Vanished, page 20
One who was even worse than them.
After coming up the stairs – every light out, just like the others, bulbs smashed in the stairwell – he put on the forensic boiler suit, zipped it up and moved into the flat. Again, it was a carbon copy of the flats the other victims had lived in. Healy spotted Craw in the kitchen. There was a door off the living room, opening on to a bedroom. Chief Superintendent Ian Bartholomew stood in the doorway. Healy glanced at him but didn’t greet him. Bartholomew had started to get involved personally about four weeks after Joseph Symons went missing. ‘Three is three too many,’ he kept saying in daily briefings, as if no one on the task force felt anything for the men. Craw hated it; maybe hated him too. She’d never said as much to Healy, but her feelings were barely concealed: there, just below the surface, bubbling and stewing until one day in the future she would either say something she regretted to Bartholomew’s face, or she would walk into his office and hand in her resignation.
‘Melanie,’ Bartholomew said to Craw as she arrived from the kitchen. ‘What the bloody hell am I supposed to tell the media?’
Most of this, Healy knew, was down to him. Bartholomew had been there when Healy had been trying to find Leanne; and there in the aftermath, desperate not to give him a second chance. The decision to pull him on to the Snatcher case was Craw’s, and hers alone, and now she would be held accountable if it all went wrong: by Bartholomew, by Davidson, by anyone with a grudge against Healy. All Healy knew was that he owed it to her for giving him a chance – and he owed it to her not to make any mistakes.
Bartholomew backed out of the bedroom, letting Healy take in the crime scene, and stepped closer to Craw. ‘Melanie,’ he said again, using her first name to cushion the blow of what was coming next. ‘I think it’s time I took over the media briefings. This needs to come from the top. They need to see that we’re taking this seriously, and that we won’t just sit back and accept what we’ve got here tonight.’
‘With all due respect, sir, I’ve never put an impression across to the media that we weren’t taking these crimes seriously.’
‘Don’t take it personally,’ he said, holding up a hand to her, as if he’d barely heard her. ‘I have full faith in you and your …’ He paused, glancing at Healy. ‘Team.’
‘Is there anything else you want to lead directly, sir?’
He looked at her, trying to find the insubordination in her face, but Craw looked at him blankly. ‘No. You carry on as is. I trust you. I’ll take the media hit.’
Healy glanced at Craw, who looked back. There was nothing in her face, nothing unspoken. No indication that she thought any less of Bartholomew, even though he’d just relegated her from the front line of the case. He was happy for her to work the hours and feel the pressure build, but he wasn’t going to let her have her day in the sun if they ever caught the Snatcher. And yet she remained silent. Healy admired her even more for her poise.
He looked into the bedroom for a second time. The hair had been placed in a neat pile on the pillow. Just like Wilky. Just like Evans. Just like Symons.
‘What was this one’s name?’ Healy asked, looking at Craw.
‘Jonathan Drake,’ she said.
I shook my head as I flicked through Sam’s file. The picture of him was from the day of the fight at Gloucester Road, taken in the station afterwards when it looked like he was going to be charged. His face was puffy across the middle, where he’d been punched; traces of blood around his nose and a deep purple swelling on one cheekbone.
But there was nothing else in his record.
It was clean.
‘I just don’t see this,’ I said.
Healy nodded, as if he’d expected that reaction from me. ‘We turned up at his work and went through his computer. They assumed he wasn’t coming back, so they’d cleared out much of what was on his PC. But they didn’t clear out everything.’
As Healy slid a hand into the slip case, taking out the four matching Manila files, my mind rolled back to Investment International a couple of days before. I’d asked to go through his work PC myself, but McGregor, his boss, had wanted a warrant. I should have worked around it, should have got at his PC somehow – even though, at the time, I could never have imagined it would lead to this – and, as I silently cursed myself, Healy laid the files down in front of me. I knew what they were instantly.
The Snatcher victims.
He went to the second one down and opened it. A scrawny white man – no more than nineteen or twenty – looked out at me. It wasn’t official police photography; it was a shot in a living room, brightly lit but overexposed. The man was smiling, a crooked expression weighted to one side of his face in a shy, almost coy fashion. He was thin and wiry, a red T-shirt hanging off him, a pair of denims pulled tight at the waist, and he was perched on the edge of a sofa that was either about to fall apart or deliberately retro.
‘That’s the second,’ he said. ‘Marc Evans.’
Except, according to his file, he wasn’t called Marc Evans at all. That was just an alias; presumably the name most people he met and worked with in London knew him by. His real name was Marc Erion – and he was Albanian. Suddenly, I knew exactly where this was going as my mind flashed to Adrian Wellis, cut and covered in glass, looking up at me from the floor of the warehouse in Kennington. I set him up with a nice little Albanian kid. Fresh out of the fridge, this boy was. Nineteen, skinny, cute little tattoo on the back of his neck. I glanced at Erion’s personal details. Nineteen. Five-seven. Ten stone. A rose tattooed on to the back of his neck. Never registered at any port in the United Kingdom. Because he’d come into the country in the back of a lorry.
