When Sarah Kelly fails to return from a night out, DI Mike Nash can only speculate on her whereaboutsuntil a chance remark causes him to look deeper into other cases of girls who have vanished without a trace. Nash spots chilling similarities: no bodies, no witnesses, all disappearances explained away. While investigating seemingly unconnected crimes, Nash strives to come to grips with the psyche of a most unusual serial killer. He needs to find a solutionand fastas two more women vanish, making it personal and potentially fatal both for Nash and for the women who have been chosen.
|Publisher:||Hale, Robert Limited|
|Product dimensions:||6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.10(d)|
About the Author
Bill Kitson is a former finance executive and the chairman of the Scarborough Writers' Circle. He is the author of the first book in the Mike Nash series, Depth of Despair.
Read an Excerpt
By Bill Kitson
Robert Hale LimitedCopyright © 2010 Bill Kitson
All rights reserved.
Viv Pearce usually drove fast. But not that day. The occasion didn't warrant it. Besides, Pearce's thoughts, like those of his passenger were elsewhere. They'd been travelling almost half an hour. During that time neither had spoken. Eventually the silence was broken by the ring-tone on Clara's mobile.
'Mironova,' she answered it without glancing at the screen. 'Sorry, sir, I didn't notice who was calling.'
She glanced across at Pearce and mouthed, 'Tom Pratt.' Viv nodded, his face grim.
'Pretty awful,' he heard her say. Then, 'Not many. Apart from Mike and us, only the Trelawneys and a couple of friends from university. Stella was an orphan, remember. There's an elderly aunt I believe; lives down South. But she's too frail to travel.'
Clara listened again. 'Difficult to say,' she replied, to a question Viv couldn't hear. When she spoke again the meaning became clear. 'He seemed alright most of the time, but that was when he thought people were watching. Otherwise,' Viv saw Clara shiver slightly, 'let's just say he's bottled a lot of grief up, Tom. Sooner or later that'll have to come out.' She listened again. 'Yes, I think so. In fact, I'm certain. I'd go so far as to say the guilt is tearing him apart more than the grief.' There was another pause whilst her caller spoke.
Viv thought of Superintendent Pratt, tall, broad-shouldered and paternal, everyone's image of a senior police officer. Immensely proud of his area's low crime statistics: fiercely protective of those who served under him. Hence, this phone call. Hence, his volunteering to stand in at Helmsdale Police Station whilst they attended Stella Pearson's funeral. He'd put it in simple terms. 'You knew Stella far better than I. And you're closer to Mike. You need to be there for him. If he needs someone, it'll be more likely you two than me. Jack Binns and I'll take care of the shop until you get back.'
They were a motley crew at Helmsdale. Pearce wondered if that was why they worked so well together. Mironova and Pearce had been stationed there for some time before Nash joined them after a number of years serving in the Met.
Whilst Clara continued talking to Pratt, Pearce thought about his colleagues. Although Nash was a native of Yorkshire, Mironova had left Belarus as a child, when her father had been forced into exile in Britain. Pearce himself, although Bradford born, was Antiguan by ancestry. Three totally different backgrounds, totally dissimilar characters who blended together to form a highly effective unit.
Clara spoke, and Viv realized she'd finished the call. 'Tom was asking how it went. I didn't like to tell him how dire it was.'
'Pretty bleak,' Pearce acknowledged. 'Those places are so bloody impersonal. It's like going into a supermarket. And that vicar didn't help.'
'He didn't know Stella, couldn't speak personally about her.'
'It wasn't just that. He'd obviously done half a dozen today already. He was just going through the motions.'
'How did you think Mike was?'
'Like you said to Tom, he's bottling it up.'
'It's as if a barrier went up as soon as it happened. He won't let anyone near. I wonder what'll happen when he does let go. And he'll have to. Or make himself ill. Maybe what he needs is a distraction. I mean a big distraction.'
'You're thinking about work, aren't you? Not women?'
Clara grinned briefly. 'With Mike, women are always going to be a distraction. But that's not what he needs. Not at the minute, anyway. A case like the last one would be ideal. But they don't happen too often. Not in Helmsdale anyway. Or anywhere else in North Yorkshire for that matter,' she added as an afterthought.
At about the time Clara was speaking, a man entered his study and went over and unlocked the filing cabinet in the corner. He opened the lower drawer and selected a file at random from his collection, his hands trembling with excitement, his arousal almost painful. He took the video cassette from the file and placed it in the slot of the player. As he watched, his arousal became too much for him to contain. He unzipped his flies and began to fondle his erection. When the film had finished and he was spent, he walked back to the cabinet and began thumbing through the files in the upper drawer. His fingers moved the files slowly, lingering over each one. They paused longest at the fourth name. He pondered it for a long time before moving on. Perhaps it was a treat he was reluctant to indulge in yet. Not this time at least; but soon, very soon.
His fingers finally stopped once more. This time there was little pause for thought, little chance for doubt to creep in. The decision made, he removed the file and locked the cabinet.
His choice was made, now he would watch and wait. He read every biographical detail that he had painstakingly collected and collated, all written in his immaculately neat handwriting. The more he read, the greater his certainty became that his selection had been right. He turned to the photograph and studied it. She was beautiful, though not the most stunning in his collection. There was strong competition for that honour. After all, his standards were extremely high. Nevertheless, she would not be disgraced amongst the others.
His tone was that of a lover as he whispered gently to the photograph. 'You are lucky,' he smiled. 'You don't know yet how fortunate you are. You will soon. And when you realize I have picked you above all the others you will feel honoured. Honoured, because you are chosen.'
Detective Inspector Mike Nash walked slowly into the station at Helmsdale. The state-of- the-art building marked an innovative departure by the local authority. Faced with rising maintenance costs, and a need to conform to an ever tighter budget, they had decided to dispose of three Victorian buildings and replace them with one purpose-built unit.
Nash was oblivious to his surroundings as he walked down the corridor leading to the CID suite, oblivious to the greetings of those he passed. His mind totally absorbed. Although it was now over two months since Stella's funeral, he was still functioning on autopilot.
When he opened the door into the CID general office, DS Mironova was alone in the room. She looked up from the papers she was studying. 'I have some news that might cheer you up.'
'I doubt it. What is it?'
Clara's eyes twinkled with mischief. 'I bumped into an old friend of yours earlier today, in the market place.'
There was sufficient emphasis on the word 'friend' for Nash to look up. 'Who's that?'
'Lauren Robbins, used to be receptionist at The Golden Bear in Netherdale? I believe you got to know one another quite well?'
Despite himself, Nash smiled. 'That's one way of putting it, I suppose. What's Lauren doing back in Helmsdale? Last I knew, she was buried deep in rural Cheshire.'
'She's finished her training and she's deputizing for the manager of The Square and Compass whilst he's on holiday. She was asking how you are, and if you're seeing anyone at the moment. She said, if you get chance, why not drop in for a drink sometime.' Clara smiled thinly. 'I assume that's a euphemism for saying she's got a warm bed available if you're interested. There, I've delivered the message. Now I know what it feels like to be a pimp.'
'Clara, has anyone ever told you that you've got an extremely dirty mind?'
'I need one with you around. It's pretty quiet at the moment, so if you want to take some passionate leave, it'll hardly be critical.'
Nash winced. 'Clara, don't ever say things like that, not even as a joke. Have you never heard of Sod's Law?'
Clara shook her head.
'It's an extension of tempting providence. It states that the thing you least want to happen will happen. What's more it will happen at the very worst possible time.'
On weekdays, CID in Helmsdale operated office hours, unless there was a specific case to investigate. Only a skeleton staff of uniformed officers was on duty over night. At weekends, one CID officer was designated the duty. When this decision was implemented as part of a cost-cutting exercise some wag had suggested contacting all the known villains in the area asking them to pursue the same policy. That Friday, Mironova had drawn the short straw. DC Viv Pearce was away on a course and would not return to Helmsdale until late that evening. Nash had been on call the previous three weekends.
Before he left, Nash said, 'Everything seems quiet enough. If trouble breaks out and it's too serious for you to handle, you can always call out the army. I'm sure the galloping major will be only too happy to help.'
'David's away on an exercise, so I can't.' As soon as she said it, Clara realized her mistake.
'The way you look after you've been out with him, I'd have thought he was getting more than enough exercise,' Nash laughed. It was odd, he thought, the way things turn out. If he and his team hadn't been involved in tackling a ruthless criminal gang, Clara wouldn't have met David, a Special Forces Officer, assigned to help them.
Clara blushed. 'Don't judge everyone by your standards.' She knew Nash was getting his own back for her tormenting him about his hyperactive love life. 'Anyway, what will you do with your time off? Will you be going to The Square and Compass for a drink with the luscious Lauren?'
'I might pop in for a quick one,' Nash admitted. 'Don't work too hard. And don't fret over the Dashing David. You'll be able to make up for lost time when he gets back. That is if he's not too fatigued by the fatigues.'
Clara glanced at the clock. 'It's past five o'clock; time you weren't here.'
She watched him close the door and looked round the empty office. Without distractions and with local crime at a record low, it promised to be a long and boring weekend. Clara sighed. She wished something would happen to alleviate the tedium. She was unaware that she'd just doubled the chance of Sod's Law striking.
Friday night brought its usual crop of minor offences. Most of these were dealt with by uniformed branch. Some, notably those involving the use or supply of controlled substances, fell within the province of CID.
Saturday morning found Mironova dealing with the paperwork. She was three-quarters of the way through the task, and beginning to wonder how she'd pass the time until what was known in the station as 'Saturday Night Fever' struck. Her speculation was disturbed when her phone rang. 'Sorry to disturb you, I've a lady in reception. Name's Mrs Kelly. She's frantic with worry because her daughter's gone missing. Daughter's name is Sarah. Apparently she went clubbing last night, and hasn't returned home.'
Clara sighed, 'Probably the usual. Ship her up to the CID suite, will you. I'll see what I can do to pacify her.'
As she waited for Mrs Kelly, Clara rummaged through her desk drawers. After some difficulty, she located the document she was looking for. She'd just placed it on her blotter when the door opened, and Mrs Kelly was ushered in. Clara thanked the officer and introduced herself to the distressed mother. 'Good morning, Mrs Kelly. I'm Detective Sergeant Mironova.' She gestured to a chair alongside her desk. 'Take a seat and tell me what's happened.'
Clara sat down and pulled the sheet of paper towards her, shielding the heading, 'MP 309 Missing Person Initial Report', from her visitor.
'It's about my daughter Sarah,' Mrs Kelly began. She fumbled with the clasp on the handbag she'd rested on her lap as she spoke. 'She went out last night, the same as she does every Friday night. She hadn't come back when I went to wake her this morning. It's so unlike her.'
'Isn't it possible she stayed the night with a friend? A boyfriend perhaps?'
Mrs Kelly shook her head. 'There isn't anyone. Sarah's never bothered much with boys. Not that she hasn't had plenty of chances; she's a lovely looking girl. I mean, she's been out on plenty of dates, but she's never had a steady boyfriend.'
'When you said she goes out every Friday, does she go on her own? Or in a group? Do you know where she goes?'
'Oh yes, Sarah always tells me. She meets up with two girls every Friday. Friends she made at school. But one of them is away on holiday. I rang the other girl, Mandy, and she told me she met Sarah at The Red Dragon, like they normally do. They were going to go on to Club Wolfgang, but Mandy wasn't feeling well. She'd an upset stomach and decided to go home. She said, when she left, Sarah hadn't made her mind up whether to go to the club on her own or not.'
'I see. I'm going to ask some more questions now. I have this report to fill in before we can take any action.'
The process took a little over twenty minutes. When Mironova finished writing, she looked up. 'Do you have a recent photo of Sarah? The description you gave me is fine, but if I have a photo, I can copy it and give it to our uniformed branch for their patrol officers. If they spot Sarah, it'll be easier to recognize her from a photo.'
Mrs Kelly opened her bag. 'I've got one I took at Christmas. Sarah was on her way to the firm's Christmas do. She looked so lovely; I just had to take it.'
She pulled the photo out of her handbag and passed it across the desk. Clara stared at the image. 'I see what you mean. She's a very pretty girl.'
She looked at the anxious mother. 'Let me explain how the system works. Unfortunately, we can't launch a full-scale enquiry just yet. There are two reasons for that. Most missing persons return home within twenty-four to forty-eight hours of going missing. In addition, we simply don't have the manpower or resources to divert to a case like this. Not at this stage,' she added hastily, seeing Mrs Kelly about to object.
'If Sarah still hasn't returned home or contacted you tomorrow morning, I want you to come back. At that point I'll discuss the matter with my boss. He'll decide what action might be justified. In the meantime, I'll copy this photo and distribute it at our Daily Management Meeting, which takes place just before the next shift change. If and when Sarah does return, I'd like you to ring me to let me know.' Clara smiled at Mrs Kelly. 'And try not to worry too much. I'm sure she's fine, and she'll turn up fit and well.'
Sarah stirred slightly then woke up. She tried to move but her wrists and ankles were restrained. She opened her eyes, but to no effect. It was dark. She was blindfolded with some sort of hood. She writhed in panic. It achieved nothing. She tried to remember what had happened, but couldn't. Questions crowded her bemused brain. Where was she? How had she got here? Who was holding her prisoner? And, much worse, why? She heard a voice. Its tone was gentle, the words soothing. Unwillingly she listened.
'Hello, Sarah. You're awake I see. You must be wondering what's happened. Don't worry, everything will be alright. Just be patient a little longer then I'll show you why you're here. It must be difficult for you, but soon you'll be able to relax, and then you'll know how fortunate you are. Because you have been carefully selected, no, that would be an insult. No, you have been chosen.'
If the words and the timbre of the voice had been designed to dispel her fear, they failed utterly. She tried to scream, but even in her dazed state she realized how pitifully weak her voice sounded against the muffling cloth of the mask over her face.
'Now, now, Sarah dear, don't take on so. It's only because you don't realize what's happening that you're afraid. Just wait a few minutes longer then you'll calm down. I promise you. When you do, we can begin to enjoy our time together.'
Fear turned to terror, terror to blind panic and way beyond. Unable to control her emotions Sarah realized she'd wet herself. Shame and mortification combined with the horror of her situation. She began to cry.
'There, there, please don't upset yourself. You've had a little accident, that's all. It's nothing to be ashamed of. I'll take care of you. I'll clean you up and change your wet panties for some new ones. Then you'll be nice and dry again, won't you. And when I've done that I'll see if I can find a special treat for my Sarah.'
Her brain reeled. She knew the voice was a man's, but not one she recognized. And yet he was talking to her as if he knew her well, as if she was someone special in his life. In so dreadful a position, she might have expected roughness, brutality, if any words had been spoken at all. This man was talking to her like a lover, or a parent with a tiny child. It should have comforted her. It didn't. She felt the rope round her ankles being slackened then removed. A few seconds later she felt fingers undoing the waistband of her jeans; then unzipping them. She writhed in panic but her ankles were gripped by hands with the strength of a vice. 'Sarah dear,' there was a hard note of command in the voice, 'stay still so I can take your wet things off.'
It was fear that caused her to stop struggling. She felt the wet garments being removed. Then there was quiet for a few moments. What had happened? Had he gone away? Suddenly he was back, 'I'm just going to wash you, dear. We don't want you to get sore, do we?'
Excerpted from Chosen by Bill Kitson. Copyright © 2010 Bill Kitson. Excerpted by permission of Robert Hale Limited.
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