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Authors: Chris Collett

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BOOK: Blood and Stone
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‘We have to call the police.' Mariner was breathless. ‘Jeremy Bryce is dead. He's been murdered in his bed.'

‘
What?
Is this some kind of wind-up?' Elena started towards the hostel again and Mariner had to hold her back.

‘You can't go up there, Elena. It's carnage. And it's also a crime scene. We have to call the police. Now.' Grabbing his boots from the drying room and pulling them on over his bare feet, Mariner steered her back across the yard towards the kitchen. ‘Where's Cerys?' he asked, his voice low.

‘Brushing her teeth, I think. She'll be off to school in a bit. She said she'd be all right to catch the bus today.'

‘I've got to phone the police straight away. Can you keep her upstairs for a few minutes and try to behave normally. It's probably best that we don't tell her anything yet, just let her get off to school.'

She was staring at him. ‘But if he's dead …'

‘I didn't do it, Elena.' Mariner held her gaze for a moment. ‘Someone must have got in during the night.' He had no way of knowing if she believed him or not, but that was too bad.

‘But how come you didn't hear?'

‘I don't know; I was out cold. The booze, I suppose.' Mariner shot her an agonized look. ‘Please, Elena, we can talk about this later.'

Inside the house Elena disappeared upstairs, while Mariner dialled 999 and reported what he had found. Then he swilled his face under the kitchen tap to remove any traces of blood and zipped up the fleece to cover what was on his T-shirt, before sitting at the kitchen table, shaking and feeling sick. He pulled himself together when Cerys appeared, coming down the stairs with her school bag in hand. ‘And so, another exciting day at school, eh!' he said with excessive enthusiasm.

Cerys curled her lip. ‘I'd rather stay here.' She brightened. ‘Is Mr Bryce about? D'you think he'd like a game of chess? Mum could always take me in later.'

‘I don't think so. Anyway Mr Bryce is having a lie-in.' Mariner cringed inwardly, a euphemism if ever there was one.

‘Come on, love, off you go,' Elena breezed down the stairs, her recovery from the initial shock impressive. ‘I'll walk you as far as the gate.'

‘Have a good day,' Mariner called after them.

Elena returned no more than a couple of minutes later, the facade of forced cheerfulness collapsed. ‘Now what do we do?' she said, dropping into the chair opposite Mariner.

‘We wait,' said Mariner. ‘Any chance of that cup of tea?'

TWENTY-THREE

T
hey had drained their mugs and were sitting at the kitchen table, listening to the washing machine finish its cycle, when tyres crunched over the gravel in the yard. An unmarked vehicle pulled in followed by a squad car, its light flashing. Mariner and Elena went out to be greeted by Ryan Griffith and a uniformed officer, a young gangly lad with dark red hair and a bad complexion, whom he introduced as DC Blaine. The absence of DCI Bullman told Mariner that he was content to steer this investigation from behind a desk and trust Ryan Griffith to do a good job.

‘Where is he?' Griffith asked.

Mariner gestured towards the hostel entrance. ‘Top of the stairs, second room on the right.'

The two policemen followed Mariner's instructions and Mariner heard their footsteps echoing on the floorboards, followed by a startled cry. Seconds later the younger man reappeared, hand clamped to his mouth. He staggered out into the yard and, bent double, brought up whatever it was he'd eaten for breakfast. Griffith took his time and it was several minutes before he emerged again, calm and unruffled. ‘Sorry,' he said coolly, regarding his colleague, who had straightened now and was wiping his mouth on a handkerchief. ‘I don't think he's ever seen anything like this before.'

‘But you have,' thought Mariner, remembering what Elena had said about the SAS. Griffith tilted his head towards the stairs. ‘Who is he?'

‘His name is Jeremy Bryce.'

‘And he's a friend of yours?'

‘Not exactly. I met him just a few days ago.'

Griffith walked over to the two uniforms now standing by their car and spoke to them for a couple of minutes, before coming back to Mariner and Elena. ‘I'll need you both to go with these officers to make statements.'

The journey to Llanerch was a seven-mile drive into what turned out to be little more than a large village. Mariner and Elena remained quiet in the car, confining themselves to the occasional exchanged glance. Elena seemed nervous, but then it was undoubtedly the first time she'd been through anything like this, and she would be worried about Cerys too. Mariner wanted to reach out and take her hand but he didn't want to do anything that could be misinterpreted by their two escorts and fed back to Griffith. In a local area like this the squad would be tight. The police station was a wide square greystone block set back behind parking space. It must have been there a while, and still had the old-fashioned blue lamp hanging outside.

Mariner was taken first to the medical examiner. Except for a brief sympathetic smile as he went in and the minimal necessary instructions, the FME worked in complete silence; taking a blood sample, swabbing and scraping and then removing several hairs from different parts of his head. Mariner accepted it all without complaint. Although his hair was cropped short he had plenty to spare, and it was the evidence from those samples that would help to put him in the clear. If he'd cut Jeremy Bryce's throat, the blood spatter would have found its way into his ears and the fine spray would have penetrated to the roots of his hair. Its absence wouldn't in itself be enough to rule him out as the killer, but it would form part of the wider picture. Finally the FME handed Mariner a couple of brown paper evidence bags. ‘And I'll need you to do the honours again, sir, please.' Another police-issue tracksuit was folded on the chair and she left the room to allow Mariner to change into it.

After processing Mariner was shown to an interview room, where a uniformed officer came and took his written statement and then he sat twiddling his thumbs for a further hour and a half. By now he had a blinding headache and it was actually a relief to be left in peace for a while. Elena would be doing the same in a separate room. The waiting couldn't be helped; Mariner knew that and he hoped Elena realized it too. Griffith would be sealing off the scene and waiting for the SOCOs to get there. In a rural area like this it could potentially take hours. Aberystwyth was probably the nearest main base. And he had no reason to grumble. The custody officer was attentive and courteous, offering refreshment at intervals, including some painkillers, and apologizing for keeping him waiting. Even so, Mariner felt a certain apprehension, knowing that having clearly been the last man to see Bryce alive he would inevitably be the focus of the questioning. And the trouble was he couldn't explain it, except that it must have happened while he was sleeping up in the attic room. He'd racked his brains to remember if at any time during the night he'd heard or even sensed anything out of the ordinary, but could come up with nothing. There was no way of proving to Griffith that he hadn't been in the dorm all night, so inevitably he was going to be the main suspect. What would he be thinking if he was in Griffith's shoes? Eventually he was offered the opportunity to make a phone call.

Tony Knox was at his desk, going over some of the statements Charlie Glover's team had collected from the kids at Michael's party to see if he could find something that had been overlooked. So far it had been a fruitless exercise, exactly as Glover had said; it was like coming up against a brick wall, and pretty incomprehensible that with so many people in such a confined space, none of them had seen a thing. Knox was starting to share Charlie Glover's feeling that some of the kids knew much more than they were saying. He focused his efforts on Emily and Georgia, Kirsty's two best friends, who surely would have been the ones around her all night, but both claimed that they had been dancing downstairs immediately before the incident. Something was nagging at Knox, and he was trying in vain to identify what, when his phone rang. That it was Mariner was unexpected. ‘Hi, Boss, how's things?' He saw Millie glance up from her desk.

‘Not all that great, as it happens,' Mariner admitted. He sounded muffled, far away, on edge.

‘What's going on?' Knox was instantly alert. The information Mariner had asked him to put together was under a pile of other papers and he tried to retrieve it with his free hand.

‘You know that killing here in Caranwy?' Mariner said.

‘Yeah, it made the national news. Some kid wasn't it?'

‘Yes. There's going to be a further news item today. There's been another one; a tourist has been murdered in what used to be the youth hostel, less than half a mile away.'

‘Christ, so you're near all that too?'

‘Pretty near,' said Mariner.

‘Have they got anyone for it?' Knox asked.

‘That would be me,' said Mariner. ‘The guy was sleeping in the bunk above mine when he was killed.'

There was the merest beat of a pause while Knox absorbed that. ‘Christ,' he said again. ‘Are you under arrest?' Knox immediately felt, rather than saw, half a dozen heads swivel in his direction as the noise in CID faded to nothing. Instinctively he turned his back to the room and covered the phone's mouthpiece.

‘Not quite,' Mariner said. ‘But I could use a friendly face. How soon can you get out here?'

‘I'll talk to the gaffer.'

‘With any luck she already knows. Round about now the Dyfed police will be contacting her to inform her that I've been taken in for questioning.'

‘Who's running the show?'

‘A DCI Bullman is in charge, though the man controlling things on the ground is DI Ryan Griffith.'

‘What's he like, this Griffith?'

‘To be truthful, I can't make up my mind. Outwardly he seems okay. We've had a couple of conversations about Theo Ashton and he seemed to genuinely welcome my input.'

‘But?'

‘I don't know how close he is to some of the locals.'

‘Is that going to be a problem?'

‘Not for me, but for the case? I guess we'll have to wait and see. Listen, I might be here a while,' Mariner went on. ‘I could do with a change of clothes. And did you manage to do that research for me?'

‘I'll bring it along.'

Knox didn't want the whole of CID to know yet, they'd get the details soon enough, so he took Millie to one side to explain, before going and talking to DCI Sharp.

‘So two people have been killed out there and they haven't got a suspect,' she said.

‘That's about it,' said Knox.

‘And Glenn McGinley?'

‘What about him?' Knox asked wearily. This obsession was becoming tiresome, especially as it was pretty well established by now that McGinley had got away to Ireland.

‘Don't you think it's just too easy that he left his car where everyone would find it and let himself be seen buying a ticket to Dublin?' Millie persevered.

‘He hasn't been caught yet, has he?' Knox reminded her. ‘So it wasn't that easy.'

‘Exactly,' Millie retorted. ‘Maybe that's because he's got everyone looking in the wrong place. What if he didn't get on the ferry at all?'

‘The man's committed two double murders. It would be in his interests to get as far away as possible.'

‘Unless he isn't finished yet.'

Knox took a deep breath. ‘Look, Millie, this isn't the time …'

‘Why is nobody listening to me?' Millie was beside herself.

‘Because all the evidence indicates that McGinley's well away,' said Knox, exasperated. ‘His car was found in the ferry car park. And all his victims were shot, not stabbed, so these killings in Wales are not at all consistent with his MO.'

‘Unless he was provoked. He's a career criminal. His path could easily have crossed with Tom's in the past.'

‘Do me a favour, would you?' Knox said, rubbing a hand over his face. ‘Forget Glenn McGinley and look up a DI Ryan Griffith, Dyfed Police and see what you can get on him.'

As anticipated, the Welsh police had already been in touch with DCI Sharp and she was fully prepared for Knox to travel down to Wales. ‘There will be an explanation for this, Tony,' Sharp said, unnecessarily. ‘Don't let him do anything stupid.'

‘He sounded calm and rational over the phone,' Knox reassured her. ‘He'll be okay.'

 

High on adrenalin, Glenn McGinley had scrambled his way back to the unoccupied bungalow and let himself in. This time he found the electric immersion heater and celebrated with a hot bath as well as something to eat, before subsiding on to one of the beds feeling weakened and drained, the lack of adequate nutrition over the last few days beginning to take its toll. From the radio alarm he learned that his car had been found in Holyhead and the search had shifted to the Republic of Ireland. ‘My work is done,' he congratulated himself, before falling into a deep and heavy sleep.

Before leaving the city Knox called in at Mariner's house to pick up some things for him, but this time he drove along the service road to park right outside the house. He could see at once that something was wrong; the front door was hanging off its hinges and it was immediately obvious that the place had been trashed. For the first time Knox thought about the murders in Wales and what was happening here. What if Millie was right and this was all part of something bigger? Squeezing in by the battered door, he was instantly aware of a presence, even before he heard the voices coming from the direction of the kitchen. Stepping around the broken glass on the floor, he crept along the hallway. No, not voices: one voice, male, moaning and chuntering to himself. Knox cursed that he had no baton with him, nor was there anything to hand that he could use to protect himself. He inched his way forward and as he did so, the open door behind him swung and creaked in the breeze. The talking stopped abruptly and a face appeared in the kitchen doorway, long enough for Knox to glimpse a young man, with long untidy hair and growth on his chin. Knox met his startled gaze momentarily, before the trespasser turned and bolted, clattering out through the back door and on to the canal towpath.

BOOK: Blood and Stone
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