KILLER PLAN

FEATURING DI GERALDINE STEEL

The Seventh DI Geraldine Steel Mystery

Caroline's husband is killed, but she can’t turn to the police without implicating herself in his murder. When one of her 10-year-old twins is kidnapped, the desperate mother is forced to resort to drastic measures to get him back. As time runs out, Geraldine realises she has a secret that might just help solve the case, but the truth could destroy her career. Faced with the unenviable decision of protecting herself or the widow she barely knows, Geraldine must grapple with her conscience and do the right thing before the death count mounts any further.

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Read an opening Extract from Killer Plan

1

The bench jolted as someone sat down. From the wheezing, she judged it to be an old man. Annoyed that someone was sharing her seat, she stared stonily ahead.

‘Caroline?’

Beneath her puffa jacket she felt her body tense.

‘It is Caroline, isn’t it? Caroline Henderson?’

She hadn’t been called that for years. It was Caroline Robinson now, worse luck. She turned to the stranger and glared at him. She had noticed him in the park before. Once or twice she had suspected he might be watching her, but they had never spoken. Until now. At close quarters he wasn’t as old as she had imagined, probably not much older than her, with a scraggy face and thinning ginger hair. She nearly stood up but she sat on this bench every day. It had the best view of the grassy area where the boys liked to kick a football around. They called it their pitch. Besides, she was curious.

‘How do you know my name?’

‘You remember me, Brian from Cartpool Juniors.’

She trawled through her memories. There had been a Brian in her class in junior school, but she could barely remember him. She certainly didn’t recognise the innocuous-looking man sitting beside her on the park bench.

Pale eyes peered at her from a pock-marked face. Despite his stooping shoulders, he gave an impression of latent physical power. He wasn’t bad-looking, in a way, although there was something off-putting about the coarse yellowy hair sprouting from the backs of his large hands. It even grew on his stubby fingers. He was wearing a grey raincoat and grey trainers. There was nothing remarkable about him. No wonder she couldn’t remember him.

‘Brian, of course!’ Beneath her falsely effusive greeting, she was wary. They might have been at junior school together, but that was twenty-five years ago. ‘How are you?’

He shrugged. ‘You know.’ His eyes slid away from hers.

The breeze picked up and she thrust her fists into her jacket pockets with a shiver. It was chilly for May, more like late autumn than spring.

An awkward pause followed the brief disturbance of mutual recognition.

‘Are you married?’ He was looking at her again.

‘Yes,’ she replied firmly, not meeting his eye.

‘You don’t sound very happy about it.’

He was fishing. All the same, she hesitated before replying. ‘We’re fine.’

‘I was married,’ he said, although she hadn’t asked.

‘How long have you been divorced?’

‘We weren’t divorced. She’s dead.’

‘I’m sorry.’

He looked away. ‘Suicide.’

Caroline felt a tremor of guilt at having jumped to conclusions, and pity for the softly spoken man seated beside her. He had been through a terrible experience. Besides, he knew she was married. There was no harm in expressing sympathy. ‘Oh my God, I’m so sorry. Do you want to talk about it?’

‘There’s not a lot to tell, really. She killed herself after I found out she’d been cheating on me. She was having an affair.’ He shuddered. ‘It was horrible at the time…’

It wasn’t clear if he was referring to his wife’s infidelity or her death.

‘I can imagine.’ It was a stupid remark. Of course she couldn’t imagine what he must have gone through. ‘I’m so sorry,’ she repeated. She didn’t know what else to say.

‘We were fine until she met someone else.’

Studying his profile, she saw his lips press together, contorting his face. Afraid he might break down, she was relieved when he spoke calmly.

‘It had to end. It couldn’t go on.’

Wanting to comfort him, she couldn’t think of the right words. Only his disgusting hairiness restrained her from reaching out and putting her hand on his.

‘I know how you feel,’ she said quietly.

‘Really?’

She turned away, unnerved by the intensity of his gaze. The bench beside her creaked as he shifted position.

‘How could you possibly understand?’

A few yards away on the grass the boys were playing football. With nothing else to distract her, she had a sudden urge to confess her unhappiness. Brian had told her about his wife’s suicide. That must have been a painful confidence to share, inviting her to divulge secrets of her own. It would be heartless to hold back. What did it matter anyway? Barely a vague recollection from the past he was, effectively, a stranger.

‘My husband’s unfaithful,’ she blurted out. All at once she thought she was going to cry. She had never spoken the words out loud to anyone but her husband who doggedly denied her accusations, claiming she didn’t understand his relationships with other women. She had believed him at first when he used to say he was working late, but it had been impossible to ignore the evidence. He was permanently besotted with one young girl or another. No amount of pleading on her part made any difference.

‘Bastard!’ Brian said.

She warmed to his anger. There was no reason for him to care about her distress. He didn’t know her, not any more. The fact that they had once sat in the same class room was irrelevant. The past had been overshadowed by a more immediate bond: betrayal.

Ed ran towards them, waving and calling out something she couldn’t hear. As soon as she waved back he ran off again.

