CHILDHUNT: A Mystery & Suspense Thriller in the Bestselling Diana Rivers Series (The Diana Rivers Mysteries Book 5)

BOOK: CHILDHUNT: A Mystery & Suspense Thriller in the Bestselling Diana Rivers Series (The Diana Rivers Mysteries Book 5)
4.77Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub












About the author:

Faith Mortimer: born in Manchester, England and educated in Singapore, Malaya and Hampshire, England. Qualified as a Registered nurse and later changed careers to oversee a number of travel and sport related companies.

Faith is married with a family. Once the children attended University, she decided to join them in reading for a Science degree. Faith obtained an Honours Science degree in 2005 and believes the dedication and stamina needed to sit for a degree while in full-time employment, gave her the confidence to finish writing her first novel.

She has now written and published 11 novels and a volume of short stories. All are available as eBooks from your favourite online book store.

For more information about Faith and her writing please follow on Facebook.



Where Faith writes a regular blog about all manner of things!












Copyright © Faith Mortimer 2013





The right of Faith Mortimer to be identified as author of this work has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.




All Rights Reserved




No reproduction, copy or transmission of this publication may be made without written permission.




This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents originate from the writer’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.




Published in 2013

by Topsails Charter, Southampton



Once again a Big Thank You to my editor Catherine and to my husband Chris for their invaluable assistance and patient support.



Cover Image
courtesy of Sheila Creighton – Original photograph entitled “Long Ago Laughter”


Sheila Creighton’s work can be seen on her Blog Page


Faith Mortimer





Chapter 1: Two weeks before Christmas

He had been living there for almost as long as she had. After the trial and her disgraceful release, he made sure she would never be out of his sight for long. He counted himself lucky: he had time on his side. It was a time to think and a time to plan. It was very near the sixth anniversary, and his strategy was soon to pay off. When it did, she would be exposed to the world for what she had done, what she was…and he would rejoice.

The house was perched on a promontory of sandstone and rock. It was an old house, built about two hundred years previously and ‘modernised’ by a goatherd-turned-builder, as were many houses on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. The two-storey dwelling had three bedrooms and a bathroom on the first floor, and downstairs, the area was just one open-plan room with a typical Cypriot kitchen set in one corner. The renovation work was poor. The windows were draughty and ill-fitting in the metre-thick walls. There was no heating except for a bottled-gas fire and a hearth filled with wood scavenged from around the neighbouring woods and fields. The furniture was the original that the owner had installed soon after the place had been finished. It had been cheaply constructed, with no concession to comfort. The surrounding garden was much the same, with piles of rubble and broken breeze blocks, dead plants, rubbish and discarded lengths of plastic piping littering the place. He hated the property, but it was ideally situated for his purposes.

The one redeeming feature about the place was the cellar, which he had found by accident. He rented the place because of its advantageous proximity to
house. At first, he only had a rough plan of his intentions. He was still uncertain how it would work. Once he discovered what lay beneath the floor of the outhouse-cum-garage, he knew he had struck gold. Months earlier, he had cleared some of the trash littering the floor of the building. It was then free from most debris and apart from a stack of logs, two old pitharia positioned to face the garage wall, and his car, it was almost empty. He discovered that when he walked over a certain part of the concrete floor, it sounded hollow beneath his footsteps. He swept away at the dust and gravel to reveal the rough outline of an old trapdoor. Years of accumulated rubbish had worked its way between the wooden frame and the entrance itself, and it took him a good hour to clear this before he could finally raise the door.

He discovered he was standing at the top of a flight of narrow shallow steps. Composed of dirt and stone slabs, they disappeared into a black hole, which was later revealed to be a room of about twelve feet by nine. Along one blackened and dank-smelling wall, there stood another two clay pots or pitharia like the ones above in the garage. He knew that in the past, they would have been used for storing water, oil or wine. Smiling, he paced the room, mentally planning where to put the furniture. One small bed would suffice. Now, everything would fall into place—and it was going to be
so easy

Dragging his thoughts back to the present, he stared out from an upstairs window and saw how the sky had changed in such a short time from a pale light blue to a stark greyness. The weather was often hot and sunny in December, but this winter had seen some changes. Narrowing his eyes, he turned and stared at the mountains in the distance and saw how the snow line had extended down into the valleys. According to the newspapers, he could expect his own land to be carpeted with a light dusting within twenty-four hours.

