Close To Home (aka The Summer That Never Was)
Book 13 in the Inspector Banks series, 2003
The glory dropped from their youth and love,
And both perceived they had dreamed a dream;
Which hovered as dreams do, still above:
But who can take a dream for a truth?
– ROBERT BROWNING, “The Statue and the Bust”
Trevor Dickinson was hungover and bad-tempered when he turned up for work on Monday morning. His mouth tasted like the bottom of a birdcage, his head was throbbing like the speakers at a heavy metal concert, and his stomach was lurching like a car with a dirty carburetor. He had already drunk half a bottle of Milk of Magnesia and swallowed four extra-strength paracetamol, with no noticeable effect.
When he arrived at the site, Trevor found he had to wait until the police had cleared away the last of the demonstrators before he could start work. There were five left, all sitting cross-legged in the field. Environmentalists. One was a little gray-haired old lady. Ought to be ashamed of herself, Trevor thought, a woman of her age squatting down on the grass with a bunch of bloody Marxist homosexual tree-huggers.
He looked around for some clue as to why anyone would want to save those particular few acres. The fields belonged to a farmer who had recently been put out of business by a combination of mad-cow disease and foot-and-mouth. As far as Trevor knew, there weren’t any rare pink-nippled fart warblers that couldn’t nest anywhere else in the entire country; nor were there any ivy-leafed lark’s-turds lurking in the hedgerows. There weren’t even any trees, unless you counted the shabby row of poplars that grew between the fields and the A1, stunted and choked from years of exhaust fumes.
The police cleared away the demonstrators – including the old lady – by picking them up bodily and carting them off to a nearby van, then they gave the go-ahead to Trevor and his fellow workers. The weekend’s rain had muddied the ground, which made maneuvering more difficult than usual, but Trevor was a skilled operator, and he soon got his dipper shovel well below the topsoil, hoisting his loads high and dumping them into the waiting lorry. He handled the levers with an innate dexterity, directing the complex system of clutches, gears, shafts and winch drums like a conductor, scooping as much as the power shovel could hold, then straightening it so as not to spill any when he lifted it up and over to the lorry.
Trevor had been at work for well over two hours when he thought he saw something sticking out of the dirt.
Leaning forward from his seat and rubbing condensation from the inside window of the cab, he squinted to see what it was, and when he saw, it took his breath away. He was looking at a human skull, and what was worse was that it seemed to be looking right back at him.
Alan Banks didn’t feel in the least bit hungover, but he knew he’d drunk too much ouzo the night before when he saw that he had left the television on. The only channels it received were Greek, and he never watched it when he was sober.
Banks groaned, stretched and made some of the strong Greek coffee he had become so attached to during his first week on the island. While the coffee was brewing, he put on a CD of Mozart arias, picked up one of last week’s newspapers he hadn’t read yet, and walked out on the balcony. Though he had brought his Discman, he felt fortunate that the small time-share flat had a mini stereo system with a CD player. He had brought a stack of his favorite CDs with him, including Billie Holiday, John Coltrane, Schubert, Walton, The Grateful Dead and Led Zeppelin.
He stood by the iron railings listening to “Parto, ma tu, ben mio” and looking down at the sea beyond the jumbled terraces of rooftops and walls, a cubist composition of intersecting blue and white planes. The sun was shining in a perfect blue sky, the way it had done every day since he had arrived. He could smell wild lavender and rosemary in the air. A cruise ship had just dropped anchor, and the first launches of the day were carrying their loads of excited camera-bearing tourists to the harbor, gulls squawking in their wake.
Banks went to pour himself some coffee, then came out again and sat down. His white wooden chair scraped against the terra cotta tiles, scaring the small lizardlike creature that had been basking in the morning sun.
After looking at the old newspaper and perhaps reading a little more of Homer’s Odyssey, Banks thought he would walk down to the village for a long lunch, maybe have a glass or two of wine, pick up some fresh bread, olives and goat cheese, then come back for a nap and a little music before spending his evening at the taverna on the quayside playing chess with Alexandros, as had been his habit since his second day.
There was nothing much that interested him in the newspapers except the sports and arts pages. Rain had stopped play in the third test match at Old Trafford, which was hardly news; England had won an important World Cup qualifying match; and it wasn’t the right day of the week for the book or record reviews. He did, however, notice a brief report on a skeleton uncovered by a construction worker at the site of a new shopping center by the A1, not far from Peterborough. He only noticed it because he had spent a good part of his early life in Peterborough, and his parents still lived there.
He put the newspaper aside and watched the gulls swoop and circle. They looked as if they were drifting on waves of Mozart’s music. Drifting, just like him. He thought back to his second conversation with Alexandros. During their game of chess, Alex had paused, looked seriously at Banks and said, “You seem like a man with many secrets, Alan, a very sad man. What is it you are running from?”
Banks had thought about that a lot. Was he running? Yes, in a way. Running from a failed marriage and a botched romance, and from a job that had threatened, for the second time in his life, to send him over the edge with its conflicting demands, its proximity to violent death and all that was worst in people. He was seeking a temporary escape, at least.
Or did it go deeper than that? Was he trying to run away from himself, from what he was, or from what he had become? He had sat there pondering the question and answered only, “I wish I knew,” before making a rash move and putting his queen in jeopardy.
He had managed to avoid affairs of the heart during his brief stay. Andrea, the waitress at Philippe’s taverna, flirted with him, but that was all. Occasionally, one of the women from the cruise ships would give him that certain kind of wistful look which led only to one place if you let it, but he hadn’t let it. He had found himself a place where he didn’t have to confront crime on a daily basis, more particularly a place where he didn’t have to go down into cellars stuffed with the violated bodies of teenage girls, a scene from his last case that still, even here on this peaceful island, haunted his dreams.
So he had achieved his goal – run away from a messy life and found paradise of a kind. Why was it, then, that he still felt so damn restless?
Detective Inspector Michelle Hart of the Cambridgeshire Constabulary, Northern Division, entered the forensic anthropology department of the District Hospital. She was looking forward to this morning. Usually at postmortems she found herself disturbed not so much by the cutting and probing itself as by the contrast between the bright reflective surfaces of utilitarian tile and steel and the messy slosh of stomach contents, the dribbles of blackish blood running into the polished gutters, between the smell of disinfectant and the stench of a punctured bowel. But this morning, none of that was going to happen. This morning, all that Dr. Wendy Cooper, the forensic anthropologist, had to examine was bones.
Michelle had worked with her just over a month ago – her first case in her new posting – on some remains that had turned out to be Anglo-Saxon, not unusual in those parts, and they had got on well enough. The only thing she found hard to take was Dr. Cooper’s predilection for playing country-and-western music while she worked. She said it helped her concentrate, but Loretta Lynn had quite the opposite effect on Michelle.
Dr. Cooper and her graduate-student assistant, David Roberts, were bent over the partial skeleton arranging the small bones of the hands and feet in the correct order. It must be a difficult task, Michelle realized from the one brief anatomy course she had attended, and how you told one rib or one knuckle from another was quite beyond her. Dr. Cooper seemed to be doing well enough. She was in her early fifties, a rather stout figure with very short gray hair, silver-rimmed glasses and a no-nonsense manner.
“Do you know how many bones there are in a human hand?” Dr. Cooper asked without looking away from the skeleton.
“A lot?” Michelle answered.
“Twenty-six,” said Dr. Cooper. “Twenty-six. And awkward little buggers to make out, some of them.”
“Got anything for me yet?” Michelle took out her notebook.
“A little bit. As you can see, we’re still trying to put him back together again.”
“Oh, yes. You can take my word for that. The skull and pubis bear it out. Northern European, too, I’d say.” She turned the skull sideways. “See that straight facial profile, the narrow nasal aperture? All signs. There are others, of course: the high cranium, the eye sockets. But you don’t want a lesson in ethnic anthropology, do you?”
“I suppose not,” said Michelle, who actually found the subject quite interesting. Sometimes she thought she might have chosen the wrong career and should instead have become an anthropologist. Or perhaps a doctor. “Not very tall, though, is he?”
Dr. Cooper looked at the bones laid out on the steel trolley. “Tall enough for his age, I’d say.”
“Don’t tell me you know his age.”
“Of course. Only a rough guess, mind you. By measuring the long bones and applying the appropriate formula, we’ve calculated his height at around five foot six. That’s somewhere between a hundred and sixty-seven and a hundred and sixty-eight centimeters.”
“A kid, then?”
Dr. Cooper nodded and touched the shoulder with her pen. “The medial clavicular epiphysis – collarbone to you – is the last epiphysis in the body to fuse, normally in the mid-twenties, though it can occur anytime between fifteen and thirty-two. His hasn’t fused yet. Also, I’ve examined the rib ends and vertebrae. In an older person, you’d expect not only signs of wear and tear, but sharper ends and more scalloping on the ribs. His rib ends are flat and smoothly rounded, only slightly undulating, and the vertebrae show no epiphyseal rings at all. Also the fusion of ilium, ischium and pubis is in its early stages. That process usually takes place between the ages of twelve and seventeen.”
“So you’re saying he’s how old?”
“In my business it doesn’t pay to go out on a limb, but I’ll say between twelve and fifteen. Allow a couple of years either way as a fair margin of error. The databases we get these figures from aren’t always complete, and sometimes they’re out of date.”
“The teeth. Of course, you’ll have to bring in the odontologist to examine the roots and check the levels of fluoride, if there is any – it wasn’t introduced in toothpaste here until 1959 – but I can tell you three things right now. First off, there are no deciduous teeth left – that’s baby teeth – and the second molar has erupted. That means he’s aged around twelve, again give or take a couple of years, and I’d hazard a guess, given the other evidence, that he’s older rather than younger.”
“And the third thing?”
“A bit less scientific, I’m afraid, but judging by the general state of his teeth and the look of all these metal fillings in the posterior teeth, I’d guess vintage-school dentist.”
“How long ago was he buried there?”
“Impossible to say. There’s no remaining soft tissue or ligaments, the bones are discolored, and there’s some flaking, so I’d say more than a decade or two, but beyond that, it’s anyone’s guess until I’ve done more rigorous tests.”
“Any sign of cause of death?”
“Not yet. I need to get the bones cleaned up. Sometimes you can’t see knife marks, for example, because of the encrusted dirt.”
“What about that hole in the skull?”
Dr. Cooper ran her finger around the jagged hole. “Must have occurred during excavation. It’s definitely postmortem.”
“How can you tell?”
“If it had happened before death, there’d be signs of healing. This is a clean break.”
“But what if it was the cause of death?”
Dr. Cooper sighed as if she were talking to a dense undergraduate. Michelle noticed David Roberts grin, and he blushed when he saw her watching him. “If that were the case,” the doctor went on, “you’d expect a very different shape. Fresh bones break in a different way from old bones. And look at that.” She pointed to the hole. “What do you see?”
Michelle peered closely. “The edges,” she said. “They’re not the same color as the surrounding bone.”
“Very good. That means it’s a recent break. If it had happened around the time of death, you’d expect the edges to have stained the same color as the rest of the skull, wouldn’t you?”
“I suppose so,” said Michelle. “Simple, isn’t it?”
“If you know what you’re looking for. There’s a fractured humerus, too, right arm, but that’s healed, so I’d say it happened while he was alive. And do you see this?” She pointed to the left arm. “It’s slightly longer than his right arm, which may indicate left-handedness. Of course, it could be due to the fracture, but I doubt it. There are differences in the scapulae that also support my hypothesis.”
Michelle made some notes, then turned back to Dr. Cooper. “We know he was most likely buried where he was found,” she said, “because the remains were about three or four feet underground, but is there any way of knowing whether he died there or was moved there later?”
Dr. Cooper shook her head. “Any evidence of that was destroyed in the same way the skull and some of the other bones were damaged. By the bulldozer.”
“Where’s the stuff we found with the body?”
Dr. Cooper gestured toward the bench that ran the length of the far wall and turned back to the bones. David Roberts spoke for the first time. He had a habit of keeping his head down when he spoke to Michelle, and of mumbling, so she couldn’t always hear what he was saying. He seemed embarrassed in her presence, as if he fancied her. She knew that her combination of blond hair and green eyes had a captivating effect on some men, but this was ridiculous. Michelle had just turned forty and David couldn’t be more than twenty-two.
She followed him over to the bench, where he pointed to a number of barely recognizable objects. “We can’t say for certain that they’re his,” he said, “but all these were gathered within a short radius of the body.” When she looked more closely, Michelle thought she could make out scraps of material, perhaps fragments of clothing, a belt buckle, coins, a pen knife, a round-edged triangle of plastic, shoe leather, lace eyelets and several round objects. “What are those?” she asked.
“Marbles.” David rubbed one of them with a cloth and handed it to her.
It felt smooth to Michelle’s touch, and inside the heavy glass sphere was a double helix of blue. “Summer, then,” she said, almost to herself.
“Beg your pardon?”
She looked up at David. “Oh, sorry. I said summer. Boys usually played marbles in summer. Outdoors, when the weather was good. What about the coins?”
“A few pennies, half a crown, sixpence, a threepenny bit.”
“All old coinage?”
“Before decimalization, at any rate.”
“So that’s pre- 1971.” She picked up a flat, triangular object with rounded edges. “What’s this?”
David polished away some of the grime and revealed a tortoiseshell pattern. “I think it’s a plectrum,” he said. “You know, for a guitar.”
“A musician, then?” Michelle picked up a chain bracelet of some sort, crusted and corroded, with a flat, elongated oval at its center and something written on it.
Dr. Cooper came over. “Yes, I thought that was interesting,” she said. “You know what it is?”
“A bracelet of some kind?”
“Yes. I think it’s an identity bracelet. They became very popular with teenage boys during the mid-sixties. I remember my brother had one. David was able to clean this one up a bit. All the silver plating’s gone, of course, but luckily the engraver’s drill went deep into the alloy underneath. You can read part of the name if you look very closely. Here, use this.” She passed Michelle a magnifying glass. Michelle looked through it and was able to make out the faint edges of some of the engraved letters: GR-HA-. That was all.
“Graham, I’d guess,” said Dr. Cooper.
Michelle looked at the collection of bones, trying to imagine the warm living, breathing human being that they had once formed. A boy. “Graham,” she whispered. “Pity he didn’t have his last name engraved, too. It’d make our job a lot simpler.”
Dr. Cooper put her hands on her ample hips and laughed. “To be honest, my dear,” she said, “I don’t think you can have it much simpler than this, can you? If I’m right so far, you’re looking for a left-handed boy named Graham, aged between, say twelve and fifteen, who once broke his upper right arm and went missing at least twenty or thirty years ago, maybe in summer. Oh, and he played marbles and the guitar. Am I forgetting anything? I’ll bet there can’t be too many matching that description in your files.”
Banks walked down the hill and through the winding streets of the village at about seven every evening. He loved the quality of the light at that time of day, the way the small white houses with their colorful wooden steps seemed to glow, and the flowers – a profusion of purple, pink and red – seemed incandescent. The scent of gardenia mingled with thyme and oregano. Below him, the wine-dark sea stretched all the way back to the mainland, just as it had done in Homer’s day. Although it wasn’t exactly wine-dark, Banks noticed. Not all of it, anyway. Some of the areas closer to land were deep blue or green, and it only darkened to the purple of a young Greek wine much farther out.
One or two of the shopkeepers greeted him as he passed. He had been on the island for a little over two weeks now, which was longer than most tourists stayed, and while he wasn’t accepted, his presence was at least acknowledged. It was much the same as in a Yorkshire village, where you remain an incomer until you have wintered out several years. Maybe he would stay here that long, learn the language, become a mysterious hermit, merge into the rhythms of island life. He even looked a bit Greek, with his lean frame, closely cropped black hair and tanned skin.
He picked up the two-day-old English newspapers that came on the last boat of the day and carried them with him to Philippe’s quayside taverna, where he spent most of his evenings at an outside table overlooking the harbor. He would have an ouzo as an aperitif, make his mind up about what to eat, then drink retsina with dinner. He found that he’d come to enjoy the odd, oily taste of the local resinated wine.
Banks lit a cigarette and watched the tourists getting into the launch that would take them back to their cruise ship and the evening’s entertainment, probably Cheryl from Cheadle Hulme dancing the Dance of the Seven Veils, or a group of Beatles imitators from Heckmondwike. Tomorrow they would disembark on a new island, where they would buy overpriced trinkets and take photographs they wouldn’t look at more than once. A group of German tourists, who must have been staying overnight at one of the island’s few small hotels, took a table at the other side of the patio and ordered beer. They were the only other people sitting outside.
Banks sipped ouzo and nibbled on some olives and dolmades as he settled on fish à la Grecque and a green salad for dinner. The last of the tourists had returned to the cruise ship, and as soon as he had cleared away his stock, Alex would come by to play chess. In the meantime, Banks turned to the newspapers.
His attention was caught by an article on the bottom right of the front page, headed DNA CONFIRMS IDENTITY OF LONG-BURIED BODY. Intrigued, Banks read on:
A week ago the skeleton of a young boy was unearthed by workers digging the foundations of a new shopping centre next to the A1 west of Peterborough, Cambridgeshire. Information discovered at the scene and provided by forensic anthropologist Dr. Wendy Cooper led to a very narrow list of possibilities. “It was almost a gift,” Dr. Cooper told our reporter. “Usually old bones don’t tell you so much, but in this case we knew early on that he was a young boy who had broken his right arm once and was most likely left-handed.” An identity bracelet, popular with teenage boys in the mid-sixties, was found near the scene and bore a partial name. Detective Inspector Michelle Hart of the Cambridge Constabulary commented, “Dr. Cooper gave us a lot to work with. It was simply a matter of going through the files, narrowing the possibilities.” When police came up with one strong candidate, Graham Marshall, the boy’s parents were approached for DNA samples, and the testing proved positive. “It’s a relief to know they’ve found our Graham after all these years,” said Mrs. Marshall at her home. “Even though we lived in hope.” Graham Marshall disappeared on Sunday, 22nd August, 1965, at the age of 14 while walking his regular newspaper round near his council estate home in Peterborough. No trace of him has ever been found until now. “The police at the time exhausted every possible lead,” DI Hart told our reporter, “but there’s always a chance that this discovery will bring new clues.” Asked if there is likely to be a new investigation into the case, DI Hart would only state that “Missing persons are never written off until they are found, and if there’s the possibility of foul play, then justice must be pursued.” As yet, there are no clear indications of cause of death, though Dr. Cooper did point out that the boy could hardly bury himself under three feet of earth.
Banks felt his stomach clench. He put the paper down and stared out to sea, where the setting sun was sprinkling rose dust over the horizon. Everything around him began to shimmer and feel unreal. As if on cue, the tape of Greek music came to “Zorba’s Dance,” as it did every night. The taverna, the harbor, the brittle laughter all seemed to vanish into the distance, and there was only Banks with his memories and the stark words in the newspaper.
“Alan? What is it you say: A penny for them?”
Banks looked up and saw the dark, squat figure of Alex standing over him. “Alex. Sorry. Good to see you. Sit down.”
Alex sat, looking concerned. “You look as if you’ve had bad news.”
“You could say that.” Banks lit a cigarette and stared out over the darkening sea. He could smell salt and a whiff of dead fish. Alex gestured to Andrea, and in moments a bottle of ouzo appeared on the table in front of them, along with another plate of olives and dolmades. Philippe lit the lanterns that hung around the outside patio and they swayed in the breeze, casting fleeting shadows over the tables. Alex took out his portable chess set from its leather bag and arranged the pieces.
Banks knew that Alex wouldn’t press him. It was one of the things he liked about his new friend. Alex had been born on the island, and after university in Athens had traveled the world as an executive for a Greek shipping line before deciding to pack it all in ten years ago at the age of forty. Now, he made a living from tooling leather belts, which he sold to tourists on the quayside. Alex was an extremely cultured man, Banks had soon discovered, with a passion for Greek art and architecture, and his English was almost perfect. He also possessed what seemed to Banks a very deep-rooted sense of himself and a contentment with the simple life which Banks wished he could attain. Of course, he hadn’t told Alex what he did for a living, merely that he was a civil servant. He had found that telling strangers you meet on holiday that you’re a policeman tends to put them off. Either that or they have a mystery for you to solve, the way people always seem to have strange ailments to ask about when they are introduced to doctors.
“Perhaps it’s not a good idea tonight,” Alex said, and Banks noticed he was putting the chess set away. It had always been a mere backdrop to conversation, anyway, as neither was a skilled player.
“I’m sorry,” said Banks. “I just don’t seem to be in the mood. I’d only lose.”
“You usually do. But it’s all right, my friend. Clearly there is something troubling you.” Alex stood to leave, but Banks reached out and touched his arm. Oddly enough, he wanted to tell someone. “No, stay,” he said, pouring them both a generous glass of ouzo. Alex looked at him for a moment with those serious brown eyes and sat down again.
“When I was fourteen,” said Banks, looking out at the lights in the harbor and listening to the stays on the fishing boats rattle, “a close school friend of mine disappeared. He was never seen again. Nobody ever found out what happened to him. Not a trace.” He smiled and turned to look at Alex. “It’s funny because this music seemed to be playing constantly back then: ‘Zorba’s Dance.’ It was a big hit in England at the time. Marcello Minerbi. Funny, the little things you remember, isn’t it?”
Alex nodded. “Memory is indeed a mysterious process.”
“And often not to be trusted.”
“True, it seems that as things lie there, they are… strangely metamorphosed.”
“A lovely Greek word, metamorphosed.”
“It is. One thinks of Ovid, of course.”
“But it happens to the past, doesn’t it? To our memories.”
“Anyway,” Banks went on, “there was a general assumption at the time that my friend, Graham was his name, had been abducted by a pedophile – another Greek word, but not so lovely – and done away with.”
“It seems a reasonable assumption, given life in the cities. But might he not have simply run away from home?”
“That was another theory, but he had no reason to, as far as anyone knew. He was happy enough, and he never talked about running off. Anyway,” Banks went on, “all attempts to find him failed and he never turned up again. The thing is, about two months earlier, I was playing down by the river when a man came and grabbed me and tried to push me in.”
“I was wiry and slippery enough to wriggle my way free and run off.”
“But you never told the authorities?”
“I never even told my parents.”
“You know what kids are like, Alex. I wasn’t meant to be playing down there, for a start. It was quite a long way from home. I was also playing truant. I was supposed to be at school. And I suppose I blamed myself. I just didn’t want to get into trouble.”
Alex poured more ouzo. “So when your friend disappeared, you assumed it was the same man?”
“And you’ve been carrying the guilt all these years?”
“I suppose so. I never really thought about it that way, but every once in a while, when I think about it, I feel… it’s like an old wound that never quite heals. I don’t know. I think it was partly why I…”
“Why you what?”
“Why you became a policeman?”
Banks looked at him in astonishment. “How did you know?”
Alex was smiling. “I’ve met a few in my time. You get to recognize the signs.”
“Oh, watchfulness, curiosity, a certain way of walking and sitting. Little things.”
Banks laughed. “By the sound of it, you’d make a pretty good policeman yourself, Alex.”
“Oh, no. I think not.”
“I don’t think I could ever be quite certain that I was on the right side.”
“And are you now?”
“I try to be.”
“So do I,” said Banks.
“I’m sure you are a good policeman. You must remember, though, in Greece… well, we’ve had our share of regimes. But please go on.”
Banks tapped the folded newspaper. “They’ve found him,” he said. “Buried by the roadside about eight miles away from where he disappeared.”
Alex whistled between his teeth.
“They don’t know the cause of death yet,” Banks went on, “but he couldn’t have got there by himself.”
“So perhaps the assumptions were right?”
“And that makes you feel bad all over again, does it?”
“Terrible. What if I was responsible, Alex? What if it was the same man? If I’d spoken up…”
“Even if you had reported what happened, it doesn’t mean he would have been caught. These men can be very clever, as I’m sure you have learned over the years.” Alex shook his head. “But I’m not foolish enough to believe that one can talk a man out of his guilt when he’s set on feeling it. Do you believe in fate?”
“I don’t know.”
“We Greeks are great believers in fate, in destiny.”
“What does it matter, anyway?”
“Because it exonerates you. Don’t you see? It’s like the Catholic Church absolving you of sin. If it’s fate, then you were meant to survive and not tell anyone, and your friend was destined to be abducted and killed and his body discovered many years later.”
“Then I don’t believe in fate.”
“Well, it was worth a try,” said Alex. “What are you going to do?”
“I don’t know. There’s nothing I can do, really, is there? The local police will investigate, and they’ll either find out what happened, or they won’t. My bet is that after all these years they won’t.”
Alex said nothing for a moment, just toyed with his ouzo glass, then he took a long sip and sighed.
“What?” said Banks.
“I have a feeling I’m going to miss you, my friend.”
“Why? I’m not going anywhere.”
“You know the Germans occupied this island during the war?”
“Of course,” said Banks, surprised by Alex’s abrupt change of subject. “I’ve explored the old fortifications. You know I have. We talked about it. It wasn’t exactly The Guns of Navarone, but I was impressed.”
Alex waved his hand in a dismissive gesture. “You and I can only imagine what life was like under the Nazi occupation,” he said, “but my father lived through it. He once told me a story about when he was a boy, not much older than you and your friend were. The German officer in command of the island was called von Braun, and everyone thought he must have been an incompetent bastard to be sent somewhere like this. As you say, my friend, not exactly The Guns of Navarone, not exactly the most strategic position in the Mediterranean. Nevertheless, someone had to keep an eye on the populace, and von Braun was the man. It wasn’t a very exacting task, and I’m sure the soldiers posted here became very sloppy.
“One day, my father and three of his friends stole a German jeep. The roads are bad, as you can see even now, and they couldn’t drive, of course, and knew nothing beyond the rudiments, so they crashed into a boulder after they’d barely gone half a mile. Luckily, they were uninjured and ran away before the soldiers were alerted to what had happened, though apparently one soldier saw them and told von Braun there were four kids.” Alex paused and lit one of his Turkish cigarettes. Banks had once questioned him on the political correctness of a Greek smoking Turkish tobacco, but all he’d said was that it tasted better.
“Anyway,” Alex went on, expelling a plume of smoke, “whatever the reason, von Braun took it upon himself to seek retribution, make an example, in the same way the Nazis did in many occupied villages. He probably wanted to prove that he wasn’t just some soft, incompetent idiot sent to the middle of nowhere to keep him out of harm’s way. He rounded up four teenage boys – the same number the soldier had counted – and had them shot just over there.” Alex pointed to where the main street met the quayside. “Two of them had actually been involved; the other two were innocent. None of them was my father.”
The German tourists laughed at something one of the women had said and called Andrea to order more beer. They were already pretty drunk in Banks’s opinion, and there’s not much worse than a drunken German, unless it’s a drunken English football fan.
Alex ignored them and went on. “My father was guilt-stricken for not speaking up, as was his friend, but what could they have done? The Nazis would probably have shot them in addition to the four others they had chosen. It was what the Americans call a no-win situation. He carried that shame and that guilt with him all his life.”
“Is he still alive?”
“He’s been dead for years now. But the point is, von Braun was one of the minor war criminals tried after the war, and do you know what? My father went to the trial. He’d never left the island before in his life, except for one visit to Athens to have his appendix removed, but he had to go. To bear witness.”
Banks felt oppressed by Alex’s story and the weight of history, felt as if there was nothing he could say that would not be inappropriately light. Finally, he found his voice. “Are you trying to tell me you think I ought to go back?”
Alex looked at him and smiled sadly. “I’m not the one who thinks you ought to go back.”
“Ah, shit.” Banks lit a cigarette and tilted the ouzo bottle again. It was nearly empty.
“Am I right?” Alex persisted.
Banks looked out at the sea, dark now, twisting the lights reflected on its shimmering surface, and nodded. There was nothing he could do tonight, of course, but Alex was right; he would have to go. He had been carrying his guilty secret around for so long now that it had become a part of him, and he could no more put the discovery of Graham Marshall’s bones out of his mind than he could all the other things he had thought he’d left behind: Sandra and her pregnancy, Annie Cabbot, the Job.
He watched a pair of young lovers, arms around each other, stroll along the quayside and felt terribly sad because he knew it was all over now, this brief sojourn in paradise, knew that this would be the last time he and Alex spent a companionable evening together in the Greek warmth, with the waves lapping against the ancient stone quay and the smell of Turkish tobacco and salt and rosemary in the air. He knew that tomorrow he had to go down to the harbor early, take the morning ferry to Piraeus and get on the first flight home. And he wished to hell he didn’t.
Up in Yorkshire two days later, the sky was far from cloudless, and the sun was definitely not shining. It had not, in fact, shone since Banks had left for Greece, reflected Detective Inspector Annie Cabbot as she pushed yet another pile of paperwork aside and put her feet up on the desk. It was as if the bugger had gone and taken all the sunshine with him. Nothing but cold rain, gray skies, and more rain. And this was August. Where was summer?
Annie had to admit that she missed Banks. She had ended their romantic relationship, but there was no one else in her life, and she enjoyed his company and his professional insight. In her weaker moments, too, she sometimes wished they had managed to remain lovers, but it wasn’t a valid option, given his family baggage and her renewed interest in her career. Too many complications involved in sleeping with the boss. On the plus side, she had found far more time for her painting, and had started meditation and yoga again.
Not that she couldn’t understand why Banks had gone. The poor sod had simply had enough. He needed to recharge his batteries, gird his loins before he entered back into the fray. A month should do it, Assistant Chief Constable Ron McLaughlin had agreed, and Banks had more than enough accrued leave for that. So he had buggered off to Greece, taking the sunshine with him. Lucky sod.
At least Banks’s temporary absence meant a quick transfer for Annie from Complaints and Discipline back to CID at the rank of detective inspector, which was what she had been angling for. She didn’t have her own office anymore, however, only a semipartitioned corner in the detectives’ squad room along with DS Hatchley and six DCs, including Winsome Jackman, Kevin Templeton and Gavin Rickerd, but it was worth the sacrifice to be away from that fat sexist lecher Detective Superintendent Chambers, not to mention a welcome change from the kind of dirty jobs she had been given under his command.
There hadn’t been much more crime than sun in the Western Area lately, either, except in Harrogate, of all places, where a mysterious epidemic of egg-throwing had broken out. Youths seemed to have taken to throwing eggs at passing cars, old folks’ windows and even at police stations. But that was Harrogate, not Eastvale. Which was why Annie, bored with looking over reports, mission statements, circulars and cost-cutting proposals, perked her ears up when she heard the tapping of Detective Superintendent Gristhorpe’s walking stick approaching the office door. She took her feet off the desk, as much so that Gristhorpe wouldn’t notice her red suede ankle boots as anything else, tucked her wavy chestnut hair behind her ears and pretended to be buried deep in the paperwork.
Gristhorpe walked over to her desk. He’d lost quite a bit of weight since he shattered his ankle, but he still looked robust enough. Even so, rumor had it that he had been heard to broach the subject of retirement. “Owt on, Annie?” he asked.
Annie gestured to the papers strewn over her desk. “Not a lot.”
“Only there’s this boy gone missing. Schoolboy, aged fifteen.”
“How long ago?”
“Didn’t come home last night.” Gristhorpe put the misper report in front of her. “Parents have been calling us since yesterday evening.”
Annie raised her eyebrows. “A bit soon to bring us in on it, isn’t it, sir? Kids go missing all the time. Fifteen-year-olds in particular.”
Gristhorpe scratched his chin. “Not ones called Luke Armitage, they don’t.”
“Luke Armitage? Not…”
“Aye. Martin Armitage’s son. Stepson, to be accurate.”
“Oh, shit.” Martin Armitage was an ex-football player, who in his time had been one of the major strikers of the Premier League. Since retiring from professional sport, he had become something of a country gentleman. He lived with his wife and stepson Luke in Swainsdale Hall, a magnificent manor house perched on the daleside above Fortford. Armitage was known as a “Champagne” socialist because he professed to have left-wing leanings, gave to charities, especially those supporting and promoting children’s sporting activities, and chose to send his son to East-vale Comprehensive instead of to a public school.
His wife, Robin Fetherling, had once been a celebrated model, well enough known in her field as Martin Armitage was in his, and her exploits, including drugs, wild parties and stormy public affairs with a variety of rock stars, had provided plenty of fodder twenty years ago or more, when Annie was a teenager. Robin Fetherling and Neil Byrd had been a hot item, the beautiful young couple of the moment, when Annie was at the University of Exeter. She had even listened to Neil Byrd’s records in her student flat, but she hadn’t heard his name, or his music, in years – hardly surprising, as she had neither the time nor the inclination to keep up with pop music these days. She remembered reading that Robin and Neil had had a baby out of wedlock about fifteen years ago. Luke. Then they split up, and Neil Byrd committed suicide while the child was still very young.
“Oh, shit, indeed,” said Gristhorpe. “I’d not like to think we give better service to the rich and famous than to the poor, Annie, but perhaps you could go and try to set the parents at ease. The kid’s probably gone gallivanting off with his mates, run away to London or something, but you know what people’s imaginations can get up to.”
“Where did he disappear from, sir?”
“We don’t know for certain. He’d been into town yesterday afternoon, and when he didn’t come home for tea they started to get worried. At first they thought he might have met up with some mates, but when it got dark and he still wasn’t home they started to get worried. By this morning, they were frantic, of course. Turns out the lad carried a mobile with him, so they’re sure he would have rung if anything came up.”
Annie frowned. “That does sound odd. Have they tried ringing him?”
“No signal. They say his phone’s switched off.”
Annie stood up and reached for her umbrella. “I’ll go over there and talk to them now.”
“You hardly need me to tell you this, but try to keep as low a profile as possible. The last thing we want is the local press on the case.”
“Softly, softly, sir.”
Gristhorpe nodded. “Good.”
Annie walked toward the door.
“Nice boots,” said Gristhorpe from behind her.
Banks remembered the days surrounding Graham Marshall’s disappearance more clearly than he remembered most days that long ago, he realized as he closed his eyes and settled back in the airplane seat, though memory, he found, tended to take more of a cavalier view of the past than an accurate one; it conflated, condensed and transposed. It metamorphosed, as Alex had said last night.
Weeks, months, years were spread out in his mind’s eye, but not necessarily in chronological order. The emotions and incidents might be easy enough to relocate and remember, but sometimes, as in police work, you have to rely on external evidence to reconstruct the true sequence. Whether he had got caught shoplifting in Woolworth’s in 1963 or 1965, for example, he couldn’t remember, though he recollected with absolute clarity the sense of fear and helplessness in that cramped triangular room under the escalator, the cloying smell of Old Spice aftershave and the way the two dark-suited shop detectives laughed as they pushed him about and made him empty his pockets. But when he thought about it more, he remembered it was also the same day he had bought the brand-new With the Beatles LP, which was released in late November 1963.
And that was the way it often happened. Remember one small thing – a smell, a piece of music, the weather, a fragment of conversation – then scrutinize it, question it from every angle, and before you know it, there’s another piece of information you thought you’d forgotten. And another. It didn’t always work, but sometimes when he did this, Banks ended up creating a film of his own past, a film which he was both watching and acting in at the same time. He could see what clothes he was wearing, knew what he was feeling, what people were saying, how warm or cold it was. Sometimes the sheer reality of the memory terrified him and he had to snap himself out of it in a cold sweat.
Just over a week after he had returned from a holiday in Blackpool with the Banks family, Graham Marshall had disappeared during his Sunday-morning paper round out of Donald Bradford’s newsagent’s shop across the main road, a round he had been walking for about six months, and one that Banks himself had walked a year or so earlier, when Mr. Thackeray owned the shop. At first, of course, nobody knew anything about what had happened, apart from Mr. and Mrs. Marshall and the police.
As Banks leaned back in his seat and closed his eyes, he tried to reconstruct that Sunday. It would have started in the normal way. On weekends, Banks usually stayed in bed until lunchtime, when his mother called him down for the roast. During lunch they would listen to the radio comedies on the Light Programme: The Navy Lark and Round the Horne, until The Billy Cotton Band Show drove Banks out of doors to meet up with his friends on the estate.
Sometimes, the five of them – Banks, Graham, Steve Hill, Paul Major and Dave Grenfell – would go walking in the local park, staking out an area of grass near the playing fields, and listen to Alan Freeman’s Pick of the Pops on Paul’s trannie, watching the girls walk by. Sometimes Steve would get bold and offer one of them a couple of Woodbines to toss him off, but mostly, they just watched and yearned from a distance.
Other Sundays they’d gather at Paul’s and play records, which was what they did on the day Graham disappeared, Banks remembered. Paul’s was best because he had a new Dansette which he would bring outside on the steps if the weather was good. They didn’t play the music too loudly, so nobody complained. If Paul’s mum and dad were out, they’d sneak a cigarette or two as well. That Sunday, everyone was there except Graham, and nobody knew why he was missing, unless his parents were keeping him in the house for some reason. They could be strict, Graham’s parents, especially his dad. Still, whatever the reason, he wasn’t there, and nobody thought too much of it.
There they would be, then, sitting on the steps, wearing their twelve-inch-bottom drainpipe trousers, tight-fitting shirts and winkle-pickers, hair about as long as they could grow it before their parents prescribed a trip to Mad Freddy’s, the local barber’s. No doubt they played other music, but the highlights of that day, Banks remembered, were Steve’s pristine copy of the latest Bob Dylan LP, Bringing It All Back Home, and Banks’s Help!
Along with his fascination with masturbation, Steve Hill had some rather way-out tastes in music. Other kids might like Sandie Shaw, Cliff Richard and Cilla Black, but for Steve it was The Animals, The Who and Bob Dylan. Banks and Graham were with him most of the way, though Banks also enjoyed some of the more traditional pop music, like Dusty Springfield and Gene Pitney, while Dave and Paul were more conservative, sticking with Roy Orbison and Elvis. Of course, everybody hated Val Doonican, Jim Reeves and The Bachelors.
That day, songs like “Subterranean Homesick Blues” and “Maggie’s Farm” transported Banks to places he didn’t know existed, and the mysterious love songs “Love Minus Zero/No Limit” and “She Belongs to Me” lingered with him for days. Though Banks had to admit he didn’t understand a word Dylan was singing about, there was something magical about the songs, even vaguely frightening, like a beautiful dream in which someone starts speaking gibberish. But perhaps that was hindsight. This was only the beginning. He didn’t become a full-fledged Dylan fan until “Like a Rolling Stone” knocked him for a loop a month or two later, and he wouldn’t claim, even today, to know what Dylan was singing about half the time.
The girls from down the street walked by at one point, as they always did, very Mod in their miniskirts and Mary Quant hairdos, all bobs, fringes and headbands, eye makeup laid on with a trowel, lips pale and pink, noses in the air. They were sixteen, far too old for Banks or his friends, and they all had eighteen-year-old boyfriends with Vespas or Lambrettas.
Dave left early, saying he had to go to his grandparents’ house in Ely for tea, though Banks thought it was because Dylan was getting up his nose. Steve headed off a few minutes later, taking his LP with him. Banks couldn’t remember the exact time, but he was certain that he and Paul were listening to “Everyone’s Gone to the Moon” when they saw the Ford Zephyr cruising down the street. It couldn’t have been the first one, because Graham had been missing since morning, but it was the first one they saw. Paul pointed and started whistling the Z Cars theme music. Police cars weren’t a novelty on the estate, but they were still rare enough visitors in those days to be noticed. The car stopped at number 58, Graham’s house, and two uniformed officers got out and knocked on the door.
Banks remembered watching as Mrs. Marshall opened the door, thin cardie wrapped around her, despite the warmth of day, and the two policemen took off their hats and followed her into the house. After that, nothing was ever quite the same on the estate.
Back in the twenty-first century, Banks opened his eyes and rubbed them. The memory had made him even more tired. He’d had a devil of a time getting to Athens the other day, and when he had got there it was only to find that he couldn’t get a flight home until the following morning. He’d had to spend the night in a cheap hotel, and he hadn’t slept well, surrounded by the noise and bustle of a big city, after the peace and quiet of his island retreat.
Now the plane was flying up the Adriatic, between Italy and the former Yugoslavia. Banks was sitting on the left and the sky was so cloudless he fancied he could see all of Italy stretched out below him, greens and blues and earth colors, from the Adriatic to the Mediterranean: mountains, the crater of a volcano, vineyards, the cluster of a village and sprawl of a large city. Soon he would be landing back in Manchester, and soon the quest would begin in earnest. Graham Marshall’s bones had been found, and Banks damn well wanted to know how and why they had ended up where they did.
Annie turned off the B-road between Fortford and Relton onto the gravel drive of Swainsdale Hall. Elm, sycamore and ash dotted the landscape and obscured the view of the hall itself until the last curve, when it was revealed in all its splendor. Built of local limestone and millstone grit in the seventeenth century, the hall was a long, two-story symmetrical stone building with a central chimney stack and stone-mullioned windows. The Dale’s leading family, the Blackwoods, had lived there until they had died out in the way many old aristocratic families had died out: lack of money and no suitable heirs. Though Martin Armitage had bought the place for a song, so the stories went, the cost of upkeep was crippling, and Annie could see, as she approached, that parts of the flagstone roof were in a state of disrepair.
Annie parked in front of the hall and glanced through the slanting rain over the Dale. It was a magnificent view. Beyond the low hump of the earthworks in the lower field, an ancient Celtic defense against the invading Romans, she could see the entire green valley spread out before her, from the meandering river Swain all the way up the opposite side to the gray limestone scars, which seemed to grin like a skeleton’s teeth. The dark, stubby ruins of Devraulx Abbey were visible about halfway up the opposite daleside, as was the village of Lyndgarth with its square church tower and smoke rising from chimneys over roofs darkened by the rain.
A dog barked inside the house as Annie approached the door. More of a cat person herself, she hated the way dogs rushed up when visitors arrived and barked and jumped at you, slobbered and sniffed your crotch, created chaos in the hall while the apologetic owner tried to control the animal’s enthusiasm and explain how it really was just very friendly.
This time was no exception. However, the young woman who opened the door got a firm grip on the dog’s collar before it could drool on Annie’s skirt, and another woman appeared behind her. “Miata!” she called out. “Behave! Josie, would you take Miata to the scullery, please?”
“Yes, ma’m.” Josie disappeared, half-dragging the frustrated Dobermann along with her.
“I’m sorry,” the woman said. “She gets so excited when we have visitors. She’s only being friendly.”
“Miata. Nice name,” said Annie, and introduced herself.
“Thank you.” The woman held out her hand. “I’m Robin Armitage. Please come in.”
Annie followed Robin down the hall and through a door on the right. The room was enormous, reminiscent of an old banquet hall, with antique furniture scattered around a beautiful central Persian rug, a grand piano, and a stone fireplace bigger than Annie’s entire cottage. On the wall over the mantelpiece hung what looked to Annie’s trained eye like a genuine Matisse.
The man who had been staring out of the back window over a lawn the size of a golf course turned when Annie entered. Like his wife, he looked as if he hadn’t slept all night. He introduced himself as Martin Armitage and shook her hand. His grip was firm and brief.
Martin Armitage was over six feet tall, handsome in a rugged, athletic sort of way, with his hair shaved almost to his skull, the way many footballers wore it. He was slim, long-legged and fit, as befitted an ex-sportsman, and even his casual clothes, jeans and a loose hand-knit sweater, looked as if they had cost more than Annie’s monthly salary. He glanced down at Annie’s boots, and she wished she’d gone for something more conservative that morning. But how was she to know?
“Detective Superintendent Gristhorpe told me about Luke,” Annie said.
“Yes.” Robin Armitage tried to smile, but it came out like the twentieth take of a commercial shoot. “Look, I’ll have Josie bring us some tea – or coffee, if you’d prefer it?”
“Tea would be fine, thanks,” said Annie, perching carefully on the edge of an antique armchair. One of the most civilized things about being a policewoman, she thought, especially working in plainclothes, was that the people you visited – witnesses, victims and villains alike – invariably offered you some sort of refreshment. Usually tea. It was as English as fish and chips. From what she had read, or seen on television, she couldn’t imagine anything like it happening anywhere else in the world. But for all she knew, perhaps the French offered wine when a gendarme came to call.
“I know how upsetting something like this can be,” Annie began, “but in ninety-nine percent of cases there’s absolutely nothing to worry about.”
Robin raised a finely plucked eyebrow. “Do you mean that? You’re not just saying it to make us feel better?”
“It’s true. You’d be surprised how many mispers we get – sorry, that’s police talk for missing persons – and most of them turn up none the worse for wear.”
“Most of them?” echoed Martin Armitage.
“I’m just telling you that statistically he’s likely-”
“Statistically? What kind of-”
“Martin! Calm down. She’s only trying to help.” Robin turned to Annie. “I’m sorry,” she said, “but neither of us has had much sleep. Luke’s never done anything like this before, and we really are quite frantic with worry. Nothing short of seeing Luke back here safe and sound will change that. Please, tell us where you think he is.”
“I wish I could answer that, I really do,” said Annie. She took out her notebook. “Can I just get some information from you?”
Martin Armitage ran his hand over his head, sighed and flopped down on the sofa again. “Yes, of course,” he said. “And I apologize. My nerves are a bit frazzled, that’s all.” When he looked right at her, she could see the concern in his eyes, and she could also see the steely gaze of a man who usually got what he wanted. Josie came in with tea, which she served on a silver tray. Annie felt a bit embarrassed, the way she always did around servants.
Martin Armitage’s lip curled in a smile, as if he had noticed her discomfort. “A bit pretentious, isn’t it?” he said. “I suppose you’re wondering why a dyed-in-the-wool socialist like me employs a maid? It’s not as if I don’t know how to make a cup of tea. I grew up with six brothers in a West Yorkshire mining town so small nobody even noticed when Maggie Thatcher wiped it off the face of the earth. Bread and dripping for breakfast, if you were lucky. That sort of thing. Robin here grew up on a small farm in Devon.”
And how many millions of pounds ago was that? Annie wondered, but she wasn’t here to discuss their lifestyle. “It’s none of my business,” she said. “I should imagine you’re both very busy, you can use the help.” She paused. “Just as long as you don’t expect me to stick my little finger in the air while I drink my tea.”
Martin managed a weak laugh. “I always like to dunk digestive biscuits in mine.” Then he leaned forward and became serious again. “But you’re not going to make me feel better by distracting me. What can we do? Where do we look? Where do we begin?”
“We’ll do the looking. That’s what we’re here for. When did you first start to believe something was wrong?”
Martin looked at his wife. “When was it, love? After tea, early evening?”
Robin nodded. “He’s always home for tea. When he wasn’t back by after seven o’clock and we hadn’t heard from him, we started to get worried.”
“What did you do?”
“We tried to call him on his mobile,” Martin said.
“And what happened?”
“It was turned off.”
“Well, about eight o’clock,” Robin said, “Martin went looking for him.”
“Where did you look, Mr. Armitage?”
“I just drove around Eastvale. A bit aimless, really. But I had to do something. Robin stayed home in case he rang or turned up.”
“How long were you gone?”
“Not long. I was back, oh, around ten.”
Robin nodded in agreement.
“Do you have a recent photograph of Luke?” Annie asked. “Something we can circulate.”
Robin went over to one of the low polished tables and picked up a package of prints. She thumbed through them and handed one to Annie. “This was taken at Easter. We took Luke to Paris for the holidays. Will it do?” Annie looked at the photograph. It showed a tall, thin young man, dark hair curling around his ears and brow, who looked older than his fifteen years, even to the point of having the fluffy beginnings of a goatee. He was standing by a grave in an old cemetery looking moody and contemplative, but his face was out of the shadows, and close enough to the camera to be useful for identification purposes.
“He insisted on visiting the Père Lachaise cemetery,” Robin explained. “That’s where all the famous people are buried. Chopin. Balzac. Proust. Edith Piaf. Colette. Luke’s standing by Jim Morrison’s grave there. Have you heard of Jim Morrison?”
“I’ve heard of him,” said Annie, who remembered friends of her father’s playing loud Doors records even years after Morrison’s death. “Light My Fire” and “The End” in particular had lodged themselves somewhere in her memories of those days.
“It’s funny,” said Robin, “but most of the people making pilgrimages to that grave weren’t even born when he was at the height of his popularity. Even I was just a little girl when the Doors were first big.”
That placed her in her early forties, Annie guessed, and still a striking figure. Robin Armitage’s golden tresses hung over her narrow shoulders and shone every bit as much in real life as they did in her magazine adverts for shampoo. Despite the signs of strain and worry, hardly a line marred her smooth, pale complexion. Though Robin was shorter than Annie had imagined, her figure looked as slender as it had been in all the posters Annie had ever seen of her, and those lips, which had so tantalizingly sucked the low-fat ice cream off the spoon in a famous television commercial some years ago, were still as full and pink as ever. Even the beauty spot Annie had always imagined was fake was still there, at the corner of her mouth, and close up it looked real.
Yes, Robin Armitage looked as good as she had twenty years ago. Annie thought she ought to hate the woman on sight, but she couldn’t. It wasn’t just because of the missing boy, either, she told herself, but she sensed something very human, very vulnerable behind the exquisitely packaged model’s facade.
“This’ll do fine,” said Annie, slipping the photograph into her briefcase. “I’ll get it circulated as soon as I get back. What was he wearing?”
“The usual,” said Robin. “Black T-shirt and black jeans.”
“You say ‘the usual.’ Do you mean he always wears black?”
“It’s a phase,” said Martin Armitage. “Or at least that’s what his mother tells me.”
“It is, Martin. You wait; he’ll grow out of it. If we ever see him again.”
“Don’t worry, Mrs. Armitage. He’ll turn up. In the meantime, I’d like more information about Luke himself, anything you know about his friends, interests or acquaintances that could help us work out where he may be. First of all, was everything all right between you? Had there been any arguments recently?”
“Not that I can think of,” Robin answered. “I mean, nothing serious. Everything was fine between us. Luke had everything he wanted.”
“It’s been my experience,” said Annie, “that nobody ever has everything they want, even if someone who loves them very dearly thinks they have. Human needs are so various and so hard to define at times.”
“I didn’t only mean material things,” said Robin. “As a matter of fact, Luke isn’t much interested in the things money can buy, except for electronic gadgets and books.” Her long-lashed blue eyes blurred with tears. “I meant that he has all the love we can give him.”
“I don’t doubt it,” said Annie. “What I was thinking, though, was that maybe there was something he wanted to do that you wouldn’t let him?”
“Like what?” asked Robin.
“Something you didn’t approve of. A pop concert he wanted to go to. Friends you didn’t like him being with. That sort of thing.”
“Oh, I see what you mean. But I can’t think of anything. Can you, darling?”
Martin Armitage shook his head. “As parents go, I think we’re pretty liberal,” he said. “We realize kids grow up quickly these days. I grew up quickly myself. And Luke’s a smart lad. I can’t think of any films I wouldn’t want him to see, except for pornography, of course. He’s also a quiet, shy sort of boy, not much of a mixer. He keeps to himself.”
“He’s very creative,” Robin added. “He loves to read and he writes stories and poems. When we were in France, it was all Rimbaud, Verlaine and Baudelaire.”
Annie had heard of some of those poets through her father, had even read some of them. She thought they were a little advanced for a fifteen-year-old boy, then she remembered that Rimbaud started writing poetry at fifteen and gave it up at nineteen.
“What about girlfriends?” Annie asked.
“He never mentioned anyone,” said Robin.
“He might be embarrassed to tell you,” Annie suggested.
“I’m sure we’d have known.”
Annie changed tack and made a note to look into Luke’s love life, or lack of it, later, if necessary. “I don’t know how to put this any more diplomatically,” she said, “but I understand you’re not Luke’s biological father, Mr. Armitage?”
“True. He’s my stepson. But I’ve always thought of him as my own son. Robin and I have been married ten years now. Luke has our family name.”
“Tell me about Luke’s father, Mrs. Armitage.”
Robin glanced over at her husband
“It’s all right, darling,” Martin Armitage said. “It doesn’t bother me if you talk about him, though I can’t quite see the point of all this.”
Robin turned back to Annie. “Actually, I’m surprised you don’t know already, given the inordinate amount of interest the gutter press took in the whole affair at the time. It’s Neil Byrd. I thought most people knew about Neil and me.”
“Oh, I know who he was and what happened. I just don’t remember the details. He was a pop singer, wasn’t he?”
“A pop singer? He’d have been disgusted to hear himself called that. He thought of himself more as a sort of modern troubadour, more of a poet than anything else.”
From singer-songwriter to footballer, Annie thought, the way Marilyn Monroe went from baseball player to playwright. There was clearly more to Robin Armitage than met the eye. “Please excuse my ignorance and refresh my memory,” she said.
Robin glanced out of the window, where a large thrush had found a worm on the lawn, then sat down beside her husband. He took her hand as she spoke. “You’re probably thinking it seems like an odd combination,” she said. “But Neil was the first man not to treat me like a complete moron because of my looks. It’s difficult being… well, you know, looking like I did. Most men are either too scared to approach you or they think you must be an easy lay. With Neil, it was neither.”
“How long were you together?”
“About five years. Luke was only two when Neil walked out on us. Just like that. No warning. He said he needed his solitude and couldn’t afford to be burdened with a family any longer. That’s exactly the way he put it: Burdened.”
“I’m sorry,” said Annie. “What happened? What about your career?”
“I was twenty-five when we met, and I’d been modeling since I was fourteen. It was hard to get my figure back after Luke, of course, and I was never quite the same as before, but I still got work, mostly TV commercials, a small and very forgettable part in a slasher film, part fifteen of some series or other. But why do you need to know all this? It can’t have anything to do with Luke’s disappearance. Neil’s been dead for twelve years.”
“I agree with my wife,” said Martin. “As I said earlier, I can’t see what relevance all this has.”
“I’m just trying to get as much background as I can,” Annie explained. “You never know what might be important with missing persons, what might trigger them. Does Luke know who his father was?”
“Oh, yes. He doesn’t remember Neil, of course, but I told him. I thought it important not to keep secrets from him.”
“How long has he known?”
“I told him when he was twelve.”
“And before that?”
“Martin is the only father he has known.”
So for seven years, Annie calculated, Luke had accepted Martin Armitage as his true father, then his mother had dropped the bombshell about Neil Byrd. “How did he react to the news?” she asked.
“He was confused, naturally,” said Robin. “And he asked a lot of questions. But other than that… I don’t know. He didn’t talk about it much afterward.”
Annie made a couple of notes as she digested this. She thought there must be more to it than Robin let on, but perhaps not. Kids can be surprisingly resilient. And unexpectedly sensitive.
“Do you still have any contact with any of Neil Byrd’s friends or relatives?” Annie asked.
“Good Lord, no. Neil’s parents both died young – it was one of the things that haunted him – and I don’t move in those sort of circles anymore.”
“May I see Luke’s room?”
“Of course.” Robin led Annie out into the hall, up a flight of worn stone stairs to the upper floor, where she turned to the left and opened the heavy oak door of the second room along.
Annie turned on the bedside light. It took her a few moments to register that the room was black except for the carpeted floor. It faced north, so it didn’t get a lot of sun, and even with the bedside light on – there was no ceiling light – it looked gloomy. It was tidier than she had expected, though, and almost Spartan in its contents.
Luke, or someone, had painted a solar system and stars on the ceiling. One wall was covered with posters of rock stars, and moving closer, Annie noted the names: Kurt Cobain, Nick Drake, Jeff Buckley, Ian Curtis, Jim Morrison. Most of them were at least vaguely familiar to her, but she thought Banks might know more about them than she did. No sports personalities, she noticed. On the opposite wall, written in silver spray paint, were the words “Le Poëte se fait voyant par un long, immense et raisonné dérèglement de tous les sens.” The words rang a bell, but she couldn’t quite place them, and her French wasn’t good enough to provide her with a clear translation. “Do you know what this means?” she asked.
“Sorry,” said Robin. “I never was any good at French in school.”
Annie copied the words down in her notebook. An electric guitar stood propped against a small amplifier under the mullioned window, a computer sat on a desk, and next to the wardrobe were a mini stereo system and a stack of CDs. She opened the violin case on top of the dresser and saw that it did, indeed, contain a violin.
Annie flipped through the CDs. Most of the bands she’d never heard of, such as Incubus, System of a Down and Slipknot, but she recognized some oldies like Nirvana and R.E.M. There was even some old Bob Dylan. Though Annie knew virtually nothing about the musical tastes of fifteen-year-old boys, she was certain they didn’t usually include Bob Dylan.
There was nothing by Neil Byrd. Again, Annie wished Banks were here; he’d be able to read something into all this. The last CD she had bought consisted of chants by Tibetan monks, to help with her yoga and meditation.
Annie glanced at the contents of the bookcase: A lot of novels, including Sons and Lovers, Catcher in the Rye and Le Grand Meaulnes, alongside the more traditional adolescent fare of Philip Pullman and short story collections by Ray Bradbury and H. P. Lovecraft, a number of poetry anthologies, an oversize book on Pre-Raphaelite art, and that was about it.
Other than that, the room revealed remarkably little. There was no address book, at least none that Annie could find, and not very much of anything except the books, clothes and CDs. Robin told her that Luke carried a battered leather shoulder bag around with him, wouldn’t go anywhere without it, and anything important to him would be in there, including his ultra-light laptop.
Annie did find some printed manuscripts in a drawer, short stories and poems, the most recent of which was dated a year ago, and she asked if she could borrow them to look at later. She could tell that Robin wasn’t keen; mostly, it seemed, for the sake of Luke’s precious privacy, but again, a little prodding in the right direction worked wonders. She didn’t think the creative work would tell her much, anyway, but it might give her some insight into Luke’s character.
There was nothing more to be gained from staying up there, and the black walls were beginning to oppress her, so she told Robin she had finished. They went back downstairs, where Martin Armitage was still sitting on the sofa.
“I understand you sent Luke to Eastvale Comprehensive instead of a public school, like Braughtmore,” Annie said.
“We don’t believe in public schools,” said Martin, his West Yorkshire accent getting thicker as he spoke. “They’re just breeding grounds for effete civil servants. There’s nothing wrong with a comprehensive-school education.” Then he paused and smiled. Annie got the impression it was a gesture that had worked for him often with the media, the sudden flow of charm turned on like an electric current. “Well, maybe there’s a lot wrong with it – at least that’s what I keep hearing – but it was good enough for me, and it’s good enough for most kids. Luke’s intelligent and hardworking. He’ll do fine.”
Judging from her body language – the folded arms and lips pressed together – Annie surmised that Robin didn’t agree, that Luke’s education had been a matter of some heated discussion.
“Is he happy at school?” she asked.
“He’s never complained,” said Martin. “No more than any kid would. You know, he doesn’t like his geography teacher, doesn’t like games, and algebra’s too hard. That sort of thing.”
“He’s not a sports fan?”
“Unfortunately, no,” said Martin. “I’ve tried to get him interested, but…” He shrugged.
“What about the other boys at school? Even if he is, as you say, a bit of a loner, he must have some contact with his classmates?”
“I suppose so, but I’ve never seen any evidence of it.”
“He’s never brought friends to the house?”
“Or asked permission to visit their houses?”
“Does he go out a lot?”
“No more than any other boy his age,” said Martin. “Maybe even less.”
“We want Luke to have a normal life,” said Robin. “It’s hard knowing what to allow and what not to. It’s hard to know how much discipline to apply. If you don’t give enough, then the child runs wild, and the parents get the blame. If you keep too strict control, he doesn’t develop naturally, and he blames you for screwing him up. We do our best to be good parents and strike a fair balance.”
Annie, an outsider herself at school because she was brought up in an artists’ commune, the “hippie chick” to the other kids, understood just how alienated Luke might feel, not through any fault of his parents. For a start, they lived in an out-of-the-way place like Swainsdale Hall, a grand place at that; secondly, they were minor celebrities; and thirdly, he sounded like an introverted personality anyway.
“I’m sure you do,” she said. “What did he do yesterday?” she asked.
“He went into the town center.”
“How did he get there?”
“Bus. There’s a good service, at least until after teatime.”
“Did he have any particular reason to go to Eastvale yesterday?”
“Nothing in particular,” Robin answered. “He just loves hunting for secondhand books, and he wanted to look at some new computer stuff.”
“As far as I know. It was nothing out of the ordinary.”
“Has he ever stopped out all night before?”
“No,” said Robin, putting her hand to her throat. “Never. That’s why we’re so worried. He wouldn’t put us through this unless something… something awful’s happened.”
She started to cry, and her husband held her, smoothing her silky spun-gold hair. “There, there, darling. Don’t worry. They’ll find him.” All the time his intense eyes were looking right at Annie, as if daring her to disagree. Not that she wanted to. A man used to having his own way. A man of action, too, Annie had no doubt, used to running ahead with the ball and slamming it into the back of the net.
“What about the rest of the family – uncles, aunts, grandparents?” she asked. “Was he close to anybody in particular?”
“Robin’s family’s down in Devon,” said Martin. “My parents are dead, but I’ve got a married sister living in Dorset and a brother in Cardiff. Of course, we rang everyone we could think of, but nobody’s seen him.”
“Did he have any money with him?”
“Not much. A few pounds. Look, Inspector,” he said, “I do appreciate your questions, but you’re on the wrong track. Luke has his mobile. If he wanted to go somewhere or do something that meant he wouldn’t be coming home, or that he’d be late, then why wouldn’t he give us a buzz?”
“Unless it was something he didn’t want you to know about.”
“But he’s only fifteen,” said Martin. “What on earth could he be up to that’s so secret he wouldn’t want his parents to know about it?”
Do you know where your children are? Do you know what your children are doing? It was Annie’s experience, both through her own memories and as a policewoman, that there was no one more secretive than an adolescent, especially a sensitive, lonely adolescent, but Luke’s parents just didn’t seem to get this. Hadn’t they been through it themselves? Or had so much else happened since their own childhoods that they had forgotten what it was like?
There were any number of reasons why Luke might have thought it necessary to go off for a while without telling his parents – children are often selfish and inconsiderate – but they couldn’t seem to think of one. Still, it wasn’t the first time Annie had come across such an astonishing gap between parental perception and reality. More often than she would have expected, she had found herself facing the parents of missing children who said they had simply no idea where young Sally could have gone or why she would want to go off anywhere and cause them such pain.
“Have there ever been any threats against you?” she asked.
“No,” said Martin. “Why do you ask?”
“Celebrities often attract the wrong sort of attention.”
Martin snorted. “We’re hardly Beckham and Posh Spice. We’re not much in the public eye these days. Not for the past five years or so, since we moved here. We both keep a very low profile.”
“Did it cross your mind that someone might have thought Luke was worth kidnapping?” she asked.
“Despite what you think,” Martin said, “we’re actually not all that wealthy.” He gestured around. “The house, for a start… it just eats up money. We’d be very poor marks for a kidnapper, believe me.”
“The kidnapper might not know that.”
Robin and Martin looked at each other. Finally, Robin spoke. “No, I don’t think so. As I said, we always wanted Luke to have a normal life, not like mine. We didn’t want him surrounded by bodyguards and security. Maybe it was foolish of us, unrealistic, but it’s worked until now. Nothing bad ever happened to him.”
“And I’m sure nothing has now,” said Annie. “Look, I realize it’s probably second nature to you, but if anyone from the press comes around asking questions-”
“Don’t worry,” said Martin Armitage. “They’ll have me to deal with.”
“Very good, sir. And just to be on the safe side, do you think we could arrange to have any phone calls intercepted?”
“But why?” asked Robin.
“In case of ransom demands.”
She put her hand to her cheek. “But surely you don’t think…?”
“It’s just a precaution.”
“It’s an unlisted number,” Martin said.
He held Annie’s gaze for a few beats before nodding. “Very well. If you must.”
“Thank you, sir. I’ll arrange for the technician to drop by later this morning. Do you have a business office?”
“No,” said Martin. “Not at the moment.”
“You don’t have a business number?”
“No.” He paused, then went on as if he’d sensed an implied slight in Annie’s tone or manner. “Look, I might have been just a football player, but that doesn’t mean I’m thick, you know.”
“I got my A-Levels, went to Leeds Polytechnic, as it was back then, and got a business diploma.”
So what did that make him? Annie wondered, unimpressed: the “thinking woman’s crumpet”? “I didn’t mean to imply anything,” she went on. “I’m simply trying to make sure we’ve got every eventuality covered.”
“I’m sorry,” Martin said. “It’s been a stressful night. It’s just, well, being who we are, Robin and I get that sort of thing a lot. People tend to patronize us.”
“I understand,” said Annie, standing up to leave. “I won’t keep you any longer.” She passed her card over to Robin, who was closest. “My mobile number’s on there, too.” She smiled and added, “When you can reach it.” Cell-phone coverage was spotty in the Dales, to say the least. “If you do hear anything at all, you won’t hesitate to call me, will you?”
“No,” said Robin. “Of course not. And if…”
“You’ll be the first to hear. Don’t worry, we’ll be looking for him, I can assure you. We’re really very good at this sort of thing.”
“If there’s anything I can do…” said Martin.
“Of course.” Annie gave them her best, most confident smile and left, not feeling confident at all.
DI Michelle Hart locked up her dark gray Peugeot outside 58 Hazel Crescent and took the measure of the neighborhood. She’d been there twice before – once investigating a string of burglaries and another time because of vandalism. As council estates went these days, the Hazels, as the locals called it, wasn’t particularly bad. Built in the early sixties, before the “new town” expansion, its terraces of serviceable brick houses behind low walls and privet hedges were now home to a mixed crowd of unemployed people, teenage mothers, pensioners who couldn’t afford to move, and a growing Asian population, mostly from Pakistan or Bangladesh. There were even a few asylum seekers. Like every other estate, the Hazels also had its share of shiftless hooligans who took their greatest pleasure in vandalizing other people’s property, stealing cars and spraying graffiti over the walls.
It was still raining, and there was no sign of any gaps in the gray cloud cover. The drab street that curved through the heart of the estate was empty, all the kids indoors playing computer games or surfing the Web and their mothers wishing the sun would come out and bring a few moments’ peace and quiet.
Michelle knocked on the dark green door. Mrs. Marshall, a frail-looking woman, stooped and gray-haired, face lined with care, answered and led her into a small living room and bade her sit on a plum velour armchair. Michelle had met the Marshalls before, during the identification process, but hadn’t yet visited them at home. Everything in the room was so tidy and spotless that she felt a momentary twinge of guilt over her own unwashed breakfast dishes, unmade bed and the dust balls in the corner. Still, who was there to see them but her?
Bill Marshall, incapacitated by a stroke, looked at Michelle, blanket over his knees, walking stick by his side, slack-jawed, a little drool collecting at the corner of his mouth, one half of his face drooping lower than the other, as if it had melted like a Dali clock. He had been a big man, that much was obvious, but now his body had withered with disease. His eyes were alive, though, the whites a little cloudy, but the gray irises intense and watchful. Michelle said hello to him and thought she saw his head move just a fraction in greeting. Though he couldn’t speak, Mrs. Marshall had assured Michelle that he could understand everything they said.
Among the framed photographs on the mantelpiece above the electric fire, one was of a young boy, aged about thirteen or fourteen, hair in a “Beatle” cut popular in the early sixties, wearing a black polo neck, standing on a promenade with the sea in the background and a long pier off to one side. He was a good-looking kid, Michelle noticed, perhaps a little feminine, soft and delicate in his features, but he’d probably have grown up to be a real heartbreaker nonetheless.
Mrs. Marshall noticed her looking. “Yes, that’s our Graham. It was taken on the last holiday he had. We couldn’t go away that year – Bill had a big job to finish – so the Bankses took him to Blackpool with them. Their lad Alan was a good mate of his. Mr. Banks took that photo and gave it to us when they came back.” She paused. “No more than a week or so later, and Graham was gone forever.”
“He looks like a fine boy,” Michelle said.
Mrs. Marshall nodded and sniffed.
“I don’t want to bother you for long,” Michelle began, “but as you can imagine, finding your son after all this time has come as a bit of a shock to us, too. I need to ask a few more questions, if that’s all right?”
“You’ve got your job to do, love. Don’t worry about us. We did our mourning years ago. Most of it, anyhow.” She fingered the collar of her dress. “Funny, though, how it all just seems like it happened only yesterday, now you’ve found him.”
“I haven’t seen the reports yet, but I understand there was a full investigation in 1965, when Graham first disappeared?”
“Oh, yes. And I can’t fault them. They did their best. Searched high and low. Jet Harris himself was in charge, you know. At his wits’ end he was when all their efforts turned up nothing. He even came to search our house for clues himself.”
Detective Superintendent John Harris – nicknamed Jet after both his speed and his resemblance to The Shadows’ bass guitarist – was still a legend around divisional headquarters. Even Michelle had read the small biographical pamphlet published by one of the local bobbies with a literary bent, and she had been impressed by it, from his lowly birth in the Glasgow slums in 1920 to his Distinguished Conduct Medal with the Royal Naval Commandos in the Second World War, his rise through the ranks to detective chief superintendent, and his legendary retirement party in 1985. His framed photograph hung on the wall near the front entrance, and his hallowed name was mentioned only with suitably hushed awe. Michelle could imagine how his failure to solve the Graham Marshall case must have galled him. Harris had a reputation not only for closing cases quickly, but for hanging on and not letting go until he got a conviction. Since his death from cancer eight years ago, he had become even more revered. “It’ll have been done properly, then,” she said. “I don’t know what to say. Sometimes one just slips through the cracks.”
“Don’t apologize, love. I’ve got no complaints. They turned over every stone they could find, but who’d think to dig there, eight miles away? I mean, they could hardly dig up the whole county, could they?”
“I suppose not,” Michelle agreed.
“And there were those missing kids out Manchester way,” Mrs. Marshall went on. “What they later called the Moors Murders. It wasn’t until a couple of months after our Graham disappeared, though, that Brady and Hindley got caught, and then it was all over the news, of course.”
Michelle knew about Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, the Moors Murderers, even though she had been only a child at the time. As with Jack the Ripper, Reginald Christie and the Yorkshire Ripper, the horror of their acts was etched into the consciousness of future generations. She hadn’t realized, though, just how closely their crimes were linked chronologically with Graham Marshall’s disappearance. It might have been natural for Detective Superintendent Harris at least to assume that Graham’s disappearance could somehow be linked with the victims of Brady and Hindley. On the other hand, Peterborough was over a hundred and thirty miles from Manchester, and Brady and Hindley tended to stick to their own neck of the woods.
Before Michelle could formulate her next question, another woman walked into the room. She bore a strong facial resemblance to the boy in the photograph – the same small, straight nose, oval chin and well-defined cheekbones – only the feminine aspects were even more enhanced in her. She wore her gray-streaked hair long, tied in a ponytail, and was casually dressed in a dark blue T-shirt and jeans. She was a little too thin for comfort, or perhaps Michelle was jealous, always feeling herself to be five or ten pounds overweight, and the stress of recent events showed in her features, as it did in Mrs. Marshall’s.
“This is Joan, my daughter,” Mrs. Marshall said.
Michelle stood and shook Joan’s limp hand.
“She lives in Folkestone, teaches at a comprehensive school there,” Mrs. Marshall added with obvious pride. “She was going on her holidays, but when she heard… well, she wanted to be with us.”
“I understand,” said Michelle. “Were you and Graham close, Joan?”
“As close as any brother and sister with two years between them can be in their teens,” said Joan with a rueful smile. She sat on the floor in front of the television and crossed her legs. “Actually, I’m not being fair. Graham wasn’t like most other boys his age. He even bought me presents. He didn’t tease me or torment me. If anything, he was very protective.”
“What did he have to protect you from?”
“Oh, I didn’t mean anything in particular. You know, just in general. If anyone tried to bully me or anything like that.”
“Well, I was only twelve when he disappeared, but yes, there were a couple of over-amorous local lads he sent packing.”
“Was Graham a tough lad?”
“Not really,” said Mrs. Marshall. “Mind you, he never backed away from a fight. When we moved and he first went to school here, there was a bit of bullying – you know, the way they always like to test the new kid – but in his first week our Graham took on the school bully. He didn’t win, but he put up a good fight, blacked an eye and bloodied a nose, so nobody bothered him after that.”
Michelle was wondering how difficult it would be for someone to abduct and murder Graham Marshall if he could put up a good fight. Might it have taken two people? Might he have been drugged or knocked unconscious first? Or was it someone he knew and went with willingly? “You said you moved up here?” Michelle went on. “Would that be from the East End?”
“It still shows, does it, after all these years? Once a Cockney, always a Cockney, I suppose. Not that I’m ashamed of it. Yes, we came from Bethnal Green. We moved around a fair bit because of Bill’s work. He’s a bricklayer. Or he was. We’d only been here a year or so when it happened. Graham had just finished third form at the local grammar school.”
“But you stayed on after.”
“Yes. There was plenty of work, what with the new town business. Plenty of building. And we like it here. It suits us.”
“Mrs. Marshall,” said Michelle, “I know it’s a long time ago, but can you tell me what sort of things Graham was interested in?”
“Interested in? Oh, the usual boys’ stuff. Football. Cricket. And pop music. He was pop-music crazy. We’ve still got his old guitar upstairs. Practiced chords for hours, he did. Mind you, he read a lot, too. Graham was the sort of lad who could amuse himself. He didn’t always need someone to entertain him. Loved to read about space. You know, science fiction, rockets to Mars, green-eyed monsters. Space-mad, he was.” She looked at the photograph and a faraway expression came over her features. “Just the day before he… well, there was some sort of rocket launch in America, and he was so excited, watching it on telly.”
“Did he have many friends?”
“He made quite a few around here,” Joan answered. She looked at her mother. “Who was there, Mum?”
“Let me remember. There was the Banks lad, of course, they were very close, and David Grenfell and Paul Major. And Steven Hill. Some others, maybe, but those five all lived on the estate, so they’d walk to school together, play cricket or football on the rec, listen to music together, swap records. That sort of thing. Some of their parents still live here. Those who are still left alive, that is.”
“Was Graham a popular boy?”
“I’d say so, yes,” said Mrs. Marshall. “He had an easygoing nature. I can’t see how he could possibly have offended anyone. I’m not saying he was perfect, mind you. He was a normal teenage lad, and he had his fair share of high spirits.”
“Was he a bright lad?”
“He did well at school, didn’t he, Mum?” said Joan.
“Yes. He’d have got to university easily, just like his sister.”
“What did he want to be when he grew up?”
“An astronaut or a pop star, but I’m sure he would have changed his mind about that. He was good at physics and chemistry. He’d probably have made a good teacher.” She paused. “What’s going to happen now, if you don’t mind me asking, Miss Hart? I mean, it was all so long ago. Surely you don’t think you can catch whoever did this? Not after all this time.”
“I don’t know,” said Michelle. “I certainly wouldn’t want to make any rash promises. But when something like this happens, we do our best to go over the ground again and see if we can find something someone missed the first time around. A fresh pair of eyes. It works sometimes. But if I’m to be completely honest with you, I’d have to say we’ll not be giving the case full priority in terms of manpower.”
“Believe me, love, there’s plenty of crime going on around here now without you police spending your time digging up the past as well.” She paused. “It’s just that… well, I think I would like to know, even after all this time. I thought about it a lot the other day, when they came back with the DNA results and said it definitely was our Graham. I thought I’d got resigned that we’d never know, but now, well, I’m not so sure. I mean, if you can just find out what happened to him, and why…” She looked at her husband. “I know he’d like his mind set at ease before… well, I’m sure you know what I mean.”
Michelle packed away her notebook in her briefcase. “Yes, I think I know what you mean,” she said. “And I promise I’ll do my best.”
“There is one question I’d like to ask,” said Mrs. Marshall.
“Well, you know, the way things happened, we never… I mean, our Graham never had a proper funeral. Do you think we could do that? You know, the bones…”
Michelle thought for a moment. “We might need them for a few days longer,” she said, “for tests and suchlike. But I don’t see why not. Look, I’ll talk to the forensic anthropologist. I’m sure she’ll do her best to release the remains as soon as possible.”
“You are? Really? Oh, thank you so very much, Miss Hart. You don’t know how much it means to us. Do you have any children of your own?”
Michelle felt herself tense up the way she always did when people asked her that. Finally, she got the words out. “No. No, I don’t.”
Mrs. Marshall saw her to the door. “If there’s anything more I can tell you,” she said, “please don’t hesitate to ask.”
“I won’t,” said Michelle. “Thank you.” And she walked down the path in the rain to her car taking deep breaths, shaken, flooded with memories she’d been blocking out, memories of Melissa, and of Ted. Now Graham Marshall was more to her than just a pile of bones on a steel table; he was a bright, easygoing lad with a Beatle haircut who wanted to be an astronaut or a pop star. If only she could figure out where to begin.
Banks met Annie at The Woolpack, a quiet pub in the tiny village of Maltham, about halfway between Gratly and Harksmere. On his way home from Manchester Airport, he had debated whether to call her, and he decided in the end it would be a good idea. He wanted to talk to someone about what he had just learned, and Annie was the only person he had told about the incident with the pervert down by the river. It shocked him to realize that he hadn’t even told his ex-wife, Sandra, though they had been married for over twenty years.
It was drizzling when he pulled up in the market square car park shortly before nine o’clock. Annie’s purple Astra was nowhere in sight. He obeyed the sign and stepped on the disinfectant pad before entering the pub. Though there hadn’t been an outbreak near Maltham itself, incidences of foot-and-mouth disease had occurred in some of the surrounding areas, and as a consequence strict, sometimes unpopular, measures had been brought in by the ministry. Many footpaths had been closed and access to the countryside limited. Also, as local farmers used the village pubs and shops, many of the owners had placed disinfectant mats on their doorsteps.
Maltham itself wasn’t much of a place, though it did have a fine Norman church, and The Woolpack was one of those pubs that did good business mostly by virtue of its being on a busy road between tourist destinations. That meant most of the trade was transient, and during the day, so the few grizzled locals who stood around the bar turned as one and gawped when Banks entered. They did that every time. One of them must have recognized him and said something, because in no time at all they turned back to their pints and ignored him. Banks bought a pint of Black Sheep bitter and a packet of cheese and onion crisps and sat down near the door, as far from the bar as he could get. A couple of the other tables were taken, tourists renting local cottages, by the looks of them. Poor sods, they’d be going out of their minds with no footpaths to walk.
Christ, it was a long way from Greece, Banks thought. Hard to believe that at this time just two nights ago he had been drinking ouzo and nibbling dolmades with Alex in Philippe’s taverna. They had drunk well into the small hours, knowing it was to be their last evening together, telling stories and soaking up the scented warmth of the air and the rhythm of the sea lapping at the quayside beside them. In the morning, Banks had looked for Alex by the harbor to say good-bye as he caught the early ferry to Piraeus, but his friend was nowhere to be seen. Probably nursing his hangover, Banks had thought, aware of the pounding in his own head.
The door opened, the men gawped again – with a bit more interest this time – and Annie entered in tight jeans and a light blue sleeveless top, bag slung over her shoulder. She pecked Banks on the cheek and sat down. Smelling her delicate grapefruit-scented shampoo and soap, and aware of the vague outlines of her nipples under the thin cotton, Banks felt a momentary rush of desire for her, but he held himself in check. That part of their relationship was over; they had moved on to something different. Instead, he went back to the bar and bought her a pint.
“Look at that tan,” Annie said when he sat down again, her laugh lines crinkling. “It’s all right for some.”
“I’m sure you’ll manage a week in Blackpool before summer’s over,” said Banks.
“Dancing to the Wurlitzer in the Tower Ballroom? Donkey rides on the beach in the rain? Candy floss on the prom and a kiss-me-quick hat? I can hardly wait.” She leaned over and patted his arm. “It is good to see you again, Alan.”
“So come on, then. Tell. How was Greece?”
“Magnificent. Magical. Paradisiacal.”
“Then what the bloody hell are you doing back in Yorkshire? You were hardly forthcoming on the phone.”
“Years of practice.”
Annie leaned back in her chair and stretched out her legs the way she did, crossing them at the slender ankles, where the thin gold chain hung, sipped some beer and almost purred. Banks had never met anyone else who could look so comfortable and at home in a hard chair.
“Anyway,” she said, “you’re looking well. Less stressed. Even half a holiday seems to have had some effect.”
Banks considered for a moment and decided that he did feel much better than he had when he had left. “It helped put things in perspective,” he said. “And you?”
“Swimmingly. Thriving. The job’s going well. I’m getting back into yoga and meditation. And I’ve been doing some painting again.”
“I kept you away from all that?”
Annie laughed. “Well, it’s not as if you twisted my arm, but when you’ve got as little time as people in our line of work have, then something has to go by the wayside.”
Banks was about to make a sarcastic reference to that something being him this time, but he bit his tongue. He wouldn’t have done that two weeks ago. The holiday really must have done him good. “Well,” he said, “I’m glad you’re happy. I mean it, Annie.”
Annie touched his hand. “I know you do. Now what brings you back here in such a hurry? I hope it’s not serious.”
“It is, in a way.” Banks lit a cigarette and went on to explain about the discovery of Graham Marshall’s bones.
Annie listened, frowning. When Banks had finished, she said, “I can understand why you’re concerned, but what can you do?”
“I don’t know,” Banks said. “Maybe nothing. If I were the local police, I wouldn’t want me sticking my nose in, but when I heard, I just felt… I don’t know. It was a big part of my adolescence, Annie, Graham just disappearing like that, and I suppose it’s a big part of me now, always has been. I can’t explain, but there it is. I told you about the man by the river, the one who tried to push me in?”
“If it was him, then maybe I can help them find him, if he’s still alive. I can remember what he looked like. Odds are there could be a photo on file.”
“And if it wasn’t him? Is that it? Is this the guilt you talked about before?”
“Partly,” said Banks. “I should have spoken up. But it’s more than that. Even if it’s nothing to do with the man by the river, someone killed Graham and buried his body. Maybe I can remember something, maybe there was something I missed at the time, being just a kid myself. If I can cast my mind back… Another?”
Annie looked at her glass. Half full. And she was driving. “No,” she said. “Not for me.”
“Don’t worry,” said Banks, catching her anxious glance as he went to the bar. “This’ll be my last for the evening.”
“So when are you going down there?” Annie asked when he came back.
“First thing tomorrow morning.”
“And you’re going to do what, exactly? Present yourself at the local nick and offer to help them solve their case?”
“Something like that. I haven’t thought it out yet. It’ll hardly be high priority with the locals. Anyway, surely they’ll be interested in someone who was around at the time? They interviewed me back then, you know. I remember it clearly.”
“Well, you said yourself they won’t exactly welcome you with open arms, not if you go as a copper trying to tell them how to do their jobs.”
“I’ll practice humility.”
Annie laughed. “You’d better be careful,” she said. “They might have you down as a suspect.”
“It wouldn’t surprise me.”
“Anyway, it’s a pity you’re not sticking around. We might be able to use your help up here.”
“Oh? What’s on?”
“This one disappeared a bit more recently than your friend Graham.”
“Boy or girl?”
“Does it matter?”
“You know it does, Annie. Far more girls are abducted, raped and killed than boys.”
That was almost Graham’s age when he disappeared, Banks thought. “Then the odds are good he’ll turn up none the worse for wear,” he said, though Graham hadn’t.
“That’s what I told the parents.”
Banks sipped his beer. There were some compensations to being back in Yorkshire, he thought, looking around the quiet, cozy pub, hearing the rain patter on the windows, tasting the Black Sheep and watching Annie shift in her chair as she tried to phrase her concerns.
“He’s an odd kid,” she said. “Bit of a loner. Writes poetry. Doesn’t like sports. His room is painted black.”
“What were the circumstances?”
Annie told him. “And there’s another thing.”
“He’s Luke Armitage.”
“Robin’s boy? Neil Byrd’s son?”
“Martin Armitage’s stepson. Do you know him?”
“Martin Armitage? Hardly. Saw him play once or twice, though. I must say I thought he was overrated. But I’ve got a couple of CDs by Neil Byrd. They did a compilation three or four years ago, and they’ve just brought out a collection of outtakes and live performances. He really was very good, you know. Did you meet the supermodel?”
“Quite the looker, as I remember.”
“Still is,” said Annie, scowling. “If you like that sort of thing.”
“What sort of thing?”
“Oh, you know… skinny, flawless, beautiful.”
Banks grinned. “So what’s the problem?”
“Oh, nothing. It’s just me. He’ll probably turn up safe and sound.”
“But you’re worried?”
“Just a teeny bit.”
“It crossed my mind, but there’s been no ransom demand yet. We searched the house, of course, just in case, but there was no sign he’d been back home.”
“We did talk to the Armitages about security when they first moved to Swainsdale Hall, you know,” Banks said. “They installed the usual burglar alarms and such, but beyond that they said they just wanted to live a normal life. Nothing much we could do.”
“I suppose not,” Annie agreed. She brought out her notebook and showed Banks the French words she had copied down from Luke’s wall. “Make any sense of this? It’s awfully familiar, but I can’t put my finger on it.”
Banks frowned as he peered at the text. It looked familiar to him, too, but he couldn’t place it, either. Le Poëte se fait voyant par un long, immense et raisonné dérèglement de tous les sens. He tried to decipher it word by word, reaching far back into his memory for his grammar school French. Hard to believe now that he had been quite good at it at one time, even got a grade two in his O-Levels. Then he remembered. “It’s Rimbaud, I think. The French poet. Something about the total disordering of all the senses.”
“Of course!” said Annie. “I could kick myself. Robin Armitage told me Luke was into Rimbaud, Baudelaire and Verlaine and all that stuff. What about these?” She named the subjects of Luke’s posters. “I mean, I’ve heard of some of them, Nick Drake, for example, and I know Kurt Cobain was in Nirvana and killed himself, but what about the others?”
Banks frowned. “They’re all singers. Ian Curtis used to sing with Joy Division. Jeff Buckley was Tim Buckley’s son.”
“Used to? Was? There’s an ominous past tense to all this, isn’t there?”
“Oh, yes,” said Banks. “They all either committed suicide or died under mysterious circumstances.”
“Interesting.” Annie’s mobile buzzed. Excusing herself, she walked over to the front door before taking it out of her shoulder bag and stepping outside. When she came back two minutes later she looked puzzled.
“Not bad news, I hope?” said Banks.
“No, not at all. Quite the opposite.”
“That was Robin. Robin Armitage. Apparently, Luke just rang them.”
“He says he just needed some space, that he’ll be back home tomorrow.”
“Did he say where he was?”
“Wouldn’t tell them.”
“What are you going to do?”
Annie finished her drink. “I think I’d better go down the station, scale down the manhunt. You know how expensive these things are. I don’t want Red Ron on my back for wasting our time and money.”
“Yes. Call me overly suspicious, if you like, but I’m not going to call off the search completely until I see Luke Armitage, safe and sound at home, with my own eyes.”
“I wouldn’t call that overly suspicious,” said Banks. “I’d call it very sensible.”
Annie leaned forward and pecked Banks on the cheek again. “It really is good to see you again, Alan. Stay in touch.”
“I will,” said Banks, and he watched her walk out the door, hint of Body Shop grapefruit soap wafting behind her, the soft pressure of her kiss lingering on his cheek.
On the surface, it had seemed a simple enough question to ask: Where were the Graham Marshall case files? In reality, it was like searching for the Holy Grail, and it had taken Michelle and her DC, Nat Collins, the best part of two days.
After first trying Bridge Street, in the city center, which served as Divisional Headquarters until Thorpe Wood opened in 1979, Michelle and DC Collins drove from station to station all across the Northern Division – Bretton, Orton, Werrington, Yaxley, Hampton – discovering that some of them were relatively new, and that the premises used in 1965 had long since been demolished and covered over by new housing estates or shopping centers. What complicated matters even more was that the original forces – Cambridge, Peterborough, Ely and Huntingdon – had amalgamated into the Mid-Anglia Constabulary in 1965, necessitating a major overhaul and restructuring, and had become the present-day Cambridgeshire Constabulary in 1974.
As one helpful duty constable after another suggested possibilities, Michelle had begun to despair of ever finding the old paperwork. About the only bright spot on the horizon was that the weather had improved that morning, and the sun was poking its lazy way through greasy rags of cloud. But that made the air humid, and Michelle was about to throw in the towel around lunchtime. She’d drunk a bit too much wine the previous evening, too – something that was happening rather too often these days – and the fact that she didn’t feel a hundred percent didn’t help much either.
When she finally did track the paperwork down, having sent DC Collins to Cambridge to make inquiries there, she could have kicked herself. It was deep in the bowels of Divisional Headquarters, not more than thirty feet or so below her office, and the civilian records clerk, Mrs. Metcalfe, proved to be a mine of information and let her sign out a couple of files. Why hadn’t Michelle thought to look there in the first place? Easy. She had only been at Thorpe Wood for a short time, and no one had given her the grand tour; she didn’t know that the basement was the repository for much of the county force’s old paperwork.
The noise level was high in the open-plan squad room, phones ringing, men laughing at dirty jokes, doors opening and closing, but Michelle was able to shut it all out as she put on her reading glasses and opened the first folder, which contained maps and photos of the Hazels estate, along with a summary of any relevant witness statements that helped pin down Graham’s progress on the morning of August 22, 1965.
One useful hand-drawn map showed Graham’s paper round in detail, listing all the houses he delivered to and, for good measure, what newspapers they took. The poor lad must have had a hell of a heavy load, as many of the Sunday papers were bulky with magazines and supplements.
At the eastern end of the estate, Wilmer Road separated the Hazels from an area of older houses, soon to be demolished. It was at the T-junction between Wilmer and Hazel Crescent that Graham had delivered his last newspaper, a News of the World, to Mr. and Mrs. Halloran, who lived in the corner house.
The next delivery was supposed to be to one of the houses across the road, but the Lintons there said they never received their Observer that day. Nobody else on the other side of Wilmer Road received a newspaper that morning, either.
The anonymous mapmaker had also calculated that it would have been around 6:30 A.M. when Graham, who started at 6 A.M., got to that part of his round – daylight at that time of year, but still very early in the morning for any sort of traffic, including pedestrian. It was a Sunday, after all, the traditional morning for a lie-in after the excesses of Saturday night, and most of the customers said they were still in bed when their papers arrived.
Michelle looked at the old black-and-white photos. They depicted a very different scene from the one she had visited yesterday, after she had talked to the Marshalls. In 1965, across Wilmer Road, there had been a grim row of old shops, all boarded up and ready for demolition, but today a modern DIY center stood next to the new estate, which had replaced the old houses. The derelict shops looked like just the sort of place a kid might want to explore. Michelle checked the file to see if they had been searched. Of course they had. Dogs brought in, too. Not a trace.
Michelle tucked some strands of blond hair, which had been tickling her cheek, behind her ears and chewed at the end of her pen as she read over transcripts of the initial interviews. Nearly everything was typed, of course, except some of the documents that were handwritten, and the results looked strange, with the uneven pressure of the keys and the occasional blob of a deformed e or g. Such distinguishing features used to be very handy for identifying which machine a note had been typed on, Michelle reflected, before the anonymity of laser printers. Some of the papers were carbon copies, faint and often hard to read. Occasionally, illegible amendments had been made in pen or pencil between the lines, the original words scratched out. All in all, not a promising start.
Detective Superintendent Benjamin Shaw, now one of the senior officers at Thorpe Wood, was named once or twice as a detective constable on the case. Michelle knew that Shaw had started his career in Peterborough and had recently returned from six years with the Lincolnshire Constabulary, but it still surprised her to see his name in connection with something that happened so long ago. Maybe she could have a word with him, see if he had any theories that hadn’t made it into the files.
It seemed that the first person to miss Graham Marshall was his employer, Donald Bradford, owner of the newsagent’s shop. Bradford lived some distance away from the shop and employed a local woman to open up, not arriving himself until eight o’clock. According to Bradford’s statement, when Graham hadn’t returned by eight-fifteen that Sunday, half an hour late for his second round on a neighboring estate, Bradford drove around the Wilmer Road Estate in search of him. He found nothing. Whatever had happened to Graham, his papers and his canvas bag were missing, too. Michelle was willing to bet that some of those scraps of cloth found with the bones came from Graham’s newspaper sack.
After that, Donald Bradford called at Graham’s house to see if the lad had become ill and hurried home without stopping to report in. He hadn’t. Graham’s parents, now also worried, searched the estate for their son and found nothing. With news of the Manchester child abductions still fresh in the public eye, both Bradford and the Marshalls were soon concerned enough to call in the police, and a short while after that, the official investigation began. Preliminary inquiries were carried out in the immediate area, and Detective Superintendent Harris was put in charge first thing the following day, when still no trace had been found of Graham, and the cumbersome but efficient mechanics of a police investigation groaned into action.
Michelle stretched and tried to work out a crick in her neck without success. It was hot in the office and her tights were killing her. DC Collins, just back from Cambridge, took pity on her and said, “I’m just off to the canteen, ma’m. Bring you anything?”
“I’d love a diet Coke, please,” said Michelle. “And maybe a slice of chocolate gâteau, if they’ve got any left.” She reached for her handbag.
“It’s all right,” said Collins. “Pay me when I get back.”
Michelle thanked him, adjusted her tights as discreetly as possible below her desk and turned back to the files. As far as she could gather from a cursory glance, there hadn’t been any leads at all. Police had interviewed everyone on Graham’s round, along with all his friends, family and schoolteachers. None of it led anywhere. Graham was described, among other things, as being bright, cheeky, quiet, polite, rude, sweet-natured, foul-mouthed, talented and secretive. Which pretty much covered every eventuality.
Nobody on Wilmer Road had seen or heard anything unusual that morning – no screams, shouts or sounds of a struggle – though one person said he had heard a car door bang around half past six. There were no convenient dog walkers, and even the most devout of churchgoers, being for the most part Methodists or Low Anglican, were still in the Land of Nod. All the evidence, especially the missing paper sack, suggested that Graham had most likely got in a car willingly, with someone he knew, someone local. But who? And why?
DC Collins returned with Michelle’s diet Coke. “No gâteau, I’m afraid,” he said, “so I brought you a Danish instead.”
“Thanks,” said Michelle, who didn’t like Danish but paid him anyway, nibbled at it awhile, then dropped the rest in her waste bin and went back to her files. The Coke tin was cold and wet, so she pressed it against her flushed cheek and enjoyed the icy sensation, then she did the same with her other cheek and her forehead.
The police at the time didn’t neglect the possibility that Graham might have run away under his own steam, dumping the sack of papers somewhere and heading for the bright lights of London like so many young lads had in the mid-sixties, but they could find nothing at all to support this theory. His home life seemed happy enough, and none of his friends suggested that he was at all interested in running away from home. The sack was never found, either. Even so, missing persons reports went out all over the country, and there were the usual sightings, none of which amounted to anything.
The interviews also turned up nothing, and police checks into the records of several estate dwellers drew a blank. Michelle could read a little excitement between the lines when police discovered that one of the deliveries on Graham’s route was the house of a man who had served time for exposing himself in a local park, but subsequent interviews – no doubt involving some very rough business, knowing police methods of the time and Jet Harris’s reputation as a tough guy – led nowhere, and the man was exonerated.
Michelle slipped off her reading glasses and rubbed her tired eyes. At first glance, she had to admit that it seemed very much as if Graham Marshall had disappeared into the void. But she knew one thing that the police hadn’t known in 1965. She had seen his bones, and she knew that Graham had been murdered.
Annie Cabbot drove out to Swainsdale Hall mid-morning to tie up a few loose ends with the Armitages. The sun had come to the Yorkshire Dales at last, and wraiths of mist rose from the roadsides and the fields that stretched up the dale-sides. The grass was bright green after so much rain, and the limestone walls and buildings shone clean gray. The view from the front of Swainsdale Hall was magnificent, and Annie could see plenty of blue sky beyond Fremlington Edge, with only a few light fluffy clouds scudding by on the breeze.
The Armitages must be relieved, Annie thought as she got out of her car. Of course, they would be happier when Luke arrived back home, but at least they knew he was safe.
Josie answered the door and seemed surprised to see her. There was no sign of Miata this time, but Annie could hear the dog barking from the back of the house.
“Sorry I didn’t phone ahead,” Annie said. “Are they in?”
Josie stood aside and let Annie walk through to the same large living room she had been in yesterday. Only Robin Armitage was there this time, sitting on the sofa flipping through a copy of Vogue. She jumped to her feet when Annie entered and smoothed down her skirt. “It’s you again. What’s happened? Is something wrong?”
“Calm down, Mrs. Armitage,” said Annie. “Nothing’s happened. I came to see if you’re all right.”
“All right? Of course I am. Why shouldn’t I be? Luke’s coming home.”
“May I sit down?”
Annie sat, but Robin Armitage stayed on her feet, pacing. “I’d have thought you’d be relieved,” Annie said.
“I am,” said Robin. “Of course I am. It’s just that… well, I’ll be a lot more settled when Luke’s back home again. I’m sure you understand.”
“Have you heard from him again?”
“No. Only the once.”
“And he definitely said he’s coming home today?”
“I’d like to talk to him when he gets back, if that’s all right.”
“Certainly. But why?”
“We like to follow up on these matters. Just routine.”
Robin stood up and folded her arms, making it clear that she wanted Annie to leave. “I’ll let you know the minute he’s back.”
Annie remained seated. “Mrs. Armitage, you told me yesterday that Luke said he needed some space. Do you know why?”
“Yes. You told me he’s a normal teenager, and there’s nothing wrong in the family, so why would he run off like that, worry the two of you half to death?”
“I hardly think that’s relevant now, do you, Detective Inspector Cabbot?” Annie turned to see Martin Armitage standing in the doorway, briefcase in hand. “Why are you here? What is it?” Despite his commanding presence, he seemed edgy to Annie, like his wife, shifting his weight from foot to foot as he stood there, as if he had to go to the toilet.
“Nothing,” she said. “Just a friendly visit.”
“I see. Well, thank you for your efforts and your concern. We really do appreciate it, but I can see no point in your coming and badgering us with more questions now that Luke’s safe and sound, can you?”
Interesting choice of words, badgering, Annie thought. Most families wouldn’t see it that way, not with their son missing.
He glanced at his watch. “Anyway, I’m afraid I have to hurry off to a business meeting. It’s been nice to see you again, Inspector, and thank you again.”
“Yes, thank you,” echoed Robin.
Dismissed. Annie knew when she was beaten. “I was just leaving,” she said. “I only wanted to make sure everything was okay. I didn’t mean to cause offense.”
“Well, as you can see,” said Martin, “everything’s fine. Luke will be back home this evening, and it will be as if none of this ever happened.”
Annie smiled. “Well, don’t be too hard on him.”
Martin managed a tight smile, which didn’t reach his eyes. “I was young once myself. I know what it’s like.”
“Oh, just one more thing.” Annie paused in the doorway.
“You said Luke rang you last night.”
“Yes. And immediately afterward my wife rang you.”
Annie glanced at Robin, then back at Martin. “Yes, I appreciate that,” she said. “But I’m wondering why Luke’s call wasn’t intercepted. After all, the technician had set everything up, and we picked up your wife’s call to me.”
“That’s easy,” said Martin. “He called me on my mobile.”
“Did he usually do that?”
“We were supposed to be going out for dinner,” Martin explained. “As it was, we ended up canceling, but Luke wasn’t to know that.”
“Ah, I see,” said Annie. “Problem solved. Good-bye, then.”
They both bade her a perfunctory good-bye and she left. At the end of the drive, she turned right, toward Relton, and parked in lay-by just around the corner from the Armitages’ drive, where she took out her mobile and discovered that there was, indeed, a signal in the area. So Martin Armitage hadn’t been lying about that. What was it, then, that had given her the unmistakable feeling that something was wrong?
Annie sat for a moment in her car trying to figure out the meaning of the tension she had sensed in the room, not just between her and Robin, but between Robin and Martin. Something was going on; Annie only wished she knew what. Neither Robin nor Martin had behaved like a couple who had just heard that the son whose life they feared for was now safe and would soon be home.
When Martin Armitage’s Beemer shot out of the driveway spraying gravel a minute or two later, Annie had an idea. It was rare that she got to think or act spontaneously, as so much police work was governed by procedure, rules and regulations, but Annie was feeling reckless this morning, and the situation called for some initiative on her part.
As far as she knew, Martin Armitage had no idea what make or color car she drove, so he would hardly be suspicious that a purple Astra was following him at a respectable distance.
As Banks drove down the A1 and entered the landscape of bright new shopping centers, electronics warehouses and housing estates that had replaced the old coal mines, pit-wheels and slag heaps of West Yorkshire, he thought about the way the country had changed since Graham’s disappearance.
1965. Winston Churchill’s funeral. The Wilson Era. The end of capital punishment. The Kray trial. Carnaby Street. The Moors Murders. The first U.S. space walk. Help! Mods and Rockers. It was a time of possibility, of hope for the future, the fulcrum of the sixties. Only weeks after Graham disappeared, the sexy, leather-clad Emma Peel debuted in The Avengers, Jeremy Sandford’s documentary-style TV play about a homeless mother and her children, Cathy Come Home, caused a major stir, and The Who were singing about “My Generation.” Soon, young people were taking to the streets to protest against war, famine and anything else they could think of, shouting “Make love, not war,” smoking dope and dropping acid. Everything seemed on the verge of blossoming into some new sort of order, and Graham, who had seemed so forward-looking, so cool in so many ways, should have been there to see it, but he wasn’t.
And what came between then and Blair’s Britain? Mostly Margaret Thatcher, who dismantled the country’s manufacturing base, emasculated the trade unions, and demoralized the workingman, leaving the north, especially, a ghost land of empty factories, thrift shops and decaying council estates, where those growing up had no hope of a job. In their idleness and hopelessness, many turned to crime and vandalism; car theft became commonplace; and the police became the enemy of the people. Today, without doubt, it was a softer, easier, more middle-of-the-road Britain, and a much more American one, with McDonald’s, Pizza Huts and shopping malls springing up all over the place. Most people seemed to have what they wanted, but what they wanted was mostly of a material nature – a new car, a DVD player, a pair of Nike trainers – and people were being mugged, even murdered, for their mobile phones.
But were things so very different back in the mid-sixties? Banks asked himself. Wasn’t consumerism just as rife back then? That Monday evening in August 1965, when the knock came at their door, the Banks family was settling down to watch Coronation Street on their brand-new television set, bought on hire purchase just the previous week. Banks’s father was in work then, at the sheet-metal factory, and if anyone had predicted that he would be made redundant seventeen years later, he’d have laughed in their face.
Coronation Street was one of those rituals every Monday and Wednesday when, tea over, dishes washed and put away, homework and odd jobs done, the family sat down to watch television together. So it was an unexpected disruption when someone knocked at the door. No one ever did that. As far as the Bankses were concerned, everyone on the street – everyone they knew, at any rate – watched Coronation Street and would no more think of interrupting that than… well, Ida Banks was lost for words. Arthur Banks answered the door, prepared to send the commercial traveler and his suitcase of goods packing.
