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Authors: James Craig

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Mystery, #Crime Fiction

The Hand of God

 

 

James Craig
has worked as a journalist and consultant for more than thirty years. He lives in central London with his family. His previous Inspector Carlyle novels,
London Calling
;
Never Apologise
,
Never Explain
;
Buckingham Palace Blues
;
The Circus
and
Then We Die
are also available from Constable & Robinson.

For more information visit
www.james-craig.co.uk
, or follow him on Twitter:
@byjamescraig
.

Praise for
London Calling

‘A cracking read.’ BBC Radio 4

‘Fast paced and very easy to get quickly lost in.’
Lovereading.com

Praise for
Never Apologise, Never Explain

‘Pacy and entertaining.’
The Times

‘Engaging, fast paced . . . a satisfying modern British crime novel.’
Shots


Never Apologise, Never Explain
is as close as you can get to the heartbeat of London. It may even cause palpitations when reading.’
It’s A Crime! Reviews

 

 

Inspector John Carlyle

Novels

London Calling
Never Apologise, Never Explain
Buckingham Palace Blues
The Circus
Then We Die

Short stories

The Enemy Within
What Dies Inside

AN INSPECTOR CARLYLE NOVELLA

The Hand of God

 

 

 

Constable & Robinson Ltd.
55–56 Russell Square
London WC1B 4HP

www.constablerobinson.com

First published in the UK by C&R Crime,
an imprint of Constable & Robinson Ltd., 2013

Copyright © James Craig, 2013

The right of James Craig to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988

All rights reserved. This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out or otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or to actual events or locales is entirely coincidental.

A copy of the British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data is available from the British Library

ISBN: 978-1-47210-744-2 (ebook)

Cover copyright © Constable & Robinson

 

It is only in misery that we recognise the hand of God leading men to good.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Acknowledgements

This is the third short story featuring London policeman John Carlyle. It follows the publication of five full-length Carlyle novels,
London Calling
;
Never Apologise, Never Explain
;
Buckingham Palace Blues
;
The Circus
; and
Then We Die.

A sixth Inspector Carlyle novel will appear soon.

The Hand of God
is set in London in the mid-1980s. It recounts one of Carlyle’s early experiences as a young copper and fills in some of the backstory that is touched on in
London Calling
.

I would like to thank Michael Doggart for his comments and his support in getting the job done, along with Krystyna Green, Rob Nichols and all of the team at Constable & Robinson. Thank you too to Kevin Curran for his careful reading of the manuscript and his astute observations. Particular thanks go to the real Martin Palmer, who has put up with the antics of his fictional counterpart with considerable fortitude and good grace.

As always, my greatest thanks go to Catherine and Cate. This story is for them.

1

London, 1986

‘Welcome to the shittiest estate in London.’

Carlyle looked at his fellow constable and grunted.

The officer stuck out a meaty paw. ‘You new here?’ he asked, his accent betraying Midlands roots.

‘Nah.’ With some reluctance, Carlyle shook his hand. ‘I’ve been working out of the Borough High Street station for almost a year now. It’s my first time in the Castle Vale, though.’ He looked up nervously, half expecting to see a piece of masonry being dropped on his head from the aerial walkway above.

‘You can relax.’ His colleague grinned. ‘The bad lads won’t be out of bed yet. They don’t come out before dark.’

That’s reassuring
, Carlyle thought grimly. Castle Vale had been built on a thirty-acre site south of Elephant and Castle in the 1960s. With almost 2,800 flats, housing 11,000 people, it was, at the time, the biggest housing estate in Europe. In 1972, when the first tenants moved in, it was described as the most ambitious housing scheme in London. Five years later, by the time the final units had been completed, the place was already crumbling. On a visit to the site, the Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer famously bemoaned how the design ‘actually encouraged people to commit crime’. A geographer from King’s College had listed fifteen ‘design disadvantages’ conducive to antisocial behaviour. Not needing the analysis, postmen, milkmen, taxi drivers and doctors routinely refused to enter the estate. Unable to accept that it should just be torn down, politicians began tinkering at the edges, looking for a quick fix in the manner of a blind squirrel hoping to find a sustaining nut. The government’s Urban Renewal Unit continued to throw money at the problem, installing security features such as video entry phones and better lighting. Despite all the window-dressing, the place still looked very much like its nickname – ‘Hell’s waiting room’.

Tearing his gaze from the pedway, Carlyle looked his newly discovered colleague up and down. Podgy and pasty-faced, he looked to be Carlyle’s age, or maybe a year or so older. He tried to recall seeing the officer previously, but his mind came up blank. ‘I haven’t clocked you before.’

‘I’ve not been around for a while – been on the sick.’

‘Ah.’ Carlyle knew better than to enquire any further. In his experience, police officers were often very fragile creatures; sickness was common and absenteeism rife.

‘I’m Dudley, by the way. Dudley Stockbridge.’

‘John Carlyle.’

‘Very nice to meet you, John,’ Stockbridge said amiably. ‘Shame it’s just you and me.’

Carlyle grunted his agreement. There was no way that the two of them should have been left deep in enemy territory on their own. However, he knew better than to hope for reinforcements. As usual, the Metropolitan Police was overspent and under-resourced; there was nothing anyone could do about that. Apart from anything else, the bitter News International dispute, across the river at Wapping, was soaking up hundreds of thousands of police man hours and blowing already fragile budgets to smithereens. Over recent months, Carlyle had spent his fair share of Saturday nights in the company of 6,000 angry newspaper workers as they tried to stop the procession of lorries leaving Rupert Murdoch’s grim bunker with the next morning’s newspapers. Having already experienced what had happened to the miners, Carlyle had no doubt as to the ultimate outcome. The march of new technology, backed by the iron fist of the state, would prove invincible. The days of hot metal and Fleet Street were gone, never to return. Now it was just a question of how long it would be until the print unions’ protest collapsed.

‘Where were you before Southwark?’ enquired Stockbridge.

‘I moved from Shepherd’s Bush,’ Carlyle mumbled, not really interested in making conversation with his fellow plod. ‘Just over a year ago.’

‘Any good?’

‘Yeah. Not bad.’ Despite what Dudley had said, Carlyle found his gaze drifting upwards as he kept a wary eye out for incoming missiles. In his relatively short police career, he had already felt what it was like to take a half-brick to the back of the head, and he had no desire to repeat the experience. Standing in a narrow courtyard, they were vulnerable to attack from all sides. Many of the Castle’s residents took a perverse pride in living on the most violent estate in London’s most violent borough. Always a tinderbox, the place had exploded two days earlier when an attempted arrest had gone badly wrong. A woman had been shot by officers looking for her two sons in connection with the robbery of a sub-post office. As news of the shooting spread, residents armed with rubble, bin lids, hammers and knives had fought with police for more than six hours. Fighting
had continued the following night, with rioters adding petrol bombs and baseball bats to their armoury. Shots had been fired from an unidentified weapon. A dozen cars had been torched and the local off-licence looted. A TV cameraman had been killed instantly when he was hit on the head with a breezeblock, less than twenty feet from where Carlyle now stood. Another forty-six people had been treated for a range of injuries and there had been more than two hundred arrests. The woman, Carole Lovelock, was in a critical but stable condition in Guy’s Hospital; according to the newspapers, she had been left paralysed from the waist down. The sons were still at large.

In the last twenty-four hours, a tense calm had descended on the Castle. For fear of sparking off more violence – and running up additional overtime costs – the police presence had been quickly wound down. Stockbridge and Carlyle had been placed outside number 32 Goscote Way, Mrs Lovelock’s maisonette, to keep looters at bay and also on the off chance that Gareth and Roger Lovelock might reappear.

The upsurge in civil unrest was not totally unconnected to the weather. After an interminable delay, summer had finally arrived in the city with a bang. Temperatures had jumped above thirty degrees, with the promise of more to come. Even in the shade, the atmosphere was stifling. Yawning, Carlyle watched a skinny dog wander through the courtyard. The mutt, some kind of mongrel, eyed the policemen blankly as it cocked its leg on a pile of rubbish, finishing its business before casually wandering off and disappearing into the shadows.

Pulling a white handkerchief from his pocket, Stockbridge huffed and puffed as he mopped his brow, looking every inch like a character from an Ealing
comedy. Placing the hanky back in his trousers, he jerked a tired thumb towards the door behind them. ‘How long do you think they’re gonna keep us standing around here?’

‘Dunno.’ Carlyle tried to raise some spit, but his mouth was too dry.

‘I mean,’ Stockbridge continued, ‘it’s not as if the Lovelock boys would be stupid enough to come back, is it?’

‘Dunno.’ Carlyle shrugged. As a cop, he had quickly come to realise that the sheer stupidity of your average criminal was never to be underestimated.

‘Not when they know that we’re after them.’

‘Stranger things have happened.’ Out of the corner of his eye, Carlyle saw a figure appear from his right. Head down, face hidden behind the brim of a Millwall baseball cap, the man slouched towards them, only looking up when he was barely fifteen feet from the front door of number 32.

Oh fuck . . .

Stockbridge tensed. ‘Which one is it?’ he asked, as the boy turned on his heel and began legging it back whence he had come.

How the fuck should I know?
Carlyle thought.
They’re supposed to be identical fucking twins.
‘Does it matter?’ he hissed, as he sprang forward. ‘Call it in.’ Leaving Stockbridge fumbling with his radio, he gave chase.

Arms pumping, he sprinted across the courtyard, ignoring the burning sensation that had blossomed almost immediately in his chest. The chatter from Stockbridge’s radio faded to nothing as he rounded a corner and found himself at the foot of a gentle ramp leading to the walkway above. Although never much of an athlete, an adrenalin-fuelled Carlyle was gratified to notice that he was moving faster than his quarry. It was clear that the youth was already struggling with the exertion of the chase.
That’s the problem with kids today
, he thought cheerily,
they just don’t do enough bloody exercise.
Calculating the narrowing gap to now be less than ten yards, he upped his pace. ‘C’mere, you bastard!’ he shouted, affecting his best Jack Regan impersonation. ‘You’re fucking nicked.’

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