Now in Grove Press paperback for the first time, Birdman showcases Hayder at her spine-tingling best as beloved series character Jack Caffery tracks down a terrifying serial killer.
In his first case as lead investigator with London’s crack murder squad, Detective Inspector Jack Caffery is called on to investigate the murder of a young woman whose body has been discovered near the Millennium Dome in Greenwich, south-east London. Brutalized, mutilated beyond recognition, the victim is soon joined by four others discovered in the same areaall female and all ritualistically murdered. And when the post-mortem examination reveals a gruesome signature connecting the victims, Caffery realizes exactly what he’s dealing witha dangerous serial killer.
Read an Excerpt
NORTH GREENWICH. Late May. Three hours before sunup and the river was deserted. Dark barges strained upstream on their moorings and a spring tide gently nosed small sloops free of the sludge they slept in. A mist lifted from the water, rolling inland, past unlit chandlers, over the deserted Millennium Dome and on across lonely wastelands, strange, lunar landscapes — until it settled, a quarter of a mile inland amongst the ghostly machinery of a half-derelict construction yard.
A sudden sweep of headlights — a police vehicle swung into the service route, blue lights flashing silently. It was joined moments later by a second and a third. Over the next twenty minutes more police converged on the yard — eight marked area cars, two plain Ford Sierras and the white transit van of the forensic camera team. A roadblock was placed at the head of the service route and local uniform were detailed to seal off riverside access. The first attending CID officer got onto Croydon exchange, asking for pager numbers for the Area Major Investigation Pool and, five miles away, Detective Inspector Jack Caffery, AMIP team B, was woken in his bed.
He lay blinking in the dark, collecting his thoughts, fighting the impulse to tilt back into sleep. Then, taking a deep breath, he made the effort — rolled out of bed and went into the bathroom, splashing water onto his face — no more Glenmorangies in standby week, Jack, swear it now, swear it — and dressed — not too hurried, better to arrive fully awake and composed — now the tie, something understated — CID don't like us looking flashier than them. The pager, and coffee, lots of instant coffee — with sugar but not milk, no milk — and above all, don't eat, you just never know what you're going to have to look at — drank two cups, found car keys in the pocket of his jeans and, bolted awake now on caffeine, a roll-up between his teeth, drove through the deserted streets of Greenwich to the crime scene, where his superior, Detective Superintendent Steve Maddox, a small, prematurely gray man, immaculate as always in a stone-brown suit, waited for him outside the construction yard — pacing under a solitary streetlight, spinning car keys and chewing his lip.
He saw Jack's car pull up, crossed to him, put an elbow on the roof, leaned through the open window and said: "I hope you haven't just eaten."
Caffery dragged on the handbrake. He pulled cigarettes and tobacco from the dashboard. "Great. Just what I was hoping to hear."
"This one's well past its sell-by." He stepped back as Jack climbed out of the car. "Female, partly buried. Bang in the middle of the wasteland."
"Been in, have you?"
"No, no. Divisional CID briefed me. And, um —" He glanced over his shoulder to where the local CID officers stood in a huddle. When he turned back his voice was low. "There's been an autopsy on her. The old Y zipper."
Jack paused, his hand on the car door. "An autopsy?"
"Then it's probably gone walkabout from a path lab."
"I know —"
"A med student prank —"
"I know, I know." Maddox held hands up, stalling him. "It's not really our territory, but look —" He checked over his shoulder again and leaned in closer. "Look, they're pretty good with us usually, Greenwich CID. Let's humor them. It won't kill us to have a quick look. Okay?"
"Good. Now." He straightened up. "Now you. How about you? Reckon you're ready?"
"Shit, no." Caffery slammed the door, pulled his warrant card from his pocket and shrugged. "Of course I'm not ready. When would I ever be?"
They headed for the entrance, moving along the perimeter fence. The only light was the weak sodium yellow of the scattered street-lamps, the occasional white flash of the forensic camera crew floods sweeping across the wasteland. A mile beyond, dominating the northern skyline, the luminous Millennium Dome, its red aircraft lights blinking against the stars.
"She's been stuck in a bin-liner or something," Maddox said. "But it's so dark out there, the first attending couldn't be sure — his first suspicious circumstances and it's put the wind up him." He jerked his head toward a group of cars. "The Merc. See the Merc?"
"Yeah." Caffery didn't break step. A heavy-backed man in a camel overcoat hunched over in the front seat, speaking intently to a CID officer.
"The owner. A lot of tarting-up going around here, what with the Millennium thing. Says last week he took on a team to clear the place up. They probably disturbed the grave without knowing it, a lot of heavy machinery, and then at oh one hundred hours —"
He paused at the gate and they showed warrant cards, logged on with the PC and ducked under the crime scene tape.
"And then at oh one hundred hours this A.M., three lads were out here doing something dodgy with a can of Evostick and they stumbled on her. They're down at the station now. The CSC'll tell us more. She's been in."
Detective Sergeant Fiona Quinn, the crime scene coordinator, down from the Yard, waited for them in a floodlit clearing next to a Portakabin, ghostly in her white Tyvek overalls, solemnly pulling back the hood as they approached.
