Authors: Maureen Carter
First published in Great Britain in 2001 by Flambard Press
This edition published by Crème de la Crime Books in 2004
Crème de la Crime Ltd, PO Box 445, Abingdon, Oxon OX13 6YQ
Copyright © 2004 Maureen Carter
The moral right of Maureen Carter to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or any
information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is
All the characters in this book are fictitious and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Typesetting by Yvette Warren
Cover design by Yvette Warren
Front cover photography by A. Inden. Zefa Visual Media,
Printed and bound in England by Biddles Ltd,
A CIP catalogue reference for this book is available from the British Library
About the Author
Maureen Carter has worked extensively in both print and broadcast journalism. She worked on newspapers and commercial radio before joining BBC TV News and Current Affairs.
As well as being a reporter, Maureen co-presented BBC’s flagship
programme and went on to become one of the first women news producers outside London
when she edited
She is now a freelance writer and narrator. Her work has been short-listed in the Crime Writers’ Association’s New Writing Competition. She is currently working on
further DS Bev Morriss novels.
Maureen lives in Birmingham and is married with one daughter, Sophie, who could be a useful contact in future – she’s going to university to read criminology!
My thanks go to members of Wolverhampton’s Vice Squad who helped with much of the research. Since then, part of the squad has been renamed and is now known as Child
For friendship and faith, I thank: Edwina van Boolen, Christine Green, Frances Lally, Suzanne Lee, Corby Young and Peter Shannon.
For his unfailing encouragement and expertise, I thank my editor, Iain Pattison. And for that wonderful phone call, my thanks to Lynne Patrick.
The one streetlight that had been working had just gone out.
“You and me both,” Shell muttered, words lost in a wide-mouthed yawn. She hadn’t had a punter for two hours and it was so cold she couldn’t feel her toes. Four creased
and grimy tenners were lining the soles of her shoes. It was all she had to hide for opening her legs to two blokes she didn’t want to see again, let alone screw. She couldn’t go back
with a puny £40. Her feet wouldn’t touch. Charlie had told her he wanted a monkey by Sunday, and he wasn’t someone you dared cross.
A flash motor turned the corner, cruised towards her. She was no good with car names but even Shell knew a BMW when she saw one. For a second she panicked, then told herself not to be stupid.
They weren’t all pimpmobiles; loads of normal blokes drove Beemers. The car was almost at the kerb now. She took a calming breath, then another. She’d have this last john, then knock it
on the head for the night. She licked her lips, hoped they weren’t blue.
Her white ankle-length coat was unbuttoned, her fists thrust deep in the pockets. She pulled it open even further as she approached the car. Long, blonde hair fell across her face as she leaned
forward to look inside. The practised smile froze on her face. It couldn’t be? Why hadn’t she listened to Vicki?
“Get in.” It wasn’t a request.
Shell put a hand to her heart, scared its pounding would crack a rib. Her glance was everywhere but on the driver. She was looking for an exit; knowing there was no way out. Flight or fight?
Either way she was fucked.
She sighed, opened the door, sliding across the seat. It was warm inside and apart from her body’s odour, she smelt rich leather and classy aftershave. They drove in a silence she
didn’t dare break. They moved away from the back streets now, heading for the ring road, joining other traffic. There was a tall tower – all steel and glass – to Shell’s
left. On top was a read-out in neon red. It flickered every few seconds, flashing through time, temperature, date. Shell followed it with her eyes: 20.19; 4ºC. She had to crane her neck:
“It’s Friday, innit?”
He responded without looking. “So?”
“Unlucky for some, innit?” she whispered.
“Michelle Lucas. Fifteen. Throat wounds. Dead nine hours. Approx.”
Detective Sergeant Beverley Morriss couldn’t keep the anger out of her voice so she was saying as little as possible. She watched her boss, Bill Byford, check his watch, aware that her
body language more than compensated for the verbal shortcomings. Her arms were clamped round her body, a Doc Martened foot tapping the rock-hard earth, her normally fluent features fixed in a stony
It was a little after 8.30am. She’d arrived twenty minutes earlier, alerted by the school caretaker who’d found the body. He was now under sedation. Michelle Lucas had been left to
bleed to death, on the edge of a scummy pool, on one of the coldest nights of the year. It was yet another image that Bev would have to learn to live with.
“You all right, Bev?”
“What do you think?” She turned her face to Byford. In itself, the question wasn’t insolent. Its delivery was definitely borderline, and judging by the look the Detective
Superintendent was returning, she might have just overstepped the mark. It wouldn’t do to get on the man’s wrong side. Supportive senior officers were like snowmen in the desert. She
gave a half-smile to break the ice, and cracked it further with a full apology. “That was out of order. Sorry, guv.”
She was relieved to see a softening of his features but it didn’t alter the harsh reality of the violence before them.
“Fifteen, you say?”
Bev heard the doubt in Byford’s voice. She wasn’t surprised. The victim appeared older. The long blonde hair, the on-the-pull clothes barely concealing the womanly curves.
Bev’s initial estimate had been late teens, early twenties, even.
“Some kids grow up fast, sir.”
She watched as he edged closer. They were in a dip and the body, screened by shrubs, wouldn’t have been visible from the footpath. She flinched as she saw Byford recoil. She didn’t
blame him. Any decent man would. The girl’s long legs were splayed and stained. The tacky, crotchless knickers, more shocking than her near-nakedness. There was dried blood and excrement on
the inside of her thighs: the stink of human waste, in every sense. Bev averted her eyes, not out of embarrassment or disgust but in respect for the girl’s shattered dignity.
“Animals,” she hissed.
“What did you say?”
Aware he was still watching, she tried focusing on routine procedure rather than what appeared to be random savagery. She turned the pages of her notebook, but the tremor in her hands did little
to calm her thoughts.
“Come on, Bev, what is it?”
She glanced at this big man who always had an eye for the small detail. But how could she tell Byford what was wrong when she could hardly explain it to herself? All she knew was that in eight
years on the force, nothing had hit her so hard as the senseless obscenity of this young girl’s death. And she’d seen worse, far worse. She’d cracked sick gags at murder scenes
along with the rest of them. It was a defence mechanism, essential for survival, but it was more than that. It was part of the culture: fit in or fuck off.
Bev had no intention of looking weak. “No prob, guv,” she answered softly.
She knew his nod of acknowledgement was as convincing as her words of assurance but they were all she had at the moment. She broke eye contact, glanced down at the notes of her brief interview
with the caretaker. Byford resumed his scrutiny of the scene.
She waited in silence, knowing he wouldn’t want to talk until he’d absorbed the details, the camera in his brain snapping a series of pin-sharp stills. She’d worked with him
for nearly three years, was familiar with his ways, followed most of them. He was fifty-two, but she reckoned he’d only started to look it in the last eighteen months or so. The black hair
was greying but there was still plenty of it. Bit more of him too, she realised. She hadn’t noticed the slight paunch before. Mind, at six feet two he was hardly Michelin man. Even if she
could see his face, it wouldn’t tell her what he was thinking. She wondered anyway. His kids were grown up, but he was still a father.
“Parents?” he asked.
Her eyes widened. If he was into clairvoyancy, she’d soon be out of a job. As to Michelle’s lineage, the words Bev had in mind were four-lettered and not the kind you’d use in
front of granny. She gave a snort instead: a Morriss special.