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Caffeine Nights Publishing

 

Deadly Focus

RC Bridgestock

 

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Published by Caffeine Nights Publishing 2011

 

Copyright © RC Bridgestock 2011

 

RC Bridgestock has asserted their right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1998 to be identified as the author of this work

 

 

CONDITIONS OF SALE

 

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, scanning, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher

 

This book has been sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

 

All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental

 

Published in Great Britain by Caffeine Nights Publishing

 

www.caffeine-nights.com

 

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data.

A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

 

ISBN: 978-1-907565-09-0

 

Cover design by

Mark (Wills) Williams

 

Everything else by

Default, Luck and Accident

 

To

Our family who lived with us through the real crime

And support us in fiction

 

 For law enforcement officers - the true heroes - who strive for justice for the victims and their families

 

 

Deadly Focus

 

Chapter One

 

Nine-year-old Daisy Charlotte Hind was proud of the striking, red, curly hair that cascaded down her back in a haphazard fashion. She was often teased and called names like Carrot Head or Copper Top, but she didn’t care. No one had hair like hers at school. It was special, her mummy told her, just like she was.

Being a bridesmaid for the first time was so exciting; Auntie Sam and Uncle Tom were getting married, and they’d told her all she had to do was look pretty. That couldn’t be too difficult, she thought. Daisy loved all the attention the wedding entailed. The grown-ups laughed at her as she stood on the kitchen table being fitted for her dress.

‘Stand up straight now,’ the dressmaker mumbled with pins in her mouth as she altered the hemline. ‘Look forward. Don’t look down. Let’s have a twirl now. Gorgeous.’

The bridesmaid dress was ready at last, and Mum had picked it up. Daisy thought she would just burst with excitement as she skipped home from school that day.

The dress hung proudly on the living room door as Mum and Daisy walked into the house.

‘Yippee,’ she said with glee as her mum took off its plastic wrapping so she could try it on. Daisy bounced up and down with joy, her arms waving feverishly in the air as Wendy lowered the dress over her head.

‘Oh, wow, it fits a treat,’ Wendy said, carefully fastening the tiny buttons on the lace collar.

‘Quick, Mummy, I want to look in the mirror,’ Daisy said, hopping from one foot to the other as Wendy tied the sash.

‘Stand still, will you, for goodness sake,’ she said as she turned Daisy around. ‘Gosh, you look so grown up.’ She was caught unexpectedly by the emotion of seeing her daughter taking an important step toward independence.

Daisy flew up the stairs in her long, silk, jade-coloured dress as fast as her little legs would carry her. She spun round in front of a mirror, making the skirt balloon out.

‘I’m going to be a bridesmaid, I’m going to a wedding,’ she giggled. Her black school shoes and old socks looked a bit scruffy, she thought, but she had been promised they were going shopping for some silver sandals on Saturday, and she was going to wear tights just like a grown up on the day. She really was the ‘princess’ Grandma called her.

‘Mummy, it’s so … beautiful. Can I go and show Grandma, please?’ she begged as she ran down the stairs.

Wendy looked out of the window. It was cold and growing dark, but Irene lived only a few hundred yards away. What harm could it do? ‘Go on then, as long as you don’t stay long,’ Wendy said. ‘But be careful not to dirty it,’ she told her daughter. Daisy grabbed her duffle coat from the banister at the bottom of the stairs and ran out of the door before her mum could change her mind.

‘Don’t run,’ Wendy called out into the night as she watched Daisy go. The girl’s hair flew like a kite behind her as she ran around the corner and out of sight.

The street was well lit. Wendy stepped back inside and closed the door. The house felt warm after the bitter cold wind that rushed up the street. She shivered as she pulled the lounge curtains closed and went upstairs to do the same in the bedrooms to shut out the night.

She started to prepare tea, humming softly. Trevor would be home soon. He was working a day shift at the fire station, so she planned to bathe Daisy and get her tucked up in bed by half-seven. It had been a busy and exciting day and Wendy was looking forward to a quiet evening with Trevor, curled up in front of the telly with a glass of red wine. Coronation Street was on twice tonight.

 

Grandma Irene lived on her own; she was seventy but Daisy made her feel so much younger. Her husband had been dead for ten years, and all of the community activities she’d joined in didn’t begin to fill the hole dear Syd had left in her life. As Daisy had grown, she’d gained a friend, a little girl who lit up her days and talked her to distraction. She idolised her granddaughter.

