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Authors: J.M. Gregson

Remains to be Seen

BOOK: Remains to be Seen
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Titles by J.M. Gregson from Severn House

Title Page



Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Titles by J.M. Gregson from Severn House

Lambert and Hook Mysteries














Detective Inspector Peach Mysteries













J.M. Gregson





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 2007 by


19 Cedar Road, Sutton, Surrey, England, SM2 5DA.

First published in the USA 2007 by


110 East 59
Street, 22
Fl., New York, NY 10022

This eBook first published in 2015 by Severn House Digital
an imprint of Severn House Publishers Ltd.

Copyright © 2007 by J.M. Gregson.

The right of J.M. Gregson to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988.

All rights reserved.
The moral right of the author has been asserted.

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data

Gregson, J. M.

Remains to be seen

1. Peach, Percy, Detective Inspector (Fictitious character) – Fiction

2. Blake, Lucy (Fictitious character) – Fiction

3. Police – England – Lancashire – Fiction

4. Detective and mystery stories

I. Title

823.9'14 [F]

ISBN-13: 978-0-7278-6385-0 (cased)

ISBN-13: 978-1-4483-0030-3 (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.

To Bernie and Bernard Gaunt.
For their many kindnesses to my family.


o one took much notice of him, in this part of the town. He shuffled along with his head jutting forward and his eyes cast upon the ground in front of him.

It would have suited him to pass unnoticed, but he did not seem to be giving any thought to what was going on around him. He was an unprepossessing figure, huddling his arms against his chest, feeling the cold of the keen March wind. His quick, shambling gait was that of an older man; his narrow-chested body was thin and unkempt. He wore a torn green anorak and his filthy jeans were frayed at the bottoms as well as torn at the knees. When he occasionally glanced up at the street ahead of him, his complexion revealed the sallow look of skin that saw too little of the outdoors. He wore nothing upon his head; his lank black hair looked in urgent need of washing and cutting.

No one watching the emaciated body move along these quiet streets would have thought that he would be a key character in a sensational crime by the end of the week.

The soft country of the Ribble Valley stretched to the very edge of the old cotton town, and here there were signs of spring. A pale sun picked out the first rich green of the new season's growth in the fields running down to the water's edge. The first lambs bleated, tottering on uncertain legs towards their observant mothers. On this fine day after the rains of February fill-dyke, the three rivers ran full but softly where they met at Mitton. In the small front gardens of the stone cottages which huddled together in the villages of the valley, the snowdrops were over and the crocuses were in full and flamboyant bloom.

But the man who shuffled along with downcast eyes was a creature of the town, and in the mean and narrow streets of the older part of Brunton the hazy March sun was too pale to lift the grimness. He clutched his plastic bag and hurried onwards, his paces small but swift, his lips muttering a silent litany which even he probably did not understand. People who deal with the seamier side of twenty-first-century life – social workers and policemen, for instance – would have recognized the preoccupied mien of the drug-user.

But this was a Monday morning, and the town was reluctantly resuming work after the excesses of the weekend. As midday approached, there were few eyes cast upon the rapidly shuffling figure with the single plastic bag clutched in its lean fingers. There were fewer still who had the slightest interest in his progress along these mean streets of blackened brick, which had been built to house the workers in the cotton mills well over a century earlier.

Had there been any observers, it might have surprised them that the man moved beyond the worst streets of the town, the ones earmarked for clearance in the next stage of its redevelopment. He seemed such a furtive creature that one might have expected him to dart like a feral cat into the obscurity of one of these narrow terraces. Instead, he moved on, at the same unvarying pace, into streets which were wider, with houses which sat squarely behind small front gardens. A hundred years earlier, these residences had been in their heyday and highly desirable.

They were late-Victorian houses which were now inexorably on the way down. Whole districts went down fast nowadays. Not as fast as in the cities, where areas lost or gained prestige with a rapidity which was often bewildering to the older residents, but fast enough to keep Brunton's burgeoning regiment of estate agents on their toes. These once substantial houses had been turned first into flats, then into warrens of single rented rooms, where few lingered longer than they were forced to stay.

This was a district which had changed its ambience; that was the phrase offered by the sociologists in the town's newly titled university. The social workers to whom the academics pontificated did not view the place so dispassionately. They confronted the daily reality, and the reality made them fearful. They feared for the few survivors of a previous and more prosperous era who had chosen to spend their last years here. They feared for the futures of the wild-eyed, resourceful children who were growing up in these streets, mostly with single parents. And finally, they had learned to fear for themselves. There was little sympathy and less security for those whose work took them into these run-down places.

The man, still looking neither to his right nor his left, turned without pause into the last house at the end of a cul de sac. Casual observers would have thought the house was unoccupied and semi-derelict. It was a decaying Victorian semi-detached, with all but two of the panes in its ground-floor bay windows missing. But the spaces once occupied by glass had been boarded up, a sure indication to those experienced in such things that this was a squat, a house illegally occupied by residents who paid neither rent nor rates nor any kind of service charge.

The man in the frayed jeans went down to the extensive cellar, pausing for a moment at the bottom of the stone stairs, allowing his eyes to refocus and make what use they could of the dim light available in this eerie place.

It was the smell which he remembered most of all about the house. He felt the revulsion twitching his stomach now, controlled the urge to retch, as he had to do so often in the last few months. It was a stink, not a smell: a stink which had many elements in it, none of them pleasant. Damp plaster, dusty bricks and decaying mortar. Stale sweat and staler urine, rotting clothes, damp mattresses and filthy blankets. The sweet, heavy smell of cannabis, and the other, more elusive scents of the harder and more dangerous drugs. These were scents which came and went during the day, as people moved in and out of the place. And overlaying it all and comprehending these other scents, the complex of smells which accumulated in a crowded place where water had been cut off with the other services, and people could wash neither themselves nor their clothes.

In twenty minutes, the stink wouldn't matter. In twenty minutes, you would have become accustomed and inured to it, unable to distinguish either that awful odour or your own contribution to it. The man wasn't sure whether that was a consolation or not. He was no longer sure about a lot of things, since he had moved in here.

There was a brick wall in the centre of the cellar, which divided it into two spacious areas, each equally damp and cold. The front one had originally held the tons of coal needed to heat this high house to the temperature acceptable for the comfort of its Victorian middle-class owners and their servants; the rear section had been designed to store wines and the furniture which overflowed from the crowded rooms upstairs.

The man went and peered into this rear section, which appeared at first glance to be unoccupied. ‘You awake, Lucy?' he said. ‘It's Jack.'

You always identified yourself in these places, with their constantly changing flotsam of humanity. And you used your own name, if you knew what was good for you. Jack Clark: anything else was dangerous. If you gave yourself another name to wipe out your past, you were likely to forget it when people shook you roughly awake, or roused you from a haze induced by drugs. There were a lot of knives about, and it didn't do for people to think you had been trying to deceive them. Most people here were desperate, in their different ways. But some of those who came and went in the squat worked for powerful people. It didn't pay to be caught deceiving them, so Jack Clark used his own name.

There was no sound from the shape on the thin mattress in the corner at the back of the cellar, but he caught the glint of white from an eye, and knew that she was looking at him. He went slowly forward – sudden movements could seem threatening to addicts – and perched on the tea chest beside the mattress. ‘I bought some bread and marge. You can share it, if you like. You should eat, you know.'

At first he thought there would be no response. Long seconds passed. It was not until he pulled out a slice of the stale white bread and began to munch it himself that the girl levered herself up and pressed her back against the wall behind her. She shivered violently with the cold of it against her spine, then pulled the blanket up against her neck. He held out a slice of the white bread, with its thin coating of margarine. She looked at it for a moment, then thrust a gaunt wrist from beneath the blanket, seized the bread from him, and tore at it like a hungry animal.

BOOK: Remains to be Seen
4.27Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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