Read We Are the Hanged Man Online
Authors: Douglas Lindsay
Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #General, #Thrillers, #Suspense
Published by Blasted Heath, 2012
copyright © 2012 Douglas Lindsay
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without permission of the author.
Douglas Lindsay has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
All the characters in this book are fictitious and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Cover design by Blasted Heath
Visit Douglas Lindsay at:
ISBN (ePub): 978-1-908688-24-8
There was a record playing on an old turntable. Hoagy Carmichael singing
. Recorded in the 50's with a full jazz band. The music was mellow and relaxed, spoke of warm days, Pimms and lemonade, summer fruits, children running in the breeze, blue skies up above and everyone's in love.
He stood in the frame of the doorway. Behind him the cold grey sky merged with the cold grey sea. Waves washed noisily up onto the shingle beach. In front of him a sea of blood.
They were all dead. There was no need to walk through the room checking for signs of life. Nine bodies, including the two police officers. The throats of everyone in the room had been slit, although some of the victims had been attacked and brutalised in a variety of other ways.
He hadn't heard any weapons fire, but there were a couple of handguns lying on the floor. One of the guns was lying in a dark red puddle, the other thrown to the side of the room, away from the carnage. Or, at least, as far away as it could get in such a small space containing so much death. The position and the make of the guns suggested that it was not the police who had brought them to the party. On the contrary, the two police officers had come to make the arrest unarmed.
You get what you ask for in life, he thought.
Three men in a room, waiting for a fourth. A warm summer's morning. Windows open, the sounds of London drifting up to the ninth floor. Traffic and people and somewhere the ever-present wail of an emergency vehicle. Two of them were looking through paperwork at a desk, the other standing with his hands in his pockets, looking out the window. He saw nothing.
They knew there was no point in talking until the fourth man arrived. He would be the one who conducted the orchestra, not to mention chose the venue and picked the tunes they would be playing.
The door opened; the men at the table turned. One of them even half stood as the fourth man pulled a chair out at the table.
'You know why we're here?' he asked. He assumed they'd been talking before he arrived. Despite everything, he didn't really understand that they were all aware that nothing happened without him being there.
The men at the table shrugged; the one from the window came and sat at the table.
'We've been working on other things,' he said. 'I thought it would be best to leave it to you to open the fridge door.'
The fourth man nodded. It didn't really matter whether anything had gone on before he'd arrived.
'The problems for the network are obvious,' he said. 'You've got this great rush in the pre-Christmas period, this fabulous double hit of X-Factor and Celebrity, and then you hit the fucking wall. The fu-cking wall. What is there post-Christmas? It's the flattest time of the year, everyone's fucking miserable, and what do we get?
Noel Edmonds Plays Celebrity Suck My Cock On Ice
. It's bull-shit. We need something new, and really, does it have to be all that difficult?'
He paused, but the other three knew that it wasn't so that one of them could speak. The Fourth Man still had the stick.
'And let's not fool anyone with talk of originality. Fuck originality. You TV people talk about it all the time, but you know what, originality is like… sushi… Do the British public like sushi? Yeah, well, maybe they do. It's different, it's fresh, it's healthier than pie and chips. But does that mean they want it every night? No, it fucking doesn't. They want the usual shit every night, that's what they want. They want pie and chips every night, and if for some reason some wanker gives them sushi when they're not expecting it, they'll put the fucking sushi in a butty and eat it with fucking chips and ketchup. Or they'll deep fry the fucker. Deep fried fucking sushi…'
He paused again. Looked around the table. He still had the stick.
'So, it's not rocket science. Putting it simply, we need a talent show with celebrity judges. That's it, period. We don't want to find a singer, so we need something else. I know, it's kind of the Holy Grail of the peak time networks, but it's about time we went after it. A talent show that's not about singing or dancing, something bold and brave that's really going to affect people, something that really touches their lives.'
He glanced around the table. A warm breeze blew across them. The fourth man glanced around the room to see if it had been set up for coffee and doughnuts and was disappointed.
The others hadn't realised that he had passed over the stick.
'We need ideas,' he said, rather coldly.
'How about a help the aged, carer of the year kind of thing? That'll really, you know, touch people.'
The fourth man sat back and drew his thumb and forefinger of his right hand down the corners of his mouth.
He lay in bed staring at the ceiling. The window was open, the room cold, not yet bright. Someone was lying next to him, although he couldn't remember her name.
