Read Liz Carlyle - 05 - Present Danger Online

Authors: Stella Rimington

Tags: #Mystery, #Espionage, #England, #Memoir

Liz Carlyle - 05 - Present Danger (25 page)

BOOK: Liz Carlyle - 05 - Present Danger
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‘I don’t like this,’ said Liz slowly. ‘What does Danny Ryan look like?’

‘Young, light hair, quite tall, lanky – his mother would probably say he needed feeding up. What are you thinking, Liz?’

‘I’m thinking he fits the description Jimmy Fergus gave me of the gunman’s accomplice.’ Liz was biting at the side of one of her fingers. Judith knew that habit of Liz’s. It meant that her mind was racing; she was slotting information and events into position like a computer. Though she knew Liz was not prone to jumping to conclusions, Judith nonetheless felt she should inject a note of caution.

‘I tell you what, Liz. Why don’t I give Otto Perkins a ring and ask him if Danny Ryan was working on the day Jimmy Fergus got shot?’

And three minutes later Judith Spratt put the phone down and looked wide-eyed at Liz. ‘Otto looked up his duty roster. Apparently Danny Ryan had the day off when Fergus was shot.’

‘I don’t like this at all,’ said Liz.

‘That’s the good news.’ Judith paused. ‘Danny Ryan went home ill just after I left their office this morning. Otto was mystified. He said Ryan’s never been off ill before, and he looked perfectly well earlier in the day.’

‘We’d better find him fast.’

‘We know he lives with his mother. I’ve got her address in my book. Do you really think he’s involved in all this?’

‘I don’t know. But there are too many coincidences to be just chance. Danny Ryan’s been involved with Milraud’s car; my car; he fits Jimmy’s description; he was off work at the right time and the moment you ask him a question, he goes off sick.’

‘So do we have him pulled in?’

‘Not yet – there’s nothing firm enough for a charge. But we need to talk to him.’

‘Then I think I should go to his house. He should be alone because his mother will be at my place cleaning up before she goes to get Daisy from school.’

Judith suddenly went very pale. ‘Liz,’ she said and her voice was shaking. ‘If Danny Ryan’s involved in this – what about his mother? Do you think she knows anything about it? She’s looking after Daisy …’ Judith’s voice was rising as she spoke. ‘She’ll be collecting her from school in an hour.’

Liz put a calming hand on Judith’s arm as she thought for a moment. ‘Listen,’ she said. ‘You’d better go to the school and be there when she collects Daisy. Just tell her that you had a meeting nearby and then decided to take the rest of the afternoon off and spend it with Daisy. Try to act normal, and don’t let her think there’s anything more to it than that. Meanwhile, I’ll go round to the house to see if Danny Ryan’s there. But this time I’m taking the police with me.’

41

 

‘I must tell you, Miss Carlyle, that we were surprised to hear that you and Mrs Spratt have got Annie Ryan working for you. She’s from an old IRA family. Her husband was Tommy Ryan – served five years for a plot to kill a Special Branch officer. Tommy was the intelligence officer as they called them. He was the one who did the background research for the hit men.’ Detective Inspector Kearne spoke matter of factly but his anger was close to the surface.

 

‘My God,’ said Liz. ‘I didn’t know that. I took her on from Judith. I think she got her from an agency. I can’t imagine she wouldn’t have had her checked out but I’ll certainly find out. Where’s Tommy Ryan now? She’s never mentioned a husband.’

‘He was shot dead by the army twenty years ago trying to ambush a patrol.’

The car pulled up outside a small red brick house, one of a long terrace with the front doors up one stone step from the pavement. As soon as Liz knocked, the door of the next-door house opened. Their arrival in the street had clearly been observed by the grey-haired woman who now stood at her open door, hands on hips. Her neatly ironed apron, the sparkling net curtains at her window and the polished door step all spoke of someone who spent much of her time at home.

‘There’s no one in. Never is at this time of day. She picks a kiddy up from school and the lad’ll be at work. I saw him going off this morning – usual time. There hasn’t been an accident, has there? Can I give her a message?’ she asked eagerly.

‘No thank you, madam. It’s just a routine enquiry,’ replied Kearne.

‘I’ll tell her you called.’

I bet you will, thought Liz as she climbed back into the car.

‘What now?’ asked the inspector.

‘Just a minute.’ Liz got out her mobile phone. ‘I’ll see if I can find out where Mrs Ryan might be.’

