Vanished, page 24
The inside of Pell’s house was cooler than the day before. Outside, the temperature had dropped to the mid teens and the rain had brought some relief from the heat. Inside, the stuffy, enclosed smell had been replaced by the stench of damp; deep in the walls, in the floor, in the ceiling. I made my way upstairs, into his bedroom, and went through his cupboards again. I’d been pretty thorough the first time, but I checked everything again anyway: every shelf, every drawer, under the bed, on top of the wardrobes. I moved across the hall to the second bedroom and did the same. The holdall was still in there, returned – along with the contents – to the way I’d first found it. Magic Trees swung gently as I searched the wardrobe, pushing clothes aside and sliding out shoeboxes. Jewellery was in one of them: some chains, a couple of rings, and the two stars of an army lieutenant, loose among the rest of the clutter. In the others were receipts and old bills. I’d been through it all already.
I stacked them back inside and then closed the wardrobe door. It rocked slightly, the legs unsteady, and on top – on the other side of the ornate, carved front panel – I heard something shift. I reached over, feeling around. I’d done the same the day before and not found anything, but now my fingers brushed the hard edges of another shoebox. I teased it towards me until I could get a proper grip, then brought it down and flipped it open.
Inside were a stack of blank DVDs, numbered one through to ten.
I headed downstairs into the living room, opened the disc tray on the DVD player and pulled the TV towards me. It was sitting on an old-fashioned stool, in the same dark wood as the wardrobe upstairs. I dropped the first disc in, closed the tray and hit Play. The television kicked into life.
A black screen.
And then a picture: video footage of the inside of a flat. I didn’t recognize it. It looked small and pokey, half lit, a couple of worn red sofas and a kitchen behind that, most of it in shadow. Two other doors, one left, one right. In the right-hand one, the light was on and I could see the edge of a bed and a dresser with a mirror on it. In the left one the light was off.
The camera moved around constantly, as if the operator was getting comfortable, but then, after a while, something clicked and the picture was still. Now it was on a tripod. From behind the camera came Duncan Pell. He was naked. He walked across the flat and stood in the centre, facing the room with the light on. He didn’t say anything; just watched the bedroom, his right hand opening and closing beside him. On his middle finger was the silver ring with the rune on it, the one I’d seen him wearing at the station. As his fingers moved, it caught the light rhythmically, like a bulb switching off and on.
A minute later, a woman emerged, dressed in her bra and panties, stockings on, but only half pulled up. At first it was difficult to make her out. As soon as she appeared, Pell shuffled across to his left, obscuring her, and started playing with himself. But then he used his other hand to beckon her over – like an order – and she stepped towards him.
And I realized who it was.
The girl I’d found in Adrian Wellis’s loft space.
My heart sank as I watched her edge closer, reluctance in every step. Everything she felt in that moment, all the fear and the panic, was written in her face.
Wellis reckoned she was sixteen, but she wasn’t even close.
Pell pulled her to the sofas, dragged the tripod to one end of it and made her face the camera as he moved around behind her. Then he started having sex with her. Halfway through, as he got more and more aggressive, he slapped her back and buttocks – and after a while, the slaps became fists and tears started rolling down her face. I could barely bring myself to watch it after that. I reached forward to turn it off just as he pressed her face down into the leather of the sofa, her expression becoming almost contorted: all pain and suffering, eyes wet, mouth pushed to one side, the skin at her cheeks stretched to breaking point.
‘Fucking hell,’ I said quietly, and hit Stop.
My eyes turned to disc two and I wondered, for a moment, whether I even had the capacity to watch any more. I’d seen the darkness in men, the things they were prepared to do to one another, but with kids it was harder to become detached. Where adults could disguise the pain and corruption that had been visited upon them, children wore it like a mark, branded by their suffering. All that would be left of this girl, whatever her name was and wherever she was from, would be a husk; a shadow of herself.
Finally, reluctantly, I put disc two in and pressed Play.
The same girl. The same flat.
As I watched, I remembered again what she’d said in the loft: Don’t let him hurt me. She hadn’t been talking about Adrian Wellis or Eric Gaishe.
She’d been talking about Duncan Pell.
And then I noticed something else.
I shifted closer to the TV. At the far side of the shot was the edge of a long mirror, its reflection casting back the rest of the room. The doors into the bedroom and the bathroom. The sofas. Pell with the camera in his hand this time, and the girl on all fours in front of him.
But they weren’t alone.
A ripple of unease passed through me as I leaned in even closer. To the side of the sofa, about seven feet from Pell and half out of shot, I could see a pair of legs, exactly parallel to one another.
Someone was watching them.
17 June | Today
Across London, in a quiet residential street close to Wimbledon Common, Healy sat in his Vauxhall watching a mid-terrace, cream-coloured house. It had a small concrete yard, well maintained. Two potted firs either side of a red door with a black knocker. Metallic blinds at the downstairs window, wooden blinds at the two top-floor ones. A kitchen and two bedrooms. Healy knew that, even though he couldn’t see into any of them from where he was. He knew it because he’d walked this street up and down, countless times.
This was where the psychologist lived.
He’d followed her back from the supermarket; watched her park her Mini and let herself in. She was alone. She was always alone. He knew her routine back to front now, and she had no one to warm her bed and little in the way of a social life. A couple of times he’d been here on a Saturday night, or a week night, and he’d seen friends of hers call in. But it was a rarity, and over the five long months he’d been keeping track of her, he’d used that. He’d bumped into her on purpose that first time at Belmarsh, and engaged her in conversation, for a reason.
And this was the reason.
Healy reached into his pocket and got out the photo of Leanne. It was a bleached, slightly blurred shot of the two of them, arms around each other, about two years before he found her. A different time. A different life. He felt one of his eyes tear up, but he didn’t bother wiping it away. He let it break, let it trace the edge of his cheekbone and the corner of his mouth. Then, when he finally started to compose himself again, he looked up and saw Reed emerge from her front door, carrying a watering can.
There you are. Like clockwork.
He reached across to the glovebox, and pulled it open. Her routine was always the same on a Sunday. Half an hour after she got home from the supermarket, she started tending to her plants. She was a keen gardener; spent hours clipping them and cutting them back. This would be the best time for him to do it: when she was bent over one of the potted firs, her back to him, distracted by what she was doing. He looked down at the glovebox for a second time.
There was a gun inside.
Suddenly, his phone started going.
It buzzed across the passenger seat beside him, display facing up. Craw. Shit. He wiped his eyes and cleared his throat, then scooped up the phone. Get yourself together.
‘Healy, it’s Craw. Where are you?’
He cleared his throat a second time. ‘I’m at Drake’s building.’
Four words without any weight at all. They carried off into the space between the two of them and it took everything Healy ha
But he couldn’t talk to Craw.
He couldn’t talk to anyone at the Met.
And the only person he could talk to – of his doubts about the case, and of his reasons for being here – was the one person who would get in the way of his attempt to rebuild his career.
Twenty-five minutes later, Teresa Reed was finished and back inside. The glovebox was closed and the gun no longer visible. Healy knew he should have left for the station the minute Craw had hung up. Bartholomew had scheduled a meeting for two and wanted everyone in to hear his next revolutionary plan for catching the Snatcher.
But Healy hadn’t left.
He’d stayed to watch Teresa Reed.
Any change in her routine, any sidestep away from it, and the whole thing went down the toilet. But, five months in, she was still doing the same things, in the same order on the same days. He knew her life; knew where she’d be and when she’d be there.
He could take her whenever he wanted.
Scooping up his phone, he scrolled through his address book. When he found the number he wanted, he hit Dial.
A female voice.
‘Teresa? It’s Colm.’
‘Colm!’ she said excitedly. ‘Are we still on for tonight?’
‘Yes,’ he said. ‘I’ve booked us a table. I’ll pick you up at seven.’
Each of the discs was the same: the flat, the girl, Pell filming it all, and the terrible suffering that came after. I never saw the other person again. It was a man – you could tell from the shape of the legs; from the trousers and the shoes – but he was never glimpsed in the reflection of the mirror, never caught in shot. Yet, given everything I knew, the connection between Sam and Pell, and both their connections to Wellis, it wasn’t hard to see where the police might go with this.
Sam was the man watching.
And somehow the two of them were working together.
The evening drew in fast as rain continued falling. I turned one of the chairs around and sat at the living-room windows, watching the light fade. At 8.30, I heard Liz come in through the front door and approach me in the darkness.
Don’t mention the bruises, Liz.
Not now. Not today.
‘Are you saving electricity?’ she said, and perched herself on the edge of the sofa. I slid an arm around her and squeezed gently. She took my head in the crook of her elbow and started running her hands through my hair. ‘Guess that’s the end of the summer.’
‘Are you pleased now?’ I said to her, squeezing her a second time.
‘Yes,’ she said. ‘I much prefer this.’
‘You all done with work?’
‘Just about. Got a big day in court tomorrow, so need to make sure I don’t show myself up for the massive fraud that I am.’ She was smiling. ‘How was your Sunday?’
‘It was fine,’ I lied.
But she leaned away from me, as if immediately sensing something in my voice, and – even in the half-light of the room – I knew her eyes were falling on the bruises.
‘Nothing. I just ran into some trouble.’
I studied the disappointment in her eyes, the distrust, the rejection she felt for all the promises I’d made to her about not putting myself on the line, and she shifted away from me, and then slowly got to her feet.
‘I’m fine, Liz. Honestly.’
‘You’re fine today,’ she said, looking down at me. ‘But don’t you remember anything we talked about? Any of the things you said to me?’
I sucked down my anger. ‘It was nothing.’
‘Don’t lie to me.’
‘He took me by surprise.’
