The investigation means going back undercover as a petty crooka tough gig for a detective who has recently worked some high-profile cases in Lancashire. Even on a remote farm, Dylan's in constant danger of being recognized. Not to mention the strain his long absences have put on his family life.
Still, Dylan won't rest until he finds the missing girls. But the longer he looks, the harder it is to tell the sinners from the saints. And the truth may be more than this bleak northern town can handle.
A Dylan Scott Mystery
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"What the? What are you doing?"
"What do you think?" He smacked the heavy chunk of wood across his hand. "No one, especially a little shit like you, goes asking questions about me. You shouldn't have poked your nose into matters that don't concern you. Your brothers told you, I told you, but no, you wouldn't listen, would you?"
"And what are you going to do about it? Kill me too?"
His answer was to bring the wood down hard. Blood fountained into the cold night air. Bone cracked against the stone wall.
Droplets of warm, sticky blood landed on his face, but that was okay. He'd soon wash it off.
He clenched the wood tighter in his hand and brought it down again. There was more blood and another satisfying crack as the skull splintered. Blood oozed from a motionless mouth. He was probably dead, but there was no point taking chances.
He used the wood and his boots to great advantage for a full five minutes. When he finally stopped, he was pleased to note that he hadn't even broken into a sweat.
He stood for a moment, drawing in deep calming breaths. Then, after one final kick at the lifeless body, he took a couple of handkerchiefs from his pocket and wiped his boots clean. Confident he wouldn't leave bloody footprints, he turned and walked briskly down the dark alley until he emerged onto Cromwell Street. It was dimly lit, which suited him perfectly.
He walked on to the railway bridge that spanned the narrow river. Underneath that bridge, he paused long enough to take off his gloves and his long black overcoat and wrap them around the murder weapon. With his bundle under his arm, he walked on until he came to the gated entrance of Meredith's Joinery Business. In the yard, a couple of skips overflowed with scrap wood waiting to be hauled away.
He squeezed through the gap between gate and hedge, and tossed his unwanted clothes and his trusty weapon into the nearest skip. The photos went in too. There was plenty of litter blowing in the wind and he grabbed a handful of flyers, mostly for local fast-food outlets, and threw those in the skip. He took his Zippo lighter from his pocket, lit the paper and moved back to the shadows of the building.
The smile of a job well done curved his lips as he watched the wood catch.
He let himself out of the yard by the same way he'd entered and walked casually along the street, turning only once to see flames reaching up to the sky.
Meredith's wouldn't be too worried. They'd put it down to an act of vandalism by bored kids and would be secretly pleased they didn't have to pay to have the wood taken away. The police were so used to such incidents that they wouldn't even bother to investigate.
The evening's work was done.
He walked on to the brightly lit town centre. Youngsters with hoods pulled over their heads to ward off the cold January frost ambled around, looking for mischief. Half a dozen young men came out of a pub and stopped to light up cigarettes. Two girls emerged giggling from the Chinese takeaway. One clutched a white bag heavy with food and the other girl was in charge of a bottle of wine.
It was a normal Thursday night in the northern town of Dawson's Clough.