Recent Titles by Hilary Norman
The Sam Becket Mysteries
LAST RUN *
IN LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP
RALPH’S CHILDREN *
IF I SHOULD DIE (written as Alexandra Henry)
* available from Severn HouseCAGED
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First world edition published 2010
in Great Britain and in the USA by
SEVERN HOUSE PUBLISHERS LTD of
9–15 High Street, Sutton, Surrey, England, SM1 1DF.
Copyright © 2010 by Hilary Norman.
All rights reserved.
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
Caged. – (Sam Becket mysteries)
1. Becket, Sam (Fictitious character) – Fiction.
2. Police – Florida – Miami – Fiction. 3. Detective and mystery stories.
I. Title II. Series
ISBN-13: 978-1-78010-101-9 (epub)
ISBN-13: 978-0-7278-6900-5 (cased)
ISBN-13: 978-1-84751-246-8 (trade paper)
Except where actual historical events and characters are being described for the storyline of this novel, all situations in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to living persons is purely coincidental.
This ebook produced by
Palimpsest Book Production Limited,
Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland.
For Helen and Neal
My grateful thanks to the following: Howard Barmad; Jennifer Bloch; Batya Brykman; Isaac and Evelyne Hasson; Jonathan Kern (for everything, as always); Christian LeVan, BVM&S, MRCVS; massive thanks again to Special Agent Paul Marcus and to Julie Marcus (couldn’t do it without the ‘real’ Sam and Grace); Wolfgang Neuhaus; James Nightingale; Helmut Pesch; Sebastian Ritscher; Helen Rose; Rainer Schumacher; Jeanne Skipper; Amanda Stewart; Dr Jonathan Tarlow; Euan Thorneycroft; Ruth Wilson.
They lay on the ground, limbs entwined, joined together.
Like a couple in the midst of sex.
Pale, though. Not quite alabaster, yet almost sculpted looking.
A work of beauty only a little spoiled
And by violent death.
They lay together much as they used to.
he keeper was down on the floor just outside the plastic walled cage.
Best place to be, spending quiet time with them.
Isabella the Seventh was out of the cage, nestling on the keeper’s stomach.
All rats had their own characteristics, but this Isabella liked snuggling close, had grown to enjoy human touch and skin.
Soon, the keeper knew, the doe would be in oestrus, and then, like her female predecessors, she would become quite wonderful to watch, all squeaking, urgent vibration. And then, at the slightest touch by Romeo the Fifth, her ardent buck, Isabella’s tail would lift and her whole furry little backside would rise, exposing that secret, tiny part of her as it changed colour, turned sweet violet, and opened to him.
Her keeper found this beautiful.
Her buck liked it too. Though Romeo, like any number of healthy, horny males, would probably willingly have mounted a whole row of females if they’d displayed their little primed fannies to him.
There being nothing else of significance to report today, the keeper picked up Isabella, grasped her firmly around her small body, took her temperature, measured her heart rate and, finding all fine and dandy, made basic notations on the observation chart and put her back down.
The doe nestled back down on the warm human flesh, and the keeper stroked her head.
Rats were nice creatures, misunderstood by many. The keeper had studied and cared for them for a while now, liked them, was both touched and impressed by them because they were as individual as dogs and cats. And humans.
They liked to eat, play, fight and fuck.
And some liked to kill.
They had their limitations, mind, needed careful control. And after a while, when there was nothing new left to observe about them, the keeper grew bored and replaced them. One Isabella giving way to another, ditto Romeo.
Not a long life, even by rat standards, but a comfortable, perhaps even a happy one in a home complete with cedar shavings, cans for hiding, boxes for nesting and good, nutritious food.
A cut-price miniature, in fact, of Rat Park, the Eden built in the 1970s by a Canadian shrink named Alexander, who’d conducted drug-addiction experiments on rats and found that the creatures didn’t like being high, preferred plain water to morphine and sugar-laced stuff.
Rats weren’t dumb.
Isabella the Seventh stirred and began to tread a path south.
‘Not today,’ the keeper told her, lifting her gently again and stroking her cute little nose.
This Isabella had always been special.
When her time came, the keeper would end her life kindly.
Not yet, though.
Romeo hadn’t finished with her yet.
ife was good in the Becket household.
Everyone safe, healthy and content in the small white Bay Harbor Island house that Grace Lucca Becket had lived in for some years before she’d met and married her husband, Sam.
It was the kind of ease that made Grace just a little nervous.
She hadn’t been superstitious in the past, but over time it had crept up on her, and sometimes she even knocked on wood, surreptitiously, so no one else would notice, except Sam, of course, who noticed everything.
