Read this exclusive extended extract from Deathbeds by Tony R. Cox

Posted by Fahrenheit Press on

Deathbeds - the new book in Tony R. Cox's popular Simon Jardine Investigates series is published on 30th April and today we're giving you a sneak preview with this exclusive extended extract...

Chapter 1

Simon Jardine walked quickly along the Erewash Canal towpath. He’d cut through the maze of streets lined by redbrick terraced houses, once the cramped homes of coal miners and their families, and hurried down the long road from the market at the top of the town to the bridge over the canal’s scummy water. He spotted a smooth, lozenge-shaped stone about two inches long: perfect for his soaring adrenaline. He flexed his right leg at the knee and felt a satisfying tautness in his thigh muscles as he kicked out. The stone rose from the weeds, arced slightly over the chipped tarmac and dipped towards the water almost in slow motion. It was like a missile. It touched the oily, iridescent surface, skimmed slowly to a halt and sank, leaving a ring of weak ripples. He viciously kicked a larger, rounder pebble that hit the water quickly and crashed into a dark, protruding shape on the far side of the canal in the shade of an overhanging tree. There was a muted, wet clanging noise and a scraping of dusty metal. The undefined shape shook and spat out a small cloud of tiny, rusty fragments that caught the sun and exploded into prisms of light. He turned away and carried on along the towpath.

The telephone in the Ilkeston office of the Derby Evening Telegraph had jangled just seconds after he’d burst in – early, as always, and sweaty from his walk from the bus station.

 Sergeant Sid Baldwin – or Ballsin in as he was known in the police station – was on the line: “We’ve got a floater. If you get there sharpish you might see it.”

Simon was excited. He’d seen dead bodies, he’d seen people die, but the adrenaline generated by a news story drove out personal feelings of distaste and even horror. It was as if a film covered his eyes. Instead of seeing human bodies with individual personalities, his brain translated those visions into words. It was not an ethereal separation from reality; it was like the practical transmogrification he’d heard doctors and nurses talk about when they had to delve deep into a living body to mend it.

Ahead, he saw a small group of men – one a police constable – huddled together, as if for comfort or protection. They were staring at what looked like a piece of white and green sacking in the centre of the canal. It seemed to have been snagged by a piece of metal. Simon walked closer and then stopped. The “sacking” was what Ballsin termed a “floater”: a body lying inert in the water. It was face down with arms spread out and legs almost hidden beneath the foul surface. Long, mousey-blonde hair spread out like a halo as it caught the rays of the quickly rising sun.

Around the splayed limbs were strands of slimy, green vegetation. The slightly mottled skin looked pale – almost light grey – as if the body had been in a refrigerator for a few hours. There was no movement on the water: the scene looked like a still-life painting. At the men’s feet, a weed-festooned tree branch dripped water on to the towpath.

“What can I do for you?” the constable asked. He seemed even younger than Simon’s twenty-five years. Simon explained that he was a reporter and that he had been called by Sergeant Baldwin.

“We’re just waiting for the doctor and the water rescue team,” the policeman said. Then he quickly brought his feet together, arched his back upright and dropped his arms by his sides. Simon heard a grunt and the sound of moving feet followed by a splash, and turned to see a wet-suited man wade into the canal, unhook the white blouse and pull the body towards the bank, the short, green skirt billowing out.

Simon and the constable stood back as the young girl was lifted gently and respectfully out of the water and laid on the stone path. Simon’s eyes were drawn inexorably to her. She was lying on her back, her open eyes staring at nothing.

“I know her – I’m sure I’ve seen her,” he muttered quietly to himself.

“You what?” the constable said.

“Sorry. I just feel a bit queasy,” Simon said and turned away. With the body behind him, he looked at the cloudless sky over the houses and stark concrete factory buildings. Yes, he thought, I’ve seen that face before. It was two nights ago at Regents, the club at the top of the town. She was dancing like a dervish with a bunch of squaddies. She was out of her mind on something, and they didn’t serve alcohol to underage kids: they were very strict.

