Read Dead Lucky Online

Authors: Matt Brolly

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

Dead Lucky (8 page)

BOOK: Dead Lucky
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He made a red bush tea, sat on the room’s sole chair and listened to Andy Shauf singing about falling asleep. He tried to attack each raging thought one at a time, but the images of the last twenty-four hours swam in his head in a grotesque collage: Moira Sackville’s crime scene, Eustace Sackville alone and distraught in a hospital bed, Sophie and the new baby, Matilda Kennedy setting off for an evening out. He imagined Sarah May was in London, wished that he could just call her and she would appear.

He undressed, and climbed into bed, his thoughts returning to Eustace Sackville. He thought about what the man had been through, the death of his only family, and tried to think about how he must be feeling alone in his hospital bed. Then his thoughts moved on to Sophie and the new baby; how Chloe’s sister would never be part of his life, and he realised his and Eustace Sackville’s situation were not that different.

Chapter 11

She realised it was a mistake. She realised every time she did it. She’d half hoped last night that Lambert would have asked her to work later so she could have avoided it.

She walked naked into the bathroom and switched on the shower. She searched through the cabinets but found only the most rudimentary of toiletries. It was unprofessional in more ways than one. She’d known from the moment she’d changed into the green dress, which had even received a note of assent from Lambert, that she would end up staying the night here. Yet she hadn’t even brought a change of clothes. Now she would have to go home and change. She turned off the shower, returned to the bedroom and put on her clothes.

Tillman sat up in bed and looked at her. ‘Leaving already?’

‘Lambert’s scheduled a meeting for seven and I can hardly turn up in last night’s clothes.’ Her tone was short, and summed up their relationship. The nights of passion, followed by the mornings of regret. Tillman was barely covered by a thin sheet. She surveyed him as she dressed, intrigued by the vastness of his pale body. His large figure at once overweight but muscled, far from her normal choice in men. She was sleeping with the boss, something she’d always secretly belittled other women for doing, but there was something about the man which drew her in.

Tillman rubbed his eyes. For a moment, she thought he was going to say something ridiculous, like she should leave some clothes at this place. ‘I’ll see you there,’ he said, rolling over on his side. She fought a wave of desire and left.

She drove home, the evidence of last night’s excesses seeping through her pores. She needed food and coffee. At home, she ran the coffee maker and showered again – dousing herself in shower gel and shampoo, scrubbing her teeth clean with an evangelical zeal. She toasted a bagel, and burnt her throat washing it down with the scalding coffee.

Devlin greeted her as she walked into the incident room five minutes early. ‘Sarge, a Mrs Levinson called last night. She wants to speak to you. Something she forgot to mention yesterday, she said.’

Kennedy nodded, taking the note from him. She sat at her desk, glancing at Lambert who had seemingly not noticed her arrival.

‘Right, let’s get on with this,’ said Lambert, getting to his feet. He was dressed in a suit she hadn’t seen before. He looked surprisingly fresh, clean shaven, and bright eyed, as if he’d had a good night’s rest. He handed out duties with almost military-like precision. He ordered a re-examination of the CCTV footage, checked that the Whitfield lead was being followed up, and instructed two of the team to start trawling through Eustace Sackville’s past newspaper stories. ‘Anything, however minor, that stands out – then notify me immediately,’ he said.

The meeting lasted less than twenty minutes.

‘Good night?’ he said to Matilda, after everyone had left the conference room. His eyebrows arched high, giving him a comical look.

‘It was fine, thank you,’ she replied, deadpan. She told him she planned to see Levinson again that morning.

‘Okay. I want you to visit Sackville after you’ve seen her. See if you can get anything from him. Maybe he’ll open up to you. Try to find out some more about his article research and his relationship to the Blake family. I’m planning to see Blake today. And push him some more on Robinson.’

Matilda hesitated. ‘You’re going to see Blake alone?’

Lambert faltered. She thought she saw something in him she hadn’t seen before. It was as if he’d let his guard slip for a second. ‘I think I’ll be safe. Keep me updated on what the librarian says.’

Sandra Levinson was prowling the non-fiction floor of the library when Matilda arrived. Matilda watched her from a distance, taken once more by the woman’s beauty: the perfect symmetry of her face, and the elegant grace of her body. It was no exaggeration to suggest that the woman could have made a career in modelling.

