Extract: The Sentence is Death by Anthony Horowitz
Passion, deception, an unexplained death and a detective with quite a lot to hide lie at the heart of The Sentence is Death by Anthony Horowitz, the second brilliant mystery in the bestselling series starring Private Investigator Daniel Hawthorne.
‘You shouldn’t be here. It’s too late…’ These, heard over the phone, were the last recorded words of successful celebrity-divorce lawyer Richard Pryce, found bludgeoned to death in his bachelor pad with a bottle of wine – a 1982 Chateau Lafite worth £3,000, to be precise.
Odd, considering he didn’t drink. Why this bottle? And why those words? And why was a three-digit number painted on the wall by the killer? And, most importantly, which of the man’s many, many enemies did the deed? Baffled, the police are forced to bring in Private Investigator Daniel Hawthorne and his sidekick, the author Anthony, who’s really getting rather good at this murder investigation business.
But as Hawthorne takes on the case with characteristic relish, it becomes clear that he, too, has secrets to hide. As our reluctant narrator becomes ever more embroiled in the case, he realises that these secrets must be exposed – even at the risk of death…
Read on for an extract from The Sentence is Death by Anthony Horowitz!
The Sentence is Death
A Murder in Hampstead
I left Hawthorne in my office – actually a Winnebago trailer parked halfway up a side street – while I went to get us both coffees from the catering truck. When I returned, he was sitting at the desk, leafing through the latest draft of ‘The Eternity Ring’, which rather annoyed me because I certainly hadn’t invited him to read my work. At least he wasn’t smoking. These days, I hardly know anyone who smokes but Hawthorne was still getting through about a packet a day, which was why we usually met outside coffee shops, sitting in the street.
‘I wasn’t expecting you,’ I said, as I climbed back inside.
‘You don’t seem too pleased.’
‘Well, as a matter of fact, I’m quite busy… although you probably didn’t notice that when you drove straight into the middle of the set.’
‘I wanted to see you.’ He waited until I had sat down opposite him. ‘How’s the book going?’
‘I’ve finished it.’
‘I still don’t like the title.’
‘I’m still not giving you any choice.’
‘All right! All right!’ He looked up at me as if I had somehow, and for no good reason, offended him. He had mud-brown eyes but it was remarkable how they still managed to appear so clear, so completely innocent. ‘I can see you’re in a bad mood today, but you know it’s not my fault you overslept.’
‘Who told you I’d overslept?’ I asked, falling into the obvious trap.
‘And you still haven’t found your phone.’
‘You didn’t lose it in the street,’ he went on. ‘I think you’ll find it’s somewhere in your flat. And I’ll give you a word of advice. If Michael Kitchen doesn’t like your script, maybe you should think about hiring another actor. Don’t take it out on me!’
I stared at him, playing back what he had just said and wondering what evidence he could possibly have for any of it. Michael Kitchen was the star of Foyle’s War and although it was true we’d had a lot of discussion about the new episode, I hadn’t mentioned it to anyone apart from Jill, who knew anyway. And I certainly hadn’t brought up my sleeping patterns or the fact that I had been unable to find my phone when I got up that morning.
‘What are you doing here, Hawthorne?’ I demanded. I had never once called him by his first name, not from the day I had met him. I’m not sure anybody did. ‘What do you want?’
‘There’s been another murder,’ he said. He stretched out the last word in that odd accent of his. Another murrrr-der. It was almost as if he was relishing it.
He blinked at me. Wasn’t it obvious? ‘I thought you’d want to write about it.’
If you’ve read The Word is Murder, you’ll know that Detective Inspector Daniel Hawthorne was first introduced to me as a consultant on a television series I was writing: Injustice. He had once worked for Scotland Yard but that had come to an end following an incident in which a suspect, a man dealing in child pornography, had taken a tumble down a flight of concrete stairs. Hawthorne had been standing right behind him at the time. As a result, he had been fired and since then had been forced to earn a living on his own. He could have gone into security like many ex-detectives but instead he ’d turned his talents to helping film and television companies producing dramas about crime and that was how we met. But, as I soon discovered, it turned out that the force hadn’t quite finished with him after all.