A rap came at her door and although she didn’t normally open it after dark the tiny voice shouting excitedly through the letter box was unmistakably Daisy’s.

‘Grandma. Open up, it’s me.’

Grinning, Irene lifted the latch and pulled off the chain, and the little girl fell in, stumbling over the threshold in her haste.

‘Be careful, sweetheart’ she said as she grabbed her arm.

‘Look, Grandma, I’m a real bridesmaid now.’ Daisy squealed with delight as she threw off her coat, stretched out her arms, and proudly spun around to show off the dress in all its glory.

‘Oh, Princess’ Irene exclaimed, clapping her hands with joy. ‘You look beautiful.’

‘I can’t stay though; Mummy said I had to get straight back. We’ve got to keep my dress under a plastic cover to keep it clean.’ she said.

Irene smiled. ‘Thank you for coming to show me, darling. Here, shall I see what I’ve got in my cupboard for you?’ she asked, opening the door of her dresser.

‘Thanks, Grandma,’ Daisy said as she struggled back into her coat. She took the sweets eagerly in her hand and gave Grandma Irene a fleeting hug.

‘Bye bye, sweetheart, see you tomorrow after school,’ Irene said, kissing her on the cheek.

Daisy stopped and waved to her grandma, who watched from her doorstep as the little girl turned the corner into Rochester Road. Bless her, thought Irene as she closed the door and locked out the cold. She’s such a good little girl.

 

Daisy was almost home when a ferocious blow from behind shattered her skull. She never touched the ground. Her falling body was caught, scooped up, and thrown through the side door of a van. She was gone. Her tiny footsteps and quiet singing voice were no more. Warm, dark-red blood oozed from the head-wound, prevented from splashing to the floor only by the spread of her bridesmaid dress. The vehicle was quietly and swiftly driven away, its prey on board. There was no one in sight, nothing to bear witness to the fact that such a brutal, evil attack on a child had just taken place.

 

Wendy was getting cross. Daisy had been gone for at least twenty minutes. Where the hell is she? She’d better not have got chocolate on that dress, she fumed. Wendy knew her mum was a beggar for treating the little girl. As her anxiety began to mount, she looked out of the window. She stood at the door, but there was no sign of Daisy.

‘Have you got an excited little bridesmaid with you?’ Wendy said, trying to disguise her irritation over the phone. Irene hated it when Wendy got cross with Daisy. She’s just a little girl she would say, and you were just the same with your Nana when you were young.

Her mother broke her reverie.

‘Our Daisy? She left here ages ago. I watched her. She didn’t stop a minute. Said you’d told her not to be too long.’

Wendy felt as if someone had just thumped her in the stomach. She dropped the phone and ran frantically to the door. The street was empty but for a few parked cars. The eerie silence in the street was suffocating. Her steps pounded the pavement as she ran down to the corner of Rochester Road.

‘Daisy, Daisy, Daisy.’ she called. Her voice got louder and louder until her screaming echoed for streets around.

‘Oh my god, oh my god, where is she?’ she whispered, warm breath visible in the air as she continued running. Her heart beat quickly within her chest, sinking against her stomach, making her feel sick. She hammered at Irene’s door, frantically shouting for it to be opened. She flew past her stunned mother. Wendy ran into every room calling Daisy’s name. There was no time to talk. Irene was left shaking in Wendy’s wake as she screamed out for her daughter and ran back towards her own home. Launching herself through her front door, Wendy snatched the telephone off the hallway floor. Breathless, her heart pounding, she dialled 999 with a shaking hand. Impatient, she tapped her foot and closed her eyes, willing them to answer.

‘My daughter’s gone … please help me.’ Tears streamed down Wendy’s face. Her body shook. She slid down the wall and sank to the floor with the telephone grasped tightly in her hand. She sobbed, her body doubled in agony. The only explanation she could think of was that someone had taken Daisy. Spluttering out her name and address, she gasped, sure she was about to faint, trying to listen, digest and answer the questions the operator asked. Over and over she begged them to be quick before being told the police were on their way. Hearing the dialling tone, she rang Trevor’s mobile, although she was sure he wouldn’t answer. She looked at the clock. He’d be on his way home. He picked up.

‘I know I’m ….’ He was stopped suddenly as Wendy’s frantic voice spewed down the phone.

‘Trevor, Trevor, oh my god, please come quickly. Daisy’s gone. Oh god, Trevor help.’ She didn’t hear his response but knew he had heard her. She didn’t ring off, the phone fell out of her hand and she sobbed heart-wrenching sobs.