This isn’t even a bloody story yet, he thought. Not until I get the police to tell me exactly what I’ve just seen, but without the detail. He glanced at his watch. It was eight thirty and his two colleagues would be in the office soon, wondering where he was.

“God, I hate this bloody town,” he blurted out as he stomped back along the scrubby, weed-strewn path. Nettles and shrubs fought each other remorselessly, if lethargically, for breathing space beneath mature trees that leaned towards the water’s edge. Every bit of vegetation seemed to have a veneer of dust glued on by a film of grease or oil. Light and shade were starkly magnified by the darkness of the canal under the now bright blue of the sky. The beaming sun was almost directly overhead. They were half way through 1975 and the summer was turning out to be a lot hotter than last year’s mix of sunny days, thunderstorms and boring drizzle. Perhaps it was going to be a scorcher. Even this grimy town, with its shimmering streets and bubbling black tarmac, looked better in summer, despite the smell of coal, soot, oil and an indistinguishable miasma of rotting foodstuffs.

Simon quickened his pace as he left the canal and walked back towards the town, no longer having to avoid hazards of slippery grass and protruding roots. At first, the only people around were women, invariably dressed in headscarves and dowdy floral frocks. Some wore ill-fitting coats, even in this heat. Then men, their heavy, dark faces deeply lined, became more numerous. Those deep facial grooves weren’t laughter lines; no amount of humour would remove the ingrained, years-old black coal dust and expressions of blank, morose disappointment. He walked past The Durham Ox. A few younger men, some around Simon’s age, leaned on walls. They were dressed uniformly in patchy denim jackets, open-necked grey/white shirts, scuffed boots and skin-tight jeans that flared out from the calf. Simon walked on to Bath Street, the main thoroughfare.

It was his last day at the Telegraph’s Ilkeston office. He’d been sent there from head office about six months ago as a penalty for devoting too much time to reviewing rock and jazz concerts, too little doing the jobs that were the bedrock of a local newspaper, such as covering council meetings and court cases, and too often getting into potentially lethal scrapes in his search for front page stories. After his last escapade with crime reporter Dave Green and their friend and DJ Tom Freeman, the editor, Alistair MacMillan, had said “exile” to Ilkeston would allow him to “lie low”. The elderly editor spoke as if he was protecting the young reporter, but Simon knew he was being banished for his sometimes puppy-like enthusiasm for a front page lead.

Walking up the hill towards the office, he reflected on the dead girl. At Regents, last Wednesday, Sparrow had been playing loud, flat, mistake-ridden rock classics and some of their own songs,  which were burned in his memory as being worse than poor. He’d spent hours trying to make sense of them and then, when that failed, trying to dig them out of his brain, where they sat like embedded acne. The soldiers at the club had been part of a Sherwood Foresters parade through the town, where many of them had been brought up, before a six-month tour of duty in Northern Ireland. They’d been loud and drunk, and he remembered thinking that this was probably their last night of freedom before they became targets of the IRA, who would be looking for the slightest opportunity to kill a British soldier. The girl was one of three at the gig, but the only one to stay until the end.

“No,” he said forcefully, turning the heads of two scarf-wrapped women passing him on the pavement. “It’s not my job. It’s the police’s bloody job. She looked too fresh, even healthy after they’d pulled her from the canal. It’s my last bloody day here. I can’t hang around. She obviously had problems – that’s why she threw herself in the water.”

