Amy Boxer, the precocious, frustrated daughter of kidnap consultant Charles Boxer and DI Mercy Danquah, has decided on drastic action: She’s leaving home. But Amy can’t just walk out. First she goads her parents with a challenge: YOU WILL NEVER FIND ME.
Amy’s destination: Madrid. Here, in the strobe lights of bars and crowded dance clubs, she’s anonymous and untraceable. Except to a volatile, unpredictable leader in the city’s drug trade, the man known only as El Osito.
Boxer will use his very specific set of skills to retrace Amy’s quickly vanishing steps. Meanwhile, Detective Inspector Danquah has her own missing person case in London: the young son of a retired Russian secret service agent who’s trying to learn who poisoned his colleague, Alexander Tereshchenko. As the detective begins her search, a body is found in Madrid. And Amy’s father may be the next target . . .
The Gold Dagger Award–winning author of A Small Death in Lisbon “demonstrates, as Graham Greene did long ago, that thrillers are the liveliest, most gripping, most thought-provoking literary enterprises going today” (Los Angeles Times Book Review).
“Few writers—in any genre—can match Wilson’s depth of character and plot or his evocation of place.” —The Boston Globe
About the Author
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3:30 P.M., Saturday 17th March 2012
Mercy Danquah's house, Streatham, London
Shitty little prison. The only thing missing are the bars on the windows. Been locked in here a few times over the years.
She looked around the four bare walls for the last time. It had been quite an operation to gradually move out all her stuff and dump it. Every day after school, instead of going straight back to her grandmother, Esme, in Hampstead, she'd spent an hour erasing herself from her mother's Streatham home.
As she checked the room she pushed back the half-open wardrobe door to look at herself in the full-length mirror inside. Black quilted coat zipped up, red skirt, black wool tights, black biker boots. She sheafed the great swag of her dark ringlets with blonde highlights in both hands to see how she would look with it all cut off. Her light green eyes stood out from the caramel smoothness of her wide face. Feline. She didn't mind that. She let her hands fall and the hair sprang back over her shoulders. She shrugged, kicked the cupboard door closed. She unzipped her coat, took a letter out addressed to Mercy and Charles, which she tossed onto the bed. She hoisted the rucksack over her shoulder and picked up the last two packed bin liners, went downstairs, put them by the front door.
She looked in on her mother, Detective Inspector Mercy Danquah, as she liked to call her because she knew it both annoyed Mercy and hurt her.
'I'm off out for a bit,' she said. 'I'll see you at the restaurant later — what's it called?'
'Patogh,' said Mercy, looking up from the Guardian magazine. 'It's in Crawford Place. You've been there with us before. Best thing to do is walk up the Edgware Road from Marble Arch.'
'Through Little Beirut,' she said, closing the door. 'See ya.' She picked up the bin liners and walked out of her old life, flicking the front door behind her with her foot so that it slammed shut, rattling the letter-box flap.
She caught a bus down to Streatham High Road, left the bin bags at the clothing bank and walked on to the police station, which was empty. The football was still on and the great British public's evening's drinking hadn't got started. She went up to the overweight desk sergeant with his grey hair and tired eyes — a family man who wasn't with his family, but wanted to be.
'What can I do you for?' he asked, smiling, hands clasped on the counter.
'My name's Amy Boxer and I'm leaving home,' she said, not even giving that old joke so much as a nod.
'I see,' said the sergeant, 'and how old —'
'Eighteen in November,' she said and slapped her driving licence on the counter.
'Got anywhere to go?' he said, taking her seriously now, checking the photo and dates.
'I won't be out on the street, if that's what you mean?' she said. 'I've got money, a bank card, a place to go.'
'You're quick off the blocks,' he said, pushing the licence back to her. 'Trouble at home?'
'You could say that,' she said, as if this was a massive understatement.
She regretted it, hadn't wanted to pique his interest, and now she could see all manner of family uglinesses coming alive in his mind.
'I just need to get away from my mother, that's all,' she said. 'We're not getting on.'
'Embarrassing, ridiculous and annoying?' asked the sergeant.
'That's not a bad summary of one of her good days, but with a little more emphasis on the annoying.'
'And Dad?' he asked, hopefully.
'He's not there. They separated a long time ago.'
'Why not go and stay with him?'
This was not how it was supposed to play out. He was embroiling her. She could see his daddiness coming out. Cup of tea? Take a seat. Next thing he'd be walking her back home. Job done.
'Can I trust you?' she asked, and knew she'd hooked him.
'Course you can,' he said. 'That's what I'm here for.'
'My mum's going to call when she finds out I've gone,' she said. 'And when she does I want you to open this letter and read it. But not before. Right? Her name is Mercy Danquah. You'll recognise her.'
'What do you mean, I'll recognise her?'
She didn't answer, but pushed the letter across the counter and left the station.
She caught a bus to Brixton, removed the SIM card from her mobile, which she bent and chucked. She dumped the phone in the gutter and took the Tube to Green Park and then on to Heathrow. By 4:45, she was going up in the lift to the Terminal 1 check-in. She came out onto the concourse, checked that flight BA522 to Madrid was not delayed and went straight to the ladies' toilet in Zone B.
The taxi dropped Mercy off at her home in Streatham at 10:30 P.M. She was a little drunk. She and Charlie had been celebrating the successful conclusion to a kidnap case and had polished off both bottles of red they'd brought with them to the unlicensed Iranian grill.
It was as she was hanging her coat up that she detected a certain quality to the silence in the house. For once the ambient vibe was neutral, rather than pulsing with hostile reflux emanating from the lethal brew of teenage hormones stewing inside her daughter.
She dropped her bag with renewed hopelessness, shook her head. This kid. Probably still out with her friends, having stood them up in the restaurant and failed to respond to any of her calls or texts. She stomped upstairs in a fury and, without knocking, hurled open the bedroom door, slashed on the lights and found the room much emptier than usual, echoingly empty. Mercy frowned. Nothing on the walls. Carpet hoovered. And what's this?
The white envelope on the bare bed. The two names. She picked it up and, even through her drunkenness, felt the little crushes to her heart as she remembered when she'd last been called Mum. Four years ago. She tore open the seal, pinched the bridge of her nose and read the precise, rounded letters of her daughter's handwriting.
Dear Mercy and Charles,
I've had enough of this kind of life. It bores me being a child, your child. I've had it with all the expectations. School makes me sick. Literally. I vomit on arrival every morning. What's the point of it? Do the work. Pass the exams. Go to uni. Copy shit from the Internet for three years. Get a half-arsed degree in window dressing. Come out sixty grand down. Fall into the abyss of unemployment. Fuck all that. I've made my decision. I want to live my life on my own terms, which means, because you're the way you are, I'm leaving home. I will not be in any danger or at least no more than anybody else is. I will not be on the streets. I'm organised. I have money. I'm telling you all this because I don't want you to come looking for me. I don't need to be found. I want to be left alone, something you've been pretty good at most of my childhood, but not good enough. So don't go putting on your cop hats and wasting your time digging away because you'll be doing the wrong thing by me and, what's more, YOU WILL NEVER FIND ME.
Mercy read it again, went downstairs and sat on the bottom step, staring at the front door, blinking at the tears. She'd lost everything in a single night. Charlie's mind was full of his new girlfriend, the paragon that was Isabel Marks. How pathetic had Mercy been at dinner with him this evening, reaching out across the table to touch his hand, letting him know that she was still there for him if 'the Isabel thing' didn't work. Hoping that 'the Isabel thing' wouldn't work. Praying that it was a product of the emotional intensity of the kidnap of Isabel's daughter, which had brought them together, and now that it had been resolved, they'd have no need for each other. But, as they'd taken their separate taxis after the meal, Mercy knew that this was probably the last time they'd be having dinner together for quite some time.
And now this. Her only child walking out on her. No discussion. No question of seeking parental guidance. The Amy-style fait accompli. It took an act of will to drag her handbag to her feet, root around in it for her mobile with fat tears pockmarking the leather. She hit 'Charlie' and hugged the bannister pillar, hoping he would answer.
'Mercy?' he said.