The one thing that entered nobody’s mind when he did this, because it was such a disturbance of the normal routine, was that Joey, Banks’s pet budgie, was out of his cage, having his evening constitutional, and when Arthur Banks opened the front door to admit the two detectives, he left the living room door open, too. Joey seized the moment and flew away. No doubt he thought he was flying to the freedom of the open sky, but Banks knew, even at his young age, that such a pretty colored thing wouldn’t survive a day among the winged predators out there. When they realized what had happened, everyone dashed out in the garden looking to see where he had gone, but there wasn’t a trace. Joey had vanished, never to return.
More of a fuss might have been made over Joey’s escape had the new visitors not become the center of everyone’s awed attention. They were the first plainclothes policemen ever to enter the Banks household, and even young Banks himself forgot about Joey for the time being. Looking back now, it seemed like some sort of ill omen to him, but at the time he hadn’t seen any significance beyond the simple loss of a pet.
Both men wore suits and ties, Banks remembered, but no hats. One of them, the one who did most of the talking, was about the same age as his father, with slicked-back dark hair, a long nose, a general air of benevolence and a twinkle in his eye, the sort of kindly uncle who might slip you half a crown to go to the pictures and wink as he gave it to you. The other one was younger and more nondescript. Banks couldn’t remember much about him at all except that he had ginger hair, freckles and sticking-out ears. Banks couldn’t remember their names, if he had ever known them.
Banks’s father turned off the television set. Nine-year-old Roy just sat and gawped at the men. Neither detective apologized for disturbing the family. They sat, but didn’t relax, remaining perched on the edges of their chairs as the kindly uncle asked his questions and the other took notes. Banks couldn’t remember the exact wording after so many years, but imagined it went along the following lines.
“You know why we’re here, don’t you?”
“It’s about Graham, isn’t it?”
“Yes. You were a friend of his, right?”
“Do you have any idea where he might have gone?”
“When did you see him last?”
“Did he say or do anything unusual?”
“What did you do?”
“Went shopping in town.”
“What’d you buy?”
“Just some records.”
“What sort of a mood was Graham in?”
“Was anything bothering him?”
“He was just like normal.”
“Did he ever talk about running away from home?”
“Any idea where he might go if he did run away? Did he talk about any particular places?”
“No. But he was from London. I mean, his parents brought him up from London last year.”
“We know that. We were just wondering if there was anywhere else he talked about.”
“I don’t think so.”
“What about secret hiding places?” The detective winked. “I know all lads have secret places.”
“No.” Banks was unwilling to tell them about the big tree in the park – holly, he thought it was – with prickly leaves and branches right down to the ground. If you made your way through them, you ended up hidden inside, between the thick leaves and the trunk, like being in a teepee. He knew Graham was missing and it was important, but he wasn’t going to give away the gang’s secrets. He would look in the tree himself later and make sure Graham wasn’t there.
“Did Graham have any problems you were aware of? Was he upset about anything?”
“We’re on holiday.”
“I know that, but I mean in general. It was a new school for him, wasn’t it? He’d only been there one year. Did he have any problems with the other boys?”
“No, not really. He had a fight with Mick Slack, but he’s just a bully. He picks fights with all the new kids.”
“Have you seen any strange men hanging around the area lately?”
“No.” Banks probably blushed as he lied. He certainly felt his cheeks burning.
“Did Graham ever mention anyone bothering him?”
“All right, then, son, that’s it for now. But if you can think of anything at all, you know where the police station is, don’t you?”
“And I’m sorry about your budgie, really I am.”
They seemed all set to go then and got to their feet. Just before they left, they asked Roy and Banks’s parents a few general questions, and that was it. When they shut the door, everyone was quiet. There were still ten minutes of Coronation Street left, but nobody thought of switching on the television set again. Banks remembered turning to Joey’s empty cage and feeling the tears gather in his eyes.
Annie waited until Martin Armitage’s Beemer had got a respectable distance ahead, then let a local delivery van get between them before she started to follow. The roads were quiet at that time in the morning – they were quiet most of the time, if truth be told – so she couldn’t appear too conspicuous. At the village of Relton, he turned right and followed the B-Road that ran about halfway up the valley side.
They passed through tiny Mortsett, which didn’t even have a pub or a general store, and Annie got stuck when the delivery van stopped to make a call at one of the cottages. The road wasn’t wide enough for her to pass.
She got out and prepared to show her warrant card and ask the driver to get out of the way – there was a passing area about twenty yards farther along – when she noticed Armitage pull over and stop about half a mile beyond the village. She had a clear view of the open road, so she brought out the binoculars she kept in her glove compartment and watched him.
Armitage got out of the car with his briefcase, looked around and started walking over the grass toward a squat stone shepherd’s shelter about eighty yards off the road, up the daleside, and she didn’t think he was nervous because he was breaking the government foot-and-mouth regulations.
When he got there, he ducked inside the shelter, and when he came out he wasn’t carrying his briefcase. Annie watched him walk back to his car. He stumbled once over the uneven ground, then glanced around again and drove off in the direction of Gratly.
“Birds, is it?” a voice asked, disturbing Annie’s concentration.
“What?” She turned to face the deliveryman, a brash gelhaired youngster with bad teeth.
“The binoculars,” he said. “Bird-watching. Can’t understand it, myself. Boring. Now, when it comes to the other sort of birds-”
Annie flipped him her warrant card and said, “Move your van out of the way and let me pass.”
“All right, all right,” he said. “No need to get shirty. There’s no one home, anyway. Never is in this bloody godforsaken hole.”
He drove off and Annie got back in her car. Armitage was long gone by the time she reached the spot where he had stopped, and there were no other cars in sight, save the delivery van, fast disappearing ahead.
Annie was the one who felt nervous now. Was someone watching her with binoculars the way she had watched Armitage? She hoped not. If this was what she thought it was, it wouldn’t do to reveal police interest. The air was still and mild, and Annie could smell warm grass after rain. Somewhere in the distance, a tractor chugged across a field, and sheep baaed from the daleside as she ignored the posted warnings and made her way to the shelter. The place smelled musty and acrid inside. Enough light spilled through the gaps in the drystone for her to see the used condom on the dirt, empty cigarette packet and crushed lager cans. A local lad’s idea of showing his girlfriend a good time, no doubt. She could also see the briefcase, the inexpensive nylon kind.
Annie picked it up. It felt heavy. She opened the Velcro strips and inside, as she had expected, found stacks of money, mostly ten- and twenty-pound notes. She had no idea exactly how much there was, but guessed it must be somewhere in the region of ten or fifteen thousand pounds.
She put the briefcase back where it was and returned to her car. She couldn’t just sit there by the roadside waiting for something to happen, but she couldn’t very well leave the scene, either. In the end, she drove back to Mortsett and parked. There was no police station in the tiny hamlet, and she knew it would be no use trying to use her UHF hand radio behind so many hills, and at such a distance. Besides, it only had a range of a couple of miles. She was driving her own car, as she often did, and she hadn’t got around to having the more powerful VHF radio installed. It hardly seemed necessary, as she wasn’t a patrol officer and, more often than not, she simply used the car to drive to work and back, and perhaps to interview witnesses, as she had done that morning. Before she headed out on foot to find a good spot from which to watch the shelter without being seen, Annie picked up her mobile to ring the station and let Detective Superintendent Gristhorpe know what was going on.
And wouldn’t you know it – the damn mobile didn’t work. Out of cell range. Bloody typical. She should have known. She was quite close to Gratly, where Banks lived, and her mobile didn’t work there, either.
There was an old red telephone box in the village, but the phone had been vandalized, the wires torn from the cash box. Damn! Unwilling to take her eyes off the shelter for too long, Annie knocked on some doors, but the van driver had been right; nobody seemed to be home, and the one old lady who did answer said she didn’t have a telephone.
Annie cursed under her breath; it looked as if she was on her own for the time being. She couldn’t leave the shelter unwatched, and she had no idea how long she would have to stay out there. The sooner she found a good vantage point, the better. Still, she thought, turning toward the hillside, it served her bloody well right for not calling in before she followed Armitage. So much for initiative.
Nick Lowe’s The Convincer ended and Banks slipped in David Gray’s White Ladder. As he approached the turn-off to Peterborough, he wondered what to do first. He had rung his parents to let them know he was coming, of course, so perhaps he should go straight there. On the other hand, he was closer to Police HQ, and the sooner he introduced himself to Detective Inspector Michelle Hart, the better. So he headed for the police station in its idyllic setting just off the Nene Parkway, between the nature reserve and the golf course.
In the reception area, he asked to speak to the detective in charge of the Graham Marshall investigation, introducing himself only as Alan Banks, a childhood friend. He didn’t want to appear to be pulling rank or even introduce himself as a fellow copper, at least not at first, not until he saw which way the wind was blowing. Besides, just out of curiosity, he wanted to know how they treated an ordinary member of the public who came forward with information. It would do no harm to play a bit of a game.
After he had been waiting about ten minutes, a young woman opened the locked door that led to the main part of the station and beckoned him inside. Conservatively dressed in a navy-blue suit, skirt below the knees, and a button-down white blouse, she was petite and slim, with shoulder-length blond hair parted in the middle and tucked behind her small, delicate ears. She had a jagged fringe that came almost down to her eyes, which were a startling green, a color Banks remembered seeing somewhere in the sea near Greece. Her mouth was slightly down-turned at the edges, which made her look a bit sad, and she had a small, straight nose. All in all, she was a very attractive woman, Banks thought, but he sensed a severity and a reserve in her – a definite “No Entry” sign – and there was no mistaking the lines that suffering had etched around her haunting and haunted eyes.
“Mr. Banks?” she said, raising her eyebrows.
Banks stood up. “Yes.”
“I’m Detective Inspector Hart. Please follow me.” She led him to an interview room. It felt very strange being on the receiving end, Banks thought, and he got an inkling of the discomfort some of his interviewees must have felt. He looked around. Though it was a different county, the basics were still the same as every interview room he had ever seen: table and chairs bolted to the floor, high window covered by a grille, institutional green paint on the walls, and that unforgettable smell of fear.
There was nothing to worry about, of course, but Banks couldn’t help feeling just a little nervous as DI Hart put on her silver-rimmed oval reading glasses and shuffled the papers around in front of her, as he had done many times himself, to draw out the tension and cause anxiety in the person sitting opposite. It touched the raw nerve of his childhood fear of authority, even though he knew he was authority himself, now. Banks had always been aware of that irony, but a situation like this one really brought it home.
He also felt that DI Hart didn’t need to act this way with him, that she was putting on too much of a show. His fault, perhaps, for not saying who he was, but even so, it was a bit heavy-handed to talk to him in an official interview room. He had come in voluntarily, and he was neither a witness nor a suspect. She could have found an empty office and sent for coffee. But what would he have done? The same, probably; it was the “us and them” mentality, and in her mind he was a civilian. Them.
DI Hart stopped playing with her papers and broke the silence. “So you say you can help with the Graham Marshall investigation?”
“Perhaps,” said Banks. “I knew him.”
“Have you any idea at all what might have happened to him?”
“I’m afraid not,” said Banks. He had intended to tell her everything but found it wasn’t as easy as that. Not yet. “We just hung around together.”
“What was he like?”
“Graham? It’s hard to say,” said Banks. “I mean, you don’t think about things like that when you’re kids, do you?”
“He was deep, I think. Quiet, at any rate. Most kids joked around, did stupid stuff, but Graham was always more serious, more reserved.” Banks remembered the small, almost secret smile as Graham had watched others act out comic routines – as if he didn’t find them funny but knew he had to smile. “You never felt you were fully privy to what was going on in his mind,” he added.
“You mean he kept secrets?”
“Don’t we all?”
“What were his?”
“They wouldn’t have been secrets if I knew them, would they? I’m just trying to give you some sense of what he was like. There was a secretive side to his nature.”
She was becoming edgy, Banks thought. Rough day, probably, and not enough help. “We did all the usual stuff together: played football and cricket, listened to music, talked about our favorite TV shows.”
“What about girlfriends?”
“Graham was a good-looking kid. The girls liked him, and he liked them, but I don’t think he had anyone steady.”
“What kind of mischief did he get up to?”
“Well, I wouldn’t want to incriminate myself, but we broke a window or two, did a bit of shoplifting, played truant, and we smoked cigarettes behind the cycle sheds at school. Pretty much normal stuff for teenagers back then. We didn’t break into anyone’s home, steal cars or mug old ladies.”
“This was 1965, for crying out loud.”
“Drugs were around back then.”
“How would you know? You probably weren’t even born.”
Michelle reddened. “I know King Harold got an arrow in his eye at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, and I wasn’t born then.”
“Okay. Point taken. But drugs…? Not us, at any rate. Cigarettes were about the worst we did back then. Drugs may have been increasingly popular with the younger generation in London, but not with fourteen-year-old kids in a provincial backwater. Look, I should probably have done this before, but…” He reached into his inside pocket and took out his warrant card, laying it on the desk in front of her.
Michelle looked at it a minute, picked it up and looked more closely, then slid it back across the desk to Banks. She took off her reading glasses and set them on the table. “Prick,” she whispered.
“You heard me. Why didn’t you tell me from the start you were a DCI instead of playing games and stringing me along, making me feel like a complete fool?”
“Because I didn’t want to give the impression I was trying to interfere. I’m simply here as someone who knew Graham. Besides, why did you have to come on so heavy-handed? I came here to volunteer information. There was no need to put me in an interview room and use the same tactics you use on a suspect. I’m surprised you didn’t leave me here alone to stew for an hour.”
“You’re making me wish I had.”
They glared at each other in silence for a few moments, then Banks said, “Look, I’m sorry. I had no intention of making you feel foolish. And you don’t need to. Why should you? It’s true that I knew Graham. We were close friends at school. We lived on the same street. But this isn’t my case, and I don’t want you to think I’m pushing my nose in or anything. That’s why I didn’t announce myself at first. I’m sorry. You’re right. I should have told you I was on the Job right from the start. Okay?”
Michelle gazed at him through narrowed eyes for a while, then twitched the corners of her lips in a brief smile and nodded. “Your name came up when I was talking to his parents. I would have got in touch eventually.”
“The powers that be not exactly overwhelming you with assistance on this one, then?”
Michelle snorted. “You could say that. One DC. It’s not a high priority case, and I’m the new kid on the block. New girl.”
“I know what you mean,” Banks said. He remembered first meeting Annie Cabbot when she was put out to pasture at Harkside and he was in Outer Siberia back in Eastvale. That hadn’t been a high priority case to start with, either, but it had turned into one. He could sympathize with DI Hart.
“Anyway,” she went on, “I didn’t know you were a copper. I suppose I should call you ‘sir’? Rank and all?”
“Not necessary. I’m not one to stand on ceremony. Besides, I’m on your patch here. You’re the boss. I do have a suggestion, though.”
Banks looked at his watch. “It’s one o’clock. I drove down from Eastvale this morning without stopping and I haven’t had a thing to eat. Why don’t we get out of this depressing room and talk about Graham over lunch? I’ll pay.”
Michelle raised on eyebrow. “You asking me out to lunch?”
“To discuss the case. Over lunch. Yes. Dammit, I’m hungry. Know any decent pubs around here?”
She gazed at him again, apparently appraising him for any imminent risk he might pose to her. When she couldn’t seem to think of anything, she said, “Okay. I know a place. Come on. But I’m paying my own way.”
What a stupid bloody decision it had been to take to the high ground, Annie Cabbot thought as she trudged illegally up the footpath, trying to avoid the little clusters of sheep droppings that seemed to be everywhere, and failing as often as not. Her legs ached and she was panting with effort, even though she thought of herself as pretty fit.
She wasn’t dressed for a walk in the country, either. Knowing she was visiting the Armitages again that morning, she had dressed in a skirt and blouse. She was even wearing tights. Not to mention the navy pumps that were crippling her. It was a hot day, and she could feel the sweat trickling along every available channel. Stray tresses of hair stuck to her cheeks and forehead.
As she climbed, she kept glancing behind at the shepherd’s shelter, but nobody approached it. She could only hope that she hadn’t been spotted, that the kidnapper, if that was what this was all about, wasn’t watching her through binoculars from a comfortable distance.
She found a spot she thought would do. It was a gentle dip in the daleside a few yards off the footpath. From there she could lie on her stomach and keep a close eye on the shelter without being seen from below.
Annie felt the warm, damp grass against her body, smelled its sweetness as she lay flat on her stomach, binoculars in hand. It felt good, and she wanted to take off all her clothes, feel the sun and earth on her bare skin, but she told herself not to be such a bloody fool and get on with the job. She compromised by taking off her jacket. The sun beat down on the back of her head and her shoulders. She had no suntan lotion with her, so she put the jacket over the back of her neck, even though it felt too hot. Better than getting sunstroke.
When she had got settled, there she lay. Waiting. Watching. Thoughts drifted through her head the way they did when she settled down to meditation, and she tried to practice the same technique of letting them go without dwelling on them. It started as a sort of free association, then went way beyond: sunlight; warmth; skin; pigment; her father; Banks; music; Luke Armitage’s black room; dead singers; secrets; kidnapping; murder.
Flies buzzed around her, snapping her out of the chain of association. She waved them away. At one point, she felt a beetle or some insect creeping down the front of her bra and almost panicked, but she managed to get it off her before it got too far. A couple of curious rabbits approached, twitched their noses and turned away. Annie wondered if she would end up in Wonderland if she followed one.
She took long, deep breaths of grass-scented air. Time passed. An hour. Two. Three. Still nobody came to pick up the briefcase. Of course, the shepherd’s shelter was off-limits because of foot-and-mouth, as was all open countryside, but that hadn’t stopped Martin Armitage, and she was certain it wouldn’t stop the kidnapper, either. In fact, it was probably why the place had been chosen: little chance of anyone passing by. Most people in the area were law-abiding when it came to the restrictions, because they knew how much was at stake, and the tourists were staying away, taking their holidays abroad or in the cities instead. Normally, Annie obeyed the signs, too, but this was an emergency, and she knew she hadn’t been anywhere near an infected area in weeks.
She wished she had something to eat and drink. It was long past lunchtime now, and she was starving. The heat was also making her thirsty. And there was something else, she realized, a more pressing urge: she needed to go to the toilet.
Well, she thought, looking around and seeing nothing but sheep in every direction, there’s a simple remedy for that. She moved a few yards away from her flattened spot on the ground, checked for nettles and thistles, then took off her tights, squatted and peed. At least a woman could do that during surveillance in the countryside, Annie thought with a smile. It was a bit different if you were sitting cooped up in your car on a city street, as she had found out more than once in the past. Before she had finished, two low-flying jets from a nearby U.S. airbase screamed over, seeming no more than twenty feet or so from her head. She wondered if the pilots had got a good view. She gave them the finger, the way Americans did.
Back on her stomach, she tried her mobile again on the off chance that it might just have been local interference before, but still no luck. The moor was a dead zone.
How long should she wait? she wondered. And why hadn’t he come? The money was just lying there. What if he didn’t come before nightfall and the lovers returned, more important things than foot-and-mouth on their minds? Several thousand quid as well as a quick bonk would be an unexpected bonus for them.
Her stomach rumbling, tongue dry against the roof of her mouth, Annie picked up the binoculars again and trained them on the shelter.
Michelle drove Banks to a pub she knew near the A1, wondering more than once on the way why she was doing this. But she knew the answer. She was bored with routine, bored first with tracking down the paperwork, and then bored with reading through it. She needed to get out, blow the cobwebs away, and this was the opportunity to do that and work as well.
She also had to admit that she was intrigued to meet someone who had been a friend of Graham Marshall’s, especially as this Banks, despite a touch of gray in his closely cropped black hair, didn’t look old enough. He was slim, perhaps stood three or four inches taller than her five foot five, had an angular face with lively blue eyes, and a tan. He showed no great clothes sense but was dressed in basic Marks amp; Sparks casuals – light sports jacket, gray chinos, blue denim shirt unbuttoned at the collar – and the look suited him. Some men his age only looked good in a business suit, Michelle thought. Anything else made them the male version of mutton dressed up as lamb. But on some older men casual looked natural. It did on Banks.
“Is it to be DI Hart, then?” Banks asked.
Michelle glanced sideways at him. “I suppose you can call me Michelle, if you want.”
“Michelle it is, then. Nice name.”
Was he flirting? “Come off it,” Michelle said.
“No, seriously. I mean it. No need to blush.”
Angry at herself for letting her embarrassment show, Michelle said, “Just as long as you don’t start singing the old Beatles song.”
“I never sing to a woman I’ve just met. Besides, I imagine you must have heard it many times.”
Michelle graced him with a smile. “Too numerous to mention.”
The pub had parking at the back and a big freshly mown lawn with white tables and chairs where they could sit out in the sun. A couple of families were already there, settled in for the afternoon by the look of it, kids running around and playing on the swings and slide the pub provided in a small playground, but Michelle and Banks managed to find a quiet enough spot at the far end near the trees. Michelle watched the children play as Banks went inside to get the drinks. One of them was about six or seven, head covered in lovely golden curls, laughing unself-consciously as she went higher on the swings. Melissa. Michelle felt as if her heart were breaking up inside her chest as she watched. It was a relief when Banks came back with a pint for himself and a shandy for her, and set two menus down on the table.
“What’s up?” he asked. “You look as if you’ve seen a ghost.”
“Maybe I have,” she said. “Cheers.” They clinked glasses. Banks was diplomatic, she noted, curious about her mood, but sensitive and considerate enough to leave well enough alone and pretend to be studying the menu. Michelle liked that. She wasn’t very hungry, but she ordered a prawn sandwich just to avoid being questioned about her lack of appetite. If truth be told, her stomach still felt sour from last night’s wine. Banks was obviously ravenous, as he ordered a huge Yorkshire pudding filled with sausages and gravy.
When their orders were in, they sat back in their chairs and relaxed. They were in the shade of a beech tree, where it was still warm, but out of the direct sunlight. Banks drank some beer and lit a cigarette. He looked in good shape, Michelle thought, for someone who smoked, drank and ate huge Yorkshire puddings and sausages. But how long would that last? If he really was Graham Marshall’s contemporary, he’d be around fifty now, and wasn’t that the age that men started worrying about their arteries and blood pressure, not to mention the prostate? Still, who was she to judge? True, she didn’t smoke, but she drank too much and ate far too much junk food.
“So what else can you tell me about Graham Marshall?” she asked.
Banks drew on his cigarette and let the smoke out slowly. He seemed to be enjoying it, Michelle thought, or was it a strategy he used to gain the upper hand in interviews? They all had some sort of strategy, even Michelle, though she would have been hard-pushed to define what it was. She thought herself quite direct. Finally, he answered, “We were friends at school, and out of it, too. He lived a few doors down the street, and for the year I knew him there was a small gang of us who were pretty much inseparable.”
“David Grenfell, Paul Major, Steven Hill and you. I’ve only had time to track down and speak to David and Paul on the phone so far, though neither of them was able to tell me very much. Go on.”
“I haven’t seen any of them since I left for London when I was eighteen.”
“You only knew Graham for a year?”
“Yes. He was a new kid in our class the September before he disappeared, so it wasn’t quite a full year even. His family had moved up from London that July or August, the way quite a lot of people were already doing then. This was before the huge influx; that came later in the sixties and the early seventies, the new town expansion. You probably weren’t around then.”
“I certainly wasn’t here.”
“Where, if you don’t mind my asking?”
“I grew up in Hawick, border country. Spent most of my early police career with Greater Manchester, and since then I’ve been on the move. I’ve only been here a couple of months. Go on with your story.”
“That explains the accent.” Banks paused to sip beer and smoke again. “I grew up here, a provincial kid. ‘Where my childhood was unspent.’ Graham seemed, I don’t know, sort of cool, exotic, different. He was from London, and that was where it was all happening. When you grow up in the provinces, you feel everything’s passing you by, happening somewhere else, and London was one of those ‘in’ places back then, like San Francisco.”
“What do you mean by ‘cool’?”
Banks scratched the scar beside his right eye. Michelle wondered how he’d got it. “I don’t know. Not much fazed him. He never showed much emotion or reaction, and he seemed sort of worldly-wise beyond his years. Don’t get me wrong, though; Graham had his enthusiasms. He knew a lot about pop music, obscure B-sides and all that. He played guitar quite well. He was crazy about science fiction. And he had a Beatle haircut. My mother wouldn’t let me have one. Short back and sides all the way.”
“But he was cool?”
“Yes. I don’t know how to define the quality, really. How do you?”
“I think I know what you mean. I had a girlfriend like that. She was just like… oh, I don’t know… someone who made you feel awkward, someone you wanted to emulate, perhaps. I’m not sure I can define it any more clearly.”
“No. Just cool, before it was even cool to be cool.”
“His mother said something about bullying.”
“Oh, that was just after he arrived. Mick Slack, the school bully. He had to try it on with everybody. Graham wasn’t much of a fighter, but he didn’t give up, and Slack never went near him again. Neither did anybody else. It was the only time I ever saw him fight.”
“I know it’s hard to remember that far back,” said Michelle, “but did you notice anything different about him toward the end?”
“No. He seemed much the same as always.”
“He went on holiday with you shortly before he disappeared, so his mother told me.”
“Yes. His parents couldn’t go that year, so they let him come with us. It’s good to have someone your own age to hang about with when you’re away for a couple of weeks. It could get awfully boring with just parents and a younger brother.”
Michelle smiled. “Younger sister, too. When did you last see Graham?”
“Just the day before he disappeared. Saturday.”
“What did you do?”
Banks gazed away into the trees before answering. “Do? What we usually did on Saturdays. In the morning we went to the Palace, to the matinee. Flash Gordon or Hopalong Cassidy, a Three Stooges short.”
“And the afternoon?”
“In town. There was an electrical shop on Bridge Street that used to sell records. Long gone now. Three or four of us would sometimes crowd into one of those booths and smoke ourselves silly listening to the latest singles.”
“And that night?”
“Don’t remember. I think I just stayed in watching TV. Saturday nights were good. Juke Box Jury, Doctor Who, Dixon of Dock Green. Then there was The Avengers, but I don’t think it was on that summer. I don’t remember it, anyway.”
“Anything odd about the day at all? About Graham?”
“You know, for the life of me I can’t remember anything unusual. I’m thinking perhaps I didn’t know him very well, after all.”
Michelle was getting the strong impression that Banks did know something, that he was holding back. She didn’t know why, but she was certain that was the case.
“Number twelve?” A young girl carrying two plates wandered into the garden.
Banks glanced at the number the bartender had given him. “Over here,” he said.
She delivered the plates. Michelle gazed at her prawn sandwich, wondering if she’d be able to finish it. Banks tucked into his Yorkshire pudding and sausages for a while, then said, “I used to do Graham’s paper round before him, before the shop changed owners. It used to be Thackeray’s until old man Thackeray got TB and let the business run into the ground. That’s when Bradford bought the shop and built it up again.”
“But you didn’t go back?”
“No. I’d got an after-school job at the mushroom farm down past the allotments. Filthy work, but it paid well, at least for back then.”
“Ever have any trouble on the paper round?”
“No. I was thinking about that on my way here, among other things.”
“No strangers ever invited you inside or anything?”
“There was one bloke who always seemed a bit weird at the time, though he was probably harmless.”
“Oh?” Michelle took out her notebook, prawn sandwich still untouched on the plate in front of her, now arousing the interest of a passing bluebottle.
Banks swatted the fly away. “Better eat it soon,” he said.
“Who was this bloke you were talking about?”
“I can’t remember the number, but it was near the end of Hazel Crescent, before you crossed Wilmer Road. Thing was, he was about the only one ever awake at that time, and I got the impression he hadn’t even gone to bed. He’d open the door in his pajamas and ask me to come in for a smoke or drink or whatever, but I always said no.”
Banks shrugged. “Dunno. Instinct. Something about him. A smell, I don’t know. Sometimes when you’re a kid you’ve got a sort of sixth sense for danger. If you’re lucky, it stays with you. Anyway, I’d already been well trained not to accept sweets from strange men, so I wasn’t going to accept anything else, either.”
“Harry Chatham,” Michelle said.
“That’ll be Harry Chatham. Body odor, one of his characteristics.”
“You have done your homework.”
“He came under suspicion at the time, but he was eventually ruled out. You were right to stay away. He did have a history of exposing himself to young boys. Never went further than that, though.”
“They were sure?”
Michelle nodded. “He was on holiday in Great Yarmouth. Didn’t get back until that Sunday night. Plenty of witnesses. Jet Harris gave him the third degree, I should imagine.”
Banks smiled. “Jet Harris. Haven’t heard his name in years. You know, when I was a kid growing up around there, it was always, ‘Better keep your nose clean or Jet Harris will get you and lock you up.’ We were terrified of him, though none of us had ever met him.”
Michelle laughed. “It’s still pretty much the same today,” she said.
“Surely he must be dead by now?”
“Eight years ago. But the legend lingers on.” She picked up her sandwich and took a bite. It was good. She realized she was hungry after all and had soon devoured the first half. “Was there anything else?” Michelle asked.
She noticed Banks hesitate again. He had finished his Yorkshire pudding, and he reached for another cigarette. A temporary postponement. Funny, she’d seen the signs before in criminals she’d interviewed. This man definitely had something on his conscience, and he was debating whether to tell her or not. Michelle sensed that she couldn’t hurry matters by pushing him, so she let him put the cigarette in his mouth and fiddle with his lighter for a few moments. And she waited.
Annie wished she hadn’t given up smoking. At least it would have been something to do as she lay on her belly in the wet grass keeping an eye on the distant shepherd’s shelter. She glanced at her watch and realized she had been lying there over four hours and nobody had come for the money.
Under her clothes, and the jacket protecting the back of her neck, Annie felt bathed in sweat. All she wanted to do was walk under a nice cool shower and luxuriate there for half an hour. But if she left her spot, what would happen? On the other hand, what would happen if she stayed there?
The kidnapper might turn up, but would Annie go running down the daleside to make an arrest? No, because Luke Armitage certainly wouldn’t be with him. Would she have time to get to her car in Mortsett and follow whoever picked up the money? Possibly, but she would have a much better chance if she were already in the car.
In the end, Annie decided that she should go back down to Mortsett, still keeping an eye on the shelter, and keep trying until she found someone home with a telephone, then sit in her car and watch from there until relief came from East-vale. She felt her bones ache as she stood up and brushed the loose grass from her blouse.
It was a plan, and it beat lying around up here melting in the sun.
Now that it was time to confess, Banks was finding it more difficult than he had imagined. He knew he was stalling, playing for time, when what he should do was just come right out with it, but his mouth felt dry, and the words stuck in his throat. He sipped some beer. It didn’t help much. Sweat tickled the back of his neck and ran down his spine.
“We were playing down by the river,” he said, “not far from the city center. It wasn’t developed quite as much as it is today, so it was a pretty desolate stretch of water.”
“Who was playing with you?”
“Just Paul and Steve.”
“It was nothing, really,” Banks said, embarrassed at how slight the events that had haunted him for years now seemed on this bright afternoon sitting under a beech tree with an attractive woman. But there was no backing out now. “We were throwing stones in the water, skimming, that sort of thing. Then we moved down the riverbank a bit and found some bigger stones and bricks. We started chucking those in to make a big splash. At least I did. Steve and Paul were a bit farther down. Anyway, I was holding this big rock to my chest with both hands – it took all my strength – when I noticed this tall, scruffy sort of bloke walking along the riverbank toward me.”
“What did you do?”
“Held on to it,” said Banks. “So I didn’t splash him. Always the polite little bugger, I was. I remember smiling as he got nearer, you know, showing him I was holding off dropping the rock until he was out of range.” Banks paused and drew on his cigarette. “Next thing I knew,” he went on, “he’d grabbed hold of me from behind and I’d dropped the rock and splashed us both.”
“What happened? What did he do?”
“We struggled. I thought he was trying to push me in, but I managed to dig in my heels. I might not have been very big, but I was wiry and strong. I think my resistance surprised him. I remember smelling his sweat and I think he’d been drinking. Beer. I remembered smelling it on my father’s breath when he came back from the pub sometimes.”
Michelle took her notebook out. “Can you give me a description?”
“He had a ragged dark beard. His hair was greasy and long, longer than usual back then. It was black. Like Rasputin. And he wore one of those army greatcoats. I remember thinking when I saw him coming that he must be hot in such a heavy overcoat.”
“When was this?”
“Late June. It was a nice day, sort of like today.”
“So what happened?”
“He tried to drag me away, toward the bushes, but I managed to squirm out of his grasp, one arm at any rate, and he swung me around, swore at me and punched me in the face. The momentum broke me loose, so I ran.”
“Where were your friends?”
“Back up by the road by then. A good hundred yards away. Watching.”
“Didn’t they help you?”
“They were scared.”
“They didn’t call the police?”
“It all happened so fast. When I got free, I ran off and joined them and we never looked back. We decided not to say anything to our parents because we weren’t supposed to be playing down by the river in the first place, and we were supposed to be at school. We thought we’d get into trouble.”
“I can imagine you did. What did your parents say about your face?”
“They weren’t too pleased. I told them I’d got into a bit of a scrap at school. All in all, I suppose it was a lucky escape. I tried to put it out of my mind, but…”
“Off and on. There’s been lengthy periods of my life when I haven’t thought of it at all.”
“Why do you see a connection with what happened to Graham?”
“It seemed too much of a coincidence, that’s all,” said Banks. “First this pervert trying to push me in the river, dragging me into the bushes, then Graham disappearing like that.”
“Well,” said Michelle, finishing her drink and closing her notebook, “I’d better go and see if I can find any trace of your mystery man, hadn’t I?”
Showered and dressed in crisp, clean clothes, Annie presented herself at Detective Superintendent Gristhorpe’s office that afternoon, as requested. There was something austere and headmasterly about the room that always intimidated her. Partly, it had to do with the tall bookcases, mostly filled with legal and forensics texts, but dotted here and there with classics such as Bleak House and Anna Karenina, books Annie had never read, books that mocked her with their oft-mentioned titles and their thickness. And partly it was Gristhorpe’s appearance: big, bulky, red-faced, unruly-haired, hook-nosed, pockmarked. Today he wore gray flannel trousers and a tweed jacket with elbow patches. He looked as if he ought to be smoking a pipe, but Annie knew he didn’t smoke.
“Right,” said Gristhorpe after he had asked her to sit down. “Now, tell me what the hell’s going on out Mortsett way.”
Annie felt herself flush. “It was a judgment call, sir.”
Gristhorpe waved his large hairy hand. “I’m not questioning your judgment. I want to know what you think is happening.”
Annie relaxed a little and crossed her legs. “I think Luke Armitage has been kidnapped, sir. Someone communicated a ransom demand to the family last night, and Martin Armitage rang me to cancel the search for Luke.”
“But you didn’t?”
“No, sir. Something wasn’t right. In my opinion, Luke Armitage wasn’t to be considered ‘found’ until I’d seen him with my own eyes and talked to him.”
“Fair enough. What happened next?”
“As you know, sir, I went out to see the family again this morning. I got the distinct impression they didn’t want me there, that something was going on.” Annie explained about following Martin Armitage to the drop and being stuck up the hillside watching the shelter by herself for hours, until she went back down to the village and finally found someone at home with a telephone.
“Do you think he saw you? The kidnapper.”
“It’s possible,” Annie admitted. “If he was hiding somewhere nearby and watching through binoculars. It’s open country up there. But it’s my impression that he’ll either wait until nightfall-”
“And risk leaving the money out there all day?”
“It’s off the beaten track. And most people follow the government regulations.”
“You said ‘either.’ To me, that implies an ‘or.’ I interrupted you. Go on. What else do you think might have happened?”
“Maybe something has gone wrong, something we don’t know about.”
Annie swallowed and looked away. “Like Luke’s dead, sir. It happens sometimes with kidnappings. He tried to escape, struggled too hard…”
“But the kidnapper can still collect. Remember, the Armitages can’t possibly know their son’s dead, if he is, and the money’s just sitting there for the taking. If you weren’t seen, then only Martin Armitage and the kidnapper know it’s there.”
“That’s what puzzles me, sir. The money. Obviously a kidnapper who makes a ransom demand is in it for the money, whether the victim lives or dies. Maybe he’s just being unduly cautious, waiting for dark, as I suggested earlier.”
“Possibly.” Gristhorpe looked at his watch. “Who’s up there now?”
“DC Templeton, sir.”
“Organize a surveillance rota. I’ll ask for permission to plant an electronic tracking device in the briefcase. Someone can put it there under cover of darkness, if the damn thing hasn’t been picked up before then.” Gristhorpe grunted. “Might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb. ACC McLaughlin will have my guts for garters.”
“You could always blame me, sir.”
“Aye, you’d like that, wouldn’t you, Annie, a chance to get bolshie with the bigwigs?”
“It’s all right, lass. I’m only teasing you. Haven’t you learned Yorkshire ways yet?”
“Sometimes I despair that I ever will.”
“Give it a few more years. Anyway, that’s my job. I can handle the brass.”
“What about the Armitages, sir?”
“I think you’d better pay them another visit, don’t you?”
“But what if their place is being watched?”
“The kidnapper doesn’t know you.” Gristhorpe smiled. “And it’s not as if you look like a plainclothes copper, Annie.”
“And I thought I’d put on my conservative best.”
“All you have to do is wear those red boots again. Are their telephone calls still being intercepted?”
“Then how the devil…?”
“The same thing puzzled me. Martin Armitage said the call from Luke came through on his mobile, so I’m assuming it was the kidnapper’s call he was talking about.”
“But why wouldn’t he just use the regular land line?”
“Armitage said he and Robin were supposed to go out to dinner that night, so Luke didn’t think they’d be home.”
“He believed they would still go out to dinner, even after he’d disappeared? And he told his kidnapper this?”
“I know it sounds odd, sir. And in my judgment, Martin Armitage is the last person Luke would call.”
“Ah, I see. Signs of family tension?”
“All under the surface, but definitely there, I’d say. Luke’s very much his mother’s son, and his biological father’s, perhaps. He’s creative, artistic, a loner, a dreamer. Martin Armitage is a man of action, a sportsman, bit of a macho tough guy.”
“Go carefully, then, Annie. You don’t want to disturb a nest of vipers.”
“There might be no choice if I want honest answers to my questions.”
“Then tread softly and carry a big stick.”
“I’ll do that.”
“And don’t give up on the kid. It’s early days yet.”
“Yes, sir,” Annie said, though she wasn’t at all certain about that.
The old street looked much the same as it had when Banks lived there with his parents between 1962 and 1969 – from “Love Me Do” to Woodstock – except that everything – the brickwork, the doors, the slate roofs – was just that little bit shabbier, and small satellite dishes had replaced the forest of old television aerials on just about all the houses, including his parents’. That made sense. He couldn’t imagine his father living without Sky Sports.
Back in the early sixties, the estate was new, and Banks’s mother had been thrilled to move from their little back-to-back terrace house with the outside toilet to the new house with “all mod cons,” as they used to say. As far as Banks was concerned, the best “mod cons” were the indoor WC, a real bathroom to replace the tin tub they had had to fill from a kettle every Friday, and a room of his own. In the old house, he had shared with his brother Roy, five years younger, and like all siblings, they fought more than anything else.
The house stood near the western edge of the estate, close to the arterial road, across from an abandoned factory and a row of shops, including the newsagent’s. Banks paused for a moment and took in the weathered terraced houses – rows of five, each with a little garden, wooden gate, low wall and privet hedge. Some people had made small improvements, he noticed, and one house had an enclosed porch. The owners must have bought the place when the Conservatives sold off council houses for peanuts in the eighties. Maybe there was even a conservatory around the back, Banks thought, though it would be folly to add an extension made almost entirely of glass on an estate like this.
A knot of kids stood smoking and shoving one another in the middle of the street, some Asian, some white, clocking Banks out of the corners of their eyes. Locals were always suspicious of newcomers, and the kids had no idea who he was, that he had grown up here, too. Some of them were wearing low-slung baggy jeans and hoodies. Mangy dogs wandered up and down the street, barking at everything and nothing, shitting on the pavements, and loud rock music blasted out of an open window several houses east.
Banks opened the gate. He noticed that his mother had planted some colorful flowers and kept the small patch of lawn neatly trimmed. This was the only garden she had ever had, and she always had been proud of her little patch of earth. He walked up the flagstone path and knocked at the door. He saw his mother approach through the frosted glass pane. She opened the door, rubbed her hands together as if drying them, and gave him a hug. “Alan,” she said. “Lovely to see you. Come on in.”
Banks dropped his overnight bag in the hall and followed his mother through to the living room. The wallpaper was a sort of wispy autumn-leaves pattern, the three-piece suite a matching brown velveteen, and there was a sentimental autumnal landscape hanging over the electric fire. He didn’t remember this theme from his previous visit, about a year ago, but he couldn’t be certain that it hadn’t been there, either. So much for the observant detective and the dutiful son.
His father was sitting in his usual armchair, the one with the best straight-on view of the television. He didn’t get up, only grunted, “Son. How you doing?”
“Not bad, Dad. You?”
“Mustn’t complain.” Arthur Banks had been suffering from mild angina and an assortment of less specified chronic illnesses for years, ever since he’d been made redundant from the sheet-metal factory, and they seemed to get neither better nor worse as the years went on. He took pills occasionally for the chest pains. Other than that, and the damage booze and fags had wreaked on his liver and lungs over the years, he had always been fit as a fiddle. Short, skinny and hollow-chested, he still had a head of thick dark hair with hardly a trace of gray. He wore it slicked back with lashings of Brylcreem.
Banks’s mother, plump and nervy, with pouchy chipmunk cheeks and a haze of blue-gray hair hovering around her skull, fussed about how thin Banks was looking. “I don’t suppose you’ve been eating properly since Sandra left, have you?” she said.
“You know how it is,” said Banks. “I manage to gulp down the occasional Big Mac and fries now and then, if I’ve got time to spare.”
“Don’t be cheeky. Besides, you need proper food. In for tea?”
“I suppose so,” Banks said. He hadn’t thought about what he was going to do once he actually got home. If truth be told, he had imagined that the local police – in the lovely form of DI Michelle Hart – would find his offer of help invaluable and give him an office at Thorpe Wood. But that clearly was not to be. Fair enough, he thought; it’s her case, after all. “I’ll just take my bag up,” he said, heading for the stairs.
Though Banks hadn’t stayed overnight since he had first left for London, somehow he knew that his room would be just as it always had been. And he was right. Almost. It was the same wardrobe, the same small bookcase, the same narrow bed he had slept in as a teenager, sneaking his transistor radio under the covers to listen to Radio Luxembourg, or reading a book by the light of a flashlight. The only thing different was the wallpaper. Gone were the sports-car images of his adolescence, replaced by pink and green stripes. He stood on the threshold for a few moments allowing it all to flow back, allowing the emotion that he felt nudging at the boundaries of his consciousness. It wasn’t quite nostalgia, nor was it loss, but something in between.
The view hadn’t changed. Banks’s bedroom was the only one at the back of the house, next to the WC and bathroom, and it looked out over backyards and an alleyway, beyond which an empty field stretched a hundred yards or so to the next estate. People walked their dogs there, and sometimes the local kids gathered at night.
Banks used to do that, he remembered, with Dave, Paul, Steve and Graham, sharing Woodbines and Park Drives or, if Graham was flush, those long American tipped cigarettes, Peter Stuyvesants or Pall Malls. Later, after Graham had disappeared, Banks had sometimes been there with girlfriends. The field wasn’t square and there was a little dogleg on the other side where, if you were careful, you couldn’t be seen from the houses. He remembered well enough those long, raw-lipped snogging sessions, pushed up against the rusty corrugated iron fencing, the fervid struggles with bra hooks, safety pins or whatever other contrivances the local girls so inconsiderately used to keep themselves fastened up.
Banks dropped his bag at the bottom of the bed and stretched. It had been a long drive, and the time spent in the pub garden, the pint he had drunk with DI Hart, all conspired to make him feel tired. He thought of taking a brief nap before tea but decided it would be rude; he could at least go down and talk to his parents, as he hadn’t been in touch for so long.
First, he unpacked his shirt to hang up in the wardrobe before the creases became too permanent. The other clothes in the wardrobe were unfamiliar, but Banks noticed several cardboard boxes on the floor. He pulled one out and was stunned when he saw it contained his old records: singles, as those were all he could afford back then, when they cost 6/4 and an LP cost 32/6. Of course, he got LPs for Christmas and birthdays, often with record tokens, but they were mostly Beatles and Rolling Stones, and he had taken those to London with him.
The records here represented the beginnings of his musical interests. When he left, he had soon gone on to Cream, Hendrix and Jefferson Airplane, then later discovered jazz and, later still, classical, but these… Banks dipped his hand in and lifted out a stack, flipping through them. Here they were in all their glory: Dusty Springfield’s “Goin’ Back,” The Shadows’ “The Rise amp; Fall of Flingel Bunt,” Cilla Black’s “Anyone Who Had a Heart” and “Alfie,” “Nut Rocker” by B. Bumble and the Stingers, Sandie Shaw’s “Always Something There to Remind Me,” “House of the Rising Sun” by the Animals and “As Tears Go By” by Marianne Faithfull. There were many more, some he had forgotten, and a few really obscure artists, such as Ral Donner and Kenny Lynch, and cover versions of Del Shannon and Roy Orbison hits made by unnamed performers for Woolworth’s cheap Embassy label. What a treasure trove of nostalgia, all the stuff he listened to between the ages of about eleven and sixteen. His old record player was long gone, but his parents had a stereo downstairs, so perhaps he would play a few of the old songs while he was home.
For the moment, he put back the box and pulled out another one, this one full mostly of old toys. There were model airplanes – Spitfires, Wellingtons, Junkers and a Messerschmitt with a broken wing – a couple of Dinky Toys, a Dan Dare Rocket Gun, and a small clockwork Dalek that said “Ex-ter-min-ate! Ex-ter-min-ate!” as it rolled along like an upturned dustbin. There were a few old annuals, too – The Saint, Danger Man and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. – along with what had once been his pride and joy, a pocket-size Philips transistor radio. Maybe if he put in some new batteries, he could even get it working.
The third box he opened was full of old school reports, magazines, letters and exercise books. He had sometimes wondered over the years what had happened to all this stuff and assumed, if anything, that his parents had chucked it out when they figured he wouldn’t need it anymore. Not so. It had been hiding away in the wardrobe all this time. There they were: Beatles Monthly, Fabulous, Record Song Book and The Radio Luxembourg Book of Record Stars.
Banks pulled out a handful of the small notebooks and found they were his old diaries. Some were plain Letts’ diaries, with a little slot for a pencil down the spine, and some were special-themed, illustrated ones, such as pop star, television or sports diaries. The one that was of most immediate interest to him, though, was a Photoplay diary with a stiff, laminated cover and a color photo of Sean Connery and Honor Blackman from 1964’s Bond film, Goldfinger, on the front. Inside, a photo of a different film star faced each page of dates. The first was Brigitte Bardot, for the week starting Sunday, December 27, 1964, the first full week of his diary for 1965, the year Graham disappeared.
Michelle took off her reading glasses and rubbed the bridge of her nose, where she sensed a headache beginning to form between her eyes. She suffered from headaches frequently these days, and while her doctor assured her there was nothing seriously wrong – no brain tumor or neurological disease – and her psychiatrist told her that it was probably just stress and “coping,” she couldn’t help but worry.
The air quality in the archives office didn’t help either. Instead of signing the heavier boxes out and carrying them up to her office, Michelle had decided she might as well look through the material down there. The reading room was just a glassed-in alcove with a desk and chair. It stood at the entrance to several parallel aisles of old papers, some of which went back to the late-nineteenth century. If the environment had been a little more comfortable, she might have considered having a browse around the archives. There was bound to be some fascinating stuff.
For the moment, 1965 would have to do. Michelle wanted to get a general idea of the crimes occurring around the time of Graham’s disappearance, to see if she could come up with any links to Banks’s mysterious stranger, and Mrs. Metcalfe had directed her to the logbooks that indexed and recorded all complaints and actions taken, day by day. It made for interesting reading, most of it not relevant to what she was looking for. Many of the calls listed went no further – missing pets, some domestic complaints – but the lists gave her a good impression of what daily life must have been like for a copper back then.
In May, for example, a man had been arrested in connection with an assault on a fourteen-year-old girl, who had accepted a lift with him near the A1, but he bore no resemblance whatsoever to Banks’s description of the man by the river. Also in May there had been a major jewelry robbery at a city center shop, netting the thieves eighteen thousand pounds. In June, a number of youths had gone on the rampage and slashed tires on about thirty cars in the city center; in the same month, a twenty-one-year-old man had been stabbed outside The Rose and Crown, on Bridge Street, after an argument over a girl. In August, two alleged homosexuals had been questioned in connection with lewd goings-on at the country mansion of a local bigwig, Rupert Mandeville, but the anonymous informant couldn’t be located, and all charges had later been dismissed for lack of evidence. Hard to believe that it was a crime to be gay, Michelle thought, but 1965 was back in the Dark Ages, before homosexuality had been legalized in 1967.
There were certainly plenty of incidents before and after Graham Marshall’s disappearance, Michelle was fast discovering, but none of them seemed to have anything remotely to do with Banks’s riverbank adventure. She read on. In July, police had investigated complaints about a local protection racket modeled on the East London Kray gang operation, allegedly led by a man called Carlo Fiorino, but no charges were brought.
The more she read, the more Michelle realized what a vast chasm yawned between 1965 and today. She had, in fact, been born in 1961, but she was damned if she was going to admit that to Banks. Her own teenage years had been spent in what Banks would no doubt call a musical wasteland made up of The Bay City Rollers, Elton John and Hot Chocolate, not to mention Saturday Night Fever and Grease. Punk came along when she was about fifteen, but Michelle was far too conservative to join in with that crowd. If truth be told, the punks scared her with their torn clothes, spiky hair and safety pins in their ears. And the music just sounded like noise to her.
Not that Michelle had had a great deal of time for pop music; she had been a studious child, lamenting that it always seemed to take her so long to finish her homework when others were done and out on the town. Her mother said she was too much of a perfectionist to let something be and have done with it, and perhaps that was true. Painstaking. Perfectionist. These were labels she had come to know and hate from friends, family and the teachers at school. Why not just say pedestrian and plodding and have done with it, if that was what they meant? she sometimes wondered.
She hadn’t done brilliantly at school, despite all her hard work, but she had managed to pass enough O- and A-Levels to get into a poly – again cramming through all the concerts and parties her fellow students went to – where she had studied business and management techniques before deciding on the police as a career. On those rare occasions when she did have time to go out, late in the seventies, she liked to dance. For that, reggae or two-tone was her music of choice: Bob Marley, The Specials, Madness, UB40.
Michelle had always hated nostalgia snobs, as she called them, and in her experience, the sixties ones were the worst of the lot. She suspected that Banks was one. To hear them talk, you’d think paradise had been lost or the seventh seal broken now that so many of the great rock icons were dead, geriatric, or gaga, and nobody wore beads and caftans anymore, and you’d also think that drug-taking was an innocent way to spend a few hours relaxing, or a means of reaching some exalted spiritual state, instead of a waste of lives and a source of money for evil, unscrupulous dealers.
The archives office was quiet except for the buzzing of the fluorescent light. Silence is a rare thing in a police station, where everyone is pushed together in open-plan offices, but down here Michelle could even hear her watch ticking. After five. Time for a break soon, some fresh air perhaps, and then back down to it.
Reading the crime reports for August, she sensed rather than heard someone approaching the office, and when she looked up, she saw it was Detective Superintendent Benjamin Shaw.
