A late summer heatwave seems to have triggered an unusually high number of suicides. As the dead bodies pile up, DS Jack Mackinnon and the rest of MIT realise things aren’t as straightforward as they seem, and when similar letters are found at the scene of each ‘suicide,’ Mackinnon is convinced they are dealing with a serial killer. A killer who is determined to deliver his own deadly justice.
Deadly Justice is the fourth book in the DS Jack Mackinnon Series.
The series order is as follows:
1) Deadly Obsession
2) Deadly Motive
3) Deadly Revenge
4) Deadly Justice
5) Deadly Ritual
Release date: January 16, 2014
Print pages: 320
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“YOU ARE A LIAR.” The woman leaned forward and snarled at Mr. Johnson.
Her lips curved back over her small pointed teeth.
Mr. Johnson shifted back in his chair and placed his hands on the solid oak desk that separated them. He wished it was a little wider. In his thirty-year teaching career, the headmaster of White House primary school had never encountered a parent quite as aggressive as this young woman.
Strands of her light brown hair had fallen loose from the tight bun at the base of her neck. Her skin, usually so pale, was now red and blotchy.
Her hand shook as she jabbed a finger in his direction. “You are a disgrace. You’re not fit to be in charge of innocent little children.”
He had needed to discuss disciplinary issues with parents and guardians in the past, and no one liked to be told that their child was not perfect, but he had never come across a parent so determined to ignore the truth.
She shook her head vigorously, freeing more wispy strands of hair. “Junior would never do such a thing. I can’t believe you could even suggest it.”
Mr. Johnson took a breath and waited. He hoped she would run out of steam soon. Since she had stormed into his office five minutes ago, she hadn’t paused for breath.
He glanced down at the small boy sitting by her side, the child they were discussing. His large grey eyes regarded the headmaster steadily. He didn’t seem surprised or at all worried by his mother’s outburst.
Finally, the woman seemed to gather herself, gripping the neck of her blouse with one hand and smoothing her skirt over her thin thighs with the other. She raised her chin. “I hope this is an end to the matter. I don’t want to hear any more of this nonsense.”
Mr. Johnson shook his head and said as gently as he could, “Another child saw him do it.”
The woman gripped the side of her chair. “Then the other child is lying. Junior would never hurt an animal. He loves them.”
“The hamster was...” Mr. Johnson hesitated over his word choice, but there really wasn’t a pleasant way to put it. “The hamster had been cut... several times, and Junior was seen by the cage...”
“Oh, so Junior was seen by the cage, well that proves everything, doesn’t it?” The woman snorted, then turned as if addressing an imagined audience. “Why don’t you lock him up and throw away the key? He’s a little boy, for goodness sake. He would never do anything like that.”
The woman tugged the arm of the six-year-old boy sitting next to her. His face was blank, seemingly the picture of innocence.
“You’d never do such a terrible thing would you, Junior?”
“No, Mother,” the little boy said, his big grey eyes wide and serious.
This wasn’t the first time the little boy had been in trouble. Since Junior had been admitted into the reception class, he had been known as a biter and pincher, and he was sly with it. The teacher would never actually catch him in the act. They only saw the results: a sobbing child with bruises or teeth marks buried in their flesh. But Mr. Johnson found it hard to believe anyone, even Junior, could do such a terrible thing to the school pet.
The children had spent the school year taking care of the animal, feeding it, watching it play and taking turns to stroke its soft fur. To think that someone could do that to the defenceless creature, something so inherently evil, let alone a child... Well, it was unthinkable.
The boy stared back at him, unblinking, with those huge, round grey eyes.
Could he be telling the truth? “Junior doesn’t lie. Do you, Junior?” “No, Mother.”
“You see. He’s a good boy. It’s the other children. They bully him. You need to talk to the other parents, not me.” She smoothed the little boy’s hair and reached over to straighten his school tie.
“Which child told you Junior had hurt the hamster?” she asked, in a deliberately light tone.
