Alasdair has added a couple of locks to his door and it takes several minutes to get in. It’s like gaining entry to a high security research establishment.
‘Expecting someone?’ I ask.
‘Fuck off, Tyler. If you’ve come here to take the piss, just fuck off.’
‘Pity Thomas Oldfield’s safe wasn’t as well protected.’
His eyes are heavy and there are dark shadows like he hasn’t slept for days. The bruises, which have turned purple, don’t help. ‘You look like shit,’ I tell him. He locks the door behind me then locks it again and bolts it for good measure. He’s taking no chances, that’s for sure.
‘I keep waiting for people to call, either to arrest me or beat me up.’
‘Maybe you should surrender and cut out the middle man,’ I say. ‘Sooner or later they’ll get you if they really want to. A few locks won’t stop them. Besides, this is no way to live, is it?’
I can’t help thinking of my own situation. That’s no way to live either.
‘What do you want?’ he snaps. ‘I take it this isn’t a social call.’
‘I don’t have time for social calls. From the look of it you don’t either. Maybe we could work a deal.’
He laughs even though it causes pain. I suppose that’s okay so long as the laughter’s ironic. It gives the pain a purpose.
‘You see, I’ve got this theory only I don’t want to go speaking to George Mackie until I’ve thought it through. It could incriminate other people and, well, you know what George Mackie’s like. Before you know it, he’ll be rapping out orders to Tyrone and this muscular gent called Manny. You wouldn’t like Manny. But maybe you’ve met him. Your face looks like his trademark.’
‘Get to the point, will you?’
I sit down and lean forward to rest my arms on my knees.
‘Well, if Mackie gets it into his head that someone was trying to set him up and I go and drop a name, well, it’s like I’d be responsible for whatever happened next. Do you see? I don’t want that sort of thing on my conscience, not unless I’m certain that the bastard I finger is responsible for Thomas Oldfield lying in a hospital bed, Wayne being charged with GBH and me waiting to be terminated painfully by any number of well-paid thugs. Do you get me?’
‘Not one word,’ he says but his eyes say different.
’I think you read the contents of the JAYDEE package some time ago. Maybe you were bored and passing time or just plain nosey, I don’t know. I don’t imagine you gave it much thought at the time. It was the money you had your avaricious little eyes on. You just stored it away for a rainy day. Then, guess what, along come a whole line of black clouds and you think, ‘Rainy day? There’s going to be one might, fucking storm and I’m right underneath it.’ It’s time to roll out the master plan and get out from under the clouds and into a nice, sunny little spot where everything is just so, the sort you’re used to, the sort of place you think you deserve. You pretend to have your own place burgled so you can tell the police that Oldfield’s keys were nicked along with your own. Only you’d conveniently forget about the Oldfield keys until it’s too late, until he’d already been robbed. It’s easy to look a bit foolish if you’ve got a few grand in your wallet and I don’t suppose you’d care much so long as you were in the clear.’
‘Jesus, how many times do I have to tell you? I was at the Rugby Club that night. If you think I got someone else to break in, go ahead and prove it. Only you can’t. You’ve got nothing.’
I ignore him and follow my own line, like I’m back in those hospital corridors.
‘The blackmail wasn’t you, I figure. You might be a stupid fucker but you’re way too clever to get involved in that, especially when the targets are George Mackie, our local councillors, an ex-mayor or our Honourable Member. No, I don’t think you’d have the stomach for anything like that. No, you had an accomplice.’
‘You’re fucking deluded, Tyler. It was nothing to do with me. I was...’
‘At the Rugby Club, yeah.’
I shake my head and sigh.
‘I reckon you told Tyrone your plan, got him interested. Did you tell him about the money and the JAYDEE package? I bet you did.’ I watch as he twists and turns like a fish on a line and I’m quite enjoying myself. Marlow PI, yeah. ‘That was a mistake, Alasdair. I mean, that was really fucking stupid. Why would you involve Tyrone, of all people? The man is a complete psycho. You must know that. But, I suppose you’d no time to be picky and I bet you thought he’d tell Mackie who would roll over in gratitude and let you rub his tummy and be your friend for life.’
