Read Still Bleeding (A Jack Nightingale Short Story) Online

Authors: Stephen Leather

Tags: #supernatural, #stephen leather, #supernatural adventure, #supernatural bestseller, #jack nightingale, #supernatural books, #supernatural detective, #supernatural short story

Still Bleeding (A Jack Nightingale Short Story) (6 page)

BOOK: Still Bleeding (A Jack Nightingale Short Story)
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‘That’s good to
hear,’ said Nightingale. There was a black Porsche SUV parked
across the road and he gestured at it. ‘Can you fix me up now?’

‘Where’s that
piece of shit Noddy car you drive?’

‘My classic
MGB? Parked up.’

‘I’m not a taxi
service, Birdman.’ He grinned. ‘But what the hell. You’re
practically family.’ He clapped him on the shoulder. ‘You’ve got
money, right, because Perry’s all out of freebies.’

Nightingale
patted his pocket. ‘I’ve got money.’

The two men
walked over to the SUV and climbed in. ‘Are you going to drive in
them?’ asked Nightingale, pointing at T-Bone’s shades.

‘You
criticising my eye-wear, Birdman?’

‘I’m just
surprised that you can see anything at night.’

‘I can see just
fine. I wear them all the time.’

‘Even during
sex?’

T-Bone laughed.
‘Especially during sex,’ he said. It was short drive to the
Streatham lock-up, in a row of six, tucked away in an alley between
two rows of houses. It was brick-built with a metal door and a
corrugated iron roof. T-Bone switched off the engine. ‘What do you
need?’ he asked.

‘You know what
I need,’ said Nightingale. ‘A gun.’

‘Calibre?
Revolver or automatic? Silenced or not? Birdman, you’re like a guy
walking into Carphone Warehouse and saying he wants a phone.’

‘Something
threatening.’

T-Bone grinned.
‘Threatening?’

‘I want someone
to know that I mean business.’

‘Does it have
to be concealed?’

‘Not really,’
said Nightingale. ‘I plan to be indoors.’

‘I think I’ve
got just what you need,’ he said. He took a Magnalite torch from
the glove box, climbed out of the SUV and unlocked the door to the
lock-up and pushed it up. He switched on the torch and motioned for
Nightingale to follow him inside. There were a dozen or so wooden
boxes on the concrete floor, and two rusting metal filing cabinets.
‘Shut the door,’ said T-Bone. ‘We don’t want anyone walking by and
eyeballing us.’

Nightingale did
as he was told. T-Bone tucked the torch under his arm then opened
one of the wooden crates, pushed aside the Styrofoam packing and
pulled out a bubble-wrapped package. He unwrapped it and handed it
to Nightingale. ‘That’s as threatening as they come,’ he said,
shining the torch at the weapon.

It took
Nightingale several seconds to realise what it was – a sawn-off
shotgun. He grinned. ‘Perfect,’ he said, picking it up.
‘Cartridges?’

‘How many do
you need? A box?’

‘I won’t be
going duck-shooting, T-Bone. Just a half dozen.’ He checked the
action. It was a 12-bore with the twin barrels side by side. That
meant it only held two cartridges but two would be more than
enough. ‘So how much?’

‘Shall we say a
monkey?’

‘Five hundred
quid for a sawn-off. How about we say a marmoset?’

T-Bone frowned.
‘What’s a marmoset?’

‘It’s a very
small monkey. About a quarter the size of a regular monkey. So I’m
thinking a hundred and twenty-five, a hundred and fifty at
most.’

T-Bone laughed
and held out his hand for the weapon. ‘If you don’t want it,
Bird-man, just say so.’

‘I want it,
T-Bone, but I want to pay a fair price. I’m not getting expenses on
this job, it’s pro-bono.’

‘Pro-bone? What
the hell’s pro-bone.’

‘Pro-bono. A
freebie. For the public good.’

‘Yeah, well I
ain’t in the mood for freebies. Let’s call it two-fifty.’

‘Including the
cartridges?’

‘Go on then,’
said T-Bone. ‘But next time you should go to Aldi or Lidl. I hear
they’re real cheap.’

‘You’re a star,
T-Bone. A prince among men. Now have you got a holdall or something
I can use to keep this away from prying eyes?’

 

* * *

 

Nightingale let
himself into Ricky Hamilton’s house. He locked the front door and
slid a bolt across. The lights were all off and he left them that
way, his eyes were already used to the darkness. He took out his
mobile phone and called the number on Jonah Connolly’s card. When
the priest answered he sounded groggy. ‘Did I wake you up?’ asked
Nightingale.

‘What time is
it?’

‘About two.
Sorry about the late hour but I’ve seen Tracey and yes, the
stigmata’s real. So’s the whole cancer story. The neighbour, the
boy, is fine and dandy. His cancer has completely gone.’

‘That’s good to
hear, thanks. Where is she, the girl?’

‘Staying with
her uncle in Bromley. South London.’

‘Can you email
me a report?’

‘Will do, as
soon as I’m on the office. The reason I was calling so late is that
they won’t be in London after tonight.’

‘What do you
mean?’ Nightingale could hear the tension in the man’s voice.

‘Tomorrow
morning the whole family’s leaving London. They wouldn’t say where
they’re going. They say it’s because she’s still got the whole
stigmata thing and they don’t want it to become a media
circus.’

‘And you’ve no
idea where there’ll go?’

‘Like I said,
they won’t say. I managed to get to see Tracey, but they weren’t
happy. Anyway, I just thought you should know.’

‘I appreciate
that, Mr Nightingale. Thanks. Do you happen to have the address to
hand?’

Nightingale
smiled to himself. ‘I do, yes, Do you have a pen?’

 

* * *

 

It was just
after three o’clock in the morning when Nightingale heard the sound
of breaking glass from the kitchen, He was sitting in the hallway
on a chair he’d taken from the kitchen, the loaded sawn-off shotgun
in his lap. From where he was sitting he had a clear view of the
front door and the open kitchen door, and he could see into the
living room. He had been fairly sure that Connolly would come in
the through the kitchen but he had wanted to keep his options
open.

After a few
minutes he heard the kitchen door open and a soft footfall across
the tiled floor. He stood up and aimed the shotgun at the kitchen
doorway. Connolly was dressed all in black and was holding a small
torch in his left hand. He stiffened when he saw Nightingale.
‘Surprise!’ said Nightingale.

‘What the hell
are you doing here?’ asked Connolly. He was wearing a black ski
mask but Nightingale knew it was the priest.

‘Take off the
mask,’ said Nightingale. ‘And switch off the torch.’

Connolly did as
he was told. He was wearing a black polo-neck sweater, black jeans
and black trainers. On his back was a black backpack.

‘Drop the torch
on the floor. And the mask. Then put your hands behind you
neck.’

‘What the hell
is going on?’ asked Connolly.

Nightingale
gestured with the gun and Connolly followed the instructions that
Nightingale had given him.

‘Back into the
kitchen,’ said Nightingale. ‘If I end up shooting you it’ll be
easier to clean tiles than a carpet.’

‘This is
crazy,’ said Connolly. ‘I hired you, remember.’

‘Walk backwards
into the kitchen, slowly. Then kneel down.’

Connolly did as
he was told. Nightingale kept the shotgun aimed at the priest’s
chest. A glass panel in the kitchen door had been shattered. ‘I see
you dumped the cassock but then I suppose it’s not the best thing
to wear when you’re breaking and entering,’ said Nightingale. ‘I
see you stuck with the black, though.’

‘What’s this
about, Nightingale? What’s going on?’

‘Kneel down.
Then put your hands behind your neck.’

Connolly
obeyed. Nightingale switched on the lights.

‘How many are
with you?’

‘Two men.
They’re in a van outside.’

‘At the front
or the back?’

‘In the
alley.’

‘Are they
priests?’

‘Yes.’

‘Are you?’

Connolly
nodded. “I’m a priest, yes.’

‘And you work
for the Vatican?’

‘I told you all
this when I hired you. You seem to have forgotten who’s calling the
shots. I’m the client and you’re the hired help.’

Nightingale
gestured with the shotgun. ‘So far as calling the shots are
concerned, I think the gun says it all. If you’re a priest then
what are you doing breaking into this house at this ungodly
hour?’

Connolly took a
deep breath and then sighed. He didn’t answer.

‘Cat got your
tongue?’

‘What do you
want Nightingale? Are you going to call the cops? Are you going to
shoot me? Or bore me to death?’

‘I haven’t
decided yet,’ said Nightingale. He gestured with his shotgun. ‘Tell
me something. If I pull the trigger, do you think God would save
you?’

The priest
shrugged. ‘Probably not.’

‘So God has
saved the little girl but thrown you to the wolves. What does that
tell you?’

The priest
frowned. ‘How has God saved her? You’re the one with the
shotgun.’

‘That’s right,’
said Nightingale. ‘But that depends on whether or not you believe
in free will, doesn’t it?’

Connolly raised
his hands in surrender. ‘To be honest, Nightingale I’m getting to
the stage where I’d rather you pulled the trigger. I really can’t
be bothered listening to you any more.’

‘Put your hands
behind your neck.’ Nightingale pointed the shotgun at Connolly’s
chest and the priest did as he was told. ‘. ‘For God’s sake be
careful with that thing,’ he said.

‘For God’s
sake? You realise the irony in that statement.’ Nightingale lowered
the shotgun but kept it pointed at the priest’s groin. ‘You’ve done
this before?’

‘Is that a
question or a statement?’

‘Both, I guess.
I think I know the answer already. It’s what you do, isn’t it?’

Connolly
nodded. ‘Someone has to.’

‘To protect the
Church?’

‘The Church has
been around a lot longer than you or me,’ said Connolly. ‘It’s like
a living organism, it fights to stay alive.’

‘And it kills
if necessary?’

‘If it has to,
yes. There’s no arguing with that. The Catholic Church has killed
hundreds of thousands of people over the years. Look at the
Crusades.’


And
because Tracey Spradbery is a threat, you’re here to kill
her?’

‘Is that what
you think?’ He laughed harshly. ‘It’s not about killing her. It was
never about that.’

‘What
then?’

‘We’re going to
take her to a safe place. Somewhere where she can be looked at by
experts. People who understand stigmata.’

‘Where
exactly?’

‘A convent in
Spain,’ said Connolly.

‘A prison?’

‘If she truly
has been blessed by God, we need to know,’ said Connolly. ‘And we
can’t do that here.’

‘So you’re
planning to kidnap her?’

‘I am to take
her to a safe place,’ said Connolly.

‘That’s
kidnapping. Pure and simple.’

‘We need to
know the truth, and we won’t get the truth here.’

‘I told you the
truth. She has the stigmata, that’s a fact. And she believes that
she talks to the Virgin Mary. Take your bag off and slide it across
to me.’

‘What?’

‘The bag,’ said
Nightingale, nodding at Connolly’s backpack. ‘I need to look inside
it. Take it off very slowly.’

‘You think I
have a gun?’

‘Or a knife.
Either way, I’ll know that you’re lying and that you came here to
do her harm.’

‘And then what?
You’ll shoot me?’

‘I’ll call the
cops.’

‘You broke in
here as well, remember?’

Nightingale
shook his head. ‘I was invited in by Tracey’s uncle. It’s his
house. He gave me the key. Do you have a key? Oh no, of course not.
You smashed a window to get in.’’

Connolly nodded
at the shotgun in Nightingale’s hands. ‘And you’ve got a licence
for that sawn-off shotgun, of course.’

‘Mate, I’ll
whack you over the head with it, hide it and then call the cops.
Oh, and I used to be a cop so there’s a good chance they’ll listen
to me.’ He gestured at the backpack with his gun. ‘Take it
off.’

Connolly
scowled, but did as he was told.

‘Push it over
here,’ said Nightingale. ‘Not to enthusiastically, I’d hate to pull
the trigger accidentally.’

Connolly pushed
the bag across the floor. Nightingale pointed the gun at his face.
‘Now put your hands behind your neck again.’

Connolly obeyed
the instructions.

‘Now move your
right foot over your left.’

Connolly did as
he was told. Nightingale nodded his approval. In that position
Connolly wouldn’t be able to get the jump on him. He kept the
shotgun aimed at Connolly’s chest with his right hand while he used
his left to root around the inside of the bag. He pulled out two
rolls of duct tape and tossed them on to the kitchen table. Then he
took out a small leather wallet with a zip running around the outer
edge. Nightingale walked over to the table, put the shotgun down
and quickly unzipped the wallet, never taking his eyes off
Connolly. He opened it. Inside were two clear plastic boxes, each
containing a syringe full of colourless liquid.

Nightingale
picked up the shotgun again and levelled it at Connolly’s
chest.

‘What are you
going to do?’ asked Connolly.

‘I’m going to
inject this into your arm. Or rather, I’m getting you to do it to
yourself.’ A look of fear flashed across Connolly’s face. ‘If
you’re right and it’s a tranquiliser then you’ll go to sleep,’
Nightingale continued. ‘If you’re lying and there’s poison in it,
then you’ll die. Either way, I’ll go outside and tell your pals to
come and collect you.’

‘It’s a
tranquiliser,’ said Connolly.

‘Good to know,’
said Nightingale. ‘Good for you, anyway. Frankly I’m easy either
way.’ Nightingale placed one of the plastic boxes on the table.

And then
what?’

‘Assuming
you’re not dead? That depends on you.’ Nightingale reached into his
jacket pocket and took out a small digital recorder. A red light
glowed on the side. ‘If I ever see you again, this recording goes
to the cops. Along with the CCTV footage from my office. And the
DNA we took from the cigarette you smoked in my office.’

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