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Authors: Lisa Cutts

Mercy Killing

BOOK: Mercy Killing
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To Claire Finch, my oldest friend. For being a massive part of my own happy childhood.

Prologue

Few things made Dean Stillbrook happy any more but the one part of the day he really enjoyed, relished, adored, was his early morning walk through the woods from his flat to
work.

The hideous experience of the last six months was only now starting to blur into the past where it belonged. He hadn’t for one moment believed that he would ever look forward to the rest
of his life. One stupid mistake had cost him so much but he was learning to adapt and be glad for the small things in his day-to-day existence.

As he made his way deeper into the trees, he paused for a second to tilt his face up towards the sky, the May sunshine breaking through the branches and warming his face. He stood still, eyes
shut, and listened to the birds, a slight breeze rustling the leaves, and then he heard the sound of movement behind him.

It happened with such speed, Dean couldn’t have reacted if he had wanted to.

His brain was finding it difficult to comprehend that such a beautiful bright sunny morning that seemed to hold such promise could possibly result in someone tightening a noose around his neck,
the rope tearing into his flesh as it pulled him straight up towards the sky he had only moments before stopped to admire.

‘Please,’ he tried to say, but the noose was already eating into his skin and cutting off the last breath he would take. He didn’t even have time for his fingertips to attempt
the futile gesture of prising themselves between the rope and his throat; let alone for the questions that would have surged through his mind before he blacked out, the most pressing of all being
‘Why?’

Even though Dean Stillbrook was long past caring or knowing, it was more merciful that he couldn’t feel the pain of the rope cutting into him as he was lifted up towards an overhanging
branch.

He wasn’t able to hear the grunts and moans of his executioner as he pulled him higher off the ground, feet left dangling in the air.

Chapter 1

Friday 5 November

Detective Inspector Harry Powell glanced at the time displayed on his computer screen. He let out a long, slow breath and refreshed the log for calls coming in throughout the
county that he had somehow managed to police for over twenty-five years.

As usual, Friday-night incidents ranged from noisy children playing football in the street to violent domestics, with an unhealthy dose of traffic accidents sprinkled liberally across the towns
and rural areas, not to mention the added problems that Guy Fawkes Night brought with it.

He had only been promoted a few months beforehand, so Harry was keen to make his mark and show the troops that getting to the next rank up from sergeant hadn’t turned him into the sort of
managerial yes-man he so despised.

Harry was the on-call senior investigating officer for the county, meaning the weekend would be spent either at work or at home waiting for the phone to ring. The last few years had turned some
of his red hair grey, increased his paunch and added worry lines to his pale freckled face. None of it detracted from his formidable presence whenever he entered a room.

Many DIs would have gone home hours ago and waited for the call to shatter the peace and summon them back to work. If Harry was completely honest, there were two matters weighing heavily on his
mind, preventing him from doing just that. One was the impression that he was trying to give his staff, and the second was that, with both of his teenage sons out with their girlfriends for the
evening, it only left his wife at home.

He looked up at the map of the county pinned to the wall and ran an eye over the divisions he had worked on, which included the struggling ex-mining towns, the rural areas with their
multimillion-pound houses and the poorer seaside towns, like East Rise, with its fair share of run-down wards and four-storey Victorian houses turned into multi-occupancy flats for those on the
lowest incomes and benefit claimants.

Once more, he pressed the refresh button on his computer, almost willing for a murder or suspicious incident to flash up on the screen, saving him from a night at home and a frosty
atmosphere.

His luck seemed to have run out: no one was being stabbed, or beaten to within an inch of their life.

His mobile phone rang. The single letter ‘W’ appeared on the screen. He’d meant to store her under
Wife
when he got his new job phone, but had lost interest after the
first letter.

‘Hello, love,’ he said.

‘What time will you be home?’

‘Shouldn’t be much longer.’ He scanned the screen again. ‘There’s always a chance I’ll be called back in to work.’

His attempt to keep the hope from his voice wasn’t convincing even to his own ears.

‘You know what this town’s like, love,’ he felt the need to add. ‘There’s always something going on. Last week it was a bomb hoax that kept me late, two days ago it
was a murder and who knows what tonight will bring.’

Harry turned his attention to the list on the wall of ongoing operations his incident room was currently dealing with, each with its own tale of tragedy attached.

‘My knowledge of them all,’ she said, ‘comes from the news. I find it very informative. I won’t wait up.’

He shook his head as the line went dead and ran a finger down the log of open calls in front of him.

‘Be careful what you wish for,’ muttered Harry to himself.

Chapter 2

Usually Friday nights were Albie Woodville’s favourite part of his week. He went home to his second-floor flat, shut the door and after a simple meal purchased from the
reduced section at his local Co-op, he settled down in front of his television to watch the programmes he had recorded that week.

