The fourth book in a new dark and gritty crime series. Detective Inspector Paolo Sterling has more headaches than usual. Someone is abducting men and subjecting them to horrific acts of rape and torture, but who? More to the point - why? After three days of cruelty and starvation, they are released. Why will none of them give any information which would help the police to find the perpetrator? The victims refuse even to admit they were held captive.
Release date: February 13, 2020
Publisher: Audible Studios
Print pages: 352
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Rage and Retribution
Day One – Jason Corbett
I opened the door and smiled at the scene. The naked man was splayed face down on the table. He looked as if he was still unconscious. Surely not? Moving into the room, I slammed the door closed to see if that stirred him. He spun his head at the sound. Good. He was awake at last. Blindfolded and gagged, he wasn’t about to have a chat with me about how he’d ended up here. That conversation would come soon enough. I checked to make sure he couldn’t make any sudden moves. Not that it was likely he’d been able to free his limbs. His feet rested on the floor, each ankle tied to a leg of a small square table with butcher’s string. There was no way the knots would ever work loose. When the time came, I’d have to cut him free. His arms hung down on either side of the table and were fastened to the other two legs. Bent over the table at the waist, his backside was vulnerable and ready for action.
I reached forward to untie the gag. Letting them talk during the process was good – a chance to hear them trying to make excuses, or better still, begging for forgiveness. A quick tug released the material from the man’s mouth, leaving him gasping for air. When he finally caught his breath, his anger erupted.
‘What the fuck do you think you’re doing,’ he spat. ‘Let me go.’
‘Not yet. We’ve got some games to play first.’
Even after so many times of using it, the sound coming through the voice distorter came as a shock. It was weird to speak, but not hear my own voice. I sounded like a Dalek on speed. Some of my visitors wet themselves with fear on hearing the strange sound, but not this one. It seemed to inflame him even more.
‘Stop pissing about now and let me go.’
Time to give him the ground rules. ‘Not today,’ I explained. ‘On the third day you can go, but not before that.’
‘What the fuck are you on about? When I get out of here—’
I hated it when they were difficult and I had to set straight in with the punishment, even though they all deserved it. I picked up the tazer and held it against the man’s scrotum, then pressed the trigger to release a five second burst of pure agony. That was usually enough to get their attention. As the man’s screams died away, the only noise left in the room was the sound of his sobbing.
Leaning forward and grabbing a handful of hair, I lifted his head and hissed, ‘If you get hold of me, you’ll what? By the time I let you go, you’ll be begging to do anything I say.’
I dropped his head and moved away to pick up the man’s jacket from one of the armchairs. He didn’t have much in his pockets, just his house and car keys and some loose change, but I needed to find his wallet. I found it eventually in the button down back pocket of his trousers. Opening it up, I was pleased to see it contained all the information I needed.
‘Right, let’s see who you really are. Hmm, your driving licence says you’re Jason Corbett. That’s not the name you used in the club last night. Naughty, naughty. I might have to punish you for telling lies. Would you like another little burst from the tazer?’
‘Fuck you, you bastard,’ Jason screamed as he heaved against the ties, the thin string cutting into the flesh of his wrists and ankles. As he slumped back down, his stomach flattened against the solid wood of the table.
‘You should conserve your strength,’ I warned him. ‘You’re going to need it.’
‘You mad fucker. You can’t keep me here for three days. Someone will hear me yelling.’
I grinned. They all trotted out that line. ‘Let me fill you in on how your stay here is going to go. You can make as much noise as much as you want. This room is soundproofed. Some visitors yell so much it gives me a headache, but then I use this beauty to give them a reason to scream.’
I stroked the tazer against Jason’s scrotum. A strong stench of urine filled the room as he lost control of his bladder.
‘Don’t. Please don’t.’
I sighed. ‘It’s just as well the floor’s tiled. You all end up pissing on it.’
Jason squirmed. ‘I’ll give you anything you want. Anything! Don’t use that thing. Please don’t. Just let me go. Please let me go.’
