Doppelganger is the story of how Jack Lockwood deals with the horrifying realisation that the woman he has fallen in love with may be a murderer, who was convicted some years previously, released and given a new identity.
Or is she the Doppelganger of the killer, as she claims?
More twists, more mysteries, more nail biting suspense and plenty of action.
Set against the backdrop of a serial killer on the loose ‘Doppelganger’ is the second of the Jack Lockwood mysteries, due out around 28 January. Here is the complete first chapter and the front cover.
WRONG PLACE, WRONG TIME
Abandon the book Jack, or we’ll kill you. This is your final warning.
Sean Michael Boyd’s gravel-voiced telephone threats still rang in my ears as I drove through the rainy October darkness of the road through Healey’s Wood. Healey’s looming overhead branches always engendered a cave-like sense of gloom, and, as if this latest threat to my life wasn’t stressful enough, too many late nights and tight deadlines were making my eyelids feel like lead.
So when the woman dashed out in front of my car I couldn’t stop in time. Just felt a jarring thump and I jerked forward as the figure was flung from the bonnet, landing a yard in front of my steaming front tyres. All I could see in my headlight beams was a heap of crumpled clothing in the road, with an out-flung hand and twitching fingers, pointing skywards.
Adrenalin pumping, I opened the door, breathing vaporised tyre and soggy woodland. The figure was moving, thank goodness. At least it looked as if she was still alive.
Reaching across to grab my mobile and switch on the hazard lights. I dialled 999 as I ran around the front of the car.
“Ambulance. Yes. And police.” I shouted as I knelt down beside the victim, registering her pain-wracked face, the frantic effort to survive burning in her eyes. The renewed burst of driving rain penetrated my shirt in seconds.” It’s Waldegrave Road, just at the start of Healey’s Wood at Crenham, just off the A2 in the direction of Canterbury. I passed a pub called the Saracen’s Head about half a mile back.”
“Got that, caller, someone’s on their way now.”
The operator’s faraway voice sounded so cool, so unbelievably calm.
“Look, just get here, please, she’s badly hurt!”
“Can you tell me what her injuries are?”
“No. I can’t see. I’m crouched down in the middle of the road, sheltered from oncoming vehicles by my own car! Please, just get here as soon as you can!”
“And what’s your name please, caller?”
I dropped the phone and reached for the woman’s fingers. I squeezed gently, realising that since her eyes were barely open, she’d have no idea what was happening. She’d just be aware of the rhythmic drumbeat of raindrops, water soaking her skin, and the shoe-half-off-foot that was completely submerged in the roadside puddle. I had to move her, but was it safe?
“Hang on, you’re okay, ambulance is on its way,” I tried to reassure her.” Just lie still.”
The woman – she appeared to be in her twenties – looked dazed, and there was blood matting her hair, a growing pool that was spreading, the rivulets of crimson merging with the lakes of rain. Had I knocked her backwards so she’d fallen and cracked the back of her head? At least it looked as if she could move her arms and legs. I clung to the knowledge that I hadn’t been speeding, and had almost been able to stop. But if I hadn’t been so dog-tired, could I have halted the car in time?
The light coloured jacket of her trouser suit was torn and stained with mud, the top ripped open at the front. Her chest rose and fell, her breath was heaving ugly gasps.
“Don’t let him get me!” she rasped, trying to struggle off the ground. “Please don’t let him – ”
“Don’t worry, you’re safe, please, just try to take it easy. Help is on the way – ”
“Where is he?” She tried to move her head, eyes alive with terror.
“He’s long gone, you’re okay, I promise. It’s over now, and you’re safe, just try to lie still.”
I stopped talking when I realised she’d stopped breathing.
Frantically, I racked my brains to remember the first-aid course I’d done 20 years ago.
I laid her flat, tilted her head upwards and opened her mouth. Kneeling astride her I bent down and closed my lips over hers, pinched the victim’s nose and breathed hard into her lungs, hoping something might happen.
Memories flooded back of a rubber dummy and a lot of badinage while the first-aid instructor tried to tell us what to do, the dummy jerking alarmingly as its chest was depressed by our incompetent fingers. I leaned over the woman’s chest, heel of one hand between the cups of her bra, backed up by the other, fingers interlinked, and pressed hard five times, praying for something to happen.
Mouth-to-mouth once more. I almost choked, practically gagging as I couldn’t avoid swallowing my own blood, reminding me of my injury from earlier in the evening. As I took my lips away to breathe for the fourth time, the woman gave a gulp and a momentary jerk. An indrawn breath. A choking sound.
And all at once I could hear sirens behind us, then slamming doors, running feet.
