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Authors: Steven Dunne

Tags: #Fiction, #Thrillers, #General, #Suspense


Steven Dunne

Copyright © 2012 Steven Dunne

The right of Steven Dunne to be identified as the Author of the Work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

Apart from any use permitted under UK copyright law, this publication may only be reproduced, stored, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means, with prior permission in writing of the publishers or, in the case of reprographic production, in accordance with the terms of licences issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency.

First published as an Ebook by Headline Publishing Group in 2012

All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

The Bell Jar
© Estate of Sylvia Plath and reprinted by permission of Faber and Faber Ltd

Cataloguing in Publication Data is available from the British Library

eISBN : 978 0 7553 8369 6


An Hachette UK Company

338 Euston Road

London NW1 3BH



Title Page


About The Author

Also by Steven Dunne

About the Book



Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Chapter Thirty

Steven Dunne attended Kent University. After a brief and terrifying stint as a stand-up comic, he became a freelance journalist writing for
The Times
and the
. He is now a part-time teacher in Derby. He is the author of the highly acclaimed thrillers 
The Reaper
The Disciple

By Steven Dunne

The Reaper

The Disciple


About the Book

Ritual . . .

A man’s body is found in the River Derwent in Derbyshire, presumed drowned until the autopsy reveals
he has no lungs.
Another corpse is dredged up in Shardlow Gravel Pit, the victim’s internal organs removed, except for his heart.

Suicide . . .

Four Derby College students are reported missing, but then a film is discovered on the internet that suggests they have ritually killed themselves.

Death . . .

For Detective Inspector Damen Brook of Derby CID the question is, are they connected? Why did the students want to die when they had such bright futures ahead of them? Is the film a fake?

As the body count rises, Brook must piece together a sequence of events that gets ever darker and more terrifying. And when his own daughter’s life is threatened, Brook must employ everything he has ever known to uncover the truth before time runs out . . .

Combining intricate forensics with meticulous detection and the warped mind of a psychopath,
is a serial killer thriller that will chill you to the bone.

For Mum and Dad

Thanks for such a loving home


Much love and gratitude go to my lovely wife Carmel for her continuing support and encouragement and to the far flung McKenna and Dunne tribes who spread the word and keep me up to my work.

As well as providing regular practical support, Jeff Fountain supplies insightful editorial comment on the content and direction of my work. A true mate.

I’m thrilled to have been signed to Headline, doubly so after being given the opportunity to work with a quality team of experienced and enabling people. So thanks to Martin Fletcher, Emily Griffin and Samantha Eades for your help and guidance in getting the
project to this juncture.

Thanks to fellow Weekenders’ cricketer Joseph McDonald for taking the trouble to produce thoughtful and expert input on police procedures.

A big thanks to Richard Gardner ( for making me look vaguely presentable on the cover.

Also my continuing gratitude to Waterstone’s in the East Midlands for putting up with me in-store on more than one occasion – particularly Sean Heavens and the team in Derby, Glenys Cooper in Burton-on-Trent and Dan in Nottingham. Without their support of local writers, I wouldn’t be in this position today.

Finally thank you to David Grossman, my agent, for providing his expert guidance.

Steve Dunne

January – three years ago

, I
smaller boy as he swung the rucksack on to the grass, narrowly missing a clump of dried sheep muck.

‘A few hundred yards. See that bend in the river?’ Ian raised an arm to indicate the curve of the water. ‘Just past there.’ He rummaged in a pocket and took out a pack of cigarettes. ‘Want one?’ he asked as he lit the end of his and inhaled a huge belt of smoke. His friend shook his head. Ian then produced a half-bottle of cheap vodka from his back pocket and spun off the cap. He took a long gulp and grimaced as he swallowed then breathed hard through the fumes. He offered the bottle to his companion who hesitated for a second then took it from him.

‘Why the hell not?’ He took an even longer draught than Ian and pulled an equally pained expression at the taste before handing the bottle back. He felt carefully around the light stubble on his face. ‘How do people drink that stuff? My face is numb.’

‘That’s why.’ Ian grinned.

They walked on, one behind the other, treading carefully along the muddy rabbit path that hugged the river. The water
was fast and fierce from winter rains and sounded like the blood in their eardrums. The ground was damp and slippery and the pair lapsed back into silence as they picked their way along.

At the bend, Ian struck away from the path towards a large sturdy tree. Once there, he took out his cigarettes and vodka and tossed them to the smaller boy. ‘Help yourself,’ he said. ‘I won’t be long.’ With that he set about climbing the tree, keeping his own rucksack on his back while the smaller boy picked up the vodka and took another tentative swig.

A few minutes later, Ian jumped down beside his companion and hauled off his rucksack. ‘All set.’ He took out a camera and pointed it at his friend who posed with the vodka and took another pull. ‘Perfect,’ he said.

‘You got enough pictures?’

