When a charismatic Algonquian killer shows up in the remote mountain town of Wicklow, CA, he turns peaceful Wild River County upside down and inside out. One time criminologist, and Wicklow resident, Maggie Tall Bear Sloan, (50% Yurok, 50% Irish, and 100% gutsy) joins forces with county sheriff and long-time friend, Jake Lubbuck, to track down the murderer. Maggie’s twin nieces live in Wicklow and match the killer’s victim profile exactly. She’ll do whatever it takes to protect them and the people of her home town. Maggie has recurring dreams of turning into a green-eyed raven the local tribal people believe exists, and she just might be a “pukkukwerek,” the shapeshifter monster killer of Yurok legend. As she pursues the killer, who may be possessed by the Manitou demon, Maggie begins to accept her true nature as she learns not all things are as they seem, and discovers that some myths are true.
Canada, Twenty-Eight Years Ago
Three weeks before his sixth birthday, the boy tasted his first human heart. It happened during an elk hunting trip with his father, Noshi, his mother, Chepi, and his twin brother, Sheshebens.
“Uncle Sokamon says the Elk are plentiful on the back side of the La Cloche,” Noshi said.
The family packed, Noshi grabbed his rifle, and off they went. The day before, a freak storm, “the worst of the season,” the weatherman said, dumped another meter of snow over the already blanketed peaks. But today the sun was blinding orange and the sky, hyacinth blue. The boy shielded his eyes with one hand and squinted at the glinting snow. …
Northern California, Present Time
An unkindness of ravens, knocking and cawing, settled into the branches of a gray pine. Maggie squinted at them through the morning glare of the sun, and reached into her coat pocket. “You gluttonous, winged pigs.” She withdrew her hand and tossed corn onto the dirt. No matter where Margaret Tall-Bear Sloan was, ravens were certain to be nearby. She always carried corn.
The phone rang. She dropped the kernels remaining in her palm, and sprinted into her cottage. “Hello?”
“I’ve got bad news,” said Jake Lubbock, Wicklow’s sheriff.
“Don’t tell me. More kids?”
“Six-year-old girls. The O’Malley twins.”
“Dammit. God dammit.”
“You still thinking about joining the reserves? Your certification is current, and you still have your license to carry. Right? I can expedite this.”
“Maggie, listen to me. We sure could use your help. Two sets of twins in less than eight months.
No clues. We can’t get a handle on this.”
“You know after what happened in Oakland, I don’t deal with child killers. I’m sorry, but I have to say no.”
“Can we meet for lunch and talk? At least hear me out.”
“What time? I’ve got an appointment this morning. I can be in town around one if that’s not too late.”
“One it is,” Jake said. “And…Maggie?”
“Don’t thank me. I’m not getting involved. This is only lunch, and you’re buying.”
“Whatever you say. See you at The Dandelion.”
She slicked back a few stray hairs. Not bad for an old broad. With her bare foot, she stroked Samantha, her blue point Siamese rescue cat with a crooked tail and an attitude. The slinky feline leapt onto the table and butted Maggie’s hand in a bid for additional petting.
For 46, Maggie figured she’d held up pretty good, her complexion wrinkle-free except tiny crows’ feet at the corners of her eyes when she smiled, which was seldom. Maggie had Yurok features from her mother’s side, toasted butter skin and Native hair, glossy stuff of legends she plaited into a thick salt-and-pepper braid that fell to her waist. Her lime green eyes that turned dark olive when she became angry, which was often, she owed to her Northern Irish father.
She pulled on her favorite T-shirt, the one that read, “I’m half white but can’t prove it,” kicked off fuzzy pink slippers, yanked on her Dan Post boots, and left with her dog following close behind. “See ya later, Samantha. Keep the mice away while we’re gone.”
She opened the door to her ‘54 cherry red Chevy pickup. “C’mon, Chester.” The old bloodhound leapt into the passenger’s seat. As Maggie headed toward town, a raucous cry broke the mid-day stillness. She glanced in her rearview mirror. “Yup, ravens following us, Chester. What a big surprise, eh boy?”
53 Amazon reviews, all 4s and 5s. Excellent reviews on Audible.com and on Goodread, too. The latest 5-star Audio review:
"Made me think of Twin Peaks"
In a small town in Northern California a serial killer is murdering sets of young twins, whose bodies are always placed on an embrace and without their hearts. Maggie, a retired criminologist, is required to assist on this case by the local sheriff. Her Indian heritage as "pukkukwerek" will be decisive in finding out who is murdering these children, but it is something Maggie is not willing to accept, preferring her Celtic roots, and discarding this legends as simple myths.
