A MORNING PERSON

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Emily was a morning person. There was nothing she liked better than the birth of a new day. To watch the vapour trails holiday planes left in the sky…Mug of tea in hand, she opened the door, eager to breathe in the fresh unsullied air while she drank her first cuppa of the day.  She gave a little oomph of dismay when her breath misted in front of her face and her arms rippled with gooselumps.
Steam rose from her mug to fog her glasses.
“Shut that ruddy door,” her father bellowed from the kitchen. “Letting all the hot out. Getting older hasn’t made you wiser, that’s for sure!”
She hurriedly backed into the house and closed the door.
“Sorry, Dad,” she muttered, counting to ten under her breath.
“Are you going to let breakfast go cold, after all the trouble I’ve gone to?” he called.
“Sorry, Dad,” she said again, sidling into the kitchen to take her place at the table.
He humphed in reply, folded the morning paper to the Sports page, propped it on the sauce bottle, and left her to her thoughts…
Which weren’t happy ones. It had been a mistake to ask him to stay with her while her mother was in hospital…a big mistake. Her poor mother had sadly passed away—Emily’s eyes welled with tears, but her father was still here, six months on.
Every day he cooked a full-English breakfast; doing his bit, he called it, pulling his weight.
She called it driving her mad.
Once she had hinted that he should tidy the kitchen after his cooking spree. He’d waved a dismissive hand over the clutter of pans and dishes. ‘That’s your mother’s job,’ he had told her. ‘She likes looking after me…’ He hadn’t appeared to realise that this wasn’t going to happen…
Poor old Dad, Emily thought, clinging to the past…She must be patient. Grief took people different ways…but she hadn’t expected to be treated like a child in her own house, that was for sure. She was sixty-two next week, dammit! Things had got to change—
Grief….Was that why she had developed a thirst for murder mysteries?
Reading book after book after book…
Was she subconsciously seeking a way out?
She stole glance at her father.
A fool-proof way of…disposal—

Copyright © 2018 Betty Woodcock

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WOULD IT WORK?

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WOULD IT WORK?

Keith, a retired office manager, liked to exercise his brain, keep it nimble, by doing crossword puzzles and watching quizzes on TV. At the moment his brain was on overdrive—trying to work out if an idea he’d seen in a Soap would actually work in real life.

A couple of characters each had someone they wanted to be rid of and had come to an agreement. You kill mine and I’ll kill yours. No motive. No link to the corpse. Home and dry…at least the characters presumed so—But there was a big snag. Killer Number One messed up. The victim survived the murder attempt  and killer Number Two decided he hadn’t got the guts to kill a stranger for no apparent reason…kill anyone, in fact.

Keith wanted to know the outcome.  He had tried to second-guess the scriptwriter. Would the second killer blackmail the first , or would the first one kill the second, so he couldn’t? After all, he had killed once…or tried to…

Keith puffed his lips out in a gusty sigh. He’d have to wait an episode or two to find out…That was the worst of Soaps, they meandered along, switched to another story-line, and it could be months before the inept police, who were nosing around about something different, finally put two and two together and hit on the truth.

“Can’t you find something to do other than watch TV?” his wife’s carping voice bawled from the kitchen. “How about tidying the garden?”

“The grass is too wet to cut,” he replied. “Been too much rain. Besides, it’ll be dark soon.”

”Nothing to stop you stripping the wallpaper off in the back bedroom and we can shop for new tomorrow. It isn’t good for you to get no exercise. You should keep active or you’ll turn into a couch potato!”

“I’m hardly that,” he protested. “Maybe we should get a dog….”

“Over my dead body! Hairs and muddy footprints all over the place. No thank you!.”

Keith was tempted to give the stock answer of ‘That can be arranged!’

He wondered, not for the first time, how the girl of his dreams had turned into the sour bad-tempered cow in the kitchen. He  also wondered which of his friends had someone making their life hell? Which one would help him out? And more importantly—who could he trust? While he was mentally working his way through his ‘pals’ list his wife came into the room carrying two mugs of coffee.

“There  y’go,” she said, handing him one. “I’ve never stopped all day and here’s you idling on your backside.”

She plonked down beside him on the sofa. He felt himself tilt towards her as the cushion sagged. She’d put on weight, too, unlike him who’d kept his trim youthful figure. This thought made him feel quite smug.

“I was talking to Dolly today,” she said, blowing on her coffee. “You remember Dolly Hopkirk? She’s wanting to get rid of that cheating husband of hers and told me about an idea she’d got off TV. These two fellas both had somebody they wanted to get rid of and decided if they each killed the other one’s enemy, they’d get away with it. It would be a motiveless crime, y’ see. I thought it was a brilliant idea and I’ve never liked her bully of a husband, so I said, count me in!”

Keith turned to gape at her, his smug feeling gone. He felt as if he’d been whacked over the head with a hammer.

“So, I was wondering how to do it,” his wife continued, as if she was discussing a knitting pattern. “And who I want to get rid of most. Any ideas?”

He shook his head, unable to answer this loaded question. He actually felt sick. Talk about coincidence!

“I said I’d go first,” his wife said, “Show her how easy it will be…she’s such a ditherer, y’know…”

Dithering Dolly. Keith latched on to this. How could a woman who screamed when she saw a spider commit murder? He felt safe… for now…

“Nothing to say?” his wife asked.

He shook his head, but he did wonder if he should tip Dolly’s husband off.

Copyright © 2016 Betty Woodcock

Photo by courtesy of TACLUDA rgbstock.com

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A TASTE FOR KILLING

tacluda cat
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A TASTE FOR KILLING.

Jenny spread the morning paper on the kitchen table and, mug of coffee halfway to her lips, gaped at the photo on the front page below a banner headline which screamed: SERIAL KILLER CAUGHT.

It was Vernon, she was sure of it.

Same wave of blond hair falling over dead-looking grey eyes. Same thin lips. Same boy she had fostered ten years ago.

She had to put the mug down. Her hand was shaking.

Heart thudding an agitated tattoo, she recalled what had happened ten years ago when she had been a short-term fosterer.


Eight-year old Vernon had been brought to her late at night. An emergency case, the social work said. He needed overnight accommodation until his aunt and uncle arrived from Devon. She added in a whisper that he had witnessed his father slaughter his mother. The kitchen had looked like an abattoir.

Poor boy, Jenny thought. How terrible. It was little wonder he was so pale and withdrawn.

She made him welcome. He didn’t say a word, just shook his head when she offered him a hot meal and drink, but accepted a hot water bottle. She tucked him in bed, and smoothed the floppy fair hair from his brow. He flinched away. Poor boy, she thought again.

He was fast asleep when Jenny looked in on him before going to bed. She stood for a moment, listening to his even breathing. He didn’t seem so creepy when he was sleeping.

An eerie shriek jolted her awake. Heart thudding, she clutched the sheet under her chin, listening.

All was quiet, both outside and in. All she could hear was silence. It must have been me, she though. I must have had a bad dream—but try as she might, she couldn’t recall what horror had triggered her scream. She couldn’t even remember a tiny remnant of a dream…

Breathing evenly to steady her pulse, she tried to relax. She was on the edge of sleep when a scratch-scratch on the bedroom door set her heart racing again.

Her breath caught in her throat as the door slowly opened. A thin figure stood in the doorway.

Vernon. She’d forgotten about Vernon.

“Did you have a bad dream,” she asked.

“There’s—something—wrong with your cat.”

“With Cassandra? What do you mean?”

He turned away, not answering. She scrambled out of bed, grabbed her robe and followed him downstairs.

Cassandra lay on the kitchen floor, long fur matted with blood.

“Cassie?” Horrified, Jenny dropped to her knees and stroked the cat’s head. Its eyes rolled in her direction and its mouth opened in a silent mew. “What happened?” she asked the boy looming over her.

“I was cutting a slice of cake,” he said in a flat monotone. “I was hungry. The cat attacked me and I turned and the knife—went in.”

“Attacked you?” she said blankly, and saw the knife handle, part-hidden by the cat’s long fur.
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Jenny still had nightmares about that terrible night. The night poor Cassie was murdered.

She skimmed through the details of Vincent’s latest victim. A eighteen-year old girl had been slashed to death on her way home from a night out. Skin under her nails had been traced to Vincent, who’s mother had been murdered ten years ago.

Was it possible, Jenny wondered, that Vernon’s father had confessed to killing his wife to protect his young son from a life in jail?

Copyright © Betty Woodcock 2015
Photo by courtesy of tacluda rgbstock.com

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IDEAS…

teslacoils flowers

IDEAS…

If I’d put a pound in my piggy bank every time I was asked where I got my ideas from, I’d be a rich woman! Maybe not a millionaire yet, but close!

