Taunting the Dead

By: Mel Sherratt

(The DS Allie Shenton Trilogy Book 1)




Prologue – December 2011

She pushed open the door to the bar and staggered out into the car park. The pounding in her head gained momentum as she swayed from side to side, trying to figure out which way was home as she balanced on her heels. She took a swig of the bottle she’d swiped off an empty table, wiping at her mouth as the lager spilled over and down her neck.

‘Carole?’ She moved a little further into the darkness. The bright lighting from The Potter’s Wheel public house was far behind her now, the car park dimly lit for its size. Some way behind her the music became louder and then faded away again. She heard heels tapping, a woman’s laughter, car doors slamming and an engine starting up. Then silence as it moved away.

‘Carole?’ she tried again. ‘Where are you, you dozy cow? You said you’d only be gone a few minutes and that was ages ago. CAROLE?’

She froze when she heard a noise behind her. Swivelling round too fast for the amount of alcohol she’d consumed, she stumbled a step forward but stayed on her feet. She squinted into the dark but still she could see nothing.

‘Look, Carole,’ she snapped into the night. ‘This isn’t funny now. Come on, let’s go home. You can crash at mine and we’ll get the vodka out.’

But Carole didn’t reply.

‘Well, fuck you, Carole Morrison. I’ll find my own way home. And fuck you, Terry Ryder. I don’t need you to make me happy.’

She staggered back across the car park and round to the front of the building. In the distance, there were headlights. She wondered if it was a taxi and held up her hand.

‘Hey!’ The car rushed past her. ‘HEY! Slow down! Hey! Well, fuck you, too!’

Another rush of dizziness. She retched and threw up. Wiping at her mouth, she sat down on the edge of the pavement and put her head in her hands. It was pretty ironic that she was in the gutter. It was where she belonged and she doubted anyone would miss her. Her daughter wouldn’t, she was sure of that. Not after the way she’d slapped her during their last argument. Her husband wouldn’t miss her, either. Twenty years married and it was more like a life sentence now. But she loved the bastard.

‘Screw you, Terry Ryder,’ she slurred. ‘I hate you. You hate me. But we’re stuck with each other. Can’t live with you. Can’t live without you.’

She heard another noise. She stood up and turned quickly, swaying as she tried to stay upright.

‘Who’s there?’ she said.

Someone came out of the shadows.

‘What the fuck do you want?’ she said. ‘And what are you doing creeping around like that? You scared the shit out of me.’

They were the last words she said. She fell to the ground easily with the first blow, not even having time to cry out in pain.





PART ONE

ONE WEEK EARLIER





Chapter One

The last week in November wasn’t the best of times to be out on the streets of Stoke-on-Trent with nothing to snuggle into but a fiery attitude. In fact, any time in Stoke-on-Trent could be seen as cold to an outsider.

Like any city, it had its good points. Down-to-earth people who’d always offer a helping hand, a warm smile, a kind word – sometimes spoken in the potteries dialect – Wedgwood and Royal Doulton, Staffordshire oatcakes and the city’s angel of the north, Robbie Williams. Like any city, it had its bad points. A run-down city centre. A multi-million–pound regeneration plan that had never materialised beyond knocking down properties and creating huge, barren landscapes of nothing.

And right now, it had a killer at large.

‘He’ll be here,’ Detective Sergeant Allie Shenton said as she marched down the path towards a front door that had seen one too many fights.

‘How do you work that one out?’ Matt Radcliffe, the Detective Constable out in the biting cold with her, questioned as he followed behind with a quick step.

‘You didn’t notice the look on her face yesterday?’

‘Not really. She was mouthing off too much. I –’

‘She was spooked. Eyes flitting everywhere. She knows something.’

Matt shook his head. ‘He’s hardly going to be at one of the first places we’d look.’

‘You reckon? His mother would stab me rather than tell me anything.’ Allie confirmed her thoughts with a nod. ‘He’ll be in there, I’m telling you. And when I do find him, I’m going to stab him in his stomach and leave him to die. See how he likes it, the bastard.’

Andrew Maddison had disappeared two days earlier, shortly before the police were called out to Georgia Road, Hanley. His mother-in-law had visited to find her daughter, Sarah, lying dead in the back yard. She’d been there since the late hours of the previous night.

The door was yanked open and a middle-aged woman turned a caustic tongue on them. She smelt of cigarettes, lips pursed even without one, hair ratted, arms folded over a heaving bosom ready to burst out of the dirt-stained T-shirt she wore.

‘I told you if I saw him, I’d let you know,’ she snapped.

Allie pushed past her and into the hallway.

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