Start reading this book:
Detective Chief Inspector John Shadow stared out across the heather-covered moor. He watched as the August sun blazed down on the tweed-clad gamekeeper strolling back towards his Land Rover. With his collection of excited spaniels and Labradors bounding alongside him, he turned and gave Shadow a friendly wave goodbye. It was a quintessential English summer scene, and Shadow would have appreciated it more, were it not for the dead body lying in the copse behind him.
He was still feeling queasy from having to look at it. The image was imprinted on his brain. The blackened gunshot wound to the victim’s head, the thick, congealing blood, and the buzzing flies that began landing on the body as soon as the plastic sheet was raised. Shadow shuddered. He took another deep breath and fished out an indigestion tablet from the pocket of his battered old wax jacket that he always wore.
When he’d left Florence—his narrow boat—that morning, a low mist had been hovering over the river, giving no hint that it would turn out to be one of the hottest days of the year. So now, on top of everything else, he was sweltering. He popped the chalky tablet into his mouth and waited for it to dissolve. Hopefully, it would help settle his churning stomach. The large and delicious steak pie he’d consumed a couple of hours ago was now starting to feel like a mistake.
He had been enjoying a leisurely late lunch in the beer garden of The Lamb and Lion, sitting alone in the shade of the city walls. Just as he had been about to complete the last clue of the Yorkshire Post crossword, his deputy, Sergeant Jimmy Chang, had appeared with his usual impeccable timing and informed him that a body had been discovered on the Duke of Kirkdale’s estate. Recent cuts to the policing budget meant that neither Thirsk nor Easingwold, the stations closest to the estate, had an officer senior enough to attend, so the call had come through to York.
Therefore, a little over an hour’s drive through the North Yorkshire countryside later, Shadow and Jimmy arrived on the moors above Kirkdale village, where Greenwood, the duke’s gamekeeper, was waiting for them. Shadow had made the introductions then Greenwood had led the two detectives to a small copse on the edge of the moor where the body of a man who looked to be between forty or fifty years old was lying next to a shotgun. A few uniformed officers from Easingwold were already on the scene and had begun cordoning the area off. Greenwood informed Jimmy and Shadow that the deceased’s name was Flynn FitzAllan.
“He and his wife train racehorses including His Grace’s, or at least he did. Mr FitzAllan’s stables are down at the Grange. He rents the place off the estate,” the gamekeeper continued to explain.
“What was he doing up here on the moor?” asked Shadow. Greenwood looked down at the gun and then back to the two policemen.
“Well, it’s the Glorious Twelfth today isn’t it?” he replied as if the answer was obvious.
“What’s that?” asked Jimmy, looking up from the notes he had been taking. The gamekeeper stared at him with his mouth open. Shadow stepped in.
“Today is the twelfth of August and so it is the beginning of the grouse shooting season. It’s known as the Glorious Twelfth, Sergeant,” he explained patiently.
“Exactly,” said Greenwood. “His Grace was hosting a small shooting party to mark the occasion. There’s a party at the castle tonight and a much larger shoot due to take place next week. This business won’t interfere with that will it?”
“I hope not, Mr Greenwood,” replied Shadow briskly. “So Mr FitzAllan was up here shooting grouse with how many other people?”
“Oh, let me think now.” The gamekeeper began silently counting on his fingers. “Including Mr FitzAllan there were five guns and four loaders and about half a dozen beaters. We stopped for lunch, then at about half past one, Mr FitzAllan left the others to either make or take a phone call, I’m not sure which. The rest of us started the afternoon’s drive, but when he hadn’t returned after about half an hour, I sent a loader to look for him, my son in fact. That’s when we found the body, Chief Inspector. It’s a real shame. He was having a good day too; he easily bagged the most birds.”
“Didn’t anyone hear or see anything?” asked Shadow.
The gamekeeper shook his head. “No, Chief Inspector. You can’t see the copse from up on the moor and I guess he must have been hit after the shooting started again; plus we were all wearing ear defenders.”
