Today on The Tattooed Book Geek I am pleased to be taking part in the blog tour for The Repenting Serpent by Wes Markin by featuring an excerpt from the book.
My thanks to Caroline Vincent for the tour invite and to Wes Markin too.
The Repenting Serpent (DCI Michael Yorke #2).
- Format: Kindle Edition
- File Size: 1593 KB
- Print Length: 281 pages
- Released: June 14th, 2019.
- Crime / Thriller / Mystery
- Amazon UK
A vicious serial killer slithers from the darkness, determined to resurrect the ways of a long-dead civilisation.
When the ex-wife of one of DCI Michael Yorke’s closest allies is left mutilated and murdered, Yorke and his team embark on their greatest test yet. A deeply personal case that will push them to their very limits.
And as Yorke’s team are pulled further into the dark, the killer circles, preparing to strike again.
Excerpt from The Repenting Serpent.
LACEY RAY STARED down at the body of the young girl and chewed her bottom lip. The fact that her head had been caved in with a jade ashtray didn’t bother her too much, but the fact that she was dead, did bother her. It bothered her very much.
‘Billy, Billy, Billy …’ she said.
‘What have you done, Billy?’
But Billy Shine was not there to answer. He was long gone. Lacey chewed her bottom lip again and tasted blood.
You can run, Billy, but you can’t hide.
* * *
Lacey looked out of the bedroom window at Brighton pier, burning under 67,000 bulbs. A cascade of light and a mix of colours and emotion; all of it blended together in one tiny space. Her eyes rose to the moon. The crowning light, ruling all. She smiled and turned back to look at the body.
How many times did you hit her, Billy?
She could barely recognise the girl she had spent the last three months with. Seventeen-year-old Loretta Marks. A girl from a bad family – just like her. A sensitive girl who cared too much – unlike her. A stupid girl who cracked a joke about Billy’s impotence and lost her young life.
Lacey walked over to the bed and took her small hand.
‘Why did you not listen to me? Keep quiet?’
I had a plan. You didn’t know what that plan was, granted, but you seemed to trust me. But now, sensitive and stupid Loretta Marks from a bad family, you’re gone.
The bedroom door opened, and Claire Murray walked into the room. Claire’s hand flew to her mouth.
‘Don’t scream,’ Lacey said, ‘not if you want to be gone before the police get here.’
Claire started to cry. ‘Is she …?’
‘Yes. Billy went too far as we knew he would.’
Lacey came around the bed to put her arm around Claire.
‘You said you were going to stop him.’ Claire said, letting her head settle on Lacey’s shoulder.
‘But it’s too late.’
‘Better late than never.’
* * *
With Claire sitting beside Loretta’s body sobbing, Lacey wandered around the room, examining Billy’s belongings: necklaces, earrings and other jewellery made of shell, turquoise, jade and gold.
You are a funny bunny, Billy.
She opened a drawer and pulled out a feathered head-dress and a reddish mask. The funniest. She held it up for Claire to see.
‘I remember when we first got here, and he was wearing it,’ Claire said. ‘I thought it was funny then, but not later. Not when … you know … we were doing it while he was wearing it.’ ‘Tell you what Claire, if it makes you feel any better, I’ll make the freak wear it while I kill him.’
* * *
Lacey sent Claire to pack her belongings and was clear in her instructions that she should clean all traces of herself from the place. Claire could start again. It would be more difficult for Lacey; the police had her DNA and fingerprints on record. Yes, Claire could run easy. Lacey couldn’t.
But when have I ever opted for easy?
She sat on the bed beside Loretta’s body and phoned Simon Young.
Instead of hello, Simon answered with: ‘Is this a burner?’
‘Of course. It’s Sarah May. One of the three girls you have working for Billy Shine.’
‘I know who you are.’
Of course he knows who I am, thought Lacey, this is one of the biggest contracts this pimp has ever had. One whole year, paid in four instalments. Time for some bad news, Simon.
He snorted. ‘You can’t fucking resign.’
She snorted back. ‘Funny that, because I just did.’
‘Who the fuck do you think you are talking to, Sarah?’
‘That’s not my name. Never was. You are not entitled to my real name, Simon. In fact, you are not entitled to much.’
‘Do you not realise how well you’ve been paid?’
She looked down at her expensive watch and shoes. ‘The job’s over now, Simon. Billy has gone, and he’s left you a little treat.’
