After the Fire

Contents

 

Cover

About the Book

About the Author

Title Page

Dedication

Author’s note

Glossary of Police Terminology

Epigraph

 

I

II

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

 

Acknowledgements

Copyright

About the Book
 

Arson, accident or murder?

 

After a fire rips through a North London tower block, two bodies are found locked in an 11th floor flat. But it is the third victim that ensures the presence of detective Maeve Kerrigan and the murder squad. It appears that controversial MP Geoff Armstrong, trapped by the fire, chose to jump to his death rather than wait for rescue. But what was such a right wing politician doing in the deprived, culturally diverse Maudling Estate?

 

As Maeve and her senior colleague, Derwent, pick through the wreckage, they uncover the secret world of the 11th floor, where everyone seems to have something to hide...

 
About the Author
 

“All my criminal elements have some basis in reality, no matter how awful they may be. Nothing is completely farfetched.” Jane Casey

 

Crime is a family affair for Jane Casey. Married to a criminal barrister, she has a unique insight into the brutal underbelly of urban life, from the smell of a police cell to the darkest motives of a serial killer.

 

This gritty realism has made her books international bestsellers and critical successes; while D.C. Maeve Kerrigan has quickly become one of the most popular characters in crime fiction.

 

Her novel
The Stranger You Know
won the Mary Higgins Clark Award and she has also been shortlisted for the Irish Crime Novel of the Year Award four times as well as the CWA Dagger in the Library Award.

 
After the Fire
 
Jane Casey
 

 

 

For Michael and Bridget

Author’s note
 

For those readers who are coming to this series for the first time, I promise you that you don’t need to have read the other books to understand what takes place in
After the Fire
. However, there are references to past events and storylines that run through several books. The Maudling Estate featured in
The Kill
, as did some minor characters who assume greater importance in
After the Fire
. And if you would like to read more about Chris Swain, he first appeared in
The Reckoning
and recurs throughout the series.

JC

Glossary of Police Terminology
 

ANPR
: Automatic Number Plate Recognition; a network of cameras that read and record the registration plates of all vehicles passing them, and check them against various databases (including the PNC) to identify those of interest to the police.

 

CID
: Criminal Investigations Department; detectives in plain clothes responsible for investigating more serious offences in a police area. In London there is one CID per borough, known as the ‘main office’.

 

CPS
: Crown Prosecution Service; responsible for assessing the evidence gathered during police investigations and deciding what, if any, offence a suspect should be charged with; also responsible for the prosecution of defendants in the criminal courts.

 

CRO number
: Criminal Records Office number; the unique number allocated to someone when they are first convicted of a crime.

 

PC
: Police Constable; the lowest rank in the British police.

 

PM
: Post Mortem examination; medical examination of a body intended to establish, among other things, a cause of death.

 

PNC
: Police National Computer; the main police computer database, housed in Hendon and containing criminal records, details of wanted and missing people, and information about all UK registered motor vehicles.

 

Public order offence
: an offence contrary to one of the Public Order Acts involving offensive behaviour in public places, including serious public disorder.

 

Response Officer
: uniformed police officer attached to a team that responds to 999 calls from the public.

 

SOCO
: Scenes of Crime Officer; civilian police staff who gather forensic evidence; officially known as Forensic Practitioners in the Metropolitan Police.

 

TSG
: Territorial Support Group; uniformed unit mainly tasked with preventing and responding to incidents of public disorder. TSG units are routinely used to support local officers dealing with large-scale violence.

 

And among other things, the poor pigeons, I perceive, were loth to leave their houses, but hovered about the windows and balconys till they were, some of them burned, their wings, and fell down.

 

Samuel Pepys’ diary, 2 September 1666

I
 

There were 224 residents of Murchison House on the Maudling Estate in north London, and on a cold grey late November day not one of them was expecting to die. Some were hoping to die. Some were waiting to die. But no one actually expected to die that day.

Murchison House stood eleven storeys high, an uncompromising slab of cement social housing that dated from the seventies and looked it. Five other tower blocks of varying sizes stood around Murchison House like siblings in an unhappy family. The estate loomed over the surrounding houses, the narrow streets of Victorian terraces built for the working classes that had been slowly, painfully gentrified. Murchison House was never going to be gentrified. Bulldozed, perhaps. In another city, another country, the views would have made it a desirable place to live, but it had taken Londoners a long time to embrace high-rise habitation. Apart from the Maudling Estate, there wasn’t a tall building for miles. That meant the inhabitants of Murchison House could see a great deal of London, and a great deal of London could see Murchison House, and to at least one person in the building it felt a lot like torture.

Drina was very familiar with torture.

