Read Dead Lucky Online

Authors: Matt Brolly

Tags: #Fiction, #Thrillers, #Crime, #Mystery & Detective, #Police Procedural, #Private Investigators, #Suspense, #General

Dead Lucky (4 page)

BOOK: Dead Lucky
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Tillman cut her off with a wave of his hand. ‘Don’t be so ridiculous, Kennedy.’ He looked genuinely aggrieved by her comment. They sat opposite each other in awkward silence, Matilda recalling the other evening where they’d both stayed on late at the local bar. Her ludicrous invitation for him to come back to her flat, and his even more ludicrous acceptance.

‘I just want you to be mindful,’ he said, breaking the silence. ‘Let me know if he does anything out of the ordinary. He has a habit of doing things his own way. Just keep me updated.’

‘Is there anything else, sir?’ said Matilda, standing.

Tillman rubbed his chin, a bead of sweat dripping from his brow. She wanted to ask him about the other night but it wasn’t the right place or time.

‘Shall we save that for another time, Matilda?’

Matilda nodded and left his office, leaving the door ajar.

Lambert was still in the office, sitting alone, staring intently at his computer screen, but she knew he’d clocked her leaving Tillman’s office. She walked over, noticing with surprise how fresh he looked despite being up all night waiting for Sackville to come round.

‘Kennedy,’ he said.

‘Sir?’

‘Anything new to tell me?’

‘No.’

‘What’s your next move?’

‘I have an address for Prue McKenzie. I’m off to see her. I’m afraid it’ll be one of those visits. She doesn’t know about Moira’s death.’

Lambert returned his focus to his laptop. ‘Okay, find out as much as you can.’

‘Potential enemies, nemesis, that sort of thing. Somebody who’d just been fined for an overdue library book…’ said Matilda, raising an eyebrow.

‘Anything like that,’ said Lambert, not looking away from his screen.

She thought about Lambert as she drove to Dulwich. The rumours and whispers about him were legendary within the department, though he seemed to have an uneasy relationship with Tillman. They’d worked an old case together, Lambert rescuing Tillman from a hostage situation which resulted in one of the captors dying. Then there was the Souljacker case where for a time Lambert had been a suspect in a string of killings spanning twenty years.

More than any of that, there was Lambert’s daughter. Chloe Lambert had died age nine following a road accident when Lambert had been driving. The incident had taken place three years ago and resulted in Lambert being hospitalised, forced into an induced coma. He’d never been prosecuted for his role in the accident but the unkind whispers remained that somehow he was to blame.

Prue McKenzie lived in a semi-detached house close to Dulwich Park. Matilda pulled the car over two houses down. She knew nothing about the woman she was about to meet. As Moira Sackville had no immediate family, except for her husband, McKenzie would be the first person aside from the assigned professionals to learn of her death.

Matilda’s shoes crunched on the loose stones of McKenzie’s driveway. A light blue BMW with this year’s licence plate took centre stage, polished to perfection. Matilda stood by the front door, took in a deep breath and rang the doorbell. She hated these types of visits, the reaction she would receive was unpredictable but never pleasant.

A thin, wiry woman in her mid-sixties opened the door and smiled at Matilda.

‘Prue McKenzie?’

‘Yes,’ said the woman, surprising Matilda with the deepness of her voice.

‘Detective Sergeant Matilda Kennedy, please may I come in?’

The initial jovial welcome vanished in an instant, the woman’s calm appearance fading into a look of panic and dismay.

‘Is it Jeffrey? Dear God, tell me what’s happened. It’s not one of the children?’ The woman’s deep voice had been replaced by a high pitched squeal close to hysteria.

‘Let’s go inside Mrs McKenzie. It’s about your friend Moira Sackville.’ Matilda put her hand on the woman, whose body trembled.

‘Moira? What’s happened?’

‘Let’s go in.’ She followed the woman into the immaculate space of her house. All gleaming polished wood floors, and white walls adorned with original paintings. Mrs McKenzie led her through to a large living room. Two patterned sofas sat next to each other, creating an L shape.

‘Please take a seat, Mrs McKenzie.’

The woman slumped in a chair like an unruly teenager.

‘I’m afraid Mrs Sackville died last night in her apartment.’

McKenzie’s face drained of colour. ‘Died,’ she said, her voice a whisper. ‘How? You wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t serious.’

