The Tooth Tattoo (Peter Diamond Investigations)

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9781620649244: The Tooth Tattoo (Peter Diamond Investigations)

Peter Diamond, head of Bath CID, takes a city break in Vienna, where his favorite film, The Third Man, was set, but everything goes wrong, and his companion, Paloma, calls a halt to their relationship. Meanwhile, strange things are happening to jobbing musician Mel Farran, who finds himself scouted by methods closer to the spy world than the concert platform. The chance of joining a once-famous string quartet in a residency at Bath Spa University is too tempting for Mel to refuse. Then a body is found in the city canal, and the only clue to the dead womans identity is the tattoo of a music note on one of her teeth. For Diamond, who wouldnt know a Stradivarius from a French horn, the investigation is his most demanding ever. Three mysterious deaths need to be probed while his own personal life is in free fall.

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About the Author:

Peter Lovesey is the author of more than thirty highly praised mystery novels and has been awarded the CWA Gold and Silver Daggers and the Diamond Dagger for Lifetime Achievement, as well as many US honors. He lives in West Sussex, England.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter 1

SOUTHBANK, LONDON, 2005

Eleven-thirty at night, sweaty in his evening suit and shattered after a heavy night  playing Rachmaninov, Mel Farran plodded out of the artists' exit on the south side of
the Royal Festival Hall. Good thing his legs didn't need telling the way to Waterloo
station and the tube. He'd done it a thousand times. Rachmaninov was said to be the
ultimate romantic—miserable old git. The six foot scowl, as Stravinsky called him,
had been a pianist through and through. He worked the string section like galley
slaves to show off the joanna man, and Mel Farran was a viola-player, so thank you,
Sergei.
    The moon was up, spreading the shadow of Hungerford Bridge across the
paved square called Beacon Market Place.
    He was forced to stop. A young woman was blocking his path, one of those
situations where each takes a sideways step the same way. It happened twice and they
were still face to face.
    She said, 'Do you mind?'
    Mel took it as a statement of annoyance. He was annoyed, too, wanting to
move on, but what's to be gained from complaining?
    Then she surprised him by saying, 'Please.'
      How dense am I, he thought, not realising she always intended to stop me.
Something glossy and flimsy was being waved under his nose. The concert
programme. She was holding a pen in the other hand.
      Mel forced himself out of his stupor. She wants my autograph, for God's sake.
She can't have confused me with the pianist, else why does she think I'm carrying an
instrument case?
      Quick impression: she was the typical music student, bright-eyed, intense, dark
hair in a bunch tied with red velvet. It wasn't all that long since Mel had gone through
college himself, passionate about all things musical. He'd queued through the night for
the proms, cut back on cigarettes to buy the latest Nigel Kennedy, busked in Covent
Garden to pay for a trip to Bayreuth. But he'd never understood the point of
collecting autographs, still less the autographs of mere orchestra members.
      She pleaded with her eyes. Almond eyes. Nothing remarkable in that. Every
college has a large quota of students from the Far East.
      He succumbed. 'Are you sure it's me you want?'
      'Absolutely.'
      'I'm only one of the orchestra.'
      'Principal viola. You were wonderful.'
      'Get away.'
      'Truly.'
      Well.
      Maybe I was, he told himself, and his self-esteem got a lift. I'm good at what I
do and some people appreciate my playing, even when ninety-nine per cent are there
to hear the pianist. This well-informed young lady knows who I am, so I'd better sign
and be on my way.
      He tucked the fiddle under his arm to free his hands. 'Where are you from?'
      'Tokyo. Have you been there?'
      He shook his head. 'One day, maybe. Just my signature?'
      'Whatever you want to write.'
      That was a facer. At the end of a long concert he couldn't think of two words
together. 'May I make it personal and put your name?'
      Instead of the gasp of pleasure he was expecting, she curled her lip.
      He was thrown. Had he said something wrong?
      She gave a laugh - a throaty, mocking laugh, meant to hurt - and took a step
back. 'You don't know who I am, dumbo.'
      At the same time Mel felt a sharp, strong tug from behind. He flexed his arm.
Too late. His viola had been snatched.
      He swung round in time to see a young guy on a bike in baseball cap, T-shirt
and jeans pedalling away across the square. He was riding one-handed with Mel's
instrument case in his free hand. It was a set-up. He must have sneaked up behind
while Mel—shit-for-brains—was being soft-soaped by the girl. He'd been mugged.
      Life was unthinkable without that viola. It wasn't a Strad. It was not
particularly valuable, not even old in instrument-making terms, but it was Mel's voice,
his art, his constant companion, his living. You'd need to be a professional musician to
understand how he felt.
      Hell, he decided, I won't allow this.
      He was no athlete, but he started running. Later he realised he should have
chased the girl, who was clearly the accomplice. She would have been easier to catch
