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When ex-con Daryl Woodley is found dead on the marshes bordering Langstone Harbour the Intelligence Directorate believe his murder is linked to big-time crook Marty Stapleton, currently serving time in prison. But Detective Inspector Horton is not so sure.
He attends Woodley’s funeral in the hope it will give them a lead in an investigation that has drawn a blank at every turn. It does, but not in the way he or anyone expected. A body found on a rotting boat being salvaged in Portsmouth Harbour throws Horton into a complex and frustrating investigation.
As the tension mounts to solve the case, Horton receives a chilling personal message; time, it seems, is also running out for him …
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Tuesday 7 June 3.20 p.m.
'Anything?' Detective Superintendent Uckfield asked hopefully.
Inspector Andy Horton shook his head and pulled at his black tie. Loosening his collar, he stepped into the shade of a tree in the crematorium gardens hoping to find some relief from the burning sun and wondering what Uckfield, head of the Major Crime Team, and Detective Chief Superintendent Sawyer of the Intelligence Directorate had expected they'd gain by a police presence – a weeping confession from the killer of Daryl Woodley over his coffin? That would have been nice but Horton knew that Woodley's handful of mourners would sooner have their private parts tattooed with a blunt and dirty instrument than confess to a crime. And grassing to the police was only one step below being a paedophile in their code. They'd got nothing out of them during the investigation into Woodley's death and they'd get nothing now. And neither would the crime reporter from the local newspaper, Leanne Payne, he thought watching her slim figure move amongst the mourners as they stood blinking in the bright sunshine like miners released from deep underground.
She addressed a shaven-headed, skinny man with tattoos up his hairy arms. Reggie Thomas, like Daryl Woodley, had been released from Parkhurst Prison on the Isle of Wight in March. When questioned, Reggie claimed to have no knowledge of why his former fellow inmate had been assaulted just off the Portsmouth waterfront eighteen days ago, or why, after three days in hospital, Woodley had risen from his bed and somehow ended up dead at the marshes to the north of the city three miles from the hospital. No one claimed to have driven him there, it was inaccessible by public transport and he could hardly have walked that distance.
Despite Uckfield's public appeals for information no one had come forward with any sightings of Woodley, either where he'd been attacked or where his body had been found by a man walking his dog. Exasperated, Uckfield had declared, 'Someone must have seen him; this isn't the Starship bloody Enterprise, he couldn't have been beamed to the marshes.' But it was almost as though he had been.
The pathologist, Dr Gaye Clayton, had said that Woodley had died from his earlier injuries, a violent blow to the head and hypothermia. Hard to believe with the temperature soaring to equatorial heights, thought Horton plucking at the shirt sticking to his back, but a fortnight ago it had been as cold as December.
Uckfield sniffed noisily. 'Can't think what they're doing here, anyway. None of that lot had a good word to say about Woodley when he was alive.'
Did anyone? thought Horton. Even the chaplain had struggled to find a kind word for the man who had lied, cheated, robbed and assaulted his way through his forty-seven years.
'Probably wanted to get their picture in the newspaper.' And he'd witnessed some heart-breaking performances by them worthy of an Oscar, put on for the benefit of the local press photographer, Cliff Wesley, who'd been snapping away on their arrival.
'This is a waste of time.'
A sentiment shared by Horton. DCS Sawyer was going to be disappointed, he thought. Sawyer's department was also responsible for gathering prison intelligence and Sawyer believed that the attack on Woodley had been carried out on the instructions of big-time crook Marty Stapleton, currently in Her Majesty's Prison Swansea, where he'd been transferred after Woodley had attacked him in Parkhurst in September. Horton had ventured the opinion that a crook as big as Stapleton wouldn't bother himself with low-life scum like Woodley only to be told he would because Woodley had humiliated him, and Stapleton, with a record of robbery, violence and extortion, wouldn't allow that to go unpunished.
Horton guessed there was something in that, but watching Woodley's mourners shuffle off, he thought that Sawyer's hope of apprehending and gaining information from Woodley's assailant on where Marty had stashed the proceeds of his robberies was too optimistic.
'Perhaps we should send Marty Stapleton some of Cliff Wesley's photographs,' he said.
'Yeah, and while we're at it we'll send him a signed copy of the video Clarke's shooting. Marty can watch that and have a good laugh.'
Clarke, the forensic photographer, was under Sawyer's orders, filming the occasion in a van with darkened windows under the trees in the car park at the front of the crematorium. Horton wouldn't have wanted to exchange positions with him in this heat. He saw DC Marsden cross to Leanne Payne, who had lingered to jot down the words of condolence on the labels of the few floral tributes laid out on the cold slabs beside the aisle. They exchanged a few words and smiles before Leanne Payne moved off in the same direction as Woodley's mourners.
'At least she didn't ask for a comment,' Uckfield growled.
'Unless Marsden gave her one.'
'I'll have his balls for doorstops if he did.'
But Horton knew it was easy to get caught out, especially when the reporter was experienced and keen, and the copper, despite his degree and being on the fast-track entry system, was inexperienced in handling investigations and the media.
Marsden straightened up as they drew level. 'There are no flowers from any anonymous source, sir, or from anyone we don't know,' he said with disappointment.
'His killer's hardly likely to send a wreath and sign his bloody name,' Uckfield snapped before striding off.
'It's the heat,' Horton tossed at Marsden before following Uckfield through the aisles and past the courtyard where he stepped aside to allow a sombrely dressed elderly man to pass. But Horton knew the temperature had little to do with Uckfield's foul mood but more to do with the fact that ACC Dean had been constantly on the Super's back carping about the lack of progress in the Woodley investigation.
'Just look at them with their bling, beer guts, tattoos and tits,' Uckfield exploded. 'Bloody villains the lot.'
Horton didn't think he was referring to the small crowd of mainly elderly mourners gathering outside the waiting room for the next funeral, or the attractive suntanned woman in her mid-forties in the figure-hugging black dress, high-heeled court shoes and a wide-brimmed black hat standing a short distance away from them. He watched her scan Woodley's mourners with, he thought, an air of puzzlement, but then, as Uckfield had pointed out, they were enough to cause anyone bewilderment.
'And what's that bloody press photographer still doing here?' Uckfield continued, as Wesley turned his camera towards them. 'Hasn't he got enough pictures by now?'
Horton would have thought so. Leanne Payne crossed to Wesley and they huddled over his camera, obviously examining the digital images Wesley had shot. Horton turned his gaze on Woodley's mourners as they made for their cars. With surprise he saw Wayne and Maureen Sholby climb into a new Mercedes and Darren Hobbs into a new Audi. Either benefit payments had increased massively or they'd won the lottery, and as he considered neither was likely he was curious to know how they could afford to drive such expensive new motors.
Uckfield turned to Marsden, 'If you can tear yourself away from ogling Leanne Payne's tits it's time we got back to solving crimes that deserve it.' He stomped off leaving Marsden to scurry after him.
Horton decided to follow suit. There was nothing more to see here, though he took one final look around. His glance again fell on the woman with the large-brimmed black hat. She hadn't joined the elderly mourners congregating outside the chapel entrance but stood for a moment looking at them, then Leanne Payne caught his eye and seemed about to make a beeline for him. It was definitely time to leave.
Horton climbed on his Harley and headed back to the station, mulling over the attack on Woodley, as he'd done many times during the investigation. Several things about it bothered him. For a start Woodley had been miles off his patch, drinking at the Lord Horatio, a rundown pub just off the Hard and more than five miles from his usual haunts in the north of the city. And if the landlord, and those they'd managed to question since, could be believed, Woodley had been drinking alone. He'd left at closing time and had been attacked a couple of streets away heading north but he hadn't been discovered until one in the morning by two students staggering home after a night out in a club at the fashionable waterfront complex of Oyster Quays. On the house-to-house they'd drawn the 'three monkeys' syndrome: nobody had seen or heard anything and even if they had they certainly weren't saying anything. The occupants in that part of town were as closed-mouthed as Woodley's associates to the north. So what had Woodley been doing there? How had he got there? He didn't have a car and none of the bus or taxi drivers questioned claimed to have seen him. His mates swore on all they held sacred, their plasma TVs and mobile phones, they hadn't driven him there, but Horton didn't set much store by that.
He halted at the traffic lights to Horsea Marina and thought back to the beginning of the investigation. He had believed Woodley had been at the pub to meet a fellow crook with a view to planning a job. Maybe the other villain hadn't shown, or had decided that after telling Woodley his plans on a previous occasion he was too stupid to risk involving and thought it wiser to remove him from the scene. The weapon used on Woodley had most likely been a sap, more commonly known as a billy club or blackjack, and favoured by bouncers, street gangs, thugs, the military and the police. And although three-quarters of the station considered Woodley's death retribution for all the harm he'd caused to innocent victims in his evil miserable life, and the other quarter said they'd willingly give the person who had attacked Woodley and left him for dead a medal for doing so, Horton knew that no police officer would go so far as to clobber him, or bother to transport him to the marshes to die. Horton's money was on the villain. The blackjack was small enough to fit in a pocket and powerful enough to knock a man unconscious, which it had done. Whoever had attacked Woodley hadn't finished the job, either because they never intended to or they were disturbed. That didn't explain how Woodley had ended up dead at the marshes though.
The lights changed and Horton made for the motorway leading into the city. The other theory, one that Sergeant Cantelli had favoured, was that Woodley had been attacked by a mugger who had been disturbed before being able to rob him of the fifty pounds benefit money he had in his pocket. Horton recalled his conversations with Cantelli before the sergeant had gone on holiday. After Cantelli had consulted his wife, Charlotte, a nurse, he'd suggested that Woodley had staggered out of the hospital in a dazed and confused state, keen to go back to the time before the attack, a common factor in head-injury cases though they very rarely picked up their bed and walked. Once outside Woodley had been given a lift by a lorry or van driver or a passing sales rep to the marshes where he had passed out and died.
