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A literary agent is murdered… A personal trainer lies dead in a car park ... What secret connects them?
When a top literary agent's bloated and disfigured body is found in one of London's most prestigious hotels, Detective Sergeant Mackinnon and the rest of MIT get to work. As the body count rises, the team are under pressure to find out what connects the victims.
Who wants these people dead, and why? The truth turns out to be more shocking than anyone expected.
Deadly Payback is a British Police Procedural with a medical thriller element set in the City of London.
Release date: July 20, 2015
Publisher: Independently published
Print pages: 272
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AT FOURTEEN, I WOULD NEVER have believed I would become a killer.
People think that killers are different somehow, missing that vital component that tells the rest of the population the difference between right and wrong. But that’s not true. Up until I was fourteen, I was perfectly normal. Even now, I wasn’t what people would expect from a killer.
I don’t torture animals. I have a steady job. I love my mother. I like to watch soaps on TV. I’m just like everyone else, except for one thing: I am about to commit murder.
I could still back out, turn around and go home, but even though that thought was there at the back of my mind, I didn’t consider it seriously. I’d been waiting for this moment for years. Obsessing, daydreaming, plotting… It had taken over my life.
There was no going back now.
The view from the fifty-second floor of the Shard was breathtaking. The City of London spread out before me, and I could see the snaking outline of the Thames. I stared at the lights reflected on the river’s surface, unable to wrench my eyes away. For a moment, the murmur of voices in the bar seemed to melt into the background as I drank in the view. I’d never seen London from this viewpoint before. It was beautiful.
A voice behind me cut through my thoughts, and I turned around.
I smiled at the barman and reached out a shaky hand to grasp the stem of my champagne glass. I paid him and waited for my change.
I glanced to my left and right, making sure I hadn’t attracted any unwanted attention. Sipping on my drink, I tried to relax and fit in. I needed to act normally tonight. Everything depended on it.
I smiled at the barman as he pushed my change towards me, but he barely glanced at me before he moved on to serve the man to my right. And that was a good thing — it was exactly what I wanted.
I surveyed the room. It was busy, but no one was paying attention to me. I grabbed my coat and carried my glass over to a table where I could sit with a view of the entrance. A loud laugh from a group over by the floor-to-ceiling windows made me jump. They looked like an office group, having an early Christmas party. One of the men wore a Santa hat. I wouldn’t have thought that this was the type of place to hold a Christmas party. I guessed they had to be bankers. Or perhaps they worked in insurance. It had to be a job which paid them an obscene amount of money. The cost of drinks here was extortionate.
I looked away and sat down.
She wasn’t here yet. I could feel the swell of panic building in my chest. I forced myself to calm down, and took another sip of my champagne, savouring the sensation of bubbles on my tongue. But then I put the glass back on the table. I couldn’t drink too much. I needed to keep my wits about me tonight.
Two women drifted past my table, their faces plastered with a ridiculous amount of makeup. I wrinkled my nose at the strong, cloying scent one of them wore. It smelled like cheap air freshener.
I checked my watch. The reception party should be over by now. I’d been so sure she’d come here for a drink afterwards. My whole plan rested on her habits. But it was risky. She might not come to the bar at all. Maybe she’d gone straight back to her room and ordered a drink from room service.
I clenched my fists on my lap. It didn’t matter. Either way, she wouldn’t escape.
A movement to my right caught my attention, and I inhaled sharply when I saw her.
She wasn’t alone. She was with a friend — a man.
I narrowed my eyes as I watched them, glad that the bar was dark and I could sit there unnoticed.
Beverley Madison was petite, blonde and successful. Anyone sitting within ten feet of her would know that because she was taking great delight in loudly telling her male companion just how she had amazed everyone in the industry by creating a bidding war for her client’s new book at the book fair today.
To his credit, the man she was talking to didn’t yawn once.
I hadn’t been wrong about her drinking. As they chatted, she guzzled down three glasses of champagne. Her companion was still on his first drink.
When she finally drained her third glass, she got up, unsteady on her feet. She scooped up her bag, kissed her friend on both cheeks and headed out of the bar.
I almost smiled in relief when I realised he wasn’t going with her. That would definitely make things easier for me.
I wanted to follow her straight away, and it took all my willpower to stay seated at my table by the exit. My hands gripped the edge of the smooth polished wood as I tried to focus my attention on her friend, who remained in the bar. He ordered another drink and asked for his bill.