I loved the setting of this book. The small town, the gruesome murders, the diner, the ravens, and the mystic element made me think more than once about Twin Peaks. Wheeler depicted great characters with distinctive personalities that were alive, with their obsessions and their imperfections, and they fitted perfectly into the setting, which was also very elaborate to the point of feeling real. I could almost smell the coffee Dawn prepared, and I almost felt part of the small population of Wicklow.
The story is very well built, and I immediately got immersed in it. The book alternates between the current story and another one in the past, which will give us small clues as to why this murders are happening. Halfway through the book I was almost sure about who the culprit was, but Wheeler knows how to keep us in the dark, and the truth is neither revealed nor suspected until the end of the story. This last twist was totally unexpected and when the killer was finally revealed I even flinched.
One of my favorite things though about the audiobook is the narration. Joe Hempel always delivers a great experience, and for me, he makes the listening almost something seamless. At some point I forget that I am listening to somebody narrating a book and I am living the story. You always know which character is doing the talking, and he is at the same time subtle, which is relaxing to the ear. Hempel also transmits very well the characters emotions, bringing them to life.
This book is one of those great and unexpected finds. I would love to read more stories by Peggy A. Wheeler, and I would not mind visiting Wicklow again.
Other books in this genre:
Terry woke feeling tired, his head pounding and stomach growled. He'd been shackled from ankle to wrist. The bounds were not extremely tight yet, due to the lengthy period of time he'd been imprisoned the restrains made skin tender around the areas. Sitting on the cold floor within what looked to be a basement he observed his bounds for what seemed like the thousandth time in hopes of escaping. Being cuffed at the front allowed the captures to run a chain from leg shackle to hand cuffs, restricting mobility.
Confined within complete darkness for long stretches within darkness and no sense of sound could strip a man of his sanity. He turned to his left and found a touch of light coming from a slight gap left by paint being scratched from a window. Eyes burning from the light he return his focus to the darkness.
Straining,he attempted to see around the basement. Nothing, he could see nothing besides his mat and empty bag of chips he'd been fed. Nothing useful for what he had planned. He knew any day may be his last. Living with the knowledge of death on a daily bases molded him to the acceptance of it's possiblity. When you live with something long enough it simply becomes a part of who you are. A violent man eventually meets a violent end. His only regret was what his death would do to his friends, especially Nicky. He suddenly heard numerous foot steps coming from the other side of the door. Terry pressed his back to the wall and bent his knees, pushing himself upward he felt today may be that day...
Prison, a time in my life that I want to forget. So why am here now after all of these years? Even though the prison has long since gone…..
I remember the fear when I’d been caught, used as a scape goat while the others got away. I thought I was hard, hanging out with the older boys, doing the dirty work for them just so I could be part of the gang. Then when they got away with all of that money, with me as the look out, I didn’t even know they’d left me. There I was caught red handed with that family tied up in the bedroom terrified, and the kids screaming blue murder. I felt so guilty I wanted to cry, but that would have looked weak so I put on a stony face and let the police lead me away.
They never found the rest of them so it was all taken out on me. I didn’t deserve such a harsh sentence but they obviously decided they needed to blame somebody so I would do. I was a wreck, even thought about ending it at one point, probably would have in fact if it hadn’t been for my family. They visited me as often as they could and the fear and sadness I saw in mum’s eyes, the unconditional love that poured out of her even though I was now classed as criminal, saved me. I couldn’t have done that to her she’d have been destroyed so I forced myself to keep going, look to the future when I would eventually walk out of those gates a free man.
I look around now at this peaceful garden and remember when the innocent looking fences were topped with barbed wire, when the gate was fitted with a huge padlock…..and I didn’t have a key. When the dogs on the other side of the fence weren’t pets but angry vicious enemy’s trained to attack at the slightest sign of an attempted escape.
The alarm sensors that picked up the tiniest steps outside of the perimeter fence, screaming shrilly, alerting all. The times I was awakened in the night, with my heart pounding in my chest as I heard guards shouting…..gunfire popping, cries of anguish, then silence.
As I stand here the memories assaulting me, I notice the left over evidence of times gone by. Bullet holes in the fence. The bare soil where no grass grew, because of the constant trailing backwards and forwards of the guard dogs and their handlers.
