Gripping mysteries that twist and turn!


Who doesn’t have at least one skeleton in the closet?

But if you had more than one, which would rattle loudest?

Dave Slater returns to work after an injury to find himself embroiled in yet another disciplinary shambles. His interrogation at the hands of the aptly named Detective Inspector Grimm is interrupted, however, when Tinton Police Station is rocked by an explosion.

When Slater rushes to the scene, he is shocked to find a bomb blast has killed a friend and colleague – who shouldn’t even have been in the building in the first place. Vowing to find justice for his friend, Slater throws himself into the investigation to find the mystery bomber.

But he soon finds secrets lie just below the surface, and his friend’s life may not have been all it seemed.

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I like these two fellows a lot...they are not even close to perfect, rather they are all too human....but immensely likeable.


Tuesday 7th September 1993

It was the end of the first day back at school after the summer holidays, and the three bullies were back in action already. The small twelve-year-old boy who was their intended victim was running as fast as he could, tearing across the grass and up the steps that led onto the bridge across the river. He was still a fair way ahead, but they were gaining, and it was only a matter of time before they caught up with him. There was just one last chance. He looked back over his shoulder to make sure he was far enough ahead. 

The three bullies raced up the steps onto the bridge. ‘The little bugger’s got away,’ said the first of the three as he reached the top.

‘He can’t be far ahead. Come on, we can still catch him,’ said the second.

‘No, leave it,’ said the third, who was obviously the leader of the gang. ‘I’m knackered. Teacher’s pet may have escaped today but we’ll catch him next time, and then he’ll just have to pay double.’

He leaned on the side of the bridge and looked over at the river flowing lazily past beneath them. A path ran alongside the river, and at weekends it would be busy with people out enjoying the fresh air, but at 4pm on a grey Tuesday afternoon it was completely deserted. But then, coming around a bend not too far away, the leader saw a schoolboy on a bicycle, heading their way.

‘Oh look,’ he said. ‘It’s target practice time.’

The other two boys joined him and watched the approaching schoolboy.

‘He looks like a first year,’ said one of the boys.

‘Perfect,’ said the leader. ‘Let’s see how good my aim is.’

They stood back from the edge of the bridge so the approaching boy couldn’t see them, but they needn’t have worried. He was enjoying riding along by the river and was blissfully unaware of their presence up above him.

As Adam Radford rode under the bridge, he savoured the sudden change in light, just as he always did. This was one of his favourite rides, and now he would be able to come home this way every day, something he was looking forward to. Looking ahead through the tunnel, he could see the next bend in the river where he could turn onto the path that took him off towards home. Just five more minutes and he would be there. 

Up above, the lead bully watched as the boy disappeared under the bridge. Then he raced across to the other side, counting to himself as he went. He leaned over the wall at the far side, reaching out to suspend the brick he was carrying above the path. He was still counting. He had watched people cycling under this bridge loads of times and he knew exactly how long it took for them to emerge from the far side.

‘Twenty-five,’ he said, quietly.

He let go of the brick and watched, fascinated, as the front wheel of the bicycle appeared from under the bridge. His timing was perfect, and the brick turned end over end before smashing into the top of the small boy’s skull. For just the briefest moment, the boy continued onwards as if nothing had happened, but then he slumped forward and the bike wobbled slightly before turning towards the river. With a quiet splash, boy and bike plunged into the river and disappeared.

‘Wow! How’s that for a good shot?’ cried the ringleader.

‘Bloody hell,’ said one of the others. ‘D’you think he’s alright?’

‘I expect he’ll have a headache, and his mum won’t be too happy that he’s dumped his bike in the river,’ said the ringleader. ‘Just remember, we weren’t here, okay? We were all over at my house. No one has seen us, so it’s nothing to do with us. Now we’d better get out of here.’

They began walking away from the scene, quickly breaking into a breathless, giggling run, both exhilarated and scared by what they had done.

As soon as they had gone, their original victim crawled out from behind the bushes where he had been hiding. From his vantage point, he had been able to see them leaning over the bridge, but he had no idea what they were doing. Cautiously, he leaned over the bridge. He couldn’t see anything on the path below, just an old brick off to one side. He wondered why they found dropping a brick off a bridge so exciting.

Out in the centre of the river, carried by the gentle current, what could have been a bundle of clothing floated slowly downstream.

Chapter One

DS Dave Slater had been hoping for a quiet first night back on duty. The victim of an unfortunate accident which had seen him concussed and subsequently hospitalised for two days, and then signed off for a further week, he had been looking forward to easing himself back into work and finding out what he had missed. The normal night roster at Tinton Police Station allowed for one detective to be on-site, with another on call if necessary. As Tinton was normally a pretty quiet, law-abiding town, this was usually sufficient to cover the workload, and Slater was happy enough to return to what should have been an easy-enough shift. 

His pleasure had been short-lived. On his arrival he had been told he was required to be interviewed about the night of his accident. The interview would take place around 8pm that evening.

Bloody health and safety, thought Slater. They were police officers, after all, and they sometimes had to deal with violent people, so there were bound to be times when they were at risk. Sometimes people got hurt. It was part of the job. It went with the territory.

He rubbed his head. The whole sorry affair had come on the heels of Wild Boar Woods case. He could have done with something a bit less dramatic after that. Even another flasher would have been preferable. But, of course, it would have ended with him getting cracked across the head and spending two nights in hospital. That was just typical.  

As Slater looked across the table at the man opposite him, he thought DI Grimm had a most appropriate name. He was a hard-faced man who seemed to be totally devoid of any sort of good humour. He hadn’t even managed to say hello when Slater had entered the room. The blonde DS sitting to Grimm’s left seemed equally unhappy. Her hair was tied back in a rather severe bun. He wondered if that was why her face looked so pointed and pinched, or if she had simply spent too much time working with Grimm. She said her name was DS Fury, and he felt that was a good match for her appearance. 

He could feel animosity building up within him. He had been in quite a good mood earlier, but he knew his face was now as grim as theirs. He had been waiting around for almost two hours before he had been called in, and now he had been sitting here, waiting for them to start, for what seemed like an age. As yet, no one had said anything apart from the curt introductions. 

He’d been injured before and had to attend these interviews, but they were usually conducted by people he knew in a rather friendlier atmosphere. Come to think of it, they didn’t usually involve a DI. An uncomfortable awareness began to creep up on him at the dawning realisation this interview probably had nothing to do with health and safety.

As if reading his thoughts, DI Grimm looked up from the notes he had been reading. ‘How’s the head now?’ he asked.

‘It seems to be working alright since they put the stuffing back in and sewed me up.’

For a moment, Grimm looked at Slater as if he’d spoken a foreign language, but then his face broke into what might have been a half-smile – or it could have been a grimace. Slater couldn’t be sure, one way or the other, but he was pretty sure Grimm had no sense of humour.

‘Oh, I see,’ said Grimm. ‘You think it’s a laughing matter.’

‘I didn’t at the time, nor when I woke up in hospital with a pneumatic drill hammering away inside my skull, but these things happen, don’t they? No one died.’

There was a stony silence following Slater’s comment. Grimm narrowed his eyes and gave Slater a piercing look, and DS Fury’s head snapped up from her note-taking.

‘What?’ Slater looked between the two interrogators. ‘Well, no one did get seriously hurt. I’m here, aren’t I?’

‘Do you understand why you’re here, Detective Sergeant Slater?’ asked Grimm.

Slater thought about a smart answer but resisted the temptation. He shifted uncomfortably in his chair. He didn’t know what was going on, but he had been around long enough to understand that Grimm and Fury weren’t here to make friends.

‘I assumed this was going to be an interview about my accident,’ he said. ‘But those interviews are usually a bit more on the warm and fuzzy side. I’ve been around long enough to know an icy atmosphere like this means disciplinary hearing. What I don’t know is why I wasn’t warned and what I’m supposed to have done.’

Fury went back to scribbling her notes, while Grimm placed his elbows on the table and steepled his hands in front of his face.

‘Hmmm. Yes, I’m sorry about that,’ he said from behind his fingers. He placed his hands flat on the desk. ‘You’ve been kept in the dark at my request. I thought it in everyone’s best interests.’

‘You mean you thought I might have time to prepare some lies for you if I knew this was coming,’ said Slater. ‘Whereas this way I don’t even know what I’m supposed to have done.’

Grimm looked puzzled. ‘What you’re supposed to have done?’ 

Now Slater was confused. ‘Well, if I’m not in the shit, why am I here?’ 

Fury looked up and studied his face. ‘You really don’t know, do you?’ It was statement not a question.

‘What?’ asked Slater, exasperated. ‘What the hell’s going on?’

‘I’m sorry,’ said Grimm, who obviously wasn’t. ‘You seem to have the wrong idea. You’re not the perpetrator here. We’re hoping you’re going to be a witness.’

Slater sat back in his chair and folded his arms. ‘A witness to what? I’ve been off sick for ten days.’

‘A man has been seriously injured and is now recovering in hospital,’ said Grimm. ‘He nearly died while in custody. Your body language tells me you don’t care and you don’t want to help. I have to say, DS Slater, I find that to be a very disappointing attitude.’

Slater bit his tongue while he thought about how to respond without insulting a superior officer. After a few seconds, he unfolded his arms and leaned forward.

‘You find my attitude disappointing, do you, sir?’ he said, leaving a long pause before the ‘sir’. ‘Well, let me explain why my attitude is so unhelpful. Ten days ago my colleague and I tried to arrest two suspects. One of them, a great big bugger, excuse my language, who was about twice the size of me, resisted arrest and attacked me. As a result, I ended up in hospital and I’ve just spent ten days off work, recovering. 

‘On my first evening back at work I’m informed I have to attend an interview. I then spend the best part of three hours waiting to be called to that interview. When I finally get in to the interview room, I’m met by two stony-faced officers who don’t even have the good manners to say hello. I then spend the next five minutes staring at the top of your heads while you ignore me, and then by some miracle I’m supposed to know what I’m here for when you’ve knowingly kept me in the dark. Do you really think that’s the best way to nurture a good attitude in me? Sir?’

Slater had been stabbing at the table with his finger to emphasise his points. Now he sat back in his chair.

Grimm’s face was a picture. It looked as though he was considering reaching across the table and placing his hands around Slater’s throat to emphasis his own point. Fury’s eyes had grown wider and wider as Slater had made his speech, and he was sure he caught the flicker of a smile as she put her head back down and started writing.

‘You don’t like me, Slater, do you?’ asked Grimm.

‘I don’t know you so I have no opinion one way or the other,’ said Slater. ‘But I’ll tell you this: I don’t like being kept in the dark, I don’t like being treated like an idiot, and I don’t like people wasting my time.’

‘We’re only doing our job, you know. Have you ever thought of that?’

‘Maybe it’s not what you do, but the way you do it,’ said Slater, leaning towards Grimm. ‘Have you ever thought of that?’

Grimm and Slater glared at each other across the table. Slater knew he would have to back down, but he was determined he wasn’t going to be bullied by the likes of Grimm, even if he was a DI.

In the observation suite, DCI Goodnews was regretting agreeing to keep Slater in the dark. She should have known Grimm was going to play it this way and put Slater’s back up. This whole situation was a mess and she had probably allowed it to get even worse. She had always prided herself on her loyalty to her own officers, so why hadn’t she warned Slater what was going on? 

Back in the interview room, it was DS Fury who gave Slater a reason to break eye contact with Grimm.

‘The point is, you are here,’ she said. ‘So why don’t you tell us what you remember about the night you were injured? The sooner we get this over with, the sooner you can get back to work.’

‘I wrote a statement while I was in hospital,’ Slater said, turning to Fury. ‘You must have read it.’

‘Yes, but that was almost two weeks ago and you were concussed. I’d like to hear it again, in your own words.’

Slater sighed. 

‘What’s this really about?’ 

Fury and Grimm exchanged a look.

‘One of the suspects you and DC Darling were trying to arrest that night has accused DC Darling of assault causing grievous bodily harm,’ said Grimm. 

‘But they got away,’ said Slater. ‘And anyway, he was trying to strangle me! Darling took a swipe at him with a cast-iron frying pan and took me out. That’s when they got away.’

‘Are you sure you don’t want to press your own charges against her?’ asked Grimm.

Slater couldn’t quite believe his ears. 

‘No, I bloody don’t. It was an accident. The guy saw her coming and swung me round so my head was where his should have been.’

‘But she knocked you out cold! She could have killed you.’

‘If she hadn’t intervened, he would have killed me. Perhaps you would have preferred that. At least then you’d have something worth investigating, but it still wouldn’t have been her fault.’ 

‘You know very well,’ snapped Grimm, ‘that we have to investigate when a member of the public has made a complaint.’

‘Even when that same member of the public was trying to strangle her colleague at the time?’ asked Slater. ‘What was the girl supposed to do, stand there and let him kill me? Surely we’re allowed to defend ourselves.’

‘Yes, but she went a long way beyond just defending herself. She put the man in hospital!’

‘No. She put me in hospital. They got away because she stopped to make sure she hadn’t killed me. I thought she was in the ambulance when they were taking me to the hospital.’

Grimm sighed. 

‘Yes, she did accompany you to the hospital. It’s what she did two nights later that’s the problem.’

‘What did she do?’ asked Slater, puzzled.

‘She tracked down your attacker and his accomplice and arrested them.’

‘What? Alone? But that big guy must be six feet four and weigh about sixteen stone. Darling’s a midget and doesn’t weigh half that soaking wet!’

Grimm’s face echoed the distaste in his voice.

‘It appears DC Darling practises martial arts.’ 

‘Well, good for her,’ said Slater, appreciatively.

‘Are you saying you condone her behaviour?’ Grimm glared at him.

‘I condone her right to defend herself.’

‘She wasn’t defending herself. We have a witness who backs up the victim’s story that DC Darling went berserk and attacked him.’

‘Don’t tell me,’ said Slater. ‘This witness is his accomplice, right?”

‘The identity of the witness is immaterial. We cannot allow police officers to act as vigilantes and lose control like that. We all have a duty of care to the public—’

‘Yeah,’ said Slater. ‘But what about the public? Don’t they have a duty of care to us, as human beings?’

‘I’m not here to debate the rights and wrongs of the public attitude to the police,’ said Grimm. ‘I’m here to ensure public safety at the hands of the police and to ensure the police carry out their duties in the correct manner. Unfortunately, it appears they won’t be safe if we allow DC Darling to continue in her role as a police officer.’

Slater sat back in his seat, momentarily gobsmacked. 

‘Why exactly am I here? I’m not a witness to the incident, and it sounds as if you’ve already made up your mind what happened, based on the evidence of two thugs, one of whom had been fighting with me just a couple of nights before.’

‘Yes, he mentioned that,’ said Grimm. ‘Apparently Darling told him it was, “payback time”. Was she referring to you? Was she paying him back for beating you up?’

‘I don’t know,’ said Slater. ‘I wasn’t there.’

Grimm gave Slater a hard stare and Fury looked up from her notes again.

It began to dawn on Slater what he had said. 

‘Hold on a minute. You’re not suggesting I had anything to do with this, are you?’

Grimm looked down at the notes before him. 

‘I see from your record you’ve been in trouble before.’ 

He looked back up at Slater.

‘Am I in trouble now?’ 

‘That’s what we have to decide,’ said Grimm. ‘The thing is, we have a man recovering in hospital with ruptured testicles, a ruptured spleen, several cracked ribs, and multiple bruises. She only used martial arts to bring him down. After that, she resorted to giving him a good old-fashioned kicking.’

Slater swallowed hard. This was all news to him. No wonder he hadn’t seen or heard from Darling. But why had no one else told him? Did his colleagues really think he would be a party to something like this? And what about Goodnews? Surely she didn’t think he would have asked Darling to do this for him?

His thoughts were interrupted by a dull booming sound from somewhere below them in the building. The building seemed to shiver and a split second later, a fire alarm began to ring. Without thinking, Slater jumped to his feet and started for the door.

‘Detective Sergeant Slater,’ spluttered Grimm, furiously. ‘Get back here, we’re not finished yet.’

‘That sounded like an explosion to me,’ said Slater, as he dragged the door open. ‘This is my station and these are my mates. You sit there like some puffed-up ponce if you want. I’m going to see if I can help.’

‘You’ll pay for this insubordination,’ roared Grimm, but Slater was already flying down the stairs.

The purple-faced Grimm was apoplectic with rage, so angry he could barely speak. Next to him, Fury was neither surprised Slater had so little respect for her boss (after all, he was an arrogant prick), nor was she surprised at the display of barely suppressed rage going on next to her. She had seen it so many times before. She was quite looking forward to the day when he really lost control and attacked someone. She would be volunteering to lead that investigation herself.

‘Sir,’ she said. ‘The alarm. I think we should evacuate, don’t you?’

Books in the Slater & Norman series

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