They killed her man. Now she wants revenge … HIT AND RUN, by Kindle Storyteller Award nominee, and best-selling crime author, Andy Maslen, drags you heart and soul into DI Stella Cole’s brutal world of conspiracy, revenge and cold-blooded murder… Stella, Richard and baby Lola. A perfect family. Stella’s a high-flying cop and Richard’s legal work aims to expose corruption in high places. But powerful people want Richard dead, and they don’t care who gets in the way. In a calculated act of violence, the family is torn apart and Stella is plunged into a nightmare of grief, barely surviving on alcohol and pills. A year later, after compassionate leave, she starts to pick apart the original investigation into the hit and run that left her a widow. Her shocking discovery forces her into a dangerous world of lies and cover-ups where the law doesn’t apply. And the only rule is kill or be killed. As Stella closes in on the people who really killed her husband, they fight back, freeing a psychopath from prison to hunt her down. But Stella has learned a hard lesson. And she’s not about to break under pressure. Forget the law: Stella wants REVENGE. This dark, disturbing psychological crime thriller will leave you short of sleep. It will keep you guessing from page one, including a truly shocking first-act twist. Its powerful female characters will have you rooting for them against all the odds they face. DOWNLOAD YOUR COPY OF HIT AND RUN NOW
Release date: March 29, 2017
Publisher: Tyton Press
Print pages: 335
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Hit and Run
Hit and Run
6 MARCH 2009
THE BABY’S CRYING grew louder. It had taken on a frantic edge. Richard Drinkwater knew the translation off by heart.
Feed me! Feeed meee!
But he couldn’t.
Not till he got her home, anyway.
He didn’t have the equipment, as he liked to joke to his wife. But she’d gone back to work with the Metropolitan Police, leaving precisely measured-out bottles of her milk in the fridge each morning.
Now Lola was hungry and she wouldn’t stop screaming.
The traffic was murder. It was rush hour. And there’d been an accident somewhere to the north of them. It would have been quicker to unbuckle Lola from the car seat and walk her home. The lights up ahead seemed stuck on red. Even when they did turn green, one car, at most, managed to squeeze through.
“Come on, Lola,” he crooned. “Soon be home. Then you can fill up on Mummy Ultimate. Kristina will be there too, so you can snuggle up with her.”
Sometimes he thought his daughter loved her nanny more than either of her hard-working parents. Either her or the giant teddy bear they’d christened, for no reason they could fathom, Mister Jenkins. When squeezed, the bear emitted a random sequence of squeaks, bleats and catlike mewing sounds that seemed to amuse Lola.
The baby paused in her efforts to burst either her lungs or her father’s eardrums. Drinkwater’s shoulders dropped a little, and his stomach began to unclench. He checked the rear-view mirror, sitting up straight in his seat so he could catch sight of his three-month-old daughter. Her face was red and streaked with tears and snot. As he watched, she drew in a mighty breath and then let it out again in a scream so high-pitched it made him flinch. He caught a whisper of milky breath in his nostrils that made him smile despite the industrial noise issuing from his daughter’s tiny mouth.
A car behind him sounded its horn. Twice. One of those twin-tone numbers precisely calibrated to emit the most horrible discord possible. He angled the mirror so he could see the make. Bastard! It was a Porsche. Some rich git working in a bank and earning more in a week than he did in a year. Well, darling, his mother’s voice sounded deep inside his head, perhaps you should have become a criminal barrister instead of all that human rights nonsense. Then you’d be earning a proper living instead of scraping along the bottom looking after your so-called clients.
His own car was a silver 1974 Fiat Mirafiori he liked to claim to friends was a classic. He slammed it into first and lurched forward, closing the gap between him and the car in front, a big, shiny, royal-blue BMW.
Lola’s screaming had settled into a steady, metallic screech now. In for five, hold for a beat, let it out in a shriek until her throat caught and she coughed, choking and wailing to silence. Repeat till Daddy had an aneurysm.
Then, a miracle. The traffic lights ahead turned green again, and instead of merely sitting there as they cycled through amber, red, red-and-amber, green, as had been happening for the last five minutes, the traffic moved off smoothly.
“Yes!” he shouted, slamming both open palms onto the steering wheel and bringing forth an even more desperate scream from the baby. “Oh, sorry, darling. But look, Daddy’s on the move again. We’ll soon be home, and everything will be all right.”
