Meet the New Supporting Cast
Ewen Bremmer as ROGER TEMPLETON
Wai Chin Ho as SHARON TAN
Phil Davis as DR. LEVINE
Sophie Okenodo as D.I. OLIVIA AGBAJE
Thanks so much for checking out THE LEUCROCOTTA! If you stumbled here by chance, please check out THE MURALIST, and THE INSPECTOR the first two book in the series. None of this will make sense unless you've read them!
To readers of THE MURALIST and THE INSPECTOR, thanks for sticking with me!
IN THE KITCHEN OF THE HOME OF MARK REED.
The table was piled high with perishables. The refrigerator had been emptied, and Branford had donned rubber gloves and was cleaning it aggressively. He stood at attention when he heard the front door open and close. A woman’s voice called out, “Mark?” Vanessa entered the kitchen and jumped in surprise when she saw Branford. “Who are you?” she asked warily.
“I'm Branford, ma'am,” Branford replied pleasantly.
“What are you doing in my house?” Vanessa demanded.
“I'm cleaning the refrigerator, ma'am?” Branford replied.
“Why?” Vanessa asked.
“Because it needs cleaning, ma'am.”
Vanessa looked around at the nearly spotless kitchen and concluded Branford must be part of a cleaning service Mark had hired in. “When you're done, you can help me upstairs,” Vanessa informed him.
When Branford replied, his voice remained unwaveringly polite, but it had cooled considerably. “I'm afraid while I'm in this domicile, I take my instructions from Detective Inspector Reed, ma'am.”
Vanessa wore Mark’s rejection like a smarting sunburn and Branford’s deliberate slight stung. “That bastard told you to ignore me if I came 'round, didn't he?” she asked, her voice beginning to rise.
“I'm afraid he didn't mention you at all, ma'am,” Branford replied.
It was the truth, and Vanessa knew it as soon as the words left his mouth. “Well, I'm his wife,” she blustered.
“Yes, ma'am,” Branford replied, his face remaining impassive.
“And I need help upstairs,” Vanessa reiterated.
“So you've said, ma'am,” Branford replied. Deciding it was best to end the impasse, he suggested, “Perhaps you should phone a friend.” Vanessa stormed out and stomped up the stairs loudly. Branford would have been damned before he let Master Cormac’s happiness be compromised, and the detective made him happy. If he had to needle the estranged spouse a bit and pour some salt into her sore wounds, so be it. It was cruel but necessary. He nodded to himself then went back to scrubbing the fridge.
Mark was driving to work, and Cormac was in the passenger seat beaming and trying not to fidget. He looked over his shoulder and saw Calpurnia and the nest of iridescent snakes resting on the back seat. “You drive very competently,” he complimented Mark.
“Thank you,” Mark replied with a smile.
“Will you teach me?” Cormac asked.
“To drive?” Mark asked.
“Yes,” Cormac replied.
Mark was uncertain when he answered. It was beginning to worry him just how much he wanted to please Cormac, but he had legitimate concerns. “I'm not sure what the rules about that are for someone who... for someone with your condition.” Cormac’s face collapsed in disappointment, and Mark’s hand tightened on the steering wheel. “I know it doesn't seem fair,” he explained. “But what if you get distracted by one of your hallucinations? You're very responsible, Cormac. Surely you can see the problem, the risk to the other drivers.”
“I suppose I do,” Cormac admitted. “My mind does tend to wander. I don't think I'd be a very good driver.”
“If we go back out to the country, I'll give you some lessons,” Mark promised. “But only where no one else could get hurt. All right?”
“All right,” Cormac said, his bright smile returning to Mark’s relief. “You're very good at finding compromises.”
“I am, aren't I?” Mark replied, smiling back.
The men sat in silence for a few minutes while Mark expertly negotiated the morning traffic. “Are you going to tell me what's the matter?” Cormac finally asked.
Mark had been hoping to hold him off until everyone else had gathered. “When we get to my office, we’ll talk everything through,” he told Cormac. “I called Minnie, and she and your Mum will meet us there.” Mark paused. “I think Dr. Levine should come as well.”
Cormac began to panic. “Mark, what's going on?”
“The enquiry's progressed,” Mark replied, keeping his voice even and calm. “And there are certain things I need to discuss with you – as a potential witness, not as a friend. We've been stretching the rules to their breaking limit, Cormac. You brought your butler over to make me a ‘your marriage is over; buck up’ breakfast.” He glanced over, and Cormac’s stricken face was like a blow to the chest. He pivoted quickly. “I'm glad you came,” he said. “I am. But it's made it so we have to keep your involvement in the enquiry as above-board as possible. Because of your illness, you need an appropriate adult to be with you when we talk on the record. Minnie will do that.” Mark chose his remaining words carefully. “You might find some of what we have to discuss very upsetting. That's why your Mum, Minnie and I will be there and why we want Dr. Levine to be there. We want you to have all the support you might need.”
