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Blood Read_Publish And Be Dead

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Blood Read_Publish And Be Dead


  Title page

  Other books by Simon J. Townley

  Chapter One - The Gatekeeper

  Chapter Two - The Worst Day

  Chapter Three - Poisoned Words

  Chapter Four - Midlist Crisis

  Chapter Five - Babylon

  Chapter Six - A Preface to Murder

  Chapter Seven - Forget the Dead

  Chapter Eight - Brothers Divide

  Chapter Nine - Shipping Containers

  Chapter Ten - Disquietly to Our Graves

  Chapter Eleven - Selfsame Metal

  Chapter Twelve - The Profits Of My Death

  Chapter Thirteen - An Old Friend

  Chapter Fourteen - Looted Treasure

  Chapter Fifteen - Afternoon Tea

  Chapter Sixteen - A Chance Meeting

  Chapter Seventeen - Under the Dragon’s Tail

  Chapter Eighteen - Lineage

  Chapter Nineteen - Home to Camelot

  Chapter Twenty - Life, Death And Ice-Cream

  Chapter Twenty-One - Unchaste Action

  Chapter Twenty-Two - Afterglow

  Chapter Twenty-Three - Stakeout

  Chapter Twenty-Four - Yesterday's News

  Chapter Twenty-Five - Death In the Margins

  Chapter Twenty-Six - An Unfee’d Lawyer

  Chapter Twenty-Seven - Lend me a Looking Glass

  Chapter Twenty-Eight - Strange News

  Chapter Twenty-Nine - Catgut

  Chapter Thirty - Ghost Story

  Chapter Thirty-One - Spooks

  Chapter Thirty-Two - A Damn Good Murder

  Chapter Thirty-Three - Gilded Butterflies

  Chapter Thirty-Four - Last Words

  Chapter Thirty-Five - Stuffed Graveyards

  Chapter Thirty-Six - Obsession

  Chapter Thirty-Seven - A Knife In The Back

  Chapter Thirty-Eight - A Stab in the Dark

  Chapter Thirty-Nine - Foolish Honesty

  Chapter Forty - If Words Could Kill

  Chapter Forty-One - The Rack Of This Rough World

  Chapter Forty-Two - Publish And Be Dead

  Chapter Forty-Three - In The Interest Of My WIfe

  Chapter Forty-Four - Spies and Speculations

  Chapter Forty-Five - And Where’s Cordelia?

  Chapter Forty-Six - Breaking and Entering

  Chapter Forty-Seven - Better In A Grave

  Chapter Forty-Eight - A Curious Tale

  Chapter Forty-Nine - Murder On Demand

  Chapter Fifty - Who's In, Who's Out

  Chapter Fifty-One - A Killer's Pride

  Chapter Fifty-Two - Backstage of Fools

  Chapter Fifty-Three - Kiss, Kiss, Boom, Boom

  Chapter Fifty-Four - Kill Me If I Lie

  Chapter Fifty-Five - Who Loses and Who Wins

  About the Author

  Author's and publisher's notes


  (Publish And Be Dead)

  The Capgras Conspiracy – Book One


  Simon J. Townley

  Copyright © 2015 Simon Townley. All rights reserved.


  Published By Beardale Books


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  This text uses British English spelling.

  This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or to actual events or locales is entirely coincidental.

  All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book, or portions thereof, in any form. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical without the express written permission of the author.

  Other novels by Simon J. Townley

  The Dry Lands

  (book one of ‘A Tribal Song – Tales of the Koriba’)

  In the Rattle of the Shaman’s Bones

  (book two of ‘A Tribal Song – Tales of the Koriba’)

  The Fire Within

  (book three of ‘A Tribal Song – Tales of the Koriba’)

  Doguar and the Baboons of War

  Lost In Thought

  Ball Machine


  In The Wreckage (A Tale of Two Brothers)

  Wild, Hugo Wilde

  Monster Hunters of the Undermire

  Sign up to the email list here to receive information on new releases.

  Chapter One

  The Gatekeeper

  Doors never opened easily for Tom Capgras. The gatekeepers, those at the helm of life, know a trouble maker when they see one and at every turn they blocked his way.

  Yet here stood an unlocked door, an inch ajar. He tapped lightly. “Jo? It’s Tom.” No answer came, only a rasping creak – an echo of summer days at the dockside, water lapping against boats, the screech of gulls and the moan of rope on wood.

  Rope. That was it.

  He pushed at the handle and edged into the office where Joanne Leatherby, literary agent, waited patiently for their meeting to begin. He noticed her feet first, as they twisted and turned above the waste paper basket. A Series 7 Arne Jacobson chair had been kicked onto its side. The desk was clear apart from a pile of papers in the centre. Tom recognised the tattered edges of his own manuscript where his printer had mangled the pages. He had been meaning to replace it for longer than he could remember. Joanne had told him it looked unprofessional.

  She was beyond caring now, her face white and bloodless, her eyes staring, mouth contorted in pain. Tom yelled for help, his voice muffled as if underwater or heard through thick glass. Cut her down. Check her breathing. His foot collided with the bin and it rolled across the room.

  The rope had been secured to a solid wooden desk and thrown over an oak beam. The knot refused to move. What fiend devised this? Joanne didn’t seem the type for the boy scouts. Finally, it unravelled. Her body hit the carpet with a thud and he winced at the impact, though she could feel no hurt, not any more.

  As he loosened the noose from her thin, white neck, Capgras noticed how expertly the hangman’s knot had been tied, the work of a perfectionist intent on making an immaculate death.

  He fumbled for his phone in the pocket of his Belstaff jacket. Who to call? The newsdesk? The thought flashed across his mind and he shook it away. Ambulance. But that meant police…

  No one knew he was here. No one had seen him on the stairs. Only that cleaning woman with her face half hidden by a shawl. She’d held the door open but she’d not even looked at him. He could slip out, let someone else deal with the coppers. The interviews. The questions. The doubt.

  He put a hand on Joanne’s forehead as if to comfort her. Why now, he asked, what could hurt so bad? She remained impassive, silent. And dead. Another suicide. Add her to the list.

  He’d not known her long, or well, but she had appeared content. Strong, even. He’d sensed no demons tormenting her, and he was a man who knew much about such things.

  He’d have to make the call. He owed her that, at least. Besides, he’d undone the rope, lowered the body. His DNA was here. Don’t be a fool. Nothing to hide. He dialled on his iPhone, asked for an ambulance, gave details, his own name, Joanne’s. The police controller cut in asking if there were signs of a break-in, anything suspicious. Tom’s eyes scanned the room. Where was her laptop? Her leather shoulder bag lay sprawled on the floor. There were details out of place, or things that shouldn’t be here, he felt it in his bones. One drawer of a filing cabinet stood open, files lumped on top. A pile of books had been scattered on the floor as though pulle
d from the bookcase at random. Detective tales by the look of them. A mug lay beside a wet patch on the carpet where the coffee must have spilled. “There’s something wrong.” He dreaded what must come. More police, more questions. No escape. “It’s not suicide. Made to look like it. But it’s wrong.”

  The police control room fired questions.

  “What is your relationship with the deceased?”

  “Friend, client. She’s my agent. It’s new.”

  “You found the body? Is there no one else there?”

  “The door was open. I let myself in.”

  The policeman waited for an explanation. The heartbeat of silence hung heavy on the phone.

  Think. How did it happen? “The outside door at street level wasn’t shut properly. The lock was stiff. It was resting open. I tried the buzzer but there was no answer. Joanne’s expecting me, I’m here for a meeting. We’re off to see a publisher, so I assumed no one would mind. There’s another door, at the top of the stairs. As I got to it there was a woman leaving. A cleaning lady I guess.”

  “Did you speak to her?”


  “Can you describe her?”

  “I don’t know, east European maybe? Wearing a shawl. Lots of colours. And patterns. And a coat. Big coat for the time of year, long. Heavy. Didn’t see her face.”


  “No idea.”

  “You’re sure there’s no one else there?”

  “No one on reception. I’ve been shouting but no one’s come.”

  “An officer will be there soon. Please wait, Mr Capgras. We can contact you on this number?”

  Had they looked up his name yet? Had it flashed warnings and previous convictions? Did they even now have his GCHQ file open on their computer screens?

  He hung up, mid-question, and stared at the phone. His instincts nagged at him to file copy. He’d have done it too, but a death such as this, looking all the world like suicide, would make no more than a snippet in the ‘Books’ section, at best.

  He slid the phone into a front pocket of his black jeans, knelt down and put a hand on Joanne’s cold cheek. A hope appeared, and he reached for her bag, found a make-up mirror and held it to her mouth, longing for signs of life. No mist or condensation formed. She’d not breathe again.

  His eyes scanned the room. If this was murder he should look for clues but there was little here other than books: stacked against the walls; scattered across the floor; in piles under the desk. Even one in the wastepaper basket that lay on its side on the carpet. He must have kicked it over while scrambling to get her down. He stretched out and picked up the hardback, examined the cover with its photos of a revolver, a yacht and a glass of whisky: ‘Vex Not His Ghost’, an Inspector Lear mystery by Arthur Middleton.

  Standard genre stuff. He avoided crime tales – he saw too much of the real thing. And coppers were rarely heroes, in his experience. He opened the book, a signed copy. “For Joanne,” read the inscription. “We two alone will sing. Many thanks. Arthur.”

  He tossed it back into the waste bin and turned to Joanne, staring into her pale face. What pain had driven her to suicide? A fatal illness? A divorce? The lies of a lover? He wouldn’t believe it. She wasn’t the type. Who tied that noose, so neat, so tight? Not these fair hands, he was sure of that.

  Whatever had happened here, it didn’t look good for his own dreams. Doors had never opened easily for Tom Capgras – life’s gatekeepers know a trouble-maker when they see one. But Joanne had believed in him – a book that mattered, she said, telling hard truths. It needed someone like her to fight its corner. A book that might lift his career, or save it, or redeem it. Or at least make money. Or waves. Or something. Not any more.

  He knelt beside Joanne, clutching her cold fingers, thoughts running on full throttle. Why did nobody come? Finally, five stories below, the door to the street opened, shut again, to be followed by footsteps on the stairs. But not police, or ambulance – they were too light for that. One person, female, clomping in office shoes. He let go of Joanne’s hand, placed it on her chest and lurched to his feet, ready to defend the doorway.

  Chapter Two

  The Worst Day

  There had been a period of his life (nine months reduced to five for good behaviour) when Tom Capgras had been blessed with too much time on his hands. He had spent most of it pondering a question posed by a cellmate: is there one day you could pinpoint, one that stands alone as the single worst day of your life?

  The day the police raided the newsroom, stomping across the editorial floor as if it were a brothel with a side-line selling methamphetamine and fully loaded semi-automatics, sweeping protesting journalists out of their way, demanding access to locked rooms and desks, ripping through filing cabinets, taking the hard disk out of his computer, seizing his laptop and phone and finally leading Capgras away in handcuffs while the editor hurled abuse at them – that, at the time, was the worst day ever, without doubt.

  Tom even announced it as such to anyone who would listen once Special Branch, or whatever they were calling themselves, had released him and he sat mulling it over, staring into a pint of warm beer in the Cloak and Dagger public house. “That was the worst day of my life,” he’d said, as if to make it official, sure that he was right. What, after all, could top the humiliation, the outrage, the frustration? Or the knowledge that he’d brought the power of the secret services down on his colleagues and on his newspaper?

  But it did get worse. The day they found him guilty of trading in state secrets – that was worse. And the day a week later when they sentenced him to nine months in prison, that was worse still.

  The first day of the sentence was the worst yet. Though the second topped it. And the third. And on it went.

  But life had picked up since then. He was out in under five months and his editor stood by him. The tabloids stuck the knives in to support the establishment but broadsheets were on his side for the most part, in their better moments.

  To many, he was a martyr or a hero. Easy for them to say – they didn’t have to do the time. But colleagues rallied round, co-workers helped him and editors offered work, though he never could go back to that newsroom, not full-time. And what use is a crime reporter with a phobia of uniforms, an intense distrust of the police? Freelance would do: get his head together, see what directions he wanted to take. His editor was secretly relieved, Capgras could tell.

  But the bad, the ball-crushingly bleak life-can’t-be-lived-like-this-it’s-time-to-end-it-all-before-you-crack-in-public days were behind him. He had been sure of that.

  Certain of it.

  Until today.

  It wasn’t far past nine o’clock and already his newly acquired literary agent had hanged herself. His hopes of a book deal had probably died with her. His future lay featureless and bare. The blame would creep up on him too – could he have saved her if he’d been on time? He had overslept, abandoned his plans for public transport. The Norton was faster, but he’d still been late. Was it all his fault?

  And there were questions to come, coppers, bureaucracy, grieving workmates, the tears. Then the journey home, the time spent staring into the distance, not knowing which way to turn next.

  Bad day for him. Worse for Joanne.

  Yet here was a ray of hope, bounding up the stairs, cheerily calling out to see if anyone was in the office: Joanne’s assistant Hannah Robertson, twenty-four, not long out of university, still in her salad days and keen as they come. She believed in Tom’s book, she’d said as much at their last meeting. It was an important story that needed to be told. She understood the work – defending the vulnerable, exposing corruption. Shining a light on abuses of power. She would fight his corner. His agent might be dead but there was still a chance his career would pull through.

  Capgras blockaded the door to Joanne’s office.

  “Tom? What are you doing here?”

  He filled the doorframe, “You can’t go in.”

  She tried to look ove
r his shoulder. “You sound upset. What’s wrong?”

  “I’m sorry.” There was no easy way to say it. Better than showing it to her though. She was not used to seeing death. “Joanne’s… gone.”

  “I didn’t know she was here. She’s not expected in.”

  He gripped the door tight so she couldn’t push it open. “You don’t understand. She’s dead.”

  Wild eyes flickered, her mouth twitching, not wanting to face it. “Don’t say that, it’s not funny.”

  Stay calm, he told himself, be measured, talk slowly. Help her through this. “She hung herself. Police are on their way. She’s gone. Trust me.”

  Hannah shoved at the door, her face etched with fear. “She wouldn’t. I don’t believe it.”

  He stood his ground and refused to let her pass. Tom didn’t know her well. He’d met her twice, maybe three times if you counted brushing past each other on the narrow stairs. But she didn’t want to see this, even if she thought she must. “I took her down, checked, did everything. She’s gone. She’s cold.”

  Hannah’s mouth writhed with suppressed anger. “She’s alive, we can save her.”

  “Wait for the police,” he said. “Evidence, all that.” He tried to ease her away from the door.

  She pushed against him as though blaming Tom. He stood firm, letting her beat his chest with her fists. Her rage blew itself out, she wilted and the tears began to stream down her face. “She wouldn’t kill herself. She couldn’t.”

  His thoughts exactly but where was the proof or even a clue that this death might be suspicious? “Why was Joanne alone? No one else is here.”

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