The Sixth Estate (The Craig Crime Series)

BOOK: The Sixth Estate (The Craig Crime Series)
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The Sixth Estate

Catriona King

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are used fictitiously and any resemblance to persons living or dead, business establishments, events, locations or areas, is entirely coincidental.

 

No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner without written permission of the author, except for brief quotations and segments used in reviews of for promotion.

 

 

 

Copyright © 2015 by Catriona King

Photography: Goncharuk Maksim

Artwork: Jonathan Temples: [email protected]

Editors: Andrew Angel and Maureen Vincent-Northam

Formatting: Rebecca Emin

All rights reserved

 

Hamilton-Crean Publishing Ltd. 2015

 

Discover us online:
www.hamiltoncreanpublishing.com

For my mother.

 

 

About the Author

 

Catriona King is a medical doctor and trained as a police Forensic Medical Examiner in London, where she worked for some years. She has worked closely with the police on many occasions. She returned to live in Belfast in 2006.

 

She has written since childhood and has been published in many formats: non-fiction, journalistic and fiction.

 

‘The Sixth Estate’ is the first of two new Craig Crime Novels being released in September 2015. ‘The Sect’ is the second.

 

The next Craig Crime novel, ‘The Keeper’, is in edits for release in early 2016.

Acknowledgements

 

My thanks to Northern Ireland for providing the inspiration for my novels.

 

My thanks also to: Andrew Angel and Maureen Vincent-Northam, my editors, Jonathan Temples for his cover design and Rebecca Emin for formatting this book.

 

I would like to thank all of the police officers that I have ever worked with for their professionalism, wit and compassion.

 

Catriona King

Belfast, September 2015

 

 

Discover the author’s books at:
www.catrionakingbooks.com

 

To engage with the author about her books, email:
[email protected]

 

The author can be found on

Facebook and Twitter: @CatrionaKing1

The Sixth Estate

 

Chapter One

 

 

Belfast. November 2014

 

“Would you like to say anything, Superintendent?”

Craig stared through the window, his thoughts elsewhere. It was a surprisingly small window for such an imposing room, with a tree outside so large that it shaded them cosily on the bright winter day. He could just make out its leaves, still clinging to the branches despite the season. Sycamore, or maybe not; he’d never paid attention in biology class.

The woman’s insistent voice disturbed his reverie.

“It’s almost eleven, Mr Craig.”

He seized his chance to leave. To return next week for another silent hour.

She called after him. “You’ll need to talk eventually, you know.”

Perhaps, or perhaps not. Nothing could ever make him feel OK about shooting an old man, even if it had been legal. And anyway, he preferred his therapy to come from the pub.

He turned at the door and smiled; a social smile that didn’t touch his dark eyes. He had more faith in his silence than he had in all her words. He was wrong.

 

****

 

The Ardlough Road, County Londonderry. Thursday, 11th December 2014. 8.30 a.m.

 

Bernadette Ross hadn’t moved for five minutes. She’d simply stood like a pillar in the dark north-facing room, gazing, in silence. Anyone who’d ever known her would have been surprised. Racer Ross; that was her nickname, had been ever since school. Never sitting, always fidgeting, racing down the polished corridors accompanied by the fading pleas of nuns to “walk, not run”.

But not today. Today only her eyes moved. They scanned the wood-lined study, rapidly at first in disbelief and then slowly, again and again, like a pendulum that had found its arc. Back and forth past the walls of books. Back and forth past the shiny antique weapons and the bureau heavy with media awards. Back and forth until her head ached and her eyes were tired, and they fixed finally on an ornately worked rug, its background once cream, now a rainbow of cherry and plum.

The wider scan had brought context: chairs turned over, the television smashed, books spine up with their pages semi-detached, as if they’d been flung, frantically, to aid escape. And the blood. So much blood. Not splashes but pints, splattered and smeared in a trail towards the back door, shining on the parquet like modern art and staining the once cream rug shades of red. Too much blood for one person, but just enough for three?

Images flashed through her mind. Pictures of afternoon tea and family dinners; formal, unsmiling celebrations. Christmas gifts exchanged, this year’s already beneath the spruce tree in the hall. Three faces loomed large, older and younger, stern and less so, smiling openly and with smiles that never reached their eyes. She knew these people, she saw them every day. And now? Now? As her eyes flickered REM-like her limbs finally unfroze, long enough to do what a decent person would. Lift the telephone and call the police.

