Cross and burn, p.1
Cross and Burn, p.1Val McDermid
Val McDermid is a top ten bestseller, translated into more than thirty languages, with over two million copies sold in the UK and over ten million worldwide.
She has won many awards internationally, including the CWA Gold Dagger for best crime novel of the year and the the Stonewall Writer of the Year Award. In 2011, Val was the recipient of the Pioneer Award at the 23rd Annual Lambda Literary Awards.
In 2010, she was awarded the prestigious CWA Cartier Diamond Dagger. This followed her induction into the Hall of Fame at the ITV3 Crime Thriller Awards in 2009, the same year in which she was elected to an Honorary Fellowship at St Hilda’s College, Oxford.
Also by Val McDermid
A Place of Execution
Killing the Shadows
The Distant Echo
The Grave Tattoo
A Darker Domain
Trick of the Dark
The Vanishing Point
TONY HILL NOVELS
The Mermaids Singing
The Wire in the Blood
The Last Temptation
The Torment of Others
Beneath the Bleeding
Fever of the Bone
KATE BRANNIGAN NOVELS
LINDSAY GORDON NOVELS
Report for Murder
Booked for Murder
Hostage to Murder
SHORT STORY COLLECTIONS
The Writing on the Wall
Christmas is Murder
A Suitable Job for a Woman
Published by Little, Brown
All characters and events in this publication, other than those clearly in the public domain, are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Copyright © Val McDermid 2013
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
Lines from ‘Hammersmith Winter’ from the collection The Wrecking Point (Picador) reproduced with kind permission of Robin Robertson.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of the publisher.
The publisher is not responsible for websites (or their content) that are not owned by the publisher.
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CROSS AND BURN
Table of Contents
About the Author
Also by Val McDermid
1: Day one
2: Day twenty-four
22: Day twenty-five
32: Day twenty-six
57: Day twenty-seven
65: Day twenty-eight
67: Day twenty-nine
For my friends by the sea – thank you for taking me in and bringing me home.
Somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something good. I can’t think of any other reason why I am so lucky in the support systems that enable me to put this book in your hands. Some of them are experts who give up their time and expertise; some of them are my own backroom team; others go above and beyond the call of professional duty.
So I’d like to say thanks to Professor Dave Barclay for his DNA expertise; to Catherine Tweedy for her fascinating exposition of fingermarks; to Professor Sue Black for her unerring ability to astonish me; and to those who prefer to remain anonymous. Thanks to Marie Mather whose generous donation to the Million for a Morgue campaign is the reason why she appears in these pages.
The character of DCI Alex Fielding was first created by Patrick Harbinson for Wire in the Blood, the TV series based on the Tony Hill and Carol Jordan novels. I have appropriated her for my own purposes with the kind permission of Coastal Productions.
Unstinting gratitude to Kiri, who organises my life; to Carolyn, who makes it beautiful; to Tony, who keeps me on the fiscal straight and narrow; and most of all, to Kelly, Cameron, the cousins and their mums, who save me from myself. Not to mention the dog.
Finally, a big shout out to the professionals: Jane and the team at Gregory & Co, David Shelley and his crew at Little, Brown, my copy editor Anne O’Brien, Amy Hundley and her colleagues at Grove Atlantic, and all the booksellers, librarians and bloggers who have helped my books find their readers.
The hardest thing in life is to know which bridge to cross and which to burn.
But you’re not here, now, to lead me back
To bed. None of you are. Look at the snow,
I said, to whoever might be near, I’m cold,
Would you hold me. Hold me. Let me go.
He woke every morning with a prickle of excitement. Would today be the day? Would he finally meet her, his perfect wife? He knew who she was, of course. He’d been watching her for a couple of weeks now, growing used to her habits, getting to know who her friends were, learning her little ways. How she pushed her hair behind her ears when she settled into the driver’s seat of her car. How she turned all the lights on as soon as she came home to her lonely flat.
How she never ever seemed to check in her rear-view mirror.
He reached for the remote controls and raised the blinds on the high skylight windows. Rain fell in a constant drizzle from an unbroken wall of featureless grey cloud. No wind to drive the rain, though. Just a steady downpour. The sort of weather where people hid under umbrellas, heads down, paying no attention to their surroundings, faces invisible to CCTV.
First box ticked.
And it was a Saturday. So she’d have no appointments booked, no meetings arranged. Nobody to notice an unplanned absence. Nobody to raise an alarm.
Second box ticked.
Saturday also meant the chances were much higher that her plans would take her somewhere suitable for their meeting. Somewhere he could follow the first steps of the carefully worke
Third box ticked.
He took a long slow shower, savouring the sensual delight of the warm water on his skin. If she played her cards right, she’d get to share it with him, to make a pleasant experience even more rewarding for him. What could be better than starting the day with a blow job in the shower? That was the sort of thing that a perfect wife would be thrilled to perform for her man. It had never occurred to him before, and he happily added it to his list. It had never occurred to the first one either, which was typical of her many failures to meet his high standards.
New tick box added to the mental list. It was important to be organised.
He believed in organisation, in preparation and in taking precautions. An outsider, looking at how much time had passed since that bitch had thwarted him, might have thought he’d given up on his quest. How wrong that outsider would have been. First, he’d had to deal with the mess she’d made. That had taken a ridiculous amount of time and he begrudged her every second of it. Then he’d had to be clear about his objectives.
He’d considered trying to buy what he wanted, like his father had done. But pliable though the Asian women were, it sent the wrong message to turn up with one of them on your arm. It screamed inadequacy, perversion, failure. The same went for mail-order brides from the former Soviet empire. Those harsh accents, the chemical blonde hair, the criminal tendencies ingrained like grime – that wasn’t for him. You couldn’t parade one of them in front of your workmates and expect respect.
Then he’d looked at the possibilities of internet dating. The trouble with that was you were buying a pig in a poke. And he didn’t want to poke a pig. He sniggered to himself at his cleverness, his skill with language. People admired that about him, he knew. But the even bigger trouble with internet dating was that there were so few options if things went wrong. Because you’d left a trail a mile wide. It took effort, skill and resources to be truly anonymous online. The risk of exposure with one split second of inattention or error was too high for him to take. And that meant if it all went wrong, he had no way to make her pay the proper price for her failure. She’d simply retreat to her old life as if nothing had happened. She’d win.
He couldn’t allow that. There had to be another way. And so he’d conceived his plan. And that was why it had taken so long to reach this point. He’d had to develop a strategy, then examine it from every possible angle, then do his research. And only now was he ready to roll.
He dressed anonymously in black chain-store jeans and polo shirt, carefully lacing up the black work boots with their steel toecaps. Just in case. Downstairs, he made himself a cup of green tea and munched an apple. Then he went through to the garage to check again that everything was in order. The freezer was turned off, the lid open, ready to receive its cargo. Pre-cut strips of tape were lined up along the edge of a shelf. On a card table, handcuffs, a taser, picture cord and a roll of duct tape sat in a row. He put on his waxed jacket and stowed the items in his pockets. Finally, he picked up a metal case and headed back to the kitchen.
Fourth and fifth boxes ticked.
He gave the garage one final look, saw he’d trailed in some leaf debris last time he’d been in there. With a sigh, he put down the case and fetched a brush and dustpan. Women’s work, he thought impatiently. But if everything went right today, soon there would be a woman to do it.
Dr Tony Hill shifted in his seat and tried to avoid looking at the wreckage of her face. ‘When you think of Carol Jordan, what comes into your mind?’
Chris Devine, still formally a detective sergeant with Bradfield Metropolitan Police, cocked her head towards him, as if to compensate for a degree of deafness. ‘When you think of Carol Jordan, what comes into your mind?’ Her voice had a deliberate teasing quality. He recognised it as a bid to deflect him from his line.
‘I try not to think about Carol.’ In spite of his best efforts, the sadness seeped to the surface.
‘Maybe you should. Maybe you need to go there more than I do.’
The room had grown dim as they’d talked. The day was dying outside but the light seemed to be leaching out of the room at a faster rate. Because she couldn’t see him, it was safe for once to let his face betray him. His expression was the opposite of the lightness of his tone. ‘You’re not my therapist, you know.’
‘And you’re not mine. Unless you’re here as my mate, I’m not interested. I’ve told them I’m not wasting my time with a counsellor. But then, you know that, don’t you? They’ll have told you the score. You’re still their go-to guy. The rabbit they pull out of the hat when all the other magic tricks have fallen flat on their arse.’
It was amazing she didn’t sound more bitter, he thought. In her shoes, he’d be raging. Lashing out at anyone who sat still long enough. ‘It’s true, I do know you’ve refused to cooperate with the therapy team. But that’s not why I’ve come. I’m not here to try and counsel you by the back door. I’m here because we’ve known each other for a long time.’
‘That doesn’t make us friends.’ Her voice was dull, all animation stripped from the words.
‘No. I don’t really do friendship.’ It surprised him how easy it was to be candid with someone who couldn’t see his face or his body language. He’d read about the phenomenon but he’d never experienced it at first hand. Maybe he should try wearing dark glasses and feigning blindness with his more intransigent patients.
She gave a dry little laugh. ‘You do a decent facsimile when it suits you.’
‘Kind of you to say so. A long time ago, someone called it “passing for human”. I liked the sound of that. I’ve been using it ever since.’
‘That’s pitching it a bit high, mate. What does the length of time we’ve known each other have to do with the price of fish?’
‘We’re what’s left, I suppose.’ He shifted in his chair, uncomfortable at the way the conversation was going. He’d come because he wanted to reach out, to help her. But the longer he sat here, the more he felt like he was the one who needed help. ‘After the dust has settled.’
‘I think you’re here because you hoped that talking to me would help you understand whatever it is you’re feeling,’ she pointed out with a note of sharpness. ‘Because I took the hit for her, didn’t I? That’s a closer bond than we ever had in all those years of working together.’
‘I thought I was the psychologist here.’ It was a weak response, barely a parry to her thrust.
‘Doesn’t mean you can figure out what’s going on in your own head. Your own heart, come to that. It’s complicated, right, Doc? I mean, if it was only guilt, it would be easy, right? That’d make sense. But it’s more than that, isn’t it? Because there’s a dark side to guilt. The rage. The feeling that it’s just not fair, that you’re the one left carrying the weight. The outrage because you’re left with a sense of responsibility. That sense of injustice, it’s like heartburn, like acid burning into you.’ She stopped abruptly, shocked by her own figure of speech.
Her hand moved towards her face, stopping millimetres from the shiny red skin left by the acid booby trap that had been targeted at someone else. ‘So, what does come into your mind when you think about Carol Jordan?’ she persisted, her voice harsh now.
Tony shook his head. ‘I can’t say.’ Not because he didn’t know the answer. But because he did.
Even from behind, Paula McIntyre recognised the boy. She was a detective, after all. It was the kind of thing she was supposed to be capable of. All the more so when the person in question was out of context. That was where civilians fell down. Without context, they generally failed. But detectives were meant to make the most of their natural talents and hone their skills to the point where people were once seen, never forgotten. Yeah, right, she thought. Another one of those myths perpetuated by the
But still, she did recognise the boy, even from the quarter-profile of her angle of approach. If she’d entered the station via the tradesmen’s entrance – the back door from the car park – she’d have missed him. But this was her first day at Skenfrith Street and she didn’t know the door codes. So she’d taken the easy way out and parked in the multi-storey opposite and walked in the front door, coming up behind the teenager shifting from foot to foot before the front counter. There was something about the set of his shoulders and the angle of his head that suggested defensiveness and tension. But not guilt.
Cross and Burn by Val McDermid / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes