Tim needs a stiff drink in:
The one thing that hadn’t been on Tim’s to-do list was identification of the potato-shaped lump from the sack in the boot of the Imperial. He rinsed it under the tap and it sat on the kitchen draining board, cold and dense and uninformative.
Tim knew who he needed to call, he just didn’t want to. Finally, reluctantly, he went into his office, picked up the phone and dialled.
For once Troy Jarglebaum played it straight. ‘Tim, I’m glad you’ve called. Where are you?’
‘Stay there. I’m coming over.’
A few minutes later Troy pulled up in an unmarked, dark blue saloon. Tim opened the front door. ‘Come on up.’
Jarglebaum’s tread sounded heavy on the stairs. He paused on the landing and studied the broken frame. ‘Things are going on, Tim. Missing people. Odd stuff. Strange things, strange even for coppers.’
His serious tone made Tim feel off-balance. Today Jarglebaum was not the bluff, overconfident person he was used to. He looked and sounded worried.
‘Do you want a drink?’ Tim gestured towards the filing cabinet. ‘I took your advice.’
Jarglebaum wiped his mouth. ‘To be honest, yes I would.’
Tim opened the drawer and fetched out the quarter-bottle and tooth glasses with a strange sense of déjà vu. He had just taken another step along the road to becoming a true PI. Today it was the police who wanted something and he was the one they had come to.
Jarglebaum knocked back the drink and bared his teeth. ‘Christ, what is this?’
‘It says whisky on the label.’
‘How much did you pay for it?’
‘Not a lot.’
‘Do my guts a favour and put your rates up.’ Jarglebaum poured himself another two fingers. ‘You know Derek Smith?’
‘Yes, and I know he’s missing. Is that why you’re here?’
Jarglebaum looked impressed. ‘How do you know?’
‘I spoke to his mother. He was doing some work for me. The job was over, I wanted to let him know.’
‘That job being?’
‘The missing car.’
‘You found it?’
Once again Jarglebaum managed to amaze Tim. ‘Kylma Kala. Markus Koponen.’
‘You know him?’
Jarglebaum drank half his whisky. ‘We’re acquainted.’
That was less of a surprise, Jarglebaum seemed to know everyone. Tim was almost pleased to see a flash of the old attitude. ‘How long has Derek been missing?’
’Not long. The guy seems to be a bit of a fruit-bat. His mother said he was “special”.’
‘He’s a friend.’
‘OK. Well, don’t worry, he’s probably fine. Most missing persons turn up right as rain.’
‘Troy, is this official?’ Tim asked.
‘No.’ Jarglebaum polished off his second drink and put the glass down. ‘There’s some heavy stuff in Brighton right now. People are getting hurt. There was this girl in a pet shop got her hand crushed. Christ on a bike, Tim, they killed the animals.’
Tim tried to keep the shock out of his voice. ‘This is something to do with the car?’
Jarglebaum hesitated. Tim pointed to the bottle. ‘Another?’
‘Not bloody likely. That last shot gave me heartburn.’
‘Troy, there’s something you can help me with.’
Much to his surprise Jarglebaum didn’t crow. ‘What is it?’
Tim fetched the potato-sized lump of rock from the draining board. ‘I need to know what this is.’
‘It looks like a lump of crud.’
‘Yes, but what is it made of?’
‘Where did you find it?’
‘In a sack in the boot of the car.’
Jarglebaum raised his eyes then hefted the rock and put it down. ‘Tim, I know you don’t think much of police procedure and maybe all this mumbo-jumbo you’re into works, but for once just try thinking this through. Think about where you found it and the bigger picture. Get it all down on paper, make some notes and use your noggin. Maybe you can work it all out for yourself. It might be better that way.’
Tim was disappointed, Jarglebaum usually took such pleasure in showing off how well-informed he was. Now he was… Was Jarglebaum actually trying to protect him?
‘I get you don’t want to tell me, but do you actually know?’
‘Haven’t a clue.’ Jarglebaum looked steadily at Tim. ‘Yeah, well, I’ve got to go.’ He paused at the broken door frame. ‘And just how did this happen?’
‘A dissatisfied customer.’
‘I hope he’s paying for it.’
‘She. Yes, she is.’
‘You get this fixed. That’s official advice so you’d better take it. You’re a chump but I wouldn’t like anything on my– What’s the word, that thing I never use?’ Troy grinned, slapped Tim on the shoulder and stomped down the stairs.
Alone in his office Tim considered everything Troy had told him. And everything he hadn’t. Jarglebaum liked to give the impression he knew a lot more than he was prepared to tell. Sometimes it was bluff but usually he actually did. Whatever Jarglebaum knew now it concerned him enough to warn Tim. He hadn’t come to warn him off, quite the opposite, he’d encouraged Tim to carry on. Which meant Jarglebaum was involved in a way that constrained him.
That was hard to believe. Jarglebaum was a bully, a chauvinist and a hard drinker, but never a crook. Whatever was going on it involved the car, Markus Koponen, and that lump of rock, and it wasn’t over yet.
He thought about Imelda and the door frame. With cold certainty he knew the woman Jarglebaum said had been hurt was Gabby with pink hair. She’d suffered because of him, what could they think she knew that he didn’t? His eye came to rest on the whisky bottle and the two glasses, one dirty, one clean. He hadn’t wanted a drink while Troy was here but he did now.
The raw spirits burned like gasoline. Troy was right once again: the whisky was atrocious.
To be continued…