It was going to be a bad day. He could feel it already. Some days events conspired to induce his depression, and some days depression came with the dawn and his first waking moment.
There was no clock in the room, his first act every morning to turn off the alarm on the phone. Today he had awoken before it had gone off; or he had forgotten to set it in the previous evening's rush to the bed. He stared at the light beige of the curtains, the vague hint of dawn behind them and decided that it was not quite eight o'clock.
He wondered how awkward it would be when she awoke and whether or not he would be forced to talk to her. He thought of getting up, taking a shower, getting dressed, heading into work, but the day sat too heavily upon him and he couldn't move.
The City of Wells, smallest city in England. Population hovering around the 10,000 mark. On the tourist route, thanks to the Cathedral and the Bishop's Palace, and its proximity to Glastonbury. More coffee shops per head of population than anywhere else on earth.
The police station was on the outskirts of town, on the Glastonbury Road, next to the Health Centre, across the road from the football ground. Wells was small, and the police could be anywhere in the city within five minutes. Despite the one-way system. A quiet city. Drunks at two in the morning – or two in the afternoon – the occasional car theft, the usual acts of mindless violence. Sometimes the alcohol would lead to violent assault, very occasionally to murder. Not much else happened. The kind of place to which a police officer might seek a transfer in order to escape.
DCI Jericho took the phone from his pocket and checked the time as he walked up the short driveway to the station. 0844. Half an hour he'd lain in morose and tired silence, listening to her breathe, then he had forced himself out of bed and into the shower. She had still been asleep when he left. Even though he didn't know who she was, he did not fear leaving her alone in his house when he went out in the morning. There was nothing to steal. At least, nothing that he couldn't replace.
Through the outer doors, he nodded at reception. Loovens was there. Recognised the look on Jericho's face and returned the nod. No point in conversation. The DCI had been seen in the King's Head the night before talking to a woman some said was a good twenty-five years younger than him, but it wasn't one of those mornings when Jericho could be made fun of.
Along the corridor, up the stairs to the first floor. Stopped at the coffee machine, looked down at it with morbid patience as it ground its way towards his first coffee of the day. He could hear shuffling from the office next to the machine but didn't look round to see who it was. He didn't know who would be on duty. Took the coffee, walked through the open plan, did not even glance at Constable Adams who was staring at him, ready to offer advice on his choice of sexual partners, walked into his own office and closed the door behind him.
Fighting the urge to crawl under his desk and curl up into a ball, creating a rigid defence that the day would not be able to break through, he sat instead behind the desk in the grey leather chair and took a first sip of coffee.
The sergeant was oblivious as usual. Talking too much, too quickly. Jericho presumed he was oblivious. In fact Haynes had been advised by his predecessor that this was the way to deal with the DCI's depression. To talk him out of it. The advice had been passed down through seven of Jericho's assistants, based on one incident nine years previously when Jericho had faked good humour in an effort to get his then DC to be quiet.
'So, we're really just looking at paperwork today,' said Haynes. 'Course, we still need to go and speak to that retired major in Paulton about the, you know, insurance thing.'
Jericho was looking through the few items of mail that Haynes had brought in. None of it was work. A police officer's work didn't arrive in the post. This was mostly letters forwarded on from Met, sent by people who didn't realise that Jericho was no longer interested in being a well-known, celebrity police officer. Some were of the
I love a man in uniform
variety, even though he hadn't worn a uniform in over thirty years, some were threats, some were cries for help. All of them went in the bin, although even on his darkest days, Jericho felt duty bound to read each and every one in case he missed something.
'I know, it's me who has to go and speak to the retired major. You're giving me that look. I'm on it. Don't think for a second that the bloke intimidates me or anything, it's not that. God he's just dull. And then his wife offers you a cup of tea and insists you stay, and before you know it you've been sitting there for four hours, you've eaten your own bodyweight in cake and the old duffer's boring the Calvin Klein's offa you with his tales of fighting the fucking Argies and how he got his leg blown off by a land mine at Goose Green, and you spend the rest of the time staring at his legs wondering if he's wearing like a, you know, what do you call it...'
The word was in Jericho's head, but he never said it. Usually, though, he didn't need to.
'... wondering if he's wearing a prosthetic, and wanting to do that thing that Bond does to Henderson in
You Only Live Twice
where he banjoes him on the leg with like a wooden stick or something... But, you know, I'm on it. Might not get out there today, because, you know, there's paperwork coming out every orifice, but shortly. Monday. Probably Monday.'