Read Scaredy cat Online

Authors: Mark Billingham

Tags: #Detective, #Mystery & Detective - General, #Police Procedural, #Police, #Action & Adventure, #Serial murders, #Mystery & Detective, #Fiction - Mystery, #Fiction, #Psychological, #General & Literary Fiction, #Modern fiction, #Suspense, #Women Sleuths, #Traditional British, #Thrillers, #England, #General

Scaredy cat (8 page)

BOOK: Scaredy cat
9.44Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
McEvoy took out a cigarette and lit it. 'You said that the killers were probably different psychologically. What about bringing a profiler in?'
Brigstocke nodded first towards the cigarette and then the window. McEvoy sighed, stood up and strode across to the window while Brigstocke answered her question. 'I've already been on to the National Crime Faculty...' McEvoy opened the window and winced. Third floor, December, it was a little bit more than fresh air.
'Jesus ...' Holland turned and grimaced at McEvoy. She took another drag, mouthed 'sorry' at him and blew the smoke out of the window.
Brigstocke continued. 'Both the profilers on the current recommended list are busy on other cases...'
Shivering, Thorne reached for the leather jacket he had slung across the back of his chair. 'Which kills you quicker, passive smoking or pneumonia? This is ridiculous...'
McEvoy took a last drag, flicked the butt out into the wind and closed the window. 'Bunch of girls,' she scoffed, moving back to the desk. As soon as she'd sat down again, she locked eyes with Brigstocke and carried on as if nothing had happened. 'Both the profilers, you said. Are you telling me that there are only two of them in the whole country? Two?'
'Two that are actually recommended, yes.'
'That is fucking ridiculous.' Brigstocke shrugged. McEvoy shook her head in disbelief. 'Oh come on... profilers aren't like psychics, you know. It's a recognised science. Sir?'
She looked at Thorne for support. She'd picked the wrong man. 'I don't think now's the time to discuss the pros and cons of profiling, Sarah. Whatever any of us think, there isn't one available anyway.'
'Couldn't we find our own?'
Holland grinned at her. 'I'll grab the Yellow Pages shall I?'
Brigstocke brought the discussion to a close. 'Listen, if we find somebody ourselves, if we use someone who's not on the NCF list and we fuck it up, we'll all be ironing uniforms again the next day. Nobody wants that kind of bad publicity.'
Thorne looked up from the notepad in front of him. He'd been doodling.
Three pairs of eyes. Two drawn in thick black strokes, the eyes big, heavy-lidded, cold. One pair finer, the dark eyes smaller, long-lashed...
'Talking of publicity,' he said, 'what kind do the Powers That Be think we do need?' Thorne could guess, but the mischief-maker in him wanted to hear the DCI say it. Such decisions of course were not for the likes of him. He just had to worry about catching the people that generated the publicity in the first place. Brigstocke answered in a voice that Thorne thought was no longer wholly his own. He'd mislaid it somewhere between the squad room and the Detective Superintendent's office. One on one with Thorne, there was no problem, he would say what he thought, but with lower ranks present, Brigstocke's tone was unreadable. 'I spoke to Jesmond first thing and a press conference is being organised for this afternoon. I gather that he will be telling the press about this latest development.'
There was no such grayness in Holland's response. 'That's stupid. Surely we should be keeping this out of the press. Knowing that there are two of them is the only advantage we've got...'
A small part of Thorne was relieved that Holland could still be so naive. 'There you go again, Holland, thinking like a policeman. Detective Superintendent Jesmond, on the other hand...'-Brigstocke smiled at this, in spite of himself-'has his job to consider and he's realised, quite cleverly, that to the great British public, two separate murderers sounds fractionally scarier than one pair of them...'
Even as he spoke, Thorne could feel an old, instinctive dread beginning to settle over him. He was certain that the two men they were after would prove to be a whole lot scarier than any number of run-of the-mill, bog-standard murderers.
When the meeting was over, Thorne, Brigstocke, McEvoy and Holland left the room in silence, each in their own ways coming to terms with the importance, the urgency of the job ahead. If there were plenty of unanswered or unanswerable questions, one thing was horribly evident. They needed to catch these men quickly before there were more bodies for Phil Hendricks to deal with. Because he would be dealing with them two at a time. Jane Love11, a thirty-nine-year-old divorcee, had bled to death on a warm July evening on a patch of wasteland in Wood Green, N22, in the London Borough of Haringey. That was why, five months later, on a bitterly cold Monday afternoon, a long weekend of collating, of organising, of sod all behind him, Tom Thorne was at the headquarters of the Serious Crime Group (East). The teams based here policed ten boroughs' worth of killing, Haringey included. Thorne, freezing in a smoke-filled room in Edmonton, sitting opposite one of the most arrogant little gobshites he'd had the misfortune to encounter in a long time.
'Are you saying we should have seen a link? Christ knows why. Buggered if I can see a link between your two.., what are the names?'
'Carol Garner and Ruth Murray. Sir.'
DCI Derek Lickwood nodded and spat out the smoke from his latest cigarette. 'Right. Yeah, well, it all seems a bit far-fetched to me, but that's your business.' He wore an expensively cut blue suit and leaned back on his grimy plastic chair as if it were a well-upholstered leather recliner. His hair was black and swept back from a face that was almost, but not quite, handsome. Both chin and nose were a little big, as was his Adam's apple, which bobbed furiously up and down as he spoke. He addressed his comments, curiously, to a point six inches above Thorne's head.
'When it starts becoming my business though, I get a bit nervous,'
Lickwood said. 'I'm not mad keen on people who are supposed to be colleagues, strolling in here and intimating that maybe my team, and by implication, me, could have done a better job of something. That upsets me.'
Thorne, even after a cursory glance at the file on Jane Lovell, had realised that it would have been hard to have made a worse job of it. Everything that needed to have been done, had been, but no more. It was by the book and not from the heart. Two days after Jane Lovell had been stabbed to death, the case was as cold as she was. Thorne could see that Lickwood's reaction was all pose. A typically spiky and defensive response from an officer who feared that his shortcomings were going to be exposed. Thorne knew that he wanted, very badly, to punch Lickwood in his smug mouth, and he knew that he would have made a very tidy job of it. He also knew that, if he was going to get anywhere at all, a little diplomacy was called for.
Call it diplomacy. Basically it was just bullshit.
'As far as Jane Lovell and Katie Choi, the victim in Forest Hill, go, sir, there was probably no link at all, other than...'
'Right.' Lickwood leaned forward and jabbed at the file on the desk in front of Thorne. 'We looked at the Katie Choi murder, of course we did, but she was butchered. Jane Lovell was killed by one single stab wound, clean. The Choi girl was virtually unrecognisable. He'd almost cut her head off. Why should anybody think they were connected?'
Thorne nodded. Connections. When 'sick' connected with 'warped' they gave the job to him.
'Ostensibly they aren't.., weren't.' Thorne was picking his words carefully. 'The only link is the one we're now seeing retrospectively the fact that they were killed by two people who, in all probability, are at least known to each other...'
Lickwood, eyes wide, parroting. 'In all probability.'
'There aren't so many murders in London that we can put it down to coincidence. Two women stabbed to death on the same evening. Four months later, two women strangled to death, both of whom had passed through main-line stations just before they were killed. I think the killers are narrowing their parameters as they go. Increasing the number of specifics...'
Lickwood looked at the spot above Thorne's head. 'Sorry, I'm not with you.' Thorne could guess what he was thinking. Smartarse.
'If it's some sort of game, it's as if they're trying to make it harder for themselves.' Thorne couldn't help smiling at Lickwood's nod. The tiny gesture, given to signal his understanding and agreement, indicated perfectly just how obtuse he really was. At that moment, Thorne would have been happy with just one quick right-hander. Break the fucker's nose. A small slap even...
'Where d'you want to start then?' Lickwood said, lighting up again. Thorne had, in fact, started already. McEvoy and Holland were busy re-questioning all the key witnesses, notably Michael Murrell, who worked in the cinema at Wood Green shopping centre, which Jane Lovell had visited just before she was killed. Murrell had given a description of a man he'd seen hanging around outside the cinema who looked as if he'd been waiting for someone. After tracing most the people in the cinema that night, this man could not be accounted for. An e-fit had been created, which was of course on file, but Thorne wanted to see what difference five months had made to Michael Murrell's memory. He also wanted to see what DCI Derek Lickwood had to say about one statement in particular.
'Tell me about Lyn Gibson.'
Lickwood blew smoke out of his nose in a dramatic gesture of exasperation. He clearly enjoyed using his cigarette as a prop, but he was hammy as hell. 'Mad as a cut snake if you ask me. I think she enjoyed the drama of it all, you know, maybe she had a thing for coppers. She was round here every ten minutes, hassling us, demanding to know what we were doing.'
'She was Jane Lovell's friend...'
'So she said...'
'She thought that Jane was being pestered by someone at work?'
'Pestered one minute, doing the pestering the next. Gibson couldn't make her fucking mind up, which made it obvious to me that she didn't really know much about anything. Basically, she thought that there was some bloke Jane worked with who we should be looking at, but she had no idea who he was. Jane never mentioned his name apparently, which was one more reason not to take it particularly seriously...'
'Did you not even check it out? Talk to the people she worked with?'
'It's in the file.'
Thorne knew full well what was in the file. He'd spent most of Saturday and Sunday ploughing through the reports on Jane Lovell and Katie Choi. Patterns of dried blood on wasteland. Stab wounds running into the hundreds. Another weekend of light reading. He waited Lickwood out.
'Without a name it was a waste of time. It's not a small company. We asked around, got a feel of the place, looked at a couple of people, but short of asking if anybody there was harassing a woman who'd just been found murdered, there was bugger all we could do.'
Thorne was finding it hard to maintain even a pretence of respect for the man's rank. 'What about company politics? There's always rumours. Couldn't you find the office gossip?'
Lickwood leaned back in his chair again, striking a pose, only inches from tumbling arse over tit. 'Well, that was the problem, mate. We'd already found her, hadn't we? Dead as mutton, a hundred yards off the Wood Green High Road. As far as we could tell, Jane Lovell was the office gossip...'
Dave Holland rarely went to the cinema. He and Sophie were much fonder of a night in with a rented video, and if he sometimes wondered whether or not he was missing out on something, one look at the seedy, sticky-carpeted interior of the Odeon, Wood Green told him he was better off with Blockbuster.
Michael Murrell was a tall, unnaturally skinny black man in his late thirties, who coughed to announce his presence, brushed nonexistent lint from the sleeve of his blazer, and announced curtly that he could give Holland five minutes of his time at the most. It took a lot less than that for Holland to realise that this man's job as From of House Manager was pretty much all he had going for him. What he lacked in warmth he made up for in efficiency and an unparalleled knowledge of popcorn sales. He could doubtless have told him how many buckets of salty or sweet had been sold in the last calendar month, and whether men or women were the biggest consumers of cheese-covered nachos. Though not exactly charmed, Holland was relieved. Whatever the cause of this strange devotion to work, he guessed it made Mr. Murrell a reliable witness. He still had, or at least claimed to have, a vivid memory of the man he'd seen hanging about outside the cinema five months earlier.
'Pearl Harbor with Ben Affleck and Kate Beckinsale. The programme started at eight twenty, the main feature at eight thirty-five and the audience began leaving at twenty past ten. I've got a good memory, Detective Constable, I can still see his face.' Murrell spoke matter-of-factly, staring at Holland from behind thick, oversize glasses.
'You see, what sticks in my mind is that he didn't look shifty or suspicious.., as much as scared.'
Sarah McEvoy could smoke for England, but Lyn Gibson made her look like a lightweight. She worked for a small PR firm in Putney, in a building with a strict No Smoking policy. They'd been standing in the car park, freezing their arses off for twenty minutes and already there were cigarette butts scattered around their feet. Lyn Gibson's were easy to spot. The ones with the bright red lipstick. Four of them.
The fact that her mouth was otherwise occupied, was only one reason why she wasn't saying much to begin with about her friend's death. It was obviously still difficult to talk about in any depth. McEvoy knew better than to push. Five months was a long time in Serious Crime. A lot of bodies. To the friends and relatives of the dead, five months was a moment.
'Jane wasn't a saint, you know, but there was never any malice in her.' When Lyn did speak, she spoke slowly, in a series of disconnected statements, as if seeking some reassurance in this catalogue of things that were true, this solid analysis of her dead friend's character.
'She was always laughing. With me at any rate. I know she had a good old cry on her own sometimes though...'
It was only when McEvoy mentioned Jane Lovell's job that Lyn Gibson became animated. Then, she spoke passionately about a man that her friend had said was bothering her. Jane had admitted that she'd flirted with him, maybe even led him on a little, but it was only teasing. She'd never really been interested.
BOOK: Scaredy cat
9.44Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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