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Authors: Kerry Wilkinson

Tags: #Kerry Wilkinson, #Crime, #Manchester, #Jessica Daniel, #Mystery, #Police Procedural, #Thriller

Vigilante

BOOK: Vigilante
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VIGILANTE

Jessica Daniel Book 2

by KERRY WILKINSON

Dead bodies are piling up for Detective Sergeant Jessica Daniel.

Usually when a serial killer is on the loose, the pressure would be building to find the perpetrator but the victims are all hardened criminals themselves.

The national media can't believe their luck with an apparent vigilante on the streets, while Jessica's new boss seems grateful someone else is doing their job for them.

But things aren't so straightforward when forensics matches blood from the apparent killer to a man already behind bars.

Copyright © 2011-2012 Kerry Wilkinson

All rights reserved.

PROLOGUE

The man had deliberately worn soft-bottomed dark trainers and dug out some old black jogging pants and a navy-blue T-shirt. There wasn’t a great amount of choice in his wardrobe but at least he had enough dark clothes. He was also grateful for the unseasonably dry weather. He didn’t own a big thick jacket but, even if he did, it would have made him stand out.

He had quickly discovered following someone was not as easy as it appeared on television shows. It didn’t help that he only had set times during the night where he could carry out work such as this. Wearing dark items made it a lot simpler and the fact the council couldn’t be bothered fixing street lights was pretty much a godsend. The trainers were something he had overlooked at first. It seemed silly now but not only were they quiet to walk in, which was exactly what he needed, but they gave him a head-start if he did have to run for it. He had made a special effort in recent months to get himself into shape. At his age, he was never going to be an athlete but he had managed to lose a few pounds from his stomach and put on a bit of muscle in his shoulders and arms. Free access to the gym had helped and he was faster too. Each session would begin with running. It wasn’t stamina he needed, just speed. He knew he wouldn’t have to race over a distance if it came to it, he only had to sprint to safety.

A few test runs had helped, trailing random people after dark and learning not to be seen. There was no rush to get things done, it was all about waiting for an opportunity and not being caught. The targets on his list weren’t going anywhere and one by one they would all be dealt with.

Hopefully tonight was the time when the first name would be scratched from that list.

The man looked up a few hundred yards ahead of him. The person he wanted was still with a couple of his friends but it looked as if they were finally saying their goodbyes. Though he had made every effort to stay out of the illuminated areas, the three people ahead of him were standing under a street light. The man watched their cigarette smoke drift upwards and could hear their faint voices. He saw one of their hands go into a jean pocket and swiftly transfer a palmful of something to the man he himself was watching. The handover was so quick and assured, neither of them even bothered looking around. Why would they? They knew the chance of being caught was minimal and, even if they were, they would be back on the streets soon enough.

The person who had initiated the transfer shook hands with the third member of the group and then turned around, walking towards a nearby alleyway. Even from this distance, he could see the person walking away had his jeans slouched somewhere underneath his backside, his underwear sitting high above them. He shook his head from the shadows at the ridiculousness of this current fashion trend.

Now there were just two people left under the light, the man decided he could move closer. His step was gentle but he followed a deliberate path towards his target, stopping around fifty metres away and resting against a wall in a heavily shadowed area. He could hear the voices of the two remaining people clearly now. Their local accents jarred as they spoke in American slang as if they had been born in 1960s Harlem.

It wasn’t the black or white issue that annoyed him, he was fairly colour-blind when it came to race, but young white men who were busy making other peoples’ lives a misery and thought they lived in a ghetto really did wind him up. He saw the type all the time – those who listened to rap music and thought they were some tough gangster because of it.

Idiots.

The two people moved from under the street light and started to walk briskly in the direction of where the man knew they both lived. He had figured it might come down to two people together. He wasn’t confident he could take down a pair at the same time at this stage, certainly not for his first piece of work, but he knew there was a pretty good chance they would split up soon enough to go their separate ways.

He had done his homework.

The man kept pace with them, carefully watching his step. On one of his practice runs, he had soon worked out it wasn’t just a case of staying unseen; you had to watch where you walked too. As best he could in the gloom, he avoided any stones on his path that could have caused a noise and hurried after the two figures, determined not to lose sight of them. They crossed a road as he knew they would and then, finally, he saw them shaking hands and saying their goodbyes for the night. The man crouched behind a car, unconsciously holding his breath. He felt his heart rate rise, knowing he was a minute or two away from the moment he had spent the past few months preparing for. He moved his hand to the outside of his pocket and felt for the knife. It was still there and, even through the material of his clothes, felt slightly cool to touch as if it were waiting for his hand to warm the handle up.