Shadow glanced down at the dead man’s open hands then his eyes travelled over the long grass surrounding the body. Lying a few inches away was a mobile phone with its screen badly smashed.
“What happened to his phone? Did someone stand on it?” he asked. The gamekeeper looked a little perplexed.
“Why no, I don’t think so. We were all very careful. Like I said Giles was the first to find him, then I arrived and the others. I thought it best not to touch him. I mean, it was obvious he was dead.”
“Quite right, Mr Greenwood,” replied Shadow. “Can you tell us the names of everyone else who was up here?”
“His Grace and Mr FitzAllan, then Lord and Lady Eastwold, that’s His Grace’s sister-in-law and her husband in case you didn’t know, and Sir Charles Richmond.”
Shadow recognised the last name. Sir Charles was the local member of parliament. He flicked his eyes across to check Jimmy was noting everything down as the gamekeeper continued to talk.
“I was here of course and Giles, my son, it was him who phoned you by the way. The other loaders were all local lads: Wilf Sugden, Rory Stanwick and Fred Houlston. They’re all good lads, same with the beaters, Chief Inspector. They were over on the other side of the moor all day. I kept in contact with them over the radio and told them to go home when we found Mr FitzAllan, but I’ve got a list here with their names and numbers.” He handed a creased sheet of paper to Shadow. “I can vouch for them all,” the gamekeeper insisted.
“I’m sure you can, but we may still need them to make a statement,” said Shadow passing the list on to Jimmy after giving it a brief glance.
“Sorry, what are beaters and loaders?” asked Jimmy.
The gamekeeper looked as him with a degree of sympathy. “Well, Sergeant, loaders load the guns, so as to save time for those who are shooting,” he explained slowly, “and beaters flush out the birds into the path of the guns, usually with the help of dogs.” He gestured to the pack of spaniels and Labradors who were waiting patiently where he’d left them on the edge of the crime scene.
“Have you worked for the duke long, Mr Greenwood?” asked Shadow before Jimmy had chance to make another enquiry. It was obvious that as far as the gamekeeper was concerned his sergeant may as well be wearing a T-shirt with the words ‘I am a townie’ printed across it.
“All my life. At least since I left school that is. I grew up here in Kirkdale. My father was gamekeeper to His Grace before me. He trained me up. All the years we’ve been organising shoots, we’ve never had anything like this happen before though, Chief Inspector. Poor Mr FitzAllan.” The gamekeeper briefly removed his flat cap and wiped the back of his hand across his brow. He was clearly bothered by the day’s events and the chief inspector thought it was time to let him get back to his dogs.
“Thank you very much for your help, Mr Greenwood,” said Shadow, holding out his hand again. “We’ll be in touch if we have any further questions.”
When the gamekeeper had left them the two detectives approached the dead man for a closer look. It was impossible to say if Flynn FitzAllan had been murdered, committed suicide or had been the victim of a terrible shooting accident. Although Shadow had been in the police for over thirty years, encountering a death by shooting in North Yorkshire was still rare. He would need to wait and hear from the pathologist and the forensics team to determine if a crime had been committed. He gestured to a uniformed officer, who placed the cover back over the body. Shadow took a few steps back. The phone was a puzzle. Had the victim heard bad news and smashed it in frustration before taking his own life? Or did the killer try and destroy it? But if that were the case why not take it with them?
“What do you think, Chief?” asked Jimmy eagerly, interrupting his thoughts. As usual his sergeant was dressed in jeans and a black leather jacket despite the heat, but today he was also sporting a pair of designer sunglasses that Shadow suspected were as expensive as his trainers. “We don’t get many GSWs,” Jimmy continued. “This is pretty exciting.”
“Many what?” asked Shadow irritably.
“GSWs, Chief. Gunshot wounds.”
Shadow sighed. His deputy had obviously been watching one of the American crime dramas he was so fond of.
“You do know it’s actually quicker just to say shot, don’t you?”
