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:
Guessing the inscription on the gravestone would have some significance, Redd drove over to Tess. He needed to clear it up before picking Dove up and going to the hospital research lab.
Parking the car in the driveway, he heard an unearthly howl as a blaze of white, black, and tan fur hurtled towards him. Sweetpea – oh God; he put up his hands in self-defense. Giving a screech, Sweetpea leaped, putting huge paws on Redd’s shoulders, his long wet tongue furiously licking, nose and cheeks. He then became engrossed with the inside of Redd’s ears.
Tess’s voice rang out, ‘Sweetpea, put him down now – now – stop it.’
Ignoring her, Sweetpea yelped, licking and gulping air. Redd struggled to get away – the dog was crazy – fucking crazy. Then, over Sweetpea’s shoulder, he saw Tess running towards them; he saw strong arms pulling the dog off him. She was tough; the mutt must weigh at least a hundred and twenty pounds.
‘Precious, stop it – stop it now. Mummy’s good boy.’
He muttered, ‘Good boy? I’m sopping wet.’
Tess laughed, ‘Shows Sweetpea really likes you. He’s washing you. You’re now a member of the pack.’
Redd clenched his teeth; this was not the time for joking.
‘Now, if he didn’t like you, he’d have ignored you.’
‘Great, I can put up with his dislike.’
Seeing his annoyance, she smiled, ‘He’s my bodyguard Redd; you should have let me know you were coming.’
As she went to rise, a button popped open on her check shirt, her full cleavage in a lacy bra’ on view.
Feeling the blood rush to his head, he averted his eyes. ‘I’ll remember next time.’
‘Here, wipe your face.’ Then, handing him a facecloth, she said, ‘It is clean – washed this morning. Your collar’s wet through as well.’
As Tess poured him a cup of tea, he watched the curve of her waist, the slim hips. Then, pulling himself together, he recounted his visit to the DCC, giving exact details of the painting and Mainwaring’s part in it. Then, taking out his notepad, he showed her his copy of the inscription on the gravestone.
Frowning, Tess scrutinized the markings. ‘Yes – you’re right – it’s Ogham again. But, hang on, they’ve used more of the alphabet here; I’ll just go and get my files.’
As she left the room, Sweetpea ambled over. Putting his heavy head on Redd’s knee, he gazed up, adoration in his brown eyes. Redd mellowed, tickling the fur under the dog’s throat, he murmured, ‘Yeah, you’re alright, you great mutt – alright.’ Sweetpea’s tongue appeared immediately. ‘No – enough of that, let’s get past the washing stage, shall we?’ Getting the message, the dog sat close, gulping loads of air.’
Tess returned, waving the file. ‘Here it is.’ Sitting at the table, she studied Redd’s copy of the inscription then her file, writing down the meaning of each mark. After a few minutes, she said, ‘Got it – here goes – The Druid lies not in the grave for he receiveth life everlasting, forever reaching into new forms and new life.’ She paused, ‘The only thing is Redd; it is not true druidic practice. They had an oral history; they never wrote anything down. As I said to you before, it’s only through the Romans whom we know anything about them – Tacitus and Gaius Julius Caesar.’
Redd nodded. ‘Now we have to find a way in, but I don’t have enough probable cause for a search warrant. They have open days most of the week for the public, can’t you go along as a tourist?’
‘No, Medbury knows most of us, and if Mainwaring is involved, then it’s a no-go situation. Anyway, we’d have to find a way to explore the mansion and the grounds.’
‘But surely with this?’
‘No, it’s not enough. It’s circumstantial; I mean, I can’t do anything yet; all we have is a painting.’ He broke off as the phone vibrated in his pocket. Taking it out, he saw the DCC’s number. ‘Hello, Redd speaking.’
‘Hi Dan, just had a call from the hospital. I’m phoning on behalf of the Dowager; the doctor’ told me she’s screaming blue murder about cutup bodies and dudds which I presume are druids. She’s insisting there has been a murder at Medbury. In between her loss of memory spells, she can carry out a coherent conversation. So it is up to you if you want to pursue it.’
‘Thanks, Bill; the whole case is insane, so anything is worth a try.’
Putting the face cloth on the table, Redd rose from the chair. ‘I’ve got to get back to the hospital; the Dowager is screaming about severed limbs and dudds. She could be referring to druids.’
Tess stood. ‘Shall I come with you?’
‘Might be an idea – could be we’ve at last got a way into the Medbury Estate. The earl is with her, by the way.’
‘Just the break you needed. Hang on, I’ll just make sure Sweetpea’s okay.’
Flanked by Dove and Tess, Redd walked into the private suite, just off the geriatric ward. The crisp smell of antiseptic almost covered the rank odour of urine and feces. A nurse-led the way to the door at the end of the corridor. Opening it, she said, ‘Be prepared, the Dowager is upset. She can be lucid at times, but she is also distressed.’
A doctor well into his fifties bent over fixing a cannula into the dowager’s liver-spotted hand. He murmured, ‘Cough now.’
The old woman raised her head from the pillow. ‘Why?’
‘Just cough, my dear.’
