Art Marvik, former Royal Marine Commando, is surprised to receive an unexpected summons to meet Helen Shannon, a woman he helped on his first mission, in the middle of the night. When a body is discovered in her flat, Marvik is convinced that Helen is being framed for murder, but why and by whom?
Shortly afterwards, the head of the National Marine Intelligence Squad, Detective Chief Superintendent Crowder, asks him to investigate the disappearance of a salvage vessel, the Mary Jo, which went missing in 2003. As he delves into the past, it becomes clear that Marvik faces a desperate battle to keep Helen and others safe from a ruthless assassin – one who will stop at nothing in order to protect the secret of the Mary Jo’s last voyage from ever being exposed. Here’s a preview…
Harold Road was a mixture of decaying terraced houses interspersed with ugly low-rise flats, five-storey Edwardian houses which had long passed their glory days and shabby shops, many vacant with To Let boards in the windows but a few still operational – a launderette, a bicycle shop, a Chinese takeaway and, as they progressed further westward, the modern convenience store Helen had mentioned, with a small car park, and beyond that a café on the corner.
‘Home sweet home,’ she announced, waving a hand at the dilapidated Edwardian house next to the convenience store, which was closed. It was the end one of a terrace of four set back from the pavement with what had once been front gardens but were now paved over for vehicles. Only one car, a rusty old Ford, was parked at the front of the house.
‘Not mine,’ she said, reaching for her key as they climbed the six stone steps to the scuffed and scarred door. A light shone dimly from the basement window, but aside from that, the building, like its neighbours, was in darkness. Discarded crisp packets, sweet wrappers, paper coffee cups and polystyrene takeaway food cartoons swirled around the forecourt. Three black wheelie bins lined the coloured stone-patterned path. The house occupied five floors, which included the basement and attic rooms.
‘I’m on the third floor at the front. That’s Gavin’s flat.’ She pointed to the one to her left on the ground floor. She made to switch on the hall light but Marvik put a hand on her arm. He had already retrieved his torch from his rucksack.
She rolled her eyes as if to say more James Bond stuff but he thought she seemed edgy, which was natural if he was correct about what she had been through. No one was watching the house and no one had followed them. It was still dark – the sun wouldn’t rise for another hour.
The torch’s powerful beam swept the grime-laden, dusty hall with its smell of dirt and stale food. He didn’t like to think of Helen living in such a place, coming here after a day’s work. It was enough to make anyone despair. Ahead, the narrow corridor led to a door – to another flat, he assumed – while halfway down the corridor, which contained a bicycle and a pushchair, steps led down to the basement flat where the sound of a fretful baby was coming from. Even to his untrained ears, it sounded hungry.
Helen made to speak but he indicated to her to keep silent. She shrugged and followed him up the stairs to the third floor. No one disturbed them. There she took a key from the pocket of her jacket. Marvik couldn’t explain why but he felt uneasy. Was Helen’s apprehension and tension rubbing off on him? Her breath was coming a little faster and she seemed to be holding back. Had she told him a lie about being followed because she couldn’t bear to step inside the flat where Bradshaw had assaulted her? Maybe. But Marvik knew it was more than that. Something smelt wrong and it wasn’t just the drains. The door was intact; there was nothing to indicate it had been forced. And nothing to show that anyone lay in wait for them behind it but, just as he had on past operations, he knew instinctively there was danger.
As she made to open the door he took the key from her hand and moved ahead of her, blocking her way thrusting back the door so it crashed against the wall. No one was behind it. He stepped inside and let his torch play over the room. Its beam froze as it alighted on the body of a man lying on the floor. Swiftly, Marvik turned, pulled Helen in and placed his other hand across her mouth, causing her to start violently. Still holding her tightly, he kicked the door shut behind him and ran the torch over the bundle on the floor.
‘Is that Ian Bradshaw?’ he asked quietly as the beam of light fell on the wide, staring, sightless eyes.
‘You won’t scream?’
She shook her head. He withdrew his hand.
‘I never scream,’ she said indignantly, swallowing hard. ‘But I do swear. Holy shit.’
LOST VOYAGE by Pauline Rowson is out now in the UK and published in eBook, and in hardback in the USA, on 1 November 2017. For further information on Pauline Rowson and her work please visit our website here.