Under orders, p.28
Under Orders, page 28
“Well, you have caused a bit of a stir,” Archie said as I arrived.
I needn’t have bothered to bring the pages of The Pump, as he already had a copy open on his desk.
“Is it all true?” he said.
“Perfectly,” I said. “And the full interview with the girl is on this tape.”
I handed the sixth package to him.
“Thank you.” He took it. “Good job that truth is now a defense against libel.”
“Hasn’t it always been?” I asked.
“Good God no,” he said. “In the past, one could be guilty of criminal libel even if you were telling the truth. Just to ruin someone’s reputation was enough, despite the fact that they may have deserved to have it ruined. The European Convention on Human Rights has stopped all that. No one can now be convicted for telling the truth.”
Tell that, I thought, to the mothers of the crib death babies sent to prison for murder due to the erroneous evidence of a so-called medical expert.
“I will leave it to you to decide who gets the information on Internet gambling and gaming,” I said. “I realize it was not really what you wanted, but it’s a start, and I will do a bit more digging before you get my final report.”
“What do you think will happen?” he asked.
“About the murders,” I said, “or the gambling?”
“I hope the police pick up Peter Enstone pretty quickly. I don’t think Marina—that’s my girlfriend—is very safe with him on the loose. Then, with luck, there will be enough evidence to remand him in custody and then to convict. I think there should be.”
“And make-a-wager.com?” said Archie.
“I think it will be far more difficult to prove anything against George Lochs. He’s a very sharp cookie indeed and he will have covered his tracks very carefully. However, punters like to have confidence when they gamble and all this is going to severely shake their trust in his website.”
“And I’m sure you could help to further undermine that trust,” he said, spreading his hands wide.
“Indeed, I could,” I said with a smile. “And I think I just might. Especially the trust required for online gaming. If I can show that he has been involved with some dodgy dealings with race fixing, it is only a small step for people to believe that he has also been fixing the games on his website. I think the earnings and value of Make A Wager Ltd are about to take a major dip in the market.”
“George made a wager and lost,” he said.
I left Archie still chuckling at his little joke and took another taxi back to Ebury Street. My Charles Atlas look-alike was still on guard outside the door. I wondered if he ever went to the lavatory.
JENNY ARRIVED ON the dot at twelve-thirty as promised. In spite of being announced from downstairs and being met by me at the elevator, she was still keenly scrutinized by the bodyguard, who insisted on looking in her handbag before he would allow her into the flat.
“But I know this person,” I said. All too well.
“Sir,” he said, sounding a little patronizing, “most people are murdered by someone they know.”
I decided against mentioning that Indira Gandhi, the former Indian prime minister, had been murdered by her bodyguards.
After an inspection of the bag had revealed nothing more lethal than half a packet of menthol cigarettes, Jenny was allowed to proceed. At least he hadn’t performed a full body search.
“What’s that all about?” she said.
“The man who shot Marina is still on the loose,” I said. “And I don’t want him having another go.”
“Oh,” she said. “Was going out to lunch such a good idea after all?”
“Absolutely,” I said. “We can’t hide away forever. And I’ve arranged for Muscles out there to go with you.” She opened her mouth. “It’s all right. He won’t sit at the same table. You can tie his lead to a lamppost.”
Marina was ready and itching to get out of our cramped home, if only for a couple of hours.
“Take care,” I said as they squeezed into the elevator with the muscles. They were both giggling as the doors closed. Would I have ever thought that Jenny, my ex-wife, and Marina, my future wife, would be giggling together? Not in a thousand years.
I went out onto the balcony to watch them leave. The muscle-man was too big to fold himself into the back seat of Jenny’s little town runabout, so he rode up front while Marina sat behind. The girls were still laughing, but I was happy that Muscles, at least, was taking their security seriously, as he scanned every nook and cranny for potential danger. Nothing found, they drove off safely.
I was just sitting down at my computer to answer a couple of e-mails when my phone rang. It was Chief Inspector Carlisle.
“Did you get the tape?” I asked him.
“Yes, thank you,” he said. “Very interesting. But you should leave that sort of questioning to the police. You may have damaged the case by locking her in the room like that.”
“But the police weren’t interested,” I said. “You were too busy elsewhere and Johnson from Thames Valley believed Bill’s death was suicide. If I hadn’t questioned her, no one would have.”
“Breaking into her house was not very wise, either.”
“I didn’t break in. She had previously shown me where she left the key, so I simply used it.”
“A technicality,” he said.
“Cases hinge on technicalities,” I said. “Anyway, have you caught him yet?”
“Who?” he said.
“Peter Enstone of course.”
“Not yet, but we are now officially looking for him. An APB has been put out jointly by the Met Police, Thames Valley and us.”
It sounded a bit like Hawaii Five-O.
“What does APB actually stand for?” I asked.
“All points bulletin,” he said. “It means that various agencies like the police, immigration service, customs and so on get a list of names of people to be apprehended. It should prevent him leaving the country.”
“If he hasn’t already done so,” I said. “When did this APB get put out?”
“Only about an hour ago, I’m afraid. The Met Police went to his home at nine this morning, but he wasn’t there. His neighbor apparently told the officers that Enstone had just popped out for a newspaper and would soon be back. So the officers waited for him. They waited for an hour, but he didn’t come back.”
God help me, I thought. Of course he didn’t come back. He would have arrived at the newsstand to find his smiling face on the front of The Pump and he would run.
“Where else are you looking for Enstone?” I asked.
“Where do you suggest?”
“How about Juliet Burns’s house,” I said.
“Ah, Juliet Burns,” he repeated slowly. “And where is she, exactly?”
“Last I heard, she was at the Donnington Valley Hotel in Newbury,” I said. “But that was last night. I expect she may be in need of your protection.”
“I’m sure we can find a secure cell for her somewhere.”
“Don’t be too hard on her,” I said. “She did help me in the end.”
“She had better help us, too,” he said, “or I will personally throw away the key to her cell.”
The buzzer sounded on the intercom, so I went into the hallway to answer it, still holding my cell phone.
“Just a moment,” I said to Carlisle.
“Yes,” I said into the intercom.
“Charles Rowland down here for you, Mr. Halley,” said one of the porters.
“Fine,” I said. “Send him up.” He was early, no doubt eager to have another go at my whisky.
I replaced the intercom receiver and spoke again to Carlisle. “I must go, my father-in-law has arrived. You will call me if you catch Peter Enstone, won’t you?”
“Certainly will,” he said, and we hung up.
I went out to the elevator to meet Charles, but it wasn’t Charles in the elevator.
It was the smiling man from the front page of The Pump.
Only he wasn’t smiling now.
He held a black revolver very steadily in his right hand and he was pointing it right between my eyes.
Damn, I thought. That was bloody careless.
* * *
“I’ve come here to kill you,” Peter said.
I didn’t doubt it.
“Inside,” he said.
We were standing outside my front door near the elevator and, typically, there was no sign of my neighbors when you needed them.
We went in through the door and he locked it behind us. He took the key out of the lock and put it in his pocket.
He didn’t once allow me to get close to him. Never close enough to give me the chance of wrestling the gun out of his hand before he had the time to use it.
“In there,” he said, waving the gun towards the sitting room. He seemed to be looking for something.
“She’s not here,” I said, assuming it was Marina he was after.
He ignored me.
“This way,” he said, again waving with the gun, this time directing me back into the hallway.
We proceeded to go all around the flat until he seemed satisfied that we were alone. I could see the clock in the bedroom. It was only ten to one; it would be at least an hour before Marina and Jenny came back. Would I still be alive by then?
“Go in there,” he said, pointing at the bathroom.
He turned on the light and the extractor fan began to whine. I wished it could extract me from this situation.
The bathroom was a small room about six foot six square. It was built in the interior of the building and consequently had no windows. A bathtub ran down the wall on the right, with a lavatory next to it, and there was a washbasin opposite the entrance. But Peter was most interested in what was behind the door attached to the left-hand wall—a shiny chrome, three-bar, centrally heated towel rack about three feet long. There were three yellow towels neatly hanging on it.
“Catch,” he said, and threw me a pair of sturdy-looking metal handcuffs that he had brought with him in his pocket. I caught them.
“Put one on your right wrist and the other round the bracket of the towel rack, where it is attached to the wall. Shut them tight.”
I managed it with some difficulty. My only real hand was now firmly attached to the heating system. Not a great improvement.
“Now put your left hand out towards me,” he said.
I wondered if and when I would not do as he said.
He seemed to sense the thought in me and raised his gun higher, taking deliberate aim at my head. I could see right down the barrel. I speculated about whether I would have time to see the bullet coming before it tore into my brain. I decided that I didn’t want to find out. I put my left hand forward.
He lifted the sleeve of my shirt and removed the battery from my false arm and put it in his pocket. He was very careful never to move the gun away from my eye and I was equally careful not to make any sudden movement that might encourage him to pull the trigger.
“Now, take that thing off,” he said, stepping back.
“I can’t,” I said.
He held the gun in his left hand and grasped my left wrist with his right. He pulled. I pulled back. I stressed my arm to prevent the false bit from coming off. He pulled harder. The arm didn’t shift.
“You won’t remove it, it stays on permanently,” I said. “You see those little rivets on either side? They’re the ends of the pins that go right through what’s left of my real arm to hold it in place.”
I wasn’t really sure why I told him the lie. The rivets were actually holding the sensors in place on the inside, the sensors that sat against my skin to pick up the nerve impulses that made the hand work. It was only a small act of defiance, but it was something.
He gave the arm one last violent tug, but I was ready for him and the fiberglass shell didn’t budge.
He stood back and looked at me. Then he said, “Put the arm out again.”
He took the battery out of his pocket and clipped it back in place. I moved my thumb in and out.
“Grab hold of the towel rack,” he said. “There.” He pointed.
“What?” I said.
The gun came up a fraction.
“Just do it,” he said.
I placed my unfeeling fingers around the boiling hot rack and closed the thumb. He leaned forward and removed the battery, dropping it on the floor. Without the battery, the thumb wouldn’t move. The hand and arm were locked in place.
I was standing in my bathroom with my back against a hot towel rack, with both hands firmly attached to it at either end.
Peter Enstone seemed to relax a little. He had been as frightened of me as I was of him.
“What does it take to stop you?” he said.
“Honesty,” I said.
“Don’t be so bloody self-righteous,” he said. “You have ruined my life.”
“You ruined it yourself,” I said.
He ignored me.
“Do you know what it’s like to hate your own father?” he said.
I had never even known my own father.
“And do you know what it’s like to spend your life trying to please someone only for them to despise the very ground you walk on?”
I didn’t say anything.
“Do you?” he shouted.
“No,” I said.
“It becomes your whole existence. Looking for things he will like but only finding things he hates. And all the time he thinks you’re an idiot, an imbecile, a helpless child, with no feelings.”
I stood there looking at the monster. This man was no helpless child.
“Then I found a way of breaking out of the cage,” he said. “I found a way to control his emotions. To make him happy, to make him sad and especially to make him angry with someone else for a change.”
He came closer to my face. I could almost have leaned forward and kissed him. Provided, that is, I wanted to kiss the devil.
“And now you have taken all that away, and, worse still, he will now know that it was me that was controlling him. He’s going to be so angry with me again.”
He’s not going to be the only one, I thought. He sounded like a petulant schoolboy caught with his hand in the biscuit tin.
“Do you know what it’s like to have someone angry with you all the time?”
“No,” I said. Actually, I did. People were often angry with me for exposing their misdeeds. I had always rather enjoyed it, but I decided not to say so, not now.
“I’ll tell you,” he said. “It eats away at your soul. When you’re a child, it’s frightening. I spent my whole childhood being frightened of him every single minute. He would beat me for being naughty, and the harder I tried to be good, the more he saw me as naughty. ‘Hold out your hand, Peter,’ he would say. Then he would hit me with a wooden bat. Then he would smile and say it was for my own good.”
He went quiet for a moment and stared off into space; I could tell he was reliving incidents elsewhere.
“He used to hit my mother as well,” he said. “He drove her away. At first, she used to protect me from him, but then she left. She deserted me and he killed her.” He paused, then went on. “Well, he didn’t actually kill her, but as good as. She was desperate to get away from him and she agreed to everything he said so long as he would leave her alone. He saw to it that she left with nothing, no money, no home and no chance of ever seeing me again. I was twelve.”
She obviously hadn’t had a very good lawyer, I thought. Times had changed.
“He never spoke about her. It was as if she had never existed. I found out much later that she had been absolutely destitute and had even been begging in the street.” He made it sound like the most shameful thing in the world. I had occasionally seen my own mother beg. It had sometimes made the difference between li
“She tried to get him to give her some money to live on, but he refused. When she tried to take him to court to get access to me, his lawyers blocked her. They just tore to shreds the hardly qualified legal aid lawyer that my mother had to resort to.”
Definitely not a good lawyer.
“She walked straight out of her lawyer’s office and under a number 15 bus. Funny,” he said. “Ever since I found that out, I’ve never been able to ride on a number 15 bus, just in case it was the one.”
He sat down on the edge of the bathtub. The longer he talked, the greater the chance that Muscles would come back with the girls and save my skin, but I would probably need to survive for another hour if the cavalry were to arrive in time.
“The inquest said it was an accident, but I reckon she did it on purpose. My father killed her as sure as if he’d been driving the bus himself.”
He had tears in his eyes. I wasn’t sure whether it was for the loss of his mother or for the reaction the incident may have produced in Jonny Enstone. Peter’s relationship with his father was highly complex.
“When I got older and bigger, he stopped hitting me. I told him that if he hit me again, I’d hit him back. So he’s changed his tactics from physical to mental abuse. He puts me down at every opportunity. He belittles everything I do. He tells his friends that I am useless, and that I can’t be his true son, as I am no good at business. I hate him. I hate him.”
Why, then, I thought, don’t you go and shoot him instead of me?
“And then when I find I am good at something, you go wreck it. At last, I discovered that it’s me that has the power, it’s me that’s in control and it’s me that people are frightened of.” He looked up at my face. “Everyone except you. You’re not even frightened now.”
Yes, I was. But I didn’t say so. I stood there in silence and watched him.
I began to sweat. In spite of the insulating effect of the towels against which I was leaning, I was getting very hot. I was worried that he should think that my skin was damp due to fear. But did it matter? Yes. It did to me.
“You should be frightened,” he said. “I am going to kill you. I’ve got nothing to lose now, thanks to you. I’ll get done for the other two murders, so why not for three? Three life sentences are just as long as two. And in all those years ahead, I will have the satisfaction of knowing that it was me that beat Sid Halley. I won. I might be in jail, but you will be pushing up the daisies. And then one day I’ll be out, but there’ll be no bringing you back from the dead.”
by Dick Francis / Crime / Mystery / Sports have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes