Katy’s Blog

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.

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 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….


Copyright.

Copyright © Katy Walters

All rights reserved



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Doggy interview with author Mimi Barbour.

Doggy interview with author Mimi Barbour.

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Death Marks: Chapters 23, 24, 25

Death Marks: Chapters 23, 24, 25

Uncompromising, gritty, thrilling, and not for the faint hearted! British detectives suspect a serial killer is on the loose. With the support of American profiler Dr Tessa Davies, they soon realize that this could be the work of a druidic sect.

Please enjoy another two chapters of my dark crime novel, Death Marks . For now, I will post 3 chapters every Monday, Thursday, and Saturday.

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Death Marks

Chapter 23

Engrossed in Tessa’s report, Redd realized if they didn’t contain this, there would be full-scale panic, heads would roll. She didn’t hold back as she outlined the atrocities involved in the Druid rites. How could they break this? They were up against great minds but twisted.

When killing their victims, these monsters discarded modern-day values and morality. They say that half an inch of fur separated the amiable retriever from the wolf – same with humans, only it was a lizard underneath. Going to his espresso machine, he poured a coffee; he could do with a single malt in there as well. Once back at his desk, he pressed the intercom. ‘Hi Michelle, get the investigating team together; I want them in my office in thirty minutes. No excuses. All of them, if they’re out on the street, call them in. Oh, and get Jack in here.’

He sat opposite the homicide team, watching their faces; how were they going to take it? Jack sat by his side, his lips usually wreathed in a smile, now grim.

‘Okay, people, you have copies of the report from our profiler – symbolist, I should say. You already have a rough outline of the Druid rites, so let’s take Dr. Davies’s report one step at a time. But first, let’s start with bones.’ He looked over to Bessie Owens and Jim Crosby. ‘You were assigned to search the churchyards. No success, I see. Maybe you could go outside the area?’

Bessie flushed. ‘We have guv; we’ve searched the churches around here and Littlehampton, Felpham, Bognor Regis, right up to Kingsley Vale, but nothing. No sign of any grave being disturbed. We need more time, boss—’

‘The vics’ didn’t have that privilege. Remember that.’

‘Now Williams – Papworth – nothing yet on the websites. I guess you’ve covered all of them?’

Papworth wiped the grit from his eyes, the grey bags beneath showing the hours he’d spent on the computer. ‘Yes, boss, as you instructed Williams, and I got IT officers from Worthing, Littlehampton, and Bognor Regis to form teams as well as our own officers. Addresses checked, owners, visits to the sites. It’s been difficult because none of them wanted to own up even though the drug is legal. Some of the websites have gone out of business – others are mushrooming up, but so far no luck.’

‘Don’t talk about luck, Papworth – there’s got to be something.’

‘Some of them websites refuse to give out details, but I’m compiling a list of those – I’ve put in for a warrant, but the judge’s secretary says it will take a few days.’

‘Then go to his chambers – the pair of you. Don’t wait for fucking secretaries and the post. And by the way—’

The phone cut him off. Snatching it up, he said, ‘’Redd here … yes … okay I’m on it.’  He looked at the teams. ‘They’ve found another one, same place but just below the barrow mound. The FOA is securing the site now, so let’s get cracking.’ air.’

***

Taking the Downs Road, Redd drove into a car park teeming with uniforms. ‘The media are here already – bloody vultures.’

‘Yeah, they’ve caused enough trouble with the decapitations. Let’s hope we can keep this one under wraps.’ As Dove spoke, they heard the whirr of a news media helicopter overhead.

‘Damn – well, at least the site is tented.’ Redd walked ahead.

Reporters squawked around DC Matthews at the blue-taped perimeter. At last, they’d managed to get him back from Tits and his parsnip-faced side-kick. Seeing Redd and Dove raise their warrant cards, Matthews waved them through, scribbling their names down in his notepad. The mobile crime scene vans were already in the situation. A white-suited member of SOCO, his face ashen, called out to them, ‘We’ve finished up, sir, so you are free to go ahead. ‘It’s gross.’

Esther’s lovely face floated before his eyes – her body… He steeled himself, dipping into the pocket of his jeans, fingering two pills. In one movement, he picked them out, putting them under his tongue. They’d start working soon. Within minutes, they reached the crime scene, some five hundred meters away from the grove of yew trees. Feeling the pills already numbing his tongue, he put on the white paper suit, nearly stepping into a pile of vomit near the tent.

Crinkling her nose, Dove held out a small bottle of eucalyptus. ‘Better put it on boss. People are throwing up all over the place.’

Taking the bottle, Redd put some of the ointment above his top lip. He wanted to rub it right into his nostrils, but it burnt through nasal membranes. Disgusting odours got right up into the small hairs, seeping through the rhinal mucous. Death also had a taste, the taste that went from the mucous membranes, draining down into the throat. At least, it would stop the guts reacting – spewing out vomit.

‘This is within days of the first victims. Cheeky bastards, they’re really taunting us.’

‘Where’s Mahoney?’

‘Coming, the Divisional Surgeon’s declared the death, said we needed a pathologist.’

‘Okay, let’s do this.’

Opening the flap, he dipped inside. ‘So no-one’s touched anything?’

‘The constable at the tape said, the walkers called it in immediately, but left it exactly as they found it.’

Redd stifled a breath as he lifted the cover to see saw a penis bulging from the lips, at the dismembered arms and legs on the ground, bent at elbow and knee, placed around the torso. The head wearing a wreath of oak leaves remained in place held by a few trailing sinews. On the chest lay a scroll. He muttered, ‘This is one fucking monster – whoever did this is insane.’ Kneeling, he saw the same signs on the rough old parchment. ‘I’ll have to get Dr. Davies on that.’

Dove put her hands to her face. ‘This is a nightmare -leaving a body like this, stuffing that in his mouth. So that’s the err… Triskelion?’

‘Yeah, see how they’ve dismembered the arms and legs, bending them around the body. Glad to see you’ve read the report, Dove.

‘Yeah, the Wheel of Life – hell more like it. Don’t they have any feelings?’

Redd moved carefully around the body. ‘Just one male this time. No bleached bones. They didn’t do this here. Like the other victims, they carried the remains to the site.’

‘They believed in reincarnation – but what the hell is this?’

Redd shook his head, his body feeling the first wave of the tranquilizers taking effect, pushing back the panic. ‘The only person who could pick up more signs is Dr. Davies. I’ll have to get her over here.’

Dove looked up sharply. ‘Boss, you can’t subject her to this.’

Redd shrugged. ‘There’s no-one else. However, I think she might be able to take it; she knows the druids inside out. This won’t surprise her – sicken her yes – but I don’t have a choice.’

‘Could you just take photographs?’

‘She needs to see it in situ. She’ll know instantly; there might be something we’re missing.’

‘How the hell could you miss this.’

Redd went to the tent flap opening it slightly.

‘You okay, boss?’

‘Yep – getting over it.’

Chapter 24

Mrs. Betty Walker stood at the sink, gazing out at the birds on the garden table. It was six days now. Where was Jeannette? Surely, they could have left a message? They were supposed to have arrived for Sunday roast dinner; the family got together for one day. One week they went to Neil’s, another here. She rubbed the soap bubbles through her fingers, idly seeing the rainbow colours sparkling in the tiny spheres. Her daughter had never done this before, not even a text message – nothing. It felt ominous. Fred said to leave them alone, not to run after them every five minutes. She didn’t. Bloody men – it will sort itself – leave it. Jeanette disappeared six days ago – six bloody days.

Tracy Bennett said it was unusual. She was worried as well. Gritting her teeth, she grabbed the dishcloth, wiping her hands. No, she wasn’t going to wait another minute, what with that stuff on the news, those youngsters; the girl had her head cut off – oh God, she raised the tea cloth to her face. She had to do it – right now.

Walking from the small kitchen to the lounge, she picked up the phone, tapping in the station’s number. She wrote it down three days ago but thought she was panicking with the news on TV, the posters, placards, crowds around the Station. She put the phone to her ear, her heart thumping in her chest. She sighed as she was directed to a central number. For God’s sake, why couldn’t she go straight through to the Station? Walking to the window with the phone tight to her ear, she watched the wood pigeons now on the table confronting each other. Bullyboy, the big one, was always fighting off the others, wanted it all to himself. She heard a voice speaking, at last. ‘Hello – I wonder if you could help me. My daughter’s gone missing….’

‘Can I take your name and address, ma’am?’

‘Err yes, Mrs. Betty Walker, 7 Altwood Gardens, Brighton. My daughter’s been missing for six days now. She wouldn’t just go off—’

‘What is your daughter’s name, please?’

‘Jeannette – Jeannette Walker, she’s twenty-one…’ She faltered, the tears now hurting her eyes. The pent-up stress overcoming her.’

‘Ma’am … you okay?’

Betty gripped the phone. ‘No – I’m not – I’m so worried. She wouldn’t do this. She always lets me know where she is; we’re very close.’

‘Did she say where she was going?’

‘No, last I heard, they were doing up the flat, and then they were coming over to us on Sunday.’

‘They? Was she with someone, ma’am?’

‘Yes, her fiancé Neil – Neil Bennett. They live together.’

‘Can I have the address, please?’

‘9, Flat five, Birkett Close.’

‘Mrs. Walker, I will just refer this to my superior, and we’ll be in touch.’

Jeannette bit her lip, realizing she was still clinging to the dishcloth. ‘How long will that be? I mean, she’s been gone six days now. They haven’t turned up for work either; they’re lab research assistants at the hospital. They just wouldn’t walk out.’

