-in-the-kitchen trainers that were left in the kitchen and grabbed the dog lead on her way back to the front door.

‘Right, let’s go,’ she said, clipping the lead to Barney’s collar and shutting the front door behind them.

At the end of her drive they crossed the road and into the woods opposite. The stippled shade felt nice on Pip’s hot face. She let Barney off the lead and he was gone in a golden flash.

‘I always wanted a dog.’ Ravi grinned as Barney circled back to hurry them on. He paused, his jaw moving as he chewed on some silent thought. ‘Sal was allergic, though, that’s why we never . . .’

‘Oh.’ She wasn’t quite sure what else to say.

‘There’s this dog at the pub I work at, the owner’s dog. She’s a slobbery Great Dane called Peanut. I sometimes accidentally drop leftovers for her. Don’t tell.’

‘I encourage accidental droppage,’ she said. ‘Which pub do you work at?’

‘The George and Dragon, over in Amersham. It’s not what I want to do forever. Just saving up so I can get myself as far away from Little Kilton as I can.’

Pip felt an unutterable sadness for him then, rising up her tightened throat.

‘What do you want to do forever?’

He shrugged. ‘I used to want to be a lawyer.’

‘Used to?’ She nudged him. ‘I think you could be great at that.’

‘Hmm, not when the only GCSEs I got spell out the word DUUUDDEE.’

He’d said it like a joke, but she knew it wasn’t. They both knew how awful school had been for Ravi after Andie and Sal died. Pip had even witnessed some of the worst of the bullying. His locker painted in red dripping letters: Like brother like brother. And that snowy morning when eight older boys had pinned him down and upturned four full bins over his head. She would never forget the look on sixteen-year-old Ravi’s face. Never.

That’s when, with the clarity of cold slush pooling in her stomach, Pip realized where they were.

‘Oh my god,’ she gasped, covering her face with her hands. ‘I’m so sorry, I didn’t even think. I completely forgot these are the woods where they found Sal –’

‘That’s OK.’ He cut her off. ‘Really. You can’t help it that these happen to be the woods outside your house. Plus, there’s nowhere in Kilton that doesn’t remind me of him.’

Pip watched for a while as Barney dropped a stick at Ravi’s feet and Ravi raised his arm in mock-throws, sending the dog backwards and forwards and back, until he finally let go.

They didn’t speak for a while. But the silence wasn’t uncomfortable; it was charged with the offcuts of whatever thoughts they were working on alone. And, as it turned out, both their minds had wandered to the same place.

‘I was wary of you when you first knocked on my door,’ Ravi said. ‘But you really don’t think Sal did it, do you?’

‘I just can’t believe it,’ she said, stepping over an old fallen tree. ‘My brain hasn’t been able to leave it alone. So, when this project thing came up at school, I jumped at the excuse to re-examine the case.’

‘It is the perfect excuse to hide behind,’ he said, nodding. ‘I didn’t have anything like that.’

‘What do you mean?’ She turned to him, fiddling with the lead round her neck.

‘I tried to do what you’re doing, three years ago. My parents told me to leave it alone, that I was only going to make things harder for myself, but I just couldn’t accept it.’

‘You tried to investigate?’

He gave her a mock salute then, barking, ‘Yes, Sergeant.’ Like he couldn’t let himself be vulnerable, couldn’t let himself be serious long enough to expose a chink in his armour.

‘But I didn’t get anywhere,’ he carried on. ‘I couldn’t. I called Naomi Ward when she was at university, but she just cried and said she couldn’t talk about it with me. Max Hastings and Jake Lawrence never replied to my messages. I tried contacting Andie’s best friends, but they hung up as soon as I said who I was. Murderer’s brother isn’t the best intro. And, of course, Andie’s family were out of the question. I was too close to the case, I knew it. I looked too much like my brother, too much like the “murderer”. And I didn’t have the excuse of a school project to fall back on.’

‘I’m sorry,’ Pip said, wordless and embarrassed by the unfairness of it.

‘Don’t be.’ He nudged her. ‘It’s good to not be alone in this, for once. Go on, I want to hear your theories.’ He picked up Barney’s stick, now foamy with dribble, and threw it into the trees.

Pip hesitated.

‘Go on.’ He smiled into his eyes, one eyebrow cocked. Was he testing her?

‘OK, I have four working theories,’ she said, the first time she’d actually given voice to them. ‘Obviously the path of least resistance is the accepted narrative of what happened: that Sal killed her and his guilt or fear of being caught led him to take his own life. The police would argue that the only reasons there are gaps in the case are because Andie’s body hasn’t been recovered and Sal isn’t alive to tell us how it happened. But my first theory,’ she said, holding up one finger, making sure it wasn’t the swear-y one, ‘is that a third party killed Andie Bell, but Sal was somehow involved or implicated, such as an accessory after the fact. Again his guilt leads him to suicide and the evidence found on him implicates him as the perpetrator, even though he isn’t the one who killed her. The actual killer is still at large.’

‘Yeah, I thought of that too. I still don’t like it. Next?’

‘Theory number two,’ she said, ‘a third party killed Andie, and Sal had no involvement or awareness at all. His suicide days later wasn’t motivated by a murderer’s guilt, but maybe a multitude of factors, including the stress of his girlfriend’s disappearance. The evidence found on him – the blood and the phone – have an entirely innocent explanation and are unrelated to her murder.’

Ravi nodded thoughtfully. ‘I still don’t think Sal would do that, but OK. Theory three?’

‘Theory three.’ Pip swallowed, her throat feeling dry and sticky. ‘Andie is murdered by a third party on the Friday. The killer knows that Sal, as Andie’s boyfriend, would make for the perfect suspect. Especially as Sal seems to have no alibi for over two hours that night. The killer murders Sal and makes it look like a suicide. They plant the blood and the phone on his body to make him look guilty. It works just as they planned it.’

Ravi stopped walking for a moment. ‘You think it’s possible that Sal was actually murdered?’

She knew, looking into his sharpened eyes, that this was the answer he’d been looking for.

‘I think it’s a theoretical possibility,’ Pip nodded. ‘Theory four is the most far-fetched of the lot.’ She took a large breath and did it in one. ‘No one killed Andie Bell, because she isn’t dead. She faked her disappearance and then lured Sal out into the woods, murdered him and dressed it up as a suicide. She planted her own phone and blood on him so that everyone believed she was dead. Why would she do this? Maybe she needed to disappear for some reason. Maybe she feared for life and needed to make it look like she was already dead. Maybe she had an accomplice.’

They were quiet again, while Pip caught her breath and Ravi ticked over her answers, his upper lip puffed out in concentration.

They had come to the end of their circuit round the woods; the bright sun-stroked road was visible through the trees ahead. She called Barney over and put him on the lead. They crossed the road and wandered over to Pip’s front door.

There was an awkward moment of silence and Pip wasn’t sure whether she should invite him inside or not. He seemed to be waiting for something.

‘So,’ Ravi said, scratching his head with one hand, the dog’s with the other, ‘the reason I came over is . . . I want to make a deal with you.’

‘A deal?’

‘Yeah, I want in on this,’ he said, a small tremor in his voice. ‘I ne