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Krimis & Thriller
Buch Leseprobe Silent Gull, L A Kent
L A Kent

Silent Gull


DI Treloar mystery series #3

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Celebrate Christmas in Cornwall


at Fowey Christmas Market


 


In early December the beautiful seaside town of Fowey hosts a Christmas Market. Experience a weekend of festive entertainment, with food and drink and great Christmas gifts.


Events for the market start on the Friday evening with entertainment through the town including Father Christmas arriving by tug, a lantern parade, the Christmas lights switch on, a hog roast and festive music. Stalls are open throughout the weekend.


Fowey boasts a fantastic range of unique little independent shops, great restaurants, hotels, pubs and guest houses waiting to welcome you at this special time of year.


The Fowey at Christmas Newsletter


 


One


 


It was cold on the water. It was late November in Cornwall. It was late evening. A figure clad in a wetsuit, in a navy blue kayak, was pulling against the inflowing waters of the tide across the River Fowey from the Fowey side. A bright intermittent moon was shining off the water then disappearing behind sweeping clouds. The kayaker moved silently and expertly between the boats moored in the channel, then hugged the far side of the river which was uninhabited and safe from prying eyes. It steered into a tributary, where the going was easier, and glided up to a small jetty where a second figure clad in jeans and a dark hoodie was waiting, breath misting in the cold air.


    A large tanned hand reached down to grab the prow and secured the kayak to a ring before moving to repeat the action at the stern. The paddle was handed up and then the paddler raised its arms and was lifted onto the jetty and into a passionate embrace. The paddler pulled a beanie off its head and a mass of red curls fell down its shoulders.


   ‘Hey Babe,’ said the lifter, smiling to reveal perfect white teeth in a tanned handsome face with piercing sapphire eyes. He was a good-looking boy.


   ‘Hey Hitch,’ said the girl returning his smile.


   Her name was Georgiana Spargo and her father, Christian, was one of the most feared and despised men in Cornwall. If he had known the purpose of her crossing and who she was visiting, he would have killed her with his bare hands.


   At the end of the jetty was a series of old terraced buildings and thatched roundhouses, all entirely in darkness. The lovers should have been alone. But someone was watching and listening. A man was standing inside the nearest roundhouse in the darkness having just emerged from the flotation tank. He should not have been there at night. What psychologist Dr Ivan Speer, ever on the lookout for an opportunity for blackmail and betrayal, with all his experience of troubled minds, should have remembered, was that secrets are dangerous, and even other people’s can get you killed.


 


Christian Spargo resented Jackson Power. How could anyone leave California for Cornwall; abandon the weather, the space, the money, the opportunities? Christian’s greatest regret in life was that he hadn’t left for the US years ago. Opportunity lost. His dreams had been limited to the narrow grey horizons of the UK.


   The US would have understood him; appreciated him; valued him; Christ, honoured him! Here he was treated with civil contempt. Oh, they respected his money and feared his assumed violence, but they didn’t like him. They bridled at his uncouth presence in their riverside idyll. Just like his hero, Napoleon Bonaparte, he was misunderstood and despised. They had a stereotypical image of a gangster and they had pinned it on him.


   But the real reason for his hatred of Jackson Power was a bitter, festering obsession with a commercial defeat. Christian had been about to exchange contracts on the purchase of Seal Hall when he was outbid by a ridiculously higher offer by Power, the Hollywood superstar, much to the delight of the local community. Everyday, Christian could stare from the upstairs windows of his substantial home, Corsica House, set among the evergreen trees above the narrow streets of Fowey, across the Fowey River to the domain of his enemy on the top of the opposite wooded slope. He tried not to, but sometimes it was irresistible.


 


Power, a Minnesota farm boy whose real name was Rolf Lindström, had shot to fame in the nineties when he had been cast as an unknown Hollywood newcomer to play the hero in the first of a phenomenally successful series of movies about a fictional medieval kingdom. Twenty years later he was a multi-millionaire with a beautiful wife, Erin, a family home on Mulholland Drive in Los Angeles and millions of devoted fans. He had gained great fame and fortune, but he had lost his eldest son.


   Jackson and Erin had named their four children for their Hollywood favourites. The eldest, a boy, Ford after director John Ford; then daughter, Davis, after actress Bette Davis; son Hitchcock, known as Hitch, after director Alfred Hitchcock; and finally daughter Gardner, known as Posy, after actress Ava Gardner. All had been wonderful in their Camelot life until Ford fell in with the wrong crowd, took to drugs, escalating to heroin, and despite his parent’s frantic efforts and copious cash, died of a massive overdose in a seedy motel on Hollywood Boulevard the previous year.


   Erin had turned to her therapist, but bereft and inconsolable, Jackson Power had left for Europe. He had toured the continent fleeing his pain and eventually found himself in London. Sitting in the bar of the Savoy hotel, he had been leafing aimlessly through a back copy of Country Life magazine when he had come across an estate agent’s details of a property for sale in Cornwall: Seal Hall. He knew it was perfect for a project that had been ripening in his mind. He phoned the agent and secured the property sight unseen. Over the course of the following eighteen months he had created ‘The Valley of the Tides: a therapeutic centre for traumatized young addictive personalities and their families’.


   Seal Hall, originally a Tudor manor, had served over the years as a boys’ boarding school, a TB sanatorium and a hotel. Consequently there were a number of existing buildings beyond the main hall which were turned into facilities from therapy and treatment rooms to swimming pool, gym and flotation tanks. The interior of the hall had been gutted and transformed into the equivalent of a luxury hotel and spa to accommodate residents and a stable block transformed into en suite rooms for families and friends. Steps led from Seal Hall’s gardens down to the water’s edge on a tributary of the Fowey River. Here were the chapel and graveyard of the original Tudor estate, the seaweed pool, boat storage and a small jetty and a flotation tank in a thatched roundhouse.


 


The following morning Christian Spargo’s thoughts were for once not turned toward his nemesis across the water, but to his youngest daughter, Georgie. She had come home very late the previous night, in fact, it must have been the early hours of the morning. Since the summer she had been unusually quiet. Normally the girl was full of life and laughter but for the past few months she had been distracted and distant. Of course what he didn’t and couldn’t know was that Georgie was constantly thinking about Hitch Lindström, and obviously unable to share her thoughts with her father. Christian’s loathing and resentment encompassed the entire Lindström family.


   Georgie Spargo had met Hitch Lindström that summer on 20 June at 21:37. He was attending the 21st birthday celebration of his best friend, Kit Penrose, at Sam’s in Fowey and she was waiting on tables. The attraction between them had been instant and electric. Even Kit, who by that time had visited several pubs and bars and consumed a substantial number of beers, noticed. Kit worked at The Valley of the Tides as a gardener/handyman and lived in a small terraced house in Fowey which he had inherited from his grandmother. When Hitch wanted to overnight in Fowey, this is where he stayed.


 


Christian stood on the patio outside his drawing room in the pale early morning light gazing at the river where a mist was creeping along the water towards the sea like a predatory ghost. The air was still and silent. Threads of smoke drifted from an occasional chimney. He was pondering what to do about Georgie; whether he should speak to her mother or to his wife, Lana, who was nearer in age to his children. His elder daughter, Josephine, was of no use. She was living in London and wasn’t close to Georgie anyway, and his son, Leon, he was a boy and therefore useless when it came to emotional issues.


   One of the many myths surrounding Christian was that he had dumped his first wife, Lizzie, for a newer, younger model: Lana. In reality Lizzie had left him. She had gone off ‘to find herself’ and he had little contact with her. He smiled to himself as he recalled one of Napoleon’s sayings which he thought entirely appropriate to his relationship with his first wife and her quest: ‘Never interrupt your enemy when he’s making a mistake.’ As he chuckled softly the silence was broken by a piercing scream coming from low across the water. Hopefully that’s Power dead, he thought. He was half right; it wasn’t Power.


