J enny was sitting on a stool at the bar and talking into her mobile phone when Nightingale walked in. The wine bar was just off the King’s Road, close to her mews house. She put her phone away and waved at him as he went over to her. ‘What was so important it couldn’t wait until tomorrow?’ she asked.
‘Can’t I see my favourite assistant for a social drink?’ he said, sliding onto the stool next to her and putting a Tesco carrier bag on the bar.
‘Your only assistant,’ she corrected. ‘So you’re not after anything?’
‘Well, maybe just a little something,’ he said. ‘But we can chit-chat as well.’ He smiled at the barmaid, a plump blonde girl in her early twenties wearing a Bristol University sweatshirt, and ordered a vodka and Coke. ‘What do you want?’ Nightingale asked Jenny.
‘I want you not to drink,’ she said. ‘You’re driving, remember?’
‘How do you know?’
‘I saw your car on the way here. It’s a green MGB, Jack. Pretty distinctive.’
‘Okay, it’s a fair cop. So what do you want to drink?’
Nightingale winked at the barmaid.
‘Make the vodka a double,’ he said. ‘And a glass of your finest Pinot Grigio for my date. Shaken not stirred.’
‘I’m not his date,’ Jenny said to the barmaid. ‘I’m so not his date. And make his vodka a single. He’s driving.’
‘A single it is,’ said the barmaid. ‘And on the date front, you could do worse.’ She went to get their drinks.
‘Did you pay her to say that?’ asked Jenny.
‘Let’s just say she’s a member of my fan club, shall we?’
‘Let’s not,’ said Jenny. ‘Do you want to eat?’
‘I can eat,’ said Nightingale. ‘I could even buy you dinner.’
‘You’re definitely going to ask me a favour,’ she said. ‘You’re as transparent as a Harvey Nicks shop window. I’ll grab us a table.’
Nightingale nodded at the carrier bag. ‘Take that for me, will you? I’ll bring the drinks.’
Nightingale joined her with their drinks a couple of minutes later and dropped his raincoat over the back of his chair. ‘She’s got a degree in chemical engineering,’ he said as he sat down.
‘And very large breasts,’ said Jenny.
‘Didn’t notice,’ said Nightingale.
‘Has she joined your fan club?’
‘Is there one?’
‘Probably not.’ She raised her glass of wine to him. ‘Cheers,’ she said.
Nightingale clinked his glass against hers. ‘Down the hatch.’
‘When did you start drinking vodka and Coke? You always drink Corona.’
‘Not always.’ He patted his stomach. ‘It’s better for the waistline.’
‘I think you’ll find there’re more calories in a vodka and Coke, especially a double vodka and Coke, than a bottle of beer.’ She flashed him a tight smile. ‘It’s not about the calories, is it?’
He grinned and took a long pull on his drink, then smacked his lips. ‘Okay, it tastes good, and it’s a quicker way of getting alcohol into the system.’
‘What’s wrong, Jack?’
‘Nothing,’ he said. ‘Or everything. I’m not sure.’ He opened the carrier bag and took out Mitchell’s diary.
‘Where did you get that from?’ she asked.
‘Best you don’t know,’ he said.
‘You went back to the house? Jack, please don’t tell me that you’ve been breaking and entering?’
‘Strictly speaking, it wasn’t me that did the breaking but I did help with the entering.’
Jenny shook her head reproachfully. ‘You’re going to end up in prison if you carry on like this.’
‘I hardly think Sebastian Mitchell is going to press charges,’ he said. He grinned. ‘Mind you, Hell is probably full of lawyers. What do you think?’
‘I think you need to get a grip,’ she said. ‘You can’t keep going into people’s houses like this.’
‘We need that diary,’ said Nightingale. ‘And I couldn’t see any other way of getting it.’
‘The end justifies the means? That’s no excuse, Jack.’ She held up the diary. ‘And now you’ve passed it on to me, which makes me in receipt of stolen goods. That’s a criminal offence, Jack.’
‘Don’t “sweetheart” me, Jack Nightingale. It’s one thing for you to go around breaking the law, but it’s something else when you drag me into it.’
Nightingale put up his hands in surrender. ‘Okay, okay, I’m sorry,’ he said. ‘But let’s not forget that Mitchell sent his goons to get it from you. At gunpoint. We found it in Gosling’s basement, remember? And possession is nine-tenths of the law.’
‘That’s a fallacy,’ she said. ‘Possession has nothing to do with ownership. Your father stole it from Mitchell.’
‘That’s what Mitchell said. We don’t know that it’s true.’ He reached over and squeezed her hand. ‘I’m just saying it’s a grey area. Sebastian Mitchell and Ainsley Gosling were as bad as each other. All I want is a look-see at that diary to know if there’s anything in it that can help my sister. You can’t blame me for that. Besides, they’re both dead anyway.’
She held his look for several seconds, then nodded slowly. ‘Okay,’ she said.
‘Are you sure? I don’t want you angry at me.’
She took her hand away. ‘I’m not angry, Jack,’ she said. ‘I’m just a bit… apprehensive. About what’s happening to you.’
‘You and me both, kid,’ said Nightingale. He sat back and ran a hand over his face. ‘It’s been a funny few weeks.’ He sipped his drink. ‘You do believe me, don’t you?’
‘What happened at Mitchell’s house. On my birthday.’
‘Of course I believe you. Why would you lie about something like that?’
‘I wasn’t lying,’ he said. ‘But there’s something strange going on.’
‘Spit it out, Jack. What’s wrong?’
Nightingale sighed. ‘I told you what happened. How Proserpine appeared at midnight and Mitchell left his pentagram and she killed him?’
‘Dragged him kicking and screaming into the bowels of Hell is how you described it.’
‘And that’s exactly how I remember it,’ said Nightingale. ‘Except…’
Nightingale picked up his vodka and Coke and finished it. ‘Let me get another drink and I’ll tell you,’ he said.