I made way for the paramedics and watched as they fastened a mask over her face, then fitted a spinal collar, applying a dressing to the back of her head, attaching needles to her wrists, radios alive with chatter, muttering medical gobbledygook to each other. I was vaguely aware of a police car behind them. Hardly realising what I was doing, I automatically scooped up my phone from the ground and put it in my pocket. In between the medics’ frantic ministrations they asked me if I knew her name but I just shook my head, and mumbled that she’d stopped breathing just now and I’d administered CPR.
The police car’s occupants strode slowly across to where I was shivering on my knees. “So what’s happened here?” the nearest one asked me.
There was a lull in the rain at last.
The policeman stared at me.
“She stumbled out in the middle of the road. I couldn’t stop in time. . .”
“You’re saying that you’re responsible for her injuries?”
“She must have been hurt already.” I dragged myself to my feet, aching with the effort. “Her head was bleeding. She said she’d been attacked. I think she must have been running away from someone.”
“But you ran her over?”
“I couldn’t help it.”
The copper was frowning at me with controlled menace as he took note of my dishevelled appearance, the scruffy jeans and split-lipped face.
“Know the victim, do you?”
“Never seen her before.”
“Sure about that?”
“Of course I’m sure.”
“When we arrived you were kneeling on top of her. Just what you were doing?”
“Giving her mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. And once she came round, I was trying to reassure her.”
“And you’ve got no idea who she is?”
As I shook my head, I tried to see things from their point of view. Dangerous looking character who’s been leaning across a helpless female who’s obviously been seriously injured. I glanced across to where the paramedics were strapping the woman to a stretcher and wheeling her towards the ambulance. “Look, mate,” I appealed to the officer. “I swear I’ve never seen her before, and there was nothing I could do to stop my car in time. I wasn’t even speeding. When I hit her it was a gentle kind of bump, you know? Not a full-on crack, like as if I’d done real damage. At least I hope. . .”
The ambulance was pulling away. I thought back to the gang of Canterbury University students who’d been attacking the man huddled in blankets on the pavement, a poor old guy who’d been minding his own business, hunched up miserably under the stone canopy of Westgate Towers. I’d intervened, pulling the biggest man away, but before I could retaliate he’d thumped his fist into my face, mashing my lip, while the second youth had punched me in the stomach. Deprived of their easy prey, the trio moved on, leaving me staggering against the ancient stone structure, with an injured mouth, an aching gut and the stares of the bemused rough-sleeper, who was barely aware what had been going on.
My thoughts came back to the present as the other policeman approached, having been examining my car. “Do you have any objections to taking a breathalyzer test, sir?” he asked politely, holding up a rectangular box.
“N-not at all.”
But right now shock was kicking in big-time, making me behave erratically. I was unsteady on my feet. My hands wouldn’t stop shaking. Light-headedness made me stutter.
And breathing into the breathalyzer wasn’t easy. I tried three times, but the stress of rushing around trying to help the victim meant I was still puffed out, couldn’t breathe deeply enough to be able to give them a good enough sample.
“Would you mind accompanying us to the station, please sir?” asked the nearest officer, all narrowed eyes and exaggerated politeness.
“What about my car?”
“No one’s moving that until we get a team down here to measure tyre marks and make a proper assessment of the situation.”
I frowned and shook my head. “Look, please believe me, I don’t drink and drive, ever!”
“What’s your name, sir?”
“Lockwood. Jack Lockwood.”
“Driving licence is at home, but there’s something in my car.”
I went back to my Land Rover Discovery and climbed inside, with the second policeman standing guard, presumably in case I made a run for it. On the back seat I found the parcel, out of which I extracted a copy of my latest book Diary of a Killer from the batch of author copies that had arrived from the publishers that morning.
As I got into the back of the police car I handed it over to the one who was in the driver’s seat, talking into the car’s radio. He stared at the author picture at the back of the book, then at me, and made no comment. The photo was instantly recognisable, albeit touched up a bit, thanks to a bit of nifty Photoshop tweaking. Blond hair, the break in my nose hardly noticeable, small scar on the chin, self-conscious smile. A female reviewer had once referred to me as having ‘rugged good looks’, but I think she was being generous.
The policeman’s colleague returned and climbed in beside him, slamming the door and scattering droplets. I noticed the beads of water on the newcomer’s sandy eyebrows. Then he found a notebook and pen, leaning across the front seat to talk to me. “Right then Mr Lockwood, perhaps you’d like to tell us what happened here?”
“I was driving along and she suddenly ran out right in front of me. I braked to a stop, thought I felt the front of the car hit her. Then I called the emergency services.”
I could see they didn’t believe a word of it.
