A decorated policeman is murdered on the tranquil grounds of the St. Peter's Police Treatment Centre, shot through the heart with a crossbow arrow, and compromising photographs are discovered in his room.
Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks is well aware that he must handle the highly sensitive and dangerously explosive investigation with the utmost discretion. And as he digs deeper, he discovers that the murder may be linked to an unsolved missing persons case from six years earlier—and the current crime may involve some very bad, crooked cops.
A pulsating, electrifying novel of suspense Watching the Dark is one of Peter Robinson’s finest novels.
“Ambitious…Robinson shows a keen awareness of the global reach of crime.”—New York Times Book Review
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Watching the Dark
By Peter Robinson
HarperCollins PublishersCopyright © 2013 Peter Robinson
All rights reserved.
On nights when pain kept her awake, Lorraine Jenson would get up around dawn and go outside to sit on one of the wicker chairs before anyone else in the center was stirring. With a tartan blanket wrapped around her shoulders to keep out the early-morning chill, she would listen to the birds sing as she enjoyed a cup of Earl Grey, the aromatic steam curling from its surface, its light, delicious scent filling her nostrils. She would smoke her first cigarette of the day, always the best one.
Some mornings, the small artificial lake below the sloping lawn was covered in mist, which shrouded the trees on the other side. Other times, the water was a still, dark mirror that reflected the detail of every branch and leaf perfectly. On this fine April morning, the lake was clear, though the water's surface was ruffled by a cool breeze, and the reflections wavered.
Lorraine felt her pain slough off like a layer of dead skin as the pain killers kicked in, and the tea and cigarette soothed her frayed nerves. She placed her mug on the low wrought iron table beside her chair and adjusted the blanket around her shoulders. She was facing south, and the sun was creeping over the hill through the trees on her left. Soon the spell would be broken. She would hear the sounds of people getting up in the building behind her, voices calling, doors opening, showers running, toilets flushing, and another day to be got through would begin.
As the light grew stronger, she thought she could see something, like a bundle of clothes, on the ground at the edge of the woods on the far side of the lake. That was unusual, as Barry, the head groundsman and general estate manager, was proud of his artificial lake and his natural woodlands, so much so that some people complained he spent far more time down there than he did keeping the rest of the extensive grounds neat and tidy.
Lorraine squinted, but she couldn't bring the object into clearer focus. Her vision was still not quite what it had been. Gripping the arms of her chair, she pushed herself to her feet, gritting her teeth at the red hot pokers of pain that seared through her left leg, despite the Oxycontin, then she took hold of her crutch and made her way down the slope. The grass was still wet with dew, and she felt it fresh and cool on her bare ankles as she walked.
When she got to the water's edge, she took the cinder path that skirted the lake and soon arrived on the other side, at the edge of the woods, which began only a few feet away from the water. Even before then, she had recognized what it was that lay huddled there. Though she had seen dead bodies before, she had never actually stumbled across one. She was alone with the dead now, for the first time since she had stood by her father's coffin in the funeral home.
Lorraine held her breath. Silence. She thought she heard a rustling deep in the woods, and a shiver of fear rippled through her. If the body were a victim of murder, then the killer might still be out there, watching her. She remained completely still for about a minute, until she was certain there was nobody in the woods. She heard the rustling again and saw a fox making its way through the undergrowth.
Now that she was at the scene, Lorraine's training kicked in. She was wary of disturbing anything, so she kept her distance. Much as she wanted to move in closer and examine the body, see if it was someone she knew, she restrained herself. There was nothing she could do, she told herself; the way he - for it was definitely a man - was kneeling with his body bent forward, head touching the ground like a parody of a Muslim at prayer, there was no way he was still alive. The best thing she could do was stay here and protect the scene. Murder or not, it was definitely a suspicious death, and whatever she did, she could not screw up now. Cursing the pain that rippled through her leg whenever she moved, Lorraine fumbled for her mobile in her jeans pocket and phoned Eastvale police station.
