Sunday, January 4, 2009

Nightingale - almost done

I'm just about to hit the 80,000 word mark on the Jack Nightingale book and if all goes to plan it should be done by the end of the week. It's the best part of writing, where the characters are in place and the piece is rushing headlong towards a conclusion. It's the point where the characters take on lives of their own and all I have to do is to record what they say and do! I've actually written the last chapter already, but I have two big scenes to write. They're actually the most important scenes in the book, where Nightingale comes face to face with his nemisis... I already have them straight in my head, all I have to do is to write them!

I got an email last night from a production company in Los Angeles that is interested in turning my book The Stretch into a movie. They have done some major projects so fingers crossed it might come to something. The Stretch was filmed by Sky for their Sky One channel in the UK, as a two-parter with Anita Dobson and Leslie Grantham. I think it worked really well on TV but it would be magic to see it on the big screen. We'll see.....

Anyway, here's chapter three of the Nightingale book:


Jack Nightingale didn’t like doing divorce work. He didn’t like following unfaithful husbands or wayward wives, and he didn’t like breaking bad news to women who cried or men who threatened violence. He didn’t like doing divorce work but it paid the bills and Nightingale had a lot of bills that needed paying.
‘Can I get you a coffee or a tea, Mrs Brierley?’ he asked.
Joan Brierley was in her early fifties, a heavy-set women with dyed blonde hair and too much make-up and lines around her mouth from years of smoking. She shook her head and held up a pack of Benson and Hedges. ‘Do you mind if I…?’ she said.
Nightingale lifted up his own pack of Marlboro. ‘I’m a smoker too,’ he said.
‘There aren’t many of us left,’ she said.
‘Strictly speaking this is my workplace so I should fine myself a thousand pounds every time I light up,’ said Nightingale. He reached over and lit her cigarette with a disposable lighter and then lit his own.
‘You said you had bad news,’ said Mrs Brierley. ‘So he’s been cheating, has he?’
‘I’m afraid so,’ said Nightingale.
‘I knew it,’ she said, her voice shaking. ‘When money started disappearing from our joint account, I knew it.’
‘I took a video,’ said Nightingale. ‘So you could see for yourself. I followed them to a hotel but he has also visited her house when her husband is away.’
‘She’s married?’
Nightingale nodded.
‘Why would a married woman want to steal another woman’s husband?’ said Mrs Brierley.
It wasn’t a question that Nightingale could answer. ‘I’ve got his mobile phone records. He calls her three or four times a day and sends her text messages.’ He slid over a stack of photocopied sheets. ‘The messages say it all, pretty much.’
Mrs Brierley picked up the phone records. She sneered as she scanned them. ‘He loves her?’ she hissed. ‘He’s been married to me for twenty-four years and he loves her?’
Nightingale went over to his DVD player and slotted in a disc. He sat down again as Mrs Brierley turned to look at the screen. The camerawork wasn’t great but Nightingale had been hired to do surveillance, not produce a Hollywood movie. He’d taken the first shot from behind a tree. Brierley arrived in his dark blue Ford Mondeo, a nondescript man in a nondescript car. Brierley had a spring in his step as he walked into the hotel’s reception and was holding a carrier bag from a local off-licence. Nightingale had managed to get closer to the hotel entrance and had filmed Brierley signing in and being given a key.
The next shot was of the woman arriving. Nightingale had managed to get a good shot of her parking her VW Golf and had followed her to the entrance of the hotel. Like Brierley, she didn’t look around and clearly wasn’t worried about being followed.
Mrs Brierley stared at the screen, her mouth a tight line.
The final shot was of Mr Brierley and the woman leaving the hotel together. He walked her to her car, kissed her, and then went over to his Mondeo.
Nightingale pressed the remote control to switch off the DVD player. ‘Your husband paid in cash but I have a copy of the receipt.’ He slid a photocopied sheet of paper across the desk towards Mrs Brierley but she was still staring at the blank television screen, the cigarette burning between her fingers. ‘The woman’s name is Brenda Lynch, she is…’
‘I know who she is,’ said Mrs Brierley, her voice a dull monotone.
‘You know her?’
‘She’s my sister.’
‘Your sister?’
‘My sister,’ said Mrs Brierley. ‘Lynch was my maiden name.’ She took a long drag on her cigarette, held it deep in her lungs and then exhaled slowly.
‘I’m sorry,’ said Nightingale.
She waved away his apology as if it was an annoying insect. ‘How much do I owe you, Mr Nightingale?’