Shaw’s bulk filled the doorway and blocked some of the light from coming in. “What you up to, DI Hart?” he asked.
“Just checking the old logs, sir.”
“I can see that. What for? You won’t find anything there, you know. Not after all this time.”
“I was just having a general look around, trying to get some context for the Marshall case. Actually, I was wondering if-”
“Context? Is that one of those fancy words they taught you at polytechnic? Bloody time-wasting sounds more like it.”
“Don’t bother to argue, Inspector. You’re wasting your time. What do you expect to find in the dusty old files, apart from context?”
“I was talking to one of Graham Marshall’s friends earlier,” she said. “He told me he was approached by a strange man on the riverbank about two months before the Marshall boy disappeared. I was just trying to see if any similar incidents were on file.”
Shaw sat on the edge of the desk. It creaked and tilted a little. Michelle worried that the damn thing would break under his weight. “And?” he asked. “I’m curious.”
“Nothing so far, sir. Do you remember anything odd like that?”
Shaw frowned. “No. But who is this ‘friend’?”
“He’s called Banks, sir. Alan Banks. Actually, it’s Detective Chief Inspector Banks.”
“Is it, indeed? Banks? The name sounds vaguely familiar. I take it he didn’t report the incident at the time?”
“No, sir. Too scared of what his parents might say.”
“I can imagine. Look, about this Banks chap,” he went on. “I think I’d like a little word with him. Can you arrange it?”
“I’ve got his phone number, sir. But…” Michelle was about to tell Shaw that it was her case and that she didn’t appreciate his poaching her interviews, but she decided it wouldn’t be diplomatic to alienate one of her senior officers at such an early stage of her career in Peterborough. Besides, he might be helpful, having been involved in the original investigation.
“Good.” Shaw stood up. “We’ll have him in, then. Soon as possible.”
“I know it must seem odd after all these years,” Banks said, “but I’m Alan Banks, and I’ve come to offer my condolences.”
“Alan Banks. Well, I never!” The look of suspicion on Mrs. Marshall’s face was immediately transformed into one of pleasure. She opened the door wide. “Do come in and make yourself at home.”
It was over thirty-six years since Banks had set foot in the Marshall house, and he had a vague memory that the furniture had been made of much darker wood then, heavier and sturdier. Now the sideboard and television stand looked as if they were made of pine. The three-piece suite seemed much bigger, and a huge television dominated one corner of the room.
Even all those years ago, he remembered, he hadn’t been inside Graham’s house often. Some parents kept an open house for their children’s friends, the way his own did, and Dave’s and Paul’s, but the Marshalls were always a bit distant, stand-offish. Graham never spoke about his mum and dad much, either, Banks remembered, but that hadn’t struck him as at all unusual at the time. Kids don’t, except to complain if they’re not allowed to do something or discovered in some deception and have their pocket money stopped. As far as Banks knew, Graham Marshall’s home life was every bit as normal as his own.
His mother had told him that Mr. Marshall had been disabled by a stroke, so he was prepared for the frail, drooling figure staring up at him from the armchair. Mrs. Marshall looked tired and careworn herself, which was hardly surprising, and he wondered how she kept the place so spick-and-span. Maybe the social helped out, as he doubted she could afford a daily.
“Look, Bill, it’s Alan Banks,” said Mrs. Marshall. “You know, one of our Graham’s old friends.”
It was hard to read Mr. Marshall’s expression through the distortions of his face, but his gaze seemed to relax a little when he found out who the visitor was. Banks said hello and sat down. He spotted the old photo of Graham, the one his own father had taken with his Brownie on Blackpool promenade. He had taken one of Banks, too, also wearing a black polo-neck “Beatle” jumper, but without the matching hairstyle.
Mr. Marshall was sitting in the same spot he had always sat in, like Banks’s own father. Back then, he had always seemed to be smoking, but now he looked as if he could hardly lift a cigarette to his lips.
“I understand you’re an important policeman now,” Mrs. Marshall said.
“I don’t know about important, but I’m a policeman, yes.”
“You don’t have to be so modest. I bump into your mum at the shops from time to time and she’s very proud of you.”
That’s more than she lets on to me, Banks thought. “Well,” he said, “you know what mothers are like.”
“Have you come to help with the investigation?”
“I don’t know that I can,” said Banks. “But if they want any help from me, I’d be happy to give it.”
“She seems very nice. The girl they sent round.”
“I’m sure she’ll be just fine.”
“I told her I can’t imagine what she can do that Jet Harris and his boys didn’t do back then. They were very thorough.”
“I know they were.”
“But he just seemed to have… vanished. All these years.”
“I’ve often thought about him,” Banks said. “I realize I didn’t actually know him for very long, but he was a good friend. I missed him. We all missed him.”
Mrs. Marshall sniffed. “Thank you. I know he appreciated the way you all accepted him when we were new here. You know how difficult it can be to make friends sometimes. It’s just so hard to believe that he’s turned up after all this time.”
“It happens,” said Banks. “And don’t give up on the investigation. There’s a lot more science and technology in police work these days. Look how quickly they identified the remains. They couldn’t have done that twenty years ago.”
“I just wish I could be of some use,” said Mrs. Marshall, “but I don’t remember anything out of the ordinary at all. It just came like a lightning bolt. Out of the blue.”
Banks stood up. “I know,” he said. “But if there’s anything to be discovered, I’m sure DI Hart will discover it.”
“Are you going already?”
“It’s nearly teatime,” Banks said, smiling. “And my mother would never forgive me if I didn’t turn up for tea. She thinks I need fattening up.”
Mrs. Marshall smiled. “Better go then. Mustn’t cross your mother. By the way, they can’t release the body yet, but Miss Hart said she’d let me know when we can have the funeral. You will come, won’t you?”
“Of course,” said Banks. When he looked over to say good-bye to Mr. Marshall, he had a sudden flash of the big, muscular man he used to be, the sense of physical menace he had somehow conveyed. Back then, Banks remembered with a shock, he had been afraid of Graham’s dad. He never had any real reason to feel that way, but he had.
She should have packed it in long ago, Michelle realized, but she was loath to give up without finding at least some trace of Banks’s mystery man, if any existed. Besides, the material itself gave her an interesting picture of the times, and she found herself becoming quite fascinated by it all.
It hadn’t been a bumper crime year for Peterborough in 1965, but the fast-growing city had its share of some of the more newsworthy national problems, Michelle was fast discovering. Mods and rockers clashed at some city center pubs, cannabis was beginning to insinuate its way into the lifestyles of the young and rebellious – despite what Banks had said – and the pornography trade was blossoming in the shape of tons of German, Danish and Swedish magazines covering every perversion you could imagine, and some you couldn’t. Why not Norwegian or Finnish, too? Michelle wondered. Weren’t they into porn? Burglary and armed robbery were as common as ever, and the only thing that seemed new today was the increase in car theft.
Far fewer people owned cars in 1965, Michelle realized, and that made her think again about Banks’s statement. Banks said he had been assaulted by a dirty, scruffy “Rasputin-like” stranger on the riverside near the city center. But Graham Marshall had been abducted, along with a heavy canvas bag full of newspapers, two months later, from a council estate several miles away. The MOs were different. It didn’t look as if Graham had put up a struggle, for example, which he certainly would have done, as Banks had, if he’d been attacked by this frightening stranger and felt that he had been fighting for his life. Besides, the man who assaulted Banks had been on foot, and Graham hadn’t walked all the way to his burial site. It was possible that the mysterious stranger had a car somewhere, but not very likely. Given Banks’s description, Michelle would have guessed the man was homeless and poor, perhaps a tramp. The passing tramp. Cliché of so many detective stories.
The problem was that she still couldn’t see any logical connection between the event Banks had described and the disappearance of Graham Marshall. She thought that Banks’s sense of guilt might, over the years, have warped his judgment in the matter. It happened; she’d seen it before. But could it have happened that way? Who was this man?
There was a good chance, Michelle realized, that she might not find out anything about him in the police files. Not everyone had a file, despite what the antipolice groups seemed to think. She might have to dig in the newspaper morgue or perhaps the local mental hospital archives. The man sounded disturbed, and there was a chance he had sought treatment at some time. Of course, there was also every possibility that he wasn’t a local. Michelle had no idea exactly where the River Nene started, but she thought it was somewhere down Northampton way, and she knew that it flowed all the way to The Wash. Maybe he was walking the riverbank from town to town.
She flipped through file after file and tossed them aside in frustration. Finally, as her eyes were starting to tire, she struck gold.
The Coach and Horses, about a hundred yards along the main road, had changed over the years, Banks noticed, but not as much as some pubs. The large public bar had always housed a diverse group, mixed generations drinking there together, and today it was no different, though the racial mix had changed. Now, among the white faces, there were Pakistanis and Sikhs, and, according to Arthur Banks, a group of Kosovan asylum-seekers, who lived on the estate, also drank there.
Noisy machines with flashing lights had replaced the old bar-billiards area, the scarred wooden benches had been replaced with padded ones, perhaps the wallpaper had been redone and the light fixtures modernized, but that was about all. The brewery had forked out for this minor face-lift sometime in the eighties, Banks’s father had told him, hoping to pull in a younger, freer-spending crowd. But it didn’t take. The people who drank at The Coach and Horses had, for the most part, been drinking there most of their lives. And their fathers before them. Banks had drunk his first legal pint there, with his father on his eighteenth birthday, though he had been knocking them back with his mates at The Wheatsheaf, about a mile away, since he was sixteen. The last time he had been in The Coach and Horses, he had played one of the earliest pub video games, that silly machine where you bounced the tennis ball back and forth across a green phosphorous screen.
Though there were few young people to be seen there, The Coach and Horses still managed to be a warm and lively place, Banks noticed as he walked in with his father just after eight o’clock that night, his mother’s steamed pudding and custard – the proper food he was supposed to be eating – still weighing heavy in his stomach. His father had managed the walk without too much puffing and wheezing, which he put down to having stopped smoking two years ago. Banks had tapped his own jacket pocket rather guiltily for his cigarettes as they went out of the door.
This was Arthur Banks’s local. He had been coming here almost every day for forty years, and so had his cronies, Harry Finnegan, Jock McFall and Norman Grenfell, Dave’s father. Here, Arthur was respected. Here, he could escape the clutches of his ailments and the shame of his redundancy, at least for an hour or two, as he drank, laughed and told lies with the men with whom he felt most comfortable. For The Coach and Horses was, by and large, a men’s pub, despite the occasional couple and groups of women dropping by after work. When Arthur took Ida out for a drink, as he did on Fridays, they went to The Duck and Drake or The Duke of Wellington, where Ida Banks caught up on the local gossip and they took part in trivia quizzes and laughed at people making fools of themselves in the karaoke sessions.
But there was none of that at The Coach and Horses, and the piped sixties pop music was turned down low enough so that old men could hear one another talk. At the moment, The Kinks were singing “Waterloo Sunset,” one of Banks’s favorites. After Banks and his father had settled themselves at the table, pints in front of them, and introductions had been made, Arthur Banks first lamented Jock McFall’s absence due to hospitalization for a prostate operation, then Norman Grenfell started the ball rolling.
“We were just saying, before you got here, Alan, what a terrible thing it is about the Marshall boy. I remember you and our David used to play with him.”
“Yes. How is Dave, by the way?”
“He’s doing fine,” said Norman. “He and Ellie still live in Dorchester. The kids have grown up now, of course.”
“They’re still together?” Ellie Hatcher was, Banks remembered, Dave’s first real girlfriend; they must have started going out together around 1968.
“Some couples stick it out,” muttered Arthur Banks.
Banks ignored the remark and asked Norman to pass on his regards to Dave next time they spoke. Unlike Jock and Harry, Banks remembered, both of whom had worked with Arthur at the sheet-metal factory, Norman had worked in a clothing shop on Midgate, where he could sometimes get his mates a discount on a duffel coat, a pair of jeans or Tuf shoes. Norman drank halves instead of pints and smoked a pipe, which made him different, almost genteel, compared to the rough factory workers. He also had a hobby – he read and collected everything to do with steam trains and had an entire room of his small house devoted to clockwork models – and that set him even farther apart from the beer, sport and telly crowd. Yet Norman Grenfell had always been as much a part of the group as Jock or Harry or Arthur himself, though he didn’t share that ineffable bond that workingmen have, of having toiled under the same lousy conditions for the same lousy bosses and faced the same dangers day in, day out, for the same lousy pay. Maybe, Banks wondered, Graham had been a bit like that, too: set apart by his background, by his being a newcomer, by his London cool, yet still a part of the gang. The quiet one. The George Harrison of the group.
“Well,” Banks said, raising his glass, “here’s to Graham. In the long run, I suppose it’s best they found him. At least his parents can lay his bones to rest now.”
“True enough,” said Harry.
“Amen,” said Norman.
“Didn’t Graham’s father use to drink here?” Banks asked.
Arthur Banks laughed. “He did. He was a rum customer, Bill Marshall, isn’t that right, Harry?”
“A rum customer, indeed. And a couple of bricks short of a full hod, too, if you ask me.”
They all laughed.
“In what way was he rum?” Banks asked.
Harry nudged Banks’s father. “Always the copper, your lad, hey?”
Arthur’s brow darkened. Banks knew damn well that his father had never approved of his choice of career, and that no matter how well he did, how successful he was, to his father he would always be a traitor to the working class, who traditionally feared and despised coppers. As far as Arthur Banks was concerned, his son was employed by the middle and upper classes to protect their interests and their property. Never mind that most coppers of Arthur’s own generation came from the working classes, unlike today, when many were middle-class university graduates and management types. The two of them had never resolved this problem, and Banks could see even now that his father was bothered by Harry Finnegan’s little dig.
“Graham was a friend of mine,” Banks went on quickly, to diffuse the tension. “I was just wondering, that’s all.”
“Is that why you’re down here?” Norman asked.
It was the same question Mrs. Marshall had asked him. Perhaps people assumed that because he was a policeman, and because he knew Graham, he would be assigned to this particular case. “I don’t know how much I can help,” Banks said, glancing sideways at his father, who was working on his beer. He had never told either of his parents about what had happened down by the river, and he wasn’t about to do so now. It might come out, of course, if his information led anywhere, and now he had an inkling of what the many witnesses who lied to avoid disclosing a shameful secret had to be anxious about. “It’s just that, well, I’ve thought about Graham and what happened on and off over the years, and I just thought I ought to come and try to help, that’s all.”
“I can understand that,” said Norman, relighting his pipe. “I think it’s been a bit of a shock to the system for all of us, one way or another.”
“You were saying about Graham’s father, Dad?”
Arthur Banks glanced at his son. “Was I?”
“You said he was strange. I didn’t know him well. I never really talked to him.”
“Course not,” said Arthur. “You were just a kid.”
“That’s why I’m asking you.”
There was a pause, then Arthur Banks looked over at Harry Finnegan. “He was shifty, wouldn’t you say so, Harry?”
“He was indeed. Always an eye for a fiddle, and not above a bit of strong-arm stuff. I wouldn’t have trusted him as far as I could throw him. And he was a big talker, too.”
“What do you mean?” Banks asked.
“Well,” his father said. “You know the family came up from London?”
“Bill Marshall worked as a bricklayer, and he was a good one, too, but when he’d had a drink or two he’d start letting things slip about some of his other activities in London.”
“I still don’t understand.”
“He was a fit bloke, Bill. Strong. Big hands, powerful upper body. Comes from carrying those hods around the building sites.”
“He used to get into fights?”
“You could say that.”
“What your dad’s saying,” explained Harry, leaning forward, “is that Bill Marshall let slip he used to act as an enforcer for gangsters down the Smoke. Protection rackets, that sort of thing.”
The Smoke? Banks hadn’t heard that term for London for years. “He did?” Banks shook his head. It was hard to imagine the old man in the chair as having been some sort of gang enforcer, but it might help explain the fear Banks remembered feeling in his presence all those years ago, the threat of violence. “I’d never have-”
“How could you?” his father cut in. “Like I said, you were just a kid. You couldn’t understand things like that.”
The music had changed, Banks noticed. Herb Alpert and his bloody Tijuana Brass, just finishing, thank God. Banks had hated them back then and he hated them now. Next came The Bachelors, “Marie.” Mum and Dad music. “Did you tell the police?” he asked.
The men looked at one another, then Arthur looked back at Banks, his lip curling. “What do you think?”
“But he could-”
“Listen. Bill Marshall might have been a big talker, but he had nothing to do with his son’s disappearance.”
“How can you know that?”
Arthur Banks snorted. “You police. All the bloody same, you are. Just because a man might be a bit dodgy in one area, you’re ready to fit him up with anything.”
“I’ve never fitted anyone up in my life,” said Banks.
“What I’m saying is that Bill Marshall might have been a bit of a wild man, but he didn’t go around killing young lads, especially not his own son.”
“I didn’t say I thought he did it,” Banks said, noticing that the others were watching him and his father now, as if they were the evening’s entertainment.
“Then what did you mean?”
“Look, Dad,” Banks said, reaching for a cigarette. He had been determined not to smoke in front of his father, mostly because of the old man’s health, but not smoking in The Coach and Horses was as pointless as swimming in the no-pissing section of a swimming pool, if such a section were ever to exist. “If there was any truth in what Bill Marshall said about his criminal background in London, then isn’t it possible that something he’d done there came back to haunt him?”
“But nobody hurt Bill.”
“Doesn’t matter, Dad. These people often have more devious ways of getting back at their enemies. Believe me. I’ve come across more than a few of them in my time. Did he ever mention any names?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean in London. The people he worked for. Did he ever mention any names?”
Harry Finnegan gave a nervous laugh. Arthur shot him a glance and he shut up. “As a matter of fact,” said Arthur, pausing dramatically, “he did.”
“The Twins. Reggie and Ronnie Kray.”
Arthur Banks’s eyes shone with triumph. “Now do you see why we just thought he had a big mouth on him?”
For the second time that day, Annie turned up at Swainsdale Hall, only this time she felt the butterflies in the pit of her stomach. People like Martin Armitage were difficult enough to deal with in the first place, and he wouldn’t like what she had to say. Still, she thought, for all his tough bluster he hadn’t done much but kick a ball around most of his life. Robin was another matter. Annie sensed that she might feel relieved to have someone else to share her fears with, and that underneath her accommodating exterior and her air of vulnerability, there was a strong woman who was capable of standing up to her husband.
Josie answered the door, as usual, holding a barking Miata by the collar. Annie wanted to talk to Josie and her husband, Calvin, but they could wait. For the moment, the fewer people who knew what was going on, the better. Robin and Martin were both out in the garden sitting at a wrought-iron table under a striped umbrella. It was a warm evening, and the back garden faced south, so there was plenty of honey-tinted sunlight and dark shadows cast by tree branches. Annie felt like reaching for her sketch pad. Beyond the high drystone wall that marked the property boundary, the daleside stretched up in a patchwork of uneven fields, green until the sere bareness of the higher slopes, where it rose more steeply to merge into the wild stretch of heather moorland that separated the Dales.
Neither Martin nor Robin seemed to be enjoying the beautiful evening or the long cool drinks that sat in front of them. Both seemed pale, tense and preoccupied, and the mobile perched on the table like an unexploded bomb.
“What are you doing here?” Martin Armitage said. “I told you Luke was on his way home and I’d be in touch when he got here.”
“I take it he’s not arrived yet?”
“Heard from him again?”
Annie sighed and sat down without being invited.
“I didn’t ask you to-”
Annie raised her hand to quiet Martin down. “Look,” she said, “there’s no point pissing about any more. I know what’s going on.”
“I don’t understand what you mean.”
“Come off it, Mr. Armitage. I followed you.”
“You did what?”
“I followed you. After I left this morning I waited in a lay-by and followed you to the shepherd’s shelter. What were you doing there?”
“None of your bloody business. Why, what are you going to do? Charge me with disobeying government regulations?”
“Let me tell you what you were doing, Mr. Armitage. You were leaving a briefcase full of money. Old bills. Tens and twenties, for the most part. Around ten thousand pounds, at a guess, maybe fifteen.”
Armitage was red in the face. Still, Annie pressed on. “And now let me tell you what happened. They got in touch with you last night on your mobile, said they’d got Luke and you were to hand over the money. You told them you couldn’t lay your hands on that much cash until the banks were open, so they gave you until this morning to leave it at the prearranged drop.” Which means they know something about the area, Annie realized, or that they’ve been watching, scouting for some time. Maybe someone had noticed them. Strangers usually stood out around these parts, especially as the tourist numbers were down. “How am I doing so far?”
“You’ve got imagination, I’ll certainly give you that.”
“They said no police, which is why my arrival scared the living daylights out of you.”
“I’ve told you-”
“Martin.” Robin Armitage spoke for the first time, and though her voice was soft and kindly, it was authoritative enough to command her husband’s attention. “Can’t you see?” she went on. “She knows. I must admit that I, for one, feel rather relieved.”
“But he said-”
“They don’t know who I am,” said Annie. “And I’m pretty certain they didn’t see me around Mortsett this morning.”
Annie looked him in the eye. “I’d be a liar if I said I was a hundred percent certain.” Birds in the trees filled in the silence that followed, and a light breeze ruffled Annie’s hair. She held Martin Armitage’s gaze until she saw it waver and finally wane into defeat. His shoulders slumped. Robin leaned over and put her arm around him. “It’s all right, darling,” she said. “The police will know what to do. They’ll be discreet.” Robin looked at Annie as she spoke, as if daring her to disagree. Annie didn’t. Martin ran the backs of his hands across his eyes and nodded.
“I’m sorry about what’s happened,” Annie said, “but Mrs. Armitage is right.”
“Robin. Please. As we’re involved in such an intimate matter, at least you can call me by my first name. My husband, too.”
“Okay. Robin. Look, I have to tell you that I’m not a negotiator. This isn’t my area of expertise. We have people specially trained to deal with kidnappers and their demands.”
“But he said no police,” Martin repeated. “He said if we brought in the police he’d kill Luke.”
“What did you say?”
“I told him I’d already reported Luke missing.”
“And what did he say to that?”
“He was quiet for a moment, as if he was thinking, like.”
“Or consulting with someone else?”
“He could have been, but I didn’t hear anyone. Anyway, when he came back on he said that was fine, but to make sure I told you Luke had rung and said that he was coming home. Which I did.”
“It was a man who made the call, then?”
“About half past nine. Just before Robin rang you.”
“How much did he ask for?”
“He didn’t sound local?”
“He could’ve been, but he didn’t have a strong accent. Sort of bland.”
“And his voice?”
“What do you mean?”
“High or low? Husky, reedy, whatever?”
“Just ordinary. I’m sorry, I’m not good at this sort of thing, especially recognizing voices on the telephone.”
Annie favored him with a smile. “Not many people are. Think about it, though. It could be important. If there’s anything at all you remember about the voice.”
“Yes. I’ll think about it.”
“Did he let you speak to Luke?”
“Did you ask?”
“Yes, but he said Luke was being kept somewhere else.”
“And he called you on your mobile?”
“Who knows the number?”
“Family. Close friends. Business colleagues. I suppose it would be easy enough to find out. Luke, of course. He has it programmed into the electronic phone book of his own mobile. At first, I thought it was him because his name was displayed when the call came.”
“So the kidnapper used Luke’s mobile to call you?”
“I suppose so. Why does it matter?”
“At least it tells us he’s in an area where there’s a signal. Or he was when he made the call. Also, if he’s used it at other times, we’ll be able to get the information from the phone company. It might help us pinpoint him. Of course, it would be better if he left it switched on, but he’s not going to make things that easy for us.”
“Tell me,” said Robin. “In your experience, in how many cases do they… how many times do the victims…”
“I don’t have any statistics offhand,” Annie admitted. “But if it makes you feel any better, kidnappers are essentially businesspeople. They’re in it for the money, not to hurt anyone. There’s every chance that this will be resolved and that you’ll see Luke back here safe and sound.” Annie could feel her nose growing as she talked. Too much time had passed, she suspected, for a happy ending, though she hoped she was wrong. “In the meantime, while appearing to go along with his demands and not alarming him in any way, we want to make sure that in addition to getting Luke home safely, we take every opportunity to discover the kidnapper’s identity and bring him to justice.”
“How can we help?” asked Robin.
“You don’t have to do anything,” said Annie. “You’ve already played your part. Just leave the rest to us.”
“Maybe you’ve scared him off,” Martin said. “Luke should be back by now. It’s been hours.”
“Sometimes they wait a long time just to make sure nobody’s watching. He’s probably waiting till dark.”
“But you can’t be certain, can you?” Robin said.
“Nothing’s certain in this world, Mrs. Armitage.”
“Robin. I told you. Oh, how rude of me!” She got to her feet. “All this time and I haven’t offered you anything to drink.” She was wearing denim shorts, Annie noticed, cut high on her long, smooth legs. There weren’t many women who could get away with the bare midriff look at her age, either, Annie thought. She wouldn’t even think of it herself, though she was only thirty-four, but what she could see of Robin’s stomach looked flat and taut, with a ring of some sort glinting in her navel.
“No,” she said. “Really. I’m not stopping long.” There wasn’t much else Annie could do for Luke except wait, and she had promised herself a nice pint of bitter at the Black Sheep in Relton, where she could sit in peace and mull things over before calling it a day. “I just want to make certain that you’ll report any future communications, if there are any, straight to me. You’ve got the numbers where I can be reached?”
Both Martin and Robin nodded.
“And, of course, you’ll let me know the second Luke turns up.”
“We will,” said Robin. “I just hope and pray that he does come home soon.”
“Me, too,” said Annie, getting up. “There’s one more thing that puzzles me.”
“What?” asked Robin.
“Last night, when you rang to tell me you’d heard from Luke, you said he would be back tonight.”
“That’s what he told Martin. The kidnapper. He said that if we left the money this morning, then Luke would be home unharmed by tonight.”
“And you know that I wanted to see Luke as soon as he got back, to talk to him?”
“So how were you going to explain everything?” asked Annie. “I’m curious.”
Robin looked over at her husband, who answered, “We were going to persuade Luke to tell you what we said happened in the first place, that he’d run away and phoned us the night before to say he was coming back.”
“Who thought of this?”
“The kidnapper suggested it.”
“Sounds like the perfect crime,” said Annie. “Only you two, Luke and the kidnapper would ever know that it had been committed, and none of you would be likely to talk.”
Martin looked down at his drink.
“He would have done that?” Annie went on. “Luke would have lied to the police?”
“He would have done it for me,” said Robin.
Annie looked at her, nodded and left.
The Krays, Banks thought as he lay in his narrow bed that night. Reggie and Ronnie. He didn’t remember the exact dates, of course, but he had an idea that they were flying high in the mid-sixties, part of the swinging London scene, mixing with celebrities, pop stars and politicians.
It had always intrigued him the way gangsters became celebrities: Al Capone, Lucky Luciano, John Dillinger, Dutch Schultz, Bugsy Siegel. Figures of legend. He had known a few of the lesser ones in his time, and they almost always rubbed shoulders with the rich and famous, as if celebrity recognized only itself and was blind to all else – morality, decency, honor – and they never lacked for beautiful women to run around with, the kind who were attracted by danger and the aura of violence. There seemed to be a glamour and mystique attached to making your money out of running prostitutes, supplying drugs and threatening to destroy people’s livelihoods if they didn’t pay protection, and it was more than likely that most film stars, sports personalities and pop stars were addle-brained enough to fall for it, the glamour of violence. Or was it the violence of glamour?
The Krays were no exception. They knew how to manipulate the media, and being photographed with a famous actress, an MP, or a peer of the realm made it less likely that the truth about their real activities would come out. There was a trial in 1965, Banks remembered, and they came out of that more fireproof than they went in.
It was hard to believe that Graham Marshall’s dad had had anything to do with them, though, and Banks had to admit that his father was probably right; it had just been the beer talking.
Why, though? Why even hint at something like that if there wasn’t a scrap of truth in it? Maybe Bill Marshall was a pathological liar. But over his years as a copper, Banks had learned that the old cliché “There’s no smoke without fire” had a great deal to recommend it. And there were two other things: The Marshalls came from the East End of London, Kray territory in the mid-sixties, and Banks now remembered feeling afraid around Mr. Marshall.
He already knew a bit about the Krays, most of it picked up when he was on the Met years ago, but he could dig deeper. There were plenty of books about them, though he doubted that any mentioned Bill Marshall. If he had done anything for them, it had obviously been low-level, going round the customers and exuding physical menace, maybe clobbering the occasional informer or double-dealer in a dark alley.
He would have to tell DI Hart. Michelle. She had left a message with Banks’s mother while he was out, asking him to drop by Thorpe Wood at 9 A.M. the following morning. It was her case, after all. If there was a connection, though, he was surprised that it hadn’t come out in the investigation. Usually the parents come under very close scrutiny in missing child cases, no matter how grief-stricken they appear. Banks had once come across a young couple he had believed to be genuinely grieving the loss of their child, only to find the poor kid strangled for crying too loud and stuffed in the downstairs freezer. No, you couldn’t trust surfaces in police work; you had to dig, if only to make certain you weren’t having the wool pulled over your eyes.
Banks picked up his old transistor radio. He had bought a battery earlier and wondered if it would still work after all these years. Probably not, but it was worth the price of a battery to find out. He unclipped the back, connected the battery and put the earpiece in his ear. It was just a single unit, like an old hearing aid. No stereo radio back then. When he turned it on, he was thrilled to find that the old trannie actually worked. Banks could hardly believe it. As he tuned the dial, though, he soon began to feel disappointed. The sound quality was poor, but it wasn’t only that. The radio received all the local stations, Classic FM and Radios 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5, just like any modern radio, but Banks realized he had been half-expecting to go back in time. The idea that this was a magic radio that still received the Light Programme, Radio Luxembourg and the pirates, Radio Caroline and Radio London, was lodged somewhere in his mind. He had expected to be listening to John Peel’s The Perfumed Garden, to relive those magical few months in the spring of 1967, when he should have been studying for his O-Levels but spent half the night with the radio plugged in his ear, hearing Captain Beefheart, the Incredible String Band and Tyrannosaurus Rex for the first time.
Banks switched off the radio and turned to his Photoplay diary. At least he had a bedside light in his room now and didn’t have to hide under the sheets with a flashlight. Beside each week was a full-page photograph of an actor or actress popular at the time, usually an actress or starlet, chosen because of pulchritude rather than acting ability, and more often than not appearing in a risqué pose – bra and panties, the carefully placed bedsheet, the off-the-shoulder strap. He flipped through the pages and there they all were: Natalie Wood, Catherine Deneuve, Martine Beswick, Ursula Andress. Cleavage abounded. The week of August 15-21 was accompanied by a photo of Shirley Eaton in a low-cut dress.
As he flipped through the diary, Banks discovered that he had hardly been voluminous or the least bit analytical; he had simply noted events, adventures and excursions, often in a very cryptic manner. In a way, it was a perfect model for the policeman’s notebook he was to keep later. Still, the pages were small, divided into seven sections, with room for a little fact or piece of cinema history at the bottom. If any of the dates happened to be a star’s birthday, as many did, a portion of the available space was taken up with that, too. Given the restrictions, he had done a decent enough job, he thought, deciphering the miniature scrawl. He had certainly been to see a lot of films, listing all of them in his diary, along with his terse opinions, which varied from “Crap” and “Boring” through “Okay” to “Fantastic!” A typical entry might read, “Went to the Odeon with Dave and Graham to see Dr. Who and the Daleks. Okay,” “Played cricket on the rec. Scored 32 not out,” or, “Rained. Stopped in and read Casino Royale. Fantastic!”
He flipped to the Saturday before Graham disappeared, the twenty-first. “Went into town with Graham. Bought Help! with Uncle Ken’s record token.” It was the same LP they had listened to at Paul’s the next day. That was all he had written, nothing unusual about Graham’s state of mind. On Friday he had watched The Animals, one of his favorite groups, on Ready, Steady, Go!
On Sunday, he had written, probably while in bed that night, “Played records at Paul’s place. New Bob Dylan LP. Saw police car go to Graham’s house.” On Monday, “Graham’s run away from home. Police came. Joey flew away.”
Interesting he should assume that Graham had run away from home. But of course he would, at that age. What else? The alternatives would have been too horrific for a fourteen-year-old boy to contemplate. He flipped back to late June, around the time he thought the event on the riverbank had occurred. It was a Tuesday, he noticed. He hadn’t written much about it, simply, “Skived off school and played by river this afternoon. A strange man tried to push me in.”
Tired, Banks put the diary aside, rubbed his eyes and turned out the light. It felt odd to be back in the same bed he had slept in during his teenage years, the same bed where he had had his first sexual experience, with Kay Summerville, while his parents were out visiting his grandparents one Saturday. It hadn’t been very good for either Banks or Kay, but they had persevered and got a lot better with practice.
Kay Summerville. He wondered where she was, what she was doing now. Probably married with kids, the same way he had been until recently. She’d been a beauty, though, had Kay: long blond hair, slender waist, long legs, a mouth like Marianne Faithfull’s, firm tits with hard little nipples and hair like spun gold between her legs. Christ, Banks, he told himself, enough with the adolescent fantasies.
He put on his headphones and turned on his portable CD player, listening to Vaughan Williams’s Second String Quartet, and settled back to more pleasant thoughts of Kay Summerville. But as he approached the edge of sleep, his thoughts jumbled, mixing memory with dream. It was cold and dark, and Banks and Graham were walking across a rugby field, goalposts silhouetted by the moon, cracking spiderweb patterns in the ice as they walked, their breath misting the air. Banks must have said something about the Krays having been arrested – was he interested in criminals, even then? – and Graham just laughed, saying the law could never touch people like them. Banks asked him how he knew, and Graham said he used to live near them. “They were kings,” he said.
Puzzled by the memory, or dream, Banks turned the bedside light on again and picked up the diary. If what he had just imagined had any basis in reality, then it had happened in winter. He glanced through his entries for January and February 1965: Samantha Eggar, Yvonne Romain, Elke Sommer… But no mention of the Krays until the ninth of March, when he had written, “Krays went to trial today. Graham laughed and said they’d get off easy.” So Graham had mentioned them. It was flimsy, but a start.
He turned off the light again, and this time he drifted off to sleep without further thoughts of either Graham or Kay Summerville.
When Banks arrived at Thorpe Wood the following morning and asked to see Detective Inspector Hart, he was surprised when a man came down to greet him. The telephone call that his mother had told him about when he got back from the pub had been from Michelle.
“Mr. Banks, or should I say DCI Banks? Come with me, please, if you would.” He stood aside and gestured for Banks to enter.
“And you are?”
“Detective Superintendent Shaw. We’ll talk in my office.”
Shaw looked familiar, but Banks couldn’t place him. It was possible they had met on a course, or even on a case, years ago, and he had forgotten, but he usually had a good memory for faces.
They didn’t speak on their way to Shaw’s office, and as soon as they got there Shaw disappeared, saying he’d be back in a couple of minutes. Old copper’s trick, Banks knew. And Shaw knew he knew.
There wasn’t likely to be anything of interest in the office if Shaw was willing to leave Banks there alone, but he had a poke around nonetheless. Second nature. He wasn’t looking for anything in particular, but just looking for the sake of it. The filing cabinets were locked, as were the desk drawers, and the computer required a password. It began to seem very much as if Shaw expected Banks to nose about.
There was an interesting framed photograph on the wall, quite a few years old by the look of it, showing a younger Shaw and Jet Harris standing by an unmarked Rover looking for all the world like John Thaw and Dennis Waterman in The Sweeney. Or was it Morse and Lewis? Is that how Shaw saw himself, as Sergeant Lewis to Harris’s Chief Inspector Morse?
The bookcase held mostly binders and back issues of the Police Review. Mixed in were a few legal texts and an American textbook called Practical Homicide Investigation. Banks was browsing through this and trying not to look at the gruesome color illustrations when, after half an hour, Shaw came back, followed by a rather embarrassed-looking DI Michelle Hart.
“Sorry about that,” said Shaw, sitting down opposite Banks. “Something came up. You know how it is.” Michelle sat to one side looking uncomfortable.
“I know.” Banks put the book aside and reached for a cigarette.
“There’s no smoking in here,” said Shaw. “Not anywhere in the building, not for any of us, these days. Maybe you’re still a bit behind the times back up in Yorkshire?”
Banks had known that he probably couldn’t smoke, though Shaw had the nicotine-stained fingers of a heavy smoker, but he thought it at least worth a try. Obviously, though, this was going to be played the hard way, even though they had done him the courtesy of conducting the interview in the superintendent’s office rather than in a dingy interview room. He didn’t feel nervous, just puzzled and pissed off. What was going on?
“So, what can I do for you, Superintendent Shaw?”
“You don’t remember me, do you?”
Shaw stared at Banks, and Banks searched through his store of faces for a match. The ginger hair was thin on top, one long side strand combed over to hide the bald patch, but not fooling anyone; hardly any eyebrows; freckles, pale blue eyes, the face filled out and jowly; the fleshy, red-veined nose of a seasoned drinker. He was familiar, but there was something different about him. Then Banks knew.
“You’ve had your ears fixed,” he said. “The wonders of modern medicine.”
Shaw reddened. “So you do remember me.”
“You were the baby DC who came to our house after Graham disappeared.” It was hard to believe, but Shaw would have been about twenty-one at the time, only seven years older than Banks, yet he had seemed an adult, someone from another world.
“Tell me,” said Shaw, leaning forward across the table so Banks could smell the minty breath of a man who drinks his breakfast. “I’ve always wondered. Did you ever get your budgie back?”
Banks leaned back in his chair. “Well, now we’ve got all the pleasantries out of the way, why don’t we get on with it?”
Shaw jerked his head at Michelle, who slid a photograph across the desk to Banks. She looked serious with her reading glasses on. Sexy, too, Banks thought. “Is this the man?” she asked.
Banks stared at the black-and-white photo and felt a rush of blood to his brain, ears buzzing and vision clouding. It all flooded back, those few moments of claustrophobia and terror in the stranger’s grip, the moments he had thought were his last.
“Are you all right?”
It was Michelle who spoke, a concerned look on her face.
“I’m fine,” he said.
“You look pale. Would you like a drink of water?”
“No, thank you,” said Banks. “It’s him.”
“Are you certain?”
“After all this time I can’t be a hundred percent positive, but I’m as certain as I’ll ever be.”
Shaw nodded, and Michelle took the picture back.
“Why?” Banks asked, looking from one to the other. “What is it?”
“James Francis McCallum,” Michelle said. “He went missing from a mental institution near Wisbech on Thursday, June seventeenth, 1965.”
“That would be about right,” said Banks.
“McCallum hadn’t been involved in any violent activity, but the doctors told us that the possibility always existed, and that he might be dangerous.”
“When was he caught?” Banks asked.
Michelle glanced at Shaw before answering. He gave her a curt nod. “That’s just it,” she went on. “He wasn’t. McCallum’s body was fished out of the River Nene near Oundle on the first of July.”
Banks felt his mouth open and shut without any sound coming out. “Dead?” he managed.
“Dead,” echoed Shaw. He tapped his pen on the desk. “Nearly two months before your friend disappeared. So you see, DCI Banks, you’ve been laboring under an illusion for all these years. Now, what I’m really interested in is why you lied to me and DI Proctor in the first place.”
Banks felt numb from the shock he had just received. Dead. All these years. The guilt. And all for nothing. The man who assaulted him on the riverbank couldn’t have abducted and killed Graham. He should have felt relieved, but he only felt confused. “I didn’t lie,” he muttered.
“Call it a sin of omission, then. You didn’t tell us about McCallum.”
“Doesn’t seem as if it would have mattered, does it?”
“Why didn’t you tell us?”
“Look, I was just a kid. I hadn’t told my parents because I was scared how they’d react. I was upset and ashamed by what happened. Don’t ask me why, I don’t know, but that’s how I felt. Dirty and ashamed, as if it was somehow my fault for inviting it.”
“You should have told us. It could have been a lead.”
Banks knew that Shaw was right; he had told reluctant witnesses the same thing himself, time after time. “Well, I didn’t, and it wasn’t,” he snapped. “I’m sorry. Okay?”
But Shaw wasn’t going to be so easily put off, Banks could tell. He was enjoying himself, throwing his weight around. It was the bully mentality. To him, Banks was still the fourteen-year-old kid whose budgie had just flown out the door. “What really happened to your friend?” he asked.
“What do you mean?”
Shaw scratched his chin. “I remember thinking at the time that you knew something, that you were holding something back. I’d like to have taken you to the station, had you down in the cells for an hour or so, but you were a minor, and my senior officer Reg Proctor was a bit of a softie, when it came right down to it. What really happened?”
“I don’t know. Graham just disappeared.”
“Are you sure you and your mates didn’t set on him? Maybe it was an accident, things just went too far?”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“I’m suggesting that maybe the three of you ganged up on Graham Marshall for some reason and killed him. These things happen. Then you had to get rid of the body.”
Banks folded his arms. “And tell me how we did that.”
“I don’t know,” Shaw admitted. “But I don’t have to. Maybe you stole a car.”
“None of us could drive.”
“So you say.”
“It wasn’t the way it is today, with ten-year-olds behind the wheel.”
“Is that how it happened? A fight broke out and Graham got killed? Maybe fell and smashed his skull, or broke his neck? I’m not saying you intended to kill him, but it happened, didn’t it? Why don’t you come clean with me, Banks? It’ll do you good to get it off your chest after all these years.”
“Shut up, DI Hart. Well, Banks? I’m waiting.”
Banks stood up. “You’ll have a bloody long wait, then. Good-bye.” He walked toward the door. Shaw didn’t try to stop him. Just as Banks had turned the handle, he heard the superintendent speak again and turned to face him. Shaw was grinning. “Only teasing, Banks,” he said. Then his expression became serious. “My, but you’re sensitive. The point I want to make is that you’re on my turf, and it turns out you can’t help us any more now than you could all those years ago. So my advice to you, laddie, is to bugger off back up to Yorkshire, go shag a sheep or two, and forget about Graham Marshall. Leave it to the pros.”
“Bloody good job the pros did last time,” said Banks, leaving and slamming the door behind him, annoyed at himself for losing his temper, but unable to prevent it. Outside the station, he kicked a tire, lit a cigarette and got in his car. Maybe Shaw was right and he should just head back up north. He still had over a week’s holiday left and plenty to do around the cottage, whereas there was nothing more he could do down here. Before driving off, he sat for a moment trying to digest what Michelle and Shaw had told him. His guilt over the years had been misplaced, then; McCallum was in no way responsible for Graham’s abduction and, by extension, neither was Banks. On the other hand, if he had reported the incident, there was a chance that McCallum might have been apprehended and hospitalized instead of drowning. More guilt, then?
Banks cast his mind back to that hot June afternoon by the river and asked himself if McCallum would have killed him. The answer, he decided, was yes. So sod the bastard, and sod guilt. McCallum was a dangerous loony and it wasn’t Banks’s fault he’d fallen in the fucking river and drowned. Good riddance.
Turning up the volume on Cream’s “Crossroads,” he sped out of the police car park, daring one of the patrol cars to chase him. Nobody did.
They all looked tired, Annie thought, as the Armitage team gathered in the boardroom of Western Area Headquarters late that morning. The boardroom was so called because of its long polished table, high-backed chairs and paintings of nineteenth-century cotton magnates on the walls, red-faced, eyes popping, probably because of the tight collars they were wearing, Annie thought. As works of art, the paintings were negligible, if not execrable, but they lent authority to the room.
Detective Superintendent Gristhorpe sat at the head of the table and poured himself a glass of water. Also present were DCs Templeton, Rickerd and Jackman, and Detective Sergeant Jim Hatchley, still clearly uneasy with Annie’s promotion over him. But as Banks had told Annie more than once, Jim Hatchley was born to be a sergeant, and a damn good one, too. There wasn’t much Hatchley didn’t know about the shady side of Eastvale. He had a network of informers second only to his network of pub managers and landlords, who all kept an eye on criminal comings and goings for him, and his tiredness was probably due to the fact that his wife had just given birth to their second child a couple of weeks ago. It was the three DCs who had borne the brunt of the previous night’s surveillance.
“So we’re not much further ahead,” Gristhorpe opened.
“No, sir,” said Annie, who at least had managed her quick pint in Relton, then gone home for a bath and a few hours’ sleep before arriving back at the station shortly after dawn. “Except we’ve checked with the phone company and got Luke’s records. We’ll be tracking down all the people he phoned over the last month, though there aren’t many. The ransom call to Martin Armitage was the only call made after Luke’s disappearance, the only call made that day, and it was local. Wherever Luke is, he’s not far away, or he wasn’t on Tuesday evening.”
“We’ve got a fair idea of Luke’s movements until five-thirty the day he disappeared.”
Annie walked over to the whiteboard and listed the times and places as she mentioned them. She knew the details by heart and didn’t need to consult her notebook. “He arrived at the bus station by the Swainsdale Centre at a quarter to three. The bus driver and several of the passengers remember him. We’ve been looking at some of the closed-circuit TV footage, and he walked around the center for a while, went into W.H. Smith’s, then into HMV, but he didn’t appear to buy anything. That takes us up until half past three. He appeared in that small computer shop on North Market Street at a quarter to four, which is about right, as he was on foot. He stayed there half an hour, trying out some games, then he visited the music shop at the corner of York Road and Barton Place.”
“Did anyone notice anything unusual about his state of mind?” Gristhorpe asked.
“No. Everyone said he just seemed normal. Which, I guess, was pretty weird to start with. I mean, he wasn’t exactly a barrel of laughs.”
“The used-book shop on the market square.” Annie walked over to the window and pointed. “That one down there. Norman’s.”
“I know it,” said Gristhorpe. “What did he buy?”
“Crime and Punishment and Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.” Right up Gristhorpe’s alley, Annie thought.
Gristhorpe whistled. “Pretty heavy going for a fifteen-year-old. What next?”
“That was it. He walked out of the market square CCTV range at half past five, and we haven’t found anyone who admits to seeing him since. Oh, and he was also seen talking to a group of lads in the square after coming out of the bookshop. It looked as if they were ragging him. One of them took the parcel of books from his hand and they tossed it around to one another while he flailed around trying to get it back.”
“What happened in the end?”
“One of them threw it to him and they went off laughing.”
“Yes. We’ve had a chat with them. At least DC Templeton has.”
“Nothing there, sir,” said Templeton. “They’ve all got alibis.”
“Which direction did he walk off in?” Gristhorpe asked.
“Down Market Street. South.”
Gristhorpe scratched his chin and frowned. “What do you make of it all, Annie?” he asked.
“I don’t know, sir. He’s been gone three nights now and nobody’s seen hide nor hair.”
“What about the Armitages?”
“Sure they’re telling you the truth?”
“They’ve no reason to lie now,” Annie said. “And the kidnapper knows we’re treating Luke as a misper. Remember, it was him who suggested that the Armitages get Luke to back up their story.”
“Too late for that, now, isn’t it?” said DC Kevin Templeton. “I mean, wasn’t he supposed to come home yesterday?”
“So what happened?” Gristhorpe asked.
“He’s probably dead, sir,” cut in DC Winsome Jackman.
“But why hasn’t the kidnapper gone for the money?”
“Because he knows we’re watching,” Annie answered. “It’s the only explanation. He must have seen me when I went up to the shelter to check the briefcase.”
Nobody said anything; there was nothing they could say. Annie knew they agreed with her and could all sense what she was feeling herself, that gut-wrenching fear that she might be responsible for the boy’s death, that if she had stuck to rules and procedure, then things might have gone according to plan. To give him his due, though, whatever he thought, Gristhorpe didn’t say anything.
“Unless…” Annie went on.
“Well, a couple of things have puzzled me about all this right from the start.”
“I agree that as kidnappings go, it’s hardly conventional,” said Gristhorpe, “but go on.”
Annie took a sip of water. “In the first place,” she said, “why did the kidnapper wait so long before getting in touch with the Armitages and making his demand? Luke disappeared sometime late Monday afternoon or evening, according to what we’ve managed to find out so far, yet the demand didn’t come until after dark on Tuesday.”
“Maybe the kidnapper didn’t get hold of him until Tuesday,” DC Templeton suggested.
“You mean he really did run away and just happened to get picked up by a kidnapper before he could go back?”
“It’s possible, isn’t it?”
“Too much of a coincidence, I’d say.”
“Coincidences do happen.”
“Or the kidnapper might have been keeping an eye on Luke for a while, watching his movements, biding his time.”
“I’ll grant you that’s more likely,” said Gristhorpe. “Annie?”
“It still doesn’t explain the time delay between Luke’s not turning up at home Monday night and the ransom demand on Tuesday evening, sir. These people don’t usually like to waste time. If they snatched him on Monday, then they’d have rung the Armitages on Monday. Besides, that’s only the first thing that bothered me.”
“What’s next?” Gristhorpe asked.
“Well, Martin Armitage told me that when he asked to speak to Luke, the kidnapper wouldn’t let him, said Luke was somewhere else.”
“So?” said DC Templeton. “That’s perfectly likely, isn’t it?”
“But he was calling from Luke’s mobile,” Annie pointed out.
“I still don’t see your point,” said Templeton. “Mobiles are mobile. You can take them anywhere. That’s what they’re for.”
Annie sighed. “Think about it, Kev. If Luke’s being kept somewhere where there isn’t a phone, then the kidnapper might have to go to a phone box, and he’d be unlikely to take Luke with him. But the kidnapper was using Luke’s mobile, so why isn’t he with Luke?”
“Could be where they’re keeping the lad is out of cell range,” suggested DC Rickerd.
“Possible,” Annie agreed, remembering her time out of range. “But isn’t it usual for kidnappers to let the people they want the money from speak to their loved ones? Isn’t it an incentive to pay? Proof of life?”
“Good point, Annie,” said Gristhorpe. “So we’ve got two unusual variations on the formula. First, the time delay, and second, no proof of life. Anything else?”
“Yes,” said Annie. “The ransom demand.”
“What about it?” asked Gristhorpe.
“It’s nowhere near enough.”
“But the Armitages aren’t as rich as people think they are,” argued Templeton.
“My point exactly, Kev. So they’re struggling to maintain Swainsdale Hall and whatever lifestyle they’ve become accustomed to. We know that now, since I talked to them, but it wasn’t common knowledge. As police, we’re privy to a lot of inside information. It’s our lifeblood. But if you kidnapped the son of a famous ex-model and a famous ex-footballer, living in a place like Swainsdale Hall, how much would you think they were worth? How much would you ask them for the life of their son? Ten thousand? Twenty thousand? Fifty? I’d go to a hundred, myself, or maybe a quarter of a million. Let them negotiate down a few thousand from there. I certainly wouldn’t start at ten.”
“So maybe the kidnapper knew they were on their uppers?” Templeton suggested. “Maybe it’s someone who knows the family?”
“Then why kidnap Luke at all? Why not go for someone who had more money?”
“Maybe that’s all they needed. Maybe it’s enough.”
“You’re clutching at straws, Kev.”
Templeton smiled. “Just playing devil’s advocate, ma’m, that’s all. But if you’re right, then perhaps they don’t have quite the intelligence we’re crediting them with.”
“Okay. Point taken.” Annie looked at Gristhorpe. “But don’t you think it’s all a bit puzzling when you add it up, sir?”
Gristhorpe paused and made a steeple of his thick fingers on the desk before answering. “I do,” he said. “I can’t say I’ve had to deal with many kidnappings over the course of my career – and for that I thank the Lord, because it’s a cowardly crime – but I’ve dealt with a few, and none of them have been as riddled with anomalies as this one. What are your conclusions, Annie?”
