Uncompromising, gritty, thrilling, and not for the faint hearted! British detectives suspect a serial killer is on the loose. With the support of American profiler Dr Tessa Davies, they soon realize that this could be the work of a druidic sect.
Please enjoy another two chapters of my dark crime novel, Death Marks . For now, I will post 3 chapters every Monday, Thursday, and Saturday.
Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:
Engrossed in Tessa’s report, Redd realized if they didn’t contain this, there would be full-scale panic, heads would roll. She didn’t hold back as she outlined the atrocities involved in the Druid rites. How could they break this? They were up against great minds but twisted.
When killing their victims, these monsters discarded modern-day values and morality. They say that half an inch of fur separated the amiable retriever from the wolf – same with humans, only it was a lizard underneath. Going to his espresso machine, he poured a coffee; he could do with a single malt in there as well. Once back at his desk, he pressed the intercom. ‘Hi Michelle, get the investigating team together; I want them in my office in thirty minutes. No excuses. All of them, if they’re out on the street, call them in. Oh, and get Jack in here.’
He sat opposite the homicide team, watching their faces; how were they going to take it? Jack sat by his side, his lips usually wreathed in a smile, now grim.
‘Okay, people, you have copies of the report from our profiler – symbolist, I should say. You already have a rough outline of the Druid rites, so let’s take Dr. Davies’s report one step at a time. But first, let’s start with bones.’ He looked over to Bessie Owens and Jim Crosby. ‘You were assigned to search the churchyards. No success, I see. Maybe you could go outside the area?’
Bessie flushed. ‘We have guv; we’ve searched the churches around here and Littlehampton, Felpham, Bognor Regis, right up to Kingsley Vale, but nothing. No sign of any grave being disturbed. We need more time, boss—’
‘The vics’ didn’t have that privilege. Remember that.’
‘Now Williams – Papworth – nothing yet on the websites. I guess you’ve covered all of them?’
Papworth wiped the grit from his eyes, the grey bags beneath showing the hours he’d spent on the computer. ‘Yes, boss, as you instructed Williams, and I got IT officers from Worthing, Littlehampton, and Bognor Regis to form teams as well as our own officers. Addresses checked, owners, visits to the sites. It’s been difficult because none of them wanted to own up even though the drug is legal. Some of the websites have gone out of business – others are mushrooming up, but so far no luck.’
‘Don’t talk about luck, Papworth – there’s got to be something.’
‘Some of them websites refuse to give out details, but I’m compiling a list of those – I’ve put in for a warrant, but the judge’s secretary says it will take a few days.’
‘Then go to his chambers – the pair of you. Don’t wait for fucking secretaries and the post. And by the way—’
The phone cut him off. Snatching it up, he said, ‘’Redd here … yes … okay I’m on it.’ He looked at the teams. ‘They’ve found another one, same place but just below the barrow mound. The FOA is securing the site now, so let’s get cracking.’ air.’
Taking the Downs Road, Redd drove into a car park teeming with uniforms. ‘The media are here already – bloody vultures.’
‘Yeah, they’ve caused enough trouble with the decapitations. Let’s hope we can keep this one under wraps.’ As Dove spoke, they heard the whirr of a news media helicopter overhead.
‘Damn – well, at least the site is tented.’ Redd walked ahead.
Reporters squawked around DC Matthews at the blue-taped perimeter. At last, they’d managed to get him back from Tits and his parsnip-faced side-kick. Seeing Redd and Dove raise their warrant cards, Matthews waved them through, scribbling their names down in his notepad. The mobile crime scene vans were already in the situation. A white-suited member of SOCO, his face ashen, called out to them, ‘We’ve finished up, sir, so you are free to go ahead. ‘It’s gross.’
Esther’s lovely face floated before his eyes – her body… He steeled himself, dipping into the pocket of his jeans, fingering two pills. In one movement, he picked them out, putting them under his tongue. They’d start working soon. Within minutes, they reached the crime scene, some five hundred meters away from the grove of yew trees. Feeling the pills already numbing his tongue, he put on the white paper suit, nearly stepping into a pile of vomit near the tent.
Crinkling her nose, Dove held out a small bottle of eucalyptus. ‘Better put it on boss. People are throwing up all over the place.’
Taking the bottle, Redd put some of the ointment above his top lip. He wanted to rub it right into his nostrils, but it burnt through nasal membranes. Disgusting odours got right up into the small hairs, seeping through the rhinal mucous. Death also had a taste, the taste that went from the mucous membranes, draining down into the throat. At least, it would stop the guts reacting – spewing out vomit.
‘This is within days of the first victims. Cheeky bastards, they’re really taunting us.’
‘Coming, the Divisional Surgeon’s declared the death, said we needed a pathologist.’
‘Okay, let’s do this.’
Opening the flap, he dipped inside. ‘So no-one’s touched anything?’
‘The constable at the tape said, the walkers called it in immediately, but left it exactly as they found it.’
Redd stifled a breath as he lifted the cover to see saw a penis bulging from the lips, at the dismembered arms and legs on the ground, bent at elbow and knee, placed around the torso. The head wearing a wreath of oak leaves remained in place held by a few trailing sinews. On the chest lay a scroll. He muttered, ‘This is one fucking monster – whoever did this is insane.’ Kneeling, he saw the same signs on the rough old parchment. ‘I’ll have to get Dr. Davies on that.’
Dove put her hands to her face. ‘This is a nightmare -leaving a body like this, stuffing that in his mouth. So that’s the err… Triskelion?’
‘Yeah, see how they’ve dismembered the arms and legs, bending them around the body. Glad to see you’ve read the report, Dove.
‘Yeah, the Wheel of Life – hell more like it. Don’t they have any feelings?’
Redd moved carefully around the body. ‘Just one male this time. No bleached bones. They didn’t do this here. Like the other victims, they carried the remains to the site.’
‘They believed in reincarnation – but what the hell is this?’
Redd shook his head, his body feeling the first wave of the tranquilizers taking effect, pushing back the panic. ‘The only person who could pick up more signs is Dr. Davies. I’ll have to get her over here.’
Dove looked up sharply. ‘Boss, you can’t subject her to this.’
Redd shrugged. ‘There’s no-one else. However, I think she might be able to take it; she knows the druids inside out. This won’t surprise her – sicken her yes – but I don’t have a choice.’
‘Could you just take photographs?’
‘She needs to see it in situ. She’ll know instantly; there might be something we’re missing.’
‘How the hell could you miss this.’
Redd went to the tent flap opening it slightly.
‘You okay, boss?’
‘Yep – getting over it.’
Mrs. Betty Walker stood at the sink, gazing out at the birds on the garden table. It was six days now. Where was Jeannette? Surely, they could have left a message? They were supposed to have arrived for Sunday roast dinner; the family got together for one day. One week they went to Neil’s, another here. She rubbed the soap bubbles through her fingers, idly seeing the rainbow colours sparkling in the tiny spheres. Her daughter had never done this before, not even a text message – nothing. It felt ominous. Fred said to leave them alone, not to run after them every five minutes. She didn’t. Bloody men – it will sort itself – leave it. Jeanette disappeared six days ago – six bloody days.
Tracy Bennett said it was unusual. She was worried as well. Gritting her teeth, she grabbed the dishcloth, wiping her hands. No, she wasn’t going to wait another minute, what with that stuff on the news, those youngsters; the girl had her head cut off – oh God, she raised the tea cloth to her face. She had to do it – right now.
Walking from the small kitchen to the lounge, she picked up the phone, tapping in the station’s number. She wrote it down three days ago but thought she was panicking with the news on TV, the posters, placards, crowds around the Station. She put the phone to her ear, her heart thumping in her chest. She sighed as she was directed to a central number. For God’s sake, why couldn’t she go straight through to the Station? Walking to the window with the phone tight to her ear, she watched the wood pigeons now on the table confronting each other. Bullyboy, the big one, was always fighting off the others, wanted it all to himself. She heard a voice speaking, at last. ‘Hello – I wonder if you could help me. My daughter’s gone missing….’
‘Can I take your name and address, ma’am?’
‘Err yes, Mrs. Betty Walker, 7 Altwood Gardens, Brighton. My daughter’s been missing for six days now. She wouldn’t just go off—’
‘What is your daughter’s name, please?’
‘Jeannette – Jeannette Walker, she’s twenty-one…’ She faltered, the tears now hurting her eyes. The pent-up stress overcoming her.’
‘Ma’am … you okay?’
Betty gripped the phone. ‘No – I’m not – I’m so worried. She wouldn’t do this. She always lets me know where she is; we’re very close.’
‘Did she say where she was going?’
‘No, last I heard, they were doing up the flat, and then they were coming over to us on Sunday.’
‘They? Was she with someone, ma’am?’
‘Yes, her fiancé Neil – Neil Bennett. They live together.’
‘Can I have the address, please?’
‘9, Flat five, Birkett Close.’
‘Mrs. Walker, I will just refer this to my superior, and we’ll be in touch.’
Jeannette bit her lip, realizing she was still clinging to the dishcloth. ‘How long will that be? I mean, she’s been gone six days now. They haven’t turned up for work either; they’re lab research assistants at the hospital. They just wouldn’t walk out.’
‘Don’t worry, Mrs. Walker, we’ll be in touch very soon – I promise.’
‘How soon is soon?’
