Vanished, p.1

Vanished, page 1



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  Author’s Note


  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13


  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Date Night


  Chapter 29

  Chapter 30

  Chapter 31

  Chapter 32

  Chapter 33

  Chapter 34

  Chapter 35

  Chapter 36

  Chapter 37

  Chapter 38

  Chapter 39

  Chapter 40

  Chapter 41

  Chapter 42

  Chapter 43

  Chapter 44

  Chapter 45

  Chapter 46

  Chapter 47

  Chapter 48

  Chapter 49

  Chapter 50

  Chapter 51


  Chapter 52

  Chapter 53

  Chapter 54

  Chapter 55

  Chapter 56

  Chapter 57

  Chapter 58

  Chapter 59

  Chapter 60

  Chapter 61

  Chapter 62

  Chapter 63

  Chapter 64

  Chapter 65

  Chapter 66

  Chapter 67

  Chapter 68

  Chapter 69


  Chapter 70

  Chapter 71


  Chapter 72

  Chapter 73

  Chapter 74

  Chapter 75

  Chapter 76

  Chapter 77

  Chapter 78

  Chapter 79

  Chapter 80

  Chapter 81

  Chapter 82




  Tim Weaver was born in 1977. At eighteen, he left school and started working in magazine journalism, and has since gone on to develop a successful career writing about films, TV, sport, games and technology. He is married with a young daughter, and lives near Bath. Vanished is Tim’s third David Raker novel.

  Find out more about Tim and his writing at

  For Lucy

  ‘The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin.’ Deuteronomy 24:16

  Author’s Note

  For the purposes of the story, I’ve taken some small liberties with the layout and working practices of the London Underground. My hope is that it’s done subtly enough not to grate, and remains true to the amazing history of the city’s railway lines. Those schooled in the Tube will see echoes of Whitechapel’s past in my version of Westminster station, will note I’ve altered Gloucester Road ever so slightly and I hope will forgive my reinterpretation of night-time hours on the network. Residents of north London will no doubt also recognize Fell Wood as being based closely on Haringey’s Parkland Walk.

  15 June

  Healy looked down at the temperature readout as he pulled up outside the estate. Almost twenty degrees. It felt hotter than that. He’d had the air conditioning on all the way from the station but, on the journey over, nothing had cooled. His sleeves were rolled up, his top button undone, but the car was still stifling. Even in the middle of the night, under cover of darkness, the heat continued to cling on.

  He paused, looking out through the windows of the Mercedes to the maze of broken homes beyond. The most dangerous housing estate in London had gone into hibernation. There were no lights on in the flats, no kids in the alleys, no gangs crossing the walkways between buildings. But then, as more marked cars arrived, lightbars painting the ten-storey slabs of concrete, he could make out shapes in the night, watching him from darkened windows and doorways.

  He got out. Away to his left, the media were encamped behind a strip of police tape, in shirts and summer dresses, faces slick with sweat. It was mayhem. Journalists jostled for the best position. Feet slid on grass banks. Noise. Lights. Voices screaming his name. In another life, he might have enjoyed the celebrity. Some cops did. But when he looked at the entrance to the building, ominous and dark, like a mouth about to swallow him up, he realized it was all a trick. This wasn’t celebrity. This was standing on a precipice in a hurricane. They were behind him now; with him on that precipice. But if it went on any longer, if it got any worse, if the police still hadn’t found the man responsible by the time the media were camped out at the next crime scene, all they’d be trying to do would be to feed him to the darkness beyond.

  He moved across the concrete courtyard to the entrance and looked inside. Everything was broken or cracking, like the whole place was about to collapse under its own weight. The floor was slick with water, leaking from somewhere, and along the corridor a broken door, leading into the first set of flats, was hanging off its hinges. Litter was everywhere. Some people would go their whole lives without seeing the insides of a place like this: a two-hundred-apartment cry for help. The sort of place where even the night at its darkest wasn’t black enough to hide all the bruises.

  A uniformed officer with a clipboard was standing at the bottom of a stairwell to Healy’s right. He looked up as Healy approached, shining a flashlight in his direction. ‘Evening, sir.’


  ‘The elevator doesn’t work.’

  Healy glanced at the lift. Across its doors was a council notice telling people it was unsafe to use. On the damp, blistered wall next to it, someone had spray-painted an arrow and the words ‘express elevator to hell’.

  After showing the officer his warrant card, Healy headed up three flights of stairs, most of it barely lit. Everything smelled like a toilet. Glass crunched under his shoes where light bulbs had been deliberately smashed and never cleared away. At the third-floor landing, people started to emerge – other cops, forensics – a line snaking out from Flat 312. A crime-scene tech broke off from dusting down a door frame to hand Healy a white paper boiler suit and a pair of gloves. ‘You’d better wear this,’ she said. ‘Not that you’re going to be disturbing much evidence.’

