After the Sheriff left, Nathan sat down, thinking about the encounter. Although he tried to act the part of a small town country boy cop, Nathan could see that the Sheriff was no fool. Casual though it had seemed, the man's eyes were everywhere, observed by Nathan without comment. The Sheriff's gaze had been weighing up everything he could see from Nathan's new looking clothes to the plainly new fishing tackle that lay on the sun deck. He may have simply assumed that like many people who take a summer vacation, Nathan had taken the time and trouble to buy himself some new summer outfits, but equally he may have reached the conclusion that Nathan was simply setting a stage. Nathan claimed to be a writer, but there was no typewriter that the Sheriff could see. Personal Computers and Word Processors were increasingly making typewriters obsolete, but there was neither of those. There were no papers in evidence of any kind to suggest scribbled random thoughts of an author struggling for a beginning. The Sheriff also noted that the cabin, as far as he could see, was very tidy and well ordered, no stacked magazines, no piles of books that an author might use as reference, not even a pencil laying around. In short, if Nathan really was an author he had a damn funny way of writing a book and if he simply had the ‘idea block' that he claimed, he showed no way that he was going to start work when inspiration struck him. It looked more to the Sheriff that he had found a man who was simply marking time, whiling away a few months in the serene solitude of Maine. Nathan King had seemed a nice enough fellow, a touch nervous but then most people are when speaking to The Law. Was he just resting, or was he hiding from something?
Nathan waited another week so that it did not seem that he was ‘making a run', and then, as casually as he could, called the Sheriff's office on a Saturday night. He deliberately called in the late evening because he had already found out that the office kept office hours - even if the Sheriff did not. Speaking into the answer machine, Nathan told the Sheriff that he had at last come up with a plot and needed to be in Europe right away. He purposely did not say exactly where he was going, but hoped that be leaving the message he would be showing the Sheriff that he was indeed the writer he claimed to be, and that he was co-operating just as he had been asked. By the time the Sheriff got the message on the following Monday, Nathan was long gone. So far, the Sheriff had been unable to find a single book written by a ‘Nathan King', having asked at the town library if they could get him a listing of the man's works, in fact the nearest he had got to any kind of writing by a man of that name was a member of a British Rock band named ‘Level 42', and one thing he was sure about was that this Nathan King was no Brit.
As soon as he had recorded his message, Nathan packed away all the things he had purchased. Any canned food that he figured somebody else might use, he left along with the fishing tackle which he thought the next visitor might appreciate. He had been making regular trips to a Laundromat that he found on the edge of Portland and so most of the linen was washed and clean. He put all the perishable food in a plastic bag, ready to drop in the trashcan that was at the top of the track by the mailbox. Finally, he spent an hour or two cleaning and polishing inside the cabin and outside in the dark, on the sundeck. During his stay he had been most careful to restrict his use of the property so that when the time came to remove all traces of his stay, the task would be simpler. The only item that he overlooked was a hair drier in the bathroom which he wiped over carefully, and that was all he did to it. Dressed this time in his smart business suit, and taking great care not to get it dirty when he got into the boat, he made his last crossing to the mainland.
He drove his rented UTE back to the Mall where he returned to the Barber's shop. The Barber did not remember him at all, just another head, another chin. Nathan had been keeping his hair trimmed while on the island, but now he wanted it cut and styled again, as befits a high flying businessman. Once done, he drove on to Portland Airport, where he returned the truck. Now he faced a major problem. He had the best part of a million dollars. A large part of it was in one hundred dollar bills, and he had a thick wad of one thousand dollar traveller's cheques that he had amassed slowly over the past six months, buying a few here and there and travelling as far as Boston to spread his purchases around. Could he risk taking such a large sum out of the country ? He knew that his father often moved ten times that amount, but that had been in the corporate jet, when such questions are never asked - there is a certain privilege that gets attached to the kind of people that can flit around the world in their own jet aircraft. As he pondered the problem, the answer was simple. He had a million dollars, at least not far off that amount. It took a few inquiries and a few phone calls, and Nathan arranged for a Private Jet to fly him to London. His clothes were smart but hardly in the league of a man used to such luxuries. Fortunately, the charter company were not the least bit surprised to be paid by a few large denomination traveller's cheques, and Nathan explained away his wealth by saying he had just come across from Las Vegas where he won a few high rolling poker games. That brought a smile to the face of the man who accepted his booking, who said he liked a game now and then too, and one day he planned a trip to Vegas himself. Nathan wished him good luck. The one-way trip cost Nathan eight thousand dollars which he paid without so much as a blink.
