N ightingale drove home to Bayswater, left his MGB in its spot in the local multi-storey car park and walked around the corner to his favourite Indian restaurant in Queensway. The owner, Maneesh, had his takeaway ready for him.
‘Chicken tikka masala, aloo gobi, pilau rice and two popadoms,’ he said, handing over the carrier bag. ‘You are a predictable man, Mr Nightingale.’
‘I know what I like, Maneesh,’ he said.
‘But we have a large menu, and a chef who has won awards. You should be more adventurous.’
‘Maybe next time,’ promised Nightingale. ‘How are your boys?’ Maneesh had two sons, one a final-year medical student, the other a bond trader in the City.
‘Both working too hard to give me grandchildren,’ said Maneesh. ‘I’ve told them if they don’t find wives within the year I’ll take them to Bangladesh and force them to marry at gunpoint.’
‘Bangladeshi girls are damn pretty,’ said Nightingale.
‘I could introduce you, Mr Nightingale,’ said Maneesh. ‘You’re too good-looking a man to be single.’
Nightingale laughed. ‘And you’re too much of a sweet-talker to be taken seriously,’ he said. He paid for his takeaway and left, still laughing.
Even though it was almost eight o’clock the streets were still busy. The area of Bayswater where he lived was never quiet, the shops and restaurants never seemed to close and there was a constant buzz of conversation and argument in a plethora of languages. On the three-minute walk from the restaurant to his second-floor flat in Inverness Terrace he heard Arabic, French, Chinese, Serbian and Greek and another three or four that he couldn’t identify. He passed a Nigerian in a long white robe, a gaggle of Muslim women swathed from head to foot in black, a Rastafarian with waist-length dreadlocks, two furiously arguing middle-aged Turkish men who looked as if they were close to blows, and half a dozen Japanese tourists who were studying an upside-down map of the city. Bayswater was never boring and Nightingale loved the fact that he could buy cuisine from two dozen different countries without straying far from his flat.
He waited until he’d put his food out on the coffee table and opened a bottle of Corona before phoning Colin Duggan and asking him to run a check on Marcus Fairchild.
‘It’s eight o’clock at night and it’s Sunday – don’t you ever stop working?’ asked the detective.
‘I wanted to strike while the iron was hot.’
‘Are you eating?’
‘Curry,’ said Nightingale.
‘You need a wife and kids, Jack. You’ve been on your own too long.’
‘Remind me again how many times you’ve been married, Colin?’ asked Nightingale.
‘It’s true, a policeman’s life is not a happy one,’ said Duggan. ‘This Fairchild, have you got a date of birth?’
‘Just the name. And he’s a lawyer in the City.’
‘Oh that Marcus Fairchild,’ said Duggan.
‘You know him?’
‘I know of him, sure,’ said Duggan. ‘Don’t you? Human-rights lawyer. He’s the guy they used to call when Cherie Blair was busy. Human-rights cases and libel too. Does the odd high-profile criminal case pro bono. Generally on the side of the underdog and a real pain in the arse. Don’t think he’s ever lost a case.’
‘Interesting,’ said Nightingale.
‘Not much point in doing a CRO check on him,’ said Duggan. ‘If he was ever in trouble with the law it’d be all over the papers. What’s your interest?’
‘It’s personal,’ said Nightingale. ‘Can you see if you can get an address, car registration, the basics. And see if there’s any intel at all that suggests he might be shady.’
Duggan laughed. ‘Shady? Marcus Fairchild? You should Google him, Jack.’
‘I will when I get to the office, mate. But I’m serious. Can you sniff around and see if there’s anything about him that’s not kosher?’
‘Do you want to give me a clue?’
‘Anything that doesn’t seem right,’ said Nightingale. ‘I don’t have anything specific.’
‘I’ll see what there is,’ said Duggan. ‘But I’d be surprised if there’s anything. It’d be like finding out the Queen had been done for shoplifting.’
Nightingale ended the call and then phoned Jenny, but her mobile went straight through to voicemail. He left a message asking her to call him and then went back to his curry. He spent the evening watching an episode of Midsomer Murders in which a portly John Nettles wandered around a picturesque village asking aged gentlemen where they were on the night of the fifteenth and if they had bludgeoned a gay antiques dealer to death. It bore, he knew, no relation to the real world. Even before the advent of DNA, the vast majority of murders were solved within twenty-four hours. Death at the hands of a stranger was rare. Nine times out of ten victims died at the hands of spouses, relatives or neighbours. And in most cases either the perpetrator was caught in the act or they gave themselves up to the police. In the rare cases where a victim didn’t know their assailant, the murderer almost certainly had a criminal record and would be in the system. Only once in a blue moon would detectives go around knocking on doors and looking for clues.
Jenny rang back just as Nettles had gathered the most likely suspects in the church hall. ‘What’s wrong?’ she asked before he could say anything.
‘What do you mean?’ he asked.
‘It’s Sunday, Jack. You said you wanted me to call you, so I thought something had happened.’
‘I just wanted a chat.’
‘See how you were. How the family were.’
‘We’re all fine. We’ve just finished dinner, as it happens.’
‘Yeah? Me too.’
‘How did you know?’
‘It’s Sunday night. Chicken tikka masala?’
‘I really am that predictable, aren’t I?’
‘I’m afraid so. What did you do today?’
‘I went to see Wainwright. Flying visit. He gave me a shopping list of books that he wanted.’
‘That’s good news.’
‘I figured I’d have a root through the basement tomorrow morning.’
‘Good luck with that,’ she said.
‘Is there any way I could persuade you to give me a hand?’
‘In the basement?’
‘Just for a few hours.’
‘You are joking, right?’
‘No funny business, I promise. We’ll leave the lights on. It was the Ouija board that caused the problems last time. And I won’t be doing that again.’
‘Please, Jenny. I’ll pick you up and I’ll bring breakfast. Coffee and croissants.’
She sighed. ‘Banana choc-chip muffins. Two.’
‘Deal,’ he said.
‘Any falling books or cold winds and I’m out of there like a bat out of hell.’
‘You and me both,’ said Nightingale.