However, something was wrong this particular Friday. He glanced around him as he walked out of the shop, passing from the harshly lit frontage to the gloomy corner of his road. Albie held his
carrier bag containing half-price sausages and a dented tin of baked beans to his chest and picked up speed. Not fast enough to alert anyone watching but a quickening that meant the sanctuary of
his home was all the closer.

It was somewhere he had always felt safe as soon as he shut the locking communal door behind him. When he’d rented the flat, he had chosen it partly for its video entryphone, but also
because of its location. He had known immediately that this was the flat for him.

Key in his hand, Albie opened the door and he was inside the main entrance that served the twelve flats. He wasn’t fond of going out after dark any more but it was the best time to save a
few precious pence on his Friday-evening treat. He made his way upstairs with the whole night stretching before him, although he failed to shake off the uneasy feeling that had taken hold of him
since exiting the supermarket.

The nights had got longer too, which didn’t help to dispel his loneliness since his mother’s death. Amongst other things, he put his jittery feelings down to the time of year
combined with the anniversary of his mum’s passing being almost upon him. He hadn’t even been allowed to attend her funeral. Although not something that was strictly his own fault, not
a day went by when he didn’t loathe himself for not being there.

Thoughts of placing flowers on her grave in ten days’ time occupied his mind as he unlocked his own front door, locked it behind him and punched in the code to turn off the burglar
alarm.

Albie busied himself closing the curtains against the darkness, having chosen earlier in the day to leave the fading view until the sun had finally gone down. He snapped on lights, turned on the
muted television and went to prepare his meal.

Once again, Albie tried to shrug off his unease, wanting to blame it on his constant worry that he would always have to look over his shoulder. The warnings had been loud and very clear. If he
had been able to see the screen on the video entryphone from where he was in the kitchen area of the open-plan living room, he would have seen the dark figure as it sprinted towards the closing
communal door.

Days before, residents had complained to the management company about the spring-loaded door hinge: it forced the door to slam when released and disturbed the peace of those on the ground floor.
The adjustment meant that when Albie’s twenty-three-year-old first-floor neighbour came home from work minutes after Albie returned, she let the door go behind her, allowing it to inch its
way towards the frame. She was busy talking on her mobile phone, so she neither paid any attention to anyone behind her, nor wondered why she didn’t hear the sound of the catch hitting home
as she trotted up the stairs.

Behind her, a gloved hand grabbed the handle and held the door open.

He knew where he was going and made his way to the second floor, pausing on the landing both to get his breath back and to wait for his accomplice. Once the second figure had joined him, the two
men stood outside the flat door, dressed head to toe in black, faces covered, listening.

They had planned for this. They knew that to stay too long was foolish but they had chosen Friday the 5th of November for a reason: Guy Fawkes Night and the loud bangs it brought with it. It
wasn’t the best cover they could hope for, but it was better than nothing.

As they’d discussed, the taller of the two moved closer to the door and held up his left hand. He counted off one, two, three. On three he lifted his booted foot directly beneath the
handle and kicked out at the door with as much strength as he could find.

The door gave with one kick.

Chapter 3

Albie heard the noise of the wood breaking and instantly knew that today was the day. He had always known it would come and he had always assumed he would face it with a quiet
dignity. Now, however, he stood shaking at his kitchen table, not entirely sure he wasn’t about to soil himself, prepared to plead for his life. He held the packet of pork sausages in his
hands as the two men ran into his flat, the sound of them unmistakable, and came towards him across the living room to where he was rooted to the spot in his tiny, grubby kitchen area.

The two intruders came to a stop at the other side of the rubbish-strewn table; their breath was coming fast and their hearts were pounding. Not as much as Albie’s. When this was over,
they knew they’d still be alive. He knew he wouldn’t live to see another day.

He had been about to cook his dinner so amongst the crockery on the table was cutlery. His eyes scanned the debris, hoping to show his brain a sharp knife. He didn’t doubt that it was
futile. He was sixty-three years old, overweight, unfit. Despite the scarves across their faces, he knew that he was looking at two men fitter than him, about half his age.

‘Please don’t hurt me,’ he said.

The shorter of the two moved around the table, hand pulling something out of his pocket.

‘You’re a worthless piece of shit,’ he said, holding up a long plastic cable-tie close to Albie’s face.

He felt the urge to punch Albie as he stood in front of him clutching a packet of what looked like sausages. He reminded himself that he hadn’t gone to such lengths planning this moment to
stoop to animal behaviour now. He had been focused on getting into the flat, doing what he needed to do, and then returning to his normal life with his sanity as intact as he could manage.

BOOK: Mercy Killing
2.97Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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