Not hurt, Mr. Johnson thought, but killed, sadistically.
He shook his head. “It won’t do any good to bring them into this debate.”
She pursed her lips together for a moment then said, “I see. So you’re more than willing to spread these malicious lies about my son, but you won’t give me a chance to defend him.
How can I confront these lies if I don’t know who is behind them?”
Mr. Johnson shook his head again. There was no way he would let this awful woman, or Junior, know which child had come forward so they could take their revenge.
“Why would you trust one child’s word over another?” she demanded, leaning forward and clasping her handbag with white-knuckled fingers.
Mr. Johnson regarded her steadily. Because it isn’t the first time, he thought. Because this little boy has serious problems.
“Have you ever considered taking Junior to a doctor to discuss his behavioural issues?”
She shot up from her chair and slapped her hands flat against the oak surface as she leaned over the headmaster’s desk. “He doesn’t have any issues. You’re the one with the problem. He’s a good boy.” She looked over her shoulder back at Junior. “He’s good with his reading. Good with his numbers and his adding up, aren’t you, Junior?”
She turned back to face Mr. Johnson, triumphant. “See.”
“It isn’t a matter of intelligence. Junior is ahead of his peers in many subjects, but he doesn’t make friends easily and has a tendency to be violent towards the other children.”
She folded her arms and began to pace the office. “I knew it,” she said, forced a high-pitched laugh and shook her head.
The little boy watched his mother. His eyes followed her across the room.
“I knew you’d bring that up again, even though I already explained this to you. Junior is the one who gets bullied. They call him names; nasty, cruel names, and when he stands up for himself, he gets into trouble.”
She stopped pacing and turned to face Mr. Johnson with her hands on her hips.
“He hasn’t done anything wrong. I told him to fight back.
It’s the only way to deal with bullies.” She nodded, pleased with herself. “You lot don’t do anything about it, so he has to deal with it himself.”
“I can’t condone that type of behaviour in my school. If Junior is bullied, then he must tell me or his teacher, Mrs. Adams.”
“Mrs. Adams? Don’t make me laugh.” The woman folded her arms over her bony chest. “She’s useless. She hates Junior. She won’t do anything to help him. She has favourites.”
“Mrs. Adams is an excellent teacher. I regard her very highly. I’m sure she’ll do everything in her power to make sure Junior is well looked after and feels comfortable and secure during class.”
The woman made a tutting sound then sat back down next to Junior. “She isn’t a good teacher. Junior tells me everything, you know?” She leaned forward and lowered her voice to a whisper. “And Mrs. Adams doesn’t like that.”
Mr. Johnson wanted to bury his head in his hands. This wasn’t working. There was no way he could get through to this woman.
He turned his attention to Junior.
“Would you like to say anything, Junior? If you know what happened to the hamster, you could tell me now. You won’t be punished, but it is very important to tell the truth.”
The small boy stared up at the headmaster with solemn eyes. He swung his little legs back and forth and tilted his head to the side. His big, grey eyes narrowed a little.
Mr. Johnson suppressed a shudder. Something in the way the child studied him sent a prickly chill over his skin.
He is only six-years-old, Mr. Johnson told himself, an innocent. A little boy who needs help. But he couldn’t shake the overwhelming desire to shove both the little boy and his mother out of the office.
As if he read the headmaster’s thoughts, the little boy smiled. Then he opened his mouth, “I...”
His mother yanked him by the arm. “You don’t have to say anything, Junior. We’ve told the truth. We can’t say more than that.”
The little boy turned back to the headmaster with the trace of a smirk on his lips.
Mr. Johnson could almost believe the boy was laughing at him. He stared down at the papers on his desk, trying to collect his thoughts. He was clearly being ridiculous, and these fanciful notions weren’t doing anyone any good. The boy needed help. Was it really a surprise the boy was struggling with a mother like that?
After a moment, he looked up to see Junior and his mother staring at him. The headmaster took a deep breath and tapped his pen against the pile of papers on his desk.
“I’ll have to include it in my report.”
“What? And have it on Junior’s school record? How will that look?”
“It will look … better than expulsion.” He couldn’t turn his back on the boy. He had to give him another chance. Perhaps if Mrs. Adams could give the boy a little more one-on-one time…
“Expulsion!” The woman reared back as if he had hit her. “You can keep your poxy reports. There’s no way my Junior is coming back to this school.” She sprang up like a jack-in-the-box and grabbed Junior’s hand. “I’ll put him in another school something I should have done a long time ago.”
“Of course, you must do what you think is best for Junior,” Mr. Johnson said, feeling a surge of relief and hating himself for it.
“If there is any justice in this world, that little tattletale will get what’s coming to him.” The woman spun on her heel and stalked out of the office pulling Junior behind her.
For a few moments after Junior’s mother had slammed the office door, Mr. Johnson didn’t move. He set his pen down on his desk with a shaky hand and exhaled heavily.
The encounter had really shaken him. At fifty-two years old, he was no longer wet behind the ears. On a previous occasion, he’d had the misfortune to be grabbed around the throat by an irate father during a heated discussion at a parents’ evening, and he’d even dealt with a ten-year-old boy trying to sell his mother’s anti-depressant tablets in the school playground. After almost thirty years of teaching, he’d thought he had seen it all, but there was something about that little boy and his mother that chilled him to the core.
He took a deep breath and stood up, leaning heavily on his desk. Standing by the window, he looked out on a view of the playground and the school gates. The woman was striding across the playground to the exit, tugging at the boy’s arm to make him walk faster.
Suddenly, Mr. Johnson felt incredibly sad.
“That poor boy,” he muttered to himself. “That poor, poor boy…”
VINNIE PEARSON STARED across at the skinny Pakistani newsagent. He leaned in close then said, “I ain’t paying a hundred quid. I’ll give you twenty-five.”
Syed Hammad puffed out his chest and straightened behind the counter. “On your bike, son.”
Hearing that expression from Syed was so unexpected, Vinnie wanted to laugh. But he didn’t. This was business, and Vinnie took business seriously. The newsagent had something Vinnie wanted.
Vinnie moved closer and peered over the counter at the cardboard box, resting by Syed’s feet. “How many have you got down there?”
Syed kicked the box under the counter, out of sight, but not before Vinnie caught a glimpse of the shiny, black smartphones. “None of your business,” Syed said. “Keep your sticky beak out.” He tapped the side of his nose.
Vinnie gritted his teeth. He sensed a movement behind him, someone else had entered the shop.
“All right,” Vinnie said. “I’ll stretch to fifty, but it’s daylight robbery.”
Syed folded his arms across his chest. His sparse moustache stretched thin as he smiled. “You can take your money somewhere else. I don’t want it.”
Vinnie flushed. How dare the little bastard talk to him like that? If there hadn’t been someone else in the shop, Vinnie would have taught him a lesson right then and there. Vinnie glanced back over his shoulder. The customer was a man of around forty, dressed in jeans and a dark jacket. No one Vinnie recognised. Still, Vinnie didn’t want word to get out that he had been disrespected by Syed Hammad of all people.
“What’s wrong with my money, Syed?” Vinnie’s voice was low and dangerous.
“It’s dirty,” Syed said and screwed up his nose. “You and your lowlife friends robbing, stealing from hard working people like me. Don’t think I don’t know who trashed my shop and the others in this street last summer.”
Vinnie kept his smile fixed in place. “You don’t have any proof.”
“I don’t need proof. I know what you did, and I want you out of my shop now.” Syed raised his voice, causing the customer to pause by the magazine rack and turn to look at them.
Vinnie could feel his cheeks glowing, and his mouth grew dry. No one spoke to him like that and got away with it.
“Watch your mouth, Syed.”
“No. No, I won’t. You can’t push me around. I’ll call the police. I pay my taxes, work hard and you...”
