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35

J enny was at her desk peering at her computer screen when Nightingale walked into the office on Friday morning. She looked at her watch pointedly.

I know, its ten oclock, but I had a late one last night, said Nightingale. He put a memory card on the desk. Mr Walters was right his child bride is fooling around behind his back.

Child bride is a bit harsh, said Jenny. Shes twenty-three.

Yeah, and hes fifty-one. That means he was almost thirty when she was born, which in my book makes him more than old enough to be her father.

You are so judgemental, sighed Jenny, picking up the memory card.

Plus, shes Latvian or Ukrainian, so he probably bought her off the internet at childbride dot com.

Jack, youre terrible.

Im a realist. Youve seen the guy. Overweight, face like the back of a bus, IQ in single figures. Shes less than half his age and fit as a butchers dog. What did he think was going to happen? He looked over her shoulder. There was a Facebook page on her screen. Busy, I see, he said.

Ive been posting on the sites that Connie Miller visited. My name is Bronwyn and Im depressed because I dont have any friends and I hate my job.

Bless, said Nightingale.

Youd be surprised at how many depressed people there are out there.

The phrase get a life comes to mind. Of course people are going to be depressed if they sit around on their computer every day.

Ive come across the guy that Connie was emailing but he hasnt reacted to any of my postings yet.

Hes probably just another sad bastard thinking about topping himself, he said. He nodded at the memory card in her hand. Lets have a look at what Ive got. At least it might help pay the bills.

Jenny slotted the card into the reader attached to her computer.

The guy shes with is Roger Pennington. Owns a car dealership in south London and a very nice house in Clapham.

Married?

Footloose and fancy-free and, if I know anything about Latvian mail-order brides, shell be divorcing Mr Walters and shacking up with Mr Car Dealership quicker than you can say serves you right. Make sure you send the bill before she takes him for everything hes got.

How did you get so cynical? asked Jenny. Her fingers played over the keyboard and she called up the pictures and videos that had been stored on the card.

Ten years as a cop and two years doing this, said Nightingale. Its not as if I see people at their best, is it? Anyway, what are you doing over the weekend?

Im off to the country with Barbara to see Mummy and Daddy, she said.

Hunting, shooting and fishing? He peered at the pictures on the screen.

Not at the same time, obviously, she said. And itll be a bit cold for fishing, anyway. You should come down with me one weekend. Theyd love to meet you.

Mutual, said Nightingale.

Im serious, Jack. They keep asking about you.

Id like to meet them, too. I just think that Id be a bit out of place, thats all.

Nonsense, she said. Youd have no problem getting on with Daddy Hes a smoker, too. And he collects classic cars.

How rich is your dad, exactly?

She grinned. Very.

And his house, its bigger than Gosling Manor, right?

Size isnt everything.

How many bedrooms has it got?

I dont think weve ever counted, she laughed. Are you telling me you wont visit because their house is bigger than yours?

Im joking, he said, holding up his hands in surrender. Id love a weekend in the country. Im not sure about the shooting bit, though.

Were slap bang in the middle of the pheasant season. Its a great day out you really should try it.

The shooting, Im fine with; its the killing birds bit that Im not happy about.

Daddy has a clay-pigeon shoot as well. You dont have a thing about clay discs, do you?

I guess not.

Daddy does have a rule that you have to eat anything you shoot and you might find them a bit chewy. She laughed at the look of surprise on his face, then noticed the dirt on his hands. What have you been doing? she asked. Your hands are filthy.

Nightingale looked at his palms. They were streaked with ash. Had a problem with the car, he lied. He pointed at the screen. Can you print out the stills and copy the video onto a DVD? His mobile phone rang in the pocket of his raincoat and he went to retrieve it.

It was Colin Duggan. Jack, how are they hanging? asked the policeman.

All good, Colin, said Nightingale.

Ive got good news and bad news, said Duggan. The good news is that I got a hit on the DNA. A definite sibling. Same father as you but a different mother. Shes a thirty-one-year-old woman so the dates are in line with what you were looking for.

Thats brilliant, Colin.

Yeah, but dont get too excited. Wait until you hear who she is.


| Midnight | c