N ightingale arrived outside Jenny’s house at eight o’clock the next morning. He parked behind her Audi and rang her doorbell. She opened the door wearing a white Aran sweater and faded blue jeans. ‘You’re bright and early,’ she said.
Nightingale held up a brown paper bag. ‘A low-fat latte and two banana choc-chip muffins,’ he said.
‘I think I let you off lightly,’ she said.
‘And a croissant.’
She waved for him to go through to the kitchen and followed him down the hallway. ‘So Wainwright is up for more books?’
He put the bag down on the counter and took out her latte and the Americano he’d bought for himself. She gave him a plate for the muffins and croissant and then sat down at the kitchen table. He sat down opposite her and sipped his coffee.
‘What are you doing for Christmas?’ asked Jenny.
‘When is it?’
‘Are you serious? How can you not know when Christmas is? Saturday. This coming Saturday. What plans have you got?’
Nightingale shrugged. ‘Same as usual,’ he said.
‘Stuck in front of the TV with a microwaved dinner and a bottle of Corona?’
‘You make it sound more fun than it is.’ He raised his cup of coffee to her. ‘Don’t worry about me – I’m not into Christmas in a big way.’
‘Why don’t you come to the country and have Christmas with my parents?’
‘Christmas is for families, kid,’ he said. ‘I don’t think your parents will want me intruding.’
‘You don’t know Mummy and Daddy,’ she said. ‘It’s practically open house over the holidays. My brother’s away in Shanghai but there’re half a dozen people coming already. And Mummy and Daddy keep asking after you. I’ve been working for you for over a year and they’ve never met you. They’re starting to wonder if you actually exist.’
‘I’m starting to wonder that myself,’ said Nightingale. ‘Okay, I’d love to come. What should I get them?’
‘A bottle of wine would be fine. Or, if you really want to impress Daddy, get him a decent bottle of Scotch. I’m going down on Friday, assuming that you’re not going to make me work on Christmas Eve. Why not come with me?’
‘Okay, it’s a date,’ he said.
‘No, it’s not a date,’ said Jenny. ‘It’s me taking pity on a sad man who thinks that chicken tikka masala is suitable fare for Christmas.’
Nightingale ran a finger around the lip of his coffee cup. ‘I’ve never understood why you stay with me. You’re way overqualified, I don’t pay you enough and I smoke too much.’
‘You’ve got your good points, Jack.’
‘Yeah, but if I have they’re few and far between. Whatever the reason, I’m glad you’re working for me and I’ll try not to be so self-absorbed in future.’
She raised her latte in salute. ‘You’re not so bad,’ she said. ‘And your heart’s in the right place.’ She picked up a muffin and popped a piece into her mouth.
Nightingale took a folded sheet of paper from his jacket and put it on the table. ‘Wainwright gave me his shopping list,’ he said. ‘He’s marked the ones that he wants and given me a few other titles he wants me to look out for.’
‘That’d be great for our cash flow,’ she said. ‘Assuming there’s anything left after you’ve paid the mortgage. Have you heard from the lawyer about your father’s estate?’
Nightingale shook his head. ‘I’ll give him a call after New Year if he doesn’t get in touch soon.’ He sipped his coffee again. ‘Remember Mitchell’s diary?’
She nodded. ‘How could I forget it?’
‘The number of devils in Hell, remember that? You said there were three billion.’
‘I think so, yeah.’
‘Well, Wainwright said that it’s much less than that. Still millions, but not three billion.’
‘So Mitchell got it wrong?’
‘It sounds like it. You know, I’d really like another look at that diary.’
‘To check if he was wrong on the number of devils. And also to see what else is in there. It explained how to summon Proserpine. There might be other demons mentioned.’
‘Yeah, well, last time I had the bloody thing men with guns took it away from me, if you remember.’
‘I know. I’m sorry.’
‘I think it’s best that you let sleeping dogs lie. Mitchell got his diary back. That’s the end of it.’
‘Mitchell’s dead,’ said Nightingale. ‘I’m guessing it’s still in his house in Wivenhoe.’
Jenny rubbed the left side of her head as if she was getting a headache. ‘Jack, please tell me you’re not thinking what I think you’re thinking.’
‘What are you thinking?’
‘I’m thinking that you’re thinking about breaking and entering, and I’m thinking that if you are thinking that then it’s a very, very bad idea.’
‘Mitchell’s not there any more. The house will probably be empty.’
‘Empty or not, it’d still be breaking and entering. Forget it, Jack. Bad things happen when you break into houses. And by you I mean you.’
Nightingale’s mobile rang. He didn’t recognise the number but he took the call while Jenny devoured the rest of the chocolate muffin. It was Alistair Sutton.
‘You were asking about her parents,’ said the detective, getting straight to the point. ‘I’ve got an address if you want it.’
‘You’re a star,’ said Nightingale, reaching for a pen.
‘Just don’t tell anyone where you got it from,’ said Sutton. ‘They pretty much went into hiding when their daughter was arrested. They changed their names after the court case – they’re now known as Adrian and Sandra Monkton.’ The detective gave Nightingale an address in Slough and Nightingale wrote it down on a sheet of paper.
‘Have you got a phone number?’
‘They’re not listed. We did have a mobile but that’s been disconnected.’
‘I owe you one,’ said Nightingale.
‘Put it on the tab,’ said Sutton. ‘If you’re like most of the PIs I know, it won’t be the last time you ask me for something.’ He ended the call.
‘What?’ asked Jenny, breaking a piece off the second muffin.
‘What do you mean?’ asked Nightingale.
‘You’ve got that look.’
‘The look that says you’re onto something. Or somebody.’
‘My sister’s adoptive parents. The ones that took her from Gosling. They live in Slough.’
‘Somebody has to, I suppose.’
‘So do you fancy a trip?’
‘You said you wanted to sort out the books in the basement.’
‘That can wait. Come on, it’ll be fun.’
‘Driving to Slough to see the adoptive parents of a serial killer? In what universe would that be considered fun?’
‘I’ll pay you overtime.’
‘You’ll pay me to go to Slough?’ she asked.
‘Because I don’t want to go on my own.’ He stood up. ‘I’ll buy you dinner.’
‘When we get back to London.’
‘Can I choose the restaurant?’
‘Within limits,’ said Nightingale. ‘Do we have a deal?’
Jenny grinned. ‘Yes, we do,’ she said.
‘Great,’ said Nightingale. ‘We’ll take your car.’