Detective Kendal is on the trail of a patient who has escaped the mental institution and wants to sever Kendal’s lifeline. The chase is complicated by the visitation of a ghost and the appearance of a supposed vigilante. Kendal doesn’t believe in ghosts, but finds himself having a conversation as he stares at one. His partner, Claire Ambroso has to fight for her life when Kendal is told to meet GP at the wharf when the moon is at the highest point in the night sky.
Confusion sets in at a local supermarket when a robbery goes wrong and someone in Kendal’s family is shot. The trap is set for the person who masterminded the escape. A final shoot out at the hospital reveals amazing results that astounds even Kendal.
Also by Mark Stewart on obooko:
DETECTIVE SERGEANT Alan James Kendal opened his eyes. He stared intently at the digital clock on his bedside table. What woke him? Could it have been the bright flashing green liquid-crystal digits on the alarm clock, or could it have been either of his daughters, Tegan or Tani, twelve and eight respectively, calling out? He focused on the last two digits on the clock. They were flashing methodically. Both were the number ‘3.’ Why weren’t the first two digits flashing? What did it mean? He pondered the two questions as he prepared to sit on the edge of the bed.
The voice sounded dead flat, monotonous. Kendal sat bolt upright, running his fingers through his jet-black hair. He reached for his shoulder holster and extracted the police issue, Smith and Wesson. When his index finger constricted on the trigger he glanced over his shoulder at his sleeping wife, Marg. For a few seconds, he watched her sleeping. Her breathing sounded deep and even.
Quieter than a cat stalking a bird, Kendal walked down the hall towards the stairs. For a heartbeat, he paused at both his daughter’s closed bedroom door. Satisfied they were safe and asleep he moved on. Snoring coming from behind the third door brought his silent walk to a halt. He felt grateful his mother-in-law didn’t hear the voice. He grinned at his memories of the previous week.
Patrick, the psychotic arsonist burnt her house to the stumps. The fire nearly ended his life and those of his family. He wasn’t totally happy to have the old woman living in his home, but his family members were more than delighted. The old woman’s constant grumbling and ice-cold stares were a complete turn-off. Fortunately, Patrick has been dethroned. The fire games he’d been playing were extinguished for good.
Kendal looked down the stairs. Raising his gun to eye level, he slowly descended. At the bottom step, he squatted to scour the ink coloured room. Filtered light from the crescent moon failed to break free from under the hem of the curtains. The newly broken street lamp fifty metres down the court failed to shed light on the origin of the voice. An intruder could easily walk around undetected in the dead of night. Surely Patrick hasn’t escaped the mental institution where he was awaiting his trial. Kendal felt positive in eight weeks he’d be found guilty and incarcerated for years.
The voice came from his study. Kendal marched across the floor and cautiously opened the door a tad to steal a glimpse from inside the room. A figure of a man stood at the window staring outside. His unwrinkled suit radiated a-grey-aura. Kendal aimed his gun at the intruder’s chest before announcing his presence by pushing the door fully open.
“Place your hands on your head and face me.”
The man’s head swiveled, then his torso. He squared himself to Kendal, pointing directly at him. He spoke in a ghostly whisper.
“I’m Detective Kendal. Who are you?”
“Who I am isn’t important.”
“What is it you want?”
“It’s imperative I clear the air. The kid who ransacked my home was a girl.”
“Can you explain further?”
“I don’t have much time. Remember, John, John.”
The pause between each of the two words sounded the same from the onset at 12:33am.
Kendal’s eyes glanced at the clock on the desk. ‘11:59 pm’ the clock and the one in his bedroom didn’t correspond. They were nearly half an hour out of synchronization.
The figure again faced the window. Pointing outside he disappeared.
The study window rattled. The house shook from a deep rumble. Everything in the room moved. Several books sitting in a bookcase fell onto the carpet. A door appeared next to the window and slowly opened. A grey mist poured into the room. Laughter could be heard coming from the park when the hall clock struck midnight.
On the twelfth strike of the pendulum, Kendal heard a gunshot. He dived for the floor, trying to look out on the fog-shrouded park. The trees resembled tall giants. Each wooden arm seemed to be reaching out for their next victim.
