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Authors: Katherine Pathak

Girls Of The Dark

BOOK: Girls Of The Dark
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GIRLS

OF

THE

DARK

A DCI DANI BEVAN NOVEL

 

BY

 

KATHERINE

PATHAK


The Garansay Press

 

Books by Katherine Pathak

 

The Imogen and Hugh Croft Mysteries:

 

Aoife’s Chariot

 

The Only Survivor

 

Lawful Death

 

The Woman Who Vanished

 

Memorial for the Dead

(Introducing DCI Dani Bevan)

 

The Ghost of Marchmont Hall

 

Short Stories:

 

Full Beam

 

DCI Dani Bevan novels:

 

Against A Dark Sky

 

On A Dark Sea

 

A Dark Shadow Falls

 

Dark As Night

 

The Dark Fear

 

Girls Of The Dark

 

The Garansay Press

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

 

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means - graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or information storage and retrieval systems - without the prior permission in writing of the author and publishers.

 

The moral right of the author has been asserted.

 

© Katherine Pathak, 2015

 

#GirlsOfTheDark

 

Edited by: The Currie Revisionists, 2015

 

©
Cover photograph Catacol Bay Images

 

PROLOGUE

 

Edinburgh High Court, 1975.

 

 

 

T
he young lawyer picked up his files and quickly trailed his colleague down the corridor, having to jog to keep up. ‘Do you want me to relay my findings as we walk, sir?’

              ‘That won’t be necessary, thank you, Irving. The client wishes to stick to his current plea. I happen to agree with him.’

              ‘But his psychological profile has thrown up something interesting. I believe this information could help us to argue for mitigation.’

              ‘There is no mitigation with an innocent plea.’ The senior advocate delivered this statement with barely suppressed irritation, as if his assistant had failed to grasp even the basics of law.

              ‘I know that sir, but if we were to
change
that plea, we could argue for diminished responsibility perhaps. We still have time and the prosecution are willing.’ Jim Irving had managed to overtake the older man and was running backwards now, in order to catch his eye. ‘The jury are hostile to Calvin. I can tell. I know there are a good number of black women jurors in the selection but I think it’s irrelevant. They don’t like our client. They believe he’s guilty.’

              ‘Developed the second sight now have we Irving? A wonderful talent in one so young.’

              The two men had reached the double-doors of the courtroom. Pausing momentarily on the threshold, Anthony Alderton QC rested his palm on the handle. ‘I am sticking with our current defence strategy. I’ve been handling murder cases in this building since before you were dribbling on rusks, boy. We are more than half way through the trial. Why on earth would I shift tack now?’

              With that, he pushed his way inside, leaving the younger man standing alone in the near empty corridor.

              ‘Because you’re losing,’ Jim Irving muttered under his breath. ‘And you’ve taken a gamble that will cost a man forty years of his life.’ The lawyer smoothed his robes and stood up straight, following his boss through the doors with a heavy heart.

 

 

Chapter 1

 

 

D
S Alice Mann pinned an enlarged photograph to the board. ‘This is Ray Kerr with his mother, Janet. The picture was taken at her fiftieth birthday party a couple of years back.’

              ‘They look happy,’ DCI Dani Bevan commented.

              ‘Aye, Ma’am. Until they came into contact with Lisa Abbott, I believe they were. Ray was probably a bit lonely, but from what I can tell from talking to friends and family, he was perfectly contented.’

              DC Andy Calder stepped forward with a few more glossy prints, which he attached to the board next to Alice’s. ‘And this is how the Kerrs look now. These shots were taken by the scene of crime techs. The pair were found in the sitting room. They’d both swallowed household bleach. They must have writhed around in agony for a while before death. The coffee table was up-ended and Janet had fallen to the floor. There were bodily fluids everywhere.’

              Dani crinkled her nose in distaste. ‘Is there any evidence to suggest that another person was present when they died?’

              Andy shook his head. ‘The techs don’t think so. It’s a double suicide, prompted by a phone call placed by Lisa Abbott to the Kerr household the evening before.’

              ‘We can’t know that for certain,’ DS Phil Boag interrupted.

              Andy grunted. ‘I’m not sure what else would have caused an otherwise law-abiding, happy-go-lucky mother and son to embark upon such a particularly unpleasant suicide pact.’

              ‘I’m just saying there’s no evidence to show a connection.’ Phil’s expression remained fixed. He was used to fighting his corner with Andy.

              A number of the officers turned their heads as a tall man in a black suit stepped out of the lift onto the floor of the Serious Crime Division. He took a place at the back.

