A Place of Reckoning: A chilling psychological murder mystery full of suspense and deadly twists (Detective Tom Blake book 2)
The light was fading and rain lashed down in front of the Astra’s headlights as Detective Inspector Tom Blake and Detective Sergeant John Murphy came to a standstill at the top of a long, litter-strewn alleyway that ran behind a row of boarded-up terraced houses on Wells Street, Middleport. The once-thriving industrial area was pencilled in for regeneration by the council, but money from central government hadn’t materialised. Like most of old Stoke-on-Trent from the turn of the nineteenth century, factories and workers' houses nearby were in a poor state of repair. Years of neglect had seen to that. The two detectives felt sorry for those elderly residents who’d clung to the glories of a past of full employment and thriving community. Now they lived amid empty terraced houses and an influx of East Europeans looking for unskilled work.
‘You reckon Denzel Glennie is back at it, then?’ DI Blake asked his DS, John Murphy.
‘Sex cases like him don’t change, despite what the shrinks say. They can’t be healed. He’s got a taste for knocking prostitutes around. He gets off on it. His stash of Viagra was in double figures last time we arrested him,’ Murphy said.
‘The office manager uses it.’
Murphy grinned, ‘Nick Pemberton’s on the blue diamonds?’
‘Says he needs them to keep pace with all these MILFs he’s dating. Says they’re hornier than any under-twenty-fives he’s been with,’ Blake said.
‘Jesus! Evermore likely his missus won’t take him back. ’
‘Anyway, this is Glennie’s stomping ground. There’ve been several reports of dealing and soliciting in this area over the last two weeks. The old lady in number sixty-eight there is petrified. She’s told PC Haynes she doesn’t go out after dark. Seeing Glennie with his pants down was the last straw for her.’
‘I don’t blame her, look at the state of this place.’ DS Murphy flicked on the wipers to wash away another deluge from the windscreen.
‘Hopefully, this bloody lot will ease up. Don’t fancy getting soaked. Which property is the dealing going on at?’
‘See that brown wheelie bin?’ Murphy pointed to the stranded bin leaning against a wall. ‘The working girls are using a row of three terraced in the middle there. They’re most likely knocked through. Like those cannabis farms the Drug Squad raided in Longton last month.’
‘Which house has Denzel Glennie been seen at?’
‘None. The old lady spotted him having sex with a prostitute in the alley.’
‘Who said romance is dead!’ Blake laughed, ‘It’s not the first time, either.’
‘Yep, that's why the DS have left us to it: before they raid the place later this week. We’ve got to be discreet.’
‘Horrible pervert. Even the prostitutes won’t go near him.’
‘Obviously, that one hasn’t heard of him.’
Blake scratched his beard, ‘Vice nicked him in 2014. He dropped off the radar after he got out of Strangeways.’
‘Rape and harassment, wasn’t it?’ Murphy said.
‘There wasn’t enough evidence for the rape charge, but he ended up doing three years for assaulting two prostitutes.’
‘Your memory is much better than mine, Tom. There have been so many horrible weasels over the years I’ve lost track.’
‘Anyway, he’s been at it again, harassing working girls. There have been a few complaints,’ Blake said.
Murphy sneered, ‘If the ladies of the night have called us, they must be desperate. They usually run a mile.’
As the rain stopped, a thin bloke with greasy hair exited one of the backyards and slunk off down the alley away from them.
They jumped out of the car just as Glennie was about fifty yards from the bottom.
Blake shuddered. Even though the weather had warmed a few degrees, it was still bitter outside. ‘You follow him and I’ll shoot around by the road to see if I can head him off before he reaches the end.’
As Murphy got closer, Glennie turned and shot him a look. Murphy speed-dialled Blake on his mobile, ‘He’s spotted me.’
‘Keep following. I’m almost there.’
At the bottom, Glennie looked right, clocked Blake and legged it.
Murphy picked up the pace and closed in on the invertebrate, ‘Stop! Police!’
Blake went wide, keeping his eye on the offender as he headed down the side of a humpback bridge, toward the Trent and Mersey Canal towpath.
‘Denzel, bloody stop!’ Blake bawled, but Glennie kept running.
