Extract: Streets of Darkness by A A Dhand
Streets of Darkness is the debut thriller by A A Dhand and the first in a new series featuring Detective Harry Virdee. Described as Luther meets The Wire, it’s a gritty, intelligent police procedural that explores the dark underbelly of Bradford.
Detective Harry Virdee should be at home with his wife. Impending fatherhood should be all he can think about but he’s been suspended from work just as the biggest case of the year lands on what would have been his desk. He can’t keep himself away.
Determined to restore his reputation, Harry is obliged to take to the shadows in search of notorious ex-convict and prime suspect, Lucas Dwight. But as the motivations of the murder of a high-flying MP threaten to tip an already unstable city into riotous anarchy, Harry finds his preconceptions turned on their head as he discovers what it’s like to be on the other side of the law…
Read on for an extract from Streets of Darkness!
Streets of Darkness
A A Dhand
Arterial spray haemorrhaged across Harry’s face.
He wondered if his karma was tainted.
When you accept a new life into the world, it will be without consequence as long as your karma is clean.
Perhaps it was because Saima was overdue. Or perhaps being suspended from duty meant he had more time to relive a past which refused to stay buried.
It was something the damn peer-saab had said to Saima the day before which was needling Harry. She had invited the holy man, an Islamic preacher who claimed he could predict the future, to their house to make sure her pregnancy was without issue.
Saima loved that shit.
Harry looked at his hands. He could still see the blood. You got away with murder, he thought, remembering the last scream of his victim.
The air was heavy with moisture, a result of three days of torrential downpours. The sun wouldn’t cast its rays across Bradford – not unusual for October – but even in summer, it shied away, ensuring the bleakness that had strangled the city for over a decade remained firmly in place.
He ran harder through Lister Park, keeping off the grass which glistened with overnight dew. It was only five thirty but Harry hadn’t been able to sleep.
How could you be so reckless?
When he couldn’t sleep, he ran, trying to tire his body into relenting. Harry preferred running in darkness: the park trapping shadows between the branches of hundreds of ageing oak trees. Saima thought it was dangerous. But Harry was six-three, ninety kilos of mostly muscle and spent his Sundays bulldozing rugby players as a second-row forward.
Harry slowed in front of the castellated gatehouse at the northeast corner of the park and arrived at the Norman Arch exit. It had a medieval-looking gate. He placed his hands on it and rested his head against the iron. From the other side it might have appeared he was in jail. The image was fitting. Detective Inspector Harry Virdee suspended from work – IPCC investigation.
What a fucking joke.
His temperament was the problem. Always had been. Harry was tired of playing nice.
Especially in this city.
Especially with the choices he’d made.
Remember the blood, Harry? It’s always about the blood.
He turned around and faced the hill which led up to the boating lake. He took a moment, glanced at the statue of Sir Titus Salt on his left and wondered what Bradford’s most famous son would have made of the city now. In the 1800s, Titus had built the largest wool empire in Europe and made Bradford one of the richest cities in the world. Salt had created the entire suburb of Saltaire and built a village for his employees, complete with one of the most advanced wool mills ever seen.
Those times were gone. Bradford was a relic, its glory days past, suffocated by mass unemployment caused by the collapse of the textile industries. Salt’s only legacy was a few books in the library and the dirty-white statue Harry was staring at. It had been moved from the entrance of the Town Hall to this corner of the park.
A forgotten legacy for a forgotten city.
Harry hit the incline hard, sprinting past Salt’s statue. Grimacing against the pain, he blew out hot, stale air and tried not to close his eyes. He focused on the one memory which sat most uncomfortably in his mind. He recalled the wide-eyed horror of his victim and the flash of steel as Harry had hammered a pair of scissors into the man’s neck.
The final image of his victim’s eyes rolling lifelessly away before his body folded to the floor got Harry across the finish line.
Tonight Lister Park would be the setting for the start of the largest Asian Mela in England. The three-day event was returning after an absence of several years. Last year it had been in City Park in the town centre as a celebration of the new Centenary Square. There had been a live, televised stage show of Bollywood Carmen. It had been one of the largest-scale events to be held in the city.
This year Bradford Council had decided to return the event to Lister Park. They had good reason; today was also the Islamic festival of Eid and the turnout was going to be a record-breaker. Five thousand at least.
Harry was bringing Saima in the evening for some low-quality Asian food and to enjoy the bazaar-like atmosphere. She loved everything Asian.
