Genre Mystery Suspense
Release August 16, 2013
Tags Mystery, suspense, murder, violence, crime procedure.
Editor Nancy Bell
Line Editor Valerie Haley
Cover Designer Marion Sipe
Detective Sergeant Sarah Kemp, newly arrived in the small East Anglian market town of Tenley and still wary from her experience of mayhem in her last post, finds herself neck deep in intrigue once again. People keep turning up dead and no one in the community is willing to speak to the police. Sarah, herself becomes the target of vandalism and violent acts. The clues are misleading and everyone is a suspect. To top it off, someone in the police force is leaking information to the murderer.
She pulled into her carport and, as she manoeuvred into her correct position, something puzzled her. The cars of the other occupants were all there, but something was different. She kept her lights on to try and see what it was. She was about to turn them off, blaming her tiredness for hallucinating, when she saw what had caught her attention. Hanging down above eye level in her parking lot was a roughly made wooden triangle with something red on the point of each angle.
Her tiredness immediately dissipated. She had been looking forward to a drink and the hope of some sleep, but now everything had changed. A triangle. It seemed trivial, but after what had happened over the past seventeen hours or more, she had to think the worst. She took her torch from the glove pocket, removed her keys from the ignition and stepped out to examine what had evidently been left for her to find.
Before inspecting it, she pressed the locking device on her key and swept the beam of her torch in every direction and listened. The only sounds were from the small waves in the river as the tide pushed up the estuary, and there was no sign of any unwanted visitor. She shone the beam up to the overlapping roof of the carport and discerned a length of string hanging down with the triangle attached and swinging gently in the light breeze.
She moved closer and was right. It was a triangle made of oak twigs crudely held together with tacks and each angle, as she had thought, was covered with blood or paint. But she wasn't going to check herself. Someone from the station could do that, check the whole area and take the symbol away to have it examined forensically. Had she not read about cults, extreme religious bodies…she would have thought it was simply a childish joke.
Not after today's events, though, and she called the station. But as soon as she spoke, she was startled by a shriek of hysterical laughter and saw the figure of an elderly woman run like a young sprinter on to the tow path and away toward the town.
The woman had too much of a lead for Sarah to follow, and she remembered what the officer had said at Mrs Blanchard's house. And it was probably the third time she had made her presence known to the police within a few hours. So Sarah waited for yet another search team to arrive. Four times in one day, and all within a small area of a small county town.
She was staring at the triangle, trying to work out whether the stains were blood or paint, when her phone rang.
“Sarah, it's me. Are you all right?” DI Cresswell's voice sounded anxious.
“Yes, but I've just called in for a check on the carport where I live. Someone's left a symbol above where I park and…” She wondered how to describe the next part. “…and that woman who was watching us in the pub shrieked like a banshee when I called in then raced away. I'd never have caught her. But why did you ask? Are you okay?”
“I am, but my wife's had a nasty fright. The phone rang about an hour ago and, as you described it, a woman screamed at her. More like a mad woman in a horror movie was how she described it. And…and there was a triangle hanging on the door knocker. Listen, when I phoned to ask for a search, they told me about your call. They'll be with you soon then they can come here afterward. Meanwhile, I'll try and find out where that phone call came from.”
“Are you sure? That's not fair on your wife. If it was the same scream as the one I heard, it must have terrified her. I'm still shaking.”
“She's better now, but…you take care.”
Sarah was grateful for his concern, though she wished he hadn't said those last two words. They suddenly made her apprehensive, but before she could dwell on it a large unmarked police van arrived with the team, and the senior officer spoke to her.
“Sergeant Kemp, DI Cresswell asked me to speak briefly to you then to come to your flat with you to…er…make sure everything's okay.”
She told him everything, and then led him into the old warehouse and up the stairs to the flat. They both looked carefully, but there was nothing on her door and nothing inside. The security system with keys and numerical codes to get in and out would have prevented the woman from gaining access, but Sarah was glad to have the company of the SOCO officer to check.
“All clear. Too difficult to get inside, most likely. That's why they left it in your parking lot. Though how they knew it was yours is interesting.”
“I wondered that as well. Unless it was luck and mine was the only empty space. I suppose it's possible, but I'm not sure. I'd believe anything after a day like this one.”
She thanked him then went down again to let him out. The security was excellent, but exhausting if you had visitors.
She closed the door, poured herself a large brandy and dropped into an armchair, but before she was able to savour the first sip, the phone rang. She had meant to have an ex-directory number, but hadn't got round to changing it, and not many people had her number, her parents, a few friends and some of her colleagues. And it was rather late for a social call unless it was an emergency. She picked it up, said hello, and then groaned as a fearful scream answered her before it turned into mad laughter.