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Authors: David Mark

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Taking Pity

BOOK: Taking Pity
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ALSO BY DAVID MARK

Sorrow Bound

Original Skin

Dark Winter

Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Group (USA) LLC

375 Hudson Street

New York, New York 10014

USA • Canada • UK • Ireland • Australia • New Zealand • India • South Africa • China

penguin.com

A Penguin Random House Company

First published in Great Britain in 2015 by Quercus Editions Ltd

Copyright © 2015 by David Mark

Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.

Blue Rider Press is a registered trademark and its colophon is a trademark of Penguin Group (USA) LLC

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Mark, David John, date.

Taking pity / David Mark.

p. cm.—(Detective Sergeant McAvoy ; 4)

ISBN 978-0-698-14844-4

1. Detectives—Fiction. 2. Police—England—Fiction. I. Title.

PR6113.A7527T35 2015 2015002627

823'.92—dc23

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Version_1

For Police Constable Mike Duck (retired)

CONTENTS

Also by David Mark

Title Page

Copyright

Dedication

Epigraph

PROLOGUE

PART ONE

CHAPTER ONE

CHAPTER TWO

CHAPTER THREE

CHAPTER FOUR

CHAPTER FIVE

CHAPTER SIX

CHAPTER SEVEN

PART TWO

CHAPTER EIGHT

CHAPTER NINE

CHAPTER TEN

CHAPTER ELEVEN

CHAPTER TWELVE

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

PART THREE

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

CHAPTER NINETEEN

PART FOUR

CHAPTER TWENTY

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE

CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR

CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE

Acknowledgments

 

Self-preservation, nature’s first great law,

All the creatures, except man, doth awe.

—A
NDREW
M
ARVELL

Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars; martyrs have put on their coronation robes glittering with fire, and through their tears have the sorrowful seen the gates of heaven.

—E
DWIN
H
UBBELL
C
HAPIN

PROLOGUE

M
ARCH
29
,
1966

John Glass tips his head back, as though draining ale. Gulps down some of the late-evening sky. Sees faces form and shift in the storm clouds: unfolding like crumpled, dirty lace and drawing a veil over a full, yellow moon.

“You still don’t belong, John . . .”

Though not quite drunk, he is edging toward a maudlin, philosophical state of intoxication. These wide-open spaces still trouble him. He is a city man in city clothes, masquerading as a part of this place. He feels like a wrong note. He is a discordant presence; an intruder. This is a landscape of greens and browns, of straw and earth. He is a speck of blue. Fancies himself as a bluebottle, buzzing ineffectually against dirty glass . . .

He feels his starched collar rub at the back of his neck.

“Sober up, John. Sort yourself out.”

He scratches at the sore patch at the top of his spine with cold, clumsy knuckles and takes the top off a scab. Grunting, he raises his fingers to his face and catches the whisper of his own blood. He doesn’t like it. Drops his hands and adjusts his clothing. Winces as he feels the white material of his shirt absorb the tiny crimson droplet.

He breathes deep.

Shivers unexpectedly as he drinks down the night air with its tang of pulverized crops and churned earth.

“Another beautiful night . . .”

He lets the weather do its work.

Feels the soft kisses of falling snow. Feels a harsh wind chewing at his exposed face and hands. Feels the pleasant haze of alcohol give way to the cold grumble of sobriety.

He gives a little shake. Centers himself. Swallows a burp of beer and pickled egg.

Stares up into a sky the color of dying flowers.

Turns back to the car, trying to warm his hands on the shit-streaked bonnet without actually touching the metal.

“End of the bloody world,” he says into his chest, leaning on the open door of the vehicle and gesturing with a sweep of his arm. “Furthest you can go without getting wet.”

The driver of the vehicle leans across: his big, round face all benevolence and bewilderment.

“You say something, John?”

Police Constable John Glass screws his eyes up again. Hopes that when he opens them, he’ll be somewhere else.

“Just thanking my lucky stars, Davey. Just enjoying the view.”

Glass reaches back into the vehicle and picks up the torch from the passenger seat. As he does so he leans on his tie, the knot suddenly bunching around his Adam’s apple and bringing a chill wave of nausea up from his gut.

“Should have stayed in the pub,” he says, though he has said it several times already.

He feels a smoker’s tickle in his lungs and gives in to a fit of coughing, punctuating the outburst with curses. Takes a deep breath. Tries to cleanse his nasal passages by sticking a finger into each nostril and inhaling. Fills with the smell of Woodbines and salted peanuts.

“My own fault for enjoying myself . . .”

It took the pair of them only a couple of minutes to drive here from the alehouse, but it had been long enough for him to absorb a whole cloud of heavy agricultural smells, and for most of Davey’s sheepdog to attach itself to his navy blue trousers. Despite that, it took an effort of will to get out of the vehicle. It had seemed warm and harmless in there. Had felt like a pocket of metal certainty in this vast, flat sea of crops and earth. He looks at the open gate. At the darkness beyond. PC Glass scratches at his short hair. He rubs his fingers at his temples, dislodging his cap with the big, blunt end of the black torch. The hat slides halfway down his face and he has to make a grab for it before it falls into the thick mud. Makes a mental note to take his shoes off before he drags it through the house when he gets home.

He fastens his tie.

Buttons his collar.

Pulls a packet of chewy toffees from the deep pocket of his long blue coat.

Switches on the torch and sweeps it downward to illuminate the patch of mud that is sucking at his shiny black shoes.

He points the torch back toward the car. Notes that the silly bastard has squashed a little patch of flowering snowdrops under the back tire. Makes a note to tell Davey off when he gets back, then decides he probably won’t bother. The lad’s done him a good turn. He would have hated to have cycled down here. Not at this hour. Not in these conditions. Not to this place, beneath a sky heavy with darkness and snow.

“Move it, lad,” he tells himself. “Get the job done.”

PC Glass is thirty-one years old and a decent enough copper. He’s done an adequate job looking after this patch of rural East Yorkshire. The locals tolerate him. He knows the villains. He’s taken only a couple of punches since he left his native North East, and they were thrown while in drink. He is a person first and a policeman second. He accepts people for what they are. Their vices tend to mirror his own. He likes a few pints after work. Likes a grope of a pretty girl and knows that if he gets a slap he has gone too far. Likes avoiding the taxman now and then on the odd box of imported cigarettes and brandy. He does what he’s paid to do. He stops trouble. He keeps the peace. He enforces the law, if it’s helpful. And he sometimes leaves a pint of bitter on the bar so he can go and attend a report of gunplay at a half-abandoned church in the middle of bloody nowhere.

“Bloody spooky, lad. Watch yer arse.”

Glass is muttering to himself as he approaches the gate of the small gray-brick church that has stood on this patch of ground for more than six hundred years. In this light it gives off little air of majesty. It is a squat, angular building surrounded by a low wall made of stacked stones. At its front is a long, stained-glass window, which looks oddly liquid against the stone. To the rear is a copse of woodland; all charcoal branches and spindly limbs.

“Christ.”

Glass bunches his fists and shakes his head as the gate to the churchyard creaks. Above him, something large and feathered rustles the uppermost branches of a tall tree, then beats at the air with a sound like skin on skin.

“Hello,” he says, more to himself than to anybody else. “Police.”

Glass swishes the torch. His feet have found the shingle path to the wooden front door of the church. To his left, the beam illuminates a flash of color. He glances at the snowdrops and daffodils that spring from the thick grass around a rectangular tomb. Sees lichen on gray stone. Sees old iron railings, punched deep into soft, wet earth.

“We know it’s you, Peter. Don’t worry, you’re not in trouble. But this can’t go on . . .”

Glass’s words are met with silence. He sighs. Flashes the torch to his right. Sees newer headstones, fresher pain. Reads names and dates chiseled into granite, and lets his torch beam linger on the soggy posies nestled against cold, unfeeling rock. “Peter?”

From the rear of the church, Glass hears the soft chink of stone on stone.

“Peter? You’re not in trouble, I told you . . .”

Glass means his words as he says them, even though he cannot rule out giving the simpleton a clip around the ear before sending him home. He’s had to deal with the lad before. Given him warnings, tellings-off, and a couple of rough shoves in his efforts to get him to act a little more civilized and a lot less of a prat. He thought he’d been making headway. Thought the slow-witted farm boy may have turned a corner and started behaving himself and working hard. No such luck. Glass had been halfway down his fourth pint when word reached him. Peter bloody Coles. Taking potshots at airplanes from the grounds of St. Germain’s Church out at Winestead.

Glass scowls as he pictures himself not twenty minutes before, perched on a bar stool in his civvies, supping ale and telling Colin the barman that Jimmy Greaves was no certainty come the World Cup and that Jack Charlton could keep his temper and do a job in defense if he was managed the right way. It had been a pleasant enough bloody evening. He’d planned another pint, then home to Enid and the boy. She’d promised toad-in-the-hole with onion gravy for his evening meal. Was going to cut the accompanying white bread and margarine into triangles to make it posh. Would probably have come and sat on his lap once the nipper was in bed and let him press his face to her ample bust until his legs went numb. Then the big bloke in the army boots had tapped his shoulder and told him what he’d heard at Winestead.

Shots.

More than one.

Said he knew it was a farming community and that it was probably nothing important but thought he should tell the authorities or he wouldn’t be able to sleep . . .

Glass had got young Davey to run him home. Changed into his uniform and splashed cold water on his face. He could have gone in his street clothes but the chief constable would have a field day if word got back to him.

Curse of the rural bobby,
Glass had said to himself as he pulled on his shiny black shoes and halfheartedly slipped on his tie.
They always know where to bloody find you
 . . .

He coughs. Adds some authority to his voice.

“Peter? I thought we were past this, son. I’ve told you, haven’t I? It’s not me. It’s not even your gran you should be thinking of. It’s the bastards at the RAF base. They’ll come down on you like a ton of bricks. What if you hit a plane, eh? Or put a window through in the church? Peter . . .”

As he talks, Glass finds his feet leaving the gravel. His shoes sink into springy grass, speckled with fallen snow.

“Peter?”

The young man is sitting with his back against a gravestone, chucking pebbles at a tomb. A shotgun lies uncocked and doglegged across his knees. He looks up at Glass’s voice. Holds up a hand to shield his eyes as Glass raises the torch beam.

Through a veil of tumbling snow and gathering darkness, Glass sees the dirt on the young man’s hands. Sees, too, the splattered color on his face. Across his neck. Upon his lips.

Glass feels his chest tighten. Smells his own blood inside his face; behind his nostrils, in his mouth.

“It all went bad,” says Coles, looking down at the ground. Then he raises his face and tries to catch a snowflake on his tongue. He looks straight at Glass, then past him, to the dark tangle of trees. “Am I going to prison?”

Glass follows the young man’s eyes. Squints and raises the torch.

The body is draped over a half-fallen gravestone, arms dangling to brush the longest blades of grass that push upward from the corpse-fed ground.

“Oh, sweet Jesus . . .”

Steam rises like a freed soul from the holes in the back of the corpse’s head.

Glass raises a hand to his mouth and fumbles with the torch. It drops to the ground, and rolls gently down a slope of wet grass. Its beam exposes the second body. This one is female. Young. Shapely. Half-dressed, and with her blouse ripped open and the bra pushed up.

Stumbling, slipping, Glass reaches the corpse. Her face is in shadow, and it is only as he retrieves his torch and shines it upon her that he sees that most of her head is missing.

As he recoils, he smells blood and gunsmoke.

The girl’s body is only a signpost to the next dead. In snow and blood and darkness, PC John Glass staggers from one body to the next.

Veiled by tumbling snow, the world turns dark.

“Does it matter if I’m sorry?”

Peter Coles’s voice is small and childlike against the nighttime silence.

John Glass is too consumed with the blood rushing in his head to hear the boy’s repeated question. But in the darkness of the sheltering trees, his words are heard by another.

Tall, powerful, the figure watches silently as the policeman slips and falls over first one body and then the next; his clothes matted with dirt and blood and brains.

The man’s answer, when it comes, is little more than a breath.


Sorry
doesn’t matter. This is how it had to be.”

He slinks back between the dark trunks of a forest nourished by bones.

Fades into the snow and the night.

BOOK: Taking Pity
10.46Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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