Kendal walked through the doorway where the wall should have been, entered the park and crept down the pea stone path. He took shelter behind a large Elm tree.
“I’m laughing at you,” called a voice from somewhere deep in the park.
A small garden seat came into view. Kendal spied the figure of a woman coiled in a fetal position under the two person seat. He sprinted over. Squatting, he felt for a pulse.
She was dead.
He draped his long black coat over the blood-stained corpse before looking up to survey the area through hazel eyes.
The fog concealed the perimeter of the park. His eyes followed the jogger’s path. Twenty feet along the path it came to an abrupt end where the fog swallowed it. The murderer was somewhere beyond his visual range. Small droplets of moisture covered his duffel coat. Trees in the park tormented his eyes as they twisted into ghostly shapes.
Laughter came through the fog. It sounded close. His blood chilled, sending a shiver up and back down his spine. The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end. Kendal jumped, but his finger remained riveted to the trigger of his gun. The snub nose Beretta digging into his ankle which saved his life more than once felt uncomfortable. He bumped it using his left shoe to place it in a more comfortable position.
Kendal stood half bent behind the garden seat. Making no noise he ran across the path towards a brick garden shed. He glanced back over his shoulder at the corpse. Her long blonde hair looked blood stained and knotted. He felt grieved her life had abruptly ended.
Holding his gun at arm’s length he completed a squat run to the nearest tree. He heard the crunch of pea stones and the distinct sound of a child’s swing as it squeaked when someone pushed the seat back and forth. He aimed his gun at the noise.
“Police, freeze sucker,” Kendal yelled.
The sound of footsteps running towards him dislodged leaves from a tree ten metres dead ahead. A cool breeze brushed his face. The murderous laugh intensified. Footsteps circled him.
Kendal’s gaze darted about looking for the person. One of several park lanterns dotted about the park for security flickered and brightened. Leaves fell from the tree he’d chosen to hide behind. Unseen footsteps crunched the path as they closed in on the posse. Kendal squatted, scanning the area waiting for another sign.
“I’m here,” yelled the murderer, to Kendal’s left. “I’m here,” the voice called again, but this time to his right. “I’m now standing over you,” hinted the voice.
Kendal felt a hand grip his shoulder.
“Excuse me, Sir, are you detective Kendal?”
“I was asleep young fella. I’m in the middle of a forty-eight hour rest period.”
“Sorry to wake you. There’s an urgent phone call from Police Headquarters.”
Kendal ran stubby fingers through his thick black hair, stretched then peeled his two-metre frame out of the deck chair. He stared at the tall rake handle built young constable wearing an un-wrinkled police uniform.
“Sir, the phone,” insisted the rookie cop.
“Sugar, give the young rookie a break. He’s already shaking in his boots, and that was before I made him wake you. He’s only following orders.”
Kendal moved his stare from the young cop to the voice. He studied the athletic frame of a smiling woman wearing black leather pants and a pink T-shirt. Her long black curly hair protruded from under her French cap.
“I’m only following orders,” echoed the inexperienced rookie cop, timidly, holding the phone at arm’s length.
Kendal grabbed the phone. Lifting it to his ear, he growled. “I’m on a break.”
“I don’t give a flying crap. Get your arse off the seat you’re in and get it to Image Street Altona; number 33. It’s not far from Claire’s apartment block. Some old dear needs your help.”
“Get the boys in blue on it,” insisted Kendal.
“They’ll take too long. You should be there in two minutes.”
“I’m on my way Captain Hughes, Sir.” Kendal grunted and handed back the mobile phone. “You have one second to wipe the grin off your face before I shoot it off.”
The rookie’s smile immediately fell.
Claire craned her neck, whispering in the rookie’s ear.
“Are you sure he’s got no backbone? He looks meaner than a custom dog sniffing out drugs.”
Kendal slapped the young cop on the shoulder. “Lucky for you I’m in a good mood. Now follow me. As for you, partner, Detective Sergeant Claire Ambroso, you’re coming too.”
“No, I’m not.”
Kendal winked at his wife, Margaret and his two daughters giggling in the doorway. “Yes, you are. It’s time to start the next case.”