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Authors: Cassandra Chan

Trick of the Mind

BOOK: Trick of the Mind
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To Jack and Mary Dodge,
for seeing me through the hard times
and providing so many of the good ones
If often happens when one acquires roommates that one discovers hitherto unknown facets of their personalities. Sometimes these discoveries take the form of small, irritating habits, but I have been extraordinarily lucky in that Crissie has turned out to have a hidden talent for making up titles (something I am abysmal at), as well as being perfectly content to have the end of the book “spoiled” in the course of conversations about plot issues and whether or not clues are too obvious. So many thanks to Crissie Tucker (she also helped with the abbreviations in Gibbons’s notebook).
I also owe fervent thanks to Paul Saccento for having had the good sense to marry Pat and for introducing her to me. Which leads to many thanks to Pat Saccento for sharing all her medical knowledge.
Chris West introduced me to the marvels of alexandrite gemstones and vetted some of the jewelry passages, and Jon Elliot once again came through with his extensive knowledge of London neighborhoods. A grateful author thanks them.
Then there are my usual helpers who correct all my mistakes: Linda Pankhurst, who fixes my British English, and Beth Knoche, who finds all my typos.
Lastly, but far from least, are those without whom this book would not exist: My editor, Kelley Ragland; her assistant, Matt Martz; and my wonderful agent, Jennifer Jackson, who soothes my anxieties and handles all the difficult bits so I don’t have to.
The Night
I
t was eleven o’clock when they finished dinner and spilled out into the Boulevard St. Germain in high spirits, Marla laughing and rather tipsy with the champagne she had drunk. The fine November rain was chilly and Phillip Bethancourt tucked his arm around his girlfriend while she demanded to know what the others were saying. Bethancourt, cocking an ear toward the rapid cross fire of French among their companions, answered, “They’re still arguing about the nightclub. Let’s get a taxi, shall we?”
In the end, three taxis were procured to transport the entire party to one or another of the several Parisian nightclubs under discussion. Bethancourt, gallantly ushering the ladies in, found himself separated from Marla when he finally slid into the back of the car and slammed shut the door. Jean-Louis, up front with the driver, was giving instructions, and Catrine was leaning forward to argue with him. Bethancourt settled back in his cramped corner, content to let the others decide their destination, and lit a cigarette while the taxi started off. In his pocket, his mobile phone began ringing and Bethancourt dug it out with some difficulty, given the tight confines of the backseat.
It proved to be Spencer Kendrick in one of the other taxis.
“Have you any idea where we’re going?” he demanded.
“No,” answered Bethancourt cheerfully.
“Well, ring me if we end up in different places.”
“Righto,” agreed Bethancourt, and rang off. Before attempting to return the phone to his pocket, he checked his messages, finding one left much earlier in the evening by his friend Jack Gibbons.
“Got an interesting one on,” said Gibbons’s voice. “I’d like to hear what you make of it. Ring me when you get a chance.”
Eleven o’clock, reflected Bethancourt, meant ten in London, which in turn meant Gibbons should be at home, preparing for bed. Without much further thought, Bethancourt pressed the speed dial on his phone, half his attention on the conversation in the taxi, which still centered on the various merits of different clubs. Thus occupied, he started when the voice answering the phone was not that of his friend, but was instead the gravelly tones of Detective Chief Inspector Wallace Carmichael of New Scotland Yard. Unconsciously, Bethancourt sat up a little straighter.
“Sorry to trouble you, sir,” he said at once. “It’s Bethancourt here. I was just ringing Jack back, but I’m sure it can wait.”
“Bethancourt?” said Carmichael. He sounded disappointed. “Where are you?”
“Paris, sir,” answered Bethancourt, shifting to shield the phone from the sound of the nightclub discussion, which had suddenly increased in volume.
There was a slight pause while the chief inspector assimilated this.
“And you say Gibbons rang you earlier?” he asked.
“He left a message, sir. I’ve only just got it—I had hoped to catch him at home before he went to bed.”
“Did he say anything? What time did he ring you?” demanded Carmichael.
Bethancourt was instantly uneasy. “It was about six thirty, sir,” he replied. “And he only said he had an interesting case on and I should ring him back. Has something happened?”
“Too bloody right it has,” growled Carmichael. “Sergeant Gibbons is on his way to hospital—he’s been shot.”