He was called in when the police got what they called a ‘sticker’ – that is, a case which presented obvious difficulties from the start. Most murderers are brutal and unthinking. A husband and wife have an argument. Perhaps they’ve been drinking too much. One of them picks up a hammer and – bang – that’s it. With fingerprints, blood splatter and all the other forensic evidence, the whole thing will be solved within twenty-four hours. And these days, with so much CCTV, it’s hard even to escape a crime scene without leaving a cheerful snapshot of yourself behind.
Much rarer are the premeditated murders, where the perpetrators actually put a bit of thought into their crimes, and curiously, perhaps because they rely so heavily on technology, modern detectives find these much harder to solve. I remember a clue I put into an episode of Agatha Christie’s Poirot when I was writing it for ITV. A woman’s glove embroidered with the letter H is left at the crime scene. Modern detectives would be able to tell you where and when it was made, what fabric was used, what size it was and everything it had touched in the last few weeks. But they might not recognise that the H was actually the Russian letter for N and that it had been deliberately dropped to frame somebody else. For these esoteric insights, they needed someone like Hawthorne.
The trouble was, they didn’t pay him a great deal and after we had finished Injustice he got in touch with me, asking me if I would be interested in writing a book about him. It was a straightforward commercial proposition. My name would go on the cover but we would share the proceeds fifty-fifty. I knew from the start that it was a bad idea. I make up stories; I prefer not to follow them around town. More to the point, I like to be in control of my books. I had no wish to turn myself into a character, and a secondary one at that: the perennial sidekick.
But somehow he persuaded me and even though, quite literally, it had almost killed me, the first book was now finished, although it had yet to be published. There was a further issue. My new publisher – Selina Walker at Random House – had insisted on a three-book contract and, urged on by my agent, I had agreed. I think it’s the same for every writer, no matter how many books they have sold. A three-book contract represents stability. It means that you can plan your time, knowing exactly what you’re going to be doing. But it also means you’re committed to writing them. No rest for the insecure.
Hawthorne knew this, of course, so all through the summer I had been waiting for the telephone to ring, at the same time hoping that it wouldn’t. Hawthorne was undoubtedly brilliant. He had solved the first mystery in a way that made it seem child’s play even though I had missed every one of the clues that had been presented to me. But on a personal level I found him extremely trying. He was dark and solitary, refusing to tell me anything about himself even though I was supposed to be his biographer. I found some of his attitudes disconcerting to say the least. He swore all the time, he smoked and he called me ‘Tony’. If I had chosen to pluck a hero from real life, it certainly wouldn’t have been him.
And here he was, stalking me again just weeks after I had finished writing The Word is Murder. I hadn’t shown it to him yet and he didn’t know what I’d written about him. I had decided to keep it that way for as long as possible.
‘So who’s been murdered?’ I asked.
‘His name is Richard Pryce.’ Hawthorne stopped as if he expected me to know who he was talking about. I didn’t. ‘He’s a lawyer,’ he went on. ‘A divorce lawyer. He’s been in the papers quite a bit. A lot of his clients have been well known. Celebrities… that sort of thing.’
As he spoke, I realised that I did know the name after all. There had been something about him on the radio as I was being driven to the set but, half asleep, I hadn’t really listened. Richard Pryce lived in Hampstead, which is somewhere I often go when I’m walking the dog. According to the report, he’d been attacked in his own home, hit with a wine bottle. And there was something else. He’d had a nickname. Was it ‘Steel Magnolia’? No. That was Fiona Shackleton, who had famously represented Sir Paul McCartney in his acrimonious split from Heather Mills. Pryce was known as ‘the Blunt Razor’. I had no idea why.
‘Who killed him?’ I asked.
Hawthorne looked at me sadly. ‘If I knew that, mate, I wouldn’t be here.’
He was right about one thing. I was overtired. ‘The police want you to look into it?’ I asked.
‘That’s right. I got the call this morning. And immediately I thought of you.’
‘That’s very kind of you. But what makes it so special?’
To answer my question, Hawthorne pulled a stack of photographs out of his inside jacket pocket. I steeled myself. I’ve often seen crime-scene images as part of my research and I can never quite get over how shockingly violent they are. It’s the artlessness of them, the fact that everything is presented without any sensitivity. There ’s something about the lack of colour too. Blood looks even more horrible when it’s dark black. The dead bodies you see on a television screen are just actors lying on their side. They have almost nothing in common with real corpses.
The first picture was all right, though. It was a posed, portrait shot of Richard Pryce taken while he was still alive and showed a handsome, rather debonair man with an aquiline nose and long, grey hair sweeping back over a high forehead. He was wearing a jersey and half smiling as if he was pleased with himself, and certainly had no inkling that he was about to find himself the subject of a murder investigation. His left hand was folded over his right arm and I noticed a gold band on his fourth finger. So, he was married.
In the next shots, he was dead. This time his hands were stretched out over his head as he lay on a bare wooden floor, contorted in a way that only a corpse can be. He was surrounded by fragments of glass and a large quantity of liquid that looked too thin to be blood and which would turn out to be blood mixed with wine. The photographs had been taken from the left and from the right and from above, leaving nothing to the imagination. I moved on to the other images: jagged wounds around his neck and throat, staring eyes, claw-like fingers. Death close up. I wondered how Hawthorne had got them so quickly but guessed that he had been sent them electronically and had printed them at home.
‘Richard Pryce was struck with a full wine bottle on the forehead and frontal area of the skull,’ Hawthorne explained. It was interesting how quickly he slipped into officialese. ‘Struck’ instead of ‘hit’, for example. And that ‘frontal area’, which could have come straight out of a weather forecaster’s lexicon. ‘There are severe contusions and a spiderweb fracture of the frontal bone, but that wasn’t what killed him. The bottle smashed, which means that some of the energy was dispersed. Pryce fell to the ground and the killer was left holding the jagged glass neck. He used it as a knife, stabbing at the throat.’ He pointed at one of the close-ups. ‘Here and here. The second blow penetrated the subclavian vein and continued into the pleural cavity.’
‘He bled to death,’ I said.
‘No.’ Hawthorne shook his head. ‘He probably didn’t have time. My guess is he suffered an air embolism in the heart and that would have finished him.’
There was no pity in his voice. He was just stating the facts.
I picked up my coffee meaning to take a sip but it was the same colour as the blood in the picture and I put it down again. ‘He was a rich man living in an expensive house. Anyone could have broken in,’ I said. ‘I don’t see what makes this so special.’
‘Well, quite a few things, actually,’ Hawthorne replied cheerfully. ‘Pryce had been working on a big case… a £10 million settlement. Not that the lady in question got very much of it. Akira Anno. Ring any bells?’
For reasons that will become apparent further down the line, I’ve had to change her name, but I knew her well enough. She was a writer of literary fiction and poetry, a regular speaker at all the main festivals. She had been twice shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and had actually won the Costa Book Award, the T. S. Eliot Prize, the Women’s Prize for Fiction and, most recently, a PEN/Nabokov Award for achievement in international literature, citing ‘her unique voice and the delicacy of her prose ’. She wrote – mainly on feminist issues and sexual politics – for the Sunday Times and other broadsheets. She was often on the radio. I had heard her on Moral Maze and Loose Ends.
‘She poured a glass of wine over Pryce ’s head,’ I said. That story had been all over social media and I remembered it well.
‘She did more than that, mate. She threatened to hit him with the bottle. It was in the middle of a crowded restaurant. Lots of people heard her.’
‘Then she killed him!’
Hawthorne shrugged and I knew what he meant. In real life, it would have been obvious. But in the world that Hawthorne inhabited – and which he wanted me to share – an admission of guilt might well mean the exact opposite.
‘Does she have an alibi?’ I asked.
‘She’s not at home at the moment. No one’s quite sure where she is.’ Hawthorne took out a cigarette and rolled it between his fingers before lighting it. I slid my polystyrene cup towards him. It was still half full of coffee and he could use it as an ashtray.
‘So you’ve got a suspect,’ I said. ‘What else is there?’
‘I’m trying to tell you! His house was being redecorated and there were a whole lot of paint pots in the hall. Of course, he didn’t go in for ordinary stuff like Dulux or anything like that. He had to have those poncey colours from Farrow & Ball. Eighty quid a tin with names like Vert De Terre, Ivy and Arsenic.’ He spat out the names with evident distaste.
‘You made up the Arsenic,’ I said.
‘No. I made up the Ivy. The other two are on their list. The paint he had chosen was actually called Green Smoke. And here ’s the thing, Tony. After the killer had bludgeoned Mr Pryce and left him bleeding on his posh American oak floor, he picked up a brush and painted a message on the wall: a three-digit number.’
‘What three digits?’
He slid another photograph forward and I saw it for myself.
‘One eight two,’ Hawthorne said.
‘I don’t suppose you have any idea what that means?’ I asked.
‘It could mean lots of things. There ’s a 182 bus that runs in north London, although I don’t suppose Mr Pryce was the sort who had much time for public transport. It’s the name of a restaurant in Wembley. It’s an abbreviation used in texting. It’s a type of four-seater aircraft—’
‘All right,’ I stopped him. ‘Are you sure it was left by the killer?’
‘Well, it might have been the decorators but I doubt it.’
Hawthorne stopped with the cigarette halfway to his mouth. His dark eyes challenged me. ‘Isn’t that enough?’
‘I don’t know,’ I said.
That was true. I was already looking at the murder of Richard Pryce from a writer’s perspective and the awful truth was that, at this stage anyway, I wasn’t sure I cared who had killed him. Akira Anno was obviously the prime suspect – and that was interesting because although I hadn’t ever managed to read any of her books, I was aware of her name. What mattered more, though, was this. If I was going to write a second book about Hawthorne, it would need to run to at least eighty thousand words and I was already wondering if there would be enough material. Akira had threatened him with a bottle. He had been killed with a bottle. She did it. End of story.
It also troubled me that it was a divorce lawyer who had been killed. I’ve got nothing against lawyers but at the same time I’ve always done my best to avoid them. I don’t understand the law. I’ve never been able to work out how a simple matter – a trademark registration, for example – can end up eating months out of my life and thousands of pounds. Even making my will was a traumatic experience and there was considerably less to leave to my children once the lawyers had finished with me. I had enjoyed writing about Diana Cowper, the blameless mother of a famous actor, but what sort of inspiration would I get from Richard Pryce, a man who made his living out of other people ’s misery?
‘There is one other thing,’ Hawthorne muttered. He had been watching me closely as if he could see into my thoughts – which, as he had already demonstrated, he actually could.
‘The bottle of wine. It was a 1982 Château Lafite Rothschild, Pauillac.’ Hawthorne spoke the foreign words as if each one was an insult. ‘Do you know anything about wine?’
‘Me neither. But I’m told this one would have cost at least two thousand quid.’
‘So Richard Pryce had expensive tastes.’
Hawthorne shook his head. ‘No. He was a teetotaller. He never drank alcohol at all.’
I thought for a moment. A very public threat from a well-known feminist writer. A mysterious message in green paint. An incredibly expensive bottle of wine. I could just about see all that on the inside flap. And yet…
‘I don’t know,’ I said. ‘I am quite busy at the moment.’
His face fell. ‘What’s the matter with you, mate? I thought you’d be jumping at this one.’
‘Can you give me time to think about it?’
‘I’m heading over there now.’
I let that hang in the air for a moment.
‘I was just wondering,’ I muttered, almost to myself. ‘All that stuff you just said. About Michael Kitchen – and my phone. How did you know?’
He saw which way I was going. ‘That was nothing.’
‘I’m just interested.’ I paused. ‘If there’s going to be another book…’
‘All right, mate. But it couldn’t be simpler.’ I wasn’t moving and he knew it. ‘You got dressed in a hurry. The second button of your shirt is tucked into the third buttonhole, which is sort of classic, really. When you shaved this morning, you left a bit of hair under your nose. I can see it right there, next to your nostril, and it doesn’t look very nice, to be honest with you. You’ve also got a smudge of toothpaste on your sleeve, meaning you got dressed before you went into the bathroom. So you woke up, jumped out of bed and got dressed straight away, which sounds to me like your alarm didn’t go off.’
‘I don’t have an alarm.’
‘But you’ve got an iPhone and you might have set it if you had an important meeting – like a set visit – but for some reason you didn’t use it.’
‘It doesn’t mean the phone is lost.’
‘Well, I rang you twice to tell you I was coming today but there was no answer. Also, if you had your phone, your driver would have been able to ring you to say he was on his way or he was waiting outside and you wouldn’t have been in such a panic. Nobody else answered it, by the way, although it didn’t go straight to voice message so that means it’s still turned on. The chances are it’s on silent and you’ll find it somewhere at home.’
Hawthorne hadn’t been on the set when I arrived. He couldn’t possibly have known how I’d got there. ‘What makes you think I had a driver?’ I demanded. ‘I could have just taken the Tube.’
‘You’re a big-shot writer on Foyle’s War. Of course they’d send someone. Anyway, it was pissing down this morning until just an hour ago, but you’re bone dry. Look at your shoes! You haven’t walked anywhere today.’
‘And what about Michael Kitchen? Have you been talking to him?’
‘I didn’t need to.’ He tapped his fingers on the script, which he had closed when I came in. ‘The pink pages are the latest revisions, aren’t they? I just had a quick glance through and every single one of them relates to scenes that he happens to appear in. It looks like he ’s the only one who’s not happy with your work.’
‘He’s perfectly happy,’ I growled. ‘I’m just fine-tuning.’
Hawthorne glanced in the direction of my waste-paper basket, which was piled high with balls of crumpled paper. ‘That’s quite a bit of fine-tuning,’ he remarked.
There was no reason to hang around the set. And after what had happened, I didn’t want anyone seeing Hawthorne and me together.
‘All right,’ I said. ‘Let’s go.’
Richard Pryce’s home was in Fitzroy Park, one of the most exclusive streets in the whole of London, nestling on the edge of Hampstead Heath. Actually, it hardly looks like a street at all. When you enter it from the Heath, particularly during the summer months, you pass through an old-fashioned gate that could have come straight out of Arthur Rackham, with so much vegetation on all sides that it’s hard to believe you’re anywhere near the city. Trees, bushes, roses, clematis, wisteria, honeysuckle and every other climbing plant fight for space in the north London equivalent of Never Land and the very light is tinted green. The houses are all detached and make a point of bearing no resemblance to each other at all. They range in style from mock Elizabethan to art deco to pure Cluedo – all chimneys and sloping eaves and gables – with Colonel Mustard mowing the lawn and Mrs Peacock taking tea with Reverend Green.
As if to contradict all this, Pryce ’s house was aggressively modern, designed perhaps by someone who had spent too much time at the National Theatre. It had the same brutalist architecture, with stretches of prefabricated concrete and triple-height windows more suited to an institution than to somebody’s home. Even the Japanese-style bulrushes in the front garden had been planted at exact intervals and grown to the same height. There was a wood-fronted balcony on the first floor but the wood was Scandinavian pine or birch, unrelated to any tree growing in the immediate area.
The house wasn’t huge – I guessed it would have three or four bedrooms – but the way it was constructed, all cubes, rectangles and cantilevered roofs, made it seem bigger than it was. I wouldn’t have wanted to live there. I’ve got nothing against modern architecture in places like Los Angeles or Miami but in a London suburb, next to a bowling club? I felt it was trying too hard.
Hawthorne and I had taken a taxi from Bermondsey, climbing up Hampstead Lane towards Highgate before suddenly turning off and heading steeply down and away from reality into this fantastical rus in urbe. The hill brought us to a crossroads with a sign pointing to the North London Bowling Club straight ahead. We turned right. Pryce’s house was called Heron’s Wake and it was easy enough to spot. It was the one with the police cars in front of it, the plastic tape across the front door, the forensic officers dressed in white moving in what looked like slow motion around the garden, the uniformed policemen and the gaggle of journalists. Fitzroy Park had no pavements and no street lights. Several of the houses had burglar alarms but there were surprisingly few CCTV cameras. All in all, you could hardly have chosen a better location to commit murder.
We got out and Hawthorne instructed the driver to wait for us. We must have made an odd couple. He was looking smart and professional in his suit and tie while it was only now that I realised I had come straight from the set and that I was wearing jeans and a padded jacket with FOYLE’S WAR embroidered on the back. A couple of the journalists glanced my way and I was afraid I would end up on the front page of the local newspaper so I went in sideways, keeping the back of my jacket away from them, wishing I’d had time to change.
Meanwhile, Hawthorne had forgotten me, marching up the driveway as if he were a long-lost son returning to the family home. Murder always had this effect on him, drawing him in to the exclusion of everything else. I don’t think I’d ever met anyone quite so focused. He stopped briefly to examine two cars, parked side by side. One was a black S-class Mercedes coupé; a solid, executive car. The other, sitting there like a younger, snappier brother, was a classic MG Roadster, dating back to the seventies. It was a collector’s car: pillar-box red with a black hood and gleaming wire wheels. I saw him place a hand on the bonnet and hurried over to join him.
‘It hasn’t been here long,’ he said.
‘The engine’s still warm…’
He nodded. ‘Got it in one, Tony.’
He glanced at the passenger window, which was open a couple of inches, sniffed the air, then continued towards the front door of the house and the constable who was guarding it. I thought he would go straight in but now his attention was drawn to the perfectly rectangular flower beds beside the entrance. There were two of them, one on each side, with bulrushes standing dead straight, like soldiers on parade. Hawthorne crouched down and I noticed that, to the right of the door, a few of the plants had been broken, as if someone had stumbled and stepped on them. The killer? Before I could ask him, he straightened up again, gave his name to the constable and disappeared into the building.
I smiled vaguely, nervous that I would be stopped, but the policeman seemed to be expecting me too. I went in.
Heron’s Wake wasn’t built like an ordinary house. The main rooms weren’t divided by walls and doors. Instead, one area seemed to morph into another with a wide entrance hall opening into a state-of-the-art kitchen on one side and a spacious living room on the other. The back wall was made almost entirely of glass, giving lovely views of the garden. There were no carpets; just expensive rugs of various sizes artfully strewn over American oak floors. The furniture was modern, designer-made, the art on the walls mainly abstract. It was obvious that a great deal of care had been lavished on the interior, even if the overall impression was one of simplicity. All the door handles and light switches, for example, were brushed steel, not plastic, and whispered of Paris or Milan. I could imagine them being carefully chosen from catalogues. Most of the house was white but Pryce had recently decided to add a few splashes of colour. There were paint pots and brushes arranged on dust sheets in the hall. An open doorway led into a cloakroom that had become an eye-catching canary yellow. The windows in the kitchen were now framed in terracotta red. I had assumed that the lawyer was married, but the house had the feel of a very expensive bachelor pad.
I caught up with Hawthorne just as a large, unattractive woman appeared, elbowing her way out of the kitchen, dressed in a bright mauve trouser suit with a black polo-neck sweater. What made her unattractive? It wasn’t her clothes or her size, although she was overweight with round shoulders and a face that was thick and fleshy. No. It was mainly her attitude. She hadn’t spoken a word to us but she was already scowling. Either her spectacles were too big or her eyes were too small, but she had managed to make herself look mean and hostile, peering at the world with a malevolence that she wore like mascara. What struck me most about her, though, was her hair. I’m sure it was real but it resembled one of those cheap wigs worn by department-store mannequins, jet black and as glossy as nylon. It didn’t seem to belong to her head. She had a gold necklace around her neck and below that a lanyard resting horizontally on an ample chest identified her as DI Cara Grunshaw of the Metropolitan Police. She moved quickly, aggressively, like a wrestler entering an arena. If I were a criminal, I’d be afraid of her. I hadn’t done anything wrong but she still made me nervous.
‘Hello, Hawthorne,’ she said. To my surprise and despite her appearance, she was quite jocular. ‘They told me you were on your way.’
They knew each other. They seemed to like each other. Hawthorne turned to me. ‘This is Detective Inspector Cara Grunshaw,’ he said, unnecessarily. He didn’t tell her who I was. Nor did she seem particularly interested.
‘They sent over the details?’ She had come straight to the point, without any small talk. Her voice was heavy and emotionless, with no particular accent. ‘Initial report? Photographs?’
‘They didn’t waste any time! He was only found this morning.’
‘Who found him?’
‘The cleaner. Bulgarian. Mariella Petrov. You can talk to her if you want to but you’ll be wasting your time. She doesn’t know anything. She ’d only worked for Pryce for six weeks… came through a good agency in Knightsbridge. Lives in Bethnal Green with a husband and two kids. Her first job was to come down from Highgate, bringing in fresh bread and milk for his breakfast. She went into the kitchen and got everything ready. Then she walked into the study and that was where she found him. We’ve moved the body but you can take a look if you like.’
‘Here…’ She had produced plastic shoe covers and handed them to us casually, like serviettes before a meal.
I was a little disappointed. In the back of my mind, I had been hoping that the investigating officer would be DI Meadows. He was the detective I’d met when Diana Cowper was murdered and later on the two of us had even had a drink at my club. I had been interested in his relationship with Hawthorne. The two of them had worked together and there was clearly no love lost between them. I wanted to know more about Hawthorne and although Meadows had been both reticent and expensive (he had charged me for his time), I was sure he had more information he could have given me.
More than that, he would have been a useful character if I really was going to continue writing about Hawthorne. Holmes has Lestrade. Poirot has Japp. Morse often tussled with Chief Superintendent Strange. It’s a simple fact of life that a clever private detective needs a much less clever police officer in much the same way as a photograph needs both light and darkness. Otherwise, there ’s no definition. I’m not saying that Meadows was unintelligent, by the way, but he did think Mrs Cowper had been killed by a burglar and in that he was most certainly wrong.
Given a choice, I would have been happy to bump into Meadows at every crime scene I visited, but of course there are more than thirty thousand police officers in London and the chances of his turning up in both Chelsea (the scene of the first murder) and Hampstead were non-existent. As I followed Grunshaw through the living room, I had already decided that she was going to be less useful to me. She was completely businesslike and seemed to know what she was doing. She had shown no interest in me at all.
We went through the living area and down two steps to the study, which, with its wooden floor and minimal decoration, actually had the appearance of a conference room. There was no desk. Instead, four white leather and steel chairs had been arranged around a glass table framed by bookshelves on one side and windows on the other. Another glass panel ran the full length of the ceiling, allowing the light to flood in. There were two cans of Coke on the table, one of them open.
The body had already been removed but there could be no doubt that this was where Richard Pryce had died. A sticky, dark red pool stretched out across the floor; a mixture of red wine and blood. Rather horribly, I could make out the lawyer’s head, his shoulders and one outstretched arm in the shape left behind when the body had been removed. The broken bottle, parts of it still held together by the label, lay in the middle of the mess.
My eyes were drawn to the wall between two of the bookshelves. There was the three-digit number that Hawthorne had shown me, daubed hastily in green paint: 182. The paint had trickled down, as if in a poster for a horror film. The digits were crude and uneven, the eight quite a bit larger than the one and the two. The brush that had been used to write them had been left on the floor, leaving a green smudge on the wood.
‘He was killed between eight o’clock and eight thirty. He was alone in the house but we know he had a visitor just after five to eight. A neighbour, Henry Fairchild, was walking his dog and saw someone coming off the Heath. I’m sure you’ll want to talk to him. He lives at the other end of the street. It’s a pink building… Rose Cottage. The houses round here don’t have numbers. They’re too fucking posh for that.’ She smiled very briefly. ‘It’s all just fancy names… like Heron’s Wake. What does that even mean? Anyway, Mr Fairchild is retired. He ’s a charming man. I’m sure you’ll enjoy talking to him.’
‘Was Pryce alone in the house?’
‘He was last night. He was married but his husband was away. They have a second home in Clacton-on-Sea. He got back about an hour ago and found us all here, which must have been a bit of a shock for him. He ’s upstairs now.’ That explained the red MG with an engine that hadn’t had time to cool down. ‘He’s not in a good way,’ she went on. ‘I only spoke to him for a few minutes and he didn’t make much sense. He was crying his eyes out so I got someone to make him a cup of tea.’ She paused and sniffed. ‘He asked for camomile.’
I was listening to this with a sense of dread. I remembered well that one of Hawthorne’s less endearing traits was an unapologetic homophobia, which he had expressed after we had visited a suspect together during our first case. And from the way she had pronounced that last word, Cara Grunshaw might have had similar feelings. But then again, maybe it was just Hampstead folk that she didn’t like.
‘The husband’s name is Stephen Spencer,’ she went on. ‘I can’t tell you very much more about him yet. I haven’t had a chance to talk properly to him. But it’s fairly certain that he was the last person to speak to Pryce before he died.’
‘At eight o’clock last night.’ She watched as Hawthorne digested this. ‘Yes. The killer must have been just outside the house, maybe approaching it, when the call took place. The neighbour, Mr Fairchild, saw someone going in at more or less exactly that time, although he can’t provide any description. It was too dark. He was too far away. Pryce ended the call and let them in – it looks like it was someone he knew. He offered him a drink.’
I glanced at the two cans of Coke on the glass table.
‘They didn’t drink any of the wine, then,’ Hawthorne said.
‘The bottle hadn’t been opened. You saw the report? It came with a price tag of two thousand quid!’ Grunshaw shook her head. ‘That’s what’s wrong with this country. You’ve got food banks in the north and down here in Hampstead there are people who don’t think twice about spending a fortune on a fucking bottle of wine. It doesn’t make sense.’
‘Richard Pryce didn’t drink.’
‘According to Spencer, it was a present from one of his clients. I managed to get that much out of him. The client was called Adrian Lockwood.’
‘Akira Anno’s husband,’ I said. I remembered the name from the report I’d heard on the radio.
‘Her ex-husband. Pryce represented him in the divorce and apparently she wasn’t too happy about the outcome.’
She had threatened to hit him with a bottle of wine. It seemed an extraordinary coincidence. And yet, if she had made such a declaration in public, in a busy restaurant, surely it would have been completely mad to follow through, using exactly that method to kill him.
Meanwhile, Hawthorne had turned his attention to the green figures painted on the wall. ‘What do you make of that?’ he asked.
‘A hundred and eighty-two? I haven’t got the faintest idea.’ DI Grunshaw sniffed. ‘You should be happy about that, Hawthorne. That was why you were called in. We ’ve obviously got some tricky bastard who thinks he ’s having a laugh.’ She folded her massive arms across her chest. ‘There are two possibilities, the way I see it. One is that Pryce painted it himself, trying to leave some sort of message. But it would have had to be before his head was smashed in. Or more likely, the killer did it after the event. But to be honest, that doesn’t make any sense. What sort of killer leaves an obvious clue? He might as well have signed his initials.’ She paused. ‘I did wonder if it might relate to the wine.’
‘A 1982 Château Lafite,’ I said.
‘It’s the same figures, minus the nine.’ Grunshaw glanced at me as if noticing me for the first time. Her small eyes rested on me for a moment, making me feel distinctly uneasy. Then they flickered away. ‘I’ll leave you to work that one out, Hawthorne,’ she continued. ‘Personally, I don’t like murder when it comes with all these fancy bells and whistles attached. I leave that sort of thing to Mr Foyle ’s War here.’
She had noticed the back of my jacket even though I had done my best to keep it concealed from her. I wondered if Hawthorne had told her who I was.
‘Fingerprints?’ Hawthorne asked.
She shook her head. ‘Sod all. Everything has been wiped down, including the unopened Coke can. Pryce was the only one who had any. We ’ve got his DNA on the can and there were traces of the liquid on his lips.’
‘So what are your thoughts?’
‘You really think I’m going to share them with you?’ Detective Inspector Cara Grunshaw looked Hawthorne straight in the eyes but there was no real malice in her voice. ‘I’ll leave you to earn your daily rate,’ she went on. ‘If they feel they need you, which, incidentally, I don’t, they might as well get their money’s worth.’
She stood there, her fingers drumming against the side of her arm. Then she seemed to relent.
‘It looks to me as if Miss Anno is going to be our first port of call. We haven’t been able to locate her yet – her mobile is switched off – but I’ll let you know when I’ve tracked her down. I’m going up to talk to Pryce’s husband and you can join me. After that you should have a word with the neighbour. If you need me, you’ve got my mobile, but here ’s the deal, Hawthorne.’ She jabbed a stubby finger in his direction. ‘I want to know what you know. All right? You keep me informed if there are any developments and I want to be the one that makes the arrest. If I find you’ve been undermining me, I’ll rip your testicles off and use them as conkers. Is that clear?’
‘You don’t need to worry about me, Cara,’ Hawthorne said, with an innocent, almost beatific smile. ‘I’m only here to help.’
I didn’t believe him. Hawthorne was a lone wolf if ever there was one. I was sure that DI Grunshaw would only know there had been an arrest when she read about it in the newspapers.
‘Let’s do it, then.’
Grunshaw marched off. I was happy to follow her. I had become aware of the sickening smell in the room, the mixture of blood and wine. I was beginning to feel queasy and knew I would be in all sorts of trouble if I actually managed to throw up at the scene of the crime. I couldn’t wait to get out. But Hawthorne was still lingering.
‘I’d watch out for her if I were you,’ he muttered.
‘Do me a favour and don’t say anything in front of her. Take my word for it. She ’s not a nice human being.’
‘She seemed all right to me.’
‘That’s because you don’t know her.’
We went upstairs.
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