The Janus Man
East Anglia in July. 2 a.m.
Carole Langley walked by herself along the lonely road elevated above the surrounding flatlands of the Wash. She was half a mile from the village of Plimpstead.
It was a warm night, a cloying warmth. The moon had come out from behind the cloud bank, illuminating the deserted fields on either side stretching to the dim horizon. Eighteen years old, an attractive blonde, Carole felt a little nervous. The stillness of the flatlands seemed to hold a hint of menace.
`All right,' she had told her boy friend, Rick, 'if that's what you want you'd better look elsewhere. And, no thanks, I'll get home by myself…'
`Please yourself,' Rick had told her, his voice slurred with a little too much liquor. 'Girls are like buses. There's always another one coming along. I might even find one inside…'
Saying which, he'd gone back into the old house where the party was still in full swing. When she'd accepted the invitation Carole hadn't known Peggy's parents were away, that the young crowd would have the house to themselves. The trek to the bedrooms had started early.
And I'm bloody sure some of them were on drugs, she told herself as she trudged along the road in high heels. She wished now she'd brought walking shoes in a bag. But how was she to know it would end like this – letting Rick bring her back in his car had definitely not seemed a good idea. Not along these deserted roads where the distance between houses – let alone villages – was measured in miles.
She saw the car coming a long way off. It was incredible the distance you could see across the Wash. Two headlights not dipped – like a couple of monster eyes. Impossible to identify the make of car.
The road – like all roads in that part of the world – curved and changed direction frequently. Sometimes she saw the powerful beams broadside on, then the car would swing round a curve and the monster eyes, gradually growing larger, would stare straight at her. The pallid light of the moon began to fade, moving behind the clouds. The lights of the car grew stronger.
Who could be out by the Wash at this hour? Most people would be in bed. Even back where I came from, she thought savagely – and they could keep that. My mum will kill me, she worried as the ache in her feet grew worse. She'll be waiting up. Of course! And when she didn't hear the sound of a car stopping she'll want to know what happened. I'll tell her Rick's car wouldn't start. That's it…'
She felt better for a moment, but only for a moment. The oncoming vehicle was beginning to bother her. She walked slowly past an isolated copse of trees and wondered whether to hide until the car had passed.
Damnit, I've got to get home. It will probably just drive on past me…'
The headlights came round the last bend and headed down a straight stretch of road towards her. She paused, remembering the copse of trees. The only hiding-place for miles. He must be able to see her now. The bloody lights were glaring full on her face. Why didn't he dip them?
She stopped, made up her mind, slipped off her shoes and prepared to run back to the shelter of the trees. Moving at speed, the driver rammed on the brakes, halted a few feet from her. In the glare of the lights she couldn't see what was happening – but she heard the sound of a car door opening and closing. The sound of footsteps approaching with a steady, purposeful tread.
She waited no longer. She turned and ran for the copse, feet flying over the smooth road surface. Behind her the steady footsteps followed. As she ran she fumbled in her handbag for the torch she always carried. It was some kind of a weapon.
She turned off the road, clutching handbag in one hand, torch in the other. She had the sense not to switch it on – that would make it easier for whoever was coming to spot her route. The precaution was her undoing.
Her left foot caught in the root of a tree and she sprawled on the grass full length. Spinning to one side, she lay on her back and switched on the torch, aiming it upwards. That was when she began to scream.
In the torchlight she saw the blade of the huge knife. Saw it as it descended towards her breasts in a powerful arc. Like some madman performing a ritual sacrifice. The knife entered her body and was drawn downwards, like a butcher carving meat. The scream died to a moan of horror. Then Carole Langley died and the heavy silence of a Norfolk night also descended.
That was two years earlier. The importance of the macabre event was not realized. Not until two years later by a man called Tweed.
Part 1 Suspicion
Summertime in Regent's Park. Like being in the country, Monica thought as she walked with Tweed. Their feet treading the soft grass, the sound of children's voices as they played. All was right with the world. But it wasn't.
Tweed walked with hands thrust inside jacket pockets, staring straight ahead through his glasses. She knew what that meant. A crisis. Tweed was disturbed. His first words confirmed her insight.
`For the first time in ages I'm frightened, really frightened.' `Ian Fergusson's murder in Hamburg?'
`That, of course. The time for mourning comes later.' A grim note in his quiet voice. 'The implications behind the murder are what scare me stiff.'
She linked arms with him, expressing sympathy, support.
`Only six people in the world knew Fergusson was en route for Hamburg. The two of us.' He paused. 'Hugh Grey, Guy Dalby, Harry Masterson and Erich Lindemann.'
`You can't mean one of the sector chiefs? They've all been with us for years…'
`Which makes it more serious still. The greatest crisis we've ever faced.'
`Somebody had left the minutes file drawer in Central Registry unlocked. Anyone in the building could have sneaked a look at the file recording the decision to send Fergusson…'
`Camouflage.' Tweed's tone was bitter. 'I wrote the minutes of that meeting. I omitted all mention of the decision. There was no reference to Fergusson going anywhere at all…'
`Strictly against the regulations,' she twitted him, seeking a lighter mood.
`And done quite deliberately – to protect Fergusson…'
`I don't know,' Tweed confessed. 'Some sixth sense. The fact remains. Anyone checking the file wouldn't know a damned thing about the Hamburg assignment. Clearly someone left the file unlocked to cover themselves. They must have been disturbed – maybe by a cleaner, They obviously never had time to read the minutes.'
`It's still hard to believe…'
`The most deadly things in life are…'
`Why are you so sure whoever unlocked the cabinet was disturbed?'
`If he'd had time to read my minutes he'd have locked it again – realizing his attempt at camouflage hadn't worked.'
`It's a pretty bloody creepy thought – an enemy inside the citadel. What are you going to do? Does Howard know?'
`I said six people. Howard was away in France at the time, which is why I chose that moment to despatch Fergusson. I'm going to Hamburg myself,' Tweed added casually.