‘Don’t worry, Mrs. Walker, we’ll be in touch very soon – I promise.’

‘How soon is soon?’

‘Within the hour. Just give me your phone number, please. ‘

Betty’s voice trembled. ‘02413 987462.’

‘Thank you, ma’am.’

‘Thank you. I’ll be here.’

Putting down the phone, Betty bit into the tea cloth. Dear God, was this really happening?

Taking a breath, she picked the phone up again. Tapping in more numbers, she waited, ‘Hello Tracy? … Hi. I’ve phoned the police. I couldn’t wait any longer … I gave Neil’s name as well. Oh, Tracy, I’m so worried … What … you’re coming over? … Okay…. I’ll put the kettle on.’

Going to the kitchen, she hung the tea cloth on the hook. She looked out the window to see the wood pigeons quarreling with a squirrel. The bully birds always ended up getting the seed. She’d have to put some more out for them later. She shook her head; she was thinking about birds, and her daughter could be dead.

There – she’d thought it. She felt her chest tighten; the tears streamed down her face. Going to the kitchen chair, she sat, her elbows resting on the table, her head in her hands.

It could only have been minutes before Tracy arrived, mascara smudged, mouse-brown hair dragged back into a grip comb. Holding out her arms, she clung to Betty. ‘What are we going to do? I just hope they’re alright. Have you heard anything yet?’

‘No, but she said they’d ring back very soon.’ As she went to fill the kettle, the phone rang. Tracy leapt up, taking the kettle from her. ‘It’s them – must be.’

~

A young male constable, his ginger hair slicked down with gel, ushered them into an office, bare except for a table and four chairs. Tracy and Betty sat clutching handbags, their lips tight with tension. Tracy whispered, ‘You do the talking – I’m not good at that.’

Betty nodded, wishing Fred were with her. She turned, as the door opened again to admit a thin woman in a tight-fitting white shirt and navy blue skirt wearing lace-up shoes and sensible heels. ‘Hello, Mrs. Walker?’

Betty raised her hand. ‘I’m Mrs. Walker. I rang the Station earlier.’

‘Hello, I’m Detective Constable Amanda Green. I understand you reported your daughter missing?’

‘And my son – Neil.’ Tracy interrupted.

‘Yes. Now I’d like to take a few more details. First, you did say both the missing persons were recently qualified – lab technicians. Is that correct?’

‘Yes, they work in the labs at Brighton Hospital. They—’

‘And yes, they’ve only just qualified.’ Tracy bit her lip.

Betty raised her eyebrows, so much for asking her to do the talking. Tracy must be upset, as usually, she was so quiet.

Detective Green looked at them speculatively. Betty shifted on her chair; it looked like the officer was about to lecture them.

‘So what makes you think your children have absconded?’

Betty felt herself bristle. ‘I never said that. I said my daughter and her fiancé are missing. They wouldn’t just leave without telling us – would they, Tracy?’

 Tracy said, ‘No, that’s right. We’re all very close. They have just graduated.

Detective Green tapped her pen on the desk. Her voice cold, she said, ‘I can’t understand why you’ve left it until now? You should have reported this much earlier. You’d better fill out these forms. I’ll be back for a written statement.’

Tracy looked up sharply. ‘There’s no need to be nasty, you know. We’re just reporting our kids are missing.’

Betty nodded. ‘Took a lot for us to come here.’

Green arched her eyebrows and rose to her feet, ‘Six days – far too late. I will leave you to it.’

As she closed the door, Tracy nudged Betty. ‘Bitch.’

Chapter 25

Despite the gruesome find, Redd’s stomach tightened as he saw Tess climb from the police car and walk towards him. Her body swayed with an inner rhythm. He frowned; he hadn’t felt like this in a long time. Not since… He shut out the thoughts. This couldn’t go anywhere. ‘Look, I’m sorry to involve you in this, but quite honestly, we need an expert. The buggers have left another body. Be prepared, it’s dismembered, and they’ve stuffed his penis into his mouth.’

‘Oh … shit.’

Redd frowned. ‘You okay with this?’

‘I have to be. I studied the Druids for years, so I shall just have to steel myself.’

Redd narrowed his eyes. ‘I’ll warn you, it’s a nightmare and some.’

Biting her lip, she said, ‘It’s okay studying Druidism, but this is the real thing.’ As they walked to the site, Redd tried to take the edge off her fear. ‘That was some report you gave in, you know. I had copies made for each of the teams and the higher-ups.

She managed a quick grin. ‘Really?’

Deputy Chief Constable Bill Maddeley likes to keep up to date. We’re darn sure it will give us some leads. You said the unsub may have studied Roman mythology.’

‘Yes. Most of the information on Druidism is from the writings of Caius Julius Caesar and Tacitus. I guess the leader or a couple of these perps would have had classical education – public school more likely.’

‘Something to go on. Then, there’s the chemistry side to it. The cocktail of drugs is intricate. Forensics assures me it would take an expert to know the right ingredients and the right mix. Your report has given me a lot to think about – thank you.’

‘Glad to be of help.’

Reaching the tent, he said, ‘Just pop this regulation bunny suit on. Handing Tess a small jar of eucalyptus, he warned her, ‘Before you go in, put a spot of Vic under your nose. It will help with the stench.’

She nodded, wrinkling her nose. ‘Wow – strong stuff.’

‘You’ll need it.’

Stooping to enter through the flap, with Redd following, her hand went over her mouth, ‘Oh my God – my God.’ She moved backward, nearly stepping on Redd’s foot. Thinking she would make a quick exit, he moved out of her way. Instead, she straightened her back, her breath coming in short gasps. ‘I can do this – I can – I must.’

Redd slipped his arm around her as she moved forward. Dove watched them, her heart sinking. So, this was the Profiler. The guy was attracted to her; that was obvious.

Tess muttered, ‘I must do it – I’ve got to help. It’s alright writing about it, but this….’

Mahoney looked up. ‘To be sure, it takes guts, Colleen. So, Redd, what would ye be thinking of this then?’ As he asked the question, he gently opened the victim’s mouth, pulling at the penis.’

‘What the fuck? Redd’s eyes widened as testicles followed the penis.

Laying the genitals on a small tray by his side, Mahoney probed further. ‘Ah now, what have we here – ah – tis mistletoe and oak leaves, no doubt?’

Dove exclaimed, ‘It’s mad – mad.’

Tess whispered As I told you, the mistletoe is the sacred berry of the Druids. They put them in the mouth to help the person in their next reincarnation as well as other things.’

Redd frowned. ‘So apart from the genitals, what do you make of the arrangement of the legs and arms? Is it the Triskelion?’

‘Oh yes, no doubt about that.’

Picking up the plastic bag Dove, showed her the note. ‘What do you make of this?’

Studying it, Tess answered, ‘An execution. I ….’ her face whitened as she glanced at the dismembered limbs. ‘I’ve got to stand back – I can’t—’

Seeing her pallor, the muscles tensing in her throat, Redd took her arm. ‘You okay?’

Tess, almost leaning into the wall of the tent, took some deep breaths, trying to quell nausea rising in her throat.

Redd put his arm around her shoulders. ‘Do you want to leave?’

‘No – no. I’ve got this far.’ She leaned forward, taking another deep breath, ‘Phew.’

‘You feel okay now?’

‘They’ve got to find another oracle. It reads, “No one defiles the Oracle.”’

Looking up at Redd, she said, ‘The victim got off lightly.’

‘Lightly?’

‘Yes, it should have been the Blood Eagle.’

Redd grimaced. ‘You mean where they pull the lungs out from the back?’

Mahoney almost shouted, ‘What the fuck are you saying, man? Pulling out the lungs? Jesus Mary and Joseph, to be sure we’re in hell – dealing with the devil himself no less.’

Redd grimaced, ‘Devils more like.’

‘In an execution, the criminal was made to look like the angel of death.’

Mahoney muttered, ‘Then we should be praying for the angels of heaven to guide us.’

Tess whispered, ‘They didn’t eviscerate the body either, that means they didn’t think he was pure enough to predict anything. . He was sent directly to the lowliest form of life.’

Dove looked up sharply. ‘You don’t believe all this do you?’

Shaking her head, Tess said, ‘ No, but this man may have.’

Dove snorted, ‘Surely not, he lived in this day and age, not thousands of years ago.’

Redd frowned, ‘He must have believed some of it, to be part of it.’

Mahoney exclaimed, ‘Will ye listen to yerselves – blasphemy.’

Tess nodded. ‘The group is quarreling. There’s conflict.’

Dove said. ‘Maybe he disagreed with what they did to the other two.’

Redd shook his head. ‘Hardly, the note said he defiled the Oracle.’

Tess murmured, ‘The Oracle is usually female. He interfered with her.’

Redd looked over to Mahoney. ‘The first message makes sense now. You said Delle Woodhouse had traces of semen. Mahoney scratched his bristly chest. ‘Aye, but then the donor was a non-secretor – no DNA.’

Dove frowned. ‘Non-secretor?’

‘Yes, with a secretor, you can get the DNA through all bodily fluids, semen, urine, sweat, milk, fluids, and blood, but with the non-secretor, there’s usually none of his blood type in the fluids.’

Dove nodded. ‘So he fucked her – hence the balls in his mouth.’

Tess said, ‘If they’re following the pagan festivals, this is just the start.’

Redd’s jaw tightened. ‘They’re going to need another oracle.’ He turned to Dove. ‘Jeannette Walker?’

Mahoney mumbled, ‘God protect us.’


Copyright.

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 20, 21, 22

Death Marks: Chapters 20, 21, 22

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 20

Betty frowned as she looked over to the door. ‘I’m phoning Fred. I wouldn’t say I like her attitude. My girl is missing, and she’s treating me with such disrespect.’ Flipping open her mobile, she tapped in the numbers. ‘Hello, Fred? Betty here … I am at the Police Station. Our Jeannette is missing, and I am doing something about it. Get yourself down here now; they are bloody rude. I don’t care; our girl is far more important than your bloody job. Get down here now.’

Firmly, she put the phone back in her pocket. ‘I’ll show her – she can’t get away treating us like that.’

Tracy crossed her arms over a voluptuous chest. ‘Good for you. She was an arrogant bitch. D’you hear the way she spoke to us like we were dirt – dirt.’

Within fifteen minutes, Fred arrived, the same young constable showing him in. ‘Here’s your good lady, Sir; someone should be with you shortly.’

Fred nodded. ‘Thanks, mate.’ Striding across to Betty, he said, ‘What’s up, girl?’

‘The policewoman was really off with us, Fred. I mean, this is our girl we’re talking about – she’s missing, and I—’

‘Don’t you worry now, Bette? I’ll sort it.’ He hugged her slim shoulders as he saw the tears well up.

At that moment, he looked up to see a tall man with dark hair enter, his eyes a piercing blue. ‘Can I help you, Sir?’

‘You ruddy well can. Who’s the bit of skirt who’s been attacking my lady then? Treating her like a piece of shit? I’ll have your fucking jobs for this.’

‘Hang on, Sir, hang on. I’m sorry if your wife is upset. Can you tell me what happened?’

‘Yeah, your police woman’s got a right nasty attitude. My wife came to report our kids missing,’

‘And they are?’

‘Neil Bennett and Jeannette Walker. They work at the hospital labs.’

Redd tensed; he guessed it was Green. So, she’d been rude again. ‘Please, sir, let me get you all a cup of tea, and we can sit down and discuss this reasonably.’

‘Reasonably? It was your bit of skirt as was shitty.’

‘I do apologize. Believe me, Mr. Walker, it won’t happen again.’

He looked at Betty and Tracy, ‘Mrs. Walker – Mrs. Bennett, let me assure you we will do everything we can to locate Jeannette and Neil.’

Mollified, Fred sat down on the proffered chair. ‘That’s more like it; that’s what I want to hear.’

Redd went to the door. ‘I won’t be a moment. I’ll just see about the tea – biscuits?’

Fred nodded. ‘That’ll do nicely, guvnor.’

Beaming, he patted Bette’s shoulder, ‘You’ll be alright darlin’ – we’ll get them back, or my name’s not Fred Walker.’

Fuming, Redd walked to the bullpen, calling out to Amanda. Beckoning with his finger, he walked into his office. Once inside, he shut the door and made his way to his seat. As he did not offer a chair, she remained standing.

‘Have you just interviewed some people – missing persons?’

Her face paled as she nodded. ‘Yes, Sir.’

‘It appears you were very rude to them. Can you explain?’

Green blustered, ‘I was doing my job, Sir. They left it six days before reporting them missing. I didn’t mean to be rude.’

‘Well, you were, so much, so the woman phoned for her husband. Were you aware of that?’

‘No, Sir, but I was only asking them to fill out forms. I was just about to go back to check them over.’

‘I heard differently. Now Green, don’t deny it; this is not the first time someone has complained about your attitude. For all we know, you may soon be handing the woman her daughter’s head. Have you realized that? They’ve been missing six days, and they’re a couple, just like the first vics’. These sound like good kids, loyal – close families. So, why the fuck did you see fit to treat them like a piece of shit?’

‘Sir, I was doing my job. I just told them—’

‘It’s the way you told them, Green. Now make them some tea; you can apologize personally.’

Green’s chest sunk, her eyes wide. ‘Yes, Sir.’

As she turned to go, Redd said, ‘And, another thing, you can thank your lucky stars the husband did not file a complaint. One more complaint, and you’ll be directing traffic again. Clear?’

‘Yes, Sir.’

Redd got up and followed her out. ‘I shall be conducting the rest of the interview. We’ve got to put these poor people’s minds at rest; we have some vicious killers out there.’

Trying not to show her tears, Green walked stiffly to the kitchen. But, they were not tears of remorse; she was angry. Bloody sod, who did he think he was talking to her like that? She was a bloody good detective, far superior to most of the nitwits there. She’d show him. Yet she’d have to appear contrite when serving tea; he was a sod though, those women were as common as muck.

Returning to the interview room, he smiled at the parents, recognizing the fear in their eyes. ‘Now I’d like to take some more details if I may. I know you’ve filled out the forms, but there are some questions I would like to put to you. Firstly, Mrs. Walker, I am so sorry to have to ask you this, but is there a reason why you waited six days.’

Betty reddened, looking at Fred. ‘My husband said as we weren’t to bother you – it was early days, and I fussed too much. I’ve been ringing the flat, though.’

Fred blustered, ‘They’ve got their own lives to lead; I mean Bette’s forever interfering, asking them what they’ve been doing, where they’re going. They ain’t kids no more.’

‘I see. Look, we’ll do our very best to find your daughter and your son, Mrs. Bennett.’ Keeping her gaze, he said, ‘Does your son give you due warning before going off?’

‘Yes, as I told the lady, we’re close; he wouldn’t just go off, you know.’

‘Have you contacted any of their friends?’

‘Nah, they wouldn’t like that. I mean, their friends would think we were nosey. Nah, Neil wouldn’t have liked me contacting his friends.’

‘Has the hospital contacted you?’

‘Nah, the kids have got their flat. Their boss most probably thought they were ill or something.’

As they spoke, Green entered carrying a tray. Putting it down on the table, she stood straight, her voice firm. ‘Mrs. Walker, Mrs. Bennett, I would like to apologize if I have offended you in any way. It was not my intention to upset you.’

Betty looked into her eyes; saw the distance, the anger. She realized the Inspector had pulled her over the coals. In an icy voice, she said, ‘That’s alright; apology accepted.’

Tracy catching Bette’s tone remained quiet, whilst Fred sat and fumed. Bloody woman, upsetting Bette like that. But, he said nothing; the situation was serious; he realized that maybe, just maybe, their girl was in trouble.

Redd continued talking as Green dutifully poured the tea, adding the required milk and sugar. ‘Have you been to the flat?’

All three shook their heads. Bette grimaced, ‘As I said, I’ve been ringing. We have a key, but we thought they were leaving it until they saw us on Sunday, but when they didn’t turn up, I knew something was up.’

‘I wonder if you would mind giving us the key, Mrs. Walker, we’ll look over the flat.’

Betty lifted her head, ‘I’d better ring first, see if they’re there, you never know.’

Green left the room, her eyes lowered.

Betty clasped the phone tight to her ear, her lips trembling. After a few rings, she put it down. ‘They’re not there … not there – oh dear God.’ Seeing her tears, Tracy put her arms around her and wept.

Fred sat next to them; his eyes haunted.

Chapter 21

Giving the bereft parents some time to recover, Redd pressed the intercom button. ‘Michelle – get me DS Price.’

Tapping his fingers, he watched Betty pulling at her handkerchief while Tracy covered her face with her hands, her shoulders heaving. Hearing the phone bleep, he put it to his ear. ‘Price? Redd here, bring in the artist’s sketch of the couple seen with the first victims, Delle Woodhouse and David Baker.’ He nodded his head at Fred, ‘Our Office Manager is bringing over a sketch we have of a couple seen with the first victims. They were at a nightclub ‘Saturdays.’ It’s not all that good, but it might just help.’

Within minutes, there was a light tap at the door, as a short man, in his fifties with neatly pressed trousers and a checked shirt opened at the neck entered. ‘Here we are, Sir.’ He smiled at the group; his eyes filled with compassion. Remaining standing, legs astride, he clasped his hands together behind his back.

Redd pushed the sketch over to Bette. ‘Have a look; see if they remind you of anybody.’

Bette wiping her eyes leant over, lips pursed, ‘Nah, don’t know them. Have a look, Fred.’ He, in turn, shook his head.

Tracy raised her head from her arms and peered over. ‘No – never seen them before.’

~

The block of flats was mere minutes from the hospital. Labeled post boxes, gave the numbers of the flats and names of the occupants. The glass-paneled front door was freshly painted a gloss red embellished with a brass lion door knocker and wrought-iron shoe scraper to one side. The entrance hall was really a passageway crammed with bicycles propped to one side. Facing Redd in the minuscule lift, their bodies almost touching, Dove became acutely aware of the breadth of his chest, the faint fragrance of his cologne. She caught her breath, God; he was a hunk, right down from the electric blue eyes, to the light stubble on his chin, the scar making him appear slightly threatening – she liked that.

The lift bell pinged, the doors opening to a tiny passageway with two doors on one side and one on the other. Flat five was the furthest down, near to the end window with security bars painted white. Using the keys Betty gave him, Redd unlocked the door and entered a minute entrance hall, four feet by five feet, with a mirror on one wall. Under it, flowers wilted in a crystal vase on a narrow shelf. On the right-hand wall was a carved coat rack from which hung a jacket and a couple of anoraks, at floor level, shoes and trainers, lay neatly stacked on a shoe rail. Dove immediately checked the pockets of the anoraks only to find loose change and tissues. Redd pushed the pine door open and entered the small lounge. He glanced over to a modest-sized TV screen.  A miniature music system perched on a shelf to the side.