  Healy took the suit.

  Inside the flat, a series of stand-alone lights had been erected, their glare washing into the corridor. Apart from the buzz of a generator, the apartment was pretty much silent. The occasional click of a camera. A mumble from one of the forensic team. Brief noises from other flats. Otherwise, nothing.

  After zipping up the boiler suit and pulling up the hood, Healy moved into the flat. It was just like the ones the other victims had lived in. Run-down. Squalid. Damp. In the kitchen, which led off from the living room, a big brown watermark had formed on the linoleum. Healy spotted DCI Melanie Craw looking around inside. There was a door off the living room, opening on to a bedroom. Chief Superintendent Ian Bartholomew stood in the doorway, the bed in front of him. He looked back at Healy, a pissed-off expression on his face, then to Craw, who’d arrived from the kitchen.

he said. ‘What the bloody hell am I supposed to tell the media?’

  Bartholomew backed out of the bedroom and let Healy take it in. The crime scene. A small bedroom with a tiny walk-in closet, a dresser, and a television on a chair in the corner of the room. The carpet was worn, the wallpaper peeling. On the pillow, placed in a neat pile, was the victim’s hair. He’d shaved it all off, just like all the others, and left it there. The mattress was where the body should have been.

  But that was just the problem.

  He never left the bodies.



  12 June

  Her office was on the top floor of a red-brick four-storey building just off Shaftesbury Avenue. The other floors belonged to an advertising agency and a big international media company. Two code-locked glass doors protected sharp-suited executives from the outside world, while a security guard the size of a wrestler watched from inside. Everything else in the street was either dead or dying. Two empty stores, one a shoe shop, one an antiques dealer, had long since gone. Adjacent to that was a boarded-up Italian restaurant with a huge NOW CLOSED sign in the window. The last man standing was a video rental store that looked like it was on its way out: two men were arguing in an empty room with only a single DVD rack and some faded film posters for company.

  It was a warm June evening. The sun had been out all day, although somewhere out of sight it felt like rain might be lying in wait. I’d brought a jacket, just in case, but for the moment I was in a black button-up shirt, denims and a pair of black leather shoes I’d bought in Italy. They were the genuine article, from the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele in Milan, but I didn’t wear them much; mostly their purpose in life was to cut my feet to shreds. Yet they were a sacrifice worth making for the woman I was meeting.

  Liz emerged from one of the elevators in the foyer about fifteen minutes later. People had been filing out of the building steadily since five, but the office she worked in was also the office she ran, so she tended to be the last one out. She spotted me immediately, standing in the doorway of the now-defunct antiques shop, and I was struck by how beautiful she looked: dark eyes flashing as she smiled, long, chocolate hair pulled back from a face full of natural angles. Elizabeth Feeny, solicitor advocate, had thrived in a city packed with dominant males: she’d gone up against bigger fish and won; she’d taken their clients and retained them; she’d brought together a team of formidable lawyers under the umbrella of Feeny & Company and she’d fronted a number of high-profile cases that had secured her growing reputation. It would have been difficult not to be impressed by her, even if I hadn’t been seeing her for eight months and living next door to her for a lot longer. She completely looked the part, moving across the road towards me in a white blouse and black pencil skirt that traced the gentle curves of her body. But her biggest asset was that when she smiled, she made you feel like the only person in the room. That was a useful skill when you were pacing the floor of a court.

  ‘Mr Raker,’ she said, and kissed me.


  She gave me a gentle slap – she hated being called Elizabeth – and I brought her into me and kissed her on the top of the head. ‘How was your day?’ I asked.

  ‘Full of meetings.’

  We stayed like that for a moment. This was new for both of us. It had been two and a half years since my wife Derryn had died of breast cancer, and almost sixteen since we’d first met. Liz was married at twenty-one, pregnant six months later and divorced shortly after that. She spent two years bringing up her daughter Katie, before returning to the law degree she’d started and completing her training as a solicitor. She hadn’t dated seriously since before she’d married her husband.

  ‘Where are we eating?’ she asked.

  ‘There’s an Italian place I know.’ I shifted us – still together – around to face the closed restaurant just down from where we were standing.

  She squeezed me. ‘You’re a funny man, Raker.’

  ‘I booked us a table at a South African place just off Covent Garden. We can get drunk on Castle Lager.’

  ‘South African?’

  ‘Ever had babotie?’

  ‘Can’t say I have.’

  We started walking slowly. ‘Well, tonight’s your lucky night.’

  The restaurant was in a narrow cellar in a side street between Covent Garden market and the Strand. The stone walls had holes carved in them, framed photographs of South Africa sitting inside. In the one closest to us, the Ferris wheel at Gold Reef City was caught in black and white, frozen for a moment against a markless sky. I’d spent a lot of time in and around Johannesburg in my previous life as a journalist, and been stationed there for a year in the run-up to the elections in 1994. It had been a different place back then, more like a war zone than a city, its people massaged by hatred and fear.

  Liz let me choose, so I ordered two bottles of Castle, peri-peri chicken to start and babotie – spiced mincemeat, baked with egg – for the main course. While we waited for the food to arrive, she talked about her day and I told her a little of mine. I’d just put a case to bed a couple of days before: a seventeen-year-old runaway who’d been hiding out close to Blackfriars Bridge. His parents, a couple from a sprawling council estate in Hackney, had told me that they only had enough money to cover my search for three days. It took me five to find him, the job complicated by the fact that he had no friends, talked to pretty much no one, and, when he’d left, had literally taken only the clothes on his back. No phone. No cards. No money. Nothing even remotely traceable. I’d been to see his mum and dad and told them to pay me for the three days, and then return when they felt they could afford to square up the extra two. They were good people, but I wouldn’t see them again. I wasn’t normally in the business of charity, but I found it even more difficult to leave things unfinished.

  After the babotie arrived, conversation moved on from work to Liz’s daughter and the university course she was doing. She was finishing the final year of an economics degree. I hadn’t had the chance to meet her yet, but from the way Liz had described her, and the photos I’d seen, she appeared to be almost a mirror image of her mother.

  I ordered two more bottles of Castle and, as Liz continued talking, caught sight of a woman watching me from across the restaurant. As soon as we made eye contact she looked down at her food. I watched for a moment, waiting for her eyes to drift up to me a second time, but she just continued staring at her plate, picking apart a steak. I turned back to Liz. Ten seconds later, the woman was looking at me again.

  She was in her late twenties, red hair curling as it hit her shoulders, freckles scattered across her cheeks and nose. She had a kind of understated beauty, as if she didn’t realize it, or she did but wasn’t bothered enough to do anything about it. The thin fingers of her right hand grasped a fork; those on her left were wrapped around the neck of a wine glass. She was wearing a wedding ring.

  ‘You okay?’

  The woman was looking away again now, and Liz had noticed me staring at her. ‘The woman in the corner there – do you know her?’

  Liz looked back over her shoulder. ‘I don’t think so.’

  ‘She keeps looking this way.’

  ‘Can’t say I blame her,’ Liz said, smiling. ‘You’re a good-looking man, Raker. Not that I want to inflate your ego or anything.’

  We carried on eating. A couple of times I glanced in the woman’s direction, but didn’t catch her eye again. Then, about thirty minutes later, she suddenly wasn’t there any more. Where she’d been sitting was empty; just a half-finished steak and a full glass of wine. Money sat on a white tray on the edge of the table, the bill underneath it.

  She was gone.


  Just before we left, Liz got a call from a client. She rolled her eyes at me and found a quiet spot in an alcove. I gestured to her that I’d meet her upstairs when she was done.

  The rain that had been in the air earlier had now arrived. I pulled my jacket on and found
shelter a couple of doors down from the restaurant. Across the street people emerged from Covent Garden Tube station, a few armed with umbrellas and coats, but most dressed in short sleeves or T-shirts, blouses or summer skirts. After about five minutes I spotted a figure approaching me from my left, moving in the shadows on the opposite side of the street. When she got close, the light from a nearby pub illuminated her, freeze-framing her face, and I realized who it was.

  The woman from the restaurant.

  She crossed the street and stopped about six feet away.

  ‘Mr Raker?’

  I immediately recognized the look in her eyes. I’d seen it before, constantly, repeated over and over in the faces of the families I helped: she’d either lost someone, or felt she was about to. Her face was young, but her eyes were old, wearing every ounce of her pain. It gave her a strange look, as if she was caught somewhere in between, neither young nor old, not beautiful or ugly. Just a woman who had lost.

  ‘I’m really sorry I had to come up to you like this,’ she said, and pushed her hair behind her ears. She seemed nervous, her voice soft but taut. ‘My name’s Julia. Julia Wren.’

  ‘What is it you want, Julia?’

  ‘I, uh …’ She paused. A bag strap passed diagonally across her chest. She reached behind her and pulled it around, opening up the front flap. She took out her purse and removed a piece of paper from it. As she unfolded it, I could immediately see what it was: a printout. ‘I read about you,’ she said. ‘On the internet.’

  It was a BBC story, a photograph showing me being led out of a police station, flanked by a detective, two uniforms and my legal counsel, Liz. Three days before the picture had been taken, I’d gone right into a nest of killers and almost lost my life. Eighteen months had passed since then, but my body was still marked by the scars.

  There had been other stories on the same case. Many other stories. I’d given no interviews, even to the people I’d once worked with, who’d called begging for comment. But it had gone big. For a week it had played out in the nationals until, like all news stories, it eventually burned itself out. For everyone else, it was consigned to history.

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