The Calling (DC Gary Goodhew Series #3)by Alison Bruce
Kaye Whiting went to buy a birthday present and didn't come back. When DC Goodhew hears the recording of the mysterious call made to the station, informing them that Kaye is still alive and that a man named Peter Walsh is responsbile, he knows it's more than a prank call. Why does Mr. Walsh not seem surprised to see Goodhew at his doorstep, and who is the
Kaye Whiting went to buy a birthday present and didn't come back. When DC Goodhew hears the recording of the mysterious call made to the station, informing them that Kaye is still alive and that a man named Peter Walsh is responsbile, he knows it's more than a prank call. Why does Mr. Walsh not seem surprised to see Goodhew at his doorstep, and who is the woman who goes to the same diner every day, just so she can watch Mr. Walsh walk out of his building with his new lover?
Bruce’s superior prose elevates this above many other contemporary British police procedurals.”—Publishers Weekly
“Goodhew stands alone. I'm looking forward to more of his investigations.”—Minneapolis Star-Tribune
“Smart, ambitious.... A pleasingly different police procedural.”—Kirkus Reviews
“[Bruce] develops complex characters and shows an admirable command of language.... Other Goodhew adventures are sure to follow.”—Gumshoe Review
Goodhew keeps the tale brisk especially in the latter half as he methodically follows every lead. Fans will enjoy his efforts to solve the complex case even as readers will try to beat him to the punch as Alison Bruce provides all the clues in plain sight.”—Harriet Klausner, Genre-Go-Round Reviews
An insurance agent with a penchant for blondes offers a peculiar puzzle for DC Gary Goodhew (The Siren, 2010, etc.).
The Cambridge CID has its problems. DC Michael Kincaide is jealous of Gary Goodhew, who enjoys both unexplained wealth and the favor of their boss, DI Marks. Kincaide would love to undermine his rival's search for the missing Kaye Whiting, who never showed up at her grandmother's birthday party. But arresting her uncle, Andrew Burrows, for her murder when Kaye inevitably turns up dead is a nonstarter. Goodhew has his own theory, based on an anonymous call advising the police to look at Peter Walsh, who works for Dunwold Insurance. What to look at is the question. Walsh seems to have had a string of unsuccessful relationships with women, including needy Paulette, receptionist Donna and real estate agent Fiona, all of whom look just a little bit like slender, blonde Kaye. The bond between the dead woman and Walsh's live lovers eludes Goodhew until WPC Sue Gully helps him link the crime to a string of bodies found, like Kaye's, bound and gagged in the open air—and until he connects a waiflike figure he sees outside Walsh's house to a mysterious blonde who drinks coffee day after day at The Flying Pig.
The third of Goodhew's adventures to be published was actually written first, and bears all the false starts and loose ends of a trial run.
Read an Excerpt
MONDAY, 24 AUGUST 2009
My counsellor says I should keep a journal of my dreams.
What does she know?
I need far more help than she can give me.
Blood bubbled through the scored skin, swelling and dripping.
Swelling and dripping. Slipping into a languid crawl before diluting across the damp enamel, and finally plunging into the water. Each droplet billowed and unfurled in delicate ribbons before vanishing,
dispersing in the bath where she lay. She watched her wrists bleed.
Strange how peaceful it is, she thought, and sank deeper beneath the silky bubbles.
The drifting steam swirled above her, entwining the scents of jasmine foam and rose soap. She slid her head below the water, her hair floating around her shoulders, shining in the wetness. She no longer felt like hacking it off. Glad that she hadn’t.
She closed her eyes, content to hear the muffled music from the radio in the hall, and the muted rain against the window. Thoughts drifted in and out, along with her breathing.
She looked down along the plane of her outstretched body.
Imagine being beautiful. Imagine being the centre of the world. She wished she were someone else.
She sighed and closed her eyes again.
He groped for the handle of the back door, located it and held it tight to stop it rattling.
He peeked into the house. No sign of her; if she was there at all,
she hadn’t heard him.
He turned it slowly, holding it tight keep it quiet. It was unlocked,
providing an open invite for anyone.
No surprise there, though.
He stepped inside and paused, listening. Music trickled down to him.