“You say she looked as if she’d been attacked. How badly was she hurt?”
“Looked serious to me.” Images were flooding back. “There was blood in her hair, as if she’d been hit with something.”
“But you knocked her down?”
“I couldn’t help it.”
“Was she able to say anything?”
“Yes,” I suddenly remembered with relief. “Yes! she said said something like ‘Don’t let him get me’. She was afraid of someone.”
“Did you see anyone else?”
“Her words were, Don’t let him get me?”
* * * *
By the early morning I’d managed to catch a couple of hours’ sleep in my prison cell in Bellevue Road Police Station, Canterbury. This was on the edges of the beautiful cathedral town, beyond the Roman city walls, not far from the university campus, a turning off the North Holmes Road.
Luckily I was alone. The white paper suit they’d given me after taking away my clothes felt itchy and disorienting. Already hardened to the worst of prison smells – predominantly bad drains, urine, and, occasionally, freshly-minted vomit – this one wasn’t as bad as some I’ve been in, though up till now I’ve only ever entered as a visitor.
How was the woman? I went on hoping she’d be all right, wondering precisely what had happened to her. The more I thought about it, the more it seemed as if she was probably terrified, running for her life, so scared she’d not realised she was running onto a road. The worst thing was, this wasn’t the first occasion when I’d been involved in a car accident with a pedestrian. And last time it had happened there’d been a very bad ending.
The breathalyzer test I’d given at the station last night had returned negative, and my blood sample was yet to be analyzed, but I knew that at least I was in the clear regarding drink driving.
I’d already given them my statement, and the name of my friend and solicitor, David Stewart, and I knew that as soon as they’d contacted him I’d be able to put my side of things, and, hopefully, be released. But of course David wouldn’t be in the office until nine.
Daylight arrived, filtering down through the tiny grating above my head, and ushered in the morning jailhouse noises of jangling keys, shouted commands, the jarring sounds of bodily functions, whistles and snarled obscenities that echoed along the corridor. My head ached from lack of sleep and worry.
It wasn’t until about ten o’clock that a tired looking constable brought in my clothes, neatly folded, and put them on the bunk. He also gave me a cold cup of sour-milked tea, some dry toast and a mumbled string of words I was too exhausted to take in. Half an hour later, when I was dressed again, and was brushing toast crumbs from my shirt, there was more key jangling as my cell door was opened and the same constable asked if I’d accompany him.
He didn’t say much as we tramped up the concrete steps, into a main reception area, and along corridors, striking deep into the bowels of the gloomy building that smelt of floor polish and peeling paint, touched up with the aroma of long-dead takeaways. The walls were green, the floors were covered in tired grey linoleum, and most of the office doors we passed were half open, showing men and women at desks staring at computers or muttering miserably into phones. There was an incongruous yelp of high-pitched laughter that escaped from somewhere, as shocking and sharp as a needle-jab. Eventually we reached a door, where the constable knocked, heard a ‘come in’, then he took me inside and left.
The man sitting behind the desk looked up as I entered, putting aside a book he’d been leafing through. To my surprise I recognised the front cover as that of one I’d written last year. Unsafe Convictions had been an exposé of 15 cases that various police forces across Britain had been involved in, where a number of convicted prisoners had been released after appeals, or after police incompetence or, in some cases, deliberate malpractice, had come to light. Unsafe Convictions had done pretty well, almost squeaking into the bottom ranks of the nonfiction bestseller lists, although True Crime as a genre has never had the mass appeal of fiction. I’m also a Behavioural Investigative Adviser, a BIA – otherwise known as a criminal profiler, a psychologist who’s called in to assist police in various circumstances. BIAs are not always popular with the police, especially if they write books that are in any way critical of the establishment.
“Take a seat Dr Lockwood,” said the lugubrious man, his poker face betraying no emotion. He was an overweight character in a dark grey suit that appeared to be too small for his bulging frame. He had receding jet-black hair and thick-lensed black-framed spectacles, and the bulbous end of his red nose was pockmarked with a mesmerizing pincushion of tiny holes. “I’m Detective Chief Inspector Fulford.”
“How’s the woman?”
“Recovering in hospital, I’m glad to say.”
I felt the tension drain out of me. I even smiled.
Fulford managed to ratchet down the scowl. “The lassie’s out of intensive care, and is what they call ‘stable’ – generally meaning she’s in a bad way but there’s no danger she’ll die.” He had a Scottish accent, sharp and wheedling as a creaky gate. I noticed his prissy red lips, fat and blubbery, gurning and twisting as he talked. He exuded an unpleasant aroma of minty aftershave that wafted across to me in waves.
“Had she been attacked?”
