The DCI shifted in his chair and winced faintly. Leaned forward. ‘Who was it tried to run me over last night?’


‘What?’


‘On the airfield.’


‘Not while I was there.’


‘No, just after you’d gone. Someone drove in there and picked me up in the headlights. When they did that, they thought they’d better flatten me. Who was it?’


Andy shrugged. But he was thinking hard and he didn’t like what he’d heard. Driving a car from A to B was one thing. Getting involved in anything like he had before …


‘You heard of David Angus?’


Andy looked up. The DCI was boring holes into him.


‘Be hard not to. I told you before.’


‘Did you ever see him?’


‘No. Not that I know of, any road.’


‘You didn’t pick him up in the Jaguar on the morning of –’


Andy stood up, almost knocking the chair over. ‘No I fuckin’ did not.’


‘Sit down. Did you drive the same Jaguar down Sorrel Drive on –’


‘No, I did not,’ he shouted.


‘Listen, Andy …’ So it was Andy suddenly. ‘It don’t look too brilliant for you. Two thirty in the morning. Driving a stolen car. A car of the kind known to have been in the street from which the boy disappeared.’


‘That’s got sod all to do with me. I wouldn’t touch a kid and you know it.’


‘Do I? How do I?’


‘Gunton,’ the DCI said wearily, ‘listen. Just tell us who told you to pick up the car and take it to the airfield. Tell us anything you know about why and how many times you’ve done it before.’


‘And?’


‘Just tell us.’


Andy didn’t believe Lee Carter had anything to do with the little boy. Money was his thing, not taking kids.


‘Come on, come on.’


‘OK … and this is all. And when I’ve told you, I wanna go and I don’t want no more questions about the missing kid because I swear to God I would never, never have –’


‘Just talk,’ Serrailler said.


He believed him, Andy Gunton could tell.


He leaned on the table and started. There wasn’t a lot to confess when it came to it. Meeting Lee Carter. Saying he’d do some driving for him. Getting the text messages. Picking up the cars, twice, and leaving them. That was it.


‘How do you get paid, Gunton?’ Coates again. ‘Cos you ain’t doing it for kisses.’


‘Cash. Through the post.’


‘How much?’


‘Hundred pounds,’ he said quickly.


‘And the rest.’


‘Hundred pounds.’


‘Who else is involved?’


‘I never saw anyone else.’


‘Just Carter.’


‘Yeah.’


The DCI stood up. ‘Interview terminated … 8.28 a.m.’ Coates switched off the tape.


‘You charging me?’


‘Taking and driving away. The duty sergeant will bail you. And don’t go anywhere. We might want to talk to you again.’


They left him at the duty desk, waiting.


He counted himself lucky.


Forty-four


‘How about Karin?’


Silence. The clock struck half past ten with its sweet chime.


‘Chris?’


He was in the armchair opposite the horrors of a suicide bombing on the television news and he was asleep. Cat got up and switched off the set. In his crib beside her Felix stirred and sucked his lips but Chris slept on. She was making lists of possible godparents and so far there had been no obvious candidate for Felix’s godmother.


She went into the kitchen. Mephisto was rubbing his great ginger body against the window and she opened it to let him in. Cold air on the north-east wind came like flying knives into the room.


An hour ago she had meant to ring Simon to find out how his arm was. It was five days since he had injured it and he had still complained to Cat of pain when he had called in for a quick sandwich the previous afternoon. He had seemed low-spirited, frustrated and pessimistic about the David Angus case.


‘Don’t know where else to turn.’


The case was now entered on HOLMES, the central database for major police inquiries, which meant that every force in the country was linked into it and able to access and cross-reference the information. If there were any other cases with similarities to the abduction of David they would quickly come to light.


Chris came blundering into the kitchen rubbing his hands through his hair. ‘I think I fell asleep.’


‘This can’t go on, Chris. Look at you, you’re absolutely exhausted.’


The new locum was ill again. Chris had tried the agency who could not, for the moment, give him any more night cover.


‘I’ll come back to work sooner than I said. I’ll get help with Felix. Sally Warrender can’t wait to have more of him, she said so today.’