“You what?” Vinnie gulped down air as he tried to control his temper. “What do you reckon the police would have to say about them?” Vinnie jabbed a finger in the direction of the smartphones. “They’re nicked, you bloody hypocrite. I’m sure the police would love to have a look at them.”
Syed shrugged. “No. No. They aren’t stolen. They are from my friend’s sister’s boyfriend’s father. Perfectly legitimate.”
“Bollocks. They are nicked. Stolen goods. You’re no better than a thief!”
“How dare you. Get out!” Syed screamed. He was bouncing up and down on his toes. “Get out of my shop now. I’m calling the police. I have a witness,” Syed pointed to the man still standing by the magazines.
“A witness to what?” Vinnie shook his head. “You’re a bloody nutcase.”
“Out! Get out!” Syed Hammad picked up one of the smartphones and made a big show of pretending to dial 999.
“I’m going,” Vinnie said. As he turned to leave he kicked out at a pyramid made of carefully stacked packets of biscuits, sending them tumbling to the floor.
Afterwards, Vinnie stood outside the hairdressers and smoked a cigarette as he tried to calm down. That little bastard. Who the hell did he think he was?
The blonde woman who owned the salon kept shooting him nervous looks. Normally, Vinnie would feel gratified. He liked people being afraid of him. It showed respect.
He’d get back at Syed, but not now. Not when he was so worked up. He needed to make a plan. A plan that made sure the bastard would never disrespect Vinnie again.
As Vinnie walked back down the street, he kept his head low as he passed the newsagent’s. The cafe next door was full to bursting, which was crazy considering the awful food it served. Even if he hadn’t been banned from the premises after the riots last summer, Vinnie wouldn’t have eaten there.
Mitch Horrocks, the cafe owner, stared out at Vinnie. He’d run the place for years. Mad Mitch, the local school kids called him. Vinnie and some mates had trashed the cafe last summer, and Vinnie had taken great pleasure in wrecking the joint. If anyone deserved it, it was Mitch. Vinnie smiled and waved and got a two-fingered salute from Mad Mitch in return.
Ahead of him, Vinnie saw a man dressed in jeans and a grey hoodie standing at the bus stop. He didn’t recognise the man at first, but as he drew closer he realised it was the man who had walked into the newsagent’s. The bloke who’d been hanging around the magazines. He’d pulled up the hood on his sweatshirt, but Vinnie was sure it was him.
The man slouched back against the glass panel of the bus shelter, but as Vinnie approached him, the man straightened up and turned to face Vinnie.
Vinnie recognised a threat when he saw one. The bloke had obviously witnessed his argument with Syed and pegged Vinnie as an easy mark. There was no way Vinnie would back down. He couldn’t, not if he wanted to keep his reputation.
Vinnie jutted out his chin and gave him the look. The look that said if this bloke was looking for trouble, Vinnie had plenty to supply.
The hoodie stepped forward blocking Vinnie’s path.
This was a direct confrontation. Vinnie couldn’t back down. If he wanted to get past, he would have to step into the road or shove his way past.
Vinnie shoved his hands in his pockets and felt the reassuring cool, smooth metal of the knife. If there was going to be trouble, Vinnie was ready for it.
The hoodie surprised Vinnie by smiling. The hood of his sweatshirt kept most of the bloke’s face in shadow, but Vinnie could see the lower half of his face and he was definitely grinning.
Vinnie glanced across the road. Maybe he should cross the road and avoid the stand-off. That was the sensible thing to do. Vinnie wasn’t a hot-headed kid any more. He didn’t like to take on fights unless he was sure he could win, and this bloke looked a bit of a dodgy character. Besides, the police were just waiting for him to slip up again.
“What do you want?” Vinnie asked.
The hoodie looked up and down the street, his eyes shifty. “I’ve got a proposition for you.”
“Oh, yeah?” Vinnie said. “Well, I’m not interested. I don’t do business with people I don’t know.”
“You’ll be interested in this,” the hoodie said. Vinnie coffed. “I don’t think so, mate.”
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