The Joe Plantagenet Mysteries from Kate Ellis
SEEKING THE DEAD
PLAYING WITH BONES
KISSING THE DEMONS
*KISSING THE DEMONS
available from Severn House
A Joe Plantagenet Mystery
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This first world edition published 2011
in Great Britain and the USA by
CrÃ¨me de la Crime, an imprint of
SEVERN HOUSE PUBLISHERS LTD of
9â15 High Street, Sutton, Surrey, England, SM1 1DF.
Copyright Â© 2011 by Kate Ellis.
All rights reserved.
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
Ellis, Kate, 1953-
Kissing the demons.
1. Plantagenet, Joe (Fictitious character)âFiction.
2. PoliceâEnglandâNorth YorkshireâFiction. 3. Serial murder investigationâFiction. 4. Detective and mystery stories.
ISBN-13: 978-1-78010-063-0Â Â Â (ePub)
ISBN-13: 978-1-78029-001-0Â Â Â (cased)
ISBN-13: 978-1-78029-501-5Â Â Â (trade paper)
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
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Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland.
eath arrived at the party dressed in the traditional way. Long black robe; monkish cowl pulled forward to half-conceal a skull face with cavernous eye sockets and grinning yellow teeth.
Death was tall, as one would expect, and in his bony right hand he carried a long plastic scythe â the real thing would have been hard to get hold of and much too conspicuous. And Death didn't want to face any awkward questions.
Nobody took much notice as he stalked up the wide stairs, almost tripping up on the threadbare carpet. When he reached the landing he stood for a few moments, leaning on the banisters to survey the mortals below.
The ground floor of thirteen Torland Place was packed and all the time costumed newcomers were arriving in the hall carrying glasses and bottles. Some stopped to talk with animated gestures; some had the far away look of beer-goggled youth; and others were making their way to the living room where, through the open door, partygoers were attempting to dance with varying degrees of success.
Then Death spotted his target â a girl in flimsy white with sequinned fairy wings. He watched as she wove her way through the crowd, slightly aloof, like a being from another world. She had pale hair and large green eyes and she possessed a virginal quality that seemed out of place in that alcohol-fuelled atmosphere. She stopped by a doorway and stood alone, oblivious to the raucous laughter and loud music around her. Separated from the rest of humanity.
Death studied her. The Maiden, he thought. Death and the Maiden. But he knew her real name. It was Petulia. He mouthed the word. Petulia.
He saw her take a step towards a young man with dark curls and a face straight out of a Renaissance painting who was dressed in a white coat with a stethoscope slung around his neck. Death appreciated his beauty â which would fade as all beauty fades with time â and watched as he raised a can of lager to his lips, looking as though he'd prefer to be elsewhere; as though he found the squalid rented house with its smell of sweat and stale beer beneath him. The Maiden's steps faltered, as though she'd suddenly sensed the protective force field of sophisticated boredom that surrounded her quarry.
Then she turned away, her eyes searching the hallway for somebody â anybody â who might be a sympathetic companion. Death knew how she felt. He had experienced the loneliness of crowds so many times. It was hell on earth.
He looked at his watch. It was two in the morning and people were beginning to drift away from the party, still clutching beer bottles and half-full wine glasses. Death too had had his fill of the too-loud conversation, the couples copulating on cheap duvets in the shabby bedrooms and the preening mortals dancing clumsily on beer-sticky floors. But he hadn't had his fill of the house. He could never tire of it because he felt at home there. As if the very walls knew him and welcomed him in.
It was almost time to go. Death watched as the Maiden disappeared into the kitchen. She looked tired but she was still awake and sober enough to dodge away from a large boy in rugby kit whose exploratory arm had started to snake around her slim waist.
If Death had been made otherwise, he would have harboured fantasies about claiming her soft pale body for himself. But life and love were none of his concern.
The Maiden was the one. And one day very soon Death would claim her.
When DCI Emily Thwaite set out that Saturday morning the Yorkshire weather couldn't make up its mind what to do. It had promised sunshine first thing. Then the clouds had gathered in the sky like youths on a street corner, threatening showers and possibly worse.
She reached her office on the first floor of the modern police headquarters at the back of the railway station, took off her thin raincoat and hung it on the stand. She had drunk far too much the night before and she still had a nagging headache. But if your new neighbours offer you their hospitality and constantly top up your wine glass, it would be churlish and mealy mouthed to refuse â or so she'd reasoned at the time.