Looking at this sad and quiet place a memory of the past that haunts me, I can see us now, myself and the other inmates huddled in a group in a corner of the prison yard sharing a sneaky cigarette. Always on the alert in case a warden came along.
I remember the patch of grass where the sun always shone, everyone battling to get to it first so they could soak it up and feel the warmth on their skin before being returned to the cold cells, shut in, locked away.
When I was eventually released and free of the confines of this place I swore I’d never go anywhere near again. I even left the county for a while. But then I heard it had been closed down. Rumour had it the guards were as dodgy as the prisoners and there weren’t enough honest ones to keep it open, how ironic is that?
However I knew the only way that I could believe it no longer existed was to see for myself. Now I have, the fear and weight that has always been on my shoulders is already lifting. I can finally push the memories aside sure in the knowledge that I’ll never have to go through that again. I’ve been on the straight and narrow ever since and I intend to stay that way.
With a sigh of pure relief, I turn my back on this outdoor space, now a place of tranquillity but once hiding so much sadness, and walk away. I’ve laid my demons to rest.
14A Nobfiddler's Lane
Thursday, August 22nd 1889
Bill Sikes to Doctor J. Watson:
Hand-delivered by Urchin
Deer Docter Watsen
I am sure yule forgiv this intrushon inter your privat life, but I have come upon a situashon what you might be abel ter help with (or indeed, your pal Mister Holmes). As you knowe, I have lately been on the strayt and narrow after being a bit of a robber fer most of my lyfe, so have been involvd in doin some cleanin fer the gover ment. In fact, I have been cleanin the basement in the monument what is knowne as Big Ben. An while doin so I have come inter contact with a gentleman by the name of Mister Hannay.
Anyway, I will get to the point of this letter: Mister Hannay is a writer what is interested in writin crim books and books about villins an that, an he was arskin me what I thought about stuff. Well, whil we was talkin, he arsked how many steps there was up to the tower, so I said there were about four undred.
He was a bit upset at this and said 'So, not thirty-nine, then?'
'No,' said I.
'Bugger,' said he.
Anyway, then he said he would have ter go and I watched him goin off down the streete. Then I appened ter notice that two surly-lookin fellers was followin him, so I hurried on down and catched up with him and took him inter a nearby pub.
The long and the short and the tall of it, Docter, is that Mister Hannay needs your help. I have enclosed the address at where he is stayin and have told him to expect you shortly.
I ope this were alright.
Saturday, August 24th 1889
To Sherlock Holmes Esq. from Doctor Watson
As you appear to be ignoring my messages, I have taken it upon myself to investigate the matter I brought to your attention the other day. Since our old pal Bill Sikes is unwilling to inveigle himself any further in the affair, I sent a telegram to 'The Uphill Gardener' (a public house of dubious repute) arranging to meet with Mr Hannay and attempt some sort of intervention.
When I arrived at the aforementioned hostelry last evening, I alighted from my Hansom in a flurry of excitement. I hasten to say the excitement was not of my doing, but created by a group of young apprentices in the midst of a series of strange tasks: some bigwig by the name of Lord Shagger had demanded they ascertain the cost of performing an appendectomy on the cheap. Identifying me as a physician by my Gladstone bag, the rabble pinned me to the wall and fired a barrage of questions regarding surgical cuts etc. I whipped out my trusty revolver, prompting the youths to back off, at which point they spotted that old fiend Dr Knox across the road (still on the run concerning that body-snatching business), and set off after him.
Finally free of the fray, I scurried into the public house and located the property owner. He glanced around nervously and bade me make haste to an upstairs room where I found our client, Richard Hannay.
'Where's Sherlock Holmes?' said he, with what I deduced to be an unhelpful degree of resentment.
I explained how Mr Holmes was engaged on another matter, but that I would do all I could to help. At this, he crumpled in a heap on the fireside rug and began to sob loudly. Feeling somewhat embarrassed at this show of unmanliness, I determined to explore my feminine side and knelt down beside him. Slipping an arm around his shoulder I must admit I found the experience of human contact rather comforting (as you know, Mrs Watson has been somewhat distant lately, following her fling with that Italian ice cream seller).
It transpires that Hannay cannot return to his own flat as one of his admirers is tormenting him with threats of libel etc. (I use this term loosely, since his melodramatic plots are completely ridiculous and unlikely to provoke anything other than utter boredom). However, I persuaded him that it was foolish to stay away from his own home and we should go there at once to face whoever (or whatever) awaits us.
