A copycat killer... but how do they know so much?
A man is found electrocuted in his bath, an apparent suicide attempt. However, attached to the body is a handwritten note: all it says is DCI Lambert.
Lambert, shaken by past and present, is put on notice when a major prisoner escapes. Is there a connection? And why are MI5 getting involved? Before the investigation is over, Lambert will be pushed to his very limits… and beyond.
How far would you go for justice? And what would you do to save your family?
The extraordinary new crime thriller from bestseller Matt Brolly, perfect for fans of Robert Bryndza, L. J. Ross and Angela Marsons.
About the Author
Following his law degree where he developed an interest in criminal law, Matt completed his Masters in Creative Writing at Glasgow University. He reads widely across all genres, and lives in London with his wife and their two young children.
Read an Excerpt
The shrill of the alarm reverberated around the bedroom, within seconds accompanied by the piercing wail of a child screaming. DCI Michael Lambert's left hand smashed down on the bedside cabinet in a blind and frantic search for his mobile phone. Murmuring a curse under his breath, his finger reached the screen and activated the snooze alarm. He rolled over in his bed, pleased to find no one was next to him, remaining that way for the following nine minutes entombed in the warmth of the duvet, caught between wakefulness and sleep, as the sound of the child's crying faded.
He accepted the second alarm, hitting the off button and sitting upright in bed lest he fall back to sleep. As usual he'd been late to bed and slept for only four hours, yet a quick splash of water on his face left him refreshed and ready, if not eager, to return to work.
Lambert headed a special investigation unit at the National Crime Agency. It was a year since his work on the Waverley Manor case, a complex criminal case resulting in Lambert uncovering a paedophile ring known as the Manor. Eight successful prosecutions followed the investigation, since which Lambert had been investigating an international money-laundering scheme in the City of London.
In those last twelve months, he'd moved back in with his estranged wife, Sophie, who was in the kitchen extension feeding Jane who stopped eating as he entered the room so she could turn her head and flash him a smile. Lambert returned the gesture and kissed the two-year-old girl – the girl he was learning to call his daughter – on her head, and poured a generous helping of coffee.
'Can you drop her at the childminder?' asked Sophie.
'Did you sleep in that suit?' asked Lambert, puzzled as to how his wife could look immaculate so early in the morning.
'You can take her any time after eight. I need to get in early,' replied Sophie, grabbing a set of house keys from the sideboard and kissing him, then Jane, in one controlled motion before disappearing to the front door and before Lambert had time to object.
'Looks like you and me, buddy,' he said to the still smiling Jane, who was too busy eating a bowl of muesli to reply. Lambert wiped some spillage from the girl's face, Jane continuing to eat throughout the onslaught, before answering the incessant ringtone on his mobile.
It was DS Kennedy. 'What can I do for you, Matilda?'
'Sir, you're needed at a crime scene. Suspicious death.'
'Care to elaborate?'
'That's all I've got at the moment. Summons comes from on high though. I've been ordered to meet you at the scene.'
'From on high?'
'From Glenn – I mean, Tillman.'
Lambert drank his coffee, pleased with the taste of the Peruvian beans he'd received as a birthday present. Chief Superintendent Glenn Tillman was his direct superior. They'd worked together for years, and by this stage Lambert was rarely surprised by Tillman's actions. Tillman was also in a relationship with the much younger DS Matilda Kennedy, a secret only Lambert was privy to. 'Do you have an address at least?'
'I'll text it now. Could be a bit of a trek for you. It's over in West Hampstead.'
Lambert glanced at the kitchen clock. 'That's going to take me at least ninety minutes this time of the morning, and I've got to drop off Jane. Why have we been requested?'
'Tillman's been at his enigmatic best this morning. I think his exact words were, "Tell Lambert to get his arse there immediately, no questions asked."'
Lambert murmured. 'Sounds like him. I'll leave now but I doubt I'll be there before ten.'
'I'll hold the fort, sir, and let you know when I have some more details.'
Jane didn't take kindly to being told she was off to the childminder. Lambert was thankful Sophie had already dressed her as he struggled to get her into her coat. 'No,' she said, sticking out her bottom lip and stamping her foot.
'I see more and more of your mother in you every day,' said Lambert, placing an oversized woolly hat on her head and wrapping a scarf around her before scooping the girl in his arms.
Despite her best efforts, Jane's frown morphed into a smile and she giggled as he tickled her. 'You'll have a great time at Lorraine's. All your friends will be there and Mummy will pick you up later,' said Lambert, placing her back on the floor.
Jane frowned again, a gesture at once comical and highly manipulative. There was so much of Sophie in her, as well as a troubling reflection of his other daughter, Chloe. Chloe died in a car accident when she was nine. Lambert was driving at the time, and the grief from the accident led to him and Sophie separating. He was not Jane's biological father and had only moved back in with Sophie a year ago. Times like this were still difficult. He would always blame himself for Chloe's death and feared Sophie did so too. He didn't want to spend the rest of his life looking at Jane and seeing Chloe. It wasn't fair to her, and in his darkest moments he wasn't sure it was a situation he could handle.
