The a new detective thriller from Philip Caine . . .
'SHACKLETON BLISTER, The Price of Justice.' featuring a new hero, Sackleton Blister.
Check out the taster below . . .
THE PRICE OF JUSTICE
Courtroom 4, The Old Bailey, London
The Court Usher’s voice echoed across the big room. ‘Will the defendant please rise.’
All eyes turned to the man standing in the dock, a few murmurs from the public gallery.
‘Quiet please,’ continued the Usher.
Justice Helen Wentworth took a sip of water, then removed her spectacles. For several seconds she looked at the standing man, then replaced her glasses and picked up a sheet of paper.
‘This is a particularly sad case. Unhappily, the real sentence will be yours to bear for the rest of your life . . . Knowing you contributed to the death of your wife and unborn child, will haunt you until the day you die. That said, English Common Law demands you must be punished for your part in this tragic affair, and it is with some regret, I am bound to impose a suitable sentence. Your to-date impeccable record as a Police Officer, and the absence of any prior convictions, has been taken into consideration. Nevertheless, it has been found you were under the influence of alcohol, albeit marginally, when the accident occurred, resulting in the death of your family. . . Robert Anthony Stone, I therefore sentence you to four years imprisonment. I hope you may find the strength to live with the result of your actions. Take him down.’
North Quay Offices, Manchester
The sign on the door read, SHACKLETON BLISTER. Confidential Enquiries. The woman looked at the sign for a few moments, then knocked. No answer. She knocked again, turned the handle and entered. ‘Hello?’ Still no answer.
Then, from the inner office, a man’s voice. ‘Hang on, please.’
The woman looked around the room. A desk and chair, with a small sofa in front. On the desk a laptop; a black eyepatch lay on the keyboard. A bulb flickered in an old desk lamp. In the corner, a filing cabinet; an open delivery box with the remains of a pizza on top. The window was open and the view across the waters of Salford Quays was pleasant. The in-coming fresh air didn’t quite mask the faint smell of whisky.
The man entered.
She looked him up and down. ‘Sorry to wake you. I did knock.’
He ran his fingers through the uncombed hair. ‘Err . . . yeah, sorry. Was a long night. Just catching up on a little sleep.’
‘Yes, quite. May I sit?’
He went to the desk, picked up the eyepatch and slipped it on. ‘Oh, yeah, sure . . . Miss?’
She noticed the scars on his hands and neck. ‘Lang . . . Amanda Lang.’
‘Shackleton Blister.’ He caught her slight smile. ‘Yeah, it usually brings that response.’
‘Oh, excuse me . . . It is a rather distinct nom de guerre.’
‘And what’s that supposed to mean?’
‘Nom de guerre is . . .’
‘I know the expression. I meant you using it.’
She smiled and eased back into the sofa. ‘Shackleton Blister is not your real name. I know you began using it after you left prison.’
‘I also do not believe you were responsible for the death of your family.’
‘Okay, lady. Who the hell are you, and what do you want?’
‘As I said, my name is Amanda Lang, and I’m a freelance journalist.’
‘Sorry. I don’t talk to journalists.’
‘Hear me out, please.’
‘You got two minutes. What d’you want?’
‘What I want, is to help you bring the people responsible for the loss of your career, the death of your wife and child, and your subsequent imprisonment, to justice.’
‘All that’s behind me, love. There’s no way you can change what happened. So, I think you’d better leave, Miss Lang.’
‘Please, call me Amanda.’
He looked at her. Mid-thirties. Confident; well-dressed; attractive. Probably a strong character. Not from Manchester; the hint of a Scottish accent. He adjusted the eyepatch, then stood and went to the window. As he stared out across the Quays, he said, ‘Why?’
He turned and looked at her for several seconds . . . ‘Why would you want to help me?’
‘Because, Mr Blister I . . .’
‘Call me Shack.’
She stood and joined him at the window. She frowned a little as she caught the smell of whisky on him.
‘Because, Shack, I believe the people responsible for your situation, were also responsible for the death of my partner.’
‘She Likes You’
The trendy coffee shop, overlooking Salford’s North Quay, was busy as usual. Shackleton was a regular.
The young waitress smiled as he approached. ‘Morning,’ she said, the thick Polish accent evident.
He gave a half-hearted smile. ‘Mornin.’
A couple of people stood up from an outside table. ‘This’ll do,’ he said.
The waitress nodded and began clearing the plates. ‘How are you today? The usual?’
He sat down. ‘I’m fine thanks. Yeah, tea and a bacon sandwich.’
The girl smiled. ‘White bread, no sauce,’ then turned to Amanda. ‘Menus are on the table, Miss.’
‘Oh, just a cappuccino for me, please.’
As the waitress walked away, Amanda said, ‘She likes you.’
