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About the Author
Best known as a writer of crime fiction, his work translated into more than twenty languages, John Harvey is also a dramatist, poet, publisher and occasional broadcaster.
The first of his twelve Charlie Resnick novels, Lonely Hearts, was named by The Times as one of the '100 Best Crime Novels of the Century'. The recipient of honorary doctorates from the Universities of Nottingham and Hertfordshire, in 2007 he was awarded the Crime Writers' Association Cartier Diamond Dagger for Lifetime Achievement.
For more about the author visit mellotone.co.uk
Read an Excerpt
Not Tommy Johnson
Tommy Johnson was not Tommy Johnson. That's to say, he was not the Tommy Johnson whom Resnick first saw skating, perfectly balanced, across the mud of the opposition's penalty area, red hair catching fire for an instant in the floodlights, before dispatching the ball into the upper right corner of the net; the Tommy Johnson who scored forty-seven goals in 118 appearances for Notts before moving on to Derby County, Aston Villa and points north; Resnick's favourite player, amongst other favourite players, in that team that won promotion two seasons running, those brilliant years 1989/90/91 when it seemed they could do little wrong.
The same years that found him struggling still to come to terms with the failure of his marriage, Eileen having sequestered herself somewhere across the Welsh border with her estate agent lover, leaving Resnick custody of four cats, an unused upstairs nursery in which the alphabet wallpaper was already starting to peel, and an overflowing collection of vinyl he was slowly but studiously replacing with CDs — most recently, working alphabetically, Duke Ellington's 1959 score for Anatomy of a Murder.
Tommy Johnson's body — that's this Tommy Johnson, three weeks and four days past his sixteenth birthday — was found on the uneven paving beneath the fifth-floor balcony from which it had fallen; one arm stretched out at a broken angle, the other wrapped tight across his eyes, as if to ward off any sight of what was fast approaching.
If anyone had heard his helpless cry or the thump of the body landing — landing with sufficient impact to break not only various and sundry bones, but to rupture, also, a number of internal organs — they were, as yet, not saying.
It had been Gerry Clark who'd found him, a little after four in the morning and on his way to the bus that would take him to his job in the distribution centre out by the motorway; just light enough, from the solitary overhead lamp still working, for him to make out the body where it lay, unmoving; what was recognizably blood further darkening the cracks in the paving.
That was two days ago, some forty-eight hours and counting, and Resnick, slightly out of breath after choosing the stairs over the dubious aromas of the lift, was at Danielle Johnson's door; not the first time and likely not the last.
One glance and she turned back into the flat, expecting him to follow. Cotton draw-string pyjama bottoms, sweater, fluffy slippers.
A wall-eyed mongrel barked as he entered, hackles raised, then backed away, growling, from the kick that failed to follow.
Dark in the room, Resnick eased the curtain sideways, letting in a sliver of November light. Opposite him as he sat, Danielle lit a cigarette with a shaky hand and shivered as she inhaled.
'Whatever you or anybody else might've said about him, he never deserved that. Never. Not Tommy. And don't try tellin' me he jumped of his own accord, 'cause I'll not wear it. Someone had it in for him an' that's a fact.'
'Any ideas who?'
She coughed and shook her head; coughed again.
Nine-thirty in the morning and the off-key sweetness of cider on her breath as she spoke; two empty cans, last night's, on the table and a litre bottle, recently opened, on the floor nearby. Not long past thirty, Danielle: three kids who'd been in and out of care; Tommy the only boy, her favourite. Melody, the youngest, living with her nan now in Derby; Janine in temporary foster care in another part of the city.
'You saw him that evening?' Resnick asked.
Danielle fanned smoke away from her face. 'In and out. Nine it might've been. Later, maybe.'
'Any idea where he was going?'
She shook her head. 'Not his keeper, am I? Ask, he'd only tell me, mind me own fuckin' business.'
'So you don't know who he might have been seeing that evening?'
'Just said, never told me anything.'
'It's important, Danielle.'
'I know it's fuckin' important. Think I'm fuckin' stupid?'
The first thoughts of those who'd responded to the emergency call, the police, the paramedics: Tommy Johnson had taken his own life, jumped to his death under the influence, most likely, of this, that or the other. Something more than self-pity. But a small trace of cannabis aside, that and paracetamol, there were no drugs, untoward, in his body, and all he seemed to have drunk in the twenty-four hours previous, water aside, was a copious quantity of Red Bull.
An examination showed blows to the head and body quite possibly administered prior to the injuries sustained in his fall. Another homicide the last thing the team wanted — Tommy's especially — but it was, it seemed, what they were getting.
Officers went to the school in theory he'd attended; having been excluded so many times, since September-end he'd more or less excluded himself. They talked to the few from around the estate who would admit to having spent any significant time with him; talked to the social worker who'd been attached to him since his last brief spell in care.
Quiet, pretty much a loner. Bit of a loser, really.
'No great loss to humanity, I'm afraid,' his Citizenship teacher had said.
After another twenty minutes or so of getting nowhere, Resnick rose to his feet and Danielle prised herself out of the settee and saw him to the door. When he was halfway to the stairs, she called him back.
'There was this girl he was keen on. Leah? Leah something. Felix, maybe? Skirt up to her arse an' a mouth to match.'
Resnick had spent so long working in close proximity with a fellow officer who thought Petula Clark's Greatest Hits the acme of all things musical, it had been something of a shock to discover someone else in the force with a feeling for jazz. Tom Whitemore was a member of the Public Protection Team: working with other agencies — probation, social services and community psychiatric care — in the supervision of violent and high risk of harm offenders released back into the community, sex offenders in particular.
As was often the case, it was older relatives who'd passed the jazz torch from one generation to another: with Resnick it had been an uncle, amongst whose scratched 78s he had discovered Billie Holiday and Teddy Wilson, and through them, Johnny Hodges and Lester Young; Whitemore's father had made him a present of Cannonball Adderley's The Dirty Blues for his sixteenth birthday. Whether he would as easily be able to do the same for his twin boys depended on the good grace of his estranged wife and her new partner. One way and another, the job took its toll.
When Resnick arrived at the Five Ways, towards the end of the first set, a scratch band, in which he recognised only Geoff Pearson on bass, was bustling through Coltrane's "Blue Train" with at least half an eye on the interval.
'Leah Felix,' Resnick said, once they'd removed themselves to the side bar, 'any bells?'
Whitemore, he knew, had for some months now been involved in unpicking a complicated and as-yet-unproven case of sexual exploitation, in which a closely-knit group of men had groomed a number of young teenage girls, for the most part living in care. The girls had been talked into posing for explicit photographs which had been shared over the internet; after which, and with more persuasion, the girls themselves had been shared between the members of the group and their friends. Loaned out, sometimes, in order to pay off debts.
Leah Felix had been one of the more reluctant, hesitant about going along with the others and submitting to the men's suggestions. Once the police and social services became involved, she had seemed one of the most likely to name names, be prepared, even, to give evidence in court. But when push had come within sight of shove, she had clammed up and backed away.
Whitemore told Resnick what he knew.
'You think she might talk to me?'
Resnick shook his head.
He located Leah Felix amidst a small group that had congregated at the edge of the Old Market Square: smoking roll-ups, taking selfies, swearing at anyone who came close. Only the promise of a Quarter Pounder with cheese, onion rings and fries could prise her away; that and the assurance he'd keep his hands to himself. 'I know what you old blokes are like, given half a chance.'
The nearest McDonald's was on Exchange Walk, with a view across to St. Peter's Church.
Resnick waited until she was halfway through her burger, wondering, as he watched her, when she'd last had a proper meal.
'Tommy Johnson, he was a friend of yours.'
'So his mum says.'
'Danielle? That slag.'
