Time of death, p.12

Time of Death, страница 12

 часть  #8 серии  Inspector Carlyle

 

Time of Death
 

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  ‘This guy is heading for the cells,’ Joe sighed.

  The inspector banged his fist on the window. ‘Open the fucking door!’

  Joe put a hand on his shoulder. ‘Hold on a second.’

  Carlyle followed his sergeant back round to the side of the bus. He watched Joe reach down and open a small panel by the left-hand side of the exit doors. Inside was a green button about the size of a 10p piece, with the legend emergency door open above it in small script. Joe pressed the button and the doors whooshed open.

  ‘Why didn’t you do that in the first place?’ Carlyle snapped.

  Joe just smiled and stepped back, moving slightly to allow his boss to get on.

  ‘Get rid of the gawkers,’ Carlyle barked, ‘and call for some uniforms.’ He jumped on the bus and slammed the palm of his hand into the Plexiglas partition that kept the driver safe from the travelling public. ‘What the fuck is going on?’ he asked. ‘Are you lost?’

  The driver looked straight ahead, ignoring Carlyle and remaining mute.

  ‘Is this your bus?’

  Finally, the man turned to look straight at Carlyle. Taking the right lapel of his jacket between his thumb and forefinger, he indicated his name badge to the policeman. ‘Yes,’ he said in a shaky voice, ‘it’s my bus. And this is a protest. What does it look like?’

  ‘It looks like piss-poor parking,’ said Carlyle, relaxing slightly. At least the silly sod seemed compos mentis. ‘What’s your name?’

  ‘Clive.’

  ‘And what exactly are you protesting about, Clive?’

  ‘The advertising.’

  Carlyle was confused. ‘What advertising?’

  ‘The advertising on this side of the bus,’ said Clive huffily, as if that was obvious.

  Carlyle frowned. Turning round, he stepped back off the bus and stared up at the poster running horizontally between the upper and lower decks.

  In disgusting pink letters, the text read: there’s probably no god. now stop worrying and enjoy your life.

  Carlyle blinked, did a double-take and started laughing. He stepped back on the bus and said to the driver: ‘What’s wrong with that?’

  ‘It offends my religious beliefs.’ Clive actually looked hurt.

  ‘And what are those, exactly?’ Carlyle asked, failing to keep the as-if-I-could-give-a-fuck tone out of his voice.

  ‘I am a member of the East London Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church,’ Clive said solemnly. ‘Haven’t missed a Sunday in almost six years.’

  ‘Very impressive,’ said Carlyle. He knew nothing much about religion and cared less. As far as he was concerned, people could believe what they liked, as long as they didn’t make a song and dance about it and kept within the law. ‘Now that we’ve got that sorted out, it’s time to move the bus.’

  ‘No.’

  Fuck it, Carlyle thought, no more Mr Nice Guy. ‘Move the bus or I will arrest you.’

  Clive gave him a look as if he was a hurt puppy, but said nothing.

  ‘You will go to jail. That means no more Missionary . . . whatnot Church for you for a long time.’

  For the first time, a look of discomfort passed across Clive’s face.

  ‘They’re all atheists in prison, you know,’ Carlyle continued. ‘They’ll fuck you up the arse every night. God won’t save you then.’

  Clive’s bottom lip quivered, but still he remained mute.

  So much for psychology, Carlyle thought. Taking half a step forwards, he hit the Perspex so hard his hand hurt. ‘Wait till I get you out of there, you little bastard. Move the fucking bus!’

  ‘No,’ replied a tiny voice.

  ‘For fuck’s sake, Clive!’ Seething, Carlyle wheeled away and walked straight into a woman holding a small video camera. She stepped back towards the stairs leading to the upper deck, bringing the camera back up to her face, keeping it focused on Carlyle.

  ‘What the fuck are you doing?’ Carlyle growled. He wished that he had stayed at the station. The feeling that some kind of cosmic conspiracy was determined to fuck up his day was beginning to eat into his brain. With some effort, he resisted the urge to stick his hand over the lens. The woman took another step backwards towards a ratty-looking bloke, and he realised that they were the pair of ‘tourists’ he had seen outside the bus earlier.