As if she’d known Matilda had been watching her all this time, the librarian turned to face her in a slow drawn out movement. Her face broke into a smile on seeing Matilda, the faintest of lines appearing to the side of her eyes. ‘Sergeant Kennedy, hello.’ She carried an edition of A Room of One’s Own, which she placed back on one of the bookshelves. ‘Could I buy you a coffee? I’m dying for a hit of caffeine. There’s a lovely little café down the road.’

‘Sounds good,’ said Matilda.

Matilda noticed the appreciative looks Levinson received as they walked down Lordship Lane, as if she was accompanying someone famous. The woman either didn’t notice the stares, or was so used to them she didn’t bother commenting. ‘Let’s sit outside, what can I get you?’

‘Let me,’ said Matilda.

‘Don’t be silly, I insist.’

Matilda ordered a black coffee, and enjoyed the sunshine as she waited for Levinson to return. She presumed the journey would be a wasted one as she couldn’t imagine Levinson had the most devastating of news to tell her, but at least she could enjoy this one moment of pleasure.

‘There you go. I bought us some pastries, hope you don’t be mind.’

Matilda’s mouth watered as she surveyed the crumbling flakes of the pains au chocolat. ‘Thank you. I won’t tell if you won’t. How are things at the library, how has everyone taken the news?’

‘It’s a little surreal. Naturally, everyone was shocked but I think it’s hard for them to accept the true extent of what has happened. Me included, I’m afraid. I keep looking at the entrance, somehow waiting for Moira to walk through.’

‘I understand completely. These things take time.’ Matilda took a bite of the pastry, a wave of guilt overcoming her as she savoured the melted chocolate within.

‘I really hope I haven’t wasted your time. It was when I told the team last night about Moira that I remembered something that happened a few months back. It was nothing really, but I thought it might help.’

‘Anything you can tell us could help. However trivial it might seem.’

Levinson fell silent, her face taut in concentration. ‘There was a man. I would have thought nothing of it, if it hadn’t been for what he was wearing.’

Matilda placed a hand on the woman’s arm, surprised by the feel of wiry muscle. ‘Slow down. Where was this man?’

‘He was hanging outside the library, nearly every morning when I came to work. Not directly outside but over the road.’

‘When was this?’

‘A couple of months ago. March, April maybe. He was there every morning for a week. I should have notified the police but he wasn’t really doing anything except loitering. I would see him as I went into the library, and then I would check on him from my office window. He would sometimes just leave, but on one day he was there for a couple of hours.’

‘And what did you notice about what he was wearing?’

‘That was the thing,’ said Levinson, a sparkle igniting her eyes. ‘I’m a bit of a shoe snob and I’d noticed he was wearing a pair of shoes from Barker and Co. My husband likes their shoes. And he was wearing beautifully tailored trousers. Nothing unusual about that but he was wearing a hoodie over his shirt. This beaten old black thing and he had the hood up. It just didn’t look right to me.’

‘Did you tell any of the staff?’

‘No, I didn’t want to worry them unduly. You get a lot of strange folk coming in and out of here. They probably wouldn’t have batted an eyelid anyway.’

‘Could you give me more of a description? Did you get a good look at his face?’

‘Only the once. He might have thought no one was looking but I peeked at him through the blinds in my office. He took his hood down for a moment and I saw him then. He was a lot older than I’d imagined, though he was quite good looking. He had a good head of hair, silvery grey. I’m afraid I must have touched the blinds as he glanced up at the window and put the hoodie back on. He hasn’t appeared since.’

Matilda pulled her phone from her trouser pocket. ‘Just bear with me a second, Sandra,’ she said, searching on Google. She found the image she was looking for and handed the phone to Levinson.

‘Yes, that’s him. How did you know?’

Matilda sighed. ‘It’s a long story but thank you very much, that information could come in handy. She saved the image and texted it to Lambert. Underneath, she typed. ‘We need to interview Charles Robinson again.’

Chapter 12

It had taken him fifteen minutes to get through the first gate. Now Lambert stood waiting outside the second. His jacket was damp beneath his suit jacket, the early morning sun already blistering hot.

‘Who did you say you were again?’ said the voice on the intercom.

He knew he was being mocked but played along anyway. There was sure to be more than one exit to the house and if he wasn’t polite, he knew Curtis Blake would suddenly be unavailable. ‘DCI Michael Lambert. I have an appointment with Mr Blake.’

