Authors: Tom Bale
Tags: #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Mystery, #Thrillers & Suspense, #Crime, #Spies & Politics, #Conspiracies, #Crime Fiction
About the Book
Joe Clayton thought the dangers of his undercover career were behind him. He was wrong. One grey October morning, while working in a quiet Bristol street, he hears the voice of the man who has sworn to destroy him. Minutes later Joe is running for his life again.
Desperate for sanctuary, he heads for the small Cornish town of Trelennan, and the home of Diana Bamber, widow of a former police colleague. But Diana reacts strangely to his arrival, and gradually Joe discovers that Trelennan is far from the idyllic, law-abiding resort it claims to be.
The town is in the grip of one man. Leon Race doesn’t welcome strangers, especially ex-cops who start asking questions about missing women. Soon Joe is caught up in another undercover role, but as he penetrates the web of secrets that ensnares the town’s elite, his own secret is at risk of discovery. And all the time his old enemy is circling …
About the Author
Tom Bale was born in Sussex in 1966. He worked in a variety of jobs while pursuing his lifelong ambition to be a writer. His first novel,
Sins of the Father
, was published in 2006 under his real name, David Harrison. After that he acquired an agent, a pseudonym and a publishing deal with Random House. He now writes full time and lives with his family in Brighton. Find out more at
and follow him on Facebook.
Also by Tom Bale
Skin and Bones
For my son, James
THEY SET A
trap for him, and it nearly worked. Despite all his precautions, years of living like a hunted animal, he didn’t see it coming.
He was a needle in a haystack. That was what he’d allowed himself to believe. They would never find him, because they didn’t have the organisation, or the dedication. Because they weren’t clever enough.
But he was wrong. What he’d overlooked was that they didn’t need to be particularly clever. All they needed was patience, determination and a little bit of luck. Spend long enough combing through the haystack and eventually that needle was going to tumble into their grasp.
Whether it landed flat, or stabbed them in the process, was another matter …
It was the corner that saved him. The corner, the high scaffolding, and his own generous measure of luck.
Five minutes earlier he’d been at ground level, drinking a coffee that the householder had brought out. As he mounted the ladder to get back to work, Ryan had said, ‘Knock off for lunch in ten.’
‘Yeahhh, why not?’ Even Ryan sounded slightly taken aback by his own generosity: he often worked all day without a break. ‘We’ve been grafting since half-seven.’
Fair point, and Joe spent the next few minutes in pleasant anticipation of a hot pub lasagne and a refreshing pint of lager.
The two men came round the corner from Sion Hill, just twenty or thirty feet away. They were on foot, and the acute angle between the pavement and the top level of the scaffolding meant that Joe wasn’t visible from below. Had they been in a car, or approached from further along the street, they’d have spotted him at once.
And they were talking. Nothing he could distinguish clearly, but Joe tuned into the coarse estuary accents – voices that always put him on guard. He crouched down, choosing that moment to refresh the paint on his brush. One of the men called out: ‘Oy, mate?’
The shout made Joe’s stomach tighten. He stayed low as the men closed in. Heard a tiny metallic clink as someone’s watch or ring made contact with a scaffolding pole.
Joe leaned over, just enough to catch a glimpse of the two men standing beneath him. One of the faces he didn’t recognise at all, but the other was grimly familiar.
It was the face of a man he had killed.
Twenty to twelve on a cool overcast Tuesday in early October – an autumn of heavy rain, with more expected in the coming days. Ryan felt that this week represented their best opportunity for outside work. So far he’d been right, although all morning the clouds had been massing over the Avon gorge.
Ryan’s practice was to use ladders wherever possible; failing that, a lightweight mobile scaffolding tower. But the property they were renovating was a substantial Georgian town house, three storeys high. Nothing less than fixed scaffolding would suffice.
Unlike most of the other houses in the street, which wore a fine stippled render, this one was clad in a thick pebble-dash. Joe had assumed they’d spray it, but Ryan told him that would be a waste of time.
‘To get the paint into the gaps you have to spray really slowly. Then
it starts dripping everywhere, so you keep stopping to mop up. Easier just to use a brush in the first place.’
was a relative concept, Joe soon discovered, for a process that involved prodding the brush into crevices an inch deep, then working it round to ensure that the paint coated the entire surface area.
And there was the mess to contend with: not much less than a spray would have caused. In addition to full-length overalls, Joe was wearing gloves, goggles and a woolly hat. As the brush jabbed at the render it threw back a fine mist of droplets that through the course of the day would coat his body with little dots of plasticised paint.
But right now he had only gratitude for the arduous nature of the task. A smooth render would have had him perched on a ladder, helplessly exposed.
Careful not to make a sound, he eased the goggles off and set them down. Removed his hat and mopped the sweat from his face. Half his attention was on the conversation below; the other half weighing up the options available to him.
The man he didn’t recognise spoke first. ‘We’re looking for this bloke. You seen him anywhere?’
A pause. Joe risked another peek over the edge. The man had grey hair, slicked back and thinning to nothing at the crown. He wore jeans and a battered old brown leather jacket. He was showing Ryan a photo.
Joe couldn’t see it clearly, but he didn’t need to. He knew exactly who they were hunting.
Ryan sniffed. ‘Nope.’
‘Only he’s supposed to be working round here.’
‘Casual stuff,’ the other man cut in. ‘Cash in hand, probably.’
This was Danny Morton, a slight, twitchy man with narrow shoulders and long bony fingers. Short-cropped brown hair that stuck out at all angles, and a thin face with a pink puckered scar, the size of a pea, in the centre of his left cheek.
‘I steer clear of all that,’ Ryan told him. ‘Not worth the aggro to fiddle it these days. For all I know, you could be Customs and Revenue.’
‘Do I look like the fucking taxman?’ Danny growled.
Ryan ignored the question. ‘Who is he, anyway?’
‘His name’s Joe Clayton,’ the other man said. ‘Sure you haven’t seen him?’
‘He might have changed since this was taken,’ Danny added. ‘Different hairstyle. A few years older.’
‘Still don’t know him. Sorry.’
Joe thought Ryan sounded convincing enough, but he wanted the conversation over. The longer it went on, the more chance that Ryan would slip up.
A shuffling sound as Leather Jacket withdrew the photo and maybe even started to move away, but Joe could sense a lingering tension. He imagined Ryan’s mind processing what he’d been told and understood the young man’s dilemma. There was one question that a person with nothing to hide would be compelled to ask.