Judith answered immediately. ‘Yes. I’ve got Daisy. We’re in the tea shop. I don’t think Mrs Ryan suspected anything. She said she’d go back to the flat and tidy up. I didn’t tell her not to as I didn’t want to alert her to anything.’

‘OK. Stay out for the moment and I’ll ring you when I’ve talked to her.’

At her house, Liz let them in with her key and knocked on Judith’s door. They waited tensely, but no one answered. Kearne looked at her questioningly; she was listening to something. Then, motioning him to follow, she climbed the single flight of stairs to her own flat. Through the half-open front door came the sound of a vacuum cleaner. Liz paused; pushing by her, Kearne went in first.

Mrs Ryan was in the sitting room with her back to them, vacuuming the carpet. Liz called out, but her voice was lost in the din. Looking around, she saw where the plug was pushed into the socket and switched it off. The vacuum gave a strangled moan, then went silent. Mrs Ryan looked round and jumped when she saw Liz and Kearne standing in the doorway.

Putting a hand on her breast, she said, ‘Oh, you’ve frightened me, miss. I wasn’t expecting anyone.’

‘I wasn’t expecting you either,’ said Liz. ‘I thought you’d be at Judith’s today with Daisy.’

‘I should’ve been. But Mrs Spratt picked Daisy up herself. I knew you’d been away so I thought your place could stand a bit of sprucing up. I hope you don’t mind, miss,’ she added.

‘That’s very thoughtful, Mrs Ryan. Thank you. It’s lucky you’re here because I wanted to speak to you. This is Detective Inspector Kearne.’ Beside her, Kearne nodded.

‘Why don’t we all sit down?’ said Liz, motioning Kearne to take one of the chairs and gesturing at the sofa for Mrs Ryan. She crossed the room to close the front door and as she passed the open doorway into her small study she saw that the stack of files and papers on her desk still lay where she’d left them, but the top file was open – and Liz knew she had left it closed. She’d never brought secret documents home – so Mrs Ryan’s snooping, if that was what it was, would have been rewarded with nothing more interesting than her electricity bill.

Back in the sitting room Kearne and Mrs Ryan were sitting awkwardly across from each other, neither speaking. Liz pulled up a chair next to Kearne, and smiled reassuringly at Mrs Ryan. But the woman avoided her gaze. She never looks me in the eye, Liz thought, alert now in the light of her new information about Mrs Ryan’s background. And that’s why I’ve never looked very closely at her.

She inspected the woman carefully and realised that Mrs Ryan was younger than she’d believed. It was as if she wore the trappings of old age – the grey tousled hair, the slight stoop, the thin-framed glasses, the dowdy clothes – as a cover.

‘Is there something wrong, miss?’ asked Mrs Ryan quietly. ‘Inspector Kearne and I have a few questions to ask you.’ ‘Questions?’ asked Mrs Ryan. ‘What about? Is there something wrong with my work?’

‘Not at all. It’s about your son Danny.’

‘Has something happened to him? Is he all right?’ Her concern was real.

‘I don’t know, Mrs Ryan. I was hoping you could tell us. We wanted to talk to Danny but we can’t find him. We thought you might be able to help.’

‘Isn’t he at work at the garage?’

‘He left there earlier. He said he was going home ill. But he’s not at home.’

‘How do you know?’ For the first time she looked straight at Liz, her voice rising in agitation. ‘Have you been round there causing a fuss? What’s Danny supposed to have done?’ she demanded, looking at the policeman.

‘That’s something we’re wanting to talk to him about. Where do you think we could find your son?’ Keane asked sharply.

‘If he’s not at home, then I haven’t the faintest idea. He’s old enough to look after himself.’

‘I must warn you, Mrs Ryan, that we have reason to believe that your son may have been involved in a serious offence. If you fail to provide information, you may be charged with obstructing the police and it will be worse for him.’

‘Worse?’ Suddenly Mrs Ryan’s voice was rising. She stared at Liz, her eyes filled with hatred. ‘How could it be worse? You murdered my husband. Are you saying you’re planning to murder my boy now?’

Liz said, ‘Calm down, Mrs Ryan. This has got nothing to do with your husband. Listen, this entire country’s having to learn how to live with its past and move on. You should be helping Danny accept that, not harking back to the past.’

Mrs Ryan sat straight up in her chair, colour rising in her cheeks. ‘Don’t you lecture me about the past – or the future. This is our country and you’ve got no right here. Your lot haven’t given up a thing, have you? Peace agreement my backside,’ she said bitterly, all pretence of gentility gone now. ‘You bastards are still here, aren’t you? You think you’ve won, don’t you? But just wait and you’ll see what we think of your peace process.’