The Dowager frowned. ‘My lady, if you please.’
The doctor smiled benignly. ‘It will help me if you cough.’
Glaring, she gave a strangled cough, upon which he plunged the needle into a knotted vein, swiftly putting the cannula in place. Then, turning to Redd, he said, ‘Can I help you?’
Redd flashed his warrant card. ‘DCI Daniel Redd, and this is DS Felicity Dove.’
The doctor inclined his head, waving Redd to the bedside, while he continued to clear up the surgical equipment.
‘Who are you?’ The Dowager peered at Redd.
Once again, Redd put up his ID card. ‘Good morning ma’am, I hope you don’t mind if I ask you a few questions?’
The Dowager tutted, ‘My lady if you please. How impudent, you young pup. You don’t look old enough to be out of nappies, let alone be a policeman.’
A nurse ran to her aid as she tried to raise herself higher in the bed, only to have the Dowager slap the woman’s hands away.
At that moment, the door opened to admit the Earl of Medbury. ‘Mummy, don’t do that – that’s naughty.’
The Dowager rounded on him, ‘Freddie, what have you done with Ju…?’ She breathed a sigh of irritation. ‘I can’t remember her name.’
‘You mean Julia, Mummy?’
‘Yes Julia, where is she? What have you done with her?’ Then, before the earl could reply, she said, ‘I know what you’ve done. You’ve cut her up into tiny pieces, and you’ve put her in a plastic bag. That’s what you’ve done.’ Then, turning abruptly to Dove, she said, ‘Are you the police?’
As Dove nodded, the old woman turned to Tess. ‘And who are you?’
‘Doctor Tessa Davies, my lady.’
‘Another Doctor – I need to speak to the police.’
Dove stepped forward. ‘We are the police milady. How can we help you?’
‘Yes, it’s Freddie – you heard me. He’s cut up my granddaughter into little pieces.’
The Earl stroked her forehead. ‘Mummy – don’t – I wouldn’t – she’s my own daughter.’
‘Oh yes, you have.’
Redd glanced over to Dove and then Tess. Was she speaking the truth, or were they the words of a deranged mind? The Dowager broke down sobbing as Freddie rushed to her side. ‘Mummy, Mummy, don’t – don’t cry – it’s me – your Freddie—’
‘You little shit – always has been – cutting up cockroaches – now you’ve cut up Ju … Julia.’
Putting his arms around her, Freddie cried, ‘Mummy – no – I would never hurt her.’
Pushing him away, she raged, ‘You’re the devil’s son, just like your bloody father – but worse.’ She looked up to Redd, ‘It was the Dudds – terrible creatures, very rude – naked – obscene.’
Freddie tapped in a number on his cell phone. ‘Mummy, I am phoning Julia right now; you can talk to her… Julia? Daddy here. Please talk to Nana – she is accusing me of cutting you up in pieces.’
The Dowager took the phone from him. ‘Baby, it’s Nana – you’re not dead? I’m so worried.’ On listening for a few seconds, her eyes narrowed. ‘You’re not Juju – who are you?’ She handed the phone to Redd, ‘Listen to this, listen – that’s not her – not heeeerrrr.’ Her voice ended in a screech.
Redd took the phone. ‘Yes – yes. Detective Chief Inspector Redd speaking – yes, your grandmother is very worried about you … yes … quite … right. Well, thank you, I’ll tell her.’
The Dowager rasped, ‘Well – did you hear? That wasn’t her.’
Redd put the phone back in its cradle. ‘I think we’ve cleared the matter up.’ Then, nodding to the Dowager, he said, ‘Your granddaughter is safe and sound, my lady. She should be in to see you later.’
‘It’s not her – I tell you – it’s not her.’ The clatter of their shoes on the highly polished tiles of the corridor did not drown her cries as they left.
Redd opened the doors for them to walk through. Outside he turned to them. ‘The dowager’s granddaughter is nineteen years old; that was the voice of a much older woman on the phone.
Nurse Phillipa put down the phone, giving Julia a smug smile. ‘Well, that’s taken care of that.’
Julia struggled with a nylon cord, tying her to a chair. ‘Don’t you be so bloody sure? She knows my voice. She won’t give up. She loves me – brought me up from a baby.’
‘Oh come on now, you know she can’t stand children – couldn’t bear the sight of her own son -can’t even now.’
‘Why should she? I’ve heard Dad was a right little slime bag. She may not have liked kids, but she changed with me – shocked everyone. She won’t let this go. She’s not so far gone she doesn’t know what’s going on.’
Trewitt raised his head. ‘Before we go any further, Chief Inspector, I think a cup of tea is in order.
‘No – no, Sir, thank you, But we haven’t got much time. Yesterday, our officers informed you that Dr. Rodenberry, your Chief Geneticist, may be missing; her close friend Luke Marsh reported it in. It’s now two full days since her disappearance, so we’d like to ask you a few more questions.’
‘Of course – of course. So now, Chief Inspector, you suspect foul play?’
‘We cannot assume anything at the moment. Luke Marsh informed us she was due to present the results of an important research project; the hope was that the pharmaceutical would sponsor—’
‘Yes, I know that; it was an important meeting.’ Trewitt interrupted pompously, ‘The money would keep us going for a further three years. What with all the cuts—’
‘So I understand. Rodenberry’s car was abandoned – bonnet still open.’
‘Frightening Chief Inspector, it comes to something when we can’t even use our public roads in safety.’
‘So, did Dr. Rodenbury have any enemies here?’
‘She was on a tight budget and had a limited timespan to produce results. She would ruffle a few feathers.’
Redd rested his elbows on his knees, steepling his fingers. ‘I see. I would be grateful for a list of names, please. It would be better if I conducted the interviews here immediately to save time.’
‘Now I would like to oblige Inspector, but as I said, our time is precious – we can’t possibly—’
‘I can always take them to the station, although that will really take hours to do so.’
Shaking his head, Trewitt grimaced. ‘It’s not that I’m recalcitrant – it’s Professor Morgan – he has such a prickly temper.’
Dryly, Redd murmured, ‘I’d like a list of their names, addresses; e-mail addresses, and contact numbers, please.’
Sandy nodded. ‘I’ll see to that straightaway.’
Redd turned to Trewitt. ‘So, do you have a room for us?”
Trewitt rose to his feet, once more, his face magnanimous. ‘Of course, I shall see to it immediately.’
Trewitt put down the phone. ‘The restroom is empty and quite private; I will fix that up for you.’
The interviews stretched long into the afternoon. Redd and Dove gathered from the interviewees’ remarks. Gemma was a popular but firm boss; she inspired them in their work, exacting a high standard of competence. Her only foible appeared to be her insistence on punctuality and attendance, to the point of keeping weekly charts.
Redd realized this marked her as an obsessive personality; hence, it was quite out of character. She abandoned her new car leaving it unlocked and not informing anyone of her whereabouts. Clearing up the interview forms, Dove put them into files, slipping them into her briefcase. Glancing over to Redd, she said, ‘Boss, I really suspect she’s been abducted.’
‘I agree; let’s hope she’s still got her mobile on; we can track her with that. Get onto Papworth; ask him to track a number. The boyfriend gave it in this morning.’
‘Will that be all for now, boss?’
‘No, I want a few more words with Trewitt.’
Finding the manager at his desk, Redd closed the door behind him. ‘I won’t keep you long. Dr. Rodenbury appears to be quite popular. Also, she is a stickler for punctuality and staff attendance. So, it is quite out of character for her just to disappear without leaving a word to anyone. Is there anywhere you think she may have gone? Is she in contact with researchers in other establishments?’
Trewitt frowned. ‘She is in close contact with the research establishment at Stillford, some miles away from here. However, I cannot think of anyone else.’ He turned as Sandy entered carrying correspondence. ‘Hah, Sandy, can you think of anyone who would have contacted Dr. Rodenbury at Stillford?’
‘Well, there’s Ms. Peacock. I think she invited her to go on the lab trip. Oh dear – she won’t be going now, will she? That’s five people – two of them dead and two missing and now Gemma.’ Tears filled her eyes
Dove said, ‘The trip? When is it?’
‘Just a few days, Sunday, June the twenty-second, but I really do think we should cancel it. Shame really as it was free with lunch and high tea.’
‘Where are you going?’
‘We told you the last time you were here, it’s a Mystery Tour.’
Redd asked. ‘So who organized it?’
‘Really, Inspector, do you think this has anything to do with the murders?’
‘At present, no – but I just want to tie up any loose ends.’
‘Well, we don’t know who organized it; it was an anonymous donor; a thank you for our work here – we had some significant results.’
Dove said, ‘It’s a coincidence that the first two victims received tickets to a nightclub as an anonymous gift. So did Jeannette Walker and Neil Bennett. Have you a bus or coach picking you up?’
‘Yes – a coach, Terri Tours – local firm.’
‘Well, that’s easy enough to trace. Make a note of that, Detective.’ Then, turning to Trewitt, he said, ‘I’ll get straight back to you on that.’
Warily, Sandy said, ‘That sounds ominous – d’you think we should cancel?’
Picking up her briefcase, Dove said, ‘No – no. Just leave it to us; it might turn out to be completely innocent. After all, if it’s a well-known coach company, I see no reason to be suspicious. Just to be on the safe side, we’ll check it out.’
Trewitt pursed his lips. ‘I think we’ll have to review the trip, Sandy; I mean, these murders are vicious – there are some sadistic people about.’
Dove raised her hand. ‘Please don’t worry – the Tour company is local, been operating for years. I’m sure it will be okay.’
As they walked down the corridor to the entrance doors, Redd felt his phone vibrate. Taking it from his pocket, he saw Jack’s number. He held up his hand to Dove to pause for a moment. ‘Hi, Jack, what’s up? … Jesus Christ. Where? …. Okay – see you there. Hey, wait a moment; is Tess still at the station? Yeah? Take her along with you; she can read the signs at the scene – if any.’ Clicking off, he looked at Dove. ‘They’ve just found Jeannette and Neil.’
Copyright © Katy Walters
All rights reserved
Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here: