Tenacity: A Thriller

Tenacity: A Thriller

by J. S. Law

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781627794572
Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 11/03/2015
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 641,989
File size: 814 KB

About the Author

J. S. Law served in the Royal Navy Submarine Service, rising through the ranks to become a senior nuclear engineer. Tenacity is his first novel. He lives in Portsmouth, England.

Read an Excerpt

Tenacity

A Thriller


By J. S. Law

Henry Holt and Company

Copyright © 2015 James Law Author, Ltd.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-62779-457-2


CHAPTER 1

Thursday Afternoon — September 25, 2014


"Ma'am?"

Dan looked up at the young naval policeman who was leaning around her office door as though he might lose balance and topple in if he didn't deliver his message and be on his way soon enough.

He was young, bursting with confidence and a little overfamiliarity, but his navy uniform was immaculate and the shirt so white that it almost seemed a little bit blue in the dull glow that came in through the window. Dan could work with that; he had attention to detail.

"Head of Kill's here to see you," he said, using the slang term for the Crimes Involving Loss of Life division that never failed to grate on Dan's nerves. "Commander Blackett. He's downstairs signing in now."

Dan watched him and said nothing, the silence drawing out between them and the young man's position leaning on the door becoming tenuous.

He waited, watched her for an acknowledgment, and, when none came, he eventually released the door frame and stepped properly into the office, freestanding.

"Thank you," said Dan. "Could you turn the lights on and show him up, please."

"Ah, he asked if you would go down and go for a walk with him," he said, trying for a smile. "The commander said" — the young policeman paused, hesitated — "He said the fluorescent lights make you grumpy."

Dan smiled and watched the young man relax a little. She was new here, had taken over the Portsmouth unit only a day ago and had been away from the Special Investigation Branch for a good while before that. Many of the younger police didn't know her, but they would get to, in time.

"In that case, you better leave the lights off," Dan said. "Thank you, I'll go down now."

He nodded and was gone as Dan stood and grabbed her issue waterproof jacket and tricorn hat.

* * *

Commander Blackett was waiting for her outside, across the parking lot near her car. His hand was moving in slow cycles from his mouth to his side and back again, the smoke signals rising after each one confirming that little had likely changed with Roger Blackett.

He took a long, deep draw on his cigarette as she approached and smiled broadly.

"You look good, Danny," he said, reaching out to shake her hand, though it was clear he would have embraced her had they not been in uniform. "In fact, you look great."

Dan shook her head and ignored him.

"You still torturing yourself for miles upon miles every day?" he asked.

Dan nodded.

"Too bloody vigorous, Danny. I'm sure it can't be good for you, you know, putting your body through that, but if it keeps you healthy and happy ..."

Dan watched him, one eyebrow raised, as he drew on his cigarette with the intensity of an asthmatic drawing on an inhaler.

He smiled. "Don't you lecture me, Danielle Lewis. I'm a lost cause and, anyway, I'm giving up."

"You've been giving up for twenty years."

"Ah well, life's for living," he said. "All about pushing boundaries and seeing what you can get away with." He tossed his stub into a large, wet pile of others on the ground next to a garbage can.

"How come you're out and about in Portsmouth?" she asked. "I heard you liked being tucked up safe and warm in your office these days."

"I came to see you," he said, as though that were sufficient reason for the head of her branch to drive for four hours and turn up unannounced at her office, asking to go for a walk. "Can we walk for a short while then?"

Dan shrugged and waited for him to lead the way.

They walked steadily through the dockyard, Blackett talking as they went, catching her up on promotions and news from the navy police and its Special Investigation Branch, as well as gossip from a circle of mutual friends that Dan hadn't seen or heard about for years. He was talking, but not really saying anything.

They passed the carrier berths, and HMS Illustrious, the newly decommissioned British aircraft carrier. She had seen from a distance that the flat, gray flight deck was free of aircraft. It looked as smooth and empty as a Sunday morning parking lot in the dull light. Now that she was closer, she was no longer able to see the flight deck, only the sailors who were bustling around the ship beneath it.

Roger began to tell her about his time aboard Illustrious as the master at arms, the senior policeman on the floating town that held upward of a thousand sailors when it deployed. He spoke quickly as Dan watched the sailors working on the gray passageways that looked down onto the concrete jetty, or unpacking stores and supplies on dry land, near one of the gangways.

Dan fixed her eyes dead ahead. She felt their gazes fall on her like the shadow cast by the twenty-thousand-ton hulk. Some glanced surreptitiously sideways; others simply stood up and motioned to their friends. It was as though their eyes, and the darkness cast onto the ground by the ship, possessed actual weight.

Roger talked on, oblivious, as they moved toward the rising masts of HMS Victory.

Portsmouth Dockyard had changed since she had last been here. It had grown and been modernized. There were more cars and fewer people, but the layout was the same and she relaxed again as they headed toward the cobblestones of the Historic Dockyard, passing visitors and tourists who trod them on their way to the Mary Rose, or HMS Warrior, all hoping to see some history only a few hundred feet away from the modern warships that still had a hand in shaping it.

"I was hoping to speak to you last night," he said, a change in tone alerting Dan that she needed to listen. "I tried your mobile, thought we might be able to grab a drink."

They walked along toward the waterfront. Several sailors saluted Blackett as they passed, Dan aware of their eyes flicking toward her after they did.

They stopped at the water's edge, and Roger lit another cigarette. "I thought, at first, you might've changed your number, but your dad and sister said they haven't spoken to you, either."

"What's up, Roger?" she asked.

She wrapped her arms around herself.

"I'm glad you've started to let your hair grow back," he said.

The words sounded odd and random, irritating.

"It's a long drive from Plymouth to Portsmouth to tell me to call home," she said.

"Your dad's worried. We all are."

"I'll call them."

He nodded, seeming to accept he wouldn't push it any further.

"That's not the only reason I'm here," he said. "Do you remember a sailor called Stewart Walker?"

Dan shrugged again. "Not from recently; I knew a Stewart Walker when I was in basic training."

"That's him. You joined up together. Then you both joined HMS Manchester straight after you passed out of Raleigh."

Dan nodded, her features unchanged. "Yeah, 'Whisky' Walker, I remember him. I haven't heard from him in years."

"He died the day before yesterday. Hanged by the neck on board HMS Tenacity, one of the nuclear hunter-killer submarines that run out of Devonport. It's believed he committed suicide."

Dan turned to look at Blackett for the first time since their conversation had started.

"Believed?"

He nodded. "This is a nasty one, Danny. I know you've only just arrived back with Kill, and I won't hide the fact that I didn't want this one for you, but I need an investigator to come and work out of Devonport Dockyard for a few weeks."

He turned and looked out across the water.

He was hesitating; she could see it in the way he looked away from her — the way he focused out to sea as if engrossed by the nothingness between them and the Gosport Peninsula, which looked back at him from barely a mile away. She could still recognize all of his mannerisms even though she hadn't seen him in well over a year; he was a constant.

He reached for his cigarettes, half pulled one out, and then thought better of it. His tongue poked out from between his pursed lips as he took a few moments to thread it back into the nearly new pack.

"And?" she prompted, waiting for the rest.

"And ..." — he reached for his cigarettes again and pulled the same one back out, lighting it with his back to the wind — "And, I need to know how you are. I know you've only just taken over the Portsmouth unit, so I know that you're back, but I need to know that you're really ready to come back."

"What?" asked Dan, her voice sharp, incredulous. "What does that even mean?"

"It means you had a tough time, a really tough time, and that affects people."

"And I dealt with it."

"Some of it."

She turned on him, faced up to him.

They weren't at work anymore, they weren't in uniform, they were friends of over twenty years, and Dan was fearless in that knowledge.

"I dealt with it," she said, her eyes boring into him and her teeth gritted.

He looked back at her, not angry, as he might well have been, just patiently waiting.

She turned away and looked out to sea in the same direction that he'd been looking.

A small white boat was being tossed around by the swell a few hundred yards from land. It was completely at the mercy of the waves around it, only held in place by a tiny, taut anchor rope that could break at any second.

The wind picked up and was topping the waves, forcing the crests down into small, white mounds, like the backs of kneeling worshippers.

Together, the elements battered the hull of the small craft and tested the anchor's resolve.

"The Hamilton case took a lot out of all of us," he said, his voice low and thoughtful. "None of us saw that coming and no one paid the price you did. No one could have predicted it was one of our own —"

"I'm fine," she said, cutting him off. "Tell me about Walker."

"The way you were treated by the press. The sheer scale of what Hamilton did." Blackett seemed to be speaking to himself now, not really looking at Dan, as though he were seeing it all again, reading out the highlights as it played through in his mind.

"Do we have a timeline for Walker?" asked Dan. "And have interviews begun? Or can I get down there before they do?"

"What happened afterward ..." His words trailed off.

Dan stopped and looked at him. He was the one she had turned to after it had happened, the one she had trusted to help her.

They looked at each other and neither spoke for a long time.