Chapter 2

Simon pushed open the glass-fronted door to the office on the High Street and walked past the tatty wooden desk topped with copies of that day’s paper. He glanced at the front page: a fire in a terraced house to the south of the city. He shuddered involuntarily. It was not far off a year since the IRA had demolished the Racket Records building in London and killed 12 employees, including the boss. Simon, Dave Green and Tom Freeman had been heavily involved in the investigation had nearly been killed. The secret service and the Army had rescued them from a Scottish lochside. At the insistence of the editor, they had all been examined by an Army doctor. The counselling and questions seemed to Simon to be a cross between a schoolmaster’s lecture and a pervy old bloke’s suggestion that they get pissed together in the pub. What had remained, and even been heightened by the interviews, was the adrenaline rush of an exclusive front page lead. Simon knew he was a newspaper reporter above anything else and, having been banished to the branch office, he missed the urgency of working in the Derby head office. He wanted to get back in the headlines and exploring The Troubles in Northern Ireland, but this time from a safe distance.

Simon put down the newspaper and pushed open the inner door.

“No need to tell us where you’ve been, Sergeant Baldwin’s already been on. Says you can’t write anything and to forget what you’ve already seen. He’s an odd character that one, isn’t he,” William Palmer said, breadcrumbs blossoming as he spoke through a mouthful of thick cheese and tomato sandwich. He held his lunch in both hands and wiped his mouth on his shirt sleeve as he looked up.

“You’ve had a call from a young woman at The Dalby Advantage in Derby. She wants you to ring back,” he added.

Simon struggled to conceal his excitement as he slid into his desk chair. The death of that girl in the canal – it was probably a suicide, he thought – was immediately deposited in his memory bank. It would be locked away until the report came through from the police information office, and even then only the bare facts would be printable. The phone call was the present and possibly the future. Was this the go-ahead he’d been hoping for? Was this the call that would give him the chance of a big feature and possibly a front page lead? “Err, do you have a name or a number?” he asked. William, his mouth now so full that speech wasn’t possible, grabbed a ruler and used it to push a scrappy piece of paper along Simon’s desk.

Simon looked at it. The grin that cracked open his face was childish and spread from his mouth to light up his eyes. Like any good reporter, and William was certainly that, the man had meticulously written the name of the caller in capitals over the top of the phone number. He’d also clearly had a conversation with the woman and had formed an impression of her. Next to the number was a doodle of a pneumatic female with outsize lips, like one of those dolls that sad old guys bought to give themselves a plastic blowjob.

It was the name that gave Simon the excited buzz. Liz Creasey was one of the bright young things who had left university with a decent degree and found herself in the hard-nosed, glamorous world of advertising and marketing. She was tall – well, five foot nine – and perfectly formed. Her short dark hair accentuated and framed bright smiling eyes, a button-tipped nose and a broad, welcoming smile. She was attractive in the nicest way: not aggressively tarty or flaunting and self-aware, possibly self-absorbed – more wholesome, girl-next-door. Her open smile topped a body that was cared for without being subjected to diets. It was possible that she was a sporty sort and kept herself trim through exercise. And she was clever without making it obvious. Liz, Simon thought, was the sort of girl you could take home to your parents to impress them, but you could also show her off to your mates in the pubs and clubs like a trophy. She’d fit into any environment.

Simon had surreptitiously found out that Liz was twenty-three, unmarried and currently single. This meant that he could give her two of his years, which, he considered was about the right gap between a man and a woman. She also looked great under a hard hat, and that was quite important as she was an agency’s public relations account manager for Derwent Bank Construction, a civil engineering outfit that had been expanded by Agnes Smith, a wealthy land-owning woman who lived north of Derby and who’d taken on, and rebuilt, the business after the death of her brother – another death that was directly linked to Simon’s crime reporting in Derby. Simon had felt surprised and a little honoured that Agnes had asked him to use her Christian name, and she’d frequently fed him juicy business snippets that were invariably proved to be facts, not rumours. Some he’d passed on to the business reporter, Chris Saxon; a few he’d used to create a bit of a name for himself. Recently Agnes had spent more time away from the business and had passed much of the publicity work to Liz.

More important right now was that Liz was also the account executive for Rameses Transport, a haulage business almost totally involved in moving goods between Derby and Northern Ireland, and the target for his short escape.

“Hi Liz,” he said when she answered the direct line to her desk. “How can a lowly hack like me be of service to Wonder Woman?”