When I go out, I like to travel by bus. I can relax and take in my surroundings; what is happening about me, the display of bright daffodils, the elderly man on the corner, scraps of overheard conversations…all are grist to the mill of my active imagination.

Stir, mix and match, fit the odd bits together like a jigsaw puzzle and abracadabra! A story is born!

At the moment, my writing is concentrated on the darker side of life…

My bus to town passes a house which is linked in my mind to a suicide. The lady who once lived there drowned herself in the small dam at a local beauty spot. It was a favourite walk for a teenage-me and my dog.

Further on, in a residential street, is a bungalow were a man killed his wife, helped by their son. Along the main road, the site of a mill can be seen on the left. A small boy was raped and strangled in its basement. Further along the main road, on the left, is a section of boarded up old property awaiting demolition. The shop on the corner used to be sell antiques and the owner was killed by a burglar. Which brings to mind the death of the manager of a small co-op further out of town. He was working late doing the accounts and he also was murdered during a break-in. I lived quite near when I was first married.

Even my own village has a history of crime and murder. Around sixty years ago a couple of shopkeepers faked a robberies from their shops.

Put briefly, when they finally realised that the police were on to them, they set off one evening across the fields with the loot. My childhood home overlooked this panoramic view and we watched the dark outlines of running men in the distance and the flashing torches of the following police. The headlights of a car bumping across the grass. One of the men panicked and shot a policeman. Quite a drama!
Both the men and the police were well-known people in the village.

With the brighter sunny weather on the way my mind will turn to more cheerful things…

Happy reading!

Betty

PS. Have you read THE MAN IN THE MIRROR YET?
Copyright © Betty Woodcock 2015

Photo by courtesy of teslacoils rgbstock.cm
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MY FATHER…

zela bread

MY FATHER…

My father was an honest upstanding man. At least, I’d always thought so, until the day that my mother told me differently.

It was going up to midnight when I got the phone call. My mother—incoherent and crying.

“Mum? What’s wrong?” I asked.

“It’s your father,” she sobbed. “He’s…he’s…left me!”

“What?”

The line was dead. She ignored my ring-back. I scrambled out of bed and into the clothes I’d discarded an hour before.

Fifteen minutes later, my car screeched to a halt at the gate. Every light in the house was on.

House key at the ready, I ran up the path, but the door was ajar. “Mum?” I called.

“In here.”

She was in the lounge, standing next to a small table cluttered with holiday souvenirs. Her pasty-white face was tearstained and her hair stood on end as if she’d been out in a force ten gale. This wasn’t the well-groomed woman I was used to. Dad had evidently upset her, big time.

“Mum?” I said, holding my arms out. “What’s this about Dad leaving?”

She didn’t run into my arms, just stood there, looking at me appraisingly.

I began to feel uneasy. What did she want me to take the blame for this time so she would stay perfect in his eyes? Had she thrown a piece of his cherished Lalique collection at him? Over the years, I’d covered for the breakage of wine glasses and missing bottles of wine, a smashed Moorcroft vase, one of a pair, plus a dent in the family car…

“It’s your father…he told me he… had another woman… I was so angry…”

“Now that does surprise me! Him having another woman, I mean, not you losing your temper. So you chucked something at him? Nothing expensive, I hope?”

“This isn’t the time for jesting, Jeremy,” she said stonily.

“Sorry. Want me to have a word? Do you know where he’s gone?”

She nodded and pointed to the door. “Kitchen,” she whispered.

“So he’s not exactly gone gone?” I said, striding to the door.

“Dad? What’s all this about walking out on Mum?”

Shock jolted me to a halt in the kitchen doorway.

There was an enticing smell of freshly baked bread. The loaf was on the counter top, but the bread knife was buried to the hilt in Dad’s chest. He was on the floor. Blood pooled round him, soaking into his white shirt.

I sank on my knees but stopped short of tugging the knife out. That would make matters worse, cause blood to spurt. I rested my hand on his blood soaked chest, but couldn’t feel a flicker of a heart beat. I realised blood was no longer oozing from the wound. Dad’s heart wasn’t beating. Dad was dead.

“Is he…?” my mother said, from behind me.

“You crazy cow!” I yelled, twisting to look up at her. “You’ve killed him!”

“He was going to leave me,” she whispered, as if she didn’t want anyone to hear. “Jeremy, promise me you’ll back me up, like always.”