In the end, I only managed to convince the man after showing him my trusty weapon. His eyes lit up on seeing it, and he begged me to let him touch it. I agreed to this, since I didn't see any harm in letting him feel its solid shaft and hair trigger, so long as the damn thing didn't go off in his hand!
Thus empowered, he became considerably animated and minutes later, we hailed a cab and set off for his apartment. Had I known what lurked in the shadows of that deadly spot, I might have taken more notice of Hannay's concerns.
To be continued
Diary of Doctor J. Watson
Flat 14, Windemere Mansions
Later the same day...
It was dark when Hannay and I arrived at his apartment. My companion’s initial enthusiasm (spurred by the knowledge of the gun in my pocket), had by this time dissipated somewhat. He began to display signs of anxiety; sweating profusely from every pore, an inability to get his key in the lock, visibly starting at the click of the light switch etc. I made myself useful by making a pot of tea while he hurried to the window and drew the curtains.
I busied myself in the kitchen and was a little disappointed to discover there were no Custard Creams. When I returned, Hannay had not moved from his position by the window.
'Here we are, old bean,' I said, handing him a mug of Darjeeling. 'This’ll perk you up.'
Holding the edge of the curtain open, he took the cup and stared at me for a moment, then his gaze moved back to the street outside. 'They’re back again, see?' He turned to me, a look of utter fright in his eyes. 'What the devil can they want?'
I shrugged and peered over his shoulder. In the street below, two rather iffy-looking men were standing by a telephone box, gazing up at the flat. I determined to put a brave face on it: 'Looks perfectly innocent to me – just a couple of chaps having a quiet smoke.'
Hannay shook his head. 'No, they’re after my plot.'
I blinked. 'Your what?'
'My plot,' said he. 'They want to steal The 39 Steps.'
I considered this for a long moment, debating the consequences of such a proposition. 'Sorry, what?'
He uttered a low moaning sound that hinted at his current mental state. 'Watson! Don’t you get it? It’s all about my book – The 39 Steps. They want to steal the plot.'
I began to experience a growing sensation of annoyance. 'What, you mean this isn’t about some international spy ring?'
'Spy ring? God no, it’s much, much worse.'
My blood ran cold. 'You mean - they’re writers?'
'Of course they’re bloody writers, damn it. Ever since I came up with a cracking good idea for my new novel, everyone’s been after it.'
I sighed. 'You’re an idiot. Sorry Hannay, but I’m going home.' I began to put on my socks and string vest. However, a knock at the door startled us both. 'Who the fuck’s that?'
'It’s them!' screamed Hannay, 'they’re going to kill me.'
I pulled on my trousers. 'Don’t be ridiculous. It’s probably just someone who’s lost their way and seeking directions.' I hastened to the door and pulled it open.
Standing before us was a moustachioed man wearing a frock coat. He leaned forward slightly and muttered, 'Ostovich.'
'What?' I said. But our visitor spake no more. He pitched forward and fell in a heap on the floor. And that’s when I noticed the knife in his back.
There was little need to check the man’s vital signs, but I went through the motions nevertheless. Given my companion’s somewhat heightened sense of terror, I decided to break the news to him as gently as possible:
'He’s snuffed it.'
'My God! I’m next!' Hannay’s hands flew to his face, cupping those rosy cheeks in a girlish manner that put me in mind of my own dear wife and the ‘swooning maiden’ act she sometimes adopts whenever I ask her to iron my longjohns.
'We must fetch Sherlock Holmes,' he cried, tugging at my lapel. 'Only he can save us.'
I brushed him aside. 'Don’t be such a nancy-boy, Hannay. Pull yourself together.' I checked through the dead man’s pockets and found two items: a picture postcard of some obscure Scottish village and a small white card displaying a silhouette of a man and the slogan ‘Scudder’s Marital Aids’. Slipping both articles into my pocket, I stood up. 'His name’s Scudder and judging from his business card I don’t believe him to be involved in creative writing. Now, Hannay, this is very important – the word he uttered before he fell…'
Hannay clenched his hands. 'I thought he was asking for the Post Office.'
I shook my head. 'No, that’s meaningless. I'm certain the word was ‘Ostovich’, which is obviously Russian. This man is a secret agent.'
'But what’s that got to do with me?'
I walked over to the window and retrieved my cup of tea. 'I think this has something to do with your writing, Hannay, but it’s also got something to do with spies.'
'But I don’t know anything about spying,' he wailed.
'Ah,' said I. 'And yet, in your recent novel ‘The Forger and the Gin-Juggler' you went into great detail about the process of creating false passports.'