“I won't take any medicine!” Cormac shouted. “I won't!”
“Cormac,” Mark said soothingly. “We all know you don't want to, and we respect your decision.” Thankfully, they came to a stop at a light, and he turned to Cormac and asked, “Do you trust me?”
“Of course I do,” Cormac replied without hesitation.
“I won't let Dr. Levine give you anything unless I genuinely think you might seriously hurt yourself or someone else, all right?” Mark told him. “I'll stop him by force if I have to, Cormac,” he promised. “All right?” he asked, taking Cormac’s hand and giving it a quick squeeze.
“All right,” Cormac replied, threading his fingers between Mark’s. The men sat quietly until the light changed, and Mark reluctantly disentangled their hands and put the car back in gear.
NOT MUCH LATER, AT MARK’S PLACE OF WORK.
Cormac was pressed to Mark's side, nervous and skittish. Mark saw the bland open plan office he walked through every morning. Cormac saw a dark forest that had a distinctly sinister character. The desks were mounds atop burrows, and there were wild animals, some of them predators with winking eyes, lurking everywhere. He and Mark were surrounded. The noise of the officers working sounded like shrieking madness. Cormac closed his eyes, covered his ears and began to whimper in distress. Mark put his arm around his shoulders and guided him along. His co-workers stopped to stare.
“It's all right, Cormac,” Mark whispered. “It's all right. I know there are too many people.” Mark felt horribly at sea. He’d misjudged matters badly and wasn’t sure how to proceed. “I'm sorry,” he kept repeating. He couldn’t bear Cormac suffering, couldn’t bear the judgemental stares. “I'm taking you to my office. Just hold on for a little while longer.” It seemed to take an eternity for them to cross the bullpen and make it to his office. Mark guided Cormac inside and down on to the couch. He closed the door behind them and shut the blinds to the windows that looked out to the bullpen. Cormac was breathing heavily and rocking back and forth. His eyes remained closed, and his hands still covered his ears.
Mark was frightened and unsure he could break Cormac out of what seemed to be creeping catatonia. “Cormac?” Mark asked quietly. Cormac didn’t respond. “It's Mark,” he continued gently. He reached out a hand to touch his friend but aborted the gesture, not wanting to startle him. “I'm going to sit down next to you, all right?” No response came from Cormac. Mark sat next to him. “We're alone in my office, Cormac. It's safe to open your eyes.”
Cormac opened his eyes, and Mark breathed a sigh of relief. He and Mark were sitting together on a grassy hillock that looked out onto a peaceful plain. Mark was wearing his white robes as well as his crown of red roses. The golden light surrounded him, and Cormac huddled closer to its warmth. Calpurnia was sitting nearby watching Cormac with her head cocked to one side. Cormac supposed it was a gesture of concern. The iridescent snakes slithered around lazily, seeming unbothered. Cormac uncovered his ears and was greeted with the sound of a rushing wind.
“Better?” Mark asked with a smile. Cormac nodded. “Maybe this was a bad idea,” Mark confessed. “There's too much stimuli here. I didn't think things through properly. I'm sorry.”
There was a knock at the door, and Paul entered. “I just wanted to make sure everything was all right,” he said. To Cormac he was a large pig dressed in a mediocre suit, standing on his hind legs and speaking. Cormac grabbed Mark's hand in both of his own, and Paul looked at the intimate gesture in surprise.
“Everything's fine,” Mark reassured Cormac, and Cormac pressed closer to his side. “It's all right, Cormac. This is my friend, Paul. Paul, this is Cormac Pullman. Cormac doesn't like lots of people around,” Mark explained to Paul. “The bullpen was a bit much for him.”
“Is he really your friend?” Cormac asked Mark suspiciously.
“Yes,” Mark replied.
“And you trust him?” Cormac asked.
“Yes,” Mark replied. “You don't have to be frightened of him. What do you see when you look at him? Whisper it to me.” Cormac whispered directly into Mark's ear, and Mark chuckled. “They're very intelligent animals, you know. It's good that you can see that about him.” Cormac relaxed and looked up at Pig Paul and gave him a wan smile. Paul smiled back uncertainly.
