In the fourth novel of this acclaimed crime series, Joe Donovan must help a woman determine if her recent visions are related to the death of a young boy.
Anne Marie is back in the hometown she hasn't seen for forty years, trying to live a normal life with her partner and teenage son. But that's impossible for Anne Marie. Because forty years ago, when she was eleven, she killed a little boy. She is trying to make peace with her past by telling her story to journalist Joe Donovan. But it's not that simple.
Suffering from horrifying visions, she sometimes does bad things. Things she has no memory of afterward. So when a teenager on her housing estate is murdered and she wakes up with blood on her hands, Anne Marie naturally fears the worst. Her fragile life falling apart, Anne Marie turns to those she loves. But where she was expecting support, she finds only betrayal. Desperate, she turns to Donovan for help. But Donovan may have his own reasons for helping her..reasons that have to do with the disappearance of his own son...
About the Author
Martyn Waites is one of crime fiction's leading writers of neo-noir. He is the author of The Mercy Seat, Bone Machine, White Riot, and Speak No Evil. Waites lives in London.
Read an Excerpt
Speak No Evil
A Joe Donovan Thriller
By Martyn Waites
Pegasus Books LLCCopyright © 2009 Martyn Waites
All rights reserved.
The cold kept coming in. And the window couldn't stop it.
Anne Marie Smeaton tugged at the handle, but it just wouldn't settle in the frame. She pulled it close as she could, straining hard to make it fit, get the lock to catch. Then waited, removing her hand slowly, convincing herself that this time she had done it. Then watching, heart sinking, as it crept open yet again. The seal on the ill-fitting uPVC gone, the frame misshapen by years of abuse and neglect. She sighed. The cold never left her, those hard, icy claws rattling the glass, a constant reminder that she could never feel warm, never feel safe. She pulled her cardigan tight about herself, left the kitchen, closed the door behind her.
The living room had all the lights on. Ceiling, wall, standing. Glaring and harsh: making her squint but keeping the shadows at bay. The walls were brightly painted, rich blues and oranges, enthusiastically, but amateurishly applied. She had done them herself, getting bored and impatient with the work, slapping the paint on haphazardly just to be finished. The furniture was cheap, mostly second-hand, but serviceable. The kind of thing she was used to by now. The kind of thing she had always been used to.
The one exception was the gaudily coloured miniature Thai temple on a stand in the corner of the room. The Spirit House, supposedly imprisoning evil spirits, not letting them into the rest of the flat. She didn't believe it but she had bought it, knowing that when people are desperate they didn't believe in nothing they believed in anything. It had travelled with her for the best part of twenty desperate years. It had been battered and repaired but she wouldn't part with it. She didn't dare.
Anne Marie sat on the sofa. In contrast to the brightly coloured walls, she was all in black. Black T-shirt, black jeans, black cardigan, black socks. Her hair was dyed a slightly unnatural shade of red and she was bigger than she would have liked to have been. Like so many things in her life, it was a losing battle.
She looked at the blank face of the TV. There would be nothing on worth watching. Not at this time of night. There used to be quiz shows. She loved them, would sometimes phone in, get herself on air. Sometimes because she had the answers, sometimes just for someone to talk to. But they were gone now. Just foreign films and news. Lots of news. And Anne Marie had had enough of news.
She should be in bed, asleep, dreaming. But she couldn't sleep, couldn't dream. Because, behind her sleeping eyes, the ghosts were massing again. The evil spirits. The ghosts of the dead and the damned, the lost and the left behind. Ready to ambush her dreams, control her mind. Push through to the waking world, dragging their evil and madness with them. Making her do bad things. Wrong things. And she wouldn't let them. She couldn't let them.
They had visited Anne Marie before. She knew the signs. The headaches, niggling at first, building to pounding and smashing the inside of her head, like warring drummers. The blackouts. Coming round, not remembering where she had been, what she had done. Widening gaps in her memory, the voices taunting her with dread possibilities.