'Is she right, though?'
Leah shrugged and jammed a few more fries into her mouth.
'You know what happened to him?' Resnick asked.
'Jumped off fuckin' balcony, didn't he? Daft twat.'
'No, I mean what really happened.'
She looked at him then. Blinked.
'You do know?'
'Dunno what you're on about.'
'I thought you did.'
'Well, I fuckin' don't.'
Resnick reached out and purloined a chip. 'She thought you might've been with him that evening.'
'Fuckin' out of it, most the time, in't she?'
'That mean she was wrong?'
'Maybe. Maybe not. An' stop takin' my fuckin' fries.'
'You were with him, then?'
'So what if I was?'
'He liked you, didn't he? Tommy. Liked you quite a lot.'
'I think so.'
'Know everything then, don't you?' She pushed away her tray and made as if to get up.
'Wait,' Resnick said.
She hesitated, then sat back down.
'If you were with him that evening,' Resnick said, 'you must have seen what happened.'
'Well, I never did.'
Her eyes flicked towards him then away. Resnick bided his time.
'I ... I wanted to. Go with 'em, like, you know? Thought if I was there they wouldn't hurt him. Not so bad, anyway. But they never let me. Told me to fuck off out of it an' keep my mouth fuckin' shut.'
'Why were they going to hurt him?'
'Been shootin' his mouth off, yeah? Tellin' them to leave me alone. Like they'd listen, right? Threatened if I wouldn't shop 'em to you lot then he would. Stupid bastard. Soft in the bloody head.'
'So who was it?' Resnick asked. 'Took Tommy away?'
'Don't be stupid.'
'All right, how many. You can tell me that. Just a number. That's all it is.'
Uncertain, the answer was slow in coming. 'Three. No, four. Four.'
'And the names?'
'No. No way.'
'One of them, then. Just one.'
'No. No, I can't.' There was panic in her eyes.
'All right, then. We'll do it like this.' From his pocket he took a sheet of paper, folded twice. Written on it were the names of a dozen men Whitemore was investigating. 'Just point to the names of whoever went off with Tommy that evening. That's all I'll ask. And no one will ever need to know. I promise.'
The polish on Leah's index finger was chipped and cracked; the nail itself bitten down to the quick. She jabbed at the names so quickly, scarcely touching the paper, that Resnick had to ask her to do it again, more slowly.
'They said ... they promised ... ' She turned her head aside, lest he see the tears pricking at the corners of her eyes. She wasn't gonna fuckin' cry, not in front of some fuckin' copper she wasn't.
Resnick showed Tom Whitemore the names.
'Who's the most vulnerable?' he asked. 'Who's got the most to lose?'
Lewis Morland was older than the rest by a good ten years; it didn't mean he was wiser, just more cunning. Now that his once-boyish good looks were fading and his age beginning to show, he'd started befriending young girls on Tumblr and ASKfm, feigning the identity of an eighteen-year-old. Out on the street, he was dependent on others to make the first moves.
Previous convictions meant that if he went back inside it would be for a long and uncomfortable time.
Resnick and Whitemore interviewed him together, Morland slippery as a grass snake in their hands, a combination of 'No comment', non sequiturs and ingratiating smiles.
'Tommy Johnson? Not that bloke used to play for Notts? Never saw him myself, but my old man reckoned he was the dog's bollocks.'
None of the others Leah Felix had fingered would admit to coming within a mile of where the incident had occurred.
'Think maybe she was playing safe?' Whitemore said. 'Feeding us the wrong names?'
'It's possible,' Resnick replied.
But he had seen her face, recognised her fear. For the present, he preferred to believe.
A little over three weeks later, the Low Copy Number DNA test results on Tommy Johnson's clothing came back from the special research lab in Birmingham. Aside from Johnson's own blood, present in generous quantities, initial tests had revealed small amounts of blood from two other possible sources; after re-examination, one of these, when checked against the National DNA Database, was sufficient to identify Marshall Boyce.