‘Please wait,’ said the intercom voice.

Lambert waited another ten minutes before the front door opened. A slim muscular man dressed in a black suit walked down the stone pathway towards him, flanked on either side by two men almost twice his size wearing cheaper versions of the same suit. The man stopped, took off a pair of expensive looking sunglasses and assessed him with a stern glare. ‘Will Atkinson, Mr Blake’s head of security. May I see some ID, Mr Lambert,’ he said, his voice strong and authoritative.

Lambert handed him his warrant card.

Atkinson looked harder than necessary. He was clearly ex-military. He nodded to one of his colleagues, and the steel gate opened.

‘Quite the security set-up you have,’ said Lambert.

Atkinson nodded. ‘It’s important to be safe,’ he said.

Lambert held his arms out as one of the henchmen checked him for weapons.

‘Thank you, please follow me,’ said Atkinson.

The house, a detached property in Hampstead, would be worth millions. Blake owned a number of legitimate businesses, mainly property related, in the capital. It was feasible that he would make some enemies in such a line of work, but the level of security in the house was disproportionately high. The front door was made of steel. Atkinson had to punch in a six-digit pin to gain entry. Both the guards turned away as he entered the code, and Lambert was instructed to do the same. The door led to another gated area. Atkinson unlocked three locks to enter the main area of the house, leaving one of the guards to monitor the front door.

‘You can’t be too careful,’ said Lambert, following Atkinson into a vast dining room where a man sat drinking coffee, talking on a mobile phone. The man looked up and pointed to a chair.

‘Take a seat,’ said Atkinson.

Lambert sat and waited for Curtis Blake to finish his call. The man was in his late fifties but looked older, his leathered face crisscrossed with deep grooves. He was wearing a white linen suit, a crisp shirt with the top button pushed into the loose flesh of his neck. He said something into the phone, before placing it on the dining table. ‘DCI Lambert,’ he said, more to himself than directly at Lambert. Leaning back in his chair, he continued. ‘Yes, DCI Lambert. I know all about you. How is Glenn Tillman?’

Lambert had run through Blake’s file on The System last night and knew that Tillman had investigated him a number of times over the years with no success.

‘You’ll have to ask him yourself. I am here on another issue.’

Blake lifted his coffee cup. ‘Where are my manners? Can I get you something? Water, perhaps? You look like you ran here.’

‘I’m fine.’

Lambert told him about Moira Sackville.

Blake drank his coffee, lost in contemplation. ‘Poor Eustace. I never had the pleasure of meeting his wife.’

‘You knew Eustace well.’

‘Of course, of course. Eustace Sackville, reporter extraordinaire. That’s why you wanted to speak to me?’

‘I understand you and Eustace have a history?’

A smirk crossed Blake’s lips but lent no humour to his face. ‘I would hardly call it that.’

‘You know he was investigating you?’

‘You must have spoken to him already. Some preposterous idea he had. He still thinks I’m twenty, thinks I’m some sort of petty criminal. He even had the temerity to call me.’

‘I don’t think he believes you’re a petty criminal,’ said Lambert, looking around at the ostentatious decorations of the dining room.

Blake looked at his mobile. ‘My point exactly. This has been hard won. I work fifteen, sixteen hours a day. I’m never off this bloody thing.’

‘I understand that Eustace was looking at some competing groups?’

The smirk had disappeared from Blake’s face. ‘Some perceived competition. I told Sackville then, and I’m telling you now, that I have nothing to fear from Russians, Albanians, Kosovans, or whoever is the new flavour of the month. I have nothing to do with them, and they have nothing to do with me.’

‘Why all the security?’

Blake shook his head as if he was talking to an imbecile. ‘You don’t become successful in this world without making enemies, Lambert, you must know that. This is all for precaution.’ He took another sip of coffee. ‘I know why you want to speak to me, Lambert. Let me see, you think Moira Sackville was killed, what, as a warning?’

Lambert sat stony-faced.

‘No, not a warning. Why bother going to such lengths, may as well have bumped him off as well? You think Eustace was being punished for something. Something he knew, or something he did. Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you but I think you are barking up the wrong tree, as it were. At least, if it’s concerning me. Why would I care about what that journalist was up to? Maybe he pissed off the wrong people somewhere. But really, it’s all a bit, well, messy.’

BOOK: Dead Lucky
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