Vanished, p.8

Vanished, page 8



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  ‘Working with you, or for you?’

  ‘For me,’ he said, picking a hair off his cuff.

  ‘And then you left J. P. Morgan?’

  ‘Yeah.’ He shrugged. ‘I got the hump with a couple of the bosses there, and just fancied trying something myself. So I set up this place.’

  ‘What do you do here?’

  ‘We make people lots of money,’ he said, like it was the dumbest question he’d heard all day. ‘That’s the bottom line. We specialize in emerging markets: Russia, Latin America, the Middle East, the Far East. That’s why I poached Sam. He knows those markets. I didn’t just hire him ’cause he was my mate.’

  ‘So he was good at what he did?’

  ‘Very good.’

  ‘No problems you can remember?’


  ‘He didn’t run into any trouble with anyone?’

  ‘What do you mean?’

  ‘I’m looking for a reason he might have left. One of the possibilities is that he ran into problems here: lost a client money, got tied up in something he shouldn’t have.’

  McGregor made an oh expression. ‘I doubt it.’


  ‘I run a tight ship. I like to keep an eye on what’s happening out there. This is my baby. My investment. It’s in my interests to keep the balance sheet close because I need to make sure we’re not losing our clients money and pissing away the goodwill we’ve built up over the last five years. Most of my people out there, they’re good, but they need a steady hand. Someone to step in and tell them what to do, and to make sure they’re not making bad decisions. Sam was different.’

  ‘He didn’t need his hand held?’

  ‘I’d pull him in here for a meeting now and again, but mostly I let him run riot. He was my biggest earner. I cut him some slack.’

  I got the sense that, in a weird way, McGregor was enjoying this: being the centre of attention, being some kind of go-to man in the hunt for Sam. In fact, as I studied him – his eyes scanning the office like it was a palace – I realized whatever friendship had existed between the two of them had always been a firm second place to status in McGregor’s eyes. His job, the money he made, wandering the office as the boss – that was what was important to him; not Sam, not the people out there working for him.

  ‘Julia mentioned that things have been tough recently.’

  McGregor looked disappointed I’d brought it up. ‘Yeah. Things have been hard since the economy went down the shitter. But it’s the same for everybody.’

  ‘You froze wages and cut bonuses, correct?’

  His eyes narrowed. ‘Yeah.’

  ‘I’m just trying to find out why Sam left.’

  ‘Well, he didn’t leave because his wages were frozen.’

  ‘What makes you say that?’

  ‘I froze them in December 2010. He left in December 2011. If he had a serious problem with me trying to save his job by freezing his money, he wouldn’t have spent a year thinking about it, then buggered off without saying anything.’

  His eyes flicked to the door behind me and the receptionist came in, a carafe of coffee in one hand, two mugs in the other. She laid it all down on the table and started to pour. She asked if I wanted milk, but I told her black was fine. She knew how McGregor took it without asking. After she was done, his eyes lingered on her as she left.

  ‘So, you think he would have come to see you if there was a problem, either with the job, with a client or with the wage structure?’


  ‘Was he the kind of guy to speak his mind?’

  He shrugged. ‘We were mates, but he knew who was in charge.’

  We’d returned to McGregor’s favourite conversation topic: him as boss. Either he was paranoid about his staff challenging his position of authority, or being in charge was a drug he couldn’t get enough of. Either way, it was starting to piss me off.

  ‘Was Sam any different in the six months before he vanished? Maybe he wasn’t as effective at his job, or he seemed distracted by something?’

  ‘Not that I noticed. He was bringing in money and developing his client base, and that was …’ He stopped himself. He was about to say, and that was all I cared about, but – even to his ears – it sounded like the wrong thing to admit out loud. McGregor would only have noticed something was up with Sam if it had impacted negatively on his bottom line. In an emotional sense, he had no opinion of his friend, if he was ever really that. This conversation was going nowhere.

  ‘Was there anyone else Sam worked closely with here?’

  He eyed me as if unsure of where I was going. ‘What do you mean?’

  ‘I mean, was there anyone –’

  And then his phone started ringing. He plucked the receiver from its cradle. ‘Ross Mc Gregor.’ He listened for a couple of seconds. ‘No, I absolutely did not tell him that. I told him we would be selective about the type of opportunity we’d present him. There’s a difference.’ More silence. ‘He hasn’t got the first idea about nickel export. He probably wouldn’t be able to tell you where Norilsk is on a map.’ He listened for a few seconds more. ‘Okay, I’ll be round in a minute.’ He put the phone down. ‘I’ve got a mini emergency.’

  ‘I can wait here.’

  He looked towards the filing cabinets at the back. ‘No offence, but I can’t leave you alone. Half the company secrets are in here.’

  ‘Can I have a look at Sam’s workstation?’

  ‘No. You’ll need a warrant for that. There’s too much sensitive information on there, and I can’t have you poking around in our client database. We’ve cleared most of Sam’s personal stuff out anyway, if that’s what you were after.’

  ‘I’d like to ask around out there, then.’

