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Authors: Cath Staincliffe

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Bleed Like Me

BOOK: Bleed Like Me
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About the Book


Three ordinary women, one extraordinary job

DC Janet Scott
Janet is a long-standing member of Manchester Metropolitan Police’s Major Incident Team. Married with two teenage daughters, she’s a reliable colleague and a true friend to Rachel and Gill – but underneath her calm demeanour lies a steely determination and a tumultuous personal life.

DC Rachel Bailey
A relative newcomer to the team, Rachel is knife-sharp, instinctive and fiercely ambitious. But she’s got terrible taste in men and, whilst she gets results, her brash behaviour often lands her in trouble.

DCI Gill Murray
Unfairly nicknamed Godzilla by Rachel, Gill is the dangerously sarcastic head of the MIT and the harried single-mother of a seventeen-year-old boy. A talented and no-nonsense leader, her only fault is that she cares too much about the job.

Together they must hunt a killer, but a life fighting crime can be no life at all...



About the Book

Title Page


Day One

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Day Two

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Day Three

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Day Four

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Day Five

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23



About the Author

Also by Cath Staincliffe


Cath Staincliffe





For my agent, Sara – thank you for everything




Day One

Rachel was running. Running for her life. Air burning like acid in her chest, feet pounding the tarmac. Everything around her, the shops and passers-by, lampposts and railings, smudged, a blur of shape and colour.

She risked a glance behind, hair whipping in her eyes, almost losing her balance as one ankle buckled, and she saw the car was gaining. He was at the wheel, his face set with intent, eyes gleaming, mouth curved in a half-smile.

Running her down, running her to ground. For a moment, her legs stalled, numb, weak as string, before she took flight again. Arms slicing the air, throat parched, sweat cold across her skin and the thud of her heart ever louder in her ears. Then the roar as he gunned the engine, the screech as the car leapt towards her, close enough for her to smell burning oil and petrol fumes high in her throat. Dizzying.

The thump of impact. Hurling her forward, a bone-cracking crunch and Rachel fell, sprawling along the gutter and into the pavement’s edge, legs twisting the wrong way beneath her, skinning her chin and shoulder and the length of her forearms. Smacking her head against the kerbstone. A jolt that turned the world black and brought vomit scalding her gullet.

The engine cut out and then she heard his footsteps, the smack-smack of best Italian leather on the gritty stone.

She tried to draw away but was pinned, paralysed, and her attempt to shuffle brought scarlet pain licking through her hip. She tried to cry for help but her voice was frozen too and all the people had gone. She was alone with him.

‘Rachel,’ he said sadly, ‘Rachel, Rachel, what will I do with you?’

Tears burnt the backs of her eyes. Then his hands were on her, yanking her over, ignoring the howls she gave.

Nick, shaking his head, disappointed in her. ‘I warned you,’ he said.

And he had.

‘I can’t trust you, Rachel.’

That was fucking rich, that was. She’d have laughed if the pain hadn’t been so brutal.

He lifted his foot, pressed the sole of his shoe on her neck. His eyes drilled into her.

There was something she must do, must remember to do, something . . . The knife! She still had the knife. Her fingers tightened round the handle. She kept her gaze locked on his. Just stab his leg and then . . .

‘We could have been so good. But you wouldn’t listen, would you? Threatening me. You silly bitch.’ He pushed down, his mouth tightening with the effort, crushing her windpipe.

She raised the knife, so heavy, her arms spasming with cramp, and plunged the blade into his calf and heard the sudden high scream, half pain half rage, that he gave as he stumbled back.

Rachel couldn’t move. Her legs wouldn’t work. Nick bent over her, grabbed her hand, peeling back her fingers to get the knife. ‘You bitch, you mad bitch.’ He spat the words, spittle landing on her face.

‘Bastard,’ Rachel whispered.

He had the knife.

She would not beg.

He moved closer, the knife ready, smeared with his blood. His eyes brilliant with hatred. He touched the tip of the knife to her cheek. ‘I’ve got to kill you,’ he said softly, ‘you know that.’

Panic skittered in her chest, making her shudder uncontrollably. The pain from her hip rolled over her in waves.

Fuck you, she thought. Fuck you, Nick Savage. Fuck you to hell and back. She lunged for his arm, determined to fight, grabbing at his wrist, but he dodged, lifting the knife away.

Swiftly he moved back, stooped with the knife and swept it under her throat.

Rachel felt the spill of warm blood across her neck and down her chest, heard the gurgling noise she made, saw his smile, wide, gleeful. She tried to scream but her throat was full of blood. No air. Help me!

She reared awake, choking, sucking in breath, the knife in her hand.

The room full of snow, white, floating, spiralling down. Touching her neck, sticky, itchy. And something sharp in her mouth, making her retch. She felt for it with her fingers, drew out feathers, curled and slick with saliva. Feathers, not snow. Her pillow slashed. She spat more feathers from her mouth, wiped them from her neck.



Rachel Bailey wept. Huge noisy sobs while the feathers swung and floated in the silvery beams of first light that stole into her bedroom.


Gill Murray had barely got her coat off when the call came through. Suspicious death. Serious Crime Division wanted her as SIO, senior investigating officer. The syndicate were next in line for any new case, so the shout had come to her. She got the location, Journeys Inn on the far side of Oldham, and left word with her sergeant, Andy Roper.

Probably a bar brawl, or some payback exacted after last orders, she speculated as she drove, heading out of town past the slow-moving traffic coming in the other direction into work. Some scrote getting mouthy with some other, blood on the floor. But why hadn’t they heard about it till now? Why hadn’t the landlord called them out last night?

Don’t get ahead of yourself, she thought, looks suspicious, might not be. There are plenty of sudden deaths that turn out to be natural: hearts stopping, brains stroking out. Or suicides. Or accidents.

The road climbed out of the valley past old warehouses and sheds edging the canal and a scattering of new industrial units, and switched back on itself as the incline became steeper. Terraced houses sprouted in little hamlets, more or less merged these days, some looking abandoned, threadbare, with boarded windows, others maintained well enough.

She travelled up through the Larks estate, social housing built in the sixties, three-bed homes with pebbledash and open-plan front gardens. The estate was laid out like a maze, Gill knew; the main road bisected it but either side there were endless semicircular drives that sprouted more crescents and cul-de-sacs and all looked interchangeable. Up on the brow of the hill was Journeys Inn. As Gill’s car crested the rise, she could see a row of vehicles parked on the roadside in front of the pub, among them CSI vans and two squad cars.

Journeys was an old coaching inn. Three storeys high with six windows on each floor at the front and probably the same at the back, thought Gill, though she could not see from where she was. She pulled in behind the other vehicles. The scene had been secured with tape which ran along the perimeter wall of the pub by the road and across the drive at the side which led behind the building. A sign pointing that way read
Car Park

Stepping out of the car, Gill felt the breeze coming over the hills. Beyond the inn lay open country, the mix of heather and bracken that covered the slopes interrupted here and there by dun-coloured grass. The bracken a blaze of vermilion in full autumn glory. It was not dissimilar to the view from her own house a few miles further to the east. Gill estimated the nearest houses, on the Larks, were perhaps three hundred yards from the pub. So no immediate neighbours, no one overlooking the place.

Gill got out and opened the car boot, fighting against the wind as she unfolded a disposable paper suit and pulled it on. She did the same with a pair of gloves, covered her shoes with protectors and opened a face mask, leaving it round her neck until she got into the scene. Immediately, she was hot, and with the mask on she knew her glasses would soon steam up.

Gill showed her warrant card to the man staffing the crime
scene perimeter at the entrance to the drive. He signed her in and she ducked under the tape and followed the designated path that had been marked out along the lane. To her right, parallel to the side of the pub, was a long single-storey building, roof long gone and the internal walls reduced to piles of stone. Probably stables for the inn, during its heyday. The car park at the back was almost deserted. Just a small grey hatchback parked at the far side.

The ground was hard-packed earth, rutted where heavy vehicles had churned up mud. Much of the lot was overrun with weeds, cow parsley and dandelions and nettles, suggesting it wasn’t prone to heavy use.

Either side of the main double doors were picnic tables, the wood grey and splintered, and to the right in the corner a play area with a rusting swing set and a climbing frame. There was a second single door almost at the corner of the building. CSIs had protected both entrances with tents.

The main doors were ajar and Gill read the brass plate above them:
Owen Cottam, licensed for the sale of alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises

‘Gill Murray.’ The man, suited and booted like Gill, came out of the building.

‘Gerry. You CSM?’ Responsible for managing the crime scene.

‘Coordinator,’ Gerry said. ‘They tell you we’ve got three victims?’

‘Three! Oh, God.’ Gill felt the kick of adrenalin speed up her pulse though she was professional enough to appear calm and collected.

‘Three separate scenes. Gonna be a long day,’ he added.

Week, month, Gill thought. Each scene would have its own crime scene manager and Gerry would oversee them all.

‘Take you up?’

. She heard the word and revised her expectations. Upstairs. Not a bar fight, then. Unless they’d a function room upstairs and someone got killed without any of the other guests noticing. And again, how come the landlord hadn’t summoned help till now?

The interior of the inn was gloomy. No one had turned any lights on. A cardinal rule of crime scene management. Touch nothing, preserve the scene. The CSIs would bring in any lighting required, to enable photographs and video to be taken of the scene, to allow the techs to document and recover any evidence. After all, who knew if a fingerprint might be on the light switch. Might tell a crucial part of the story. There was always a story.

Gill followed Gerry through the pub to the right with its smell of damp carpet and beer and old cooking oil and cigar smoke. Years since the smoking ban but nicotine still tainted the air.

The place was cavernous, though some attempts had been made to section off the space with booths and some raised sections. As her eyesight adjusted she could see that the banquette seats looked greasy with use, and the fussy wallpaper, Regency stripes, had come away in some places. Design circa 1980s, Gill guessed, thirty years out of date.

A door marked
led off the bar into a narrow hallway, with an external door to the right (the one she’d noticed from the outside) and stairs leading up to the left. The tenants’ entrance. So they could come and go without traipsing through the pub itself.

The fire door at the top of the stairs had been propped open and they went through it, took a quarter turn to the left on to a short landing. ‘Bathroom on the right,’ Gerry said, ‘kitchen and living room on the right.’ Both doors were shut. The landing led to a hallway that ran down the centre of the building
with doors off either side. Stepping plates had been placed on the carpet along the hall to protect the scene and small markers sat here and there, indicating potential evidence.

BOOK: Bleed Like Me
2.59Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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