The Sheriff arrived at his office in Camden, as he always did, at nine ‘o' clock on Monday morning. Nathan had been right to have some misgivings over the chat that they had shared. In the week that had passed, the Sheriff had not been idle, meeting and talking to many more people who had rented properties in the area, but his thoughts always came back to Nathan. His resources were very limited but he was able to request that Nathan be run through the vehicle license computer. When he unlocked his office he had two messages. One was the recorded message from Nathan, the other was a fax that detailed the ‘Nathan Kings' whose details were held on file. There were nine pictures in all - the Sheriff had provided a guessed age as well as hair colour and the fact that his suspect was Caucasian, to narrow the search. When he reached the fourth possible he knew without a shadow of a doubt that he was looking at the driver's license photograph of his man. There was one major problem; Nathan King of New Hampshire was dead, murdered back in 1991. ‘This was getting real interesting', thought the Sheriff.
Leaving his office, the Sheriff drove over to the Camden Chamber of Commerce. The keys to the cabin had been left in the ‘left keys box', as tenants were asked to do. He retrieved them and went back to the cabin. The boat was tied up by the jetty. A chain secured it, and more locks held the outboard in place. All the keys for these locks were on the key ring that the Sheriff held. Back inside the cabin he made a meticulous search. He found no trace of the last guest, the place was spotless. No letters left, nothing in the waste basket. No food left to rot in the cupboards, and he could smell that the place had been cleaned with Pine disinfectant - ‘it was probably cleaner than a hospital', the Sheriff mused. Feeling the call of nature he went into the bathroom, and while he stood there his eyes fell upon the hair dryer. He looked at the nozzle and there he found a clump of dark brown hair. Using the end of his pen, he picked the hairs out and placed them in a small plastic evidence bag that he carried in a shirt pocket.
It took another week for the results of the tests to be sent back, by mail, to Camden. The results did not surprise the Sheriff too much although the extra information that was appended, did. The hair had been matched by DNA analysis to a database at the Massachusetts General Hospital. It was definitely from the head of Nathan King, New Hampshire. The subject was registered as deceased which was just what the Sheriff expected. The addendum stated that following some research by a female Scottish student, the hospital had run its own test to confirm her findings, and agreed with her conclusion: Nathan King was not the biological son of Tyler and Caroline King, who were murdered at the same time as their son. However, the son's body had never been positively identified. "Well, well, well", said the Sheriff out loud, "Mister Nathan King ? Who are you ?", he mused and then, "Where are you ?".
The Sheriff had one serious flaw in that he could never let something go. Once it bugged him it began to eat away at him and he would pick at the problem like a dog with a bone, teasing it this way and that, trying to make sense out of it. This ‘Nathan King' was a real doozy. ‘Who the hell was he ? What was he up to ? Was he involved in Corey Young's murder, and if so how, and why ?' He decided to run another check on Corey. ‘What parameters should he set this time ?' After a while he decided to get a check made on homicides of people within five years of age of Corey, limit that to the last eighteen months, and as another factor he wanted to know of any victims who shared any one thing with Corey - it did not matter what it was, they might drive the same make of automobile, follow the same baseball team, play the same sport, have committed the same kind of crime, anything that might be a link. In a country that suffers over 16,000 murders a year, that was a lot of data to be sifted, and his request was way down the list of much more precise inquiries from law agencies throughout the United States, and it would be some time before he got a reply.
When the Gulfsteam landed at London's Heathrow airport, Nathan began to worry just a tiny bit. The aircraft was directed to its own hard standing area, and an airport car left the huge terminal building, stopping at the side of the plane as its steps were lowered. A uniformed customs officer came on board. He spoke briefly with the pilot and his co-pilot and then asked to see Nathan's passport. His experienced eyes told him that there was nothing untoward about the passenger, and he smiled as he returned the passport.
"Mr King, over here for the Christmas holiday Sir ?", said the officer.
"Yeah. Had a lucky run at Vegas and I have never been to England before", Nathan replied with a wide grin.
"Las Vegas eh ? Not many people come away with full pockets from that place, or so I hear ?"
"Some of us do", Nathan assured him, still smiling.
"So, are you planning to try our Casinos Sir ? We do have some in the City, but nothing like the kind of place you are used too, I am sure."
"Do you know, I might well do that", agreed Nathan nodding his head.