It was afternoon, around four, she guessed. She sat in the corner of a room in a flat on the top floor, as the grey sky darkened outside the window and the day slid away. She sat on the floor, on a mattress, with her legs stretched out in front of her, because there wasn’t anywhere else to sit. There was the mattress, and a lumpy duvet without a cover, a hook on the back of the door and a mirror nailed to one wall. There was a big window with an aluminium frame that didn’t fit properly, leaving gaps for the wind. The window itself was locked. All the windows in the flat were locked. Every now and then Drina reached up and tried to open one, almost as a reflex. Someone might have forgotten. Or the window might have broken. These things happened, she’d heard. Mistakes.

Opportunities.

These things happened to other girls, though. Drina was never that lucky. Although what she would do if the window was open, she didn’t know. Shout? But they would hear her before anyone else did. The flat was bugged. Even when they weren’t actually inside the flat with the girls, someone was nearby – in another flat, or in a car parked below. Close at hand. Cry for help, and the only attention she would attract would be the wrong kind. It wasn’t worth the risk. What did that leave? Jumping? It was a possibility. Sometimes she felt like jumping, just to be free for a couple of seconds. Just to get to decide one tiny thing in her life.

Drina lit another cigarette from the butt of the one she had been smoking, then ran her fingernails through her hair. It felt brittle. The bleach was killing it. But blonde was popular with the customers.

There were two other bedrooms and two other girls in the flat, but they wouldn’t try to talk to her. It was too dangerous to talk. It was too dangerous to be suspected of planning to escape. Drina had heard – the men had told her – the last girl who had tried to escape hadn’t made it out of the tower block alive. She’d left it in a suitcase that was carried to the boot of a car and driven to a riverbank near an industrial estate. They hadn’t found her body for weeks, the men said, laughing. Months. Her face was gone, eaten away by decomposition and the river rats. Her fingerprints had disappeared along with her flesh. She’d never been arrested, so there was no DNA to match to her remains. No one had reported her to Interpol as a missing person. No one had ever traced her journey back to Murchison House. No one had ever even found out her name.

‘What was it?’ Drina had asked, because she was young, and stupid, and she still asked questions then. ‘Her name?’

They hadn’t remembered either. She was gone, the girl, as if she’d never lived. Someone, somewhere, mourned her – maybe. If they knew she was dead.

All Drina had to do, sitting there, was turn her head to see the streets of London, until they disappeared in a grey haze on the horizon. She looked, sometimes. Sometimes she didn’t. Sometimes she just sat and smoked. Today was a smoking day, except that it hurt her mouth. Then again, everything hurt her mouth. Drinking from the small bottle of stale water by her side. Eating, if they gave her anything to eat. A day when she wasn’t working was a day when she was costing them money, and they weren’t generous people. She could work with cracked ribs and bruised limbs and internal abrasions – she had, frequently. She couldn’t work with bruises on her face, though. They’d been angry with her. As if it had been her fault.

As if she could have stopped it.

She had to hand it to the men who’d put her in the room; they couldn’t have found a better place to hide her. No one could see her, so high above the ground. The flat faced north; the other towers were to the east and west of it, out of her line of sight. The neighbours to the left and the right were invisible, even from the flat’s tiny balcony. It was designed for privacy, or the illusion of it. There was no one above them; the men joked that they were in the penthouse. Nothing but the best for Sajmir’s girls, one of them said, and took the girl standing next to Drina into one of the other rooms, where she had screamed until, abruptly, she stopped. The flat below seemed to be unoccupied. Sometimes Drina lay with her cheek pressed against the dusty carpet and tried to hear sounds, but there was nothing.

She was surrounded by people, and alone. But she never felt quite as alone as when she was face to face with the men who paid for her body.

 

Mary Hearn was on the tenth floor of Murchison House, not quite below Drina’s flat, and she was also sitting by the window, though Mary had a chair. It was a smaller place, ideal for a woman on her own, the man from the council had said. Her old house wasn’t suitable, with all the stairs. Much better for her to move into a newly renovated flat in Murchison House, where there was a lift to take her up and down and she didn’t have to worry about the roof leaking, or the garden. Mary had liked the garden in her old house. She had taken care of it, even though it was small. She had hung up birdfeeders and pulled out weeds and got on her knees to clip the small patch of lawn with the old shears that had been George’s. The garden caught the sun in the morning and she had often gone to stand outside and lift her face up, her eyes closed, so the light could warm her. It felt like a blessing. It felt like a message from George, who had died thirteen years earlier after a short fight with the cancer that had ravaged him. He’d died quietly, while Mary sat by his bed. He’d said her name, and turned his head, and died. Upstairs. In the room where she slept. It still smelled of him – not in a bad way, but of Brylcreem and Shield, the soft green soap he’d preferred, and the warm smell that was him. His clothes hung in the wardrobe. He was still there, even though his body was gone. He was all around her.

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