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Monday, 24 August 2015

Blog Tour Promo - The Toy Taker by Luke Delaney




The Toy Taker
Author: Luke Delaney
Publisher: Harper
Genre: Thriller/Suspense
Format: Kindle/Paperback

Book Description:
Outside the house, it’s cold and dark.

Inside, where it’s warm, children are sleeping.

D.I. Sean Corrigan might have a tiny new office at Scotland Yard and a huge new beat—all of London—but the job is the same. His team has a knack for catching the sickest criminals on either side of the Thames, thanks in large part to Corrigan’s uncanny ability to place himself inside the mind of a predator.

But he just can’t get a read on this new case. Four-year-old George Bridgeman went to sleep in his bedroom in a leafy London suburb . . . and wasn’t there in the morning. No tripped alarms. No broken windows. No sign of forced entry or struggle.

As his investigation zeroes in on a suspect, Corrigan’s gut tells him it doesn’t add up. Then another child is taken. Now someone’s toying with Corrigan. And the game is about to turn deadly.


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Excerpt

Chapter 1

The street was quiet, empty of the noise of living people, with only the sound of a million leaves hissing in the strong breeze that intensified as it blew in over Hampstead Heath in north-west London. Smart Georgian houses lined either side of the deserted Courthope Road, all gently washed in the pale yellow of the streetlights, their warming appearance giving lie to the increasingly bitter cold that late autumn brought with it. Some of the shallow porches added their own light to the yellow, left on by security-conscious occupiers and those too exhausted to remember to switch them off before heading for bed. But these were the homes of London’s affluent, who had little to fear from the streets outside—the hugely inflated house prices ensuring the entire area was a sanctuary for the rich and privileged. Constant highly visible police patrols, private security firms, and state-of-the-art burglar alarms meant the people within slept soundly and contentedly.

His gloved fingers worked quickly and nimbly as he crouched by the front door, the small, powerful torch—the type used by spelunkers, strapped to his forehead by an elasticized band—provided him with more than enough light to see inside the locks on the door: two deadlocks, top and bottom, and a combined deadlock and latch in the center. His warm breath turned to plumes of mist that swirled in the tubular light of the torch before disappearing into the night, making way for the next calmly expelled breath. He’d already unlocked the top and bottom deadlocks easily enough—a thousand hours of practice making the task simple—but the center locks were new and more sophisticated. Still he remained totally calm as he gently and precisely worked the two miniature tools together, each of which looked similar to the type of instruments a dentist would use—the thin wrench with its slightly hooked end holding the first of the lock’s pins down as the pick silently slid quickly back and forth until eventually it aligned all the pins in the barrel of the lock and it clicked open. It was a tiny sound, but one that in the emptiness of the street made him freeze, holding his breath as he waited for any reaction in the night that surrounded him. When his lungs began to burn he exhaled the dead air, taking a second to look at his watch. It was just gone 3 a.m. The family inside would be in the deepest part of their sleep—at their least likely to react to any slight sound or change in the atmosphere.

He inserted the slim hook wrench into the last remaining lock and once more slid the pick through the lock’s barrel until within only a few seconds he felt the pins drop into their holes and allow him to turn the barrel and open the lock, the door falling open just a few millimeters. He replaced the tools in their suede case along with the other dozen or so lock-picking items, rolled it up and put it into the small plastic sports holdall he’d brought with him. He added the head-torch, then paused for a second before taking out the item that he knew was so precious to the little boy who waited inside—the one thing that would virtually guarantee the boy’s cooperation—even his happiness.

He eased the door open and stepped inside, closing it behind him and silently returning the latch to its locked position. He waited for the sounds of an intruder alarm to begin its countdown to the wailing of sirens, but there was none, just as he all but knew there wouldn’t be.

The house was warm inside, the cold of outside quickly fading in his mind as he stepped deeper into the family’s home, heading for the staircase, his way lit by the street light pouring through the windows. Their curtains had been left open and lights strategically left on in case little feet went wandering in the night. He felt safe in the house, almost like a child himself once more—no longer alone and unloved. As he walked slowly toward the stairs that would lead him to the boy, he noted the order of the things within—neat and tidy, everything in its place except for the occasional toy on the hallway floor, abandoned by the children of the house and left by parents too tired to care anymore. He breathed in the smells of the family—the food they had had for dinner mixing with the mother’s perfume and bathtime creams and soaps, air fresheners and polish.

He listened to the sounds of the house—the bubbling of a fish-tank filter coming from the children’s playroom and the ticking of electronic devices that seemed to inhabit every modern family’s home, accompanied by blinking green and red lights. All the time he thought of the parents rushing the children to their beds, too preoccupied with making it to that first glass of wine to even read them a bedtime story or stroke their hair until sleep took them. Parents who had children as a matter of course—to keep them as possessions and a sign of wealth, mere extensions of the expensive houses they lived in and exotic cars they drove. Children they would educate privately as another show of wealth and influence—bought educations that minimized the need for parental input while guaranteeing they never had to step out of their own social confines—even at the school gate.

More discarded toys lay on the occasional step as he began to climb toward the boy’s room, careful not to step on the floorboards that he already knew would creak, his gloved hands carrying the bag and the thing so precious to the boy. His footsteps were silent on the carpet as he glided past the parents’ bedroom on the first floor, the door almost wide open in case of a child in distress. He could sense only the mother in the room—no odors or sounds of a man. He left her sleeping in the semidarkness and climbed the next flight of stairs to where the children slept—George and his older sister Sophia, each in their own bedrooms. If they hadn’t been, he wouldn’t be here.

He reached the second-floor landing and stood still for a few seconds, looking above to the third floor, where he knew the guest bedrooms were, listening for any faint sounds of life, unsure whether the family had a late-arriving guest staying. He only moved forward along the hallway when he was sure the floor above held nothing but emptiness.

Pink and blue light from the children’s night-lights seeped through their partially opened doors—the blueness guiding him toward George, his grip on the special thing tightening. He was only seconds away from what he’d come for. He passed the girl’s room without looking inside and moved slowly, carefully, silently to the boy’s room, easing the door open, knowing the hinges wouldn’t make a noise. He crossed the room to the boy’s bed, which was pushed up under the window, momentarily stopping to look around at the blue wallpaper with white clouds, periodically broken up by childish paintings in the boy’s own hand; the mobile of trains with smiling faces above the boy’s head, and the seemingly dozens of teddy bears of all kinds spread across his bed and beyond. He felt both tears of joy and sadness rising from deep inside himself and swelling behind his eyes, but he knew he had to do what he’d come to do: a greater power than he or any man had guided him this far and would protect him the rest of the way.

He knelt next to the boy’s bed and placed the bag on the floor, his face only inches away from the child’s, their breath intertwining in the space between them and becoming one as he gently began to whisper. “George . . . sssh . . . George.” The boy stirred under his duvet, his slight four-year- old body wriggling as it fought to stay asleep. “George . . . sssh . . . open your eyes, George. There’s nothing to be afraid of. I have something for you, George. Something very precious.” The boy rolled over slowly, blinking sleep from his narrow eyes—eyes that suddenly grew large with excitement and confusion, a smile spreading across his face, his green eyes sparkling with joy as he saw what the man had brought him—reaching out for the precious gift as the man’s still gloved hand stroked his straight blond hair. “Do you want to come to a magic place with me, George? A special place with special things?” he whispered. “If you do, we need to go now and we need to be very, very quiet. Do you understand?” he asked, smiling.

“A magic place?” the boy asked, yawning and stretching in his pale blue pajamas, making the pictures of dinosaurs printed on them come to life.

“Yes,” the man assured him. “A place just for the best, nicest children to see.”

“Do we have to go now?” the boy asked.

“Yes, George,” the man told him, taking him by the hand and lifting his bag at the same time. “We have to go now. We have to go right now.”


About the  Author
Luke Delaney joined the Metropolitan Police Service in the late 1980s and his first posting was to an inner city area of South East London notorious for high levels of crime and extreme violence. He later joined CID where he investigated murders ranging from those committed by fledgling serial killers to gangland assassinations… 

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