Death Wore White

By Kathy Bryant,2014-11-04 20:28
9 views 0
From Publishers WeeklyStarred Review. Twists pile on twists in Kelly's superb whodunit, the possible first in a series. Soon after Det. Insp. Peter Shaw and Det. Sgt. George Valentine, who had been the partner of Shaw's disgraced policeman father, stumble on a corpse on an inflatable raft on a Norfolk beach, the pair are stuck in a blizzard, their car one of many vehicles blocked by a fallen tree. During this mishap, someone kills Harvey Ellis, the driver nearest the obstruction, with a chisel blow to the eye and manages to escape without leaving traces in the snow. Other bodies surface after the police extricate themselves from the scene of Ellis's murder. While Shaw and his team try to untangle the lies told them by every witness they encounter, he also tries to redeem his la Published by Penguin on 2009/02/02


    Death Wore White

    Jim Kelly lives in Ely, Cambridgeshire, with his partner, the writer Midge Gillies, and theirdaughter. He is also the author of The Water Clock, The Fire Baby, The Moon Tunnel,

    The Coldest Blood and The Skeleton Man, all featuring journalist Philip Dryden. The series wonthe 2006 CWA Dagger in the Library award for a body of work giving ‘the greatestenjoyment to readers’. The Water Clock was also shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey Award forbest rst novel and The Fire Baby for the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year.

    Death Wore White begins a scintillating new series, featuring DI Peter Shaw and DS GeorgeValentine.

    To nd out more about Jim Kelly and other Penguin crime writers, go to


    Death Wore White




    Published by the Penguin Group

    Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

    Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA

    Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4P 2Y3(a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)

    Penguin Ireland, 25 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd)

    Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia (adivision of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd)

    Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi – 110 017, India

    Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0632, New Zealand (a division ofPearson New Zealand Ltd)

    Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, SouthAfrica

    Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Ofces: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England


    First published 2008

    Copyright ? Jim Kelly 2008

    All rights reserved.

    The moral right of the author has been asserted

    Except in the United States of America, this book is sold subject to the condition that itshall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re‐sold, hired out, or otherwise circulated

    without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in whichit is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on thesubsequent purchaser

    ISBN: 978-0-141-90901-1

    For Bob


    There are three women without whom this book would not have reached publication: BeverlyCousins, my editor, who has again brilliantly spotted what works, and what doesn’t;Faith Evans, my agent, for her gifted interventions on character and style; and my wife, MidgeGillies, for providing a touchstone service on how to unravel knots in the plot.

    Trevor Horwood has again been our talented backstop, providing meticulous copy‐editing. JennyBurgoyne was again the backstop’s backstop, to great eect.

    In addition, I owe a continuing debt to a team of advisers who have been generous with theirtime and expertise: Alan Gilbert on forensics, Martin Peters on all things medical,Paul Horrell on all things motorized – including an exquisite essay on spark plugs. Michaeland Brian Houten took time to help me get my hero’s passion – running – just right. AllenFrary at Wells RNLI advised on boats and the dangers of boats, Eric Boyle on thechemistry of toxic waste, Chris Pitt at the RSPCA put me on the right track to discover theshadowy world of animal tracking. And regarding that world, I have relied on the helpof Ken Goddard, Director of the National Fish & Wildlife Forensics Laboratory in Ashland,Oregon.

    I have beneted hugely from two excellent textbooks: Forensic Art and Illustration by Karen T.

    Taylor, and Crime Scene by Richard Platt.

    The novel is set in King’s Lynn and along the north Norfolk coast. I have played with thegeography and nomenclature of the area to enliven the language and avoid inadvertentlibel. All characters, establishments and organizations are ctional, and I should point outspecically that the West Norfolk Constabulary does not exist. I hope that I have captured thegenuine spirit of detection, without burdening the reader with the day‐to‐dayminutiae of working in the modern CID.


    Monday, 9 February

    The Alfa Romeo ran a lipstick‐red smear across a sepia landscape. Snow ecked the sands at theedge of the crimped waters of the Wash. To the landward side lay the saltmarsh, aweave of winter white around stretches of cold black water. And out at sea a convoy of sixsmall boats were caught in a stunning smudge of purple and gold where the sun was setting.

    The sports car nudged the speed limit as Sarah Baker‐Sibley watched the rst ake of snow fallon the windscreen. She swept it aside with a single swish of the wipers and punchedthe lighter into the dashboard, her lips counting to ten, a cigarette held ready between herteeth.

    Ten seconds. She thrummed her ngers on the leather‐bound steering wheel.

    It was two minutes short of ve o’clock and the Alfa’s headlights were waking up the catseyes.She pulled the lighter free of its holder. The ringlet of heated wire seemed to lifther mood and she laughed to herself, drawing in the nicotine.

    A spirograph of ice had encroached on the windscreen, so she turned the heating up to maximum.The indicator showed the outside temperature at 0?C, then briey –1?C. She droppedher speed to 50 mph and checked the rear‐view mirror for following traffic: she’d beenovertaken once – the vehicle was still ahead of her by half a mile – and there werelights behind, but closer, a hundred yards or less.

    She swished more snowakes off the windscreen. Attached to the dashboard by a sucker was alittle picture frame holding a snapshot of a girl with hair down to her waist, wearinga swimsuit on a sun‐drenched beach. She touched the image as if it were an icon.

    Rounding a sharp right bend she saw tail lights ahead again for a few seconds. And a sign,luminous, regulation black on yellow, in the middle of the carriageway, an AA insigniain the top left corner.



    An arrow pointed bluntly to the left – seaward down a narrow unmetalled road.

    ‘Sod it.’ She hit the steering wheel with the heel of her palm. Slowing the Alfa, she lookedat her watch: 5.01 p.m. She had to pick her daughter up at 5.30 outside the school.She was always there, like clockwork. That was one of the big pluses of owning her ownbusiness: she kept her own time. And that’s why she always took the old coast road, not thenew dual carriageway, because this way there were never any traffic jams, even in thesummer. Just an open road. Once, perhaps twice, she’d got caught up at the shop and phonedahead to say she’d be late. Jillie had walked home then, but Sarah didn’t want to let her

     down. Not tonight, when snow was forecast. She’d make it in time, even with the diversion,as long as nothing else delayed her.

    Looking in the rear‐view again she saw that the following car was close, so she put the Alfain rst and swung it off the coast road onto the snow‐covered track. The headlightsraked the trees as she turned the car, but she failed to see that they eetingly lit a gure,stock‐still, dressed in a full‐length dark coat ecked with snow, the head – hooded – turnedaway. But she did see a road sign.

    Siberia Belt

    Ahead were the tail lights of the vehicle she had been following. There was a sudden silence asa snow urry struck, muffling the world outside. The wind returned, thudding againstthe offside, st blows deadened by a boxer’s glove. She searched the rear‐view mirror for thecomforting sight of headlights behind. There were none. But the tail lights ahead were still

visible: warm, glowing and safe. She pressed on quickly in pursuit.


    Half a mile away Detective Inspector Peter Shaw stood on the beach as the snow fell, trying tosmile into an Arctic north wind. The seascape was glacier‐blue, the white horseswhipped off the peaks of the waves before they could break. Offshore a sandbank was dusted withsnow – icing sugar on marzipan. As quickly as the snow urry had come, it was gone. But he knew

     a blizzard would be with them by nightfall, the snow clouds already massed on thehorizon like a range of mountains.

    ‘Tide’s nearly up,’ he said, licking a snowak offhis e off his lips. ‘So it should be here.Right here.’ He tapped his boot rhythmically on the spot, creating a miniaturequicksand inside his footprint, and zipped up his yellow waterproof jacket. ‘A bright yellowdrum, right?’ he asked. ‘Mustard, like the other one. Floating a foot clear of the water. Sowhere is it?’