“Back you up! How exactly?”

“This is wrong.” She gestured at Dad. “Not right. I’ve notified the police…”

“You’ve what? I mean, what are you going to tell them?”

As if on cue, the doorbell rang. “They’re here now,” she said. “Follow my lead, Jeremy…”

I stood and backed away from my father’s body. My mind was whirling. How the hell was she going to explain her actions? I wished I’d taken longer to get here, and arrived after the police…

“He must have disturbed a burglar,” my mother was saying earnestly to the two police officers accompanying her. “We found him like this, didn’t we, Jeremy?”

I nodded.

“When was that, sir?”

“A few minutes ago—” I broke off, wondering when my mother had rung them. “I mean, it seems like only minutes ago, but it must have been longer—”

“Shock,” my mother said. “He’s in shock, that’s why he’s confused.”

She was right. I was in shock, but I wasn’t confused. This was different from a broken vase or a dented car. I wasn’t going to help her out and take the blame.

“I tried to help him,” I said to the police officers, indicting the blood on my jeans and hands. I took a deep shuddering breath. “But I was too late…”

“Jeremy…” My other Mum put her hand on my arm. “I know you’ll help me…”

“Dad once told me to look after you if anything happened to him. I’ll get you a good lawyer,” I said, wrenching my arm free. “She’s all yours, officer.”

Copyright © Betty Woodcock 2015

Photo by courtesy of zela rgbstock.com
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Revenge…

See Vee Hammer

“You’re useless!” Veronica screeched. “Know that? Abso-bloody-lutely useless!”

Ten-year old Richard, crouched at her feet, stared up at his mother. Her wide-open mouth displayed big horse-like teeth, and spittle flew as she yelled at him. He gripped the hammer tightly and gave the nail protruding slightly from the floorboards another whack.

“Abso-bloody-lutely useless!” she repeated, grabbing the hammer from him.

He cowered as she raised it above her head. It smashed down on the nail, driving it deep and leaving a dent in the floorboard. He felt the floor reverberate with the force of the blow. His mother’s hair, tied in a bun on the top of her head, bounced, and tendrils fell round her angry flushed face.

“That’ll stop the damn’ floor creaking,” she said, glowering at him. “Try harder next time!”

“Yes, mother.”

“And stop snivelling!”

He didn’t answer. He knew that anything he said when she was in one of her moods, would enrage her. Even something as simple as ‘good morning.’ And today’s start was far from good.

“What are you doing?” she asked sharply, as he rose from his crouch.

“B-breakfast,” he whispered. “Getting breakfast.”

“Did I say you could have breakfast? And speak up!”

“Yes, mother. I mean, no…”

“Just like your useless father. Weak, forever changing his mind. You know quite well that now he’s gone you have to do his jobs. So, today, go and weed the veg patch. When you’ve done, then you can have breakfast. Can’t have them killing off the seedlings. Off you go! Chop, chop!”

Richard obediently scurried outside into the chill morning air. His father had at least made his mind up to go, but he wished he’d taken him with him. Three months it had been now… It seemed more like three hundred years ago when he’d come downstairs in the morning to find Dad wasn’t there.

“Where’s Dad?” he’d asked, eager to go on their long-planned fishing trip.

“Gone,” his mother had said, not even looking up from scrubbing the kitchen floor. The brush scritch-scratched on the black and white tiles, spreading sudsy water. “Good riddance!”

“But we were going fishing today. He promised!”

“Tough!” she snapped, concentrating on scrubbing between the tiles. “Take that bag of rubbish to the bin. You should know your no-good father by now. Unreliable.”

Richard had known better than to argue, not when she was in a mood, and did as he was told. Just like he had today, shivering without his fleece jacket. The one Dad had bought him, supporting his favourite football team.  He bent and began tugging the weeds from the heavy damp soil. Be quicker if he used a hoe. He was wrenching at the shed door when his mother’s voice bellowed from the house.

“Richard? What the hell are you doing? You’re supposed to be weeding.”

“Getting the hoe, but the door’s stuck.”

“It’s locked, stupid! Been a few thefts from sheds, lately. Anyway, you don’t need a hoe for half a dozen weeds. Just get on with it!”