Ahead of him, the second man turned to his left and walked through an archway that separated the blocks of flats on the estate. His shadow disappeared away from the lights and into the night. That left just the one.

The target turned around and started walking towards where his follower knew he lived. The man trailing him knew he would have to act in the next five hundred yards. He stood up from behind the car and began moving quickly behind the victim. It didn’t matter if he was seen now. He held his hand in his pocket and quickened his pace, moving within thirty yards of the person he had been watching for the past hour.

‘’Scuse me, mate…’ he said. The man was careful not to speak too loudly. There were still flats and houses in this area and he didn’t want to risk anyone hearing him.

The target turned around quickly, eyes wide and clearly surprised someone had got this close to him without being heard. ‘What do you—?’ the victim managed to say before he stepped back.

There was no distance between them now but the target was reeling, as anyone would if a stranger had moved so swiftly into their personal space.

Then it was over.

The knife had flashed quickly from the man’s pocket and into the other person’s neck. Again the homework had paid off. The killer knew it was important to go for somewhere around the Adam’s apple first in order to prevent any kind of sound. The victim grabbed the man’s wrist but it didn’t matter as his hold was weak. The man with the knife pulled back as he heard the gurgle from the other person’s throat and then stabbed twice more in quick succession, this time aiming for the heart.

It wasn’t as clean as he had hoped for but the job was done. The piece of filth dead at his feet wouldn’t be peddling drugs or carrying out random acts of violence any longer.

The killer wondered if he would get the credit he should be due for such a positive act.

ONE

The sun was just beginning to rise as Detective Sergeant Jessica Daniel walked from her parked-up red K-reg Fiat Punto towards the thin white tent which had been put up around the crime scene. She had been told on the phone it was a dead body so had a reasonable idea what to expect. Given the particular area of Levenshulme in Manchester it had been found in, it wasn’t necessarily a surprise either. The youths who lived here seemed to spend large parts of their free time finding new and ingenious ways to hurt either themselves or someone else who happened to look a little different to them.

They rarely went as far as killing each other though.

It had still been dark when Jessica had taken the call to come to see this particular body. Being a DS meant she was only phoned if something serious had happened. Her sleeping patterns hadn’t been so great over the past year or so anyway but it seemed pretty typical that some poor guy had got himself stabbed on one of the few morning she had been fast asleep.

Jessica reached the front of the tent and saw one of the Scene of Crime officers walking out wearing a white paper suit. They had obviously been quick off the mark that morning even though their department was notoriously under-staffed and relied on volunteers to stay on top of Greater Manchester’s policing needs.

Noticing a familiar face towards the back of the tent, Jessica walked around to join Detective Inspector Jack Cole. ‘Bit early for all this, innit?’ she said. Cole shrugged. ‘Have you seen inside?’ Jessica asked, nodding towards the tent.

‘Yes, I got here about two minutes before the SOCO boys.’

DI Cole was Jessica’s immediate superior. They had been promoted at the same time eighteen months ago. He had gone from DS to DI, with her bumped up from Detective Constable to her current DS position. DI Cole was well-known in the station for not wanting to get his hands dirty and preferring to work from his desk. Some people saw that as a negative and, although Jessica had at first, it did enable her to get more involved in things. Despite that, he was loyal and one of the people she trusted the most at the station, even though she didn’t really know much about him.

Jessica was in her early thirties but the fifteen or so years between her and Cole couldn’t have been wider. She was still living in a flat with next to no savings and taking things as they came. He was settled with two kids and a wife he clearly adored but kept that side of his life completely separate from his professional career. She had never met his partner or children and, as far as she knew, neither had anyone else in the station. He was a normal, unassuming guy who you wouldn’t look at twice if you didn’t know he was a detective.

Jessica acknowledged Cole’s reply with a nod and moved around to the front of the tent. The white material was encircled by the standard police tape on a pavement, with marked police cars parked nearby shielding their position from easy view. A couple of uniformed officers milled around near to the vehicles. As the morning began to get lighter people had started to come out of their houses and flats to gawp at the police scene. Jessica noticed a couple of young teenagers in school uniform on the opposite side of the street. The schools had only gone back after the summer holidays a few days previously and, while it was still early in the morning, it wasn’t necessarily a surprise to see kids out at this time, certainly not in this area. The bigger shock was the school uniform as the estate the body had been found on was one of the roughest in the neighbourhood and just getting the youths to school was an achievement, let alone in uniform.

