#Wednesday Writer: Nine Lives by Jaye Marie Chapter22 #MysteryThriller

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Chapter Twenty-two

Jack Holland couldn’t shake the image of the old woman from his mind. The way she had looked at him replayed repeatedly in his head, making him believe she knew what he was about and what he had done. Normally, he had the greatest respect for old age. If you made it that far, he thought, you must be worth something. She had looked at him knowingly and he didn’t like it.

What if she mentioned him to Kate? She might just assume some old women sometimes create suspicion in order to make their lonely lives more interesting, but the seeds of worry were growing.

Could she have seen anything else? One sighting might be dismissed, but had she seen him on other occasions too?

He prided himself on always being vigilant on his frequent visits to Kate’s flat, but the idea of a nosy old woman unable to sleep at night who might have been at her window had not occurred to him.

Now it ate at him. The woman’s face haunted him; sneered at his stupidity until he was convinced she would tell Kate everything and ruin his chances. He couldn’t have that. The thought of Kate finding out and running away from him again didn’t bear thinking about.

 

It took careful planning to keep both women under observation and not be seen by either of them and in a way, he was enjoying himself. He imagined he could be a secret agent on a mission of grave urgency. Down to him to do whatever was necessary to put the world straight.

His world, that is. Nothing would be allowed to get in the way of his quest to get Kate back to where she had always belonged.

The fact it had been so long now and Kate had shown no sign of missing him, had not entered his mind. It had tried to, and he had dismissed the thought as unworthy of a man in his position. He had to get her back, nothing else would do and he was so desperately tired of waiting. He was also tired of all these interferences and still fervently believed he would win in the end, once he had eliminated every distraction. He would make her need him again, one way or another.

He had invested in a small ex-electricians van, complete with a colourful logo on the side in which to conduct his surveillance. Nobody looked twice at a tradesman’s vehicle and he felt less conspicuous than he assumed Kate’s brother did, in his shabby old car. He could sleep in there if the need arose. It was a convenient arrangement and quite fitted his image of detective-hood.

She was a sweet old woman, he thought. She kept herself busy, popping up to the shops several times a week. Remarkably agile for one of her age, although he suspected she could be a nasty piece of work should the need arise. He had witnessed the way she treated the postman when he tried to post an armload of junk mail through her letterbox. He kept getting a mental picture of one of those small annoying Jack Russell dogs, busily tearing a rabbit to shreds, reminding him he had to be more than careful with this one.

Having to watch two people at the same time was a new experience for him and was proving to be exhausting, as he had no idea what either of them would do. The strain was becoming annoying and he knew he would have to take a risk soon, as he had visions of sitting in the van forever and that wouldn’t do at all.

The right time arrived just when he was prepared to risk everything by forcing the situation his way. It was Saturday morning and Kate had gone out. The old woman’s front door opened and she came out with a bucket in her hand and started to clean the windows.

It was the perfect scenario, he couldn’t have wished for better. He casually crossed the road, looking out for any nosy parkers and slipped inside the open door.

When the old woman came back inside and closed the door, she didn’t seem at all surprised to see him sitting in her living room. She just stood quietly in the doorway, waiting for him to speak.

He was in no hurry to tell her anything, in fact, he might not say anything at all. Pointless anyway, she couldn’t possibly understand just how important his mission was. He noticed she was nervously plucking at the handle of the bucket, trying not to look at him. It was almost as though she knew why he was there, and that was ridiculous.

After what seemed like an eternity, the old woman finally moved. She walked past him to the kitchen and he heard her rinse out the bucket and put it away.

He stood up and followed her, grabbing her by the elbows and throwing her to the floor. He had no real plan of action, no thought as to how to be rid of her, but he had no idea how strong an old woman could be. He had fantasied that the mere sight of him might have done it, but she was looking up at him, fiercely defiant blue eyes determined to see through whatever was coming. He took her head in his hands and contemplated crushing her skull. It didn’t feel strong. Her hair was soft against his fingers and he paused for a moment.

‘Shame about this, old girl, but no good ever came of being nosy, now did it…hmm?’

Then the sweet old woman with the soft hair and defiant eyes became an obstacle once more, something that had to be removed.

He closed his eyes and lifted her head away from the blue patterned lino. Her hands were clutching desperately at his sleeves, fluttering like birds wings. He thought of Kate, and how much he missed her, and the familiar mist seeped into his brain as he pounded the woman’s head against the floor repeatedly until her eyes closed and she stopped breathing. He left her lying there and went back to his van…

 

 

#Throwback Thursday: The Maker of Skulls by Amanda Markham #ThrillerMystery @Amanda467

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To shy, book loving Professor Fineas Steele, his beloved office, overflowing library and pipe are his world… until the morning his life is turned upside down by a secret he’s guarded for almost thirty years.

For decades, Fineas has been protecting a dead man’s secret – an elaborate hoax perpetrated by a much loved, dashing national hero. A secret on which Fineas has built his life, career and professor’s tenure.

When news of a carved granite skull and a sea captain’s lucky escape from a cannibal tribe turn up on the front page of the city’s newspaper, Fineas must make a decision.

