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47

N ightingale arrived outside Jennys house at eight oclock 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. Youre 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?

Definitely.

He put the bag down on the counter and took out her latte and the Americano hed 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. Dont worry about me Im not into Christmas in a big way.

Why dont you come to the country and have Christmas with my parents?

Christmas is for families, kid, he said. I dont think your parents will want me intruding.

You dont know Mummy and Daddy, she said. Its practically open house over the holidays. My brothers away in Shanghai but therere half a dozen people coming already. And Mummy and Daddy keep asking after you. Ive been working for you for over a year and theyve never met you. Theyre starting to wonder if you actually exist.

Im starting to wonder that myself, said Nightingale. Okay, Id 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. Im going down on Friday, assuming that youre not going to make me work on Christmas Eve. Why not come with me?

Okay, its a date, he said.

No, its not a date, said Jenny. Its 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. Ive never understood why you stay with me. Youre way overqualified, I dont pay you enough and I smoke too much.

Youve got your good points, Jack.

Yeah, but if I have theyre few and far between. Whatever the reason, Im glad youre working for me and Ill try not to be so self-absorbed in future.

She raised her latte in salute. Youre not so bad, she said. And your hearts 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. Hes marked the ones that he wants and given me a few other titles he wants me to look out for.

Thatd be great for our cash flow, she said. Assuming theres anything left after youve paid the mortgage. Have you heard from the lawyer about your fathers estate?

Nightingale shook his head. Ill give him a call after New Year if he doesnt get in touch soon. He sipped his coffee again. Remember Mitchells 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 its much less than that. Still millions, but not three billion.

So Mitchell got it wrong?

It sounds like it. You know, Id really like another look at that diary.

Why?

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. Im sorry.

I think its best that you let sleeping dogs lie. Mitchell got his diary back. Thats the end of it.

Mitchells dead, said Nightingale. Im guessing its 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 youre not thinking what I think youre thinking.

What are you thinking?

Im thinking that youre thinking about breaking and entering, and Im thinking that if you are thinking that then its a very, very bad idea.

Mitchells not there any more. The house will probably be empty.

Empty or not, itd still be breaking and entering. Forget it, Jack. Bad things happen when you break into houses. And by you I mean you.

Nightingales mobile rang. He didnt 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. Ive got an address if you want it.

Youre a star, said Nightingale, reaching for a pen.

Just dont 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 theyre 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?

Theyre not listed. We did have a mobile but thats been disconnected.

I owe you one, said Nightingale.

Put it on the tab, said Sutton. If youre like most of the PIs I know, it wont 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.

Youve got that look.

What look?

The look that says youre onto something. Or somebody.

My sisters adoptive parents. The ones that took her from Gosling. They live in Slough.

Somebody has to, I suppose.

So do you fancy a trip?

To Slough?

Nightingale nodded.

No.

Come on.

You said you wanted to sort out the books in the basement.

That can wait. Come on, itll be fun.

Driving to Slough to see the adoptive parents of a serial killer? In what universe would that be considered fun?

Ill pay you overtime.

Youll pay me to go to Slough? she asked.

Sure.

Why?

Because I dont want to go on my own. He stood up. Ill buy you dinner.

In Slough?

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. Well take your car.


| Midnight | c