'Oh, you read my books?' His manner changed abruptly and he began pawing at my chest like a lovesick pig.
'Indeed,' I muttered. I turned my face away lest he perceive my lying eyes. 'I didn’t like to say so before, but I’m rather fond of a good story and the depth of research that goes into your work might easily prompt a less intelligent casual reader to think you were involved in spying yourself.'
He shrugged. 'Actually, I make it all up, but I suppose it’s possible…'
'Not only possible, but highly likely. You said yourself someone was trying to steal your new novel.' I rubbed my chin the way I’ve seen Holmes do in such situations. 'I believe that the men who've been following you are enemy agents. Scudder here was obviously involved – perhaps he was a double agent. A triple agent, even.' I peeked through the curtains and noted with a grim nod that the two men at the phone box were still there. 'We have to leave.'
'And go where?'
At that precise moment in time I had no idea, but then a thought occurred to me. Pulling the postcard out of my pocket I studied the picture closely – it depicted a traditional Scottish village and the slogan ‘Frae Bonnie Scotland’. 'We need time to consider our next move,' I said, waving the card. 'We’ll catch the next train to Edinburgh and head for Newton Stewart – no-one will think of looking for us there.'
They dragged him from the boot of the car, down an embankment to the shore; gagged, bound and blindfolded. His feet scraped grass and stones; a shoe came off and was left behind. At the jetty, Kevin Rafferty waited in the boat. In a long career of violent persuasion this guy had been the hardest to break. But it wouldn’t last. When the blindfold came off he’d realise the loch was to be his grave. Then the begging would begin because pain and death weren’t the same. And he’d tell. Everything. It never failed. Plastic ties fastened the victim’s wrists to hooks hammered into either side of the gun-wale, holding him upright. His head moved, blindly drawn to every sound. With what he’d been through – the beating, the burns, the loss of blood – it was a miracle he was still breathing.
Rafferty turned up his collar, dipped the oars in the water and started to row.
After a while he stopped. Late afternoon drizzle falling from a grey sky stippled the calm surface, they would drift, but not much. He released the blindfold. They stared at each other. Rafferty broke the spell. He opened a canvas bag that lay across his knees, slowly, so the man could see the knives, the screwdrivers, the pliers: his tools. On top he placed a bolt cutter and patted it as he would a faithful dog. The thief moaned and fought against the restraints, wild terror in his eyes. The cutter trapped the first finger of his right hand between the blades. He began to cry.
‘Last chance,’ Rafferty said.
The blades tightened, a muffled wail came from behind the gag.
A thin red line appeared at the joint. Rafferty sighed fake regret.
‘This little piggy went to market...’
An opal moon hung above the loch, it had stopped raining and the night sky was clear. The thief was slumped forward, passed out. They’d been at it for hours - or five fingers - he should be pleading for his life. Better yet he should be dead. In Glasgow, Rafferty understood it wasn’t going to be easy. Something wasn’t right about this guy. He didn’t get it. Kevin’s job was to make him get it.
He peeled the sock from the shoeless foot, bleached like a corpse in the moonlight, and lifted it into position. For the moment the gag was unnecessary, he ripped it away and waited for his victim to come round; when he did it would continue. A noise took him by surprise. He tensed. At the other end of the boat the head came up, eyes blazed in the gloom and the madman grinned at him through broken teeth.
‘I’m starving,’ he said.
‘Could murder a curry.’
Rafferty’s voice cracked with desperation. ‘What did you do with the money?’
This was insane.
‘The money! Where is it?’
The thief spat blood and sniggered. ‘Fuck off.’
Rafferty snapped. He grabbed a knife and buried it in the crazy bastard’s heart.
No,’ he said, ‘you fuck off.’
The body rolled over the side and disappeared into the dark water, Rafferty gathered the severed fingers and threw them after it; food for the fish. At the jetty, he got out and stood for a long time watching the untethered boat float away. He had been so confident, so sure. But it hadn’t worked out. He was going back with nothing. The thought of telling his father made Rafferty sick with fear – more afraid than the man he had just killed had ever been.
Jimmy would go mental.
Gary sat alone in a cell. He could hear others shouting insults through the bars at each other, a mixture of Welsh and Cockney voices. The custody sergeant and one of the arresting officers had been swapping stories of how it had kicked off big time after the match, with fighting all the way from Upton Park to Paddington. Those arrested represented the tip of the iceberg.
