I don’t care how experienced you are as a private investigator, when your son is holding a heavyweight Desert Eagle pistol on you, and he’s not smiling, it gets your attention.
‘Is it loaded?’ I said.
‘No fun if it’s not,’ he said.
I considered my options. I could rush him—but my desk was between us. I could sweet-talk him—but I wasn’t in the mood and I didn’t think he was, either.
‘You’ve got a plan to get away,’ I said.
‘Not that you’d notice. I’m as shocked as you are to get this far.’ Coming as it did from a skinny teenager’s body, his voice was surprisingly confident and strong.
‘You need a plan if you’re going to shoot someone,’ I said. ‘I don’t think you’ve thought this through.’
‘If I’d have thought this through I wouldn’t have come. I had to do it like on impulse.’
‘Impulsiveness isn’t a good trait in someone holding a gun.’
‘And being mouthy isn’t good for someone staring down its barrel.’
He had a point. I watched his eyes and gauged his breathing. There was no hand-shake and he hadn’t cracked a sweat. Two minutes previously I’d been browsing through a copy of Uncut magazine when he’d knocked and entered without invitation. A slim youth with dark hair wearing a green hooded anorak over pale washed jeans and scuffed Nike trainers. He’d checked that I was Sam Dyke, private investigator of this parish, then reached inside his anorak and pulled out the gun like an archaeologist with a rare find, holding it carefully but just tight enough to be secure. In that confident voice he’d told me his name was Dan and asked whether I knew who he was. He was surprised when I said I did.
Now he asked, ‘Don’t you want to know why I’m here?’ He waved the gun slightly, as though it might encourage curiosity.
‘You’ll tell me eventually. I’m more interested in how you found me.’
‘Never mind how,’ he said. ‘The point is, I’m here and you’re there.’
I crossed my arms and he took a step backwards.
‘Go steady,’ he said.
My office is square, with one door and one window looking out over the centre of Crewe, and holds a desk, a leather seat for me and two upright chairs for clients.
I’d never had more than two clients in my office at one time. I didn’t think I could take the excitement.
‘So let me get this straight,’ I said. ‘I’m guessing you found out I’m your dad and you think I’m responsible for your mother’s death. You’ve never met either of us and inside five minutes of tracking me down, you’re willing to kill me.’
For the first time I saw a cloud of doubt cross his face.
‘Who said anything about killing you?’ he asked.
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