Read Dead in the Dog Online

Authors: Bernard Knight

Dead in the Dog

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Table of Contents

A Selection of Titles by Bernard Knight

Title Page

Copyright

Author's note

Prologue

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

A Selection of Titles by Bernard Knight
The Crowner John Series

THE SANCTUARY SEEKER

THE POISONED CHALICE

CROWNER'S QUEST

THE AWFUL SECRET

THE TINNER'S CORPSE

THE GRIM REAPER

FEAR IN THE FOREST

THE WITCH HUNTER

FIGURE OF HATE

THE ELIXIR OF DEATH

THE NOBLE OUTLAW

THE MANOR OF DEATH

CROWNER ROYAL

A PLAGUE OF HERETICS

 
The Richard Pryor Forensic Mysteries

WHERE DEATH DELIGHTS

ACCORDING TO THE EVIDENCE

GROUNDS FOR APPEAL

DEAD IN THE DOG
Bernard Knight

This ebook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author's and publisher's rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.

 

First world edition published 2012

in Great Britain and in the USA by

SEVERN HOUSE PUBLISHERS LTD of

9–15 High Street, Sutton, Surrey, England, SM1 1DF.

Copyright © 2012 by Bernard Knight.

All rights reserved.

The moral right of the author has been asserted.

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data

Knight, Bernard.

Dead in the dog.

1. Pathologists–Fiction. 2. Singapore–Social

conditions–20th century–Fiction. 3. Detective and

mystery stories.

I. Title

823.9'14-dc23

ISBN-13: 978-1-78010-269-6 (Epub)

ISBN-13: 978-0-7278-8161-8 (cased)

ISBN-13: 978-1-84751-424-0 (trade paper)

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

Palimpsest Book Production Limited,

Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland.

AUTHOR'S NOTE

None of the characters portrayed existed in real life and every effort has been made to avoid suggesting the identity of people who were in North Malaya in the nineteen-fifties. In particular, the portrayal of characters in the Armed Forces, especially the Royal Army Medical Corps and Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps, is utterly fictitious. The three years the author spent there as an Army doctor were the most interesting of his whole career, but none of the events in this novel actually took place. However, he hopes that he has captured some of the ambience of the last years of the British military presence in that fascinating country.

The campaign against the Communist Chinese insurgents led by Chin Peng, in which 519 British and over 1,300 Malayan troops and police lost their lives, was one of the longest on record, lasting from 1948 until 1960. It was also the only successful one, thanks to the painstaking efforts of British and Commonwealth forces in fighting the terrorists virtually hand-to-hand in the jungle. Yet in spite of more than a decade of strife, few now remember this vicious ‘Forgotten War', without which modern Malaysia would not exist.

The Federation of Malaya was not known as ‘Malaysia' until 1963 and place names are given here as they were in the nineteen fifties – ‘Melaka' was ‘Malacca', ‘Pulau Pinang' was ‘Penang' and so on.

PROLOGUE

Perak State, Malaya, December 1954

The shoe flew across the room, its high heel catching James hard on the side of his neck, leaving a red mark on the skin.

‘You bitch, what d'you think you're doing!'

With a roar he launched himself at his wife and caught her a resounding smack across the face that made her teeth rattle. James was a big, powerful man and the imprint of his fingers immediately began to appear across her cheek. But Diane was a woman of spirit and instead of collapsing into a sobbing heap on the rattan settee, she hopped on her one bare foot, trying to pull off the other shoe to throw at him.

‘Bastard! You dirty, rotten bastard!' she screamed. ‘I'll tell Douglas! I will, this time!'

To avoid more shoe-throwing, he grabbed her bodily and threw her down on to the cushions.

‘Look, cut it out, you silly fool! I doubt it'll be any surprise to Douglas, so you can save your breath.'

Suddenly aware that she had no chance against his physical strength, Diane began to cry, though they were more sobs of frustrated rage than real distress. She held a hand to her face, which was stinging from his blow.

‘I'll have a bruise there now, you swine!' she blubbered. ‘Everyone at The Dog will know that you've been knocking me about again.'

‘Then put some more Max Factor over it, you daft cow! You wear so much, a bit more won't be noticed!'

He turned and stalked out of the lounge on to the verandah of the bungalow, then clattered down the steps outside. She heard a car door slam, then the Buick started up and with an angry roar, accelerated away with a crunching of gravel. The blonde rocked back and forth on the settee, hissing through the fingers that were held across her aching cheek.

‘You bastard, one of these days, I'll kill you!'

ONE

H
e was hot, tired and slightly bewildered. His fibre suitcase, lashed with a strap that had once been his father's belt, was in the back of the Land Rover. Alongside it was the new holdall that he had bought in Singapore to carry the overflow of his belongings. They said that the cabin-trunk he had packed so carefully in Gateshead wouldn't arrive for another six weeks.

Tom had come by air-trooping, four days' flight from Stansted Airport, cooped up in a Handley-Page Hermes that seemed only slightly faster than the Wright Flyer. His heavy baggage was allegedly on its way by sea, but as he slumped in the passenger seat of the olive-green vehicle, he had his doubts whether he'd ever see the trunk again.

Tom Howden was a pessimist by nature, as he had learned that it was the best way to avoid disappointment. Still, as he was going to be stuck out here for years, he supposed he had to make the best of it. He wondered for the hundredth time, what temporary insanity had led him to sign on for three years, when he could have got away with two as a National Serviceman? Was an extra pip on the shoulder, better pay and the promise of a three hundred quid gratuity at the end, worth another twelve months in this saturated sweat-box?

With a resigned grunt, he shook off the mood of near-desperation and forced himself to look at the scenery – though already he had decided that one Malayan road looked much the same as the next. All bloody trees, thatched huts, scruffy shophouses and fields that looked like rectangular swamps.

The driver was a skinny lance corporal in a faded jungle-green uniform that looked as if it had been tailored for a Sumo wrestler. He took a covert look at the officer alongside and with the smug euphoria of someone who was only three weeks away from his ‘RHE' –
Return Home Establishment
– date, he diagnosed a new recruit to Her Majesty's Far East Land Forces. He saw a sturdy, almost squat young man with a round, plain face sporting a few old acne scars. It was a face that seemed to glare out at the world as if defying it to do its worst, with a downturned mouth and a brow too furrowed for someone in his mid-twenties. The corporal, a philosophical Cockney with an abiding curiosity about his fellow men, reckoned that this officer was a ‘prole' like himself, different from the usual toffee-nosed, chinless wonders from the Garrison. But then, he wasn't a proper officer, was he? He was an MO, according to the brass RAMC tabs on his shoulders.

‘Train a bit late, sir? They're usually pretty good out here.'

The doctor jerked himself out of his weary reverie.

‘On time leaving Kuala Lumpur. Then one of those tortoise things broke down and delayed us.'

The driver nodded sagely. Those ‘tortoise things' were armoured railcars that ran ahead of the trains, escorting them through the Black Areas on the long run up from Singapore.

‘They've been very quiet lately, the CTs,' chirped the soldier.

‘The what?' grunted the new arrival.

Gord, a right one here! thought the driver. Needs to get his knees brown pretty quick.

‘CTs, sir,' he said aloud. ‘The communist terrorists. That's why we're all out here, innit?'

He stole another look at his passenger, taking in the new green bush jacket and shorts, tailored in one day in Singapore. Though they were all issued with ill-fitting rags at their Depot near Aldershot, he knew that officers were supposed to look smart and had to cough up for tailor-mades at their own expense.

‘How much further is it?' grunted Howden, lifting his new cap to rub off the sweat that had gathered under the leather hatband. The Londoner managed to decipher the marked Geordie accent.

‘Another six miles, sir. It's a twelve-mile run from Sungei Siput railway station to the gates of Brigade – and BMH is slap next door.'

Howden was beginning to accept that the Army ran on acronyms and ‘BMH' now held no mystery for him, though he thought it could just as well stand for ‘Bloody Miserably Hot' as for ‘British Military Hospital'.

The road began to climb gently from the flat plain that stretched for many miles back to the sea and the new doctor began to take more interest as the hills and high mountains of Perak State rose in front of them. The road this far had been fairly straight, running on causeways built a few feet above padi fields and banana plantations, but now it started to curve in repetitive bends as it passed between low hills. Regimented rows of rubber trees lined the road, all decorated with parallel diagonal scars running down to little pots to catch the latex. As he passed, Howden could see the rows were ruler-straight, millions of the slim trunks marching away from the road to cover thousands of acres, providing the world with the rubber for everything from bus tyres to condoms. Small houses roofed with
attap
, a palm-leaf thatch, or with red-painted corrugated iron, were scattered alongside the road, with grinning urchins, some stark naked, playing in the muddy water in the ditches outside. To someone brought up in the terraces and council estates of Tyneside, it was still as strange as the planet Mars, even though Tom had spent three days on Singapore Island and travelled almost the whole length of the Malayan Peninsula to get here.

‘First time in the East, sir?' persisted the corporal.

‘First time out of bloody England,' growled Howden. He preferred to forget the trip to Lille with the Newcastle Medicals' rugby team in 'forty-nine, when they were beaten thirty-six to five.

There was silence for another mile and the doctor felt he should say something to avoid being thought snooty.

‘You from the hospital as well?'

‘Nossir, I'm Service Corps, from the Transport Pool in the garrison. Don't do no soldiering, thank Christ! Not like them poor sods in the battalions.'

Tom Howden thought it was an opportunity to find out more about the place that was to be his home for most of the next three years – unless the mysterious ways of the Royal Army Medical Corps found somewhere even more obscure to send him. His knowledge of the military machine was rudimentary, as six weeks' basic training in Britain had only taught him how to march badly, miss every target with a revolver and learn a little about intestinal parasites and numerous types of tropical lurgy.

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