Dead Calm (A Dylan Scott Mystery) (7 page)

BOOK: Dead Calm (A Dylan Scott Mystery)
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He watched her walk toward her cabin, not a care in the world apart from a failing memory.

Ruby Jackson was a very wealthy woman, the sort who could afford to make charity donations of five million pounds. Maybe, just maybe, Hanna Larsen hadn’t been the intended victim at all.

Chapter Eleven

 

Tom Jackson was about to leave his cabin and head to the dining room to meet his mother for breakfast when his phone rang. He stabbed at the screen. “Tom Jackson.”

He knew it was Rod, and normally he would have answered with a cheery “Hi, Rod” but he hoped his curt response would be a reminder that he was miles away from the office and could do damn all about the current mess.

“Tom? It’s me. Rod.”

“What can I do for you? You’ll have to make it quick because I’m pushed for time.” He grabbed his jacket and left his cabin. This would be a brief call. He’d make sure of that.

“You know what you can do for me. I need to make a statement. People are worried about their jobs, understandably, and I have to give them some answers.”

Tom strode along the corridor. “People the world over are worried about their jobs.”

“And people the world over want answers.”

Tom could picture Rod pacing around his office, where the walls were adorned with awards he’d been presented with over the years. There was no questioning Rod’s knowledge of the TV industry, which was why Tom had been so happy to have him aboard as entertainment executive but, as a person, Rod left a lot to be desired. He could turn on charm at will but had no understanding of the meaning of loyalty. Tom was only surprised Rod hadn’t taken his expertise and his many influential contacts to another company by now.

“Tell them I’m doing all I can,” Tom said.

“The bank was on the phone yesterday.”

“I know. I spoke to them twice.”

“And?”

And Tom had seven days to come up with the money or the company went under. “It’s all in hand.”

Twelve months ago, they’d employed extra production staff because they’d been in line for three big commissions. Not one of those commissions had come to fruition.

Tom stepped aside to avoid a group of passengers walking in the opposite direction.

“You said you were confident of an influx of funds,” Rod said. “Is there no news from that direction?”

The silky smooth, condescending voice irritated Tom more than usual and he wished to God he hadn’t confided in Rod. If he hadn’t had a couple of drinks too many, and if he hadn’t needed to justify taking off on this bloody cruise at the worst possible time, he wouldn’t have.

“You know the situation as well as I do, Rod. As soon as there’s any news, you’ll be the first to know.”

“Your mother, wasn’t it?”

“Yes.” Tom could barely get the words out through tightly gritted teeth. “I’ve asked my mother for funding. Okay? I’m confident she’ll hand over enough cash to keep us going.”

“When?”

“When? When she’s had time to consider, that’s when. You can’t expect her to write a cheque for such an amount without thinking it over, for Christ’s sake. We’ll have the money. Soon. Tell everyone that it’s all in hand and their jobs are safe. Okay?”

“You’re guaranteeing that?”

“Yes.” Tom felt like hurling the phone through the dining room doors ahead of him. “I’ll be in touch.”

He stabbed at the End Call so viciously that he dropped his phone. Cursing, he bent to pick it up and, as he was doing so, he glanced behind him to see Dylan Scott.

“Good morning, Dylan.” As he straightened and put his phone in his pocket, he knew his face was burning with colour. How much of that conversation had Scott heard? It was impossible to guess because the bloke’s expression gave nothing away.

“Hi, Tom. Everything okay?”

“Fine. Although I could do without business calls before breakfast.” He managed a smile, was about to ask if Scott was going to the dining room for breakfast, and changed his mind. He couldn’t face company. Instead, he made a fuss of patting his pockets. “Drat. I’ve forgotten my wallet. I’d better go back and get it. I’ll catch you later.”

Scott didn’t answer, but as Tom strode along the corridor, he could feel his gaze burning into his back.

Tom let himself into his cabin and sat on his bed, his head in his hands, for a full five minutes. He had the headache from hell.

Just as he was about to set off for breakfast again, his phone trilled into life.

It was his sister and he really wasn’t in the mood. If he didn’t answer though, she’d bombard him with text messages. “Yes, Laura?”

“Good morning to you, too. Is Mum with you?”

“No. Is there anything else?”

“Wow, someone got out of bed on the wrong side this morning.”

