KILL ME IF YOU CAN (Dave Cunane Book 8)

KILL ME

IF YOU CAN

 

FRANK LEAN

 

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual people, living or dead, events or locales, is entirely coincidental.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright © 2013 Frank Lean

All rights reserved.

ISBN:  10: 149285848X

ISBN-13: 978-1492858485

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Secrecy, being an instrument of conspiracy, ought never to be the system of a regular government.

Essay ‘On Publicity’   Jeremy Bentham 1748-1832

Monday: Pimpernel Investigations 9 a.m.

Traffic delayed my attempt to cross the road. Rain blurred the windows of Pimpernel Investigations but I could make out a tall, silver-haired figure having an animated conversation with Miss Fothergill, the current secretary cum receptionist. Certainly both were waving their arms to considerable effect. It was impossible to tell if they were having a row or mutually conducting a sound track of the 1812 Overture.

I guessed that Fothergill was trying to give the old guy the brush-off.

I waited impatiently for a gap and then dashed.

I opened the door and entered backwards, folding my umbrella, and turned.

‘Oh, Mr Cunane, thank goodness you’ve arrived,’ Fothergill gasped, all hot and flustered. ‘I was telling this gentleman that you only take new customers after personal recommendation.’

I was struck dumb.

I’ve become cautious about accepting commissions from ‘walk-ins’. There are so many bloodhounds from the ‘media’ hoping to make money out of my story that I have to be constantly on the look-out for a set up: phoney Arab sheikhs needing security advice, grief-stricken widows with improbable tales of police negligence, pensioners being persecuted by drug crazed teenagers, etc, etc.

But this was no media sting.

The visitor was the Right Honourable Sir Lewis Greene, one of Her Majesty’s senior High Court Judges and without any doubt the most distinguished caller ever to arrive at the office of Pimpernel Investigations.

I gaped at him.

‘David, my boy,’ he said, striding towards me with his hand extended.

Fothergill looked from me to him, her eyes on stilts.

He gripped my hand and then took my elbow with his left hand as if to make sure that I didn’t turn and flee. ‘I was explaining to this very charming young lady that my visit is in the nature of an emergency. My purpose in calling on you is absolutely out of the ordinary run of business and I didn’t feel able to divulge the details of my problem to her.’

‘It’s Dave, Uncle Lew … ’

‘Ah, how well I remember the day you were christened, David for your grandfather and Patrick for your father.’

‘And Lewis for you.’

‘Indeed, Lewis for me,’ he repeated.

His words rapped out like the smack of a judge’s gavel.

Sir Lewis Greene is an ‘uncle’ by courtesy, he’s actually my godfather.

‘This is Sir Lewis Greene,’ I said to Fothergill.

‘Oh, I’m so very, very sorry Mr Cunane,’ Fothergill said putting her hand over her mouth to cover the pout her full lips were forming. She looked as if she expected the ground to swallow her up, or at least to be peremptorily fired. I suppose that’s a fair indication of how things are at Pimpernel Investigations these days.

I was embarrassed by her discomfort.

Fothergill is a tall, slim and attractive young woman. She has what Jan tells me is a layered blonde hairstyle and wears her hair long. When Uncle Lew described her as very charming he wasn’t exaggerating. Several of my investigators had asked me who the ‘hot-tottie’ was and one in particular, Greg Loveland, has managed to find his way round to her side of the reception desk several times. She’s repelled him very efficiently so far and I’ve had no cause to intervene. As long as she doesn’t start coming on to me I’ve no complaints. Neatly dressed in a dark business suit, she raises the tone of the office.

‘Not your fault,’ I said. ‘You can’t be expected to know every branch of the Cunane family tree.’

‘Indeed, who could know such a tangled thicket?’ Sir Lew gallantly seconded.

Fothergill slumped to her seat and composed herself. I think if she’d cried I’d have given her a week’s paid leave.

I looked at our visitor with raised eyebrows.