He flicked the light switch and the fluorescent tube jolted into life,
reflecting a bright strip of light from the stainless-steel draining board and glinting from the chrome-edged cupboards.
The surfaces lay bare, apart from the bunch of keys and a screwed-up, tear-sodden tissue marooned together on top of the low fridge.
He walked the length of the hall.He stopped at the foot of the stairs.
She stirred just enough to twist the hot tap with her foot. The fresh water rippled into the old, and warmed her.
She shut off the tap again and dozed.
And, floating away, she saw someone else with fair hair and blue eyes. Tired, scared, bewildered blue eyes. Who was it? She couldn’t see. A girl? A boy?
Someone in the woods with fair hair, fair skin and blue eyes.
She saw more: a pretty girl with a dirty face, tied against a tree.
Like me, but pretty, she thought.
He heard the running water and drew a deep breath, as if to smell her.
He grabbed the handrail, propelling himself towards the bathroom.
Step by step. Quick and quiet.
He tilted his head close to the door, resting his temple against the frame.
Was she alone?
He waited and listened. No voices, but that didn’t mean anything.
He stroked the satin paint along the doorframe. No whispers or giggles. Perhaps she really was alone.
Alone with her precious fucking radio.
He grabbed the door handle and tried to open the door. Locked.
Her eyes flashed open at the first crack. The wood ripped apart and the door splintered open.
Her hands shot under the water, hiding her damaged wrists.
Dark, clotted blood trails streaked in their wake.
He lunged forward, shouting words she couldn’t understand.
‘Don’t hurt me,’ she gasped, as she cowered naked and defenceless in the tepid bath.
‘What the fuck is going on in your head?’
She couldn’t reply. She stared at him, wide-eyed and shaking, and began to cry.
Between her sobs she caught the words, ‘Mad bitch’.
‘Answer me,’ he roared.
She shook her head, unable to speak.
She wanted him to stop shouting. To stop hating her.
She began screaming.
The flat of his hand hit her full across the left cheek and the skin reddened into hot, stinging blotches. Her hysteria subsided.
‘I-can’t-stand-you-any-more.’ He spoke each syllable with cold deliberation. ‘You’re like a leech, clinging and sucking me dry. Just being near you revolts me.’
Somehow his words mesmerized her. He hated her; she could see it clearly in those narrowed eyes and the way his mouth twisted as he spat out the words.
‘Why do you bang on and on until I lose my temper? Until you make me snap? And now look at you.’ He gestured as if waving her away in disgust.
He turned and reached out beyond the broken door, grabbing the radio from the hall table. He shook it at her ‘If you were so fucking suicidal, you wouldn’t be lying there listening to this.’
Her brain reacted slowly. She only realized how the radio was attached to a cable, the cable to a plug, the plug to an electric socket,
as he tossed the whole lot towards the water.
And then it tumbled in the air.
In slow motion, according to her addled mind.
And then she woke.
SATURDAY, 26 MARCH 2011
Margaret Whiting wanted to cry: anger and frustration had bitten into her, and it clawed at the back of her neck. She wanted the tears to come, she’d wanted to sob out loud and hear her own voice,
without having it shouted down by her husband or her son.
She’d stood in her kitchen, sorting washing and tossing each item on to the correct colour pile with an angry flick of her wrist. She separated her clothes from theirs, thinking theirs weren’t fit to share the same wash. She knew she couldn’t cry, so she had shouted, and
Mike had then said she was hysterical and was the cause of all the upset in the family.
Oh, yes, she’d thought, our gloriously happy family! Her son was a liar and her husband a hypocrite, and yet she was supposed to be happy.
Just this morning had been the start of it.
The day had begun the same as always, a four hour shift at Histon
Road service station watching the very same people fill the same cars with petrol, or buy their cigarettes and bread and milk – that had been the start of it. Each time the till had rolled open, Margaret looked down at the twenty-pound notes and the Queen looked back.
And each time Margaret felt the Queen was looking a little more smug. Everyone had money except her, it seemed.
The clock on the cigarette counter had been nudging five past eleven as Lindsay arrived. Late again. ‘Morning, Margaret. How are you?’