“I'll be out in a minute, Paul,” Mark informed him. Paul looked over the odd scene once more, shook his head a bit and left.
“I think you need a kip,” Mark told Cormac. He rose from the couch and Cormac swung his legs up. Mark rooted around until he found a discarded sweatshirt. He rolled it into a pillow and put it under Cormac's head. He shrugged out of his mackintosh and covered Cormac with it. He had the mad urge to smooth Cormac’s hair back and kiss his forehead, but he resisted. “Just rest,” he said instead. “I have to speak to some of the other officers, all right?” Cormac nodded and inhaled Mark’s earthy scent from the neck of his coat. “If you get bored you should be able to find some pens and paper to draw with,” Mark told him. He looked over at all the paperwork piled up on his desk then warned, “Don't look in the file folders.” He saw Cormac's curious interest pique and had to hide a smile. “I'm serious, Cormac,” he said. “Some of the photos are very, very upsetting, and you've already had such a difficult morning. Promise me you won't look.”
“I promise,” Cormac replied, and Mark knew he could trust his word. “Do you have to leave now?” Cormac asked, and the slightly forlorn note that had crept into his voice made Mark seriously consider just bonking off work and heading back home with Cormac.
“Yes,” Mark replied. “But I'll be back soon. And your Mum and Minnie should be here any minute. All right?”
Mark gave Cormac's shoulder a comforting squeeze. He grabbed a piece of paper, scribbled on it and pulled a piece of sello tape out of the dispenser. He left the office, closed the door behind him quietly, and taped his hastily made "DO NOT DISTURB" sign to his door. Paul was waiting for him. “Will he be all right?” he asked Mark.
“I think so,” Mark replied. “I should have brought Branford with us,” he chastised himself. “But he couldn't seem to stop himself cleaning everything in sight.”
Paul wrinkled his brow and asked, “Who's Branford?”
Mark replied, “The butler.”
Paul stared, uncertain of how to respond. Had he ever even seen a butler outside of a BBC costume drama? He’d thought all of that would have fallen out of fashion by now, and he found it anachronistic and slightly weird. The Pullman boy was weird too. “What kind of animal did he say I was?” he asked.
“A pig,” Mark answered having to stop his lips twitching in humour. Paul’s face took on a slightly offended moue, and he self-consciously adjusted his paunch. Mark had to stifle a laugh, when he continued, “They're very intelligent animals, you know?” Paul frowned, and Mark laughed outright. Mark checked his watch. He was running late. “Shit,” he exclaimed. “I've got to go. Team meeting.” He rushed off to the incident room.
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IN THE CAROL OGILVY INCIDENT ROOM, DETECTIVE SERGEANTS PIKE AND JACOBSON WERE HAVING AN UNHOLY ROW.
Mark's team was gathered waiting for him, and in the gap left by his absence, the larger schism in his team had become visible. “Don't think that because you just made Detective Sergeant you can give me cheek and I'll take it,” Janet was shouting at D.S. Jacobson. “We may be the same rank, but I've got seniority. I was running the enquiry while D.I. Reed was ill, and the new information we've got is off the tipline, which I've been running.”
D.S. Jacobson was having none of it. “We got the image of Roger Templeton over your howling protestations. And now you want to take credit because someone called the tipline responding to evidence that never would have been gathered if you'd had your way. No one else will say it, so I will. We don't trust you, and we're not impressed by your seniority. If you want our respect, a dose of competence might do the trick, though.”
Janet and D.S. Jacobson were locked in a murderous stare-down. Lakshmi and Vernon looked on helplessly, well out of their depth. Janet was about to launch into another tirade when Mark entered and asked, “All right?” He’d heard the shouting in the hall and slipped in during the lull in the argument. He’d eventually have to sort through it all, but waiting until things had cooled down was always the best option. “Sorry I'm late,” Mark continued, smoothing over the tense moment as best as was possible. “Cormac Pullman has come in for his interview,” he informed his team. “He has special needs as you all know, and it took me longer than expected to get away. D.S. Pike has new information to share.” He turned to Janet and gave her the floor. “D.S. Pike.” Janet smirked at D.S. Jacobson and took centre stage.
“We've got an I.D. on the man on the CCTV footage,” Janet announced. “His name is Roger Templeton. He works at a counselling centre and outpatient clinic where some of the psychology students at the university volunteer. Carol was one of the volunteers, so that's likely how she knew him. He was also employed at Emerson Psychiatric Clinic at the time Helena Reed was assaulted. I've just got off the phone to the counselling centre, and he left his shift early yesterday claiming illness. It seems he saw the news reports. I sent uniformed constables out to his home to knock on the door. There's no answer. We'll need to see about a warrant to do a search.”
