Death and Disclosure - a London Mystery

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The next day was cold and overcast. The weather, it seemed was trying to remind the British that it was still early March, even if some daffodils had started showing their heads among the grass in parks and by the roadside.

Naomi hadn’t slept well – at some point during the night there had been an awful lot of noise outside. She had taken a long time to fall asleep at all last night. The visit to Jeff’s flat had shaken her more than she had cared to admit to Paul. She had tried to play it light on the way back, but had not really succeeded in calming herself down. Even her sports class had not managed to release the tension, and in the end she had cried herself to sleep over Jeff.

Quite apart from that she felt absolutely confused: Jeff’s death, the discovery of the mysterious girlfriend he hadn’t told her about, her reaction to that policeman, who seemed to have so much fun infuriating her while getting all tongue-tied every time one asked an everyday question. To put it in a nutshell, she was decidedly grumpy when her phone rang at half past 8 and DI Paul Usher wanted to know if she knew some person called Carter, which she might – two a penny, she was a teacher with a lot of students – or might not do.

He hadn’t sounded any better, actually. It had been a very short conversation.

After she’d found out from Jeff’s older brother that the burial would not be possible for almost another week, she made herself some breakfast and tried to work. She had no tutorials that day and usually got a lot of work done.

Not today, though. Her mind kept wandering, and two hours and two essays later she gave up, tidied her desk, then her whole study and went for a run in Hyde Park to clear her head. When she got back home, there was a very irate Paul Usher on her doorstep who looked about ready to kick in her front door. Great, just the person she needed. He and his green eyes were taking up far too much room in her brain anyway. She scowled.

He didn’t look too friendly either. “Where have you been?” Clipped tones.

“To the moon, planning a massacre of Martians”, maybe sarcasm would help. She blew another sweaty lock of hair that had escaped the ponytail out of her face. “Do I assume correctly that you’re planning to storm my house if I don’t let you in voluntarily?” She unlocked the front door and went in. He followed at once.

“Why didn’t you tell me there was an attempt to break into your house last night when I called this morning?” Accusing.

“Let me think”, she kicked off her shoes – let him get the stench if he wanted to ambush her after running – and pointed him to the living room. “It might be for the simple reason that I DID’T KNOW MYSELF!” She was almost shouting by now.

“You’re telling me you didn’t notice all the brou-ha-ha last night, four panda cars, sirens wailing, neighbours shouting? Where were you?” She had probably been out. He was sure by now that there must be another man involved here. Paul closed his eyes briefly and tried not to think of her in someone’s arms. Get a grip, he told himself, you only met her two days ago.

“I’m told I have a very sound sleep! I have to admit though that it did seem a bit more rowdy than usual last night.” She rubbed the side of her nose in a nervous gesture. She had had the impression of someone ringing her bell at one point, but had put that down as part of her dream.

Paul continued. “One of your neighbours, it’s not really clear who, phoned the police last night because someone was trying to force your kitchen window. But the perp must have gotten scared and decided to run.” The window had been closed, and the police had left again when they got no reaction from inside the house.

Naomi sighed. There had been a long spell of vandalism and break-ins in Kensington the past half year, which was why she had had her doors and windows improved. Apparently that had worked. “Good, that’s all cleared and settled then. Now do you mind, I’d like to take a shower…”

“Not at all, go ahead, take your time. Once you’re ready, there are a few more questions I’d like to ask you.” His voice had gone back to the husky baritone she had found calming the day before.

The content irritated her though, and before she had time to think she found herself holding one of her sneakers ready to throw it at Paul. She only stopped herself at the last minute, shrugged her shoulders and went upstairs to shower.

Blowing off steam literally under the shower she was debating whether to call Stan again and have that obnoxious policeman kicked out of the house, but decided against it after a while: it didn’t really seem as if they were still suspecting her. Apart from that she wasn’t sure if she would actually be able to reach him wherever Nick had taken him on their hiking trip. She took her time, conscientiously applied body lotion and dressed carefully.

