HIDING THE ELEPHANT Excerpt from Chapter 14

19 Mar

Chapter 14

‘Mark my words, the Fraser woman will wriggle out of it.  One’s got to be realistic about those things. You can see for yourself. The reality is nothing like cops and robbers on the telly, is it, Dr. Martin, where everyone gets their just deserts. Did you watch the final episode of “Dead by Agreement” on Friday night?’

Emma realises that Lewis has been talking for some time and nods, quickly, untruthfully. She watched the recording yesterday morning while Phil was sleeping off his night shift. Before she started on his breakfast. Then she sneaked the tape noiselessly back into the VCR in the bedroom. She had to see it before him; he could have asked questions.

‘Nothing like it, this, is it? Just a lot of waiting, hanging about, biding your time. Is DI Grant likely to overreact again? What do you think?’ Lewis has found a tube of Polo mints in the tray between the car seats and is struggling to release the top one out of its tight packaging.

‘People who work with him have more knowledge of how he performs under pressure than I do,’ Emma says dully, unable to ease herself into the part expected from her. Her mind is still on Lynda Fraser, on that Tuesday, on Friday night and Saturday morning, all blurred into one, tightly woven into a sackcloth she is destined to wear no matter what happens next.

‘Not this kind of pressure. And you know more than you may think. One way or another, you’ve been with him all the way. Throughout the past week, throughout the investigation. You wouldn’t be here otherwise, y’see. Would you say he took this investigation personally?’

It’s getting cold, there’s hardly any air left and the immobility makes her restless. Emma rolls down the window to let fresh air in.

‘Don’t think so. He didn’t know any of the people involved before it all started. Not his usual scene, was it. He said that often enough.’

‘I bet.’ Lewis is making his way steadily through the mints, picking them from his hand by squeezing the tip of his tongue through the hole in the middle. ‘He nearly didn’t get in.’


‘I’ve read his file. I’m not sure I should be telling you this…’

‘Oh, yes, you are. You know exactly what you want to tell me and why you are telling me.’

Lewis’ bell-like laugh rolls easily over her barbed guard. ‘Okay, right, I do hope to get something out of it. But you’re quite wrong about the rest of it. I have no idea what rules I’m about to break. Staff files are confidential, y’see. I may be thrown into the Tower yet.’

‘I hope they serve hot-dogs there. He nearly didn’t get in where?’ She kicks off her shoes and lifts her freezing feet onto the seat, wrapping the toes into the comparative warmth of the Mac.

‘Not many university graduates get into the Force in the first place. You didn’t know that, did you. The Force likes to shape its people itself.  It’s the attitude that matters, y’see. Grant’s attitude was suspect. He’s like a man on a mission, wrote one of the interviewing officers.’

‘And that’s wrong? The Force doesn’t want missionaries?’ Emma doesn’t mean it as a joke, but gets another laugh nevertheless.

‘You bet. PC Plod who knows his powers and limitations wins every time. A bright spark that can get off on a tangent and out of control is too risky, y’see. Think about it, Dr. Martin. Inspector Grant’s record is good, nay, excellent. Leader from the front, not above rolling up his sleeves, dirtying his hands, jumping a fence or two. He delivers. He’s always delivered. But, after fourteen years he’s still just an inspector. His kind gets onto the accelerated promotion programme from the start, y’see. In career development terms he’s busy under-achieving right left and centre. I’ve just listened to a tape recording of one of his initial interviews. A well spoken young man he was…’

‘He still is.’ Now, what did she want to say that for?

‘Oh, I’m sure. Never met him personally, y’see. He’s stationed in Wellingborough, I’m with the Northampton backroom boys. As I was saying, a well spoken, articulate young man he was even then, but intense, uptight. Now, here’s the crunch that maybe you could help me with. He was asked why he wanted to join the Force. You’d expect that, wouldn’t you. Excuse me …’ Lewis’ system revolts against the onslaught of little round mints and he belches, loudly, then continues unabashed. ‘Inspector Grant said he felt he had a debt to pay. Put something back.’

‘What’s wrong with that? As you say, that was fourteen years ago. He was twenty two. Young and idealistic.’

Lewis shakes his head vigorously. ‘You don’t understand. There was a pause. I listened to it several times over. There was definitely a pause. What he actually said was ‘I have a debt to pay.’ He added ‘put something back’ as an afterthought, y’see. Has he never told anything about it to your sister? I’m sure he must have said something to you.’

Jesus! He knows. She doesn’t know how he could but he does. She just shakes her head, speechless.

‘We’ve talked to a few of his mates from Oxford,’ Lewis continues smoothly and it’s obvious that there’s some pattern to this, a well honed and tried out technique of giving out seemingly random, casual information and picking up the missing pieces in return. ‘Kevin Corrigan is a successful solicitor in Loughborough. Says he was amazed when Grant suddenly changed his tack and joined the Force. His understanding had been that in rebellion against the parents, the famous Hamilton Grants, he wanted to enter a lucrative private career of his own instead of looking after the Family business, as they hoped he was going to.’

‘As I said, he was young and idealistic,’ Emma repeats stubbornly. She isn’t going to get caught into that game. Not even if she had any knowledge or understanding of what Lewis was talking about.

‘Corrigan directed us to Alex Carroll, Grant’s best friend at Oxford,’ Lewis continues. ‘Carroll had been as surprised as anyone else, he said. Grant had never shown any interest in the police before and the news of him joining just like that blew him over, he said. What’s more, Grant severed all the ties with all his school friends. Never initiated any contact, never encouraged any.’

‘Fast work,’ Emma snorts. ‘How have you managed to collect all the information that fast? How did you know who his friends used to be and where to find them?’

Her companion doesn’t answer immediately. As if weighing up the benefits of any disclosure. ‘It’s all been sitting there in his file for ages….from the start…’

‘His file?!’ Emma cries. ‘You keep a file on him?’

Lewis still isn’t sure how much to say, it seems. ‘It’s not as bad as it looks. But, back there, as you can imagine, certain amount of caution was necessary. I mean,’ he shrugged as if it was all of very little importance, just a casual chat, ‘all officers have to be vetted. Doctors like you are vetted…’ He smiled disarmingly. ‘But,’ it was as if he couldn’t resist putting it into words, ‘but there was bound to be a heightened interest in the motives of the son of Hamilton Grants, the known dissidents…’

‘No, not dissidents,’ she protests. ‘They’re… free thinkers. Philosophers,’ and suddenly she realises that she doesn’t know very much more now than she knew on Tuesday. Simon never explained. Just refused. Point blank.

‘Well, whatever,’ Lewis nods good-naturedly. ‘The file hasn’t been amended or updated for years. As I said, it’s not as bad as it looks.’ He’s finished off his coffee and holds the plastic cup in his hand as if wondering what to do with it. ‘Of course that’ll change now…’

‘Oh, no, don’t even think of saying it.’

He smiles and pats her knee quickly. ‘I don’t mean… I mean, nothing drastic will happen here…  No, no, you mustn’t think … I was thinking of the break-up of his marriage. Your sister seems to have left him.’

‘She didn’t leave him,’ Emma contradicts. ‘She’s only saving herself travelling to London day in day out. She’s come home for the weekend. You can check …’ she ends uncertainly. Pippa may be well on her way back to London by now. With half a dozen or more neat brandies inside her.

‘You’re here, she is not,’ Lewis snaps matter-of-factly.

What’s he doing? Trying to blackmail her with what he either somehow knows or has guessed? Trading his knowledge for whatever skeletons in the cupboard she happens to know about?

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