J enny was sitting at her desk reading the Daily Mail when Nightingale arrived at the office first thing on Monday morning. ‘The wanderer returns,’ she said. ‘How did it go?’
‘Good news, bad news.’ Nightingale swung his attache case onto her desk and clicked the locks. He opened the case and handed her a DVD. ‘Here’s what I took from Connie’s computer. Let me know if there’s anything interesting.’ He took out two Ziploc bags and put them down in front of her. ‘A hairbrush and a toothbrush,’ he said. ‘Should be DNA there somewhere.’
‘Please tell me the back door was open,’ she said.
‘Best you don’t know,’ he said. ‘Do me a favour and get that off to the lab ASAP. If we have to pay extra for a rush, so be it. I could do with the results yesterday.’
‘I’ll tell them,’ said Jenny. ‘They’ll want a sample from you too, remember.’
Nightingale grinned and took a sealed tube from the attache case. ‘Did a cheek scrape this morning,’ he said, putting the tube next to the two bags.
Jenny spotted a copy of the New English Bible in his case. ‘Since when have you been reading the Bible?’
‘Thought it might have something I can use,’ he said. He smiled ruefully. ‘Haven’t found anything yet.’
She picked it up and flicked through it, her mouth opening when she saw the hotel stamp inside the front cover. ‘You stole this from the hotel?’
‘I didn’t steal it. It’s a Gideon Bible. They give them away.’
‘To hotels, Jack.’ She dropped it back into his attache case. ‘I can’t believe you stole a Bible. You’ll burn in Hell, you know that?’
‘So I’ve been told.’
‘And what’s the bad news? You said good news, bad news.’
‘You don’t want to know.’
Nightingale sighed, lit a cigarette and told her what had happened at Alfie Tyler’s. And how he’d spent most of Saturday in a police cell.
‘Is it over?’ asked Jenny.
‘Probably not,’ said Nightingale. ‘They took my prints and my DNA and Chalmers is going to try to pin one or all of the deaths on me.’
‘But he can’t. You didn’t kill anyone.’
‘I know that and you know that, but Chalmers has the bit between his teeth.’ He closed the attache case and walked through to his office. ‘And it’s going to get worse before it gets better.’
Jenny followed him into his office and folded her arms as he sat down. ‘What happened?’ she asked.
‘I had another run-in with the Welsh cops,’ said Nightingale. ‘When I went round to see the parents. It’s no biggie but the superintendent will be calling Chalmers again.’ He put his hands up when he saw her face fall. ‘It’ll be okay,’ he said. ‘I spoke to Mrs Miller and she was fine. She even made me a cup of tea.’ He grinned at her. ‘Speaking of which…’
‘And Tyler. Why did he kill himself?’
‘Jenny, I’ve absolutely no idea. I spoke to him on the phone and he was as happy as Larry. Then when I went around to his house it was like he was in a trance.’
‘But he definitely killed himself?’
‘No doubt about that. I watched him do it.’
Jenny frowned. ‘Why didn’t you do something?’ she asked.
‘Don’t you start,’ said Nightingale. ‘You’re as bad as Chalmers.’
‘He thinks you’re involved?’
‘I was involved. I was there. But yeah, he’s trying to make something of it. He took DNA and they Live-scanned my prints and he’ll be looking for forensics. But there won’t be any. I didn’t go anywhere near the car.’ He shrugged. ‘It’ll blow over. How are we doing, work-wise?’
‘A few emails from suspicious spouses wanting to know how much it would cost to prove that their nearest and dearest is fooling around,’ she said.
‘How long is a piece of string?’
‘Exactly what I said,’ replied Jenny. ‘And one of your regulars has been phoning. Eddie Morris. He’s in trouble again and needs your help. He’s been charged with burglary but swears blind he didn’t do it. Wants you to stand up his alibi.’
‘Did you tell him that the cops will do that as part of their investigation? The first thing they’ll do is check his alibi.’
‘He swears blind he was in a pub in Elephant and Castle when one of the burglaries happened so he thinks if he can stand that one up then all the charges will disappear. His problem is that the cops spoke to the landlord and the bar staff and no one remembers Eddie being there.’
‘So he wants me to track down anyone drinking in the pub who can vouch for him?’
‘That’s the plan.’
‘Sort of pals that Eddie’s got, they’ll do that anyway whether he was there or not.’
‘He swears he didn’t do it, Jack. I think he’s hoping you might track down a pillar of the community who’ll put his hand on a Bible and say that Eddie was in the pub.’
‘I’ll give him a bell,’ said Nightingale. ‘If that’s all we’ve got I think I’ll take a run by Gosling Manor and get to work on the inventory. Did you go on Friday?’
‘Barbara and I were there for about three hours,’ she said. She went back into her office and took two notebooks from her desk. ‘We’ve listed about five hundred books.’ She gave the notebooks to him.
‘You’re a star,’ said Nightingale, flicking through one.
‘Barbara was fascinated,’ she said. ‘In fact I think she wants to talk to you about borrowing a few volumes, maybe doing a paper on them.’
‘On what, exactly?’
‘It’s better coming from her, but I think she wants to do something about the fact that in the third millennium people actually believe that witchcraft works.’
‘Maybe it does,’ said Nightingale.
‘Or maybe, as the world becomes more technologically sophisticated, people need to hold on to some sort of belief system. I think she wants to do it along the lines of witchcraft moving into the vacuum left by the decline of religion.’
‘I’ll make sure I order a copy,’ said Nightingale.
‘It was good of her to help me,’ said Jenny. ‘It got dark while we were there and I wouldn’t have wanted to be there on my own.’
‘You see, that’s a crazy thing to say. You’re in a basement. It doesn’t matter if it’s day or night outside. It’s the same. You have to have the lights on either way.’
‘Oh it matters, Jack,’ said Jenny. ‘Trust me, it matters.’
‘What about today? Are you up for helping me?’
‘Are you giving me a choice?’
‘Well, it’s not really in your job description, is it?’
‘I don’t recall there being much of a job description, actually,’ she said. ‘Other than being your assistant.’
‘I still don’t understand why you took the job, what with all the qualifications you’ve got.’
Jenny shrugged. ‘I’m an underachiever,’ she said. ‘No drive or ambition.’
‘You’re the smartest person I know,’ said Nightingale.
‘Thank you, kind sir.’
‘Would you drive? I didn’t bring the MGB in today.’
‘Sure. I’m always happier in a car with airbags anyway.’ She went back into her office and switched off her computer. ‘What are you going to do with the library once you’ve finished the inventory?’
‘Hopefully sell a big chunk of it,’ he said. ‘It’s not as if I’ve got any interest in witchcraft or spooky stuff. Gosling paid big bucks for his collection and I’ll happily take whatever cash I can get.’
‘What’s happening about your father’s estate?’ asked Jenny. ‘When will you know if there’s any money coming your way?’
‘I’m still waiting to hear from Turtledove. He said we should know something in January. But he wasn’t hopeful that there’d be much money coming my way, not with Gosling Manor mortgaged to the hilt. How about a coffee before we head off?’
‘Are you offering to make one?’
Nightingale waved at his feet, up on the desk. ‘I’m sort of comfortable now, and you’re up.’ He grinned at her. ‘I’ll get the next one, promise.’