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Book extract: Grey in the Dark by John Lincoln

27 May 2023 8 minute read

Grey in the Dark, published by No Exit Press, and John Williams (writing as John Lincoln)

We are pleased to publish this extract from John Lincoln’s latest crime novel in which Gethin Grey and his Last Resorts legal team track down a killer in south Wales.

John Lincoln

Gethin didn’t mind that the guy was lying. All his clients lied to him. Even the ones who were actually innocent.

He didn’t mind that he was sure Karl Fletcher was guilty. Most of his clients were. When they claimed to be innocent, they didn’t generally mean it in the civilian sense. They weren’t saying they didn’t actually do the crime they were convicted of.

They were talking about being innocent in the professional sense – that the evidence against them wasn’t strong enough to justify their conviction, that they’d spotted a loophole. That kind of innocent.

No, the thing that was really bothering Gethin, as he sat in the delightful visiting area of Long Lartin Prison, was that the guy stank. In prison most people shower pretty regularly – apart from anything else it’s a disciplinary offence not to.

This guy though – it wasn’t even that he was obviously dirty, he just smelt rotten. There was no other way to say it. Gethin tried and failed to put out of his mind some of the sordid stuff that had come out at his trial – the huge collection of pornography and all that. So when Karl put his hand out to shake, Gethin just pretended not to see it.

The third person at the table, Mrs Kendall, didn’t seem to mind, though. She took Karl Fletcher’s hand all right, and stared at him like he was Nelson Mandela in Robben Island, strong and noble.

Gethin sat back in his chair and looked at the pair of them with frank bewilderment. It really does take all sorts. Karl was lank and greasy and hunched over. Even his clothes, the chinos and the striped shirt he always wore, looked like they were coated in grease.

In the photos of him from the trial he’d looked handsome enough after a fashion. A preppie psychopath in his late twenties. Ten years of jail time later he looked like hell. Prison has a way of ruining people.

Mrs Kendall, though, was rather more of a puzzle. For starters what modern woman in her mid-thirties insisted on being called Mrs at all times? Her name – he’d seen it on the cheques – was Hayley but woe betide you if you tried using it. Nor was there any sign of a Mr Kendall. Whoever he was, he was long gone.

She was, Gethin figured, one of those people who live their whole lives like they are starring in their own movie. And in her own head she was doubtless a mysterious blonde called Mrs Kendall.

It was just that this presumable inner life didn’t manifest itself on the outside. To look at she was a neat, compact person, dressed in an older woman’s twinset, with her hair in a carefully coiffed helmet.

She was a good-looking woman, seen in the abstract, but there was nothing overtly sexual about her, just a sort of grim determination occasionally lit up with love for her great cause in life, Karl Fletcher.

Not that Mrs Kendall’s peculiarity mattered to Gethin. What mattered was that she was rich. Rich enough to keep paying Last Resort Legals to look into the conviction of her beloved.

A conviction which she, and a very few other people, believed to be a miscarriage of justice. Gethin himself was frankly dubious about this, but he had learned not to look a gift horse in the mouth.

‘So,’ he said, once Mr Fletcher and Mrs Kendall had had their fill of gazing at each other adoringly, ‘first the good news. We found the postman.’

‘You did?’ Mrs Kendall turned to look around at him: ‘That’s fantastic.’

‘Took quite a bit of doing,’ said Gethin. ‘He quit the job three months later. And you won’t believe how many people called Matt Edwards there are in this country, but we found him eventually.’

‘Well, that’s what I pay you for.’

Gethin nodded. It was a fair enough point and in reality it had taken Bex about five minutes to find Matt Edwards on Facebook. He just hoped he was storing up a bit of credit before delivering the bad news.

‘He’s living in the Peak District these days, working as a property investor.’

Which was a polite term for a bloke who’d watched way too many episodes of Homes Under the Hammer and finally bought a couple of little terraced houses in Stoke which he rented out to unfortunate students.

Anyway Gethin hoped it all sounded like he’s been earning his fee, given that Mr Edwards had been last heard of living in Chislehurst, Kent.

‘So?’ said Mrs Kendall.

‘Unfortunately, he doesn’t remember seeing your brother at any time that morning.’

‘Oh,’ said Karl. ‘Fuck. You’re sure he didn’t see anything at all?’

‘No,’ said Gethin. ‘I mean it’s ten years ago and obviously it was a big deal at the time so he remembered the morning pretty well, but he didn’t see a man in a blue Audi TT at any time and he likes cars, so he thinks he would have remembered.’

‘Is he absolutely certain?’ asked Mrs Kendall. ‘Did you get him hypnotised?’

Gethin looked at her in amazement. ‘No, I didn’t get him hypnotised.’

‘Well, why not? For God’s sake.’ She swivelled round. ‘See, I told you they were incompetents.’

Gethin took a deep breath. Reminded himself that he needed Mrs Kendall rather more than she needed him. If she wanted him to eat shit he would grin and ask how much.

‘I’m sorry. Of course I considered the hypnotism option’ – yeah right – ‘but I thought I would report to you first, before incurring the extra time and expenditure, given that Matt Edwards – the postman – did seem to be quite a reliable witness.’

‘He’s not that reliable, is he? He didn’t see James drive by.’

‘Well, no, but of course he might have been delivering a parcel at the moment in question.’

James was Karl’s brother. Karl’s defence case was based around the idea that he, James, was the man responsible for massacring the family. The only problem being that no one had ever placed James within three hundred miles of the scene of the crime. Hence the interview with the postman.

‘Exactly,’ said Mrs Kendall. ‘That must have been what happened. He would have been on the doorstep, pushing letters through the box or whatever, when James drove by. His brain will have noticed it subconsciously and once you have him hypnotised he’ll remember it.’

Gethin managed to keep it together until he was back in the car. Then he banged his forehead repeatedly on the steering wheel. For Christ’s sake! Surely there had to be a better way of making a living than this – taking a deluded woman’s money in the vain hope that he might somehow find the evidence that would free an obvious scumbag like Karl Fletcher.

That wasn’t why he’d started Last Resort Legals. He had been full of idealism then – keen to ride to the rescue of victims of miscarriages of justice across Britain.

A few months ago he’d really thought they were finally getting somewhere. They’d taken on the case of Izma M, the poster boy for moderate Islam, and that was a proper battle for truth and justice.

They did a hell of a job getting to the truth, but unfortunately the way it had all played out meant that most of it never made the press and, while there had been an uptick in business, and the wolf was currently having a nap some way from the door, there hadn’t been the surge of new cases he’d expected. So Karl Fletcher remained a valued client.

He put the car into gear. Maybe he’d make it back to Cardiff before the rush hour choked up the M4. Reaching over to check Google Maps on his phone, he noticed a message.

It was from Cat and it just said ‘Call me’.

Grey in the Dark by John Lincoln is published by No Exit Press and is available from all good bookshops.

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