    Detective Sergeant George Valentine stood six foot downwind, his face turned away from the sea.He stied a yawn by clenching his teeth. His eyes streamed water. An allergy – seaweedperhaps, or salt on the air. Valentine looked at his feet, black slip‐ons oozing salt water.He was too old for this: ve years off retirement, rheumatism in every bone. They’d got thecall from HM Coastguard an hour before: toxic waste, spotted drifting inshore offScolt Head Island.

    Six weeks earlier three drums had come ashore on Vinegar Middle, a sandbank just off the coastnear Castle Rising. Shaw had been on the early shift at St James’s, the police HQ inLynn – his daughter Francesca played on the beach sometimes, so he’d taken a parentalinterest. When he got to the scene there was a ve‐year‐old poking a stick into the top of thedrum where it had ruptured. Shaw had told her to drop the stick but he hadn’t beenable to keep the urgency out of his voice, the note of command. Reading a child’s face wasn’ta textbook exercise. He’d spotted the sudden fear, but missed the anger. The kiddidn’t like being told what to do, so she’d waved the stick in Shaw’s face as he’d grabbedher, pulling her clear of the liquid pooling at her feet. She hadn’t meant to do it, but thesingle thrust as Shaw bent down had caught him in the eye.

    The injury was covered by a dressing, secured with a plaster across the socket, the inamed rededges of a fresh scar just visible beneath. He touched it now, moving it slightly torelieve the pressure. The chemical had proved a mystery: an unstable mix of residual sulphuricand nitric acid, the by‐products of some poorly monitored manufacturing process. A ‘classeight’ substance; highly corrosive, with a ferocious ability to attack epithelialtissue. Skin.

    ‘So where is it?’ Shaw asked again. Standing still like this was a form of torture. He wantedto run along the water’s edge, feel his heart pounding, blood rushing, theintoxicating ood of natural painkillers soaking his brain – the runner’s high.

    He raised a small telescope to his good eye, the iris as pale and blue as falling water,scanning the seascape. Shaw’s face mirrored the wide‐open sea; the kind of face that’salways scanning a horizon. His cheekbones were high, as if some enterprising warriorfrom the Mongol Horde had wandered off to the north Norfolk coast, pitching his tent by thebeach huts.

    DS Valentine looked at his watch. He’d bought it for ?1 and was pretty sure the word ROLEX wasfake. Its tick‐tock was oddly loud. He shivered, his head like a vulture’s, hung lowon a thin neck. He tried to keep his mouth shut because he knew his teeth would ache if theygot caught by the wind.

    A radio crackled and Valentine retrieved it from the shapeless raincoat he was wearing. Helistened, said simply, ‘Right.’ Fumbling it back inside the folds of the coat heproduced a tube of mints, popping one, crunching it immediately.

    ‘Coastguard. They lost sight of the drum an hour ago. The water’s churning up with thetide.’ He shrugged as if he knew the moods of the ocean. ‘Not hopeful.’

    Shaw ran a hand through close‐cropped fair hair. They stood together, one looking south, theother north, wondering how it had come to this: Shaw and Valentine, West NorfolkConstabulary’s latest investigative duo.

    Some joker in admin, thought Shaw, some old lag who knew the past and didn’t care about thefuture. They needed a new partner for Shaw, who at thirty‐three years of age was theforce’s youngest DI, the whiz‐kid with the fancy degree and a father once tipped to be thenext chief constable. And they’d come up with George Valentine – a living relic of adifferent world, where cynical coppers waged a losing war against low life on thestreet. A man who’d been the best detective of his generation until one mistake had put him ona blacklist from which he was struggling to escape. A man whose career trajectorylooked like a brick falling to earth.

    It was their rst week as partners; already – for both of them – it seemed like a lifetime.

    Shaw looked around. He’d played on this beach as a child. ‘Let’s get up there,’ he said,pointing at a low hill in the dunes. ‘Gun Hill. Get some height. We might see itthen.’

    Valentine nodded without enthusiasm. He turned his back on the sea wind, looking inland, alongthe curve of the high‐water mark. ‘There,’ he said, taking a bare hand reluctantlyfrom his coat pocket.

    A yellow metal oil drum, on its side now, rolling in with the waves.

    ‘Let’s go,’ said Shaw, already jogging; a compact, nearly effortless canter.

    The lid of the drum was rusted and crinkled so that the contents had begun to seep out. Fromsix feet he could smell it, the edge of ammonia almost corrosive. The liquid spillingdown the side was Day‐Glo green, the paint of the drum blistering on contact.

    ‘I’ll get the Coastguard,’ said Valentine, breathless, digging out the radio. ‘The boatcould be out there – they’ll have dumped others.’

    ‘And call St James’s,’ said Shaw. ‘They need to get a chemical team out to make this safeand get it off the beach. We better stay till they get here. Give them the gridreference.’ Shaw read out the numbers from his hand‐held GPS.

    As Valentine worked on the radio Shaw squatted down, picking up ten butter‐yellow limpetshells and placing them in a line on the sand. ‘We could do with a re,’ he said outloud. The breeze was dropping, a frost in the air now that night was falling. He imagined thebrief dusk, the re on the high‐water mark, and felt good. Pocketing the shells, he begancollecting otsam, a beer crate, a few lumps of bog oak, the dried‐out husk of a copyof the Telegraph, then turned with his arms full.

    Which is when he saw something else in the waves. Ingol Beach shelved gently out to sea, soeven though it was a hundred yards away it was already catching the bottom, bucklingslightly, exing in the white water. An inatable raft, a child’s summer plaything in Disneycolours. Shaw stood for a few seconds watching it inch ashore. Thirty yards out it ran aground,snagged.

    Valentine watched his DI pulling off his boots and socks. Jesus! he thought, looking around,

    hoping they were still alone, hoping most of all that he’d stop at the socks. Shaw waded on,

     the jolt of the iced water almost electric, making his bones ache.

    There was something in the raft, something that didn’t respond to the shuffle and bump of thewaves. A dead weight. When he saw the hands – both bare – and the feet, in lighttrainers swollen with seawater, he knew it was the body of a man: the black hair on the hands,a chunky signet ring. He felt his pulse suddenly thump in his ears as his body reacted to thesight of death. The atavistic urge to ee, to run from danger, was almost overwhelming.And there was the sensation that time had stopped, as if he’d been caught in the middle of an

accident, unfurling around him in agonizingly slow motion.

    He forced himself to observe; to step out of the scene.

    Dead – but for how long? Less than forty‐eight hours. The arms and legs were askew, locked inugly angles, so rigor had yet to pass.

    He put a hand on the side of the raft to steady it, his ngers gripping a raised handle at theprow. Jeans, a T‐shirt, a heavy fur‐lined jacket only half on, leaving one arm free.The limb was thick, knotted with muscle, the hidden shoulder broad. In the bottom of the boatthere was an inch of swilling bloody seawater.

    Valentine met him on the dry sand, and they pulled the raft round so that what was left of thesunset caught the dead man’s head; unavoidable now, lifeless, despite the movement ofthe waves. The human face: Peter Shaw’s passion, each unique balance and imbalance of featuresas individual as a ngerprint. He noted the bloated, profound pallor, like cold fat, with almost

     iridescent tinges of blue and green. A young man, stubble on the chin, the eyes half‐open but at, lightless, one eyelid more closed than the other. The lateral orbital lines –crow’s feet – deeply scored, as if he’d spent a lifetime squinting in the sun. Themuscles beneath dened the skin like the surface of a piece of beaten metal. But it was themouth that drew Shaw’s attention. The lips, uneven lines, were peeled back from teeth whichwere smeared with blood.

    ‘Shit,’ said Valentine, turning, taking three steps and vomiting into the sand.

    He came back, dabbing at his lips. ‘Sight of blood,’ he said, avoiding Shaw’s eyes. He mightbe a copper with thirty years’ experience, but it hadn’t helped him get used to beingin the company of the dead.

    Shaw tried to reanimate the victim’s face in his mind as he’d been trained to do. Hetightened up the jaw, balanced the eyes, replaced the graceful bow of the lips. Not acerebral face, a muscular face.

    It was Valentine who rst saw the mark on the arm. The seawater had washed it clean and so itbled no more, but there was no mistaking the shape: a bite. A human bite. The teethpuncturing the skin deeply, viciously driving into the sinew and muscle, almost meeting in acrisp double incision.


    Sarah Baker‐Sibley pulled the Alfa up three car lengths behind stationary tail lights. Thevehicle ahead had stopped, a fallen pine tree blocking the way, lit silver by theheadlights. Looking ahead she saw that it wasn’t a car but a small pick‐up truck, with anopen back, and a covered low load. The cab had a rear window which showed a light withinthrough frosted glass. The engine idled, the exhaust fumes spirited away each timethere was a breath of wind. In a lull she heard music: something urban, jagged and loud. Thensilence, and the next track, louder, even less melodic. The urry of snow had passed, but akesstill fell.

    She activated central locking and searched her handbag for her mobile. The latest model: a giftfrom one of her suppliers, retail price ?230. Internet link, GPS, camera, video, thecasing decorated with a detail from Monet’s Water Lilies.


    Searching network

    She threw the mobile onto the passenger seat. Ahead the snow lay three inches thick on theroad, as clean as hotel linen, the two parallel tyre tracks just visible, runningforward to the stranded truck.

    Then she heard the crunch of a vehicle behind her and looking in the rear‐view mirror she sawheadlights coming up until they were so close they fell into her shadow, revealing the

    driver, once the glare of his lights was gone. A man alone. She checked that the door waslocked.

    She watched as the man levered himself out of the driver’s seat, straightening, with a hand onthe car for support. He struggled forward, but when the wind blew he stopped, braced,waiting for a lull.

    He lowered his face to the closed driver’s window. A strained smile, the white hair mattedwith snow, the plump ngers holding an outsized working jacket to his throat. Glasses,heavy with black frames, magnied his eyes, which were milky with age. The cold had brought someblood to his cheeks but otherwise he was pale, drained, a cold sweat on his forehead.

    ‘You OK?’ he said when she wound the window down an inch. She heard the sound of music again,louder, from the pick‐up truck.

    ‘We’re stuck,’ she said, briskly. ‘I need to get through – I’m picking up my daughterfrom school. Could you check ahead, see if we can move the tree?’

    He looked forward, licking his lips, reluctant, but then set out. She watched the prints hemade in the snow – a single line of at‐footed impressions, slightly unsteady. Heslipped at the edge of the ditch when the wind blew, his arms ying out in a crooked semaphore,the coat billowing.

    ‘That’s all we need,’ she said out loud, punching in the lighter. ‘Grandad in the soup.’

    She rubbed clear the condensation on the windscreen and watched as he reached the pick‐up’swindow. He bent slightly at the waist, talking, just for a few seconds, then hestraightened up, both bare hands deep in the jacket’s pockets.

    A minute, less, and he was back, out of breath so that he had to lean on the Alfa’s roof. ‘OKthen. We’re not gonna move the tree – not now. He says we’ll have to all back out.Have you got a mobile?’ he asked.

    ‘No signal.’

    ‘Same with him. I don’t own one.’ He rubbed one of his eyes under the thick spectacles.Despite the cold she could see now that his whole face was wet with sweat.

    Baker‐Sibley pushed smoke out of her nostrils, her lips pressed in a humourless line. ‘Youshould take it easy,’ she said.

    He held his jacket’s lapels together. ‘I’m OK. I’ll try and reverse back to the turn, therewas a farm track there, just give me a few minutes.’ He set off before she had timeto answer.

    He tottered back to his car and wiped the snow from the windscreen with his sleeve beforelowering himself into the driver’s seat and starting the engine. He peered down atthe dashboard, then at the rear‐view mirror.