When she came back to the living-room rosy and smelling of oranges and sandalwood she found Paul looking at her bookshelves. She noted with amusement that a pair of reading glasses disappeared in his pocket as soon as he saw her. She got some mineral water for herself and a cup of coffee for Paul and settled on the sofa. “So?” Eyebrows raised expectantly.

“Do you know what Lynd was working on?”

“He was writing something about the Suez Crisis, but I’m quite sure you wouldn’t make a nuisance of yourself about that. Apart from that he had started on the former PM’s memoirs. Why?”

“Did you talk about his work – not the Suez one”, Paul quickly amended his question trying not to notice how her wet hair had started curling itself around her face. He really shouldn’t have stayed alone for such a long time, the way he was distracted by that woman was just not fair. He cleared his throat and tried to concentrate on her answer.

“Not really, we had a rather different approach to our subject, and I wasn’t really happy about this ghosting stunt. If the PM is too gaga to write himself, maybe he should leave it to professionals without all the cloak and dagger. Jeff didn’t sound too happy about the whole thing once he had started either. He only took it on because of the money. He’s got an ex-wife and two kids at university, you know.”

“Yes, I’ll come back to that in a minute.” They knew about that angle, also about insurance that was to come to the kids, but so far everything seemed to check out on that front, too, Brian had told him that the ex-wife had said nothing about a missing son.

“What exactly wasn’t he happy about?” Would she get that lock out of her eye or would he have to do it? Stop, concentrate!

“I didn’t really get it, my field is so different, you see, but there was something about the PM not handing over all the relevant papers to the PRO or whoever is responsible for things like that. And something about confidential papers and the 30-year rule – not that I’d know why that would be relevant. Sorry, I can’t help you.” She eyed her watch pointedly.

Paul ignored the hint. “Aha. Can you tell me about your involvement with Clive Lynd?”

Naomi bridled. “That’s private.”

“There is no private in a murder investigation. How well do you know him?”

“Well enough to be able to tell you that he had nothing to do with his father’s death.” Defensive. Ah, so she had liked the young man.

“How can you be so sure? Especially as the young man apparently was quite… attracted to you. Jealousy is one of the oldest motives for murder known to mankind.”

She had flinched at the word jealousy. “He is a very sensitive young man, he wouldn’t hurt a fly. I had no idea how he felt about me, I certainly did not encourage him, he was my student after all.”

Somehow Paul could believe that: she probably really had no idea about her effect on men. “But you got involved with his father?”

“He was a colleague, we both were the new people at the place, it… happens. I would never have thought Clive could become so… pig-headed – there was a rather embarrassing scene which you probably heard about.” She took a deep breath. “I haven’t seen Clive for over a year, I’m quite sure he has left the city.”

“Hm”, they would have to check the young man’s whereabouts. Paul handed over a print of his snapshot. “Do you know him?”

She took a look at the photo, a crease forming between her eyebrows. Then recognition dawned, and he thought he could see a faint blush in her cheeks.

She smiled. “Oh, that’s Marcus Trevelyan-Carter, he was at Oxford when I was up. Only he was much older than me. Well, six years, actually, but it seemed the world at the time. I met him at a concert and we spent a lovely evening talking. And then he ignored me, probably didn’t want to be seen going out with a puny undergraduate. Almost broke my heart.” She smiled again, but now Paul saw there was quite a bit of melancholy in the smile – what had the man done to make her so miserable? “Actually, I thought I’d seen him again some years ago in New York, but I could have been wrong about that. What has he done? Why are you asking questions about him?”

“He was following you yesterday, the picture was taken across the road”, Paul said. He was confused now. Had she started lying to him? Again? How convenient to remember that Carter had been in the US the same time she had been there. Was he the man involved?

“You must be joking, what would he be doing following me around?” She was incredulous.

“I don’t know, you tell me. What do you know about his current whereabouts?”

