Sampler: Retriever of Souls by Lorraine Mace

His throat closed with the old familiar ache and his guts tightened. His skin suddenly felt clammy.

Brought up believing that sex is the devil’s work, a killer only finds release once he has saved his victim’s souls. Abiding by his vision, he marks them as his. A gift to guide his chosen ones on the rightful path to redemption.

Detective Inspector Paolo Sterling is out to stop him, but Paolo has problems of his own. Hunting down the killer as the death toll rises, the lines soon blur between Paolo?s personal and professional lives.

In this excerpt, D.I. Paolo Sterling and D.S. Dave Johnson have been called out to a murder scene. This is the killer’s second victim and the body was found by two boys out playing.

Lorraine Mace

Sampler: Retriever of Souls

A constable came over as they approached the cordoned-off area. Flashing his warrant card, Paolo smiled at the uniformed man.

“PC Gibson, sir,” the young man said. “The schoolboys who discovered the body are over there with PC Start. Their names are Patrick Kilbride and Freddy Samson.”

Paolo looked across to where a couple of lads were being reassured by a policewoman. “What do you know so far?”

“The boys were playing football on the heath and kicked the ball into the car park. They saw an arm and panicked. Fortunately that chap over there, a Mr. James Smedley,” he said, pointing to a man sitting on a nearby bench, “was passing and had a mobile. He called the emergency services and stayed with the lads until we arrived.”

“Right, let’s have a look, shall we?” Paolo saw the young man’s face blanch and took pity on him. “You wait here, Gibson. Keep the vultures at bay.”

A look of relief flooded the constable’s face. Paolo guessed it had probably been the young policeman’s first corpse.

As Paolo and Dave approached the body the stench of decay made them gag. The top half of the corpse had been dragged from its black plastic shroud. It looked likely that an animal had ripped through the bag. Teeth marks showed where chunks of flesh had been torn off. At first glance, it was barely recognisable as human, apart from the bleached hair and painted fingernails.

“Jesus!” Dave muttered.

Paolo looked up to see that the SOCOs had arrived and walked back to the tape to meet them.

“Dr. Royston,” he said, nodding in greeting.

Paolo kept his expression neutral, aware of Dave watching for any possible interplay between him and Barbara Royston. There’d been some talk at Christmas after the party, which he was sure would have been repeated when Dave joined the team, even though no one had actually asked him face to face if there was anything going on. His thoughts drifted back to that night and he wondered if Barbara would ever forgive him. Sighing, he shoved the question to the back of his mind.

Barbara held his gaze, almost challenging him to say something, but he had no idea what. The forensic pathologist’s thick blonde hair was held back in a ponytail, emphasizing her pale complexion and dark blue eyes. The livid birthmark staining her neck was on show for all to see. A flicker of emotion passed across her face, but Paolo couldn’t read it. When he didn’t speak, she gave a half shrug and turned away. As she walked towards the body, Paolo watched her rigid back. He had to clear the air but now wasn’t the time.

Leaving Barbara and her team to their examination, he turned to Dave.

“Come on, let’s go and talk to the kids who found the body.”

Patrick Kilbride and Freddy Samson looked to be in their early teens; both had short-cropped hair, one dark and the other ginger. They were wearing the hoodies and oversized jeans that comprised the uniform of Bradchester youth and both looked terrified. They squared up to him as he approached, trying to give the impression that finding a dead body and dealing with the police was no big deal. An impression that disappeared as soon as they had to describe what had happened.

“It were just lying there, like. All bloody,” Patrick said in answer to Paolo’s question about finding the body. He shuddered. “The ball went in the car park, dinnit? An’ we ran after it. It rolled up against the … you know … the …”

Paolo waited, but Patrick swallowed and shook his head. “What happened after you found the body? Did you touch anything?”

“No way,” Freddy jumped in when his friend didn’t answer. “We ran. He was screaming like a girl,” he said, giving Patrick a disparaging look.

“I was not,” spat his friend. “What about you then? You puked your guts up. You wasn’t so tough, was you?”

“Well it stank, an’ I nearly fell on it when I went to get the ball.”

Paolo was put in mind of his daughters when they used to bicker. His throat closed with the old familiar ache and his guts tightened. His skin suddenly felt clammy.

“Okay, lads, that’s enough,” he said in a harsher tone than he’d intended.

Forcing himself to concentrate, he continued to question the friends for a little longer, but it was clear they couldn’t tell him anything else. Paolo asked PC Start to see them home and make sure there was someone to take care of them.

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