    ‘Come on, come on,’ said Sarah. ‘It’s not a fucking Space Shuttle.’

    He didn’t move. She threw open the door and stepped out into the night, holding a hand aboveher eyes to stop the snowakes snagging her lashes. The cold made her back arch and shehunched her shoulders to try to protect the exposed skin at her neck.

    Now she saw the old man’s car clearly for the rst time. A two‐door silver Corsa, a pair ofladders neatly strapped to a roof rack.

    It was what stretched behind the Corsa that made Sarah Baker‐Sibley swear. A line of headlampsrunning back, all stranded now in the snow.

    She looked up and let some of the akes settle on her face. ‘Why me?’ she asked. She thoughtof Jillie trudging home in the snow. ‘And why now?’

    On cue the blizzard nally broke, the snow thickening, the wind driving it in from the sea.Visibility dropped to a few feet. She brushed akes from her eyelids and scrambled backinto the safety of the car.


    In the blizzard Shaw and Valentine worked quickly, dragging the raft across the sands to theDI’s black Land Rover, parked beyond a copse of hawthorns. By the time they had atarpaulin secured, weighting the corners with rocks, the snow was settling. Then they sat itout, Shaw watching the high tide boiling on the sands through an open window. He’d been apoliceman for eleven years but this was the rst time he’d discovered a corpse: he wasdistressed to nd that the emotional impact was refusing to fade. His stomach felt empty, and hekept seeing the dead man’s mouth, the blood terracotta red between the white enamelof the teeth.

    Valentine bent forward, his hands over the warm‐air vent, his throat glugging with phlegm asthe hot dust triggered his immune system. He’d binned his last packet of Silk Cutback at the station, so he closed his eyes, trying not to think about nicotine, trying not tothink about the corpse in the raft. But the image of the apparently self‐inicted wound wasdifficult to shake off. He took a call on the radio: Control said the forcepathologist was on her way and a unit of the West Norfolk CSI team was assembling, but thesnowfall had brought chaos to the coastal roads, so they could be some time.

    The storm itself passed in twenty minutes, rolling inland, buffeting winds at its leading edge,while in its wake the air was still, the last of the snow falling like poppies onArmistice Day, bled white.

    Shaw’s patience snapped. He ung the door open and shuddered in the super‐cooled air. He threwthe keys to Valentine. ‘Roll the Land Rover out on the beach and put the lights on –there’s a oodlight there.’ He leant in and tapped a red switch. ‘Walk the high‐water mark,see if you can nd anything – clothing, a weapon, just anything. Any footprints in the sandother than ours, mark them with the scene‐of‐crime ags – they’re in the boot –and there’s some tape; try and box off the point where I dragged him ashore, although it’sprobably under water by now. There are evidence bags in the glove. When you see the rebrigade unit or our boys, ll them in. Scene‐of‐crime rules – so no smoking.’

    Valentine popped another mint.

    ‘I’m going to climb, see what I can see. I’ll be ten, no more.’

    ‘Right,’ said Valentine.

    Shaw detected the grudging note, a single syllable that said so much. He recalled GeorgeValentine at his father’s deathbed, a glass of malt whisky in his hand, a cigaretteburning between the yellowed ngers.

    Boredom, bungalow and early retirement (enforced) had killed DCI Jack Shaw. Luckily, theykilled him quickly. The early exit to Civvy Street had come care of his father’slast, notorious, case. Until then they’d been the force’s star team: DCI Jack Shaw and DIGeorge Valentine. A pair of old‐ fashioned coppers in an old‐fashioned world. And so he knewwhat Valentine was thinking: that a decade ago they’d have wrapped this case upwithout all the mindless mechanics of police procedure, without a fancy degree inforensic art (whatever that was), or the check‐it, double‐check‐it philosophy.

    Valentine turned over the pair of dice attached to his lighter and keys. Ivory and green, withgold dots. ‘What’s that smell?’ he asked before Shaw had gone ten yards.

    Shaw stopped, sniffed the sea breeze. ‘Could be mint, George. You crunch any more of thosethings you’ll start scaring the sheep.’ But Valentine was right, there was somethingelse on the breeze, something laced with the ozone and seaweed. ‘Petrol. An outboard?’ askedShaw.

    Valentine produced a handkerchief and dabbed his streaming eyes.

    ‘Hold the fort,’ said Shaw, padding through the dunes and beginning to climb, picking anarrow ridge where the snow was just clinging to the sand and grass. At the top hepushed himself up onto an old gun emplacement, a tangle of concrete and rusted iron. The

    physical effort made him feel better, dissipating the stress. This high there was still abreeze, the snowakes jostling, streamers of light like sparklers. Down on the beach hecould just see the Land Rover and the spread tarpaulin.

    Swinging round he looked south, to the lights of a farmhouse: a glimpse of the corrugated ironof a barn and a white spotlight illuminating a dovecote on the roof of an old stableblock. They’d driven through the yard an hour earlier to get down to the beach and Shaw hadnoticed the name: Gallow Marsh Farm.

    And then, turning inland, he saw car lights – a line of vehicles backed up behind a pine treewhich was in their path, its branches twisted and broken. Exhaust fumes hung in the airlessnight. That was the smell on the air, not an engine at sea. Shaw got the telescope outand held it to his good eye, focusing on the vehicle in pole position. A small pick‐up truck.The cab light was on, the windows ecked with snow, someone moving inside. He looked back alongthe line, each vehicle smoothed out by the gentle curves of snowdrifts.

    Out at sea the storm clouds had unpacked themselves, revealing a wedge of clear night sky, aplanetarium of lights, the moon clear of the sea. He watched the white lunar discmoving sideways along the horizon, like a prop in a child’s theatre. The silhouette of ayacht, gliding east, turned in towards the coast, an engine humming efficiently, its white sailmarked with a blue clamshell.


    The line of eight vehicles stood as if fashioned in icing sugar, an exquisite model on anuntouched wedding cake. The moon had appeared above the scene; the snow clouds hadmoved on after one last heavy urry, the stars left to stretch north over the sea towards thedistant pole. The marsh birds were silent, the sluices choked with ice, and the sea, past highwater, tiptoed back over the sands. Closer to the marooned cars there were sounds oflife: a bass note, strands of music, the rumble of vehicle engines running heating systems.From the pick‐up truck in pole position the local radio now played – a jagged tinnymelody which came and went with the signal.

    Three vehicles from the tail of the little convoy was an off‐white Astravan. Radio 2 played, avoice inside singing along loudly, a ballad about a young girl in pursuit of an olderman. Fred Parlour held the nal note surprisingly well, then laughed at himself. He washandsome, mid‐fties, with a compact symmetrical face, the jaw showing no signs of slackeningdespite the rst strands of grey at his temples. His ngernails were neatly cleaned, theoveralls laundered, the hair smartly trimmed.

    Beside him sat Sean Harper, the rm’s apprentice. His hair was sticky with product, cut shortand spiky, his nose – pierced with a stud – was pressed up close to a pornographicmagazine. ‘You’ll go blind,’ said Parlour.

    Harper looked at the lights of the stationary van in front. ‘So what? We’re gonna be ’ereall night, right? Might as well enjoy myself.’

    A small dog – a Jack Russell – thrust its snout between the seats and nuzzled his ngers, thetongue making a liquid smack.

    ‘How much you reckon they got on board?’ asked Parlour, his voice friendlier. The van infront had a branded motif on the rear doors:


    01553 121212

    There’s safety in those numbers

    Sean Harper had got out when they’d rst pulled up. His mobile couldn’t nd a signal so he’drun along the seaward side in the still falling snow to see if they had a radio. Itwas a refurbished Securicor van, but an old model, rust round the rivets. One guard in an ill‐

Report this document

For any questions or suggestions please email