Inspector Stone Mysteries #1
Where There’s A Will
A kidnapped teen, held who knows where
3.5 million Euros are demanded in ransom, but is that all the kidnappers want?
Inspector Stone is tasked with finding the girl and bringing her home safely. Hard enough under normal circumstances, but between investigating an unrelated armed robbery, family problems and the machinations of an ambitious underling, it’s almost impossible. When it turns out that the Russian Mafia might be involved in the kidnapping, things begin to spiral out of Stone’s control.
Unknown to either Stone or Alice’s parents, the kidnappers have more in mind than collecting a ransom.
Stone needs to find Alice before the ransom can be paid and the kidnappers can make good on their threats. Or it won’t just be Alice that becomes a victim to their deadly plans…
Read chapter 1 and 2 below
Side by side, as though joined at the hip, Ben and Jerry stepped through the flaps and into the pavilion. They blinked in unison as they went from the darkness of outside to the brightness of the pavilion’s interior, which was lit by portable lights that hung overhead.
They knew what to do without talking – they had been working together for so long that they would have been as close as brothers even without the bond of blood – and while Ben made for the young man busily gathering up the plastic glasses that littered the tables, Jerry threaded his way through the tables to the bar.
“On your knees.” Ben’s voice was no louder than a whisper, but he didn’t need volume to make it clear that his order should be obeyed, the sawn-off shotgun in his hand did that for him. He was pleased, but unsurprised, to see the young man drop the cups he had gathered and almost hit his head on the table he was cleaning in his haste to do as he had been told.
“What d’you want?” The cleaner’s voice trembled with fear as he addressed his question, not to the man standing over him but to the gun being pointed at him – he couldn’t force his eyes any higher than the twin dark holes that stared at him from the end of the barrel.
“The money,” Ben admitted candidly before slamming the butt of his gun down on the man’s head. He bent briefly to check that the cleaner was out cold and then stepped over the immobile form so he could join Jerry, who was waiting for him by the partition that led into the rear section of the pavilion.
Like his brother, Jerry was holding a sawn-off shotgun, which he clutched tightly while his finger twitched on the trigger, ready to squeeze it at the slightest provocation. “Three,” he told Ben quietly, having risked a look through the partition to see how many people they had to worry about. His eyes shone greedily at the thought of the money he had seen, and his body quivered like a coiled spring; it could not have been more obvious how excited he was, or how desperate he was to get on with things.
“Let’s do this,” Ben whispered. He stepped past his brother and through the partition. “On the ground, all of you,” he ordered loudly, swinging his shotgun from side to side so that the muzzle was pointed in turn at the two men and one woman; all three of them froze in the act of counting the piles of money – made by the beer tents that had been quenching the thirst of the revellers at the Rock Radio Music Festival – on the table when they saw the guns, and the balaclava-wearing men wielding them.
“Do as he says,” Jerry snarled, standing shoulder to shoulder with his brother. “On the ground, hands behind yer backs.” The moment the three of them had done as they were told Jerry lowered his shotgun and slid the bag he was carrying from his shoulder. He took several lengths of rope and strips of cloth from the bag, which he used to bind their hands and blindfolded them; finally, just to be sure they weren’t going to cause any trouble, he knocked them out, using the butt of his shotgun as a club. “Let’s get this done,” he said eagerly once he was finished.
As quickly as they could, the pair grabbed up the bundles of cash that covered the table like the cloth of a cartoon rich person and stuffed them into the bag. It took longer than they had anticipated to empty the table, and there was only just enough space in the bag for all of it – there was more money than they had expected, though neither of them thought that a bad thing, there could never be such a thing as too much money as far as they were concerned. By the time they were finished, the bag was full to bursting, leaving them both to wonder how much it was they had stolen, and how much fun they could have with it – a lot, that was certain.
A little over five minutes after entering the temporary drinking hall, Ben and Jerry left it, with Jerry practically skipping on his way through the pavilion, so excited was he. If they were not now rich men, they were certainly far better off than before, and they were both feeling full of themselves; they couldn’t think of another way they could make so much money so quickly or so easily.
