N ightingale sipped his cup of canteen coffee and grimaced. The police had left him in the interview room for the best part of three hours and had only opened the door once, to give him the coffee and a stale cheese sandwich. He’d taken the fact that they hadn’t put him in a cell as a good sign.
The door opened and he recognised a familiar face. Superintendent Chalmers. He was wearing full uniform and carrying a clipboard. ‘Get your feet off the table,’ said Chalmers, closing the door.
‘Why, are you going to charge me with putting my feet on the table? I didn’t realise that was an offence.’
Chalmers slapped Nightingale’s Hush Puppies with his clipboard. ‘Act your bloody age,’ he said.
Nightingale took his feet off the table. ‘They had no right to bring me in,’ he said. ‘I’m the victim in this.’
‘You told the officers at the scene that you were attacked.’
‘My tyre was flat. He stopped to help me change it. Then he hit me with a wrench and pulled out a razor.’
‘But he’s the one who ended up unconscious in the road.’
‘We struggled.’ He pointed at the back of his head. A doctor had put in three stitches and given him Paracetamol for his headache. ‘I didn’t do this to myself, Chalmers.’
‘And you didn’t say anything to provoke him?’
‘I was on my knees working the jack,’ said Nightingale.
Chalmers nodded slowly. ‘You were lucky this time, Nightingale,’ he said.
‘That’s funny because I don’t feel lucky.’ He touched the stitches on the back of his head.
‘The man who attacked you. His name is Eric Marshall.’
‘He told me his name was Chance.’
‘Yeah, well, we went around to Marshall’s house and found a diary that he’s been keeping. It looks as if he’s responsible for a dozen or so unsolved murders over the past five years. One of them is a case I worked on a few years ago. There are details in the diary that only the killer would know.’
‘Do I look like a stand-up comedian, Nightingale? Seems he had a thing going with a coin. Heads you die, tails you live – something like that. Did you see him toss a coin?’
‘I was stunned,’ lied Nightingale.
‘Yeah, well, apparently he let the coin decide whether his victims lived or died. Looks like he slashed your tyre, by the way. Which suggests he was targeting you.’
‘I never met him before tonight,’ said Nightingale.
‘You sure? Never crossed paths with him while you were in the Job? Or did some private case on him?’
‘I’m sure,’ said Nightingale. ‘So you’ve got him, then? Done and dusted?’
‘There’s blood on the razor. Two types. We’re doing DNA analysis now and we’ll cross-check with murder cases, but the diary alone will put him away.’
‘So I’m a hero?’
‘No, Nightingale, you’re an arsehole. But unfortunately I can’t arrest you for that.’ He jerked his thumb at the door. ‘Now get the hell out of my station before I change my mind.’