“Is it, Chief?” Jimmy began mouthing GSW and shot to himself. “Maybe it’s abbreviated to differentiate between getting shot by a gun instead of something else, like an arrow say.”
“Yes, I’m sure it will be very useful if Robin Hood and his Merry Men ever make a comeback,” muttered Shadow, the flies and blood making him feel too nauseous to press the point. He walked further away from the deceased and spent a few quiet moments staring out across the moors, leaving Jimmy to liaise with the uniformed officers who were continuing to tape off the area.
He watched as the gamekeeper drove away. In the distance he could see the White Horse of Kilburn carved into the chalk escarpment of Sutton Bank and further to his right lay the ruins of Byland Abbey. Closer, only about twenty yards away, between the road and the edge of the moor was another ruin. An old chapel covered in ivy and with half its roof missing. These landmarks were all familiar to him, but he was struggling to recall the exact time he’d last seen them; it must have been soon after his mother died. His thoughts were interrupted again by his sergeant.
“Chief! Dr Donaldson is here.”
Shadow turned to see Jimmy motioning towards the track the gamekeeper had just driven down. A little way behind his sergeant, Shadow could see the unmistakable figure of Dr Donaldson stepping out of his Volvo. The pathologist began pulling on a protective suit over his immaculate shirt and waistcoat. With a reluctant sigh, Shadow trudged back towards the corpse in the copse.
“This is more like it, Shadow,” declared the doctor loudly. He rubbed his hands together as he strode towards the body. Shadow noted that he had also protected his gleaming patent leather shoes with plastic covers. “I don’t mind being dragged out into the sticks for something a little more interesting than the usual drunks drowning in the Ouse or the junkies overdosing that you bring me.” He glanced around hopefully. “Is His Grace not here? I understood the deceased was a guest of his.”
“Sadly not. You’ll have to hone your social skills another time. Now if you don’t mind, could you get on and tell me exactly what we are investigating? I need you to confirm the time of death too. We’ve been told somewhere between one thirty and two.”
“If anyone needs to hone their social skills around here, it’s you, Shadow,” retorted Donaldson. “Step back and give me some space so I can work. I don’t require an audience, thank you.”
Shadow took several paces back, privately grateful not to have to stand too close to the body while the pathologist knelt down and began to poke and prod. Instead he returned to admiring the view. Jimmy appeared by his side, his phone held aloft in front of him.
“What are you doing?” asked Shadow.
“Taking a few photos to show Sophie how nice it is out here. I’m going to try and convince her that we should move to the countryside after we get married.”
Shadow raised an eyebrow. Sophie was the other pathologist they worked with and also Jimmy’s fiancée.
“She grew up on a farm, didn’t she? I’m sure she’s aware of what the countryside looks like, Sergeant.”
“Maybe, but I still think she’ll like to see where we’ve been. It’s a shame I can’t take a photo of the body too. She doesn’t get the chance to see many GSWs either. She’ll be gutted Donaldson got the call for this one. Hey, I bet he hasn’t seen many either, maybe he’ll ask Soph, for a second opinion,” continued Jimmy hopefully.
“If he does, you’ll need to keep your camera turned on.”
“Why’s that, Chief?”
“To take a photo of all the pigs flying by.”
“You can rule out suicide, Shadow,” proclaimed Donaldson loudly behind them. Shadow turned to see the doctor had now stood up again and was peeling off his latex gloves. “He was shot twice. Once in the back and then the wound to the head. I concur with the time of death you proposed.”
Reluctantly Shadow returned to study the body. Looking at the front of the man there was no sign of injury to his body, but now the doctor had half turned him on his side, a dark patch of blood was clearly visible on the back of his shirt. Donaldson cleared his throat and continued with his pronouncements. Despite stating he didn’t want an audience, Shadow knew the doctor enjoyed nothing more than making theatrical declarations about his findings.
