Yeah, walk back.


Fucking hell.


He pushed the keys under the road map, then slammed the door and set off through the darkness. He wasn’t bloody doing this again for Lee Carter or anyone else. He’d walk holes in his shoes.


A mile down the lane he heard a car coming towards him. For a second he was blinded in the headlights.


‘Get in.’


It was an old Land-Rover. He didn’t know the voice, didn’t recognise the man. He hauled himself up into the seat which was covered in sacking and smelled of manure.


‘Dropping you off at the corner of Barton Road.’


‘Who are you?’


‘Ian.’


‘Ian what?’


‘Ian.’


It was like riding in a tank after the Jaguar. Andy felt every stone in the road jar through him. He glanced at the driver. He wore a fishing hat. Perhaps he was thirty, thirty-five.


‘You work for Lee regular?’ he asked.


‘Barton Road.’


‘OK, Barton Road, Mr Mysterious.’


Ian grunted. ‘Want a toffee? One in front of you.’


‘No thanks.’


‘Suit yourself.’


‘Where’d you come from?’


‘Not far.’


‘Pardon me for asking.’


They rode in silence for the rest of the way, though the silence didn’t seem hostile. As he got out, Andy took one of the toffees and chomped it.


‘Thanks. Thought I was going to have to leg it all the way.’


Ian laughed. The sound of the diesel engine seemed to echo round the entire estate. Andy watched the Land-Rover’s tail lights disappear down the road before heading into the Dulcie. It was five to four. The moon had gone in behind a cloud but the streets here were bright orange from the lamps.


He felt drained and oddly let down. Not enough had happened. He’d driven one car and been driven back in another. Legal or not, the only decent thing about it had been the Jaguar. There’d been no mention of money at any point.


Tomorrow, he’d ring up Lee Carter, say he couldn’t do any more.


Thirty-three


Chief Constable Paula Devenish sat on the other side of his desk.


‘Nice to see you again, Simon. Just give me a quick briefing and then I’ll go along and talk to everyone.’


‘Would you like the team in the meeting room in half an hour, ma’am?’


‘No, no. They’ll think I’ve come to get at them. I’ll just say a few words and then talk to people as I go round the room.’


‘They’ll appreciate it.’


‘How’s morale?’


‘Bit low. They need an energy recharge … that’s why it’s good you’re here.’


‘The only thing that will really give them a boost is some sort of breakthrough and there hasn’t been one. They don’t have anything to get their teeth into.’


‘Let me send out for some coffee. I don’t know if you’ve sampled the delights from our Cypriot deli on the next corner?’


‘Sounds good. I don’t want to offend the canteen though.’


‘They’re used to it. Cappuccino?’


Simon picked up the phone. ‘Nathan? Could someone go out to the Cypriot and get a cappuccino for the Chief and a double espresso for me? Yes, I thought you might. Thanks.’


‘Nathan Coates?’


‘Nathan Coates.’


‘How is he doing?’


‘I’m delighted with him. He’s keen as a terrier, he knows Lafferton so well, especially the estates, he’s got good judgement … he’s working round the clock on the Angus case. I’ve had to send him home for some sleep a couple of times.’


‘No worries there then.’


‘He can be a bit volatile … very high when something’s going well, bouncing about like a puppy, but he goes crash down easily. He’s angry about this case.’


‘He’s young. How did the reconstruction go?’


Simon groaned and told her. Paula Devenish listened sympathetically and with her usual full attention. It was one of the things he admired about her. You never felt her mind was elsewhere, never felt she was trying to rush you. She asked, she listened, she thought, she decided. He remembered Chris Deerbon once saying that the best surgeons were those who made a decision about what they were going to do, did it and never looked back.


‘How are the parents?’


‘Kate Marshall is the FLO. She says the father is hardly there – burying himself in work. His wife is close to cracking up.’


‘Have forensics finished in the house?’


‘Yes. Nothing. And now we know for sure that the boy was waiting outside the house at eight ten. We have a definite sighting.’


‘So, where are we, Simon?’