As he approached the front of the queue, Lola screamed again. Will we have to wait through another red? he thought. No. We’re going. He put his foot down and surged towards the traffic light, smiling as he began to catch the car in front. He craned his head to snatch another look at his baby daughter in the mirror.
The baby burbled out a couple of random sounds, “da ba”. Then she smiled, a wide, gummy expression of pure joy.
His eyes popped wide open. “What, Lola? Did you say ‘Dada’? Oh, my God, your first word. In a traffic jam too. Mummy’s going to have a fit.”
He accelerated across the box junction, heart full at the sound of his name on his daughter’s lips.
The light was on amber now, but that was just a ‘hurry up’ signal in this part of London.
The lights changed to red just as Richard Drinkwater reached the white line indicating where stopped traffic should wait. Oblivious to anything but his daughter’s renewed screams, he flew across the junction to a chorus of angry blasts of motorcycle and truck horns. He drove on for another mile or two, through gradually thinning traffic, until he reached Putney. Turning off the High Street, he heaved a sigh. The road was empty ahead and behind, as if somebody had barred anyone else from entering this little part of residential London.
Sticking the indicator on and singing to Lola, whose screams had subsided to a steady, muted keening, he turned into the street that led towards Oxford Road, and their house, and sped away from the junction.
Then it was his turn to scream.
Approaching on his side of the road was a car. It was being driven at speed. He swerved to avoid it.
But it was too little, too late.
The bang as the oncoming car smashed his offside rear wing with its own front end was loud enough to rattle windows in the houses on each side of the street. He, himself, heard nothing. His slewing, bouncing progress across the street was terminated by a cast-iron pillar box, manufactured during the reign of King George VI, and as solid now as it was then.
The Fiat hit the kerb and left the ground. Richard Drinkwater’s last coherent thought was that Lola had stopped screaming. Then the top of the pillar box punched in the side window and met his head coming in the opposite direction at thirty miles per hour.
As people began to emerge from their houses and run towards the car, intent on rescue, Drinkwater’s corpse was catapulted back against his seat, his skull smashed like an egg.
Detective Inspector Stella Cole was sitting at her desk on the Specialist Crime and Operations Division’s Homicide and Major Crime Command floor at Paddington Green Police Station. She was joking with a colleague about a recent case they’d closed.
“No way, Jake,” she said, laughing. “He’s as sane as I am. If that brief tries to plead insanity, she’s going to get My Lady Justice Miranda Jeffery’s patent leather stiletto right up her Cambridge-educated arse.”
The paunchy, balding detective sergeant perching on a desk beside her spread his hands wide, revealing an expansive belly that stretched his grey shirt tight.
“You say that, Stel, but you weren’t there when we nicked him. I’m not saying he had his old mum’s corpse in a rocking chair, but it wasn’t far off.” He raised his head and called across to another DS. “Oi, Frankie. Tell her. Wayne Stebbings’s flat. It was in a right state, wasn’t it?”
The female DS ambled over, hitching up her black polyester trousers, which had slipped down over her hips.
“He’s right, boss,” she said. “Stebbings had all these dildos and whatnot lined up on shelves.”
The male DS, Jacob “Jake” Tanner, grinned. “Go on, Frankie. Tell her the best bit.”
Frances “Frankie” O'Meara blushed. “There was one of those sex dolls, boss.”
“What, a blow-up one, you mean?”
“No. Like a real woman. Jointed and everything, looked like a sort of shop-window dummy.” The blush spread, deepening from a pale pink to a furious coral. “She … it, well it was all done up in underwear, boss. Like a tart’s, I mean. You know, stockings and suspenders, corset, the works.”
“Unbelievable,” Jake said. “And as for his porn stash, well, let’s not even go there, because…”
Frankie shushed him, her eyes signalling a warning. “Shut up, Jake.”
From the door leading to the rest of the station, Detective Chief Superintendent Adam Collier was signalling to Stella. His handsome face was stern, lips set in a straight line.
“Stella, could I have a word in private, please? My office?”
He turned on his heel and left.
“Wonder what that’s all about,” Jake said. “Is it true you’re going to confess to being the phantom KitKat stealer?”
“Fuck off, Jake,” Stella said, rising from her chair.
