The next photo was abruptly less X-rated. Andrea and the man were pictured on the 30th December, hand-in-hand on the street. They were both dressed for winter. A familiar clock tower was in the background

‘Shit. That’s the Horniman Museum,’ said Moss.

‘And that’s four days before she went missing,’ said Erika.

‘Do you think this is the guy she was seen talking to in the pub?’ asked Moss.

‘This could be the guy who killed her,’ said Erika.

‘But he’s got no record that we know of; the National Criminal Database software didn’t flag him . . .’

‘He looks Russian, or – I don’t know – Romanian? Serbian? He could have a record overseas.’

‘But we don’t have a name, and that could take time,’ said Moss.

‘But we do know someone who could have his name. Linda Douglas-Brown,’ said Erika. ‘She’s pictured the same night. In the same bar as him.’

‘Should we bring her in?’ asked Moss.

‘Now, hang on,’ said Erika.

‘What do you mean, hang on? She’s obviously withholding information, boss.’

‘But we need to be very careful before we bring her in. The Douglas-Browns will lawyer up the second we do anything. It seems they have spent a fair bit of cash keeping Linda on the straight and narrow.’

Moss paused. ‘You know what your flat could do with, boss?’

‘What?’

‘Some nice fresh flowers.’

‘Yes. We should pay a visit to a florist,’ said Erika.

42

Jocasta Floristry was tucked between an elegant jeweller’s and a polished granite office block on Kensington High Street. The window was optimistically decorated for early spring. There was a carpet of real grass, and daffodils, tulips and crocuses pushed up in reds, pinks, blues and yellows. Several china Easter bunnies sat on the grass, or peered out from behind toadstools and giant speckled eggs. At the front, up close to the glass, a small picture of Andrea, smiling into the camera, sat on a red velvet cushion..

Moss went to open the glass entrance, but saw next to it a small white bell and a neatly printed sign with the words: RING FOR SERVICE

Erika pressed the button. Moments later, a small elderly woman with severely scraped-back hair peered up at them from under hooded eyelids. It was the same lady who had answered the door at the Douglas-Browns’ house. She waved them away dismissively. Erika held down the bell again. They realised how thick the glass was when she pulled open the door and the sound of the bell amplified.

‘What’s this about?’ she snapped. ‘We’ve spoken to the police, you have a man in custody. We’re preparing for a funeral!’ She went to slam the door, but Moss grabbed it.

‘We’d like to speak to Linda, please, if she’s here?’

‘You’ve got someone in custody, haven’t you? What more do you need from the family?’ the woman repeated.

‘We’re still building our case, Madam. We believe Linda will be able to help us to confirm a few details which could lead to a swift conviction,’ said Moss.

The old woman regarded them, eyes darting from side to side under the hooded lids, the skin crinkling and twitching, reminding Erika of a chameleon. She opened the door, and stood to one side to let them in,

‘And wipe your feet,’ she said, eyeing the wet pavement outside.

They followed her through to an open-plan seating area decorated in white. Along the back wall, an enormous clear-glass conference table glowed and changed colour. Adorning the walls were photos of the previous work Jocasta Floristry had undertaken: society weddings, product launches. The old lady vanished through a door at the back, and a moment later Linda emerged, carrying armfuls of yellow daffodils. She wore a long black A-line skirt, and another cat jumper poked out from behind a white apron. This time it was a giant tabby cat with languid eyes.

‘My mother isn’t here. She’s taken to her bed,’ she said. Her tone of voice seemed to suggest that her mother was slacking off. She crossed to the large table, laid the daffodils on the glass and began to sort them into bunches. Erika and Moss joined her at the table. ‘What are you doing here, DCI Foster? I thought you’d been taken off the case…’

‘Surely you of all people should know not to believe everything you read in the press,’ said Erika.

‘Yes. Journalists. They’re all beasts. One of the tabloids described me as a “moon-faced spinster”’.

‘I’m sorry to hear that, Linda.’

***

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