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ThreeWeeksDead


  Three Weeks Dead

  Rebecca Bradley

  Contents

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Chapter 29

  Chapter 30

  Chapter 31

  Chapter 32

  Chapter 33

  Chapter 34

  Chapter 35

  Chapter 36

  Chapter 37

  Chapter 38

  Chapter 39

  Chapter 40

  Chapter 41

  About the Author

  Acknowledgments

  Three Weeks Dead

  * * *

  by

  * * *

  Rebecca Bradley

  Text copyright © 2016 Rebecca Bradley

  All Rights Reserved

  * * *

  This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, is purely coincidental.

  * * *

  Cover art by Design for Writers

  1

  Sally

  * * *

  The grave had been dug out. There had been a strong frost for the last couple of days and the ground had been hard. Difficult to penetrate. Cold and unforgiving.

  There was a chill in the air and a light breeze shimmied through the branches of the autumnal trees that surrounded the space, making the leaves whisper their secrets for a moment.

  The four people on the ground would have liked to have known those secrets, but they waited in a respectful silence.

  Not many people knew about today. Her husband wasn’t here. He’d had the choice. The group had advised against it.

  They’d strongly recommended that he stay away, and he’d listened to their counsel.

  It was causing more trouble than anyone thought possible. Unusual, to say the least.

  She shivered. A feeling that shook her body from the top of her head down to her feet. It gave her the chills – to be here. To see this. She looked at the other three. She was out of her depth, she knew it, but she wouldn’t allow it to show. She could do this. She had to do this. It was her life now.

  A bird flew overhead, screaming down at them. The sky a heavy grey blanket.

  The woman on her right spoke. ‘Okay, you can do it.’ She pulled the scarf tighter around her neck to try to keep some warmth in. This was about to get a whole lot creepier.

  The man picked up his tool from the ground and inserted it under the lip of the lid, then stopped and stared at them, a look in his eye she didn’t like.

  DC Sally Poynter hadn’t yet been on Nottingham’s Major Crime Unit for a month, and this was the first new case that had come in. As the man responsible for unsealing the coffin looked panicked, she wished she were somewhere else other than here, this cold grey morning.

  ‘It’s already been opened.’

  ‘Lift it up then, let’s see,’ said her DI, Hannah Robbins.

  The lid was raised and they all stared down into the empty coffin of Lisa Wells.

  2

  Sally

  * * *

  The husband, Jason Wells, sat on the opposite side of the table. He looked pale and drawn. His face pinched. Lips closed tight, as though he never wanted to speak again. Eyes narrowed. His shoulders hunched up. The man was tense. Sally couldn’t blame him. He was going through what could easily be described as hell.

  She couldn’t imagine it.

  At the young age of thirty-two, he looked closer to forty-five this morning. She handed him his drink. He nodded but didn’t reach for it. His grief, raw, held in so tight, he looked like he could break with the slightest breeze.

  Sally sat opposite. A flutter in her stomach. Her DI, Hannah Robbins, seated at her side. She’d be starting to feel settled in the department now – if it wasn’t for DC Gordon Slater.

  She wouldn’t allow him to spoil this for her. No matter how hard he tried to undermine her. Belittle her.

  She brought her focus back into the room.

  ‘I’m sorry to have to confirm that your wife’s grave is in fact empty, Jason,’ said DI Robbins, her tone even and calm.

  A barely visible nod from the husband. Sally twisted her own wedding band.

  ‘You must know that we will do all we can to get her back.’ She paused, took a sip of her own drink. ‘But to do that, we need to know what happened.’ And with that she turned on the recording equipment, made the introductions and cautioned him again.

  3

  Jason

  * * *

  It was 6 p.m. and he was on the sofa, Lewis his faithful old spaniel sprawled at his side, head lolling slightly off the edge. Ears dangling down like curtains. Heavy in sleep after a long walk and a full tummy. Jason watched the news with one hand tucked into Lewis’s fur; he could feel the gentle rise and fall of his stomach as he slept.

  It was dark, the curtains were drawn and the doors locked. He didn’t expect company. His fingers moved through the soft fur on Lewis’s side as he half listened to the reporter talk about the immigration camps in France and the shocking conditions the young children lived in. He missed Lisa, and his concentration was shot since he lost her in the car accident, only three weeks ago. If it wasn’t for Lewis, he might not have made it this far. He rubbed at the base of the dog’s ear. Lewis half opened an eye, peered out, and closed it again.

  The mobile phone on the coffee table rang. The woman reporter on the TV was standing in a muddy field, wrapped in a coat with a scarf around her neck and gloves on her hands – warm, in contrast to the people around her.

  Jason frowned at the withheld number and picked up the phone.

  ‘Hello?’ If it was telephone marketers, he would give them shit. He didn’t care if it was their job. He didn’t need it right now.

  ‘Jason Wells?’

  ‘Yes.’ His hand continued its rhythmic stroking of Lewis’s coat. The woman reporter walked through a group of women and children, dirty and unkempt. Sad. ‘Who is this?’

  ‘That’s not important. What is important is what we want you to do for us.’

  He was about to hang up. He didn’t recognise the voice. He didn’t like the tone and he wanted to be left alone.

  The woman reporter crouched down, sitting on her haunches in front of a young child. He couldn’t tell if it was a girl or a boy. The child’s face was covered in dirt, and a woollen hat had been pulled down as far as it could go, to keep the cold at bay.

  The next sentence the caller came out with focused his attention. Sent a chill down his spine.

  Blacked out the television.

  He could no longer feel the fur of Lewis under his hand.

  ‘We have your wife.’

  4

  Jason

  * * *

  He bolted upright. The television, the reporter, the young child with dirt on its face who had run far from atrocities, all forgotten as those words echoed inside his head.

  We have your wife.

  Lisa had died just three weeks ago. An early morning accident on the way to work. On the roundabout of the A60 in front of the BBC building, she’d driven through a gr
een light when a car in a hurry ran a red and hit her at speed, spinning her around until her vehicle faced the wrong way and she was hit again, this time head-on, by cars travelling the right way on her green light.

  Miraculously she’d walked away from it. The hospital checked her out and released her.

  The next morning, she never woke up.

  Cause of death had been subdural haematoma. A slow bleed in her brain that hadn’t been symptomatic at the hospital; but the pressure had built up in her head and she’d simply died in her sleep.

  He’d watched as she was lowered into the ground two weeks later, and dropped a single white lily down. He refused to leave her. He sat on the damp ground for six hours, afraid she would be cold and alone if he moved away from her. Eventually friends had gently persuaded him home. He needed to feed Lewis.

  He didn’t know how he would live his life without her. But Lewis was her dog. She adored him, and he wouldn’t let her down and hurt him.

  ‘What do you mean, you have my wife?’

  ‘Exactly what we say, Mr Wells. We have Lisa. You are free to check to see if the ground has been disturbed, but Lisa will be with us until you have fulfilled the tasks we need you to complete.’

  5

  Jason

  * * *

  They wanted him to go back to work and steal the security software.

  The software the firm had patented.

  The software that not two months ago the high street banks had accepted the firm’s tender for.

  He was a high-level tech at SHIRO, the computer software development company that had been created five years ago by two young up-and-coming lads fresh from university: Paul Keel and Masaaki Hayashi.

  SHIRO, meaning ‘castle’ in Japanese.

  Paul and Masaaki wanted to create software that would form a solid castle of protection for people the world over. To protect against hackers, identity thieves and corruption. They were idealists as well as being brilliant coders. Masaaki was the driver. His beliefs, steeped in tradition, pushed him to excel, to achieve, to make his parents back home proud. But he also believed that securing a person’s finances prevented loss and, in turn, saved face.

  Between them they believed in a safe and secure world.

  Their dedication eventually produced results, and a new software that seemed ahead of its time was created. Though the banks felt they had their online customers secured, there was one area where they were vulnerable and that was the thefts of cash at standalone ATMs by intelligent thieves who used laptops to go through the back of ATMs and electronically fool the machines into thinking they should dispense the cash.

  SHIRO was a breakthrough in terms of this specific kind of theft, and it would save the banks a hell of a lot of money. They put in a tender and they won it. Simple, really, as they had no competition in that area. They had made it. SHIRO was now known countrywide. Every bank in the country wanted SHIRO’s software.

  Jason was still signed off work by his GP following Lisa’s death, but the caller wanted him to return to work. He wanted him to steal the code. Stealing the code and handing it over would mean they would be able to access every standalone ATM that was online. They’d be insecure again.

  But – they had Lisa.

  They were threatening to feed her, bit by bit, to their dogs. He heard them barking in the background. No idea what breed they were or how domesticated they were. He’d of course read newspaper reports of dogs found with dead bodies and the dogs had been so hungry they’d started to eat the body; but he’d also read reports of dogs who’d lain at the side of beloved deceased owners and died at their side. The problem there was, Lisa was not the owner of these dogs, and he had no idea who or what he was dealing with. He didn’t want his wife’s body to be desecrated that way.

  He had to stop them.

  He turned and looked at Lewis. Loved by Lisa. Head now lifted, listening, aware of his distress. His hand went back down to him and his friend put his head on his knee.