‘Plenty. They’ll lap it up.’

The other boy smiled and nodded, then looked back down to the river. ‘Nice day, this.’

‘The best,’ retorted Ian.

The small boy turned and began to climb while Ian lit a cigarette and adjusted the camera for the piercing winter light. He walked away from the tree then turned to wave at his friend, who was nearly in position.

When he was ready, the boy raised an arm to acknowledge. ‘Ready?’

‘Ready,’ shouted Ian from the ground.

The boy steadied his footing on the branch and looked out over the countryside. He had a fantastic view down the river – he could see the bridge and, beyond that, the otter dam. He even fancied he could see the tower of the Town Hall clock. His eyes darted further round to a dog scrabbling at a mole hill
on a bank on the other side of the water. It was a Springer Spaniel – lovely dogs. ‘Nice day,’ he repeated, smiling.

He closed his eyes and stepped off the branch, even remembering to have
I love you, Mum
in his thoughts as he hurtled towards the ground. As he fell, he was sure he could hear the whirring of the camera. Wait till his tormentors saw the pictures. Then they’d know.

A second later, the tree shuddered as the snap of his neck ended his fall.

The rope held. Ian was pleased. Everything had gone well. He put the camera to his eye to take the money shots. ‘Everyone will know you, my friend. Everyone will envy you.’

Tuesday, 17 May – present day

across Station Road and propped up the
Road Closed
sign facing Borrowash to the north. No traffic would be crossing the bridges in this Derbyshire village for the next half-hour. At first he’d considered blocking the road a precaution too far on such a minor route, especially at three in the morning, but when disposing of the dead, nothing was too much trouble.

He walked calmly back to the vehicle, climbed in and, without turning on the engine, rolled back down the slope over the railway bridge. Having reversed into the drive of a lone farmhouse, barely visible through the trees, he turned the ignition and drove slowly back on to the second bridge, spanning the River Derwent, before coming to a halt.

He skipped out, leaving the engine running, opened the back doors and pulled out the trolley. The metal legs unfolded and the man pushed the trolley to the low bridge wall. He stepped down on the brake. The pale waxy body was a late-middle-aged male, naked apart from the loincloth covering his genitalia. The man bent his head over the corpse, sniffing along its length. He caressed the dead face with latex fingers
then rubbed them together, feeling the waxy film of make-up lubricate his gloves.

Finally he stood, a crooked smile on his face, and ran his fingers through the corpse’s washed and trimmed hair.

‘Good as new.’ He checked the stitching on the man’s flank then prepared to lift the body. The scars beneath the corpse’s nose drew the man’s eye and he frowned. ‘Nobody’s perfect.’ He placed his hands under the body and rolled it off the trolley and over the bridge wall, sending it crashing into the swirling water below. A couple of horses, grazing in a dark field, lifted their heads towards the noise for a moment before resuming their meal.

He watched the body disappear and an inert arm seemed to wave a last lazy farewell as it sank.

‘Travel safe through the dark waters of chaos, my friend.’

After a moment transfixed by the soothing rhythms of the water, he rolled the trolley back into the vehicle and closed the doors, then walked the 100 yards back to the railway bridge to stack the cones on to the pavement. He left the cones in a pile – they wouldn’t be noticed – but carried the
Road Closed
sign over to his vehicle and shoved it into the back.

Driving half a mile south towards Elvaston Castle on the dark highway, the man drew to a halt at another line of cones blocking the road. Once again, he skipped out, this time stacking both the cones and the
Road Closed
sign neatly in the back of the vehicle then drove on into the night.

Wednesday, 18 May

the dark warmth of his living room, listening to his wife’s rasping snore. The pulse of the TV flickered in the corner, providing the only light source in the room. The volume was barely audible.

Watson wasn’t looking at the screen and he wasn’t listening to the programme – but to turn off the set, or even mute the sound, might disturb the ether in which his wife was cocooned and he couldn’t risk waking her.

He exhaled deeply and, without moving his head, flicked his eyes resentfully towards her sleeping form on the sofa. Her mouth hung open, allowing a glimpse of the yellowed teeth she normally kept hidden behind the tight-lipped grimace that deformed her face these days. A strand of lank greying hair, matted against her cheek, flirted with the notion of trailing into her mouth, and had it not been certain to rouse her, Watson would have derived a malicious pleasure from seeing her gag on it.

He glanced at the clock for the hundredth time then returned his sullen gaze to his wife. Well past midnight and
still the cow waited him out, enveloped in her grey shroud of a dressing-gown.

Watson was caught between two stools. Should he wake her up and push her off to bed half-asleep or leave her be, and hope she’d sleep through? Through what? A half-smile of anticipation creased his mouth but died at once, as his wife turned slightly on the cushions. The grubby towelling robe she insisted on wearing of a night threatened to mimic her mouth by falling open at the breast to reveal the flesh that once had enflamed, but now so disgusted him.

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