Death Marks: Chapters 49, 50, and 51

Death Marks: Chapters 49, 50, and 51

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.

Other Chapters

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

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Death Marks

Chapter 49

Swiftly, they entered the tunnel, wired for lights. Redd looked up at the slightly domed ceiling a foot above them. ‘They’ve obviously strengthened the roof, and the walls are shored up – must have used these a lot.’

Tess nodded. ‘But for what?’

Jack said, ‘Away from prying eyes – especially if they’re conducting pagan orgies.’

Eagerly, Sweetpea ran, stopping only to whine in places, his nose almost boring into the dirt wall, until he reached the door, his paws scrabbling on the latch.

Tess turned to Redd. ‘Seems she came this way.’

Immediately, he ran forward to open the door. The dog bounded up the steps into a vestry. Once again, Jack gave Sweetpea the clothes to sniff. Then, on Tess’s, command, the dog loped, nose to the ground, along a narrow corridor that led into the Church. Running to an altar atop a stone bench, the dog growled, sniffing oak and yew leaves strewn across the marble slab. Again, Sweetpea sat, raising his paw, panting, his long tongue hanging out from the side of lethal-looking jaws.

Tess said, ‘Someone or something was on the altar. It doesn’t look good, does it?’

Redd shook his head; striding to the altar, he peered at the leaves. ‘No signs of blood, but I daren’t touch anything – could be traces of DNA or something here.’

Tess almost whispered, ‘Oh dear God, they didn’t—’

‘It’s not the summer solstice yet. Maybe they carried out some kind of ritual.’

‘Bastards.’

Jack said, ‘What about the trestle tables then? Looks like they’ve been laid for a banquet.’

Nodding, Redd walked over. ‘Linen clothes, candelabra – maybe preparing for the Mystery Tour?’

Tess murmured, ‘It’s a thought – if Gemma was supposed to be going on it, plus the other victims were from the labs; it’s a possibility.’

‘Maybe they’ll just show them around the mansion and then make their way over here for a buffet. It certainly is an ancient church; it would be interesting.’

Frowning Redd said, ‘One thing is for sure; Gemma was here. I’ve got a good mind to get the Forensic team out now. However, we’ve just not got enough to go on.’

Tess said, ‘There’s Sweetpea’s tracking, and the dowager does give quite an uncanny description of the M.O.’

Jack muttered, ‘She has dementia, Tess – not even circumstantial evidence. As for Sweetpea, we might believe in his tracking skills, but he is not a trained police dog. All it’s done is to give us some leads. However, we do have Sweetpea reacting to Gemma’s clothes. Again, he’s not police trained, but I think it’s enough now to persuade Bill.’

Tess narrowed her eyes as she picked up a twig of yew. ‘Maybe they will bring the guests here and then take them elsewhere – but where? Maybe there are other cellars or caves.’

‘If it’s going to be a human sacrifice, the earl and his cohorts are not going to build a Wicker Man in the grounds or anywhere else in the open, for that matter. But, unfortunately, Lugh, the Arch Druid of my Grove, is building a large one in the grounds of his old mansion, but he hasn’t got anything to hide.’

Shadows gathered in the corners of the old church as twilight deepened. Jack got the plans out of his briefcase, laying them on the trestle table. ‘Let’s have a look.’

Redd watched as Jack traced the tunnel. ‘Nope – there’s nothing else on here. But I can’t get the Dowager’s words out of my head; she rambled on about the pit, and the Devil living under the mansion, that she could hear him breathing – devil’s music.’

Tess said, ‘There’re only the two cellars, and they’re not very big – cluttered as well. But she is confused – demented.’

Jack shrugged. ‘Maybe, but she can be very clear – coherent. I mean, she even remembered The earl’s friend – the coaches.’

‘Yes, it’s a past memory. People with Alzheimers do remember the past vividly; in fact, as the disease progresses, they move more and more into the past. It’s the present that’s the trouble; they cannot retain anything for more than five minutes, sometimes even less. So this must have been going on for quite a while.’

Redd scratched his chin, ‘So where in hell is she talking about?’

‘So far, we’ve only found the cellars – they’re far too small and full of wine or clutter. They know we’re on to them, so no way can they pull it off in the open air.’

Tess walked to the first pew and sat down. ‘Like I said earlier, the druids packed the Wicker Man with humans and animals. It was so important, Dan.’

‘Yeah, but twenty?’

‘The Aztecs slaughtered thousands. These perps are fanatics; they’ve proven that with the dismemberment and decapitation of the victims. Maybe this is their grand finale – to shock the world. The rites are sacrosanct.’

Jack came back to the altar. ‘What say we put someone on the tour? They could wear a tracking device and carry a mobile; we could track by a digital device or triangulation.’

Redd nodded. ‘Good idea, trouble is the Earl will know us, as will Mainwaring or Titmouse, that’s if they’re in on it.’

Tess put down the twig on the altar. ‘I could do it.’

‘No, Tess – too dangerous. I couldn’t allow it.’

Brushing a lock of ebony hair off her brow, she said, ‘Come on, I’ll be quite safe, I mean if I have the tracking gear on.’

Jack raised his eyebrows. ‘What about Dove? She can take care of herself.’

Redd shook his head. ‘Nah – they know her – they’ve seen Tess with me at the crime scene, but I don’t think it was long enough to take precedent. I hesitate—’

‘Dan, there are twenty people’s lives at stake here. You will have people in the grounds, the cellars, and the church. What can go wrong?’

‘The fucking tunnel – that’s what could go wrong.’

‘The largest spaces for a Wicker Man are in the cellars, the tunnels are far too confined, but they won’t use the cellars – they’re too small, and we’ve been there.’

‘Yeah, but there could be somewhere we just haven’t discovered yet. Fuck, we need more time.’

Jack sat down on the pew, ‘How about DC Green? She’s good.’

‘Titmouse knows her, Jack. If they see her, they’ll call the fucking thing off.’

Sighing, Tess folded her arms across her chest. ‘Look, there’s no other way. At least I’ll be alert to anything going on. As you say, I’ll have the tracking devices and mobile. There’s only a tunnel, and you could be down there in a shot.’

Jack got up from the pew, ‘Hang on a minute, this will not work, he might remember you. Police have keen eyes – training.’

‘I don’t think Titmouse saw me, and if he did it would only have been for a second or two – he wouldn’t remember me Jack. So look, I’ll wear a hat, better still I’ll wear a wig – change my make-up. I’ve actually got some blue contact lenses. I use them for clubbing – not that I do that very much now.’

Redd grinned, ‘Great – blues eyes – blond – sounds great.’ Then the thought clutched at his heart – Esther – blonde hair drifting in the breeze. Taking a breath, he said, ‘You’ll be wearing the latest tracking devices. Make sure you don’t drink or eat anything there on the day; it could be drugged.’

Tess nodded, excitement in her eyes, as she grinned. ‘Understood. So let’s do it.’

Redd knitted his brows. ‘First thing though, is a team meeting. And I’ll have to arrange for SWAT that’s if Maddeley is agreeable.’

Jack put his hand on his shoulder. ‘He will be – I’ll be with you – we’ll talk him around. Anyway, the team and SWAT will be invisible until they’re needed.’

Chapter 50

Redd checked over his files as he rushed to the Incident Room. The night before, he’d insisted on driving Tess back himself. But, even now, he was worried sick about letting her do it. ‘You know I don’t think you should do this, hell if anything happened to you…’

As she unlocked the door, he grabbed her, holding her close. ‘If those bastards lay one finger on you, I’ll be tearing off heads.’

‘Well, before you do that, who’s going to come over and fix me up for Sunday?

‘Bessie Owen. She’s very amenable and very sharp. So just go with what she says, okay. She’ll be fixing a digital device in the heel of your shoe and an earring.’

‘Sounds painless. ‘She turned to him, cupping his face in her two hands, raising her lips to his, she kissed him gently. Responding, he crushed her to him, his tongue flicking through, tasting her sweetness.

***

The odours from the incident Room washed over him, stale hot dogs, pizzas, cold coffee, cigarette breath, and unwashed clothes. Voices buzzed, officers sprawled on chairs or lolling against tables, as he moved to the whiteboards.

Redd looked up at the fresh faces of the victims, smiling eyes lit with the glow of youth. Beside them were photos of the crime scenes, the vics’ flesh now grey, arms and limbs dismembered, torsos mutilated, a couple headless. He looked over to see Dove writing on the other board, making a list of items to be discussed.

Grabbing his stick from the rack, he said, Thanks. Let’s get started.’

Dove took a seat in the front row with Jack close beside her.

‘Okay, folks, I know it’s late, and I’ve got some of you from your beds, but we have a couple of leads.’ He paused as he looked at the officers, faces gouged with fatigue, skin sallow, eyes flat.

A voice graveled with a lifetime of cigarettes growled, ‘No sweat Guv, we’ve gotta get these fuckers.’

Hugh Price, the office manager, coughed, shocks of grey hair uncombed. ‘Yeah, bust their fucking balls.’

‘That’s the spirit. We only have one day before the Summer Solstice. As you are aware, everything points to the Earl of Medbury as the leader of this Druid group of maniacs. All the victims, including the latest, Gemma Rodenbury, are from the research labs. We know the rest of the research workers are being treated to a Mystery Tour by an anonymous donor.’

‘Sir, why don’t you cancel the tour? Makes sense.’

‘Can’t be done, Williams; we only have our suspicions. We have no evidence to the contrary. But, anyway, it will give us an opportunity – give them a chance to hang themselves.’

His craggy brow, even more, furrowed, he said, ‘can’t you warn the researchers?’

‘No – we’d be had up in court for slander.’

But, first of all, everyone, you talk to no one outside of the team. It’s sensitive – we have reason to believe we have a couple of rogue cops – high up. We’re a close team, and we’ve been through some complex cases together, so you’ll understand until we know more, I can’t discuss it. So let’s get on. I hope you’ve all got your notes, reports, and files. We need to tie this case up. Now Bessie – what’ve you got?’

Bessie pulled the top straight over her stomach. ‘As I said, Sir, the mystery tour was paid for in cash. No receipts – no records.’

‘Details of the coach company?’

Rifling through her report, Bessie said, ‘Private company, been going some years now – got a place on the Trading Estate – hangars housing lorries and coaches – two managers, five office staff and fourteen workers. Upfront firm, as far as I can make out, Sir. The owner, Terence Sparkes, belongs to the Masons – goes to lots of civil functions. Quite high up in social circles.’

‘So, did you find any connections to the Earl of Medbury?’

‘Yes, Sir, Sparkes and the Earl attend the same functions at times. Sparkes also goes for dinner at the mansion about twice a week, as does Chief Superintendent Titmouse. However, he always goes through the back of the estate and across the grounds to the kitchen. This last week though, they’ve been there nearly every day at one time or another. On Thursday, Sparkes stayed for the afternoon and evening – and Titmouse turned up for the evening; they both left about two am. Sparkes’s was waiting – took them both. They were quite drunk or high on drugs too.’

‘Great work Bessie.’

Turning to her partner, he said, ‘McConnell – you also took up the trail of the drugs.’

The detective brushed a hand through his mop of unruly ginger hair, ‘We only got the derelict cottage Sir, but nothing else. We got a constable in plain clothes there every day, but nothing has been dropped there.’

‘Now I’d just like to say here, the Littlehampton team have been investigating hundreds of pharmacists literally – so far nothing. They thought they had a lead with someone at Brighton University, but it didn’t lead anywhere. Now the Bognor Regis team has a surgeon under surveillance, but he has not done anything for us to pick him up. One hopeful sign is he too visits the mansion.’

‘Okay – Green – Crosby – anything on the Earl?

Amanda Green straightened up. ‘Err – no Sir, he hasn’t left the mansion for a couple of days.

‘Really? We were there yesterday – talked with the Dowager, no sign of him.’

‘Well, I picked an inconspicuous spot by the front gates, Sir, been sitting there for hours, no movement. He hasn’t left the grounds unless there’s a secret entrance.’

‘Okay, so that confirms he was there all the time we were searching the cellars and the grounds – sly fucker must have been watching us.’

He looked over to Papworth, who sat puppy-eyed admiring Amanda. ‘Papworth – hey – Papworth, get your dick back in your pants.’

The officers hooted or snickered as a startled Papworth bolted up straight. ‘Sir?’

Redd let them laugh; it lightened the mood in what was a dark, gut-wrenching case. ‘Come on, Papworth – I’m sure Green will speak to you later, won’t you Green?’

Amanda snorted, her lips pursed, ‘Hell will freeze over first.’

‘So Papworth, anything more from Forensics?’

‘Nothing Sir, not even a fibre or DNA to go on. They did think they’d get something from Delle Woodhouse, but the rapist was a non-secretor. The bones, as you know, are hundreds of years old, all Caucasian. An experienced surgeon made those cuts. Apart from that, Sir, nothing.’

‘Okay – now Williams. Anything on HOLMES? Similar crimes or anything popping out?’

‘Nothing Sir, only the one at Avebury, I’ve been in touch with DCI Babbings, West Yorkshire Police, but he said that there had not been another crime. However, they are keeping an eye out at the neo-druid’s festivals tomorrow.’

‘Good – okay. So, here’s the Agenda for Sunday. First, the officers we suspect may be present throughout the visit of the Mystery Tour. As it is an open day at the mansion, there will be members of the public there as well. You will mingle with them. We have our symbolist taking part on the mystery tour, she’ll be wearing a blond wig, long hair, so you won’t miss her. Amanda, once the coach arrives on the grounds, I want you to shadow her and keep your distance. Don’t make it obvious that you’re guarding her – you’ll be in radio contact with her. Mack, I want you to keep an eye on the back entrance to the estate. Have your walkie-talkie on at all times.’

Turning back to the list, Redd tapped at the next item. ‘We suspect the Tour guests are to be sacrificed to the Druid Gods Sunday evening. We still do not know where they plan to do this. That’s why Dr. Davies is going to be part of the Mystery Tour.’

‘Now DCI Cummings is bringing a SWAT team together. Dove, you will assist him. The mansion opens at ten a.m; for public visitors. The office manager of the Research labs informs me the mystery coach will arrive at the Hospital at ten-thirty AM.’

Chapter 51

Tess was accepted readily on the coach by a charming older man dressed in a dated tweed suit with a fob chain; all that was missing were knickerbockers. Affecting Dickensian speech, he greeted her effusively, professing his concern for the missing woman. Then, turning, he introduced a staid woman in her early sixties with a brutally short haircut. From Redd’s description, she immediately recognized them as Mr. Trewitt and Miss Sandy Stanton.

A pleasant young woman wearing huge tortoise-shell glasses and a mop of bottle red hair waved for her to come and sit by her. Grinning, she held out a hand. ‘Lotte Mansley, a great day for a tour. The weather forecast says it’ll hit 80 degrees today?’ For the rest of the tour, she talked non-stop, sharing the latest hot gossip in the labs.

Alighting from the coach, Tess glanced around, looking for any familiar faces. To her relief, she saw Redd talking to a group of people by the lake. Due most probably to the weather, the mansion seemed particularly popular today, perfect for outings and picnics. People bagged spaces on the lawns, spreading out blankets and foldaway chairs.

Entering the mansion, Lotte linked arms with Tess as a liveried servant waved them to a muted glass door of a private function room. ‘This way, ladies and gentlemen.’ At the entrance, waitresses in frilled white aprons over black dresses, replete with broderie anglaise caps, waited to escort them to the tables.

Tess and Lotte were led to a charming table, set with crisp white linen tablecloths and silver service; the crockery of finely decorated porcelain. The finishing touch was the centrepiece, a circlet of fresh rosebuds in a silver and crystal vase. Tess heard the loquacious tones of Mr. Trewitt as he sat on the next table, ‘How perfectly delightful. This is going to be a grand tour, I’m sure.’ Beaming, he shook out his linen napkin, spreading it across his lap.

On serving the silver teapots and milk jugs, the waitresses deposited a bowl of sugar. Next, to Lotte’s delight, came an array of sweet and savoury canapés. She was completely drawn to the cupcakes. ‘Oh my, now those are my favourites.’ Lifting the teapot, she said, ‘I’ll pour, shall I?’

Tess nodded slightly, heeding Redd’s warning; she bit her lip; how was she supposed to refuse everything? Then, as Lotte filled the teacup, she put out her hand, ‘Look, I don’t want to spoil anything, but I’m allergic to tea or coffee.’

‘Oh, ask for a cold drink.’

‘No – no – I honestly couldn’t. I didn’t want to spoil it for you, but I was so sick this morning. So I’ve brought some bottled water with me.’

‘Oh poor you, never mind, more for me.’ Grinning, Lotte took two cupcakes, one covered in whirls of whipped buttercream sprinkled with silver balls, the other a deep rich chocolate.’

As a deep rich voice said, Tess jumped, ‘My dear young lady – I couldn’t help but overhear. Shall I ring for you to have some lemon or water? That might help you with the sickness. Lemon always does the trick for me.’

Tess shook her head, ‘That’s very sweet of you, Mr…?’

‘Trewitt at your service. Always a delight to help a pretty lady.’

Thank you, Mr. Trewitt, but honestly, I’ll stick with the water – thank you.’

Nodding, Trewitt went back to his savouries, piled high on his dainty plate.

Feeling perturbed, Tess hoped she hadn’t drawn attention to herself. Noticing a couple of the maids watching the tables, their hands folded across their aprons, Tess engaged an ecstatic Lotte in conversation. ‘Is it your first time here?’

Wiping some cream off her lip, Lotte grinned. ‘Oh no, my parents used to bring me here when I was little, great for picnics and things. We used to spend the whole day here. Never saw the Earl or the Countess, though. To me, it was a castle; I used to have childish dreams about meeting them, and they’d realize I was their long-lost daughter – the lost princess, that sort of thing.’

Tess managed to smile. ‘Little girl’s dreams.’

Lotte picked up her cup of tea, slurping some of it, the rest dribbling down her chin. ‘Oops, sorry – messy me.’ Grinning, she snatched up her napkin, wiping her mouth, the lipstick bright on the cloth. ‘Oh dear, I’ve dirtied the napkin. I’ll hide it.’ Laughing, she pushed it down her front, the top now bulging.

Frowning, Tess tried not to take any notice. She was acting a little weird, but then she did not really know the girl. Then, to her amazement, Lotte stuck her fingers into another cupcake, licking the cream off her fingers waving it towards Tess; she said, ‘Want some? Oh no, you feel sick, don’t you? Okay, I guess I’ll take these home with me.’ Picking up the plate, she opened her bag, squashing the cakes inside.

Tess felt her face flush, her heart beating a tattoo. God, it was happening; the drugs were taking over – so soon? She looked over to the following table to see Trewitt tearing up the savoury canapés stuffing them into his mouth, whilst Sandy poured tea into an overflowing cup. The laughter in the room heightened, the guests’ voices becoming louder. She knew she had to look a part of it, so she began to grin broadly, raising her voice to Lotte.

At that point, a man entered his suit immaculate as he clapped his hands to gain attention. ‘Ladies and Gentlemen. I see you enjoyed your tea. Now we shall begin the tour. First, let me introduce myself; you can call me John.’ Two men in dark suits stepped forward, along with three women in tailored jackets and skirts. These are my assistants who will help you on the tour.’ The guests clapped, hooting and shouting, whilst one elderly woman cried out, trails of grey hair dropping down over her face, ‘Where are we going?’

Tess got up with Lotte, hanging onto her arm swaying slightly. She needed to get the message over to Redd. All she had to do was speak the code word to let him know things were happening – the word ‘bananas’ was easy to put into a conversation. She leaned over to Lotte. ‘Enclosed rooms send me bananas; I hope we can get a bit of space.’

Lotte frowned. ‘My mum suffers from claustrophobia, but she was alright here; the rooms are so big.’

Tess nodded. ‘I think it’s everyone crowding around me.’

She waited for Redd’s voice to come through, but there was nothing. Perhaps he’d switched it off or something. They were ushered through into another opulent and large room, with Aubusson carpets scattered across an oak floor and more scattered chairs and settees. Magnificent dressers lined one wall; the shelves filled with crystal and precious ornaments. Along the opposite side were glass-encased bookshelves, the gilt on the ancient books glittering dimly.

Standing in the middle of the room, John raised his arms. ‘Attention, everybody. This is one of the withdrawing rooms; the family and guests would adjourn here for after-dinner drinks. The men, of course, would still be at their brandy and cigars, after which they would join the ladies. Now we would like to take you through to the banqueting hall and then onto the church, where we have a great surprise.’

The crowd clapped excitedly, jostling each other, spirits raised abnormally. Tess felt anxiety churn like sand in her stomach. Why wasn’t Redd answering?


Copyright.

Copyright © Katy Walters

All rights reserved



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Special Agent Makayla

Mimi Barbour has released the 11th novel in her exciting Special Agent Series: Special Agent Makayla. Available now on Amazon in both digital and paperback formats, these books are always thrilling reads.

A while ago, I posted an informative yet light-hearted ‘doggy’ interview with Mimi Barbour. Please visit the Mimi Barbour Video Interview if you are interested. Love, Katy.


Makayla hears the cries of children in trouble.

Special Agent Makayla has a gift. In her mind, she doesn’t have special powers. It is just fallout from the days when she was blind… before the operation that restored her sight. She learned to use her other senses, rely on her instincts, and listen intensely. Except her uncanny ability is beyond this.
Working with the Special Victims Unit, Makayla takes on all the cases of vanished children where the usual processes have failed. Sickened by many of her assignments, she finds joy when children are discovered and set free. Her biggest concern … they just keep on disappearing.


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Death Marks: Chapters 46, 47, and 48

Death Marks: Chapters 46, 47, and 48

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.

Other Chapters

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

All Available Chapters!


Death Marks

Chapter 46

Adakan waved a hand at the cavernous space. ‘The DCC and Inspector Redd are suspicious, but I don’t think they have a clue as to our true venue.’ Looking piercingly at Ondujor, he added, ‘Nothing must go wrong now.’

Smoothing a lock of dirty blond hair over his bald pate, Titmouse answered, ‘My Lord, they’re moving fast now. Folkvadr warned DCC Maddeley that Redd and Cummings had forty-eight hours – then Seaton and I would take over the case. Since then, the DCIs have been clutching at straws. Both DCI Redd of homicide and DCI Cummings from vice are now working on the case. He’s going to the mansion tonight to interview your mother as soon as they get hold of the plans. They are also getting some of our Chosen’s clothing now for the tracker dogs, so I assume they’ll try and do a sweep of the mansion and the grounds.’

‘Mama does not have a clue about our Grove or where we will celebrate the Solstice. Neither do Redd and Cummings. Anyway, I will not permit them to search—’

‘Don’t arouse their suspicions. They won’t find anything; it’s too well concealed.

Assured, Adakan said, ‘So be it. It will be the beginning of a new era. Our sacrifice will go global; they cannot stop the rise of the Druid Order. We have powerful politicians in office on our side, doctors, bankers, economists, business entrepreneurs – we cannot fail. Avebury and Stonehenge are gathering forces, as are Cerne Abbas, Gloucester, and Warwick. These, too, will begin the sacred sacrificial rites, albeit we are the only ones using humans. But, after our glorious sacrifice, they will follow, give others the honour of sacrifice. Druidism will take its rightful place.’ His face mottled as he clenched his fists, raising them above his head. ‘Together, the Groves will rise as one to reign once more over England. We will be a force few can withstand, our message travelling worldwide.’

Beaming, Folkvadr raised his fists in unison. ‘There will be a Druid Grove in each county. The gods will walk the earth. So now, let us refine the last details. Let us be ready to move the Sun, to save the earth. The time is coming when people will bow down and worship the Goddess, the Oracle – be honoured to be chosen for sacrifice.’

Ondujor asked, ‘Will Alfhildr join us this evening?

‘No – my daughter will not take part.’ Adakan frowned, ‘She is suffering some misplaced grief over her fiancé’s execution. Until she regains her senses, she will be held with the Chosen One. But come; let us go over the final plans for the ceremony and the sacrifice.’

The flares in sconces flickered on the flint walls as he rolled out the sheets of parchment on the roughhewn table. ‘The guests of the Mystery Coach Tour will arrive in the grounds of Medbury on Sunday. They will then disembark, have refreshments, and shown around the grounds, then use the tunnel to the Church. We will make the pretense of showing the ancient interior as part of the tour. We will have a buffet of tea and hors d’oeuvres laid out in the main part of the church, before the altar. Quite fitting I think.’

‘It’s a good thing we’re reaching our goa; thee Ovates are clamouring for more and more drugs. I can hardly control them.’

Nodding, Ondujor said, ‘Soon we won’t have to. Soon we will be sitting at the feet of the Gods. Then, the whole world will know of our sacrifice. They will carve our names in stone.’

Adakan punched the table. ‘We will herald a new world order, nature will be restored to her former glory, the Industrial Age will give way to the Elysian.’

Gemma raised her head, sighing with relief; she’d drifted in and out of consciousness for days. But, her head was now clear, her thoughts sharp. But, where was she? She felt a foam mattress beneath her, felt straw strewn across a dirt floor. A dim glimmer of light glowed from a candle encased in a glass lamp. To one side was a door, the wood black, the upper part chiselled out to hold iron bars. She stiffened; oh dear. God, she was a captive in some kind of cell.

She remembered a man approaching her, dark hair, a business suit … yes … a BMW … Black. Her car broke down; she had a meeting to go to … Luke? Yes, she’d spent the night with Luke; he’d gone on ahead. Then she was leaning over, peering into the bonnet of her car only to be grasped from behind, and lifted off her feet. She was helpless, kicking, scratching at strong male hands, trying to scream, a rag pressed over her face … darkness – nightmares. Part of the time, she knew she was dreaming, could even to some extent direct the dream world, knowing that somehow she might squirm up into reality.

She looked over to see a figure lying over the other side of the cell, silent, unmoving. Her voice sounded weak, cracked. ‘Hello – hello?’

Through the gloom, the figure stirred, rising slowly. ‘Yeah? You’re awake … at last. Who are you?’

‘Gemma – Gemma Rodenbury and you?’

‘Julia Medbury. We’re prisoners’

‘How? Why?’

‘My father is insane – he thinks he’s a fucking reincarnation – an Arch Druid.’

‘Druid?’

‘It’s a long story – bastards. They’re gonna murder us all.’

‘Murder? Why?’

‘Sacrifices to their Goddess. They believe they’re reincarnated druids, calling each other by ancient Norse names, carrying out rituals. They’re all fucking insane – drugged up to the eyeballs. The drugs are scrambling their brains. First of all, it was okay, but then the hallucinations got worse and worst; some of them are off their fucking heads now.’

Gemma felt ice cubes slither down her spine. ‘You’re talking about the killings – the ones on the news?’

‘Yes, it didn’t start off like that; it was okay – fun. Just a group of people having an excuse to have great sex, or so I thought. I didn’t know my father was taking it seriously. I mean, I disagreed with it initially, but it was exciting, so I gave in. But then the drugs got severe; that’s when the murders really started, not just abductions – murders.

‘Why didn’t you just leave?’

‘I wanted to – so did my fiancé. ‘Her voice became small, a whisper, ‘They killed him, you know? They ripped open his back with a butcher’s knife and pulled his ribs through his spin; they looked like two bloodied wings – an angel. The druids called it the Blood Eagle.’

‘What? But that’s monstrous.’

‘It’s true, but it won’t be in the papers – it’s too soon, too gruesome, there’d be full-scale panic. They forced us to abduct the first couple – I said it was criminal – that we wouldn’t, but that’s when they told us what they would do to us. They made us attend a sacrifice – one of their own, he’d defiled the first victim – Delle. She was supposed to be the oracle -they cut off her head. I won’t tell you what they did to him.’

Gemma gasped, ‘Isn’t there any way out?’

‘None, we’re in a small cellar next to the Grove; it’s a subterranean cavern. We’ll never get out; they’ve got alarms everywhere.’

‘So what can we do?’

‘If you believe in any God – pray.’

Chapter 47

Redd smile; at last, the dowager was home. It was leaving it fine, but there was still not enough evidence for a warrant. He glanced into the rear mirror, watching Sweet Pea sway to the rhythm of the car, his huge head just missing the roof. Surprisingly, the dog was well behaved. It seemed it was only in greeting people that he went berserk.

Owen and McDonnell reported frequent visits by Mainwaring and Titmouse and the owner of the coach tour company, Terry Sparke. Still, they could hardly be had up for going to dinner with the Earl. It may not be enough for a warrant, but it was enough for him. ‘Jack’s meeting us at the gates; he’s got the plans and the last victim’s clothes. I think I could persuade the dowager to allow us to search the grounds; I mean, she is on our side. Just depends if the Earl is there. He’ll try to obstruct us, play for time, insist we get a warrant, and I don’t think we’d be successful. Tess frowned. ‘Can’t you do it at night, or do they have guards or something?’

Redd looked at her. ‘You have a point there, but it could put my job on the line. You’d better come in with us, calm the old girl down if necessary.’

‘Yes, of course. Be glad to help.’

‘Look, there’s Jack, and he’s got a bag. Pulling up, Redd lowered the car window. ‘Hi there, did you get some of Gemma’s clothes.?’

‘Yes, there are quite a few things here, so let’s hope your dog is a good tracker.’

‘How about the plans?’

‘Yeah, got them her—the council offices area warren. We found them eventually in one of the basements. It looks like they’ve got a derelict chapel in the grounds past that grove of yew trees. It’s hundreds of years old. The interesting thing is Dan, underneath the chapel, there’s a tunnel.’

Redd felt excitement like ants scratching his stomach, ‘We need to search it.’ However, as he said the words, the claustrophobia hit him, the ants turning to scorpions attacking the stomach wall. Catching the change of expression, Jack said, ‘You’ll be okay man, I’m with you. I’ve got some whiskey under the dashboard.’

‘Thanks – but I’ve got old faithful.’ His hand went to his pocket, fingering the bottle of diazepam. ‘Look, we’ve got the dog in the back here, so you’d better follow us up the drive.’ Looking up at the t wrought iron gates blacker than charcoal etched clouds, he saw the camera perched on the listing column. The lens glinted like an eagle’s eye. ‘I’ll just buzz the gate.’

On Redd lifting his badge to the security video camera, the gates swung open. ‘Right here goes – it’s like the entrance to Hades.’

As they drove, Tess wondered why Redd didn’t have treatment for the phobia. He certainly needed it. Tucking the subject away for another time, she said, ‘The Downs are riddled with tunnels – so many digs for prehistoric sites, besides the chalk and flint mines. You never know; they could lead to other sites.’

‘Well, let’s hope we can persuade the dowager to let us search the grounds.’

The great oak doors opened to reveal a pompous butler, his potbelly straining against the buttons of his formal tailcoat. ‘How may I help you?’

Redd raised his badge again. ‘We’re here to see the dowager.’

The butler inclined his head slightly. ‘Your card?’

Redd sighed, reaching into his inside pocket.

As they waited, Tess muttered, ‘It’s almost as if you’re requesting an audience with the Queen.’

Redd smiled. ‘The dowager seems quite approachable; the Earl is another matter.’

The butler reappeared, his lips a light purple in the plum-shaped face. ‘This way, please.’

Following him into the mansion, Tess admired the mahogany panelled walls, the heads of great stags mounted like sentinels, their eyes, soft, glowing in the lights of an immense crystal chandelier. Earls through the centuries posed from canvasses blackened with age. Some in military uniform clasped swords, whilst others sat astride a favourite warhorse.Sour-faced matrons with fat black ringlets glared from high lace collars gracing bombazine dresses. Between them, angelic young women surrounded with impish cherubs, gazed down with melancholic eyes. He almost winced, as they passed a dark painting. The light dimly outlined a cloaked figure, the hood revealinga gaunt face. A tattooed hand grasped a rusty scythe; the only sign of a Druid so far.

After some minutes of walking through the opulence of rooms furnished with antiques, the butler knocked gently on the door, before opening it. He announced them in haughty tones, ‘Milady the police.’ Waving them in, he said, ‘Chief Detective Inspector Daniel Redd, Chief Detective Inspector Jack Cummings, and….’ He paused looking at Tess, ‘I’m sorry madam; I didn’t get your name.’

Tess said quietly, ‘Doctor Tessa Davies.’ The butler turned back to the dowager, ‘Doctor Tessa Davies milady.’ Bowing to no one, in particular, he left the room.

Seated in a Queen Anne chair, the dowager tapped her silver-headed stick, observing them,hawk-eyed. ‘Sit gentlemen, sit.’

Before taking a seat, Redd stepped forward, ‘Milady, we spoke with you in the hospital. You told us you were concerned about your granddaughter.’

‘Concerned?’ she shrilled, ‘Concerned? Is that what you’d call it? I told you the other day, young man, my son, the murdering bugger, cut up my granddaughter into little pieces and put them in a black plastic bag – and you say I’m concerned?’

Surprised she’d remembered, Redd said, ‘I’m sorry, milady; I didn’t mean to upset you.’

‘Upset? I’m terrified – distraught, I tell you- dear God – they’re demons.’ Her voice raised, ‘Demons.’

‘Can you tell us a little more about these demons?’

‘More – what more can I say? They cut off her head. Do you want me to describe it? Have a heart attack? We’re not talking about biscuits here; we’re talking about bits of my granddaughter. Find her. Find her murderer. Find my son.’

Redd remained standing. ‘Is the earl here tonight?’