Lambert glanced down at Jane, surprised by the look of concern on her face. He knelt so they were at eye level. 'What's the matter, darling?' he asked.
'You looked sad, Daddy,' she said, frowning.
He'd spoken at length with Sophie about whether or not Jane should call him Daddy. Lambert had been hesitant and struggled to explain his apprehensions. Even after all this time he struggled to talk to Sophie about Chloe. Jane's biological father, a partner in Sophie's law firm, was still on the scene, but had taken a back seat since announcing a surprise marriage earlier that year, and six months ago Lambert legally adopted the girl.
Lambert grabbed Jane and kissed her, ruffling her hair and causing her hat to fall off. 'Oh, Daddy,' she said, giggling.
Lambert grabbed her again and smiled, wondering how he could ever have contemplated life without his little girl in it. Jane made a frantic grab for him as he dropped her off at the childminder's. He hated having to leave her even though she enjoyed her time there. She offered a sullen wave as he returned to his car, and he tried not to look into his rear-view mirror as he pulled away.
As Lambert expected, the journey from Beckenham, on the border of South East London, to West Hampstead in the north of the City, was plagued by traffic. It was approaching Christmas and that, coupled with the seasonally bad weather, meant the roads were full. Temporary traffic lights lined the road out of Beckenham and he sat tapping his steering wheel, the heating on full. He thought about Jane, back at the childminder's and considered turning the car around to pick her up. How easy it would be to spend the day at home, indoors, insulated from the near sub-zero temperatures, watching mindless television and spending quality time with his daughter.
A sense of contentment had come over him since he'd moved back in with Sophie and he feared it was making him soft. It wasn't quite the same as it was before Chloe's death, but it was getting closer with each passing week. They slept in the same bedroom now, unlike the two years leading to their separation. It was still far from perfect. He missed the sense of security about their relationship. At times they tried too hard, too wary of upsetting one another, but he was in a better place than he'd once been and for that he was thankful.
The traffic eased and he made slow progress over the river, before coming to a standstill outside Victoria station for twenty minutes. It was as if every car in London had decided to take to the road at the same time. Crawling past the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, he viewed the towering rides and remembered the times he'd driven past with Chloe and how he'd discussed with Sophie the possibility of taking Jane there one day when she was older. In the morning gloom, without the lights, sounds and smells, the place took on a strange appearance. All mystery and excitement dissolved, and the fair had a sadness to it mirroring Lambert's melancholy mood: half desperate to get to his destination, half reluctant to find out what was in store for him.
It was an hour later before he pulled into West End Lane, an enclave of up-market cafés, restaurants and shops. He'd not heard back from Matilda so presumed he'd not been missed. He pulled in next to the police barrier tape erected on one of the side streets. The change in temperature as he left the vehicle was a shock; an icy wind blew in his ears as he retrieved his coat from the boot. A uniformed officer ran to him, about to tell him to move, before falling silent at the sight of Lambert's warrant card.
'Sorry, sir,' mouthed the constable.
'Who's in charge here?' said Lambert.
The PC gawped, confused by the question. 'They're all through there, sir,' he said.
Lambert lifted the collar of his jacket against the bitter wind and moved towards the group of officers congregating in the foyer of the apartment building. They were dressed in the white latex uniforms worn by the SOCOs: the scene of crime officers. With their hoods covering their hair, Lambert struggled to recognize any of their number. 'DCI Lambert,' he said to the gathered group, who had so far ignored him. One of the female officers who'd been standing alone walked over to him.
'Do you have some ID?' she asked, taking Lambert by surprise.
Lambert took out his warrant card. 'Who's in charge here?' he said.
'They're on the third floor. You need to put on one of these,' she said, pointing to a plastic box containing a spare suit.
With the extra layer of clothing, Lambert soon became overheated. Sweat coating his skin as he made slow progress upstairs. The door of Apartment Sixteen was ajar. Lambert recognized three of the faces in the living area. They stood side by side waiting for him to enter. All three were dressed in SOCO uniforms but none of them had their hoods pulled over their heads. The smallest of the three, DS Matilda Kennedy, smiled at him. The left side of her face, blotchy and red, crinkled as she made the gesture. The scarring on her face was the legacy of an explosion that had taken place a mile or so from their current location. Next to her was the bullish figure of Chief Superintendent Glenn Tillman who stared at him with his usual look of restrained violence, as if somehow Lambert was to blame for his being there.
If Lambert was surprised by Tillman's appearance he was shocked further to see Assistant Chief Constable Thomas Daly standing next to his boss. It wasn't the kind of welcome party he'd envisioned. Something must be amiss for two such senior officers to be at the scene. Lambert nodded at Tillman. 'Sir,' he said to the Assistant Chief Constable.
'Lambert,' said Daly. 'Good of you to make it.'
Lambert, knowing better than to blame his late arrival on traffic, ignored the Assistant Chief's ironic remark. 'What do we have?' he said.
'Go look for yourself.' said Tillman, clearly unhappy to be in the room with the Assistant Chief Constable.