 

Blue lights appeared outside their home, illuminating the lounge. Trevor’s car screeched to a halt.

‘Wendy,’ he cried as he ran in. The door was ajar and he could hear her hysterical weeping.

‘Trevor, somebody’s got her ... somebody’s taken her.’ She sank into Trevor’s shoulder as he bent down to his wife. He picked up the phone, put it on its cradle and gently helped his wife to her feet. She cried into his chest, her hands clawing the front of his jumper as he held her.

‘Tell me what’s happened,’ he said gently, brushing her hair from her tear-stained face.

‘She wanted to show Mum her dress.’ The image of her daughter in her bridesmaid dress was imprinted in her mind. ‘She hasn’t come home. I’ve looked for her … everywhere.’ Trevor caught his wife as her legs buckled beneath her.

‘Come on, sit down,’ Trevor said leading her to the settee where she collapsed, head in her hands. Trevor sat beside her, holding her tight and rubbing her back.

‘This can’t be happening. She can’t just ’ave vanished.’

 

Somehow Wendy managed to find the words to blurt out to the police what had happened. Repeating it over and over again.

‘What can I do?’ Trevor begged the officers. ‘Some bastard’s got her. She can’t be far away.’

The evening sky changed colour with the arrival of each additional police car’s lights. The search between Daisy’s home and her Grandma’s was chaotic. Every house in the street was lit. People banged on their neighbours’ doors and shouted through their letter boxes to ask for help to find Daisy. Rochester Road had houses to one side only. On the other side was a slope topped with a ten-foot wall, and beyond was a railway line. There was no way she could have got over that, although people crawled with torches up the embankment. Cries for Daisy rang out in the darkness.

A young PC brought a distraught Irene up to Wendy and Trevor’s house so that they could comfort each other. As far as anyone knew, Daisy had vanished into thin air. Every minute that passed caused the family more anxiety, more concern, more panic. Their eyes clung to the hands on the clock. When would it end?

‘She’s a good girl. She would never run away. She was so happy. I gave her sweets and watched her turn the corner from my door. She was skipping. It’s so, so cold,’ Irene panicked. The police officer tried to reassure her as Irene twisted her hands together in worry. All of a sudden she clasped her chest and grimaced in pain as she struggled to breathe, rubbing her arm furiously. Her face turned grey, clammy to the touch, and the quick-thinking officer who sat at her side didn’t hesitate to ring for an ambulance. Wendy rushed to her mother’s side and cradled her in her arms.

‘Trevor, get Mum some water, could you?’ she asked anxiously. The paramedics were quick with the tests, and before anyone knew what was happening Irene’s face was covered with an oxygen mask and she was being carried on a stretcher into the waiting ambulance. Wendy grasped her mother’s hand tightly for a second as she was taken past. The doors were closed. Sirens amongst the flashing blue lights ensured a clear path was made for the ambulance to get through the crowds that were gathering.

‘I should go with her,’ Wendy wailed as she watched her mother being taken away. ‘Where’s my baby?’ she sobbed at the police officers. ‘I want my mum.’

 

Chapter Two

 

He pulled up his collar and fastened the buttons on his black leather coat as he stepped out into a cool evening in the village of Tandem Bridge. The rain had stopped but the streetlight’s reflection in the surface water glimmered. It had only been a few days since bonfire weekend. The aroma of burning wood and spent fireworks still filled the air. Jack Dylan took a few paces towards the kerb. There was a light tap on his left shoulder. Instinctively he turned. A sudden, almighty blow to his face sent him reeling into darkness.

The bittersweet taste of blood filled his mouth, tears sprang to his eyes, and the excruciating pain made him stumble to his knees. Stunned and semi-conscious, he shook his head in an attempt to clear it. Blood sprayed in what seemed like slow-motion across the front of his coat and the paving slabs. He could hear shouting as he attempted to pull his broad frame upright. His vision and senses slowly returned and the pavement felt cold and wet to his touch. Reaching up to his aching face, blood covered his hands. Through watery eyes he saw the outline of a man being grappled to the street by two uniformed officers. He blacked out.

Dylan woke in hospital, stretched out on a bed covered by a blanket. A muslin cloth covered the lower part of his face. He tried to comprehend what had happened. The attack was vivid yet over in a flash. If his attacker hadn’t been stopped, Dylan might not have survived. Who the fuck had done it and why? God, his mouth hurt. What the hell do I look like? he wondered, groaning as he reached up to touch his face.

‘We’ll give you something for the pain, love. I’m afraid you’re going to need a few stitches, though,’ the nurse said, placing a sympathetic hand on his arm as she adjusted the cloth to cover his eyes. He was in no rush; it was comforting to be still for a while. The quietness around him and the cloth over his face lulled his eyes shut. The darkness made him sleepy and he let his mind drift. It reminded him of being a child when he’d hidden under the stairs with his mum, brothers, and sisters. They’d covered their heads with the coats that hung there to shut out the flashes of lightning and muffle the sound of thunder, or they’d hid there from the rent man who’d banged on the door for the overdue rent on the estate, which he did regularly.

Dylan was a stocky man who commanded presence by his stature, hard on the exterior and relentless in pursuit of right, but underneath he was a kind-hearted person who longed for a home life. His nickname in his younger years as a police officer had been ‘Basher’. In those days he always seemed to be fighting. At the age of thirty-five and with fifteen years of service he’d had a few close calls locking up criminals, but this twat had totally surprised him. Thirteen years as a detective and now a Detective Inspector, he was annoyed he’d been caught out. He recalled his first night on the beat and that damned uniform. Razor sharp creases, a helmet that rubbed his forehead. Detachable starched collars; none of that stretch fabric of today. Studs held them on and had pressed into the nape of his neck, painful and annoying, but he was so proud of wearing that uniform. His parents would have been, too, if they’d been alive.

Dylan’s first shift started at 22.00 hours. He was walking alone, new boots gleaming, identifying him as a rookie even if nothing else did. Harrowfield town’s main street bustled with life on a night; overspills from the pubs, laughing and shouting filling the air spasmodically. He remembered he’d been told to try to walk with the authority that the uniform gave him, shoulders back. He’d checked to see how he looked in the shop windows as he passed. His reflection looked grand.

The two parts of the Pye radio were kept in his breast pockets. The left hand held the receiver to the ear while the right hand used the transmitter. Fortunate if both worked and a sitting duck if anyone tried to attack him as both hands were occupied. He tried to remember everything he’d been taught back in training school, but what would he do if anything happened, he’d wondered? His nervous mind had mixed up all the rules and regulations, trying to put them in some kind of order.

Twenty minutes on the beat and thirty yards ahead there seemed to be an unusually large gathering of people. A few more steps and he could see they were giving a wide berth to a man screaming abuse, his voice blanketing all others. Obviously no one wanted to be near him.

‘Fucking bastard. Fucking come on,’ he growled. He had the appearance of a minotaur and was the very last person on earth you’d want to pick a fight with. A giant of a man snorting like a wounded animal. Who’s rattled his cage? Dylan wondered. They obviously weren’t too bright. As Dylan got nearer, it became clear that it was his police uniform that was acting like a red rag to this bull. He was shouting at him. The minotaur thundered towards him. Dylan shouted for assistance over the radio while that giant of a man launched himself at him like a bull at a gate. Dylan was suddenly beneath him, fighting for survival. Fortunately for him help had been just around the corner that time too.

He was jolted back from his reminiscences by a sharp pain in his lip, which made him wince. A soft hand reached into his and another rested on his arm. The nurse, he thought.

‘Sorry, it’ll hurt but I can assure you it’s necessary,’ said a man’s deep voice. It hurt all right and not just a bit. Dylan’s eyes watered like hell. Ten minutes later the doctor had finished and the cloth was removed from his face.

‘You’re very lucky there’s no permanent damage. No kissing for a while though,’ he said, writing up his notes. ‘The stitches will dissolve in about a week.’ The doctor was very matter-of-fact, head down as he concentrated on Dylan’s file. The nurse helped Dylan sit upright, and he swung his legs to the side. He didn’t feel very lucky. As he walked from the cubicle, waiting for his painkillers to be prescribed, he saw his reflection in the window opposite. Mick Jagger with tassels on, he thought. He tried to smile. It hurt.

 

He was climbing into his car, looking forward to Jen’s warm bed, when his mobile rang.

‘Boss? Dawn. Looks like we’ve a nine-year-old girl gone missing. Snatched off the street tonight. I’m at Harrowfield nick.’

Before she could say any more, he’d interrupted. ‘Be with you in ten minutes.’ He rang to let Jen know he’d be late. Nothing new there. He’d been called out to robberies, suicides and four murders in the last two months. She was on the phone so he left her a message. Only me, gonna be late. Nine-year-old girl missing. Be in touch when I know more – love you. He knew she wouldn’t be pleased, but there wasn’t a lot he could do about it.

