Uncompromising, gritty, thrilling, and not for the faint hearted! British detectives suspect a serial killer is on the loose. With the support of American profiler Dr Tessa Davies, they soon realize that this could be the work of a druidic sect.
Please enjoy another two chapters of my dark crime novel, Death Marks . For now, I will post 3 chapters every Monday, Thursday, and Saturday.
Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:
Jack looked over to the SWAT Team, ‘Briggs – metal detection plate.’
The tall helmeted officer came to the front of the arched wall, posing the detector over the area, covering it inch by inch. The silence was almost overpowering as they waited; even the dogs fell quiet except for a small whimper. The machine beeped; Brigg’s said softly, ‘Yeah, right there.’ He then pushed at the stone. The dogs backed off as the stone wall slid to one side.
Dove whispered, ‘A lift and a door – Christ Sir – we’ve found them.’
Redd pushed forward, ‘Well done, Briggs. Now….’
Jack walked over. ‘They’ve locked the lift down. Damn.’
Dove went over to the smaller door, pressing a steel button. It slid over to reveal a sheer glass front. ‘Boss, over here.’
Jack and Redd looked down on the scene as cries of terror reached them through the beating of drums. The effigy of the Wicker Man stood in the center of an immense cavern. Around it was individual wicker cages, each occupied with a single figure; they could see the cages rocking, hands stretching out through the wicker. Redd recognized the earl standing between two women in the loins of the huge Wicker man. Packed with people, the effigy swayed slightly from side to side.
Dove murmured, ‘They’re all going to burn – mass suicide, and they’re taking the victims with them.’
Jack whispered, ‘Fuck – we haven’t got much time – the damn thing’s ready to go.’
Dove said, ‘Boss, do want me to take out the earl? I can do it from here.’
‘No – if they haven’t seen the door slide open already, we’ve got about two minutes of surprise at the most.’
‘There’s a steel walkway around the rim top of the cave boss; looks quite sturdy.’
An officer murmured, ‘Christ; they’re all bloody naked.’
His companion said, ‘Some sick fucking orgy.’
Ignoring them, Redd looked over to Jack. ‘Rappel?’
‘Yeah, the best way – fast.’
‘Okay, go ahead.’
Jack signaled to the Swat team, ‘No time to use the steps, we’re gonna rappel down there. Get those people out of the bloody cages.’
Shrugging on harnesses, Jack, Dove, and the team ran onto the steel walkway. Anchoring their rappelling devices from the steel rims, swiftly checking their ropes were in the middle mark. Some of them simultaneously rappelled down the steep wall, rapping the ropes around their legs to stop the fall.
Redd, followed by Green, Connell, and the other officers, rushed down the steps taking them two at a time. A few of the officers jumped the last six feet – running to the cages and cries of the victims.
Tess trembling by the side of the earl, looked up to see officers in heavy SWAT uniforms rappelling down the walls. The earl, eyes squeezed tight, screaming demented prayers to the gods, had not seen them.
Tess prayed silently to any god listening, ‘Please – please – don’t let him open his eyes. She peered at Gemma, who nodded. Swiftly, they both grabbed him, shoving him to the Wicker floor.
Shouting, he struggled, ‘You fools, you stupid fools, you are going to die, don’t fight it. It’s going to happen.’
As the Ovates sprang to his aid, Gemma’s eyes fell on his sword, yes – oh yes. In a heartbeat, she snatched the sword from the scabbard as the Ovates helped the earl to his feet. She leaped, slicing the earl’s flesh open from his forehead to his feet. Swaying, he looked at her, astonishment widening his eyes. Snarling, Gemma raised the sword to run him through, only to be grabbed from behind. Sobbing, she fought, kicking out at the earl as he turned, wiping the blood dripping into his eyes and down his body to see officers running towards him.
Frenzied, he cried, ‘Kill them, kill them – light the fires – light the fires goddammit.’
Redd seeing the tapers leading from the cages to the Wicker effigy, screamed out, ‘Cut the tapers – cut the fucking tapers – faster – faster.’ To others, he cried, ‘Get them out of the Wicker Man – hurry – hurry.’
Elsewhere, he heard Jack and Dove screaming out his instructions.
Julia jumped on her father, scrabbling for the ignition box, his fingers trying to reach the switch that would ignite both the Wicker Man and the tapers to the cages. ‘Damn you – I won’t let you – you pig – you fucking pig.’ Beating him with her fists, she clenched her teeth, stabbing her fingers into the earl’s eyes, gouging, pressing him against the wicker wall. Screaming in agony, he staggered, throwing her off.
Officers tackled Ovates, lighting wickers stacks around the perimeter walls; two sprang alight, their flames leaping in moments, setting fire to a couple of the wicker cages. As Dove followed by more officers, Screams rent the air, stamped on the flames, dragging out the victims.
Seeing some of the Ovates leaving the Wicker Man to tackle the officers, Redd fought his way to Tess, he had to stop the earl – had to get Tess out of there. It would only take one stray spark for the whole lot to go up in flames. As he neared the steps, he saw her struggling with an Ovate forcibly trapping her in the effigy. Seeing him, she screamed out, ‘The earl – he’s got an ignition box – stop him – stop him.’
The earl blinded, his eyes seeping mucus and blood, dropped to his knees, his hands on the box, scrabbling for the switch. Leaping up the steps, Redd tackled him, throwing him bodily out of the effigy. With one blow from his fist, he knocked Tess’s captor to the floor and, seizing her, jumped from the Wicker Man.
As they rolled on the floor, Tess cried out, ‘Save her Redd, save Gemma.’