“Good work,” Mark complimented her. “Any other updates?” he asked. “D.C. Vernon?”
“I followed up with the boyfriend about the two condoms,” Vernon reported. “He said they only used one. He can't remember the brand, but it's the one they give out free on campus. I've got a message into the campus health centre about what brand they use.”
“Any other hits connecting Emerson Clinic and Carol Ogilvy besides Roger Templeton?” Mark asked the group. When no reply was forthcoming, he advised, “Let's not put all our eggs in one basket, all right?” They nodded in response. “D.S. Jacobson?” he asked. “Anything to report?”
“Lakshmi and I tracked Carol Ogilvy and Roger Templeton to the university film department,” she replied. “I checked their website, and there's a small theatre. They're doing a Hitchcock series this term. They were playing Psycho that night.”
Mark wrinkled his nose and pulled his lips back into a disbelieving frown. “Well, that's a bit on the nose, isn't it?” he observed. “Follow up with Carol's friends to see if she'd mentioned going to see the film, or if there was any other reason for her to be at the film department. D.S. Pike, get the paperwork for the warrant started. Lakshmi, check to see if the files from Kent are on the way. Vernon, have some recording equipment sent over to my office. I'll interview Mr. Pullman there. Jacobson and Lakshmi, when you're done here, head over to the counselling centre and talk to Templeton's co-workers.” His orders given, Mark thought a bit of praise was in order. “Excellent work, everyone,” he closed.
Mark exited the incident room, anxious to look in on Cormac even though it had been only a few minutes. On his way back to his office, he was pleased to see that Cormac’s family had arrived. Minnie and Miriam were with a sallow man with an intelligent face and grey hair who Mark took to be Dr. Levine. The women’s elegant beauty had everyone straining to have a look, and the constable who had escorted them up seemed as if he seriously considered curtsying before taking his leave. Mark headed over to the group, smiling warmly. Minnie caught sight of him and greeted him fondly. “Mark,” she said.
“Minnie,” Mark replied, kissing her cheek. He turned to Miriam. “Mrs. Pullman,” he said more formally. “It's lovely to see you again.”
“Detective Inspector Reed,” Miriam replied, shaking his hand. “It's lovely to see you as well. Although I wish it were under more pleasant circumstances.”
“And you must be Dr. Levine,” Mark said, turning to their companion and shaking his hand.
“Yes,” Dr. Levine replied. “Pleased to meet you.”
“How is Cormac?” Miriam asked. Concern rippled through her voice, and Mark supposed he couldn’t blame her. There was a tickle in the back of his mind even though he knew Cormac was resting peacefully.
“He's having a kip in my office,” Mark replied. “All the people milling about were a bit too much for him, but he's fine.”
“Did he really turn up to your house uninvited this morning?” Dr. Levine asked more pointedly than Mark thought was strictly necessary given the infancy of their acquaintance.
“Yes,” Mark replied. He sensed that trying to put any kind of a gloss on things would only serve to make matters worse in the doctor’s eyes.
“He's become fixated on you, Detective Inspector Reed,” Dr. Levine said seriously. “It won't do to encourage him.”
Minnie and Miriam exchanged a look. Dr. Levine had named their unspoken fear – that they were in denial, and Mark's effect on Cormac was the calm before a terrible storm.
“It was his way of being kind to me,” Mark told the doctor. “It's not what you or I, or most people would do, but I won't reject any truly felt kindness that is directed my way.”
“I know you mean well, Detective Inspector,” Dr. Levine replied, and Mark got the distinct impression he was being condescended to. He didn’t like it. “Love and kindness can't fix ill people's brains, only intensive treatment and proper medication can.”
“I appreciate that, Dr. Levine,” Mark responded politely. “I really do, but my work forces me to bear witness to every depredation the human mind can imagine: terror and filth and suffering that is beyond comprehension. And we here have to pick through the rubble and try and clean up the mess. Cormac's mind is… unusual, some would say damaged, but he would never deliberately hurt another living soul. Maybe you have to see what I do every day – the evil ordinary people, sane people are capable of – to understand just how much someone like him should be treasured and protected. Our professions create our biases, though, so I suppose we have to agree to disagree.”
Dr. Levine took in Miriam’s shimmering eyes and thought it was best not to press the matter any further. “I suppose we do,” he replied. “May I see my patient?” he asked.
“He's resting, isn't he Mark?” Minnie intervened. “Why don't we give him a few more minutes, Dr. Levine?”
“All right,” Dr. Levine acquiesced.
“May I interest any of you in our terrible coffee or tea?” Mark asked.
“Not much of a salesman are you?” Minnie replied with a smile.
“It depends what I'm selling,” Mark responded cheekily.
“I'll have a cup of tea if it's not too much trouble,” Miriam said.
“It's no trouble at all,” Mark replied. “Why don't you all follow me?”
A FEW MINUTES LATER IN THE KITCHENETTE.
Miriam, Minnie and Dr. Levine were sitting at the small table, Mark was preparing Miriam's tea. “How do you take it, Mrs. Pullman?” Mark asked.
“Just a bit of sugar,” Miriam replied. Mark added the sugar and handed Miriam her tea. “Thank you,” she said gratefully. She wrapped her hands around the mug and wondered why it was always absolutely frigid inside government buildings.
“Are you sure I can't tempt you, Minnie?” Mark asked. “Dr. Levine?”
“No, thank you,” Dr. Levine replied.
“I'm fine, thank you,” Minnie reiterated.
Mark joined them at the table, and the group sat awkwardly for several moments. No one was quite sure what to say.
“I was so very sorry to learn about your sister, Detective Inspector,” Miriam said, breaking the silence. “I can't tell you how it grieves me to think what you and your family must have gone through.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Pullman,” Mark said, trying to ignore the rising sound of the ocean rushing inside his head.
“I know how much you must want to find out who hurt her,” Miriam continued. “Thank you for not running roughshod over Cormac, for finding it in yourself to be patient with him.”
Mark smiled sadly. “He reminds me of Helena. I don't want to see him hurt either.” And Cormac could still be hurt, he realised, if things weren’t handled properly, if the right questions didn’t get asked. “Minnie mentioned that he was very agitated in the wake of Helena's attack. Can you remember anything he said or did at the time that was out of the ordinary? Not in line with his usual symptoms and hallucinations?”
“I wish I could,” Miriam replied. “I'm ashamed to say I took it all as nonsensical rantings – a deterioration. I thought that on some level he might be upset that a fellow patient had been hurt and that the fear must have triggered something inside him, but I never paid anything he said much mind.”
“But there was something about his behaviour that made you think he was frightened?” Mark pressed.
“Yes...” Miriam replied consideringly. “It was quite peculiar. The only time he wouldn't rant and rave was if he could find someplace dark and quiet to hide. He kept going missing, and the staff kept finding him in more and more obscure hiding places. Whenever they tried to remove him he would try and fight them off. They kept having to forcibly sedate him. My husband insisted that we move him. He didn't like the idea of Cormac being strapped down and kept in a stupor.”
“How was Cormac after he moved?” Mark asked.
“He kept up with the hiding at first, but we'd told them about it. I think they must have found some way to address it without setting him off because he was much calmer. I don't think they had to restrain him or sedate him.” Miriam set her tea down and twisted her fingers. She’d put much of the turmoil of those years away, and now it was all being disinterred along with something much more sinister. “Maybe it was just being away from the person who hurt your sister. That's what you think he saw, don't you? What was upsetting him?”
“That's my suspicion, yes,” Mark replied carefully. “But it's really only a theory. I could be wrong.”
“It never occurred to any of us...” Miriam said, feeling incalculably stupid. “It all seems so obvious now. And whoever it was has been running amok all these years because we were all so blind.”
“Please don't blame yourself, Mrs. Pullman,” Mark tried to reassure her. “As I've said, it's just a hunch. And Cormac sees things that aren't there. You can't fault yourself for not being able to parse out what made sense when he was becoming violent when challenged. And twelve years ago he must have only recently been diagnosed.”
“It had been less than a year,” Miriam replied.
“That was no time at all, Mrs. Pullman,” Mark said. “No time at all to begin to understand the ways he'd changed. You mustn't blame yourself.”
Miriam looked at him appraisingly. She didn’t like whatever was brewing between him and her son, but she had to admit somewhat begrudgingly, “You really are a lovely young man. Your parents must be so proud.”
Mark blushed a bit under her frank praise, and being called young was a pleasant surprise. He sensed her reticence, knew it was warranted, and he wanted to please her and win her over. His thoughts were interrupted by a sudden explosion of shouting and banging outside the room. “What the hell...?” Mark said, rising to his feet and bounding out of the room to investigate. Minnie followed uncertainly and poked her head around the corner.
“It's Cormac!” she exclaimed. She rushed out and Miriam followed. Dr. Levine fumbled for his bag and raced out after them.
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