Paul winced when they entered the flat and followed Marcus through the hall into a large room. Of course, it would be like that: antique furnishings, Persian rugs covering polished floors, leather-bound books in mahogany book-cases lining the walls, a Regency mantelpiece complete with a period painting on top, in the middle of the room a grand piano. The only modern addition was a small expensive stereo and a stack of CDs near the desk. Why couldn’t this competent, good-looking man be living in an IKEA-furnished bed-sit? Where did he get that kind of money?
To his intense annoyance, Naomi seemed suitably impressed as well. She looked around then asked feigning indifference: “Do you live here alone?”
“Sometimes,“ Marcus answered in an off-hand way, took their coats and went to open the windows. “Place belongs to the family.”
“Would you mind?” Naomi exclaimed, looking at the windows. “I’m freezing as it is.” She wrapped her arms around herself in an effort to get warm.
Marcus seemed surprised. “Oh, all right, have a seat, and I’ll get us something to drink, then we can talk.”
He returned shortly after with a tea-tray with two cups and a bottle of brandy with crystal snifters.
By that time, Paul had closed the windows again and laid out the papers he’d found on the floor. Naomi noted with amusement that like her he was a ‘floor worker’.
Now he was pointing to the separate stacks. “Ok”, he said, determined to get back to business, “These papers prove that the PM knew in 2002 that a British and French conglomerate was supplying Iraq with material that could well be used for Weapons of Mass Destruction. A rather interesting fun fact to know if you consider there was an embargo on Iraq at the time, and as well if you think of the self-righteous approach of the French President – who also knew that – towards the Iraq war. Those are copies of the correspondence of his close adviser with the French firm about the PM’s shares in the company.”
Naomi was trying to digest this information. “I’m sure that that was all highly illegal, but who would be interested in creating all this brou-ha-ha years later, they’ve never found any WMD in Iraq, have they?”
“I’m not really sure who’s pulling the strings behind the scenes here”, Paul answered, “Though my money would be on French and British intelligence rather than the Americans, because they wouldn’t mind so much if the whole dirty deal got out. In fact, their interest would maybe be it getting out, so they could look at least a little better than they do now.” Clark and his employers would have been very happy to have those papers, he thought, for several reasons they would find them quite useful, if only to be able to use them as leverage on their partners in the ‘Special Relationship’. However, they would definitely not be interested in burning them. Maybe the British knew about them after all and didn’t want him to succeed, and what they were watching was another instalment of the Special Relationship farce. Killing historians didn’t sound like a British government-approved method though. He shook his head. “Our guys are definitely involved. This would also explain the bugging and the interference with the Yard.”
“Right, what about that? How did you know about my house being bugged?” Naomi was confused.
“Marcus said he heard us talking when he passed a Ford Transit one road down, so he made the connection. The panda car I had ordered had also gone, so…”
“Wait! You’re saying this is our own government? No wonder they could pull my medical records. What do we do to get away from them?” Naomi looked at Paul in panic.
“As I said I’m not sure who’s behind this thing. Besides, I would have expected them to be more efficient.” Paul wasn’t happy with the state of affairs. He had the distinct impression they were missing something.
“What more efficiency than burning her in her bed do you want?” Marcus growled. Then he pointed to the third stack: “What’s that?”
Paul sighed and shook his head again. “I can’t make anything of those.”
“What’s in them?” Naomi asked shyly, still shocked by Marcus’s aggressive tone a minute ago. With her, he had always sounded calm and civilised.
“Take a look for yourself! It looks like correspondence between the firm and the PM’s office, but it seems to be more about resources and the like. I don’t see the connection apart from the same participants.” Paul took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes.
Marcus took up the papers Paul had talked about first and started reading, while Naomi sat cross-legged in the middle of the stacks and perused the third stack of letters.
“Mm”, she said after a while, “these are not about selling weapons to Iraq at all.”
Paul agreed. “That’s my point. Maybe they just got mixed up in the whole stack because the date and the partners in the correspondence are the same.”
“So nothing much has changed since medieval times after all?” Naomi smiled, “Just put everything into the same place and say you’ve tidied up.” She had come across that version of filing in some of the archives she’d visited for her research.
Paul had to look away, and Marcus chuckled too. “Very medievalist. Let me take a look!” He read through the pages and stopped at a memo clipped to the last letter. “Paul, I think if you don’t mind, I’d like to get some chronology into this.” He pointed to his desk.
Paul shrugged his shoulders and nodded. Marcus swept up the papers and got to work methodically. After a while Naomi went and looked over his shoulder. “Have you done this before?”
“Yes, I used to be a historian.” Distant.
“Oh”, interested, “and now?”
“Now I’m in a different line of work.” Full stop. Naomi was taken aback at the final tone and went back to Paul.
“So we still don’t know who killed Jeff, and we still don’t know what to do,“ she said in a small voice. “And I can’t go into hiding from phantoms forever.”
“The question is: what do we do with these papers?” Paul said raising the subject they would definitely have to deal with as soon as possible.
They spent a good part of the night discussing options, discarding one after the next, until Marcus said slowly. “Why don’t we take the bull by the horns, and have Naomi rather publicly take these papers to Chancery Lane…”
Paul frowned at him. “Where?” Chancery Lane as an archive had been closed decades ago.
Marcus blinked and caught himself. “The Public Record Office or the Prime Minister’s archive after informing Scotland Yard that she’s found some material pertaining to Lynd’s work amongst her papers. Once she’s handed them over where they belong, they’ll be out of the public’s eye for the next 30 years during which they might very well be lost or destroyed.” He seemed quite pleased with his suggestion.
