The past comes back to haunt Detective Inspector Stewart White again and again in a deadly game of cat-and-mouse. Picking up the trail where it left off in Damaged Goods, this riveting crime thriller starts with a bang and never lets up.
At the top of White’s most-wanted list is a maniacal magician who leaves his victims in locked, sealed rooms with no way in or out. But it seems that the magician has fled the country… yet copycat murders are popping up all over Leeds. So who is really behind these murders — and what does it have to do with the arrest that earned him a promotion?
Two years ago, White apprehended a ruthless Midlands underworld drug lord and racketeer, Leroy “King” Richards. The King swore he would get even with White, and now he’s escaped from prison. Is he out planning his vengeance — and what could that possibly have to do with the surprise appearance of the sister of Robert Cleghorn, the crazed CIA operative from his first case as a Detective Inspector?
With nothing up his sleeves, and more than his career at stake, will D.I. White’s deductive mojo get it all sorted in time?
“This second book in the DI White Mysteries series is as convincing and thrilling as the first one. Detective Inspector Stewart White is an awesome character, portrayed three-dimensionally. A brilliant book to read again. Highly recommended.” — My Train of Thoughts On…book review blog
Leroy “King” Richards was transferred to Asket Farm open prison with six months of his sentence left to go. He had served eighteen months of his three-year sentence and had been a very good boy. Within six hours of arriving at Asket Farm, he expected to be a very good escapee. He had been assigned a bunk in a room for three. He was given clean linen, and when he had made up the bunk he was given an induction tour by an easy-going guard. Richards barely listened. He had no interest in the place; after all, he was not going to be here long enough to make it worthwhile. What he was interested in was looking out for any one of several of his pushers who had preceded him here.
It was not long before he spotted one, “Lofty” Pike, a white speed freak as thin as he was tall. Leroy gave him a sign from behind the guard’s back and at teatime, Lofty was in the mess hall waiting for him.
“Hi, Lofty.” Leroy could act magnanimous when he chose to, although as always, his eyes were rarely still enough long enough to look at anyone he spoke to. “How do I get out of here?”
Lofty, whose nose looked like a parrot’s beak, bobbed his head up and down. “Out of here? Why man? You get a good time here, good grass, coke, anything you want. You got six months on cloud nine here, man. Why leave ’til you have to?”
Lofty tried far too hard to sound like a black brother from the ’hood. He saw King Richards’s expression change from affability to annoyance and dropped the act. “Bottom of the exercise field. There’s a trellis there, we strengthened it up into a ladder. We’re in and out of here whenever we like.”
Richards nodded. “Had to be some real easy way in an’ out, amount o’ shit you get through in here.”
“Let me know when you want to move, and I’ll be there and move the trellis back after you’ve gone over. Why the rush? Like I said, things are easy here.”
Leroy Richards smiled. “Got things to do, Lofty my man. Gotta see a man who’s whiter than white. Hell, he’s goin’ to turn out blacker than black, catch my drift?”
Lofty got the general idea and nodded.
“Soon as it’s dark, man, I’m outta here. Don’ be late.”
Lofty grinned but his grin turned on and off when it suited him. He had known Leroy for years, ever since he and Jarvis had shared a room with him at the orphanage. He liked neither man, but at least he knew where he stood with Leroy. He grinned again because he knew something Leroy didn’t, Jarvis was still alive, he knew because they had bumped into one another a year or so ago. Lofty had helped Jarvis on a fly-by-night paint job on a boat. Why, he had no idea. He had done what was asked and just covered the name up without removing the one beneath. Lofty had taken the money and left town. There was something, some weird light in Jarvis’s eyes that put the fear of God into him, always had been.
# # #
Richards reached the chain-link fence but there was no sign of Lofty. The fence, or trellis as Lofty called it, had been dragged out at its foot and was taut enough to be used as a ladder. The lights from the prison buildings behind Leroy’s looming shadow cast it large before him, he grasped the steel links and the shadow lurched menacingly as he climbed upward.
Leroy had a long list of contacts and had emailed several of them from the prison library. He expected a stretch limo to be waiting no more than a comfortable stroll beyond the fence. His prison grays were hardly warm enough for the late hour and time of year. He shivered and continued his climb looking—a trifle anxiously—through the fence for some sign of transport. He was confident that all of his needs would shortly be met: good clothes, warmth, well-cooked food, decent smokes and obliging ladies; not necessarily in that order.
Leroy reached the top and hesitated, it was now pitch dark, but he was more concerned with being spotted than the eight or ten foot jump he had to make. He bent his knees and jumped, anticipating a hard landing.
“Fuck!” Leroy yelled as he fell through the thorny gorse surrounding the outer wall. Inch-long thorns tore his flimsy prison jumpsuit and drew blood. His ankle cracked against something hard.
