‘DCI Banks’

John Thomas

Setting on the table, the flickering candle is about to burn out. With hope the man lying in the lounge next to the table will awaken and extinguish the candle before it sets fire to the room. The flame is the only movement in the room, dancing back and forth as it heads towards the table. Finally reaching the table, the flame ignites a trail of fire moving towards the floor, the walls and ceiling, the man and finally the rest of the house boat.

The next day Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks (Stephen Tompkinson) is called to the site of the fire, a small canal where the remains of the burned house boat are moored. With him is his colleague Detective Sargent Annie Cabbot (Andrea Lane). As the two survey the damage they discover a metal chest. Opening the chest at headquarters, they find it contains rolls of money (20+ grand) and what appears to be a painting by the 19th century artist William Turner. If the work is genuine, it could be worth millions. If a fake, it becomes an art fraud case.

Alan sets out to investigate the victim’s place of work, a used book store, while Annie researches the authenticity of the painting. At the book shop, Alan speaks with a neighboring shopkeeper who knows little about the book dealer other than he is interested in paintings. Annie has more luck at the National Gallery with its curator Mark Keane (John Light), who offers to scientifically examine the painting if Annie will meet him for drinks later. There’s a mutual attraction and she agrees.

Having been given the name of the reclusive artist, Jake McMahon (Gary Cargill), friend of the book dealer, Alan drives to his remote studio/home. No one answers his knocking so Alan breaks in. Pointing a gun at Alan, Jake appears from the darkness, almost hysterically asking “Are you Morrison, what do you want?” Alan explains he’s not Morrison, he’s only interested in knowing if the artist knows the late book dealer. Jake is frightened to hear of his friend’s death. Not long after Alan’s visit, another flickering  flame dances near the bottom of a candle setting on a table, this time with an unconscious victim lying on the floor. The candle is in Jake’s studio.

Alan and Annie are called to the studio and find another hidden metal box containing roles of bank notes and stacks of drawings done on old paper. Charmed by her contact with Jake, she heads to his gallery to discuss the drawings. Mark explains that the works are by minor 19th century artists working in Yorkshire and could be genuine, but he’s not sure. Yes, he has heard of a person called Morrison. Back at police headquarters, Alan and his colleagues begin to suspect a connection between the book dealer, the artist Jake and Morrison.

One line of investigation Annie pursues is the history of recent sales of drawings at auctions and who authenticated them. Oddly enough, all the works have been authenticated by the National Gallery. Because no one has seen Morrison, Annie gathers photos of all the Gary Morrisons in the neighborhood and invites Mark to her office. He points to one photo and says, “That’s Morrison.” With a questioning look, she asks Mark to call him. He does so, asking Morrison to meet on an urgent matter. Still focusing on Mark, she wonders if there is anyone at the other end of the phone line.

Each story in this “should see” series is told in two episodes.




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