Blood Rites: A Detective Inspector Paul Snow thriller, страница 1
A Detective Inspector Paul Snow novel
First published in Great Britain in 2017
by Urbane Publications Ltd
Suite 3, Brown Europe House, 33/34 Gleaming Wood Drive,
Chatham, Kent ME5 8RZ
Copyright ©David Stuart Davies, 2017
The moral right of David Stuart Davies to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act of 1988.
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, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book. All characters in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is purely coincidental.
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
Design and Typeset by Michelle Morgan
Cover by Author Design Studio
Printed and bound by CPI Group (UK) Ltd, Croydon, CR0 4YY
Chapter Twenty One
Chapter Twenty Two
Chapter Twenty Three
Chapter Twenty Four
Chapter Twenty Five
Chapter Twenty Six
Chapter Twenty Seven
Chapter Twenty Eight
Chapter Twenty Nine
About the Author
In memory of my old friend James Sykes - a bright light dimmed too early.
‘Homosexuals then had three choices.
One. To conform to society’s expectations.
To marry and have children.
Two. To be celibate.
Three. To live a double life, fraught with danger – of violence or blackmail – and to live it alone.’
John Fraser in his autobiography Close Up
He entered the darkened house and shivered, kicking the damp snow from his shoes. Damn, he thought. He had forgotten to put the central heating on timer. Now, with his antiquated system, it would be a good hour before the property was reasonably warm. He grimaced and slammed the door shut. Oh well, such is life, he mused as he clicked the kitchen switch, filling the room with harsh fluorescent light. After seeing to the central heating boiler, and plugging in the kettle, he went to the sink and extracted the polythene bag from his overcoat pocket. Out of this he unsheathed the long knife. Despite the fact that he had wiped it earlier, the blade still retained traces of blood. He dropped it into the sink and turned on the tap. The water gushed over the knife, the blood reluctantly diluting and then spiralling away. He watched fascinated as the red turned to pink and then slid from view down the plughole.
Well, he supposed the evening had been successful – after a fashion. He wasn’t happy that he’d had to deviate from his plan and kill for no other reason than to protect himself. He knew that this had been essential, but it was still a waste of a body. However, the killing did provide him with the opportunity to resume his charted course, his blood rites, and take many more unworthy lives. Needs must when…
He dried the knife on a tea towel and returned it to the kitchen drawer where it belonged. Everything in its place; a place for everything. Sloughing off his wet coat and draping it over a dining chair, he made a cup of tea and, grabbing a couple of chocolate digestive biscuits from the biscuit tin, he wandered into the sitting room. After turning on the television, he slumped in a chair. He took a slurp of tea and sighed. He hoped there was something relaxing and entertaining on the box that he could watch. He’d had rather a tiring evening.
Three Months Earlier
Paul Snow gazed at himself in the bathroom mirror. He wasn’t sure he recognised the man who stared back at him. The features were familiar enough: the long, gaunt face with the prominent nose and unnerving blue eyes, thin taut lips which were forever reluctant to smile and the short cropped hair, fading now to grey at the temples. That was the passport picture Snow, but behind the eyes… What was going on there? What mental turmoil swirled inside that usually focused brain of his? Was he pretending – or simply accepting? Why was he constantly reassessing himself? More importantly, could he live with the metamorphosing Snow? Could he survive, function and still be true to himself? How the hell could he know? The furrows on his brow deepened.
He shut his eyes to blank out the image of his face. Darkness descended and with it more confusion and unease. This bleak reverie was interrupted by the shrill ringing of the telephone. With swift easy moments, relieved to be dragged away from his contemplations, Paul Snow slipped down the stairs and lifted the receiver in the hall.
It was Matilda.
The foyer of the George Hotel was unusually crowded. People had spilled out of the tiny bar and clustered here in groups, engaging in noisy conversation and filling the air with a thin mist of cigarette smoke and the odd raucous laugh. There were one or two men in police uniform – high ranking uniforms – including the Chief Constable; but most of the others wore dinner suits and the women were dolled up to the nines, grinning with pleasure at being given the opportunity to dress extravagantly for once.
When Snow entered with Matilda on his arm, he was confronted with a wall of noise and a blur of faces, most of whom seemed to turn in his direction with interest. He did notice a few of his colleagues give each other a nudge in the ribs and raise an eyebrow. He couldn’t blame them. He had attended many of these annual police dinners over the years, but this was the first time he had come along with a woman in tow. His bachelorhood status was much envied by many men on the force, believing, with a kind of teenage naïveté, that not being married meant being in possession of a wild sexual freedom and having no domestic responsibilities. Now it appeared to them that old Snow was about to step into the tender trap and slip on the marital strait jacket.