“Nothing!” She laughed. “The first and last time I talked to him was fifteen years ago at the concert. Do you suspect him of killing Jeff? That’s ridiculous.”

“I think you’ll find that’s my field. Why don’t you leave it to the professionals? So, what do you know about him?”

Naomi blinked. “Eh – what I just told you. There was that rumour that he was doing a doctorate at Oriel, you could check their alumni records… but I’m really not sure what good that will do you.”

“I’ll certainly do that.” Now Paul was on his feet. He didn’t like her laughing at him. Was she defending that guy? What was going on here?

“Fine.” She raised her eyebrows at his tone.

“Fine. Keep your windows closed!”

“I can take care of myself!” She took a step toward the French doors leading to the garden and opened it. Then she led the way out and held the front door for him. “Officer?”

“Good bye, Madam.” He left before he could ruin any more.

What the hell was going on with him? He had been good for over a year now after all the chaos and heartbreak he’d left behind in DC. He really ought to pull himself together and start thinking straight.

Naomi went to her study and sat down at her desk. She got the computer going again and started drumming her fingers impatiently.

“Oh, all right”, she sighed and logged into the Oxford alumni system. Ten minutes later she was confused. She had found one Marcus Trevelyan-Carter: he had been awarded a first in 1922, a PhD in 1924…and he was listed among the late students.

“Why do I always fall for the idiots? Of course he didn’t want any more contact with me after sailing under a wrong name for a whole evening, probably just trying for a one-night stand anyway”, which he would have got – she was honest enough to admit that to herself. He had completely bowled her over with his dark curls and intense black eyes, she had never met anyone more beautiful. That evening however he had suddenly got up and politely said good-bye and that had been it. Still, some pervert, if he kept hanging around the place now. Suddenly she was furious. “Just you wait,“ she said under her breath, “Just you wait!”

She left through the back door, sneaked round the house and right – there he was, standing in the shadow of the opposite block of flats’ entrance. She took a deep breath and set out to walk purposefully toward him. For a second it registered on her mind that he looked exactly like he had that night in Oxford fifteen years ago, but she thought it must be a trick of the mind, she’d read all about how unreliable human memory was.

“Oy!” she shouted at him. “If you don’t get your sorry carcass away from my front door within five minutes, I’ll have you arrested for stalking!”

For the shortest time she felt dark, almost black eyes burning into hers from under long dark lashes. Then he focused on a point above her left shoulder and enquired: “Sorry, Miss, you must be quite mistaken, I’m waiting for a friend to come down. As soon as she’s here, I will, as you so succinctly put it, remove my “sorry carcass” from your sight. Is there anything else I can be of service with?”

“Yes,“ she fumed, “just get lost or I’ll call the police.”

“By all means, be sure to call the fire brigade too while you’re about it, why don’t you?” He smiled at her condescendingly.

But to her great satisfaction she saw him leave, get into a car and drive away.

When she got back into her house she was still fuming. What was it with men today? However, by the time she’d made herself a pot of Earl Grey nagging doubt had started to set in: Had she just made the most ridiculous spectacle of herself? Whoever he was had certainly thought so, he had seemed quite amused. She shook her head. Had it not been for the second of his eyes meeting hers, she would even have sworn it was a different person altogether. As usual the solution to her troubled mind was work. That day the Roman townspeople’s revolt of the 12th century was well and truly investigated.

Not a mile away from her house, the tall man was calling his boss again.

“Yes?” Impatient.

“We’ve lost a man.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that René did not return from his attempt of breaking into the house last night. I’ve been looking around and tapped all our sources but he’s vanished. I’m afraid there is Secret Service involvement here. Perhaps we should try to find out how much exactly they know.”

“Have you got a way of doing that?”

“Well, we could ask Usher, it’s his father after all…”

“I’m not sure that would get them off your back. Concentrate on the papers.”

“If you think so.”

“I do. Get to work!”

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