Jigsaw Man(5)By: Elena Forbes
‘What time was this?’
‘Let’s go in here and I’ll fill you in,’ Johnson said, looking around as though worried somebody might overhear, even though there was nobody within earshot. They followed him into a book-lined snug, with a small bar in one corner. Tartaglia hadn’t noticed it the previous evening, although the leafy courtyard where he had met Jannicke while having a smoke the night before was just beyond the tall pair of French doors. Johnson appeared to be using the room as a makeshift office. Two small tables had been pushed together, with a cordless phone, papers, and several half-drunk cups of black coffee spread out on the surface.
‘So what exactly happened?’ Tartaglia said, growing increasingly impatient.
Johnson shrugged. ‘Some sort of romantic tryst gone wrong, possibly, although she could easily be a pro. The room’s booked in a man’s name, Robert Herring. She was lying on the bed, not wearing much. The man called room service from the room and ordered a bottle of champagne and some food. When it was brought up, they found her.’
‘Yes, but what time?’
Johnson picked up a piece of paper and peered at some notes. ‘The call came from the room and was logged on the in-house dining system, as they call it, at twelve-fifty-one a.m. About half an hour later a waiter goes up to the room and knocks on the door.’
‘So, around one-twenty-five?’
Tartaglia stared at him for a moment, hoping his relief was well hidden. At one-twenty-five he had still been in Jannicke’s room and she had certainly been alive, so it couldn’t be her. He had left Jannicke’s room a few minutes after two. He remembered looking at his watch.
‘There’s no answer so he lets himself in with a passkey,’ Johnson continued. ‘He sees her on the bed, but there’s no sign of the man. It’s clear something’s wrong so he calls the duty manager who comes up and takes a look and decides she’s dead. He then dials 999. The call came in at one-thirty-nine and we got here just after two.’
As Johnson spoke, it struck Tartaglia that he had actually been there, in the hotel, at the time of the murder. It was something that had never happened to him before in connection with his work and he felt a little shaken by it. Had the killer stayed around afterwards to watch the action, maybe waiting downstairs in the bar until the police came? It wouldn’t be the first time.
He thought back, picturing himself leaving Jannicke’s room – nobody in the corridor outside – then coming down the main stairs and turning into the hall. A few people were still milling around in the lobby and in the large sitting room beyond. Nothing particularly noteworthy about that and he didn’t remember seeing anybody on their own, let alone acting oddly. The bar had still been open and an Alex Clare song he particularly liked had been playing. He was half tempted to stay and listen, but had felt suddenly very tired. Leaving the building, he hadn’t been aware of anything out of the ordinary. Nobody hanging around outside or behaving suspiciously, no commotion, no sirens, no blue lights or obvious unmarked cars pulled up outside in the street. He must have left just before CID got there. It had been raining earlier and he recalled how pleasantly fresh the air had felt. He had paused to light a cigarette then walked on, eventually hailing a cab along George Street. As far as he was aware, he had witnessed nothing relevant to the investigation.
‘How long had Robert Herring been staying?’ he asked Johnson.
‘He arrived yesterday evening, just after seven p.m., and appeared to be on his own. He was given a large double on the second floor, but he only asked for one key. He gave a home address in Manchester, which we’re checking along with his other details. There’s also a mobile number, but the phone’s switched off. The credit card that was used to secure the room is in a different name. Nobody at reception remembers seeing the woman or anybody asking for Herring and according to the switchboard no calls were put through to that room all evening. As I said, she could be a pro, or a girlfriend – or a guest staying in one of the other rooms, but until we speak to everybody, we won’t know. A lot of the guests are still asleep.’