Стивен Бут: Dead in the Dark

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Стивен Бут Dead in the Dark
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    Dead in the Dark
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Dead in the Dark: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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How do you prove a murder without a body? Ten years ago, Reece Bower was accused of killing his wife, a crime he always denied. Extensive police searches near his home in Bakewell found no trace of Annette Bower’s remains, and the case against him collapsed. But now memories of the original investigation have been resurrected for Detective Inspector Ben Cooper — because Reece Bower himself has disappeared, and his new wife wants answers. Cooper can’t call on the Major Crime Unit and DS Diane Fry for help unless he can prove a murder took place — impossible without a body. As his search moves into the caves and abandoned mines in the isolated depths of Lathkilldale, the question is: who would want revenge for the death of Annette Bower?

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Stephen Booth

Dead in the Dark

To Lesley, as always


No one wants to die in the dark. To lie alone in the blackness, feeling the chill of death creep slowly over you. Shut away from the light as the fear numbs your limbs and chokes the breath in your throat. The long, long sinking into the cold depths. And then to sense that slipping away. The final slipping away into nothing.

Do you feel that stab of pain as it shoots through your chest? Try to make your breathing more shallow. You have several broken ribs, a fractured arm, perhaps a punctured lung. You can hardly know, in the dark. But you can feel the internal bleeding, the seeping blood as it squeezes your internal organs, bloats your stomach and intestines. You know your injuries are fatal.

That fear of the dark is overwhelming. Because this is true darkness, an eternal night in which your eyes have become useless. Your heart thumps uselessly as you strain to see where you’re lying. You can sense space around you, a slight movement of icy air, a shifting of heavy masses, a solid weight way above your head. A sharp, stabbing pain is in your back from something hard you’re lying on. This isn’t a grave. But it is your tomb.

Does your fear of the dark make any sense? When you’re dead, you go into endless blackness. Yet you’ve always hoped you would get one last glimpse of the light, always prayed that you wouldn’t die alone.

Well, that’s not going to happen. There’s nothing for you to see here. Not a glimmer of light, not a flicker of hope. Only the darkness.

A creak and a rattling makes you freeze. Is someone here? Or some thing? But no... you breathe out and release the pain. The noise has quite a different meaning. It’s something huge shifting overhead. It signals the end, the approach of your death. You’re about to be crushed completely.


Day 1

Flies buzzed around the armchair. A mass of them covered a tiny window, like a moving black curtain. Detective Sergeant Diane Fry watched from the doorway as figures in scene suits moved around the overheated sitting room. Apart from the chair, there was little other furniture. A small table in one corner, a TV set on a stand, a stack of shelves containing two candles, a statue of the Virgin Mary, and a half a dozen books in Polish.

In a tiny kitchen area, there was barely enough room to turn round between an ancient gas cooker, a fridge and a sink. The off-white paintwork was scuffed, and the wallpaper looked damp, with a sheen of black mould under the window. Dust had gathered along the skirting boards and a trail of mouse droppings lay scattered near the bin.

Fry sniffed. The smell in the flat wasn’t the stink of death, though it soon would be. The aroma was a mixture of rancid pork and fried onions. A thin, half-eaten sausage lay on a plate. The door of a wall-mounted cupboard hung open, revealing a row of cans and a few cups and plates. A plastic bag stood near the door. Fry glimpsed a loaf of bread, a carton of milk, some pots of yoghurt. Somebody’s shopping.

The body itself lay curled in an awkward position, its head tilted back, one arm hanging towards the floor. Where the tips of the fingers touched the carpet, the skin was a livid purplish red. Blood had pooled to the lower parts of the body, red cells sinking slowly through the serum in the arteries when the victim’s heart stopped pumping. The carpet was so thin that the blood from the victim’s head wound would soon have soaked through to the floorboards and dripped on to the ceiling of the shop below.

‘There’s a trail of blood all the way from the alley, Sergeant. As far as we can tell, that must be where he was attacked.’

Detective Constable Jamie Callaghan was standing outside in the yard, looking up at her from the bottom of a narrow metal stairway. Yellow evidence markers had been placed on the steps, marking the blood spatter left by the victim as he climbed unsteadily up to the flat. A smear of blood left on the handrail halfway up showed the clear impression of a palm print.

From her position above him, Callaghan looked tall and lean, the darkness of his eyes emphasised by the yellow glare of a security light overhead. It had been daylight for a couple of hours, but it still hadn’t gone off. Perhaps something had triggered the motion sensor.

‘So instead of seeking help, he came back here and sat in his chair to die,’ said Fry. ‘Why would anyone do that?’

Callaghan shrugged. ‘He probably didn’t realise how serious his injuries were.’

Fry looked at the splatter on the stairway. ‘Perhaps. But he must have seen how much blood he was losing.’

‘Shock?’ said Callaghan. ‘You can’t expect people to use sensible judgment in those circumstances.’

‘Are there any witnesses, Jamie?’

‘We’re still looking. Nothing so far.’

‘Well, keep trying. It seems very unlikely that no one would have seen either the attack itself or an injured man bleeding his way back to this flat. The distance between the two scenes is... what? A hundred yards or so? And right in the middle of town.’

‘We’ve got some local officers on it,’ said Callaghan. ‘No one is being very helpful at the moment.’

‘Isn’t that always the way?’

‘In this part of the world, yes.’

Fry turned back to the room. The victim was a man in his late thirties, heavily built around the shoulders and thickening at the waist. His fair hair was cut short, and he had at least a day’s growth of beard. He was dressed in jeans and a bloodstained blue T-shirt, and he was still wearing trainers, which had left damp prints on the carpet. A padded jacket lay where it had been dropped on the floor by the armchair.

Fry’s boss, DCI Alistair Mackenzie, was deep in conversation with the crime scene manager, who she didn’t recognise. The forensic medical examiner straightened up from her examination of the body and turned to the doorway, narrowing her eyes as she peered at Fry’s face. She looked as though she was about to diagnose an unusually serious medical condition from her appearance.

‘Do you want my initial assessment, Detective Sergeant Fry?’ she asked.

The FME was an Asian woman wearing a hijab below the hood of her white scene suit. Fry vaguely recalled meeting her in the Accident and Emergency department at Edendale General Hospital once, when a recently arrested suspect had required urgent medical attention. As a doctor, she must have become tired of the day-to-day stress of A & E, so had moved to something more stable, like sudden death and the examination of detainees in police custody. Fry couldn’t remember the doctor’s name, though. She could have asked, but it probably wasn’t important.

‘That would be helpful,’ she said. ‘I imagine that’s why you’re here, doctor.’

The FME began to strip off her latex gloves, carefully peeling them from one finger at a time.

‘Well, the cause of death appears to be a substantial loss of blood from the stab wound in the left side of the thorax. The weapon entered through the ribs here, as you can see from the extent of the bloodstains on the clothing. But there’s also an extensive head injury, which is serious enough in itself to have caused concussion.’

‘So he may have been in a confused state after the assault?’

‘Almost certainly.’

Fry pointed. ‘And the blood on his hands?’

‘His own, probably. Most of the blood is on his left hand. I imagine he would have clutched it to the wound. It wouldn’t have done much to reduce the flow. On the other hand, if he’d received immediate medical attention, it would have been a different matter.’

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