You know, when I began writing, I never realized how much it would become a therapy for me but also a big part of my life. It feels strange that you haven’t met Nikki fully yet but, although her book is a nice big juicy one, it took a long time to get that way. I think I’ve heard a lot of my writing colleagues saying how they need to write and it is very strange how, when I’m working on writing or editing or publishing a book, that I feel happier and at ease even though I always get a bit fraught when publishing because I do like everything to be as polished and perfected as I can so that readers can enjoy meeting characters I adore.
So, although C.H.I.S started out as me attempting to stick to a police procedural, I also wanted a different approach in regards to character so I gave myself the added challenge to keep the book only in Nikki’s POV—a change from my other books.
I had written and rewritten a different story not involving Nikki which was very close to my heart but in a singular voice. That particular story is one I’ve been writing and rewriting for seven years or slightly more but, when she’s ready, she’ll be ready—you can’t rush women, they get grumpy.
As for Nikki, although she’s had makeovers and tweaks, her raw energy, I hope still shines through. It was tricky to trust myself and believe in how she is on the page but, even as I work on the publishing of her story, I’m still making minor adjustments. There’s some new characters to get to know and you’ll notice that her best friend is called Sam and that is because I wanted to flip the name onto someone wonderful as Sam in Aeron’s series is not overly liked (with good reason) and Sam’s surname, Newton, comes from the name of a local beach—and yes, she’s a psychiatrist, and no, I have no idea why I seem to like that profession so much!
Then there’s the affable Doctor Janeen May, who you will meet in the scene below, who never fails to make me smile and bounces off Nikki with ease because, what is story about the police and detectives without medical experts to assist? In particular ones who knit and tango?
So I shall leave you to catch up with Nikki at the crime scene…
(Covert Human Intelligence Source)
Copyright © 2020 Jody Klaire.
All rights reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any means, electronic or mechanical without permission in writing from the author and publisher.
Please note: all scenes are the intellectual property of the author and that online exclusive scenes may differ from the published version.
When Freshwater had pulled me from witness protection, I’d created an identity as Detective Sergeant Michelle Taylor. I still bore Michelle’s bright blonde hair and matching eyebrows—which Sam hadn’t been impressed by—and, since leaving Swansea all those years ago, I’d worn contact lenses that changed my eye colour from hazel to brown but Michelle needed light blue contacts; she also needed a false piece on my nose that changed its shape because when you adjusted someone’s nose, their face was almost unrecognisable—I looked respectable with the nose in place. In addition, I bore a fake slice of skin that hid the tattoo on the underside of my left wrist and both skin pieces were welded in place by a super-glue like substance.
I couldn’t exactly take Sam with me to a crime scene so I dropped her to her place in Carmarthen, about fifteen minutes west of Swansea, and then I double-triple-umpteen-checked I really did look like Michelle as I sped back to Singleton Park through the urban orange and white-blue lights.
It didn’t matter how much I checked, I could feel the eyes of the city scouring me for an answer to why I’d left. Yes, Swansea could see through my disguise and the prickle of fear crawled over my skin as I pulled up next to the chaos of emergency services blocking the entrance to the park.
The icy sea air hit me as I focused on walking as Michelle—like a farmer—and tugged at my white paper suit to pull out the warrant card Freshwater had supplied me with. I stopped and tried not to roll my eyes. Yeah, if my father could see me now, he’d laugh into his handcuffs.
‘DS Taylor,’ I mumbled to the constable on the outer cordon, making sure my voice was lighter and higher, and that I had a Bridgend lilt.
The constable lifted the police tape and I headed inside as the ambulances to my right closed up and drove away. Up ahead, a guy more wrinkly than a bloodhound stood next to the inner cordon as if waiting for me.
‘You were quicker than I expected,’ the guy grunted and held out his hand. ‘DC Weatherspoon, Arthur. You just missed the grown-ups.’