He trudged back to the muddy plot and tugged at the weeds with cold fingers. The quicker he finished the sooner he’d get breakfast. His stomach rumbled. Only last week, he’d taken too long to rake the gravel on the drive and his mother had declared it was too late for breakfast, he’d have to wait for dinner. He wished Dad would come back home…but until he did, it would be a good idea to get in his mother’s good books. Please her… How about spreading fertiliser between the rows of vegetables?. Help them grow big. He shifted this idea back and forth in his mind, Seemed good to him, so when he’d yanked the last weed free he tossed them on top of the compost heap.

He grabbed the spade leaning against the heap and tackled the pile as he’d seen Dad do.

He needed  the rotted stuff from underneath. He jabbed the spade in about a foot from the bottom just as Dad did and heaved down on the handle. This was harder to do than he’d expected. He’d made a break in the pile and decided to make a little tunnel and scrape the stuff out. It would be easier than digging. He wanted to get this done before his mother caught him and spoilt his surprise…

It wasn’t long before he hit a snag. The spade had hit something solid which refused to be scraped out . He changed tactics and demolished the little tunnel, and dragged the compost clear.  A trainer. How had a trainer got mixed with the compost? His mother would go mental! One eye on the house door, he feverishly increased his speed.

Definitely a trainer. He bent to take a firm grip and pull it free. It must be caught on something, he thought, having another go with the spade. He exposed more of the trainer…a stretch of sock and blue jeans. He got quite a jolt when he recognised the sock. He’d bought them last year. A Father’s Day gift, To The Worlds Best Dad.

What did he do now? Tell his mother he’d found Dad?

Then he remembered the night Dad had disappeared. The way he’d put his head under the covers to block out the loud voices downstairs. His mother’s high screechy voice and his father’s low rumble. Then silence.  The way she’d been scrubbing the floor the next morning—

He slowly got to his feet, clutching the spade, and tiptoed the few yards to the door. The radio was on. He carefully opened the door, eased through. His mother was sitting at the kitchen table. Her back was to him. She was leafing through a magazine while she sipped her tea.

He raised the spade high. “This is for Dad!” he yelled.

She turned, just as he smashed the spade down with all his strength.

“For Dad,” he repeated, using her bun of hair as a target. “For Dad! For Dad!”

She slumped across the table. The magazine slowly turned red.

Richard backed up to the fridge, staring at his mother. The spade clattered on the floor. His legs refused to hold him up and he slid to the floor.

“You killed dad,” he whispered. “Now you now what being dead feels like!”

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Granddad’s Legacy…

jaz1111  misty wood

Granddad’s Legacy was written as an exercise for my Writing Group…It may turn into a novel…

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Finn got out of the car and stretched his taught muscles. Rotated his shoulders. He eased the door closed, no good would come of alerting the perp…who he hoped was long gone.

Early morning mist still clung to the lane leading off to the right.

He knew what waited ahead—

Bodies in a blood spattered clearing—exactly the same as last time.

His stomach stirred uneasily. Would he ever get used to this?

The call had come through at exactly the same time too, too.  Five-twenty.  Another half hour and he would have been off-shift and on his way home to catch up on his sleep.

The anonymous caller with the husky, whispery voice had asked specifically for the message to be passed to him. But why? The PSO who took the call had said the man, or it could have been a woman, had spooked her out.

Finn, arm on car roof, stared down the lane with its grass verge heavy with dew leading to grey shrouded trees. He briefly ran through his list of friends and relations. None, that he was aware of, was involved with criminals. Except his Granddad.

His mind slipped back down the years.

Saw a twelve-year old him, tiptoeing into the front room of their small terraced house, to say goodbye to Granddad. The curtains drawn across the window in respect, shut out the sun. His mother’s best white tablecloth covered the dining table. No crockery, just a coffin of dark wood. Granddad was inside. Not the Granddad he knew.

His face was the colour of beef dripping, his wayward hair neat and tidy. Best navy-pinstriped suit, white hanky peeping from the top pocket, and a matching white carnation in the buttonhole.  The collar of his white shirt was pulled high up his throat to hide the ugly slash he knew was there.  Finn’s eyes had settled on the familiar regimental tie and the heavy gold watch chain looped across the jacket.  He remembered how he had reached out to touch as he backed away…

Granddad’s gruff voice had seemed to fill his head. ‘Get the buggers, our Finn.’

The police radio chuntering to itself brought him back to the present.

“I will, Granddad. I will,” he said, stepping away from the car towards the waiting horror.