‘Miss McLean outside has your bill,’ said Nightingale.
Mrs Brierley leaned over his desk and stubbed out what remained of her cigarette.
‘I’m sorry,’ said Nightingale.
‘There’s nothing for you to be sorry about,’ she said. She stood up. ‘You did a very professional job, Mr Nightingale.’ There were tears in her eyes but she forced a smile. ‘Thank you.’
Nightingale opened his door for her. His secretary was sitting at her desk and she smiled brightly at him. ‘Mrs Brierley would like her bill, Jenny,’ said Nightingale.
‘I have it here,’ she said, handing a sheet of paper to Mrs Brierley. Mrs Brierley took out her cheque book and wrote a cheque while Nightingale went back into his office. He flopped down into his chair, pulled open the bottom drawer of his desk and took out a bottle of whiskey. He poured a generous slug into his coffee mug and swung his feet up onto the desk. He didn’t enjoy breaking bad news to people, but that was part of the job. If a husband or a wife suspected that their spouse was up to no good, ninety-nine times out of a hundred they were right. In Mrs Brierley’s case it had been unexpected withdrawals from their current account, late nights supposedly at the office and a new brands of aftershave in the bathroom. He saw the phone records by his feet and the photocopy of the hotel receipt and realised that Mrs Brierley had left them behind. He thought about going after her but decided against it, figuring that she had deliberately not taken them with her. He wondered what she would do now that she knew the truth. She’s almost certainly divorce her husband, and probably split up her sister’s family as well. She had three children and two of them still lived at home so she’d almost certainly keep the house and Mr Brierley would end up in a rented flat somewhere either with or without his sister-in-law for company.
There was a soft knock on his door and Jenny McLean pushed it open. Jenny was in her early twenties, with short blonde hair and blue eyes that almost reminded Nightingale of Cameron Diaz. Jenny was shorter than the actress and smarter, educated at Cheltenham Ladies College and Cambridge and fluent in German, French and Japanese. Her family owned a country pile with five hundred bedrooms and twelve acres, or vice versa, and chased foxes and shot wild birds at the weekend. Nightingale had absolutely no idea why she worked for him. He’d placed an advert in the local paper and she’d walked off the street with her CV and told him that she’d always wanted to work for a private investigator and that she could type and knew her way around Microsoft Office. He’d wondered at first if she was an undercover agent for the Inland Revenue checking on his tax returns but she’d worked for him for more than a year and now he didn’t know how he’d manage without her. She was holding a full pot of coffee. ‘I thought you might like some coffee in your whiskey,’ she said. She poured coffee into his mug. ‘She took it quite well, didn’t she?’
Nightingale shrugged. ‘She cried, which is a good sign. It’s when they go quiet that I start thinking about knives and hammers and things that go bump in the night.’
‘I gave her the card of a good divorce lawyer.’
‘Very thoughtful of you.’ Nightingale sipped his coffee and whiskey. Jenny made great coffee. She brought the beans from a shop in Mayfair and ground them herself.
‘I felt sorry for her,’ said Jenny, sitting on the edge of his desk.
‘There are two sides to every case,’ said Nightingale. ‘We only get to hear the side that pays us.’
‘Even so…’ said Jenny.
Nightingale sipped his coffee again. ‘Maybe she made his life a misery. Maybe the sister was kind to him. Maybe she let him wear her stockings and the wife wouldn’t.’
‘Jack…’ said Jenny, shaking her head.
‘I’m just saying, you can’t go feeling sorry for the clients. They’re just jobs.’
‘Speaking of which, a solicitor down in Surry wants to see you.’ She handed him a scribbled note.
Nightingale frowned as he studied the piece of paper. ‘Can’t he just email us the info?’
‘He said he wants to see you in his office. He’s got gout so he has trouble getting about. I figured you wouldn’t mind as you don’t have much on at the moment.’
Nightingale flashed her a tight smile. He didn’t need reminding how light his caseload was. ‘This place, Hamdale. Never heard of it.’
‘I’ve got the postcode, you can use the GPS on your phone.’
‘You know I can never get it to work.’
Jenny grinned and held out her hand. ‘I’ll do it for you, you luddite.’ Nightingale gave her his Nokia and she programmed in the location. ‘You’ll be fine,’ she said.
‘And how do I get back?’
‘Leave a trail of breadcrumbs,’ she said, sliding off the desk. ‘If you leave now you should be there by two o’clock.’

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