Martin Edwards

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    mation via New Scotland Yard that Finbar had no known links with terrorists. But the temporary legal powers that had been in force for a generation entitled the police to hold someone on the flimsiest of grounds for forty-eight hours, sometimes more. All Harry could offer in return for Sladdin releasing Finbar was the usual blather about his client being willing to surrender his passport and report to a police station whenever he blew his nose.

    The detective considered Harry sombrely. In the end he said, ‘Yes, Mr Devlin, at least for the time being.’

    ‘So I’m free to go?’ asked Finbar, jumping to his feet in his eagerness to be away.

    A poor choice of words for a client with a clear conscience. Harry barely stifled a groan, although Sladdin remained impassive.

    ‘Free, Mr Rogan? Why, of course. You’ve had a traumatic afternoon. I’m only sorry it has been necessary to keep you for so long. You will understand how anxious we are to identify the culprit as soon as possible – this is hardly a typical case of Liverpudlian car vandalism. And then there is the continuing need to preserv
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    mpanion. ‘Start with a big company, then sit back and wait.’

    The man by his side chuckled, a reaction as unexpected as a snigger from a corpse. Stanley Rowe was a cadaverous individual whose pallor and mournful expression had earned him an appropriate sobriquet. But life hadn’t been too hard on Death Rowe; he had sold his estate agency to an insurance company with more money than sense at the height of the property boom in the late eighties and had bought it back for half the price after the bottom fell out of the market a couple of years later.
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    ng place. Finally he surrendered.

    ‘Who is it?’

    ‘Mr Rogan,’ the girl said and put Finbar through before Harry could tell her to take a message.

    ‘Harry, at last! This is the third time I’ve called since midday. The lovely Suzanne said you’d gone to some lecture, but this is no time for swotting. Your clients need help.’

    ‘What can I do for you?’ asked Harry, not finding it difficult to restrain his enthusiasm.

    ‘Listen, that bloody Sladdin, you know what he’s done? He’s got a couple of fellers in a car down the road keeping an eye on me. When I went out to the newsagent to see what the Daily Post had to say about the bomb, they followed me down the road. Trying to be discreet, like, but I could tell what they were up to.’

    After his humiliating encounter with Dermot McCray, Harry didn’t feel inclined to offer his shoulder for crying on. ‘What do you expect? You’re a Dubliner, there was a bomb under your car, you gave Sladdin the impression you were telling less than the whole truth…’

    ‘I’m a bloody victim! The bomb was meant for me!’

    ‘Look, you’re not dealing with a fool. Sladdin would be negligent if he didn’t set up some form of surveillance.’

    At the other end of the line Finbar sighed. ‘Fat lot of comfort you are. How long is this likely to go on?’

    ‘Till Sladdin finds out who has it in for you. You could speed things up by coming clean.’

    ‘What d’you mean?’

    ‘Come on, Finbar, let’s not play games. People don’t have their premises burned down and their cars bombed simply for dropping litter in the street. Until you take me into your confidence, there isn’t much I can do to save your skin from Dermot McCray.’
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    Conveyancing?’ Lucy’s expression of bewilderment made him feel like Dracula asking her to pass the garlic. ‘Wouldn’t you like Sylvia to handle it?’

    ‘No need,’ he said with dignity. ‘I’m beginning to think I have hidden talents as a property lawyer.’

    Lucy turned on her way out. ‘I’d feel safer having the Boston Strangler give me a neck massage!’

    After she had shut the door, Harry studied Geoffrey Willatt’s letter. The problem which the Ambroses had raised seemed a simple one: the rear garden of the Graham-Browns’ house appeared to dog-leg around a couple of old horse chestnut trees. The plans with the deeds – which Harry had copied and attached to the contract – indicated that the trees fell inside the boundaries of the property. Actual observation, however, suggested the contrary and there was no fence, hedge or other dividing line at that spot to put the matter beyond doubt. It was the kind of discrepancy which would prove a fertile source of future dispute if not sorted out now.

    Harry’s first instinct was to yawn, but after a moment he brightened. There was only one way to wrap the matter up with the speed which both buyers and sellers demanded.

    He would have to pay Rosemary a visit.

    It would need to be a surprise visit, too, given that he did not have her ex-directory number and that if the transaction was to proceed as promptly as required, he couldn’t afford to write her a letter or wait for her to telephone him. He took one look at the pile of correspondence plaintively hoping for attention and decided there was no time like the present – for calling on Rosemary Graham-Brown, that was, rather than getting stuck in to the tedium of deskwork. He buzzed Lucy and announced his intentions.
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    Whatever you choose,

    We’ll help you get it,

    You really can’t lose

    With Merseycredit.
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    This eminently reasonable sentiment received loud applause, but Harry kept his hands upon his knees. The man who was complaining possessed a Jaguar, a house on the Wirral and a mistress with a taste for designer clothes. Harry did not doubt that the fellow was strapped for cash, but reckoned that neither the Lord Chancellor nor the clients were likely to shed any tears for him.
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    Harry noticed Kim blush again and as Quentin made his way towards the exit, he asked, ‘What was all that about?’

    ‘Any chance of that drink?’

    ‘My God, is it as bad as that?’

    She gave him a thin smile. ‘Not really.’

    A couple of minutes later they had found the quietest corner of the room and Harry was savouring a pint of best. In the background, he could hear people grumbling about court delays and the cost of professional indemnity insurance. He said, ‘This is the last place I e
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    air in triumph as he absorbed the impact of Kim’s news. So – he had guessed right. Finbar’s killer was already under lock and key. Justice would be served. Sladdin must have moved with impressive speed.

    Giving Jim a thumbs-up sign, he strove to keep his voice calm. ‘Already? When did they pick her up?’

    ‘You talk as though you were expecting it,’ said Kim Lawrence, sounding nonplussed. ‘The police took her in for questioning at two o’clock yesterday.’

    He thought either he had misheard or she was mistaken.

    ‘Two? Are you sure?’

    ‘Of course! I accompanied her to the police station.’
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    they released her on bail?’ The whole scenario was incredible. God, if she’d walked straight out of there and at once murdered her husband, someone would be in deep, deep trouble.

    ‘No,’ said Kim Lawrence, ‘she was kept in overnight and released on bail this morning. I’ve just come back from court.’

    Harry stared blindly at the telephone, unable to believe what he was being told.

    ‘Are you still there?’ asked Kim.

    ‘I don’t follow. What’s – what’s the charge?’

    ‘Criminal damage. The fire and the bomb. Originally there was talk of attempted murder, but they quietly dropped that after they learned someone else had actually done Rogan in that very evening.’

    ‘So – you mean there’s no question of her having committed that crime?’

    ‘Of course not.’ Kim sounded angry that the possibility had even crossed his mind. ‘The present charges are serious enough, but not even a hard case like Sladdin can claim Sinead ran Rogan down when at the estimated time of death he was personally subjecting her to the third degree.’

    Harry swore silently. A few minutes earlier he had thought he had solved the mystery – now he was more confused than ever.

    ‘Can we talk? I mean, now?’

    ‘Yes, if you want to,’ Kim said after a pause.

    ‘I’ll meet you outside your office in five minutes.’

    ‘Outside? In this weather?’
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    im. If she was right, it turned his ideas upside down. He felt a surge of adrenalin. Instinct told him the solution to the puzzle was almost within his grasp.

    She stood up. ‘Well, I won’t keep you any longer.’

    ‘I’m glad you hired Pike. You did the right thing.’

    ‘No hard feelings, then?’

    ‘Course not. But…’

    He hesitated. Even as he spoke he was still trying to untangle the skein of suspicions in his mind.


    He gnawed at his lower lip. Go for it, he told himself.

    ‘I do have one last question.’

    ‘Ask away.’

    ‘Melissa,’ he said softly, ‘where do you get your cocaine?’

    She cried out, a sharp yelp of panic mixed with shame. A frail hand flew up to cover her mouth.

    ‘What – what do you mean?’

    ‘Finbar told me you’d been on drugs. I misunderstood at the time, didn’t pay much attention. I thought he was talking about treatment you’d had for your nerves. But of course he meant nose candy. I should have recognised the physical symptoms – I’ve acted for other coke addicts in my time.’

    She stared at him, transfixed with dismay, unable to utter a word.

    ‘Please,’ he said in his gentlest tone, ‘I’d like to help. Not as a lawyer, but as a friend. If you’ll only tell me…’

    ‘Help?’ At last her tongue was loosened. ‘Help? You can’t be serious, Harry. No one can help me, the mess I’m in. Do you hear? No one!’

    And before he could stop her, she had rushed out through the door. He stood listening to t
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