It was almost time.
I knew from my research the man’s name was Barry Henderson. He was a work colleague and had known Beverley for years. He checked his mobile phone, scrolling through the screen.
The minutes passed slowly.
Hurry up, you stupid man. Finish your drink.
Finally, he stood up, dropping a bank note on the table for a tip. As he started to make his way out of the bar, he dialled a number on his mobile phone.
Grabbing my stuff, I followed him. I slipped my arms in the sleeves of my heavy coat and raised the hood.
With my face hidden to the CCTV camera, I smiled as I entered the lift. Barry Henderson still had his phone clamped to his ear and was paying me no attention.
He pushed his hotel key card into the slot and pressed the button for the forty-fourth floor.
He glanced at me then, with a questioning look.
“I need the forty-fourth floor, too,” I said and smiled again.
It wasn’t an act. It was a genuine smile. Barry Henderson might not realise it yet, but he was helping me. Beverley Madison was about to meet her maker, and I couldn’t be happier.
BEVERLEY MADISON STUMBLED INTO HER hotel room, rubbing her bleary eyes. Hell, it had been a long day! She grinned to herself. A long day and a very successful one, even if she did say so herself.
She had managed to sell some paperback rights to numerous foreign publishers for huge sums of money. Her success had been the talk of the book fair. Beverley had lost count of the number of agents who had come up to offer their congratulations. Of course, secretly they were all envious. They wanted to find out her negotiation secrets. Still, it was nice to have some recognition for all her hard work.
Her smile turned to a scowl as she thought of Jacob Jansen, her top-earning client. He’d been difficult recently. Demanding more and more of her time.
That prima donna was never happy. He thought she should devote all her time to him. He really believed the bloody world should revolve around him. Beverley shook her head as she dumped her handbag on the desk. Writers, they were all the same once they’d had a taste of success. At the start of their careers, they couldn’t be more accommodating, but once they started to sell more than a few copies, they went out of their way to be difficult.
Hopefully, this new foreign rights deal should get Jacob Jansen off her back for a little while.
Beverley took a moment to look out of the window. She didn’t dare get too close. She’d jumped at the chance to spend the night at the Shard - all expenses paid by Jacob Jansen’s German publisher. It was all part of their plan to woo Jansen and secure the publishing rights for his next book. There were positive points to being a literary agent. She enjoyed being wined and dined by publishing companies eager to work with her clients.
But Beverley hated heights, and she shivered at the sight of those tall majestic buildings so far beneath her. She stepped back and turned away from the window.
She unbuttoned her dress, slipping it down her body, and reached into her wheeled designer case for the nightgown. She kicked off her heels at the same time and moaned in relief, flexing her toes.
It really wasn’t fair that something so pretty could be so painful, she thought, staring down at her strappy gold sandals. She yawned, picked up her wash bag and started to walk towards the bathroom, when there was a knock at the door.
Beverley gave a huff of annoyance. Who on earth could that be? It better not be room service. She’d been disturbed by room service three times when she’d stayed in Frankfurt last month. It turned out someone had been requesting room service using her room number. Some pathetic joke from someone who was jealous of Beverley’s success. She never did find out who had been behind it though.
She strode across the room, determined to give whoever was knocking at the door a piece of her mind, but when she yanked open the door, the reprimand died on her lips.
The person standing in the doorway was definitely not from the hotel.
She blinked at the hooded figure. What on earth?
“What do you want?”
Beverley waited a moment but the person at the door didn’t reply. She didn’t have the patience for this. She was tired. It had been a long day and she just wanted to curl up in bed. Already, she could feel the start of a headache brewing, a sign that a hangover would not be far off. Just thinking of all the paperwork she had to do tomorrow, writing up all the negotiation notes made her head spin.
“What is it?” she snapped and put her hand on the door ready to slam it shut.
It didn’t occur to her to be afraid. It was a five-star hotel and people would hear if she shouted for help. Only a fool would try something here.
Beverley frowned. This had better not be another aspiring writer. People wouldn’t believe how some writers picked the most ridiculous moments to pitch their work. A writer had once cornered her in the ladies’ room at the Frankfurt book fair. Honestly, when would they learn that there was an appropriate time and place to approach an agent.
The figure stayed silent, just lifted their head a fraction. Beverley shivered. Creepy weirdo.
She grabbed the door and shoved it, but it didn’t slam shut because the figure blocked it with their foot.
