This is the fifth instalment of my unpublished novel, One Good Deed. I wrote this book about ten years ago in an attempt to write a ‘thriller’ rather than a ‘police procedural’. I’m not a big fan of these labels, but they serve a purpose I guess.
One Good Deed gained me the attention of my agent, although she was only an assistant at the time and didn’t take me on until a couple of years later when Natural Causes exploded upon the scene. I always meant to go back and redraft this book and see if a publisher might be interested, but there’s never been the time. In my defence, I’ve had 17 other books published in the intervening years…
This is a third or fourth draft of the book, but it’s never been professionally edited. As such, you’ll find a few inconsistencies and some typos. Sorry about that. You’ll also find it refers to SOCA, the Serious and Organised Crime Agency, which no longer exists but did in 2010. The perils of writing contemporary fiction!
There will be nine parts in total, so keep an eye out for the rest. And if you’re enjoying the story, do let me know. There’s a contact form here.
‘What do we know about Barnes?’
‘What do you mean?’ DS Campbell stopped typing at the ancient rickety keyboard and looked up from the tiny, flickering computer screen to where DCI Jonas stood in front of the whiteboard. They’d managed to find an unused room in a dusty corner of Bishop’s Stortford police station, and DS Flass had persuaded a couple of uniforms to clear out the detritus so they could use it. Compared to the facilities they had back in London, it was pathetic, with just one phone line and a single computer network point that didn’t recognise Campbell’s laptop. They’d found the prehistoric computer in a pile of boxes in the corner of the room and finally coaxed it both into life and talking to the outside world just as Jonas had returned from his meeting with the superintendent. That meeting had not gone well, Campbell could tell. The DCI had been making irritating squeaky noises with the marker pen for a few minutes now.
‘What do we know about him? Apart from what happened yesterday, that is.’ Jonas wrote ‘Barnes’ on the whiteboard, circled it and put a big question mark over the top. ‘Who is he?’
Campbell leant back in her chair, looked across the room to where DS Flass was busy wrestling a pad of post-it notes out of its polythene prison. ‘Tommy?’
‘Barnes. You knew him. Who is he?’
A frown creased over Flass’ forehead, though whether that was because of the question or the reluctant packaging, Campbell wasn’t sure.
‘How d’you mean?’
‘Jesus. Am I working with imbeciles here?’ Jonas drew a thick line underneath the circle, rubbing the pen back and forth in a messy smear of red ink. ‘Profile. Of. Sam. Barnes. Who is he? Where does he work? Does he have any family? A girlfriend? What’s his favourite football team?’
Campbell kept her mouth shut; she knew Jonas’ moods all too well. Flass wasn’t so bright.
‘Why? I mean, why do we need to profile Barnes, sir? He’s not a suspect. Hell, I don’t even know if he’s still alive.’
‘You must have a brain, Sergeant Flass, otherwise they wouldn’t have made you a sergeant. Please use it.’ Jonas wrote three more names down on the board. ‘Detective Sergeant Tim Prowett, Constable Steve Pointer, Edward Connell. What do we know about these three?’
‘Umm. They’re all dead?’
‘See, you’re not completely moronic after all. Now, tell me sergeant, how do we know they’re dead?’
‘Err… Because we found their bodies?’
‘Brilliant insight there. I’m beginning to see why they made you a detective. Now, how about this one, Mr Flass? Where is Sam Barnes?’
‘I’ve no idea.’
‘And why is that?’
Flass shot Campbell a glance that was a perfect mixture of fear and annoyance. She ducked her head, avoiding eye contact, and pretended to be fascinated with the meaningless numbers on her computer screen. It was nice for someone else to be on the receiving end for a change.
‘Because he was abducted, sir.’
‘Precisely. Abducted. Notice that he wasn’t murdered and left for us to find. Now why do you think that is?’
‘I…’ The pause wasn’t really all that long, but it was enough.
