Today's Reading

Ruth lifted her chin in acknowledgment but didn't comment. With no clarification forthcoming, she said, "Want a lift home?"

Carver was on a phased return to work, and not yet declared fit to drive.

"No..." He had an otherworldly look since his injuries—a dreamy, slightly unfocused gaze, as if he permanently had something on his mind. But looks can deceive—and Ruth was one of very few who knew that in some ways Carver was sharper than he'd ever been.

"So it's case related?" Ruth prompted, after he'd remained silent for another half minute.

"You could say that."

She rested her chin on her hand. "Oh, you're going to make me guess. Tell me it's another urban myth—I like those, they're fun."

Carver had brought Ruth in to help with a Missing Persons case review. Of the twelve men who had vanished from Liverpool over the last six months, four were last seen around Bold Street and Central Station, an area of the city that had a reputation for "time slips"—at least among Twilight Zone enthusiasts. One local hack had even written a book on it.

Carver handed her a printout of an e-mail. The message read: "The Ferryman is no fable."

"Urban myth it is," she said.

"Sign out a fleet car, would you?" he said. "Nothing too flash."

"Okay." She turned the sheet over. "I don't see any directions—where are we going?"

He handed her a second e-mail. It read, "Await instructions." She lifted the page to her nose and sniffed.

"I know," he said. "Smells like bullshit. But look at the subject line." It read: "Statistical Uncertainty: Learn to Think Outside the Box"—the title of a Fact or Fable? TV program about the disappearances.

"Digitally signed F," she said. "Nice dramatic touch. Obvious windup." She handed the sheets back.

"Maybe. Did you watch the program?"

"Yeah." Of course she had—Ruth was a former CSI—science programs were her go-to TV fix at the end of a long day. Plus, Mick Tennent was a prominent statistician: she'd wanted to hear his take on their case.

"What did you think?" Carver asked.

"He rubbished the speculation, which is helpful," she said. "His main argument was that people drop out for all kinds of reasons, and the numbers of missing males were about what you would expect in a city of nine hundred thousand souls."

"I meant what did you think of him?"

"He was convincing. His tone's a bit snarky—but that's Tennent's trademark."

Carver nodded, still thoughtful, and she realized he'd used the past tense.

"Has something happened to him?"

"The day after the program went out, Tennent presented a lunchtime lecture at the Wellcome Trust in London," Carver said. "He called his secretary at King's College in the Strand to let her know he'd just finished. Told her that he'd be making a short stop to meet someone on his way in, but he'd be back in time for a meeting at the university later that afternoon. He hasn't been seen or heard from since."

"I'll have the car ready in five minutes," she said.

Ruth Lake watched in the rearview mirror as her boss tried to walk a straight line across the police headquarters car park. It was a valiant effort, and he almost made it, but by six in the evening Greg Carver had usually exhausted his reserves of energy, and twice she saw him brush his fingers lightly along the bodywork of a parked car to steady himself. She waited in silence while he eased himself into the passenger seat and buckled up.

"Do you know where we're going, yet?" she said.

"Stone Street. D'you know it? It's near Stanley Dock."

"I can get us thereabouts."

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