‘Fine. How are the kids?’ Margaret had replied, because that was the routine.
And so it had gone on. ‘Another day the same as every other bloody day,’ she’d eventually complained. ‘Do you know what,
Lindsay? Every single day of my bloody life is spent worrying about pennies and watching everyone else spend money like there’s no tomorrow. I could never spend what they spend on fuel without feeling bad about it.’ Margaret had felt a surge of bravado even as she said it. If only she could talk like this to her husband Mike.
‘Lindsay, do you ever feel nosey?’ she’d asked.
‘Oh, yes.’ The other woman had grinned. ‘All the time!’
‘What, with Craig?’
‘Oh, suspicious you mean?’ Lindsay then shrugged. ‘Not really.
Just the odd minute of winding myself up, but that’s about all.
You’re not worried, are you? About Mike, I mean.’
Margaret had lowered her voice to a conspiratorial whisper,
determined now to spice up her day. ‘Well . . .’ She’d paused, and added to the drama with a wary glance around the empty shop. ‘The other day I was putting his socks away and I suddenly had the urge to check his pockets.’ Margaret lowered her voice further. ‘I didn’t do that, of course, but then I even thought about checking the numbers he’d called recently on his mobile phone.’
‘What, you mean you didn’t find anything or you didn’t check?’
‘Of course I didn’t check.’
Lindsay had shaken her head. ‘That’s not because of suspicion.
‘Oh, I thought it was intuition.’
‘Intuition, my arse. You’re obviously spending too much time putting his socks straight, but don’t let your imagination get the better of you. My mum says the devil makes work for idle brain cells. You need to spend some money on yourself. Be reckless,
Mags, and buy a whole new outfit for your mum’s party. That’ll make him sit up and think.’
‘Damn.’ Margaret winced, then. ‘I should’ve cancelled the hairdressers.’
‘Oh, no, it’s not off, is it? I’m here all afternoon just so you can go.’
‘No, no, it’s fine.’ Margaret had frowned. ‘I mean it’s not really a waste, but there’s so much to do for dinner tonight, I need the afternoon to prepare.’
‘I thought you said you’d done it all – and frozen it?’
Margaret then nodded, realizing she wasn’t good at lies, even little white ones. ‘There’s still some more to do but, to be honest, Mike and I had a row about money. And it’s true, we do need to be a bit careful.’
Lindsay had bent to pick up a Penguin wrapper, straightened it out and dropped it into the bin before she spoke. ‘Mags, it’s not my business but it is just a tint you’re getting, not major cosmetic surgery, and it’ll cost you less then most people spend on fags in a week. On top of that, you’ve been looking forward to your mum’s birthday for ages, and you’ve done all the hard work for it, too.
Don’t you think you deserve to treat yourself?’
‘Obviously not,’ muttered Margaret. She gripped the Daz Ultra bottle too tightly, as she tried to fill the dosing ball, so some of the liquid slopped on to the lino. She picked Mike’s favourite shirt out of his washing pile and began to scrub the spillage with exaggerated vigour. ‘But people don’t get what they deserve, do they?’ she continued to grumble mainly to herself.
She’d later gone to her hairdresser’s appointment in a surge of rebellion, only to be told that her girl, Nicky, had rung in sick. ‘I’m sorry, Mrs Whiting. I’m sorry, Mrs Whiting,’ she’d mimicked their whining excuses to herself, surprisingly disappointed at missing an appointment that she’d planned to cancel anyway.
So she’d instead splashed the twenty-five pounds on a discounted polycotton blouse that she didn’t like much. She then decided not to tell Mike because as far as he was concerned, she would have missed her haircut and he deserved to think that she’d ended up with in return was more housework.
Housework instead of a haircut?
Margaret had seethed with resentment all the way home on the bus. Mike himself would never catch a bus. She felt her anger surge again, reflecting that there had been a distinct pecking order since their girls had left home. Mike being number one, Steve as the heir apparent, and then Margaret herself coming last.
She always came last.
The bus stopped two hundred yards from her house and, as she walked towards the empty driveway, she started on a mental list of jobs to do before Mike’s return from work. Ironing, she decided;
check the food for the dinner party, load the washing machine and change the sheets.’
Steve’s motorbike stood beside the garage, which meant he hadn’t spent the day out job-hunting then. I’ll get my hair done as soon as he gets a job, she promised herself.
She knew school leavers now had to wait for the right opening.
Mike and Steve had explained that often enough. Almost as many times as she’d stood in front of the mirror and practised saying
‘Steve, I’d like you to help with some housework’.
Margaret let herself in through the back door and stepped directly into the kitchen. ‘Hello,’ she called as she held the jug kettle under the tap, filling it for some tea.
There was no reply, though she could hear the television. He’d probably heard her, but that’s the way it was with him sometimes.
‘Kids!’ she tutted and opened the hatch to speak.
Shock choked her at the sight, and she tried to draw a breath,
willing herself to unsee it. She recoiled, folding closed the hatch doors and sealing herself away from the scene. She kept retreating,
out of the back door, then away from the house.
She ducked into the bus shelter and perched on one of its plastic seats. She shivered and tried to tell herself that she’d made a mistake.
But she’d seen him, Steve her son, lying flaked out on the settee,
dead to the world, with his outstretched hand resting on top of an empty bottle of Thunderbird, which stood on the carpet beside him.
She looked back towards her house and her top lip began to twitch as disgust dug deeper. ‘In our home!’
Steve had fallen asleep watching a video. He often watched videos. But now she knew what.
Steve hadn’t even stirred, and for a few seconds Margaret had watched.
The screen was filled with a woman’s face, her head tilted back,
gleaming with sweat, as her tongue ran slowly along the line of her upper teeth, moistening her cherry-red lips. The camera then slid down her body, following her fingers as they traced her skin down to her breasts. Her nipples, pinched erect by small gold clamps connected by a chunkier chain, were already being massaged. As the camera panned back, a second naked girl guzzled greedily between the splayed legs of the first . . .
That’s when Margaret’s reflexes had sent her cannoning out of the kitchen.
She now realized that her breath was coming in short bursts, and forced herself to slow her inhalations. After a few moments the hot flush of embarrassment also faded from her cheeks.
Mike would deal with it. He was a good man who hated vice and sloth and wasted money. She turned to watch the far end of the road, where it joined the main street and where she would spot him coming home. Every minute seemed like an hour, and she began to worry that Steve would awaken and hide the video before Mike caught him.
But Steve was oblivious to most things, certainly to the pasing of time, and so Steve didn’t hear his dad come home. It was only when his father’s weight beside him made the settee groan that Steve knew he wasn’t alone.
Then he remembered the video.
In the second between checking the screen and his father’s face,
he snatched for an excuse – something his father would understand.
But in an instant he knew his father did understand. More than that he seemed to be looking at Steve with a kind of respect. Steve tentatively tried a laddish smirk. Afterwards he realized that he had the Thunderbird to thank for such bravado, but still felt more of a man anyway.
‘I’m getting to be a bit of a film buff actually, Dad’. He laughed and knew his voice sounded tight with nervousness.
He needn’t have worried, because his dad was suddenly a teenager again, ‘I’m a film buff too, son. Don’t you worry, nothing wrong with it at all.’ He then winked, and held the Thunderbird bottle up to the light, hoping for some leftovers. ‘Better in the flesh, of course,
especially with the ones your age.’
‘Don’t worry, Dad. I have done it before.’
‘Yeah, but don’t tell your mother!’ And they both laughed then as though it was a long-standing joke instead of a newly shared confidence.
Margaret witnessed all of this from her position behind the hatch.
With a restraint that seemed to make her move in slow motion, she pushed open further the hatch doors.
‘Tea anyone?’ Her voice shook slightly as she spoke. And that’s the picture that became frozen in her memory: Mike and Steve looking at her stunned in front of a video of two stunning blondes in patent leather boots, mauling one another on a leather couch.
Margaret finally finished with the laundry pile just as her rage reached its peak. She was alone in the house, so no one heard her.
