BETRAYAL by Donna Siggers
Obsession is a dangerous condition. It’s fair to say this case has a hold over me. As the original Detective Chief Inspector, you might say I am personally invested – solving it my priority. Pinned on the wall of my spare bedroom are the images of his crimes. They are as sickening as the first time I set eyes upon them; time does nothing to dampen the impact they have on me. To my left, his original victims. To my right, his more recent ones. My image appears on both sides.
The mutilated bodies of his earlier endeavours are a million miles from what he’s done since his escape from prison last autumn. The change in his modus operandi so vivid but very obviously focussed on revenge – revenge upon my team of detectives that had caught up with him. Mel Sage, Jen Jennings and I had been his intended targets last year and he didn’t care who got in his way to reach us. As I gaze at the information before me I know we’re missing something vital. His new victimology was screaming at me; I just had absolutely no idea what it was saying.
Deciding to run through the evidence once more today I stand back and contemplate what’s before me on the wall. As much as I understand that he would hate the three of us for stopping him carrying out his fantasies, what he’d orchestrated was so very different to what he’d done in the past. Sam Cooper, my partner, and I had talked this through so many times. We couldn’t put our finger on why he’d shift in the way he operated and it bothered me.
During the original crimes he was up close and personal. Fulfilling his perverse needs through his behaviours, rituals and sexual brutality. A sexual predator who targeted vulnerable women. Exploitation of their minds, bodies and souls was his pure enjoyment. The shift in him is a transformation I’m struggling to accept. Prison had created a new dimension to this monster. It appeared he’d taken a step back – he was letting others do his work. Including his murdering. Had he lost control of his gang while inside? Was this the difference we’d missed? Making a note on a new card I pinned this question onto the wall with the many others.
Arresting this man had put a price on my head. I’d escaped death three times since. The knife attack he orchestrated from his prison cell left me with extreme anxiety and despite having had treatment for that, it’s something that remains. Until his escape last year, his responsibility for this had been kept from me – A member of his gang had forced Sam and I into an empty railway station where a second man waited with a knife. He’d plunged it into my back.
Sam held his hands into my bleeding wound until help arrived and stayed at the hospital until he knew I’d survived. I lost a kidney that night, resulting in some life-changing decisions: moving from the city I’d loved so much, my job and from the man I could no longer watch with another woman. I moved to Polperro in Cornwall to begin a new chapter in my life.
His persistence in attempting to kill me didn’t sit easily with me. After he’d blown up a train I was supposed to have been travelling on, but had missed by seconds, I knew I needed to keep looking over my shoulder. The feelings of guilt that this bomb was for me but had killed so many people while I lay in the arms of my lover is immense. His third attempt had drastic consequences. Sam and I were taking Charlie, Sam’s son, to Scotland where he would begin training to work with Kerry. We were involved in a car chase that lasted for hours. Rain fell heavily in the Scottish Highlands that night and we hit something in the road. As our car flipped over, end to end, all three of us thought it was over. It was for Charlie. Sam lost his son that night, thanks to the psychopath we have become so involved with. While Sam and I lay unconscious in the dark, Charlie’s body was removed from the car and tied to a tree and shot several times. An ace of spades playing card was placed in his mouth.
Escaping death three times takes
My two friends and ex colleagues, Jen Jennings and Mel Sage, had their lives changed on the night Ashbeck escaped from prison too. Jen, the victim of a car crash that he had ordered is now confined to a wheelchair. Her movement is slowly returning but still limited. Mel’s trauma was horrific; having been kidnapped, held captive in a filthy cellar, gang raped, mutilated and crudely tattooed. Physical injuries aside the psychological impact on her is astounding – understandably so.
Ashbeck’s attacks on my team bothered me for many reasons aside them not fitting within the victimology we were familiar with from his past. He’d manipulated influential pillars of society from inside his prison cell who had helped him escape. Included among these names was Max Smith, the Deputy Commissioner of London’s metropolitan police force; the family man with a good reputation for making the streets of our city a safer place. Smith, still missing, hadn’t taken much persuasion to rush to assist a psychopath.
We needed to establish what hold this man had over such men and Smith’s youngest daughter handed us the answer. She was protecting his journal when armed response broke down the door to his family home to rescue the rest of the Smith family who had been held hostage there. The journal had proven rather revealing.
Smith wasn’t alone. Phil Andrews, boss to myself and Sam but also a trusted friend, had fallen foul of his charms. Involved at such a deep level at the time of his escape last Autumn, Phil had taken his own life on the beach in Great Yarmouth in front of us. The sound and image of which neither Sam or I will ever be able to erase from our memories.
Sam wasn’t involved in the original case, but he’d outranked me when we went undercover last year. Neither of us worked for the London’s metropolitan police service any longer – instead a formidable woman called Kerry Preston employed us at her private investigation company. Kerry answers directly to the Home Office. Sam and I had become equals both at work and in the bedroom – we make a formidable team.
All public sightings of this man had resulted in negative results for us so far. Sam was, it seemed, forever chasing up the latest ones. It concerned me that I’d not heard from him in a few days and I make a mental note to call him later.
The concept causing me the most anxiety was the notion that bodies would start turning up. That he would start killing again. The thought chills me to my bones.
I’d looked into the soul of Carl Ashbeck, and never really recovered.