Chapter 1

Victoria Lowry sat in Dr. Wallace's office, in the hospital wing of the maximum security prison. She felt cold, tired and drained and it wasn't completely due to the miserable winter weather. Victoria had been coming to this hospital wing for two years, and before that it had been the prison's F wing. This was all because of one man. Dennis Hilton was now dying. Victoria knew that even his death wouldn't remove his thorn from her side. Hilton was, without a doubt, the most twisted, evil monster that Victoria had ever met, heard or read about. Seven years ago, Hilton had been given two life sentences for the rape and murder of two eleven year old girls. At the time, Victoria had been one of the many officers on the task force that were handling the case. Despite her lack of rank, Hilton had decided in his own twisted mind to speak to Victoria, and only Victoria. The evidence had been overwhelmingly damning and Hilton offered no input at all, nor did they need it for a conviction. Victoria learned that complete closure depended on so many things, a conviction being only one of them. The discovery of the bodies of the little girls provided another part. It took Victoria eighteen months to provide another key piece for the families when she obtained two confessions of the crimes from Hilton. Her dealings with Hilton didn't end. Eight years ago, before Hilton's capture and conviction, ten year old Emily Jones had vanished in the area that was now known as Hilton's prowling ground. Emily was never found and there was nothing to connect Hilton to her disappearance. Nothing except every ounce of instinct and common sense possessed by every police officer in the district.

"DI Lowry. I'm so sorry to keep you waiting." Dr. Wallace entered his office and shook Victoria's hand. "Crisis on B wing."

"No worries. How long has he got?" Victoria asked.

"Days or weeks rather than months." Dr. Wallace told her and Victoria felt disgusted. Two life sentences and Hilton was going to escape. "He refused a sedative until he'd seen you. He's handcuffed and Officer Burk is is there with him. Not that he can move far. Weak as a kitten." Dr. Wallace lead the way down the familiar corridor and a prison guard unlocked a familiar door. Victoria could remember this man when he was twice the size he was now. Cancer had eaten away half of his body and almost all of his strength. He lay on a bed, cuffed to the safety side of it, and he was surrounded by tubes and monitors. His eyelids fluttered open as Victoria entered the room.

"DI Lowry." Hilton's voice was a cracking whisper. "I'm on shutdown."

"So I believe." Victoria sat on a chair by the barred window.

"Your hair's grown so long. You're thirty five now, aren't you?" Hilton tried to lift his hand to his face, but couldn't. "I'd like my brow dampened please."

"I'll tell the nurse on the way out." Victoria said flatly.

"I've always liked you Lowry. You're genuine, not like those other bastards you work with. Are you a natural blonde?" Hilton asked weakly. Victoria was too tired to tolerate Hilton's ramblings but she had no choice. This could be the last time she saw him. She looked at Hilton with his lifeless grey tufts of hair.

"Yes I am. You?"

"What are you telling the Jones family these days? I suppose there's not alot you want to say to a family that slated you to the Press. There again, I do admire your response to that. I'd have hated you forever if you'd spouted the 'lack of resources' shit."

"I told them the truth. The case will never be closed as long as I'm on the force." Her voice was automatically toneless, as it always was when speaking to Hilton. In fact, she wanted to spit at the man. The Jones' had lashed out in sheer frustation when the information seemed like it was drying up. Victoria had been right in the firing line. "This kick you get from maximising their pain will be a none issue soon. You won't be here to feel it."

"Oh low blow DI Lowry." Hilton's voice was laboured and weak. "Your dedication isn't just professional, is it? You care about people even though they don't care about you." Victoria kept quiet and didn't retaliate to that sting. "Emily Jones was one of mine." Hilton said quietly. Victoria looked at Officer Burk who nodded his affirmation that he'd heard that. "You'd better send in the underlings for a statement before they drug me up."

"Where is she?" Victoria leant closer to Hilton.

"I'm not dead yet." He closed his eyes, ending the conversation. Dragging it out to the last.

Victoria drove straight to the Jones family home to tell them about Dennis Hilton's confession. Mrs. Jones broke down completely and huge sobs ripped through her body. Mr. Jones clung onto his wife, tears of his own flowing down his face. He called Victoria back as she walked down the path towards her car.