‘Christ, do I have to spell it out for you? They took him because he knows something, he’s seen something, he’s been given something. Or it might just be that they think he knows something. It doesn’t really matter. They’ve taken him because they want to question him. If what they did to Constable Pointer is any guide, then I imagine they can be quite persuasive. Barnes will talk. He will tell them what he thinks they want to know. He’ll take them where he thinks they want to go. He’ll do anything he can to help them. I need to know everything about him so I can try and guess what he’s going to say and where he’s going to take them. Understand?’
‘I… I see, sir.’
‘Wonderful. At last. So again, what do we know about Barnes? I understand you knew him socially, Sergeant Flass. That is, after all, why you’re here.’
‘Well, I wouldn’t say socially. Not exactly. We both played in the same five-a-side football league, but I didn’t really know him.’
‘So basically, your presence here is for what?’
‘He has a mother, sir. In a care home in Cambridge. Not sure about any other family.’ Campbell read the details from her notebook, giving up on the antiquated computer. ‘I spoke to Barnes’ boss this morning.’
‘Finally.’ Jonas returned to his whiteboard, wrote ‘mother – care home’ on it. ‘Contact details?’
‘Still working on that, sir.’
‘Umm. Barnes visited his mother yesterday. In Cambridge. She’s at the Abbey Nursing Home in Feltham Street,’ Flass said. The silence that followed was ominous. Campbell almost felt sorry for the man.
‘He what?’ Jonas hissed the words, which was impressive given their lack of sibilants.
‘He went to visit his mum in the care home.’ Flass continued digging his grave nice and deep. ‘Apparently he fell asleep on the train coming home from London. Ended up going to Cambridge by mistake and decided to stop in on his old mum for a visit.’
‘And just how do you know this?’
‘He told me, sir. Well, me and DI Simons. When we interviewed him before you got here.’
Jonas’ face had turned an interesting shade of red. ‘Tell me, detective sergeant. Did I not specifically ask for a report on your investigations so far?’
Too late Flass saw the danger he’d walked blithely into. ‘Erm, yes sir. I gave you a copy myself.’
‘I don’t recall seeing any transcripts of an interview with Mr Barnes.’
‘Ah. Well. We never got round to writing it up. I, er, we assumed that you’d go over the same ground when you talked to Barnes yourself. Sorry, sir. I thought you knew where he’d been.’
Jonas thumped the whiteboard, then tried not to wince when it proved to be harder than expected. ‘For fuck’s sake. Am I surrounded by imbeciles? No, don’t answer that. You taped this interview, I take it?’
‘Well get me the fucking tapes now. I want to hear everything Barnes told you.’ Jonas waited all of two seconds for Flass to respond, then shouted ‘Go!’ The detective sergeant bolted from the room as if he had a firework up his arse.
‘Bloody marvellous. I can’t work with any of my own people, and all I get in replacement make monkeys look intelligent.’ He turned to Campbell. ‘What do we know about this Abbey Nursing Home?’
‘It’s in Cambridge. Specialises in senile dementia.’ Campbell skimmed the web page she’d managed to coax out of the elderly computer. ‘You want me to give them a call?’
‘No. I’ll do it.’ Jonas leant over her shoulder and copied down the information on the screen. ‘You go through the tapes with Flass when he gets back. I’m more likely to lamp him, the mood I’m in right now. Then get on to the investigating team at Barnes’ house. We need to contact all the people in his phone book, find out who he knows well. We know he went to see his mum, but there’s a six hour period between Tim’s death and Barnes being checked into this police station. We need to account for every second of that time. Who did he see? Who did he talk to? Did he give anything to anyone?’
‘I’ve already got it here.’ Campbell picked up the plastic bag with the phone book she’d coaxed away from the forensics team. Grey fingerprint powder still clung to the faux-leather surface. ‘But if he went to see his mother, shouldn’t we concentrate on her? Shouldn’t we go and see her?’
‘Don’t tell me my fucking job, sergeant. I was running investigations like this before you were even born. Of course we need to go and see Barnes’ mother, but we’re spread thin enough as it is. I’ll call the nursing home. You track down all the other contacts. Paint the broad picture first, then we can start filling in the details.’ Jonas reached for the door handle, only for it to swing open in front of him. DS Flass stood in the doorway, a tape player and two cassettes clutched in one hand. He was breathing heavily.
