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Authors: Matt Brolly

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

Dead Lucky (9 page)

BOOK: Dead Lucky
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‘And it has nothing to do with you, I presume?’

Blake pursed his lips, his face cracking into a patchwork of lines like an uncharted map. ‘Of course not. Now if you don’t mind, Atkinson here will show you out. Please pass on my regards to your superior.’

Lambert felt a touch on his shoulder and turned to face Atkinson, who had crept up on him.

He allowed the head of security to escort him out. He couldn’t argue with Blake’s logic and he’d summed it up very well. The case was messy. Finding a motive was proving illusive and it was a possibility that the attack was a one-off, that there was no rhyme or reason, and that unless the killer struck again they would never find out who he was.

Lambert headed for the train station, thinking that the time may have come to start using a pool car. He’d avoided travelling by car as much as possible since the car accident which had taken his daughter but it was becoming unavoidable. Travelling by public transport may give him time to think but it also ate away at his time. As long as he didn’t drive late at night, he was sure he would be okay.

He checked his phone. Kennedy had called and left a text message. It was something about Moira Sackville’s ex-lover, the barrister Charles Robinson. Lambert was about to call her back when someone tapped him on the shoulder.

It was a firm tap, more a grab, and Lambert immediately went on the defensive. He turned in one swift moment, at the same time stepping back a few steps to avoid any contact from a would-be attacker.

‘Steady there,’ said the man who’d tapped his shoulder, lifting his hands in defence.

‘Can I help you?’ said Lambert, still poised for attack.

The man reached into the inside pocket of his threadbare jacket and showed Lambert a warrant card. ‘DS Harrogate. We need to talk.’

Chapter 13

Harrogate led him to a small bar off the high street. The walls were decorated with television screens of various sizes showing different sports. The air conditioning was working full blast and was a welcome distraction from the outside heat. Harrogate ordered a pint of Guinness and a double vodka. ‘Drink?’ he asked.

‘Water,’ said Lambert.

They took a seat in a small booth at one corner of the bar, Lambert facing the bar’s exit. Harrogate downed the vodka in one gulp and took a large swig of the Guinness. He wiped a line of white foam from his top lip, and took a second drink. His face was pitted with a few days’ growth of stubble, his eyes tired-looking and bloodshot.

‘What were you doing at Blake’s place?’ he asked.

Lambert tried not to bristle at the man’s opening question. ‘How do you know I was at the Blake residence, and what business is it of yours, Sergeant?’

Harrogate laughed, a deep rasping noise escaping his lips. ‘Let’s not be formal, Lambert. I know you were there because I’ve been working on Blake for the last five years and you may have just fucked up all that work.’

‘I didn’t see anything on his file.’

‘You wouldn’t, would you?’ Blake downed the rest of the Guinness and pointed to the barman for a refill.

‘If you’re running some sort of covert operation then I apologise, but how could I possibly know? Now if you can get over yourself, we can perhaps swap information.’

The barman returned and Harrogate wordlessly gave him a ten pound note. ‘Why were you there?’

Lambert relented and told him about Sackville.

‘I’m surprised you got to see him,’ said Harrogate.

‘I had to clear security before I was granted an audience. Then he was as evasive as possible.’

‘It sounds like a very tentative link between Blake and Sackville.’

‘Pretty much what Blake said.’

‘You treating it as a dead end?’ Harrogate was halfway through the second pint, though the alcohol didn’t seem to be having any notable effect. He had a similar body shape to Tillman, though where Tillman was muscle, Harrogate was flab.

‘We’ll have to see what Sackville comes back with, but I can’t see Blake putting himself in such a position. So what about you?’

‘Just trying to pull away the facade of the legitimate businessman. He protects himself through lines of red tape and lawyers. Naturally, he has a pyramid of lackeys doing all the dirty work for him.’

‘Drugs?’ asked Lambert, thinking about the case he’d been working on before Sackville.

‘Probably, but we’re looking at something else – people trafficking. We think his organisation has been working in line with an East European gang, Croatians, setting up houses throughout the city.’

‘Why would they use Blake, they normally don’t work with outsiders?’ Lambert thought about the two bodyguards who had flanked Blake’s head of security, Atkinson. He wondered if they’d been East European.

‘Contacts. This is more than your normal street stuff. High money, all tastes… if you get my meaning.’

Lambert knew all too well. ‘Have you spoken to Sackville before?’

Harrogate nodded. ‘You know they go way back, don’t you? Since he was a jobbing journo. I’d go so far as to say they were friends, if you can actually be friends with someone like Blake.’

Lambert stood, hiding his surprise about the last piece of information. ‘I’ll share any relevant information.’

Harrogate nodded, noncommittally, and looked over at the barman for a refill.

Back at the office Lambert met up with Kennedy. She explained what the librarian had told her. ‘So Mr Robinson has been telling us lies?’

‘Looks like it. Shall we get him in?’

‘No, let’s hold off. Try to find out some more about him. What cases he’s been working on, who he’s represented in the past. We need to find out some more personal details as well. Speak to his head clerk, Latchford. I want to know if he was seeing anyone else. What he knows about Moira.’

‘I was thinking we should look into the death of his wife?’ said Kennedy.

Lambert thought it was a dead end but nodded assent anyway. ‘Where are you on the Whitfield case?’

‘I’m still trying to track down Noel Whitfield. Devlin has been to his last known address. We’ve arranged to meet the victim of the attack later today.’

Lambert updated her on Blake, and his meeting with DS Harrogate.

‘We’re to leave Blake alone then?’ asked Kennedy.

Lambert frowned. ‘I’ll try not to ruin their investigation, but I’m not finished with Blake yet. Nor Eustace Sackville. There’s something the pair of them are holding back. It seems they go way back. Someone’s withholding information from me and I’m going to find out who and why.’

Tillman appeared as they were finishing. Lambert noticed Kennedy tensing at the arrival of their superior. ‘Status report?’

Tillman’s bulk was covered in a shirt at least a size too small for him. Lambert gave Tillman a brief status report, omitting his meeting with Harrogate, Kennedy remaining quiet throughout.

‘So we’re not focusing our energies in any one direction?’ said Tillman, shaking his head.

‘Too many loose ends at present.’

‘I agree with you, Lambert. Get on it. People are expecting great things from you. In turn, that means they are relying on me. Kennedy, a word,’ he said, strolling back to his office.

Lambert smiled to himself. He’d seen Tillman storm off so many times over the years that the sight of it had lost all its power. The smile faded as he remembered it was the second time in so many days that Kennedy had been summoned into his office without Lambert’s presence. It wasn’t unheard of, but it annoyed him that he wasn’t privy to whatever they had to discuss. He tried not to dwell on the possibility that Tillman was asking for feedback about Lambert’s performance. It would be typical Tillman behaviour. Deliberately making it evident he was speaking to Kennedy. Putting doubts into Lambert’s head, and not trying to hide the fact.

He’d agreed earlier to meet Sophie for lunch near their house in Beckenham and still had forty minutes before he had to leave. He opened The System and began searching on Curtis Blake and his team. Investigations into Blake stretched back over thirty years with little success. If he’d been successfully linked with a quarter of the crimes attributed to him then he would have spent the whole of his life inside. Everything was in his file: extortion, armed robbery, manslaughter, murder, even child abduction. Where the police had been successful in closing cases, it was always one of Blake’s extended team which took the fall. Lambert thought back to what Harrogate had told him about the people trafficking and Blake working alongside the Croatians setting up brothels within the city. Although it couldn’t be proved, it seemed this had always been a part of Blake’s empire. A number of investigations over the years had included prostitution rings, often with minors.

Lambert spent his remaining time looking into the various members of Blake’s team. He flicked through a list of Blake’s known alliances; each had a hyperlink detailing personal histories. Everyone, from Blake’s accountant to his chef, was listed. Lambert made a tentative search of Blake’s security team. Harrogate had made a detailed report on each member – from Will Atkinson, the head of security, through to a number of bodyguards occasionally used by Blake. Lambert printed off a number of files before informing Devlin that he was heading out.

Sophie was sitting outside a café just down the road from Beckenham Junction. She looked deathly pale, a large hat shading her from the sun. Lambert kissed her on the cheek, and sat down, taking a peek at the sleeping baby in the buggy next to her. Despite himself, he felt his heart racing.

‘She’s keeping you up?’

‘How can you tell? Are you saying I’m not looking at my best?’ Sophie glared at him hard, her face eventually softening as he realised she was teasing.

‘I remember this phase,’ said Lambert, pushing his luck. ‘Are you on your own at the house?’ he said, surprised by the jealous thought that the baby’s father would be staying over.

‘Mum’s there now. She’s driving me crazy, though she did offer to look after Jane.’

‘Everything is okay, though?’

‘Yes,’ said Sophie, with a hint of impatience. ‘She’s sleeping well, and feeding is not a problem so I can’t complain.’

‘Is that your mother or the baby?’ he said, trying to make her smile.

Sophie frowned. ‘Shall we order?’

They ate grilled fish in the sunshine. Sophie relaxed, and for a brief time Lambert forgot about the Sackville case. He even managed to forget that the tiny, sleeping figure in the buggy was not his. It felt right – enjoying the heat, talking to the woman who was still his wife.

‘So what about you?’ asked Sophie.

‘I’m fine.’

Sophie looked upwards and sighed. ‘I expected nothing else. I know this must be weird for you. I’m sure it’s upsetting. I’ve tried to put myself in your position but it’s impossible. I’m struggling with it myself. Jeremy is offering to help but he’s not going to be part of my life, although he will need to be part of Jane’s. I don’t know what to do, Michael. I never planned to be a single mum, and every time I look at Jane I think of Chloe, and…’ She started to cry and forced herself to stop, wiping her hand across her eyes in defiance. ‘Tell me how you’re feeling, Michael.’

He didn’t know what she wanted from him. He was never good in these circumstances. She’d always lamented the fact that at times he was unable to share, and there was nothing he could think of saying now that would make the situation between them any better. He could tell her he felt betrayed, and utterly alone. That Jane’s birth somehow distanced him further from his dead daughter, and from Sophie herself. He could describe in detail his hatred for Jeremy Taylor, and what he’d done to his family. Everything made him sound self-absorbed so he just shrugged his shoulders. ‘I’m doing fine. Work is busy. Look, Soph, I’ll do whatever I can for you and her.’ He looked at the buggy, at the still sleeping figure of the baby which looked so much like Chloe that it caused him physical discomfort.

‘Okay, Michael, whatever you say,’ said Sophie, standing up.

‘Come on, Soph, don’t be like that.’

‘I need to get back, I told Mum we wouldn’t be too long. Bye.’

As Sophie pushed the buggy down the hill, Lambert felt a sensation of déjà vu, as he remembered a time twelve years ago where he’d watched her wheel Chloe away. Then he’d felt the loneliness, having to return to a case when he would rather have spent time with his new-born child.

Now, he couldn’t wait to return to work.

Chapter 14

The cold air of the flat was a welcome relief to the heat of the day. The shutters were pulled tight on each window, ensuring the cool air remained within. The man undressed and hung his suit on a hanger next to six identical garments. He placed his shirt in one of the white linen baskets in the room, his underwear in the second, and changed into a fresh set of clothes.

The main room had everything he needed. The bed he’d made that morning with the hospital corners, and the small immaculate kitchen area where he prepared the staples of his diet. The only furniture in the white walled room was a lone desk and chair where he ate his meals. To the side was a bathroom, scrubbed clean on a daily basis.

Things were moving faster than he’d expected. It could have been coincidental but he had waited too long to jeopardise things now. He made dinner – protein, vegetable, carbohydrate – washed the dishes and put them away. He scrubbed the table clean and switched off the light.

In the darkness, he moved to a third room.

He unlocked the door, and pulled it open a touch as his eyes adjusted to the glare. A bank of television screens blinked back at him, his gateway to the lives of others.

He’d taken down the cameras from the Sackville residence, reluctantly accepting that it was too risky to witness at first hand Eustace Sackville’s decline. There was still enough to keep him interested, the images from each residence changing every few seconds.

An alert flickered on screen two, as a woman entered the front door of her house. He checked the other cameras for the residence and noted with satisfaction that everyone was at home.

Chapter 15

They were almost too old to be kissed goodnight, especially the boy who was eight going on eighteen. Jake had an almost incessant rage, interspersed with occasional moments of compassion and tenderness which nowadays surprised and warmed her, and filled her with a dread that they would not continue for long.

BOOK: Dead Lucky
6.72Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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