Paul was more sceptical: “How will we convince whoever’s interested in the whole thing that Naomi didn’t read them or understand what she’s handing over?”
“Well”, Marcus smiled, “She is actually quite convincing as the dedicated historian with no knowledge of current affairs.”
Naomi turned red. How could he possibly know that she was embarrassingly ignorant of politics, which had been a source first of amusement then of irritation to Jeff? “I think I might just pull that one of,“ she agreed dryly.
Paul shook his head. “I’m still not happy. I think it might be best if we pull a rabbit out of the hat and have a press conference on Monday, announcing that we found the papers in a bank deposit box of Lynd’s and are handing over historical matter to whoever it belongs. That way Naomi would be out of the spotlight.”
“Paul, that sounds like the best idea so far, excellent!” Marcus was pleased.
Paul snorted. “Yes, it only leaves me with the tiny problem of some thugs running around London, who think it’s ok to beat nice professors to a pulp whenever it suits their purpose, or set people’s houses on fire if they feel like it, and I’m no closer to catching them than I was this afternoon. I’m a policeman, remember?” He was not satisfied. “After all I’m quite sure that the people with all those extra resources who have been so busy might be no longer interested in the whole thing once the papers are back. If they were happy to burn them they’re just interested in getting them out of the spotlight. So they will simply disappear and we’ll have to close the case.” While he would be happy to have Naomi’s involvement in the thing ended, the possibility of Lynd’s killers going free irked him considerably.
“Maybe you should sleep on it. I’ll prepare a guest-bedroom”, Marcus pulled him from his musings.
Paul was just about to protest that he had a place of his own, when he caught his host’s eye. It seemed like he was pleading with him to stay. Now he was absolutely confused. They really needed to talk.
Minutes later Naomi and Paul were shown two bedrooms. Both had ancient four-poster beds and did not look like they’d been used much recently. The beds had been made in a rather hurried fashion, apparently Marcus did not have guests often.
“Have a good night,“ Marcus said after pointing out the bathroom for them, “I’ll see you in the morning.” He went back to the library and started playing the piano quietly.
“Isn’t he going to sleep?” Naomi asked when she met Paul in the hallway on her way to bed.
“I don’t know”, Paul answered, yawning. He was tired, but thoughts racing around his brain kept him awake. He got up again after twenty minutes and went back to the library.
Marcus looked up from the piano when Paul came in. “Did I disturb you with my music? I was just about to stop.”
“No, I just thought it might be better if I got these papers together to take them to the Yard first thing in the morning,“ Paul said, bending down to sweep up the stacks on the floor as well as to avoid meeting Marcus’s eyes.
“By all means”, Marcus handed over the stack from his desk smiling enigmatically.
“Thanks”, Paul was uncomfortable knowing that his new friend – if that’s what he was – was aware that he mistrusted him.
“Do you want me to wake you at a certain time?” Marcus asked and added as an afterthought. “I’m always up early.”
“Eight would be good, if it’s no trouble to you.”
“Eight. Fine I’ll knock then. Good night.” Marcus seemed as uncomfortable with all the things unsaid as he was, and Paul left quickly. Once back in his room he was asleep within minutes.
Naomi took a while longer to quieten down, and when she finally did, she had strange dreams about her newly acquired friends.
Two hours later their host was still pacing the library like a trapped panther. He knew both his guest were asleep, which did nothing to make him easier. How could they be so trusting? Obviously they had no idea of his nature and character. At least Paul seemed to have noticed there was something suspicious about this sudden help from a stranger and had come back for his papers, but still: How easy to just kill them right now. No one knew where they were, it was absolutely safe – for him.
He had been into her room ten minutes ago to watch her sleep, her hair fanned out on the pillow, full lips slightly parted, one creamy arm pointing in his direction, almost as if it was reaching out for him. After a while he had left – no use in making this even more complicated.
The monster was rearing its ugly head again: ‘Go on, take the man down, and you can enjoy her undisturbed, she’s in your bed already.’ Marcus gasped at his body’s reaction to the idea of getting into bed with Naomi. He had not felt anything like that in years, it felt incredibly good, but he struggled and fought it down. She wouldn’t survive it if he didn’t. In the back of his head he could hear a cold voice – his father: ‘So? She doesn’t matter. Don’t forget who you are!’ He ground his teeth, trying to stay in control. “She does matter, she’s my life, damn it!”
A sharp breath. Had he been screaming this aloud? He waited for Paul or Naomi to appear sleepily, asking what was wrong with him, but they didn’t come.
He thought about leaving for a couple of hours to distract himself but decided against it for fear of acquaintances entering the flat. He swallowed hard and continued fighting himself, trying not to give in to his baser instincts. When his newspaper was delivered in the early hours, he sat down at his desk and forced himself to read it conscientiously down to the ads in the personal column.
He sighed. In another life they could have been friends, he really liked the man, he was definitely good company. The way it was however, Paul’s interests would be best served if he stayed away from him as soon as his job was finished.
This time they reached their boss at home. “Have you found the papers now?” Excited.
“No. There are some complications.”
“I don’t like that word, you know that.”
“Well, it seems Usher is on our track.”
“How do you know that?”
“Well, he’s got a picture and is looking for us.”
“We’ve had that before, deal with it.”
“I would, but he’s…”
“He’s dropped off the map. We’ve lost him. Downey, too. We thought she was asleep, but when we checked the house again, it was empty. And after the firemen were here last night, we can’t really continue with my colleague’s plan. I’m also not sure that they haven’t already got them. Besides, the place was crawling with police of one sort or another. Abort mission?”
“No way. They’re bound to turn up again. I’m giving you two more days, you hear that?”