Available 17th June 2020 – pre-order HERE
When a serial killer with a point to make begins to kill again, why does he focus his attention on Meredith?
Nigel Foxton was jailed for the murder of three women, not only was the evidence damning, but during the trial he changed his plea to guilty. Case closed . . . or was it?
It’s almost twenty years later, and Meredith is being taunted with more victims murdered in the same way. Foxton claims he is innocent and wants to appeal, and Meredith has to prove they jailed the right man. Was Foxton innocent, or had there always been two killers? Was the original case closed too soon? When the killer fixes his sights on Linda Callow, Hodge’s friend and colleague, the stakes are raised. Read on for Chapter one:
Having a secret, one which will change your life forever, can be a burden.
On the one hand, there’s the power it brings you. Holding that grenade of knowledge, which, when you are ready, you can throw into the midst of your adversary’s life – and destroy it. Obliterate it. That power provides an elation which makes you smile, allows you to dream. Although the reality is, of course, that the secret is so awful, there is little to smile about. Yet still you do. On the other hand, the elation is countered by an almost paralysing fear. Fear of them finding out your secret before you’re ready. Fear of waiting too long to launch that grenade. Such seesawing of emotion can bring you to the brink of a breakdown.
So realised Geraldine Foxton as she looked at the yellowing bruise on the side of her face. Her husband was a philandering, gambling, heavy-drinking bully. But she knew his secret, and now it was hers. He didn’t have a clue. Geraldine was good at hiding her feelings. She’d had a lot of practice.
She knew what he’d done.
Turning away from the mirror, her fist tightened around the object it held. His secret held, quite literally, in the palm of her hand, and it was draining her. She’d not slept for days.
Well, no more! Now was the time to launch that grenade.
Glancing at the stairs, she pondered whether to tell her son, Jonathan, before or after. Her heart was heavy. He’d already had to deal with far too much for a boy of his age, he’d seen and heard much too much. But he was a good boy. He loved her and she loved him; this sacrifice she was about to make was for him and him alone. The shame would kill her if not for him. It was he who had provided her with the strength to soldier on all these years, and he who gave her the courage to reveal the secret.
Pulling her shoulders back, she made a decision. The call first and then she’d tell Jonathan. Determined, she dialled the number she had memorised.
Her husband, Nigel, wouldn’t be home for at least another hour, yet still she glanced at the door. Her heart was thumping, warning her there was no going back. Jonathan was upstairs doing his homework; she’d call him down and tell him once she’d . . . her call was answered.
Keeping her voice low she looked at the object in her hand, knowing it would provide her with the nerve she needed.
“I saw Crimebusters the other week. I know who killed those girls.”
Replacing the receiver carefully, she wiped away the tears. Having agreed to be at the police station in thirty minutes, she didn’t have long to tell Jonathan and pack him off to her sister’s before Nigel got home.
Walking back to the kitchen, Geraldine braced herself for the conversation to come. She called Jonathan and took a seat, her thoughts wandering back to her wedding anniversary the year before.
It was over a year ago, but she remembered every detail as though it had been yesterday.
~ ~ ~
21st October 2000
Geraldine had just finished the washing up when Nigel arrived home. Calling from the hall as he removed his jacket and hung it on the newel post: it was his usual grunt of “I’m home.” no more, no less. He’d forgotten.
Tea towel in hand, she picked up the cutlery to dry, glancing at the card she’d bought and written the day before. It sat on top of the cards from his mother, and Gareth, his brother, in the centre of the table. Her family had given up pretending there was something to celebrate years ago. She turned to greet him.
“I hope my dinner’s ready. I’m going out.” Loosening his tie, Nigel walked into the kitchen. “Bloody vendor wouldn’t stop chatting, I should know better than to book a six o’clock on a new property.”
“It’s on the table, pierce the film and put it in the microwave for a couple of minutes. You’ve just missed Gareth, I thought he had it wrong, I thought—”
“Half-brother, and at least that’s something to be grateful for.” Peering at the meal through the plastic film, his nose wrinkled. “Spag bol? Again! We only had that a few days ago, for God’s sake. Have you no imagination?” He stabbed at the plastic.
Jonathan appeared in the doorway behind him. “It’s nice though, Dad. Uncle Gareth liked it too, he ate with us. Sorry, I asked for it.”
Nigel Foxton rolled his eyes before he turned to smile at his son. “In which case, I don’t mind. How was rugby today?” Pulling his son in close, he tried to put him into a headlock. It was a regular ritual, where his broad-shouldered son would escape with ease. “I reckon you grow a couple of inches a day.”
“We won. I scored two tries. You’re late, are you sure you have to go out? I was—”
“Well done. When’s the next home match? I’ll stick something in my diary and make sure I get to see it.”
