Saturday Serial ~ Out of Time ~ #MurderMystery ~ #Fiction

Kate Devereau wakes up in hospital in this exciting sequel to NINE LIVES,
unable to speak or move after the brutal attack by her ex-husband.
Her brain has shut down, refusing to acknowledge the misery of her dark and disturbing past.
A past that conceals a web of painful secrets.
Can she gradually piece her shattered life back together?
Or will she discover that her nightmare is far from over.

Chapter One

Detective Inspector David Snow looked down at the unconscious woman on the hospital bed in front of him. They had done a good job of cleaning her up.  She lay still, like a religious statue in a church, her pale skin the colour of finest marble, the gentle rise and fall of her chest the only sign that life still clung to her body.

So different to the other wrinkled and dirty body he had looked at earlier. An old tramp found dead in the hospital car park, bundled into a filthy army coat and wedged under a car. A simple case of neglect had taken on a more sinister tone when they found the tramps head cut off and shoved down the back of his trousers.

Snow wondered what the old tramp could have done to warrant such treatment. He was well known around the hospital and described as a harmless old soul. The tenuous link to the woman in front of him indicated she might not be safe and would need Snow’s protection.

They knew little about her, and he wondered again what kind of woman she was.  Now the blood and dirt had gone, she looked to be an attractive and middle-aged woman bordering on the ordinary, apart from her unruly hair, which seemed to crawl across the pillow like the roots of a willow.

Alone with the unconscious woman, Snow had an excellent opportunity to study her. In all the years since his wife’s death, he missed looking at a woman.  He liked to imagine what kind of person they were. If they were kind or cruel, bossy or timid, but for once, there were no clues on this woman’s face. A slight determination in the set of her jaw gave him pause for thought.

According to Michael Barratt, the man who brought her here, her name was Kate Devereau, and she was an artist. Snow wondered if she could be the murderer, due to the amount of blood present in the cottage where Michael Barratt had found her. As an estate agent, he had been arranging to have the cottage ready for Miss Devereau to rent and had no idea why she had found it necessary to be there.

It was all a little mysterious, compounded by the fact Michael Barratt looked as though he had been barbecued. His clothes were burned black in places, apart from his jacket, which was clean and several sizes too small and most likely didn’t belong to him. The back of his head and hands were raw and blistered, suggesting there were extensive burns to his body.

The estate agent kept asking after Kate, offering no explanation for his condition. He had no answer for what had happened to her either, except to say her health had not been good for a while. If it hadn’t been for all the blood, it would seem innocent enough.

So why didn’t Snow believe him?

Given the state of him, Michael Barratt was in no position to convince David Snow of anything. He was always suspicious of everyone involved in his cases, and Snow couldn’t help but suspect Michael Barratt. The man was hiding something, for, despite his obvious devotion to the unconscious woman, something didn’t feel right. He must know more than he said.

There had to be more to this case than these two people. The death of Miss Devereau’s brother Danny had opened this case several weeks ago. Perhaps someone had an axe to grind? Someone cruel and malicious, hell-bent on exacting revenge?

Snow walked over to the window, more for a change of scenery than to escape from the body of Kate Devereau. It was getting dark outside, and the lights in the car park were coming on, one by one. With visiting time approaching, more cars were arriving, and he prayed nothing else would happen. He was tired, but not looking forward to his retirement next year. His life seemed empty now, what would it be like then? He didn’t want to retire; he liked his job. It gave him a reason to get up every morning.

The idea that this woman may never regain consciousness was unsettling. He wanted this case solved and put away as soon as possible. The doctors could find no medical reason for the coma, or so they said. They had found sedatives in her system, but they should have worn off by now. Her heart was fine and no sign of a stroke. Either she didn’t want to wake up, or she was faking.

Maybe if he pinched or touched her, took her by surprise, would she open her eyes?  For whatever reason, and he couldn’t think of one, he couldn’t do it. He could hardly blame her for faking. Why weren’t there more people in her life?

He remembered one of his earlier cases, involving one Gillian Anderton and how she had completely fooled them into believing her story. If it hadn’t been for his sergeant, Jim Harris, she would still be free. Snow tended to suspect women a lot more these days, just in case.

Samantha Cameron managed Miss Devereau’s art but was only a business contact.  Judging by the barbecued boyfriend, someone thought well of Kate Devereau, but how did she feel about him? So many questions, which would never be answered if she didn’t wake up.

He looked back to the bed, hoping to see her open her eyes, but nothing had changed, she hadn’t moved at all.

What kind of woman are you, Kate Devereau?

I really enjoyed writing this second book in my DI Snow series and would love to hear your comments!

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