Sunday, 23 March 1969, Hampshire
As I edged the car onto the gravel, the front door of the house swung open and Chief's steely grey eyes stared down at me.
'What the hell took you so long?' he hissed as I made my way up the steps. But before I could answer, he had turned on his heels.
I followed the sound of his slippers gently slapping against the floorboards, down the dark oak-lined corridor. I knew from years of working for him that the best thing to do when he was in this sort of mood was not to react - his gruff tone usually gave way quite quickly, and more often than not he ended our sessions treating me like the son he'd never had. So I resisted the temptation to tell him I had driven up in record time, and instead hung my coat on one of the hooks in the hallway. Then I walked into the living room and seated myself in the nearest armchair.
It had been a while since I'd last visited Chief out here, but little had changed. There were a couple of porcelain birds I didn't remember, and a new bois clair bookcase that looked similar to the one he had in his office. But the framed photographs on the piano, the portrait of his father above the mantelpiece and the golf bag propped against the fireplace were all still in place. A selection of books and papers were spread across a garish Turkish carpet at the foot of one of the armchairs, and a sideboard within easy reach was home to a telephone, an inkwell and what looked like a half-eaten egg sandwich. He still hadn't learned to cook since Joan's death, it seemed.
I imagined him nibbling the sandwich as he had barked down the telephone at me less than two hours earlier. He had refused to give any hints as to what he wanted to discuss, and I was naturally intrigued. What could be so urgent that it couldn't wait for tomorrow's nine o'clock meeting? One possibility that had nagged at me all the way from London was that he had somehow found out I was seeing Vanessa and was so furious he wanted to sack me on the spot.
I thought back over the day. Had I been careless somewhere? We had visited a small art gallery in Hampstead in the morning but there hadn't been another soul in the place apart from the owner, and after that we had spent the entire afternoon at her flat, pushing the sheets to the bottom of the bed. Then I'd headed to mine for a quick shave and change of clothes. We had arranged to meet at Ronnie Scott's at midnight: there was a hot young group from the States she wanted to see. But then the call had come through, with the request to come and see him at my 'earliest convenience'.
It wasn't convenient at all, of course. Vanessa and I rarely had a whole weekend together, and it had taken careful planning - perhaps not careful enough, though.Read on here.