Beverley’s eyes widened, and she stepped back. “How dare you. Get out!”
She’d meant to sound commanding and strong, but the voice that left her mouth was almost strangled with fear, not quite a scream, but high-pitched and reedy.
I stepped forward into the hotel room. I’m not really sure how I expected Beverley to respond. I think I wanted her to recognise me. But there had been no recognition in her eyes, only irritation, at first.
Now, her initial irritation had turned to fear. “Calm down,” I said, closing the door behind me.
But Beverley had no intention of calming down. In her scramble to get away from me, she knocked over a chair and tripped, sending the lamp on the desk crashing to the floor.
I stayed rooted to the spot and raised my hands with my palms up. “Keep calm,” I said. “I only want to talk.”
“Get out of my room! How dare you barge in here like this!”
I took another step forward. My whole plan depended on being able to get close to her. But it wasn’t working.
At the worst possible moment, my hood fell backwards, revealing my face. For a brief moment, Beverley hesitated in confusion, and then she let out an almighty scream.
But it was not because she recognised my face.
She screamed because she saw the item I pulled out of my pocket.
I was already wearing my protective gloves, but I still needed to be careful. One slip and it would all be over.
I pulled off the cap of the hypodermic needle and held up the small syringe.
I made a quick movement towards her, and Beverley dived over the mattress, pulling off the sheets as she slid to the floor on the other side of the bed.
She flattened her body against the glass windows and screeched again. “Why are you doing this? Please stop.”
She was backed up against the window and had nowhere else to go. I leaned forward, and with a quick movement, I jabbed the syringe in her neck and pushed down the plunger.
Just as quickly, I withdrew the needle. It was all over in seconds.
I smiled at her. “It was just a scratch,” I said. “There now, that wasn’t so bad, was it?”
The glass squeaked as Beverley Madison slid down the window, and she landed on her backside with a thud.
“All that fuss over nothing.” I smiled down at her.
I hoped to God the rooms were well-insulated. I hadn’t expected her to freak out so quickly. It was my first time, so mistakes were to be expected.
“What was that? What have you done to me? You won’t get away with this.” Beverley hugged her knees to her chest, cowering away from me.
“Perhaps not,” I said, slipping the cap back on the syringe and sitting down on the edge of the bed. “But it will still be worth it.”
“Please let me go,” she said slowly. It could have been my imagination, but I thought she was already slurring her words. Of course, that could have been the alcohol.
“I can give you money…” Beverley said, fixing me with her pleading eyes.
“No, money isn’t what I need.”
“What then? What is it you want?” Beverley held a hand to her neck and winced.
“I don’t want much,” I said. “Just a little chat.”
DETECTIVE SERGEANT JACK MACKINNON PULLED up outside the entrance to the hotel on St Thomas Street. The street was blocked by marked police cars, and the front of the hotel was cordoned off with blue and white tape. A group of uniforms stood next to the revolving door at the entrance, checking people entering and leaving the hotel.
Crowds of tourists were gathered by the tape, gawping and gossiping about what had happened. An incident like this wasn’t good for the city’s reputation. Mackinnon knew the senior investigating officer would already be feeling the pressure.
Mackinnon showed his warrant card to the young officer standing by the police tape and signed the paperwork.
“The crime scene is on the forty-fourth floor, sir.” “Who is up there?”
“DI Tyler, sir. DCI Brookbank is the SIO. It’s a nasty one.
The body has blown up like a balloon, I heard.”
Mackinnon thanked him and took a deep breath as he walked towards the entrance.
He stepped inside one of the elevators at the back of the lobby, and less than twenty seconds later, Mackinnon stepped out onto the forty-fourth floor of the Shard.
Another uniformed officer waved him towards a hotel room the police were using as a hub, and Mackinnon quickly changed into a too small, uncomfortable, blue protective oversuit and matching overshoes.
He followed the trail of police activity to the crime scene and met DI Tyler at the door.
DI Tyler had his grey hair slicked back, revealing his large forehead, which was creased into a perpetual frown. Tyler looked up at Mackinnon, and the corner of his mouth raised into a half-hearted smile.
“Couldn’t find one to fit, Jack?”
“Oh, sure. I just thought cropped trousers were in this season.”
Tyler smirked. “You look ridiculous.”
“Thanks. What have we got?” Mackinnon asked with some trepidation. Tyler’s face looked more drawn than usual. The lines around his mouth were pronounced as he set his lips in a firm line.
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