‘No, he’s off as usual. I’m ashamed of the company he keeps; a tradesman – something to do with lorries and coaches. Such a common person, his language is abhorrent. I am ashamed. My son went to one of the finest schools in the Downs – a boarder. At least I got rid of him for the school terms. Thank God, he’s still friendly with Mainwaring – he’s got quite a prestigious position in the police force you know.

Redd tried to keep; his face composed. ‘Mainwaring? The Assistant Chief Constable?’

‘Yes – so why he has to have that common little man here, I don’t know.’

Redd gently interrupted, ‘You say you were with a nurse?’

‘Did I? A nurse? Ah yes … her name is? Oh dear, what the hell is her name? I haven’t seen her since. It’s disgraceful; these nurses come and go. Wait I’ll ring for Nurse Phillipa – yes Phillipa. She’ll know.’

Ringing the bell imperiously, she placed it on a marble side table, tapping her stick impatiently. Within seconds, a woman in her early fifties entered the room Her rich brown hair was swept up in a chignon, her eyes, like hard amethysts, the lips, a scarlet red scar across a plump face.

‘Nurse, tell these people, tell them Freddie murdered … err … Ju…. Tell them. You saw it, saw the legs and arms, the head on the pedestal – tell them.’

Redd did not question the dowager, knowing that she was referring to her granddaughter.

The nurse gazed hard at Redd. ‘And you are?’

‘CDI Daniel Redd, Chief inspector Jack Cummings, and Doctor Tessa Davies.’

‘I see; if her ladyship insists there’s been a terrible murder, we must act on it.’

Thumping her stick on the ground, the dowager almost screamed, ‘Tell him – tell him about the bits, the legs, the arms – tell him.’

Casting her eyes to the floor, the nurse said carefully, ‘We must pay attention to what her ladyship is saying.’

Something in her voice made Redd pause; he’d heard it before, somewhere? Where was it? Ignoring it, for the moment, he said, ‘Can you tell us where her ladyship’s granddaughter is?’

‘Lady Julia has gone on vacation with friends.’

‘What?’ the Dowager roared, ‘How dare you – you lying bitch – get out – get out now – you’re dismissed – dismissed. Seeing the old lady stagger, Tess ran to her. ‘Please, Ma’am, come – come and sit down.’ Struggling, the dowager shouted at the nurse, ‘You’re dismissed – leave this house – now.’

Chapter 48

Almost forcing the Dowager’s frail body into the chair, Tess stroked the gnarled hand, the papery skin covered in age spots. ‘Please milady be calm, be—’

Mollified, the dowager almost smiled, ‘You remind me of one of my cousins; he married an heiress from America. Then, turning abruptly to the nurse, she said, ‘go-go – now – you – you traitor.’

The nurse turned, addressing Redd, ‘Excuse me.’

His heart jumped, as he remembered her voice at the hospital, the voice that talked to him at the end of the phone. It confirmed his suspicions. He had not been talking to the granddaughter at all; he had been talking to this woman – an imposter. He followed her outside, ‘I take it you will be leaving, nurse?’

‘Oh no, this is just another tirade. She’ll forget all about it; the Alzheimer’s advanced.’

‘At the hospital, she insisted it was her granddaughter. I spoke to Julia on the telephone as well. I gather from your guarded answers that you did not witness any crime?’

‘No – indeed. The Dowager does not leave her room at night, let alone search the cellars. She can hardly walk, Inspector.’

‘I see; thank you for your time. So you’ll be here if I have any more questions?’

‘Of course.’

‘I don’t have your full name?’

‘Nurse Phillipa Trent.’

As he turned to go, he said, ‘One more thing nurse, the dowager talks of another nurse, is she still here?’

‘No, Inspector. She left in the middle of the night. Most probably couldn’t take anymore of milady’s tantrums. An Alzheimer’s patient is not easy to nurse.’

Redd returned to the room. ‘These cellars milady, where are they?’

‘Underneath the mansion of course, where else would they be?’

Redd curbed a grin, at times; this lady was sharper than honed steel despite her dementia. ‘Of course – but how do you reach them?’

‘There’s a lift to the ground floo; the cellars are in the East Wing.’

Jack said, ‘Milady, it has come to our notice that you have a chapel in the grounds.’

‘Oh yes, we attended services regularly, you know. Now it is derelict. Such a shame; what is the country coming to? People are no longer attending the church; goodness knows what is happening to the morals of today. I mean they do not even get married these days; they have partners – I ask you – partners? We used to attend St Stephen’s church, but even that is falling down. The Vicar there was so kind. Such a lovely man.’

Nodding Redd said, ‘Then you won’t mind if we have a look over the mansion and the church?’

‘Of course I don’t mind – I’ve been telling you, Ju – Juju is here, Nurse … I’ve forgotten her name, oh, dear, never mind; she’s here too. Look, I’ll be happy to show you the cellars.

‘No – no milady we don’t want to put you to any discomfort.’

‘Don’t insult me. Discomfort? You are talking to an athlete, an ex-Olympian. I would have you know I won eight gold medals – eight, so do not tell me about discomfort. I can run circles around you – you young pup.’

Feeding the fantasy, Redd said, ‘An Olympic champion, I am impressed. I would like you to come along milady, but we have special exercises to carry out; however, we will report back to you.’

Mollified, the Dowager nodded. ‘Then startstraight away, there’s not a moment to be lost. I shall ring for the butler to show you the lift and cellars.’

His shoulders straight, coattails swinging the man escorted them to the lift. ‘There’s not enough room for us al; I’ll meet you at the bottom and show you the cellars.’

In the lift, Jack murmured, ‘We’d better go over the plans.’

Nodding agreement, Redd turned to Tess. ‘Time to get Sweetpea. I’ll just go find the butler. Won’t be long.’

Minutes later, Tess charged through the main doors with an ecstatic dog straining at the lead. ‘For God’s sake Sweetpea don’t let me down.’

Jack grinned; this was his first experience of the Greater Swiss Mountain dog, and he was electrified. ‘My God, he’s a monster.’

Struggling, Tess said, ‘Don’t I know it? Now calm down – calm down.’ She shook the dog’s lead. ‘Sit – sit.’ At which command, in his effort to get to Redd, he almost knocked over the butler. Ruffling the dog’s fur, Redd looked up at the astonished man, who hurriedly brushed some dog hairs off his coattails. ‘We’ll be okay now thanks. It’ll take a couple of hours, I guess, to complete the search.’

Bowing slightly, eyes askance, the man hurried away.

Entering the cellar and switching on the lights, Redd said, ‘Okay, let’s do it. Mind the steps, Tess, they’re quite steep.’

The musty smell of moss and lichen assailed them, as they entered the empty space. ‘Right, now we’re alone, a couple of important points. First, did you both hear the dowager rattling on about the Earl’s friends – the common little man -coaches and lorries? That’s Terry Sparkes, he owns a fleet of coaches. Owen and McConnell have seen them here several times.’

Jack nodded, ‘Yeah – so Sparkes would tie in with the Mystery Tour. Then there’s Mainwaring – the list of suspects grow.’

Turning to Tess, Redd said, ‘Let’s get Sweetpea to smell the clothes.’

Taking the clothes from his briefcase, Jack bundled them under Sweetpea’s twitching nose. Sniffing them, the dog sat down and whined. Puzzled, Jack said, ‘What’s he doing?’

Tess grinned, ‘He’s waiting for me to give the word, once I do. There’ll be no stopping him. Sweetpea. Search.’

Immediately, the dog leapt into action, his nose almost sweeping the ground, as he padded along the sides of the walls until he reached the far corner. He then sat and raising his head, whined, one paw raised.

Tess whispered, ‘She’s been here – look; he’s pointing.’

Jack went forward. ‘Jesus – that was quick – he should be in the K9 unit.’

Nodding, Redd walked over to join Tess. ‘The corner is swept almost clean. Look here, the lichen has been rubbed off the wall.’

Jack grinned. ‘Looks like we’re getting somewhere.’

Redd grimaced. ‘Still only supposition. We need a significant cause to tear this place down.

Tess looked closely. ‘Yes; I see what you mean; it’s certainly disturbed here. But where would they have taken her?’

Tracing the plans with his finger, Redd muttered, ‘There’re three doors, the one to the left leads to the grounds, the other to the tunnel and two cellars, and the other to some stairs.’

Jack murmured, ‘They may have used them for meetings. This one leads to the tunnel and the Church. It must have been a priest’s escape route – Queen Elizabeth the First.’

Nodding, Jack said, ‘Let’s have a look in the cellars first.’

The first door offered no resistance, having only a rusted iron latch. Entering, Jack said, ‘Wine cellar, got some good vintages here of course.’

Walking along rows of wine racks, Red whistled, ‘Must be worth a fortune. Okay, nothing here, let’s try the other one.’

The second cellar proved more difficult. Unperturbed, Redd pulled out a small bunch of pins and keys. Choosing a pin, he inserted it in the lock, twisting it. Finally, the door swung open to reveal a room cluttered with discarded furniture.

Tess peered in, ‘Some good antiques and collectibles here. That chair over there is definitely Queen Anne and that vase there is beautiful. Look, they’ve got a bookcase cabinet full of old books. They should be in a library.’

Redd touched her shoulder. ‘No dismembered limbs here – let’s try the tunnel.’


Copyright.

Copyright © Katy Walters

All rights reserved



Other Chapters

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Available Chapters!

Death Marks: Chapters 43, 44, and 45

Death Marks: Chapters 43, 44, and 45

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.

Other Chapters

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

All Available Chapters!


Death Marks

Chapter 43

Jumping into the car, Redd said, ‘They’ve left the bodies at Wilmington – site of the prehistoric Long Man.’

Dove said, ‘Another pagan site.’ She visualized the huge chalk figure carved into a hillside in the Downs.

As they sped along the A23, Redd contacted the police station. ‘Hi Bessie, liaise with Papworth; I need info’ on the mystery tour organized with the research laboratories at Brighton Hospital. The trip is on June 22nd, and it’s with Terry Tours. Find out who booked it and donated the money.’

‘But Sir, what if they won’t divulge the donor?’

‘Then threaten them with a warrant. Okay – call terminated.’

Turning to Dove, he said, ‘Let’s put our foot down, detective.’ Then, thinking about the confines of the tent, he slipped a couple of diazepam under his tongue.

Dove glanced over, concern on her face. ‘It might help if you had therapy for that boss.’

Irritated, he said, ‘I don’t remember asking for your advice, detective.’

Mortified, her face flushing, Dove, muttered, ‘Sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you.’

Redd remained quiet, letting her stew for a while, but he inwardly agreed that he should seek help; he didn’t seem to be getting over it. But then, how could he? Esther – Harry – the loss. Even now, he imagined he would go home, put the key in the lock to the front door, pushing it open, walk into the lounge to see Harry sitting cross-legged on the floor watching CBeebies. Esther would call from the kitchen… But, one night, the door was already open.

Taking a breath, he pushed the scene into a room deep in his mind.

As Redd and Dove walked up to the site officer and signed in, Jack strode over, his usually genial face grim. ‘Be ready, pal – it’s sick – a group of neo-druids found them a couple of hours ago. They were preparing for the Solstice festival.’

Redd nodded. ‘Where’s Tess?’

‘Already there. Forensics has just finished in the tent. The Divisional Surgeon declared the death – Mahoney is on his way.’

Face ashen, body quivering, Tess waited for them. As Redd approached, she said, ‘It’s monstrous Dan, definitely Druid – I can’t go in there again.’

Squeezing Tessa’s arm, Redd held up the tent flap and dipped into Hades; St Peter wasn’t in sight. The bodies were already in the first state of decomposition, flesh mottled purple and red, the smell like rancid fried chicken.’

Two bodies lay arranged in the Triskelion pattern; the limbs contorted around the torsos, ripped open with the intestines trailing on the ground as if dancing to an unseen God. The head of the female was missing; a dagger impaled the note to the male chest.

Jack came alongside. ‘They didn’t replace the intestines this time. Demented – forensics are right. They must be upping the drug intake – they’re out of their fucking minds.’

Redd shook his head, ‘Still looks well organized to me; insane, drugged with their own evil. From what pit did these devils drag themselves?’

Bending nearer, trying to swallow acid bile sprinting up her throat, Dove almost whispered, ‘They’ve bleached the bones.’

Redd nodded. ‘There’s no blood either; again, this is not a primary site; they transported the bodies here. Bastards. I think I’ve seen enough; let’s hear what Tess has to say.’

Searching for the slender figure, he saw her sitting on the bench, in the shade of a copse of trees. Her head bowed, writing notes onto a thick A4.

Redd sat beside her. ‘How’re you feeling?’

Tess’s lips trembled. ‘Don’t ask.’

‘Have you any ideas yet?’

‘I’ve googled the Long Man and come up with some interesting results – it tallies with the other crime scenes. Again, it’s Druid driven. I will read out what I’ve jotted down so far. The figure of the Long Man of Wilmington is two hundred and twenty-six feet high. The two staves he’s holding are two hundred and thirty feet and two hundred and thirty-five feet, respectively. He is second only to the Giant of the Atacama in Chile.’

‘Any date on it?’

‘I think he’s prehistoric, carved from the chalk. Some scholars argue he dates back three thousand four hundred years. Because of the grass growing over the chalk, the figure was outlined with yellow bricks in the seventeenth century. Still, these have now been replaced with concrete blocks.’

‘So – any leads?’

‘Yes, important stuff. It confirms our suspicions on the Oracle. It could explain why the female body was decapitated, and the body placed here.’

‘Really?’

‘Yes. Some time ago, archaeologists discovered three stone heads found in the local church here. It’s believed they point to an ancient Celtic Head Cult.’

Dove frowned, ‘Sounds ominous.’

‘Yes, seems it’s the same group, no doubt about it. Another bit of information, in battle, the Celts cut off the enemies’ heads and hung them from their horses’ necks as they continued fighting. They also hung them outside their huts.’

Grimacing, Dove said, ‘Grisly trophies.’

Tess nodded. ‘But here’s the important part. They weren’t just trophies; they cherished them. If it was the skull of an enemy, it was used as a drinking cup, or oracles, where they would divine information as to the plans of the enemy.’

Redd said, ‘Like you explained earlier about the druids.’

‘Yes, maybe I didn’t make it clear; the druids are Celts; they weren’t a separate religion. They were part of the early Celtic culture – and even beyond that, many of their beliefs and rituals stem from Neolithic societies that were headhunters. However, these prehistoric people also worshipped the heads of their ancestors. To drink from the skull of an ancestor was to drink their wisdom.’

Redd grimaced. ‘What the hell are we dealing with?’

‘But there’s more, the Longman figure, may also be part of a Neolithic Astra religion. The Long Man plays host to neopagan religions on a Sunday, closest to the eight major festivals.’

Redd frowned. ‘Hmm – so that means the Solstice could be held here, as well as a dozen other sites.’

Jack said, ‘So what about the note? Have you any idea?’

Tess looked at her notes. ‘Again, the Ogham sticks, as far as I can make out it says, ‘The Oracle has spoken; the Gods smile upon us.’

‘So the nutters think that poor girl’s head is speaking to them.’

Dove muttered, ‘Those poor victims didn’t stand a chance.’

Shivering, Tess said, ‘That’s right. The moment they were abducted, their fate was sealed. Jeannette was the Oracle, Neil her Divine lover, filling her with the energy of the gods. Sex was highly revered. It was as normal as eating or drinking. The ancients thought nothing of copulating in front of or with others as a group. To do so was considered sacred.’

Dove, who had been standing listening, sat the other side of Tess. ‘D’you think they forced them to—’

‘Copulate? I don’t know. However, I know in the ancient rituals the pair definitely did and the rapture of the crowd. They would also put on the headdresses of their spirit animals while dancing and making love.’

Dove said, ‘You mean they sacrificed them while fucking?’

Tess nodded. ‘Yes; orgasm at the point of death was considered divine.’

Redd frowned. ‘Completely different mind to us – almost alien. Anyway, Mahoney should be able to tell us if they did have sex.’

Tess said, ‘They would be high on drugs and whatever alcohol they had, so they would be hallucinating, or at least, I hope so.’

Chapter 44

‘They must’ve been out of their minds.’ Dove looked towards the tent. ‘I just can’t bear to think—’

‘They wouldn’t have known much about it, Felicity.’ Tess interrupted, ‘Forensic tests show the former victims consumed huge quantities of Salvia Divinorum in a cocktail of other chemical agents.’

‘The body count is mounting, Gemma Rodenbury is still missing, now this. We need some leads; otherwise, Tits and Seaton are taking over.’

Jack put his arm lightly on Dove’s shoulders. ‘There’s been a lot of evil meted out in the name of religion.’

Dove bristled as his finger stroked her neck. What the hell did he think he was doing, getting up close and personal?

Tess said, ‘It’s definitely driven by religion – the druids. Each crime scene is either on an ancient burial site or a place of pagan worship like Kingley Vale. I just wonder where they will pick next.’

Redd frowned. ‘Have you heard any more from Lugh?’

‘Yes – he contacted most of the other neo-druid groves, but so far, there’s no hint of this particular group.’

‘What about the pagan groups, the Wicca?’

‘Again, nothing. The different groups do keep pretty much to themselves except for the major festivals. But, Lugh said he would get in touch immediately he had any news.’

Jack smiled. ‘Professor Edmonson at the University gave zilch; he was to up his own arse to give anything concrete. I’m heading back; can I give you a lift?’

Dove hesitated; to her annoyance, Redd answered for her, ‘Good idea. I have to get—’

As he spoke, the phone vibrated in his pocket. Taking it out, he could see it was Bessie Owen. ‘Hi … I see … So you threatened them with perverting the course of justice … a warrant … I see. Okay. Call terminated.’

Pocketing the cell, he turned to the group. ‘Now that’s strange.’ DC Owen searched for the donor of the Mystery Tour for the Research Labs. It seems he or she paid in cash. They refused to give the name or address, even when threatened with a warrant.’ Redd raked the hair from his forehead. ‘I’ll get onto Bill Maddeley. He’ll have more power to his elbow than us.’ Looking to Dove, he said, ‘Would you arrange a visit to both victims’ parents – take the family liaison officer with you.’

She nodded. ‘Yes, boss, can’t say I’m looking forward to it.’

‘Don’t go into details until after they’ve identified the bodies.’

Dove bit her lip; how did you tell parents their child was the victim of sadistic killers; especially as the gruesome news of the other victims was now all over the media?

Redd gave a sympathetic smile. ‘I’ll have to pay a visit to the Medbury Estate, have a chat with the dowager. We might be able to wheedle more information out of her.’ Turning to Jack, he said, ‘I was thinking; it would be a good idea if we had a plan of the estate, possibly the plans of the Mansion. D’you think you could do that?

Jack replied, ‘I’ll see what I can do. They’re lodged with solicitors. I have a few favours I can call in.’

Squeezing Tess’s hand, he said, ‘Look, keep this between us. I’ve been thinking about that painting; maybe the ACC passed it over to Maddeley when he realized it could appear suspicious, especially with the mounting crimes. But, I’m even more suspicious that both the Earl and ACC Mainwaring could be involved. I’m wondering if the ACC had a hand in this mystery tour. Why? I mean, over twenty people could be involved?’

Tess interjected, ‘They would fill the Wicker man with humans and animals.’

Redd took the car keys from his pocket. ‘It’s obvious the unsubs are sacrificing people involved in research.’

Tess’s eyes narrowed. ‘They’ve revived an ancient religion to stop science tearing apart the ancient beliefs – insulting the gods.’

Dove piped up, ‘Yeah, I agree -science is a threat to them, and their belief in the power of nature.’

‘Exactly – nature – animals – humans are to be revered not dissected and cloned – changed.’

Dove said, ‘There are many people who object to cloning, and they’re not alone in this. The only thing is they don’t murder them for it.’

Jack paused at his car. ‘They could be arranging for the research workers to witness the sacrifice of Gemma Rodenbury, the Head of Research, to their ancient Gods as a form of punishment.’

Tess nodded. ‘That’s confusing the point if they’re drugged and don’t know a thing about it.’

Redd grimaced. ‘They’re still witnesses, and afterward, they would know they witnessed the sacrifice of their leader.’

‘Big message for the world.’

Dove said, ‘But surely they must know the risk of being found out?’

Tess took a step towards Redd’s car. ‘Deranged psychopaths do not acknowledge failure. They live in the fantasy that they are cleverer than anyone else is, hence the taunting, leaving poor Jeanette and Neil for us to find. The only thing is, the Earl did not count on his mother – that anyone would listen to her ravings.’

Taking the remote control out of his pocket, Jack said, ‘It’s a wonder, he didn’t kill her when she described the dismemberments.’

Tess said, ‘I know, but to him, unconsciously, she is the Goddess, the one to whom he looks for validation, always has. I think you’ll find that he is an unloved child – still is.’

Dove raised eyebrows. ‘All I know is, the bones were on his land, his mother screaming dead bodies and druids, and then there’s this Gothic painting. There’s more than enough to pay him a visit.’

Redd said, ‘All circumstantial – not enough hard evidence yet.’

Tess looked up to Redd, ‘I think it’s a good thing you’re seeing the dowager again. The Consultant Psychiatrist claims she can be quite coherent – fit enough to carry on a conversation, so she may be able to give that evidence or clues. She may well corroborate what she was saying – accusing the earl of cutting up her granddaughter.’

Chapter 45

As they neared the cottage, Tess said, ‘Surely if the psychiatrist says she’s partly coherent; you have sufficient evidence to get a warrant?’

‘Legally no, she has dementia, but that doesn’t mean to say I won’t act on her accusations. But, really, all we have are assumptions. I still need her or the earl’s consent to let the sniffer dogs loose, let them have the run of the grounds, as well as the cellars.’

‘Why not use Sweetpea?’

Surprised, Redd raised his eyebrows. ‘Err – that’s kind of you, Tess, but I’m not sure….’ He paused, ‘I assume Sweetpea’s trained to track?’

‘Not by a professional, but I’ve spent a lot of time training him. Actually, I trained him to pick up tiny spots of my blood, as well as my clothes.’

Startled, Redd steered the car through the gates. ‘I’ve heard of dogs picking up minute traces of blood, even if it’s been washed off. Good work, Tess. We could give it a try.’

‘Okay, fine -now what about a meal? I could rustle up an omelette, or maybe, you’d like lamb or pork chops? It will have to be simple as I’m not a good cook.’

Putting a brake on, Redd beamed, ‘Good idea – like the sound of pork chops and apple sauce.’

Tess laughed. ‘You’re on.’

As he opened the car door, he could hear Sweetpea howling.

Tess grinned, ‘He knows the sound of your engine already – incredible isn’t it?’

He nodded, agreeing; he had to; she was besotted with the hound. Following her to the front door, he readied himself for the impact. As the door opened, Sweetpea was scratching at the latch, the slobbering tongue ready. However, Tess grabbed the leather-studded collar of the great neck as the dog reared up on his hind legs, almost to Redd’s height.

Tess panted. ‘Now be a good boy Sweetpea, you might have a lovely treat. Uncle Dan thinks you could be a tracker dog. How about that?’

Redd grimaced inwardly. He wished he hadn’t agreed so readily. Still, to his consternation, he realized he was grabbing at any opportunity to please her, to be with her. Now he was caught; he wilted at the thought of tracking with this demented hound.

Following Tess into the kitchen, he watched her go to the fridge freezer, bringing out a pair of succulent chops.

Tess murmured, ‘Take a chair, Dan, whilst I cook. Or would you like to sit in the lounge and watch TV or the news?’

‘Nope. I’ll sit here and chat.’ Already he was salivating as he smelt the chops sizzling in the frying pan. Then, walking over to the fridge freezer again, she took out a packet of frozen mashed potatoes and veg. She looked at him, her voice apologetic. ‘I don’t like spending a lot of time over fancy recipes.’

Redd relaxed back. ‘I must say you’re a better cook than me; at least you don’t resort to takeaways.’

Tess laughed, ‘You kidding? I have about three a week, then there’s the Chinese. I’m not fond of Indian food, though.’

‘I love a Tikka Masala or a Madras – hot but delicious.’

Her eyes narrowed. Teasingly, she said, ‘Oh, so you like hot?’

As he nodded, licking his lips, she countered, ‘They’re far too hot to me; the only Indian food I like is a Korma. At least, that’s quite mild.’

Grinning, he said, ‘I wouldn’t have thought you went for mild?’ At that point, Sweetpea slunk in and lay across Redd’s feet.

Tess stared, eyes wide open in surprise. ‘Oh my goodness, he likes you – really likes you. Now that’s wonderful.’

Redd was not so excited, but nevertheless, his calf muscles relaxed. He found the meal quite gratifying, plain as she warned but filling. He didn’t think he’d ever relaxed quite so much around a woman. At the thought, his eyes clouded, except of course for Esther – Esther. Her sweet face drifted before him, long hair glinting gold, swirling, as she lifted Harry, his baby son’s plump little hand reaching out. Had he stopped thinking of her – of Harry? Guilt swept through him. How could he – how could she ever be replaced? He glanced at Tess, just for those few moments; she’d filled the emptiness, lightened the darkness of his soul.

Tess caught her breath; he had that look again. She felt a chill. For a few seconds, he’d left her, the kitchen, his gaze turned inwards. She saw the tightening of his lips, the knot appearing in his jaw. Then, lightly, she said, ‘How about a dessert. I have a lovely trifle in the fridge. I was going to treat myself. Shall we share?’

The knot relaxed a little as he visibly fought to be pleasant; he looked up a little surprised. ‘Err – yes – yes. That would be great.’

Tess breathed a quiet sigh of relief; he was back. He could not hide the hurt in those incredible blue eyes, the thin scar tightening his cheek. She hoped he would someday share with her.

Straightening his back, he said, ‘Have you got the photo I sent you of the painting in Maddeley’s office?’

‘Oh yes, I have it in my handbag; won’t be a sec.’

Sweetpea gently licked his socks as she left the room, then, sitting on his haunches, looked adoringly at him.

Tess returned and laughed. ‘Well, it seems you’re one of the pack. He loves you.’ Leaning over him, Tess held a magnifying glass over the photo. ‘The figures on the grave are quite faint, Dan; I don’t know that I can get much from this. They appear to be wearing robes. Pausing to study the photo again, she shook her head. ‘No – sorry – I can’t make anything out of it. However, the painting is symbolic; only a Druid would understand the messages.’

‘I thought so. Well, at least we know now the Earl is mixed up in this somewhere. One way or another, we have to search those grounds – it’s only four days to the Summer Solstice. He’s the only lead we’ve got. I’m going to have to bring Bill Maddeley into this. We’ve got to start watching the Earl, Mainwaring, and Titmouse. I’m sure that bugger is in on it.’

‘Well, he did have the tattoos. But is that enough?’

‘Not really. All we have is a painting and tattoos to link Mainwaring and Titmouse to the Earl. I can’t ignore them.’

‘What about Seaton?’

‘Nah – too weak. I mean, look, he vomited when he saw the remains.’

***

Redd sighed; Bill was hesitant to have the Earl and Mainwaring tailed. ‘Bill, I know we stepping on glass here; I’ll keep it under wraps. It will only be a close team that will know anything about it. I really think we should watch the mansion; I suspect Mainwaring and Titmouse are involved here. I have two detectives who are very reliable – sharp too … Yes, they’ll do a good job … So I have a go-ahead then? … Right …. Of course I’ll keep it under wraps.’

Pressing the intercom, he asked Michelle to show Owen and McConnell in. At least he had Bill’s approval, but he’d have gone ahead with the surveillance anyway, and damn the consequences. They only had the slightest thread of a clue, and they had to go with that. Once the officers were seated, he said, ‘Okay, listen carefully; this is strictly undercover work. I want both of you to tail the Earl of Medbury, ACC Mainwaring, and Chief Superintendent Titmouse. You’re not to speak to anyone about this. Heads will roll, yours as well as mine.’

Bessie gulped; this was sizzling hot. She looked over to McConnell, who stared fixedly at Redd. ‘Boss – we’ll do our bloody best. When do you want us to start?’

‘Straightaway. I want you to watch the mansion. I want to know who goes in and out.


Copyright.

Copyright © Katy Walters

All rights reserved



Other Chapters

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

Available Chapters!

Death Marks: Chapters 40, 41, and 42

Death Marks: Chapters 40, 41, and 42

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.

Other Chapters

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

All Available Chapters!


Death Marks

Chapter 40

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.’

Chapter 41

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.’

Chapter 42

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.

Copyright © Katy Walters

All rights reserved



Other Chapters

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

Available Chapters!

Death Marks: Chapters 37, 38, and 39

Death Marks: Chapters 37, 38, and 39

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.

Other Chapters

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

All Available Chapters!


Death Marks

Chapter 37

Seated beside Redd, Tess felt an overwhelming sense of space as they flew over the canopy of trees shrouding the Downs. If it were not for the tragedy of the crimes, it would have been a glorious day, but now it was mired in death.

Redd glanced over to her. ‘We’re coming up to the perimeter of the Medbury estate, so start looking for a break in the trees.’

Surprised, Tess said, ‘He must own most of West Sussex.’

Redd shook his head. ‘No, but he does have vast acres, hamlets, villages, new-build estates. Look out for large barns as well, near to the woodland.’

‘How long have you been flying?’

‘Oh, years, Esther and I …’ His voice trailed off as he realized he’d said his wife’s name. After an abrupt pause, he murmured, ‘Flying is in the blood.’

Tests wondered when he would talk about his wife; she knew now from the office rumours that his wife and son suffered a terrible death. He must still be grieving deeply.’

‘I love it, but it’s not a career; my dream was always to go into the Force. My father died; he’d been suffering for years. I knew I had to get a job; I just couldn’t bum around. I decided to go straight into the police force after university.’ He glanced over to her briefly, ‘It was cancer.’

Tess said softly, ‘I’m so sorry. It’s hell; I thought my sister would beat it.’

Redd looked over to see her gripping her hands together. He took hold of her fingers with his free hand. ‘Do you get to see her often?’

‘As much as I can.’

Redd went quiet for a few moments. ‘I’d like to say take some time off, but we need you, Tess.’

Tess went silent; her brow furrowed. ‘I know, but she’s still fighting – it’s not … God, I can’t say it. I just hope for a miracle.’

‘I know what you’re going through – not that that’s any help.’ Breaking the subject, he said, ‘Look down there – see it?’

Tess looked to see a clearing in a stretch of forest, nestling between fields of grazing sheep. Taking the plane lower, Redd scrutinized the clearing. ‘Just bundles of logs.’

Nodding, Tess said, ‘Try the grounds of the Manor; they’ve got wooded areas there as well.’

As the building appeared below them, she said, ‘See over there, a grove of yew trees, deer, a lake – stream – maybe for salmon. Looks quite significant. The only thing is, it’s almost an exact copy of the other estates, I suppose.’

‘Yes, but it gives an idea – hey look over there – in that clearing, by a copse of silver birch.’

‘Oh my goodness, sculptures – no sign of a Wicker Man being built though.’

‘Hmm, quite a few estates have stone sculptures and wood carvings. It’s a tourist draw, plus the estate owner can play patron to local artists.’

Redd grimaced. ‘Okay. We could fly over and see how Jack and Dove are doing at the graveyard. If they do find anything, then it will point the finger at the earl or someone close. There’s the field nearby; I can land here.’

It was just a few minutes’ walk from the farm to the graveyard. Redd saw Dove dressed in a bunny suit standing by an open grave, hands on hips, lips pursed. Seeing him, she shouted over, ‘Hey boss, looks like we found them – quite a few coffins busted open and empty. Seems a desecration.’

The forensic team carefully stacked the mutilated coffins, each tagged with information; other officers logged pieces of decayed wood broken off by the grave robbers. They could pick up vital information, DNA, fingerprints – fibres. Redd felt a rush of hope in his chest; perhaps, at last, they were getting somewhere.

Engrossed, DS Tomkins exhibits officer, compiled an inventory. He lifted his head to Redd as he said, ‘Once they’ve done with these, sir, I can store them at the Exhibits Office. Give us more to work on.’

‘Well done, Tomkins. Have we got the room?’

‘Yes, sir, they’re almost in bits anyway, and we have three basement rooms almost empty.’ Then, the officer looking immaculate, even in a bunny suit, beamed as he went back to the stack of ancient coffins.

Smiling, Redd strolled over to Jack, ‘We found a group of sculptures in the grounds of Medbury Manor. But, no sign of anything significant. However, I think we should pay the earl a visit, ask if any of his staff has reported anything unusual on the estate. At least, it’s a way in.’

Jack frowned. ‘I think we should also put him under discrete surveillance.’

‘Yeah, look, I’ll see you at the meeting with the DCC tomorrow. Looks like Tits and his toe rag will be present. I just hope the ACC isn’t pressing to have Tits put in charge. We’ve got to come up with something fast Jack.’

‘Don’t let the bastards get to you. Keep it cool, you’ll think of something. Don’t forget Maddeley’s on your side. Titmouse is just trying it on.’

‘Yeah, well he can go fuck himself.’ He stopped short, as he saw Tess walk to his side. Giving her a sheepish grin he said, ‘Hey, how about dinner. I know just the place.’

Chapter 38

Gemma Rodenbury flipped the eggs over. Luke mentioned he liked them over easy, so as he was such a dish, she decided to cook him a full English breakfast. After all, it was Sunday, time to relax – have fun. It had been a late-night – a night of lust from which she still quivered. They’d been dating for a couple of weeks, exchanging kisses that became more heated as the days went by, but last night was dynamite. Luke was a hunk, a sex bomb on legs, and apart from that, he was interesting. They’d talked for hours until finally succumbing to an incredibly delicious meal of oysters followed by steak tartare, washed down by a 1998 Shiraz. They shared the strawberries, nipping them from each other’s teeth. The coffee whiskey liqueur had them lounging on a spacious settee. Minutes later, a trail of clothes, boxer shorts, and a sexy thong led to the bedroom from which they did not emerge.

Opening the door from a steamy shower, Luke smelt the eggs and bacon frying. His mouth salivated; not only was she sexy, but the woman could also cook. Usually, all he managed was a coffee on the hoof and an energy bar. While dressing, he idly glanced at Gemma’s entire wardrobe, a four-door affair, the length of one wall. She certainly loved clothes – one expensive lady. Then he noticed a white outfit with a yellow belt around the hanger. It looked oriental – was she into martial arts? Surprised, he wandered into the kitchen to find Gemma busy piling up his plate with bacon, eggs, hash browns, fried bread, black pudding, and sausages. Good God – he thought he’d better marry her.

Cutting up his bacon, he said, ‘I must say you’re looking particularly delicious this morning. You should have joined me in the shower; I was waiting sponge in hand ready to soap that glorious body of yours.’ He grinned, brown eyes sparkling. ‘And by the way, I just happened to notice a martial arts outfit. Do I have to be wary of you?’

Gemma laughed. ‘Oh, that’s my dogi – Aikido outfit. I managed to get a yellow belt.’

‘Didn’t know you were interested in martial arts – you’ve never mentioned it.’

‘I wasn’t actually, but my friend married a wife beater and wanted me tol go with her to Aikido.

Munching on the fried bread, she said, ‘Changing the subject, I’m worried about the presentation tomorrow. I just hope I don’t seize up.’

Putting down his knife and fork, Luke grabbed Gemma’s hand. ‘Of course, you won’t – you’ll be your usual confident self – elegant – poised and beautiful – you’ll smash it.’

Gemma grimaced. ‘Let’s hope you’re right.’

‘Come on, Gem, this isn’t like you.’

‘I know; it’s just the responsibility. We need their funding; without it, we’re finished.’

‘Aw, come on, we’ve had significant results – they’ll be as excited as hell. We’ve taken cloning to another level. These people will be jumping at it, triple the funding – you watch.’

‘Luke, this isn’t just about presenting results – it’s about people’s jobs – their livelihoods – families – mortgages.’

‘Look – you’re just hedging – it’s nerves – it’s Trewitt who’ll be shitting himself – not you. Be positive – you should be glowing, babe; these results will put us on the world stage.’

‘Now you are frightening me.’

‘Just think about the research – be positive – pretend it’s just another day in the lab. Remember, your responsibility is to science; just keep that in your mind. Oh yes, and your somersaults tonight.’ He beamed, relishing the idea of great sex and another great breakfast to follow.

Gemma could not help grinning. ‘I’ll remember that.’

‘Now, how about me driving you in today?’

‘No thanks, Luke – I really don’t want the whole lab whispering about us. And as for Trewitt, you know what an old woman he is.’

‘I don’t know so much about that; the guy eyes up all the women.’

‘No, he doesn’t – he’s an old prude.’

‘Huh, it’s the way he does it -sneaky. You women have no idea. Anyway, are you sure you don’t want a lift?’

‘Absolutely – I need to do a bit more practicing before I go in.’

‘Right, so just as much as I love sitting here talking to my Goddess, I have to go. I promise you, I shall have the front seat, admiring your curvy butt.’ Standing up, he pushed away the tall stool and strode over to her, a glint in his eye, cupping her breast in his large hand. ‘Or, you could decide to put the whole thing off and come back to bed with me – one glorious fuck. What’d you say?’ As his hand pulled up her skirt, she pushed him away, laughing.

Watching her lover drive off, she bit her lip, just enough time to go over the presentation again. She would face an elite team of specialists – the whole thing was hush-hush – a three-year programme into cloning, and the results did look exciting. Taking a deep breath, she spread the papers over the kitchen table. Luke was so supportive; even though they’d only been together a few weeks, he was sensitive to her moods; knew that she wasn’t the elegant figure she put out to the world. Behind this persona, her self-esteem was low.

Pointing her remote control at her newest baby, a cream-coloured Volvo, the door opened while the latest stereo system switched on some smoothing music. It was a dream of a car with all the latest safety controls. It almost had a mind of its own. Once inside, the air conditioning switched on automatically. She couldn’t believe it was really hers, a child from a tenement, now owning a swish car and living in a detached house in the Downs.

Snug, in the stream of traffic, she began practicing her speech. Okay, so it looked like she was talking to herself, but then while driving, she often saw people singing along to the radio or having a conversation on the intercom. Smoothly, she made a right turn into a minor road, leading to a country lane and the Downs. She felt quite privileged to work in an area between the downs near the sea – idyllic.

The car jerked, slowing down, almost coming to a stop. Frowning, she checked the petrol; she filled it up last night after leaving work, so that was fine; everything looked okay on the gauges. To her horror, the engine stalled. What was happening? She couldn’t afford to be late. As she’d said to Luke, the future of the Research Lab hung on this meeting. With the Government cuts into research, they had little hope of finding another sponsor.

Frowning, she got out; it was no use checking the engine; she didn’t know a darn thing about cars. She tapped in the number of her local garage; the car mechanic there was top-notch. As she stood talking into the phone, a smart black BMW pulled up. In his fifties, a man in his fifties, dark haired smartly dressed in a navy business suit, got out and strolled over, a look of concern on his face.

‘Everything okay?’

Gemma shrugged her shoulders as she clicked off the BlackBerry. ‘No, the darned thing is broken down – damn nuisance – I’ve got an important meeting.’

‘Let me have a look at the engine.’

Why that’s very kind of you. I’ll go and pop up the bonnet.’

As the man bent to examine the engine, he said, ‘This is superb, funny it should play up. It’s a new car too.’

‘Yes – I’ve only had it a few weeks.’

‘Hmm – at least you can claim on the warranty.’

Gemma looked over his shoulder, murmuring, ‘I must admit I don’t know anything about cars.’

‘You’re lucky; it’s one of my hobbies tinkering around with engines.’

She raised her eyebrows; he didn’t look the type, what with the slick suit, pale hands, and manicured nails. ‘Well, it’s really good of you to take the time. I hope I’m not holding you up.’

‘No, not at all.’

He leaned further over the engine. ‘Hah, I see what’s wrong – look – just there.’

Gemma stepped nearer, peering over the streamlined engine. ‘I don’t know what I’m looking—’ Her words were cut off as he turned abruptly towards her, a white handkerchief bunched in his hand. Her mind raced, oh dear God – chloroform; she’d made a fatal mistake. Raising her hands to ward him off, she kicked him in the shin. Snarling, he stumbled as she turned to run. The road wasn’t far off, but she saw another car parked across the road barring any traffic from entering the lane to her terror. A strong arm grabbed her by the waist, lifting her off her feet. Shrieking for help, she felt the cloth against her face. Twisting, she fought not to breathe in the lethal fumes while trying to stomp on his feet. Her cries became whimpers as darkness descended.

Gemma came to consciousness when her head bumped against a rigid surface. Opening her eyes to darkness, panic rose in a scream. As her body rolled and then jolted, she reached out her hands to feel a surface only inches above her. Oh God, where was she? Was she in a box? As she became more aware, she recognized the hum of a car engine. Realizing she was in a car boot, she tried to quell her terror. She felt around for the catch but in vain. Gemma tried to calm down; she had to think of something – a wrench, yes, some kind of tool. Her only chance lay in surprising him as he bent to get her out of the car. Her fingers scrabbled over the felt floor – nothing.

Chapter 39

edd tapped his foot in irritation; Titmouse and Seaton were late. He looked over to Bill Maddeley, his genial expression now tense. The ACC, John Mainwaring, was applying pressure, trying to hand over a significant part of the investigation to Titmouse. He just hoped that he could make a good argument for keeping hold of the investigation. They had made some significant steps now, with the discovery of the disturbed graves. The finger was pointing more and more to the Earl of Medbury. He just needed time to search the grounds – time to locate a possible place where the perpetrators would build the Wicker Man. But, as Maddeley was subordinate to the ACC, he may be forced to concede to Mainwaring’s wishes. Yes, they did need another team, already they had Bognor, Littlehampton, and Worthing on it. Still, that didn’t mean giving control to Titmouse; damn politics -muddying the waters of a major crime investigation.

The beep of the intercom interrupted his thoughts. The plum tones of Maddeley’s secretary came over the intercom. ‘Sir, a message from Sergeant Dixon, Brighton Station.’ Maddeley’s face tightened even more as he listened. Then, clicking off the phone, he looked over to Redd, his voice grim. ‘Gemma Rodenbury, Head of Research, Brighton Hospital, is missing. Her car was found abandoned just off the A 27.

Redd felt his stomach clench. ‘Since when?’

‘Yesterday, she left to go to work – never made it. A passerby reported it – thought it was a breakdown. He was a bit suspicious, as it was unlocked. Uniforms traced it through the DVLC. She also left her briefcase with important papers in the car.’

‘Sounds ominous – research – same as four of the victims – fits the profile.’

‘Yeah, the boyfriend reported her missing late yesterday afternoon. She was giving the results of a significant research programme to some bigwigs in pharmaceuticals. He thought she opted out of attending, as she was particularly nervous about the presentation. He ended up delaying it. By six o’clock, he was hammering the duty sergeant on the desk, insisting they start a search.

‘Did they?’

‘No, the sergeant stuck to the initial forty-eight hours – but then the boyfriend got onto the ACC. Mainwaring wasn’t too pleased, I can tell you.’

Redd’s brows beetled. ‘This could be fucking serious; there are four victims so far that we definitely know are in research. The other one was a member of the sect, but now another researcher. So, for God’s sake, what’s the matter with this desk sergeant – bloody fool?’

Maddeley frowned. ‘Five victims now possibly six; that’s why we’re having the meeting, the ACC, the CC, and the town mayors are screaming for results. The ACC’s on my back. I can only argue for a bit more time. I don’t know that I can refuse Dan.’

‘The case is beginning to crack, Bill; I just need a few more days.’

‘Okay, that’s all I can give you, then it’s out of my hands.’

‘We’re getting there. At the moment, we’re devising a way to infiltrate a suspect’s estate.’

‘So who is it?’

‘The Earl of Medbury.’

‘Come on – you’ve got to be kidding me.’

‘No – I’m serious Bill – he’s a suspect. We’re keeping it under wraps until we’re sure. I only saw him as a possibility yesterday afternoon. I sent you the report.’

‘I haven’t had time to read it yet. I’m snowed under here – what with the fucking cuts. My secretary’s tearing out her hair lost the two typists. We’re operating on fifty percent at the moment. First to go were the office staff, community officers, and then uniforms. But, you think it could be Medbury?’

‘We need more evidence – but more and more it’s looking like him.’

Bill frowned. ‘Well, he’s in the wars now; the dowager was rushed into hospital last night – she’s delirious -poor old girl, suffers from Alzheimer’s and Vascular dementia.’

Redd raised his eyebrows; he didn’t know the DCC was that close to Medbury.

Seeing the quizzical look, Bill said, ‘Been friends for years, well with the Dowager, really.’ He turned, pointing to a dark canvas painting, filling the far wall. ‘Because we’re friends, I have to be polite. Look what I have to put up with. The earl officially presented it to Mainwaring, but he said he didn’t have wall space. So, I’m lumbered with it. That’s all I want is a fucking monstrosity, fucking morbid.’

Redd listened quietly; Bill’s language could be quite colourful when roused. Bill continued, ‘But, it doesn’t do to get on the wrong side of the earl, so I’ll have to put up with it.

Redd turned around to the painting, a landscape some six feet by eight feet. His heart leaped to his throat. Rising to his feet, he walked over to it. ‘My God Bill ….’ Lost for words, he examined the scene before him, Medbury House, with its spacious wings either side stood in the background, to the foreground were deer grazing on cropped grass. At the entrance to a dark grove of yew trees, a white hind hovered, one dainty hoof lifted towards a slanted gravestone on which perched a raven. Further into the trees stood a skeleton with bony fingers pointed to a line of hooded figures walking through the trees towards a beautiful woman dressed in white. In a slender hand, she held a salmon with a giant green toad at her feet.

Bill came and stood beside him. ‘Have you ever seen anything like it? The artist must be demented.’

Redd went nearer, stooping to read the inscription on the gravestone, murmuring, ‘They look like some form of code, a load of marks on straight lines – Christ – it’s the bloody Oghams again.’ Then, standing back, he said, ‘Medbury’s made a big mistake, or he’s so bloody arrogant; he doesn’t care.’

Crossing his arms, studying the painting, Bill said, ‘Arrogant?’

‘He’s telling you – putting the message right under your noses. The Oghams are used on every message left with the bodies, ancient Gaul alphabet. God, he must be enjoying this. Has Titmouse sent you Dr. Davies’s reports? ‘

Bill shook his head. ‘The Symbolist? No – and if he did, I will have to take his word or yours for it. As I said, we’re chocker block here.’

‘This is very much like a Masonic painting; it’s symbolic – only here; the symbols refer to the druids. This confirms the Vicar’s remarks, the Earl of Medbury is a Druid, no doubt about it.’

Bill countered, ‘But you will find these symbols in any gothic painting. It’s just a macabre iconic style, a fucking monstrosity. I said, being friendly with the Medbury’s. I didn’t want to insult them by refusing it. They do a lot for Head Office one way and another.’

Shaking his head, Redd replied, ‘So how d’you find the earl?’

‘Eccentric – I have more to do with the Dowager really; she’s a patron for quite a few charities, including our own for injured policemen. But, sadly, as I said, she’s losing it now.’

‘Uh, sorry to hear that. So, getting back to the painting and the Oghams, it’s too much of a co-incidence. In addition, the druids revere the raven, the white hind, let alone the oak tree and the yew tree grove. Then to top it all, there’s the salmon – the most sacred symbol.’

Maddeley laughed. ‘Salmon? Sorry, Dan, it just tickled me – a fish?’

‘Yes – but my symbolist will tell you more.’

Bill stroked his clean-shaven chin. ‘How the hell are we going to deal with this -Medbury may just have inherited the damn thing.’

Redd took out his notebook. ‘I’ll just jot these down and get them to our symbolist. I’ve also got to get to the research labs as well. All five victims were employed there, including Rodenbury.’

‘You’ve got your hands full.’

Redd looked squarely at the DC. ‘I have to say this Bill, with due respect, if Medbury is involved, why did he present this to the ACC and then go on a killing spree? Is Mainwaring involved as well?’

‘I don’t know that we should suspect any ulterior motives here. After all, the ACC did try to palm it off onto me. He wasn’t hiding anything.’

Frowning Redd said, ‘In view of this, I really think we should keep this to ourselves. It may be that Mainwaring is completely innocent, but prudence is needed.’

Maddeley nodded. ‘In this instance, yes. We’ll have to keep an eye on him. So get going, Dan, I’m cancelling this meeting. You’re on a countdown – as I said – a few days – that’s all.’


Copyright.

Copyright © Katy Walters

All rights reserved



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Death Marks: Chapters 35 and 36

Death Marks: Chapters 35 and 36

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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Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

All Available Chapters!


Death Marks

Chapter 35

Tess watched some sheep munching away in the fields as the car sped through the rolling landscape; the lambs have now grown. It was an idyllic scene marred by the unspeakable atrocities. The country lanes now gave way to the small village of Tillington. As they drove past terraced stone and Tudor-style cottages, their wattle and lime walls leaning over tiny pavements. Passing a modest shopping parade, Tess said, ‘Take the next right. You’ll see a pig farm, and then the church is about five hundred yards up a small track. We’ll have to walk from there.’

Redd nodded. ‘It’s not that far from Kingley Vale. As you say, we’ve almost done a complete circuit.’

‘Makes you wonder if the perps live nearby. It all seems concentrated in this area.’

Parking the car in the layby, they strolled to the Church. Redd picked at some cowslips, their white-feathered heads lounging over the tiny pebbled path, ‘So getting back to it, you don’t think it’s a psychopath?’

Tess shook her head, ‘No – not really; the psychopath doesn’t get involved in crimes of a religious nature. They appear charming, intelligent, but they have an intense inner rage, and they would carve you up with a smile. They kill for the sheer joy of it and have no remorse. They are highly organized, though, just like this group. But, they have no guilt complex, no remorse. Their motive for killing is pleasure, not for some religious or moral purpose. They get a kick out of seeing people suffer.’

