Authors: Sally Spencer
Table of Contents
For his generosity of spirit
in loaning me Inspector Paco Ruiz,
I dedicate this book to my alter ego,
James GarcÃa Woods
The Charlie Woodend Mysteries
THE SALTON KILLINGS
MURDER AT SWANN'S LAKE
DEATH OF A CAVE DWELLER
THE DARK LADY
THE GOLDEN MILE TO MURDER
DEAD ON CUE
THE RED HERRING
DEATH OF AN INNOCENT
THE ENEMY WITHIN
A DEATH LEFT HANGING
THE WITCH MAKER
THE BUTCHER BEYOND
DYING IN THE DARK
A LONG TIME DEAD
SINS OF THE FATHERS
A DYING FALL
The Monika Paniatowski Mysteries
THE DEAD HAND OF HISTORY
THE RING OF DEATH
ECHOES OF THE DEAD
LAMBS TO THE SLAUGHTER
A WALK WITH THE DEAD
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 published in Great Britain 2004 by
SEVERN HOUSE PUBLISHERS LTD of
9â15 High Street, Sutton, Surrey SM1 1DF.
eBook edition first published in 2013 by Severn House Digital
an imprint of Severn House Publishers Limited
Copyright Â© 2004 by Sally Spencer.
The right of Sally Spencer to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
Spencer, Sally, 1949-
The butcher beyond. - (A Chief Inspector Woodend mystery)
1. Woodend, Charlie (Fictitious character) - Fiction
2. Police - England - Fiction
3. Murder - Investigation - Spain - Fiction
4. Detective and mystery stories
ISBN-13: 978-0-7278-6140-5 (cased)
ISBN-13: 978-1-4483-0105-8 (ePub)
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
here were four of them gathered together that night in the large and opulent drawing room which looked down on Cadogan Square. Three were sitting â though for one of them it was not a matter of choice. The fourth was standing with his back to the Adam fireplace, holding a month-old Spanish newspaper in his slightly trembling hands.
The man who had no choice but to sit was in a wheelchair. His clothes proclaimed that he was wealthy â and his clothes did not lie. Despite his left-wing leanings, the crippled man had a bank balance that several small countries might justifiably envy, and this house â for all its grandeur â was only one of the properties he called home.
The other two seated men looked far less affluent. True, the sharp faced one on the sofa was wearing a good jacket and a hand-made pair of shoes, but these were now so far from being new that they had almost given up the battle of trying to appear even respectable. His companion â facing him across the coffee table from an easy chair in which he did not look in the
at ease â was even more of a contrast. He was tall and thin, with a shock of grey hair, and wore his ragged grey suit as if it were
no more than rags.
The stocky bald man by the fireplace screwed up the newspaper in a sudden bout of rage, and threw it on to the floor.
âYou've all read the report, haven't you?' he demanded.
âOf course we've read it,' said the sharp-faced man. âWe wouldn't be here if we hadn't.'
âThey're going to promote him to Provincial Governor!' the bald man said bitterly. âThat butcher â who should long ago have paid for his crimes by his own death â is to be made the governor of a whole province! It's an insult to us all.' He paused, as if to give more weight to his next words. âBut more especially,' he continued, âit is an insult to the dead â to those who were willing to spill their own blood for something greater than themselves!'
A heavy solemnity fell across the room, as all the men in it put names and faces to those â many of them little more than boys â who had sacrificed their lives in that time, so long ago.
The silence was broken by a clattering sound â the noise made by five small cubes as they bounced across the antique coffee table which stood between the sofa and the easy chair.
âDo you have to do that, Roberts?' the bald man asked angrily.
The dice thrower â the sharp-faced man whose clothes had seen better days â calmly examined the exposed faces of the poker dice on the table, then swept them up into his hand. âIt helps me to think,' he said.
Of course it did, the bald man thought. He should have remembered that. Most men had minds that worked on a single thread, like the winding tackle back in the pit. Their minds either went down â as did the lift when taking the miners to the coal face â or went up â like the lift bringing the scarred and blackened men back to the surface. Roberts had never been like that. His mind could go up and down simultaneously â and sometimes even to the side â without one operation ever getting in the way of the others.