 


 


Two


 


Ducking away from the smoke, which was building strongly, then running down towards the river he had been smiling, happy, seriously pleased with himself, it had all come together. Jumping over rocks and jagging round trees and bushes, eyes accustomed to the dark, he had slowed as he got close to the creek. Still smiling he could smell the smoke, it seemed to be getting stronger, or was it just the breeze swirling more of it in his direction?


   He had laughed as he slowed down at the creek bank and turned right and jogged along the path towards the river where he saw the boat moving slowly towards the bank, and the lights of Fowey above the opposite bank. ‘This is what it’s all about,’ he said to himself and he couldn’t stop smiling as he had jogged towards the boat.


   He jogged carefully, watching the lights jumping up and down with him as he ran, thinking back, ‘star dies suddenly. How and why?’ Ha, that’s what they said in the paper,’ he thought, ‘and now here we all are. Bloody stars, who needs the bastards?’ remembering what had brought him to The Valley of the Tides; ‘couldn’t have worked out better, shame it took so bloody long.’ The boat was closing in even more slowly and he saw that he needed to speed up to be able to grab the rope when it was thrown, and he had laughed when the boat turned sharply away to go round again.


   He was late, only a couple of minutes, and Mad Cam hadn’t seen him waiting where he should have been, by the rusting old bollard at the top of the bank. At that time of the cloudy morning there was no light to help. He was supposed to flash the small green torch light to show Mad Cam that he was there and ready.


   He needed Mad Cam to get back quickly. He needed to get on, and as he watched the boat turning to come back it was much too slow. He couldn’t smell the smoke anymore, maybe the breeze had changed direction, maybe the fire had gone out , ‘I don’t think so,’ he had thought and laughed again. He looked at the boat and shouted quietly, ‘hurry up ….. come on man.’ Standing still and looking over the top of the boat he could see the lights of Fowey stretching up from the road along the bank opposite; up to the straight string line of lights running along the Readymoney road near the top of the hill before they disappeared behind houses on their way down to the cove.


   It had taken ages working out how to escape, how to move on. Starting out, he hadn’t really wanted to hurt anyone, but in the end he had to, and it had all worked out.


   It had been great to start with, he was his own boss, could do what he wanted, which had been bloody brilliant, he knew, everyone said so, and they kept coming back. There was even a waiting list, growing and getting longer all the time. The list had disappeared overnight, he’d read about it in the papers. Perfect.


   ‘No-one knew, really knew,’ he thought, ‘a few people thought they did but no-one could prove it’. He smiled again and looked down the river towards Polruan, not much to see, just the vague outline of the hill on the left in the distance as it dropped down to the estuary, a different shade of dark, and the Christmas lights on the quay. He smelled the smoke again and laughed. Shouted under his breath again at the boat. He had to hurry.


   Standing at last by the old bollard and noticing his breath white in the chill air, he pointed the torch at the slowly burbling boat and flashed it on and off until its engine tone changed slightly and moved slowly towards him. He only stopped flashing when the boat swung against the high outgoing tide and was side-on to the bank, two metres off, prow pointing upstream, and holding its position. ‘Oi boy, where you bloody been?!’ growled Mad Cam, ‘we need to get off, quick, not get stuck by ‘ere. Right.’ …….Then Mad Cam curtly barked, ‘looking!’


   A dark rectangular crate was suddenly swinging past, to the right of his head, and was quickly lowered to the ground next to him. He reached down, freed the holding loops from underneath, said ‘OK Cam go,’ and the winch was swinging the rope back and up to the deck. Less than a minute later another crate was swinging its way to the bank and he stacked it on top of the first, then a third arrived and after freeing the loops said, ‘right go, thanks man, appreciate it …. call you again soon.’ The engine was already increasing its pitch and moving forward; turning back out into the river even as the rope was winding back to the deck. Cam said nothing. He stood and watched as the boat, still without lights, faded quietly down the river, back towards the sea.


   The smoke was suddenly there again, on the breeze, just for a second, and he smiled and looked down at the crates before walking over to the sack trolley he had left close to the bollard earlier and wheeled it over to the crates. He wheeled its base under the bottom crate and shoved hard, twisting the handles as he pushed, then kicking the base with his right foot as it got too hard to push alone, until the crates were hard up against the uprights of the trolley. Pausing for breath for a minute he smiled as he remembered how it had fallen off the back of a lorry in Mevagissey - at least that is what the driver he had given the fifty pounds to had told him he would tell his boss when he asked for a new one. He had got a bargain; it was brilliant. With three wheels arranged in a kind of triangle on each side and made for getting heavy boxes up and down stairs, it was perfect for getting precious and delicate cargo safely around the rough paths and over the occasional logs it found itself dealing with these days.


   He laughed out loud, pulled the handles towards him keeping his right foot against the base, tilting the trolley, then he carefully lowered it until he was holding the handles at arm’s length, said, ‘right let’s get on,’ and set off, back towards the smoke, wheeling the crates up the slope and away from the river.


 


 


Three


 


If Christian Spargo was one of the most feared men in Cornwall, his younger brother, Gideon, was one of the most feared in Europe. Were a seagull to fly westwards some 40 miles from The Valley of the Tides it would reach Newlyn, where it could fly over the fish market to land on the roof of a terrace of stone cottages, home to Abraham Spargo, Christian’s father, and son, Gideon.


   Here, at his bedroom window, for hours on end, sat Abraham Spargo watching the world go by like a beady-eyed, silent gull. Long gone were the days when he had ruled his boys with an iron rod. Now he was marooned in this cold room, at the mercies of his depraved son Gideon. It was Gideon who now ran Gwavas Fish, the family fishing fleet, supposedly his main occupation. But Abraham knew that the boy had inherited his grandfather’s taste for smuggling and had expanded it into darker realms. Gideon had no boundaries. If there was money in it, Gideon would smuggle it: alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, weapons, people … Abraham was scared of his son Gideon, although he would never admit it. So, he remained silent.


   Christian on the other hand was a ‘legitimate businessman’. Sneering at his brother he would often say; ‘If I’d wanted to profit from human misery, I’d have become a dentist.’ But Abraham remembered that in his youth, his elder son’s hands had not been so squeaky clean. And Christian was the only person Abraham knew who was not frightened of Gideon. Well, apart from his granddaughter Georgiana, but then she was frightened of nobody and nothing. He adored her. And he didn’t see enough of her since Christian had moved them all to Fowey. All his grandchildren … gone away.


   Christian Spargo had never been involved in the Gwavas Fish business. He had worked on the boats during school holidays but he had always hated the smells and the mess: fish, guts, oil, diesel, wet ropes, bloody sea water. Whilst Gideon was eyeing the illegal possibilities in Europe, Christian was eyeing the legal opportunities in the West Country, and his gaze fell on leisure and tourism. He had started with two rather seedy night clubs in Union Street in Plymouth, a fact which some of his Fowey neighbours loved to fling in his face. They had enjoyed a reputation for trouble, rough doormen, dodgy dealings and lax application of the licensing laws. They were known as the places to go to source anything from female company to weapons. But his business interests had moved upmarket; had developed to include cafés, bars, holiday camps and hotels and his empire stretched from Bristol to Penzance. Seal Hall was to have been the jewel in his crown. Was to have been.


   Gideon had never married; never given him grandchildren. Abraham knew why, but didn’t dare speak of it. So, in his silence he brooded, and the thing he dwelled on the most, was not the knowledge of his son’s many terrible deeds, but the fact that he had cost Abraham his dearest, oldest friend: Jago Treloar.