'But why drop him at the marshes?' Horton had asked.
'Because whoever picked him up soon realized he was trouble and said that was as far as he was prepared to go,' Cantelli had answered.
Then Sawyer had weighed in with his bright idea about Marty Stapleton being behind Woodley's murder. As Horton pulled into the station car park, he thought that whichever theory might be correct, they seemed fated not to get a result on the case.
He made his way to the overheated CID operations room where he found DC Walters, perspiring and jacketless, munching his way through a packet of crisps staring at a computer screen. It smelt like the back of a bin lorry. God alone knew what Walters had been eating but Horton caught the faint smell of curry, vinegar and eggs, which turned his stomach over.
'Don't you ever open any windows,' he said in exasperation, crossing to one on Walters' right and pushing it wide. It made little difference. There was no wind and hardly any air.
'Sorry, guv, got caught up watching these videos, trying to spot our metal thieves on the Hard,' Walters replied with his mouth full. 'Nothing doing. I've been sifting through the CCTV footage for so long that I wouldn't spot a masked robber if he stood in front of the camera and waved at me. Extra patrols around the area would stand a much better chance of catching the buggers.'
And Horton had about as much hope of getting that as he did of being able to walk across the Solent to the Isle of Wight. It had started with the theft of a bronze statue from a garden in Old Portsmouth and a fountain from a nearby wine bar eighteen days ago. Five days later two memorial plaques had been taken from benches in the museum grounds and two days ago two brass plaques had been removed from the wall of St George's Church, just off the Hard. It must have taken a hell of a lot of muscle not to mention noise but no one had seen or heard anything. The fact that there was no forced entry meant the thieves either had a key or an accomplice had let them in, or they'd entered the church during daylight hours when the door was unlocked. But no one had come forward after appeals in the local newspaper for witnesses. Uniform had interviewed the clergy and the regular parishioners without joy. It was hardly big time but the thieves were getting bolder and with the spiralling prices in metal, Horton knew it could escalate, as it had done in other cities across the country, and it might not be long before someone lost their life by trying to steal live cables from electricity pylons or cabling from the railways or the telephone company.
Walters said, 'Uniform's done the rounds of the licensed scrap-metal merchants but they all swear blind they've not bought any statues or plaques and they're worried they're going to be next in line to be targeted by the thieves.'
'Contact the Environment Agency; see what intelligence they have on any illegal and unlicensed scrap yards.'
He relayed to Walters what had happened at Daryl Woodley's funeral, which took two seconds and one word, 'nothing', and asked Walters to check out the vehicles Sholby and Hobbs had been driving when the video came over from Clarke. 'Find out how long they've had the cars, where they bought them and how they paid. Check if there is any finance on them. I doubt even they'd be stupid enough to drive stolen cars to a funeral, but you never know your luck.'
Horton pushed open his office door wishing that Cantelli wasn't on holiday. DCI Bliss had only grudgingly let the sergeant go after Horton had lied saying he was needed in Italy for a big family celebration. Cantelli had said, 'I only hope she doesn't decide to go camping in the New Forest.' Knowing Bliss's desire for status and her almost pathological obsession with neatness, cleanliness and order, Horton thought camping was the last thing their CID boss would ever dream of doing.
His office was like an oven. Wrenching back the blinds he shoved the window open as wide as it would go but only the sounds of bad-tempered traffic filtered in. Slinging his jacket on the back of his chair his hand brushed against the letter in the pocket. For the last hour he'd forgotten about it. He had no need to read it again. Every word was ingrained on his mind. In six weeks' time he and Catherine would be officially divorced. The decree absolute would be granted and his twelve-year marriage would be finally and legally over.
His eyes flicked to the photograph on his paper-strewn desk of his eight-year-old daughter and his heart felt heavy. He desperately wanted to spend more time with her but now that she was at boarding school that looked less likely than ever. And Catherine seemed determined to keep them apart during the school holidays.
He turned to stare out of the window seeing nothing but the day spent with Emma last Friday with a brief smile which turned to a scowl as the memory of how it had ended encroached on his thoughts. Catherine had agreed to reasonable contact time, only her idea of reasonable was turning out to be different to his. One day at the beginning of the half-term holiday was not enough. And it had not been what they'd agreed. Catherine had conveniently found a reason to take their daughter away from him yet again. At Christmas it had been with her parents to their villa in Cyprus. At Easter it had been a holiday with one of Catherine's friends and last week she and Emma had gone sailing to the Channel Islands on Catherine's father's yacht. He'd protested. Catherine had accused him of being unreasonable in trying to deprive Emma of her grandparents and vice-versa.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Death Lies Beneath"
Copyright © 2012 Pauline Rowson.
Excerpted by permission of Severn House Publishers Limited.
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