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JACK NIGHTINGALE.


He took a step back, slipped on the wet tiles, and fell against the wall. He lost his balance and fell to the floor, where he lay cursing. As he picked himself up he found himself looking at the murdered mans face. The eyes were open and the upper lip was curled back in a snarl.

Nightingale stood up, wiping his gloves on his raincoat. He went back into the bedroom, where Jenny was still sitting on the bed, her hands covering her mouth.

Easy, honey, he said. Its okay.

How is this okay, Jack? she whispered. How is this even close to okay?

Lets get out of here, he said.

We cant. We have to call the police.

And say that Ive been at yet another murder-suicide? said Nightingale. Thats one can of worms I dont want opened. Jenny began to shake and Nightingale sat down and held her tightly. Youre in shock, he said.

Damn right Im in shock, she hissed. She frowned. What do you mean, murder-suicide?

Nightingale nodded at the bathroom door. The husbands in there. He slit his own throat. I guess he killed his wife and then topped himself.

What?

Nightingale stood up and held out his hand. Lets go, Jenny. We can talk about this somewhere else. You were right we shouldnt be here. Come on.

We have to tell someone, said Jenny.

Look, remember what happened when the cops got me for the woman in Abersoch? And my aunt and uncle? This is going to be the last straw.

Whys this happening, Jack? asked Jenny.

Nightingale sat down on the bed again. I dont know, he said.

Your uncle killed your aunt and then killed himself. And now your sisters father has done the same damn thing. That cant be a coincidence.

I guess not. Nightingale wanted a cigarette but he knew it wouldnt be a good idea to smoke in the Monktons house.

You dont have to guess, she said. Someone didnt want you to talk to them. Someone or something.

We have to go, Jenny.

Jenny shook her head. No, this time we have to face up to whats happened. We should call the police and tell them everything.

They wont believe anything we tell them, said Nightingale. There are just too many bodies piling up. We have to leave and we have to leave now. This is nothing to do with us.

Jenny glared at him. Its everything to do with us, she said. Theyre dead because you came to see them.

You dont know that, said Nightingale, though even as the words left his mouth he knew she was right. Somehow someone had known he was coming why else would the message be on the shower cubicle?

If we stay, the cops are going to think it was me, Jenny.

I was with you. The policell be able to tell when they died and Ill be able to say you were with me when it happened.

But thatll take time and theyll keep us both locked up until they know for sure, and even then theyll add it to the long list of things they think I did. We dont need the hassle. Trust me. I used to be a cop, I know how they work. They go for the easy option and thats what I am. The easy bloody option. He put his face up close to hers. Jenny, we have to get away from here. Now. Okay?

She nodded slowly. There were tears in her eyes. Okay, she said. She stood up and headed for the door but Nightingale stayed where he was. Are you coming? she asked.

Wait for me in the car, kid, he said.

What are you doing?

I just want a quick look around, he said.

Jack, there are dead bodies in the bathroom.

If I dont do it now, Ill never get the chance, said Nightingale. Once the bodies are discovered the cops will be all over the place. Did you touch anything?

Why?

Fingerprints. Ill have to wipe down anything you touched.

Jack

Did you touch anything?

She shook her head and wiped her eyes.

Nightingale pointed at the door. I wont be long, I promise, he said. Get in the car but dont start the engine.

Jenny went out and Nightingale hurried to the kitchen and grabbed a roll of kitchen towel. He wiped clean anything that Jenny might have touched and wiped the bloody letters off the shower cubicle, then went through to the sitting room. He stood in the middle of the room, his hands on his hips as he consciously slowed down his breathing. He wasnt sure what it was he wanted, but knew that somewhere among their belongings there must be something that would give him a clue to what had happened to their adopted daughter.

The chat show was still on the television. Nightingale picked up the remote and turned the set off. He looked at the wedding photograph on the mantelpiece. There were no pictures of their daughter anywhere in the house. He thought back to his own home, when he was a child. There had been at least a dozen photographs of Nightingale around the house, mainly school portraits, and several albums his mother used to bring out to show visitors. Nightingale had always been embarrassed by the albums and the way that his mother had fussed over them, but now he had them in a drawer in his bedroom. Although he rarely looked at them, he was happy they were there because, as the years passed and his memories faded, he knew he would always have the pictures. Robyns parents had removed all signs that they had a daughter. But Nightingale was sure that they wouldnt have thrown them away.

He went over to the sideboard and pulled open the top drawer. It was full of receipts, instruction manuals and bank statements. The second drawer, however, contained a large photograph album with a Van Gogh painting of sunflowers on the front. Nightingale took it out and opened it. The first dozen or so pages were filled with family photographs, with Robyn the centre of attention. Robyn as a baby, as a toddler, as a gawky teenager. The last photograph was of Robyn standing next to a white Vauxhall Astra.

Nightingale took the album with him as he left the house. He closed the front door and joined Jenny in the Audi. Are you okay to drive? he asked.

She turned to look at him. Doesnt it affect you, seeing that?

Of course it does. But theres nothing we can do to help them. Theyre dead. Nothing we do is going to change that.

And youre not going to call the police?

Jenny, do you want to spend another day being grilled by Chalmers and his sidekick? Because thats whatll happen if we tell anybody. He nodded at the road ahead. Just drive.


| Midnight | c