About the Author
Shirley was born in the Cotswolds and lived in places as diverse as Cyprus and the remote Orkney island of Hoy before settling in Lancashire where the Pennines provide the inspiration for her mysteries. When she isn't writing or walking with her dogs, Shirley loves reading, photography, listening to music and drinking wine. She’s also a season ticket holder at Burnley Football Club. Find Shirley at www.shirleywells.com
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Ah yes, and a stag night that had included propping up bars in too many pubs and clubs with his mate Pikey, returning to Pikey's house and demolishing a bottle of whisky
And someone wanted him dead. The way he felt right now, they'd be getting their wish sooner than they'd anticipated.
He vaguely remembered being offered the sofa to sleep on, which didn't explain what he was doing on the floor.
He struggled onto his knees and immediately wished he hadn't. Everything hurt. Every muscle in his body registered pain, and a wrecking ball was hard at work in his skull.
Water. He needed water. Probably a stomach pump and life support machine too.
He stood, gingerly, and leaned against the dining table. The sofa wasn't even in the same room. Water.
He staggered to the kitchen, turned on the tap and shoved his mouth under it. A little water found its way down his throat. Most washed over his face. He found a mug, filled it, and drank it straight down. After the second mugful, he felt almost human and his mouth began to function normally again.
He filled the kettle and switched it on, and managed to hunt down a spoon and some coffee. He could walk, swallow and make a drink. All was not quite lost.
A weak April sun was trying to brighten this Sunday morning but, thanks to the neighbours' penchant for tall trees, was having little effect on the kitchen. Somewhere in the distance, church bells were ringing to summon the faithful to morning service.
"Holy crap." Pikey lurched into the kitchen wearing a The Man, The Myth, The Legend T-shirt back to front, and a pair of jeans that he hadn't bothered to fasten. "How do you feel?"
"About as good as you look."
"That bad, eh?" Grinning, Pikey sank down into a chair. "It was a good night, though, wasn't it?"
"God knows. I suppose it must have been."
Taking a closer look, Dylan decided he didn't feel anywhere near as good as Pikey looked. Pikey might not have managed to dress himself properly, but he still cut an impressive figure. Like Dylan, he'd passed forty, but unlike Dylan he was all muscle and energy. With his shaved head, Pikey had always looked like a thug. Detective Sergeant Pike was a damn good copper, though, a damn good man too, and Dylan missed working alongside him.
"We'll feel better with some food inside us," Pikey said. "What we need is a good fry-up."
Dylan's stomach lurched at the prospect, but by the time Pikey had rifled through the fridge for sausages, bacon and eggs, he thought he could maybe face some food after all.
Half an hour later, they sat down to plates laden with burned sausages, bacon that snapped apart and eggs that looked about to hatch. Baked beans and soggy fried bread completed the feast.
"Last night," Pikey said, "you mentioned something about wanting to pick my brain. What was that about?"
"Did I?" Dylan had planned to raise the subject but couldn't remember doing so. "Someone wants me dead." It still sounded ridiculous. Hell, it was ridiculous. It had to be. "I've had a couple of phone calls at the office from some jerk saying it's payback time and that I'm going to die. I know it's a long shot but I wondered if you had any ideas."
Pikey's eyebrows had risen with each word. His fork hovered level with his mouth. "You're kidding. What else have they said?"
"Nothing. The calls have been brief and to the point. No background sounds that I could make out. No clues as to an identity. Nothing. Just a quick 'it's payback time and you're going to die.'"
"Payback time? Who have you upset recently?"
"How long have you got?"
Pikey mopped up egg yolk with a piece of fried bread. "When was the first call?"
"Two weeks ago. Before then, though, Bev took three odd calls at the house. No one said anything but she had the feeling someone was on the other end, listening."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"I can give you the name of someone recently released from prison. Someone who threatened to get youand me, come to that."
"Come on then. Out with it."
"Leonard King. Remember him?"
"Oh, Christ. How could I forget?"
Dylan could remember every detail of the night he and Pikey had thought they were about to sort out a domestic dispute. It was one of the last things they did together as coppers.
