I have ben asked to post chapter 26 again, so here it is.
St Helens Police Station
DCI Harry Lamplight is slumped in his chair, elbows on a desk strewn with files and papers, chin resting uneasily on his hands. He had arrived uncommonly early much to the surprise of everyone in the CID room. The night shift was just signing off and the appearance of the boss at such an early hour usually boded ill for someone unfortunate enough to have caused his ire to rise. Detectives hurriedly glanced at him, muttering a brief good morning, before hurrying off home to their beds, warning colleagues just arriving to beware.
They need not have been concerned. Lamplight had other matters on his mind, things that had been troubling him ever since his meeting with DCI Willis a few days ago.
Willis’s scheme to use Keith Wilder as bait to trap the killer troubles him; not so much because it would involve exposing Wilder to unknown danger, it is the subterfuge involved. Using Wilder without informing him strikes Lamplight as unethical at the very least and even quite possibly illegal. Willis evidently doesn’t care. As far as he is concerned the end justifies the means
Lamplight has developed a high regard for Wilder in the time he has been at St Helens.
Over the years, in common with most other police officers, he has learned to entertain a healthy mistrust for most journalists, some of whom would sell their own grandmothers for a story, but Wilder has been different. In the two years or so that he has been at the Star agency, a mutual trust has developed between them and while Wilder has a well-developed nose for a story, he would pursue it in a co-operative way rather than in the hostile fashion that many reporters do in the national press.
It’s a relationship that Lamplight values which is why he was uneasy at Willis’s proposal which could quite easily put Wilder at risk. After all, it is an open invitation to the killer to silence a witness who can identify him. That, in essence, is Willis’s plan.
So, when he arrived at the station first thing this morning he had arrived at a decision; he intends to tell Wilder about Willis’s plan and to give him the opportunity to back out if he so wishes. He realises that would make him deeply unpopular with Willis but at least he would be able to sleep at night and look Wilder in the eyes.
When Lamplight had rung earlier, Wilder had only just arrived at the Star agency and was somewhat mystified by the summons to go the police station as soon as possible. He had asked, not unreasonably, why he couldn’t say what he had to say over the phone. Lamplight had muttered, mysteriously, something about walls having ears and had said that what he had to say was for his ears only.
Wilder had grinned broadly at that; it sounded like Lamplight had been reading the James Bond collection of stories For Your Eyes Only which came out in hardback ten years ago. What could be so confidential that he must be physically in Lamplight’s office to be told it?
When he arrives at the police station’s front desk, he is greeted by Ernie James the desk sergeant who looks around furtively and leans over: ‘Bad business those threats you’ve been getting,’ he says. ‘I heard the last one even said he was going to carve Amy up, the bastard! You look after yourself son. Never mind what the bosses in this place want.’ He gives Wilder a wink and tells him to go through and that Mr Lamplight is expecting him.
Lamplight’s door is open when he gets to it. He smiles to see him staring gloomily at his desk which is, as usual, covered in paper and files. He raps sharply on the door and Lamplight looks up and waves him in.
‘Why so glum?’ he asks, sitting down.
Lamplight sits back in his chair and frowns. ‘The bloody bin strike is causing no end of problems. Quite apart from the health risks, people are acting irresponsibly, and we are getting reports of vandalism and domestic disputes with rubbish being dumped just about anywhere. The sooner they sit down and resolve the dispute the better.’
‘Yes, we filed a story yesterday summarising the local situation. I think both sides are due to meet later today or tomorrow.’
‘About bloody time too,’ mutters Lamplight. ‘Anyway, that is not why I wanted to talk to you in confidence.’
‘I’m all ears,’ says Wilder his curiosity aroused.
Lamplight studies him, his brow furrowed, a stern expression clouding his face. He finds it difficult to look at Wilder. His hands close around his packet of Capstans and he lights up. Wilder moves his chair backwards.
‘Bloody hell Harry, do you have to?’
Ignoring that Lamplight leans back in his hair. ‘A few days ago, I had a meeting with DCI Willis in Liverpool. You remember him, I daresay?’
‘Yes of course I do. He was SIO at the Lime Street murder. A jolly chap, full of fun I don’t think.’
‘He’s OK really. I have known him for years. In fact, we joined the force at the same time. He ended up in Liverpool and I came here. His bark is worse than his bite.’
‘I’ll take your word for it.’
‘Well anyway, we were discussing ways of tracking down the killer. We are both reasonably certain that it is the same person who is responsible for both murders. To cut a long story short, Willis has come up with a strategy for luring him into a trap.’
‘Sounds like a good idea.
Lamplight stares at him. ‘You may not think so when I have finished telling you.’ He pauses and then continues. ‘The plan basically is for the police press office to issue a statement saying, in effect, that a witness has come forward who believes he saw the killer leaving the farm where Mr Jenkins was killed. The statement will go on to say that it is believed he may be able to identify the killer and that the witness is not being named at this time.’
‘That’s all good if it’s true surely?’ says Wilder.
‘I haven’t finished yet,’ says Lamplight, clearing his throat.
What the press office will also be instructed to do is to leak the fact that the witness is a well-known St Helens journalist.
‘And who might that be?’
Lamplight has a crooked smile on his face as he replies tersely: ‘You!’
‘What! Are you serious? That would make me a target for the killer wouldn’t it?’
‘So, you were going to launch this plan without telling me?’ Wilder stands and glares at Lamplight. ‘You pair of unscrupulous bastards. You would put me in danger without even a thought for my safety.’
Lamplight sighs and waves him back into his seat. ‘Yes, that is what Willis intended to do but it did not sit easily with me which is why you are here. I decided that you had to be told and given the chance to back out if you want to. I have not told Willis about this meeting and I daresay it will not go down well if you do decide not to play ball.’
Wilder sits and takes a deep breath. ‘Did he have any intention of protecting me if this went ahead or was he simply intending to use me as bait?’
‘To be fair there would have been surveillance at all times until this killer is caught. I am sure it was never his intention to put you at too much risk.’
‘Is there any reason why I should go along with this, given what his intentions were?’
Lamplight sits forward and lays his hands flat on his desk. ‘Well, it is in your interests actually given that the notes have begun to threaten Amy. And apart from that you will have an exclusive first-person story which we will co-operate with fully.’
Wilder sits back in his chair. Lamplight is right. This would be a way of bringing all the threatening notes to an end, always assuming the murders and the notes come from the same person of course. And a first person exclusive in which he is the focal point has every chance of being a national story.
‘OK, I’ll do it,’ he says. ‘But I want Willis to know that I am aware of what is going on and that I will have the exclusive story with full co-operation.’
Lamplight nods his agreement.
‘One other thing,’ says Wilder as he heads for the door. Lamplight looks up expectantly.
‘Amy is not told what I have agreed to do.’
Lamplight nods again.