|Written in Blood|
|Tom Mariner |
DI Tom Mariner's home life is beginning to look more and more settled.
There's talk of a move to the country, even kids. Mostly, of course,
it's Anna doing the talking, and for once Mariner isn't running for the
hills at the thought of commitment. But the quiet holiday season is
shattered when, on the day of a community carol concert, an explosion
rocks the centre of Birmingham. Running behind schedule, Tom and Anna
are caught up in the aftermath of the event, but others are not so
lucky, including DS Knox and his girlfriend. However, no one knows if
the tragedy is accidental or another random act of terrorism.
Meanwhile, as friends and colleagues struggle to deal with the
after-effects of the explosion, an unexpected reunion with an old friend
thrusts Mariner into the unofficial investigation of a violent double
murder to which he is inextricably linked. Mariner enters a world of
corruption where the boundaries of justice are blurred, making it
impossible to distinguish between friend and foe
Written in Blood
Table of Contents
Chris Collett was born in East Anglia and graduated in Liverpool, before moving to Birmingham to teach both children and adults with varying degrees of learning disability. Chris is married with two teenage children.
She is the author of
The Worm in the Bud
, Blood of the Innocents
Written in Blood
, also available from Piatkus.
Also by Chris Collett
The Worm in the Bud
Blood of the Innocents
Written in Blood
Published by Hachette Digital 2009
Copyright © Chris Collett 2006
The moral right of the author has been asserted
All the characters in this book are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
eISBN : 978 0 7481 1273 9
This ebook produced by JOUVE, FRANCE
An imprint of
Little, Brown Book Group
100 Victoria Embankment
London EC4Y 0DY
An Hachette Livre UK Company
And how am I to face the odds
Of man’s bedevilment and God’s
I, a stranger and afraid
In a world I never made.
AE Housman, Last Poems (1922) no. 12.
Chugging along through the dense, dark early morning, Tim Leavis was counting off the days. It was less than a week now to the winter solstice, when they’d begin to lengthen again. Much as he liked his life, he’d never got used to these early winter starts, and this one was earlier than most, allowing him to feed the animals but still get back for a shower and breakfast before driving across to the village school in time to see Archie perform in the nativity play. The boy had been typecast as a shepherd of course, though Leavis’s description of the likely effects on the animal’s bodily functions had, at least, dissuaded Mrs Elliot from her romantic idea of having his son carry a live lamb.
Passing a local beauty spot, the powerful beams of the John Deere’s headlights picked up a small creature scuttling across the road, before rebounding back at Leavis off something shiny, the radiator grill of a car parked in the lay-by. As far as he could tell, it was a big car, black, though Leavis didn’t immediately recognize the make. Someone else making an early start or, more likely, returning very late from some pre-Christmas revelry. The driver’s door hung open and Leavis smiled to himself. Not the first motorist to use the woods as a convenient convenience. Better be quick, mate. Cold enough this morning to freeze off your tadger.
But on his return journey twenty minutes later, after depositing the hay in the sheep field, the vehicle was still there. Coming up behind the car this time, Leavis could see that the boot was also open and that the driver was crouching on the road behind the vehicle, peering underneath. Exhaust problems perhaps. Hoping that it wouldn’t take long, Leavis pulled his tractor into the lay-by to offer assistance, and that was when he realised that the figure wasn’t so much crouching as lying inanimate on the frozen ground, and suddenly it was not only the air that felt chill.
In the dark, the SOCO almost missed it. The arc lights that had been brought in were trained on the man and woman in the rear passenger seat of the limousine, their posture so natural they could have been calmly waiting for their driver to return so that they could continue their journey. As long as you didn’t look at their faces and the identical black holes that had ripped apart each forehead, spraying grey fleshy pebble-dashing across the rear windshield behind them. It was a minimalist job; a high-powered weapon fired at point-blank range, one shot apiece. The victims would have had mere seconds to understand what was happening. And the assassin had, at first examination, left nothing behind; no stray prints, hairs or fibres evident at this stage, though the car would get a comprehensive going over once it was back at the lab. Fortunately, the farmer who’d discovered the gruesome scene had seen enough detective shows to know that he shouldn’t touch anything. Colleagues working around the third dead body sprawled on the road beside the gaping trunk were having more luck. Underneath the boot lining in the spare wheel compartment they’d found traces of a white powdery residue.
Edging out of the vehicle the SOCO made one last sweep with his Maglite and caught a momentary glimpse of something, the intense glare of the spotlights partially veiling the semi-transparent letters, which were scribed on the glass of the side passenger window in a reddish brown hue, the author using what raw materials were at hand. Every third one of the twenty-five letters was bolder than the others, the index finger dipped into its bloody inkwell at even intervals until the message was complete.
