Her husband’s affair with a Government Minister has been exposed and a London crime boss has ordered her death.
She was last seen in the Greek islands with a mysterious American yachtsman....more follows...
Run to the Blue by P N Johnson
A few reviewers' comments - "Should be a TV series or a Movie!"
"Rich, spellbinding, absorbing." - "Simply beautiful!" - "A must read" - "A fast-paced mystery with plenty of action and colorful characters" - "Action packed!" - "Suspense, intrigue, action, murder, mystery, romance, a great who done it and some great high speed chase!"
A fast moving mystery thriller with a big romance sub plot set in London and the beautiful Greek Islands.
I was dreaming of him and those precious hours we’d spent together in Two Rock Bay. How we swam from the boat in the early summer sun, the glistening water forming droplets on wet, naked skin. The astounding revelation of who he really was…
Then I opened my eyes and came back to reality. As I crawled into consciousness, I could make out the now familiar sound of Greek being spoken outside the room. In amongst the rapid-fire words, I picked out my own name: Tess Anderson. The constant blip from the monitor by the bed became uncomfortably loud as I fought the pain and eased myself up on the pillows. Snatches of what had happened were seeping back. I looked out of the window, the only relief from the stark white walls of the hospital room, to see the beckoning blue sky and sense the rising heat of the Corfu sun.
Slowly, I eased myself up a little further. Every part of me seemed to hurt. I caught a glimpse of a stranger in the mirror above the sink: was that really me? There was dried blood on my cropped, newly blonde hair. When I raked my fingers through it, I saw my nails were broken, my wrists were bruised. I looked down at my legs, scarred by raised, red cuts. I clasped my hands together, wishing I was holding his.
I needed answers. I manoeuvred myself out of bed as carefully as I could and sat down on the side of it, trying to make sense of those last few days… Who were my betrayers and who were my friends? What had really happened last night? Had he died too? Did he mean it, when he said he loved me? Whatever the answers, I knew it wasn’t over yet. I was still in danger.
There was a knock on the door. A doctor walked in, accompanied by a policewoman. Grave-faced, they stared at me as I waited, in silence, for them to tell me the news I was desperate to hear.
1. London. 14 days before.
“Quick! The jury’s coming back, he’s going down for sure!” shouted a reporter, and the familiar press pack surged towards the doors. I was standing in the shadow of the Old Bailey in London, the Central Criminal Court, on a grey late-April morning in London. Next to me, other reporters were hastily scribbling scripts, and cameramen and women were readying their kit for the imminent feeding frenzy of rolling news.
I looked down to check that my constant companion, my phone, was still on silent. There were three missed calls within the last two minutes: two from my best friend Jane and one, just seconds ago, from Steve, my editor, back in the newsroom. A text arrived saying I had voicemail, then another from Sven, my husband. It just read: So sorry. I was curious, even concerned, but there wasn’t time to call him and find out what he was apologising for. I dropped the phone in my bag and rushed in with the others. Jake, my cameraman, called after me; he sounded desperate but there was no time. Without looking I waved at him and hurried back to the courtroom.
There he was, centre stage in Court Number One: the accused, standing impassively in the dock flanked by wary guards. Solid and shaven-headed, his smart suit was gone and he now wore a tracksuit which reflected his beginnings back in the clubs and pubs of London. A low tee shirt under the zipped top exposed a dragon tattoo slashed by a jagged scar, Ken ‘Lucky’ Lean’s pretence of being a respectable businessman had fallen away, revealing a criminal chameleon in his true colours. Gone was the respectable care home owner who’d been held high as an example, a benchmark of the best; he was about to be convicted as a fraudster who’d tricked old people out of millions, and worse, much worse, as a murderer who’d cruelly injected many of them with a needle of death.
Lean knew the game was up, and the last card he had to play was intimidation. Although I couldn’t risk showing it, I was scared stiff. He leaned forward, looking every inch the hard man, radiating menace as the members of the jury filed back to their seats. Like me, the jurors were careful not to meet his gaze, as if frightened he’d turn them to stone if their eyes met, like some kind of medusa of menace, a king of crime. The king, though, was about to lose his crown and be reduced to just another criminal whose reign had come to an end. And it was largely due to me. Yes, me.
I’m a star reporter, or so I’m told. You may have seen me, always there on the News, interviewing prime ministers, pop stars and victims. But behind the fixed stare and the authoritative smile, I’m just Tess, the not-so-confident girl from the 1970s semi-detached house, who’d clawed her way to the top. At times I’m frightened, often unsure. Sometimes crying after the camera stops, but determined to do a great job and, here in this court, I’d done that. I’d got the story of my career. I’d managed to secretly film Ken Lean murdering one of his victims, and I’d helped to expose the staggering extent of his crimes. I shone out from the crowd, but no one crossed Ken Lean with impunity. Even from the dock, he posed a threat. A threat to me.