Squeezed into a police van, Gary had been denied the return of his walking stick by the arresting officer, who just laughed. “So you can use it on me? Not likely mate, that’s an offensive weapon, that is.” At the station Gary was booked in by the custody sergeant, who made jibes about his “hardness” and asked him if he had anything to say. He was going to protest his innocence, but figured it would fall on deaf ears.
As time passed he sensed his situation was becoming more serious. Scenes of Crimes officers wandered around and he noticed one had his walking stick in a protective plastic covering. Bit late for that, he thought, remembering the way it had been manhandled from him by the cop at the scene. At one stage he heard a couple of thick Welsh accents shout a word that sent a chill through his bones. “Murderers!”
What could they mean? Had someone been killed? Who? Every week there were battles between warring fans but rarely were they fatal. Gary had always considering football rucks a laugh. You could end up with a few war wounds but they earned you extra kudos when you showed them off in the pub later. A life lost, though? A loved one not returning to their parents, wife or kids? That was going too far.
Finally a key rattled in the lock and two police officers came in, roughly hauled him up and dragged him, limping, to an interview room. A tall, stern-looking man with thick black hair was waiting, a tape recorder at his side. Gary was pushed down in the chair opposite and waited for the man to finish reading the papers in front of him. He felt edgy, as if he was being deliberately kept in the dark about something. He rubbed the troublesome knee, which had been throbbing constantly ever since the fight. The officer looked up. “You OK?”
“I’ve got a busted knee. It can be a bit painful.”
“Perhaps you shouldn’t be running around the streets of east London fighting Welshmen, then,” suggested his interrogator. Gary ignored the jibe. “My name’s Detective Inspector Ashley Wilburn. This initial interview is beginning at 8.30pm. Your name is?”
“Gary… uh, Gary Marshall. Do I need a solicitor?”
“We’ll get to that. This is just a preliminary chat. You’re one of the Boxer Boys?”
“Um, no. Not really.”
“You don’t seem sure. You live on the Boxers Estate though?”
“Well… yeah, but…”
“I think you qualify as a Boxer Boy then, don’t you? Care to tell me what happened after the match today, Gary?”
“Hammers won 2-0.”
“It was three actually, but I wouldn’t expect you to know that. Too busy looking for trouble…”
“That’s unfair,” said Gary. “I was heading home with my mates when we were attacked and chased by Cardiff fans. I can’t run because of the leg and they caught me and gave me a good kickin’. End of story.”
“Hmmm,” said Inspector Wilburn. He leafed again through the papers. “Wasn’t quite the end of the story though, was it?” he said, removing a picture and placing it in front of Gary. “Recognise him?”
The face was battered and bruised and splattered with blood, a nasty gash spreading across the forehead. The eyes were closed. Their owner could have been asleep, resting peacefully, though the pillow was tarmac and the blanket made of black plastic.
“No,” said Gary. “One of those Cardiff yobs I guess…”
“He’s dead, Mr Marshall,” interrupted the Inspector. From beneath the desk he lifted Gary’s walking stick, still enshrined in the plastic evidence bag. Gary’s heartbeat quickened, but he said nothing. “Your ‘crutch’, I do believe and, look here,” his finger pointed at the bottom where a dark smear was clearly visible. “That, Mr Marshall, is blood; this man’s blood,” he tapped the picture. “Now I’m no Cluedo expert but I believe I’ve found the body and the murder weapon. All I need to do now is find out who our Professor Scum is. That shouldn’t be a problem either because we’ve some pretty good CCTV footage from one of the local shops. They show a man in a West Ham shirt… come to think of it a shirt exactly like that one you’re wearing – a No 10 on the back – bashing this poor bloke over the head with this stick. Refresh your memory, Mr Marshall?”
Gary looked back into the earnest, unblinking eyes. “Can I have a solicitor now?” he asked.