“Not at all, but since getting out of bed, I’ve been at everyone’s beck and call. A few minutes’ peace would be good. Now, did you need to speak to Mum or are you just doing your doting daughter impression?”

“Tom! What on earth’s got into you?”

“I’m just asking if you actually want to speak to Mum or if you only want me to pass on a message that her darling daughter is thinking of her.”

“There’s no need to take it out on me.”

“I’m not taking anything out on you.” He knew he was.

“I assume Mum hasn’t come good with the money.” There was a pause that ended with a long sigh. “Nothing’s the same without Dad, is it?”

Laura had been Daddy’s Little Girl, but Tom rarely stopped to think about it. And if their father was still alive, Tom would have even less hope of getting any money.

“You’ve got your flash apartment in the sun,” Laura said when he didn’t answer. “You should try living in a two-bedroomed terraced house in the cold, wet Cotswolds. And only an idiot would go into teaching these days. The hours are long, the pay’s a joke, and most of the kids are walking nightmares.”

“Then change your job. Dad’s gone. Accept it. He’s not going to whisk you off to a nice manor house in the country. And at least you’re not facing bankruptcy.” He was sick to death of listening to everyone else’s troubles. Everywhere he turned, someone wanted to moan about their lot in life. He was sick of it.

“Are you really worried about the business?” Laura asked.

He gave a hollow laugh at the understatement. “Oh, just a tad.”

“Has Mum mentioned the money? Do you think she’ll relent?”

“Mum relent? Come off it. When has that ever happened? She’s as stubborn as the day is long, you know that. Once she’s made up her mind, that’s it.”

“How bad are things?”

“About as bad as they can be.” He wished it was an exaggeration.

Laura made a sympathetic clucking noise. “I feel bad now. I shouldn’t have booked this cruise without talking it over with you. I hadn’t realised it was such a bad time. Would you like me to have a word with her? She might listen to me.”

She probably would. Tom would bet his life that if his precious sister had asked for money, the cheque would have been written in the same breath. “You could try.”

“I’ll see what I can do. I really don’t see why she won’t help you out. Well, yes, I do. It’s because she wants us both to be independent, to face the big wide world on our own, and stand on our own two feet.”

He almost smiled as Laura recited their mother’s oft-quoted words.

“I’ll have a word with her,” Laura said.

“It won’t do any good. But thanks,” he added. “I’ll tell her you called and make sure she calls you back later, okay?”

As he ended the call, he wondered if a word from Laura
would
help. It was possible, he supposed. Not that he’d raise his hopes.

He thought back over the years and tried to remember another occasion when Laura had offered to help him. He couldn’t. They’d never been close, and had fought all through childhood and their teenage years. All because Laura was the spoilt baby of the family. These days though, they hardly saw each other and he supposed that, outwardly at least, they managed to get along okay.

It was her simpering, doting daughter act that always riled him. The way she’d arranged this cruise was a perfect example. She’d booked the thing without a word to anyone and received all the brownie points for being such a good daughter. Tom was the one obliged to leave his crumbling business and accompany his mother, yet he got no thanks at all.

He glanced at his watch. His mother would be waiting for him. He went into the bathroom, swallowed a couple of painkillers and a tranquilliser, and set off for the dining room.

Chapter Twelve

 

Dylan chose a seat in the sun lounge that gave him the best view of passengers coming, going or simply passing through on their way to the dining room.

With one entire wall in glass, the room was like a giant conservatory—it even had tall green plastic plants—and was the perfect place for watching the sunlight dancing on the water. People sat in comfy armchairs to read, or sipped coffee as they gazed at the outside world.

Dylan had never been impressed by scenery but even he had to admit that this was spectacular. The ship carved its way through the deep fjords, gliding past towering cliffs and scattered islands. It was majestic.

He wished he could relax and enjoy it, but he was too busy trying to make sense of things.

His family was attending a “fun family lecture,” but as Dylan didn’t believe the words
fun
and
lecture
should be used in the same sentence, he’d given it a miss. The children were being given activity packs and were supposed to use words or pictures to describe all that they’d seen during yesterday’s visit to Trondheim. Luke was too old and Freya too young, but Bev had insisted on dragging them along.

Dylan was trying to convince himself that he was making something out of nothing. Maybe the only person Hanna Larsen saw before she breathed her last was the grim reaper.

