J enny was sitting at her desk reading through a stack of printed sheets when Nightingale walked into the office just before midday. ‘I got your message,’ she said. ‘Something wrong at Gosling Manor?’
‘Nah, I was looking for a book,’ he said. He held up a Sainsbury’s carrier bag. ‘Found it, too. The Yank wants it and he’s in town tomorrow’
‘That’s what he said.’
‘Great, the money should come in handy.’
‘Not necessarily,’ he said. ‘There’s some sort of curse attached to it.’ He took off his raincoat and hung it on the back of the door.
‘What do you mean?’
‘If you sell it you die. That sort of curse.’
‘Well, don’t go swapping it for a handful of magic beans, that’s all. We don’t have much in the way of cash and Christmas is always the quiet time of the year.’
Nightingale looked down at the sheets she was studying. ‘What’s this?’ he asked.
‘Mitchell’s diary,’ she said. ‘The one you took from his house. Took as in stole, of course.’
‘But it’s not mirror writing. I mean, it’s still nonsense but it’s the right way round.’
‘It’s not nonsense, it’s Latin,’ she said. ‘I started doing that thing with the mirror but then I had a brainwave. I scanned all the pages into the computer and then used Photoshop to flip it.’
‘If I was smart I’d have thought of doing it sooner,’ said Jenny.
‘Any mention of Frimost? Or Lucifuge Rofocale?’
‘Not yet,’ she said. ‘It’ll take me some time to work my way through it. I’ve sorted out the mirror image but it’s still in Latin and my Latin is a bit rusty.’
‘Yeah, well, mine’s non-existent.’
‘What happened to your head?’ asked Jenny, noticing the stitches in his scalp for the first time. ‘That’s not from when you got hit in Wales, is it?’
‘I was attacked,’ said Nightingale.
‘Last night. After I’d walked you home.’
‘It’s clearly not nothing, Jack. What happened?’
Nightingale smiled ‘Guy wanted to give me a shave.’
She narrowed her eyes. ‘Don’t mess around, Jack. Spill the beans.’
‘I tell you what – if you make me a coffee I’ll tell you the whole story.’
Jenny raised an eyebrow. ‘Did you forget our deal?’
‘Was it signed in blood?’
‘It was a promise to make me coffee for the rest of the week,’ she said. ‘And I’m holding you to it.’
Nightingale made them both coffee and they went through to his office. ‘I was attacked by a serial killer,’ said Nightingale. ‘Tried to slit my throat but I came off best.’
‘He did one of my tyres then offered to help me change the wheel, and then he pulled a knife.’ He grinned. ‘Turns out he’s got form. Chalmers is on the case.’
‘Why would he attack you? You don’t know him?’
‘Complete stranger,’ said Nightingale.
‘What about the Welsh serial killer? Could it be him?’
Nightingale shook his head. ‘This guy wasn’t interested in making it look like suicide,’ he said. ‘He kept a diary, apparently. Detailing his murders. And Chalmers didn’t say anything about them being in Wales.’ Nightingale sipped his coffee. ‘I’ve got a feeling that Proserpine is behind it.’
‘Why?’ Nightingale looked away and Jenny sighed. ‘Not again. What are you not telling me this time?’
‘I sort of did a deal with her.’
‘What sort of deal?’
‘It sounds crazy,’ he said. ‘Until last night I wasn’t sure that I believed it myself.’
‘Everything that’s happened over the past few weeks is crazy; one more thing isn’t going to worry me. What did you do, Jack?’
Nightingale lit a cigarette before he answered. He needed the nicotine but he also needed time to think. ‘Proserpine gave me the information I needed, but there was a price. For every question she answered, she said she’d send someone to kill me.’
Jenny folded her arms. ‘She what?’
‘That was the deal. By the time I’d finished, she said she’d send three killers after me.’
‘She answered three questions?’
Nightingale looked pained. ‘Not really. Two. Well, three, but one of them wasn’t helpful.’ He took another sip of coffee. ‘You had to have been there. She’s cunning.’
‘She’s a demon from Hell, Jack, of course she’s cunning. What did she say?’
‘She told me about a devil called Sugart. He’s on a par with Frimost. If I play it right, I can set them against each other.’
‘How does that help?’
He shrugged. ‘It’s complicated.’
‘Don’t you think you should have told me this before?’
‘This whole devil thing, I’m not sure what I believe and what I don’t.’
‘But, after last night, you know she means it? She’s going to have you killed?’
Nightingale gingerly touched the wound on his scalp. ‘The bang on the head shows she’s serious,’ he said. ‘One down, two to go.’
‘It’s not funny,’ said Jenny.
‘I’m just trying to lighten the moment.’
‘Yeah, well, you’re failing miserably.’ She sighed and went back into her office.
Nightingale took out his wallet and found the receipt on which Joshua Wainwright had written his mobile phone number. He tapped out the number and the American answered almost immediately.
‘How’re things, Jack?’ he said.
‘Are you psychic?’ asked Nightingale. ‘How did you know it was me?’
Wainwright laughed. ‘Caller ID,’ he said. ‘Technology, not witchcraft.’
‘I didn’t give you my number,’ said Nightingale.
‘I stored it last time you called,’ said Wainwright. ‘You sound mighty suspicious, Jack. Someone giving you a hard time?’
‘No more than usual,’ said Nightingale. ‘Where are you?’
‘Here and there,’ said the American. ‘What’s up?’
‘That diary you wanted. The special one. I found it.’
‘You did, huh? You remember what I said?’
‘About not selling? Sure. Hardly likely to forget something like that. I thought you’d want to see it straight away. You said you might be in London this week.’
‘Darn tooting I’d like it. I’ll be in the Ritz tomorrow. Come round, but you’ll have to ask for Bert Whistler.’
‘Low profile,’ said Wainwright. ‘So what do you want for it?’
‘Why do you think I want something?’
Wainwright chuckled. ‘Maybe I am psychic, after all,’ he said. ‘But I figure that if you can’t sell it then you’ll have come up with a trade. A barter. A quid pro quo.’
‘You’re right,’ said Nightingale. ‘But all I want is some information. Advice.’
‘I’ll see you at the Ritz,’ said Wainwright. ‘I should be there by noon. We can talk then.’
Nightingale ended the call and went through to Jenny’s office. ‘Wainwright’s in London tomorrow and I’m going to take the books round to him.’
‘Jack, tomorrow’s Christmas Eve.’
‘I don’t think Satanists are big on Christmas.’
She shook her head in exasperation. ‘You know what I mean. We’re going to my parents tomorrow. Remember? I’m driving you to Norfolk in the morning.’
Nightingale groaned. ‘I’m sorry,’ he said. ‘Completely slipped my mind.’
‘Yeah, I can see how high up I am on your list of priorities,’ she said.
‘It’s not that,’ said Nightingale. ‘It’s just…’
‘That there are more important things on your mind,’ she said. ‘I understand.’
‘He’ll be at the Ritz. I’ll drop off the books and then I’ll drive up myself. I’ll be there in the afternoon. It’s no biggie.’ The look of disappointment stayed on her face. ‘Jenny, I’ve already bought your dad a bottle of eighteen-year-old Laphroaig and some lemongrass shower gel for your mum.’
‘I’m not good at buying gifts for women,’ said Nightingale. ‘But the salesgirl said that it makes your skin go all tingly, so that’s got to be good, right?’
‘Okay, but you’d better be there, Jack. I told them you were coming.’
‘I won’t let you down, I promise.’