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Authors: KC Acton

WHYTE LIES

WHYTE LIES
A gripping suspense thriller
KC Acton

KC Acton has asserted her right to be identified as the author of this work.

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in any retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the author.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organisations, places and events other than those clearly in the public domain, are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

WHYTE LIES
© KC Acton. All Rights Reserved, except where otherwise noted.

1

The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven

John Milton

2

Firstly, special thanks to my mother, who always believed in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself.

A huge thanks to all my wonderful virtual friends at TBC for all the giggles, banter, book recommendations, and support. I couldn’t have done this without you.

Many thanks to the talented Cheryll Rawling for her outstanding editing skills. You were the first person to read WHYTE LIES, and your positive feedback helped spur me on.

Thank you to my brilliant cover artist Akira, who brought Faith Whyte and WHYTE LIES to life.

Last, but certainly not least, thank you to everyone who reads this book. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

 

 

Contents
3

The perfect family? Or the perfect lie?

 

Gunshots ring out on the sweltering summer air, shattering the peaceful silence. The stench of exhaust fumes and burning rubber fill the humid breeze as the wheels spin against the embankment. In front of the car, a girl lies hunched, her blonde hair stained red. Her light summer dress is torn. She’s missing a sandal. Part of her wishes she were dead.

Inside the car, the girl’s father is slumped over the steering wheel. Behind him, the girl’s mother lies motionless.

The forest is eerily quiet, silenced by the violence, while the shadows of the trees protect the carnage.

Crime and justice are Detective Faith Whyte’s business. Murder is her speciality. She thinks she has seen it all, until she investigates the brutal killing of a family in Killarney National Park.

However, the killer is closer than she thinks, and Faith must open her eyes before someone else becomes the victim of a dark and deadly mind.

Faith has spent a lifetime running, but the past is about to catch up with her. Now, she must surrender to the present and trust her instincts more than ever.

 

What happens when the present collides with the secrets of the past? Find out in Whyte Lies, a story about family secrets, the ties that bind, and the true cost of the lies we tell.

 

WHYTE LIES is the first book in a gripping new series of detective thrillers, set against the beautiful backdrop of Killarney, County Kerry, Ireland.

 

The dead are silenced, and Detective Faith Whyte will stop at nothing to give them a voice.

1

Summer 1975

 

Early morning sunshine pierced the thin curtains, waking the little girl from her troubled sleep. She sat up in bed and rubbed her tired eyes. Already the room was stifling as the sun beat down relentlessly. She shivered, sensing the darkness behind the sunshine, but she shrugged away her uneasiness; it was the last days of summer, and she had a secret.

She crept out of bed and scrambled into her clothes, picking them up from the tangled heap on the floor where she had discarded them the previous night. Tiptoeing to her bedroom door, she held her breath and listened. She could hear her mother vacuuming downstairs. The Bee Gees’ “Jive Talkin
” blasted from the radio. Her father was away ‘on business’ for a few days. She smiled, revelling in the delicious feeling that she was free to do whatever she wanted.

She ran downstairs and out the back door, peeping around the corner of the house. Then she looked across the garden, past the oak tree, searching for any other signs of life. Everything was quiet.

Glancing over her shoulder one last time, she ran across the yard to the shed at the end of the garden. She scanned its cobwebbed corners before lifting her old blankie off the discarded box and peering inside at the two fluffy fur balls
snuggled into their mother. Her heart melted as she gazed at them. She scooped them into her arms and cuddled them close, forgetting all about the gloomy darkness as she carried them outside into the high grass, out of view of the house. The kittens crawled and clambered over her legs, staring in fascination at the butterflies and bees that buzzed around in the final days of summer.

“What do we have here?” The voice made her jump. “Such pretty little babies.” She flinched at his sarcastic tone. He was home early. She froze, knowing what that tone meant. Frantically, she looked around for somewhere to run and hide with the kittens. She thought about running back into the shed, but he’d find her there. Then she thought about the cellar. He knew how afraid she was of the dark, and she’d only ever been to the cellar with him. No way, she couldn’t go back there. Maybe she could run away with the kittens, somewhere that he would never find them or her.

She scrambled to her feet and picked them up, but he was right behind her. It was too late.

“Come here,” he mocked, while he held out his hands. “Daddy won’t hurt you or your new friends. I promise.”

She wanted to believe him, but she had heard it all before. His promises always turned to lies. “Please, Daddy,” she cried, looking up at him as she struggled to hold the wriggling kittens. They scratched her bare skin, wanting her to let them play. “Please Daddy, don’t hurt them. I promise I’ll be good. I promise. Please don’t hurt them!”