Maddox did the introductions.
"Jack, meet DS Quinn. Fiona — my new DI, Jack Caffery."
Caffery approached, hand extended. "Good to meet you."
"You too, sir." The CSC snapped off latex gloves and shook Caffery's hand. "Your first. Isn't it?"
"With AMIP, yes."
"Well, I wish I had a nicer one for you. Things are not very lovely in there. Not very lovely at all. Something's split the skull open — machinery, probably. She's on her back." She leaned back to demonstrate, her arms out, her mouth open. In the half-light Caffery could see the glint of amalgam fillings. "From waist down is buried under precast concrete, the side of a pavement or something."
"Been there long?"
"No, no. A rough guess" — she pulled the glove back on and handed Maddox a cotton face mask — "less than a week; but too long to be worth rushing a 'special.' I think you should wait until daylight to drag the pathologist out of bed. He'll give you more when he's got her in the pit and seen about insect activity. She's semi-interred, half wrapped in a dustbin liner: that'll've made a difference."
"The pathologist," Caffery said. "You sure we need a pathologist? CID think there's been an autopsy."
"And you still want us to see her?"
"Yes." Quinn's face didn't change. "Yes, I still think you need to see her. We're not talking about a professional autopsy."
Maddox and Caffery exchanged glances. A moment's silence and Jack nodded.
"Right. Right, then." He cleared his throat, took the gloves and face mask Quinn offered and quickly tucked his tie inside his shirt. "Come on, then. Let's have a look."
Even with the protective gloves, old CID habit made Caffery walk with hands in pockets. From time to time he lost sight of DS Quinn's flagged forensics torch, giving him moments of unease — this far into the yard it was dark: the camera crew had finished and were shut in their white van, copying the master tape. Now the only light source was the dim, chemical glow of the fluorescent tape the CSC had used to outline objects either side of the path, protecting them until AMIP's exhibits officer arrived to label and bag. They hovered in the mist like inquisitive ghosts, faint green outlines of bottles, crumpled cans, something shapeless which might have been a T-shirt or a towel. Conveyor belts and bridge cranes rose eighty feet and more into the night sky around them, gray and silent as an out-of-season roller coaster.
Quinn held a hand up to stop them.
"There," she told Caffery. "See her? Just lying on her back."
"See the oil drum?" She let the torch slide over it.
"And the two reinforcing rods to its right?"
"Follow that down."
"Yes." He steadied himself. "Okay. I see it."
That? That's a body? He'd thought it was a piece of expanding foam, the type fired from an aerosol, so distended and yellow and shiny it was. Then he saw hair and teeth and recognized an arm. And at last, by tilting his head on one side, he understood what he was looking at.
"Oh, for Christ's sake," Maddox said wearily. "Come on, then. Someone stick an Inci over her."CHAPTER 2
BY THE TIME the sun had come up and burned off the river mist, everyone who had seen the body in the daylight knew that this was no medical school prank. The Home Office duty pathologist, Harsha Krishnamurthi, arrived and disappeared for an hour inside the white Incitent. A fingertip search team was corralled and instructed, and by noon the body was being freed from under the concrete.
Caffery found Maddox in the front seat of B team's Sierra.
"You all right?"
"There's nothing more we can do here, mate. We'll let Krishnamurthi take over from here."
"Go home, get some kip."
"No. I'll stay."
"No, Jack. You too. If you want an exercise in insomnia you'll get it in the next few days. Trust me."
Caffery held his hand up. "Okay, okay.
Whatever you say. Sir."
"Whatever I say."
"But I won't sleep."
"Fine. That's fine. Go home." He gestured to Caffery's battered old Jaguar. "Go home and pretend to sleep."
The image of the rich-yellow body under the tent kept pace with Caffery, even when he got home. In the new whitish light she seemed more real than she had last night. Her nails, bitten and painted sky blue, curled inward to the swollen palms.
He showered, shaved. His face in the mirror was tanned from a morning near the river; there were new sun crinkles around his eyes. He knew he wouldn't sleep.
The accelerated promotion of new blood in the Area Major Investigation Pool: younger, harder, fitter, he recognized the resentment coming from the lower ranks and understood the small, grim pleasure they took when the eight-week standby rota circled back to B team, coinciding neatly and nastily with his first case duty.
Seven days, twenty-four-hour standby, wakeful nights: and slam straight into the case, no time to catch a breath. He wouldn't be at his best.
And it was looking like a complex one.
It wasn't only the location and lack of witnesses that muddied it; in the morning light they had seen the black ulcerated marks of needle tracks.
And the offender had done something to the victim's breasts that Caffery didn't want to think about here in his white-tiled bathroom. He toweled his hair and shook his head to free the water in his ears. Stop thinking about it, now. Stop letting it chase its tail round your head. Maddox was right, he needed to rest.
He was in the kitchen, pouring a Glenmorangie, when the doorbell rang.
"It's me," Veronica called through the letter box. "I'd've phoned but I left my mobile at home."
