This week we are posting the first chapter of The Last Life, the second book in my mystery thriller trilogy. This trilogy might be the sum total of my own contribution to the writing world, (although I am hoping not!) and I am somewhat proud of my achievement.
Detective Inspector David Snow looked down at the unconscious woman on the hospital bed in front of him, remembering the state of her when she had arrived, a few hours ago. 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 breasts the only indication life still clung to her body.
So different to the wrinkled, dirt-ingrained body he had looked at earlier, of an old tramp found dead in the hospital car park, bundled into a moth-eaten army coat and wedged under a car. What was originally thought to be a simple case of neglect, had taken on a more sinister tone when they discovered the tramps head had been cut off and shoved down the back of the old boy’s trousers.
Snow wondered what an old tramp could possibly have done to warrant such treatment, being 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 his protection.
They knew very little about her, and he wondered again what kind of woman she was. Now the dirt had been removed, she looked healthy and well cared for, which ruled out homelessness. A reasonably attractive, middle-aged woman, bordering on the ordinary, apart from her curly hair which would appear to have a life of its own, as even now it seemed to creep across the pillow like the roots of a willow.
Alone with the unconscious woman, Snow had an excellent opportunity to study her without feeling self-conscious about doing it. In all the years since his wife’s death, he missed looking intimately at a woman. He usually tried to do it surreptitiously to avoid the risk of being branded a pervert, or worse. 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, an artist, none of which gave him any clues as to her character. In the beginning, Snow had instinctively thought she might be the murderer in this case, due to the amount of blood found in the cottage. Michael Barratt had found her unconscious in this cottage on the outskirts of Guildford. He said he knew her, but had no idea why she had found it necessary to be there. As an estate agent, he had been arranging to have the cottage ready for Miss Devereau to rent.
It was all a little mysterious, compounded by the fact Michael Barratt looked as if he had been barbecued. His clothes were burned black in places, apart from his jacket, which was clean and several sizes too small and obviously didn’t belong to him. The back of his head and hands were raw and blistered, suggesting there were probably more extensive burns to his body.
The estate agent had offered no explanation for his condition, but stubbornly kept asking after Kate, which might possibly indicate an emotional involvement. He had no answer for what had happened to her, except to say her health had not been good for a while. If it hadn’t been for all the blood, it would have seemed 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. Naturally suspicious of everyone involved in any of his cases, Snow couldn’t help but suspect Michael Barratt. The man was obviously 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 macabre and similar death of Miss Devereau’s brother Danny had opened this case several weeks ago, a clear indication someone they all knew had an axe to grind. Someone cruel and malicious, hell bent on exacting some kind of 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 tonight. 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.
He found the idea that this woman may never regain consciousness unsettling, as 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. 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.
An agent, Samantha Cameron, managed all of Miss Devereau’s art, but was probably only a business contact. Judging by the barbecued boyfriend, someone thought well of her, 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?
The Ninth Life can be found on Amazon: myBook.to/TheLastLife
There are also free copies on #Instafreebie: bit.ly/2i930ah
And of course, I would love to hear your thoughts?