  Letting the camera drop to her side, the woman stopped filming. ‘We’re the Daughters of Dismas. We’re recording this protest for our website.’

  ‘The what?’

  ‘The Daughters of Dismas,’ the woman repeated slowly. ‘It’s the feminist wing of the Tabernacle Church.’

  Carlyle gestured at the man behind her. ‘What’s he doing here then?’

  ‘Stuart is an honorary member of the DoD. He’s my boyfriend.’

  ‘Lucky boy,’ Carlyle leered, looking the woman up and down. Thin, pasty-faced, wearing a red T-shirt and green combat pants, she could have been anywhere from eighteen to thirty-eight. It struck him that she looked like a weedy heroine from one of those wretched Mike Leigh movies that Helen sometimes made him watch; boring people pissing about masquerading as ‘social realism’.

  The woman ignored his sarcastic tone. ‘Dismas was the Penitent Thief, a friend of Jesus.’

  ‘Good for him,’ Carlyle said, not having the remotest clue what she was talking about. Dismas could have been a character on Sesame Street for all he knew. Or Fulham’s new Hungarian left-back. He held out his right hand. ‘Give me the camera.’

  The woman immediately lifted the machine back to her face and resumed filming. ‘We have a perfect right to be here. Are you arresting Clive?’

  Carlyle glanced over at Joe, who was standing in the doorway trying not to laugh. Turning back to the woman, he said, ‘Give me the camera,’ as calmly as he could manage. ‘Please.’

  Hemmed in by her boyfriend, the woman kicked Carlyle in the shin.

  Instinctively, Carlyle kicked her back.

  ‘Ouch!’ she squealed. ‘That hurt!’

  Without waiting for her to start screaming about ‘police brutality’, Carlyle grabbed the camera and quickly tossed it to Joe. ‘You are under arrest,’ he said, spinning her round and snapping on a pair of cuffs, ‘for breach of the peace and assaulting a police officer.’ He pointed at the boyfriend. ‘That goes for you too, Stuart.’

  ‘Boss,’ said Joe from behind him, ‘the uniforms are here.’

  ‘Good. Tell ’em to take these two and the driver back to the station and we’ll get them charged. And get someone out here to move this bloody bus.’

  ‘Yes, boss.’

  ‘What about my camera?’ the woman whined.

  ‘That’s evidence, love,’ said Joe, smiling. ‘But don’t worry – we’ll look after it.’

  SIXTEEN

  Today I write not to gloat. Instead, I am writing to say goodbye.

  Commander Carole Simpson dropped the letter on to her desk and sighed. Why her ‘genius’ fund manager husband had decided to write a ‘fuck you’ letter to the world in general and to his clients in particular, was beyond her. Simpson had never quite understood how her husband, Joshua Hunt, had transformed himself from the rather geeky Imperial College computer scientist that she had married into a financial guru with an estimated net worth – so she read in the papers – of almost £120 million. For a long time, she had taken comfort in the belief that the 4,000 square-foot house in Highgate, the expensive restaurants, the needy clients and the political networking had not turned Joshua into a completely different person, robbing her of what she had seen in him in the first place. Now, however, she wasn’t so sure. Maybe the money had finally gone to his head.

  Joshua Hunt’s company, McGowan Capital, had run four of the best performing investment funds in London for each of the last six years. In the last two years, as the world’s financial markets had imploded, he had made an incredible 723 per cent return, mostly from betting against bank stocks and sterling. However, he had taken a beating in the last quarter, calling the oil mar
ket wrong, and was finding it harder and harder to convince his clients that this was not the time that they should be pulling out their money.

  Sitting at the kitchen table a couple of weeks earlier, he had told her that he was shutting down the firm. He wanted to retire. Retire to what? He didn’t know. Still, that was fine by her – Joshua had never been the type of man who had allowed himself to be defined by his work. But now he had written this goodbye letter. That worried her. Glossing over recent losses, it smacked of hubris.