Does he risk everything and expose the lies of the man who made him what he is? Or does he undertake a perilous journey to solve the mystery behind the skull’s makers and a tribe of cannibals who never really existed?

~~~~~~

It was the cover of this book that first attracted my attention. The kindly old face of the professor and the old world setting really appealed to me.

The professor is blissfully happy in his own world, until the day something happens. Something that just wasn’t possible.

Should he investigate, or leave well enough alone?

Although he is far too old for an adventure, he decides to find out if what he always thought was a myth, could in fact be true.

I loved the touches of humour from the professor and the complex twist at the end of this mystery story.  I can recommend The Maker of Skulls wholeheartedly.

 

Rosie’s #Book Review Team #RBRT No One Can Hear You by Nikki Crutchley #Mystery&Thriller @NikkiCAuthor

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‘He said that they’d let me go on purpose. That they could easily find me if they wanted to. He said that they didn’t want me. That I was too much trouble. He said if I went to the cops, he’d know. If I told Sonya, he’d know. If I talked to friends or teachers, he’d know. He told me to pretend it didn’t happen. He told me to consider it a compliment, that I was too strong. His last words to me were, ‘Just forget’.

Troubled teen Faith Marsden was one of several girls abducted from Crawton, a country town known for its picturesque lake and fertile farmland. Unlike the others, she escaped, though sixteen years on she still bears the emotional and physical scars.

Zoe Haywood returns to Crawton to bury her estranged mother Lillian, who has taken her own life. As she and Faith rekindle their high-school friendship, they discover notes left by Lillian that point to two more young women who recently disappeared from Crawton. But Lillian’s confused ramblings leave them with more questions than answers.

As Faith and Zoe delve deeper into the mystery, they become intent on saving the missing women, but in doing so are drawn into Auckland’s hidden world of drugs, abduction and murder.

And then Faith decides to confront the mastermind – on her own.

 

Our Review

A brilliant opening prologue, the story opens in a foster home in 2001.

Faith Marsden had been in worse places, but a late night escapade finds her in somewhere much worse…

Sixteen years later, Zoe Hayward, a teacher at a boys school, is unfairly sacked because of an incident with one of the boys. Her mother, who she hasn’t seen in years, dies and Zoe must return home to arrange the funeral, so she is unable to stand her ground over the dismissal.

Zoe is just doing her duty regarding her mother but gradually becomes involved in the mystery of the missing girls in her hometown. The authorities seem to want it all to disappear, but she isn’t about to let that happen.

Fast paced in the beginning, the thread of this story alternates between the characters and their chapters, which vastly increased the tension.

Such a complicated and skilful plot, you really need to be on your toes with this one. The story unpeels like an onion, each layer full of frustrating clues and red herrings. By the time I was just over halfway through, the tension had built to an almost unbearable level.

The story slowly descends into a gruelling hell as the author describes the extent of the missing girl’s trauma with painful precision.

The climax of the story begins when Zoe makes an important discovery, triggering one of the best finales I have read in a while…

 

Excerpt

Her eyes began to burn from staring unblinkingly into the dark. She shut them tight again. Her hands wandered further, cautiously, off the edge of the mattress. A concrete floor, chilled and unforgiving. She stretched her hands out either side. One side touched hard wood. Shelves maybe? The last time she remembered any contact with people was sitting in Garth’s office at the Crawton Tavern, having a few drinks after work on Sunday, with … who?

She stood on shaking legs, the dark playing with her balance. She hardly knew which way was up, and a whimper escaped her lips. The sound, desperate in the stillness, chilled her. She edged forward, hands in front of her, hesitant, not knowing what to expect. After she’d counted six steps from the mattress her hands found a door. She had performed the same actions days or hours ago. She knew what the result would be but grasped the handle anyway, daring to hope, and turned it.

Locked.

She stumbled to the side and her foot kicked something. A bucket? It skidded across the room. She knocked her elbow on what she guessed was more shelving. Rubbing at it the tears came, wretched, choking sobs that echoed around her prison. Her head thumped as she tried desperately to piece together what had got her here. They’d taken her like she knew they would. She’d told herself what she’d overheard was nothing, even when Tania disappeared. Deep down she’d known she was in danger.

But there hadn’t been anywhere else to go.

Thank you to the author and to #RBRT for my #free review copy…

 

#WednesdayWriter: Nine Lives~ Chapter 19 #MysteryThriller

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Kate had welcomed death from an early age. With no family to speak of and a brother she hates, she waits for death to take her away.

It speaks to her. Teases her, yet will not come for her.

Death takes those around her, making her desire for it greater than ever.

She wonders how much longer it will take for her time to run out…

Chapter 19

On the way home from her walk around the park as she approached the bakers, she wondered idly if they had any doughnuts. The sight of her old friend and neighbour Janet standing at the counter made her walk inside the shop.

‘Hello Janet, I wondered if I would see you today. How are you?’

Janet was buying a small loaf of bread; she was so short she had to stretch to pay the woman. ‘I’m fine Kate, though I could do with a box to stand on in here. This counter is far too high for me.’

Kate held out her hand for Janet’s change and asked, ‘Have you heard a child crying near us lately?’

Putting the change in her purse, Janet shook her head. ‘No, can’t say I have. Someone might have visitors… has that silly cat come home yet?’

Kate shook her head and bought two doughnuts. As they walked to the door of the shop, she realised it was raining heavily. Janet fished an umbrella out of her shopping bag and with a quick wave; toddled up the road looking like a little pixie in her boots and raincoat.

Kate made her way home, looking in every doorway and behind all the bushes and bins. There was no sign of Dylan. Tears ran down her face as she willed the missing cat to appear. It was as though she knew he was gone for good, and she would never see him again.

Once back indoors, Kate had to change her clothes as she was soaked through and cold. She didn’t want to turn on the central heating, so she wrapped herself in her old fleece dressing gown and rubbed some of the water from her hair with a towel. She wandered into the kitchen, intending to put the kettle on for a cup of tea to go with the doughnuts when something about the cat flap made her stop short.

Something dark was smeared all over the plastic flap. It looked like blood, dripping down the door into a puddle on the floor.

‘What the..?’

She didn’t want to look, but knew she must and edged closer. The blood seemed to be all on the inside, she would have to open the back door.

She reached out her hand, but it refused to grasp the handle or the key that was in the lock. She stood, frozen, for what seemed like an age. Desperately wanting to run away and knowing she couldn’t, not yet.

It began to filter through to her brain that someone had been in her flat again. Her stomach dropped to her knees, what if whoever it was, was still there, hiding somewhere?

She couldn’t do this. Her knees had turned to jelly and there was a real risk of her falling to the floor right where she stood. The smell of the blood was making her feel sick and she knew if she didn’t open the door soon, there was a great possibility she never would.

‘Get a grip, girl, what’s the matter with you?’ she said angrily, reaching out for the handle once again. This time she managed to unlock the door and open it, stifling a scream with both hands as she saw what was on the other side of the door.

There was more blood and a lot of blood-soaked silver fur scattered over the doorstep. She knew what it was, but there was nothing she could identify. Just bits and pieces as if he had been hacked to pieces.

She stood there staring, not knowing what to do, so she shut the door, hoping her brain would come up with some plan of action all on its own. She should start by checking the flat; although if she found anyone, she knew she could quite easily kill whoever it was. The shock was wearing off, being replaced by an incredible sadness and anger. Who could do such a thing to a defenceless animal, and more to the point, why? What reason could they possibly have?

The voice sarcastically remarked that the cat had run out of lives too.

What was all this nonsense about lives?

She finished checking the flat but there was no intruder, just the faint smell of cigarette smoke in the living room. Danny! Why would he do this?

She was not looking forward to cleaning up what was left of her beloved old friend. As she willed herself to move and take charge of the situation, she knew her life had just changed dramatically. There was no way she could stay in the flat any longer than was necessary.

She filled the bucket with hot soapy water and walked towards the back door. The sight of the blood turned her stomach over and she just made it back to the sink, heaving up nothing but bile. She retched so many times her muscles began to cramp. With an extraordinary effort, she tried to pull herself together. Dylan deserved that much of her at least, she thought, splashing her face with cold water.

Clearing up took a long time because she had to stop so many times to wipe her face and blow her nose. There seemed to be far too much blood for one little cat. It was so unfair, he was her friend, probably her only friend, as Sam didn’t count, being work-related. She would have to tell her soon she would be leaving, and it was going to be awkward, as Kate didn’t want anyone knowing where she was going. She thought of just leaving and not telling anyone but that felt wrong somehow. Sam was relying on Kate to produce exceptional art for her new gallery.

Anyway, Kate thought she could trust Sam. She had proved herself a good friend in all kinds of circumstances. Depending on where Kate moved to, their relationship would be tested to the hilt. Sam wouldn’t want to work with someone who wasn’t conveniently located.

Kate tried to make a cup of tea, but her hands were shaking so much most of the tea and sugar went everywhere. She gave up and sat down on the kitchen stool, her head spinning. She did feel ill. The room was slowly revolving and she thought there was a chance she might faint. Everything she looked at seemed strange. What was that thing you supposed to do, she thought, put your head between your knees?

The thought of bending over or moving in any direction didn’t seem like a good idea at all, but she managed to pull herself together and walk to the bedroom. She slammed the door behind her, the loud noise triggering something inside her, and she collapsed on the bed and sobbed her heart out…

Amazon Review:

4.0 out of 5 stars
Suspenseful Story
Kate is an artist who’s had a very painful life and a few close calls with death. After a heart attack, Kate tries to go on with her life, however trouble lurks in the form of her vindictive ex-husband. One by one Kate’s friends and loved ones meet mysterious deaths and Kate, fearing she’s next runs for her life.
Adding to Kate’s dilemma is a the mysterious voice that’s been plaguing her her entire life, which at times proves to be more of a nuisance than of help.

At times Kate comes across as standoffish, but after reading about her history and the tragedies she suffered in the past, gives you a better understanding for her attitude. After reading about her past, I was wishing she’d find the peace that she wanted.

The story is very mysterious and suspenseful, and I was left wondering if Kate would escape the murderer. The mysterious voice plays a big part in the story and the ending does a wonderful job of explaining the voice and it’s purpose in Kate’s life.

 

 

#WednesdayWriter: Nine Lives ~Chapter 18 #MysteryThriller

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Chapter Eighteen

This canvas is turning out well, she thought, casting her professional eye over the composition. She had tried to capture the glory of a sunset on a calm sea, and the flood of colour across the water was almost right. She put down her brush, needing a cup of coffee.

While the kettle boiled, she thought about what the voice had said about her needing company. It obviously didn’t  know her at all, for she had always preferred her own company. Pity, she hadn’t remembered that when she met Jack. Michael too, come to think of it. Why had she broken her own rules so many times?

She had always attributed her momentary lapses to plain stupidity, for who knew better than she there was no Mr Right lurking about anywhere.

She went back to her studio, still thinking about how badly their marriage had turned out. She had often heard women discussing how men would change once they put a ring on your finger, and surely there must be some kind of clue, some sign you were making a mistake before you walked down the aisle? If there was, she never saw it.

Jack must have been one clever bastard, that’s all she could think, for she fell for his charm like a ton of bricks. The first time he had spoken to her as if she was the worst woman he had ever met had wounded her deeply. After Michael, she didn’t think she could be hurt like that again, especially by someone like Jack. She had been so wrong.

He had literally become someone else, someone she didn’t recognise at all. He became rude, sarcastic and moody. He started to instigate rough games, which always resulted in her getting hurt. Even now, her hip hurt most days where he had viciously kicked her off the bed.

The one thing that broke her heart was the way he treated her son, David. He had promised to be a good father and seemed to care for him before the wedding, but that changed, along with everything else. He did still play with him sometimes, but he played rough and she was terrified he would hurt him the way he usually hurt her.

She increased the intensity of the orange paint near the horizon so that it seemed the sun had just slipped out of sight. The dying light streamed across the sea, spreading shades of peach and salmon pink that gradually faded into the cobalt sea. Kate nodded to herself, finally satisfied the sunset before her was as splendid as she could make it.

Something made her think of Sam’s face appearing in one of her other paintings. What was that all about?

The voice was talking about Sam, asking if Kate really knew her at all.

What was it going on about now? Of course, she knew how she felt about Sam. She was a good friend as well as a big help with her art, and there had been the time when it was all a bit emotional. She thought at the time they would have to go their separate ways, for Sam had become so upset by her relationship with Jack. She was simply being overprotective, wasn’t she? After all, Kate knew by then he was a bastard, so Sam was right.

And what was all that about her suddenly vanishing?

She thought of Dylan, and it suddenly felt as though her stomach had just dropped to the floor.

 

Kate awoke with another splitting headache. The night had been full of nightmares, bloodied babies, cats screaming in agony, and the angry face of a man she didn’t recognise. She nearly gave up in the early hours and thought about getting up, but she must have gone back to sleep again. Not that she felt at all rested.

She staggered into the kitchen and switched the kettle on. While it was coming to the boil, she looked for some painkillers. She hated taking pills of any kind and only conceded with the antacid tablets because she usually ended up being violently sick if she didn’t.

Kate remembered Sam’s raised eyebrows when she couldn’t convince her she had been taking her medication after the heart attack. She couldn’t help it, she just didn’t remember. She didn’t see the point in prolonging the inevitable, always assuming she would die one day anyway. She hoped so. When she was younger, the thought of living forever seemed like a great idea, but not if you couldn’t drag yourself out of bed. Something which was getting harder to do, pills or no.

Every bone in her body ached, and mysterious shooting pains were starting to worry her. She should be taking the pills after all because she wasn’t quite ready to shuffle off just yet.

Right now though, she was having trouble deciding what she was going to do today. She wasn’t completely happy with the first canvas she had done, and she should do some housework, the place was filthy.

She suddenly felt emotional, tears were not far away, as she remembered how much she was missing Dylan. Where was he? She couldn’t bear to think he might be hurt or shut in somewhere. Oh for a crystal ball, she thought. Wouldn’t that be handy?

The next thought to push its way past her emotions was Danny, smiling at her with that soppy grin he always thought was cute. Why had she suddenly thought about him?

The voice blamed Danny for being in her flat, and it could have been him, remembering the smell of cigarette smoke. He would be stupid enough to smoke in her flat. The thought of him, nosing around in her belongings was making her skin crawl. He was her brother; she shouldn’t be feeling like that about him. It might help a lot if she knew why she did, and the truth refused to escape from the dark recesses of her brain.

After a shower, Kate went to her studio. Housework had been voted against, after all, no one would see the place so what did it matter?

She studied both canvases, trying to be objective. The sunset was good, but the dark, edgy one was not. It would have to be done again. She had the idea in her head of a magical lake scene with mist rising from the water.  It wasn’t a seascape, so Sam might not like it, but it was what she wanted to paint and wouldn’t be able to move on to the next one until she had transferred it from her head to the canvas.

With the day planned and the problem solved, she set to work; suddenly realising she could hear the child crying again. It seemed to be more insistent now as if it was alone, uncared for, and wasn’t helping Kate concentrate.

During the morning, the crying intensified and Kate began to feel as if something was wrong. She couldn’t remember David ever crying like that. Quite the opposite, he was a happy child, infuriatingly happy most of the time. As he grew older, the moods and bad tempers began to take over. Which puzzled her at the time, for weren’t children supposed to take after their parents?

She couldn’t blame everything on the crying child. The flat hadn’t been the same since the break-in. She wondered if it might have happened before. Not that she had noticed anything anyway as she was not the tidiest person on the planet.

The feeling the flat was no longer her special place was growing stronger, almost too strong to ignore. She knew she would have to move, even though the thought of doing it all over again filled her with dread. She was too old to move house again.

The voice changed tactics, saying she should stay where she was. That whoever had broken in would find her wherever she went.

Oh, no you don’t, she thought. ‘Quit using reverse psychology on me, I’ll do what I want, not what you think I should…’

She stopped mid-rant, realising she was shouting at something that wasn’t real. She should check herself into the funny farm, that would solve most of her problems, wouldn’t it?

Oh get a grip, she thought. She moved house before and thoroughly enjoyed it, she could do it again if she had to; of course, she could.

Suddenly, the need for fresh air was overwhelming. She had to get out of there if it was only a walk around the block.

Once outside the front door, Kate didn’t know what she wanted to do or where she wanted to go. The green Vauxhall was still parked outside number ten and didn’t appear to have been moved. It couldn’t possibly be Danny’s, could it?

She contemplated dropping in on Janet to see how she was, but her need for fresh air was more insistent. She began to walk, hoping something would occur to her as she made her way to the High Street.

Dark clouds were slowly building into a menacing mountain, not just rain if they had anything to do with it. It matched her mood perfectly, so the thought of getting wet didn’t bother her at all…

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#WednesdayWriters: Nine Lives ~ chapter 17

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Death has been visiting Kate all of her life, leading her to imagine she has nine lives, like a cat.
With nothing to live for, no family, just a brother she hates, she waits for death to take her away when her lives run out.
Death continues to speak to her, teasing her, yet will not come for her. When people around her begin to die at the hands of a serial killer, she hopes to be next.
Has she finally run out of lives? Will she find a reason to live after all, before it is too late?

Chapter 17

Kate tried not to think about Dylan that evening, and it was hard. He had been such a comfort for so many years; the thought she may never see him again was creating a big dark hole in her life, one she could not afford to fall into.

She made a start on the first canvas, but instead of the tranquil moonlit scene, she had planned, angry waves were starting to build, almost without her permission. Like any artist, Kate firmly believed the materials she used controlled the magic. Writers say the pen almost seems to write on its own and Kate understood why this happened more than most people. There were days when she knew something had taken over the brush and done its own thing, something for which she was eternally grateful.

The evening was turning out to be one such occasion. The hours flew by and before Kate was aware of it, it was late. Her body was aching and she knew it was time to stop. In her youth, she had sometimes painted all night, and Kate knew from experience her old bones would not let her do that anymore. She put down her brush and focussed on the canvas in front of her.

What she saw made her gasp. What had she done?

The image in front of her was quite dark, the ocean at night. Instead of the calm moonlit scene she had envisioned, the waves were churning angrily. There was no moon, so the tips of the waves were just visible. You just knew something was lurking and you had the distinct impression a storm was brewing. Did the painting need something else, like a lighthouse?

It wasn’t bad, she thought; but was it good enough for Sam? She cleaned her brushes, determined to save the final judgement until the morning. Closing the studio door, she checked all the other rooms for Dylan but he was nowhere. She checked there were enough food and water in his bowls just in case he came home hungry.