‘Within the hour. Just give me your phone number, please. ‘
Betty’s voice trembled. ‘02413 987462.’
‘Thank you, ma’am.’
‘Thank you. I’ll be here.’
Putting down the phone, Betty bit into the tea cloth. Dear God, was this really happening?
Taking a breath, she picked the phone up again. Tapping in more numbers, she waited, ‘Hello Tracy? … Hi. I’ve phoned the police. I couldn’t wait any longer … I gave Neil’s name as well. Oh, Tracy, I’m so worried … What … you’re coming over? … Okay…. I’ll put the kettle on.’
Going to the kitchen, she hung the tea cloth on the hook. She looked out the window to see the wood pigeons quarreling with a squirrel. The bully birds always ended up getting the seed. She’d have to put some more out for them later. She shook her head; she was thinking about birds, and her daughter could be dead.
There – she’d thought it. She felt her chest tighten; the tears streamed down her face. Going to the kitchen chair, she sat, her elbows resting on the table, her head in her hands.
It could only have been minutes before Tracy arrived, mascara smudged, mouse-brown hair dragged back into a grip comb. Holding out her arms, she clung to Betty. ‘What are we going to do? I just hope they’re alright. Have you heard anything yet?’
‘No, but she said they’d ring back very soon.’ As she went to fill the kettle, the phone rang. Tracy leapt up, taking the kettle from her. ‘It’s them – must be.’
A young male constable, his ginger hair slicked down with gel, ushered them into an office, bare except for a table and four chairs. Tracy and Betty sat clutching handbags, their lips tight with tension. Tracy whispered, ‘You do the talking – I’m not good at that.’
Betty nodded, wishing Fred were with her. She turned, as the door opened again to admit a thin woman in a tight-fitting white shirt and navy blue skirt wearing lace-up shoes and sensible heels. ‘Hello, Mrs. Walker?’
Betty raised her hand. ‘I’m Mrs. Walker. I rang the Station earlier.’
‘Hello, I’m Detective Constable Amanda Green. I understand you reported your daughter missing?’
‘And my son – Neil.’ Tracy interrupted.
‘Yes. Now I’d like to take a few more details. First, you did say both the missing persons were recently qualified – lab technicians. Is that correct?’
‘Yes, they work in the labs at Brighton Hospital. They—’
‘And yes, they’ve only just qualified.’ Tracy bit her lip.
Betty raised her eyebrows, so much for asking her to do the talking. Tracy must be upset, as usually, she was so quiet.
Detective Green looked at them speculatively. Betty shifted on her chair; it looked like the officer was about to lecture them.
‘So what makes you think your children have absconded?’
Betty felt herself bristle. ‘I never said that. I said my daughter and her fiancé are missing. They wouldn’t just leave without telling us – would they, Tracy?’
Tracy said, ‘No, that’s right. We’re all very close. They have just graduated.
Detective Green tapped her pen on the desk. Her voice cold, she said, ‘I can’t understand why you’ve left it until now? You should have reported this much earlier. You’d better fill out these forms. I’ll be back for a written statement.’
Tracy looked up sharply. ‘There’s no need to be nasty, you know. We’re just reporting our kids are missing.’
Betty nodded. ‘Took a lot for us to come here.’
Green arched her eyebrows and rose to her feet, ‘Six days – far too late. I will leave you to it.’
As she closed the door, Tracy nudged Betty. ‘Bitch.’
Despite the gruesome find, Redd’s stomach tightened as he saw Tess climb from the police car and walk towards him. Her body swayed with an inner rhythm. He frowned; he hadn’t felt like this in a long time. Not since… He shut out the thoughts. This couldn’t go anywhere. ‘Look, I’m sorry to involve you in this, but quite honestly, we need an expert. The buggers have left another body. Be prepared, it’s dismembered, and they’ve stuffed his penis into his mouth.’
‘Oh … shit.’
Redd frowned. ‘You okay with this?’
‘I have to be. I studied the Druids for years, so I shall just have to steel myself.’
Redd narrowed his eyes. ‘I’ll warn you, it’s a nightmare and some.’
Biting her lip, she said, ‘It’s okay studying Druidism, but this is the real thing.’ As they walked to the site, Redd tried to take the edge off her fear. ‘That was some report you gave in, you know. I had copies made for each of the teams and the higher-ups.
She managed a quick grin. ‘Really?’
Deputy Chief Constable Bill Maddeley likes to keep up to date. We’re darn sure it will give us some leads. You said the unsub may have studied Roman mythology.’
‘Yes. Most of the information on Druidism is from the writings of Caius Julius Caesar and Tacitus. I guess the leader or a couple of these perps would have had classical education – public school more likely.’
‘Something to go on. Then, there’s the chemistry side to it. The cocktail of drugs is intricate. Forensics assures me it would take an expert to know the right ingredients and the right mix. Your report has given me a lot to think about – thank you.’
‘Glad to be of help.’
Reaching the tent, he said, ‘Just pop this regulation bunny suit on. Handing Tess a small jar of eucalyptus, he warned her, ‘Before you go in, put a spot of Vic under your nose. It will help with the stench.’
She nodded, wrinkling her nose. ‘Wow – strong stuff.’
‘You’ll need it.’
Stooping to enter through the flap, with Redd following, her hand went over her mouth, ‘Oh my God – my God.’ She moved backward, nearly stepping on Redd’s foot. Thinking she would make a quick exit, he moved out of her way. Instead, she straightened her back, her breath coming in short gasps. ‘I can do this – I can – I must.’
Redd slipped his arm around her as she moved forward. Dove watched them, her heart sinking. So, this was the Profiler. The guy was attracted to her; that was obvious.
Tess muttered, ‘I must do it – I’ve got to help. It’s alright writing about it, but this….’
Mahoney looked up. ‘To be sure, it takes guts, Colleen. So, Redd, what would ye be thinking of this then?’ As he asked the question, he gently opened the victim’s mouth, pulling at the penis.’
‘What the fuck? Redd’s eyes widened as testicles followed the penis.
Laying the genitals on a small tray by his side, Mahoney probed further. ‘Ah now, what have we here – ah – tis mistletoe and oak leaves, no doubt?’
Dove exclaimed, ‘It’s mad – mad.’
Tess whispered As I told you, the mistletoe is the sacred berry of the Druids. They put them in the mouth to help the person in their next reincarnation as well as other things.’
Redd frowned. ‘So apart from the genitals, what do you make of the arrangement of the legs and arms? Is it the Triskelion?’
‘Oh yes, no doubt about that.’
Picking up the plastic bag Dove, showed her the note. ‘What do you make of this?’
Studying it, Tess answered, ‘An execution. I ….’ her face whitened as she glanced at the dismembered limbs. ‘I’ve got to stand back – I can’t—’
Seeing her pallor, the muscles tensing in her throat, Redd took her arm. ‘You okay?’
Tess, almost leaning into the wall of the tent, took some deep breaths, trying to quell nausea rising in her throat.
Redd put his arm around her shoulders. ‘Do you want to leave?’
‘No – no. I’ve got this far.’ She leaned forward, taking another deep breath, ‘Phew.’
‘You feel okay now?’
‘They’ve got to find another oracle. It reads, “No one defiles the Oracle.”’
Looking up at Redd, she said, ‘The victim got off lightly.’
‘Yes, it should have been the Blood Eagle.’
Redd grimaced. ‘You mean where they pull the lungs out from the back?’
Mahoney almost shouted, ‘What the fuck are you saying, man? Pulling out the lungs? Jesus Mary and Joseph, to be sure we’re in hell – dealing with the devil himself no less.’
Redd grimaced, ‘Devils more like.’
‘In an execution, the criminal was made to look like the angel of death.’
Mahoney muttered, ‘Then we should be praying for the angels of heaven to guide us.’
Tess whispered, ‘They didn’t eviscerate the body either, that means they didn’t think he was pure enough to predict anything. . He was sent directly to the lowliest form of life.’
Dove looked up sharply. ‘You don’t believe all this do you?’
Shaking her head, Tess said, ‘ No, but this man may have.’
Dove snorted, ‘Surely not, he lived in this day and age, not thousands of years ago.’
Redd frowned, ‘He must have believed some of it, to be part of it.’
Mahoney exclaimed, ‘Will ye listen to yerselves – blasphemy.’
Tess nodded. ‘The group is quarreling. There’s conflict.’
Dove said. ‘Maybe he disagreed with what they did to the other two.’
Redd shook his head. ‘Hardly, the note said he defiled the Oracle.’
Tess murmured, ‘The Oracle is usually female. He interfered with her.’
Redd looked over to Mahoney. ‘The first message makes sense now. You said Delle Woodhouse had traces of semen. Mahoney scratched his bristly chest. ‘Aye, but then the donor was a non-secretor – no DNA.’
Dove frowned. ‘Non-secretor?’
‘Yes, with a secretor, you can get the DNA through all bodily fluids, semen, urine, sweat, milk, fluids, and blood, but with the non-secretor, there’s usually none of his blood type in the fluids.’
Dove nodded. ‘So he fucked her – hence the balls in his mouth.’
Tess said, ‘If they’re following the pagan festivals, this is just the start.’
Redd’s jaw tightened. ‘They’re going to need another oracle.’ He turned to Dove. ‘Jeannette Walker?’
Mahoney mumbled, ‘God protect us.’
Copyright © Katy Walters
All rights reserved
Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here: