I ask Joe to find out everything he can about Andeanna Menderes, her background, family, associates. I tell him to track down distant relatives, old friends, anyone who was close to her. Try to find people who might have known the new version of her.
'Start with that beautician, Shar, who was celebrating her birthday the night we met,' I advise him. 'Talk to your friends who were at the party. Take a photo of Andeanna with you, show it round and ask if anyone remembers seeing a woman who looked like that.'
While Joe is exploring the Andeanna angle, I check out Dash's safe house. It looks deserted. No car in the drive. Curtains open. I should stake it out for a day or two to be safe, but I don't feel like wasting time, so I slip around back and let myself in with the spare set of keys which I kept.
I move cautiously through the rooms. No clear signs that Dash has been here - the bed is stripped, the chairs stacked neatly against the walls, the heating turned off - but there's a slab of cheese by the bread bin that wasn't there before, and a can of beans in a cupboard under the sink. Peculiar of Dash to leave behind even these slight reminders of his stay. Maybe he left in a panic.
From the safe house I make my way north, where I spend the next three days doing the rounds of every seedy-looking pub and club, making contact with low-level gangsters. I call myself Edgar Sanders and pretend to be a journalist doing a piece about Mikis Menderes. I buy drinks for anyone who'll chat with me. Many are eager to add to the Menderes legend and be associated with him in some small way, so most talk with me freely.
They tell me all sorts of juicy stories, how Mikis drove out into the countryside every once in a while to chop the heads off sheep, the time he ate the prize poodle of someone who was slow to repay a loan, his incredible sex drive. ('He once had twelve women on the go at the same time,' a pickpocket called Ernie tells me. 'That's what I call a dirty dozen!') Entertaining tales, but nothing about who killed him or why he might have been executed.
Finally, in the Star and Anchor, a grim, grey place that's at odds with its name, I run into a member of Bond Gardiner's gang, a youthful but grey-haired man called John Horan, who shoots a mean game of pool. After letting him thrash me a couple of times, I ask if he's heard any strange stories about how the Turk was killed.
'What sort of stories?' John snaps warily.
'I heard it was suicide and someone made it look like an assassination to big up the Turk's legend.'
'I guessed as much,' I sigh. 'I mean, how can you trust a guy who builds a conspiracy theory out of a pair of shoes? I should have known he was - '
'What's that about shoes?' John interrupts.
'Some crazy shit about Menderes's laces. I shouldn't even have - '
'Go on,' John says tightly.
'Well, this guy said he knew a journalist who works for The Times, and he said he saw a pair of shoes in a photo and the lace on one of them wasn't tied.'
'So?' John sniffs, eyeing me beadily.
'According to him, it's something people do when they kill themselves, if they don't want to leave a note. They tie the lace on one shoe but not the other. It's a way of letting people know it wasn't an accident.'
John laughs, at ease again. 'That's the dumbest thing I've heard all week.'
'Yes,' I chuckle ruefully. 'But I figured I might as well ask.'
'You should be careful,' John warns me. 'Loose talk like that can earn you a slap round here. If I was you, I'd keep shit about laces to myself.'
And after that, I do, since I know by his reaction that the laces were noted. I'm not sure what happened to Dash, whether he escaped or was taken down, but that's unimportant. It's enough to know that Bond and his men have swallowed the bait. I can forget about Dash and focus on hunting for the ghostlike Andeanna.
Joe hasn't discovered a secret sister or daughter. He's done a remarkable job of assembling a family tree, filling half a scrapbook with names, dates of birth, photographs and details. I go through the photos several times, with a magnifying glass, but none of Andeanna's relatives is close enough in looks or age to pass for the woman I knew and loved.
'I called several of them,' Joe says, 'pretending to be a reporter, asking about her past, her life with the Turk. Most were happy to talk about her, but nobody had much contact with her after she married Menderes.'
'What about friends?'
'Plenty from the past, but not a one from her London years. It seems like the Turk kept her locked away from everybody.'
I flick through the pages, admiring Joe's research skills, then thumb back to the first page and the photos of Andeanna's parents. Her mother died nine years ago. Her father is alive and living alone. 'Did you check if Deleena Emerson had any other children?'
'There's no record of it,' Joe replies.
'But did you ask?'
He shakes his head. 'It's not the sort of thing you can say to strangers. I asked if Andeanna had brothers or sisters and they all said she didn't.'
'What about her father?'
'He wouldn't speak to me. He doesn't discuss his daughter.'