‘What do we have?’ I asked trying not to glance at the rustling trees overhead. Singleton Park was a lovely snatch of green during the day but a dimly lit no-go area at night. At least it had been when I was growing up.
‘Sarah and Ben were in the park at around twenty three hundred,’ he said as he shuffled me toward the cordon. ‘There were several shots fired, Sarah was hit and died instantly. Ben remained with her until the ambulance crew sedated him and took him to the hospital.’
‘Sarah and Ben?’ Sounded informal considering he was in police briefing mode.
‘Yes,’ he said and slowed. ‘DS Sarah Edmunds and DS Ben Flint.’ Weatherspoon rubbed his hand over his wrinkly jowls. ‘Sarah was a kid. I’d say even younger than you…’ His eyes glistened with tears. ‘Firearms team showed at twenty three fifteen and found another body in the north of the park. Looks like they just strayed into some gang shootout.’
I tensed. ‘Gang shootout… in Swansea?’
‘We’ve had trouble before,’ he said and headed to the uniform at the inner cordon. ‘A few years back we had a full battle of some kind. It was a right mess.’ He sighed. ‘CSM is waiting to talk to you.’
I nodded and ducked under the cordon.
‘Taylor?’ a young guy just out of nappies chirped from inside the tent.
‘Surprised Doctor May isn’t here,’ I muttered back, avoiding the poor CSI officers labelling every blade of grass. Unlike the police, they had to get up close and personal to the scene.
‘Doctor May examined the body then was called to the other scene.’ The guy was a bit too smooth for someone in a paper suit. Short, slim, and he slicked his black hair back with something close to oil. ‘She hoped you’d be involved. Her exact words were: Sarah was shot in the spleen and heart areas, the gunshots were from behind and from preliminary findings that indicates the south east direction.’ He pointed to my right and the narrow dark pathway toward a notorious block of toilets.
The pathway was dark but the toilets offered dim, circular, dirt-covered lights that barely made the steps down to them visible. Then again, most people who visited them at night didn’t want to be seen.
‘Was DS Flint shot?’ I scanned up toward the north again. It was even darker that way with an entrance out onto a little track that the groundsmen used.
‘No.’ the guy pointed to the blood on the pathway. ‘That’s all we have so far.’
I knelt down and focused on what was visible. The blood had pooled where Sarah must have fallen and two CSIs were marking up sections to the north west which could have been arterial spray but there was also a third CSI marking up a section to the south east which looked equally as suspect.
‘Have you found any firearms?’ I asked and glanced back at Weatherspoon. Hopefully he knew why two detectives were in a park near the dodgiest set of toilets at night. They had to have been on a surveillence operation but, if that was the case, the police would have known who the killer was already.
‘None so far. Doctor May wants you to see her.’ Mr Slick, the forensics guy, waved at my suit. ‘But let her come to see you.’
‘Really?’ I pursed my lips at him. Yes, I had fallen asleep several times during my forensics torture sessions but something useful had stuck. ‘Because I was going to roll around on the ground just to give you more of a challenge.’
He scowled at me.
I rolled my eyes and headed back to Weatherspoon. ‘Were you running a trade purchase or something?’
Weatherspoon shook his head. ‘No, only Ben and Sarah were present.’
I strode toward the north of the park feeling panic clench up my stomach and I checked my nose was in place, twice. ‘We’re they on duty?’
‘No.’ Weatherspoon shrugged and patted down his paper suit.
‘So, what you’re saying is that two detectives so happened to be in a park when there was a gang shootout?’ I slowed and studied him. ‘Were they an item?’
Weatherspoon sighed. ‘No, Sarah is—was…’ He cleared his throat. ‘Sarah was engaged to Greg… our DCI.’
I doubted Freshwater had been happy with that. ‘Then why was she in a dark park at night with another man?’
‘That’s what Greg asked him… then tried to knock him out.’ He shuffled along beside me, muttering down at his paper shoes. ‘Ben said they were getting takeaway.’
