Cover of But You Can't Hide But You Can't Hide

Chapter 1

Dan Murphy watched Bill Taylor stagger across the road, and walked on a few steps before also crossing. However much Taylor had drunk that night, it had been enough to sufficiently lower his defences. He hadn't looked back over his shoulder once. But then, maybe he didn't realise he had a reason to worry. These people always knew they were in trouble, but didn't always know how serious the threat could be. In Taylor's case, the threat was deadly, and that was why Murphy was there.

He didn't know why Taylor deserved to die, he'd never asked and, if he had, he was certain he wouldn't have been told. Frankly, he didn't care. Someone wanted someone else threatened, injured or dead, and they called Alan Brice. Brice called him. That was how it worked.

Murphy followed Taylor onto a quiet residential street, just like any other, pulled out his baseball bat from under his cheap market-bought jacket and quickened his pace. Looking at the quiet houses around them, he knew there would be no better moment.

As Taylor approached a darkened alleyway, Murphy shoved him away from the street and took his first swing at the back of Taylor's head. The complete movement from his shoulder, through to his elbow and wrist felt good.

Taylor was down. His hand clasped the back of his head and a low moaning sound came from his mouth. Murphy hit him a second time. With each swing of the bat, cold professionalism got swept away and a welcome return of the thrill settled in.

Careful to avoid the loud sound of wood splintering against the pavement, Murphy pummelled Taylor again and again, adrenaline and excitement surging through his body and escalating with each accurate hit.

Taylor lay still, probably already dead, but Murphy didn't stop. He couldn't. The bat hit the body each time with a dull thud. He loved that sound. It couldn't be replicated in any other way. Nor could the feeling. A manic rush coursed through his veins. For the first time in months, he felt really good. It was like some kind of release. It was great.

By the time he stopped, he was sweating and breathing hard. His heart was racing and he could feel himself shaking. This had been his first kill in a year. It gave him a high like no other. He wanted to laugh loudly to release the build up of emotion inside him, but he had to keep quiet. Suppressing that urge was not satisfying.

Keeping his head down, he turned and left. If anyone had seen the attack, Murphy wasn't going to give them a view of his face.

Three streets away, he was back at the multi-storey car park where his car was hidden at the back, away from the streetlights, on one of the top floors. The place was deserted.

In case they had any blood on them, he stripped off his clothes, stuffed them into a large bin liner in the boot, and tossed in the bat as well. Then he dressed. The clothes he'd thrown onto the back seat earlier that evening were cold from being left in the car. His heart had slowed, his sweat had evaporated, and he was feeling the chill of November weather, but he couldn't risk getting any of Taylor's blood on the inside of his car.

Once behind the wheel, he turned the ignition and took a few deep breaths to calm himself. The air he sucked into his lungs was cold and fresh. His tension eased and his muscles relaxed for the first time in months. It had been a long time since he'd found such a release. He turned the heating on and slowly, with deliberate calm, pulled away from his parking spot.

He broke into a local hospital furnace and dumped the plastic bag, staying only long enough to watch the fire catch and begin to burn his clothes and the bat. Murphy got back in his car and lit a cigarette. His hands were shaking slightly, but he ignored them. He'd done well.

Another half an hour passed before Murphy returned to Brice's house and leapt up the creaky wooden stairs two at a time. The house was in a state of disrepair with cheap linoleum flooring, non-matching furniture, a heating system that never seemed to work, and a distinct gurgling sound which Murphy heard whenever a tap was turned on anywhere in the building. Brice's office was different. The carpets were plush, the matching filing cabinets worked without being kicked, and Brice kept a little electric heater on his side of the desk.

The house's best features were that it was in the middle of nowhere and had a soundproofed cellar. It suited Brice's business needs perfectly.

Murphy knocked on the office door before letting himself in. The satisfaction of a job well done combined with the high from earlier had left him in a very good mood and it was now time to pick up his pay.

Brice was sitting behind his desk. Steve Aspinall stood next to him, self-importance and arrogance oozing from every pore of his body, but not even Aspinall's presence could spoil Murphy's mood tonight.

"Is it done?" Brice asked.

Murphy nodded.

"Give me the money," Brice said.

It took a split second for Murphy to remember that his instructions had included taking any money Taylor had been carrying and dumping the wallet next to the body. It was meant to look like a mugging.

"You forgot the wallet, didn't you?" Brice muttered.

Murphy had been caught up in the moment.

Aspinall, the cocky bastard, actually grinned as Brice rested his head in his hands.

"You fucking idiot. I gave you one simple job to do, Danny."

Murphy scowled. He preferred to be called Murphy or Dan. He was in his late twenties, only about fifteen years younger than Brice, but being called Danny always made him feel like he was twelve. When they'd worked together, Stanton had called him that. It was designed to be a put down, a way of making him feel small. It irritated the hell out of him and Brice knew it.

"Look, the man's dead," Murphy defended, his high gone with that one short exchange. "So, it'll look like a racial attack instead of a mugging, what does it matter?"

"It will look like a racial attack? Did someone see you?"

Murphy's jaw clenched, anger tensing every muscle in his body. "No, no one saw me," he said quietly, firmly. "I'll go back and see if I can lift the wallet now." It had been over an hour since he'd left Taylor lying in that alley. There was an excellent chance the body had been discovered already and returning would be risky, but it was a chance Murphy had to take.

"Where's the body?"

"Temple Street, in the alley about half way up."

"Aspinall, you go."

"No, this was my job." Murphy stood to block Aspinall's path and stopped the bastard with a hand on his chest. Aspinall removed it swiftly and pushed him away. Murphy stepped closer, his fists clenched and ready to take a swing.

"Touch me again and I'll fucking deck you," Murphy warned.

"Try it, Danny," Aspinall laughed him off. "I could kill you with my thumb."

"Aspinall, go!" Brice ordered, effectively ending the confrontation.

As Aspinall left the room, Murphy felt cheated out of the opportunity to carry out his threat. He knew Aspinall would never back down from a challenge like that, but so did Brice. They had yet to see which of them would win should they ever actually fight. Aspinall was just over five years his junior, but similar in size and build, and with less experience. He was keen though and brutal enough to do this job with a smile on his face. Still, Murphy was confident he could take him.

"What about my money?"

"We'll see what Aspinall says when he gets back."

Murphy scowled and turned to leave. He didn't want to have to split his money with Aspinall but he wasn't in a strong enough position to be disrespectful to Brice tonight.

"I've got something else for you, Danny." Brice tossed an orange piece of paper across the desk. It fell on the floor and Murphy had to bend down to pick it up. He interpreted it as another slight, intentional or not.

The paper was a missing persons flier from a private detective called Stuart Finlay. Murphy instantly recognised the girl in the photo and felt the hairs prickle up on the back of his neck. He'd thought she was dead. He looked up at Brice. This was going to be Murphy's opportunity to redeem himself for the mistake he'd made a year ago and hadn't yet been forgiven for. He was being given another chance, but didn't want to take it. Brice could never know that though.

"Go to Swindon and pick up Finlay," Brice said without looking up. He made it sound like an insignificant errand, but they both knew how important this could be. "I want to know who hired him and whether or not he's found the girl."

"She's dead. She's got to be." She couldn't have survived.

He shouldn't have any personal stake in this, but he did. He'd even looked for her on his own time after the fire. In the end, he'd convinced himself she had to be dead. Someone clearly thought otherwise though, and they were looking for her. Other than Brice, who would want to find her and why? What did they want from her? Unless they knew what Murphy knew, it didn't make sense. And there was no way anyone knew what Murphy knew.

"If you screw this one up, Danny, it'll be the last job you do for me, ever," Brice warned, ignoring Murphy's words. Murphy knew how important this was to Brice, but he also knew he could never allow Brice to speak to the girl.

"It might take a while."

"Don't even think about coming back without him. I don't care if he's gone on holiday for a month. Sit outside his house and wait. We'll manage without you, I'm sure," Brice said with a sneer.

Murphy clenched his jaw. He'd seen that orange piece of paper face down on Brice's desk for a few days now. Killing Taylor hadn't been a chance to get back in Brice's favour as he'd thought. It had been a test. Aspinall may have wormed his way into Brice's trust over the past six months, but he wouldn't be able to take someone off the street without being noticed the way Murphy could. Brice needed him. He knew what this was about, knew the history, and knew the girl. He would also know the right questions to ask. His position suddenly seemed a lot stronger.

"Once I get him here, I want to talk to him alone," he demanded.

Brice looked up, apparently curious that Murphy should be making any demands at all.

"And the girl, if he's found her," Murphy added. That was the important part. If Brice ever found out what she knew, he'd have Murphy killed. "This is my job and I get to see it through to the end. Alone."

"Well, I suppose that's up to you, Danny. Get it done and you'll get the money. Screw it up and Aspinall will have to help you out."

That meant he'd need to get answers from Finlay quickly. Interrogations would need to be brutal and swift. The same went for the girl.

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© Jacqueline Chandler 2012
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