than a bloke on a bike. Instead all of Mel's focus was on his viola and the thief
himself, fast escaping along the side of the Festival Hall.
      The concert audience had long since dispersed. At that time of night people
were keen to get away. The great palaces of culture along the South Bank are locked,
impenetrable, but all around—for those who know—are places of refuge, arches,
stairwells and underpasses. The whole area becomes a haven for dossers and derelicts.
      Mel doubted that the thief was a down-and-out. For one thing, he'd grabbed
the fiddle, not his wallet. For another, he was working with the girl, who looked and
sounded Royal College of Music. And he was on an expensive-looking bike.
      Spurred by a degree of anger he didn't know he possessed, Mel kept up the
chase. The thief was faster, but one thing was in Mel's favour: they'd turned left
towards the Thames and he couldn't cycle across.
      No use shouting. There wasn't anyone else in sight. Taking increasingly
shallow gasps, Mel sprinted the length of the building as well as he could, resolved to
get the thief in sight again. He turned the corner by the main entrance, already in
darkness.
      The guy was there, up ahead.
      Mel's legs were heavier with each stride and a band of pain was tightening
across his chest. He was slowing, for all his strength of will. The buildings were a blur
when he started. Now he could see them clearly.
      But the thief would have a problem. The riverside walkway was at a higher
level and a set of about a dozen steps formed a barrier ahead of him. He'd need to
dismount. It wouldn't be easy carrying both bike and viola up there.
      Mel urged himself into another spurt.
      He was running in the space between the front of the Festival Hall and the
side of the Queen Elizabeth Hall. No one was around to help. It's me and him, Mel
thought. If I keep going I may catch up before he gets up those steps.
      The guy's head turned, checking, Mel guessed, whether he was still in pursuit.
      Then he surprised Mel by veering to the right just before the steps, straight
towards the QEH. What was he doing? Mel had been assuming the high wall was
solid concrete like the rest of the building.
      He appeared to cycle straight through and vanish.
      Disbelieving, in despair, at the limit of his strength, Mel staggered along the
remaining stretch and discovered how it had been done. There was a hidden ramp just
before the steps, obviously meant for wheelchair access. The thief must have skimmed
up there without breaking sweat.
      Suddenly he was back in view on the walkway, pedalling across Mel's line of
vision as if to mock him. But he stopped just to the right of the gated entrance to the
Festival Pier, still astride the bike, with his feet on the ground.
      He was up against the railing by the water's edge. He swung the viola case
back to get momentum. Jesus Christ, Mel thought, he's about to throw it over.
      'No!' he yelled. 'For God's sake, no.'
      He was powerless to stop it. The thief couldn't hear him this far off.
      There was a freeze-frame moment as if he was having second thoughts. Then
Mel's precious fiddle was hurled over the edge.
      Water is the worst enemy. No stringed instrument will survive immersion. The
canvas case wasn't waterproof. It would fill with filthy water. Whether it floated or
got dragged down was immaterial.
      To Mel, what had just happened was akin to murder. Anyone who has listened
to music, who has heard a violin or a viola sing, must know it has life. It's a unique
individual with the power to speak directly to the soul, to calm, heal, inspire, uplift the
spirit in ways beyond man's capability. Mel would defy anyone not to respond to the
purity of legato bowing, the eloquence of the flowing tone. Each instrument has its
own voice.
      He'd stopped running. His muscles were refusing to function, his brain
spinning between disbelief and panic.
      Why? What malice drives anyone to such an act?
      'Bastard!'
      Already the cyclist was moving off left. And now Mel saw he'd get clean
away, under the bridge and past the London Eye. All day there is a queue outside the
huge observation wheel. But the place closed at nine-thirty. Nobody would be there to
stop him at this hour.
      In reality his attention wasn't on the thief any longer. He could go. Mel wasn't
thinking about justice or revenge. He wanted the impossible: to put the last five
minutes into reverse and undo what had happened. Real life isn't like that.
      He'd got the shakes now. The shock was consuming him.
      He knew he should mount the steps and look over the edge. It was too late to
leap over and recover the poor, damaged thing. The only reason for jumping would be
suicide. He was almost of a mind to do it.
      He forced himself upwards, stiff-legged, still shaking, right up to the railing,
and peered over. It was too far down and too dark to spot anything floating there. All
the filth of the river spreads to the banks like scum in a sink. The black water caught
some ripples of reflected light from the ornate globe lamp-stand and that was all.
      Out in the middle there were lights. A small vessel was chugging past the pier
towards Waterloo Bridge. A police launch? No such luck. It was more like a
powerboat moving sedately because of the conditions. Too far out to hail.
      He heard water slurping against the embankment wall below him. The boat's
backwash had reached there. He stared down and saw nothing.

