Authors: Priscilla Masters
A Selection of Recent Titles from Priscilla Masters
The Martha Gunn Mystery Series
The Joanna Piercy Mysteries
WINDING UP THE SERPENT
CATCH THE FALLEN SPARROW
A WREATH FOR MY SISTER
AND NONE SHALL SLEEP
WINGS OVER THE WATCHER
A VELVET SCREAM
available from Severn House
A Joanna Piercy mystery
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First world edition published 2011
in Great Britain and in the USA by
SEVERN HOUSE PUBLISHERS LTD of
9â15 High Street, Sutton, Surrey, England, SM1 1DF.
Copyright Â© 2011 by Priscilla Masters.
All rights reserved.
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
A velvet scream. -- (A DI Joanna Piercy mystery)
1. Piercy, Joanna (Fictitious character)--Fiction.
2. Women detectives--England--Staffordshire--Fiction.
3. Rape--Investigation--Fiction. 4. Missing persons--
Investigation--Fiction. 5. Detective and mystery stories.
I. Title II. Series
ISBN-13: 978-1-7801-0174-3 Â Â Â Â (ePub)
ISBN-13: 978-0-7278-8109-0 Â Â Â Â (cased)
Except where actual historical events and characters are being
described for the storyline of this novel, all situations in this
publication are fictitious and any resemblance to living persons
is purely coincidental.
This ebook produced by
Palimpsest Book Production Limited,
Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland.
To Monty â grandson number 2!
Tuesday, 30 November. 9 p.m.
owever cold it was outside, it was hot and noisy inside. He had to shout to be heard over the throbbing music.
She squinted at him against the strobe lights. He was in silhouette; slim with craggy, angular features, a hooked nose. âI thought you'd gone off.'
He patted the silver skirt. âYeah,' he leered. âI did for a bit but I always come back, don't I?'
âSo are you comin' outside for a smoke or not?'
The trick was to act nonchalant. She shrugged again. âDon't mind if I do.'
They wandered away from the noise, past the bouncer who was standing like a sumo wrestler at the door.
He walked ahead of her. She caught up with him, wobbling on her skyscraper heels. âGot any smokes?'
He held out a pack. âTake a couple, love.'
She laughed. âTryin' to buy me with a couple of fags?'
He laughed too. âNot likely, love. I don't put your price that high.'
She bunched her fists ready to fight and he laughed again. âOnly jokin', darlin'.'
His eyes scanned the car park. âLet's go somewhere a bit more private.'
âYeah â and?'
He looked closely at her. âHow old are you?'
âOld enough for what?'
âYeah. Like, or
not old enough for anyfink
?' He was mocking her. âCome on, love.' He seized her. âWho are you kiddin'? You ain't even old enough to smoke tobacco.' His face seemed to tighten up. âStop playin' around with me or I might get upset.' His fingers were hurting her.
She couldn't say exactly when she became aware of feeling like she was standing in a freezing river, icy water rushing past her. At first her body warmth, her bravado, the alcohol and her surroundings cocooned her, kept her from realizing. She was having a good time, wasn't she?
Wednesday, 1 December. 7.30 a.m.
She was still angry with him, slamming the car door behind her and grumbling all the way as she drove gingerly along the icy road. âYou should have got a taxi in. This is right out of my way. I'll be late for work.'
A gritter trundled past them, orange light flashing. It spattered gravel across the windscreen, so she had something else to grumble about apart from the fact that her screenwash was frozen solid. âBloody gritter,' she said. âDamn thing'll scratch my paintwork flinging stones out like that.' She peered through the windscreen then shot him another venomous glance. âAnd all for a “night out with the lads”, eh, Steve?'
He sat silently, nursing a sore head and exploring the fur and roughness inside his mouth, hating the smell of his alcohol-laden breath. Hangovers, he thought, putting his hand in front of his mouth. They were horrible. But, hell Â .Â .Â . Behind the hand Steve Shand grinned to himself. He didn't want Claire to see. It had been a âhello' of a good night. The totty had been there in full force. Ready and willing. The very best all lined up for the taking. He recalled one tiny skirt shimmering in front of him. The girls had been so friendly, so available. So drunk. He grimaced and recalled shimmying down on the dance floor alongside that very same skirt, hands everywhere they shouldn't have been, and almost groaned. Nights out with the boys. He wouldn't give them up for all the Claires in the world.
âDrop me off here,' he said.
She responded sourly. âOh. The unpaid chauffeur. Certainly, my lord.'
âDon't be silly,' he said, impatient with her. âLeave it, Claire.'
But she couldn't. Forced on by jealousy and anger, she pursued him into a corner. âAnd who were you dancing with last night?'
His answer was a deep, regretful sigh. So she supplied the answer herself. âSome cheap little tart.'
He looked across at her. Really looked at her and could see that in a few years she would look just like her mother. Her mouth was thin. Hard and bitter. In that very minute he made up his mind. He'd had enough of this. He was going to move back in with his dad. And just to show there were no hard feelings and to give thanks for his lucky escape she could even keep the ruddy ring.
âYou might give me a kiss,' she snapped.
He gave her a dutiful peck on the cheek which did nothing to temper her mood.