'If anyone knows, it would be him.'
'True. But if he doesn't want to talk about it . . . '
'He'll talk,' I grunt.
Joe squints at me. 'Ed, you wouldn't . . . I mean, you aren't going to do anything illegal, are you? I don't want to be part of - '
'Don't worry,' I stop him. 'Violence isn't my style.'
Joe snorts. 'This from an assassin?'
'Ex-assassin,' I grin bleakly. 'But even back then I didn't rough anyone up. I killed, I didn't torture.'
'Interesting distinction,' Joe mutters, but pushes the point no further. 'There was one other thing.'
'Andeanna's death. You know how the police say she veered off the road and crashed, the car burst into flames and she couldn't get out?'
'What about it?'
'There were no on-hand witnesses, but a few drivers in the distance saw the car careen down the bank. One of them, Marian Fitzgerald, said she saw flames in the car before it hit the trees and exploded.'
'The forensic guys who examined the wreckage couldn't explain why the car left the road in the first place. Given the Marian Fitzgerald evidence, I got to thinking that maybe . . . ' He stalls.
'Go on,' I quietly urge him.
'Could it have been SHC?'
'I thought we'd dismissed that theory,' I snap impatiently.
He shrugs. 'I know there's probably nothing to it. I was tossing out wild ideas the first time I brought this up. But when I read the report, it made me wonder. I started thinking about something you'd said, about how the impostor had known you were an assassin.'
'People knew,' I mutter. 'Not many, but a few. One of them must have told Andeanna or whoever hired her to con me.'
'More than likely,' Joe says. 'But if we admit the possibility that she might be a ghost - I'm only saying might, don't lose your temper!'
'Go on,' I sigh wearily.
'If she spontaneously combusted and came back as a ghost,' Joe continues, 'maybe she was drawn to you by the research you were doing. Your mind was fixated on the subject. She might have been able to tap into that. Or . . . hell, Ed, I know this is a long shot, but maybe you brought her back to life.'
'What are you talking about?' I gawp.
'If Pierre Vallance has the power to channel mental waves and convert them into voices, maybe you have a similar talent. Maybe you unwittingly gave form to Andeanna, the way you gave limited form to your other ghosts. She dies horribly, some residue of her circles the streets of London all these years, you hit town, her spirit gravitates towards you, you somehow give her back her body, she seizes her opportunity and uses you to take revenge on the man she hated.'
I consider Joe's crazy proposal. Because he's my friend and I know he means well, I treat it seriously. 'What was the state of her corpse when they found it?'
Joe checks his notes. 'Burnt beyond recognition.'
'It hadn't been reduced to ash?'
I smile thinly. 'There you are.'
'But SHC victims don't always burn away entirely,' Joe presses. 'And even if she didn't die of that, maybe you gave form to her spirit regardless. We should bear it in mind. If we can't find a plausible explanation - if there isn't a lookalike - we'll have to explore other angles, won't we?'
'I suppose,' I mutter, too tired to argue.
'I'm not being obtuse,' Joe says. 'I'm not confusing the world of the book we were working on with the real world. But if we eliminate all other possibilities and only this remains . . . '
'Then I'll investigate it. But I won't have to. Because she wasn't a ghost.'
Saying it firmly, wanting to mean it. But not one hundred per cent positive. My gaze flickers to the seven supernatural shades in the room with us, and I wonder if Joe has hit on the answer to the riddle I've been picking at all these years. If I'm not crazy . . . if my ghosts are more than just the product of a deluded mind . . . then maybe I have the ability to give shape to disconnected spirits. Perhaps I've subconsciously brought about my own haunting. If that's the case, and these seven ghosts gain their power from something in me, why shouldn't I be able to go even further and create a physical body for another?
Andrew Moore lives in Birmingham. He's a loner who rarely entertains visitors. I make the long drive up early on Friday morning, locate the house, then call him from my car. I don't go with the Edgar Sanders approach, since Joe has already tried the faux-journalist gambit.
'Andrew Moore. How may I help you?'
'Good afternoon, Mr Moore. My name is Edward Sieveking. I'm a novelist, doing some research. I'd like to meet you, if - '
'What's this about?' he snaps. 'Are you a reporter?'
'No, Mr Moore, I'm an author. I write books.'
'What sort of books?'
'Fiction. Horror, mostly.'
He pauses. 'What's your interest in me, Mr Sieveking?'
'I'd like to talk with you about a new book I'm working on.'
'Is it about Mikis Menderes?'
'Not directly, no.'
'But he's the reason you want to talk to me?'
'Yes,' I confess. 'But mostly I want to ask about your daughter.'
'My apologies, Mr Sieveking, but I have nothing to say about either of those people.'
'But - '
'Good day, Mr Sieveking. Good luck with your book.' He hangs up. I wait ten minutes before ringing again. Despite the delay, he's waiting for the call and answers on the second ring with a curt, 'Mr Sieveking?'
'Please, just give me a chance to - '
'My no means no.'
End of conversation. When I ring a third time, he doesn't answer. I wait half an hour before trying again - no luck. Leaving the car, I march to the front door and ring the bell. It takes him a while to appear. When he does, the curtain covering the side window swishes aside and I glimpse a pair of angry eyes. 'Sieveking?' he snaps, dispensing with the formalities.
'I only want a few minutes of your time, Mr Moore.'
'Leave now or I'll call the police.'
'That would be unwise,' I caution him. 'If the police question me, I'll have to tell them why I'm here, and if word of what I've discovered leaks to the press, this place will be swarming with reporters.'
'What are you talking about?' he growls.
'I'm talking about your daughter and the role she may have played in the death of Mikis Menderes.'
The curtain slides back into place and the door is thrown open. Andrew Moore is a big man, broad and straight-backed despite his age, with a commanding face. 'My daughter died nearly twenty years ago. She had nothing to do with that bastard's death. Now get the hell out of here before - '
'I'm not here to waste your time,' I interrupt. 'I drove up from London to speak with you in person. Give me five minutes. If I don't grab your interest, I'll leave voluntarily and I won't pester you again.'
Moore glares at me, then takes a step to one side and waves me in. He points me towards an immaculately maintained living room, an old man's room filled with mementos and photographs of his life. I don't expect to find any of Andeanna, the daughter he cut off, but to my surprise there are several from her youth, set proudly next to pictures of his wife.
We sit down and he asks if I'd like anything to drink. 'I'd rather get straight to my reason for coming,' I tell him.
'Good,' he nods, pleased by my directness.
I show him a hazy photograph of Andeanna, one from the archives. I've blanked out the faces of the other people. 'Your daughter?' I ask.
He reaches for a pair of glasses and studies the photo. 'It's a poor shot, but yes, it's her.'
'That picture was taken a month before Menderes's death,' I lie.
He shrugs. 'Then it's not Andeanna.'
'But they look alike, don't they?' I press.
'What of it?' he says.
'This woman was seen with Menderes during the weeks prior to his death. She may have been living with him.'
Andrew starts to look interested. 'Do the police think she killed him?'
'They don't know. She vanished. Can't be found.'
He processes that, then says, 'Why come to me? Because she's similar in appearance to my dead daughter?'
'And because she called herself Deleena Emerson.'
He flinches. 'That was my wife's name.' He gazes at the photograph again, his wrinkled hands trembling slightly. 'I've read nothing about this in the papers.'
'My brother-in-law works for the Metropolitan Police. He knows I'm fascinated by ghost stories. He was the one who told me.'
'Ghost stories?' Moore echoes.
'A woman who looks like your daughter and uses the name of your dead wife enters Mikis Menderes's life, and within a couple of months he's been killed. It sounds like something a horror writer might concoct. My brother-in-law thought I might be amused by the idea.'
The old man's face darkens. 'There was nothing amusing about Mikis Menderes.'
'You didn't approve of him?' I ask glibly.
'Nothing to approve of,' Moore says. 'He was a pimp, a thief, a bully and a paedophile.' He leans forward, undisguised hatred in his expression. 'Do you know how old Andeanna was when he first laid his filthy paws on her? Seventeen! A child who should have had nothing on her mind except homework and teenage boys. Seventeen years old and he made a slut of her. That was Mikis Menderes.'
'Didn't you try to stop her seeing him?'
'It was too late!' he roars. 'We only found out when she came sobbing to us, telling us she was pregnant. We offered to help her raise the baby here, where we could love and care for it, but she insisted on returning to London. She said the child needed a father and she swore that she loved Menderes.'
Tears of remorse and regret flood Moore's cheeks. I'd like to walk away and let the past lie, but I can't. I have to know the truth about Andeanna. 'The child,' I say softly. 'Was that Gregory?' He nods. 'Did she have any other children?'
'What about you and your wife?'
'Andeanna was our one and only.' Moore wipes tears from his cheeks and grimaces. 'Menderes's death has raked up the past. I'm not normally this fragile.'
'I'd like that drink if the offer's still valid,' I murmur. 'A cup of tea would be great if it's going.'
'Of course.' He gratefully heads for the comfort of the kitchen, pausing only to ask if I take milk and sugar. I pass the time studying photos of Andeanna on the walls. Even as a teenager she was beautiful. I can see why the Turk fell for her, although what she saw in a beast like him escapes me.
Moore looks more composed when he returns and hands me a steaming cup of tea. 'Can I ask why you're interested in this, Mr Sieveking?'
'When my brother-in-law jokingly mentioned the possibility of a ghost in the Turk's life, I was intrigued. I meant to take the germ of the idea and run with a story about a gangster whose dead wife returns from beyond the grave. But then I heard that the police think the woman with the Turk might have mimicked your daughter's looks to attract him and set him up for assassination.'
Moore grunts. 'It would be poetic justice if it was true.' He glances at me shrewdly. 'But again I must ask, why come to me? I didn't hire a woman to masquerade as Andeanna, if that's what you're thinking.'
'No,' I smile. 'I'm trying to get an angle on your daughter, what she was like, what kind of a marriage she had. If someone impersonated her, she must have done a lot of research. I'm trying to get inside that woman's mind, to figure out how she ticks and nail her down if she exists.'
'I don't understand.'
'If someone did use a ringer for your daughter to get at the Turk,' I explain, 'and if I can track down the pair of them and expose them, I can forget about the horror story and write a straight-up account.'
'I see.' His smile turns icy. 'You're looking to exploit my dead daughter.'
I scowl. 'If Andeanna was indirectly instrumental in destroying the man who stole her childhood, you'd like to know, wouldn't you?'
He scratches an ear. 'I suppose. But won't the police tell me?'
'They're not actively pursuing the lead. To be blunt, they're glad Menderes is dead. They're not too concerned about finding the person who killed him.'
Moore studies me in silence, then chuckles drily. 'I don't know why, but I like you, Mr Sieveking. Go ahead. Tell me what you want to know.'
I start with some background questions, confirming things that Joe turned up. Then I ask if anyone plugged Andrew for information on his daughter during the last few years. 'No,' he says. 'I never discuss Andeanna, except with Gregory.'
'Greygo?' I frown.
The old man smiles. 'Menderes's legacy. The fool gave his son a name he couldn't pronounce, then made everyone use the abbreviated version. To me, he will always be Gregory.'
'He comes here?'
'Yes. He used to visit a lot when he was younger, eager to learn about his dead mother. He clicked instantly with Deleena, both of them being actors and having so much in common, but it took me a while to warm to him. I grew to love him over time. He helped me get through the long nights when Deleena died. Now he only drops by occasionally, but he rings often. He's a good boy.'
'You talk about Andeanna with him?'
Andrew nods. 'He was ten when his mother died. He never really got to know her. To learn about her history, he came to Deleena and me.'
I mull that over. Could Gregory Menderes have been behind the execution? The fake Andeanna told me that Greygo loved his father, but if Menderes Junior had put the woman up to the deceit, she would say that. Maybe this is a case of a greedy, neglected son doing away with his cruel, wealthy father.
'Did Gregory like the Turk?' I ask.
Andrew grimaces. 'He adored him. Menderes used to hit Andeanna, but he never raised a finger to his son. I don't have much good to say about that man, even now that he's dead, but he was a first-rate father. Gregory loved him unreservedly.'
'What about the family business? Will Gregory get involved now that - '
'No,' Andrew cuts in. 'He never wanted anything to do with that. As an adult he refused to let Menderes give him money. He was determined to make his own way in the world.' The old man puffs up with pride. 'Did you know that he won a scholarship to RADA?'
'Yes.' I remember Andeanna - or whoever she was - mentioning it. 'That's a big thing here, isn't it?'
'If you're an actor, RADA's the best,' Andrew beams. 'Deleena was over the moon when she heard. We all were. Except for Menderes.'
'Did it get nasty?' I ask, clutching at straws. 'Did he threaten to disinherit Greygo or cut him off?'
'No.' Andrew smiles begrudgingly. 'As I said, he was a great father. He grumbled about Gregory's choice of profession but never let it drive a wedge between them. He even forced himself to go and watch Gregory on stage a few times. The boy's a natural, and I'm not saying that because he's my grandson. So versatile, able to take on any part and make it his own. He could be a star, but he turns down the movies and TV shows he gets offered. Menderes was always baffled by that. He couldn't understand that Gregory only hungers for roles that will stretch him as an actor. He doesn't care about fame or money.'