  He glanced at his watch and made no effort to suppress a sigh. I didn’t care that he was annoyed. He may have been his boss, he may have thought of himself as a friend, but he wasn’t close to Sam, and that made McGregor a dead end. But there was still the possibility that someone at Investment International knew what was playing on Sam’s mind in those last few months.

  ‘Yeah, all right,’ he said finally. ‘But don’t distract them too much.’


  McGregor took me out onto the floor and introduced me to everyone. I watched the faces of his employees as he told them I was trying to find Sam. Some reacted, some didn’t. Then he pointed towards a small meeting room on the far side of the office, wedged in a space next to the kitchen. I set up in there and started inviting them in one by one.

  The first couple of interviews produced nothing more than an idea of how the office was divided: on one side were the people – mostly in their twenties – who went out drinking together three or four times a week; on the other – overwhelmingly, men and women with kids – was a separate group who headed home as soon as work was done. Everyone got on during the day, they told me, but the ones who did the drinking spent their whole week with half an eye on Friday. Friday was the big night out.

  Six interviews in, I met Abigail Camara, one of the prominent names on Sam’s phone records. ‘He sat opposite me,’ she said, proper East End accent, ‘so we used to have a lot of banter during the week. We were both big football fans. He was a Gooner, I’ve got a West Ham season ticket. That’s what we generally used to text each other about. Taking the piss and that.’

  ‘Did you notice any change in him before he disappeared?’


  ‘Did he seem any different?’

  She shrugged. ‘Not really. He was always a pleasant fella. He took his work seriously, but he always gave you the time of day. I liked him a lot.’

  A few others failed to add much to my picture of Sam, then another name from Julia’s list, and Sam’s phone records, came to see me: Dave Werr. Almost off the bat, he started telling me a story about how they’d once dragged Sam kicking and screaming into a strip club. ‘This was, like, a couple of years back,’ Werr said, smile on his face. ‘We
d been out on the razz on a Friday, just like normal, but it was friggin’ freezing and the girls didn’t want to leave the wine bar we were in. So we split, grabbed Sammy and got the Tube across town to a strip club one of the boys had complimentaries for.’ He broke off and laughed; a long, annoying noise like a hyena. ‘Sam looked like he was shitting himself.’

  ‘He didn’t seem keen?’

  ‘He didn’t fancy it at all.’ He laughed again and then, when that had died down, gave a little shrug. ‘Sammy just wasn’t that sort of boy. Wasn’t a Jack-the-Lad type. He liked a few jars with us – liked a laugh – but he was all about his missus.’

  ‘All about her how?’

  ‘Some Fridays, and a few week nights too, he’d tell us he had to get home to her. He’d get twitchy, y’know. Be looking at his watch. And then all of a sudden, he’d be up on his feet and telling us he was leaving. When we asked him why, he said it was ’cause he wanted to get back and spend the evening with her. The women thought it was sweet – but the blokes thought he was wet.’ Werr let out another blast of his laugh.

  ‘Was he always like that?’

  ‘Into his missus?’ He paused; thought about it. ‘Probably more later on.’

  ‘When’s later on?’

  ‘The last seven or eight months, I guess.’

  It was totally at odds with how Julia had described that last half-year: she’d said he’d become distant and highly strung, that he was never home until she was in bed.

  ‘Did he ever mention anyone called Ursula Gray to you?’


  ‘Ursula Gray.’

  A blank look and then a shake of the head. ‘No.’

  As Werr headed back to his desk, I felt a pang of sadness for Julia Wren: she was paying me to find her husband with what little money she had left, unaware of the lies he’d told and the secrets he’d taken with him. I needed to find out who Ursula Gray was, because that was what Julia had – indirectly – asked me to do. And once I had the answer, I would be closer than ever to finding out why Sam left. But if he’d been having an affair, there would be no happy ending for Julia Wren.


  16 February | Four Months Earlier

  ‘What is it you wanted to see me about, Healy?’

  Healy looked across the desk at DCI Craw, and then out through a glass panel to the CID office beyond her. It was seven in the evening and no one had gone home. Detectives were at workstations, talking to each other or on the phone, solemn expressions on every face. Some were facing the map of London at the other end of the office, red pen marking out key areas and coming off in lines to photocopies and Post-it notes. At the very top, the photographs of the two missing men: Wilky and Evans.


  ‘I wanted to talk to you about my role here, ma’am.’

  She raised an eyebrow. ‘Really?’

  ‘I wanted to see if I could be of more use to you.’

  ‘In what way?’

  He glanced out into the CID office and then back to Craw. ‘I understand there are people who don’t think I should be here,’ he said to her, and as she shifted in her seat, coming forward, he could smell a hint of citrus on her. ‘And I know, with the greatest of respect, ma’am, that you’re probably one of them.’

  She frowned. ‘Don’t second-guess me, Healy.’

  ‘I wasn’t –’

  ‘You don’t know what my position is. I’ve never made that clear.’

  He nodded. ‘I just wanted to tell –’

  ‘No, let me tell you a few things,’ she said, leaning on her desk and dragging a mug of tea across to her. ‘You’re – what? Forty-seven?’

  ‘Yes, ma’am.’

  ‘And you’ve been on the force how long?’

  ‘Twenty-six years.’

  She leaned back in her seat again and pulled open the top drawer of her desk. A second later she dropped a file down in front of her. It was Healy’s. ‘This,’ she said, pointing to the file, ‘is why a lot of people don’t think you should be here.’ She let the pages of the file fall past her thumb, a waterfall of paper passing across her skin. ‘When you went looking for your daughter off the books, when you teamed up with a civilian, when you waved a gun in another officer’s face, you took twenty-six years of your career and pissed it up against the wall.’

  She looked at him from under the ridge of her brow, as if waiting for a reaction. He wasn’t going to give her one. Instead, he just focused on her face, on not breaking her gaze. He’d spent the last thirty-eight days batting off questions and taunts; trying to prove he could restrain himself, that he regretted his actions, that he was someone different now. But the truth was, he wasn’t different.

  And he didn’t regret anything.

  He didn’t regret going after the piece of shit that took his girl, and he didn’t regret going up against the cops who tried to stop him. He could play their games now, he could act how they wanted him to, but it would never change how he felt: he could never forgive cops like Davidson and Sallows for trying to get in the way of him finding Leanne. In their eyes, he was some sort of heretic: the traitor, the back-stabber, the man who showed no contrition about the things he’d done. To him, they were even less than that. If they hated him, he hated them more.

  ‘Are you too old to change, Colm?’

  He looked at her. Her voice was softer now, and the change threw him for a moment. ‘No, ma’am,’ he said. ‘I don’t believe I am.’

  ‘Are you going to make me look like an arsehole?’

  ‘In what way, ma’am?’

  ‘If I give you a little rope,’ she said, eyes fixed on him, same expression on her face, ‘if I give you a little rope, are you going to hang me with it?’

  He studied her. She was quite attractive – slate-grey eyes, a face full of sharp angles – but she gave off the air of not being too particular about how she looked. Her hair was short, tucked behind her ears and swept across her forehead at the front. It was a haircut built for practicality, for the job, just like everything else: grey trouser suit, and no jewellery apart from a thin wedding band and an even thinner gold chain.


  He looked out to where Davidson was sitting at one of the computers. When Healy turned back to Craw, she’d swivelled in her seat, following his line of sight.

  ‘If you give me a chance, ma’am, I will show you what I can do.’

  Craw’s eyes were fixed on Davidson, who was up and moving around the office. ‘He outranks you now. How does that make you feel?’

  ‘It doesn’t make me feel anything, ma’am.’

  She smiled. ‘I’m new in this station but I know a little of your history, and I think we can safely say that your best days were a few years back.’ She reached forward to a picture frame on the desk – one facing away from Healy – and turned it so he could see. It contained a photo of her, with two teenage girls. ‘I don’t condone what you did, but I get it. Someone takes something from you, you have to claim it back. Until you’ve had kids, you don’t understand that.’ He tried not to show his surprise, but she must have seen a change in his face: she nodded once, as if to tell him he’d heard correctly, but then caution filled her eyes. ‘Like I said, though – I don’t condone it. You were rash and you were stupid. You put people’s lives at risk, as well as your own.’

  Silence settled across the office. She rocked gently back and forth in her seat, her eyes moving to a second window, which looked out over the station car park. In the darkness, snow was falling, passing under the fluorescent orange glow of the security lights. When the wind picked up, flakes were blown in against the glass, making a soft noise like fat crackling in a pan.

  ‘What’s your personal situation now?’

  ‘Personal situation, ma’am?’

  ‘Are you still with your wife?’

  ‘I’m not sure I understand the relevance of –’

  ‘Are you still with her?’

  Healy paused. ‘No. We’re separated.

  Craw eyed him. ‘This isn’t the speech the chief super wants me to make to you. It’s probably not the speech most of them out there want me to make to you either. But I’ve watched you over the past month and a half, and – even before you came to me today – I’d been thinking about how we could better harness what skills you have. I needed to see that you were prepared to keep your head down. I needed to see that you were willing to show restraint.’ She paused; eyed him. ‘Truth is, we’re short on numbers and we’re in need of experience. So if I give you some rope, the fewer distractions you have, the less you have to go home to, the better it is for me.’

  ‘Yes, ma’am.’

  ‘But if you make me look like an arsehole, even once …’

  ‘I won’t.’

  A long silence and then she snapped his file shut. ‘What do you know about the Snatcher?’

  He looked out into the office, to the cops working the case and then to the two faces on the wall above the corkboard. ‘Two victims so far. Steven Wilky and Marc Evans. He takes them from their houses at night. No bodies. No trace of the victims.’

  ‘What else?’

  ‘There’s never any sign of a break-in, which suggests he knows the victims, or has at least befriended them prior to taking them. They’re both men, both about the same age – late twenties to early thirties – and they’re both homosexual. There are text messages from the suspect on the victims’ phones, but nothing we can use: he purchases a new SIM card and phone each time, in cash, giving a bogus home address, then he dumps the phone somewhere we can’t find it. He never uses email, social networking or picture messaging.’


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