Max Wolfe 02.5 - Fresh Blood

BOOK: Max Wolfe 02.5 - Fresh Blood
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Contents

About the Book

About the Author

Also by Tony Parsons

Title Page

Epigraph

1 Old School

2 Death Bed

3 True Crime

4 Curse of the Krays

5 Hospital Food

6 Young Offenders

7 The Last Gangster

8 Rescue Dog

9 Goodbye to All This

10 27 Savile Row

Epilogue: Looking at the Turners

Extract from
The Hanging Club

Copyright

About the Book

An exclusive short story featuring DC Max Wolfe from Tony Parsons, the
Sunday Times
No. 1 bestselling author of
The Murder Bag

The gruesome discovery of the body of an old man on Hampstead Heath leads DC Max Wolfe deep into gangland London. Could the dead man’s connections to the Krays and the Richardsons be behind the killing?

As Max delves deeper, he uncovers a new gang war, one that could have terrible consequences for him and the people he loves . . .

About the Author

Tony Parsons left school at sixteen and his first job in journalism was at the
New Musical Express
. His first journalism after leaving the NME was when he was embedded with the Vice Squad at 27 Savile Row, West End Central. The roots of the DC Max Wolfe series started here.

Since then he has become an award-winning journalist and bestselling novelist whose books have been translated into more than forty languages.
The Murder Bag
, the first novel in the DC Max Wolfe series, went to number one on first publication in the UK.
The Slaughter Man
was also a
Sunday Times
top ten bestseller.

Tony lives in London with his wife, his daughter and their dog, Stan.

Also by Tony Parsons

The Murder Bag

The Slaughter Man

Fresh Blood
A DC Max Wolfe Short Story
Tony Parsons
 

The pursuit of fame is actually extremely rare among criminals, and successful criminals, almost by definition, tend to be modest, self-effacing human beings. All a good burglar, conman, forger or swindler asks of life are the pleasures of obscurity and the modest joys of happy anonymity. Not so the twins, however.

John Pearson,
The Profession of Violence – the Rise and Fall of The Kray Twins

1
Old School

There were prison tattoos on the dead man’s hands.

Five dots, arranged like the face of a dice on the skin between his thumbs and index fingers. I have heard a dozen different interpretations of what the quincunx means but the one I always believed was that it represents one lonely human soul, surrounded by four walls. The tattoos meant that the dead man had done hard time.

‘Daddy?’

‘Stay back, Scout.’

The dead man was lying on his back in a ditch on Hampstead Heath. My daughter Scout and I had been walking the dog on his long Sunday morning yomp across the Heath, and it had been the dog that had smelled him first.

We had come out of the trees heading towards the meadow that slopes down to the open-air bathing ponds when Stan – our ruby-coloured Cavalier King Charles Spaniel – had suddenly frozen, his nose twitching with disbelief. We thought he had picked up the scent of a fox or rabbit. But what Stan smelled was dead jailbird.

I turned to look at Scout. Stan was off lead but she was holding him by the collar as his eyes bulged with anticipation.

‘It’s going to be all right, Scout,’ I said. ‘But you two stay right there.’

The dead man’s face was a mask of blood. At the corner of his mouth were gaping wounds that looked black in the spring morning sunlight. I took a deep breath to slow my heart. Someone had slashed his mouth wide open and it was now twice the size it should have been.

Then I saw his dog. A white English Bull Terrier coming out of the bushes, whimpering for his master. A remarkable-looking animal, I thought, with its small black eyes and a forehead that seemed to slope all the way down to his mouth. He sniffed at the dead man’s mouth and began to whine. The dog knew he was gone forever.

I pulled out a pack of Natures Menu treats and whistled. The white dog took a look at me, then back at his dead master, and began padding towards me, licking his lips. I palmed him a treat and tossed the pack to Scout. The dog kept going, eager for more. Scout fumbled with the pack of treats as Stan and the English Bull Terrier went into their butt-sniffing circle dance.

She slipped a treat into the new dog’s mouth, then one for Stan, and then took both of them by their collars and looked anxiously in my direction. I held up my hand and she crouched down, waiting, the dogs still sniffing each other.

‘Just stay there,’ I said. ‘Everything is okay.’

I approached the dead man with my hands in my pockets so I would do as little to the crime scene as possible. The state of his face still shocked me. It was one of those injuries that you hear about and hope to never see. I stood there fighting for control of my heart rate as I looked around. There were some dog walkers and a couple of joggers in the far distance but it was still very early on a Sunday morning and there were few people on the Heath. I took my hands out of my pockets and called it in to Metcall. The First Contact Operator gave me an ETA of five minutes but by the time I hung up I could already hear our sirens.

I tried to see the man as he had once been. His thinning, silvery hair was shaved very short in what they call a number one crop and he wore a green MA1 flying jacket with a vivid orange lining, Doctor Marten boots, muddy from the Heath, and faded 501s. The skin on the hands with the dice tattoos was so dry it resembled paper. Lean and fit but not young, nowhere near it. He looked like a very elderly skinhead.

Scout was looking at the English Bull Terrier’s nametag.

‘“My name is Bullseye”,’ she read. Then she called out to me. ‘Can we keep him, Daddy?’

Thirty minutes later they had taped off the Heath from the bathing ponds all the way to the Hampstead Gate.

Scout was chatting to a female handler from the Dog Support Unit as her German Shepherd joined Stan and Bullseye in the nose-to-tail, getting-to-know-all-about-you routine. The Specialist Search Team were doing a fingertip search, fanning off from the ditch where the dead man still lay as the CSI took their photographs and their films. A large detective with a thatch of white-blond hair came up the hill slowly, plastic baggies still on his shoes. He took off the blue latex gloves he was wearing and we shook hands.

‘Where would we be without you dog walkers?’ smiled DCI Flashman of New Scotland Yard. ‘I don’t think we’d ever find any dead bodies without you lot.’

I sipped the triple espresso that someone had brought me from the café in Kenwood House. It was pretty good.

‘Dogs are handy like that,’ I said. ‘You don’t get that with a goldfish.’

I waited for him to ask me the questions that a DI from his Murder Investigation Team had already asked. I was keen to get it over with and get Scout home. I wanted her away from this place of death. I didn’t want her anywhere near it.

‘So you didn’t see anyone legging it when you found our man?’ Flashman said.

I shook my head. ‘A few runners but they were a way off and taking their time. Real runners. And some more dog walkers.’

He looked over my shoulder at the DSU officer and Scout laughing together as they watched the three dogs.

‘And your daughter didn’t see anything?’ Flashman said.

‘Nothing,’ I said. ‘I want to keep her right out of it. She was nowhere near it. She didn’t see this mess.’ I indicated the dead man in the ditch. A CSI was leaning in to take a close-up of the horrific wounds on the ruined mouth. ‘Can we go now, sir?’

‘In a minute,’ he said. ‘I’m not going to keep you. You’re on leave, right?’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘I heard your mob got knocked around bringing down the Slaughter Man. Your Detective Inspector – the black guy – got badly hurt, didn’t he?’

I nodded. ‘DI Curtis Gane,’ I said. ‘He broke his first and second vertebrae.’

DCI Flashman shook his head. ‘And what does that mean?’

‘It means his spine and his head are no longer connected. It means he will never walk again.’

DCI Flashman nodded thoughtfully. He spared me the platitudes and words of polite sympathy and I was grateful for that. They wouldn’t do Curtis any good.

‘I’m sorry I can’t give you more of a lead,’ I said.

‘We’ve got our leads,’ DCI Flashman said. ‘We clocked his ID. This old lag is Vic Masters. He was an enforcer back in the good old days when you could leave the doors open in the East End and Reggie and Ronnie Kray were keeping the streets safe – when they weren’t nailing your granddad to the carpet.’

Now the dead man in the ditch had a name and something resembling the shape of a life.

‘Vic Masters,’ I said. ‘Before my time. But he must have been out of the game for a while?’

‘But Vic made a lot of enemies in his day. One in particular we’ll take a look at. They had a long-term beef, these two old faces. I mean it went on for years. Decades.’

A blacked-out mortuary van was rumbling across the Heath. They were ready to take Vic Masters away. DCI Flashman indicated the dead man’s ruined face, and what someone had done to his mouth. ‘You don’t get one of those when someone’s mugging you for your pension.’

‘What did it?’ I said. ‘I’ve never seen anything like it.’

Flashman shrugged. ‘Some kind of sword. A long blade, anyway. You know what they call it? When they open your mouth right up like that?’

‘They call it a Chelsea smile,’ I said. ‘It’s old school.’

‘The Chelsea smile,’ DCI Flashman said. ‘I never thought I’d see a Chelsea smile.’

I turned away from the sight of Vic Masters. I was sick of looking at him.

‘Anything else I can do for you, sir?’ I asked DCI Flashman.

The big detective thought about it.

‘Well,’ he said. ‘You could look after Vic’s dog.’

2
Death Bed

‘You would be doing me a favour,’ Curtis Gane said in the darkness of his hospital room.

His voice was hardly more than a whisper but he did not need to raise it. I was sitting close enough to his bed to smell the soap from where the nurse had washed him earlier that night.

And I had heard it all before.

‘Max,’ he said. ‘Killing me would be a kindness, don’t you see? This is not me. I am never going to work again. I am never going to make love to a woman. My mother is going to be wiping my arse until the day she dies.’ Silence. ‘Are you listening to me?’

‘Yes.’

‘This is not me.’

I had been there the night DI Curtis Gane broke his back.

He had stepped back from a man holding a black carbon lock knife with a four-inch blade and he fell two storeys and landed on his back, snapping the vertebrae connecting his head to his spine. It was that simple. It was that banal. It was that final.

I was in that derelict house that night. It could have been me, quickly stepping away from the man with the knife, and falling into the great sickening nothing until I landed on my back two storeys below. It could have been any policeman or woman who goes to work in the morning and can’t be sure that they won’t be coming home in a coffin or a wheelchair. The man who made Curtis fall – the man who had crippled him for life – had turned to me and stuck all four inches of that blade in my stomach. All these months later, I could still feel the blade inside me. I think I will feel it all my life. But I was lucky.

‘Curtis …’

He heard something in my voice that encouraged him.

‘It’s simple, Max,’ he said excitedly. ‘We can do it after they have filled me with sleeping pills. That way I’m not going to fight you too hard when you hold the pillow over my face. No skin and blood under my fingernails, see. No bruises on my arm. They will never know. I’ll just stop breathing, Max, and it will be over and it will be better for everyone.’

We were silent for a bit, the pair of us alone with our thoughts in the hospital night. A hospital is never in total darkness, not even in the small hours, and ambient light from the corridor seeped into the room and made my friend a dark, unmoving silhouette on the bed, completely still, as if he was already dead.

‘No, Curtis,’ I said. ‘I can’t. You know I can’t. Let’s stop talking about it.’

‘If you’re afraid of getting caught—’

‘I’m not doing it!’ I said, standing up as he cursed me, and something stuck in my throat because I knew that Curtis Gane would never stand on his own two feet again.

‘Then you’re a selfish, selfish pig, Max,’ he said, and then it was far worse because he began to cry, and I stood there with no words to say, and nothing to comfort him.

‘Who else can I ask?’ he said. ‘Tell me that, you selfish bastard.’

‘Nobody,’ I said. ‘There’s nobody else to ask, Curtis. There’s only me. I’m the only person you can ask. I’m it. And I’m saying no.’

He ran a hand across his face. He chuckled in the darkness.

BOOK: Max Wolfe 02.5 - Fresh Blood
4.01Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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