Authors: Fox Harper
"Yeah, my sane sister. I've got a nutcase
somewhere too, although..." I shut up. My
from my time in hospital were patchy,
sometimes I got them the wrong way round.
First Phil had gone missing, and
and told me about the Tyne, and the fish
remains. He wasn't somewhere out there. No
missing at all.
I bent to put the mugs on a coffee table by the
. It was a perfectly ordinary move and I
't understand what had gone wrong with it
I missed by inches and fell to my knees, thudding
into the spilled tea. "Ow. Fuck!"
Rowan darted over. He prised away the mug I
still clutching. "What is it?"
"Just get me..." A howl of pain was
up my throat. Swallowing, I gestured
in the direction of the shelf where I'd
my painkillers and the anaesthetic scotch.
"Okay." He ran to get them. He handed me the
, managing the childproof top far more deftly
I ever did. "These what you need?"
He glanced assessingly at me, then at the
. "And this is what you don't. I'll get you
I couldn't believe his bloody nerve. He'd put
scotch on the far end of the table, well out of
reach. Before I could think of what to call him
was back, pressing a glass of water into my
. "Just try it this way this time," he said.
"Look, what does it matter? I'll be going in a
, then you can get pissed if you want."
That was true enough. I just had to hold out
the bastard left. I knocked a double dose of the
back with the water. "Not gonna take
... bottle away with you?"
He snorted. "From a grown man? A copper in
mid-thirties? You only get that kind of service
rehab, DS Carr."
"Vince," I said automatically, not knowing
. I didn't want intimacy
I wanted him gone. I
losing it. A grown man, as he said, on his
in a pool of cooling tea, unable to get up...
Thank God the flooring was only cheap laminate.
I'd used to have nice rugs, but after I'd tripped on
and had to call a bloody ambulance, they had
too. Something else he'd said struck me. "I...I'm twenty nine."
He gave a grunt that could have been
or amusement. "Sorry. Rough paper
, was it? Come on, let's get you up."
"Just help me to the sofa. I'll be fine."
"Your bed would be better. Er... you
I did. It had been the scene of what I now
back on as quite fantastically athletic sex. I
used to be able to hoist Jack up almost
when he put his legs over my shoulders
that kind of fuck. I'd thought nothing of it. It had
been my young man's birthright of
strength. I stifled a groan as Rowan
-lifted me onto my feet. "Yes. It's through
He deposited me carefully on the edge of the
. I saw his downward glance and forestalled
, kicking off my shoes. He gave my shoulder a
push, as if I didn't know the routine, and I
, losing a breath of relief at being
. The drugs were beginning to kick in,
edges of the pain dissolving in white mist.
"Thanks," I said hoarsely. "Make yourself some
, will you? Then please... Then just go."
"Your jeans are wet. Do you want me to
I coughed on unexpected laughter. "What?
No, stupid. It's fine."
"What happened to you, Vince?"
"Nothing. Just an accident at work." I closed
eyes. If he would let me be, I stood a chance,
I never slept for long. More likely I'd
, twitching convulsively, visions of a
river and my brother's face and Jack's
back fighting for control of my
. I was drifting now, though. I wasn't
cold any more, and I realised the duvet had
folded over me, the half I wasn't lying on
kindly round me. Still, it was stupid of me
fall asleep with a total stranger in my flat. I'd
a safe-living course at the YMCA about
kind of thing, another of Bill Hodges' make
exercises for me.
Don't let a stranger mix
drinks. No condom? No way.
onto my side. The kids' faces were crystal
to me now, as they'd stared in disbelief
Mansion Street's least convincing outreach worker.
Probably I'd wake to find my identity stolen. That
sounded great to me right now.
Rowan, please. You're more than welcome.
ill Hodges was away for the next three
. When he appeared by my table in the
, I thought his first task upon his return must
been to look at my interview notes on
Clyde. They didn't make for impressive reading. I
to him to sit down with a chill in my gut.
What kind of copper was I, if I couldn't get such a
-target witness as Clyde to cooperate? He was
a curator at a gallery. I'd taken the wrong
with him from the start. I'd told the story
in my notes, and Bill's face was serious
to suggest I might have screwed up my final
at Mansion Street. "Got some bad
If he'd come to sack me, I might as well make
easy for him. He was pale, his grey eyes tired,
hair ruffled as if he'd been running his
through it. "Right. Yes, sir. What is it?"
"A bit of a bloody disaster. Our two
did a flit last night."
I set down my coffee. "In the Maric case? The
, and it looks like they used them. They
on a flight for Nicosia late last night."
"Shit. Can we get them back?"
"Yeah, after a couple of years and a legal
. There's no extradition treaty."
"Without those two, won't we be lucky to take
to trial at all?"
Bill picked up my polystyrene coffee cup and
drank from it. He pulled a face at the
. "Oh. Sorry, Vince. Yeah, I've just had
Inspector Walsh on the phone asking me the same
. I saw your report on Rowan Clyde. On a
of one to ten, how determined was he not to
"If ten's an outright no
I'd say about twenty.
He's scared shitless. Maybe with reason. But I
't help much, sir."
"Trouble is, without his testimony, Maric
probably walk. You're convinced he did see
"Yeah. He's good at clamming up, but not
of a liar."
"Do you think taking another crack at him
me? Are you kidding?"
"The uniform boys I sent after him didn't get
him at all. At least he talked to you, after a
What happened to you, Vince?
Of course my interview notes had terminated
my exit from the gallery. Everything after that
oddly dreamlike in my memory. I'd slept from
moment my head hit the pillow until six o'clock
next morning, a record for me even before the
. I'd woken to find the flat peaceful and
, the tea stains mopped up from the floor,
mugs washed and dried. I had to struggle for
of everything between the steps outside my
and my stiff, zoned-out waking, but I did
that question of Rowan's
kindness in it, and his first use of my
. "I'll go and see him again if you like. He's
, though, and I don't blame him.
Maric's lads did beat him up, they gave him a
"As our sole remaining witness, he'd be
after. I'd recommend to Walsh that we take
into protective custody. You could tell him
." Bill looked up at me. He was a
soul as a rule, holding to the win
, lose-some attitude that a good senior officer
to keep himself sane. He was shadowed
anxiety now. "We need to keep Maric locked
, Vince. If we can't, a hundred others just like
will spring up around this town. Our powers
enforcement are being eroded all the time
from any of that, I'd hate to see the bastard
shot down one of my best men walking around
on the streets."
It took me a moment to realise he meant me.
"Okay," I said awkwardly, not wanting him to see
I'd been touched. "I'll try again."
"Good lad. I tell you what, though
, and see if you can catch him at home. I had
very civil, mind
Langring's director. I think you might have trodden
bit of an Old Master into his parquet floor."
* * *
Half Moon Chambers. I wasn't sure who'd
it, or decided to decorate its wrought-iron
with plaques depicting enigmatic
moons. Commercial rather than private, I
, and clearly the Edwardians had
different, more decorative ideas when
came to business premises than we did today.
The building had shadowed the Bigg Market for
a century now, a rococo ship in full sail,
to the raucous life below, the daytime
and the rowdy nightclubs. I'd never been
, though the fantastical Art Nouveau exterior
often caught my eye, and I entered carefully
, automatically keeping off towards the edge of
steps so as not to block the path of anyone
equipped than I was to get up or down them
Beyond the columns and fanlights, the inside
the place was shabby and decayed. Some of its
beauties were intact - that lift, for
, which I was pretty certain never broke
. It didn't even look as though it ran on
a team of dray horses patiently turning
treadmill up on the roof, maybe. It was a big
with wrought-iron doors. I stopped to admire
for a moment. Heavy black orchids flourished
their bars, and a startling display of blue
green tiles ran up and over the hallway's
ceiling. After that, it was a bit of
to find a 1950s drab cement floor
, but I knew that many of the flats were
out to students and starving artists, a shifting
that didn't attract big restoration grants.
The Chinese kids who'd lived in the basement had
typical. Demi-monde people, disengaged
society, conducting their affairs
quietly enough, until one of them had
one of Goran Maric's invisible lines, and
all hell behind the enigmatic crescent
that decorated the building's facade.
I took up a casual position at the top of the
that led down to the basement. One aspect of
work I had always been good at
now than ever
was going unnoticed, and I
wanted to let the early evening foot traffic pass
me in the corridor, and see what could be seen
there was a line of sight down to
12. Police tape now marked off the door, but if
door had been open, anyone crossing this part
the hall would have been able to see straight
the doorway. I glanced at the lift, and the
from it to the main doors. You couldn't really
looking down at any commotion in
12, if you lived upstairs and happened to be
or leaving the building. No special effort
be needed. I was a pretty good judge of
, and I didn't buy Rowan's denial of
anything at all. He'd held my eyes with
defiance till I'd asked him the question
. And paranoid and tightly strung as he
, there'd been something more there than
once he'd committed himself to the lie.
I made one last check of the lobby to see that
-one was taking an undue interest in my presence
. The back of my neck had prickled a couple
times as I'd made my way down from
Street, but I hadn't been able to see that I'd picked
a tail. I'd try to get Bill to offer Clyde some
of protection anyway, even if he didn't talk for
Maric's men had already taken one pop at him,
our two prime witnesses had been scared
to run. I let myself into the huge cage lift,
a bit with the doors. This was better. If
jammed for any reason
if the horses up top
a man could walk around a bit,
even lie down in comfort until help came.
Upstairs I found myself in a blue-mosaiced
. The building, foursquare from the outside,
on its top storey dissolved into curves and
diagonals I couldn't make fit with its facade.
The floors had escaped renovation this high up and
were black-and-white geometric fantasies
my feet as well as the swirls of turquoise
on the walls. I shook my head, blinking. This
drive you crazy after a while. My own
took bleak to a far extreme, but I could
how that style had sprung out of this, the desire
clean straight lines. Rowan's flat was number
. On my left the odd-numbered doors
counting down in one direction, and on my
the evens were headed the other way. I
the odds and found they stopped at
, then picked up again at twenty one. Clearly
place had been designed by a lunatic...
Retracing my steps, I saw a corridor off from the
hall, narrow and almost pitch dark. It was on
wrong side to lead to the missing flats, but I
it. I'd lost my bearings. This weirdly angled
must lead to one of the turrets, the
corner rooms under their domed, fish
tiled roofs. I'd thought those must be for
only. From outside they'd looked
derelict, paint peeling from the window
. Still, there in front of me, terminating the
, were two doors. Nineteen was
, the other just a forbidding dark-wood
It didn't take a genius. I hesitated, then
I was a policeman in pursuit of a
and gave it a solid thump. A heavy silence
. All sounds from the street were
up here. There was a sense of unreality, of
from the world. This was
Clyde's hideaway. Suddenly I saw it as Rowan
. God knew who he thought had tracked him
in his lair. I leaned my hands on the door
. "Rowan? It's Vince Carr."
The door opened straight away. The first
to hit me was a rich smell of turpentine, and
the warmth. Rowan was standing in front of
, and to my surprise that uncertain smile was
. He was wearing an old, paint-stained shirt.
We stood for a moment in silence. If I was
him up, he was definitely doing the same to
. "Hi," I said. I needed a moment longer, a
to get a feel for him. "I never thanked you.
For hoisting my arse up all those stairs, I mean,
clearing up my flat."
It was a lame effort at a hedge, but he didn't
to mind. He wiped his hands on a cloth and
extended one to me. "Hi. We didn't do this
I took his proffered grip. "No, we didn't. That
"If you give me a ring before you visit, I
't be so slow about answering the door."
"Okay." Bill Hodges had specifically told me
to do that, to try and take him by surprise. I'd
that idea. I'd used to like every weapon in
arsenal, from the guns to the pysch techniques
rattling witnesses, wrong-footing them and
round their guard. Rowan Clyde's bruises
bad in the dim-lit hallway. Maybe it was
effect of my own injuries, but these days the
I'd learned lay heavy on me, like tools in a
I was being forced to lug around. "I won't kid
it's a social call," I said. "I did want to thank
, but... there's something I need to talk to you
. Have you got a few minutes?"
"Yes, sure. Come in."
He closed the door behind me, and the
wrapped me round. "Crikey," I said
, following him down the hall. "I
't fancy your heating bills. Are you growing
It was a poor joke in the circumstances, but
shot me a wry glance over his shoulder. "You'd
the last person I'd tell, wouldn't you? Take your
off. I don't like the cold."
No. He didn't look as if he did. A proper little
flower, I'd have labelled him, if this had
our first meeting and I hadn't encountered his
. His shirt was tucked into soft, tight-fitting
that revealed his fine-made dancer's hips. He
the rich ivory skin which sometimes goes with
hair and eyes. I couldn't imagine him ever
a tan. Then, I wasn't in love with the
bitter winter that gripped my city
November to late March myself, and I was glad
to shrug off my heavy coat. Rowan took it,
at my gesture of fanning myself. I hesitated,
stripped out of my sweater as well. "Ta," I
. "I don't normally rip half my kit off before
"I'm glad to hear it." He hung my coat, more
than it deserved, off a brass hook in the
. "Is that what this is, then? Another
"I'm afraid so." I rubbed my arms. It was nice
feel the warm air on them, to be able to stand in
T-shirt on a winter's day, and that tang of turps
the rooms from being stuffy. "Something's
in the Maric case, and I wanted to..." I
off. We'd moved from the dark hall into the
room. We were in one of the turrets
was blazing in through one large casement
and two round ones set into a curving
, Rowan. Are these yours?"