              ‘Don’t mind me,’ he said amiably. ‘Carry on with the briefing.’

              DCI Bevan took over, addressing DCS Douglas directly. ‘We are discussing the case of Raymond and Janet Kerr, sir. Their bodies were found by a neighbour in Janet’s Anniesland home on Friday morning. They’d taken their own lives. From an examination of the phone records, along with the testimony of friends and family, it seems that the pair had been the unfortunate victims of an elaborate scam orchestrated by a woman called Lisa Abbot.’

              ‘Was this woman extorting money from the Kerrs?’

              Dani nodded. ‘Yes, that was main objective of the scam. Mrs Kerr’s husband was killed in action during the first Gulf War. There had been some compensation paid to the family and Janet received a widow’s pension. It wasn’t much, but Lisa Abbot must have got wind of it somehow.’

              The DCS tutted loudly. ‘A nasty case. I don’t suppose we can get a charge to stick over the suicides?’

              ‘No sir,’ DS Mann supplied. ‘The best we can hope for is a charge of fraud and extortion. It looks as if Ms Abbot has been up to these tricks before. We are currently searching for other victims.’

              ‘Good. Keep it up.’ The man flicked his gaze towards Dani. ‘Could we have a word?’

              Bevan led her superior officer to her tiny corner office, allowing him to enter first and then pulling the door closed. ‘What can I help you with, sir?’

              Ronnie Douglas eyed her carefully. He was aged in his early fifties and possessed a thick head of dark hair, with a dash of white at the temples. The man was tall and well-built, giving him considerable presence. But a reputation for rarely cracking a smile had earned him an unfortunate nick-name at the station. ‘I see that you’ve applied for the vacant superintendent position?’

              ‘Aye, sir. Angus Nicholson had been encouraging me to go for promotion, even before he had his stroke.’

              Douglas kept his countenance steely.

              Dani decided she had no chance of being able to work out what the guy was thinking.

              ‘It would be a shame to lose you from my team so soon. But I understand your desire to progress. I will have to start considering a replacement. I may need to bring in a DCI from another division.’

              Dani raised her hand, as if she were slowing speeding traffic. ‘It’s early days yet. It will be a week or so before the short list is even published. I want you to know that I’m absolutely committed to my job here. This team means a great deal to me.’

              The DCS gave an almost imperceptible nod. ‘I don’t doubt it does. But I need to think to the future. That is what management is all about.’

              Dani had opened her mouth to say something more when Douglas delivered a curt goodbye and swept out of the room. The DCI was left gawping at his retreating figure, wondering if this was just a taste of things to come.

             

Chapter 2

 

 

‘W
hat did ‘dour’ Douglas want?’ Andy placed the glasses he’d been balancing precariously between his fingertips down on the table.

              ‘You need to get out of the habit of calling him that. Otherwise you’ll end up saying it to his face.’ Alice reached for one of the pints, nodding her thanks.

              ‘That’s what
I
keep telling him.’ Dani sighed, knowing that Andy Calder was unlikely to take advice from anyone present, least of all Alice.

              Calder smirked, gulping down his lager. ‘I reckon it’s an act. The guy knows exactly what his station nickname is. But it doesn’t answer my question. What was the big fella after?’

              ‘The DCS is starting to consider who should be my replacement.
If
I get the superintendent job.’ Dani sipped her white wine. Her gaze slid across to Alice. She knew the girl was ambitious. But the young DS had kept her expression blank.

              ‘That’s a bit premature, isn’t it?’ Andy looked genuinely surprised. ‘We haven’t even got a DI in our unit. Phil’s still going through the assessments. If Douglas wants to replace you, he’ll have to bring someone in from outside.’

              ‘I don’t like the sound of that,’ DC Dan Clifton added. ‘We haven’t got used to the new DCS yet.’

              Dani smiled encouragingly. ‘Come on, I don’t know if I’ll actually be shortlisted. Like Andy said, this speculation is a bit premature.’

              ‘No offence, Ma’am,’ Dan continued. ‘But there’s not a chance in hell you won’t be on that shortlist. There can’t be more than half a dozen female officers as senior as you. The Chief Constable would be terrified of the repercussions if there wasn’t a woman being seriously considered for the job.’

              ‘That’s all well and good.’ Alice polished off her pint, leaning forward to emphasis her words. ‘Plenty of female DCIs make it to the interview stages for the top positions. But the evidence shows that they don’t then get selected. It’s the glass ceiling in operation.’

