When Paul arrived in his office still hungry with two packets of crisps and a mug of coffee he had charmed off the Assistant Commissioner’s secretary, he found a disgruntled Brian muttering about people not doing their job properly.
Paul ignored the grumbling, offered him one of the packets and asked: “So, what have you got so far?”
“Not a lot. The other neighbour was out that night, so unfortunately there is no corroboration coming in there. I tried the pub again…”
“And?” Paul had polished off the crisps at an alarming speed, regretting not having accepted Naomi’s invitation. She looked as if she was eating nothing but health food and that it was doing her good.
Brian shook his head. “It was a long shot, Saturday night is pretty noisy, even in that kind of upmarket pub, and the owner only noticed that there was a quarrel because the couple at the next table couldn’t make up their mind about what wine to order and kept changing their order for food, so he had to wait.”
“So he did get the gist?”
“No, what I’m saying is that he had to concentrate on the other couple, he only got the tone of the conversation.”
Paul rolled his eyes. “Great. So it could have been about anything, from debating splitting up to what she told us.” He balled up the crisp pack and threw it into the bin with uncanny precision.
Brian shrugged. “Right. Anyway, I went to the college again, our techs are still trying to make some headway in that paper hole of a study of his. No enemies in the faculty, apparently this guy agreed with whoever he was talking to. No national day of mourning either however. Seems like Downey was the one he was closest to. They both came to King’s College at the same time. He didn’t have a lot of graduate students, not a particularly inspiring teacher it turns out. Only a few undergraduate courses as he was busy writing speeches and memoirs so much. Someone mentioned something about a son, but I’ll have to get back on that. Crime scene techs at his flat report nothing unusual, only a continuous interruption by the obnoxious lady next door. I think any kind of evidence coming from her will safely be discounted at court. Completely paranoid, if you ask me. Janitor said she’s had her locks changed three times this year alone. Plus, she’s been at him with a cock and bull story about a man looking in her window last year. Like that’s likely. Also”, when he saw Paul’s suspicious expression “it must have been Spiderman – it’s on the fourth floor.”
“So we’re not looking too good with our main witnesses against Downey then, are we?” Paul concluded.
“Not really, and I think we can forget about her telling us about what happened Sunday night as well, she seems to have a slight problem…”, Brian mimicked the emptying of a glass. “Peter said she was five sheets to the wind this morning already. Did you find anything that could help us?” He had been surprised in the course of their cooperation by the creative way Paul thought. They certainly complemented each other and had acquired a reputation for solving cases quickly.
“No, a string of coincidences, but no probabilities. But it still smells fishy.” He had definitely been surprised by what had come up when he had entered Naomi’s name into the databases connected with crime last night, and he was still not happy with her reaction. He thought for a moment. “Say, a bloke like Lynd, he wouldn’t do his own housekeeping, would he? Let’s ask around if we can find someone who knew the flat a little better and – had a key.”
“There’s an idea. By the way, you could ask Downey about that. Crime tech also found some stuff at the place that wouldn’t match Lynd’s size.”
Somehow Paul didn’t want to hear that, and he tried to ignore Brian’s leer. “Have they set up the incident’s room yet?” he asked.
“Yep, all done, down the hall, not that we have much to set up yet. But what we’ve got is Dr. Sawyer’s report.” He handed Paul a grey folder, which the younger man skimmed quickly.
“Great reading after a meal”, he said looking queasy. “I’ll be over there then, if anyone’s looking.” What Paul really wanted was time to think. He needed an office to himself but was sceptical about getting that with the short time he had been there.
Their overly eager assistant had set up a veritable landscape of pin-boards labelled “Scene of Crime”, “home and family” and “faculty”. It was this last one that made Paul stop in his tracks, turn and call out to Brian in his office. “I’m at the college, see you later.”
“Stop, no, you won’t. I’m going to see the wife and family in Northumberland, remember?” They had found out that Lynd had been divorced for about eight years, and the discovery of some insurance policies made a visit to his family imperative. For personal reasons Paul preferred not to be dealing with these kinds of family issues and Brian had volunteered to go on the trip. “His son sounds a bit of a nutcase to me.”
Brian chuckled. “Well, he turned himself in for stalking.”
“No, I put that badly. Apparently he was… seeing Downey as well and didn’t want to break that off when she got involved with his father, so he stalked her.”
Paul frowned. “She was dating father and son?” That didn’t sound like the woman he had met.
“Chronologically, the other way around.”
“Where did you get that?”
“The faculty secretary.”
“Brian, would you take everything Ms Miller said about us at face value?”
“Of course not, unless she was talking about you. No, but when she said stalking, I phoned the South Kensington police station and they gave me the tale of the reformed stalker.”
“I’d like to hear that one.” Paul had sat down on his desk.