  What I have learned about the investment business is that I hate it. I was in the game simply for the money. The low-hanging fruit – the idiots whose parents paid for public school and then the MBA – was there for the taking. These people were truly not worthy of everything they received as they rose effortlessly to the top of corporate and public life as if it was their right – which, of course, it was. All of this behaviour supporting the continuation of the Establishment, only ended up making it easier for me to find people stupid enough to take the other side of my trades. God bless you all.

  There are many people for me to sincerely thank for my success. However, I do not want to sound like a credulous actor accepting a meaningless award. The money was reward enough. Furthermore, the people on the long, long list of those deserving thanks are almost certainly too stupid to appreciate who they are.

  I will no longer manage money for other people. I have enough of my own. I am more than happy with my remuneration in exchange for ten prime years of my life. My message to the rest of you is: throw the BlackBerry away and enjoy life.

  Goodbye and good luck.

  Carole Simpson had no idea where all of this bile had come from. It seemed completely out of character. Deciding to walk away from the City with an obscene amount of money was one thing. Rubbing everyone else’s noses in it was quite another. Particularly as Joshua still had his political ambitions. If anything, they seemed to be growing. She fretted that this farewell message would come back to haunt him. It was juvenile. Biting the hand that feeds you is never a good idea.

  The letter had yet to be posted to investors or published on McGowan Capital’s website, so maybe she could talk him out of it at tonight’s reception. Drinks followed by dinner. Another evening lost to playing the dutiful wife, as if she didn’t have a career of her own. The heavy card invite lay on her desk. Glancing at it, Simpson calculated that she would have to leave in about fifteen minutes. That would be more than enough time.

  Picking up the telephone, she punched a button and waited for her PA in the room next door to answer. ‘Send him in,’ she said briskly, immediately dropping the receiver back on to its cradle, without waiting for a response.

  The office door opened. Simpson watched Carlyle come in and stand in front of her desk. Another man who’s causing me needless aggravation, she thought. Letting him wait there for a few seconds, she looked him up and down, on the off-chance that she might find some new insight into her under-achieving – if sporadically impressive – colleague. There was none to be found.

  Scribbling some notes on a pad, she instructed him to sit down with a curt wave of the hand. ‘How are you, Inspector?’ she said finally.

  ‘Fine.’ Carlyle sat upright in his chair, as if he was back in the Headmaster’s office at the Henry Compton secondary school, thirty years ago, waiting to take his punishment for some minor indiscretion. Unwilling to engage in any fake pleasantries, he kept his response to the one word, and let his gaze wander. Nothing here seemed different from his last visit. Aside from the basics, the office was empty, the desk spectacularly bare save for a photograph of a smug-looking middle-aged man gone to seed. Carlyle assumed that was Simpson’s husband.

  The inspector was always on his guard with his boss. They were very different animals and both knew it. Five or six years younger than Carlyle, the commander could still realistically anticipate moving further up the career ladder before her time was up. He had known Simpson for almost twelve years now, coming under her direction not long after his move to Charing Cross. She was, he had to admit, a hell of an operator – she only ever looked upwards – and had taken to her management role like a duck to water. She could be charming too – if you were a man of a certain age (i.e. between ten and fifteen years older than she was) and she wanted something from you.

  Simpson rarely wanted anything from Inspector John Carlyle. The inspector knew that she was frustrated by what she saw as his refusal to play the game. Just as important, perhaps more so, was his inability to hide his feelings towards her. Simpson left Carlyle cold. He hated the feeling that he had been co-opted on to her mission for personal glory. Somehow, the collective good always seemed nicely aligned with the interests of the commander. Her approach to the job he found completely introverted, indeed almost demented. She was too busy climbing the greasy pole to worry about anything else.

  The way he saw it, she was either extremely selfish or she had the self-awareness of a goldfish. Either way, Carlyle eyed her with a mixture of extreme distrust and antipathy. However, with much effort, he found that he could tolerate her well enough, as long as their paths did not cross too often. When they did, he felt as if his brain was overheating, and he was always too close to speaking his mind.

  Simpson looked down at the notes she had scribbled on her pad.

  ‘About this bus . . .’

  ‘Yes?’

  ‘There’s been a complaint.’ Simpson kept her voice firmly neutral.