Jessica ignored them and walked around the tape to the tent’s entrance.

The Scene of Crime team’s job was to make sure any suspicious incidents were catalogued. Bodies would be cautiously removed from a murder site, photographs taken and everything measured and carefully chronicled. Things like fingerprints would be checked for, as well as blood or hairs that might belong to the perpetrator. It was very specialist work and the team didn’t like having their scenes trampled upon.

There were two people working around the site and Jessica recognised both of them. She didn’t know their names but people got used to seeing each other due to the nature of their overlapping jobs. Some people got closer than others but the ins and outs of dead bodies had never appealed to Jessica. Although she felt the crime scenes sometimes helped clarify her thoughts, she was more than happy to read a report rather than see the gory parts for herself.

Despite there, seeing as she was there anyway, she asked to have a look.

The person in the white suit standing by the tent’s opening was a woman a few years older than Jessica. ‘I’d rather you didn’t.’

‘I won’t touch anything. If the light’s okay, I won’t even go past the entrance.’

The relationship between the teams was awkward. Technically Jessica could walk in if she wanted but, if she contaminated a scene, it would be a very serious matter. That meant that CID and other officers, no matter how senior, often deferred to the wishes of the Scene of Crime team.

The woman eyed her up and then turned around, ducking slightly and looking back into the tent. Jessica often found that you were more likely to get what you wanted if you asked nicely in situations like this.

The person in the white suit stood back up and peered at Jessica. ‘All right, fine. But stay around here, okay?’ She indicated the tent’s entrance and Jessica nodded, stepping forwards as the flap was held up for her.

Inside a separate lamp had been set up to illuminate the body but the gentle sunlight was now coming through the thin sides of the tent in any case. Jessica could see all she needed to pretty easily. A young man’s body was slumped face-up on the pavement. His legs were straight out below him but one of his arms was bent towards his neck, the other limp by his side. He was wearing jeans and some sort of black sweatshirt. Even though the top was dark, Jessica could see an even murkier stain on the man’s chest, matching a circle of deep red spread out on the ground. There was an obvious gash in the middle of his neck where he had likely been stabbed and another hole was just about visible in his chest. In total there were two, possibly three, knife wounds and a very dead victim.

Jessica stepped backwards and thanked the woman for holding the flap up for her. ‘Have you found anything yet?’ she asked.

The woman shrugged and gave a small smile. ‘Bit hopeful, aren’t you?’

‘You never know.’

‘There was something under a couple of his fingernails on the arm you see raised; he might have grabbed his attacker. There were a couple of other odds and ends but it will take a few days. It should be easy to identify him though. His face is fairly clear and it’s not rained or anything to mess up the scene. We found this in his pocket too.’ She used a rubber-gloved hand to delve into a plastic container on the floor, pulling out two sealed plastic pockets. One had a small bag containing what looked like cannabis, the other had a canvas money-holder in it.

‘There’s ID in the wallet,’ the woman added. ‘Do you want the name?’

‘I know who it is.’ Jessica said. The woman clearly looked a bit confused, so Jessica continued. ‘I reckon ninety-five per cent of the Greater Manchester Police force would recognise that angelic face.’

It was fair to say Craig Millar was well-known to the local police. Even though Jessica hadn’t had the pleasure of arresting him herself, he had a face most of the local officers would know straight away. Jessica didn’t know his exact age but was confident he was in his early twenties. Off the top of her head, she reckoned he had a criminal record for drugs possession, actual bodily harm, common assault and a drunk and disorderly or two. If she checked his full file, she would be fairly certain of finding more on there and probably a few police cautions or on-the-spot fines thrown in for good measure too.

And that was just what he had been caught doing.

His friends would no doubt have similar records and owe hundreds of pounds in unpaid fines to the courts. Once young people like Craig Millar got caught in the cycle of criminality, it seemed to continue until they ended up permanently in prison or, if they really annoyed the wrong people, dead on a pavement somewhere. She wondered who he could have upset. Maybe he was dealing drugs in an area he shouldn’t? Or back-chatting out of turn to someone a bit higher up the criminal scale than he was? Or perhaps it was a stupid drunken argument with a friend who wouldn’t remember much about it the next day?

Jessica found herself shaking her head as she walked back towards Cole. He clearly saw it in her face. ‘Recognise him then?’ he asked. His head was at a slightly sideways angle and she found his face difficult to read.

‘That Millar kid. You noticed him too then?’

‘I couldn’t remember his name but the face was familiar.’