Matilda pulled the hood over her head. 'This way, sir,' she said, leading him down a small hallway to a bathroom. 'Alistair Beckinsale,' she said, pointing to the bloated corpse laying in the bath. 'Fifty-four-year-old banker, recently divorced. We believe the cause of death is electrocution. When we arrived we found a digital radio, connected to the mains via an extension lead, in the bath with Mr Beckinsale.'
'I assume the bath was full at this time,' said Lambert.
'Yes, the SOCO's have drained the water. We left the body here so you could see for yourself.'
Lambert was no expert on electrocution, though he'd seen similar cases before. He checked the body, the skin of the man's shoulder blade a charred black, the smell of burning flesh still evident in the room. 'Is there any sign of a struggle?'
'No. The front door of the apartment was wide open and the bath was still running. Water was leaking into the apartment below, and fortunately the neighbour was in and came up to find this.'
Lambert studied the area: the wide-eyed corpse in the bath; the damp patches on the floor. 'Now stop me if I am being obvious here, Matilda, but have we ruled out suicide?'
'Not completely? Then why the hell am I here?'
'I think you better speak to Tillman, sir.'
Lambert sighed and walked back to the living area where Tillman was deep in conversation with the Assistant Chief.
'Recognize him?' said Tillman.
'No, should I?' said Lambert.
'Well, he recognizes you,' said the Assistant Chief, handing him a clear plastic sheath with a piece of card inside it. 'This was found in the bathroom.'
Lambert took out the card and glanced at it to see in black ink the name: DCI Lambert.CHAPTER 2
Lambert held the card in his hand, checking its weight. It was standard ruled card, A6 size. The hole in the left corner suggested it had been torn from a ring binder. His name was written in lead pencil.
Nothing else, simply his name in capital letters, each letter perfectly drawn, the lines straight, the curves immaculate as if the writer had used a stencil. The card itself was standard stock available from countless sources. Lambert placed the card back in its plastic sheath. 'Is this it?' he said.
'First responding officer found it, and recognizing your name called head office immediately,' said Tillman.
Daly pursed his lips, a sound like escaping gas leaking from the small opening in his mouth. 'Do you know this Beckinsale character?' he asked.
'No, of course not,' said Lambert, his tone sterner than intended.
'Would you care to explain why this note is here, then?' said Daly, picking up on his insolence.
As Tillman subtly indicated, Lambert had attracted some notoriety over the last year. The Waverley Manor arrests involved a number of prominent businessmen. The national press picked up on the story, Lambert receiving some unwanted attention.
'You think this is something to do with your fame?' said Tillman, reading his thoughts and getting to the point.
'Until I find out more about Beckinsale, then I would have to presume so. Yes, maybe Beckinsale saw my name in the paper and thought he would get more attention by leaving my name at the scene.'
'Someone was seen fleeing the apartment building,' said Tillman. 'Minutes before Beckinsale's body was discovered. We have some images on CCTV.'
'You don't think this was a suicide?' said Lambert.
'Why plug the radio into an extension cord? This was no suicide. Beckinsale was coerced into that bath, I'm sure of it, and whoever we have on CCTV is the culprit. We need to wrap this up as soon as we can.'
'Who is going to be the SIO?' said Lambert.
Tillman stared hard at him, eyes unblinking. It was a classic Tillman gesture, one Lambert had experienced countless times over the years. In most officers it had the required effect of instilling fear and upping concentration levels. In Lambert, it only provoked a weary resignation.
'I'm going to be the senior investigation officer,' said Tillman. 'And by I, I mean you.' He also liked talking in riddles.
'How can I run this investigation if my name has been left on that note?'
'Because officially you're not on the investigation, I am. And you will be working with Kennedy. We want this kept as quiet as possible, you've been in the papers enough as it is. An incident room has been set up at West Hampstead nick. It's just up the hill on West End Lane. Keep us updated.'
'Your name is on the card, so to me it makes sense that you run the operation,' said Assistant Chief Daly. 'Don't let us down.'
Lambert didn't have time to complain before Tillman walked away with Daly.
'Who found the body?' Lambert asked Matilda.
'Marcus Barnett, lives directly below Beckinsale. He's left for work now but he's given me permission to view his flat.'
Barnett's flat was a mirror image of Beckinsale's. 'There,' said Matilda, pointing to a wet patch in Barnett's bathroom. 'That's where the water leaked down. Mr Barnett didn't notice it at first because he was having a shower. It was only when he turned it off and the water kept coming that he realized something was wrong.'
'And he went straight upstairs?'
'Yep, pulled on a dressing gown and ran up. He was scared the floor was going to cave in, and then he found Beckinsale.'
'What were his actions after that?'
'He had enough foresight to turn the taps off, if that's what you're getting at,' said Matilda.
'Contaminating the crime scene?' said Lambert.
'Any neighbourly disputes?'
'Not between these two, according to Mr Barnett. We've talked to the other residents. Beckinsale was a quiet sort by all accounts, though he'd recently been voted onto the housing committee.'(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Dead Time"
Copyright © 2018 Matt Brolly.
Excerpted by permission of Canelo Digital Publishing.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Interesting storyline and cast of characters. Enjoyed the crime solving process and the insight into DCI Lambert and his colleagues. 4-1\2 stars