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Authors: Lindsay Jayne Ashford

Frozen

BOOK: Frozen
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Contents

Title Page

Copyright Notice

Dedication

Acknowledgements

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

About the Author

Copyright

 

To my family, for their love and patience.

This book is also dedicated to the prostitutes of Wolverhampton and Birmingham who told me their stories.

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank the officers of West Midlands Police whose help and advice contributed to the writing of this book – they know who they are. Outreach workers in the red light districts of Wolverhampton and Birmingham also provided invaluable information, as did pathologist Dr Chris Simpson of Aberystwyth's Bronglais Hospital and his assistant S G Lea (Leo). Thanks also to my editor at Honno, Janet Thomas, whose wisdom belies her years.

Chapter 1

He knew exactly where to find her. Like all of them she was territorial, but unlike most she always stood alone, jealously guarding her patch. His car nosed alongside and she climbed in without a word.

He pulled up in one of the quiet streets that wound past sleeping factories. His long, bony fingers crept along her leg like a spider, disappearing up the shiny lycra skirt to the warm darkness within.

‘I'm off, Maria.'

Her soft hair wobbled like candyfloss as she turned her head sharply, meeting his eyes for the first time.

‘They're moving me off Vice – end of this month.' He tried to hold her gaze as her face tightened into a bitter smile.

‘Have to pay for it like everyone else then, won't you – sad bastard!'

He laughed, unzipping his jeans with his free hand. ‘I said end of the month. Have to get plenty of freebies in before New Year, eh?'

She ignored him, groping in the money belt slung around her hips and winkling out a black and yellow wrapper. She waved it under his nose. ‘Pina Colada flavour,' she said, in the voice she used to coax her child.

‘I don't want oral – not tonight.' In one swift movement he reached across and lowered the back of the passenger seat, pressing himself on top of her. ‘You know what I want, don't you?' His breath stank and she turned her face away.

‘I'm not doing it without. You know I never do punters without.'

‘Come on love.' He pushed the skirt up around her waist. ‘Fifty quid I'm saving you – that's got to be worth the full treatment. Anyway, you know I'm clean.'

The smell of Birmingham Magistrates' Court – that strange unmistakeable stink of sweat and polish – filled her head as he invaded her body. Fifty quid. She'd only taken thirty so far tonight. She lay there doing mental arithmetic, knowing it was pointless.

‘You do it for him, don't you? That piece of shite you call your boyfriend.' The words were punctuated with grunts of exertion.

‘That's none of your fucking business, is it?'

He answered with a volley of grunts and then flopped. Great dead pig, she thought. The only part of her body she could move was her right leg and she jabbed the heel of her black leather boot into the centre panel of the steering wheel.

The scream of the horn sent him leaping back to his seat and she jumped out of the car, rolling her skirt back down her thighs as she strode away.

Out of sight, she pulled baby wipes from the money belt. It pleased her to discover that the passenger seat must have taken most of his mess. She set off down the street, wondering which one of his squad would sit in it. She hoped it would be a uniformed officer – the stain would show up more on dark fabric.

Her heels clacked along the quiet, empty streets that led back to her beat. Turning a corner she stopped dead. Her way was blocked by a sea of blue flashing lights. As she slunk into the shadow of a wall her eyes flicked upwards. She thought she had glimpsed the crouching silhouette of a man on a rooftop. A man with a gun.

*   *   *

Next morning Ceri Richardson listened to news of the killings on the radio as she ironed her husband's shirt.

‘The body of 40-year-old Tina Jackson was found in a bedroom after officers from the Tactical Firearms Unit broke down the door of the house.' The reporter sounded young. Barely able to keep that note of excitement from his voice. She knew exactly how he felt. It had been the same for her the first time she got to cover a murder. What was it? Eleven, no,
twelve
years ago. She sighed. Seemed like a lifetime.

‘The dead man was lying a few feet away,' the reporter went on. ‘He has not yet been formally identified, but is believed to be Mrs Jackson's estranged husband. Police found a double-barrelled shotgun beside his body.'

The iron steamed as she picked it up again. She pressed it down hard on the crisp white fabric, tempted to hold it there just a few seconds too long.

What would he do in this shirt tomorrow, she wondered? He'd go to work in it, of course, but then to him work was elastic. He could stretch it into times and places that she could never question.

It occurred to her – not for the first time – that he might very well have sex with another woman in this shirt, that she was ironing with such care.

‘Bastard!' The iron hissed and she whipped it away, just in time.

*   *   *

Dr Megan Rhys caught the tail end of the headline on Radio 4 as she turned the key in the ignition.

‘… and a woman shot dead in Birmingham.'

She flicked the car radio onto the local station and turned up the volume. As she coasted down the hill to the university she pieced it together. The armed men perched on rooftops, neighbours half-thrilled, half-horrified by the drama of being evacuated from their homes. The door smashed open as the police stormed Tina Jackson's house. Images drifted unbidden from the library of corpses in her head. The waxen-featured woman, probably naked, spreadeagled on the bed. The man's head burst like a rotten fruit.

