Authors: Sally Spencer
Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #Police Procedural
âYes, strange as it might seem, I
already know that,' Woodend said. He paused. âI'm sorry, Monika. That must have sounded really ratty.'
âNo rattier than several other things you've said in the last few minutes,' Paniatowski pointed out.
Woodend shook his head. âYou're right, I'm wrong, an' again, I apologize,' he said. âAn' maybe you're right about somethin' else, as well. Maybe, whatever my misgivings, Central Records
be able to put a name to the face. But if I was you, I wouldn't hold my breath while I was waiting.'
Paniatowski glanced up at the heavy old-fashioned clock which hung on the wall.
âIsn't it time that we headed out for the Drum and Monkey, sir?' she asked.
âJust about,' Woodend agreed, glancing up at the clock himself. âAn' I suppose it's just possible that when we get there, we'll find that either Constable Beresford or Inspector Rutter has come up with a brilliant lead which will crack the case wide open.'
âBut we shouldn't hold our breaths while we're waiting?' Paniatowski suggested.
âBut we shouldn't hold our breaths while we're waitin',' the Chief Inspector agreed.
Reg Lewis' head ached, and though he was sure he had his eyes open, he couldn't see a thing.
He'd heard somewhere that people could go blind through drinking too much. But
hadn't drunk that much, had he? At least, not that day.
He'd needed to calm his nerves, so he'd knocked back five pints in quick succession at lunch time. No â five and a half. He'd managed to scrape together just enough copper from the bottom of his pocket to buy that last half. But five and a half pints wasn't a lot. For him, it could almost be called âmoderate'. It certainly wasn't enough to make him go blind!
He tried to remember what he'd done since he'd drained that last half pint, and discovered that he had no idea.
He didn't even know what time it was now. And how could he, when he couldn't even tell whether it was day or night?
He closed his eyes â not that that made much difference â and tried to remember what he'd done after he'd left the pub.
He'd been standing in the alley, crying like a baby.
He'd picked up a flattened cigarette end off the ground, rolled it back into shape, and smoked it.
He realized that he was being bounced around, and with that realization came another â that he was not standing on his feet, but lying down.
There had been a steady hum accompanying his thoughts, like background music. Now the hum changed briefly to a minor roar, before settling down to something much more regular again.
A car engine, he told himself. That was what the noise was.
No, not a
engine. From the sound of it, it was more likely to be a van or a small lorry.
So â¦ he was in some kind of motor vehicle, he was lying down, and his head hurt.
He had not thought to move before, but now, when he did try, he found that he couldn't. His hands, which were behind his back, refused to separate. And his ankles were being equally uncooperative.
He was tied up! He was in the back of a van, and he was tied up.
had tied him up, and for
He tried to speak, but his lips seemed to be glued together. His whole face was beginning to prickle, and he guessed that was because it was in close contact with an itchy woollen fabric.
He had a hood over his head, he decided â probably like the ones that he'd seen army interrogators slip over their suspects' heads, before they started to question them. It had been fun watching that happen â working out from their panicked body language what their facial expressions must be under the hoods â but it wasn't fun when it happened to you.
And he wasn't in the army now.
He wasn't â¦ in the army â¦ now.
It was as if he had stumbled on the right key to open the door of his closed mind. Suddenly, all the events of the afternoon came flooding back to him with perfect clarity.
He knew who had put him in the van now.
And he knew
they had done it.
And now he understood what was in store for him, he felt his bowels open and he soiled himself.
Woodend drummed his fingers impatiently on the surface of the corner table in the Drum and Monkey, then checked his watch again.
Bob Rutter was already three-quarters of an hour late, he noted. That was not at all like the conscientious inspector who had been with him since his days at the Yard â and it was certainly
a good sign.
Possibly the reason that Rutter was so late was because interviewing the potential nannies for Louisa had taken him longer than he had anticipated, Woodend told himself.
But that wasn't an excuse. In a murder investigation, there
no excuses. You worked all the hours that God sent, and if your private life happened to fall to pieces in the middle of it, then that was just tough.
What the bloody hell was the matter with him, he suddenly found himself wondering. The thoughts which had just passed through his head didn't belong there â didn't belong to
â at all.
Some chief inspectors he knew
regard their teams as little more than robots programmed to do their will â but he certainly wasn't one of them. He valued the members of his team, despite their weaknesses. In fact, those weaknesses were often more of an advantage than a hindrance. Because if they didn't have any of their own, how would they ever understand the human weakness they came across in the course of the investigation? And if they didn't understand that weakness, how would they ever solve the case?
He'd swung from one extreme to the other in a matter of seconds, he told himself, and now it was time to try and strike a balance.
He took a deep breath. Certainly, allowances had to be made, he argued â but it was also necessary to draw the line somewhere. And it was very worrying indeed that even though baby Louisa was still in London, she had already begun to distract Rutter from the job.
âWe might as well make a start, I suppose,' he said aloud.
âWhat about Bob?' Monika Paniatowski asked.
âWhat about him?'
âHe's not here yet.'
âI can see that for myself, but we can't wait for him forever. If he wants to keep up to speed, he'll just have to read our reports.'
âIt's not the same,' Monika said firmly.
âI know it isn't,' Woodend agreed. âBut what can we do?'
âWe could give him a bit longer to get here.'
âYou know as well as I do that Bob's mind works in a different way to yours and mine, and that he often picks up on points that would have slipped by the rest of us completely. So if he's not here when we go through our findings, there's a bloody good chance we'll overlook what could turn out to be a vital lead in this investigation.'
It was tragic to see how much she still loved Bob Rutter, Woodend thought. She might snipe at him when he was there â¦
Might? a voice said in his head. There was no
about it. She bloody
â¦ but when he wasn't there, she seemed to feel under an obligation to defend him to her dying breath.
âWe really do have to crack on, Monika,' he said heavily, and without giving her time to respond, he turned to DC Beresford. âSo, what little pearls of wisdom have you managed to glean from your visit to the ball bearing factory, young Colin?' he asked.
Beresford outlined what he had heard in the works canteen, and Woodend told him what progress he and Paniatowski had made.
âSo let's review what we know so far,' Woodend said. âTerry Pugh, from what Monika and I have learned of him, was a quiet sort of feller who did his work conscientiously, an' generally kept his head down.'
He saw that Monika Paniatowski was smiling â and thank God she still could â at his unfortunate choice of words.
âSorry,' he said, grinning despite himself. âWhat I
was that Pugh seems to have pretty much kept himself out of trouble.'
âAlthough one of his work-mates did say that he was rather wild when he was in his late teens,' Beresford reminded him.
âWhich of us wasn't?' Woodend asked.
And then he thought: You weren't, Colin. Given your mother's condition, you haven't been allowed that luxury.
âOn the other hand, we know that, one bright spring mornin', Pugh received a typewritten letter which really disturbed him,' he continued, âa letter which not only made him puke up the first time he read it, but which he kept
â as if he couldn't help himself â even when he was at work. Now, what could have been in that letter?'
âI think his sister-in-law could be right about the gambling debts,' Paniatowski said.
âSo what are you suggestin'? That the bookies have decided that breakin' legs isn't a sufficient incentive to make their clients pay up any more, an' have moved their persuasion techniques up a notch?'
âOf course not,' Paniatowski said. âBut it can't do any harm to have the bookies checked out, can it?'
Woodend nodded. âNo, it can't do any harm at all,' he agreed. âWhen it comes to secret vices, it's often the quiet ones you have to watch, because they're always the best at keeping it to themselves.'
âSo we'll have the bookies checked out?'
âWhy not? What have we got to lose? And while they're bein' questioned about Pugh's possible gamblin' habits, they can also have a look at the sketch of the Unknown Greek.'
âWhat I don't understand is why Terry Pugh left the pub with this Greek feller in the first place,' Beresford said, sounding troubled.
âGo on,' Woodend said encouragingly â because a troubled thought could often turn out to be a fruitful one.
âThe meeting he'd arranged to have with Mr Hough was important to him, wasn't it?' Beresford asked.
âVery important. Hough was about to offer him a much better job than the one he had at the time â an' he could have used the extra money, what with the baby bein' on the way.'
âAnd from what you've said about him expanding his factory, Mr Hough must be a very busy man.'
âI imagine he is.'
âSo, since his time is valuable, he won't have taken kindly to being stood up, will he? He might even have withdrawn the job offer, for all Pugh knew. Yet despite that, he decides to leave the pub with the Unknown Greek â a stranger, who he's only been talking to for a couple of minutes.'
âYou're right, that doesn't make sense,' Paniatowski agreed. âThe Greek can't have been a stranger to him at all.'
âOn the other hand, they're unlikely to have met in Whitebridge, because we've already established that if the Greek had been here for any length of time, one of our lads would have been bound to notice him,' Woodend said thoughtfully. He nodded at Beresford. âWell done, lad. You've not only raised some interestin' questions, but you've landed yourself a job for the mornin'.'
âWhat job's that, sir?'
âI want you to find out if Terry Pugh's done much travellin', and especially if he's ever been to Greece.'
âOr Turkey. Or Yugoslavia. Or Romania,' Paniatowski said.
And then she grinned, just in case Woodend had missed the point that what she was doing was mocking him for his earlier pessimism.
âAye, or any of them other strange weird an' wonderful foreign places as well,' Woodend agreed, grinning back at her.
He suddenly realized he was feeling much better than he had earlier. The black mood that this investigation had induced in him â and which had coloured his view of life in general, and Bob Rutter's absence in particular â had been somewhat lifted by talking through the case with Paniatowski and Beresford.
Of course, he understood that they still had a long way to go before they were in a position to make an arrest. And, of course, it didn't help that the Chief Constable was still insisting that they pretend Terry Pugh's murder was a suicide. But these were no more than occupational hazards.
He took another sip of his pint, and decided that letting the beer settle for a while had improved the flavour no end.
What he didn't realize â but very soon would â was that in so many ways, he was like a prisoner already kneeling before the execution block, yet still convinced that a last-minute reprieve would come through. And when the axe fell â as it was about to â it would come as a complete surprise.
he building site was on the corner where the road into town and the road to Preston intersected. It had been a large, old-fashioned cinema, which in its heyday had shown the biggest and best of the Hollywood epics, but in its later years had survived mainly by screening ânaturist' films for the delectation of sniggering schoolboys and dirty old men. And when even this had failed â when, some evenings, the staff outnumbered the customers â the owners had finally decided that they could no longer compete with that evil little monster, the television set, and had sold up.
The space had been bought â much to the consternation of several local small businesses â by a large retail chain. Soon, in place of the old decrepit cinema, there would be a brand spanking new supermarket, offering cut prices, trading stamps and free gifts. For the moment, however, there was little more than a steel skeleton, surrounded by a chain-link fence and guarded, at night, by Harry âBone Crusher' Turner, who had once been the most formidable prop forward ever to have played for Whitebridge Rugby Football Club.
If Harry â who time had turned into a somewhat cantankerous old-age pensioner â had had a dog with him as he went on his rounds, that particular site would probably never have been chosen for the events of the evening.