Authors: Alex Connor
Because his brother killed him?
‘He could have done. He knew Leon would trust him. He was the only person Leon
trust. He could have killed him.’
Duncan shook his head. ‘For what?’
‘The skull!’ she retorted. ‘Remember what we were told – it’s worth a fortune.’
‘But Golding’s a doctor. What would he want with it?’
Duncan pulled a face. ‘Nah, I don’t believe it.’
‘All right, let’s take it step by step. Ben Golding was called in on the Diego Martinez murder to give his opinion on the surgery the head had undergone. What if he
we would call him in? He’s the leading expert in London, so it would be natural to involve him. And, being involved, he would know everything that was going on with the case from the start.’
‘But we found his card in the victim’s pocket,’ Duncan said, ‘with Leon Golding’s mobile number on the back.’
Twisting her pen in her hands, Roma continued. ‘Ben Golding knew we would become involved after Leon’s death, because we’d eventually tie him to Diego Martinez and the skull. Remember how he denied knowing whose mobile number it was on the back of the card?’
‘But someone else could have planted that card to put suspicion on Ben Golding—’
‘Just go along with me for a minute, Duncan. Golding saw Francis Asturias’s reconstruction of Diego Martinez, but he said that he didn’t know the victim. Surely, if he was innocent, he would have admitted he knew him?’
‘But it was
who knew Diego Martinez, remember? Ben Golding hadn’t seen him for a long time.’
‘He’s not a stupid man, he would have remembered … And then there’s the Goya skull. Francis Asturias must have reconstructed it. He was the obvious choice. And then what happened? He was killed. And the last number listed on his phone records? Ben Golding.’
‘You really think a respected surgeon would kill for a skull?’
‘I don’t know,’ Roma admitted. ‘But I’ve been thinking about it for a while and wondering about the Golding brothers. We know Leon was unstable, but what about
Ben? In comparison to his nervy brother he might seem very stable, but perhaps he’s not quite what we think he is.’
Duncan took in a slow breath. ‘All right, I hear what you’re saying … But now his girlfriend’s been abducted, and Golding’s out of the country. So it can’t be him.’
he out of the country?’ Roma queried, standing up. ‘I want you to get a file on Leon Golding. His life, how he died. I want to know everything about the man.’
‘We’ll have to go through the Spanish police—’
‘So do it!’ she snapped. ‘Leon Golding was an art historian. What was he working on? Find out. I want his notes, his computer documents—’
‘Don’t argue with me, Duncan,’ she said wearily. ‘Just get the information. But keep it quiet. Jimmy can know, but no one outside the department, you hear me?
No one is to know about this
.’ She glanced at her watch hurriedly. ‘And find out about Ben Golding too. I want to know all there is to know about those two brothers.
Duncan had been trying for nearly fifteen minutes to make himself understood by the Spanish police when Jimmy Preston came into the squad room and rescued him, gesturing to Duncan repeatedly until finally he covered the mouthpiece.
‘You talking to Spain?’
‘What the fuck d’you think I’m doing?’
‘I think you can’t speak fucking Spanish,’ Jimmy said evenly, ‘and I can. Pass me the phone.’
Impressed, Duncan watched as his colleague launched into perfect and fluent Spanish, making notes as he chatted, even laughing down the line. Finally, Jimmy passed the phone back.
‘They said they’d like to say goodbye to you. And that your accent was the worst they’d heard in a decade. Thanks for the laugh you gave them.’
‘Very funny,’ Duncan replied, slamming down the phone. ‘Did you ask them for the information?’
‘Yeah. They’re sending copies of what they have on Leon Golding’s death by fax. But apparently his computer’s gone missing, so they don’t know what he was working on.’
‘They agreed to help? Just like that?’
Jimmy shrugged. ‘Well, they moaned about it. I promised to send authorisation from this end. They said they would have to have it rubber-stamped, et cetera, et cetera.’