A thin layer of dust covered a low-lying sideboard bedecked with numerous family photographs in modern frames. Dove recognized a smiling Bette – younger and slimmer with her arms around Fred, before he lost his hair, his face beaming, as he hugged a small dark-haired girl to his chest. Dove gulped; they looked so happy and carefree. She recognized Tracy in a recent photograph, her arms linked with a man with greying hair and sparkling eyes; Neil stood behind them with his arms around them both. Other pictures showed the young couple in photographs with their friends laughing, posing in groups. Above them on the wall were photos of both Jeannette and Neil in their mortarboards and gowns embellished with pale blue hoods, proudly holding their rolled degree certificates.

Redd murmured, ‘Keep the artist’s sketch in mind, take a close look at those photographs.’ As Dove searched the photographs, he opened a drawer to see the contents neatly arranged. The cupboards underneath were filled with china.

He turned to see the leatherette three-piece suite, old but lovingly cared for. He felt his throat tighten; these were youngsters just starting out, proud of their home. He turned to Dove, searching through paperbacks, a tablet, a kindle, and DVDs stacked on wall shelves. ‘These were low-risk Dove – I mean; they’re graduates, in full employment, no criminal records, so far I haven’t found any drugs, not even a whiff of cannabis. Why in God’s name would the bastards pick on these two? What was it that attracted them?’

‘There’s got to be a reason – but we don’t really have any evidence to suggest the Druid group took them.’ She stopped as she noticed an envelope lying on the window end of the bookshelf. Frowning, she opened it to read the note inside. She hurried to Redd, ‘Look Guv – read this.’

‘Hmm, internal hospital mail. Bugger, it’s unsigned. Says he’s won a prize – two tickets to ‘Two Blues.’ Last Saturday night – well – another nightclub. Think we might have something to go on – however flimsy. Now, why would he win two tickets? Who sent them?

Dove carried on walking towards the small kitchen. ‘Everything neat and tidy here. They washed up before they went, dishes put away. Jeannette’s a tidy person. You know guv, with such an orderly mind; she’s not going to break habits. One of them being, she would not let her parents down over the Sunday roast, especially knowing they would prepare one for them. Let’s see what the bedroom has to offer.’

She followed Redd down the narrow corridor to the main bedroom. ‘Huh, the bed’s made, no clothes left lying around.’

Redd called from the bathroom, ‘There’re some clothes in the wash basket and two white overalls – one each. It must be what they wear in the lab. See if more uniforms are hanging up in there.’

Dove moved to the wardrobe, opening the doors to find clothes again neatly hung away; four white uniforms hung there, fresh and clean. ‘Four more here, Sir, male and female.’

Redd joined her, ‘So they had five each. One for each day of the week.’

‘Lab work can be messy, or maybe they have to wear a clean uniform every day.’

Redd muttered, ‘These other two uniforms should be in the wash. It still looks like they didn’t return Saturday night, or they didn’t go to work on Monday. We have to check with the hospital.’

‘I’ve got a bad feeling about this, Sir.’

Redd nodded. ‘They could have been abducted at the nightclub.’

‘Six days ago. How long do the perps intend to keep them?’

Reaching for his cell phone, Redd answered, ‘That’s if they’ve been abducted. It’s all guesswork, but it’s not looking good.’

Dove walked through the door. ‘Better go check the small bedroom.’

This turned out to be more of a storeroom. Boxes still unpacked lay on the floor and on a single divan bed unmade up. A small built-in wardrobe held more clothes, mainly for winter, whilst the bottom of the wardrobe contained two spare duvets and covers. As she walked past the mattress, Dove noticed a rolled-up photo. She pulled it out and realized it was a photo of a group of end-of-year degree graduates. She felt sadness, young lives facing a bright future. Where were they now?

Chapter 22

‘It’s always the same with hospitals, the car park’s full.’

Dove saw a couple walking toward the middle of the next row of cars. ‘Those people, they’re going for their car – the grey Ford. Quick, that car over there is trying to get it first.’

‘Then I’ll just flash the warrant card.’

The walk to the research laboratories took them through grass-edged footpaths, past A & E, the Maternity block, and X-ray. The block consisted of low-lying buildings.

The reception looked newly decorated with a black marble-topped desk, staffed by a young woman, brown hair in a smart bob.

‘Can I help you?’

Redd showed his ID. ‘Yes. We have an appointment with Mr. Rees Trewitt, Office Manager.’

‘Ah yes, he is expecting you. If you go through those two main doors over there, follow the yellow arrows straight down the corridor, then turn left; his name is on the first door.’

Following her instructions, their footsteps echoed over a highly polished floor. A faint smell of antiseptic and other chemicals purveyed the air.

They saw Mr. Trewitt waiting for them, an affable smile on his apple-cheeked face. ‘Ah, you found me then. Nice day isn’t it? Goodness knows we’ve had enough rain.’ He pointed to the chairs already placed in front of his desk. ‘Do take a seat. Now, how may I help you?’

Redd crossed his legs, noticing a picture of Trewitt shaking hands with the Mayor at what must be the celebratory opening of the unit.

‘Detective Chief Inspector Redd and Detective Sergeant Dove. We are actually here to inquire about the whereabouts of two of your workers.’

Trewitt pulled the lapels of his tweed jacket, adjusting the collar of a fine checked shirt. ‘Oh, I hope everything’s alright.’

‘We hope so, Sir, a Miss. Jeannette Walker and Mr. Neil Bennett appear to be missing. Their families are unaware of their whereabouts. Are they at work?’

‘No – that’s strange … I had a note from Mr. Bennett saying they’d received an urgent message from a close relative. It would entail a week’s absence – perhaps more. He apologized for the inconvenience and said he would let us know when they were returning to work.’

‘Did he give any idea of where they were going?’

Tapping at his intercom, he said, ‘No. I will get my secretary to bring in his note. Ah … Sandy, could you bring in Neil’s letter please.’

Within two minutes, the door opened to admit an elderly woman of sturdy build. Her iron-grey hair was cut to almost a crew cut, wearing a spotless white blouse and brown linen skirt. Trewitt turned to her. ‘Thank you, Sandy. Err … have you heard from Neil or Jeannette?’

Her blue eyes sharp, she smiled. ‘No, Sir – are they alright?’

‘I hope so – I hope so.’

Frowning Trewitt said, ‘I must say I was surprised. Neil didn’t explain, and he’s such a talkative young man, you know. Isn’t he Sandy?’

‘Talk the hind leg off a donkey he would. Jeannette’s just as bad. Lovely couple.’

‘So could you tell me a little about them – work and so on?’

‘Exemplary, very responsible youngsters, considering their age. I was pleased to offer them permanent positions on their graduation. They both hold upper second-class honours, and Jeannette excelled in her research project. At the same time, Neil is keen on going into genetics. So, they are an asset to the teams here, aren’t they Sandy?’

Redd said, ‘How does Neil receive his mail? I found a note in his flat – hospital internal mail – informing him he’d received a prize, two tickets to ‘Two Blues’ Night Club. However, it is unsigned. How do you receive post here?’

‘Well, we all have a small cubby hole in the main entrance here. One of the young post lads collects them and delivers them to the staff morning and evening. We do get a lot of mail, don’t we, Sandy?’

The lady drew up a chair. ‘Excuse me; it’s my back; I can’t stand for long.

Trewitt said. ‘It’s osteoarthritis, nothing they can do.’

Sandy said, ‘I’ve got it in my hand as well.’

Redd murmured. ‘I see; I’m sorry.’

Dove spoke up, ‘My mother has arthritis in her thumb and wrist; I know how painful it can be.’

Sandy nodded. ‘It’s so painful. I had to cut my hair off – can’t manage it anymore. But there is a new operation, you know.’

Dove said, ‘Yes, they take the bone out from the thumb to the wrist and put in a plastic stent, then they put the hand in plaster. The flesh grows over, forming something like a memory foam cushion, works very well, as you get full use back of the hand and thumb.’

Sandy became quite animated. ‘I’m going to ask to have it done, although I am terrified of the anesthetic. Those steroid injections do not last with me; the arthritis is much too advanced.’

Redd’s eyes widened; it was like a tea party; next, they’d bring in the tea and cakes. He partly rose from his chair. ‘Mr. Trewitt, thank you for your time. We must be getting along now.’

Trewitt rose to his feet. ‘No – no; you can’t leave without a cup of tea, and we do have some nice cakes, a little treat, you know, in the afternoon.’

To Redd’s horror, Dove grinned. ‘That would be very nice, thank you.’

He had to give in and watched numbly as a girl dressed in a pink striped uniform served tea, a huge smile on her freckled face.

As Dove bit into a jam donut, Mr. Jenkins leant forward, putting his cup carefully on the saucer. ‘So I hope you don’t mind me saying, Jeannette and Neil’s parents must be so worried.’

Redd swallowed a piece of coconut cup cake. ‘They have made inquiries, but I am sure we can clear it up.’

Jenkins nodded, his kind eyes now concerned. ‘Have you had any news on that killing of those two youngsters? Terrible, wasn’t it?’

‘Our officers are working day and night, Sir.’

‘Must have been shocking for the parents, now come to think of it, they worked in a lab, didn’t they? Chichester – not far from here. ? We’re quite a close-knit community here in the labs. I try to create a friendly atmosphere. We have trips out, you know, theatre, the beach. We have a coach organized for Saturday coming – Mystery Tour. Neil and Jeannette booked up for that.’

Dove smiled, picking up the last bit of her iced cake. ‘Sounds really nice; wish we had some of that.’