Wednesday morning arrived, and Dylan had not, his food untouched. Kate made her way to the kitchen to put the kettle on, conscious of how empty and hostile her safe haven was becoming. The urge to run away had not diminished, and she kept pushing it to the back of her mind. She had so much work to do for Sam’s new gallery, any thoughts of moving house would have to wait. There was always the possibility she was too old to run away anymore.

It was getting harder to think outside the box and she seriously wondered if she had the energy to do anything other than paint.

She took her coffee to the studio and put a fresh canvas on the easel. She was in no mood to be objective, so decided to tackle another seascape and see what happened.

For some reason, the thought of running away made her think about Jack. He had come into her life at another turning point when she had finally convinced herself she had to move out of John’s house. She was bored with being an unpaid housekeeper, bored with wondering whether Michael would turn up again.

Michael had turned up on two more occasions, using every trick in the book to try to seduce her into running away with him. She was flattered and tempted, and something always held her back.

On that last visit, John had come home from work and found Michael sprawled on the carpet, playing with David. Kate had never seen such anger in any man and remembering that day she felt scared to death. It wasn’t directed at her, just his son. The older man never said a word, just grabbed Michael by the arms and tried to evict him from his house. They fought like madmen and Kate had to grab David and retreat to the comparative safety of the kitchen.

It was terrifying and heartbreaking to watch a father and son in such a battle. John didn’t speak and Michael kept saying ‘dad’ and ‘please?’ over and over again but it wasn’t having any effect at all.

There was an almighty crash and the sound of glass smashing. Kate didn’t want to look but knew she must. John was standing by what remained of the living room window and there was no sign of Michael. There was a sound at the back door, and Kate turned just in time to see a dishevelled Michael stumble into the kitchen. There was blood on his face and she took a step towards him, but he put his hands up and shook his head as he walked past her, not stopping until he slammed the front door behind him.

John had never spoken of it, and the incident with Michael had made Kate more uncomfortable than ever. So when she met Jack again he managed to convince her that life would be so much better if she was with him.

She had originally met him at her old friend Eileen’s wedding. She was instantly attracted to him, probably because he was so different from Michael. He had blue eyes too, and that was where the similarity ended. His hair was a dark blonde and he reminded her of a young Clint Eastwood. He was also charm personified and seemed to adore David. Kate was glad to have found someone who seemed too good to be true, someone special. As their relationship grew, he convinced her he would take care of them both and be a proper family.

He was true to his word, at first. She left John’s house one day when he was at work. She didn’t want to experience any more of his bad temper. It had been incredibly sad to be leaving the first home she had ever created, the house that was full of her endeavours and experimentations.

Her failures were there too, the cupboard that never did stand straight and the carpet stains that refused to come clean, along with the bitter memory of Michael’s betrayal. She had considered leaving John a note, and there was nothing to say. Goodbye was inadequate, for there was nothing good about her leaving, even though she was supposed to be moving on to better things.

Her life didn’t settle down to a perfect existence, and she kept the fact she still loved Michael a closely guarded secret. She had married Jack, knowing she was jumping from the frying pan into the fire. What had made her disregard her misgivings and ignore the warning bells?

Kate put down her brush and stretched, realising she was starving. It was time for a break. Before she could move, the voice filled her head and she sat where she was to listen. It was going on about making yet more mistakes, and it was right, of course. It was always right, but that didn’t mean she was about to toe the line this time. It kept nagging at her to leave this place, to forget everyone and everything, but it didn’t feel right.

Kate knew it couldn’t hurt her, if it could it would have done it by now.

Sometimes she managed to convince herself that none of it was real and she was going mad. In the cold light of day, there had to be a logical explanation for the fact she accepted this voice as a natural part of her life. It had always been there and it would be impossible to imagine something for so many years, wouldn’t it?

If it was real, what did that make her?

The fact she might be special in some way never quite managed to be believable. Surely, her life would have been different? Hell, her life should have been wonderful, shouldn’t it?

Her stomach grumbled, making her glance at the clock. It was past lunchtime. Where had the morning gone? At least this canvas was a bit more promising than the last one. It could have been a photograph of the Cornish coast with rocky cliffs and wild outcrops; with wild grasses and those little tufts of pink Thrift that seemed to pop up everywhere. The sea itself was relatively peaceful, with gentle white tipped waves and a couple of seagulls gliding across the view.

Kate wondered again, how she came to paint scenes like this when her mind was usually miles away on something else. She stopped for a quick lunch of a toasted ham and cheese sandwich and when she sat down to eat, her mind went straight back to the problems she had with Jack. When she had married him, she finally seemed to get a family of her own and someone to take care of her. What a bitter disappointment it turned out to be, for she hadn’t expected to discover all the petty arguments and the anger. Something had to be wrong. Hadn’t he promised everything would be different with him?

She remembered her old friend Eileen’s family. They argued all the time, but you never had the feeling they hated one another, quite the opposite in fact. She always thought the way they were together was touching and the perfect definition of a family. Whenever one of the children was old enough to get a job, the first thing they did was to treat their mum to something special. They would usually do some DIY in the house too. So whenever a spring clean and decorating session was going on, you just knew it was because another youngster was spreading not just their wings but a lot of human kindness around too.

That was the advantage of having so many children, and it worked well.

Eileen’s mum and dad never seemed to be overly affectionate, but then there was no discord between them either. Kate remembered thinking there was a lot to be said for peace, for too much emotion seemed to lead to an equal amount of trouble in her experience.

Her relationship with Jack was a case in point. She thought he was the perfect gentleman, but he turned out to be a control freak. It was remarkable how quickly the romance wore off once the wedding and all the promising to love, honour and obey were over.

Were all men Jekyll and Hyde in disguise?

Kate laughed softly to herself, remembering the handsome waiters from yesterday’s lunch. What would they be like, she wondered, once you took the time to get to know them?

The voice interrupted her thoughts, going on about Kate needing the right sort of company. She just knew it was referring to Dylan being missing. Did it have something to do with the cat’s disappearance?

She shook her head. No, that wasn’t possible. It couldn’t do anything like that; it was just a voice in her head, wasn’t it? But her brain thought differently, coming up with incidents it might have had control over. There were so many inexplicable times, far too many to be a coincidence.

The thought it might not be just a voice was making her edgy, almost scared. She remembered all the comments over the years about her not dying. Sometimes it had sounded annoyed, almost angry as if it knew it couldn’t do anything about it, and that was good to know…

If you are enjoying these chapters from Nine Lives, and I really hope you are, please comment, as I would love to hear from you…

 

Cover Reveal for End of Day by Mae Clair @MaeClair1 #MysterySuspenseSupernatural

Today we welcome Mae Clair to our blog. She is a good friend and a phenomenal writer, we recently enjoyed reading Cusp of Night and look forward to reading End of Day, book two of the Hode’s Hill Series…

Book cover for End of Day, mystery/suspense novel by Mae Clair shows old dilapidated church with bell tower and a cemetery in the background overgrown with weeds

Release Date: January 15, 2019
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Supernatural Thriller
Publisher: Kensington Publishing • Lyrical Underground Imprint

BLURB:
The past is never truly buried…

Generations of Jillian Cley’s family have been tasked with a strange duty—tending the burial plot of Gabriel Vane, whose body was the first to be interred in the Hode’s Hill cemetery. Jillian faithfully continues the long-standing tradition—until one October night, Vane’s body is stolen from its resting place. Is it a Halloween prank? Or something more sinister?

As the descendants of those buried in the church yard begin to experience bizarre “accidents,” Jillian tries to uncover the cause. Deeply empathic, she does not make friends easily, or lightly. But to fend off the terror taking over her town, she must join forces with artist Dante DeLuca, whose sensitivity to the spirit world has been both a blessing and a curse. The two soon realize Jillian’s murky family history is entwined in a tragic legacy tracing back to the founding of Hode’s Hill. In order to set matters right, an ancient wrong must be avenged…or Jillian, Dante, and everyone in town will forever be at the mercy of a vengeful spirit.

End of Day can be read as a stand alone novel or as a follow-up to book one of the Hode’s Hill series, Cusp of Night.

End of Day is available for pre-order through this link
and available to add to your Goodreads to-be-read list here.

Connect with Mae Clair at BOOKBUB and the following haunts:

Amazon | BookBub | Newsletter Sign-Up
Website & Blog | Twitter | Goodreads | All Social Media

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5* Review for Lily White in Detroit by Cynthia Harrison #ThrillerMystery @CynthiaHarriso1

 

 

Private investigator Lily White has a client with a faulty moral compass. When the client is arrested for murdering his wife and her alleged lover, Lily follows her intuition and her own leads. If she’s wrong, she’ll at least know she did her job.

Detroit police detective Derrick Paxton remembers Lily from another case. He understands she suffers from PTSD and thinks her judgment is impaired. He goes after her client and the evidence he needs to close the case. When Lily is kidnapped, the case takes an unexpected turn.

 

 

In a sometimes racially divided city, a black cop and a white PI work together to peel back every layer to find the truth. What they find leads them to each other, but do they have enough to bring the true criminals to justice?

 

Excerpt

They laughed and exchanged a look. It felt to Paxton like their eyes did something more than see each other. They connected. Tight as two loose strings making a strong knot. “Yes. And then today he brought flowers. He said we’d had an awful time of it with my room being broken into, and he needed to be there to surprise me and make me feel safe. ‘Give a heartsick guy a break’ were his words.”

She picked up her drink and took a swallow. “This is good,” she said. “I feel the vodka.”

 “So how’d he know you’d be there?”

“I didn’t think about that until I was on the way home, um, here.” Paxton drained his martini glass. “Home is here,” he said, “if you want it.”

She slid one of her legs out from under her and wiggled it under his thigh. “We have a ways to go, don’t we?” But the way she said it made it clear she was in this with him. He was not feeling the love alone. He took her bare foot and began to massage it, rubbing the arch and the heel and smoothing his fingers over her toes. “So, how’d he know?”

“If you think about it, you’ll be able to solve that one before I finish my drink.” She sipped. “That feels so good,” she said, pulling her other foot out from under her and sliding it his way.

“I’d say our security spotted him too close to the building, parked in his car overlong, kept an eye, and when you came out of the apartment, saw him follow you,” Paxton said.

“Yep,” Lily said. “So we have the tape if we need it. I guess that depends on what you tell me.” By this time, he’d started working out the stress points of her other foot. She made soft sounds of pleasure. “My God, where’d you learn to do that?”

“Reflexology book.”

“Hmmm. It’s better than vodka.”

 “You want a refill?”

“I want Chinese food. I forgot to eat today.”

“What about the pizza earlier?”

“Look at your watch.”

He did. It was after midnight. Okay, so pizza was yesterday. She was already on her phone, ordering a string of dishes, all their favourites. When it occurred to him they already had their favourites, their habits and routines, it made him happy and a little afraid.

 

Our Review

“Many thanks to the author for the advanced digital copy of this crime suspense book. Opinions expressed here are unbiased and entirely my own.”

Lily White is a private investigator but there was a time when she was someone else.

These days she is recovering from post-traumatic stress caused by a gruelling incident in her past and is definitely in the wrong job. Far too much spying on guilty wives and handling distraught husbands for her liking. She much prefers honest investigating.

Now there is a dead body.

And she had just been hired to find the killer.

This was well out of her comfort zone, especially for her PTSD, but too exciting to miss.

I loved the American setting, walking around Detroit with the characters seemed as natural as breathing, so the author must know it well.

All of the characters are well written and real, but I especially liked the two main characters, Lily and Paxton and the way they interact with each other. Such lovely chemistry between them.

The story had just enough subtle tension to keep me turning the pages and I have a feeling this won’t be the last we see of Lily and Paxton. At least I hope not…


 

#WednesdayWriters: #Nine Lives ~chapter16

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Chapter Sixteen

 

Danny was in his usual position, stationed at the window watching the street, an overflowing saucer full of cigarette butts beside him. Further down the road, he could see Kate’s front door, which was why he was there. Ever since she had met Jack Holland, he had made it his business to stay as close to his sister as was humanly possible. He had slept in his car until this flat had become available; no doubt the fact there was a tramp living in a car outside had speeded up the process.

Jack had given himself away quite soon in the beginning of his relationship with Kate, stupidly warning Danny to stay away if he knew what was good for him, prodding him painfully in the chest to make his point. And although he made it seem like a joke and was laughing, Danny knew exactly what he was about and was instantly concerned for his sister’s welfare.

He could sense this Jack Holland could be capable of anything and he had been right. He had watched the marriage turn into a horror story for both Kate and her son. He wanted to take them away to somewhere safe, and Kate stubbornly refused to listen, pushing him away time after time. He had to settle for being around; convinced he could do something, even if it was just to pick up the pieces.

So he watched and waited, hoping he could be of help if and when she needed him.

He wondered what she was doing. It was almost midday and the street had been deserted all morning. He could see what he thought was the postman, beginning to shove things into people’s letterboxes. Seems like a good job; he thought, better than sitting in an office all day, healthy too, all that fresh air.

He could do with some of that; he hadn’t been outside for days and was going stir crazy. He sometimes went out after dark when there was less chance of being seen, just to the local shop for food and tobacco and he was desperate to be outside in the daylight. Kate might go to the park again, that would be good.

He lit another cigarette and sighed, frustrated with the self-imposed vigilance he had to suffer. But he had nothing better to do; did he? He was convinced something was about to happen. There was this weird sensation at the back of his neck, almost like an itch every time he saw his sister.

That time he followed her to the park the sensation was so strong it was almost painful. There were many people around; any one of them could have been watching her. He had studied them all, looking for the one face he would recognise and none of them had looked like Jack Holland.

Kate had looked sad and worried that day and he was convinced something must have happened he knew nothing about.

He wondered if she would be checking up on her elderly neighbour, giving him something else to look at assuring him she was okay.

The last time he had seen her she had wandered over to his car and he wondered if she recognised it as his. With all his secrecy, he hadn’t remembered she had seen his car that day at the hospital. His stupidity didn’t have any boundaries, did it?

He wondered again just what possible help he could be if she needed any, and he was sure she would need somebody soon. He could feel it gathering, like storm clouds on the horizon. Someone was plotting to destroy her and he had a good idea who that someone was.

He had never liked the man she had ended up marrying. On the surface, Jack Holland was the perfect gentleman, all good manners and kind gestures. Most women would fall for his charms, and unfortunately, Kate had, probably because she needed rescuing from an insane relationship with a disgusting old man. He never did discover the truth behind that, and along came Casanova, convincing her that life with him would be wonderful. But life with Jack Holland had turned out to be a perfect nightmare for both her and her little boy.

On his way back from the bathroom, he decided he needed something to eat and the only thing available was toast. While he waited for the bread to pop back up in the toaster, he found himself listening intently for the sound he heard earlier. Yes, there it was again. Someone seemed to be crying. Was it a child?

It was odd, for as far as he was aware, there were no children at this end of the street.


Will Danny be able to protect his sister, or is he risking his own life as well as hers?

#WednesdayWriters: Nine Lives ~ chapter15

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Chapter Fifteen

Later that evening, as Kate was sorting through her painting supplies to decide what she needed to stock up on, she thought she heard a child crying. She often heard all manner of sounds coming from the neighbours, and as far as she knew, no one had any children.

She looked around the room for Dylan, thinking it could be him and the silver tabby was nowhere in sight. It had sounded more like a child than a cat, she thought, and the memory of David suddenly burst into her mind.

He was so small when he was born, too small to have caused so much trouble.

The first hint something was wrong happened the morning after David was born. She awoke in the hospital bed and tried to move her legs, thinking she would get up and go to the bathroom. But something didn’t feel right. Her left leg felt heavy and awkward and didn’t want to move.

She pulled back the covers and discovered a red, angry leg, which had swollen considerably. She called to a passing nurse who took one look, told Kate not to move for any reason, and summoned the doctor.

It was a thrombosis, a blood clot, which apparently could travel to her heart or brain if she as much as moved an eyelash.

Being told she must not move on pain of death, so soon after the rigours of childbirth seemed to work the oracle. Kate simply froze, far too frightened and exhausted to think straight. They gave her medication, and over the next few days the swelling gradually went down and the danger passed.

Thinking about it now, Kate wondered idly if it counted as a life lost. They said she could have died after all. So how many was it? Possibly five or six, she thought.

Kate had tried to be a good mother, never complaining or resenting the demands of her tiny red-faced dictator. She was always a patient person but David pushed her to hell and back. He never seemed to sleep like other babies or behave as she thought a baby should.

She remembered him standing up in his cot every night, grinning at her like a Cheshire cat, almost as if he knew he was being infuriating.

Having a child had not worked for Kate. Instead of having the opportunity to show the world just how it should be done, she had managed to screw it up and do a worse job than her mother. Despite her struggle to do all the right things, David grew up hating her and she never knew why.

Surprisingly, John took to being a substitute father like a duck to water. He never spoke of Michael at all. It was as though his own son didn’t exist and Kate thought she understood. John kept hinting she should marry him and settle down. Forget any dreams she might still have about finding a better life. Kate couldn’t stop expecting to see Michael, couldn’t believe he could stay away. Surely, he would want to at least look at his son?

The time passed and David grew into a moody, rebellious toddler, and if she still had dreams of a better life, she tried to forget them. Which wasn’t easy, as the voice tormented her almost on a daily basis, constantly reminding her of the mess she had made of her life. Kate had started to think it wanted her to do something drastic, like jump under a bus, and she refused to listen, stubbornly holding on to the little bit of hope she had left.

Most people see life in black and white, and for Kate, there were a million shades of grey, plus some mystifying element that eluded her whenever she tried to concentrate on it.

Whatever it was, it was always tantalisingly close and out of reach at the same time. Why was it so difficult for her to find love? She had searched long and hard deep down inside herself, and the elusive answer simply danced away whenever she came close to it.

Kate tried to remember what had made David hate her so and her mind refused to cooperate. It was late; she should pack up and go to bed. No point worrying about any of it, was there?

The voice in her head stopped her in her tracks, asking if she had ever considered that someone else might have influenced her son. Why did it say that? It might explain why she could never quite put her finger on the cause of her son’s hatred. His feelings were strong, so he obviously thought he had a good reason to be so angry. It would also explain why she had always felt it was not anything to do with her. If it wasn’t her fault, why did he hate her so much?

Kate tried to switch her brain off as easily as she flipped the light switch on her way to bed, but the thought it might have been someone else’s fault went with her and she knew she would have trouble sleeping.

She had lain awake for most of the night, convinced she could hear a child crying. Dylan had not made an appearance, which was odd because he never stayed out all night. She would have to look for him when she returned from the art suppliers in Guildford.

She spent most of Tuesday morning carefully choosing the paint and canvases she would need, blissfully happy to be able to do what she loved so much, never regarding it as work. She decided to stop for lunch before catching the next train home and found herself in a smart new Italian place where the food turned out to be good and the waiters treated her like royalty.

Despite her surroundings, she found herself thinking about the mysterious crying child, which in turn made her think of the day Michael did, in fact, turn up all those years ago. Typically, it had to be a day when she looked her worst. Her hair, longer and messier than ever, needed washing and David was being his most frustrating, throwing his toys all over the place one minute then demanding things and throwing them on the floor too.

Don’t do this today, she remembered thinking, but Michael wasn’t taking any notice of his child. He was staring at her, almost as though he hadn’t  looked at her before. John was at work, and Kate didn’t want to think what might happen if Michael was still there when he came home.

‘You’re looking good Kate.’ he said softly, his oh so blue eyes twinkling just as she remembered. Something inside her seemed to move and stretch its legs. What was she supposed to make of this visit? What did he want?

She stood up straight and looked him in the eyes. ‘Why are you here Michael?’

He smiled nervously and pushed his fingers through his hair, a habit that was all too familiar. ‘I wanted to see you.’

Kate was having a lot of trouble keeping herself detached. The way he looked and the things he was doing brought back so many memories she couldn’t concentrate. How long had it been? It must have been eighteen months since he had walked away. What had brought him back now? She had supposed he would be married by then as he was too good looking to stay single for long.

She had to sit down. Her legs were beginning to demand it and she hesitated, knowing he would take it as a signal to be all over her like a rash. She compromised and leaned against the windowsill. ‘Why did you want to see me, I would have thought you would have better things to do.’

He had the grace to look awkward and gave a nervous laugh. ‘I couldn’t stop thinking about you, so here I am.’

And just what do you expect me to do about that, she thought. The next thought slipped unbidden into her mind and made her swallow so hard, she almost choked. Did he still love her?

The voice warned her of falling for Michael’s charms again, and to remember how badly he had hurt her.

‘Oh shut up!’

‘Pardon?’ he said, looking anxious.

‘Oh not you, Michael, I was thinking aloud. Would you like a cup of coffee?’

Why had she offered hospitality? She should throw him out, and for some reason, she couldn’t bring herself to be angry with him. He always did have that effect on her.

It was getting late, John could be home anytime soon and she knew all hell would break loose if Michael was still there.

‘Your dad will be home soon, she said, pointedly.

He didn’t look at all worried. Don’t tell me he’s grown a pair since I saw him last, she thought. He had picked up one of David’s toy cars and was turning it repeatedly in his hands, seemingly without a care in the world. She waited for David to notice one of his toys was in someone else’s hands and go into his usual spoilt brat routine and scream to get it back, and he didn’t. She knew he had noticed, for he was watching Michael intently, studying him from behind the armchair.

‘Why are you here, Kate?’

As if you care where I am, she thought. ‘Where else would I go?’

‘There must be better places, than here with him…’

‘He has been good to both of us,’ when no one else was, she felt like adding.

Suddenly she decided she would not be playing his games again, not even for a social visit. ‘I think you should go now. I want you to leave.’

He stood up and crossed the room to stand in front of her at the window. ‘Don’t be like that Kate, I have missed you.’

Oh no, you don’t, she thought and pushed past him to get to the front door. He was right behind her and put out his hand to stop her from opening the door. ‘You don’t really want to throw me out, do you?’

He was standing so close; she could feel the heat coming off his body on the bare skin of her arm. The familiar smell of his aftershave washed over her, evoking so many wonderful memories of their romantic past.

With an extraordinary effort, she managed to pull herself together and gritted her teeth, desperately trying to remember she still hated him.

He leaned towards her and tucked a stray curl behind her ear. ‘Beautiful as ever Kate, I must visit you again and soon.’

He opened the door, which meant squeezing past her. Her body disobeyed every command she gave it and long forgotten sensations came back to life. It was all she could do not to grab him and melt in his arms.

By some miracle, she held herself together and managed to close the door behind him. She stood there for a moment, trying to decide how she felt. She didn’t have to think about it, it was obvious she still loved him. She just hoped it wasn’t obvious to him.

Thinking about Michael usually depressed her but that wasn’t happening today. She felt almost elated and that was insane. It was all of thirty years ago, surely all thoughts of Michael and their ill-fated romance should have been buried long ago?

On the way home, she called in at the local supermarket for there was hardly any food in the flat and Dylan’s was running low too; which reminded her, she hadn’t seen him that morning. Where was he?

When she arrived home, she checked all his favourite hiding places and the silver tabby was in none of them. She checked the cat flap still worked as it had been known to get stuck occasionally, much to Dylan’s annoyance. You would think she had done it just to annoy him, the way he carried on.

Kate was getting worried now. She hadn’t seen him for at least two days and it wasn’t like him at all.

She walked across the road to her neighbour and knocked on the door, waiting patiently for the old woman to make her way to the front door,

‘Hello Janet, I was wondering if you had seen Dylan lately? And how are you these days,’ she added guiltily. Kate thought she looked a bit tired, not quite her usual perky self.

‘Oh I’m not so bad, and no, I haven’t seen his Lordship for a while now. How long has he been missing?’

‘About two days, I think. I hope he’s all right.’

‘I’m sure he is Kate, although there has been a strange car parked outside number ten for over a week now. Nobody ever gets out of it though, not that I’ve seen anyway.’

‘I’ll have to ask around. Do you need anything Janet?’

‘I’m fine; you go and find Dylan, that’s more important.’

‘He’s not more important than you, take care…’

None of the other neighbours had seen Dylan either and by the time she was back home she was worried. She had a quick look at the car Janet mentioned, it was a green Vauxhall and beaten up enough to be her brothers, but the inside was so clean and tidy she dismissed the idea. It had probably been dumped anyway.

It was possible Dylan had gone walkabout, although he had stopped doing that a long time ago. He was too old now, wasn’t he? Apart from ringing the local vet and reporting him missing, she couldn’t think what else to do. She knew cats do sometimes up sticks and move on when the mood takes them. She just hoped that wasn’t what had happened as she would miss him terribly.

 

Where is Dylan, the cat? And why is she remembering Michael, after all this time?