“Either it’s an amateur job,” Annie answered. “Very amateur, like some junkie who saw the chance to get enough money for his next few fixes and now he’s too scared to go through with it.”
“Or it’s something else entirely. A setup, a diversion, the ransom demand merely to deflect us, confuse us, and something else is going on.”
“Like what?” Gristhorpe asked.
“I don’t know, sir,” Annie answered. “All I know is that in either scenario the outcome looks bad for Luke.”
It wasn’t fair, thought Andrew Naylor, the man from the Ministry, as he drove his government Range Rover over the disinfectant pad at the entrance to the unfenced road above Gratly. He had nothing to do with foot-and-mouth control, yet in the eyes of the locals, all government employees were tarred with the same brush. Everyone knew him in the area, and before the outbreak no one had paid him much mind. Now, though, he was getting sick of the resentful looks he got when he walked into a shop or a pub, the way conversations stopped and whispers began, and the way people sometimes even expressed their anger to his face. In one pub, they had been so hostile toward him he thought they were going to beat him up.
It didn’t do the slightest bit of good to tell them that he worked for the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, DEFRA, in the Water and Land Directorate, and that his job was water, because that only made them think of Yorkshire Water – of droughts, leakages, shortages and restrictions on washing their bloody cars and watering their lawns – and then they got even angrier.
It was part of Andrew’s job to collect water samples from local lakes, ponds, tarns and reservoirs, and these were later tested for contaminants at the Central Science Laboratory. Because some of these bodies of water were surrounded by open country, Andrew was one of the few with a special dispensation to visit them, after taking all the proper precautions, of course.
That day, his last call was Hallam Tarn, a godforsaken, hollowed-out bowl of water on the very top of the moor, beyond Tetchley Fell. Legend had it that the place used to be a village once, but the villagers took to Satanic practices, so God smote them with his fist and the tarn was created in place of the village. It was said that on certain days of the year you could see the old houses and streets beneath the water’s surface and hear the cries of the villagers. Sometimes, when the light was right and the curlew’s cry piped across the desolate moor, Andrew could almost believe it.
Today, though, the sun was shining, and the honeyed air was still and sweet. Summer seemed to have arrived at last, and Andrew couldn’t imagine any hint of evil taking place.
The deepest part of the tarn ran closest to the road, and a tall, solid drystone wall separated it from children and drunks and anyone else foolish enough to wander around up there in the dark. To get access to the water, you had to drive a few yards farther on, cross the stile and take a footpath that led to its shallow shore. In the days before the government restrictions, it had been a popular spot for ramblers and picnickers, but these days it was off-limits, except to people such as Andrew. A government poster nailed to the stile warned people to stay out on penalty of a steep fine.
Before heading out with his dinghy and his sample jar, Andrew sprayed his Wellington boots with disinfectant and donned his plastic outerwear. He felt like a spaceman preparing for a walk on the moon. He also felt hot inside the protective clothing, and all he wanted to do was get this over with as soon as possible, then head home for a nice long bath and an evening out in Northallerton with Nancy, maybe the pictures, a spot of dinner and a drink after.
Feeling the sweat drip down the back of his neck, he walked along the narrow dirt path the hundred yards or so to the edge of the tarn and squatted by the waterside to fill his sample jar. It was so quiet up there, he could imagine himself the only man left in the world. Because he had to take samples from various depths, he got in the small dinghy and began to row. The tarn wasn’t much bigger than a large pond, maybe a couple of hundred yards long and a hundred wide, but it was quite deep in places. Andrew felt a little disquiet at being out there all alone, not another soul in sight, and whenever he looked down into the water he fancied he could see a roof or a street below. It was an optical illusion, of course, most likely caused by the sun on the water, but it unnerved him nonetheless.
When he neared the wall, he noticed some dark material snagged on the roots of an old tree. The tree was gone, but gnarled roots still jutted out of the bank like arms reaching out of a grave, and there was something about their arched, sinewy shapes that upset Andrew even more. Curious about the material, however, he put his fears aside and rowed closer. Legends and myths couldn’t harm him.
When he got near enough, he stretched out his arm and tried to free the material from the root. It was heavier than he thought, and as it jerked free, the dinghy tipped and Andrew, off-balance, fell into the tarn. He was a strong swimmer, so drowning didn’t worry him, but what chilled his blood was that the thing he was holding tightly as a lover in a slow dance was a dead body, and from its ashen face, open dead eyes looked directly into his.
Andrew let go of the burden, mouth full of bile. He struggled back into the dinghy, salvaged his oars and rowed back to shore, where he stopped only long enough to be sick, before squelching back to his van, hoping to God his mobile worked up there. It didn’t. Cursing, he threw it on the floor and started the van with shaking hands. As he drove back toward Helmthorpe, he glanced frequently in his rearview mirror to make sure that no misshapen, supernatural beasts from the depths of the tarn were following him.
Banks still felt angry when he pulled up outside his parents’ house, brakes squealing, but before he went inside he took several deep breaths, determined not to let it show. His parents didn’t need it; they had problems enough of their own. He found his father in front of the television watching horse racing and his mother in the kitchen fussing over a cake.
“I’m heading home this afternoon,” he said, popping his head around the kitchen door. “Thanks for letting me stay.”
“There’s always a bed for you here,” his mother said. “You know that, son. Have you finished what you came for?”
“Not really,” said Banks, “but there’s not a lot more I can do.”
“You’re a policeman. Surely you can do something to help?”
The ways Banks’s mother said “policeman” wasn’t quite as vehement as the way his father said it, nor was it as tinged with distaste as the way she used to say it, but it wasn’t far off, which was why it had surprised Banks when Mrs. Marshall told him his mother was proud of him. Banks’s mother had always made it clear that she thought he had sold himself short, that he should have gone into commerce and worked himself up to be managing director of some big international company. It didn’t seem to matter how well he did in his job, or how often he was promoted; to his mother, his career choice was undignified, and his achievements always seemed to pale beside those of his stockbroker brother, Roy. Banks had always suspected that Roy was a bit of a shady dealer, a frequent enough occurrence in the world of financial speculation, in his experience, though he would never voice such suspicions to his mother, or indeed to Roy himself. Still, he lived in dread of that telephone call coming from his brother one day: “Alan, can you help me? I’m in a bit of a fix with the law.”
“It’s not my case, Mum,” he said. “The locals are good. They’ll do the best they can.”
“Will you have something to eat with us before you go?”
“Of course. Know what I’d like?”
“Fish and chips from over the road,” said Banks. “I’ll get them. My treat.”
“Well, maybe I’ll have a fish cake,” said his mother. “Your dad hasn’t eaten from there since it went Chinese, though.”
“Go on, Dad,” said Banks, turning to the living room. “Or maybe you should stick to your low-fat diet?”
“Bugger low fat,” said Arthur Banks. “I’ll have the special and chips. Just make sure there’s no bloody chop suey or sweet and sour sauce gone anywhere near it.” Banks winked at his mother and walked over to the shop.
The strip of shops across the main road, set back by a stretch of tarmac for customer parking, had gone through dozens of changes over the years. When Banks first moved to the estate, he remembered, there had been the fish and chips shop, a ladies’ hairdresser, a butcher’s, a greengrocer’s and a launderette. Now there was a video-rental shop, a take-away pizza and tandoori place called Caesar’s Taj Mahal, a minimart and a unisex hair salon. The only constants were the fish and chips shop, which now also sold take-away Chinese food, and the newsagent’s, which, according to the signs, was still run by the Walkers, who had taken over from Donald Bradford all those years ago, in 1966. Banks wondered what had become of Bradford. He was said to have been devastated over what had happened to Graham. Had the local police ever followed up on him?
Banks waited to cross the busy road. To the left of the shops stood the remains of the old ball-bearing factory, still untouched for some reason. It could hardly be for historical preservation, as it was a real eyesore. The gates were chained and padlocked shut, and it was surrounded by high wire-mesh fencing with barbed wire on top, the windows beyond covered by rusty grilles. Despite these security precautions, most of the windows were broken anyway, and the front of the blackened brick building was covered in colorful graffiti. Banks remembered when the place was in full production, lorries coming and going, the factory whistle blowing and crowds of workers waiting at the bus stop. A lot of them were young women, or girls scarcely out of school – a rough lot, his mother called them – and Banks often used to time his visits to the shops to coincide with the factory gates opening because he lusted after some of the girls.
There was one girl in particular, he remembered, who used to stand at the bus stop smoking, a faraway look in her eyes, scarf done up like a turban on her head. Even her serviceable work clothes couldn’t disguise the curves, and she had pale smooth skin and looked a bit like Julie Christie in Billy Liar. When Banks used to walk as casually as possible past the bus stop, he remembered as he stood in the fish and chips shop queue, the other girls used to tease him with lewd comments and make him blush.
“Hey, Mandy,” one of them would call out. “Here comes that lad again. I think he fancies you.”
They would all howl with laughter, Mandy would tell them to shut up and Banks would blush. Once, Mandy tousled his hair and gave him a cigarette. He smoked it over a week, taking a few drags at a time, then nicking it to save for later. In the end it tasted like something he might have picked up from the gutter, but he finished it anyway. After that, Mandy would sometimes smile when he passed by. She had a nice smile. Sometimes strands of hair escaped from under her turban and curled over her cheek, and other times she might have a smudge of oil or dirt on her face. She must have been about eighteen. Four years age difference. Far from an impossible gap when you get older, but wider than the Grand Canyon at that age.
Then, one day, he noticed that she had started wearing an engagement ring, and a few weeks later she no longer stood at the bus stop with the others, and he never saw her again.
Where was Mandy now? he wondered. She’d be in her fifties if she was still alive, older than Kay Summerville. Had she put on a lot of weight? Had her hair turned gray? Did she look old and worn after years of struggle and poverty? Had she stayed married to the same man? Had she won the lottery and gone to live on the Costa del Sol? Did she ever think of that lovestruck adolescent who used to time his visits to the shops so he could see her waiting at the bus stop? He doubted it very much. The lives we leave behind. So many people. Our paths cross for a while, even as fleetingly as his had crossed Mandy’s, and we move on. Some encounters are impressed indelibly in our memories; others slip away into the void. Of course Mandy never thought of him; he was a mere passing amusement to her, whereas she fed deeper into his adolescent dreams of sex, and in his memory she would always be standing there with her hip against the bus stop, smoking with a faraway look in her eyes, a loose lock of hair resting softly against her pale cheek, always beautiful and always eighteen.
“Two specials and chips and one fish cake.”
Banks paid for the fish and chips and set off back home carrying the paper bag. No newspaper-wrapped fish and chips anymore. Dirty. Not healthy.
“There was a telephone call for you while you were out, Alan,” his mother said when he got back.
“Who was it?”
“Same woman as called last night. Have you got a new girlfriend already?”
Already. Sandra had been gone nearly two years, was pregnant with another man’s child and about to marry him. Had Banks got a new girlfriend already?
“No, Mum,” he said. “It’s one of the local coppers. You already know that from last night. They let women on the force these days.”
“No need to be cheeky. Eat your fish and chips before they go cold.”
“What did she say?”
“To ring her back when you had a moment. I wrote down the number just in case you’d forgotten it.”
Banks’s mother rolled her eyes when he left the table and headed toward the telephone. His father didn’t notice; he had his fish and chips on the paper on his lap and was eating them with his fingers, engrossed in the one-thirty from Newmarket, glass of beer balanced precariously on the arm of the chair.
The number scribbled on the pad by the hall telephone wasn’t familiar. It certainly wasn’t Thorpe Wood. Curious, Banks dialed.
“DI Hart here. Who’s speaking?”
“Michelle? It’s me. Alan Banks.”
“Ah, DCI Banks.”
“You left a message for me to call. Is this your mobile number?”
“That’s right. Look, first off, I’m sorry about Detective Superintendent Shaw this morning.”
“That’s all right. Not your fault.”
“I just felt… well, anyway, I’m surprised he’s taking such an interest. It’s not even his case. I had him marked down as just putting in time till his retirement; now he’s all over me like a dirty shirt.”
“What did you want to talk to me about?”
“Are you going home?”
“I don’t know. This afternoon. This evening. No point hanging around where I’m not wanted.”
“Don’t feel sorry for yourself. It doesn’t suit you. Only I was wondering if you’d like to meet up for a chat before you go, if you’re not in a hurry?”
“Any particular reason?”
“Perhaps because I didn’t treat you like an undesirable alien, despite your less than polite introduction.”
“Yes, okay. Why not?”
“Shall we say half past five in Starbucks, Cathedral Square?”
“There’s a Starbucks? In Peterborough?”
“Don’t sound so surprised. We’re very with-it these days. There’s a McDonald’s, too, if you’d prefer?”
“No. Starbucks will do fine. Half-five it is. That’ll give me plenty of time to pack and say my good-byes. See you there.”
Annie and Gristhorpe arrived at Hallam Tarn in time to see two police frogmen haul up the body and pull it back to shore with them. Peter Darby, crime scene photographer, sat in a dinghy nearby and videotaped everything. He had already taken several stills and Polaroids of the spot where the body had been first seen by Andrew Naylor. One of the lads at Helmthorpe had found a dry set of clothes for Naylor, and he stood with the small group, chewing his fingernails as the frogmen edged closer to shore.
Once on shore, they laid the body on the grass at the feet of Dr. Burns, the police surgeon. Dr. Glendenning, the Home Office pathologist, was unavailable that day, as he had been called in to help a colleague with a difficult case in Scarborough. Detective Sergeant Stefan Nowak, crime scene coordinator, and his scene-of-crime officers were on their way.
Well, Annie thought with some relief, at least it wasn’t a floater. She had been at the scene of more than one bloated, misshapen lump pulled from the water, and she didn’t relish another. But when she saw the face, she would gladly have accepted an anonymous floater any day. The body was Luke Armitage’s. No doubt about it. He was wearing the black T-shirt and jeans that Robin said he had on when he went to Eastvale, and he hadn’t been in the water long enough for his features to become unrecognizable, though the skin was white and there were signs of cutis anserina, more commonly known as gooseflesh. The once dark curls were straight now and stuck to his head and face like seaweed.
Annie stood aside and let Dr. Burns perform his in situ examination. “This is going to be difficult,” he told Annie. “In general, bodies decompose twice as fast in air as in water, but there are so many variables to take into account.”
“Any chance he drowned?”
The doctor examined Luke’s mouth for signs of foam and his eyes for the telltale petechial hemorrhages associated with asphyxia, of which drowning is a form. He shook his head and turned back to Annie. “Hard to be certain. We’ll have a better idea when Dr. Glendenning checks the lungs and runs a diatomic analysis.”
Diatoms, Annie knew from her basic courses in forensic science, were microorganisms that lived in the water. If you drowned, you breathed in a lot of them with the water and they spread to every nook and cranny of your body, even your bone marrow; if you hadn’t drowned but were found dead in water, then a few diatoms might be found, but they would be nowhere near as abundant or widely spread.
Dr. Burns turned the body over and pointed to the back of Luke’s head. Annie could see the signs of a blow. “Would that have been enough to cause death?” she asked.
“Hard blow to the cerebellum?” said Dr. Burns. “Certainly.” He began to examine the body in more detail. “He’s cold,” he said, “and there’s no rigor.”
“What does that tell you?”
“Usually a body is cold after eight to ten hours in the water. I’ll have to take his temperature to substantiate this, of course, and we’ll need to know the temperature of the water, too. As for the rigor, given the obvious effects of water on his skin, it must have come and gone.”
“How long does that take?”
“In water? Anything from two to four days.”
“Not usually, no. Again, though, I’ll have to make some temperature checks. It might be summer but we’ve hardly been enjoying seasonal temperatures of late.”
Two days, Annie thought. It was Thursday afternoon now, and the ransom demand had come two days ago, on Tuesday evening. Was Luke already dead by then? If so, his death had nothing to do with her rash actions. She began to feel a glimmer of hope. If that was the case, then the kidnapper was trying to cash in on Luke’s death, which could have come about for other reasons. Curious. She would have to begin casting about for a motive now.
The sound of an approaching van interrupted Annie’s stream of thought, and she looked across to the wall to see DS Nowak and his SOCO team jumping the stile one after another, looking like sheep in their white protective clothing. Well, she thought, maybe the experts would be able to tell her a bit more.
Banks arrived half an hour early for his meeting with Michelle, parked in the short stay round the back of the town hall and cut through the arcade to Bridge Street, where he nipped into Waterstone’s and bought a book called The Profession of Violence, the story of the Kray twins. As he walked up the busy street toward the square, he marveled at how much the city center had changed since his day. For a start, it was all pedestrian precinct now, not busy roads the way it had been when he lived there. And it seemed cleaner, the buildings less shabby and grime-coated. It was a sunny afternoon, and tourists wandered in and out of the cathedral grounds into the square to spend a while browsing through the shops. Banks found it all quite pleasant, which didn’t square with his memory of being stuck in a dirty, small-minded provincial backwater. Maybe it was he who had changed the most.
He found Starbucks on the corner by the cathedral entrance and sipped a grande latte while he flipped through the book.
Michelle arrived five minutes late, cool and collected, wearing black slacks and a slate-gray jacket over a cream blouse. She went to the counter for a cappuccino, then sat down opposite Banks.
“Bit of a shock for you, wasn’t it, this morning?” she said.
“I suppose so,” Banks said. “After all these years… I don’t know, I suppose I’d allowed myself to believe there had to be a connection. Conned myself.”
“We all do, one way or another.”
“You’re too young to be so cynical.”
“And you should be old and wise enough to realize that flattery will get you nowhere. You’ve got a bit of froth on your lip.”
Before Banks could wipe it away, Michelle reached out her finger and did it for him, her fingertip brushing his lip.
“Thanks,” he said.
Michelle blushed, turned her head away and let out a little giggle. “I don’t know why I did that,” she said. “My mother used to do it when I drank milk shakes.”
“Haven’t had a milk shake in years,” said Banks.
“Me, neither. What next?”
“Home. And you?”
“Dunno. The leads are hardly jumping out at me left, right and center.”
Banks thought for a moment. He hadn’t told Shaw about the possible Kray connection because Shaw had behaved like a bastard. Besides, it wasn’t his case. There was no reason to keep it from Michelle, though. It probably meant nothing, but at least it would give her something to do, the illusion of progress.
“I’ve heard rumors that Graham Marshall’s dad was connected with the Krays in London just before the family moved up here.”
“Connected? In what way?”
“Strong-arm man. Enforcer. I don’t know how true it is – you know how these things can be exaggerated – but it might be worth a bit of delving into.”
“How do you know this?”
Banks touched the side of his nose. “I’ve got my sources.”
“And how long have you known?”
“Just found out before I came here.”
“Yeah, and the Pope’s Jewish.”
“The point is, what are you going to do about it?”
Michelle moved the froth in her cup around with a spoon. “I don’t suppose it’d do any harm to set a few inquiries in motion. Might even get a trip to London out of it. You sure I won’t come out looking like a complete moron?”
“I can’t guarantee that. It’s always a risk. Better than being the moron who missed the vital clue, though.”
“Thanks. That’s really encouraging. I don’t know very much about the Krays – before my time. I haven’t even seen the film. I do remember the big funeral they gave one of them in the East End not so long ago, though.”
“That’d be Reggie. Couple of years ago. The whole East End came out for him. It was the same when Ronnie died in 1995. Very popular among East Enders, the Krays were. Loved their mother. There were three of them, an older brother called Charlie, but Ronnie and Reggie, the Twins, are the ones people focus on. They pretty much ran the East End during the fifties and sixties, and a fair bit of the West End, too, till they got put away. Ronnie was the crazy one. Paranoid schizophrenic. He ended up in Broadmoor. Reggie was Category ‘A’ in Parkhurst. I suppose you could say that he was led astray by his more dominant twin brother, if you wanted to be charitable.”
“But what could they have to do with Graham Marshall’s disappearance and murder?”
“Probably nothing,” Banks said. “They didn’t operate outside London much, except for maybe a few clubs in cities like Birmingham or Leicester. But if Bill Marshall did work for them, then there’s always the chance he left them reason to bear a grudge, and the twins had a long reach.”
“And for that they’d kill his son?”
“I don’t know, Michelle. These people have a very warped sense of justice. And don’t forget, Ronnie was crazy. He was a sexual sadist, a serious pervert, among other things. He was the one who walked into The Blind Beggar and shot George Cornell right between the eyes in front of a roomful of witnesses. Know what was playing on the jukebox?”
“It was The Walker Brothers, ‘The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore.’ And they say the needle got stuck on ‘anymore’ when he was shot.”
“How melodramatic. I don’t remember The Walker Brothers.”
“Not many people do. Want me to sing you a couple of verses?”
“I thought you said you never sing to women you’ve just met?”
“Don’t you remember?”
“Nothing slips past you, does it?”
“Not much. I know you read Philip Larkin, too.”
“You quoted him.”
“I’m impressed. Anyway, who knows how someone like Ronnie Kray thinks, if ‘think’ is even the right word? He was seeing enemies all around him by then and coming up with more and more dramatic ways of hurting people. He loved to inspire fear and trembling, even in his own men. He was also a homosexual with a taste for teenage boys. They wouldn’t have done Graham themselves, of course – they’d have got agoraphobia if they came this far north of London – but they could have sent someone to do it. Anyway, it’s not only that.”
“If Bill Marshall did work as a strong-arm man for the Krays, what was he doing up here? You know as well as I do that people don’t just walk away from that line of work. Maybe he got himself fixed up with someone local, a branch manager.”
“So you’re saying he might have been up to the same tricks here, and that might have had something to do with Graham’s death?”
“I’m just saying it’s possible, that’s all. Worth investigating.”
“There was a reference to a protection racket in the old crime logs,” Michelle said. “Someone called Carlo Fiorino. Ring any bells?”
“Vaguely,” said Banks. “Maybe his name was in the papers when I was a kid. Anyway, it’s something to think about.”
“So why didn’t it come up in the original investigation?”
“Didn’t it?” said Banks. “Dunno. Want another coffee?”
Michelle looked into her empty cup. “Sure.”
Banks went and got two more coffees, and when he came back, Michelle was leafing through the book.
“Borrow it if you want,” he said. “I just picked it up to see if I could fill in a bit more background.”
“Thanks. I’d like to read it. Did Graham ever mention the Krays to you?”
“Yes, but I’m not sure that he ever said he or his dad knew them. I’ve also been thinking about the time frame. Graham and his parents came up here around July or August 1964. In July, there was a big brouhaha in the press over Ronnie’s alleged homosexual relationship with Lord Boothby, who denied everything and sued the Sunday Mirror for libel. Ronnie followed suit, but all he got was an apology. Still, there was an upside in that the press had to lay off the Krays for a while after that. Nobody wanted any more libel suits. One day Ronnie was a thug and a gangster, the next, a sporting gentleman. It set the police investigation back, too. Everyone had to walk on eggs around them. Even so, they were arrested the next January for demanding money with menaces. There was no bail and they were tried at the Old Bailey.”
“They got off. It was a flimsy enough case to start with. There was talk of jury tampering. See, back then, there was no majority verdict like we have today. All twelve had to agree, or there’d be a retrial, which would give the accused even more time to fix things. They dug up some dirt on one of the main prosecution witnesses and that was it, they were free.”
“But how does any of this relate to Graham?”
“I’m not saying it does, only that that was what was happening around 1964 and 1965, the period we’re concerned with. The Krays were in the public eye a lot. The libel case and the trial were both big news, and after they got off they were fireproof for a long time. It was the start of their ascendancy as celebrities, the dark side of Swinging London, you might say. Soon they were being photographed with film stars, sporting figures and pop singers: Barbara Windsor, Sonny Liston, Judy Garland, Victor Spinetti – who was in A Hard Day’s Night, Help! and Magical Mystery Tour, if you can handle another piece of trivia. In the summer of 1965, they had a fiddle involving selling stolen American securities and bonds for the Mafia, and they were squaring up for a big fight with their rivals, the Richardson gang.” Banks tapped the book. “It’s all in there. I don’t know if it means anything. But as your boss made clear this morning, it’s none of my business.”
Michelle frowned. “Yeah, I know. I keep thinking he’s looking over my shoulder even now, in here.”
“I don’t want you to get into trouble for talking to me.”
“Don’t worry. I wasn’t followed. I’m only being paranoid.”
“It doesn’t mean you’re not being followed. Will you keep in touch, let me know if you come up with anything?”
“I shouldn’t, but I will.”
“And if there’s any way I can help…”
“Of course. If you remember anything Graham said or did that might be useful, I’d appreciate knowing.”
“You will. Look, Graham’s mother mentioned a funeral, when the remains have been released. Any idea how long that might be?”
“I’m not sure. It shouldn’t be long. I’ll see how Dr. Cooper’s doing tomorrow.”
“Would you? Good. I think I’d like to come down for it. Even Shaw can’t complain about that. Will you let me know?”
“Of course. Can I ask you something?”
“That remark Shaw made about the budgie. What did he mean?”
Banks related the sad story of Joey’s flight to freedom and certain death. By the end, Michelle was smiling. “That’s so sad,” she said. “You must have been heartbroken.”
“I got over it. He wasn’t exactly a wonder-budgie. He couldn’t even talk. As everyone told me at the time, it wasn’t Goldie the Eagle.”
“Goldie the Eagle?”
“Yes. Earlier the same year, 1965, Goldie the Eagle escaped from London Zoo. They got her back a couple of weeks later. It was a big story at the time.”
“But your Joey was never found?”
“No. He had no defenses. He must have thought he was home free, but he couldn’t survive all the predators out there. He was in way over his plumage. Look,” Banks went on, “will you answer a question for me?”
Michelle nodded but looked wary and shuffled in her seat.
“Are you married?” Banks asked.
“No,” she said. “No, I’m not.” And she got up and walked out without even saying good-bye.
Banks was about to go after her when his mobile rang. Cursing, and feeling like a bit of a pillock, the way he always did when it went off in a public place, Banks answered the call.
“Alan? It’s Annie. Hope I haven’t called at a bad time.”
“No, not at all.”
“Only we could use a bit of extra help, if you’ve finished your business down there.”
“Pretty much,” said Banks, thinking that his partings with both members of the local constabulary he had met left a lot to be desired. “What’s up?”
“Know that missing kid I told you about?”
“That’s the one.”
“What about him?”
“It looks as if it’s just turned into a murder case.”
“Shit,” said Banks. “I’m on my way.”
“Strictly speaking, you know,” said Banks, “this is your case. It has been from the start. Are you sure you want me muscling in?”
“I wouldn’t have rung you if I didn’t, would I?” said Annie. “Besides, you know I’m not that kind of copper.”
“What kind of copper?”
“All territorial and bureaucratic. I don’t go in for pissing matches. I’m all for cooperation, me, not competition.”
“Fair enough. Let’s chalk my comment down to recent experience.”
“What do you mean?”
Banks told her about Detective Superintendent Shaw.
“Well,” Annie said. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you they wouldn’t exactly welcome you with open arms.”
“My pleasure. Anyway, you can help me just as long as you give me the respect I deserve and don’t treat me like a skivvy.”
“Have I ever?”
“This is a pretty good start.”
Banks’s car was in the garage for servicing and wouldn’t be ready until after lunch, so they had signed out a department car that morning, and Annie was driving, something Banks usually liked to do himself.
“I was thinking I could sort of get to like it,” said Banks. “There’s a lot to be said for having a chauffeuse.”
Annie shot him a look. “Feel like getting out and walking the rest of the way?”
“Well, behave yourself. Anyway,” she went on, “if you want to be all official about it, it’s the Big Man’s case. He’s the SIO, and he’s the one who suggested if I asked you nicely you might come back from leave early and give us the benefit of your considerable expertise.”
“The Big Man?”
“Detective Superintendent Gristhorpe.”
“Does he know you call him that?”
Annie grinned. “You should hear what we call you in the squad room.”
“I must say it’s great to be home,” said Banks.
Annie glanced sideways at him. “How did things go, other than your run-in with the local constabulary?”
“All a bit embarrassing, really.” Banks told her about McCallum turning out to be an escaped mental patient who drowned before Graham disappeared.
“I’m so sorry, Alan,” she said, touching his knee. “After all those years feeling guilty and responsible… But you must be relieved, in a way… I mean, knowing it couldn’t have been him, so it wasn’t your fault?”
“I suppose I must. You know, apart from the police down there, you’re the only other person I’ve ever told about what happened by the river that day.”
“You never told Sandra?”
“I don’t know.”
Banks felt Annie retreat into silence beside him and knew he’d done again exactly the sort of thing that caused her to end their romantic relationship. It was as if she offered him something warm, soft and sensitive, yet the moment he reached out and touched it, she shot back into her hard, impenetrable shell.
Before either of them could think of anything else to say, they arrived at the end of the Armitages’ drive, where reporters clamored around them with pens, microphones and cameras. The officer on duty lifted the tape and let them through.
“Impressive,” said Banks, when the building’s solid, symmetrical architecture came into view. “I’ve only seen the place from the riverside walk before.”
“Just wait until you meet the beautiful people inside.”
“Go easy, Annie, they’ve just lost their son.”
Annie sighed. “I know that. And I will. Okay?”
“I’m just not looking forward to this.”
“Who dealt with the identification?”
“Winsome did. Last night.”
“So you haven’t seen the family since the boy’s body was found?”
“If you don’t think I’m being patronizing, why don’t you let me deal with them?”
“Be my guest. Honest. Given my track record with Martin Armitage, I’d be grateful to be an observer this time. Fresh approach and all that.”
Josie answered the front door almost the moment they rang the bell and led the two of them into the living room, where Banks introduced himself.
“What is it now?” Martin Armitage asked, glaring at Annie. Neither he nor his wife looked as if they had had much sleep, and they probably hadn’t.
“A murder investigation,” said Banks. “Or so it seems. And we need your help.”
“I don’t see how we can help any more than we have done already. We cooperated with you, against the kidnapper’s wishes, and look what happened.” He glanced toward Annie again, voice rising. “I hope you realize this is your fault, that Luke’s death is your responsibility. If you hadn’t followed me to the shelter and then come nosing around here, the kidnapper would have picked up the money and Luke would be home safe and sound.”
“Martin,” said Robin Armitage. “We’ve been over this again and again. Don’t make a scene.”
“Don’t make a scene! Good God, woman, this is your son we’re talking about. She as good as killed him.”
“Calm down, Mr. Armitage,” said Banks. Martin Armitage wasn’t quite as tall as Banks had imagined, but he was fit and bursting with energy. Not the kind of man to sit around waiting for results, but one who went out and made the result happen. That was the way he’d played football, too, Banks remembered. Armitage hadn’t been content to hang around the goalmouth waiting for a midfielder to feed him the ball; he had created scoring opportunities himself, and the main criticism leveled at him was that he was greedy for the ball, more apt to shoot and miss than pass to someone in a better scoring position. He had also lacked self-control and attracted a high number of red and yellow cards. Banks remembered once seeing him lash out at a member of the other team who had taken the ball from him fairly in the penalty area. He’d given away a penalty over that, and it lost his side the game.
“This is a difficult enough job as it is,” said Banks, “without you making it worse. I’m sorry for your loss, but it’s no good flinging blame about. We don’t know how or why Luke died yet. We don’t even know where or when. So until we’ve been able to answer some of those basic questions we’re not in a position to jump to conclusions. I suggest you exercise the same restraint.”
“What else would you say?” said Martin. “You always stick together, you lot.”
“Can we get down to business?”
“Yes, of course,” said Robin, sitting on the sofa in jeans and a pale green blouse, long legs crossed, hands folded on her lap. Without makeup and with her famous gold-blond hair tied back in a ponytail, she still looked gorgeous, Banks thought, and the crow’s-feet only enhanced her beauty. She had the classic model’s face – high cheekbones, small nose, pointed chin, perfect proportion, but she also had character and individuality in her features.
Banks had once worked on a case for the Met involving a modeling agency and he had been surprised that so many of these women who looked beautiful in magazines and on television lacked something in real life, their features perfect but bland, unformed and unfinished, like a blank canvas or an actor without a role. But Robin Armitage had presence.
“I’m sure you know,” said Banks, “that Luke’s death changes everything. It changes the way we proceed in the investigation, and we’re going to have to go over much of the same ground again. This may seem tedious and pointless to you, but believe me, it’s necessary. I’m new to the case, but I took the time this morning to familiarize myself with the investigation so far, and I have to say that I’ve found nothing out of order, nothing I wouldn’t have done had I been in charge myself.”
“Like I said,” Martin chipped in, “you lot stick together. I’ll be complaining to the chief constable. He’s a personal friend of mine.”
“That’s your privilege, but he’ll only tell you the same as I’m telling you. If everyone gave in to a kidnapper’s demands without informing the police, it would be the most popular crime in the country.”
“But look what happened when we did inform the police. Our son is dead.”
“Something went wrong. This was an unusual case from the start; there are a number of inconsistencies.”
“What are you suggesting? That it wasn’t a straightforward kidnapping?”
“There was nothing straightforward about it at all, Mr. Armitage.”
“I don’t understand,” said Robin. “The phone call… the ransom demand… they were genuine, surely?”
“Yes,” said Annie, taking a cue from Banks. “But the ransom demand came an unusually long time after Luke disappeared, the kidnapper didn’t let you speak to your son, and the sum he asked for was ridiculously low.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” said Martin. “We’re not made of money.”
“I know that,” Annie said. “But how would the kidnapper know? To all intents and purposes, footballers and models make millions, and you’re living in a mansion.”
Martin frowned. “I suppose you’ve got a point. Unless…”
“Yes?” Banks picked up the questioning again.
“Unless it was someone close to us.”
“Can you think of anyone?”
“Of course not. I can’t imagine any of our friends doing something like this. Are you insane?”
Robin shook her head. “No.”
“We’ll still need a list of people to talk to.”
“I’m not having you going around bullying our friends,” said Martin.
“Don’t worry, we’ll be discreet. And, don’t forget, you’re the one who suggested it might be someone close to you. Anyone have a grudge against either of you?”
“A few goalies, I suppose,” said Martin, “but nothing serious, no.”
“I don’t think so. Modeling can be a brutally competitive career, and I’m sure I stood on my share of toes on the catwalk, but nothing so… terrible… I mean, nothing to make anyone do something like this, especially so long after.”
“If you’d both like to think about it for a while, it would be a great help.”
“You said it was odd that he wouldn’t let us talk to Luke,” Robin said.
“It’s unusual, yes,” Annie answered.
“Do you think it was because… because Luke was already dead?”
“That’s possible,” said Annie. “But we won’t know until the pathologist has finished his job.”
“When will that be?”
“Perhaps by this evening or early tomorrow.” Dr. Burns, the police surgeon, had been unable to give an accurate estimate of time of death at the scene, so they would have to wait until Dr. Glendenning had finished his postmortem examination of Luke’s body. Even then, they had learned not to expect miracles from medical science.
“Can you remember anything else about the caller?” Banks asked Martin Armitage.
“I’ve told you everything I know. I can’t remember any more.”
“The voice definitely wasn’t familiar?”
“No one I recognized.”
“And there was only the one call?”
“Is there anything else you can tell us that might be of help?”
Both Martin and Robin Armitage shook their heads. Banks and Annie got up. “We’ll need to have a look at Luke’s room next,” said Banks, “and then we’d like to talk to your housekeeper and her husband.”
“Josie and Calvin?” said Martin. “But why?”
“They might be able to help.”
“I can’t see how.”
“Were they close to Luke?”
“Not especially. If truth be told, I always got the impression that they thought him a bit of a weirdo. They’re wonderful people, salt of the earth, but sort of traditional in their views of people and behavior.”
“And Luke didn’t fit the mold?”
“No. He might as well have come from outer space as far as they’re concerned.”
“Was there any animosity?”
“Of course not. They are our employees, after all. What are you suggesting, that they had something to do with this?”
“I’m not suggesting anything, merely asking. Look, Mr. Armitage, I can understand your feelings, honestly I can, but you must let us do our jobs the way we see fit. It’s not going to help at all if you start challenging every move we make. I promise you we’ll be as discreet as we can with all our inquiries. No matter what you think, we don’t go around bullying people. But we also don’t accept everything at face value. People lie for a variety of reasons, many of them irrelevant to the investigation, but sometimes it’s because they did it, and it’s for us to sort out the lies from the truth. You’ve already lied to us once yourself that we know of, when you rang DI Cabbot and told her you’d heard from Luke.”
“I did that to protect Luke.”
“I understand why you did it, but it was still a lie. Maybe you can see how complicated our job becomes when you take all the lies into account. The lies of the innocent, especially. As I said, we don’t take things, or people, at face value, and like it or not, every murder investigation begins close to home, then moves outward. Now, if you don’t mind, we’ll take a look at Luke’s room.”
Michelle had been joking when she told Banks she was getting paranoid, but she was beginning to think that every time she visited the archives, Mrs. Metcalfe rang Detective Superintendent Shaw. Here he was again, preceded by the dark chill of his shadow, on the threshold of the tiny room.
“Any progress?” he asked, leaning against the door.
“I’m not sure,” said Michelle. “I’ve been going over the old crime reports for 1965 looking for some sort of connection with Graham’s disappearance.”
“And have you found any?”
“Not directly, no.”
“I told you you were wasting your time.”
“Maybe not entirely.”
“What do you mean?”
Michelle paused. She had to be careful what she said because she didn’t want Shaw to know that Banks had tipped her off to the Kray connection. That would send him into a tantrum she could well do without. “I was reading over the reports and statements on a protection racket investigation in July 1965, and Graham’s dad’s name came up.”
“So? Where’s the connection?”
“A club on Church Street called Le Phonographe.”
“I remember that place. It was a discotheque.”
Michelle frowned. “I thought disco was in the seventies, not the sixties.”
“I’m not talking about the music, but the establishment itself. Clubs like Le Phonographe offered memberships and served meals, usually an inedible beef burger, if my memory serves me well, so they could sell alcohol legally after regular closing time. They’d stay open till three in the morning, or so. There’d be music and dancing, too, but it was usually Motown or soul.”
“You sound familiar with the place, sir.”
“I was young once, DI Hart. Besides, Le Phonographe was the sort of place you kept an eye on. It was a villains’ club. Owned by a nasty piece of work called Carlo Fiorino. Used to like to pretend he was Mafia, wore the striped, wide-lapel suits, pencil-thin mustache, spats and everything – very Untouchables – but his father was a POW who ended up staying on after the war and marrying a local farm girl out Huntingdon way. Plenty of local villains hung out there, and you could often pick up a tip or two. And I don’t mean for the three-thirty at Kempton Park.”
“So it was a criminal hangout?”
“Back then, yes. But petty. People who liked to think they were big players.”
“Including Bill Marshall?”
“So you knew about Bill Marshall’s activities?”
“Of course we did. He was strictly a minor presence. We kept an eye on him. It was routine.”
“What was this Carlo Fiorino’s game?”
“Bit of everything. Soon as the new town expansion was well under way he turned Le Phonographe into a more up-market club, with decent grub, a better dance floor and a casino. He also owned an escort agency. We think he also got into drugs, prostitution and pornography, but he was always clever enough to stay one step ahead, and he played both sides against the middle. Most of the time.”
“What do you mean, sir?”
“Got himself shot in a drug war with the Jamaicans in 1982.”
“But he never did time?”
“Never got charged with anything, far as I remember.”
“Doesn’t that strike you as odd, sir?”
“Odd?” Shaw seemed to snap out of his reminiscing mood and become his grumpy old self again. He stuck his face so close to hers that she could smell his tobacco-mint-and-whiskey breath and see the lattice of purple veins throbbing in his bulbous nose. “I’ll tell you what’s bloody odd, DI Hart. It’s you asking these questions. That’s what’s odd. None of this can possibly have anything to do with what happened to Graham Marshall, and that’s a fact. You’re muckraking. I don’t know why, but that’s what you’re doing.”
“Sir, all I’m doing is trying to get a handle on the circumstances of the boy’s disappearance. Looking over the investigation and over other investigations around the same time seems a reasonable way of doing it to me.”
“It’s not your brief to look into the Marshall investigation, DI Hart, or any other, for that matter. Who do you think you are, Complaints and Discipline? Stick to your job.”
“But sir, Bill Marshall was one of the men interviewed in connection with this protection racket, all involved with Carlo Fiorino and Le Phonographe. Some of the city center shopkeepers filed a complaint, and Marshall was one of the people they named.”
“Was he charged?”
“No, sir. Only questioned. One of the original complainants ended up in hospital and the other witnesses backed off, retracted their statements. No further action.”
Shaw smirked. “Then it’s hardly relevant, is it?”
“But doesn’t it seem odd to you that no further action was taken? And that when Graham Marshall disappeared, his father never came under close scrutiny, even though he had recently been implicated in a criminal ring?”
“Why should he? Maybe he didn’t do it. Did that thought ever enter your head? And even if he was involved in some petty protection racket, it doesn’t make him a child killer, does it? Even by your standards that’s a long stretch of the imagination.”
“Was Bill Marshall a police informer?”
“He might have let slip the odd snippet of information. That’s how we played the game back then. Tit for tat.”
“Is that why he was protected from prosecution?”
“How the hell should I know? If you’ve read your paperwork, you’ll know I wasn’t on that case.” He took a deep breath, then seemed to relax and soften his tone. “Look,” he said, “policing was different back then. There was more give-and-take.”
Plenty of take, Michelle thought. She’d heard stories of the old days, of departments, of stations and even of whole counties run wild. But she didn’t say anything.
“So we bent the rules every now and then,” Shaw continued. “Grow up. Welcome to the real world.”
Michelle made a mental note about Bill Marshall’s possible role as a police informer. If he had informed on criminals here in Peterborough, she could only imagine what the Krays might have done if he’d tried anything like that with them and then disappeared. The South Pole wouldn’t have been far enough, let alone Peterborough. “From what I can piece together,” she went on, “the Graham Marshall investigation followed one line of inquiry and one only when it became clear that he hadn’t run away from home: a sex killing by a passing pervert.”
“Well? What’s so odd about that? It’s what the evidence pointed to.”
“Just seems a bit of a coincidence, that’s all, that some pervert should happen to be driving by a quiet street at that hour in the morning, just as Graham’s doing his paper rounds.”
“Wrong place at the wrong time. Happens often enough. Besides, do you think perverts don’t know about paper rounds? Don’t you think someone could have been watching, studying, stalking the Marshall kid, the way such perverts often do? Or didn’t they teach you that at Bramshill?”
“It’s possible, sir.”
“You think you can do better than us, do you?” said Shaw, his face turning red again. “Think you can out-detect Jet Harris?”
“I didn’t say that, sir. It’s just the advantage of hindsight, that’s all. A long perspective.”
“Look, we worked our bollocks off on that case, Jet Harris, Reg Proctor and me, not to mention dozens more DCs and uniforms. Have you any idea what that sort of investigation is like? The scope of it? How wide a net we cast? We were getting a hundred sightings a day from as far afield as Penzance and the Mull of fucking Kintyre. Now you come along with your fancy education and your Bramshill courses and you have the gall to tell me we were wrong.”
Michelle took a deep breath. “I’m not saying you were wrong, sir. Only you didn’t solve the case, did you? You didn’t even find a body. Look, I know you came up the hard way, and I respect that, but there are advantages to an education.”
“Yes. Accelerated promotion. They let you buggers run before you can toddle.”
“Policing has changed, sir, as you pointed out not so long ago. And crime has changed, too.”
“Sod that for a theory. Don’t spout your book-learning at me. A criminal’s a criminal. Only the coppers have got softer. Especially the ones at the top.”
Michelle sighed. Time to change tack. “You were a DC on the Graham Marshall investigation, sir. Can you tell me anything at all?”
“Look, if I’d known anything we’d have solved the bloody case, wouldn’t we, instead of having you point out how stupid we were?”
“I’m not trying to make anyone look stupid.”
“Aren’t you? That’s how it sounds to me. It’s easy to second-guess, given twenty-twenty hindsight. If Bill Marshall had anything to do with his son’s disappearance, believe me, we’d have had him. In the first place, he had an alibi-”
“Not the most reliable of alibis, is it?”
“She’d hardly give him an alibi for doing in her own son, now, would she? Tell me even you aren’t so twisted as to think Mrs. Marshall was involved.”
“We don’t know, sir, do we?” But Michelle remembered Mrs. Marshall, her sincerity and dignity, the need to bury her son after all these years. Certainly it was possible she was lying. Some criminals are very good actors. But Michelle didn’t think so. And she wouldn’t be getting any answers out of Bill Marshall. “Did the Marshalls own a car?”
“Yes, they did. But don’t expect me to remember the make and number. Look, Bill Marshall might have been a bit of a Jack-the-Lad, but he wasn’t a child molester.”
“How do you know that was the motive behind Graham’s abduction?”
“Have some brains, woman. Why else does a fourteen-year-old boy go missing without a trace? If you ask me, I’d still say he might have been one of Brady and Hindley’s victims, though we could never prove it.”
“But it’s way out of their area. A geographical profiler-”
“More benefits of a university education. Profilers? Don’t make me laugh. I’ve had enough of this. It’s about time you stopped nosing about down here and got back on the bloody job.” And he turned and stalked out.
Michelle noticed that her hand was shaking when he left, and she felt her breath held tight in her chest. She didn’t like confrontation with authority; she had always respected her bosses and the police hierarchy in general; an organization like the police couldn’t run efficiently without a quasi-military structure, she believed, orders given and obeyed, sometimes without question, if it came right down to it. But Shaw’s rage seemed out of proportion to the situation.
She got up and returned the files to their boxes and gathered together her notes. It was well after lunchtime and time for some fresh air, anyway. Perhaps she would make a few phone calls, find someone who’d been on the job during the Kray era and head down to London the next day.
Back in her office, she found a message slip on her desk informing her that Dr. Cooper had rung and wanted to know if she would drop by the mortuary sometime that afternoon. No time like the present, she thought, telling DC Collins where she was going and heading out to her car.
The search of Luke’s room didn’t reveal much except a cassette tape marked “Songs from a Black Room,” which Banks, with Robin’s permission, slipped in his pocket to listen to later. Luke’s desktop computer contained nothing of interest. There was hardly any e-mail, which was only to be expected, and most of the Web sites he visited were connected with music. He also did a fair bit of online purchasing, mostly CDs, also to be expected from someone living in so remote a spot.
Banks was surprised at the range of Luke’s musical tastes. There was the usual stuff, of course, the CDs Annie had told him about, but also among the grunge, metal, hip-hop and gothic, he found other oddities, such as Britten’s setting of Rimbaud’s Les Illuminations and Miles Davis’s In a Silent Way. There were also several indie CDs, including, Banks was thrilled to see, his son Brian’s band’s first recording, Blue Rain. Not your usual listening for a fifteen-year-old. But Banks was coming to believe that Luke Armitage had been far from a typical fifteen-year-old.
He had also read some of the stories and poems Annie had collected from her previous visit, and in his humble opinion they showed real promise. They didn’t tell him anything about what might have happened to Luke, or his feelings about his father or stepfather, but they revealed a young mind preoccupied with death, war, global destruction and social alienation.
Unlike Annie, Banks wasn’t surprised by the room’s decor. Brian hadn’t painted his room black, but he had stuck posters on the walls and surrounded himself with his favorite music. And the guitar, of course, always the guitar. Annie had no children, so Banks could imagine how the black room would seem more outlandish to her. The only thing that disturbed him was Luke’s apparent obsession with dead rock stars, and with the absence of anything to do with his famous father, Neil Byrd. Something was definitely out of kilter there.
Brian had gone on to make a career of music, and now his band was on the verge of recording its first CD for a major label. After getting over the initial shock that Brian wasn’t going to follow any safe paths in life, Banks had come to feel very proud of him, a leap of faith that his own parents hadn’t seemed able to make yet. Banks wondered if Luke had been any good. Maybe the tape would tell him. From what Annie had told him, and from his own first impressions, he doubted that Martin Armitage would have been thrilled by any signs of musical ability in his stepson; physical fitness and sports seemed to be his measures of success.
Josie and Calvin Batty lived in their own small apartment upstairs at the far eastern end of Swainsdale House. There, they had a sitting room, bedroom and a small kitchen, in addition to a WC and bathroom with a Power-Shower, all modernized by the Armitages, Josie told them as they stood with her in the kitchen while she boiled the kettle for tea. The whole place was brightly decorated in light colors, creams and pale blues, and made the best of the available light.
Josie looked as if she could be quite an attractive young woman if she made the effort, Banks thought. But as it was, her hair seemed lifeless and ill-cut, her clothes rather plain, shapeless and old-fashioned, and her complexion pale and dry. Her husband was short and thickset with dark, gypsyish coloring and heavy eyebrows that met in the middle.
“What exactly are your duties here?” Banks asked the two of them when they were settled in the living room opposite an enormous TV-and-VCR combination with a tray of tea and chocolate digestives in front of them.
“General, really. I do most of the washing, ironing, cleaning and cooking. Calvin does odd jobs, takes care of the cars and any heavy work, building repairs, garden, that sort of thing.”
“I imagine there must be a lot of that sort of thing,” Banks said, glancing at Calvin. “A big old house like this.”
“Aye,” Calvin grunted, dunking a biscuit in his tea.
“What about Luke?”
“What about him?” asked Josie.
“Did any of your duties involve taking care of him?”
“Calvin’d give him a lift to school sometimes, or bring him back if he happened to be in town. I’d make sure he was well fed if Sir and Madam had to go away for a few days.”
“Did they do that often?”
“Not often, no.”
“When was the last time he was left alone here?”
“Last month. They both went down to London for some fancy gala charity do.”
“What did Luke do when he was left alone in the house?”
“We didn’t spy on him,” said Calvin, “if that’s what you’re getting at.”
“Not at all,” said Banks. “But did you ever hear anything? TV? Stereo? Did he ever have his friends over? That sort of thing.”
“Music were loud enough, but he didn’t have no friends to ask over, did he?” said Calvin.
“You know that’s not true,” said his wife.
“So he did entertain friends?”
“I didn’t say that.”
“Did he, Mrs. Batty?”
Banks took a deep breath. “Where, then?”
She hugged her gray cardie closer to her. “I shouldn’t be telling tales out of school.”
Annie leaned forward and spoke for the first time. “Mrs. Batty, this is a murder investigation. We need your help. We’re in the dark here. If you can help throw any light at all on what happened to Luke, please do so. This is way beyond telling tales or keeping promises.”
Josie looked at Banks, uncertain.
“DI Cabbot’s right,” he said. “All bets are off when it’s murder. Who was this friend?”
“Just someone I saw him with, that’s all.”
“In Eastvale. Swainsdale Centre.”
“Past week or two?”
“A bit longer.”
“Aye, about that.”
“How old? His age? Older? Younger?”
“Older. She wasn’t no fifteen-year-old, I can tell you that.”
“Hard to say when they’re that age.”
“How young? Late teens, early twenties?”
“Aye, around that.”
“Taller or shorter than him?”
“Shorter. Luke were a big lad for his age. Tall and skinny.”
“What did she look like?”
“You mean she was black?”
“No, her skin was pale. She just dressed dark, like him.
And her hair was dyed black. She had red lipstick on and them studs and chains all over t’place. And she had a tattoo,” she added in a hushed tone, as if saving the greatest sin for last.
Banks glanced at Annie who, he happened to know from experience, had a butterfly tattoo just above her right breast. Annie gave him a look. “Where?” she asked Josie.
Josie touched her upper left arm, just below the shoulder. “There,” she said. “She was wearing one of them leather waistcoats over a T-shirt.”
“What was the tattoo?” Annie asked her.
