Authors: Felicity Young
Tags: #Police Procedural, #UK
Felicity Young was born in Hanover, Germany, in 1960 and went to boarding school in the United Kingdom while her parents were posted around the world with the British Army. When her father retired from the army in 1976 the family settled in Perth. Felicity married at nineteen while she was still doing her nursing training and on completion of training had three children in quick succession. Not surprisingly, an arts degree at the University of Western Australia took ten years to complete. In 1990 Felicity and her family moved from the city and established a Suffolk sheep stud on a small farm in Gidgegannup where she studied music, reared orphan kangaroos and started writing.
Having a brother-in-law who is a retired police superintendent, it was almost inevitable she would turn to crime writing.
Her first novel,
A Certain Malice,
was published in Britain by Crème de la Crime in 2005, and her second,
An Easeful Death
—the first Stevie Hooper crime novel—was published in 2007 by Fremantle Press.
To Mick with love
The following is a list of Internet slang, abbreviations and symbols used in this novel.
|F2F:||face to face|
|LOL:||laugh out loud|
|OMG:||Oh my God|
|PIR:||parent in room|
|ROFLMAO:||rolling on floor laughing my arse off|
|SME:||send me email|
|Squeeeeeee:||expression of glee|
|TDTM:||talk dirty to me|
|Rock spider:||prison slang for paedophile|
|Fan fiction:||stories written by fans about book and TV characters|
For other useful abbreviations, please refer to:
Night. On the highway a car breaks away from the line of crawling headlights, turns down one side street and then another until it comes to a halt in wasteland near the river’s edge. Under the full moon the river gleams soft as polished silver. Three figures get out of the car; they seem to be men, though they appear as no more than silhouettes. One is tall, one is of solid build and the other is small and as slight as the bamboo that grows in clumps along the river’s edge, and trembles almost as much.
If the small man is frightened, the tall man is clearly terrified, standing hunched against the car as if he is cold. It is not hard to imagine the stink of his fear, fetid as the drying pools near the river. The solid man yanks the tall man away from the car and shoves him stumbling towards the water’s edge. The small man follows, head lowered, hands rammed deep in his pockets.
The water laps at the shore. Mosquitoes drill the air.
The heavy man shouts and shoves the tall figure to the ground, then kicks him in his side. The small man turns his back, as if he cannot bear to watch. Heavy man barks an order. Small man shakes his head and looks with what must be longing back to the parked car. Tall man screams like a woman and the small man’s gaze is drawn to the sound as if to a train wreck. If this were a film the camera would follow his gaze back to the solid man squatting over the tall man, his weight pinning him down, a blade flashing in his hand.
Then a burst of flame slices the blackness and the man with the blade topples over with a cry. His quarry eases out from under him and slowly pushes himself to his feet. He makes a sound that is part sob, part groan. He looks around him, but the sound of the shot has been absorbed into the silence. He puts his hand to the neck of the man he has shot and leaves it there a moment. Then he plucks the knife from the limp hand.
‘Help me,’ he pleads to the small man who cowers shaking but otherwise motionless.
The small man shakes his head, takes a few steps back on the rocky ground.
‘God help me,’ the tall man mutters again. He takes the knife and begins to slice at the dead man’s face. He is no longer panicking; there is now a sense of calm purpose about him. After a while he looks up and says to the small man, ‘I know who you are.’ He stares at him for a moment then turns back to the gruesome task of carving and slicing, hand gloved with blood and glistening in the moonlight.
‘And I know you too,’ the small man shouts in a high-pitched cry as he turns his back and runs.
EXCERPT FROM CHAT ROOM TRANSCRIPT 080207
TIMTAM: thnx for the pic. Ur 1 hot chick
ANGEL12: wt about u?
TIMTAM: a bit like the drummer in the SMs ;)
TIMTAM: ive got the stuff u wanted – wanna meet F2F?
Detective Sergeant Stephanie ‘Stevie’ Hooper wiped her sweaty palms against the legs of her jeans before checking her oversized watch. ‘Not long now,’ she said softly into her collar mike.
‘These creeps are never late,’ came Tash’s response through her earpiece.
Stevie looked across the grass to a ragged patch of bush similar to the one where she hid.
‘See anything?’ Stevie kept her voice low.
Stevie scanned the adventure playground, deserted cafe area and car parking bays beyond. On the lawn nearby a young couple organised a picnic breakfast, spreading out the blanket and unpacking their basket. She noted with appreciation how the mother’s gaze never strayed for more than a few seconds from the two small boys tussling in the sand beneath the slide. It was still early morning, there were few others about.
‘Hey,’ Tash whispered. ‘A white panel van’s just pulled into one of the parking bays across the road. A guy’s getting out.’
Stevie peered towards the car park. ‘Description?’