“I’m not going to hurt anyone,” he sneered, looking down at her with the veiled expression that usually frightened her into immediate silence. His whole face twisted, and the Daddy she knew and loved disappeared. She felt sick as he ignored her cries and reached for her. He snatched the kittens from her as she tried to back away.

“Let’s play a little game, shall we?” he said, holding the kittens by the scruff of the neck, one in each hand. He looked from one to the other as they mewed and clawed at the air.

“No, Daddy, no! I’ll do whatever you want.” She cried, clinging to his legs to stop him. “Leave them alone. They’re my babies.” He pushed her away, and she fell in the thick grass. She watched him, knowing what he was about to do. Her father laughed as she scrambled to her feet and ran to the house. She willed her short legs to run faster.

“Mummy, Mummy,” she screamed, hoping her mother would stop him this time. She burst through the back door and ran along the hall into the kitchen, where her mother was washing dishes. The mouth-watering smell of chocolate cake baking in the oven filled the air. “Mummy, hurry. Please help them.”

“Help who, Faith?” her mother asked, not moving from her place at the sink.

“Daddy’s hurting the kittens.” She pulled at her mother’s arm. “Hurry.”

Her mother yanked her arm away. She stared down into her daughter’s eyes before turning back to the pile of dishes in the sink
.

“Please, Mummy,” Faith whispered. She couldn’t understand why her mother wouldn’t help, but she didn’t budge.

“I have to save them,” Faith said, turning and running.

She fell as she ran across the garden, but she got straight back up again, ignoring her bloody knees. There was no sign of her father or the kittens. Fear gripped her.

She ran into the shed and saw two little fur balls
lying still on the ground. Her father had the mother cat by the throat. The poor cat scratched his arms in her desperate fight for life, but he kept squeezing, oblivious to his wounds. Faith watched from the door, crying silent tears as she cradled the dead kittens in her arms. Finally, the mother cat stopped moving, and he flung her to the ground like she was nothing. That was Faith’s first encounter with death.

2

August 2014

 

The stench of exhaust fumes and burning rubber filled the humid air as the car’s wheels spun against the embankment. Bullets shattered the windscreen as the revving engine wheezed. On the ground
in front of the car, a girl lay hunched, her blonde hair matted with blood. Her light summer dress was torn and her sandal was missing. She moaned in agony as she struggled to stay awake. One of her Girl Guide books mentioned how important it was not to fall asleep after a blow to the head, otherwise she might never wake up. Now, she wondered if sleep would be the easier option.

Inside the car, her father lay slumped
over the steering wheel, blood trickling
onto his white shirt from the bullet wound in his forehead. Behind him, in the back seat, her mother
lay with her head thrown back. Her thick, dark hair partially covered her face. The front of her long dress was stained red.

The forest was eerily quiet, silenced by the uproarious violence, while the shadows of the trees formed a protective canopy over the carnage.

Ten miles away, Faith Whyte glanced up from her book to gaze across the lake. The summer sun shimmered on the still waters of Lough Leane, while in the distance two swans came in to land by the shores of Ross Castle. Killarney had been Faith’s home for more than twenty years, but she never grew tired of the spectacular views. She sighed contentedly. Not much had changed in the twenty years she’d lived in Killarney, and that’s what she loved most about the place. It was home. She loved the innate friendliness of the people, the way they looked you in the eye and took a genuine interest.

There wasn’t a cloud in the cerulean sky, while a gentle breeze kept the soaring temperatures from being uncomfortable. The early morning mist over Lough Leane had given way to a gentle heat haze. From her vantage point on the hilltop, she was far removed from the hustle and bustle of the tourists in the town below. Only the rattle of an occasional tractor broke the peaceful silence. It was a perfect day; a day she felt lucky to be alive. She closed her eyes and leaned back in the deckchair, basking in the heat. Life was good.

It was the hottest summer on record in Ireland. At first, the country embraced the soaring temperatures, renaming itself Costa del Ireland. The shops did a roaring trade in sunscreen and ice cream, but it didn’t take long for the novelty to wear off.

“Enjoying the sunshine?” asked Faith, turning to her friend in the deckchair beside her. She did her best to keep a straight face as she took in the comical sight of the other woman who was starting to resemble an overcooked lobster.

“Don’t mock the afflicted,” Angela huffed, pushing her strawberry blonde hair off her face. Petite and fine-boned, Angela was an attractive woman, but the heat didn’t agree with her porcelain complexion, no matter how much she tried to pretend otherwise. “It’s fine for you with your lovely sallow skin. You should have pity on us fair-skinned Irish. We can’t all be born with perfect Spanish genes.”

“I’m only a quarter Spanish,” Faith protested.

“Jaysus, you sound like a Yank now: I’m one quarter Irish, one quarter Spanish, and three quarters whatever,” said Angela, trying to imitate an American accent.

“I think you need to spend more time with the tourists,” said Faith, “your accent could do with some work. Besides, that’s five quarters.”

“Whatever,” Angela retaliated, “pass the baby oil.”

“Forget the baby oil. You should lash on the sunscreen.” Faith tossed a bottle of factor fifty at her.

“Fancy a glass of wine?” asked Angela, ignoring the sunscreen.

“I can’t; I’m on call.”

“It’s your day off.”

“I know, but I’ll stick to iced tea, just in case.”

“Good, more for me. Back in a sec.” Angela grinned and headed inside.

Moments later, she re-emerged with Faith’s mobile phone. “It’s Lady Macbeth,” she said, handing the phone to her. Faith glanced at the screen and rolled her eyes: Detective Chief Superintendent Victoria Thomas was on the line.

“Good afternoon, ma’am.”

“Good afternoon, Faith. Apologies for bothering you on your day off, but Area has called in a suspicious death. They’re requesting Serious Crime’s attendance.”

“No need to apologise, ma’am. I’m on it. Where was the incident?”

“In the forest, off the Black Valley Road. Let me know how you get on. Patrol has already been dispatched.”

“Thank you, ma’am.”

“Faith?”

“Yes, ma’am?”

“Good luck.”

I’ll need it
, Faith thought, picking up her book and heading inside. Angela was hovering inquisitively just inside the door.

“Sorry to cut our afternoon short, but I’ve gotta go; duty calls.”

“That’s a shame,” said Angela, “anything interesting?”

“Suspicious death.”

“Murder?” Her green eyes lit up.

“I won’t know ’til I get there, but don’t write anything in the paper yet.”

“Not a word, just let me be the first to know if it’s anything juicy, especially with this being your first case as Detective Chief Inspector. Are you nervous?”

“A little.” Faith pulled on her boots and quickly ran a brush through her long, black hair before tying it up in a ponytail. She grabbed her keys and badge from the hall table. “The old boys will be scrutinising me, hoping I mess up.”

“Don’t worry, you’ll be great.” Angela patted her shoulder. “You’ve earned it.”

“Thanks, girl. Stay as long as you like. I probably won’t be back until late.”

“Call me later with all the details. It’s about time I was leaving anyway; the kids will be expecting their dinner. Knock ’em dead, hon.”

 

 
***

Faith sped past Muckross House and Torc Waterfall into Killarney’s town centre, taking the same route that Patrol had
 driven, past Ross Castle and the cathedral, then up through the rocky, winding road of the Gap of Dunloe into the Black Valley. The stream of coaches carrying the end of season tourists made the roads even more arduous. She followed the bumpy forest track, which only the forest workers used, towards the crime scene, ignoring the sign that warned of the dangerous road ahead.

As she drove deeper into the forest, she was oblivious to the glimpses of the Kerry Mountains peeking
above the dense trees. Bog cotton and wild yellow irises blanketed the valley floor; wild red fuchsia, purple heather and bright yellow gorse lined the road and rocky outcrops. She didn’t pass another soul on her drive towards the crime scene.

Faith silently cursed her sat-nav as it led her up the wrong path yet again. Most of her team was at the crime scene by the time she finally parked her battered old Jeep behind the fire truck and ambulance, which had been first to arrive. Dozens of journalists and news crews were  trampling all over the parking area. Any tyre marks from a getaway vehicle would have been destroyed.

“I want the area secured within a one kilometre area,” Faith shouted
at the police officers who were putting tape around the immediate perimeter.

“Any comment?” A brave journalist shoved a microphone in her face.

“I’ll give you precisely one minute to pack up your crap and get the hell out of my sight before I arrest the lot of you,” she shouted. Camera lights flashed in her face, and she knew she’d be front page news by the morning. “Now,” she yelled.

“Alright, keep your hair on.” After a few muttered grumblings, the journalists cleared the area, satisfied in the knowledge that they had enough footage and photos.

“I would have expected better than this,” said Faith, turning to the nearest officer. “They could have contaminated vital evidence, trampling around here in their size elevens.”

“Sorry, boss.” The young officer paled and scurried away.

Faith sighed when she saw that Detective Inspector Greg Kelly had arrived before her. She knew he’d love every minute of his head-start. “What’s the situation?” she asked, getting straight to the point.