She walked over to the small mirror that hung on the wall and looked at herself, noting the dark rings beneath her eyes and the fine red tracery marring the white surrounding her pupils. The wages of sin â or at least the wages of a good night on the Cabernet Sauvignon. She delved into the depths of the roomy bag which hung from her shoulder, pulled out her hairbrush, dragged it through her thick blonde curls and wiped a microscopic smudge of dirt from her nose. She'd do, she thought, running a finger round the ever-tightening waistband of her trousers. She'd signed up to the gym in the new year but the burdens of work and family meant that she hadn't had time to go. One day, perhaps. One day.
Saturday morning wasn't the best time to be summoned into work, what with the children to be ferried to ballet and swimming. But the Superintendent had called her at home first thing, saying that he wanted to speak to her urgently on a delicate matter so she'd had to delegate those precious, looked forward to tasks to her husband, Jeff. Sometimes she feared that she was a lousy mother. But with a job like hers, the occasional bout of benign neglect was unavoidable.
Suddenly she saw a shadow out of the corner of her eye, partially blocking out the daylight that filtered in from the outer office. She tipped the hairbrush back into her bag and fixed a professional expression to her face but when she looked round she was relieved to see Joe Plantagenet leaning on the door frame. His thick black hair looked tousled, as if he'd just got out of bed after a restless night. Perhaps he had, Emily thought. It was a long time since he had spoken to her about his private life and, although she was a naturally curious soul, she didn't like to ask, even though there were times when she was desperate to know. There were so many questions she'd have liked to put to Joe if only she had the courageÂ .Â .Â . or the blatant cheek. She'd always been known for her direct approach when she'd been in Leeds CID. Maybe working in Eborby was making her soft.
âHas the Super told you what he wants to see us about?' Joe asked.
âAll he said is that it's delicate â whatever that means.'
Joe smiled. He had a slightly crooked smile, a smile which spread to his blue eyes. âWell, we won't find out standing around here, will we?'
He stood to one side and allowed her to walk out of the CID office ahead of him. As it was a weekend and there were no major investigations in progress, there were only a handful of officers on duty. But if something bad happened, all that would change.
Emily walked down the corridor to the Super's office, aware of Joe following close behind. When they came to the office door, they stopped and exchanged looks. Joe raised his hand and knocked.
A deep voice growled a âcome in' from the other side of the door. Joe stood back and let Emily go first, whether out of politeness or reluctance, she wasn't quite sure.
She smoothed her hair and pushed the door open, her heart beating fast. She had a vague inkling that whatever she was about to hear would be bad. The Super didn't do routine on a Saturday morning.
âCome in, Emily,' the Super said, his voice as smooth as the rather expensive wine she'd consumed last night. He gave her a businesslike smile and turned to Joe.
âDo sit down, both of you. As I said to DCI Thwaite, something's come up that could be of a rather sensitive nature.'
Emily caught Joe's eye. âWhat sort of thing, sir?'
For a few seconds the Superintendent sat there in silence, as though the extreme delicacy of the matter, whatever it was, had rendered him speechless. When he eventually spoke his voice was hushed, as though he didn't want to be overheard. âIt concerns something that happened twelve years ago.'
Emily leaned forward. It was well before her time â before Joe's too, come to that. âWhat was that, sir?'
Another silence. Whatever this was, it had certainly got the Super worried. Then he spoke again. âTwo fifteen-year-old girls went missing. The last confirmed sighting of them was in Bearsley. Some kids were playing near a patch of woodland known locally as Dead Man's Wood and they saw the two girls entering the trees. This was around seven thirty one summer's evening. The two lasses were never seen again. There was a massive search, of course, butÂ .Â .Â . There was a lot of speculation at the time.' the Super continued. âOne theory had it that they'd run away to London and another that they'd been abducted and taken miles away. A necklace belonging to one of the girls was found about ten yards into the wood. The clasp was broken as if it had been torn off. A handkerchief was found a few feet away from the spot â an expensive linen one. We announced it at the timeÂ .Â .Â . said we wanted to eliminate the owner from our enquiries.'
âI take it this handkerchief was embroidered with a distinctive pair of initials?' said Emily, instantly regretting her flippancy.
The Super gave her a cool smile. âI'm afraid not.'
âPity,' she heard Joe mutter.
âSo did the investigation team think it was dropped by the killer?'
âWithout bodies we can't be sure that there was a killer, can we? But nobody came forward to claim the handkerchief so we can only assumeÂ .Â .Â .'
âThat the owner had something to hide.'
The Super sat back. He picked up a pencil and began turning it over and over in his fingers. He was a large man, Emily thought; tall and bald with the build of a rugby player. But his hands were surprisingly long and sensitive. She would have expected great paws with sausage fingers.
âThat's the trouble, Emily. The handkerchief was bagged up and kept by Forensic. There were slight traces of DNA â semen, apparently.'
âBit of hanky-panky in the woods, then?' she said.