âYou stink of stale booze,' was meant to be her Parthian shot. But as he left the car she relented and called out, âBye, then. See you later,' and roared off, giving a little beep of her horn as she turned the corner. And even that irritated him.
Steve Shand drew his keys from his pocket and looked around at the empty car park. It must have snowed more in the night. It had formed a ridiculous three-inch high hat on the top of his car which was starting to melt and drip down the windscreen as the temperatures slowly rose into the day. In his thin work suit he shivered and worried. What would he do if his car wouldn't start? He'd be stranded in this freezing weather. He fingered his mobile. But in her state of mind Claire wouldn't come back for him. He'd have to walk home.
Go back to bed and nurse his thick head.
It was a tempting thought but that would mean trouble at work. His company didn't take kindly to odd days being taken off by their employees. He stepped through the slushy mess. His was the
car standing here.
In grand isolation
, he thought. Not like last night, when he had taken up practically the last space. The weather hadn't kept the revellers away. A gust of wind cut through him to remind him. It was freezing. A real arctic blow.
He reached his car and pressed the lock release on his key fob. Nothing happened.
Damn it. The lock was frozen. He bent down and breathed on it, tried the remote again. Nothing. He bent down for a second time, using his breath again to try and open it. This time he was successful. The locks clicked open. He pulled the door.
Then he heard it. A low moan.
He turned around and glanced round the car park, wondering if he had imagined the sound. The place was empty.
Instead of climbing into the car he stood and listened. In the town traffic was starting to build up. Leek was waking to another snowy morning. He bent down, ready to climb into the driver's seat and leave this bleak environment. Then he heard it again: that low moan. It was coming from behind a low wall at the back of the car park where a couple of wheelie bins stood half concealed. Probably a cat or something, Shand reasoned. He was tempted to ignore it. He simply wanted to get into his nice warm car, go to work and recover from his hangover. But Steve Shand was an inquisitive fellow so he went to investigate, sloshing over the melting snow and leaving a trail of damp, grey footprints.
He saw nothing untoward at first. The line of bins, green, blue and brown; a pile of rubbish, spilling out of torn black plastic sacks, everything dripping wet or iced with frost, the only movement a cat jumping off the wall. That was probably what he had heard. Steve Shand smiled to himself. He had been spooked by nothing more than a pussycat. What would his mates say about that? Everyone knew cats made odd noises. He was about to return to his car when something in the pile of rubbish moved.
Wednesday, 1 December. 7 a.m.
etective Inspector Joanna Piercy flipped the calendar over to the new month with a feeling of apprehension. She stood and looked at the picture. It was of a sledging scene set in Leek Park. The calendar was called Around the Staffordshire Moorlands and had been Korpanski's Christmas present to her one long year ago. She paused for a moment, staring at the bobble-hatted children, the stick trees against a bright sky, the dark shadows thrown by people across the snow and the caption underneath: âA sledging scene in Leek Park'. And then the explanation: âThe bandstand in the background, although Victorian in design, was built when the park opened in the 1920's'.
Thirty days to go.
By the end of this month she would be married â and possibly jobless â if the disciplinary hearing went against her. She looked at the days of December and wondered what they would bring. Normally so active and frenetic, she allowed herself a pause for thought. A lot had happened in this last year: her engagement, Korpanski's shooting, a few arrests and some convictions â tough to win as always and easy to lose. She wouldn't have minded a few more felons behind bars and some longer custodial sentences. It might have served her well for tomorrow's hearing.
She took a quick peek at the dates ringed â too many of them.
The thirtieth. A Thursday. Wedding day. Matthew had drawn in a couple of clumsy bells and a love heart pierced with an arrow. She smiled. He was no artist but she could read his message. And in the piercing was â a threat?
She knew that Matthew would want a âtraditional' marriage: a wife and child, while she was firstly a cop. And children or even a child was not part of that plan. It wasn't only that. Matthew had a daughter, Eloise, a teenager who made no secret of the fact that she disliked Joanna and blamed her for the break-up of her parents' marriage. It was because of these reasons that she looked forward to the wedding with mixed feelings.
But before that, in thick black letters was ringed Thursday, 2 December. The hearing which she was dreading. In a previous case she and Detective Sergeant Mike Korpanski had staked out an isolated farmhouse which had ended in a shooting. She had put his life in danger. And the hearing was in the morning. Nothing to look forward to there. And to top it all no doubt at some point Miss Eloise, soon to be her hostile stepdaughter, would be visiting, dropping by casually, as she did these days, sometimes announcing her arrival with a phone call en route, sometimes not even that. Eloise Levin was a local now, at Keele University, studying the very same subject her father had: medicine. Which gave her plenty of excuses to spend long evenings with him, poring over textbooks, asking questions and seeking advice, deliberately discussing topics when she knew Joanna had absolutely no idea what they were talking about. But as she watched the two blonde heads so close â one pale white and straight, the other sandy, rebelliously curly and thick, she realized that Matthew loved it. To him it was partly reliving his happy student days and partly rediscovering the close father/daughter relationship which had been strained by his marital infidelity and subsequent divorce. Joanna made a face. She hated this new dÃ©tente, disliked and mistrusted Matthew's daughter and resented her taking their cottage for granted as a second home. Only to her selfish and private self would she admit that when Matthew's daughter was around it was
who felt like the outsider.