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Authors: Douglas Lindsay

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

We Are the Hanged Man (5 page)

BOOK: We Are the Hanged Man
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7

Accepting that he was locked into his television hell, Jericho managed to turn the idea off for the afternoon. It would happen when it would happen. It would happen when Sergeant Light came to collect him.

Light was relatively new, and Jericho probably hadn't said more than a couple of words to her so far. Based on nothing more than walking past her in the office, however, he liked her, something that he had not communicated to anyone else. He knew that Dylan's pettiness would have extended as far as ensuring that some other officer was assigned the task if she'd known that Jericho was happy with Light.

Not thinking about the television show allowed Jericho to push cases around his desk. There wasn't much doing. A serious assault from a few weeks previously on Wells High Street. Two drunks beating up another drunk. Jericho pondered if three was enough to call it a brawl, or whether the word brawl implied greater participation in terms of numbers. Sadly, none of them had died; they would all live to drink and fight again.

There had been a few graffiti tags around the town. Not really his province, but he'd been in on the investigation, such as it was, because he was there, and people tended to defer to him. Complaints about a farmer off the Shepton Mallet road not letting walkers cross his field. One of the sergeants had asked Jericho to become involved just so that everyone knew how seriously the police were taking the matter. Reports of teenagers driving recklessly around the Westway carpark at 1.30 in the morning, trying to pitch their mates off the car bonnet. A window smashed at the bottom of Portway the previous Tuesday.

It was quite common for Jericho to be used just so that people could see how seriously the police were taking matters. There certainly wasn't much work that warranted the attention of a Detective Chief Inspector, and rare were the jobs he'd been given since coming to the West Country that would have come his way in London when he was there.

Still, people got beaten up, cars drove too quickly, houses were broken into, every now and again a victim would meet his killer.

Haynes knocked and entered. Jericho was staring at a piece of paper. His expression was blank, but Haynes new that he defied appearances. That he would be taking everything in. The man plucked information form nowhere on a daily basis.

Jericho looked up; Haynes stood in the doorway.

'So, what's the plan?' asked Haynes.

'Plan?'

'Are you doing the show?'

Jericho nodded.

'Shit,' said Haynes. 'I really thought you might blow 'em off. You're going to be on TV. You'll be getting marriage proposals and endorsement deals from, I don't know, Smith & Wesson… Pepsi…. You could be the next Cheryl Cole.'

'Do you have anything to tell me, or are you just in here to give me abuse?'

Haynes laughed.

'Nothing. Just checking it's all right for me to knock off for the day.'

Jericho nodded and looked back at the report from the witness to the High Street beating. The spelling and the grammar were terrible, but Jericho knew it would have been written by a police officer and signed by the witness.

'Any more thoughts on the Tarot card?' asked Haynes. 'You know, I'm saying that, but it's not as if I've had any.'

Jericho shook his head again, spoke without looking up.

'We'll wait and see. If nothing else comes in and nothing extraordinary appears to have happened, we can bin it.'

'Maybe someone just wants you to view the world from a different perspective.'

Jericho didn't immediately raise his eyes, although Haynes could tell he had stopped reading. Finally the eyebrow lifted, his eyes followed.

'That would be someone who didn't know that I already do that every day.'

Haynes smiled, made a small gesture with his hand and headed out of the door. Stopped, looked back in.

'The Crown?'

Jericho ignored him, Haynes turned away.

*

'They'll be talking about you again.'

Jericho was sitting up in bed. Amanda was standing by the window, looking out over the view, although it was dark, so he presumed she couldn't see anything. She was humming a tune he recognised.
Memphis in June
. It sounded soft and beautiful.

'I wish they wouldn't,' he said. 'I never say it to anyone. I never grab the newspaper and rip it up. I never tell the journalists to fuck off when they call.'

She turned. She was smiling.

'It's all right,' she said.

He shook his head. When she looked at him like that he wanted to cry.

When he heard the tune again it was Hoagy singing. Amanda turned back to the night.

*

She was never there when he was lying beside another woman. She knew not to come into his dreams when he had fucked someone else. Regularly, however, she would be there when he hadn't. Sometimes lost, sometimes lonely. Sometimes she smiled. He never understood it when she smiled.

He awoke depressed. Sat in the near dark, watching the dawn while he ate breakfast. Grey light, but no sun, spreading across the cold fields and barren hedgerows. Coffee and toast spread with just butter. Shoulders hunched as he sat at the table.

The apprentice police officers of
Britain's Got Justice
awoke to orange juice and figs, bran and decaf, stretching and exercise, showers and anxious hours spent in front of a mirror. The man who would be their leader for a few days, who would show them what it was truly like to be on the front line of law enforcement, who the tabloid press would try to define as their Jedi Master, sat slouched over an old wooden table and wondered if the shape he could see in the distance was really a deer, or whether his eyes were going the same way as his flat stomach and his enthusiasm.

It was true what they said. Jericho had no friends. He had enemies though.

He sat for half an hour after finishing his breakfast, until the morning had completely broken. It rained. The dull gloom looked settled for the day. He went back upstairs, cleaned his teeth, down to the front door, shoes and coat on and out into the chill of morning.

8

Durrant had not been surprised to be let out of prison. Nothing surprised him, just as nothing pleased him or annoyed him or upset him. Life happened to Durrant and he dealt with it as it came along. The last thirty years had come along in prison.

There had been no one waiting for him, not when he was initially let out the front door, a small bag over his shoulder. Some clothes, a few manuscripts he'd been working on, and a book he'd picked up in the prison library. No one seemed interested in whether it would ever be returned. He wondered if they assumed he'd be arrested again so quickly that it would still be in his possession when he was sent back.

He had been sitting in a small café when a man in a grey suit had pulled the chair out across the table from him and taken a seat. Uninvited.

Durrant had a photographic memory. He had everything in the café installed in his head the second he walked in. Pregnant teenager, baby sleeping in a pram next to her. She might have been waiting for someone but Durrant didn't think so. Getting away from someone maybe. Lived at home with her mother and needed to get out. If he'd studied her he could have worked it out, but didn't want to. Two guys came in after him and bought a can of Coke each, sat at the table talking in low voices about betting on football and which one of the women behind the counter in the William Hill around the corner they'd have. That was it for customers. There were only five tables, so it could be said that the place was more than half full, albeit it would be a statement from the table of lies, damned lies and statistics.

The woman behind the counter was called Michelle, a sturdy woman of unattractive disposition. Durrant had not engaged her since asking for a cup of tea. It was not a lack of money that prevented him ordering a piece of cake or a pastry to accompany the tea, but the rank awfulness of what was on offer. It was as if the sanitised sugary goodness of Starbucks and Costa hadn't happened, and since Durrant had missed society's development over the previous thirty years, he assumed that the world was more or less as he'd left it three decades previously.

The man in the suit didn't speak. Looked at Durrant for a while, sizing him up. Looked over his shoulder after a while and asked Michelle for a coffee, something that he was destined not to drink once he got his first whiff of Nescafé. Michelle accepted the order with a minimal nod.

Durrant wasn't disposed to start a conversation, but neither was he particularly impressed about having a stranger at his table, so he said, 'What the fuck do you want?' to get the ball rolling.

Michelle placed the coffee on the table. If she noticed Durrant's question, she wasn't interested.
What the fuck do you want
was a fairly common refrain around those parts.

The suit glanced down at the coffee and accepted that he'd been given what he'd expected. Instant coffee and filter coffee both had the word coffee in them, but they were two completely different drinks. Liking one didn't automatically mean you'd like the other. He hated instant coffee. Thought that there should be a ban in place preventing the manufacturers using the word coffee in the description. He never complained though, and instead he said, 'We'd like to offer you some work. Get you back on your feet, now that you're out of prison.'

'Fuck off.'

The suit reached inside his breast pocket and took out a business card. Plain white, with just a telephone number in the middle. No name, no other means of contact.

'Call me if you're interested.'

He pushed the coffee away from him, got to his feet and walked quickly out of the café. Durrant watched him go, and then reached out and pulled the coffee towards him across the table.

9

Another card had arrived in the post. Similar to the previous one, although this time the smile on the face of the skeletal Hanged Man was slightly more deranged. A wilder, more gloating smile than on the previous card. Jericho was sitting at his desk, the card lying in front of him, the first card beside it. Haynes was standing at his shoulder. They'd been looking at it for ten minutes, having learned their lesson from the previous occasion, when Newton had spotted the outline of the country house woven into the backdrop.

The same backdrop was here. They were, in effect, playing spot the difference. At the same time calculating and dissecting. Continuing practical joke or something more sinister? That was what irked Jericho more than anything else. He had no idea, nothing even to which he could attach the question. Even so, he could not help but feel that someone was mocking him. Taunting. Either it meant something specific, something which he could not work out, or else whoever was sending the cards was playing with him, making him think about a problem that didn't even exist.

'I'm going to get a bacon roll,' said Haynes to break the silence. 'Can I get you anything?'

'Coffee,' said Jericho.

'Bacon roll?'

Jericho didn't answer, which Haynes knew to take as a no.

The door opened. Sergeant Light. Jericho and Haynes looked up from the Tarot cards, Haynes with a slightly guilty feeling, as if they'd been looking at porn. Looking at a card for ten minutes still didn't seem like work.

'Your ten o'clock's here,' said Light to Jericho. Jericho looked blankly back at her.

'There's a producer from the show,' she said. 'Just an initial chat, sort things out, first discussions on how it's going to look. Probably best if I sit in on it with your, Sir, if that's OK.'

Jericho looked at his watch.

'I sent you an e-mail last night,' she said.

BOOK: We Are the Hanged Man
6.42Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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