‘Searches have drawn a blank. Every known paedophile within ten miles of Lafferton has had his file reopened and gone through. Nothing so far … Come in.’


‘Coffee … ma’am … guv.’


Paula Devenish stood up. ‘Good morning, Nathan. That was good of you, to go for it yourself.’


‘Never miss a chance, ma’am. The wife’s barred me from the pastry counter though.’ Nathan put the plastic beakers down on the DCI’s desk, having carefully placed paper napkins beneath each one first. He winked at Simon and disappeared.


‘What happened about the paedophile who was being harassed?’


‘We had to move him to a safe house. Things got quite nasty up there. Television got wind of it and of course that attracted even more crowds.’


‘This will leave scars that will never heal properly, you know, Simon. Just like Freya Graffham’s murder.’


‘I do know.’


‘Meanwhile, what about you?’ Paula Devenish looked at him carefully.


‘I’m fine. I take everyone’s advice about getting enough sleep and eating properly.’


‘Good. But that wasn’t all I meant. Have you thought about your next move?’


‘Ma’am?’


‘There are some tempting jobs coming up … special incidents, fast-response units, paedophile squad to be based over at Calverton but operating over the eastern region –’


‘Absolutely not.’


‘Drugs ops coordinator?’


Simon laughed. ‘Have you got it in for me?’


‘OK, but I don’t want to lose someone of your ambition and talent to another force.’


The incident room was packed. Heads were down at computers, telephones glued to ears. There was a hum, as if a great deal was happening, and in a sense it was, but the DCI knew that the air of purposeful industry was largely an illusion. People were working on long shots, following up thin leads and hopeless hunches. There was a lot of number crunching, and file sifting … and a strangely dead atmosphere in spite of the noise.


It went quiet as the Chief walked in. Phones were set down and hands froze on keyboards. A tension ran through the incident room. Paula sensed it at once. ‘I’ll have a word,’ she said quietly to Simon, and walked to the far end of the room, where the whole wall was given over to the Angus case. In the centre of it, the poster, blown up to twice life-size. David Angus’s face looked out at them.


Paula Devenish was not tall or physically prepossessing. She had neat brown bobbed hair and mild features and although fit and active was more plump than lean. But there was a presence about her which gave her authority. She had a quiet, ordinary voice but everyone listened to it, a quiet manner which commanded immediate respect. Now, she stood in front of the white board, slightly to one side of the poster and the room fell silent.


‘Good morning, everyone … I want to say that I understand absolutely what a sense of frustration you must be feeling at the moment, how demoralised … I don’t blame you for a moment. It’s entirely natural. You must have thought, as we’ve all hoped, that within twenty-four hours, with such a high-profile case and a high-powered team and so much extra put into this inquiry, David would have been found safe and well. You now know that this is very unlikely and you all feel you are plunging about in the dark. That’s understandable too. But what I don’t want a single one of you to feel is that you are not supported completely, by me, by everyone at HQ, and indeed by the whole force. This is a case that has a very high media profile. That puts extra pressure on you, I know, but you have to try and set those things aside and stay focused. Please know that everyone is behind you. And when you have a long dull day trawling through stats at a computer or old files looking for distant details, remember: it may well be some snippet of information gleaned from just such a day that provides the lead we need. It must seem as if the people out there dredging the river and the canal and going through every ditch and hedgerow have a more interesting time, but they don’t. It’s dreary back-breaking work. It’s got to be done, that’s all, just as all the detailed searches have to be done here. I’m here to encourage you and to say that if anyone feels the need of a break, a day’s leave, whatever, then speak to the DCI and take that day. Get out, do something different, and you’ll come back in here recharged. It’s easy to get stale and you’ll be called in quickly if there’s a development. Don’t sit looking at a screen for hours on end, go and take a walk and you won’t only feel better, you may suddenly see this case from a different viewpoint – and that again might yield the break we need. OK, thank you all … what you are doing is very, very much appreciated. Now I’ll just wander round and have a closer look if I may – you can brief me about what you’re doing as I go.’


She stepped aside and turned to Simon. ‘No need for you to stay, it’ll be better if I just blend in for a bit. I’ll see you before I go.’


