Dead Man's Gift 01 - Yesterday

BOOK: Dead Man's Gift 01 - Yesterday
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Contents

About the Book

About the Author

Author’s Note

Title Page

Yesterday

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Copyright

About the Book

A THRILLER IN THREE PARTS

The FIRST direct to digital short-story in a race-against-time three-part adventure from the bestselling author of Relentless, Siege and Ultimatum, Simon Kernick.

MP Tim Horton arrives home to find his seven year old son has been abducted by a ruthless gang of kidnappers. All they have left behind is the brutally murdered body of the Horton’s nanny.

The gang’s demands are simple: Tim must sacrifice his own life in order to save his son’s.

It’s the ultimate dead man’s gift …

About the Author

Simon Kernick is one of Britain’s most exciting thriller writers. He arrived on the crime writing scene with his highly acclaimed debut novel
The Business of Dying
, the story of a corrupt cop moonlighting as a hitman. Simon’s big breakthrough came with his novel
Relentless
which was the biggest selling thriller of 2007. His most recent crime thrillers include
The Last Ten Seconds
,
Siege
and
Ultimatum
.

Simon talks both on and off the record to members of the Met’s Special Branch and the Anti-Terrorist Branch and the Serious and Organised Crime Agency, so he gets to hear first hand what actually happens in the dark and murky underbelly of UK crime.

To find out more about his thrillers, visit
www.simonkernick.com
;
www.facebook.com/SimonKernick
;
www.twitter.com/simonkernick

Author’s Note

As a writer I sometimes find that characters I create with no great ambition for them end up taking on a life of their own, and almost crying out to be used again. One of these was Tina Boyd, a mid-ranking female detective who started off in my early books as a bit-part player and who gradually developed into one of my most important series characters. Another was Scope – the enigmatic assassin from
Siege
. When he first appeared, I never had him down as a stayer. He was just another protagonist in a book containing multiple viewpoints- a one-off anti-hero who’d be consigned to history as soon as the story was over.

But it didn’t work out like that. I found I liked writing him. He came out with good lines that seemed to flow naturally off the page; he had an interesting back-story. He felt real. And, as sometimes happens, I grew to like him. More to the point, so did many readers. I have to admit to being surprised by the number of positive comments I got regarding Scope. Readers seemed to really identify with him. I think it was his mix of bravery and sensitivity. Either way, I knew he was going to have to return, and I brought him back for
Stay Alive
, my latest book, which sees him living in the wilds of Scotland and getting caught up in a bloody and terrifying chain of events. During
Stay Alive
, Scope refers back to a kidnapping incident he was involved in a few months earlier, and it’s this kidnapping incident that’s covered in
Dead Man’s Gift
.

I decided to write
Dead Man’s Gift
as a three part story because I’ve always been interested in serialisations. We see them all the time on TV, and we often used to see books serialised in magazines. It’s a great way for building anticipation and, to me, the crime thriller genre lends itself perfectly to the medium. I wanted to end each part with a major cliffhanger where the reader was going to have to wait a week to find out what happened, much as I used to have to do with the comics I read as a child growing up in the Seventies and early Eighties. Whether it works or not, and whether such a format appeals to readers in an age of instant gratification, remains to be seen, but either way, I’d love to hear your views. Make sure you drop by my facebook page (
facebook.com/SimonKernick
) and let me know what you think.

Simon Kernick
May 2014

Dead Man’s Gift
1: Yesterday
Simon Kernick
Part 1: Yesterday
1
8.30 a.m.

In the minute before she died, Gina Kelley was thinking that she could never get used to England. It was just too damn grey, especially in winter. Another three months and she’d be gone, taking a roundabout route across Europe and Asia en route home to New South Wales. She’d miss the people, if not the place, and she’d definitely miss her job as a nanny. Max was a real little livewire; blond, cherubic, but with a mischievous streak and an ability to make her laugh out loud.

‘Does it ever get cold in Australia, Gina?’ he said as they walked from the front door over to the Freelander at the beginning of the school run.

‘Never like this,’ she answered, suppressing a shiver as an icy gust of wind whipped across the manicured front lawn.

‘I’d like to live there one day,’ continued Max, nodding to himself as if he’d just come to a very important decision.

‘Well, if you work hard and get a good job, you’ll be able to.’

‘I do work hard.’

‘That’s what I like to hear,’ said Gina, as she opened the driver’s side door, surprised she’d left the car unlocked the previous night. ‘What game do you want to play?’

He grinned. ‘I spy.’

Playing a game on the school run was a ritual of theirs. They did it every day, and it made Gina wonder if Max’s parents, with their high-powered jobs and permanently full diaries, had any idea how much fun their son was.

‘There’s a weird smell in here,’ said Max as he pulled on his seat belt.

Gina could smell it too. A powerful odour of something chemical.

Before she could answer, she heard movement behind her. In the next second, she felt a gloved hand grab her round the mouth and nose, cutting off her breath, and she was dragged back hard in the seat. She started to struggle, lashing out in panic, caught out by the brute force of her assailant, but almost immediately she felt a sharp, stinging pain in her neck, like an injection. But this was no injection. She could see the collar of her jacket turning a vivid red colour, and all the strength seemed to flow out of her like air from a deflating balloon. Still unable to comprehend fully what was happening as the blood continued to pour over her clothes, she managed to look over at Max – dear, sweet Max – only seven years old. He too was struggling in his seat as someone sitting behind him held a cloth over his face. And then, as his body went limp, Gina realized that she too was blacking out, and that this was the end. There would be no waking up from this.

* * *

Behind her, the killer moved fast. His name was Phil Vermont and he was a big man. Taking a deep breath, he carefully removed the knife from the au pair’s neck, wiping it on a tissue, and got out of the car, stretching. They’d been waiting in the back of the Freelander for the last half-hour and the cold and discomfort had played havoc with his back. Opening the driver’s door, he hauled the au pair out of the car, careful to avoid getting blood on either the seat or his clothes, and dragged her round the side of the double garage. He wasn’t worried about being seen from the road. The Hortons’ house was hidden behind security gates and a high hedge. It was supposed to make the place secure, but all it did was make it easier for people like Vermont and his accomplice to operate.

He dumped the au pair out of sight behind the recycling bins. After fishing out her mobile phone, he covered her body with tarpaulin and hurried back to the car. He was feeling pumped up. This was only the second time he’d killed someone, and he’d been nervous right up to the moment he pushed the knife into her neck. The price of failure would have been far more than he could ever have paid, but in the end he’d come through, and now he was going to be a hell of a lot richer as a result.

His accomplice was a cold-eyed skinny chick called Celia, who’d once been a real looker but had spent the best part of her twenties on the pipe, and now looked like she’d missed her thirties altogether and gone straight to the wrong end of forty-five. Together, they tied the kid’s hands behind his back with duct tape and used another strip to gag him, then manhandled him into the boot.

How long will he be out for?’ demanded Celia, getting into the driver’s seat after checking there was no blood on it.

‘At least an hour,’ said Vermont. ‘That’ll give us plenty of time. You wait here fifteen minutes until the school run’s all done and the street’s empty, then head straight to the rendezvous.’

‘What if he wakes up?’

Vermont shrugged. ‘He’s seven, and he’s tied up, so there’s nothing he can do. Just don’t hurt him, all right? I know what you’re like, but right now he’s precious cargo. We need him alive and compos mentis.’

Celia grunted. ‘He’d better not piss me off then. I don’t like screaming brats at the best of times.’

‘You’re just going to have to be a bit patient for once.’ Knowing he had to keep her on side, he bent down to the car window and kissed her hard on the lips, trying with only limited success to put some enthusiasm into it. She kissed him back just as hard, letting out a small moan to let him know she was horny. But then violence always seemed to do that to her.

Not wanting to give her any encouragement, he pulled away and forced a smile. ‘We’re going to be rich after this, baby. Rich beyond our wildest dreams. Fifteen minutes, okay?’

He blew her a kiss and turned away, moving swiftly across the lawn towards the back of the house and the gate to the track where the car they’d come here in was parked.

So far it had all gone exactly to plan, and the Hortons had no idea what was about to hit them, and how helpless they were to do anything about it.

2
4 p.m.

As the security gates to his house opened, Tim Horton spun the Porsche into the driveway in an angry screech of gravel. He was in a foul mood. His wife had called him at a very sensitive time and demanded that he come home immediately. She’d told him it was extremely urgent and concerned Max, but wouldn’t give him any further details, even after repeated requests, which was typical of Diane. She loved to make things complicated. He’d almost decided against coming back at all – he wasn’t due back from London until Thursday and couldn’t see why she couldn’t just discuss it over the phone – but because it concerned his son he’d given her the benefit of the doubt.

This had better be good, he thought as he opened the front door and stomped inside.

The house was silent, which was a surprise at this time of day. Max was usually back from school, and he and Gina always made a racket. But there was nothing like that at all.

‘Diane?’ he called out, stepping further into the entrance hall.

‘I’m in here,’ she answered, a strange calm in her voice.

Tim walked into the dining room and was surprised to see her sitting rigidly in one of the antique chairs, a mobile phone and one of the landline handsets on the table in front of her. Her face was pale and she looked like she’d seen a ghost.

‘What’s wrong?’ he asked, still standing in the doorway.

‘They’ve got Max, Tim.’

‘Who?’ he demanded. ‘Who’s got him?’

‘I don’t know. I got a call at work on Gina’s mobile. It was a man. He had one of those things that disguise your voice. He said that they’d killed Gina, and taken Max.’

‘Taken him where?’

‘I don’t know.’

‘What do they want, for Christ’s sake?’

‘Jesus, Tim, I don’t know. I don’t know anything right now.’ Her face seemed to crumple and it was clear she was trying to stop herself from crying.

Tim took a series of deep breaths, forcing himself to calm down. He wasn’t a man given to panic. He was a senior politician, a man with real power. ‘How do we know he’s got Max?’ he asked quietly, conscious that he was still keeping his distance from Diane, which would have told any observer about the poor state of their marriage.

‘He sent me this.’ She picked up the mobile, pressed a couple of buttons and slid it across the table towards him.

Tim stared at the photo filling the screen, feeling his chest tighten. It showed Max in his school uniform, blindfolded, gagged, and tied to an unmade bed in a darkened room. Even with his face half-covered, Tim could see that his son looked absolutely terrified.

For a few moments Tim couldn’t speak. When he finally found words, they sounded cracked and defeated. ‘We’ve got to call the police.’

Diane shook her head emphatically. ‘No police.’

‘What do you mean, no police? Someone’s kidnapped our son. They’re torturing him.’ He held up the phone accusingly. ‘We’ve got to do something about it. We can’t just sit here.’

‘They’ve got cameras all over the house.’

‘How do you know?’

‘Because the man who first called me on Gina’s phone rang me on the landline the moment I walked in the front door. He knew I was back, Tim. He
knew
I was back.’

BOOK: Dead Man's Gift 01 - Yesterday
6.55Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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