Detective Inspector Sep Black finds himself investigating two connected cold cases in the second of this exhilarating series of hard-hitting police procedurals.
When a wealthy businessman suffers a fatal fall from his office window, the forensic evidence points to murder. But with no suspects, no clues and no apparent motive, the police investigation stalls. It’s passed over to the Cold Case Unit where it remains on file, inactive until further evidence emerges.
Some months later, an attractive widow approaches DI Sep Black with a request that he look into the murder of her husband. Freelance journalist James Boswell had been working on a major story – and his widow Sandra believes it had something to do with his death. What did Boswell discover that got him killed?
As he starts to ask questions, Black uncovers a possible connection between the two murders. But before he can find out more, an almost-successful attempt on his life reveals that someone is determined to stop him finding out the truth – whatever it takes.
About the Author
Ken McCoy was born in wartime Leeds and has lived in Yorkshire all his life. Having run his own building company for 25 years, he is now a full-time writer. As well as several historical sagas, he is the author of the Sam Carew crime series and one previous Sep Black thriller.
Read an Excerpt
Detective Inspector Sep Black found himself confronted by three known felons. Known to him, because at some time in their past he'd arrested all three of them, albeit separately and now they were all out of prison and together and bearing deep grudges against him.
They were outside a pub he'd just left, trying to track down a man he'd been looking for in connection with a cold case he was working on. He'd had a call from a reliable snout to say the man was in there, but the information was wrong, which had puzzled him as his snout was usually most reliable. But it was a puzzle no longer. It would appear that the snout had been 'got at' and he was worrying that his snout, Gerry Beddows, was still in one piece. Gerry was by no means a young man, nor was he much of a fighter or fast on his feet, but Sep's major worry was that Gerry would come out of this all right. He was both of the things that his snout wasn't, but Sep was also just one man.
He was in a pub car park, which was deserted because it wasn't exactly a popular pub. Deserted to the extent that whatever happened here wouldn't be seen by any witnesses. All three of these men could be classified as thugs. All three were wearing knuckledusters, a weapon Sep wouldn't have minded having right now. His ideal plan of action would be to run. He who fights and runs away may live to fight another day and all that. But turning and running was out of the question because he was surrounded. One in front, one behind and one over to his right. All he could do was his best, which was usually considerable. He did a 360 turn to assess them all and, knowing them all of old, he decided that the one on the right would be the easiest to take, but he would need to take him before the other two joined in. Speed was essential here. Without actually looking to his right he shifted in that direction with his eyes on the man in front of him until he was no more than three yards away from his target. Then he spun around, took two strides, brushed aside a wild punch aimed at his head and in one twisting movement, took the man in an armlock, broke his arm, and pulled the duster from the man's fist. Then he backed away from the other two who had advanced, warily, having been reminded of just what he could do and knowing that he also was armed with a knuckleduster. Sep was the biggest man there and the toughest and the one filled with the most rage. It was a rage fuelled by the certainty that these men had come to kill him and they had probably already killed old Gerry Beddows.
The injured man was staggering around, out of action and howling with the pain of a badly broken arm. Sep scowled impatiently and shouted at him over his shoulder, 'Stay down there and don't get up, you whining bastard!' The other two had experienced the rough end of his ire before and neither of them wanted to be the target of his next attack. His violent rage, plus the casual way he had disabled their crony, had them on their guard.
Once again Sep assessed the situation. If they had any sense they'd both move in on him at once, launching a two-pronged attack from opposite sides, but it would appear these men had other ideas. One was tall and not as stocky as the other. Sep thought he'd leave him until the last, but the tall one came for him first. Sep closed the gap between them with one long stride and, ducking under the thug's first blow, landed a heavy blow himself with his right fist, on which he now wore the knuckleduster. It took the man on his left cheek and knocked him onto his back with a broken cheekbone. The third man was now right behind him and he jumped on Sep's broad back trying to take him in a headlock. Sep dislodged one of the man's fingers and bent it back far enough to snap it. This caused the man to lose his grip to attend to the acute pain in his broken finger, as the second man tried to get to his feet only to be met by Sep's boot in his face, slamming him back to the ground, unconscious. Sep now surveyed the damage he'd done. The two conscious men with broken bones were hurrying to a car, so he ran after them and thumped them both in the backs of their heads with his knuckle-dustered fist. Both went down. Sep dragged the unconscious one over to join his two companions 'Stay down, boys,' he told them. 'Anyone tries to get up, they'll get the toe of my boot in the teeth and these boots have got steel toecaps.'
Sep allowed his fury to simmer. It had been part genuine, part theatrical, but it had served its purpose into making them believe they'd been dealing with a dangerous madman. He took out his mobile and rang the station. 'This is DI Black. I need a van to the Ostler's Arms car park to pick up three customers and I want it right now!'
Sep followed the van to the station, went inside and asked the desk sergeant, 'Has there been a report of a man being attacked in the last few hours? Small man, about seventy.'
'We've had a report of a man's body being found, sir.'
'Erm, hang on ... five feet six, old feller. They have a name for him. He had a driver's license.'
'Gerald Beddows,' guessed Sep, hoping he was wrong. His hopes were dashed.
'That's him. Did you know him, sir?'
'Yes, I did. In that case, the three who've just come in are the main suspects in his murder. They might need a bit of medical attention. If they have to go to hospital they need to be under twenty-four-hour guard.'
Sep went through to Detective Superintendent Ibbotson's office – the CID boss.
'Afternoon, Sep. What's Cold Case doing in here?'
'I've just brought in three men who attacked me in the course of an investigation and I've good reason to believe they killed my informant, Gerry Beddows, who was found dead earlier. I'm very upset about that, sir.'
'Yes, I know about the Beddows killing. Didn't know he was your informant. We'll try and make a DNA connection with the people you brought in. Thanks for what you did, but I think you need to get over to your own people in Cold Case before Jane Hawkins accuses me of poaching you.'
'Just keeping you informed, sir.'
'Before you go, Sep, these men you brought in. They attacked you, did they?'
'They tried to, sir. Old customers of mine when I worked with your lot. I think they had it planned and I think they made Gerry Beddows set me up with a false lead; after which I'm guessing they killed him, sir, which is what I think they intended for me.'
'Will they need any medical attention?'
'They will, sir. They were quite violent.'
'I'd best get an ambulance over here.'
'Any luck at the Ostler's?' enquired Detective Superintendent Jane Hawkins.
'Only bad luck. My snout had been got at by three of my old customers, It was a set-up, ma'am. I managed to bring all three of them in to the station. They're in custody now. My snout was found dead.'
'What? Old Gerry Beddows ... oh no!'
'I'm afraid so, ma'am.'
'Well, I think I'd better tell CID that I want a word with those three scrotes myself before they get at them. You'd better sit in with me. If they went to such trouble to set you up, they must know something about the case you're working on.'
'Maybe, maybe not, ma'am. Personally, I think I just walked on their patch, they saw me and decided to take advantage of the situation.'
'Your reputation has you treading a very dangerous path, DI Black. Are they all in one piece?'
'More or less.'
'Well they'll be stuck with less till I've had a word with them. I expect forensics and DNA will put them bang to rights for Gerry's murder so they won't have much to lose by coming clean.'
'They're all in a bit of pain, ma'am, and villains tend to be not so stubborn when they're in pain.'
'Sounds like you roughed them up a bit.'
'I broke one or two bones that's all.'
'And you're OK? No injuries?'
'None at all, no.'
'Good. I'll tell them how lucky they all are to have found you in a good mood. Did you get any further with your case?'
'I didn't, ma'am.'
James Boswell double-checked the name of the Grimshawe Hotel. Yes, this was the right place – more of a downmarket workman's lodging house, unworthy of the label 'hotel', he reckoned. Maybe it had been a hotel a hundred years ago when the district had been a habitat for professional people who had brass plates outside their doors advertising that they were doctors, lawyers, dentists and architects, but the last of the professionals had moved on sixty or more years ago when the district began its descent into decrepitude. Leeds was a big and booming city with huge, modern developments ongoing in the city centre but none in the district where the Grimshawe Hotel was located. This was a building that had been well-named. James wasn't surprised that the classy woman whom he was to meet in there had chosen such a dump. He knew her reason, but it was even more of a dump than he'd anticipated.
The reception at the Grimshawe was a serving hatch in a wall that might have once led to a kitchen in days gone by. There was a brass bell which he banged with his palm a couple of times to summon the attention of whoever was going to book him in. He looked about him and gave a sigh. Was this really the right place? No way would this woman set foot in a dump like this. She said she had information that would be invaluable to him. He must have got it wrong, but how? It was her choice, not his. Or did this dump have some connection with her information? Yeah, what else could it be? An old woman appeared in the hatch. The cigarette she was smoking was down to its last half-inch with a good inch of ash still attached. She looked to be in her late nineties and not ageing well. Her manner was belligerent, albeit tempered by her voice being little more than a croak.
'I booked a room. The name's Boswell.'
She looked down at a ledger that was open in front of her and squinted at it. The ash dropped off her cigarette as she wiped her nose with an elaborate sweep of a forefinger and put on her glasses to take a closer look.
'That'll be twenny quid.'
'I've already paid by card over the phone.'
'Card, eh? We don't get much o' that bollocks. It weren't me yer paid. I wouldn't know how ter do it.'
'Yes, I did it yesterday evening. It was a man I spoke to.'
'That's why it weren't me. I'm only on till six. Anyroad, yer woman's already up there, waitin' for yer. Just one night, is it?'
'Just an hour or so, maybe less.'
'Quick shag, on yer way 'ome ter the wife, eh? Yer dirty bastard!'
The hotel was matched in class by its receptionist.
'No, it's not —'
He gave up on his protest. Why should he worry what she thought?
'Well, it's still twenny quid. It's upstairs, room 7 and don't make too much bleedin' noise. It's right above here. I'll be able to hear every squeak o' the soddin' mattress.'
