J enny was at her desk peering at her computer screen when Nightingale walked into the office on Friday morning. She looked at her watch pointedly.
‘I know, it’s ten o’clock, but I had a late one last night,’ said Nightingale. He put a memory card on the desk. ‘Mr Walters was right – his child bride is fooling around behind his back.’
‘Child bride is a bit harsh,’ said Jenny. ‘She’s twenty-three.’
‘Yeah, and he’s fifty-one. That means he was almost thirty when she was born, which in my book makes him more than old enough to be her father.’
‘You are so judgemental,’ sighed Jenny, picking up the memory card.
‘Plus, she’s Latvian or Ukrainian, so he probably bought her off the internet at childbride dot com.’
‘Jack, you’re terrible.’
‘I’m a realist. You’ve seen the guy. Overweight, face like the back of a bus, IQ in single figures. She’s less than half his age and fit as a butcher’s dog. What did he think was going to happen?’ He looked over her shoulder. There was a Facebook page on her screen. ‘Busy, I see,’ he said.
‘I’ve been posting on the sites that Connie Miller visited. My name is Bronwyn and I’m depressed because I don’t have any friends and I hate my job.’
‘Bless,’ said Nightingale.
‘You’d be surprised at how many depressed people there are out there.’
‘The phrase “get a life” comes to mind. Of course people are going to be depressed if they sit around on their computer every day.’
‘I’ve come across the guy that Connie was emailing but he hasn’t reacted to any of my postings yet.’
‘He’s probably just another sad bastard thinking about topping himself,’ he said. He nodded at the memory card in her hand. ‘Let’s have a look at what I’ve got. At least it might help pay the bills.’
Jenny slotted the card into the reader attached to her computer.
‘The guy she’s with is Roger Pennington. Owns a car dealership in south London and a very nice house in Clapham.’
‘Footloose and fancy-free and, if I know anything about Latvian mail-order brides, she’ll be divorcing Mr Walters and shacking up with Mr Car Dealership quicker than you can say “serves you right”. Make sure you send the bill before she takes him for everything he’s got.’
‘How did you get so cynical?’ asked Jenny. Her fingers played over the keyboard and she called up the pictures and videos that had been stored on the card.
‘Ten years as a cop and two years doing this,’ said Nightingale. ‘It’s not as if I see people at their best, is it? Anyway, what are you doing over the weekend?’
‘I’m off to the country with Barbara to see Mummy and Daddy,’ she said.
‘Hunting, shooting and fishing?’ He peered at the pictures on the screen.
‘Not at the same time, obviously,’ she said. ‘And it’ll be a bit cold for fishing, anyway. You should come down with me one weekend. They’d love to meet you.’
‘Mutual,’ said Nightingale.
‘I’m serious, Jack. They keep asking about you.’
‘I’d like to meet them, too. I just think that I’d be a bit out of place, that’s all.’
‘Nonsense,’ she said. ‘You’d have no problem getting on with Daddy He’s a smoker, too. And he collects classic cars.’
‘How rich is your dad, exactly?’
She grinned. ‘Very.’
‘And his house, it’s bigger than Gosling Manor, right?’
‘Size isn’t everything.’
‘How many bedrooms has it got?’
‘I don’t think we’ve ever counted,’ she laughed. ‘Are you telling me you won’t visit because their house is bigger than yours?’
‘I’m joking,’ he said, holding up his hands in surrender. ‘I’d love a weekend in the country. I’m not sure about the shooting bit, though.’
‘We’re slap bang in the middle of the pheasant season. It’s a great day out – you really should try it.’
‘The shooting, I’m fine with; it’s the killing birds bit that I’m not happy about.’
‘Daddy has a clay-pigeon shoot as well. You don’t have a thing about clay discs, do you?’
‘I guess not.’
‘Daddy does have a rule that you have to eat anything you shoot and you might find them a bit chewy.’ She laughed at the look of surprise on his face, then noticed the dirt on his hands. ‘What have you been doing?’ she asked. ‘Your hands are filthy.’
Nightingale looked at his palms. They were streaked with ash. ‘Had a problem with the car,’ he lied. He pointed at the screen. ‘Can you print out the stills and copy the video onto a DVD?’ His mobile phone rang in the pocket of his raincoat and he went to retrieve it.
It was Colin Duggan. ‘Jack, how are they hanging?’ asked the policeman.
‘All good, Colin,’ said Nightingale.
‘I’ve got good news and bad news,’ said Duggan. ‘The good news is that I got a hit on the DNA. A definite sibling. Same father as you but a different mother. She’s a thirty-one-year-old woman so the dates are in line with what you were looking for.’
‘That’s brilliant, Colin.’
‘Yeah, but don’t get too excited. Wait until you hear who she is.’