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Authors: Douglas Lindsay

Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #General, #Thrillers, #Suspense

We Are the Hanged Man (13 page)

BOOK: We Are the Hanged Man
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And then what? What had happened at the moment of penetration? The look in her eyes, the look of fear or hatred or determination which he had always faced in his past, and which had always encouraged him, now disconcerted him, had cut through him. Suddenly he had not wanted to hurt the girl, had not wanted to slam into her. He'd wanted to make love to her.

He had come quickly and he had left immediately, unable to look at her. He had showered, got into the car. Had not driven far, and now he was sitting in a pub drinking cider, eating fish and chips, wondering what he was going to do with the young woman back at his house.

He lifted his eyes from his lunch for the first time since it had been put in front of him. There were not too many people in the bar, and quite possibly Durrant was the youngest one there. There was a group of seven women with one of them doing most of the talking, a long, pointless and irritatingly loud story about an antique vase her husband had found in the loft. Durrant hadn't heard a word and still her shrill voice did not penetrate.

He noticed another old bloke, sitting on his own drinking Theakston's, reading the Sun. He was holding the paper so that the bottom half of it was resting on the table, the top half turned up and facing Durrant, allowing him to see the cover. The headline was hidden from him but he recognised the girl in the picture.

He dropped his knife and fork onto the plate and rose quickly from the table. The knife teetered on the edge for a second, then slipped off the plate, hit the edge of the table and fell onto the floor with a loud clatter. Durrant had already left the bar and did not hear it.

21

There was general chatter from the audience. The panel of four were waiting for the show to start, the large clock to the left counting down to kick-off. Jericho was sitting slightly detached from the others, an obvious gap between them in the desk behind which they all sat, indicating that he was not one of them. Washington, at the far end from Jericho, was leaning across the other two, talking in a low voice. Giving them all the benefit of his opinions, making them listen whether they wanted to or not. He was joined on the panel by a former member of the Sugababes, although not many people could really remember her ever having been in the band, and an actor who had played TV hard man coppers all his working life, and so was naturally in the best position to judge those who aspired to the job. It was not unlike getting Hugh Laurie to give you a triple heart bypass operation, but the actor did play one heck of a tough copper.

Jericho watched the large digital clock, the red number ticking down. Three minutes, twenty-four seconds until the start of the show. He had not been allowed to meet the five remaining contestants. Washington wanted to keep them separate and curious; he wanted the five on edge at the thought of the real and genuine hard-nosed copper; he wanted Jericho wary and expecting the worst. What he hadn't wanted was any of the five realising that Jericho was bored, disinterested and extremely unlikely to get as involved in the proceedings as everyone else in the show.

Haynes had arrived fifteen minutes earlier, just in time to show Jericho the latest card. Again made from the same template, with a few differences. As with the difference between the first and the second, so between the second and the third. Although the picture was almost identical, once again the look on the skeleton's face was a little nastier, a little more mocking in its macabre sense of superiority. It knew something that Jericho didn't. It was laughing at him, and once again it was laughing just a little harder than it had been previously.

Jericho had wanted to still be looking at the card, but had not wanted to be caught doing so by any of the television people, and was fully aware of the risk of being caught by a roving camera. Haynes had been dispatched, all three cards in his pocket, to wait for Jericho back at his hotel. Sergeant Light had seen them talking, and Jericho was aware of the slight disappointment in her face when he had told her that he and Haynes had work to do after the show. She'd covered it, moved on quickly, back to business.

The clock ticked. The audience began to settle as the announcement came over of the imminent opening of proceedings, and members of the floor crew waved their hands for everyone to be quiet. Jericho glanced along the line to look at his fellow judges. Washington was straightening his shoulders, flexing his arms; the Sugababe was taking deep breaths to quell her fake panic, while waving her hands in her face; the tough TV copper was looking mean, staring silently into space.

The audience had gone quiet; an expectant hush fell over the large studio. Seventeen seconds to go. The host bounded happily onto stage, waving to the crowd, and immediately they burst into huge and thunderous applause. He smiled, the floor manager shook his head and looked away.

Seven seconds.

'Chief Inspector?'

Having turned away, Jericho looked back round at Washington, who gave him a thumbs up. Jericho nodded back with disinterest.

'Don't mind if we bring up the subject of your wife?' said Washington. 'It'll make great TV.'

The show began.

*

Durrant turned the car into the small driveway. He hadn't liked seeing the girl's face on the front of a newspaper; was glad that he hadn't seen her name. It had reminded him of how he was being used, which was something he didn't want to think about.

He walked quickly into the house, locked the front door behind him. Crossed the small living room in five paces, into the back room.

She hadn't heard the car but had been aware of the vibrations. She had been surprised that he'd left when he had, but had been in no state to understand why, her mind unable to analyse nuance in the brutal acts of her kidnapper. Now, however, her body tightened at the thought of him coming back. She presumed she was being held for ransom and so, although she was terrified of what he might do to her, her mind was on rape and brutality, not on the possibility that he would murder her.

She caught sight of his face as he closed the door behind him. A cry caught in her throat. Durrant strode quickly to her side and did not hesitate. He did not like having someone in his house who was going to be messing with his head. And he knew it was not yet time to get her out of the house. There was only one option, and if it precluded his original plan of torture and pain, then that was how it would have to be.