He tries to interrupt me but I can shut him up with a look now - total fucking mind control.
‘The problem all along has been that bloody rugby club awards ceremony. I mean that was an alibi and a half. It was too good to be true, if you think about it. I wrestled with that problem and I couldn’t see a way through it unless Tyrone did the burglary. But you couldn’t trust Tyrone, could you? He’d probably take everything and leave you sitting there with just your dick in your hand.’
‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’
‘The answer came to me when I was talking to Thomas Oldfield at the hospital and he kept going on about how he was a practical man and didn’t have a head for paperwork. Everyone says that, right? Thomas Oldfield, brilliant business man, great builder, but he’s a hands-on sort of guy, useless with admin. So that was it – easy.’
‘What the hell are you talking about?’
‘He was burgled on a Friday night. That’s right, isn’t it? Friday was the night of the Rugby Club do.’
‘Yes, that’s right.’
I shake my head and act like I’m pulling a rabbit from a hat. ’No, Alasdair, no, that’s not right at all. You emptied the safe earlier, maybe days earlier, one evening just before you went home. The house was empty and you knew enough about Thomas to be sure he wouldn’t go near the office. The plan was that Tyrone would go back on the Friday night, walk in, open the safe, leave it open and just walk out again. Easy.
‘What went wrong, Alasdair? Was the JAYDEE package not there? Had it slipped inside a ledger and you missed it? Did you hear a car in the drive and lose your nerve? I don’t know, I’m guessing here. Do you want to help me out?’
He’s slumped on the chair now and he looks at the floor, his hands locked round his head, and I know I’ve got him.
‘I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I was desperate. They said I’d got twenty-four hours to get the money or they’d break my legs. I thought the package would be worth something to Mackie maybe my troubles would be over and...’
‘And you could negotiate to keep some of the cash and the Alasdair Riley lifestyle could go on unchanged. Yeah, I get the picture. Like I thought, just plain greed.’
‘I was going to take my plan to Mackie only when I went down to the Moonlight Bar he wasn’t around. Tyrone was at the bar and I told him about my plan and he said he’d speak to Mackie, that it sounded good and that maybe, if there were angles Mackie could exploit, he’d write off some of the debt. Tyrone turned up the next day and he said Mackie was up for the deal. I guess I thought it was my lucky day.’
‘There’s no such thing as a lucky day with Tyrone. It’s like looking forward to a restful evening curled up with a python. He must’ve been pissed off when you came back without the package.’
‘He completely lost it. He kept shouting that I’d broken our agreement and that I’d stitched him up. He said that he’d promised Mackie and that things were in motion, things he couldn’t stop. God, the things he threatened – I thought he was going to kill me right there.’
‘Yeah, I can imagine. Scaring people is his speciality. So, he said he’d go back finish the job himself; and you told no-one.’
‘I didn’t have a choice.’
‘Yes, you did. You could have bailed out, called the police, told Thomas about the keys. You had a whole host of options.’
‘I wasn’t thinking straight. I was scared.’
‘You were thinking straight enough to tell him which night was best, just to give yourself an alibi. Jesus, Alasdair, what about Tina? She was in the house that night. What if it was Tina who heard him and wandered down the stairs?’
’Yeah, you weren’t thinking straight. Tyrone takes the keys and the combination to the safe and let’s himself into the Oldfield house, disables the alarm with information you’ve given him and starts searching through the safe for the documents. Thomas Oldfield wakes up and heads down the stairs. He stops to collect a six iron to defend himself and then heads to the office. He probably thinks he’s well-armed against your average burglar. He’ll shout a bit and wave the golf club and the thief will head for a door or window and the rest will be down to the police. Only this isn’t some everyday burglar, is it? It’s Tyrone and he’s really fucking angry because he can’t find what he wants and he’s ready to take it out on anyone who crosses his path; and, let’s face it, Thomas Oldfield with a six iron is no match for a psycho with a grievance. Tyrone uses him as therapy and he ends up in intensive care.