“The entry wounds are noticeably different. The wound to the back is actually several small punctate injuries where the pellets have been dispersed, but no burn marks or tattooing of the skin, leading me to conclude that the first shot must have been fired from over ten metres away. The angle of entry is odd. I would hazard a guess that the victim was walking up and down as he spoke on his phone—” the doctor gestured to the smashed mobile “—and therefore the killer had to hit a moving target, before finishing him off with the second shot. The second entry wound to the head is a single smooth margined circle.” Donaldson knelt down using his fountain pen pointed towards the head wound to emphasise his words. “There are also signs of singeing and tattooing, with possible traces of plastic and metal from the cartridge in the tract, therefore this second shot was fired from less than thirty centimetres away, probably when he’d already fallen to the ground judging by the angle of entry. There are no exit wounds for either injury.”
“So, the bullets are still in the victim?” asked Jimmy as he entered all the details in his electronic notebook. Donaldson scowled at him. He hated to be interrupted mid flow.
“There are no bullets, Sergeant. Weren’t you listening?” the doctor replied impatiently his lips curling into a slight sneer. “We aren’t dealing with some sort of inner-city gangland killing. The weapon used is a smooth-barrelled shotgun. They do not fire a single projectile, but cartridges full of multiple pellets. Depending on the cartridges used, the pellets are between two millimetres and nine millimetres. I don’t claim to be a ballistics expert, but I would expect the pellets used here to be at the lower end of the scale. I take it you don’t know what cartridges are compatible with this gun? I assume it belonged to the deceased.”
He pointed to the gun next to the body and Shadow nodded to confirm this.
Donaldson glanced around and raised an eyebrow. “And no sign of any spent cartridges either?”
This time Shadow shook his head trying to ignore the superior look on Donaldson’s face.
“I see.” The doctor sighed. “As usual you’ve been very little help, but you are fortunate that I will be able to provide you with the details you require after the post-mortem; however, I can confidently say, in my opinion, you are definitely dealing with a case of murder. My guess is that the pellets that entered through his back are lodged in his ribs. It’s possible some got through to his heart and the second lot will need to be fished out of his brains.”
Shadow winced. He was struggling to hold back the bile rising in his throat. Jimmy was staring at the gun on the floor, a look of confusion on his face.
“If you think the bullets—sorry, Doctor, the pellets—might have come from the victim’s gun, then even if it’s not suicide, maybe it could still be an accident. Could he have dropped his gun and it went off by mistake? Maybe ricocheted or something?” Jimmy suggested, only to be met by a snort of derision from Donaldson.
Shadow frowned. It was one thing for him to be exasperated by Jimmy’s stream of unlikely theories, but quite another for anyone else to pass judgement on them.
“I doubt it, Sergeant,” he replied, trying with great effort to keep his tone neutral. He did wish Jimmy would sometimes engage his brain before his mouth. “Not now the good doctor has found two gunshot wounds. Nobody shoots themselves accidentally twice.”
“Quite,” snapped Donaldson. “Well, I refuse to work in this heat any longer. I’ll let you know what else I discover when I’ve had a look at him on the slab. Good day, gentlemen.”
With that he strode back towards his car. The two detectives watched him gesture impatiently to one of the constables, who hurriedly lifted the yellow and black tape out of his way.
“Maybe one of the shooting party wasn’t much of a shot and instead of hitting a bird, their pellets or cartridges or whatever hit Mr FitzAllan instead. They might not have even realised,” suggested Jimmy again.
“Perhaps,” sighed Shadow. “We would of course know a lot more if our forensics team had bothered to show up. Where the hell are those two?” he asked irritably. The forensics team was led by two young, slightly chaotic scientists called Ben and Ollie, but Shadow privately referred to them as Laurel and Hardy. They may be highly qualified scientists, but they seemed to struggle with the more basic day-to-day tasks.
“Oh, I got a text from Ben. They’re a bit lost. Their sat nav sent them the wrong way, but they should be here soon.”
“For crying out loud,” grumbled Shadow. “Aren’t either of them capable of reading a map?” Jimmy opened his mouth to reply, but Shadow held up his hand to stop him. “I’m not wasting any more time waiting for them. Tell them what Donaldson said and get them to focus on FitzAllan’s gun. I want to know what sort of cartridges it takes and if they can tell me how recently it was fired. I also want to know if they can work out where whoever fired the gun was standing.”