‘As you say, vicious – but these crimes have a moral or religious motive.’ He laid a hand on Tess’s slim waist, guiding her through the decaying oak gate with an overhead arch. Overgrown trees and bushes hid the church ahead.

Waiting as he closed the gate, she said, ‘Exactly, now besides the psychopath, you’ve got the sociopath, and this one is a real snake in the grass. Your sociopath is even more dangerous as they appear so normal. They can be anyone, your mother, father, co-worker, even your best friend, and you won’t have any idea. Not all are killers though, it depends on their purpose.’

She stumbled, her feet churning on loose pebbles. Redd caught her, his arms slipping around the curvaceous body, her head lifted to his. He gazed at the pearl pink lips, moist, glistening.

Taking a breath, she said, ‘Now where was I? Yes, sociopaths are expert liars and can even outwit a lie detector. They feel they’re entitled to everything and do not feel love or have any time for it. They crave excitement and get bored very quickly, shifting from one event to another. They usually have a history of juvenile delinquency. Another telling sign is they will never take the blame for anything.

‘So, where exactly does this group fit?’

‘I think we’re looking at a co-morbid personality. There’s been a lot of research into combining pathological personalities. I really do think our unsub has schizophrenic, psychopathic, and sociopathic tendencies. He had the power to charm his followers, get them to trust him while plying them with hallucinogenic drugs.’

‘Jesus – how the hell do we recognize someone like that?’

‘I believe the only way is through the symbols; these people are on the genius level, or at least a couple is.’

As the path wound through overhanging rhododendrons, Redd saw the derelict remains of a Saxon church. The nave soared up with the original stonework and some signs of flint knapping. Two small towers, the nave and main body of the church still stood.’

Tess clutched at his arm, ‘Beautiful isn’t it? Redd could see most of the windows were missing, giving an eerie look in the deepening twilight. The Saxon square tower with missing stones reared up like ragged teeth biting the clouds. Redd said, ‘So how do we go about finding this individual?’

‘Well, you’ll have your own methods; mine is just an addition, really. However, I should imagine they are wealthy; otherwise, they couldn’t carry out these practices. They need somewhere obscure within reach of groves. Take the leader now; he may have a country estate in the Downs. His land would have a grove of yews and a circle of oak trees. If he is wealthy enough, he will have deer. If he has a white hind in the herd, that is a direct signal – it’s absolutely sacred to the druids.

‘Salmon?’

Tess nodded. ‘Yes, it’s the oldest animal for the druids, an ancient spiritual tradition in many cultures. It appears in Welsh and Irish mythology, Hindu – the Vedas, Babylonian, Sumerian, to name a few and of course, the Christian faith, and later the Philosopher’s Stone.’

‘Quite a history – I’ve heard of the fish in the Christian faith, the fisherman, five fishes.’

‘Yes, both Buddha and Christ were referred to as fishermen. Now the druids seek the Salmon of Wisdom, which is deep in the universal consciousness.’

‘So, this guy could have a salmon stream or something on this estate? It’s going to be difficult without a warrant, and without probable cause, we haven’t got a hope in hell of searching these estates.’

Stepping around some stones, Tess said, ‘Well – yes. I’ve looked up the various estates, and yes, you can find salmon farms and fishing in the South West. There are other animals the druids held as sacred or helpful in their quest for wisdom and divination, including protection.’

‘Such as?’

‘I can’t recall them all, but they’ll be in the report.’ There’s the Owl, for instance, a guide to the underworld, who will hunt out your enemies, then the Swan – very mystical, the druids used them for ritual feathers in their cloaks. They also help with the interpretation of dream symbols and spiritual evolution.’

‘So we should be looking for these on the estates?’

Tess stopped to look at some shattered remains of an ancient gravestone. ‘Yes – it is an idea, not only are they symbolic, but druids would keep them as pets, dogs and cats, for instance, are very important, as is the horse.’ Stooping, she tried to read the date on the stone. ‘You know these are ancient; the dates are in roman numerals.’

Redd bent to look. ‘Hmm yes, shame they’re broken up, it’s a piece of history, really. But, coming back to what you’re saying, that’s one hell of a menagerie. We should be looking for a zoo, not an estate.’

‘I know, but the druids looked upon them as their brothers, part of their world, their very being.’

‘Yet they’ll readily kill them to read their entrails?’

‘Yes, but that was a noble death; the animal was honored, as were the humans. They also predicted the future with the calls and flights of birds.’

He turned to see an old man bent back and carrying a spade shuffle around the corner of the tower. Coming to a halt, screwing up his eyes, he peered at them. ‘Not often we ‘ave people ‘ere.’

Redd nodded. ‘Good to see you, just the person we need.’

‘Oh … and how’s that then?’

Pulling out his ID, Redd introduced himself, ‘Detective Chief Inspector Redd. We’re here on police business.’

‘Oh….’ the old man scratched a grizzled chin ‘We ain’t had no trouble ‘ere. Just some varmints messin’ like.’

‘Have you had any graves disturbed?’

‘Nah, only the young uns messing, running across the graves they do – no respect these young uns – not like the old days. No one dared to tread on a grave – holy ground, not that they care nowadays.’

Tess spoke up, ‘D’you mind if we have a look around?’

‘Nah, go ahead, not as you’ll find much – the church is dyin’ – been years since we had a service here; the place is falling to bits. Old Vicar Jenkins would do his head in if he saw the old place now.’

‘So you knew the Vicar?’

‘Yeah – he be long gone – don’t come near now – it’s his legs, you see. Same as the Dowager and the Earl, don’t see hide nor hair of them now. ‘I know the dowager is quite bitter about it all. I mean, the man even suggested that he perform a natural burial for her when she dies. He’s obsessed with some peculiar cult – Druid’s – with all this in the papers, he must be feeling quite awkward.’

Tess raised her head to look over to Redd. ‘Druids?’

Chapter 36

The odor of unwashed bodies, stale cigarette breath, overnight pizza, and doughnuts swept over Redd as he entered the Incident Room. Jack was already there with Dove, helping DS Price, the Office Manager, to sort out the latest photos from forensics. Price turned to another whiteboard stacked against the wall, bringing into line with the existing two, full of photos, well-thumbed maps, and finger-smudged reports. As usual, the Incident room overflowed with officers working twelve-hour shifts, with continuous scrolling through endless lists of door-to-door searches, interviews, websites, and pagan groups.

‘Jack, I’ve arranged the dig at the Church with Forensics for two PMs. Could you cover that with Dove?’

Jack grinned. ‘Yeah, let’s hope we find something.’ He was delighted; he would have Dove to himself for a whole afternoon.

Dove fumed, dammit, so Tess would be with him again. Wasn’t she supposed to be his partner?

‘Boss, I thought we would do that together?’

Seeing her frustration, Redd took to one side. ‘What’s on your mind, detective?’

‘I thought I was your partner, but you always seem to be more with her.’

‘By her, you mean Dr. Davies?’

Dove flushed and nodded.

Well, detective, I think you’ve forgotten that you stand in for Jack as well. He’s helping us out here. With the budget cuts, we can’t afford the luxury of permanent partners. Besides, I need Dr. Davies’s expertise on the search; she’ll be able to pick out important areas.’

Dove hung her head. ‘I just wanted to be more part of it.’

‘You are Dove; the dig is extremely important, and I want you to oversee that with Jack. So get to it, we need to get the officers seated; time’s marching on.’ His tone was gentle, his eyes sharp.

Knowing she was just about to overstep the mark with him, Dove turned away, ignoring Jack’s smile.

Leaving her to get the officers in order, Redd turned to Hugh Price.

‘So now, Price, I assume the investigation team has the reports on the latest victim?’

‘Yes, boss, I’ve also given out copies of Dr. Davies’s report to the primary investigating team; they arrived by special courier this morning.’

‘Good, she must have worked all night on that.’

‘Yeah, dedicated young woman, Sir.’

Redd enthused, ‘Brilliant girl, knows her stuff – don’t know what we would do without her.’

Price shot him a knowing look. ‘I saw her at the site yesterday, boss. How’d she take it?’

‘Very well – she held her own.’

DS Price smiled quietly; things could get interesting in the love department.

Redd turned to face the assembled officers. ‘Attention everyone. As you are all aware, we have yet another victim; the perps surpassed themselves. Significantly, it was one of their own – a young man by the name of Kevin Stewart. They took his face but left his head. Fortunately, the Forensic department reconstructed the face using the F.A.C.E software. We put out another news flash, and someone called in within minutes.

Going to his file, he pinned up a crime scene photo of the victim. Tapping it, with a long snooker cue, he said, ‘This is an example of the Blood Eagle; you will see an explanation of it in your reports. For the sake of the other officers not in the first investigating team, these butchers carved the eagle into the Vic’s back and cut through to the spine and ribcage. They pulled out the ribs, and then the lungs through his back to form blood-stained wings.’

He paused for the officers to get to grips with the horror before them. On studying the photos, one female officer left the room abruptly holding her mouth. Another seasoned male officer didn’t make it, projectile vomiting into a waste bucket. Coughing and spluttering, he carried it out of the room.

In the ensuing silence, Redd said, ‘We’re dealing with the devil himself. In addition, there is a major festival coming up from June twenty-first to twenty-second, the Summer Solstice. The neo-pagans are preparing for it now, building bonfires. These sadists, however, will be dreaming up another horror. We have reason to believe it will be the Wicker Man.’

Watkins stroking a stubbly ginger chin, said, ‘Wasn’t there a film about the Wicker Man? Some years ago now.’

‘Yes, Watkins – unfortunately, but if we are correct, they are planning to sacrifice more than one victim. We envisage it will be twenty feet high.’

Bessie Owen frowned. ‘Gruesome. But at that height, wouldn’t it be easy to spot?’

‘Not if it’s on a private estate—’

Redd turned back to the board, pointing to a map Price had just pinned up. As you will read in your reports, we now have some intel’ that points to the Medbury Estate. Covers thousands of acres, as you can see. Not any concrete evidence yet, but something to investigate.’

O’Connell said, ‘Need a lot of wood. Where they gonna get that from then?’

Redd nodded. ‘There’s plenty of forest land around here. They’d use silver birch; it’s pliant and also one of the major sacred trees with the druids, besides the Oak and Yew. Study your reports from Dr. Davies. Unlike many reports from academics, her text is concise and easy to read. You’ll learn a lot about Druid lore, festivals, and purposes of the sacrifices. You need to know this. You need to know your adversary; start getting a few ideas.’

Watkins spoke up, ‘Can’t ever know a bloody maniac.’

‘You can try to anticipate them, Watkins – think outside of the box.’

Dove said, ‘Wouldn’t the land Forestry Commission keep an eye out for people logging them?’

‘No, not really, they haven’t got the staff resources to cover the vast woodlands we have here in the Downs. However, we are going to do aerial searches from this afternoon. ‘Gonna use your Cessna Boss?’ O’Connell smiled; he knew the Inspector was a keen pilot and kept a small plane on Tangmere airfield.

Redd grinned, ‘No chance; we’ll be using a helicopter.”

Looking over to Amanda Green’s partner, he said, ‘Crosby, can you give an update on the pagan members? Have you made any inroads?’

‘Yes, boss, there are hundreds of groups, with over forty thousand members in the Pagan Federation and well over ten thousand druids. Amanda and I are in touch with over three-quarters of the group leaders. We hope to have contacted them all by e-mail this evening.’

Green, lifting her pointed chin, said, ‘They’ve all been asked to contact us about any members whom they think should be investigated further. So far, we have well over a thousand reports from the pagan groups and one hundred and fifty from the druids. But, no-one has heard even a hint of the unsubs.’

‘Well done. Now the drug websites, Papworth? Any luck?’

Fingering his pony tail, he said, ‘I’ve had a team working on that boss. It’s frustrating, as we’ve reported before, so many seem to close down overnight, and then new ones appear.’

Redd queried, ‘Could be the same ones just changing their addresses. Have you checked their IPS?’

‘Yes and no luck. I think they just go on to new servers.’

Redd nodded. ‘Good try. So anything at all?’

‘We did trace one to Bucks Row, a tiny hamlet, a couple of miles from Tillngton.’


Copyright.

Copyright © Katy Walters

All rights reserved



Other Chapters

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

Available Chapters!

Death Marks: Chapters 32, 33, 34

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.

Other Chapters

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

All Available Chapters!


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.’

‘What?’

‘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….’

‘Precursor?’

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.

Copyright © Katy Walters

All rights reserved



Other Chapters

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

Available Chapters!

Death Marks: Chapters 29, 30, 31

Death Marks: Chapters 29, 30, 31

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.

Other Chapters

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

All Available Chapters!


Death Marks

Chapter 29

Grabbing a few precious minutes before the meeting, Jack waded through the reports; He looked up to the white boards pushed to the far end of the Incident Room. They did not scream evidence, despite hundreds of door-to-door interviews, web searches, and dozens of calls from the public. It seemed their only lead would be from the drug Salvia Divinorum, but the Web was a mire of sites disappearing, others mushrooming overnight to take their place.

There had to be a break soon, it was definitely a Druidic theme, but they needed something more concrete. Forensics had nothing but a fingerprint on the bark from a Yew tree. It didn’t compare to anything on HOLMES or Interpol. How the hell were they to gain a foothold? The killings were macabre, the perps bloody clever. The killers used some place where they could mop up the blood, dispose of bone fragments and clothes. So far, the only clues lay in the imperfect sketch of the crime artist and the surmised occupations of the perps.

In front of him, he had a list of Universities in the area; Chichester looked promising with a professor of mysticism and religion. Now he would surely have some knowledge of Druidry and of the different Groves in the surrounding districts. Picking up the phone, he got through to Michelle, asking her to put him through to the professor.

He heard the plumy tones of an older man, ‘Professor Edmondson here – you are? I can’t quite remember the name your secretary gave me.’

‘Detective Inspector Cummings; I hope you can give us some of your professional advice about a case we’re investigating?’

‘Oh dear – oh dear. Of course – of course. I would be pleased to help. Is it to do with the latest murders?’

‘Yes, Sir. We need some background information, which may help.’

‘Oh dear – oh dear. I’m looking through my diary, and I think tomorrow would be convenient.’

‘Sir, we need your help now; every hour counts in this investigation. ‘

‘I appreciate that, Inspector, but we are inundated this year with foreign students taking the summer courses. I literally have classes all day, every day. Like you, Sir, we have to take what we can – what with these government cuts and the high fees it is—’

‘Sir, forgive me for interrupting, but we do need your help as of now. People’s lives are at stake.’

‘Oh dear – oh dear. I’m sorry, Inspector – forgive me – of course – of course. Say six PM this evening? Err … what did you say your name was?’

Jack frowned, that was still too late, but then he did have other things to clear up. ‘Thank you, Professor. Detective Chief Inspector Jack Cummings, could you give me your address and directions as to where I can find you?

‘Err; we are Block five, second floor, room eighteen. A dastardly case – dastardly case. I hope I can help you, oh dear – oh dear.’

Jack couldn’t help smiling; the man was from another era, but his repetitions must get quite irritating over time.

Rising from his desk, he went over to where Amanda Green sat, her normally straight shoulders bowed over her PC. Her erect spine now slumped in exhaustion as she concentrated on a website. ‘Got anything yet, Green?’

She looked up at him, green eyes glinting, purple shadows showing her lack of sleep. ‘No Sir, another dead-end. Like I reported, the sites are just disappearing and new ones appearing. It’s so bloody frustrating.’

‘Anything else?’

‘Yes, Sir, I’m still trawling through the lists of tattooists for the Sussex area. There were over eight hundred and ninety results in one hit. I pushed it over to Papworth as he can tune it right down, picking out the right tag words.’

Jack grinned, knowing that Papworth would be over the moon; she’d even deigned to talk to him. ‘So what about tattoo parlors?’

‘I’ve got a couple of uniforms hitting all of them within a sixty-mile radius. As you said, the person who did those tattoos on the bodies must be an expert. So far, no luck.’

As he bent to look at her screen, his cell vibrated. DS Price, the Office Manager, shouted from across the room, ‘For you, Sir – Desk Sergeant.’

Jack went over picking up the phone, ‘Cummings here?’

As he held the phone to his ear, his face tightened. ‘Okay, got it. The two officers are staying there? … Fine.’ Putting down the phone, he realized all conversations had stopped; the room was deathly silent, haggard faces turned to him wrought with anxiety, eyes questioning. He looked at Price, his voice quiet, intense. ‘We’ve got another one: Devil’s Punch Bowl, Gibbet’s Hill – Celtic Cross. Get SOCO out there pronto, the Divisional Surgeon, and Mahoney – we’re gonna need him. Get the Investigating team together. Prepare yourselves; from what I’ve been told, it’s another fucking nightmare.

As he walked from the room, Price rose to his feet. ‘Okay, folks, let’s get moving on the site Green, Crosby, O’Connell, and Owen. Matthews. You’re the note taker, Tomkins – evidence, Williams – triangulation sketches and statements. I’ll get uniforms to protect the perimeter and entrance to the crime scene. Let’s move it.’

Jack bundled papers, notepads, and pens into his briefcase in his office and then picked up the phone. Tapping in the numbers he tried to get through to Redd, the number was unobtainable.

Chapter 30

Lugh nodded. ‘Yes, it’s the festival of the Summer Equinox – an important time for the druids, Celts, or pagans, for that matter. It is the time when the Sun is at its zenith; to the pagan belief, it stops; it is literally called the ‘Standing still of the Sun.’

Redd frowned. ‘Never heard of it.’

‘Well, it’s only important to pagans. This is where the Goddess crowns the Solar God as King of Summer. In the Druid system, it is known as Alban Arthan, The Light of the Shore.’

Raising his eyebrows in assent, Redd muttered, ‘Quite awe-inspiring then.’

Nodding, Lugh said, ‘Yes. It was also a time of great sacrifice. I just hope this group is not planning one.’

Redd felt his stomach clench. ‘What form did it take?’

‘The Wicker man – a vast wooden figure of a man. They herded the chosen people into the massive limbs. The villagers danced as the effigy burnt, after which they went to the forest to couple – fornicate, honoring the Goddess of Fertility.

‘Christ – I just hope they’re not re-enacting that.’

Dove muttered, ‘Bastards, they’re deranged.’

‘For want of repetition, the ancient people believed it to be the highest honor to be chosen for sacrifice. Their worst punishment was to be banned from sacrifice; not only that, they were shunned by the villagers – outcasts.’

Redd felt dread like fists pummel his brain. ‘I just hope to God, they’re not thinking of re-enacting this.’

Lugh pushed at a fold of cloth across his knee. ‘It’s a major event. Fire sacrifices go back through eons of time, from the Stone Age. We have remnants of it today; many villages have a bonfire in the summer. The young people dance around it, girls wearing headdresses of flowers, boys whirling firebrands around their heads to form sun-wheels – ancient fertility rites.’

Tess said, ‘The Wicker Man is built from the small branches of the sacred Birch tree.’

Lugh nodded. ‘Aye, the World Tree, the Axis Mundi.’

Putting his hands to his face, Redd lowered his head. ‘How the hell can we stop it?’

Lugh frowned. ‘I can’t see them burning people.’

Redd took his hands away from his face; his eyes harrowed. ‘I wouldn’t be sure about that. We’re dealing with monsters.’

He felt the phone vibrate in his pocket, taking it from his jacket pocket; he saw it was from Jack. ‘Excuse me, I’ll just take this.’

Jack’s voice appeared strained, urgent. ‘I’ve tried ringing you but couldn’t get through.’

‘No – sorry. Maybe the signal isn’t too good. What’s up?’

‘We’ve got another one. Sounds like shit. A group of climbers found it. Devil’s Punch Bowl, Gibbet’s Hill by the Celtic Cross, couldn’t get any fucking higher. The animals have got to it.’

‘Okay, I’m on my way.’

He looked at Tess. ‘It’s happened again, I think. We’ve got another one. Jack says it’s a nightmare, different from the others.’

Tess rose. ‘I’m coming with you – you might need me.’

Lugh pushed on the sides of the old oak chair for support, struggling to his feet. ‘I’ll come as well. I read the Ogham sticks last night; there will be blood. They told me of the coming of the Eagle – of the Nordic Tribes.’

‘Look, that won’t be necessary; this is police work.’

Lugh grasped his arm. ‘You have no idea what you’re facing – I can help.’

Tess covered her face with her hands. ‘If it’s the Blood Eagle – God help us.’

Dove ran through the main doors; Redd followed, with Tess and Lugh in tow. Helping the old man down the steps, he said, ‘You can tell me in the car.’

Panting, Lugh muttered, ‘It’s a time of great evil.’

Unlocking the car, Redd stooped swiftly, tipping two pills under his tongue.

As the car sped towards the gates, Tess clung to the side of the seat. Glancing at Redd, she saw the tension working a jaw muscle into a white knot. It was a moment of strangeness; he seemed so familiar, from the scar on his cheek to the hair curling on his neck.

Ahead the new recruit opened the gates, waving them through, the smile gone from his face, aware that something catastrophic had occurred. Clearing the gates, Redd gunned the car down the road. Tess clenched her teeth; couldn’t he slow down? These were country lanes; anyone could be walking along, a child, – dog – deer. But, she kept her own counsel; the moment was too fractious, commonsense fragmented.

Redd inclined his head towards Lugh; he needed to be prepared for what was waiting at the crime scene. ‘Tess told me about the Oghams, so what is the impending evil?’

‘Last night, the Ogham spelled out the Eagle. It is a sign of great wisdom and intellect, but in this instance, it augured death, as the sticks also spelled out the word Blood.’ If it is what I suspect, then we are not dealing with pure Druidry; these monsters include the rites of the wild Nordic Tribes.’

Tess almost moaned, ‘I meant to explain that in a further report. We just haven’t had time to cover it all.’ Looking over her shoulder to Lugh, she said, ‘I just hope to God it’s not what you divined, Lugh, honestly from what I’ve seen already, this will be horrific.’

Lugh nodded, holding on to the back of the seat as Redd flew over some bumps. ‘This group is bastardizing the ancient druids; God knows they had enough to answer for, but the Blood Eagle takes many forms – it’s a violent death.’

Redd put his foot down harder on the clutch. ‘Then tell me – I need to know what we’re up against.’

‘Maybe not while you’re driving, Daniel. You’re already doing over seventy in these lanes.’

Redd slowed down immediately. ‘Okay – I’m listening.’

Chapter 31

Lugh shifted in his seat, the light from the car window glinting on the stones in his headband. ‘The Celtic tribes, including the Gauls, were fierce people; it was different times, different mindsets.’

Redd recognized Tess’s words ‘ mindset’ as if that could explain away the atrocities. He could see the man found it difficult but remained silent.

Taking an audible breath, Lugh said, ‘The sacrifices of the druids were extreme, but the ferocious practices of the Nordic Tribes were a gift from hell. This form of execution is mentioned in the Nordic sagas. Those taken captive in the wars suffered the dreaded Blood Eagle. They threw the prisoner over a stone altar and held him down; carved the eagle into the flesh on his back, then cut through the ribs, and pulled out the lungs to resemble bloodstained wings. The captors also rubbed salt into the wounds while the victim was still alive. In Skaldic poetry, and the Norse sagas, victims of this torture, if I remember correctly, included British Kings and the Archbishop Aelfheah of Canterbury.’

Redd gritted his teeth; he did not have any beliefs at all, let alone Druidry, and especially not fortune-telling. Sticks with marks, for God’s sake. Keeping his reservations to himself, he said, ‘Let’s hope to God you’re wrong.’

Pulling into the car park, they saw the press and TV crews milling around the edge, some waving badges, swearing blind they had permission to enter. Two mobile crime scene vans already in action sat just inside the yellow tape. SOCO teams worked on gaining every piece of evidence. Redd looked over to Lugh. ‘I suggest you leave your robe and cloak here. If you want to see the site, you’ll have to wear one of our bunny suits.’

Lugh nodded, divesting himself of his headband and robes, placing them on the back seat of the car.

Tess could see the mobile units parked in the distance. Grey slate cliff faces cut through forests clinging to rolling hills; trees burgeoning with leaves of every color hung over the path to the Celtic Cross. It just didn’t seem possible that a place of such beauty could harbor tragedy and death. Yet, the name Gibbet’s Hill did give an aura of authenticity to the place. A young constable stood at the perimeter tape, ready to take their names. He looked fresh out of training college. His crisp white shirt neatly pressed combat trousers, and high-visibility jacket, boots were polished to a mirror shine.’.

Redd held up his warrant card, which the young man duly recorded. As they entered, he handed them the white overalls. Redd smiled, seeing Lugh struggling to pull the ungainly suit over his trousers. Seeing Jack walking towards them, he raised a hand. ‘Hi – how’s it going?’

Jack shook his head, his lips tight. ‘Not good man, not good – they’ve taken his face.’

‘Christ.’

‘On top of that, Tits decided to turn up with parsnip-face. It seems the Assistant CC Mainwaring decided he ought to be present.’

‘Shit – okay, let’s get on with it.’

‘The body was hung from a tree over there. SOCOs finished with it now, so we’ve laid the poor bugger onto his stomach in the tent – he looks like a mutilated angel. You’d better see it for yourself.’

Redd turned to Dove; her corkscrew curls scraped back under the ungainly hood. ‘Let’s do this.’

She turned to see Jack’s gaze fixed on her, ignoring any signals; she followed Redd up the path to the Celtic Cross looming some fifty yards down the track, the walls of the white tent billowing in the wind. Tess, Lugh, and Jack followed slowly.

Dove’s mind went blank, couldn’t – wouldn’t imagine what lay ahead; it was too horrible. She wanted to be anywhere but here. She didn’t know how Redd could be so deadbeat about it. Trying to escape her fear, she looked up at his face, composed, cops eyes flat. Dread sliced scalpel-sharp through her thoughts to the body waiting in the small white tent.

Redd felt his skin flush; the diazepam was working, the panic under control. Jack caught up with him just before he opened the tent flap. ‘Prepare yourself, mate.’

Redd said, ‘Fuck – here goes.’ Dipping his head, he entered; looking down, he groaned.

Dove whimpered. Retching, she pummeled her fist into the side of the tent.

It was a scene from hell; the young man lay on his stomach; the coppery stench of blood-streaked through their nostrils. Horror took away speech; words did not exist. On the first glimpse, crimson wings sprouted from the back of the victim. As Redd crept forward, he could make out the bloodied ribs pulled from the man’s back, on which lay the lungs, grey – glistening – a demon with wings. Lugh was right. It was a bloody parody of an eagle. A pile of bleached bones lay by his side.

Redd knelt to the body -the sweat breaking out over his brow, his mouth twisted with horror, as Dove went on her knees beside the still body, stifling her groans.

Redd choked, straightening up, finding his voice, as Jack stooped inside. ‘They’ve taken his face, but we can reconstruct it – they’ve fucked up.’

Jack nodded. ‘Get a good idea of it anyway.’

Redd raked his hair back. ‘No note this time?’

‘Nope. No explanation as to why he died.’

Dove spoke to the mutilated body, oblivious to them. ‘We’ve got you now….’

Leaving the tent, Redd walked over to Lugh and Tess. ‘I don’t think you should go in there; best you don’t see.’

Looking into his eyes, Tess bit her lip, the tears brimming. ‘Is it that awful?’

‘Worse.’ Red turned to Lugh. ‘You were right, the eagle – the wings – the hanging. We can reconstruct the face. They slipped up.’

Tess said, ‘They think they’re omnipotent. So many criminals believe they can’t be caught; it’s part of the psychopath’s psyche.’

‘Either that or they’re deranged, the drugs buggering up their brains.’

Lugh wrung his hands together, ‘I don’t know how you do it. Why is there so much evil in the world?

Seeing Jack leave the tent with his arm around Dove, he said, ‘So the bones are there again. Have Owen or O’Connell found anything yet?’

‘They’ve scoured churchyards in a fifty-mile radius, along with the help of a team from Littlehampton. There have been a few graves opened for further burials, but they investigated those thoroughly – nothing – no sign of any others dug up or interfered with.’

Tess looked up at Redd. ‘There’s a derelict church in the Downs, dating from the twelfth century; it’s all overgrown and definitely not used anymore. Very few people know about it now.’

‘Where?’

‘Not far – Funtington way. I could take you there if you like?’

‘Yeah, we’ve got to find something – anything; this can’t go on.’

Tess clutched at his arm. ‘I think I can help; I was going to put it in a report – but now maybe—’

A voice rang out, the Irish lilt strong. ‘So will ye be telling me what those bloody druids have done now?’

Redd saw Mahoney walk swiftly towards them, the shabby linen jacket flapping open, but for once a clean shirt. Redd was glad to see him, hear his reassuring anger, his solidity.

‘Look, I’ve got to see Mahoney first, then we can talk. Okay?’

Tess nodded, her heart beating a tattoo; she had some ideas; she had to give him something.

As Redd started towards the tent, he heard Mahoney’s roar, ‘The feckin’ bastards, the poor lad, the poor wee lad.’

A tinny voice made him jump, ‘Not doing so well, are we Detective Chief Inspector? Soon be working traffic, I hear.’

Redd swung around to see Titmouse and Seaton only yards away. Stroking a lock of dirty-blond hair over his bald pate, Titmouse said, ‘I have a message from DCC Maddeley. You and I are to attend a meeting at Head Office at ten o’clock sharp tomorrow. I can promise you; heads are gonna roll.’ He laughed, an almost manic glint in his eye.


Copyright.

Copyright © Katy Walters

All rights reserved



Other Chapters

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

Available Chapters!

Death Marks: Chapters 26, 27, 28

Death Marks: Chapters 26, 27, 28

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.

Other Chapters

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

All Available Chapters!


Death Marks

Chapter 26

As he walked into the office, Redd saw a message from DS Williams. Picking up the phone, he dialed through. ‘Redd here, what can I do for you?’

The detective sergeant’s voice almost trembled, ‘Sir, I’ve checked HOLMES2 while you were at the crime scene; West Yorkshire Police report another one. Two young people, male and female, the girl decapitated.’

‘Christ. Same injuries?’

‘Yes, Sir, eviscerated, oh and a pile of bleached bones by their side. They don’t go into much detail, though.’

‘Thanks, Williams, good work. I’ll get onto them. Have you searched Interpol for parallels?

‘Yes, sir, nothing to report as yet.’

‘Stonehenge may be another target – keep an eye out for that. Okay, thanks, Williams.’

Picking up the phone, he asked Michelle to put him through to DCI Babbings at the West Yorkshire Station.

He heard the thick Yorkshire accent of Babbings, the short vowels. ‘Good afternoon Redd, I happen as I was going to phone you meself. It’s a rum do, a rum do. Not summat for a weak stomach.’

‘I know, it’s one of the worst cases I’ve encountered, your worst bloody nightmare.’

‘Fucking true. Shoot the bastards on sight, I would.’

‘Look, I’ll send you through a report of our victims’ injuries; perhaps you could compare?’

‘Aye, I’ll do that. Looks like we have a serial killer on our hands.’

Redd grunted, ‘Beginning to look more like mass murder. Let’s hope I’m wrong.’

‘So how old were the victims? Twenty-one and twenty—two, young woman missing her head.’

‘Was a note left?’

‘Aye, a scroll with a piece of rough old parchment; it had some strange markings on it. We got a professor from the local University to translate it for us. He says it’s the Ogham, ancient language of the Trees, used in the Old Irish and Brythonic language, some say the Gauls. I’ve got it here, “The Oracle Speaks.” A load of nonsense – blood-curdling though.’

Redd felt his stomach muscles tighten; they were getting somewhere. ‘The notes left on the bodies here also referred to the Oracle, but in a negative way. We’ve also got two missing people, just recently attained their degrees as lab research technicians. Because of their occupations, there’s a strong link. Have you any leads so far?’

‘None, but our two were both lab researchers. From what you say about your victims, it seems they’re out to kill anyone to do with research labs.’

‘Yeah – it’s looking that way. I’ll send you a report on what we have so far. Perhaps you could do likewise.’

‘Be pleased to.’

As he put down the phone, Titmouse entered, the perpetual smirk on his florid face. As usual, he was immaculate with a white shirt, silk tie, and buttoned waistcoat despite the temperature being in the mid-seventies.

Pulling a chair towards Redd’s desk, he sat down, straightening his jacket. ‘So, I hear we have another murder on our hands. I’ve got ACC Mainwaring and DCC Maddeley on my back. Seems even the local MP is calling for action. Wouldn’t be surprised if the Prime Minister isn’t next.’ He paused, sneering, ‘I think it’s time I put Seaton in – get things moving.’

Redd clenched his jaw, ‘I’m acting on the instructions of DCC Maddeley; I report to him, sir.’

‘We’ll see Redd, we’ll see, so far you’ve got fuck all. As for that report from that profiler, load of bollocks. We’re dealing with a maniac – find him.’

***

Dove sat in the back seat, fuming. The ride to the Druid Lodge took over half an hour; she’d been looking forward to a cozy chat with Redd. Why in heaven’s name did Tess have to come along? It was a bit much after all; the woman was at the crime scene yesterday as well. Soon she’d be taking over.

Redd broke through her thoughts. ‘One thing, before we get there, we should not discuss the state of the body we found yesterday. I understand the modern Druids follow a philosophy of peace and balance, revering nature.’

Dove said from the back, ‘You mean to save the planet – green peace.’

‘In a way, yes. They are also strong on the spiritual quest of man, exploring the inner nature and man’s unity with all things.’

