Paul barely made it to the pub in time and found Clark already seated nursing a bottle of Budweiser.
“I see your orders are not to fraternise with the natives”, he commented when he joined him with a pint of Guinness.
Clark blinked, then laughed. “Nope, and no cider either, plus bourbon only. I’m sure there is a new regulation out on that somewhere.”
“That is a shame with a twelve year-old Lagavulin sitting in my flat.”
“Not fair, Paul, not fair. How was your day?”
“Fine”, Paul didn’t see any reason yet to tell Clark about the newest developments. “By the way, do you have a tail on Downey?”
“Why would we want to do that?” Clark wrinkled his brows. “Are you telling me there’s yet another firm involved here?”
So it must not have been his first Budweiser, Paul thought, having just guessed that Clark was working with the knowledge of the British service who kept him informed.
“What is your interest here?” Paul asked casually, taking a sip of beer. “If you’re allowed to talk about it to a civilian that is.”
“Well, there’s not a lot to say really.” Clark burped, “Excuse me, in effect we just wanted to be where your ghost writer kept his papers, know what he was about. As it happens, some papers seem to have disappeared, but it’s nothing to worry about.”
“Then you won’t be worried that Lynd’s ex-girl friend had the impression that somebody had been through his flat… or that someone is watching her that you don’t know about…”
“Oh, c’mon, Pauly, play fair, what do you know about the Downey woman? And since when is she his ex-girl friend?”
“Let’s compare some notes then!” Paul wanted to encourage Clark to share those resources he hadn’t been able to tap last night. “About your second question: She stated quite clearly that she had not kept her nightdress in his flat for the past few months now. We definitely found one though. How about you share some of your knowledge? For example, what do you know about Lynd junior?”
“Lynd’s son. Your faculty secretary had some rumour about Downey dating both generations, and he appears to have been stalking her.”
“Must have been before we got involved.” Clarke shook his head. “That doesn’t sound like her, but if you like I could ask around…”
“I’d be grateful. About Downey?”
“Well, as she’s a British citizen, surely you know most about her, but she spent most of her married life in up-state New York. Hubby was into architecture and construction, almost ran his firm into the ground before he ran afoul of a crane. If you ask me, she was well rid of him. Because of the huge insurance-sum involved and the short interval between the taking out of the policy and the accident the FBI had a file on the whole sad story.”
“The Feds had what?” Better to at least look innocent, even if Tom was the last to believe that of Paul.
“Ah, you were already busy with the mob case then. There was some scandal on life insurance scams, so they got it into their head to become involved. Anyway, it turns out, he kept cheating on her while she was miscarrying his babies and keeping his house and guest list in shape. What came out in the internal investigation of the insurers is confidential of course, but let me tell you, it’s pretty absurd.” Yes, Paul had thought so too. “She left the US shortly after the funeral and took up her academic career again over here. Did you get a look at the tail?”
“I even got a photo.” That was what he’d been hoping for: Clark’s resources for his information. “I can mail it to you.”
“Why not check out this guy right away? To tell you the truth, we were quite suspicious of her to start with, but I’ve since become convinced that nothing that happened after the 15th century really interests her much. The classic egghead.” Paul smiled to himself, translating Clark’s remarks as ‘tried but was told to get lost.’ He shook his head at the eternal philanderer, then told himself off for hypocrisy. Better have some more beer.
While Clark sent the photo to be checked against various databases, Paul tried to get closer to his reason for getting involved. “Just to make sure I got you right: you’ve been babysitting an ex-Prime Minister’s ghost writer who managed to lose a few unimportant papers. That does look like a bit of an overkill, doesn’t it? And why would you be doing that and not our own boys and girls?”
“Ah, Paul, you know how paranoid DC has become. For me it’s a well-paid holiday with safe foreign travel and girls involved.” Broad smile, knowing smirk. Wink.
You’re overdoing it buddy, Paul thought, I don’t want to be in your shoes, no matter how good the pay. You’ve just lost not only the papers you yourself were interested in but also the ghost writer who’s seen them all. You have no idea who he’s been talking to, and all that happened right under your nose.
“Another beer?” he asked. Do you like outer Nepal, was what he really wanted to ask Clark, whose next posting was bound to be as uncomfortable as could be imagined.
“Why not! Hey, we’ve got some results, thank God for different time zones. Here’s your guy, definitely not Lynd junior: Marcus Trevelyan-Carter, British citizen, should be 32 by now, applied for a driver’s license in Connecticut eight years ago, disappeared from our screens short time after. Entered the country again… wait, 2003 on a tourist visa. Completely innocuous, not even a speeding ticket. Pretty boy, but we have nothing on him, sorry.”
As Paul had expected, the meeting lasted long into the night and when he stumbled to his bedroom at two in the morning he vowed to get his life into a more regulated rhythm as soon as possible, by tomorrow, at the latest.
Before he dropped off to sleep his mind registered a strange thing: the scent he’d smelt in Naomi’s house seemed to linger on in his flat. He tried to reason this away, as Naomi had not even been close to his flat and he certainly smelt nothing like her after an evening at the pub. He decided to put off this riddle to a later, less beer-soaked hour as well.