Death Marks: Chapters 32, 33, 34

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.

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Death Marks

Chapter 32

Feeling the blood pounding in his temples, Redd took a step towards him, fists clenched. How could he be so cold-blooded? A victim lay tortured and dead, and all this jerk could do was laugh?

Titmouse stepped back, the smirk twisting on his face, putting out his hand as if to ward Red off.

Too late, Redd came right up to him, grabbing his shirt through the immaculate waistcoat, ‘You sack of shit, just watch your fucking mouth Titmouse – have some respect.’ As he shoved him, Titmouse’s arms flailed; stumbling back, his feet twisted under him, grunting, he fell, landing on his back, ripping the shirt open. As Titmouse swiftly drew it back, Tess caught sight of tattoos across his chest. Her stomach clenched, she watched the man nervously wipe the dirty blond steak of hair across his head.

His face purple with rage, Titmouse stuttered, ‘You’ll pay for this – assault – GBH. Seaton, you saw it.’

The little man snickered, ‘Oh yes – I saw it.’

Dove stepped forward, her voice strengthening. ‘I didn’t see anything.’

Jack said grimly, ‘Neither did I.’

Scowling, Titmouse tried to button up his shirt and straightened his tie, brushing the dirt from his neatly pressed suit. Scowling, he stomped away, Seaton at his heels.

Jack muttered, ‘When the hell are they going to get rid of the shmuck?’

‘Not as long as he’s in the ACC’s pockets.’

Tess tugged at Redd’s sleeve, whispering, ‘Dan – he had tattoos across his chest. Really.’

Narrowing his eyes, Redd muttered, ‘I wonder – wouldn’t surprise me if the bugger’s in with them.’

‘He definitely has them.’

As Redd went to answer, he heard Lugh clear his throat, ‘Daniel, I wonder if I might intrude here, but it is important. It’s about the trees?’

Raising his eyebrows, Redd echoed his words politely, ‘Trees?’ What the hell was he talking about?

‘Ah yes, I wonder if you could tell me from which tree they hung the poor man. It might have some bearing on the case.’

‘Which tree? A Silver Birch?’ Redd pointed to a copse of trees just beyond the tent. Look, I haven’t got time—’

‘I’m sorry, but it is serious. There is a reason they used the Birch; you should know it.’

Tess said, ‘What Lugh has to say is important. We’re not mucking around here.’

Redd sighed, don’t say he was going to start talking about the bloody Oghams again. He felt he’d made a big mistake in bringing this man to the site; he was like a university professor in a fight cage. The man was a hindrance. Anger still pounded through his veins.  Tits needed bloody good hiding, but Redd also realized he had to contain his rage. He was near to losing his rank, even his job, a job that was his life, especially after losing Esther – an image rose before him, his little boy’s hand stretching out to him. He almost groaned. Get a grip, man, get a grip. ‘Look, I apologize if I’m abrupt—’

‘I know – believe me, I know. But hear me out.’

Redd felt a small cool hand slip into his; looking down, he saw Tess, the compassion in her eyes. ‘Just listen, Dan – please.’

Now he felt like a heel. As she squeezed his hand, he said, ‘I’m out of order, it’s just….’

Lugh nodded, his eyes warm. ‘Look, I’ll say straightaway, this man’s death was unusual for the druids; it was a message. They hung him from the Birch tree because they respect him.’


‘He did something to anger the Gods. There is no way they would have touched this tree if the members of the Grove did not love him. The Ash or the Birch is the World Tree, the Axis Mundi of the three worlds. He had to die, but at the same time, the Grove want him to climb to the higher world. The shaman uses it as a sky ladder to symbolize his ability to visit other worlds.’

‘Christ, it gets complicated; they respect him, so they kill him?

‘Yes, that’s the mindset of the ancient Druid, and these guys are re-enacting it. They’re fighting among themselves, and there is a major festival coming up. The group is unraveling.’

‘Major festival? So what does that mean – more bloody sacrifices?’

Tess took her hand from his as she answered; he was surprised he was still holding it. ‘Yes, and I think they will offer Jeannette and Neil to the high Gods when the sun stands still. According to the old rules, only with their coupling and sacrifice can the druids save the earth; the sun will begin to turn again in the skies.’

