There was no sign of life. But not for a second did Pascoe admit the possibility of death. Dalziel was indestructible. Dalziel is, and was, and forever shall be, world without end, amen. Chief constables might come and chief constables might go, but Fat Andy went on forever.
Caught in the full blast of a huge explosion, Detective Superintendent Andy Dalziel lies on a hospital bed, with only a life support system and his indomitable will between him and the Great Beyond. His colleague, Detective Chief Inspector Peter Pascoe, is determined to bring those responsible to justice. Pascoe suspects a group called
The Templars, and the deeper he digs, the more certain he is that The Templars are getting help from within the police force.
The plot is complex, the pace fast, the jokes furious, and the climax astounding. And above it all, like a huge dirigible threatening to break from its moorings, hovers the disembodied spirit of Andy Dalziel.
"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.
Reginald Hill has won numerous awards, including the Crime Writers’ Association’s Cartier Diamond Dagger Award in 1995 for his lifetime contribution to crime writing. He is married and lives with his wife in his native Cumbria.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Some talk of ALEXANDER
And some of HERCULES;
“The British Grenadiers”
never much of a street
west–the old wool mill a prison block in dry blood brick its staring windows now blinded by boards its clatter and chatter a distant echo through white-haired heads
east–six narrow houses under one weary roof huddling against the high embankment that arrows southern trains into the city’s northern heart
few passengers ever notice Mill Street
never much of a street
in winter’s depth a cold crevasse
spring and autumn much the same
on a still summer day
with sun soaring high in a cloudless sky
Mill Street becomes
desert canyon overbrimming with heat
Two mutton pasties
and an almond slice
At least it gives me an excuse for sweating, thought Peter Pascoe as he scuttled toward the shelter of the first of the two cars parked across the road from number 3.
“You hurt your back?” asked Detective Superintendent Andy Dalziel as his DCI slumped to the pavement beside him.
“Sorry?” panted Pascoe.
“You were moving funny.”
“I was taking precautions.”
“Oh aye? I’d stick to the tablets. What the hell are you doing here anyway? Bank Holiday’s been canceled, has it? Or are you just bunking off from weeding the garden?”
“In fact I was sunbathing in it. Then Paddy Ireland rang and said there was a siege situation and you were a bit short on specialist manpower so could I help?”
“Specialist? Didn’t know you were a marksman.”
Pascoe took a deep breath and wondered what kind of grinning God defied His own laws by allowing Dalziel’s fleshy folds, swaddled in a three-piece suit, to look so cool, while his own spare frame, clad in cotton slacks and a Leeds United T-shirt, was generating more heat than PM’s Question Time.
“I’ve been on a Negotiator’s Course, remember?” he said.
“Thought that were to help you talk to Ellie. What did yon fusspot really say?”
The Fat Man was no great fan of Inspector Ireland who he averred put the three f’s in officious. If you took your cue and pointed out that the word contained only two, he’d tell you what the third one stood for.
If you didn’t take your cue, he usually told you anyway.
Pascoe on the other hand was a master of diplomatic reticence.
“Not a lot,” he said.
What Ireland had actually said was, “Sorry to interrupt your day off, Pete, but I thought you should know. Report of an armed man on premises in Mill Street. Number three.”
Then a pause as if anticipating a response.
The only response Pascoe felt like giving was, Why the hell have I been dragged off my hammock for this?
He said, “Paddy, I don’t know if you’ve noticed but I’m off duty today. Bank Holiday, remember? And Andy drew the short straw. Not his idea you rang, is it?”
“Definitely not. It’s just that number three’s a video rental, Oroc Video, Asian and Arab stuff mainly . . . ”
A faint bell began to ring in Pascoe’s mind.
“Hang on. Isn’t it CAT flagged?”
“Hooray. There is someone in CID who actually reads directives,” said Ireland with heavy sarcasm.
CAT was the Combined Antiterrorism Unit in which Special Branch officers worked alongside MI5 operatives. They flagged people and places on a sliding scale, the lowest level being premises not meriting formal surveillance but around which any unusual activity should be noted and notified.
Number 3 Mill Street was at this bottom level.
Pascoe, not liking to feel reproved, said, “Are you trying to tell me there’s some kind of intifada brewing in Mill Street?”
“Well, no,” said Ireland. “It’s just that when I passed on the report to Andy …”
“Oh good. You have told him. So, apart from not feeling it necessary to bother me, what action has he taken?”
He tried to keep the irritation out of his voice, but not very hard.
Ireland said in a hurt tone, “He said he’d go along and take a look soon as he finished his meat pie. I reminded him that three Mill Street was flagged, in case he’d missed it. He yawned, not a pretty sight when he’s eating a meat pie. But when I told him I’d already followed procedure and called it in, he got abusive. So I left him to it.”
“Very wise,” said Pascoe, also yawning audibly. “So what’s the problem?”
“The problem is that he’s just passed my office, yelling that he’s on his way to Mill Street so maybe I’ll be satisfied now that I’ve ruined his day.”
“But you’re not?”
A deep intake of breath; then in a quietly controlled voice, “What I’m not satisfied is that the super is taking what could be a serious situation seriously. But of course I’m happy to leave it in the expert hands of CID. Sorry to have bothered you.”
The phone went down hard.
Pompous prat, thought Pascoe, setting off back to the garden to share his irritation with his wife. To his surprise she’d said thoughtfully, “Last time I saw Andy, he was going on about how bored he’s getting with the useless bastards running things. He sounded ripe for a bit of mischief. Maybe you ought to check this out, love, before he starts the next Gulf War single-handed. Half an hour wouldn’t harm.”
None of this did he care to reveal to Dalziel.
“Not a lot,” he repeated. “So perhaps you’d like to fill me in?”
“Why not? Then you can shog off home. Being a clever bugger, you’ll likely know number three’s CAT flagged? Or did Ireland have to tell you too?”
“No, but he did give me a shove,” admitted Pascoe.
“There you go,” said Dalziel triumphantly. “Since the London bombings, them silly sods have put out more flags than we did on Coronation Day. Faintest sniff of a Middle East connection and they’re cocking their legs to lay down a marker.”
“Yes, I did hear they wanted to flag the old Mecca dancehall at Mirely!”
A reminiscent smile lit up Dalziel’s face, like moonlight on a mountain.
“The Mirely Mecca,” he said dreamily. “Had some good times there in the old days. There were this lass from Donny. Tottie Truman. Her tango could get you done for indecent behavior–”
“Yes, yes,” interrupted Pascoe. “I’m sure she was a charming girl vertically or horizontally–”
“Nay, ho’d on!” interrupted the Fat Man in his turn. “You shouldn’t be so quick to put folk in boxes. It’s a bad habit of yours, that. Tottie weren’t just a bit of squashy flesh, tha knows. She had muscle too. By God, if they’d let women throw the hammer she’d have been a gold medalist! I once saw her chuck a wellie from halfway at a rugby club barbecue and it were still rising at it went over the posts. I thought of wedding her but she got religion. Just think of the front row we could have bred!”
It was time to stop this trip down memory lane.
Pascoe said, “Very interesting. But perhaps we should concentrate on the situation in hand. Which is . . . ?”
“That’s the trouble with you youngsters,” said Dalziel sadly. “No time to smell the flowers along the way. All right. Sit-rep. Foot-patrol officer reported seeing a man in number three with a gun. Passed on the info to a patrol car who called in for instructions. So here we are. What do you make of it so far?”
The Fat Man had moved into playful mode. It’s guessing-game time, thought Pascoe. Robbery in process? Hardly worth it in Mill Street, unless you were a particularly thick villain. This wasn’t the commercial hub of the city, just the far end of a very rusty spoke. The mill itself had a preservation order on it and there’d been talk of refurbishing it as an industrial Heritage Center, but not even the Victorian Society had objected to the proposed demolition of the jerry-built terrace to make space for a car park.
The mill project, however, had run into difficulties over Lottery funding.
Right-wingers said this was because it didn’t advantage handicapped lesbian asylum seekers; left-wingers because it failed to subsidize the Treasury.
Whatever, plans to demolish the terrace went on hold.
The remaining residents had long been rehoused, and rather than have a decaying slum on their hands, the council encouraged small businesses in search of an address and office space to move in and give the buildings an occupied look. Most of these businesses proved as short-lived as the rathe primrose that forsaken dies, and the only survivors at present were Crofts and Wills, Patent Agents at number 6 and Oroc Video at number 3.
All of which interesting historical analysis brought Pascoe no nearer to understanding what they were doing here.
Losing patience, he said, “OK, so there might be a man with a gun in there. I presume you’ve some strategy planned. Or are you going to rush him single-handed?”
“Not now there’s two of us. But you always were a bugger for the subtle approach, so let’s start with that.”
So saying, the Fat Man rose to his feet, picked up a bullhorn from the bonnet of his car, put it to his lips, and bellowed, “All right, we know you’re in there. We’ve got you surrounded. Come out with your hands up and no one will get hurt.”
He scratched himself under the armpit for a moment, then sat down again.
After a moment’s silence Pascoe said, “I can’t really believe you said that, sir.”
“Why not? Used to say it all the time way back before all this negotiation crap.”
“Did anyone ever come out?”
“Not as I recall.”
Pascoe digested this then said, “You forgot the bit about throwing his gun out before he comes out with his hands up.”
“No I didn’t,” said Dalziel. “He might not have a gun and if he hasn’t, I don’t want him thinking we think he has, do I?”
“I thought the foot patrol reported seeing a weapon? What was it? Shotgun? Handgun? And what was this putative gunman actually doing? Come on, Andy. I left a jug of homemade lemonade and a hammock to come here. What’s the sodding problem?”
Even diplomatic reticence had its limits.
“The sodding problem?” said the Fat Man. “Yon’s the sodding problem.”
He pointed toward the police patrol car parked a little way along from his own vehicle. Pascoe followed the finger.
And all became clear.
Almost out of sight, coiled around the rear wheel with all the latent menace of a piece of bacon rind, lay a familiar lanky figure.
“Oh God. You don’t mean . . . ?”
“That’s right. Only contact with this gunman so far has been Constable Hector.”
Police Constable Hector is the albatross round Mid-Yorkshire Constab-
ulary’s neck, the long-legged fly in its soup, the Wollemi Pine in its
outback, the coelacanth in its ocean depths. But his saving lack of grace is, he never plumbs bottom. Beneath the lowest deep there’s always a lower deep, and he survives because in that perverse way in which True Brits often manage to find triumph in disaster, the Mid-Yorkshire Police Force have become proud of him. If ever talk flags in the Black Bull, someone just has to say, “Remember when Hector . . .” and a couple of hours of happy reminiscence are guaranteed.
So, when Dalziel said, “Yon’s the sodding problem,” much was explained. But not all. Not by a long chalk.
“So,” continued Dalziel. “Question is, how to find out if Hector really saw a gun or not.”
“Well,” mused Pascoe, “I suppose we could expose him and see if he got shot.”
“Brilliant!” said Dalziel. “Makes me glad I paid for your education. HECTOR!”
“For God’s sake, I was joking!” exclaimed Pascoe as the lanky constable disentangled himself from the car wheel and began to crawl toward them.
“I could do with a laugh,” said Dalziel, smiling like a rusty radiator grill. “Hector, lad, what fettle? I’ve got a job for you if you feel up to it.”
“Sir?” said Hector hesitantly.
Pascoe wished he could feel that the hesitation demonstrated suspicion of the Fat Man’s intent, but he knew from experience it was the constable’s natural response to most forms of address from “Hello” to “Help! I’m drowning!” Prime it as much as you like, the mighty engine of Hector’s mind always started cold, even when as now his hatless head was clearly very hot. A few weeks ago, he’d appeared with his skull cropped so close he made Bruce Willis look like Esau, prompting Dalziel to say, “I always thought tha’d be the death of me, Hec, but there’s no need to go around looking like the bugger!”
Now he looked at the smooth white skull, polished with sweat beneath the sun’s bright duster, shook his head sadly, and said, “Here’s what I want you to do, lad. All this hanging around’s fair clemmed me. You know Pat’s Pantry in Station Square? Never closes, doesn’t Pat. Pop round there and get me two mutton pasties and an almond slice. And a custard tart for Mr. Pascoe. It’s his favorite. Can you remember all that?”
“Yes, sir,” said Hector, but showed no sign of moving off.
“What are you waiting for?” asked Dalziel. “Money up front, is that it? What happened to trust? All right, Mr. Pascoe’ll pay you. I can’t be standing tret every time.”
Every tenth time would be nice, thought Pascoe as he put two one-pound coins onto Hector’s sweaty palm where they lay like a dead man’s eyes.
“If it’s more, Mr. Dalziel will settle up,” he said.
“Yes, sir . . . but what about . . . him?” muttered Hector, his gaze flicking to number 3.
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