Liz laughed. “Hi Simon. Thanks for calling me back. It’s not me, but I owe you several beers so we must meet up some time. It’s Michael Dalby, my big boss. He wants to invite you to a dinner on Friday night.”

“That’s very civil of him but we hardly know each other. Should I bring flowers?”

Liz laughed again. “If you did he’d probably stick them where the sun doesn’t shine,” she said. “Michael is as butch and chauvinistic as they come. He’s married with three kids, and he pays my meagre wages.”

“So what’s the big occasion that he wants a hack like me to be at?”

“It’s the launch of some girlie calendar at The Curzon Grange, so all the boys will be there, including Joe Mills, the PR director, and Graeme Worth, the client account director. From looking at the guest list it’s likely to be men’s talk all evening. You won’t be needing me and I’d rather not be there, to be honest. Can you make it? Joe says he’ll pick you up at The Dolphin at eight o’clock if that’s OK.”

Simon opened his diary and screwed up his face. Friday was fully booked. There was a gig with a band he’d met before and had promised to see again. Heavy Metal Kids would expect him to review the concert. He couldn’t let them down, nor the newspaper’s music page editor, Alan Morton. The launch of a girlie calendar was enticing but if there was anything that trumped a night of free booze, a decent meal and naked women to stare at – if only in one dimension – it was rock music. Something had to give, and it wasn’t going to be a night out with a bunch of musicians.

“Oh shit,” he said. “I can’t do it. I’m going back to the Derby office from next week and I’ve already been booked for an event on Friday night. I’m so sorry. What can I do?”

The silence on the phone amplified the disappointment Liz was obviously feeling. Maybe she was angry at him. He couldn’t afford that. He’d spent months trying to get this trip to Northern Ireland sorted. Was it all going up the swanny because of a band?

“OK. It’s late notice anyway,” she said. “I told Michael that, but he asked me to ask you anyway. Your business reporter’s already turned him down.”

Simon breathed a sigh of relief. If Chris Saxon had already been asked, he was second choice anyway.

“Yeah, I’m sorry Liz.” There was a brief pause. “Is there any news on my idea for a feature with Rameses Transport? I think it’d be a great feature for them.”

“Strange you should ask that. The managing director seems keen and he wants to see you. I can’t get over to their Derby office, but you’ll like Michael McCafferty. He’s well up for it – loves your idea but wants to meet you first. You’ll be perfectly safe. Northern Ireland is a bit tricky at the moment, but you’ll be travelling with guys that know what they’re doing. Sadly, it always seems to be raining over there. I’m glad I’m not going.”

They said their farewells and Simon replaced the receiver. He leaned back and laced his fingers behind his head, a broad smile breaking out after the seriousness of the conversation.

“Has that PR floozy just said she’ll sleep with you or something? You look as if you’ve just come in your pants,” William said, slurping from his mug of tea.

“Don’t be so bloody crude, William. I’m not her type. She’s good looking and clever, and she’s a proper professional public relations girl.”

“That’s a bloody oxymoron if ever I ’eard one.”

“She’s not a moron, oxy or otherwise. She’s landed me a great story and I’ll be on to it as soon as I leave this fleapit tomorrow and get back to proper reporting in Derby.” Simon clapped his hand on William’s shoulder on his way to the small kitchen. He might be a bit basic but he’s taught me a lot about newspaper reporting, writing, and even the meaning of oxymoron, Simon thought.

Chapter 3

Tom Freeman had been a DJ in Derby’s nightclubs for over six years after leaving the police. For the last five he’d also been a private investigator. The police deeply detested a copper who jumped ship for private work. They especially loathed Tom, whose investigations had exposed overarching corruption in the force, resulting in many officers retiring early and a collapse in morale. He’d been ashamed for his ex-colleagues. Private detective work suited him well. Police training had given him an understanding of the criminal mind and, thanks to his friend Dave Green, crime reporter at the Derby Evening Telegraph, he’d acquired a wide range of clients, including some successful criminals. Once or twice, due to his pig-headedness and close friendship with Dave and Simon Jardine, he’d been in a life-threatening scrape. Most of the time, however, his private investigations involved what he was doing right now: sitting in an uncomfortable, small, dirty – inside and out – nondescript white van casually nursing an expensive camera with a medium-length lens.