She knew why it was happening. The book. But the knowledge didn't help her cope with it And she couldn't yet stop.
Anne Marie was usually straight down the doctor's whenever the spirits started talking. Cramming all the pills she could down her throat, taking to her bed, the Spirit House beside her, riding the attack out on a wave of numbness. But she couldn't do that this time. Because of the book.
That fucking book.
Anne Marie listened. Outside the flat, the night was quiet. Or quiet for the area of Newcastle she lived in. Not too many police sirens, screams, shouts, glass being broken. Made a change. She listened for sounds inside the flat itself. Jack was sleeping in the next room but as usual he made no sound. Rob did. Her boyfriend sleeping in her bedroom. Or their bedroom, as Rob had taken to calling it. Snoring and farting, his usual night-time symphony. Drunk from a skinful in the Half Moon, back to hers, grunting and falling into bed. At least he had stopped pawing her. That was something.
No, he was good, Rob, she told herself. She could have done worse. She had done worse.
Her heart starting to speed again, she reached for her barley wine. It was warm. Didn't matter. Tasted better that way. She gulped it down, her self-medication, knowing it would be the last one until the next cheque.
She looked from her empty glass to her watch. Nearly 1 a.m. She should try and get some sleep. She had another session on the book in the morning and she needed as clear a head as possible. Get it all taped and over with. Free herself from it and move on with life.
The cold was coming in under the door. It was never wholly gone, no matter how tightly she pulled her cardigan. Her tin was beside the empty glass. She opened it. Just enough for a spliff. She smiled. That would send her off. Deftly sprinkling and rolling, she lit up, dragged down deep. Her lungs clung to the smoke like a drowning man to a life raft, waited for the waves to wash her away. She stared at the blank screen, the garish walk, bright lights, saw no shadows, no ghosts.
The red light on the stereo. Her other defence, music. Perfect with the spliff. The counsellor had taught her years ago to find something she could connect with, that made her feel safe, and give herself over to it. The CD she wanted was already in the tray. It seemed to be always in the tray. She pushed the volume low so as not to wake up Jack, trapped another mouthful of smoke, settled back and closed her eyes.
The music filled the over-bright room. Scott Walker: Scott 4. Not the one about Death playing chess with a knight. The one about angels. Angels of ashes. How something good could come out of something bad. At least that's what the song said to her.
The orchestra played, Scott sang in his beautiful voice about being saved by angels and Anne Marie sighed, tried to hold on to those seconds of contentment, stretch them out to minutes, to hours. The angels could lock the bad spirits away forever. She dragged smoke down deep, let the music wash over her, through her, like a huge wave of comforting emotion. Scott's voice told her not to be afraid, that he had been there too, he had come through it.
She took another deep drag, silently mouthing the words to the song like an incantatory prayer, and wished, not for the first time, that she had that disease some people get, that condition where they see emotions as colours. With her eyes closed and her head drifting, she could shut out the cold, the greys, whites and blacks, let the colours of her walls sway to the music, enfold her, keep her warm and safe.
She pulled the spliff down to the roach, stubbed it, clung to the music, kept intoning, imagining. Kept the ghosts at bay.
With another sigh, Anne Marie Smeaton slipped into warm, bright sleep.
'They think I got away with it,' she says, dragging deep on her cigarette. "Cos I'm out I got away with it. 'Cos I'm not in prison. I was lucky.' She gives a harsh laugh. 'Aye. Lucky. That's me.'
'Who thinks that?'
'The media. An' those that are stupid believe what the media said. They think I'm a liar. A manipulator.'
'People. The truth. An' I'm not. I'm honest. They think I don't care about the boy. The boy I killed. But I do. I think about him every day. Sometimes I'll be having a laugh, a good time and then bang, there he'll be. And it's like a cloud's come over the sun, you know what I mean? A huge stone in my heart, puttin' me down. Weighin'. Draggin'. Remindin' me. You can't enjoy yourself any more because there's a boy who'll never grow up because of you.' She corrects herself 'Because of me.'
'And what do you do then?'
