Authors: James Craig
Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #General
Carlyle quickly held up a hand. The last thing he needed now was
cases of theft to deal with. ‘If you let me have a copy of your report,’ he said, sitting up straight to convey the seriousness with which he was taking the matter, ‘I will look through all of this in detail. You can rest assured that it is my intention to recover all of your property as quickly as possible. In the meantime, I will keep you informed of all developments.’
‘Thank you,’ Cole smiled. ‘Of course, these items are not the property of my company. We simply have a significant financial exposure . . .’
‘How much?’ Carlyle asked.
The smile drained from Cole’s face, to be replaced by the kind of sadness that only money can bring. ‘I believe,’ he said quietly, ‘that the items were insured for somewhere in excess of their retail value.’
‘Is that common?’
‘Not uncommon. Personally, I would not read anything into it.’
‘So you don’t think it was an inside job?’
‘I would never express a view. That is for you to decide.’
Carlyle nodded, grateful that for once, someone was prepared to let him get on and do his job without telling him how to do it. He tapped the list with his index finger. ‘How much do you think this stuff will fetch?’
‘Once again,’ Cole said weakly, ‘I would not wish to be drawn on a matter that is not really my area of expertise.’
‘We’re just talking amongst ourselves,’ Carlyle reassured him. ‘It’s not something that I’m going to hold you to.’
‘Well,’ Cole thought about it for a moment, ‘some things may have been stolen to order, but from what we have been able to make out so far, it doesn’t seem that they targeted particular pieces.’
‘No,’ Carlyle agreed, ‘they just shot out the windows and grabbed what they could.’
‘So,’ Cole went on, ‘assuming that they have to find a buyer, they might get ten or fifteen pence in the pound.’
‘That’s still six million quid. Not bad for an afternoon’s work.’
‘It might be less, of course. Some of the items, like the dragonfly brooch, for example, might well be unsaleable. In that case, pieces might get broken down and sold for little more than pennies.’ Cole looked genuinely pained at the thought.
A question popped into Carlyle’s head. ‘Will you be offering a reward?’
‘That is not our policy in cases like this.’ Cole looked at him steadily. ‘At least, not at this stage.’
‘I understand.’ Carlyle got to his feet and picked Cole’s card off the desk, along with the list of stolen items. ‘Thank you for these,’ he said. ‘I will be in touch.’
Cole carefully replaced the remainder of the papers in his bag and got to his feet, glancing apologetically at his untouched coffee.
‘Don’t worry about that,’ Carlyle said. ‘Let me show you out.’
Standing on the steps of the station, Carlyle shook Trevor Cole’s hand with more enthusiasm than he had when they had first met.
, he thought to himself,
how a little bit of respect goes a long way in terms of goodwill.
At that moment, the inspector actually wanted to get the stolen jewellery back – for Cole, if not for the store’s owner.
As Cole disappeared round the corner, Carlyle turned and skipped up the steps of the station, running straight into a woman who had been standing behind him.
‘Sorry.’ Carlyle took a half-step backwards, trying not to fall.
‘Good morning, Inspector,’ the woman said imperiously.
Carlyle stared back blankly.
‘Ah, yes,’ he mumbled, wondering just how she knew who he was. Taking another step backwards, he checked the lawyer out. She was dressed in an expensive-looking red jacket and skirt combination, with the skirt rather shorter than you might expect for a Catholic lawyer. Under heavy make-up, she looked tired but determined.
‘I was looking for you,’ Slater continued, reaching into her shoulder bag and pulling out an envelope.
‘What’s this?’ Carlyle asked, making no effort to take it from her.
‘It is a copy of the letter that has gone to your commanding officer,’ Slater said, her tone almost gleeful, ‘outlining your assault on Father McGowan and the legal action we will be taking, both against yourself, Sergeant Roche and the Metropolitan Police Force.’ She pinned the letter to his chest with an index finger, forcing him to take it from her.
Why not the Prime Minister and the Queen as well?
Carlyle thought sarcastically, but he managed not to say anything.
‘I would start making plans for your post-police career if I were you.’ Slater grinned maliciously as she began to pick her way down the steps.
On the pavement, Carlyle watched her pause, waiting to see if he had a reply. But he wasn’t going to give her the pleasure. Instead, he stuffed the envelope into the back pocket of his jeans and walked slowly back inside.
