Back in London, I tell Joe about my meeting with Andrew Moore and my theory. He isn't convinced. How does Andeanna's lover know she was killed, assuming that she was? Why would he wait so long for revenge? Why not simply shoot Menderes himself? Legitimate questions, but I don't waste time on them. I'll squeeze the answers out of the guilty pair before I kill them.
I ask Joe to focus on the months leading up to the original Andeanna's death, to scour the clippings for photos of her and the Turk, and note who's with them. Given the tight leash he kept her on, I doubt she'd have strayed far beyond their immediate circle of friends in search of a lover. I'm betting her mystery man was one of the Turk's crew, or a close business associate. I want as complete a list of his contacts for those months as possible. Joe doubts he'll be able to find out much, but says he'll see what he can come up with.
The following morning, I resume my investigations as Edgar Sanders and return to Menderes's turf in north London. Life has gone on as normal since he died. Bond Gardiner assumed control of the Turk's business interests even before the funeral. Nobody challenged him. The locals are satisfied with Gardiner. He runs things calmly, efficiently, the same as before. They appreciate the continuity.
Many of the people I approach have already heard about the journalist from the States and are eager to be part of the book. They talk freely about the Turk, happy to share their incriminating stories now that he's dead. They're careful not to say anything that I might be able to use against Gardiner or his men, but it's open season on Mikis Menderes.
A lot of them boast about the Turk's love life, but no one gives any hint that his wife was disloyal. They say she was a charming lady, a perfect mother, but none of them knew her personally. I ask if she had friends who could tell me more about her, but she seems to have kept to herself and didn't say much in company. Her friends were Menderes's friends.
I keep asking questions about Andeanna, determined to worm my way into her sad, solitary world. Finally, on a dark, wet Wednesday, a man in a pub called the King's Battalion taps my shoulder and asks if I'd care to have a drink with his mates. Glancing towards the back of the pub where he was sitting, I spy a table of middle-aged, neatly dressed men. Bond Gardiner is among them. With a tight feeling in my stomach, I head over and, at a nod from Gardiner, take a seat.
I stare around the table. Hard men, cold eyes. Gardiner stands out, even though he's dressed the same and looks no tougher. It's the charged air around him, the space the others afford him. 'Know who I am?' he grunts.
He smiles thinly. 'I hear you're a writer.'
'Trying to be.'
'Writing a book.'
'I hope to. I've never written one before. I'm not sure how it will go.'
'American?' he asks.
'Yes. Montana. It's up near Canada.'
Gardiner is holding a book of matches and plays with them while he speaks, flicking open the lid and running his thumb over the phosphorus heads. 'Tell me, Mr Sanders, what's a Yank doing in London, investigating Mikis Menderes? Don't you have gangsters where you come from?'
'One or two,' I chuckle. 'But I was over here freelancing. Then the Turk - '
'Mr Menderes,' Gardiner corrects me.
'Excuse me. Then Mr Menderes was killed. I set out to write an article about him, but the more I learnt, the more fascinated I became.'
Gardiner carries on playing with the matches. 'Will it do him justice,' he asks softly, 'or are you out to dish the dirt?'
I shrug. 'I'm not going to pretend he was some kind of Robin Hood, but I don't want to demonize him either. I want to explore behind the mask, chart how he got started, why he chose a life of crime, how his work conflicted with his home life. I want to show how a modern gangster lives, how those close to him cope, whether his challenges and problems are the same as any ordinary Joe's.'
'I'll tell you what,' one of the others barks. 'Ordinary blokes don't have to cope with having their brains blown out by some bastard of an assassin while they're home in bed!'
They all murmur angrily.
'You haven't found out who killed him, have you?' Gardiner asks.
'You'll let us know if you do, won't you?'
'Sure. I'll send you a copy of the book before it's published. You can proofread it for me.'
Gardiner laughs and the mood lightens. 'Tell me what you've found out.'
'All of it?'
'Just the good bits.'
I recount some of the more fanciful tales I've collected in the course of my investigations. Gardiner and his men listen silently at first, but soon interject with stories of their own. They discuss jobs the Turk pulled, boasting of those that were a success and delighting over those that went awry, as if it was all a game without real consequences.
I ask the questions I imagine a journalist would ask, verifying names and dates. I jot down a few details in my writing pad, to make it look like I mean to use this. After a while I steer talk round to Andeanna. 'What was his wife like?'
'A looker,' a pug-nosed man called Harold says.
'A lady,' Gardiner corrects him.