She shrugs lightly but her eyes show it's no light thing. 'Just wait for it to pass over. What ehe can I do?'
'Wouldn't a psychiatrist be better for you? Sort you out?'
'I'm talking to you. This is goin' to sort it. Anyway, I had enough of them inside. They never believed me. No matter what I said, they never believed me. Because I was a liar. A manipulator. I twisted words, I twisted people. Well I didn't. I told the truth. About what I did. About what was done to me.' She pulls deeply once more on her cigarette. Taps the long tube of ash into the ashtray. Watches it fall.
He allows her to smoke even though he doesn't do it himself Even though he doesn't like it or want her to. He allows her to smoke. And, he thinks, hopes he isn't being manipulated by her.
'There's been worse things done to children by children since what I did. Much worse. And we never learn. We never make things better. Those two kids who killed that toddler, that ...' And here she pauses, like she can't bring herself to say the name. Like it'll make it real, make her as bad as them. 'You know. There was a big chance then to actually look at the causes of what made them do what they did. A real big chance. As a society. All of us. Look at families, what they do to kids. How people who are supposed to be looking after the children are really abusin' and hurtin' them. How we can be compassionate and all accept we've got a part to play.' She's starting to well up now, tears forming at the sides of her eyes. She tries to blink them away. They fall. 'But we didn't. The Home Secretary and the media just blamed horror films. Ones the kids hadn't even seen. And then made the kids out to be monsters.'
He looks at her. Not for the first time has she surprised him with her eloquence and intelligence. He wonders whether her words are just to impress him or whether she really believes them.
She stubs her cigarette out. 'We never leant,' she says. 'Kids are still killin' kids. Kids are still dyin'.'CHAPTER 2
The white Fiesta roared round the corner, pulled a handbrake stop, spinning its rear end as it did so, making the figures standing in the near-deserted corner of the car park scatter as it came to a revving rest. Calvin Bell thought it was the coolest thing he had ever seen.
The scattered kids began to move back, shouting mock abuse at the driver, laughing, their momentary fear now dispersed. Calvin, on the fringes of the group, took this as his cue, joined them.
It was boy racers night out. A near-empty car park on a tattered and battered industrial/retail estate over on the east side of Newcastle. The cars all either small first-buys or twocced joyrides. Halfords-customized to compensate for their size with maximum noise and colour. The bigger kids driving, younger ones and girlfriends as passengers. The cars all parked up at the far end of the car park away from the streetlights, doors open and beams on, sound systems and engines competing for aural dominance. The kids chatting, sharing fags and spliffs, passing round fizzy soft drinks spiked with vodka, nuclear firestorm-bright alcopops, cider and lager. Laughing, joking.
Other kids moving amongst them, slapping stuff into palms in exchange for curled-up notes. The dealers. Keeping the night's highs going, fuelling the drivers.
Calvin so desperately wanted to be one of the gang. Get in one of the cars, drive round with the older kids. His mates Renny and Pez had already done it. They had told him afterwards, laughing and bragging, how great it was speeding round the streets, shouting, singing, draining bottles then flinging them out the window, hearing them smash on the pavements, against the sides of houses. They had made it sound so exciting that Calvin couldn't wait to try it.
He had begged them to bring him down, give him an introduction. They had given in, done so. And now here he was, past one in the morning, waiting. This, he thought with a fluttery pride, was what being grown up was all about.
And something else. The estate wasn't the best place to live. He knew that. Sometimes it felt like a battlefield. And sometimes it actually was. If he was seen with the older kids he might not get picked on so much. His bullies might think he was cool for a little 'un. Safe, even. He just hoped they wouldn't ask him to do something. Some scary initiation rite.
Calvin scanned, recognized some of the faces. He turned to Renny. 'Which one did you go with? Which car?'
Renny didn't answer. He was looking at the Fiesta that had just pulled up.
Calvin kept on. 'Was it that one?'
Renny didn't look at him. 'Aye.'
