"What happened next?"
"That's right, Calvin. Next."
Somers leaned back in his chair. "Not much." He seemed to regret this answer and rephrased it, searching for more impact. "I watched the ambulance turn past the post office, had a quick smoke, and went back inside. Took the lift up to Crane's room, cleared it out, threw away the bags and catheter, and sent the medical notes down to Patient Records. You could probably check them if you want. Far as the hospital was concerned, a seventy-six-year-old cancer patient had come in suffering from liver failure and died during the night. The sort of thing that happened all the time. It was a new day, a new shift. Time to move on."
"What about him?"
"You never heard another word?"
Somers looked as if he had been asked an idiotic question. That was the trouble with intellectuals. So fucking stupid.
"Why would I hear another word?" He took a long draw on the pint and did something with his eyes which made Gaddis want to deck him. "Presumably he was given a new identity. Presumably he enjoyed another ten years of happy life and died peacefully in his bed. Who knows?"
Two smokers, one coming in, one going out, pushed past their table. Gaddis was obliged to move a leg out of the way.
"And you never breathed a word about it? Nobody asked you any questions? Nobody apart from Charlotte has brought up this subject for over ten years?"
"You could say that, yeah."
Gaddis sensed a lie here, but knew there was no point pursuing it. Somers was the type who shut down once you caught him in a contradiction. He said: "And did Crane talk? What kind of man was he? What did he look like?"
Somers laughed. "You don't do this very often, do you, Professor?"
It was true. Sam Gaddis didn't often meet male nurses in pubs on the outskirts of London and try to extract information about seventy-six-year-old diplomats whose deaths had been faked by men who paid out twenty grand in return for a lifetime of silence. He was divorced and forty-three. He was a senior lecturer in Russian History at University College London. His normal beat was Pushkin, Stalin, Gorbachev. Nevertheless, that remark took him to the edge of his patience and he said: "And how often do you do it, Calvin?" just so that Somers knew where he stood.
The reply did the trick. A little frown of panic appeared in the gap between Somers's eyes which he tried, without success, to force away. The nurse sought refuge in some peanuts and got salt on his fingers as he wrestled with the packet.
"Look," he said, "Crane didn't speak at all. Before he was admitted, they'd given him a mild anaesthetic which had rendered him unconscious. He had grey hair, shaved to look like he'd undergone chemotherapy, but his skin was too healthy for a man supposedly in his condition. He probably weighed about seventy kilos, between five foot ten and six foot. I never saw his eyes, on account of the fact they were always closed. That good enough for you?"
Gaddis didn't answer immediately. He didn't need to. He let the silence speak for him. "And Henderson?"
"What about him?"
"What kind of man was he? What did he look like? All you've told me so far is that he wore a long black overcoat and sounded like somebody doing a bad impression of David Niven."
Somers turned his head and stared at the far corner of the room.
"Charlotte never told you?"
"Told me what?"
Somers blinked rapidly and said: "Pass me that newspaper."
There was a damp, discarded copy of The Times lying in a trickle of beer on the next-door table. A black girl listening to a pink iPod smiled her assent when Gaddis asked if he could take it. He straightened it out and handed the newspaper across the table.
"You've heard of the Leighton Inquiry?" Somers asked.
Leighton was a judicial inquiry into an aspect of government policy relating to the war in Afghanistan. Gaddis had heard of it. He had read the op-eds, caught the reports on Channel Four News.
Excerpted from The Trinity Six by Charles Cumming. Copyright © 2011 by Charles Cumming. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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