Authors: Kerry Wilkinson
DS JESSICA DANIEL SERIES: BOOKS 1-3
THREE DAYS AGO
The killer used a gloved hand to try the front-door handle one final time and make sure it was locked. The back door and windows had already been checked and there was
definitely no way in – a good thing considering the body was already dead on the bed upstairs.
Now the first part was complete, the months of careful planning that led to this night finally seemed worth it. Getting into a locked house and back out again wasn’t simple on the surface
but, once the idea had been struck upon, everything had happened so easily.
The hardest part had been the final act. Until the moment the life had been choked out of the victim, the killer hadn’t been sure they could actually complete the deed. Murdering someone
wasn’t easy but it had been necessary.
There was no regret, no feelings of anything really. The victim certainly deserved it, as would the others to come.
Jessica Daniel screwed her eyes tightly shut and thought about how much she hated morning people. For some, the dawn sun spilling through ridiculously thin curtains would
herald a bright new day full of opportunity but, for her, it was just a reminder she
hadn’t asked her landlord to fix some better blinds.
Admitting she had lost the battle to stay asleep, she fumbled around for her mobile phone on the table next to the bed. It was always the first point of call in the morning, if only to remind
her how little she had going on in her life. She opened her eyes slowly and struggled with the device’s unlock button, before bashing away at the supposedly touch-screen front. It only seemed
to function to any great degree if your definition of ‘touch’ was actually ‘poke very hard until it does what you want’.
She had no texts, no missed calls and the only emails were ones offering her enhancements she definitely wouldn’t be needing without far more invasive and complicated surgery first.
Jessica went to put the phone back on the nightstand but, before she could, it started to ring. She cursed herself for setting the ringtone to some upbeat pop tune she didn’t even like;
the chirpy song really wasn’t suitable for this time of the morning. Her eyes were still seeing a hazy grey around the edges but the caller ID clearly showed Detective Inspector Jack
Cole’s name. Jessica looked across at the digital alarm clock next to the bed which flashed 06.51. She was pretty sure it was a Saturday too, which made things worse.
She had been promoted to detective sergeant eight weeks ago and calls like this were something she knew she was going to have to get used to. When people were in a more junior position they
could often get away with working regular shifts. Early-morning wake-up calls could now be expected more often.
‘Hello,’ Jessica said into her phone, trying not to sound too groggy.
Cole didn’t sound much more awake than she did, which at least didn’t mark him down as a morning person either. He told her ‘something big’ had happened but he
wasn’t completely sure of the details and tried to give her an address.
She would happily have described herself as messy and disorganised but the one thing she had remembered to do in the past two months was keep a pad and pen next to her bed for a moment like
this. Cole started to give her the details and she tried to write them down. At first she thought her eyes were still struggling with the early hour but then realised her confusion was down to the
fact the pen wasn’t working.
‘Hang on, hang on,’ she said irritably, opening the drawer underneath her nightstand just in case there was a spare pen there.
It was typical that even when she had gone out of her way to be organised, things didn’t quite work out. She asked the inspector to send her a text message with the details instead and
then hung up.
Cole was Jessica’s immediate superior and had been promoted at the same time she had. She had always got on fine with him when they had been in more junior roles. He was a decent guy but
perhaps a bit too nice. He was about as normal a bloke as you could ever meet; one of those people whose descriptions you hated when taking statements from a witness. He was average height and
weight, with sensible short brown hair and always wore regular unassuming clothes. He didn’t wear glasses or sport any distinguishing scars or facial hair. Even his voice was exactly as you
In fact, the only thing not really regulation about Jack was that he had what most officers didn’t seem to – a proper family life. He was in his mid-forties and married, seemingly
happily, with two children. He had family days out with them, still took his wife out for meals and to the cinema, and booked his time off sensibly so they could all have weekends away together.
Unlike pretty much every other officer, he didn’t drink and Jessica had never heard him swear. Perhaps that was normal to most people but it was anything but for the job they had.
Cole liked working from his desk and saw any real interaction with criminals, witnesses or anyone outside of the station as something he would rather not be involved with. To some it showed he
didn’t like to get his hands dirty but Jessica understood he had strengths in different areas.
Sitting on the edge of her bed, Jessica ran her hands through her long dark-blonde hair thinking that it needed a wash, as it always seemed to. There was definitely not going to be time for that
this morning. She pulled it back into a loose ponytail and hunted around her room for some suitable clothes.
She thought most of her colleagues took ‘plain clothes’ a bit too literally. Even the younger blokes seemed to take the title ‘detective’ as a chance to start clocking up
department-store loyalty points with a wardrobe seemingly consisting of identikit dull suit jackets and pairs of chinos. The only difference between the younger guys and the veterans seemed to be
the width of their ties. The new guys would start off with skinny monstrosities around their necks but their neckwear seemed to become wider the longer they spent turning up in those dreary
Jessica knew she couldn’t take things too far and still wore a suit to work each day but at least it wasn’t the same one with an egg stain on the pocket, unlike a certain colleague
or two she could think of. She also made sure she dressed something like her age – she was almost thirty-one after all. Hunting through her wardrobe, Jessica pulled out a light grey suit to
put on and, just to be a hypocrite, a blouse straight from the floor.
Jessica lived in the Hulme district, just south of the main centre of Manchester. It wasn’t too bad, far enough away from the pubs and clubs and the full-on student areas to be able to
sleep through the early hours – and only ten minutes’ drive to her team’s Longsight base. Far more important than all of that was the fact it was close enough to the curry mile to
pick up a good Madras without too much hassle.
Cole had messaged Jessica an address in Gorton, in the east of the city. It took her just over fifteen minutes to drive, despite the roads being fairly quiet. There wasn’t too much in the
way of traffic but, as ever, the traffic lights constantly seemed to be red. She also nearly ran over some student type who looked like she was making the dreaded Saturday morning walk of shame.
There didn’t seem to be any other reason for a girl in a short purple dress to be walking bare-footed across a main road holding impossibly tall heels in her hand. Jessica wondered if the
girl had actually had a good night as she crunched down through the car’s gears after swerving around her.
Jessica’s bright red K-reg Fiat Punto was her pride and sometimes-joy, even if it didn’t give her much pleasure on the cold winter mornings when it wouldn’t start no matter how
much she kicked and swore at it. She had been given it as a present for passing her theory test from her mum and dad over ten years ago and had learned to drive in it. It was an attachment to
easier, less serious days. How it was still on the road was a mystery far beyond Jessica’s detective skills. The exhaust was perhaps the only thing loud enough to wake up her flatmate and
best friend Caroline, while the MOTs were expensive and the piss-taking from colleagues was relentless.
Even her dad gave her stick about it. ‘We only bought that as a first car,’ he would say to her. ‘You earn a decent salary now . . .’
Well she earned a
now, that was for sure, and, as long as they could get her from A to B, or at least close to ‘B’, she wasn’t that bothered about cars. In an
emergency, she had access to the patrol’s pool of vehicles and, rusting heap or not, it was at least
Jessica pulled up behind two patrol cars outside the address. It wasn’t too far off the main road, fairly close to the speedway stadium. Luckily her supervisor had sent the basic
directions too. She got out and walked towards the plain-clothes officer she recognised by the house’s gate.
Detective Constable David Rowlands had a grin on his face. ‘I didn’t know if they were calling you in but then I heard the exhaust on that heap you drive from half a mile
‘It’s come to something when someone with hair like
takes the piss out of anything,’ Jessica fired back with a grin, flicking him the V just for good measure.
‘I was still asleep when I got called in,’ he protested as a way of explaining why his usually spiky and gelled hair was instead decidedly fluffy and floppy.
Rowlands was younger than she was, still not out of his twenties, and tall with spiky jet-black hair – plus the customary skinny tie. He certainly fancied himself with the opposite sex and
had a sharp mouth with a cheeky, dimpled smile that meant it was hard to get angry with him. Even with his constant bragging about various conquests and his obvious cockiness, Jessica had taken an
instant liking to him when he had joined the squad a few months after she had.
He had once tried it on with her late one evening a year or so ago. To be honest, given his reputation, she would have been bloody annoyed if he hadn’t at some point or another. She
hadn’t been receptive but that wasn’t the point. They had both been drinking after a rare result; some woman who had been sent down for stealing from her own mother. Rowlands
wasn’t the type to take her rejection too seriously and, if anything, they were better mates afterwards. He was certainly one of the few members of the Criminal Investigation Department she
would go out for a drink with.
Jessica breezed past him, ducking under the police tape, to enter the small front garden of the semi-detached house, thinking it was quite a nice-looking place. Not all the houses in this area
were as well kept. The red brickwork looked fairly clean, as did the upstairs and downstairs bay windows. The only thing spoiling the illusion of middle-class fulfilment was the bright white
double-glazed front door just about hanging on to its bottom hinge.
Rowlands followed her under the tape. ‘Who did this?’ Jessica asked, nodding at the door as they stepped towards it.