Read Liz Carlyle - 05 - Present Danger Online

Authors: Stella Rimington

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

Liz Carlyle - 05 - Present Danger (26 page)

BOOK: Liz Carlyle - 05 - Present Danger
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Liz and Peggy both stared at him, startled by the outburst. He looked flustered, sweating slightly, his tie loosened and hanging crookedly from his unbuttoned collar. He went on, ‘I’m not happy about this at all; you don’t seem to be getting anywhere. I’ve got to brief DG and the minister this afternoon. Is there anything for me to tell them, other than that you and Judith have been employing a known IRA sympathiser in your households?’ His voice rose almost to a shout as he finished speaking.

Liz resisted the urge to shout back at him and said soothingly, as if speaking to a child, ‘A few things are beginning to fall into place now, Michael. Why don’t we go into my office where we can all sit down and I’ll tell you what I make of what we now know?’

‘I don’t have time for a lot of chat, Liz,’ said Binding, but she ushered him firmly along the corridor to her office and sat him down. Peggy followed them in, and Binding gradually fell silent as Liz began to set out the case.

‘Firstly, we know from Brown Fox that Seamus Piggott’s intention was to kill policemen and an MI5 officer, and the FBI have given us the background on why he wants to do that. It can’t be coincidence that there’s been movement on both fronts – Jimmy Fergus got shot and Dave’s …’ she paused, trying to find words that encompassed both their worst fears and their uncertainty ‘… Dave’s been taken.’

‘Secondly, we know from Brown Fox and A4 surveillance that Milraud is involved with Piggott, probably supplying weapons. We know from CCTV and the woman in the shop that Dave made it to see Milraud, though from the absence of any CCTV coverage of him leaving – and the fact that his car was still in the shopping centre car park – I think we can assume that Dave disappeared
from
the shop. Because of that, I’d say we can assume Milraud was involved with his disappearance, and I don’t think it’s too much to argue that Piggott was as well. Now we can’t find Piggott or Milraud – or Dave,’ she added. ‘We don’t know whether Piggott and Milraud are together but it’s a fair assumption that one of them has Dave.’

‘What do the French say?’

‘They’re looking for Milraud. But they don’t see him as a kidnapper.’

Binding snorted while Liz went on. ‘Then there’s Jimmy Fergus – at least we’ve got a lead there. A man named Sean McCarthy has been linked to the van that Fergus’s attackers were driving, and possibly to the gun that was used to shoot Fergus. The problem is, we don’t have anything to tie McCarthy to Piggott, and he hasn’t been found yet either.’

When Binding sighed, Liz held her hand up. ‘I haven’t finished. McCarthy had a sidekick. The man who drove the van. Jimmy Fergus’s description of him resembles Danny Ryan, the son of Mrs Ryan, Daisy Spratt’s minder and our cleaning lady, whom you’ve heard about. He’s disappeared.’

‘And what has Mrs Ryan said about it all?’

‘Nothing. She’s not talking. And the police haven’t enough on her to hold her. So she’s back home.’

Liz went on. ‘Danny Ryan works at the Davis Hire agency at the airport. He was in charge the night Milraud’s car was returned, and apparently he signed it off. Finally, it was he who handed me the keys of the car I drove when I first arrived. The one that had the blowout. It’d been in their car park for several hours before I collected it.’

‘Oh God, Liz, are you still going on about that? They might have killed Dave by now, and you’re still obsessed with a flat tyre.’

This was the last straw; Liz found it impossible to restrain herself any longer. ‘How
dare
you?’ she said angrily, rising from her desk, her voice loud and clear. ‘My close friend and colleague has disappeared, and you have the nerve to imply I’m being paranoid? Do you actually think I care more about a flat tyre as you call it than what has happened to Dave?’ She looked at him incredulously. Peggy shifted in her seat but said nothing.

Binding stood up and just for a moment Liz thought he was going to explode. She tensed, but then, to her relief, his fists slowly unclenched, and his whole frame seemed to relax. He sat down again and slumped in his chair. ‘I’m sorry,’ he said, barely audibly. ‘I didn’t mean to suggest –’

‘Forget it,’ said Liz dismissively. ‘I have already.’

Binding nodded – not graciously, but it was still a nod. ‘What should we do next?’