‘Ma’am,’ the SOCO ducked his head out and addressed the woman waiting patiently beside the car in the chill air, ‘they’ve left us a message.’
Chief Superintendent Caroline Griffin stepped forward, taking gloved hands from the pockets of her long wool coat. She leaned into the car as the SOCO moved his beam along the communication:
Vengeance is mine. I will repay.
‘Not particularly subtle,’ she remarked.
‘Or original,’ added the SOCO.
But, put together with the rest of the scene, it began to paint a picture.
There was a first time for everything; Mariner humming along to Slade singing ‘Merry Christmas Everybody’. Normally the song made him cringe, but this year apparently signalled a shift in his tolerance levels. Dylan’s ‘The Times They Are A-Changin” would have been more appropriate. Christmas shopping wasn’t something Mariner did, but here he was doing it, on his own, completely unprovoked and in grave danger of looking like a New Man. It was mostly illusion though. Mariner’s underlying motive was rooted in the hope that an hour of exposing his senses to the garishness of Christmas might help him to shake off the image that had stayed with him since early this morning when he’d stood knee deep in an underground sewer, watching a police constable cut open a bound bin liner to reveal the decaying body of a woman.
So far his strategy hadn’t been wholly successful, but he had another fifteen minutes before he was due to meet Anna and the others, and another fifteen minutes to distance himself. In Waterstone’s the atmosphere was calmer, the background chamber music a notch more sophisticated, but nonetheless contrived, along with the aroma of real coffee, to soothe him into parting with some of his hard-earned, and for a while Colombian medium roast vied with the smell of raw waste that lingered in his nostrils.
Like everywhere else in the Bullring, this afternoon the shop was excessively warm and he sweltered in his overcoat. Another rule broken, overcoats weren’t his style, but Anna had persuaded him into one last winter and today it had come into its own; keeping him warm and concealing the uniform underneath. He strolled around scanning the three-for-two bestseller tables, loitering over the latest wave of women’s fiction that Anna was so partial to, featuring as it did, feisty, independent, spirited females. This year she’d probably have preferred a volume from the health section, under pregnancy planning and parents-to-be, but somehow Mariner couldn’t quite bring himself to move towards that corner of the shop. Instead he picked up a couple of what looked like the most popular of the current chick-lit titles with their ubiquitous fluorescent cartoon covers, and took them over to the counter.
The checkout queue was long, the customers ahead of him apparently starting up their own private libraries, and for some time Mariner found himself standing beside a stack of glossy hardbacks, the early memoirs of former MP Sir Geoffrey Ryland. No prizes for guessing the reason for their prominence today, just a week after Ryland had met a violent end, ambushed and shot dead in his car on a quiet Oxfordshire lane. Mariner absently picked up a copy and skimmed the jacket.
One of the Good Guys.
Not, on the face of it, an attention-grabbing title, even though it might be true. Joe Public didn’t want to read about politicians who’d done the job well, they wanted the scandal, like Alan Clark’s love affairs. Sales of Bill Clinton’s autobiography had gone through the roof; everyone wanting to know the sordid truth about Monica Lewinsky and that dress.
The flyleaf told Mariner little more than he already knew, tracing Ryland’s professional life as a human rights lawyer in the 1960s to the natural progression into politics as an MP for an inner city London borough. A specialist in miscarriages of justice at a time when they were rife, he’d given up his parliamentary seat to chair one of the government’s most prized flagship institutions, the Judicial Review Commission, the job for which Ryland had received his knighthood. According to the news reports Ryland had died at the age of sixty-eight, no age at all. Only the good die young.
‘You taking that one too?’ The paperbacks were removed from his grasp and Mariner looked up to see that he’d reached the head of the queue, to be greeted by a sales girl name-tagged Nikki. ‘We were all set to send them back to the warehouse,’ she told him. ‘But they’re practically walking off the shelves now. You wouldn’t believe what a sudden death can do for a writer.’
‘Or a musician,’ her friend chipped in from the neighbouring till. ‘When John Lennon got shot “Imagine” went straight to number one.’
‘Turned James Dean into a legend overnight,’ agreed Mariner. They both looked at him blankly. ‘The film actor?’ he elaborated. ‘
Rebel Without a Cause
‘Oh yeah,’ Nikki’s friend said vaguely. ‘I think I’ve heard of him.’
‘So, are you taking it?’ Nikki returned to her hard sell. ‘Might be a good present for someone.’
A year ago it would have been perfect. Had his mother still been alive Mariner would have bought it for her. Ryland was one of a group of charismatic social reformers of her generation who, alongside Bruce Kent and Nelson Mandela, she’d idolised. In fact that’s just how she’d have described all three:
the good guys.
‘Go on then.’ Mariner put the book down on the counter.
‘Good for you,’ Nikki grinned. ‘You won’t regret it.’
‘I should hope not.’