Living is Hard

Living is Hard

She could hear her mother calling, saying her name loud and clear, even though her mother was five years in the grave. How could these things be? How were they possible? Sleep now, she told herself, and think about it all later. But the voice pulled her back again. “Please, sister. Hold me now.” So she held the kind girl – she had forgotten to do it before - and she kept holding her, long after the kind girl’s trembling had stopped. It was all silence in the back of the lorry now and the silence was matched in the world outside, for at some point in the endless night, the lorry had stopped, and remained stopped, even though nobody came to open the door. She could no longer see the steam of her breath. Indeed, she was no longer aware of the need to breathe. And as the kind girl died in her arms, she suddenly understood. Dying is easy. Living is hard.

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Where is she?

Where is she?

The lights were coming on all over Chinatown. I drove as close as I could get, the blues and twos flaring and screaming, all the city making way for me. I left the BMW X5 on Gerrard Place but it was only when I saw the shrine of dead flowers that I realized exactly where I was parked. For a long moment I stood under the red and gold awning of the dim sum restaurant, staring at the flowers that marked the spot where we had found the lorry with twelve women who died and one woman who lived. And then I ran. I ran through the dawdling late afternoon crowds on Gerrard Street to the doorway by the duck restaurant halfway down and then up the ancient wooden staircase three steps at a time to the bright white room on the first floor. The door to Sampaguita was closed. Low voices were coming from inside. I went in without knocking and stared at Ginger Gonzalez and a man I didn’t recognize. He was not yet thirty, a clean-cut city type, lean inside his good suit, the kind of man who goes to the gym for a serious cardio workout before he goes to move money around in one of the big glass towers. He looked privileged but not soft. It was a look you were seeing more and more. He was smiling at Ginger as he moved slowly towards the door, about to make his leave. I was about to knock him to the ground when Ginger spoke. “Max, this is Kris. Max is a colleague of mine, Kris.” He held out his hand, smiling politely, and I had shaken it before I knew what I was doing. “Good to meet you, Max.” He turned to Ginger. “I’ll call you later.” As he left I stared at her wildly. “Where is she?” I said. “Where’s Rabia Demir?”

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Scumbags

Scumbags

“Any CCTV of the driver?” Whitestone asked. “I’m still looking, Ma’am,” Billy said. “So we’re assuming the owner of the thirteenth passport wasn’t driving?” I said. “It’s unlikely,” Whitestone said. “Because the owner of the thirteenth passport is a woman and the drivers who smuggle in illegals are all men. At least, that’s how it has been until now. It’s not an equal opportunities profession. Find the thirteenth woman and then you find the driver. Find the driver and you find the scumbags who run the whole stinking operation.”

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Hana

Hana

Then I had her in my arms and I was screaming for an ambulance and hands were reaching out to help me get her out of the back of that death truck and onto a stretcher that we loaded into an ambulance parked in the middle of Shaftesbury Avenue, the swirling blue lights piercing the frozen winter morning. We tore through the city, the sirens howling at the world, telling it to get out of our way. “You’re safe now,” I said, trying to stay on my feet in the back of the rocking ambulance, squeezing her hands, trying to get some warmth back into them. “We’re getting you help. Don’t give up. Stay with me.” She did not reply. “Don’t give up, okay?” I said. And she did not reply. I had never felt anything colder than that young woman’s hands. “Will you tell me your name?” I asked. “My name is Hana,” she whispered.

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The Women

The Women

“Let’s open it up,” I shouted, ducking under the perimeter tape. A fireman from the station on Shaftesbury Avenue fell into step beside me. He grinned at me, bleary with exhaustion and I guessed he must have been kept on after pulling the graveyard shift. Over one shoulder he carried bright red bolt cutters, four feet long, and as we reached the lorry, he swung them down and set the steel jaws against the rust-dappled lock that secured the back door. He looked at me, nodded briefly, and put his back into it. The cheap lock crumbled at first bite. We both grabbed one door and pulled it open. I stared into the darkness and the cold hit me first. The temperature in the street was in the low single digits. But in the back of that lorry, it was somewhere below freezing. I climbed inside just as my eyes cleared. And that is when I saw the women.

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A Getaway

A Getaway

The policeman suddenly started to run. The woman gripped the handlebars of the young man in the wheelchair and seemed to hunch, as if expecting a blow. And then the crowd were all getting to their feet, pointing at something out of camera. They began to scatter. Running for their lives. A black transit van was being driven at speed. It appeared to be heading straight for the crowd but suddenly it mounted the pavement to avoid the young man in the wheelchair. I automatically looked for anything that would make the transit van unique. Dents, scratches, words that had been sprayed over. But there was nothing. There was brown duct tape plastered over the registration plate. Simple but effective. The crowd had done a runner. Apart from Abu Din, who was wagging an admonishing finger at the black van.

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The Lorry

We thought we had a bomb. That’s why Chinatown was deserted. If the public thinks the police have found a dead body then they get out their phones and settle down for a good gawp but if they think we have found a bomb then they will get on their bikes. The lorry was outside the Gerrard Place dim sum restaurant that marks the start of London’s Chinatown, parked at an angle with its nearside wheels up on the pavement. The lorry itself looked no different to the convoy of lorries that were lined up bumper to bumper all down one side of Gerrard Street, making their early morning deliveries to the shops and restaurants of Chinatown. But half up on the pavement and parked at a random angle, this lorry looked dumped, as if the driver couldn’t get away fast enough, and that makes our people think only one thing. Bomb.

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Prologue: The Girl From Belgrade

The first thing they took was her passport. The man jumped down from the cab of the lorry and snapped his fingers at her. Click-click. She already had her passport in her hands, ready for her first encounter with authority, and as she held it out to the man she saw, in the weak glow of the Belgrade streetlights, that he had a small stack of passports. They were not all burgundy red like her Serbian passport. These passports were green and blue and bright red - passports from everywhere. The man slipped her passport under the rubber band that held the passports together and he slipped them into the pocket of his thick winter coat. She had expected to keep her passport. She looked at him and caught a breath. Old scars ran down one side of his face making the torn flesh looked as though it had once melted. Then the man clicked his fingers a second time. Click-click.

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The Weapon

The Weapon

‘But why take out the family?’ Wren said. ‘Nils Gatling wanted to shut his sister up. Why kill the husband and the children? Why abduct the little boy?’ ‘Making it look like a spree kill was part of the blind,’ I said. ‘And so was the cattle gun. What kind of nutter uses a cattle gun for mass murder? Somebody who’s done it before.’ I thought of what John Caine had told me in the Black Museum. ‘You kill with what you know. And it was a good blind – the Slaughter Man looked perfect for this – especially after Mary Wood gave him a glass of lemonade and a smile and he started collecting her pictures

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Chapter 1

New Year’s Day was big and blue and freezing cold. The single shot from the block of flats ripped the day apart.

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Max’s Boxing Tactics

1. Use your brain. Success lies in out-thinking the opposition 2. Never underestimate your opponent, but watch their responses and look for his or her weakness

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Fred

Fred is an old ally and mentor of Max (for old friends don’t call each other by their surname) who, despite the ferocity and speed of his punching, is much more than just a fighter. Composed in the face of aggression and wise in the ways of the world, Fred enables Max to keep going, even when the weight of the murders and the world start to feel too much.

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Chapter 4

27 Savile Row is a modern block of offices with one of those ancient blue police lamps outside -the kind of blue lamp that makes you think of Sherlock Holmes hunting Jack the Ripper through the London fog. But although Savile Row is famous for two things, West End Central isn't one of them.

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Wren

Nerves of steel and hair of red. 25-years-old. Small of stature and totally fearless. Physically reckless and digitally very well connected. Quick with her wits and good around computers, especially the social media sites that baffle older members of the Met.

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Elsa

A favourite of Mallory’s, Elsa provides the expertise on the unusual nature of the deaths. Wolfe first encounters her at the Iain West Forensic Suite as she guides them over the two corpses on the cold steel table. She is candid and refuses to speculate, conducting herself with the grace of a dinner hostess, and quickly endears herself to Wolfe providing him with another important ally in the course of his investigation.

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Second Front Shop

Second Front Shop

Beginning in the Roman era, various fighting blades have become known classics that are always linked to the fighting force who used them. In recent times, no blade is a better example of this fame than the Fairbairn-Sykes dagger. Shanghai knife-fighting experiments were the inspiration for the blade, created especially for Commando soldiers during World War II, and it continues to embody elite military units worldwide.

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Smithfield ABC

Smithfield ABC

There was a sign at Fred's, and as the gym emptied near closing time I stood up looking at it. It was placed between a posed black and white photograph of Sonny Liston and a picture of a dozen Cuban kids sparring in a ring with ropes like snapped elastic.

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