‘Why today?’ she yelled. She had looked forward to today: her mother’s birthday; a family gathering; a social event shared with
‘Bastards,’ she screamed, ‘how could you?’ She threw the lid of the Aladdin’s basket at the wall, then kicked the basket itself on to its side. ‘Bastards!’ she screamed again and again, until at last the tears came and burnt hot trails down her cheeks. She collapsed on to the washing piles, sobbing and cursing herself.
Count your blessings, Margaret, she reproached herself. Her mother still loved her – and Michelle and Kaye would never let her down like this. Why had she bothered to have three kids when the two girls would have been enough? She’d have been better with those two: they didn’t humiliate her like this. She drew a shuddering breath, aware she wanted to ring them, pour out her pain to them.
She clambered to her feet.
They probably weren’t at home, anyway, and she’d be seeing them later, at her mother’s.
She re-boiled the kettle, and eventually did what she always did:
she acted as though nothing had happened.
The sheets were clean and Michelle Whiting had even ironed them.
She’d changed the bed to fresh linen especially for this. She could feel the smoothness of stretched brushed cotton under her hands and knees.
It was weird doing it this way, as she couldn’t see Carl’s face; they couldn’t even kiss. His hands gripped her hips and he kept digging his fingers into her flesh, so she could feel little bruises forming against her bones. Her hair dangled over her eyes, so the ends of it swayed just above the pillow. She wondered whether she should have a trim soon, since they looked a bit straggly.
‘Don’t sag,’ he grunted. But her arms were aching from supporting her own weight and Carl’s, too, as he leant heavily upon her.
‘Sorry’ she mumbled and arched her back, pushing herself up against him. Her mind kept wandering. This is meant to be a turn-on she reminded herself. But it just wasn’t as sexy as she’d thought it would be. Tedious was the word that sprang to mind. The first time they’d tried it this way had been on the carpet, and the grazes on her knees had only just healed. At least this wasn’t quite so uncomfortable.
‘This is so good,’ she gasped.
‘I’ve never known it so good, Carl. Have you?’
‘No, no,’ he panted. I can’t get enough.’
Michelle smiled, knowing Carl was totally devoted to her, and if keeping him happy meant some of this discomfort, well, that was fine. She loved having his total attention.
His fingers suddenly released her hips and he leant forward,
pushing himself more deeply into her. The palm of his left hand slapped against the wall as he used it to support his weight.
His thrusting became urgent and the fingers of his right hand grasped her long hair, twisting it tightly close to the scalp. His knuckles ground against the top of her head and her neck ached as it was twisted at an awkward angle.
But she didn’t complain, instead waiting for the moment when they collapsed in a heap and would cuddle up. She hoped it wouldn’t take long now.
Carl wasn’t thinking about Michelle’s discomfort.
He wasn’t even thinking about Michelle at all.
He’d started out with one of his usual fantasies: how he wasn’t a lowly van driver but a powerful tycoon, and that she was his secretary paid to do whatever he chose.
But everything felt different today, and those thoughts weren’t enough to stemhis frustration. So this time he had turned her over and hauled her up on to her hands and knees.Because he didn’t want to see her face. He didn’t want to be reminded that she was Kaye’s sister.
Kaye, the elder and more serious sister. The more everything in his opinion.
Kaye, the one he really wanted.
But, before he could stop it, she was there in his head. She pulled off her T-shirt and shimmered in front of him, pale and inviting. She drew him towards her but, even in his fantasy, he knew that she’d never let him touch her.
Because of his association with Michelle? Or because he wasn’t good enough? Or both?
The word bitch filled his head and, as he tugged at Michelle’s hair and became more frenzied, it pounded like a chant in rhythm with his body. Bitch, bitch, bitch.
For Carl, climax and satisfaction were not the same. Suddenly he didn’t want to touch either of the sisters.
So Michelle now waited for a token of affection that Carl didn’t feel like giving. He didn’t even kiss her, just pulled his sweatshirt and jeans back on and said he wanted a coffee.
Michelle straightened her bed as the kettle boiled. He hadn’t even noticed the fresh sheets.
Meet the Author
Alison Bruce was born in Surrey but moved to Cambridge in 1998. She is the author of two other Gary Goodhew books, Cambridge Blue and The Siren. She is married with two small children.
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