have been able to see through her husband, so why did she put up with him? What did she get from the relationship? Stability? Money? No, something else. That’s the key to this.’
‘Funny,’ said May.
‘Nothing. I thought you’d be in here trying to work out how he did it. You know, the mechanics. The nuts and bolts. More up your street than people.’
‘Don’t be so rude. I hate to see promising lives ruined. As it happens, I know how it was done.’
‘Most certainly. And I think I want to handle the last part by myself.’
‘I don’t understand you, Arthur.’
‘I want to do the right thing for her. You can see that, can’t you? I don’t anticipate a problem, but it might be better if you stayed within reach of your mobile. I’m not going very far.’ With that he rose stiffly, jammed on his squashed trilby and burrowed into his old tweed overcoat. May watched him go, flummoxed.
‘What’s up with the old man?’ asked Banbury as he passed.
‘You know how possessive some people are with their books?’ said May. ‘Arthur’s like that with crimes. Sometimes I think I hardly know him at all.’
Bryant pushed open the wire-glass door of the Rajasthan Palace and seated himself by the window. An impossibly thin, hollow-eyed waiter who looked as though he’d not slept well since Gandhi’s death approached and placed a red plastic menu before him.
‘I’ll just have a hot, very sweet
,’ said Bryant. ‘But you can send Mr Bhatnagar out to me. I know he’s there, I just saw him peep through the curtain.’
Moments later the portly little manager appeared from behind the counter and made his way over to the table, bouncing on the balls of his feet. ‘Mr Bryant,’ he said, ‘what a pleasure to see you again, so very soon.’
‘You may not think so in a minute.’ Bryant gestured at the seat opposite. Mr Bhatnagar’s smile showed sudden strain, and he remained standing. ‘Mrs Kastopolis,’ said Bryant. ‘She ate at the Bhaji Fort last night. Your boy Raj saw her, didn’t he? More to the point, he overheard her. Who did he tell you she was with?’
‘Raj is a good boy,’ said Mr Bhatnagar anxiously. ‘Mrs Kastopolis was with another lady, a friend, that’s all, not somebody my boy knew.’
‘Then why did he bother to call you?’ asked Bryant. ‘I’ll tell you why.’ And he proceeded to do so. By the time he had finished, Mr Bhatnagar had visibly diminished. His mouth opened and closed, but no sound came out. Finally, he sat and dropped his head in his hands, not caring about his staff, who were nervously peering out at him from their counter. Mr Bhatnagar realized that his eagerness to please had finally been the undoing of him, and wept.
‘I thought you didn’t like the fresh air,’ said May, slapping his leather-clad hands together in an effort to keep warm. His breath condensed in dragon-clouds as he looked down from the pinnacle of Primrose Hill over the frost-sheened rooftops of London.
‘I don’t,’ said Bryant, dislodging the snow from his trilby by violently beating it. ‘But it’s windy today, and I wanted you to see this. How it was done.’ He pointed to the far edge of the hill, where several young Indian men were standing. May followed his partner’s extended index finger up to the burnished winter sky. ‘Can you see them now?’ he asked.
Overhead, half a dozen diamonds of indigo and maroon silk soared and swooped around each other like exotic fish fighting for food. ‘Kite-flying is a very popular pastime in Rajasthan. But it’s far from a gentle sport. It’s a matter of kill or be killed, and sometimes huge bets ride on the outcome. The idea is to destroy your enemies by bringing them down. The only way to do that is by severing their strings. So the kite-warriors coat their cords with a paste of boiled rice mixed with glass dust. It makes them as sharp as any cut-throat razor. And they can control the lines