He looked up to see a young woman held down by two Ovates. Rage surged through him as he yelled, ‘Let her go.’ Running back, he scrambled up into the effigy. Fists swinging, he caught one with an uppercut to the chin, the man’s head snapped back, teeth crunching into his upper palate, blood spurting. Redd turned to see Gemma kick the other man’s feet from under him. As he went to rise, she grabbed his arm, pulling it up and back. Redd heard the snap as it dislocated. Jumping up, Redd snatched her up, leaping back down the floor.
Shouting to Tess, he cried, ‘Make for the stairs – go-go.’
He looked around; the earl was nowhere to be seen. Dove led some of the victims to the stairs while Jack and the other officers cuffed the Ovates. Where the fuck was he?’
Leaning back on her elbows, Tess gazed at marshmallow clouds drifting over a cerulean sky. In the distance, a forest of silver birch and pine broke up the flat landscape. ‘This is such a lovely place; I didn’t know it existed.’
Reaching over the linen tablecloth, Redd picked up a slice of ham off the bone. ‘There are so many dotted around the Downs. The fields around Slindon woods are quite private; very few people come here. They stick mostly to the woods; you’ll find loads of walkers there, ideal for the dogs.’
Tess picked up a glass of wine. ‘It seems such a private place.’ Then, glancing over to the next field, she gasped, ‘Hey look – oh just look at that, Sweetpea’s jumping through the rapeseed. You can just see his ears and his tail.
Redd rose to his feet. ‘Get up, Tess – quick. You’ve gotta see this.’
She joined him as he pointed over to the dog. ‘See – he’s racing with the deer.’
Tess clasped his arm, ‘Oh my goodness – can you beat that. He’s keeping up, and he’s not attacking. He’s playing with them.’
Grinning, they both stood enjoying the sun on their backs as they watched the animals frolic through the gold flowers of the rapeseed. Entering the scene’s serenity, Redd thought it a far cry from the horror of Kingley Vale.
As if catching his thought, Tess said, ‘I used to love Kingley Vale, But I don’t think I could go there again too many memories.’
Redd nodded, taking her hand. ‘It will take a while, but there are many places like this, and we have lots of time to explore them.’
He clutched her to him, dipping his head to taste those plump lips, his tongue flicking through to her teeth, her mouth. Slowly, they sank to the blanket, her breath now quickening as his hand cupped a full breast. He felt her fingers under his sweatshirt tickle his nipples. Grunting slightly, his hand went to her bottom, massaging the toned cheek.
Laughing, she arched away. ‘Hey, hang on there, we’re in broad daylight, the walkers will see us, or their dogs will search us out.’
Taking a breath, he grinned, his voice thickening as he said, ‘Just for starters. We’ll have the main course later.’
Sitting up, she pulled at a blade of grass, tasting the sweetness of the stalk. ‘Talking of searching, I wonder where the earl is now?’
‘God knows, he and Titmouse must be a thousand miles from here. But, d’you know, I still wasn’t sure Tits was mixed up in it.’
Tess nodded. ‘He was further in the Wicker Man behind the earl. Honestly, he’s vile. All the time you were on the case, he was giving them all the information.’
‘At least Mainwaring wasn’t granted bail. He’s locked away until the trial. The jury will make short work of him.’
‘D’you think he’ll get life?
‘Oh yes, and the others.’
‘They damn well deserve it. I don’t believe in capital punishment – they hung so many innocent people, but in this instance – well—’
‘I’m with you there. I hope Mainwaring gets imprisonment without parole.’
‘What about Julia?’
‘She’s out on bail. She’s back at the mansion.’
‘Well, the girl was forced or coerced, as they say. I mean he father threatened her with the Blood Eagle if she didn’t help abduct Jeannette and Neil.’
‘I know, but she could have gone for help. It’s a sticky business.’
Tess took another sip of wine. ‘At least the Dowager is happy. She’s got her back. She does remember her, you know, and the earl. I’m glad you’ve told her he’s traveling abroad.’
‘Kindest thing we could do. I mean, each time they tell her what he did, she’ll get so upset, then she’ll forget, and they’ll have to tell her all over again – a recurring nightmare. I don’t think the relatives of the victims can ever come to terms with it.’
‘I know, but at least they can see justice being done. Some parents go a lifetime never knowing what happened to their missing children.’ Shaking her head, Tess said, ‘In this case, maybe that would be a blessing. These poor parents have to live with such terrible memories. God, it doesn’t bear thinking about.’
Seeing her face pale, the tears gathering, Redd took her in his arms. ‘Memories fade, sweetheart. Let’s hope we can catch the bastards. They snuck off as we fought to stop the effigy igniting. But, we found a secret passageway from the cavern leading underground to a whole system of tunnels. They go on for miles under the Downs. But, wherever they are, we’ll never stop searching.’
‘Well, the earl won’t be difficult to find with that cut Gemma gave him.’
Redd shook his head. ‘I don’t know – plastic surgery could take care of that. He touched his cheek, ‘Didn’t do me much good, but at least it’s fading.’
Tess leaned over, rolling her tongue lightly along the scar. ‘I think it makes you more attractive – my warrior hero. Anyway, it will fade even more, just like memories.’
His voice faltered for a moment as he thought of Esther – Harry. No, he was wrong; for him, the memories do not fade; sometimes, they become too vivid. Often, he thought he could hear their voices calling to him.
Stroking Tess’s cheek, he said, ‘So are you packed for the trip?’
‘Yes – I don’t know how long I’ll be away. Melissa is very ill, it’s only a matter of weeks. But, she’s so brave, even in the face of the last news, she says, she’ll live to be a hundred….’ She paused and looked at him. ‘I do believe in miracles, you know.’
He hugged her. ‘So do I. I found you.’
Copyright © Katy Walters
All rights reserved
Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here: