Jigsaw Man(10)

By: Elena Forbes



Just before one in the morning, five minutes after making the call down to room service, Herring was filmed leaving the building via the front entrance, walking down the street in the direction of Marylebone High Street and melting into the night. By that time, Claire Donovan was already dead. He was dressed the same as when he had arrived at the hotel earlier, the rucksack – which must have contained Claire’s things – slung over his shoulder. The search for the knife or blade used to cut Claire’s legs had proved fruitless and it looked as though he’d taken that with him too. Tartaglia had watched the footage over and over again, studying the man’s body language and familiarising himself with what little there was to be seen. Herring moved quickly and purposefully, head down, as though he knew he was being observed. He was calm, even-paced, not a man in any hurry or panic, and Tartaglia was struck by how confident he seemed for a man who had just committed murder. It was extraordinary. Why had he made the call to room service? Why not leave it for housekeeping to find the body the following day? Why had Claire booked the hotel room for Herring and what was her connection to him? These, and myriad other mushrooming questions, remained unanswered. Neither her sister, Sam, nor any of her work colleagues that they had so far spoken to, knew anything about this man. Claire’s phone was missing and switched off, but hopefully her laptop might reveal some important clues.

Tartaglia had just started to doze again when the car took a sharp left and a moment later pulled up abruptly.

‘We’re here, boss,’ Minderedes said as Tartaglia opened his eyes. They were outside the small terraced house where Sam and Claire Donovan had lived, which was located in a quiet maze of narrow streets in Hammersmith, close to the river.

‘I’m just nipping over to the office for some things, then I’ll be back. They called to say they need more evidence bags. How long will you be?’

Tartaglia rubbed his eyes vigorously and reached for the door. ‘I dunno. Maybe five minutes, maybe five hours. Just hurry up.’ Their office in Barnes was just over Hammersmith Bridge, on the other side of the Thames, but at that hour the traffic around Hammersmith Broadway was particularly heavy. What should be no more than a ten-minute journey, door-to-door, could easily turn into half an hour and Tartaglia didn’t want to find himself stranded. He was expecting a call any minute from the pathologist’s office to let him know what time Claire’s autopsy was scheduled that evening and he needed to be ready to go over there at short notice. Normally, he didn’t need ferrying around. He had his motorbike, a Ducati 998, which in his view was infinitely better than a car. But he had dropped it off the previous day at the garage for a service and he would have to rely on Minderedes for the next few days.

He climbed out of the warm cocoon of the car, acknowledging Minderedes’s murmured ‘give Sam my condolences and best wishes’ with a nod. Minderedes and Donovan had rarely seen eye to eye in the past, but it didn’t matter any more. Wrapping his jacket tightly around him, Tartaglia looked at the house. The curtains were roughly drawn but he could see light through the gaps and the shadows of people moving around. Donovan was inside, being looked after by Sharon Fuller, the family liaison officer, as well as his boss, DCI Carolyn Steele. Two other detectives from his team, Dave Wightman and Hannah Bird, had already started searching the house and going through Claire Donovan’s possessions, bagging up anything that looked interesting or might possibly give a clue to the identity of the man who had killed her. Tartaglia wondered how Donovan felt about having her home invaded at such a time, even though she knew it had to be done.

As the tail-lights of the BMW disappeared around the corner, he pulled out his phone and texted Steele to say that he had arrived. He crossed the road, sat down on a low garden wall opposite the house and lit a cigarette. When he had spoken to her half an hour earlier to tell her that he was on his way over, she had told him to wait outside. He had spent many a happy hour at the Donovans’ house and it felt odd to be forced to loiter outside like a stranger. He had explained to Steele earlier that day about losing his phone and about having been in the Dillon Hotel at the time of the murder. She had made a couple of sharp comments about needing to have an early night when on call, but otherwise seemed to have taken what he had said at face value. His alibi would have to be checked like anybody else’s, but otherwise it seemed there would be no repercussions. Something else must have happened, but he was at a loss to know what it was about.

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