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.”“Ah? And why was that, Constable?”“Because of what the children told me, sir,” answered Lemmy.“You did say you wanted to hear about anything I found out right away.”Carmichael’s stride paused in surprise and he turned to stare at his subordinate.Lemmy, it seemed, had actually learned something.“Yes, indeed, Constable,” he said in a more encouraging tone.“What did the children tell you?”“It was actually the oldest one, Mandy,” said Lemmy.“She said her mother went out on Tuesday night, after Mandy and the other girls were in bed.”Carmichael stopped cold.“She said what?” he demanded.Lemmy obligingly repeated himself.“And how did Mandy come to know this?” asked Carmichael.“Well, according to the girls,” said Lemmy, “their neighbor, Mrs.Carlson, sometimes comes to sit with them if their mum has to run out for something.If Mrs.Melton goes out for the evening, there’s another babysitter, but if she’s just forgotten something at the store, it’s Mrs.Carlson who comes round.And on Tuesday night, Mandy couldn’t sleep and came out to ask for a glass of water, and found Mrs.Carlson in the sitting room watching the telly.She gave Mandy her water and let her sit up with her for a few minutes and then sent her back to bed.Mandy went to sleep then, so she doesn’t know when her mother came back.”Carmichael absorbed this in silence for a moment.“And how sure do you think Mandy is about the day?” he asked.“Oh, pretty sure,” answered Lemmy.“It all came out when they were asking me what you wanted with their mum.I told them you just wanted a bit of a chat about something that had happened on Tuesday night.And Mandy said, ‘Oh, the night Mummy went out.’”“Right, then,” said Carmichael.“We’re off to Walworth, lad.I think we should beat the Meltons home if we drive—we’ve got just enough time before rush hour starts.”13Meeting of the MindsGibbons was reading O’Leary’s report over for the fifth time, desperately hoping it would jog his memory, when O’Leary himself appeared.He tapped on the doorjamb to announce himself and said, “They told me I could just come in.”“Yes, by all means,” said Gibbons, beckoning.“It’s good to see you, Chris.I’m just reading your report.”“Report?” echoed O’Leary, drawing one of the chairs up to the bedside and dropping into it.“Oh, about our conversation at the pub? Does it ring any bells?”Gibbons shook his head, frustrated.“No, I wish it did,” he said.“This murder you’re working on—you seem to have told me about it in some detail.”“That’s right,” agreed O’Leary.“We spent most of the time talking about jewels and the Arts Theft Division, but you wanted to hear about the Pennycook case, and I gave you a pretty good summary of it.”“And I don’t remember it at all,” sighed Gibbons.“When I first saw this report, it came as a complete surprise.What do you think, Chris? Do you think I went down to Walworth on a hunch about the Pennycook murder?”“Well, no, I don’t,” said O’Leary, almost apologetically.“I know what Carmichael always says about coincidences, but I just can’t see it, myself.You’d put in a long day investigating a robbery and were looking forward to your dinner, and it was an uncommonly nasty night out.If Walworth had been on your way home, I would have said it was barely possible you had stopped to check something out.But as it is, no.If you’d had a thought about the case, you’d have rung me, or left a message at the Yard.”“That’s the way it seems to me, too,” said Gibbons, making a face at this conclusion.“Oh, never mind—I’m tired to death of trying to remember.Tell me about something else.How was your date with Brenda?”“It would have been better if I hadn’t had to leave in the middle of it,” replied O’Leary.“We were just finishing our dinner when the call came in that you’d been shot.”“Oh,” said Gibbons, discomfited.“Sorry.”O’Leary grinned at him.“As well you should be,” he said with mock severity.“The least you could do is get shot during working hours instead of in the middle of my date.”“Very inconsiderate of me,” agreed Gibbons.“Actually, it’s worked out rather well,” said O’Leary.“Brenda is very anxious to soothe away the trauma I’ve experienced in seeing my friend lying all bloody in the street.I’m going to let her just as soon as I get a spare minute.”“Trauma? You?” snorted Gibbons.“I’m the one that’s traumatized.I’ve forgotten an entire day, damn it all.”“Yes, but you’re hardly in any kind of shape to be soothed by Brenda,” pointed out O’Leary.“All too true,” agreed Gibbons sadly.He had been feeling so ill that it had not occurred to him, but it didn’t take much thought to realize his sex life had just come to a standstill for weeks, possibly months, to come.“Never mind,” he said, impatiently pushing this thought aside.“Tell me what’s been going on.”“I don’t know much,” O’Leary warned him.“I’ve spent all day on Pennycook—as far as I can make out, Hollings is leaving me to solve the case on my own.God knows he doesn’t seem interested in anything I tell him.”“Well, I’m interested,” said Gibbons.“Tell me what you found out.”O’Leary smiled.“I got a break today, as a matter of fact,” he said.“I’ve been working on tracking down some of Pennycook’s old cronies, and I finally got hold of one of them today, a fellow called Reaney.He claims not to have had much to do with Pennycook in the last few years, and he didn’t have much to say to me at first, either.”“But your natural charm brought him around?” inquired Gibbons sarcastically.“That’s right,” said O’Leary genially.“That and the beer I bought him—I found him in a pub.”“And did he know who Pennycook was going to meet that night?”O’Leary shook his head.“No,” he said, “and I think I believe him.But he did finally say that Pennycook liked to indulge in a bit of blackmail when he got the chance.He called it his ‘pension fund.’ If you ask me, he had a go at blackmailing Reaney over something and that’s what brought their relationship to an end.According to Reaney’s daughter-in-law, he and Pennycook used to spend a fair amount of time together, though she didn’t know what they got up to.”“Didn’t want to know, more like,” put in Gibbons.“That’s right,” said O’Leary.“Willful ignorance can be a wonderful thing if applied rightly.Anyway, she claims there was some sort of dustup three or four years ago and Reaney hasn’t seen Pennycook since.As she put it, they went from being ‘bosom buddies’ to ‘hating each other’s guts.’”“Well, the blackmail gives you motive, at any rate,” said Gibbons.“It didn’t seem to me, reading this over”—and he tapped the report on his lap—“that someone would have murdered the old reprobate for the paltry contents of his shop.”“It would have seemed even less likely if you’d seen the place,” O’Leary assured him.“I dropped in on Mrs.Pennycook after I talked to Reaney, but she’s another case of willful ignorance.The police have always had it in for her Alfred—well, you know the drill.”Gibbons made a face.“All too well.What about the—nephew, is it? Frank Pennycook, I think it said.”“That’s right,” said O’Leary.“I had a go at him, too, but didn’t get much.He admitted that his uncle had some private business from time to time, but claims he was never let in on any of it.He says he had no idea that Alfred had an appointment that night, but if he had known, he would have assumed it was for something like blackmail [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]