Authors: Celina Grace
Tags: #Women Sleuths, #Thriller & Suspence, #Mystery, #Police Procedurals
(A KATE REDMAN MYSTERY: BOOK 1)
© Celina Grace 2013
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HUSHABYE (A KATE REDMAN MYSTERY: BOOK 1)
A missing baby. A murdered girl. A case where everyone has something to hide...
On the first day of her new job in the West Country, Detective Sergeant Kate Redman finds herself investigating the kidnapping of Charlie Fullman, the newborn son of a wealthy entrepreneur and his trophy wife. It seems a straightforward case... but as Kate and her fellow officer Mark Olbeck delve deeper, they uncover murky secrets and multiple motives for the crime.
Kate finds the case bringing up painful memories of her own past secrets. As she confronts the truth about herself, her increasing emotional instability threatens both her hard-won career success and the possibility that they will ever find Charlie Fullman alive...
is the first in the
Kate Redman Mysteries
series from crime writer Celina Grace, author of
The House on Fever Street
Casey Fullman opened her eyes and knew something was wrong.
It was too bright. She was used to waking to grey dimness, the before-sunrise hours of a winter morning. Dita would stand by the bed with Charlie in one arm, a warmed bottle in the other. Casey would struggle up to a sitting position, trying to avoid the jab of pain from her healing Caesarean scar, and take the baby and the bottle.
You’re mad to get up so early when you don’t have to
, her mother had told her, more than once.
It’s not like you’re breastfeeding. Let Dita do it
. But Casey, smiling and shrugging, would never give up those first waking moments. She enjoyed the delicious warmth of the baby snuggled against her body, his dark eyes fixed upon hers as he sucked furiously at the bottle.
She didn’t envy Dita, though, stumbling back to bed through the early morning dark to her bedroom next to the nursery. Casey would have gotten up herself to take Charlie from his cot when he cried for his food, but Nick needed his sleep, and it seemed to work out better all round for Dita, so close to the cot anyway, to bring him and the bottle into the bedroom instead.
That’s what I pay her for
, Nick had said, when she’d suggested getting up herself.
But this morning there was no Dita, sleepy-eyed in rumpled pyjamas, standing by the bed. There was no Charlie. Casey sat up sharply, wincing as her stomach muscles pulled at the scar. She looked over at Nick, fast asleep next to her. Sleeping like a baby. But where was her baby, her Charlie?
She got up and padded across the soft, expensive, sound-muffling carpet, not bothering with her dressing gown, too anxious now to delay. It was almost full daylight; she could see clearly. The bedroom door was shut, and she opened it to a silent corridor outside.
The door to Dita’s room was standing open, but the door to Charlie’s nursery was closed. Casey looked in Dita’s room. Her nanny’s bed was empty, the room in its usual mess, clothes and toys all over the floor. She must have gone into Charlie’s room. They must both be in there. Why hadn’t Dita brought him through?
He must be ill
, thought Casey, and fear broke over her like a wave. Her palm slipped on the door handle to the nursery.
She pushed the door. It stuck, halfway open. Casey shoved harder and it moved, opening wide enough for her to see an out-flung arm on the carpet, a hand half-curled. Her throat closed up. Frantically, she pushed at the door, and it opened far enough to enable her to squeeze inside.
It was Dita she saw first, spread-eagled on the floor, face upwards. For a split second, Casey thought, crazily, that it was a model of her nanny, a waxwork, something that someone had left in the room for a joke. Dita’s face was pale as colourless candle wax, but that wasn’t the worst thing. There was something wrong with the structure of her face, her forehead dented, her nose pushed to one side. Her thick blonde hair was fanned out around her head like the stringy petals of a giant flower.
Casey felt her heartbeat falter as she looked down at the body. She was dimly aware that her lungs felt as if they’d seized up, frozen solid. She mouthed like a fish, gasping for air, but it wasn’t until she moved her gaze from Dita to look at Charlie’s cot that she began to scream.
Kate Redman stood in the tiny hallway of her flat and regarded herself in the full-length mirror that hung beside the front door. She never left the flat without giving herself a quick once-over—not for reasons of vanity, but to check that all was in place.She smoothed down her hair and tugged at her jacket, pulling the shoulders more firmly into shape. Her bag stood by the front door mat. She picked it up and checked her purse and mobile and warrant card were all there, zipped away in the inner pocket.
She was early, but then she was always early. Time for a quick coffee before the doorbell was expected to ring? She walked into the small, neat kitchen, her hand hovering over the kettle. She decided against it. She felt jittery enough already.
Calm down, Kate
It was awful being the new girl; it was like being back at school again. Although now at least, she was well-dressed, with clean hair and clean shoes. It was fairly unlikely that any of her new co-workers would tell her that she smelt and had nits.
Kate shook herself mentally. She was talking to herself again, the usual internal monologue, always a sign of stress.
It’s just a new job. You can do it.
They picked you, remember?
She checked her watch. He was late, although not by much. The traffic at this time of day was always awful. She walked from the kitchen to the lounge –
living room, Kate, living room
– a matter of ten steps. She closed her bedroom door, and then opened it again to let the air flow in. She walked back to the hallway just as the doorbell finally rang. She took a deep breath and fixed her smile in place before she opened it.
“DS Redman?” asked the man on the doorstep. “I’m DS Olbeck. Otherwise known as Mark. Bloody awful parking around here. Sorry I’m late.”