Liz sat thinking for a moment, gnawing gently at the side of one of her fingers. ‘It seems to me that everything points to Piggott. Think about it: Dave’s informant Brown Fox – O’Reilly – worked for Piggott; Milraud was doing business with Piggott; and I’d bet my bottom dollar that when we track down Danny Ryan we find there’s a connection there as well.’

‘But you can’t find Piggott. Or any of these other people.’

‘A4 has Piggott’s flat in the city under twenty-four-hour surveillance. And the police have been to his house in County Down.’

‘Where is that?’ asked Peggy.

‘It’s about thirty miles south of here. On the coast.’

‘On the coast?’ repeated Peggy.

‘That’s right. Why?’

‘Well,’ said Peggy hesitantly. ‘It’s just that if all these people have gone to ground, maybe they’re not still here. And they haven’t got a natural place to hide, have they? I mean, an old IRA hand like this Brown Fox guy must have all sorts of old ‘comrades’ – here or in the Republic – who would put him up almost indefinitely. But not Piggott, and certainly not Milraud. I wonder if they’ve left Ireland altogether.’

‘We’ve checked all the obvious possibilities,’ Binding said. ‘Airports, trains to the Republic.’

Peggy was nodding vigorously. ‘Yes. But what if they’ve gone out by sea? In a boat. Has Piggott got a boat? That would have been the easiest way out.’

‘I should have thought of that,’ said Liz. ‘I think we need to have another look at the County Down house.’

‘I was just about to suggest that,’ said Binding importantly. The
entente cordiale
had been too good to last. But if they’d gone by sea, thought Liz, what had they done with Dave Armstrong? She could only pray they had taken him with them. The alternative was too awful to imagine.

43

 

The rain was streaming down the jacket of the policeman who opened the National Trust gate and waved their car through. The gatehouse seemed to have become a temporary police post. If there had been visitors staying there they must have been sent packing. Further up the drive two patrol cars were parked and as their car swung round to park on the gravel apron in front of Piggott’s house, a sergeant came out to greet them.

 

‘We’re inside, sir,’ he said to Binding, as they moved quickly, heads down against the driving rain, to the front door. ‘There’s no one here except the housekeeper.’

‘Have you got a warrant?’

‘Yes. We’re going room by room now, but so far nothing unusual has shown up. I’ve got two men searching the grounds as well. The housekeeper claims she hasn’t seen Piggott for over a week. She’s rather an old lady, sir.’

Liz was surprised by how almost unnaturally clean the inside of the house was. On the ground floor a large sitting room ran the full length of the front of the building, its tall, oblong windows giving a dramatic vista of the shore. The sea was rough, filling the bay with white-crested waves, which came crashing onto the beach of the little cove.

Across the hall was a dining room with a large oak table and matching chairs and behind it a small room with a modern desk in one corner. Its drawers had been forced open but they seemed to have contained nothing more exciting than a telephone directory. If this were Piggott’s study, he certainly didn’t use it.

Upstairs, more policemen were combing the three bedrooms. All were pristine, decorated in the antiseptic style of a chain hotel, and so devoid of anything personal that it was impossible to make out in which of them Piggott slept.

When they came downstairs they found the sergeant in the kitchen, where the elderly housekeeper was sitting at the table drinking a mug of tea, seemingly oblivious to the comings and goings of the policemen.

Binding, showing his frustration, asked, ‘Anything?’ But the sergeant shook his head.

‘Is there a cellar?’ asked Liz.

‘Yes. There is. But there’s nothing down there. Do you want to see? ‘He led her down a flight of stairs by the back door into a small, empty room, with a rough cement floor and cold brick walls.

‘Not even a rack for wine,’ said Binding, who’d followed them down.

Liz was looking round at the walls. ‘There’s something weird about this room,’ she said suddenly.

‘What?’ asked Binding.

‘When do you think this house was built?’

Binding shrugged. ‘Not that long ago. I’d have thought the land was part of the estate, then got sold to someone who put a house on it. I don’t know – maybe thirty, forty years ago. Why?’

‘Well, an old house would have a cellar – a wine cellar, cold rooms for storage, that sort of thing. But if you built a cellar in a house this age, surely you’d make it a decent size, wouldn’t you? Why go to the trouble of digging it out just to make a tiny little room like this. What’s the point of it?’

‘You’re right, Liz,’ chipped in Peggy, who had joined them in the little room. ‘You’d make it a basement, like the Americans have. Rooms you could use.’

‘Meaning what?’ asked Binding.

‘Meaning we’ve been looking for even one room that showed signs of Piggott using it, and there haven’t been any. So maybe there’s another room. Hidden. One that we haven’t found yet.’

Binding’s lips tightened, but he said nothing.

‘What do you think that’s for?’ asked Peggy, pointing to a metal box on a bracket halfway up one of the brick walls.

The sergeant poked at it, trying to open it. ‘It’s locked. There’s no sign of a key anywhere here. Perhaps the housekeeper has it. I’ll go and ask her.’

‘Don’t bother with her,’ Binding ordered. ‘Break it open.’ And five minutes later, with the aid of a crowbar from the boot of one of the patrol cars, the small metal door was off its hinges.

Inside was a switch, like the switch in a fuse box. It was up. The policeman looked questioningly at Binding, who nodded. ‘Here goes then,’ said the policeman, and pulled down the switch.

Immediately a low grinding noise came from behind them, and the entire far wall started moving on tracks, opening to reveal a room on the other side.

Liz moved forward slowly, taking in the comfortable furnishings. On the desk lay a neat stack of files; she picked up the top one, then showed its label to Peggy who was standing beside her.
Fraternal Holdings Q4
. This must be Piggott’s office.

The sergeant was pointing to something in the corner of the room. ‘Yes, what is it?’

‘It’s a folding bed, miss.’

Binding said, ‘Surely Piggott didn’t sleep here.’

‘I suppose he might have done. Or possibly,’ Liz said grimly, ‘it’s where they kept Dave.’

Just then a young constable came running down from the kitchen, his shoes clacking loudly on the stairs. ‘Sarge,’ he said, panting breathlessly, ‘they’ve found something in the grounds. Can you come?’

‘What is it?’ asked Binding.

The constable hesitated, and looked to his sergeant for guidance. ‘Go on lad,’ said the sergeant. ‘Spit it out.’

The constable nodded. ‘It’s graves, sir. Two of them. They said you’d want to know right away.’

Liz counted seventeen people, all of them male, including two pathologists and a deputy superintendent of police. Three hours had elapsed since the youthful policeman had run down the stairs to the cellar, time that seemed endless to Liz as she waited for what she felt was certain to be bad news.

The wind had dropped and the rain had turned to a steady drizzle as she and Binding and Peggy stood huddled together under one of the tall oaks. Someone had produced coffee in plastic cups and they warmed their hands as they waited for news in the fading light. Not fifty feet from them two white tents had been erected over the graves – temporary morgues. Inside them the grisly work of disinterment proceeded. There had already been a leak to the press – they’d heard that several reporters had arrived, but were being held at the police post in the National Trust gatehouse.

At last a policeman beckoned and Liz went forward. Binding touched her arm, but she shook her head – she’d do the identifying, since she was more likely than he to recognise the second body. They would all be able to identify one of them, she thought grimly.

She stooped down to enter the tent and was momentarily blinded by the dazzling light of the halogen lamp hanging from the top pole. A curious, sickly, chemical smell hung in the air. The pathologist looked eerie in his white suit and surgical gloves and beside him a constable in uniform stood looking. A sheet covered the body on the ground.

‘Ready?’ asked the pathologist.

Liz nodded, taking a deep breath, trying to prepare herself for the worst. The constable pulled back the sheet and she looked down.

She allowed herself to breathe out. It wasn’t Dave. A young man with dark hair lay on his back, looking startlingly peaceful. He could have been asleep, were it not for the black hole in his temple. The bottom of one of his trouser legs was darkly stained, as if it had been soaked in ink.

‘Do you recognise this man?’ asked the constable.

‘No,’ said Liz quietly, and saw out of the corner of her eye that Michael Binding had come into the tent. ‘But I think I know who it is. Tell me how tall he is. I can’t judge, looking down at him like this.’

‘Between five six and five seven,’ said the pathologist.

Liz turned to Binding, who was still blinking as his eyes adjusted to the harsh light of the overhead lamp. ‘It’s almost certainly Sean McCarthy. He was the gunman who shot Jimmy Fergus. Jimmy hit him in the leg when he fired back at him. He described him as short and dark-haired.’

Binding nodded, looking stunned. Liz took another deep breath. ‘Right. Now let me see the other one.’

They followed the pathologist and the constable in a sombre procession, outside through the drizzle and into the adjacenttent. Again, a sheet covered a disinterred corpse lying on the ground. And the same sickly smell hung around.

BOOK: Liz Carlyle - 05 - Present Danger
7.43Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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