Authors: Michael J Malone
Tags: #bad samaritan, #michael j malone, #saraband, #contraband
âVintage Malone. Pitch black Glasgow noir with a conclusion that hits you like an express train.'
âTwisted, sharp and just a little bit heartbreaking. Nicely plotted â¦ Malone's characterisation is fantastic.'
âMalone gives us his customary mix of humour, insight and darkness to produce a slick thriller with a killer punch..'
Michael J Malone's previous thrillers
âCrackling with intensityâ¦ a visceral read from a master storyteller. Highly recommended.'
Craig Sisterson, KiwiCrime
âEvery once in a while, a book comes along and redefines the term unputdownable.
Beyond the Rage
is one of them. The plotting is sublime â¦ The prose is faultless throughout.'
âFunny and brutal, heartfelt and compellingâ¦ The plot races along, pausing only to rip at your heart and knee you in the groin. Highly recommended.'
âAnother corker of a tale from the pen of the talented Michael J Maloneâ¦ a superb story. Extremely highly recommended.'
âHard-hitting noir that is also emotionally intelligent and engaging.
A fabulous read.'
deeply personal thrillerâ¦both terrifying and believableâ¦ The best yet from a writer who has always delivered.'
Russel D McLean
âAn eclectic Tartan Noir with twists guaranteed to thrill. Compelling readingâ¦the dialogue is excellent.'
The Scots Magazine
âAn atmospheric, compelling, rollercoaster of a readâ¦a fabulous piece of tartan noir. Highly Recommended
âHad me gripped by the throat from first page to last. An absolute stunner.'
âAddictive ... more twists, turns and blind alleys than a labyrinth.'
âBlasts onto the scene like a bullet â¦ debut of the year.'
âBlistering prose â¦ an explosively cool and riveting novel.'
Sam Millar, review for
New York Times
journal of books
Also by Michael J Malone
Beyond the Rage
The Guillotine Choice
A Taste for Malice
Michael J Malone
Every time he saw them it was like an assault, a ripping in the bowels, a tightening of the chest so sharp it was a wonder no ribs were cracked. Regardless, he made an effort to observe them whenever he could. It was a reminder of everything he lost all those years ago in Bethlehem House.
A man with a squint could see they were twins, even though one wore a trim
white beard to assert his individuality. It was in the walk, the way they held their heads, the way they anticipated each other's movements, as they just did when the leading brother paused at the entrance to the pew, stepping slightly to the side as, seamlessly, his twin moved past him and took a seat. They sat as if synchronised and hitched their trousers up at the knee with the same practised motion.
Ken and Robert Ford, he learned, were prominent members of the congregation and lived on the same street only a couple of doors away from each other, ten minutes walk from the church.
It was sheer good fortune that brought Jim to this church. A job was advertised. Handyman needed for St Aloysius, RC Church, Perth. Father Stephen was absorbed by his well-acted sob story and felt a Christian need to add accommodation to the minimum wage offered for the forty-hour week.
As a former convent child, he knew how to signal that he really did sing from the same hymn book. The lie that he was a former seminarian on his uppers â he told the priest he only lasted a fortnight in the seminary before his parents died and he had to go home and look after his sick brother â sealed his application. From the possibilities of a life devoted to God, he had devoted his life to his brother, he added with a pained smile. Which was a twist closer to the truth than he was prepared to divulge.
What he hadn't counted on were men like Ken and Robert being part of the deal. Surely he had observed twins in action before now? Hadn't he? He trawled his mind for a suitable memory. Nothing rose to the surface. If he had, none had affected him in such a way.
The men â he couldn't bring himself to use the words “The Twins” as that was what people used to call him and John â were not only regulars at the church, they were also active members in the local Catholic community.
Over the months he worked at St Aloysius, Jim came to know both men were widowers, and both were childless. The fact that they both picked women unable to carry a pregnancy to full term was an irony that was only now apparent to them, Ken informed him with a smile at the end of a coffee morning. Being stalwarts, they always stayed back at the end of the event to help tidy.
By this time he was becoming a familiar face around the church and, as such, an easy confidante. He didn't know if it was the nearness of the confessionals or simply his quiet manner, apparent lack of judgement and ability to appear to be listening, but he found that many people were trusting of him and happy to detail their meaningless existence.
A surprising observation he made about Kenneth and Robert was their need to have separateness in their lives. Ken shortened his name and left school early to work in the local bank. Robert kept both syllables and studied English at university. They sometimes went shopping for clothes together just to make sure they didn't buy the same shirt.
