A listair Sutton was an old-school detective, a big man in a worn suit, with bleary eyes and the pained expression that came from having been lied to more times than he’d ever be able to recall. He smiled without warmth as he shook Nightingale’s hand and asked for a vodka and tonic before Nightingale had even offered him a drink. The chief inspector had agreed to meet Nightingale in the Cape of Good Hope pub, next to the Albany Street police station, close to Regent’s Park. It was a modern brick-built public house, surrounded by council flats and close to the Royal College of Physicians. It was, thought Nightingale, the perfect community for twenty-first-century Britain. The unemployed and workshy could get drunk, have a punch-up, get medical treatment and be taken to the cells without ever leaving the street.
Sutton had kept him waiting for more than an hour. ‘Murder case,’ he said by way of apology. ‘Five Asians hacked a black teenager to death in an alley.’
‘Racial?’ asked Nightingale, waving a ten-pound note at a barmaid who was busy texting on her iPhone.
‘Drugs,’ said the detective. ‘Turf war. We’ll get them, we always do; but for every one we put away there’re half a dozen waiting to take their place.’ He scowled. ‘The way of the world. This country’s going to Hell in a hand-basket.’
Nightingale managed to attract the barmaid’s eye and ordered the drinks. ‘Do you want to sit?’ he asked the detective.
‘With my feet, damned right I do,’ said Sutton. He ambled over to a bench seat in the corner by a fruit machine and stretched out his legs.
Nightingale paid for the drinks and carried them over to the table. He sat down opposite Sutton. ‘We never met, did we?’ asked Nightingale. ‘In the Job?’
‘No, but I heard of you, obviously,’ said Sutton. ‘Truth be told, that’s the only reason I agreed to see you. I’m not one for sharing intel with private eyes. These days they take away your pension any chance they can. But what you did to that paedo – you did what a lot of us wish we could do.’
Nightingale sipped his beer. ‘Yeah, well, it cost me my job,’ he said.
‘The Job’s not what it was,’ said Sutton. ‘Now it’s all about ticking the right boxes and meeting targets. It’s bugger all to do with putting away villains. Not that there are many real villains around any more. Most of the crime is done by drug-fuelled sociopaths.’ He shrugged. ‘You’ve caught me on a bad day,’ he said.
Nightingale raised his glass in salute. ‘How many years have you put in?’
‘Twenty-seven,’ said Sutton. ‘I can go with a full pension in three and I probably will. I’ve already put out a few feelers and I can probably go into the British Transport Police at the same rank, get my pension and a bloody good salary on top.’
‘I thought you were fed up with the Job?’
‘I am, but I do that for five years, maybe ten, and I’ll be set for life. Two pensions, a big lump sum and me and the missus will be off to New Zealand.’
‘Have you got family there?’
Sutton shook his head. ‘No,’ he said, ‘but it’s the furthest place from this shit hole that we can find.’ He drained his glass, put it down on the table and looked at Nightingale expectantly.
‘Another?’ asked Nightingale.
‘You read my mind. Make it a double this time. I don’t plan on going back to the factory.’
Nightingale went to the bar and fetched the detective a double vodka and tonic. When he got back to the table he sat down next to Sutton. ‘So, Robyn Reynolds. I went to see her yesterday.’
‘Yeah, you said when you phoned. What’s your interest?’
‘She’s my sister.’
Sutton’s jaw dropped. ‘Bullshit,’ he said. ‘She was an only child.’
‘She was adopted. At birth.’
Sutton scratched his chin. ‘No. We went right through the family history. John and Rachael Reynolds were her parents, but they pretty much disowned her when they discovered what she’d done.’ He frowned. ‘You went to see her?’
Nightingale nodded. ‘In Rampton.’
‘They let you in? Why would they do that?’
‘I had the right DNA,’ said Nightingale. ‘I am her brother. Half-brother, anyway.’
Sutton squinted at Nightingale as he sipped his drink. ‘How’s that possible?’ he said as he put down his glass.
‘We have the same father. Different mothers but the same father. And we were both adopted at birth. I went to Bill and Irene Nightingale; two years later she went to her family.’
‘If you were adopted at birth the records would have been sealed,’ said the detective. ‘How did you track her down?’
‘Her DNA was taken when she was arrested, and it came up when I had them run my father’s DNA through the national database looking for a parental match.’
‘Clever,’ said Sutton. ‘But Reynolds is thirty-one and you’re…?’
‘Thirty-three,’ said Nightingale. ‘Turned thirty-three two weeks ago.’
‘So why wait until now to track down your long-lost sister?’
Nightingale shrugged. ‘I’m not sure. I guess I just wanted to know if I had any family. My adoptive parents died a few years back, and my aunt and uncle passed away recently.’
‘You must have been a bit put out to discover she was a serial killer,’ said Sutton. He swirled the ice cubes around his drink with his finger. ‘Right bloody shock that must have been.’
‘The month I’ve been having, it was par for the course. I have to say, though, that she didn’t seem that disturbed.’
‘Hopefully they keep her doped up,’ said the detective. ‘She was an evil bitch.’ He put up his hand. ‘I know she’s your sister and all but she killed five kids. Butchered them.’ He shuddered. ‘I try not to think about what she did, you know?’
Nightingale nodded. ‘I saw what was in the newspapers but there wasn’t much detail released in court.’
‘Yeah, the CPS took the view that because she was pleading guilty there was no point in being too graphic. They reckoned the parents had been through enough. Very few people actually know what that bitch did.’
‘She used a knife, right?’
‘And her hands. She ripped them apart.’
‘Did she ever say why she did it?’
Sutton shook his head. ‘She said not one word about the killings,’ he said. ‘She’d chat about the TV, the weather, the news, politics, about anything under the sun. But as soon as we went anywhere near the kids and what she did to them, she clammed up.’
‘But there was no doubt, right? No doubt that she did it?’
Sutton narrowed his eyes. ‘Is that what this is about? You’re planning some sort of appeal? Trying to get her out of there? Because I’ll tell you now, that’s not going to happen. She’s as guilty as sin.’
Nightingale put up his hands. ‘That’s the last thing on my mind,’ he said. ‘Up until three weeks ago, I didn’t even know that I had a sister. But I spent some time with her and she seemed…’ He struggled to find the right words.
‘Coherent?’ suggested the detective. ‘Plausible? Well-balanced?’
‘She’s a sociopath,’ said Sutton. ‘A stone-cold killer.’ He leaned forward. ‘You want to know what she did? She gutted them. She cut their throats and then she gutted them from neck to groin. And then she pulled out the organs and rearranged them around the body. Real Jack the Ripper stuff. Guts around the feet, folded out the lungs like wings, smeared blood everywhere. That’s how they found her, over Timmy’s body. She abducted him from school, took him to St Mary’s church in Clapham, and butchered him.’
‘Inside the church?’
Sutton frowned. ‘Why the hell does that matter?’
‘It doesn’t. I’m just trying to get a feel for what happened.’
‘She butchered a nine-year-old boy. End of story. Case closed.’
‘I’m not trying to undo the work that you did,’ said Nightingale. ‘And I’m not trying to screw up your case.’
‘It’s unscrewupable,’ said Sutton.
‘Exactly,’ said Nightingale. ‘I just wanted a chat, just to put it into perspective. She’s all the family I’ve got left.’
‘What was she like with you?’
‘Like you said, plausible and coherent. Look, the details of what she did, the details that weren’t in the papers…’
‘The chief super wanted to hold them back because he was worried about copycats.’
‘So the MO was the same in all five cases?’
Sutton nodded. ‘The bodies were mutilated in the same way. According to the pathologist, the same knife was probably used in all five killings and the wounds matched the knife they caught her with. All the kids were killed in churches, but we held that back.’
‘All the experts who spoke to her reckoned she was insane?’
Sutton laughed sarcastically. ‘Her sanity was never an issue. There are some crimes that are so horrific…’ He shook his head. ‘She butchered kids, Jack. There’s no crime worse than that. And anyone who does it is crazy. There was nothing she could say that would ever excuse or explain what she did.’
‘But she didn’t even try?’
Sutton shrugged. ‘What possible reason could she give for murdering five children?’
‘None,’ said Nightingale.
‘Exactly,’ said Sutton. He drained his glass and slammed it down on the table. ‘Make it another double,’ he said.