That’s what you got, being married to a police detective.
You got a lot of other things, too, when the detective was Sam Becket. Like all kinds of love and caring and kindness, and not just directed at you and your baby son and grown-up daughter, but also at the other people who mattered in your world.
You also got tension.
Every time he stepped out of the door to head for work.
Because even in a jurisdiction as civilized as Miami Beach, a Violent Crimes detective all too often had to deal with madness and evil, so you just never knew.
But for now, right now, life was good, the dark times behind them.
Knock on wood.
Joshua was seventeen months old, a walking, clambering, blessedly easy-going, endlessly inquisitive little boy who was finding potty-training entertaining and had more than twenty clearly comprehensible words in his vocabulary. Grace had begun seeing patients again in her role as a child and adolescent psychologist; and Cathy, their twenty-two-year-old adopted daughter, had come home in time for Christmas after nine months away in California, so the whole family had been together for once for the holidays – even Grace’s sister Claudia, with husband Daniel and their boys, who’d seemed good too, healing from their shaky spell.
And then no sooner had Cathy come home, than she’d packed up all her belongings and moved out again, this time perhaps for keeps. And neither Grace nor Sam had ever imagined feeling happy about that, but Cathy’s return had coincided with Sam’s younger brother Saul finding his own apartment in Sunny Isles Beach, and asking Cathy if she’d like to share. And Saul was doing well enough with his furniture-making to be able to afford the rent, and the legacies that Judy Becket had left him and Sam three years ago – startling them both – had given him a solid base, and the deal had been that as soon as Cathy had a job she’d contribute, but until then, Saul was content with the status quo.
Uncle and niece on paper, but with only a year between them, he and Cathy were more like brother and sister or, better yet, best friends. When Dr David Becket and his late wife Judy had adopted Sam, an orphaned eight-year-old African-American, they could never have imagined what a fine family custom they were initiating. All those different heritages stitched together like the best kind of American quilt, Cathy as integral a part of that as Joshua.
The question, after her time away, was what Cathy was going to do.
Not go back to university to resume her social work studies.
‘It’s not just the bad memories,’ she’d told them right after her return. ‘I think I’d feel like I was going backward.’
‘So are you going to focus on athletics?’ Sam had asked, because running had always been Cathy’s great passion, and she’d written them about how much she’d loved her time as a track coach’s aide in Sacramento.
‘I’m not good enough to compete,’ Cathy said. ‘And teaching would mean going back to college, too.’
She’d suggested soon after New Year’s that she might come and work for her mother, and for a moment Grace’s heart had leapt, but she’d suppressed that, because even if she hadn’t already had a fine helper in her office, Grace felt that Cathy, having established her freedom, might find it restrictive, even smothering.
‘I doubt that,’ Cathy had said. ‘But anyway, if you ever need more help . . .’
‘I’d ask you in a heartbeat,’ Grace had told her.
And then she’d asked if Cathy had anything else in mind, any ambitions, even just a stirring of something.
‘As a matter of fact,’ Cathy had said, slowly, ‘there is something. Though you guys might think it’s a little out of left field.’
‘We won’t think anything,’ Grace had said, ‘unless you tell us.’
ust after eight fifteen on Saturday morning, Detectives Sam Becket and Alejandro Martinez and a team of Crime Scene technicians were standing in a large backyard behind Collins Avenue.
Not so much a backyard, really, as a rather once-handsome garden, its lawn a little overgrown, its topiary bushes looking in need of a barber’s care and its jardinières empty.
The three-storey mansion to which it belonged had formerly been an art gallery. The plaque on the wall beside the entrance still declared it to be the Oates Gallery of Fine Arts, but the old grey stone house was locked up, shutters covering the windows, no signs of life or light from within, the mailbox on the sidewalk sealed.
It might have looked peaceful but for the police presence and the ribbons of crime scene tape cordoning off the house, the land to the side and rear and the sidewalk out front.
There were no signs of a break-in, though on both sides of a tall iron gate to the east side of the mansion, the paved pathway and lawn appeared to have been recently disturbed, a double row of narrow wheel tracks visible as indentations on the grass and intermittent rubbings along the paving stones – every inch of disturbance already marked out.
The mansion stood on Collins opposite the North Shore Open Space Park near 81st Street. Not far, as the gulls flew, from where a murdered man had been found on the beach about eighteen months back, sparking a horrific case for Becket and Martinez.
No link to this crime, for sure, the perpetrator of that killing long dead.