He went up the stairs which had been carpeted sometime in the dim and distant past, probably around the time it had last been cleaned. Cobwebs, dust and dirt abounded. He passed a man coming down, followed by a woman who was cursing him for not paying for some extra service she'd rendered. She paused and called back to James.
'Are yer lookin' fer business, darlin'?'
'Er, no, thank you.'
James got to the top of the stairs which led to a dimly lit corridor with a single strip of jaded carpet running down the middle. He came to room 7, knocked and pushed the door open. The woman was standing at the window, smoking and looking out, with her back to him. It was her all right. From the back she looked well-groomed and elegant, with glossy black hair down to the shoulders of her expensive-looking coat. It wasn't her normal colour hair, probably a wig. He knew that and he knew she'd be totally out of her comfort zone in this place. But it had been her choice, not his. For the purpose of this subterfuge she was calling herself Winona. Shabby meeting place, wig and a false name? James thought she was overdoing the secrecy bit.
'Hi,' was the last word he'd ever say.
The woman didn't turn or respond. She just continued looking out of the window at the dingy street beyond and smoked her cigarette. She winced at the sound of a blow to the back of his head striking James to the floor, unconscious. Two more blows killed him. Winona and James's assailant left immediately, with Winona sparing James a brief but troubled glance. The old woman in the reception area was aware of them leaving but she hadn't got her glasses on so she wasn't entirely sure who it was. She put them on only to look out of the window and was fairly certain it was the woman who'd only arrived a few minutes ago. She shook her head. Strange goings on in this bloody place, still, it wasn't her job to worry too much. People leaving were of no interest to her, they will have already paid their dues on arriving. Her grandson paid her well enough to go to the bingo three nights a week and the pub four nights. He also gave her a roof over her head free of charge.
Unfortunately, this was the roof.
Black Horse Hotel, Leeds, July 2015
Sandra Boswell had been directed there by Winnie O'Toole, Sep's lady friend. He was sitting outside, enjoying a pint and reading his paper. He was a big man, ex-special forces with both a Military Medal and an MA in English Language and Literature. A rare combination in any man.
He said it with a polite smile as she was pretty enough to distract his attention away from his newspaper. Her long dark hair was blowing in the breeze and the wind did the casual style of it no harm at all. It was a style seemingly designed for such weather. She held it away from her face as she looked at him.
'I'm thinking you're Mr Septimus Black.'
'That's good thinking.'
'Winnie O'Toole told me I'd find you here. Not many men would fit the description she gave me of you.'
'Did she now?'
'Yes. I'm hoping you can help me.'
'In what way?'
'I'm told you do private detective work.'
'I'm actually Detective Inspector Black. I've been back on the police force quite some time now.'
'Is this something a proper copper couldn't handle?'
'It's something a proper copper failed to handle.'
'What sort of case is it?'
'It's a murder case. I'm told you do murder cases.'
'Murder? Well, yes. It's usually us police who deal with murders.'
'The police gave up on it almost before they started.'
'Are we talking about the local police? By local I mean around here.'
'It happened about a mile from here. The Grimshawe Hotel.'
'That wouldn't be a Detective Chief Inspector Wood by any chance?'
'It would, yes.'
'In that case, sit down,' he said, then he got to his feet. 'What can I get you?'
'Just a glass of orange juice, please.'
Sep returned with the orange juice and sat down opposite his visitor. 'OK, tell me what you've heard about me.'
'Well, I know you're ex-army and you're as tough as you look.'
'Winnie told you all that, did she?'
'Not all of it, you were in the papers a lot last year with that child abduction case which you solved while under suspension from the police.'
'I wasn't suspended. I was sacked.'
'But you proved to the police that you were better than the lot of them, which is what I'm looking for.'
'Tell me who you are and all about this murder.'
'My name is Sandra Boswell and it's not just the murder, it's the circumstances I need to clear up.'
'Who was murdered?'
'My husband, James Boswell.'
'Right ... Oh, sorry to hear that. Hang on, James Boswell? I read about that. A few months ago wasn't it?'
'Four months ago. March the twelfth to be exact. And if you heard about it, I imagine you heard he'd been meeting a prostitute in a sleazy hotel – a knocking shop to put it crudely.'
'The name rings a bell – James Boswell.'
'The famous James Boswell was a writer.'
'Of course. He wrote a book about Samuel Johnson.'
'Hmm, Winnie mentioned you were a man of letters.'
'That's not how I'd describe myself. I had to read Boswell's book about Johnson for my degree.'
'Anyway,' said Sandra, 'what I was saying about the prostitute is what bothers me. That just wasn't my James. He'd never go with a prostitute, especially in a horrible dive like where he was found. He was a good man.'
'I'm sure he was,' said Sep, who now felt he knew enough about this woman to know she would never settle for anything less than a good man.
'He was a freelance journalist,' said Sandra 'although he did a lot of work for just one or two newspapers. He was working on a story when he was killed.'
'And you think the story was why he was killed?'
Excerpted from "A Long Way Down"
Copyright © 2017 Ken McCoy.
Excerpted by permission of Severn House Publishers Limited.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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