What Dies Inside: An Inspector Carlyle Novella, страница 1
James Craig has worked as a journalist and consultant for more than thirty years. He lives in central London with his family. His Inspector Carlyle novels, London Calling, Never Apologise, Never Explain, Buckingham Palace Blues, The Circus and Then We Die are also available from Constable & Robinson.
For more information visit www.james-craig.co.uk, or follow him on Twitter: @byjamescraig.
Praise for London Calling
‘A cracking read.’ BBC Radio 4
‘Fast paced and very easy to get quickly lost in.’ Lovereading.com
Praise for Never Apologise, Never Explain
‘Pacy and entertaining.’ The Times
‘Engaging, fast paced . . . a satisfying modern British crime novel.’
‘Never Apologise, Never Explain is as close as you can get to the
heartbeat of London. It may even cause palpitations when
reading.’ It’s a Crime! Reviews
Also by James Craig
Never Apologise, Never Explain
Buckingham Palace Blues
The Enemy Within
Then We Die
WHAT DIES INSIDE
Constable & Robinson Ltd
55–56 Russell Square
London WC1B 4HP
First published in the UK by C&R Crime,
an imprint of Constable & Robinson Ltd, 2013
Copyright © James Craig 2013
The right of James Craig to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or to actual events or locales is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out or otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
A copy of the British Library Cataloguing in Publication
Data is available from the British Library
ISBN 978-1-47210-743-5 (ebook)
1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2
Cover copyright © Constable & Robinson
This is the second short story featuring London policeman John Carlyle. It follows the publication of four full-length Carlyle novels; London Calling; Never Apologise, Never Explain; Buckingham Palace Blues; and The Circus.
A fifth novel, Then We Die, will appear later in the year.
What Dies Inside recounts one of Carlyle’s early experiences as a young copper and fills in some of the backstory that is touched on in London Calling. It is set in the immediate aftermath of the all too real Brighton bombing in October 1984.
I owe a big ‘thank you’ to Kevin Curran for his advice on the manuscript, particularly regarding the political significance of different brands of whiskey. In addition, I would like to thank Michael Doggart for his comments and support in getting the job done, along with Krystyna Green, Rob Nichols, Colette Whitehouse, Saskia Angenent, Clive Hebard, Joan Deitch, and all of the team at Constable, above all the ‘real’ Martin Palmer, who, thankfully, is as far removed from his fictional namesake as it is possible to be.
As always, my greatest thanks go to Catherine and Cate. This story is for them.
‘The tragedy of life is what dies inside a man while he lives.’
London, October 1984
The city was asleep. Most of the city, anyway. Standing by the window, Gerry Durkan scratched the two-day-old stubble on his chin and looked down at the traffic speeding along the Great West Road. Breathing in, he exhaled slowly and listened to his heartbeat, calm and steady. He smiled; it was the heartbeat of a man in control of his own destiny. He yawned as a succession of taxis sped past on the dual carriageway below. Where were people driving to at this time of night? To the airport? He gazed towards the orange horizon in the west. Maybe I should have left the country, Durkan mused. Caught some sun in Spain for a few weeks. Got pissed up in Alicante and fucked a succession of hairdressers on holiday from Newcastle or Liverpool. That sounded like a plan.
You should have thought of that earlier, he told himself. Now it was too late to run. Sticking it out in England would be tricky. Even with the protection he would get, Durkan knew that he would have to keep his wits about him.
Scratching his balls through his Y-fronts, he squeezed out a lacklustre fart and wondered if he might have a smoke. Almost immediately, the idea was nixed by a cough from the bed, followed by a drowsy, unhappy voice.
‘Gerry, for fuck’s sake. What’s the time? Come back to bed. I’ve got things to do in the morning.’
Me too, he thought. Me too. ‘Don’t fret,’ he replied soothingly. ‘I’m coming.’ Padding quietly across the cold linoleum floor, he slipped back under the electric blanket, pulling it tightly up beneath his chin. As he felt a warm arm snaking around his chest, he glanced at the alarm clock on the bedside table and closed his eyes, knowing that sleep would not come now, wondering if things had gone to plan.
The clock on the wall said 8.58. Shuffling into the kitchen, still wearing his preferred night time attire – striped pyjama trousers and a Stiff Little Fingers Inflammable Material T-shirt – young John Carlyle yawned theatrically. He knew that there wasn’t really time for any breakfast this morning, but his rumbling stomach had other ideas. His shift at Shepherd’s Bush police station was due to start at ten. He would need to get on with it.
Outside, the rain lashed against the window above the sink as ominous black clouds scudded across the grey London sky. The relentless descent into winter had begun. With a long day pounding the streets of W12 in front of him, he made a mental note to wear his long johns.
Inside the family home, the atmosphere was equally chilly. With her back to the sink, arms folded, Lorna Gordon – she had never relinquished her maiden name – eyed her son suspiciously as he sat down. ‘What is that, John?’ she asked, uncoiling a bony finger from round the mug of tea that was clamped to her chest and pointing it at the well-thumbed copy of Penthouse magazine lying on the table, next to that morning’s Daily Mirror and an outsized box of Rice Krispies.
Carlyle glanced at his dad as he reached for the cereal, but the old fella was keeping his head down as he munched slowly on his toast. Very wise. Carlyle was pleased to note that his dad had a job at the moment, working in the warehouse of a new supermarket that had opened down the road during the summer. Shaved, with his hair neatly combed, he was dressed in a shirt and tie and had that air of a man with business to attend to. Most important of all, he was in his wife’s good books for once; he might as well try and stay there for a while.
‘Well?’ Lorna demanded.
‘Dom lent it to me,’ Carlyle replied casually, deciding that nonchalance was the only way forward. Opening the cereal packet, he half filled his bowl and carefully added some milk.
‘Tsk.’ His mother stared into her tea like it was toxic. ‘That Dominic Silver is a right one; always leading you astray.’
‘Dom’s a good bloke,’ Carlyle protested.
‘And the worst thing is that you seem more than happy to let him drag you this way and that.’
‘No, I don’t,’ Carlyle retort
‘You pair need to grow up,’ his mother complained. ‘Otherwise you’ll never make the most of yourselves.’
‘We’re doing fine,’ Carlyle grunted, scratching at the neck of his T-shirt. He didn’t have the heart to tell his mother that Dom had already packed in the police force – less than two years after the two of them had gone through officer training together – abandoning life in uniform for a far more lucrative career . . . as a drug dealer. Dom had already made it clear that there was a position for Carlyle in this new business venture but Carlyle had refused. His long-term career prospects in the Met might not look great, but that didn’t mean he shared Dominic’s insouciance about becoming a career criminal.
‘What do you need a magazine like that for, anyway?’ she huffed.
What do you think, Ma? The same as everyone else.
Shaking her head, Lorna turned her attention to her husband. ‘I found it shoved under a pile of football magazines, when I was cleaning his room.’
Looking up, Alexander Carlyle gave a nod but said nothing.
‘Well,’ Lorna said firmly, ‘you’re not having that kind of thing in my house.’
Staring at his breakfast, Carlyle muttered something non-committal.
‘When you’ve got a place of your own, you can do what you like.’
‘Mm.’ He wondered if he would ever be able to afford a flat. On current evidence, it didn’t seem very likely. Dom, of course, had his own place but then his circumstances were rather different. Realising that he needed a spoon, Carlyle got slowly back to his feet and stepped over to the drawer by the sink, switching on the radio as he did so. The voice of the newsreader was sombre, all Home Counties stiff upper lip and repressed fury:
‘There has been a direct bomb attack on members of the British Government at the Conservative Party conference in Brighton. At least two people have been killed and many others seriously injured, including two senior Cabinet ministers.
‘The blast tore apart the Brighton Grand Hotel where members of the Cabinet have been staying for the Conservative Party conference. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her husband Denis narrowly escaped injury.’
‘There’s no need for that kind of language,’ his mother snapped but he could see that even she was shocked by the news.
‘Apparently, it was the IRA,’ his dad explained, his face breaking into a wry smile as he wiped some crumbs from his chin. ‘Better luck next time, eh?’
‘Alexander! What a thing to say, shame on you.’
Carlyle waved his spoon angrily as he sat back down. ‘Ssh!’
‘The bomb went off at just before 3 a.m. this morning. The Irish Republican Army claimed responsibility several hours later. In a statement, the IRA said: ‘Today we were unlucky, but remember, we only have to be lucky once; you will have to be lucky always.’ Detectives are now beginning a major investigation into who was behind the bombing and how such a major breach in security occurred.’
Alexander reached for another slice of toast. ‘I guess you’ll be fairly busy today, then, son.’
‘It’s hardly going to change my life,’ Carlyle observed through a mouthful of Rice Krispies, ‘is it?’
‘Everywhere’ll be on high alert,’ his father observed.
‘You be careful, John,’ his mother chipped in.
‘Don’t worry, Ma,’ Carlyle grinned. ‘I don’t think the shoplifters down Shepherd’s Bush Green are going to be any more dangerous than usual.’ Shovelling another spoonful of cereal into his mouth, he pushed away from the table. ‘I’d better get going or I’ll be late for my shift.’ Getting to his feet, he grabbed the copy of Penthouse from the table and beat a hasty retreat.
The tragedy of life is what dies inside a man while he lives.
What rot! Wiping his hands on the knees of his new Marks & Spencer suit, Martin Palmer let his gaze slip across his boss’s desk, from the small picture frame containing the ‘motivational’ quote to the plate of biscuits nearby. According to the clock on the wall, he had been sitting here for more than five minutes. That was the thing about the good fellows of Gower Street: even when they panicked, they panicked in slow motion.
Palmer waited patiently for his boss to look up and acknowledge his presence. The young MI5 officer could kill for a Jammie Dodger right now. Three floors below them, where Palmer had his cubbyhole, Edna the tea lady would be doing the rounds with her elevenses trolley. His chums Ryder, Flyte and Marchmain would be busy cleaning the old girl out of her supplies of iced fingers and chocolate tea cakes while discussing last night’s escapades at the Kennington Club and generally ignoring their assignments for the day. Palmer sighed unhappily. His club membership had been stuck in the works now for more than six months and he was beginning to wonder if he had been blackballed. He couldn’t think why, but then again, stranger things had happened.
He was shaken from his reverie by the shrill, insistent ring of the phone on Commander Timothy Sorensen’s desk. Looking up, the Commander glared at Palmer, as if the call was his fault, before picking up the receiver.
Palmer stared at his belly while the Commander nibbled on a gingersnap as he listened intently to an extended monologue from whoever was on the other end of the line. After a few moments, Palmer let his gaze lift to a copy of Bernard Safran’s 1953 portrait of the Queen that hung on the wall, next to a map of the British Empire circa 1920-something. He guessed that Her Majesty must have been in her late twenties when she sat for that picture. Something like that. Not a bad-looking girl back then, Palmer mused. But not really his type. He liked them older; a lot older.
‘I really don’t think that—’ Sorensen said finally, before being quickly cut off by the caller. ‘Yes, well. We’ll have to see what we could do about that.’ Looking up, he eyed Palmer with some distaste. ‘He’s here now. I was just about to brief him. Fine. Of course. Yes, sir. Jolly good. That is received and understood. Will do.’ Placing the receiver back on its cradle, he returned to his paperwork without another word.
Palmer felt a wave of despair wash over him. The timing of this meeting could hardly be worse. Granted, everyone was in a right old flap this morning, what with the bloody Paddys almost blowing the PM to Kingdom Come. But even so, a boy’s tea-break was sacred, surely? It was almost two hours since he’d enjoyed his post-breakfast snack – a bacon sandwich from the greasy spoon café on Store Street – and he was beginning to feel more than a little weak with hunger. By the time he made it back downstairs, Edna would be long gone and all sources of sustenance denied him until the canteen opened at 12.30.
Finally looking up from his report, Sorensen placed the remains of his gingersnap onto his saucer, next to his teacup. He was a small man, in his late fifties, a thirty-year veteran of the security service. Sorensen had become Palmer’s immediate boss in the wake of the latter’s triumphant return from Yorkshire during the mining strike, waging covert warfare against union operatives who had been dubbed ‘the enemy within’ by the PM herself. From being a nondescript analyst toiling away in the bowels of HQ, Palmer was now being fast-tracked as a management trainee. Life was good.
‘No breakfast today?’ With his thinning hair slicked back over his scalp with an excess of Brylcreem and his thick NHS-frame glasses, Sorensen reminded Palmer of his grandfather.
‘No, sir,’ Palmer lied, playing with the knot of his tie. ‘It has been a really very busy morning.’
‘Quite.’ Sorensen gestured towards the plate with his finger. ‘Help yourself.’
‘Thank you, sir.’ Leaning forward, Palmer took a couple of chocolate digestives, slipping each one into his mouth in quick succession.
‘Now look here, Palmer,’ said Sorensen, closing the file and retreating into the gloom behind his desk. ‘There is quite a situation going on here.’
‘Yes, sir.’ Palmer li
‘As you can imagine,’ Sorensen continued, bringing his hands together as if in prayer, ‘the last few hours have seen frantic activity. No one could have imagined that the damn Republicans could have got so close to the Prime Minister.’
‘Various Cabinet ministers are in hospital, for God’s sake.’ The Commander shook his head. ‘The show must go on, of course.’
‘Of course,’ Palmer nodded vigorously.
‘Mrs Thatcher has already stood up at the Party conference and delivered her “no surrender” speech. In the meantime, Special Branch has been busy arresting every bloody Irishman they can lay their hands on.’
‘The perpetrators have already been locked up – most of them, at least.’
Nodding again, Palmer reached for another biscuit, thinking better of it when he saw the scowl that passed across Sorensen’s face.
‘However,’ his boss went on, ‘while Special Branch have been making hay, questions have been asked about us.’
Sorensen looked pained as he said, ‘People are already asking whether MI5 shouldn’t have done more to prevent this outrage from happening in the first place.’
Not unreasonable, Palmer thought, under the circumstances.
‘Which was why I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind giving me an update on Gerald Durkan?’
‘Ah, yes.’ Palmer shifted in his seat. Gerry bloody Durkan. IRA bomber turned MI5 informant; the key ‘asset’ under the management of the rising star of the service. For the last two months, it had been Palmer’s job to meet up with Durkan in various grubby West London pubs, tentatively sipping pints of rancid lager while handing over cash in exchange for snippets of intelligence about Republican activity in London. In retrospect, it was obvious why Sorensen had dragged him in here this morning. Grimacing, Palmer cursed himself for obsessing about food when he should have been getting his story straight.