Authors: Simon Kernick
Simon Kernick lives near London and has two
young children. His previous novel,
was selected as a Richard & Judy Summer Read.
The research for Simon Kernick's novels is what
makes them so authentic. His extensive list of
contacts in the police force has been built up over
more than a decade. It includes long serving
officers in Special Branch, the National Crime
Squad (now SOCA), and the Anti-Terrorist Branch,
all of whom have plenty of tales to tell.
For more information on Simon Kernick and his
books, see his website at www.simonkernick.com
Also by SIMON KERNICK
THE BUSINESS OF DYING
Featuring DS Dennis Milne, full-time cop,
'Taut, gripping, disturbing – a most assured
and original début'
THE MURDER EXCHANGE
Ex-soldier Max Iversson is hired to provide security
for a meeting that goes disastrously wrong.
'From hardboiled cops to ruthless women on the
make, Kernick generates a potent cocktail of thrills'
THE CRIME TRADE
DI John Gallan and DS Tina Boyd uncover a
murderous conspiracy that will take them to the
heart of London's most notorious criminal gang.
'A taut gritty novel in which Kernick uses every trick
in the book to keep the narrative breakneck'
A GOOD DAY TO DIE
Exiled cop Dennis Milne returns to London to hunt
down the murderers of a close friend.
'Great plots, great characters, great action'
Tom Meron finds himself on the run, pursued by
enemies he never knew he had . . .
'This is the sort of book that forces you to read so fast
you stumble over the words. Phenomenal!'
You wake up in a strange room on a bed covered in
blood. And you have no idea how you got there . . .
'If you like lots of non-stop action, this is for you'
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A CORGI BOOK:
First published in Great Britain
in 2008 by Bantam Press
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Corgi edition published 2008
Copyright © Simon Kernick 2008
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2 4 6 8 10 9 7 5 3 1
For Anna Bridges.
May your spirit never stop soaring.
When his girlfriend greeted him at the door
dressed only in a T-shirt and thong, then kissed
him hard on the mouth without a word before
pulling him into her ground-floor bedroom, she
was so worked up she didn't even notice that he
was wearing gloves. They'd talked on the phone
five minutes earlier and in that conversation he'd
explained in intimate detail what he planned to
do with her when he got to her place. So it was
with a hint of regret that, as her hands headed
southwards, he kicked shut the bedroom door,
slipped the knife from the concealed sheath
beneath his cheap suit jacket, and drove it silently
between her ribs and directly into her heart. In the
short time he'd known her, the girl had proved to
be adept and enthusiastic in bed, and it would
have been a pleasant distraction to have had sex
with her one last time. But that would have meant
leaving behind incriminating evidence, and he
was a professional who didn't let the desire for
cheap gratification get in the way of business.
He clasped her close to him while she died. The
single blow had been enough, as he knew it
would be, having used this method of killing on
several occasions in the past. The girl made barely
a sound. There was the surprised, pained gasp as
the blade went in, of course, which was accompanied
by a single juddering spasm, not unlike an
orgasm, as her muscles tensed for a final time and
her fingernails dug into the material of his suit
jacket, but it didn't last long and was quickly
followed by the long, slow release of breath as she
relaxed in his arms.
He counted to ten in his head, then, still holding
on to her, reached into the inside pocket of his jacket
with his knife hand and produced a handkerchief.
The blade made a strange hissing sound as it was
slowly withdrawn, and he used a well-practised
combination of both hands to wipe it clean, before
replacing it in its sheath. When this was done, he
placed the body on the carpet next to the unmade
bed and briefly admired his handiwork. Because
she'd died so quickly, there was very little blood,
and she looked remarkably peaceful lying there
with her eyes closed. It was the quietest he'd seen
her. In life, she'd been quite a talker.
Leaning down, he tried to push her under the
bed, but there wasn't enough of a gap between the
bottom of the frame and the floor, so he squeezed
her in as far as she would go, then covered the rest
of the body with one end of the duvet cover. It
was only a tidying-up gesture. Concealing the
body would do nothing to mask the smell that
would soon be coming from it, but he wasn't
overly concerned about that. He doubted if she'd
be discovered for a while. She lived alone in her
tiny ground-floor flat, and had few friends in the
city, which had always been one of her complaints
about it. He knew she spoke to her mother back
home once a week but that was always on a
Sunday, so it would be another six days before the
mother had a reason to worry about her daughter,
and several days more, at least, before anyone did
anything about it.
No one had ever seen him with her. Their few
clandestine meetings had always been in this flat.
As far as he knew, she hadn't told anyone about
him either, although even if she had it would
make no difference. He'd given her a false name
and background, one of four different identities
he periodically used in order always to keep one
step ahead of the authorities. His DNA would be
in this room, of course, but then so would the
DNA of those few friends the girl had, and since
they were mainly illegals, it would be difficult to
He saw the girl's pink Nokia mobile phone on
the bedside table. He picked it up and put it in his
pocket to be disposed of later, then took a last look
round. Seeing nothing else that might incriminate
him, he left the bedroom, shutting the door
behind him, leaving the girl in her makeshift
As he stepped out of the front door and into the
bright sunlight, he looked at his watch.
It was time.
The first thing Andrea Devern noticed when she
stepped out of her Mercedes C-Class Cabriolet
was that there were no lights on in the house. It
was 8.45 p.m. on a breezy Tuesday night in mid-September,
and she had only a minute of
normality left in her life.
Clicking on the Mercedes' central locking, she
walked the five yards to her front gate, glancing
both ways along the quiet residential street
because as a Londoner born and bred Andrea was
never complacent about the potential for street
crime, even in an area as upmarket as Hampstead.
Criminals moved around these days. They no
longer kept to their own patches. They gravitated
towards the money, and on Andrea's tree-lined
avenue of grand three-storey townhouses, barely
spitting distance from the Heath, there was plenty
But there was nothing out of place tonight,
unless you counted the fact that her house was in
darkness. Andrea tried to remember if Pat had
told her that he had arrangements, or whether
he'd taken Emma off somewhere. She'd had a
stressful day dealing with the management team
of one of the five health spas she and her business
partner owned. They'd taken it over a year ago
and it had underperformed ever since. Now they
were going to have to make redundancies, something
that Andrea never liked doing, and it was
up to her to decide who was for the push. She'd
been mulling over who was going to have to go all
the way back from Bedfordshire, and still she
couldn't decide. By rights, it should be the
manager. He was paid well over the odds, and
since he was the one who'd presided over
the mess the spa was now in, it appealed to
Andrea's sense of justice to give him the boot; but
with no one to replace him, that was looking less
and less viable. Better the devil you know, and all
Andrea decided to worry about it tomorrow.
For now, she needed a long, slow glass of Sancerre
and a relaxing cigarette. Not the healthiest of
options, but a woman needs some pleasures in
life, especially when she worked as hard as she
She pressed the card key against the pressure
pad on the security system and stepped through
the gap as the gate slid open smoothly. As always
when she entered her front garden and left the
outside world behind her, she experienced a
familiar sense of relief and pleasure. Sheltered by
a high brick wall, the garden was a riot of colour,
courtesy of the eight hundred quid a month she
paid to the gardening company responsible for
making it look like something from the front cover
of a magazine.
She breathed in the thick, heady smell of
jasmine and honeysuckle, relaxing already as she
opened the front door and deactivated the alarm.
Then the phone rang.
It was her mobile. She reached into her limited edition
Fendi Spy Bag and fished it out. The
ringtone was 'I Will Survive', Gloria Gaynor's
classic anthem of feminine defiance. It was only
later that she realized how much grim irony there
was in this.
The screen said 'Anonymous Call', and though
she never liked answering her phone to anyone
she couldn't identify, she also knew that it was
possible it was business, even at this hour, and
Andrea never said no to business, particularly
when the market was as tough as it was at the
moment. As she stepped into her empty hallway
she put the phone to her ear and said, 'Hello,
'We have your daughter.'
The words were delivered in a high-pitched,
artificial voice which sounded vaguely like a man
impersonating a woman.
At first she thought she'd misheard, but in the
slow, heavy silence that followed, the realization
came upon her like an approaching wave.
'What? What do you mean?'
'We have your daughter,' repeated the caller,
and now Andrea could tell that he was using
something to disguise his voice. 'She's not there, is
she? Look around. Can you see her?' His tone was
Andrea looked around. The hallway was
bathed in gloom, the rooms leading off it silent.
There was no one there. She felt a rising sense
of helpless panic, and fought to keep herself
'You can't see her, can you? That's because we
have her, Andrea. And if you ever want to see her
again, you'll do exactly as you're told.'
Andrea felt faint. Needing some kind of
support, she leaned back against the front door,
her movement clicking it shut. Keep calm, she
told herself. For God's sake, keep calm. If they're
phoning you, then it's got to be a good sign.
'What do you want?' she whispered, her whole
body tensing as she waited for the answer.
'Half a million pounds in cash.'
'I haven't got that sort of money.'
'Yes, you have. And you're going to get hold of
it for us as well. You've got exactly forty-eight
'Please, I'm going to need longer than that.'
'There's no compromise. You have to get us that
Andrea began to shake. She couldn't believe
this was happening. One minute she'd been
thinking about winding down after her meeting,
the next she was plunged into a crisis involving
the most precious person in the world to her:
Emma, her only daughter. She exhaled slowly. It
was still possible this was some kind of hoax.
'How do I know you're not lying?' she asked.
'Do you want to hear your daughter scream?'
replied the caller matter-of-factly.
Oh, Jesus, no.
'Please, for God's sake, don't do anything to
'Then do exactly as we say, and don't ask stupid
'She's fourteen years old, for Christ's sake!
What sort of animal are you?'
'One who doesn't care,' he snapped. 'Do you
understand that? I don't give a toss.' His tone
became more businesslike. 'So listen closely. It's
ten to nine now. At nine o'clock on Thursday, in
forty-eight hours' time, you're going to receive a
phone call on your landline. At that point you'll
have the half a million ready in used notes,
denominations of fifties and twenties. Do you
Andrea cleared her throat. 'Yes,' she said.
'You'll be told where and when to deliver it. As
soon as we've received it, you get her back.'
'I want you to let me speak to her now. Please.'
'You'll speak to her when we're ready.'
'No? I'm afraid you're not in any position to
argue with us. We have your child, remember?'
She took a deep breath. 'Please. Let me speak to
her. I need to know she's OK.'
'You can speak to her next time we call. When
you have the money.'
'How do I know she's even alive?' Andrea
shouted, determined not to cry even though she
felt the tears stinging her eyes.
'Because,' said the caller calmly, 'she's no use to
us dead. Now go and get that money, Andrea.
Then you can speak to her. And don't even think
about going to the police. Because if you do, we'll
know about it. We're watching you. The whole
time. The first sign of the police and Emma dies.
Slowly and painfully.' There was a pause. 'Nine
o'clock Thursday night. Be ready.' The line went
For several seconds Andrea remained frozen to
the spot, the shock of what was happening still
seeping through her system. Someone had taken
her daughter. Her lively, pretty fourteen-year-old
girl who did well at school and who'd never hurt
anyone. a Complete innocent. Her poor baby must
be absolutely terrified. 'Please don't hurt her,'
Andrea whispered aloud, her words sounding
hollow in the empty hallway.
Andrea Devern was a tough woman, and her
life hadn't been easy. A successful, financially
independent entrepreneur, she'd had to fight hard
to get to the position she was in now. She'd taken
one hell of a lot of knocks on the way, knocks that
would have finished a lot of other, more privileged
people, and she'd always held firm. But
nothing could have prepared her for this. Emma
was Andrea's world, no question, and to think
of her now, trapped and frightened with no
understanding of what was going on, filled her
with a helpless dread. And that was the worst
part, the sheer helplessness. Her daughter was
missing, and there was absolutely nothing she
Except satisfy the demands of the anonymous
caller and find him half a million pounds.
My only child . . . If anything happens to her . . .
She flicked shut the phone and walked into the
kitchen, the heels of her court shoes clicking
loudly on the mahogany floorboards. She grabbed
a glass from one of the cupboards and filled
it with water from the tap, then drained it in
She had to keep calm, but it was hard when you
were alone. And that was when her thoughts
turned to Pat.
Pat Phelan. Andrea's husband of two years, and
Emma's stepfather. Charming, good-looking and
five years younger than her, she'd been infatuated
with him when they met. A whirlwind romance
had been followed by a marriage barely four
months later. Her mother had described her as a
'fool' and Pat as a 'ne'er do well'. At the time
Andrea had thought her mother was being shortsighted,
and maybe even a little jealous, but in
recent months she'd begun to get the first hints
that maybe the old woman, spiteful as she'd
always been, had a point. After all, it takes one to
She needed Pat now, more than she ever had.
So where the hell was he?
She refilled her glass with water and swallowed
another couple of large gulps, then walked over to
the landline and punched in the number of his
mobile. Pat didn't work. He was between jobs. It
seemed he'd been between jobs pretty much ever
since they'd met. His trade, if you could call it
that, was bar work. He'd been working in a bar in
Holborn when she'd first seen him. A month later
he'd had an argument with the owner, and the
job was history. He tended to be something of a
house husband now. He ferried Emma to and
from school most days, and picked her up from
friends' houses when Andrea was at work, but
more and more in the evenings he liked to go
out for a couple of drinks at the local pub, or to
one of his old haunts down the road in Finchley,
which was where he'd been brought up.
Sometimes he didn't come home until well after
she was in bed.
But the thing was, Pat didn't leave Emma alone
in the house. He'd only ever go out when Andrea
got back from work. It was a situation that suited
her well, although occasionally she wished he'd
show a bit of get up and go, and maybe secure
some gainful employment.
The phone rang and rang, but Pat wasn't
answering. It went to message and, keeping her
voice even, Andrea left one, asking – no, telling –
him to call her back as soon as possible.
She slammed the receiver back in its cradle,
cursing the fact that he hadn't picked up, then
stood by the sink, her eyes closed, taking slow,
deep breaths, trying to make sense of the situation
she found herself in. Emma had been kidnapped
by a ruthless individual who, from the way he
spoke, clearly had an accomplice, or accomplices.
She forced herself to look at things logically. The
motive for abducting Emma was money. Which
meant there was a good chance of getting her
back. There had to be. Andrea knew she could
raise half a million in the time given. It wouldn't
be easy, but she had access to ready cash in a way
that other people didn't. There were numbered
accounts, and cash that had been squirrelled
away, far from the prying eyes of the taxman,
in a safety deposit box in Knightsbridge. Probably
just enough to cover this amount. If she did
what she was told and delivered the money to
where they wanted it, she'd have her daughter
The thought filled her with relief, but it was an
emotion that lasted barely seconds, because it
relied on trusting Emma's kidnappers. What if
they didn't release her? What if, God forbid, she
was already dead? A spasm of sheer terror shot up
her spine. If anything happened to Emma, she
was finished. The thought of life without her was
simply too much to bear.
Andrea reached into her handbag and pulled
out a cigarette, lighting it with shaking hands. She
took a long drag and tried Pat's number again, but
there was still no answer. She left a second, curt
message: 'Call me now. It's urgent.'
She leaned back against one of the kitchen's
spotless worktops. This house had been Andrea's
dream home when she bought it five years earlier
for close to a million cash, which was most of the
proceeds of the 40 per cent stake she'd sold to her
current business partner. It had character, space,
land, everything that had been missing in the tiny
flat in which she'd grown up with her two sisters
and mother. It was her and Emma's safe and
private haven, where they could relax and spend
time together. Yet tonight it felt alien, like a place
she'd just stepped into for the very first time.
Normally at this time there'd be noise: music
playing in Emma's room; the tinny blare of the
TV; the sounds of life. Tonight her home was
dead, and she wondered whether it would ever
feel the same again.
She went into the lounge and over to the drinks
cabinet, avoiding turning on the lights. There
were photos in here, of her and Emma – Emma as
a toddler; her first day at school; at the beach. She
didn't want to see them. Not now. She averted her
eyes and poured herself a large brandy in the
gloom, taking a big hit of it. It didn't make her
feel any better, but at the moment nothing was
With the drink in one hand and a succession of
cigarettes in the other, she paced the darkening
house, upstairs and down, walking fast but
heading nowhere, eyes straight ahead so she
didn't have to see any reminder of Emma.
Thinking, worrying, trying to keep a lid on the
terror and frustration that infected every ounce of
her being. She wondered where they'd snatched
Emma, and how. There were no signs of a struggle
anywhere in the house, and besides, the alarm
had been on when she came in.