âSo you're thinking, are you?' the bald man asked.
âAnd could we know
âI'm thinking that I share your outrage â but not your surprise. The world isn't fair, Pete. I've always known it, I suppose, but that bullet in the leg really brought it home to me. I'd never quite realized, before that point, just how educational a hot piece of metal can be.'
âYou survived,' the bald man said, sounding more callous than he'd intended to.
âI survived,' Roberts agreed. âBut I still bear the scars. Here â' he pointed to his leg â âand here â' pointing to his brain.
The meeting was somehow slipping off the rails, the bald man thought. They were there to map out the future, not relive the past.
He cleared his throat. âWe must decide whether or not we go back â whether or not we are prepared to face our demons,' he said.
The man in the wheelchair narrowed his eyes thoughtfully. âIf you did go back, how many of the others could you rely on to support you?'
The bald man looked suddenly uncomfortable. âHow many? Do you mean, from this side of the Channel?'
âThen the answer is none.'
âLike you, Henderson, my old friend, their hearts are in it, but their bodies are no longer up to the task. They couldn't even make it to this meeting, though they sorely wanted to come. What chance is there, then, that they could make the journey back to old battlegrounds?'
âAnd what about the foreigners?'
âI haven't asked them. There seemed no point until we had reached a decision ourselves.'
Henderson nodded sagely. âYou say our absent British comrades' hearts are in it, Pete, but is
?' he asked. âBecause without you, you know, there can be no operation.'
The bald man's discomfort increased. âI am just one member of the group,' he protested. âMy personal decision should carry no more weight than anyone else's does.'
just one of the group,' Henderson contradicted him. âYou were our leader.'
no leaders,' the bald man said defensively.
âWe had no
leaders,' Henderson agreed, âyet you were the man we'd have followed all the way to hell and back, if you'd asked us to. And since hell is precisely the destination we're discussing, I'll ask you again â is your heart in it?'
âI'd be lying if I said I
to go,' the bald man admitted. âI have a wife who I love dearly. I have a responsible job in which I feel I'm doing some good, in which I feel I'm fighting for some of the things we fought for back then.'
âBut â¦?' Henderson asked.
The bald man waved his podgy hands helplessly in the air. âNo sane man would happily risk all that to go back to a country in which he is still regarded as a criminal, in order to carry out an act which will certainly be classified by those in power as a crime.'
âBut â¦?' Henderson asked for a second time.
âBut there's no choice, is there?' the bald man said, almost angrily.
âYou're wrong about that,' Henderson told him. âYou don't have to do the job yourselves. I could hire a man to do it for you.'
âAre you talking about a professional assassin?'
Henderson smiled. âPerhaps it would be more constructive to look on him as a professional vermin controller,' he suggested.
âAnd do you know where we would find such a man?'
âOf course not. But I could certainly find out â and by tomorrow night, at the latest.' Henderson smiled again, self-deprecatingly this time. âWhen you're as rich as I am, Pete, everything and anything is possible. So now you
have another option. The question is, are you willing to take it?'
The bald man hesitated. âIt's not up to me alone,' he said. âWe should put it to the vote, as we always used to.'
Henderson nodded. âVery well,' he agreed. âBut since I am unable to assist you, should you decide to go yourselves, I do not feel that I have any right to a voice in taking the decision, either.'
âI understand,' the bald man said. He turned to Roberts. âWhich way do you vote?'
The gambler rolled his poker dice again. Two jacks, a queen, a king and an ace.
âLet's first be clear on exactly what we're voting for,' he said. âWhen we first walked into this room â and a very tasteful room it is, by the way, Henderson â the question we had to answer was whether we should put our pasts behind us or whether we should deal with unfinished business. But that's no longer the question at all, is it? Now the only issue is if we do the job ourselves or hire a professional killer. Am I right, Pete?'