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Photo by courtesy of jaz1111 rgbstock.com

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A ghostly encounter …

rage Alessandro rgbstockAlice sensed she wasn’t alone as soon as she went into the room. As if she was a split second too late to see who had vacated the chair by the window. She hesitated, hand tight round the doorknob. She could feel a strong presence.  Slowly, a grey shadow overlaid the beige upholstery. A man—sitting at his ease. Legs splayed, fingers curled over the chair arms.

She gave a sharp intake of breath—the figure was gone.

She forced her legs to carry her to the patio door. She swished the curtains back to let in the light. A swift glance confirmed the chair was still empty.

Imagination, she told herself firmly.

But he could have taken advantage of her momentary shock to duck behind the chair.

Only one way to find out, but she baulked at walking the few yards down the room. A cornered thief could be dangerous….

How had he got in? Both the front door and this one were locked.

“I can see you,” she lied.

When nothing happened, she gave an exasperated ‘humph.’

That this should happen today of all days, when she had a viewer coming to see the house.

Alice had lived here just over a year, but there was something off-putting about the place. This room, for example, always gloomy and dismal. She’d redecorated three times. First white, which she understood would reflect light into the room, but made her think of hospitals. Next she tried a buttery cream, but the room still felt depressing. Right now it was a pale apricot, in a last ditch attempt to add warmth. She had been tempted to try daffodil yellow or fire engine red…but sanity had prevailed, and she’d decided to sell the place. Someone else could have the headache of trying to inject life into this room. Maybe this antipathy could just be a personal reaction, although the house had stood empty many years…what a pity she’d not thought to find out why.

The doorbell rang. It must be her viewers… If she went to answer the front door, the thief could escape. She quickly turned the key in the patio door and, keeping her eye on the chair, darted outside.

“Mrs and Mrs Brown?” she called “Round the back!”

When their puzzled faces poked round the corner of the building, she beckoned them close.

“I’ve had a break-in,” she whispered. “He’s still inside.”

“Called the police?” Mr Brown asked, pulling his mobile out, when she shook her head.

“Only just found out…” she said, frowning at the window with closed curtains, the one beside the chair.  It was unbroken, undamaged. She had been so sure he’d got in that way. She had imagined him cowering behind the chair, waiting for her to turn her back, so he could escape…

 “Sorry about this. I’m sure you’ll like the place, when you get chance to look round,” Alice said, going into sales woman mode. “All recently decorated, good-sized rooms—” she broke off as the wail of a siren  heralded the police.

“Still inside, you say?” the sergeant asked, trotting round the corner of the house.

He beckoned his companion, and stepped into the house yelling, “Police! Show yourself!”

 Alice, in the doorway, saw the figure of a man rise from behind the chair. Tall with a receding hairline, he seemed about to head butt his way out of trouble.

“On the floor,” yelled the police officer. “Down on the floor!”

Suddenly the room was a grey blur of movement, a woman screaming, children crying and out of it all the man’s twisted face thrust angrily towards them—

Then all was silent and still. The man gone.

“What—want happened— exactly?” Alice asked, breaking the silence. “Where has he gone?”

“Guess what occurred ten years ago must be embedded in the fabric of the place,” the police sergeant answered, looking shaken. “We’ve just had a replay. That was Justin Sherman. He butchered his wife and three children in that very room. and tried to make it look as if she’d disturbed a thief. He claimed on the Insurance, made out he was the injured party.”

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Haunted…

mlJwTHs

The pub was crowded, as Jon knew it would be.  Beer in hand, he looked round the room. Empty seats were few.  The tables were close together but he finally made it to the chair near the window. To the table where a thin dark-haired guy gazed down into his beer.

“Anyone’s seat?” he asked, putting his tankard on the table and sitting down.

The guy didn’t answer, but briefly glanced up, then went back to communing with his beer.

Not happy thoughts, in Jon’s opinion. The guy looked haunted. Good.

Through the window, Jon watched a white double-decker bus pull up at the nearby stop. A petite blonde got off, with a phone to her ear and a large bag hugged to her chest. Red to match her high-heeled shoes. Her short skirt displayed slim, shapely legs. Good, Jon thought again.

His mobile rang. The guy across the table looked up sharply—a look of shock on his gaunt face. His hand unconsciously groped on the table for a mobile that wasn’t there…

“Haunting tune, don’t you think?” Jon said, getting his from his pocket, his eyes straying to the girl in the short skirt outside. “You got it on yours? I’ll always be right there for you …”

The guy’s eyes automatically followed his, as Jon knew they would. His face paled.

