Authors: Margaret Duffy
Previous Titles in this series by Margaret Duffy
A HANGING MATTER
SO HORRIBLE A PLACE
TAINTED GROUND *
BLOOD SUBSTITUTE *
SOUVENIRS OF MURDER *
CORPSE IN WAITING *
RAT POISON *
available from Severn House
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First world edition published 2011
in Great Britain and in the USA by
SEVERN HOUSE PUBLISHERS LTD of
9â15 High Street, Sutton, Surrey, England, SM1 1DF.
Copyright Â© 2011 by Margaret Duffy.
All rights reserved.
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
Rat poison. â (A Patrick Gillard and Ingrid Langley
1. Gillard, Patrick (Fictitious character) â Fiction.
2. Langley, Ingrid (Fictitious character) â Fiction.
3. Gangs â England â Bath â Fiction. 4. Detective and
I. Title II. Series
ISBN-13: 978-1-78010-161-3 Â Â Â Â (ePub)
ISBN-13: 978-0-7278-8098-7 Â Â Â Â (cased)
ISBN-13: 978-1-84751-393-9 Â Â Â Â (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.
âGee, it's amazing when you think this place used to be a swamp.'
American tourist overheard in Bath
he man stood quite still in the deep shadow cast by a bridge that spanned a narrow city lane. Strictly speaking it was not a proper bridge at all but an old house, part of which constituted an archway and was situated close to a crossroads. There were a couple of windows on each side of it. Not a daydreaming sort of person by any means, the watcher sometimes thought it would be pleasant to live in such a quaint abode and could imagine the sloping floors, narrow twisting staircases and low ceilings within.
Motionless then and actually standing partly within a recessed doorway, he watched the lane as he had the previous two nights. There were only a couple of street lights of the âheritage' variety and the illumination they provided was quite poor. He had an idea there was a lamp directly beneath the arch itself but if there was it was not working. This suited him as here he was invisible. A church clock struck ten and as it did so a young couple came around from the road off to the right and walked right past him without detecting his presence.
The lane was a quiet shortcut away from the traffic in the adjacent main road for residents and visitors alike: theatre- or concert-goers heading home, to wine bars and restaurants or back to hotels. One of the terraced buildings in this lane housed a restaurant but it was closed for refurbishment, which meant that the property was all in darkness too. This unusual gloom might have been the reason for the fact that, lately, the area had been the site of several late-night muggings, and during one such attack five days previously an American visitor had been stabbed and received serious injuries after refusing to hand over his gold Rolex watch and wallet.
He was not aware of it but the watcher's mouth twisted wryly as he recollected how a senior police officer based at Avon and Somerset Police HQ in Bristol had appeared on the television news to say that those responsible were reckoned to be local thugs, drug addicts desperate for a fix or low life of that ilk and not part of a large and organized gang being closely monitored that was thought to be moving in from outside the district, probably from London.
The man watching muttered a few choice epithets directed at police personnel in general who sit at desks all day long and shoot their mouths off to tell criminals all they know, admittedly not much, about their underlings' investigations. Again, he carefully surveyed his surroundings, fingering the silver-hafted Italian throwing knife in the pocket of his black leather jacket. More people would be along soon. This was a very good spot to wait for rich pickings and he was surprised that he was alone, or at least, as good as. Not that this was the only place where people had been robbed: another favourite was Riverside Walk. He would head in that direction if there was nothing doing here.
More footsteps approached and a group of three people appeared: a couple and another woman, all of retirement age. The man did not have to be able to see them clearly to know this, building up his picture from the way they were walking and the fact that they were all a little out of breath as it was gently uphill from the theatre. He could have reached out and touched them if he had wanted to. No, not muggers' material â not wealthy enough. The trio went on their way, starting up some kind of minor argument â he could hear their raised voices â before turning right at the end towards the main road.
And now he was no longer alone in the sense that really interested him, two figures moving from the far end of the little street silhouetted briefly against brighter light: bulky, tall outlines, furtive. They merged into deep shadow in a doorway about a third of the way down and stayed there. Then different voices became audible from the opposite direction, speaking loudly with what seemed to be Australian accents.
Two men, noisy, slightly drunk, yarning about their schooldays, rolled around the corner by the arch. They went by the watcher in his doorway, oblivious to him, equally oblivious when he followed, catlike, in their wake, keeping in the shadow by the walls of the houses. He stopped when they paused to light cigarettes and waited while they carried on talking, standing in the middle of the road. People are likely to do that in Trim Street as not much traffic risks its wing mirrors in these confines.
They moved off again and the man behind them held his breath for a moment. Then it happened, the two in the doorway springing out as their targets went by. There was a shout of alarm and the glint of steel.
The watcher arrived silently, shoulder-charged the man with the knife who caught his heel on the uneven road surface and went over backwards, then gave the other a resounding clout around the head that floored him, retching. He dragged them by the backs of their sweatshirts until they were neatly side by side on the stone setts and then bent down to speak softly.
âYou're both under arrest.'
As he had scooped up the knife from the road that one of them had dropped they did not argue.
In the shadow of an opening that led to the rear of properties on the other side of the archway another figure moved slightly to double-check that he was not being observed and then slipped away, moving as silently as had the other man, and then ran, the blood pounding in his ears, spurred on by a far from nameless dread.
couple of weeks after this somewhat unorthodox assistance from the Serious Organized Crime Agency to Bath CID, which I have reconstructed from what Patrick, my husband, told me, gang warfare erupted in this fragrant World Heritage designated city. Predictably, it caused uproar, not least because most of the city centre remained cordoned off getting on for twenty-four hours later. Shops remained closed, traffic was gridlocked, cars abandoned.
The gun battle had started at a little after midnight somewhere near the top of Milsom Street, progressed downhill into Union Street and into Abbey Churchyard. There, two men were cornered having, it was discovered later, run out of ammunition, and killed. Not just shot, but as a presumably hardened paramedic was heard to comment, âbutchered'. With knives. Horribly mutilated. Those victorious then went on a further killing spree in the vicinity of Stall Street and Southgate, chasing and firing at anyone whom they glimpsed as they ran to where the drivers of at least two stolen cars waited for them, having ghosted through a pedestrian precinct in order to stay in contact.
âThis was gang warfare,' reported Detective Chief Inspector James Carrick to a voracious media, the information necessary as there had been wild rumours that soldiers at a nearby training camp had got drunk, raided a weapons' store and gone berserk. âNo, we don't know who the gunmen were yet and I'm liaising with my colleagues in Bristol because that's where we think some of them originated. The identities of the three innocent passers-by who were gunned down afterwards, two of whom were fatally injured, will be released when their next of kin have been informed.'
I switched off the TV. I already knew that part of what he had said was not quite true as Carrick had a very good idea who at least three of the dead gunmen out of the nine people killed in total had been and, unlike at least one of his superiors, did not believe in broadcasting police intelligence to the entire country, if not the world. Another two were known to have been wounded in the Stall Street area â a man sleeping rough in a shop doorway had witnessed some of what had occurred and wisely kept his head down â but the only traces of them were bloodstains on the pavement. Enquiries at hospitals had not resulted in anyone being traced who had been admitted with gunshot wounds, so whether these men had been rescued by their accomplices to be treated privately or carted off by the opposition to be held to ransom or killed at leisure was anybody's guess.
I had more than a passing interest in all this. I am an author for most of the time writing under my maiden name Ingrid Langley, and my job description in our contract with SOCA is âconsultant' to Patrick who operates under the title of âadviser'. The quotation marks are necessary as he goes to work armed with a Glock 17 carried in a shoulder harness. This is not just in connection with his present job: Lieutenant Colonel Gillard and his wife are still on the hit lists of several terrorist organizations after his time in army special services and D12, a department of MI5.
DCI Carrick, a friend of ours, had been grateful for the help supplied by a, let's face it, bored exponent in the art of being invisible who was yearning for a little action, in nabbing the two muggers. As far as any insight into organized crime was concerned it had been a failure, the senior man at HQ having been quite correct with regard to this pair as they had turned out to be local youths seeking to fund their cider-soaked lifestyle. Word had got about though and this, together with increased police patrols, had resulted in cases of muggings ceasing. For the present.
And now a crime war had been fought in the city.
With a distinct feeling of unease about this I tried to concentrate on proofreading. The house was quiet, the children but for Vicky and baby Mark, who were in the care of Carrie, our nanny, at school. When Patrick's brother, Larry, was killed we adopted his two children, Matthew, who is now thirteen, and Katie, eleven. Their mother is still alive but in and out of treatment for alcoholism and wants nothing more to do with them. We already had two children of our own, Justin, now going on seven and Vicky, nearly three, and since then Mark has been born, a respectable tally for a man who was told after serious injuries when he was in special operations that it would be unlikely he could father children.
We moved from Dartmoor and bought this old rectory at Hinton Littlemoor in Somerset when the diocese was about to sell it off and rehouse his parents, John and Elspeth â John is the incumbent of St Michael's Church â in a cheap and nasty little bungalow at the bottom of the village where the railway station and a couple of sidings used to be. After much work was done to the rectory they now live in a new annex, welcome to join us at any time. It is a perfect arrangement and John has recently, and most generously, given me his study in the main house, which I previously had regarded as sacrosanct, as a writing room.