‘They always do.’
I got to my feet and stood there in front of her, the living room getting darker every second, only the faint blue glow of the DVD readout adding colour to our faces. ‘This is what I do,’ I said to her gently. ‘This is my job. This is my life.’
She looked at me for a long time, eyes not moving.
‘I know it’s your life,’ she said. ‘You’ve told me that over and over. This is who you are. This is what you do. I get it. But remember something: this is my life now too.’
I didn’t go after her. Instead, I switched on the computer and tried to concentrate on something else, watching back the footage Tasker had sent me of the day Sam went missing. It felt like I’d seen it a thousand times now, like I knew every second of it intimately: the way Sam moved, his path in, the crowds around him, the platform. But now, thanks to Task, I had the walkways, escalators and ticket halls too. Except Sam never used any of them. Because he never even used the platform.
Once he was on the train, he never got off.
I returned to the footage of the carriage itself, letting it run from Gloucester Road. When the train got to Westminster, it was like looking at a family photo; a snapshot of a scene I knew every inch of. The people coming off the train and those left on it: the clumps of protesters; the woman with her headphones on, oblivious to what was happening; the two men, one – in a suit – seated and reading, the other – a demonstrator in a red shirt with checked sleeves – picking up a sign and shuffling towards the doors. As I inched it on further, watching the same people take the same routes out, my phone started going. I flipped it over and hit Speakerphone. ‘David Raker.’
‘It’s me,’ came a whisper.
‘You ever heard Wren talk?’ he said, bypassing a greeting, the line absolutely silent, as if he’d locked himself away somewhere. ‘I mean, actually talk.’
‘You mean like on video or something?’
‘No, I haven’t.’
‘Yeah, well, I have. I spent an hour watching a home movie of him at the station.’
‘And the message he left on Drake’s mobile …’
I looked down at the phone. ‘What, it’s not him?’
‘No, it’s definitely him,’ he said, and then stopped. He sounded hesitant, unsure of himself. ‘Look, I haven’t forgotten what you did for me last year.’
He took me so much by surprise it was a couple of seconds before I caught up: he was talking about what I’d said earlier. I know trust is hard for you, but believe me: if you can trust one person, that person is me.
‘I know what you did for Leanne.’
‘Are you okay, Healy?’
‘I’m trying to rebuild my career,’ he went on, ‘I’m trying to do it right. I know you didn’t give me everything you had earlier on, and that’s fine. You’re being careful. You don’t know which side of the line I’m on now. I’d be exactly the same if I was in your position.’
Another pause, and then a sigh crackled down the line. He sounded so different: sad, beaten and ground down. No anger. No fight. No resentment. Just an acceptance, as if he’d looked in the mirror and didn’t like what came back.
‘Are you okay?’ I asked again.
‘Do you want to talk about something?’
‘I haven’t got anyone else,’ he said.
‘What are you talking about?’
‘I haven’t got anyone I can turn to in the Met. If I show any weakness to Craw, she will start watching me, doubting me, seeing every tiny mistake I make as some kind of slippery slope. If I show it to Davidson, to the rest of them, they will tear me apart.’
Another pause. I didn’t interrupt.
‘So I only have you, Raker. And now I need your help.’
Healy was waiting in the shadows near Westminster Bridge, the glow of a cigarette between his lips. The October before,
‘Thanks for coming,’ he said quietly, handing me one.
‘Are you all right?’
He nodded, his eyes falling on my bruises. ‘You been in the wars?’
‘Yeah, something like that.’
‘I’ll tell you later.’ I looked at my watch: 11.30. ‘What’s going on?’
Healy stepped away from the station entrance and we shifted back further into the darkness. ‘It’s Wren who left the voicemail message on Drake’s mobile,’ Healy said.
‘Confirmed now. Forensics did their thing. Got hold of some conversations he’d had with clients at work. The boss there has all telephone calls recorded, and keeps a year’s worth on file, in case the FSA come calling.’
He handed me a printout of a forensic report. Everyone had a different voice, a ‘voiceprint’, determined by the unique anatomy of their oral and nasal cavities, vocal cords, facial muscles, lips, palate, jaw, even teeth. Forensic techs had used ‘articulators’ – the individual way muscles are manipulated in speech – as a way to match the work calls that Sam had made to the voicemail message he’d left on Drake’s phone. As I scanned the rest of the report, I saw clearly how the Met had mobilized the troops now: forensics were working Sundays, the rest of the task force had been working all weekend, everyone focused on the evidence in front of them, and the man at the centre of it all: Sam Wren. Except maybe he wasn’t doing this on his own. Maybe he had company.
‘So why are we here?’ I asked.
‘You remember what we talked about before?’
‘On the phone?’
‘Yesterday, in the coffee shop.’
I studied him. ‘We talked about a lot of things.’
‘About the things that didn’t add up about this. Why a man who’d been so careful until now decided to leave a voicemail message on his victim’s phone.’
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