As I took my seat in the press gallery, he craned his neck and caught my eye. He coolly raised one hand and pointed at me, making his fist into the shape of a gun. He was making it clear that he wouldn’t rest until I was dead. Gasps rang out around the room and the guards moved closer to restrain him. He knew he was going down, and we both knew why. I was compelled to stare back, outwardly unmoved but inwardly petrified. I could never have imagined the story I uncovered becoming so dangerous or so big. Just as the tension rose, my adrenalin rush stopped and I stifled a giggle as someone in the public gallery sneezed, causing Lean to scream “Shat it!” which led to a burst of laughter from the room.
The final collapse of his defence had come with the showing of a clip from my secret filming that reduced some spectators to tears, including a few of the jurors. After seeing the irrefutable evidence, the members of the jury were dismissed to consider their verdict. It was unimaginable that it could be anything other than guilty.
“The court will rise," boomed voice of the clerk, heralding the return of the judge. As we got to our feet, I saw a familiar figure scrambling his way over bags and past my neighbours to reach me in the press box. It was Greg, a colleague from the newsroom.
“Overmanning?” I whispered, curious as to why he was there. He frowned, shook his head and handed me a note, squeezing my shoulder warmly as he did.
“Tess, I’m sorry but Steve says you’re to read this. Now.” I took it from him and recognised the scrawl of our boss, the editor.
Tess, it’s absolutely vital you come out of court NOW! Steve.
I looked at Greg, who shrugged and smiled ruefully then took out his notebook and pen; he was the substitute sent to take my place. Confused and angry I slid out of my seat and squeezed past the other reporters. They were obviously surprised to see me leaving. One of them, the new girl from United News, was smirking. What did she know that I didn’t? I headed towards a side door, fuming. Steve had better have a damn good reason for this.
So, as the judge walked in, I walked out. Jake was waiting for me outside the building, shaking his head and looking pained. He offered me his mobile. He looked like a teenager who’d just failed an exam and didn’t want to tell his mum. I’d worked with him for five years and knew him well. Whatever this was, it must be bad. I could already hear Steve’s voice coming from the phone, demanding to know where I was.
“Tess, for fuck’s sake, Tess, this is urgent… Talk to me! Tess Anderson. Talk to me, please. Now!”
I was surprised; Steve never shouted, he rarely swore, and he knew I needed to be in court right now for the most important verdict I’d ever covered. The biggest story of my life. This could lead to an award, promotion, a major documentary… The Lean story could even be made into a film. I’d waited months for this trial, and I didn’t want to lose my place in history; I wanted to be there at the bitter end. I already knew what I was going to say in my report on the TV news that night. I had been working on my script since before dawn. It it was almost written. I just needed the verdict, the Judge’s judge’s comments, the prison sentence and a few reactions. I’d helped to bring this apology for a human being to justice and I deserved to be there when he went down. I’d even taken special pains with my appearance, confident that I’d be reporting the trial verdict live on national TV as the lead story. My brown hair, expensively layered and highlighted, had been carefully blow-dried; my work clothes were simple but sharp. My shoes were new and far too tight, but that was a sacrifice I gladly made: I knew they enhanced my height and gave me an air of authority on camera. My make-up was subtle, as always: I wasn’t presenting lifestyle; this was hard news. I wanted viewers concentrating on the story, not my looks.
I grabbed the phone; seconds were precious. “Boss! Can’t this wait?” I pleaded. “The jury’s back, the judge is about to deliver! I need to be there. Now!”
His words stopped me dead.
“I’m sorry, Tess,” Steve said, “but it looks like you’ve hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons.” As he spoke, it began drizzling, the stonework of the Old Bailey dampening by the moment—just like my mood. “I know it’s not your fault… this is all down to Sven, but everyone’s running it—I can’t blame them; it’s a hell of a good story. Political dynamite. Tess, your husband is having an affair with a leading member of the government. Look, Greg’s in place now, he’ll work with Jake and cover the verdict. Your background piece will run, but nothing else. You can’t be the story yourself, you know that. Take a few weeks out until the dust settles. Go home now, Tess, and we’ll talk later. Bye.”
There’s an old maxim in journalism: the story is always more important than the reporter, but as I stood there on the phone I saw two of the Fleet Street boys taking my picture. As their cameras flashed, I felt it start: the rash on my throat that I used to get whenever I was really nervous. I even wore scarves in the early days—I haven’t for years but today it was back. No one could see me like this. My confidence was crashing. I felt sick.
Steve hung up before I could speak. I stood in disbelief, rain splashing on my forehead. Too numb for tears. One of the Fleet Street snappers got nearer, keen on a close up, trying to snatch my reactions, to capture my mood.
“Sod off!” I shouted, raising my fist.
“Woah, Anderson—bit harsh, love!” he said, snapping away. “I’m only getting a story, like you.”
Jake touched my shoulder. “Cool it, Tess! They’ll quote you, you know that! But, hey, I’m really sorry.” He positioned himself between the photographer and me, hugging me close to hide me from the lens. Jake was a wise head on young shoulders. He could see the state I was in. “See you back at base and I’ll buy you lunch.”
“Thanks, Jake, but I’ve got to hear this verdict.”
“What? Tess, don’t be stupid—Steve will freak!”
“I don’t care. I can’t miss this!” I rushed back through the door, showing my press card to the guards. Jake was pleading with me to turn back as cameras filmed me going in. I ignored him and carried on, reaching the court as the judge was finishing his summing up. The other reporters were whispering and staring at me as I walked in, and then Lean saw me. Standing in the dock he screamed with his harsh East London voice: “DEAD BITCH WALKING!”
There was uproar. I was terrified, my husband had betrayed me, and one of London’s biggest villains wanted me dead. I was in a tailspin, my life was breaking up around me. Leaving the building, I held my hand over my throat, which was now glowing red, and realised my whole body was shaking. Outside, I turned my back on the Old Bailey and walked towards Newgate Street, raising my arm to hail a cab. I was doing my best to hold it together, but my mind was whirling. How could Sven have done this? And why did it have to come out today of all days? Not only had my stupid husband betrayed me, but he’d screwed up the most important moment in my career, maybe my life. I was going to be making the news myself for something he’d done. Dragged across the headlines for my personal, not professional, life. How could this have happened? I wanted to strangle him. What was he playing at?
As I crossed the road, I caught a glimpse of a motorbike with a rider wearing a black helmet with a silver snake on it coming my way. I ignored it, but the bike suddenly accelerated and seemed to be heading straight for me. I sped up and just got out of its way, stepping sideways between two stationary cars. The bike skidded to a halt and did a U-turn in the road. It seemed to be revving up to come back as a taxi drew up beside me. I opened the passenger door and climbed inside as the bike shot past. “Acton,” I said breathlessly to the driver. I pushed myself deep into the well-worn seat and kicked off my new, too-tight shoes. Surely that wasn’t just crazy London driving? It seemed deliberate—as if he was trying to run me down. Had the vengeance of the Leans already begun?
As the taxi moved off, I turned round, staring through the rain-splattered rear window. I could see the crowd by the Old Bailey, including lovely Jake—no doubt worrying about me. I pictured the rest of the press pack hard at work, the first of the bunch rushing out. They’d be digesting the sentencing right now. Damn it, I should have been there. The new girl from United News would be delighted that I wasn’t. Frustration and fear overpowered me. I bit down on my hand and gave a muffled scream.
“Okay, love?” asked the driver.
“Sorry, yes.” The smell of cheap, chemical car freshener made me wince. “I’m fine.”
“Where to in Acton?”
“Smithsen Street, please. Number fourteen. Thank you.”
He didn’t reply; he could tell I was in no mood to chat. I pulled out my phone and pressed Sven’s number, but as the first ring tone echoed in my ear I cancelled the call; I just couldn’t find the right words to say. Could it really be true? Were all these years, —our years, —worthless? Anger overtook me and I threw my phone down hard on the seat. Why had he done it? Why of all people had he done it with her? And why did the story damn well have to break today? Today!
As we left the Old Bailey behind, the reality of what Sven had done began to sink in. Sure, I’d suspected sometimes—of course I had—every woman does. But I’d never believed it. Not Sven. He was Sven, my Sven. He was handsome, yes, and he mixed with wealthy and beautiful women, but I never really thought he’d stray, never thought he could actually do that. We were so in love; why hadn’t I seen the signs? Was he corrupted by her? Somehow forced? Blackmailed? It couldn’t be just lust… Surely, I was enough?
“You okay back there?” I saw the driver glance at me in his mirror. I must have looked as awful as I felt.
“Sorry. Bad news,” I murmured. I rubbed my eyes, trying to blank out thoughts of my spouse’s secrets. It didn’t matter if I ruined my make-up now; I wasn’t going on camera any time soon. I needed to put Sven aside for a moment and focus on another treacherous man. If Ken ‘Lucky’ Lean—gangster, fraudster, murderer—really had sent that biker just now, then my life was in danger. No matter that he was currently receiving his well-deserved comeuppance in the most famous criminal court in the land—a court I should have been in, to watch him being dragged from the dock by the guards and taken to a cell, hopefully for life. A man like him being locked away was no guarantee of my safety. I could still be rubbed out just like his other victims. What if the biker was waiting for me at home to try again? Would tonight’s papers carry my death? Tess Anderson, an award-winning TV reporter, has been found dead near her home in West London. Police say they’re treating her death as suspicious and haven’t ruled out a link with a news story she’s been working on…