'A looker of a lady,' a guy called Larry laughs.
'She was young when they married, wasn't she?'
Gardiner taps the table warningly. 'If you want us to talk about that child-bride shit and how he was a dirty old lech, you can go fuck your - '
'No,' I interrupt. 'That's not it. I'm just saying that even though she was young when she died, she was very young when they got married, so they had quite a long time together. I want to stress how much value Menderes placed on family and his marriage vows. I know he had other women, but he was loyal to her in his way. She was at the centre of his world and he was careful to shield her from the darker areas of his work. I want to show his more compassionate side.'
'Compassionate?' Larry snorts. 'The only compassion Mikis ever . . . '
An angry glance from his boss shuts him up. 'You're right, Sanders,' Gardiner says. 'Mikis was a provider. He doted on Andeanna and Greygo and was always there for them.'
'Yeah,' Larry says meekly. 'He loved her.'
The rest of the gang mutter their consent.
'Do you know how the two of them met?' I ask.
'Now there's a story!' Gardiner beams, and proceeds to tell me the cinema tale, how Andeanna was sitting behind the Turk at a premiere and kept on talking until he turned round and told her to shut up. In reply she dumped a bucket of popcorn over his head. I've heard the story before, several times, but I pretend it's new to me and laugh in all the right places.
At the end, I frown and clear my throat. 'I've heard rumours,' I begin. 'I don't want to upset you, but some people have said that Menderes used to hit her.'
Gardiner's smile vanishes. 'Who told you that?'
'Who?' He leans across the table menacingly.
I shake my head. 'I can't reveal my sources.'
'I'll tear the fuckers to pieces for spreading lies like that,' he vows.
'It's not true?'
'Of course not! If you mention that in your book, I'll have your bollocks for marbles.' I blink at the blatant viciousness of the threat. 'Mikis wasn't perfect, but he wasn't a wife-beater. Ask anyone who knew him, they'll tell you the same.'
'OK,' I mutter. 'I only brought it up because - '
'Shut it,' Gardiner growls.
'Fine, whatever.' I stare at the table and fidget, like I'd been meaning to say something else but have thought better of it.
'What?' Gardiner snaps.
'Nothing. Just . . . No. Forget about it.'
'Say what you were going to.'
'It was just more gossip. Don't worry, I won't - '
'Spit it out, or so help me . . . ' He starts to get to his feet.
'I'll call for help if you attack!' I yelp, pulling away from him, acting as if the very thought of taking a punch fills me with terror.
Gardiner curses, then controls himself, sits and gestures for me to take my place. After a few carefully judged seconds I join him at the table again, faking wariness. 'Tell me what you've heard,' Gardiner says stiffly.
'I haven't repeated this to anyone, and I won't,' I tell him. 'I wouldn't even say it to you, except I know how close you and Menderes were.' I let a few seconds drag by, then come out with the query I've spent the better part of a week building up to. 'I heard that Andeanna Menderes was having an affair.'
A vein pulses in Gardiner's forehead, but he says nothing. The other men around the table look disbelieving.
'That's bullshit,' Larry says.
'What else have you heard?' Gardiner growls.
'Nothing,' I mutter.
I stare at his colleagues, then look to Gardiner questioningly. With a curt wave of a hand he dismisses them. Once they're out of earshot, I slide into the chair next to Gardiner and address him in a veiled whisper. 'I think she had a lover, that Menderes found out and killed her, then staged the car accident.'
Gardiner's jaw tightens. 'Who told you this?'
'Nobody, not directly. I pieced the theory together from various accounts.'
'It's a theory you should forget as soon as fucking possible,' he snarls.
He stares at me with flat eyes. 'You don't know what I could do to you if you got on the wrong side of me.'
'Of course I do,' I retort, not dropping my gaze. 'But I've got to be able to verify or dismiss the theory. I'll go on searching until I'm sure.'
'You've about one minute left to live,' he says. 'Any last requests?'
'Just tell me the truth,' I plead. 'If I'm wrong, look me in the eye and say so. I'll take your word for it. If I'm right, confirm it. Either way, the story can stop here. No need for anything that might come back to haunt you. You can get rid of me with the truth.'
'You expect me to believe you'd keep it to yourself?' he sneers.
'I'd have to. There's no evidence linking Menderes to his wife's death. There aren't even any rumours that he killed her. This is a theory of my own invention. If I was dumb enough to include it in the book, I'd be torn apart by Menderes's lawyers. You can't come out and openly accuse a man of murdering his wife, not without at least some shred of proof. It would be a great hook for the book if I could substantiate it, but without substantiation no publisher would touch it.'
'And you expect me to give you the proof you need?' Gardiner sniffs.
'It can be off the record,' I say softly. 'Not for the book, just for me. It sounds crazy, and I don't expect you to understand, but this has taken over my life. It was only a story in the beginning. Now it's more. I can't use anything you say - without a witness, you could claim in court that you didn't tell me shit - but I need to know. For my own sake.'
Gardiner squints at me. I'm not what he expected. He makes a sudden growling noise and tells me to stand. He frisks me, searching for a hidden recorder. When he's satisfied that I'm clean, we sit down and he leans in close. 'You're right.'
I shudder involuntarily. 'She had a lover?'
'He found them together,' Gardiner says. 'He was away on business. He returned early, caught them fucking, lost his rag and killed them. I helped him arrange Andeanna's accident and I disposed of the other body.'
That's not what I wanted to hear - a dead lover can't exact revenge - but it's way more than I'd hoped to learn. I can't believe Gardiner is telling me this. My head is spinning. To have so much information dropped into my lap so suddenly . . .
'Who was he?' I ask.
'You don't need to know.'
'Yes I fucking do.'
Gardiner lays a hand on my arm and squeezes hard. 'No you fucking don't.'
'OK,' I mutter. He squeezes tighter until I sigh and repeat it. 'OK.'
Releasing my arm, Gardiner returns to his book of matches and begins playing with it again. 'Mikis had a savage temper. He vented it on Andeanna. He loved her but he couldn't help himself. He was jealous as the devil, even when he didn't need to be. When he found her in bed with . . . ' He breathes through his nostrils like a dragon. 'He didn't mean to kill her, but he lost control. We did a good job of covering it up. Nobody ever questioned it. I stopped worrying years ago. Just goes to show, you can never drop your guard.'
'Can I ask something else?' He nods warily. 'Why tell me this?'
Gardiner smiles terribly. 'Because you asked.'
'No, seriously. It would have been a lot easier to scare me off or silence me. Hell, you could have just kept your mouth shut. Why come clean after so many years, when you didn't have to?'
Gardiner considers that, then sighs. 'I've done a lot of bad shit in my time, but that's the one thing that keeps me awake nights, that I wish I could take back. I guess I've wanted to confess for a long time, and you're as good a confessor as any.'
'Because you trust me to keep it to myself?'
He grins bleakly. 'Because I can get to you any time I like. You even dream of repeating any of this, you'll be an easy man to kill.'
He's wrong on that score, but I don't correct him. Instead I reflect on what he told me. It's confusing. I was right about Andeanna being murdered, but her lover was killed too. Does this mean her death wasn't connected to the Turk's, that I've unravelled a mystery that has nothing to do with the one I set out to expose?
'Happy now?' Gardiner asks.
'I'd be a lot happier if you'd tell me the name of her lover.'
'We all want things we can't have.' He puts the matches away. 'I'll say this much - he was someone we couldn't afford to kill. If the truth had trickled out, it would have been catastrophic. Make of that what you want, but keep your theories to yourself. And know this - your enquiry ends here. If you've gathered enough material to write a book, go ahead. If not, tough. You don't have the freedom of the city any more. I want you off my manor.'
'OK. I've got what I was after anyway.'
Almost true. I need the name of the lover too, to make sure he's dead, to check if he left behind a son or other relative who might have engineered the plot to kill Menderes. But I won't find it proceeding the way I have been. Gardiner is the end of the line as far as open enquiries go. With one exception.
'There's one more person I'd like to interview before I quit - Gregory.'
'What do you want to speak to him for?' Gardiner asks.
'Human interest. People will want to know how his father's death affected him, what their relationship was like, if he knew about Menderes's secret life and loved him regardless.'
The truth is, I want to know if he can recall any of his dead mother's friends who maybe dropped by when his father was away on business.
'Greygo has shunned the press,' Gardiner says. 'I doubt he'll agree to meet you.'
'But if he does, can I speak with him?'
Gardiner considers it, then shrugs. 'Sure. But he's the last. And if you mention anything about what I told you . . . '
Gardiner grunts. 'In that case, there's just one more thing.'
He grips my right leg above the knee and stares into my eyes, his expression bleak. I wonder if I've misjudged the situation, if he's going to take me out back and shoot me to ensure my silence. Then he smirks and says, 'Can I have a signed copy of the book when it comes out?'
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