Love and Bullets: A Sam Smith Mystery (The Sam Smith Mystery Series Book 2), страница 1
LOVE and BULLETS
LOVE and BULLETS
Copyright © 2015 Hannah Howe
All rights reserved.
The moral right of Hannah Howe to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Goylake Publishing, Iscoed, 16A Meadow Street, North Cornelly, Bridgend, Glamorgan. CF33 4LL
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places and events are either a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is purely coincidental.
Many thanks to Lucy and Melanie at Head and Heart Publishing Services for their proofreading skills and editorial advice.
To my family, with love
Table of Contents
It had been a week since the incident at the abandoned quarry, a week since I’d shot and killed someone, a week since my ex-husband had been murdered. It had been an emotional week.
Thankfully, I’d been away from my office for four days, working as a ‘mystery guest’ at a fashionable hotel. Mystery guest work is mundane and involves a lot of late nights, but at least the past four days had offered a welcome distraction from the media hype surrounding the shooting at the quarry.
After hanging my trench coat on a coat rack, I walked over to my desk and switched on my answering machine. The machine was crammed with messages, some from cranks wanting to hire me to shoot their wives, some from people congratulating me on my actions and others from indignant citizens who criticized me for ‘taking the law into my own hands’. It’s a free country, or so we like to believe, and everyone is entitled to their opinion. However, none of those callers were aware of the facts, namely that I’d uncovered a perverted playground for the rich and famous where juveniles and disabled adults were offered up for prostitution. Lady Fiona Grimsley, aka Lady Diamond, the owner of this racket, had taken exception to my investigations and had dragged me along to the quarry to murder me. There, she killed Dan, a journalist and my ex-husband, and was about to shoot me when I got my retaliation in first and shot her dead. It was self-defence and witnesses supported my story. Nevertheless, regardless of the facts, people will always form their own opinions based on their prejudices, and so I was a heroine to some and the Princess of Darkness to others.
I switched off my answering machine then sorted through my mail. As usual, my mail consisted of bills and junk, which I filed in their appropriate trays. Then, I spotted a face at my window, a feline face, meowing for attention. I smiled, opened the window and greeted Marlowe.
I stroked the cat and he purred, rubbing his head against the back of my hand. “Did you miss me?” I asked and Marlowe meowed; Marlowe was a very vocal cat, affectionate and undemanding. He was also mean looking and battle-scarred, badges of honour from numerous alley fights. Three months ago, Marlowe had adopted me and we’d been pals ever since. Indeed, he was one of the few stable elements in my life.
While stroking Marlowe I glanced through my office window to the roof of a ground floor shed, Marlowe’s access point, then to a litter-strewn street of crumbling Victorian houses. My office was situated in Butetown, Cardiff, near the docks. Truth to tell, all my neighbours were prostitutes, which underlined that this was not a salubrious district, but it was all my meagre resources could afford.
While glancing through the window I spied a man leaning against a lamppost, looking up at me. He had a camera around his neck and he was waiting to photograph me, at a guess. With a sigh, I turned away from the window. Although I loved my job as an enquiry agent, I hated the media’s attention. In fact, I was intrinsically a private person and I hated unwarranted attention of any sort.
I walked away from the window, across the bare floorboards – one day I’d buy a carpet – to my office sink. Under the sink, I kept a stash of cat food, which I reached just before Marlowe. While I opened a tin of food, Marlowe purred loudly, his plump body rubbing against my legs.
“Here.” I placed a dish of succulent turkey in gravy on the floor – why doesn’t cat food come in mouse flavour? – then wrinkled my nose in disgust, the reaction of a committed vegetarian. “Eat that, and if any reporters knock on our door you have my permission to eat them too.”
Talk of the devil...no sooner had I straightened and thumped the tap to coax some water out of the antiquated plumbing system to wash the spoon, when there was a knock on my office door, followed by the sound of policemen’s feet as Detective Inspector ‘Sweets’ MacArthur entered my office.
“Do you want to hire me?” I asked primly. It was an unnecessary question, one I asked out of mild desperation and habit.
“Want one?” Sweets asked, offering me a bonbon. Politely, I declined while Sweets popped the bonbon into his mouth before easing himself on to my client’s chair. Six foot tall with a comfortable pot belly, Sweets had close-cropped salt and pepper hair, which was thinning on top, playful blue eyes, fair skin covered with a rash of freckles, and a large gap between his two front teeth. He was very conscious of his thinning hair and tended to wear a trilby on all occasions, along with his trademark detective’s raincoat.
