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Authors: Kevin Brooks

Dance of Ghosts

BOOK: Dance of Ghosts
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Contents

Cover

Contents

About the Book

About the Author

Title Page

Dedication

Epigraph

Prologue

Part One: Wednesday 6 October – Friday 8 October 2010

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Part Two: Friday 22 October – Saturday 23 October 2010

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Copyright

About the Book

My name is John Craine and I am trying to forget …

PI John Craine is struggling to cope with the weight of his past. Sixteen years ago his wife, Stacy, was brutally murdered. Craine found her body in their bed. And since then, to escape the pain and the unanswered questions, he has buried himself in work by day, and whisky by night.

But one phone call changes everything. The mother of missing young woman Anna Gerrish calls on his services, and Craine soon finds himself at the centre of a sinister web of corruption and lies that leads back into the murky waters of the past – and to the night that Craine has spent over a decade trying to forget. As he delves deeper and deeper into the case everything gets increasingly, terrifyingly, personal. And it’s down to Craine to stop history from repeating itself …

Fiction
www.rbooks.co.uk

About the Author

Kevin Brooks has written nine children’s novels and has won several awards including the Canongate Prize for New Writing, Branford Boase Award, Kingston Youth Book Award, North East Book Award, Deutschen Jugend-literaturpreis Jury Prize, Buxtehude Bulle and the Golden Bookworm.
A Dance of Ghosts
is his first adult novel. He lives in North Yorkshire with his wife, Susan.

For my mother, Marion Phyllis Brooks
18 September 1936 – 1 March 2010

Sorry you never got to read it, Mum

I will dance

The dance of dying days

And sleeping life.

I will dance

In cold, dead leaves

A bending, whirling human flame.

I will dance

As the Horned God rides

Across the skies.

I will dance

To the music of His hounds

Running, baying in chorus.

I will dance

With the ghosts of those

Gone before.

I will dance

Between the sleep of life

And the dream of death.

I will dance

On Samhain’s dusky eye,

I will dance.

Karen Bergquist Dezoma, ‘An Autumn Chant’

13 August 1993. Friday afternoon, 5.15. It’s another sweltering hot day, and I’m driving home from work. The car radio is playing – ‘Young At Heart’. I can feel the thin cloth of my cheap white shirt sticking to the stale sweat of my skin. My hands are moist on the steering wheel. The car windows are open and I can smell the stink of traffic and the heat of the baking streets. People are drinking outside pubs, getting ready for a hot night out. The sound of laughter and chinking glasses passes by in the stifling air
.

I’m tired
.

My head is aching
.

But I’m going home now
.

I’m happy
.

I’m looking forward to the weekend. Two whole days with Stacy. No going to work, no getting up in the morning and putting on a cheap white shirt … just me and Stacy and a weekend of blue summer skies
.

We can talk about the baby
.

We can think some more about names
.

We can slide away into our own perfect world and dream about what’s to come
.

At 5.30 I pull up outside our house, park the car, and turn off the engine. I pick up my jacket from the back seat, shut the windows, get out of the car, and lock it. I walk along the pavement and turn right, through the gate, and head up the garden path. Jingling my keys and humming quietly to myself, I skip up the front step and unlock the door
.

I’m as happy as I’m ever going to be
.

Inside the house, I drop my keys on the hall table and call out, ‘Stacy! It’s me … Stacy?’

There’s no reply
.

PART ONE

WEDNESDAY 6 OCTOBER – FRIDAY 8 OCTOBER 2010
1

I was watching a man called Preston Elliot when I got the phone call that brought the ghosts back into my life. Elliot was nothing, just a cheapskate Essex Boy trying to make some easy money on the sly. He’d been involved in a minor accident at work which he claimed had resulted in a severe and ongoing back injury that supposedly prevented him from doing just about anything – walking, driving, working, sleeping. He was currently on long-term sick leave and had recently put in a compensation claim against his employers, an industrial cleaning business called StayBright. StayBright’s insurance manager had hired an investigation company called Mercer Associates to look into the claim, and Mercer had subcontracted the case to me.

So there I was, sitting in my car on a cold and rainy October morning, trying to stay awake while I gathered evidence against a man called Preston Elliot. Like most of the work I do, it wasn’t particularly demanding. I’d taken the case on Monday, started my initial surveillance on Tuesday, and this morning I’d got up early and followed Elliot from his low-rise council flat to a run-down terraced house in a scratty little side street on the south side of town. Two other men had been waiting for him in a white Transit
van outside the house – a shortish ginger guy in a tartan jacket, and a lank-haired teenager with a pock-marked face – and for the last hour or so I’d been watching all three of them as they trudged in and out of the house, loading up a skip with pieces of old furniture and rusty radiators. I guessed they were gutting the place in preparation for some kind of renovation work – not that it made any difference to me what they were doing.

All I needed to know was that Preston Elliot was fit enough to drive, fit enough to walk, fit enough to spend all morning hefting tables and wardrobes and rolls of old carpet out of a house and into a skip.

I had plenty of video footage. I’d filmed him leaving his house that morning, walking without any obvious pain or discomfort. I’d filmed him getting into his car and driving across town. And right now I was filming him as he struggled through the rain carrying a stained old mattress on his back.

I checked my watch and clicked on my digital voice recorder. ‘10.47 a.m.,’ I said into the the recorder. ‘Subject continues to work at the house. Surveillance ends.’ I turned off the voice recorder, clicked off the camcorder …

And that was when my mobile rang.

There was no sense of foreboding to the sound of the ringtone, nothing to suggest that this was a moment that might return to haunt me, or that in days to come I’d wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t answered my phone that morning …

No … there was nothing like that at all.

My mobile just rang. And I just took it out of my pocket,
checked the caller ID, saw that it was Ada, my secretary, and answered it.

‘Hey, Ada.’

‘Where are you?’ she said.

‘Croke Street, down by the football ground. I’m just finishing up on the StayBright thing –’

‘Are you coming back to the office?’

‘Yeah.’

‘How long will you be?’

‘I don’t know. Why?’

‘You’ve got a client.’

‘A client?’

‘Yeah, you know … someone who pays you to work for them.’

‘You’re a funny woman, Ada.’

‘I know. Anyway, she’s here, in the office.’

‘What does she want?’

‘I don’t know, she won’t tell me anything. She wants to talk to you. Do you want her to come back later, or should I tell her to wait?’

‘Yeah, ask her to wait. I won’t be … hold on a minute.’

While I’d been talking to Ada, the ginger man in the tartan jacket had come out of the house, got into the Transit, and reversed it across the road. At first, I’d just assumed that he was driving off somewhere – maybe to get some cigarettes or something – but when he stopped in the middle of the street and turned off the engine, and when I saw Preston Elliot coming out of the house and start walking towards me with a ball-peen hammer in his hand, it
was pretty obvious that I’d been spotted. And that Elliot was about to do something about it.

‘John …?’ I heard Ada saying. ‘Are you still there?’

Elliot wasn’t much to look at. A squitty little man, he had a small head, cropped hair and a pair of glasses that didn’t seem to go with his face, and up until then I hadn’t really considered him to be any kind of a threat. But now … well, now he had a ball-peen hammer in his hand, and he was heading straight for me, and the look in his eyes made me realise – far too late – that he was one of those runty little men who’ll pick a fight at the drop of a hat just to prove that size doesn’t matter.

‘Shit,’ I muttered, glancing quickly over my shoulder.

‘John?’ Ada said. ‘John? What’s going on?’

‘I’ll call you back in a minute,’ I told her, ending the call.

My options, I realised, were fairly limited. I could stay where I was and try to bluff it out – pretending to be an estate agent was my usual cover in this kind of situation – or I could start the car and get the hell out of there as fast as I could.

I looked at Elliot again. He was about ten metres away from me now, and from the look on his face – a mixture of pent-up aggression and mindless resolve – I didn’t think he’d go for the estate-agent bluff. But the road up ahead was blocked by the Transit van, and there were cars parked on either side of the street, making it far too narrow for a quick U-turn, so the only way out was by reversing all the way back along the street. And I was shit at reversing at the best of times.

‘Ah, fuck it,’ I said, sitting back in the seat and lighting a cigarette.

As Elliot drew level with the car, I was mentally setting the odds as to what he was going to do. Evens, he’d just stand there waving the hammer around, shouting and cursing at me from the pavement; 2-1, he’d try to yank the door open; and 3-1, he’d give the car a whack or two with the hammer, probably going for the bonnet or the door.

As it turned out, I was wrong on all counts.

He just walked up to the side of the car, stopped by the door and stared at me for a moment or two, and then – with an air of almost admirable nonchalance – he swung the hammer and smashed it into the side window. There was a loud
CRACK!
as the window shattered, showering my face with chunks of safety glass, and then all at once the car seemed to explode in a fury of noise and chaos. The wind came gusting in, blowing loose papers all over the place; the cold rain hissed in through the broken window, stinging the side of my face; and Preston Elliot’s raging voice bellowed in my ear.


I KNOW WHAT YOU’RE FUCKING DOING, YOU NOSY FUCKING CUNT! WHAT DO YOU THINK I AM? YOU THINK I’M FUCKING STUPID? HERE, GIVE US THAT FUCKING THING …!

‘That fucking thing’ was my camcorder, and as he reached in and grabbed it off the ledge above the dashboard, I tried to snatch it back off him. But he was too quick and too strong for me, and before I could do anything else to stop him, he’d yanked the camera out of the car and thrown it down on the rain-sodden pavement. As I heard the expensive crack of shattering metal and plastic, my immediate thought was, ‘Shit, there goes the best part of a
grand.’ But Elliot hadn’t finished yet. And as he started pounding away at the camcorder with his hammer –
smack, smack, smack
– smashing it into a thousand little pieces, I felt something flash through me, some kind of unfamiliar passion …

BOOK: Dance of Ghosts
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