"I'm okay, Roger," Dan said. "Really I am, and I want this. I'm ready for it."

CHAPTER 2

Thursday Evening — September 25, 2014


Returning to the house felt odd. The colors were no longer of her choosing, and her tenants had laid laminate flooring in the hallway, but had taken the rug that had covered most of it, leaving grime lines that ran like flower borders a foot from each wall. In the living room, where there was carpet, it looked worn and dusty, with depressed patches dotted around the floor in all the wrong places. Her own house now reminded her of one of the many married quarters that she'd moved into as a child, as she and her sister had followed their dad around the country from military base to married patch. The cheap housing provided by the armed forces always had an air of not being home, but she and her big sister, Charlie, would still dash inside, ignoring the magnolia walls, worn carpets, and mismatched cabinet doors in the kitchen, as they tried to claim the best bedroom for themselves.

Dan's furniture and belongings had been delivered a few days before and most were still stacked neatly in the center of the living room. She placed her workbag in the hallway, outside the open archway that led to the small kitchen, and looked at what she owned. It was barely recognizable to her after more than eighteen months in storage.

The doorbell rang, and Dan turned and paused. She let the time tick by, listening for receding footsteps that would signal that the caller had moved away. Then it rang again, and through the frosted glass she saw a small figure waiting, motionless and patient.

The figure stood as still as Dan did for a long moment, and then bent forward before small, white, and veiny fingers groped to lift up the mailbox; Dan knew that she was discovered.

She walked quickly to the door and opened it, taking care not to skin the fingers as she did.

"Danielle," said the old woman, giving Dan a broad smile as she straightened up. "I knew I'd seen you go in there. It's good to have you back. You'll have to come around for a barbecue as soon as you're settled in. Derek can do his special Frikadeller that you like; you know the weather doesn't bother him. We can sit inside and drink warm wine while he freezes and cooks our dinner."

Dan smiled.

"Hey, Martha, I'm going away again already, down to Plymouth this time. I'm actually right in the middle of packing now, though, so I really need to get back to it. Sorry. I'll call when I'm back, though, and a barbecue, even in September, sounds great." Dan began to slowly shut the door.

"That's okay," Martha continued, unperturbed, as she strained to look past Dan and along the hallway into the house.

"Okay, then," said Dan, inching the door closed a little bit more. "Thanks for popping round and send my love to Derek."

"Don't forget this." Martha handed over a red plastic Royal Mail bag, full to bursting with redirected mail. "The mailman delivered it today while you were out, all from your old address in Scotland."

Dan took the package, having to release the door and use both hands as she did. The markings showed the address of the Faslane naval base where she had worked for the past nine months or so, since returning from her sabbatical.

"Thank you," she said.

She stood for a moment looking at the package that contained several smaller bags — weeks of mail that had managed to catch up with her in one go. She smiled and thanked Martha again, pushing the door slowly closed, like she had as a young navy policewoman clearing rubberneckers from a fresh crime scene. The door finally shut. She sighed and tossed the redirected mail onto the floor next to her rucksack; there was nothing that needed to be opened now.

She turned and headed slowly up the stairs, past the clean patches on the walls where pictures had protected the paintwork.

Her black, navy-issue holdall was open on the floor next to her bed. It looked like a disemboweled slug. Clothes were spilling out, their arms and legs entwined, and her laptop computer was resting against it on one side.

The phone began to ring.

She waited, frozen again, as if the caller might be able to slip fingers through the handset and see her hiding. It rang and rang as Dan pondered that she had no food in the house, no furniture she could really use, save the bed, no clothes beyond those clawing their way out of her bag, but she did have a working phone and broadband Internet: the priorities of the modern world.

The answering machine took the call.

Dan waited.

"Hey, Sister-bear. It's me with my one-way monthly checkup call. Roger told Dad you're back down in Portsmouth and I feel like we haven't spoken for way too long. I also have some very exciting news to tell you. A couple of us are heading out for a few drinks next Saturday, nothing special, just a girly night, but it would be really great if you would come home for it; Dad and Mimmy Jean would really love that, too." There was a pause and maybe a little sigh before Charlie continued. "We all really miss you. Dad thinks he's done something really wrong, but I told him you're just taking some time —" The machine beeped and cut her sister off.

Dan waited in silence, looking at the wall, making sure that any tears that had formed in her eyes were completely gone, and until she was sure that her sister wouldn't call back to finish the message. Then she sat down on her bed, the only piece of furniture that was in a usable state, and listened to the message again, twice.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Tenacity by J. S. Law. Copyright © 2015 James Law Author, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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