‘We should have it this afternoon.’ He leaned across the table towards Duncan. ‘Apparently when Ben Golding insisted on his brother’s autopsy, someone in the police force decided that they’d have another look at the file. You know, just in case they were wrong and it wasn’t suicide. After all, Ben Golding’s a respected surgeon and his brother was important in Madrid—’
‘Nothing,’ Jimmy replied. ‘But they knew he was working on Goya,’ he went on, reading his notes. ‘Francisco Goya
the painter. He’s a national treasure in Spain—’
‘The bloke who did that picture of the naked woman?’
Jimmy sighed. ‘And to think that I thought you were ignorant … Only Goya didn’t just paint naked women, apparently he painted some weird stuff too. He did a series of works called the’ – Jimmy glanced at his notes again – ‘the Black Paintings. They were dark and Leon Golding was studying them.’ Duncan eyes widened. ‘The police also said that there was a rumour going round that Leon Golding had found Goya’s skull. And …’ again checking his notes, ‘there’s a record of their interview with his girlfriend. She said that Leon had been in the middle of a nervous breakdown. That he’d been working too hard. Got obsessed. She even said that they’d had a seance—’
‘Hear me out. Leon Golding’s girlfriend was worried about him because he had mental health problems, but nothing life-threatening. But then suddenly he
.’ Jimmy looked at Duncan and held his gaze. ‘Sounds convenient, doesn’t it? Dying just after finding a priceless artefact.’
Duncan made a low whistling sound. ‘You’re thinking along the same lines as Roma. Who knew about all of this?’
‘The same person who knew about everything else.’ Jimmy countered. ‘Who knew all the people involved, and how to play them. A man at home in Madrid as much as London. Perhaps a man clever enough to make himself look sane. The only person who
know everything – Ben Golding.’
Scrutinising the Englishman, the concierge of the hotel watched as Ben walked into the reception area. There was something unsettling about Mr
, he thought, checking the information on his reservation card. Idly his gaze moved down the London address, the occupation – salesman, indeed – and then the card details. Everything in order. But the concierge hadn’t been in the hotel business for fifteen years without having a sixth sense for trouble and he knew when a guest was running away from something. They always came with little luggage and didn’t tell anyone where they were staying. No next of kin. No trace. As for the address, obviously false.
Turning to the receptionist, he asked, ‘Has Mr Harris had any phone calls?’
She shook her head and the concierge glanced back to where Ben stood waiting for the lift. Just as he thought – no one knew that he was staying at the hotel.
Ben’s clothes, noted the concierge, were fresh, and he was wearing a clean shirt, but his walk was slow and he seemed anxious, turning around repeatedly. The concierge had seen the same look before. It usually meant a marital fight, a bad business trip or a planned suicide.
There had been two suicides in his hotel career, and he had tried to anticipate the warning signs. There was nothing more complicated than trying to move a corpse out of a room without any other guests seeing it. In fact, on the previous two occasions the bodies had been moved late, taken down the industrial back lift to an ambulance waiting in the alleyway outside … The concierge was still thinking about the suicides when his attention was called away by the receptionist. When he looked back, Ben had entered the lift and was already making his way to the fourth floor.
He was wondering why no one had approached him, or even followed him. He had expected to be watched, even attacked. But nothing had happened, which was somehow more disturbing. Was he the only person who knew the skull was a fake? Surely he was, or he would have been approached by now. And although he had made himself into an obvious target, no one had made a move.
Walking into his hotel room, Ben locked the door and took off his coat. His shirt was sticking to his back even though the weather was cool, the collar of his open-necked
shirt rubbing against his neck and leaving a red welt. Emptying his pockets, he hung his jacket in the wardrobe and moved out on to the balcony. Glancing up, he saw nothing sinister, only the base of the upper balcony. Moving back into his room, he checked under the bed and then walked to the door, looking out. The corridor was empty, but at the end of the passageway a fire door was just swinging closed. Unsettled, he returned to his room and relocked the door.
His reflection in the bathroom mirror seemed odd, as though he was looking at himself from a distance. Muzzy from lack of sleep and anxiety, he did another check. The room was secure, he was safe.