They'd been on their way home, their stint finished for the day, when they'd heard that a huge fire at a furniture factory and two bomb scares were keeping uniformed officers busy. London was in chaos, and as he and Pikey had been less than two minutes from the property where the domestic was supposedly in full swing, they'd agreed to go and sort it.
From the moment they arrived, they'd known something was wrong.
The front door to the three-storey terraced house was open and, when they'd stepped inside, expecting to find a husband and wife in the middle of an alcohol-fuelled tiff, they quickly realised it was a setup. There was no domestic dispute.
Instead they'd stumbled into a professional drug factory where millions of pounds' worth of heroin had been processed. It was one of the biggest Class A drugs seizures the U.K. had seen.
Of course, they hadn't known that at first. They'd been too busy relieving Max Rickman, one of the U.K.'s most violent, of the samurai sword he'd been wielding.
Thankfully, the other man at the property, smalltime crook Leonard King, had been unarmed but there had been no doubt in either of their minds that Rick-man wouldn't hesitate to use that sword.
Rickman had started life as a football hooligan, had killed a man in a bar fight while in New York and spent several years in prison, including five in San Quentin, before being deported back to England.
Only when Rickman and King were secure and backup had finally arrived did Dylan and Pikey realise they'd stepped into a drug factory. They'd found a hundred grand in cash, a dealer list, heroin in powder and block form, a press for compressing the adulterated drug back into blocks, a cash-counting machine and another samurai sword hidden behind cushions on the sofa.
"King's out then?"
"As free as a bird," Pikey said. "The reason I know is that he was taken into custody less than twenty-four hours after his release on a drunk and disorderly charge. He was released when he'd sobered up."
"What about Rickman?"
Pikey shook his head. "Up for parole in a few months. He's late sixties now and has heart problems. Angina or something like that."
It was little consolation. Rickman was a dangerous bastard, with or without a naff ticker.
They chewed on burned sausages for a few moments, and Dylan guessed their thoughts were running along the same lines. "There was something really dodgy about that night," he said.
That King and Rickman had been set up, presumably by someone out for revenge or by another dealer wanting to muscle in on Rickman's territory, had been obvious. King, who'd previously spent two spells in prison for armed robbery, claimed he'd only met Rickman a few months earlier. According to him, Rick-man had offered to pay him well to deliver a package. King had known Rickman was a dealer, but his story was that he'd had no idea of the scale of the operation. He'd insisted he wasn't involved and, at first, there was nothing to suggest he was.
A search of his flat had soon proved otherwise. A stash of heroin and an even bigger stash of cash had been found. King had denied all knowledge, had seemed genuinely shocked by the discovery, but it had been enough to send him down.
The phone call about the so-called domestic dispute had been made by a female and they never did find out who was responsible.
"What did King say as he was dragged from the court?" Dylan asked.
"Something like 'I'm going to get you fucking bastards,' if I recall."
"That's what I thought." Dylan wiped his plate clean with a square of bread he'd saved for the purpose. "I knew I could rely on you, Pikey. Thanks. I'll start sniffing around and see what King's up to."
"I'll see what I can find out too." Pikey flexed his impressive muscles. "If he needs sorting, we'll do it together. And if I think of anyone else who might want to end your days, I'll let you know."
"You do that. Although I'm sure it's nothing. Let's face it, if someone wants you dead"
"they kill you. Yeah." They did. They didn't waste time trying to frighten you.
And yet, although Dylan wasn't going to mention it, he had a bad feeling about this. There was nothing he could pinpoint, but it was making him very uneasy. Perhaps he was simply getting old. Or soft.
Pikey made coffee so strong that the spoon stood to attention in the mug. He plonked it down in front of Dylan. "Hey, do you remember that hooker we busted?"
Dylan grinned. "The pregnant one? The one you helped into the back of the car as if she were made of porcelain. The one who then gave birth to a stash of cocaine before our eyes?"
And so the reminiscing began. They'd been through a lot together, from rookie coppers who didn't have a clue what they were doing to detectives who knew how to work the system to their advantage. Time had coloured their memories, of course. It hadn't been all fun. Yet the memories that made them laugh were the ones that had to be dusted off and polished.
Dylan enjoyed his work as a private investigator, most of the time at least, but he missed working alongside Pikey. He often wondered how far he might have risen in the ranks if he hadn't been dismissed in disgrace, kicked off the force and into a prison cell.
Still, it was no use going over old ground. It had happened. It was wrong, bloody wrong, but it had happened. End of. There were far more important things to worry aboutlike a sick wife, two kids, a mortgage
And the small matter of death threats.
At six o'clock on Thursday morning, the only things moving were birds. The dawn chorus was in full swing, and dozens of starlings were already squabbling like spoiled kids.
Jimmy sat in the white van he'd bought last week. It had been cheap, was suitably dented and rusting in places, and it stank of oil and something else. It was perfect.
He'd disconnected the battery and was currently blocking the driveway to a house that sat at the end of a row of similar detached executive homes. Each property came with privacy provided by tall fir trees, making it unlikely that anyone from the nearby houses would spot his van. A small lake opposite was used only by ducks so no one would see him from that angle.
All Jimmy had to do was wait, and he was good at that.
He knew the layout, knew the kitchen was at the back of the house, as was the master bedroom. It was doubtful that Brian Dowie would spot the van until he emerged from his home at 6:40 a.m. If he did, though, Jimmy would be ready for him.
Unlike the early riser she'd married, Diane Dowie liked her beauty sleep and wouldn't leave the bedroom until after nine o'clock. Their twin boys were sixteen and always managed to get themselves to school without her help. School had finished for the Easter break, though, so the boys would probably stay in bed later than usual. While her husband lorded it over employees at his car salesroom, Diane would spend his money on clothes and beauticians. Later, when her husband set off for Cardiff, Diane would open a bottle of wine, and probably follow it with another bottle.
Jimmy waited. The blood zinged through his veins and his palms began to sweat. Nothing could go wrong. He'd been patient. He'd watched the Dowie household until he knew the daily routine to the second. An inner voice reminded him that the school holidays changed that routine, but he ignored it.
Minutes ticked by. Jimmy checked his watch.
The front door opened and Dowie appeared. He aimed a remote control in the direction of the garage and the door swung up, but then he stopped to frown at the van blocking his exit. A scowl cut grooves in his face as he walked down the drive.
Jimmy jumped out the van. "Sorry. Terribly sorry. I've called the breakdown companyhalf an hour ago nowand they should be here any minute. If you helped push" He gave Dowie's suit an apologetic glance. "If you'd be kind enough to sit inside while I push, I'm sure we'll soon have it out of your way."
"Fine." Dowie nodded reluctantly, then fished in his pocket and produced a business card. "If you're in the market for a new vehicle, here's the place to come."
Jimmy had to stifle a bubble of hysterical laughter that rose up inside him. Dowie didn't miss a trickor the opportunity to screw someone over.
"Thanks," Jimmy said. "I'll stop by. I've been meaning to trade this in for a while now."
"Ask for meBrian Dowie. My name's on the card."
"I will. Thanks so much. And I'm really sorry about this."
"We'll both push," Dowie said. "It'll be easier. As soon as it moves, jump inside. Okay?"
"Got it," Jimmy said.
Jimmy opened both driver's door and passenger door, then moved to the back of the van ready to push it. "Hey, check the handbrake's off, will you?"
It only took a second. Dowie leaned in through the passenger door to release the handbrake, and Jimmy picked up the crowbar that had been waiting by the rear wheel. He brought it down on the back of Dowie's head as the bloke emerged from the car.
Dowie dropped like a corpse, his car keys falling from his pocket and narrowly missing a drain. That would have buggered everything.
Christ! For one awful moment, Jimmy thought he really did have a corpse on his hands. As he bundled him into the back of the van, though, he could feel him breathing.
He quickly lifted the bonnet, reconnected the battery and climbed into the driver's seat. The engine fired at the first attempt. He reversed it a few yards, then killed then engine.
It only took a couple of minutes to tie Dowie's wrists and ankles, and gag him. Not that anyone was likely to hear him.