‘Ah, that’s my cue,’ I said, putting the tazer on the chair on top of Jason’s clothes and picking up a clipboard from the other chair. ‘What should I say next? Or rather, let me put it another way. What did you say to your victims? I’ve got your exact words here on my notes. “Shut the fuck up unless you want me to cut your fucking throat.” Does that sound right to you? It seems a bit clichéd to me, but I know it’s been effective. You know that as well, don’t you?’
Jason began to shake. I think he finally realised the trouble he was in. I patted his naked buttocks.
‘You’re a bit hairy. Have you ever thought of shaving? No? Oh well, beggars can’t be choosers. I’ll put up with it for now. Maybe I’ll use some hair remover on you tomorrow, but that’s going to be very painful because you’ll probably have open wounds by then. Let’s see how it goes today.’
I pushed against Jason’s quivering flesh, but didn’t enter him. Not yet. I wanted him to feel the same fear he’d inflicted on his victims.
‘It’s nice and hard, isn’t it? All I need now is for you to say you want to be fucked. I won’t do it unless you ask me. That’s how you operate, isn’t it? Make your targets beg you to fuck them so that you won’t kill them? Well, it’s time for a bit of role reversal.’
Jason mumbled something, but I couldn’t make out the words.
‘Come on now, Jason. You’ve got a choice to make. Say you want to be fucked, or get the tazer on your balls again. What’s it to be?’
‘Please don’t . . . please.’
‘Tazer or fuck, Jason. Your choice.’
‘I . . .’
‘Last chance to answer, Jason. If you don’t choose, you get both. Wanna be fucked up the arse, Jason? Or have your balls electrocuted? Which is it? Huh?’
Jason sobbed. ‘No, please, not the tazer.’
‘So you want to be fucked, do you? Then say it. Say it!’
‘Fuck me,’ Jason whispered.
‘Okay, if you insist.’
The sweet music of Jason’s screams filled the room, keeping time as I thrust deeper and deeper.
Detective Inspector Paolo Sterling looked around at the assembled company and felt an unaccustomed surge of civic pride. Most of Bradchester’s business leaders had turned up for the opening ceremony of the renovated youth centre, even though many of them had initially rejected pleas for funding. Paolo had needed to work hard to convince them that giving the young people in the town a place to call their own would make any difference to the numbers arrested in drink and drug related crimes. Bringing them round to his point of view had meant being more persuasive than he’d ever thought he could be. Looking at the youngsters huddled at the back of the hall, he knew he’d go cap in hand to big business all over again if he had to. This wasn’t just important to the present generation of unemployed teenagers; it would affect the lives of those as yet unborn if somehow this generation could find their way into work.
It was time for the bit he dreaded. Making speeches was not something he enjoyed, but everyone seemed to feel it was for him to declare the youth centre open. For once, the press would have something good to report. He noted that all the major newspapers were represented and the local television station had the event covered as well.
He glanced over at his daughter and her boyfriend and smiled. They were standing at the edge of the crowd, waiting for the unveiling of the official plaque. Katy and Danny had been pretty much inseparable for nearly a year. Where one went, the other was sure to follow. Not that he minded. Danny might not have been Paolo’s choice when his daughter first started seeing him, but the more he got to know the young man, the more he liked him. In fact, it was entirely down to Danny that Paolo was now standing up on a stage about to cut the ribbon and proclaim the renovated youth centre open. Without Danny’s urging, Paolo might not have become so involved in the fundraising activities that had brought in the cash to update the facilities.
The only important person missing was the woman who’d shared this dream with him. God, he missed Jessica now that she was away so often. The downside of Jessica becoming better known in the psychiatric field, from Paolo’s point of view, was that she spent more time than ever in London. Not that they saw much of each other when she was in Bradchester. The demands of their two careers made sure of that. Paolo stifled a sigh. In truth, he was the biggest culprit. At least when Jessica was in Bradchester at weekends, she made time for him. All too often, though, that time was taken up by the demands of his job and she’d end up eating alone, or, worse still, sleeping alone.