Hours later, in his flat, he drank coffee and replayed the scene in his mind. He'd
recalled it already for the police, given them such descriptions as he could - the
Japanese girl with the red scrunch, the guy on the bike, and his poor, benighted
instrument. The constable taking the statement hadn't understood his desolation. He
hadn't even promised to pursue the thieves. 'Look at it from our point of view,' he'd
said. 'Where would we start? I don't suppose they'll try it with anyone else.'
    Obviously they had conspired to rob Mel and it wasn't an opportunist crime.
There had been planning behind it. But what was the reason? Surely not malice alone?  
They don't know Mel, so why should they hate him? There was no profit in it. A
good, much valued instrument was lost and his livelihood put at risk. They couldn't
know if he had other violas.
    Senseless.
    Or was it? His memory retrieved an image, the powerboat he'd noticed out in
the middle of the river. Could it have come close enough for someone aboard to catch
the viola as it was slung over the railing? This would provide a cruel logic to what had
happened, a well organised plan to rob him.
      Now that the finality of his loss had come home to him, he was discovering
dark places in his psyche that he didn't know existed. He believed he could kill those
two if he met them again.
    Would he recognise the girl? He thought so. The light hadn't been good, but
he'd seen her up close. He could remember the eyes wide in appeal when they'd first
met, catching the light of the streetlamps, yet shot with scorn when she was sure he'd
been suckered. He had a clear, raw memory of how her mouth had opened to mock
him and most of all he could hear the cruel glissando of her laughter. Was he right in
thinking she had been a music student? If so, the mugging was even harder to
understand.
    Of her partner in crime he could recall only the clothes. He hadn't seen his
face.
    Did it matter any more? Did he want to hunt them down? He could search the
common rooms of all the music colleges in London and maybe find them, but he
wouldn't get his viola back.
    Anger didn't begin to describe his state of mind.
Chapter 2

VIENNA, 2012

'How much longer does it last?' Paloma Kean asked Peter Diamond.
    'Aren't you enjoying it?'
    'I'm trying not to breathe.'
    Diamond felt in his pocket and produced a tube of peppermints. 'The man
who thinks of everything.'
    'Thanks, but an oxygen mask would be better.'
    There are days when the Vienna sewer tour is more odorous than others. Wise
tourists take note of the humidity before booking. Diamond and Paloma, on their
weekend city break, had no choice, Saturday afternoon or nothing. It happened that
this Saturday in July was warm, with a thunderstorm threatening. Even Diamond had
noticed that the smell was not Chanel No. 5.
    'After this, you'll appreciate the Ferris wheel,' he told her.
    She was silent. She'd brought this on herself when reminding him that his
favourite film, The Third Man, was set in Vienna. At the time, she'd congratulated
herself for thinking of it. Otherwise they wouldn't have been here.
      The adventure had begun back in April with a scratch-card she had found on
the floor of his car. Diamond hadn't bothered to check it. He'd said they were giving

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