Children in Chains
Detective Inspector Paolo Sterling is determined to shut down the syndicate flooding Bradchester’s streets with young prostitutes.
When a child is murdered, Paolo becomes aware of a sinister network of abusers spread across Europe, and spanning all levels of society. But Joey, the shadowy leader of the gang, always seems to be one step ahead in the chase.
Has Paolo come up against a criminal he cannot defeat?
D.I. Paolo Sterling and D.S Dave Johnson are attending the autopsy of a young victim, carried out by Barbara Royston, with whom Paolo once had a romantic fling.
Extract starts …
Paolo watched as Barbara Royston concluded the autopsy. It made him sick to realise she was treating the child’s body with more respect in death than it had received in life. He vowed yet again to destroy whoever was trafficking these kids. Sometimes he wished he lived in a world where certain criminals were punished in a way that really fitted their crimes. Child traffickers, for example, could have their –
“Are you with us, or off in some world of your own?”
He jumped, brought out of his daydream, back to the real world where evil bastards rarely got what they deserved.
“Sorry, Barbara, I was just thinking about justice. What did you say?”
“I said I’ll have the report for you tomorrow, but I haven’t found anything we hadn’t expected. She’s about thirteen or fourteen, been subjected to continual sexual abuse over an extended period of time, both vaginally and anally, and she died from an overdose. We won’t know the full details of that until the tox reports are back.” She frowned. “You’d think in my line of work I’d get used to sights like this, but when you know the life a child has been subjected to –”
She didn’t finish, but she didn’t need to. Paolo was thinking the same thing. When you know what the child has been through before this point, it’s so much harder to bear.
“Do you have any leads?”
Paolo signalled to Dave to answer.
“A witness came in early this morning and gave our artist some excellent information. As we’ve finished here, I’m off to the area this child was found to show the identikit images of two men we’d like to interview. Apparently they drop off and pick up the kids, so someone must know who they are.” He nodded to Barbara. “See you back at the station, Paolo.”
Paolo watched Barbara’s face as Dave left. “You look surprised.”
“I am,” she said. “That’s the first time I’ve seen him in months. What happened? Did aliens take over his body?”
Paolo laughed. “No. It’s love that’s done the trick.”
“Good grief. Who’d have thought an out and out misogynist could turn into a decent person.”
“It was all an act, Barbara. Putting on a brave front to hide the soft centre.”
“Hmm, like someone else I know. Have you got time for a coffee?”
Paolo checked his watch. Ten-fifteen and he hadn’t yet started on the paperwork mountain. “Sure. I’d love one.”
He waited while she cleaned up and then walked by her side the few yards along the corridor to her office. An image of the child’s lifeless body came to him and he shivered. They are just kids, he thought; they should be playing and having fun, not servicing bloody perverts.
“How’s Katy?” Barbara’s voice cut across the unwelcome pictures in his head.
“The same. Her doctor thinks she’s making progress, but it’s so slow that we, Lydia and I, can’t see it.”
Mention of his ex-wife’s name brought to mind the previous morning’s threat to stop him seeing Katy. Surely she wouldn’t carry through with it. God, he hoped not. Putting that fear out of his mind along with all the other unpleasant things his brain felt stuffed with, he settled himself into one of Barbara’s comfortable chairs. A strange noise from behind made him look round.
“Very snazzy,” he said as Barbara slipped a capsule into what was clearly a fancy new machine. “I haven’t seen that before.”
Barbara grinned. “You know me and my love of a perfect cup of coffee. This was a present from a friend who was fed up with my constant complaints about the coffee we get from the vending machines here.”
Paolo looked at the expression on Barbara’s face. Yes, she loved good coffee, but that glint of excitement was a bit over the top.
“Friend?” he asked.
“Friend,” she said firmly, placing a cup on the low table in front of him.
But the blush that crept over her face, almost blending with the livid birthmark covering her neck, made him think friend might be too mild a word. He felt as though someone had punched him in the stomach, which was stupid. He had no right to feel anything where Barbara was concerned. He was the one who’d turned down any chance of a relationship, so why shouldn’t she have someone in her life?
Author Bio –
When not working on her D.I. Sterling Series, Lorraine Mace is engaged in many writing-related activities. She is a columnist for both Writing Magazine and Writers’ Forum and is head judge for Writers’ Forum monthly fiction competitions. A tutor for Writers Bureau, she also runs her own private critique and author mentoring service. She is co-author, with Maureen Vincent-Northam, of THE WRITER’S ABC CHECKLIST (Accent Press). Other books include children’s novel VLAD THE INHALER – HERO IN THE MAKING, and NOTES FROM THE MARGIN, a compilation of her Writing Magazine humour column.
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