He smacked her across the side of the head with a blow she did not see coming. Although he did not entirely knock her out with the first hit she felt nothing as Durrant laid into her, venting fury and madness, as his hatred of mankind came exploding to the surface.

She was dead in under thirty seconds. Durrant kept hitting the corpse for another fifteen minutes.

*

The audience were in their usual state of ferment, goading and cajoling and cheering and hissing, the pantomime of Saturday evening TV. The three judges played their part, played to the audience; the TV copper talking about police work as if he'd ever actually done any of it, and as if every day was like standing on the front line at Paschendale clutching a broomstick and a note from your mum asking the Germans if they wouldn't mind going home; the ex-Sugababe, sympathetic and concerned, occasionally moved to tears; Washington, sneering and harsh, the pantomime villain, ridiculing at every turn.

Jericho sat detached. The TV copper was unimpressed with Jericho's very presence, feeling that it undermined his own special place as the hard man of the piece. Even so, every now and again he felt the need to reach out to Jericho as if the pair were partners in crime prevention, by saying, 'That's the kind of thing we need to deal with,' or 'This is what a lot of our officers don't understand.'

Jericho could feel the darkness approaching. His brain was shutting down. He didn't suppose that he'd ever been happy, but before he'd lost Amanda there was a time when he wasn't always miserable. Now he was always miserable, and when he was in an uncomfortable situation, he curled up inside himself; his brain shrivelled into a tiny black ball of grief and anguish.

The five contestants were each fighting a judo expert in hand-to-hand combat on the stage. One at a time. They had all, naturally, been put on their back. Even Gaz. The judo expert had been instructed not to kill any of them, but that a decent amount of pain and suffering would be advantageous to the production. Each of the five had been thrown to the floor with some brutality. Now they were being judged on their hand-to-hand combat skills by three people who couldn't be counted upon to open a new tube of toothpaste without getting into a spot of bother requiring outside assistance.

Xav was in tears. Cher had her arm round his shoulders.

'Is this what you'll be like if you come across two drunk guys fighting on a Saturday night?' asked Washington, dismissively. 'You'll burst into tears and hope they stop?'

'Stop it!' barked Cher. The audience cheered at her audacity in confronting the King. Washington shook his head scornfully. Security were constantly on the look-out for someone throwing something at the back of his head from the audience. There was a man standing not far from Washington who was paid to take the bullet.

'Chief Inspector?' said Washington suddenly. The camera panned onto Jericho; the audience quickly calmed down. The five contestants turned and looked nervously in his direction. 'Now I'm not going to lead you, or anything, I'm not putting thoughts in your head, words in your mouth. But this, this is a sorry story if this is what the British people are dependant upon for security and protection from thugs.'

Everyone looked at Jericho. Perhaps he was the only one to have the thought that no one was dependant on the five for security and protection, as they weren't actually joining the police and this was just a television show.

Jericho had barely spoken so far. This was the moment to bring his wisdom and experience to the front line of
Britain's Got Justice
.

'It's preposterous,' he said, his voice low, and he turned away from Washington and looked at the studio floor a few feet in front of him.

Washington clapped his hands once, then held them open.

'Exactly. These people are preposterous.'

The audience howled. Given due direction by Washington, the audience generally accepted that that was what Jericho had intended.

'I meant the whole show,' he muttered quietly, but the words travelled no further than his own chin and even the microphone attached to his jacket did not appear to pick it up.

*

'What the fuck do you call that?'

Washington was flying. The post-show wrap-up. Everyone was supposed to be in attendance, but Jericho had said that he was just nipping to the bathroom and had not returned. Washington had arrived, moral indignation vomiting forth. He might have been more measured had Jericho actually been in the room, although Washington bowed to no man. However, in his absence, Morris was having to take the full brunt of the tirade on the chin. Not that she immediately answered the question.

'What the fuck do you call that?' he asked again, this time the words spoken more slowly, more emphasis given to the expletive in the middle. 'We're trying to create drama here, and you bring in a fucking dementor. That's what that guy is. He just sat there, fucking sucking the life out of the show. He's a black hole, some sort of fucking anti-charisma vacuum cleaner. Fuck me.'

Spit had looped out of his mouth and settled on the carpet, some on the edge of the desk. Everyone else was sitting, Washington was on the prowl, moving around the room. Wouldn't be too long before the words
caged leopard
started occurring to people.

'Holy fuck,' he spat out. 'Seriously, what is wrong with that guy? Who doesn't want to be on this show? He's a fucking freak.' Of the eight people being forced to listen to him, seven of them had the thought that Washington was the one who had insisted on getting Jericho. None of them spoke up. He snapped his fingers. 'We have to turn this to our advantage. I hit on something there. Dementor. The guy's a fucking dementor. We need to get that out there, we need the press to start using it. That's so fucking freaky, people'll love that. This fucking miserable twat.'

He started to smile. He looked round his captive audience. He nodded, smiled more broadly, encouraging the rest of the room to smile with him. 'Actually, that is fucking genius. Fucking genius. Seriously, they are going to fall for this schtick, you know, the British people, they are going to love this. A dementor.'

BOOK: We Are the Hanged Man
5.67Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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