Authors: Barry Maitland
Tags: #ebook, #book
Praise for Barry Maitland’s Brock and Kolla series
‘There is no doubt about it, if you are a serious lover of crime fiction, ensure Maitland’s Brock and Kolla series takes pride of place in your collection.’
‘Barry Maitland is one of Australia’s finest crime writers.’
The Sunday Tasmanian
‘Comparable to the psychological crime novelists, such as Ruth Rendell . . . tight plots, great dialogue, very atmospheric.’ —
Sydney Morning Herald
‘Maitland is a consummate plotter, steadily complicating an already complex narrative while artfully managing the relationships of his characters.’ —
‘Perfect for a night at home severing red herrings from clues, sorting outright lies from half-truths and separating suspicious felons from felonious suspects.’ —
‘A leading practitioner of the detective writers’ craft.’
‘Maitland does a masterly job keeping so many balls in the air while sustaining an atmosphere of genuine intrigue, suspense and, ultimately, dread. He is right up there with Ruth Rendell.’ —
Australian Book Review
‘Forget the stamps, start collecting Maitlands now.’
Also by Barry Maitland
The Marx Sisters
All My Enemies
The Verge Practice
the chalon heads
The characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
This edition published in 2007
First published in Australia in 1999
Copyright © Barry Maitland 1999
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher. The
Australian Copyright Act 1968
(the Act) allows a maximum of one chapter or 10 per cent of this book, whichever is the greater, to be photocopied by any educational institution for its educational purposes provided that the educational institution (or body that administers it) has given a remuneration notice to Copyright Agency Limited (CAL) under the Act.
National Library of Australia
The Chalon Heads.
1. Brock, David (Fictitious character) – Fiction. 2. Kolla, Kathy (Fictitious character) – Fiction. 3. Police corruption – Fiction. 4. Police – England – Fiction. 5. Stamp collectors – Fiction. 6. Missing persons – Fiction. 7. Policewomen – Fiction. I. Title.
Typeset by Midland Typesetters, Australia
Printed in Australia by McPherson’s Printing Group
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
I’m grateful to many people for inspiration and help in writing this book, including Detective Chief Superintendent Brian Ridley, Fred Broughton, Tony Judge, Scott and Anna Farrow, Mike and Lily Cloughley, Mic Cheetham, Neil Rees, John Boersig and, above all, Margaret Maitland.
The term was coined in 1864 by a Frenchman, Georges Herpin, who invented it from the Greek
, ‘love’, and
, ‘that which is tax-free’.
Britannica Online, 1997
C Martin was released from her prison on the dawn of the fifth day. She stepped through the wicket gate in the steel roller door, emptied her lungs of the stale, dead reek of the desolate building, and filled them again with crisp morning air laced with the tang of diesel fumes. Freedom. She stretched her legs, rolled her shoulders and took in the inconsequential sounds of the city stirring all around her. It had been her first real experience of solitary confinement, and she didn’t ever want to try it again. Her ears were ringing, her eyes bleary with sleeplessness, her limbs aching. She felt exhausted, grimy and disoriented.
And pissed off. For four days and nights she had squatted in a cupboard in the dark, alone, waiting for a rendezvous that had never happened. It had been a salutary lesson in the effects of sensory deprivation. Her only conversation had been infrequent whispered monosyllabic reports into a radio, her view a dim panorama of cardboard boxes seen through a spyhole. The Hitachi crate had sat prominently in the middle of them, untouched, unapproached. Towards the end, unable to sleep or stay truly awake, she had begun to fixate on that Hitachi sign as an old lag might fixate on a blade of grass or a crack in the wall.
There had been another detective with her inside the building, but they had never met once their positions had been allocated. She knew of his presence only from the toilet, for which from time to time she was grudgingly allowed to leave her hiding place. They had been forbidden to flush that toilet for fear of alerting an intruder, an absurd directive since the evidence of her colleague’s presence had become more and more palpable as the days had passed. By the third day the extent of his intestinal problem was becoming overpowering.
The thing had been prolonged far beyond any reasonable use of resources or expectation of a result, becoming in the end simply a monument to McLarren’s stubbornness. Mary Martin looked up and down the service lane to see if he might still be lingering, unable to accept defeat, but there was no one, the outside teams called off an hour before. Now that she was in the open air, in the daylight, she could feel ashamed of the resentment she had developed for the outside teams, able to talk freely to each other in their unmarked cars, rotating home to a warm bed and a hot meal. And a bath, and a clean toilet. She had been placed inside because McLarren had developed a particular attachment to the idea that Raphael might be a woman. Mary had had plenty of time to mull over McLarren’s attachment to bizarre ideas.
She looked back up at the windows of the second floor, where she had been incarcerated. The dawn sunlight, which was now raking across the rooftops, catching the chimneys and gables in a golden blaze, was visible through the third window from the end, glittering on the interior of the warehouse. Except that the sun was on the other side of the building, and there was no way it could penetrate through the interior to this side.
DC Martin frowned. Perhaps her unseen companion of the toilet had switched on a light on his way out. A buzz of anger went through her. Unreasonably, she told herself. The poor bloke must have been suffering for days, praying for release. And because the thought made her penitent she didn’t walk away, as she might have done, but braced herself and turned back towards the wicket gate. Soon she was inside the stairwell, and didn’t see the glow in the upper-floor window go off.
At the top of the dark stairs she eased open the door to the second floor and, in the grey light that was filtering through the warehouse, she was astonished to see that the Hitachi box had moved half a dozen yards to the left. The other boxes around it had been disturbed too. She froze, listening for any sound from the cavernous space. But when she finally picked it up it came not from in front of her but from behind, a soft scuffling. She wheeled round and saw a huge dim form bearing down on her across the dark landing. She backed rapidly into the warehouse and it followed her through the doors, materialising into a giant of a man.
They both stopped, examining each other. He was breathing heavily, long black hair tied behind in a pigtail, a thick black beard, tattoos on his bare forearms, a ferocious-looking crowbar dangling from one enormous fist. Behind him was a second man, pale and scrawny, peering round the giant’s bulging biceps, eyes widening at the sight of a woman wearing body armour and a police cap.
After a moment’s silence, Mary said calmly, ‘Police. Don’t move. You’re under arrest.’
The giant regarded her thoughtfully. The crowbar twitched in his mitt. ‘How much you weigh?’ he asked ponderously.
‘120 pounds,’ Mary replied, amazed at her own composure.
‘Well, I’m 290. What do they tell you to do, then, in your training, like, when a 120-pound plonk faces up to a 290-pound villain?’
‘Get help,’ Mary replied.
‘That makes sense.’
DC Martin reached a hand to her hip and brought up the Glock, pointing it at the centre of his huge chest. ‘Armed police,’ she said. ‘Did I say that before?’
‘No,’ he said sadly. ‘I don’t fink you mentioned that.’
She fumbled with her other hand for the radio, keeping the gun trained on the big man. The other seemed like his frail shadow, moving only when he moved.
‘Let me guess,’ she said, pointing the muzzle at the skinny anaemic one for a moment. ‘You’re Raphael, right? The artist?’ She returned her aim to the giant. ‘And you’re The Beast . . . Or is that too obvious? Could it be the other way around?’
The big man shook his head. ‘I’m Titch. And this is Marlon.’
‘Well,’ Mary said. ‘And I’ll bet you’ve got the loveliest birth certificates to prove it.’
She had the radio to her mouth when the first blow sent it flying from her hand. Before she could turn, the second hit her, and she crumpled to the floor, all lights extinguished now.
t began innocently enough, in the days before Kathy knew a cottonreel from a woodblock.
The long corridor of the Strand was booming with traffic, dust and petrol fumes hanging in the hot July afternoon air. Halfway along on the shady south side, not far from the setback entrance of the Savoy Hotel, Brock and Kathy found the shop-front surmounted by the name Cabot’s, in ornate raised gold letters on a black background. Beneath, two small boys had their noses pressed to the glass, mesmerised by a display of old postage stamps.
Inside, in air-conditioned calm, they were confronted by a pyramid of devices, which looked to Kathy as if they belonged in the forensic lab—magnifying glasses both simple and illuminated, watermark detectors, colour indicators, packets of mounts, tweezers, tiny guillotines, short and long wave and ultraviolet lamps for identifying phosphor inks and coatings.
‘Nothing stays simple, does it?’ Brock said, pointing at the shelves of reference books and albums filling one wall. ‘When I was a boy, the complete listing of all the stamps in the world was contained in one small fat volume. Now you need a library.’
He took a pair of half-lens glasses from his jacket pocket and leaned forward to examine a pocket microscope in the display, unconsciously imitating the posture of the small boys at the front window. He might have been their uncle, Kathy thought, or their schoolmaster, a big benign bear of a man in a slightly rumpled suit, grey beard and hair in need of a trim, as unlike the hard young men of Serious Crime as he could be, and therefore dangerous in a different way.
Kathy looked around at the other people in the room. A glass counter circled the space, stools in front, glass shelves and cabinets behind with concealed lighting. A number of customers, office workers in shirt-sleeves by the look of them, were browsing or crouching over the counter, some deep in conversation with studious looking sales assistants. They were all male, Kathy noticed, and indeed, despite the array of technology at the door, the place had something about it that made her think of an old-fashioned gentlemen’s club—an air of ordered calm, of discreetly murmured conversations, of clocks ticking but time standing still.
‘Is all this just about postage stamps?’ she whispered.
‘Mmm . . .’ Brock’s attention had shifted now to a cabinet of tiny paper fragments. ‘Fascinating, isn’t it? Another world. Did you ever collect stamps, Kathy?’
‘No. I seem to remember collecting things from cornflakes packets, but I can’t remember what they were.’
Brock’s raised eyebrow told her that that was entirely different, but for the life of her she couldn’t see why.