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Peter Robinson

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A Dedicated Man

A Dedicated Man

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Maggie Forrest wasn’t sleeping well, so it didn’t surprise her when the voices woke her shortly before four o’clock one morning in early May, even though she had made sure before she went to bed that all the windows in the house were shut fast.

If it hadn’t been the voices, it would have been something else: a car door slamming as someone set off for an early shift; the first train rattling across the bridge; the neighbour’s dog; old wood creaking somewhere in the house; the fridge clicking on and off; a pan or a glass shifting on the draining board. Or perhaps one of the noises of the night, the kind that made her wake in a cold sweat with a thudding heart and gasp for breath as if she were drowning, not sleeping: the man she called Mr. Bones clicking up and down The Hill with his cane; the scratching at the front door; the tortured child screaming in the distance.

Or a nightmare.

She was just too jumpy these days, she told herself, trying to laugh it off. But there they were again. Definitely voices. One loud and masculine.

Maggie got out of bed and padded over to the window. The street called The Hill ran up the northern slope of the broad valley, and where Maggie lived, about halfway up, just above the railway bridge, the houses on the eastern side of the street stood atop a twenty-foot rise that sloped down to the pavement in a profusion of shrubs and small trees. Sometimes the undergrowth and foliage seemed so thick she could hardly find her way along the path to the pavement.

Maggie’s bedroom window looked over the houses on the western side of The Hill and beyond, a patchwork landscape of housing estates, arterial roads, warehouses, factory chimneys and fields stretching through Bradford and Halifax all the way to the Pennines. Some days, Maggie would sit for hours and look at the view, thinking about the odd chain of events that had brought her here. Now, though, in the predawn light, the distant necklaces and clusters of amber streetlights took on a ghostly aspect, as if the city weren’t quite real yet.

Maggie stood at her window and looked across the street. She could swear there was a hall light on directly opposite, in Lucy’s house, and when she heard the voice again, she suddenly felt all her premonitions had been true.

It was Terry’s voice, and he was shouting at Lucy. She couldn’t hear what he was saying. Then she heard a scream, the sound of glass breaking and a thud.


Maggie dragged herself out of her paralysis, and with trembling hands she picked up the bedside telephone and dialed 999.

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All the Colours of Darkness

Detective Inspector Annie Cabbot thought it was a great shame that she had to spend one of the most beautiful days of the year so far at a crime scene, especially a hanging. She hated hangings. And on a Friday afternoon, too.

Annie had been dispatched, along with Detective Sergeant Winsome Jackman, to Hindswell Woods, just south of Eastvale Castle, where some schoolboys spending the last day of their half-term holiday splashing in the River Swain had phoned to say they thought they had seen a body.

The river ran swift, broad and shallow here, the colour of freshly pumped beer, frothing around the mossy stones. Along the riverside footpath, the trees were mostly ash, alder and wych-elm, their leaves a pale, almost translucent green, trembling in the faint breeze. The scent of wild garlic filled the air, clusters of midges hovered over the water, and on the other side the meadows were full of buttercups, pignut and cranesbill. Tewits twittered and flitted back and forth, nervous about people encroaching on their ground nests. A few fluffy clouds drifted across the sky.

Four schoolboys, all aged about ten or eleven, sat hunched on the boulders by the water, draped in towels or damp T-shirts, strips of pale skin, white as tripe, exposed here and there, all the spirit crushed out of their joyous play. They’d told the police that one of them had chased another off the path into the woods above the river, and they had stumbled upon a body hanging from one of the few oaks that still grew there. They had mobiles, so one of them dialled 999 and they waited by the riverside. When the police patrol officers and the ambulance crew arrived and took a look at the body, they agreed there was nothing they could do, so they stayed well back and radioed for the heavy brigade. Now it was Annie’s job to assess the situation and decide on what action should be taken.

Annie left Winsome to take statements from the kids and followed the patrol officer up the slope into the woods. Through the trees to her left, she could see the ruins of Eastvale Castle high on its hill. Before long, just over the rise, she caught a glimpse of a figure hanging from a length of yellow clothesline on a low bough ahead of her, its feet about eighteen inches off the ground. It made a striking contrast to the light green of the woods because it — Annie couldn’t tell yet whether the shape was a man or a woman — was dressed in an orange shirt and black trousers.

The tree was an old oak with a gnarled, thick trunk and knotty branches, and it stood alone in a small copse. Annie had noticed it before on her walks through the woods, where there were so few oaks that it stood out. She had even made a sketch or two of the scene but had never translated them into a fully fledged painting.

The uniformed officers had taped off the area around the tree, into which entry would be severely restricted. “You checked for any signs of life, I assume?” Annie asked the young constable making his way through the undergrowth beside her.

“The paramedic did, ma’am,” he answered. “As best he could without disturbing the scene.” He paused. “But you don’t have to get that close to see that he’s dead.”

A man, then. Annie ducked under the police tape and inched forward. Twigs snapped under her feet and last autumn’s leaves crackled. She didn’t want to get so close that she might destroy or contaminate any important trace evidence, but she needed a clearer idea of what she was dealing with. As she stopped about ten feet away, she could hear a golden plover whistling somewhere near by. Farther up, towards the moorland, a curlew piped its mournful call. Closer by, Annie was aware of the officer panting behind her after their trot up the hill, and of the lightest of breezes soughing through leaves too fresh and moist to rustle.

Then there was the absolute stillness of the body.

Annie could see for herself that he was a man now. His head was closely shaved, and what hair remained had been dyed blond. He wasn’t twisting at the end of the rope, the way corpses do in movies, but hanging heavy and silent as a rock from the taut yellow clothesline, which had almost buried itself in the livid skin of his neck, now an inch or two longer than it had originally been. His lips and ears were tinged blue with cyanosis. Burst capillaries dotted his bulging eyes, making them appear red from where Annie was standing. She guessed his age at somewhere between forty and forty-five, but it was only a rough estimate. His fingernails were bitten or cut short, and she saw the cyanosis there, too. He also seemed to have a lot of blood on him for a hanging victim.

Most hangings were suicides, Annie knew, not murders, for the obvious reason that it was very difficult to hang a man while he was still alive and kicking. Unless it was the work of a lynch mob, of course, or he had been drugged first.

If it was a suicide, why had the victim chosen this particular place to end his life? Annie wondered. This tree? Did it have strong personal associations for him or had it simply been convenient? Had he ever realized that children might find him, and what effect seeing his body might have on them? Probably not, she guessed. When you’re that close to ending it all, you don’t think much about others. Suicide is the ultimate act of selfishness.

Annie knew she needed the Scenes of Crime Officers here as soon as possible. It was a suspicious death, and she would be far better off pulling out all the stops than jumping to the conclusion that nothing much need be done. She took out her mobile and rang Stefan Nowak, the Crime Scene Manager, who told her to wait and said he’d organize his team. Next, she left a message for Detective Superintendent Catherine Gervaise, who was in a meeting at County HQ in Northallerton. It was too early to determine the level of investigation yet, but the super needed to know what was happening.

Then there was Banks — Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks, her immediate boss — who would normally be Senior Investigating Officer on something as serious as this. Should she call him? He had taken off early for the weekend, driving down to London that morning to stay with his girlfriend. Annie couldn’t complain. Banks had plenty of time off due to him, and she herself had recently got back from a two-week stay with her father in St. Ives, mostly sketching and lounging around on the beach, convalescing and recharging after a traumatic period in her life.

In the end she decided that Banks could wait. It was time to get back to the river and see what Winsome had found out from the kids. Poor buggers, Annie thought as she tottered down the slope behind the patrol officer, arms out to keep her balance. On the other hand, kids were resilient, and when they got back to school on Monday morning, they’d have one hell of a story to tell their mates. She wondered whether English teachers still handed out “what I did on my holidays” assignments. If they did, they’d be in for a big surprise.