  ‘Oh?’ He placed what he hoped was a butter-wouldn’t-melt look on his face and concentrated on trying to keep it there.

  ‘A woman called Sandra Groves says that you assaulted her,’ Simpson continued. ‘She says that there is video evidence.’

  Sandra Groves? It suddenly dawned on Carlyle that she must be the religious loony from the bus; he had never checked the woman’s name. He grinned sheepishly and adopted the tone of a casual observer with no axe to grind.

  ‘Well, what happened was . . .’

  For the next few minutes, he talked the commander through the events of the previous week, throwing in as much detail as he could recall, relevant or not, without addressing Ms Groves’s accusation either directly or indirectly. He did this safe in the knowledge that Joe Szyszkowski’s report backed him up 100 per cent. Moreover, Groves and her boyfriend not only had been charged, but already had records for previous public-order offences, as well as a couple of outstanding parking tickets. The only thing that could have caused him any problem, the video, had since been erased from the camera’s memory stick. Just to be on the safe side, the camera itself had accidentally been run over – several times – by the back wheel of a police Range Rover in the garage of Charing Cross police station before being deposited in a rubbish bin on the Strand. Carlyle was confident that its remains were well on their way to some illegal landfill-dump in India by now. The complaint might lead to a formal investigation, but he knew that he was in the clear.

  ‘And then . . .’

  His monologue was interrupted by the sound of a mobile phone. Irritated, Simpson plucked at various pieces of paper before finding it buzzing on the desk. Checking the caller’s identity, without preamble she said, ‘Hold on one minute.’ Standing up, she raised a forefinger to Carlyle, indicating that she would not be long, before quickly stepping out of the room.

  As the door closed behind her, Carlyle’s gaze fell on Simpson’s desk. Leaning forward, he couldn’t resist a quick peek. Over the years, he had become quite adept at reading things upside down from a short distance. Next to what were clearly the reports of the Groves case, which he could easily read when he got back to Charing Cross if he felt the need, was a fancy-looking invitation card. The black script was a bit small, but he could make it out without having to leave his seat:

  Christian Holyrod, Mayor of London, and Claudio Orb, Ambassador of Chile to the Court of St James’s, invite you to a reception at City Hall organised by the Anglo-Chilean Defence Technologies Association. The event will celeb
rate our two great countries’ long history of co-operation and support, as well as England’s long-standing association with Chilean naval hero Agustín Arturo Prat Chacón.

  More Chileans. What were the odds of some connection? He was wondering who Agustín Arturo Prat Chacón was, when he heard the commander re-enter the room.

  Simpson smiled thinly as she sat down behind her desk. ‘So, where were we?’ she asked, folding her arms and sitting back.

  ‘Sandra Groves,’ said Carlyle amiably. ‘After I had been assaulted, we restrained her and her boyfriend . . .’

  A minute or so into his continuing monologue, Simpson held up her hand. She had heard enough. Carlyle could argue for England, indeed the irritating little sod could argue for a World Select XI, and she knew that he would not be so stupid as to be caught out on something like this. She could never hope to get so lucky. ‘All right, Inspector,’ she said wearily, ‘I get the drift. I’m sure, if it ever gets that far, that the Police Federation will make mincemeat out of this complaint. But next time, please try to show a tiny bit more restraint.’

  ‘Restraint is my middle name,’ Carlyle said genially.

  ‘Yes, well . . .’ Even Simpson had to repress a grin at his chutzpah. ‘Well done on that Mills thing, by the way.’

  ‘Thank you,’ Carlyle said.

  ‘Nice and neat,’ she said, resisting the temptation to add ‘for once’.

  ‘It looks that way,’ Carlyle agreed, ‘but there are still one or two loose ends.’

  ‘Like what?’ Simpson groaned. How could this irritating little man turn even the most straightforward domestic homicide of the year into a problem?

  ‘Mrs Mills, the victim, had made some enemies.’

  ‘Including her husband.’

  ‘Maybe.’

  ‘He’s dead, isn’t he?’ Simpson huffed. ‘You know as well as I do, that in domestic cases like these, killing yourself is usually a fairly clear admission of guilt. Take the win, Inspector, and move on.’

 
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