He hated it there. He hated the people, whom he considered stupid and backward, bound to a religion steeped in archaic doctrine and hypocritical hogwash. The food was lousy, repetitive, unimaginative, and expensive. The house he rented—for what he considered an exorbitant amount from the goatherd—added to his hatred, but it suited his purposes. It was near to

Moving away from the window, he shuffled further into the room. He had gained weight over the years, and the excess pounds made him breathless and slow. But it had been necessary for his disguise. His hair was longer than he liked, worn tied back in a greasy ponytail: grey strands streaked with black. He paced the room before coming to a decision and clattered down the stairs. He went into the living room and stopped once he reached the dining table, a cheap affair made of mismatched pine, and picked up a pair of binoculars. The field glasses were most probably the most expensive item in the whole house, and he was proud of the 50-mm lenses, which he could switch from a ten-time magnification to fifteen. So what if they had cost him over a thousand pounds? That was small fry compared to what he hoped to achieve. He swung the binoculars around his neck and squinted through the eye pieces.

Outside, it was getting darker every minute, but Debbie’s house was easy to see through the expensive lenses. He turned his body so he could get a better angle and within seconds was looking right into her kitchen. He could see her quite clearly. Debbie was at the table. She was standing, and from her body movement, he knew she was talking to someone. He couldn’t see anyone else and knew she had to be talking to the children, who were most probably sitting down. The children. He felt his mouth go dry and his hands shook.

Debbie looked very young as she stood there. It was hard to believe she was thirty-four. She was wearing her blonde hair in a short style, but he knew Debbie’s real hair colour was a deep chestnut and that she used to keep it long—long, always fragrant and curly. She didn’t look her age. She had a captivating quality about her: young, fresh and soft.

He swallowed as he felt his mouth go even drier, but under his armpits he was wet and hot and stinking. He let the binoculars drop onto the strap around his neck, and he smiled. Not long to go…she would be exposed. When the police got to her, they would ask the same questions the others had asked six years ago…

“Debbie, what have you done with your children?”



Chapter 2  Earlier that month

Adam finished his call and placed his mobile back into his jacket pocket. He looked thoughtful as he replayed back in his mind what he had just learnt.

‘…I told you I’d keep an eye on her and see what I could find out, and I’m almost one-hundred-per-cent certain she’s Yvonne Brookes. Only now she goes under the name of Debbie—Debbie Frost, that is—as she’s remarried. And hear this…my neighbour has not only remarried, but she also has two more children.’

Adam chewed on his cheek as he considered Roger’s words. He had no right or reason to take an interest in the young woman: except for personal interest. When she was first on trial, she walked free from court because false evidence had been planted. He still felt terrible about that.

Adam had been the team leader on the case at the time, and his group found itself up against a brick wall. Everything they investigated came up with only circumstantial evidence, and unless something unexpected cropped up accidentally, they couldn’t prove Yvonne Brookes was guilty of murdering her two children. Adam found himself wavering over whether the young and quiet mother was guilty. When they first arrived at the crime scene, Adam witnessed her apparent terror and agony, and yet at the same time, she seemed strangely detached and remote.  Later, and during the time when the police questioned her, she seemed half out of it, and he found it difficult imagining this shy and uncertain woman as a child killer. Adam was sure he was missing something vital concerning Yvonne Brookes.

Her husband, Claude Brookes, had been highly supportive and protective during their ordeal. Whenever Yvonne was brought in for questioning, he was ready to accompany her and ensure she did or said nothing to implicate herself. He took weeks off work; he was a university lecturer and spent the time at home helping Yvonne cope with her grief. Adam remembered the tall, slim well-dressed man. He was softly-spoken and kept his distress in check behind an air of self-assurance. He told Adam he loved his wife very much and doubted she would have harmed a hair on their children’s heads, let alone strangle and bury them in a shallow grave in a wood eight miles away from where they lived. The case dragged on. Weeks passed, and the police were no nearer to solving the shocking crime. They couldn’t arrest anyone without concrete evidence.

That was until an overzealous and ambitious detective decided to play God. Yvonne was a member of a sports club. Since the birth of her daughter, she had put on a little weight and was no longer the slim, tiny size eight when she first started dating Claude. As a surprise birthday present, Claude gave her a year’s membership to the exclusive Dragon Country and Sports club, and consequently, Yvonne signed up and worked out most mornings when the children were at school. The detective decided he needed to look inside Yvonne’s locker and see whether he could find any incriminating evidence. Acting alone, he soon had her sports gear bagged and sent off for forensics. Her gym shoes were found to have mud sticking to the soles. The mud matched that near the scene of the sad little grave.

At first, the team was jubilant with the result. They had solved a particularly horrendous murder involving two innocent children. But at the trial, they didn’t reckon on the thoroughness of Yvonne’s barrister. She proved Yvonne hadn’t been to the gym on the day her children were murdered. Nor did she wear the shoes the detective claimed were covered in the same mud as that in the wood. The shoes, Yvonne said, were old ones bought in error; she never used them as they were too large for her and therefore unsuitable for gym work. She meant to throw them out but never got round to it. When the shoes were inspected, it seemed she was telling the truth; they were a full size bigger than those she normally wore.

Adam was incensed. Not only was she acquitted, but a member of his team—and one he had hand-picked—threw the whole trial into a fiasco by planting false evidence. The detective was thrown out of the force in disgrace, and Adam was left feeling disgruntled and troubled by an unsolved crime. Later, Yvonne Brookes walked free.

Adam pursed his lips as he went over Roger’s telephone conversation in his head. Roger was a retired barrister's clerk and had been responsible for running the administration and business activities in barristers’ chambers. He and Adam had been friends for a long time, and although retired, Roger kept up to date with certain unsolved cases, which he was either interested in or had passed through the chambers he ran. It was an exercise he practised purely for his own interest, but occasionally, he shared certain facts with Adam.

As an ex-clerk, Roger was familiar with court procedures and etiquette, and he also developed an expertise in the type of law undertaken by his chambers. It was a demanding but rewarding role requiring a combination of commercial acumen, legal knowledge and strong interpersonal skills. Roger took on a high level of responsibility, including the coordination of workload, marketing and financial management within the practice. As a result, he was very knowledgeable.

“I was going to ask whether you might like to come out and see for yourself. You said you wouldn’t be satisfied until justice was done and the case solved one way or another,” Roger had said.

“Yes, but that doesn’t mean spy on the woman,” Adam protested. “What possible reason would I have?”

“No. I don’t mean that at all. But you said you wondered what had become of her. Now here she is, married and with
two more children
in tow. Would it surprise you to learn that she never goes anywhere? Never sees anyone?”

“Not really. If she was innocent as she said all along, then she may still be suffering from shock. Mixing with people who were against her wouldn’t help her mental state, and remember…almost everyone in the country thought she was guilty at first. Even if it hadn’t been for that bastard copper and his damning false evidence, we might still have found her guilty. But—” he stopped.

“But what?”

“You know I was never entirely convinced she did it.” He paused, remembering the thin, tired-looking woman and how withdrawn and detached she had been. Why so removed? Why had she come across as aloof and unemotional? Her manner had been almost like that of a sleep-walker. Was she guilty after all? “I wonder if she would speak to me if I showed up. I feel there were some questions we never asked. You say she’s remarried? I didn’t know that. There’s far too much paperwork to contend with nowadays and too little time to dwell on old cases, let alone take an active interest. Do you know what happened to her husband? I presume they divorced.”

“No, and that’s the tragedy of it. Not long after she was released and before she disappeared, her husband took himself off sailing. He owned a small sailing yacht which he kept on the south coast of England. Anyway, that day there was some rough weather, and a force-eight gale blew up in the English Channel. Brookes spoke to the coastguard before he left England saying he was heading for Cherbourg, but he never got there. Apparently, it’s thought his boat was swamped by large waves, and he went overboard, poor fellow. They found the boat in the middle of the channel, pretty beaten up and unusable, with no one on board. Not long after that, Yvonne took herself off and hasn’t been seen or heard of until now.”

Adam was shocked. “She must have been distraught with grief. First her kids murdered and then her husband drowned. He—I believe his name was Claude—he was so loyal to her after the kids’ deaths. He told me he never believed she could harm them. Poor girl…I wonder
what really happened. I don’t know how you do it, Roger. You’re so up to date. You must have a special antenna for such things.”

BOOK: CHILDHUNT: A Mystery & Suspense Thriller in the Bestselling Diana Rivers Series (The Diana Rivers Mysteries Book 5)
4.77Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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