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Luke Mullen, the missing teenage son of a former police officer, was last seen getting into a car with an older woman. No one knows whether he went willingly or was abducted, whether he's living or dead.Then the videotape arrives . . .On special assignment, Detective Inspector Tom Thorne is in charge of the investigation into Luke's disappearance. But it's the information that Tony Mullen, the boy's father, is not freely sharing that Thorne finds particularly disturbing-like the names of dangerous criminals who have openly threatened the tough ex-detective and his entire family. Something shocking and deadly may well be buried deep in old cases and past lives. But Thorne knows he doesn't have the luxury of time to dig-especially when a kidnapper brutally demonstrates that he is willing to kill.



Chapter One

There was humor, of course there was; off-color usually, and downright black when the occasion demanded it. Still, the jokes had not exactly been flying thick and fast of late, and none had flown in Tom Thorne's direction.

But this was as good a laugh as he'd had in a while.

"Jesmond asked for me?" he said.

Russell Brigstocke leaned back in his chair, enjoying the surprise that his shock announcement had certainly merited. It was an uncertain world. The Metropolitan Police Service was in a permanent state of flux, and, while precious little could be relied upon, the less than harmonious relationship between Detective Inspector Tom Thorne and the Chief Superintendent of the Area West Murder Squad was a reassuring constant. "He was very insistent."

"The pressure must be getting to him," Thorne said. "He's losing his marbles."

Now it was Brigstocke's turn to see the funny side. "Why am I suddenly thinking about pots and kettles?"

"I've no idea. Maybe you've got a thing about kitchenware."

"You've been going on about wanting something to get stuck into. So—"

"With damn good reason."

Brigstocke sighed, nudged at the frames of his thick, black glasses.

It was warm in the office, with spring kicking in but the radiators still chucking out heat at December levels. Thorne stood and slipped off his brown leather jacket. "Come on, Russell, you know damn well that I haven't been given anything worth talking about for near enough six months."

Six months since he'd worked undercover on the streets of London, trying to catch the man responsible for kicking three of the city's homeless to death. Six months spent writing up domestic disputes, protecting the integrity of evidence chains, and double checking pretrial paperwork. Six months kept out of harm's way.

"This is something that needs getting stuck into," Brigstocke said. "Quickly."

Thorne sat back down and waited for the Detective Chief Inspector to elaborate.

"It's a kidnapping—" Brigstocke held up a hand as soon as Thorne began to shake his head; plowed on over the groaning from the other side of his desk. "A sixteen-year-old boy, taken from outside a school in north London three days ago."

The shake of the head became a knowing nod. "Jesmond doesn't want me on this at all, does he? It's got nothing to do with what I can do, or what I might be good at. He's just been asked to lend the Kidnap Unit a few bodies, right? So he does what he's told like a good team player, and he gets me out of the way at the same time. Two birds with one stone."

A spider plant stood on one corner of Brigstocke's desk, its dead leaves drooping across a photograph of his kids. He snapped off a handful of the browned and brittle stalks and began crushing them between his hands. "Look, I know you've been pissed off and I know you've had good reason to be . . ."

"Damn good reason," Thorne said. "I'm feeling much better than I was, you know that. I'm . . . up for it."

"Right. But until the decision gets taken to give you a more active role on the team here, I thought you might appreciate the chance to get yourself 'out of the way.' And it wouldn't just be you, either. Holland's been assigned to this as well . . ."

Thorne stared out of the window, across the grounds of the Peel Centre toward Hendon and the gray ribbon of the North Circular Road beyond. He'd seen prettier views, but not for some time.


"His name's Luke Mullen."

"So the kid was taken . . . Friday, right? What's been happening for the last three days?"

"You'll be fully briefed at the Yard." Brigstocke glanced down at a sheet of paper on the desktop. "Your contact on the Kidnap Unit is Detective Inspector Porter. Louise Porter."

Thorne knew that Brigstocke was on his side; that he was caught between a loyalty to his team and a responsibility to the brass above him. These days, anyone of his rank was one part cop to nine parts politician. Many at Thorne's own level worked in much the same way, and Thorne would fight tooth and nail to avoid going down the same dreary route . . .


Brigstocke had certainly said the right things. The boy's age in itself was enough to spark Thorne's interest. The victims of those who preyed on children for sexual gratification were usually far younger. It wasn't that older children were not targeted, of course, but such abuse was often institutionalized or, most tragically of all, took place within the home itself. For a sixteen-year-old to be taken off the street was unusual.

"Trevor Jesmond getting involved means there's pressure to get a result," Thorne said. If a shrug and a half smile could be signs of enthusiasm, then he looked mustard-keen. "I reckon I could do with a bit of pressure at the minute."

"You haven't heard all of it yet."

"I'm listening."

So Brigstocke enlightened him, and when it was finished and Thorne got up to leave, he looked out of the window one last time.

The buildings sat opposite, brown and black and dirty-white; office blocks and warehouses, with pools of dark water gathered on their flat roofs. Thorne thought they looked like the teeth in an old man's mouth.

Before the car had reached the gates on its way out, Thorne had slotted a Bobby Bare CD into the player, taken one look at Holland's face and swiftly ejected it again. "I should make sure there's always a Simply Red album in the car," Thorne said. "So as not to offend your sensibilities."

"I don't like Simply Red."


Holland gestured toward the CD panel on the dash. "I don't mind some of your stuff. It's just all that twangy guitar shit . . ."

Thorne turned the car on to Aerodrome Road and accelerated toward Colindale tube. Once they hit the A5 it would be a straight run through Cricklewood, Kilburn, and south into town.

Buried. Copyright © by Mark Billingham. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Excerpted from Buried by Mark Billingham
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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