“Couldn’t tell,” said Josie. “Too far away. I could just see there was a mark, like.”
This woman shouldn’t be too difficult to find if she lived in or near Eastvale, Banks thought. It was hardly Leeds or Manchester when it came to girls in black with studs, chains and tattoos. There was only one club, The Bar None, which catered to such a crowd, and then only two nights a week, the rest of the time being reserved for the techno-dance set. It was possible she was a student at the college, too, he thought. “Would you mind if we sent a sketch artist over to work on an impression with you this afternoon?” he asked.
“I suppose not,” said Josie. “If Sir and Madam don’t mind, like. Only I’m supposed to be doing t’upstairs.”
Banks looked at her. “I don’t think Mr. and Mrs. Armitage will mind,” he said.
“All right, then. But I can’t promise owt. Like I said, I didn’t get a close look.”
“Can you tell us anything more about her?” Banks asked.
“No. It was just a quick look. I were having a coffee and a KitKat at the food court when I saw them walk by and go into that there big music shop.”
“That’s the one.”
“Did they see you?”
“Did you tell anyone you’d seen them?”
“Not my place, is it. Besides…”
“It was a school day. He should have been in school.”
“What were they doing?”
“They weren’t holding hands, if that’s what you mean.”
“Were they talking, laughing, arguing?”
“Just walking. I didn’t see them so much as look at one another.”
“But you knew they were together? How?”
“You just know, don’t you?”
“Had you seen them together before?”
“No. Only the once.”
“And you, Mr. Batty?”
“Not even when you picked him up from school?”
“She weren’t no schoolgirl,” said Josie. “Not like I ever saw.”
“No,” said Mr. Batty.
“What did you talk about when you gave Luke a lift?”
“Nowt, really. He wasn’t much of a one for small talk, and we’d nowt in common. I mean, he weren’t interested in sport or anything like that. I don’t think he watched telly much, either. He’d nothing to talk about.”
Only death and poetry and music, thought Banks. “So these journeys passed in silence?”
“I usually put the news on the radio.”
“How did he get on with his parents?”
“Wouldn’t know,” answered Josie.
“Hear any rows or anything?”
“There’s always rows between parents and kids, isn’t there?”
“So you did?”
“Nothing out of the ordinary.”
“Who between? Luke and his mother?”
“Nay. Butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth as far as she were concerned. Spoiled him rotten.”
“His stepfather, then?”
“Like I said, it were nowt out of t’ordinary.”
“Did you ever hear what was said, what they were arguing about?”
“Walls is too thick around here.”
Banks could believe that. “Did anything unusual happen lately?”
“What do you mean?” Josie asked.
“Something out of the routine.”
“Seen any strangers hanging about?”
“Fewer than normal, since they can’t go for their country walks.”
“So you haven’t seen anyone?”
“Hanging about? No.”
They were getting no further with the Battys. Banks wasn’t certain whether they were holding anything back or not, but he decided he might have another chat with them a little later on. Just as they were leaving, he turned around to Mr. Batty and said, “Ever been arrested, Mr. Batty?”
“We can easily find out, you know.”
Batty glared at him. “All right. Once. It were a long time ago.”
“Twelve years. Public nuisance. I were drunk, all right? I used to drink a lot in those days. Then I met Josie. I don’t drink anymore.”
“What was all that about?” Annie asked when they were back in the car.
“Asking him if he’d been arrested. You know an offense like that is hardly still going to be in records.”
“Oh, that,” said Banks, buckling up and settling back in the passenger seat while Annie started the ignition. “I just wanted to see whether he’s a good liar or not. People usually lie the first time when you ask them if they’ve ever been arrested.”
“Well, there was a slightly different inflection on that last ‘no,’ the lie, but not different enough to convince me he’s not a good liar.”
“Bloody hell,” said Annie, heading off down the drive and spraying gravel, “a proper Sherlock Holmes I’ve got beside me.”
It was only a short drive down Longthorpe Parkway from police headquarters to the District Hospital, and early that Friday afternoon the traffic was light. Instinctively, Michelle found herself checking her rearview mirror to see if she was being followed. She wasn’t.
She parked in the official visitors’ area and made her way to pathology. The forensic anthropology department was small, just a couple of offices and one lab, and none of the staff was permanent. Dr. Cooper herself lectured in nearby Cambridge, in addition to her practical duties at the hospital. There certainly weren’t enough skeletons to justify a full-time forensic anthropology department – most counties didn’t even have one at all and had to hire the services of an expert when circumstances demanded – but there had been enough Anglo-Saxon and Viking remains found in East Anglia for a small, part-time department to be thought justified. For the most part, that was Wendy Cooper’s main area of interest, too – ancient remains, not skeletons of boys buried in 1965.
“Ah, DI Hart,” Dr. Cooper greeted her in her office, standing up and shaking hands. “Good of you to come.”
“Not at all. You said you had something to tell me?”
“Show you, actually. It’s not much, but it might help. Follow me.”
Curious, Michelle followed her into the lab, where Graham Marshall’s bones were still laid out on the table and Tammy Wynette was singing “Stand By Your Man” on Dr. Cooper’s portable cassette player. Though still a dirty brownish-yellow, like bad teeth, the bones were a hell of a lot cleaner than they had been a few days ago, Michelle noticed. Dr. Cooper and her assistant, nowhere in sight at the moment, had clearly been working hard. The body looked asymmetrical, though, Michelle noticed, and wondered what was missing. When she looked more closely, she could see it was the bottom rib on the left side. Hadn’t they been able to find it? But no, there it was on the bench Dr. Cooper led her toward.
“We couldn’t see it before because of the accumulated dirt,” Dr. Cooper explained, “but once we’d cleaned it up, it was plain as daylight. Look.”
Michelle bent closer and looked. She could see a deep, narrow notch in the bone. It was something she had come across before. She looked at Dr. Cooper. “Knife wound?”
“Very good. That’s what I’d say.”
“Pre- or postmortem?”
“Oh, pre. Cuts in green bone are different from cuts made in bones after death, when they’re more brittle. This is a clean, smooth cut. Definitely pre-mortem.”
“Cause of death?”
Dr. Cooper frowned. “I can’t say that for certain,” she said. “I mean, there could have been lethal poison in the system, or the victim might have drowned first, but what I can say, in my opinion, is that the wound would have been sufficient to cause death. If you follow the trajectory of the blade to its natural destination, it pierces the heart.”
Michelle paused a moment, looking at the rib in question, to take it all in. “Front or behind?” she asked.
“Does it matter?”
“If it was done from behind,” Michelle explained, “it could have been a stranger. If it happened from the front, someone had to get close enough to the boy to do it without his knowing what was going to happen.”
“Yes, I see,” said Dr. Cooper. “Good point. I never have managed to get the hang of thinking the way you police do.”
“I suppose so.” Dr. Cooper picked up the rib. “Judging from the position of the cut on the bone – see, it’s almost on the inside – and by the straightness I’d say that it was done from in front, the classic upthrust through the rib cage and into the heart. Harder to be that accurate from behind. Much more awkward, far more likely to be at an angle.”
“So it had to be someone he would let get that close to him without being suspicious.”
“Close enough to pat him on the shoulder, yes. And whoever did it was right-handed.”
“What kind of knife?”
“That I can’t tell you, except that it was very sharp and the blade wasn’t serrated. It’s quite a deep cut, as you can see, so there’s plenty of scope for analysis and measurement. There’s someone I know who can probably tell you the date it was made and the company who made it, an expert. His name’s Dr. Hilary Wendell. If you like I can try to track him down, get him to have a look?”
Dr. Cooper laughed. “I said I’d try. Hilary’s all over the place. And I mean all over. Including the United States, and Eastern Europe. He’s very well known. He even spent some time with the forensic teams in Bosnia and Kosovo.”
“You were there, too, weren’t you?”
Dr. Cooper gave a little shudder. “Yes. Kosovo.”
“Any idea when the coroner can release the bones for burial?”
“He can release them now as far as I’m concerned. I’d specify burial rather than cremation, though, just in case we need to exhume.”
“I think that’s what they have in mind. And some sort of memorial service. It’s just that I know the Marshalls are anxious for some sense of closure. I’ll give them a ring and say it’s okay to go ahead and make arrangements.”
“Funny thing, that, isn’t it?” said Dr. Cooper. “Closure. As if burying someone’s remains or sending a criminal to jail actually marks the end of the pain.”
“It’s very human, though, don’t you think?” said Michelle, for whom closure had simply refused to come, despite all the trappings. “We need ritual, symbols, ceremonies.”
“I suppose we do. What about this, though?” She pointed to the rib on the lab bench. “It could even end up being evidence in court.”
“Well,” said Michelle, “I don’t suppose the Marshalls will mind if they know Graham’s being buried with a rib missing, will they? Especially if it might help lead us to his killer. I’ll get their permission, anyway.”
“Fine,” said Dr. Cooper. “I’ll talk to the coroner this afternoon and try to track Hilary down in the meantime.”
“Thanks,” said Michelle. She looked again at the bones on the table, laid out in some sort of semblance of a human skeleton, and then glanced back at the single rib on the bench. Strange, she thought. It didn’t matter – they were only old bones – but she couldn’t help but feel this odd and deep sense of significance, and the words “Adam’s rib” came to mind. Stupid, she told herself. Nobody’s going to create a woman out of Graham Marshall’s rib; with a bit of luck, Dr. Hilary Wendell is going to tell us something about the knife that killed him.
A few dark clouds had blown in on a strong wind from the north, and it looked as if rain was about to spoil yet another fine summer’s day when Banks drove out in his own car to the crime scene late that afternoon, listening to Luke Armitage’s “Songs from a Black Room.”
There were only five short songs on the tape, and lyrically they were not sophisticated, about what you’d expect for a fifteen-year-old with a penchant for reading poetry he couldn’t understand. There were no settings of Rimbaud or Baudelaire here, only pure, unadulterated adolescent angst: “Everybody hates me, but I don’t care. / I’m safe in my black room, and the fools are out there.” But at least they were Luke’s own songs. When Banks was fourteen, he had got together with Graham, Paul and Steve to form a rudimentary rock band, and all they had managed were rough cover versions of Beatles and Stones songs. Not one of them had had the urge or the talent to write original material.
Luke’s music was raw and anguished, as if he were reaching, straining to find the right voice, his own voice. He backed himself on electric guitar, occasionally using special effects, such as fuzz and wah-wah, but mostly sticking to the simple chord progressions Banks remembered from his own stumbling attempts at guitar. The remarkable thing was how much Luke’s voice resembled his father’s. He had Neil Byrd’s broad range, though his voice hadn’t deepened enough to handle the lowest notes yet, and he also had his father’s timbre, wistful but bored, and even a little angry, edgy.
Only one song stood out, a quiet ballad with a melody Banks vaguely recognized, perhaps an adaptation of an old folk tune. The last piece on the tape, it was a love song of sorts, or a fifteen-year-old’s version of salvation:
He shut me out but you took me in.
He’s in the dark but you’re a bird on the wing.
I couldn’t hold you but you chose to stay.
Why do you care? Please don’t go away.
Was it about his mother, Robin? Or was it the girl Josie had seen him with in the Swainsdale Centre? Along with Winsome Jackman and Kevin Templeton, Annie was out showing the artist’s impression around the most likely places. Maybe one of them would get lucky.
The SOCOs were still at Hallam Tarn, the road still taped off, and a local TV van, along with a gaggle of reporters, barely kept their distance. As he pulled up by the side of the road, Banks even noticed a couple of middle-aged ladies in walking gear; sightseers, no doubt. Stefan Nowak was in charge, looking suave even in his protective clothing.
“Stefan,” Banks greeted him. “How’s it going?”
“We’re trying to get everything done before the rain comes,” Stefan said. “We’ve found nothing else in the water so far, but the frogmen are still looking.”
Banks looked around. Christ, but it was wild and lonely up there, an open landscape, hardly a tree in sight, with miles of rolling moorland, a mix of yellow gorse, sandy-colored tufts of grass and black patches where fires had raged earlier that summer. The heather wouldn’t bloom for another month or two, but the dark multi-branched stems spread tough and wiry all around, clinging close to the ground. The view was spectacular, even more dramatic under the lowering sky. Over in the west, Banks could see as far as the long flat bulk of the three peaks: Ingleborough, Whernside and Pen-y-ghent.
“Anything interesting?” he asked.
“Maybe,” said Stefan. “We tried to pin down the exact point on the wall where the body had been dropped over, and it matches the spot where these stones stick out here like steps. Makes climbing easy. Good footholds.”
“I see. It would have taken a bit of strength, though, wouldn’t it?”
“Oh, I don’t know. He might have been a big lad for his age, but he was still only a kid, and pretty skinny.”
“Could one person have done it?”
“Certainly. Anyway, we’ve been looking for scuff marks. It’s also possible that the killer scratched himself climbing up.”
“You’ve found blood on the wall?”
“Minute traces. But hold your horses, Alan. We don’t even know if it’s human blood yet.”
Banks watched the SOCOs taking the wall apart stone by stone and packing it in the back of a van. He wondered what Gristhorpe would think of such destruction. Gristhorpe was building a drystone wall at the back of his house as a hobby. It went nowhere and fenced in nothing. Some of these walls had been standing for centuries without any sort of cement holding them together, but they were far more than mere random piles of rocks. Gristhorpe knew all about the techniques and the patience it took to find just the right stone to fit with the others, and here the men were demolishing it. Still, if it could lead them to Luke’s killer, Banks thought, that was worth a drystone wall or two. He knew Gristhorpe would agree.
“Any chance of footprints?”
Stefan shook his head. “If there was any sort of impression in the grass or the dust, you can be sure it’s gone now. Don’t get your hopes up.”
“Do I ever? Tire tracks?”
“Again, too many, and it’s not a good road surface. But we’re looking. We’ve got a botanist coming up from York, too. There may be some unique plant life by the roadside, especially with it being close to a body of water. You never know. If you find someone with a bit of purple-speckled ragwort sticking to the bottom of his shoe, it just might be your man.”
“Wonderful.” Banks walked back to his car.
“Chief Inspector?” It was one of the reporters, a local man Banks recognized.
“What do you want?” he asked. “We’ve just told you lot all we know at the press conference.”
“Is it true what we’ve been hearing?” the reporter asked.
“What have you been hearing?”
“That it was a botched kidnapping.”
“No comment,” said Banks, muttering, “Shit,” under his breath as he got in his car, turned around in the next lay-by and set off home.
After tracking down a retired detective inspector who had worked out of West End Central and persuading him to talk to her in London the following day, Michelle had left the station and stopped off to rent the video of The Krays on her way home. She hoped the film would at least give her a general picture of their life and times.
She had been living in her riverside flat on Viersen Platz for two months now, but it still felt temporary, just another place she was passing through. Partly it was because she hadn’t unpacked everything – books, dishes, some clothes and other odds and ends – and partly it was the job, of course. Long hours made it difficult to keep house, and most of her meals were eaten on the run.
The flat itself was cozy and pleasant enough. A modern four-story building, part of the Rivergate Centre, it faced south, overlooking the river, got plenty of light for the potted plants she liked to keep on her small balcony, and was so close to the city center as to be practically in the shadow of the cathedral. She didn’t know why she hadn’t settled in more; it was one of the nicest places she had ever lived in, if a bit pricey. But what else did she have to spend her money on? She particularly liked to sit out on the balcony after dark, look at the lights reflected in the slow-moving river and listen to the trains go by. On weekends she could hear blues music from Charters Bar, an old iron barge moored opposite, by Town Bridge, and the customers sometimes made a bit too much noise at closing time, but that was only a minor irritant.
Michelle had no friends to invite for dinner, nor the time or inclination to entertain them, so she hadn’t even bothered to unpack her best chinaware. She had even let such basics as laundry, dusting and ironing slip, and as a consequence her flat had the air of someone who used to maintain a certain level of tidiness and cleanliness but had let things go. Even the bed was unmade since that morning.
She glanced at the answering machine, but no light flashed. It never did. She wondered why she bothered to keep the thing. Work, of course. After a quick blitz on the dishes in the sink and a run around with the Hoover, she felt ready to sit down and watch The Krays. But she was hungry. As usual, there was nothing in the fridge, at least nothing edible, so she went around the corner to the Indian take-away and got some prawn curry and rice. Sitting with a tray on her lap and a bottle of South African Merlot beside her, she pressed the remote and the video began.
When it had finished, Michelle didn’t feel she knew much more about the Kray twins than before it had begun. Yes, theirs was a violent world and you’d better not cross them. Yes, they seemed to have plenty of money and spend most of their time in ritzy clubs. But what exactly did they do? Apart from vague battles with the Maltese and meetings with American gangsters, the exact nature of their businesses was left unexplained. And, as far as the film was concerned, coppers might as well have not even existed.
She turned to the news, still feeling a little queasy from the violence. Or was it from the curry and wine? She didn’t really believe that the Krays had anything to do with Graham Marshall’s murder, no more than she believed Brady and Hindley had, and she could imagine how Shaw would laugh if he heard her suggest such a thing.
If Bill Marshall had any serious criminal aspirations, they hadn’t done him much good. He never got out of the council house, though the Marshalls had bought it for four thousand pounds in 1984.
Perhaps he swore off crime. Michelle had checked subsequent police records and found no further mention of him, so he had gone either straight or uncaught. She would guess at the former, given his standard of living. Graham’s disappearance must have shaken him, then. Maybe he sensed a connection to the world he had been involved in, so he severed all ties. She would have to find time to have an even closer look at the old crime reports, dig out old action books and the notebooks of the detectives involved. But that could wait until after the weekend.
She turned on her computer and tried to put her thoughts and theories into some kind of order, the way she usually did last thing at night, then she played a couple of games of Freecell and lost.
It got dark. Michelle turned off her computer, cleared away the detritus of her lonely dinner, found there wasn’t enough wine left in the bottle worth saving, so topped up her glass. As it so often did around bedtime, the depression seemed to close in on her like a dense fog. She sipped her wine and listened to rain tapping against her window. God, how she missed Melissa, even after all this time. She missed Ted, too, sometimes, but mostly she missed Melissa.
Her thoughts went back to the day it happened. It was a movie that ran in her mind, as if on a constant loop. She wasn’t there – that was a big part of the problem – but she could picture Melissa outside the school gates, her golden curls, little blue dress with the flowers on it, the other kids milling around, vigilant teachers nearby, then Melissa seeing what she thought was her father’s car pulling to a stop across the road, though they always picked her up on her side. Then she pictured Melissa waving, smiling, and, before anyone could stop her, running right out in front of the speeding lorry.
Before getting into bed, she took Melissa’s dress, the same dress she had died in, from her bedside drawer, lay down, held it to her face and cried herself to sleep.
As Annie waited outside ACC McLaughlin’s office at county headquarters the following morning, having been “summoned,” she felt the same way she had when her geography teacher sent her to the headmaster’s office for defacing a school atlas with her own cartographic designs: fantastic sea creatures and warnings that “Beyond this point be monsters.”
She had little fear of authority, and a person’s rank or status was something she rarely considered in her daily dealings, but somehow this summons made her nervous. Not “Red Ron” himself – he was known to be stern but fair and had a reputation for standing behind his team – but the situation she might find herself in.
It seemed that since she had decided to pursue her career again, she had made nothing but mistakes. First, sliding arse over tit down the side of Harkside reservoir in full view of several of her colleagues, and against the orders of the officer in charge; then the debacle of her excessive force investigation of probationary PC Janet Taylor during her brief (but not brief enough) spell with Complaints and Discipline; and now being blamed for the murder of Luke Armitage. Pretty soon everyone would be calling her Fuck-Up Annie, if they didn’t already. “Got a case you want fucking up, mate? Give it to Annie Cabbot, she’ll see you right.”
So much for a revitalized career. At least she was determined to go down with her middle finger high in the air.
It wasn’t bloody fair, though, Annie thought, as she paced. She was a damn good detective. Everything she had done in all those instances had been right; it was just the spin, the way it all added up, that made her look bad.
Red Ron’s secretary opened the door and ushered Annie into the presence. As befitted his rank, ACC McLaughlin had an even bigger office than Detective Superintendent Gristhorpe’s, and a carpet with much thicker pile. At least he didn’t have the books that intimidated her so in Gristhorpe’s office.
Red Ron had done a few things to personalize it since he first came to the job about eight months ago: a framed photo of his wife Carol stood on the desk, and a print of Constable’s The Lock hung on the wall. The glass cabinet was full of trophies and photos of Red Ron with various police athletics teams, from rowing to archery. He looked fit and was rumored to be in training for a marathon. He was also rumored to keep a bottle of fine single malt in his bottom drawer, but Annie didn’t expect to see much evidence of that.
“DI Cabbot,” he greeted her, glancing over the top of his wire-rimmed glasses. “Please sit down. I’ll be with you in a moment.”
Annie sat. There was something different about him, she thought. Then she realized. Red Ron had shaved off his mustache since she had last seen him. She was surprised to find that he had an upper lip. She always thought men grew mustaches and beards to hide weak jaws and thin lips. He kept his receding silver hair cut short instead of growing one side long and trying to hide a bald center by combing it over the top of the skull, the way some men did. Annie didn’t understand that. What was so wrong with going bald? She thought some bald men were quite sexy. It was one of those ridiculous macho male things, she guessed, like the obsession with penis length. Were all men so bloody insecure? Well, she would never find out because none of them would ever talk about it. Not even Banks, though he did at least try more than most. Perhaps it was something they really couldn’t do, something they were genetically incapable of, something going back to the caves and the hunt.
Annie brought herself back to the present. The ACC had just finished signing a stack of papers and after he had buzzed his secretary to come and take them away, he leaned back in his chair and linked his hands behind his head. “I suppose you know why you’re here?” he began.
“The chief constable got in touch with me last night – just as I was settling down to my dinner, by the way – and said he’d had a complaint about you from Martin Armitage. Would you care to explain what happened?”
Annie told him. As she spoke, she could tell he was listening intently, and every now and then he made a jotting on the pad in front of him. Nice fountain pen, she noticed. A maroon Waterman. Sometimes he frowned, but he didn’t interrupt her once. When she had finished, he paused for a while, then said, “Why did you decide to follow Mr. Armitage from his house that morning?”
“Because I thought his behavior was suspicious, sir. And I was looking for a missing boy.”
“A boy he had already told you was due back that very day.”
“You didn’t believe him?”
“I suppose not, sir.”
Annie went over the Armitages’ behavior on the morning in question, the tension she had felt, the brusqueness of their response to her, the haste with which they wanted rid of her. “All I can say, sir,” she said, “is that I found their behavior to be out of sync with what I’d expect from parents who’d discovered that their son was all right and was coming home.”
“All very speculative on your part, DI Cabbot.”
Annie gripped the arms of the chair hard. “I used my judgment, sir. And I stand by it.”
“Hmm.” Red Ron took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. “It’s a bad business,” he said. “We’ve had the press all over us, and needless to say they’re hot to trot with this idea of a simple kidnapping gone wrong. Add police cock-up to that, and they’d like nothing better.”
“With all due respect, sir, it wasn’t a simple kidnapping.” Annie gave her reasons why, as she had done before with Gristhorpe and Banks.
Red Ron stroked his chin as he listened, plucking at his upper lip as if he still expected to feel the mustache. When she had finished, he asked, as she had hoped he wouldn’t, “Didn’t it cross your mind just for one moment that the kidnapper might have been watching Mr. Armitage make the drop?”
“You didn’t think of it, did you?”
“I wanted to know what he’d left there.”
“DI Cabbot. Use your intelligence. A man’s stepson is missing. He’s edgy and anxious to be somewhere, annoyed that the police are on his doorstep. You follow him and see him enter a disused shepherd’s shelter with a briefcase and come out without it. What do you surmise?”
Annie felt herself flush with anger at the rightness of his logic. “When you put it like that, sir,” she said through gritted teeth, “I suppose it’s clear he’s paying a ransom. But things don’t always seem so clear cut in the field.”
“You’ve no need to tell me what it’s like in the field, DI Cabbot. I might be an administrator now, but I wasn’t always behind this desk. I’ve served my time in the field. I’ve seen things that would make your hair curl.”
“Then I’m sure you’ll understand what I’m saying.” Was that a half-smile Annie spotted fleeting across Red Ron’s features? Surely not.
He went on, “The point remains that you must have known the risk of being seen by the kidnapper was extremely high, especially as you were in open countryside, and that for whatever reason you disregarded that risk and went into the shelter anyway. And now the boy’s dead.”
“There’s some indication that Luke Armitage might have been killed even before his stepfather delivered the money.”
“That would be a piece of luck for you, wouldn’t it?”
“That’s not fair, sir. I needed to know what was in the briefcase.”
“I needed to be sure. That’s all. And it turned out to be a clue of sorts.”
“The low amount? Yes. But how did you know that wasn’t just the first installment?”
“With respect, sir, kidnappers don’t usually work on the installment plan. Not like blackmailers.”
“But how did you know?”
“I didn’t know, but it seemed a reasonable assumption.”
“Look, DI Cabbot. I’m not going to beat about the bush. I don’t like it when members of the public make complaints about officers under my command. I like it even less when a self-important citizen such as Martin Armitage complains to his golf-club crony, the chief constable, who then passes the buck down to me. Do you understand?”
“Yes, sir. You don’t like it.”
“Now, while your actions weren’t exactly by the book, and while you might have lacked judgment in acting so impulsively, I don’t see anything serious enough in what you did to justify punishment.”
Annie began to feel relieved. A bollocking, that was all she was going to get.
“On the other hand…”
Annie’s spirits sank again.
“We don’t have all the facts in yet.”
“We don’t know whether you were seen by the kidnapper or not, do we?”
“And we don’t know exactly when Luke Armitage died.”
“Dr. Glendenning’s doing the postmortem sometime today, sir.”
“Yes, I know. So what I’m saying is that until we have all the facts I’ll postpone judgment. Go back to your duties, detective inspector.”
Annie stood up before he changed his mind. “Yes, sir.”
“And, DI Cabbot?”
“If you’re going to keep on using your own car on the job, get a bloody police radio fitted, would you?”
Annie blushed. “Yes, sir,” she mumbled, and left.
Michelle got off the InterCity train at King’s Cross at about half past one that afternoon and walked down the steps to the tube, struck, as she always was, by the sheer hustle and bustle of London, the constant noise and motion. Cathedral Square on a summer holiday weekend with a rock band playing in the marketplace didn’t even come close.
Unlike many of her contemporaries, Michelle had never worked on the Met. She had thought of moving there after Greater Manchester, after Melissa had died and Ted had left, but instead she had moved around a lot over the past five years and taken numerous courses, convincing herself that it was all for the good of her career. She suspected, though, that she had just been running. Somewhere a bit more out of the way had seemed the best option, at least for the time being, another low-profile position. And you didn’t get anywhere in today’s police force without switching back and forth a lot – from uniform to CID, from county to county. Career detectives like Jet Harris were a thing of the past.
A few ragged junkies sat propped against the walls of the busy underpass, several of them young girls, Michelle noticed, and too far gone even to beg for change. As she passed, one of them started to moan and wail. She had a bottle in her hand and she banged it hard against the wall until it smashed, echoing in the tiled passage and scattering broken glass all over the place. Like everyone else, Michelle hurried on.
The tube was crowded and she had to stand all the way to Tottenham Court Road, where Retired Detective Inspector Robert Lancaster had agreed to talk to her over a late lunch on Dean Street. It was raining when she walked out onto Oxford Street. Christ, she thought, not again! At this rate, summer would be over before it had begun. Michelle unfurled her umbrella and made her way through the tourists and hustlers. She turned off Oxford Street and crossed Soho Square, then followed Lancaster’s directions and found the place easily enough.
Though it was a pub, Michelle was pleased to see that it looked rather more upmarket than some establishments, with its hanging baskets of flowers outside, stained glass and shiny dark woodwork. She had dressed about as casually as she was capable of, in a mid-length skirt, a pink V-neck top and a light wool jacket, but she would still have looked overdressed in a lot of London pubs. This one, however, catered to a business luncheon crowd. It even had a separate restaurant section away from the smoke and video machines, with table service, no less.
Lancaster, recognizable by the carnation he told Michelle he would be wearing in his gray suit, was a dapper man with a full head of silver hair and a sparkle in his eye. Perhaps a bit portly, Michelle noticed as he stood up to greet her, but definitely well-preserved for his age, which she guessed at around seventy. His face had a florid complexion, but he didn’t otherwise look like a serious drinker. At least he didn’t have that telltale calligraphy of broken red and purple veins just under the surface, like Shaw.
“Mr. Lancaster,” she said, sitting down. “Thank you for agreeing to see me.”
“The pleasure’s mine entirely,” he said, traces of a Cockney accent still in his voice. “Ever since my kids flew the coop and my wife died, I’ll take any opportunity to get out of the house. Besides, it’s not every day I get to come down the West End and have lunch with a pretty girl like yourself.”
Michelle smiled and felt herself blush a little. A girl, he’d called her, when she had turned forty last September. For some reason, she didn’t feel offended by Lancaster’s particular brand of male chauvinism; it had such a quaint, old-fashioned feel to it that it seemed only natural on her part to accept the compliment and thank him with as much grace as possible. She’d soon find out if it got more wearing as their conversation continued.
“I hope you don’t mind my choice of eatery.”
Michelle looked around at the tables with their white linen cloths and weighty cutlery, the uniformed waitresses dashing around. “Not at all,” she said.
He chuckled, a throaty sound. “You wouldn’t believe what this place used to be like. Used to be a real villains’ pub back in the early sixties. Upstairs, especially. You’d be amazed at the jobs planned up there, the contracts put out.”
“Not anymore, I hope?”
“Oh, no. It’s quite respectable now.” He spoke with a tinge of regret in his voice.
A waitress appeared with her order book.
“What would you like to drink?” Lancaster asked.
“Just a fruit juice, please.”
“Orange, grapefruit or pineapple?” the waitress asked.
“Orange is fine.”
“And I’ll have another pint of Guinness, please,” Lancaster said. “Sure you don’t want something a bit stronger, love?”
“No, that’ll be just fine, thanks.” Truth was, Michelle had felt the effects of last night’s bottle of wine that morning, and she had decided to lay off the booze for a day or two. It was still manageable. She never drank during the day, anyway, only in the evening, alone in her flat with the curtains closed and the television on. But if she didn’t nip it in the bud, she’d be the next one with broken blood vessels in her nose.
“The food’s quite good here,” said Lancaster while the waitress was fetching their drinks. “I’d stay away from the lamb curry if I were you, though. Last time I touched it I ended up with a case of Delhi belly.”
Michelle had eaten a curry the previous evening, and though it hadn’t given her “Delhi belly,” it had made its presence felt during the night. She wanted something plain, something unencumbered with fancy sauces, something British.
The waitress returned with her Britvic orange and Lancaster’s Guinness and asked them for their orders.
“I’ll have the Cumberland sausage and mashed potatoes, please,” Michelle said. And diet be damned, she added under her breath. Lancaster ordered the roast beef.
“Bangers and mash,” he said, beaming, when the waitress had wandered off. “Wonderful. One doesn’t often meet people who go for the more traditional food these days. It’s all that nasty foreign muck, isn’t it?”
“I don’t mind a bit of pasta or a curry now and then,” said Michelle, “but sometimes you can’t beat the traditional English.”
Lancaster paused for a few moments, drumming his fingers on the table. Michelle could sense him changing gear, from old-fashioned gallant to seasoned street copper, wondering what she was after and whether it could harm him. She could see it in his eyes, their gaze sharpening, becoming more watchful. She wanted to set him at ease but decided it was best to let him lead, see where it went. At first.
“The bloke that put you on to me said you wanted to know about Reggie and Ronnie.”
There, they were out. The dreaded words. Reggie and Ronnie: The Krays.
“Sort of,” Michelle said. “But let me explain.”
Lancaster listened, taking the occasional sip of Guinness, nodding here and there, as Michelle told him about the Marshalls and what had happened to Graham.
“So, you see,” she finished, “it’s not really the twins, or not just them, anyway, that I’m interested in.”
“Yes, I see,” said Lancaster, drumming his fingers again. Their food arrived and they both took a few bites before he spoke again. “How’s your sausage?” he asked.
“Fine,” said Michelle, wondering if he was going to be any use at all or if it was going to be one of these pleasant but pointless sessions.
“Good. Good. I knew Billy Marshall and his family,” said Lancaster. Then he stuffed his mouth full of roast beef and mashed potato and looked at Michelle, eyes wide and expressionless as he chewed, watching for her reaction. She was surprised, and she was also pleased that the information Banks had given her led somewhere, although she still had no idea where.
“Billy and I grew up just around the corner from one another. We went to the same schools, played on the same streets. We even used to drink in the same pub,” he went on when he’d washed his food down with Guinness. “Does that surprise you?”
“A bit, I suppose. Though, I must say, not much about those days surprises me anymore.”
Lancaster laughed. “You’re right there, love. Another world. See, you’ve got to understand where detectives came from, Michelle. Can I call you Michelle?”
“The first detectives came from the criminal classes. They were equally at home on either side of the law. Jonathan Wild, the famous thief-taker, for example. Half the time he set up the blokes he fingered. Did you know that? They hanged him in the end. And Vidocq, the Frog-gie? Thief, police informer, master of disguise. Criminal. And back then, the days you’re asking about, I think we were a bit closer to our prototypes than the office boys we seem to have in the force today, if you’ll pardon my criticism. Now, I’m not saying I was ever a criminal myself, but I lived close enough to the line at times to know what a thin line it is, and I was also close enough to know how they thought. And do you imagine for a moment those on the other side didn’t know that, too?”
“You turned a blind eye sometimes?”
“I told you. I went to school with Billy Marshall, grew up the next street over. Only difference was, he was thick as two short planks, but he could fight, and me, well, I had the smarts and the stealth, but I wasn’t much of a scrapper. Enough to survive. And believe me, you had to have that much or you were a goner. Any trouble and I’d talk my way out of it, and if that didn’t work, I’d leg it. Mostly I’d talk my way out. Is it any wonder we went our different ways? Thing is, it could’ve gone either way for me. I ran a bit wild when I was kid, got into a scrape or two. I knew exactly where people like Reggie and Ronnie were coming from. We lived in the same poor neighborhood, in the shadow of the war. I could think like them. I could’ve easily used my street smarts for criminal purposes like Reggie and Ronnie, or…” He let the sentence trail and ate some more roast beef.
“You’re saying morality doesn’t come into it?” Michelle asked. “The law? Justice? Honesty?”
“Words, love,” Lancaster said when he’d finished eating. “Nice words, I’ll grant you, but words nonetheless.”
“So how did you choose? Toss a coin?”
Lancaster laughed. “‘Toss a coin.’ Good one, that. I’ll have to remember it.” Then his expression turned more serious. “No, love. I probably joined for the same reasons you did, same as most people. There wasn’t much pay then, but it seemed a decent enough job, maybe even a bit glamorous and exciting. Fabian of the Yard, and all that stuff. I didn’t want to be a plod walking the beat – oh, I did it, of course, we all did, had to do – but I knew I wanted CID right from the start, and I got it. What I’m saying, love, is that when it came right down to it, when you stood at the bar of your local, or took your usual table in the corner, the one your father had sat at all his life, and when someone like Billy came in, someone you knew was a bit dodgy, well, then it was just a job you did. Everybody knew it. Nothing personal. We mixed, tolerated one another, hoped our paths never crossed in a serious way, a professional way. And remember, I was working out of West End Central then. The East End wasn’t my manor. I just grew up there, lived there. Of course, we were all aware there was a barrier between us, at least one we’d better not breach in public, so it was all, ‘Hello, Billy. How’s it going? How’s the wife and kid?’ ‘Oh, fine, Bob, can’t complain. How’s things down the nick?’ ‘Thriving, Billy boy, thriving.’ ‘Glad to hear it, mate.’ That sort of thing.”
“I can understand that,” said Michelle, who thought she took policing a bit more seriously and wouldn’t be caught dead in the same pub as known villains, unless she was meeting an informant. It was the same thing Shaw had said. The lines between them and us weren’t so clearly drawn as they are today, mostly because many cops and criminals came from the same backgrounds, went to the same schools and drank in the same pubs, as Lancaster had just pointed out, and as long as no innocent bystanders got hurt… no harm done. Nothing personal. Different times.
“Just wanted to get it clear,” said Lancaster, “so you wouldn’t go away thinking I was bent or anything.”
“Why would I think that?”
He winked. “Oh, there were plenty that were. Vice, Obscene Publications, the Sweeney. Oh, yes. It was all just getting going then, ’63, ’64, ’65. There are some naive buggers who look at it as the beginnings of some new age of enlightenment or something. Aquarius, call it what you will. Fucking hippies, with their peace and love and beads and long hair.” He sneered. “Know what it really was? It was the beginnings of the rise of organized crime in this country. Oh, I’m not saying we hadn’t had gangsters before that, but back in the mid-sixties, when Reggie and Ronnie were at their peak, you could have written what your average British copper knew about organized crime on the back of a postage stamp. I kid you not. We knew bugger-all. Even ‘Nipper’ Read, the bloke in charge of nailing the twins. Porn was coming in by the lorryload from Denmark, Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands. Someone had to control distribution – wholesale, resale. Same with drugs. Opening of the floodgates, the mid-sixties. License to print money. Maybe the hippies saw a revolution of peace and love in the future, but people like Reggie and Ronnie only saw even more opportunities to make cash, and ultimately all your hippies were just consumers, just another market. Sex, drugs, rock and roll. Your real criminals were rubbing their hands in glee when flower power came along, like kids given the free run of the sweetshop.”
This was all very well, Michelle thought, but a man with a bee in his bonnet, the way Lancaster seemed to have, could be difficult to get information from. Lancaster ordered another Guinness – Michelle asked for coffee – and sat back in his chair. He took a pill from a small silver container and washed it down with stout.
“Blood pressure,” he explained. “Anyway, I’m sorry, love,” he went on, as if reading her mind. “I do go on a bit, don’t I? One of the few benefits of getting old. You can go on and on and nobody tells you to shut up.”
“Yes, Billy Marshall, as he was called back then. I haven’t forgotten. Haven’t seen or heard of him for years, by the way. Is he still alive?”
“Barely,” said Michelle. “He’s suffered a serious stroke.”
“Poor sod. And the missus?”
He nodded. “Good. She always was a good coper, was Maggie Marshall.”
Maggie. Michelle just realized that she hadn’t known Mrs. Marshall’s first name. “Did Bill Marshall work for Reggie and Ronnie?” she asked.
“Yes. In a way.”
“What do you mean?”
“A lot of people in the East End worked for Reggie and Ronnie at one time or another. Fit young geezer like Billy, I’d’ve been surprised if he hadn’t. He was a boxer. Amateur, mind you. And so were the Krays. They were into boxing in a big way. They met up at one of the local gyms. Billy did a few odd jobs with them. It paid to have the twins on your side back then, even if you weren’t in deep with them. They made very nasty enemies.”
“So I’ve read.”
Lancaster laughed. “You don’t know the half of it, love.”
“But he wasn’t regularly employed, not on their payroll?”
“That’s about it. An occasional encouragement to pay up, or deterrent against talking. You know the sort of thing.”
“He told you this?”
Lancaster laughed. “Come off it, love. It wasn’t something you discussed over a game of darts at the local.”
“But you knew?”
“It was my job to know. Keeping tabs. I liked to think I knew what was going on, even outside my manor, and that those who counted knew that I knew.”
“What do you remember about him?”
“Nice enough bloke, if you didn’t cross him. Bit of a temper, especially after a jar or two. Like I said, he was strictly low-level muscle, a boxer.”
“He used to boast that he knew Reggie and Ronnie when he was in his cups, after he’d moved up to Peterborough.”
“Typical Billy, that. Didn’t have two brain cells to rub together. I’ll tell you one thing, though.”
“You said the kid was stabbed?”
“That’s what the pathologist tells me.”
“Billy never went tooled up. He was strictly a fist man. Maybe a cosh or knuckledusters, depending who he was up against, but never a knife or a gun.”
“I didn’t really regard Bill Marshall as a serious suspect,” Michelle said, “but thanks for letting me know. I’m just wondering if or how all this could have had any connection with Graham’s death.”
“I can’t honestly say I see one, love.”
“If Billy did something to upset his masters, then surely-”
“If Billy Marshall had done anything to upset Reggie or Ronnie, love, he’d have been the one pushing up daisies, not the kid.”
“They wouldn’t have harmed the boy, to make a point?”
“Not their way, no. Direct, not subtle. They had their faults, and there wasn’t much they wouldn’t do if it came right down to it. But if you crossed them, it wasn’t your wife or your kid got hurt, it was you.”
“I understand Ronnie was-”
“Yes, he was. And he liked them young. But not that young.”
“They didn’t hurt kids. It was a man’s world. There was a code. Unwritten. But it was there. And another thing you’ve got to understand, love, is that Reggie and Ronnie were like Robin Hood, Dick Turpin and Billy the Kid all rolled into one, as far as most East Enders were concerned. Even later, you only have to look at their funerals to see that. Fucking royalty. Pardon my French. Folk heroes.”
“And you were the Sheriff of Nottingham?”
Lancaster laughed. “Hardly. I was only a DC, a mere foot soldier. But you get the picture.”
“I think so. And after the day’s battles you’d all adjourn to the local and have a jolly old drink together and talk about football.”
Lancaster laughed. “Something like that. You know, maybe you’re right. Maybe it was a bit of a game. When you nicked someone fair and square, there were no hard feelings. When they put one over on you, you just filed it away till next time. If the courts let them off, then you bought them a pint next time they came in the pub.”
“I think Billy Marshall took the game to Peterborough with him. Ever hear of a bloke called Carlo Fiorino?”
Lancaster’s bushy eyebrows knitted in a frown. “Can’t say as I have, no. But that’s way off my manor. Besides, I’ve already told you, Billy didn’t have the brains to set up an operation. He didn’t have the authority, the command, charisma, call it what you will. Billy Marshall was born to follow orders, not give them, let alone decide what they ought to be. Now that lad of his, he was another matter entirely.”
Michelle pricked up her ears. “Graham? What about him?”
“Young lad with the Beatle cut, right?”
“Sounds like him.”
“If anyone in that family was destined to go far, I’d have said it would’ve been him.”
“What do you mean? Graham was a criminal?”
“No. Well, not apart from a bit of shoplifting, but they all got into that. Me, too, when I was his age. We figured the shops factored the losses into their prices, see, so we were only taking what was rightfully ours anyway. No, it was just that he had brains – though God knows who he got them from – and he was also what they call street smart these days. Never said much, but you could tell he was taking it all in, looking for the main chance.”
“You’re saying that Graham might have been involved with the Krays?”
“Nah. Oh, he might have run an errand or two for them, but they didn’t mess around with twelve-year-old kids. Too much of a liability. Only that he watched and learned. There wasn’t much got by him. Sharp as a tack. Billy used to leave him outside the local, sitting in the street playing marbles with the other kids. It was common enough, then. And some pretty shady customers went in there. Believe me, I know. More than once, the young lad would get half a crown and a watching brief. ‘Keep an eye on that car for me, kid,’ like. Or, ‘If you see a couple of blokes in suits coming this way, stick your head around the door and give me a shout.’ No flies on young Graham Marshall, that’s for sure. I’m just sorry to hear he came to such an early end, though I can’t say as it surprises me that much.”
Dr. Glendenning was delayed in Scarborough, so the postmortem had been put off until late in the afternoon. In the meantime, Banks thought his time would be well spent talking to some of Luke’s teachers, starting with Gavin Barlow, the head teacher of Eastvale Comprehensive.
Despite the threatening sky and earth damp from an earlier shower, Barlow was weeding the garden of his North Eastvale semi, dressed in torn jeans and a dirty old shirt. A collie with a sleek coat jumped up at Banks as he entered through the garden gate, but Barlow soon brought the dog to heel, and it curled up in a corner under the lilac bush and seemed to go to sleep.
“He’s old,” Gavin Barlow said, taking off a glove, wiping his hand on his jeans and offering it. Banks shook and introduced himself.
“Yes, I’ve been expecting a visit,” said Barlow. “Terrible business. Let’s go inside. No, stay, Tristram. Stay!”
Tristram stayed and Banks followed Barlow into the bright, ordered interior of the house. He was clearly interested in antiques, and, by the looks of the gleaming sideboard and drinks cabinet, into restoring them, too. “Can I offer you a beer, or a lager perhaps? Or aren’t you supposed to drink on duty? One never knows, watching Morse and the like on telly.”
Banks smiled. “We’re not supposed to,” he said, not that it had ever stopped him. But it was far too early in the day, and he didn’t have weeding the garden as an excuse. “I’d love a coffee, if you’ve got some.”
“Only instant, I’m afraid.”
“Come on through.”
They went into a small but well-arranged kitchen. Whoever had designed the maple cabinets over the slate-gray countertops had decided on following a pattern of horizontal grain rather than vertical, which made the room seem much more spacious. Banks sat at a breakfast nook with a red-and-white-checked tablecloth while Barlow made the coffee.
“Daddy, who’s this?”
A girl of about sixteen appeared in the doorway, all long blond hair and bare leg. She reminded Banks a bit of Kay Summerville.
“It’s a policeman come to talk about Luke Armitage, Rose. Off you go.”
Rose pouted, then made a theatrical about-turn and sashayed away, wiggling her hips. “Daughters,” said Barlow. “Have you any of your own?”
Banks told him about Tracy.
“Tracy Banks. Of course, now I remember her. I just didn’t put two and two together when I saw your identification. Tracy. Very bright girl. How is she doing?”
“Fine. She’s just finished her second year at Leeds. History.”
“Do give her my best regards when you see her. I can’t say I knew her well… so many pupils and so little time… but I do remember talking to her.”
Gavin Barlow looked a bit like Tony Blair, Banks thought. Definitely more of an Educational Unit manager than an old-style school headmaster, the way his predecessor Mr. Buxton had been. Banks remembered the old fellow who’d been in charge during the Gallows View case, when Banks had first moved up north. Buxton was the last of a dying breed, with his batlike cape and a well-thumbed copy of Cicero on his desk. Gavin Barlow probably thought “Latin” referred to a type of dance music, though maybe that was being a bit unfair. At least the radio station he was tuned in to was playing Thelonious Monk’s “Epistrophy” at eleven o’clock in the morning – a good sign.
“I’m not sure I can tell you very much about Luke,” said Gavin Barlow, bringing over two mugs of instant coffee and sitting opposite Banks. “It’s usually only the persistent troublemakers who come to my attention.”
“And Luke wasn’t a troublemaker?”
“Good heavens, no! You’d hardly know he was there if he didn’t move once in a while.”
“Any trouble at all?”
“Not really trouble. Nothing his form tutor couldn’t deal with.”
“Luke didn’t like games, and he once forged a note from his mother excusing him on the grounds of a stomach upset. It was a note the PE teacher remembered seeing a few months earlier, and Luke had traced it out with a new date. Quite a good forgery, really.”
“Nothing much. Detention, a warning to his mother. Odd, as he wasn’t bad at all.”
“Wasn’t bad at what?”
“Rugby. Luke was a decent wing three-quarters. Fast and slippery. When he could be bothered playing.”
“But he didn’t like games?”
“He had no interest in sports. He’d far rather read, or just sit in a corner and stare out the window. God only knows what was going on in that head of his half the time.”
“Did Luke have any close friends at school, any other pupils he might have confided in?”
“I really can’t say. He always seemed to be a bit of a loner. We encourage group activities, of course, but you can’t always… I mean, you can’t force people to be sociable, can you?”
Banks opened his briefcase and slipped out the artist’s impression of the girl Josie Batty had seen going to HMV with Luke. “Do you recognize this girl?” he asked, not sure of how close a likeness it was.
Barlow squinted at it, then shook his head. “No,” he said. “I can’t say as I do. I’m not saying we don’t have pupils who affect that general look, but not very many, and nobody quite like this.”
“So you’ve never seen her or anyone like her with Luke?”
Banks returned the sketch to his briefcase. “What about his schoolwork? Did he show any promise?”
“Enormous promise. His work in math left a lot to be desired, but when it came to English and music, he was remarkably gifted.”
“What about the other subjects?”
“Good enough for university, if that’s what you mean. Especially languages and social studies. You could tell that even at his early age. Unless…”
“Well, unless he went off the rails. I’ve seen it happen before with bright and sensitive pupils. They fall in with the wrong crowd, neglect their work… You can guess the rest.”
Banks, who had gone off the rails a bit himself after Graham’s disappearance, could. “Were there any teachers Luke was particularly close to?” he asked. “Anyone who might be able to tell me a bit more about him?”
“Yes. You might try Ms. Anderson. Lauren Anderson. She teaches English and art history. Luke was way ahead of his classmates in his appreciation of literature, and in its composition, and I believe Ms. Anderson gave him extra tutoring.”
Lauren Anderson’s name had come up in the company’s records of Luke’s cell phone calls, Banks remembered. “Is that something the school does often?”
“If the student seems likely to benefit from it, then yes, certainly. You have to understand that we get such a broad range of abilities and interests, and we have to pitch our teaching level just a little above the middle. Too high and you lose most of the class, too low and the brighter students become bored and distracted. But it’s not all as bad as they say it is in the newspapers. We’re lucky in that we have a lot of passionate and committed teachers at Eastvale Comprehensive. Ms. Anderson is one of them. Luke was also taking violin lessons after school.”
“Yes, he had a violin in his bedroom.”
“I told you, he’s not your common-or-garden pupil.” Barlow paused for a moment, staring out the window. “Wasn’t. We’ll miss him.”
“Even if you hardly knew he was there?”
“I was probably overstating the case,” Barlow said with a frown. “Luke had a certain presence. What I meant was that he just didn’t make a lot of noise or demand a lot of attention.”
“Who was giving him violin lessons?”
“Our music teacher, Alastair Ford. He’s quite a skilled player himself. Plays with a local string quartet. Strictly amateur, of course. You might have heard of them; they’re called the Aeolian Quartet. I understand they’re very good, though I must admit that my tastes edge more toward Miles than Mahler.”
The Aeolian. Banks had, indeed, heard of them. Not only that, but he had heard them. The last time was shortly after Christmas, at the community center with Annie Cabbot. They had played Schubert’s Death and the Maiden Quartet and made a very good job of it, Banks remembered.
“Is there anything else you can tell me?” he asked, standing to leave.
“I don’t think there is,” said Barlow. “All in all, Luke Armitage was a bit of a dark horse.”
As they walked through to the hall, Banks felt certain he caught a flurry of blond hair and long leg ducking through a doorway, but he could have been mistaken. Why would Rose Barlow want to listen in on their conversation, anyway?
The rain seemed to have settled in for the day after a short afternoon respite, a constant drizzle from a sky the color of dirty dishwater, when Annie did the rounds of Luke’s final ports of call. She found out nothing from the HMV staff, perhaps because they had such a high turnover and it was a large shop, hard to keep an eye on everyone. No one recognized the sketch. Besides, as one salesperson told her, many of the kids who shopped there looked pretty much the same. Black clothing wasn’t exactly unusual as far as HMV’s customers were concerned, nor was body-piercing or tattoos.
She fared little better at the computer shop on North Market Street. Gerald Kelly, the sole proprietor and staff member, remembered just about all his customers, but he had seen no one resembling the girl in black with Luke, who had always been alone on his visits to the shop.
Annie had just one last call. Norman’s Used Books was a dank, cramped space down a flight of stone steps under a bakery, one of several shops that seemed to be set right into the church walls in the market square. The books all smelled of mildew, but you could find the most obscure things sometimes. Annie herself had shopped there once or twice, looking for old art books, and had even found some decent prints among the boxes the owner kept at the back of the shop, though they were sometimes warped and discolored because of the damp.
