BAD COPS by Nick Oldham is the twenty-fifth title in the Henry Christie series, which sees Detective Superintendent Henry Christie agree to travel across the country to the fictional region of Central Yorkshire to carry out an urgent review of two killings. What Henry doesn’t realise is that he’s about to be plunged into a terrifying world of murder and corruption – one where he’ll discover just how bad some cops can be when their backs are against the wall . . . Check out this preview below!
‘Who’s the guy?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘In that case, you need to find out and then do what you have to do.’
‘What the hell does that mean?’
‘You fucking know – sort it, sort him, sort them . . . I don’t have time for this shit just now.’
Detective Chief Inspector Jane Runcie ended the call on her iPhone with an angry stab of her thumb and hissed the word, ‘Tosser.’ She slid the device back into her trouser pocket, wiped the grimy sweat from her forehead, caught her breath and then gathered her ponytail at the back of her head, slid off the elastic band, bunched her hair and fitted the band again.
She had wanted to take the call from Silverthwaite, but it had come in at an inopportune moment to say the least. With her nostrils flaring wide, she looked down at the unmoving form of the man at her feet lying splayed out, face down on the painted concrete floor of cell number six in wing two. It was her favourite cell because, despite its low number, it was situated furthest away from the custody office.
A pool of blood was spreading wide from the man’s crushed face on the non-porous surface.
Runcie swore and squatted down on her haunches, reaching out with the index and middle fingers of her right hand to check for a pulse in the soft flesh just under the man’s chin in the carotid artery.
It was still there. Weak, but there.
‘Is he still alive?’ Runcie rose stiffly to her full height, her knees popping. She was a tall, rangy woman, just under six feet tall without heels, so she usually wore flats to work. She eyed the man standing opposite her on the other side of the prostrate guy, noticing his suit, like hers, was splattered with flecks of blood.
”Course he fucking is,’ she said.
‘What do we do now?’ The man, older than Runcie, wiped his face, which was also blood-spattered, stretching his tired features.
Runcie’s face twitched. Under her calm exterior, her mind was racing, working out the angles, the possibilities, thinking about what she had in place for eventualities like this – a man beaten half to death in a police cell.
She put her hands on her hips.
‘Let’s think.’ She invited the man – his name was John Saul and he was a detective constable – to consider. ‘We have a man lying on the floor in front of us, who we strongly believe of being the man who abducted and raped four children and murdered them, burying their bodies in the woods . . .’
‘Yet he denies it,’ Saul pointed out insipidly.
‘Oh, he did it, he fucking did it,’ Runcie stated with exacting certainty. ‘So I think this: he’s been in police custody, been released without charge after interview, decided he can take no more and, in a fit of despairing remorse, he tops himself . . . What do you reckon to that scenario?’
A smile quivered on Saul’s lips. ‘All fits,’ he agreed. ‘Just a bit of a problem.’ Saul looked down at the man’s body, which shuddered slightly as a moan escaped from his mouth.
Still very much alive.
Runcie nodded. ‘You got your two p’s?’ she asked. Saul nodded. ‘How many prisoners are along this corridor as we speak?’
‘Four, I think.’
‘OK, you sort out the CCTV while I speak to the custody officer.’
The two detectives backed out of the cell, closing the heavy, steel-clad door with a gentle clunk. They walked quietly down the cell corridor, Runcie pausing at each cell that was occupied, easily identifiable as all empty cells were left with the doors wide open. She put her eye to each circular, toughened glass peephole just above the inspection hatches and peered into each cell.
Saul had been correct. Four prisoners in total. Two were laid out on their benches, sleeping soundly. The other two were awake, both sitting on the benches, their legs drawn up. As Runcie’s eyes appeared at the holes, each man looked up at her. One stayed seated; the other rose and crossed to the door, but Runcie did not stay to talk.
She and Saul entered the custody office where the single sergeant on duty was making entries into custody records, keeping them up to date. Her name was PS Anna Calder and she eyed the detectives warily as they split.
Runcie approached the sergeant while Saul went to a small office behind the custody desk.
The young sergeant looked strained as Runcie leaned on the desk.
‘The cameras are going off for five minutes,’ the DCI said. ‘That pesky intermittent fault.’
The sergeant’s throat rose and fell visibly as she seemed to swallow something approaching the size of half a house brick. ‘Why?’ she whispered huskily.
‘We’re taking him out . . . so he needs to be booked out, released with no charge,’ Runcie explained.
‘OK,’ Calder said weakly. It was now clear that her mouth had dried up as she swallowed and licked her lips.
Runcie reached across and gripped the woman’s shoulder, grasping her epaulette, which displayed the shiny sergeant’s stripes. ‘Don’t worry, lass . . . it’s all under control.’
She arched her eyebrows and nodded reassuringly. ‘Get his property out and his custody record and get it signed out to him.’
‘I’ll need his signature.’
‘Just mark it, “refused to sign”.’ DC Saul appeared from the back office and gave Runcie a quick thumbs up: the CCTV cameras covering the custody suite had been dealt with. The sergeant unlocked and opened the prisoners’ property cupboard and removed a large, sealed polythene ziplocked bag with the name Sowerbutts on the label. She broke the seal, tipped the few contents on to the desk and made the entry in the record as instructed. Runcie watched her calculatingly. ‘On the custody record itself, put an entry to the effect that the prisoner has been interviewed, denies all offences and, until further evidence is uncovered – or otherwise – has been released without charge. You know the wording.’
The sergeant nodded and complied with a shaking pen.
Runcie looked at Saul. ‘Two-pence pieces?’
Saul shuffled a handful of the copper-coloured coins out on to his palm, four of them and a small ball of Blu-Tack.
Runcie smiled conspiratorially. ‘You know what to do with them.’
He disappeared into the cell corridor.
Runcie followed a few moments later, then both entered the cell of the injured man.
Saul hoofed him over on to his back and recoiled slightly at the vision of the man’s smashed and flattened face, damaged beyond recognition. ‘Shit. He’s a mess.’ He blew out his cheeks.
‘And a rapist, a child molester and murderer,’ Runcie reminded him.
‘Yeah, yeah,’ he conceded.
‘You take his shoulders, I’ll do the legs.’
Saul was a very long-in-the-tooth detective, just short of the f ifty mark, but was still a big, handy man with good strength across his chest and shoulders. He slid his hands under the prisoner’s armpits and heaved him up while Runcie grabbed his ankles. They began to manoeuvre him out of the cell and down the corridor, carrying him between them like a roll of carpet, leaving a smear of blood the full length of the passageway.
As Runcie shuffled along, she checked each occupied cell and saw that Saul’s two-pence pieces were still in place, effectively blocking each peephole in which the coins were a perfect fit, held in place by the Blu-Tack.
Best, she thought, to have no hostile witnesses.
BAD COPS by Nick Oldham is published 29 December 2017 in the UK, and in eBook and in hardback in the USA on 1 April 2018. For further information on Nick and his work, please visit our website here.