They began walking back to their car in silence until Jimmy had finished sending the text message to Ben.
“Donaldson seemed pretty disappointed the duke wasn’t here,” said Jimmy when he’d put his phone away.
“That’s because Donaldson is a snob, who is impressed by titles.” Shadow snorted.
“Don’t you think it was a bit weird that the duke left his gamekeeper to tell us one of his guests was dead?” continued Jimmy.
“I think you’ll find that the aristocracy are a law unto themselves. They are used to having servants take care of things for them, especially if those things happen to be particularly unpleasant or inconvenient tasks. However, as it now appears his guest’s wounds weren’t self-inflicted, I think we should have a word with His Grace, after we’ve spoken to Mr FitzAllan’s widow.”
For now, Shadow wasn’t prepared to discuss with his sergeant what was really occupying his thoughts. It wasn’t the duke’s behaviour he found strange, but that of his gamekeeper, Greenwood. He took his place in the passenger seat while Jimmy drove them back down the narrow winding lane towards the village of Kirkdale.
“It’s nice being out here in the countryside isn’t it, Chief? All the space and fresh air and wildlife. I hardly ever left the city before I met Sophie, but you look like you belong here. You blend right in. You’ve even got the same jacket as the gamekeeper. Don’t you think it feels like being on holiday?”
“Does encountering a dead body often occur when you go on holiday, Sergeant?” asked Shadow as he stared out the window.
“Um no, apart from that I mean, but it could still turn out to be an accident.”
Shadow only grunted in response. His sergeant’s unfailing enthusiasm combined with the heat was exhausting him. For the chief inspector, the visit to this part of North Yorkshire felt less like a holiday and more of a trip down memory lane. His grandparents had lived at Church Farm in Kirkdale, and his father had been the village policeman. However, he only had vague recollections of the place. He and his mother had moved away after his father had been killed when Shadow was very young. He had been shot in the woods on the duke’s estate when he had gone to investigate reports of poaching. That’s why he found Greenwood the gamekeeper’s behaviour so strange. Shadow was a relatively unusual name. Greenwood had told them he’d always lived in the village and must have heard about his father’s death, yet he hadn’t commented when Shadow had introduced himself. He’d even gone on to say that nothing like FitzAllan’s death had ever occurred before, yet one of the few facts Shadow knew about what happened to his father was that Greenwood was the name of the person who had reported the crime. Shadow now assumed it was the current gamekeeper’s father.
They drove over a narrow stone bridge then slowed while they passed a line of skittish, sweaty racehorses making their way back from the gallops. The lead rider lifted her crop in thanks. Then they continued along the winding country road edged by drystone walls and passed the old millstone bearing the name of the village. Shadow continued to stare silently out of the window. It had been years since he had visited Kirkdale, but he recognised the pub—the DeVere Arms—and the small cottage where he and his parents had lived for the first few years of his life. They carried on past St Michael’s Church, where Shadow’s parents had been married, and he had been christened. As they drove on Jimmy continued to wax lyrical about the countryside, the stone cottages with their pretty gardens and the unusual octagonal tower of the church, while Shadow tried to ignore him.
Next to the church was the farm where his grandparents had lived, but to Shadow it was barely recognisable. The barn where the cows had slept in the winter and the sheds where he’d helped to bottle feed orphaned lambs had been turned into “luxury holiday lets” as the sign on the gate told him. Shadow sighed quietly to himself. These days it seemed tourism was more profitable than farming.
The Grange was located on the edge of the village. It was a large square Georgian house, built of York stone. The long driveway was dotted with signs that read “slow” and “caution horses”, and in the padlocks on either side, bays, chestnuts and greys stood in the sun enjoying the lush grass. Shadow and Jimmy pulled up in front of the white panelled front door and got out.
