Apologies this a couple of days later than usual. Blame doing a visit to a potential UK Meet 2020 venue and going to see an Agatha Christie play. Pleased to say that my cold is all better although I have infected the rest of my family. I keep offering to rub their chests with Vick, but the offer isn’t always well received. I wonder why…
Our “Tea and cakes with the Deadly Dames” event in Portsmouth went very well. Next up is me making a case for Cadfael being the greatest fictional detective at the Great Detectives panel on Thursday 7th March at 7pm at the Eldon Building, which is part of Portsmouth University. Tickets on sale now!
Today’s special offer is on a print book. If you fancy a copy of Lessons in Power to have in your paw, then it’s cheap as the proverbial chips (although not real chips which are actually quite expensive!) on Amazon.
Remember a few weeks back I was looking for a title for an anthology of old stories I’m republishing? I had some cracking suggestions, including the excellent-but-probably-unusable-because-of-copyright “Charlie’s Angels”. Having started work on formatting and tidying, I found the four stories fall naturally into one for each season, so am reissuing the challenge. A prize for the best title for such an anthology.
The excerpt this week is from a few years back, the novella length story Second Helpings which is slightly more bittersweet than my normal offerings (although a happy ending is guaranteed…)
Stuart pulled his car up to the garage door, turned off the engine, and sat, staring at the steering wheel without really seeing it. Friday already—where the hell had the last fortnight gone? Where the hell had the last year gone?
Dad had rung on Thursday, no, make that the previous Thursday, to say he was taking Isabel to see a show, sounding airy, as if he was trying to give the impression it wasn’t important. Yesterday he’d reported back that they’d been to their matinee, although the old man had been cagey about whether they’d come home to deepest Berkshire that evening. The uncomfortable thought that the pair of them might be doing more than holding hands and sharing butterfly kisses got shut out of Stuart’s brain. What business was it of his anyway? Dad was happy, even if he wasn’t.
God, he hated child murder cases, especially when it seemed a member of the family might be responsible. He felt nauseous just at the thought of the tests he’d run, let alone gathering their results. Still, if the police had enough evidence to make an arrest and make the charges stick, he’d played his part.
That sort of thing hadn’t been so bad back in the days when he’d been able to walk in the house and know somebody was there to take away a slice of the pain. Somebody who could absorb it all without complaint and still come back for more.
He turned to look at the darkened windows, knowing he’d be opening the front door to nothingness. Friday evening used to be one of the highlights of the week. Mark would cook dinner, they’d share a bottle of wine, and then they’d use that big, comfortable bed. This Friday would see Stuart flicking on the television and catching up on the sleep he’d missed while helping to pin down the little boy’s step-grandfather with the crime.
It was enough to make him want to restart the car straight away. Dad wouldn’t mind, would he, if his only son appeared on the doorstep and said, “I can’t stay alone tonight”? What a bloody state to be in, when you couldn’t summon up the courage to walk through your own front door.
He tried an old trick, counting to ten then getting out of the car. Counting to ten again and getting to the door. Counting to ten again and then putting the key in the lock. Stupid, but it worked. Counting to ten again and he was in the hall. The effort seemed to expend his last bit of energy. He couldn’t face cooking, or anything more taxing than slouching on the sofa, and if his head nodded within minutes of him parking his backside, what did it matter?
His mobile went off, propelling him out of sleep and sending the remote control flying onto the floor. Who the hell could be ringing him at six o’clock in the evening? It had to be work, another bloody-awful case to deal with.
“Hello?” he said, fighting to fully wake himself.
“Stuart Collins?” The voice wasn’t one he recognised, and if it was somebody unknown from work, they would probably have addressed him as Dr. Collins. Had to be a salesman or a scammer. He tried to keep his bubbling anger in check.
“I’m Isabel Franklin’s son.”
“Paul?” Stuart relaxed a bit. Known quantity, or at least known about.
“That’s me. I wanted to introduce myself.”
“Oh. Right. Well . . . hello.”
“Sorry, this is a bit awkward over the phone. I wondered if we could meet up. Have a chat. Nothing to worry about,” Paul added hastily.
“Yes. That would be fine.” A bit early for the official meet-the-family bit—and surely that should be all four of them—but maybe things had moved faster than Stuart had reckoned with. “When were you thinking of?”
“As soon as you like. Where are you?”
Stuart, brain not quite in gear, almost said, In the lounge.
“I’m not far from outside Maidenhead.”
“Great. I’m in High Wycombe. There’s a pub about halfway. Do you know The Bull, just outside Marlow, on the main road? It used to be called something else.”
“I can Google it. Although I must have driven past the place.” Mark’s family had lived out that way; the memory of driving around Marlow, in happier days, stung.
“Most people have. There’s a garage, then a church, then The Bull. Can you get there by eight?”
“This evening?” This sounded urgent. “Unless the road’s full of tractors, yes.”
“Magic. See you then.”
Stuart stared at the phone after Paul had terminated the call. Friday night could well be interesting again, at least for this week.
And finally – rare that I include a picture of me, but couldn’t resist me Deadly Daming!