‘Did you enjoy the awards ceremony at the Rugby Club, by the way? I forgot to ask. Was it a good evening?’
‘Fuck you, Tyler. It wasn’t like that. I didn’t know what to do.’
‘You had half the local constabulary standing at the bar with you. It would have taken a couple of sentences, nothing more.’
‘It was too late. Tyrone would’ve killed me.’
‘You let Wayne take the blame; you even help to set him up. You told the police it was him.’
‘That was Tyrone’s idea. He thought it was funny.’
‘Tyrone thinks watching people bleed is funny. It doesn’t mean we all have to laugh. Whose idea was it to blackmail our ex local councillors? Was that Tyrone?’
‘Tyrone or Mackie, I don’t know. Mackie, I guess.’
‘And Mrs Oldfield? Was that Mackie?’
I see a flicker of something in his eyes, a slight movement of his cheeks and, like a professional poker play, I spot the tell.
‘That was you, wasn’t it? You’re a bastard, you know that, right? Thomas was in intensive care, for Christ’s sake.’
‘I had to do it. Tyrone took all the money and I couldn’t pay Mackie. It was the only thing I could do. You don’t understand.’
’Yes, I do. I understand you didn’t give a shit about anybody but yourself. What I don’t understand is how you expected to get away with it. You didn’t even have the bloody documents. Neither did Mackie. Yet, there he is, firing off blackmail letters to half the dignitaries in the region. You’re as stupid as each other.
‘There’s something else I don’t get. Why does Mackie blame Wayne? He knew it was you and Tyrone, right? And why does he think I can get the documents?’
‘That was Tyrone’s idea. He wanted a scapegoat, someone to blame, especially when it went wrong. Maybe Wayne stole them, maybe Oldfield knew he’d been burgled and gave him the documents to hide.’
‘So where are these mysterious fucking documents?’
‘Maybe Oldfield destroyed them. Maybe he moved them, hid them somewhere else, put them in a safety deposit box. I don’t know.’
‘Oldfield doesn’t have the documents; neither does Wayne.’
‘I didn’t want any harm to come to the Oldfields, Phil. You have to believe me. I was just...’
‘Desperate – yeah, you said.’
There’s a moment’s silence and I lean back and rest my head on plush leather and I’m thinking even that fucking sofa can take some of the blame for what happened. It must’ve cost a fortune. Suddenly I don’t want to sit here anymore. I don’t even want to be in the apartment and I certainly don’t want to be with Alasdair Riley.
‘You and Wayne have something in common, you know.’ I stand up and make to leave. ‘You’re both bent on self-destruction, just in different ways and for different reasons. Only I understand Wayne and I kind of respect him. He’s got an integrity that you’ll never have and he’s fought to get it, fought all the way. He knows what matters. You haven’t a clue, have you? You just want more and more. You get the latest of everything but none of it’s enough. You’ve got to keep getting it because that’s what works for you. You don’t want to own this stuff, you just want to keep acquiring it. You’re a capitalist’s dream, Alasdair.’
I head towards the door.
‘Your choices are running out,’ I tell him. ‘You can spend the rest of your life running away or you can go down to the police station – see D.I. Slattery – and tell him the whole, sordid story; because, if you don’t, I shall. I’ll give you the rest of the day to think about it. You can book a flight and start running or you can start talking, I don’t care.’
‘What are you going to do?’
‘I’m going to find those documents and then I’m going to see George Mackie.’
‘You know where the documents are?’
‘I don’t think they ever left the Oldfield’s house. All I have to do is find them.’