He’d heard a noise, that was all. If he’d been asleep, as he should have been, he would have been as convinced as everyone else that she died peacefully in her sleep. A noise. Nothing more.

Over and over again he’d pulled that sound to mind and tried to say for sure what he’d actually heard. He couldn’t. He’d heard footsteps, yes. Heavy footsteps, moving quickly. Too heavy and too quick for Hanna Larsen. There was the other sound too, the one he still couldn’t identify. A mechanical noise. Damn it.

Assuming the owner of those footsteps had entered Hanna Larsen’s cabin wanting to kill her, how would he do it? If he’d used force, the people who found her, along with the police, would have noticed. If he’d chosen poison as his weapon, he would have slipped something into her food or drink in the dining room and would have had no need to venture to her cabin in the small hours. Suffocation? It would be easy enough to overpower an elderly woman with a weak heart.

The elderly had a low tolerance to lack of oxygen. They weren’t strong enough to fight off an attacker, to push a pillow away and take a gasp of air. Also, when people were frightened, they used up oxygen at a much faster rate. It probably wouldn’t have taken any longer than two minutes for Hanna to die.

He had no idea how the law worked in Norway so couldn’t assume there would be a postmortem. If a doctor believed she’d suffered a heart attack, he might sign the death certificate and not delve further. If there was a postmortem though, the person doing that would find evidence of suffocation from the broken capillary vessels in her eyes.

Dylan made a mental note to have another chat with Mike Lloyd.

The question—if there was indeed a question—was who exactly the killer intended to murder. Was it Hanna Larsen? Or had he expected Ruby Jackson to be in that cabin?

The owner of the chemical factory, Mr. Jorstad, wouldn’t shed too many tears on learning of Hanna’s death. And there could be countless people wanting Ruby dead. He wondered if she still had any control in her husband’s business. But no, she’d said it was sold off and that the new owners had merely kept the name.

Jackson was an enigma. Ruby had mentioned that his TV company was struggling but, judging by the tail end of the phone call Dylan had overheard earlier, it was in dire straits. Jackson had said he’d asked Ruby for money and that he was confident she’d come good. Perhaps he wasn’t confident. Perhaps Ruby had refused to help. Maybe he’d decided it was time to take matters into his own hands.

No way had Jackson broken into that cabin in the early hours. No matter how dark it was in the room, he would have recognised his own mother. Besides, he had an alibi. He’d spent the night performing acrobatics with Miss Norway. Lucky bastard.

Dylan had an ever-increasing list of suspects for two victims. One of those victims probably died in her sleep and the other was very much alive. Crazy.

He sat in the sun lounge for an hour, seeing nothing but the jagged Norwegian coastline with its inlets and islands, but was no further forward. He had no idea what had happened that first night aboard the
Midnight Sun
but he was damn sure something had.

He was about to go for a wander round the ship when two men came into the room, took seats next to each other and opened identical copies of a Norwegian newspaper.

Well, well, well. There was no mistaking Sigurd and Mathias Jorstad. They simply looked taller, broader, blonder and more tanned than they had in the pictures on the internet. Both men were in their thirties and were dressed casually in jeans and chunky sweaters.

Dylan needed an excuse to talk to them. He left the sun lounge, went to the café to buy a coffee and returned to stand just outside the room, where he had a good view of the Jorstads. They weren’t speaking, they were too engrossed in their newspapers.

Slowly but surely, the lounge was filling up. Dylan waited until there were only a couple of free seats and then strode inside, coffee in his hand.

“Excuse me,” he said. “Do you mind if I share your table?”

Two blond heads looked up from newsprint. Sigurd, older and a little broader across the shoulders than his brother, smiled politely and said, “You’re welcome.”

“Thanks.” Dylan made a fuss of stirring coffee that was probably too cold to drink now. “Excuse me,” he said again, “but you’re Norwegian, yes? I wonder if you could remind me of the name of the cathedral in Trondheim?”

Sigurd, perhaps guessing he’d get no peace now the mad Englishman was in close proximity, carefully folded his newspaper. “Nidaros Cathedral.”

“That’s it. Thank you. It’s a very beautiful building. Because we only had a day in Trondheim, we only had time for a brief look round. Hopefully, we’ll return one day to do it justice. It really is beautiful.”

“Indeed it is. And you have many impressive buildings in England. St Paul’s Cathedral. Westminster Abbey.”