‘I didn’t see any food.’ I spotted Doctor May up ahead and waved.
‘My thoughts exactly.’ Weatherspoon rubbed over his face again. ‘Ben broke down pretty badly then, Greg too…’
‘Why don’t you head home too.’ I offered him my best, sympathetic smile. I wasn’t known for my sympathetic side but Freshwater had warned me to find one or she’d tell Daddy Dearest what I’d done. ‘There’s plenty of uniforms to guard the scene.’
He shrugged, then nodded and shuffled off.
I turned to May who was in her late forties with scraped back grey hair, a cheeky twinkle in her eye and a very nice hourglass figure. She dressed to hide it but somehow that made it all the more attention-grabbing.
‘Whole team is knocked sideways,’ May muttered as she reached me. The cheeky twinkle was gone and she looked as shell-shocked as Weatherspoon. ‘Sarah was a lovely girl.’
‘That’s why I’m helping.’ I’d lost plenty of friends and officers as a Marine. It was expected when you were a Marine and even then it ripped the guts right out of you. It wasn’t expected when you were a civilian police officer.
May nodded, then straightened up. ‘Body is of a fifty-something Caucasian male, bald, heavy smoker, evidence of substance abuse from the damage to his nostrils. He was armed with several firearms which I’ll have ballistics run but one was a 9mm Glock which had been filed. He was shot at least ten times from my preliminary examination and was killed minutes after Sarah.’
I ignored the shiver trying to take hold. ‘Do you know what Sarah was killed with?’
‘I strongly suspect it is a 9mm Browning.’ May looked down at her hands which never shook but they were trembling. ‘I’ll have to confirm that but it matches the M.O.’
‘Of?’ I glanced over my shoulder and then took her hand and squeezed it.
‘I’ve been at two crime scenes recently with women around Sarah’s age. They were shot in the heart and spleen by a 9mm Browning.’ May gripped onto my hand, keeping her chin jutted out like she wasn’t allowed to be human. ‘The male body was shot in countless places but not the heart.’
‘Two unconnected killings in one park?’ I shook my head. I wasn’t buying it. ‘Were the team working on that case?’
‘Michelle, I’m a pathologist and CSM, I’m not involved.’ May’s tone was as posh, curt and unyielding as always but she gripped my hand like she wanted to cry.
‘But you know who comes to talk to you in your lab.’ I tugged her closer and wrapped my arm around her shoulders. ‘And you, like Weatherspoon, need to go home.’
‘I can’t.’ May shook her head but didn’t move. ‘Sarah was working on the case, yes.’
I led her toward the south entrance to the park. ‘Then let me get you some tea and you can leave the college kid to do something useful.’
She managed a smile as I signed us out. ‘Doctor Patel is very capable.’
‘Yes, I’m sure his teachers feel that way too.’ I sat her in the passenger seat of my car and stuck the heated seats on. ‘Freshwater has every police officer scouring the city, we’ve got firearms out, we’ve got another MIT team talking to the DCI and we have internal affairs on the case.’ I stuck the seatbelt over her. ‘You’ll be more use to them when you have shown me how to knit.’
May didn’t argue as I drove us toward her place near the Mumbles. It was unlike May not to argue. I didn’t like it.
‘What I don’t understand is…’ She said as she climbed out of the car and let me take her into her house and plonk her on her sofa. ‘…what I don’t understand is why, if there’s so many people covering… why you are making me tea.’
‘I have expertise in gang related subjects,’ I said and fished out her knitting bag. I may or may not have buttered her up a lot when I was in Blue Team. Get her knitting and she opened up beautifully. ‘Undercover and all that.’
May nodded, not really listening, not really with it and I pulled off my paper suit trying not to show how rattled I was. I needed to stay out of the way. Disguise or not, I had far too much expertise in gang related subjects.
Yes, Freshwater had plenty of personnel to find Sarah’s killer but they didn’t have my past. Guess I was sticking around for a while.