“Yes, well, Clive Lynd turned up there one night, raving about a dangerous man outside Downey’s house threatening him. When our colleagues arrived on the scene, it turned out his father was with her. Lynd senior was very embarrassed and took his son along. No sign of an intruder.”
“How old is Lynd junior?”
“Twenty-five. Dropped out of King’s College a year ago, awol since.”
“Great, sounds like we better find him. I’ll call you as soon as I’ve got anything new.” With what he had just seen Paul doubted very much that the family angle would get them anywhere though.
Apparently Naomi’s instincts about the American scholar’s qualifications had not been so wrong after all, Paul thought, driving to the Strand once more. An hour later – parking was hell, next time he would take a panda car – he dashed into the building, looking for the office of Thomas Jefferson Clark, visiting scholar from Virginia (I bet!), who had somehow made it to a vote on tenure and thus caused the squabble between the victim and his girlfriend.
After knocking on Clark’s door twice Paul entered without waiting for an answer, interrupting a rather informal teaching session between a blonde and the quarterback-sized “scholar”.
“What the hell…?” Clark started out only to interrupt himself by shouting “Paul. How did you get here?” He jumped up and bear-hugged Paul. The blonde, forgotten and ignored took herself off in a huff.
“This is England, remember,“ Paul quipped, grinning impishly from ear to ear. “Would you care to tell me how you became a scholar on …what exactly?”
Clark’s grin was – if possible – even wider, his teeth a shiny contrast to his mahogany skin. “I’m a-teaching Black History from the Civil War onwards,“ he drawled.
“What, the firm let you go and dig up the family archive?” Paul snickered.
“No, not really, but tell me your story, and I’ll tell you mine.” Clark sat down and offered Paul the other chair in the tiny room. Paul shook his head: Naomi had certainly been right about the lack of space given to scholars in this building; the place felt more like a closet.
“Well, to start this the right way”, he flashed his badge, “We’re investigating the death of your faculty colleague Jeffrey Lynd, who was found murdered yesterday.”
“So that’s why he didn’t show up today.” Clark was stalling.
Paul shook his head at him. “Tom, it’s no use. You saw our guys in his office. What are you doing here, and since when is the CIA interested in taking part in British College education?”
“Isn’t it just my kind of luck to end up in the one place in all of the UK where I can be made by the one and only British cop I’ve ever taught and who by rights ought to be working for us?” Still stalling, odd, Paul thought. He waited.
“Have you checked this with your guys?” Clark asked cautiously.
Paul snorted. “Why the hell should I? I didn’t know there was any need to get them involved.”
“Ok, let me make a few phone calls and I’ll get back to you. You wanna come to my place?”
“No, let’s meet at a pub.” Paul suggested and gave him the directions for a pub near his own flat. He was not too hopeful for the outcome of this line of questioning, sensing a lot of frustration from his American friend, but then, one never knew.
He had met Clark at Quantico where the latter had given a course on surveillance during Paul’s stay. Clark had helped Paul when he was almost ready to give up on the whole policing thing after having found he was not good at shooting. He had not expected to need this skill as an analyst, but his superiors had been insistent. Paul didn’t like the idea of taking another person’s life, and he remembered enough discussions with his father about ‘playing god or fate’ to actually make him physically sick at the shooting range. When push had come to shove however, and he was about to be fired in spite of his good marks for not shooting, he had given in and asked Clark for lessons. Clark had obliged and managed to make a good shot of Paul, who still didn’t like guns, but at least was now safe to be carrying one.
They had stayed in touch afterwards, linked at the time by the common experience of failed marriage. It had been – Paul recalled – a rather rowdy time with both of them more or less out of control, more like a second time at university.
After checking on the unit taking apart Lynd’s office – now that he had time left on his hands, or so he convinced himself – he went down the hall and knocked on Naomi’s door. He had another idea, it was a bit medieval, he had to admit, but wasn’t she a medievalist after all? When she asked him in, he started smiling, noticing that her hair was still in the same untidy bun she’d started out with in the morning. She returned his smile, and for half a minute he couldn’t remember why he’d come here and what he wanted – apart from looking at the lovely, frail-looking creature in front of him.
“Yes?” she encouraged.
“Ah, well, I wondered if you happened to know if Lynd did his own housekeeping and if not, if you could put us in contact with the woman who did. Also, there are some things at his flat that might belong to you – if you want to get them…?” He left the end open, having just realized that he was talking a) to a suspect b) to the victim’s girlfriend and c) not to someone who’d ever be interested in him. Why should she? As far as she was concerned, he was an obnoxious policeman, probably a philistine of the first order, not able to tell apart philosophy and philology. He very much doubted she’d give him the chance to tell her otherwise.
While he was still mentally kicking himself for his presumptions, Naomi had started answering his questions and was now looking at him slightly irritated. “Are you listening at all?” she asked sternly, and he suddenly felt like a rather obtuse undergraduate again.
“Eh, yes, of course, just let me get my notebook to take down the details.” Great, Inspector Plod in action.
When he’d finished writing down the name and address of Lynd’s cleaning lady, he offered Naomi a lift to Lynd’s flat which she accepted after checking the time. “I can drive you home after that,“ he offered when they were walking to his car. She accepted that too – his heart jumped – saying that quite a bit of luggage might be involved.
Naomi turned quiet when they entered Lynd’s flat. She took a deep breath after seeing the bloodstains on the carpet below the stairs and quickly looked away again.
Then she swallowed hard. “Can I just walk around and pick up my things?”
Paul nodded. He was already regretting his idea. She had become deadly pale at seeing the bloodstains, and he was afraid she might faint on him. That would certainly get Vachewsky to sue the Yard.
Naomi shook herself once more. Then she briskly walked to the kitchen, got herself a box and started collecting cookbooks, pots and pans, went to the bathroom to throw away a used toothbrush and pick up a shampoo (walnut, Paul noticed), and finally went into the bedroom where she collected an armful of books.
Surprise registered in Paul’s face. “Are you sure that’s all?” He had been quietly following her around.
“Whose nightdress is it in the bed then?” He held up a lacy nothing.
“Not mine”, Naomi smiled, “I think you need to find another claimant for that.”
“Jeff’s and my relationship had changed some months ago, it’s quite probable that he found someone new, but he didn’t tell me about her. I assume you have checked his answer-phone and his mobile?”
Paul swallowed, trying to make sense of all the new bits of information that had started coming in so fast.
“By the way”, Naomi continued, “If Rosa hasn’t changed her day to Monday – and you should have noticed her around yesterday, she’s really hard to overlook – someone’s been in here.”
“Well, yes, our SOCOs have been through the flat.” Paul said.
“Do they always tidy up? Someone’s been through this place, and it definitely wasn’t Jeff. Are you sure about no break-in?”
Things seemed to fall into place for a moment, and Paul started to nod to himself. He knew the kind of people who would make a place look tidier after searching it. “Are you finished? Then I can get you home.”
“That would be nice.” They needed two trips to the car, lugging all the stuff down the stairs.
“Did you only move into his kitchen?” Paul asked the second time around, carrying the box with pots and pans.
“No, but when I cook, I like the right equipment, and Jeff definitely liked to eat. Careful, you’ll be really sorry if that pepper mill falls down.” It was sticking out from Paul’s haphazard construction at an adventurous angle.
“Why? Is it worth more than my monthly wage?” The damn thing was getting in his line of vision too.
Naomi snickered. “No, but you might be sneezing your head off if it falls and breaks.”
This time the car trip wasn’t as quiet as the one in the morning. Paul kept talking about nothing in particular, trying to make Naomi feel at ease with him. And she didn’t seem to mind. He had decided not to touch the topic of Lynd junior just yet, better find the young man first. When they arrived at her house she said: “I would ask you in for another coffee, but I’m in a bit of a rush right now.”
“Going anywhere special?” Curious. Had she got another boyfriend, too? Was she going to see Lynd’s son?
“No, just my weekly Taekwondo class.”
Paul stared: “What?” He just about managed to keep his chin from dropping.
He was still standing in her doorway when she rushed out again with a very large sports bag. “Sorry, did I leave something in your car?”
“You do what? Is there anything else you do at night?” Shooting? Fencing? Now he knew how she had been able to shoulder all those bags in the morning. And they had been doubting she could have dealt with Lynd! With the right kind of leverage she could probably have lobbed him over the rails herself. From the look he’d had of the body, Lynd would not have had much muscle power to resist her. He would have to check just how deadly her brand of Martial Arts could be.
Naomi seemed to be completely unaware of any implications her leisure activities could have. “I tried Karate but found I was too small to get anywhere. Sometimes I go on weekend courses for Modern Arnis, that’s a Vietnamese variation with sticks, it’s fun. You should try it sometimes. Why?”
Paul shook his head. “Nothing. Can I take a rain check on the coffee?”
“Yes, but I really have to run now, bye.” She rushed to a small car parked at the curb and drove off at high speed.
Only after she had gone round the corner did he remember his arrangement with Clark. First however he had to deal with another aspect.
Even though he had been quite preoccupied, in the back of his policeman’s mind he had noticed that by the latest in front of Naomi’s house they had been shadowed. Now he carefully took his mobile out of his pocket, turned around quickly and snapped a photo of the tall man casually leaning on the opposite wall. The stranger gave no indication of having noticed this, so Paul took him not for Lynd junior but for a professional and made a mental note to ask Clark about him. He drove away quickly without turning back to be at least not too late for his date with the American, especially as he had planned on leaving his car at his house.