Deadline, my first short story collection of seven tales featuring DI George Haven is available for free amazon download on 1st and 2nd April – if you want to give it a try (and I’d be very pleased if you’d kindly offer up a review if you do) then you can get it here.
And, as I’ve recently written a new short featuring Haven, taking the word ‘Flight’ as the prompt for a writing competition, you can read that one for free right here:
‘So much for them saying he wasn’t gonna do a runner, eh?’
DS Matt Kemp smirked as he spoke, still chewing his way through his morning bagel, his hot plastic cup of coffee held tight in his other hand. Kemp was a good copper, but nothing would ever get in the way of him ensuring he got a breakfast. All his colleagues knew that only too well but were still often amazed to see him chomping away regardless of the scenario he found himself in, he’d been seen stuffing bacon rolls at the roadside of gruesome road traffic accidents and even, on one occasion, been spied snacking on a mars bar mere feet away from a murder victim sprawled on the tarmac of a car park, the poor man’s blood barely dried on the ground.
‘It’s not an exact science, this police work, you know, Matt.’ His senior officer, DI George Haven, responded. ‘How’s the bagel?’
‘Hmm. Good.’ Kemp said through another mouthful.
Their third team member, DS Sandy King, smiled as broadly as she dared in the biting cold wind. This was an unseasonably chilly March morning, and the last place any of them wanted to be was sat atop a London office block, seeking their latest target. It was, however, a case that had haunted and troubled each of them since the discover of the first body, that of a young girl, not quite sixteen and taken on the day before her birthday.
Carl Masters was their primary suspect and, to all intents and purposes, he fitted everyone’s expectations and the professionals’ profiles.
A loner, a young man with no fixed work pattern, he’d travelled from town to town, floated from job to job with nothing in his mind but the tragic loss of his own daughter to cancer just prior to the previous Christmas. It was that fact, the experts said, which had driven him to do what he seemed intent on completing – it was like a project for him.
He was systematically taking victims just before each of their birthdays up to the age that he lost his daughter. Clare Masters had been seventeen. If the findings so far were correct, then Masters had already claimed around half of his victims, with just nine more for him to claim to complete his morbid collection. Jason Dower was missing and he was nine years old – and, as yet, no nine year old victim had been discovered.
‘Not a flight risk.’ Sandy said. ‘That’s all the courts say – that he’s not a flight risk. As to whether he’d get out of the grip of G4S or whoever else is charged with keeping tabs on him on the mainland, that’s something that they rarely commit to.’ She sighed and pulled her coat tighter against the cold wind.
‘Sad but very true.’ Haven said. ‘But, that’s what keeps us in work I guess.’
‘Have to say, Guv, I could never see you doing anything else but this job.’ Matt screwed up the serviette which had until moments before held his breakfast and stuffed it into the pocket of his long dark overcoat. ‘Never have been able to picture you in any other role.’
‘Not sure whether that’s a compliment or not, Matt.’ He said.
‘Take it as one.’ Matt said. ‘Seriously, I think this is what you are cut out to do – your calling, whatever.’
‘Well, I think we’re all about to get our calling about now.’ Sandy butted in, tapping her colleague on the arm. ‘Look, over there. I think that might be our man.’
They both followed her gaze across the skyline to another tower block across from them and to a window onto a flat that was just becoming unveiled as the occupant pulled back the curtains. The figure stopped as soon as both curtains had been pulled wide, appeared to take one step closer to the glass and, placing a hand either side of his head against the window, stared back directly at them.
It was an unnerving sight, as though the man had known they were there, lying in wait, standing shivering against the cold morning air awaiting his arrival, his appearance like a revered stage performer. They had been waiting, of course, but there was nothing to have them suspect that the man would have any reason to pause there upon waking and to lock them in his sights with the speed and intensity that he did. It was almost hawk-like, his senses seemed primed and heightened, he was fully aware he was being hunted and seemed to know that an endgame had been brought to him.
‘Oh shit!’ Matt said. ‘He’s made us straight away. How the hell did he know we’d be here today?’
