Authors: Douglas Lindsay
Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #General, #Thrillers, #Suspense
Everything about it ate away at Jericho, although he was still trying to ignore the uncomfortable feeling.
Haynes parked the car on the slight hill of the main street down through Glastonbury, then Jericho followed Haynes off the street and into a small arcade. Magic crystals and warlock's outfits, incense and mysticism, Jericho saw everything, bracketed it all under tourist tat. One or two people stared at them, the two men incongruous in their suits and coats.
Jericho followed Haynes through a sidedoor into a heavily scented small shop. The shelves lined with candles and dragons and skulls and wands and powders. There was a woman behind the counter, a magnifying eyepiece squeezed into her eye, working on the intricacies of the stone setting in a ring. Haynes approached her as she removed the eyepiece and looked up. She was wearing a long patterned summer dress, which seemed out of place on a dull and cold January afternoon, but the shop was warm.
Her hair was long, tied loosely in a knot. She hadn't had a fringe since she'd been eleven, and now she was thirty-seven. Her eyes were blue-grey and smiled often. Her breasts were small and she wore no bra. Haynes looked her in the eye. Jericho found himself looking at a cross with a skull at its base, a snake poking its head through one of the eye sockets.
'Afternoon,' said Haynes.
'Not a very consistent collection of styles,' said Jericho.
She straightened up, looked at Haynes and then glanced past him to Jericho.
'I am selling neither ecumenicalism nor convention, Chief Inspector,' she said. 'I'm a business. I'll sell what people want to buy. I don't preach and I'm not selling a brand.'
'I don't know,' said Jericho. 'There seems to be a certain consistency to the level of garbage that all the shops along here are peddling.'
The shopkeeper nodded, but was not going to be drawn into a discussion on the stock on her shelves. Particularly since she agreed with him.
'He's a detective,' said Haynes. '
She nodded. She hadn't been expecting the police, but she knew they had her name, and although it had been a while, it wasn't the first time that they had come calling for information. And, of course, everyone knew Jericho.
Haynes took out the card and laid it on the counter in front of Newton. Jericho wasn't looking at them, as there was no need to gauge Newton's reaction; instead drifting along shelves of boxes with mystical symbols carved into their lids. Or what passed for mystical symbols to Jericho, but he viewed everything with scepticism.
'What can you tell us about it?' said Haynes.
Newton didn't pick it up. Jericho glanced over and then turned back to the shelves. Newton looked at the card then looked at Haynes, a lovely but faint smile on her lips. Haynes seemed apologetic.
'Everything you can tell us,' he said. 'We don't know much about this kind of thing. We don't live in this world.'
'Oh, you certainly live in it,' said Newton.
Haynes smiled and shrugged. Jericho looked over again then once more turned his back and continued his slow walk down the row of seemingly mystical rubbish. Even so, Newton could still feel Jericho's eye on her.
When she spoke, she addressed Haynes, as people usually did when talking to the two of them, regardless of whether Jericho was looking at them or not.
'The origins of the Tarot are, of course, rather lost in history. Everyone has a theory, but if someone tells you theirs is the definitive version, they're lying. Plenty of people will lie. This card, number twelve, is the Hanged Man. Since no one knows the exact origins of the cards, we can't be sure of its original intentions. However, it has become accepted that is it based on Odin, who was said to have hung upside down from the Tree of Life until he had gained great knowledge. The secrets of life and death. The Hanged Man represents knowledge and perspective, a re-awakening. Very positive and life-affirming.'
'Seems an odd name,' said Haynes.
Jericho had found the Tarot card section, and was looking at the various packs lined up on the shelves. They reminded him of extravagantly carved chess sets; Crusaders versus Saracens, elves versus goblins, rebel forces versus the Empire.
'It implies something it isn't.'
'The Hanged Man quite possibly pre-dates the rather brutal institution of state sponsored execution by hanging.'
'Something else lost in time,' said Jericho from the shelves.
'Would you ever see a Hanged Man, like this, where the figure had been hung by the neck?' asked Haynes.
'Normally not as part of a Tarot. Of course, these days there is no normal. People will do anything. Anyone with a genuine interest in the Tarot would not portray the twelfth card in this manner, but who knows? People can do anything.'
'You think this is a card from a pack or an individual card drawn and printed for a specific purpose?'
Jericho turned and watched Newton as she finally lifted the Hanged Man card and sat down. She began to study it intently, looking at all the tiny features drawn into the card, turning it over, looking at the back, running her fingers over it. Haynes watched her for a minute or two, but as the investigation went on he realised he was staring at her, staring at her breasts in a summer dress, and he turned away and walked over beside Jericho.
He lifted up a dragon, its large claw folded round a wailing virgin, and showed it to Jericho with a smile. It was the kind of gesture to which Jericho would never respond, but Haynes knew it went in, knew that under the dour exterior there was as much interest in the mundane and the absurdity that passed for modern life. The things that people spent their money on.
'You're going to say that it's impossible to say,' said Jericho, 'because of course it is.'