She couldn't help it. The urge to analyse, to categorize, was instinctive. This one had domestic stamped all over it.

Her estranged husband, the report had said. It made her think of Tony.
Estranged.
Odd word. But it
was
an odd thing – to be still married but living apart.

Megan reached into the glove compartment, her fingers closing round a packet of Maltesers. There were only two left. She stuffed both of them into her mouth. What she really felt like was a cigarette. It had been an exhausting weekend. Saturday spent lecturing at a forensic pathology conference in Manchester, followed by a night of maybe two hours sleep. And on Sunday, caffeine-stoked, she had marked thirty-five undergraduate exam papers.

She swung into the car park of Heartland University's Department of Investigative Psychology, glancing in the mirror as she nosed into her space. She didn't see Patrick van Zeller, who had paused by his car to wait for her.

‘Good morning!'

Startled by his voice, Megan tried to suck the chocolates from her bulging cheek, but they were stuck to her teeth. She made an odd gurgling noise as she tried to speak. Patrick laughed and his breath made smoky trails in the frosty air. Finally she managed to swallow.

‘Hah! Caught in the act!' she groaned. ‘I'd offer you one but I've just finished the packet – I've given up smoking and it's making me eat like a pig!'

‘Oh, don't apologise,' he said, ‘I know what it's like. This time last year I was on forty a day.'

‘Really?'

‘Yes. I still get cravings – especially at parties. He gave her a sympathetic grin, his eyes crinkling at the edges. She hadn't known him long but she was getting to like him. She'd never had to supervise anyone so close to her own age and he felt more like a colleague than a graduate student. ‘By the way,' he said as they trudged towards the building, ‘where were you on Saturday? You missed a great night – you didn't forget, did you?'

‘No,' Megan groaned again. ‘I really wanted to go. I'd bought the wine and got myself all ready and then Ceri – my sister – phoned, crying her eyes out. Said the kids had kept her awake for two nights on the trot and she and her husband were nearly going out of their minds. So I ended up babysitting.' It had been more than that, but she wasn't going to tell Patrick how worried she was about her sister. About the hours she had spent listening to Ceri's fears that Neil was having an affair. It had all sounded so horribly familiar.

‘Hasn't she got anyone else who can help?'

‘No. My mother used to live just round the corner but she died last year. My brother-in-law's parents live in Cornwall – so I'm all they've got, God help them!'

‘Poor you.' His tone sounded as if he knew what hard work small children could be. Megan wondered if he had any of his own. She had always assumed he was single.

In the lobby they passed by the Christmas tree with its sparse decorations. Only a week to go, Megan thought, and she hadn't even started the present shopping. The prospect of waking up alone on Christmas morning filled her with dread. Still, she thought, as she glanced at the pile of envelopes in her pigeonhole, it couldn't be much worse than waking up with someone you no longer loved.

‘Doctor Rhys!' The porter's voice barked from the glass-fronted lodge in the corner of the lobby. ‘Call for you – shall I put it through to your office?'

‘Yes, thanks Eric.' Megan grabbed her mail, wedging it under her arm as she made for the lift.

‘Here, let me.' Patrick darted in front of her and pressed the button. ‘Go on. I'll get you a coffee – you look as if you need one.' He cast her a sidelong grin as the doors slid shut between them.

Megan's office was on the second floor. As head of department, hers was more spacious than the rabbit hutches the rest of the staff occupied. A large seascape filled the space above her desk and the other walls were lined with black and white photographs of faces. Twenty-seven men and six women – all lifers. She had interviewed each of them over the past ten years, gaining the dubious distinction of being the first woman to have been inside every maximum-security prison in the UK. And on the shelves beneath this rogues' gallery were the books she had written about them.

She picked up the phone, unbuttoning her coat with her free hand. ‘Megan Rhys.'

‘Hello, it's Detective Superintendent Leverton.'

She bristled at the sound of his voice. At the other end of the phone she heard muffled noises.

‘I'm so sorry, Dr Rhys but someone's walked in I've got to deal with – can I call you back?'

‘What's it about?'

‘Will you be there for the morning?'

She said yes and he hung up. She was still holding the telephone when Patrick squeezed through the door with a mug in each hand. She watched him as he placed hers on the desk. Everyone in the building was intrigued by the Dutchman who spoke English with an Irish accent. The students were always talking about him – especially the women.

Megan replaced the receiver. ‘Thanks.' She frowned as she lifted the mug to her lips. ‘That was West Midlands Police.'

‘What did they want?

‘I don't know.' It was part of her job to work with the police. And she loved the work. It was the police themselves she had problems with. She glanced at Patrick. He's one of them, she reminded herself. She gulped down her coffee and switched on her PC. He was watching her. She pointedly turned to her work. ‘I'll be out of the office this afternoon – can we catch up tomorrow morning? About eleven?'

BOOK: Frozen
5.17Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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