The Severed Streets

The Severed Streets

by Paul Cornell

Hardcover(First Edition)

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780765330284
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date: 05/20/2014
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 416
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

PAUL CORNELL is a British writer best known for his work in television drama, most notably for Doctor Who. Three of his Doctor Who episodes have been nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form. He has written several Doctor Who spin-off novels, and created the character Beatrice Summerfield. He has also written for Marvel Comics and DC Comics, and had two original novels published.

Read an Excerpt

The Severed Streets


By Paul Cornell

Tom Doherty Associates

Copyright © 2014 Paul Cornell
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-4385-7


CHAPTER 1

Detective Inspector James Quill liked his sleep. He liked it especially on these short summer nights when he was woken by the dawn and had had to leave the window open to get cool, and then it rained on the carpet. He would only willingly give up his sleep for his daughter, Jessica, who would on occasion wander into his and Sarah's bedroom at 3 a.m. with something very important to tell them. These days Quill, having once been made to forget Jessica through occult means, would listen to that important thing with a bit more patience. Now once again there was an unusual noise in his bedroom, and he found a smile coming to his face, sure it was her.

He blinked awake, realizing that this time the noise wasn't the voice of his child, but of his phone on the bedside table, ringing.

He lay there for a moment. There was a lovely pre-dawn light through the curtains.

'Would you please answer that,' said Sarah, 'and tell them to fuck off?'

Quill saw who was calling and answered the phone. 'Lisa Ross,' he said, 'my wife sends you her fondest regards.'

'If it's her, I actually do,' amended Sarah.

'It's the Michael Spatley murder, Jimmy.' The intelligence analyst's voice on the other end of the line sounded excited.

'Please don't tell me —?'

'Yeah. It looks like this is one of ours.'


* * *

Quill took a deep breath as he always did before quietly opening the door of his semi-detached in Enfield and stepping out into the world. He looked around cautiously as he approached his car in the driveway. This morning there didn't seem to be anything horrifying —

'Morning,' said a voice from nearby.

Quill jumped. He looked round, his heart racing.

It was the newspaper delivery guy, with a bag over his shoulder. He'd parked his van at the end of the close. Quill tried to make himself give the bloke a smile, but he'd already seen what was with him. The delivery guy was followed by a trail of small figures, giggling and nudging each other. They looked like tiny monks and wore robes that hid their faces. As Quill watched, one of them, seemingly unnoticed by the man, leaped up like a monkey onto his shoulder and whispered something in his ear. The man's expression remained unchanged. But now Quill thought he could see a burden in the eyes, something being gnawed at. 'Don't like the look of the news this morning,' said the man, his voice a monotone.

Quill nodded and went swiftly to unlock his car.


* * *

He headed for the A10, but, as always, couldn't help but look up into the sky ahead of him as he did so. Towards the reservoir, something horrifying loomed in the air. It was there every day. It had taken him a while to notice it, as was the way with the Sight – the ability to see and feel the hidden things of London that he and his team of police officers had acquired by accident less than six months ago. Once he had seen the thing, it had become more and more obvious, to the point where he now wished he could ignore it.

But, being a copper, every time he had to look.

It was a vortex of smashed crockery, broken furniture, all the cared-for items of a home, whirling and breaking above a particular house somewhere over there, over and over again, each beloved thing impossibly fixing itself only to be smashed again. He could never see such detail from the car, obviously, but as he'd become aware of it, he'd gained the emotional context, the feeling of rage and betrayal, the horrible intimacy of it. Those feelings were also part of what the Sight did. The detail of what he was seeing had come when he'd looked into the matter and found out about a poltergeist case that dated back to the seventies. Once he knew what he was looking at, the Sight had filled in the gaps, and now every time he drove this way he was therefore burdened by something that looked like a distant weather phenomenon but also shouted pain into his face.

The worst thing of all was that there was nothing he could do about it. The participants no longer lived around here. No crime that he was aware of had been committed. It might not even have really happened. But in some way, via some mechanism that he and his team had not yet got to grips with, London remembered it. Being remembered was one of the two ways one could gain power from some intrinsic property of the metropolis itself; the other being to make an awful sacrifice to ... well, they didn't know what the sacrifice was made to, really, though they had made some worrying guesses. Quill sometimes thought that living here with the Sight was like continually wearing those Google glasses he'd read about – always seeing notations about the world. Except in this case the notes were all about ancient pain and horror.

Those little buggers in the hoods were another example. As far as he and the others could tell, they were some sort of ... well, they were either a metaphorical representation of various psychiatric disorders – of human misery, basically – or they actually were that misery, and psychiatry was the metaphor. They were as common as rats, and Quill's team had quickly stopped trying to deal with every instance of them they saw in the street. They could be chased away, or the person they were tormenting could be taken away from them, but they always came back. Quill could swear that, as the summer came on, he was seeing more and more of them. At least he didn't have any following him. Yet.

He turned the car onto the A10, thankful not to have the weight of that poltergeist thing in the sky right in front of him any more. The familiar lit-up suburban bulk of the lightbulb factory loomed ahead; a few early cars were on the road. He took comfort in the ordinary these days. He switched on the radio, found some music on Radio 2. He felt guilty every time he thought about it, but he often found himself wondering if life would have been so bad had he and his team actually accepted the offer that had been made to them. That terrifying bastard whom they called the 'Smiling Man', who was almost certainly not a man at all, had used a proxy to tell them that he was willing to take away the Sight. They, being coppers, being aware that if they did that they'd spend the rest of their lives wondering what they were missing when they came across a crime scene with some hidden dimension, being aware that that smiling bastard who had been behind their first case had something enormous planned ... like mugs they had all, for their differing reasons, said no.

It didn't help that the awful things they could all now see were confined to London. You could get away from it by going on a day trip to Reading. Quill and Sarah had taken Jessica to a theme park in the Midlands a couple of weekends ago, and had had what had felt like the best sleep of their lives. Sarah didn't share the Sight. She hadn't been there when Quill had touched that pile of soil in the house of serial killer – and, as it turned out, wicked witch – Mora Losley. In some way that they still didn't understand, it had been that action that activated this ability in himself and his three nearby colleagues. Sarah only knew what Quill told her, which was just about everything. On the drive back to London from their weekend break, Quill had seen Sarah's expression, how complicated it was. She was trying to hide the fact that she admired Quill's need to do his duty ... but hated it too.

Quill realized that the radio was playing 'London Calling' by the Clash and angrily changed the channel to Classic FM. He didn't need his situation underlining, thank you very much. He wound down the window and immediately regretted it, but left it open for the cool air on his face. The air brought with it the smell of burning. The smell was of last night's riots and lootings, of some borough or other going up in smoke. Thanks to an interesting series of interactions between this government and certain classes of the general public, it was shaping up to be one of those summers. He and his team had been told that the Smiling Man had a 'process' that he was 'putting together', and Quill kept wondering if he was somewhere behind the violence. He could imagine a reality where the coalition in power had done a lot of the same shit, but without a response that included Londoners burning down their own communities. Really, it was down to how the initial outbreaks of violence had been mismanaged and a strained relationship between government and the Met that was leaving him increasingly incredulous.

The news came on the radio, and he made himself listen. Sporadic looting, protests against the cuts and austerity measures. Cars on fire and bottles being thrown at police. 'The postal ballot on strike action by the Police Federation —'

Quill told the radio to piss off as he changed the channel again. He could understand the frustration felt by his fellow officers, really he could. Every move, every sensible decision that the Met made to get to the cause of the unrest and damp it down seemed to be instantly overturned and criticized by either the mayor's office or the Home Office. To the 'lid', the uniformed police officer on the street, what that meant was that you got spit in your face and then found out that you were going back the next night for more of exactly the same, when it was obvious to you and your mates – spread out and targets for missiles as you were – that the situation wasn't going to get any better. The other police forces of Britain had their own difficult relations with this government, knew where the Met was coming from and wanted to support their colleagues.

But strike action? His old police dad, Marty, had been on the phone from Essex, making sure Quill wasn't having any of that. It was against all the traditions of the Met. Against the law, even – coppers didn't have the right. Besides, Quill's team's speciality, standing against the powers of darkness, seemed a bit too urgent to allow for industrial action.

He realized he was passing the cemetery on his right. He always tried not to glance over there, and always failed. Graveyards were usually, in his team's experience, a bad idea. This one was full of greenish lights that danced between the graves, and there were a couple of swaying figures, one an emaciated husk with glowing eyes who had taken to ... yes, there he was again this morning, like every morning.

Quill tiredly raised his hand to return the wave.


* * *

Forty minutes later, Quill got out of his car at Belgravia police station. The sky was getting properly light now. He found Ross standing under one of the big fluorescent car park lights, moths fluttering around it. She had been watching the first batch of last night's Toff protestors, the ones whom the police presumably had no legal reason to keep, stumbling from the building. They had those Halloween-style costumes of theirs bundled under their arms. A few of them were, even now, giving each other high fives and laughing. But most of them looked grim. Quill looked at their emotion and again felt distant copper annoyance at bloody people. He used to joke that without people his job would be a lot easier. But now he supposed he couldn't even say that. 'What have we got?' he asked.

She looked round at him. Maybe she was his team's intelligence analyst, a civilian, but what they'd been through together had brought them as close as Quill had ever felt to any fellow officer. He owed her the life of his child. There was something about the paleness of Ross' left eye compared to her right, about the broken angle of her nose, that made it always look as if she'd just been in a fight. Her hair was cut short to the point where sometimes it looked as if she'd just taken a razor to it. She was biting her bottom lip in that skewed smile of hers, which only appeared once in a blue moon, and which Quill had started to associate with the game, as they say, being afoot. 'Maybe just the op we've been looking for,' she said.

Quill had caught up with the Spatley case before he'd left the house. The headline on the first edition of the Herald had read, 'Murdered by the Mob'. Michael Spatley, chief secretary to the Treasury, had been cornered in his car by anti-government protestors, who had forced their way in and eviscerated him. The story had been the lead on the BBC ten o'clock bulletin last night, but Quill had gone to bed thinking, ironically, that he was glad that it wasn't his problem.

'Why is it one of ours?'

Ross led him towards the doors of the nick. 'I have search strings set up in the Crime Reporting Information System, and I check them four times a day. A locked report came through on my page of results late last night, with the heading directing me to the extension of one DCI Jason Forrest. I couldn't read it, but if it set off my searches it must contain some extreme words, like "impossible". Around 2 a.m. it showed up on the Home Office Large Major Enquiry System too, so it's a murder. I checked where this bloke Forrest works, and it's this nick, which is also the obvious one for a suspect in the Spatley case to be brought back to. I got excited and called you.'

Quill wanted to slap her on the shoulder or fist-bump her or something, but the very urge was against his copper nature. His was a squad created within the budget of a detective superintendent, its objectives hidden from the mainstream of the Metropolitan Police while cut after cut reduced the operational capacity of every other Met department, and the riots and the protests and the outbursts of dissent in the force's own ranks were pushing the system to breaking point. His team needed a new target nominal – a new operation – before people in senior positions started asking questions about why they existed.

'And you were awake at 2 a.m. because ...?'

Her poker face was immediately back. Quill sighed to see it. After they'd defeated Mora Losley and thus solved the mystery that had loomed over Ross for her whole life, the analyst had opened up for a few weeks, become more talkative, cracked a few jokes, even. It had been wonderful to see. But now the cloud was back. 'I'm still working through those documents we found in the ruins in Docklands.'

She was also, thought Quill, probably still considering the plight of her deceased dad, who, in the course of the team's first – and so far only – op, she'd discovered to be residing in Hell. Whatever Hell was. Quill was pretty sure it didn't map onto conventional thoughts about damnation. Ross had told them that she was aiming, in the fullness of time, to do something about getting her dad out of there, if they ever found a mechanism to do so. Whether or not she'd made any progress on that was between her and her copious notebooks. 'Okay, but —'

'That's my own time, Jimmy.'

Quill raised his hands in surrender, and indicated for her to proceed.

'Witnesses are saying to the press that the doors of the car weren't opened at any point, meaning that the government service driver, whom I've discovered was one Brian Tunstall, must be the only suspect, presumably the "thirty-eight-year-old male" the Major Investigation Team have announced they've arrested in connection. The words that set off my searches might well be contained in his interview statement.'

'Terrific.' Quill took out his phone. 'You get our two comrades over here. I am about to wake a detective superintendent.'


* * *

The first result of Quill's call to his superior was that a hassled-looking lid came out of the nick, found Quill and Ross, and checked them through into the canteen. As in any nick, the canteen smelt of comforting grease and echoed with the clatter of cutlery and the sound of music radio from the kitchens. To venture any further into this bureaucracy, they were going to need their political muscle here with them. The food hall was full of uniforms looking pissed off, having just come off a shift where half of them would have been beaten on by protestors and rioters. Ross kept looking at her phone. 'Now they've made an arrest, I'm waiting for those "the mob did it" stories on the news websites to change. They might give us more information to go on.'

'In the meantime,' said Quill, 'there exist in this world bacon sarnies.'


(Continues...)

Excerpted from The Severed Streets by Paul Cornell. Copyright © 2014 Paul Cornell. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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The Severed Streets 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
ljparker2983 More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. Having read the first one I had to order this in advance. Highly recommended.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Cornell's Severed Streets is an emotional thriller that will have you laughing as often as your heart's in your throat. You're quickly drawn into the complex relationships between team members as they balance "regular life", police work, and magical underworld of London. You'll find yourself pushing to finish chapter after chapter as new twists and turns are revealed. With beautifully three dimensional characters, Severed Streets is so much more than a police procedural - it's a great addition to the urban fantasy landscape.