There was something about Bach that suited the early morning perfectly, DCI Alan Banks thought as he drove out of Gratly toward the St. Peter's Police Convalescence and Treatment Center, four miles north of Eastvale, shortly after dawn that morning. He needed something to wake him up and keep his attention engaged, get the old gray cells buzzing, but nothing too loud, nothing too jarring or emotionally taxing. Alina Ibragimova's CD of Bach's sonatas and partitas for violin was just right. Bach both soothed and stimulated the mind at once. Banks knew St. Peter's. He had visited Annie Cabbot there several times during her recent convalescence. Just a few short months ago he had seen her in tears trying to walk on crutches, and now she was due back at work on Monday. He was looking forward to that; life had been dull for the past while without her.
He took the first exit from the roundabout and drove alongside the wall for about a hundred yards before arriving at the arched entrance and turning left on the tarmac drive. There was no gate or gatehouse, but the first officers to arrive on the scene had quite rightly taped off the area. A young PC waved Banks down to check his ID and note his name and time of entry on a clipboard before lifting the tape and letting him through.
Driving up to the car park was like arriving at a luxury spa hotel, Banks had always thought when he visited Annie. It was no different today. St. Peter's presented a broad south facing facade at the top of the rise that led down to the lake and surrounding woods. Designed by a firm of Leeds architects, with Vanbrugh in mind, and built of local stone in the late nineteenth century, it was three stories high and had a flagged portico, complete with simple Doric columns at the front and two wings, east and west. Though not so extensive as some other local examples, the grounds were landscaped very much in the style and spirit of Capability Brown, with the lake and woods and rolling lawns. There was even a folly. To the west, beyond the trees and lawns, the outlines of Swainsdale's hills and fells could be seen, forming a backdrop of what the Japanese called borrowed scenery, which merged nature with art.
The forensic team had got there before Banks, which seemed odd until he remembered that a detective inspector had made the initial call. Kitted out in disposable white coveralls, they were already going about their business. The crime scene photographer, Peter Darby, was at work with his battered old Nikon SLR and his ultramodern digital video recorder. Most So Cos - or CSIs, as they now liked to be called - also took their own digital photos and videos when they searched a scene, but though Peter Darby accepted the use of video, he shunned digital photography as being far too susceptible to tampering and error. It made him a bit of a dinosaur, and one or two of the younger techies cracked jokes behind his back. He could counter by boasting that he had never had any problems with his evidence in court, and he had never lost an image because of computer problems. DI Lorraine Jenson, a lone, hunched figure resting her weight on a crutch by the water's edge and jotting in her notebook, stood with two other people about five or six yards away from the body. Banks knew her slightly from a case he had worked a few months ago that crossed the border into Humberside, where she worked. Not long ago, he had heard, she'd had a run-in with a couple of drug dealers in a tower block, which ended with her falling from a second-floor balcony. She had sustained multiple fractures of her left leg, but after surgery, the cast and physio, she would be back at work soon enough.
"What a turn-up," she said. "Me finding a body."
Banks gestured toward the CSIs. "I see you've already called in the lads."
"Judgment call. I thought it best not to waste any time. The divisional duty inspector made all the decisions." She turned to introduce the others. "By the way, this is Barry Sadler, estate manager, and Mandy Pemberton, the night nurse."
Banks greeted them, then asked them if they would mind returning to the main building, where they would be asked for statements. Still in shock, they headed up the slope.
"Who's the crime scene manager?" Banks asked Lorraine.
"Excellent." Stefan Nowak was one of the best. He would protect his scene to the death, if necessary, but he was still a delight to work with, Banks found, a charming, witty and intelligent man. Banks glanced toward the body, slumped forward by the tree line. "Know who he is?"
"Not yet," said Lorraine. "But I might when I see his face. If he's from here, that is."
It was too early for Dr. Glendenning, the Home Office pathologist, who lived in Saltburn, so the police surgeon, Dr. Burns, knelt over the body making notes in his little black book. Banks squatted beside him and watched, hands on his knees.