Like Harry, Saima was trapped in a nightmarish world where she had crossed a religious divide by marrying outside of her faith. But whereas Harry had never been religious, Saima clung desperately to her Muslim identity. They had both been cast out by their families, an experience which was still raw. Harry was from an orthodox Sikh family and Saima from a strict Muslim household.
What had started as a taboo affair had evolved ultimately into a choice: their families or each other? Most days Harry reminded Saima that history was full of couples who had persevered, even when those close by disintegrated. She said she blamed him, his persistence in asking her out after a stint in A & E. Harry had split his head open during a scuffle with an assailant. Saima had stitched the wound and eventually agreed to dinner.
A few soft dates had turned into endless nights in bed, and finally an obsessive relationship had resulted in a marriage which cost them their families. Sikhs and Muslims were not supposed to mix. Harry routinely teased Saima that her bedside manner, whilst she had stitched his wound, was to blame. The pause which had held his eyes, the alluring scent of her skin, and the way she’d whispered seductively in his ear.
Harry trailed his feet against the gravel as he approached the exit, feeling the burn in his thighs subsiding. Saima didn’t know Harry had been suspended. She was a week overdue with their first child and he didn’t want to burden her. She would be tormented by worry about the consequences of Harry losing his job – money, stability and, moreover, what it meant for their future. It was on his mind too; Harry’s head was bursting with questions he didn’t have answers to. He realized how his file would read.
And this time?
This time, the IPCC would burn him.
He was a civilian, Harry. You nearly killed a civilian.
‘Fuck,’ he whispered.
A goddamn civilian.
Bastard deserved it. Sometimes the law didn’t cut it. Son of a bitch is lucky I didn’t . . .
There it was again: surfacing in his mind like a clandestine tumour.
Harry clenched his fist and pressed it against his temple. His knuckle was sharp against the skin.
There’s nothing you can do.
It wasn’t true. There was one man who could have helped: Harry’s father.
I’m not asking him. I’ll die before I return there.
The Norman Arch took him out of the park on to Keighley Road, opposite Bradford Grammar, the most prestigious school in the city. It was a place Harry hoped his child might go to one day. But it would be impossible if he didn’t have a job. Saima was an A & E sister and, even if she went back to work full-time, they wouldn’t be able to afford an extravagance like private education. It was something Harry had experienced, and something he wanted to offer his own child.
He unlocked his ageing BMW – the black paint was smeared in dirt so thick, it almost looked grey – but he didn’t get in. The sight of a skulk of foxes running across the road into the grounds of the grammar school caught his attention. It wasn’t especially uncommon at this early hour. The sun was yet to break and the roads were deserted. Commuter rush hour was at least two hours away. But there was something in the frenzied way they were moving – like a hunt.
Harry locked his car. He hadn’t much else to do except make another bullshit excuse to Saima about why he wasn’t at work. He crossed the road and climbed the shallow wall, into the enormous school grounds. Straight ahead was the main building.
The grass was treacherous to walk on. It hadn’t been cut recently and was ankle high. His feet felt as though they were skating. It wasn’t long before icy saturation worked through his trainers, soaked his socks and assaulted his toes.
Harry had tracked the foxes to a wide, triple-fronted sandstone building when the security lights came on. For a moment he stopped breathing.
The foxes were on their back legs, scrabbling up a wall, straining to get their teeth into a dangling pair of feet.
Harry let out his breath slowly. He clapped his hands together loudly and the animals ran, without turning to look at him.
Harry took tentative steps to his left so he was in front of the body. He focused on the wall.
The naked corpse of an older male was suspended, crudely crucified, three feet above the ground. There were rods through his outstretched wrists and his feet were not positioned traditionally but spread wide like da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man.
Harry moved closer, mindful not to disturb the scene. He glanced behind and then to all four corners and was satisfied he was alone.
He crouched down and stared up at the face of the man. There wasn’t enough light, so he took out his iPhone and turned on the torch. He held it high and, for a moment, couldn’t quite believe his eyes.
There were words scrawled in blood on the wall next to the body: Christ died for our sins; he died for his.
But that wasn’t the real cause of Harry’s panic. The man’s identity was unmistakable. The most powerful Asian man in the city was staring lifelessly at him. There was a swastika brutally carved in the middle of his chest, blood still glistening.
Harry got to his feet and hurriedly dialled the third number in his recent call history.
Bradford, so often on the precipice, was suddenly primed to fall.