              ‘I’ve not come across any barriers to my progression so far,’ Dani clarified. ‘But I’m moving in new circles now. I’ve no idea what to expect. All I can do is hope that my record speaks for itself.’ She finished the wine and stood up. ‘Thanks for the drink, I’m heading off now.’

              ‘Do you want a lift, Ma’am?’ Andy glanced up.

              ‘No, thanks. You stay and have another. I’ll see you all first thing.’

 

*

 

 

James had made dinner. When Dani arrived at her Scotstounhill flat she was surprised to find him already seated at the dining table eating it.

              ‘Oh, sorry, I didn’t expect you home so soon. I left yours in the pot.’

              Dani smiled. ‘Not a problem, I’ll freshen up then come and join you.’

              James busied himself setting another place at the table and pouring his girlfriend a glass of wine. She returned to join him a few minutes later, wearing a robe and with her damp, closely cropped hair enclosed within a carefully coiled towel.

              ‘Thanks,’ Dani said, placing a kiss on his lips and slipping onto the chair opposite. ‘This looks great.’

              ‘Good day?’ James leant his elbows on the table. He was still in his work clothes, but his tie had been discarded and his sleeves rolled up.

              ‘We’ve been assigned this nasty double suicide in Anniesland. It seems as if the pair were being blackmailed by a con artist.’

              ‘Is that the mother and son? I heard the story on the radio. It was tragic.’

              Dani nodded, her mouth full of food.

              ‘The reporter made it sound like the man had learning difficulties.’

              ‘I’m not sure that Ray had a proper diagnosis. He'd lived with his mother until this Lisa Abbot came along. Ray worked at one of the local garages. He was perfectly independent and capable of taking care of himself. But his school records show he was of below average intelligence.’

              ‘Do you think the woman targeted him for that reason?’ James drank his wine.

              ‘Probably,
and
the fact that Janet had a healthy widow’s pension from the army. She’d received compensation when her husband was killed in 1991. Most of the money was still in her bank account.’

              ‘This Lisa Abbot woman had certainly done her homework. Has she got previous convictions?’

              Dani shook her head. ‘Not for fraud or deception, but we’re certain this isn’t the first time she’s extorted money from folk. Alice is trying to track down Abbot’s other victims. We’ve got surveillance on her flat right now.’

              ‘I hope you throw the book at her. These people are the lowest of the low – preying on the vulnerable. It’s not like the Kerrs had much money to start with.’

              ‘It’s worse than that. This scheme involving Ray and Janet was complex. It was almost as if Lisa was involving them in her twisted fantasy life. She seduced Ray and persuaded him to purchase a flat for them both, then Lisa told him she had to live there alone, because a previous boyfriend was violent and would attack her if he suspected she was co-habiting with a new man.’

              ‘Sounds bizarre.’

              ‘Oh, it gets weirder. Lisa would regularly call Janet and Ray, pretending she was a policewoman who’d been given the job of protecting Lisa from her ex-lover – like a kind of liaison officer for battered women.’

              ‘What was the purpose of that? The Kerrs could have recognised her voice and the whole scam would have been blown sky high.’

              ‘To lend credence to the story, I suppose. But the woman took lots of unnecessary risks. Lisa had full use of the flat Ray had bought, but she wanted more. She claimed the violent ex-partner was demanding money from her. Lisa had run up debts before leaving him and he’d had to pay them off. Now he wanted his cash back.’

              ‘So Ray gave Abbot the money, to pass onto her imaginary ex-lover?’

              ‘Yep. It amounted to £5,000. Ray had put down a £10,000 deposit on the flat and was fronting up £850 a month in rent.’

              ‘What pushed the Kerrs over the edge? Had Ray given away all their savings?’

              ‘We aren’t totally sure yet. Lisa made a phone call to the house on the evening before the suicides, but we don’t know exactly what passed between them. The rest of the information we’ve got comes from Janet’s sister. She’d been told everything about what was going on and recognised that Abbot was scamming them. She couldn’t persuade her sister, though. Ray and Janet were totally in thrall to Lisa Abbot.’

              ‘Did you see the bodies?’

              ‘Fortunately not. It was Andy and Alice who went to the scene. Andy was really upset by what they encountered there, especially the state of the mother. He’s out for blood.’

              James stared down at his plate, his appetite suddenly gone. ‘You won’t be able to charge her in connection with the suicides. But with some other victims prepared to testify in court you may secure a decent sentence for fraud and blackmail.’

              ‘I sincerely hope so. That woman is responsible for those deaths. Just as if she’d held the pair down and poured that awful stuff into their throats herself.’

 

 

BOOK: Girls Of The Dark
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