Commissioner Chambers sat in Guy’s swivel chair, his fingers arched together. “Well, Royce. What a pleasure to see you – at last.”
Toting his overnight bag, Guy had slipped through the Yard’s rear entrance, making his way up the back stairs to his office. Guy’s grimace transformed into a rictus grin.
“Commissioner, were you waiting for me?”
“As you can see, Royce, I was. I had nothing better to do than greet you back from your travels, Inspector. Remind me to have your mobile telephone checked over. Seems to be on the blink.”
Guy swallowed. “Tricky part of the world, Commissioner. Difficult reception. Perhaps if I had one of the new issue?”
Chambers rolled his eyes. “Yes, Royce. America is so backward in telecommunications. The new phones are for other officers, Royce. Perhaps you could tell me who dunnit?”
Guy knew the game was up when Chambers adopted Hitchcock Sarcastic mode. Survival demanded he roll over for him and expose his furry underbelly – but not yet.
“First the good news, Commissioner. The baby wasn’t the PM’s. Impossible calendar dates. She was already pregnant.”
Commissioner Chambers remained passively skeptical, eyeing Guy coolly. “Go on.”
“More likely the American movie mogul, Sol Coniff Jnr. I have him on tape. They had relations.”
The Commissioner’s facade crumpled. “Oh, hell! Marcus Barclay’s not going to take that well.”
Guy seized his moment. “Of course, Coniff did say there were other men.”
Chambers hand went to his face. “How many other men?”
“Hard to tell. Lots.”
“Good God. Any of them could have killed her?”
“I think it’s time you told me what Marie said that night at Number Ten. What did you talk about?”
“I’m sorry, boss. She made me swear.”
“Guy, the woman’s dead! It may be important. Do you think it’s important?”
“I don’t know. All I can say is that she gave me a job to do. A job that was important to her.”
“Guy, it may be the key we’re looking for. You do see that?”
“She pleaded with me not to reveal it. It would still affect others close to her. She said so, Commissioner. I can’t break her confidence now. It would be obscene.”
Chambers sat forward in the chair, his brow furrowed. “So was the way she died, Royce.”
Guy chose his moment to give it up. “I see that. I’ll tell you.”
His boss pursed up, sensing more catastrophe about to enter his life. “Not bad news, is it?”
Now Guy was enjoying himself. “Yes, boss. Her sister Nikki is missing. She wanted me to find her.”
Chambers’ mouth dropped open. “Sister? There’s another one?”
“Yes. Younger sister. Went missing in the Middle East with a man named Ibrahim Tolman.”
“Foreign Office got anything?”
“No, nothing. I can’t do both.”
Chambers grumbled. “Yes, well concentrate on Marie. That’s the one we’ll get our tail feathers pulled for. There’s a lot of distress and anguish at Number Ten. Barclay’s as mad as a hornet.”
Guy didn’t need to imagine it. Keeping away from Downing Street had been his aim for as long as possible.
Chambers rose, heading for the door. “If the other woman becomes important, you better tell me.”
Alone at last, Guy cleared his paperwork, which meant filing the latest incoming under the old pile and hoping a forest fire might engulf the Yard. A round, cherubic face appeared at the open door.
“What is it, Cherise? Don’t lurk.”
The girl hesitated. “Fish face gone?”
“Yes, luv. What do you want?
“He came down a hour ago. An hour!”
“Probably ’cause he loves me. What is it?”
Cherise produced a file. “Thought I better hold on to this. Y’know, till he’d gone.”
Guy looked up. “You’re a very thoughtful girl, Cherise. Give it to me.”
“I hope I did the right thing–.”
Guy sighed. “Please–?”
She dropped the buff file on his desk and scooted out. Guy flipped it open. It was headed:
Raymond Sappiano Investigations. Los Angeles.
In it was a list of men’s names. Guy had heard of none of them. Scrawled in red pen was the message:
She was a naughty girl! They all had affairs with her.
He sat back in his swivel. The LA connection on the letterhead was no coincidence. Was Sol Coniff Jnr trying to stir up the mud in the lake? He suppressed a yawn and scanned the list, folding the printed sheet flat. He rubbed his eyes, red and raw with jet lag. He really wanted to sleep but the whole afternoon lay ahead of him. What was this all about?
Some American wants to sell me a bill of goods about Marie Montague. All about her deviant sex life. Names and places. Says she was up for a bit of bondage and a bit of the old white snuff. Bloody dynamite if it were true.
Raymond Sappiano is a Hollywood private eye. Why does he want to tell me all this? Guy knew what the Commissioner would say. ‘What the hell do we care, if it’s good info?’ But Guy knew it would really be about money and sex. It always was and it was his job to find out. People could say what they liked about the blonde now. She was dead. But the men named as her lovers would sue the Met for their wedding rings if he got it wrong.
Tony Crombie wore a yellow housecoat. He scrubbed at a porcelain teacup, plunging it under a flow of steaming water in the sink. To Guy the offending stain was invisible. Satisfied, he placed it meticulously next to its twin on the drainer.
“Me and Marie? Oh, Detective, someone’s playing a bad joke on you.”
His soft, hazel eyes gave no hint of his feelings. Guy sat at a pine table in the man’s kitchen. He guessed Crombie was in his late thirties. Slight and pale, Guy knew this man was no womaniser.
“I’m sorry to ask you, Mr Crombie. You’re named as one of her lovers. We have to check it out. No offence is meant. You see, you’re first on the list.”
“Marie was a friend, a good friend, but lovers! I don’t think so, Detective Inspector. Have you caught this lunatic, yet?” Crombie faced him calmly.
“Not that I’m aware, Mr Crombie. Do you have any idea why your name might be on this list?”
Crombie sighed, replacing the white tea towel on its hook. “This apartment is jointly owned by me and my partner. My life partner, Detective Inspector, and he’s Marie Montague’s manager. We’ve lived here for eight years.” Crombie looked Guy in the eye. “This is a wicked attempt to blacken Marie’s name now she’s dead. You must see that?”
“Do the names Raymond Sappiano or Sol Coniff Jr mean anything to you?”
Crombie cocked his head. “I know of Sol Coniff Jr but not the other one. He was Marie’s special man in America. I believe there was a falling-out.”
Guy nodded along. “And the others on this list? It would save me embarrassing them, too, Tony.”
Tony Crombie took the sheet, slipping on a pair of yellow-tinted, tortoise-shell reading glasses. He pursed his lips. “Oh! Wicked, so wicked!”
Guy moved beside him. “You know them?”
“Of course I know them. Phillip Loughton is her hairdresser, probably the best in Chelsea. John and Larry Preston are interior designers. They did her house, and Kenny Irewood, well, you know him, surely?”
He read Guy’s face for a reaction but received none. “Lord Irewood. Owns the Morning Graphic newspaper.”
Guy’s eyebrow arched. “Lord Irewood? Married to Lady Irewood from Belgravia, the fashion woman?”
Crombie gave a sly smile. “That surprised you, eh? Kenny has a suite at Claridge’s when he’s in town. He lets her use it. Marie and Kenny have been friends for years.”
“Just friends, Tony? Or...?” Guy left the question hanging.
Crombie sighed, turning towards the door. “Goodbye, Detective Inspector. I’ve told you all I know.”