"Thank you." Mr. Jones said in a trembling voice. "You know, all that stuff in the papers was never meant to be levelled at you personally. In fact, you were the only one that had time for us after a while. I'm deeply sorry about that."

"No need for apologies, Mr. Jones. God knows, you had alot of pain to deal with. Your wife will need you." Victoria smiled and walked to her car. The first piece of closure for the Jones' but still others were missing. Emily Jones was still missing. Victoria's phone postponed her decent into depression. DCI Bill Woods asked her how it had gone with the Jones' and Victoria told him it was as good as they could hope for under the circumstances.

"That's a relief." the DCI said and Victoria felt very irritated. To Woods, it was a relief that the Jones' had enough to keep them going for now, and not to have another go at the police. Victoria knew he hadn't even thought about the relief to the family. "Are you still in the area?"

"Yes sir. I was just about to set off back."

"Take a detour just to the town south of there. There's a bit of a situation at Franks' Construction. You know it?" Woods asked.

"I'll find it. What sort of situation? Don't they have coppers there?" Victoria asked irritably.

"The owner of the place, Jonathan Franks, called in Sergeant Stan Mitchell. There's a nut-job carrying on in his yard and refusing to leave. It's all got a bit farcical, Lowry, that's all. Franks and this nuisance are both demanding to see someone in charge. It's just got a bit out of hand for Mitchell."

"I'll go and take a look. Does this nut-job have a name?"

"Phillip Moore. Two Ls, Moore with an E. Mitchell says he's making alot of noise but he's not fighting. Just go and listen for a bit then send the buggers home." DCI Woods told her.

"On my way." Victoria hung up. "Yes I'll go, boss. I have no life and no plans." She muttered, then sighed when she realised that was true.

Jonathan Franks had shut himself in his office. Stan Mitchell and his constables were in a yard infront of the office and Phillip Moore was shouting and pleading for Franks to listen to him. Moore obviously wasn't just a random hooligan. He was dressed smartly, but casually, in jeans, a shirt and an expensive looking leather blazer. Victoria introduced herself and looked at Moore's eyes for signs of alcohol or drugs. She caught no odours of the latter. Victoria's first impression was that Phillip Moore was desperately agitated, even terrified. Jonathan Franks saw Victoria and came racing out of his office. Mitchell had to restrain him while he introduced her as a DI.

"Jonathan!" Moore screeched. "You know it's him! You have to do something, please!"

"DI Lowry, would you please remove this arsehole from my premises!" Franks snapped. "It's obviously too big a job for Mitchell and his idiots."

"OK stop the shouting!" Victoria shouted. "Anymore screaming and I'll run the lot of you in."

"It's that nutter you want to run in!" Franks pointed at Moore.

"Me? I'm the one being terrorised and I'm not the only one!" Moore sobbed. Definitely terrified.

"I said settle down." Victoria repeated. "What's the problem, Mr. Moore?"

"Ask him! Go on!" Moore yelled.

"I'm asking you. You asked to see someone in charge so get on with it. You said you were being terrorised. By Mr. Franks?"

"Look Jonathan, just promise me you'll sort this out and I'll be gone." Moore begged, completely ignoring Victoria.

"Get him off my property!" Franks snarled.

"I've had enough of this crap." Victoria said flatly. "Sergeant Mitchell, take Mr. Moore to the station where I can speak to him properly. You aren't under arrest, but it's clear that you and Mr. Franks are antagonising each other." Stan strode towards Moore who seemed to have worn himself out. He went calmly and quietly with Mitchell and two constables, much to Victoria's relief. Two more constables stayed with Victoria.

"I've had enough of him." Jonathan Franks said angrily. "Just make sure he stays out of my business. OK?"

"I could do that very effectively if I knew what the problem was." Victoria followed Jonathan into his office. He was quite an intimidating man in his mid forties. Victoria's height had ground to a halt at the five foot three mark and Jonathan towered over her at six feet minimum. He had cropped, greying hair that looked like steel, and hard grey eyes to match. He certainly looked like he could handle and trouble thown his way. "Mr. Franks, you asked to speak to someone in charge and here I am." Victoria said patiently.

"I suppose Moore will only blubber it all out anyway." Jonathan took his position behind his desk. "He's under the impression that my brother is stalking him and making death threats. He sees it as my job to stop this."

"Death threats? Has he any basis for thinking that?" Victoria asked.