‘Got the tapes, sir. And something to play them on.’
‘Wonderful, sergeant. Showing some initiative at last.’ Jonas pushed past and strode out of the room.
‘He always like that?’ Flass asked.
Campbell tried a smile, found she couldn’t be bothered. ‘Pretty much. He can be OK to work with, sometimes. But this whole mess, well, it’s got him rattled. I guess he was hoping to retire on a high. This isn’t exactly the best way to bow out.’
She looked out through the window, seeing the familiar bald spot of DCI Jonas as he strode across the car park, phone clamped to one ear, keys held aloft to open his Jaguar. In less than a minute he was gone, to God only knew where. Cambridge, probably. Just like Jonas to head off on his own, then get angry with her for not knowing telepathically what he was up to. She was getting sick of speaking to his voicemail.
Her focus shifted out across the rooftops to the trees on a distant hill. Barnes was out there somewhere, poor bastard. It was coming up to twelve hours since he’d been taken, almost twenty-four since Constable Pointer had met his unfortunate end. Not much longer since Tim had died. She hadn’t even begun to process that yet.
‘You want to listen to these tapes?’ Flass broke into her musing with all the finesse of a three-legged elephant. Campbell dragged her eyes away from the trees, back to the case file she’d been typing up. The elderly computer had frozen or it had lost its connection to the server back at HQ in London. Either way, it looked like she was going to have to start all over again. With a sigh, she switched the machine off; maybe it just needed a rest. Christ, but she needed one herself.
‘Go on then, Tommy. Let’s hear what he’s got to say.
‘Oh you’ve got to be fucking kidding.’
Jonno looked up from his Mills and Boon and across at Mr Crisp. His colleague’s hands gripped the steering wheel tight enough to tear the leather. His face was set hard, eyes staring at the rear view mirror. Jonno made to turn, see what it was, but a hand snaked out and held him firm, so fast he didn’t see it move.
‘Don’t fucking look, OK. It’ll just rouse their suspicions.’
‘What? Whose suspicions.’
‘Police car. About a hundred yards back. It’s been keeping station behind us for about a minute now.’
‘A minute? That’s not long.’
‘Long enough. Ah fuck it, here we go.’
Behind the car, blue lights rolled briefly round, a single ‘whoop’ of a siren and a flash of the headlights. Mr Crisp flicked the indicator left, slowed down and pulled onto the hard shoulder. The police car slid past them, then came to a halt about twenty yards ahead.
‘What now?’ Jonno asked. ‘You want me to break his neck?’
‘There’s two of them, look.’ Mr Crisp pointed through the windscreen to where the silhouettes of two officers could be seen conferring. A moment’s delay, then one of them pushed open the door, climbing out and putting on his hat in one smooth, well-practised motion. He was a fat man, this copper, and he took his sweet time walking the distance between the two cars, eyeing up the BMW’s headlights, wheels and bonnet as if it was a tricked-out blingmobile driven by some teenage boy racer, not the fifty grand’s worth of ultimate driving machine that it was. Finally he arrived at the driver’s door, and Mr Crisp lowered the window with a single gloved finger.
‘This your car, sir?’ The policeman bent down, looking first at Mr Crisp, then past him to Jonno in the passenger’s seat.
‘No. It’s a company car.’
‘Must be a nice line of work, getting a company car like this.’
‘It pays the bills. Is there a problem, officer?’
‘Nothing really. I just noticed your rear light flickering. Must be a loose wire or something. Just pop the boot a minute and we can have a look at it.’
Mr Crisp’s hands were back on the steering wheel. The engine was still running. Jonno gently unclipped his seat belt; he’d have to move fast to get to the other policeman before he could radio for backup. If he hadn’t done so already.
‘That’s not necessary, officer,’ Mr Crisp said. ‘We’re almost at our meeting. Just the next junction. I can phone a garage and have it fixed before lunchtime.’
‘Ah, but then there’d be paperwork, sir.’ The policeman stood up from his crouch, stretching his back as if the minute he’d spent with it bent were more than he could bear. ‘You’d have to present documents to the station and I’d have to fill in a dozen forms. No, I’m sure it’s nothing. Won’t take a moment to fix here and now.’
