The Murder Bag
… In the morning I took care of my daughter and my dog and then I drove to work - 27 Savile Row, London W1. The Met call it West End Central.
27 Savile Row is a modern block of offices with one of those ancient blue police lamps outside – the kind of blue lamp that makes you think of Sherlock Holmes hunting Jack the Ripper through the London fog. But although Savile Row is famous for two things, West End Central isn’t one of them.
For hundreds of years Savile Row has been home to the most exclusive men’s tailors in the world. The short Mayfair street is also where, on the rooftop high above number 3, the Beatles played their final gig, attracting the attention of the local police. The attending officers from West End Central let the Beatles finish their last ever set because they were all music fans. That’s what they tell you in West End Central.
Carrying the triple expresso I had bought at Bar Italia in Soho, I went up to the Major Incident Room, MIR-1, on the top floor. MIR-1 would be the centre of Homicide’s murder investigation. It was a large suite of connecting rooms with a computer station at every desk and it was completely empty apart from DCI Mallory, who stood cradling a carton of takeaway tea as he stared at a blank whiteboard.
‘You’re early,’ he said. ‘Morning briefing’s not for an hour.’
‘I thought I’d be the first to arrive, sir,’ I said. ‘Look keen and all that.’
He laughed. ‘I like to spend a bit of time figuring before I start opening my mouth,’ he said. ‘What could possibly connect a wealthy investment banker and a homeless heroin addict?’ He shook his head. I don’t know. I have no idea. And I need to know. At least I have to have a theory.’ He sipped his tea. ‘Have you heard of the Golden Hour principle?’
I nodded. ‘It means early action can secure material that would otherwise be lost. Witnesses remember things more clearly. Offenders can still be nearby. CCTV footage hasn’t been deleted. The longer we leave it, the harder it all gets.’
‘I believe in the Golden Hour principle as much as the next man,’ Mallory said. ‘But I also believe in what the old SIO’s call “creating slow time”. Meaning you need to put your foot on the ball and have a figure; meaning you have to leave time for figuring as well as action.’
He was such a soft-spoken man that it took me a moment to realise that by coming in early I had intruded upon his private time – his figuring time. He must have seen the alarm on my face.
‘Why don’t you go down to the basement?’ he suggested kindly. ‘See if you can find our weapon.’ He held out an A4 file. ‘Take this with you.’
I bolted my coffee and went down to the basement. The lift doors opened on to a low-ceilinged room where row upon row of canteen dining tables where covered with knives.
A young uniformed officer was filming them and making notes on a clipboard. He looked like a tourist in some exotic market place.
‘Help you, sir?’ he said.
‘I’m looking for a knife,’ I said.
‘What kind of knife, sir?’
‘A knife that can do this.’
There were four photographs inside the file. Two of Hugo Buck’s corpse and the other two of the homeless man. They were all graphic close-ups of the fatal wounds. I held them up for the constable and saw the blood drain from his face.
‘Go ahead sir,’ he said. ‘We’ve got all sorts here.’
It was true. There were hundreds, perhaps thousands, of knives glinting under the harsh strip lighting. Knives that had been seized, found, dumped, bagged as evidence or surrendered during an amnesty. So many knives that I didn't see how I could fail to find a suitable candidate for the one that had cut the throats of the banker and the unknown man…