A Killing Coast



‘It’s good of you to see me, sir, and so early.’ Andy Horton followed the stooping silver-haired man through a small lobby into a bright and sunny lounge that overlooked the East Solent.

‘Not at all, Inspector. And it’s not early for me. Like many older people I don’t sleep very well, and it makes a nice change to have company, whatever the hour. Oh, I know I’ve got all the company I need here,’ Adrian Stanley tossed over his shoulder, as though reading Horton’s mind. ‘These retirement apartments are full of people like me, widowers, and widows, but sometimes it’s nice to see a younger face. Coffee? Or would you prefer something stronger? You’re off duty I take it,’ he added, eyeing Horton’s leather biker jacket. ‘Not that that made much difference in my day. Policing was very different in the seventies and eighties before the politically correct brigade hijacked it.’

‘Coffee, black, no sugar would be great,’ Horton said smiling, thinking if Adrian Stanley drank alcohol at this time in the morning then he had a serious problem. There were no signs of the elderly man being an alcoholic though, quite the contrary; his lined face boasted a healthy complexion and his grey eyes were bright and keen for a man in his seventies. The small apartment smelt and looked clean.

Stanley stepped into the modern kitchen and flicked on the kettle. ‘You can take your jacket off if you like. It is rather hot in here.’

‘Thanks.’ Horton eased off the Harley Davidson jacket taking a quick glance around the neat lounge with three easy armchairs, a coffee table in front of a fireplace, television, DVD, modern music system, and a range of family photographs on the mantelpiece of young children with their parents and grandfather. There were more of the same on a wall unit and here Horton saw a slender smiling woman beside Adrian Stanley in several photographs who, he assumed, was the late Mrs Stanley.

Horton draped his jacket over one of the two chairs beside a drop-leaf oak table noting the powerful binoculars on it, before turning towards the window. Stanley was correct; the room was hot despite the fact that the April sun had not yet gained full height or strength, but it was a bright morning and the apartment faced south. It was also on the top floor of the four storey modern building and the central heating was full on.

‘You’ve certainly got a lovely view, sir,’ Horton said gazing across the sparkling blue of the Solent at a handful of yachts heading into the harbour of Cowes on the Isle of Wight. He would like to have been out there himself, sailing his new yacht, Mystery Lady, but since buying it a fortnight ago he’d barely had the chance. And it was looking doubtful he’d get the opportunity to sail her this week. Not only was his stretched, under-resourced CID department experiencing a mini crime wave, but a new superyacht had moored up at Oyster Quays on Sunday, and that would act like a magnet to every toerag criminal for miles around. Horton had left a message for DC Walters to urgently check its security this morning. The last thing he needed was a high-profile robbery on his patch. He would have preferred to send Cantelli, but the sergeant would throw up the moment he got on the water and Horton didn’t think the owner – a man called Russell Glenn, whom Horton had never heard of – would appreciate that on his nice shiny new yacht.

‘It’s one of the reasons I chose to live here,’ Stanley called out from the kitchen, bringing Horton back to the matter in hand, which had nothing to do with his job. He was here on a personal matter, hence the early visit before officially being on duty. His heart beat a little faster at the thought that the former PC might have information that could help him trace his mother who had walked out of their council tower block one chilly November morning in 1978, consigning Horton to years of anguish and torment in a succession of children’s homes. And on Friday morning he had an appointment with the social services department to view the case file that had been compiled on him while he’d been in care. He knew it would make grim reading and bring back painful memories, which was why he’d never requested access to it before. But events over recent months had forced him to