 

‘Evening, boss. Bloody hell,’ Dawn said as she got close enough to see his lip. ‘You overdosed on the Botox? Or been kissing wasps again?’

Not many people would have spoken to Dylan like that but Dawn knew him and his sense of humour well. He grimaced.

‘Bet you gave as good as you got.’

‘No, actually I was decked, went straight down, and didn’t know who or what had hit me. Luckily some officers were nearby,’ he managed to mumble.

 

Dawn was a good Detective Sergeant; Dylan knew that it would be a runner if she’d called him out. She reminded him of Dawn French, a larger-than-life fleshy woman, robust, and with a great sense of humour.

‘Hope they didn’t bail him,’ Dawn said sarcastically.

‘No way.’ He shook his head. She gave him the update on the child. They briefed the uniformed and specialised officers who’d make initial enquiries. It was short and to the point. He needed them out there to find Daisy. He ordered the search of houses in the area, including attics and cellars. If the owners consented it would be easier, but he told the officers from the search team to let him know if anyone refused.

‘We have to be a hundred per cent sure she’s not being kept against her will,’ he told the uniform task force of thirty officers. Dylan wanted more. ‘Get me information that we have on people in the area. The creeps, the sex offenders,’ he commanded Dawn. ‘Team leaders, debrief at midnight. Let’s bloody find her,’ he said, raising his voice as officers left to saturate the area of Rochester Road.

Dylan called the Press Office. He desperately needed a press release to be put on the Press Office news line for the attention of all media: Police are searching for a missing nine-year-old girl, who was last seen in Rochester Way at 6.15 this evening.

As he got to grips with the teams, Dawn, apart from making coffee, had been scanning the log of events so far. They were both ready to attend the scene.

‘I’m glad it’s you, Dawn, this isn’t sounding good.’

‘No. Do you get the feeling it’s an opportunist or someone watching?’

‘Could be either. Let’s go and see what weird and wonderful people live around Rochester Road.’

They both looked over the short distance that Daisy had walked, a route she should have been safe taking. There were teams of officers checking, searching, and rummaging through houses, cars, and sheds. Anywhere, in fact, where a nine-year-old girl might be. Torch lights flashed everywhere. The search by the officers was organised and as thorough as it could be. Members of the public were offering help and it was gratefully accepted. What Dylan didn’t want was frenzy, hectic panic. A lone shout of Daisy rang out in the night, which in turn started an echo as other people shouted the little girl’s name. The packet of pastilles given to Daisy by her grandma was found on the pavement 150 yards from her own front door. The area around the sweets was taped off for 30 square feet.

‘That’s where she was grabbed,’ Dylan muttered to Dawn as he pointed to the pavement.

 

Dylan and Dawn arrived to sit with Daisy’s parents, to go over once again what had happened. Trevor held Wendy as she wept. His eyes swam with tears that he brushed away as they fell to his cheeks. They sat huddled on the settee, trembling. Dylan was unsure whether it was with fear, shock, or a chill from the open door. The officers searched their home, a necessary, intrusive routine, but very upsetting for the Hinds. Wendy showed Dylan and Dawn the most recent picture of her daughter.

‘She looks so small, doesn’t she? Just like a Victorian doll. Pale skin, red curls,’ she said stroking the picture. ‘She was so, so excited, it’s her first time, you see, being a bridesmaid.’ Wendy sobbed, staring directly at them, her breathing erratic. She took a big gasp. ‘Where is she?’ she pleaded. ‘She isn’t stupid. She wouldn’t wander off. Why, oh why did I let her go?’ she wailed. ‘I watched her go down the road. Mum watched her come back. She’s just literally vanished into thin air. Oh, where’s my baby? Please find my baby,’ she begged as she rocked. Trevor sat perfectly still, speechless, his head in his hands. Suddenly Wendy jumped, startled, as she remembered. ‘Mum? Oh, my god, I’ve forgotten Mum. Is she okay?’

Dawn contacted the hospital and was told Irene had suffered a mild heart attack but seemed to be doing well. She was responding to treatment and was comfortable.

‘Thank you, god. Oh, poor Mum.’ Wendy looked to the ceiling for some divine intervention as if trying to make sense of it all. A short while before they’d been a normal family, taking great pride in their daughter as she tried on her bridesmaid dress, and looking forward to a family wedding. Their lives had gone from sheer happiness to total hell.

‘Where’s my baby, my little girl? Please, please find her, she needs me,’ Wendy repeated over and over again, swaying to and fro as Trevor tried to comfort her.

Dylan and Dawn were draped in the sadness that consumed the room. The couple’s hurt was almost tangible. Both spoke to the Family Liaison Officer (FLO) when she arrived and then introduced her to Daisy’s parents. Janice Henderson, salt of the earth, people said. Dylan knew she was an experienced officer. She needed to be for this one. Although there were supposed to be two FLOs on child abductions, the request that Dylan had made to Force Control had been turned down because there was no one available to take on the role. He’d tutted in disbelief. What was the police force coming to?

‘That was bloody awful,’ Dawn said as they left Janice with the Hinds and walked out onto the street.

‘Horrendous. It’s not looking good is it?’ Dylan said shaking his head. His eyes were downcast, his hands in his coat pockets as they strode out into the freezing night air. ‘Some bastard took a big risk and got away with it. She could be anywhere. We’ll have to be sure she isn’t still round here first. I want every corner of this area searched before we move on.’

In each house searched, the officers would have to look into every possible place a young girl could hide or be hidden. This would include suitcases, cupboards, drawers, and boxes. There were thirty-five houses to search in the immediate area, Dylan was told. Nothing would be left to chance. As well as the searches, direct enquiries were being carried out of the registered sex offenders living in and around Tandem Bridge. There were sixteen. Each and every one would be subjected to interrogation and their flats, houses, or wherever they lived would be searched. This would hopefully be by consent, but if not, then there would be a warrant requested. Nothing would stand in the way of this little girl being found. Daisy’s friends would be contacted to see if she’d spoken to them. It was a priority line of enquiry for Dylan. Daisy went to Tandem Bridge Middle School, as did the majority of children in the area.

 

It was now the early hours of the morning. Wendy and Trevor looked pale, numb with shock, their faces etched in pain. They kept asking if they could do something, anything, to help. All they knew was that their little girl, their only child, was gone. A few hours before excitement had filled the very room they were in. Trying on that bridesmaid dress was a long-awaited dream come true for Daisy.

‘Where is she? I need to know where she is. Daisy has never been out at this time of night before. She’ll be so frightened. She’ll need me.’ It was going to be a very long, painful night for them, and they wouldn’t sleep, they couldn’t. The search team would continue through the night. There was now a large police presence in the area, which would remain sealed. Although Dylan and Dawn were now going home for a few hours, they would be back at first light, when the briefing of more officers would take place. Daisy needed to be found, and quickly.

 

Dylan didn’t even remember the drive to Jen’s house. Unlocking the door as quietly as he could, he found Jen’s golden retriever, Max, was waiting in the hallway. Dylan mumbled a hello to him through his swollen lips and Max’s tail swished the walls. The dog was always pleased to see him. Sanctuary, thought Dylan, as he slipped into bed next to Jen’s warm body. She stirred.

‘I’m knackered. Love you, Miss Jones,’ he said sleepily as he rested his head on the pillow next to Jen as gently as he could so as not to wake her. He drifted into a deep sleep, waking intermittently either due to the pain from his lip or thoughts of Daisy and whatever evil bastard had taken her.

 

 

 

Chapter Three

 

At 6.20 a.m., just over twelve hours after Daisy had been reported missing, the police received a 999 call from a distressed lady who had been walking her dog on wasteland near to Dean Reservoir, approximately seven miles from Daisy’s home.

‘Please help. I’ve just seen what looks like a child’s body. I’m sorry I can’t go any nearer, could you send someone please? Quickly.’

A police car arrived at the location within six minutes. There was a biting wind. Mrs Day stood on the open moorland, bewildered, pale and shaken, with her mobile phone still in her hand. She was a smart lady of about forty years, dressed for the weather in boots, jeans, and an anorak. Nearby was her red Mini Cooper. Inside the car was her liver and white Springer spaniel.

‘I had to put Belle in the car. She wouldn’t stop barking, that’s why I walked towards … it,’ she told the officers. ‘But …I … couldn’t. I’m sorry. It made me feel sick.’ She held her hand to her throat, a hankie grasped firmly in her hand. She was visibly shaking. The older officer placed an arm around her shoulders.

‘Mrs Day, you’ve done really well just ringing in. Are you sure you’re okay? Do you need a doctor?’

‘No, no thank you, love. It’s, it’s just such a shock, you know?’ She shivered.

The officer guided her to her vehicle where he sat her in the driver’s side, then he retreated to the passenger seat. Speaking to her gently he took notes in his pocket book as he asked her where she had walked and where she had seen what she thought was a body.

