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San Quirico D’Orcia, Tuscany The telephoto lens that McLeod unscrewed from the Nikon was the same one he’d used to take the photo of the headless skeleton in Georgetown. He capped both ends and packed it in its own cloth bag, which he then put into the rucksack along with the rest of his equipment. He’d earned a fortune from that snap at Sarah Kearney’s grave and was eternally grateful for the anonymous tip-off that had sent him there ahead of the cops.

McLeod was a veteran hack, a freelance photo-journalist who made his money providing pictures and stories for the Crime Channel, Court TV, Crime Illustrated and all manner of other true-crime magazines and publications. He was well used to working alone, moving around secretly, acting on whispers here and tip-offs there. Mainly the tips came from cops, ambulance crews and a few villains themselves. Usually, ‘the source’ wanted some kind of kick-back at the end, but in the Kearney case there had been no demand for payment of any kind.

The fees he’d raked in from the Georgetown job had fired up his interest in the BRK case, and had got him thinking about what had happened to the cop who had quit the investigation after collapsing because of the strain of leading the murder hunt. McLeod had spent days researching the case, and had finally found the Kings’ whereabouts on a website about Tuscan cookery. Rising star chef Paolo Balze had been the subject of the feature and, fortunately for McLeod, he had magnanimously thanked his proprietors Jack and Nancy King. Well, the old hack was planning a feature of his own, and it wasn’t intended for the lifestyle section of some glossy magazine.

Jack King soaking up the good life in Tuscany, on a state pension, while his ex-colleagues have to deal with the desecration of a grave of one of the victims on whom he turned his back. This was great tabloid crime. Maybe a front-page splash in the National Enquirer, or a slide show of pics for Court TV. Only trouble was, King wasn’t there.

At first McLeod feared that the story might be dead, but then he patiently set his mind to things. If he was lucky, maybe the Kings had split up; perhaps there was an even better human drama story to tell. Cop that quit BRK case quits wife who stood by him!

Sprinkle the story with some shots of the lonely wife looking after a sad toddler because Daddy’s run out on them and he’d have editors eating out of his hand like pigeons.

Then within the last few days had come suggestions that the former Fed guy was somehow helping Italian cops with some job or other. This was also a good angle. ‘Retired’ FBI man on state pension can’t help us, but he can help the Italians and help himself!

The last headline needed work, but McLeod knew it was still a seller. In truth, anything about BRK was a seller.

With that thought in mind, he ended his long vigil and climbed out of his hide to return to La Casa Strada to question Nancy King about her husband’s whereabouts. He was going to get the quotes he needed to clinch his story and nothing was going to stop him.

Whatever the King woman said, it didn’t really matter. McLeod knew he now had enough to write the kind of exclusive that many people would die for.

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