‘So they’ll be butchered?’

Tess nodded. ‘Sacrificed – but only as a precursor for the major offering….’


She faltered, lowering her eyes. ‘The Wicker Man.’

Lugh said, his face solemn. ‘I just hope I’m wrong, Daniel.’

Jack walked up. ‘Looks like we’ve got our work cut out – I’ve got an appointment with a professor at Chichester Uni.’ I think you’ve got all the information you need here, but he might uncover something – worth a try. I’ll see you later.’

Redd put up his hand. ‘Dove, Tess, and I need to talk; we also have to see this Church, Tess is talking about. You’ve got some reports to write. You can get a lift with Jack. Oh yes, get Watkins to liaise with traffic. I noticed there were CCTVs in the car park.’

Dove frowned – get a lift with Jack? ‘Yes, boss.’

‘Do you think you could see Lugh safely back?’

Jack nodded, ‘My pleasure.’

Lugh said, ‘I’ll have to get my robes from your car Daniel.’

‘Oh yes. It was so good of you to come along. Your advice has certainly helped us today.’

Dove smiled up at the Arch Druid. ‘I’ll get them for you.’

Redd frowned. ‘Oh yes, detective, contact the press and TV, get the forensic artist to reconstruct the face as soon as possible.’

Jack fell into step beside Lugh, their face grim, shoulders bowed with the horror of a shocking crime.

Watching Dove help the Arch Druid on with his robes, Redd took Tess’s arm, ‘So let’s go see this church.’

Smiling, she nodded. ‘Best place to go at the moment.’

Chapter 33

Driving through picturesque villages sheltered in the green fields and small forested areas of the Nature Reserve, Redd tried to expunge the gruesome images of the victim from his mind. He had enough of them already with Esther and Harry. Some of them were grotesque, others idyllic as he dreamt of lounging outside the beach hut sipping cool drinks. Harry would play with pebbles, jabbering away in his baby language. They always made sure the stones were large, as he had a habit of putting everything in his mouth. The infant would find a treasure intermittently, jabbing Redd’s calves holding up a pebble sparkling with quartz. But then, the nightmares would paint the scene black.

In the silence, Tess looked over, ‘Penny for them?’

‘Huh – just thinking I’m in for some nightmares – bastards.’

‘Nightmares are a way of keeping you sane. It’s your unconscious using symbols; they cover the reality of past traumas – memories your mind cannot accept.’

‘I suppose so, but they can be shocking – I often wake up in a sweat.’

Tess nodded. ‘Same here, some mornings, even the sheets are soaking.’

Redd frowned; why would she have nightmares? He looked at her, his gaze questioning.

She caught his look. ‘We’ve all got our goblins. Mine come out to play at night.’ Her tone told him the subject was closed.

‘You said you might have something for me?’

‘Yes, I’ve been mulling over the symbols, the crime scene, the victims, building a picture of the unsubs’ unconscious motives.I wanted to put it all in a report—’

‘Talk to me. I don’t think we can wait, not after this.’

‘I know. I think we are dealing with a man who fought his way to power for negative reasons. He’s constantly trying to prove himself; without his power and control over people, he feels insecure, isolated, failing. We know he’s turned to the druids; their chief symbol is the sacred tree, the mother symbol.’

‘Seems it’s always the mother.’

‘Not necessarily; it means to nurture. In Druidism, we’re looking at the mother – all-powerful. Unconsciously, the leader is searching for the perfect mother, the mother he yearned for but never had, the mother. The latter will protect him from all threat and mortality. Unconsciously, he is saying to her, ‘look at me – look at what I’ve achieved.’

‘I don’t mean to play devil’s advocate, but there are thousands of neo-druids who don’t go around slaughtering each other.’

Tess nodded. ‘Exactly, but this guy’s turned to the mindset and symbolism of the ancient druids. As you know, the druids revere the trees, hold them sacred, indeed to them the trees are the ancient people, they are initially the symbol of the Mother; all trees grow from her.’

‘Crazy – how could an intelligent man believe that?’

‘Who knows how the human mind really works? Even the best psychiatrist can’t tell you that.’

Hearing the irritation in her voice, he said, ‘Look, I’m just trying to get a handle on this.’

