J enny walked into Nightingale’s office carrying a mug of coffee. He had taken the top drawer from his desk and emptied the contents over the floor. He was down on his knees rooting through the papers, notebooks and cigarette lighters and muttering to himself.
‘What are you looking for?’ she asked, putting the mug down next to his computer terminal.
Nightingale sat back on his heels. ‘Remember the money that I got from Joshua Wainwright last time?’
‘Two million euros? I’m not likely to forget that.’
‘Yeah, well, Wainwright gave me a copy of the receipt with his phone number on it. Now I can’t find the bloody thing.’
‘I filed it,’ she said. ‘With the rest of the company receipts.’
‘Are you serious?’ he said. He could see from the look on her face that she was. ‘Your efficiency never ceases to amaze me,’ he said. He began to refill the desk drawer.
Jenny went back to her office and retrieved the receipt from the filing cabinet by her desk. She photocopied it, returned the original to its file and gave the copy to Nightingale. ‘Are you going to see him again?’
‘Yeah, thought I’d show him the list of what we’ve found so far and have a chat. Kill two birds.’ He nodded at a printout on his desk. ‘There’re a couple of hundred books there and with any luck he’ll want to buy a few.’ He sipped his coffee. ‘We could do with some cash, right? What with me still having to pay the mortgage on Gosling Manor and all.’
‘We’re owed more than two thousand pounds from clients but that’s about it,’ she said. ‘We’ve lost a lot of work with you concentrating on your sister.’
‘It’s got to be done, Jenny,’ said Nightingale, leaning back in his chair. ‘If I don’t help her, who will?’
‘Was the cop any use last night?’
‘Yeah, he was okay. He said he’d try to get an address for her parents.’
‘And then what?’
‘I’ll pay them a visit.’
Jenny perched on the edge of Nightingale’s desk. ‘Jack, are you sure that’s a good idea?’
‘They might know something,’ said Nightingale.
‘What do you think they might know?’
‘Maybe they met Gosling. Maybe he told them what he’d done.’
Jenny looked pained.
‘I’ll wear my kid gloves. Softly softly.’ He put down his coffee mug. ‘I’ve got to follow up any lead I can. No one else gives a toss about her, Jenny. They’ve put her in an asylum and thrown away the key.’
‘Because she killed kids, Jack.’ She shuddered. ‘I can’t think of anything worse, can you? Killing kids?’
Nightingale sighed. ‘I can’t argue with you,’ he said.
‘Because you know I’m right.’
Nightingale threw up his hands. ‘What do you think I should do? Walk away?’
‘Would that be so bad?’
‘She’s my sister.’
‘She’s your half-sister, a woman that you’ve met once in your life, who decided of her own volition to murder innocents. And you want to do what? Save her soul? Jack, if there’s any justice in the world she’ll burn in Hell for what she’s done.’ She stood up, her eyes blazing. ‘Her soul is damned anyway; you’re just whistling in the wind.’
Nightingale reached for his cigarettes.
‘You know they’re a crutch,’ she said. ‘Whenever you’re faced with something that makes you feel uncomfortable, you smoke.’
Nightingale tapped out a cigarette, slid it between his lips and lit it. ‘I smoke because I like to smoke,’ he said. ‘Anyway, this isn’t about me smoking. It’s about me wanting to help my sister.’ He threw up his hands. ‘I know that you’re talking a lot of sense, I know that there’s probably nothing I can do to help her, but I have to try.’
Nightingale groaned. ‘I don’t know what you want me to say. She’s my sister. That’s the only answer I can give you.’
‘She’s killed children,’ said Jenny flatly.
‘And she’s behind bars for that. Okay, it’s a hospital and not a prison, but she’s still locked up. But what’s going to happen to her soul, that’s different. Gosling put her in that position, he did a deal for her soul, and now she’s all on her own. She has no idea what she’s up against. if I don’t help her then who will? She’s my sister, Jenny. The only family I’ve got. And I’m all she’s got.’
‘You keep saying that, but she’s not really your sister, in the same way that Gosling wasn’t really your father.’
‘We share the same DNA. That means we’re related.’
‘But up until three weeks ago you hadn’t heard of either of them,’ said Jenny. ‘Family isn’t about DNA, Jack. It’s about growing up together; it’s about connections, a shared history. You keep telling me that Bill and Irene Nightingale were your real parents, even though you know your DNA came from Gosling and your birth mother. Rebecca Keeley.’
‘Gosling paid Keeley twenty thousand pounds to have me and she gave me up the day that I was born, so I don’t think that qualifies her for maternal privileges. And the fact that Gosling sold my soul to a devil negates any dead daddy feelings I might ever have had.’
‘Exactly,’ said Jenny. ‘They’re not family.’
‘But my sister’s different. None of this is her fault. Gosling did to her exactly what he did to me. She can’t help herself but maybe I can.’
‘How? How do you expect to help a killer locked up in a secure mental hospital?’
Nightingale flicked ash into the ashtray at his side. ‘I didn’t say I know what to do, just that I have to do something.’ He groaned. ‘Jenny, you wouldn’t understand, you’re an only child.’
Jenny’s jaw dropped. ‘What?’
‘You don’t have any siblings, so you wouldn’t understand.’
‘Jack, I’ve got a brother. Five years older than me.’
Nightingale grimaced. ‘Sorry,’ he said. ‘I didn’t know.’
‘The reason you don’t know is because you’ve never asked,’ she said.
‘I’m sorry. Really.’
Jenny folded her arms. ‘Here’s a question for you. How many Jack Nightingales does it take to screw in a light bulb?’
Nightingale looked out of the window and didn’t reply.
‘Just the one,’ continued Jenny. ‘He holds up the bloody bulb and waits for the world to revolve around him.’
Nightingale held up his hands. ‘You’re right. I can be a bit self-centred at times.’
‘Self-obsessed,’ she said. ‘Which is another way of saying that you don’t care about anyone other than yourself. That’s why I don’t understand this sudden urge to save a woman that you barely know.’
He shrugged. ‘I don’t understand it myself, Jenny. I just know that I have to try. She’s all I have.’ He grinned at her. ‘Present company excepted.’