After about a hundred yards, they were almost clipping his heels. Blake swiped with his right arm but couldn’t catch hold of Glennie’s trailing hood. Glennie raced along the gravel towpath, the detectives pursuing him. They lost sight of him as he disappeared around a sharp left-hand bend shrouded in overhanging trees.
Blake stopped to catch his breath at the gates of an old derelict chapel set back a few yards from the towpath. ‘Where’s he gone?’
Coming to a standstill, DS Murphy puffed, ‘In there, maybe?’ He pointed to weather-worn doors, one of which was slightly ajar.
They entered through the rust-caked iron gates and walked along the sandstone pathway leading to the entrance. Above an ornate Venetian window, the words Primitive Devine Methodist Chapel 1877 were carved into a decorative stone plaque.
‘He’s got to be hiding in there somewhere.’
‘We’ll be okay, if we’re careful.’ Blake grabbed the open door and led the way. Inside, cast-iron pillars held up a second-tier mezzanine level circling the lower floor. In the centre, a chaplain’s raised pulpit towered over rows of hardwood seating.
‘Denzel, come out now!’ Blake’s shout echoed around the cavernous hall.
Placing his hand on the nearest wall, Murphy leaned to catch his breath, ‘It’s bloody colder than outside.'
Blake glanced at him, ‘Surprisingly, it looks in good nick though.’
'It's the roof. No leaks. Someone’s maintained it,’ Murphy said, looking upwards. ‘God knows why!’
‘You take that side, I’ll take the other,’ Blake said, veering over to the right.
They looked down each row of enclosed seating to see if Glennie was lying underneath any of the benches.
‘Same here. Where the bloody hell is he?’
‘Up there, I reckon.’
‘Let’s take a look,’ Blake pointed out two doors in the far corner. ‘The stairs are over there.’
Carefully, they climbed the winding wooden stairs up to the mezzanine level. At the top, they split up and searched more benches. There didn’t seem to be anywhere else to hide.
‘He’s not here, Tom. Bastard’s given us the slip.’
‘It's looking that way. He’ll be long gone.’
Standing at the rail, they looked down toward the back of the chapel.
‘What's that?’ Murphy pointed to something daubed on the back wall underneath the mezzanine.
‘Looks like graffiti. Let's inspect downstairs, see if he’s hiding in a cupboard somewhere?’ Blake smirked.
‘I wouldn’t put it past the scrawny bugger. He’s about eight stone, if that.’
They spent another ten minutes scouring a back office, the vicar's chambers and a storeroom. Nothing but dust-covered piles of hymn books, candle stands, sheet music and stained certificates. Absolutely no sign of Glennie.
‘He must have slipped through a window or door somewhere around the back. Why did he run?’
‘Obviously, he’s got something to hide.’
‘I’ll issue a warrant for his arrest, soon as. He can’t hide forever.’
Before leaving the premises, they took a closer look at the graffiti on the back wall.
‘That's weird.’ Murphy said, turning to his boss.
‘Yeah, not the usual graffiti. Not like those bloody stupid tags kids are vandalising the canal bridges with.’
They stared at a four-foot high image of a man, in medieval clothing, holding a wand. Laid out on a table in front of him were objects suggestive of magic: a pentangle, a small monkey, a ram's horn, a book of sorcery and a drinking vessel. Underneath, in blood-red paint, were the words: Draíochtagus Tallulah
‘Looks like some kind of conjurer,’ Murphy said, leaning in and sliding his hand over the painting.
Blake scrutinised it. ‘More like art than vandalism, I’d say. What's it doing in a disused church?’
Murphy shrugged, ‘God knows.’
‘He may well do, but it's unusual.’ Blake fished his phone from his pocket and took pictures from several angles. ‘I’ll get that translated.’
Murphy ran his finger over the letters. ‘Tom, that isn’t paint, it’s blood!’
‘Shit. I’ll get a SOCO to come and do some tests, see what turns up.’
After the detectives left, Denzel Glennie lifted the hatch covering the crypt, dusted himself down, climbed the stone steps and stealthily made his way back through the chapel. As he reached the pulpit, he looked across the hall, his eyes lingered in the centre. Standing in front of the twelve-foot tall Corinthian-pillared pipe organ, sexual arousal elevated his inflated ego to the stars. His thoughts transported him to the last ceremony. Retrieving his mobile, he made a call. ‘I think we’ve got a problem.’