For the Southeast London police squad, it's rough, tough, dirty business as usual. The Vixen, the most sensuous, crazed female serial killer ever, is masterminding a series of lethal explosions. She is unpredictable, wild, angry--and the cops don't even know she exists.
Meanwhile, Inspector Roberts is helpless to stop the explosions and his subordinates aren't doing much better. Brant is consumed with an even-bigger-than-usual mean streak, and fast-rising Porter Nash finds himself facing serious health problems--everything to do with needles. PC MacDonald is determined to soldier on, whatever the cost, and the career of a new addition to the squad, WPC Andrews, starts spectacularly but with Falls as her mentor she's not expected to last long. At the top, Superintendent Brown is close to a coronary, and arresting the wrong man in a blaze of publicity is only the beginning of his problems.
If the squad survives this incendiary installment in Ken Bruen's blazingly intense series, they'll do so with barely a cop left standing.
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By Ken Bruen
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2003 Ken Bruen
All rights reserved.
SERGEANT DOYLE HAD his feet up on a stool. The station was quiet and he wasn't anticipating trouble. Football was on the telly so the hordes would be indoors. He'd nicked a danish from the canteen and had been looking forward to it all day.
He opened The Sun and was about to bite into the danish when the phone rang. He took a fast chomp and picked up. A man's voice said:
'Might I suggest you tape this call?'
'All calls are taped as a matter of form.'
A piece of the pastry had lodged in his bad back tooth and he used a finger to try and move it. The man said:
'I don't feel I have your full attention.'
Doyle sighed and said:
I'm fascinated, trust me.'
'You will be. A bomb is due to go off in ... three minutes.
This is not really a warning, more of a wake-up call. Do you know the Paradise Cinema?'
'Off Waterloo Avenue? Is that where the bomb is?'
A loud bang went off in Doyle's ear and he instinctively pushed the phone away. When the noise had subsided he asked:
'Was that it?'
He heard a low chuckle, then:
'Whoops, the timing was a little off but we'll be working on that. What you have to work on is getting three hundred grand together to make sure we don't bomb again. I mean, that's not a huge amount, is it? So you get started on that and we'll try not to blow up anything else in the meantime. We'll give you a bell tomorrow and see how you're progressing. Oh, and in case you're wondering, the movie playing at the Paradise was a Tom Cruise piece of shit so we kind of did the public a service. You be good now.'
Doyle kept the phone his ear, clicked the connection and set about alerting the necessary departments. The pastry had already caused his tooth to hum and he said aloud:
The Paradise Cinema was a recent addition to the area's cultural landscape. It catered largely to local residents and usually attracted a respectable crowd. The bomb had been placed in one of the toilets and nobody had been hurt. Panic and fear had spread quickly and the crowd had piled into the street, pushing and shoving each other, afraid that another bomb could go off. The Bomb Squad arrived and cordoned off the street. Superintendent Brown was on the scene, ordering officers to hold back the crowd.
He shouted at Chief Inspector Roberts to get every available man out canvassing the area and see if anybody knew anything or had seen anything. He asked:
'Where's Porter Nash and that crony of yours, Brant? Where's he when he's wanted?'
Roberts had no idea and said:
'I've no idea.'
'Some bloody copper you are. This better not be terrorists.'
'I don't think so, sir. The tape asked for money. I think it's straightforward extortion.'
Brown looked like he'd have a coronary and ranted:
'Straightforward? When the bloody hell was extortion straightforward?'
Roberts wanted to shout back, you stupid prick, you know what I mean, but settled for:
'I don't think it's an international deal.'
'That puts all our minds at rest, then – the great detective has spoken.'
The Bomb Squad commander came out of the cinema and Roberts was saved from having to reply. Brown asked him:
'What have we got?
The bomb guy said:
'You're talking bottom of the barrel here.'
Brown took a deep breath, asked the Grand Designer of the Masons for patience, said:
'Could you put that in words I might understand?'
The bomb guy exchanged a look with Roberts that said:
'This asshole's your boss, you got my sympathy, pal.'
Out loud he said:
'Couldn't be simpler, two sticks of dynamite and a cheap timer. Any idiot could put it together.'
Brown was staring at Roberts' shoes. They were heavy brown Oxfords with a high sheen. Two questions came into his head:
How did he afford them?
Who'd the time to polish shoes to such a degree?
Pulling his eyes back to the bomb guy, he asked:
'Any idea who the idiot could be?'
'Stick a pin in the phone book.'
'That's a fucking help all right.'
A smile from the bomb guy and he was gone. Brown turned to Roberts, asked,
'Where did you get those shoes?'
'Are you deaf?'
'Oh, right ... ahm, at a sale, at Bally.'
'Bally!' Then: 'How the hell can you afford them?'
'The house was sold.'
'That's an answer?'
'The only one I've got.'
Brown gave the shoes a last look, then:
'I expect a report on my desk tomorrow morning and keep Brant away from it.'
He strode off, muttering darkly. Roberts was tempted to shout 'God Bless' but knew it would be pushing it.
PC Falls had yet again failed the sergeant's exam. She didn't take it well, said:
'Fucking racist bastards.'
Porter Nash, recently promoted to detective inspector, approached, tried:
'Next time, eh, for sure?'
Falls was the wet dream of the nick but over the last year, she'd acquired a fearsome rep. Despite her pretty face, athletic body, the guys were avoiding her. A rumour had circulated she might have offed a cop killer.
Not a clean offing.
No, the guy had been literally hammered to bits. The Forensics team had found body parts all over the room. His nose was stuck to a widescreen TV. Well, part of the septum at any rate. What they finally decided had to be his left eye was floating in the toilet bowl. Teeth were strewn across the wide bed. When word of the butchery leaked, the possible culprit was definitely assumed to be a cop.
In the frame were:
Of course ... Brant. He topped the list of any wrong doing: he was your 'given'. No decent odds ever on him.
Next, as a rank outsider, was Porter Nash because in his Kensington days, he'd dished out personal justice to a paedophile.
Falls was not seriously considered at first but, over time, speculation and rumour had moved her to top of the list.
Number one with a bullet.
Sergeant Brant had long been the bête noire of south-east London. Villains and cops alike were united in their fear of him. He relished and encouraged his status as 'an animal'. The accidental death of the Clapham Rapist was attributed to him. This outlaw justice was secretly admired by most ranks. Over the years Superintendent Brown had tried unsuccessfully to get rid of him. Despite his disappointment, the senior officer still cherished dreams of discrediting the sergeant.
Falls, turning on Porter, put her hands on her hips, tried to bite down her bile but it wasn't working. She spat:
'Next time? You condescending prick, have you any idea how often I've sat that bloody exam?'
Porter glanced round nervously; the other cops were getting an earful and hoping for more. He put his hand out, touched her shoulder, said:
'Let me get you some tea.'
She stormed off and Porter, at a loss, stared at her back. The desk sergeant, an obnoxious bollix, gave him the thumbs up. Porter sighed and took off, just in time to see her disappear into the Cricketers pub. When he entered, Falls was already at a corner table. He approached, asked:
'What'll you have?'
'I'm getting it. I ordered for you too.'
Porter looked towards the barman. He thought he imagined it but did the guy wink? Jesus.
Porter sat down and Falls asked:
'You still smoking or has your promotion put a stop to simple pleasures?'
He reached into his jacket – a smart leather job from Gap – and placed a green pack on the table. Falls snorted, said:
'Fucking menthol! How gay is that?'
She extracted one, smelled it, managing to add a note of sensuality to the gesture, then snapped her fingers, said:
He wanted to reach over, smack her in the mouth but suppressed it, fired her up. She did that annoying thing women do, took two drags, stubbed it out. Well, stabbed it twice in the ashtray, leaving it to smoulder. He reached over, burnt his fingers as he tried to extinguish the glow. He saw a flicker of a smile touch her lips. The barman breezed over, a tray held aloft, a riot of crisps and peanuts on it. Falls asked:
'What's the deal on the snacks? I didn't order them.'
Chuckle from the barman, he nodded towards Porter, said:
'Experience, darlin'. Been as long in this game as I have, you know your punter who's going to want his salt 'n' vinegar. This way I save a trip.'
Falls took the glasses, handed one to Porter, said:
'He'll need paying.'
It was twice what Porter would have guessed; he didn't figure on much return from his twenty. The barman was back at the bar when Falls shouted:
'Pack of B&H.'
Got the look.
Porter sniffed his drink, asked:
'Vodka? At those prices, they must be doubles.'
She nodded and took a hefty slug, Porter couldn't drink it neat and shouted towards the bar:
'Bottle of tonic ... slimline.'
When the barman sniggered, Porter realised he was sounding like Arthur Daley which would never be a good idea. When the tonic and cigs came, the barman glared at Porter. As he left, Porter asked:
'What was that about?'
Falls was opening peanuts, said:
'Ah, come on, you're saying he knows I'm gay?'
Falls eyed him and, with little affection, a shard of granite across her pupils, said:
He let it slide. There'd been a time when he and Falls had been best mates. Almost from the off, they'd bonded, went dancing, drinking together. Then she'd bought into a shitpile of trouble. A skinhead she'd been friendly with was murdered and her life began to spiral. Porter's promotion had sealed their separation. He was worried by the speed of her drinking. Her trouble with the booze had definitely worked against her attempt at sergeant. He asked:
'How are you and Nelson doing?'
This was a detective from Vauxhall who'd saved Falls' job then had begun a relationship with her. Porter had only met him a few times and found him to be aggressive and worse, dull. Vital qualifications for the Met. She signalled for another round then answered:
'Nelson? Nelson is history.'
She let her face show major surprise, gasped:
'Oh, you knew him?'
Now her lip curled and she snarled:
'Then why the fuck are you sorry? For all you know, I'm well shot of him.'
Porter stood up, shrugged his shoulders
'I'll leave you to it.'
A young cop came in, saw them and came over, said:
'Sir, you're wanted, it's the bombing.'
Porter looked at Falls, asked:
'I'm getting bombed here. You run along, do senior officer stuff.'
Some find themselves through joy, some through
suffering and some through toil. Johnny had till
now tried nothing but whiskey. A process that left
him feeling like somebody new every day.'
Nelson Algren, The Man With The Golden Arm.CHAPTER 2
ANGIE JAMES WAS seriously deranged. She'd learnt that early and just as quickly had learnt to hide it. Took her a while to grasp that other people had a sense of right and wrong. Her radar operated on feeling good or feeling cheated. There was little in between. Imitation was her salvation, miming what others expressed honed her survival skills.
But at a cost.
Attempting to incinerate her family as a teenager got her a two-year spell in a psychiatric unit. The best two years she'd had as she'd discovered the power of sex.
And what a dizzying power it was.
Her face was pretty in an unremarkable way. Make-up made you notice. Long afternoons with fashion mags taught her how to shape and hone her body to the level of desirability. Clothes added the rest. Going before the review board, she'd learnt enough to feed them the responses they wanted.
At the age of 28, she'd only made one serious error in the intervening years. One night in a pub, she'd opened a guys face – from the left eyebrow to the chin – with an open razor. Not because she was angry but from a vague interest in seeing his reaction. She did a year in Holloway where she seriously maimed a bull dyke.
For her time there, she was celling with a woman in her fifties named Beth, doing ten to fifteen for a string of post office heists. In a prison dispute Angie had waded in and saved her from a serious beating, purely out of boredom. Beth was grateful, lent her books, cosmetics, cigarettes. One stiflingly hot July day, she'd said:
'Angie, you should be set up for life, you know that?'
Angie didn't answer, busy with a Cosmo quiz.
'I'm serious, hon, get yourself a stash, head for Florida, marry one of the rich fucks there, hump him to a heart attack.'
'How do I get the stash?'
Beth was a bit drunk, on prison hooch. It tasted like rotgut but got you there and fast. She wanted Angie to have the dream she'd never achieved, said:
'There's only one sure crime, pays big with little risk and you do it right, you're set.'
Angie had moved on to an article telling how to give better oral sex, asked:
'What's the crime?'
Beth took another swig of the booze, tried to focus, said:
'Yeah, and that works how?'
Beth had to lie down, the brew was packing a wallop like a baton. She completely lost her train of thought, was even finding it difficult to remember who the hell Angie was. But Angie was finally interested, pushed:
'Come on, girl, what's the deal?'
Gradually and painfully, she learnt the master plan. Bomb a building then demand a payment not to bomb any more. Angie sneered:
'That's it, that's the answer? It's fucked is what it is.'
Beth had passed out.
Six months after Angie's release, Beth was blinded by a dodgy batch of brew. Even if Angie had written, as she'd promised she'd do but didn't, Beth couldn't have read the letters.
Angie was seeing two brothers, Ray and Jimmy Cross. Ray was the brains and Jimmy the muscle. Small-time operators, they were crazy about her. That she serviced both didn't bother either of them. Their main attraction was a Mews they rented off the Clapham Road. It was crammed with hot DVDs, laptops, bogus designer label fashion. They'd been eating curry, chugging Special Brew and vaguely watching Dumb and Dumber.
