The Deep End – Chapter 20

Prologue 1 • 2 • 3 • 4 • 5 • 6 • 7 • 8 • 9 • 10 • 11 • 12 • 13 • 14 • 15 • 16 • 17 • 18 • 19 • 20 • 21 • 22 • 23 • 24 • 25 • 26 • 27 • 28 • 29 • 30 • 31

Theodore had been knocking on the door of room four for so long his arm was getting numb. When it opened at last, mid-knock, Theodore very nearly hit Percy in the face.

‘Theo?’ Percy gasped. ‘Can I help?’

‘Sorry to disturb,’ Theodore smiled saccharinely. ‘Just one question, then I’ll go. Can you tell me Dougie’s surname?’

Percy, a little flustered, attempted to straighten his dressing gown, though it was fastened lopsided. ‘Why?’

‘Just routine investigation. I need to eliminate him as a suspect.’

Percy looked a little affronted, but answered quickly. ‘Milliner. His full name is Douglas Milliner.’

A shadow passed over Theodore. He pulled out Hugo’s notebook and flicked through the list of names. Once he’d gone through them all, he did it again, though he already knew there was only one Douglas in that list. He’d already underlined it.

Percy watched him curiously. ‘Erm… was that all?’

‘Is he here?’

‘No—hey!’

Theodore pushed past Percy, into the room. Someone shrieked and pulled covers over themselves, but the undressed young man in the bed was not Dougie this time. Even so, Theodore marched past into the bedroom, just to confirm it was empty.

‘Mercy me, Theo! I told you, he’s not here! I’ve not seen him since you did.’

‘What colour is his hair?’ asked Theodore.

Percy looked at Theodore as though he’d spoken Chinese.

‘His hair, Percy. I didn’t see it properly last time. I had my eyes covered when he was naked and after he dressed he had a cap on. What colour is it?’

‘Blond, his hair is blond. I know you like blonds, Theo, but I don’t see how that’s relevant.’

Theodore let out an aggravated sigh. Dougie was a young, slim man with blond hair, now positively identified as the man who Jack had kissed in the hot room. The trouble was, the first person who had described the blond haired man had been Dougie himself. Theodore wouldn’t even have been on the blond man’s trail if Dougie hadn’t mentioned him. And while Theodore might forgive Dougie for choosing not to disclose his previous encounters with Jack, he couldn’t explain why Dougie would hide that but still mention seeing Jack on the day of the murder. If, as Art had worried, the incident in the hot room was unrelated to the murder, why spout these little nuggets of truth? It was almost like he’d been deliberately toying with Theodore.

No, Dougie couldn’t be the murderer. Theodore had seen first hand that Dougie slept with men, so why should he kill and brand a man for doing the same? However, as Theodore considered this, a few moments of his meeting with Dougie surfaced in his memory. How Dougie had tutted after saying, ‘I’ve seen him with lots of boys,’ and the way he’d wrinkled his nose when he’d said, ‘I don’t reckon they were sleeping, do you?’. And then there was what Percy had said afterward. ‘Men like Dougie—proper men, I mean—feel more comfortable if they can tell themselves it’s a transaction. So long as they can say they’re only doing it for the three-bob, they don’t need to worry themselves about why they’re laying in bed with a man until lunchtime.’

Though Dougie might well go to bed with men, it didn’t necessarily follow that he was at peace with the idea. He might be able to justify his relations with Percy as merely swindling an old pervert, but how might a man like that respond to a kiss from Jack? Attraction undercut by shame? Empathy mixed with envy? Love and hatred in the same breath? Those feelings might drive a man mad.

‘Where does Dougie live?’ said Theodore.

‘Now, really!’

‘Percy.’ Theodore lowered his voice, his eyes locked with Percy’s. ‘I need to talk with him.’

Percy fell quiet. The young man in the bed took advantage of the silence. ‘What’s going on? Who is this man? Perce? What is this all about?’ His questions went unanswered.

Percy looked at the floor. ‘I don’t know where he lives,’ he said, ‘but I know where he works.’

With the address of Dougie’s carpentry shop committed to memory, Theodore went straight to reception and asked to use the phone. When faced with the dial, he froze. He’d intended to phone Hugo, forgetting that, quite aside from their argument, he had no idea where Hugo was. He could go home and wait for him to return, but he had no idea how long that would take. How could he sit indoors all day, after what he’d learned? He could confront Dougie alone, but going alone to confront a murderer who targeted men like him struck him as insanely foolish

Another idea reared its head. The napkin with Art’s telephone number was still in his jacket pocket. Hugo would be livid if he found out. But what if Dougie was the killer and Theodore let him go free all because he was afraid of a domestic squabble? He lifted the receiver.

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‘But you don’t know it’s him for sure?’ said Art in a low whisper.

He and Theodore were in the back of a cab, on its way north to the carpenter’s shop. Theodore glanced at the back of the driver’s head. ‘No,’ he replied.

‘What if you’ve just imagined things and jumped to conclusions?’

‘I’m not imagining things. I have done this before.’