‘Yours?’ he asked.

‘Yes. They’re football mad.’ She chuckled. ‘Have you got kids?’

‘No. I’d have liked a family but somehow it never happened. We never did get to the bottom of it, and then…’ He paused.

They watched the twins in silence for a few moments.

‘Your boys look as if they’re enjoying themselves.’

She followed his puzzled gaze.

‘They’re identical.’

‘Of course. Thought I was seeing double there for a minute.’ He smiled. ‘Must be hard work. How old are they?’

‘Ten.’

‘How could your husband even think of cheating, when you’ve got kids their age?’ He turned to her. ‘Tell you what, why don’t you let me help you? If I can, that is.’

Instantly on her guard, she asked what kind of help he had in mind.

‘I was just thinking,’ he paused, ‘it might be a good thing if we could wake your husband up with a dose of jealousy. What I mean is, he’s busy playing away from home, right?’

She nodded cautiously.

‘And all the time he knows you’re sitting at home. You’re always there whenever he wants to come back to you. I expect you even cook him dinner.’

She was tempted to tell him it was none of his business what went on between her and her husband, but she kept quiet, intrigued.

‘What he needs is a bit of a scare, something to make him think he might lose you if he’s not careful.’

‘Lose me?’ Her gaze wandered back to the boys, kicking their football around. ‘I could never leave him. Not before they’re grown up anyway.’

‘Good lord, no! I’m not suggesting you leave him. But there are other ways.’

‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’

He must have realised that she was irritated, because he spoke quickly.

‘What I’m suggesting is that I could maybe go to your house and make him think I’m interested in you. I can turn up on the doorstep and pretend I’m looking for you, didn’t expect him to be there, that kind of thing. Put the wind up him a bit. Let him wonder who the hell I am and what I want with you. People who are playing away from home always suspect everyone else is doing the same. It’s the way their minds work. That’s all I’m suggesting. Make him sit up and notice you.’

She smiled at him. ‘That’s sweet of you, but he’d never believe it. If you told him you fancied me he’d just laugh. He knows I’d never leave him. Not while the boys are around.’

She didn’t add that she was afraid Dave simply wouldn’t care if she found someone else. He might jump at a chance to get rid of her so he could pursue every little tart that took his fancy, without fear of recrimination.

‘Tell you what,’ Brian went on, warming to his idea. ‘Let’s take a selfie together, and I’ll make sure he sees it. “This is the woman I’m looking for – do you know where she lives? I seem to have come to the wrong house.” That kind of thing.’ He grinned. ‘What’s he going to think when he sees a picture of me with my arm round you? He won’t carry on taking you for granted, that’s for sure. You can brush it off by explaining I’m just an old friend, we met in the park – all true. But he’ll always have that doubt in his mind to keep him on his toes.’

She couldn’t help laughing at his childish enthusiasm. He had lost his hangdog air and looked quite attractive. He was a man, anyway. It could work.

‘Oh, go on then.’

He put one arm round her shoulders, extended his other arm and took a few pictures.

‘You choose.’

Wriggling out of his embrace, she scrolled through the images. They weren’t bad. She picked out one where they were both smiling, and wrote down her address on the back of an old receipt he had in his pocket.

‘Add a message,’ he urged her.

‘What sort of message?’

‘Nothing too incriminating. How about: “See you soon”, something along those lines, and sign it with a kiss.’

He watched her writing, then tucked the slip of paper away in his pocket.

‘When will he be at home by himself? I’d better do it when you’re not there.’

‘You could come round tomorrow afternoon. I take the boys to football practice at two, and we’re gone all afternoon. They’re football crazy. We don’t get home until five at the earliest.’

He nodded briskly and stood up with the air of a man who had concluded a satisfactory business transaction. She felt as though she had hired a hit man. In reality all she had done was arrange for an old school friend to go and have a talk to her husband. The innocent subterfuge gave her a guilty thrill. For so long she had been the victim with Dave. That was about to change. She started to thank Brian, but he was on his way to the exit and she would have had to shout. Watching his figure striding through the gate, she smiled, imagining Dave’s surprise when another man came to the house looking for her.

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CRITICAL ACCLAIM for Killer Plan

'Her previous six novels featuring DI Geraldine Steel marked her out as a rare talent, and this seventh underlines it.'
- Geoffrey Wansell, Daily Mail [read the full review]

'I will be looking out for more from this author'
- Fiona Atley, Nudge [read the full review]

'the story and writing is back with a vengeance'
- Kat, Best Crime Books & More [read the full review]

'a fast-paced Police Procedural and a compelling read'
- Carol Westron, Mystery People [read the full review]

'a fast-paced Police Procedural and a compelling read'
- Lizzie Hayes, Promoting Crime Fiction [read the full review]

'The plot was excellent with plenty of twists and red herrings'
- Fiona Atley, newbooks [read the full review]

'Fans of the series will enjoy reacquainting themselves with Leigh Russell’s work'
- Deathbecomesher, Crime Fiction Lover [read the full review]

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