What do you do when the man whose life’s ambition is to kill you escapes from prison?
Do you sit and wait for him?
Not if you’re Felix Croft. Instead, you take the fight to him.
An extract from The Power.
Croft and Millie are the trail of the escaped killer, and their journey has brought them to Hattersley Secure Prison.
Now read on…
Croft confided quietly to Millie that Hattersley’s record keeping was of the highest order. With the date and time of Harper’s last visit logged, finding the relevant video footage took only a matter of minutes.
Securing a useable image of the supposed solicitor was a good deal more troublesome.
“He’s careful,” Millie said as they ran the two minute clip over and over again. “Not once does he look up at the camera.” She looked over her shoulder at Inskip. “Governor, did you not take any still pictures of this man or other lawyers?”
Inskip shook his head, sadly. “It’s not policy, but after this is all over, I’m sure the Home office will recommend it as good practice.”
“I can also imagine the kind of resistance it will meet from the legal profession,” Croft ruminated.
He paused the video on a shot of Harper look directly into the reception warder’s eyes. It was not a full face image, but it was as close as they could come. Addressing the warder alongside them, he ordered, “Freeze and crop that image, then get it ready for nationwide circulation, please.” He turned further to speak with Inskip. “Governor, is there any chance we could see Burke’s personal effects?”
He frowned. “I’m not sure. His family may—”
“He has no family,” Croft interrupted. “That’s why he never had visitors. Please, Inskip, I need to look through them, see if there’s anything that may give us a hint as to Harper’s real identity.”
It was a mean and pitiful collection of odds and ends in a standard office storage box; one of the collapsible kind. In it was a bundle of prison clothes, a photograph of Zepelli and Georgina, a couple of paperback novels – Dickens’ Bleak House and Nevil Shute’s On The Beach – an A4 writing pad, similar to the one Zepelli had used to produce his manuscript, three ball point pens and a pencil.
“We won’t remove the clothing or dispose of the other items until his death is confirmed,” Inskip explained.
Croft took out the A4 pad. A number of sheets had been removed and the remainder were blank. He ran his hand over the top sheet. With a frown he took the pencil and began to rub it over the sheet.
“I’m not sure—”
Millie interrupted the governor. “It may be something or nothing, sir. I’ll authorise it.”
It took many minutes before the sheet was covered with pencil rubbing and words beneath showed through.
“Looks like instructions, probably to Harper,” Croft speculated. “And look at this.” He pointed to three words: das Krankenhaus Königin.
“German?” Millie asked.
“Rough German, too,” Croft said with a nod. “The queen’s hospital. It’s obviously a reference to events at Queen’s on Sunday night. Written in Burke’s hand.”
“I didn’t realise Burke could speak German,” Millie commented.
“It’s logical. Julius Reiniger was an influence in his life, remember, and Julius was German. The young Burke, if not his father, would have been fluent by the time he was in his teens.” He frowned. “It also means that Harper must have been fluent, too. Look at the references here.” He pointed out occasional words. “Feuerwerk… fireworks, Pistole… pistol, gehen Sie zu der Wache … go to the guard. And here, look. Die Macht… The Power.” He passed the sheet to Millie. “We were right. Harper is his accomplice. If you can get the details back to Shannon, along with the CCTV image, and have them circulated, at least we’ll be seen to be doing something.”
“And where do we go from here?”
“I’m trying to work that out,” Croft said. “There’s one more reference on that sheet, and this time it really is bad in any language, not just German, but it’s quite deliberate.” He pointed to the offending words, führen Kate. “Names should always be spelled as they are in the person’s native tongue.”
“It is,” Millie objected “But who is Kate? Some woman Harper’s involved with?”
“I don’t think so. I think Kate is not a woman but a man. Me. Kate is German for a cottage… or a croft. That says ‘lead Croft’.” He faced Millie, his features grim in the dim light. “I was right all along. He’ll lead me until he has me in the killing bottle where he’ll demand The Power and then kill me.”
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