It was just before seven o’clock on a clammy Saturday morning outside a house in a well-to-do Derby suburb. He’d finished his gig at Jaguar Nights nightclub five hours earlier and had been sitting in this crappy little vehicle ever since. The semi-upright plastic seat was tight up against the bulkhead, so he couldn’t stretch his tired legs, and his back was sticky with sweat. The discomfort, he realised, was the only thing keeping him awake.

Inside the house, he’d been told, was an errant husband. All Tom had to do to earn a decent wedge of cash was to get a compromising photograph of him as he left the house: even better if he could snap him in the arms of his supposed mistress.

It was going to be another hot, muggy day Tom thought as his mind drifted, the camera securely focused on the house’s front door. While he was working, his musically inclined friend Simon would be tucked up in bed after the Heavy Metal Kids concert. Simon was a good guy but he could be a pain in the arse. They’d met through the reporter’s love of music and, when Dave Green took the young newspaperman under his wing, the acquaintance became a deep friendship. Life-threatening situations would do that to any relationship, he thought. Simon was now in his mid-twenties, nearly a decade younger than himself. He had matured a lot over the past couple of years but at times it was like taking a puppy for a walk, the way he strained at the leash of good sense and raced towards obvious danger, all in pursuit of the Holy Grail of a news story.

Tom’s tired expression in the van changed from abject boredom as he thought about Simon. The pair of them looked like Laurel and Hardy when they were together: he was stockily built and had a mature attitude to life honed from years in the Army and the police. Simon was whip thin, with no upper-body muscle to speak of, but he had a lively, fast-thinking brain and the innate ability to put all his interviewees at their ease. Dave Green was different again. He was middle aged, and his experience and ability to reason logically gave him the air of an elder statesman. He definitely had a drink problem, but adamantly refused to go to a doctor. “They’d pension me off if they could,” he said, an excuse that had lost its credibility years ago.

All three men were single. Dave’s drinking would put off any potential partner, and Simon had had a string of girlfriends – the only one he’d shown consistent interest in had gone to work in a hotel in Spain.

Tom stretched his limbs with difficulty. “Yeah, Janie Caton. Now that was a lass. Simon, you prat, you should’ve settled down with that one,” he said to the empty street in front of his gaze.

His smile faded as he thought about his own situation. After years of engagement to Alexandra Bay – Sandy, as he’d always known her – he’d been about to propose during a holiday in Ireland when a sniper’s bullet had destroyed their future. It had smashed into a stone wall, narrowly missing his head. The couple had been brought closer together by the brutal murder of Sandy’s sister, but a terrified Sandy Bay had decided that, with life’s clock ticking, she needed a man who wasn’t already married to two jobs – one of them highly dangerous.

Tom shrugged and refocused his attention on the house he was supposed to be watching. Earlier, a man – not the one he was waiting for – had emerged through the front door and driven away in a black Ford Granada. Then two other cars had driven up at the same time. One, a dark-coloured Ford Mondeo, had disgorged four smartly dressed but clearly drunk men who had staggered to the door shouting and shushing each other. The third car, a Jaguar, possibly maroon, had remained parked while the men entered the house. Then a man got out of the passenger side and walked confidently to the front door. The Jaguar had driven away. Nobody had ever left through the front door all the time Tom had been watching.

The only other interesting incident had been the arrival of a small lorry about three hours ago. It had stopped outside the house, waited for high wooden gates in a side fence to open, and then driven in. When it drove out a couple of hours later, Tom noticed it bore a strange logo and the name Rameses Transport.