“Didn’ I tell you it’d be easy?” Jerry exulted, pulling off his balaclava to reveal shaggy brown hair that was in need of a good brush, and several days’ worth of stubble. “We’re loaded, fuckin’ loaded.” He let out a short, sharp whoop of glee, heedless of the fact that there were still people around, clearing up after the festival. “How much you think we got?”
“More’n you said we’d get,” Ben said as he slid into the passenger seat of the car they had parked as close to the pavilion as they could. While he did that, his partner tossed the bag into the back seat before taking the driver’s seat. “Forty grand, at least, mebbe more. We’ll find out when we get ‘ome.”
Jerry gunned the engine and raced away from the pavilion, narrowly missing one of the festival staff who was nearby. He paid no attention to the man, who was forced to dive out of the way of the racing car to avoid being hit, as he sped across the field towards the makeshift exit from the festival grounds.
Detective Inspector Nathan Stone – Nate to his friends – yawned hugely as his partner drove them into the field that had been used for the Rock Radio music festival. It was just gone four in the morning and he was not happy to be there; an hour before he had been in bed, warm, comfortable and, most importantly, asleep. Why he had been called out for a robbery, when Detective Sergeant Mason was the officer on duty until eight a.m., he didn’t know, and he hoped to find out soon.
The moment his partner brought the car to a stop, Stone got out, rising to his full height of just under six feet. He stretched to ease his stiff muscles and yawned again, his mouth gaping wide for a moment before shutting quickly. Running his fingers through his sandy hair he attempted to transform it into something more suited to a senior detective, without success – his hair had never been all that tameable, and fresh from bed it put up more resistance than usual.
As awake as he felt he was likely to be, given the time and the circumstances, he looked around, his hazel eyes taking in all there was to see. Though it was the early hours of the morning, and dawn was still an hour or so away, the festival grounds were ablaze with light – some of it came from the quarter moon that shone in the night sky, but most of the light came from the spotlights that dotted the field, and which only a couple of hours before had illuminated the bands playing the festival and entertaining the thousands of people who had attended.
“They sure made a mess of this place,” DS Stephen Burke remarked as he walked around the car to join his partner. There was little difference in their heights, not even an inch, but he had better posture, so he seemed taller; his slimmer build, close cropped black hair and green, almost emerald, eyes further separated them in the eyes of any who them.
Stone nodded his agreement. “I’m no environmentalist, but I’ve always thought it a shame when I see the mess left behind after a festival like this. I’ve never understood why people are so prepared to leave their rubbish all over the place just because they’re at a festival; most of them would never do it at home.” He let out a heavy sigh as he rubbed his eyes to remove the last of the sleep from them before running his fingers through his hair once more; it was a habit, and one he often wasn’t aware of doing. “Okay, let’s get on with this. Standing around isn’t going to get us anywhere.”
With Burke at his side, Stone strode briskly over to the pavilion, whose entrance was being guarded by a uniformed officer. He looked around quickly once inside and noted the presence of the two white clad forensics officers who were working over a small area to one side of the pavilion – in addition to them there were three men and a woman seated at a table near the ‘bar’, untouched cups of something that still steamed gently in front of them, while a short distance from the table was Detective Constable Chris Grey.
“Christian,” Stone greeted the younger man, whom he liked to call by his full, Christian, name because of the lead male character in the Fifty Shades series of books; it wasn’t something Grey liked, but since he was only a junior officer, and one newly promoted to detective, he was not in a position to do or say much about it. “What’s the situation?” He had been told little of what had happened when he was woken by the duty sergeant. “Armed robbery I believe.”
Grey nodded. “That’s right, sir. Two men with sawn-off shotguns tied up the staff, that’s them over there,” he indicated the foursome at the table, “knocked them out and took all the money the beer tents took today,” he told his superior succinctly.
“Is there something special about this case?” Stone asked curiously of the young detective, whose face took on a quizzical look. “Why was I called out for this? I’m off-duty till morning – Mason’s the duty detective tonight, he should have been the one to get this call.” He stifled yet another yawn and silently wished for a very large mug of strong, black, well-sweetened coffee to wake him up.
As if he had read his superior’s mind, Burke chose that moment to appear at Stone’s side holding a pair of Styrofoam cups that steamed, more forcefully than did those on the table, in the cold night air. “I’m afraid it’s nothing special, just instant, but it’s better than nothing.” Burke took a sip of his coffee and grimaced, revealing what he thought of the coffee he had secured for them.
Stone gratefully accepted the cup that was held out to him and immediately lifted it to his lips. He let out a sigh of relief as the hot liquid slid down his throat and that first jolt of caffeine and sugar hit him – unlike his partner he wasn’t a coffee snob who paid more attention than necessary to what he drank, he was satisfied as long as his drink had plenty of caffeine and sugar. “Well, Christian?” He turned his attention back to the detective. “Is there a reason I got this call?”
“I couldn’t say, sir,” Grey said. “I was expecting DS Mason to take the lead here. I did hear just before you arrived that he’s been sent to a hit-and-run a few miles away though.”
“Any connection to this?” Burke asked. He saw from the look on his partner’s face that he had surprised Stone, whose mental faculties, just then, were not on the same level as his, and who had not been so quick to consider the possibility that there might be a connection between the two incidents.
“Not so far as I’m aware, Sergeant, but I know nothing about the hit-and-run so it could be,” Grey said apologetically.
Burke shrugged. “If there is a connection, I’m sure we’ll find out about it soon enough.”
“Has Mason got anyone with him?” Stone asked of Grey, knowing that he had been assigned to partner the detective sergeant.
“No, sir.” Grey shook his head. “I was out of the station when this call came in, and was sent straight here; DS Mason said he would join me but you turned up instead.”
“You’d better get off and join him then,” Stone told him. “We’ll take care of things here.” He sipped heartily at his coffee as he made his way between the tables to where the quartet of witnesses/victims were seated.
“Hello, I’m Detective Inspector Stone, and this is Detective Sergeant Burke,” he introduced himself and his partner. “I realise you’ve been through a traumatic experience tonight, and I’m sure that you’d rather not relive it, so I’ll try not to keep you any longer than necessary.”
“Thanks,” the eldest of the three men, who was holding the woman’s hand comfortingly, said. “I’m David Leigh, I own The Stag Inn, and it’s my money been stolen,” he declared angrily. “This is my wife, Rose, son, Tim, and Eric Green, one of our barmen.” He made the introductions.
Stone nodded to each of them in turn and then returned his attention to David Leigh, who was clearly the one most in control; his wife was white-faced and trembling, his son was attempting to seem unaffected by what had happened but still couldn’t speak, though he appeared to want to, while Green showed every sign of still being stunned by the blow that had knocked him out. Stone wondered briefly if he shouldn’t be in hospital, being checked over, rather than there, and was about to say something to that effect when he remembered that he and Burke had passed an ambulance on their way up to the field – he assumed that everyone had been given the once over by the paramedics.
“First off,” he said, “can you tell me how much money was stolen?” He knew there was a lot of money to be made from the beer tents at a festival like the one that had finished earlier that night, but not how much.
Leigh grimaced and said regretfully, “I wish I could. We’d only just started counting it all when those bastards came in. Based on what we took yesterday and Friday, though, I’d say they got away with a little over fifty grand.” His voice was bitter. “It was the best day’s takings. Sunday’s always the best – bastards.”
Fifty thousand pounds, Stone thought; it was clear that the beer tents made more money than he had imagined. He made a note of the amount in the pad he took from a pocket. “Is the money insured?” he asked.
“It should be,” David Leigh said, though his voice was uncertain. “I’m sure the insurance company’ll try and find some way out of paying, but we should be covered for it.”
“That’s good. If you don’t mind then, I’d like to start at the beginning – if you could tell me what happened.” His eyes remained on David Leigh for a moment, but when the pub owner’s eyes moved to his barman, Stone’s followed.
There was silence for a short while before Eric Green finally spoke. “I was clearing up, collecting the glasses and wiping the tables down when they came in. I only saw one of them, and I didn’t realise he was there ‘til he told me to get on my knees. He had a shotgun in my face so I did as he said.”
“You did the right thing,” Burke assured him. “If you’d tried anything you might have been hurt – better for you to do what he wanted and avoid that.”
Stone nodded his agreement. “What happened next?” he asked.
“I asked him what he wanted, and the guy said ‘the money’ then he hit me. I don’t know about anything else that happened ‘til I woke up later.” Absently he rubbed his forehead, where a large bump, visible to everyone at the table, was forming. “I didn’t even see his face; I saw the shotgun and just sort of froze – it’s like I didn’t want to see his face, I was too scared.”
“That’s understandable.” Stone suspected he would have reacted the same if he were in that position.
David Leigh took up the account then, “After they knocked Eric out they came through to the back.” He gestured behind him to where two flaps had been tied back, and several forensics officers in their white coveralls could be seen. “And did the same to us; they made us get on the ground, tied and blindfolded us, then they knocked us out. I don’t think we were out for more than about five minutes, ten at the most, before one of the festival staff found us and woke us up. That’s when I called you guys.”
Stone took in Leigh’s brief account of events and then twisted around. “Is the guy who revived everyone still here?” he called out the question to the two constables at the entrance to the pavilion.
“Yes, sir, he’s out here having a smoke,” came the reply. “Do you want him?”
“Not yet, just keep him there. I’ll get to him shortly.” Turning to Burke, Stone said, “Can you organise the questioning of all the festival staff, and anyone else who might have been around, while I get some details here.”
Burke nodded and, putting away his notepad and pen, got to his feet; he left his barely touched coffee on the table as he made his way out of the pavilion, glad to have an excuse not to finish the almost undrinkable beverage.
“What can you tell me about the guys who robbed you?” Stone asked, his attention back on those at the table.
“Not much,” Leigh answered. “They were both dressed in jeans, dark tops and leather jackets, and they were both wearing balaclavas.”
Stone scribbled that down in his spider scrawl, disappointed by the lack of a useful description. “Anything else? Did you notice an accent, did they sound local or from somewhere else; maybe you saw a tattoo, or something that might make it possible to identify the guys who took your money?”
Once he had all the information the quartet could give him, which took very little time, Stone made his way outside. He found the festival crew member who had untied and revived David Leigh, his family, and their employee, a short distance from the pavilion entrance, still smoking. The small collection of cigarette butts on the ground at his feet indicated that he had been chain-smoking for quite a while, most likely to calm his nerves after the night’s events.
“How did you know Mr Leigh and the others needed help, Mr Powell?” Stone asked once he had introduced himself. He moved to one side until he was downwind – the breeze was only slight, but it was enough to send the smoke from the cigarette into his face. It wasn’t that the smoke bothered him, more that it awoke cravings he thought he had long since put behind him.
“After being almost run down by those idiots I was sure something’d happened, so once I got to my feet I went and checked the pavilion. That’s when I found them, tied up and knocked out,” Powell answered. Dropping his cigarette to the ground he crushed it into the dirt with his foot. “I revived them, wasn’t easy, they didn’t want to wake up, and Mr Leigh called the cops while I went and got one of the first-aiders.”
“You say you were almost run down, can you describe the car, or the people in it?”
“It was blue, a Vauxhall, Astra I think.” Powell paused to light a fresh cigarette, which he puffed on a for a moment before he continued. “I didn’t see it pull up, I was having a piss, but it was out front when I finished, with the engine running. I didn’t think much of it, I just thought it belonged to someone in the pavilion and they’d brought it round so they could load some stuff up.”
“Did you see the license plate?” Stone didn’t hold his breath; he was sure that even if Powell had seen the license plate it wouldn’t help any. In his experience, the car used by the robbers would most likely have been stolen, perhaps even specifically for this job. “How about the men? Did you see anything of them?” he asked when Powell shook his head in response to the first question.
“Not clearly,” Powell said regretfully. “I did get a glimpse of the driver, though.”
Stone felt his hopes rise as he waited for Powell to continue.
“He had messy brown hair and stubble.”
“Was there anything distinctive about him that you saw? Scars, tattoos, anything like that?”
Powell had to think about that for a moment. “Tattoo, yeah, he had a tattoo on the side of his neck.”
“What sort of tattoo? Can you describe it?”
Powell took a long drag on his cigarette, which was almost finished already, and shook his head. “I couldn’t see it clearly, but it looked like some kind of bird, not sure what sort, I only got a glimpse – I had to dive out of the way when they nearly ran me down.”
PURCHASE IT NOW