The second in my Hunter Files series, featuring retired detective Charlie Hunter will be released by Carina Press on 25th June. Wish I could share the cover with you but I haven’t seen it myself yet.
Once again Charlie is persuaded by a beautiful woman to look into an old case but this time it isn’t unsolved. Someone’s in jail, doing life for the murder of a bookie. Except that man’s daughter tries to convince Charlie that he didn’t do it. Cleo freely admits that her dad was a bit of a bad boy, but murder wasn’t his style, especially since the victim was his best friend.
Charlie always had doubts about the validity of the conviction, suspecting that the ambitious female inspector in charge of the case manipulated the facts to make them fit her only suspect.
This is how Charlie tracks down an old friend of the victim’s and elicits his help.
Reg was just where I expected to find him, holding up one end of the bar, the remains of a pint of bitter in front of him. I slipped onto the stool next to him and attracted the attention of the brassy-looking barmaid. Gil gave Reg’s trousers a thorough sniffing and, finding nothing too objectionable adhering to them, flopped onto the greasy floor between us with a heavy sigh.
“Evening, Reg,” I said cheerfully. “Refill?”
“Don’t mind if I do, Mr. Hunter. Just so long as it won’t cost me nothing.”
“There’s no such thing as a free lunch, Reg, or a free pint, come to that.” I ordered a pint for myself and another of whatever Reg was having.
“I heard you’d got out,” Reg said morosely. “So what do you want with me? Can’t somehow imagine that you hit upon this fine establishment by accident.”
“Nope, it was you I came to see.”
Reg sniffed, took his time rolling a paper-thin cigarette, tapped it several times on the bar and fired it up with a plastic lighter. “Oh yeah, what about then?” he asked warily.
This was where it got tricky. If he was still involved with the people behind Spelling’s murder then they’d get to hear of my interest before I even made it back to the boat. Even so, I had to take that chance.
“Your name cropped up in conversation the other day,” I said, taking a long pull on my pint. I wasn’t surprised to discover that it was excellent. Shabby décor meant nothing to the clientele of such establishments, but a poorly tapped barrel would likely cause a riot.
“Yeah, what about?” Reg’s attitude changed from guarded to hostile. “Don’t you lot ever let a body alone and mind your own bloody business?”
“Ah now, Reg, where’re your manners? It was a woman who spoke to me about you. Said you were tight with her dad.”
He scowled at me. “Why do I get the feeling that there’s more to this than a social call?”
“What, there’s somewhere else you need to be?” I feigned surprise. “What were you and Mike Kendall up to before he went down for Spelling’s murder?”
Reg slopped beer over his hand and dissolved into a bout of coughing.
“Ought to give up those cancer sticks, Reg.” I nodded toward his half-smoked fag. “They’ll kill you in the end.”
“Gotta die of something.”
“True enough but that won’t be a pleasant way to go.” I paused for a sup of beer. “Come on then, tell me about Kendall.”
“And I’d do that because—”
“Because I’m asking you nicely,” I said, steel in my voice. “Because you know me well enough not to want to make an enemy of me. Oh, and because I’ll make it worth your while.”
The offer of financial gain secured his attention but he wasn’t about to give anything up easily. “It was a long time ago,” he said.
“And you’ve got the memory of an elephant.”
He ground his cigarette out on the floor and sighed. “Look, it was a scam, all right?”
“What sort of scam?”
“Dog fixing. I was just a gofer and never knew who was behind it all.” That had to be a lie but I let it pass. “Mike Kendall was higher up the food chain but still a small cog.”
I nodded. “Go on.”
“It was money for old rope, weren’t it. Thousands of letters were sent out to known gamblers telling them that the person sending it had a score to settle with a particular bookie and was going to break him by betting big time on a specific race.” Reg paused to scratch vigorously at his scalp. I moved out of range to avoid the ensuing shower of flakes. “Dead simple it was, but then the best dodges usually are.”
“Don’t tell me. The recipient of the letter had to ring the number quoted and was given the name of the winning dog for free.”
“Got it in one, Mr. H.” Reg sniffed his contempt. “Course, three dogs were picked, with three different numbers to ring and one of them was almost sure to win the race. Well, put it this way, one of them always did win the race but don’t ask me how that could possibly have been arranged, dog racing being the upstanding, whiter-than-white sport what it’s always been. Anyway, out of the thousands of chancers who rang the numbers, a lot of ’em hit on the winner. Greed almost guaranteed that they’d phone again and this time pay for another tip.”
I nodded, having heard of such schemes before. “Simple and undetectable.”
“Yeah, pretty much, until that wanker Spelling went and got himself offed and spoiled it all.”
“He was the bookie who coordinated it?”
“Yeah, he supplied the names of the punters who were targeted but as far as I know, once he was killed and Mike went down for it, the scam was wound up.” He shrugged. “My services became surplus to requirements anyway and I never heard of it starting up again at another track.”
“Who’s Peter Garnet then and what was his part in it all?” I asked, hoping to catch him off guard with the abrupt change of subject.
“Dunno.” But he was lying. I could see it in his ferret-like eyes when he focused them everywhere except on my face.
“Don’t lie to me, Reg. Not when you were doing so well.”
“Look, I don’t know the man and what’s more I don’t want to.” But Reg was terrified. I could tell by his defensive body language and shuttered expression. “I’ve heard stories though and he ain’t the sort you’d want to cross.”
“So it’s coincidence that you happen to share the same brief as someone in Garnet’s league.”
This time his eyes did focus on me. “What do you mean?”
“You went to see Jason Miller, who charges three figures for a ten-minute consultation, a day or two before he was murdered. What am I supposed to think about that?”
Alarm flashed through his eyes. “Here, that was nothing to do with me…
Risky Business by W. Soliman available 25th June from Carina Press.