“Aye, so we believe.”
“You think she was running away from someone?”
“Isnae for me to say. But I hope you understand that my officers had no choice but to bring you in. They saw you leaning over her body when they turned up, you looked awful rough, the woman obviously victim of an attack or simply run down in the road – well, I’m sure you realise why we had to be on the safe side.”
“So am I in the clear?”
“We’ve thoroughly examined the scene of where she was found. For the moment, let’s just say we’re satisfied with your account of events.”
“Has she given you a statement?”
He frowned in irritation. “Nae so far. The hospital say she might be able to talk by tonight.”
“Do you know how badly I hurt her?”
“Dinna push it, Dr Lockwood. Although the conditions meant the skid marks were partially washed away, we’ve more or less established that you weren’t speeding and we know you hadna been drinking. Let’s just agree that she ran out in front of your car, and we’re not holding you responsible for her more serious injuries.” He paused. “At least not at this stage.”
“So the blow to her head?”
He stared at me, glowered again, then his shoulders slumped as he relented slightly. “Preliminary findings are that it was inflicted by a blunt instrument.”
“Not by falling backwards as a result of being hit by my car?”
He nodded grudgingly. “Aye, that’s what it looks like at present, but I must stress that we’re not copper-bottom certain about anything so far. Now tell me, Dr Lockwood, are you absolutely certain you didn’t see anyone running away from the scene?”
I shook my head. “I wish I had. Do you think it was the Bible Killer?”
His mouth tightened into a line of anger. “I’m not prepared to speculate. Nor should you. The team investigating the Bible Killer murders have already got a fine and talented BIA, in case you were tempted to offer your services.” He allowed himself a patronising smirk. “If you did, I c’n assure you they’d tell you to Foxtrot Oscar.”
The killings had started six weeks ago. At five-thirty one sunny morning a window cleaner had found the naked and bloody body of a woman resting against a wall in a back alley in the Martyrs Field part of the city. Anna Marie Molloy had been a prostitute, last seen in one of the town’s public houses late the night before. Since then, all the women in the city had taken extra care of their safety, but despite that there’d been two other murders. In all three cases a small Bible had been left on top of the victim’s chest, open at different places for each of them, as if delivering some kind of message that some construed as decrying sexual immorality. The press had immediately christened the murderer as the ‘Bible Killer’ and the name had stuck. More disturbingly, Canterbury Cathedral’s association with the murder of Thomas Becket in 1170 had also been referred to in some of the notes pinned to victims. Thomas, a man who’d been sanctified after his death, had suffered an especially brutal end, attacked and killed in Canterbury Cathedral itself. Several knights had followed him into the holy building, and after trying to drag him outside, one of them had sliced the crown of his head off with a sword. Blood and white brain matter had spilled out, then another of the knights put his foot on Thomas’s neck and deliberately spread the fluids from his shattered skull across the cathedral’s stone floor, the ghastly materials staining it horrendously. Presumably as a way of mimicking Thomas’s end, the Bible Killer had also visited this particularly ghastly cruelty on all his victims so far, much to the delight of the reporters, who had wallowed in the grizzly details.
“So am I free to go?”
“Certainly. In the circumstances I’m sorry we had to keep you overnight.”
“I’m glad you see things this way, Dr Lockwood. Glad and, I admit, a wee bit surprised.”
Fulford closed my book, then picked it up between a finger and thumb, a look of distaste on his face, dangling it as if it was a sample from a sewage farm.
“Frankly, sir, I never in a million years expected to find you so understanding about our necessary procedures.” He paused and stared at the book, then back at me. “Because it’s fairly obvious from what you write that you do not have a lot of time for the forces of law and order in Britain. That you never miss a trick to try and discredit us.”
“Look, I’m no anti-police crusader, believe me. I’ve worked as a BIA and I’m still on the NPIA-approved register. I’m on your side, Mr Fulford. Okay Unsafe Convictions happened to be about incompetent police. But in other books I’ve written I give praise to the police where it’s due.”
“But you dinna find it’s due very often, do you, sir? In this book you analyze the careers of a number of officers who are either retired or dead, and find them ruefully wanting. In The Drugs War We Can’t Win, you rake over the case of an ex-Chief Superintendent who has been convicted of serious corruption.”
“You obviously enjoy my books.”
“Enjoyment doesnae come into it!” he snapped. “I read your books to try and keep in touch with public opinion. What does an Oxford-university educated toff like you know about real down-to-earth folk anyway?”