The roof was so low and the small room so full of books – not only in cases against the walls, but piled up haphazardly on tables, ready to teeter over if you so much as breathed on them – that you had to stoop and make your way around the place very carefully. It must have been even harder for Luke, Annie thought, as he was taller and more gangly than her.
The owner himself, Norman Wells, was just a little over five feet, with thin brown hair, a bulbous sort of face and rheumy eyes. Because it was so cold and damp down there, no matter what the weather was like up above, he always wore a moth-eaten gray cardigan, woolly gloves with the fingers cut off and an old Leeds United scarf. He couldn’t make much of a living out of the little shop, Annie thought, though she doubted the overheads were very high. Even in the depths of winter a one-element electric fire was the only source of heat.
Norman Wells glanced up from the paperback he was reading and nodded in Annie’s direction. He seemed surprised when she showed her warrant card and spoke to him.
“I’ve seen you before, haven’t I?” he said, taking off his reading glasses, which hung on a piece of string around his neck.
“I’ve been here once or twice.”
“Thought so. I never forget a face. Art, isn’t it?”
“Your interest. Art.”
“Oh, yes.” Annie showed him a photograph of Luke. “Remember him?”
Wells looked alarmed. “Course I do. He’s the lad who disappeared, isn’t he? One of your lot was around the other day asking about him. I told him all I know.”
“I’m sure you did, Mr. Wells,” said Annie, “but things have changed. It’s a murder investigation now and we have to go over the ground afresh.”
“Murder? That lad?”
“I’m afraid so.”
“Bloody hell. I hadn’t heard. Who’d…? He wouldn’t say boo to a goose.”
“Did you know him well, then?”
“Well? No, I wouldn’t say that. But we talked.”
“Books. He knew a lot more than most kids his age. His reading level was way beyond that of his contemporaries.”
“How do you know?”
“I… Never mind.”
“Let’s just say I used to be a teacher, that’s all. I know about these things, and that lad was bordering on genius.”
“I understand he bought two books from you on his last visit.”
“Yes, like I told the other copper. Crime and Punishment and Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.”
“They sound a bit advanced, even for him.”
“Don’t you believe it,” Wells protested. “If I hadn’t thought him ready I wouldn’t have sold him them. He’d already been through T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, most of Camus and Dubliners. I didn’t think he was quite ready for Ulysses or Pound’s Cantos, but he could handle the Portrait, no problem.”
Annie, who had heard of these books but had read only the Eliot and a few of Joyce’s short stories at school, was impressed. So the books she had seen in Luke’s room weren’t just for show; he really did read and probably even understand them. At fifteen, she’d been reading historical sagas and sword and sorcery series, not literature with a capital L. That was reserved for school and was tedious in the extreme, thanks to Mr. Bolton, the English teacher, who made the stuff sound about as exciting as a wet Sunday in Cleethorpes.
“How often did Luke call by?” she asked.
“About once a month. Or whenever he was out of something to read.”
“He had the money. Why didn’t he go to Waterstone’s and buy them new?”
“Don’t ask me. We got chatting the first time he dropped in-”
“When was that?”
“Maybe eighteen months or so ago. Anyway, as I say, we got chatting and he came back.” He looked around at the stained ceilings, flaking plaster and tottering piles of books and smiled at Annie, showing crooked teeth. “I suppose there must have been something he liked about the place.”
“Must be the service,” Annie said.
Wells laughed. “I can tell you one thing. He liked those old Penguin Modern Classics. The old ones with the gray spines, not these modern pale-green things. Real paperbacks, not your trade size. And you can’t buy those at Waterstone’s. Same with the old Pan covers.”
Something moved in the back of the shop and a pile of books fell over. Annie thought she glimpsed a tabby cat slinking away into the deeper shadows.
Wells sighed. “Familiar’s gone and done it again.”
“My cat. No bookshop’s complete without a cat. After witch’s familiar. See?”
“I suppose so. Did Luke ever come in here with anyone else?”
Annie took her copy of the artist’s impression out and set it on the table in front of him. “What about her?”
Wells leaned forward, put his glasses on again and examined the sketch. “It looks like her,” he said. “I told you I never forget a face.”
“But you told me Luke never came in with anyone else,” Annie said, feeling a tingle of excitement rise up her spine.
Wells looked at her. “Who said she was with him? No, she came in with another bloke, same sort of clothing and body-piercing.”
“Who are they?”
“I don’t know. They must have been a bit short of money, though.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Because they came in with an armful of brand-new books to sell. Stolen, I thought. Plain as day. Stolen books. I don’t have any truck with that sort of thing, so I sent them packing.”
Before he cut into Luke Armitage’s flesh, Dr. Glendenning made a thorough examination of the body’s exterior. Banks watched as the doctor examined and measured the head wound. Luke’s skin was white and showed some wrinkling from exposure to the water, and there was a slight discoloration around the neck.
“Back of the skull splintered into the cerebellum,” the doctor said.
“Enough to kill him?”
“At a guess.” Glendenning bent over and squinted at the wound. “And it would have bled quite a bit, if that’s any use.”
“Could be,” said Banks. “Blood’s a lot harder to clean up than most people think. What about the weapon?”
“Looks like some sort of round-edged object,” the doctor said. “Smooth-sided.”
“Well, it’s not got a very large circumference, so I’d rule out something like a baseball bat. I can’t see any traces – wood splinters or anything – so it could have been metal or ceramic. Hard, anyway.”
“A poker, perhaps?”
“Possible. That would fit the dimensions. It’s the angle that puzzles me.”
“What about it?”
“See for yourself.”
Banks bent over the wound, which Dr. Glendenning’s assistant had shaved and cleaned. There was no blood. A few days in the water would see to that. He could see the indentation clearly enough, about the right size for a poker, but the wound was oblique, almost horizontal.
“You’d expect someone swinging a poker to swing downward from behind, or at least at a forty-five-degree angle, so we’d get a more vertical pattern,” Dr. Glendenning said. “But this was inflicted from sideways on, not from in front or behind, by someone a little shorter than the victim, if the angle’s to be believed. That means whoever did it was probably standing beside him. Unusual angle, as I said.” He lit a cigarette, strictly forbidden in the hospital, but usually overlooked in Glendenning’s case. Everyone knew that when you were dealing with the smells of a postmortem, a ciggie now and then was a great distraction. And Glendenning was more careful these days; he rarely dropped ash in open incisions.
“Maybe the victim was already bent double from a previous blow?” Banks suggested. “To the stomach, say. Or on his knees, head bent forward.”
“It wouldn’t be the first time,” Banks said, remembering that more than one executed villain had died on his knees praying for his life. But Luke Armitage wasn’t a villain, as far as Banks knew.
“Which side did the blow come from?” Banks asked.
“Right side. You can tell by the pattern of indentation.”
“So that would indicate a left-handed attacker?”
“Likely so. But I’m not happy with this, Banks.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, in the first place, it’s hardly a surefire way to kill somebody. Head blows are tricky. You can’t count on them, especially just one.”
Banks knew that well enough. On his last case a man had taken seven or eight blows from a side-handled baton and still survived a couple of days. In a coma, but alive. “So our killer’s an amateur who got lucky.”
“Could be,” said Glendenning. “We’ll know more when I get a look at the brain tissue.”
“But could this blow have been the cause of death?”
“Can’t say for certain. It could have killed him, but he might have been dead already. You’ll have to wait for the full toxicology report to know whether that might have been the case.”
“I don’t think so, but let’s wait until we get to the lungs.”
Banks watched patiently, if rather queasily, as Dr. Glendenning’s assistant made the customary Y-shaped incision and peeled back the skin and muscle from the chest wall with a scalpel. The smell of human muscle, rather like raw lamb, Banks had always thought, emanated from the body. Next, the assistant pulled the chest flap up over Luke’s face and took a bone-cutter to the rib cage, finally peeling off the chest plate and exposing the inner organs. When he had removed these en bloc, he placed them on the dissecting table and reached for his electric saw. Bank knew what was coming next, that unforgettable sound and burned-bone smell of the skull, so he turned his attention to Dr. Glendenning, who was dissecting the organs, paying particular attention to the lungs.
“No water,” he announced. “Or minimal.”
“Meaning Luke was dead when he went in the water?”
“I’ll send the tissues for diatomic analysis, but I don’t expect they’ll find much.”
The electric saw stopped, and seconds later Banks heard something rather like a combination grating and sucking sound, and he knew it was the top of the skull coming off. The assistant then cut the spinal cord and the tentorium and lifted the brain out. As he carried it to the jar of formalin, in which it would hang suspended for a couple of weeks, making it firmer and easier to handle, Dr. Glendenning had a quick look.
“Aha,” he said. “I thought so. Look, Banks, do you see that damage there, to the frontal lobes?”
Banks saw it. And he knew what it meant. “Contre coup?”
“Exactly. Which might explain the unusual angle.”
If a blow is delivered while the victim’s head is stationary, then the damage is limited to the point of impact – bones splintered into the brain – but if the victim’s head is in motion, then the result is a contre coup injury: additional damage opposite the point of impact. Contre coup injuries are almost always the result of a fall.
“Or he was pushed,” said Glendenning. “But as far as I can tell, there are no other injuries, no broken bones. And as I said, if there was bruising, if someone hit him, say, knocked him over, then, unless there are any small bones in the cheek broken, we won’t be able to tell. We’ll be checking, of course.”
“Can you give me any idea about time of death? It’s important.”
“Aye, well… I’ve looked over Dr. Burns’s measurements at the scene. Very meticulous. He’ll go far. Rigor’s been and gone, which indicates over two days at the temperatures noted.”
“What about the wrinkling and whitening?”
“Cutis anserina? Three to five hours. Water preserves, delays putrefaction, so it makes our job a little harder. There’s no lividity, and I’m afraid it’ll be almost impossible to tell whether there was any other bruising. The water takes care of that.” He paused and frowned. “But there’s the discoloration around the neck.”
“What about it?”
“That indicates the beginnings of putrefaction. In bodies found in water, it always starts at the root of the neck.”
“After how long?”
“That’s just it,” Dr. Glendenning said, looking at Banks. “You understand I can’t be more specific, I can’t give you less than a twelve-hour margin of error, but not until at least three or four days, not at the temperatures Dr. Burns recorded.”
Banks made a mental calculation. “Bloody hell,” he said. “Even at the outside, that means Luke had to have been killed just after he went missing.”
“Sometime that very night, by my calculations. Taking everything into account, between about eight P.M. and eight A.M.”
And Dr. Glendenning’s calculations, perhaps because of his insufferable habit of being unwilling to commit himself to a specific time, were usually not far from the truth. In which case, Banks thought, Luke had died before Annie had even paid her first visit to Swainsdale Hall, let alone before she had followed Martin Armitage to the site of the drop.
Before she went off duty – though such a thing was somewhat of an illusion in the thick of a major murder investigation – Annie had made a few inquiries around the bookshops, asking after the couple who had tried to sell Norman Wells books he believed were stolen, but she drew a blank. Before meeting Banks for a drink at the Queen’s Arms, she had also checked recent shoplifting reports but turned up nothing there, either. The artist’s impression would be in the evening paper, so she would see what happened after that. There was something else she had intended to do, but it was like that name you can’t quite remember, the one on the tip of your tongue. If she put it out of her mind, it would come to her eventually.
Banks was already waiting for her at a corner table, and she saw him before he saw her. He looked tired, Annie thought, and distracted, smoking and staring into the distance. She tapped him on the shoulder and asked him if he wanted a refill. He came back from a long way and shook his head. She bought herself a pint of Theakston’s bitter and walked over to join him. “So what was that mysterious message about your wanting to see me?” she asked.
“Nothing mysterious about it at all,” Banks said, brightening up a little. “I just wanted to deliver a message myself, in person.”
“I’m all ears.”
“It looks as if you’re off the hook as far as Luke Armitage’s death is concerned.”
Annie felt her eyes open wide. “I am? How?”
“Dr. Glendenning pegs time of death at least three or four days ago.”
“Yes. Before the kidnap call even came in.”
Annie raised her eyes to the ceiling and clapped her hands. “Yes!”
Banks smiled at her. “Thought you’d be pleased.”
“How? He didn’t drown, did he?”
Banks sipped some beer. “No,” he said. “Pending tox results, it looks as if cause of death was a blow to the cerebellum, quite possibly the result of a fall.”
“A struggle of some sort, then?”
“Exactly what I thought. Perhaps with the kidnapper, very early on. Or whoever he was with.”
“And that person decided to try and collect anyway?”
“Yes. But that’s pure speculation.”
“So Luke died somewhere else and was dumped in the tarn?”
“Yes. Probably wherever he was being held – if he was being held. Anyway, there’d have been a fair bit of blood, the doc says, so there’s every chance of our still finding evidence at the original scene.”
“If we can find the scene.”
“So we are making progress?”
“Slowly. What about the girl?”
“Nothing yet.” Annie told him about her meeting with Norman Wells.
She noticed Banks was watching her as she spoke. She could almost see his mind moving, making the connections, taking a shortcut here and filing this or that piece of information away for later. “Whoever they are,” he said when she’d finished, “if Wells is right and they had been shoplifting, then that tells us they’re short of money. Which gives them a motive for demanding a ransom if they were somehow responsible for Luke’s death.”
“Yes,” Banks admitted. “Let’s assume they got into a fight over something or other and Luke ended up dead. Maybe not intentionally, but dead is dead. They panicked, thought of a suitable spot and drove out and dumped him into Hallam Tarn later that night, under cover of darkness.”
“They’d need a motor, remember, which might be a bit of a problem if they were broke.”
“Maybe they ‘borrowed’ one?”
“We can check car-theft reports for the night in question. No matter how much they covered up the body, there might still be traces of Luke’s blood.”
“Good idea. Anyway, they know who Luke’s parents are, think they might be able to make a few bob out of them.”
“Which would explain the low demand.”
“Yes. They’re not pros. They’ve no idea how much to ask. And ten grand is a bloody fortune to them.”
“But they were watching Martin Armitage make the drop, and they saw me.”
“More than likely. Sorry, Annie. They might not be pros, but they’re not stupid. They knew the money was tainted then. They’d already dumped Luke’s body, remember, so they must have known it was just a matter of time before someone found it. They could expect the footpath restrictions to work in their favor for a while, but someone was bound to venture over Hallam Tarn eventually.”
Annie paused to digest what Banks had said. She had made a mistake, had scared the kidnappers off, but Luke had already been dead by then, so his death wasn’t down to her. What else could she have done, anyway? Stayed away from the shepherd’s shelter, perhaps. Red Ron was right about that. She had guessed that the briefcase contained money. Did she need to know exactly how much? So she had behaved impulsively, and not for the first time, but it was all salvageable – the case, her career, everything. It could all be redeemed. “Have you ever thought,” she said, “that they might have planned on kidnapping Luke right from the start? Maybe that was why they befriended him in the first place, and why they had to kill him. Because he knew who they were.”
“Yes,” said Banks. “But too many things about this seem hurried, spontaneous, ill-thought-out. No, Annie, I think they just took advantage of an existing situation.”
“So why kill Luke, then?”
“No idea. We’ll have to ask them.”
“If we find them.”
“Oh, we’ll find them, all right.”
“When the girl sees her picture in the paper she might go to ground, change her appearance.”
“We’ll find them. The only thing is…” Banks said, letting the words trail off as he reached for another cigarette.
“That we need to keep an open mind as regards other lines of inquiry.”
“I’m not sure yet. There might be something even closer to home. I want to talk to a couple of teachers who knew Luke fairly well. Someone should talk to the Battys again, too. Then there’s all the people we know he came into contact with the day he disappeared. Put a list together and get DCs Jackman and Templeton to help with it. We’ve still got a long way to go.”
“Shit,” said Annie, getting to her feet. She had remembered the task that had been eluding her all evening.
“Just something I should have checked out before.” She looked at her watch and waved good-bye. “Maybe it’s not too late. See you later.”
Michelle sat back in her seat and watched the fields drift by under a gray sky, rain streaking the dirty window. Every time she took a train she felt as if she were on holiday. This evening, the train was full. Sometimes she forgot just how close Peterborough was to London – only eighty miles or so, about a fifty-minute train ride – and how many people made the journey every day. That was, after all, what the new town expansion had been about. Basildon, Bracknell, Hemel Hempstead, Hatfield, Stevenage, Harlow, Crawley, Welwyn Garden City, Milton Keynes, all in a belt around London, even closer than Peterborough, catchment areas for an overflowing capital, where it was fast becoming too expensive for many to live. She hadn’t been around back then, of course, but she knew that the population of Peterborough had risen from about 62,000 in 1961 to 134,000 in 1981.
Unable to concentrate on The Profession of Violence, which she had to remember to post back to Banks, she thought back to her lunch with Ex-Detective Inspector Robert Lancaster. He had quite a few years on Ben Shaw, but they were both very much cut from the same cloth. Oh, no doubt about it, Shaw was ruder, more sarcastic, a far more unpleasant personality, but underneath they were the same kind of copper. Not necessarily bent – Michelle took Lancaster’s word on that – but not above turning a blind eye if it was to their advantage, and not above fraternizing with villains. As Lancaster had also pointed out, he had grown up shoulder to shoulder with criminals like the Krays and smaller fry like Billy Marshall, and when it came to future career choices it was often very much a matter of “There but for the grace of God go I.”
It was interesting what he had said about Graham Marshall, she thought. Interesting that he should even remember the boy at all. She had never considered that it might have been Graham’s own criminal activities that got him killed, and even now she found it hard to swallow. Not that fourteen-year-olds were immune to criminal activity. Far from it, especially these days. But if Graham Marshall had been involved in something that was likely to get him killed, wouldn’t somebody have known and come forward? Surely Jet Harris or Reg Proctor would have picked up the scent?
The real problem, though, was how she could gather any more information about Graham. She could go through the statements again, read the investigating detectives’ notebooks and check all the actions allocated, but if none of them focused on Graham himself as a possible line of inquiry, then she would get no further.
The train slowed down for no apparent reason. It was an InterCity, not a local train, so Michelle went to the buffet car and bought herself a coffee. The paper cup was far too hot, even when she used three or four serviettes to hold it. If she took the top off, it would spill when the train started moving again, so she tore a small hole in the plastic top and decided to wait a little while till it cooled.
Michelle looked at her watch. After eight o’clock. Getting dark outside. She had spent a couple of hours shopping on Oxford Street after parting with Lancaster, and she felt a little guilty that she had spent over a hundred pounds on a dress. Perhaps she was turning into a shopaholic? Like the drinking, the spending had to stop. She’d never get a chance to wear the damn thing anyway, as it was a party dress, elegant, strapless and stylish, and she never went to any parties. What could she have been thinking of?
When the train started up again half an hour later, with no explanation for the delay, Michelle realized that if Graham had been involved in anything untoward, there was one person who might know something, even if he didn’t know he did: Banks. And thinking of him made her once again regret the way she had left him at Starbucks the other day. True, she had resented his intrusion into what she regarded as her private life, a life she kept very guarded indeed, but she had perhaps overreacted a tad. After all, he had only asked her if she was married; a perfectly innocent question in its way, and one you might ask a stranger over a coffee. It didn’t have to mean anything, but it was such a raw nerve point with her, such a no-go area, that she had behaved rudely, and now she regretted it.
Well, she wasn’t married; that was certainly the truth. Melissa had died because she and Ted got their wires crossed. She was on surveillance and thought he was picking up their daughter after school; he had an afternoon meeting and thought she was going to do it. Possibly no marriage could survive that amount of trauma – the guilt, blame, grief and anger – and theirs hadn’t. Almost six months to the day after Melissa’s funeral they had agreed to separate, and Michelle had begun her years of wandering from county to county trying to put the past behind her. Succeeding to a large extent, but still haunted, still in some ways maimed by what had happened.
She hadn’t had either the time or the inclination for men, and that was another thing about Banks that bothered her. He was the only man, beyond her immediate colleagues on the job, with whom she had spent any time in years, and she liked him, found him attractive. Michelle knew that she had been nicknamed the Ice Queen at more than one station over the past five years, but it had only amused her because it couldn’t be farther from the truth. She was, she knew, deep down, a warm and sensual person, as she had been with Ted, though that was a part of her nature she had neglected for a long time, perhaps even suppressed, out of punishment, being more preoccupied with self-blame.
She didn’t know if Banks was married or not, though she had noticed that he didn’t wear a ring. And he had asked her if she was married. In addition to being an intrusion, that had seemed like a come-on line at the time, too, and maybe it was. The problem was that part of her wanted him, against all her common sense and all the barriers she had built inside, and the result flustered and confused her almost beyond bearing. Banks might be one of the few people who could help her reconstruct Graham Marshall’s past, but could she bear to face Banks again in the flesh?
She would have no choice, she realized as the train pulled up and she reached for her briefcase. Graham Marshall’s memorial service would be taking place in a matter of days, and she had promised to call and let him know about it.
It was almost dark when Banks turned into the laneway that ran in front of his small cottage, and he was tired. Annie had left by the time he got back to headquarters after finishing his beer, so he stuck around for an hour or so picking away at the pile of paperwork, then decided to call it a day. Whatever it was she was after, she’d tell him after the weekend.
Memories of Luke’s postmortem hovered unpleasantly close to the surface of his consciousness, the way past cases also haunted him. Over the past few months, he had dreamed more than once of Emily Riddle and of the partially buried bodies he had seen in a cellar in Leeds, toes poking through the dirt. Was he going to have to add Luke Armitage to his list of nightmare images now? Was there never any end to it?
Someone had parked a car, an ancient clapped-out Fiesta, by the looks of it, in front of the cottage. Unable to get past the obstacle, Banks parked behind it and took out his house keys. There was no one inside the car, so it wasn’t a pair of lovers seeking seclusion. Maybe someone had dumped it there, he thought, with a flash of irritation. The dirt lane was little more than a cul-de-sac. It dwindled to a riverside footpath when it reached the woods about twenty feet beyond Banks’s cottage, and there was no way for a car to get through. Not everyone knew that, of course, and sometimes cars turned down it by mistake. He ought to consider putting up a sign, he thought, though he had always thought it obvious enough that the track was a private drive.
Then he noticed that the living room light was on and the curtains closed. He knew he hadn’t left the light on that morning. It could be burglars, he thought, moving carefully, though if it was, they were very incompetent ones, not only parking in a cul-de-sac, but not even bothering to turn their car around for a quick getaway. Still, he’d known far stupider criminals, like the would-be bank robber who had filled out the withdrawal slip with his real name before writing on the back: “Giv me yor munny, I’ve got a nife” and handing it to the teller. He didn’t get far.
The car was definitely a Fiesta, with rusted wheel arches. It would be lucky to pass its next MOT without major and expensive work, Banks thought as he gave it the once-over and memorized the number plate. This was no burglar. He tried to remember to whom he had given a key. Not Annie, at least not anymore. Certainly not Sandra. And just as he opened the door, it came to him. There was his son Brian stretched out on the sofa, with Tim Buckley playing low on stereo: “I Never Asked to Be Your Mountain.” When he heard Banks come in, he uncoiled his long length, sat up and rubbed his eyes.
“Oh. Hi, Dad, it’s you.”
“Hello, son. Who else were you expecting?”
“Nobody. I was just half asleep, I suppose. Dreaming.”
“Don’t you believe in telephones?”
“Sorry. It’s been a bit hectic lately. We’re doing some gigs around Teeside starting tomorrow night, so I thought I’d, you know, just drop in and say hello. I had a long drive. All the way from south London.”
“It’s good to see you.” Banks gestured with his thumb. “I’m surprised you made it in one piece. Is that pile of junk out there the car you borrowed two hundred quid off me for?”
“I hope you didn’t pay any more than that for it, that’s all.” Banks put his car keys down on the low table, took off his jacket and hung it on a hook behind the door. “I didn’t know you were a Tim Buckley fan,” he said, sitting down in the armchair.
“You’d be surprised. Actually, I’m not, really. Haven’t heard him much. Hell of a voice, though. You can hear it in his son’s. Jeff’s. He did a great version of this song at a memorial concert for his dad. Most of the time he refused to acknowledge Tim, though.”
“How do you know all this?”
“Read a book about them. Dream Brother. It’s pretty good. I’ll lend it to you if I can find it.”
“Thanks.” Mention of the Tim and Jeff Buckley relationship reminded Banks of Luke Armitage and the tape he still had in his pocket. Maybe he’d get Brian’s opinion. For the moment, though, a stiff drink was in order. A Laphroaig. “Can I get you anything to drink?” he asked Brian. “Drop of single malt, perhaps?”
Brian made a face. “Can’t stand the stuff. If you’ve got any lager, though…”
“I think I can manage that.” Banks poured himself the whiskey and found a Carlsberg in the back of the fridge. “Glass?” he called from the kitchen.
“Can’s fine,” Brian called back.
If anything, Brian seemed even taller than the last time Banks had seen him, at least five or six inches taller than his own five foot nine. He had inherited Banks’s constitutional thinness, by the looks of him, and wore the usual uniform of torn jeans and a plain T-shirt. He’d had his hair cut. Not just cut, but massacred, even shorter than Banks’s own close crop.
“What’s with the haircut?” Banks asked him.
“Kept getting in my eyes. So what are you up to these days, Dad? Still solving crime and keeping the world safe for democracy?”
“Less of your lip.” Banks lit a cigarette. Brian gave him a disgusted look. “I’m trying to stop,” Banks said. “It’s only my fifth all day.” Brian said nothing, merely raised his eyebrows. “Anyway,” Banks went on. “Yes, I’m working.”
“Neil Byrd’s son, Luke, right? I heard it on the news while I was driving up. Poor sod.”
“Right. Luke Armitage. You’re the musician in the family. What do you think of Neil Byrd?”
“He was pretty cool,” said Brian, “but maybe just a bit too folksy for me. Too much of a romantic, I guess. Like Dylan, he was a lot better when he went electric. Why?”
“I’m just trying to understand Luke’s relationship with him, that’s all.”
“He didn’t have one. Neil Byrd committed suicide when Luke was only three. He was a dreamer, an idealist. The world could never match up to his expectations.”
“If that were a reason for suicide, Brian, there’d be nobody left alive. But it had to have a powerful effect on the boy. Luke had a bunch of posters in his room. Dead rock stars. Seemed obsessed with them. Not his dad, though.”
“Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, Ian Curtis, Nick Drake. You know. The usual suspects.”
“Covers quite a range,” said Brian. “I’ll bet you thought your generation had cornered the market in dying young, didn’t you? Jimi, Janis, Jim.” He nodded toward the stereo. “Present company.”
“I know some of these were more recent.”
“Well, Nick Drake was another one of your lot. And do you know how old I was when Ian Curtis was with Joy Division? I can’t have been more than six or seven.”
“But you have listened to Joy Division?”
“I’ve listened, yeah. Too depressing for me. Kurt Cobain and Jeff Buckley are a lot closer to home. But where’s all this going?”
“I honestly don’t know,” said Banks. “I’m just trying to get some sort of grip on Luke’s life, his state of mind. He was into some very weird stuff for a fifteen-year-old. And there was nothing in his room connected with his father.”
“Well, he’d feel pissed off, wouldn’t he? Wouldn’t you? Only stands to reason. Your old man does a bunk when you’re just a baby and then offs himself before you can get to know him at all. Hardly makes you feel wanted, does it?”
“Want to listen to some of his songs?”
“Who? Neil Byrd?”
Banks paused the Tim Buckley CD, put the tape in, and they both sat in silence sipping their drinks and listening.
“He’s good,” said Brian, when the tape had finished. “Very good. I wish I’d been that good at his age. Still raw, but with a bit of hard work and a lot of practice…”
“Do you think he had a future in music, then?”
“It’s possible. On the other hand, you see plenty of bands with no talent get to the top and some really terrific musicians struggle just to make a living, so who can say? He’s got what it takes in its raw form, though. In my humble opinion. Was he with a band?”
“Not that I know of.”
“He’d be a steal for some up-and-coming group. He’s got talent, for a start, and they could milk the Neil Byrd connection for all it was worth. Did you notice the voice? The similarities. Like Tim and Jeff.”
“Yes,” said Banks. “I did.” He started the Tim Buckley CD again. It was “Song to the Siren,” which always sent shivers up his spine. “How’s the CD going?” he asked.
“Haven’t bloody started it yet, have we? Our manager’s still haggling over the contracts. Hence that crappy pile of junk you saw outside.”
“I was expecting a Jag or a red sports car.”
“Soon, Dad. Soon. By the way, we’ve changed our name.”
“The manager thought Jimson Weed was a bit too sixties.”
“Yeah, well, we’re The Blue Lamps now.”
“No, that’s another band. The Blue Lamps.”
“I was thinking of Dixon of Dock Green.”
“The Blue Lamp. It was a film. Fifties. It’s where George Dixon made his debut before it became a TV series. A blue lamp used to be the sign of a police station. Still is in some places. I’m not sure you want to be going around associating yourself with that.”
“The stuff you know. Anyway, our manager thinks it’s okay, more modern – you know, White Stripes, Blue Lamps – but I’ll tell him what you said. Our sound’s hardened up a bit too, got a bit more grungy and less slick. I get to play some real down and dirty guitar solos. You must come and hear us again. We’ve come a long way since that last gig you were at.”
“I’d love to, but I thought you sounded just fine then.”
“I saw your grandparents the other day.”
“Yeah? How are they?”
“Same as ever. You should visit them more often.”
“Oh, you know how it is.”
“No. I don’t know.”
“They don’t like me, Dad. Not since I screwed up my degree and joined the band. Whenever I see them, it’s always ‘Tracy’s doing this and Tracy’s doing that.’ They don’t care how well I do.”
“You know that’s not true,” said Banks, who suspected it probably was. After all, weren’t they the same way with him? It was all Roy, Roy, Roy, no matter what Banks achieved. He’d had a hard enough time reconciling himself to his son’s chosen career, just the same way his mother and father had with him. The only difference was that he had come to terms with Brian’s choice, whereas his own parents hadn’t even come to terms with his career, let alone their grandson’s. “Anyway, I’m sure they’d love to see you.”
“Yeah. Okay. I’ll try to go and see them when I’ve got time.”
“How’s your mother?”
“Fine, I suppose.”
“Seen her lately?”
“Not for a few weeks.”
“How’s she doing with the… you know… It must be due soon.”
“Yeah, I guess so. Look, Dad, is there anything to eat? I haven’t had any dinner yet, and I’m starving.”
Banks thought. He’d eaten a prawn sandwich earlier in the Queen’s Arms and wasn’t particularly hungry. He knew there was nothing substantial in the fridge or the freezer. He looked at his watch. “There’s a Chinese take-away down in Helmthorpe. They should still be open, if you like.”
“Cool,” said Brian, finishing off his lager. “What are we waiting for?”
Banks sighed and reached for his jacket again. So much for quality time.
Michelle could have walked to Rivergate, it wasn’t that far, but it also wasn’t a particularly pleasant walk, and the rain was still pouring down, so she decided to treat herself to a taxi from the station.
The first inkling she got that something was wrong in the flat was when she heard the creaking door of her Mystery screen-saver and saw the lights going on and off in the creepy-looking mansion as the full moon slowly crossed the starlit sky. She knew she had turned her computer off after she’d checked her e-mail that morning. She always did; she was compulsive about it. Also, someone had pulled some of the books out of one of the boxes that she hadn’t got around to unpacking. They weren’t damaged or anything, just piled up on the floor beside the box.
Michelle jogged the mouse and the computer returned to its regular display. Only it was open at Michelle’s file of notes about the Marshall case, and she knew she hadn’t opened that since the previous night. There was nothing secret about her speculations, nothing she had thought would even interest anyone else, so she hadn’t bothered with password protection. In the future, she would know better.
With the hairs prickling at the back of her neck, Michelle stood still and strained her ears for any odd sounds in the flat. Nothing except the clock ticking and the humming of the refrigerator. She took her old side-handled baton from her uniform days out of the closet by the door. Gripping that made her feel a little more courageous as she went to explore the rest of the flat.
The kitchen light was on, and a couple of items that she knew she had put back in the fridge that morning – milk, butter, eggs – lay on the countertop. The butter had melted into a shapeless lump and it oozed over her fingers when she picked it up.
Her bathroom cabinet stood open, and the various pills and potions she kept there were not in their usual order. Her bottle of aspirin sat on the edge of the sink, top off and cotton wool missing. Even as the chills went up her spine, Michelle wondered what the hell all this was about. If someone had searched the place, though she couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to, then why not just leave it in a mess? Clearly, whoever had done this had done it to scare her – and they were succeeding.
She went into the bedroom cautiously, gripping the side-handled baton more tightly, expecting the worst. Nobody jumped out of the wardrobe at her, but what she saw there made her drop her baton and put her hands to her mouth.
There was no mess. Perhaps some of her drawers weren’t completely closed, the way she had left them, but there was no mess. It was much, much worse.
Spread out neatly at the center of the bed lay Melissa’s dress. When Michelle reached out to pick it up, she found it had been cut cleanly into two halves.
Michelle staggered back against the wall, half the dress clutched to her chest, hardly able to believe what was happening. As she did so, her eye caught the writing on the dressing-table mirror: FORGET GRAHAM MARSHALL, BITCH. REMEMBER MELISSA. YOU COULD JOIN HER.
Michelle cried out, covered her face with the dress and slid down the wall to the floor.
Norman Wells sat in the interview room with his folded arms resting on the top of his paunch and his lips pressed tight together. If he was scared, he wasn’t showing it. But then, he didn’t know how much the police already knew about him.
Banks and Annie sat opposite him, files spread out in front of them. Banks felt well-rested after a day off. He had stayed up late Saturday night eating Chinese food and talking with Brian, but on Sunday, after Brian left, he had done nothing but read the papers, go for a walk from Helmthorpe to Rawley Force and back by himself, stopping for a pub lunch and fiddling with the Sunday Times crossword. In the evening, he had thought of ringing Michelle Hart in Peterborough but decided against it. They hadn’t parted on the best of terms, so let her contact him first, if she wanted to. After a small Laphroaig and a cigarette outside, enjoying the mild evening air around sunset, he had listened to Ian Bostridge’s English Song Book CD, gone to bed before half past ten, and slept as soundly as he could remember in a long time.
“Norman,” said Banks. “You don’t mind if I call you Norman, do you?”
“It’s my name.”
“Detective Inspector Cabbot here has been doing a bit of digging around in your background, and it turns out you’ve been a naughty boy, haven’t you?”
Wells said nothing. Annie pushed a file toward Banks, and he opened it. “You used to be a schoolteacher, am I right?”
“You know I did, or you wouldn’t have dragged me in here away from my business.”
Banks raised his eyebrows. “It’s my understanding that you came here of your own free will when asked to help us with our inquiries. Am I wrong?”
“Do you think I’m an idiot?”
“I don’t follow.”
“And there’s no need to play the thickie with me. You know what I mean. If I hadn’t come willingly, you’d have found some way to bring me here, whether I wanted to come or not. So just get on with it. It might not seem much to you, but I have a business to run, customers who rely on me.”
“We’ll try to see that you get back to your shop as soon as possible, Norman, but first I’d like you to answer a few questions for me. You taught at a private school in Cheltenham, right?”
“How long ago?”
“I left seven years ago.”
“Why did you leave?”
“I grew tired of teaching.”
Banks glanced at Annie, who frowned, leaned over and pointed at some lines on the typed sheet of paper in front of Banks. “Norman,” Banks went on, “I think I ought to inform you that Detective Inspector Cabbot spoke to your old headmaster, Mr. Fulwell, earlier this morning. He was reticent to discuss school business at first, but when she informed him that we were conducting a possible murder investigation, he was a little more forthcoming. We know all about you, Norman.”
The moment of truth. Wells seemed to deflate and shrink in his chair. His plump lower lip pushed up and all but obscured the upper, his chin disappeared into his neck and his arms seemed to wrap more tightly around his lower chest. “What do you want from me?” he whispered.
“I had a nervous breakdown.”
“What caused it?”
“The pressures of the job. You’ve no idea what teaching’s like.”
“I don’t imagine I have,” Banks admitted, thinking that the last thing he’d want to do was stand up in front of thirty or forty scruffy, hormonally challenged teenagers and try to get them interested in Shakespeare or the War of Jenkins’s Ear. Anyone with that skill deserved his admiration. And a medal, too, for that matter. “What particular pressures led you to decide to leave?”
“It was nothing specific. Just a general sort of breakdown.”
“Stop beating about the bush, Norman,” Annie cut in. “Does the name Steven Farrow mean anything to you?”
Wells paled. “Nothing happened. I never touched him. False accusations.”
“According to the headmaster, Norman, you were infatuated with this thirteen-year-old boy. So much so that you neglected your duties, became an embarrassment to the school, and on one occasion-”
“Enough!” Wells slammed his fist down on the metal table. “You’re just like everyone else. You poison the truth with your lies. You can’t stare beauty in the eye, so you have to destroy it, poison it for everyone else.”
“Steven Farrow, Norman,” Annie repeated. “Thirteen years old.”
“It was pure. A pure love.” Wells rubbed his teary eyes with his forearm. “But you wouldn’t understand that, would you? To people like you, anything other than a man and a woman is dirty, abnormal, perverted.”
“Try us, Norman,” said Banks. “Give us a chance. You loved him?”
“Steven was beautiful. An angel. All I wanted was to be close to him, to be with him. What could be wrong with that?”
“But you touched him, Norman,” said Annie. “He told-”
“I never touched him! He was lying. He turned on me. He wanted money. Can you believe it? My little angel wanted money. I would have done anything for him, made any sacrifice. But something so vulgar as money… I blame them, of course, not Steven. They poisoned him against me. They made him turn on me.” Wells wiped his eyes again.
“Who did, Norman?”
“The others. The other boys.”
“What happened?” Banks asked.
“I refused, of course. Steven went to the headmaster and… I was asked to leave, no questions asked, no scandal. All for the good of the school, you see. But word got around. On the scrap heap at thirty-eight. One foolish mistake.” He shook his head. “That boy broke my heart.”
“Surely you couldn’t expect them to keep you on?” Banks said. “In fact, you’re bloody lucky they didn’t bring in the police. And you know how we feel about pedophiles.”
“I am not a child molester! I would have been content just… just to be with him. Have you ever been in love?”
Banks said nothing. He sensed Annie glance at him.
Wells leaned forward and rested his forearms on the table. “You can’t choose the object of your desire. You know you can’t. It may be a cliché to say that love is blind, but like many clichés, it’s not without a grain of truth. I didn’t choose to love Steven. I simply couldn’t help myself.”
Banks had heard this argument before from pedophiles – that they weren’t responsible for their desires, that they didn’t choose to love little boys – and he had at least a modicum of sympathy for their predicament. After all, it wasn’t only pedophiles who fell in love with the wrong people. But he didn’t feel enough sympathy to condone their actions. “I’m sure you are aware,” he said, “that it’s illegal for a thirty-eight-year-old man to initiate a sexual relationship with a thirteen-year-old boy, and that it’s inappropriate for a teacher to be involved in any way with a pupil, even if that pupil did happen to be over the age of consent, which Steven wasn’t.”
“There was no sexual relationship. Steven lied. They made him do it. I never touched him.”
“That’s as may be,” said Banks. “You might not have been able to help your feelings, but you could have controlled your actions. I think you know right from wrong.”
“It’s all so hypocritical,” Wells said.
“What do you mean?”
“Who says there can be no real love between youth and age? The Greeks didn’t think so.”
“Society,” said Banks. “The law. And it’s not the love we legislate against. The law’s there to protect the innocent and the vulnerable from those predators who should know better.”
“Ha! It shows how little you know. Who do you think was the vulnerable one here, the innocent one? Steven Farrow? Do you think just because a boy is of a certain tender age that he is incapable of manipulating his elders, incapable of blackmail? That’s very naive of you, if you don’t mind my saying so.”
“Luke Armitage,” Annie cut in.
Wells leaned back and licked his lips. He was sweating profusely, Banks noticed, and starting to smell sour and rank. “I wondered when we’d be getting around to him.”
“That’s why you’re here, Norman. Did you think it was about Steven Farrow?”
“I’d no idea what it would be about. I haven’t done anything wrong.”
“The Farrow affair’s all water under the bridge. Hushed up. No charges, no serious damage done.”
“Except to me.”
“You were among the last people to see Luke Armitage on the day he disappeared, Norman,” Annie went on. “When we found out about your past, isn’t it only natural that we should want to talk to you about him?”
“I know nothing about what happened to him.”
“But you were friends with him, weren’t you?”
“Acquaintances. He was a customer. We talked about books sometimes. That’s all.”
“He was an attractive boy, wasn’t he, Norman? Like Steven Farrow. Did he remind you of Steven?”
Wells sighed. “The boy left my shop. I never saw him again.”
“Are you certain?” Banks asked. “Are you sure he didn’t come back, or you didn’t meet him somewhere else? Your house, perhaps?”
“I never saw him again. Why would he come to my house?”
“I don’t know,” said Banks. “You tell me.”
“Did he come back to the shop? Did something happen there? Something bad. Did you kill him and then move him after dark? Maybe it was a terrible accident. I can’t believe you meant to kill him. Not if you loved him.”
“I didn’t love him. Society has seen to it that I’m quite incapable of loving anyone ever again. No matter what you think of me, I am not a fool. I do know wrong from right, Chief Inspector, whether I agree with the definition or not. I am capable of self-control. I am an emotional eunuch. I know that society regards my urges as evil and sinful, and I have no desire to spend the rest of my days in jail. Believe me, the prison of my own making is bad enough.”
“I suppose the money was an afterthought, was it?” Banks went on. “But why not? Why not make a little money out of what you’d done? I mean, you could do with it, couldn’t you? Look at the dump you spend your days in. A crappy used-book business in a dank, cold dungeon can’t be making much money, can it? An extra ten thousand quid would have set you up nicely. Not too greedy. Just enough.”
Wells had tears in his eyes again, and he was shaking his head slowly from side to side. “It’s all I’ve got,” he said, his voice catching in his throat, his whole body starting to shake now. “My books. My cat. They’re all I’ve got. Can’t you see that, man?” He pushed his florid, bulbous face toward Banks and banged his fist to his heart. “There’s nothing else left here for me. Have you no humanity?”
“But it’s still not very much, is it?” Banks pressed on.
Wells looked him in the eye and regained some of his composure. “Who are you to say that? Who are you to pronounce judgment on a man’s life? Do you think I don’t know I’m ugly? Do you think I don’t notice the way people look at me? Do you think I don’t know I’m the object of laughter and derision? Do you think I have no feelings? Every day I sit down there in my dank, cold dungeon, as you so cruelly refer to it, like some sort of pariah, some deformed monster in his lair, some… some Quasimodo, and I contemplate my sins, my desires, my dreams of love and beauty and purity deemed ugly and evil by a hypocritical world. All I have is my books, and the unconditional love of one of God’s creatures. How dare you judge me?”
“No matter what you feel,” said Banks, “society has to protect its children, and for that we need laws. They may seem arbitrary to you. Sometimes they seem arbitrary to me. I mean, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen? Fourteen? Where do you draw the line? Who knows, Norman, maybe one day we’ll be as enlightened as you’d like us to be and lower the age of consent to thirteen, but until then we have to have those lines, or all becomes chaos.” He was thinking of Graham Marshall as well as Luke Armitage as he spoke. Society hadn’t done a very good job of protecting either of them.
“I have done nothing wrong,” said Wells, crossing his arms again.
The problem was, as Banks and Annie had already discussed, that the closed-circuit television cameras corroborated Wells’s story. Luke Armitage had entered Norman’s Used Books at two minutes to five and left – alone – at five twenty-four.
“What time did you close that day?” Banks asked.
“Half past five, as usual.”
“And what did you do?”
“I went home.”
“Number fifty-seven Arden Terrace?”
“That’s off Market Street, isn’t it?”
“Do you live alone?”
“Do you own a car?”
“A second-hand Renault.”
“Good enough to get you out to Hallam Tarn and back?”
Wells hung his head in his hands. “I’ve told you. I did nothing. I haven’t been near Hallam Tarn in months. Certainly not since the foot-and-mouth outbreak.”
Banks could smell his sweat even more strongly now, sharp and acrid, like an animal secretion. “What did you do after you went home?”
“Had my tea. Leftover chicken casserole, if you’re interested. Watched television. Read for a while, then went to sleep.”
“I’d say I was in bed by half past ten.”
Wells just glared at Banks.
“You didn’t go out again that evening?”
“Where would I go?”
“I don’t drink, and I don’t socialize. I prefer my own company. And I happen to believe that there hasn’t been a decent picture made in the last forty years.”
“Did Luke Armitage visit your house at any time that evening?”
“Has Luke Armitage ever visited your house?”
“He’s never even stepped inside your front door, not just for a moment?”
“I talk to him in the shop sometimes. That’s all. He doesn’t even know where I live.”
“Did you ever give him a lift anywhere?”
“No. How could I do that? I walk to and from the shop every day. It’s not far, and it’s good exercise. Besides, you know what parking’s like around the market square.”
“So Luke has never been in your car?”
“In that case,” said Banks, “I’m sure you won’t mind if our forensic experts have a close look at your house and your car. We’d also like to take a DNA sample, just for comparison.”
Wells stuck his chin out. “What if I do mind?”
“We’ll keep you here until we get a search warrant. Remember, Norman, I wouldn’t like to say judges are swayed by such things, but Luke Armitage came from a wealthy and well-respected family, while you’re a disgraced school-teacher eking out a living in a dingy used-book shop. And that shop was the last place we know Luke visited before he disappeared.”
Wells hung his head. “Fine,” he said. “Go ahead. Do what you will. I don’t care anymore.”
After a sleepless night on Saturday, Michelle had spent Sunday getting over the shock of what had happened in her flat and trying to rein in her emotional response in favor of more analytical thought.
She hadn’t got very far.
That someone had gained entry and arranged things in order to frighten her was obvious enough. Why, was another matter entirely. That the interloper knew about Melissa surprised her, though she supposed people could find out anything about her if they really wanted to. But given that he knew, it would have been evident when he searched her bedside drawers that the little dress was Melissa’s, and that its desecration would cause her a great deal of anguish. In other words, it had been a cold, calculated assault.
The flats were supposed to be secure, but Michelle had been a copper long enough to know that a talented burglar could get around almost anything. Though it went against every grain of Michelle’s nature not to report the break-in to the police, in the end she decided against it. Mostly, this was because Graham Marshall’s name had been written in her own red lipstick on the dressing-table mirror. The intrusion was meant to frighten her off the case, and the only people who knew she was working on it, apart from the Marshalls themselves, were other police officers, or people connected with them, like Dr. Cooper. True, Michelle’s name had been in the papers once or twice when the bones had first been found, so technically everyone in the entire country could know she was on the case, but she felt the answers lay a lot closer to home.
The question was, “Was she going to be frightened off the case?” The answer was, “No.”
At least there hadn’t been much cleaning up to do. Michelle had, however, dumped the entire contents of her bathroom cabinet and would have to contact her doctor for new prescriptions. She had also dumped the contents of the fridge, which hadn’t been a big job at all. More important, she had found a locksmith in the Yellow Pages and arranged to have a chain and an extra dead-bolt lock put on her door.
As a result of her weekend experience, Michelle felt drained and edgy on Monday morning and found herself looking at everyone in Divisional Headquarters differently, as if they knew something she didn’t, as if they were pointing at her and talking about her. It was a frightening feeling, and every time she caught someone’s eye she looked away. Creeping paranoia, she told herself and tried to shake it off.
First, she had a brief meeting with DC Collins, who told her he was getting nowhere checking the old perv reports. Most of the people the police had interviewed at the time were either dead or in jail, and those who weren’t had nothing new to add. She phoned Dr. Cooper, who still hadn’t located her knife expert, Hilary Wendell, yet, then she went down to the archives to check out the old notebooks and action allocations.
These days, since the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, there were very strict rules regarding police notebooks. You couldn’t leave blank pages, for example. Each page was numbered, and if you missed one by mistake you had to draw a line through it and write “Omitted in error.” Entries had to be preceded by date and time, underlined, and at the end of each day the officer had to draw a continuous line below the final entry. Most of this was to prevent officers from “verballing” suspects – attributing to them words they hadn’t used, confessions they hadn’t made – and to avoid any sort of revisions after the fact. Notes were made on the spot, often quickly, and accuracy was important because the notebooks might need to be used in court.
An officer’s notebooks could be invaluable when trying to reconstruct the pattern of an investigation, as could the action allocations, records made of all the instructions issued to investigating officers by the senior investigating officer. For example, if DC Higginbottom was asked to go and interview Joe Smith’s neighbor, that order, or “action,” would be recorded in the actions allocation book, and his record of the interview would be in his notebook. By looking at the actions, you could determine which areas of inquiry had been pursued and which had not, and by reading the notebooks you could unearth impressions that might not have made it into final statements and formal reports.
Completed notebooks were first handed to a detective inspector, who would look them over and, if everything was acceptable, send them to the records clerk for filing. That meant they piled up over the years. Whoever said we were heading for a paperless world, Michelle thought, as she walked along the rows of shelving stacked to the ceiling with boxes, obviously wasn’t a copper.
Mrs. Metcalfe showed her where the notebooks were filed, and Michelle went first, by instinct, to Ben Shaw’s. But no matter how many times she flipped through the boxes, checked and rechecked the dates, in the end she had to admit that if there had been notebooks covering the period of major activity in the Graham Marshall case, on the day of his disappearance, August 22, 1965, over the next month or two, then they had vanished.
Michelle found it difficult to decipher Shaw’s handwriting in the notebooks she did find, but she could just about make out that his last entry was on August 15, 1965, when he had been questioning a witness to a post office robbery, and the next one was a new notebook started on the sixth of October of the same year.
Michelle asked for Mrs. Metcalfe’s help, but after half an hour even the poor records clerk had to admit defeat. “I can’t imagine where they’ve got to, love,” she said. “Except they might have got misfiled by my predecessor, or lost in one of the moves.”
“Could someone have taken them?” Michelle asked.
“I don’t see who. Or why. I mean, it’s only people like you who come down here. Other police.”
Exactly what Michelle had been thinking. She could have taken out anything she wanted during her visits, and Mrs. Metcalfe would have been none the wiser. Which meant that anyone else could, too. Someone had gained entry to her flat and tried to scare her off the case, and now she found that nearly two months’ worth, a crucial two months’ worth, of notebooks had somehow disappeared. Coincidence? Michelle didn’t think so.
Half an hour later, when they had run into the same problem with the action allocation book for the Graham Marshall case, Michelle knew in her bones that the actions and the notebooks were gone forever, destroyed, most likely. But why? And by whom? The discovery didn’t help her paranoia one bit. She was beginning to feel way out of her depth. What the hell should she do now?
After the interview, Banks felt the urge to get out of the station, away from the acrid stink of Norman Wells’s sweat, so he decided to head out Lyndgarth way and talk to Luke Armitage’s music teacher, Alastair Ford, while Annie continued to supervise the search for Luke’s mystery woman.