'I ... I got back home ... after dinner. There was a letter on Amy's bed. A letter to us. I can't read it to you now. Just to say she's gone, Charlie. She's left home. The last line says, "You will never find me."'
She heard his phone clatter on the table. A woman's voice. Her. The one. Charlie repeated the line. Silence. Then Charlie again.
'I'll be with you as soon as I can,' he said. 'Report her missing to the local nick. I'm on my way.'
'She says she doesn't want to be found.'
'Just ring the police station. Tell them. It's the procedure. You don't want to be the parent who didn't report their child missing.'
'Right. Of course, you're absolutely right. I'm not thinking straight. Can't quite believe it's happened, even though it's been building for years.'
'Make the call,' he said. 'I'll be with you in half an hour. Call me again if you need to.'
She hung up, couldn't prevent his words from warming a need in her. Every time she'd tried to freeze him out of her life, dropped all feelings for him into some permafrost deep within her, he'd returned to thaw her back into womanhood.
She got a grip. Found the number of the local nick. Called.
'My name is Mercy Danquah, and I want to ... I mean, I have to ... I need to ...'
'Is this to report your daughter missing?' asked the sergeant. 'Amy Boxer?'
Mercy was stunned. Wordless.
'She was in here earlier explaining what she was going to do,' said the sergeant.
'And you didn't stop her?' said Mercy, incredulous.
'Well, first she wasn't under age —'
'And how did you know that?'
'She produced her driving licence.'
'Her driving licence? She doesn't have one.'
'I checked it out. She does.'
'I don't know how she could have —'
'She said I'd recognise you 'n' all,' said the sergeant. 'But I don't know any Mercy Danquahs.'
'What she meant was,' said Mercy, grunting with negative mirth, 'she calls me the cop.'
'Does that mean you're the main authority figure in her life?' said the sergeant. 'She said you were separated from your husband.'
'It means I'm a police officer,' said Mercy. 'I'm a detective inspector with the Specialist Crime Directorate 7 — the kidnap unit. And she believes I bring all the authority I've learned in my job into our mother-daughter relationship.'
'I see,' said the sergeant, finding himself considerably outranked. 'Well, your daughter was rational and calm and said she would not be on the streets. She has money and a bank card. She gave me a letter with instructions to open it only when you called. She left here at 15:47. I filed my report a couple of hours ago before the drinkers started to come in.'
'I logged it —'
'This afternoon?' said Mercy. 'But I was in the house then. She left when I was in the house? She said goodbye, see ya, the usual ...'
'She was a cool customer, I'll give her that,' said the sergeant. 'Very together.'
'What does her letter say?'
'I don't know. I haven't opened it yet. She asked me not to till you called.'
'What the hell is going on here?'
'I think you'll find your daughter's leaving home was a well-planned and executed departure,' said the sergeant. 'She said you hadn't been getting on.'
'That's putting it mildly.'
'She said that too.'
'You know, Sergeant, I'm beginning to detect a certain amount of inertia coming down the phone,' said Mercy. 'Are you going to do anything about my daughter's disappearance?'
'Just give me a yes or no.'
'I'll see how busy we are, get someone to read the letter and call you,' said the sergeant. 'Has her father been informed?'
'He's on his way here.'
She was in her hotel room getting dolled up. She liked hotel rooms, especially the sort you got in the Moderno, with a big bathroom, a power shower and a bidet with a full-length mirror in the bedroom and room service, which she didn't really need but she'd ordered anyway, hamburger and chips, because she was ... free.
She was dancing in her underwear, buds in, listening to the music's fizzing beat slamming straight into her cerebral cortex. She was slugging vodka tonic from the minibar and had snorted a tiny scrap of cocaine she'd brought with her from London. She'd need more to survive the night but knew how she was going to get it.
She pulled the buds out, socked back the last of her drink and shook out the red minidress she'd bought in French Connection, slipped it on. She'd blown four hundred quid on clothes at the airport. It was like wearing nothing. So sexy, she spun around and watched the dress flare up. She looked over her shoulder to check her bum in the mirror and did a couple of rotations of her hips. Then came the shoes. No. First the little jacket. It's cold out there. She stuffed the black quilted coat, red skirt, black wool tights and biker boots into the rucksack, took a hundred euros and a few condoms and put them in a pocket in the armpit of the jacket. The passport was still in reception. She slung a small black bag over her shoulder. She'd wanted to leave it in the room safe but she needed a credit card to make it work and she didn't have one.
Now the shoes. Six-inch heels. Ankle-strap courts in black. She stepped into them and the air was suddenly thinner. She practised some of her dance moves, sure-footed as a gymnast on the beam.
This was what she loved about Spain. Coming down in the lift and stepping out into the lobby with the whole of the reception area looking at you, appreciating you for making the effort. Nothing creepy. Nothing furtive. Not like London, where nobody looked you in the eye but stole a glance at your arse, a peek at your tits. You could walk into a bar in Hoxton looking like sex on stilts and nobody'd even talk to you. Now Spanish boys, they wouldn't even let you hang for a few seconds. Walk into a bar and they'd be roaring their approval, clamouring to buy you a drink, talk to you. It wasn't a bed thing either. Well it was, but it wasn't the main thing. What was at the forefront was: thank you for being beautiful, it's made us happy. That was why she loved the Spanish.
She went to the front desk, picked up the passport and tucked it into the small pocket in the armpit of her jacket with the money and condoms.
It was nudging midnight. She strode down the street, smiling at the guys appreciating her, even the ones with stunners on their arms. She had an address she'd been given, written it on her hand because she couldn't remember Spanish names, let alone make a cab driver understand. A Moroccan guy had given her the name of a 'brother' who knew a people trafficker who'd pay a thousand euros for a valid UK passport with an electronic chip.
Cabs were stacking up in the plaza and she'd joined the short queue for one when she realised a guy, late thirties, was standing next to her, looking her up and down with naked admiration. The first thing she noticed: she towered over him in her heels. He was wearing a black leather jacket, an open midnight-blue silk shirt revealing a hairy chest, but in a nice way, with a gold chain. His jeans were tight with a black belt and a metal clasp which had twin scorpions, tails meeting. He was tapping his black pointed boots with silver toe tips on the shiny pavement. He wasn't a looker, but he was built. The silk of his shirt was stretched over the muscles of his chest, his pecs stood out, nipples peaking with the cold, and she could see the rack of his abs too. The cords of his neck were like columns on either side of his protruding Adam's apple. He had black curly hair, a sardonic but sexy smile, white teeth and dark deep-set eyes whose colour she couldn't tell. Confidence radiated out of him. One look told her that this was a guy who'd never have trouble talking to women.
'Hola, que guapa, chica. No te puedes imaginar ...' he said and stopped. 'You don't speak Spanish? How about English?'
'I do English,' she said.
'Mira guapa, I'm with my friends taking a drink,' he said, speaking with a Latin American accent. 'I see you coming down the street, I say this is a girl who knows how to dress, this is a girl who knows how to have a good time, this, I bet, is a girl who knows how to dance. Am I right?'
And with that he did a couple of disco dance moves which showed he too knew how to dance and, despite his evident musculature, he could move fast and smooth. His two friends, one with a Latina beauty on his arm, gave him some ironic applause. 'They can't dance,' he said to her conspiratorially. 'That's why they're clapping. They're like cows on ice on the dance floor.'
He performed a Neanderthal two-step which suddenly went horribly awry and sent her into giggles. He came up close to her, his head at the height of her chin. He looked up, eyes penetrating right into her. The nerve of him. Ugly bugger too. She had to bring all of her London cool to bear, and he saw that he'd have to make another push.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "You Will Never Find Me"
Copyright © 2015 Robert Wilson.
Excerpted by permission of Europa Editions.
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.
What People are Saying About This
"One of the more sophisticated writers in his field." – Kirkus Reviews
“Wilson demonstrates, as Graham Greene did long ago, that thrillers are the liveliest, most gripping, most thought-provoking literary enterprises going today. The most readable too, when penned by a master spinner like Wilson.” – LA Times Book Review
Splendid . . . Wilson has a talent for digging beneath the skin to explore psychological and emotional nuances." – New York Daily News
“Few writers—in any genre—can match Wilson's depth of character and plot or his evocation of place,” – The Boston Globe