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Authors: Douglas Lindsay

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

We Are the Hanged Man (9 page)

BOOK: We Are the Hanged Man
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'It exploded?'

That hadn't been on the news.

'They're investigating. There was a fire, the fuel burned up. No one got out the car, so they're assuming they all died beforehand, or were trapped in the car.'

'Was it part of a movie?'

'What?'

'Cars don't usually burn up because they drive off the road.'

He shook his head.

'This isn't getting us very far. Shit.'

Haynes looked back at his notes.

'There's a woman in Hownsl—'

'Trouble is,' said Jericho, 'if you take each individual case as potentially suspicious and start reading something else into it, every slightly strange death in the country over the past few days…. Bollocks. Even the drunk teenagers. You take it for granted. Drunk teenagers in a car. That's not fucking news, no one's saying, shit how did that happen, society must be on the verge of collapse.'

He paused. Haynes knew he hadn't finished or, at the very least, that there was no point in him saying anything at this stage.

'But what if someone spiked a drink, the kid didn't know he was drunk until he was flying along the road, adrenaline pumping and….'

He ran out of words, as he often did. He bored himself. Saying things that didn't need to be said.

They would have to investigate every one of the deaths in intimate detail, or at least make sure that the local police had done the job properly. And none of them were going to be happy about being called up for some spurious reason, especially when they found out that it was DCI Robert Jericho behind it. Those who worked with him respected him; those who hadn't just saw someone whose fame was out of proportion to his body of work; that someone who had been in the newspapers as much as he was, really had to want it that way. His upcoming television appearance wasn't going to change anything.

He quickly rubbed his hands over his face.

'Right, Sergeant, we're just going to have to bite the antelope on the arse. I doubt there's going to be one of these that we can just happily throw out. We'll split the list. If either of us have a particular contact we can use, then we'll take it, otherwise…'

He threw a hand in the air. Haynes leaned forward, notebook open, ready to continue.

14

It had been four days and Durrant was restless. The matter of vengeance was in hand, yet he knew that man could not live by vengeance alone. If one's life was consumed by vengeance, then it ate away at you, ate your heart out, turned your soul black.

He had planned vengeance all these years, yet he had also studied and written and published. He knew things that other people did not know, he had widened his base of knowledge. If he had allowed himself to miss anything due to his incarceration, it was the bold experimentation of the months before he'd been arrested.

It was time to start again.

He had been in prison so long that he knew nothing of reality television, knew nothing of the explosion of channels and the modern notion of celebrity. There had been televisions in prison of course. There had been talk amongst the inmates, but Durrant had followed none of it. He never watched TV. His years in prison had left him much the wiser on a variety of subjects: the Mongol empire, the ancient Greeks, the history of torture, the life and works of the much misunderstood Vlad the Impaler. 18
th
century France was a particular fascination. Occasionally he had ventured as far forward in history as the Second World War. The death camps. The firebombing of Dresden. The Japanese treatment of POWs. German plans to invade the south coast of England.

The modern day, post-WWII, was mostly unknown to him and of little interest. Too much civilisation. Durrant didn't like civilisation. And where there wasn't civilisation in the modern world, there would be some busybody from another country attempting to impose it.

So although the first person that Durrant would kidnap, rape, torture and murder was currently regularly featured on the front page of three mass-circulation British tabloid newspapers and was well known to people who had no interest in the show in which she starred, Durrant had never heard of her and had no idea that she was enjoying her fleeting few moments in the sun; moments that would be highly unlikely to endure, even if Durrant had not been about to remove her from the harsh glare of public life.

He drove along the A12 heading towards London, sitting at a steady 60mph, the variable speed limit, traffic and roundabouts notwithstanding. He did not play music. He listened to Radio 4 for less than thirty seconds, then turned it off. News. Durrant was not interested in the news.

Although he was about to make some.

*

Jericho's mood was getting slowly worse, as it often did when he was in a grey humour from the moment he awoke. Each and every one of the constant irritations of the day ate away at him, sucked him further into the well. It never did take anything major.

He had spent the morning making calls and reading reports. Following up what might have been unexplained deaths. It was the same in every case. If he wanted it to be suspicious, he could find some way in which it could be. He could read something sinister into every nuance of the case, every nut and bolt of the investigation. It didn't mean, however, that any of the speculation would be accurate. And with every phone call came the question as to why the famous detective from out of town was asking, and was he reading more into the death than could be taken at face value, which automatically made the police officer at the other end of the line assume that Jericho knew something that he didn't, which automatically made the police officer annoyed and suspicious when Jericho was never forthcoming.

A pernicious circle of questions and suspicions that was destined never to get anywhere.

He gave up at 2:35pm. Haynes was not in a position to give up of his own volition, but had already reached the same uncomfortable conclusions as Jericho.

Jericho sat and stared out of the window. He would tell Haynes to give up shortly, but was not of the mind to go out of his way to go and tell him immediately. His door was shut. The day was grey. He had finished work for the afternoon, even if it was likely that he would still be sitting in the same position sometime after six. He couldn't work when his brain shut down like this.

