Suspense/Thriller, 454 pages
Cover art by Pat Evans, background provided by A. W. Lambert
It’s 2006 and a group of university students enter into a reckless dare which culminates in the death of one of them. A formal investigation classifies the death as being accidental.
Fast forward to 2014, and the remaining students who took part in that dare, now each residing in various UK towns, one even in Australia, are being sought out and one by one brutally murdered. But what, after all this time, has sparked the killing spree and who is responsible? In one of the most involved cases of his career Theo Stern is hauled from one town to another, even travelling to Australia, in an attempt to uncover the truth.
Total fatigue had won the day and a still fully clothed consciousness had only returned with the tentative but persistent tapping on his bedroom door. He forced glued eyelids apart and peered down at his watch. Half past two.
“Yeah, I hear you. I’m on my way.”
He peeled himself out of his clothes and staggered into the shower. Every room with en suite; well done, Cherry. Ten minutes later, feeling almost human, he was out front where he found Keen leaning patiently against the Hyundai. He smiled, the best he could do, hoping it made up just a tad for four plus hours of almost constant silence his young sidekick had had to endure on the way here. “Okay, let’s see what we can come up with, shall we?”
Their contact this time was a young DC called Roberts who could have been no more than a couple of years older than Keen. He had in tow the senior of the two uniformed constables who had responded to Sally Buckingham’s emergency call. He’d been the first to wade through an inch of water to the back room, the first to see the carnage there.
Roberts was quick and on the ball, fully briefed, and with a car at his disposal. Half an hour after arriving at the nick and parking the Hyundai, they were pulling up outside Mo Rahman’s closed and sealed pharmacy. Again, full marks to O’Connor, or someone on his behalf, for making the right contact, and to the locals for their instant cooperation. Nationwide, Stern thought, the police liaison and collaboration was better than ever.
A uniformed constable was guarding the taped-off front of the premises. Their access, Roberts informed them, would be through a rear entrance. From the street they made their way along a short alleyway leading to a small square yard. A green wheelie bin stood to one side of a doorway into the back of the shop. The door was open and two individuals clad in white coveralls were at work inside. Stopping at the door, Roberts turned to Stern. “Instructions are not to...”
Stern nodded. “Yeah, I know the score; no one in until the SOCOs say so, right.”
“Sorry, I forgot, you’ve done all this before, haven’t you?”
“Once or twice.”
Roberts gave a little self-conscious cough. “By the way, Mr Stern. Just for the record, they prefer to be called CSIs now. Crime Scene Investigators.”
“Really? Thanks for the update. Has the job changed?”
Roberts shook his head. “Not that I know of.”
Smiling, Stern gave a little shrug. “Oh well, a change is as good as a rest, I suppose.”
Keen leaned in close and whispered in Robert’s ear. “Take a look at DI Stern’s record.” Stern heard the comment, noting his elevation back to DI, but said nothing. He did wonder if it meant Keen had himself looked him up, studied his record, and if so, did he already know about Stern’s connection with his father? If he did, he’d certainly shown no sign of it. Stern pushed the thought from his mind…now was not the time.
He stood on the threshold looking into the room. Old habits die hard. For all those years his own little routine, still not forgotten; the first few minutes on an initial visit to any crime scene always spent on the outside, standing back looking in. An overall scan, before closing in and studying detail. Surprising what you can spot from a distance that might blur up close, he would maintain to any subordinate willing to listen.