‘Trilby hat, grey boardies, white T-shirt—he’s coming down the path near the lake, heading towards you. It’s Mason, it has to be.’
The man entered Stevie’s line of vision, keeping to the shadows of the path and looking about this way and that.
‘Yup, got him now,’ she said, watching the man as he sat down on a bench beside a park signpost, looked at his watch.
‘Tash,’ Stevie smiled, ‘I was born ready.’
She took a breath and stepped from the shelter of the scrub and casually approached the man on the park bench, hands in the back pockets of her jeans, bubble soled trainers springing across the spongy grass. She adjusted the collar of her shirt so that the microphone was well hidden.
The man tensed when she sat next to him, and wriggled as far to the end of the bench as he could go. A fly floated through the sunshine and settled on his nose. He gave it an angry swipe and stood as if to leave.
Now or never, Stevie thought, taking a breath. ‘Hey,’ she called out. The man turned and she said, ‘Cool hat.’
‘Yeah.’ He was younger than she’d expected, late twenties at the most. He had the name of a local rock band printed on his T-shirt.
‘It’s like the hat the drummer of the Stoned Mullets wears, isn’t it? I love that band, one of my faves.’
The man grunted and turned away. She got to her feet and stopped him with a tap on the shoulder.
‘Where did you get it? The hat I mean, I’d really like a hat like that.’
‘Piss off, lady.’
His irritation proved irresistible to Stevie. She followed him to the lake, sticking as close as an annoying puppy.
Jeez, I love my job.
The water level of the lake had dropped and the air was tainted with the dank earthy smell of mud.
Stevie prattled on. ‘If you’re a fan of the band, you should check out their website, they have a chat room and...’ she broke off when he stopped mid stride and turned to face her. Feigning deep thought, she slid her fingers through her blond ponytail and looked him up and down. ‘Come to think of it, you wouldn’t happen to be Robert...’
The guy reacted faster than she’d anticipated. Stevie swerved in time to miss the impact of the punch, but not enough to prevent the man’s ring from catching her cheek and splitting the skin. She swore and called out to Tash for assistance.
He must have guessed they would try to cut him off from his car because he changed direction with a sharp swerve, taking off at a run towards the grassy Broadwalk. He hurdled the family’s picnic basket, the trilby flying off his head and landing in their fruit salad. The adults sprang to their feet and watched the chase unfold with mouths agape. The little boys panicked and ran from the sandpit towards their parents, forcing Stevie to dodge left then right to avoid bowling them over.
Mason was already sprinting up the steep gradient of the Broadwalk towards the DNA tower—1.3k, the sign said. Stevie wondered how she was ever going to catch him. Her chest already burned. Give up the smokes, give up the smokes, gotta give up the smokes, she chanted in her head to the rhythm of her pounding feet. Her legs screamed, must get back, must get back, must get back to the gym. But she kept running, despite the widening gap between them. She’d rather suffer a heart attack than let the creep escape.
He came to where the road cut across the grassy sward, confident enough now to slow to a fast walk. Stevie gained a little ground. If I were him I’d head down one of the bush tracks, she thought. Or make a sharp turn at the road and highjack one of the cars meandering through the park at funereal speed. I can’t continue this chase on foot—Tash, where the hell are you?
Her silent curses were answered by the scream of Tash’s trail bike from somewhere in the scrub at the side.
Mason had reached the double helix of the DNA tower and was leaning against a metal strut to catch his breath when Tash emerged from the bush on foot. ‘Hold it right there!’ she shouted, knees bent, arms and weapon extended. The man seemed even more stunned at the sight of the gun than Stevie, and stared back bug-eyed at the small, dark-haired woman in the tight black jeans and T-shirt. Tash approached to within a few metres of him, her Glock never wavering from his head.
Stevie caught up with them, bent at the waist, gulping air like a fire-eater.
‘Shit, Tash, I didn’t know you were going to be armed,’ she gasped.
‘Yeah, well, it pays to be a step ahead. There’s no one around, no witnesses, so what?’
‘W-what are you talking about?’ Mason stammered, edging as far back into the tower as he could go.
‘What I’m saying, shit head,’ Tash answered through clenched teeth, ‘is that we don’t have to go by the rules with creeps like you.’
Stevie’s spine tingled uneasily. What the hell was Tash playing at? This was not in the script, but she couldn’t say anything in front of Mason. If he realised how out of order this was, the case would never stand up in court. She moved over to where the man stood, the sweat already turning cold upon her body. But she knew it was neither the cold sweat nor the exhaustion that made her fumble with the cuffs on her belt, dropping them once before managing to pin the man’s hands behind his back. When I turn back around, she told herself, Tash will have put away the gun and I can pretend I’ve never seen it.