He forced his mind back to the reason for his attendance tonight and cleared his throat. Better get it over with.
‘This has been a long time coming,’ he said, ‘but now that we have finally reached this point, I have no intention of focusing on the negatives we had to overcome on the way. The centre has changed a great deal in the last couple of years. From a rundown building that offered little in the way of amenities, it now boasts a multisport hall, snooker tables and a cafeteria. The swimming pool has been completely refurbished and the council has employed a qualified coach, Derrick Walden, who will offer free lessons to beginners three days a week. For those already able to swim, Derrick will be available for coaching on a fee paying basis. That is the only time anyone will have to pay to use the facilities here. Everything else will be covered by the trust fund we will establish using the surplus donations, generously provided by our business leaders.’
Paolo waited for cheers from the back of the hall to die down before continuing.
‘But this isn’t just a leisure centre. This will be a place for our young people to come for help in finding work, whether it’s in an office, an apprenticeship or into the performing arts. There will be skilled people on hand to help with education and training programmes, counsellors for those who need a safe place to talk, as well as members of our local drama group who will be running workshops. The intention is to put on a performance each year, in addition to a pantomime at Christmas. This renovated centre is a wonderful achievement and it wouldn’t have been possible without the financial support of Bradchester’s business community.’
As the applause died down, he picked up the scissors from the lectern and turned to face the velvet curtain covering the plaque.
‘It gives me great pleasure to announce the reopening of Bradchester’s Youth Centre,’ he said, cutting the ribbon and allowing the purple cover to fall.
The gasp from the assembled audience was almost deafening. Defacing the plaque in vivid red letters were the words: MASONS A CRUK.
Paolo turned back into the glare of flashing lights as the press photographers fired off shot after shot. The reporters clamoured forward, shooting questions without giving him chance to answer.
‘What do you know about this?’
‘Are you going to investigate?’
‘Did this come as a surprise to you?’
‘What are you going to do about it?’
‘Will you arrest Councillor Mason?’
‘Is there money missing? If yes, why haven’t you arrested the councillor?’
Paolo held up his hands in the classic position of surrender and shouted to be heard over the cacophony.
‘At the moment I know as much about this as you do.’
A strident voice interrupted him. ‘I repeat: are you going to investigate? Did you know money was missing? After all, you were the main fundraiser.’
Paolo couldn’t see beyond the flashing bulbs, but recognised the voice and sighed. A query that loaded could only have come from Gordon Hennessy, muckraker supreme for the Bradchester Sport. He should have known that piece of slime would put the worst possible interpretation on anything to do with the centre.
‘Yes, there will be an investigation, but as of this moment I have no reason to suspect the councillor of any wrongdoing. This could simply be an attempt to smear his name by someone bearing a grudge.’
‘Is it true the councillor is a friend of yours? Is that why you’re so quick to defend him?’
Paolo looked through the glare to the spot from where he thought the last question had been yelled.
‘I am not defending anyone, Mr Hennessy. I have said there will be an investigation and there will be one. However, at this moment all we have is an accusation scrawled in what looks like lipstick. Until I find evidence of wrongdoing, it would be premature of me to accuse anyone of a crime. However, to answer your question, no, Councillor Mason and I are not friends. We do not socialise and have only come together on this project. Outside of this, we have no contact. I trust that puts your mind at rest.’
Paolo permitted himself an inward smile. Far from being friends, he and Montague Mason had locked horns on just about every aspect of the renovation project, but he had no intention of sharing that with the press – the gutter variety or the more responsible kind.
He held his hands up again and kept them in the air until the noise abated.
‘Gentlemen and ladies of the press, clearly there is something here for me to look into, even it is nothing more than a case of defamation of character. I’m afraid I must ask you all to clear the hall as I need to close this area off to allow tests to be taken of the substance on the plaque. Perhaps you would like to make your way to the cafeteria, where I believe refreshments have been laid on for this evening.’
‘What do you—’
Paolo shook his head. ‘No more questions tonight. Let me get on with my job.’