 


Further back along the coast towards Fowey is the port of Falmouth, one of the world’s deepest natural harbours, set in one of Cornwall’s larger extended wooded valleys. Home to dockyards, boatyards, and a healthy tourist trade, Falmouth is a larger version of Fowey. Here on a bluff overlooking the estuary, a former hotel had been converted into a hospice for police officers. It was into this building on that cold late November morning that Detective Inspector Félipe Treloar, son of Jago, walked with a heavy heart. Treloar hated these places. For a man who saw more than his fair share of death and suffering, he had a morbid dread of serious illness and the natural end of life.


   Treloar was the son of a Spanish mother and a Cornish father, with blonde blue-eyed good looks which made him a favourite of the media and hence the Chief Constable. He was the head of a small team in Devon & Cornwall Police which handled serious crime and he had a reputation for getting results.


   He had come to visit his former boss and mentor, a retired Detective Chief Superintendent, Joe Thwaite. Every visit he was reminded of the man he had worked with, a big booming Yorkshireman who instilled terror into the ranks; now much diminished. As Treloar crossed the polished wood floor towards the reception desk he glanced around at the soothing primrose walls and the bold seascapes. He recognised some new additions as the work of his near neighbour and friend Ochre Pengelly.


   Having signed in, he slowly climbed the stairs to the first floor like a reluctant schoolboy on his way to the headmaster’s office. He walked along the plush carpeted hallway to the end and knocked on a door before opening it. He entered the room to be met by the customary stuffiness: a mixture of too much heat and too much cleaning product.


   Joe Thwaite, now a frail wraithlike figure, was sitting in a reclining armchair in the bay window facing out over the dockyard. Treloar felt his spirits lift; the last time he had visited Joe had been confined to bed but as he approached Treloar could see the man looked much improved.


   ‘Morning Boss,’ Treloar said, laying a hand on the older man’s shoulder.


   ‘Hello there lad,’ Thwaite replied. ‘Good of thee to come so quick.’


   Treloar smiled as he reflected on how his former boss’s accent seemed to get more pronounced with every visit. Probably too much time spent alone with his past.


   ‘I got your message.’ The younger man said, sitting in the second chair in the window.


   ‘Aye, well. I wanted to tell thee something whilst there’s time. It’s been weighing on me of late.’


   ‘What is it Boss? Something from one of our cases?’


   ‘Nay lad, not exactly. More like the one that got away. A right bastard I never nailed. More like a right bastard and his spawn …’ he broke off, coughing and reached for a box of tissues. Treloar poured and handed him a glass of water.


   ‘Ta lad,’ he said recovering, ‘where was I?’


   ‘A bastard and his spawn?’


   ‘Aye a right bastard if ever there were one. And we never got the bugger, not for ‘owt major.’


   ‘OK … how can I help?’


   ‘I want you to nail him. And I’ll give you cause. His youngest’s an evil shite who likes to hurt people and loves nowt but money. He has no soul, none lad.’


   ‘Who are we talking about?’


   ‘Gideon Spargo. He’s the worst of ‘em, but they’re all rotten them Spargos.’


Treloar looked surprised. There had been Spargos in Cornwall forever; they were an ancient clan. Some said the giant Corineus, founder of the county, was a Spargo. Of course Treloar knew of the Spargo family and the many lurid stories that surrounded them, but nobody had ever been able to convict them of anything that sent them away for any serious time.


   Thwaite noticed the look on his protégé’s face.


   ‘Aye, I know, many ‘ave tried. But none ‘ave had thy reason.’


   ‘My reason?’


   Thwaite fell silent for a while, gazing out to sea and then sighed deeply. ‘Spargos, one or all of the bastards, are responsible for what happened to thy father.’


   Treloar started in his chair. His father had gone missing, presumed drowned, whilst swimming in a cove near the family farm on the north Cornish coast some years previously. Despite himself he raised his voice. ‘What? You’re saying the Spargo family made my father kill himself, drown himself?’


   ‘Nay lad … They made him disappear but thy father’s not drowned. He’s alive and well.’


 


 


Four


 


He got the idea after Alan in Seattle sent the email warning him not to use the crabs, with a credit note attached, last year in November. They were putting on a week of “holiday specials”, just before Thanksgiving and it was sold out. He had ordered twenty five kilos of flash-frozen Dungeness crab from the fish market in Seattle, Pike Place. The food fundies said that they didn’t quite have the flavour and texture of live crabs but he knew they were flash frozen straight out of the sea; Alan had taken him on the boats, he’d seen them do it, and they were normally guaranteed superb.


   Reliable guy, great supplier, but Alan had been caught out like everyone else by the epidemic caused by algae off the northeast Pacific coast. It had affected most shellfish, especially crabs, and no-one was allowed to catch them or sell them once the problem had been identified. A big chunk of the shellfish industry in the western USA had been seriously screwed, including restaurants, and especially the fishermen.


   They tasted great but made people violently ill, causing vomiting and worse, almost immediately after eating them. Alan had sent him an email with a warning and an apology and a credit note. Amazing, he’d sent it the day the crabs arrived. A bright red sticker from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service had been stuck onto the credit note before it had been scanned, talking about severe illness and even death and brain damage, and the crabs were taken off the menu. But even then he thought they might come in useful and after throwing most out he had locked three kilos in his personal freezer; being head chef at The Rock in Brighton was driving him nuts.


   When he had taken the job it was great. The new owners had sold shares in a software company they had founded in Johannesburg, South Africa, and had some serious money. They had spent a lot on refurbishment, had an ambition to run a top restaurant in England and had hired him to help them achieve it. The pay was good and the flat on the top floor above the restaurant had been nicely done out and he had been able to move miles away from his bitch of an ex who still lived in Solihull.


   They pretty much left him to get on with it, but had to approve the menus and taste the food before they were printed up, and to meet new staff before they agreed contracts. The specials were different. They depended on the often unplanned fish, meat and game that turned up in the morning or that he had been called about the night before. He did what he wanted with the specials menu, had to, there wasn’t enough time for “trials” and they weren’t always around anyway. He had always been creative and was a good chef; truth be told he was a bloody great chef, and he really enjoyed thinking about food and inventing new dishes and cooking them, himself, personally.


   Making it to the top in Brighton had not really been that hard, it had even been interesting at first although he did miss being hands-on. Always the supervisor, keeping his eye on what everyone else was doing, what supplies were coming in, that they were on time and top quality when they arrived, stored properly, checking what was on order and who from and when it was due in, walking round the kitchen seeing what was being done and how, making sure everything was properly cooked and ready on time, looking at the plates before they went out, making sure the presentations matched the pictures that he used for training in the morning menu meetings with the kitchen crew before they got going. So much to do and not much of it was cooking.


   There was a meat chef, a fish chef, a pastry chef and a pudding chef; and sous chefs and commis chefs and trainee chefs and assistants and apprentices coming out of his ears, but it was all still down to him, his responsibility to make sure it all worked, that the customers would keep coming back, that the waiting list kept growing.


   The experimenting and dish development was for the afternoons, or the seriously early mornings, and it wasn’t unusual for him to pull an all-nighter to finish off an idea, when there was no-one else in the kitchen. The sousies helped, couldn’t have done it without them. Most of the time though from when he got out of bed in the morning to whenever he crashed, he was nothing more than a bloody supervisor, a foreman, a teacher, an inspector; he was seriously stressed, and he hated it with a passion.


 


Five


 


 


Abraham Spargo’s father, Abel, had been a monstrously cruel man; a sea captain; a bully and a tyrant. When Abraham was twelve and on his maiden voyage aboard the trawler St Cecilia, then the largest vessel in the Spargo fleet, Abel, drunk, had tied his son’s arm into the net and thrown him overboard, threatening to keelhaul the boy. The horrified crew had hauled the net back in quickly, too quickly, causing a fracture which the terrified boy had hidden. Untreated, it had healed badly and left Abraham with a damaged left arm. The experience had left him with deep psychological scars.


   When Gideon had been a child, abused and tormented by his older brother Christian, Abraham had turned a blind eye; the abused tolerating the abuser. Now as an old man, just as he had once been terrorised and humiliated by his father, so he was by his younger son. The wheel had come full circle.


   Only in his youth, before his marriage, after his father had drowned when he was fourteen, had Abraham been truly happy. His schoolmate and pal Jago Treloar had been big and brave and fearless and he had protected Abraham from bullies. Jago had included him, made him feel valued. He had taken Abraham along on the famed Brittany Ferries’ trip to Santander. Thinking back to that night brought a smile to his face. They had been a bunch of lads on a night out in Plymouth. After a few too many beers, they had ended up on this ferry thinking they would dock in Roscoff and get back the next day. However, they ended up in Santander in northern Spain, Jago had met his future wife Inés and the rest was history. Abraham had been at Jago’s wedding, at his children’s christenings.


   And on the one occasion that Abraham had stood up to Gideon, it had been for Jago Treloar. He had warned Jago that Gideon had put a price on his head, a contract out for his death. He had told Jago to disappear to save his farm and his family, and in doing so he had lost his best friend.


 


It was as 1 Timothy 6:10 in the King James Bible states: “For the love of money is the root of all evil.” Abraham knew that was true of his son Gideon. Whilst there had always been an element of smuggling alongside the fishing in the family business Gideon had moved into the dark but profitable areas of drugs, weapons and people trafficking. And when Abraham thought he could fall no lower, he had discovered there was no depth to which Gideon would not sink for his precious gold.


   Of course, when you’re bringing in high risk cargo, you can’t just sail into port. Not always. So that had been the problem. Jago Treloar owned a farm on the north Cornish coast near Zennor with access to the sea: Cove Farm. Gideon wanted that access and temporary use of farm buildings for storage. Jago refused and threatened to go to the police. The next thing Abraham knew he got word in the port of Newlyn that the contract was out. He warned Jago. Jago went swimming and never returned. In eight years he had heard no word. He had lost his best friend and it was all down to Gideon. Abraham hated his son.


 


Six


 


 


‘Great’ he said to himself when he was nearly there and could see that the flames had almost completely died, that the coals were beginning to glow red and that their glow was spreading. It was still dark, the breeze was coming and going, and he heard the hoots of two owls calling to each other in the woods as he looked at the coals and thought. He could see that he had around half an hour before the coals would be full on and ready for the first of the smoking boxes; plenty of time to fillet two of the special haddock that would be inside one of the crates. They were special because they shouldn’t be landing haddock, not here, not now.


   There was a local ban on and inspectors were turning up and going through the markets and harbour cold stores all along the south Cornwall coast to enforce it. Ha! It was to stop juveniles being caught, to conserve the stocks. “Bloody rubbish,” Mad Cam had said. He had told him there were plenty of the bigger fish around, you just needed to know where they were, and how to catch them, and that the fisheries people were a waste of space. He wouldn’t take the juveniles anyway, it wasn’t worth it, didn’t get much for them and he hadn’t caught any since he had resized his nets and square meshed them years ago, never mind about throwing them back. “Idiots,” he had said. Running dark might be risky, but it helped Mad Cam keep his good customers happy, and his catches away from prying eyes. And where he was catching them, hidden from the eyes of the competition.


   Not that many would have tried to follow him anyway. At the right time of night, at the right state of the tide, the haddock shoaled next to the Hole, the Gribbin Hole the fishermen called it. Three miles out, south of Gribbin Head at the mouth of the Fowey estuary, it was a deep basin two hundred metres across and with steep walls formed below the floor of the seabed. The tide pushed the water down into it and circulated the water round it and when it swirled back out it brought with it the best fish food in Cornwall, whichever way the tide was flowing.


   The faster the water, the more the food and the bigger the shoaling fish. But the faster the water, the more dangerous it was and the more difficult to keep the nets away from the wrecked boats already around the Hole. With nets caught, the fast circulating water and bad weather could be lethal, for men as well as their boats.


   Cam had mapped the wrecks, and studied the way the water worked them as it flowed around and over the Hole for years; he was in his element. A few thought they knew that he fished there and thought it must have been why people called him Mad. No-one knew that he knew the Hole was the second in a line of holes, all the same size, fifteen kilometres apart. It stretched from the hole that Bodmin Moor’s Colliford Lake reservoir was built around, ran across the English Channel and surfaced again in France, ending with the hole that was part of the Reservoir de St Michel in Brittany, not far from Roscoff. No-one knew that he was sure when and how it had been made and why the holes were there, in a line.


   Harry wheeled the trolley into the outdoor preparation area that was part of his covered smoking and barbecue kitchen, switched on the light and laughed when he saw FAL FISH stencilled onto the sides of the crates, then braced himself and heaved the top one onto the counter. Then he lugged the other two crates up and lifted their lids to see what he had scored, then he laughed again and said, “fuck me Cam you’re brilliant, if anyone can, Cam can,” before lifting two eighty centimetre haddock out of the second crate. He saw four massive red gurnard and more haddock in the ice underneath. The first crate was full of big crabs - spider and brown - and the third had a mix of large cod and more red gurnard.


   He looked across at the smoker grill then back at the two haddock and lifted one back into its crate before heaving all three crates back onto the trolley and wheeling it across to the cold-room where he would count and weigh the score in a few hours time. He carefully wrote what he could see of what was in each crate onto freezer-proof labels and peeled and stuck them to the crates to save time later.


   He had nine breakfast specials this morning - six freshly smoked haddock with poached eggs and three herbed and poached gurnard with poached eggs. He would wait until the haddock were on the smoker before picking the chervil and chopping it; it was just around the corner against the wall of the herb garden for protection from the elements. He sowed a fresh batch of seeds in the greenhouse every six weeks and asked the gardener to plant them out after four weeks. It was easy to grow but the stems were fragile and easily flattened by the rain and blown over by the wind.


   The gurnard fillets were already skinned, and sitting in the fridge waiting for the olive oil rub, salt, and a good sprinkling of chopped chervil before being bagged and vacuum packed before poaching. He had been awake and out of bed early to prep, no need for sousies today. The fish took six minutes, so he would wait for the guests to arrive before starting to cook them; the haddock was a different story.


   He threatened the guests, they needed it, even enjoyed it, quietly amongst themselves. “I’m not going to spend time cooking great food if they can’t be arsed to eat it when it’s ready,” he had told the restaurant manager, then the facilities manager when he had been hauled up to the office after the first time. They had to be at their tables by eight o’clock at the latest or their breakfast would be auctioned to the highest bidder, by him. At eight o’clock the fish would be off the smoker, golden brown, the skin deliciously crispy and the flesh deliciously creamy, and the eggs would have just been carefully lifted from the salmon poacher and precisely positioned on the plates. Too late meant soggy skin and hard eggs, but everyone knew the rules so that was OK. The hot-smoked haddock was legendary and the auction had only taken place three times so far, each time to a crowded breakfast room as the meal-missers had entered and cringed. He smiled and looked around as he automatically reached for a filleting knife. It was his place, his space and the Chef hated him for it. The sous chefs and assistants in the main kitchen were intrigued and impressed with it, and the Chef was seriously jealous. His smoking and barbeque kitchen had been built onto the side of his specials kitchen, at the end of the main kitchen serving The Valley of the Tides.


   Jackson Power had quickly agreed to the extension only two months after he had equally quickly agreed to Harry’s suggestion for the conversion of unused space at the back of the main kitchen to make it into the specials kitchen. To be his, for preparing and cooking up to ten meals twice a day, five days a week, in exchange for free board and lodging ….. and therapy at no cost whenever he wanted it, which he didn’t, he didn’t need it anymore ….. and forty five thousand pounds a year ….. and a variable payment per private meal cooked depending on how long it took .… and a variable payment per cooking therapy session depending on how many people attended and how long the session was. He had quickly discovered how sessions could be built around herbs, and that chervil was a favourite, and that nearly everyone was amazed to learn how they could use simple freezer bags with the air squeezed out before being tightly tied, if they didn’t happen to have a vacuum pack machine at home for prepping fish for poaching.