The house was an ordinary, early-1950s built, four- or five-bedroom detached. An extension had been constructed over the garage and to the side he could see what looked like another two-floor extension running from the kitchen. It was the sort of house hankered after by a large young family with a husband fast-tracking his way to senior management or a seat on the Board. Tom’s earlier reconnaissance had helped him mentally map the property, but he hadn’t yet been able to see over the wall or the extension into the back garden. The art in this game lay in being discreet. He didn’t want anybody calling the cops to report some bloke peering or clambering over walls.

He now knew for sure, after the hours he’d spent this morning, that No 64 was not a normal family home. It was a fully fledged, high-class brothel. If his “target’s” mistress was a prostitute it was nothing to do with him. He glanced at his watch: seven-thirty. He’d give it another thirty minutes and then call it a day. Nobody stayed in a brothel all night unless they were besotted and bloody rich. Anyway, it had been a long night, he was tired and he was clearly watching the wrong door.

His eyes brightened. There was movement. The front door was flung open by a middle-aged woman, about five feet seven inches tall, muscular about the shoulders and arms, and with what Tom deemed a well-honed body and quite shapely legs, certainly for a woman of her age. She was waving her arms about her head as she pounded across the pavement and road towards him. She pulled open the van door and shouted: “You! I need your help. Come – now.” Tom hurriedly tried to hide his camera and sank down in the driver’s seat.

“I know you’ve been watching us and I don’t care. I need your help – now.” The woman’s voice reached screeching level. “There’s a girl inside. I think she’s dead.” She grabbed Tom’s arm and tried to pull him out of the van but his bulk, jammed into the confined space, prevented a quick exit.

The woman’s garish, red and cream floral dress  fitted well from the waist up, but the mini-length lower half flared out like a loose lampshade. For anywhere other than a brothel, the ensemble, including the bright red, scuffed shoes, would simply be tarty.

The woman leaned on the open van door, breathing heavily and noisily, the exertion of running and screaming giving way to laboured sagging and moaning. There was a pervading smell of perfume and sweat, with an overlying stale tobacco aroma.

Tom pushed against the van door and the woman stepped back. He levered himself out and closed the door. The woman immediately grabbed his arm. He stood firm, turning round slowly to lock the van. He needed time. Brothel, dead body, Tom and his camera … it wouldn’t look good if what this screechy woman said was correct and the coppers arrived. The last thing Tom needed right now was involvement in another police investigation.

“Come on,” the woman hissed, and pulled his arm with surprising strength. She pushed him up the path and through the front door.

“It’s up there,” she hissed again and pointed up the stairs.

“What is?” Tom loudly whispered back, hoping that the perpetrator of the supposed death was not still on the premises. Recently deceased corpses were often the result of violence, in his experience. He certainly didn’t want a fight, especially if there was a weapon involved.

“The girl, stupid,” the woman said, her hissing changing into an incredulous but comparatively normal voice.

Tom climbed the stairs heavily. He was keen to make as much noise as he could to scare off any possible danger. At the top he looked along the landing and noticed that a door was ajar. The woman stepped past him, walked the few yards and pushed the door wide open. She pointed at the spreadeagled body of a young woman face up on the floor next to the bed. Her head was bent forward and to the side, crushed against the front of a cheap-looking dressing table.

Tom’s trained instinct to feel for a pulse was, he knew, pointless. This girl was lifeless: there was no way anybody could survive such an horrific injury to the neck. The amount of blood on the floor around her head and shoulders was more than anyone could lose and still be living and breathing.

“Go and close the front door and let nobody in or out,” he said firmly, automatically going into police mode. He stepped backwards out of the room. “Don’t touch anything. Shut this door and don’t move anything anywhere. Where’s your phone? We need the police here. I don’t give a damn that it’s a brothel. Nobody’s going in or out. Understood?”