He waited until the assembled guests, media and workers had filed into the adjoining room before turning to Katy and Danny who were standing quietly to one side of the plaque.
‘I need both of you to go next door as well.’
Katy nodded. ‘I know that, Dad. I just wanted to give you a hug. It’s not fair. We’ve all worked so hard on this and the night got hijacked by some idiot who can’t even spell.’
Paolo grinned. Trust Katy to pick up on that. If there ever was such a branch of the force as the Grammar Police, she’d be made up to Chief Superintendent in no time.
‘Don’t fall into the trap of believing everything you read. How do you know the words weren’t deliberately misspelled to make us think it was someone semi-literate?’ He hugged her. ‘Don’t dwell on what’s happened tonight. From tomorrow, the centre will be up and running. It’s amazing what’s been achieved here.’
She nodded. ‘You’re right, but it still pisses me off.’
She blushed. ‘Sorry, Dad. Forgot who I was talking to. Come on, Danny, let’s go and grab some food before it all disappears.’ She looked back at Paolo. ‘You coming?’
He shook his head. ‘No, you go on. I’m going to call Dave. Unfortunately, this is such a public accusation, it has to be dealt with as a crime, even if one hasn’t been committed.’
Paolo sat in the centre’s administration office opposite Montague Mason and wished for the hundredth time he found the man even a tiny bit likeable. There was something almost repellent about him, but Paolo couldn’t quite pin down what it was that made him feel uncomfortable in Mason’s company.
‘Montague, it’s no good saying the same thing over and over. That sign was uncovered in the full glare of a media spotlight. Whether I want to or not, I have no choice but to look into the centre’s fundraising books. You know as well as I do, an investigation has to be carried out in the open.’
Montague scowled. ‘No, Paolo, I don’t see that at all. Some idiot woman scrawls a message and suddenly I’m seen as a thief? How would you like it if that happened to you?’
‘I wouldn’t like it, but I’d have to deal with it. That’s what you’ve got to do. Deal with it so that everyone can see the accusation has no foundation. First of all, we don’t know it was a woman. Anyone can buy lipstick and a man could easily have decided to use one to make us think it was a woman. Secondly, if we don’t investigate it’s going to look as if we’re covering up for you.’ Paolo held up his hand. ‘Yes, I know you say you’ve nothing to hide and nothing to cover up, but the press will have a field day if we don’t show we’re taking the accusation seriously.’
‘Fuck the press! I’m sick to death of all of them. They’ve done nothing constructive to help with this project. Instead of supporting and encouraging us to make a place for young people to go, the bloody headlines have been all about how much public money has been wasted on drug-taking louts and unmarried mothers. What they’ve been screaming for is for us to fix potholes and turn the canal into a tourist attraction! And we all know why the canal project became the press darling, don’t we!’
Paolo sighed. ‘This is not the time to go into your rivalry with Fletcher Simpson.’
Montague snorted. ‘Isn’t it? You heard that bastard Hennessy making his snide accusations. Why would he do that? Because he writes for the paper Simpson owns, that’s why. And why was Simpson so keen to get the canal project financed instead of this centre? Because he happens to own the three businesses on the banks of the canal that would benefit most from getting it cleaned up and turned into a tourist attraction. If you want to investigate wrongdoing, try looking at that bastard and leave me alone. In fact, I wouldn’t mind betting it was someone working for Simpson who defaced the plaque.’
Paolo looked across at Detective Sergeant Dave Johnson who’d been silently taking notes. Dave grinned. This was the fourth time Montague had made the accusation. Clearly, in his mind, it could only be Simpson or someone working for him who would do such a thing. Paolo thought he might well be right, but he still had to look into other possible motives.
‘Montague, let’s get down to business. I will arrange for someone from financial crimes to make sure all is as it should be with the account keeping. In the meantime, the sooner we think about who had access to the plaque, the sooner we can call it a night and get some sleep. Who has been in the hall since the plaque was put in place? Actually, more to the point, who has had access since the curtain was put up?’
