Death Hunt: Mortlake Series Book 6
Death Hunt: Mortlake Series Book 6
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Bloodthirsty creatures stalk the English countryside…
Paranormal investigator Marcus Mortlake leads a busy life. Between battling the supernatural and dodging faculty review boards, the professor has little time for personal affairs. But when a man he met a long time ago mysteriously dies, it isn’t long before a sinister turn of events drags Mortlake into the mist-shrouded moors beyond the city.
Something has been stalking England… Something not of this world. But for once, his team gets help from a powerful ally.
As Mortlake finds out, a secret department of Her Majesty’s government has been assigned to investigate possible supernatural activity. Led by the foxy Desmond Drax, they too have a stake in these strange occurrences.
Forced to form an uneasy alliance with Drax, Mortlake soon finds himself fending off a pack savage beasts. These voracious creatures seem to phase in and out of our reality. And with each kill, the pack grows larger.
Can Mortlake and his allies stop these beasts’ relentless hunt before it’s too late?
Or will the pack continue to grow and devastate all of England?
Constable Kevin Rashford was a conscientious officer. His patch of Eastern England included great swathes of coastline and countryside. Most of it was picturesque and very attractive to tourists. It also appealed to prosperous Londoners who wanted affordable second homes for the weekend. Sadly, Rashford’s patch was also an area with pockets of intense rural poverty. And some of those prosperous Londoners who came visiting were running drug operations, often involving the recruitment of vulnerable kids as mules.
Given this, and the regular round of less serious crime, Rashford could have let Jethro Larkin’s death go. Just because he’d found the body didn’t mean he had to take a special interest, after all. A twenty-four-year-old Constable was the lowest of the low in police terms, and mysteries were for senior detectives. Those at the lowest level of the plainclothes force were supposed to do more routine stuff.
Besides, the official view was that there was no mystery about poor old Mr. Larkin’s demise. After the old man’s broken body had been recovered, it seemed obvious to almost everyone that he’d gone over the cliff in the dark while drunk. That had been the conclusion of the barmaid and regulars in the King’s Head. One minute, old Jethro had been regaling tourists with his all-too-familiar tales of ghosts and phantom hounds. The next, he was plummeting to his death. The drink was clearly to blame. When reporters from the local press went around the village, they got much the same idea from everyone. Jethro had always been a heavy drinker, he wasn’t a young buck anymore, and he’d sunk one pint too many that particular evening.
Which should have been the end of it. After all, poking around looking for anomalies wouldn’t bring the old man back. But there was still something that bugged Constable Rashford. His old mentor in the academy had told him that sometimes a copper had to trust his gut instinct above logic and reason. Was this one of those times?
He put his phone down and tried to forget the strange online byways he’d been exploring. He had to get on with his life, and the first stage of that process was to make himself something to eat. He had just pulled an eight-hour shift and was feeling frazzled. People die in accidents every day. An officer eager to advance his career should focus on the task at hand, the one given to him by his superiors. There were living people who needed policing, who needed the help Rashford could provide. And that meant stopping his Googling activities right now, eating whatever he could find in the fridge or cupboard, and then getting a good night’s sleep.
But he couldn’t forget two things. One had been the look on Mary Larkin’s face when she’d tried to act normally, offering him and a female colleague tea and biscuits. The poor woman had been on the edge of a breakdown, he felt sure, but she’d brushed off what meager help he could offer. She had quietly insisted that her man knew the way home like the back of his hand and wouldn’t have gone astray, even on the darkest night. She knew her old man. Rashford was haunted by her tears, her voice, her certainty.
Then there’d been the body itself. The crime scene team had been led by a grizzled sixty-something who was hanging on to get the most out of his pension. That officer had agreed that the body’s injuries were consistent with a fall and then a severe battering by the incoming tide. Despite the alarm being raised first thing the following morning, crabs and gulls had had time to do additional damage.
“But,” the CSO had added, “the condition of the arm is… interesting. My gut tells me that badly mangled arm could suggest defensive injuries.”
Against what? There, the oldster had refused to be drawn. The overworked detectives had not been that interested. But reports of sheep being savaged and blurred images of big animals had kept Rashford awake the night after Jethro had died. Now, two days later, his colleagues had stopped commenting humorously on his first TV appearance, A couple of brighter ones had grown tired of joking about the Hound of the Baskervilles, and his boss tacitly assumed it was “Case Closed”.
But Rashford wasn’t so sure.
Apart from anything else, there had been that voice mail from some private eye in London. Rashford had never heard of Rob Westall and had been guarded about revealing anything. Westall had seen Rashford on the news and got his number somehow. He’d simply left contact details and asked Rashford to get in touch if he liked. When the young officer had looked into the background of the retired copper, he’d been impressed. Also, a little puzzled.
Detective Inspector Westall’s career at Scotland Yard had been marked by many weird, unsolved cases. The sheer number of loose ends seemed to have stalled Westall’s rise through the ranks. It seemed the guy couldn’t let an odd case alone. What’s more, most seemed to be mysteries involving Marcus Mortlake. Westall had been badly hurt trying to rescue kidnap victims from London’s labyrinth of sewers and drains. Mortlake had been involved in that, too. It seemed the professor had been engaged in some seriously weird stuff.
“But there’s something else,” he murmured to himself. “Where was it?”
It was something to do with Mortlake, something recent. He picked up his phone again and started Googling: “Cambridge”, “Marcus Mortlake”, “mystery”, and other obvious key words. After a couple of minutes, he hit the mother lode. The name Khan appeared, and Rashford remembered the case. Detective Sergeant Khan had been Westall’s subordinate at the Met before the older man retired. Khan had been seconded to the Cambridge force following the disappearances of one of Mortlake’s students.
“Weird,” murmured Rashford, scrolling through news items.
Khan had been seriously injured in some kind of altercation. The same incident had also left a couple of armed officers unconscious but not seriously hurt. There had been talk of monsters, of a terrifying creature like something out of a nightmare. Naturally, there wasn’t a shred of evidence beyond garbled eyewitness statements. People had supposedly seen a naked woman with glowing eyes, snakes for hair, and scales. Rashford smiled at that. He could imagine the official report, the opportunity for someone to be tongue-in-cheek—“no such individual was apprehended at the scene.” But the main mystery—to Rashford anyway—was what happened to Khan afterward. During confusion caused by a hoax bomb threat in the hospital, Khan died of unknown causes. The autopsy report had been inconclusive.
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