Novels‎ > ‎Shot Down‎ > ‎

Chapter One



Karl Martindale wasn’t the only one who was shocked to hear of the nature of the shooting.  PC 14352 Earnshaw had planned to go and see Bright Eyes that evening until his rest day was cancelled, and he was shocked to hear of anyone there that carried anything more offensive than a withering put-down.  It wasn’t your typical case.

            They were responding to reports of a disturbance at the venue, with no mention of a gun.  The manager had called it in, and perhaps was hoping to conceal the firearm element, the repercussions for him being fairly vast – although possibly not as a conclusive as for the corpse they were to be introduced to.  It was hard to ascertain exactly how he planned to conceal the truth, or even if it was that deliberate, but they had arrived first on the scene expecting to break up a scuffle.  It was only when they got inside that they realised that Tactical Aid really should be involved.

            Screaming up to the Central Academy, an unusual form of chaos awaited him and his partner – PC 2324 English.  There were the typical tears and screaming that held these scenes together.  All of the excitement of a much-hyped night out had been reduced to terror in one bullet, but the crowd this time were so unprepared.  That should have been a fair indication that this was more than civil disobedience.  People clung to each other as if symbiosis were the key to staying alive, others were poised closer to the floor, the life apparently sucked from them, trauma written all over their faces.  It looked like a war had erupted at an NME readers convention.  A rabble of band t-shirts and achingly cool haircuts fell around through inebriation and fear – the unexpected headliner of the evening was terror.

            “I don’t get it,” English had remarked as they climbed out of the car.  “Melodramatic fucking students.”

            Earnshaw scowled a little as   He didn’t discuss his music tastes in work because of attitudes like that.  He liked his music to be a bit more intelligent and less beat-led, but his colleagues seemed to unanimously despise such bands, writing them off as soundtracks for hippies, students and gays.  When he volunteered to police Glastonbury, he had felt more affinity to the stoned masses than the uniformed controllers, itching for a joint or a pill to take the edge off things, vowing next time to go as a punter and actually enjoy himself.

            They barged their way through the crowd, hoping that back-up would restore order with a deftly placed cordon, noticing that they had been beaten to the scene by a journalist, who was already taking statements from onlookers, doing their job for commercial purposes.  English remembered his face – he would probably come in useful later on.  The manager introduced himself, panic-stricken, already thinking about licensing issues and security arches, metal detectors and more pro-active bouncers.  Affray and disorder never made for good press.  Or for good career prospects.

            He had been planning an early finish, leaving his full-timers to lock up.  It was a fairly standard evening – eject a token couple of the more arrogant types for sparking up a spliff and the leave the rest to chill out and enjoy the night.  He always listened to the bands albums before they played, and knew that this particular gig wouldn’t yield any trouble.  He was shutting down his computer when the screaming commenced, and his early finish threatened to become an extremely late night. 

            “Sorry, what was your name again?” Earnshaw asked, trying to put some structure to the garbled explanation the manager was offering. 

            “Bernard Harvey.  You must understand this isn’t the sort of night someone would bring a gun to.  We base security on the type of event.  I mean, we don’t expect trouble, but we know what to be aware of.  And you should see ‘im – skinny young thing.  Doesn’t look like ‘e could muster up the strength to make a fist, let alone shoot someone.  The band are fuming, they think it’s an English tradition or something.  They say they’re a peaceful band – anti-war and everything, definitely don’t encourage guns.”

            “Guns?” English spluttered.  “No-one mentioned he was armed.”

            “Does anyone know where he is now?” Earnshaw asked, sick of the useless titbits Bernard was feeding them, not registering the information about the gun.  He was distracted.

            “Yeah, that’s the strangest thing.  He’s not moved.  He’s where he was when he did it.  Everyone else has been evacuated.  I’ve told my lads not to approach them.  They’re not trained for this.  As I say, I’ve listened to the CD’s – it just wasn’t one of those nights.”    

            “Evidently it was,” English remarked, increasingly irked by the flapping idiot that was unfortunately the most clued up person in there.  “Where’s the auditorium?” she asked.

            “Down here,” Earnshaw answered, fearing he may have spoken with too much authority and opened himself up to judgement.  He took the lead as they walked down the steps and Bernard broke into another hurried speech.  English was calling for the firearms unit to offer assistance, over-stepping the mark dramatically by going in without the back-up or the ambulances.  They were winging it, even if Harvey insisted that he was armed, not dangerous. 

            “They’re both in there.  It’s like a freeze-frame.  I think he might be waiting for you.  Like he wants everyone to know exactly what happened.  He’s still pointing the gun.  Looks lost.  I’ve been observing ‘im from the balcony.  I think he might be a mental or something.  People running around screaming, bashing into him.  He’s not moved a muscle.”

            “Thanks for the amateur psychology,” Earnshaw muttered, and was about to silence Bernard when he looked up, and the crime scene panned out in front of him.

            The arrival of Tactical Aid was announced over the radio, alarmed that two officers were in the line of fire, but looking ahead of them, they knew that there was no risk.  The action was over long before they had been called.  It was the final moment of true serenity the killer stood before them would ever have, English predicted.  Make the most of it, kid.

            The carnage of a gig littered the floor – plastic beer glasses, cigarette ends, sweat-induced footprints, lost badges, flyers for after-show parties and upcoming events, the occasional jacket lost in the throng, and the inevitable crowd-surfers trainer completed the picture.  On the stage, the equipment lay where it had been dropped, the act of a band abandoning their show.  In the glaring light of the auditorium, in contrast to the darkened intimacy that Earnshaw was used to as a gig-goer, the stage had been shifted.  The equipment was the backdrop, the mess was merely props.  Centre-stage stood a scrawny twenty-something male, pointing a gun at a fresh corpse that English would later describe as bi-sexual.

            In any other circumstance, this would have been a Turner prize winner.