Chapter 1: A Shot in the Night
How good it is to be on holiday with my daughter, thinks Detective Inspector Rush. He is happy to be away from his job in Leeds in the north of England for a few days. His job is very important to him, but he also likes to spend time with his daughter, Sally. A week in Kent on the south east coast will be enjoyable for both of them.
“Drive a little slower, Dad,” says Sally. “You aren’t driving a police car now. I would like to enjoy the view. It’s so beautiful.”
They are driving along the coast road between Folkestone and Hastings and there is a beautiful view of the sea.
“Okay,” says her father. “We have a few hours yet. We must arrive in time for the evening meal, though.”
They are quiet for a few minutes, and then he speaks again. “I’m so pleased that you have come on holiday with me,” he says. “There are not many 24-year-old daughters who want to go on holiday with their fathers.”
“No,” she laughs. “You really are very lucky to have me with you.”
He laughs as well. “Yes, I know I am. It’s so long since we spent some time together. I think that the last time was two years ago. Then we went on the Aikido course in Birmingham. I’m sorry that I always seem to be so busy.”
“Don’t worry about it, Dad,” she replies. “It makes the time that we do spend together really special.”
“Thanks,” he answers. “I’m really looking forward to this week. Especially the open-air classical concert at Leeds Castle. That should be really good.”
“Yes,” she agrees. “The 1812 Overture with real cannons and fireworks should be amazing.”
After a moment, she asks, “Do you know why it’s called Leeds Castle? It can’t be anything to do with the city of Leeds where we live, can it?”
“No,” replies her father, “it isn’t. I read somewhere that the Saxons called the area ‘Esledes’. Over the years it became ‘Leeds’.”
“You’re so clever, Dad,” says Sally, proudly. “Sometimes I think that you know everything.”
Detective Inspector Rush smiles, but says nothing.
Sally looks at her father. He is 47 years old, but he looks younger. His brown hair has some grey at the sides. He is not handsome, she thinks, but he is good-looking. He is also still a fit man. They used to do Aikido together, but now her father practises yoga.
Twenty minutes later they drive past St Mary’s Bay and after a few hundred metres see a sign at the side of the road. “Littlestone Farm, Bed and Breakfast,” reads Sally. “That’s it.”
DI Rush turns left down a narrow lane. He drives slowly, as the road is uneven. After a few minutes they arrive in the yard of a small farm. There is a house with a thatched roof, and a barn stands at the end of the yard. DI Rush parks his car at the side of it. They both climb out of the car and stretch.
A dog is barking and as they turn towards the house, the door opens. A man dressed in old jeans and a dirty, blue shirt stands in the doorway. He is about forty years old, small and wiry with brown hair. As they approach, Sally can see that his eyes are a beautiful blue.
‘Good afternoon,” he says. “Mr Rush, is it?” He holds out a grubby hand. “I’m Alan, Alan Larkin.”
They shake hands.
“And you must be Sally,” he says as he turns towards her.
She shakes his hand reluctantly, because she doesn’t like the fact that it is dirty.
“Come inside,” he says. “Brenda will make you a cup of tea, and then you can bring in your cases and unpack.”
They follow him into the house.
“How was your journey here?” he asks.
He doesn’t wait for an answer, but calls, “Brenda, Mr Rush and his daughter are here.”
DI Rush and Sally walk behind him down the hall and into the living room. There are two large settees, a television, a dining table with six chairs and other pieces of furniture. Sally is surprised to see that the room is clean and tidy. Not like Mr Larkin, she thinks.
Brenda appears from the kitchen. She looks a little older than Mr Larkin and is also a few inches taller. She is quite large and has a round face with red cheeks. She wipes her hands on a towel before she shakes their hands.
“I’m just making the evening meal,” she says. “I hope you like meat and potato pie.”
“Yes, that will be fine, Mrs Larkin,” says DI Rush. “Sally used to be a vegetarian, but she started to eat meat again last year.”
“Please call me Brenda, Mr Rush,” she says. “Well, I’m sure you’ll enjoy my pie, Sally. Everyone does. Now sit down and I’ll bring you both a nice cup of tea. You must be ready for a drink after driving all that way.”
She goes back into the kitchen and Mr Larkin follows her.
I wish that my mother and father were still together, thinks Sally. DI Rush has been in the police for twenty-five years. Twelve years ago he became a detective inspector, and two years later her mother left him because he was never at home. He was always working. Since then, Sally has lived with her mother. I love them both, she thinks. Sometimes life is so difficult.
They sit on the settee and look around at the pictures on the walls.
“What do you think so far?” asks the inspector.
“Well, it’s not The Ritz, but it seems okay,” replies Sally. “Mr Larkin looks a bit grubby, though. I’m glad he’s not cooking our evening meal.”
They both laugh.
Just then Mr Larkin comes through the kitchen door. Behind him is Mrs Larkin with a tray in her hands. She places the cups and teapot on the table.
“Did you have a good journey here?” she asks as she pours the tea.
“Yes, thank you,” answers DI Rush, as unlike Mr Larkin, Mrs Larkin waits for an answer.
When they all have a cup of tea, Mr Larkin asks, “What job do you do, Mr Rush?”
“Please, call me David,” replies DI Rush. “I work in a bank, the same as Sally,” he lies.
When he is on holiday, he never tells people that he is a policeman. People always want to talk about police work or complain about the police.
Is this actually a farm or do you just have the bed and breakfast business?” he asks.
“The only animal we have here is a dog,” replies Mrs Larkin.
“I run the bed and breakfast. Alan has a large van. He carries things about for people. It brings in a little extra money.”
“What kind of dog do you have?” asks Sally. “I like dogs.”
“I don’t think you would like Brutus,” says Mrs Larkin. “He’s a large Rottweiler and he’s not very friendly. We keep him locked in the backyard when we have visitors.”
They continue talking until they have finished their tea. Then Mr Larkin helps DI Rush to bring in the suitcases from the car. He takes them up to their rooms. Both rooms are at the front of the house and look out onto the yard. In each room is a single bed, a wardrobe with drawers and a chair. Each room also has an en suite bathroom with a shower.
“If you want to go for a walk before dinner, the beach is not far from here,” says Mr Larkin. “If you go down the path between the house and the barn, you’ll arrive at the sea in twenty minutes.”
“Thanks,” answers DI Rush.
“It would be nice to go for a walk. My legs are stiff after the journey from Leeds.”
DI Rush unpacks his case and hangs his clothes in the old, wooden wardrobe. After a hot shower, he feels refreshed.
When he has dressed in blue jeans, a blue short-sleeved shirt and a leather jacket, he knocks on Sally’s door. She is still in the shower, however, just like her mother, he thinks to himself and smiles. She used to take hours to get herself ready to go out. He goes down into the living room to wait for her.
He looks up from the newspaper that he is reading when Sally eventually comes down the stairs. She is also wearing blue jeans, but she has on a yellow T-shirt. Her long, blonde hair is tied back in a ponytail.
“Are you sure that you’ll be warm enough?” asks her father. “It may be windy down by the sea.”
“Of course I’ll be warm enough, Dad. You worry too much,” she laughs.
They leave the house and follow the path between the house and the barn. It goes through fields and a small wood. When they come out of the wood, they can see the sea.
“Oh, the English Channel,” says Sally. “Can you see France?”
“I can see something,” replies her father, “but it’s probably just a low cloud.”
They walk on in the evening sunlight to the top of the cliff. Then they stop for a moment to look at the sea and watch the large ships out on the water.
“Shall we go down to the beach?” asks Sally and begins to go down the steep path. Dl Rush follows her carefully.
“Not too fast,” he calls. “My legs are older than yours.”
They spend some time on the beach, where they walk by the sea and throw pebbles into the water. Then they climb back up the path.
“You’re very quiet, Dad,” says Sally. “Is anything the matter?”
“Not really,” he replies. “I was just thinking that the path from the farm is very easy to follow. It looks as though lots of people use it. I think that’s strange when there are only a few guests each week.”
He bends and picks up a cigarette packet from the ground. French cigarettes,” he says. “Perhaps they have had French guests.”
“Really, Dad,” laughs Sally. “Don’t you ever stop being a detective? I have a friend who smokes Russian cigarettes and she’s not Russian.”
They make their way back to the farm, and as they enter the yard, they see that a large, new BMW is parked in front of the barn. As they go into the house, Mrs Larkin is serving the evening meal.
There is already a man sitting at the dining table.
“Hello, you two,” calls Mrs Larkin. “You’re just in time. This is Mr Dalton. He’s staying here for the night.”
DI Rush and Sally introduce themselves to Mr Dalton. He is about thirty years of age, slim and has short, blonde hair. He is dressed in an expensive suit, and the inspector sees that he has a Rolex watch on his wrist. Sally thinks he is quite good looking, and during the meal, she tries to talk to him. Mr Dalton, however, doesn’t want to talk.
He answers her questions with “yes” or “no” and eventually she gives up and talks to her father instead.
After the meal, Mr Dalton goes upstairs to his room. Mrs Larkin clears the table and returns to the kitchen.
“Mr Dalton doesn’t say very much, does he?” says Sally when they are alone.
“No,” replies her father. “He didn’t want to talk about himself, did he? I wonder what his job is. That was a very expensive Rolex that he had on his wrist, and new BMWs aren’t cheap”
“Well, I don’t think we’re going to find out,” says Sally. “Mrs Larkin said that he’s only here for one night.”
They sit on the settee. Sally watches the television and DI Rush reads a book that he has brought with him.
At 9 p.m., Mrs Larkin makes a cup of tea for them, and at 10 p.m. they decide to go to bed. They are both tired after the journey.
DI Rush lies awake for a little while. He thinks about what they will do in the morning. He also thinks about Mr Dalton. Why is a man with so much money at a bed and breakfast?
He should be in a four-star hotel, thinks DI Rush as he falls asleep.
It is still dark when he suddenly wakes up. He is sure that the noise that woke him was a gunshot He switches on the lamp at the side of his bed and looks at the clock. Half past three. He switches off the lamp again and gets out of bed. He looks out of his window, but the yard below is completely black. Since he is awake, he decides to get up and have a look outside. He puts on his trousers, shoes and a jumper and quietly goes down the stairs. He unlocks and opens the front door. Suddenly, the light in the hall is switched on.
“It’s a little early to be going out for a walk, isn’t it, Mr Rush?” says a voice behind him.
DI Rush’s heart is beating like a drum. He turns and sees that Mr Larkin has come out of the living room. Behind him stands a large, black Rottweiler. The dog growls deeply when DI Rush looks at it.
“Be quiet, Brutus!” says Larkin.
The dog stops growling, but it doesn’t take its eyes off DI Rush.
Something woke me,” says the detective. “It sounded like a gunshot.”
“Yes, I heard it, too,” says Mr Larkin. “I was in the living room. I must have fallen asleep while I was watching the television.”
“What do you think it was?” asks the DI.
“It’s probably poachers,” replies Larkin. “They are often around here at night. Don’t go out when they are about. You could be injured or even killed. You wouldn’t be the first person to be killed by a poacher’s bullet.”
“No,” he replies. “You’re probably right. I think I’ll go back to bed and see if I can sleep.”
DI Rush starts to climb the stairs and then turns to look back. Mr Larkin has returned to the lounge, but Brutus is standing there watching him with cold, black eyes.
Chapter 2: Blood on the Ground
At breakfast that morning, only Sally and her father are at the table.
“Where’s Mr Dalton?” asks Sally when Mrs Larkin comes from the kitchen.
“Oh, he was up very early,” she replies. “He had to catch a ferry to France. He needed to be in Paris for a meeting this morning.”
“Why didn’t he fly?” asks the inspector.
“He needed his car with him,” replies Mrs Larkin quickly, and her cheeks begin to redden. “Now, what can I get you for breakfast?”
“A full English breakfast for me,” says the inspector. “Could I have a fried egg, please?”
“And for me, two poached eggs on toast, please,” says Sally. When Mrs Larkin returns to the kitchen, they both look at each other.
“It’s strange that Mr Dalton left so early for the ferry. If he needed his car in Paris, he could have gone on the Eurotunnel train with it,” says the inspector.
“Perhaps he likes to drive,” Sally replies. “He left early. I heard his car in the yard when it was still dark. It woke me.”
“I didn’t hear that,” says her father, “but I did hear something else.”
He then tells her about the shot that he heard in the night. “Really?” gasps Sally. “You don’t think that had anything to do with Mr Dalton leaving early, do you?”
“I hope not,” answers her father.
“And Mr Larkin said it was poachers?” Sally continues. “That’s terrible. I hate to think that people go around with guns and kill poor animals in the middle of the night. The world would be a better place without guns.”
They stop talking as Mrs Larkin returns from the kitchen. She places a plate in front of the inspector.
“Here’s your full English breakfast, David,” she says. “And here are your poached eggs on toast, Sally. I hope they’re not too hard,” she adds as she puts a plate in front of Sally.
“That smells delicious,” says the inspector as he looks at his plate full of food: two eggs, bacon, mushrooms, beans and fried bread.
“I’ll need a long walk after this,” he continues. “After a week here, I’ll be fat. Your cooking is really excellent, Brenda.”
She smiles and goes back into the kitchen.
A few seconds later she appears again with a pot of tea. She places it on the table and then leaves them alone.
DI Rush and Sally eat their breakfast. They discuss how they will spend their day. It is a beautiful morning with a blue sky and warm sunshine. They decide to visit Canterbury, as they have never been there. They would both like to see the famous cathedral.
When Mrs Larkin returns to clear the table, they talk with her about Canterbury. Finally, DI Rush asks where Mr Larkin is.
“He had to leave early as well,” she replies. “He’s gone up to London to see someone about some business.”
Before he can ask anything else, Mrs Larkin hurries off into the kitchen.
Sally and her father go upstairs to their rooms and pack a small rucksack each. Sally goes out into the yard and sees her father near the barn door. As she walks towards him, she slips. She looks down and sees a small pool of red liquid. She bends down to look at it, and her father comes over to her.
“What is it, Dad?” she asks. “It looks like blood to me.”
Her father puts his finger into the liquid and examines it. “I think you’re right,” he says. “What’s a pool of blood doing here in the yard?”
“Brutus caught a rabbit this morning and brought it into the yard,” says Mrs Larkin.
She is standing behind them with a bucket of water.
“I’m sorry that you had to see that,” she continues. “I was going to clean it up earlier, but I was busy in the kitchen.”
She pours the water onto the blood to wash it away. When she is happy that all of the blood has disappeared, she goes back into the house.
Sally and her father stand in silence. They look at each other and he shrugs his shoulders.
“I thought they locked Brutus in the backyard,” Sally says. “That’s what Mrs Larkin said yesterday,” agrees her father.
“Perhaps the poachers are not the only killers around here after dark. I don’t like to think that Brutus is walking about freely at night.”
“Oh, don’t think about it, then,” says Sally. “Let’s go and have a nice day in Canterbury.”
They spend a pleasant day in Canterbury. They visit the castle and the cathedral, and they have lunch at one of the cafes in the town centre. They also look around the shops, before they return to their car and drive back to Littlestone Farm.
On their return, Mr Larkin is standing at the door of the house.
“Did you have a good time in Canterbury?” he asks.
“Yes, we did, thanks,” replies DI Rush. “How was London?”
“Too busy and too noisy,” Larkin laughs.
“Did you drive there?” asks the DI.
“Yes,” Larkin answers cautiously. “Why?”
“It’s just that your van was still in the barn this morning,” answers the DI.
The smile disappears from Larkin’s face and his cold, blue eyes turn towards DI Rush.
“I walked to the end of the lane and a friend took me in his car,” he says after a moment.
“Oh, right,” replies DI Rush.
“Any more questions?” he asks sharply.
“No, Alan,” answers the inspector. “None at all.”
Larkin turns and disappears into the house.
Sally and the inspector look at each other, before they follow him through the door. They go upstairs to their rooms to wash before the evening meal.
Tonight they are the only two at the table. While they eat, Sally and the inspector discuss their day in Canterbury, but both of them are thinking about the strange things that have happened since they arrived at Littlestone Farm. Mrs Larkin serves their food but doesn’t say much this evening. Mr Larkin is nowhere to be seen.
After the meal, Sally watches TV again, while her father reads his book. When they go upstairs, they both go into Sally’s room.
“Something’s not right here,” says DI Rush after she has closed the door. “I think I’ll stay awake tonight and see if anything happens.”
“Oh, Dad,” says Sally. “You’re not at work now. Just go to bed.”
“Sorry, Sally,” he replies. “I have a suspicious mind. I just want to see if anything happens during the night here.”
“Well, be careful, Dad,” Sally warns. “There are obviously people out there at night with guns.”
“Don’t worry. I can take care of myself,” says her father before he goes to his room.
He takes off his shoes and lies on the bed. He sets his alarm clock for 2 a.m. and then closes his eyes.
He only seems to have slept for seconds when the alarm wakes him. After he stops the alarm, he lies for a few minutes on the bed. Then he gets up, goes to the open window and looks out. The yard is completely dark and there is no sound at all.
He sits by the window and the hours go by. The only sounds he hears are a dog barking somewhere and also an owl in the wood. When it starts to become light, he undresses and gets into bed, where he soon falls asleep.
At breakfast the next morning, he tells Sally about his night. “Perhaps you are too suspicious, Dad,” she says. “I think it’s the fact that you’re a policeman that makes you suspect everyone. Don’t you think?”
“You could be right,” her father agrees. “I think that I should leave my work behind for a week and just enjoy my holiday. The weather is beautiful and the food is great.”
“And, of course, the company is wonderful,” Sally adds and she laughs.
“Indeed it is,” agrees her father and he laughs, too.
They spend the day in Ramsgate on the coast. It is some distance away, but DI Rush had a holiday there when he was a teenager and wants to go back. He finds that he cannot really remember much. Everything is more modern now. However, they have a pleasant day. They do all the things that DI Rush used to do when he was a teenager , on holiday. They walk by the sea, eat fish and chips and go to the fairground. They go on the rides, and at one of the stalls, DI Rush wins a bar of chocolate by throwing darts. They have both eaten enough, so he puts it in his pocket for later.
For Sally it is a new experience. She has spent all her holidays in Spain or France. She has never had a holiday on the coast in England.
When they arrive back at Littlestone Farm, Mr Larkin is in the barn. The doors are open, and they can see him in the back of his van. He has a bucket and a cloth. He looks up as they get out of the car. They are both laughing.
“You’ve obviously had a good day,” he says. “It must be nice to have no work to do.”
“It is very nice indeed,” replies DI Rush. “Are you going out with the van this evening, Alan?”
“No,” Larkin answers sharply. “I just thought that I should clean it out. Then it will be ready when I need it again.”
He turns away and begins to clean the floor.
DI Rush looks at Sally and shrugs his shoulders. They walk across the yard and into the house. Mrs Larkin is obviously in the kitchen, and the smell of the evening meal fills the hall.
“It smells like roast lamb,” says Sally. “The meals here really are delicious.”
“I can hardly believe that you used to be a vegetarian,” her father laughs.
Apparently, they are still the only guests at the house. While they eat their evening meal, they talk together. They also speak to Mrs Larkin when she appears from the kitchen to serve the food. They tell her about their visit to Ramsgate and DI Rush’s holiday there years ago. When they have eaten, they decide to sit in the garden to drink their coffee. It is a beautiful evening, and they watch the sun disappear behind the wood.
“Two days gone already,” says Sally. “I can’t believe how quickly the time goes by.”
“Yes, it will soon be time to pack our cases,” replies her father.
“Well, Mrs Larkin is okay, and I really like her meals,” says Sally, “but I’m not sure about Mr Larkin. Sometimes I think he is okay, and at other times I feel that there’s something suspicious about him.”
“I think that we both agree on that,” the inspector laughs. Then he continues more seriously. “You know what I said this morning, about forgetting police work for a week. Well, I still think Mr Larkin is doing something illegal. I think I might stay awake again tonight.”
“Well, I think that you should go to sleep tonight. You have been yawning all day today,” says Sally.
They go inside and watch television together for an hour. Then they go up to their rooms.
“Are you really going to stay awake tonight, Dad?” Sally asks, as she goes into her room.
“I don’t know,” replies her father. “As you said, I should really sleep tonight. I might set my alarm and just get up for a short time to see if anything is happening.”
Sally smiles. She knows that her father will get up during the night. He has been a detective for too many years now. If he thinks there is something suspicious going on, then he will not be able to get a good night’s sleep.
“Good night, Dad,” she smiles. “Sleep well.”
At 2 a.m. DI Rush is waiting by his open window. He sits there for thirty minutes, and once again the only sounds that he hears are the barking of the dog and the call of the owl. He is about to go back to bed when he hears someone swear quietly. He puts his head out of the window, but everything is quiet again. With his head out of the window, he can see that there is a light on in the barn. Perhaps Larkin is working on his van, he thinks. However, there is no sound at all. He thinks for a few seconds and then decides to go and see what is happening in the barn. Probably Larkin didn’t switch the light off, the inspector tells himself.
He goes quietly down the stairs. The house is dark and silent. He is just about to open the door and go out into the yard, when he hears a deep growl behind him. The hair on the back of his neck stands up. The inspector does not move his body but slowly turns his head.
In the darkness he can see the shape of Brutus. The Rottweiler is standing in the hall behind him. Brutus growls again and takes a step towards him.
“Good dog,” says the inspector quietly. “Nice dog.”
Although it is dark, he can see that the dog is ready to jump at him. He puts his hand in his pocket to see if he has anything to protect himself with. His fingers touch the bar of chocolate that he won at the fairground. Quickly, he breaks a piece from the bar and throws it to the dog.
“Good dog, do you like chocolate?” he says.
In the darkness, he can see the dog take the chocolate from the floor and swallow it quickly. His hand is trembling as he throws another piece to it, and then another. While the dog is eating the chocolate, DI Rush opens the door and escapes into the yard. He quickly closes the door behind him and stands still for a moment. He breathes deeply and waits a few minutes until his heart is beating more slowly.
Perhaps I should have stayed in bed, he tells himself. How can I go back into the house now? Brutus will be waiting for me. If there is nothing in the barn, I will have to sleep in there until the Larkins get up. And then I will have to explain why I was out in the yard in the middle of the night.
Nevertheless, DI Rush wants to find out what goes on in the barn.
In the yard there is only his car. The light is still on in the barn. He stands for a moment and listens. He can now hear noises which come from the barn. It sounds like voices – like someone talking, but very quietly.
He walks across the yard and goes to the side of the barn, where there is a window. With his hand he cleans the years of dirt from the glass until it is cleaner and he can see through it. Then, he puts his face against the window and looks into the barn.
At first he can only see Larkin’s van. Then he sees someone moving in the corner of the barn. As they walk into the light, he gasps.
“So that’s Larkin’s secret,” he says to himself, and he takes out his mobile phone to call the police.
At that moment, he hears a deep growl behind him. Before he can do anything, something hits him on the back of the head, and he falls to the ground unconscious.
Chapter 3: Death Waits at the Bedroom Door
Up in her room, Sally cannot sleep. Perhaps it is the cheese that she ate at the evening meal. She wakes up several times and lies in bed listening to the owl in the wood. Then she hears a sound on the stairs.
Sally’s heart begins to beat faster. She climbs out of bed and slowly and quietly opens her door. She sees her father going carefully down the stairs and into the hall. She does not want to speak, as she might wake the Larkins. She gently closes her door again and sits on the bed.
What should I do, she thinks to herself. What has dad seen? Should I follow him, or should I stay in my room? Finally, Sally decides to get dressed but to stay in her room and wait to see if anything happens.
Dressed in jeans and a jumper, she sits by her window and looks out onto the dark, silent yard. The night air is cool, and she is glad that she has put on a jumper.
After a few moments she hears the front door open. It is then gently closed, and she sees a figure cautiously cross the yard towards the barn. She is sure that it is her father. But what has he been doing downstairs? It has taken him a long time to leave the house. The figure goes down the side of the barn and disappears from her view.
Sally still does not know what to do. What if her father does not come back? How long should she wait before she goes to look for him?
A few moments pass, and she hears the sound of the front door closing again. Now she sees another figure cross the yard. Again, Sally’s heart begins to beat faster. It is Mrs Larkin and she has Brutus by her side. They both cross the yard without making a sound and go down the side of the barn, where her father went only moments before.
Oh no, she thinks. What do I do now? She is feeling frightened and her heart is now beating like a drum.
DI Rush opens his eyes and sees that he is inside the barn. He is sitting on a chair. When he tries to move, he finds that his hands are tied behind him, and his feet are tied to the chair. Also, a piece of cloth has been pushed into his mouth. His head hurts, and for a few moments he is not sure what happened. The last thing he remembers is looking through the window into the barn. He looks around him. He sees again the group of men, all of them black, that he saw through the window. They look like Africans. The men are sitting around on the floor of the barn. Most of them look tired and frightened. Each of them has a rucksack. At that moment, Mr Larkin appears from behind the van. He looks across at DI Rush.
“Ah, Mr Rush. I see that you’re awake,” he says. “I knew that you would be a problem from the moment you arrived. Always asking questions, always looking where you shouldn’t be looking. And you see what’s happened. Now, I’ll have to kill you.”
DI Rush tries to answer, but he cannot speak because of the cloth in his mouth. Larkin comes across to him and pulls it out. The Africans watch in silence DI Rush breathes deeply before he speaks. “You don’t have to kill me. I wont say anything. I know that you’re bringing illegal immigrants into the country, but that isn’t as serious as murder. Don’t be stupid. If I disappear, my daughter will go to the police.”
“Your daughter won’t be able to go to the police,” says Larkin in a very unfriendly tone of voice. “She will be dead as well.”
‘No!” pleads DI Rush. “Not Sally!”
“Yes,” replies Larkin. “My wife has just gone to fetch her from her room.” He begins to smile. “She’s a very attractive girl, your daughter. If Mrs Larkin wasn’t here, I could have some fun with her.”
“You animal,” growls DI Rush and struggles in the chair, but he cannot break the wire which is around his wrists and ankles. “You won’t get away with this.”
Larkin grabs the inspector’s head and pushes the cloth back in his mouth.
Oh, I think we will, Mr Rush,” he replies. “This is our last job. We have been doing this for three years now. It seems that everyone wants to come to England. Most nights of the week, a group of immigrants come across by boat from France. We meet them on the beach and bring them here. We give them a drink and a sandwich and then take them to London in the van. We get one thousand pounds for each one. Do you know how much money we have now, Mr Rush?”
DI Rush just stares silently at him, hate in his eyes. He knows that he cannot do anything to stop Larkin. Oh God, he thinks I can’t even warn Sally!
“Well, we have enough to start a new life in another country. Somewhere warmer than England. I don’t want to work again ever. I want to spend my time with beautiful girls.” He laughs.
“Don’t tell Mrs Larkin, will you.”
As he begins to walk away, he adds, “Well, I can’t stand here talking all night. There’s work to be done.”
Suddenly they hear the sound of Brutus barking in the house.
“Perhaps your daughter is putting up a struggle,” laughs Larkin. “I hope Brutus doesn’t get hold of her. We don’t want blood all over the house.”
He walks to the barn door, opens it slightly and looks out. Then he returns and speaks to the Africans.
“In,” he says and points to the back of the van. “London.”
The men pick up their rucksacks and begin to move towards the van. Some of them look at the inspector tied to the chair, but none of them do anything to help him. Silently, one by one, they climb into the back of the van. When they are all in, Larkin closes the doors.
He looks across at the DI.
“We don’t want too many witnesses, do we, Mr Rush?” he says. “Not that we are going to kill you here. We’ll put you and your daughter in the boot of your car and drive it to London before we shoot you. By the time the police find you and discover who you are, we’ll be out of the country. As soon as Brenda gets back with your daughter, we can go.”
DI Rush tries to free himself, but the wire is tied too tightly. I will have to wait for the right moment, he thinks.
Hopefully, I’ll have an opportunity to escape when they try to put me in the car.
For the moment, however, he can only sit, watch and wait.
Sally also sits, watches and waits. It is now several minutes since she saw Mrs Larkin and the dog disappear behind the barn. She has heard no sound, and there has been no movement in the yard.
She cannot decide what she should do. Should she continue to sit and wait? How long should she wait? What if her father does not come back? While she is thinking, the door of the barn opens. In the light from inside, Sally sees Mrs Larkin come out of the barn and close the door behind her. Brutus is by her side.
Perhaps everything is all right, thinks Sally. Dad must have heard her coming. He’s probably still behind the barn.
She watches Mrs Larkin walk slowly across the cobbled yard and enter the house. For a few moments there is silence, and then Sally hears a sound on the stairs. She goes to her bedroom door and listens. She can hear the sound of Brutus growling quietly.
What if they have done something to dad, and now they are looking for me, she thinks. In a second, they will come in here. She reaches for the key, but before she can turn it, the door begins to open. In the darkness, she sees a hand holding a pistol appear around the edge of the door. Immediately, Sally throws herself against the door, closing it hard on the arm holding the gun. There is a scream from outside, and the pistol clatters to the floor. Brutus begins to bark loudly.
Sally is now able to close the door, and she pulls the chair ‘ over to hold it closed for as long as possible. She picks up the pistol and puts it into the belt of her jeans. She doesn’t like to have it with her, but she can’t leave it there for Mrs Larkin.
Now she has to escape. She knows that she could never shoot Mrs Larkin or Brutus – not even to protect her own life. I could probably overpower Mrs Larkin, she thinks, but I certainly can’t fight the dog. All this flies through her mind in an instant. She runs to the open window and climbs out as Mrs Larkin begins to hit the door with something heavy. The window to her room and the window to her father’s room are side by side.
“Thank goodness,” she gasps as she sees that his window is open.
From her window she is able to climb across to his and into his room. As she stands in his room, she hears the sound of the chair break, and the door to her room opens with a crash. “Kill, Brutus, kill!” screams Mrs Larkin and in a moment, Sally can hear Brutus barking in her room.
Quickly, she picks up the heavy lamp from the bedside table and slowly opens the bedroom door. Mrs Larkin is standing outside Sally’s bedroom door and is holding her injured wrist. She is waiting to hear Sally scream when Brutus has his teeth in her.
Silently, Sally steps behind her and, with all her strength, hits her on the back of the head with the lamp. Without a sound, Mrs Larkin falls to the floor unconscious. Sally steps over her body and quickly closes the bedroom door. Brutus is now a prisoner in the room. Sally breathes deeply and now that the danger is past, she begins to tremble.
“I don’t know what it is that they’re doing here,” she says to herself, “but if Mrs Larkin came looking for me with a gun, it must be something illegal.”
Now she thinks about her father. What can have happened to him? She will have to go to the barn and see if she can find him. First, however, she must do something with Mrs Larkin.
Sally quickly checks to see if the woman is still breathing.
Luckily, she is. The blow wasn’t hard enough to kill her.
Sally grabs her by the shoulders and drags her into her father’s room. She uses the cable from the table lamp to tie Mrs Larkin’s hands together. She then uses one of her father’s belts to fasten the woman’s legs together. Finally, she uses another belt. She puts it through Mrs Larkin’s arms and fastens it around the leg of the bed.
When she is happy that Mrs Larkin cannot escape, she takes the pistol from her belt and looks at it. The smooth, cold metal in her hand makes her feel uncomfortable. She places it back in her belt and carefully goes down the stairs. She stops at the bottom of the stairs and listens. Brutus has now stopped barking. The house is in darkness and completely silent.
Sally goes to the front door and opens it slowly. The yard is dark and there is no sound. Where is Mr Larkin? Will he come to the house to look for his wife? Hopefully, he is still in the barn.
Sally leaves the house and closes the door behind her. Quickly, she moves around the edge of the yard until she is at the side of the barn. She stands at the window where her father stood a short time ago and looks into the barn. She gasps as she sees her father tied to a chair. Mr Larkin is just closing the doors at the back of the van and is speaking to her father. She can’t hear what he is saying, but from the look on her father’s face, it is not something pleasant.
Larkin opens the two large barn doors before he climbs into the driver’s seat of the van. As Sally watches, the van moves forward out of the barn and into the yard.
Now is my opportunity, thinks Sally. She takes the pistol from her belt, and then she opens the side door of the barn. After quickly looking around, she runs across to her father with the pistol in her hand. She places the pistol on the floor and throws her arms around him.
“Oh, Dad,” she gasps. “Are you okay?”
All her father can do is mumble. He still has the cloth in his mouth, so she pulls it out.
“Behind you,” he gasps.
Sally turns, but it’s already too late. Larkin has silently come back into the barn and before she can move, he picks up the pistol from the floor. He steps back away from her and points the pistol at her heart. “Well, well, Miss Rush,” he says. “What a pleasant surprise. So nice of you to join us.”
Chapter 4: Larkin Shoots
Sally and her father look at Larkin in silence.
“Where’s my wife?” asks Larkin.
“In my dad’s bedroom,” Sally replies. “She’s unconscious, but apart from that she’s okay. Oh, and I’ve tied her up.”
“And Brutus?” asks Larkin. “I hope you haven’t injured Brutus.”
“No, of course not,” says Sally. “He’s locked in my bedroom.”
“You’re not just an attractive woman, are you?” continues Larkin. “I really have underestimated you. Unfortunately for you, I now have the pistol, and I won’t make the same mistake twice.”
“What are you going to do with us?” asks Sally.
“He’s going to kill us,” answers DI Rush. “The van is full of illegal immigrants from Africa. He brings them into the country every week.”
“Surely it’s not worth killing us to protect your illegal little business, is it?” says Sally. “In a few days every policeman in England will be looking for you”
“When they find your bodies, we will be far away,” replies Larkin.
“Anyway, you aren’t the first to die. What do you think happened to Mr Dalton?”
“So the blood in the yard was his?” gasps Sally.
“Yes,” answers Larkin. “I put him in the boot of his car before I drove it to London, so he was on the ground in the yard for a few minutes. That’s where the blood came from. I didn’t see it in the dark.”
“But why did you kill him?” asks DI Rush.
“I can’t stand around here all night talking,” growls Larkin. “There’s work to be done. That’s your last question, Mr Rush. Dalton was our partner. He looked after the immigrants when they arrived in London. He found jobs and rooms for them. Then they had to pay him all the money that they earned. He was richer than we were. A few days ago, Brenda and I decided that we wanted to stop bringing in the immigrants. We’re quite rich now and want to enjoy our money. Dalton wanted us to continue, but we said that we were leaving. He came here to try to convince us to stay. He even brought a pistol to help ‘convince’ us.”
Larkin laughs and waves the pistol around. “This pistol, in fact. When he threatened me with it, we struggled and I took it from him. Then I shot him.
I knew he would always be a danger for us if I left him alive.”
He pauses a moment and then adds, “So you see, I’m already a murderer. I have no choice. I have to kill you both.”
“You won’t get away with it,” cries DI Rush.
“I think I will. Now, Miss Rush, please lie on the floor and put your arms behind your back. I need to tie your hands together.”
Without taking his eyes from Sally, he goes to the wall of the barn and gets some wire. He returns to stand in front of her, the wire in one hand and the pistol in the other.
Sally laughs. “Do you think I’m going to make it easy for you? There are several things you don’t know about me, Mr Larkin. Firstly, I don’t like someone telling me what to do. I am very stubborn. If you don’t believe me, ask my dad.”
The inspector sits there with his mouth open. He cannot believe how calm his daughter is. She is going to die and she is talking to Larkin as though they are discussing the weather. Larkin points the pistol at the inspector.
“Either you do as I say, or your father gets the first bullet,” he says.
“That’s the second thing you don’t know about me,” answers Sally. “I hate guns. I would like to see them all destroyed.”
“Just be quiet and lie on the floor,” replies Larkin impatiently.
“Please let me finish,” continues Sally. “As I said, I hate guns, so although I brought your wife’s pistol with me, I took out all the bullets, so that no one could use it.”
As she finishes speaking, she begins to walk towards Larkin. He points the pistol directly at her and pulls the trigger. The only sound is a metallic “click”. A look of anger appears on his face. He pulls the trigger a second time, only to hear the “click” again.
By now Sally is directly in front of him. As he swings the pistol at her head, Sally moves quickly to the side and slides her hand down his arm. This pulls him off balance. She then begins to turn, and as she does, she takes hold of his wrist with one hand and grabs his head with the other. She pulls it against her shoulder and continues to turn.
Larkin swears. He cannot believe this is happening. He really has underestimated her. She pushes his head towards the floor, and he tries to stand up. Suddenly she is pushing him in the same direction. He is upright for only a second before he falls backwards, Sally’s arm and body pushing him down. He hits the floor, and the air is knocked out of his body. Sally still holds his wrist, and now she uses his arm to turn him over, so that he is facing the floor. She picks up the wire that has fallen from his hand during the struggle and quickly uses it to tie his hands together. Then she stands up and breathes deeply.
“Are you okay, Sally?” asks the inspector.
“I’m fine, Dad,” she replies. “Are you all right?”
“Apart from a bit of a headache, I’ve never felt better,” he replies. “I always knew that I had an amazing daughter,” he continues, “but until tonight, I never knew how amazing you really are. I’m so happy now that I paid for your Aikido courses.”
“And I’m so happy that i took the bullets out of the pistol,” replies Sally and smiles at her father.
Three days later, Sally and her father are sitting on the grass at Leeds Castle. They have just eaten a picnic of sandwiches and wine, and they both feel relaxed and happy. It is a beautiful summer evening, and thousands of other people are sitting around them. They are all waiting for the start of the concert.
“There was a time when I thought we wouldn’t be sitting here together tonight,” says DI Rush as he puts his arm around his daughter and hugs her.
“Yes,” agrees Sally. “When Mrs Larkin came for me with the pistol and the dog, I didn’t know what to do. It is a good thing that she didn’t send Brutus in first. I think everything would have ended differently. Anyway, now that they are in prison, we can relax. I suppose that we’ll have to come back to Kent when they appear in court?”
“Yes,” answers her father. “That won’t be for several weeks yet, though. The police have a lot of work to do before that. They told me that they have found Dalton’s body in his car in London, lust as Larkin said. The pistol will have to be checked to see if it fired the bullet that killed him. They will also have to speak to all the Africans who were in the van.”
“I really feel sorry for them,” says Sally. “Presumably they will all be sent back to the countries that they came from?”
“I think so,” replies the inspector. “But perhaps some of them will be able to stay.”
“We are so lucky to live in this country, aren’t we? And I’m especially lucky. I have such a good life here,” says Sally as she hugs her father. “And I have people who love me.”
Indeed you do, Sally,” says her father and smiles. “Indeed you do.”