"None. He's bloody mental. He began pestering me a few months ago and I've had enough, DI Lowry. My brother doesn't even live here anymore and hasn't done for years. If he was back, I'd know, and so would the whole town. It's a very small place." Jonathan stated.

"So why would Moore say that? I'm sure he didn't just pick a name from the phonebook." Victoria reasoned.

"I have no idea. He's nuts. Look, DI Lowry, I do know a scared man when I see one and Moore is scared. I'm not saying he isn't being harassed, I'm saying he isn't being harassed by Gavin and I'm absolutely certain of that. Go and sort him out, Inspector. Tell him to stay away from my property or I'll insist that charges are brought against him." Jonathan said.

"I'll go and speak to him at the station." Victoria made a note of the name 'Gavin' on her hand, in biro. "Good night, Mr. Franks."

Phillip Moore was pacing the floor in sheer agitation. Victoria was pleased to see that Stan had put him in an interview room, rather than a cell.

"What did he say?" Phillip asked immediately when Victoria entered the room.

"I'm here to see what you have to say." Victoria sat down.

"Plenty. I'm going to die." Phillip said heavily.

"Mr. Moore excuse me asking, it's routine, have you been drinking at all? It could have a bearing on any statements you make. Drugs?" Victoria raised her eyebrows at Phillip.

"No!" Phillip said desperately. "I know how insane I sound! I know I sound like a madman! Inspector, I'm being stalked, spied on and threatened and I'm terrified!" He sobbed. "Gavin Franks has told me he's enjoying the torture and that he will kill me!"

"He's told you this in person?"

"Phonecalls, emails, letters. He can see me in my own home, Inspector Lowry." Phillip blew his nose and tried to calm himself down.

"Jonathan Franks told me Gavin hasn't lived in the area for years." Victoria pointed out.

"He's getting to me somehow and I'm not the first. It is him!" Phillip said with conviction.

"I need to speak to Sergeant Mitchell." Victoria got to her feet. "I'm an outsider so I'm not familiar with the locals. Try and calm down. OK?"

"Yes. I'm sorry." Phillip said weakly and Victoria went outside. Stan Mitchell was in his fifties and had lived in the town for decades.

"Gavin Franks is long gone from here." He told Victoria. "Moore says he's not on drugs but I found a packet of Rizlas in his pocket with the card torn off so I wouldn't take that as gospel."

"So where's Gavin Franks now?" Victoria asked.

"No idea. He left in tragic circumstances, him and his mother. He was only a teenager and he was acquitted of a nasty murder. Fully acquitted, DI Lowry, without a shadow of a doubt. It's a wonder it got as far as a trial. The scandal still stuck though and they moved. Jonathan would have been seventeen or eighteen. Old enough to stay here and hold his own anyway. As you can imagine, he received quite a bit of hostility at first. It's a very close town." Stan told her.

"So do you think this is a revival of that resentment? Jonathan seems to be quite successful. A Scandal, even a false one, would hurt him." Victoria theorised.

"That's what it looks like to me. Businessmen draw attention and it's not always good attention."

"So that would mean Phillips accusations are purely for the purpose of harming Jonathan and his business." Victoria reasoned.

"Unfortunately, there are still a few who think Jonathan should have cleared off with his brother and mother. If he's been on the wacky then it wouldn't take much to set him off." Stan nodded towards the interview room.

"So you aren't overly concerned about these alleged threats?" Victoria tried to hide her relief.

"Purely because I know Gavin isn't here. Trust me, I'd know if he was. Moore needs to calm down so I can talk to him. I'm thinking that once the pot wears off, then so will the paranoia."

"You're in a better position than I am in all this." Victoria nodded. "I'll get this in a report and hand it to DCI Woods. I'm sure he'll contact you. I don't think we'll be meeting again on this one, Sergeant Mitchell." She smiled at Stan.

"No, I don't think it's CID stuff either." Stan smiled back. "I was surprised when you showed up."

"I was in the area and it needed attention before it got nasty. Hey they wanted in charge so they got it!." Victoria laughed. "Nice meeting you, Sergeant Mitchell. Good luck to you." She left the station and headed quickly towards a car. The phone reception was a bit weak so Victoria sent the DCI a text message, promising a full report in the morning.

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©Alex Harvey 2011