She pointed. ‘Just over there. If you walk straight forward you’ll see it for yourself.’

The younger officer followed the route Mrs Day indicated. Some twenty-five yards ahead, away from the road, he saw it.

The body was face down and had a blue plastic bag secured over its head. He immediately contacted the control room and then checked the body for a pulse. There were no signs of life. Using his radio he requested the attendance of paramedics on the off chance anything could be done, but deep down he knew it was futile. They could at least make the pronouncement of life extinct. He called for the attendance of senior CID and uniform supervision. Using blue and white crime scene tape, he started to create a line from the roadway to the body, indicating the pathway Mrs Day had taken. He wrapped the tape around trees to begin sealing off the area, preserving it for a later search.

The officers would record what they had done and why: they had no doubt it was a murder. CID arrived and a detective swapped places with the uniform officer to sit with Mrs Day. He told her that an ambulance was en route.

‘I’d only been parked about two or three minutes when Belle started barking continually at one spot, which is so out of character for her. I looked to the place where she was yapping, saw it, and dialled 999,’ Mrs Day told him.

Seated in the security and quietness of Mrs Day’s car, the two watched the paramedics arrive. They saw the negative nods of their heads and they watched as the paramedics retreated from the scene.

‘Are you sure you’re okay to drive?’ asked the detective. ‘We’ll visit you later at home to take a statement if that’s okay with you.’

‘Oh, I’ll be fine. Thank you. You’ve enough to do here. I’ll see you later,’ Mrs Day said.

 

Dylan’s mobile and pager awoke him as they danced a duet on his bedside table. His face ached. As he yawned his lips cracked and flaked like old paint on dead wood. He picked up his phone. A bright, sharp, wide-awake voice on the other end spoke.

‘Detective Sergeant Dawn Farren asked me to contact you, sir. I’ll ring you back in a few minutes to give you chance to come round, shall I?’ Before he could speak, the caller hung up. Jen had gone into autopilot, so accustomed to the routine when he got called out and their sleep was disturbed. He smiled inwardly as he got a glimpse of her naked body before she covered it with her dressing gown. She turned as she switched on the big light, looked at him, froze, and then said, ‘Oh my god, Jack, what’s happened?’ She burst into tears as she rushed to his side of the bed. ‘Just tell me that one day you’ll walk away from it all,’ she begged, holding him so tight her knuckles were white.

‘Don’t worry, love, nothing will ever come between us. Definitely not the job. I love you, Miss Jones,’ he slurred, trying to stretch his mouth open as he reassuringly stroked her hair.

 

Jennifer Jones worked at Harrowfield HQ in the admin department, which is where their eyes had first met. Their hands had accidentally touched putting the post in their pigeonholes. Passing the coffee cups had brought about electricity that he couldn’t ignore. He was like a lovesick teenager and he knew it when he began changing his routine just to catch a glimpse of her. He’d asked about her discreetly, but no one seemed to know much about Miss Jones other than that she lived alone. What he did know was that she was a stunner, and he wanted to know more. No one had guessed about the relationship so far, which was a miracle in the police force, but that’s the way he liked it. Let’s face it, Dylan thought, my life is sweet F.A. to do with anyone else. Dylan told Jen he wanted to protect her. To be honest he didn’t know if that was his real reason, but he did know that he stood on a lot of toes in both the criminal world and at the police station, and he didn’t want her to bear the brunt of any backlash he may have coming to him. There’d been a few close calls, but for now their secret was safe. His thoughts were interrupted by the shrill of the phone.

‘Don’t think you’re going anywhere without telling me what’s happened,’ she said, waving a finger at him now the initial shock was over. Jen moved swiftly. As he watched, his suit, shirt and tie come out of the wardrobe in double quick time. Reaching for the pen and paper he always kept by the bed for occasions such as these, he caught sight of the digital clock. It was 06.50 a.m. He yawned and licked his swollen lips before speaking, but a sharp pain with a burning sensation caused him to gasp.

‘Hello, boss. Body found at Dean Reservoir a short time ago.’ Dylan listened and took notes. ‘DS Farren wants you to meet her at Harrowfield nick.’

Jen placed a steaming cup quietly beside him on the bedside table and planted a kiss on the top of his head. He took a sip of the coffee. ‘Shit,’ he squealed as the cup stuck to his lip.

‘Pardon sir?’

‘Yeah, tell her I’ll be there ASAP.’