Carl Masters studied the three figures on the rooftop almost opposite his building. It was slightly lower than the position of his window, but he assumed they had taken position there as it was the closest they could get to him and still get a reasonable view when he chose to reveal himself. They appeared to all be in plain clothes, not a uniform between them. That meant little protection, likely little in the way of body armour if any, they were far enough from him to not be at risk. It also meant it was likely they were unarmed and posed no threat to him – that, in turn, meant they were almost certainly in contact with others who were armed, who were protected and who were closer to his location. He listened intently, trying to hear any sounds from outside his flat, from the corridor outside. In his mind’s eye there were likely four or five armed police officers outside the door, poised to make a sudden and forced entry at any moment, presumably as soon as identification was made by those now staring back at him from the rooftop of the other building.
Carl closed his eyes tightly and held them shut for a moment.
When he opened them again there were tears, coming with the realisation that his project would likely now go uncompleted. He would never have as he had desired – to take a child away from every year of those he’d had his daughter for. It was a new and deep failing for him, he had already let her down once and now he was doing it all over again. All he had ever wanted was to send her a friend, a playmate, for every year she had been allowed to experience, to live, before she had been so cruelly snatched away from him. He wasn’t even able to offer her that comfort.
‘What do you think?’ Sandy said. The question was aimed at Haven, but none of them turned away from the scene, their eyes locked on the figure and his statue-like position at the window.
‘I think he knows it’s over.’ Haven said. ‘I just hope we can find out from him where Jason Dower is. I don’t want this to be one of those cases where parents are left in the constant hell of forever not knowing.’
‘Want me to make the call?’ Matt asked. ‘Armed response are on their way into the building, they are probably on their way to his floor right now.’
Haven looked up towards the top of the tower block opposite as though seeking an answer from upon high. As though sensing his glance, a group of blackbirds appeared against the grey clouded backdrop briefly before swooping left and disappearing behind the next building.
When he lowered his eyes again he saw that Carl Masters had moved, his hands were off the window and were by his sides. Then he reached out with his right hand towards the edge of the window and, seconds later, he had pulled the handle and swung the window open wide.
‘Jesus!’ Haven uttered. ‘Make the call, Matt. I think he’s going to jump!’
Matt Kemp grabbed his radio from his pocket and began to shout instructions into it. Haven and Sandy heard not a word of it, their ears filled with the rushing of the cold wind as it seemed to quickly speed up around their rooftop position, their gaze locked on the scene before them.
Carl Masters had a hand on each side of the window frame and was pulling his body up and off the ground, his bare feet appearing on the window sill as they watched in horror.
‘Just get in there now!’ Matt’s voice cut through the roar of the wind as Masters’ body filled the open window space.
They could only watch as three dark clothed figures suddenly appeared in the room behind him, rushing towards the window just as the figure pushed with his legs and launched himself up and out into the cold morning sky.
There was no sound, nothing, as the figure took flight, in an almost graceful arc from the window of the flat, his arms held out from each side, as though he expected wings to appear and guide him to the ground or to another place to land.
Sandy’s hand went to her mouth, her eyes couldn’t unlock from following the figure’s trajectory as he plummeted down past where they stood and towards the roof of a lower building. And it was as her eyes raced to keep up with the man’s descent that she saw the bundle of rags between the air conditioning units on the rooftop just a split second before sound returned with the sickening thump as the body hit the concrete.
‘Get them to that roof, Matt! Quickly.’ She half screamed.
Matt Kemp looked across at her, stunned at the sudden outburst.
‘Sandy, it’s over. He’s gone.’
She shook her head quickly.
‘No, it’s the boy. Jason Dower. I know where he was keeping the children until he killed them. Look – he’s just led us right to him. Look between those air-con units on the roof. See those rags, that tarpaulin – it’s moving. There’s somebody’s child in there. We got to save one.’
Haven breathed out deeply.
‘No.’ He turned and started to walk back towards the rooftop doorway. ‘No. We lost eight.’