Authors: Sally Spencer
Table of Contents
THE SALTON KILLINGS
MURDER AT SWANN'S LAKE
DEATH OF A CAVE DWELLER
THE DARK LADY
THE GOLDEN MILE TO MURDER
DEAD ON CUE
DEATH OF AN INNOCENT
THE RED HERRING
THE ENEMY WITHIN
A DEATH LEFT HANGING
THE WITCH MAKER
THE BUTCHER BEYOND
DYING IN THE DARK
A LONG TIME DEAD
SINS OF THE FATHERS
A DYING FALL
THE DEAD HAND OF HISTORY
THE RING OF DEATH
ECHOES OF THE DEAD
LAMBS TO THE SLAUGHTER
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First published in Great Britain and the USA 1999 by
SEVERN HOUSE PUBLISHERS LTD of
9â15 High Street, Sutton, Surrey, England, SM1 1DF.
This eBook edition first published in 2012 by Severn Select an imprint of Severn House Publishers Limited
Copyright Â© 1999 by Sally Spencer
The right of Sally Spencer to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988.
A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library.
ISBN-13: 978-1-4483-0049-5 (epub)
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.
For Connie, Spudder and Smoke, without whose constant interest and affection during the course of my working day, this book would have been completed much sooner.
t was a pleasant evening in late August, one of the busiest times of year for the village of Swann's Lake. The fairground had all but closed down for the night, and the social clubs had just begun to start livening up. Anyone who knew the place well could have predicted that there would soon be a great deal of drinking, some harmless flirting and possibly a few fights in which both participants would urge their mates to hold them back. No one, however knowledgeable, could have guessed that within an hour there would be the village's first ever murder.
Robbie Peterson swung round on his bar stool and surveyed The Hideaway â the club which was the centre of his small business empire. It was an almost square wooden building. The walls were covered with red-flock paper, and at each side of the windows purple mock-velvet curtains hung from ceiling to floor. At one end was the bar, at the other a small stage â with just enough space for a compere and electric organ â and a slightly larger dance floor around which a few couples had already begun to shuffle. The rest of the room was taken up by tables, most of which were already reassuringly occupied.
Robbie lit a cigarette. You've come a very long way in a very short time, he told himself. Five years ago, you were nothin' but a common criminal, doin' Sid Dowd's biddin' and runnin' the risk of landin' up in gaol every time you went out on a job. Now you've got a club, half a fairground, a caravan site an' three holiday bungalows. Yes, you're doin' very nicely indeed.
His mood of well-being was shattered by the arrival of a young couple. Unlike most of the women in the club, who were wearing loose-fitting floral dresses and cardigans, the girl was dressed in a tight leather skirt which revealed her knees, and a blouse with a plunging neckline which declared quite openly that she possessed a splendid pair of breasts. And then there was her make-up! The way she'd applied it, she might as well have written, “Does anybody want to sleep with me?” across her forehead.
The girl looked over at Peterson, tossed her head contemptuously, and then turned to the man who was accompanying her.
looked out of place, too. Most of the club's customers were working men â fitters and bricklayers, dockers and carpenters â but this young man had never got his hands dirty in his life. The suit he was wearing must have cost more than anybody else in the room earned in a fortnight, and the haughty disdain on his face said more clearly than words that he considered The Hideaway below him.
So if you don't like it, why don't you just bugger off! Robbie thought angrily.
But the man wouldn't, because that was not part of Annabel's plan. She had come to the club to humiliate her father, and she would not leave until she had achieved her objective.
Annabel nodded curtly to her mother, Doris, who was talking to her cronies, then led her escort to an empty table near the stage. She'd deliberately chosen to sit there so she could get a proper look at him once he was behind the mike, Peterson thought. So she could show her boyfriend what a coarse, common lout her father really was. For a few moments, he actually toyed with the idea of not going on stage at all that night. Then he decided, sod it! He hadn't backed down from gangland fights in the old days, and he certainly wasn't going to retreat now from his own daughter.
The organist was coming to the end of his number. Robbie signalled that he should not start another one, and wove his way in between the tables to the stage. He mounted the steps, and turned to face his audience. Several of the women smiled warmly at him. And why shouldn't they? He was pushing fifty, and, at five feet seven could not have been called tall, but he still had the body of the hard young man he'd once been. And whilst he couldn't exactly have been called handsome, there was a certain attractiveness in his dark eyes, large nose and square jaw.
“Welcome once again to The Hideaway, ladies and gentlemen,” he said. “I know there's some real talent out there, an' later on you'll get your chance to show what you can do, but in the meantime I thought I'd kick us off with a little song made famous by the lovely Doris Day an' called, âQue Sera Sera'.”
The organist struck up the first few chords, and Robbie began to sing. He had a rich tenor voice, and even if his phrasing wasn't all it might have been, the people listening to him didn't seem to mind.
The words came automatically, and Robbie found his eyes roving around the club. Annabel was saying something to the man she'd brought with her, and he could tell from the twist of her lip that it was both about him and probably rather unpleasant. Doris was still chattering away to her friends and ignoring him completely, but there was nothing new about that â on or off the stage. Jenny was listening to him, though. His elder daughter always listened. She was his pride and joy. She was five years older than her sister, and whilst Annabel had inherited her mother's blond hair, there was a dark beauty about Jenny which could have come only from him.
The song came to its end and there was some applause. Robbie bowed. “I'd like to follow that with an old favourite originally sung by Dickie Henderson,” he said. He searched around the audience, then raised his arm and indicated a middle-aged woman who he knew, from past experience, blushed easily. “It's called âThe Finger of Suspicion Points at
The woman's friends giggled and Robbie launched into the song. His son-in-law, Terry Clough, was standing at the back of the club, he noticed. And he was not alone. Next to him was a slightly younger man dressed in a brown corduroy jacket â Michael Clough, Terry's schoolteacher brother.
Robbie had always liked Terry. He'd never been much in the brains department, but he was a good kid with a big heart â which was why he'd been allowed to marry Jenny. Except that recently, Robbie reminded himself, Terry hadn't been such a good kid. In fact, if he'd done in Liverpool what he'd obviously been doing in Swann's Lake, he'd probably have ended up in concrete wellies, talking to the fishes at the bottom of the Mersey. But this wasn't Liverpool and, when all was said and done, Terry was part of the family. Robbie was confident he could sort out the mess without too much damage being done.
He turned his thoughts to Michael Clough. He was a strange one, all right â a bit of a do-gooder, always championing some cause which he thought would change the world. And when it became obvious â even to him â that the world was still in the same state as it had been when he'd started, he'd find himself another cause and fling himself into it with just as much energy as he'd devoted to the last one. Still, Michael had been very useful recently, there was no disputing that.
The two brothers seemed to be having a very deep conversation for a Friday night, and Robbie wondered what they could possibly be talking about. Terry made an agitated gesture with his hands. Michael shook his head. Then the two of them headed for the door. Strange, Robbie thought. Strange â and very unusual.
The final notes of the song faded away. Robbie bowed once more, then turned to look at Annabel. She held his gaze, and her expression seemed to be challenging him to get on with the show â to let her boyfriend see for himself what her father was
“Did you hear the one about the honeymoon couple?” Robbie asked his audience. “Well, just before they tied the knot, he got talkin' to his mates, and she got talkin' to hers. You know what it's like yourselves, don't you?”
Some of the audience were already tittering in anticipation. Robbie winked at them.
“Anyway, her mates say, âYou've got a big shock comin' to you on Saturday night, Enid,' an' Enid says, âI don't know what yer talkin' about.' So one of her mates says, âYou know when you have big fat pork sausages for your tea?' And she says. . . she says . . .”
The sight of the new arrival at the doorway stopped Robbie in his tracks. He was a young man wearing a smart blue suit and a hard expression. His name was Phil, and he worked for Sid Dowd. It was a bad sign he was there at all, but it was worse that Wally, the chief bar-steward â the chief bar
â was blocking the young man's path and holding out his hand. Asking for his membership card, for God's sake! As if any of Dowd's people needed membership cards for
. Bloody hell, when you worked for Sid, that was a membership card in its own right.
Robbie felt his palms start to sweat. He raised a hand and waved wildly in Wally's direction, but the bloody fool was still looking down at his
hand, as if he really did expect the hard young man would suddenly produce a card from out of nowhere.