“For five years I worked as a catch-hand builder’s labourer. You don’t get much more down-to-earth than sharing a three-foot trench with sweating Irish navvies, or hodding bricks up scaffolding when the skin of your hands is ripped raw. In my investigative work I try to be as fair and honest as I can. I do meticulous research, personally interview everybody who’s involved and do my utmost to be strictly neutral and unbiased. All I try to do is to set the record straight for the sake of the innocent victims. I don’t invent the facts.”
“But you twist ’em, do you not? You highlight corrupt police practices. Regrettable instances, which in my informed opinion, are very rare indeed. The average Joe reads a book like this, and they leap to the conclusion that the British police force is at best incompetent, at worst venal and corrupt. And so we lose even more backing from the few decent folk who might once have been our supporters.”
“That isn’t my intention. As I’ve said, I’ve also written books where I outline successful police investigations and talented officers.”
I could see that Fulford wasn’t going to listen to anything I had to say, and, between you and me, I didn’t care a damn. Maybe he had a point, but I’d managed to carve out my own tiny literary niche and I honestly felt I was doing something worthwhile. The harsh facts are that people aren’t interested in obsequious biographies about noble public figures and incorruptible police officers who have raised fortunes for charity and never made mistakes. What they want to read are detailed accounts about the lives and acts of vicious and disgusting serial killers, merciless evil gangsters, the most depraved kind of perverts as well as corrupt law enforcers. And that, like it or not, is my market.
“And once we catch the Bible Killer, you’ll no doubt write a book about our mistakes leading to needless deaths, just as you did in your book about the Yorkshire Ripper? Or mebbe you’ll just wallow in the sensationalism of it, the horror and the gore and exploit the suffering of the poor victims.”
I took a breath. “I don’t exploit anyone.”
“Do ye not?” he smirked, those smarmy lips stretched like a pair of raw chipolata sausages. “Sure about that, are ye?” He leaned forward, pursing his lips even more as his voice dropped to a throaty mumble: “I’ll just bet some of your readers get their rocks off on all those detailed descriptions of the blood and gore at crime scenes you’re so good at. Something tells me you’ve an unhealthy interest in that side of things.”
I stood up. “If you’ve finished with me, perhaps I can leave?”
“And this isnae the first time you’ve been involved in a car accident where you ran someone down is it?”
I thought back to the rainy night some years ago now when the man ran out in front of my vehicle and I couldn’t stop.
“You killed Martin Gallica did ye not?”
“I was cleared of any blame.”
“Aye, I know that. But there was all that business where his sister killed herself, wasn’t there? She jumped off the roof of a department store, did she not, Dr Lockwood? There was talk of you being in the store at the time.”
“Can I go?”
“Aye you can.” He was all stiff formality again. “Once again, sir, please accept my apologies for your inconvenience.” He got to his feet and walked into the corridor with me, calling a constable to escort me out.
* * * *
A fresh-faced young officer had brought my Discovery to the main road in front of the police station. After I’d opened the door, tossed the plastic bag of my possessions onto the back seat and was about to get in, a man pushed in front of me, thrusting a hand across to slam the driver’s door. Stewart Billingham was a barrel-shaped character, whose fringe of lank mud-coloured hair hung down across his eyes. He was wearing a battered brown leather jacket over a white tee shirt with the words GET IN THE GROOVE emblazoned in red. A dirty fuzz of designer stubble served to accentuate his paucine features.
“I’ve gotta talk to you Jack.” his mouth was a hard line, splitting his face, like a gash across a Halloween pumpkin.
“No statement, Stewart. Not now.”
“Don’t want me to make guesses, do you?” The sour scent of his breath washed over me as he leaned in close. That was Stewart, a leaner-inwards, a whisperer in your ear, an invader of space. He thought that building such bridges of familiarity assured him of cooperation to get a story, and, to be fair, sometimes it worked with people who didn’t already know him. I had a close-up of a blackhead on his chin, drowning amongst the whiskers. “The editor wants me to put summat like Ex-psychiatric patient runs down innocent woman. You know that old bastard Matthews. He’s been aching for a chance to stir some shit for you, and now he’s gone and got and a sexy headline. But if I can get anything better I can squash it.”
“Stewart, I’ve had a hell of a night – “
“Believe me Jack, last thing I want to do is rake up that about your stay in St Michael’s, God knows.” His northern accent grated on my ears as his brows knotted in concern. “If it were up to me, I’d not mention it. But if I don’t do this piece, it’ll be that arsehole Carter, and he’ll wallow in dredging up the nutcase angle. How long ago was it you were an inpatient? Three years? Four? What did they call it? Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?”
“If you’d spent 48 hours tied to a chair in a room with two corpses and a killer periodically sticking a rusty old Webley revolver in your mouth and pulling the trigger, you’d have had mental problems too, believe me.”