It happened so fast. One minute she was swimming, the next the current was dragging her to the bottom. Seawater flooded her mouth. She fought, thrashed to the surface and tried to shout; a hoarse whisper was all that came. Her head went under and stayed under. Her lungs were on fire. With no warning it released her and she saw blue sky. Jennifer gulped shallow ragged breaths, shocked and scared, and started towards her family. She would never leave them again. But the decision was no longer hers. The force drew her back into a world without light or oxygen and this time it didn’t let go. Her arm broke free in a desperate attempt to escape. Tongues of spray pulled it down and Jennifer knew she was goingto drown. She’d dreamed of watching her daughter grow into a woman. That would never be. And Mark, poor Mark. How unfair to leave him. Her body rolled beneath the waves. She stopped struggling, closed her eyes and disappeared from sight. Seconds passed before Mark realised something wasn’t right. ‘Where’s mummy? Where’s your mummy?’ The baby sucked her thumb. ‘Where is she, Lily?’ At first he couldn’t move. Cold fear consumed him. A hundred yards away a group of boys played football; apart from them the beach was deserted. He yelled. They didn’t hear him. He threw the push-chair to the sand, yanked it open and sat Lily in it. His hands were shaking. The damned straps wouldn’t fasten. He spoke to himself. ‘Please god, no. Please god, no’ and raced into the sea. The water was freezing. What the hell had Jen been thinking? This was Scotland, for Christ sake. He swam to where he’d last seen her and went under. Mark was a good swimmer but it was dark. His frantic fingers searched until the pressure in his chest forced him to the surface. He took in as much air as he could and went back. Something bumped against him; he grabbed hold and dragged it up. Two boys ran into the water to help: the footballers. They hauled her body the last few yards and Mark fell to his knees. Jennifer wasn’t breathing. People appeared on the beach, silent witnesses to the nightmare the day had become. Where had they been when he needed them? He shouted, half in anger half in desperation. ‘Somebody call an ambulance!’ The crowd kept a respectful distance, believing what he believed, that he’d lost her. Jennifer’s face was white. Mark covered her mouth with his and breathed into her. His hands pressed against her chest demanding she come back to him. One of the boys took over with no better luck. Mark tried again, refusing to let her go. He pumped her heart, whimpering like a child, sobbing for himself as well as his wife. Jennifer’s eyes fluttered; she retched and vomited water. Mark turned her on her side and rubbed her back, whispering reassurance, blinded by tears, aware his prayers had been answered. A siren sounded in the distance. It was going to be all right. She was safe. They would be together again. The three of them. He raised his head and saw ambulance-men racing towards him across the sand. Mark jumped to his feet. They must have drifted... except the boat was there. His voice rose from a cry to a scream. ‘Lily. Lily!’ He spoke to the group who had offered nothing. ‘I left a baby here, somebody must’ve seen her.’ They stared, no idea what he was talking about. A new terror seized him. He ran a few steps up and down the beach, lost and afraid. The bag lay where Jennifer dropped it. But no push-chair. No sign his daughter had ever been there. Lily was gone.
Half-way through the matinee at the Theatre Royal, North London, the audience gasp in horror when Hamlet drags the corpse of Polonius on to the stage from behind a curtain. For the head of the famous 76-year-old actor playing Polonius, Sir Roger Nutley, is lolling at a bizarre angle that can only mean he has REALLY been killed. The touring production had been a sensational comeback for Sir Roger, two years after a high-profile court case in which the jury failed to convict him of sex crimes in the 1960s. Is his murder connected to the trial? Detective Inspector Keith Warren and Detective Sergeant Philippa Myers soon learn that the superstar's life had other secret, dark sides. Meanwhile, an outbreak of kidnappings of valuable dogs gives rookie Detective Constable Marion Everitt a chance to prove her mettle against a gang of heartless thugs. Resources at Norton Hill Police Station are also stretched by a series of armed robberies of designer handbags worth hundreds of thousands of pounds from exclusive boutiques.
Big Mo nodded his head slowly, his eyes rolling. “That’s right, Shooter, me old mucka,” he said. “You’ve finally got it... have a gold star.” He gave a mirthless chuckle, pausing before delivering the punch line with perfect comic timing. “Strange, though, because the way you’ve been acting I can only assume you believe my head buttons up the back.”
Everything was still, silent for a moment, the only sound that of laboured snorts coming from the prisoner, who was trying to clear the blood from his airwaves.
“Wh... what sh’you mean?” Shooter stuttered eventually.
“Ripping me off,” said Mo. “I know what you took away from that Holland Park raid. You owe me a lot more – a couple of grand, I reckon – and it’s a bloody cheek you’ve held out on me after I tipped you off to the opportunity. Don’t you know there’s a recession on? I got a wife and kid to feed, with another on the way. I’m sorry Shooter, truly. You always seemed a loyal soldier and a good mate, but now I’ve got to make an example of you. I can’t afford people thinking I’m a soft touch. Seems no one can be trusted these days. Handsome? Keep hold of him. Cozza, get Reg, would you?”
“Oh shit. No!” pleaded Shooter. “Not Reg. Look, I’ll make it up to you. Pay you extra, if that’s what you want. Do another job especially for you. It wasn’t on purpose, honest, I’d never do that to you, Mo, you know that. I must have miscalculated is all I can think. I’ve always been useless at maths...”
