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Authors: James Herbert

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BOOK: Creed
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A vision of total unloveliness, and a one-off (unless you know someone just like him).

So Creed wasn’t too much at fault for assuming (or deceiving himself into believing) it was a bad dream. The robbery itself was real enough, and that
was
baffling, for nothing much had been taken. No valuables, no cash, no photographic, hi-fi, or video equipment. Just rolls of used film and a few prints. If he was slower than you in guessing the motive, then again, it was hardly his fault; it’s usually much easier to see the answers when you’re on the outside looking in.

Nevertheless, it didn’t take him too long to realise the reason for the burglary. By that time the police had come and gone, informing him that he’d been lucky in one respect because he’d disturbed the intruder before anything of value could be stolen, and even luckier in another respect because he hadn’t been physically assaulted. They’d found the garage door open and the lock of the door leading off from it forced, so that was how the thief had gained access and why the front door was still bolted on the inside. When asked by the boys in blue to describe the intruder, Creed had become somewhat coy for, by this time being fully dressed and with people around, daylight flooding through the windows, and three cups of tea inside him, plus the original brandy, and five cigarettes smoked, normality had overruled the memory. ‘A thin guy with a bald head,’ he told them. ‘And oh yeah, he had a humpback.’ ‘Not a lot we can do, sir, but get a strong lock on your garage and the connecting door. A decent alarm system wouldn’t go amiss, either. If you find anything else has gone missing, anything
important
, that is, give us a call at the station.’ Standard response from the police in cases where no real harm has been done and there wasn’t a hope in hell of catching the culprit anyway.

It was only when they and the girl, Cally, had gone that it dawned on him just what the break-in was all about.

He went up to the darkroom to check again and nodded at his own conclusion. All the previous day’s funeral shots were missing. Someone – and it was obvious who – hadn’t wanted his picture taken.

Judging by what the man had been up to at the cemetery, Creed could understand why. But was evidence of gross indecency (of course, the shots he’d taken had shown nothing of the sort, but this kinky mourner wouldn’t know that) with necrophilic overtones reason enough to break into someone’s home? Certainly, if the perpetrator was important enough for his whole life to be upset by the disgrace. For the first time that morning, Creed smiled.

More puzzling though was how the loony had found out who Creed was and where he lived. The coverage of Lily Neverless’ funeral wouldn’t have appeared until this morning’s edition of the
Dispatch
– if it appeared at all. He had a deal with the newspaper that his name usually appeared beneath his pictures, but the question was still the same: How had the thief known where to come last night?

He could be wrong, but Creed felt a tiny prickling in his gut and that usually indicated that he was on to something hot, a story worth following up. Besides, his personal territory had been invaded and, hypocrite that he was, Creed didn’t like that at all. Not one bit.

The thing to do was find out just who the dirty old man was. Surely someone in the business would be able to recognize him from his mug shot if he truly were anyone of note. But the negs and prints, even those totally black sheets of shiny paper which he’d kept out of curiosity, were gone.

Creed smiled a second time. Oh no they weren’t.

The wall-phone
brurrped
at that point.

‘Yeah?’ he asked into it, irritably.

‘It’s me – Cally. I’ve just got to my office and I wanted to make sure you were all right.’

‘Yeah, I’m great. Thanks for calling, ’bye.’

‘Hey wait. Didn’t you wonder why I came over this morning?’

‘I hadn’t given it a lot of thought.’

‘I had a schedule of Daniel’s movements this week to give you – you know, social events, film locations, that kind of thing. I got into the office early to type it up for you.’

‘Daniel? Who’s Daniel?’

‘My boss, Daniel Lidtrap. Don’t you remember our conversation last night? You were going to try and get him some mentions in the diary column. For publicity, remember?’

‘Uh – oh yeah, that’s right. Slipped my mind.’

‘I’m not surprised. How’s your bump?’

‘Rich in colour. Thanks for this morning, Cally – d’you have a phone number and last name, by the way?’