“Lofty, you bastard! You…” It took long agonizing minutes to extricate himself. Blood trickled down his neck, he cussed out the lackadaisical Lofty every way he knew and imagined every torture he could inflict on him. It did little to ease the pain.
Sore and limping from a sprained ankle, Leroy dragged himself across a newly-plowed field hoping to hide his tracks in the rough furrows. He reached the road, but no black limousine, no Lofty. Instead, there was a grimy white van and just visible in the driver’s seat, a large Sikh with an imposing turban and beard.
He tapped on the glass. The driver turned and gave him a critical frown. Eventually, the widow was lowered and smoke from the interior wafted out like fog.
“You’ll be Richards, then?”
“I will. And who the hell are you? Where’s Winston?”
The Sikh heaved a great sigh, his impressive physique moving slowly and deliberately. “It don’t matter who I am, Mr. Richards, and Winston’s busy. Now, you want a lift somewhere or you want to walk?”
Leroy Richards scowled in the darkness. Winston had worked for him for years; eighteen months of absence from the scene and here he was, handing the job over to someone Leroy didn’t know. There would be questions and there would be answers.
He nodded to the driver and walked around the front of the van. Inside, it was at least warm and he began to feel a little better. “Okay, take me to Perry Barr.” He named the district of Birmingham where he owned a large property.
“No can do.” The driver shook his head. “Not unless you want to end up in Winstone Green instead of the cushy little hole you just got out of.”
Winstone Green was a high security prison similar to Barlinnie, Leroy’s “home” before moving to Asket Farm.
“And why would I do that?”
“’Cause they’re watching your place and have been since they locked you up. They’re expecting all sorts to turn up there. Some have done already and they’ve been quietly wheeled away for questioning. As soon as they know you’ve escaped, well…”
“Exactly, Mr. Richards. All your old… umm, haunts? All your old haunts will be under observation.”
“You’re right, my friend.” Leroy knew good advice when he heard it. “So?”
“So, if you will allow me to make a suggestion, head south. Winston has a cousin in South Norwood, in London. He will put you up if you have enough money. And talking of money, I want fifty up front for petrol.”
Leroy looked at the Sikh properly for the first time, really looked at him. He was very big, too big for a sarcastic reply.
“No problem.” Favoring his cuts and bruises, Leroy reached into his back pocket for his wallet. A new low point in the night’s events, his wallet was gone. Not only the wallet but the entire patch pocket had been torn off his jeans with his notebook of phone numbers and email contacts. “Bugger it.”
“Actually, there is a problem, friend. My wallet and all sorts of stuff are back across that field in the patch of brambles I jum… tripped into.” Tripped sound better than jumped. “I guess I can go back and look for it.”
“You can do that if you wish, Mr. Richards. I would advise you not to, though.” He pointed across the field. “Not unless you are determined to get caught.” A line of lights were at the far side of the field; he could faintly hear barking dogs, it looked as though his footsteps in the soft earth had been found after all. “You are a very popular man, Mr. Richards.”
The sarcasm was not lost on Leroy. “Look friend…”
The Sikh started the engine and drove off without switching the lights on. He moved to higher gears as soon as he could to minimize the noise. “I am not your friend, Mr. Richards. I am not even Winston’s friend. I am a driver and a very good driver. I work for money.” They had reached the bottom of a hollow in the road. The Sikh braked strongly and stopped. “No money, no driving. Will you please leave my van now, Mr. Richards?”
Leroy Richards could feel the long fingers of the law reaching out for him. On foot out there, in the dark, was not something he wished to think about. There was only one thing to do. Sweating with fear for the first time in many years, he felt for the chain around his neck and pulled out the pendant, about the only possession he’d managed to keep hidden through his prison stretch.
“This is one ounce of pure gold, my friend,” he explained, emphasizing the last word. “You want it, you drive the van. Okay?”
The Sikh started up the engine, switched on dipped headlights and set off. They drove for half an hour in a silence that seemed to grow more comfortable as the miles went by.
“Kind’ve hungry without my plastic, but we’ll see who we can shake up—or shake down—if you catch my drift, friend?”
His companion grinned, a gleam of white teeth in the light from the instrument panel. “Singh.” He said. “Jasminder Singh. “South Norwood, was it?”
“Sod South Norwood. No, Leicester. I’ve got contacts there, but if we can stop on the way and get something to eat and a cell phone…”
“You mean if I can get you something to eat and a phone?”
Singh shook his head. An ounce of gold worth four hundred pounds and a little bit of chain. It wasn’t much. He’d been told his passenger was a one-time drug dealer,. Well, this guy with the glossy black skin was going to learn that there were new men on the streets and Leicester was one of their stomping grounds. He was sure that he could squeeze a bit more than four hundred pounds out of his passenger.