‘All right, all right.’ Art was quiet for a bit, then said, ‘So how will you prove it?’

Theodore sighed. ‘I don’t know. But I feel like if I can just speak to him, I’ll be able to to tell.’

Art pursed his lips but said nothing. They spent the rest of the journey in silence. Theodore was already beginning to regret inviting Art. He’d taken an hour to turn up after Theodore had telephoned and hadn’t stopped asking questions since he’d arrived, somehow coming across as both woefully out of his depth and believing he knew better than Theodore. Still, Theodore told himself, he was here. That counted for something.

The cab sidled alongside the carpenter’s shop. It was a small shopfront, sandwiched in the middle of a long terrace. The paintwork on the facade was so weathered the name ‘Milliner’s Carpenters and Joinery’ was barely legible. The windows were large enough to tell that the shop floor was empty, save for one person. Dougie was sat behind the till, sanding down a wooden ornament. He wasn’t wearing a hat this time, leaving his hair visible. Shaved at the sides, left long and wavy at the top and clearly blond.

‘Is he the man you saw in the hot room?’ said Theodore.

‘That’s him,’ said Art, without hesitation.

‘All right,’ said Theodore, before stepping out of the cab.

A bell tinkled as they entered. Dougie looked up and groaned. ‘Great, now you’re here. I told you I didn’t want you visiting me at work.’

The shop was richly decorated, with floral patterns on the wallpaper and overlapping rugs on the floor, trying to pretend that, despite the absurd amount of furniture, this could be somebody’s home. Though it did nothing to cover up the strong smell of sawdust and varnish. Theodore and Art navigated through the maze of wooden chairs, tables, cabinets and chests to reach Dougie at the counter.

‘Sorry to disturb,’ said Theodore, ‘I just had a few questions I hoped you could answer.’

Dougie sighed. ‘Fine. Let’s get it over with.’

Theodore glanced back at the door. Art had been the last through, but hadn’t thought to turn the open sign to closed. It would be conspicuous to walk back and do it now and it would give Dougie opportunity to object. It was perhaps unfair to be annoyed at Art for not knowing to do this, but Theodore was annoyed all the same.

Theodore made a show of glancing around the shop. ‘It’s a nice place. Do you own it?’

‘I do, as it happens,’ said Dougie, folding his arms. ‘Built it from scratch.’

‘And at your age, too? You must have had investment. Is Percy an investor?’

Dougie ran a finger across his bottom lip. ‘One of ‘em.’

‘Did you meet the others at the Hammam too?’

Dougie didn’t answer, staring Theodore down like an angry dog. Satisfied, Theodore continued, ‘You told me you saw Jack Roe with a blond haired man on Tuesday evening. Did you see Jack at any other time that night?’

Dougie shrugged. ‘In passing, maybe.’

‘Did you speak to him at all?’

‘No.’

‘Indeed?’ said Theodore. He gestured at Art. ‘That’s peculiar, because this man saw you speaking with him.’

Dougie cast a scowl at Art. ‘And who is “this man”?’

‘Arthur Greenwood,’ Art smiled. ‘Have a light?’ He pulled his cigarette case from his front pocket.

Dougie’s scowl worsened. ‘The furniture’s made of wood.’

With a sigh, Art put his cigarette case away.

‘I don’t know what he saw,’ said Dougie, speaking as though Art wasn’t there, ‘but it wasn’t me.’

‘Are you sure? You didn’t sit with him in the small hot room? He didn’t try to kiss you?’

Dougie hesitated. ‘Listen,’ he said, cautiously. ‘I don’t want you getting the wrong idea. I’m not like you and Perce. Yes, I visit the bathhouse from time to time but a blowy and some change for your trouble isn’t the same as kissing.’

Theodore raised an eyebrow. ‘So Jack did try to kiss you in the hot room?’

‘That’s not what I said.’

A phone rang from another room and Theodore cursed the name of Alexander Graham Bell. Dougie, on the other hand, looked relieved. ‘One second,’ was all he said before stepping into the back room. Momentarily, the phone stopped ringing. Theodore stepped closer, checking he could hear Dougie talking and that he hadn’t made a quick escape.

‘What do you think?’ Art whispered. ‘Can you tell?’

‘Not yet,’ said Theodore. ‘He’s definitely hiding something—what are you doing?’

Art had moved behind the counter and was rooting through one of the drawers.

‘Looking for a light,’ he said with a shrug. He opened another drawer.

‘What if he comes back? At least close the drawers you’re done with.’ Rolling his eyes, Theodore went to close the first drawer. Something made him stop. Inside the drawer, between a Stanley knife and chequebook, was a small, leather wallet embossed with the letters ‘K.D.’ Theodore stared at it. Then, knowing what was about to happen before it did, he took the wallet and opened it. Staring back at him was the expressionless face of the murder victim, standing in a church archway beside a fair haired woman in a wedding dress. More than that, there was an small, paper ID card for the London City Council with Keegan Doyle’s name. And a business card for the Jermyn Street Hammam.

‘Art,’ said Theodore, his voice surprisingly steady, ‘I can tell.’


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