Tess relaxed. ‘Okay, but this is why I wanted to put it all in a report; it’s quite a difficult subject for us to discuss driving and looking for signs.’

‘Look – I’m impatient – just give me a kick when I butt in again.’

Tess grinned. ‘I’ll keep you to that – so watch out. Right – our ancient ancestors believed people were descended from trees. In the burial customs, people were buried in hollow tree trunks; the dead were delivered back to the belly of the tree, the womb of the mother, for rebirth – reincarnation.’

‘It all sounds bizarre.’

‘I know, but don’t try to understand it, just go with it. You see, the Druid believed he was in contact with the Gods.  They were in every action he took, every berry he picked, water he drew, lovemaking, sleeping, dreaming. You can’t really separate the Gods from the man or woman; they were intertwined.’

‘And the Oracle? The decapitation?’

‘The Romans wrote about the Isle of Skulls, as Britain was called, the people were vicious animals. The emperors were too afraid to invade; it took an emperor – Caligula – who was practically insane to try. The ancient Britons were a bloodthirsty lot; as we know, they believed they could talk to the Gods in the Otherworld through a decapitated head.’

‘So these bastards are copying it?’

‘Insane – but yes. That’s why I try to work through symbols, the most ancient ways of understanding or communicating. They talk to us.’

‘Well, it’s a different take on profiling.’

‘I went into psychology to understand the mind, maybe find answers to reality itself, but after years of study, I now know we know nothing. We are no nearer than Rene Descartes, but there does seem to be some breakthrough with symbols.’

‘Yeah, but the neuroscientist is making headway; we know a lot more about the brain.’

Tess looked over to him, the pallor of her face showing the horror of the murder. ‘Yes, the physical brain, but not the mind. To me, the mind is a mist or invisible mesh or maybe a force from another dimension. We don’t know why or from where it comes.’

‘Aliens here we come.’

‘One thing is clear; this group is using the ancient rituals to feed their own neuroses or psychopathology.’

Schizophrenic maybe?’

‘No, the schizophrenic acts at the moment; he never knows when the hallucinations and voices will attack.

‘That’s tragic.’

Chapter 34

Julia stormed into the room; her eyes narrowed, teeth clenched, ‘Damn you to hell – I hate you – hate you – did you hear that? You killed him. I loved him – we were living—’

‘Enough – he insulted the Gods – me – The Order.’

‘You’re a murderer – a fucking murderer. He – I tried to save them. But you’re still intent on doing it. You butcher. This has gone far enough; you can’t kill them – you – can’t. I won’t let you.’

Adakan turned to face her, his face composed, eyes cold. ‘Who’s talking about killing? They will be honored – honored to go to the Otherworld. Their reincarnation is—’

‘Don’t be such a shitbag. You’re a killer, a fucking killer. You killed Kevin – killed my lover. I was going to marry him – you beast. You destroyed him – broke my heart. What is there for me to live for now? Eh? What is there to live for? I’m a damned prisoner in this fucking mansion.’

‘Watch your language.’ Adakan went to the door closing it. ‘You’re insulting the Gods. I saved you once Alfhildr. I don’t want a repeat of it. It’s only because you’re my daughter that you’re alive now, so watch it.’

Julia put her fists on her hips. ‘You cut him up – not only did you murder him; you butchered him. And, you made me stand there and watch it. It’s a wonder. I’m not insane. The police will find you; they’re searching for you even now. They’re searching for you, and they’ll bloody well find you. It’s in all the newspapers; they think you’re insane – insane.’

‘They’re a load of morons, uncivilized. They have no idea of the power – the might of the Gods’

Jutting her chin forward, eyes blazing, she screamed, ‘If you could only hear yourself. It’s those damn drugs; they’ve destroyed your brain and the others. Half the time they go around half stoned, mumbling.’

‘No – not mumbling – praying Alfhildr – praying for every blessed moment in their lives. They thank the Gods for the food, the gift of divining, time-traveling, shape-shifting.’

‘Don’t be so bloody stupid, you’re hallucinating – it’s the fucking drugs are doing that.’ She strode to the window, watching the workers below. She became still, crossing her arms across her chest, her voice tense. ‘I can’t stand anymore. You have to stop it; you can’t kill them. I’ve spent hours with Jeannette and Neil; they’re good people – never harmed anyone, and you’re going to murder them in cold blood. I won’t let you.’