From behind the counter, Myron Sabo nodded to Alison Roche as she walked into the Box café and headed for the table by the window.
‘The desk told me I’d find you here,’ she said, pulling out a chair and sitting down.
Looking up, Carlyle grunted. He signalled to Myron that he’d like another green tea, while Roche ordered an orange juice.
Picking up the sheet of paper on the table, she turned it round so that she could read it. ‘What’s this?’
Carlyle sat back in his chair and yawned. It wasn’t yet 9 a.m. but he already felt exhausted. ‘It’s a letter from McGowan’s lawyer to Dugdale saying that they’re suing the Met and they want my head on a plate. The bitch hand-delivered me a copy at the station this morning. She knew exactly who I was, as well.’
‘It’s not that difficult,’ Roche grinned. ‘After all, how many dashing young inspectors are there in Charing Cross?’
Not in the mood to have his leg pulled, Carlyle shot her a dirty look. Roche sighed. ‘She probably Googled you.’
‘But I’m not on fucking Google.’
‘Everyone’s on the internet, these days. All you can hope for is that you’ve got some of your clothes on.’ Roche scanned the letter then read it again carefully from the top. ‘So much for keeping me out of it.’
‘Anyway,’ she continued, dropping the letter back on the table, ‘I spoke to Dr Weber last night. His report will be pure vanilla – it puts us in the clear.’
Carlyle smiled, appreciating her use of the word ‘us’. Roche hadn’t walked away from his stupidity and he would remember that. Myron appeared with the drinks. Carlyle nodded his thanks and took a sip of his tea; not as good as Helen’s, but not bad. He gestured at the letter with his mug. ‘Slater’s got her own doctor to take a look at McGowan and he, of course, will take a different view.’
Roche shrugged. ‘So, she pays some guy to say what she wants him to say, big deal. Let her go to the IPCC, let her sue, there’s nothing there that you haven’t dealt with before. The Met will handle it.’
‘We’ll see.’ Carlyle drank some more of his tea. Roche was probably right, but he couldn’t be sure. Certainly the Independent Police Complaints Commission was nothing to worry about. Still, he would be happier when Simpson was back from Canada and Dugdale was out of the picture. That meant dragging the process out for a couple of months, and the best way to do that would be to track down Simon Murphy. ‘We need to find the kid.’
Roche knew as well as he did that they had no leads and no time to dig any up. ‘Let’s see if we can get this jewellery business sorted and then maybe we can try and find him,’ she suggested.
‘Okay,’ Carlyle said, unconvinced. ‘What have you got?’
Roche reached into her bag and took out a small notebook. Flicking through the pages, she found her notes and started reading: ‘St James’s Diamonds was started in 1805 and was first invited to supply jewellery to the Royal Family during Queen Victoria’s reign. It was in the same family for four generations, before being bought by an American private equity firm in 2005.’
‘That must be who Katrin Lagerbäck works for,’ Carlyle mused, outlining his meeting with Lagerbäck, as well as Trevor Cole’s list of stolen items. ‘There’s a suggestion that some of the missing items were not taken by the robbers. They might have been nicked at the scene in the aftermath of the robbery.’
Roche thought about that for a moment. ‘Lifted from the crime scene. That would take some balls. Do you really think that’s likely?’
Carlyle scratched his chin. ‘It’s possible. Have we checked out the CCTV?’
‘Not yet,’ Roche sighed. ‘Not enough resources. I’ll see what I can do this morning.’
‘Any news on the shop assistant?’ Roche asked.
‘No, afraid not.’
A mobile phone started ringing loudly, to the tune of ‘Breathe’ by The Prodigy. ‘Sorry,’ said Roche, reaching into her bag and peering at her BlackBerry. ‘Hello?’
Carlyle watched her face darken as she said, ‘Where?’
Knowing what was coming, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a fiver and some change, gesturing to Myron as he dropped it on the table.
‘No.’ Roche raised her eyebrows and looked at Carlyle. ‘It’s okay. He’s with me. We’ll meet the car outside the station.’
Stuffing Abigail Slater’s letter back in his pocket, Carlyle got to his feet and was at the door by the time Roche finished her call. Pulling it open, he let her lead him out onto the street.
‘They’ve found the girl,’ she said, deftly sidestepping a dawdling tourist.
‘Great,’ Carlyle responded, following in her slipstream, not needing to ask if Paula Coulter was still alive.
It was a long way from home turf. Carlyle stood shading his eyes in the middle of a massive empty space, the size of maybe half a dozen soccer pitches, five minutes from the Westway, halfway to Heathrow. Poking at some rubble with the toe of his trainers, he scanned the site, which was bathed in bright sunlight. It had been completely cleared and fenced off but, aside from a couple of Portakabins in one corner, there was no sign of any impending building work. ‘What is this place?’ he asked.
Standing ten feet away, Alison Roche pushed her sunglasses back up her nose and said, ‘This was going to be the Lex West Central Business Park. Then came the financial crash and its Arab backers pulled out. They’re still arguing with the developers over who’s responsible for it. The Mayor’s been talking about letting local residents use it as an allotment.’
‘The Mayor,’ Carlyle snorted, shaking his head. ‘Gawd bless him.’ He looked across at the crumpled body of Paula Coulter, who was being fussed over by a pathologist, with a couple of technicians in tow. ‘I guess it wasn’t an inside job then.’
Roche wandered closer to the body. ‘Not involving her, at least.’
Carlyle, squeamish at the best of times, had no intention of following his sergeant. He was near enough to see that Paula, face down, still in her work clothes, had been shot in the head. He was unlikely to gain any stunning insights into her demise by getting any closer to the corpse.
‘What have we got?’ Roche asked the pathologist, a fat, middle-aged guy called Evan Stone, who worked out of the Ealing station.
‘Well . . .’ Stone, on his haunches, tried to turn to face Roche and fell on his backside. Not bothering to get up, he pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and dabbed at the beads of sweat on his forehead. ‘For some reason, her killer felt the need to shoot her both in the face and in the back of the head.’
‘Idiots,’ Carlyle grumbled, under his breath. ‘Was it the same gun that was used in the robbery?’
From behind her sunglasses, Roche shot him a rather exasperated look. ‘Too early to tell,’ she replied for the pathologist.
‘Fair enough,’ Carlyle said, returning her glare in a way that suggested he did not think it a
‘Both shots were from close range,’ Stone continued, ignoring their little spat. ‘Either would have been more than enough to kill her.’
‘So why shoot her twice?’ Roche asked, still glaring at Carlyle.
The pathologist looked down at the corpse as if it might offer up the explanation. ‘Maybe they thought they could try and delay identification of the body.’
Carlyle asked Roche, ‘How
we identify her?’
Roche pointed to the girl’s feet. ‘She has a tattoo on her left ankle, a snake. It’s an Indian King Cobra, according to her mum. Paula was very proud of it, apparently.’
Carlyle couldn’t see anything but nodded anyway.
‘Time of death was around ten hours ago,’ said the pathologist in a monotone fashion as he ticked off the key points in his head. ‘I’d say she died sometime before midnight last night. She was shot somewhere else,’ he gestured across the empty ground, ‘maybe at another location on this site, before being dumped here.’ Pushing himself to his feet, he stuck his handkerchief in his pocket and brushed the dirt off his trousers. ‘I’ll let you have a preliminary report by the end of the day.’
‘Thanks.’ Head down, the inspector began marching back towards his waiting car.
Strains of Arcade Fire’s ‘Black Mirror’ came from inside the police BMW. Sitting behind the wheel, the driver finished munching on an apple and tossed the core out of the window. Listening to his stomach rumble, Carlyle leaned against the bonnet and watched Roche finish her conversation with one of the technicians and begin to walk towards him. Off to his left, he saw an ambulance trundle over the uneven ground, heading for the little group clustered around the body. Pulling out his mobile, he called Helen. It went to voicemail immediately and he ended the call without leaving a message.
‘They’re taking her to the West Middlesex,’ Roche said, stopping a couple of feet in front of him.
‘Fair enough.’ Carlyle had no intention of going there himself. He hated hospitals and he doubly hated morgues; he was quite happy to wait for Stone to email him a report. He jerked a thumb over Roche’s left shoulder. ‘What did the tech guys have to say?’
‘Like Stone said, they presume someone drove in and dumped Paula’s body after she’d been killed. But there are lots of different vehicle tracks, so that probably won’t give us much.’
Carlyle looked around unhappily. ‘No CCTV, of course?’