Excitement rushed through Calvin. If Renny had been once, he could go again. And Calvin could go with him. 'Go an' ask him, then. Ask him if we can all go.'
Renny just nodded. Didn't move. The kid got out of the car, pushed his baseball cap to the right angle, strolled over to the other older ones, walking like some gangsta rapper in a hip-hop video, took a pull on a spliff. Talked to his mates.
Behind him one of the dealers tried to move in. A mate of the driver's pushed him away. The dealer fell.
The drivers and hangers-on formed themselves into a sudden circle. There was no more laughing. Disrespect had been flung. It would have to be answered. Calvin, watching with the others, closed his eyes.
Not knives, he thought to himself, please, not knives ...
He opened them again, slowly. The fight hadn't started. A peacemaker had intervened. The aggrieved parties were both backing down and saving face, both relieved, although not showing it, that it hadn't come to blades. The atmosphere, although not immediately dangerous, was still tense.
Calvin was getting impatient. He wanted his ride. Before anything nasty happened. He looked at Renny. 'Gan on, then. Ask 'im.'
Renny had been transfixed by what had been happening. He seemed disappointed that there would be no fight. However, he was reluctant to move. 'Doesn't work like that,' he said, not bringing his eyes around to face Calvin.
The would-be combatants were walking away from each other. Someone made a joke. It helped.
Calvin kept looking at his friend. 'How does it work then?'
'Tell him, Pez.'
Pez, smaller than the both of them, clearly a follower where the other two fancied themselves as leaders, looked up startled, as if he had just been roughly woken from a long, baffling dream. 'Eh?'
Renny looked at Pez. Calvin missed the message that Renny tried to send with his eyes. 'Calvin wants to go for a ride. I told him it doesn't work like that.'
'Aw. Right.' Pez nodded. 'Aye.'
Calvin looked between the two. And saw what was going on. 'You haven't been, have you?'
'They didn't ask you, you were never in a car. Either of you. Were you?'
Pez looked at Renny. Renny shrugged. 'We just ... you know. We didn't wanna ... look like shites. We thought ...' Another shrug. 'Y'know.'
Calvin looked at the other two, at the cars. He was so near to them. But he might as well have been miles away. In another country. He felt angry, betrayed. He had sneaked out of the house in the middle of the night, ran all the way down here to meet the other two, just on the promise of a ride. And he wouldn't get one. It was all right for the other two, their parents didn't care where they went to at night, Renny's especially. But Calvin's did. It had cost him a lot to come out. He felt stupid. And angry. He wanted to hit Renny but he knew his friend's temper would come straight out and he would end up worse off. He looked at the drivers, at the fear and aggression lurking just below the surface, waiting for another flashpoint to set it off. And suddenly felt scared. He had to go home.
'Laters.' He turned round, started to walk away.
'Where you goin'?' asked Pez, clearly confused.
Calvin shrugged. Tried not to make it into a big gesture. 'Home. Not stayin' here with you two little-boy losers.'
He walked away. As he passed the massed ranks of racers, one of them detached himself from the bunch, walked over towards him. The same gangsta rapper rolling gait as all the others used, baseball cap on his head, hoodie on top of it.
Calvin stopped, looked up. The older kid's eyes were hidden. Calvin thought his luck was in, that he was going to be asked for a ride. The kid held out his hand, flashed something hidden in the palm.
'Want some stuff? Some gear?'
Calvin's heart sank. He recognized the boy. It was the dealer who had been ready to fight. He still looked as if he was up for it, his anger curtailed but not satisfied. Calvin always avoided the dealers anyway. This one especially.
He shook his head, tried to walk round him. The dealer didn't move.
'Some blow? E? Get you happy?' The dealer's voice didn't sound very happy.
'No money,' said Calvin, trying again to go round him.
Excerpted from Speak No Evil by Martyn Waites. Copyright © 2009 Martyn Waites. Excerpted by permission of Pegasus Books LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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What People are Saying About This
Martyn Waites is Britain’s answer to Michael Connelly and the Joe Donovan series is proof of that.