“Mia?” he whispered, staring at the girl in disbelief. “Mia?”

“Doing good,” Jon said into his phone.

Slack-jawed, the guy lowered his head and swivelled his eyes upwards, as if looking through the window at a different angle would alter what he saw…He half-rose from his seat, not noticing that two men at the next table made the same move. He shook his head, sank back on his chair and dropped his face in his hands. Jon almost felt sorry for him.

“Something wrong?” he asked.

“Outside. That girl. Can you see her?”

“You mean the one with the dog?”

“Dog,” he repeated, as if the word was new to him. “No. Big red bag. Red shoes…” He slowly slid his hands down his face and risked another look over the tips of his fingers. “She’s still out there. Tell me…tell me you can see her—the blonde —”

The girl smiled. Slightly tilted her head.

“No! No! No!” he moaned, rocking back and forth. “Go away! Stop following me!”

“Going well,” Jon murmured into his phone, his eyes on the guy, as the girl stepped slowly towards the window, still smiling.

The guy went to pieces.

“Leave me alone,” he shrieked, springing to his feet to pound on the window. “Go away!”

Customers at the adjoining tables drew back, shocked. The packed room fell silent.

The girl moved relentlessly towards him, swinging her bag.

“Isn’t it enough that you haunt my dreams?” the guy yelled. “Leave me alone, Mia, keep away, or—or I swear to God, I’ll—I’ll kill you all over gain…”

Jon rose as two men gripped the guy’s arms. His head jerked round in surprise.

“I’m Detective Inspector Jon Rowan,” he said. “Gilbert Johnson, I’m arresting you for the murder of your wife, Mia. Anything you say…”

“Mia?” the guy interrupted, as the blonde entered the bar. “Mia?”

“Detective Constable June West, I’m afraid, sir. Mia is dead.”

Copyright ©

Photo by courtesy of rgbhstock.com

 

 

 

 

A lucky escape…

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It was the last thing I had expected to happen, after a pleasant day out and a slap up meal, him telling me we were through, over.

Sitting on the harbour wall, sun hot on my back, I gazed at his smug face in shock.

He waffled on about how sorry he was, and if only I knew why he had made this hard decision I would thank my lucky stars or, to more precise, him…

Jolted out off my stupor, I leapt to my feet. He looked up at me in surprise. His mouth was still open in mid-sentence when I angrily delivered a hefty push on his cashmere sweater.

He hit the water with a very satisfying splash. Seagulls rose in a flurry.

He hadn’t been expecting that.

I paused a moment, watching him surface, taking in the angry shake of his head, before he swam determinedly to the steps leading from the moorings.

Time to go.

I slipped through the gathering crowd and up a narrow alley, round a corner, up a flight of worn steps, and I could see him shedding water on the quayside.

There was something distinctly odd about this place. Or about him. Or both.

He had brought me here on our first date, telling me it was a very special place. I had asked why and, with an irritating, superior smile, he had said it was full of extra-special memories.

And clammed up.

No amount of teasing had coaxed any facts from him. As it was our first date, I had thought it might be a ploy to make sure there was a second. And now, six months on, and me no wiser, we had returned to his very special place of extra-special memories and he had added the memory of finishing with me. I had added a dip in the harbour.

I knew which memory was extra-special to me.

Maybe that was it—he used this place as a beginning and an end for all his romances.

I became aware that he was striding uphill in my direction. Surely he hadn’t seen me?  Then I realised that he was heading to the car park.

I melted into a small chintzy tearoom, not his thing at all.

He squelched past as I was ordering latte and cream cakes. Judging by his thunderous face he didn’t appreciate my contribution of a super extra-special memory.

What exactly were his extra-special memories of this very special place, I wondered, watching him stomp out of sight. And why did he think I should thank him for ending our relationship?

Adding his comments together gave me a feeling of unease.

Especially as he’d added, only one last time and prepare to be surprised, to his repertoire of remarks to intrigue. Only he’d got it wrong.  Together with his smug smile, I found them extremely irritating. If he was laying the foundations for a proposal, he’d got that wrong, too.

But I’d been unkind. Maybe I should give him a ring. I needed a lift home.

My attention was caught by the two girls settling at the next table.

“I thought that hunk had fallen off his yacht, but that old guy with the pipe said his girlfriend had pushed him in.”

“Didn’t you think it odd that no one had noticed which way she’d gone?” said her friend.

“Not when I saw how mad he looked. I wouldn’t like to be her when he catches up.”

Me neither, I thought, finger hesitating over my mobile.

“He said she should’ve been easy to notice,” she added, as my mobile rang.

They both looked across; first at the phone, flashing blue, then at me, not answering.

It was him. I jabbed the off button. The screen blanked. His name disappeared.

“It was you!” the first girl said.

I nodded, grimacing. “Just burnt my boat, silly me. I’ll have to make my own way home.  Can you direct me to the station?”

“I should stay holed up in here for a while.” The second girl tossed me her cardigan. “Here, borrow this to cover that fancy top. He looked mighty mad to me. I’m Fran, by the way. She’s Jo.”

The top which I’d thought becoming and attractive now seemed to be sending out signals like a homing device. Almost on cue, I saw his car nose slowly round the corner at the top of the street.

“Thanks!” I dragged the cardigan on and ducked my head.

“That him?” Jo asked.

“Hmm.” I squinted sideways at his grim profile. “Maybe I’d better keep out of his way for a while. Let him cool down.”

“Don’t you mean dry off?” Fran giggled. “The water’s quite cold today.”

“I’m sure I’ve seen him somewhere before,” Jo said. “You’re not local are you?”

“No, we live about four hours drive away.”

“He certainly didn’t go to my school.” Fran said. “I’d’ve remembered!”

“He could have lived here once. He says it’s his special place of extra special memories.”

“That’s it!” Jo said, excited. “It was when I was waiting tables at Anton’s.”

“That’s where we had lunch,” I said. “Lovely food.”

“And expensive,” Fran said. “No one ever takes me there.”

“He was saying exactly the same things to that blonde girl…you must remember, Fran?”

“The girl who was washed up on the beach?”

“What?” I said. “Drowned?”

“Presumed to be suicide.”

I stared at her, feeling chilled.

“What exactly are you trying to say?”

“Her parents weren’t at all happy with the verdict…”

“But still…” Fran said. “That must be almost three years ago, time enough for—“

“Fresh evidence to surface?” Jo said. “He was also in Antons with Debby Taylor. Twice.”

The two friends stared at each other.

“Who’s she?” I asked.

“He didn’t come to her funeral, which I thought very strange,” Jo said.

“Funeral?” My voice ratcheted up. Heads turned. “You mean she’s  dead?”

“It must be eight months ago now. Her body was found buried in the sand dunes.”

“I’ve—I’ve been going out with him for six months…”

“Strikes me you’ve had a lucky escape, girl,” Fran said soberly.

I was surprised to find I was trembling. I pulled the cardigan tightly round me, wrapping my arms round my waist. My mind tried in vain to dismiss what Jo was implying.

“Are—are you sure about this?” I asked. “He’s kind, considerate and—well, I admit he can be quite annoying and smug, but—” I broke off to watch him drive slowly past. “He’s going back to the car park. I hoped he’d be on his way home. Maybe he doesn’t want to leave me stranded—”

“Shouldn’t risk it, if I were you,” Fran said.

“He’s obviously looking for you,” Jo said. “He’ll check the shops next. Go to the Ladies and I’ll wait here to get a good look at him, to make sure.”

I hesitated, then quickly bolted when I spotted him striding down the street.

The doorbell jangled. I cracked the door open a smidgen.

His glittering eyes checked the customers, and he headed to where I had been sitting.

I’d left my mobile on the table. He’d obviously seen it. He got his own from his pocket.

Jo pushed her chair back, smashing into his thigh, and reached for my phone.

“Forget my head if it was loose,” she said. “Don’t know why you had to swap tables, Fran. Oops, sorry, sir. Have I hurt you?”

“My fault entirely,” he said pleasantly, in his deep baritone, smiling. But his eyes still glittered. “I was looking for my girlfriend. Must have misunderstood her directions—“

“There’s another tearoom further on,” Jo said helpfully. “Have a nice day.”

With a last searching glance round the room, he left.

I waited a few minutes, to make sure that he wasn’t going to double back, catch me out.

“Well?” I asked.

“Definitely the same man,” Jo said. “I’d recognise that sexy voice anywhere.”

My lips tightened. I was going to give him another memory to add to his special place.

Something entirely unexpected.

I picked up my mobile, briefly wondering why I’d been spared, and jabbed 999.

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Photo by courtesy of rgbhstock.com