N ightingale pulled open the front door. Superintendent Chalmers was standing in the driveway, his hands in the pockets of his cashmere overcoat. He looked more like a Conservative politician than a policeman in his dark pinstriped suit and perfectly knotted blue and cream striped tie. Behind him was a hard-faced woman in a beige belted raincoat, her hair cut short and dyed blonde. She was in her early thirties, probably a detective sergeant, with dark patches under her eyes as if she hadn’t slept well the previous night.
‘What are you doing working so late?’ asked Nightingale. ‘Superintendents don’t get paid overtime.’
‘Thought I’d check out the new Nightingale residence,’ said the superintendent. ‘Nice. Very nice. Bit off the beaten trail, though.’ He looked around, nodding slowly. ‘Missed you at the office, couldn’t find you at the flat in Bayswater, so thought I’d check out your inheritance.’
‘How can I help you?’ asked Nightingale. He looked at his watch. ‘I’ve got to get back to London.’
The superintendent ignored the question. ‘What are you going to do when they take away your licence for drunk-driving? Not very well served by public transport, are you, and a minicab’s going to set you back about a hundred quid from London.’
‘That’s why you’re here, is it? To check up on my drink-driving case? Haven’t you got better things to do with your time?’
‘I’m just saying. You were over the limit so you’ll get a twelve-month ban at least, plus a fine. Of up to five grand and maybe even a few months behind bars.’ Chalmers looked up at the roof. ‘Must be a ton of lead up there. What’s security like out here in the sticks? Surrey Police keep an eye on the place, do they?’
‘What do you want?’ asked Nightingale. He took out his pack of Marlboro and lit one.
‘A bit of respect for a start,’ said Chalmers.
Nightingale shook his head. ‘I’m not in the Job now, and even when I was I had precious little respect for you. You’re on private property and unless you’ve got some sort of warrant then I’m going to have to ask you to leave.’ He blew smoke up at the sky.
‘I’m told you inherited this place,’ said Chalmers. Nightingale shrugged but didn’t reply. ‘And the guy who left it to you blew his head off with a shotgun. Is that true?’
‘You know it’s true,’ said Nightingale. ‘It’s my property now and I want you off it.’
‘This Ainsley Gosling was your long-lost father, right?’
‘My biological father,’ said Nightingale. ‘I was adopted at birth.’
‘I wish I had a rich father to leave me a big house,’ said Chalmers.
Nightingale looked pointedly at his watch. ‘I’ve got things to do,’ he said.
‘I had a call from my opposite number in Abersoch. Seems you were at another murder scene.’
‘It was a suicide,’ said Nightingale.
‘There seem to be a lot of deaths around you these days,’ said Chalmers. ‘Your uncle and aunt. Robbie Hoyle. Barry O’Brien, who was driving the cab that ran over Hoyle. And of course good old Simon Underwood, who took a flyer through his office window while you were talking to him.’
Nightingale took a long drag on his cigarette but didn’t say anything.
‘Your mother killed herself, too, didn’t she?’
‘My parents died in a car crash years ago.’
‘You know what I mean, Nightingale. Your birth mother. Genetic mother. Rebecca Keeley. Whatever you want to call her. She slashed her wrists after you paid her a visit, didn’t she? Did you think I wouldn’t find out about that?’
‘She was a troubled woman,’ said Nightingale. ‘You can talk to the people at the home.’
‘She was on medication, Chalmers. She was a sick woman. Yes, I went to see her, twice, but she wasn’t able to say much. I don’t think she even knew I was there.’
‘Why did she put you up for adoption?’
Nightingale shrugged again. ‘I don’t know,’ he lied. There was no way that he was going to tell Chalmers that Keeley had been forced to give up her new-born baby to fulfil a deal that Ainsley Gosling had made with a demon from Hell.
The superintendent nodded at the hallway. ‘Are you alone in there?’
‘What do you want, Chalmers?’ said Nightingale.
‘I want you to tell me who else is in the house with you,’ said the superintendent. ‘I was wondering if maybe the lovely Miss McLean was there so that we could kill two birds with one stone.’
Nightingale frowned. ‘What are you talking about?’
‘Is Jenny McLean inside or not?’ said the superintendent. ‘I’m not pissing about here, Nightingale.’
‘Yes, she is. Why?’
‘Because we want to talk to her, and to you, about what happened in Battersea.’ He sneered at Nightingale with undisguised contempt. ‘How stupid do you think we are, Nightingale? Did you think we wouldn’t check the CCTV cameras and that we wouldn’t find out that you were in the flat when George Harrison took a flyer off his balcony?’