Harry Stonehouse had been a cop, a good one—and straight, unlike Nick Sharman. After taking early retirement he’d landed a job at a security firm. Now he’s dead, and his wife wants Nick to find out who killed him and why. Nick’s been taking a close look at hell recently and doesn’t care too much about anything beyond the next Jack Daniels. But Harry had been a friend, and Nick had screwed his wife and he feels sorry for her. Big mistake. In an unlikely partnership with ex-DI Robber, escaping from resentful retirement at his sister’s, Sharman sets off in pursuit—and finds himself swept along in the deadly aftermath of a £20 million heist. And with that much money at stake, betrayal, double-crossing and murder are just for starters.
About the Author
Mark Timlin is the author of more than 30 novels, including All the Empty Places, Answers from the Grave, Guns of Brixton, and Stay Another Day, as well as Gangsters' Wives and Lipstick Killers under the pseudonym Lee Martin. His Nick Sharman novels were made into a television series starring Clive Owen.
Read an Excerpt
Find My Way Home
The Twelfth Nick Sharman Thriller
By Mark Timlin
Oldcastle BooksCopyright © 1994 Mark Timlin
All rights reserved.
They found Harry Stonehouse's head in a black plastic bag on a barge carrying garbage to some Godforsaken part of Essex to use as landfill. Personally I can't think of anything better to do with the whole county than to fill it with shit. Who'd notice a little more? His teeth had been smashed out to confuse identification. They found his torso in Stamford Bridge. They found his right hand in a skip in Waterloo, the tips of his fingers neatly sheared off to cause more confusion, and his left leg under a bush in Regent's Park. They never did find his left hand or right leg. Probably eaten by animals was the conclusion.
Harry always was a geezer who liked to get around. And even brown bread he managed it.
It took a while to find all the bits they did find, and a week or two more to identify him.
I read about it in the Standard, eating an ice-cream in Brockwell Park on a warm summer evening in the middle of a free reggae concert.
It was the previous night's paper, and I picked it up off the grass and gave it a quick scan as I walked through the crowd getting a contact high from all the spliff being smoked.
I was looking for a bloke who'd done a runner with his brother's credit cards, and I'd been told he was a big fan of Aswad, who were topping the bill.
When I saw the story about Harry on page three of the paper I thought, my, my, doesn't the past have a habit of jumping up and socking you in the mouth when you least expect it?
I threw the paper into a bin with the remains of the ice-cream, and kept on going. I never did find the geezer's brother, or the cards, or get paid for my time, but I didn't care. I didn't care about a lot of things in those days. Everything and everyone I had cared for was dead or gone. Except for my daughter Judith, of course, and sometimes I woke up from nightmares that she had gone too. The sheets would be wet with sweat, and I'd have to stop myself from phoning to make sure she was OK.
I forgot about Harry after that, until, a couple of months later, along came a phone call that put him right back on my front page.CHAPTER 2
It was about half eleven on a Friday morning, and I was deep into my weekday routine, which was to go down to my office, tear up the junk mail and sit and look at a phone which hardly ever rang, until about noon when I went to the pub without switching on the ansaphone.
That was weekdays. Weekends I spent in my flat in the company of Messrs wine, beer, vodka, gin and Jack Daniel's, with the assistance of Messrs tonic and Coca-Cola, dining on takeouts, and letting the tin containers pile up in the sink until they went green, just in case my old cat ever came back to lick them clean. Up there the phone wasn't even switched on most of the time.
I picked up the receiver, half expecting a double-glazing salesman, when a female voice said: 'Nick?'
'It's Nancy. Nancy Stonehouse.'
Jesus, I thought. Chickens coming home to roost.
'Hello, Nancy,' I said. 'Long time.'
Nancy Stonehouse. Wife, or should I say widow, of the previously mentioned Harry.
Harry had been a copper. I'd known him when I was in the job, a long time ago. We were both younger then, but he'd been older than me. Twelve years, maybe. He was a DI, I was a DC. Worlds apart. Also he'd been straight, and I'd been bent, or as I liked to put it – bentish. Bentish enough to get the old heave-ho, but not bent enough, or perhaps just lucky enough, not to go inside. Which also put us worlds apart, but obviously not that far that we couldn't be mates.
We'd often go for a drink when our shifts allowed, and we became pally enough for him to invite me to a party at his place in Southfields one Saturday night, maybe eight, nine years ago now, before the shit hit the fan, and I was given my P45 and no references.
That was where I met Nancy. She was older than me, but younger than him. Good-looking, blonde, slim, but built with amazing legs. And she knew all about them. Enough to show them off in short dresses and high heels, anyway. And she liked to drink and flirt, and so did I.
So, almost inevitably it seemed, we had an affair. For a few months I fucked her every way I knew how, and she did the same, and taught me some new ones, getting all hot and steamy in little hotels all over south London, and one memorable weekend when Harry was on a course, at the Grand Hotel in Brighton.
But as all good things must, it came to an end. No pyrotechnics, no recriminations, just a slow death. And one day I realised that neither of us had phoned the other for weeks, and I filed it away in my back pages with so many other things.
'I heard about Harry,' I said. 'I'm sorry.'
'Thanks. I heard about your wife too. That was terrible.'
I don't like to talk about that, so I let the word hang.
'You're a private detective now,' she said.
'When I can be bothered.'
'You're lucky to have the option.'
'I have some money.'
That was about all I did have. Some money and a load of memories.
'Good for you. When did you last hear from Harry?' Change of subject. Right down to business. That was Nancy.
I thought about it. 'I dunno,' I said. 'It's been quite a while.'
Harry had put in twenty years on the force, taken an early retirement, and walked straight into a good job at a security firm. 4F it was called. Which I always thought meant that you couldn't be called up for the army, but in their case apparently stood for: Fraternity, Fortitude, Faith and Fearlessness, though I'd heard other euphemisms which I'll leave to your imagination.
Harry had kept in touch with me through all my ups and downs, constantly suggesting that we met up for a drink, and I for my part was constantly putting him off. I had been screwing his wife after all, and even I have my standards. One of which is not to go out drinking with a bloke I've been making a bloody fool of.
'I need to see you. I've been calling,' said Nancy. 'You never seem to be there.'
I ignored the implied rebuke and said, 'You have been keeping up with my life.'
'Hardly. There are such things as phonebooks, Nick. Even for that lonely outpost you call home.'
I ignored that comment too. 'What do you want to see me about?' I asked.
'Not on the phone. I'll come to you. Say an hour.'
'You've got the address?' I was rather hoping she hadn't, and I could lie.
'It was in the book too.'
And she hung up.CHAPTER 3
She rolled up exactly fifty-seven minutes later in a red, chauffeur-driven Volvo. The driver was the full half-hour, peaked cap, dark suit and all, and as soon as the car stopped, he jumped out and opened the rear door.
I watched her through the window of my office as she emerged from the motor. Still good-looking, and all neat in black stockings, black high-heeled pumps, black two-piece and little black hat, with her blonde hair pulled up severely under it. The complete mourning kit.
She looked through the window at me, nodded, crossed the road, and I jumped up and opened the door.
Ever the gentleman.
'Nancy,' I said.
'Nick,' she replied, and popped up on tippy-toes to kiss my cheek.
'Sit down,' I invited her. 'A drink of something?'
'Got any scotch?'
'No. But the pub's open. I'll nip over.' Nip over for a nip, I thought.
'We could talk there, couldn't we?'
'Why not?' I said, and we went out together, crossed the road past the Volvo where the driver gave me a sneer through the windscreen, and I gave him a sneer back, and into the boozer, which was almost empty at that hour. Dionne Warwick was singing 'Do You Know the Way to San José?' on the stereo. We found a seat in the corner and I went to the bar.
I paid for two large scotches, mimed the water jug and Nancy nodded. I added a drop of liquid to each glass and took them over to where she was sitting and plonked them down on the table.
'Long time,' I said when I was seated and smoking, after offering the pack to Nancy, her shaking her head, me asking if she minded if I smoked, and lighting up after she shook her head again.
Such modern times.
'You said that before,' she riposted.
'It's a habit of mine,' I said. 'Repeating myself.'
Was that an insult or a compliment? I took it as the latter.
'Yours?' I asked.
'No. Miles and Miles Hire. I don't like mini-cabs. It's cheap too.'
And comes complete with a young, virile driver, I thought, but said nothing.
We sipped our drinks and she looked round the bar.
'So what can I do for you?' I asked.
'You said you hadn't heard from Harry for a long time. How long?'
'Eighteen months, maybe two years,' I replied.
'Sure I'm sure.'
'I hadn't heard from him for a year.'
I thought about it. 'Really?' I said.
'Was this intentional?'
She shook her head, and one strand of blonde hair broke loose from the bun at the back of her head and drifted down to the collar of her suit where it caressed the line of her neck. It looked most attractive, as it happened, and I remembered what Nancy and I had done together all those years ago.
'No,' she said. 'One day he just went off to work as usual, or at least I thought it was as usual. An hour later I found his Jag was still parked in the garage. I phoned the office and he hadn't arrived. I found his car and house keys on the kitchen cabinet. Now, he'd never go anywhere without that car normally. He loved the sodding thing.'
'And nothing. That was it. He vanished. Left everything behind. Passport, birth certificate, cheque book, credit cards, the lot.'
'He never touched our bank account after that day. Maybe he had fifty, sixty quid on him.'
'And he never got in touch?'
'How did you feel about that?'
She shrugged. 'I couldn't've cared less, really. Our marriage had been over for years. We were just too lazy to do anything about it. Harry went his way, I went mine. You know all about that.'
I did. But she still wore black for him. I wondered why.
'Were you all right for money?'
'Sure. Better than I thought we were really.'
And that was when I should have asked the obvious question, but didn't. Out of practice, see.
'So he hadn't been milking the family finances in order to do a runner?'
She shook her head.
'Did you go to the police?'
'Nothing. They put him on the national register of missing people ... persons. And then nothing.'
'What else did you do?'
'Went to the Sally Army. Not that I could see Harry sleeping rough, or dossing in one of their hostels. Then I left it.'
'Don't take the piss, Nick. I figured he'd sorted out some other life and gone to live it.'
'Now I don't know. Whoever killed him certainly meant it.'
That was for sure, and I shivered slightly at the thought.
'So why me?' I asked.
As if I didn't know.
'I want you to find out what happened to that year.'
My heart sank.
'But the Old Bill must be on the case now.'
'They don't seem to care ...'
And then she started crying.
Shit, I thought. The old waterworks. I should've known.
'But he's ex-job,' I said. 'A good copper. Popular.'
She shrugged, and I thought about it. Very odd if she was right. Now if I turned up in bits and pieces all over the greater metropolitan area, it'd be free drinks all round at the police social club.
Strange. Very strange.
'So will you help?' she asked. 'I can pay. There's life policies. I'm not broke.'
'I'll have to think about it,' I said.
'I can make it worth your while,' she said, and crossed her legs. I heard the rasp of nylon on nylon over Dionne doing 'A House Is Not A Home'.
I knew just what she meant, and Nancy too.CHAPTER 4
Not that I was exactly short of female company. About seven months after my wife died I met a woman. Her name is Diane Murphy and she's a secretary in an investment firm on the edge of the City, and far too young for me. It had only been a brief meeting, the first one, and it took me three months to get round to calling her, but I hadn't asked a woman out for a long time and I was a bit rusty.
I got through to a female switchboard operator at the company.
'Can I speak to Diane, please?' I asked.
I didn't know. I told you it had been a brief meeting, and I didn't even know if she still worked there.
'I don't know,' I said. 'She's a secretary. Tall, with long, dark hair. Sorry, this is stupid. I met her downstairs in the pub some time ago. She gave me this number.' She hadn't. She'd told me the name of the firm as I was leaving the boozer. It had been a stressful moment, but I'd remembered it, and looked up the number in the book.
There was a brief pause at the other end, and I knew I'd either got an ally, or someone who thought I was a nutter.
'Hold on,' said the voice, and I heard a click, and I was on hold limbo with some orchestral version of a Billy Joel tune tinkling in my ear.
I was just about to abandon the call, when the tune ended abruptly, and another female voice said: 'Yes.'
'Yes.' The voice sounded uninterested.
'Erm ...' I told you I was rusty. 'We met some time ago. You asked me to call you.'
'Yes. My name's Nick. Nick Sharman.'
'Really. I meet a lot of people.'
I was sure she did, and her voice was still uninterested.
'I'm a detective. There was a bit of trouble.'
She finally let me off the hook, but not before my palms were sweating, and my armpits were hot. 'I remember,' she said. 'You're the one with the boots.'
'You took your time.'
'Yeah. It's a long story.'
'They usually are.'
'I wondered if you fancied a drink some night?'
'I fancy a drink lots of nights.'
'With me, I meant.'
'I didn't think you meant with my mum.'
She was making me pay for the delay.
'Fancy a drink?'
'Are you going to beat up any of my friends this time?'
'I didn't mean to do it last time.'
'It's OK. He was asking for it.'
'Does he bear a grudge?'
'I don't know. But it doesn't matter. He's gone to pastures new.'
'So do you?' I wondered if we'd have to go round the houses again, but we didn't.
'OK,' she said. 'When?'
'Whenever you're free.'
'I'm free tonight.'
'So am I.'
'Same place, six o'clock.' I assumed she meant the pub where we'd first met.
'I'll be there,' I said.
And I was. So was she, and she looked every bit as good as I remembered, and I told her the long story over a drink or two, followed by dinner, then I saw her into a cab to Liverpool Street Station. We met again three nights later, and that time she didn't make it to the station. We've been seeing each other off and on since then. Nothing serious. I couldn't handle that, and she knows why, and makes allowances. I'm grateful for that. Grateful for almost anything these days, since my wife was murdered. It takes some getting over, does that. I suppose it's the same when a woman's husband is murdered too, and I saw the pain in Nancy's eyes when she said, 'So will you help me?'
'I don't know. Whoever cut him up into pieces meant business.' Slight understatement there.
"Course I am.'
'But I need your help. And you owe me something, surely, after all we've been through.'
'That was a long time ago.'
She shrugged helplessly. 'Then you owe Harry. Or at least his memory.'
She was close to tears by then and she said, 'Or maybe because you owe yourself.'
I thought about that for a bit. 'Maybe I do,' I said.
And looking at Nancy again I suddenly felt very sorry for her and said, 'OK, Nancy. I'll see what I can do, but no promises.'
Never feel sorry for people, especially old lovers. It'll come back and do you up.
It did with me anyway.CHAPTER 5
'Tell me about the day he vanished,' I said.
'I've already told you. He left as usual for his office. At least I thought he did, until I found his car still in the garage when I got mine out to go shopping.'
'When was this exactly?'
'It was a Friday, almost thirteen months ago. A year before his body was found. Or at least most of it.'
Delicate ground, but I had to ask if I was going to do anything for her. 'No hint that anything was up?'
'Not that I noticed. Not that I necessarily would. We were pretty much living apart under one roof by then.'
'What did you do then?'
'I called his office. I thought maybe the car wouldn't start, and he'd got a cab off the street. 4F's offices are just over the river in Putney.'
'Why? If you weren't getting on. Why did you bother?'
'You've got to understand the circumstances, Nick. We weren't at each other's throats. He had his life, I had mine. Separate rooms, the whole bit. But we didn't hate each other. We'd been through all that. Sometimes we even had a fuck for old times' sake. It's not unheard of, is it? It suited us both to stay living together, for a lot of reasons. I wanted to know if his mechanic was going to turn up to collect the Jag, and if Harry needed a lift home after work.'
Excerpted from Find My Way Home by Mark Timlin. Copyright © 1994 Mark Timlin. Excerpted by permission of Oldcastle Books.
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