They know something, Jonno realised. It was a shame, really. He didn’t enjoy the killing as much as Mr Crisp. Not coppers, anyway. And out in the open like this, well, it got messy. There’d be witnesses driving past, even if nobody stopped. Chances were they’d have to go abroad for a few months again. Which meant foreign food and cold beer. Damn, but he hated foreign food and cold beer.
‘Of course. I understand. The last thing I want to do is waste police time.’ Mr Crisp turned off the ignition, pulled out the key and pressed the boot release button. It popped up an inch, and Jonno tensed, expecting Barnes to sit up at any moment. Nothing happened. Stupid bugger was probably still out cold.
Mr Crisp stepped out of the vehicle, too close to the policeman who took an involuntary step backwards, then realised that put him in the road. Jonno waited until they were both at the back of the car before getting out quietly himself. He reckoned it would take him about five seconds to get to the police car; the heavy weight of the automatic pistol in his jacket pocket would take care of the rest. It was all just a matter of timing.
‘You’d think a posh car like this would be better built,’ the policeman said as Mr Crisp pulled open the boot. He had his other hand in his pocket, where he kept one of his knives. Jonno waited for him to pull it out and end the copper, but instead his colleague merely frowned.
‘There you are. Just the connector plug loose. Must have knocked it when you put your golf clubs in or something.’ The policeman bent down into the boot for a moment, then straightened up, took a step back to look at the lights. ‘All fixed.’
‘Thank you, officer.’ Mr Crisp’s voice was tight. ‘You’ve been very helpful.’
‘All part of the service, sir.’ The policeman doffed his cap, then nodded at Jonno as well. ‘It’s not all about nicking folks for every little thing. Have a good day.’ And he sauntered back to the police car. Watching him go, Jonno started a the noise of the boot lid being slammed shut.
‘Get in the car,’ Mr Crisp said.
‘What the fuck was that about? Why didn’t he…?’
‘Get in the fucking car, Jonno.’ Mr Crisp was already at his door, pulled it open and slid in. By the time Jonno had followed, they were on the road again, accelerating smoothly past the still-stationary police car. Mr Crisp’s hands gripped the wheel so tightly the stitches in his leather gloves popped open, exposing scarred white knuckle.
‘You locked the car when we were at the garage, right?’
‘Sure, I did. Besides, you can’t open the boot from the inside.’
‘And he was out like a kitten when you tossed him there?’
‘Of course he fucking was. You saw him. Twenty CCs of that stuff, he should sleep halfway into tomorrow. That was the plan, wasn’t it?’
‘Well how the fuck did Barnes escape from the boot already?’
The relief started to wear off about five minutes after we started moving. I don’t know if you’ve ever been in the back of a truck as it’s driving along the motorway, but it’s very noisy and extremely uncomfortable. It was also very cold, even with my jacket on. My bare feet were frozen, but if I tried to draw them up close to me and cover them, I couldn’t keep my balance as the truck weaved this way and that. At least the cardboard boxes gave me some support.
Light slowly began to leach into the draughty compartment as the sun rose. I couldn’t see anything of the road outside though, and soon managed to convince myself that the black BMW was following along behind, just waiting for the truck to stop so they could snatch me again. Probably kill the truck driver too, knowing my luck. Miserable and defeated, I pulled my jacket tight around me. And felt the weight of something solid rest against my thigh.
My heart was in my mouth as I pulled the bag out of my pocket. I could hardly believe my luck. There was my wallet and change, that scrunched up envelope, still waiting for my boss to post it, but I paid them no heed. My phone was the thing I was after, and I hardly dared hope it would actually still be working.
In the half light, joggled around by the seemingly random motions of the truck, and with fingers fat with cold, it took me several attempts to get the thing switched on. The little hourglass icon twirled slowly as it tried to find a signal, then after what felt like a year it lit up the welcome screen. I thumbed in 999 and was about to hit the call button when a little voice in the back of my head said ‘stop.’
I stared at the screen. At the tiny little numbers poised and ready to go. And the simple but terrifying question hung unanswered in the air between us. Could I trust the police? After all, no-one else had known where I was going to be spending the night, and yet those thugs had been there waiting for us. It was almost as if they had known where we were. Where I was. And if that was the case, then who had told them? It had to be the police.
There was a leak in SOCA, that much I knew. Jonas had told me, begged me to help him uncover it. But he’d also assured me that I would be being watched around the clock by the local police. Multiple teams within easy reach should the killers turn up. And yet no-one had come. The panic button hadn’t worked. I hadn’t called in at midnight to tell them I was tucked up in bed, and no-one had come. So whoever had told Jonno and Mr Crisp where I was had also somehow managed to disconnect the panic button and point the surveillance teams in the wrong direction. Or maybe there hadn’t even been any surveillance teams at all.
Either way, what would happen if I called 999 now? I didn’t have any idea where I was. I stared at the screen, wondering who I could trust in all the world. I couldn’t call any of my friends; that hadn’t worked out too well for Izzy, after all. Thumbing the screen I pulled up my contacts, scanning down the all-too short list, discounting everyone, even Big-Bosomed Brenda. Christ, had I really said that out loud? What the fuck had they injected me with?
Then a name I wasn’t expecting appeared, bringing with it a remembered face, small, elfin, with an unruly tangle of red curls. Soft Scottish accent just beginning to pick up London cadences. Detective Sergeant Campbell.
My thumb hovered over the dial button as I dithered over what to do. I was a teenage boy, dragging up the courage to speak to the girl he fancied but was sure hadn’t even noticed he existed. I was a grown man wondering whether he could put his life in the hands of someone he hardly knew. Who hadn’t exactly been reliable so far. Who worked for the organisation that had dumped me in this shit in the first place.
Somewhere beyond the depths of my despair and my slough of indecision, a door opened, two feet hit the ground, crunched on gravel towards me. If I noticed them at all, it was only as a side note. Then the canvas side to the truck pulled away, spilling bright morning sunlight into the gloom, and a terrible voice screamed: ‘Got you, you littler fucker!’
‘So what’s it like then, working for SOCA? I bet you get all the exciting cases.’
DS Campbell stopped in her tracks, so quickly that DS Flass carried on a couple of steps before realising. He swivelled on one heel like a schoolboy in the playground, the puzzled expression on his face only adding to the image.
‘I can’t believe you just said that,’ Campbell said.
‘We’ve got two dead policemen, one dead civilian and another missing, presumed abducted and probably being tortured to death as we speak, and all you can think about is how exciting the job is?’
Flass’s face fell, at least for a moment. Then his natural smile fought back. ‘Don’t worry. We’ll find Barnes. I can feel it.’
Campbell almost said: ‘let me guess, in your waters?’, but she was interrupted by the arrival of a squad car, pulling into the car park. Flass stepped out of the way, letting it pass, but it slid instead to a halt. In the glare, Campbell could only tell that there were two officers in the car, then the window slid slowly down to reveal a round-faced man with grey hair fighting a rearguard action over his mottled scalp.
‘Morning Tommy,’ the officer said, then glanced at Campbell. ‘Who’s the new girlfriend then?’
Campbell resisted the urge to hit the man, shoving her hands deep into her jacket pockets to keep them from doing something unwise. She watched the tips of Flass’s ears redden, the blush spreading up from his neck to his cheeks.
‘Come on, Bill. This is Detective Sergeant Campbell. From SOCA.’
Bill’s eyes ranged up and down her figure once again. Campbell fixed him with her best steely glare, but for some reason it didn’t seem to have any effect.
‘You’ll be the one put out that notice on a black car then, would you?’
A black BMW Seven Series, most recent model, not more than a year old. Not just any old black car. ‘Yes, why? Did you find it?’
Bill considered the question for some time before answering. ‘Didn’t get the notice through until an hour or so ago,’ he said. ‘Plenty of black cars out there you know.’
‘I was a bit more specific.’ Campbell tried not to grind her teeth.