Chuck let out a whimper. He didn’t know what it was all about but he didn’t like seeing his daddy so cross. Big Mo looked at him and winked as if to say, “It’s all right son, none of this is real”. Chuck told himself what he was seeing was a magic trick, the red stuff on Shooter’s face not blood but tomato sauce, like he had at home on his chips.
HOURS later Chuck was in bed, crying himself to sleep. Big Mo told his wife the youngster was overtired. They had popped into the pub after their ‘bit of business’, just to take the edge off things, and Chuck had fallen asleep. Beryl Dolan looked at her husband.
“You’ve made him a part of it, haven’t you?” she said. “I asked you, even begged you, but you couldn’t help it. You had to ‘toughen him up’. I can only guess what you’ve been up to. You took that... thing... with you. I can see the blood. There’s a stain on my carpet and a trail on the tiles in the hall.”
Big Mo looked out from beneath his thick, black, caterpillar eyebrows, pushing his hand wearily through the bristles on his head. He didn’t feel like justifying his actions. It had been a long day. He had done what he had done, and in his mind he had made the right call. A row with the missus was the last thing he needed.
Lifting himself from his favourite armchair, Mo reached over and switched on the television, turning up the volume to dissuade his wife from carrying on with the conversation. A well-dressed man was standing in front of a weather map pointing at various areas of the country, but Mo wasn’t interested.
Bending down slowly, he picked up the three-foot length of wood he had propped beside him on the sofa. Noting the dark stains for the first time, he vowed to rub it down with a hot, damp cloth in the morning to get rid of any ‘evidence’. Shame. To his way of thinking it just added to the character, like when you had a champion conker as a kid and the more messed up it looked, the more scars it had, the more you knew it had done its job. Walking out through the sliding glass-partition doors, he swung the sawn-off curtain pole at his side, the spherical ball on the end reflecting the light. Resting it gently against the wall in the corner of the small parlour room, he patted it affectionately.
“Night, Reg,” he said.
Only a vampire can solve these crimes--a vampire private eye named Samantha Moon...
Private investigator Samantha Moon is working undercover for the Fullerton Police Department’s new top-secret Vampire Crimes Special Unit (VCSU).
With the increasing number of supernatural-type crimes in and around Orange County, Detective Sherbet needs Samantha’s special talents to help solve and prosecute the real and growing threats to the citizens of Fullerton. People are dying—and some of them are already undead.
Sam’s first case for the VCSU threatens to expose her life as a vampire. When a 200-year-old mummified corpse turns up on the grounds of an Orange County mission with a note addressed to Sam, she needs to protect herself, as well as solve this case before something worse happens.
The more Sam digs into the case, the more evidence she discovers of the mission’s grisly history and scandalous past. But will there be a price to pay? What if the only way to save the people of the present from the people of the past would be to expose the truth to the public? A truth that could take down a mission that is the very foundation of a community.
To solve the mystery in the present, Samantha Moon must first solve the mystery of the past. It’s a good thing she’s a vampire. A very good thing. She’s going to need those skills…
MOON HUNT is April M. Reign's first novel in the Vampire Crimes Special Unit series, her series set within the licensed Vampire for Hire Kindle World created by J. R. Rain, bestselling paranormal mystery author.
Alex and Oliver live in worlds, poles apart; new worlds shaped by a terrible world war and the emerging freedoms of the Sixties. A killer stalks, and five people are drawn into the intrigue surrounding a serial murderer; a series of events set in the Seventies, influenced by the past… a string of events—a daisy chain.
Daisy Chain; an erotic thriller from the masterly pen of Mark Montgomery.
Chat with Authors
I was an awkward, lonely, little girl. Books were my company. I started reading early, and began making up fantastical stories when I was quite...
The inspiration for 'The Worst Man on Mars' came after a chance meeting with top British scientist and author Mark Roman.
I've always enjoyed writing and decided about seven years ago to try and write a book. My first adventure into writing was called 'A Boy...
Starting with my earliest memories, I was making up stories. I grew up with tea times where the neighbors would gather. Everyone would share stories...
I started The Ugly while at law school, and my initial goal was to critique the idea of law. I was publishing law review articles...
Hop on Lenka's List Bandwagon
When Glints Collide takes a group of unknown to lesser-known writers (myself included) and combines their talents into an eclectic anthology of Sci-Fi, Horror, Paranormal