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Bad Boy


By the end of August, the waterlogged Yorkshire countryside was a symphony of green and gold under a blue sky scribbled with white clouds. Heaven only knew how the farmers had managed to mow and bale the hay, as the rain seemed to have fallen for days without end, but somehow they had succeeded, and their neat straw cylinders dotted the fields. Bright tractors ploughed in the stubble and turned the earth a dark, fecund brown. Smells of the recent harvest and of the coming autumn chill mingled in the mild air. On the moors, the purple heather was in bloom. By the roadside, swallows gathered on the telephone wires preparing for their long flight to South Africa.
Annie Cabbot wished she could go with them as she drove the last few miles to work that Monday morning. A few days on a game reserve would do her the world of good, photographing and sketching giraffes, zebras, leopards, lions and elephants. Then perhaps a tour of the Winelands, a taste of fine Cape Town cuisine and nightlife.
But it was not to be. She had exhausted her entire holiday allowance for the year, apart from a few days that she planned to use to create occasional long weekends between now and Christmas. Besides, she couldn’t afford to go to South Africa; she would be hard pushed to pay for a mini-break in Blackpool. Lucky swallows.
The traffic came to a halt about half a mile from the big roundabout on the southern edge of Eastvale, and when Annie finally got close enough to see the fender-bender that was causing the delay, she was already late for work. A patrol car had arrived at the accident scene, so she felt she could safely leave the uniformed officers to deal with the obvious case of road rage between the two drivers, who were standing by their cars shouting at each other, fists raised. Traffic wasn’t her department.
Annie made her way through the increasingly built-up and busy streets around the college, where a few late summer students strolled across the green to morning lectures, rucksacks slung over their shoulders. From there, she cut down a long narrow street of three-storey redbrick Victorian houses, mostly converted into student flats, over to Market Street. When she reached the market square, she took the narrow lane between the buildings and parked at the back of the Tudor-fronted police station. She said hello to a couple of officers she recognized standing outside sneaking a quick smoke break, then swiped her card in the slot on the back door and entered Western Area Headquarters.
A couple of people greeted her when she walked into the Major Crimes squad room. Geraldine Masterson, their new probationary detective constable, told her that Winsome Jackman and Doug Wilson – known to most of his colleagues as “Harry Potter” due to his uncanny resemblance to Daniel Radcliffe – were already out interviewing witnesses to last night’s hit and run on the Lyndgarth Road. The incident had left two teenagers in hospital and one no doubt very shaken driver holed up at home, just waiting for the knock on the door, wishing he hadn’t had that one last drink for the road.
Annie had hardly made a dent in the accumulated paperwork when her phone rang. She put down her pen and picked up the handset. “DI Cabbot.”
It was the desk sergeant. “Someone to see DCI Banks,” he said. “A Mrs. Doyle.” There was a moment’s pause while the sergeant appeared to be conferring with the visitor, their voices muffled. “Mrs. Juliet Doyle,” he went on. “She says she knows the DCI. Says it’s urgent.”
Annie sighed. “All right. Send her up. Might as well have someone show her to DCI Banks’s office. It’s a bit more private there.”
“Will do, ma’am.”
Annie closed the thick folder of crime statistics on her desk and walked down the corridor to Banks’s office. The few occasions she had been in there recently had unnerved her even more than her brief visits to his cottage to water the plants, take in any parcels and flyers and make sure all was well. Banks’s absence seemed even more palpable in the cool silence and the slight musty smell of his office. His desk was empty except for the computer, which hadn’t been switched on in ages. A CD player/radio combination stood silently on one of his bookshelves next to a couple of tattered Kingsley Amis paperbacks he’d picked up from the second-hand bookshop in the market square a few days before he left. Annie moved the computer monitor aside so that she would have an unobstructed view of the person sitting opposite her. A young PC knocked at the door and showed the woman in.
“I thought this was Alan’s office,” Juliet Doyle said. “It has his name on the door. Who are you? I don’t mean to seem rude, but I specifically asked to see Alan.”
She seemed nervous, Annie thought, her movements jerky and birdlike as she took in the sparse room. “DCI Banks is on holiday,” Annie explained, standing up and extending her hand. “I’m DI Annie Cabbot. Can I help you?”
“I . . . I don’t know. I was expecting Alan. This is all so . . .” Juliet fingered the chain around her neck. A heavy gold and jade pendant hung from it in the lightly freckled cleft between her breasts. She was probably in her mid-forties, Annie guessed, smartly dressed, her clothes definitely not from any of the shops you would find in the Swainsdale Centre, more likely Harrogate or York, wavy blond hair with dark brown roots, tasteful makeup, still attractive, and not concerned about showing a little cleavage. Her skirt was a modest knee-length, legs nicely tapered beneath it, and she wore a tan suede jacket in an elegant hourglass cut. Annie wondered if she fancied Banks, if there had been something between them.
“Please sit down,” Annie said. After a slight hesitation, Juliet perched at the edge of the chair opposite her. “Is it anything I can help you with, or was it something personal?”
“That’s why I was hoping to see Alan,” Juliet went on. “You see, it’s both, really. Oh, this is so difficult. When will he be back?”
“Not until next week, I’m afraid.”
Juliet Doyle seemed to consider this for a few moments, still fidgeting with her chain, as if debating whether the matter could wait that long.
 “Would you like some tea? Coffee?” Annie asked.
“No, thank you.”
“I can’t help you if I don’t know what it’s about,” Annie went on. “You say it’s both police business and personal, is that right?”
Juliet nodded. “That’s why it’s so hard. I mean, Alan would understand.” She had shifted her attentions from the necklace to the chunky diamond ring on the third finger of her left hand, twisting it around and around. Her fingernails were bitten low and painted pink.
“Why don’t you try me?” Annie said. “Just tell me what the problem is.”
“Alan would know what to do.
Annie leaned back in the chair and linked her hands behind her head. She felt as if she was in for a long haul. “Perhaps you could start by telling me exactly what your relationship is with DCI Banks?”
Juliet appeared startled. “Relationship? We don’t have a relationship.”
“I simply meant how you came to know one another.”
“Oh, that. I see. Yes. I’m sorry. We’re neighbours. Were.”
Annie happened to know that Banks had no neighbours anywhere close to his Gratly cottage, so she assumed that Juliet Doyle was referring to the past, perhaps when he had lived on Laburnum Way, about a mile down Market Street from the police station. But Banks hadn’t lived there for ten years. Had they kept in touch all that time? Was there something she was missing? “When was this?” she asked.
“When he and Sandra were still together. I still think it’s so tragic that they parted like that, don’t you? Such a lovely couple.”
“Yes,” said Annie, whose only experiences of Sandra had been humiliating and more than a little frightening.
“Anyway,” Juliet went on. “We were friends and neighbours. That’s why I thought he might be able to help me.”
“Mrs. Doyle,” said Annie, “if this is a police matter, you really should tell me. Are you in some sort of trouble?”
Juliet flinched as if she’d been tapped on the shoulder by surprise. “Trouble? Me? No. Of course not.”
“Then what is it?”
Juliet scanned the office as if she suspected Banks was hiding behind a filing cabinet or in a cupboard. “Are you sure Alan’s not here?”
“Positive. I told you. He’s on his holidays.”
Juliet twisted her diamond ring again and let the silence stretch. Just when Annie was about to get up and show her the door, she blurted out, “It’s about Erin.”
“Yes. Our daughter. Me and my husband, that is. Patrick. He sent me. He’s stopping home with Erin.”
“Is Erin in trouble?”
“I suppose she is. Yes. You don’t know what they get up to, do you? Do you have any children?”
“Well, you wouldn’t know, then. It’s too easy to blame the parents, the way they do in the papers and on television. But when you just don’t know . . .” She let the sentence trail.
“I’m going to ring for some tea,” said Annie. The good old English panacea, she thought as she picked up the phone and asked for a pot to be sent up, a nice cup of tea. This was clearly going to take some time, and if Juliet Doyle didn’t need a cuppa, Annie certainly did. Maybe they’d bring chocolate digestives too, if she was lucky.
“Erin lives in Leeds,” Juliet said. “In Headingley. Hardly a den of iniquity, you might say, but you’d be surprised.”
“Like most big cities, it can be a dangerous place if you’re not careful,” said Annie. “But I must tell you, we’re North Yorkshire. If the problem is in Leeds, then you need to –”
“No, no. That’s not it. You don’t understand.”
Of course I don’t understand, Annie thought, gritting her teeth. I’d have to be a bloody mind reader to understand. “Tell me, then,” she said.
The tea arrived. A welcome interruption. No chocolate digestives, though. Normally, Annie would have asked or made some sort of comment to the young PC who brought in the tray, but it wouldn’t do to take up a petty issue like the lack of chocolate biscuits with Juliet Doyle sitting opposite her.
