I’m working on the new novel, The dead can lie, about Greg Adams, a criminal psychologist whose wife was murdered by a serial killer. A year on, Greg has got nowhere trying to track down the ‘Dreamer’, and comes close to blowing his brains out, when gets a new lead.
I thought I’d show an extract, as people keep asking me what I’m working on. This book is quite different from the Nadia series, as the action is all on the inside, so to speak, as it’s a psychological thriller, though there is some action particularly at the climax of the book.
In this extract, quite early on in the book, Greg has to get his license back at Scotland Yard, since it was revoked six months earlier. To do so, he has to get approval from one of his rivals, Rickard. This is the scene where we get to meet Rickard, who has more than a few tricks up his sleeve…
Greg sat outside Rickard’s plush office, like a schoolboy waiting to see the headmaster. But he needed this, needed the Yard’s resources. He couldn’t work the case from outside.
It was already thirty minutes past the allotted hour. Rickard’s young secretary buried her nose in her files and screens, avoiding any eye contact with Greg; she knew Rickard was keeping him waiting unnecessarily. She wasn’t particularly loyal to Rickard, but she had ambition and understood the game. When he’d arrived five minutes early and she’d said he was busy, he’d asked if there was anyone else in the office. She’d shaken her head. Covering for Rickard only went so far, apparently.
While waiting, Greg went over last night’s events, the brief meeting with Fergus, their interaction. As ever, he visualized it from three points of view: his, Fergus’s as far as he could, and an outsider’s. There was something off about it, and he couldn’t put his finger on it. The way Fergus’s eyes avoided him most of the time, not unlike the secretary’s current behavior.
The door opened. ‘Ah, Adams, sorry to keep you, busy, busy, you know. Do please come in.’
Rickard being nice was bad news, no doubt setting Greg up for a fall. The bastard was going to find an excuse to deny him his license, or else demand further, independent evaluation. That could take weeks, if not months. Greg took a deep breath, let it out slow, and rose from his chair to shake Rickard’s limp hand. It wasn’t clammy, though; instead the palm of his hand was like sandpaper, like a shark’s skin.
Greg sat down in the too-comfy leather chair facing Rickard across an old-fashioned large desk. His gaze flicked to the ornately framed Rorshasch ink blot that had made Rickard famous, and gotten him his elevated position as chief of all criminal psychological investigations based at the Yard, which meant he oversaw pretty much all such work in the UK. One ink blot had a lot to answer for. But it had brought justice to the Candyman, and halted his child-killing spree. Rickard had been able to interview the serial killer who’d been detained on a technicality – he wasn’t the prime suspect. Rickard had shown him the standard series of ink blots and, as had been practice for decades, simply asked him what he saw.
Each reply seemed bland and within the norm, except one, where Mr. Jelper, aka the Candyman, had remarked quite casually that it reminded him of a child’s intestines, and had proceeded to describe how to remove organs one by one to keep the victim alive as long as possible. After that, they’d held him for three days, long enough to find the lair where he’d been holding two young girls captive. Despite the enmity between the two of them, Greg was glad Rickard had been there that day with his ink blots, and had toasted him during his promotion party.
Rickard was in good condition, too, a full head of greying hair that made him look the part, and Greg knew that he played squash regularly. He had a politician’s face, the sort people voted for without too much reflection. Not a bad commodity in their line of business. In contrast, Greg knew that he must look like crap warmed-up.
‘Three months since you turned in your license,’ Rickard stated, in a monotone as he studied Greg’s file. He looked up. ‘I don’t pretend to understand your pain on the emotional level, but I have an idea how hard this past year has been on you.’
Greg said nothing.
‘You know the drill, Greg, any homicidal or suicidal thoughts?’
Would Donaldson have said anything to Rickard? Of course not. ‘None,’ he said. ‘Except that when we catch him, I might petition for reinstating the death penalty.’
The whisper of a grunt. They were like two boxers, sizing each other up, measuring the distance. Greg waited. But Rickard said nothing. A thought occurred to Greg, but he dismissed it. Still nothing. The thought refreshed itself, and Greg wondered if Rickard would… No, he wouldn’t. It was an unwritten rule between criminal psychologists. You never…
But then it happened.
Rickard slid open a drawer and extracted a long white cable with something that looked like a large thimble at the end, and offered it without saying anything. Greg felt his facial muscles tighten. He forced himself to relax, as he clipped the thimble onto the tip of his left forefinger.
‘When did this become procedure?’ Greg asked, just managing to keep the acid out of his voice.
Rickard didn’t just stay poker-faced, but poker-bodied – no shrug, no noticeable tension in the shoulders, no non-verbal ticks or ‘tells’ – none of the tricks of the trade signals that he and Greg read as easily as headline newsprint – and just enough eye contact to be perfectly neutral. ‘Three months ago. I instituted the new protocol myself, as the occasion demands.’
Meaning when you decide. ‘Shouldn’t someone else be present?’ As a witness.
‘No need,’ he breezed, ‘I’m recording your speech and facial reactions on camera.’
Not for me, you sonofabitch. He made a mental note to bring this up at the next Board meeting; but of course in order to be there, he’d need his license.
Rickard smiled, a genuine one. ‘Now we can begin. Please look not at me, but the camera.’
Greg knew Rickard was half-hoping he would stand up, exclaim that this was an outrage, bla bla bla, thus serving on a platter the perfect excuse to refuse re-licensing, and to delegate the case to a different division, which would take time Greg didn’t have. New leads grew cold faster than an espresso.
So he complied, and stared at the small camera poised on top of Rickard’s desktop screen. It would record pupil dilation and eye movements, then merge those measurements with his heart rate and sweat response to triangulate his emotional state and whether he was lying. Almost impossible to confound, especially with Rickard.