‘It’s on the list I put on the hall window-ledge before I left. My other name’s McNally.’

‘Cally Mc
Nally
?’

‘Sorry, not my fault.’

‘Well it’s got a rhythm to it. Look, I gotta get going. Can I call you later, talk about those publicity shots for Giltrap?’

‘Lidtrap. That’d be fine. Don’t forget, the number’s by the front door. Hope your headache soon goes away.’

‘It’s going already. Talk later, okay?’

‘Sure . . .’

The phone was back on the hook without catching her goodbye. Creed was smiling again. The buzz was on.

He drove straight to the
Dispatch
, grabbing a copy of that morning’s edition from the reception desk as he passed, opening it up as much as he could with elbows pressed to his sides in the crowded lift.

There it was, page five. He pushed against his fellow travellers on either side, making room to open the newspaper wider. Big picture, across five columns. A wide view of the burial scene, an attempt to show how beloved(?) and respected old Lily Neverless had been, the mourners spread across the page in various shades of grey. The caption mentioned many of the bigger names, but not one of the faces was recognizable. Creed scanned the blurs, looking for one person in particular, even though it would be impossible to discern him.

The lift doors opened and he was flushed out along with most of the other passengers. He paused in the corridor to give the dot-image closer scrutiny. Impossible . . . impossible to tell . . . unless . . . could that be the guy, behind everyone else, beneath the tree there? It was pointless squinting: the picture was never going to sharpen. But it could just . . . be . . . him . . . right there at the back. Some of the other shots would be more promising.

Creed headed for the newspaper’s photographic department. Once there he knocked on the darkroom door and a voice on the other side said, ‘Half a sec.’

He placed his camera bag on a chair and nodded to a staff photographer, Wally Cole, who was sitting at a bench nursing an oversized mug of coffee. The staffy, a veteran, who’d been with the newspaper long enough to consider Creed a young upstart, gave him a grudging nod in return and went back to studying that day’s racing form. He wheezed a cough before dragging on an untipped cigarette. ‘Fuckin’ cripples,’ he said to himself as his rheumy eyes ran down the list of horses. For consolation he tipped a little more Scotch from a dulled chrome hip-flask into the coffee.

Creed ignored him and went to the darkroom door again. ‘Come on, Denny, I—’

The door opened before he could finish and a youth in his early twenties grinned at him as he pushed by carrying three sets of freshly developed negatives. He clipped them in a drier and closed the metal door. His close-cropped hair made him look as if he were prematurely balding.

‘Can you let me have the stuff I gave you yesterday?’ Creed asked him.

‘What was that?’

‘The funeral.’ He showed him the photograph in the newspaper.

‘Oh yeah.’ Denny indicated a shelf with his thumb. ‘Somewhere in that lot. Hasn’t been filed away yet.’

Creed delved into the semi-transparent envelopes, quickly reading the magic-markered inscriptions. He soon found the one he was looking for.

‘Got no time to devvy anything up for you, Joe,’ Denny quickly told him, heading over-briskly towards the darkroom to emphasize the point.

‘Do it myself.’

‘Sure, but can you do it later? We’re flat out in there.’

‘Couple of minutes, that’s all I need.’ He added, ‘It’s important.’

‘Aren’t they all.’

‘All of ’em and none of ’em,’ grumbled the staffy, sipping on the whiskied coffee.

‘Think of it as a career decision,’ Creed said to the youth.

‘You call this a career? Okay, two minutes. We’re really fucked in there, Joe.’

‘Bless you, my son.’ Creed slipped into the darkroom.

Ten minutes later he was out again, closing the door on the moaning that came from inside. Clutching three wet blowups in his hand, camera bag over his shoulder, he strode down the corridor to the newsroom.

A voice stopped him on the way to the picture editor’s desk.

‘What have you got on today?’