He dressed quickly. Dylan had basically moved in with Jen although he’d kept his flat on at HQ Training Centre for appearances’ sake.

‘Don’t worry, love, the idiot who did it is locked up,’ he said as he picked up his briefcase. ‘I’ll ring you when I know what’s happening.’ With that he gave her a hug as he flew out of the door. She watched the lights on his car as he reversed out of the driveway. She sighed. It depressed her to see what the job did to him. No sleep, a busted lip and not knowing what horrendous sight was awaiting him: that was just for starters today.

 

Dylan and Dawn travelled in his car to Dean Reservoir. He travelled the road often, as did his fellow workers, because it was a short cut between Harrowfield nick and Tandem Bridge Station. The blustery winds made it feel cold and the clouds were grey and heavy, threatening rain. However Dylan was pleased that the traffic was surprisingly light.

‘Can we have the helicopter up, to attend the scene for an eye in the sky view and aerial photographs, please?’ Dawn asked the officer in the control room via the radio. ‘A body tent and windbreaks would be good too. They’ll need to be the sturdy ones. The wind’s really picking up here.’

’I’ll contact operational support and get back to you,’ came the crackling reply.

‘Fell walking isn’t my speciality, boss, and no way am I going to get my new boots covered in sheep shit,’ said Dawn looking down at them, horrified at the prospect.

‘You girl. I’ve got my wellies in the boot, but you’re not having them.’

‘You’ll just have to carry me, then, won’t you?’ she said cheekily.

‘Impossible,’ he remarked, laughing, which made his lips stretch tight and sting. ‘Ow,’ he said.

‘Serves you right.’

 

Dawn was married and had met her husband Ralph while they were still at school. She’d been a waitress and he’d been a trainee chef. Her Achilles’ heel was food, which she never apologised for. ‘You are what you eat,’ she would often say, ‘And boy, do I eat.’ Ralph was now the head chef and owner of a restaurant they’d named ‘Mawingo’, Swahili for ‘up in the clouds’, after a place they had visited on their honeymoon. It had far-reaching views across the Yorkshire countryside, and a fantastic reputation. She assured Ralph she didn’t love him for his culinary specialities, but it was a hell of a bonus.

 

Access to Dean Reservoir was difficult. Salters Road was a narrow, single track tarmac road with few passing places. It was littered with potholes and corroded edges, definitely not a road on which you could travel at speed.

‘I’m glad it’s your bloody car we came in,’ said Dawn as they bumped along the uneven surface. The road was on a slow incline to such a height that you could see over the historic village that lay below in the valley. They travelled up the hill and the road opened up to a huge expanse with long distance views of moorland. It was nice in summer, but in winter it was bleak, barren and uninviting. The hills in the distance were dark silhouettes touching the sky. The clouds rested on the ground and the trees beyond appeared to float as if suspended in the sky. It was an awesome sight. If it had been painted it would have looked unrealistic on canvas. To the left of the road was a coppice of trees; some evergreen, some bare, which shielded the reservoir ahead. The trees were bending as though exercising in the strong wind. There were no homesteads nearby. It was a lonely scene. As they travelled the desolate road a few sheep wandered around near to the walls. They could be seen huddled together in the distance, desperately trying to shelter from the elements, the only visible sign of life around. Dylan had ensured the road was closed off to all traffic where the outer cordon started. It would ensure that the Press with their marvellous zoom lenses could not get close enough to take photographs of the body. He knew once they heard about it they would be there like a shot.

‘Do you think it’s Daisy?’ Dawn asked.

 

 

Chapter Four

 

The wind roared across the moor, flattening the long grass and teasing the trees in its path. They stopped in the gravelled car park alongside the marked police vehicles. Dylan’s car door was almost ripped off its hinges as he opened it onto the rough open terrain. There were deep dark holes filled with bits of twig and clumps of heather underfoot. The crime scene tape flapped about like the tails of a kite in the wind. The weather could at any moment turn perishing, Dylan knew only too well. Outdoor clothing was a must. He was immediately impressed with how the first two uniformed officers at the scene had acted on their own initiative and made a mental note to send a report to their supervision to praise them. Future CID material, he thought to himself as he began clambering into his protective suit. Leaves curled and twisted, sweeping the ground around him.

‘Bloody hell,’ he shouted over the wind as he fought to keep the suit in a position that meant he could get his leg in. The SOCO van pulled up beside him and, more by good luck than management, Jasmine was on call. Jasmine could have only been a size eight, but her ability made up for her lack of muscle.

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Deadly Focus