Trewitt nodded, then almost whispered, ‘Do you think they might be going after people who work in the labs?’

Dove said. ‘You have a point there – it crossed our minds.’

Redd turned to glare at her; why on earth did she say that? It was apparent Trewitt was itching for some gossip.’

Jenkins frowned. ‘Oh dear me. Hadn’t you better warn people? ‘

Redd shook his head. ‘At this point, it is only conjecture. I’d appreciate it if you would both keep this to yourselves – don’t want to cause a panic.’

‘But people should be warned?’

‘They will be when we are sure.’

As they walked to the car, Dove murmured, ‘Boss, I didn’t mean to – just slipped out.’

‘Just watch it next time. Trewitt got that in very neatly – knows how to manipulate the conversation. Let’s hope he keeps his mouth shut.’


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 18 & 19

Death Marks: Chapters 18 & 19

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 a chapter every Monday and Thursday.

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 18

Jeanette opened her eyes to streaming shadows of grey. Lifting her arm, rainbow hues swirled around her. Where was Neil? She whimpered, realizing she was in a cellar. She looked down to see she wore a nightgown, a film of pink chiffon. Around her wrist, a garland of oak leaves interlaced with mistletoe. A name floated up in her mind, Julia – Alfhildr.

Swallowing, her throat was dry, lips scaled; turning on her side, she saw a glass, picking it up, it was cold, the water clear. She tasted fresh lemons, quenching her thirst. Sighing, she lay back on her pillow. What was happening? Her senses fully returned; she had been drifting in and out of drugs. She raised herself on her elbows to see Neil on his back, his lips parted. ‘Neil.’ Her voice was a whisper, ‘Neil – wake up – wake up.’

His eyelids lifted; his eyes bloodshot, the blue faded. ‘Jeanette – love – what’s happening? How long have we been here now?’

‘Don’t know – days.’

‘They keep making us chant those bloody mantras or something – then drugs – why – in God’s name why? What do they want from us?’

Rising, he padded over to her, and kneeling, took her in his arms. Her head drifted to his chest, the last of the drugs leaving her, as she murmured, ‘How long are they going to keep us? I mean, why are we here? I thought they were going to kill us – but we’re still here.’

‘Don’t know love – don’t know. Don’t worry; I won’t let them hurt you.’

She touched his cheek, bringing his lips to hers; the kiss tender, comforting. She tried to feel the strength in his weakening body; how could he protect her? He was helpless – so many of them.

‘Why are they naked? I mean, they dress us in robes, but they’re always naked – strange tattoos.’

‘Alfhildr said they were going to tattoo us.’

Jeannette shivered. ‘Oh God, why? I hate them. I’d want to tear them off my skin.’

‘Just go along with it – do whatever they say. We’ve got to find a way out of here – got to.’

‘They haven’t hurt us yet. I mean – the men – they’re always naked, and – you know – hard-ons. But, they don’t touch me, except to lead me to some kind of huge cave. I just can’t remember; it’s all drifting in and out.’

‘I thought the first time they took us in there; they were queuing up to … rape you. I think I remember Kevin said; they were getting us ready for the second-stage – the tattoos.’

‘Yeah, where no-one can see them. The men can cover themselves up with shirts and trousers; the women’s breasts are tattooed though.’

‘I can’t stand the thought of it.’

Jeannette whispered, ‘If that’s the second stage, what’s the third?’

They heard the door open. Alfhildr came through, unsmiling, her eyes strained. As usual, she was naked, her crotch shaven, the tattoos decorating the pale skin, Titian hair falling free to her waist. So different from the girl they met at “Two Blues.” Neil stood, towering over her petite frame, as she neared the bed. ‘Hey – you’re awake. How do you feel?’

Jeanette cringed away from her. ‘Why are you keeping us here – who are all those people? What d’you want from us?’

In answer, Alfhildr knelt, taking her hand. ‘You attack the earth body of the Mother with your experiments.’

‘Experiments?’

‘Yes, you’re both lab technicians – the druids say you scientists are ruining the earth. So, you are the “Chosen Ones.” They think your bodies will repay the Earth Mother. Your sacrifice will also give wisdom.’

Neil rose from the mattress, spluttering, ‘What d’you mean, “Chosen Ones?” For fuck’s sake, Julia – talk sense.’

The girl drew herself up. ‘I’m trying to help you -I just can’t stand by and watch it happen. But Neil, I’m terrified. I am as much a prisoner as you. You have no idea who you are dealing with.’

‘You’ve got to help us – for God’s sake.’

‘You must try and play along with them. The reason you’re still alive is because you talked of Gods, of speaking with angels.’

Neil stopped himself from punching the stone wall, ‘That’s the bloody drugs talking.’

Julia nodded. ‘They’re fucking deranged – Jeannette – I’m sorry – so sorry.’

Clenching his fists in anger, Neil shouted, ‘You knew what they were going to do, but you still brought us here. Why in hell’s name, why?’

Julia winced. ‘I had to. Neil – don’t let them hear you.’

‘Why? Why not?’

‘They’re almost insane on drugs.’

‘Aw, come on – this is all fucking crazy.’

‘I mean it; they believe sacrifice is the way to repay Mother Earth, our Lady. But you will also be their Oracle.’

‘Oracle?’

‘Yes, they believe a female head will give them the wisdom of the Gods.’

Neil fell silent, looking steadily at Julia. Taking a long slow breath, he said quietly, ‘You can’t let that happen.’

Julia paced the stone floor. ‘I’m trying – but it’s difficult.’ Rubbing her forehead, she said, ‘If they catch me, God knows what they would do.’

Jeannette rose from the bed to stand beside him. ‘Surely they wouldn’t kill you?’

Julia said. ‘Yes, they would, the leader; the Chief Druid is a monster, and he is my father. As I said, often he’s off his head, so are the others. Even now, they’re preparing for the ritual.’

Neil frowned, ‘What ritual?’

‘I can’t tell you, it’s – it’s too—’

Jeannette grabbed her hand. ‘You’ve got to; we need to know. Tell us.’

Julia’s eyes brimmed with tears. ‘I can’t; no-one should hear it – no-one.’ How could she tell the poor girl she would be strapped to the altar? The group would chant, getting high on drugs. Then, Julia’s father would fuck Jeannette, and so would the group. Then it would be an orgy, one on one or three on one. After that, Jeannette and Neil would suffer the crosscut, their organs taken out, read and marked, and then replaced. The leader would drink their blood from Jeannette’s empty skull whilst the group chewed on her brains. Tears streamed down Julia’s pale cheeks. My father is a fiend, and he killed my mother.’

A male voice spoke from the door, ‘He—’

‘No – don’t. You can’t tell them anything – anything.’ Julia stood, fists clenched.

Neil spun around to see Kevin standing there naked, his handsome face grim, arms akimbo, legs astride. ‘Julia is right; he is a monster. But, she can’t help you – I won’t let her. He killed her mother, and he’ll kill her without blinking an eye. We can’t save you, Neil. You should strangle Jeanette now.’

Neil growled, ‘Fucking crazy – shit.’

Kevin looked at them, his jaw muscle working into a tight white knot. ‘It’s the drugs – the fucking drugs.’ Shaking his head, he pulled Julia behind him. ‘Can’t help you mate – they’ll kill us. What Julia didn’t tell you was, they’ll rip our fucking guts out.’

Chapter 19

Mrs. Betty Walker stood at the sink, gazing out at the birds on the garden table. It was six days now. Where was Jeannette? She wasn’t going to wait another minute, what with that stuff on the news, those youngsters; the girl had her head cut off – oh God, she raised the tea cloth to her face. She had to do it – right now.

Walking from the small kitchen to the lounge, she picked up the phone, tapping in the station’s number. She heard a voice speaking, at last. ‘Hello – I wonder if you could help me. My daughter’s gone missing….’

‘Can I take your name and address, ma’am?’

‘Err yes, Mrs. Betty Walker, 7 Altwood Gardens, Brighton. My daughter’s been missing for six days now. She wouldn’t just go off—’

‘What is your daughter’s name, please?’

‘Jeannette – Jeannette Walker, she’s twenty-one…’ She faltered, the tears now hurting her eyes. The pent-up stress is overcoming her.’

‘Ma’am … you okay?’

Betty gripped the phone. ‘No – I’m not – I’m so worried. She wouldn’t do this. She always lets me know where she is; we’re very close.’

‘Did she say where she was going?’

‘No, last I heard, they were doing up the flat, and then they were coming over to us on Sunday.’

‘They? Was she with someone, ma’am?’

‘Yes, her fiancé Neil – Neil Bennett. They live together.’

‘Can I have the address, please?’

‘9, Flat five, Birkett Close.’

‘Mrs. Walker, I will just refer this to my superior, and we’ll be in touch.’

Jeannette bit her lip, realizing she was still clinging to the dishcloth. ‘How long will that be? I mean, she’s been gone six days now. They haven’t turned up for work either; they’re lab research assistants at the hospital. They just wouldn’t walk out.’

‘Don’t worry, Mrs. Walker, we’ll be in touch very soon – I promise.’

‘How soon is soon?’

‘Within the hour. Just give me your phone number, please. ‘

Betty’s voice trembled. ‘02413 987462.’

‘Thank you, ma’am.’

‘Thank you. I’ll be here.’

Putting down the phone, Betty bit into the tea cloth. Dear God, was this really happening?

Taking a breath, she picked the phone up again. Tapping in more numbers, she waited, ‘Hello Tracy? Hi. I’ve phoned the police. I couldn’t wait any longer, I gave Neil’s name as well. Oh, Tracy, I’m so worried. Will you come with me?

***

A young male constable, his ginger hair slicked down with gel, ushered them into an office, bare except for a table and four chairs. Tracy and Betty sat clutching handbags, their lips tight with tension. Tracy whispered, ‘You do the talking – I’m not good at that.’

Betty nodded, wishing Fred were with her. She turned, as the door opened again to admit a thin woman in a tight-fitting white shirt and navy blue skirt, wearing lace-up shoes and sensible heels. ‘Hello, Mrs. Walker?’

Betty raised her hand. ‘I’m Mrs. Walker. I rang the Station earlier.’

‘Hello, I’m Detective Constable Amanda Green. I understand you reported your daughter missing?’

‘And my son – Neil.’ Tracy interrupted.

‘Yes. Now I’d like to take a few more details. First, you did say both the missing persons were recently qualified – lab technicians. Is that correct?’

‘Yes, they work in the labs at Brighton Hospital. They—’

‘And yes, they’ve only just qualified.’ Tracy bit her lip.

Betty raised her eyebrows, so much for asking her to do the talking. Tracy must be upset, as usually, she was so quiet.

Detective Green looked at them speculatively. Betty shifted on her chair; it looked like the officer was about to lecture them.

‘So what makes you think your children have absconded?’

Betty felt herself bristle. ‘I never said that. I said my daughter and her fiancé are missing. They wouldn’t just leave without telling us – would they, Tracy?’

Tracy said, ‘We’re all very close. Anyway, they both love their jobs. They have just graduated. Both got their degrees, didn’t they, Betty?’

Detective Green tapped her pen on the desk. Her voice cold, she said, ‘I can’t understand why you’ve left it until now? You should have reported this much earlier. You’d better fill out these forms. I’ll be back for a written statement.’

Tracy looked up sharply. ‘There’s no need to be nasty, you know. We’re just reporting our kids are missing.’

Betty nodded. ‘Took a lot for us to come here.’

Green arched her eyebrows and rose to her feet, ‘Six days – far too late. I will leave you to it.’

As she closed the door, Tracy nudged Betty. ‘Bitch.’


Copyright.

No part of this book may be stored, reproduced, or transmitted in any form or by any means without the express permission of the author.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and events are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.  Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

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 16 & 17

Death Marks: Chapters 16 & 17

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 a chapter every Monday and Thursday.

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 16

Sunlight gave way to light rain as they walked up the path towards Kingsley Vale. Tess let Sweetpea off the lead to run ahead. Stepping in some mud, she nearly slipped, but Redd caught her, reaching for her hand; it was small with delicate bones. ‘It’s a bit slippery here – hold my hand.’

He felt a warmth towards her; it was such a natural thing to walk along beside her. Just for a second, his mind darkened; would it ever really be natural? Would he ever trust again, or would fate step in with gnashing teeth and a honed steel knife?

The vision of a toddler flashed across his eyes, the bright golden curls, cornflower blue eyes; they were so proud of him, handsome enough to be a model, but Esther didn’t want that kind of life for him. He gritted his teeth, his baby’s name in his throat – Harry. He felt Tess squeeze his hand. ‘You okay?’

He shook his head and looked down at her; she barely came to his shoulder in flat walking shoes. So different from Esther, just three inches shorter than his six feet three, her body slender with small breasts, flowing pale blonde hair, and aquamarine eyes – Esther.

Trained in her job, Tess caught the subtle body language, the pressure of his hand, a slight tremor in the voice; his eyes haunted. What was it? There was a depth of sadness to this man; she’d felt it in the first few moments of meeting him. He had striking looks, marred by a thin scar reaching from a full upper lip to the high cheekbone. He’d seen some fights, as his aquiline nose was not quite straight. The shadows under his eyes spoke of sleepless nights, the deep lines around his mouth, of muscle clenching sorrow. Yet, the sparkle in his electric blue eyes dispelled the gloom.

To her surprise, she thrilled at the touch of his hand. ‘In Alabama, we’re surrounded with water; we live deep in the trees, just off the Old Spanish Trail near Whispering Pines Road. Not far is Bay Front Park facing Mobile Bay; there are some fantastic views. So when I got this tenure, I was determined to live in the Downs, but near the sea as well.’

‘Yeah, we’re fortunate here, plus we have the most number of sun hours in the country, a mini micro-climate.’

She looked up smiling, only to see him gazing at some distant point in his mind.

Redd stopped to unlatch the large range gate leading into the Vale, Sweetpea leaping, ready to dash through. ‘Right here we are.’

Tess exclaimed, ‘Look at the bark on the trees – I love the way it goes deep red in the rain. It looks as if they’re bleeding. It feels eerie. You could imagine a ghostly Roman legion marching through or a horde of Vikings with axes creating mayhem. Many people report seeing them.’

‘Yeah, just the place for the Wicca and pagan groups’

Tess stopped. ‘And the Druids – their groups are termed groves. The Late Archbishop of The Eternal Order of Druids had his obituary here; they carried out the Ceremony of the Crossing of the Bridge for him here and at Stonehenge.’

‘I’ve seen pagans dancing around at Stonehenge; I’ve gotta say it, Tess, they look a bit airy-fairy, you know.’

Tess laughed, ‘Airy fairy – quite apt. Why they have to dress up like that, I don’t know. The philosophy has evolved, so should the dress. As I said, the Druids were the most learned class, philosophy, languages, architecture, medicine, and the arts, yet they were brutal in their practices. Young people would fight to be chosen as the sacrifice.’

‘How could they choose to die such a terrible death – beats me?’

‘They did not look on death as we do; they believed in reincarnation – just as some still do today. That’s why they were such terrible foes on the battlefield; they were not afraid to die. To die just meant to leave this earth for the Otherworld.’

‘Surely they had some fear?’

‘No – they had a different mind-set. There was no such thing as death or heaven or hell for the Druid. They thought nothing of sacrificing dozens to propitiate the Gods. At the same time, the Druid was an intellectual, the finest brain in the land.’

Redd smiled. ‘You know your stuff.’

She laughed. ‘I’m fascinated; as I said, my ancestors are Welsh and Irish – so it’s in my blood.’

‘I’m a mongrel, Scottish, Welsh, and Irish, with a bit of French, I believe, way back. Look, the crime scene is just ahead; see the yellow tape?’

‘Yes, and look, there are plenty of oak trees and a few silver birches – all sacred to the Druids.’ Tess felt her heart quickening as she stooped beneath the tape. To her surprise, Sweetpea came back to her, growling, hackles raised along his sleek black spine. ‘What is it?’ She looked up to Redd, ‘He’s sensed the evil here – smelt death. A dog has a far deeper sense of good and evil than us.’

Ducking beneath heavy branches of the Yews, Redd said, ‘Mind these now, they’re quite thorny, I’ve cut myself badly in here. Every bit of the yew tree is poisonous except for the berry and cone, the red fleshy part.’

‘The Druids see the yew tree as the passing from life to death. Maybe that’s why they placed the bodies here.’ She stooped over the indented graves, becoming aware of the somnolence of the branches dipping into the ground, seeming to sprout up again through the peat, a continuous serpentine-like shape.

Plucking at a couple of damp oak leaves from the indented earth, Tess whispered, ‘This is Druid. Seeing the surroundings and the photos of the wounds, now I’m quite sure you’re dealing with people re-enacting the ancient rituals and sacrifices.’ Her voice fell to almost a whisper, ‘For them; the Gods live – the devil is an infant in their eyes. These aren’t neo-druids out for love and peace – these are the “Cult of the Severed Heads.”‘

‘Right – so now we can start searching some of the neo-druids, try and pick up if any have any inkling of this grove.’

‘Yes, and you’re looking at a group Inspector – err … I mean Dan.’

‘Did they name you after “Tess of the D’Urberville’s?” I expect you get asked that often.’

‘Yes, I do. Thomas Hardy added in his book, “A Pure Woman,” my Irish grandmother loved the book. But I can’t say that I’m a pure woman.’

Grinning, Dan murmured, ‘Now that sounds interesting. So what dark secrets do you harbour?’

Flushing, she said, ‘None that I’m telling you, that’s for sure. Anyway, this group has stripped off centuries of civilization. Remember the wounds? They’ve used a kind of crosscut wound, pulling out the entrails to read them and to do the markings. You said yourself; there is a Triskelion marked on the livers and the hearts. That is a prominent sign of the ancient Druid, the three bent legs swirling in a stick or lance. I just had to see everything together.’

Redd shook his head. “Fucking monsters – why would they do this?’ He stopped as he heard the whirring drone of helicopter blades above them. Peering up, he said, ‘Bet that’s the media still snooping around, a bit over the top sending a helicopter though.’

‘The rain is tipping down now; once we clear the trees, we’ll get drenched.’

‘There’s a pub up the road. It’s not far.’

Chapter 17

Walking down the Station corridor to the Conference room, Dove heard the buzz of voices; the reporters were already there. She wished she could have got out of it but didn’t make too much of an argument with Redd; she had to prove worthy of being his partner, and this was a bridge she was going to have to cross many times in the future. Nevertheless, she felt as if sand churned to cement in her stomach as she neared the door. Walking in, she saw Titmouse with a group of reporters in an animated conversation. What was he doing here? Pushing in as usual. He really ate up the limelight, he aims to climb the ladder as quickly as possible. Seeing her enter, he waved the reporters away and strode towards her. ‘Hah, there you are; I see Redd couldn’t make it.’

‘He’s gone to consult with a Profiler, sir.’

‘Well, I’m here now.I told the Assistant CC he’d be here. Should have made a show. Profiler eh? Very convenient.’ He smiled, showing pointed rats teeth.

Dove glowered, so much for preparing her statement, Tits would ride over everyone. In a way, she felt relieved; now, she wouldn’t have to speak, just sit there and nod.

He turned towards the table. ‘Let’s get this show on the road. We have to keep the decapitation under wraps; we don’t need a panic at this time. We can leak the full information later. As far as TV and press are concerned, it’s a double homicide with no details.’

Dove gritted her teeth; he didn’t need to keep on repeating it; they already knew that. He was like a record player, treating them like morons. Joining the two detectives at the table, she saw Amanda Green preening in front of the cameras, whilst Crosby sat mute, fear tensing his usually cheerful face. Sitting beside him, Dove gave him a quick smile. He managed a weak flick of lips, a grin that didn’t reach his eyes. ‘Bloody hate this, guv. Last place I wanna be.’

Dove patted his hand, ‘You’ll do it, Crosby, if it’s any comfort, I don’t like this kind of thing either. So let’s get to it.’

The room quieted as Titmouse sat down, a lock of his dirty blond hair swept over his bald pate, framed against the dark green banner enriched with the gold insignia of the Brighton Police. To one side stood a whiteboard on which were pasted Delle Woodhouse and David Baker’s photos.

Folding his arms, he tapped the mike inches away from his mouth. ‘Thank you all for attending. We now have names about the double homicide, Mr. David Baker and Miss Delle Woodhouse, aged twenty-two and twenty-one, respectively. Their families are informed. The couple, as you know, went missing a week ago – their bodies found by two youngsters walking through Kingley Vale. If anyone can give us any information on the couple’s whereabouts in the last two weeks, please contact the Brighton Police Station. An officer will be ready to receive their calls. Any questions?’

The room burst into action, hands waving, cameras flashing, grey microphone brushes weaving through the air. Reporters left their seats, making their way to the front. Questions rent the air.

Dove blinked rapidly, almost blinded in the flashing lights; no wonder they gave out warning notices on epilepsy. She saw Titmouse grasp his hands together, the knuckles white.

‘Ladies – gentlemen – order – order. Please return to your seats. I will answer your questions one at a time.’

A reporter from the front row raised her hand. ‘Got any leads yet?’

Titmouse pursed his lips. ‘We are investigating the matter.’

A well-known anchorwoman stood up, her crew thrusting the microphone brushes over the heads of the seated reporters. ‘How did they die?’

Titmouse stood with a smarmy smile. She packed a lot of punch, best to get on the good side of her. She could kill careers with a few well-appointed sentences from the TV news desk. ‘We cannot reveal that information, ma’am, but two young people were brutally murdered. We need the public to come forward.’

Another voice called from the middle row, ‘Were they shot, strangled?’

‘Again, I cannot give any information on that as yet. It is an on-going investigation.’

‘How are their families taking it, ma’am?’ The question was directed at Dove from a man in a wool hat pulled down to his eyebrows, long brown hair spiking on a grey jacket. As she went to speak, Amanda tried to join in. Felicity said across her, shooting her a glance out of narrowed eyes. Continuing, she gave minimal information, as ruled by Titmouse. ‘The families are informed.’

As she sat back, a voice with the gravelly tone of a life-long smoker said, ‘Ma’am, how was the girl decapitated?’

An ominous silence filled the room, blood pounding through her head; someone in the department leaked the information to the press. Thank God Regina had already identified her daughter, already knew of the decapitation. Dove swiveled around to see Titmouse rise to his feet, his face waving his hands. ‘We refuse to answer any more questions. I am terminating this interview now. Good day, ladies and gentlemen. He made to move from the table. Dove sat frozen in her chair as shocked reporters sprang forward almost as one, a tornado of questions, raging through the room.

‘Decapitated?’

‘When?’

‘How’

‘Come on, guv – give.’

‘Yeah, the cat’s out the bag now – come on.’

‘This is serious – we have to run with this, Chief Superintendent.’

Titmouse boomed, ‘That is classified information. For the sake of the families and the investigation, this should be kept out of the press.’

‘No way,’ someone shouted from the back. ‘This is now public information.’

‘We’re not stupid.’

‘Someone here is gonna talk.’

A woman screamed out, ‘Speak for yourself – some of us have morals.’

Two voices cried out, almost at once, ‘Yeah, you’re not dealing with the gutter press.’

Seated quietly in the front, an eminent newspaperman said, ‘Someone’s going to run with this Chief.’

Titmouse waved his hands. ‘There’s been a serious leak somewhere, ladies and gentlemen. This is classified information.’

Someone quipped, ‘Not now, mate.’

The reporters began packing their equipment, a few texting; some spoke into cell phones whilst others made for the doors. However, others sat where they were, stunned. Another popular anchorwoman from a regional TV channel said, ‘We can’t suppress this now, Chief Superintendent. Is there anything you can say to add to this leak?’

‘I cannot enlarge further on this. If you must, go with what you have.’

Sitting down by Dove, he murmured, ‘There’s a fucking rogue in the department. Funny how DCI Redd isn’t present.

Dove wanted to punch his lights out; instead, she took a deep breath.


Copyright.

No part of this book may be stored, reproduced, or transmitted in any form or by any means without the express permission of the author.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and events are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.  Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

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 14 & 15

Death Marks: Chapters 14 & 15

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 a chapter every Monday and Thursday.

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 14

Pushing aside the results form from the Forensics report, Dove sighed, so it was Delle Woodhouse. Poor – poor girl, what the hell did she suffer? And now the mother? How in God’s name was she supposed to tell her? There was no going home now; her stomach growled. Damn, the sandwich machine was empty, the officers having bought every scrap and chocolate bar. Rifling through her drawer, she was sure she had a couple of Twix bars stashed away in there. Her eyes lit up as she saw the brown and blue paper wrapping. Yes – yes. That would keep her going for the next few hours. Biting her lip, she realized she’d have to arrange that bloody Press Conference. No excuse. Bugger it. Picking up the phone, she got through to Redd’s secretary. ‘Hi Michelle, I’ve got a name now for the female body so that we can go ahead with TV and Press Conference. Would you arrange it for the Conference Room – nine AM tomorrow morning? Yeah  Not looking forward to it – I might shit my pants. Okay. Thanks.’

She phoned the Family Liaison Officer, ‘Lisa? Felicity here – we have had the result of the DNA for the decapitated victim. They confirm it is Delle Wood. I’m just on my way over there with Jack. I can’t leave it to Someone else, as I did go and see her with Redd. We should be leaving in a few minutes, so I’ll pick you up in the car park, okay. Yes, it looks like you could be in for an overnight stay. Bye for now.’

Putting the phone down, she heard a knock on the door. ‘Come in – door’s open.’

His usual cheerful expression, now unhappy, Jack pulled a chair up to the desk. ‘So – what’s up?’

‘I’ve got the results in, sir; here, have a look.’ Pushing them over to him, she watched his expression.

‘Jack – call me Jack.’ Reading over the papers, he muttered, ‘Poor woman. So, it is Delle Woodhouse. How the hell do we tell her that her daughter is not only dead but decapitated? Can’t Someone else do this? Maybe DC Green, she’s a tough bird; she could go with her partner, Crosby?’

Felicity looked at his skin now pale, his forehead creased. It would be hard for anyone to give the news. ‘Sir. I was with the boss when he went to investigate. I’ve seen over the girl’s bedroom, the whole flat, in fact, and I wouldn’t put the woman through that again with a stranger. She needs us, Sir. Also, it would give me a chance to go through the girl’s bedroom once more. I thought I’d swept it clean, but there must be something I’ve missed.’

‘Yeah – okay. And, it’s Jack. By the way, have you heard from Redd?’

‘Nope, he’s still with the profiler. He rang in half an hour ago to say they were going to visit the crime scene. He did say he might be late, so he told me to go ahead and see Mrs. Woodhouse and that maybe you would go along as well. Quite honestly, Green is competent, but I think Mrs. Woodhouse will need comforting and support. I’m not saying Green is hard-hearted, but she’s not a shoulder to cry on.’

Jack nodded. ‘Brittle bitch; Ted Papworth is besotted with her. Okay, I suppose, if you like your women, stick-thin.’

Felicity’s eyes opened in surprise. Catching her glance, he said, ‘Give me a healthy-looking woman anytime.’

She bristled, there he went again, “Healthy-looking woman,” his eyes roving over her breasts and rounded stomach. ‘What exactly do you mean by a healthy-looking woman?’

His eyes gleamed as he looked over at her legs. ‘Someone with some flesh. No good kissing a bag of bones.’

Despite herself, she grinned; he was a bit too sophisticated for her, besides her attention was wholly caught up in Redd. Straightening her back, she said, ‘You ready to go? I’ve got DC Barrett waiting for us in the car park.’

‘Yep – lead the way.’

Going through the door, Felicity said, ‘Can’t say I’m looking forward to this. The lady’s a strong character, but I don’t know she’ll be able to cope with the news. I don’t know how any mother could.’ She didn’t mention Regina’s foul language or the short skirt minus a thong.

***

Dove took a deep breath as the door opened, ‘Regina, this is DCI Jack Cummings and DC Lisa Barrett. May we come in?’

The aggressive look had gone from Regina’s eyes; now there was a questioning, a quirk of the mouth. She’d seen the TV, witnessed the police requesting information on the bodies. She stepped aside, ‘Don’t mind the mess – ain’t had time to clean up.’