‘Let’s just say, you won’t have to worry about Loretta resigning. Although, you may want to think about funeral costs.’
‘I don’t get it …’
‘Let the police worry about—’
‘Wait, hang on, no police.’
‘Too late,’ she reached down to stroke Loretta’s face. ‘This pretty young girl is not ending up in a vat of your acid, Simon, she’s going home. Her grandmother was good to her. The only person who was ever good to her. Her grandmother will see her again.’
‘For fuck’s sake, you do as you are damn well told!’
‘I understand you’re emotional. Nine more months of Billy’s money would have been a big pay day, add that to the fact Loretta could be traced back to you. I get it. But, if you shout at me again, Simon, I may be forced to change my agenda.’
‘Yes, there’s only one person on it at the moment.’ She stroked Loretta’s face again. ‘And if you want to keep it that way, I’d appreciate a thank you for your service, Sarah, good luck with all future endeavours.’
‘You’re fucking deluded.’
‘It’s been said before, but I never really believed it. In fact, why waste my time? I could just leave this burner by her body …’
‘Thank … you … for … your … service … Sarah,’ Lacey said, emphasising each word.
There was a long pause.
‘Three seconds,’ Lacey said. ‘One … two—’
He interrupted with the words she requested. ‘Good boy, I doubt very much that our paths will cross again. So, just remember, to always treat your employees how you would like to be treated yourself.’
‘I’ll think about it.’ She hung up.
* * *
Lacey looked at the time. Not that she needed to. There was always time for the Blue Room.
She assumed the lotus position beside Loretta’s body and, with some rhythmic breathing, took herself there.
She’d truly mastered the descent over the years and the depth to which she ventured today astounded her ever more. Even though it froze everything around her, it wasn’t cold in the traditional sense; and even though it was hollow there, it certainly wasn’t empty.
It was the essence of everything she was.
Loretta was gone, replaced with the sleeping Billy Shine, wearing his headdress, his mask and a cape, and nothing else.
In her hand she held a surgical scalpel. She stroked it down over his bare chest and then, his torso. He stirred but didn’t wake. She caressed his genitals with the tip of the blade and smiled.
His eyes opened.
The scalpel sliced through Billy’s femoral artery so easily and so quickly that there was no trace of blood on it for Lacey to clean off. He sat up and threw his arm out at Lacey who darted backwards, evading him. He then looked down at the blood gushing from his thigh and pooling around him.
‘It’ll be quick,’ Lacey said, ‘but there should be just enough time to consider what you did to Loretta.’
Billy reached down and plunged a hand into the rising puddle. ‘No…’
‘Lie back, Billy, now relax.’
He looked up at her. She was unable to watch him grow paler, because the blue masked that, but she could see his facial muscles beginning to sag.
He was also struggling to talk now. He lay back on the pillow and his breathing started to grow shallower.
‘You don’t have forever, Billy. Nobody does. Except in this place. My place. But you are a mere visitor and it’s time to go—’
She was pulled from the Blue Room sharply.
She opened her eyes to full colour, and to the fact that she was straddling Claire with her hands around her throat. Claire’s face was greying, her tongue was poking out and her eyes were fading. Lacey snapped back her hands. Too late?
Claire took a huge gulp of air.
This was the first time that Lacey had ever been pulled so dramatically from the Blue Room, and she made a mental note to ensure that she never let it happen again.
* * *
Lacey found Billy’s mother’s address in his bedside drawer. That’s where he kept his letters from her; all of them came complete with the sender’s address on the back of the envelopes. Lacey didn’t bother reading the letters. Why? An irrelevance. Billy was not long for this world.
What was most interesting was where she lived.
Tidworth in Wiltshire. Not far from Salisbury.
Lacey was going home.
* * *
Avebury was having a day off from being a major tourist attraction and, instead, was now a major crime scene. The spectators had been cleared, and a blue-and-white taped line ran around the picket fence and the entrance to the cottage. Instead of PC Sean Tyler, who was working closely with the local station to try and determine the whereabouts of the fleeing white Ford Transit, DC Collette Willows was diligently logging names.
The thick smoke from the charred corpse continued to hang heavy in the air, and some light had been set up to illuminate the remains. Yorke watched Patricia handle the body, while feeling incredibly guilty for rebuking her earlier in the incident room. She may not show that she cared – but she did. Deeply. She separated the science from the emotion. It was her job. And he’d been wrong to feel resentment over it.
Gardner stood alongside him. ‘What is going on?’
‘We are dealing with someone very bad,’ Yorke said.
‘I didn’t sleep last night, just lay in bed with Annabelle until briefing.’
‘How is she?’
‘Fine, could do with a visit from her godfather more regularly.’
‘Invite accepted.’ He paused. ‘Keep her close, Emma. And keep it separate. Don’t, ever, take this home with you.’
‘Easier said than done.’
Topham approached from the hulking black major incident van. ‘Used to love it here as a kid.’
Yorke almost told him that he’d only been here on holiday a few weeks ago, but held back. It wasn’t relevant right now.
‘Have you spoken to Dr Wileman yet, boss?’ Topham said.
‘She’s waiting for dental records to be pinged over. It’s Preston though. No question. His stuff is all over the house, including his photographs. I don’t know what he was doing at Jessica’s, but he saw the killer. Whoever that was must have realised, found him and then did this.’
Jake came over. ‘A right mess this bastard’s made of him.’
‘If you need some time, Jake, I’d understand.’
‘No, I’m fine. It’s disgusting, no question, but I don’t feel like I did earlier.’
Probably because it doesn’t remind you of your own wife, in the same way that Jessica did earlier, thought Yorke, but he didn’t bring it up.
Lance Reynolds emerged from the house and wandered over to the cluster of detectives; his camera was bouncing off his chest.
‘There was a struggle in the living room. A trail of photographs, marks on the carpet, the pattern in the frost on the grass out here suggests the victim was dragged before being placed in the basket.’
‘Any traces of blood in the house?’ Yorke asked.
‘None. He was dragged out here and executed.’
‘We are trying, but the ground is rock solid this time of year. We have gathered fingerprints and fibres, and we will get onto it asap; let’s hope we have more luck than we did at the last scene.’
Yorke turned to Jake. ‘Take a team of officers, DS Pettman, and grill everyone. There were enough spectators about and residents are knitted far closer together than they were at Jessica’s – I’m confident you’ll get something.’
Andrew Waites, the exhibits officer, came over holding up a plastic bag with a photograph inside it. ‘Thought you might be interested in this.’
Yorke looked at what actually turned out to be a colourful drawing of a cartoon man, rather than a photograph. It looked like a cave painting or something you may see stitched into tapestry. The jolly looking man was wearing many different colours, rather like a Native American, while dancing. Yorke squinted. In one hand, he was holding a bow, and in the other hand, a basket.
‘It was mixed in with the photographs strewn all over the house,’ Waites said.
‘Preston’s?’ Gardner said.
Yorke stared for a moment. He revisited the nature of Jessica’s death. ‘No,’ he finally said. ‘He’s made his first mistake.’ ‘He dropped it?’ Topham said.
‘Yes. We need an expert. We need to know what this picture is all about.’
* * *
Blood and chopped flesh had never really bothered Tezcacoatl; after all, it was only nourishment for the earth. The screaming, on the other hand, was taking a lot more getting used to.
Consequently, a minute or two of escapism following last night’s, and now today’s screaming was welcome; and time spent with Matlalihuitl, his precious blue-green feather, was the most welcome escapism of all.
Behind him, the large fire began to dance higher in its stone-lined hearth, as if to flaunt its honoured position dead centre in the house. The fire had many purposes; it warmed Tezcacoatl, lit the hallway now it was dark, cooked his dinner and provided him with a visual trick – the reflection of the flames on the glass fish tank made the interior look like a city on fire rather than the intended ocean bed.
In the tank, Matlalihuitl had curled its eight arms over a large rock while its bulbous head was slumped back on a smaller rock; an easy position to recline into without the burden of a skeleton. Although it was difficult to tell in the flickering amber glow given to the tank by the flame, his beloved octopus was yellow with dark brown rings. In camouflage mode.
An observer could be forgiven for thinking the motionless sea-creature was dead, burning as the flames licked at its boneless body. Only in its stubbornness to be turned to dust, would the observer eventually realise that they had been deceived and that the creature was actually sleeping.
Tezcacoatl tapped the glass and his creature stirred.
He had not felt excitement in a long time, but Matlalihuitl’s coming display of power, the fierceness and the efficiency with which it would strike, interested him.
He opened his right hand and looked down at a plastic tube. Within the tube, sat a clump of brown hair, Preston’s will and determination, taken away at precisely at the right moment to make what needed to be done all the more easier.
In his other hand, he felt the crabs struggling in the leather bag. There were more than usual; Matlalihuitl had done well these past days and deserved its reward.
It uncurled its suction-cup covered arms one at a time; each stretch intensifying the yellow colour of its skin. With its rubbery head bouncing off the sandy bottom, it scurried forward, raising clouds of sand behind it before swooping upwards.
Tezcacoatl lifted a small panel on top of the tank and shook out the crabs, noticing his hands were paler than usual. As the amber offering sank to the floor, Tezcacoatl watched the reflected flames dance and his thoughts turned to Teyolia, the divine fire. The very force within the heart that animates, shapes, and invigorates. Three separate hearts beat within his beloved octopus. Two serving the gills, and the other its beautiful body. Three hearts, my precious blue-green feather, he thought, how you shine!
The brown rings covering Matlalihuitl exploded into a brilliant blue. It darted forward, and the crabs scattered, but the octopus had already pulled its eight spidery arms forward into a claw to snatch up its first victim. A sand storm rose as crabs fled everywhere but to freedom and Matlalihuitl enveloped its prey. Each spasm and flash of its oily body was a sign that its beak was delving deeper.
Tezcacoatl smelled burning. He leaned over, pulled on the oven glove by his feet and swung to pull the grill from the hearth. Immediately, he felt the heat through the glove, so he dropped it quickly onto the heat-proof tray beside the hearth.
He looked at the blackened meat. His attention elsewhere, he had not realized that the flames had lifted far too high and burnt Jessica’s flesh.
* * *
The couple’s argument next door penetrated the paper-thin walls. It was distracting to say the least. Reminded of Jessica’s and Preston’s screaming, Tezcacoatl pushed his half-full plate away.
While chewing on the chunk of burnt meat still in his mouth, and trying to ignore the shouting and cursing, he examined his pallid hand. Alabaster skin wasn’t surprising after twenty-four hours of fasting; he should have taken more of his supplements. He swallowed, knowing that the iron in the meat would go to work on his pale skin soon.
The argument next door continued. Over the last few weeks, the relationship had been worsening. They’d regularly argued but had always made up and enjoyed each other’s company again. Tezcacoatl had heard some of those more intimate moments too. To hear both sides was a good thing. Pleasure and pain were inextricably linked, and Tezcacoatl had the right to experience both. Recently though, the arguments had taken over and raged, sometimes for hours, sometimes days.
He leaned back in the Ipcalli, resting his tired head on the high back, and admired his kitchen. There was so much colour. Dark colours. Blue walls, black surfaces, purple kitchen utensils and red plates. He felt at ease; whiteness sometimes made him feel empty.
On his black dinner table, besides a red plate topped with blackened flesh, sat a portable television. The screen showed tragedy. Blown-up bellies and washed-out faces. Starving African children melting away to nothing. Increasing the volume, seemed to intensify the stench of decay and the crushing heat, rather than just the sound of desperation. A reporter described the great drought that had plagued this village, before the image changed to show the rains pouring on the village. Tezcacoatl leaned forward in his Ipcalli. Against all predictions, rain had come. Villagers, who had the energy, stood admiring the rainfalls. A few even danced.
After turning the television off, he noticed that the argument had stopped.
He slid the picture of a young woman, which sat by his plate, closer to him. Gillian Arnold had been at the cemetery visiting her father’s grave when he took this photo. He traced the sadness that creased the corners of her eyes with his finger.
* * *
About Wes Markin.
Wes Markin is a hyperactive English teacher, who loves writing crime fiction with a twist of the macabre.
Having finished ‘The Repenting Serpent,’ sequel to ‘One Last Prayer for the Rays,’ he is now working on the third instalment of DCI Michael Yorke’s wild ride. He is also the author of ‘Defined,’ a prequel to his DCI Yorke novels, which takes the reader back to his blood-soaked university days.
Born in 1978, Wes grew up in Manchester, UK. After graduating from Leeds University, he spent fifteen years as a teacher of English, and has taught in Thailand, Malaysia and China. Now as a teacher, writer, husband and father, he is currently living in Harrogate, UK.
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