 


Seven


 


 


Bella pushed open a faded sea-green wooden gate and found herself in a small courtyard garden with uneven steps leading down to an open door in a two storey white washed house. She was in Polruan across the river from Fowey. She leaned the bike against a wall and stepped inside. She was about to call out when a strong arm grabbed her from behind and a hand clamped across her mouth. She twisted away from the grip and spoke.


   ‘I take it that’s a gun in your pocket.’


   ‘Well of course, but that doesn’t mean I’m not pleased to see you.’


   A muscular man with steel gray hair and deep blue eyes stood grinning broadly at her.


   ‘I thought you said it was a blue gate,’ Bella said.


   ‘It is.


   ’ ‘Really Dico; it’s teal like the duck, like the name of the house for fuck’s sake. Have you got something to drink? I could murder a large malt. It’s miserable out there.’


   ‘Come this way my lovely,’ he whispered leading her down a short staircase and turning into an open plan kitchen and sitting area with a beamed ceiling, a quarry tiled floor and old pine furniture. He took a Glock 26 pistol from his pocket and put it in the microwave. She walked through the room to stand in the small bay window looking out over the river to the tower of Fowey parish church. To her right a french door would open onto a patio with cast iron table and chairs overlooking the river. Dico came up behind her and handed her a tumbler of Laphroaig.


   ‘Thanks. Very nice,’ she gestured around the room, ‘not unlike your place.’


   ‘Well it’s damned quiet. Does anybody actually live here?’


   ‘Of course, but it’s largely rentals and second homes, and it’s totally out of season now, and too early for the Christmas gangs. Show me around. I want the tour.’


 


They headed out of the kitchen and along a short hallway into a large white painted bedroom with a pine four poster, a wall of fitted wardrobes and jute carpeting. A red leather Chesterfield was slotted into a bay window overlooking the patio she had seen from the kitchen. A door led into a bathroom with a walk-in monsoon shower.


   ‘The main living area is upstairs,’ said Dico leaving the bedroom.


   Bella followed him back up the staircase turning up a second flight into a large room with wooden floors, scattered bright modern carpets and perfectly mismatched modern sofas. But the main feature was floor to ceiling windows the length of two walls overlooking the river.


   ‘Wow. I see you’re really slumming it,’ Bella exclaimed.


   Dico grinned. ‘Someone has to do it. Anyway, I don’t suppose your accommodation is a hovel, is it?’


   ‘No. Indeed it’s very luxurious, much smarter than home.’ ‘I wish I could get inside to check it out for myself.’


   ‘Yeah, like you could have passed for a new age therapist.’


   ‘Rather like you could have passed for a biker gang leader in that Serbian op.’


   ‘Well, at least my tattoo is real. As I recall, your cover was nearly blown when one of yours started to wash off!’


   ‘A tattoo? Really? Do show.’


   ‘Christ Dico, if you weren’t such a great fuck I’d have shot you myself by now for sure.’


   He grinned at her and turned to head back down the stairs.


   ‘What are you supposed to be doing today anyway?’ he asked over his shoulder.


   ‘It’s my day off and I’m on my usual bike ride of course.’


   ‘Well, we can have some kind of ride. Follow me.’


   ‘Really Sir, and you my superior officer and all.’


   ‘Well, to redress that, you can go on top.’


 


Eight


 


 


The specials breakfast service had gone well and he had enjoyed himself even though the haddocks had all arrived on time and there were no auctions; Sous Carole had been borrowed from Chef for the morning and she was a delight. As always. She was first choice, and she had only had to pick the chervil leaves from the stems, after first cutting the stems from the plants while he watched on carefully to make sure she cut enough, and then finely chop them. She was eager, nearly always knew what to do before he told her, and was a quick learner. Today she had asked if she could poach and plate-up the eggs, and he had agreed. She had done well.


   Stepping out of his lift onto the second floor veranda, on the way back to his room, he turned to his right and saw a woman walking quickly, almost trotting, not dressed for the cold morning air, her breath misting around her head and trailing behind her, her shoulder length black hair looked slept in and uncombed. Her high heeled yellow shoes clacked on the hardwood veranda decking and her short black skirt with vertical yellow stripes was creased and it swished from side to side with each step. He could see a black bra strap through her thin yellow blouse and he wondered where she had been, and where she was going. The breeze gusted and her hair flew to the left and she reached back with her left hand to stop her skirt floating any higher than the stocking top that he had glimpsed and he was suddenly back there, in Brighton, even earlier in the morning, in the summer, and he smiled, then frowned, then without thinking checked that his key ring was in his pocket, and smiled again.


 


*


 


It was three thirty in the morning in mid June, warm and dry, no clouds, sunrise was still nearly an hour and a half away and he was on his way to see what the boats had landed overnight at the Hove lagoon fish market just outside Shoreham. He remembered especially wanting to know if he had any monkfish cheeks waiting for him; they were ordered for the specials menu, but you could never be sure. He had been working on the July menus and was pulling an all-nighter and was knackered. ”Fuck, that stuff’s shit,” he said as he opened the van door. It was new, it gleamed even in the gloom of the multi-storey lighting, but you wouldn’t know it was Jupiter Red and most people wouldn’t recognise it as a Mercedes unless they saw the Merc star on the front grill.


   They would just see a stylish looking panel van with dark windows, and the Rock Restaurant name stencilled on the side in white, in serious capital letters, made it even more so. In a ride looking that cool at that time of the morning he couldn’t afford to be carrying so he had topped up before leaving the restaurant on the way to The Lanes multi-storey car park where the council had convinced the owners they were getting a good deal on two permanent parking bays. Yeah right.


   But the top up hadn’t worked and he was still knackered, and moaning as he drove too quickly out of the car park into Black Lion Street before screeching right at the lights onto Kings road then slowing down quickly when he realised what he was doing just as Kings road turned into the Kingsway dual carriageway.


   He had been using Amphetamine Sulphate off the street and the quality was so up and down he never knew how much he needed, or was even safe. “Bastards don’t care, don’t fucking work for a living and don’t give a shit,” he had muttered. Sometimes the crystal had been cut so many times you needed loads and got fucked with the chalk or glucose or salts or whatever else they put in it and sometimes it was so pure you could OD if you weren’t careful and the bastards didn’t care. ‘Pay more and die! Don’t know and don’t care, doesn’t matter where you score or what you paid for the fucking wraps,’ he was thinking as he slowed down, ‘got to stay lucky … bastards,’ as he reached for his phone to call the fish market to find out which door to park at.


   Driving along Kingsway, carefully, his eyes flicking from side to side, there was no traffic, the beach huts were silhouetted against the moon-lit sea, it had only just risen and was still low in the sky, and he was about to dial the fish market when his eye was drawn to the other side of the dual carriageway, to a couple leaving The Salt Room restaurant, well, drawn to the top of the woman’s legs really, well, to the stocking tops and the bare flesh underneath the short swishing skirt. Instead of dialling he switched on the video and pointed it at the couple, and slowed down.


   The guy looked middle aged, familiar even from the back, and then the side as he drew nearer. His right hand held a jacket that casually hung over his right shoulder. She didn’t seem to mind as his left hand held up her skirt and slowly rubbed one cheek, then the other, and he slowed down even more and did his best to keep them in frame as he drove past.


   He had looked back at them in the door mirror as he was passing The Hilton and was surprised to realise that he was right and he had recognised the guy. He was middle aged, and he was a doctor, local, one of the great and the good, and he had met him last week, at the restaurant. The owners had called him up to be congratulated personally by a party celebrating the mayor’s birthday, and the doctor had been sitting to the right of the mayor’s wife. He had particularly enjoyed the turbot and told him it was excellent, and his wife had agreed, saying that it had been steamed to perfection and asked with a flirtatious smile if he would give her the recipe for the shellfish sauce. She was also middle aged, and good looking, and also not the lady that was naked under her skirt that the good doctor was fondling as they approached the front doors of The Hilton.


   He had just driven past the ghostly doughnut shape of the Brighton i360 viewing platform at the bottom of its tower and the dual carriageway was about to run out as the road turned back to single carriageway, and he remembered thinking quickly, ’OK maybe this shit’s not so bad’, as he slowed and swung round in front of The Holiday Inn and back along the other side of the Kingsway dual carriageway instead of carrying on towards Shoreham. He had been driving slowly and the video was still running and he saw, now holding the phone steady on the top of the dashboard and zooming slowly out as they got bigger on the screen as he closed on them, that they were perfectly framed, the doctor’s arm still behind the short skirted lady, the lady’s right hand rubbing up and down the front of the doctor’s trousers, and they kissed just before they turned and walked through the front doors of the hotel.


   At the traffic lights in front of The Salt Room he had swung back round again, back towards Shoreham, laughing now, and this time stayed on Kingsway until turning to the left down Wharf Road at the sign to Shoreham Port just past the model boating lake. He drew up outside an open double door with the number 3 above it and was still smiling as he opened the van door and stepped down. A tall bulky older man with flyaway salt and pepper hair and what looked like three days of thick red stubble on his chin, swinging a square black crate in one hand, walked out of one of the double doors. He was wearing blue overalls over a black T shirt, and yellow wellington boots and he said, ‘Mornin’ Harry, thought that was you on the camera … Christ, you look like you just been serviced … or you already thinking ‘bout what you goin’ to do with them cheeks?’


 


Nine


 


 


In life, as in politics, perception is everything, reality nothing. Gideon knew this well. Much as people believed he could not feel pain, they believed he liked to inflict it. Neither was true. Gideon knew that perception was everything, reality nothing, and with fear this was truest of all. People feared Gideon Spargo for things he was believed to have done, things he was believed to be capable of doing. He was a bogeyman; a mythical fiend. In truth, Gideon was an ‘a’ man: amoral, asexual, apolitical.


   People thought that Gideon could feel no physical pain, that he had a form of congenital analgesia. But this wasn’t the case. However, it suited Gideon that they believe it. If people think they can’t hurt you they don’t try to. Gideon actually bruised easily. He had known that since childhood, a victim of brother Christian’s casual cruelty. It suited him that people feared him and kept their distance. He needed his personal space. As a child, Christian would delight in locking his younger brother in confined spaces: cupboards, fish boxes, storage lockers. Dark, dirty, smelly places. In adulthood Gideon craved cleanliness, space and light. His room in the house in Newlyn was on the ground floor opening onto the rear garden and it was painted ice white. He wore white, cream and pale pastel yellows and blues. Unlike Christian he was tall and very thin, as if etiolated from all that time spent in the dark, yearning for the light.


 


Across Mount’s Bay from Newlyn towards Porthleven was a headland south of the South West Coastal Path. On this promontory stood a 19th century sea captain’s house, with land access via an unmade road and sea access via stone steps cut into the cliffs above a small cove. This was Gideon Spargo’s secret lair, his private escape and home to his fortune.


   Gideon had always loved gold. From childhood, stories of pirates and local folklore of Cornish wreckers and smugglers had enthralled him. They hunted, fought over and died for gold. Now he was a smuggler, a pirate and he coveted gold. He never thought of himself as a trafficker.


   In a cellar excavated in the foundations of the house to store wine and comestibles Gideon stored gold, a treasure trove of sovereigns, Britannias, krugerands and ingots. He loved to sit amongst it, to touch and to feel it, and to calculate its worth. And then of course there was the cash: US dollars, sterling, euros. Bank accounts were not for him; too traceable and too intangible. Cash was king and gold was God to Gideon Spargo.


   Occasionally his sanctuary also housed some of his most precious merchandize. Special orders, high value goods needed to be kept safe, unsullied and in pristine condition. Top product commanded top dollar. There were strict rules: no touching, no photographs. Piteous girls were kept well fed, no alcohol, no drugs. Gideon tolerated no abuse by his people, it was a threat to business and Gideon tolerated no threat, no insubordination. Gideon craved control. He had grown up powerless and fearful and he despised both states. He now had power and control and he suffered no mistakes.


   Except for Jago Treloar. That had been a mistake. It had been stupid to push it with the bastard but he hadn’t been able to resist the opportunity to exert his power and get at the old man by fucking with his childhood friend. But Treloar wouldn’t give in to his demands despite his threats and when he had drowned it brought too much attention to Cove Farm so Gideon had been forced to back off, move down the coast and find easier prey. It was a rare defeat and it still smarted. But the fucker’s death, and his role in it, had still been a victory over the old man and they both knew it. Gideon hated his father.


 


Then there was that old copper. Joe Thwaite had been after his family for years. It was a total obsession with the man. Bloody self-righteous bastard; must have been his Methodist chapel upbringing in the Yorkshire Dales. Gideon had long since turned his back on God and despised all church-goers and do-gooders. Thwaite had been trying to put him away for years until the old fucker had been forced to retire through ill health. Rumour had it he was now on his death bed. Gideon would definitely be sending flowers to that funeral. Jesus, he remembered when he was a child one day down at the fish market in Penryn, minding his own business, Thwaite had accosted him, bending down to breathe tobacco fumes in his face: “I’m watching thee lad and I shan’t stop.” Well at least the old bastard had proved true to his word.


 


When Gideon had first decided that his future lay in developing the smuggling side rather than the fishing side of the family business he realised that he would need to lay down a marker to stamp out any thought of insubordination or anyone dipping their sticky fingers in his tills. He may have been making his fortune illegally, but it was his fortune; the contacts were his contacts; the routes his routes.


   Very early in his smuggling days one of Gwavas Fish’s trawler captain’s had appropriated a sizeable haul of cigarettes. This became common knowledge among the men and had reached Gideon. On that boat’s next trip Gideon had presented himself on the quay intent on joining the crew. He was nineteen, a pale skinny young man. The captain was forty five, a hulking 15 stone giant with thirty years at sea.


   At the end of the last trawl when the catch was being hauled aboard, Gideon had grabbed the captain’s arm and shoved it into the winch mechanism, crushing bone and tearing flesh. His hand emerged looking like pulped octopus. “Now you won’t have to worry about light fingers,” Gideon said softly as the horrified crew looked on, “nobody steals from me.”


   The incident was explained as an unfortunate industrial accident. The captain moved away. Gideon had chosen well; not only was the man a senior captain and a thief, he was also a bully much disliked by the men. Gideon had secured his reputation and Abraham knew that his time had passed. Over the years, others who dared to cross Gideon had simply disappeared, but that first demonstration of power and ruthlessness had been highly effective. Gideon was a feared man.


 


But of all the apocryphal stories that were to cement Gideon’s fearful reputation, it was that of the crucified child which held the most power. And as with all such stories it was founded in an element of truth.


   One night a large and fractious group of people had been brought across to the cove below the Captain’s House. On landing they had been herded up the beach towards the steps, quarrelling, pushing and shoving. Suddenly a powerful light illuminated a horrifying scene at the base of the cliff: the crucified body of a young girl. Silence fell and the difficult group were instantly subdued, docile and malleable. And the legend of Gideon Spargo was secured.


   The reality was actually different from the image. On a rough crossing from France to the cove below the Captain’s House a young girl had died. Her body had been brought ashore after the other cargo and placed in a cave at the foot of the steps. Hearing that the following group were proving troublesome, Gideon had seen the opportunity to impose order by instilling terror. A makeshift cross had been erected from two pieces of driftwood and the dead child nailed to it.


   Over time the story had morphed into multiple crucifixions, the sounds of hammering, piteous cries and the stench of death. All from one contrived event on one evening. Power.


   Gideon’s reputation brought him business opportunities and where people couldn’t be intimidated they could always be bribed, blackmailed or, as a last resort, bought. His network of contacts spread over time as he betrayed and bullied his competition and whilst the authorities knew all about him, nothing could be made to stick, nobody would speak against him.


 


Ten


 


 


When DI Treloar received the call from DS Colin Matthews that the body of a child had been found floating in the river Fowey near The Valley of the Tides he had just left a meeting with his new boss, Detective Chief Superintendent Nicholas ‘Nicky’ Chamberlain at the Devon & Cornwall Police hub in Bodmin.


   Chamberlain was already displaying a refreshingly different attitude from his predecessor Detective Superintendent Suzanne Winters, ‘Frosty’ to the troops. She would have been stressing the extreme importance of discretion; how they were dealing with important, rich celebrated people here; how the media would be all over the story and they would all be under the spotlight. Luckily she had been transferred to Lincolnshire and was now dealing with turnip rustlers in the fenlands.


   Chamberlain had come to Cornwall from the Greater Manchester force on a promotion. He had a plain speaking, hands-on reputation and already his approach was going down well with the troops. Winters had been a politician, reluctant to get her hands dirty; loath to leave her office; Chamberlain was more concerned with “action to get the job done” than with how that action would be reflected in the media. He was a short wiry man with tight curly black hair, greying at the temples, and a pair of large red framed spectacles. He had no interest in his personal image or that of his teams as long as they were honest, effective and accountable. He was happy for Treloar’s team to get on with the job and he would be there for any help or support they needed. Treloar thought: so far, so good.


 


The focus of the discussion had been upon the structure of the major crime team. Chamberlain had kicked off:


   ‘I’ve been looking at the makeup of your team. Besides you as inspector, you have two sergeants in Colin Matthews and Samantha Scott - though I appreciate Scott is currently seconded to Interpol – a constable in Luke Calloway and an acting detective constable in Fiona Sinclair.’


   ‘Yes that’s right.’


   ‘Well I think we need to alter the balance. I want to keep Sinclair or at least get a permanent second constable. What do you think of Sinclair?’


   ‘She’s good. She fits in well and she’s smart; self-motivating; shows initiative and she handles sensitive situations with discretion.’


   ‘Fine. Have a word with her. Sound her out.’


   ‘Will do, Sir.’


   ‘I have heard excellent things about DS Scott, not least of which is glowing feedback from Lyon. They have expressed an interest in extending her secondment but my understanding is that she would prefer to resume her role on your team. Irrespective of her decision she is to be offered promotion to Inspector in the New Year. I would expect her to accept. Your thoughts?’


   ‘She is absolutely due promotion Sir and I would welcome her back but I do appreciate that Interpol is a great experience and opportunity for her.’


   ‘Well I’ll speak with her and get a decision. Now you are also up for DCI and long overdue from what I can see in your file. Least said about some of my predecessor’s … recommendations the better I feel. Agreed?’


   ‘Yes Sir.’ ‘Please call me Nicky, at least when we’re alone. So DCI from January 1st.’


   ‘Thank you Nicky.’ ‘Which leaves us with Colin Matthews. He’s been a sergeant for a very long time. Showed great promise initially but seems to have stalled.’


   ‘Detective Superintendent Winters valued him in the role of sergeant.’


   ‘You mean she used him as a glorified PA from what I can see. He clearly has impressive technology skills but I’m not so sure he fits the profile I want for your team. Especially now you have Calloway with credentials in that area and potential to progress.’


   ‘Colin’s always contributed Sir … Nicky. He brings a measured, considered perspective. He may be a little … cautious, but he is respected by the others.’


   ‘Mmmm … let me think on. So Sinclair to stay, Scott to return with promotion, you for DCI and Matthews to be decided. Agreed?’


   ‘Yes Nicky and thank you.’


   ‘Credit it where it’s due. I’ll give you my decision on Matthews within the next couple of weeks and confirm with Scott. I’ll be in touch Phil.’ And with that he rose to his feet.


 


It was one of those perfect early winter days; still and breathless. A perfect soft washed blue sky, painfully bluish yellow at the horizon. A day for death: a perfect day for a funeral. No wind. Choir voices and church bells drifting mournfully through the air. Plumes of smoke rising up from chimneys like the souls of the virtuous dead.


   As he drove down from Bodmin, Treloar was mulling over the call he had had from Colin Matthews, especially one strange tirade from the normally reserved sergeant, a long standing member of his major crime team:


   ‘This is Cornwall; people drown here. They go into the water when they shouldn’t; after children, after dogs, when they’re drunk. They don’t respect the currents or the tides or the power of the sea. They go out on power boats and sit-on canoes that they can’t handle; they get into trouble and wreak havoc. They cost a fortune in search and rescues missions. Just ask those boys over there,’ he said pointing across the river towards the Fowey lifeboat. ‘If the odd one drowns perhaps it’ll serve to teach the others a lesson. But I doubt it.’


 


As Treloar headed for Fowey Chamberlain was reflecting on the man. It was abundantly clear from his file that he was an extremely capable officer, exceptional even, but he had stalled at the rank of Detective Inspector. He had also heard rumours of over enthusiastic methods, the bending, if not breaking of rules and scant regard for authority. But he had also heard that the Chief Constable thought very highly of Treloar with his photogenic looks and his Cornish heritage spiced with that Spanish maternal element. The media and the public rated the Inspector.


   Clearly there had been a strong antagonism between the man and Chamberlain’s predecessor Detective Superintendent Suzanne Winters. She had been a stickler for the rules with an obsessive concern for appearance and image. She had also carried a chip on her shoulder as a woman progressing through the ranks. She had been little liked or admired but she was highly competent and highly skilled in administrative management if lacking in team leadership. She would be better suited to her new role.


   First impressions? He liked the man. He was obviously intelligent and he clearly inspired respect and loyalty in his team. People wanted to work with him and that was critical in a major crime team. Chamberlain would need to keep a watching brief for a while but the vibes were positive. So far, so good.


 


Treloar had cut down to the join the A390 at Lostwithiel and headed west to take the B3269 down to Fowey. Although this meant heading west to then turn back east, it was easier than threading his way through minor roads and single track lanes. At Caffa Mill in Fowey as he waited for the ferry to Bodinnick his mobile phone rang. It was DS Colin Matthews again.


   ‘Hi Phil. Where are you?’


   ‘Col. I’m waiting for the ferry. What have we got?’


   ‘Young girl, maybe six or seven. Nobody has reported a child missing. Could have fallen from a boat or been swept out but the weather’s been very quiet recently and she’s not been in the water long. I reckon she was washed down from Seal Creek by the last tide and caught in the channel by pure chance: her hair tangled in a mooring chain,’ Treloar respected Colin’s opinion: the man kept a boat in Fowey and had been sailing the local waters for years.


   ‘Where is she now?’


   ‘Well they brought her over to the jetty here below Seal Hall because it was the nearest land and offers far more privacy than Town Quay over in Fowey. We’ve got her by one of the roundhouses down by the water.’


   ‘Roundhouses?’


   ‘Yeah. They’ve got these new build round thatched therapy and treatment rooms with flotation tanks and mediation rooms whatever. All very yummy mummy, new age.’ Colin was an old-fashioned traditional sailor.


   ‘Any idea at all on ID?’


   ‘Well, Dr Forbes reckons …’


   ‘John’s there?’ Treloar asked in surprise. Dr John Forbes was the Senior Home Office pathologist and was not often called out to a crime scene.’


