Read the extract from Chapter 2
Inspector Kate Swanson knew the junior officer standing by the courtroom doors watching her. Flaherty was flushed with excitement, so desperate to get Swanson’s attention that for one horrendous second she thought he might shout over to her. Swanson turned her attention back towards Judge Livermore. The accused, William Crampton, sat to Swanson’s right, on a separate table with his lawyer. Little more than a child, he had been arrested six months ago for petty theft after stealing a bottle of vodka from an off-licence, a dare from his fellow gang members. Dressed in a maroon jumpsuit, his narrow eyes stared straight ahead. Swanson listened to the familiar sound of the verdict followed by the equally familiar sentence. There was only ever one sentence.
Any breach of the criminal law, however minor, was subject to an effective death sentence. After spending time in the holding zone, convicts were placed in the glass pods which journeyed throughout the city. The journey took thirty days, but after eight days the water supply was removed. No one had ever survived the pods. Luis Ciucci had been the first prisoner to be podded, not long after Swanson was born. Ciucci had murdered his wife’s lover in a crime of passion. His podding had been symbolic. People had sympathy for Ciucci, and the council knew it. It would have been easier to pod someone everyone loathed, a multiple murderer, a rapist or child molester, but this way they signaled to society that whatever your crime, whatever the mitigating circumstances, you were going to the pods.
The boy barely reacted. Swanson had seen the weary look of resignation countless times before. No doubt the hope had been ground out of him during his probationary incarceration. Even after all these years in the force, all the prosecutions she’d been involved with, the verdict was still difficult to hear.
‘Court dismissed,’ said the judge.
Flaherty was by her side in seconds. In his grey-blue uniform, he looked like a schoolboy playing dressing-up games. He smelt of nicotine and sweet aftershave. He pulled at the grey clip-on tie dangling from his throat. ‘Ma’am,’ he said.
‘What is it?’ asked Swanson.
‘It’s Judge Lloyd, Ma’am. He’s missing.’ Flaherty’s voice was an octave higher than normal.
‘Would you care to elaborate, Flaherty?’ suggested Swanson.
‘He didn’t turn up for court today and there’s no sign of him at his house. His car is still parked in his garage.’ Flaherty was smiling.
‘Chessington wants you over there. As soon as you finish here.’
Swanson glared at him.
‘Ma’am,’ he said.
Swanson packed her files away. Five foot eleven with long blonde hair tied back into a ponytail, she was wearing her standard formal issue: a black pleated skirt, white blouse, and black jacket. On her left lapel shone three silver crowns. Her voice was deep and guttural, the legacy of a childhood throat infection which had permanently damaged her vocal cords.
The public defender, Dave Legg, walked over and shook her hand, holding on longer than was necessary. ‘Another victory, Inspector Swanson,’ he said. ‘It must make you proud, putting away such hardened criminals.’
Swanson understood the man’s sarcasm, his despair at losing another client, but couldn’t show any weakness. ‘Defeat makes you so bitter, Dave.’
‘It is not the defeat, Inspector. It is the consequences of defeat which trouble me.’ He held her gaze, trying in vain to look nonchalant, then walked away. He had left a gold plated pen on his desk which Swanson placed into her pocket.
Outside, she barged through a group of journalists each barking questions at her. She made eye contact with one of their number, Jane Sutton who she occasionally shared information with. She nodded to the woman before entering her car.
As Swanson drove through the city to Judge Lloyd’s house, she tried not to think about the sentence just handed down to the young petty thief. The policy of Zero Tolerance, ZT, was fixed legislation. Its powers could not be withdrawn, only extended. At present, any breach of criminal law, subject to a fair trial before judge and jury, was subject to the death penalty. Swanson had been working in the police force for the last eight years and had never known a society without the pods.
She reminded herself that she didn’t make the policy. Her job was to uphold the law, however draconian that law appeared to be. In her judgement, the petty thief, Crampton, didn’t deserve to die. She empathised with the young man, and even with his obnoxious lawyer. Maybe one day there would come a time when the law was not so severe, but until then, she had a job to do.
About the book
By Matt Brolly
Published by Canelo (E-book - 21 November 2016)
A zero tolerance policy results in the death penalty for all crimes, no matter how minor.
When a judge is kidnapped, and a ransom note demands the release of all prisoners awaiting execution, kleptomaniac Detective Inspector Kate Swanson is put on the case.
But soon her boss also disappears. Under increasing pressure from her superiors, and caught between the security services and the growing social unrest, Swanson must race to find a man whose murdered wife and daughter link the missing men.
Can she find him before it’s too late?
Buy from Amazon UK here.
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