'Yes,' said Newton dryly.
'That's not really what we're looking for. Is there anything there that you can see as exceptional that we'll have missed?'
Haynes was glancing at him, but Jericho still hadn't looked at him. Immersing himself in the strange world to which he was not accustomed.
'The country house,' said Newton. 'You wouldn't normally find one of them.'
'What?' said Haynes sharply. Jericho glanced over.
Newton handed the card to Haynes. Jericho stood at Haynes' shoulder. They studied it for nearly a minute. Haynes was aware of the silence, how you couldn't hear any sound from outside the shop. Jericho had already noticed this, was consumed by the card. Eventually Newton leaned forward, holding a pencil, and traced the outline of the shape which was obscurely woven into the background of the card.
If you hadn't realised it was there, it was very difficult to see; once you knew, impossible to miss.
'Shit,' said Haynes. 'Could have looked at that for a week and not seen it.'
'What does it mean?' said Jericho.
Newton caught his eye and, as she laid down the card, shrugged slowly.
'Part of the message, one presumes. Whatever that message actually is. You're the detective.'
'We're leaving,' said Jericho sharply.
He turned, walked out. Haynes looked a little nonplussed, shrugged at Newton, took the card from her.
'Thanks for your help,' he said.
She smiled; Haynes followed the boss. Newton watched them go, the details of the card etched in her head.
There was a time when the words
you're the detective
had grated horribly with Jericho. They all suffered from it, the minute they qualified. All the non-detectives of the world ready to tell the detective fraternity that they ought to be able to work it out for themselves. And then it became a joke with which Amanda made herself laugh, and Jericho was happy to laugh along with because it was funny when she said it. And now the line, like so many things that reminded him of her, just shut him down.
Back out onto High Street, Jericho stopped and waited for Haynes to catch up. It seemed colder than when they'd entered the shop. A new wind. Maybe it would snow. Maybe it would just be dark and bleak and damp and cold. He didn't pull his jacket tighter around him.
'I don't know if that helped,' said Haynes, coming up beside him. He was still holding the card.
Jericho grunted humourlessly.
'What now?' asked Haynes.
Jericho shrugged and headed up the street towards his car.
Jericho sat in the small waiting room. There were two large windows facing out across London. Four large comfy chairs were arranged to afford the best view of the city. Jericho was sitting with his back to the wall, in between the two windows, with a perfect view of the four comfy chairs. They were empty. When he arrived, two of the chairs had been occupied by an American actress Jericho had seen in a film once, and her assistant. He sat in a comfy chair so as not to be staring at them; but when they went off to appear on whatever show it was that she'd been lined up for, he turned his back on London.
On the walls were pictures of television shows that Jericho never watched, a few awards for shows of which he had never heard, two large photographs of women with glamorous hair that could have been adverts for shampoo, but more likely were celebrities that he didn't recognise.
He sat with his hands on his knees in perfect silence.
The man in the middle spoke in terms that suggested he took it for granted that Jericho watched
Britain's Got Justice
, because that's what the police would do. They watched it because they were interested and, more than likely, would get some decent tips on how to deal with the criminal element. On either side of him were women in sharp suits and cool lipstick, although one of the women was notably sharper and cooler than the other.
'So, you know,' said the man in the middle, 'no one's saying it's failing. That would be absurd. Well, obviously the tabs are saying it's failing, but they've got their own agenda as always, and to be honest part of that is so that when we come back, with your help, they're going to be all over us. Part of the neverending cycle. Build up so you can squash, squash so that you can build back up.'
The sharper-lipsticked woman spoke up. Her name was Claudia. She only had one name, as if she'd once been a Brazilian footballer.
'The Americans are, like, so much more clinical at this kind of thing. They reckon that more than sixty percent of celebrity drug and alcohol addictions are planned, just so that they can make a comeback. It's so much better if you can make a comeback from your drugs hell and alcohol torment than making a comeback from no one buying your shit.'
Jericho looked through her without saying anything. If she was disconcerted by his blank stare then it did not show. The man in the middle waited to make sure that she had finished, then turned his attention back to Jericho.
'But it's like they say. It doesn't matter which way up you place the hourglass, the sands of time are running out. We need to grab the bull by the horns, and we're not talking about chipping away at the weight that lies on the chest of this thing, we need to blow up the weight. But without doing any damage to the chest, if you know what I'm saying.'
He looked intently at Jericho, as if Jericho was supposed to be understanding what he was talking about.
'Are we on the same page?' he asked.
'What do you want from me?' asked Jericho.
Sometimes people in Wells asked him if he missed London.
Man in the middle snapped his fingers.
'Sharp,' he said. 'You know, everything that was up will be down, and vice versa. That whole, you know,
Lord of the Rings
type of vibe, and when
Britain's Got Justice
goes back up, we're looking for you to be there, at the forefront. At the moment, we're down to six finalists, and of course the intention had been to reduce that by one every few days and do the final weekend with the Big Three.'