From time to time there came outbreaks of
desultory clicking, as the watchers filled the waiting time by snapping the white canvas tent in the middle of the road, the entrance to the tall red-brick apartment block behind it, and the balcony on the top floor from which the body had fallen.
The face was crushed and swollen, one eye reduced to a pucker, the other showing as a sliver of dull white between
Boyishly good-looking, with thick, wavy brown hair now frosted with snow, Wardle had, in Carver’s opinion, dawdled on their few
forays outside the tent.
The boyfriend fled into a rehab facility, but the police remained
inscrutable; those who had been with her on the evening before her death were hounded; thousands of columns of newsprint were filled, and hours of television news, and the woman who swore she had overheard a second argument moments before the body fell became briefly famous too, and was awarded smaller-sized photographs beside the images of the beautiful dead girl.
They wrote that she was unbalanced, unstable, unsuited to the superstardom her wildness and her beauty had snared; that she had moved among an immoral moneyed class that had corrupted her; that the
decadence of her new life had unhinged an already fragile personality.
discretion to the chilly wind (in a most un-Matthew-like way), he had proposed, on one knee, in front of three down-and-outs huddled on the steps, sharing what looked like a bottle of meths.
Even the pale and
pugnacious commuters squashed into the Tube carriage around her were gilded by the radiance of the ring, and as she emerged into the chilly March daylight at Tottenham Court Road underground station, she stroked the underside of the platinum band with her thumb, and experienced an explosion of happiness at the thought that she might buy some bridal magazines at lunchtime.
Even the pale and pugnacious commuters squashed into the Tube carriage around her were
gilded by the radiance of the ring, and as she emerged into the chilly March daylight at Tottenham Court Road underground station, she stroked the underside of the platinum band with her thumb, and experienced an explosion of happiness at the thought that she might buy some bridal magazines at lunchtime.
She found it almost accidentally, following a narrow alleyway called Denmark Place out into a short street full of colorful shop fronts: windows full of guitars, keyboards and every kind of musical
“Is everything all right?” called the graphic designer
Disparate images of the previous night flickered through his mind: emptying three drawers of possessions into a kitbag while Charlotte screamed at him; the ashtray catching him on the brow-bone as he looked back at her from the door; the journey on foot across the dark city to his office, where he had slept for an hour or two in his desk chair.
He scooped it from the doormat as he spoke and scattered it on the bare desk in front of her, a
He was still chasing two clients for full payment of their bills; a third had refused to
disburse a penny, because Strike's findings had not been to his taste, and given that he was sliding ever deeper into debt, and that a rent review of the area was threatening his tenancy of the central London office that he had been so pleased to secure, Strike was in no position to involve a lawyer.
He stood up to give Bristow the full benefit of his six feet three inches, held out a hairy-backed hand and attempted to counter his visitor's
sartorial superiority by projecting the air of a man too busy to worry about laundry.
Bristow asked for a small black coffee, but Strike did not answer; he had just caught sight of a heavy-browed young woman in a frumpy tweed suit, who was sitting on the
threadbare sofa beside the door of the outer office.
Charlie Bristow had been one of many friends Strike had collected during a complicated,
And then had come the unprecedented horror of the first day back at school after Easter break, when their form teacher had told them that Charlie would never return, that he was dead, that he had ridden his bike over the edge of a
quarry, while holidaying in Wales.
He had an exceptionally accurate memory; thinking back to that huge, cool, well-ordered house, and the blazing acres of garden, he remembered a
languid blonde mother presiding at the picnic table, the distant booming voice of an intimidating father; a surly older brother picking at the fruit cake, Charlie himself making his mother laugh as he clowned; but no little girl.
Robin laid out two cups, a milk jug, a sugar bowl and a plate of chocolate biscuits, none of which Strike had ever seen before, smiled in
perfunctory fashion at his thanks and made to leave.
Her cancer was supposed to be in
remission, but it’s come back, and they say there’s nothing more they can do.
He knew more about the death of Lula Landry than he had ever meant or wanted to know; the same would be true of virtually any
sentient being in Britain.
“There was an
inquest, wasn’t there?”
“I’m a pretty rich man, Strike. Sorry to be
crass about it, but there you are. My father left me a sizable trust fund. I’ve looked into the going rate for this kind of thing, and I would have been happy to pay you double.”
His baser self was already
gamboling off into the realms of happy speculation: a month’s work would give him enough to pay off the temp and some of the rent arrears; two months, the more pressing debts...three months, a chunk of the overdraft gone...four months...
His baser self was already gamboling off into the realms of happy speculation: a month’s work would give him enough to pay off the temp and some of the rent
arrears; two months, the more pressing debts...three months, a chunk of the overdraft gone...four months...
She slit open a pink, kitten-embellished envelope with the air of a woman who daily dealt with
exigencies much more complex and intriguing than Alison could possibly imagine.
Meanwhile, Strike and Bristow were facing each other across the inner room, the one furious, the other trying to find a way to reverse his position without
jettisoning his self-respect.
He stood in desperate need of money, but Bristow had given him another, better reason to jettison his
First, allow the witness to tell their story in their own way: the
untrammeled flow often revealed details, apparent inconsequentialities, that would later prove invaluable nuggets of evidence.
“I wouldn’t have gone up,” said Bristow miserably, blotches of color
dappling his thin neck again, “but I had the contract with Somé to give back to her; she’d asked me to look over it and she needed to sign it..."
She could be quite
blasé about things like that.
Its frosted glass half-partitions, its aged leather banquettes, its bar mirrors covered in
gilt, cherubs and horns of plenty spoke of a confident and ordered world that was in satisfying contrast to the ruined street.
Strike ordered a pint of Doom Bar and took it to the back of the almost deserted pub, where he placed his glass on a high circular table, under the
garish glass cupola in the ceiling, and headed straight into the Gents...
Strike ordered a pint of Doom Bar and took it to the back of the almost deserted pub, where he placed his glass on a high circular table, under the garish glass
cupola in the ceiling, and headed straight into the Gents...
Walking out on Charlotte had left him on the brink of true
destitution. He was so deeply in debt that all that stood between him and a sleeping bag in a doorway was John Bristow.
Knowing that he was heading into
penury, he had been determined to travel there in the cheapest fashion.
“Yeah, I am,” said Strike again, suppressing another yawn as he examined the painted panels on the ceiling;
bacchanalian revels that became, as he looked, a feast of fairies: Midsummer Night’s Dream, a man with a donkey’s head.
A couple of years ago, he had been able to command the compliance of witnesses and suspects; he had been like Wardle, a man whose time had more value than most of those with whom he
consorted, and who could choose when, where and how long interviews would be.
Strike had spent the early afternoon at the University of London Union building, where, by
dint of walking determinedly past reception with a slight scowl on his face, he had gained the showers without being challenged or asked for his student card.
Exhausted as Strike was, it took a while for him to fall asleep, and when he did, Charlotte wove in and out of every dream, gorgeous,
vituperative and haunted.