Stolen by Paul Finch
How do you find the missing when there’s no trail to follow?
DC Lucy Clayburn is having a tough time of it. Not only is her estranged father one of the North West’s toughest gangsters, but she is in the midst of one of the biggest police operations of her life.
Members of the public have started to disappear, taken from the streets as they’re going about their every day lives. But no bodies are appearing – it’s almost as if the victims never existed.
Lucy must chase a trail of dead ends and false starts as the disappearances mount up. But when her father gets caught in the crossfire, the investigation suddenly becomes a whole lot more bloody…
‘This going to make me throw up?’ Lucy said.
‘More likely make you dance a jig.’
Lucy went through into what was a basically a lean-to shed lit by a single electric bulb, its damp walls lined with shelves groaning beneath the grisly accoutrements of dog-fighting. She saw piles of spare muzzles and harnesses, stacks of grubby second-hand magazines with grotesque images on their covers, homemade DVDs, DIY veterinary kits, including staple-guns and tubes of superglue, and a number of ‘breaking sticks’, thick wooden bars impressed with toothmarks, which would normally be used to pry open a victorious animal’s jaws when it had them locked into its latest victim.
‘Perfect,’ she said. ‘Bloody perfect. All this needs bagging and tagging, Tessa.’
Payne nodded, at which point they were distracted by the sound of more canine whining. The outhouse had its own outer door – again just a frame with no actual door in it. On the other side they found an enclosed yard containing a set of weighing scales, a treadmill and a large glass tank, very grimy and filled to the brim with water so filthy and green that it was almost opaque. There was also a row of grillwork cages with crudely built kennels attached. Each was occupied by a dog, but these were animals of a different ilk to those they’d seen so far. They were highly subdued, lying still with ears flat, each one watching the humans beyond their cages with fearful intensity.
And it was clear why.
They were brutally scarred, in many cases so bitten and ragged that the fur was entirely missing from their faces. Several had lost so much flesh from their jowls that their teeth were exposed. At least a couple were missing an eye, the empty sockets crudely sutured shut. Lucy saw ears hanging in ribbons, paws chewed into lame, leathery stumps. The reason for that was evident in their breeds, for these were mostly mongrels, but those that weren’t were recognisable as Labradors, spaniels and retrievers, suburban pets rather than fighting-dogs.
‘Bait,’ Lucy observed as she walked along the cages.
‘Looks like this is where all the abductees we’ve been hearing about have finished up,’ Payne said, following.
‘No sign of the black van yet, though.’
‘We need to keep looking.’
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