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Authors: Douglas Lindsay

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

We Are the Hanged Man (7 page)

BOOK: We Are the Hanged Man
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'Sergeant?' he said.

Morris transferred her look of eager enthusiasm to Light, and readied her notebook.

'Obviously I don't have all the details to hand, and I wasn't on the front desk…'

'For sure, for sure, but just, you know…'

'Of course. Well, there was a fellow pulled a gate off its hinges up on South Street. Clean off. Had had a bit too many, I think. Sleeping it off down the station in Yeovil.'

She thought about it a little longer, couldn't think of anything else that had happened, glanced at Jericho to see if he could help her out. Morris waited, her pen poised, ready to swoop.

'We can probably take you down to Yeovil, you know, that's where a lot of the action is. Never a dull moment down there.'

'So, you know, what else…. What other kinds of things can we expect?' She straightened herself up and smiled excitedly, as if she could make something interesting happen in Wells by sheer force of will.

'We go into the school, mostly talk to the seniors. Fingers on the pulse of the youth, that kind of thing. Sometimes there's a bit of graffiti. Friday, Saturday nights there's usually a bit of a to-do down on Portway, but it's rare we have to make an arrest. Come the summer there'll be the usual, you know, high jinks on the rec apparently. Lot of drinking, a
lot
of litter, some drugs, bit of sex. Might be worth your while coming back then. That's what they say, I'm new so… But, you know, not in January. It's just dog walkers and joggers. At the moment the rec is pretty dead… Same as the rest of the town.'

Long before Light had finished talking, Morris had downed her pencil. Jericho held a cup of coffee to his face. His eyes, visible above the cup, were not smiling.

'When was the last time you had a murder?'

'Last year,' said Light.

'Exciting case?' asked Morris hopefully.

'Someone was murdered,' said Jericho darkly and reprovingly from behind his cup.

'Point taken,' said Morris. 'Absolutely. I just meant, you know, was there a big investigation, or a chase across open fields, that kind of thing?'

'No,' said Jericho.

'OK. Cool. That's cool. What about a robbery? Bank robbery?'

'Not in seventy years.'

'A house robbery? Burglary?'

'A few weeks,' said Jericho.

Morris nodded. Didn't smile, but she suddenly felt she had achieved a minor triumph. She'd managed to get Jericho talking at least.

'Assaults? There must be assaults, it's Britain we're talking about. Where there's alcohol, there's usually young men fighting.'

'Had one a few days ago,' said Jericho.

Morris looked expectantly at him with her eyebrows, although the true level of her expectation was shown by the fact that she didn't lift her pen.

'Young bloke, early twenties, beat the crap out of another young bloke. Who didn't want to press charges.' He paused. Morris' eyebrows lifted a little further. 'Maybe if you're lucky you'll be here when Bloke B comes back to take his revenge on Bloke A. As he inevitably will. Which was why he wasn't interested in pressing charges.'

Morris scribbled something in her book.

'Do you think it would be possible to get details of these two individuals. That's the kind of thing, you know, that we'd really be interested in. Assault works great on TV. It's, you know, well it can be, you know, really visceral.'

'Blood,' she added, when neither Jericho nor Light looked like they were going to say anything.

'Right,' she said, and she looked down at her short list of notes, then raised her head and embraced them both with a smile.

'That's just, like, you know, plenty to work with for the moment, a lot, a lot of scope. Um….';

She flicked through her book, her lips pursed. Light recognised that she was about to ask something she knew she shouldn't. Jericho brought the coffee cup back up to his face, didn't recognise anything in Morris' demeanour.

'So,' said Morris, 'as I was saying earlier, and I think we all agreed on, this …em, a lot of this, but you know, not all, a lot of this is going to come down to you, Robert, and I, you know, we, you know we're thinking that this is a great opportunity for you to go centre stage, for you to become the, you know, you're going to be like Ant and Dec meets Brucie, or Davina meets…
Robot Wars
…' She laughed in an attempted self-deprecating manner. 'Oh, I'm going off on one…
Robot Wars
. Heck, you know what I mean. It's just, like, kinda crazy. But, you know, that's what we're looking for. You're going to be the man here, you really are. I'll tell you what it's going to be like. Davina meets Yoda, that's who you're going to be.'

Jericho was staring at her over the top of his cup. If someone had given him a piece of paper and a pen at that moment, he could have written a list of over six billion places he'd rather be, and a similar number of people to whom he'd rather be talking. Light was just staring at the desk, waiting for the question, wondering what Jericho was going to say. Morris burbled on, unaware. Or very aware but determined.

'So, I guess, what I'm saying is that you're going to be, like, you know, out there, centre stage in some respects. So we were wondering, I mean, you know, some of the guys back at the studio were wondering, are you happy with this kind of level of attention? You know, obviously you're charismatic, you're an attractive man, your TV manner is just going to be awesome, but you know…. You know, how do you feel about us running a bit of a story on your wife?'

Light felt the room implode. Morris, apparently feeling no shame, looked expectantly at Jericho.

Jericho held her gaze for a moment, and then carefully set the coffee cup down on the desk. For some minutes now it had only contained the cold dregs in any case. He rose to his feet, caught Light's eye, and then walked from his office, grabbing his jacket off the peg by the door as he went. He closed the door behind him.

Morris stared at the closed door for a few moments, and then looked at Light. Light also got to her feet.

'So, what
was
that?' asked Morris.

'Sorry?'

'Was that a no, was that a… I'll think about it…?'

Light held her gaze for about as long as Jericho had done, then walked to the door, opened it, and stood by it waiting for Morris to leave with her.

'We'll go down to the canteen and we can discuss further arrangements with regard to the start of filming,' she said.

*

'Well, we're going to have to get him to lighten up. He's just, you know, we've all seen it. Deer caught in the headlights. So excited by the thought of TV he can barely bring himself to go to the toilet. Just, like, clammed up. I know, it's kind of tiring. These people should just get over themselves. It's only TV. Yeah, I know, it's like totally sad. But you know, I reckon, give him an episode or two, he'll like totally open up. And we'll be able to totally play on it, you know. The blossoming of the flower, that kind of angle. And we all know, you know, we know who's going to get through to the last three, and when he's spent any time at all with Cher or Lol, he's just going to melt. It'll be like, you know, the Taming of the Shrew or some shit like that. The melting of the iceberg. Yep, it would be awesome, you know, if he falls for one of them, I mean, Yoda starts banging one of his students, that would be so cool. Well, like yeah, he's like fifty or something, it'd be pretty gross, but hey babe, it's television. Anything can happen…'

11

Jericho and Haynes were sitting on a bench beside the moat around the Bishop's Palace. A classic Well's tourist spot. Albeit not in the middle of January. Occasionally someone would walk by, huddled against the cold, but mostly they had the place to themselves. The sounds of a tractor drifted over from the nearby fields; occasionally flocks of starlings would descend and then fly off noisily in a great dark cloud.

Jericho saw none of it, had just wanted to get away from the station. Morris was still there, pouring over specifics with Light, and he'd decided the only way to guarantee not getting called back in to speak to the woman was to not be there.

He'd been sitting for ten minutes waiting for Haynes, who had just arrived with sandwiches from Gregg's.

'I can feel the damp in my buttocks,' said Haynes after a while, through a mouthful of char-grilled Mexican chicken, a sandwich which had never actually been anywhere near Mexico.

Some days Jericho might have had a barbed comment to make about Haynes' underwear or about wearing a longer coat, but today he didn't have any unnecessary conversation in him.

'Tell me about the card,' he said.

'Nothing to tell,' said Haynes. 'She gave it the same going over, said it had been produced from the same template as the previous one, but slightly amended. Which is what we thought. So, nothing new.'

Jericho ate his tuna mayonnaise and stared at the ducks on the far side of the moat. As ever, when he looked at ducks, he wondered if he might have duck for dinner that night.

'What do you think?' said Jericho.

'About the cards? Or about Newton?'

Both men thought of Newton in her summer dress in the middle of January.

'The cards,' said Jericho. 'If we were at a busy office, would we have given these cards even a seconds' thought? Instead, there's nothing much going on and we're investing all sorts of time in them. Time which we'd never spend if we were in London. Or Bristol.'

'So two Tarot cards with peculiar markings become more important because of where we are, something which does not in fact inherently relate to the cards in any way.'

Jericho nodded silently, something which he had the ability to do without even moving his head.

'Doesn't mean,' said Haynes, 'that implicitly they're not important. Or, at least, that they don't herald something important.'

When was the last time you had duck
, asked Jericho. But the words just formed in his head. He could talk about work, but nothing else. Despite himself, he had been completely disconcerted by his conversation with Morris. He wanted to be cool about the whole TV thing, but it was beginning to bother him. He hated the idea, he hated the thought of his every movement being on television, he hated the intrusion. He had come down here to get away from it all, and now, years later, it had followed him, and once more he would be in the newspapers. Hattie Morris would not be the last person to ask about Amanda.

'There's nothing been happening the last couple of days, is there?' he asked.

'Nope.'

Haynes casually let a small piece of bread go flying into the moat. The nearest duck gave it a glance and swam on.

'So, either these cards are telling us there's something going on somewhere else, or else it's a threat of what's to come.'

'Seems reasonable. Unless it's just some wanker having a laugh.'

Jericho rubbed his forehead, massaged his closed eyes, finally looked up although his eyes never lifted above the height of the wall around the moat. The flock of starlings settled noisily into the trees beside the nearest field. Somewhere a crow vented its gravelly rage.

'Don't let anyone know about it for now. If it turns out to be nothing, or some clown's idea of a joke, then no one finds out about it. But if it is important, then we need to know about it before whoever's sending them wants us to know. I'm going to be bogged down with this bloody TV business, so you'll need to take care of it. Just don't, for God's sake, let anything slip about it in front of them. The TV people.'

'What do you want me to do?'

'A general check of what's been going on. Anything unusual. Anything that might tie in with the timing of these two cards.'

BOOK: We Are the Hanged Man
2.91Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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