Authors: Chris Collett
Table of Contents
THE WORM IN THE BUD
BLOOD OF THE INNOCENTS
WRITTEN IN BLOOD
STALKED BY SHADOWS
BLOOD AND STONE *
available from Severn House
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First published in Great Britain and the USA 2013 by
SEVERN HOUSE PUBLISHERS LTD of
9 â 15 High Street, Sutton, Surrey, England, SM1 1DF.
eBook edition first published in 2013 by Severn House Digital
an imprint of Severn House Publishers Limited
Copyright Â© 2013 by Chris Collett.
The right of Chris Collett to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
Blood and stone. â (A Tom Mariner mystery ; 6)
1. Mariner, Tom (Fictitious character)âFiction.
2. MurderâInvestigationâFiction. 3. PoliceâEnglandâ
BirminghamâFiction. 4. Detective and mystery stories.
I. Title II. Series
ISBN-13: 978-1-78029-052-2 (cased)
ISBN-13: 978-1-78010-440-9 (Epub)
Except where actual historical events and characters are being described for the storyline of this novel, all situations in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to living persons is purely coincidental.
This eBook produced by
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Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland.
very now and again, there is an exquisite moment in one's interactions with other human beings that hits the sweet spot dead centre. Capturing a split second of pure, unadulterated surprise on the face of a loved one is such a moment; like the joy of a young child on the Christmas morning when his parents, against the odds, have succeeded in providing a desperately wanted toy. Too fleeting and transient for any lasting pleasure, the next best thing is the anticipation, which can, in its way, be more of a thrill than the moment itself. Glenn McGinley had that feeling now, electrifying every fibre in his body, making his nerves tingle the way they did immediately after a hit of cocaine, and temporarily anaesthetizing his pain. McGinley was a firm believer in heaven and hell. The idea had been sold to him early on and its simplicity had always made perfect sense to him. Logic therefore dictated that in the not-too-distant future he was going to burn in the fiery furnace. He'd done enough bad things in his life to make it a certainty. But thanks to a chance conversation, he had seen the light. Not the kind of light strong enough to redeem his corrupted soul, but the kind of light that made him want some company when he got there. There was no harm in that, was there?
He had the minicab driver drop him and his plastic bin bag off a couple of streets away: no sense in announcing his arrival when his sole purpose was to surprise her. Night and day, for weeks now, he'd lain on that wood-framed cot picturing the expression on her face when she saw him again, and the prospect evoked an intensity of feeling close to euphoria. But, like Christmas morning, everything had to be orchestrated perfectly; he couldn't afford to screw anything up, so the important thing right now was to remain focused. Concentration had never been one of his strong points. Right back in nursery school, that much had been obvious. But if he could just keep it together for a bit longer, he just knew that it would be worth the effort.
Dusk had turned to night hours ago, leaving the cold and windy streets deserted, which suited him fine. He approached number twenty-two from the narrow alley running between the gardens of the back-to-back rows of post-war social housing. Good old Kirkby. True, the place had moved on from being the grim sink estate it had been in the 1970s, since when, tower blocks had been ripped down to make way for more respectable mixed-economy housing. In a defiant gesture Liverpool FC had even relocated their training academy out here. But it was still a shit hole. McGinley was headed to the old part; the place they'd moved to thirty years ago, away from the back-to-back slums and into a brand spanking new slum, the widow and her sons. It was all part of the fresh start that didn't turn out to be quite what any of them expected. Even now, in the three-bedroomed house there was a room set aside for him, in case he ever chose to âreturn to the fold' (her words). But she'd laid down too many conditions for that ever to happen. He'd been back plenty of times since he'd left, but always under cover of night and always without her knowledge. She would never have suspected anything. Sometimes it was useful having an old girl who'd become a trusting and naÃ¯ve religious nut.
McGinley's senses were heightened as they always were on re-entry; the feel of the cool evening air on his skin, the sharp smell of a recent rain shower that accentuated the sour notes of rotting refuse each time he passed a cluster of wheelie bins. As expected, there were no lights on at the house. She'd followed the same strict routine for years and he had no reason to believe it had changed. Whilst other middle-aged women would have been at the bingo or in the pub, her Thursday nights were spent at the mission, helping those âless fortunate' while making every effort to educate them about where, in their miserable lives, they were going wrong. She'd been doing it for years, ploughing doggedly on, at the very same time that her own family slowly disintegrated in the background.
The back gate was locked as usual, but McGinley had always been spare and lithe, and now, with the additional weight loss, he was practically skeletal. It took him a matter of seconds to scramble over â his traditional mode of entry â swinging the plastic bag ahead of him, and drop lightly on to the path on the other side, beside the garden shed, erected when they'd first moved here to accommodate Dad's old tools and belongings that she couldn't bear to part with. Fumbling for the padlock, he stuck in his key. Ice-cold in his hand, it was stiff from lack of use and took some effort to turn, but then as far as he knew he'd been the only one to come in here in twenty years.
The air inside the shed was musty and undisturbed, domin-ated by the overpowering smell of creosote. This was in truth the only space on this earth McGinley could call his own and the territory was at once so familiar that the light streaming in from the street lamps allowed him to locate exactly what he needed almost straight away. As he retrieved the camouflage rucksack from the far corner, something scuttled lightly over his hand and he had to stifle a cry. Shit! His heart pounded for few seconds, then he shook his head in disgust; after everything he'd endured, to still be scared of spiders. It took him a matter of minutes to transfer his stuff from the bin bag to the dusty canvas sack, and after that he reached up on to a high shelf, behind a row of cobweb-strewn paint tins, and took down a steel toolbox. This too had an ancient padlock, for which McGinley was the sole key holder. The contents of the box were functional enough, but unlike most things in this shed, they were designed not for
Removing a couple of items from the top tray, he pushed them deep into the pack. They might prove useful later on. But what he lifted out last, and with reverential care, would come into its own very soon. He wondered what his mum's pals would think if they knew what she had been harbouring for years in her own back yard. Resting it in his palm for a moment, he savoured the comforting weight of it and felt his heart begin to pump a little harder. He checked the mechanism, which operated as smoothly as â well (he allowed himself a smile) a
Tonight Matthew, I'm going to be â¦ Charles Bronson in Death Wish 2.
From his inside jacket pocket McGinley took the gift his room-mate had given him two nights previously and screwed it on to the barrel. It was a perfect fit. Astonishing what could be obtained in a Category C if you knew who to ask.
Finally, pulling on the latex gloves acquired at his last medical appointment, McGinley emerged from the shed, closing the door quietly behind him. He waited for a moment in the shadows, reassessing the houses on either side. He'd already noted a presence in each property, but as long as he was careful there would be no need for anyone to notice what was going on next door. The illuminated kitchen to the left stayed empty; lights in the house to the right were upstairs, behind curtains drawn shut. He walked softly up the footpath and tested his key in the back door. This time it turned easily and he stepped into the hallway and back into the 1950s, and air thick with the smell of furniture polish and abstinence. Locking the door again behind him, McGinley groped his way in the darkness along the hall, past the open kitchen door, where the light glinted back at him from the old-fashioned appliances, and into the lounge. She'd had a shift-round since he was last here, and amazingly there was new furniture. He dragged one of the heavy armchairs around so that it faced the door and settled into it. It was quite comfy actually; one of those reclining ones. For his own amusement he played with the mechanism for a few minutes, firing off an imaginary shot each time he slammed up the foot rest, until he got bored. By now he was desperate for a drink or a fag or both, but he needed a clear head and the smell of smoke would immediately announce his presence, so the only thing left to him was to wait. Tucking the gun down out of sight between his outer thigh and the armrest, he leaned back and closed his eyes.
om Mariner paced the confines of his canal-side home, polishing his left shoe with a kind of restless fervour as if, somehow, the effort might hold in abeyance the thick cloud of grief that approached like a vast unstoppable weather front. Shoe-cleaning had been his first responsibility as a small boy. âA man's job' his mother had called it, and as he was, even at the age of four, the man of the house, the task had fallen to him. Ever since, he had found a comforting familiarity in the evocative smell of the wax polish and the simple, repetitive task, and it had become his last desperate hiding place. Mariner knew about the cycle of grief; the voyage through shock, denial, anger and sadness, and he knew too that it was inevitable. Until now work had been his salvation. The last weeks had been chaotic, with several major cases hitting the courts at the same time, commanding his full attention; demanding that he be focused and objective. There was no place for raw emotion. But tomorrow reality would come crashing in and already he could feel the edges beginning to fray.