A cold wind blew through Nightingale’s paper suit and he shivered. ‘If I get a cold I’ll bloody well sue you,’ he muttered. He and the superintendent were standing in the car park at the rear of the police station. A patrol car had just driven in and large blue metal gates were rattling shut behind it. There were two white police vans and half a dozen four-door saloons parked against the high wall that surrounded the car park.
‘You’re the one that wanted a cigarette,’ said the superintendent. He took a pack of Silk Cut from his jacket pocket, flipped back the top and offered it to Nightingale.
‘I’m a Marlboro man, myself,’ said Nightingale.
‘Your fags are in an evidence bag so if you want a smoke you’ll have to make do with one of mine,’ said the superintendent. He took the pack away but Nightingale reached out his hand. The superintendent smiled and held out the pack again.
‘I wouldn’t have had you down as a smoker,’ said Nightingale. The superintendent struck a match and Nightingale cupped his hands around the flame as he lit his cigarette.
The superintendent lit his own cigarette with the same match, then flicked it away. ‘I used to be a forty-a-day man when they allowed us to smoke in the office,’ he said. ‘These days I’m lucky if I get through six.’ He smiled ruefully. ‘The wife won’t let me smoke in the house either. Tells me that secondary smoke kills. I keep telling her that the fry-up she makes me eat every morning is more likely to kill me than tobacco, but what can you do? Wives know best, that’s the order of things.’ The superintendent took a long drag on his cigarette and blew smoke at the sky. ‘What I can’t understand,’ he said, ‘is if the only two people in a room want to smoke, why the hell they just can’t get on with it. Do you have any idea how many man hours we lose a year in cigarette breaks?’
Nightingale shrugged. ‘A lot?’
‘A hell of a lot. Assuming the average detective smokes ten during his shift, and each cigarette takes five minutes, that’s almost an hour a day. Half a shift a week wasted. And do you know how many of my guys smoke?’
‘Yeah, most,’ said the superintendent. He took another long drag. ‘My first boss, back in the day, kept a bottle of Glenlivet in the bottom drawer of his desk and every time we had a result the bottle came out. Do that these days and you’d be out on your ear. Can’t drink on the job, can’t smoke, can’t even eat a sandwich at your desk. What do they think, that we can’t drink and smoke and do police work?’
‘It’s the way of the world,’ agreed Nightingale. ‘The Nanny State.’
‘Another five years and I’m out of it,’ said the superintendent. ‘I’ll have done my thirty. Full pension.’
‘It’s not the job it was,’ said Nightingale.
The superintendent sighed and nodded. ‘You never said a truer word,’ he said. ‘Tell me something. Did you throw that kiddy-fiddler through the window? Tapes off, man to man, detective to former firearms officer – you threw him out, right?’
Nightingale flicked ash onto the tarmac. ‘Allegedly,’ he said.
‘Don’t give me that allegedly bullshit,’ said the superintendent. ‘If you did do it, I’d sympathise. I’ve got three kids, and even though they’re fully grown God help anyone who even thought about causing them grief. What about you, Nightingale? Kids?’
‘Never been married,’ said Nightingale. ‘Never met a woman who could stand me long enough to get pregnant.’
‘Yeah, I could see you’d be an acquired taste.’ He chuckled and inhaled smoke.
‘When can I get my clothes back?’ asked Nightingale. ‘I feel a right twat in this paper suit.’
‘If your clothing is evidence, you’ll never get it back,’ said the superintendent. He grinned. ‘I don’t see what the problem is – white suits you.’ He jabbed his cigarette at Nightingale’s chest. ‘Wonder if those things are flameproof?’
Nightingale jumped back. ‘That’s not funny,’ he said, brushing off the ash.
The superintendent dropped what was left of his cigarette onto the ground and squashed it with his foot. ‘This tip about Connie being your sister. Where did that come from?’
‘A friend,’ said Nightingale.
‘How could he have got it so wrong?’
Nightingale shook his head. ‘I’ve been asking myself the same question.’
‘Who is this friend? Is he in the Job?’
‘Robbie Hoyle. An inspector with the TSG.’
‘One of the heavy mob, yeah?’
‘Yeah. You could say that. But he was a negotiator too. Same as me.’
‘I’ll need Inspector Hoyle’s number.’
Nightingale’s eyes narrowed. ‘Why?’
‘To check out your story,’ said the superintendent. ‘If he confirms that he sent you here on a wild goose chase, it helps your case.’
‘There is no case,’ said Nightingale. ‘I found her hanging there when I went into the house.’
‘And if Inspector Hoyle says that he sent you to the house that gives you the reason for being there. Without confirmation from him you’re still in the wrong place at the wrong time.’
Nightingale pulled on his cigarette. ‘I’m not sure that Robbie would back me up.’
‘Abusing the CRO database, was he?’
Nightingale flicked away his cigarette butt. ‘Robbie’s dead,’ he said.
‘RTA,’ said Nightingale. ‘A stupid, senseless accident. He was on his mobile and he stepped out in front of a taxi.’
‘I’m sorry,’ said the superintendent. ‘Did you tell anyone else that you were coming to Abersoch to see Connie Miller?’
Nightingale nodded. ‘My assistant. Jenny McLean.’
‘And where is she at the moment?’
‘London. Holding the fort.’
‘And if I were to telephone this Jenny McLean she would confirm your story, would she?’
‘She knew I was coming to Abersoch and why, yes. She helped me track down her address.’
The superintendent frowned. ‘Why would she do that?’
‘All I had was a first name. Constance. And the town. Abersoch. Jenny helped me track down the address. She’s good with databases.’
‘And she’ll confirm this, will she?’
‘I hope so,’ said Nightingale. ‘I really, really hope so.’
Thomas gestured at the door. ‘Okay, let’s get back to it.’