“Try this for size,” Sweets suggested while placing his hands behind his head. “A company director is interviewing candidates for an important position and decides to select the individual who can answer the question, ‘how much is two plus two?’ The first candidate is an engineer. He pulls out a slide-rule and shows that the answer is four. The second candidate is a lawyer. He states that in the case of Jubliman verses Jubliman, two plus two was proven to be four. The final candidate is an accountant. When asked what two plus two equals, the accountant slips out of his chair, looks under the desk, scans the room for hidden microphones and makes sure that no one is listening at the door. Then he whispers, ‘did you have a particular number in mind?’”
I laughed, smoothed the back of my skirt and sat behind my desk. “Are you trying to make me feel better, or are you here for another reason?”
“Lady Fiona Grimsley,” Sweets replied solemnly. “You shot her.”
“Like I said in my statement...”
“Your finger got stuck on the trigger.” Sweets shook his head in disbelief. He pushed his trilby to the top of his crown while whistling through the gap in his front teeth. “Two we can understand, one in self-defence, the other to make sure. But three and four...”
“Maybe the emotion of the moment got the better of me.”
Sweets nodded. He chewed on his bonbon then offered me a smile crossed with a grimace. “You’re an emotional girl, Sam.”
I felt the colour rising on my cheeks. I leaned forward, placed my hands on the edge of my desk and glared at Sweets, my eyes wide, displaying my indignation. “Are you saying that I’m crazy?”
“Jeez...” Sweets removed his trilby and threw it across my desk. He ran his fingers through his thinning hair, his raised hand revealing a copper bracelet around his right wrist. “There you go again, snapping at people when they’re trying to help you. You lash out when someone says anything negative about you. You take it to heart. I’m here to help you, you understand that?”
My cheeks continued to glow, embarrassment replacing my indignation. I dipped my head and allowed my long auburn hair to fall across my face. “Sorry, Sweets,” I mumbled, “it’s been a difficult week.”
“Sure,” Sweets sighed. He retrieved his trilby from my desk, from under the whiskers of a curious Marlowe. The cat had scoffed his breakfast and now was looking for a suitable space on my desk where he could recline and lick his privates. While eyeing the cat with some suspicion, Sweets continued, “Witnesses support your statement. You shot the bitch in self-defence. The evidence you’ve provided proves that she was running a brothel for the rich and famous exploiting vulnerable adults and minors. The world is a better place without her and everyone at the office applauds you for what you’ve done, but...”
Sweets brushed ginger cat hairs off his trilby. He balanced the hat on his index finger while his thoughtful blue eyes tried to meet my furtive gaze. “You’ve got issues, Sam, emotional issues. You need to address them. I say this as someone who cares about you.”
“Do you think I’m violent?”
He pursed his lips, then shrugged his rounded shoulders. “I don’t know about that, but I do know that you’ve seen a lot of violence in your life.”
“I’ve been the victim of violence. I’m not a violent person,” I replied defensively.
“I know you’ve suffered. I know you’re a good kid at heart. But to put you completely in the clear we need to justify bullets three and four.”
I nodded, thought back to the incident at the quarry and recalled the moment when I’d looked down the barrel of a loaded gun. “She was still alive after the first two bullets. She had her gun in her hand. Her finger was on the trigger; she was going to shoot me.”
Sweets grinned, a genuine smile, at last. He placed his trilby on his head and gave it a satisfying tap. “And that’s what I’ll put in my report. We’ll need more evidence from you, but there won’t be any comebacks, I’ll make sure of that.”
“Thanks, Sweets,” I smiled demurely, “You’re very kind to me.”
He looked away, somewhat bashfully. “Yeah, well...call it penance for my sins.”
While we’d talked, Marlowe had settled on my desk and now he was asleep, his whiskers twitching as he dreamt of an alley fight, a feline lover or chasing mice.
I straightened the papers on my desk, pressed a button on my computer, to bring it to life, then frowned at my fingernails. They were a mess, bitten to the quick. I tended to nibble them when I was nervous; it was a bad habit, one I was trying to break but, as I’d told Sweets, it had been a week fraught with nervous energy.
Sweets sauntered over to my office door. There, he paused, fingered his wedding band, then turned to face me. With a locker-room leer on his face, he winked, “This is probably none of my business, but I hear you’ve got a dirty weekend lined up with your psychologist boyfriend.”
“One,” I said, my eyes fixed on the computer screen, “it is not a dirty weekend and two, we are just friends; we are not an item.”
“Whatever you say.” Sweets waved a dismissive right hand. “But all the same, maybe you can talk with him; discuss a few of your issues.”
“Maybe.” I pressed a button on my computer, but instead of opening a file, I received a message saying that the damned machine was ‘not responding’.
“How do you feel about the weekend?” Sweets asked. His hand was resting on the door handle, though the curiosity on his face revealed that he was reluctant to leave my office.
“Nervous,” I replied, jabbing an agitated finger at the computer keyboard.
At the door, Sweets rubbed his chin in thoughtful fashion. “You and relationships don’t really mix, do they, Sam?”
Like me and computers. “My mother beat the hell out of me until I was old enough to hit back, my ex beat me for four years non-stop fracturing my jaw and skull...too right me and relationships don’t mix.”
“Dr Storey is a good man,” Sweets informed me. “I’ve checked him out. He helped us with a murder case about a year ago. I’m not into all that psychobabble, you know ‘he was the third triplet who never made it to his mother’s teat and so when he grew up he harboured a grudge against his mother and society and turned to a life of crime’. I go with the facts and my gut instinct. But even I have to admit that Dr Storey knows his stuff. In the murder case, he declined to take credit where credit was due. Instead, he handed that credit to a detective sergeant who needed a leg up in his career. Everyone I spoke to had nothing but good words to say about Dr Storey. He can help you, Sam. He could be the making of you, as a woman.”
“We’ll see.” My tone was noncommittal, casual, trying to hide the fact that I was churning inside.
“I’m off to the morgue now,” Sweets announced cheerfully, “which reminds me...three bodies turn up at the mortuary, all with huge smiles on their faces. The coroner calls me over to tell me the cause of death. ‘The first body, that’s Able, well known village idiot. He died smiling after collapsing while chasing a beautiful woman in the park. The second body, that’s Bullman, well known village idiot, he won £10,000 on the lottery, spent it all on whisky and died smiling of alcohol poisoning. The third body, that’s Clatterbake, well known village idiot, he died smiling while being struck by lightning.’ ‘Why was Clatterbake smiling?’ I asked solemnly. Earnestly, the coroner replied, ‘He thought he was having his picture taken.’”
I smiled broadly, at Sweets’ joke and at the image on my computer screen; my file had opened and I could type up the ‘mystery guest’ report for my client.
As I started on the report, Sweets glanced towards the window and the photographer lurking in the damp shadows. “Get away from this media circus. Enjoy your weekend. You deserve it, Sam. You deserve good things in your life.”
“Do I, Sweets?” I paused and looked up at my friend.
“Of course you do.” He adjusted his raincoat, tapped his trilby then disappeared into the drizzle of an early November morning.
The weather report suggested that storm clouds were gathering and that it would pour with rain later. As I typed the report, I held on to the hope that those storm clouds would not break over my head.
After an office-bound day, spent typing up reports, tidying my spartan office and stroking Marlowe, I drove home to my flat in Grangetown and packed an overnight bag. I’d arranged to meet Alan at his place in St Fagans because that was en route to his country cottage on the Gower Peninsula.
For once, the weather forecast was right and I drove the short distance from Grangetown to St Fagans through a downpour. Although Grange-town and St Fagans were suburbs of Cardiff and near neighbours, in terms of affluence they were worlds apart. And to some extent, I felt the same about Alan and myself – our backgrounds were completely different, we were opposites in m
When I arrived at Alan’s house in St Fagans, I found him in his drive, placing a small suitcase into his car. In contrast to my Mini, Alan drove a Jaguar XJ6, a red, vintage Jaguar XJ6, very sporty, very sleek, very stylish.
As usual, Alan looked smart, relaxed and handsome. He had short, wavy, brown hair, a finely trimmed goatee beard, brown eyes and even friendly features. Over six foot tall, he appeared trim in black jeans and a black and white hooped rugby top.
After closing the boot on the Jaguar, Alan escorted me towards the porch, out of the rain. He turned and smiled at me. “All set?” he asked.
I nodded then offered him a tight smile in return. “I guess so.”
“How do you feel?”
“Nervous.” In truth, I felt as though two steamrollers were pulling me in opposite directions. In one direction was the thought that if I got too close to this man he would turn into Dan, my ex, and start to beat me, while the other thought insisted that if I didn’t make an emotional commitment to him then he would dump me for someone less complex, and I knew that if he walked out of my life that would break my heart. Why should he beat me when he’d shown nothing but compassion and kindness? Well, Dan started out like that and although I sensed that Alan was a different type of man altogether the doubts still remained. Call it the Sam effect – everyone I got close to seemed to take their frustrations out on me, for some reason. I wanted to believe that Alan’s feelings for me were genuine. However, because of my violent past I was wary of all men, cautious about forming relationships. Tense, nervous headache? Damn right, I had a tense, nervous headache.
“The cottage will put you at ease,” Alan said. He took my overnight bag from my hand then opened the passenger’s door on the Jaguar. While gritting my teeth, I slipped into his car. “It’s a relaxing place,” he insisted, “in beautiful surroundings.”