Authors: Ryan Casey
Tags: #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Police Procedurals, #Thrillers & Suspense, #Murder, #Thrillers, #Thriller, #Mystery, #Crime, #Detective, #Police Procedural, #Series, #British, #brian mcdone
The First Brian McDone Mystery
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When she left the house earlier that night, she knew she was in some sort of danger.
What she didn’t know was that she’d soon be lying dead in a filthy bedsit, her skin growing paler and paler, as the cold January night progressed.
She gripped the documents tightly. She couldn’t risk dropping them or letting them fall, not after everything she’d been through to find them.
Her breath frosted as it left her mouth. Somewhere in the distance, a dog barked. Lights flashed and horns pipped, the goodwill of Christmas season replaced by the grumpiness of normal life. January. Parents would be back at work. Children would be bored of their new toys already.
But she had to do one thing. She couldn’t leave it any longer.
He’d told her he’d be here. She just had to wait. Soon, it would all be over. She didn’t want to involve him. She’d tried her best not to, but it had to be this way.
He caught her eye, walking through the car park. He startled her at first, his figure almost unrecognisable as he powered towards her, rubbing his hands in the cold.
She gripped the documents tightly. She had to do this.
She looked up towards him. Her vision was blurred, and her body shook. Damp goose pimples protruded from her skin as the dark figure moved above her, fuzzy and out of view.
Still, she gripped. She couldn’t let go. She couldn’t let that happen.
She tried to move her legs and hands, but they seemed magnetically attached to wherever it was she lay.
Why wouldn’t they move?
She could only keep holding. Keep holding…
If she held tight enough, someone would find her. She just had to keep gripping…keep gripping…
Moths danced around the dim light flickering in the corner. He wiped her hair out of her face and rubbed his damp hands against his dark black coat. Then he walked towards the door, taking a final glance around the room. Her eyes were still open with shock. She’d watched it happen. Even as he squeezed the final breath from her fragile, failing lungs, she had held on for dear life.
But not anymore.
He shut the door and disappeared outside, past the downtrodden buildings into the frost of night. The cries of locals roared through the claustrophobic little alleyways.
No one saw him leave. No one ever saw anything around here.
The chiming of the church bells that morning was as welcome to Brian McDone as always–not one bit.
He slumped onto his side with a groan and looked at his clock: six a.m. Six-frigging-a.m. Surely the church figured by now that no one really cared about holy stuff at six a.m. Or maybe that was the plan? Maybe they knew no one really cared about the church anymore. One final form of revenge; a way to keep everyone aware of their presence.
He squeezed the bridge of his nose, his forehead aching. At the foot of his bed, he spotted an empty bottle of anti-depressants on its side. Some of the pills spilled out like a waterfall into a pool on the carpet. Beside them lay three empty bottles of beer, one resting against the other like tipsy dominoes.
The drunken detective.
He had to play up the cliché. He couldn’t let anybody know the truth.
Brian winced as he edged onto the side of his bed and rubbed his hands against his face. His white boxers stuck to his legs with the sweat of wearing them for the last few days. But it didn’t matter. It was his time off. He’d worked Christmas and Boxing Day and barely seen anybody over the festive season, so what else did he have to keep busy except drinking and chilling out by himself over New Year?
The rattling of the phone against the table interrupted Brian, his head still in his hands. The one thing worse than church bells at six a.m. was his phone vibrating, especially on his day off. He reached for it, careful not to knock over the silver-plated photo frame on his bedside.
The ringing seared through his tender skull. He didn’t bother looking who it was. Someone was calling him on his day off, which meant bad news regardless.
“Hello?” he said, his voice groggy. How many drinks did he have?
Snap out of it
–the drink wasn’t causing the problems. He was just becoming too good at fooling himself that it was. He must be doing something right.
“What the hell you playing at?” the voice on the other end bellowed.
He looked over at the miniature calendar on his bedside.
It wasn’t Sunday…
“Price, I’m sorry, I–”
“First off, I’m
Price to you,” he said. Brian could almost feel spit splashing against his face from the other end of the crackling line. “And as for your apologies, I get it–you’ve got shit going on. I’m an understanding guy. Just sort yourself out and get in here as soon as you can, all right?”
Brian squeezed his eyelids together, his cheeks flushing. “Okay, okay. But seriously, Price–Detective Inspector. Seriously, I’m sorry.”
DI Price snickered. “You can give me a proper apology when you get into work. You’d better get your lazy arse here quick, though–briefing’s in five. There’s something big gone down, and these rookies could do with some professional help. You up to it?”
“I’m on it,” Brian said. The line cut out before he had the chance to say anything else.
He dropped the phone and looked around his living room. Or at least they called it a living room in the rental description. It had everything–built-in kitchen, bed, the whole lot. The only thing it didn’t have was the most useful item you’d want–a loo. He had to walk into a little cupboard for that. At least when no one was around, he could just crack one out into the drainpipe underneath his window. Nobody had to know.
Brian stretched his arms out and lumbered past the empty bottles on the floor. He’d leave those there for now, just in case anybody from work came over and he needed an excuse for his lethargy. He couldn’t have anybody asking questions. Vanessa visited a few weeks ago just to sort out a few technicalities, and she’d said what a tip the place was in. But what did that matter? He didn’t have to make it nice for anyone. Not until the stuff with Davey was resolved anyway.