They had met when Snow had visited the school where Matilda was head mistress during a recent investigation.* Not unsurprisingly, it was she who had made the first move and Snow had not only been flattered and intrigued but strangely found himself prepared to see if such a relationship was possible. This was despite the fact that he realised he was trespassing on alien territory, but he liked Matilda very much as a person at their first meeting and over the intervening few months had grown fond of her.
Snow nodded a greeting at a few acquaintances while guiding Matilda into the bar. Having secured drinks for them after a long wait, they moved back into the foyer.
‘Are most of the women here on the force?’ Matilda asked quietly.
Snow pursed his lips. ‘A goodly number, but there are w
‘Not many. Policewomen either don’t survive marriage or they compartmentalise their lives.’
Matilda gave a tight grin. ‘I shall have to remember that.’
‘I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure of meeting your lady friend.’ A tall man with a mane of thick grey hair, swept back from this broad face, had sidled up to the couple, after gently easing his way through the throng. It was Chief Superintendent Adam Clayborough.
‘No, sir. This is Matilda, Matilda Shawcross. Treat her gently. This is the first time she has set foot in the lion’s den.’
‘Brave girl. Pleased to meet you, Matilda. I’m Adam.’
They shook hands.
‘Are you one of Paul’s immediate colleagues?’ Matilda asked.
‘He’s my boss,’ said Paul.
Clayborough nodded. ‘I keep the fellow in check. You have any complaints, report to me, I’ll sort it out.’ He gave a half wink, but Matilda was not fully convinced by this light-hearted banter. She thought that this imposing fellow actually meant what he was saying. The eyes twinkled, but there was coldness there, too. She sensed a cunning seriousness beneath his smooth bonhomie.
‘I think I can handle him,’ Matilda responded in the same vein, hating the track this false conversation was taking.
‘Why do I get the impression that I’ve turned invisible?’ observed Paul dryly.
‘Who said that?’ grinned Clayborough, looking around him in mock surprise. And after giving Matilda a full wink this time, he patted Snow on the back. ‘Enjoy your evening you two,’ he added before turning and merging into the swell of bodies in the room.
‘He’s a laugh a minute,’ said Matilda, with a raise of the eyebrow.
‘A good copper but a bit dodgy in the social interaction department. Mind you, I’ve no room to talk.’
Matilda smiled gently and squeezed his arm.
‘To be honest,’ Snow continued, ‘I hate these occasions. I feel a bit like a fish out of water. I know most of the people here and in the work situation I feel relaxed with all of them, but this is an alien environment to me. Dressed up like a waiter, I’m at a loss.’
Matilda laughed. ‘Alien environment? It’s the George Hotel, a normal, perfectly respectable establishment! I think it’s time for your relaxing pills, Paul.’ She squeezed his arm affectionately. ‘Come on, sweetie, just go with the flow.’ She laughed again and then leaned forward and gave him a gentle kiss on the cheek.
That will certainly get the gossip mongers working overtime, he thought, but said nothing.
For Snow the dinner and the speeches were interminable. The only pleasure he derived from the occasion were the sporadic brief snatches of conversation he had with Matilda when they were not indulging in pedestrian chit chat with their dining companions. As a result, he drank more than he usually did, more than he should, and by the time it came to leave, he realised that he was a little tipsy. It was not a completely new experience for him, although on the rare occasions when it happened, it was usually in the comfort of his own home after a long hard day.
Matilda found his slightly squiffy behaviour amusing and reassuring. It delighted her to see him in such a relaxed state. After going out with Paul for about three months, she was well aware that he had two different personas: the public and the private. Privately, he could be lively, funny and even affectionate at times, but the police strait jacket was donned immediately he had to present himself in any kind of formal situation. She thought of it as Paul’s armour. It puzzled her why he reacted so strongly in this fashion. It wasn’t just that he had a public image to project but that he was shielding the real Paul Snow from close scrutiny as though he had something to hide – a dark secret to preserve.
While cotton wool was slowly surrounding his brain and his tongue seemed to have developed a coating which strangely prevented him from enunciating his words clearly, he still managed to keep one small area of his consciousness clear.
‘Let’s get out of here before I fall down,’ he said cheerily.
‘With pleasure,’ Matilda smiled.
As they rose – Snow somewhat unsteadily – and made their way to the exit, there was a slow general exodus. Snow was by no means the only man there who had drunk more than might be regarded as prudent, especially for a police officer. Indeed, some of the diners were staggering like comic stage drunks.
After they had collected their coats, Matilda guided her charge out on to the street and into the refreshing the cool night air.
‘We’ll walk up to the station – more chance of getting a taxi there. I’d better see you home.’
Snow nodded. He hated himself for getting like this. Even his bloody legs weren’t obeying him as they should. He was moving like a splay-footed penguin. He had been foolish to imbibe so much, but it was the result of his nervousness about taking Matilda to this official shindig, parading her before his colleagues as his girlfriend. There was one dark corner of his mind that kept reminding him of the element of charade in this procedure.
It did not take Matilda long to secure a taxi and within five minutes they were in the back of the cab en route for his home.
‘I’m sorry about this,’ Snow said, his arm waving lazily, the voice thick with alcohol. ‘Not like me.’
‘Well, that’s good. It’s time you broadened your horizons’. She grinned and kissed his nose.
‘Getting pissed is not exactly broadening my horwizons – horrissons.’
‘It’s a start.’
As he stumbled out of the taxi, he dug into his coat and extracted a key, which he passed on to Matilda. ‘You’d better let us in. I’ll not manage the Yale.’
She giggled, paid for the taxi and opened the door. Snow made a bee line for the sofa and slumped down.
‘Black coffee for you, my lad,’ said Matilda, taking off her coat and draping it over an armchair.
‘Yes, please. All the stuff in kitchen.’ He flung his arm in the general direction.
It was actually the first time Matilda had been to Snow’s house – he’d never quite had the courage to bring her back - but it did not hold any surprises for her. She had already imagined what the place would be like and her assumptions proved to be fairly accurate. It was ultra-tidy, fairly bland and Spartan. There was little personality stamped on the décor, furniture or fittings. She wasn’t a detective and she certainly could not have deduced much about the owner of this house just from judging the impersonal interior. It was like a slightly dated show house, as though the occupant had prepared it in order to impress a prospective buyer.
The kitchen gleamed and the work surfaces were free of clutter. She found the instant coffee in a well organised cupboard and brewed two large mugs.
Snow was asleep when she returned to the sitting room. His eyes were closed, his features serene and he was breathing easily as though he was at peace with himself. She gazed down on the man she had been dating for three months with a mixture of gentle emotions. What was she doing with him? He certainly wasn’t the easiest person in the world to get to know and yet she found his reticence and reserve rather attractive. He was kind and humorous in her company and possessed a strange kind of magnetism which appealed to her. He was certainly a definite step up from that broad streak of nothing that she had married, the waster she had met at teacher training college. What a disaster that had been. It led to two miserable years and deep emotional scars that scared her off men for years. Indeed, her career became her main focus and that had been more rewarding than any uncertain emotional attachments she might make with a man. Becoming head mistress of St Jude’s was the most mentally and emotionally satisfying moment of her life. Matilda was certain that no man could top that. But now she was secure in that role, she began to feel a little lonely. Paul was the first man she had taken a serious interest in since her disastrous marriage. He was tall, interesting and good looking, if you went for gaunt, hollow-cheeked fellows with introspective eyes.
She leaned forward and stroked Snow’s cheek with her fingers. Her touch roused him and the eyes flickered open. They seemed clearer, more attentive now.
‘Sorry about that,’ he said pulling himself into a more upright position on the sofa. ‘I don’t know what came over me.’
‘Alcohol,’ she said, handing him a mug of coffee.
Snow was grateful. ‘Good stuff,’ he said, after burning his tongue with his first gulp.
Matilda sat opposite him, cradling her mug as though warming her hands on it. ‘Well,’ she said, ‘that was an interesting evening’.
Snow braved the hot liquid again and took another gulp. The fierce brew seemed to act as a purgative, sweeping away the alcohol fumes from his mind. ‘You could say that. ‘I’ll certainly be the talk of HQ on Monday. Breaking two ducks in one evening.’
‘Taking a lady along to the dinner and getting … a little worse for wear.’
‘Only a little. You didn’t jump on the table and sing a rude song or insult the Chief Constable. Nothing like that.’
Snow grinned. ‘I am so relieved. Although, if you’d have said I did those things, I reckon I would have believed you.’
‘I think it’s time you started to live a little more dangerously.’
‘I am a policeman, you know. I spend my life chasing criminals. Isn’t that dangerous enough?’
Matilda put down her mug in the hearth and crossed to the sofa, sitting next to Paul. ‘I’m not talking about your job,’ she said bringing her face very close to his. ‘I’m talking about you. I’m talking about us.’
Snow’s mind cleared further. Sobriety returned. ‘I’m not much good in that department. Lack of experience. Wet behind the ears.’
‘Well, as a headmistress, I am well placed to give you lessons.’ She pressed her body against him and brought her lips close to his.