The Customs officer smiled "well do try to leave as many of your dollars with us as you can Sir".
Nathan laughed, "that ain't the way I try to play my game, but you never can tell. Lady luck can be a temperamental bitch at times".
"I'm not a gambling man Sir, but good luck just the same. Enjoy your stay".
"I most certainly intend to", Nathan answered, and the Customs officer left the aircraft.
‘Wow! It was that easy', thought Nathan, then the steward spoke to him. "Mr King ? If you would care for a drink Sir. Our driver will be her shortly to collect you. You may direct him to any Hotel in London, its all inclusive. I hope you enjoyed flying with us ?"
"Thank you, and yes I did. I'll just have a coffee please", Nathan replied and then he felt he just had to ask, "I am curious ? The customs guy ? How is that ? I could be carrying guns, drugs, whatever. I mean, what kind of check was that ?"
"If you don't mind my asking Sir, is this your first flight by Charter Jet ?"
"Well, yes as a matter of fact" Nathan lied easily, who could not remember the last flight he made that was not by Private Plane. In those days such mundane details as Customs clearance were handled by one of his father's aides - it never occurred to Nathan that such formalities were just simply taken care of.
"We do check our clients in the US first. Your bag has been x-rayed and tested for drugs, and then pre-cleared by US customs. Our company has a relationship with all the airports that we service so that our important clients can move freely with the minimum of fuss. Now if, by some freakish chance say, drugs or some other contraband were found on one of our aircraft, we would be out of business. No second chances. I assume you don't have a gun under you jacket Sir?", he said smiling.
"Oh no", Nathan replied, opening his jacket to emphasise his innocence, "I'm clean".
"Your car has arrived now Sir. Good luck at the tables."
"Thanks", said Nathan, getting up from his seat and leaving the aircraft. As he walked down the steps he saw his suitcase being placed in the trunk, only over here he reminded himself it was ‘the boot', of the car.
The car was in fact a stretch Mercedes limousine with all its windows tinted near black. It was the kind of vehicle that Nathan was very much used to travelling in, almost expected, and he climbed into the back without comment. The glass partition between him and the driver was down, and the driver asked him, "Where to Sir ?"
Nathan simply assumed that he could get a hotel whenever he liked, that was how things had worked before, back when his father was alive. He was done with slumming around the USA. ‘Nathan King was due to vanish in this country' he had decided, ‘so he might as well let him go out in style'. "The Dorchester", he instructed the driver, leaving the partition down. As the car set off Nathan said, "excuse me, but can you help me ? I will need to go to some part of London called ‘Brixton'. Is that near the Dorchester ?"
He could not see the grin that flashed across his driver's face, "are you sure you got that right Sir ?", he replied.
"Oh yeah. I have a zip code too, you call it a post code right ? I have SW2 1AZ", he recalled from another of those indelible images his brain collated and filed away.
"Yes Sir, that we do. Mind you I don't know them off the top of my head, but you say SW, which is south of the river, so it sounds like it could be Brixton. Are you really sure you want to go there ?"
"Well, yes. Can I get a cab from the Hotel ?"
The driver laughed briefly. "You could but I wouldn't if I were you. Let me explain. Have you ever been to London before ?"
Nathan recalled many visits in the past, the private jet, the limo. He had seen Buckingham Palace and the changing of the guard, The Tower of London and Tower Bridge, Trafalgar Square and Nelson's Column (which one wiseguy tried to sell to his father) - he had probably visited more famous landmarks than his driver. "Yeah, a few times", he answered.
"You ever been across the river Sir ?"
"I can't really remember, why, what's the big deal ?"
"Its a funny thing, London. One side, where you are going, loaded. Millionaires two a penny, then you cross that old river, its like another country in places. You ever been to New York ?"
"Hell yes. I know that city like home", Nathan replied wondering what the connection was.
"You do eh ? Been to Harlem ?"
"Harlem ? Why would I want to go there ?"
"Well Brixton is a bit like your Harlem. Of course we don't have as many guns out there as you lot do, but it still can be pretty nasty if you don't know your way around, and you Sir, well its like if you went to Harlem - you would sort of stick out, if you get me meaning ?"
"Oh right, yeah I see what you mean", said Nathan who thought he got the point.
"A smart looking man like yourself sir, nice watch too, Rolex ?"
"Yes, yes it is", answered Nathan, surprised that the driver had noticed it in the few seconds he could have seen it.
"American accent, rich. You might last as long as ten minutes if you take the wrong turning."
