The Neal James Website


Three Little Maids

After his run-in with Eric Staines and the IPCC, Dennis Marks is plunged back into the real world of policing with an intriguing mystery.

The killing of a teacher at a local school comes hard on the heels of one of his toughest challenges setting a real puzzle, both for him and his DI, Peter Spencer.

The team of Marks, Spencer, and Groves is supplemented this time by Professor Groves’ deputy, Kevin Henson, as the Home Office pathologist takes some hard-earned time off.

Here, as an introduction to the story, is the prologue.

Original Cover Artwork & Design by Lewis Bates

ISBN 9781910565964




Peter Spencer nervously fingered the envelope in his inside pocket as he strode through the squad room. It was just after 1.30pm, and Marks was in his office where he had been since before eight. He stopped at his own desk and sat down momentarily. He and Pauline had been over and over the scenario many times the preceding week, and it was only now that he had summoned up enough nerve to go through with the plan which they had been discussing. The transfer request was burning a hole through his jacket pocket, and his mouth was drying by the second.

      As Marks’ DI, he had had one of the best teachers within the Metropolitan Police, but the personal risks which he had taken in supporting his boss through his investigation by the IPCC had taken its toll. From a professional standpoint, he would have stood to lose everything if his actions had come to the attention of Eric Staines, the Superintendent leading the enquiry. On a personal level, however, the cost could have been much higher, and Pauline, his wife, had made her position perfectly clear – it was time to leave the Met.

      “Peter!” The DCI had spotted him through the glass, and was waving him into the office.

      "Good afternoon, sir,” Spencer smiled as he opened the door.

      “Well, sit down, man,” Marks frowned. “You look like you’ve got the troubles of the whole world on your shoulders.”

      “Thank you, sir.” He took a deep breath. “There’s something...”

      His well-rehearsed speech was interrupted by the shrill buzzing of the telephone on the desk, and Marks smiled and held up a finger as he picked it up.

      “Marks.” He paused. “I see; where was this?” He grabbed a notepad from his drawer and began scribbling furiously. “We’ll be there right away.”

      "Sir...” Spencer began again.

      “It’ll have to wait, Peter.” He was out of his chair. “Come on, it would seem that we have a dead teacher at the Lainsford Grammar School in Edmonton. You can tell me about it later; will it keep?”

      “Yes, sir. Of course.” Spencer sighed, and followed in the wake of his DCI as he led the way at a fast march down to the garage area. Pauline’s plans for a better life outside the capital would have to be put on hold for a little longer.

      Two weeks earlier, a scruffily-dressed, middle-aged man checked into the ex-cons’ hostel off London’s Bayswater Road. Nothing about his appearance would have attracted the casual observer’s attention, and that suited him perfectly. He took the room key from the chain-smoking, unshaven guy at the front desk, along with a letter which had been delivered for his attention a day or so earlier. His reservation was on the second floor of a dingy boarding house which had been taken over by the prison service for ex-inmates such as him.

      The room was small, contained a rudimentary bed, a small chest of drawers which had seen better days, and a wardrobe with one door hanging loose. There was a dirty sink in the far corner, and he had the use of a shared toilet and bathroom. Light was provided by a solitary dirty sixty-watt bulb. The entire room was the epitome of drudgery. He was not bothered in the slightest, and had no intention of sticking around to make any complaints to the landlord.

      Throwing his case on the bed, Billy Robertson took out a packet of Silk Cut, lit up, and leaned back against the pillow. Taking a long draw, he blew out the blue smoke at the light bulb and sighed. He sat up. Tearing open the envelope collected from downstairs, he tipped the contents onto the bed. It contained one piece of paper and a photograph. The message was clear and unambiguous:


      ‘Don’t miss. £10,000 now, £10,000 when it’s done. Don’t even think of double-crossing me.’


      There was also a safety deposit key taped to the back of the note. The first payment and the weapon would be there. He looked at the photograph; he knew the man well. He should do - the guy was responsible for the five-year stretch from which he had just been released.

The face of Dennis Marks looked back at him from the picture. He smiled – this was going to be good. Revenge and a payment at the end to put the icing on the cake. Shoving the case under the bed, he stubbed out the cigarette, rolled over and closed his eyes.

      The botched robbery which had taken him and some of the team to Wandsworth Prison had, they had all believed, been planned meticulously.   Yes, they had all carried firearms, but at no point had there been any intention to use them. The security van had turned up right on schedule, and after following it on its return journey to the depot, two vehicles blockaded it outside Enfield. The driver, a member of the team, opened up after coshing his mate; they were in and out in minutes and clear of the entire area within half an hour. Transferring to a stolen Audi at Scratchwood services on the M1, the whole team was miles away from the scene by the time the heist was reported on the BBC early evening news. A smug, self-satisfied feeling permeated the group as they set out to celebrate, but Robertson had reckoned without the tenacity of Dennis Marks and the speed with which he was on their trail.

      A single print, left on the steering wheel, had been enough to tie them all in to the job, and once one member of the gang cracked it was all over. Robertson’s main worry was for his younger brother, Jack.

      “Let me in on the job, Billy,” he had pleaded. “Go on, I’ll be all right.”

      “No. Too dangerous.” Robertson had shaken his head. “I promised Mum that I’d look after you and this isn’t the way.”

      The conversation ebbed and flowed for days before the robbery and, in the end, it was only Jack’s driving skills which had tipped the balance. One of the other members of the team had been pulled in by the local plods for an unrelated offence and they were suddenly short-handed. Against all of his instincts he had relented and the youngster was allowed in. There was no allowance for his inexperience after the trial, and he went down with the rest of them for the maximum term permitted for the offence.

      “Stay close to me and you’ll be okay.” Billy had tried to reassure his younger brother, blithely believing that they would end up in the same nick.

      The sudden realisation of what would lie in wait for Jack hit Billy like a thunderbolt when they were split up. His incarceration was scheduled for Wandsworth – Jack was sent to Dartmoor. It was six months later that the news of Jack’s death reached his ears. Left to fend for himself, he was powerless against the hardened criminals at the Devon jail. Falling foul of one particular gang, the youngster was subjected to a reign of terror and hanged himself in his cell.

      This, then, was the source of Billy’s vendetta against Dennis Marks. The money from Shaw was a sweetener, no more. He would have done the job for nothing just to get even. Like most criminals, he absolved himself of all responsibility for his brother’s fate, choosing instead to pin the blame upon those charged with maintaining law and order. The DCI had been instrumental in their prosecution and incarceration, and must now be held to account for what had happened to Jack. Robertson would ensure that his fate would not be a pleasant one.