He left. The Chief was already talking to Nathan, going over the marker notes for the day on the white board. The room was settling back to work, and he noticed that there was a more focused air about everyone; people were sitting straight not slumped in their seats, someone had opened a window, the phones were ringing and being answered crisply. The Chief had revived their spirits and their enthusiasm in a few words. It was the shot in the arm that had been needed.


He went back to his room feeling a fresh charge of energy himself. He took out a sheet of paper, asked for all but urgent calls to be turned away, and began to look at the case again from the beginning, making a flow chart from the time the boy had gone to bed the night before his disappearance, and adding side lists of notes as they occurred to him. He worked fast, his imagination alert, seeing the boy in his mind’s eye, following him, and then looking at the case from someone else’s point of view … that of an abductor.


It was forty minutes before Paula Devenish came back. By then, he had filled three sheets with careful notes.


‘Simon, I have to get back, but I’m up to speed with what everyone is doing. I’m impressed. It’s an efficient and well coordinated inquiry.’


‘Thank you.’


‘They were a bit down but that’s always the way. They’re a good team. And don’t forget what I said about your career. I could use you to head up something I want to develop over the next year or so. Don’t get too comfortable, Simon.’


He escorted her to her car and watched it sweep off.


Was he too comfortable? He had never thought so but if he was then why not? It suited him here. He wondered how ambitious he still was. But two women had ruffled him within a few days. He did not object to the Chief’s questioning him about his future – she had his best interests at heart and he also knew that she thought highly of him and he was not about to underestimate the value of that. Diana was different. He did not want to think about her at all.


He stood in the chill breeze for a few moments before returning, taking the stairs at a run and ringing for Nathan Coates as soon as he got back to his room. They had to move. If David Angus was dead then his abductor and murderer would now be working himself up to taking another child.


Thirty-four


‘I can’t see,’ Meriel said, ‘I need you to tell me. You’ll choose the right thing and set it in the perfect spot … you’re so good at it.’


Karin stood beside her. In the two years since she had redesigned and planted Meriel’s garden, everything had begun to mature, so that it looked less raw and new. Shrubs were filling out, bulbs had spread so that the small beds at the side of the steps leading up to the terrace were thick with iris reticulata and miniature narcissi. By June the wide borders at the far end would be coming into their own, the climbing roses fuller.


Meriel had asked Karin to lunch. It was the day after Martha’s sad little funeral at the crematorium in the cold and grey. Now, the sun was shining. Meriel wanted to plant a tree in Martha’s memory but she seemed not to know what kind or where it should go. She simply stared vaguely out at the garden.


She looks drawn, Karin had thought, suddenly old. Frail even. There was something about her eyes, too, an anxious look which Karin had never noticed before.


‘You do think it’s the right thing to do?’ She turned now, needing confirmation and reassurance.


‘Of course I do, it’s perfect. I was wondering about a winter flowering cherry; they have those delicate pink blossoms on bare branches when there’s almost nothing else and you often get a flowering twice, in November and again in late January. They’re easy, they look wonderful in snow, they give a pretty dappled shade during the summer.’


‘I knew you’d think of the right thing and you have. But where?’


‘You want to see it … to have it stand out from everything else …’


‘There?’ Meriel pointed vaguely. ‘Oh, but you choose, you decide.’


‘It’s your garden,’ Karin said gently, ‘she was your daughter. I don’t want to take over on this one.’


‘I’ll only get it wrong.’


‘Of course you won’t.’ Karin stepped down off the terrace on to the grass and stood looking all around her. There was no warmth in the sun. She needed the scarf she had tied twice round her neck. Meriel stood above her watching, tall and straight-backed, her legs long in black jeans. How many women of her age could wear black jeans to such effect? Karin wondered.


‘What about there … in the middle of the side lawn against the dark background? You’d see it from the kitchen, from the drawing room and from your bedroom. It wouldn’t grow too big for that space.’


‘Yes. Thank you.’ She seemed anxious to get the decision out of the way, to have the tree chosen, bought, planted and then to move on.

***

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