Someone was shouting at the taxi driver, and the car swerved
suddenly, changing direction and toppling Bethancourt into the door. He clutched at the phone desperately.
“Bethancourt? Are you there?”
“Yes, sir,” he managed. “Is Jack all right?”
“I don’t know,” said Carmichael, his voice angry. “He’s still alive, at any rate, but they only found him half an hour ago. I’m just leaving for the hospital myself.”
“I’ll start back at once, sir,” said Bethancourt. “If I leave now, I can be there by morning. The mobile number will reach me in the meantime.”
The taxi was slowing; up ahead there were lights and people milling about on the sidewalk.
“I’ve got to ring off now,” said Bethancourt. “I’ll get under way as quick as I can.”
It was raining in London, too. Carmichael tried to shield Gibbons’s mobile as he gingerly pressed the off button with a gloved finger. Then he dropped it back into the plastic evidence bag, but hesitated as he started to hand it back to the scene-of-the-crime officer who had brought the ringing to his attention.
“Better keep it with you,” he said. “If it rings again, answer it and let me know at once.”
“Yes, sir,” said the SOCKO, taking the bag. “You want the usual on it otherwise?”
Carmichael nodded curtly.
“Right, then.”
Bag in hand, the officer turned away and Carmichael surveyed the scene with an irate eye, cursing the rain under his breath. Beneath the bus shelter, two SOCKOs knelt, taking samples of the spreading bloodstain as fast as they could, trying to shield the pavement with their bodies. Other officers were scrutinizing the sidewalk and street, though there was really no chance any evidence would remain. They would probably not even be trying if the victim had not been a fellow officer.
In any case, there was certainly nothing left here for Carmichael
to do. He walked briskly back to his car, banging the door closed and starting the engine up with a jerk.
“Why the devil hasn’t O’Leary rung up?” he muttered as he pulled away from the curb. He fumbled with his mobile as he squinted through the windscreen; his night sight was not what it was, and the reflection of the city lights in the raindrops did not help matters.
“Sergeant O’Leary!” he barked when his call was answered. “What’s happening?”
“I don’t know, sir.” Detective Sergeant Chris O’Leary sounded frustrated. “They’ve whisked him away somewhere and all I know for certain is that he’s not gone into the operating theater yet.”
“Why the hell not?”
“I’ve been trying to find out, sir, but the doctors haven’t come back out yet.”
“Have you got his things?” asked Carmichael desperately. “They undestood his belongings would be wanted as evidence, didn’t they?”
“Yes, sir,” replied O’Leary. “One of the nurses brought everything out in plastic bags and I’ve got it all safe. Hodges is on his way here to take it all back to the lab.”
“Thank God,” muttered Carmichael.
“Sir,” said O’Leary, his voice suddenly urgent, “I’ll ring you back. I see one of the doctors.”
The line went dead and Carmichael cursed as he flung aside his phone and concentrated on getting to the hospital as quickly as possible.
Bethancourt was engaged in the same enterprise, only at a much greater distance.
“I need a car,” he told Spencer Kendrick as they stood outside the nightclub in the drizzle. “If I leave straightaway, I can make one of the late-night ferries and be in London before dawn.”
“Take the hire car,” responded Kendrick. “I’ve got the keys here somewhere.”
“Do you want me to come with you?” asked Marla, striving to appear quite sober and responsible, and partially succeeding.
In truth, Bethancourt did not. “No need,” he assured her, rather touched not only by the offer, but also by the fact that she was standing out in the rain without complaint.
“You know,” Kendrick said, producing the car keys at last, “if you waited and took the first flight in the morning, you’d only be an hour or two later. You’re not gaining much time by driving all night.”
Bethancourt shot him a dry look. “I really don’t think I could endure several hours of enforced idleness,” he said.
“Well, no, I can see that,” admitted Kendrick, handing over the keys. “The car’s in the hotel garage,” he added.
“Cheers,” said Bethancourt. He stowed the keys in his jacket pocket and turned to kiss Marla good-bye.
“Be careful,” she murmured. “I hope Jack’s all right.”
So did Bethancourt. Back in the taxi, he checked his watch, although he knew he could not possibly ring Carmichael back so soon; the chief inspector would not even have reached the hospital yet. So he leaned back with a sigh, unaware of his fingers drumming a tattoo on the car’s upholstery. He was charged with adrenaline but had nowhere to expend it, his mind racing in a fruitless effort to understand what had happened.
At the hotel, he packed his bag hastily, cramming the clothes in anyhow, while the hotel staff fetched the car and searched out a ferry timetable for him. He ordered a large espresso to take away and sipped at it while he took the lift down, still impatient and trying to keep a tight rein on himself until he could at last be on his way.
The rain had stopped by the time he started out at a quarter past midnight, though the weather report on the radio said it was coming down heavily in Pas de Calais. He had a long way to go before he got so far. Lighting a cigarette, he concentrated on maneuvering his way out of Paris until at last he reached the Autoroute du Nord and could push the Volvo into fifth gear.
The hospital emergency room was awash with plainclothes policemen. Detective Sergeant Chris O’Leary, black-haired and only a couple of years older than his wounded colleague, still stood guard
over the polythene bags containing Gibbons’s clothes and other belongings; apparently Hodges had not yet arrived to take them back to the forensics lab. Along the row of seats to O’Leary’s left, Detective Inspector Hollings, who had been the first to respond to the call of an officer down in Walworth, sat with Detective Inspector Davies of the Arts Theft Division, for whom Gibbons had been working during the past few weeks. And hovering in the doorway, looking uneasy, was Detective Constable Jonathan Lemmy, Carmichael’s own cross to bear during the current Scotland Yard rota.
Apart from Hollings, who had been on call, they were all dressed in casual clothing, but an air of officialdom seemed to cling to them, or perhaps it was the tension in their manner. Whatever the reason, the civilians in the waiting room had clustered together away from the policemen and from time to time cast curious glances toward them and their uniformed counterparts who stood guard at the doors.
O’Leary was the first to see Carmichael.
“Sir,” he said urgently, crossing the room.
“What news?” asked Carmichael, lengthening his stride to meet the sergeant halfway. “Did you speak to the doctors?”
“Yes, sir,” replied O’Leary. “I did try to ring you, sir.”
“Never mind, Sergeant,” said Carmichael impatiently. “What did they say? Is he still alive?”
O’Leary nodded, but his brow remained creased with anxiety. “They seem to think they can save him, though they haven’t said as much,” he replied. “He’s not gone into surgery yet—they want to get him stabilized and his blood pressure up before they operate.”
“How long will that take?” demanded Carmichael.
O’Leary spread his hands. “They didn’t say. The surgeon,” he added in an attempt to make up for this deficiency of information, “should be out to speak to us before they take him into OR.”
Carmichael nodded brusquely. He knew he was taking his bad temper out on the sergeant, but at the moment he didn’t care.
Hollings and Davies had risen and were waiting at his shoulder. He scowled and turned his attention to them.
“What case did you have him on, Davies?” he demanded.
Davies, a dapper man with a public-school accent, looked startled
at Carmichael’s accusatory tone, but was wise enough to reply mildly, “The Haverford robbery, Chief Inspector. Nothing out of the ordinary. Certainly nothing that could have led to this.”
“Walworth isn’t exactly the sort of neighborhood you’d look for clues about the Haverfords,” put in Hollings and got the scowl transferred to himself for his trouble.
“Don’t be an ass,” snapped Carmichael. “Walworth is chock-full of stolen goods and people who fence them and you know it.”
Hollings sighed. “Just trying to pour oil on troubled waters, sir.”
“Keep your damned oil to yourself,” muttered Carmichael, but he turned away as he said it so that the other men did not quite catch the words. No one asked him to repeat himself.
“Has anything turned up at the scene, sir?” ventured O’Leary.
“The bloody scene is washed out,” said Carmichael, frustration and worry making his voice harsh. “The SOCKOs are salvaging what they can, but it won’t be much.”
Hollings cleared his throat. “I’ve put the local uniforms on to a house-to-house,” he said. “And I’ve got DC Cummings down at Lambeth station—evidently there was a report of gunshots down there this evening, but they found nothing when they investigated.”
Carmichael’s eyebrows bristled. “And so they just toddled off to their beds with not a care in the world about the unexplained gunfire on their patch? Oh, that’s brilliant, that is.”
The others shifted uncomfortably.
“We’re not yet certain what happened, sir,” said Hollings. “I’m sure they did their best.”
“Well, if their best didn’t find the man who was bleeding to death on their patch, it obviously wasn’t good enough, was it?”
BOOK: Trick of the Mind
13.82Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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