The telephone buzzed.
Teased out of his dream, Amos stretched out an arm and lifted the receiver. He placed the plastic implement on the table, then turned his body to the warmth of his wife, who was stirring under the sheets.
An hour later, the alarm clock crowed. Without thinking, Amos thumbed the snooze button. When the clock crowed again, he sat up in bed, turned it off and slipped the phone’s receiver back into its cradle. At once, it buzzed. This time Amos picked up the receiver and waited. His free hand caressed the indentation his wife’s head had left in her pillow.
A once-familiar voice slipped into his ear.
“Amos, Inspector. Or should I call you Jack now?”
“Please do. It’s been a while.”
“I’m sure I’ll recognise your voice just as easily in another three years’ time.”
“Amos, I regret having to say this, but we need you. Amos? Did you read those files I sent?”
“I read them but I didn’t enjoy them. I prefer fiction these days.”
“Amos, a case like this … frankly, it’s beyond us. It may be beyond you, too, but you’re our best chance of stopping a repeat of what happened. You can name your own terms for this one, Amos.”
“Jack, don’t ring me again. I’m going on a fishing trip. You won’t find me.”
Amos left the phone off the hook and embraced the new day.
With the help of the old man who looked after it for him, Amos pushed the boat into the calm water. He heaved himself over the gunwale, stowed his fishing tackle more carefully, set the oars, and rowed out into the lagoon.
When his muscles told him that they had woken up, he stopped to cream his exposed skin ready for the rising sun. As he rinsed his hands, his mobile phone vibrated against his thigh. He pulled it out of his shorts pocket and accepted the call.
“Amos Laxenby, my name is Vincent Thannington. I work for Her Majesty’s Government. You remember the files Jack sent you, I’m sure. Well, there have been further developments in the case. Most unwelcome developments.”
“And you need my help.”
“We are counting on you.”
“Sorry. No can do. I’m fishing.”
“Mr Laxenby, you don’t seem to appreciate the urgency of the matter.”
“Why are you talking to me, not to someone from Jack’s crowd?”
“We believe there may be an international angle to the case. You have more contacts, longer experience and deeper knowledge.”
“Sorry. As I said, I’ve retired.”
“Mr Laxenby, your country needs you.”
“Mr Government, my family needs me more. And I need peace and quiet.”
Amos closed the phone and bowled it like a googly into the lagoon. He heard its light splash and watched its ripple weaken. The sky was still unlit. He turned his attention to starting the boat’s small outboard motor.
I walked into his house. There was no need to knock. I’d sent his wife out shopping earlier. The house was clean but it felt lived in. I rummaged through his music collection for a CD I could bear to listen to.
When Amos walked in, Django’s guitar work was nodding my head. I smiled at Amos’s expression but my fingers gripped the glass of his bourbon more firmly.
“Who the hell are you?”
“I’m Bryan Murphy.”
“Let me guess. New York City Chief of Police?”
I shook my head.
“An IRA enforcer?”
I forced a laugh.
“No, Amos. I’m your author.”
“Oh, I see. Getting heavy, now, are we?”
“Not at all. Just tell me, please, why you’re not cooperating.”
“Like I told those chaps, I’ve retired.”
“That’s what you told them. But me? Why aren’t you cooperating with me?”
“Look, I’ve become an ageing family man who likes nothing better than pottering about on boats. That’s just how I like things.”
“Amos, really? I can give you a posher house, a bigger boat, a younger wife. Don’t look at me like that. I’ve always looked after you, haven’t I?”
“Bloody hell, you’ve put me through some rough times.”
“But I’ve got you out of every scrape, haven’t I?”
“In your own twisted way, I suppose you have.”
Amos limped to the sideboard and poured himself a tumbler of Bushmills. No ice.
“I don’t have to do that, Amos. I can always have you flayed alive, roasted, or forced to watch while your grandchildren – ”
“But you wouldn’t, would you?”
“I probably would not. However, I certainly could. Your life is in my hands.”
“In your head, not your hands. And since I’m no longer cooperating, it’s going to stay there. Suits me.”
We stared at each other, neither of us blinking.
Bryan Murphy did his share of fishing in Portugal and Angola. Nowadays, he is more of an indoor guy. He welcomes visitors to his website at www.bryanmurphy.eu and you can find more of his fiction at viewAuthor.at/BryMu His second novel will be out this year. It is full length.