He turned to see Blythe, the skinhead diarist (to be fair, Blythe had an abundance of silver hair, fringing that gleaming pink bald pate), gliding through the newsroom towards him.

‘Uh, I’m not sure . . .’

‘Right. Get over to Claridge’s. I’ve just had word Woody Allen and his whole brood are staying there.’


All
the kids?’ Creed remembered there were seven or eight at the last count, some of them Mia Farrow’s from previous marriages, others adopted, and one at least from the loins of the comedian himself.

‘He’s dragging them around Europe for some reason that he and God alone know. How eccentric can you get? A horde of petulant infants with just Mia and a nanny to control them. He’s totally doolally, of course.’

Creed, being Creed, found it difficult to disagree. Sammy could be murder just on his own; imagine a whole posse of snotnoses hanging on to the backseat of your pants. Christ, that was beyond common reason.

‘You know I’ll never get past the hotel’s front door,’ he said.

‘Then you’ll have to hang around outside in the cold, won’t you?’ Blythe replied with some pleasure. ‘That is your job, isn’t it? Hanging around street corners.’

‘At least I keep out of the gutter.’

‘Oh,
my
, do you now? Well that is news.’

The diarist waggled his head and Creed felt like smacking it. Instead he turned away.

Blythe’s icy voice stopped him again. ‘I assume you’ll be covering Lady Coventry’s little soirée at the Grosvenor this evening?’

He’d forgotten all about that one. ‘I haven’t forgotten,’ he said.

‘I’d like something other than guests arriving and leaving, thank you.’

‘You know how difficult it is to get into one of her bashes. She’s one of the few socialites who detests publicity.’

‘Can’t get into Claridge’s, can’t get into the Grosvenor. Is our boy losing his touch?’

Several of the journalists nearby were looking up from their word processors with interest.

‘I’ve never been beaten yet,’ Creed said coolly, aware that one of the journos who knew him better than most had cupped a hand to his mouth, his snigger sounding like a small sneeze.

‘Well then, let’s see how you do, shall we?’ said Blythe, obviously pleased that the paparazzo had risen to the bait. ‘My sources tell me that the Duchess of York will be attending tonight, gallivanting, no doubt, while her husband roams the oceans. I also have it on good authority that the diet has gone to pot again, so how about a nice one of that gorgeous pouting bottom? I have the caption in mind already: “Fergie’s fast fails to last”. How does that grab you?’

‘Very pithy. You want me to get a shot of her arse?’

‘With her face at least in profile, dear boy. Otherwise it could be
any
body’s rear end, couldn’t it?’

‘That might be difficult. You see, arse and face are at different ends and on different sides of the body.’

A snigger from nearby again, but the diarist was enjoying himself too much to notice.

‘Then we’ll find out how good you really are, won’t we? I mean, it might just be possible to
understand
Jack without Anjelica, even though they’d been dining together all evening and even left the restaurant at the same time. One of Jack leaping headfirst into a car might be exciting, but hardly provides a story to hang on it. But now you have two subjects inescapably joined at the waist to capture in the one frame. It doesn’t sound too difficult to me. And to show how much we all admire your efforts at the
Dispatch
, I’ll award you a nice magnum of champagne when you bring me the shot.’ Smiling airily, he looked around the newsroom as if for witnesses, then back at Creed. ‘How does that sound to you?’

Creed clenched his fist; oh yes, he was sorely tempted. But then the newspaper’s editor valued this creep’s services more than he did Creed’s. Paparazzi were ten-a-penny, even the good ones, whereas gossip columnists were rated on their high society and celebrity contacts; Blythe, fuck him, had the best. He decided that today,
just
today, he wouldn’t pop the diarist.

Blythe was already walking away, too superior even to smirk, and the journalists became absorbed in their screens once more.

‘Will you have a look at these?’ Creed said quickly, bringing the other man to a halt once more. He held the damp prints aloft and Blythe pulled a face, waiting for the paparazzo to join him rather than walk back.

BOOK: Creed
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