   ‘Oh yes. Orders from on high, what with the Jackson Power connection, and apparently there are “sensitive issues” around some of the residents here; the rich and the famous, so it’s all “need to know” basis, fewer people involved the better.’


   ‘Yeah, yeah. Like that’s going to make any difference. Something always gets out, they know that. So what does John think?’


   ‘First impression: ligature strangulation. And …’


   ‘Hang on Col, I’ve got to move. Look I’ll be there in a few minutes. I’ll meet you down by the creek.


 


A few minutes turned out to be more like an hour. After crossing the river and heading up past The Old Ferry Inn, Treloar crested the hill and turned right down a lane towards Seal Hall. He had only travelled a few hundred yards when he came across a young man trying to herd a flock of sheep along the road. Treloar switched on his hazard warning lights and climbed from the car to help. Having grown up on a farm he knew how to behave around livestock.


   ‘Need a hand?’


   ‘Oh yeah please. I’m trying to get them into the next field. The gate’s about 200 yards along, but they keep running past and some are trying to get through the hedge.’


   ‘Right. You go ahead and direct them in through the gate. Stop them moving further down the lane. I’ll round up the stragglers and drive them towards you.’


   ‘Thanks mate you’re a life saver.’


   When they had finally got all the sheep into the field and secured the gate Treloar spoke.


   ‘What happened? You can’t have been trying to move them on your own.’


   ‘No way. I just came across them in the road. Some idiot has cut out a length of barbed wire from their field. Just nicked it and left a fucking great gap!’


   Rural crime was on the increase but this was probably more likely to be mindless vandalism. He handed the lad a business card. ‘Call it in. Take some photos with your phone and send them in. You’ll need a report for the insurance.’


   ‘I didn’t know the police were trained in shepherding,’ the young man said with a smile.


   ‘Misspent youth,’ Treloar called over his shoulder as he headed back to his Land Rover.


 


When he finally reached the entrance to Seal Hall he turned in from the lane onto what amounted to a farm track. The only indication that he had reached his destination was a discreet slate sign on a pole reading Seal Hall. No mention of The Valley of the Tides. After a few hundred yards the track forked and he could see that the left hand fork led down to the water. He took it. Soon he came across a cluster of vehicles pulled off onto the grass verge. He recognised Colin’s Audi estate and pulled up beside it. Grabbing his waxed jacket from the back seat he headed down towards the creek.


 


Eleven


 


 


Cornwall is a different country. The traveller can sense the change as they journey out beyond the Tamar Bridge into a landscape of wooded valleys and granite outcrops. And to Treloar, south east Cornwall was a very different country from his homelands on the north west coast. This was an alien terrain, a land of wooded valleys, fingers of water probing inland from the sea; the rivers Looe, Fowey, Helford and the Fal, daddy of them all. It was a sheltered, confined, shaded and enclosed land. He was a man of the high windswept moorland, exposed, exhilarating endless horizons, fingers of land poking out into the sea; Cape Cornwall, Gurnard’s Head, Zennor Head. He was a foreigner here. He felt unsettled.


   So Sam was coming home. Well, back to Cornwall, her home, her Georgian house in Truro was sold. She had fallen out of love with it when she suffered a vicious physical assault there some years back, then with the move to Lyon … He had not seen her since she had left after the business in London, scarcely spoken to her. Christ was it only the previous year. That summer she had met his sister Lucia at the family farm and the two had kept in touch. Lucia lived in Barcelona and it was only a short flight to Lyon. She had told him of fun weekends staying at Sam’s apartment on the Boulevard des Belges, meals in Café Sillon and le Neuvième Art, walks along the banks of the Rhône. But from Sam herself, not a word. Perhaps she had moved on; put her feelings for him behind her. Perhaps that chance had passed. Lucia would know; he would talk with her over Christmas.


   It was in sombre, reflective mood that Treloar trod the path down into the dappled light along the banks of Seal Creek. As he made his way down the track to the water he surveyed his surroundings. To his left was a small chapel, very old and dilapidated, set in an overgrown graveyard. Below it on the creekside was a row of old fishermen’s cottages in the process of renovation. Straight ahead he could see the jetty with a few grounded rowing boats, the creek itself and the wooded bank on the other side. To his right were three newly constructed thatched roundhouses and beyond, the widening creek leading out to the river Fowey. At the creek’s entrance boats and yachts of various sizes were moored and further out he could see across the river to Fowey and Town Quay.


 


Most of the activity was straight ahead by the jetty. He could see pathologist Dr John Forbes, Detective Sergeant Colin Matthews and Detective Constable Fiona Matthews. A police photographer was working further out on the jetty and a number of uniforms were moving along the creek’s bank, searching.


   ‘Sorry, sorry!’ Treloar called as he reached the jetty, ‘sheep in the road; had to help clear them.’


   ‘Good morning Félipe,’ said Dr Forbes.


   The grim faced group were standing around the body of a little girl lying on a body bag that was much too large for her small frame. She had obviously been pulled from water: she was still dripping. Her long dark hair was fanned out around her head to reveal an ugly red wheal around her neck. She was dressed in jeans and pink polka dot sweatshirt. One foot was shod in a dirty tennis shoe, one was bare. Treloar stared at the tiny white foot. It seemed the most pitiful element of the scene in front of him. He leaned in more closely and stared at a mark on the bare ankle.


   ‘What can you tell me?’ Treloar asked.


   ‘Not much really,’ said Forbes. ‘Young girl; somewhere between five and eight; very slight build. Not been in the water long. Died within the last twenty four hours. Looks like strangulation, but could have drowned; caught in the mooring chain accidentally. Fully clothed; no obvious injuries; no obvious signs of sexual assault.’


   ‘Is that a bruise or a tattoo?’ he asked pointing at the little foot.


   ‘Can’t tell yet. I’ll let you know.’


   Dr Forbes was not keen on giving an opinion before he had made a thorough inspection of a body and he was certainly not happy at being called out. Somebody here had clout.


   ‘I’m finished here; just waiting for you really. May I take her now?’ Forbes was tetchy and anxious to leave.


   ‘Of course John. Call me when you have something.’ Forbes nodded and smiled sadly, beckoning to two men who had been standing quietly by the graveyard gate with a collapsible stretcher. The group watched in silence as the little girl was lifted and wheeled away.


 


‘Right,’ said Treloar rubbing his hands together, ‘what do we know about this place? Colin, you’re local, what’s the word?’


   Colin Matthews, who lived in a Fowey terrace and had been first at the scene, told them what he knew of The Valley of the Tides, the latest incarnation of Seal Hall.


   ‘So the locals are alright with this incomer?’ asked Fiona whose parents were from Argyll.


   ‘Yeah. He’s glamorous, he’s famous, he’s rich, he’s brought employment and his guests spend money in the community. What’s not to like? And they mostly feel sorry for him, what with his son dying like that.’


   ‘And you think the girl went into the water in this creek, not the main river?’ asked Treloar.


   ‘Put money on it. She would have been taken out by the tide but her long hair caught in the mooring chain and she held fast,’ said Colin. As he was both a local sailor and known to be tight with his money this carried weight with the assembled group.


   ‘What are those?’ asked Treloar pointing at the roundhouses.


   ‘Therapy rooms,’ said Colin.


   ‘Oh yeah, you already told me that, what are they for again?’ Treloar was preoccupied with his father. He needed to focus.


   ‘One houses a flotation tank and the other two are for some sort of meditation stroke contemplation stroke yoga stroke massage sessions.’


   ‘And that?’ asked Treloar pointing to a long low shed he had just noticed beyond the roundhouses.


   ‘Boat storage. Kayaks and sit-on canoes. That sort of thing. I looked,’ said Fiona when Colin raised a questioning eyebrow.


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