"Ah, Alan," said Burns. "I'd like to get him turned over, if I may?"
"Peter Darby finished with his camera?"
Banks studied the body for a few moments and, finding nothing particularly interesting or unusual about it except for its odd position, helped Dr. Burns. Carefully, they turned the body over on its back. As soon as they had done so, they exchanged puzzled glances. Banks stood up. He heard Lorraine Jenson, hovering over them, give a faint gasp.
Something was sticking out of the man's chest. On first appearances, it resembled the kind of wooden stake that Van Helsing wielded to kill vampires in the old Hammer films, though it had feathers on the end, like an arrow. But it was too deeply embedded to be an ordinary arrow. "Looks like a crossbow bolt," said Banks.
"I think you're right," Dr. Burns agreed.
"We don't get many of those around these parts." In fact, Banks couldn't remember ever investigating a crossbow murder before. "I can hardly say it's my area of expertise, either," said Dr. Burns. "I'm sure Dr. Glendenning will be able to tell you more, once he gets him on the table." Dr. Burns stood up. His knees cracked. "From the position and angle, I'd say it almost certainly pierced his heart. He would have died almost instantaneously. Of course, he might have been poisoned first, but there are no apparent signs of strangulation, bruising or other physical trauma."
"Do you reckon he was killed here, or was he moved after death?" Dr. Burns unbuttoned the man's shirt and examined the shoulders and chest area. "These are lividity marks, hypostasis, which means he's been in this position for some time, and the blood has pooled here. But I can't say for certain. Not until Dr. Glendenning does the PM. It certainly seems as if he dropped to his knees, then keeled over and fell forward, so that his head rested on the ground. You can see there are traces of blood on the grass there, approximately where his heart would have been directly above it. That's consistent with his injuries. There isn't much blood. Most of the bleeding will have been internal." Dr. Burns pointed toward the woods. "The shot probably came from where those CSIs are working around that tree, say fifty, sixty feet away. Hard to miss at that range, but it means your shooter could also stay hidden by the trees, in case anyone from the center happened to be watching out of a window."
Banks glanced at Lorraine Jenson, who was still staring, horrified, at the crossbow bolt in the man's chest. "He seems vaguely familiar to me," said Banks, "but I've met a lot of coppers in my time. Do you recognize him now, Lorraine?"
Lorraine nodded slowly, a little pale. "It's Bill," she said. "DI Bill Quinn. He was a patient here, too."
"Bloody hell," said Banks. "Bill Quinn. I thought I recognized him."
"You knew him, too?"
"Only in passing. He worked out of Millgarth, in Leeds, with DI Ken Blackstone." Banks paused and turned back to Dr. Burns, who was busy with his thermometer. "Time of death?"
"As usual, I can't be really precise. You've seen the lividity. Rigor's started, but it isn't complete yet. Judging by the temperature, I'd say he's been dead about seven or eight hours. I'd guess that he was killed no later than one in the morning, say, and no earlier than eleven last night. Of course, that's only an estimate. You might do better pinning down his movements, such as when he was last seen. It shouldn't be too difficult in a place like this."
"Just hoping you might be able to save us some time."
"Actually, you have," said Banks. "Two hours is a pretty good window to work with. Wouldn't it have been too dark for the killer to shoot?"
"As I said, the killer was probably pretty close," Dr. Burns answered. "Maybe even closer than I estimated. It was a clear night, and there was a bright three-quarters moon, very few clouds. The victim would have made an easy enough target against the backdrop of the building, especially if the killer knew his way around a crossbow. I don't think it would have been too difficult at all."
Banks squatted again and went through the dead man's pockets. He found nothing and decided that that, in itself, was odd. When he mentioned it, Dr. Burns said, "Maybe he left his stuff in his room? You don't usually need your wallet and mobile if you're just nipping out for a quick walk before bedtime."
Excerpted from Watching the Dark by Peter Robinson. Copyright © 2013 by Peter Robinson. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.
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