He opened the door. She wore a cream linen suit and Armani sunglasses tucked in her hair. Shopping bags from Chelsea boutiques clustered around her ankles. Her postbox-red Tigra convertible was parked in the evening sun beyond the garden gate and Caffery saw she was holding his front door key as if she had been on the point of letting herself in.
"Hello, sexy." She leaned in for a kiss.
He kissed her, tasting lipstick and menthol breath spray.
"Mmmmm!" She held his wrist and drew back, taking in the morning's suntan, the jeans, the bare feet. The bottle of whisky dangling between his fingers. "Relaxing, were you?" "I was in the garden."
"You think I can't go in the garden without watching Penderecki?"
"Of course you can't." She started to laugh, then saw his face. "Oh, come on, Jack. I'm joking. Here." She picked up a Waitrose carrier bag and handed it to him. "I've been shopping — prawns, fresh dill, fresh coriander and, oh, the best muscatel. And this —" She held up a dark green box. "From Dad and me." She raised one long leg like an exotic bird and rested the box against her knee to open it. A brown leather jacket nestled in printed tissue. "One of the lines we import."
"I've got a leather jacket."
"Oh." Her smile faltered. "Oh. Okay. Not to worry." She closed the box. They were both silent for a moment. "I can take it back."
"No." Jack was instantly ashamed. "Don't."
"Honestly. I can swap it from stock."
"No, really. Here, give it to me."
This, he thought, kneeing the front door closed and following her into the house, was the Veronica pattern. She made a life-altering suggestion, he rebutted it, she pushed out her lower lip, bravely shrugged her shoulders, and immediately he became guilty, rolled onto his back and capitulated. Because of her past. Simple but effective, Veronica. In the six short months they'd known each other, his worn, comfortable home had been transformed into something unfamiliar, crammed with scented plants and labor-saving gadgets, his wardrobe bulging with clothes he would never wear: designer suits, hand-stitched jackets, silk ties, moleskin jeans, all courtesy of her father's Mortimer Street importing company.
Now, as Veronica made herself at home in his kitchen — the windows open, the Guzzini buzzing, peanut oil sizzling in bright green pans — Jack took the whisky onto the terrace.
The garden. Now there, he thought, unstoppering the Glen-morangie, there was perfect proof that the relationship was on a tilt. Planted long before his parents had bought the house — full of hibiscus, Russell lupins, a gnarled, ancient clematis — he liked to let it grow each summer until it almost blocked the windows with green. But Veronica wanted to trim, prune and fertilize, to grow lemongrass and capers in painted pots on the windowsills, make garden plans, talk gravel paths and bay trees. And ultimately — once she'd repackaged him and his house — she'd like him to sell up, leave this, the little South London, crumbly-brick Victorian cottage he was born in, with its mullioned windows, its tangled garden, the trains rattling by in the distance. She wanted to give up her token job in the family business, move out of her parents' and get started on making a home for him.
But he couldn't. His history was embedded too deeply in this quarter acre of loam and clay to pull it out on a whim. And after six months of knowing Veronica, he was sure of one thing: he didn't love her.
He watched her through the window now, scrubbing potatoes, making butter curls. At the end of last year he had been four years in CID and slacking — treading water, bored, waiting for the next thing. Until, at an out-of-control CID Halloween party, he realized that wherever he turned, a girl in a miniskirt and strappy gold sandals was watching him, a knowing smile on her face.
Veronica triggered in Jack a two-month-long hormonal obsession. She matched his sex drive. She woke him at 6:00 each morning for sex and spent the weekends wandering around the house in nothing but heels and sorbet-bright lipstick.
She gave him new energy, and other areas of his life began to change. By April he had Manolo Blahnik kitten-heel marks in his headboard and a transfer to AMIP. The murder squad.
But in spring, just as his drive toward her faltered, Veronica's agenda swerved. She became serious about him, started a campaign to tether him to her. One night she sat him down and in serious tones told him about the big injustice in her life, long before they had met: two of her teenage years taken from her by a struggle against cancer.
The ploy worked. Brought up short, suddenly he didn't know how to finish with her.
How arrogant, Jack, he realized, as if you not leaving might be compensation. How arrogant can you get.
In the kitchen she tucked her thin, asymmetric chin down onto her chest, her tongue between her teeth, and ripped a sprig of mint into shreds. He poured a shot of whisky and swallowed it in one.
Tonight he would do it. Maybe over dinner —
It was ready in an hour. Veronica switched all the lights on in the house and lit citronella garden candles on the patio.
"Pancetta and broad-bean salad with rocket, prawns in honey and soy sauce, followed by clementine sorbet. Am I the perfect woman or what?" She shook her hair and briefly exposed expensively cared-for teeth. "Thought I'd try it out on you and see if it'll do for the party."
"The party." He'd forgotten. They'd arranged it when they thought that ten days after standby week was a good, quiet time to throw a party.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Birdman"
Copyright © 1999 Mo Hayder.
Excerpted by permission of Grove Atlantic, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.