Nighthawking

Nighthawking

by Russ Thomas

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Overview

When a nighthawker on the hunt for antiquities instead uncovers the body of a foreign student, Detective Adam Tyler is pulled into a serpentine mystery of dangerous secrets, precious finds, and illegal dealings.

You are a trespasser. You are a thief. You are a Nighthawker.

Under the dark cover of night, a figure climbs over the wall of the Botanical Garden with a bag and a metal detector. It's a dicey location in the populous city center, but they're on the hunt—and while most of what they find will be worthless, it takes only one big reward to justify the risk. Only this time, the nighthawker unearths a body. . . .

Detective Sergeant Adam Tyler and his newly promoted protégé, Detective Constable Amina Rabbani, are officially in charge of Cold Case Reviews. But with shrinking budgets and manpower in the department, both are shunted onto the murder investigation—and when the victim is identified as a Chinese national from a wealthy family, in the UK on a student visa, the case takes on new urgency to prevent an international incident.

As Tyler and Rabbani dig further into the victim's life, it's becomes clear there's more to her studies and relationships than meets the eye, and that the original investigation into her disappearance was shoddy at best. Meanwhile, someone else is watching these events . . . someone who knew the victim, and might hold the key to what happened the night she vanished.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780525542056
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/23/2021
Series: Detective Sergeant Adam Tyler Series , #2
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 219,552
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 2.40(d)

About the Author

Russ Thomas grew up in the 80s reading anything he could get his hands on, writing stories, watching television, and playing videogames: in short, anything that avoided the Great Outdoors. After a few 'proper' jobs, he discovered the joys of bookselling, where he could talk to people about books all day. Now a full-time writer, he also teaches creative writing classes and mentors new authors.

Read an Excerpt

One

The man with the scar on his cheek looks down at the cold steel of the railway tracks and the morning sun glints back up at him. He wonders what it would be like to meet your end in this place. The wind picks up for a moment and he pulls his thick coat around him against the chill. The sharp breeze cuts into the scar on his cheek and makes it ache.

A dozen or so separate railway lines branch here, in a complex spider's web of iron that stretches out to meet the platforms at Sheffield station. Another man, in a bright orange safety vest with reflective flashings, stands a few paces ahead, holding a black-and-white communications paddle. He's there for protection, in case there's a mix-up and a train gets shunted through on the wrong line. A radio crackles on his belt.

There's not a great deal to see, of course. The body found here thirteen years ago is long gone, the parents of the teenage boy have put him to rest, and the blood and any other evidence has been washed away by countless rainstorms. And yet, the man tries to imagine what it was like.

It had been late evening, snowing heavily, and East Midlands Trains were already running a reduced service. There were no witnesses passing on the final trains in from Manchester or Nottingham. The original investigation posited a rival gang, some turf beef that ended in a knife to the guts. Tragic and unnecessary but sadly not unusual. The death of young boys is an embarrassing stain on the reputation of this city, which once had a different reason for the fame of its knives. His parents and friends said he wasn't in a gang but then they always say that, don't they?

The boy's corpse had been found the next morning, half-buried in a snowdrift and an unnaturally deep shade of blue, the body so unrecognizable the driver who reported it assumed it was an animal hit by a passing train. The woman sent out to check had needed weeks of counseling.

After a few months, the investigation stalled. The case was filed away with all the other unsolved cases. Which is what has brought the man with the scar here.

"Finished?" The railway worker has returned from the tracks ahead. "Only, the eight-fifteen from Plymouth'll be through soon and if they have to divert, it'll throw a right spanner in the works."

They begin the short walk back to the platform.

"Can't imagine what you thought you'd find after all these years. Reckon this was a bit of a waste of your time." The railway worker clearly considers it a waste of his.

But the man with the scar has found something. A building that overlooks the crime scene. He knows no one in those offices was interviewed in the original investigation. Maybe someone in the building was working late that night. Maybe they saw something they didn't fully understand at the time. Maybe they'll remember it, thirteen years later. Maybe.

He thanks the railway worker and takes his leave of the station, following the curve of the Cutting Edge sculpture in Sheaf Square as it glistens in the morning sunlight. He walks up the hill past the university buildings and crosses Arundel Gate, cutting through the Millennium Gallery and the Winter Garden and onto Surrey Street.

Outside the coffee shop, a barista stares in disgust at a young homeless guy tucked up close to the wall against the chill. The man with the scar drops a couple of quid into the lad's Styrofoam cup.

"You shouldn't encourage them," the barista scolds, and disappears back inside.

At the counter, the man orders his drink while the barista pointedly continues his conversation with a colleague, extolling the merits of his one-man war on destitution.

"I've a good mind to call the police," the barista says, and holds a Sharpie poised against a cup. "What name is it?" he asks distractedly.

"Tyler," says the man with the scar. "Detective Sergeant Adam Tyler."

The barista manages a sick smile and hurries away to steam some milk.

Dave Carver arrives at the Botanical Gardens early that morning, just as he always does. His official shift starts at ten but he likes to get here earlier. Sometimes he's even here before the council workers who open the gates, and he has to wait patiently until they arrive.

He likes to grab a takeaway coffee-black, filter-from one of the High Street chains that have sprung up like mushrooms along Ecclesall Road. He remembers a time when there were far fewer coffee shops in Sheffield, when people made do with what they had at home. Now you can't move for cardboard cups and the smell of roasted coffee beans. He's filled with disdain for these capitalist multinationals, enslaving the downtrodden poor of South America so some middle-class student can part with £3.50 of Daddy's money for a syrupy concoction that costs the purveyor no more than eight pence a cup. It's obscene and he despises himself each time he goes into one of these places. But he goes anyway, every week. Because she loved them so much.

Once through the entrance to the Gardens, he wanders up the steep path that leads to the greenhouse with the signing-in book. Then he tracks right, never left-he stays clear of that side of the Gardens if he can-and turns right again into the small walled area they call the Marnock Garden.

He finds it peaceful here, a small enclave within the busy, breathtaking city, like the eye at the center of a storm. Here he will sit, until the start of his shift, on a wooden bench with a small brass plaque. Sometimes he gets so lost in memory he ends up late for work. So often in fact that he has a reputation for tardiness and poor timekeeping among the other volunteers. It has become a running joke. Speedy Dave. So early, he makes himself late.

This morning is different, though. As he enters the garden he glances once at the giant stainless-steel ant sculpture made from scrap metal and idly wonders, as he often does, if any of the parts were made with steel he had a hand in tempering. But then, as his eyes swing back round to the rose garden along the left-hand side, he sees something that causes him to stop short.

At first-and later he'll laugh at the absurdity of this notion-he sees it as a living organism. Some new plant he hasn't seen before, pushing its way out between the succulents. Five stubby branches and a long, thick trunk. And then, of course, he realizes what it really is. A human arm. Five fingers loosely clenched, as though it has begun crawling its way toward the path.

The blood drains from Dave's face and his knees lock. He stands perfectly still, staring at the hand. It seems to beckon him in some way, even as it crawls its way ever closer. Come over here. Join me. Then, behind him, a woman screams, and as though the noise has given them permission, his legs give way beneath him and Dave falls to his knees on the gravel path.

Detective Constable Mina Rabbani braces the desk with the back of her neck and head, and lifts, shoving a folded-up copy of yesterday's Sheffield Star as far under the front left leg as she can manage before the weight becomes too much for her and she has to let go. She hears the monitor above her rock back and forth and then settle, and breathes a sigh of relief. That would really go down well with IT if she managed to smash her PC so early into her new role.

PC. Personal computer. Or Police Constable. Except it's DC now. Detective Constable. She wonders whether she'll ever get used to that. She knew there was nothing particularly glamorous about the role but she'd hoped she might get to see a bit more action than fixing a wobbly desk. Still, it means something. She finds herself smiling. It means a lot.

She straightens up and glances around the room. Still no sign of Tyler. Well, there was no reason to suppose today would be any different from yesterday but it's becoming more and more difficult to cover for him. If Jordan finds out, she's going to lose the "Detective" bit before she's even got used to it.

She decides to keep her head down in the hope no one will notice her. Or the fact that Tyler's missing. She goes back to the case she's been reviewing but within a few minutes her mind is wandering again. For some reason she finds herself wondering if her brother, Ghulam-he's a doctor, you know!-ever has to stop his desk wobbling with yesterday's newspaper. She leans forward and puts her head in her hands, digging the heels of her palms into her eye sockets. It isn't that she's ungrateful. Really, it's not. She's got a lot to be thankful to Tyler for, not least for saving her life. It's just that none of this is what she expected. None of this is what she wanted!

She knows police work isn't like it is on the TV or at the movies. Cases like the one she was involved in last year don't just crop up every day, she gets that. She's grateful for it, really. Otherwise her mother wouldn't even let her out of the house. Ay, Mina! Jaan, why can't you get a different job? She knows the job involves a lot of paperwork and maybe it isn't as hands-on as it is for the Murder Room team. It isn't as though Doggett had wanted her anywhere near his squad after what happened anyway, but that was fine. She was happy to give up her original dream for a chance to work with Tyler. It's still CID and, to be fair, she would have taken anything as long as she got that word "Detective" in front of her name. It isn't even that she doesn't believe Tyler when he tells her how important it is to review cases. It's there in the name, after all. Cold Case Review Unit. She gets that. She's done every crappy job Tyler's asked of her, and more. It's beyond boring, but has she complained? No. Not even once.

But it would all just be a lot more bearable if he was there leading by example. Instead of doing whatever the hell it is he does all day.

There's a loud cheer and Mina swivels in her chair in time to see Guy Daley walk into the office. It has been a year since she last saw him, being hurried into the back of an ambulance. The room erupts into a chorus of "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow," but for all that she's happy Daley hasn't suffered any long-lasting effects from his knock on the head, she can't bring herself to join in with it. She turns back to her screen and begins reading the notes again.

Half an hour later she gives up and makes her way to the watercooler with an empty plastic bottle. You're not supposed to refill bottles. There's a printed sign, laminated and stuck to the wall with Blu Tack, that says, "In the interests of hygiene, please do NOT refill water bottles. Use the paper cups provided!!!!!" Despite the underlining, bold, and excessive use of exclamation marks, no one ever uses the paper cups provided.

Her bottle is half full when Daley appears alongside her. He smiles at her without speaking and it's even worse than the encounters she used to have with the man.

"Welcome back, Guy. How are you doing?"

"Cheers, Mina. Yeah, I'm good, mate."

Mina? Mate? Perhaps the knock on his head dislodged something. She immediately feels the shame of that thought. He was badly hurt last year, and from what she's heard, it's been a long recovery. He might be an ignorant bastard but he didn't deserve that. Still, mate? Maybe it's the fact she's a detective now. She hasn't considered that before. Is she now "one of the lads"?

As though he's read her thoughts, he says, "Congratulations, by the way."

"Right. Yeah, thanks."

"Look, I . . ." He trails off and they stand in silence as her water bottle fills slowly to the brim.

She lets go of the dispensing button and turns to face him. She wants to head straight back to her desk, but it's obvious he hasn't finished yet.

"Thing is, Mina," he says, and steadfastly fails to reveal the thing. "I just wanted to say . . . look, thanks. You know."

She's so shocked to hear the words coming from him, it takes her a few seconds to work out what he's talking about. But then it comes to her. He must have found out from someone that she was the one who sat with his split scalp cradled in her hands as he bled all over her best jeans. With one hand she'd pressed a T-shirt as hard as she dared against his head to staunch the blood loss, while with the other she called for help, chasing up the ambulance, the fire brigade, and every police officer South Yorkshire had to spare.

"No problem," she says. She can't really think of anything else to say.

"No, really, Mina. I mean it." And she thinks that maybe he does. "You . . . you proper saved my life. I owe you one."

Bloody hell, that knock must have been harder than the doctors thought! He's probably still concussed.

"It's good to have you back, Guy." The words stick in her throat but she manages to get them out, and a half-smile to go with them.

"So . . . you've joined CCRU then?" He says it the same way everyone does, "sea-crew," as though she's a deckhand on a trawler. She's never sure if the nickname's meant to be disparaging or not.

Oh God! He's trying to make small talk. She preferred it when he was being a dick. She knew how to deal with that.

"It seemed like a good fit," she tells him. And it had done, at the time. She glances back at the screen and the case notes waiting for her. "You didn't happen to see DS Tyler on your way in, did you?"

Daley can't help the involuntary scowl that crosses his face, and it's so familiar to her, Mina almost smiles.

"No," he says, and then, like the shark that he is, he smells blood in the water. "Why? What's he up to?"

"He went down to look at some evidence, I think." The lie comes easily to her after months of practice. "Just a case we've been looking at. Listen, I'd better get back to it."

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