‘No, you won’t come back any sooner. You are taking a year out. End of story. I’m fine.’


The phone rang.


‘Sure, sure, you go to sleep straight after supper and you sleep like the dead through the night, you walk about like a zombie, the children wonder if you actually live here. It’s like your first year as a houseman, only you’re not twenty-four years old.’


But he waved at her to be quiet as he took the call.


‘Yes, I’ll come straight away. Just give me directions again. I know roughly where you are.’ He wrote. ‘Fine … will you wait at the main road and lead me up? Thanks, Sergeant.’


‘Police call?’


‘Man found dead in a car in the woods near Starly.’


‘Not a hosepipe job?’


‘Seems like it. Never too much fun.’


‘Have a cup of coffee first. If it’s a certification and the police are there you’ve got time.’


‘Thanks.’


He went out to fetch his bag and jacket. Cat poured water into the cafetière. Five miles there. Certify death. Five miles back. He’d be home before midnight and with luck maybe the phone wouldn’t ring again. With luck.


‘You’ve got to get a more reliable locum.’


‘I don’t know what’s happening to general practice.’


‘I do. Bloody paperwork and red tape is happening, just as it’s happening in the whole of medicine, plus attitudes have changed.’


He winced as he sipped the scalding coffee and stuck his cup under the cold tap. ‘Right, babe, I’m off to the woods. Don’t wait up.’


‘I’ll be feeding. Another nice chapter of my William Trevor to enjoy while his lordship tucks in. He’s such a slowcoach.’


‘I like a man who makes the most of his pint.’


Chris kissed her cheek and went out.


Cat remembered that he had been asleep when she had suggested Karin McCafferty as Felix’s godmother, and made a mental note to mention her name again if she was still awake when Chris got in. She wiped the draining board, switched the dishwasher on and the lights off and went out. On the sofa, Mephisto curled himself tighter and spread his claws luxuriantly.


The police car was waiting on the lane. He flashed his lights as he drew up.


‘OK, Doc … get in. We need a four-wheel drive. It’s pretty steep.’


Chris and the constable got into the police Land-Rover and headed up the track that climbed steeply between the trees. At the weekend this area was full of off-road bike riders. Deeper in the woodland, teams of people came to do paintballing. But tonight the headlights of the police car picked up only the lichened rows of tree trunks and the leaf mould and mud of the track. They wound through the woodland for almost a mile before the police car pulled into a rough clearing beside the tapes which had been run across between a couple of trees. Chris got out.


‘You’ll do best to walk from here. He forged his way through the undergrowth but he wasn’t worrying about the damage to his car at that point, I suppose.’


‘Do we know who it is?’


‘He’s making it difficult – took both number plates off. We haven’t found them yet, only we haven’t looked too far – it’s not easy in these conditions.’


They both switched on torches and struck off into the trees. Brambles and scrub had been broken down to form a rough path.


‘Who found him?’


‘Gamekeeper. This is right on the edge of the Pennythorn Estate. He was cutting across with his dog, heard a car engine … at first he thought it was rutters.’


Chris smiled. Rutters. The local word for couples in cars late at night.


‘Here you go. After you now, Doc.’


‘Evening, Doc.’ The second PC was standing just behind the car.


‘All yours.’


‘Thanks a lot.’


It had begun to rain and the path was slippery with mashed down leaves. It was cold. The car was silver and not familiar to Chris. He went up to the open driver’s door and bent over. It was a job he particularly hated, tramping up a lane in the night and the dark with the police champing for you to get on with it, having to certify death from carbon monoxide poisoning which caused the body to flush pink so that you had to be even more sure than normal that it was dead. There was rarely any doubt, but he was always afraid of making a mistake, so that the job took twice as long as it should, and his back took the punishment of leaning halfway through a car door for several minutes.


He shone his torch. The man was slumped over the steering wheel and Chris had a struggle to raise and turn him. When he did so he looked into the flushed face of Alan Angus.


*


He made sure, checking and double-checking, pulses, heart, eyes.


Then he backed out.


‘He’s dead. Carbon monoxide poisoning. I can tell you who it is as well, only you’re not going to like it … Alan Angus.’


‘The boy’s father?’


‘Yes. He had a previous go – slit his wrists in his room at the hospital … only someone happened to come by.’


‘Not this time.’


‘No, this time he knew where to go and he was doing his best not to be found.’


‘Poor bloody wife.’


‘And the other child. There’s a daughter.’


‘Makes you think … he couldn’t take it, could he, but she has to – twice over.’


‘It’s a bugger.’


Chris slithered down the track and almost fell on the last section of the slope beside his car. The station would ring Simon. The body would go to the mortuary and after that Alan Angus would belong to the pathologist and the coroner. Chris’s own job was done. He had seen his fair share of suicides, certified plenty of such bodies, but it always upset him at a deeper level than almost anything in medical practice. It was the last desperate, hopeless act of someone who at that moment was the loneliest in the world. As a doctor, he felt he had failed when the body was that of one of his own patients. As a human being, any suicide distressed him.


He knew that the first reaction of many people close to the dead husband or wife, daughter or son was very often anger. Grief was complicated and muddied by it. He felt angry himself at Alan Angus, for leaving his wife to cope alone with yet more agonising uncertainty and loss. But he knew the despair the neurosurgeon must have felt, the desperation at the disappearance of his son and the complete silence and blankness since.


*


[email protected] /* */


Darling, I can’t stop thinking about you. I just wanted to tell you how much I love you. I read in the paper this morning about the suicide of the missing boy’s father. It must be dreadful. I know how you feel your responsibilities. Try and take a break when you can. Someone came out of the blue to make an offer for the restaurant chain – such an offer I had to sit down. I may accept. Tired of being a single career girl.


Love to talk when you can. Ever, your Diana.


Forty-five


He was shaving when the phone rang. It was barely seven o’clock but he was sleeping badly at the moment and going into the station early was no hardship.


‘Guv.’


‘Morning, Nathan.’


‘They’ve found a body.’


‘What sort?’


‘Child’s.’


‘Oh Christ. OK, where?’


‘Gardale Ravine – in a shallow grave on the steep bank beside the river, just before it disappears underground.’


‘They were supposed to have searched Gardale.’


‘Yeah, right. Only it’s rained quite a bit since then, lot of stuff been brought down – probably uncovered it.’


‘Who found it?’


‘Caller wouldn’t give his name. Said he’d been walking his dogs along there.’


‘OK, on my way. Tell forensics.’


‘I just did.’


*


It was raining now, a soft, steady rain that misted the windscreen. Lafferton was just getting on the move but the traffic was still light.


Simon put his foot down as he headed out of town. He had already been called about Alan Angus. Now this. It might not be the boy. But if it did turn out to be David’s body in the ravine, Marilyn Angus had the worst day of her life ahead.


Gardale was a steep ravine. There was a narrow, vertiginous road down to it in one direction and another out of it at the other end. In summer it was a fisherman’s paradise; trout swam in the unpolluted clear water of the river which appeared here and vanished again, only to reappear mysteriously further down, the stuff of local legend for generations. On sunlit summer afternoons Gardale held no fears, no sadness or mystery. It was dappled and peaceful. People picnicked beside the water and children shouted up and down the ravine to hear the peculiar echoes.


Now, on a grey March morning of cold wind and rain, the ravine was difficult to get down to, shadowy and menacing. The sheer sides with their overhanging rocks and shallow caves closed in and the air was fetid. The space beside the track was littered with cars – the usual police clutter plus forensics. Simon got out of his own vehicle. Two men were clambering into ghostly white suits. Another was pulling out a bag.


‘Morning, Simon.’


‘Jonathan.’


The duty pathologist, Jonathan Nimmo, was an unattractive, wire-thin man of six feet five or six, with a mouth full of small, pointed rat-like teeth.


‘I suppose this might be your boy.’


‘Hope not, afraid so.’


Nimmo finished pulling his boots on. ‘OK, let’s go.’

***

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