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Authors: Adam Croft

Too Close For Comfort

BOOK: Too Close For Comfort
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Too Close For
Comfort

Adam Croft

 

Smashwords
Edition

 

Copyright 2010
Adam Croft

 

Discover other
titles by Adam Croft at Smashwords.com:
http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/adamcroft

 

 

Smashwords
Edition, License Notes

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respecting the hard work of this author.

 

 

 

FOREWORD

 

I started
writing this book in the summer of 2008, filling the void between a
rain-soaked week in Devon and the prospect of making up for it with
a glorious fortnight's sunshine in Crete. It was on this holiday
that I began to flesh out my plans for
Too Close For Comfort
and really develop the plot in my mind. We were waiting for our
flight back from Nikos Kazantzakis International Airport when my
mother called to say that my grandmother had been taken ill. On
returning to the UK after an overnight flight, we drove straight to
Watford General Hospital to see her. She was diagnosed with cancer
later that day.

It was a long
and arduous journey and it was horrific to watch her suffer through
the pain of chemotherapy but even at the age of seventy-eight she
made a wonderful recovery and was given the all-clear on Monday
15
th
December. By the following Tuesday, she had passed
away. The chemotherapy treatment had taken its toll and her body
was no longer able to fight the way it used to. That date was
Tuesday 23
rd
December 2008. It is, perhaps, fitting that
I finally finished writing the book and published it exactly two
years later, on 23
rd
December 2010.

I feel the last
two-and-a-half years have finally come full circle in more ways
than one. There really is only one person to whom this book could
possibly be dedicated.

 

 

Adam
Croft
December 2010

 

 

 

For
Grandma.

 

 

 

CHAPTER
ONE

 

DS Wendy Knight
stared at the photograph of Ella Barrington. Ella’s swollen purple
face lay lifeless in the mud. Blood had trickled from her nose and
dried onto her lips. Her eyes had the appearance of glass; almost
doll-like.

DCI
Culverhouse, in his usual inimitable style, gave a run-down to the
rest of the investigation team.

“Ella
Barrington, aged twenty-one. Prostitute.”

Wendy smiled to
herself and gave a small shake of the head. Culverhouse always got
to the important details first.

“Discovered by
an early commuter at Mildenheath Train Station at six-thirty this
morning. We’ve got a combination of strangulation and suffocation.
Oh, and her throat was slashed, too. We’ve no way of telling yet
what actually killed her, but I think we can rule out a tragic
accident.”

A nervous
chuckle rippled through the incident room.

“All forensics
can say at this stage is that it’s almost certain she died at the
spot on which she was found, and that they knew which direction her
throat had been cut in.”

“Which
direction?”Wendy enquired.

“Sorry?”

“Which
direction was her throat cut in? You said they knew.”

“From left to
right, apparently, but I don’t see what fucking difference it makes
at this stage, Knight.”

Wendy knew that
one could tell a lot from the direction of a cut. “So the killer
was right-handed?”

“What?”

“You said her
throat was cut from left to right. That means the killer must have
been right-handed.”

“Listen to me,
Knight. I’ve not got time to listen to your bullshit theories on
fucking forensics – that’s why we’ve got those dickheads in white
suits crawling all over the body.”

“I was only
saying –“

Culverhouse
shot a telling stare in Wendy’s direction. That was her cue to shut
up and listen. ‘The victim was easily identifiable – the beat
bobbies tend to see her around the station touting for business
most nights. That and she had her driving license on her in her
purse.’

“She still had
her purse on her?” Wendy enquired.

“Correct. Keep
up.”

Wendy thought
twice before offering her theory to Culverhouse. “So that
means...”

“That means the
killer wasn’t motivated by money or stealing the whore’s
possessions. Boys and girls, we’re looking at a cold-blooded
prossie killer.”

Wendy was
amazed that Culverhouse had ever managed to scale his way up the
apparently politically correct modern police force.

She recalled a
story she had been told by a colleague upon joining Culverhouse’s
department. Legend had it that Culverhouse’s wife had done the
dirty on him and run off with his child, leaving him with a deep
hatred of women. She had heard that he would go out of his way to
make sure that prostitutes and female petty offenders would be
dealt with swiftly and to the fullest extent of the law, even if it
meant the odd con getting away with murder – sometimes
literally.

There was an
air of intrigue around Culverhouse – there was no denying that.
Wendy, though, had always been wary of DCI Culverhouse and his
hard-cut reputation. Now, on her first real murder case, she knew
she was going to need all the help she could get.

Debbie Weston
whispered to Wendy, “I really don’t know how he stays so calm. I’d
be bricking it if I had to lead a murder investigation.”

“It’s a case of
having to, Constable Weston. Murders are simply business. You can’t
let it get personal or it’ll eat away at you until there’s nothing
left,” Culverhouse barked. Debbie Weston was a new addition to the
department and would have to learn the hard way about Culverhouse’s
legendary supersonic hearing. She got the impression that he spoke
with a voice of experience.

The ringing
phone pierced through the hubbub in the incident room.

“It’s for you,
guv.”

DCI Culverhouse
strode confidently towards the desk and listened to the voice on
the other end of the line for a few seconds before murmuring a
thank you and replacing the handset.

“They’ve found
a second victim. We’ve got a serial killer on our hands.”

 

 

 

CHAPTER
TWO

 

The terror and
trepidation surged through Wendy’s veins like an erupting
volcano.

Ever since she
was a young child, Wendy had longed to be a detective and revelled
in solving murder mystery books and television programmes long
before the end of the story. Every budding detective dreamed of
their first serial killer case, but there was absolutely no way she
could have ever prepared for the brutal reality and sheer panic she
felt right now.

The surge of
terror sank to the pit of Wendy’s stomach, giving her little
warning as she vomited violently into the toilet basin. The
relentless deluge stopped her from even catching her breath, as if
desperately trying to expunge the terror and anxiety from within
her.

Wendy had
always assumed she would follow in her father's footsteps. She
recalled overhearing her father telling her mother about the bad
men he had locked up that day. Of course, that lack of
confidentiality would result in disciplinary action today, but
Wendy’s father came from a different world.

There were
words she didn’t know at the time – rape, prostitute,
dismemberment, mutilation – but as she grew older and learnt to
fill in the gaps, it served only to further fuel her desire for
justice.

She remembered
seeing his ID card sat on the hall dresser after he returned from
the station each night. She had never told him, but she used to
creep downstairs every evening and polish it with her nightie. She
chuckled to herself now as she recalled it.

Wendy always
escaped to a dream world in her childhood under times of stress. It
was a safe haven where there were no criminals, no rapists and no
murderers. If there were bad men, her father would have dealt with
them; she had no fear on that front.

Before long,
reality had set in again and Wendy longed to be back in her dream
world. The thought of these young lives being ended so horrifically
had her retching into the toilet again.

 

As she returned
to the incident room, Culverhouse was ready and waiting like a fat,
hairy creature ready to pounce on its prey. The similarity did not
go unnoticed by Wendy.

“Nice of you to
join us, Knight. I’ve had Weston all round the fucking station
looking for you.”

“Sorry guv –
nature called.” The mere mention of nature had Wendy smirking at
the creature stood before her.

“There’s
nothing funny about your fucking bowel movements, Detective
Sergeant Knight,” he boomed in an embarrassingly loud voice. “We’ve
got a serial killer to catch and you’re part of this team. Next
time you want to fuck off and shit yourself for twenty minutes, you
ask me – alright?” Wendy was put firmly in her place.

“Right, now we
need to get moving on this one. DS Wing and DS Vine – I want you
onto the MO. See what connections you can find between the two
cases. Knight, you’re coming to the Common with me. We’re going to
view the scene before SOCO get their grubby mitts all over it.
Weston and Baxter – you’re coming too.”

Wendy raised an
eyebrow. Why on Earth was he taking an inexperienced PC to a murder
scene? To a serial murder scene at that. She had worked with Baxter
before and knew what a slimy git he could really be. She thought
twice about commenting and realised she had nothing to lose.

“Baxter’s
coming?”

“Yes, Knight,
he is. Do we have a problem with that?”

“Not at all,
guv. I just thought maybe there was some paperwork he could be
getting on with here. We’re getting snowed under already.”

Shit. She’d
only spent a few hours in the company of Culverhouse and already
she was turning into a bigot.

“Baxter’s going
to be a part of this team, Knight. He’s going places and he needs
to experience certain things – you catch my drift?”

 

Wendy’s mind
wandered to a time when she had first seen a dead body not long
after joining the police force – a woman beaten to death by her
husband. She could vividly recall her thoughts and feelings as she
first entered that living room.

It was the
smell that had hit her first. That foul, rotten stench seared
through your nostrils and stayed with you for the rest of your
life, hiding somewhere deep within and pouncing in your least
guarded moments. Dreams were a particular favourite. She remembered
seeing the body lying on the floor in a mishmash of colours. The
blonde hair, the brown dried blood, the blue skin. Oh God, that
blue, lifeless skin. The sight and smell had made her sick then,
too.

Wendy never
ceased to be amazed at how a dead body could look so different to a
sleeping, living person. It was as if with the passing of life, a
light had gone out somewhere. In the absence of any other credible
evidence, this gave Wendy her spiritual belief. If we are simply
bags of bones and blood, Wendy thought, how can there be such a
distinct lack of soul and being in the empty shell of a dead
person?

Wendy hated
murder scenes. Although she tried to appear nonchalant every time,
inside she was a quivering wreck. Now it was Baxter’s turn. That
slimy, goody two-shoes had been nurtured and fathered by
Culverhouse ever since he joined the force. Butter wouldn’t melt in
Baxter’s mouth as far as Culverhouse was concerned.

Yeah – let him
experience it. Let him see an innocent person’s entrails spilling
out onto the floor.
Let him see it, the bastard
.

 

 

 

CHAPTER
THREE

 

The grass on
Mildenheath Common was a yellowing colour. The scorching summer had
been particularly unkind to it this year.

As they crossed
the grassy area from the gravel car park to the crime scene, Wendy
couldn’t help but smirk at the horror that bastard Baxter was about
to experience.

Upon reaching
the body, the foul, pungent smell hit Wendy like a ten-tonne truck,
and PC Baxter even worse.

“You alright,
Luke?”

Wendy could see
Baxter’s face turning a pale shade of green before her very
eyes.

“Yeah, fine.
Just a bit – you know.”

“I’m sure
you’ll be fine.”
Your confidence is fooling no-one, you bastard.
Come on – show everyone what a big man you are.

BOOK: Too Close For Comfort
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