Authors: Derek Fee
Tags: #Thriller & Suspense, #British Detectives, #Mystery, #Traditional Detectives, #Police Procedurals
DEATH TO PAY
For Aine, Bobbie and Sean
Vengeance is a delicious fruit, which must be allowed to ripen in order that it may be fully enjoyed.
Emile Gaboriau, File NO. 113
When you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.
Lizzie Rice stared at her image in the mirror of the toilet at The Star Bingo Club and pouted. ‘Hello beautiful.’ She could hear the caller in the main room as his amplified voice announced the numbers in a monotonous tone. Lizzie was anything but beautiful. Millions of cigarettes and thousands of cans of lager had taken their toll on both her face and her body. The crags on the face that stared back at her resembled the figures on Mount Rushmore. The radial lines emanating from her lips were a testament to her addiction to nicotine. Her rotund body was crushed into her Union Jack patterned jacket, although she would insist to her friends that she could still fit into the clothes she bought twenty years previously. She removed her mobile phone from her purse and flipped open the Union Jack patterned cover. No missed calls and no messages. Bugger that fat bastard Billy. He didn’t give a shit for her now that she was over sixty. She coughed up some phlegm and spat it into the hand basin. Fucking men. They were keen enough to get into her pants when she was slim and lithe. To hell with them all. She replaced the phone in her jacket and fingered the twenty quid that she’d won at bingo. She fluffed up her thinning blond hair. Time to get a move on. When she got to the door of the building on North Street she found her two friends had already fired up the ciggies and were standing in the doorway puffing away. They stood back and gave Lizzie pride of place between them. Lizzie Rice was somebody in West Belfast. The Protestant newspapers painted her as a kind of Joan of Arc during the ‘Troubles’. When her husband had a pair of balls and a dick that functioned, he’d been one of the leaders of the Ulster Volunteer Force. Now Billy was just a fat old drunk, and it was her son, who was one of the men who ran Belfast.
‘Ciggi,’ one of the women proffered a packet of cigarettes.
Lizzie pulled a cigarette from the packet, and a match instantly appeared in front of her lit by the second woman.
‘Not a bad night,’ the woman said as she lit Lizzie’s cigarette.
Lizzie removed the twenty pounds from her pocket and waved it in front of her friends’ faces.
‘Lucky bitch, ‘ the first woman said. ‘I’m down a fiver.’
Lizzie looked along North Street. It was empty except for the groups of women sheltering in the two doorways of Star Bingo. ‘Time to hit the road, girls,’ she said waving her winnings in the air before depositing them in her pocket. ‘I’m a bit fucked.’
‘Chance’d be a fine thing,’ one of the women said and laughed.
Lizzie shot her a glance and the laughing stopped abruptly. She took a long drag on her cigarette and tossed it into the drain at the edge of the path. It was a bit of a walk to her house. If Billy was any bloody good, he would have been there to drive her home. But right now, he would be so drunk he wouldn’t even know his name. So it was either a taxi or a twenty-minute walk. Hell, she was going to walk it.
Billy Rice crushed the empty lager can and dropped it on the pile of empties beside his chair. He tried to focus on the television screen at the other side of the room and smiled before leaning forward to pick up another can from the pack at his feet. He had no idea what programme he was watching, and he didn’t give a damn who or what was on the screen. It was simply noise and a substitute for actual human company. He ripped open the lid of the can and poured a generous measure straight down his throat. He leaned back and flicked up the footrest on the lazyboy chair. He was just settling down when the doorbell rang. ‘Piss off,’ he shouted but since he was already drunk, it came out more like ‘Prisof’. The doorbell rang again more insistently this time. ‘Bollocks,’ he said rising from his chair with difficulty. He was going to give the bugger at the door something he would remember. If it was one of them fuckers from Salt Lake City, he was going to be knocked into the middle of next week. Billy shuffled his large body down the corridor and opened the door. He was about to shout a few obscenities at whoever might be on the doorstep when a spray hit his face. His open mouth wanted to scream, but it couldn’t. Every sinew in his body was concentrated on the pain in his eyes. As Billy raised his hands to his burning eyes, he felt a hand push him back into the corridor. He stumbled backwards trying to make sense of what was happening, but his brain was addled and unable to function. He was being pushed all the way back into the living room. ‘I’ll kill you,’ he mumbled just before an electric shock hit him in the neck. He dropped his hands from his eyes to his chest as electricity coursed through his body. Then the lights went out.
Lizzie Rice opened the door to her house. Her feet were killing her. Although the distance from the Bingo Hall to her house in the Shankill was only one mile, her feet were twenty years too old for the pair of high heels she’d been wearing. She kicked off her shoes, and as she did, she saw an open can of lager lying on the corridor carpet. ‘I’ll kill that auld bastard some day,’ she thought as she bent to pick up the can. Spilt lager lay in a pool on her carpet. She draped her jacket over the bannister of the stairs and marched towards the living room. Her husband was lying asleep on one of the chairs his two feet stuck out in front of him. She looked at the accumulation of empty cans at his feet. The television was blaring from the other corner of the room. As Lizzie entered the room, the door closed behind her. Something hit her on the back of the head and there was an explosion of pain in her brain. She fell forward onto her knees. A second blow struck her head. She fell further forward, and the pain stopped as her brain ceased functioning.
The murderer stood above Lizzie Rice and looked at her smashed head. Two additional blows to the already dead woman reduced the head to a blond hair topped mass of bone and brain. The murderer dropped the ball hammer into a carrier bag and removed the plastic apron from around her neck. The apron was covered with blood, and she wiped it on Lizzie’s clothes before balling it up and placing it in the carrier bag beside the hammer. The bag would be in the Lagan within the hour. She glanced once more at the body lying at her feet. It was time to get out of there.
Recently appointed Detective Superintendent Ian Wilson was carrying out one of his new duties. He was seated cross-legged on the king-size bed in his apartment. His partner, Kate McCann, lay in front of him wearing only a pair of panties. Normally, this level of undress would be enough to turn Wilson’s thoughts to shagging, but it was not a normal situation. The bump now very visible above Kate’s panties contained their embryonic child. Wilson poured some warm oil over Kate’s stomach and began to gently massage it in. He couldn’t get over the vanity of women. Kate wanted desperately to have the child, but she didn’t want to have the stretch marks that might go with it. So the leader of the pre-natal classes had suggested that the new fathers should show their concern by a nightly massage session. As soon as she found out that she was expecting, Kate had immediately started a regime of diet and exercise that was aimed at keeping her figure as trim as possible. Four months later, it was not possible to tell that Kate was pregnant without seeing her naked. Wilson glanced at the Polaroid style photo on the bedside table. It was the photo of their child taken by the gynaecologist at the first scan. No matter how many times he looked at the photo, and despite half a dozen explanations from Kate, he still couldn’t see the outline of a child in the triangle of light. He finished messaging Kate’s stomach and moved on to her thighs. Despite his best efforts to concentrate on his stretch mark busting job, he could feel himself hardening.
‘No,’ Kate said keeping her eyes closed.
‘What do you mean no?’
‘No, you can’t screw me.’
‘How do you know that I want to screw you?’
Kate opened her eyes and stared at his crotch. ‘I’m psychic,’ she smiled.
‘You have no idea how difficult this job is on someone like me,’ he returned the smile.
‘After the baby is born, I think that we might continue with the massages. I could massage you, and you could return the compliment. ‘
He stroked her legs with the oil. ‘We might never get to the part where you get your massage.’
Kate sat up and kissed him lightly. ‘Put your friend away for now and get me a coffee.’ She picked up the photo from the bedside table and looked at it for what must have been the hundredth time. ‘They’ll be able to tell us the sex at the next scan.’
‘Do we really want to know?’
‘I suppose not,’ she continued to stare at the photo. ‘I’m more interested in having a healthy baby than in knowing the sex.’
‘You’ll excuse me if I mention the unmentionable,’ Wilson disentangled his legs and climbed down from the bed. ‘You seem to be busier than ever although somewhere in the not too distant past you promised me that you’d start taking things easy.’
Kate sighed, dropped the photo and slipped into a silk kimono. ‘That was the plan but the work just keeps coming. From a career perspective, I can’t just turn work away. After the baby is born, I’ll have to get back to work pretty sharpish.’
Wilson stood directly in front of her. ‘This work issue is not going to go away. We both have careers that we care a little too much for, but soon there’ll be someone else to think about, and that could seriously affect our current lives.’
‘Let’s cross that bridge when we come to it,’ Kate dodged past him. ‘Looks like I’m going to have to get myself that coffee. ‘
Wilson turned, and they both raced for the kitchen.
After they’d drunk their coffees, they had nestled down on the couch to watch a taped episode of the ‘Graham Norton Show’. Wilson was aware of Kate glancing at regular intervals at her briefcase. An evening rarely went by without Kate seated at the desk in the living room examining legal type papers tied with different coloured ribbons. Although she was in great shape physically, Wilson had noticed that she was looking tired and sometimes when he woke he found her already at her desk. Work was the elephant in the room, and they were going to have to confront it sooner rather than later.
Wilson woke to the insistent ringing of his mobile telephone. He was still seated on the couch but Kate was no longer by his side. He looked across the living room and saw that she was seated at her desk. She turned as he came out of his nap.
‘Wilson,’ he said into the phone.
Kate watched him as he listened.
‘I’m on my way,’ he shut the phone down and stood up. It was eleven o’clock at night, and he assumed that he was asleep for more than an hour.
‘Serious?’ Kate asked.
He moved behind her and kissed her on the top of the head. ‘Armageddon, or something like it. You’ll be reading about it in the papers. I want you in bed by eleven thirty. Chances are that I won’t be back until early morning, and I don’t want to find you with black circles under your eyes.’ He slid his hands down and around her slightly swollen stomach. ‘We want Junior to pop out on time and in good condition. Do I get a promise?’
‘I promise,’ she said quickly. ‘What is it?’
‘Someone just murdered the wrong person and created a shit storm in the process.’
A crowd was already gathered outside the Rice home in Malvern Street. A wide area around the small red-bricked house had been cordoned off by crime-scene tape. Wilson had already called his Detective Sergeant, Moira McElvaney, from the car, but she hadn’t yet arrived. Five uniformed policemen from the station stood around the Victorian red-bricked house. An officer holding a clipboard guarded the entrance to the house. Wilson signed in, picked up a plastic jumpsuit and put it on.
‘Bit of a mess inside, Boss’ the senior uniformed officer said as Wilson finished the operation of putting the jumpsuit on.
‘Is Billy inside?’ Wilson asked.
‘He’s been shipped off to the Royal. His eyes’re in a woeful state.’
Wilson stared at the policeman.
‘Tear gas or something like it,’ the policeman said by way of explanation. ‘He got it right in the face from close range.’
‘And Sammy?’ Wilson asked.
‘In Spain by all accounts, but you can expect him here tomorrow. Lizzie and him were close, very close.’