 

****

 

Stranmillis, Belfast. Saturday, 13th December. 2 p.m.

 

“Left a bit.”

Marc Craig did as he was bid, with a malaise that said he’d been doing it for far too long.

“No, not there. Further left; over by the fireplace.”

Craig obeyed again, rolling his eyes. He’d been a puppet for thirty minutes with his friend, pathologist John Winter, pulling his strings.

Suddenly John thrust out a palm, vertically, like a traffic cop. “Stop! You’ve gone too far. Back a bit. We’re almost there.”

Craig glared at the eight-foot Christmas tree in his arms, wondering how he’d got roped into an afternoon readying John and Natalie’s new house for their first married noel. True, there were quantities of alcohol involved, and yes, part of him had been persuaded by the housewarming party they were throwing on Christmas Eve, and the fear that leaving the new home’s décor victim to John’s taste would result in the same bordello-like ambience as his lab. But larger than all of those motivations had been curiosity. John had been resolutely secretive since he’d purchased the converted chapel two months before, sneaking off on evenings and weekends to decorate it, instead of drinking with him in wine bars as he normally did. It was to be expected of course; he was married now, nesting, a newly puffed-up husband intent on hunting and gathering to protect his mate, even if the modern equivalent was buying paint in a DIY store.

Craig knew he was privileged to see the place; not even Natalie knew the full extent of her husband’s efforts, through a combination of a surgical on-call Rota that would have made a Trojan balk and John swatting her away, barking “wait till it’s finished, woman” in a most un-John-like way.

The detective peered through the branches of the evergreen he was grasping and admitted that he was impressed. The eighteenth-century chapel was compact and light, with a bright maple floor where worshippers had once stood, and in place of its pulpit an open fireplace that John had managed to avoid spoiling with the cliché of a faux-skin rug. The high walls were white, split by wooden beams, and a spiral staircase in one corner led to a mezzanine, holding two bedrooms in place of the old organ loft. Even the stained-glass windows had been modernised, replaced with clear, arched panels that flooded the house with light. The effect was Scandinavian and the conifer in his arms added to the feel.

John pointed triumphantly to the corner beside the fire; a position Craig had suggested ten minutes before.

“That’s it! Perfect! Prop it against the wall while I put the coffee on.”

As he headed cheerfully towards the kitchen, Craig set down the tree and extracted some pine needles from his mouth. He strolled towards the windows, thinking that coffee was probably a good idea. He was driving; although, as he could see his apartment across the snow-edged Lagan, having to walk wouldn’t exactly be a tragedy.

A combination of his mobile ringing and John re-entering with a tray broke his daydream, and as the drinks clattered and gurgled their way to readiness he answered the call without checking the screen. Always a mistake.

The voice that spoke was cool and familiar and Craig’s stunned glance told John exactly who it was; D.I. Julia McNulty, his ex-girlfriend of thirteen months before. John took a seat and waited for the show to start, thanking God that he was out of the romantic race.

“Hello, Marc.”

Craig’s mouth opened and closed silently; his thoughts ricocheting between ‘why is she calling?’ and ‘it must be work’, via ‘Katy will kill me if she finds out’. He dismissed the last thought instantly. If there was one thing Katy Stevens wasn’t, it was bitchy.

John watched Craig’s discomfort like it was a spectator sport. When he thought Craig had sucked air for long enough he waved him on to speak. The words were hardly worth saying.

“Hello, Julia.”

That was it. No “How are you?” or “How’s life in Limavady?” Definitely no witty repartee. John rolled his eyes and Craig scowled, turning his back. He was saved from the banality of “How’s the weather?” by Julia’s next words.

“I have a case I need your help with.”

John watched his friend’s shoulders drop in relief and knew instantly that he was back on solid ground; work, the place he ran to when real life was too much grief. The fact that Craig’s life had been a challenge since he’d shot Caleb Pitt two months before hadn’t escaped his notice. He’d been drinking heavily and snapping at everyone for weeks. The pathologist leaned forward eagerly to catch what came next.

“What sort of case?”

The question seemed redundant. Craig headed up Belfast’s Murder Squad so murders were what he solved. Julia knew that, so Craig was surprised by what she said next.

“A home invasion near Derry with three missing victims. Look, I don’t want to say any more on the phone. Can I send you the file?”

She wasn’t even sure that there’d been a murder! But he couldn’t refuse her; she was an officer asking for help. He forced himself to sound keen.

“Sure. Send it through now. We can act as advisors.”

Her response was immediate. “No. I need you to lead the investigation. Here, tomorrow; as early as you can.”

With that the line went dead and he realised how much courage it had taken her to ring. He clicked his phone shut and turned, just in time to see John glance away, feigning interest in a wall.

“What do you think of the white? I think it opens the place up.”

Craig rolled his eyes. “If you’re going to talk about colour charts I’m leaving.”

John took the cue eagerly. “What did Julia want?”

“You heard. It’s a case.”

John smiled, knowing it could be more than that, but this was poker and he wasn’t showing his hand.

“Well, that’s all right then. She wants your advice. You knew it might happen someday.”

Craig scowled. “It’s not that simple. She wants us in Derry tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow! That’s a bit quick.”

“It’s a disaster. I’m supposed to be taking Katy sailing.”

John gestured at the river. “It’s too cold.”

“Winter sailing’s great, especially if you bring mulled wine. I’ve been promising her for ages, for putting up with me.”

Neither of them pretended that he’d been a peach recently.

John nodded. “You’ve been a grumpy bugger for weeks. But you can go sailing some other time. Drunk in charge of a yacht is never good.”

Craig went to object but John waved him on, refusing to be diverted. “So what’s the real problem?”

“You know damn well what the real problem is! I haven’t seen her for a year and I’m dreading it. So is she by the sounds of it.”

“Suck it up; you’re a big boy. Just tell Katy why you’re cancelling; she’ll understand.”

Craig was about to retort when his phone beeped with a message. It was the file. As he read it he frowned and John could see that his interest was piqued. Craig pulled out a pen and began making notes.

John smiled. “I knew you’d change your mind.”

Craig’s brow furrowed. “I’ll tell Katy I have a case in Belfast.”

“Don’t be stupid. She watches the News; she knows there hasn’t been a murder in Belfast for weeks. Just tell her the truth.” John’s eyes narrowed. “Unless…”

Craig glared at him. “Unless what?”

“You’re afraid.”

Craig’s voice tightened to match his glare. “Afraid of what?”

“That you might still love her.”

The shake of Craig’s head was instinctive. He didn’t love Julia; Katy had his heart one hundred per cent. But John was right; he
was
afraid.

“Not love. I’m afraid of hurting her.”

The rest of the sentence hung in the air.
And of her hurting him.

 

****

 

Docklands Coordinated Crime Unit, Belfast. Sunday. 8.30 a.m.

 

“I don’t get out of my bed on a Sunday for just anyone, boss, so this had better be good.”

Liam Cullen stretched out his forty inch legs as Craig poured two coffees then threw a file on the desk, nodding him to take a look.

“A case? What part of town?”

“The Derry part.”

He waited for the inevitable moan. It never came. Instead, Liam surprised him by reading the cover and asking a question.

“Who invited us?”

Craig braced himself for the derision that he knew was heading his way. “Julia.”

Liam had never liked Julia, either at work or socially, so his pragmatic response surprised Craig even more.

“When do we go?”

Craig’s eyes widened. “That’s it? No slagging about ex-girlfriends? No complaints about leaving town so close to Christmas?”

“Nope.”

Realisation dawned.

“OK, which member of Danni’s family are you avoiding?”

Liam’s wife, Danni, came from a large Newry brood.

He gave Craig a martyred look.

“Her brother and his tribe. They’re staying with us till Christmas Eve; shopping. Sorting out murders in Derry will be a rest.”

Craig thought back to the time his Italian relatives had stayed when he was a kid and nodded in sympathy.

“OK. Here’s what we’ve got.” He lifted the file. “A family of three have disappeared from their home near Derry; Diana and Oliver Bwye, forty-five and sixty-one, and their twenty-year-old daughter Jane. Bwye’s secretary, Bernadette Ross, arrived at the house last Thursday morning for work, to find signs of a break-in and struggle.”

Liam interrupted. “How bad a struggle?”

“Bad enough to leave blood all over the floor.”

“Types?”

“It’s all O Positive, the most common sort. They’re sourcing DNA at the moment.”

“Who’s running the pathology?”

“Mike Augustus.”

Liam smirked; their small world was getting smaller by the day. Augustus was dating Annette McElroy, the squad’s Inspector, soon to be divorced from her unfaithful husband after twenty years.

BOOK: The Sixth Estate (The Craig Crime Series)
12.3Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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