So much for the conspiring son theory. I suppose, given the complex nature of this mystery, the solution was never going to be that simple.
'Who else stood to benefit from the Turk's death?' I ask.
Andrew snorts. 'I don't know and couldn't care less.'
'Did you have any contact with Andeanna after her marriage? I know you and your wife disowned her, but did you keep tabs on her? Do you know if she had any close friends in London?'
There's a long pause. Finally he sighs. 'She kept in touch with Deleena. Not right away - we both despised her to begin with, and rebuffed her efforts to re-establish contact - but after a few years Deleena's resolve melted and the pair of them began talking again. I didn't learn of their conversations until Gregory was eight. I found Deleena sobbing in the kitchen one day, clutching a photo of a boy at a birthday party. When I asked why she was crying, the truth came gushing out.
'I was furious. I made her call Andeanna so that I could tell her to sever all ties with her mother.' He smiles wryly. 'Of course once I got on the phone, I burst into tears and spent the better part of an hour catching up on all the years that I'd missed.'
Andrew falls silent, thinking about his daughter and the painful past. I grant him a few minutes of inward reflection, then touch his left knee. 'Did you speak to her much after that?'
'Not as often as I would have liked,' he sighs. 'It was difficult. She'd changed. She was a live spark when she left home, afraid of nothing. Now she was scared and lonely, terrified of Menderes, captive to his demeaning whims.'
'Why didn't she leave him?' I ask angrily, although I already know - she was afraid the Turk would follow and kill her.
'We asked her to,' Andrew assures me. 'I told her there was a place for her here, that I'd protect her from the monster, but he'd broken her spirit. And there was Gregory to consider. The boy worshipped Menderes, and she feared losing his love if she separated them.
'We saw her a few times before the end,' Andrew says quietly. 'She came three times in the months before she died. Twice she stayed overnight. Once she stayed a whole weekend.'
'That must have been nice,' I remark.
Andrew nods, but he looks troubled. 'She didn't come just to see us.' He stops, and glances around nervously. 'This next bit,' he croaks. 'You must swear never to repeat it.'
I lean forward, fingers clenching with anticipation. 'OK.'
'Swear it!' he hisses.
I stare at him solemnly. 'I swear.'
There's no reason why he should trust me, but he chooses to, I think because he wants to tell someone about it, has wanted to for a long time.
'She was seeing someone,' he says in the barest of whispers.
My heart quickens. 'Who?'
Andrew shakes his head. 'She wouldn't say. It was a secret. Maybe she told Deleena, but I don't think so.'
'Was she having an affair?'
'I don't know. She wouldn't talk about it. All I know is that she came here three times, used this house as a base and met someone in private. She'd slip out when she thought we were asleep, return early before we got up. We didn't ask any questions. We hoped she was going to pluck up the courage to leave Menderes. But she never got the chance, because a few weeks later . . . '
Tears bring him to a halt. He's said all that he can. To press him further would be heartless. It would also be meaningless, because I've uncovered the truth that I knew must be hidden somewhere.
There was a lover. Someone who has flown a flag for Andeanna all these years, waiting for a chance to avenge her. I use the word avenge, because something Joe said comes back to me and makes sense in light of this new information. He spoke of a witness to the crash who'd seen flames in the car before it hit the trees.
I put it together while Andrew weeps. Andeanna Menderes had a lover. A few weeks after their final romantic tryst, she perished in a fatal car wreck, even though there was nothing wrong with the car, no ice or oil slick on the road, no reason for her to swerve down a bank and crash. Add that to the report of flames in the car before it exploded, and everything clicks neatly into place.
Mikis Menderes murdered his wife.
The Turk found out she was cheating. Enraged, he killed her and made it look like an accident. Years later, her lover gets around to wreaking revenge and plots the Turk's downfall, hiring a lookalike to drag me into his scheme, confident that his ghostly middlewoman will ensure there's no way to link the crime back to him.
I have my motive. Now all I need is to find the vengeful lover and the woman who manipulated me. Then I'll show them how I deal with people who think they can fuck with my head and heart, and blithely set me up for a fall. I carry seven ghosts around with me wherever I go, the shades of those I've killed.
There's plenty of room for two more.
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