Beneath the Bleeding

A Novel Val McDermid

This one is for the members of the wedding,

who helped to create the best of memories.



List 2








List 1





List 3

Three months later


About the Author


Other Books by Val McDermid



About the Publisher


The phases of the moon have an inexplicable but incontrovertible effect on the mentally ill. Ask any psychiatric nurse. For them, it’s a truth universally acknowledged. None of them volunteers for overtime around the time of the full moon. Not unless they are absolutely desperate. It’s also a truth that makes the behavioural scientists uneasy; it’s not something that can be laid at the door of an abusive childhood or an inability to relate socially. It’s an external rhythm that no amount of treatment can override. It drags the tides and it pulls the deranged out of their hampered orbits.

The internal dynamics of Bradfield Moor Secure Hospital were as susceptible to the undertow of the full moon as its name suggested. According to some of its staff, Bradfield Moor was a warehousing facility for those too dangerously crazy to walk free; to others, it was a haven for minds too fragile for the rough and tumble of life on the outside; and to the rest, it was a temporary refuge that offered the hope of a return to a loosely defined normality. The third group was, unsurprisingly, heavily outnumbered and heartily despised by the other two.

That night, it wasn’t enough that the moon was full. It was also subject to a partial eclipse. The milky shadows of the lunar surface gradually metamorphosed through sickly yellow to dark orange as the earth moved between its satellite and the sun. For most of those observing the eclipse, it possessed a mysterious beauty, provoking awe and admiration. For Lloyd Allen, one of Bradfield Moor’s less grounded inmates, it provided proof absolute of his conviction that the last days were at hand and thus his duty was to bring as many to his maker as he could. He had been hospitalized before he had achieved his goal of spilling as much blood as possible so that the souls of its owners might ascend more easily to heaven at the imminent second coming. His mission burned all the brighter within him for being thwarted.

Lloyd Allen was not a stupid man and this made the task of his keepers that much harder. The psychiatric nurses were well versed in low cunning and found it relatively easy to head off at the pass. It was much harder to spot the machinations of those who were deranged but smart. Recently, Allen had devised a method of avoiding taking his medication. The more experienced nurses were wise to tricks of this sort and knew how to subvert them, but the newly qualified, like Khalid Khan, still lacked the necessary canniness.

On the night of the full moon, Allen had managed to avoid taking both previous doses of the chemical cosh that Khan believed he had administered. By the time the eclipse began to be visible, Allen’s head was filled with a low thrumming mantra. ‘Bring them to me, bring them to me, bring them to me,’ echoed continuously inside his brain. From his room, he could see a corner of the moon, the prophesied sea of blood occluding its face. It was time. It really was time. Agitated, he clenched his fists and jerked his lower arms up and down every couple of seconds like a demented boxer raising and lowering his guard.

He turned to face the door and stumbled awkwardly towards it. He had to get out so he could complete his mission. The nurse would be here soon with his final medication for the night. Then God would give him the strength he needed. God would get him out of this room. God would show him the way. God knew what he had to do. He would bring them to Him. The time was ripe, the moon was bursting with blood. The signs were beginning and he had a task to fulfil. He was chosen, he was the road to salvation for the sinners. He would bring them to God.

The pool of light illuminated a small area on the top of a low-grade institutional desk. A file lay open, a hand holding a pen resting on one side of the page. In the background, Moby yearned plaintively for the spiders. The CD had been a gift, something Dr Tony Hill would never have chosen for himself. But somehow it had become an integral part of the after-hours work ritual.

Tony went to rub his gritty eyes, forgetting about his new reading glasses. ‘Ow,’ he yelped as the nosepieces bit into his flesh. His little finger caught the edge of the rimless glasses, sending them spinning off his face to land askew on the file he’d been studying. He could picture the look of indulgent amusement the moment would have provoked on the face of Detective Chief Inspector Carol Jordan, the Moby donor. His distracted clumsiness had long been a standing joke between them.

The one thing she couldn’t tease or taunt him about was that he was still at his desk at half past eight on a Friday night. When it came to reluctance to leave the office until everything possible had been dealt with, she was at least his equal. If she’d been around she would have understood why he was still here, going over the brief he’d so painstakingly prepared for the Parole Board. A brief they’d chosen blithely to ignore when they’d released Bernard Sharples into the care of the Probation Service. No longer a danger to the public, his lawyer had persuaded them. A model prisoner who had co-operated with everything the authorities had asked of him. The very exemplar of remorse.

Well, of course Sharples had been a model prisoner, Tony thought bitterly. It was easy to behave when the objects of your desire were so far beyond your reach that even the most obsessed fantasist would struggle to conjure up anything remotely like temptation. Sharples would offend again, he knew it in his bones. And it would be his fault in part because he had failed to make his case strongly enough.

He retrieved his glasses and marked a couple of paragraphs with his pen. He could have, should have stated his

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