‘What do you reckon? Whoever it was didn’t bother taking his wallet so it wasn’t just a mugging.’

‘Drugs? Fighting? Who knows? If you’re sure of the name we should probably get the address and find out if he lives with anyone before word gets around here anyway.’ Cole indicated behind him and Jessica could see faces at windows of the block of flats that backed onto the road, with other people passing by on the other side of the road trying to get a glimpse.

Jessica said she had confirmed the victim’s name with the officer who had the wallet. ‘Who called it in anyway?’ she added.

‘If you had twenty quid on you, who would you put it on?’

‘What makes you think I don’t have twenty quid on me?’

Cole smiled. ‘Reynolds reckons you still owe him a tenner and never bring money to work just so you don’t have to pay him back.’

DS Jason Reynolds was an officer Jessica shared an office with. She grinned back at the inspector and gave a small laugh. ‘It’s got to be a dog-walker who called us.’

‘Bingo.’

‘I reckon we need a new way of investigating things like this. In future, let’s just assume the bloke out walking his dog did it and work backwards from there; it’s the perfect alibi.’

Cole’s smile widened. ‘I’ll call in for the victim’s address. It will almost certainly be around here anyway.’

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Cole got Craig Millar’s last-known address by phoning their Longsight base. It was a flat somewhere nearby but neither of them knew exactly where the place was and, from the records, they weren’t completely sure if the victim lived alone. According to their own files, there were other Millars associated with the address but unsurprisingly no one was on the electoral roll. Jessica knew that anything seeming slightly authoritative would be roundly shunned in this area and doubted there were too many accurate records of who lived with whom.

Jessica crossed the road and asked the two teenagers in school uniform for directions to the victim’s address. She didn’t give the exact flat number but asked where the block was. The pair pointed her in what she assumed was the right direction without much of a protest and she and Cole set off to find out who actually lived at Craig Millar’s address.

They crossed back over the road and cut through an alleyway that separated one set of flats from another. Jessica thought the whole area seemed fairly depressing, even with the sun now up and shining. The estate was a mix of red-brick two-storey blocks of flats and small houses. Most of the area was administered by a housing association, with signs all around bearing the organisation’s logo and strict instructions that ‘Ball games are not permitted’. Jessica knew full well from various newspaper reports and word-of-mouth around the station that, even if the association got tough on ball games, they weren’t so bothered about low-level drug dealing and other misdemeanours as long as rent was paid on time.

Everything looked the same and the small scraps of land that hadn’t been built on had patchy, muddied grass, graffiti littering many fences and walls. They continued walking and Jessica noticed a run-down children’s play park on the opposite side of the road from them. She could see a pair of swings had been wrapped around the top of the frame they hung from and guessed that much of the rest of the equipment was unusable or vandalised.

It was easy for the police to blame the people who lived here for making a mess of their own estate but Jessica knew well enough a cycle of poverty was hard to escape from. Kids would struggle to get jobs, so sat around bored and hung about in gangs. Then when they were mature enough to have children of their own, which wasn’t that old for some of them, the cycle would start over. Even if you wanted to get out, you would be up against it. A place like this would have a reputation, so it was easy to get left behind when it came to funding for things like education or anything else that might aid social mobility.

It didn’t help if you had to live close to criminal scumbags who cared about no one but themselves either.

Jessica and Cole followed the teenagers’ instructions and soon came across the row of flats they were looking for. He pointed out that the ground-floor apartments all seemed to have even numbers, so they took the nearby stairs up to the first floor. The concrete entrance to the stairwell stank and Jessica avoided looking towards the back of the area where the bins were overflowing. The stairs opened out onto a full row of odd-numbered properties on their left and a wooden rail running the full length of the building on their right plus a hard stone floor underneath them. The first thing Jessica noticed was a bank of satellite dishes overhanging the rail. It seemed as if every property had wires running from their front door across the ceiling covering the walkway and back down to their own dish.

They made their way halfway along the row until they reached the door they were looking for. Jessica knocked and waited but it didn’t feel very sturdy. Most modern properties had double-glazed entrances and windows but the whole rank of flats had old-fashioned wooden doors.

Jessica had grown to like working with DI Cole, although his coolness did sometimes unnerve her. When they ended up working together, he was the calm thoughtful one while she went in running her mouth off. She had spent the past year trying to calm those instant reactions but it was a work-in-progress. In most situations, there was a tacit agreement between the two of them that Jessica would take the lead when it came to talking to witnesses or suspects. It wasn’t a tactic they had ever spoken about, more something that had happened.

BOOK: Vigilante
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