Authors: Damien Boyd
Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #Police Procedural, #Traditional, #Thrillers, #Crime
ALSO BY DAMIEN BOYD
As the Crow Flies
Head in the Sand
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
Text copyright © 2015 Damien Boyd
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.
Published by Thomas & Mercer, Seattle
Amazon, the Amazon logo, and Thomas & Mercer are trademarks of
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Cover design by bürosüd
Library of Congress Control Number: 2014955142
For my brother, Geoffrey
A glass of wine? What harm can it do? He’s a harmless old duffer.
‘Red or white?’
She watched him pour a large glass from an open bottle.
‘Down the hatch. Now, about this test of yours . . .’
It was after that things got a bit muddled. The conversation started well but tailed off when her eyes began to glaze over. Then she dropped her glass of wine and slumped back onto the leather sofa. She tried to apologise for spilling the wine but the words wouldn’t come. Some did. She heard them. But they weren’t in the right order and she didn’t recognise the voice.
‘Have another drink.’
The glass, refilled now, was thrust into her hand. She felt another hand behind her back sitting her up. The glass held to her lips.
The wine tasted bitter. She hadn’t noticed it before.
Then he was gone and she fell back onto the sofa. She rubbed her eyes. She could hear noises behind her, in the kitchen, but could see nothing.
Her left hand felt wet. It was hanging over the edge of the sofa,
on the floor. She held it up and looked at it. Red wine was
down her arm, staining the sleeve of her blouse.
‘How are you getting on in there?’
She couldn’t reply. She was going to be sick any minute. How embarrassing was that?
What’s happening to me?
She closed her eyes. When she opened them again she was looking down at a girl lying on a leather sofa, her left arm hanging over the side and her hand resting in a puddle of red wine that was gradually seeping away through a crack in the floorboards.
Wake up. It’s me, you idiot.
No response, no movement. Nothing.
The man reappeared. He looked different this time. Cold,
She watched him kneel down next to the girl on the sofa. He
r hand, turned it over and placed it flat on the floor, palm down. Then he reached up and took something off the arm of
What the . . . ?
She screamed but there was no sound. The girl on the sofa lay motionless.
She watched. Mesmerised.
He picked up her hand. The girl on the sofa didn’t flinch. She flinched for her. She felt the sharp edges of the blades bite into her flesh as he closed them around her ring finger.
Wake up . . . please wake up . . .
She saw him grasp the yellow handles in both hands, at the same time checking the blades were lined up with the base of her finger.
Did he know she was watching?
Then he snapped the handles shut. Hard. She heard the crunching of the bone.
Blood, so much blood. Pumping. But she felt no pain.
She looked down at her left hand and tried to count her fingers.
One, two . . .
ixon leaned against a pillar and closed his eyes. He was
to stay awake and it was a battle he was losing. He had been up since 8 a.m. the previous morning and now not even the bright strip lights could keep him awake. There were people everywhere, jostling for position, some of them shouting, but it was no good, he had to get some sleep. Even a few minutes would do.
Suddenly, he felt a hand on his shoulder.
‘You missed ’em.’
‘The bags. They’ve gone round again.’
It was just after 4 a.m. on a Friday morning in early December and Detective Inspector Nick Dixon was waiting by the bag carousel in
North Terminal. He had just arrived back from a week in Cyprus with his girlfriend, Detective Constable Jane Winter. She had persuaded him that a week in the sun would do them good, and it would have done had the sun shone. She had also said it wasn’t worth paying the upgrade for daytime flights, which was something Dixon could not forgive. Why they hadn’t flown from Bristol was also a mystery to him.
‘Now all we need is for that old heap of yours to conk out on us,’ said Jane.
They caught the bus out to the long stay car park. Dixon handed his car keys to Jane as they stepped off the bus into the early morning rain.
‘You can drive.’
‘You slept on the plane.’
Much to their surprise, his old Land Rover Defender started first time.
‘Old car, new battery,’ said Dixon, grinning.
Jane switched the headlights to full beam as she drove down the slip road onto a deserted M23. Ahead of them lay four hours in the car listening to the clunk of the windscreen wipers, the only
being breakfast in the Little Chef at Amesbury.
It was mid-morning by the time they arrived home in Brent Knoll. Dixon had driven from Amesbury, taking the old route cross-
from Stonehenge that he had always used when going home for the weekend during his days in the Met. They had taken a short detour via Jane’s parents’ to collect Monty, who had started
as soon as he heard the diesel engine, and Dixon was
to a walk on the beach followed by lunch and a few beers in the
‘You switched your phone on yet?’ asked Jane.
‘Me neither. Maybe we should?’
Dixon picked up the landline and listened. He could tell from the intermittent dialling tone that a message was waiting. He replaced the handset and turned to Jane.
‘Coming to the beach?’
‘No. You go. I’m gonna have a shower. Be back in time for lunch.’
‘OK.’ Dixon looked at Monty. ‘Where’s your ball?’
Monty ran into the kitchen and began scrabbling at the back door. Dixon ran to pick him up and carry him out to the Land Rover before the powerful Staffordshire terrier could damage the door, which had only just been replaced following a recent break in. The terms of his tenancy didn’t allow pets either so he wanted to keep signs of Monty’s presence to a minimum.
Dixon was deep in thought as he drove out of Brent Knoll towards Berrow. It struck him as an oddly routine domestic scene. Odd for him, at least. Walking the dog, Jane in the shower, lunch in the pub. While they had been away they had talked about getting a place together, but instead decided that Jane would rent out her flat and move into Dixon’s cottage. His landlord had been very understanding about the incident with the shotgun and they felt sure he had known about Monty all along.
It had crept up on him, this relationship, but maybe that was the best way. It had been a long time since he had felt anything for anyone, but as he drove along Coast Road towards the beach, he decided that he liked it.
They knew it meant they would be separated at work, but then that was inevitable when Jane passed her sergeant’s exams. They should have been split up before now and had only got away with it for their last investigation because there had been no one else available. Perhaps it was for the best? Living together and working together. It didn’t bear thinking about.
He parked on the beach beyond the Sundowner Café and walked towards Brean Down. They had left the rain behind on
Plain and it was a glorious morning, cold and crisp with a clear blue sky. The tide was on its way out, making for a
walk on firm, wet sand. He watched a horse lorry unload three large and very lively horses that clearly knew they were in for a gallop along the beach. Dixon hardly dared watch while the riders mounted, and was relieved when they galloped off in the opposite direction.
Brean Down jutted out into the Bristol Channel ahead of him with its limestone cliffs towering over the beach, and he was
close enough now to pick out some climbers in Boulder Cove. There were a few dog walkers around too; he recognised some of them, but most gave Monty a wide berth. They saw a large white Staffie and arrived at the wrong conclusion every time.
Dixon was beginning to think about turning round and
home. Monty had long since lost interest in his tennis ball and was sniffing the lines of seaweed and other debris left behind by the tide. Dixon thought about Jane in the shower and it dawned on him that walking the dog might have been the wrong option.
He was watching the sand yachts racing along the flats off to his left when he heard a car horn in the distance and turned to see a small red car speeding towards him along the beach. He quickly put Monty on his lead and watched the car approach. It was less than two hundred yards away before he realised it was Jane. She slid to a halt next to him and wound down the window.
‘What’s up?’ asked Dixon.
‘What’s going on?’
‘I switched my phone on.’
‘But . . .’
‘And I suggest you do the same.’
The message was short and to the point.
‘Ring me as soon as you get this. I don’t care what time it is.’
The caller hadn’t left his name or number but then he didn’t need to.
‘He’s left the same message on mine and on the home phone. You’d better ring him.’
Dixon checked his watch while he waited for Detective Chief Inspector Lewis to answer his phone. It was just after midday.
‘Where the bloody hell have you been?’
‘I know that. Your flight was due in at four o’clock.’
Dixon turned to Jane and raised his eyebrows.
‘Well, you’re here now. There’s a meeting this afternoon at Taunton Police Station, 2 p.m. Be there.’
‘What’s it all about?’
‘Get there a bit early and I’ll fill you in. And the assistant chief con will be chairing it, so put a tie on.’
Lewis rang off.
Dixon looked at his phone.
‘Yes, I had a lovely holiday, thank you, Sir.’
‘Well?’ asked Jane.
‘Taunton at 2 p.m.’
‘Bang goes lunch and an afternoon with our feet up.’
‘I have a horrible feeling our holiday’s going to seem a very long time ago, very soon,’ said Dixon.
‘Shall we leave your car where it is?’
‘Don’t be daft, the tide’ll get it.’
Dixon turned into the car park behind Taunton Police Station just after 1.30 p.m. to find DCI Lewis waiting for him.
‘Good holiday?’ asked Lewis, opening the car door before Dixon had switched the engine off.
‘Don’t think much of your tan.’
‘Too cold for that.’
‘Well, you’re going to wish you’d stayed there, I’m afraid.’
Dixon followed DCI Lewis up to the CID Room on the first floor and waited while Lewis got two coffees from the machine. The CID Room was busy but quiet, which struck Dixon as odd, although he had his back to the officers sitting at their desks. He remembered that the assistant chief constable was in the building. Perhaps that was it? There was a good deal of whispering going on and he felt sure he heard the words ‘Dixon’ and ‘Bridgwater’ over the noise of the coffee machine.
‘We’ll use this room,’ said Lewis, gesturing to a vacant office. ‘Sit down.’
Lewis handed a coffee to Dixon. It was in a light brown plastic cup and neither looked nor smelt much like coffee. The layer of powdered milk still floating on the top prompted Dixon to take a biro off the desk and stir it.
‘Have you ironed that shirt?’ asked Lewis.
‘Collars and cuffs.’
Lewis rolled his eyes. ‘Don’t take your jacket off, for God’s sake.’
‘What’s it all about, then?’ asked Dixon.
‘Isobel Swan. Aged seventeen. A sixth form student at a local boarding school. Brunel. Have you read about it?’
‘It happened just before you went on holiday, I think. She was found in a ditch that runs around the perimeter of the playing fields . . .’ Lewis stopped and waited. He was watching Dixon. ‘Are you listening?’
Dixon wasn’t listening. He had done what they had told him to do. He had placed all the memories in a box, locked it and put it on a shelf in a storage cupboard at the back of his mind. It had gathered dust there ever since, this box. From time to time he
it, stared at it, paused and then moved on. But he had never opened it. Now he could feel a hand on it, dragging it off the shelf.
‘Are you all right?’
‘Fine, yes, sorry, you were saying?’
‘Isobel Swan. Her throat had been cut and her ring finger
. Roger Poland thinks it was bolt cutters or something lik
Dixon could feel his shirt clinging to a cold sweat in the small of his back. He realised that it was his own hand on the box, doing exactly what he had been told not to do, all those years ago.
Counselling? That’s not me, but thank you for the offer
Then had come the advice.
Box it up; put it to the back of your mind.
Wouldn’t that be the same as forgetting?
No, entirely different. You’ll never forget.
And he hadn’t.