My godfather didn’t dispute being on the Cunane family tree because although undocumented, it’s almost certain that the Greenes and the Cunanes are related. In one way or another, by pestilence or fratricidal war, the relevant Irish records have been destroyed. It’s said that the two families shared a cellar in Liverpool for a while when they arrived in England in the 1840s, washed out of Ireland by the tide of disease and death scouring that country. They’d certainly come from the same village in the west of Ireland, and links with the old country were maintained for generations as the clannish immigrants mostly married newly arrived compatriots.

How often have I been told the story?

Sir Lew Greene attended the same primary school as my father, Paddy, lived in the same street and went to the same church. In every way his background was similar to my father’s and they were best friends. Then something happened, a fork in the road of their life together.

A relative left a small fortune to Lewis’s mother.

Lewis and his brother were taken out of the parish school and sent to a public school in Yorkshire and then to Cambridge. Dad joined the police and did well but Lewis became a leading QC and then a High Court judge. Somewhere along the line he also became godfather to his friend’s son but my contact with him had dwindled to zero over the last few years.

I’m a sheep with a woolly coat of the very blackest hue.

‘You’d show me through, Sir Lew,’ I said, gesturing towards my office door. Although the headquarters of Pimpernel Investigations isn’t palatial there are several offices beyond the reception area as well as a secretarial space where office equipment used for preparing client reports is kept. For some reason Fothergill was the only person present this morning. Probably the weather had caused massive traffic jams.

‘Now, David,’ Sir Lew said, ‘you know I prefer Uncle Lew.’

‘OK,’ I murmured weakly. There was something in the way he said my name that made me feel like a greedy boy caught with
his hand in the biscuit tin. A prisoner under sentence, but what had I done wrong?

Or what had he done wrong?

This was unprecedented: a house-call from the highest echelon of the judiciary. What problem could the redoubtable Sir Lewis Greene have that required my intervention? Did he want to secretly investigate one of his colleagues?

‘Perhaps you could bring us some coffee in a few minutes,’ I suggested to Fothergill. I wanted to space things out with Uncle Lew. There had to be something very weird going on.

Then it struck me.

Lew had been sent to deliver bad news about my parents.

That fear was dispelled as soon as he entered my room and took a seat.

‘Paddy and Eileen are both well?’ he asked.

‘As far as I know,’ I muttered. ‘I thought for a minute you were bringing me bad news about them.’

‘No,’ he said abruptly. ‘You may think that what I have to say is bad news but it’s not about them.’

I studied him more closely.

Puzzlingly there was no evidence that he’d been rained on like the rest of us and no sign of a coat or umbrella. As usual he was superbly tailored in a dark blue Savile Row suit which fitted his thin and lanky frame to perfection. He had one of those perfectly proportioned slim figures.

Even so, his features hadn’t escaped the ravages of age. As he relaxed into his chair I noticed that his hair was thinner than I remembered. Pink scalp now gleamed beneath the silver threads and his face was lined with worry.

‘You’re looking well,’ he commented as if reading my mind, ‘unfortunately I can’t say the same for myself as I’m sure you’re too polite to say.’

‘Not at all, sir, you haven’t aged a day since I last saw you. But you must be getting close to the big Seven Oh. Don’t they retire you then?’

This bright suggestion produced a brief and stillborn smile. White teeth gleamed for a nanosecond. There was something chilly behind his expression that triggered thoughts of ‘hanging judges’
in my easily stimulated imagination. Unlike many of his colleagues Sir Lew would have donned the black cap with pleasure if asked.

I shivered inwardly.

I desperately wanted to keep the small talk going.

That was preferable to discovering the reason for his visit.

Sleazy private detective and High Court Judge, that pairing didn’t come tripping off the tongue. An old-fashioned moralist, Sir Lew had disapproved of my former life style and like my dear parents; he never shirked his duty in letting me know it.

But through all the coldness peripheral contacts were maintained.

I attended his wife Magdalen’s funeral but that was years ago. He sent me Christmas and birthday cards of the smallest available dimension. I always found something tasteless to send to him and that was the limit of our relationship until quite recently.

‘David, I haven’t called on you for polite chit-chat.’

‘No.’

‘You wouldn’t know, because it’s secret but for the last few months I’ve been conducting a high level inquiry on behalf of Her Majesty’s Government into the extra-judicial activities of the security services in relation to the terrorist threat to this country. It’s known as the EJA Inquiry. There’s been much talk of enhanced interrogation techniques lately.’

His words fell across my desk like particles of ice.

‘You mean torture?’

‘In layman’s terms, yes, although those involved bitterly dispute the use of that word. However many other covert methods of garnering information are at issue.’

‘Blackmail, bribery and wiretaps?’

‘You seem well informed but then you always were a bright lad. Such a pity,’ he said with a sigh.

‘What’s a pity?’

‘Nothing.’

I stirred uneasily.

‘David there’s a great deal about you that I’ve always admired … ’

‘Go on!’

‘Yes, your élan, your coolness, and the way you’ve picked yourself up and started again after the recent setback.’

‘Hmmmmph.’

‘Many men in your position would have taken the money and opted for a quiet life but not you. You’re a man of style and character. Your father and I were wrong to condemn you as a maverick. I now realise that your resistance to the arrogance of bureaucrats in or out of uniform is entirely admirable.’

‘How interesting,’ I murmured.

‘You’re right to be sceptical but I assure you that my admiration is sincere. Could it be something ancestral? After all we share a certain background.’

I stopped myself laughing out loud at this. When I was in prison I had received no visits from Sir Lewis Greene.

Now he was pleading a case.

Why?

My mind raced as I wondered what was coming next.

‘I see that you’re tiring of my conversation.’

‘Not at all, Uncle Lew.’

‘Brevity being the soul of wit, I press on. In the course of my inquiries I learned about the activities of a certain individual. I’ve come to you because I believe that individual’s death needs to be expedited in the national interest.’

I felt a sudden sharp surge of anger.

‘Let me make sure I’ve got this right, Uncle Lew,’ I said coldly. ‘You’ve come to me because you need advice on how to murder someone?’

He nodded and started to say something else but I waved him to silence. Uncle Lew wanted someone dead. Why didn’t he just get in touch with the Underworld and find himself a hit man. Then the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. I realised that that was just what the Right Honourable Sir Lewis Greene thought he was doing now.

‘So, Uncle Lew, shall we just pretend that I haven’t heard a word you’ve said and simply stop this interview before we both commit a crime?’

I pushed my chair back and started to stand up but there was a tap on the door and a silent Miss Fothergill entered and served us coffee from a trolley. She placed the cups and saucers, coffee, milk, cream and sugar with the utmost elegance. I subsided and fixed my godfather with my bleakest gaze.

We sipped our coffee in silence. Finally Lew put his cup down.

‘Killing isn’t murder in this case,’ he stated flatly. ‘Your past reputation for ruthlessness suggests that you haven’t always been so scrupulous. There is such a thing as justifiable homicide.’

‘No,’ I said, ‘whatever you say, you’re not getting me to do your dirty work for you.’

He nodded, settled into his chair and fixed me with that special glare judges develop after their first week on the bench.

I glared right back.

‘Not a respecter of persons, are you David?’

‘Listen Uncle Lew, this is the first time I’ve had a visit from you in how long?’

‘Actually this is my first visit to your office, David.’

‘Yes, the first ever visit and ...’

‘I attended your wedding reception. That was quite a recent event.’

‘You came for five minutes, shook my hand, gave Jan a peck on the cheek, spoke to my father and left.’

‘That’s an overstatement, I did make an appearance. I’m sure Janine will be a fine wife for you now that you’ve normalised your relationship with her.’

‘Our relationship’s always been normal.’

‘Perhaps I should have said normalised by the standards your parents and I grew up with. In any case, in my circumstances one’s social contacts are necessarily limited.’

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