He nodded sympathetically. “Me, I’d have the screaming ab-dabs. No question about it, pal, your nerves must be like razor bloody steel.”
Billingham, with his usual crassness, had managed to stir up all the memories I most wanted to forget. I’d been working as a BIA with a police team whose Senior Investigating Officer didn’t like me, and I’d got a tip that we’d find our suspect at a particular address in Bristol. Even though I’d phoned in the information and should have waited for backup, I went in anyway, and backup never arrived. A couple of years later I was exonerated, my reputation intact. But I’d had psychiatric problems in the interim, necessitating a stay in a psychiatric hospital, St Michael’s, a grim red-brick edifice of towers and echoing corridors on the outer edges of Surrey.
“Come on, Jack, this is me, Stu, you know I’m on your side. All I want is a juicy quote. Any truth in the rumour that she was a victim of the Bible Killer?”
“Ask the police Press Office.”
“She was escaping from the bastard and ran out in front of your car?”
“The police didn’t tell me anything.”
“But that’s your informed opinion?”
“That’s my totally uninformed opinion.”
Stewart’s meaty fist grabbed my shoulder as I tried to push him out of the way. “But they held you overnight, did they not?”
He shook his head sadly, hand still resting on my arm. “Why did they hold you?”
“The police released me without charge, and the woman’s recovering in hospital.”
“And the police reckon she was a Bible Killer victim?”
“As I said, Stu, ask their Press Office.”
“I like it. Bestselling true crime author involved in the kind of life-and-death drama he normally only writes about. Psychologist, Dr Jack Lockwood saved the life of the Bible Killer’s latest victim.”
Later, as I accelerated up the road I thought back to the years I’d known Stewart: his bluff remarks, tedious jokes, and crass insensitivity. He was different to me in almost every way.
I often wondered why he was my best friend.
* * * *
You’ll find my small 17th-century house, which was once the gatehouse of a large, now-demolished estate, at the end of an unmade road. I live alone, and there’s a part-built extension at the back that I’ve never got around to finishing. I parked in the front drive and walked through to my kitchen breakfast room which has a view out across the Glossop Valley below.
I had a snack and went to bed to make up for my sleepless night. When I woke up it was evening. Had the woman I’d hit with my car really been the latest intended victim of the Bible Killer? She’d clearly been attacked, beaten about the head, perhaps half strangled, and when she’d run in front of my car it had seemed as if she’d been running for her life. And she’d mentioned someone pursuing her.
So far, if indeed she was a Bible Killer victim, she was the only one of his victims to survive, and it would be a massive breakthrough if she could supply any clues as to his identity. By ‘his’, I of course meant his or her identity: serial killers can be females too, though it’s normally considered a male crime. The girl I’d knocked down with my car had said: Don’t let him get me but could I be sure she’d said ‘him’? Everything about that night was so confused it could equally have been her.
I thought back to the research I’d done on the Yorkshire Ripper. Only a couple of Peter Sutcliffe’s victims had survived, one of them had been attacked from behind and hadn’t seen the man, the other had given a fairly good description, but, because the police hadn’t linked her attack with the Ripper, no one had followed it up. After being beaten on the head with a hammer, one of the women had suffered from depression ever since. I’d even uncovered a theory that Sutcliffe himself had been involved in a road accident and sustained personality-changing head injuries, as, curiously, had the mass-murderer Fred West, who’d allegedly acquired such an injury resulting from a motorcycle accident.
I could only hope that last night’s victim’s injuries weren’t going to affect her in any permanent way. Stuart had told me her name: Caroline Lawrence.
It was 6pm in the evening, probably around the time that hospital visiting was allowed. The police had told me she was in St Aiden’s Hospital, so I drove back along the A2 to Canterbury arriving at St Aiden’s reception desk half an hour later.
“She’s in Edith Grendel Ward,” said the receptionist, dismissing me as she turned to the next person in the queue. “Sixth floor.”
As I rode up in the lift I reflected that it was unlikely the ward sister would let me see the injured woman, but if I explained my involvement, there was a chance she might at least be able tell me how Caroline was recovering.
I walked out onto the corridor, turning left for the doors above which it said ‘Edith Grendel Ward’. I obediently washed my hands with the alcohol cleaner at the wall machine, then pressed the button to open the ward doors and stepped through. At the end of the line of beds I could see a policewoman was sitting beside one of them.
No one stopped me approaching the officer, and when I came closer she looked up enquiringly. I explained who I was and why I was there. After phoning her sergeant and confirming my identity, she told me, unofficially, that the woman was out of danger, and would probably be able to talk soon. Her job was to wait and report on anything she might say when she first woke up. I thanked her and left, feeling relieved that things had apparently worked out so well.