One afternoon, while Jim changed a bulb in the sacristy, Robert held the ladder and chuntered away like words were a coin he couldn't wait to spend. The fact he and his brother lived on the same street was an unhappy coincidence, Robert told him. Ken, the older twin by twenty minutes, inherited the family home and he, Robert, fell in love with a neighbour who has since passed on. Neither is willing to sell, Robert added with a grin that was as much Ken's as it was his.
Fury hit Leonard in a hot surge. He almost lost his grip on the ladder.
âSteady, Dave,' said Robert. Dave Smith was the name Jim adopted for this new life. It had a ring of vagueness to it.
âThat was close,' Jim mumbled, and forced a breath into his lungs.
âYou alright?' asked Robert. Jim managed an answering nod, keeping his eyes away from Robert's face.
, he thought.
They have this amazing bond, and they want to be apart. They want to show the world they are not the same man. I'll give them separateness.
He hadn't felt the need to kill since slicing Mother Superior's wrists open to the bone. That act had lightened something in his mind. But getting to know Ken and Robert had allowed that light to leak until he felt weak with need.
Someone needed to die. He needed to watch as life bled out of a body. He needed to be the one to cause this to happen. The only thing he wasn't sure of yet, would it be Ken, or would it be Robert?
The weather is Glasgow-grey with added smirr. The tall buildings on either side of the narrow lane crowd down on me. There's enough space for one vehicle to drive along here, with a pavement that could take one weak-shouldered man either side. A single yellow line tells any driver there's no stopping.
This lane and many others like it lining the city centre are a continual subject of debate. Poorly lit and just feet away from busy thoroughfares, they offer a combination of good hiding places and easy pickings for the ill-intentioned.
A tall figure, full-bellied in a white body-suit, walks towards me. Martin Pierce. Normally nothing alters the stretched, laconic features of his face. He can talk about the weather and a corpse with the same low-level enthusiasm. With twenty years in the job, he's seen it all, but this girl has clearly affected him. His eyes dart from place to place. Muscles bunch in his jaw.
âJust a wee lassie.' He shook his head slowly when he saw me. âWhole life in front of her and some nasty little prickâ¦' I remember that Martin has two teenage daughters.
âCan you tell if anything's been stolen? Any sign of sexual contact?' I needed to know what I was dealing with here. An extreme mugger, murderer or a killer with a kink? And Martin needed to regain his focus.
âCan't say for sure at the moment,' answers Martin. âShe is fully clothed, but there are some stains of what could be semen on the front of her shirt and jeans.'
âSo,' I think out loud. âHe kills her and then masturbates over the body?' I look over Martin's shoulder. All I can see of her are her feet and legs up to the knee as they jut out from her final place of rest.
âOr something that starts as consensual and then turns horribly wrong,' Martin replies.
Small feet, in red high heels. Something about them gives me the notion of a young girl playing at dress-up. One foot is pointing skywards. The other leg is at an angle with the toe of the shoe pointing straight at me like an accusation.
I wonder if they were her favourite pair. She's in her best gear and out for a night with her pals when everything is brought to a juddering end. All for a cheap thrill. What a waste. I'll never get used to this. I swallow down any emotion that's threatening to surface. I've a job to do.
âAny other obvious wounds on her?' I ask.
âOnly the trauma at the side of her head. The post mortem will let us know whether that happened before or after death. A couple of false nails have broken off. Hopefully she gave him a bit of a clawing.'
, I thought.
Didn't go down without a fight
. Hopefully there'll be some tissue from the killer under her nails and he'll have a torn face.
Martin looks over his shoulder and then back at me. âHer handbag is by her side. One of these giant leather jobs. Size of an elephant scrotum.' He aims for humour, and it falls flat. âGot my lassies one each at Christmas. Enough room for a kitchen sink, but all they carry is make-up and their iPhones.'
âThey've both got iPhones?'
âAye.' Rueful grin.
âYou make too much money, mate.' Pause. Enough with the chat. âHas anyone managed to log the contents of her bag yet?'
âNot yet, Ray,' he shrugs. âWe'll dust everything for prints and get it to you asap.'
* * *
DC Harkness is sitting in front at that morning's muster. He's eying me as if he's about to get his smart-arse on.
âSir, you're putting on the beef. Does that mean you've been dumped again?'
âAye, his Thai bride's gone back to her parents,' Daryl Drain jumps in before I can respond. âShe cannae stand the miserable sod a minute longer.'
âShut up, the pair of you.' I'm tired and feeling a little sick after my alarm call. But, I remind myself, the humour in the room is there to remind me that we're not all monsters. Besides, we're working on a strong solve rate. As a team we are in a relatively good place.
âThis is not the kind of behaviour we want to show the new members of our team.' I look at the two new recruits sitting either side of DC Rossi. One male, one female. Both clean out of uniform, both fresh to my murder squad and both so earnest they almost gleam. Makes me feel old. Was I ever that keen?
âSir, perhaps our new team members can tell us a little bit about themselves?' Harkness suggests. Less from a sense of curiosity than a need to take the piss.
âAll you need to know for now, Harkie,' says Alessandra Rossi, âis that new boy detective's name is Nick, and new girl detective is Way Out of Your League.' Laughter bounces round the room, including, to her credit, new girl detective. Late twenties, blond scraped-back hair and sporting a sturdy build we do so well in Glasgow. It's all those deep-fried Mars bars and Buckfast, don't you know.
âMy name's Kate. Kate Harper,' she adds when the noise abates. I offer her a smile of welcome.
âWelcome, Kate Kate Harper,' I say. She'll do fine. I'm not so sure about Nick. Looks like he shaves once a month, and he's so lean that from the side all you
see is a drain-pipe with a nose and a sharp Adam's apple. An Adam's apple that is bobbing up and down his throat with nerves.
Nick opens his mouth as if desperate to make his mark on the meeting. Then he closes it again. A deep breath, a forced grin, and his testosterone levels take over.
âMy name is Nick James, and I'm an alcoholic.' He rubs his hands together, places them on the table in front of him, then changes his mind and crosses his arms, all the while wearing that awkward please-like-me grin.
Harkness and Drain hoot.
âYou'll do fine, buddy,' Drain adds.
Alcohol. The Scottish social adhesive. Show you're up for a few jars and acceptance comes that much more quickly.
âRight, people.' I clap my hands, a sharp noise that gets everyone's attention. âEnough with the nicey-nicey. We have a bad man to catch.'
âThere's been a murder?' Harkness rolls his “r” at the end of both syllables like he's a clichÃ© on Taggart. His smile freezes on his face when he reads my expression. This kind of humour is fine after a few whiskies at the end of a case, when the killer is waiting for the Queen's justice. In fact, it's not just fine, it's a requirement. Helps to put the boogieman to the furthest recesses of your mind if you can laugh at him.
However, when a body is cooling in the morgue and a photo of her lifeless face is in the file in front of me, it's bang out of order.
âTime and place, D.C. Harkness, and this is neither.' I raise an eyebrow telling him he should know better. Rossi is staring at him as if she wants to knee him in the groin. He sits back in his chair, crosses his arms and mumbles, âOnly having a wee joke.'
He's a good cop, works hard and has strong instincts. But he's the class clown and often doesn't know when to rein it in.
âTell it to Aileen Banks's grieving parents.' I pull her photo from the file and hold it up for everyone to have a look at. âSee how funny they find it.'
âWhat do we know, Ray?' asks Daryl Drain, who then mouths “fanny” at Harkness.
âCause of death has not yet been established. Time of death, the early hours of this morning. Body found in West Regent Lane propped up between two red dumpsters. Like she was sleepingâ¦'
I realise that everyone is staring at me. I cough and point to the table in front of me where an evidence bag lies, containing the dead girl's handbag.
She had been carrying an iPhone, a couple of tampons, a small make-up bag â with a mirror, lippie and mascara â a leather purse with one of those wee dog tags containing Â£23.15, a pair of black socks, an e-reader, a set of house keys on a Mickey Mouse key-ring and a matriculation card for Glasgow University.
âThe uniforms were out first thing, giving the news to her nearest and dearest.' Everyone squirms with relief. No one likes that job. âAlessandra, you come with me and we'll speak to her parents. Daryl, you and Nick go and study the CCTV cameras for that area and see what you can come up with. Harkie, you take Kate to the university. Speak to lecturers, friends, canteen staff. Find anybody who knows her.' I hold the photograph up one more time. Hold it there for a good, long minute. I check that everyone is looking at it. They need to remember this isn't just a case.
âLet's get to it, people.'
The team files out of the room, heads down, minds full of the girl's death mask. I study the paraphernalia of her life, now strewn across the desk in front of me. This is what her twenty-one years amounted to. The Mickey Mouse key-ring a small, fun-shaped reminder that for Aileen Banks, childhood had been just a few short years ago.