There was a knock at the door. He didn't move. It made no difference to his mood. What could it possibly be? For a while, for a few years, every knock at the door could have been news about Amanda, but time had taken that away from him. Now a knock at the door was just another interruption.

Another knock. He didn't respond. The door opened; Sergeant Light stuck her head into the room. She'd been told what to expect, and was approaching with trepidation. Assumed that his dark mood was down to his forced involvement in the television show. Assumed that he thought her useless, as he always seemed to be in a foul mood when they worked together.

'We need to be downstairs, Chief Inspector,' said Light. 'We had a 2.30, already late.'

Jericho couldn't remember a 2.30. He was watching a flock of starlings swooping in awkward dark formations across the fields. He finally turned and caught Light's eye. She felt drawn in by his gaze, a horrible, bloody stare. Like looking into the eyes of a killer, she thought.

'2.30,' she said again, to break the silence.

'What?' said Jericho, only managing the first word of the sentence.

'We're back in with Hattie Morris. From the production company. Just a few details to sort through before we go up for the show tomorrow evening. She's brought…… there's another executive down from London with her.'

Jericho didn't reply. If he'd been in a better mood Light would have felt able to say that the other executive had been brought in because Morris obviously had her doubts about Jericho's fitness for reality television. For any kind of television in fact.

Jericho didn't move.

'We should go, Sir, they're waiting.'

*

The other executive was one of the three who had originally sat in the room the previous summer waiting for the arrival of their boss in order to begin concocting the next big thing in British television. Of that initial three, he was the only survivor. The others had gone on to other, more interesting things, by some accounts, but in reality they had just been gotten rid of because they had not been contributing.

The survivor's name was Jacobson, and when the boss wasn't around he assumed the mantle of alpha male, talking louder than anyone else, shooting people down, putting people in their place. And wherever that place was, it was below him.

He was talking at Jericho, just so that Jericho knew who was in charge, who was dishing out the instructions, who was telling other people what to do.

'So, you'll have a crib sheet. You don't need to worry about that, and the audience won't see it. Not the TV audience. They're just going to assume that you know everything that's been going on with these people.'

He stopped, his first break in over five minutes. Jericho looked disinterested, which had made Jacobson slightly uncomfortable with the consequence of making him talk even more quickly.

'You do know the kinds of things we're talking about with the contestants?' he asked and finally paused for Jericho to say something.

Despite appearances, Jericho had heard every word. He had to sit with the panel, although, like the rest of the panel he would not have a vote in the final decision. Most of the six contestants had had allegations made against them in the press, many of which involved accusations of criminal behaviour. Jacobson said
behaviours
, as if it was an acceptable noun to pluralise. It would be Jericho's task to question them on these behaviours, and to try to root out a confession, with the likelihood that outright confessions of misdemeanours would lead to the contestant in question being ejected. Not that they knew this in advance, but it had been in the small print right from the start.

Jacobson searched Jericho's face for an answer, but not for long. He knew it wasn't coming.

'And we'll be looking for you to be quite aggressive in pursuit of the information. Quick punches, boom, boom, boom. Don't let them away with anything. They won't like it and most of them will fight back, but that's the kind of thing we're talking about. It'll be great TV. Edge of the seat. Some of the viewers will be on your side, some on theirs. Feisty, fiery talk, quick-witted, sharp. If you can be acerbic for us, but, you know, genuinely funny, that'd be fantastic.'

Jericho was unmoving. Hattie Morris allowed herself a heavy and hopeless sigh. Light felt embarrassed by Jericho's silence. She was annoyed at him today. How hard could it be for him to play along with these people? They were just delivering a service to the British people, which didn't make them so different from the police.

'Cher, for example,' said Jacobson, 'the papers have been full of stories about her prodigious drug intake. And not just the mild shit like, you know, shit, but crack coke and ice, all that kind of body-fucking heavy shit. No idea where they're getting their stories, so it's not like we can charge in there and bust her, but obviously we need to know at this stage whether any of it's true.'

'You'd know about shit,' said Jericho dryly, catching him by surprise and cutting him off, 'because you're full of it. The press will be getting all their stories from you, because you lot are the ones with the vested interest.'

Morris stared at the floor; Jacobson laughed awkwardly.

Light tried to contain a smile, found herself drifting back towards Jericho's side.

'Bingo!' said Jacobson. 'That's what we're talking about. That punchy, acerbic, tough TV cop typa thing. Rebus meets Morse, Barnaby meets Wallander.'

'Oh, for crying out loud,' muttered Jericho, regretting that he'd made the effort to engage in conversation.

'What would be perfect,' continued Jacobson, unabashed, 'what we're really looking for, let's imagine that at the end of this, someone made a movie of the whole damned crazy thing, you'd be played by Bruce Willis.'

BOOK: We Are the Hanged Man
12.03Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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