CHAPTER ONE – September 2019 I think I can safely say I’ve had better starts to my week. I’d skipped breakfast or else I’d probably have thrown up all over the crime scene, and that would have gone down about as well with the Home Office pathologist as a cup of cold sick, especially given the Home Office pathologist would almost certainly be one Bill Jennings, a man who’s admiration for me is almost as low as mine is for him. Dead Eye had called in just before eight from a small urban woodland nature reserve, Bradley’s Wood, which lies cheek by jowl with one of the more distinctly ungentrified areas of Islington. The clearing had been cordoned off, and once I’d donned the obligatory paper suit, hat and over shoes I joined DI Ritchie and DS Sixsmith close to the centre of the clearing towards the heart of the woods. We all stood for a moment, as if in silent prayer, trying to make sense of the scene before us. A man had been crucified, not something you see everyday in London, with his bloodied hands and feet nailed to a large wooden cross slammed firmly into the woodland soil. The man would have been stark bollock naked if his bollocks hadn’t actually been conspicuous by their absence, along with his penis. Instead, where these appendages should have been there was a grotesquely gaping wound from which, given the considerable pool of congealed blood that had collected below the victim’s feet, he’d have slowly and painfully bled to death. Dead Eye broke the silence.‘John, I think I know who our friend here might well be.’ ‘How on Earth can you tell who it is from this angle?’ I asked, before pointing out the inconvenient fact that the head had drooped right down and was resting hard against the chest. All I could see was a greasy mop of unruly grey hair. ‘I took an executive decision,’ Dead Eye confessed,‘and crouched directly under the body, careful to avoid stepping in any of the blood, mind, so I could take a butchers at the victim’s face.’ ‘“Take a butchers”? When did you turn into Chas and Dave?’ ‘I’ve clearly been down in the Smoke too long. I’m starting to turn into a cockney.’ ‘You should be so lucky,’ muttered Sixsmith, East End born and bred. ‘Well, ten out of ten for initiative, DI Ritchie, although, strictly speaking you should have waited for the police surgeon to arrive and examine the body first before piling in with your size twelves and potentially contaminating the crime scene. ‘We were very careful where we trod,’ said Dead Eye. ‘We?’ ‘I took a look as well,’ confessed Sixsmith, sheepishly. ‘What part of, “we’re supposed to wait for the doc to arrive and examine the body first”, didn’t you understand, sergeant, or don’t they teach scene of crime protocol at Hendon anymore?’ ‘I asked Rachel for her opinion, John,’ confessed Dead Eye, defending his sergeant.’ ‘And that makes it alright, Ian? Anyway, never mind that, what did the two of you spot from this joint executive decision of yours?’ ‘That the victim’s mouth is all bloodied and it looks like most of his teeth have been smashed in,’ Sixsmith said. ‘Someone really didn’t like him then,’ I said. ‘And Rachel and I agree we think we might know who our man might be,’ continued Dead Eye ‘Too many “mights” for my liking, Ian.’ ‘We think it might be Jono Tremaine.’ ‘What, the gangster, Jono Tremaine?’ ‘No, the song and dance man, Jono Tremaine,’ replied Dead Eye, sarcastically, ‘yes, of course the bloody gangster. How many people in the world are called Jono Tremaine, and if there are any others out there how many of them are likely to look like they departed this mortal coil as the result of a gangland execution?’ Chuckles had convened a meeting with myself, Dead Eye and my two sergeants in the Fenner Grove Conference Room. There was coffee and custard creams thrown in for good measure, so it wasn’t all bad. ‘Well, this is a rum do and no mistake,’ Chuckles began, as I helped myself to milk from the jug on the table, ‘I really could do without all this malarkey kicking off.’ ‘Malarkey?’ echoed Dead Eye. ‘Yes, Ian, malarkey. Surely it’s a common enough term even in your far flung corner of the Empire? Personally I don’t give a toss if these wise guys, or whatever they call themselves, bump each other off left, right and centre – saves us time and money banging them up, I say – however, my understanding is this Jono Termaine character was Tony Soprano, the Krays and the Goodfellas all rolled into one, so if there’s going to be a tussle to be the new Gangland Top Dog in our manor there’ll be blood on the streets, mark my words, and too much of it spilt for us to turn a blind eye to.’ ‘From my previous experience, sir, back in my Hackney days, it won’t just be any vying for poll position within the Tremaine organization that’ll be a problem,’ added Sixsmith, ‘given the inevitable power vacuum the other local gangs will smell blood and want to move in and exploit the situation for all it’s worth. I’d say an all out turf war is unavoidable unless we go in hard and fast.’ ‘I agree, Rachel,’ replied Chuckles, ‘but I really could do without all this kicking off, that’s all I’m saying. Anyway, I’ve had the post mortem report back from Prof Jennings - given the likely identity of the vic we made sure this PM was given absolute priority – and Tremaine’s missus is due in to identify the body later on today, so as soon as she arrives, John, you’ll need to interview her. I’m sure she’ll claim hubby was the salt of the earth who wouldn’t harm a fly and was good to his old mum and all that flannel, but we need to go through the motions with her anyway. She might have some useful information, you never know.’ ‘And pigs might fly, Derek,’ I said, ‘the wives of villains like Tremaine know better than to blab to the police.’ ‘Not if it helps nail her husband’s killer, surely?’ ‘It’s culture thing, sir,’ said Sixsmith, ‘its “Them and Us” and always will be, no matter what the circumstances are.’ ‘Well, try anyway,’ said Chuckles, addressing me, ‘it can’t do any harm.’ ‘So, what did the prof’s’ report tell us, guv?’ asked Dave Stafford from behind that ridiculous moustache of his. ‘I was just coming to that, Dave,’ replied Chuckles, a tad impatiently while opening a buff folder beside him on the table and extracting a sheet of Home Office A4. ‘According to the doc Tremaine was a coronary victim waiting to happen. If his killer hadn’t got to him first his heart would have given up the ghost, possibly sometime in the next six months.’ ‘So apart from the bleeding obvious – pun intended - of him being deprived of his bollocks, Tremaine wasn’t just fine and dandy,’ I said. ‘But he hadn’t just been castrated, John,’ Chuckles continued, ‘his meat and two veg were recovered by Jennings during the PM from his stomach where they’d been slowing digesting along with the contents of the previous night’s Chicken Biryani.’ ‘Nice touch,’ murmured Stafford, almost in admiration. ‘So, we can safely surmise the Chicken Biryani was Tremaine’s second last meal,’ I added. ‘Not funny,’ replied Chuckles, unamused, ‘according to Jennings the trauma and blood around the mouth were the result of Tremaine being force fed his own wedding tackle while he was still very much alive. The perp used so much brute force that most of Tremaine’s teeth were knocked clean out and also found in his stomach along with his penis, testicles and the said takeaway.’ ‘So, what else do we know about Tremaine?’ asked Dead Eye. Chuckles nodded to Sixsmith, who dutifully referred to her notes. ‘Jonathan Edward Tremaine, also known as Jono to his friends, family and business associates. Sixty-One years old. Born and raised in Acton, left school at sixteen and worked for a while as a plumber’s mate until he was sent to Borstal for beating a male customer to a pulp who unwisely made a pass at him. On leaving Borstal he started working for Rikki Murphy’s outfit, initially as hired muscle, but later, due to the fact he was bright and not adverse to getting his hands dirty, he rapidly made his way up Murphy’s organizational ladder until he ended up as Murphy’s right hand man. ‘When Murphy disappeared in suspicious circumstances in 1998 many speculated that Tremaine was behind it, especially given he then became the boss of Murphy’s organization himself. He’s remained in charge ever since and had grown the business out of all recognition from the days when Murphy was at the helm. Nowadays it’s almost run like a multinational operation, apparently.’ ‘Any form?’ asked Stafford. ‘Apart from that stint in Borstal I mentioned, none whatsoever. He’s been on trial half a dozen times for all sorts; money laundering, people trafficking, living off immoral earnings, running protection rackets, distribution of Class A drugs, gun running – you name it, his name’s been on a charge sheet for it, but surprise surprise he’s never been convicted for any of it. Not once.’ ‘My old gaffer, Clive Pritchard, had a bit of a bee in his bonnet about this guy, Tremaine, I remember now,’ added Dead Eye. ‘Clive was involved in some of those cases you mentioned, Rachel, and it really got his goat when this chancer continually walked free with a smug smile on his face.’ ‘Pritchard? I don’t recall the fella,’ said Chuckles, scratching his head. ‘A bit before your time at Fenner Grove, guv,’ said Dead Eye. ‘Pound to a penny he kept nobbling the jury,’ said Stafford, ‘Tremaine, I mean, not DCI Pritchard, obviously. Top bloke, Pritchard was.’ ‘Clive even speculated that Tremaine was more than capable of getting at some of the judges,’ continued Dead Eye. ‘I personally doubt very much that was the case, but Clive seemed to believed it to be entirely possible.’ ‘Well, as Dave says, it’s a pound to a penny he put the frighteners on various members of the various juries,’ I chimed in, ‘although, personally, like Ian, I’m sceptical about him nobbling a High Court judge. That’s on a completely different level altogether. It’s easy enough to intimidate members of the public – Tremaine’s reputation would have seen to that – but a judge is altogether another matter.’ ‘Maybe, but the fact that we’re even sitting here debating whether or not Tremaine could get at a High Court judge demonstrates in itself just how dangerous an individual he actually was,’ Chuckles pointed out. ‘John, we need some expert advice on all of this, so get on the blower to the Serious and Organised Crime Command, or whatever it is they’re calling themselves these days, and let’s get ourselves some serious intel on this Tremaine bloke and his known associates. Between you, me and the gatepost I don’t give two hoots if we never find his assassin, but, as I say, I don’t want this all blowing up in our faces because we let some gangland civil war get out of hand and cause havoc with members of the general public I do actually give two hoots about. Sixsmith and I had agreed to meet the son, Craig Tremaine, at the morgue rather than the wife. Given that Tremaine Senior’s wounds were gruesome we felt it more appropriate to ask him to identify the body rather than put the wife through the ordeal. Also, given who the victim was, it was a good opportunity to put some delicate questioning to the son about his father and his “business” associates. We felt we might get further with that by involving the son rather than the wife. Craig Tremaine looked like I imagined his father must have looked some thirty years ago, before he’d gone to fat. Big as a side of beef, he was the spit of his dad apart from the silver hair. Instead, the son’s was closely cropped and nut brown. Under the immaculate camel coat I sensed the man was pure muscle. Tremaine Junior was testosterone on stilts. ‘Mr Tremaine, thank you so much for coming in,’ I said, as we shook hands, ‘I appreciate how difficult this must be for you.’ I took the precaution of describing the injuries sustained to his father’s face before the orderly uncovered the pale blue sheet so that the damage didn’t come as a complete shock, however, ‘fucking hell!’ was the understandable exclamation Craig Tremaine let out when he saw the extent of the harm done. Both huge hunks of hands clenched into very tight fists, as if he was about to pound someone into the back of next week. ‘What the fuck is this all about?’ he angrily demanded, staring at me as if I were the guilty party while jabbing a forefinger towards his father’s face . Christ knows how he’d have responded if he’d seen what had happened to his dad’s penis and testicles. And found out where they’d ended up. ‘We can discuss that in a moment, sir,’ said Sixsmith, cutting in quickly, ‘but first of all we need you to confirm whether this is indeed your father.’ Tremaine, still dazed and gazing intently at the exposed face of the man on the trolley, nodded and said, ‘Yeah, that’s pop. Poor bastard.’ ‘Thank you, sir,’ said Sixsmith gently as the orderly replaced the sheet over the Tremaine Senior’s head, ‘I know that can’t have been at all easy for you.’ Tremaine turned to face me furiously square on, the veins in his bulging neck pumping with blood and rage. ‘You’d better find the fucker who did this to my pa before I do, ‘cos if I get to the fucker first I swear to God there’ll be nothing left for your lot to find.’ Under the circumstances I let the comment go, although given the man and the nature of the company he kept I was sure it was no empty threat. ‘While you’re here, Mr Tremaine, we’d like to ask you a few questions,’ I said. ‘You don’t surely think I had anything to do with this?’ Tremaine exclaimed, pointing again at his father.’ ‘Of course not, sir,’ I replied, not entirely truthfully, ‘but you may be able to help us find out who did. Tremaine, Sixsmith and I convened to a cramped anteroom at the far end of the the morgue. Tremaine seemed to take up almost all the available space and oxygen as he sat, legs apart, opposite us. ‘I won’t insult your intelligence by asking whether you know if your father had any enemies,’ I began, ‘and I do want to get to the bottom of your father’s death as much as you do,’ ‘I very much doubt that,’ Tremaine muttered. ‘So, instead I’ll ask if you know whether or not he’d fallen out with any of his associates or rivals, or whatever, recently.’ Tremaine shot me a black look, then after a moment, replied, ‘Despite what people say, pop was a legit businessman,’ yeah, right, ‘but he had his fingers in many pies, and mixed with lots of people who, let’s put it this way, weren’t exactly choirboys…but I don’t know anyone who’d have done this.’ What you mean is anyone who is brave or stupid enough, I thought. ‘What about people in his organization?’ asked Sixsmith. ‘I just told you,’ Tremaine reiterated, ‘dad was a legitimate businessman -’ ‘So you said,’ I remarked. ‘Because he was,’ insisted Tremaine. ‘He might’ve sailed close to the wind from time to time, but that was as far as it ever went, and the people in his organization, as you put it, are employees, and employees get pissed off and mouthy about the boss from time-to-time, but that was the extent of it.’ ‘Anyone in particular you can think of who would be a likely candidate to get pissed off and mouthy about the boss?’ I enquired. ‘Tremaine stood up and smoothed down his coat. ‘I think you two are wasting my time now, and given the fact my old man’s the victim in all this and is lying down the corridor on a metal trolley stone cold dead and with his face all smashed in, I’m beginning to find your line of questioning deeply offensive, frankly. We’re done here.’
The Dying of the Light will be available in early 2022 and is Book 2 in the London based Inspector John Gore crime series.
Book 1 in the series is called Death Comes Calling. Click on the button below to find out more and to purchase a Kindle or paperback copy from Amazon.