  6

  Sally

  * * *

  Sally watched the man in front of her. He leant on the table, hands cupped around the awful custody-block coffee she’d brought in for him, even though he hadn’t taken a single swallow of the drink. She had strained to hear him as he’d told his story so far, his voice low and quiet. Losing a spouse like that was unimaginable; and then to have these threats, to be told she’d been taken from her place of burial – Sally could barely get her head around what he must have gone through, what he was going through.

  ‘I’m so very sorry for your loss, Jason,’ she blurted out before she could stop herself. Her fingernails drove into her palm; pain streamed up to her brain.

  If only she’d thought to make that move first, then maybe she wouldn’t have interrupted the DI’s flow.

  Jason looked up. Looked her in the eye. Held contact.

  ‘Thank you.’ He didn’t look away.

  The DI didn’t speak. Crap, she was in trouble now. The silence continued. Was she supposed to apologise? She couldn’t do that in the middle of an interview. She pushed her fingernails harder into her skin, felt a dampness under the pads of her fingers. She was making a real mess of this. She’d be kicked out of this unit before she’d even got started, for sure.

  She took a quick look at the DI, who gave a barely imperceptible nod.

  She was to carry on talking.

  She wasn’t prepared. She’d come in to learn.

  But dammit. She was already a cop, she already knew how to interview, how to talk to people. All she had to do was get on with it.

  She was about to lose him. His gaze was drifting back down to his drink.

  ‘How are you coping?’ she asked.

  He looked up again. He was interested in talking to her. And not just in relaying facts, but in having a conversation with her. This was what it was about: connecting, conversing.

  He sighed before he spoke. ‘Not well. I haven’t been sleeping. It’s a good job I have Lewis.’ He gave the slightest glimmer of a smile.

  ‘Lewis?’

  ‘Yeah, my dog. Or rather, Lisa’s dog. She adored that animal. Spoilt him rotten. Named him after Morse’s sidekick, you know?’

  ‘Ah. I’m afraid I don’t watch it. So much irritates me about it. They don’t ever do any paperwork. I wish it was like that in reality.’

  He smiled then, and Sally relaxed.

  7

  Sally

  * * *

  Sally put the kettle on and shouted out to the incident room, asking who wanted drinks. As usual, the whole room answered in the affirmative.

  The wagons were circling. The DI was getting everyone together to talk about the interview and what was to happen next. Sally felt alive, a part of this team.

  ‘Need a hand?’ DC Martin Thacker, one of the two older male detectives on the team, came to her side. He was pleasant and helpful. Had made her feel welcome since the first day she set foot in the Major Incident Room at Central police station. Showed her a spare desk where she could work from, and gave her a tour of their working area. Introducing her to DI Hannah Robbins, whom she had already met during the interview process. A process she had sweated through the entire excruciating length of, in front of the panel of three. She had been sure she was screwing up, and yet DI Robbins had nodded encouragingly at every step. Then there was DS Aaron Stone, who was nice enough but a man of few words, and DCI Anthony Grey, whip-thin and whom she thought seemed pleasant enough, although she knew better than to make a snap judgement on a boss, and would give it time to see how things panned out. Martin had left the introduction of Detective Superintendent Catherine Walker to the DI. Now, she had scared Sally. She was a woman who knew what she wanted and what she expected of others, and Sally’s fear of failure made DSupt Catherine Walker a woman to be feared and avoided at all costs. Until she at least knew what she was doing and was comfortable.

  ‘That’d be great, thanks. What do you guys do, wait for a drink until someone comes
in to make them?’ She laughed.

  ‘Of course we do, we’ve figured out that every time we want a drink, so does everyone else present.’ He grinned at her, slopping milk into the mugs she was setting down in a row.

  ‘Ah, I need to be a quick study then.’

  ‘I don’t think you’ll have a problem with that, do you?’

  She smiled at him. He was helping her nerves, during this transition into the unit, to dissipate.

  She handed the drinks out. DC Gordon Slater grunted at her, barely an acknowledgement. She had an urge to throw it in his lap. With no idea what his problem was, Sally was frustrated.

  ‘So, Jason Wells is to be released on bail,’ said her DI, who was at the front of the room perched on the corner of a desk. ‘It was a productive interview and Sally did a great job of connecting with him.’

  Gordon grunted again and this time DI Robbins caught it and gave a look that silenced him.

  ‘Yes, he stole intellectual property, but what he describes in interview is being a victim, and it’s our job to protect victims of crime. By bailing him back to his home address we hope that the offenders who instigated this will be in touch with him again and we can get the people behind this. As you know, we’ve taken his mobile phone, but we’ve provided him with another with the same number, so the offender or offenders can get in touch and still think it’s his old one and that there’s been no police intervention.

 
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