“Yes, but I’m afraid we take them for granted.” Dylan had got them talking more easily than he’d dared hope. “Do you know England well?”

Mathias seemed less sociable than his brother, but he too put down his newspaper. “We do a little business in London from time to time.”

“Really?” Dylan was about to say “how interesting” but he doubted he’d sound sincere. “What business are you in?”

“Chemicals,” Sigurd said. “Mainly the production of polystyrene and polypropylene for packaging. And you—?”

He wasn’t asking for Dylan’s name, he was merely making polite conversation and asking about Dylan’s line of business. However, pretending to misunderstand, Dylan thrust out his hand. “Dylan Scott. Good to meet you.”

A half smile tugging at his lips, Sigurd shook his hand. “Sigurd Jorstad and this is my brother, Mathias.”

“Pleased to meet you both. So you’re taking a holiday from the rough and tumble of the chemical industry?”

“Part holiday and part business,” Mathias said. “We have a factory near Tromsø that we’re on our way to visit. We also had some business to conduct earlier but now we’re relaxing.”

“Conducting business on a cruise ship?” Dylan grinned. “It’s all right for some. Lucky you.”

“You’ll find that many Norwegians use the ships as offices or just places to meet up with friends and family.” Sigurd smiled, a slow, lazy smile. “Also, it wasn’t terribly lucky as it turned out. We’d set up a meeting with someone but unfortunately the meeting couldn’t take place.”

“Oh dear. Well, at least you can enjoy your cruise.” He waited but nothing more was forthcoming. “God, I hope your business meeting wasn’t with that poor lady who died?”

The two men exchanged a glance, but neither confirmed or denied his hunch.

“It was, wasn’t it?” Dylan said. “What a dreadful shock that was. I didn’t know the woman, obviously, but she was in the cabin next to mine. I spoke to her the night she died. I couldn’t believe it when everyone said she was dead.”

“An unfortunate business indeed,” Mathias said. “She was elderly, and I gather she had a heart condition, but yes, a terrible shock, especially for her family.”

“So you were supposed to meet with her?”

“At her request, yes,” Sigurd said.

It was difficult to tell if they were being cagey or if Dylan’s overactive imagination was working overtime.

“How awful.” Dylan shook his head in sympathy with them, and with Hanna Larsen’s family. “I trust it wasn’t important. Oh, wait. When I had that brief chat with her, she mentioned something about a meeting. It was to do with some property, wasn’t it?”

“She was—how do you say?—very stubborn,” Mathias said. “It’s no big secret that our company tried to buy her land. We want to put a road to our factory through her property and made her several generous offers. We think, although now we’ll never know, of course, that she was finally seeing the wisdom of selling. As I said, she was elderly. She also had family in Tromsø. We think she was beginning to realise that, if she sold her property to us, she could end her life in comfort. She asked us to meet her so we assumed that was the case.”

“Wow. And now you’ll never know what she intended?”

“I’m afraid not. What did she say to you? Did she give any indication that she was finally going to sell up?” Mathias’s eyes were a deep intelligent blue that looked as if they could read minds.

“No, nothing. Sorry.”

Perhaps that meeting had taken place after all. Maybe the old lady had told them that hell would freeze over before she sold them so much as a square inch of her land. Maybe they’d decided to put an end to negotiations for good.

“So what will happen now?” Dylan asked.

“Her lawyer will deal with her estate. The proceeds might go to charity, to her family, who knows? When it is settled, perhaps the new owner will sell to us. We really don’t know, Mr. Scott.”

“Dylan.”

“Dylan,” Mathias repeated smoothly as he rose to his feet. “And now, if you’ll excuse us, we have things to attend to. Enjoy the rest of your holiday.”

Smiling, Sigurd also stood up. Much friendlier than his brother, he shook Dylan’s hand. “Yes, have a good holiday, Dylan. I hope you see the northern lights if that’s what you wish.”

“My wife has set her heart on it,” Dylan said. “I hate to see her disappointed although I’ve heard the forecast isn’t very promising.”

“Maybe. Maybe not. The northern lights take people by surprise. They like to have fun. Keep watching the sky, Dylan, and enjoy our country.”

“Thank you.”

Dylan watched the two men leave. They didn’t look like killers, but prisons all over the planet were crammed with lifers who didn’t look like killers.

BOOK: Dead Calm (A Dylan Scott Mystery)
4.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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