He was safe
. All that mattered now was sleep. That was imperative, or he wouldn’t be able to go on. He would sleep for just a couple of hours. He would be all right, Ben told himself. The door was locked, the windows closed and bolted. He would lie down, get some rest, and then he would be able to think more clearly and decide what to do next. Prepare himself for what was coming.
Because he knew something was coming. He knew it deep inside himself. He knew it without being told. His visit to Bobbie Feldenchrist had not gone unnoticed. His plan, however naive, had worked.
He had been seen
. So how long would it be before Bobbie Feldenchrist admitted that she had a fake? How long before she challenged the person who had brought it to her? And how long before he suspected Ben Golding? The man already responsible for three deaths wouldn’t hesitate to kill again … Hardly able to
keep his eyes open, Ben took off his shoes, walked to the bathroom and moved over to the toilet, lifting the lid.
Inside the bowl, a pig’s bloated, severed head stared up at him.
Reeling back, Ben steadied himself by grasping the edge of the washbasin. He knew then what his brother had felt; knew the same terror Leon experienced while he waited in another hotel room. Shaking, Ben backed out of the bathroom, turning quickly to check that there was no one behind him. He knew he had to leave the hotel before anyone discovered what had happened.
Wiping the sweat from his hands, Ben threw his few clothes into a bag and pulled on his coat. Then he moved to the door and walked out, putting the DO NOT DISTURB notice on the handle. With luck no one would enter for a while. Taking the back stairs, he moved out into the alleyway behind the hotel, looking round to check that no one was following him. And as he hurried on, the memory of his brother’s last conversation came back.
Someone’s watching me. Oh God, someone’s here … Jesus, I’m so scared
And then he heard his answer:
You’re going to be OK. Just wait for me. I’m coming. I’m on my way
But he had been too late.
Moving out on to the street, Ben looked around then hailed a cab.
As the cabbie nodded and pulled out into the traffic, Ben stared out of the car window. He would get back to London, to safety. Maybe he would even go and see Roma Jaffe and ask her for help. His hands shaking, he tried to fasten his jacket, but gave up, flinching at the memory of the pig’s bloodied head, his mind blurring with unease as the cab dropped him at the airport and he headed for the Departure Lounge.
It was the last – under-booked – flight to London and there were only a few passengers waiting. Ben’s gaze moved around hurriedly, glossy, pristine images drenching his consciousness. Models promoting perfumes and handbags blurred with the background noise, a crying child forcing him to change seats.
Finally, an announcement sounded overhead.
‘Flight BA 7756 for London is now ready for boarding at Gate 14. Would passengers please keep their boarding passes and passports to hand.’
Hanging back, Ben let the other passengers board the plane first, then took his seat at the back. Across the aisle, a businesswoman took out an iPod and began to listen to music with her eyes closed. Looking down, Ben composed himself and then glanced out of the window into the darkness, his reflection looking back at him momentarily before he turned away.
The weight of fear hung over him, exhaustion pressing down on his body. Closing his eyes as the plane crawled up to the clouds, Ben finally slept. As the engines hummed and the businesswoman’s iPod whispered its tunes, he began to dream. Sweating, he shuffled in his seat, his breathing quickening as he remembered Diego Martinez, the dead body of Francis Asturias, and his brother’s terrified words.
Someone’s watching me. Oh God, someone’s here—
Terrified, he jerked awake. ‘God Almighty!’
Concerned, the stewardess came over to him. ‘Is there something the matter, sir?’
He was befuddled, her face coming in and out of focus. He couldn’t remember where he was and mistook her for a maid coming into his New York hotel room.
She would find the pig’s head … she would find the head
‘I don’t know anything about it!’ Ben snapped, beside himself with tiredness and confusion.
The stewardess looked puzzled, the other passengers curious. Ben had a sudden, crazed impulse to cry. A madman in polite society.
‘You don’t understand!’ he said, ‘I don’t know anything!’
‘Calm down, sir,’ the stewardess said kindly. ‘We can sort this out when we get to London.’
And then Ben realised that she was humouring him, and thought of all the times he had humoured his brother. When he was irritated by him, or didn’t believe him, or was trying to protect him. And he suddenly knew how it felt to have the whole world staring in at your own personal insanity.