Just as the lift doors were almost closed I saw someone’s face appear in the gap. I levered them open, to reveal a woman, her arms full of manila files.
“Phew, thanks!” she said with a friendly smile, stepping forward. “I want to get these back to Records before they close – as it is I probably won’t make it.” She was wearing a dark blue top and trousers, yet it didn’t match the uniforms of the nurses I’d seen so far. The name badge fixed to her tunic said Lucy Green.
And for some crazy reason I just couldn’t help staring at her.
For a fraction of a second I felt something like a bolt of electricity pass through my brain. Something, I didn’t know what, was incredibly, almost scaringly, familiar about her face. The someone walking over my grave moment passed, but it unnerved me. There was a cleft in her chin that I knew so well. That crease below her mouth, and also a certain look in her eyes were from a face I’d already seen, but where from I had absolutely no idea. I was shaken, but somehow excited at the same time. The crazy sensation lasted a few seconds as I stared at her.
She was studying me too.
“Excuse me asking,” she said, “but are you Jack Lockwood? The psychologist who writes books about crime?”
“Yes.” Relief flooded through me. “I know your face too, but I just can’t remember where we met.”
“I’ve never met you, as far as I know.” She regarded me seriously while the lift rattled in protest as it started its downward journey. I was barely aware of the movement, I was still lost in the strange sensation of staring at this woman who was having such a bizarre effect on me.
Lucy Green rearranged her grip on the pile of folders, clutching them closer to her chest, causing the topmost ones to slide forward and totter precariously. “I saw you on one of those late-night literary discussion programmes on BBC2 TV last year. I even read a bit of one of your books.”
She frowned, trying to remember. “Can’t remember the title. Something about serial killers, I think. I just looked at the opening chapter out of curiosity. It was certainly compulsive reading, but way too grisly for my taste.”
“Crime’s not your thing?”
She shook her head. “Don’t mind a bit of detective fiction, but not true crime. Scares me, I suppose. I always want a happy ending, where the killer gets caught and the heroine escapes his clutches. Life’s not always like that, is it? I don’t like facing that kind of reality.” She gave a bitter smile but there was a wariness about it, as if she was on the edge of saying something and then thought better of it.
And there it was again, that flutter of recognition.
My new friend appeared to be in her thirties, and her eyes were large and dark, her movements vivacious without being over-the-top. She was attractive rather than beautiful, with neat, dark, tastefully-styled shortish hair, a mouth that stretched into grimaces a little too much and eyebrows that almost met in the middle of her forehead; those eyebrows did their best to ameliorate the web of frown lines in her forehead that came and vanished at a moment’s notice.
The weird feeling that I’d met her before wouldn’t go away. I racked my brains. But the memory was as elusive and enigmatic as a lost dream.
The shuddering lift had almost rattled down to the ground floor. “Wait a minute,” she said slowly, her eyes narrowing. “Jack Lockwood the True Crime writer. Already in the lift when the only ward above us is Edith Grendel. Please tell me it’s a coincidence that we just happen to have a patient there who’s been the victim of an attack? The Bible Killer’s latest?”
“I came to see how she was.”
“Priceless!” she stepped backwards, glaring at me. “Couldn’t you have had the decency to wait until the killer’s been caught before you push in and ask questions?”
“Look I’m not – ”
“Don’t you think that poor girl’s had a bad enough experience already, without a self-seeking opportunist like you upsetting her?”
“Listen – ”
“I’m sorry, but this is so wrong. They surely didn’t let you talk to her?”
“She can’t talk to anyone.”
“Good! My God, I thought journalists were the lowest of the low, but you make the gutter press seem like saints! Did you know that girl nearly died?”
The lift had already stopped and the doors were open.
“Have you any idea – ”
As I brushed past her I accidentally knocked her arm, so that she dropped some of the files onto the floor, and, in scrambling to retrieve them, dropped the rest, so that their contents was spread across the lift floor in a tidal wave of paper. I stepped over her kneeling figure as she scrabbled around trying to gather things together.
* * * *
When I got home I found it hard to sleep. Lucy Green’s accusation of my being a self-seeking opportunist had upset me more than I realised. It wasn’t what she said, so much as the distaste in her eyes as she looked at me. In fact it was much more than that, it was something I couldn’t explain, a bizarre affinity I’d felt for her from the moment I’d set eyes on her face. An affinity that she obviously didn’t share, and the knowledge upset me deeply.
Lucy Green. Lucy. Again and again I concentrated on her face, but try as I might I couldn’t remember her features in detail. I remembered soulful dark eyes, dark hair, a turned-up nose. More than anything, for a reason I couldn’t explain, I longed to see her again.
All my life I’d heard those stories of seeing someone across a crowded room, an instant recognition, true love at first sight, and I’d dismissed it as nonsense. It had never happened to me before, not with the various girlfriends I’ve had, or even with my ex wife. The feeling was like a tidal wave, and all the more disquieting because I couldn’t rationalise it. I simply longed to see her again, and the longing was delicious, exciting, yet somehow toe-curlingly terrifying.
Then my thoughts ran back to the fact that earlier in the evening I’d had more email threats and phone messages from Sean Boyd. The biography I was writing about Boyd, a well known London ‘face’ in criminal circles, was causing me serious problems. Hero or Villain? honestly seemed to me to be a fairly non-controversial summary of the man’s childhood and career so far. Even if I was to have been stupid enough to allege his guilt in specific criminal activities, he ought surely to realise that Truecrime Publications would never print anything he could sue us for. In fact, it was going to be a fairly innocuous book, because of the wretched legal restrictions, something that would almost paint him in a Robin Hood light, so why on earth was he was so determined to prevent publication?
It was easy to get my agent’s contact details from my website, but not my personal numbers. Yet, somehow, Boyd had got hold of my private mobile number and personal email, and was constantly sending threatening texts and emails, warning me off writing the book. I’d discussed things with the police, who’d admitted there was nothing they could do about it. “Until,” the officer had cheerfully said, “they actually attack you.”
There was no alternative but to carry on and try to forget about it. And, of course, keep my wits about me.
* * * *
I woke up in the early hours, sweating with terror. It was the nightmare I hadn’t had for years now, that I’d hoped had gone forever. The one that always left me trembling for the several still-terrifying moments after I sprang awake.
It’s always daytime. The sun is shining in a beautiful clear blue sky. Suddenly someone much taller than me stops and looks down, blocking out the sunlight. I look up at them but I can’t clearly see their face, just a dark shadow where it should be. And then I feel pressure on my neck. The blind panic that follows is the worst part. The time when I can’t breathe, when I’m fighting for breath and everything begins to go dark. . .
I hadn’t had that dream since long before my experience with Van Meer, the man who’d tortured and nearly killed me, or my terrifying stay in St Michael’s. I had no idea where it came from, could barely remember when I’d first had it. All I could remember was the flavour of the fear. And I hated it.
As I lay there, my heartbeat gradually easing back to normality, I tried to think back to how long ago it was since I’d had that wretched dream. I couldn’t remember, but it had first happened in my early childhood, and come back periodically ever since, usually once every few years. Obviously the shock of finding poor Caroline on top of everything that had happened in the past few days had had an adverse effect on my subconscious, giving rise to that terrible, terrible dream that I’d hoped was buried once and for all. The funny thing about the dream is, that as a rule I’ve always found that with even the worst nightmare, there’s always one tiny corner of my mind that stays apart, allowing me to know, deep down, that it isn’t really happening, that it is only a dream. But with this particular night adventure I could never do that. Every time, it’s as real as if I’m wide awake, and doubly terrifying. I’m powerless, I’m dying, and there’s nothing in the world I can do to fight back.
Rubbing my eyes, I wondered whether to get up and walk around, or just lie back and hope for a sweeter dream to cleanse away my terror. Eventually I lay back and drifted off again, thankful to enjoy oblivion for several more hours. I overslept, so that it wasn’t until 10.30 in the morning that I heard the crash from downstairs. At first I thought it was a dream.
But the sound of tinkling glass and the thudding footsteps on the stairs were real.
I leapt out of bed, in time to see the door slam back and bounce against the wall, and a tall figure wearing a Coco-the-Clown mask. There were others behind him, moving fast, filling the room. Before I’d worked out what to do, two of them were holding my arms, pulling me up against the wall, while the others were systematically beating my body with baseball bats. As I stopped struggling, they slackened their hold, allowing me to slide to my knees. Then they really went to town.
I had a close-up views of heavy boots against my face, hard steel-capped toes, smashing into my chest and arms and legs. It went on for what seemed like hours, but was in reality probably more like minutes.
When they’d finished I was cowered on the floor, my hands up to protect my face. Between my fingers I had a surreal image of Donald Duck’s face floating down to my level.
“Listen mate,” he rasped. “This is your one and only warning. You stop writing Sean Boyd’s biography or we’ll come back and bury you. That’s not a threat, it’s a promise. It’ll be quick and clean. And you won’t know where or when.”
As he said it, one of the others handed him what looked like a plumber’s blowlamp.
There was a pop as the blue flame sprung alive, then the roar of the burning gas.
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