Lambeth Group investigator, Gavin Shawlens, is on their trail. But all is not as it seems and he is pushed way out of his depth when the killers turn on his family. Gavin’s Lambeth Group partner, Zoe Tampsin, is cut off from him and fighting her own battle to stay alive.
They need to connect but Zoe will face an impossible choice. Stop the killers before they pull off the most audacious murder that will shock the world and change it forever. Or, rescue Gavin’s family from the jaws of evil.
Sparling rolled the parchment and used it as a baton to point. ‘Justin Tayler Johnstone Tulley. By the powers granted to the High Council by King Edward III, I sentence you to death by rapier.’
Tulley wiped his face on his sleeve and glanced down at Zoe. His eyes pleading for a friendly face. She remained expressionless as she recognised the so-called Vile Viscountas he’d been reported in the Press, a long-standing paedophile. Now, she understood the P brand.
His family had protected him for as long as they could but once his behaviour gained traction in the Press, they abandoned him to avoid even more damage to the family.
In the centre of the box gallows, a circle three metres in diameter was marked out. Caz grabbed Tulley by the arm and pulled him into the centre of the circle.
She placed a black masquerade face mask over his head. It had no eye holes, no mouth hole and bore an expression of contrition.
Sparling banged his gavel for silence. ‘Bring forth the accusers.’
Six people rose from various places in the audience and made their way to the front.
Zoe judged from the heights and body frames that at least two of them were teenagers.
As they passed Sparling’s table, each one extracted a rapier from a brass cylindrical receptacle the size of an umbrella stand.
Zoe turned around on her stool to watch as the accusers positioned themselves on the edge of the ring around Tulley.
They adopted traditional starting positions for fencing with their heals at right angles and rapiers pointing down at forty-five degrees. They wore white silk gloves.
Sparling commanded. ‘Bend the knee.’
Blinded by the mask and with his hands still in handcuffs, Tulley knelt on one knee but kept his back straight. He bowed his head.
In a low voice, he offered a prayer and begged for forgiveness.
Everyone else in the audience rose from their seats and chanted, ‘Atonement.’
Several in the audience shook enraged fists in the air.
While the audience chanted atonement six times, the accusers adopted theen garde fencing position. When the chanting ended, Sparling shouted, ‘Lunge!’
The accusers stamped their front foot on the wooden floor to startle Tulley, then pushed forward to plunge their rapiers into his body.
Tulley screamed and groaned. His body shook and bled but he held his position.
Two rapiers had penetrated less than an inch, others had pushed in further but none of the wounds were fatal.
Tulley bowed his head and whined. Six blood patches of various sizes radiated out on his canvas shirt.
Five accusers withdrew from the circle, one remained. He stepped forward and pushed his rapier into Tulley’s heart and out through his back.
Tulley fell onto his side as the man withdrew his rapier. Tulley’s blood spilled more profusely from his chest and formed a pool.
Caz brought Tulley’s red cloak and the brass cylinder. She covered the body with the cloak and placed the cylinder nearby.
The accusers placed their blood-stained rapiers into the cylinder before they returned to their seats and removed their white gloves.
Caz lifted the cylinder and carried it away. She fetched the large stool and placed it beside the cloak-covered body.
Bree stood behind Zoe. Caz arrived in front, stood to attention and hand signalled Zoe to stand. Bree removed Zoe’s red cloak to reveal her army officer parade uniform. Caz stepped around Zoe and stood beside Bree, then both stood to attention.
Zoe rose from the stool and stood to attention. Eyes straight ahead, lips flat and body rigid. Her hands straining against the handcuffs as if they wanted to take their correct position at her hips.
Silsden rose from his chair, removed his cloak to reveal his army uniform. He fitted his cap on his head. He marched to the space in front of Zoe and stood to attention. Silsden reached, pulled her cap from her head and threw it to the floor.
He reached for her captain’s shoulder epaulettes, tore each one off and threw it to the floor. With the large blade of a Swiss Army knife, he cut the gold buttons from her jacket and threw them to the floor.
Each time he removed something from her uniform, he ripped a piece of her soul from her body.
When he finished, he folded his knife, put it in his pocket, then grasped his swagger stick in his right hand. He whipped it out from under his left arm and drew it back.
Although numb and bereft, her tearful eyes engaged him with a warning. Don’t you dare strike me.
She clamped her eyes shut to stop tears streaming down her face. This wasn’t how she wanted to be remembered. This she didn’t want added to her family’s distinguished military history. This wasn’t what she deserved if the truth were told. The sound of her heartbeat thrashed in her ears.
Silsden returned his swagger stick to its holding position under his left arm. He about turned and marched back to his seat.
She focused on one comfort. She accepted all the blame for the Silsden deaths so her brother, Michael, would not suffer for the help he’d given her. He would look after Amy.
She filled her mind with an image of Amy, Michael and Michael’s wife, Stella, walking hand-in-hand in the park on a glorious sunny day.
Michael would make sure Amy remembered her with love and affection.
Regret pushed to the front. She hadn’t anticipated blowback on Gavin Shawlens. She hadn’t thought it necessary to include him in her deal with Alan Cairn and cursed herself for failing to protect him.
To ease her anger, she recalled memories of Gavin. The time she first met him and the night they’d shared a bed but nothing happened. The terror on his face when she rescued him and he clung to her like a frightened five-year-old. An intimate brotherly love but different from the real love she had for Michael.
Bree drew her Browning on Zoe while Caz escorted Zoe into the centre of the gallows, put the noose around her neck and made her climb the steps to stand on the stool.
Bree holstered her weapon, then drew the slack on the rope to pull Zoe up onto her tip-toes. She secured the rope to a hook on one of the upright beams five metres behind Zoe.
Sparling handed a parchment to Silsden. It detailed the brutal murders of Lord Zacchary Silsden, Bryce Silsden and Sarah Silsden. Many in the audience gasped in horror when he described their brutal deaths.
He sat, rolled the parchment and handed it to Sparling.
Several in the audience rose to their feet and hurled vitriolic abuse at Zoe for what she’d done. Their angry voices resounding in the roof space.
Sparling banged his gavel for silence, then rose from his seat. ‘Zoe Tampsin. You have not denied your part in these deaths and you have offered no defence. A Jury of Peers have found you guilty of said crimes. Do you wish to speak?’
Zoe didn’t respond. In fact, with the rope choking her neck, it would have been difficult for her to say more than two words. Her entire body stiffened and the strain in the back of her legs made her muscles burn with pain.
Sparling continued, ‘By the powers granted to the High Council by King Edward III, I sentence you to death by hanging.’
Caz climbed a small step-ladder, placed a black hood over Zoe’s head and checked that the rope would remain tight when it held her weight.
Satisfied that it would, she shifted the step-ladder to the side. She stood to attention behind Zoe, ready to push her off the stool.
Sparling raised his hands upwards. ‘Be upstanding.’
The audience rose to their feet and trained their eyes on Zoe. Six times they chanted, ‘Atonement.’
Her heart pounded, tears flowed and her thoughts separated out as if they’d gathered in each hemisphere of her brain. On one side, profound regret for the issues she’d not resolved, and heartache for not finding time to express undying love to those who loved her. On the other side, overwhelming relief to lay her troubled mind to rest.
When the chanting ceased, Sparling banged his gavel. ‘Carry out the sentence.’
Caz leaned back then pushed Zoe’s body off the stool.
about the author
I was born and brought up in Glasgow, Scotland. I studied biochemistry, and I’ve worked in several Scottish Universities where I did research on enzymes and taught biochemistry. After thirty years of teaching and research I retired my academic pen and took of a fiction pen.
I write medical-themed thrillers. Deadly Secrets was published in 2013, and was followed by Everything To Lose in 2014, The Black Fox in 2015, Toxic Minds in 2016, Tabula Rasa in 2017 and Tears of Fire in 2018. I live in central Scotland with my wife and we enjoy reading, writing, and walking in the hills.
tour hosted by
Huge thanks to Sarah for inviting me on to the tour, and to Gordon and the publisher for sharing an extract with us.
Have a wonderful day all!