Tess felt a rush of warmth as she listened; he really had studied modern-day philosophy and respected it.

Dove commented, ‘Thing is the world would collapse if we returned to nature. We can only evolve – find better ways of living – saving our planet.’

Tess murmured, ‘I agree, the world population is exploding – that creates huge problems – issues of birth control – freedom of choice.’

‘The Chinese have tried,’ Redd countered, ‘With the one-child families. But, let’s get back to the Druids; what we have to keep in the forefront of our minds a rogue group is killing couples.’

Dove said, ‘They’re killing research assistants.’

Tess frowned. ‘There are many activists against lab research.’

‘Yes, particularly, genetics. Jeannette and Neil are primarily involved in that.’

Redd agreed, ‘Something to keep in mind. But, paganism is becoming a force to contend with now church congregations are failing badly. We might be able to pick up some information on the more esoteric groups. We’ll start with the neo-druids following up with the Wicca.’

Redd turned the car into a narrow country lane, the middle overgrown with grass. On either side, the grassy banks displayed an abundance of country flowers, the cowslips towering over dandelions and daisies. On the left-hand side stood wrought iron gates styled into twirling branches, and oak leaves, the face of some ancient man, with leaves and vines sprouting from his nose and mouth, with hair in long curls and waving beard positioned in the middle of each gate.

Tess said, ‘The Green Man. See the sprouting vegetation? It’s the bloodsucker head- very gothic.’

Dove leant forward. ‘I’ll open the gates for you – save you getting out.’

Redd smiled his appreciation, watching her push open the gates. He said, ‘She’s a good partner. I wasn’t too sure when I first met up with her, but now I couldn’t do without her.’

‘I don’t think she’s too happy I’m here.’

‘Really? What makes you think that?’

‘She’s got the hots for you.’

Redd saw the remark as a question, taken aback, he said, ‘Now that would complicate things. No – we’re partners, and that’s where it begins and ends. No – there’s only one – or was….’

He never finished, and Tess picking up the pain in his tone, kept quiet.

Once seated back inside the car, Dove closed the door. ‘I can see a mansion up ahead; it’s quite a way, though.’

Tess turned to Redd. ‘You went off in a rush last time we met, so I didn’t have time to tell you about the bones. Some sections of ancient Druids worshipped the ancestors, as well as the Gods. Maybe the bones are psychopomps.’

‘What?’

‘Psychopomps; they accompany the deceased to the Otherworld or the land beyond the stars.’

‘Never thought of that. But why bleach the bones?’

‘As a mark of respect for the purity of the ancestors.’

‘Something to think about; it’s all so bloody convoluted. I just wish we knew where they’ve come from. We haven’t received any complaints of graves being desecrated or dug up – it’s a mystery.’

He drove slowly forward through the open gates. ‘It’s just a short way now, ‘Hah, now who’s this – looks like he’s dressed up as a shaman or something.’

Dove quipped. ‘Weird.’

Tess’s heart fell when she saw the young recruit. He’d only just joined the group, and to her dismay, he was a bloody fanatic.

Chapter 27

Tess said, ‘Hi there, err … we have an appointment with Lugh giving a rictus smile. Want a lift?’

‘Nah, just here to welcome you; the house is about five hundred yards on, in the dip. I’ll follow later.’

As they drove on, Dove tapped Tess’s shoulder. ‘So – you know him?’

‘Yes – he’s a new Ovate at the Grove.’

‘Oh?’

Dove remained silent in the back, her thoughts racing.

Reluctant to explain her involvement with the Druids, Tess said edgily, ‘I’m a member – an Ovate.’

Dove frowned; no one had taken the time to explain to her; for God’s sake, she was a prime partner in the case. ‘So, why the secrecy?’

‘It’s personal.’

‘That’s no excuse.’ Irritated, she blurted out the words, ‘Boss, if Tess is intimately involved, she shouldn’t be on the case. They’d throw this out of court.’

Tess turned abruptly, her tone sharp, ‘Excuse me? What are you implying?’

‘Surely you realize—’

‘Come on, Dove – I’ve already spoken to the DCC.’

Scowling Dove argued, ‘It’s still flimsy.’

Tess said tersely, ‘So if a detective’s got a killer leaving crucifixes with the body, he can’t be involved because he’s a Christian?’

‘That’s taking a bit too far. Anyway, you could have mentioned—’

Annoyed, she said, ‘Just quit now, detective. It’s personal. I don’t want to discuss my beliefs with you, neither do I have to defend myself.’

‘But—’

Redd kept quiet; he didn’t want to add fuel to the squabble. Tess was holding her own anyway.

Tess’s eyes spat fire as she looked at Dove. ‘I don’t want to talk about it. It’s personal – private.’

Stunned, Dove sat speechless in the back; why was she so guilty about it all?

They drove in silence the rest of the way.

The house turned out to be a derelict mansion, graceful in its decrepitude. Parts of the turreted roofs on either side of the main building rose ragged against the sun, while the absence of many windows gave the place a soulless look.

A group of people of all ages, from a babe in arms to an elderly sage, gathered at the huge main doors, the dilapidated wood panels tied up with chains. Yet, the spirit of the people waving to them more than made up for a backdrop of decay.

Surreptitiously locking the car with his remote, Redd took Tess’s arm as they went up the cracked and broken steps. An elderly man with wild white hair, wielding a carved staff, strode purposefully towards them, dressed in grey trousers with a dark blue robe, pulled in at the waist with a leather belt hung with medallions of bronze. His cloak, held around his sloping shoulders, with a clasp of coloured glass, gave an Arthurian aura. To enhance the Druid image, across his forehead, he wore a band of thinly struck pewter embedded with semi-precious stones. In all, he exuded an air of ancient dignity and authority. He held Redd’s hand in a firm grip; the skin hard and callused, his eyes, a sharp metallic grey. ‘Welcome to our Grove. Come inside.’

Entering the main hall, they walked across diagonally placed tiles of black and white marble, typical of the druid style. The walls rose in paneled walls of mahogany, in places, rotting and covered in mildew. Heads of hind and boar rose gracefully from the side panels. Their dusty fur was patterned with rainbow hues from the coloured leaded light of the remaining windows.

Trunk size logs scented with apple smouldered red with heaps of grey ash in a massive stone hearth. The grey stone lintel was carved in flora and fauna, with figures of men kneeling in supplication of some Celtic God with horns. At the foot of stairs, reaching up into a double landing on either side, stood the trunk of an oak tree from which emerged the carved figure of the Horned God. The antlers soaring some three feet from his face, benign in expression, his furred legs in repose, the hooves crossing. In one clawed hand, he held the lyre; in the other, the head of a man grimacing in pain.

Seeing the expression on Dove’s face, Tess realized she thought it was some devilish symbol instead of it being one of peace contrasting with suffering. But then, she could think what she liked.

Lugh, the Arch Druid, motioned them to carved stone seats on either side of the fire; a bundle of straw served as cushions. Wrapping his cloak around him, he sat in a throne-like chair of oak, the high-carved back sprouting gargoyles, leering like drunken angels over his shoulders.

Turning, he waved his hand at the group of people peering in at the door. As one, without a murmur, they melted away into the sunlight. In a cultured voice, soft-toned, he said, ‘I am Lugh Roberts, Arch Druid. You come in difficult times. I hear there are atrocities done in the name of Druidism.’

Redd interrupted what could be an embarrassing situation. ‘It was good of Tess to arrange this meeting; I am grateful.’

Lugh raised his hand. ‘You know, Chief Inspector; these gruesome killings cast a slur on the neo-druids. Sadly, to use the cliché – mud sticks.’

Redd nodded, ‘I know … but I just want to say that I highly respect your philosophy and beliefs.’

Lugh looked at Tess, at the anguish in her eyes. ‘Tess, this has nothing to do with our Grove. You are a beacon of light in this sordid darkness. I have every faith we can help the Inspector.’ Seeing the love in his eyes, Tess felt the tears stinging. He was the father she’d never had, the father she still yearned for. She felt his hand cover hers, felt the grief, the loneliness lessen.

‘Yes … I hate to see it besmirched like this. It’s given me so much – helped me to….’

Redd realized this girl was hurting, hurting far more than he realized.

Tess felt the anger dissipating, she had to get a grip on herself, but the pain was never far away. Taking a deep breath, she said, ‘Okay – let’s get on with this.’

Redd saw the anguish once again in Tess’s eyes; it seemed she too had her dark secrets. Looking at Lugh, he said, ‘I hope you can help us. As you know, it’s just over two weeks since we found the first two victims. The count is mounting.’ of the mutilations and markings, and the positioning of the limbs to form a Triskelion.’

Her voice now stronger, Tess added, ‘The last one was definitely an execution; the entrails were not taken out to read. And the note read, “No one defies the Oracle.”‘

Lugh closed his eyes, his face tightening. ‘By the Gods, this can’t be allowed to go on. People are dying, suffering in the name of Druidism. Hence we must find these killers; they are cold and callous, slaking their perverted thirst on the agony of innocents. They also blacken our name. Thousands of people benefit from our lores. They experience peace of mind and fulfillment. Many go on to develop in the arts or science, or philosophy, while others go onto the path of healing, psychotherapy, medicine, – social work, so much more. This is what we must fight for.’

‘I hear you still believe in magic – time-traveling, shape-shifting.’

‘Those are deep areas; in time, physicists will be able to explain them in material terms. So, think of magic as the quest for the soul, time-traveling as a different state of consciousness – even now, scientists claim that time travel is possible through the mind. However, why we have to rely on the word of science is saddening. We must listen to our own minds, the soul.’

Redd nodded. ‘It just doesn’t seem possible it could happen here and now.’

Tess interrupted, ‘I think the killers might be following the festivals as well as their sacrifices. Up to now, they are re-enacting the sacrifices used for the birth of a new grove. But, the next big festival is the Summer Solstice June 21st.’

Lugh said. ‘When the sun stops still. Yes, that is a big one – even though Beltane is usually for fire, the druids also use it to celebrate the Summer Solstice.

Redd straightened up. ‘Fire?’

Chapter 28

Adakan looked at the diners, some already high on drugs, their bodies bloated with the seven-course meal. Tapping the crystal wine glass, he rose to his feet, his aquiline features lifted in a beaming smile, the thin lips twitching. He waved to one of the chief members sated with wine. ‘Ondujor, what news have you?’

‘They have an advisor, a neo-druid; she is feeding them information on the ancient sacred symbols and rituals.’

‘Hmm, maybe she should join us. We shall see. But, we must act soon. Thank you, Ondujor.’

The man smiled, stroking a lock of dirty blond hair across his bald pate.

Adakan tapped his glass again, addressed the group. ‘Now, after such a brilliant repast, it is time for us to honour the Goddess with our bodies, our hearts, our souls.’

Turning, he strode to the door, his dark blue robe emblazoned with silver stars, swept the floor. The Ovates rose almost as one, scraping back chairs over the parquet flooring. A couple of the females giggled, faces bright with anticipation. Hustling bodies cast huge shadows on the mahogany-paneled walls as they hurried from the room. In the dressing room, they divested themselves of their clothes, putting on robes of woad blue or rose madder red.

Rounded columns held up a ceiling soaring some thirty feet above an underground chamber, well over sixty feet long by forty feet wide. Flares glittering from wrought-iron sconces welcomed the Ovates, the stone walls scattered with embedded semi-precious gems. Above, cornices held naked nymphs coupling with long-tailed demons. Along the walls, male and female statues made love in every conceivable pose. At the far end, carved women, men, and beasts cavorted in sexual stances that belied the wildest imagination.

Adakan stood at the altar over five feet high and six feet in breadth covered with a deep red cloth glowing with swirls of gold embroidery. Raising his staff, music with a deep drumbeat filtered through, echoing against the walls. The two lines of Ovates began to sway beneath their robes as a woman appeared from the side door, naked, oiled, and glistening, her skin painted red. Long hair glittered gold, rippling to her hips. Moving her curves sinuously, she climbed onto the altar, her body moving to the slow drumbeat. Rising to her knees, her breasts prominent with purple paint, she lifted her heavy hair above her head, her hips writhing leisurely. As the drumbeat quickened, a second woman appeared, her skin the colour of moss, the body slick with oil, her hair ebony black. In a serpentine pose, she climbed onto the altar, her tongue, bright red, flicking between her lips. Standing tall, she lifted her large breasts, her legs apart, swiveling her hips to the drumbeat. The blonde moved towards her, swinging her pelvis, arms outstretched, wrapping them around the other woman. Lifting the ebony locks, she pulled her close, breast to breast, hips bucking in rhythm with the beat.

The drumbeat quickened, the men as one, threw off their robes, moving forward, roaring, hips bucking in unison with the two dancers. The two women snarled and raised their arms, moving in sinuous curves.

Just for two seconds, the drumbeat slowed as Adakan climbed upon the altar, his member long and hard. As he stepped between the two women who in turn brushed their breasts against him, the men roared. The music rose, the drumbeat fast; laughter, screams, and shouts echoed through the hall. Figures rolled on the floor or went into the shadows and the corners, lips kissing, arms stroking, hips gyrating – copulating. All through, rock music pounded from the walls heightening the tension, filling the air with sex.

As the light flares burnt down, so the movement became lax, the figures now moving slowly, others relaxing, drinking. Lazily, they raised their heads to the gong of a brass drum. Adakan, now covered in the blue robe, the silver stars sparkling, stepped behind a stone lectern.

‘Ovates, you have well and truly honoured the Goddess. She is pleased with your endeavours, your loyalty to the Wheel of Life. So now, let us eat, and rest for we shall meet again this evening to offer our gifts to the Gods. Let them hear us; let them speak through the Oracle.

The Ovates roared, raising fists in the air. As one, they shouted ‘The Oracle.’

Deep in the dungeon, Jeannette raised her head. ‘Neil … Neil … did you hear that? They’re screaming up there.’

‘Yeah … God knows what they’re doing. I just hope Julia can persuade Kevin to help us.’

‘She must, Neil. They’ll kill us. Oh, God. I’ve heard they do terrible things. One of the servants went to tell me, and Julia stopped her. But I got the gist of it. They mean to sacrifice us. Why? What have we done? Why us?’ Neil raised himself on his elbow; I just hope Julia can persuade Kevin … they’re our only hope.’

‘Trouble is, he is petrified of them.’

‘Yeah, but Julia said she just couldn’t go through with it. She couldn’t live with herself if she didn’t help us.’

‘D’you think they’d really kill us?’

‘Yeah, I do.’

‘But why? They tattooed us – the pain – it was horrendous.’

As she rose to her feet, the door opened. Julia entered, her eyes huge, fingers to her lips. ‘Ssh, we’re going to help you.’

Jeannette almost cried, ‘oh, thank God – thank God.’

‘Just keep very quiet, do everything we say.’

As she spoke, Kevin appeared. ‘I couldn’t let them… I would never live with myself. Come on – they’re all sleeping it off. But keep quiet.’

Jeannette tried to wrap a sheet around her to cover her nakedness, but Kevin stopped her. ‘Don’t just come as you are; we haven’t got time. We must move now. The servants are clearing up the hall, and the others are cooking.’

In single file, they followed Julia with Kevin leading. But, for the light of the single candle, it was pitch black. Jeannette knew the tunnels were over-run with rats; she’d heard them squeaking; a couple found their way into the cell. Now she mustn’t think about them, mustn’t scream out if one went over her foot. Scarcely daring to breathe, they moved swiftly through the first tunnel. In single file, they turned right into another tunnel slightly higher than the one they’d left. Jeannette straightened up, watching the flickering light shining on Kevin’s sloping shoulders, still hunched under the low roof.

He stopped, turning around, as he whispered, ‘Steps ahead. They’re wet, be careful, but hurry.’

At that moment, Jeannette felt the clawed feet of rats running around her legs; she pushed her fist against her teeth to stifle a scream. Behind her, Neil saw her stop, her body shuddering.’

‘It’s okay, love, just keep moving, ignore them.’

Sobbing deep in her chest, she moved forward. With the steps rising before her, her only supports were the slimy walls slipping beneath her hands. Quenching her horror, she started up only to feel webbed feet scrabble up to her knee. Flicking her leg, trying to strangle a scream, she slipped, tumbling back into Neil. Julia stopped; her face twisted in terror as Jeannette and Neil fell back to the dirt floor. Jeannette clutched her knee, her cries resounding through the tunnel.

Neil tried to lift her, but Jeannette sagged in his arms, her breath now ragged. ‘Don’t – don’t it’s broken – oh God, my leg’s broken.’

She looked up to see Kevin hurrying towards her, felt him lift her in his arms. ‘We can’t stop now; we’re nearly there. Staggering, he made his way up the steps, his toes gripping the edges of stone as the others followed in silence. He muttered, ‘Only one more….’

As he reached the top, the door swung open….


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Copyright © Katy Walters

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