When two boys vanish under mysterious circumstances, the local community is filled with unease. Then a bloodstain is discovered in a disused World War Two hangar nearby, and a caravan belonging to one of the youths is burned to the ground. Things quickly become much more sinister.
Assigned to the case, DCI Banks and his team are baffled by the mystery laid out before them. But when a motor accident throws up a gruesome discovery, the investigation spins into a higher gear – in another direction. As Banks and his team struggle desperately to find the missing boy who holds the key to the puzzle, they find themselves in a race against time where it’s their turn to become the prey…
Terry Gilchrist came out of the woods opposite the large hangar, which loomed ahead of him like some storage area for crashed alien space ships in New Mexico. Only he wasn’t in New Mexico; he was in North Yorkshire.
It stood at the centre of a large area of cracked and weed-covered concrete, its perimeter surrounded by a seven-foot chain link fence topped with barbed wire. A large sign on the padlocked double gates read PRIVATE – KEEP OUT. About a quarter of a mile beyond the hangar, a passenger train sped by on the East Coast line, heading for Kings Cross.
As he usually did at this point on the walk, Gilchrist let Peaches off her leash. The space was open far enough that he could easily keep an eye on her, and she always came back when he whistled or called her name.
Peaches sniffed around the edges of the fence, and before long she had found a way in, probably the same hole the kids used when they went there to play cricket or smoke joints and try to feel up the local girls. This time, instead of continuing to sniff around the concrete and weeds, Peaches headed for the dark opening of the hangar and disappeared inside.
While he waited for her to finish her business, Gilchrist put his stick aside, stretched his arms out to prop himself up against a tree and started doing a series of simple leg exercises the army medics had given him. They were already pleased with his progress: out walking, albeit with a stick, after only four months, when they had at first thought the leg was as good as gone. But Gilchrist wanted rid of the stick now, and the only way to do that was to build up the damaged muscle tissue little by little. His leg might never look the same, but he was determined that it would function as well as it ever had.
When he had done, Peaches had still not reappeared, so he whistled and called her name. All he got in reply was a bark followed by a whining sound. He called again, adding a bit more authority to his tone, and the whining went on for longer, but Peaches didn’t reappear. She wasn’t coming back. What the hell was wrong with her?
Irritated, Gilchrist picked up his stick again and made his way along the side of the fence, searching for the gap Peaches had found. When he saw it, his heart sank. He could get in, of that he was certain, but it would be a difficult, and probably painful, business. And messy. He called again. Peaches continued barking and whining, as if she were calling him.
To get the through the hole, Gilchrist had to lie flat on his belly on the wet ground and edge slowly forward, sticking his arms through first and pushing back against the fencing to propel himself forward. There was an immediate familiarity in lying on his belly that flooded his mind with fear, more a cellular or muscular memory than anything else, and he almost froze. Then he heard Peaches barking through the haze and carried on. Standing up was another awkward manoeuvre, as he could hardly bend his leg without causing extreme pain, but he made it, hanging on the links of the fence and using them as climbing grips. Finally, he stood panting and leant back against the fence, face ashen with effort and pain, clothes damp and muddy, then he grabbed his stick and made towards the hangar.
It was dim inside, but enough light came through the large opening to make it possible to see once his eyes had adjusted. Peaches was standing about thirty yards to his right, near the wall; she was barking and her tail was wagging. Gilchrist made his way over, wondering what on earth was making her behave in such a willful and excited manner. Irritation slowly gave way to curiosity.
The floor of the hangar was concreted over like the surrounding area, and it was just as cracked in places, weeds growing through despite the lack of light. He could heard rain tapping on the steel roofing and the wind moaning around the high dark spaces. He felt himself give an involuntary shudder as he approached Peaches.
Even in the dim light, it was easy to see that she was sniffing around a dark patch on the concrete, but it took the light from Gilchrist’s mobile phone to see that what interested her was a large bloodstain dotted with chips of bone and chunks of grey matter. Immediately, an image of blood on the sand flashed into his mind and he felt the panic rise like the bile in his throat.
Get a grip, he told himself, then he took several deep breaths and bent to peer more closely in the light of the mobile. He didn’t have Peaches’ acute sense of smell, but close up, he picked up that rank and coppery smell of blood . It was a smell he remembered well.
The thought came into his mind unbidden: someone has died here.
“[Peter Robinson deserves a place] near, perhaps even at the top of, the British crime writers’ league” — The Times
“It’s neither the setting nor even the characters that makes Robinson’s work so satisfying, but the plotting of Swiss-watch precision” — Independent
“Classic Robinson: labyrinthine plot merged with deft characterisation” — Observer
“As always with the excellent DCI Alan Banks novels, you can expect the story to grip you from beginning to end.” — Choice
“A real page-turner that confirms Robinson as a master of crime fiction.” — Bella Magazine
“Abattoir Blues” – Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
“Runaway” – Del Shannon
“Les Nuits d’Été, Opus 7, No. 2, La Spectre” (Hector Berlioz) – Janet Baker, New Philharmonic Orchestra, Sir John Barbirolli
“A Joy Forever” – Gwilym Simcock
“Cantata no. 199” (J.S. Bach) – Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, Craig Smith, Emmanuel Music Orchestra
“Grantchester Meadows” – Pink Floyd
“Wouldn’t it be Nice” – The Beach Boys
“She’s Not You” – Elvis Presley
“If You Go Away” – Scott Walker
“Silver Threads & Golden Needles” – The Springfields
“Aventine” – Agnes Obel
“Northern Sky” – Nick Drake
“Ne me Quitte Pas” – Jacques Brel
‘“(If Paradise is) Half as Nice” – Amen Corner
“Take Good Care of my Baby” – Bobby Vee
“Man of the World” – Fleetwood Mac