"That does cause me a problem and thanks for the information, but I really do need to err...check out some property there."
"It so happens Sir, that I can help you. My brother-in-law has his own cab. You'll be okay with him. I could get him to pick you up. You might like to get him to drive by wherever it is you want to go, before you decide to get out, which I don't advise dressed as you are and with all that gold hanging on your wrist. As you are Sir, you might as well stand there and shout, come and mug me!"
"Okay, thanks for the advice. Yeah, get your brother-n-law to pick me up."
As they made their way into the City, Nathan could see that London was ready for the coming Christmas. Strings of twinkling coloured lights and silvery decorations hung high in the streets and the shop windows. The driver drew up at The Dorchester on Park Lane, in the heart of London, and let Nathan out of the car. Even that haven to taste and style had allowed itself a small fir tree in the Foyer, decorated tastefully by some unknown designer. He followed Nathan into the hotel, carrying his suitcase. Nathan gave him a hundred dollar bill and said for him to send his brother-in-law around at ten ‘o' clock the next morning. The concierge looked up at Nathan and said in an oily voice, "good evening Sir. May I be of assistance ?"
"Yeah. I'd like a room", Nathan replied.
The concierge made no secret of looking Nathan up and down once, and decided that he would do, but only just. It was his watch that decided him, at least 15,000 pounds there even if the suit was, well just a tad common, hardly bespoke. "Does Sir have a reservation ?"
"No, I am afraid not. I used to stay here a lot and I was kinda hoping...?"
Did he really indeed, Hmm. "All our standard rooms are gone, but I do have a suite available. How long will Sir be staying with us ?"
"I am not to sure, I'd like to keep it open. Say a week to start with ?"
"Very good. Would Sir like to use a charge card, or account ?"
"Cash okay ?"
The concierge was taken aback by that, cash indeed, how very vulgar, "the ah...rate for the suite, if I could just point that out Sir, is one thousand pounds a night. I am afraid it is all we have."
"Okay", said Nathan peeling off eleven traveller's cheques, "I'll just authorise these for eleven thousand, and we'll see how it goes ?"
"Excellent Sir. I hope you enjoy your stay with us". He clicked his hands at a uniformed bellhop who came over and picked up Nathan's suitcase. As the bellhop went away, leading Nathan to his suite, the concierge watched them go with some amusement - his luggage, just the one piece, looked new but cheap. The whole man looked new, but cheap, except for that watch and that he never even flinched at the room rate, and that wad of traveller's cheques looked very thick indeed. ‘Oh well, we get all sorts in here these days', thought the concierge who looked up from his guest register to greet a famous (if ageing) Rock star who was staying there, ‘all sorts indeed' he thought with distaste that he found hard to disguise.
Nathan used the first day to try and switch over to the new time zone. He was cosseted in luxury and did not mind taking advantage of it. He ate in one of the restaurants which was a superb experience, but then he remembered, it always was. He would be sad to see Nathan King go, but he knew he had to lose him soon. That Sheriff back in Maine had been way sharper than he let on. If he stuck to his case in somehow traced him here, in London, he had to find a dead end so that anybody in the future might follow the same useless trail. The next day he awoke early, went for a run around Hyde Park, which his suite overlooked, and then took breakfast. At ten ‘o' clock he was waiting in the foyer lounge for his driver to arrive. The bellhop (whom he had tipped another hundred dollars the day before, thus securing a dedicated servant for the time he was there), informed him that there was a taxi waiting for him outside.
"Mister King?", said a cheery voice from a smiling face at the window of his black cab, the ubiquitous London Taxi that is as common as a Yellow Cab in New York.
"Yeah. I guess your brother-in-law must be the limo driver, huh ?"
"That's right guv'nor. Me name's Tony. You wanna go sarf of the river, yeah ?
"So I understand. I have an address in Brixton, Tony."
"Right you are mate. Best fing, is I drive you dahn there, past the place like, you give it a good butchers, suss it out like, see what you reckon ?"
"Excuse me ?", said Nathan, forgetting that the English say ‘pardon me' when they fail to understand something.
"A butchers. Butcher's hook - look. Easy innit? We'll go and have a look at your gaff first. If it looks cosher, well then you can get out. Better safe than sorry", and then Tony drove off. Nathan assumed that Tony also spoke English.
Tony headed straight for the Embankment, following it alongside the Thames until they reached Vauxhall Bridge where he turned right, crossing the river. The moment they crossed the bridge Nathan could see the dramatic change in the city. The cab made its way around the Oval cricket ground - a sport that Nathan had never been able to follow, and on along The Camberwell Road. There seemed to be dozens of tiny dirty shops, all squeezed in next to each other. From time to time they were punctuated with blocks of grimy looking apartments - flats as the Brits called them. Nathan saw lots of food outlets that offered Halal meat, Real Goat curry, soul food and Caribbean cooking. The side streets looked as though they were the secret entry to a hidden maze, which indeed they were. There were shops selling second-hand motor parts, exotic foodstuffs, and Punjabi silk. Like the expensive shops north of the river, the windows were decked out with tinsel and fake snow sprayed into the corners. Some had strings of tiny lights around the windows that flickered in different patterns. He could see many different races, but just as he had been told, a white face was rare and nobody looked to be very well off. There were a lot of BMW cars boasting new paint jobs and wide wheels with bass notes thumping from huge loudspeakers, and a smattering of Mercedes with chromed wheel arches and dark windows that made them look like the pimp carriers that they were. Nathan knew the smell of marijuana and could smell it in the air, could see people openly smoking their spliff in open defiance of the Police who ignored them as they wandered past, taking into their radio sets.
The cab turned off the main road and into one of those mysterious dark tributaries that fed the main thoroughfare. The houses looked as cramped as the shops had been, small houses lined up as if they were on a Monopoly board, that stretched along both sided of the street. Loud music blasted from some open windows, children played in the street. Two men were working on another BMW that was set up on piles of bricks at the side of the road. Tony made two more turns into similar roads, but here some of the houses were boarded over and the whole street seemed to be even less cared for than the others he had seen. Tony said, "when I turn next, we go past the place you want, it'll be on your right, so take a good look ‘cause I ain't stopping around here". They made the final turn into a street that was more or less completely derelict. Even the surface of the road was uneven, cracked and pot-holed. One side of the houses ended suddenly at the arches of a brick bridge over which ran a railway line. Some of the arches had doors across the front, creating crude workshops. " Second one in", said Tony when they neared the arches and Nathan looked out, noticing that the first arch was empty, and that there was an old mattress and some supermarket trolleys that had been dumped inside.
For the drive-by Nathan engaged that unique talent he had. He could have done no better job with a movie camera. Frame after frame stored in his mind. Some he would discard, others he could keep forever, if that is what he wanted. Nathan could just see inside one of the battered wooden doors, which was open. There was a very expensive looking Mercedes inside, but he noted even in that brief glimpse that the rear number plate was missing. The two men he saw were a surprise. He had been hoping to see one, but he saw both of them, click, click went the images into his memory. Both men were wearing overalls and appeared to be working on the Mercedes. Were they partners ? It seemed like it. Two for one ? Well that would be just fine. ‘Mason Wells and Leroy Quillan, I have you now' thought Nathan, a hazy plan already forming in his mind.
"Seen enough mate?", asked Tony, "or shall I go around again. Mind you, this lot around here ain't stupid. They may take more notice if we go back a second time".
"No Tony, that's fine. I've seen all I need for now. Take me back to the Hotel please".
"Well I did warn yer. I do ‘ope you ain't come all this way for fuck all."
"No need to worry there Tony. I have seen all that I needed to know".
"If you need to go anywhere else, here's me number. Give us a bell", said Tony passing his business card to Nathan.
"Excuse me, a bell ?"
"On the phone. Call me. Ring me bell."
"Oh yeah, right. I may need you later. Thanks".
"No need to thank me mate. Its me living and I ain't told you how much your little tour just cost you", he laughed back at Nathan.
Nathan spent the rest of the week that he had paid for, at The Dorchester. When his week ended he thought that after this job, it really must be the end of Nathan King. He had put a lot of thought into both problems. During the week he had found his own way around London, exploring by bus and on foot. Along the way he had gathered clothes from charity shops and a soft sports bag. He found a Camping Store in the Tottenham Court Road in which he bought a very reasonable version of a combat knife, so that now he at least had one weapon to hand. He also purchased a small camping stove and two spare gas cans, and a few other small camping items. When he checked out, he left his suitcase packed with his new clothes in a wardrobe in his suite. When the hotel found it they would store it a while and then eventually they would dispose of it. He carried his Rolex, wrapped in a sock, in his carry bag. Upon leaving the hotel he looked more like the janitor than a man who had just paid cash for a week long stay in one of the best hotel suites in London.