The Neal James Website


Full Marks

There's a score to settle - when the hunter becomes the hunted...



Dennis Marks thought he had seen it all. That was before Solomon Goldblum crossed his path – after that, things were never the same again. The trauma which the old Jew had inflicted upon him had brought about a near psychological collapse. That the DCI had been able to conceal the fragility of his mental state from the shrink whom the Met had forced him to see had been down to his sheer determination.

Now, all of that effort was about to be challenged by one of the most daunting figures at New Scotland Yard – Superintendent Eric Staines. The Independent Police Complaints Commission were about to take Marks’ life apart, professionally and personally, and Staines, as one of its fiercest inquisitors, was not a man inclined to show mercy.

A month was all that the DCI had to prove his innocence of a range of charges dating back to his days as a detective sergeant. A career spent putting away the dregs of London’s criminal world was to hang in the balance, and he was, he believed, for the first time... alone.

ISBN 9781782282631

Rachel Beardmore provided the illustrations for the novel, and these are shown on the slide show below.

This talented young lady is at the threshold of a promising career, and it has been my pleasure to work with her in the detail of the eleven wonderful images.

Illustrations Slideshow

Chapter One

Friday, 17th March 2006


Dennis Marks’ professional world was about to fall apart. Today had, so far, been one of those run-of-the-mill episodes in the life of the typical Detective Chief Inspector in the Metropolitan Police. Now in his mid-fifties and married for thirty years, he had just about seen and done it all in his career. From the verge of a nervous breakdown in the not too distant past, he had recovered to be a much more pragmatic and open-minded individual.

      The sessions had been hard, very hard at the outset, and the catalyst of Solomon Goldblum served only to expose all of the frailties inherent in the human psyche. Years of solid, factual police work had simply left him unprepared for the world inhabited by the old Jew. He had been sceptical, very sceptical, at the outset of the psychiatric techniques which laid his mind bare. The near collapse brought on by the case had been the least of his worries at the time. June, his wife, had been a rock, but the nightmares, when they came, had pulled her into the darkness which had started to drag him down. The eyes - Goldblum’s burning, demonic eyes - lay in wait for him each night he tried to sleep. The treatment, in the end, had been a clear instruction from those above – it had been an ultimatum, and one which he had tried in vain to ignore.

      He was five feet ten, of medium build, and, for a man of his years, took pride in the fact that he could still run a mile in under eight minutes. The glasses, which he wore for effect in meetings (though they were strictly for reading only), lent him an air of authority to which younger officers deferred without question. He had progressed through the Met in the old way of pounding the beat, and earning promotion by virtue of deed rather than word.

      All of that was about to change with the arrival of the man now making his way down the office. Like the Red Sea before Moses, those officers present stood aside. Marks never saw him coming

     Eric Staines – a name to strike fear into any copper operating within the Metropolitan Police. With the rank of Superintendent, he ran his own Professional Standards Department within the Independent Police Complaints Commission with an iron fist forged in the controversies surrounding the appeals of The Guildford Four in 1989 and The Birmingham Six in 1991. As an inspector in his mid-thirties at the time of both scandals, he had been involved at a senior level, and his name had become synonymous down the years with a determination to root out corruption whatever the cost. A number of high-ranking officers had suffered the ultimate penalty as a result of his work.

      He had read the file on Dennis Marks, and although the DCI seemed, on the face of it, to be a typical hard-working senior officer, there was no room for sentiment. A number of issues had been raised, and there were some inconsistencies in the man’s record. It would not be the first time that a top-ranking detective had fallen foul of the rules.

       He walked into Marks’ office unannounced - it was always the best way.

      “Detective Chief Inspector.” He flashed the dreaded ID card before Marks’ face.  “Eric Staines - IPCC.”

      It was customary for anyone approaching a private office to at least knock before entering, but not these boys. Staines was held in a combination of repugnance and fear by anyone operating at New Scotland Yard. Since the days of the original trial of the Birmingham Six in 1975, police forces up and down the country had operated under the increasingly powerful shadow of anti-corruption squads from within. The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry of 1998 had laid a charge of institutional racism right at the Met’s door, forcing radical changes to operations. Marks could not suppress the involuntary shudder which ran up and down his spine. He tried to outstare the man – he failed.

      “Yes, sir. What can I do for you?” The DCI’s tone was brusque and businesslike. It was always advisable to be upfront with IPCC investigations. Anything else was apt to be treated as a weakness, and thus be seen as suspicious.

      “Your warrant card will do for the moment. You are suspended from all duties with immediate effect, pending an inquiry into your record.”

      The flat, impersonal statement hit Marks like a dagger to the heart. He had known of colleagues falling foul of the internal discipline routine in the past, and even those few coming out of it exonerated were never the same coppers as before.

      “Suspended? What are you talking about?” Marks scowled.” What is it that you think I’ve done?”

      “Just the card for now, Chief Inspector. Any charges will be notified to you through the usual channels. You will be escorted from the premises and driven home, but do not attempt to leave the area. You will be sent for if we need you, but I would advise that you contact the Police Federation...  and get yourself a good solicitor.”

      Behind Staines stood Marks’ boss, Superintendent Gordon Davies; he was shaking his head almost imperceptibly, and nodded in the direction of the office door. The look on the man’s face told the DCI that there was more to this than met the eye. They had been colleagues for a number of years, and the body language was a clear indication that more information than Staines was revealing would be divulged in private. Picking up his coat, and throwing the warrant card down on the desk, he walked out.

      Back at home, Marks slammed the front door behind him and threw his coat over the newel post at the bottom of the stairs. June heard the noise and came from the kitchen to see her husband, in a state of ill-concealed despair, sitting with head in hands on the hall chair.

      “Dennis, what’s the matter?”

      “The bastards!” He growled. “They’ve suspended me!”

      “Suspended?” She followed him into the lounge. “What for? What have you done?”

      “If I knew that, June, I’d be as wise as they are!” He saw the hurt on his wife’s face at the last remark. “Sorry, love; they dropped it on me suddenly, and I haven’t a clue what’s behind it.”

      They were interrupted by a knock at the front door, and the grave face of George Groves greeted June as she opened it.

      “Where is he?”

      “In the lounge, George. You’d better come in.” She closed the door, and returned from the kitchen with a bottle of wine and three glasses.

      “Dennis, I just heard. What the hell’s wrong with them?” Groves sat down.

     “You could be in trouble just for being here, George. I don’t think anyone’s supposed to be talking to me while the suspension’s in operation.”

      “Doesn’t affect me.” He shook his head. “I work for the Home Office, not the Met. Have they told you why you’re on garden leave?”

      “No. I probably won’t find out until Monday. I got the impression that Davies knows more than he’s letting on, though. All they’ve said is that I’ll be sent for. I’m going to ring the Federation rep today, and find myself a good solicitor. No-one’s doing this to me.”

      “If there’s anything I can do, you only have to ask.”

      “I know that, George, but until I can see what’s behind it all and what’s been said, it would probably be better for you to remain on the sidelines.”

      Marks was acutely aware that, by the very reason of their close working relationship, whatever allegations had been made against him could also have a serious effect on Groves’ reputation. Not only that, all of the officers in his CID team might also suffer the same penalties meted out to him, should those allegations be substantiated.

      “There’s no way they can find any case to answer against you. I’ve never come across a straighter copper in the Met. This is an absolute disgrace!”

     “Steady, George, it’s my head on the block. Don’t be in too much of a hurry to join it. You said it yourself; you work for the Home Office. The IPCC can’t touch you unless you stick your neck out for me. I’m going to try to set up a meeting with the Police Federation representative and my solicitor on Monday; let’s leave it until then.”