Lynda La Plante
I would like to dedicate this book
to Cass and Anne Sutherland
Special thanks and gratitude go to my hard working team at La Plante Productions for their committed and valuable support while I worked on
Many thanks also to Nicole Muldowney, Stephen Ross and Andrew Bennet-Smith, along with the ever- supportive Duncan Heath and Sue Rodgers.
I would also like to say how much I appreciate the wonderful stars of the Above Suspicion series: Cirian Hinds and Kelly Reilly.
Special thanks to my literary agent, Gill Coleridge, and all at Rogers, Coleridge & White for their constant encouragement.
The publication of this book would not have been possible without the hard work and support of Susan Opie and the team at Simon & Schuster: Ian Chapman, Suzanne Baboneau, Nigel Stoneman, Jessica Leeke and Rob Cox; I am very happy to be working with such a terrific and creative group of people.
The first blow to his head made his body lurch sideways, striking his face against the bedside cabinet. The pain was excruciating. As he tried to fend off his attacker, the punch to his ribs forced him back against the pillow. He couldn’t even cry out – the gag made sure of that. Over and over again the punches slammed into his body, but now it wasn’t a fist that hit him, it was a club hammer, and he could feel the bones in his face splinter. Blood seeped into his eyes and streamed from his nose as yet again the hammer struck, this time with such force that his head lolled over the side of the bed. Incapable of moving or seeing, he could feel the sheet being dragged over him and around his inert body, like a shroud. His attacker was using the blood-sodden sheet to slide him from the bed onto the floor. Moments later he realised he was being dragged out of the bedroom.
As he was dumped into the bath, the taps struck him and part of the sheet covering his face fell back, but still he was incapable of making a sound. Even when the water began to run over him he could do nothing to help himself. A terrible darkness swamped him as he sank into unconsciousness. Blood clotted his nostrils, and his mouth was swollen from the beating, which had broken his front teeth and forced them into his lip, and yet he was still alive as his body was rolled over and the sheet drawn away from him. The blood mixed with the running water, swirling down the plughole beneath his broken face.
Sometime later he felt something being poured over him, and hands patting and rubbing at his limbs. For a brief moment his mind woke as if there was a glimmer of a chance he would survive. This hope gave him the strength to try and move his limbs; he thrashed and kicked, but his attempts were thwarted as he felt hands squeezing at his throat. Then his head was wrapped so tightly that he could no longer breathe and there was no hope.
The small dapper man in the navy pin-striped suit had been waiting in the Hounslow police station reception for over an hour. He had not complained, but sat patiently reading his newspaper. When Anna Travis eventually walked into the room he folded the paper.
‘Yes – and you are?’
Anna sat opposite him and apologised for keeping him waiting. The truth was she’d been so busy wrapping up an investigation for a forthcoming trial that she’d quite forgotten he was there.
‘That’s perfectly all right, and understandable as I did not have an appointment. Thank you for agreeing to see me.’
There was a pause. In many ways she was unused to such cordiality, but at the same time impatient to know why he had specifically asked for her.
‘I work at the Old Bailey, I am an usher,’ Mr Rawlins said quietly.
‘Why do you want to see me?’
‘I have watched you in court many times and you have always impressed me.’
‘Well, thank you very much, Mr Rawlins, but could you tell me why you wanted to speak with me?’
‘Yes. I think my son has been murdered.’
Anna opened her briefcase and took out a notebook. She demonstrated little reaction to his statement.
‘Have you reported this elsewhere?’
‘Can you give me a few details? Firstly, what is your son’s name?’
‘Alan. He’s twenty-six years old and lives with his girlfriend in a flat not too far from here.’
‘Newton Court in Hedges Street. He occupied a ground-floor flat, it’s number two.’
‘When you say “occupied”, do you mean he’s no longer living there?’
‘He’s supposed to be. I believe all his belongings are still there, but I haven’t been to the flat. I’ve just telephoned there many times.’
‘His girlfriend’s name?’
‘You said you believed your son has been murdered?’
‘Yes. We speak at least twice a week and I haven’t heard from him for nearly two weeks now.’
‘This is unusual?’
‘You haven’t reported him missing?’
‘Well, Mr Rawlins, that is the first thing you should do. As he is over eighteen and until we have more details, specifically if you think a crime has been committed, then you should make a Missing Persons report.’
‘Whatever you think is necessary, but Alan is a very studious and caring young man. He has always kept in touch with me.’
‘Have you spoken to his girlfriend?’
‘Yes, numerous times. She in actual fact called