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Authors: Lyndon Stacey

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No Holds Barred

BOOK: No Holds Barred
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Recent Titles by Lyndon Stacey

CUT THROAT

BLINDFOLD

DEADFALL

OUTSIDE CHANCE

SIX TO ONE AGAINST

MURDER IN MIND

The Daniel Whelan Mysteries

NO GOING BACK *

NO HOLDS BARRED *

* available from Severn House

NO HOLDS BARRED

A Daniel Whelan Mystery

Lyndon Stacey
This ebook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author's and publisher's rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.
 

First world edition published 2012

in Great Britain and in the USA by

SEVERN HOUSE PUBLISHERS LTD of

9–15 High Street, Sutton, Surrey, England, SM1 1DF.

Copyright © 2012 by Lyndon Stacey.

All rights reserved.

The moral right of the author has been asserted.

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data

Stacey, Lyndon.

No holds barred.

1. Ex-police officers – Fiction. 2. Freight and

Freightage – Fiction. 3. Truck drivers – Fiction.

4. Corruption – Fiction. 5. Detective and mystery stories.

I. Title

823.9´2-dc22

ISBN-13: 978-1-78010-207-8 (ePub)

ISBN-13: 978-0-7278-8064-2 (cased)

ISBN-13: 978-1-84751-410-3 (trade paper)

Except where actual historical events and characters are being described for the storyline of this novel, all situations in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to living persons is purely coincidental.

This ebook produced by

Palimpsest Book Production Limited,

Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland.

This one's with heartfelt gratitude to Jaci & Robert;
Alison, Brian & Tamzin; Judi; Di; Lynne; Rebecca;
Maggie; and Paula. They will know why.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

As usual, thanks go to my good friend Mark Randle of the Wiltshire Constabulary, for his ever-patient help with my research queries.

PROLOGUE

T
he old brick farmhouse stood silent, its outline dark against the moonlit sky, smoke drifting from one of the tall chimney stacks, the only light a dull glow behind one of the downstairs windows.

A small bright triangle appeared as the curtain was lifted at one corner then dropped a moment later.

The woman moved away from the window, two parallel lines of worry between her brows. Flopping down into the closest armchair, she tucked a stray strand of hair behind her ear, picked up a farming magazine and began to turn the pages desultorily, blue eyes scanning the print, mind elsewhere.

Moments later, she had tossed it away and was on her feet again, drawn inexorably back to the window. Standing to one side, she peered out as she'd done dozens of times already that night.

The yard was still and deserted. Near at hand the moon gleamed on the cream roof of the Land Rover, and, further away, she could make out the outlines of the barn, the stables and the four parked lorries beyond.

All of a sudden, the security light came on, flooding the yard with brilliance, and she caught her breath.

It was a false alarm. Halfway across the open space a black and white cat froze, looking towards the house, then turned and ambled on its way.

Sighing, she let the curtain fall and began to pace the room.

He'd never stayed out so late before without telling her. Why hadn't he at least phoned?

The heavy ticking of the grandfather clock seemed to accentuate the silence.

She could have been alone in the world.

She'd had the radio on for a while, but not for long – it was too intrusive, too noisy. She was afraid of missing something.

Afraid of missing what?
she asked herself impatiently. He'd gone out to investigate some lights he'd seen across the fields, that was all. More than likely he'd dropped down into the village for a quick dram at The Fox and Duck and got talking to his cronies. Typical of him not to think that she might be worrying. Or not to care, a voice in her head added.

On the rug in front of the fire, the dog stirred, stretched and looked up, perhaps sensing her anxiety. She wished he'd taken the dog, but he'd said it might get in the way, and, anyway, it would look after her and the kids while he was out.

She glanced doubtfully at the black Lab. He was top gundog material, but a guard? She wasn't so sure.

And, besides, why should she need guarding? Her imagination was running riot and that wasn't like her.

He'd left her with a spring in his step, eyes bright with the prospect of some action, even if it was nothing more than giving old Woodsmoke, the poacher, a warning off. She had an uneasy suspicion he'd been feeling bored lately. Running the business didn't tax him unduly and, although he denied it, she wondered if he was finding rural life a little tame.

Thinking of Woodsmoke, she hoped he wouldn't be too hard on the old man. The poacher was a local character who'd been around since her mother was a little girl and had never done anyone any harm, unless you happened to be a rabbit. As far as she was concerned, he was welcome to as many rabbits as he could carry.

A glance at the clock told her it was well past one o'clock. The pub would be long closed and its patrons dispersed to their respective homes.

So where was he?

The inactivity was driving her mad and, crossing to the door beside the fireplace, she went through and up the curving flight of stairs to the children's rooms.

Pausing in the doorway, she looked into the soft darkness of the first bedroom, hearing the whisper of her daughters' breathing. Two beds, two precious humps under the quilts.

All well.

She moved on to the second room, her anxiety levels falling a notch or two. Here, a young boy lay sprawled atop the bedclothes, one arm outflung, the thumb of the other hand tucked characteristically into his mouth. With a shake of her head, his mother crossed to the bedside and gently removed it before dropping a kiss on his brow and turning away.

Downstairs, the living room waited, empty save for the Labrador. Outside, nothing had changed. The woman made herself a mug of tea, found a biscuit for the dog and settled back into the chair, drawing her feet up under her as she often told her eldest daughter not to do.

Moments later, in spite of her worry, she was asleep, tea cooling on the table at her elbow.

The whining of the dog brought her awake.

The room was filled with the soft grey light of dawn and the fire was out.

The woman uncurled her legs and sat up, cautiously flexing her stiff neck. The unwelcome reality of the situation came flooding back.

The Labrador lifted a paw and scratched at the paintwork of the doorpost, repeating the plaintive whine.

‘All right, Monty, I'm coming.'

As she opened the door, the incoming air was icy cold and she saw that the clear night had left a late frost on the grass and a shimmer of ice on the Land Rover. The valley was filled with a thin, milky mist, turning the familiar vista into one of mystery. She shivered, rubbing her upper arms.

The Labrador pushed past her legs, making not for the rough grass of the home paddock as he normally did, but for the open gateway and the long gravel drive beyond. He set off at a run, ignoring her call.

On the kitchen table, her mobile began to trill, and after one last puzzled glance at the dog's fast disappearing form, she turned back and picked it up.

‘Jenny? It's Sue.' The voice sounded agitated and upset. ‘I'm at the top of the drive – you'd better come quickly. It's Gavin.'

‘What is it? What's happened?' Jenny had started trembling violently.

‘I don't know. But it's bad. He's in a bad way. I've called an ambulance.'

Jenny dropped the phone, snatched up her keys and ran out into the chill of the morning.

ONE

T
hey came out of nowhere, engines revving noisily and horns blaring.

Daniel Whelan glanced in his rear-view mirror and saw two vehicles crowding the tailgate of his ageing silver Mercedes estate, the foremost one swerving from side to side on the narrow country road to convey an obvious message: the driver wanted to get past, and quick.

He'd seen the blue pick-up with the banks of roof-mounted spotlights and oversized wheels before. Five minutes ago, to be exact, parked to one side of the petrol station in the village where he'd refuelled his car. As an ex-copper, he couldn't quite kick the habit of making a mental note of such things.

Daniel held the crown of the road. Whatever their problem, it wasn't safe to pass and the pick-up could wait until he was good and ready to pull over.

The blue truck accelerated to within inches of his rear bumper. Its radiator grill was heavily barred, and for a moment he thought he was going to be rammed, but the driver contented himself with leaning long and hard on the horn once again.

In the back of Daniel's car, his German shepherd dog, Taz, began to bark furiously at the vehicle following, hackles up and muzzle pressed against the metal grid of the tailgate dog-guard.

Rounding a corner, Daniel spotted a pull-in on the left, one of several makeshift passing places that had naturally evolved on what was not much more than a single-track road. He pulled over and slowed to a halt.

With a roar, the pick-up accelerated past, but instead of disappearing at top speed as Daniel had expected, it swung left in front of the Mercedes and screeched to a halt, tyres smoking. A glance in his mirror showed him that the second vehicle, a pimped-up 1970s Ford Escort, had done the same behind him.

Pulse rate rising a notch or two, Daniel pressed the button for central locking and awaited developments.

As soon as the pick-up stopped moving, a young man erupted from the far side, wearing oversized oily blue overalls, a baseball cap, wrap-around sunglasses and a truculent expression. He came round the back of the vehicle with a jaunty, swaggering step, carrying a monkey wrench. Daniel put him in his late teens or early twenties and identified him without surprise as the one who'd served him with fuel at the filling station in the village.

‘How do I get to Maidstone Farm from here?' Daniel had asked as the diesel gurgled into the car's tank and the numbers on the out-of-date pump's display ticked over in maddening slow motion. The youth's manner had been confrontational, even then.

‘Who wants to know?'

‘I do.'

‘You the new driver?'

‘Why? Are you Jenny Summers?'

The young man sneered.

‘Duh! Do I look like Jenny Summers?'

‘I don't know. I've never met her,' Daniel had said reasonably. He wasn't spoiling for a fight but neither was he going to discuss his business with any Tom, Dick or Harry in the village.

The youth had given him a look of unmistakable dislike, replaced the pump nozzle in the machine and said rudely, ‘Find it yourself,' before spoiling the gesture somewhat with the necessity of completing the fuel transaction.

Daniel paid him in cash and started the engine.

‘Now, if you'd wanted to be really unhelpful,' he said, ‘you could have given me the
wrong
directions.' And with a click of his tongue and a wink, he'd left the young man glowering as he drove away.

Now, freed of the constraints of his place of work, the youth came to a halt beside Daniel's car and rapped sharply on the window.

Daniel obliged by opening it three or four inches.

Having the whole of the back of the car to roam in, Taz had moved forward to just behind the front seats and was barking enthusiastically in his ear, nose pressed against the glass of the side window. Daniel had to raise his voice to be heard.

BOOK: No Holds Barred
10.1Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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