She reached DCS Collier’s office three minutes later, knocked once, then entered, as was station protocol when summoned by a senior officer for a private chat. Usually it meant either a promotion board was coming up, or you were in the shit. But Stella hadn’t heard of any vacancies for a DCI, and Collier hadn’t called her “DI Cole” either, so a bollocking wasn’t on the cards.
Collier was immaculate in his charcoal-grey suit. He always was. They called him “The Model” behind his back because he looked like he’d been recruited from an agency to promote a healthy and clean image of the force. His white shirt gleamed in the light from the fluorescent tube above his head, and the knot on his bright pink tie was a perfect equilateral triangle. He glanced up, found Stella’s eyes and held her gaze. His smooth-shaven cheeks looked tight, and there were creases around his eyes that brought his upper lids down to darken their irises.
“Have a seat, Stella,” he said in a soft voice.
“Thank you, sir,” she said, frowning. “Everything okay? You heard my lot just nicked Wayne Stebbings for the Mannequin Murders?”
“Yes, yes I did. Excellent work. We can close Operation Palermo today. Really, very, I mean, yes, a great result.” He looked down at his fingers. “Look, I’m afraid I have some bad news. Normally we’d have a family liaison officer here, and someone close to you, as well, but we go back, so…”
Stella’s pulse suddenly began bumping in her throat, and a surge of adrenaline flushed through her body.
Oh, no. Please, God. Not Lola. Please not Lola.
“It’s the worst, I’m afraid.”
No. Anything but that. My house burnt down. I’m being kicked off the force.
“There was a fatal traffic accident. Richard–”
That’s funny. Who turned the sound down? I can see your lips moving but I can’t hear what you’re saying. Why call me in about a FATACC anyway?
Stella sat very still in her chair watching as The Model’s mouth opened and closed. She could hear surf roaring in her ears, waves crashing in over shingle, then shushing back out to sea again. Her hands gripped the hard, plastic arms until her knuckles turned the colour of bone. Slowly, oh so slowly, she let her head fall back on her neck until she was staring at the ceiling. One of the tiles had a crack in it that looked like a duck. Or maybe it was a rowing boat. Or Portugal. She drew in a deep breath. And groaned it out again. It wasn’t a scream. Not as such. More like the sound of an animal in pain. Her mouth hung open, and she let the deep, wounded cry sail out from between her stretched lips.
Collier leapt to his feet and came round the desk to comfort her. He knelt in front of her and pulled her unresisting body towards him and hugged her tight. The moaning went on, even when her head flopped forward like a rag doll’s, and she buried her still-open mouth in his shoulder. Frankie O'Meara appeared at the door.
“Sir?” she asked, green eyes open wide at the incongruous sight that greeted her.
“Can you help me up, please, DS O'Meara? I’ve just had to give Stella some bad news. The worst. And maybe take care of her? I’ve got an FLO coming up to talk to her but, you know, a friendly face…”
As his words tailed off, Frankie came forward. She prised Stella away from Collier and hugged her shaking body to her chest.
“Come on, Stella. Let’s get you somewhere quiet where you can sit down. Then I’ll run you home.”
The Whole Truth
22 JULY 2009
INHABITING HER OWN body like a spirit, Stella sat on the hard, wooden bench outside the courtroom. Beside her, holding her hand in a soft grip, was her FLO, a plump, sweet-natured cockney WPC called Jaswinder Gill. It was 11.30 in the morning, and Stella’s first pill of the day, washed down with a tooth mug full of white wine, was smearing her grief into something harder to get hold of and therefore less painful to bear. She’d not been able to attend any of the trial, but under Jaswinder’s urging had agreed to come for the verdict.
A clerk emerged from the polished double doors.
He looked down at the two police officers.
“They’re coming back.”
“Come on, Stella,” Jaswinder said. “Let’s go.”
Stella stood up, clutching Jaswinder’s hand tighter.
“We’ll cross that bridge if we have to, OK?”
They pulled a door each and made their way to the seats reserved for friends and family of the victim. To Stella’s right sat Jason Drinkwater, Richard’s younger brother. His face was a mask of stone, scarred by childhood acne, betraying no emotion. He sat straight on the bench, staring ahead. As Stella slid in next to him, he unclasped his hands from his lap and held one, palm uppermost, out to his side. Gratefully, she took it. Her parents were dead, both of cancer within a year of each other. Heavy smokers. Richard’s parents sat on the other side of Jason. His father, Harry, offered her a small, tight-lipped smile, leaning around his wife. She, Annette, offered no sign that she’d even noticed Stella. Her lips were pressed together, accentuating the creases around them and the vivid pink of her lipstick.
Stella looked around the courtroom. The public benches were full. The usual mixture of pensioners who fancied somewhere warm to sit for the day, the trial junkies taking notes in grubby notebooks, and, she supposed, some ordinary citizens who simply wanted to see what happened when justice was enacted in their name. Also in attendance were a fair number of journalists, including a court artist, her bony hands twitching over the paper with coloured pastels.
The whole scene felt unreal. The barristers in their grey-white wigs and black gowns like crows; the judge in her red robe and longer version of the lawyers’ wig. And there, in the dock, hateful, verminous, smiling – Why? – was the man who’d snuffed out her husband’s life: Edwin Deacon. Cheap suit in shiny blue material. Blond hair cut short and greased into shape like a sixties barber’s model. He was cleaning under his fingernails with one canine tooth and then inspecting his handiwork.
With a huff, a door opened against a damped closer, and the jury members trooped back in to take their seats. Stella watched closely to see whether any of them would look at her, or at Deacon. A young woman, third from the front, maybe twenty-three or twenty-four, looked at Stella from under a fringe of blonde hair. Her expression was impossible to read. A sad smile that could mean, ‘we’ve brought you closure’, or ‘we’ve let you down’. When they were seated and the hubbub that accompanied any personnel change in court had subsided, aided by a sharp word from the judge, he turned to face the jury foreman. He spoke, in a crisp, upper-class voice.
“Have you reached a verdict upon which at least ten of you agree?”
The foreman cleared his throat, then he, too, looked at Stella.
“Yes, My Lord.”
“What is your verdict? Please answer only guilty or not guilty.”
The silence was total. Jaswinder squeezed Stella’s hand. Jason’s hand was sweating against her other palm. It tightened. I wonder what he’s going to say, Stella thought. Then, What will I tell Lola when she’s old enough?
The stocky foreman opened his mouth. He seemed to have moved into slow motion. Stella could see the jerks between the frames as the movie played out in front of her. She watched his chest inflating inside his suit jacket and shirt as he prepared to speak. Then, with an audible click inside her brain, reality snapped back into focus.
Sighs and gasps hissed out around her. She could hear pens scratching at the reporters’ notebooks and the oily scuffing of the sketch artist’s pastels on the paper. Her mother-in-law was weeping, and a wisp of her perfume – Chanel No. 5 – curled away from her and enveloped Stella. The judge spoke again.
“Is that the verdict of you all or by majority?”
“Of us all, My Lord.”
“Thank you all. You have discharged your duty, which, as I said at the beginning of this trial, is one of the most sacred duties a citizen can perform. It is right and proper that you should feel proud of your contribution.”
The foreman smiled at the praise, turned and nodded to the others, and sat.
The judge looked down at Deacon, who looked, if anything, bored by the proceedings that were about to engulf him. Stella’s focus was slipping again, and the judge’s words were overlaid with a crackle of static. She closed her eyes, but that made the feeling of floating worse.
“Edwin James Deacon, you have … guilty of causing death by careless driving. By your thoughtless actions, you … on this family … remorse … three years … and also banned from driving …”
Stella was breathing fast, too fast, she knew. Her heart was stuttering in her chest. She heard Jaswinder from miles away asking her if she was OK. She nodded, but that made her head swim. Across the courtroom, she saw Deacon being led from the dock. As he stepped down, he looked directly at her. His face was clear and sharp against the darkening background. He smirked. Then his lips moved. What was he saying? It looked like, “You’ve been bad.”
Then, mercifully, the curtains swung shut, and all was black.
The months that followed passed in a haze of tranquillisers and thin-stemmed glasses of white wine. During her waking hours, one thought more than any other circled around and around inside Stella’s head: three years. Three! People got more than that for aggravated assault. With good behaviour, Deacon could be out in two. That wasn’t fair. That wasn’t justice.
Somehow, she knew she was going to get herself back to work. She was going to dig into the case files and she was going to find the evidence that would see Deacon retried for murder and put away properly. Just, not yet. A pill and a glass of the old Pinot Grigio first.
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