Her voice was shrill, and Liz raised a hand in a calming gesture. But Mrs Ryan was having none of it. There was no deference now, just loathing, a hatred cast so deep it chilled Liz. ‘Don’t you shush me!’ the woman shouted. ‘Oh, it’s all sweetness and light on the surface – you and your friend, with her spoiled little brat. ‘Thank you so much, Mrs Ryan,’ and ‘Have a good day, Mrs Ryan.’ You’d think this was bloody Africa and me a native working for a pair of colonial women.’

She took off her glasses with one hand, and when she leaned forward and glared at Liz her eyes were a raging blue. ‘Women who couldn’t keep a man, though at least Mrs Spratt’s got a child. Look at you: you haven’t even got a husband, much less a family. How dare you lecture me? You haven’t got a clue what it’s like raising a child on your own, without a penny to spare, and the man you loved gone because a soldier decided it was his turn to die. How am I supposed to move on from that,
Miss
Carlyle?’

Inspector Kearne had heard enough. ‘That’ll do, Annie. I think you’d better come with me down to the station. I should warn you—’

‘Suit yourself,’ she broke in. ‘You can do what you like to me. You’ll never catch my son. He’s a clever boy.’

‘We’ll see about that,’ said the inspector, putting his hand on her arm and manoeuvring her towards the door. When they’d gone, Liz sat down heavily on the sofa. The sudden transformation of Mrs Ryan from deferential cleaning lady to hate-filled harridan had left her thoroughly shaken.

42

 

‘Peggy, I can’t tell you how glad I am to see you.’ Liz was looking affectionately at her younger colleague’s earnest face. Peggy Kinsolving had arrived the previous evening and was now installed at a small table in the corner of Judith’s office.

 

Judith wasn’t expected in that day; she was having to look after Daisy. Judith had been mortified by her failure to check out Mrs Ryan with the police. Her only explanation was that she had been so focused on getting things sorted out quickly for Daisy, so that she could start work without delay, that when the references from the agency had all been fine, she had simply forgotten to do a separate police check. But yesterday she had had a call from Inspector Kearne’s wife, Bridget. Bridget was a qualified childminder and – something that had seemed to Judith a gift from the gods – she was looking for a job. They were to meet that afternoon.

Peggy had been in the office since seven-thirty and had already mastered the main facts of the case. Her table was strewn with papers and Liz could see that she had drawn up a list of questions. The two women had worked closely together for the last few years, both in counter terrorism and in counter espionage, ever since Peggy had transferred from MI6 after working with Liz on the case of an IRA mole in the intelligence services. They were perfect foils for each other: Liz the driving, quick-thinking, inspirational case officer, who to Peggy’s admiring eye always seemed to know what to do. Peggy, with her clever, enquiring mind; the scholarly lover of detail who took nothing at face value, and who, having recently acquired a boyfriend, had begun also to acquire the self-confidence of knowing she was attractive.

When Liz had finished bringing Peggy up to date with the previous day’s events she said again, ‘It’s such a relief to have you here, Peggy. Not that Judith’s not great. But this business with Mrs Ryan has really knocked her for six. And to tell you the truth, I’m beginning to wonder if Michael Binding’s having some kind of a breakdown. He’s never been the easiest person to work with, but he’s behaving really strangely. You never know what sort of a mood he’ll be in. He swings from seeming almost eerily calm one minute to getting in a rage in the next. Then yesterday when he heard about Mrs Ryan, he was crying. I just don’t think he can take the strain.’

‘Why don’t you ring up Charles and tell him what’s going on? He sent you his best, and I’m sure he’d be happy to help – he’d want to know if it’s that bad with Binding. And he’d tell DG, without making a big fuss.’

Liz flushed. She had avoided asking Peggy about Charles, though part of her had wanted to. But the truth was that she didn’t want to think about him. She had to admit to herself that she’d been very hurt by her mother’s implication that Charles and Alison were going around as a couple. Since Joanne’s funeral Charles had said hardly a word to her, let alone told her that his affections were now engaged elsewhere. Liz had decided that she would move on, knowing that for now she had nowhere to move on to. Never mind. She certainly wasn’t going to run to Charles for help in the present circumstances.

‘Oh there you are, Liz,’ said Binding, poking his head round the door and nodding in Peggy’s direction to acknowledge her arrival. ‘Any news? It’s been three days now and you’ve turned up precisely nothing.’

BOOK: Liz Carlyle - 05 - Present Danger
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