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Night Angels

Язык: Английский
Год издания: 2018 год
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      Night Angels
Danuta Reah

Disturbing, atmospheric suspense novel from the author of Only Darkness: ‘Dark, edgy and compelling, this is a first novel from a writer to watch’ TheTimesSnake Pass, the Peak District: The car of Gemma Wishart, a young researcher in Russian languages, is discovered, abandoned, by a walker; the driver has vanished without trace. Over in Hull, the body of a woman is discovered battered to death in a hotel bathroom; the only clue to her identity is a card bearing the name of an escort agency notorious for its suspected trafficking in Eastern European prostitutes.For Detective Inspector Lynne Jordan, the missing academic and the murder victim have a tenuous connection. Jordan is in charge of a police operation to stamp out the illegal trade in human flesh and Wishart was helping her with transcripts of an interview with one such woman, who has subsequently turned up dead in the Humber Estuary. But it’s possible there is another, even darker, force at work, and when two more bodies turn up, Lynne is forced to conclude there may be a serial killer on the loose.

Night Angels

Danuta Reah

for Alex

Table of Contents

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About the Author (#litres_trial_promo)

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1 (#ulink_b2ef5bf1-3bb9-51f4-bce3-06fe23bf2892)

It had been a game at first. The dark BMW had pulled out of the car park behind her and followed her along the main road back into the centre of Manchester. ‘Bloated plutocrat,’ she’d muttered, using the epithet she’d heard Luke use when he saw someone in possession of some consumer item that he, in truth, coveted. The BMW had followed her back on to the motorway, and the driver hadn’t, to her surprise, used the capacity of his car to vanish once the three lanes opened up in front of him. Or at least, she kept seeing its dark sleekness, sometimes in front, sometimes behind, but never far away. She began to look in her mirror more closely, trying to see the driver to see if it was the same car each time. The windows were tinted – pretentious git. Another Lukeism. She got the impression of fair hair – blond? white? She couldn’t tell.

The light was starting to fade as she left Manchester, and by the time she got to Glossop, along the straight road, past the high stone walls, past the shops, it was dark. She slowed down as she came to the square. The street had been busy when she’d driven through that morning, the pavements full of people ducking in and out of the shops, jaywalking with that infuriating insouciance that seemed to imply it was her responsibility to get out of their way, heads turned away from her as though, having seen her, she was no longer their concern, eyes watching out for the cars and lorries coming in the other direction.

She had hated the morning drive. The worst had been the congested city centre, where she had got lost travelling too fast to read the signs, missing her lane, harassed and flustered by the horns of drivers who knew where they were going and were determined to cut the newcomer ruthlessly out of the pack.

Then, the journey back had been something to look forward to. The meeting would be over, and she would be on her way home. The roads would be quiet, and after the hassle of the city driving, she’d have the quiet of the countryside, the drive across Snake Pass and the bleak height of Coldharbour Moor, the winding road down between Kinder Scout and Bleaklow, past Doctor’s Gate and then to the gentler wooded slopes past Lady-bower, across the emptiness of the moors that always seemed to prolong the journey more than she expected, then the outskirts of Sheffield and she could relax.

The drive back through Manchester had been quieter, the motorway busy, but no longer crowded with impatient cars that hung on her bumper and threatened in her mirror. The long urban sprawl past Ashton and Stalybridge was almost peaceful, almost monotonous. Except…

She thought she’d left the BMW when she’d come off the motorway and followed the A57 signs towards Glossop. She was starting to relax, to realize that the day was over, it had gone well, she had done well, everyone would be pleased, when it was there again, a couple of cars in front. The light had gone now, and the streetlamps were lit. It was hard to make out the details, but it looked like the same car.

What was she worrying about? That someone else was following the route that she was? Loads of people must be. It was just that this was a distinctive car. And it’s kept pace with you all the way from Manchester. It may not even be the same car. How many dark-coloured BMWs were there on the roads? And how many did you see this morning?

She was at the turn now, where the road signs to Sheffield directed you towards the Woodhead Pass. She ignored the sign and turned right towards Glossop and the A57, towards the lonely, narrow road so aptly named the Snake, the road that crossed the Pennines from the south-west of Sheffield. After Glossop, she would be travelling through countryside until she reached the city. She seemed to have lost the BMW at last.

Now, as she slowed approaching the square, she would have been glad of some signs of life. It was drizzling, the water obscuring her windscreen. She turned on the wipers that scraped and clunked. She needed to replace the blades. The closed shops were dark and unwelcoming. A takeaway shone yellow light on to the pavement, but it looked deserted. There must be people in the pubs, but the rain was keeping them off the streets. The empty pavements reminded her of long winter nights to come, the gleam of the wet flagstones made her shiver.

She peered through the darkness, looking for a phone box. She’d half promised to go round to Luke’s when she got back. She needed to contact him, let him know she was running late and probably wouldn’t make it. Now the tension of city driving didn’t seem so bad. It was the dark night on the tops, the lonely drive through that bleak landscape and then the long, winding road back towards Sheffield that disturbed her. Suddenly, she hated the prospect of driving across the hills on a winter’s night, though these days, the winters were rarely cold enough to close the high roads. She could remember drives from her childhood, crossing the Pennines with her father, driving between high banks of snow, trusting the route the plough had pushed through the drifts.

There. She knew there were phone boxes in the square. She pulled up on to the cobbles, and hurried across, cursing as her foot slipped into a puddle and her shoe filled up with icy water. Limping, feeling her toes start to chafe, she pulled open the door of the booth and fished around in her purse for some change. As she listened to the ringing phone, she checked her watch. Seven-thirty, at least another hour before she would be home, then a large gin, no, a whisky mac, a vice Luke had introduced her to at Christmas, then into a hot, foamy bath, and then bed. She could almost taste the slight burn of ginger on her lips.

The phone was still ringing, then she heard the click, and Luke’s voice: ‘Leave a message and I might get back to you.’ The answering machine. She felt a stab of – what? – anger? with him for not being there when she needed to talk to him. That’s not fair! She heard the beep, and said quickly, ‘Hello, I’m in Glossop. It’s about half past. I got held up so I’m going straight home. I’ll be there in about an hour.’ She waited to see if he would pick the receiver up – sometimes he waited to see who was calling – but there was no reply. ‘See you tomorrow,’ she said, her voice sounding small and rather bleak.

She hadn’t really needed to talk to him, she told herself as she ran back to the car. The thing was to leave the message. Except she’d relied on talking to him, just to have that couple of minutes’ communication before she began the climb on to the dark tops to face that lonely journey across Snake Pass. She put the key in the ignition, then stopped. A cigarette. She’d have a cigarette. She was still stressed after a hard day. It would make sense to take five minutes to relax before the next stage of her drive. In fact – she looked round quickly, but the road was still empty – in fact she could do better than that. She fished around in her bag for the little pouch, for the small roll-up Luke had given her the previous evening. Had she brought it? Yes!

She sat quietly, breathing in the smoke, holding it in her lungs and slowly releasing it. She felt herself relax and her dread of the lonely drive receded. Her head began to feel pleasantly giddy, and the light from the streetlamps shattered and danced in the falling rain. Enough. She had a drive ahead of her. She adjusted her seat and fastened the belt. She fiddled with the mirror before she realized that she was just postponing the inevitable. Her anxiety had turned to somnolence, and she would happily have stayed where she was, enjoying the cocooned silence of the car. The sooner she started, the better.

She turned the key in the ignition, and put the car into gear. She glanced in the mirror, let the clutch in and moved off. A car pulled out behind her and followed her along the road. She wasn’t the only person heading over the Snake that night. Car lights behind her would be some comfort, make her feel less as though the world had ended and she was the last survivor of some catastrophe. But as they travelled along the last straight before the road began its climb, the car behind pulled out and overtook her smoothly and effortlessly. Bloated plutocrat. She watched with detachment as the tail-lights disappeared, the afterlight dancing in the darkness ahead. She was more stoned than she’d realized. She’d better be careful.

She shivered and turned up the heater. The air roared and blew, bringing the smell of the engine into the car. Her feet were hot, but the rest of her was chilled by the cold air that seeped in through the loose-fitting windows and the rattling door.

She was climbing up the hill outside Glossop now. The road curved to the right past a house that glowed a warm light on to the road, then turned left, rock on one side, a drop on the other. The climb was long and steep, and she changed down to third, then second. The engine roared. There were white wisps in the air in front of her, and suddenly she was into a bank of fog, her lights reflecting in a white glare. She slowed down, peering ahead, wiping the windscreen futilely, trying to see. Then it was clear again, the lights shining on to the wet road, illuminating the rocks, the moorland grass, a sheep tucked into a lee of stone. She was nearly at the top, and the road flattened out. There was just wilderness round her now, flat peat and grassy tussocks and bog. Her headlights reflected on water, sullen pools in the dark ground. Soon, the road would start dropping down, past Doctor’s Gate, between Bleaklow and Kinder Scout, down between the thick trees, and on through the empty night.

She was in a half-daze as the road disappeared under the wheels. Home soon, home soon. It was a soothing mantra in her head. She thought about Luke and wondered if she should phone him when she got back. It had been good these past few months. She was going to miss him…Lights were dancing and drifting in the darkness and she watched them with incurious interest. The car swerved, and she jerked back to concentration. The smoke had been a bad idea. Grimly, she wound down the window, flinching as the rain spattered on her face and arm. Lights ahead? She remembered the car that had passed her as she drove out of Glossop. Bloated plutocrat…She tried to get a picture of it in her mind. Dark, it had been dark…

Without warning, her engine cut out. What the…? She pumped the accelerator. Nothing. She looked at the petrol gauge. Still half full. She’d topped it up that morning. The car rolled forward, slowing. She pulled into the side of the road as the car rolled to a halt. How…? Her headlights shone on to falling rain and blackness. She was cold. Her fingers were clumsy as she fumbled for the key in the ignition. The starting motor whined, but the engine was dead. She tried again, and saw the headlights begin to fade. Quickly, she turned them off. The battery was old. She should have turned them off at once.

She sat there, staring into the darkness, hearing the rain hitting the roof and doors. The wind had a thin, whistling sound. Then she saw the lights ahead. Suddenly, out of the darkness, two lights coming towards her. Like a car, only…Reversing lights, a car was reversing towards her, fast. A big car, a dark car? She turned the key in the ignition again, and again as the whine of the starting motor faded to nothing.

The engine was dead.

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Sheffield, Friday, 7.30 a.m.
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