The Risk of Darkness

Page 19

She woke from a nightmare of slimy darkness, in which she was choking on some foul substance and her lungs were being pierced with blades, to sit up in a terror of sweat. In reaching for the lamp she sent it crashing to the floor. Jane cried out but then shook herself, got out of bed on the side away from the broken base and felt her way to the light switch beside the door. As she did so, she heard a sound in the garden.

No, she told herself, there is nothing in the garden, apart from cats and foxes, possibly an owl. Nothing. No one.

She fetched a dustpan and brush, cleared up the mess and put it in the kitchen bin. There was a spare lamp in her study, which she brought and set up, switched on and read by for another twenty minutes.

“O Lord, illuminate the darkness of this night with your celestial brightness, And from the children of light banish the deeds of darkness. Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord.”

The noise outside was a muffled bump as if someone had fallen.

There were several things she might do: ring the police; ring the Dows; look through the window; go outside … And she could do none of them, she was paralysed with fear, her mouth puckered and dry.

Through her head ran a film which she could not stop, of Max Jameson pushing her down, holding her by the arms, staring into her face, holding the knife, laughing, crying in triumph, sitting opposite her, tormenting her with fear, and talking, talking, in a slow, peculiar whisper which susurrated in her ears.

She forced herself to climb out of bed, put on her slippers and dressing gown, and then to pull back the curtain. She had her hand on the latch, ready to open the window when she looked out into the night garden.

Max Jameson’s face leered back at her. His body was in shadow, even his neck seemed wrapped so that his face, with its wild hair and mess of beard, was floating alone a few yards away. Jane would have shouted, banged the window, gestured to him to get away but she did nothing, only froze in terror at the window, looking out as he looked in.

The sight of the police torches flashing out across the garden, probing the darkness to reveal anything hidden, was an inexpressible relief. They had arrived barely five minutes after she had called them. The patrol car had been in the area and the two young policemen were large, heavy-footed and reassuring as they probed bushes and roamed about behind trees, up and down the side paths, in and out of sheds. By then, the lights had come on in the Dows’ house, and there were other voices in the garden.

Jane sat in the armchair, drinking a mug of tea. It was half past three. Another hour and it would be breaking light. She did not know what she had seen, could not tell now if the face of Max Jameson had been real or a trick of her anxious imagination. But if she closed her eyes, it was there, clear and fleshed not vapour, not ghostly. Max Jameson, staring at her from the blackness.

She started to shiver, and the mug of tea spilled. She reached out to put it on the table beside her but her hand would not do as she wanted it to and the mug smashed on to the floor, the hot tea splashing up, scalding her bare foot.

When Rhona Dow appeared in the room, dressed in a huge pink velour robe, hair on end, Jane burst into tears.


DS Nathan Coates sat in the front seat of the car, concealed behind a broken run of wooden fencing, watching a vegetable warehouse. He and DC Brian Jennings had been watching the warehouse for the best part of two days, during which time a great deal was supposed to have happened and absolutely nothing had.

Nathan crunched hard down into an apple.

Jennings winced. “Could you eat that a bit louder, Sarge?”

“You askin’ or tellin’?”

“Only …”

“Only I have to put up with your roast chicken crisps every half-hour. You’d do a lot better getting your mouth round one of these.” Nathan buzzed down the window and threw the apple core on to the waste ground.

“People could take root here.”

“You have.”

“I think this is a fruit and veg warehouse. I don’t think there’s anything in there but fruit and veg. Nothing goes in but fruit and veg, nothing comes out but—”

“All right, you said it and said it.”

“I reckon the DI’s got a dodgy informant.”

“We wouldn’t be here—”

“One sergeant, one DC … and a load of bananas.”

“Hang on—”

“Oh look, Sarge, it’s a fruit and veg lorry!”

Nathan picked up his binoculars and trained them on to the roll-up doors of the warehouse. The lorry pulled up and started to reverse slowly as the doors opened.

“I seen him before … that driver.”

“Yeah, driving a fruit—”

“Shut it. Get a take on the number plate, I want a shot of him.”

Nathan leaned behind to get his camera and angled it on to the cab of the lorry. “Got him. That’s Piggy Plater. I done him at a break-in on the industrial estate couple of years back, only he had a clever brief, he got off with a suspended, said he’d been forced into it by his brother. Well, well, Piggy Plater. So what’s he doing here—and don’t say driving a fruit and veg lorry. You on to that number …”

The DC was.

The man in Nathan Coates’s sights had now jumped down from the cab and was talking into a mobile. At the back of the warehouse some shadowy figures were opening up the lorry. A dark blue BMW drove round the corner and glided up beside it. A man in a cream linen jacket got out of one door, a scruffier, heavy one from the other.

“Bloody hell, Frankie Nixon and his sidekick. This is not bananas.” Nathan clicked away for another dozen shots, before dropping the camera. “We need to set up a twenty-four-hour on the place. Something’ll be going up before long.”

His phone rang again.

“DS Coates …”

“Jenny McCreedy Forensic Science Service. I’ve been trying to contact DCI Serrailler but I’m told he’s on leave this week and to call you.”

Nathan sat up. His eyes were on the BMW. Frankie Nixon had climbed back in. His heavy was glancing around before sliding into the passenger seat. The car was out of the yard in one fast, sweeping acceleration. The lorry was inching back further into the dark maw of the warehouse and the roll-door had begun to close. But the scene took on the slightly distant quality of a film. Nathan had his head bent into the mobile receiver.

“You got something? Tell me there is a God.”

“We’ve got something.”

“From Sleightholme’s house?”

“Nope, the house is clean. But from the car we have two hairs and a fragment of fingernail. Both hairs are from the same head and the DNA is that of the boy David Angus. The fingernail paring isn’t, that hasn’t been matched. Yet.”

“It’s from the other boy then?”

“No. Nor from the little girl they found alive in the boot.”

“You telling me there was another kid?”

“Looks like it.”

“Dear God … Is that it?”

“No. They’re not through. But as there was a definite match with your case I thought you’d want to know. When’s your DCI back?”

“Don’t worry, I’ve a number for him, he’s not going to want to wait for this. Thanks a bunch.” Nathan punched the air.

The lorry had been swallowed up into the warehouse and the door was shut down. There was no one about. The afternoon sun made the waste ground around them look dusty. A finch swayed on a thistle head a few yards away.

“Let’s get out of here.”

“What was all that about, Sarge?”

“David Angus.”

“They found him?”

“Sort of.’” Nathan switched on the engine and ran the car hard back, making the tyres spin.

The DC leaned back. “Tell us about this Frankie Nixon then.”

“I don’t give a monkey’s fuck,” Nathan said viciously, “about Frankie Nixon.”


“You don’t look happy, Simon.”

“I think the group is too big … Can we try splitting off the two in the church? That would make a five and a two … over here?”

Simon walked backwards across the gallery and looked again. The hangers had done a near perfect job apart from this one group of Venice drawings. Several had dark spaces behind the faces of the old women and men he had seen praying in churches around the Zattere; grouped as they had been they cancelled one another out, separated altogether their impact was diluted.

It was always the way—most fell into place but the last few took ages to get right.

The gallery was small and had a low ceiling. Its proportions were perfect, its position in a prime corner of Mayfair ideal. He knew how lucky he was.

Now he leaned against the wall and glanced out of the window.

Diana was looking straight back at him from the sunlit street. Simon cursed under his breath. He did not like the past rearing up in front of him, especially past he had firmly banished.

But when he looked at her again, something changed inside him. He was delighted to be where he was, to be having this exhibition here, now, excited, proud, keyed up—and strangely, the sight of Diana suddenly pleased him. He was glad to see her. She looked, as ever, beautiful, elegant, happy.

He remembered how it had always been—an ideal relationship, without commitment, with each suiting the other, each enjoying the other, each having a world and work to return to, neither wanting to pin the other down. It had been good. It had been fun. He had had some delightful days, evenings, nights in Diana’s company. Her desperation, when she had pursued him at home the previous year, seemed a long way off. That must be over. Why could things not be as they had always been? Simon could see no reason at all.

He went out of the gallery door to greet her.

The last time they had been in London together they had seen Eugene Onegin at Covent Garden but tonight there was ballet which Simon could not take. Instead, they saw a new play, which was so bad, and so badly acted by a Hollywood star, that it became funny and they slipped out of their seats before the end.

It was a warm evening and still light and the pavements were busy. Simon took Diana’s arm, leading her across the road towards a bar he knew. The outside tables were full but there was a circular verandah upstairs. He felt light-hearted, as so often in London, a different person, less inhibited, more spontaneous.

“Champagne cocktail,” he said, steering Diana to a seat.


Yes, he thought. This is good. Just this. Nothing more. Nothing heavier. This is exactly right.

Diana wore a pale green silk dress. She was the best-dressed woman in the room and the most beautiful. He touched her shoulder.

“Where would you like to eat?”

“You say. But I want to talk to you … talk and talk. How long is it since we did, Simon?”

“Too long. You go first. You sold the restaurants?”

“Months ago. And haven’t decided what to do next, as that is your next question. Not another business which eats up my life, I can tell you that. I bought a small house in Chelsea and put the rest of the money on deposit.”

“But you’ll need a challenge. You thrive on them.”

“No.” She looked directly at him. She had tiny lines at the corners of her eyes, more on her neck. She was ten years older than him and sometimes he could see those years. It had never troubled him in the slightest. “I want something absorbing and wholly peaceful. I had fifteen years of stress and a high mileage. Enough for anyone. Maybe I’ll open a gallery?”

He laughed and began to talk about the exhibition. As always, he found it impossible to talk about his drawing, easy to tell stories about the room, the hanging, the buyers, the private view, the frames, the prices, who else was showing in London. Gossip. Unthreatening.

“And Lafferton?”

He shook his head. He preferred not to talk about that either, and his police work he never mentioned at all.

They had a second drink, then went out, to walk through the London dusk towards Piccadilly.

“In a couple of days, your private view will be over and every drawing sold,” Diana said. “I hope I have an invitation.”

“Of course.”

They stopped by Fortnum’s. “Choices,” Simon said. “Restaurant? My hotel?”

“Or my house.”

But she caught his hesitation.

“Right,” Diana said lightly, “I’m hungry. I ate a tomato sandwich at twelve fifteen and I’ve just had two champagne cocktails. I might faint.”

Simon took her arm, laughing, and steered her down Duke Street towards Green’s.


Natalie woke, heard the noise and pulled the pillow over her head. But the sound still came through so in the end she had to get up.

“Now what? Bloody hell, Kyra, it’s two o’clock, what’s up with you?”

Kyra was standing beside the window. Her curtains were open and she was staring across at next door.

“I said before, you let it alone. Come on, back in bed. Who was you talking to?”

Kyra pressed her lips together but let herself be led back and settled under her duvet.

“Kyra, you worry me. Talking to yourself, making them noises.”

Natalie sat on the edge of her daughter’s bed. Her blonde hair was matted and she smoothed it with her fingertips. Funny, how kids were different at night, how you could love them more because they seemed smaller. Funny that.

“You want to tell me anything now?”

They hadn’t let her come in the room when they’d talked to Kyra. There were two of them, both women, a young doctor they said was the psychiatrist only she didn’t look old enough, and a woman family police officer.

It had taken over an hour. Natalie had started to fret in the end. She felt angry and she felt sick. There’d been stuff in the papers and on the telly. There’d been the posters everywhere, when the little boy went missing first, and she’d talked about it, they all had and she’d been with them like any of the people in Brimpton Lane. Natalie had talked to a couple of the others in the past week and they’d said the same, how different they felt now. Their houses, their road, their neighbours, everything … their everyday lives. They felt different and they would never not feel different. They felt soiled and scarred, as if they needed to wash. A few had said they wanted to move. Someone had said they wanted to get up a petition for the council to change the name of Brimpton Lane when it was all over, only what would changing the name do to help, what difference could that make? They lived there, she’d lived there, the house was there. Only who’d have it now? Who would ever buy it and walk about in her rooms and sleep there and eat there and cut the grass and clean the windows? Knowing.

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