“Erin’s a good girl. I think she must have fallen in with a bad crowd,” said Juliet, accepting the cup Annie handed her, adding milk and sugar with slightly shaking hands.
“How old is she?”
“Yes. As a waitress. It’s a nice restaurant. Very upmarket. Down in The Calls, with all those fancy new boutique hotels and waterfront flats. And she makes decent enough money. But even so . . .” She shrugged.
“It’s not what you expected for her?”
“Not with a good upper second in psychology.”
“Times are hard. Perhaps she’s just waiting for the right job to come along.”
“I’d like to think so, but . . .”
“Well, I think she’s more likely been wasting her time. It’s been two years now since she got her degree. She took a gap year before she went.”
“Does she have a boyfriend?”
“As far as I know, she still does,” said Juliet. “Not that we’ve met him, or even that she’s told us much about him. Mostly we keep in touch through phone calls, texts. You know what the young are like. The last thing they think of sometimes is visiting their parents unless they need something, or it’s a special occasion.”
“Young people can be very secretive,” Annie agreed.
“She’s a grown woman. I was married when I was her age.”
“But times change,” said Annie. “Kids aren’t so quick to leave the nest these days.”
“Erin’s not a parasite, if that’s what you mean. She was happy enough to get away from home in the first place. Couldn’t get out fast enough. That wasn’t the problem.”
“Then what is?” Annie said, close to the end of her patience. She was beginning to think that this was some sort of domestic matter, and she was starting to feel resentful that she was left not only to do Banks’s job while he was away but to handle his personal problems too. “Why are you here? What did you think Alan could do for you?”
Juliet’s back stiffened. “He’d know what to do, wouldn’t he?”
“About what?” Annie knew she was almost shouting, but she couldn’t help herself.
“About the gun,” said Juliet Doyle, head bowed, speaking so softly that Annie could barely hear her. “She has a gun.”
“Tell me how it happened.”
Detective Superintendent Catherine Gervaise was sitting on the edge of her desk with her arms folded, and the way she towered over Annie and Juliet Doyle made Annie feel as if they were two truant schoolgirls brought up before the headmistress. Gervaise could have that effect when she wanted. Annie had her notebook open and her pen in her hand, waiting. No matter what action the situation warranted, there was likely to be a lot of red tape ahead, and she had to get it down right.
“I was dusting and cleaning her room,” Juliet began. “Honestly, I wasn’t prying. Erin was downstairs watching breakfast television. I like to keep a neat and clean house, and it was my morning to do the upstairs, so I didn’t see any harm in it.”
“So Erin still lives at home?” Gervaise asked.
“No. As I told Ms. Cabbot here, she lives in Leeds.”
“Would you give us the address, please?”
“Of course.” Juliet gave an address in Headingley and Annie wrote it down. She knew the area and recognized the street name.
“What is she doing in Eastvale?”
“She . . . she didn’t really say.”
“What did she say?”
“Just that she needed to come home for a while. I thought she might have split up with her boyfriend or something.”
“Did you ask her if she had?”
“Yes, but she just told me to mind my own business. She isn’t usually so rude. We brought her up to be polite and respectful to her elders. But she’s upset. I thought if I left her alone, she would tell me what was bothering her eventually. She usually does.”
“Are you very close?”
“I wouldn’t say very close, but I like to think that we are close, yes, that she feels she can talk to me, tell me anything. That’s why it was such a shock, finding the gun.”
“What do you know about her boyfriend?”
“Just what she told me on the phone, really.”
“What’s his name?”
“Geoff. I don’t know his last name. They only use first names, don’t they?”
“How long has she been going out with him?”
“About six months.”
“Do you think he’s been a bad influence on her?”
“Quite the opposite, really. From what she says, he’s a nice lad, and he’s done very well for himself, not like her usual scruffy student types. And I must say, I’ve noticed a great change for the better in her appearance on the few occasions I have seen her since they’ve been together.”
“Like what?”
“Her dress sense, for a start. Her whole style. Much smarter. For so long she dressed like a typical student, but she turned up for her dad’s birthday in a nice summer frock with a lovely heart pendant around her neck. She never used to wear jewellery unless it was the cheap kind, plastic coloured beads and the like. She’s had her hair done, too. You can tell she went to a good hairdresser. It’s a professional job.”
“When was this?”
“July the thirtieth.”
“Do you know what this Geoff does for a living?”
“He’s in sales and marketing. That’s all I know. And he’s got a company car. A BMW.”
“Sounds like a good catch,” said Gervaise. “What was Erin like when she came back home? What was her state of mind? You said she was upset.”
“Yes. She seemed distant, distracted. Quiet and withdrawn.”
“Is that like her?”
“No. She’s usually quite normal, when it comes to conversation and such. Always has been. Cheerful. Quick to smile. Gregarious, even. But this time she’s been acting like a hermit, staying in her room.”
“Did she ask you for any help at all?”
Juliet frowned. “What do you mean? What sort of help?”
“Financial, emotional, medical. Anything. Could she be in trouble?”
“You mean pregnant?”
“It’s a possibility,” said Gervaise. “Though that wasn’t what I meant specifically. Would she have been able to talk to you about something like that?”
“I’d like to think so.”
“How long has she been back here in Eastvale?”
“Since Friday morning. We kept her room. Always. Just as it was. Well, tidier.”
“Lots of parents do that,” Gervaise said. “It offsets the sense of loss when their children leave home. Sometimes it’s hard to let go.”
Annie knew that the superintendent had two children of her own, though it was hard to imagine it at the moment, as she perched there in her pinstripe skirt, buttoned-up jacket and crisp white blouse, all business.
“Yes,” said Juliet.
“Did you get the impression that this time it’s more than a passing visit?”
“And is this the first time she’s come to stay for any length of time since she left home?”
Gervaise paused. “Now, about the gun you found on top of the wardrobe,” she went on.
“It was near the back, where you couldn’t possibly see it unless you stood on a chair or a stepladder. It was wrapped in a tea cloth. I suppose she thought it was safe up there. I mean, she doesn’t really think about housework or anything like that.”
“It would have been if it hadn’t been for your thoroughness,” said Gervaise. “You did the right thing coming to us, Mrs. Doyle.”
“I don’t know,” Juliet said, shaking her head. “My own daughter. I feel like such a . . . Judas. What will happen to her?”
Annie had deeply conflicted feelings towards Juliet Doyle at that moment. On the one hand, the poor woman was turning in her own daughter, and she must be going through hell. Whether Juliet was aware of it or not, Annie knew there was a mandatory five-year sentence for possession of a handgun, and the courts tended to be strict in its application, though there had recently been some complaints about overly lenient judges. Perhaps they would take special circumstances into account for a young woman with no prior record, but however forgiving they were, Erin Doyle was looking at a prison sentence of some sort, rather than probation or community service. And she would come out with a criminal record. Juliet probably didn’t suspect this. Still, Annie reminded herself, as yet they had absolutely no evidence that Erin Doyle was guilty of anything.
“It’s a very serious matter,” Gervaise went on. “Guns are dangerous weapons, and the more we get off the streets, the safer our towns and cities will be.”
It was the party line, Annie knew, and Gervaise was clearly trying to make Juliet feel more at ease with her betrayal, feel like a right-thinking citizen. But Annie sensed that Juliet Doyle was getting seriously worried now, and beginning to regret that she had come. She was probably thinking that she and her husband could have dealt with the whole mess themselves, disposed of the gun, chucked it in the river, given Erin a good talking-to. In a way, Annie thought, she was right.
For a mother to take such a step was almost inconceivable to Annie, no matter how much police policy encouraged it, or how much, as an officer of the law and a campaigner against gun crime, she was supposed to applaud it. While a part of her admired Juliet’s sacrifice to duty, to the greater good, another part of her felt disgust for what the woman was doing. Though Annie had never raised a child herself, she didn’t think she would be capable of betraying her daughter. She was certain that her own mother would never have done such a thing, though she had died when Annie was very young. Her father would have given her a stern talking-to and thrown the gun in the sea, but he would never have turned her in to the police either. But, she reminded herself, Juliet Doyle had come here asking for Banks’s help. No doubt she had hoped that he would be able to deal with the matter unofficially, off the record.
“What happens now?” Juliet asked.
Gervaise moved away from the edge of her desk and went to sit behind it. She didn’t seem quite so imposing there, and Annie felt the atmosphere lighten a little. “There are procedures to be followed,” Gervaise said. “Where is the gun now?”
“In the kitchen. Patrick has it. We didn’t think it would be a good idea for me to carry it in the street, and I must admit the idea made me very nervous.”
“And your daughter?”
“She’s with him. We agreed this was the best way. They would stay at the house, I would come here and talk to Alan, ask him to go back with me, but . . .”