‘I’m afraid we’re treating her death as suspicious,’ said Matilda, sitting down next to the woman.

‘Eustace?’

‘Mr Sackville is fine, though he has received some injuries.’

The woman murmured, placing her hand to her mouth. ‘Injuries? Oh my God, she was murdered?’ Her shaking intensified.

Matilda placed her hands on the woman’s shoulders, trying to calm her.

‘Can I get you a drink of water?’

The woman shook her head. ‘Please, tell me what happened.’

‘I’m afraid I can’t go into too much detail,’ said Matilda, remembering the strict instructions she’d received from Tillman about not disclosing the nature of the murder.

‘In other words, she’s been murdered,’ said McKenzie.

‘I’m sorry,’ said Matilda. ‘Please let me get you a drink.’

The woman nodded towards a door. Matilda found a glass beaker in a kitchen twice the size of her flat. She let the tap run, trying to calm her own trembling hands. She returned to the woman. ‘Here you go, drink this. May I call you Prue?’

The woman, drinking in large gulping noises, nodded.

‘Thanks, Prue. I need to ask you some questions. I’ll try not to take too long. I understand you were very close to Mrs Sackville.’

The woman smiled. ‘We were like sisters,’ she said. ‘Didn’t have any other family, you see. It was just her and Eustace. They called each other orphans. Both sets of parents had died before they met each other at university. They found each other and have been together ever since. She couldn’t have children so it’s just been them, and me.’

‘You met Mrs Sackville at university?’

‘Yes, we were both studying English together. She’s a librarian.’ She went to correct the tense and Matilda placed her hand on her shoulder again.

‘Is there anyone I can call for you?’ asked Matilda.

‘It’s okay, I’ll call Jeffrey in a minute. What else do you need to know?’ Matilda was impressed by the woman’s change of tone, how she attempted to delay her own grief so she could help.

‘I just need to know some more details about Mrs Sackville… Moira. We don’t know much about her at the moment. Her husband is still in hospital.’

‘My God, is it serious?’

‘No, he will be okay.’

‘I need to visit him, is that possible?’

Matilda wrote down the address and ward number where Eustace was staying. ‘You may want to leave it until this evening as he’s still a bit drowsy.’

‘Thank you.’

‘What can you tell me about Moira? What sort of person was she?’

‘She was such a lovely woman. She’d do anything for you. I do a lot of charity work and Moira was always there to help, baking cakes, attending functions, always giving me as much support as possible. She was one of those people, you know, you could tell anything to.’

‘I imagine it sounds a crazy question, but did she have any enemies? Anyone who’d want to hurt her?’

Prue laughed – a short, sharp snort, a mirthless sound. ‘She was a librarian, enemies didn’t normally come with the territory. Though even in small places like that there’s politics, hierarchies, that sort of thing. She used to tell me about the pedantic people who worked there. Not all of them, mind you, just one or two. Some of the council staff who paid visits, the mad bureaucracy. She hated all those aspects. All she cared about were the books. I think that’s why she got on so well with Eustace. They both loved words.’

‘So she never told you of any trouble? Where she felt under physical threat?’

‘God no. Just petty things. No one would want to harm her, why would they?’

‘What about Eustace? Did you get on well with him?’

‘He’s a nice enough guy. I haven’t really been able to socialise much with him despite him being married to my best friend. He was, he is, how should I put it … awkward in the sort of social situations we move in.’

The comment was meant to be harmless, throwaway, but Matilda saw a glimpse of the real Prue McKenzie in her words.

‘In what way, awkward?’ she asked.

‘My husband is a QC, you know, a barrister.’

Matilda nodded.

‘So a lot of our friends are, how shall we say, from the higher echelons of society. Moira could deal with that side of things, her family were well-to-do and she was left a lot of money. Eustace doesn’t come from that sort of world and he didn’t really try to blend in.’

‘In what way? Was he just quiet during functions, that sort of thing?’

‘Yes that and, it’s sounds ludicrous, but he never put any effort into his appearance. Moira was fed up with it but she was sort of resigned.’

‘Would you say they had a happy marriage?’

‘I suppose so, but dynamics change over the years. You’ll find that when you reach our age.’

Matilda didn’t need to reach any age to understand that. ‘Do you think Eustace could have had any enemies?’

‘It’s possible, given the sort of world he moved in – investigating criminals and whatnot. I didn’t really know much about his work and Moira didn’t like to share. Why do you ask?’

