‘The identities of the young men aren’t confirmed yet,’ said Erika, wishing she hadn’t said they looked like rent boys. ‘If we hand this over, it will get lost amongst a sea of cases. I’m so close…’
‘So close to blowing a multimillion-pound covert surveillance?’
‘Sir, that’s not fair.’
Marsh stopped pacing and sat down at his desk.
‘Look, Erika. I’m strongly advising you to let go of this case and hand it over. I will make sure this isn’t seen as a failure on your part.’
‘Please, sir, just—’
‘I’m not debating it any more. Have everything you’ve got on the Gregory Munro case ready to hand over by tomorrow lunchtime.’
‘Yes, sir.’ Erika went to say more, but thought the better of it. She hitched her bag over her shoulder and left the office, forcing herself not to slam the door.
When Erika pulled into the car park by her flat, she killed the engine. The thought of going inside made her even more depressed. She wound down the window and lit a cigarette, smoking as she listened to the sound of traffic from the London Road and the hum of crickets in the surrounding bushes.
There was something about this case that was eluding her. Was it Gary Wilmslow? Was it one of the rent boys who’d paid Gregory Munro a visit? Did Gregory have something on Gary, and so he was disposed of? It felt like the answer was just within her grasp. It was something simple, she knew it. It was always a small clue, like a dropped stitch in a blanket. All she needed was to find that clue, grab it, and the whole thing would unravel.
She hated that she was no longer going to be the one to find Gregory Munro’s killer. She now had to come back into work tomorrow and tell her team the case was being handed over, just as things were getting interesting.
DUKE: Did it arrive?
NIGHT OWL: Yeah. Just. I missed the post. Had to get it from the collection office… If only they knew what was inside.
DUKE: Was it sealed?
NIGHT OWL: Yeah.
DUKE: You SURE?
NIGHT OWL: It was sealed tight. Had to cut at the padded envelope with a knife.
NIGHT OWL: You’re jumpy.
DUKE: Yeah. Do you think they open stuff?
NIGHT OWL: Who?
DUKE: Royal Mail.
NIGHT OWL: No. It’s illegal. Unless you’re a terrorist.
NIGHT OWL: Am I a terrorist?
DUKE: Course not.
NIGHT OWL: Exactly. What I do is for the good of society.
DUKE: I know that. And people will be grateful. I’m grateful.
DUKE: But could they have opened it and resealed it?
NIGHT OWL: I’m the one doing this, NOT YOU.
DUKE: Still. It’s a risk for me. It’s my name on the invoice.
NIGHT OWL: Christ Duke. Don’t be a pussy.
DUKE: I’m not a pussy!
NIGHT OWL: Then shut up.
There was a pause. The text hung on the screen for a moment.
NIGHT OWL: U still there?
DUKE: Yeah. Don’t take anything for granted. Watch your back.
NIGHT OWL: He’s had it coming.
DUKE: He has.
NIGHT OWL: My hatred has intensified into something awe-inspiring.
DUKE: You inspire me.
NIGHT OWL: He will show me awe.
DUKE: You’ll tell me, when it’s over?
NIGHT OWL: You’ll be the first to know.
The streets were deserted as Night Owl rode along Lordship Lane, an affluent area of South London. A row of independent shops slid past, bathed in darkness. All was quiet, save for the ticking of the mountain bike wheels and the distant hum of the city.
It was approaching midnight, but the heat still beat up from the tarmac and Night Owl was sweating under the black running suit. A car would have been quicker, but there were CCTV cameras on every corner, photographing people and number plates. It was just too risky.
The man’s address had been easy to find: a search on the Internet. He was well-known and liked to shout about his life on social media. Night Owl grinned with a row of small crooked teeth.
He’s overshared one too many times.
With the next victim being a public – and often controversial – figure, Night Owl had been concerned that the house would be heavily alarmed, but a simple visit on a bright hot day the previous week had been enough – a fake cold call with a mocked-up leaflet for ‘BELL SAFE SECURITY’. It had been a shock, seeing his face up close. It had been difficult to mask the hatred and remain relaxed and informal.
Night Owl turned off Lordship Lane and came to a halt beside a high wall. The brakes on the mountain bike gave a small squeal, which seemed loud in the quiet street.