“Yes, I understand that DCI Banks was a neighbour,” Gervaise said. “Don’t worry, we’re all professionals here. We’ll deal with this just as he would. I know it’s much more pleasant to have a familiar face around in a situation like this, but we all want the same thing. First of all, are you absolutely certain it’s a real gun? You have no idea how many people we get reporting replicas or ball-bearing guns.”
“Patrick said it is. He used to belong to a gun club, many years ago, after grammar school. I don’t know about such things.”
“Did he also happen to check if it’s loaded?”
“He says it is. He handled it very carefully.”
“Good,” said Gervaise. “Did he unload it?”
“No. He said it was best to leave it as it was, not to contaminate the evidence.”
Wonderful, thought Annie. Another one been watching too many episodes of CSI. A loaded gun. Now they would have to bring in the Firearms Support Unit for certain. It would have made more sense, and been much safer, if Patrick Doyle had unloaded the gun. Annie also knew that most people rarely act sensibly during crises. After all, how often do you find a loaded gun in your daughter’s bedroom?
“Did he happen to mention what kind of gun it is?” Gervaise asked.
“He said something about a semi-automatic. Can that be right?”
Annie knew very little about firearms, but she knew that a semi-automatic used a removable magazine to hold cartridges, rather than a cylinder. It usually held several rounds of ammunition, and it fired one shot each time you pulled the trigger.
“So when you left the house,” Gervaise went on, “your husband and daughter were in the kitchen and the gun was on the table?”
“Still wrapped?”
“Patrick wrapped it up in the tea cloth again after he’d examined it, yes.”
“What state of mind was Erin in then?”
“She was upset, obviously. Angry. Tearful. Frightened.”
“Did you ask her who she’d got the gun from?”
“Of course. But she wouldn’t say.”
Gervaise pursed her lips and thought for a moment, then she glanced at Annie and stood up. “Thank you,” she said to Juliet Doyle. “I’m going to ring for someone to take care of you for the time being while we deal with the problem of the gun. That has to be our priority, you understand. We need to get that loaded gun out of your house and into safekeeping, and there are strict procedures we need to follow.” She picked up the telephone and talked to the officer on the front desk.
Juliet looked pleadingly towards Annie. “Will you stay with me?” she asked.
“I’m afraid I need DI Cabbot,” said Gervaise. “She’s the only other senior officer I have here at the moment. But don’t worry, I’ll make sure you’re nice and comfortable with WPC Smithies in the canteen.”
“Can’t I go home?”
“Not just yet,” said Gervaise. “Not until we’ve cleared the premises of the firearm.”
“But can’t I go with you?”
“I’m afraid not,” said Gervaise. She touched Juliet’s arm. “Don’t worry. I told you, you’ll be well taken care of.”
“Can I ring my husband?”
“Sorry,” said Gervaise. “It might seem petty and silly to you, but we can’t allow any contact until the matter is settled and the firearm is safely in our possession.”
“But what harm could it possibly do if I talked to my husband?”
It could do a lot of harm, Annie thought. It could precipitate an argument between father and daughter in the house, for example, and with a loaded gun lying on the table and tempers no doubt already stretched to breaking point, that could prove fatal. But before Gervaise could answer the question, if in fact she was intending to, WPC Smithies knocked at the door and escorted a reluctant Juliet Doyle to the canteen.
Gervaise beckoned Annie to stay. “We’ll do this by the book, Annie. I don’t want any guns on my patch, and I certainly don’t want any accidents with them due to haste or negligence. Is that clear?”
“Yes, ma’am. Want me to log the incident and call in an Armed Response Vehicle?”
“Yes. And get one of the DCs to run a check on the Doyles, especially the daughter. Everything seems hunky-dory on the surface, but find out if we’ve any cause for alarm. I’ll ring ACC McLaughlin and he’ll no doubt get in touch with the Deputy Chief Constable. I also want to arrange for the Leeds police to search Erin’s house. I hardly think she’s an arms dealer, but we’d better cover it. Let’s get this in motion. The longer we delay, the more chance there is of something going wrong.”
It wasn’t the first time Annie had witnessed an armed police raid. She had been involved in two of them in London a few years earlier. The first had gone smoothly, but the second had been a disaster. Shots had been fired and two men had been killed. This time she felt much stranger, being just down the road from the police station, across from Banks’s old suburban semi. It all seemed so ordinary. A black cat picked its way through a flower bed; people passed by the end of the street with their shopping and paused to see what was happening.
Annie sat silently in an unmarked police car with Detective Superintendent Gervaise and waited for the Armed Response Vehicles to arrive. She almost wished she smoked. It would be something to do to help pass the time. Instead, she just gazed out at the bay-windowed semis with their low-walled gardens, pebble-dash and trim lawns, and she realized she found it hard to imagine Banks ever living here as a family man. To her, he had always been very much a lone figure, even when they had had their brief romance. Now she couldn’t fathom him at all. Something had changed in him, something fundamental had broken, and she wasn’t sure if it could ever be mended.
Two Volvo T5s parked at the junction with Market Street. Each Armed Response Vehicle from the Firearms Support Unit comprised two Authorised Firearms Officers, or AFOs, in full Personal Protective Equipment, carrying pr-24 batons, rigid handcuffs and CS spray, in addition to Glock side arms and tasers. They would have Heckler & Koch MP5 carbines locked in the boots of their Volvos, along with an array of other lethal weapons.
Laburnum Way was a cul-de-sac about a hundred yards in length, so their arrival effectively cut off the street. Two patrol cars were parked at the far end. People were already watching at their windows.
The four AFOs had already been briefed on the layout of the house, as provided by Juliet Doyle, should they need to effect entry. They didn’t expect to have to do that, however, as Patrick Doyle and his daughter knew where Juliet had gone, and they were expecting a police visit.
Annie thought one of the team members was a woman, but it was hard to tell behind all the body armour and equipment she was carrying. Another car pulled up and Mike Trethowan, the Firearms Cadre’s superintendent, also wearing full PPE, spoke briefly with his officers then came over to join Annie and Gervaise.
“Any change?” he asked.
“None,” said Gervaise. “According to our information, they’re just sitting there in the kitchen waiting for us to arrive.”
“And the kitchen is where?”
“Back of the house. Down the hall, door off to the right.”
The superintendent sniffed the air, nodded and went back to his team.
This wasn’t a firearms hostage situation or a fatal shooting. So far, nothing had happened, and the procedure was a simple one. As it appeared that no one was intent on using the firearm, and that the situation was more or less under the control of the girl’s father, the uniformed officers would knock at the door and shout for Patrick and Erin Doyle to come out. Once they appeared, they would be asked to hand over the weapon in question and step away. It was simply a matter of being on guard and using the usual extra care and caution around firearms. The house was certainly quiet enough from the outside.
Things started to go wrong right from the start, when no one answered the door. Because of the natural tension when firearms are involved, everyone was a little impatient, but even Annie had to admit that a pensioner using a walker could have got there by the time Superintendent Trethowan recalled the local officers and sent two armed men around the back and two up the front path. Annie glanced at Gervaise, whose expression was set, teeth clenched, Cupid’s bow mouth almost a single straight red line.
Getting no response to their shouts, the AFOs used a battering ram on the door, which splintered open, and the two officers rushed inside, making as much noise as they could. Within seconds, they had disappeared from view, and after a brief silence, Annie heard a muffled shout and then a clicking sound, like some distant cicada chattering in the trees, followed by a scream and a lot of shouting and banging about.
She and Gervaise jumped out of the car and dashed for the garden, but Superintendent Trethowan, outside the house, raised his hand to warn them to stay back, then he went inside. Annie could hear the other two officers breaking in at the back, then more shouting, the sound of a chair or a table crashing over, and finally another loud scream, a different voice this time.
Annie felt her heart beating so hard and fast that she thought it would explode inside her chest. She was shaking all over. For what seemed like ages, nothing happened. The house fell silent again, apart from the sounds of the team walking about inside, doors opening and closing. Finally, Trethowan came out with two officers, and the three of them walked towards the van.
“What happened?” Gervaise asked as they passed by.
But Trethowan simply shook his head. Annie couldn’t see his expression because of the protective headgear.
About thirty seconds later, someone shouted the all-clear, and another officer came out carrying a small item wrapped in a tea cloth. So that was what it was all about, Annie thought. So tiny. So deadly. And from what she could see as the man passed right by her, the tea cloth had a map of the Yorkshire Dales printed on it. A moment later, the final two armed response officers came out, dragging between them a struggling and screaming young woman in rigid handcuffs: Erin Doyle. Then came the sound of an ambulance speeding towards them down Market Street.
“Oh, shit,” said Gervaise. “Here we go.”

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Before the Poison

Before the Poison

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Famous Trials: Grace Elizabeth Fox, April 1953, by Sir Charles Hamilton Morley
Grace Elizabeth Fox rose from her bed and dressed with the aid of her young Attending Officer Mary Swann at 6.30 AM on the morning of 23rd April, 1953. She ate a light breakfast of toast, marmalade and tea, then she busied herself writing letters to her family and friends. After a small brandy to steady her nerves shortly before 8.00 AM, she spent the following hour alone with the Chaplain.
At thirty seconds before 9.00 AM, Mr. Albert Pierrepoint and his assistant entered Grace’s cell, and with his usual polite deference and dispatch, Mr. Pierrepoint tied her hands behind her back with a soft calfskin strap and escorted her the short distance to the Execution House directly above. It was a grey, rainy morning, and the stone steps were dark and slick with rain. The small party entered the House, where the Governor, the doctor and two witnesses were already waiting, at 9.00 AM precisely. According to later accounts, Grace comported herself with great dignity throughout, and she never faltered in her steps or uttered a sound, except for a brief shudder and audible inhalation of breath when she first saw the rope.
Once at the gallows, she was placed in position over the chalked ‘T’ on the trapdoor, and the assistant pinioned her ankles with a leather strap. Mr. Pierrepoint took from his pocket a white cotton hood, which he placed over Grace’s head, then he carefully and gently adjusted the leather-sheathed noose around her neck. When all was to his satisfaction, he stepped back, removed the safety pin and pushed the lever away from him in one sharp, swift motion. The trapdoor opened and Grace fell to her death. The whole business, from the cell to the eternal hereafter, took no longer than fifteen seconds.
After a brief examination by the prison doctor, Grace’s body was left hanging for the regulation hour, after which time it was removed and washed, then an autopsy was performed. The findings were that she died instantaneously of a ‘fracture-dislocation of the spine at C.2 with a 2 inch gap and transverse separation of the spinal cord at the same level’. The pathologist also found ‘fractures of both wings of the hyoid and the right wing of the thyroid cartilage’. Grace’s larynx was also fractured.
The following day, after Grace’s sister Felicity had formally identified the body, a coroner’s inquest reported her death: ‘Twenty-third April 1953 at H.M. Prison, Leeds: Grace Elizabeth Fox, Female, 40 years, Housewife of Kilnsgate House, Kilnsgarthdale, in the District of Richmond, Yorkshire (North Riding). Cause of Death: Injuries to the central nervous system consequent upon judicial hanging.’ The Governor entered in his daily log the simple words, ‘The sentence of death on Grace Elizabeth Fox was carried out by means of execution,’ and Grace’s body was buried within the prison grounds.
October 2010
I had promised myself that when I turned sixty I would go home. Laura thought it was a great idea, but when the day finally came, I was standing at her graveside in the New England rain, crying my eyes out. All the more reason to go, I thought.
 ‘In two hundred yards, bear right.’
I drove straight on.
‘In four hundred yards, bear right.’
I continued driving under the canopy of trees, leaves falling and swirling around me. The screen froze, then flickered and dissolved, reforming into new shapes that didn’t in the least resemble the landscape I was driving through.
‘Please turn around and turn left in three hundred yards.’
I didn’t think this could be true. I was sure that my turning lay still about half a mile ahead to the left. It was easy to miss, I had been told, especially if you have never made it before. Satnavs obviously behave strangely in Yorkshire. I decided to leave it on and find out what it said next.
I slowed to a crawl, kept my eyes open, and there it was, a gap in the drystone wall on my left, which resembled a neglected farm track more than anything else, though I could see by the tyre marks that someone else had been that way recently. There was no signpost, and an old wooden farm gate hung open at an angle, broken away from the rusty hinge at the top. The opening was just about wide enough for a small delivery van.
It had turned into a gorgeous day, I thought, as I guided the Volvo through the narrow entrance. The hidden dale opened up to me beyond the overhanging trees like some magical land never seen by human eye before. The car bumped over a cattle grid and splashed through a puddle. It was hard to believe the deluge that had almost washed me off the road between Ripon and Masham, but that’s Yorkshire weather for you. If you don’t like it, my father used to say, wait ten minutes or drive ten miles.
‘Please turn back now,’ the satnav said. I switched it off and continued along the lane.
The grass was lush green after the heavy summer rains, the pale blue sky dotted with fluffy white clouds, the trees resplendent in their muted autumn colours of gold, lemon and russet. They might not be as dramatic as the fall leaves in Vermont, but they have a beauty all of their own, nonetheless. My window was open a few inches, and I could hear the birdsong and smell the wet grass.
I was driving west along the valley bottom, just to the right of Kilnsgarthdale Beck, which was running high, almost busting its banks. The whole dale was probably no more than half a mile wide and two miles long, its bottom a flat swathe of about two hundred yards, along which the beck and the lane ran side by side. Grassy slopes rose gently to a height of about fifty feet or so on either side, a silvery stream trickling down here and there to join the beck, and treelines ran along the top of each side. A few cattle grazed on the slope to my right, which I guessed was attached to a farm out of sight, over the hill. Kilnsgarthdale is a small, secluded dale flanked by woods and drystone walls. You won’t see it on any but the most detailed of maps.
I passed a ruined stone barn and the remnants of a drystone wall, which had once marked the boundary of a field on the opposite hillside, but there were no other signs of human habitation until I neared Kilnsgate House.
The house was set about twenty yards back from the lane, on my right, beyond a low drystone garden wall with a green wooden gate in need of painting. I paused and looked through the car window. It was hard to see much more than the chimneys, slate roof and the tops of a couple of upper windows from the lane, because the rest was obscured by trees, and the sloping garden was quite overgrown. I had a curious sensation that the shy, half-hidden house was waiting for me, that it had been waiting for some time. I gave a little shudder, then I turned off the engine and sat for a moment, breathing in the sweet air and luxuriating in the silence. So this was it, I thought, my journey’s end. Or its beginning.
I know it sounds odd, but I had seen Kilnsgate House only in photographs up to this point. During the entire purchase process, I had been involved in a massive work project back in Los Angeles, and I simply hadn’t had the time to jump on a plane and fly over for a viewing. The whole business had been handled by the estate agent, Heather Barlow, and a solicitor, transacted via emails, couriers, phone calls and wire transfers.
Kilnsgate House was by far the best of many I had viewed on the Internet, and the price was right. A bargain, in fact. It had been used as a rental property for some years, and there was no present occupant. The owner lived abroad and showed no interest in the place, which was held in trust for him, or her, by a solicitor in Northallerton. There would be no problems with onward chains and gazumping, and all those other odd practices the English go in for when buying and selling houses. I could move in, Mrs Barlow had assured me, as soon as I wanted.
She had brought up the issue of isolation, and I saw now exactly what she meant. This had posed a problem, along with the size of the house, when it came to renting the place to tourists. I would be cut off from the world here, she had said. The nearest neighbours lived more than a mile away on a farm, over the other side of the hill, beyond the treeline, and the nearest town, Richmond, was two miles away. I told her that was fine with me.
I got out of the car, walked through the creaky gate, then turned and stood by the wall to admire the view of the opposite daleside. About halfway up stood a stone ruin, framed by the trees, half buried in the hill. I thought it was perhaps a folly of some kind.
The only other thing that Mrs Barlow had been particularly concerned about was my attitude towards the grand piano. It would be possible to move it out, she said in one of our many telephone conversations, but difficult. There would be no extra charge for it, of course, should I decide to keep it, though she would quite understand if I did want rid of it. I couldn’t believe my luck. I had been about to order an upright piano, or perhaps even a small digital model. Now I had a grand. All I would need, Mrs Barlow went on, surprised and pleased at my acceptance and excitement, was a piano tuner.
Although I was unaware of it at this point, Kilnsgate House also had a history, which would soon come to interest me, perhaps even to obsess me, some might argue. A good estate agent, and Heather Barlow was good, clearly becomes adept in the art of omission.

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Caedmons Song

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Friend of the Devil

Sunday mornings were hardly sacrosanct to Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks. After all, he ­didn’t go to church, and he rarely awoke with such a bad hangover that it was painful to move or speak. In fact, the previous evening he had watched The Black Dahlia on DVD and had drunk two glasses of Tesco’s finest Chilean Cabernet with his reheated pizza funghi. But he did appreciate a lie-­in and an hour or two’s peace with the newspapers as much as the next man. For the afternoon, he planned to phone his mother and wish her a happy Mother’s Day, then listen to some of the Shostakovich string quartets he had recently purchased from iTunes and carry on reading Tony Judt’s Postwar. He found that he read far less fiction these days; he felt a new hunger to understand, from a different perspective, the world in which he had grown up. Novels were all well and good for giving you a flavour of the times, but he needed facts and interpretations, the big picture.

That Sunday, the third in March, such luxury was not to be. It started innocently enough, as such momentous sequences of events often do, at about half past eight, with a phone call from Detective Sergeant Kevin Templeton, who was on duty in the Western Area Major Crimes squad room that weekend.

“Guv, it’s me. DS Templeton.”

Banks felt a twinge of distaste. He ­didn’t like Templeton, would be happy when his transfer finally came through. There were times when he tried to tell himself it was because Templeton was too much like him, but that ­wasn’t the case. Templeton ­didn’t only cut corners, he trampled on far too many people’s feelings and, worse, he seemed to enjoy it. “What is it?” Banks grunted. “It had better be good.”

“It’s good, sir. You’ll like it.”

Banks could hear traces of obsequious excitement in Templeton’s voice. Since their last run-­in, the young DS had tried to ingratiate himself in various ways, but this kind of phony breathless deference was too Uriah Heep for Banks’s liking.

“Why ­don’t you just tell me?” said Banks. “Do I need to get dressed?” He held the phone away from his ear as Templeton laughed.

“I think you should get dressed, sir, and make your way down to Taylor’s Yard as soon as you can.”

Taylor’s Yard, Banks knew, was one of the narrow passages that led into the Maze, which riddled the south side of the town centre behind Eastvale’s market square. It was called a yard not because it resembled a square or a garden in any way, but because some bright spark had once remarked that it ­wasn’t much more than a yard wide. “And what will I find there?” he asked.

“Body of a young woman,” said Templeton. “I’ve checked it out myself. In fact, I’m there now.”

“You ­didn’t —”

“I ­didn’t touch anything, sir. And between us, Police Constable Forsythe and me have got the area taped off and sent for the doctor.”

“Good,” said Banks, pushing aside the Sunday Times crossword he had hardly started and looking longingly at his still-­steaming cup of black coffee. “Have you called the super?”

“Not yet, sir. I thought I’d wait till you’d had a butcher’s. No sense in jumping the gun.”

“All right,” said Banks. Detective Superintendent Catherine Gervaise was probably enjoying a lie-­in after a late night out to see Orfeo at Opera North in Leeds. Banks had seen it on Thursday with his daughter, Tracy, and enjoyed it very much. He ­wasn’t sure whether Tracy had. She seemed to have turned in on herself these days. “I’ll be there in half an hour,” he said. “Three-­quarters at the most. Ring DI Cabbot and DS Hatchley. And get DC Jackman there, too.”

“DI Cabbot’s still on loan to Eastern, sir.”

“Of course. Damn.” If this was a murder, Banks would have liked Annie’s help. They might have problems on a personal level, but they still worked well as a team.

Banks went upstairs and showered and dressed quickly, then back in the kitchen he filled his travel mug with coffee to drink on the way, making sure the top was pressed down tight. More than once he’d had a nasty accident with a coffee mug. He turned everything off, locked up and headed for the car.

He was driving his brother’s Porsche. Though he still ­didn’t feel especially comfortable in such a luxury vehicle, he was finding that he liked it better each day. Not so long ago, he had thought of giving it to his son, Brian, or to Tracy, and that idea still held some appeal. The problem was that he ­didn’t want to make one of them feel left out, or less loved, so the choice was proving to be a dilemma. Brian’s band had gone through a slight change of personnel recently, and he was rehearsing with some new musicians. Tracy’s exam results had been a dis­appointment to her, though not to Banks, and she was passing her time rather miserably working in a bookshop in Leeds and sharing a house in Headingley with some old student friends. So who deserved a Porsche? He could hardly cut it in half.

It had turned windy and cool, so Banks went back to switch his sports jacket for his zip-­up leather jacket. If he was going to be standing around in the back alleys of Eastvale while the SOCOs, the photographer and the police surgeon did their stuff, he might as well stay as warm as possible. Once snug in the car, he started the engine and set off through Gratly, down the hill to Helmthorpe and on to the Eastvale Road. He plugged his iPod into the adapter, on shuffle, and Ray Davies’s “All She Wrote” came on, a song he particularly liked, especially the line about the big Australian barmaid. That would do for a Sunday-­morning drive to a crime scene, he thought; it would do just fine.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Gallows View

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Hanging Valley

Hanging Valley

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No Cure for Love

No Cure for Love

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Not Safe After Dark, and Other Stories

Excerpted from "Fan Mail"

The letter arrived one sunny Thursday morning in August, along with a Visa bill and a royalty statement. Dennis Quilley carried the mail out to the deck of his Beaches home, stopping by the kitchen on the way to pour himself a gin and tonic. He had already been writing for three hours straight and he felt he deserved a drink.

First he looked at the amount of the royalty cheque, then he put aside the Visa bill and picked up the letter carefully, as if he were a forensic expert investigating it for prints. Postmarked Toronto and dated four days earlier, it was addressed in a small, precise hand and looked as if it had been written with a fine-­nibbed calligraphic pen. But the postal code was different; that had been hurriedly scrawled in with a ballpoint. Whoever it was, Quilley thought, had probably got his name from the telephone directory and had then looked up the code in the post office just before mailing.

Pleased with his deductions, Quilley opened the letter. Written in the same neat and mannered hand as the address, it said:

Dear Mr. Quilley,

Please forgive me for writing to you at home like this. I know you must be very busy, and it is inexcusable of me to intrude on your valuable time. Believe me, I would not do so if I could think of any other way.

I have been a great fan of your work for many years now. As a collector of mysteries, too, I also have first editions of all your books. From what I have read, I know you are a clever man and, I hope, just the man to help me with my problem.

For the past twenty years, my wife has been making my life a misery. I put up with her for the sake of the children, but now they have all gone to live their own lives. I have asked her for a divorce, but she just laughed in my face. I have decided, finally, that the only way out is to kill her and that is why I am seeking your advice.

You may think this is insane of me, especially saying it in a letter, but it is just a measure of my desperation. I would quite understand it if you went straight to the police, and I am sure they would find me and punish me. Believe me, I’ve thought about it. Even that would be preferable to the misery I must suffer day after day.

If you can find it in your heart to help a devoted fan in his hour of need, please meet me on the roof lounge of the Park Plaza Hotel on Wednesday, 19 August at two p.m. I have taken the afternoon off work and will wait longer if for any reason you are delayed. ­Don’t worry, I will recognize you easily from your photo on the dust jacket of your books.

Yours, in hope,

A Fan

The letter slipped from Quilley’s hand. He ­couldn’t believe what he’d just read. He was a mystery writer — he specialized in devising ingenious murders — but for someone to assume that he did the same in real life was absurd. Could it be a practical joke?

He picked up the letter and read through it again. The man’s whining tone and clichéd style seemed sincere enough, and the more Quilley thought about it, the more certain he became that none of his friends was sick enough to play such a joke.

Assuming that it was real, then, what should he do? His impulse was to crumple up the letter and throw it away. But should he go to the police? No. That would be a waste of time. The real police were a terribly dull and literal-­minded lot. They would probably think he was seeking publicity.

He found that he had screwed up the sheet of paper in his fist, and he was just about to toss it aside when he changed his mind. ­Wasn’t there another option? Go. Go and meet the man. Find out more about him. Find out if he was genuine. Surely there would be no obligation in that? All he had to do was turn up at the Park Plaza at the appointed time and see what happened.

Quilley’s life was fine — no troublesome woman to torment him, plenty of money (mostly from American sales), a beautiful lakeside cottage near Huntsville, a modicum of fame, the esteem of his peers — but it had been rather boring of late. Here was an opportunity for adventure of a kind. Besides, he might get a story idea out of the meeting. Why not go and see?

He finished his drink and smoothed the letter on his knee. He had to smile at that last bit. No doubt the man would recognize him from his book-­jacket photo, but it was an old one and had been retouched in the first place. His cheeks had filled out a bit since then and his thinning hair had acquired a sprinkling of grey. Still, he thought, he was a handsome man for fifty: handsome, clever and successful.

Smiling, he picked up both letter and envelope and went back to the kitchen in search of matches. There must be no evidence.

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Piece of My Heart

Monday, September 8, 1969

To an observer looking down from the peak of Brimleigh Beacon early that Monday morning, the scene below might have resembled the aftermath of a battle. It had rained briefly during the night, and the pale sun coaxed tendrils of mist from the damp earth. They swirled over fields dotted with motionless shapes, mingling here and there with the darker smoke of smouldering embers. Human scavengers picked their way through the carnage as if collecting discarded weapons, occasionally bending to extract an object of value from a dead man’s pocket. Others appeared to be shovelling soil or quicklime into large open graves. The light wind carried a whiff of rotting flesh.

And over the whole scene a terrible stillness reigned.

But to Dave Sampson, down on the field, there had been no battle, only a peaceful gathering, and Dave had the worm’s-­eye view. It was just after eight in the morning, and he had been up half the night along with everyone else, listening to Pink Floyd, Fleetwood Mac and Led Zeppelin. Now, the crowd had gone home, and he was moving among the motionless shapes, litter left behind by the vanished hordes, helping to clean up after the very first Brimleigh Festival. Here he was, bent over, back aching like hell, eyes burning with tiredness, plodding across the muddy field picking up rubbish. The eerie sounds of Jimmy Page playing his electric guitar with a violin bow still echoed in his mind as he shoved cellophane wrappers and half-­eaten Mars bars into his plastic bag.

Ants and beetles crawled over the remains of sandwiches and half-­empty tins of cold baked beans. Flies buzzed around the feces and wasps hovered about the necks of empty pop bottles. More than once, Dave had to manoeuvre sharply to avoid being stung. He ­couldn’t believe some of the stuff people left behind. Food wrappers, soggy newspapers and magazines, used Durex, tampons, cigarette ends, knickers, empty beer cans and roaches you’d expect, but what on earth had the person who left the Underwood typewriter been thinking of? Or the wooden crutch? Had a cripple, suddenly healed by the music, run off and left it behind?

There were other things, too, things best avoided. The makeshift toilets set over the open cesspit had been uninviting, as well as few and far between, and the queues had been long, encouraging more than one desperate person to find a quiet spot elsewhere in the field. Dave glanced towards the craters and felt glad that he ­wasn’t one of the volunteers assigned to fill them up with earth.

In an otherwise isolated spot at the southern edge of the field, where the land rose gently towards the fringes of Brimleigh Woods, Dave noticed an abandoned sleeping bag. The closer he got, the more it looked to be occupied. Had someone passed out or simply gone to sleep? More likely, Dave thought, it was drugs. All night the medical tent had been open to people suffering hallucinations from bad acid, and there had been enough Mandrax and opiated hash around to knock out an army.

Dave prodded the bag with his foot. It felt soft and heavy. He prodded it again, harder this time. Still nothing. It definitely felt as if someone were inside. Finally, he bent and pulled the zip, and when he saw what was there, he wished he ­hadn’t.

Detective Inspector Stanley Chadwick was at his desk in Brotherton House before eight o’clock Monday morning, as usual, with every intention of finishing off the paperwork that had piled up during his two weeks’ annual leave at the end of August. The caravan at Primrose Valley, with Janet and Yvonne, had made a nice haven for a while, but Yvonne was obviously restless, as only a sixteen-­year-­old on holiday with her parents can be, and crime ­didn’t stop while he was away from Leeds. Nor, apparently, did the paperwork.

It had been a good weekend. Yorkshire beat Derbyshire in the Gillette Cup Final, and if Leeds United, coming off a season as league champions, ­hadn’t managed to beat Manchester United at home, at least they had come out of it with a 2—2 draw, and Billy Bremner had scored.

The only blot on the landscape was that Yvonne had stayed out most of the night on Sunday, and it ­wasn’t the first time. Chadwick had lain awake until he heard her come in at about half past six, and by then it was time for him to get up and get ready for work. Yvonne had gone straight to her room and closed her door, so he had put off the inevitable confrontation until later, and now it was gnawing at him. He ­didn’t know what was happening to his daughter, what she was up to, but whatever it was, it frightened him. It seemed that the younger generation had been getting stranger and stranger over the past few years, more out of control, and Chadwick seemed unable to find any point of connection with them anymore. Most of them seemed like members of another species to him now. Especially his own daughter.

Chadwick tried to shake off his worries about Yvonne and glanced over the crime sheets: trouble with squatters in a Leeds city-­centre office building; a big drugs bust in Chapeltown; an assault on a woman with a stone in a sock in Bradford. Manningham Lane, he noticed, and everyone knew what kind of women you found on Manningham Lane. Still, poor cow, nobody deserved to be hit with a stone in a sock. Just over the county border, in the North Riding, the Brimleigh Festival had gone off peacefully enough, with only a few arrests for drunkenness and drug dealing — only to be expected at such an event — and a bit of bother with some skinheads at one of the fences.

At about half past nine, Chadwick reached for the next file, and he had just opened it when Karen popped her head around his door and told him Detective Chief Superintendent McCullen wanted to see him. Chadwick put the folder back on the pile. If McCullen wanted to see him, it had to be something pretty big. Whatever it was, it was bound to be a lot more interesting than paperwork.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Playing With Fire


The barge she sat in, like a burnish’d throne, burn’d on the water,” Banks whispered. As he spoke, his breath formed plumes of mist in the chill January air.

Detective Inspector Annie Cabbot, standing beside him, must have heard, because she said, “You what? Come again.”

“A quotation,” said Banks. “From Antony and Cleopatra.”

“You don’t usually go around quoting Shakespeare like a copper in a book,” Annie commented.

“Just something I remember from school. It seemed appropriate.”

They were standing on a canal bank close to dawn watching two barges smoulder.…

The canal ran through some beautiful countryside, and tonight the usually quiet rural area was floodlit and buzzing with activity, noisy with the shouts of firefighters and the crackle of personal radios. The smell of burned wood, plastic and rubber hung in the air and scratched at the back of Banks’s throat when he breathed in. All around the lit-up area, the darkness of a pre-dawn winter night pressed in, starless and cold. The media had already arrived, mostly TV crews, because fires made for good visuals, even after they had gone out, but the firefighters and police officers kept them well at bay, and the scene was secure….

“Christ, it’s cold,” moaned Annie, stamping from foot to foot. She was mostly obscured by an old army greatcoat she had thrown on over her jeans and polo-neck sweater. She was also wearing a matching maroon woolly hat, scarf and gloves, along with black knee-high leather boots. Her nose was red.

“You’d better go and talk to the firefighters,” Banks said. “Get their stories while events are still fresh in their minds. You never know, maybe one of them will warm you up a bit.”

“Cheeky bastard.” Annie sneezed, blew her nose and wandered off.…

The young constable, who had been talking to the leading firefighter, walked over to Banks and introduced himself: PC Smythe, from the nearest village, Molesby.

“So you’re the one responsible for waking me up at this ungodly hour in the morning,” said Banks.

PC Smythe paled. “Well, sir, it seemed . . . I . . .”

“It’s okay. You did the right thing. Can you fill me in?”

“There’s not much to add, really, sir.” Smythe looked tired and drawn, as well he might. He hardly seemed older than twelve, and this was probably his first major incident.

“Who called it in?” Banks asked.

“Bloke called Hurst. Andrew Hurst. Lives in the old lockkeeper’s house about a mile away. He says he was just going to bed shortly after one o’clock, and he saw the fire from his bedroom window. He knew roughly where it was coming from, so he rode over to check it out.”


“Bicycle, sir.”

“Okay. Go on.”

“That’s about it. When he saw the fire, he phoned it in on his mobile, and the fire brigade arrived. They had a bit of trouble gaining access, as you can see. They had to run long hoses.”

Banks could see the fire engines parked about a hundred yards way, through the woods, where a narrow lane turned sharply right as it neared the canal. “Anyone get out alive?” he asked.

“We don’t know, sir. If they did, they didn’t hang around. We don’t even know how many people live there, or what their names are. All we know is there are two casualties.”

“Wonderful,” said Banks. It wasn’t anywhere near enough information. Arson was often used to cover up other crimes, to destroy evidence, or to hide the identity of a victim, and if that was the case here, Banks needed to know as much about the people who lived on the barges as possible. That would be difficult if they were all dead. “This lockkeeper, is he still around?”

“He’s not actually a lockkeeper, sir,” said PC Smythe. “We don’t use them anymore. The boat crews operate the locks themselves. He just lived in the old lockkeeper’s house. I took a brief statement and sent him home. Did I do wrong?”

“It’s all right,” Banks said. “We’ll talk to him later.…”

Annie Cabbot joined Banks and Smythe. “The station received the call at one thirty-one a.m.,” she said, “and the firefighters arrived here at one forty-four.”

“That sounds about right.”

“It’s actually a very good rural response time,” Annie said. “We’re lucky the station wasn’t staffed by retained men.”

Many rural stations, Banks knew, used “retained” men, or trained part-timers, and that would have meant a longer wait — at least five minutes for them to respond to their personal alerters and get to the station. “We’re lucky they weren’t on strike tonight, too,” he said, “or we’d probably still be waiting for the army to come and piss on the flames.”

They watched the firefighters pack up their gear in silence as the darkness brightened to grey, and a morning mist appeared seemingly from nowhere, swirling on the murky water and shrouding the spindly trees. In spite of the smoke stinging his lungs, Banks felt an intense craving for a cigarette rush through his system. He thrust his hands deeper into his pockets. It had been nearly six months since he had smoked a cigarette, and he was damned if he was going to give in now.

As he fought off the desire, he caught a movement in the trees out of the corner of his eye. Someone was standing there, watching them. Banks whispered to Annie and Smythe, who walked along the bank in opposite directions to circle around and cut the interloper off. Banks edged back toward the trees. When he thought he was within decent range, he turned and ran toward the intruder. As he felt the cold, bare twigs whipping and scratching his face, he saw someone running about twenty yards ahead of him. Smythe and Annie were flanking the figure, crashing through the dark undergrowth, catching up quickly.

Smythe and Annie were by far the fittest of the three pursuers, and even though he’d stopped smoking, Banks soon felt out of breath. When he saw Smythe closing the gap and Annie nearing from the north, he slowed down and arrived panting in time to see the two wrestle a young man to the ground. In seconds he was handcuffed and pulled struggling to his feet.

They all stood still for a few moments to catch their breath, and Banks looked at the youth. He was in his early twenties, about Banks’s height, five foot nine, wiry as a pipe-cleaner, with a shaved head and hollow cheeks. He was wearing jeans and a scuffed leather jacket over a black T-shirt. He struggled with PC Smythe but was no match for the burly constable.

“Right,” said Banks. “Who the hell are you, and what are you doing here?”

The boy struggled. “Nothing. Let me go! I haven’t done anything. Let me go!”

From the Hardcover edition.

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Strange Affair

Was she being followed? It was hard to tell at that time of night on the motorway. There was plenty of traffic, lorries for the most part, and people driving home from the pub just a little too carefully, red BMWs coasting up the fast lane, doing a hundred or more, businessmen in a hurry to get home from late meetings. She was beyond Newport Pagnell now, and the muggy night air blurred the red tail lights of the cars ahead and the oncoming headlights across the road. She began to feel nervous as she checked her rear-­view mirror and saw that the car was still behind her.

She pulled over to the outside lane and slowed down. The car, a dark Mondeo, overtook her. It was too dark to glimpse faces, but she thought there was just one person in the front and another in the back. It ­didn’t have a taxi light on top, so she guessed it was probably a private hire-car and stopped worrying. Some rich git being ferried to a nightclub in Leeds, most likely. She overtook the Mondeo a little further up the motorway and ­didn’t give it a second glance. The late-night radio was playing Old Blue Eyes singing “Summer Wind.” Her kind of music, no matter how old-fashioned people told her it was. Talent and good music never went out of style as far as she was concerned.

When she got to Watford Gap services, she realized she felt tired and hungry, and she still had a long way to go, so she decided to stop for a short break. She ­didn’t even notice the Mondeo pull in two cars behind her. A few seedy-­looking people hung around the entrance; a couple of kids who ­didn’t look old enough to drive stood smoking and playing the machines, giving her the eye as she walked past, staring at her breasts.

She went first to the ladies’, then to the café, where she bought a ham and tomato sandwich and sat alone to eat, washing it down with a Diet Coke. At the table opposite, a man with a long face and dandruff on the collar of his dark suit jacket ogled her over the top of his glasses, pretending to read his newspaper and eat a sausage roll.

Was he just a common or garden-­variety perv, or was there something more sinister in his interest? she wondered. In the end, she decided he was just a perv. Sometimes it seemed as if the world were full of them, that she could hardly walk down the street or go for a drink on her own without some sad pillock who thought he was God’s gift eyeing her up, like the kids hanging around the entrance, or coming over and laying a line of chat on her. Still, she told herself, what else could you expect at this time of night in a motorway service station? A couple of other men came in and went to the counter for coffee-­to-­go, but they ­didn’t give her a second glance.

She finished half the sandwich, dumped the rest and got her travel mug filled with coffee. When she walked back to her car she made sure that there were people around — a family with two young kids up way past their bedtime, noisy and hyperactive — and that no one was following her.

The tank was only a quarter full, so she filled it up at the petrol station, using her credit card right there, at the pump. The perv from the café pulled up at the pump opposite and stared at her as he put the nozzle in the tank. She ignored him. She could see the night manager in his office, watching through the window, and that made her feel more secure.

Tank full, she turned down the slip-­road and eased in between two articulated lorries. It was hot in the car, so she opened both windows and enjoyed the play of breeze they created. It helped keep her awake, along with the hot black coffee. The clock on the dashboard read 12:35 a.m. Only about two or three hours to go, then she would be safe.

Penny Cartwright was singing Richard Thompson’s “Strange Affair” when Banks walked into the Dog and Gun, her low, husky voice milking the song’s stark melancholy for all it was worth. Banks stood by the door, transfixed. Penny Cartwright. He ­hadn’t seen her in over ten years, though he had thought of her often, even seen her name in Mojo and Uncut from time to time. The years had been kind. Her figure still looked good in blue jeans and a tight white T-­shirt tucked in at the waist. The long, raven’s-­wing hair he remembered looked just as glossy as ever in the stage lights, and the few threads of grey here and there made her look even more attractive. She seemed a little more gaunt than before, a little more sad around the eyes, perhaps, but it suited her, and Banks liked the contrast between her pale skin and dark hair.

When the song ended, Banks took advantage of the applause to walk over to the bar, order a pint and light a cigarette. He ­wasn’t happy with himself for having started smoking again after six months or more on the wagon, but there it was. He tried to avoid smoking in the flat, and he would stop again as soon as he’d got himself back together. For the moment, it was a crutch, an old friend come back to visit during a time of need.

There ­wasn’t a seat left in the entire lounge. Banks could feel the sweat prickling on his temples and at the back of his neck. He leaned against the bar and let Penny’s voice transport him as she launched into “Blackwater Side.” She had two accompanists, one on guitar and the other on stand-­up bass, and they wove a dense tapestry of sound against which her lyric lines soared.

The next round of applause marked the end of the set, and Penny walked through the crowd, which parted like the Red Sea for her, smiling and nodding hello as she went, and stood next to Banks at the bar. She lit a cigarette, inhaled, made a circle of her mouth and blew out a smoke ring towards the optics.

From the Hardcover edition.

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The Price of Love and Other Stories

An excerpt from the new novella about DCI Alan Banks, Like A Virgin, one of three stories about Banks in The Price of Love.
In the soft light of the red-shaded bulb that hung over the centre of the room, the girl’s body looked serene. She could easily have been sleeping, Banks thought, as he moved forward to get a better view of her. She lay on her back on the pink candlewick bedspread, covered from neck to toe by a white sheet, hands clasped together above the swell of her breasts in an attitude of prayer or supplication, her long dark hair spread out on the pillow. Her pale features were delicate and finely-etched, and Banks imagined she had been quite a beauty in life. He wondered what she had looked like when she smiled or frowned. Her hazel eyes were devoid of life now, her face free of makeup, and at first glance there wasn’t a mark on her. But when Banks peered closer, he could see the petechial hemorrhages, the tiny telltale dots of blood in her conjunctiva, a sign of death by asphyxia. There was no bruising on her neck, so he guessed suffocation rather than strangulation, but Dr. O’Grady, the Home Office pathologist who knelt beside her at his silent ministrations, would be able to tell him more after his in situ examination.

The room was small and stuffy, but the Persian-style carpet and striped wallpaper gave it a homely touch. It seemed well-maintained, despite its location on the fringes of Soho. No sleazy backstreet hovel for this girl. The window hadn’t been open when Banks arrived, and he knew better than to tamper with the scene in any way, so he left it closed. There wasn’t much space for furniture — a small dressing table with mirror, a washstand in the corner next to the cubicle WC, and a bedside table, on which stood a chipped enamel bowl where a facecloth floated in discoloured water. In the drawer were condoms, tissues and an assortment of sex aids. Did she live here? Banks didn’t think so. There were no clothes and no cooking facilities.

The victim could have been anywhere between fifteen and twenty-five, Banks thought, and her youth certainly added to the aura of innocence that surrounded her in death. Whether she had appeared that way in life, he didn’t know, but he doubted it.

Someone had clearly gone to great pains to make her look innocent. Her legs were stretched out straight together, and even under the sheet she was fully dressed. Her clothes — a short skirt, patent leather high heels, dark tights and a green scallop-neck top — were provocative, but not too tarty. Much more tasteful than that. So what was it all about?

Her handbag contained the usual: cigarettes, a yellow disposable lighter, keys on a fluffy rabbit’s foot ring, makeup, tampons, a cheap ballpoint pen and a purse with a few pounds and some loose change. There was no address book or diary and no credit cards or identification of any kind. The only item Banks found of any interest was a creased photograph of a proud, handsome young man in what looked like his best suit, bouncing a little girl on his knee. There was a resemblance, and Banks guessed it was the victim and her father. According to the girlfriend who had found her, Jackie Simmons, the victim’s name was Pamela Morrison.

Banks went back to stand in the doorway. He had quickly learned that the fewer people who entered a room before the SOCOs got to work, the better. He was on detachment from Soho Division to the West Central Murder Squad. Everything was squads and specialists these days, and if you didn’t find your niche somewhere pretty fast, you soon became a general dogsbody. Nobody wanted that, especially Banks. He seemed to have a knack for ferreting out murderers, and luckily for him the powers that be in the Metropolitan Police Force agreed. So here he was. His immediate boss, Detective Superintendent Bernard Hatchard, was officially in charge of the investigation, of course, but he was so burdened by paperwork and public relations duties that he rarely left the station and was more than happy to leave the legwork to his DI and his oppo DS Ozzy Albright — as long as he got regular updates so he didn’t sound like a wanker in front of the media.

Banks liked the way things were, but lately he had started to feel the pressure. It wasn’t that there were more murders to deal with, simply that each one seemed to get to him more and take more out of him. But there was no going back. That way lay a desk piled with papers or, worse, traffic duty. He would just have to push on through whatever it was that was dragging him down, keeping him awake at night, making him neglect his family, drink and smoke too much . . . the litany went on.

Harry Beckett, the police photographer was next to arrive, and he went about his business with the usual professional detachment, as if he were photographing a wedding. Dr. O’Grady, who had been called from a formal dinner at the Soho Club, not far away, finally finished his examination, stood up and gave a weary sigh. His knees cracked as he moved.

“I’m getting too old for this, Banks,” he said. And he was looking old, Banks thought. Neat but thinning grey hair, the veins around his nose red and purple, perhaps due to his known fondness for fine claret.

“Any idea when she might have been killed?” Banks asked.

“Somehow, I knew you’d ask me that first,” the doctor said. “None of this is written in stone, mind you, especially given the temperature in the room, but judging by the rigor I’d say she’s been dead since last night, say between ten and one in the morning.”

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