Probably best he kept him out of his head for the time being.
He stepped to the curtains and rested his arms on the metal window frame. Below him, cars headed to work, and buses left the station. The bloody bus station–Preston’s one big grey chunk of pride. It was like a tumour on the city, but one to be proud of. People claimed they hated it, but the second an outsider poked fun at it, it was always, “Well, did you know it was the biggest one in the world before that one in Turkey got built?” Hypocrites, the lot of them.
Brian walked across the room to his desk, where his work clothes were draped over the back of a chair. He held them out, the creases snaking down the sides of the trousers. He’d sort that later. He’d thought the same thing yesterday too, but he really would sort it later.
After slipping into his clothes, he looked at himself in the mirror. His chest became visible underneath his shirt as he rubbed his hands against his belly. He’d have to buy a new shirt eventually. Or go on a food cull. People dieted all the time. He could handle that.
What bothered him more was the growing patch of grey hairs just above his right ear.
He scratched the side of his head and leaned in towards the mirror. His cheeks flushed as the grey hairs stared back at him. Maybe it was better if he didn’t look. Had they always been there, or had he just started to notice them since the split?
And his forearm. He pretended not to notice his forearm.
The phone buzzed against his leg again, just once this time. He pulled it out–Cassy.
“Where r u? Lazy git x”
He grinned for a second. She’d been good to him lately. She was the only one who had made any sort of effort since he’d come back to work. Screw the rest of them. Miserable gits.
He threw on his coat as he stumbled past his bed and opened the door onto the corridor, which constantly reeked of cigarettes and stale alcohol. Then again, one could expect little else from a hellhole block of flats in the middle of town.
He locked the door of his tiny cabin and walked towards the stairs. All the other doors were shut. No one ever moved in around here unless they really had to. Brian could probably afford someplace else, but it was convenient enough for his needs; close to work and private. Neighbours–who needed them?
He skipped down the flight of steps and rushed out into the bitter air.
Something big gone down.
Price didn’t use those words all that often. Nobody in Preston did.
As Brian walked past the early January discount shoppers gathered outside the St John’s Centre, sitting under the glare of the bus station, he didn’t think to check the headline of the Lancashire News on the display stands.
NEW YEAR TRAGEDY FOR PROSTITUTE GIRL.
The sound of phones ringing echoed through from the offices as Brian took the lift upstairs, coffee cup in hand. His stomach turned at the thought of seeing them all again, gloating about their lovely family Christmas. Stephen Molfer with his ridiculous face. DI Price and his disappointment.
As the lift door opened, everyone turned around to look at Detective Sergeant McDone. It was a sort of, “Isn’t he going to be in trouble with the headmaster?” look that kids received when they’d done something naughty at school. He kept his head down and nodded at a couple of officers before edging over to his cluttered desk right by the door. He draped his coat over the chair.
“Feeling all right this morning, Brian?” Stephen Molfer asked.
Brian grunted. Stephen had only worked in Preston for two years and already considered himself top dog. Brian certainly hadn’t missed Stephen’s gaunt, mousy face while on leave. Weedy little bastard didn’t stand a chance, not really. It was the same with most of them these days. It wasn’t like the old times, not anymore. It used to be a laugh sometimes. Now, it was just a case of finishing whatever jobs came his way, going home, and drinking himself into forgetfulness, then doing the same again and again until he could retire into an eternal drunken stupor.
Or so he had them believe.
He flicked on his computer as the rest of the room returned to normal procedure. They’d been different with him lately, after everything that had happened with his family. He had to expect that though, really. They’d forget about it soon. Find something else to whisper about. Move on to the next piece of inane gossip.
The clattering of the door intruded again on the low hum of orderly conversation as DI Price stormed through, looking directly at McDone’s desk. “Right, you lot–less faffing around. You all know the score. Well, most of you do, anyway.” He looked at McDone for a few painful seconds, then at his watch. “To be fair to you, McDone, you’ve made it here quicker than I thought. DS Emerson’s in the back. You two are going on a little mission nearby. Off your arse and into my office.”
He turned his back without even letting Brian get a word in response and disappeared through the door. The rest of the office, open-jawed, looked at Brian again. He threw his coat over his shoulder, switched off his computer, and crept towards the wooden double doors at the other side of the computer-filled room.
Private meetings with DI Price were never something to savour.
Price’s office stank of cheap aftershave, cheap leather, and cheap whisky. A chair at either side framed his desk. Price’s own chair, large, black, and reclining, wrapped itself around him like a comfort blanket. The opposite chair was a grey hard plastic seat, fresh from the canteen. The lads called it the electric chair, because sitting on it was like being summoned to your death.
A number of framed certificates coated the walls of the office. Chief Constable Commendations, Divisional Commendations and Citations of Merit, all the credit given to Price despite the hard work and efforts of others. Numerous photographs also filled in the gaps absent of certificates–Price with the Chief Constable, Price with the mayor, Price with Mrs. Price.
What Price had failed to notice was that an unidentified, disgruntled officer with an artistic streak had somehow managed to doctor Price’s name on each of the photograph, replacing the