Greyness washed through the woman’s face as he pushed her gently towards the stairs, his outstretched arm acting as much as a prop to stop her falling back as a prod to keep her moving. Tom made the call from the phone in the hallway, and fifteen minutes later he, two young women and the woman who had called him in and was clearly the madam, were assembled in the front room. A grim-looking, heavily built uniformed sergeant stared daggers at Tom. “CID are on their way. You’re in deep shit and I’ll happily tread on your head to keep you under, you bastard,” he said. He looked at the women. “Nobody’s going anywhere.” Then his gaze rested meaningfully on Tom. It was as if he’d just caught a prize in one of those penny-in-the-slot machines. “Where are the customers? Are you the only one here?”

The madam answered. “There are no gentlemen here.”

The sergeant’s eyes drilled into Tom’s face. “I’m going to check each of the rooms. Don’t you move a bloody muscle.” He left the front room and noisily climbed the stairs. Tom heard the sergeant bark: “Go and put something decent on, love, and get down these stairs and wait with the others. You don’t need to show me the tools of your trade. I’ve got better at home and it’s not been banged about by countless hairy-arsed blokes. Are there any more girls up here?” Tom heard the girl say no and then footsteps clattered down the stairs. A few seconds later a tall black woman aged no more than twenty lurched into the room.  She wore scuffed, blue, faux-fur-trimmed slippers and a dressing gown that flapped open to reveal a diaphanous, almost transparent, lace-trimmed negligee that stopped an inch or two above a small triangle of hair at the top of her legs. Her expression was wide-eyed, probably, Tom thought, drugged-up. Tom watched the policeman and the prostitute with interest. The sergeant may dislike him, but in return he admired the uniformed man’s attitude. A few months ago the investigating police officer would have demeaningly bullied the young prostitute or, even worse, demanded a favour in kind. Those had been the days when corruption spread through the police and councils like a cancer.

A few minutes later a black Vauxhall Consul pulled up outside the house and three men got out. One smiled unpleasantly when he saw Tom watching from the bay window. Detective Inspector John Smithson entered the room, announced himself and bared his teeth at Tom. Tom knew Smithson. The policeman had missed being caught up in the corruption scandal last year and had escaped the night of the long knives by the skin of his teeth. He’d made it plain that he believed Tom and his two reporter friends on the Derby Telegraph were directly responsible for wrecking the careers of several of his friends. There was no love lost.

Smithson nodded to the burly sergeant, who pointed a finger upwards. Smithson crooked a finger at Tom. “You, with me,” he said, and the pair left the room and climbed the stairs. A constable stood guard outside the room containing the dead girl. Smithson stepped in, briefly looked round and stared at the body on the floor. He grunted and waved a hand to instruct Tom to go back down the stairs. Back in the front room he faced Tom. “What are you doing here anyway? Using the facilities were you, or just dreaming about having the balls to do so?”

“I asked him in, inspector,” the madam interrupted, a steely note in her voice as if talking to aggressive, bullying policemen was not new to her. “We know Tom and he’s been sitting outside in a van for the last few hours. He’s OK is Tom. Maybe a bit intrusive but he doesn’t bother us, just takes photos of one or two of our gentlemen visitors occasionally.”

“Shut it, you slag,” Smithson said, his lips hardly moving, and without adjusting his penetrating gaze from Tom. Tom looked shocked. He’d been the soul of discretion every time he’d watched this house, but the madam, whom he’d never seen before, clearly knew all about him and his business.

“I’ll be wanting a full statement from you and don’t you dare leave anything out,” Smithson said to Tom. “I want to know why you were here, who your customer is, how long you’ve been a Peeping Tom with your little Kodak in that van, everything. You can do it here or I’ll see you down at Full Street nick this afternoon. In fact, make it two o’clock at Full Street. There’s a bad smell around this place and I think it emanates from you.”

Tom walked towards the door. Smithson gripped his shoulder as he passed. “Just fuck off, you bastard. I’ll have your head on a plate for what you did to those good lads in the force.” His whispered words spat phlegm into Tom’s ear.


You can purchase a copy of Deathbeds and the other 2 books in the series for a reduced pre-publication price.




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