Authors: James Craig
Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #General
Luckman looked far from reassured. ‘I can imagine.’
‘And,’ Carlyle lied with an easy smile, ‘I’m sure that we’ll find her sooner rather than later, safe and sound. Once the robbers have used her to help make their getaway, they’ll let her go.’
‘I hope so,’ Luckman said limply.
‘And how about you?’ Carlyle asked. ‘How are you feeling?’
Luckman finished the last of his Coke and sighed theatrically. ‘Okay, I suppose.’ He clasped his hands together and leaned forward in his chair. ‘I think that after the initial shock wears off, you’re just happy to have got through it alive, don’t you think?’
‘That seems reasonable,’ said Carlyle, reaching over and switching on the Sony BX800 MP3 digital voice-recorder in the middle of the table. He looked at his watch and spoke to the machine. ‘The time is now seven fifty-three p.m. Present in the room are Inspector John Carlyle and the witness Martin Luckman.’ He looked back at the store manager. ‘Now, Mr Luckman, why don’t you just tell me, in your own words, what exactly happened this afternoon?’
It was after 9 p.m. when they had finished interviewing Luckman and Hendricks. Both men had been given the medical all-clear and sent home to get some rest. Realizing that he was starving hungry, Carlyle got hold of Roche and they went out of the building to get something to eat. He chose the Box café on Henrietta Street, barely a minute from the station, just down from the piazza, on the grounds that it would be cheap and relatively free of tourists. When they arrived, the place was empty and it was clear that the owner, a Ukrainian called Myron Sabo, was well on the way to shutting up for the night. He was just about to say, ‘Closed’ when he looked up from washing the floor and saw Carlyle. Nodding cautious acknowledgement of a semi-regular customer who was also a policeman, he put down his mop and gestured at a table by the window.
As Carlyle and Roche took their seats, Myron flipped over the Open sign to Closed on the door and shuffled over to take their order. Carlyle went for a cheese omelette and a Diet Coke, while Roche chose a pasta salad and an orange juice.
‘Excuse me a second,’ she said, as Myron disappeared into the kitchen. ‘I just need to make a quick call.’
‘No problem.’ As Roche slipped out of the door and onto the pavement, Carlyle pulled out his own mobile to call Russell Blake. He let it ring and waited for the forensics technician’s voicemail to kick in. ‘Russell, it’s John Carlyle. I was after an update on New Bond Street. Give me a call. Thanks.’ He put the phone back in his pocket and watched Roche paw the kerbside with the toe of her left shoe. She had her back turned to him and her voice was raised slightly, suggesting a somewhat fractious conversation. Carlyle tried not to eavesdrop – but not very hard.
‘I know,’ Roche was saying apologetically. ‘I’m sorry, but it’s just one of those things.’ Carlyle could see her pushing her hair back while listening to the person on the other end of the line. ‘It comes with the job, I told you.’
Myron appeared with their drinks and Carlyle finally stopped snooping. He took a sip of his Diet Coke and smiled.
The café-owner nodded blankly and headed back to the kitchen. Carlyle heard the door open behind him and Roche plonked herself down in the chair opposite.
‘Sorry about that,’ she said tensely and lifted the glass of orange juice to her lips.
‘Trouble at home?’
Roche put her juice down and looked at him warily. Carlyle was not really the kind of guy to show much interest in her private life and that was the way she liked it. She had introduced her previous boyfriend to Carlyle, SO15 Detective Inspector David Ronan, and he had ended up dead. From that moment, she had determined to keep her private life completely separate from work.
‘Had to blow out the boyfriend for dinner,’ she said, trying to inject a little levity into her voice. ‘These things happen.’
‘Comes with the job,’ Carlyle parroted.
‘Yes, it does,’ Roche said, gazing out of the window in a manner that suggested that the conversation was closed.
Carlyle left Roche to her thoughts and flicked through some football websites on his BlackBerry for a couple of minutes until Myron appeared with his omelette.
Finishing his main course, Carlyle resisted the temptation to order an apple Danish from the selection under the counter and limited himself to a green tea.
‘Still off the coffee, then?’ Roche asked.
‘More or less. Want anything else?’
Roche stopped pushing her half-eaten salad around her plate and sat back in her chair. ‘No. I’m done.’
‘Okay,’ said Carlyle, once the café owner had stalked off with their plates. ‘Let’s compare notes.’
‘Well,’ Roche began, ‘the security guard, Hendricks, seemed to be on the level. There’s nothing complicated about his story: the two guys arrived just before five. They look kosher, he lets them in, and then all hell breaks loose. Once he started having his asthma attack, all he was worried about was continuing to breathe. The moment they’d left, he went to grab his inhaler and just waited for the police to arrive.’
A thought popped into Carlyle’s head. ‘Why did the call come in to us, rather than West End Central?’
‘Yeah,’ Roche said. ‘It closed at the end of last month. It’s supposed to be being refurbished, but there’s a rumour that it might not reopen, in order to save money.’
‘Better that than losing jobs,’ Carlyle murmured. There were seven police stations in Westminster; West End Central, in Savile Row, was one of the smaller ones. Over the years, several others had closed as operations had been centralized and uniformed coppers spent less time pounding the beat. It was the same all across London, just the way of the world.
‘Anyway,’ Roche continued, ‘the alarm was supposed to go to Belgravia, but for some reason it came to us.’ She watched as Myron arrived with Carlyle’s tea. Placing the mug carefully on the table, along with the bill, the owner once again retreated behind his counter. ‘I think he wants to get home,’ Roche said, reaching into her bag for her purse.
‘Don’t worry,’ said Carlyle, picking up the bill. ‘I’ll get this.’
‘Are you sure?’
‘Of course,’ he told her, digging into his jacket pocket for his wallet. ‘It’s the least I can do for dragging you out here and making you miss your date.’ Dropping a tenner and a fiver onto the table, he gulped down half his tea and jumped to his feet, nodding his thanks to Myron. The Ukrainian gave him a weary smile in reply and came out from behind the counter to unlock the door.
‘Thank you,’ Roche told him, hoisting her bag over her shoulder and following Carlyle out.
Standing on the pavement, Carlyle was torn between turning right and making the short walk through the piazza to his flat, or left and back to the station.
Roche, shivering in the cold night air, made her decision first. ‘I’m going to call it a day,’ she said.
‘Which way are you going?’ Carlyle asked.
‘I’ll get the Central line at Holborn.’
‘Okay,’ he said. ‘You can walk me home and I’ll tell you about my conversation with Luckman.’ Just then, he felt his mobile vibrate in his pocket. Assuming it was Helen, he checked the number. 901. It was his answerphone. A message appeared, telling him he had four missed calls. ‘Shit!’ Carlyle gestured at the screen, which shone brightly in the gloom. ‘How can that happen?’ he moaned. ‘We sat in the café. No one rang me. How can I have missed
Roche tutted sympathetically.
The phone started ringing again. ‘For fuck’s sake!’
Carlyle nodded, hitting the receive button. ‘Yes?’
‘Inspector? It’s the desk here.’
‘Yes?’ said Carlyle, already waving goodnight to Roche. Changing direction, he set off wearily in the direction of Bedford Street.
‘There is someone here who is demanding to speak to you, sir.’
As Carlyle approached the front desk, the night sergeant gave him a look that he couldn’t decipher until the woman talking on the phone turned round. If the look on her face said that she was less than impressed, Carlyle’s reaction was rather different. Dressed in what at first glance looked like a black leather cat-suit and biker boots, she was tall, easily a couple of inches taller than he was, and slim, with her blonde hair cut in an expensive-looking bob. Her face was classically beautiful and he doubted if she could have yet reached thirty. Still talking on the phone while she watched him gawp, an elbow propped casually on the desk, her blue eyes sparkled with mischief. Taking it all in, Carlyle’s first thought was that she looked like Cameron Diaz’s little sister or, rather, Cameron Diaz’s
‘Look, I’ve got to go. The help has arrived. Ciao.’ The woman poked a finger at her iPhone and stepped away from the desk. ‘Inspector Carlyle?’
Temporarily dazed, Carlyle had to think about that one for a moment. ‘Er,’ he stammered, ‘yes.’
The woman did not offer her hand. ‘I am Katrin Lagerbäck, the owner of St James’s Diamonds. I wondered if we could talk about today’s . . . events.’ Her English was perfect and betrayed no obvious accent, but it was clear that she wasn’t a local.
Carlyle tried to regain his composure. ‘Thank you for coming to see me.’ Glancing around, he was aware that they – that
– was quickly attracting a crowd among the officers on duty, as well as the members of the public waiting to be seen. ‘Please,’ he said, leading her deeper into the station. ‘Come this way.’
He showed her into a meeting room on the third floor. Dropping her bag on the table, Katrin Lagerbäck pulled out a seat and sat down. He could see now that she wasn’t wearing a cat-suit but rather a matching leather jacket and trousers ensemble. Carlyle had never seen the attraction of leather trousers. To his mind, only Jim Morrison had been able to carry them off and even then it seemed a pretty much borderline thing. Lagerbäck unzipped the jacket and Carlyle was disappointed to find a very prim white blouse beneath, with just a single button undone at the neck.
‘I was wondering,’ Lagerbäck said, the amused smirk on her face growing bigger by the second, ‘if you could give me a report on what’s happening.’
‘Of course.’ Clicking back into work mode, Carlyle remembered that he had still to update Dugdale. If it had been Simpson, he would have put it off until tomorrow; with the new Commander, however, he knew that such tardiness would be somewhat impolitic. He replaced the Dugdale note near the top of his mental ‘to do’ list’ as he locked onto Lagerbäck’s gaze and gave her some good eye-contact.
‘Well,’ he said, ‘the situation is like this. We responded to the alarm going off at St James’s Diamonds in approximately six minutes’ – this was important as he had checked the store’s security plan and the police were expected under the terms of the insurance arrangements to respond within eight minutes – ‘and found that the robbers had fled, apparently taking a member of staff as a hostage.’
‘That poor woman,’ Lagerbäck said, with no feeling whatsoever.
You might have Cameron Diaz’s looks
, Carlyle thought,
but you certainly don’t have her acting skills
‘The search for them is extensive and continuing,’ Carlyle went on. ‘Meanwhile, our forensic analysts have been going over the crime scene in great detail and we have been speaking to the other members of staff.’
‘I hear that the store manager . . . lost control of himself.’ She tossed him a look that perfectly balanced amusement and disgust.
Doubting that Lagerbäck was the easiest of employers, Carlyle felt obliged to jump to the unfortunate Luckman’s defence. ‘Your staff were subjected to a terrible ordeal,’ he said. ‘We have every reason to believe that they genuinely feared for their lives. In that situation, such a reaction is perfectly understandable.’
‘Huh,’ she snorted, playing with the strap on her bag. ‘Whatever happened,
would not disgrace myself like that.’
Carlyle was bemused by her focus on such an irrelevant detail. ‘What would be helpful,’ he said, trying to move the conversation along, ‘is whether you have any thoughts about who might have carried out the robbery.’
‘No,’ she said sharply. ‘None at all.’ Seeing his interest in the speed of her response, she added, ‘As you can imagine, I’ve been thinking about this a lot in the last few hours. Obviously, any luxury goods store is a potential target, but,’ she shrugged, ‘as to why us specifically? And why now? I simply do not know.’
‘Okay.’ Carlyle stifled a yawn, happy at the thought of at least getting her out of the station in a fairly short order. ‘One of my colleagues will come and take a formal statement in the next day or so, and I will let you know of any developments.’
‘Good.’ Unzipping the breast pocket of her jacket, Lagerbäck pulled out a business card and handed it to Carlyle. ‘You can get me on any of these numbers.’ Pushing back her chair, she got to her feet. ‘I am a very easy woman to get hold of.’
Still in his seat, Carlyle looked down the list of two office numbers, three mobiles and two email addresses. ‘Thank you. The other thing that we need is a detailed list of everything that was taken.’