‘Lots of people,’ Montague said with a massive sigh that made Paolo want to shake him. ‘Council members, cleaning staff, the caretaker, the new tutors and instructors, people bringing in books for the youth library, you name an occupation, they’ve been in the hall at some point or another.’
‘I’m going to need you to be a bit more specific. I want you to write down every name you can remember. Ask your secretary to do the same. If neither of you know the names of individuals, write down the company, so that I can follow up on it,’ Paolo said.
He stood up and waited for Dave to finish scribbling and close his notebook. They said their goodbyes and headed for the door, but stopped when Montague called out.
‘Of course, there are a couple of helpers who have been here most days. I suppose one of them could have it in for me.’
Paolo looked back. The way Montague had spoken it was clear he felt the two concerned needed investigating.
‘OK, add their names to your list and I’ll look into their backgrounds.’
‘You’re not going to need to look far,’ Montague sneered. ‘It’s your daughter and that boy she hangs about with. He’s bad news if you ask me.’
Nemesis in Action Blog
Day Two – Jason Corbett
I never enjoyed the second day. The bastards still retained just enough arrogance to believe they would get back at me when they were free. It was also the day I had to teach them some manners and that was never easy with people who’d never had any to start with.
I opened the door and recoiled at the stench. Jason had soiled himself overnight. They all did eventually. That was one of the reasons there was a drain under the table. The ability to hose down the men was a necessity.
As I closed the door, Jason moved his head in the direction of the sound.
‘Water, please, so thirsty,’ he whispered.
I smiled. It was almost as if he’d read my mind. He was going to get water. Lots of water. I intended to clean him up inside and out. Purify the body and purify the mind.
I walked across and turned on the tap, allowing some water to trickle from the hose. Jason’s head spun in my direction. I knew how he felt. That longing for water must be overriding all other emotions right now, even fear. That would change.
I turned the tap to full force, pointed the power hose at Jason’s rear end, and pulled the trigger. He’d asked for water, so I let him have it. A fierce ice cold jet rushed out, pummelling Jason’s exposed flesh and removing the faeces.
Jason screamed as the water connected with his raw wounds from last night’s activities. I needed to wash away the blood and skin so that he would be nice and clean for me to go at him again.
‘Turn it off, please. I’m begging you,’ he screamed. ‘It hurts. Fuck, it hurts.’
‘Yes, I know,’ I yelled over the sound of the rushing water and stepping closer to point the jet directly into the man’s cheek crack. ‘I have to make sure I flush out all traces of your filth.’
As the soiled water ran into the drain under the table, Jason screams turned to whimpers. When I was certain he was as clean as I could get him, I turned off the tap and dropped the hose next to it. Walking back to the table, I smacked Jason’s cheeks with my open hand. I’d need to put some alcohol on those wounds, but that was a job for tomorrow. A final gift before I released him.
‘Let me go,’ he whispered. ‘You’ve had your fun. Please, let me go.’
‘Is that what your victims said to you? Did they beg? Did they promise to do whatever you asked, if only you let them go?’
Jason went still.
‘Ah, you didn’t realise I know everything about your sordid secret life, did you?’
‘I don’t know what you’re talking about,’ Jason said. ‘You’ve got the wrong man. That’s what it is, you’ve made a mistake.’
I sighed again. So bloody predictable. They all said that on days one and two. By tomorrow, when it was time for him to go home, he’d have confessed to his crimes and would never be stupid enough to commit any more.
‘You’ve had it easy so far. I’m going to leave you until this evening to think about why you’re here. When I come back again, you can look forward to my visits every hour on the hour until I get too tired to service you. Bye for now.’
Jason must have realised I meant what I’d said, as he cried out.
‘Wait! Please. I’m so thirsty.’
‘Would you like some water to drink?’
Jason’s body trembled. ‘Yes,’ he whispered. ‘Please, if you take off the blindfold I promise not to look. If you’ll just—’
‘Just what? Give yo. . .
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