The plane landed at Gatwick at 5.45, twenty-five minutes early, thanks to a tail wind, as the captain proudly reported. Roy Grace felt like shit. He always drank too much booze on overnight flights, in the hope it would knock him out. It did, but only for a short while and then, like this morning, it left him with a headache and a raging thirst. On top of which, he felt uncomfortably stuffed from a revolting breakfast.
If his bag came through quickly, he thought, he might just have time to go home and grab a shower and change of clothes before getting to the morning briefing. His luck was out. The plane might have come in early, but the delay at the baggage carousel wiped out that advantage, and it was 6.40 before he lugged his bag through the green customs channel and headed down to the buses for the long-term car park. Standing at the stop, in the dry but chilly morning air, he dialled Glenn Branson for an update.
His friend sounded strange. ‘Roy,’ he said, ‘are you going to go home?’
‘No, I’m coming straight in. What’s new?’
The Detective Sergeant brought him up to speed, firstly with a progress report from Norman Potting in Sydney. Information on the passports held by David Nelson and Margaret Nelson had come to light during the course of the day, revealing them both to be forgeries. And Nelson had gone from his flat. Potting and Nicholl were now door-stepping all David Nelson’s neighbours, in the hope of finding out more information on his lifestyle and circle of friends.
Then Branson moved on to Katherine Jennings. She was waiting for a call from Skeggs to arrange the time and location of their meeting for the handover of the stamps and her mother. Branson told him they had two surveillance units on stand-by, up to twenty people available if they decided they needed them.
‘What about the firearms unit?’ Grace asked.
‘We don’t have any intelligence that Skeggs is armed,’ he replied. ‘If that changes, we’ll involve them.’
‘Are you OK, mate?’ Grace said when Branson had finished. ‘You sound a little strained. Ari?’
Branson hesitated. ‘Actually it’s you I’m worried about.’
‘Well, your house really.’
Grace felt a prick of alarm. ‘What do you mean? Did you stay there last night?’
‘Yes, I did, thanks. I appreciate it.’
Grace wondered whether his friend had broken something. His precious antique juke box, which Glenn was always fiddling with, maybe.
‘It might be nothing, Roy, but when I was leaving this morning, I saw – at least I could swear I saw – Joan Major driving down your street. It wasn’t fully light, so I could be mistaken.’
‘Yeah, she drives one of those rather distinct little Fiat MPV things – you don’t see many of them about.’
Glenn Branson had impressive powers of observation. If that was who he said he had seen, then almost certainly he had. Grace stepped on the bus, holding the phone to his ear. It was curious that Glenn should see the forensic archaeologist driving down his street, but hardly any big deal.
‘Maybe she does a school run in the area?’
‘I doubt it. She lives in Burgess Hill. Perhaps she was dropping something off to you?’
‘That doesn’t make any sense.’
‘Perhaps something occurred to her and she wanted to see you.’
‘What time did you leave?’
‘You don’t pop around to someone’s house for a chat at that time in the morning. You use a phone if it’s urgent.’
‘Yeah. Yeah, I think you would.’
Grace told him he hoped to be at the office in time for the briefing, but when he reached his car he decided that, provided the morning rush-hour traffic wasn’t too bad, he would dash home first. Something he could not put a finger on was bothering him.