‘It is not our choice. They are to be sacrificed to the Gods, the Gods who look after this planet – Gods and Goddesses who will bestow their blessings upon us. Alfhildr I only want what is best—’

She tossed the red hair from her shoulder, her eyes glittering with anger. ‘Julia – my name is Julia. Resting her hands on the mahogany antique table, she shouted, ‘Hear that? My mother christened me – you christened me as Julia.’

‘Hah yes, but your true name is Alfhildr, a warrior.’

‘Your brain is addled; the Ovates are going crazy. It’s taking them longer and longer to come down from the drugs. And, they want more. You don’t know what you’re doing.’

‘Our pharmacist is top grade; he’s in control. Drugs are part of our religion; through them, we journey to the Otherworld. They are necessary.’

‘Necessary for you to control them, you mean, necessary so you can carry out those sadistic murders.’

‘How can you say that? You insult the Gods. They are honorable sacrifices – you ignorant girl.’

‘An excuse for you to enjoy their pain, you mean. I see your face when they scream – you’re a monster.’

‘They are destroying the planet, destroying life as we know it – creating havoc. We must bring the Gods back.’

Julia slammed her fist down on the table. ‘Jeanette and Neil are scientists; they’ve studied hard. They want to help people; genetics is the key to cancer, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and you want to stop that?’

‘They’re monsters – destroying the natural order.’

‘You’re the monster. What about Nana – your own mother? They’re so near to find a cure for Alzheimer’s, and you just – just—’

‘Nana must accept her fate; the Gods decreed she should have Alzheimer’s; who are we to argue with that?’

‘Accept she has Alzheimer’s? D’you know what it’s like to know your brain is dying? Nana does; every hour, every day, she knows that. Would you condemn her to that? To die from that? She still has a mind, and I’m going to tell her what you’ve done. I should have done it days ago.’

‘So how do you explain your own behavior? Tell me. You witnessed the first punishment – Hagnivor – raped the Oracle. Yet you still went out and got more victims.’

‘You forced me – threatened me – Kevin. You killed them, damn you. I hate you.’

Rising from his chair, Adakan almost shouted, ‘Silence – the Gods will strike you down.’

Almost running to the door, Julia spat, ‘I’m leaving; you can’t keep me here.’

Adakan strode across to her, pulling her away from the door handle, holding the door closed. ‘Listen to me. I have members of the Order here today; they can hear you. It’s only my word that is keeping you alive. You cannot leave. If you go to the police, the group will hunt you down. You will undergo the Blood Eagle.’

‘The police need me; they’ll protect me.’

‘Will they? You know we’ve got a couple of their top men. You don’t stand a chance.’

Julia’s face paled, her eyes widening. ‘No – they wouldn’t – it’s murder.’

‘It’s sacrifice, and they believe in it.’

‘Damn you.’ Wiping the tears from her face, Julia sped along the corridor. Her grandmother was in the West Wing of the house. She could go to her – even if her memory was poor, maybe she’d help. It had all started out so well.

Now, she had to confess to her grandmother, not only in the mid-stages of Alzheimer’s but also Vascular Dementia. Nurse Phillipa opened the door; in her mid-fifties, she was a plump, attractive woman, her lush brown hair caught in a French chignon. ‘Julia – sweetheart, come in, her ladyship will be pleased.’

Julia tried to smile as she walked to see her grandmother seated in her recliner by the window. She turned to look at Julia, her eyes confused, smile wavering. As Julia approached, she knew it would take her grandmother a couple of minutes to focus on her and remember.

The elderly Dowager’s face cleared when she exclaimed, ‘Julie – little Julie, my lovely girl. Come here.’

Julia went to her, lowering her head to kiss the velvety cheek. Stepping back, she turned around to Nurse Jenkins. ‘Could you please leave us for a while, Phillipa?’

Then nurse smiled, ‘Of course – of course. Would you like some tea?’

Julia nodded. ‘That would be nice.’

‘I’ll wait for you to ring; there are some macaroons; I know you like them.’

As the door closed, Julia turned to the Dowager. ‘Nana, I’ve got something to tell you. I hope you can help me.’


Copyright © Katy Walters

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