Boyce, a seventeen-year-old with a minor police record, had been on Tom Whitemore's list, but not picked out by Leah Felix.
Resnick found Leah in Sun Valley Amusements in the city centre.
Her eyes narrowed the moment she saw him, fingers clenched into tight little fists. 'You said you was never gonna say nothin', din't you?'
'I kept my word.'
'Then how come Lewis had a go at me, yeah? Gave me a right slapping.'
There was still the faint trace of what could have been a bruise, just visible beneath her make-up.
'You want to file a complaint?'
'The names — why didn't you tell me the truth?'
'Not all the truth.'
'What d'you mean?'
But she knew well enough.
'Marshall Boyce, you were in care round about the same time.'
'So you know him. Better maybe than the others. Soft spot for him, maybe.'
'Is that why you didn't pick him out?'
She squinted up her eyes. 'Gotta fag?'
Resnick shook his head. She bummed one from someone by the adjacent slot machine and Resnick followed her outside.
'He was always, like, decent, you know, Marshall. When the others, like Lewis especially, when they wanted to do really dirty stuff, porno stuff, he never went along with it. Not usually, anyway. Tried to talk 'em out of it, till they called him a poof an' that an' then he stopped.'
'We know he was there when Tommy was killed,' Resnick said.
'What d'you need me for, then?'
Unlike Lewis Morland, in the formality of the interview room, faced with two senior officers, Marshall Boyce folded like a discarded hand of cards. They'd just been going to give a Tommy a kicking, he said, learn him to keep his nose out of things as didn't concern him. Only Tommy, 'stead of running, he started to fight back. Caught Marshall one in the face and he had to get him back for that, didn't he? All of 'em laying into him and Tommy, he was leaning back against the wall, lashing out and crying. Marshall was all for letting it be, but Lewis he said, no, teach the little fucker a lesson once and for all. And that was when Tommy scrambled up onto the wall and next you know he'd gone.
'He jumped,' Resnick said. 'Is that what you're saying? Or did he fall? How did it happen?'
Marshall closed his eyes as if remembering.
'Just for this minute, right, he was standing there, staring at us, and then his arms, they started waving like crazy, like he was losing his balance, right? And then he must've gone over backwards, 'cause it was just like suddenly he weren't there.'
'Nobody pushed him?' Resnick asked, a moment later.
Marshall shook his head. 'Nobody had to.'
He made a statement testifying to the names of the others who were present, detailing the part they'd played in the proceedings. All five were arrested and charged with Tommy Johnson's murder. Before it came to trial the CPS might decide to drop the charge down to manslaughter; a persuasive brief might get it lowered further, causing grievous bodily harm, say, but Resnick thought that unlikely.
Several weeks after the men had been remanded into custody, he came face to face with Leah Felix in the Old Market Square and she turned and walked off in another direction. That evening he phoned Tom Whitemore to see if he was planning on going to the Five Ways, but there was no answer. On the way home, he picked up some Polish sausage and potato salad, remembering at the last moment he was low on cat food; too late this evening to get along to the West End Arcade and Music Inn, his CD project now at the end of the Es, Gil Evans: New Bottle Old Wine.
Still there was always tomorrow: another day.
Another day for some. Not Tommy Johnson.CHAPTER 2
He hadn't recognised her. Not right off. A slender woman in blue jeans and a green parka hesitating on the pavement outside the building where he lived. Her hair scraped back into a tight pony tail; make-up an afterthought at best.
It had been the voice that had nailed it, Essex laid through with pre-teen years of elocution lessons, a mother with ideas above her station. Basildon, at the time, east from London on the line to Shoeburyness.
'I thought this was the right address, but then, with the shop and everything, I wasn't sure.'(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Going Down Slow"
Copyright © 2017 John Harvey.
Excerpted by permission of Five Leaves Publications.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Not Tommy Johnson,
Going Down Slow,
Ask Me Now,