‘Our waitress. She likes you, Shack. Though I can’t see why.’
He frowned then turned and looked out across the water. ‘You wanted to talk outside my office. Why?’
The girl returned with their drinks. She smiled at him. ‘Bacon sandwich in two minutes.’
Shack turned to her. ‘Cheers, love.’
As she walked away, Amanda said, ‘There now. That wasn’t too hard was it?
‘Being pleasant to her.’
He sipped the steaming tea. ‘What the hell do you want, lady?’
‘I didn’t want to talk in your office because I don’t know how secure it is.’
He frowned. ‘No one is gonna bug my place. I’m not that important.’
‘It also smells a little.’
‘Bacon sandwich, no sauce. I told chef to put extra bacon.’
Shack smiled. ‘Thank you, Maria.’
Maria smiled at the use of her name. ‘Let me know if I can get you anything else.’
As the girl went back inside, Amanda grinned. ‘Extra bacon? Oh, yes, she likes you.’
He picked up the sandwich and munched into the soft white bread. ‘Hmmm.’
She moved her chair a little closer to him, picked up her mug, took a couple of sips, then said, ‘Have you ever heard of a government project called Overwatch?’
He shook his head. A small piece of crispy bacon fell to the plate.
‘Overwatch was set up four years ago. A Home Office initiative to investigate police corruption, at the highest level, across the UK.’
He swallowed. ‘Never heard of it.’
‘Exactly. It was essentially a covert mission, with operatives reporting directly to the Home Secretary’s office. Even the Police Commissioner knew nothing about it.’
‘So how come, if it’s that secret, you know about it, Mandy?’
She frowned. ‘Amanda . . . Because my partner, Sam, was part of Overwatch.’
Shack put the sandwich down and picked up his mug. ‘And now he’s dead.’
Amanda looked out across the sparkling waters of North Quay. ‘She . . . She’s dead.’
‘I’m sorry. Can I ask what happened?’
Amanda, took another drink, then looked him in the eye. ‘She was killed in an alleyway in London.’
‘Sounds brutal . . . I really am sorry.’
For the first time since their meeting began, she felt the rough-looking guy in front of her did mean what he said. ‘Thank you, Shack.’
‘Can you talk about it?’
‘It wasn’t a random killing. She was murdered. She’d gone to a nightclub. I’d spoken with her earlier that evening. She said she was following some target and had no idea when she’d be home. There was CCTV footage of her leaving the club with a guy. The police report said she’d picked up a man in the bar and gone out to the alleyway, perhaps for sex or drugs. A chance encounter that had tragic consequences.’
He saw the tears well up in her eyes. ‘That’s enough, you don’t need to go any further.’
‘No . . . It’s fine. There’s no way she would be interested in sex or drugs. They fabricated a reason for killing . . . murdering her.’
‘Bastards,’ he said quietly. ‘Oh, sorry!’
She grinned at the profanity. ‘No that’s fine.’
He smiled. ‘D’you want another coffee?’
She nodded. ‘Okay.’ He has a nice face when he smiles, she thought.
He waved to Maria. ‘Another coffee and tea, please.’ Then he turned back to Amanda. ‘So, what d’you want with me . . . lady?’ He smiled again.
The humour in his voice when he said, ‘lady,’ was not lost on her. ‘You can call me Amanda.’
The waitress put their drinks down and picked up the empty mugs. ‘Can I get you anything else?’
He shook his head. ‘Thanks, love.’
They both drank, then Amanda said, ‘I want you to help me get justice for Samantha’s and Christine’s deaths.’
He adjusted the eyepatch. ‘Chrissy . . . I always called my wife, Chrissy. You know, the price of justice can be very high, Amanda. And I’m not sure I’m up to it.’
She looked into his eye. ‘I understand. But that’s not my feeling. I think you’re a very capable man who needs to find his way back from a terribly dark place.’
‘You’re a trick-cyclist as well?’
She shook her head slightly. ‘No, not a psychiatrist. Just an extremely good judge of character.’
He finished his tea and sat back in the chair. ‘I don’t know . . . sorry.’
‘Hey . . . don’t be sorry. I really do understand. Look, I’m going home for my brother’s birthday tomorrow. Why don’t you come with me? You might enjoy it. And we can get to know each other.’
‘Oh, I’m not sure I’m ready for civilised company, love.’
She laughed. ‘Think about it. I’ll message you later. I’ll be leaving for Scotland about ten o’clock. It’ll be an overnighter.’
‘Yes. We . . . the family, has a place just south of Edinburgh.’
She took out her purse.
He put his hand on her arm. ‘Hey, it’s okay. I can still spring for a couple of coffees.’
She looked at the scars again. ‘Of course.’
‘D’you want my number?’
As she stood up, she said. ‘I found you, didn’t I?’ She winked. ‘I have your number.’