‘We estimate Erion, aka Evans, came into the country between March and October last year,’ Healy said. ‘His father was a politician back in the motherland, but Erion wasn’t what you’d call a chip off the old block. They didn’t talk much, mostly because Erion Jr was a Grade A fuck-up. Flunked college, flunked the job Daddy set him up with, got in with the wrong crowd and ended up stealing money from the family bank account to try and pay his way through his smack addiction. The old man booted him out and then Erion ended up getting in with an even wronger crowd, and some time last year he landed in the UK, most probably in the hands of the Albanian mafia.’
Except he didn’t. He ended up in the hands of Adrian Wellis.
And then a second realization hit me.
The kid’s dead, Wellis had said.
You killed him?
I suppose, in a way, I did.
What does that even mean?
The kid was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Originally, I thought he was admitting to killing Erion himself. But it wasn’t that at all. He delivered him. He probably only realized afterwards, as Erion’s face was plastered across the front pages, but Wellis had unknowingly handed the Snatcher his next victim. He’d met the Snatcher too. He told me he always vetted the punters first time out, but Wellis would have been funnelling so many men Erion’s way, the vetting process would have been a shambles. And even if he did recall a face, even if – as unlikely as it seemed – the Snatcher had let his guard down and somehow made himself known to Wellis, Wellis couldn’t have said anything. Go to the police, and he invited the Met into his life. His operation. His secrets. So he said nothing and accepted Erion as collateral damage. Wrong place, wrong time. He was right about that, at least.
Healy eyed me, as if he sensed my mind was on something else, and he wanted to know what. ‘Wren had Erion’s number tucked away on his work PC, disguised as a business associate. Never called him, but the number was there.’
‘Wait a second. If he never called Erion, how did you pin this on Sam in the first place? If there was no phone call, there’s no route from Erion back to Sam.’
Healy didn’t reply. Instead he placed a hand on top of the files. It was meant to look casual, a movement so slight I wouldn’t even notice. But I did, an
‘Do you know much about him?’ Healy asked.
‘I want to know how you came to Sam Wren.’
He could see he’d annoyed me. ‘This is all off the record, understand?’
‘Don’t talk to me like I’m an amateur.’
‘You’re upset about your boy. I get it.’
‘He’s not my boy – and it’s got nothing to do with that.’
‘Don’t be an arsehole, Raker.’
‘I’m not being an arsehole, Healy. But you call me out of the blue after seven months of silence, and then you treat me like I’ve never met you before. I know trust is hard for you, but believe me: if you can trust one person, that person is me.’
I waited for the fireworks, but instead he just looked at me and I saw again how desperately he was trying to keep a lid on things. In a strange way, it made him easier to read. Everything he’d stopped himself from saying had built up in his eyes – all the smothered emotion, all the words he’d had to let go since returning to the Met – and I caught a glimpse of a man, perhaps only weeks from here, unable to bury it any more.
‘You’re gonna want some background.’
I looked at him. ‘Fine. Just get on with it.’
He eyed me for a moment and then leaned closer, and I could smell coffee and aftershave on him. ‘He takes them from their homes. First one went missing last year, on 11 August: Steven Wilky. On 13 November he takes Marc Erion aka Evans. On 28 February he grabs Joseph Symons, and this past week it was Jonathan Drake. Drake’s neighbour called us yesterday evening, said she hadn’t seen Drake around since Tuesday, and she saw him every day. Mother-hen type. Uniforms turned up there, then called us. The only thing this guy leaves behind is their hair. He shaves it all off and places it on their pillows.’
‘Why does he do that?’
Healy shrugged. ‘You tell me.’
He meant, You’re the man who knows Wren.
Except I obviously didn’t know Sam Wren at all.
‘It’s a power thing,’ I said.
He looked at me and nodded: to exert power over them; to reduce the victims to less than they were. I tried to put that into context; tried to imagine why Sam might do that, what in his life might make him want to do that, but I couldn’t ally the two. Nothing I’d discovered about Sam Wren, even as I trawled through the secrets and the lies, connected with the crimes of this man. Shaving their heads, trapping them, vanishing them into the night – none of that felt like Sam to me. Except, of course, there was one area that was definitely a fit: their sexual preferences. If the Snatcher was taking men, he was turned on by them, wanting power over them, even if ultimately he was trying to deny it.
And Sam had been in denial for years.
‘The assumption is the Snatcher’s gay?’
Healy shrugged. ‘Who knows now? That’s what we always assumed, that’s what profilers kept telling us. But Wren is married – and he’s straight.’
You’re going to have to tell him.
‘There’s no semen at any of the scenes,’ he went on, ‘no sign of either consensual sex or sexual assault. This guy is careful. We’ve lifted prints from every scene, prints not belonging to the victim, but they don’t lead anywhere. He doesn’t touch their pillows when he puts the hair there, but we have found tiny pieces of wood, which probably means he shaves their heads into some kind of bowl and brings it across like that; touches the pillow with it while he’s placing the hair there.’
I glanced out of the window. ‘There’s something you need to know.’
His eyes narrowed. ‘What?’
‘What Julia wouldn’t have told you, because she doesn’t know …’ I turned back to him. ‘Sam was gay. Or maybe bisexual. Or maybe just curious. But he wasn’t straight.’
‘Fuck me.’ He smiled briefly. ‘I think we’ve got our man.’
‘Now it’s your turn. What led you to Sam’s work?’
He moved his hand from the files and pulled the bottom one out of the pile. He handed it to me this time. It almost looked like a conciliatory gesture.
I flipped the front cover of the folder. Another man in his twenties. The same height and the same build as Erion, but better-looking; square-jawed and dark. He was smartly dressed and standing in bright sunlight, squinting a little but his features and face were very clear. I scanned his personal details. Jonathan Drake. Twenty-seven.
The Snatcher’s fourth victim.
‘You wanna know how we ended up at Wren’s work?’ Healy said, a finger tapping the Drake file. ‘We put in a request for phone and email records as soon as Drake’s disappearance came to light, and were still waiting on getting them back when a London Underground employee called us up this morning – after seeing Drake’s name in the media – and said he’d found a phone on the platform at Westminster station during his patrol on Thursday night.’
‘It was Drake’s?’
‘Yeah. We sent a team down there to find out if there was anything else, but it was just the phone down there. No sign of Drake or anyone else.’
‘Was Sam’s number on the phone?’
‘Doesn’t mean he had anything to do with this, even if he somehow knew Drake.’
‘Wrong,’ Healy said, shaking his head. ‘Wren left a voicemail.’
Jonathan Drake’s face looked up at me from the file. In among the paperwork was the transcript from the voicemail message: ‘Hi Jonathan, it’s (pause) Leon Spane. Just wanted to let you know that I’m really looking forward to seeing you tonight.’ Aside from Sam not even using his own name, there was no explanation for what the mobile phone was doing just sitting there on the platform. Nothing for why a man who had been gone six months had suddenly made a telephone call. Before I could look any further into the paperwork, Healy disrupted my train of thought, shifting forward and picking the file up, and all I was left with was a flash of a memory.
‘How do you even know it’s Sam?’
‘It’s Wren. It’s his voice.’
‘That’s been verified by forensics?’
‘Initial tests say yes. We’ll know for sure tomorrow.’
‘So why did he call himself Leon Spane?’
‘He’s protecting his identity.’ He looked at me. ‘Plus it’s a cute little touch.’
‘In what way?’
‘Spane might be connected to the Snatcher.’ I waited for Healy to expand on that, but he didn’t. ‘Anyway, that doesn’t matter for now. What matters is that it’s Wren.’
I’d come back to Spane. But for now I returned to the voicemail message: the Met reckoned Sam had called Drake on the evening of 12 June. The mobile phone records that Spike had got for me only ran up until 1 June, and Sam had made zero calls from the time of his disappearance until then. So why suddenly use it on 12 June?
‘I’m still having a hard time seeing this,’ I said.
The smile fell from Healy’s face. I’d touched a nerve; unintentionally, but I’d done it all the same. He didn’t want to hear this. He didn’t want obstacles put in his path. He was able to control himself against men he hated, against those who had an agenda against him, because he was determined not to arm them with anything they could use. But against me, against a man who had no reason to come at him, no agenda, he didn’t have to maintain the facade any more.
‘You’re having a hard time seeing this?’ he said, grimacing. ‘We’ve got Erion’s number on Wren’s computer and his voice on Drake’s mobile phone.
‘What’s Sam’s connection to the other two Snatcher victims, though?’
‘You struggling to understand my accent or something?’
I held up a hand, trying to cool him.
‘Wren knows Erion and he knows Drake,’ Healy said. ‘He’s been in contact with both of them. What’s the next logical step? That he knows Wilky and Symons.’
I didn’t say anything.
‘Give me a fucking break, Raker. You know what this means.’
‘It’s an assumption.’
‘You’d make the same one.’
I couldn’t argue with that. If Sam knew two out of the four victims, if he’d been in touch with them, then it was only a very small step to Wilky and Symons.
‘This just doesn’t feel like Sam.’
He snorted in derision. ‘This is a murder investigation, not some carnival sideshow. Cases aren’t built on how you feel. This isn’t the fucking magic circle.’
‘I wouldn’t have pegged Sam for a killer.’
I frowned. ‘What’s that supposed to mean?’
‘Maybe you’re getting too cosy with him,’ Healy said, and sank some of his coffee. ‘You ever thought of that? You need to separate out what you think is the truth – what you want to be the truth – from what is actually the truth.’
‘Is there anything else linking him to the crimes?’
‘Anything else but his own voice? I don’t know how you’ve found it in your vast experience of working murders, but generally they’re not standing there with their dicks out holding the murder weapon when we arrive on the scene. This is as good as it gets.’ Healy glanced at me, his hackles rising again. ‘And here’s another thing: the Snatcher’s a planner. He watches these guys for weeks, he gets to know their routines, he doesn’t leave room for error. He even takes out all the lights leading into and out of the building. Every single one. I couldn’t get my head around why there was no lighting in the places he took them from. Then I realized every one was the same. He sweeps the building before the night he takes them, and then he walks them out in total darkness.’
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