Shadow lifted the wrought-iron knocker, rapped on the door and waited. There was no answer. Jimmy pointed to a black-and-white signpost on the edge of the drive. It read “stable yard” and pointed down a path leading to the back of the house. Shadow nodded and the two detectives trudged along the path that led to the rear of the house where they found a yard surrounded on each side by stables, their occupant’s long faces peering out of their stalls, their ears twitching at the sound of the new arrivals. In the middle of the yard a group of young men and women, mostly dressed in jodhpurs and T-shirts were huddled around a stack of straw bales. Two of the girls were sobbing loudly.
One of the group noticed Shadow and Jimmy’s arrival and gestured towards them. A young woman came hurrying over. Unlike the others she was wearing a short denim skirt and vest top with her wellies. Her sunglasses were on the top of her head, holding back her long dark hair and her eyes were red from crying.
“Can I help you gentlemen?” she asked in a soft Irish accent.
“I’m Chief Inspector Shadow and this is Sergeant Chang. We were hoping to speak with Mrs FitzAllan,” Shadow began to explain. The young woman’s lip began to tremble, but she took a deep breath to compose herself.
“You’re here about Flynn, aren’t you? As you can see, we are all very upset,” she said pointing to the group behind her.
Shadow nodded. “Then I take it you’ve already heard about what happened, er Mrs FitzAllan?” Shadow ventured. He thought she looked too young to be married to the dead man, but he’d been wrong in these matters before. The young woman, however, shook her head and held out her hand.
“No, I’m Clancy Kelly, Flynn’s… I mean Mr FitzAllan’s secretary. My boyfriend was one of the loaders at the shoot. He phoned to tell me what happened.”
“Would that be Giles, Wilf, Rory or Fred?” asked Jimmy scrolling back through his notes.
“Giles. Giles Greenwood. He was pretty shaken up. I couldn’t believe it when he told me. None of us can believe it. I was only talking to Flynn this morning, just before he left for the castle.”
“How did he seem? Did you think he was worried or anxious about anything?” asked Shadow.
“No, he was on good form like always. Laughing and joking with a couple of the lads.”
“Did anyone telephone him from here?”
“No, he always had his mobile with him, but I’m the only one who would have called him, and I wouldn’t bother him when he’s shooting unless there was a real emergency.”
Clancy looked like she was on the brink of tears again, so Shadow hurried on. “And where is Mrs FitzAllan? Has she been informed of her husband’s death?”
“Siobhan is in York. As I’m sure you know, Chief Inspector, the Ebor Festival starts tomorrow, so she and Aidan, our head stable lad, drove over with a one of our horses who is down to run. He’s a little highly strung and not too keen on travelling, so Siobhan always tries to make sure he has time to settle down before a big race,” Clancy explained, then paused as if she was choosing her next words carefully. “Naturally, I phoned Siobhan as soon as we heard the news, but I don’t think she’s planning on returning until later this evening, assuming the horse settles that is.”
“I see,” replied Shadow, wondering what sort of woman Siobhan FitzAllan was if she put the welfare of a horse before the death of her husband. “Well perhaps we could speak with her tomorrow?”
“The morning would probably be best, Chief Inspector, before Siobhan leaves for York again,” said Clancy, looking a little apologetic. Shadow thanked her for her time and the two detectives turned to go.
Jimmy waited until they were out of earshot before he spoke. “It’s a bit weird his wife hasn’t rushed home isn’t it, Chief?” he whispered.
Shadow shrugged. “I’d say unusual rather than weird, but perhaps she’s very dedicated to her work,” he suggested and nodded towards the glossy horses gazing in the paddocks. “These horses are worth a fortune and the Ebor is one of the biggest festivals in the racing calendar. She must have a lot of responsibility to the owners; perhaps she’s just trying to be professional.”
Jimmy shook his head. “Sophie’s really professional, but I don’t think she’d continue with a post-mortem if she’d just heard I’d been shot.”
“Then perhaps the behaviour of Siobhan tells us everything we need to know about the state of the FitzAllans’ marriage.”
End of Excerpt