“I’ll check.” Knowing his father had purposely avoided answering him, Jonathan turned away to hide his disappointment. Still not brave enough to challenge his father, he went upstairs to find the fixture list.
“He asked you a question. Where are you going? By the way, you forgot to leave the money for the plumber, he’s coming back in the morning. Gareth offered, but I didn’t like to take his money.”
“I heard him. I won’t be long.” Shoving the plate into the microwave, he pulled his wallet from his pocket and plucked out several notes. “Gareth doesn’t need to pay my debts.”
“Don’t go out, Nigel. Stay in with him. Us.”
“I said I won’t be long.” Foxton’s hand tightened around the notes.
“Where are you going, drinking, gambling, whoring or all three? If Gareth is involved, it’ll be one or the other.”
“Are you trying to piss me off? Because if you are, you’re doing a good job.” Ignoring the pinging of the microwave he stepped towards her.
Clasping the cutlery in the tea towel, Geraldine held his gaze, refusing to be intimidated. Not today. “No. Just for once I would like you to want to be with us.”
“Us?” Sneering, he stepped so close she had to look up at him. “I will have a drink, I doubt I’ll gamble. And whoring? Not me, I don’t have to pay for it.”
Lowering her eyes, her resolve gone, Geraldine mumbled, “You don’t have to go elsewhere either.”
“I’m your wife. Am I that ugly you won’t come near me?” Geraldine was aware she was an attractive woman. A mass of red curls framed her delicate features, and a sprinkling of freckles gave her a youthful appearance. Gareth had complimented her as soon as he arrived, but then he always did. She had never worked out what she’d done to turn her husband away from her. “It’s our anniversary. You’ve forgotten again.”
“It’s not how you look, Geraldine. It’s the bloody nagging, the whingeing, the moaning. It’s not conducive. You’re not interested anyway,” Putting a high-pitched whine to his words he shook his head, “I’m not feeling well, I’m tired, he’s still awake. You knew what you were doing, you got what you wanted. As for the anniversary, what’s there to celebrate?”
“That’s not true.”
“Oh, so now you want me?”
“Yes. I always have. You know that, you’re being horrible, spiteful, a total bastard and I don’t know why.”
She’d wondered many times since, what would have happened if she’d not criticised him. But she had, and his lips curled into a snarl.
“Tough. Because I won’t be coming to you for it again. Ever.” Lowering his face, his forehead banged against hers. “Not if you paid me.”
“Don’t you say that!” Raising her hands, Geraldine pushed the cutlery against him. “Take it back. Why are you so horrible?”
Remaining motionless, he looked down at her hands pressed against his chest, still clutching the cutlery in the tea towel. “Did you just hit me?”
“No. Of course not, I—”
The first blow was from the back of his hand. Her head snapped back. “Not if you beg.” The punch to the stomach caused her to double over and fall to her knees. Looking down at her, he snarled, “Never. Not if you paid me.”
Foxton jumped back as his wife vomited before curling herself into a ball, her hands raised instinctively to protect her head.
Hearing his son on the stairs, Foxton jabbed the toe of his shoe into her ribs. “Look at the mess you’ve made on your lovely clean floor. I’ll eat out. I’ll see you later. Maybe.” Smirking, he left her huddled there. Glancing at Jonathan who stood on the bottom stair, he held up his hands. “Sorry, son, your mother’s thrown up everywhere. I can’t eat here now. I’ll see you later.”
Watching his father leave, Jonathan gritted his teeth. He loved his father, but he knew he was a selfish bastard who, for reasons Jonathan could never work out, hated his mother, beating her regularly. And now he never wanted to spend any time with Jonathan either.
“Don’t come in here.”
His mother’s call brought his attention back to the kitchen. Walking to the door he watched her wince as she pushed herself to her feet. As he rushed forward, the fixture list fluttered from his hand and landed in the contents of his mother’s stomach.
“Are you okay, Mum? I’m sorry.” Holding out his hand, he helped steady her as she composed herself.
“Don’t come any further. Let me clean this up first.”
“Don’t be daft. Go and find something interesting to do. It won’t take me a minute.”
“Do you want to leave him? I won’t mind. I’ll understand. I’ll come with you.”
Geraldine’s head shot up. “But you idolise him.”
“No. I love my dad but that doesn’t mean I don’t see his faults. What did he mean, not if you paid him? Paid him for what?”
“How long were you there?”
“I wasn’t. He was shouting. What do you need? I’ll do it, you don’t need to ask him.”
“I’m fine. I don’t need anything. I’ll be better once I’ve cleaned this mess up.”
“But what did he mean?”
“He was insulting me. He thought of the worst possible thing he could say to me, and he said it. It means nothing, He was being horrible and spiteful. I expect he’s had a hard day. Probably tired.”
“Then he should have stayed in and rested. Not gone out.” Jonathan’s sigh was deep. “It’s hard to love him sometimes.”
Catching the tremor in her son’s voice, Geraldine smiled. “I know. He doesn’t mean to hurt you. He loves you. He’s distracted that’s all. Now let me see a smile and get yourself out for an hour. Go and see a friend, although it’s too cold and dark for a kick-about at the park. Home by nine.”
Although he could think of nothing he’d like less, Jonathan nodded. “Okay. You’re sure you don’t want me to help? You’ve not stopped since I got in.”
“I am. You go and enjoy yourself, it won’t take me long.”
Seeing the pain etched on his mother’s face each time she moved, Jonathan hesitated for a moment. His mother flicked her hand towards the hall.
“Give me some time to sort myself out. Please.”
He could tell she was embarrassed, ashamed even, and so with a quick shout goodbye, he hurried away, grabbing his coat and slamming the front door behind him.
That was the night Alice Andrews was murdered.
~ ~ ~
As it had happened a year ago, she doubted Jonathan would remember, but she did. Calling Jonathan down, she told him about the call she’d made.
Looking at her son, Geraldine’s heart lurched. Had she done the right thing? His face was flushed, his jaw set, his knuckles white as he gripped the edge of the table. He shook his head.
“You’ve phoned the police about Dad? Why do you think he killed her?” His bottom lip trembled.
“Because now a second girl has died. Bethany Johnson. She was wearing this.”
Opening her fingers, Geraldine revealed the shiny pendant she’d been holding all day.
His eyes darted from the pendant to his mother. Jonathan shook his head. “No.”
“Yes, my love. You remember, it was on the telly the other week. I found this in the porch last Tuesday while I was cleaning. I wasn’t sure what to do, but it all adds up. I have to go to the police.” Enclosing the pendant once more, she knocked the table. “I know it’s hard, but I’ve made plans; we won’t be able to stay here. We’re moving. Soon. But right now you’ll have to go to Aunt Sarah’s. Maybe only a couple of hours, it depends on what happens. But I don’t want you here when they come for him. And they’ll have to search the house. You won’t want to see that.”
“What if he didn’t do it?”
Reaching for her son’s hand, Geraldine gave it a squeeze. She could see he was in shock. His eyes were looking at her, but his mind was elsewhere.
“He did it, Jonathan. The first girl was killed on our anniversary last year, you might not remember it, but he stormed out, after . . . anyway, he was late home that night and still in a temper. This pendant in my hand belonged to the girl he killed. It was just over four weeks ago. Do you remember what they said on Crimebusters? The starfish design is unique, and the girl, Bethany Johnson, . . . I didn’t want to tell you this, she was having an affair with your father.”
Jonathan closed his eyes and pressed his fingertips against his temple. “But—”
“No buts, he was. Be strong my love, we—”
“I know who she is. I think you’re right. I can see that now.” A shaking hand brushed away the tear trickling down his cheek.
“I followed him. Last year, the day you think he killed the first girl.” Pointing at the pendant he looked away from his mother. “He was with her.”
“Oh my God. He was seeing Bethany Johnson then? What happened? Why haven’t you told me?”
“Because . . . I don’t know. I suppose. I didn’t want you to have any more crap to deal with I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be, just tell me. Don’t cry, enough tears have fallen for that bastard.” Reaching out, she wiped away her son’s tears. “Tell me what you saw.”
Looking down at the table so he wouldn’t have to see his mother’s reaction, Jonathan took himself back to that evening.
~ ~ ~
Relieved to find his father’s car was still on the drive, Jonathan looked up and down the road. As his father was walking, it meant he was going to a local pub. With no particular plan in mind, Jonathan set off at a jog to find him. He spotted him less than five minutes later casually strolling along Church Lane, his destination The Blaise Inn. Jonathan slowed his pace, watching his father cross the road and enter the pub. Perhaps now he’d find out what the attraction was and why being there was so much better than being at home.
Waiting five minutes before he approached the pub, Jonathan walked past the window several times. Each time he glanced through the grimy glass in the hope of spotting his father. On the third pass, he saw him approaching the bar, squeezing into a gap between a fat man wearing paint splattered overalls, and a girl . . . woman, it was difficult to see her properly, sitting on a barstool.
Jonathan kept walking.
He’d have to walk past again to see if his father was there to meet the woman on the barstool, but he’d give it a while in case anyone had seen him looking the first time. Crossing the road, he entered the Blaise Castle estate. The sound of shouting caught his attention and he walked around to the back of the museum to investigate. He didn’t stop long. A group of kids from school were messing about. One boy was spraying the others with what looked like a can of cider, and one of the girls had taken exception to it and was screeching insults.
“What are you looking at?” One of the other lads, who Jonathan recognised as Andy Small, challenged him. “I asked you a question.”
Clearly under the influence, Small marched forward pointing at him.
“Nothing. Absolutely nothing.” Jonathan turned away.
Alcohol clouding his judgement, and not recognising Jonathan, Small shouted, “A paedo. Let’s get him.” Tossing his can onto the lawn, Small made sure the three other boys were ready before he shouted again, “Get him!”
Hearing them approach, Jonathan turned and pulled his shoulders back. He was bigger than any of them and would have no issues fighting them individually, but there were four of them.
“You’re kidding right?” Clenching his fists, he raised his hands to chest level. “Come on then, if you think it’s worth it.”
A lad he couldn’t place skidded to a halt having recognised Jonathan from the rugby team. “Leave it.” It was almost a scream. “He’s not a bloke, it’s Foxton.”
Small also ground to a halt. “Foxton?” He sounded concerned. “What do you want? You don’t usually hang around here. I’ve got a can over there if you want one.”
“No thanks. Places to be. Clean up this mess before you go, there’s a bin over there. Dogs come here first thing.”
Although his eyes widened, Small merely nodded. He’d opposed Foxton on the rugby pitch and wasn’t about to disagree with him.
As the boys went back to the three girls, Jonathan shoved his hands in his pockets and walked away.
The wind had picked up. He put on his gloves as he headed back towards the pub. When he got there, he looked through the window. There was no sign of his father, but his uncle was there, sitting on the stool the woman had occupied. Hurrying past in case his uncle turned and caught him looking, he decided to go home. He didn’t have a plan and would look stupid if he was asked why he was there.
Pulling up his collar, Jonathan walked away only to stop when he heard, from the yard at the back of the pub, his father’s bellowing laugh. Cursing the gravel crunching beneath his feet, he walked to the fence at the side of the carpark and peered through the slats. His father was talking to the woman who’d been sitting at the bar.
“You do make me laugh, Beth. You really do.”
“Did you ask me out here to laugh at me?” Lowering her hand, Bethany grabbed Foxton’s crotch. “No. I didn’t think so.”
“Come here.” Shoving his hand up her skirt, Foxton tried to pull her towards him. She wriggled free.
“Nope. I’m not up for a quickie in amongst the empties. You want me, get a room somewhere.”
“Ooh, getting fussy, are we?” Foxton grinned. “I know just the place. What are you doing tomorrow afternoon?”
“Working.” Bethany smirked. “Although I could have a late lunch break, but I can only take an hour. Why?”
“An hour should be long enough – just. I’ll pick you up at two-thirty. Now come here and let me give you a taster of what’s to come.”
“Oh no you don’t. You can wait until tomorrow. Aren’t you in the middle of a game of cards?”
Turning away with a flounce, Bethany pulled open the door to the bar. The sound of chatter and the music from the jukebox got louder as Foxton followed her in.
“Comfort break, pee, fag, next round, and I was hoping for a little more. You’ll have to work hard tomorrow to make up for it.”
As the door closed behind them, Jonathan caught Bethany’s giggle, and scowled. Bethany was a good-looking young woman, a lot younger than his mother, and he could understand the attraction. But Dad should be at home. Not here. Not with her. Pulling up the hood of his coat, and trying to control his emotions, Jonathan set off for home.
~ ~ ~
His story told, he stared at his mother with frightened eyes. “Will I have to come to the police station with you?”
“No. That is, I’m not sure. I think this should do it.” Once more she opened her hand. “I don’t want you involved. Not unless it’s necessary.”
“But she was there.”
“Who, Bethany? You’ve said that, my love.”
“No, the other one. She was the girl getting sprayed with cider. She was there, behind the museum.”
Getting to her feet, her face grim, Geraldine pulled her shoulders back. “Then that proves it. I knew I was right! Poor young thing. The bastard! Sorry about the language.” She pointed to the hall. “Go upstairs and pack your things, take enough for a couple of days. You won’t be going to school so don’t worry about your uniform. And hurry. We need to go before he gets home.”
When Jonathan returned, his mother was in the hall, coat on, car keys in hand, door open. “Good boy. Let’s go.”
“To the police?”
“No. Not you. You can tell them that if they need to know, I expect they already know what’s what from the other kids. I’ll go to the station on my own.”
Jonathan nodded. “What will happen?”
“If they have any sense, they’ll throw away the bloody key. Forget about him, he’s a horrible person, not worthy of your consideration. I should have taken you away from him years ago.”
Getting into the car, Jonathan looked at his feet. He was wearing the expensive trainers his father had treated him to the week before. Was it true? Was his father not worth considering? He hadn’t been a good husband, probably one of the worst, and he wasn’t often at home, in fact, Jonathan couldn’t remember the last time he’d stayed in. But he’d never hit him, he’d always been nice to Jonathan. Yet he was to blame for this mess, that was certain. It was difficult to admit, but perhaps his mother was right.
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Available 17th June 2020 – pre-order HERE