Jigsaw Man(3)

By: Elena Forbes

Tartaglia gave him a blank stare. Fuck. The phone must have fallen out of his jacket pocket on the way home, but it was none of Minderedes’s business where he had been or what he had been doing.

‘I told him to drop it over to the office later,’ Minderedes continued, still looking at him inquiringly. ‘Meantime, we need to get going.’

Tartaglia stifled a yawn. ‘OK, give me ten. You want to come in and wait?’

Minderedes shook his head. ‘I’ll be outside in the car. I’ll call the DI from the local station and let him know we’re on our way.’

Tartaglia closed the front door and retreated back inside. The heating was just kicking in, taking the chill off the air, the pipes were making a distant tapping sound as they warmed up. He went into the kitchen, put a pot of strong coffee on the stove and poured out a large glass of water, which he knocked back in one, along with a couple of Hedex. In the bathroom, he turned on the shower. Waiting while the water warmed up, he stood at the basin and splashed some cold water on his face, then ran his fingers through his hair and over the thick black stubble on his chin, studying himself in the mirror. Not good. Not good at all. He stuck out his tongue and grimaced in disgust. Dark circles shadowed his eyes like bruises and his skin looked sallow in the bathroom light, his summer tan having all but faded. Not much he could do about that, but if nothing else, even if it cost him an extra few minutes, he would have to shave. There’d be no chance to do so later on and it made all the difference. Somehow he had to minimise the obvious signs of a night of next to no sleep. At least he generally kept himself in good physical shape, even to his critical eye. Give or take a couple of pounds, he weighed the same as he had done ten years before and outwardly looked much the same. But some things were deceptive. Ten years on, he knew he was a different man, although he had no desire to examine or define what had changed. He put his hand under the shower, checked the temperature and stepped in, closing his eyes again and letting the water run over him.

Fifteen minutes later he was dressed and ready to go. It was still dark outside, the pavement slick from overnight rain and the air sharp with cold. Apart from the odd light on here and there, there was little sign of anyone stirring. Minderedes was waiting for him a few doors down, the shiny black BMW pulled up across someone’s drive. Tartaglia slid into the passenger seat and slammed the door shut. Capital Breakfast burbled through the speakers. Minderedes helped himself to a stick of gum and put the car into gear.

‘Where are we going?’ Tartaglia asked, stretching out his legs as they sped off down the narrow street towards Shepherd’s Bush Road.

‘Some posh new hotel called the Dillon. That’s all I know.’

Tartaglia frowned, wondering if he had heard correctly and glanced over at Minderedes. ‘The Dillon, you say.’

‘That’s right. It’s in the West End. Just off Marylebone High Street. We should be there in fifteen, if we’re lucky.’

Tartaglia said nothing. The Dillon was where he had been only a few hours before. Thinking it must be some sort of a joke, he glanced again at Minderedes, but his expression was deadpan as he concentrated on the road in front, driving at his usual breakneck speed. Minderedes was generally a bad poker player, so maybe it was for real after all.

‘What’s happened?’ he asked flatly after a moment, having watched the DC carefully out of the corner of his eye.

‘Woman found dead in one of the rooms in the early hours.’

‘What, a guest?’

‘I don’t know. Steele’s been trying to get hold of you. Do you want to use my phone?’

‘In a minute.’ Tartaglia slid down a little in his seat, folded his arms and studied the empty road ahead as they accelerated past Olympia. Before he spoke to his boss, DCI Carolyn Steele, he needed to get things clearer in his mind. He believed in coincidence about as much as he believed in the tooth fairy. Things happened for a reason, particularly in his line of work. Like a conjuror’s trick, the apparently inexplicable usually had a simple explanation, if only you knew where to look. But he found it strange that he should be going back to the same hotel only a few hours later to investigate a murder. Still not quite believing it, refusing to give in to alcohol-fuelled paranoia, he told himself that it couldn’t be anything to do with Jannicke. What were the chances? She wasn’t the only woman in the hotel, by any stretch. There must be a good forty or so rooms and at least as many guests, plus staff. No point jumping to conclusions.

Also By Elena Forbes

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