He wiped the sweat from his forehead, revealing damp patches under the arms of his grubby blue shirt. The warm weather didn’t agree with his portly shape. He glanced pointedly at his watch before replying. It was an effort for her not to punch him in the face. He was one of her biggest begrudgers, and he had no problem telling anyone who would listen that she’d only been promoted because the Chief Superintendent was a woman too. Many times, she’d wanted to tell him it took a lot more than favouritism to make it on the Serious Crime Team. If anything, the Super had made it more difficult for her because of her gender. “Good evening, Detective Chief Inspector,” he said, enunciating each syllable. He eyeballed her from head to toe, appreciating the curvy figure under the fitted white shirt and black jeans.

“‘Good afternoon, Detective.” She raised her eyebrows. “What’s the situation?” she repeated, trying not to turn up her nose at the overwhelming smell of old cigarette smoke that emanated from his clothes.

“Killer or killers are still at large. Two dead, one seriously injured. Forensics is on the way. The air ambulance has taken the only surviving victim to the hospital. I couldn’t get any information from her; she kept passing in and out of consciousness. She’s in a mess; serious head injuries.”

“Is that your professional opinion, Dr Kelly?” Faith mocked.

“Correction: she
seems
to have sustained serious head injuries, judging by the amount of blood and her lack of coherency.” He glared at her.

“Who called it in?”

“A local hiker; he found them.”

Faith nodded curtly at him before heading to the Mercedes. Nothing could have prepared her for the grisly sight. She approached the car, squinting through the windows at the outlines of the bodies in the gloomy shadows of the forest light. They weren’t dressed for a hike. It was too far off the main road to be popular among the regular tourists on their way around The Ring of Kerry. Hunters and hikers mostly used the spot where they had parked. She wondered why the family had driven off the main road to a place where there were limited views. It was a starting point, not a beauty spot, and certainly not a place where a young family would go.

The sweep of tyre marks seemed to be the victims’ only attempt at resistance. There was no sign of a getaway vehicle or an abandoned gun. The blood on the ground had already begun to dry in the humidity. Faith
struggled to control her emotions, but she had to pull herself together and get on with the job. She’d seen her fair share of serious crime, but never an entire family wiped out in one afternoon.

It was the end of the summer tourist season and the Black Valley was located less than ten miles from the bustling town of Killarney. Her thoughts raced with questions: what had happened? who had gunned down the family, and why? She had never seen such horror on her own doorstep.

Faith turned away from the car and went to speak with the hiker who was first on the scene. He was a lean man in his early fifties, with a shock of white hair. He sat in the ambulance, where a paramedic was treating him for shock. “Detective Chief Inspector Faith Whyte,” she introduced herself, flashing her badge.

“John Newman,” replied the ashen-faced man, holding out a shaky hand. He shivered, despite the heat of the day.

“Can you tell me what you saw?”

“Now may not be the best time, Detective,” said the paramedic.

“I’m fine, just a little shaken,” insisted John. He took a deep breath before continuing. “I was out for a hike. I like to come up here most Sundays during the summer when the weather is fine. There’s a pair of breeding eagles near here, and I’m an ornithologist, so they’re of huge interest to me. I never expected to come across this carnage; it’s like something from a Hollywood movie.”

“What did you see when you first approached the scene?” Faith prompted.

“I saw the car with its engine revving and the wheels spinning. Then I saw the girl. It was obvious that she was badly injured; she was covered in blood. Initially, I assumed it was a car accident.” He paused for a moment, still trying to comprehend the scene that had confronted him. “I’ve had some first-aid training, so I did my best to tend to the girl. Her breathing was shallow. She was lying on the ground, in front of the car’s spinning wheels, drifting in and out of consciousness. I did my best to keep her awake. I was reluctant to move her, but I was worried about the car lurching forward and running her over, so as carefully as I could, I put her in the recovery position away from the car. The smell of burning rubber was overwhelming, so my next priority was to switch off the engine, but the car doors were locked. I took off my boot and broke what was left of the shattered window. Once the engine was off, I checked the people in the car, but they were dead.”

He stopped and closed his eyes. “I tried to call an ambulance, but there’s no signal up here, so I decided to go for help. I felt awful leaving the girl, but she was badly injured and I didn’t want to risk aggravating any internal injuries. It was difficult leaving her; I have a daughter about the same age.

“I ran down the hill. I kept trying my phone, and luckily I got a signal a short distance away, where I called the emergency services.”

“Boss! Boss!” yelled Detective Kelly, running across the car park.

Faith had never seen him move so fast. “What is it?” she snapped.

“The hospital called. The girl mumbled something about her younger sister being in the car too.”

 

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