'I found some dynamite today.'
Ray threw a can at him, said:
'You stupid fuck, how are we going to flog that?'
Angie sat up, asked:
'Where did you find it?'
Delighted to have her attention, Jimmy rushed:
'We was doing a spliff in that old house on Meadow Road, I pulled a tarpaulin aside and there it was, a crate of the stuff.'
Ray opened a fresh Special, shouted:
'Get rid, you hear.'
Angie was up
'No, no, I've an idea.'CHAPTER 3
The hooker finished up, wiped her mouth and got to her feet. Brant stretched, said:
'There's brewskis in the fridge, grab us two.'
She glared at him, wanted to shout:
'Get them yourself, yer fucking pig!'
But she'd known him longer than she wanted to remember, went to the kitchen, rinsed her mouth, spat, said:
There was a small mirror over the sink and she checked her face. The reflection told the harsh truth: a tired hooker with way too much mileage, the lines of twenty years and all of them hard. Brant from the other room:
'What, you brewing them? Get your tush in here.'
She grabbed the beers and headed back. He'd put on his trousers, which was a relief, and he tapped the coffee table, said:
'Plant them here, babe.'
She stared at the table, apparently lost. He asked:
'You deaf? Plonk them on here.'
'You don't have coasters?'
He leant over, grabbed a can, popped the tab, gulped half, belched, said:
'If you're not having that, slide it on over.'
She pulled the top, took a ladylike sip. This amused him and he asked:
'Teach you that at finishing school?'
She looked at him, said:
'Yeah, the Mile End Road. They're real big on etiquette.'
He finished the beer, crushed the can and lobbed it over his shoulder, asked:
'Got any smokes?'
She tried not to sigh, got her handbag, threw over a pack. He caught it, cursed.
'Silk Cut? The fuck are those?'
"Cos of my chest.'
He tore off the filter, said:
'You standing there? Light me up.'
The phone rang. Brant reached over, grabbed it, said:
'Brant, it's Roberts, we've got a situation.'
Brant winked at the hooker, said:
'Just had me a situation, too.'
'I don't doubt it. Can you get down here?'
'On my way.'
He stood up, stretched, and the hooker asked:
'How long have we known each other?'
'Whoa ... who's counting?'
'So, did I ever ask you for anything? Not once, not even a few quid?'
He mimed horror, said:
'You mean you were faking, it wasn't love?'
'There's a guy, name of Millovitz, some European geezer, he's been beating the girls at the Oval, says they'll get hurt bad if they don't pay him weekly. One of the girls, he broke her nose and in this game, that drives value way down.'
Brant selected a pair of tan cords and sparkling white shirt, pulled out a stolen police federation tie, did it up in a Windsor knot. He sat, pulled on heavy work boots then selected a short black raincoat. The wardrobe was open and she could see a ton of new clothes, still with tags on. She could see they were designer labels and what they said to her was money, lots of money. Brant smiled, said:
Excerpted from Vixen by Ken Bruen. Copyright © 2003 Ken Bruen. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
In London, Desk Sergeant Doyle receives the call about the bomb at the Paradise Cinema just before the explosion. The caller tells to cop to provide $300K or more bombs will ignite. The bomb was amateurish consisting of two sticks of dynamite and a simple timer with no one hurt. The second bomb a few days later proved a bit more sophisticated but still amateurish, but the extortion demand doubled. --- While the cops like crazy Detective Sergeant Brant search for the bomber, Angie James and her associates the Cross brothers keep the blitz on by raising the ante with each new explosive incident. Angie also works on recruiting disaffected cop P.C. Falls upset for not receiving a promotion. As Brant and James head towards a collision, no one knows who of these two who feel so much alike yet think so differently than most people will survive. --- The macabre fascinating Angie freshens the series with her inability to comprehend in terms of right or wrong but instead she feels life is for feeling good and to do that takes her into the realm of the criminal. Readers will enjoy her cat and mouse game with the cops with tough guy Brant her only competition. The story line is a combination of a police procedural enhanced by the sociopath subplot. Ken Bruen combines that into a terrific thriller starring two adversaries and a support cast burned by contact with either of them. --- Harriet Klausner
A meeting place for Jedi, Sith, etc.