Kate noted a few things immediately: the fact that he’d said ‘bloody,’ whereas every other copper she’d ever known would have said ‘fucking’; his slightly too long dark hair; that he had a nice, crinkle-eyed smile. She felt a bit better.
“No drama,” she said breezily. “I’m ready. Call me Kate.”
When they got to the car, she hesitated slightly for a moment, unsure of whether she should clear the passenger seat of all the assorted crap that was piled upon it or whether she should leave it to Mark. He muttered an apology and threw everything into the back.
“I’m actually quite neat,” he said, swinging the door open for her, “but it doesn’t seem to extend to the car, if you see what I mean.”
Kate smiled politely. As he swung the car out into the road, she fixed her mind on the job ahead of them.
“Can you tell me–” she began, just as he began to ask her a question.
“I was going to say, you’re up from Bournemouth, aren’t you?” Olbeck asked.
“That’s right. I grew up there.”
“I thought that’s where people went to retire.”
Kate grinned. “Pretty much. There’s wasn’t a lot of, shall we say,
when I was growing up.” She paused. “Still, we had the beach. Where are you from?”
“London,” said DS Olbeck, briefly. There was a pause while he waited to join the dual carriageway. “Nowhere glamorous. Just the outskirts, really. Ruislip, Middlesex. How are you finding the move to the West Country?”
“Fine so far.”
“Have you got family around here?
Kate was growing impatient with the small talk. “No, no one around here,” she said. “Can I ask you about the case?”
“I know it’s a murder and kidnap case–”
“Yes. The child – baby – belongs to the Fullmans. Nick Fullman is a very wealthy entrepreneur, made most of his cash in property development. He got married about a year ago – to one of those sort of famous people.”
“How do you mean?” Kate asked.
“Oh you know, the sort of Z-list celebrity that keeps showing up in Heat magazine. Her name’s Casey Bright. Well, Casey Fullman now. Appeared in Okay when they got married, showing you round their lovely home, you know the sort of thing.”
Kate smiled. “I get the picture.”
She wouldn’t have pegged DS Olbeck for a gossip mag reader, but then people often weren’t what they seemed.
“And the murder?”
“The nanny, Dita Olgweisch. Looks incidental to the kidnapping at this point, but you never know. What
known is that the baby is missing and as it – he’s – only three months old, you can imagine the kind of thing we’re dealing with here.”
“Yes.” Kate was silent for a moment. A three-month-old baby…memories threatened to surface and she pushed them away. “So on the face of it, we’re looking at the baby was snatched, the nanny interrupted whoever it was, and she was killed?”
“Like you say, on the surface, that seems to be what’s happened. We’ll know more soon. We’ll be there in,” he glanced at the sat nav on the windscreen, “fifteen minutes or so.”
They were off the motorway now and into the countryside. Looking out of the window, Kate noted the ploughed fields, shorn of the autumn stubble, the skeletal shapes of the trees. It was a grey January day, the sky like a flat blanket the colour of nothing.
The worst time of year
, she thought,
everything dead, shut down for the winter, months until spring
The car slowed, turned into a driveway, and continued through formidable iron gates which were opened for them by a uniformed officer. After they drove through, Kate looked back to see the gates swung shut behind them. She noted the high wooden fence that ran alongside the road, the CCTV camera on the gatepost. The driveway wound though dripping trees and opened out into a courtyard at the front of the house.
“Looks like security is a priority,” she said to her companion as he pulled the car up by the front door.
He raised his eyebrows. “Clearly not enough of a priority.”
“Well, we’ll see,” said Kate.
They both got out of the car. There was another uniformed officer by the front door, a pale redhead whose nose had reddened in the raw air. He was stamping his feet and swinging his arms but stopped abruptly when Kate and Olbeck reached him.
“DCI Anderton here yet?” said Olbeck.
“Yes sir. He’s inside, in the kitchen. Just go straight through the hallway.”
They stepped inside. The hallway was cavernous, tiled in chilly white stone, scuffed and marked now with the imprint of shoes and boots. Kate looked around. A staircase split in two and flowed around the upper reaches of the hallway to the first floor of the house. There was an enormous light shade suspended from the ceiling, a tangled mass of glass tubing and metal filaments. It had probably cost more than her flat, but she thought it hideous all the same. The house was warm, too warm; the underfloor heating was obviously at full blast, but there was an atmosphere of frigidity nonetheless. Perhaps it was the glossy white floor, the high ceilings, the general air of too much space. A Philip Starke chair stood against the wall, looking as though it had been carved out of ice.
“Mark? That you? Through here.”
They followed the shout through into the kitchen, big on an industrial scale. It opened out into a glass-walled conservatory, which overlooked a terrace leading down to a clipped and manicured lawn. Detective Chief Inspector Anderton stood by a cluster of leather sofas where a woman was sitting, crouching forward, her long blonde hair dipping towards the floor. Kate looked around her surreptitiously. The place stank of money,
money: wealth just about dripped from the ceilings. It
be a kidnapping.
, she chided herself.
No jumping to conclusions
She had only met the Chief Inspector once before, at her interview. He was a grey man: steel grey hair, dark grey eyes, grey suit. Easy to dismiss, at first.
“Ah, DS Redman,” he said as they both approached. “Welcome. Hoping to catch up with you later in my office, but we’ll have to see how things go. You can see how things are here.”
He gave her a firm handshake, holding her gaze for a moment. She was surprised at the sudden tug of her lower belly, a pulse that vanished almost as soon as she’d registered it. A little shaken, it took her a moment to collect herself. The other two officers had begun talking to the blonde woman on the sofa. Kate joined them.