‘It’s only our first day of our investigation, we’re just looking at all avenues at the moment.’

The woman seemed to have regained full composure, as if the death of her closest friend was a mere shock to the system which she’d already overcome. Matilda could tell she had something further to say, but rather than ask, she waited. The painful silence was alleviated by the ticking of the antique grandfather clock and the distant sounds of builders working on the nearest loft conversion.

‘There was one thing,’ said McKenzie, with false reluctance, like a classic gossip. ‘I can’t believe I’m telling you this but it will come out at some point. Moira was seeing somebody. You didn’t get this information from me but it was one of the barristers at my husband’s chambers, Charles Robinson. He’s quite dashing and they met at one of my get-togethers.’

‘How long was this going on?’

‘Five years.’

Matilda sat back in the sofa, trying to control the wave of adrenaline that had come over her.

‘Charles wouldn’t hurt anybody, though’

Matilda sensed there was more. ‘Tell me about them.’

Prue made a strange face as if sucking on a sour sweet. Matilda knew the woman couldn’t help herself. ‘Moira told me some things about him, you know,
sexual
things.’

Matilda’s heart raced, desperate for the information, thinking she may have made a breakthrough so early in the case. ‘What sort of things?’ she asked, keeping her tone neutral.

‘Let’s just say he did things Eustace wouldn’t do. I don’t know what the term is… S and M? I asked her to stop telling me after a time, I couldn’t look Charles in the face.’

Matilda tried not to snigger at the sourness spreading across the woman’s face. ‘It would be helpful if you can give me some more details,’ she said, gently. ‘It could really help us.’

‘I used to drown her out when she’d tell me things but he used to tie her up. I don’t think it was anything too serious but she was always on about ropes and ties and what have you. Once she even mentioned he’d bought a pair of handcuffs.’

Chapter 7

Lambert alighted from the DLR at Canary Wharf station. Towering glass structures surrounded him on every side as he walked by the river. Kennedy had called him whilst he’d been on the train but he’d yet to check his voicemail. He was still suspicious of her earlier meeting with Tillman. There was something in the way she’d left Tillman’s office which had annoyed him. If the meeting had to do with anything about the case then Lambert should have been informed. It wasn’t proper protocol and Lambert had a distinct feeling that he wasn’t yet fully trusted by his old colleague and superior, Tillman.

There had been a number of discrepancies Tillman had helped him with on the Souljacker case, not least a dead body found in Lambert’s house. Tillman had questioned him extensively before allowing him to rejoin the NCA. He’d told Lambert it was the right time to return, but Lambert knew the man well enough not to take everything he said at face value.

The midday sun bounced off the glass panels and a drip of sweat tumbled down Lambert’s forehead. He wiped it away with a brush of his hand, for a moment feeling completely isolated. Work had helped divert his attention but still his thoughts returned to his wife and her newborn child. The thought of Chloe’s sister made him feel even more alone. He tried to shake the sense that Sophie would start a new life away from him and he would be left with his desolate bedsit and what remained of his career.

He walked through the revolving doors to the press building and after signing in took the lift to the fortieth floor. The doors pinged open to a hive of activity. A vast, open-plan workspace, filled with journalists working at their laptops and PCs. It was a stark contrast to the press rooms of old – the smoky, booze-fuelled workplaces where the hacks used to scratch out stories amongst the background of expletive banter. No one paid any attention as he walked across the office floor. He smirked as he passed a row of journalists working at stand-up desks, and knocked on an office door at the other end of the room.

A young woman, late twenties at most, opened the door and appraised him, assessing him in one quick glance as if she could see directly into his soul. ‘DCI Lambert?’ she said, holding out her hand.

Lambert shook hands, trying hard to hide his confusion.

‘Mia Helmer. You look surprised, Mr Lambert.’

‘Sorry, old habit. I’m ashamed to say I was expecting someone…’

‘More male?’ said the woman, showing him into her office.

‘Actually no. I was going to say, older, but I guess that’s not appropriate either.’

The woman took a seat behind a vast glass desk, adorned only by a laptop. Her face broke into a smile for the briefest of seconds before returning to her default look, which was an unreadable mask. ‘You wanted to speak to me about Eustace?’ she said pointing to a seat opposite.

BOOK: Dead Lucky
2.22Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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