In Banks’s experience, music teachers were an odd lot indeed, partly, no doubt, because of the frustration of trying to instill the beauties of Beethoven and Bach into minds addled with Radiohead and Mercury Rev. Not that Banks had anything against pop music. In his day, the class had kept pestering their music teacher, Mr. Watson, to play The Beatles. He relented once, but looked glum the whole time. His feet didn’t tap, and his heart wasn’t in it. When he played Dvorak’s New World Symphony or Tchaikovsky’s Simphonie Pathétique, however, it was another matter. He closed his eyes, swayed and conducted, hummed along as the main themes swelled. All the time the kids in the class were laughing at him and reading comics under their desks, but he was oblivious, in a world of his own. One day Mr. Watson failed to turn up for class. Rumor had it that he’d suffered a nervous breakdown and was “resting” in a sanatorium. He never returned to teaching as far as Banks knew.
Yesterday’s rain had rinsed the landscape clean and brought out the bright greens of the lower daleside, dotted with purple clover, yellow buttercups and celandines. The limestone scar of Fremlington Edge glowed in the sunlight, and below it the village of Lyndgarth, with its small church and lopsided village green, like a handkerchief flapping in the wind, seemed asleep. Banks consulted his map, found the minor road he was looking for and turned right.
Ford’s cottage was about as isolated as Banks’s own, and when he parked behind the dark blue Honda, he understood why. It wasn’t the New World Symphony but the beautiful Recordare for soprano and mezzo-soprano from Verdi’s Requiem blasting out of the open windows at full volume. If Banks hadn’t been playing the Stones’s Aftermath CD in the car, he would have heard it a mile away.
It took a bit of hammering at the door, but eventually the music quietened down and it was answered by the man Banks recognized from the Aeolian String Quartet concert. Alastair Ford had five o’clock shadow, a long, hooked nose and a bright gleam in his eyes. If he had any, his hair would probably have been sticking out in all directions, but he was quite bald. What was it about Luke Armitage? Banks wondered. This was the second person he’d met that day who had spent time with the boy and looked as mad as a hatter. Maybe Luke attracted weirdos. Maybe it was because he was more than a little weird himself. However, Banks determined to keep an open mind. Whether Alastair Ford’s eccentricity had a dangerous edge remained to be seen.
“I’m as fond of Verdi as the next man,” said Banks, showing his warrant card, “but don’t you think it’s a bit too loud?”
“Oh, don’t tell me old farmer Jones has complained about the music again. He says it curdles his cows’ milk. Philistine!”
“I’m not here about the noise, Mr. Ford. Might I come in and have a word?”
“Now I’m curious,” said Ford, leading the way inside. His house was clean but looked lived-in, with little piles of sheet music here and there, a violin resting on a low table, and the massive stereo system dominating the living room. “A policeman who knows his Verdi.”
“I’m no expert,” Banks said, “but I’ve recently bought a new recording, so I’ve listened to it a few times lately.”
“Ah, yes. Renée Fleming and the Kirov. Very nice, but I must admit I’m still rather attached to the von Otter and Gardiner. Anyway, I can’t imagine you’ve come here to discuss old Joe Green with me. What can I do for you?” Ford was birdlike in many ways, especially in his sudden, jerky movements, but when he sat down in the overstuffed armchair he fell still, fingers linked in his lap. He wasn’t relaxed, though. Banks could sense the man’s tension and unease, and he wondered what its cause was. Maybe he just didn’t like being questioned by the police.
“It’s about Luke Armitage,” said Banks. “I understand you knew him?”
“Ah, poor Luke. A remarkably talented boy. Such a great loss.”
“When did you last see him?”
“Around the end of term.”
“Are you sure you haven’t seen him since?”
“I’ve barely left the cottage since then, except to drive into Lyndgarth for groceries. Alone with my music after a term of teaching those philistines. What bliss!”
“I gather Luke Armitage wasn’t a philistine, though?”
“Far from it.”
“You were giving him violin lessons, am I right?”
“Here or at school?”
“At school. Tuesday evenings. We have a reasonably well-equipped music room there. Mind you, we ought to be grateful for anything these days. They’ll spend a fortune on sports equipment, but when it comes to music…”
“Did Luke ever talk to you about anything that was on his mind?”
“He didn’t talk a lot. Mostly he concentrated on his playing. He had remarkable powers of concentration, unlike so many of today’s youth. He wasn’t much of a one for small talk. We did chat about music, argued once or twice about pop music, which I gathered he was rather fond of.”
“Never about anything else?”
“Anything that might have been bothering him, worrying him, anyone he might have been afraid of. That sort of thing.”
“I’m afraid not. Luke was a very private person, and I’m not the prying kind. Truth be told, I’m not very good at helping people with their emotional problems.” He ran his hand over his smooth head and smiled. “That’s why I prefer to live alone.”
“Was. Many moons ago.”
“Search me. What usually happens?”
Banks thought of Sandra. What usually happens? “So you just taught him the violin, that’s all?”
“Mainly, yes. I mean, he was in my class, too, at school. But I wouldn’t say I knew him or that we were friends or anything like that. I respected his talent, even if he did dabble in pop music, but that’s as far as it went.”
“Did he ever mention his parents?”
“Not to me.”
“What about his biological father? Neil Byrd?”
“Never heard of him.”
Banks looked around the room. “It’s a very isolated cottage you have here, Mr. Ford.”
“Is it? Yes, I suppose it is.”
“Isolation suits you?”
“It must do, mustn’t it?” Ford’s foot started tapping on the floor, his knee jerking, and not to the rhythm of the now barely audible Requiem.
“Do you ever have company?”
“Rarely. I play in a string quartet, and sometimes the other members come out here to rehearse. Other than that, I’m rather given to solitary pursuits. Look, I-”
“I told you, I’m not good at relationships.”
Ford raised an eyebrow. “I’m not good at relationships.”
“Yet you manage the teacher-student relationship.”
“I have a talent for teaching.”
“Do you enjoy it?”
“In a way. Sometimes.”
Banks got up and walked over to the window. There was a fine view of the dale, looking back toward Eastvale in the distance. Banks thought he could just make out the castle on its hill.
“Did Luke Armitage ever come here?” he asked, turning to face Ford.
“Very few people come here. I would remember. Look, if you want to know about Luke, ask Lauren.”
“Yes. She knew him far better than I did. She’s a… well, you know, she’s the sort of person people talk to, about their problems and stuff.”
“Do you know if Luke was close to anyone else?”
“You could try our head teacher’s daughter.”
Banks had a quick flash of that sudden flurry of blond hair and long leg he had noticed after his conversation with Gavin Barlow. “Rose Barlow?”
“That’s the one. Little minx.”
“Were she and Luke friends?”
“Thick as thieves.”
“When was this?”
“Earlier this year. February or March.”
“Where did you see them together?”
“I don’t go anywhere else. Except here. All I can say is I saw them talking sometimes in the corridors and playground, and they seemed close.”
Banks made a mental note to follow up on Rose Barlow. “Do you have a mobile phone?” he asked.
“Good Lord, what an odd question!”
“No. I see no use for one, personally. I barely use the telephone I do have.”
“Where were you last Monday?”
“Were you in Eastvale at all last week?”
“I’ve already told you. I’ve hardly left the cottage.”
“What have you been doing?”
“What do you mean?”
“Here. In the cottage. Alone. All this time.”
Ford got to his feet and the birdlike motions started up again. “Playing music. Listening. Reading. Dabbling in a little composition. Look, really it’s none of your business, you know, even if you are a policeman. The last time I noticed, we were still living in a free country.”
“It was just a simple question, Mr. Ford. No need to get upset.”
Ford’s voice took on a piercing edge. “I’m not getting upset. But you’re prying. I hate people prying. I can’t tell you anything. Go talk to Lauren. Leave me alone.”
Banks stared at him for a moment. Ford wouldn’t meet his gaze. “If I find out you’ve been lying to me, Mr. Ford, I’ll be back. Do you understand?”
“I’m not lying. I haven’t done anything. Leave me alone.”
Before leaving, Banks showed him the artist’s impression of the girl Josie Batty had seen with Luke. Ford hardly glanced at the sketch and said he didn’t recognize her. He was weird, without a doubt, Banks thought as he started his car, but you couldn’t arrest people just for being weird. The volume went way up again, and Banks could hear Verdi’s Lacrimosa chasing him all the way to Lyndgarth.
“Thank you for seeing to the release, love,” Mrs. Marshall said. “We’ll be holding the funeral service at Saint Peter’s the day after tomorrow. Joan’s coming back up for it, of course. I must say the vicar’s been very good, considering none of us were what you’d call regular churchgoers. You’ll be there?”
“Yes, of course,” said Michelle. “There’s just one thing.”
“What’s that, love?”
Michelle told her about the rib they needed for evidence.
Mrs. Marshall frowned and thought for a moment. “I don’t think we need worry about a little thing like a missing rib, need we? Especially if it might help you.”
“Thank you,” said Michelle.
“You look tired, love. Is everything all right?”
“Yes. Fine.” Michelle managed to dredge up a weak smile.
“Is there any more news?”
“No, I’m afraid not. Only more questions.”
“I can’t understand what else I have to tell you, but please go ahead.”
Michelle leaned back in her chair. This was going to be difficult, she knew. To find out about any mischief Graham might have been up to without suggesting that he got up to mischief – which his mother would never accept – was almost to do the impossible. Still, she could but try. “Was Graham ever away from home for any periods of time?”
“What do you mean? Did we send him away?”
“No. But you know what kids are like. Sometimes they just like to take off and not tell you where they’ve been. They worry you sick but they don’t seem to realize it at the time.”
“Oh, I know what you mean. I’m not saying our Graham was any different from the other kids that way. He missed his tea from time to time, and once or twice he missed his nine-o’clock curfew. And many’s the occasion we didn’t see hide nor hair of him from dawn till dusk. Not during term time, mind you. Just weekends and school holidays he could be a bit unreliable.”
“Did you have any idea where he’d been when he turned up late?”
“Playing with his pals. Sometimes he’d have his guitar with him, too. They were practicing, see. The group.”
“Where did they do that?”
“David Grenfell’s house.”
“Other than group practice, did he ever stay out late on other occasions?”
“Once in a while. He was just a normal boy.”
“How much pocket money did you give him?”
“Five shillings a week. It was all we could afford. But he had his paper round and that made him a bit extra.”
“And you bought all his clothes?”
“Sometimes he’d save up if there was something he really wanted. Like a Beatles jumper. You know, like the one he’s wearing in the photo there.”
“So he didn’t go short of anything?”
“No. Not so’s you’d notice. Why? What are you trying to get at?”
“I’m just trying to get a picture of his activities, Mrs. Marshall. It’ll help me try to work out what might have happened to him, who might have stopped and picked him up.”
“You think it was somebody he knew?”
“I didn’t say that, but it’s possible.”
Mrs. Marshall fiddled with her necklace. The idea clearly upset her. Whether it was the idea of an acquaintance being responsible, or whether she had suspected such a thing deep down, was impossible to say. “But we didn’t know anybody like that,” she said.
“A pervert,” she whispered.
“We don’t know that it was a pervert.”
“I don’t understand. That’s what the police said. Who else could it be?”
“Jet Harris told you that?”
“Did anyone ever suggest, at any time, that Graham might have been abducted by someone he knew?”
“Heavens, no! Why would anyone do that?”
“Why, indeed?” said Michelle. “And you know nothing about any unsavory company Graham might have been keeping – perhaps on these occasions when he stayed out late or was gone all day?”
“No. He was with his friends. I don’t understand what you’re trying to say.”
“It’s all right,” said Michelle. “I’m not sure that I understand it myself. I suppose all I really want to ask is whether Graham had any friends you disliked, or spent time with anyone you didn’t approve of.”
“Oh. No. They were all just regular lads. We knew their mums and dads. They were just like us.”
“No older boys? No one you thought was a bad influence?”
“And Graham never seemed to have more money than you expected him to have?”
Mrs. Marshall’s expression sharpened and Michelle knew she’d gone too far. She also knew that she had touched a raw nerve.
“Are you suggesting our Graham was a thief?”
“Of course not,” Michelle backtracked. “I just wondered if he maybe did other odd jobs he didn’t tell you about, other than the paper round, perhaps when he should have been at school.”
Mrs. Marshall still eyed her suspiciously. Bill Marshall seemed to be taking everything in, his beady eyes moving from one to the other as they spoke, but they were the only things moving in his face. If only he could talk, Michelle thought. And then she realized that would be no use. He wouldn’t tell her anything.
“I suppose it’s just a mark of my frustration with the case,” Michelle admitted. “After all, it was so long ago.”
“Jet Harris always said it was them Moors Murderers, the ones who were tried the year after. He said we’d all probably have nightmares for the rest of our lives if we ever knew how many young lives they’d taken and where the bodies were buried.”
“He told you that, did he?” said Michelle. How very convenient. She was fast coming to the conclusion – or reaffirming what she had suspected earlier – that Detective Superintendent Harris had run the case with blinkers on, and Mrs. Marshall, like so many mothers, hadn’t a clue what her son was up to most of the time. She wondered if his father knew. Bill Marshall’s lopsided face gave away nothing, but Michelle fancied she could see wariness in his eyes. And something else. She couldn’t say with any certainty that it was guilt, but it looked like that to her. Michelle took a deep breath and plunged in.
“I understand your husband used to work for the Kray twins back in London.”
There was a short silence, then Mrs. Marshall said, “Bill didn’t work for them, as such. He used to spar with them down the gym. We knew them. Of course we did. We grew up in the same neighborhood. Everybody knew Reggie and Ronnie. Always polite to me, they were, no matter what anybody says about them, and I’ve heard some stories as would make your hair curl. But they were basically good lads. People don’t like it when others get a bit above their station, you know.”
Michelle could feel her jaw dropping. There was nothing more to be gained here, she realized, and if she was going to solve this case she was going to do so without the family’s help, and without Ben Shaw’s. And perhaps in peril of her life. “Remember Melissa. You could join her…” Promising again that she would be at the funeral, Michelle excused herself and hurried off.
That evening at home, Banks glanced through the evening paper over a Madras curry he’d bought earlier at Marks and Spencers, slipped Bill Evans’s Paris Concert into the CD player, poured himself a couple of fingers of Laphroaig and flopped down on the sofa with his 1965 Photoplay diary. He thought it was Oscar Wilde who had said, “I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read on the train,” but he could have been wrong. It was easy to attribute just about any witty saying to Oscar Wilde or Groucho Marx. Curious, though, he stirred himself and checked the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations and found that he was right this time.
Banks’s diary was far from sensational. As he flipped the pages once again, glancing at the pretty actresses he hardly remembered – Carol Lynley, Jill St. John, Yvette Mimieux – he was struck by how many records he had bought and films he had seen. Until, just a couple of weeks from Graham’s disappearance, Banks saw that his diary did, in fact, have its moments, and as he read the trivial or cryptic entries, he was able to fill in the rest with his memory and imagination.
For the first two weeks of August 1965, the Banks family had been on their annual holidays. There was nothing unusual in that; they went every year at the same time, his father’s annual factory shut-down fortnight. What was unusual that year was that they went to Blackpool – much further afield than their usual trip to Great Yarmouth or Skegness – and that they took Graham Marshall with them.
At fourteen, Banks was of an age when he found wandering around a seaside resort with his parents embarrassing, and riding the donkey on the beach or playing with a bucket and spade no longer held any appeal. As Graham’s dad had just started on a large building project – his work being far more seasonal than Arthur Banks’s – and it didn’t look as if the Marshalls would get a holiday that year, financial arrangements were made and Graham was allowed to accompany them.
Visit Blackpool! See the Famous Tower! Hear Reginald Dixon at the Mighty Organ! See the glorious Golden Mile! Go to a star-studded Variety Show on one of the Three Piers! Have hours of Family Fun at the Pleasure Beach!
It might as well have been the moon.
At some ridiculously early hour in the morning, because that was when they always set off on holiday, they would have piled their cases into the back of Arthur Banks’s Morris Traveller, a popular sort of estate car with a wood-frame rear, and headed north on their long journey, no doubt arriving tired and cranky, but in good time for tea, at Mrs. Barraclough’s boarding house. Bed, breakfast and evening meal at six o’clock on the dot, and woe betide you if you were late. Mrs. Barraclough was a large, forbidding presence, whom Banks remembered even now as dressed in a pinny, standing with her thick legs apart and her arms folded under her massive bosom.
Banks saw that he had recorded the weather every day at the top of his entry, and as holidays went, they had done quite well: nine days of at least partial sunshine out of fourteen, and only two and a half complete washouts. On the rainy days, Banks and Graham had hung about the amusement arcades on the Golden Mile, he noted, or on one of the piers, and played the one-armed bandits and pinball machines. One rainy Sunday afternoon they spent watching the old war films that always seemed to be showing on rainy Sunday afternoons, patriotic films with titles such as The Day Will Dawn, In Which We Serve and Went the Day Well?
On overcast days they would wander the prom, eating fish and chips from newspapers or boiled shrimp from paper bags and go hunting through the town’s few secondhand bookshops, Banks looking for Sexton Blake novelettes (he had bought one called The Mind Killers) or Ian Fleming novels, while Graham went after Famous Monsters magazines and Isaac Asimov stories.
One night they all went to the Tower Circus, and Banks noted in his diary that he found Charlie Cairoli’s act “very funny.” They also took in a variety show on the North Pier, with Morecambe and Wise providing the comedy and The Hollies the music.
But most evenings after tea they spent watching television in the guests’ lounge. The TV was an old model, even for then, with a small screen, Banks remembered, and you turned it on by opening a sprung flap on the top, under which were the volume and contrast controls. Banks hadn’t recorded it in his diary, but no doubt there would have been some adult wanting to watch Sunday Night at the London Palladium instead of Perry Mason, which was only to be expected of adults. Luckily, Roy was sleeping on a camp bed in his parents’ room, so Banks and Graham would just go up to their room and read, listen to Radio Luxembourg on their transistors, or pore over the dirty magazines Graham seemed to get hold of in abundance.
Of course, they didn’t spend every minute of every day together. Graham had been moody at times, unusually quiet, and looking back, Banks suspected he had been preoccupied with some problem or other. At the time, though, he hadn’t given it a second thought, had simply gone his own way on occasion.
On his third day, wandering the streets alone looking for somewhere to sit down and have a cigarette, Banks discovered a coffee bar down a flight of stairs off the beaten track. He hadn’t thought of this in years, but the stark diary entry brought it back in all its richness and detail. He could even hear the hissing of the espresso machine and smell the dark-roasted coffee.
The place had a tropical ambience, with rough stucco walls, potted palms and soft calypso music playing in the background, but it was the girl behind the counter who drew him back there time after time. She was far too old for him, even if he did look older when he smoked and could pass for sixteen and get into “X” films. Probably over twenty, she would have an older boyfriend with a car and lots of money, a pretty girl like her, but Banks fell for her the way he had fallen for the factory girl, Mandy. Linda was her name.
That Linda was beautiful went without saying. She had long dark hair, sparkling blue eyes, an easy smile and lips he yearned to kiss. What he could see of the rest of her body when she came out from behind the counter was also the stuff that fantasies were made on: like Ursula Andress walking out of the sea in Dr. No. She was nice to him, too. She talked to him, smiled at him, and one day she even gave him a second cup of espresso for nothing. He loved to watch her working the machines behind the counter, nibbling her lower lip as she frothed the milk. Once or twice she caught him looking and smiled. He could feel himself blush to the roots of his being and he knew that she knew he was in love with her. This was one secret, and one place, he didn’t share with Graham.
As the holiday progressed, Banks and Graham did all the usual things, some with the rest of the family, and some by themselves. When it was warm enough, they spent time lounging with Banks’s mother and father on the beach in their swimming trunks among crowds of rough northerners with knotted hankies on their heads. They even went in the sea once or twice, but it was cold, so they didn’t stay long. Mostly they just lay there plugged into their radios, hoping to hear The Animals singing “We’ve Gotta Get Out of This Place” or The Byrds doing “Mr. Tambourine Man,” and surreptitiously eyeing the girls in their bathing suits.
In fact, reading over his diary, not only of the holiday but of the entire year, Banks was amazed at how much of his time was taken up with girls, with thoughts and dreams of sex. His hormones were running his life that year, no doubt about it.
The highlight of the week, though, was the two girls, and that was where Banks’s diary approached the sensational. One fine evening, Banks and Graham headed down to the Pleasure Beach opposite the South Pier. They took one of the open trams, sitting on the upper deck and thrilling at the lights with the wind in their hair.
The Pleasure Beach was a bustle of color and sound, from the rattling of the rides to the shrieks and screams of the passengers. As they were walking around trying to decide which ride to go on first, they noticed two girls about their own age who kept looking at them, whispering to each other and giggling, the way girls did. They weren’t Mods, but wore blouses and skirts of the more conservative length some parents still insisted on.
Eventually, Banks and Graham approached them and, Graham being the silent, moody type, Banks offered them cigarettes and started chatting them up. He couldn’t remember what he said, just something to make the girls laugh and think these boys were cool. The way it turned out, this time he linked up with the one he fancied most, though to be honest, they were both all right, not like the usual pairing, the good-looking one with the ugly friend.
Tina was short, with rather large breasts, a dark complexion and long wavy brown hair. Her friend, Sharon, was a slender blonde. The only flaw Banks noticed was a couple of spots under her makeup, and the bubble gum she was chewing. But there was nothing she could do about the spots – he knew he had a couple of embarrassing ones himself – and she soon took out the gum and threw it away.
They went on the Ghost Train first, and the girls got scared when phosphorescent skeletons jumped out and hung in front of the slow-moving cars. But what made them scream and lean closer into the chests of their companions were the cobwebs that occasionally brushed across their faces in the dark.
After the Ghost Train, they were holding hands, and Graham suggested they ride on the Big Dipper, a huge roller coaster, next. Tina was scared, but the others assured her it would be okay. Graham paid.
That was something Banks remembered as he read through his diary. He lit a cigarette, sipped some Laphroaig and thought about it for a moment as Bill Evans played on. Graham often paid. He always seemed to have plenty of money, always enough, even back in Peterborough, for ten Gold Leaf and a double-bill at the Gaumont. Maybe even some Kia-Ora and a choc ice from the woman who came around with the tray during the intermission. Banks never wondered or asked where he got it from at the time; he just assumed that Graham got plenty of pocket money from his dad in addition to his paper-round money. Looking back now, though, it seemed odd that a working-class kid, a bricklayer’s son, should always have so much ready cash to spend.
If the Ghost Train had set things up nicely, Banks thought, going back to the memory, the Big Dipper had the girls throwing their arms around Banks and Graham and burying their faces in their shoulders. Banks even stole a quick kiss from Sharon as they rose up toward one of the steepest descents, and she clung to him all the way down, hair streaming, shrieking blue murder.
Flushed and exhilarated, they walked out of the Pleasure Beach onto the prom. The illuminations didn’t start until later in the year, but there were still bracelets and necklaces of lights all over the front, like Christmas decorations, Banks had written, in a rare poetic moment, and the trams themselves were lit with bulbs so you could see their outlines coming from miles away.
After only token resistance, the girls agreed to a walk on the beach and the four of them inevitably settled under the South Pier, a well-established “courting” spot. Banks remembered as he read his vague and brief descriptions, how he lay with Sharon and kissed her, gently at first, then the two of them working their lips harder, trying a little tongue, feeling her body stir under him. He let his imagination go to work on the scanty details he had recorded in his bed back at Mrs. Barraclough’s that night: “G and me went with Tina and Sharon
Somehow, he had worked his hand under her blouse and felt her firm little breast. She didn’t complain when after a while of that he wriggled under her bra and felt the warm, soft flesh itself, squeezing the nipple between his thumb and forefinger. She took a sharp breath and went back to kissing him with her tongue. He got some of her hair in his mouth. He could smell bubble gum on her breath mingled with the seaweed and brine of the beach. Trams rolled by above them and waves crashed on the shore. Sometime later, getting brave, he slid his hand down her thigh and put it up inside her skirt. She would only let him touch her over the cloth of her knickers, freezing or firmly pulling his hand away when he tried to go farther, but that was the farthest he had ever been before, so it was all right with him. Graham said later that Tina let him go all the way with her, but Banks didn’t believe him.
And that was as sensational as it got.
They went out with Sharon and Tina twice more, once to the pictures to see Help! and once to the amusement arcades, Graham as usual supplying most of the cash, and their evenings ended the same way. No matter how much Banks tried and hinted, Sharon wouldn’t relinquish her treasure. She always stopped him at the threshold. It was a tease balanced only later with the delicious ritual of self-administered relief.
When it was time to leave, they exchanged names and addresses and said they’d write, but Banks never heard from Sharon again. As far as he knew, Graham hadn’t heard from Tina either before he disappeared. Now, looking back, Banks hoped she really had let him go all the way with her.
Remembering their holiday had made him also remember other things, and some of them started to ring alarm bells in his policeman’s mind. Quiet at first, then getting louder and louder.
But soon, it wasn’t an inner alarm bell, it was the telephone that was ringing. Banks picked it up.
“DCI Banks?” A woman’s voice, familiar, strained.
“It’s DI Hart. Michelle.”
“I haven’t forgotten your name yet,” Banks said. “What can I do for you? Any news?”
“Are you busy?”
“Just after you left me in Starbucks, a missing persons case turned into a murder, so yes, I am.”
“Look, I’m sorry about that. I mean… This is so difficult.”
“Just tell me.”
Michelle paused for so long that Banks was beginning to think she would just hang up. She seemed to be good at putting an abrupt end to conversations. But she didn’t. After an eternity, she said, “Today I discovered that Ben Shaw’s notebooks and the Graham Marshall actions allocations are missing.”
“I looked all over the files. I couldn’t find them. I got the records clerk to help, too, but even she couldn’t find them. There’s a gap in the notebooks from the fifteenth of August to the sixth of October, 1965.”
Banks whistled between his teeth. “And the actions?”
“Just for that case. Gone. I don’t know… I mean, I’ve never… There’s something else, too. Something that happened over the weekend. But I don’t want to talk about it over the phone.” She gave a nervous laugh. “I suppose I’m asking you for advice. I don’t know what to do.”
“You should tell someone.”
“I’m telling you.”
“I mean someone in your station.”
“That’s the problem,” she said. “I just don’t know who I can trust down here. That’s why I thought of you. I know you have a personal interest in the case, and it would be helpful for me to have another professional around. One I know I can trust.”
Banks thought it over for a moment. Michelle was right; he did have an interest in the case. And the way it sounded, she was out on a limb by herself down there. “I’m not sure what I can do to help,” he said, “but I’ll see if I can get away.” As he spoke the words, an image of himself charging down to Peterborough on a white steed, wearing armor and carrying a lance, mocked him. “Any news on the funeral service?”
“Day after tomorrow.”
“I’ll get away as soon as I can,” he said. “Maybe tomorrow. In the meantime, don’t say or do anything. Just carry on as normal. Okay?”
“Okay. And, Alan?”
“Thanks. I mean it. I’m in a jam.” She paused, then added, “And I’m scared.”
“I’ll be there.”
After Banks hung up, he refilled his glass, put the second Bill Evans set on and settled down to think over the repercussions of what he had realized earlier that evening, reading his diary, and of what he had just heard from Michelle.
Lauren Anderson lived in a small semi not too far from where Banks used to live with Sandra before their separation. He hadn’t passed the end of his old street in a long time, and it brought back memories he would rather forget. He felt cheated, somehow. The memories should have been good – he and Sandra had had good times together, had been in love for many years – but everything seemed tainted by her betrayal, and now by her forthcoming marriage to Sean. And the baby, of course. The baby hurt a lot.
He spoke nothing of his thoughts to Annie, who sat beside him. She didn’t even know he used to live there, as he had only met her after he moved to the Gratly cottage. Besides, she had made it clear that she wasn’t interested in his old life with Sandra and the kids; that was one of the main things that had come between them and broken up their brief and edgy romance.
It was as fine a summer’s day as they had seen in a while. They were in Banks’s car this time, the way he preferred it, with the windows open listening to Marianne Faithfull singing “Summer Nights” on a greatest hits CD. That was back when her voice was rich and smooth, before the booze, drugs and cigarettes had taken their toll the same way it happened with Billie Holiday. It was also a hit around the time Graham disappeared and captured the mood of that sex-preoccupied adolescent summer.
“I can’t believe you still listen to this stuff,” said Annie.
“I don’t know. It’s just so… old.”
“So is Beethoven.”
“Clever clogs. You know what I mean.”
“I used to fancy her like crazy.”
Annie shot him a sidelong glance. “Marianne Faithfull?”
“Yes. Why not? She used to come on Ready, Steady, Go! and Top of the Pops every time she had a new record out, and she’d sit on a high stool with her guitar looking just like a schoolgirl. But she’d be wearing a low-cut dress, legs crossed, and that sweet voice would come out, and you’d just want to…”
Banks stopped at a traffic light and smiled at Annie. “I’m sure you get the picture,” he said. “She just looked so innocent, so virginal.”
“But if the stories are true, she put herself about quite a bit, didn’t she? Far from virginal, I’d say.”
“Maybe that was part of it, too,” Banks agreed. “You just knew she… did it. There were stories. Gene Pitney. Mick Jagger. The parties and all that.”
“Saint and sinner all in one package,” said Annie. “How perfect for you.”
“Christ, Annie, I was only a kid.”
“Quite a randy one, too, it seems.”
“Well, what did you think about at fourteen?”
“I don’t know. Boys, maybe, but not in a sexual way. Having fun. Romance. Clothes. Makeup.”
“Maybe that’s why I always fancied older women,” said Banks.
Annie nudged him hard in the ribs.
“Ouch! What did you do that for?”
“You know. Park here. Men,” she said, as Banks parked and they got out of the car. “When you’re young you want older women, and when you’re old you want younger women.”
“These days,” said Banks, “I take whatever I can get.”
“Charming.” Annie pressed the doorbell and a few seconds later saw the shape coming toward them through the frosted glass.
Lauren Anderson was dressed in jeans and a thin V-neck sweater, and she wore no makeup. Younger than Banks had expected, she was willowy, with full lips, a pale oval face and heavy-lidded pale-blue eyes, all framed by long auburn hair spilling down over her shoulders. As she stood in the doorway, she wrapped her arms around herself as if she were cold.
“Police,” Banks said, holding out his warrant card. “May we come in?”
“Of course.” Lauren stood aside.
“In here?” Banks asked, pointing toward what looked like the living room.
“If you like. I’ll make some tea, shall I?”
“Lovely,” said Annie, following her into the kitchen.
Banks could hear them talking as he had a quick look around the living room. He was impressed by the two walls of bookshelves groaning under the weight of classics he had meant to read but never got around to. All the Victorians, along with the major Russians and French. A few recent novels: Ian McEwan, Graham Swift, A.S. Byatt. Quite a lot of poetry, too, from Heaney’s Beowulf translation to the latest issue of Poetry Review lying on the low coffee table. There were plays, too: Tennessee Williams, Edward Albee, Tom Stoppard, the Elizabethans and Jacobeans. There was also a section devoted to art and one to classical mythology. Not to mention the rows of literary criticism, from Aristotle’s Poetics to David Lodge on the vagaries of post-structuralism. Most of the music in the CD rack was classical, favoring Bach, Mozart and Handel.
Banks found a comfortable chair and sat down. In a short while, Annie and Lauren came in with the tea. Noting an ashtray on the table and getting a distinct whiff of stale smoke in the air, Banks asked if he might light up. Lauren said sure and accepted one of his Silk Cut. Annie turned up her nose the way only an ex-smoker can do.
“It’s a nice place,” Banks said.
“Do you live here alone?”
“I do now. I used to share it with one of the other teachers, but she got her own flat a few months ago. I’m not sure, but I think I like it better by myself.”
“I don’t blame you,” said Banks. “Look, the reason we’re here is that we heard you used to give Luke Armitage extra tutoring in English, and we wondered if you could tell us anything about him.”
“I’m not sure I can tell you anything about him, but, yes, I used to tutor Luke.” Lauren sat on the small sofa with her legs tucked under her, cup held in both hands. She blew on the tea. “He was so far ahead of the rest of his class, he must have been bored silly at school. He was far ahead of me most of the time.” She raised her hand and flicked some troublesome locks of hair out of her face.
“Well, his enthusiasm made up for what he lacked in formal training.”
“I gather he was a talented writer, too.”
“Very. Again, he needed discipline, but he was young, raw. He’d have gone far if… if…” She held her cup in one hand and rubbed her sleeve across her eyes. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I just can’t get over it. Luke. Dead. Such a waste.”
Annie passed her a tissue from the box on one of the bookshelves. “Thank you,” she said, then blew her nose. She shifted on the sofa and Banks noticed her feet were bare and her toenails painted red.
“I know it’s hard to accept,” said Banks, “but I’m sure you can understand why we need to know as much about him as possible.”
“Yes, of course. Though, as I said, I don’t see how I can tell you much.”
“Alastair Ford said you’re the kind who listens to people’s problems.”
She snorted. “Alastair! He was probably trying to say I’m a prying bitch. Alastair runs a mile if anyone comes within vague hailing distance of whatever warped emotions he might possess.”
Banks had got the same impression himself, though he wouldn’t have put it in quite those words. On early impressions, Lauren Anderson was turning out to be perhaps the most normal friend Luke had had. But the competition – Ford and Wells – wasn’t very stiff.
“Did Luke ever talk about himself?”
“Not much,” said Lauren. “He could be very closed, could Luke.”
“Sometimes he might let his guard drop a little, yes.”
“And what did he talk about then?”
“Oh, the usual. School. His parents.”
“What did he say about them?”
“He hated school. Not only were most things boring for him, but he didn’t like the discipline, the formality.”
Banks thought of the boys who had tormented Luke in the market square. “What about bullying?”
“Yes, that too. But it wasn’t serious. I mean, Luke was never beaten up or anything.”
“What was it, then?”
“Mostly teasing. Name-calling. A bit of jostling. Oh, I’m not saying he wasn’t hurt by it. He was very sensitive. But he could handle it, in a way.”
“What do you mean?”
“It didn’t really bother him. I mean, he knew the boys who were doing it were morons, that they couldn’t help themselves. And he knew they were doing it because he was different.”
“No, I don’t think Luke ever believed himself to be superior to anyone else. He just knew he was different.”
“What did he have to say about his parents?”
Lauren paused for a moment before answering. “It was very private,” she said.
Annie leaned forward. “Ms. Anderson,” she said. “Luke’s dead.”
“Yes. Yes, I know.”
“And we need to know everything.”
“But you surely can’t think his parents had anything to do with his death?”
“What did he say about them?”
Lauren paused, then went on. “Not much. It was clear he wasn’t very happy at home. He said he loved his mother, but he gave the impression that he didn’t get along with his stepfather.”
Banks could well imagine it. Martin Armitage was a physical, dominating presence, used to getting his own way, and his interests seemed worlds away from those of his stepson. “Did you get the impression that his stepfather abused him in any way?” he asked.
“Good Lord, no,” said Lauren. “Nobody ever beat him or abused him in any way. It was just… they were so different. They’d nothing in common. I mean, Luke couldn’t care less about football, for a start.”
“What was he going to do about his problems?”
“Nothing. What could he do? He was only fifteen. Maybe he’d have left home in a year or so, but we’ll never know now, will we? For the time being he had to put up with it.”
“Kids put up with a lot worse,” said Banks.
“Indeed they do. The family was well-off and Luke never lacked for material comforts. I’m sure that both his mother and his stepfather loved him very much. He was a sensitive, creative boy with a boorish stepfather and an empty-headed mother.”
Banks wouldn’t have said Robin Armitage was empty-headed, but perhaps Lauren was making the sort of assumption people often make about models. “What about Neil Byrd?” Banks went on. “Did Luke ever talk about him?”
“Hardly ever. He got very emotional when the subject came up. Angry, even. Luke had a lot of unresolved issues. You just knew to back away.”
“Can you explain?”
Lauren’s brow furrowed. “I think he was angry because he never knew his father. Angry because Neil Byrd abandoned him when he was just a baby and then went and committed suicide. Can you imagine how that would make you feel? You don’t even mean enough to your father for him to stay alive and watch you grow up.”
“Was there anything in particular that might have been bothering him recently, anything he might have mentioned to you?”
“No. The last time I saw him, at the end of term, he was excited about the summer holidays. I assigned him some reading.”
“A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Crime and Punishment?”
Her eyes widened. “Those were two of the books. How do you know that?”
“It doesn’t matter,” said Banks. “How did you go about tutoring him?”
“Usually I’d assign him some reading, maybe a novel or some poetry, and then we’d meet here and discuss it. Often we’d move out from there and discuss painting, history, Greek and Roman mythology. He was very advanced when it came to understanding literature. And he had an insatiable appetite for it.”
“Advanced enough for Rimbaud, Baudelaire, Verlaine?”
“Rimbaud was a mere boy himself. And young teens are often attracted to Baudelaire.”
“‘Le Poëte se fait voyant par un long, immense et raisonné dérèglement de tous les sens,’” Banks quoted, in an accent he hoped wasn’t too incomprehensible. “Does that mean anything to you?”
“Why, of course. It’s Rimbaud’s description of the method he used to make himself a seer. ‘A total disordering of all the senses.’”
“It was written on Luke’s bedroom wall. Did it involve taking drugs?”
“Not that I know of. Not in Luke’s case, anyway. It was about opening oneself to experience of all kinds. To be quite honest, I didn’t approve of Luke’s fascination with Rimbaud. In so many cases like that it’s a fascination with the romantic ideal of the tortured boy-poet, not with the work itself.”
Not wanting to get lost in the realms of literary criticism, Banks moved on. “You felt very close to Luke, am I right?”
“In a way, I suppose. If you really could be close to him. He was slippery, chameleonlike, often moody, quiet and withdrawn. But I liked him and I believed in his talent, if that’s what you mean.”
“If Luke had come to you for help, would you have given it?”
“That depends on the circumstances.”
“If he was running away from home, for example.”
“I’d do all I could to discourage him.”
“That sounds like the official line.”
“It’s the one I’d follow.”
“You wouldn’t harbor him?”
“Of course not.”
“Because we don’t know where he went the day he disappeared. Not after about five-thirty, anyway. But he was last seen walking north on Market Street. That would eventually have brought him to your neighborhood, wouldn’t it?”
“Yes, but… I mean… why would he come here?”
“Maybe he trusted you, needed your help with something.”
“I can’t imagine what.”
“When were the two of you next due to meet?”
“Not until next term. I’m going home next week for the rest of the holidays. My father’s not been well lately and my mother’s finding it hard to cope.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. Where’s home?”
“South Wales. Tenby. A sleepy little place, but it’s by the sea, lots of cliffs to walk on and think.”
“Are you sure Luke never came to see you the Monday before last?”
“Of course I’m sure. He had no reason to.”
“You were only his tutor, right?”
Lauren stood up and anger flashed in her eyes. “What do you mean? What are you trying to insinuate?”
Banks held his hand up. “Whoa. Wait a minute. I was only thinking that he might have considered you as a friend and mentor, someone he could go to if he was in trouble.”
“Well, he didn’t. Look, as it happens, I wasn’t even home the Monday before last.”
“Where were you?”
“Visiting my brother, Vernon.”
“And where does Vernon live?”
“What time did you leave?”
“About five. Shortly after.”
“And what time did you get back?”
“I didn’t. As a matter of fact, I had a bit too much to drink. Too much to risk driving, at any rate. So I slept on Vernon’s sofa. I didn’t come back here until about lunchtime on Tuesday.”
Banks glanced at Annie, who put her notebook aside and pulled the artist’s impression out of her briefcase. “Have you ever seen this girl, Ms. Anderson?” she asked. “Think carefully.”
Lauren studied the drawing and shook her head. “No. I’ve seen the look, but the face isn’t familiar.”
“Not someone from school?”
“If she is, I don’t recognize her.”
“We think she might have been Luke’s girlfriend,” Banks said. “And we’re trying to find her.”
Lauren shot Banks a glance. “Girlfriend? But Luke didn’t have a girlfriend.”
“How do you know? You said he didn’t tell you everything.”
She fingered the collar of her V-neck. “But… but I’d have known.”
“I can’t see how,” said Banks. “What about Rose Barlow?”
“What about her?”
“I’ve heard she and Luke were pretty friendly.”
“Who told you that?”
“I believe they went out once or twice earlier this year. Rose Barlow isn’t anywhere near Luke’s league. She’s strictly a plodder.”
“So it didn’t last.”
“Not to my knowledge. Though, as you pointed out, I wouldn’t necessarily be the one to know.”
Banks and Annie stood up to leave. Lauren walked to the door with them.
“Thanks for your time,” Banks said. “And if you do remember anything else, you’ll let us know, won’t you?”
“Yes, of course. Anything I can do,” Lauren said. “I do hope you catch whoever did this. Luke had such a promising future ahead of him.”
“Don’t worry,” said Banks, with more confidence than he felt. “We will.”
Ever since she had rung Banks, Michelle had thought of confronting Shaw with what she had discovered. It would have been easy enough for any authorized person to remove the notebooks and actions from their file boxes. Michelle could have done it herself, so who would think to question an officer of Shaw’s rank? Certainly not Mrs. Metcalfe.
But still she resisted the direct approach. The thing was, she had to be certain. Once something like that was out in the open, there was no taking it back. She had been down in the archives again first thing that morning on another fruitless search, which had at least convinced her that the objects she was looking for were missing. And they should have been there.
What she needed to do now was think. Think about what it all meant. She couldn’t do that in the station with Shaw wandering around the place, so she decided to drive over to the Hazels estate and walk Graham’s route again.
She parked in front of the row of shops opposite the estate and stood for a moment enjoying the feel of the sun on her hair. She looked at the newsagent’s shop, now run by Mrs. Walker. That was where it had all begun. On a whim, Michelle entered the shop and found the sturdy, gray-haired old lady arranging newspapers on the counter.
“Yes, love,” the woman said with a smile. “What can I do for you?”
“Are you Mrs. Walker?”
“Indeed I am.”
“I don’t know if you can do anything,” said Michelle, presenting her warrant card, “but you might have heard we found some bones not long ago and-”
“The lad who used to work here?”
“Yes, that’s right.”
“I read about it. Terrible business.”
“But I don’t see how I can help you. It was before my time.”
“When did you come here?”
“My husband and I bought the shop in the autumn of 1966.”
“Did you buy it from Mr. Bradford, the previous owner?”
“As far as I know we did. The estate agent handled all the details, along with my husband, of course, bless his soul.”
“Mr. Walker is deceased?”
“A good ten years now.”
“No need to be. He went just like that. Never felt a thing. Brain aneurysm. We had a good life together, and I’m well provided for.” She looked around the shop. “I can’t say it’s exactly a gold mine, but it’s a living. Hard work, too. People say I should retire, sell up, but what would I do with my time?”
“Did you know Graham Marshall at all?”
“No. We moved here from Spalding, so we didn’t know anyone at first. We’d been looking for a nice little newsagent’s shop and this one came on the market at the right price. Good timing, too, what with the new town development starting in 1967, shortly after we got here.”
“But you did meet Mr. Bradford?”
“Oh, yes. He was very helpful during the transition. Showed us the ropes and everything.”
“What was he like?”
“I can’t say I knew him well. My husband had most dealings with him. But he seemed all right. Pleasant enough. A bit abrupt, maybe. A bit stiff and military in his bearing. I remember he was something important during the war, a member of some special unit or other in Burma. But he was helpful.”
“Did you hear from him after you took over?”
“Did he ever mention Graham?”
“Oh, yes. That’s why he left. Partly, at any rate. He said his heart hadn’t been in the business since the boy disappeared, so he wanted to move away and try to forget.”
“Do you know where he moved to?”
“The North, or so he said. Carlisle.”
“That’s certainly far enough away.”
“I don’t suppose you had a forwarding address, did you?”
“Didn’t you know? Mr. Bradford died. Killed in a burglary not weeks after he moved. Tragic, it was. In all the local papers at the time.”
“Indeed?” said Michelle, curious. “No, I didn’t know.” It probably wasn’t relevant to her inquiry, but it was suspicious. One of the last people to see Graham alive had himself been killed.
Michelle thanked Mrs. Walker and went back outside. She crossed the road and started walking along Hazel Crescent, the same route Graham would have taken all those years ago. It was an early morning in August 1965, she remembered; the sun was just up, but an overcast sky made it still fairly dark. Everybody was sleeping off Saturday night, and the churchgoers were not even up yet. Lights would have been on in one or two windows, perhaps – the insomniacs and chronic early risers – but nobody had seen anything.
She reached Wilmer Road at the far end of the estate. Even now, years later and in mid-morning, there wasn’t much traffic, and most of it was for the DIY center, which hadn’t existed back in 1965. Michelle was almost certain that Graham knew his attacker and that he got in the car willingly, taking his canvas bag of papers with him. If someone had tried to force him into a car, he would have dropped the papers and struggled, and the abductor was unlikely to stick around and pick them up.
But how could Graham be persuaded to go somewhere without finishing his paper round? A family emergency, perhaps? Michelle didn’t think so. His family only lived a few yards away, back on the estate; he could have walked there in less than a minute. There was no doubt that fourteen-year-old kids could act irresponsibly, so maybe he did just that and skived off somewhere for some reason.
As Michelle stood in the street watching the people come and go from the DIY center, she thought again about the missing notebooks and actions, and was struck by a notion so obvious she could have kicked herself for not seeing it earlier.
That the missing notebooks were Detective Superintendent Shaw’s disturbed her for a different reason now she realized what she should have seen the moment she discovered they were missing. Shaw was a mere DC, a junior, on the case, so what on earth could he have had to hide? He had no power; he wasn’t in charge, and he certainly hadn’t assigned the actions. He had simply been along taking notes of Detective Inspector Reg Proctor’s interviews; that was all.
Michelle had focused on Shaw mostly because she disliked him and resented the way he had been treating her, but when it came right down to it, the person in charge of the case, the one who might possibly have had the most to hide in the event of a future investigation was not Shaw but that legend of the local constabulary: Detective Superintendent John Harris.
Thinking about Jet Harris, and what he might possibly have had to hide, Michelle walked back to where she had left her car parked in front of the shops. Perhaps she was a little distracted by her thoughts, and perhaps she didn’t pay as much attention as she usually did to crossing the road, but on the other hand, perhaps the beige van with the tinted windows really did start up as she approached, and perhaps the driver really did put his foot on the accelerator when she stepped into the road.
Either way, she saw it coming – fast – and just had time to jump out of the way. The side of the van brushed against her hip as she stumbled and fell face forward onto the warm Tarmac, putting out her arms to break her fall. Another car honked and swerved around her and a woman across the street came over to help her to her feet. By the time Michelle realized what was happening, the van was out of sight. One thing she did remember, though: the number plate was so covered in mud it was impossible to read.
“Honestly,” the woman said, helping Michelle to the other side. “Some drivers. I don’t know what the place is coming to, I really don’t. Are you all right, love?”
“Yes,” said Michelle, dusting herself off. “Yes, I’m fine, thanks very much. Just a bit shaken up.” And she was still trembling when she got in her own car. She gripped the steering wheel tightly to steady herself, took several deep breaths and waited until her heart rate slowed to normal before she set off back to the station.
“Can you manage by yourself for a day or so?” Banks asked Annie over a lunchtime pint in the Queen’s Arms. Like most of the pubs in the area since the outbreak of foot-and-mouth, it was half-empty, and even the jukebox and video machines were mercifully silent. One of the local farmers, who had already had too much to drink, stood at the bar fulminating against the government’s mishandling of the outbreak to the bar owner, Cyril, who gave a polite grunt of agreement every now and then. Everybody was suffering, not only the farmers, but the pub owners, bed and breakfast owners, local tradesmen, the butcher, baker and candlestick maker, Uncle Tom Cobbleigh and all. And, unlike the farmers, they didn’t get any compensation from the government. Only a week or so ago, the owner of a walking-gear shop in Helmthorpe had committed suicide because his business had gone down the tubes.
Annie put her glass down. “Course I can,” she said. “What’s up?”
“It’s Graham Marshall’s funeral tomorrow. There’ll likely be some old friends around. I’d like to go down this evening.”
“No problem. Have you asked the boss?”
“Detective Superintendent Gristhorpe has given me permission to be absent from school for two days. I just wanted to clear it with you before taking off.”
“I’ve got plenty to keep me occupied. Talking about school, you told me you weren’t satisfied with your Alastair Ford interview yesterday?”
Banks lit a cigarette. “No,” he said. “No, I’m not. Not at all.”
“So is he a suspect?”
“I don’t know. Maybe his coming hot on the heels of Norman Wells was just a bit too much for me. His house is very isolated, which makes it a good place to keep someone prisoner, or kill someone and dump the body in the middle of the night without any neighbors noticing. But then you could probably get away with murder in the town center, too, given most people’s powers of observation and unwillingness to get involved.”
“Except for the CCTV.”
“And a damn lot of good that’s done us. Anyway, Ford is a solitary. He jealously protects his privacy, probably feels superior to people who are content to make small talk and share their opinions. He may be homosexual – there was something distinctly odd about the way he responded to my question about boyfriends – but even that doesn’t make him a suspect. We don’t know the motive for Luke’s murder, and according to Dr. Glendenning there was no evidence of sexual assault, although a few days in the water might have taken care of any traces of that. You know, Annie, the more I think about it, the more the kidnapping seems as if it was just a smoke screen, but oddly enough, it might turn out to be the most important thing.”
Annie frowned. “What do you mean?”
“I mean, why? If somebody just wanted Luke dead, whatever the reason, then why come up with this elaborate and iffy kidnapping scheme and increase the risk of getting caught?”
“Well, yes, but you told me yourself whoever it was set his sights remarkably low. It wasn’t a professional job.”
“That did bother me. It’s what made me think he knew about the Armitages’ finances. I mean, they could certainly manage ten grand to get Luke back, but hardly more, at least not at such short notice.”
“But Luke was already dead.”
“Yes. Perhaps he tried to escape.”
“Perhaps. Or maybe we need to look a lot closer to home.”
“It’s possible, isn’t it?” Banks said. “Maybe we’ve been looking at this all wrong. Maybe Martin Armitage killed Luke and set up the elaborate hoax of a kidnapping just to put us off the scent.”
“Why not? He was gone for two hours the evening Luke disappeared, according to his statement, just driving around, or so he says. Maybe he found Luke and they had an argument and Luke ended up dead. An accident, even. Excessive roughness. That wouldn’t be unusual for Martin Armitage. According to Lauren Anderson and everything you’ve told me, Luke had a difficult relationship with his stepfather. Armitage is the antithesis of Neil Byrd in many ways. Byrd was sensitive, creative, artistic, and he also had many of the problems that seem to come with that territory – drugs, drink, an addictive personality, need for oblivion, experimentation, self-absorption, mood swings, depression. It can’t have been easy being Neil Byrd, as his songs tell us so many times, but he was aiming at some kind of exalted spiritual state, some sort of transcendence, and he believed he caught glimpses of it from time to time. They gave him enough faith to keep going, for a while, at least. I often thought some of the songs were also a cry for help, and Luke’s songs echo that in a weird way.”
“And Martin Armitage?”
“Physical, rational, powerful, clean-living. Football was his life. It got him out of the slums and made him a national figure. It also made him rich. I dare say he’s had his share of ale, but I doubt he tried anything more experimental. I don’t think he has the capability to understand or tolerate the artistic temperament his stepson seems to have inherited. Probably the kind who associates artistic interests with homosexuality. I’m sure he tried to be a loving father, treated the lad as his own, but Luke had Neil Byrd’s genes.”
“Now, there’s an interesting one,” Banks said. “You tell me. You’ve seen more of her than I have.”
“She clearly had a wild youth. Sex, drugs, rock and roll. Early fame and fortune often seem to send people over the top. But however she did it, she came through, and with a son. I’d say she’s tougher than she looks, and