The cigarette smoke lay heavy overhead, the walls once white now grimed with the pale brown stains of tobacco fumes. A few framed pictures hung on the walls, a family together on a beach; a young Regina, her hair thick, lustrous, lying on a towel, a small girl digging sand at her feet, a man standing, hand on hip, proud of his family. Dove realized that was hung up since their last visit. Already Regina forgave her daughter. The woman who disgusted her on the prior visit now looked vulnerable, lost, and alone in the dregs of a life trailing in cigarettes and booze. Her miniskirt digging into the heavy legs looked pitiful. Where was the young girl on the beach, and now the child – decapitated?

‘So have you found her? Delle? She was giving you trouble. Always was a little sod yer know. Kids, what can yer do wiv em? Only the other day I said to my neighbour, you can bring em up, but you can’t live their lives for em, can you? Where’s my bleedin’ fag?’

Jack and Lisa stood just inside the small lounge as Dove moved forward, ‘Regina, sit down.’

‘Nah, I got things ter do, so hurry up and say wot you gotta say. She looked at Dove with dreadful eyes, paused, and spluttered, ‘It’s her. It’s her on the tele’.’ She dropped onto the settee, her head in her hands, her shoulders shaking; sobs came from deep in her chest. ‘Can’t bear it – can’t bear it.’

Dove went to her, sitting beside her, pulling her into her arms. ‘I’m sorry – so sorry.’

‘Where is she? Where’s my baby?’

‘We’re taking care of her.’

Lisa, eyes brimming, said in a small voice, ‘I’ll make a cup of tea.’

Regina sobbed, ‘I gotta go to her – she needs me yer know – she’s always needed me. Oh God – dear God – my baby.’

Jack left the small room -a woman’s tears always left him feeling helpless. Regina lifted her head, her eyes streaming. ‘I hurt – hurt. Please tell me – tell me it’s not her.’

Dove felt the hurt, her eyes stinging, her throat closing up. She pushed a thin lock of brown hair from Regina’s eyes, shaking her head.

‘Can I see her? I gotta see her ….’

Dove held her hand. ‘Is there anyone who can be with you for the identification? Mother – friend?’

Regina shook her head, her voice muffled in her hands, ‘Me mum’s a crack head, don’t know her tits from her arse, but I’ve got a good mate – I know she’ll come with me.’

Lisa returned, sitting on the other side of the weeping mother. Dove had yet to tell her that her daughter’s death would be on the news tomorrow. Thank goodness the decapitation was held back.

Dove looked at Lisa and nodded; now she had to tell Regina. Taking the nicotine-stained fingers in her hand, she said gently, ‘Regina – I want you to be strong now – strong. Sadly, Delle was hurt badly – they took her head. I’m sorry – so sorry.’

A stunned silence followed. Regina shocked, sat very still, her face rapidly suffusing with blood; beetle red, she found her breath, ‘Took her head? Don’t you dare – don’t you dare.’ She paused, her eyes glaring. ‘What the fuck – what the fucking hell do you mean – you bitch – you bitch.’ She screamed, lunging at Dove, beating her about the head. ‘What the fuck – what the pissing hell do you mean? I’ll kill you – kill you.’

Snarling, she punched Dove on the nose, grunting, ‘Head off? I’ll tear yours off – fuuuick.’ Grabbing Dove’s corkscrew curls, she dragged her to the floor, kicking and biting. Lisa tried to intervene only to be kicked in the shin by Regina.

Fighting back, blood dripping from her nose, Dove tried to get the hysterical woman onto her stomach to cuff her. But Regina’s bull-like strength won. As Dove felt vicious kicks to the kidneys, Jack dived into the room and threw himself into the fight, lifting Dove and hefting her over to Lisa. Talking non-stop to Regina, trying to calm her, he spun her on her stomach, and raising her arms behind her back, cuffed her.

Then she screamed. ‘My baby …oh dear God … my baby.’

***

Driving back, Jack looked over to Dove, her face now clear of blood. ‘You okay?’

‘Yeah, I will be. I couldn’t manage her; I was just about to use the Taser. I feel a bit of a wimp.’

‘Come on, Felicity – the woman’s twice your size.’

‘Yeah, well – they shoot the messenger, don’t they?’

‘The Romans often did, cut their throats or beheaded them if they brought a message from the enemy camp. Hence the cliché.’

‘I just feel so sorry for her. I could weep myself. At least she calmed down; Lisa will stay with her. I just wonder about the identification. Surely, the boss can think of some way? How could she cope with seeing her daughter without a head?’ Dove sniffed. ‘At least she didn’t break my nose.’

Chapter 15

Dove dabbed at her nose. ‘Christ – it’s just not fair. Poor woman, she’s on her own. Regina’s tough, as we know, but this is beyond anything any mother should have to face.’ Pausing, she said, ‘I never did that search – maybe later. I did get a ticket from the last search. Delle and the Baker boy went to a nightclub – “Saturdays,” the one on the pier.’

‘Yeah, busy on a Saturday night.’

‘I went there a couple of days ago; the bar was in full swing – dance floor crowded, but no-one seemed to have seen her or David. I think I’ll go over there again, ask some questions.’ Looking at her watch, she said, ‘Should be opening up soon; at least the bar staff will be there.’

Slowing down, Jack frowned. ‘Are you up to it? You took a beating, Felicity.’

‘Delle and David took more than that. We’ve got to get on this, Jack; I don’t think they’ll stop with these two.’

‘It’s your call.’ Jack took the next turning left to Marine Parade. ‘I’ll park outside, put the blue light on. Otherwise, we’re sure to get a ticket.’

Dove felt the sea breeze, fresh and clean on her skin, lifting her hair, sweeping away the stench of Regina’s smoke-filled flat. Jack was pleased to see her step become brisk, her hair like ripe corn stalks. ‘I think the office is around the side here. Yes, here, the light’s on.’

Stepping into reception, she saw a girl at a PC, long red nails clicking on the keys. ‘Can I help you?’

Dove showed her card. ‘Yes – police. Is the Manager here?’

‘Yes – one moment, please; I’ll get him for you.’

Rising, she smiled, walking swiftly to the double doors.

Jack said, ‘I’ll leave you to do the talking, shall I?’

‘Yes – fine. I’ve got photos of Delle and David, so we might strike lucky. Delle was a beautiful girl – bound to have turned heads, especially the clothes she tended to wear.’

A man in his forties wearing a typical business suit of dark grey stripes pushed through the doors, followed by the receptionist. ‘Hello, my name’s David Ferry, Manager here. How can I help you?’

Dove stepped forward, showing him her warrant card. ‘Homicide. I was here with an officer a few nights ago, questioning the barmen. We’re investigating the murder of a young couple.’ She showed him the photos of Delle and then David. We have reason to believe they frequented here.’ She produced the ticket. ‘It’s frayed, so there isn’t a date on it.’ We’d like to speak to some of your staff – barmen, waitresses, anyone who may have seen these two.’

The man took the photos. ‘I see. I’ll most certainly show it to the staff; they’re getting the bar ready now. You’ve come at a good time.’

When was it ever a good time, Dove thought, as she followed him through to the main bar the length of the dancing area? At least four young men and two older ones busied themselves polishing glasses, taps, and mirrors, whilst half a dozen women cleaned the floor, tables, and chairs in readiness for the oncoming crowd. Dove nudged Jack’s arm. ‘More staff here today; maybe we’ll strike lucky.’

Turning, the Manager said, ‘I’ll introduce you to the Bar Manager.’

A taller man in a white shirt, dark trousers, and black apron stepped forward, his face serious. ‘Brent Mason. Can I help?’

Dove showed him the photos. ‘Would you ask your people to have a look at these? We’re trying to find anyone who may have seen them here?’

The bartender took them, nodding his head. Raising his arms, he said, ‘Everyone, your attention, please. Gather round.’

The workers stopped immediately. Huddling together, they scrutinized the photos. One young man with a number-one haircut, half a dozen earrings in his ears, and a small dagger through his eyebrow spoke through lips, pierced with clips and rings, ‘Yeah, I’ve seen them. About two weeks ago. She’s a looker yer know.’

Another young man laughed. ‘Tight arse on her she has, knows how to shake the bootie.’

Dove ignored their quips, they didn’t have the full picture, and she had no intention of enlightening them. ‘Okay.’ Trying to ignore all the cutlery on the kid’s lips, she said, ‘Were they alone? Did you see anyone with them?’

He bit into the steel rings. ‘Yeah; they were talking to these people, can’t remember them, but they were chattering away; yer know.’

Dove nodded, feeling a quiver of excitement. ‘Try to remember, it’s important.’

‘Why, they been murdered or something?’

Dove looked at him, her face expressionless with flat cop’s eyes. He stepped back, shrugging. ‘Yeah, well, I fink I remember them.’

Jack stepped forward. ‘We’d like you to come down to the station. We could—’

‘I ain’t done nuthin’ … really guv … nuthin’.’

Jack suppressed a smile; for all his rings and daggers, he looked like a frightened little boy. ‘No – no, we’d like to get a better idea of them – link you up with the police artist, get an identity sketch – okay? Now your name?’

‘Terry.’

‘Terry what?’

‘Terry Paine.’

Jack saw the young man glower, his eyes almost like slits, his tongue licking the steel nails on his lips. ‘I don’t remember them guv, honest.’

Jack clenched his teeth together. ‘Remember them or not; we want you to come to the station.’


Copyright.

No part of this book may be stored, reproduced, or transmitted in any form or by any means without the express permission of the author.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and events are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.  Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © Katy Walters

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