Authors: Kate Ellis
Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #General
Wesley Peterson series:
The Merchant’s House
The Armada Boy
An Unhallowed Grave
The Funeral Boat
The Bone Garden
A Painted Doom
The Skeleton Room
The Plague Maiden
A Cursed Inheritance
The Marriage Hearse
The Shining Skull
The Blood Pit
A Perfect Death
The Flesh Tailor
The Jackal Man
Joe Plantagenet series:
Seeking the Dead
Playing With Bones
For more information regarding Kate Ellis
log on to Kate’s website:
Published by Hachette Digital
All characters and events in this publication, other than those clearly in the public domain, are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Copyright © 2012 by Kate Ellis
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of the publisher.
Little, Brown Book Group
100 Victoria Embankment
London, EC4Y 0DY
For Ruth and David
Run as fast as you can, because captivity means certain death. Oblivion. No mercy is ever shown to those who fail and no second
chances are given. That is The Game.
Barney has played The Game over and over again in the cocooned comfort of his room, but the real thing is different. In the
real thing your feet squelch and skid on mud and stinking cow pats. In the real thing your muscles throb with tearing pain,
adrenalin pumps through your body and makes your heart thump like a drum. In the real thing your burning legs are filled with
molten lead, slowing you down as the hounds close in.
In the moonlit darkness everything is in half-seen silvery shadow and the familiar landscape is transformed and twisted into
a fearful alien world – the world of The Game.
He can hear the throaty roar of quad bikes and the eager barking of hounds in the distance, a little louder with each
passing second. They are getting closer and closer and if he doesn’t run they’ll catch him.
He has to move quickly. He has to outrun them. It is all uphill now, through the glowering trees and then across a stream.
But he needs to rest, so he stops and bends double, catching each breath. With the confidence of youth he’d thought he was
invincible. He’d thought this would be easy. No problem.
‘I can’t go any further. Wait for me. Hang on.’
He turns, and in the light of the full moon he can see Sophie’s slender body quite clearly, her pale flesh glowing like alabaster.
She has slumped down on to the grass a few yards behind him, her head bowed in defeat over her splayed knees, and he feels
a stab of anger because she should have waited until they reached the shelter of the trees. He knows that when they are still,
they’re vulnerable. This is no time to take a rest, not while they’re exposed to the enemy.
‘We’ve got to get a move on or they’ll catch us. Can’t you hear them?’ When there’s no reaction he barks an order. ‘Get up.’
Sophie shakes her head slowly. She looks utterly exhausted and her fine, fair hair is plastered to her forehead with sweat.
‘My new trainers are ruined,’ she whines. ‘Whose idea was this?’
‘Just shut up, will you.’
‘Where’s Dun?’ He sees her look round anxiously but there’s no sign of the other boy. ‘Maybe he’s been caught. Maybe the dogs
have got him.’
She sounds close to tears and he knows that involving her was a big mistake.
‘You’re talking crap. Dun went off in the other direction. He’ll be fine.’ He feels like slapping her but that would never
‘I want to go home,’ she moans, like a tired child.
‘No way. We carry on. Just try and keep up. It’s not far to the stream now – me and Dun reccied it yesterday. Come on.’
He retraces his steps and holds out his hand to her. His hand is scratched and filthy but she snatches it and he hauls her
to her feet. Then he hears the shot, sharp and sudden, exploding in the night air.
‘What was that?’ He can feel her body tense with fear.
‘It’ll be some farmer after vermin. Come on.’
‘They’ve got guns. You never said they’d have guns.’
There is panic in Sophie’s voice now and he knows she’s losing it. He grabs her wrist and she cries with pain as he drags
her forward. The sheltering trees are close now and if they can get to the stream there’s a chance that the water will put
their pursuers off the scent.
‘Of course they’ve not got guns, you stupid bitch.’
‘You told me this was meant to be a game.’
He doesn’t answer as he pulls her onwards. They have to keep going and once they cross the stream maybe they can relax a little.
They stumble on, making for the cluster of trees looming ahead against the grey, starry sky. Sophie tries hard to keep up
but somehow she always falls behind. She is a liability, and all the desire Barney ever felt for her is evaporating. He can
hear her breathing, wheezy as though her lungs are about to burst. He’d asked her here because he thought it would be a chance
for them to be alone. Stupid idea.
‘What was that?’
Sophie has stopped again and she’s standing quite still, frozen as if she’s been turned to stone by some magic spell. If she
carries on like this, he knows he’ll have to abandon her … leave her to the mercy of the hunters. ‘What are you on about?’
‘That noise. There’s someone here. One of them’s caught up with us.’
‘You’re imagining things. Come on or I’ll have to leave you behind.’
As she starts to move towards him, he hears it. A crack, like a foot on a rotten twig. Sophie was right. There is someone
‘Dun,’ he calls. ‘Is that you?’
No answer. Of course it isn’t Dun. He headed off half an hour ago, making for the chalets to fool their pursuers. Dun ran
for the school; he was fast and knew what he was doing. Maybe they should have ignored instructions and stuck with him.
Suddenly Barney wants to be out of there. He grabs Sophie’s hand and pulls her towards the trees, ignoring her squeaks of
protest. But as soon as they reach the wood, he hears the sound again – a rustling and soft footsteps somewhere ahead of them.
And something else. The distinctive double click of a gun being cocked.
Then comes the light – so bright that it dazzles his eyes. He hears Sophie gasp as he puts a defensive hand between himself
and the beam. It is focused on him, blinding him, so that he can’t make out what or who is behind it.
‘Stop it!’ he hears Sophie shout with a new found boldness. ‘Stop messing about, whoever you are. We surrender, OK? You’ve
But there is no answer and the merciless beam still burns into their eyes.
‘Please,’ Sophie whispers, her grip tightening on Barney’s arm.
Then two shots echo through the woods – and two bodies hit the cold undergrowth.
The Jester’s Journal
18 May 1815
It is said that I am the last of my kind. The Last Fool in Devonshire – or should I say, the last to accept the rank of Fool
as my calling in life. As the last of my ilk, I feel it necessary to set down an account of my deeds for generations yet to
come, generations that might scoff at Fools and neglect to take account of their skills. For Foolery is a trade like any other.
Fools have served kings since the Conqueror and were valued and respected as the only honest men at court; the only men able
to tell the truth without resorting to flattery and politics.
They call me Silly John. Other men may take this title as an insult, but I do not, for I know there is no truth in it. Silly
John is a mere mask, a role I play. When I am alone with my thoughts, or lying with a willing maidservant, I am John
Tandy; small of stature, with a hump upon my back, yet wise as any squire, parson or magistrate in the county, and with more
cunning than any man of authority. Yet it suits my purpose that the Squire is unaware of my true nature.
In three days’ time the Squire’s cousin Henry will visit. He is a man of rare and violent tastes and the Squire has requested
that there should be another hunt. I have given orders that the hounds should not be fed before they are released, for it
gives better sport if the quarry is afraid of the hungry jaws of his pursuers. I like to see the fear in the quarry’s eyes,
for it brings to mind the power that I hold over life and death in this place. I anticipate Henry’s arrival with glee. What
sport we shall have.
The entrance hall was neat and clean with nothing out of place. Only the rotting flowers standing in a vase of brown water
by the telephone, the pervasive smell of decay and the distant hum of buzzing flies suggested that something was amiss.
‘What did the caller say?’
‘Just that there was a dead woman at this address. He hung up without giving his name, but the call was from a mobile so we
might be able to trace who it’s registered to.’
The man who stepped into the hallway was tall, black and smartly dressed, with handsome features and intelligent eyes. He
was followed by an older, slightly smaller man, well-built with grizzled hair, and a girth that suggested a love of the wrong
type of food. Both men instinctively put their hands to their faces. They knew the signs from long experience. Death was present,
hiding somewhere in this unpretentious Victorian cottage in a quiet Morbay suburb.
‘You go first, Wes.’ Both men knew from the constable’s initial report what they were about to see. A woman, dead a week or
so; her discoloured flesh crawling with maggots and flies. The constable had gone upstairs and peeped into the bedroom before
slamming the door and throwing up in the bathroom.
DI Wesley Peterson was reluctant to move. ‘Maybe we should wait for Colin and the team. They’ll be here any minute.’
‘Could be natural causes.’
Wesley knew that it was in his boss’s nature to be optimistic.
‘Sad that she’s been dead so long and nobody’s missed her.’
DCI Gerry Heffernan nodded. ‘Yeah. All the lonely people, eh. According to the neighbours, she was probably in her late thirties
but they hardly saw anything of her. They didn’t even know her name. Lived next door and never spoke to her. Should be a law
‘If the house is rented the landlord should be able to provide her details.’
Before Gerry could say anything else, there was a commotion outside the front door. The circus had arrived.
They opened the door wide to admit their colleagues before struggling into their crime scene suits. There were procedures
that had to be followed.
The pathologist, Dr Colin Bowman, came into view, pushing past the forensic officers and photographers. He was a tall, thin
man with an aquiline nose and hair that had receded over the years, leaving a monk-like fringe around his shiny pate. ‘Good
to see you Gerry … Wesley. What have you got for me today?’ he asked, shaking hands as if they were attending a pleasant social
‘A woman … in her late thirties according to the neighbour.’ He paused. ‘I’m afraid she’s been there a while.’