My new detective thriller series, featuring. . .
SHACKLETON BLISTER in, 'The Price of Justice'
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.’