‘Yeah, right enough. No, can’t say as I did. Find it, that is.’ Bill scratched at his chin, the bristles of a missed shave scratching noisily under his fat fingers. ‘There was a car earlier this morning. Before the notice. Couple of businessmen up from the city for some meeting or other. I pulled them over ‘cos of a duff brake light. Just a wire come loose in the boot is all. Fixed it for them and sent them on their way.’
Campbell stared at the man, a horrible chill feeling creeping into her gut.
‘What time was this?’
Bill looked over to his passenger, muttered something under his voice that Campbell couldn’t hear. There was a shuffling around and then a notebook appeared.
‘Half seven this morning. Near as.’
‘And where, exactly?’ She tried to keep her voice light.
‘M11 love. Just up from Junction 10. Harlow, you know. Why?’
Campbell ignored the question. ‘Which way was it going?’
‘North. But he said he was coming off at the next junction, so that’d be here.’
‘And you actually helped them out? You looked in the car?’
‘Was there anything in the boot? Briefcases, a coat maybe?’
Bill frowned for a moment in thought. ‘No. Can’t say as there was.’
‘I don’t suppose you got the car’s registration number?’
‘Sure. Here.’ Bill shoved the notebook her way. Campbell took it, squinted at the scrawl across the page, and then handed it to Flass.
‘Run that, Tommy. I want to find out as much about that car and who owns it as possible.’
‘Um, OK.’ Flass looked uncertain. ‘Do you think it could really have been them?’
‘I don’t know, but it’s the only lead we’ve got so we might as well follow it up.’ Campbell turned back to the officer in the car. ‘Your shift over now is it?’
‘Yup. Just got to sign the car back in and I’m off.’
‘Well before you do, I want you to go and see the photofit guy. Give him as good a description of the men in the car as you can.’
Bill’s face crinkled in annoyance. ‘But that takes ages. And it was half dark. I hardly had a chance to see them well enough.’
‘Surely a trained officer of your obvious experience won’t have any difficulty. You’ll be done in an hour. Two tops.’ Campbell turned and walked away from the car, suppressing the urge to smirk. Tommy Flass scuttled after her, catching up as she reached the door into the station.
‘Um, aren’t we going over to Sam Barnes’ place then?’ He still had the notebook clutched in his hand; one more reason why the patrol car team weren’t going home soon.
‘Not yet, no. I want to run this plate first.’
‘You think it might be them? It’s a bit of a leap, isn’t it?’
‘It’s all we’ve got. Might be nothing, might be the break that saves a life.’
I didn’t have time to move. The man had leaped into the back of the truck and grabbed me by the throat before I knew what was happening. In my panic I dropped my phone, saw it clatter to the floor of the truck, bounce once and then slip over the edge out of view.
‘Fucking immigrants stowing on my fucking truck. Think you can just get a free ride anywhere, eh?’
I couldn’t breathe, certainly couldn’t speak, but mostly I felt a curious relief as I realised that the man wasn’t Jonno or Mr Crisp.
‘You come over here, take our fucking jobs, screw our fucking women, use our fucking health service without paying a fucking thing.’
I grabbed the man’s arm with both of my hands, in an attempt take some of the weight off my throat as he lifted me bodily from the floor of the truck. It was like grasping an iron bar, his muscles were so tight. Intricate, colourful tattoos covered every inch of available skin, disappearing under the hem of his wifebeater only to reappear on his neck, as if he was being slowly devoured by some exotic disease. Clearly something that had attacked his brain first.
‘Not… Immigrant…’ I tried to say, but it came out as a pathetic choking sound.
‘Go on, fuck off out of my truck,’ the man said, and the next thing I knew, I was flying through the air, arms flailing. I landed badly, if there’s ever a good way to land in a muddy puddle. Not deep enough to break my fall, just cold and wet and oily. My leg buckled underneath me and I crashed down onto my back, forcing out what little air was left in my lungs. By the time I’d got my breath back, the driver had re-fastened the awning on the side of his truck, climbed back into the cab and driven off, giving me a last long blast of his horn to let me know exactly how he felt about fucking immigrants.
Jonno leant against the gate, staring out over the parked car and the road into the woods beyond. The trees were tight packed away from the narrow service track that led into the gloom, serried ranks of conifers marching away into the distance. The plantation was maybe fifteen years old, and not due to be harvested for another fifty; the perfect place to hide a body, if you just had a body to hide.
‘It has to have been the service station, sir. That’s the only place we stopped.’
Mr Crisp was on the phone again, and Jonno could tell by the whiteness of his colleague’s face, the pinched expression and the way his free hand kept going to his jacket pocket and then away again, that it wasn’t an easy conversation. Fair enough; they’d screwed up big time. Sure, they were meant to let Barnes get away, but the idea had been to follow him after he’d clawed his way out of his shallow grave. See where he led them. The little fucker should have been out cold still. Now they were going to have to track him the hard way.
‘No, I understand that, sir. Yes, five thirty this morning. So he’s had…’ Mr Crisp checked his watch. ‘A couple of hours, give or take. Best guess is he hitched a ride on one of the trucks.’
A pause, during which Mr Crisp’s agitation grew. Jonno kicked out at a small stone near his foot, watching it skitter across the lay-by and ping off one of the car’s shiny alloy wheels. Damn, but Crisp was going to be in a mood once he was done.
‘OK, sir. We’ll sit tight and await further orders. Yes, I know. It won’t happen again.’ Mr Crisp flipped the phone closed and slipped it into his pocket. He stared off into the distance for a moment, then wiped his thin fingers over his face like a creature from Alien.
‘Barnes hasn’t been in touch with the police yet,’ he said finally. ‘The boss is pretty sure of that. And there’s been no activity on his phone or credit card. Little fucker’s more clever than I gave him credit for.’
‘Little fucker shouldn’t even be waking up for another hour. What did you give him?’
‘The usual. And he was out like a light. You saw him.’ A frown twisted over Mr Crisp’s face. He dug his hand into his pocket and pulled out an empty wrapper, neatly folded, and the car keys. ‘I need to stretch my legs. Let’s walk.’
Jonno started to protest, then thought the better of it. So far Mr Crisp was being quite reasonable for a man who’d just been given a bollocking over the phone. Best to humour him and hope it lasted. Things got messy when Mr Crisp was in a mood. He pushed himself away from the gate and walked past the car as Mr Crisp plipped the key fob to lock the doors.
‘The fuck?’ Jonno stopped in his tracks, staring down at the boot lid. He reached out and touched it, felt it give slightly under the pressure of his fingers.
‘What are you fannying about with now, Jonno?’
‘The boot’s open again.’ He pulled it up, revealing the nothing that lay inside.
‘How the hell?’ Mr Crisp looked at the boot, then at the key fob. He unlocked the car. ‘Close it down, OK.’
Jonno complied, slamming the boot shut, then pulling hard on the edge to make sure it was firmly closed. ‘That’s got it.’
‘Yeah, but I wonder…’ Mr Crisp clicked the lock button again, and something inside the boot lid clicked. Jonno pulled on the rim and it opened up again.
‘I thought German cars were meant to be technological masterpieces. Vorsprung Durch Fuckwit and all that.’
‘Yeah, but they weren’t designed for muscle-bound oafs like you smashing them closed.’ Mr Crisp fingered the boot lid as if it were his lover. ‘Least we know how he got out now. Still don’t know how he was awake. Little shit must be immune or something.’
A tinny beeping burst from Mr Crisp’s pocket. He pulled out his phone again, flipping it open and holding it to his ear. He said nothing, but Jonno could see the glint growing in his eyes as the call went on.
‘OK sir. We’re on it.’ He closed the phone and unlocked the car again. ‘Shut that fucking boot and get in, Jonno.’
‘Yeah? Where we going then?’
‘First we’ve got to get rid of this car. Apparently the filth’ve been asking questions about it.’ Mr Crisp caressed the black paintwork, the slightest hint of regret in his voice. ‘Then we’re going to Cambridge. Pay a visit to Sam Barnes’ old mum. You’ll never guess who went to see her yesterday afternoon.’